Monthly Archives: January 2009

Pink Pakistan: Queering in Confusion

3by Shaheryar Ali

The problem of LGBT rights in Pakistan becomes especially complex taking into account, the “combined and uneven development” of the Islamic Republic , the conflicting influences of westernization, and Islamisation, the post-modern conditions and the “queer” turn of the “world Wide LGBT movement” itself. Continue reading

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SWAT: Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl

               _45408006_006747047-1                                                                                                                                                                                                                   A Pakistani seventh grade schoolgirl is writing a diary after Taleban militants in the troubled north-western Swat district ordered schools to close as part of an edict banning girls’ education. Militants seek to impose their austere interpretation of Sharia law and have destroyed about 150 schools in the last year. News of further attacks and a Taleban invitation to public floggings appears in the latest extracts of the diary, which first appeared on BBC Urdu online.

  Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taliban

Making Sense of Obama’s Pakistan Policy

By Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari
President Obama
President Obama

“Our goal should be peace within and peace without” – Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, 15th August, 1947

Even if you dismiss the grandeur of a self assured black man against the backdrop of the slave-built White House possessing highly superior oratory skills, Barack Hussain Obama’s inauguration address was still nothing short of majestic. He minced no words and said to the countries of the world, “we want peace.” The tone and manner of the address did not originate from the dry-mouthed think tank publications that Washington churns out; it came from a place much deeper and authentic. Obama’s message to the world resonated with the world’s Muslim nations as front page news – Obama wants dialogue. Continue reading

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Erdovan, Davos, and Dealing with Israel


This mornings Stratfor Podcast is titled “Erdovan’s Davos Walkout Lays Down the Marker“. I haven’t heard it yet (hoping to, on the exercise machine), but just from that title, you can see one thing: the recognition of Israel has been anathema in the Muslim world, but if you had wondered if any good could ever come out of recognizing them, this is it. The fact that Turkey is seen in the Western World as a “moderate” Muslim state and has respect for being one of very few Muslim states to recognize Israel gives Erdogan’s action much more weight than, say, a Pakistani or Indonesian leader doing the same. I am not saying Pakistan should up and recognize Israel, but it’s something for Pakistanis to think about in the debate of whether and when to think about “normalizing” relations.

Folks not related to Pakistan might ask: Why Pakistan, specifically? Why not Saudi Arabia, or Indonesia? Well, Pakistan IS the 2nd largest Muslim nation in the world–and it’s not Arab, and it’s the only nuclear power in the Muslim world. Not to mention that ideologically and socially, it’s a center of much that happens and affects the rest of the world–both Muslim and otherwise. This IS the “most dangerous country in the world” if we are to believe the conventional wisdom in the West; this is the “training ground of terrorists”, no? Of course, it is a country I identify with (together with the US and Nigeria), and therefore it’s my job to raise the issue in its context; others can chime in with the view from their corner of the globe.

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Obama’s Vietnam?

Juan Cole writing for the Salon says that Friday’s airstrikes are evidence Obama will take the hard line he promised in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he should remember what happened to another president who inherited a war.

Jan. 26, 2009 |

On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama’s initiatives in his first few days in office — preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo — were aimed at signaling a sharp turn away from Bush administration policies. In contrast, the headline about the strike in Waziristan could as easily have appeared in December with “President Bush” substituted for “President Obama.” Pundits are already worrying that Obama may be falling into the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam trap, of escalating a predecessor’s halfhearted war into a major quagmire. What does Obama’s first military operation tell us about his administration’s priorities? Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, USA, violence, war

The Power of the Pulpit

From Newsline January 2009 issue……………

The Power of the Pulpit
By Mohammed Hanif

Maulvi Karim, who taught me to read the Quran and led prayers in our village mosque for 40 years, was one of the most powerless men in our community. The only power he assumed for himself was that of postman. The postman would deliver the mail to him and then he would walk from house to house distributing it. He would, of course, have to read the letters for a lot of families who couldn’t read.

He was also a dog lover.

I joined him a number of times as he played with his little Russian poodle outside his house, then walked to the mosque, did his ablutions and led the prayers. After prayers he would hang out at the door of the mosque exchanging gossip with regulars. There would be people loitering outside the mosque when he went in. They would still be around as he finished the prayers and came out. It never occurred to him to ask these people to join him. It never occurred to the people who hung outside the mosque to feel embarrassed about not joining the prayers. They all lived on the same streets, not always in harmony, but religion in any of its forms was not something they discussed on the street. What was there to discuss? Wasn’t faith a strictly private business? Something that happened between a man and his god and not something that had to be discussed in your living room. Continue reading

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My Brother Barack Hussain Speaks to Al Arabiya

When my son started First Grade, come the start of African-American History Month, he coolly informed his (predominantly East and South Asian) classmates that his otherwise very Pakistani-looking, and sounding “dad is an African-American”. I do not remember ever having used that phrase within earshot of him. But he knows that I was born in same region of Africa that is the origin of most of the people who came to this country as slaves. And thus I came to this country as an African-born grad student much like Barack Obama Sr.

So don’t get me wrong; I love my brother Barack Hussain. I have been following his presidential ambitions almost form first buzz around a possible run–and have discussed it in my blogging and even Urdu podcasting. I am joyous at seeing him in the White House. To repeat the cliche, it tells me that my now 8-year old son and, even more possibly, my 4-year old daughter can really follow in his footsteps.

And I am actually one person who did NOT hold his staying mum even about the events in Gaza over the last month or so against him. Speaking out would only have used up political capital that he didn’t need to spend for no substantial gain. Whichever way he chose to lean, it would have have cost him; either in terms of political support at home, or in goodwill that he still has on “the Muslim street”.

But when my brother Barack Hussain says: Continue reading

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