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 »

Las políticas climáticas son políticas sociales

La cantidad de días al año en que la temperatura supera los 50 °C (122 °F) se duplicó desde la década de 1980 y nunca antes había ocurrido en tantos sitios. Este calor extremo tiene un efecto dramático sobre la salud de las personas, los animales y el ambiente. Según un informe reciente del Banco Mundial sobre la migración climática, durante los próximos 30 años, 216 millones de personas podrían tener que desplazarse debido al aumento de las temperaturas, la escasez del agua y la caída en la productividad de los cultivos. Se verán obligadas a abandonar sus comunidades y sustento para buscar mejores alternativas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistani protesters in Karachi, September 2001 Photograph: STR/Pakistan/Reuters

Not too long ago, Pakistan and Afghanistan were called Af-Pak: two countries joined at the hip, doomed to live and die together. You didn’t get to choose your neighbours, we were told. Geography, we were taught, was our destiny.

There was a lot of talk about geostrategic significance – which was the Pakistan military’s way of saying there were great advantages to be derived from our unfortunate neighbours.

More than four decades ago, our leaders insisted we had to help the Afghan mujahideen fight the Soviets because that would help us ward off communism in our own country. Having lived most of my life in Pakistan, I have probably come across half a dozen communists – and even they never agreed with each other.…  Seguir leyendo »

Malala Yousafzai is interviewed ahead of the Cricket World Cup opening party along The Mall in London on May 29, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

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 »

A Pakistani army post on the border with Afghanistan in the Khyber district of Pakistan on Aug. 3. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Many profound ramifications of America’s exodus from Afghanistan are competing for attention. Among the top challenges, Pakistan’s future stands out. For decades, Islamabad has recklessly pursued nuclear weapons and aided Islamist terrorism — threats that U.S. policymakers have consistently underestimated or mishandled. With Kabul’s fall, the time for neglect or equivocation is over.

The Taliban’s takeover next door immediately poses the sharply higher risk that Pakistani extremists will increase their already sizable influence in Islamabad, threatening at some point to seize full control.

A description once applied to Prussia — where some states possess an army, the Prussian army possesses a state — is equally apt for Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

El verdadero fracaso es Pakistán

Solo hay un aspecto positivo sobre el hecho de los talibanes hayan restablecido el Emirato Islámico de Afganistán a días del aniversario 20 de los ataques terroristas a EE.UU. del 11 de septiembre de 2001: servirá como recordatorio de por qué hace dos décadas hubo que invadir el país y derrocar al gobierno talibán.

Cuando cerca de 3000 personas son asesinadas en tu propio suelo en una operación planificada y ordenada por un grupo terrorista conocido desde un país cuyo gobierno se niega a cooperar para llevar ante la justicia a esa organización y a su líder, no hay buenas opciones.…  Seguir leyendo »

People arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, on Monday. (Stringer/Reuters)

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, said Monday that Afghanistan has broken the “shackles of slavery,” as the Taliban returned to power following a dramatic collapse of the Afghanistan government over the weekend. But what does a new Taliban regime actually mean for neighboring Pakistan?

The U.S. government — along with many Afghans — has long been frustrated by Pakistan’s perceived logistical support for the Taliban. This issue has strained Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. Observers in Kabul and Washington have also held that Pakistan’s security establishment considers a Taliban victory in Afghanistan to be in Pakistan’s strategic interest.

Officials in Pakistan have continued to deny these allegations, declaring their opposition to any forceful takeover of power in Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman and a member of the negotiation team gestures while speaking during a joint news conference in Moscow on July 22. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The Taliban is playing a shrewd diplomatic game. Even as its fighters advance throughout Afghanistan, they are working to assuage the anxiety of countries across the region. They have conducted talks with the Iranians, the Russians, and the countries of Central Asia. They’ve reassured the Chinese that they have no intention of challenging Beijing’s atrocities against its Muslim minorities. And they have told anyone who will listen — including the Americans — that a Taliban government would not let the soil of Afghanistan to be used as a base for operations against third countries.

That looks like a smart strategy — yet we’ve just seen a striking departure from this pattern.…  Seguir leyendo »

India mira al oeste

Los últimos gestos conciliatorios del gobierno nacionalista de la India en su flanco occidental despertaron el comprensible interés del mundo. Pero el cálculo del primer ministro Narendra Modi es bastante sencillo. Frente a la agresión continua de China en la frontera septentrional de la India y un probable resurgimiento talibán en Afganistán, parece prudente una mejora de las relaciones del país con su vecino occidental (Pakistán).

Estas últimas semanas, se habló de la existencia de conversaciones extraoficiales secretas entre funcionarios de seguridad indios y pakistaníes (facilitadas por los Emiratos Árabes Unidos) con el objetivo de aliviar las tensiones bilaterales. La tregua que se acordó en febrero de 2021 en la «línea de control» que separa a las fuerzas indias y pakistaníes en la disputada región de Cachemira se viene respetando desde entonces, lo que permitió una atmósfera de relativa normalidad en la zona.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kaneez Sughra, wife of kidnapped Pakistani journalist Matiullah Jan, shows a photo of her husband to journalists in Islamabad, Pakistan, on July 21, 2020. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Sachal is a 3-year-old Pakistani boy. Lately he has spent long hours sitting outside a court in Islamabad with his grandmother, waiting to hear news of the father who was snatched from him when he was just a few months old. Sachal’s father, the journalist and poet Mudassar Naaru, suddenly disappeared when the family was on holiday in August 2018. He hasn’t been heard from since. Sachal’s mother, Sadaf, who led a brave and determined search for answers, passed away last month. The pain of the past three years was too much for her to bear, contributing to a fatal heart attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistani women hold placards in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 26. (Shahzaib Akber/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

I was 6 years old when I had my first encounter with sexual violence.

I was out on a shopping trip with my mother and an aunt at a cacophonous stretch of stalls in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital. For a brief, dizzying moment in the chaotic souk, I found myself alone on one side of a wall of orange silk rolled out by a shopkeeper, the silver beads and sequins on the fabric throwing off light like a thousand swirling disco globes. Strange hands were suddenly all over my body and my crotch. Then, just as suddenly, the cloth was lowered and the hands disappeared.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imran Khan Urges a New U.S.-Pakistan Bond

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is at a watershed moment. The two countries have been locked in an uneasy embrace for the last 20 years, with the United States providing much-needed support to Pakistan in exchange for Islamabad’s assistance in the war on terror. While it hasn’t been smooth (see Pakistan’s harboring of militant groups and U.S. drone strikes that killed Pakistani civilians), the relationship has more or less endured.

With U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan by Sept. 11, Pakistan faces urgent questions. What strategic clout does it have now? Where does it fit in the great power confrontation between the United States and China?…  Seguir leyendo »

A Pakistani customer looks at a book by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai at a bookstore in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 30. (B.K. Bangash/AP)

In Pakistan — a country where 86 percent of women over the age of 25 are married — citizens on Twitter and politicians are panicking over what they see as a threat to the institution of marriage. This follows remarks made by 23-year-old Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai in a recent interview with British Vogue. She expressed doubts about whether she would ever marry, and that she didn’t understand why people had to marry.

The comments by the activist, known by her first name, were probably misinterpreted and blown out of proportion. But the battle to change unequal structures of marriage has a longer history within Pakistan, and globally.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistani journalists and members of civil society take part in a demonstration to condemn attacks on journalists, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 28. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

For some elements in Pakistan, it is not enough that I have been taken off the air. They want to see me behind bars. Last month, I was banned from appearing on the talk show I have hosted for two decades, “Capital Talk,” on Geo News. I was also stopped from writing my column in Pakistan’s most popular Urdu-language newspaper, Jang. Now I face the prospect of sedition charges. The maximum punishment under the law is life imprisonment.

My apparent crime was a speech I gave at a protest in solidarity with journalist Asad Toor last month. On the night of May 25, three unidentified men entered Toor’s apartment, tied him up and tortured him.…  Seguir leyendo »

El monstruo talibán de Pakistán

Al difunto director de la poderosa Agencia de Inteligencia Inter-Servicios (ISI) de Pakistán, el teniente general Hamid Gul, le gustaba hacer alarde de que cuando se escribiera la historia de Afganistán, quedaría registrado que la ISI, con la ayuda de Estados Unidos, derrotó a la Unión Soviética. Y luego, agregaba disimuladamente, los historiadores dirían que la ISI, con la ayuda de Estados Unidos, derrotó a Estados Unidos.

El alarde de Gul no era el tipo de bravata vacía por las que se conoce a los militares cuando cuelgan el uniforme y recuerdan su pasado como algo más glorioso de lo que podrían garantizar los detalles.…  Seguir leyendo »

A shopkeeper watches Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan on television, Karachi, March 2021. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Once upon a time, Imran Khan and I used to fight for press freedom together in Pakistan. In November 2007, when then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and banned me from appearing on television, Khan was among the few politicians who stood by me. I took my popular political talkshow on to the streets of Islamabad, where large crowds would come and hear us speak live, and Khan was a regular guest. “When I become prime minister,” he promised, “journalists will have true press freedom.”

Now I have been taken off the air once again, but this time Khan is the prime minister.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistani people receive a dose of the Chinese-made Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine in Islamabad on Thursday. (Sohail Shahzad/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The current coronavirus wave in India, with case rates topping 4,500 in a day, threatens to spill over into the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh. As in India, those countries’ pandemic response is complicated by a low rate of compliance with public health orders intended to control the pandemic, including wearing masks and staying home under lockdown. And Pakistani citizens are wary of being vaccinated because of the CIA-run fake vaccination campaign purportedly against hepatitis B in the early 2010s — although, in fact, it was collecting DNA evidence to help locate al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Once the CIA’s campaign was exposed, vaccination rates of all kinds dropped in Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arif Ali/AFP via Getty Images

Cuando el nuevo coronavirus llegó a Pakistán a fines de febrero, hubo muchas dudas respecto de la capacidad del país para manejar la carga de enfermedad adicional. Los casos de COVID‑19 aumentaban rápidamente a la par del regreso de viajeros desde otras zonas de la región con alta prevalencia, y había que reforzar con urgencia el sistema de salud pública.

En ese momento crítico, Pakistán recurrió al equipo que trabaja para erradicar la polio. Hoy Pakistán y el vecino Afganistán son los dos únicos países del mundo con poliovirus salvaje endémico, después de que hace poco se declaró que África está libre de la enfermedad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Activists of Ahle Hadees Ittehad Council protest during an anti-Shiite rally in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 20. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, I sent a tweet — intended as a commentary on Pakistan’s problem of political abductions — that sparked a violent backlash of gender-based slurs, slut-shaming and death threats. By the next day, #ArrestMarviSirmed_295C became the top trending Twitter hashtag in my country, with countless people suggesting my extrajudicial murder. They took their inspiration from Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. (Section 295-C makes it a criminal offense to use derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet.) The hatred and calls for violence sent me into hiding, fearing that vigilantes might take matters into their own hands. The mere accusation of blasphemy has become a license to kill in most of the Muslim world, particularly in Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »