Pakistan: Now or Never?

Russia warming up to Pakistan

November 8, 2012

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In the shadow of violence, Quetta’s divides multiply

November 6, 2012

Persecution can bring people together. It can also prise them apart.

In Pakistan, so many minorities are threatened by homicidal extremists that travelling the country can feel like hopping across an archipelago of communities under varying degrees of siege.

The killers of Quetta

October 25, 2012

Cut-out cardboard hearts, stars and a slogan that cheerfully declares “The Earth Laughs In Flowers” adorn the classrooms of the Ummat Public School in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

In Afghan war, enter Sir Mortimer Durand

October 24, 2012

When the British decided to define the outer limits of their Indian empire, they fudged the question. After two disastrous wars in Afghanistan, they sent the Foreign Secretary of India, Sir Mortimer Durand, to Kabul in 1893 to agree the limits of British and Afghan influence. The result was the Durand Line which Pakistan considers today as its border and Afghanistan refuses to recognise. Then, rather than extend the rule of the Raj out to the Durand Line, the British baulked at pacifying the tribes in what is now Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Instead, they used the still-extant Frontier Crimes Regulation of 1901 to keep them at bay, if necessary through collective punishment.  The Pashtun tribes living on either side of the Durand Line continued to move back and forth, resenting outside interference and rejecting an arbitrary division of their lands by a foreign power.

Pakistan’s economy, the hidden threat

October 18, 2012

 

Not too long ago, if you were travelling from India to Pakistan, you couldn’t help but notice how well the modern airports, the six-lane motorway linking Islamabad to Lahore, and the well-planned tree-lined capital city compared to the sprawling chaos of New Delhi.  Indeed that motorway was South Asia’s first, long before India started to build its expressways, and in some ways Pakistan, which was a more open economy than India’s Licence Raj system and grew faster for decades until the 1990s, looked more like the developed Islamic states on its west than the poor cousins of South Asia.

“Living Under Drones” – the anti-drone campaign can do damage too

October 3, 2012

In a poignant tale published last month by Chashm, a new website set up to promote alternative discourse in Pakistan, the narrator describes what happened when the Taliban came to the village of Saidano, the site of a popular shrine in Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

In Pakistan, a love story and the death of a family

September 26, 2012

He was a poor taxi driver with dark eyes and a soft voice. She was a wistful high school student dreaming of romance. They fell in love.

In Pakistan, straw men have foreign hands

September 4, 2012

Let’s say you want to get an article published in Pakistan and have your audience nod sympathetically as they read through your argument. What do you do?

A Mafia in FATA: Haqqanis and Drones

August 4, 2012

It took author Gretchen Peters two years working with a team of researchers to compile a detailed report on the Haqqani network.  Published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, it is a comprehensive study of the Haqqani’s business interests in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gulf, defining them as much as a criminal mafia as an Afghan militant group. It took me an hour to read it through. Yet when I tweeted a link to the report with the suggestion those with strong views on drones should read it – the Haqqanis’ base in North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal areas has been the primary target of U.S. drone strikes – the answers came within minutes. “I assume u probably never met a minor or a woman who lost the head of the family in drone attack as ‘colateral dmg,” said the first response.

Afghan Prison Tales

July 31, 2012

In between stories of torture and the Taliban, the young man sitting opposite me had covered how to stage a dirty protest, Spanish chat-up lines, and how toothpaste can help you escape from prison.