The writer is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan, and a regular columnist for The Daily Times newspaper. His works have also appeared in the Saudi Gazette, South Asia magazine, The Frontier Post, The Friday Times and Pakistan Observer.
As ISIS' grand facade of a "caliphate" crumbles and it devolves into an improvised insurgency capable only of mounting terrorist attacks, you have to wonder: Where in blazes is its self-styled "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Pakistan formalized its landmark National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism with broad political consensus following the Army Public School massacre in December 2015. Though there have been steady gains, Islamabad must be wary of an unholy alliance between the remnants of the Taliban and Baloch separatists.
Pakistan's Ahmadiyya community, of which many have fled abroad, has been under siege for over half a century. To say they keep paying the price for their beliefs, however controversial, would be an understatement. Even before 1974, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto officially stripped the Ahmadis of their right to call themselves Muslims, these followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad were actively persecuted by the religious-right backed by old-money conservatives from west Punjab.
Cashing in on tragedy is Politics 101. Following the deadly shooting in a gay nightclub on 12 June by a disturbed Muslim man of Afghan origin, conservative politicians in America, who are generally loathe to acknowledging LGBTQ rights, have hijacked the tragedy to nudge national talking points away from gun control and towards their favourite bogey, radical Islam.
Such is the frenzied state of lawmakers in Pakistan today that even a sneeze emanating from New Delhi is enough to upset the balance of power in South Asia. Whether it is news of India's new interceptor missile, or Indian premier Narendra Modi's historic speech to a joint session of the US Congress in June: they all cut like a knife. Various theories have been put forth to explain this phenomenon.
Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif has again forced political nemesis Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, to eat humble pie after the candidate fielded by his Pakistan Muslim League faction (PML-N) pulled off a stunning by-poll upset deep inside enemy territory. The PML-N had similarly triumphed in a Balochistan national assembly by-poll two weeks earlier. These victories put paid to the notional argument parroted by Sharif's opponents that the Panama Papers had eroded his "moral authority."
Pan-Islamic unity, the kind preached by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the recent Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul, is not a bridge too far if all parties check their egos at the door. Unfortunately, that does not seem likely anytime soon. To rework J K Rowling's prose, the problem with the Middle East today is there are no heroes or villains. There is only power, and those too self-absorbed to see past it.
The Physicians for Social Responsibility, a public health group and recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, estimates in a recent landmark study that 1.3 million people, overwhelmingly Muslim, have perished as a direct consequence of the US-led global war on terror. This figure, by the way, is a conservative guess and the real total could be 2 million or more. How many of these did nukes account for? Zero. Does Kerry's heart not sink when he reads stats like these?
A new Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report notes that anti-state violence dipped below 2008 levels for the first time last year. This confirms Operation Zarb-e-Azb's success as a broad-range antibiotic but local law enforcement is still woefully under-resourced and far too politicized to effectively tackle militancy in urban areas. Islamabad's failure to kickstart the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has also drawn criticism from GHQ.
The chaos following Shahbaz Taseer's miraculous escape from captivity in Afghanistan flags a serious communication breakdown between Islamabad and its instruments of statecraft. Moreover, it spotlights the increasing futility of using the term "Afghan Taliban" to represent some centralized militant umbrella, as such a top-down model became obsolete after the US troop surge in 2010.
In a social order orbiting around material success, where everyone is competing for the same handful of topflight universities and corporations, male citizens latched onto makeup as a means to snake past the competition. Egged on by cultural pillars like K-Pop, the idea of emulating "flower boys" became "a marker of social success."
The ISIS analogy, to me, is where Gall's narrative creeps into foggy, conspiratorial territory because she offers no motive. Surely Gall remembers from her own book that Pakistan's geostrategy orbits around its seven-decades-old rivalry with India. Managing this relationship to Pakistan's advantage is the sole purpose of "strategic depth." If the "deep state" has ever sponsored Islamist groups outside of US diktats, it has been to counter India in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Bureaucracies hate change, we know, but Japan's version fuses the country's old-school island mentality with paperwork-heavy "administrative guidance" to create a protectionist force field around its music industry. Not only are anti-piracy laws enforced with righteous zeal, but the ability to legally "rent" music CDs has made most wannabe pirates err on the side of honesty.
"Al-Nakba" is an Arabic word meaning "the catastrophe". Sixty-eight years ago, on 29 November, 1947, the UN Security Council rolled out Resolution 181 on Palestine, putting wheels on a runaway train that continues to mow down Arabs and Jews alike. By legitimising Israel's declaration of independence a year later, this resolution marked the first Nakba of November for Palestinian Arabs. The second Nakba of November took place 73 years before 1947, with the birth of one Chaim Weizmann in a small village near Pinsk, Russia...
The "Wilayet Sinai", or Sinai Province (SP) offshoot of ISIS, took credit for downing a Russian-owned Metrojet airliner on 31 October. All 224 passengers flying from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg died in the crash. In its self-congratulatory tweet, SP referred to those killed as "Russian crusaders". Curiously, if SP reports to the ISIS nerve-centre in Raqqa, why target Russia at all? The US-led Operation Inherent Resolve has been far more damaging to the group's activities in Syria and Iraq than recent Russian airstrikes.
Well, it is official. Thousands of American soldiers will stay on in Afghanistan after 2016. By pausing the troop drawdown, it seems Obama has given up on Pakistan, a long-time US ally, being willing or able to close the Taliban insurgency, or underwrite Afghan democracy after America's exit. Meanwhile, Pakistan is warming to Putin's overtures of friendship as it is tiring of "do more" diktats from Washington, Obama's love affair with India and the steady stream of terror accusations coming from Kabul.
The answer is, it depends. It depends on when you run into the average Pakistani male. Pakistan is "I-don't-care" Islamic when he is drooling over Katrina Kaif's "assets" at the movies. Conversely, Pakistan is full-on Islamic when the same gent is at Friday prayers, nodding solemnly in agreement with the imam spewing religious hate speech.
If the Hurriyat Conference and its constituents so chafe under Indian rule, why do they not move to Pakistan? Pakistan, after all, exists for all the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent and nowhere does it say that 1947 was the cutoff point on immigration. Also, considering the 65% voter turnout in the 2014 assembly elections, it seems the majority of Kashmiris have already made peace with living under India.
The real question is whether Karzai is a simple loudmouth or does he know more about 9/11 than he lets on? The Bush administration after all handpicked him to lead the interim Afghan government in 2004.