Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Malala Yousafzai: By the Book

September 12, 2014

The activist and co-author of “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World” relished “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the first book she read in the hospital when recovering from an attack by the Taliban. New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor will continue the conversation with Malala Yousafzai at a Times Talk this evening; click here to watch it live or afterwards.

Malala Yousafzai Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Malala Yousafzai Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What book are you reading right now?

I’ve been reading “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck, which is on the school curriculum. It’s a short book, but it is filled with so much. It really reflects the situation of 1930s America. I was fascinated to learn how women were treated at the time, and what life was like for poor itinerant workers. Books can capture injustices in a way that stays with you and makes you want to do something about them. That’s why they are so powerful.

What’s the last truly great book you read?

“The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho. I like it because it is hopeful and inspiring. It tells the story of a boy who embarks on a journey to find a treasure, but as he goes along, he learns from every part of his journey and every person he meets. In the end, he finds his treasure in a very interesting place. His story tells you that you should believe in yourself and continue your journey.

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Deborah Ellis (author of “Parvana’s Journey”) and Khaled Hosseini (“The Kite Runner”). Both tell stories about young characters in difficult circumstances, having to make hard choices and having to find strength. They accurately depict war-torn regions. I like writers who can show me worlds I know nothing about, but my favorites are those who create characters or worlds which feel realistic and familiar to me, or who can make me feel inspired. I discovered Deborah Ellis’s books in the school library after my head teacher encouraged me to go beyond the school curriculum and look for books I might enjoy. This wasn’t long after I arrived in Britain, and I was missing my friends terribly. Reading about Afghanistan made me feel like being back at home. This is the power of books. They can take you to places which are beyond reach.

And your favorite writers of all time?

Paulo Coelho.

What books would you recommend for young people hoping to understand the plight of girls and women in Pakistan today?

“Mud City,” part of the “Parvana’s Journey” series by Deborah Ellis. I was gripped by this series and couldn’t drag myself away from it. Ellis beautifully captures childhood in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. The stories are very moving.

Is there one book you wish all girls would read? One all students would read?

All girls: “The Breadwinner,” by Deborah Ellis. The book tells the story of a young girl who takes on the challenge of saving her family. I think it’s important for girls everywhere to learn how women are treated in some societies. But even though Parvana is treated as lesser than boys and men, she never feels that way. She believes in herself and is stronger to fight against hunger, fear and war. Girls like her are an inspiration. “The Breadwinner” reminds us how courageous and strong women are around the world.

All students should read “The Kite Runner.” It shows you should not judge other people by external things. And it shows loyalty and friendship.

Were there particular books that helped you get through the recovery process after the attack on you by the Taliban?

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was the first book I read in the hospital. I had been having headaches and couldn’t read or focus properly for a while. It is a lovely book, and it was given to me by Gordon Brown — he sent me 25 books, and this was my favorite.

Which books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

“A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking. I read it during a period when life in Swat was very hard. I distracted myself from the fear and terrorism by thinking about things like how the universe began and whether time travel is possible. I enjoy science, and I’m a very curious person. I always want to know the reason behind everything, big or small.

What was the last book to make you laugh?

“The Little Prince.” It is a very clever book, and in the beginning it’s extremely funny.

The last book that made you cry?

I never cry reading a book.

The last book that made you furious?

Mine! The editing was really hard. Especially because we wanted to get everything right in a very short period of time. The workdays were very long, but it was worth it in the end.

What are your childhood memories of books and reading?

One of the first books I read is called “Meena,” about a girl who stood up for women’s rights and education in Afghanistan. I also read a biography about Martin Luther King Jr., written for children.

But I didn’t read a lot of books when I was young. In our country, many children don’t attend school or learn how to read. Those who do usually read only textbooks. In our classes, we focused more on history, science and mathematics than literature. Many people couldn’t afford books. Most books were secondhand, used by many children before. In Pakistan even schools own very few books. I was lucky to have a father who valued education and thought it was important that I knew how to read. I read eight or nine books in Swat, and I was considered to be a bookish girl! Here [in Birmingham, England] girls have read hundreds of books.

One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I was asked to open the Library of Birmingham, Europe’s largest new library. I had never seen so many books and all of them freely available to members of the public. If only children in Pakistan had such easy access to books! People of Birmingham are very lucky to have such a wonderful library.

If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be?

If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be?

I would like to suggest him to read many books. He should read “The Kite Runner,” too. And “The Little Prince.” Or maybe “The Alchemist,” if he would like to get away from his real world into the imaginary world of “The Alchemist.”

If you could require the prime minister of Pakistan to read one book, what would it be?

I would suggest him to read “Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

The Alchemist.”

And the worst?

I think it would be disrespectful to say that, but I did read a book recently which I thought was the worst.

What was the last book you put down without finishing?

Someone gave me a book to help me in improving my English. I read a few pages, and I didn’t really like that book and decided not to read it, as it had no suspense. A book should have suspense and grab you right from the beginning.

What are you planning to read next?

“An Inspector Calls.” It’s actually a play that I saw and enjoyed. It is part of the English syllabus, and I want to read it as well.

Originally published New York Times.

US lies on drone strikes

June 25, 2013

Leaked documents have exposed the extent of the US government lies on drone strikes.

Pakistan is a neutral country. Pakistan is not at war with the US. And yet the US still continues to attack Pakistan with drone strikes.

These are not strikes at carefully selected targets as the US would have us believe. These are strikes against people who fit a rough profile.

If you launch attacks on people, you expect them to hit back.

The Taliban cold-blooded execution of mountaineers in the Himalayas, was as direct response to drone strikes.

The attack and beheading of an off-duty soldier in London in broad daylight was a direct response to British involvement in drone strikes.

Surveillance does not stop terrorist attacks. Terrorism, or the threat thereof, is being used as an excuse for mass surveillance. It is action by the US that is creating terrorists.

Drone attacks

October 31, 2012
drone atatcks

drone atatcks

One of the problems with drones is that they are easy to use. Another is that they are proving to be counterproductive.

These are in essence one and the same argument. Easy to use, compared with say sending in the SAS who may take casualties.

Easy to use in that we seem to have no comeback. The same of could could be said of firing rockets, except as the Palestinians find, lob a few rockets over into Israel and all hell breaks out.

Soldiers in Afghanistan are seen as legitimate targets, as we see from what seems to be a daily toll of killings.

When we use drones, one of the problems is that we are not taking out the right people, this leads to more terrorists not less. The drones are launched from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, which is then seen as a legitimate target.

On the Moral Maze this evening, a dire programme at the best of times, Melanie Phillips tried to claim only one or two civilian casualties (just one example of the garbage she came out with). Maybe she would like to explain why Imran Khan led a demonstration against drones, why he was questioned by US Immigration Official as he tried to enter the US from Canada?

One of the questions that hangs over the is of drones, is the lack of democratic accountability. We see the civilian deaths in Pakistan, but what we are not seeing is any discussion on their use.

Another is that of legitimacy. Their use may be illegal under International Law.

Anyone who wonders what it is like to be on the receiving end, talk to those who were in London when the Germans used V-bombs

Unlike a missile, drones are relatively low technology, easy to build, easy to acquire, easy to use. Soon everyone will have them, then we will find out what it is like to be on the receiving end.

Since June 2008, UK forces have carried out around 300 airstrikes in Afghanistan using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as drones), controlled from thousands of miles away. Although there is some public information about US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, there is almost no public information about drone strikes carried out by the UK in Afghanistan.

There are serious ethical, moral and legal questions about the growing use of armed drones which need to be properly debated. However, it is impossible to have such a debate while information is being kept secret. At the very least, it seems that public discussion is being controlled.

Drones have enabled a huge increase in targeted killing is also causing deep disquiet amongst legal experts and scholars.

However, perhaps the greatest concern relates to what is seen as one of the key capabilities of drones – their ability to loiter over an area for hours or even days. Evidence is beginning to emerge that the persistent presence of drone sitting over remote villages and towns, simply looking for ‘targets of opportunity’, leads to an increase in civilian casualties.

Despite growing public concern, the UK is to double the number of armed Reaper drones in operation by 2013 and is also pressing ahead with plans to develop new armed drones over the next decade, all without public debate or parliamentary scrutiny.

There are serious questions about the use of drones:

  • Does the geographic and psychological distance between the operator and target make attacks more likely?
  • Does using unmanned systems mean attacks will happen more often?
  • Does the supposed accuracy of drone sensors and cameras mean that commanders are more willing to undertake ‘riskier’ strikes (in terms of possible civilian casualties) than they would previously have undertaken?

All of these questions, and many more, need to be debated openly and honestly, requiring careful analysis and judgement based on evidence. Unfortunately, that evidence is being kept under wraps. While it may be necessary to keep some information secret, we do not believe it is appropriate or legitimate to refuse to disclose any and all information about the circumstances in which Reapers have been used over the past four years. There is, at the very least, a sense that public discussion is being stifled.

With the use of armed drones set to increase, we need a serious, public – and fully informed – debate on all these issues.

A petition has been drawn up to David Cameron asking for an open debate on the use of drones.

More information on drones and their use can be obtained from the Drone Campaign Network.

What is incredible is that the video feed is not encrypted. The targets on the ground can see what the drone can see.

In the last decade, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by drones.

The rights of girls to an education

October 24, 2012
UN Messenger of Peace Paulo Coelho with Malala on screen

UN Messenger of Peace Paulo Coelho with Malala on screen

I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves. — Mary Wollstonecraft

The terrorists showed what frightens them most: a girl with a book. – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secetary General

Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) was a member of a group of radical intellectuals called the English Jacobins. Her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) argued equal educational opportunities for women.  She was the mother of Mary Shelley.

A tale of two young bloggers, nine-year-old Martha Payne and Fourteen-year-old Malala. One in Scotland, one in Pakistan.

Martha Payne writes a food blog NeverSeconds. Pathetic jobsworth at her local council tried to gag her. She fought back. She raised money for Friends of NeverSeconds a kitchen for school children in Malawi, has been honoured with various awards, has co-written a book due to be published next month.

Malawa writes a blog calling for education for girls.

Fourteen-year-old Malala was shot  in the head at point blank range by the Pakistani Taliban for daring to suggest that girls might read, that they should have an education.

The first word of the Koran is read. It does not say only men read, it does not say deny girls an education.

Two years ago saw the start of the Arab Spring in Tunisia. People did not take to the streets to see a takeover by Muslim extremists who are even more oppressive than the dictators who were overthrown.

The Muslim extremists who are trying to hijack the Arab Spring want to see the clock set back to the Middle Ages, they wish to bastardise women, deny them of any rights.

These are some of their demands

  • a woman committing adultery 100 lashes if single, stoning to death if married
  • girls forced into marriage aged nine-years-old
  • denial of education for girls
  • women to be covered up from head to toe with only eyes showing
  • drinking of alcohol, 60 lashes

Malawa fortunately survived being shot in the head, she is in hospital in Birmingham recovering.

There are many girls like Malawa who do not recover, who we do not hear about.

The Taliban drove up to Malala’s school and shot her in the neck and brain. Despite being hit at close range, this fourteen-year-old champion of girls’ education is surviving.

Many in Pakistan and around the world have now united behind Malala and her cause. This is a tipping point moment and if we act now we can help achieve the very thing she was targeted for: let’s call on the government of Pakistan to fund girls attending school, starting with her province.

This is our chance to turn Malala’s horror into hope. At her very young age she is an example of courage and determination, but now she is fighting to survive, and it’s our turn to help her win her dream. Sign the petition — when 1 million people have signed the UN education envoy, Gordon Brown, will deliver our call in person to the President of Pakistan, and the Pakistani media:

It is now our turn to turn the spotlight on the Taliban and other extremists.

Malala drew the world’s attention to the Taliban’s reign of terror in North-West Pakistan by writing a blog for the BBC. Her writing records the devastating consequences of extremism which include the systematic destruction of hundreds of girls’ schools and violent intimidation of thousands of families.

Pakistan’s constitution says girls should be educated alongside boys, but politicians have ignored that for years. Only 29% of girls attend secondary school. Even if only half of them finished, Pakistan could grow 6% faster every year. Study after study has shown the positive impact on personal and national income when girls are educated. Malala has drawn the world’s attention, and her President has spoken out strongly for her cause. So let’s help her persuade the government to roll out a massive girls stipend programme, plus school buildings and teacher training. Money is available, what’s lacking is political will.

Let’s turn this shock at the Taliban’s attack on a young girl into a wave of international pressure that forces Pakistan to address girls’ education. Please follow through the link to a petition, stand with Malala and support a massive girls’ education campaign in Pakistan, backed by resources, security and most importantly the will to fight the extremists who tear down Pakistan:

Let’s come together and stand in solidarity with a brave, young activist, who is showing the world how one little schoolgirl can stand up to armed and dangerous extremists.

Please pass to all your friends and ask then to sign and pass on.

We will only defeat religious extremists when we all stand shoulder-to-shoulder to defeat them.

Religion can be a force for good, but when it goes bad it goes very bad.

Kya Khayaal Hai

April 30, 2012
Zeb of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

Zeb of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

Haniya of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

Haniya of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

The beautiful and haunting Kya Khayaal Hai is a collaboration between Pakistani folk duo Zeb & Haniya and two veterans of Bollywood — composer Shantanu Moitra and lyricist Swanand Kirkire.

Kya Khayaal Hai is performed in the Capitol Theatre, the oldest theatre in Mumbai.

The Dewarists is an exploration of the different musical genres in India, the boundaries between, crossing those boundaries and creating a fusion.

A free download of Kya Khayaal Hai is available from The Dewarists on facebook, click like, enter e-mail address and you will receive a link to download an mp3 file.

If would be great if The Dewarists uploaded all the music to an album on bandcamp, where the music would then be available for download as high quality lossless FLAC. [see mp3 v FLAC]

Arooj Aftab

April 5, 2012

Sufi poetry set to music. And by amazing contrast Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb.

Sadly only individual tracks, but a début album is rumoured for 2012.

Execution of Osama bin Laden

May 2, 2011
Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. — Ezekiel 33:11

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice. — Proverbs 24:17

Christians “do not rejoice” over a death. — Vatican

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr

He may be dead, but in a way, he won. We gave up rights, passed Patriot Act, spent trillions on needless wars. Fear now rules us. — Michael Moore

Put your sword back in its place. For all who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. — Matthew 26:52

In Egypt, news of Osama Bin Laden killing is nowhere near as big as it is in US. Not a very relevant entity anymore here. — Sharif Kouddous

Like putting down a mad dog, the US has executed one of its own.

Less we forget, Osama bin Laden was created by the USA CIA, British MI6 and Pakistani ISI and funded by the Saudi Royal Family. Effectively the Americans have put down one of their own. Americans even wrote the terrorist training manuals that are used in the religious schools.

There was never any evidence Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11. The Taliban asked the Americans to provide evidence, they never did, instead they invaded the country.

Bill Clinton was happy to negotiate with the Taliban over pipeline routes, a price had even been agreed for transfer of oil and gas through the pipelines.

The Americans could have captured Osama bin Laden when they invaded Afghanistan. They let him escape as he was more use to them alive than dead.

Now that Saddam Hussein is dead and they have a new boggie man in Col Gaddafi, Osama bin Laden served no useful purpose.

Will the next executive order be to take out Gaddafi?

Pearl Harbour was allowed to happen to drag the US into WWII.

The Americans went into the Vietnam War because North Korea attacked a US Merchant Ship. The attack never took place.

The crazies behind George W Bush wanted a new Pearl Harbour. They got what they wanted. 9/11 was used to justify the war on Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither country had anything to do with the attack. The terrorists who carried out the attack were Saudis. 9/11 got a lame-duck president re-elected.

Following 9/11, one of the crazies Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age if they did not do what the US wanted.

The execution of Osama bin Laden will do wonders for the poll ratings of a lame-duck president. It has done wonders for stock markets too.

Who have they killed? We do not know as they have conveniently got rid of the body.

Why no body? Why no trial? Seems odd to carry the body away then dump at sea. Burial at sea is a tradition of mariners. If put on trial he would have talked. He knew too much.

Who has attended a Muslim funeral where the body is whisked away by helicopter and dumped at sea?

Pictures circulated purporting to show the dead bin Laden. These were very quickly exposed as fakes.

One has to admire the audacity of the operation. As the Americans flew out they did so as Pakistani jets were being scrambled.

We have been told for years that Osama bin Laden was holed up in a cave and from there he directed the world’s terrorist operations. Today we learn he has been living in a luxury fortified villa, not a stone’s throw from a prestigious Pakistani military academy, the equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst, an area with security checks.

A neighbour who walked by the house every day said Osama bin Laden did not live in the house. He said everyone who lives there knows who else lives there, and to emphasise his point said it is necessary to show ID to the army.

Was it Mark Twain who said my death has been much exaggerated?

Like Saddam Husein, Osama bin Laden knew too much. He had to be put down like a mad dog. One of their own gone rogue.

An excellent live press conference from the White House at 1400 Washington local time with John Brennan, White House Counter Terrorism Expert, taking questions. He confirmed the body had been disposed of, oops, buried at sea. He said pictures would be released within the next 24 hours.

Expect an immediate upsurge in violence and terrorism as his followers reap revenge. In the long term no difference. Autonomous operations. He was a figure head. Now they have a martyr.

Those who suffered from Islamic terrorism were not the West but the Muslim world. There has not been a mass of people out on the Arab streets denouncing the death of Osama bin Laden.

In Pakistan, terrorism is a minor irritant. A far bigger problem is corruption, grinding poverty and the lack of universal education. India carried out democratic reform post-independence, Pakistan still remains a feudal society.

Osama bin Laden had become an irrelevance. The people of the Middle East are pursuing a peaceful agenda, they want an end to dictatorships.

Osama bin Laden had (and note the past tense) the support of the Arab world because he stood up to US aggression. What the Arab world did not like was his methods.

How many innocent people were killed by the US trained and financed death squads operating in Central America?

How many innocent Palestinians have been killed by the terrorist state of Israel? Does this justify the Palestinians sending in a hit squad to liquidate the head of this terrorist state?

A Kenyan who lost the sight of both eyes in the Nairobi bombing said this was not a cause to celebrate in the street.

The execution of Osama bin Laden was akin to a gangland slaying.

The killing of Osama bin Laden does not make the world a safer place, any more than the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq has.

The only justification for the cold-blooded execution of Osama bin Laden is pragmatic, not judicial. Had he been put on trial there was the very real possibility of innocent people being held hostage and killed to try and force his release.

The biggest success of Osama bin Laden was the creation of al-Qaeda. He wanted to see the overthrow of corrupt regimes dancing to the tune of the West. This is starting to happen. He wanted to see the creation of a Caliphate. In this he failed miserably.

Brits celebrated a Royal Wedding, Yanks the killing of one of their own!

Very good coverage on Democracy Now! (2 May 2011). Also see John Brennan live presS conference from the White House (1400 Washington local time, 2 May 2011).

Osama bin Laden is dead, Obama announces
Death of Osama Bin Laden ‘pretty irrelevant’: Robert Fisk
Osama’s death ‘a good career move’?
Osama bin Laden’s death boosts stock markets
Osama bin Laden corpse photo is fake
JSOC: The Black Ops Force That Took Down Bin Laden
Vatican says Bin Laden will have to answer to God
Now Bin Laden is dead, can we declare victory and bring the troops home?
Chris Hedges Speaks On Osama Bin Laden’s Death

Meesha Shafi – Chori Chori – Coke Studio Sessions

October 29, 2010

Coke Studio Sessions. Produced by Rohail Hyatt.