Peshawar Blues

December 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

I wrote this feature in summer 2012 for the “Pakistan?” special issue of Critical Muslim.

On the Kuwait Airways flight from London to Islamabad, the unusually boorish flight crew handed us disembarkation cards that the government of Pakistan requires all international arrivals to fill. Besides our passport numbers, addresses and reasons for visiting, the form also asked if we had been to Africa or Latin America in the past week. The purpose of this question was unclear except perhaps as a means to boost national self-esteem by implying that Pakistan is healthier than those two continents. With the only pen in my row, I helped five other passengers fill their forms.

At Islamabad’s decrepit Benazir Bhutto International Airport, I was pleasantly surprised to find the immigration staff making no undue effort to inconvenience new arrivals. Former president Pervez Musharraf’s successful effort at gender-balancing has markedly improved the behaviour of male airport staff. After sailing through immigration and customs, I became conscious of the disembarkation card still in my hand. Not inclined to take chances, I asked an officer where to deposit it. He hadn’t a clue – nor did anyone else. Finally, a customs official took the card from my hand and threw it into a waste basket. I wasn’t asked for it again.

What is still known internationally as the Islamabad Airport is actually based in the city of Rawalpindi. As the historic Grand Trunk Road passes through its crowded precincts, its name changes twice—to Peshawar Road and The Mall. We drove North-West on the Peshawar Road, past the General Head Quarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army which in 1895 had served as the launching pad for the Malakand Field Force, the British colonial army’s counter-insurgency campaign against the recalcitrant frontier. The sanguine details of this campaign were preserved in vivid detail by a young Winston Churchill who was also serving as a correspondent for Times. More recently, on 10 October 2009, the GHQ was the site of a bloody raid by a group of 10 militants who breached its defences and triggered a hostage crisis which ended with 9 soldiers, 2 civilians, and 9 of the assailants dead.

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How War Eclipsed Syrian Culture

December 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pulse co-editor Robin Yassin-Kassab speaks at the BBC Arabic Documentary Film Festival:

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The 17 Contradictions of Capitalism

December 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

You thought capitalism was permanent? Think again. Leading Marxist thinker Professor David Harvey unravels the contradictions at the heart of capitalism — its drive, for example, to accumulate capital beyond the means of investing it.

Melvyn Bragg’s Radical Lives

December 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

Melvyn Bragg examines the lives, work and legacy of two men whose ideas have had tremendous consequences both in their own time and down the centuries: John Ball and Thomas Paine.

Now Is the Time: John Ball

Rights of Man: Thomas Paine

Conversations with History: Perry Anderson

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

On this episode, UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler talks with Perry Anderson Professor of History and Sociology at UCLA about his intellectual journey and the status of the left.

War and Pieces: Brown Moses on Social Media Investigations

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Eliot Higgins (aka Brown Moses), founder of Bellingcat, at Google Ideas, Google for Media, and the OCCRP’s Investigathon in New York, talking about open source investigation into the Buk missile launcher linked to the downing of MH17, showing how he was able to trace it to Russia.

Ukraine: From Propaganda to Reality

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Timothy Snyder explains the crisis in Ukraine.

Since February, the world’s eyes have been on Ukraine as Ukrainians rebelled against rising authoritarianism in their own country and were met in return with a Russian invasion of Ukraine’s southern and eastern provinces. Yale University’s Timothy Snyder is the world’s leading historian of Eastern Europe. His series of articles in the New York Review of Books has been hailed as the definitive analysis of this crisis. Join him as he clarifies the stakes.

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