March 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
by Arif Ayaz Parrey
This piece first appeared in the Honour newsmagazine.
Every night, when she drops the slightly bluish liquid into a glass of water, Nisaare feels pride more than embarrassment, or even disgrace. The liquid is a sedative drug. The glass of water is meant for her husband. She feels reassured that she has dealt with the loss of their son much better than he has.
Nine years have passed since the death of their only child in an ‘encounter’ with the Rashtriya Rifles. He had been a bashful young man; not the kind you would easily associate with militant revolution. He had gone ‘across’ for ‘training’ simply because everybody in his peer group had, and he did not want to be the only one left behind. Any other motives he had are buried with him and will surely be summoned back to life one day. On his return, he was of little help to the group because he would not shoot to kill. He had been barely audible when he had expressed his ideological opposition to ambush. He had stated that he would much rather fight the soldiers openly. The commanders assigned him the role of a donation collector during the day and a patrol at night.
February 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
October 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
by Johnny Barber
Kabul–As we step off the Turkish Air flight and walk across the dusty tarmac to the terminal, we are greeted by a large billboard. In big bold English it proclaims, “Welcome to the Home of the Brave.” It stops me in my tracks. I shake my head, thinking, “damn weird” and continue in to passport control. After waiting in a short line, I present my American passport to the guard in the booth. He doesn’t acknowledge me. He flips through the shiny new pages until he gets to the visa. He stamps it. He turns to the picture. He gives me a precursory glance and hands the passport back to me. I turn and enter Afghanistan.
I have come here with two friends from Voices for Creative Non-Violence, forming a small delegation interested in developing relationships with ordinary Afghans and gathering stories of everyday life since the American invasion in 2001. After collecting our luggage and taking a short bus ride to the parking area, Hakim, Mohammed Jan, and his brother Noor greet us warmly. Hakim and Mohammed Jan are our hosts and the organizing force of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.
June 21, 2011 § 3 Comments
My review of Anatol Lieven’s must-read book, originally published at IPS.
It is almost obligatory these days to subtitle books on Pakistan with some conjunction of ‘failed’, ‘dangerous’, ‘lawless’, ‘deadly’, ‘frightening’ or ‘tumultuous’. Pakistan is a ‘tinderbox’, forever on the brink, in the eye of the storm, or descending into chaos. It is an ‘Insh’allah nation’ where people passively wait for Allah. In the narrow space ‘between the mosque and the military’, there is much ‘crisis’, ‘terrorism’, ‘militancy’ and ‘global jihad.’
British author and policy analyst Anatol Lieven’s refreshingly understated title Pakistan: A Hard Country eschews emotion for description, which is fitting because the book is a 519-page myth- busting exercise.
Lieven, currently a fellow at the New America Foundation, argues that some of the alarmist claims about Pakistan are indeed true – it is a corrupt, chaotic, violent, oppressive and unjust country. But it is also a remarkably resilient one. It is not nearly as unequal as India or Nigeria, or for that matter the United States. Its security is beset by multiple insurgencies but they affect a smaller proportion of its territory than the ones India faces. Its cities are violent, but no more so than those of comparable size in Latin or even North America. It has an abysmally low rate of tax collection, but, at five percent of the GDP, it also has one of the world’s highest rates of charitable donations. It is no doubt corrupt, but this is due less to the absence of values than to the enduring grip of the old ones of loyalty to family and clan.
May 28, 2011 § 2 Comments
Anatol Lieven discusses his new book Pakistan: A hard country, which I shall review here shortly.
May 17, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Anatol Lieven discusses Pakistan’s surprising degree of stability; International governance challenges; the role of the army and ISI; the drug trade; and Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S., Afghanistan, and other countries, including India, China, and Russia.
Anatol Lieven is chair of International Relations and Terrorism Studies at King’s College London, and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His next book, “Pakistan: A Hard Country,” will appear in April 2011.
May 12, 2011 § 1 Comment
Anatol Lieven is the author of the excellent America Right or Wrong. In the following interview he discusses his new book Paksitan: A Hard Country, which I shall review here shortly.
Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Anatol Lieven for a discussion of his new book Pakistan: A Hard Country. Lieven emphasizes the important role of kinship in understanding society and the state in Pakistan. Discussing the military’s unique position as the preeminent national institution, he explains the sources of its power and prestige. Focusing on Pakistani national security thinking, he traces the perceived strategic threat posed by India, the role of Afghanistan in Pakistani strategy, the distinction between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and the importance of Kashmir. He then proceeds to an analysis of the complex relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Lieven concludes with a discussion of the threat posed by Pakistan’s geographical location in the Indus valley and the long term implications of climate change for its future.
March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are said to have taken up key positions around the opposition-held city of Ajdabiya.
The eastern city has been fought over now for more than two weeks.
Many people have fled and others are hiding indoors.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays reports on the desperate conditions for people who have chosen to stay.
March 22, 2011 § 15 Comments
French-Lebanese scholar Gilbert Achcar on the no-fly zone in Libya:
Over at Al Jazeera, Marwan Bishara asks:
So who bears the responsibility for turning Libya into a war zone and an object of an international military intervention?
Could it be those who confronted a peaceful civil uprising for freedom with lethal force, and when it escalated into a full-fledged revolt, used aerial bombardments, heavy artillery to quell it?
Libya could have and should have gone Tunisia or Egypt’s path of change. But while their militaries conceded the need for regime change, in Libya the family-led powerful militias, financed and groomed to defend the regime’s “country estate”, sided with their pay masters.
While the Gaddafis continue to show images of pro-Gaddafi demonstrators in Tripoli to offset the images of widespread anti-Gaddafi/pro-change, in reality, Libya is not divided between two visions for their country.
Rather between a majority that seeks free and prosperous Libya, and a mostly small heavily-armed minority that runs or benefits from a corrupt rule.
March 19, 2011 § 13 Comments
Two days after Gaddafi promised that he’ll show ‘no mercy’, his troops are bombarding, some entering, Benghazi. The UN Security Council had passed a resolution declaring a no-fly zone over Libya. Thus far, the sky belongs to Gaddafi. There was a point where Gaddafi could have been thwarted, had his armoured columns been checked by the presence of hostile air power. No need to bomb them, just bomb the road ahead. Check their advance, send a message. Instead, the troops have been allowed to enter Benghazi. Now they cannot be attacked without inflicting high casualties on civilians. The UN forces will likely excuse themselves by claiming that tanks can’t be attacked because now they are in the city. Western forces are also reluctant because since 2003, Gaddafi has been a reliable economic parter and Libya has been a favoured destination for rendition flights. (Remember where Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi died?)
The UN could still salvage the situation by threatening Gaddafi’s supply lines. But I fear we are about to see another Srebrenica. In that instance, the UN forces delayed intervention till the Serbs had encircled the enclave and then declined to intervene because they said it would put their own peacekeepers lives at risk. Meanwhile the slaughter continues.