Technology has countervailing effects. We can send a battle by air to a land we have never set foot in, laying previously unimaginable distance between us and our wars. But at the same time we can see on a device in our pocket a satellite picture of these places so remote. Maybe, Bridle writes, the instant connectivity of our world can be a platform not just for faster information, but for deeper empathy for people who live a world away.
Pakistani politicians, media, and civil society are pushing for a robust offensive to finish off the Taliban in the aftermath of the militants’ shooting of a girl peace campaigner.
The October 9 shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in northwestern Swat Valley has led to a groundswell of calls for Islamabad to abandon its long reluctance to take on extremist sanctuaries in the North Waziristan tribal region, on Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan.
The region is home to Pakistani and Afghan Taliban factions and allied international jihadists. For years, Islamabad resisted considerable pressure from Western capitals to launch an offensive in the region.
But the government and the military are now finding it difficult to resist growing domestic pressure for such an assault.
You shoot one 14-year-old girl in the head and you’ll never hear the end of it. So goes the lament of Pakistan’s Taliban insurgency following a spate of bad press in mainstream Pakistani outlets related to the jihadists’ failed assassination attempt of Malala Yousafzai, a young blogger who dared protest the Taliban’s ban on educating girls. Now the Taliban are plotting terror strikes on TV stations and other media organizations, but local newspapers refuse to stay silent.
Is there a better alternative to drone strikes for counterterrorism in northwest Pakistan?
[…]Looking at how residents in the FATA have behaved in other violent campaigns is instructive. In early 2009, the Pakistani Army announced its campaign to “clear” the Swat Valley, north of Islamabad, of terrorist groups that had been systematically murdering elders and tribal policemen and destroying hundreds of schools and other government buildings. As the campaign proceeded, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 300,000 people fled the fighting. By the end of the campaign, more than 1 million people got displaced by the army-Taliban fighting in Swat, which left the region completely devastated.
There have been no reported mass movements of people fleeing the drones in the last four years. The mere threat of a Pakistani army offensive into Waziristan, however, prompts thousands to flee in terror. There are several possible explanations: for example, people in heavily affected drone areas might be terrified to leave their houses.
But there is a simpler explanation: Perhaps drones are not as scary as opponents claim.
Late last week —89 days past its legal deadline — the State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. The new, user-friendly interface allows you to find and read individual country chapters much more quickly and easily (and might explain the delay). For all its flaws, the report remains a must-read for its reporting and candor. It serves as a generally honest counter to the rosier assessments of U.S. partners and allies’ human rights practices.
From my vantage point of trying to understand the Obama administration’s policies and practices of target killings, the report is also notable for what it does not include; namely, any mention of U.S. involvement in or responsibility for such operations.
Zoya’s voice shakes at times. Dressed in a white shalwar kameez, her shoulder-length hair is pulled back. “My father had been abusing me since the time I was little kid.” Tears roll down her face and she recalls the details of her abuse.
She was four when she first came to suspect that what was happening to her might not be normal. One day, “when everyone was sleeping, my father picked me up, took me to another room, undressed me,” Zoya says. “I found myself lying in bed naked and I was frightened, I didn’t understand why.”
Later, Zoya tried to tell her mother.
“I said, ‘Papa is taking me — mama, papa is taking me at night to another room and he takes off my clothes and does things.’” Her mother answered, “Don’t tell anybody.” It’s a common phrase for victims of sexual abuse in Pakistan to hear from their mothers.
Manizeh Bano, Executive Director of a Pakistan-based NGO called Sahil that works against child sexual abuse and exploitation, she says that the country’s harsh gender restrictions makes it difficult for mothers to protect their own children. “It is the most difficult because mothers don’t have options, they often have to live within that same family, they can’t get up and go anywhere,” she says.
Cases like Zoya’s aren’t uncommon, according to Bano, and lack of support that exists for women in Pakistan makes them often unable to help their daughters get out of the situation. In Pakistan most families are still overwhelmingly financially supported by men. Bano says that if a mother learns that her husband is sexually molesting her daughters, she has nowhere to turn because there is little to no state assistance for battered women in Pakistan if they chose not to live with their husbands.
Every poor girl wishes for more education, for the opportunity to learn and go to school; for a childhood. But many of us are not that fortunate. The day my brother was born was bittersweet; I was no longer allowed to go to school. Due to the increased household responsibilities, my father told me that I must stay home and eventually begin to work.
On the night of his birth, while my whole family was celebrating, I went to my uncle’s house to get more bread. I didn’t know a young man was there. In the empty home, he took advantage of me; he did things that I didn’t understand; he touched my chest. Before I could realize, there was a cloth over my mouth and I was being raped. I was having trouble walking back home; I felt faint and I had a headache. This happens a lot in villages. Young girls are raped, murdered, and buried. No one is able to trace them after their disappearance. If a woman is not chaste, she is unworthy of marriage. All he did is ask for forgiveness and they let him go as it was best to avoid having others find out what had happened. He didn’t receive any punishment even though he ruined me. People may have forgotten what he did, but I never forgot. Now, he is married and living his life happily. I blame my own fate; I am just unlucky that this happened to me.
Asif Ali Zardari is in a Dubai hospital after reportedly suffering a heart attack this week, leading to wild speculation about his true condition and questions about who is really in charge in Pakistan right now. The official word from the president’s office is that he is simply undergoing routine tests, but there are rumors that his ill health could be a pretext for his resignation or part of a “stealth” coup by the military, who want him out. Read more.