For The Daily Beast with Fakhar Kakakhel: PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Half a dozen men sit on the floor in a grimy rented storefront in the crowded Khyber Bazaar. A bottle of locally brewed liquor chills in a water cooler in the corner, a Pepsi bottle next to it for mixing. A Bollywood soundtrack plays in the background. It’s a farewell party for Allah Noor, who has spent the last five years identifying targets in rural Pakistan for U.S. drone strikes. Noor, as we’ll call him,…Continue Reading “Obama’s Deadly Informants: The Drone Spotters of Pakistan”

For Al Jazeera English: Protests over poor public services have escalated into challenges to Islamabad’s rule in rugged northern territory. Gilgit, Pakistan – Escalating protests in villages perched on the “Roof of the World” – a mountainous territory disputed between Pakistan and India – have exposed deep animosity towards Islamabad. After 67 years of control by the Pakistani government, many local people want the country to either accept them as a new province – or grant them independence. Pakistan’s authorities have responded to the unrest –…Continue Reading “‘Roof of the World’ rebels against Pakistan”

For IRIN News, with Fakhar Kakakhel: PESHAWAR, 16 June 2014 (IRIN) – More than 60,000 people have fled North Waziristan Agency to safer parts of Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan as Pakistan’s military launches an offensive in the region. Most of the people fleeing are children, and mental health experts are concerned that they will not have access to proper trauma care. The Pakistani authorities have yet to set up camps to shelter the displaced, and what little mental health aid is available – usually at…Continue Reading “Pakistan’s traumatized war children play soldiers and Taliban”

For the Christian Science Monitor: Turbat, Balochistan: In Turbat’s main square, dozens of troops from the Frontier Corps spend their day nervously scanning traffic. One soldier, his machine gun resting on the bulge in his flak jacket, visits the square’s shopkeepers one by one, checking in with them. More than 55,000 troops are deployed in Balochistan, but this is a war most Pakistanis have no idea is occurring. An eight-year old insurgency – the fifth one in the province since Pakistan’s founding in 1947 ­– shows…Continue Reading “Festering and forgotten, Pakistan’s other war burns on”

For the Christian Science Monitor: Anwarul Haq, a frail, bespectacled cleric, sits before a class of attentive students in Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of Pakistan’s many madrassas, or Islamic seminaries. His class of 1,400 students is the most senior of 4,000 enrollees at Darul Uloom, an hour’s drive from Peshawar. The students follow a 500-year-old curriculum adopted across South Asia. The oversized book used in Mr. Haq’s class, a collection of ahadith, or sayings attributed to the prophet Muhammad, is centuries old and written in…Continue Reading “Pakistan’s Islamic seminaries pair science with the Quran”

For FSRN: Listen to the story: After mass protests, officials in Pakistan’s capitol of Islamabad have postponed plans to evict nearly 80,000 people from unrecognized settlements there. Many of the residents are ethnic Pashtuns from the region bordering Afghanistan. Some blame Pashtuns for the Taliban insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis. Officials want to clear the shantytowns, saying they are safe havens for militants. But residents say they are the target of scapegoating and ethnic tensions. Umar Farooq reports from Islambad. Thousands…Continue Reading “Islamabad looks to clear settlements housing tens of thousands displaced by conflict”

Pakistan’s FATA: Lawless no more?

For Al Jazeera: Tribes in Pakistan’s FATA region are struggling to repeal a colonial-era, collective punishment law. When armed men blew up a power station in Mohmand Agency two years ago, security forces came to the local press club and arrested Saeed Badshah and a fellow journalist. “The power station was near my home,” Badshah explained, “so under the collective responsibility clauses of the Frontier Crimes Regulations, we were detained until the culprits were produced by residents”. Badshah was lucky – authorities released him within…Continue Reading “Pakistan’s FATA: Lawless no more?”

For Tanqeed.org: The night Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was set to retire on December 11th 2013, I visited a sit-in being organized by relatives of missing persons in the capitol. The families of hundreds of men thought to be in the custody of Pakistan’s security agencies sat at the end of Jinnah Avenue, huddled together to keep warm. A few hundred yards and two layers of shipping containers separated them from the Parliament building. An eternity seemed to separate them from the lawmakers inside…Continue Reading “The Man Who Could, a Profile of Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhry”

Families of Missing Baloch March on Islamabad

For FSRN: Listen to the story here: Thousands of relatives of missing persons and their supporters arrived in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad today. It’s the end of a 105-day march by activists who say their own government has failed to explain the whereabouts of thousands of Baloch it took into custody in the last decade. Umar Farooq reports from Islamabad. Ten-year-old Ali Haidar Baloch has walked more than 1,200 miles across Pakistan, trying to find out what happened to his father. “My father, Muhammad…Continue Reading “Families of Missing Baloch March on Islamabad”

Why a Pakistani reporter is suing the CIA for murder

For the Christian Science Monitor: Kareem Khan’s son and brother died in a US drone strike. His lawsuit has made waves in Pakistan and overseas, and he was recently detained for nine days. On Dec. 31, 2009, Kareem Khan, a journalist in Islamabad, got a call from a cousin in his hometown in Pakistan’s tribal belt. He was told to come quickly. He reached his village a few hours later to find locals gathered around the rubble of his house, the target of an American…Continue Reading “Why a Pakistani reporter is suing the CIA for murder”