Last Monday, this city was briefly overrun with bands of sloganeering, stick-wielding youths. The demonstrators threw stones at police officers, burned car tires and smashed windows. One gang even plundered a 7Up truck, guzzling its goods before transfixed TV cameras. (I watched the footage — slow-mo jets of sparkly liquid, with strains of horror-movie music playing in the background — that night on the Internet.) There was a euphoric edge to the riots, apparent even when they took a grotesquely violent turn with the lynching of two men.
Who were these vandals? And what, if anything, did their actions demonstrate?
If you went by the original news bulletins, they were Christians reacting to a suicide bombing the day before of two churches in Youhanabad, a low-income area of Lahore that is home to some 100,000 Christians.… Seguir leyendo »
“I used to feel my life was too straight, too linear.”
The speaker was Junaid Hafeez, a young poet and Fulbright scholar from the south of Pakistan, telling a radio show host in 2011 why he had given up studying medicine for a life in literature. Today, he is in jail on a blasphemy charge that carries the death penalty, and is mourning the lawyer who was murdered earlier this month for defending him.
Before his arrest, Hafeez was teaching in the English Department at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, a city in Punjab Province close to where he grew up.… Seguir leyendo »
In July, deep in the heart of Pakistan’s flooded countryside, a miracle mosque was proclaimed: it was the only structure in the small village of Jinnah Colony that the savage waters spared. While the land was still a swamp, I went out to meet the people who had survived by crouching for days on its terrace.
Most of their mud houses had crumbled; those still standing had been destroyed from within. But the villagers were hopeful: I had brought food in a truck, and they had heard that the military was sending tents. As the water receded, they would return to the fields and start sowing winter crops.… Seguir leyendo »
The old man was sitting on his string bed. But it was upside down; its finely rounded legs were pointing to the sky, and the knotted ropes strung across its wooden frame were wet. Underneath it were several plastic drums — once used for storing diesel fuel — that had been emptied out and tied to it for buoyancy. The makeshift raft was bobbing up and down, and the man sitting on it had his legs in the yellow-brown water, which stretched around him for miles and miles like a strange sea, the tops of faraway trees sticking out of it like little islands.… Seguir leyendo »
For many Pakistanis, the deaths of more than 80 members of the Ahmadi religious sect in mosque attacks two weeks ago raised questions of the nation’s future. For me, it recalled a command from my schoolboy past: “Write a Note on the Two-Nation Theory.”
It was a way of scoring easy points on the history exam, and of using new emotions and impressive-sounding words. I began my answer like this:
The Two-Nation Theory is the Theory that holds that the Hindus and Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent are Two Distinct and Separate Nations. It is a Theory that is supported by Numerous Facts and Figures.… Seguir leyendo »
Yesterday afternoon, Ali Raza went to the hospital. A 25-year-old constable in the Punjab police department, Ali Raza was accompanying an old man who needed an M.R.I. scan. In the reception area, he noticed that the waiting patients had abandoned their chairs and were standing around the television. They had been watching the same images all day: a dozen unidentified gunmen, two wearing backpacks, firing at a van near the Liberty Market roundabout. The intended victims, the TV stations had reported, were members of the Sri Lankan national cricket team, in town here to play Pakistan. The dead: eight Pakistanis, including six of Ali Raza’s fellow police officers.… Seguir leyendo »