Some superheroes crusade in spandex briefs, but the star of a new Pakistani cartoon fights crime in a decidedly more modest getup. In the new kids’ TV show Burka Avenger, Jiya is a sweet schoolteacher who’s bareheaded by day. But at night, she dons a full-body black cloak, complete with a face veil, and battles the bad guys: an evil magician and a corrupt mayor who try to close classrooms and steal charity funds. In keeping with the show’s educational message, the Avenger attacks her nemeses with books and pens.
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The Obama administration’s aggressive drone program in Pakistan came under renewed attack this week, with Amnesty International suggesting that the United States is engaged in war crimes and visiting Prime Mininster Nawaz Sharif describing the strikes as a “major irritant” in relations.
But what is obscured by the public dispute is that there has been, since the administrations of George W. Bush and Pervez Musharraf, a secret agreement in place by which Pakistani military and intelligence authorities have approved many of the strikes, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.
"The exact terms were never shared with civilians but there was a protocol between the Musharraf government and the Americans," says a former senior Pakistani official who would discuss the classified matter only on condition of anonymity. "When the civilian government came in [in 2008], it was informed about it but there was no renegotiation."
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Toy guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
Nevertheless, campaigners in Pakistan are aiming to get imitation Kalashnikovs and Glocks off the streets, saying they help breed a culture of violence among children.
The campaigners have targeted Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of Ramadan (August 7-9) to launch their effort, knowing that children will be eager to buy new toys with the pocket money they traditionally receive during the festivities.
Nongovernmental organizations, poets, singers, and peace activists plan to fight back by staging walks, petitioning the authorities, and talking to parents and shopkeepers in the hope they minimize interest in the toy weapons that traders stock up on during Eid al-Fitr.
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The recent selection of Jenny McCarthy for a spot on The View has angered vaccinators and people who support childhood vaccination. Her opposition to vaccination, however, puts her in company with the most notorious anti-vaxxers of modern times — the Taliban.
The coordinated murders of community health care workers in Pakistan, most of them women, in May has once again put into jeopardy the global polio eradication initiative. While the movement initially experienced exponential progress, it now finds itself trapped in an increasingly bloody battle with Islamic fundamentalists. When a female health worker wakes up in the morning, puts on her shalwar kameez, covering her head and most of her face in a dupatta, she is getting in gear to step out on to the front lines of one of the most important and dangerous wars of our time.
The global battle against polio lends itself well to the grisly metaphors of war. In many ways, the world-wide campaign to eradicate the disease has mirrored the fight against terrorism.
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"Why they want to make all human beings English? Because Englishmen are the staunch supporters and slaves of Jews."
Bin Laden relied on two local handlers to arrange his stay in Pakistan, and especially after the 2003 arrest of Muhammad, the group was very cautious. Bin Laden himself never left the compound in Abbottabad, and his handlers never used cell phones near the home, driving hours away to use public phones in cities like Peshawar. When his wife had to go to the hospital to give birth, the handlers told doctors she was deaf and dumb, so they would not discover she was an Arab. During the six years bin Laden and the handlers’ families lived together, their interactions were tightly controlled. It seems like no one but the handlers were allowed to meet bin Laden himself, and their wives and children were actively misguided about who their neighbor upstairs really was.
The closest bin Laden came to being caught was when, before moving to Abbottabad, the car he was traveling in was stopped by police for speeding. The police never found out he was one of the passengers.
Yet the report points out there were a number of occasions where Pakistani officials, if they had been doing their jobs, should have caught bin Laden. No Pakistani official has acknowledged the authenticity of the 337-page report."
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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