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from India Insight:

For Oscar-winning Tanovic, Emraan Hashmi’s “serial kisser” tag didn’t matter

When Danis Tanovic chose Bollywood star Emraan Hashmi to play a Pakistani whistle-blower in his new project, the Oscar-winning Bosnian film-maker wasn’t aware of the actor’s notoriety as Indian cinema's "serial kisser".
Tanovic eventually watched some of Hashmi’s Bollywood hits and found it funny that the actor had such a different image in India.

"Here he comes with a bunch of luggage and in front of me he came as a man, as an actor," said the 45-year-old director, describing Hashmi as a "very calm, decent guy."

In "Tigers", an Indian-French production that premiered at the Toronto film festival last week, Hashmi plays a young Pakistani salesman who exposes the harmful effects of the multinational infant formula he's peddling.

"It's a story that has been happening since 30-40 years and it is still happening today," said Tanovic. "Thank God not much in India but there are many countries that suffered. It’s basically talking about corporate responsibility versus profit," he told India Insight in an interview.

from Expert Zone:

China’s WMD cooperation with Pakistan looms over Xi-Modi talks

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India and his meeting with Indian Prime Minister  Narendra Modi this week has elicited considerable positive interest in both countries. It has the potential to recast the uneasy Asian strategic framework, and by extension the relations of emerging global powers that are currently clouded by acrimony and mutual mistrust.

from Photographers' Blog:

The other Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

A fist slams into a punching bag. Sparks flare from a saw as a punk carves a huge guitar from a block of stone. A female climber dangles precariously from a cliff.

A Pakistani interior designer Zahra Afridi uses a circular saw as she sculpts a guitar outside the classic rock cafe she designed in Islamabad

Welcome to Pakistan, a country of 180 million people whose residents are as varied as they come. Among them are millionaires and beggars, child brides and female executives, the Taliban and an ultra-chic international jet set.

from Photographers' Blog:

Pakistan’s beasts of burden

Choa Saidan Shah, Pakistan
By Sara Farid

A donkey carrying sacks of coal walks through the narrow tunnels of a coal mine, in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The miners call their donkeys their “biggest treasure”, an animal whose strength and patience lets them work in some of the world’s most dangerous mines. But life in Pakistan’s mines is dangerous for everyone – there’s a constant risk of cave-ins, and the black dust floating in the air slowly fills up the lungs of both man and beast.

A young miner leads his team of donkeys back to the coal face to collect more coal underground in Choa Saidan Shah in Punjab province April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Farid

The donkeys make twenty trips a day from the depths of the mine to the storage site where they dump the coal. For each trip, they are loaded up with coal sacks weighing 20 kg (44 lbs) each. The teams of four to six animals are guided to the surface, unloaded, then obediently turn and walk again towards the black hole.

from Photographers' Blog:

Life on the margins in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

There are so many slums in Pakistan, and they can be home to all sorts of communities – Christians, Shi'ites, Afghan refugees, or Pakistanis fleeing violence or seeking jobs.

But whatever their background, they all face the same struggles in their daily lives. The divisions of religion and nationality are less important than finding clean water, a space to study, or a battered toy for a young child to play with.

from The Great Debate:

Is there a ‘right’ path for the U.S. in Syria?

Key parties to the conflict in Syria are meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday. The participants have been downplaying expectations that the “Geneva II” peace conference -- which will bring together for the first time representatives from the Assad government and various rebel groups along with major international players -- will resolve the conflict, or even bring about a ceasefire.

For the U.S. government, the crucial issue at this meeting and beyond is determining if and how to intervene and provide support in a conflict where there may no longer be real “good guys,” or supporters of U.S. national interests, to back. This is particularly important given Washington’s interwoven interests throughout the region -- not only in Syria, but in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond.

from The Great Debate:

Fighting for democracy in South Asia

For the first time in post-colonial history, all of the countries of South Asia are democracies.

From Bhutan to Bangladesh, Kabul to Kathmandu, democratic institutions are taking hold and giving people a voice in how they are governed. But these historic gains could be short-lived if troubling trends in some impending political transitions go unchecked.

from India Insight:

Remembering Reshma, Pakistan’s ‘first lady’ of folk music

Folk singer Reshma was born in 1947, the historic year when India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule. She was born in India, but her family migrated to Pakistan when she was a month old. Small wonder, then, that Reshma’s unconventionally husky voice won admirers on both sides of the international border.

Reshma, who died earlier this week after a battle with throat cancer, was best known for her distinctive rendition of Punjabi folk songs. For her fans, she was the "Nightingale of the Desert" and her death at the age of 66 was a fresh blow to the arts in Pakistan, coming a year after ghazal singer Mehdi Hassan’s death.

from The Great Debate:

Risky business: Talking to the Taliban

If one event crystallizes Pakistan’s helplessness in confronting its political future, it is the recent assassination-by-American-drone of Hakimullah Mehsud, erstwhile leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Islamabad had only just acknowledged its plan to hold “peace talks” when Mehsud was killed. Mehsud -- with a $5 million bounty on his head, and thousands of civilian deaths to his movement’s credit -- was immediately eulogized as the key to peace in Pakistan.

from David Rohde:

How covert drone strikes turn murderers into martyrs

Five days after an American drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistani politicians are accusing the United States of “murder.” And a militant leader responsible for attacks that killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Pakistani civilians is being viewed as a victim.

On one level, the response was nothing new in the warped, post-2001 relationship between Pakistan and the United States. For 12 years, interactions between these purported “allies” have been marked by distrust, recriminations and lies.

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