I have covered wars across the world. I have also reported on many natural disasters. I’ve seen more than my share of death and destruction, but I’ve never wept.
Lately I have been traveling in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan, and I cannot control my tears. My country is drowning in one of the worst environmental disasters the world has ever experienced. After visiting some of the areas hit by the floods, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he had never seen climate-related destruction on such a scale, and he appealed to the international community to help. Guterres noted that Pakistan is a victim of climate change produced by the more heavily industrialized countries.… Seguir leyendo »
Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, is facing multiple threats of disqualification and arrest. On Aug. 21, the government charged him under the antiterrorism act; he was granted bail until Sept. 1. Meanwhile, he is also set to appear in a contempt of court case on Aug. 31.
He recently invited me over for a cup of tea at his Islamabad residence. I have known Khan for almost 30 years and I was curious to hear how he sees the next stage of his political career. Dressed in casual clothes, he looked fit and alert.
In the course of our conversation, he acknowledged that he had been unable to fulfill many of the promises he made after the 2018 election.… Seguir leyendo »
Pakistan has just turned 75. The anniversary should be a cause for celebration, but also for serious self-criticism. Many Pakistanis are fond of citing our achievement of becoming the world’s first Muslim nuclear power. But how are nuclear weapons supposed to save Pakistan if our institutions are falling apart? The army, of course, remains strong. But our parliament, judiciary and media are becoming weaker by the day.
It is a matter of shame that four military dictators ruled Pakistan for more than 32 years. Civilian prime ministers — 29 of them — have ruled the country for 43 years. No elected prime minister has completed a full five-year term.… Seguir leyendo »
The first time I met Ayman al- Zawahiri, back in 1998, he was acting as Osama bin Laden’s interpreter — but it was clear he was much more than that.
It was my second interview with bin Laden, and Zawahiri impressed me right away. He translated bin Laden’s responses from Arabic into perfect English. Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor by training, was able to pose my critical questions with a mild smile on his face, and then conveyed bin Laden’s responses to me in a very aggressive tone.
When I learned that Zawahiri had been killed by a U.S. drone strike in downtown Kabul, I thought about his deep ties to jihadism in the country.… Seguir leyendo »
I never took climate change seriously until last year, when a mother and her child drowned in flooding just a few streets away from my home in Islamabad. This year the flooding is even worse. At least 150 people, including women and children, have died from heavy monsoon rains across Pakistan in 2022. Sherry Rehman, climate change minister, says that recent rainfall has been 87 percent heavier than in previous years.
Pakistan and India have fought each other several times over the decades, but this summer they are facing a common foe that has killed many people and displaced millions of others: climate change.… Seguir leyendo »
Back in 2007, my colleague Musa Khankhel and I were reporting in the Swat Valley, a remote part of northwest Pakistan’s tribal areas where elements of the Pakistani Taliban had just seized power. The militants noticed us when Musa started to film the hoisting of a Taliban flag on the roof of a local police station. Taliban fighters arrested us and took us to their headquarters. Here I encountered Muslim Khan, a militant leader who made his criticisms of the Pakistani army’s counterterrorism operations in American-accented English. (Musa, who knew him, explained to me that “Muslim Khan had spent many years in Boston”.)… Seguir leyendo »
Former prime minister Imran Khan refuses to accept his fall from power. Earlier this year, before he lost office in an unprecedented parliamentary no-confidence vote, he effectively declared war on his opponents: “I wish to warn you: If I am ousted from the government, I will be more dangerous for you”. Now he is trying to make good on that threat by fueling fears of bloody civil conflict if he isn’t restored to power within the next few months.
In recent years, Khan has tried to cement his hold on power through a populist strategy of polarization and division. Now, he is relying on the same playbook to reverse his defeat at the hands of Parliament — even if that means openly flouting constitutional ground rules.… Seguir leyendo »
Imran Khan, the 19th prime minister of Pakistan, has just plunged the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Over the weekend, facing a parliamentary no-confidence vote that was set to remove him from office, Khan decided to sweep the pieces off the board by dissolving the National Assembly itself. His 18 predecessors failed to complete their five-year terms, most of them removed by the army or the courts. In contrast, this new crisis is entirely of Khan’s own making.
Yet I believe that, despite Khan’s attempts to subvert constitutional procedures, the country’s democratic institutions will prevail. The Supreme Court is deliberating over a solution to the impasse Khan has created, and the judges have a great opportunity to show that rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution offer the best solution to our problems.… Seguir leyendo »
This month, the Kashmir Press Club, the umbrella organization for journalists in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, issued a statement condemning the arrest of a young trainee reporter named Sajad Gul. On Jan. 5 he was arrested by the Indian Army; though initially granted bail by a local court, he was soon detained yet again on a different set of charges. Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based journalism advocacy organization, warned that Gul now faces the possibility of six years in prison. His apparent offense? A single tweet that linked to a video clip showing a protest over the killing of a separatist activist.… Seguir leyendo »
Imran Khan has always portrayed himself as the savior of Pakistan. He has often claimed that a country borrows a lot only if its leaders are corrupt. Pakistanis still remember him saying that he would rather kill himself than beg for loans.
But that isn’t how he’s acted since he became prime minister in 2018. In the three years since then, he’s broken all previous records on borrowing ($40 billion). Now, his opponents are callously demanding that he should honor his words and end his life because he has surrendered the financial sovereignty of Pakistan to the International Monetary Fund. Khan appointed a former IMF official as the head of the central bank, and now the IMF has drastically curtailed the Pakistani government’s control over the bank as well.… Seguir leyendo »
Today, Dec. 16, we commemorate the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 — a war that ultimately transformed what was originally known as East Pakistan into the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan, ruled at the time by its dictatorial president Gen. Yahya Khan, reacted to a growing movement for autonomy in Bengali-dominated East Pakistan by sending in the troops. That prompted intervention by India, which ultimately helped the increasingly rebellious Bengalis to break away from rule by Islamabad.
The human cost of the war was huge. But perhaps no survivors have suffered a sadder fate than the children who were born as the result of sexual violence committed by members of the Pakistani military: the so-called war babies, whose existence has been long ignored or suppressed by both Bangladesh and Pakistan.… Seguir leyendo »
If you don’t smoke to protect your health, you are very wise. But if you don’t smoke and you live in Lahore or Delhi, you might inhale smoke equal to 10 to 15 cigarettes daily. In that case, you’re wise but unlucky. Simply breathing in these cities poses serious health effects, from lung cancer to heart disease.
Citizens of many big South Asian cities have long been under attack from this enemy, more dangerous than the coronavirus. (It’s estimated that 54,000 people died prematurely in New Delhi last year due to polluted air, a higher toll than in any other big metropolis in the world.)… Seguir leyendo »
An independent judiciary is one of the crucial pillars of any genuine liberal democracy. Here in Pakistan, a new scandal has ignited a firestorm of controversy precisely because it is reminding us that our judicial branch can make no claim to independence. Our country’s senior judges have intervened in politics again and again throughout history.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has disqualified sitting prime ministers many times. The judges even decreed the hanging of one prime minister during the reign of a military dictator. There was no public outcry against the judiciary’s dubious actions back then. But society is changing.
On Nov.… Seguir leyendo »
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more willing to talk to terrorists blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis, including security personnel and schoolchildren, than sit down with his political opposition.
He was absent from a five-hour, closed-door special meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security on Monday because he probably didn’t want to shake hands with his nonviolent rivals. Why is he digging a big hole for himself?
Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, the director general Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have informed parliamentarians from the government and the opposition that the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan was facilitating talks with the banned group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).… Seguir leyendo »
In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told an aide that he would “use a bullet” on Jamal Khashoggi if the journalist, who was then living in exile, didn’t cease his criticism of the Saudi government. Ultimately, a team of assassins killed Khashoggi during his visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
A Saudi court later sentenced five people to death for Khashoggi’s murder. Yet it is clear to anyone who knows the details of the case that those judges never dared to touch the real culprit. The awareness of this grim reality has led Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, to continue to seek genuine accountability for the killing.… Seguir leyendo »
On Sunday, the 35-year-old Pakistani journalist Shahid Zehri was killed by an explosion in the industrial city of Hub. Assailants attached a bomb to his car and detonated it by remote control. The Baluch Liberation Army, a banned separatist group, claimed responsibility.
Just three days before Zehri’s killing, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sent a signal of support for independent journalism by awarding its Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia.
The killing of a Pakistani journalist just days after the Nobel announcement vividly illustrates the growing threats to media freedom around the world. We’re accustomed to hearing about crackdowns on the press in autocracies such as Russia.… Seguir leyendo »
Pakistan and the United States have been trading accusations about who’s responsible for the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. Yet as they bicker, both countries are ignoring one important consequence of the Taliban takeover: the coming boom in Afghanistan’s narcotic trade, which presents a major threat to global health. In the next few years, a flood of drugs from Afghanistan may become a bigger threat than terrorism.
The 20-year-long U.S. intervention failed to dismantle the narco-economy, which was the biggest source of funding for the insurgents. The Taliban has never made any mystery about its friendly relations with some well-known Afghan drug lords.… Seguir leyendo »
Hace 20 años, siete semanas después del 11 de septiembre, fui el último periodista en entrevistar a Osama bin Laden. Nos reunimos en Afganistán, en medio de la campaña de bombardeos de Estados Unidos. Bin Laden se jactó de haber tendido una trampa que acabaría humillando a Estados Unidos en Afganistán, tal como le había sucedido a la Unión Soviética. También predijo que Estados Unidos y los talibanes tendrían conversaciones.
Dos décadas después Bin Laden está muerto, pero esas predicciones se han hecho realidad. Y no fueron las únicas que se cumplieron.
Quizás los estadounidenses pueden tener algo de consuelo en el hecho de que lograron vengarse cuando lo mataron.… Seguir leyendo »
Twenty years ago, seven weeks after 9/11, I was the last journalist to interview Osama bin Laden. We met in Afghanistan, in the middle of the U.S. bombing campaign. Bin Laden boasted that he had laid a trap that would end up humiliating the United States in Afghanistan — just as had happened to the Soviet Union. He also predicted talks between the United States and the Taliban.
Two decades later bin Laden is dead, but those predictions have come true. And they weren’t the only ones that did.
Americans can find some small consolation, perhaps, in the fact that they managed to take revenge by hunting him down and killing him.… Seguir leyendo »
A new law could mark the beginning of the end for Pakistan’s hard-won media freedoms.
In 2009, I set out to broadcast a live show direct from the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan — right after the government had signed a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban, which controlled the area at the time. But only a few hours before the show, one of my reporter friends, Musa Khan Khel, was gunned down by unknown people in Taliban territory. That evening I led a rally to protest his death. One of the people who came was an 11-year-old blogger by the name of Malala Yousafzai.… Seguir leyendo »