Hamid Mir

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Manzoor Pashteen, head of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, talks with supporters during a protest in Pakistan on Nov. 27. (Saood Rehman/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Dec. 11, Taliban government forces in Afghanistan shelled a town just across the border in Pakistan, killing seven Pakistani civilians. Pakistan responded in kind, killing one Taliban fighter and injuring 10 Afghans. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the “unprovoked shelling” by Afghan forces. On Dec. 15, the two sides exchanged artillery fire across the border, killing at least one Pakistani civilian and wounding 15 others. Pakistan and the Taliban are virtually at war.

It’s time for Pakistan to accept that its decades-old Afghanistan policy has failed. While the world’s attention has focused on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the violence in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has gone underreported — even though the potential for a serious catastrophe grows by the day.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistani President Arif Alvi, left, meets with Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, the new army chief, in Islamabad on Thursday. (Press Information Department handout via Reuters)

After months of intrigue, Pakistan finally has a new army chief. The job is going to Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, a former head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the powerful military intelligence agency. Many Pakistanis breathed a sigh of relief at the news, which has — at least for the moment — warded off fears of a fresh political crisis. The reason: In recent months, ex-prime minister Imran Khan has been pushing for a confrontation with the senior army leadership that some feared might lead to the army announcing martial law. For the moment, at least, that threat appears to have been averted.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former prime minister Imran Khan talks with the media at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, on Friday, a day after an assassination attempt on his life. (Arif Ali/AFP via Getty Images)

On the evening of Nov. 3, former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan narrowly escaped death. An assailant attacked him at a political march, wounding Khan in the leg, killing one other person and injuring 14 more. Khan survived — but now Pakistan’s democracy may be facing new threats to its survival.

Khan is the third former prime minister to have faced an assassination attempt. The country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was shot in 1951; a suicide bomber killed Benazir Bhutto in 2007. They were targeted in public rallies, but Khan was luckily only lightly injured.

In the months before the attack, Khan himself repeatedly warned that he would be targeted by an assassin, citing a conspiracy cooked up by his political opponents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Citizens often walk through snake-infested and contaminated floodwaters to retrieve their belongings and get groceries as their homes are still submerged in water because the recent floods in Dadu, Sindh, Pakistan, on Sept. 12. (Saiyna Bashir for The Washington Post)

When will Pakistan’s climate catastrophe finally subside? Over the past few weeks, as I’ve traveled around our flood-stricken country, I’ve been haunted by that question. I recently experienced an extraordinary boat journey in the floodwaters of Sindh province when my head was touching the wires strung between electricity poles. I was floating at least 16 feet above the ground. This water level was horrific because only some rooftops and trees were visible in the area. The United Nations has warned that floodwaters are rising again.

A few days ago, I met a man named Munawar Sami, who had lost his son and two daughters when a truck ran over them at the side of the road.…  Seguir leyendo »

Victims of flooding from monsoon rains carry relief aid in Sindh Province, Pakistan, on Sept. 9. (Fareed Khan/AP)

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 »

Pakistani opposition leader and former prime minister Imran Khan addresses supporters during a rally to press the government for fresh elections, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Aug. 13. (K.M. Chaudary/AP)

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 »

Osama bin Laden, left, sits with Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview on Nov. 10, 2001. (Hamid Mir/Daily Dawn via Reuters)

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 »

People make their way through a flooded street after a heavy rain shower in Karachi, Pakistan, on July 11. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

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 »

Pakistan Army troops patrol along the fence on the Pakistan Afghanistan border at Big Ben hilltop post in Khyber district, Pakistan on Aug. 3, 2021. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

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 »

A motorcyclist rides past a billboard featuring Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 3 in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

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 »

Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard in Srinagar in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Jan. 8. (Mukhtar Khan/AP)

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 »

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at news conference on Oct. 26. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

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 »

Pakistan's Gen. Ameer Abdullah Khan Niazi, second from left, signs the surrender document as chief of India's Eastern command Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, left, looks on, surrounded by other commanders in Dacca (now Dhaka), Bangladesh, on Dec. 16, 1971. (AP)

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 »

People commute amid smoggy conditions in Lahore, Pakistan, on Dec. 1. (Arif Ali/AFP via Getty Images)

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 »

Pakistani news channels live telecast of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif addressing an opposition parties meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sept. 21. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

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 in Islamabad in March 2020. (B.K. Bangash/AP)

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 »

Protesters hold pictures of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2019. (Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images)

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 »

Cameras and pictures of journalists killed in Mexico are placed at the Angel of Independence square during a protest by journalists in Mexico City on May 16, 2017. (Yuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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 »