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Jon Boone

Islamabad, Pakistan
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About Jon
A regional specialist, Jon Boone has been covering Pakistan for The Guardian and The Economist since 2012. Before moving to Islamabad he spent four years in Afghanistan reporting for The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Economist.
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English
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Interview (Video / Broadcast) Live Reporting Fact Checking
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Fact Checking
Portfolio

How exile changed the Taliban

01 Oct 2023  |  www.ft.com
The Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan has been marked by significant changes influenced by their years in exile. While the leadership shows signs of a more inclusive and worldly approach, there are serious doubts about their ability to govern effectively and inclusively. The Taliban's outreach to various Afghan communities and their exposure to international norms have altered their outlook, but challenges remain in controlling their radicalized rank and file and addressing human rights concerns. The movement's factionalized nature and ties to groups like al-Qaeda further complicate their path forward.

Pakistan’s soft coup

08 Jun 2018  |  capx.co
Pakistan is experiencing a 'soft coup' with the military subtly undermining the democratic setup ahead of general elections on July 25. The military has been waging a guerrilla war against Nawaz Sharif's government, preventing it from achieving its main priorities and leading to Sharif's removal from power by the Supreme Court for a minor misdemeanour. Media freedom has been severely compromised, with off-message journalists threatened, abducted, and media outlets like Geo TV and Dawn being blocked or forced to alter coverage. Social media activists face kidnappings and false blasphemy charges, and websites critical of the military are blocked. The army aims to prevent Sharif's party from gaining another majority, favoring an ineffectual coalition government led by Imran Khan. This strategy risks alienating voters, particularly in Punjab, and could destabilize the country, which is already facing ethnic tensions and economic challenges.

Dawn of the Eurasian century

13 Feb 2018  |  CapX
The article explores the resurgence of Eurasian trade routes, driven by China's Belt and Road Initiative, and its geopolitical implications. It highlights the economic and political tensions in countries like Pakistan and Kazakhstan due to Chinese investments and migration. The piece also discusses the responses of major powers like Russia and the European Union to China's growing influence, emphasizing the need for compromise and adaptation among Eurasian nations. The author suggests that the UK could benefit from embracing a Eurasian trade approach post-Brexit.

Trump might be right – Pakistan needs some tough love

05 Jan 2018  |  CapX
The article discusses the US's shift in policy towards Pakistan, emphasizing the need for a tougher stance due to Pakistan's continued support for jihadist groups. It highlights the US's decision to withhold over $1 billion in aid until Pakistan takes decisive action against the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The piece also explores the potential financial and military pressures the US could apply, the UK's contrasting approach, and the internal debate within Pakistan, particularly Nawaz Sharif's call for reform and distancing from jihadist policies.

What not to do in Dubai as a tourist

13 Oct 2017  |  The Independent
Visiting Dubai requires awareness of its conservative laws and customs. Tourists should avoid importing prohibited items like porn, pork, and drugs, dress modestly, refrain from public eating during Ramadan, and be cautious about public displays of affection and sexual conduct. Homosexuality is illegal, and while there is an underground gay scene, discretion is advised. The article highlights cases of tourists facing legal issues due to misunderstandings or violations of local laws.

What does victory look like in an unwinnable war?

23 Aug 2017  |  CapX
Donald Trump, who previously criticized the Afghanistan war, has now committed to an open-ended military presence in the country. This decision reflects a recognition of the complex realities of Afghanistan, including the need for a stable pro-US government and the prevention of the country from becoming a base for terror plots against the West. The article compares Trump's approach to his predecessors and outlines the challenges of achieving a clear-cut victory, suggesting that maintaining a stalemate and protecting the US from attacks may be the most attainable outcome.

Pakistan bans hit Bollywood film Raees

07 Feb 2017  |  theguardian.com
Pakistan's film board banned the Bollywood film 'Raees', which stars Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan and Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, due to its portrayal of Muslims as criminals and terrorists. The film had been eagerly awaited in Pakistan, where Indian films are popular and have contributed to the revival of Pakistani cinema. The ban reflects ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, exacerbated by incidents in Kashmir and a militant attack on an Indian army base. Pakistani cinemas had previously stopped screening Indian films for 11 weeks, and there are still restrictions on broadcasting Indian television channels in Pakistan.

Disappearances spark fears of crackdown on leftwing dissent in Pakistan

10 Jan 2017  |  the Guardian
Four social media activists with secular and anti-military views have gone missing in Pakistan, raising fears of a crackdown on leftwing dissent. Pakistan's intelligence agencies, known for illegal detentions, are suspected of involvement. The missing activists include Asim Saeed, Ahmad Waqas Goraya, Salman Haider, and Ahmed Raza Naseer. Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have called for urgent investigations. The disappearances have caused concern among social media activists, with some deactivating their accounts. Security sources deny involvement, while MPs describe the disappearances as a coordinated effort to silence critical voices.

Former Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif to lead 'Muslim Nato'

08 Jan 2017  |  www.theguardian.com
Retired Pakistani army chief Raheel Sharif has agreed to become the commander of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia. The alliance, which has not been supported by Iran, aims to combat terrorism and will be headquartered in Riyadh. Sharif's appointment has sparked criticism and concern, particularly among Pakistani Shia political groups and on social media. Defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi has expressed caution regarding the alliance's potential involvement in regional conflicts. Sharif, who retired in November, was previously praised for his leadership in reducing violence in Pakistan.

Pakistan transgender leader calls for end to culture of 'gurus'

25 Dec 2016  |  the Guardian
Nadeem Kashish, president of the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights, calls for an end to the 'guru' system in Pakistan's transgender community, arguing it leads to sexual abuse and exploitation. Despite historic rulings by the Supreme Court improving transgender rights, Kashish believes further reforms are needed, including banning gender reassignment surgery and creating better social support systems. The article also highlights the challenges faced by transgender individuals in Pakistan, including discrimination, violence, and lack of proper medical care.

Pakistani media on alert after TV channel’s libel defeat in British court

16 Dec 2016  |  the Guardian
A British court's libel ruling against ARY has significant implications for Pakistani media, highlighting the contrast between journalistic standards in Pakistan and the UK. Mir Shakil ur Rahman won the case, with ARY ordered to pay substantial damages. The ruling may deter Pakistani TV channels from making unfounded defamatory claims, as they can no longer rely on Pakistan's slow legal system. The case underscores the role of UK courts and regulators like Ofcom in addressing grievances from Pakistani individuals. The decision also reflects the influence of political and military interests in Pakistani media.

Taliban facing financial crisis as civilian deaths deter donors

29 Nov 2016  |  the Guardian
The Afghan Taliban are experiencing a financial crisis as donors withdraw support due to increasing civilian casualties. Internal conflicts and leadership changes have further weakened their financial stability. The departure of foreign troops and infighting among Taliban factions have diminished the legitimacy of their insurgency. Senior Taliban figures, including Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada, acknowledge the need for peace negotiations with the Afghan government, although many foot soldiers disagree. The Taliban's strained relationship with Pakistan, exacerbated by recent arrests and pressure tactics, has led to calls for reducing violence and cutting ties with Pakistani intelligence.

Samia Shahid: family force Pakistani police to investigate marriage

22 Nov 2016  |  theguardian.com
The family of Samia Shahid, a British woman who died in Pakistan, is challenging the legality of her marriage to Mukhtar Syed Kazam in an effort to discredit him and derail the honor killing trial. They claim the divorce documents from her first marriage were forged. Shahid was found dead in July, and a high-level police investigation concluded she was a victim of an honor killing by her first husband, Mohammad Shakeel, and her father, Mohammad Shahid. The case has garnered significant attention after Naz Shah, MP for Bradford, demanded action from the Pakistani government, which remains committed to seeking justice for Shahid.

Isis claim responsibility for fatal Pakistan shrine explosion

12 Nov 2016  |  the Guardian
A bomb exploded at the Sufi shrine of Shah Noorani in Balochistan, Pakistan, killing dozens and injuring many more. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred during prayers and a devotional dance performance. The remote location of the shrine hindered rescue operations, with local officials reporting that the death toll could rise. The injured were being transported to Karachi, and a helicopter was requested to assist in the relief efforts.

'Afghan Girl' rejects offer to suspend deportation from Pakistan

08 Nov 2016  |  the Guardian
Sharbat Gula, the Afghan woman famously photographed as a child refugee, has rejected an offer to suspend her deportation from Pakistan and plans to return to Afghanistan, where she will be celebrated as a national heroine. Her case has highlighted the strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly regarding the treatment of Afghan refugees. Gula's arrest and conviction for living illegally in Pakistan under a forged identity card have drawn criticism and embarrassment for the Pakistani government. The Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, plans to welcome her with a house and a grand reception. The situation underscores the broader issue of refugee treatment and the challenges faced by both countries in managing displaced populations.

National Geographic 'Afghan Girl' arrested in Pakistan living under false papers

26 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Sharbat Gula, famously known as the 'Afghan Girl' from a National Geographic cover, has been arrested in Pakistan for living under false papers. The arrest follows a lengthy investigation by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency. Gula faces severe penalties if convicted. The case highlights the broader issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, where millions have settled but are increasingly unwelcome. The Pakistani government has intensified efforts to repatriate refugees, leading to a surge in returns to Afghanistan, which is straining the country's resources. The crackdown has also led to widespread complaints of harassment and extortion by officials.

As political crisis looms, Quetta attack piles pressure on Pakistan PM

25 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
The article discusses the political and security challenges facing Pakistan, highlighting a recent terrorist attack in Quetta that has intensified pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The attack underscores the ongoing threat of terrorism despite recent progress. The political crisis is exacerbated by upcoming protests led by opposition leaders Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri, who are calling for Sharif's resignation over corruption allegations. The military's role is pivotal, with tensions between the government and military establishment further strained by leaked information and regional isolation. The article also touches on the strained relations with neighboring countries and the internal political dynamics involving key figures like Raheel Sharif and Pervez Musharraf.

Taliban envoys travel to Pakistan to discuss Afghanistan peace talks

21 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Senior Taliban members from Qatar traveled to Pakistan to discuss potential peace talks with Afghan officials. This follows recent secret meetings between Taliban officials, Afghanistan's spy chief, and a senior US diplomat in Doha. The Taliban delegation includes former high-ranking officials and aims to share updates and discuss peace initiatives with Pakistani officials. The Taliban's current leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, is pushing for accelerated talks with Kabul and the US. The situation within the Taliban remains chaotic, with internal divisions over peace talks and control of resources. Pakistan's involvement is seen as an attempt to regain influence amid US and Chinese pressure.

Taliban and Afghan government ‘hold secret talks’ in Qatar

18 Oct 2016  |  irishtimes.com
Secret talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have been held in Qatar, with key figures such as Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund and Afghanistan's intelligence chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai attending. Despite ongoing violence, including Taliban forces overrunning Kunduz and threatening Lashkar Gah, Kabul is seeking a political solution to the conflict, as evidenced by a recent peace deal with warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Taliban's participation in the talks, despite their public denouncement of the Afghan government as a 'puppet regime', indicates a potential shift towards negotiation, although the movement remains internally divided over the approach to peace talks.

Narendra Modi labels Pakistan 'mothership of terrorism'

16 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on BRICS nations to unite against the 'mothership of terrorism', in a veiled reference to Pakistan, during a summit in Goa. Modi's government has taken a tougher stance against Pakistan following a terrorist attack on an Indian military base in Uri. India has conducted cross-border 'surgical strikes' and led a boycott of the SAARC summit in Islamabad. The BRICS summit concluded with a declaration condemning terrorism but did not specifically name Pakistan. China, a close ally of Pakistan, has not joined the international condemnation despite discomfort over Pakistan's alleged support of jihadi groups.

Pakistan lifts travel ban on journalist whose scoop angered army

14 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Pakistan has lifted a travel ban on journalist Cyril Almeida, who was previously barred from leaving the country after publishing a report on the military's support for jihadi groups. The decision came after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with media representatives. The ongoing inquiry into the leak that led to Almeida's report continues. The article highlights tensions between Pakistan's civilian government and military, with the military expressing anger over the leak and accusing the government of trying to malign the army and ISI. The report also touches on historical conflicts between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military.

Asia Bibi blasphemy appeal adjourned in Pakistan as judge pulls out

13 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Asia Bibi's final appeal in Pakistan's Supreme Court was adjourned after Justice Muhammad Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman recused himself due to his involvement in a related case. Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy after a dispute with Muslim women in her village. Human rights groups criticize Pakistan's blasphemy laws for persecuting religious minorities. The Movement for the Finality of the Prophethood's lead lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, and others demand the government carry out the death sentence. The Shuhuada Foundation threatened protests if Bibi is released, while the lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook suggested the case against Bibi is weak and contradicted by witnesses.

Leading Pakistani journalist banned from leaving country

10 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Cyril Almeida, a respected journalist for Dawn newspaper, was barred from leaving Pakistan after reporting on a confrontation between civilian and military leadership regarding the military's alleged support for jihadi groups. The report, which suggested that Pakistan could face international isolation unless action was taken against groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, led to Almeida being placed on the exit control list. The government denied the story's accuracy, while Dawn's editor Zaffar Abbas defended its veracity.

Pakistan makes 'honour killings' punishable by mandatory prison time

06 Oct 2016  |  the Guardian
Pakistani parliament has passed a landmark bill mandating 25-year prison sentences for perpetrators of 'honour killings,' removing the possibility for families to pardon the killers. This legislation aims to curb the epidemic of honour killings, which saw over a thousand reported cases in 2015. The new law, although less stringent than initially proposed, is expected to deter future crimes. Additionally, a new anti-rape law was passed to expedite trials and mandate DNA testing, despite opposition from religious hardliners.

India says troops cross Kashmir border to attack as crisis escalates

29 Sep 2016  |  the Guardian
Elite Indian troops conducted 'surgical strikes' on Pakistan-based terrorists in Kashmir, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing crisis between the nuclear-armed neighbors. The Indian army reported multiple nighttime raids across the line of control, targeting militants preparing to cross into Indian territory. Pakistan denied these targeted strikes, reporting two soldiers killed in cross-border shelling. The United Nations urged both nations to exercise restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue. The violence follows a series of clashes and a deadly attack on an Indian army outpost, which India attributed to Pakistan-sponsored militants. The situation has heightened tensions, with India launching a diplomatic offensive and considering altering a major river-sharing agreement with Pakistan.

Pakistan humiliated by south Asian countries' boycott of summit

Taliban links of New Jersey bomb suspect

21 Sep 2016  |  The Irish Times
Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected of placing bombs in New York and New Jersey, has links to a Pakistani seminary associated with the Afghan Taliban. Rahami, a US citizen born in Afghanistan, attended the Kaan Kuwa Naqshbandi madrasa during his visits to Pakistan. The madrasa, located in Kuchlak, is a known hub for the Taliban. Rahami's activities in Pakistan have been largely concealed by local security agencies. His father noted Rahami's growing interest in Islamist movements. Despite the Taliban's focus on Afghanistan, Rahami may have been inspired by the Islamic State group. The revelation of Rahami's connections could be embarrassing for Pakistan, which has been accused of supporting the Taliban while cooperating with NATO.

Police officer investigating killing of Samia Shahid arrested

02 Sep 2016  |  the Guardian
A local policeman in Pakistan, Aqeel Abbas, has been arrested for allegedly suppressing evidence and allowing suspects to flee in the investigation of the suspected honor killing of British woman Samia Shahid. The investigation, led by Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh, revealed that Shahid was raped and murdered by her former husband Chaudhry Shakeel and her father Muhammad Shahid. The case has drawn significant attention, with involvement from high-level officials and scrutiny from international media. Abbas is accused of accepting bribes and obstructing justice, while the suspects are currently held on judicial remand.

Pakistan's largest city set to be run by imprisoned mayor

23 Aug 2016  |  the Guardian
Karachi's new mayor, Waseem Akhtar, is set to govern from prison amidst a contentious political climate. Akhtar, a former MP, faces multiple criminal charges and is unlikely to be released soon. His detention highlights the ongoing conflict between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan's military forces, particularly the Rangers. Despite these challenges, the MQM remains a dominant political force in Karachi, supported by the city's mohajir community. The article also touches on the broader linguistic diversity in Pakistan.

London-based leader prompts violence and detentions in Pakistan

23 Aug 2016  |  the Guardian
The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in Karachi faces a severe crackdown after its exiled leader, Altaf Hussain, incited violence through a speech from London. Following his remarks, MQM supporters attacked television stations, resulting in one death and multiple injuries. The rangers detained senior MQM leaders, including Farooq Sattar and Aamir Liaquat. Hussain's speech led to a treason case against him, and internal party conflicts emerged as local leaders distanced themselves from his actions. The MQM, which has historically dominated Karachi's politics, is under significant pressure from both the central government and the army.

Lahore court backs heritage challenge over metro plans

19 Aug 2016  |  theguardian.com
Pakistan's first modern metro system, the Orange Line, faces uncertainty after the Lahore High Court banned construction near heritage sites in Lahore, including the Shalimar Gardens and Chauburji gatehouse. The ruling is a setback for the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who aimed to complete the project before the 2018 re-election bid. The project, financed by China and worth over $1bn, is part of infrastructure investments to boost Pakistan's economy. Opposition to the project includes concerns over the impact on historic buildings and potential community evictions, with suggestions to use underground tunnels instead.

Samia Shahid 'honour killing': ex-husband and father remain in custody

17 Aug 2016  |  the Guardian
Police in Pakistan have been granted an additional five days to question the two main suspects, Samia Shahid's ex-husband Chaudhry Shakeel and her father Mohammad Shahid, in the alleged honour killing of the British woman. Shahid, who had divorced and remarried against her family's wishes, was found dead in her ex-husband's home. The case has drawn significant attention, with conflicting claims about her death and evidence of bruising on her neck. The investigation, which has become a top government priority, is expected to take a month.

Police search for ex-husband of woman who died in 'honour killing' in Pakistan

27 Jul 2016  |  the Guardian
A special team has been established to locate Mohammad Shakeel, the ex-husband of Samia Shahid, a British woman whose death in Pakistan is being investigated as a potential honour killing. Shahid was allegedly lured to Pakistan and killed for marrying against her family's wishes. Senior police and intelligence agents are involved in the investigation, which has been prioritized by Pakistan's interior minister. Shahid's father and other family members are also under suspicion. The case has drawn significant attention, with UK MP Naz Shah advocating for justice and Pakistani authorities intensifying their efforts.

Bradford woman's death in Pakistan investigated after 'honour' killing claims

25 Jul 2016  |  theguardian.com
Samia Shahid, a British beauty therapist from Bradford, died in Pakistan under suspicious circumstances, with her husband Syed Mukhtar Kazam alleging it was an 'honour' killing by her family for marrying outside their wishes. Despite claims of a natural death from her family, her local MP Naz Shah has called for an independent autopsy, and the Foreign Office and West Yorkshire Police are involved. The Pakistani police are investigating, with no visible injuries reported on Shahid's body. Kazam, who lived with Shahid in Dubai, disputes the family's acceptance of their marriage and insists she was healthy, suspecting foul play in her death.

Police stop murdered Pakistani star's brother from using blood money law

18 Jul 2016  |  the Guardian
Pakistani police have taken the unusual step of becoming the complainant in the case of Qandeel Baloch's murder, preventing her brother Waseem Azeem from using blood money laws to evade punishment. Baloch, a social media star known for her provocative posts, was killed by her brother for allegedly dishonoring the family. The move by the police aims to close legal loopholes that allow families to forgive killers, a practice that has led to numerous honor killings in Pakistan. Rights activists and organizations are calling for comprehensive legal reforms to prevent such crimes.

Qandeel Baloch's brother admits killing her, say Pakistani police

17 Jul 2016  |  the Guardian
Qandeel Baloch's brother, Waseem Azeem, confessed to killing her for 'family honour' due to her social media activity, which included controversial photos with a Muslim cleric. Baloch, a model and social media star, was found dead in Multan. The police plan to charge Azeem with murder, which could carry a death sentence. Honor killings are a significant issue in Pakistan, with thousands of women killed annually. Baloch had previously sought government protection due to death threats but received no assistance.

Adam Curtis’s Bitter Lake, review: a Carry On Up the Khyber view of Afghanistan

30 Jan 2015  |  spectator.co.uk
The article reviews Adam Curtis's documentary 'Bitter Lake,' which presents a critical view of the West's involvement in Afghanistan, blaming the crisis on American actions and Saudi influence. The review argues that the documentary oversimplifies the conflict by focusing on Saudi Arabia and ignoring Pakistan's significant role. It also criticizes Curtis for not acknowledging positive outcomes of the western intervention, such as infrastructure reconstruction and refugee returns. The review suggests that Curtis's narrative is biased, portraying Afghans as savages and dismissing the country's progress towards democracy and modernity.

Afghan-Pakistani ties in a tailspin, with botched British diplomacy blamed

01 Jul 2013  |  the Guardian
The article discusses the deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, exacerbated by a failed diplomatic summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The summit, intended to foster peace, instead highlighted deep-seated animosities and mistrust. Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt aggrieved by perceived pro-Pakistani bias, while Pakistan's demands and actions further strained ties. The article underscores the complexities of Afghan-Pakistani relations and the limitations of British diplomatic efforts.

Pakistan election winner Nawaz Sharif tells rival Imran Khan to stop sledging

13 May 2013  |  the Guardian
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's next prime minister, urged his rival Imran Khan to accept the election results and stop alleging rigging. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 124 seats, allowing him to govern without coalition partners, while Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won 32 seats. Sharif addressed various issues, including US drone strikes, sectarian violence, and relations with India. He also promised to investigate the expulsion of a New York Times journalist. Sharif aims to improve the economy and tackle militancy, while maintaining a cautious stance towards the military.

Pakistani girl shot over activism in Swat valley, claims Taliban

09 Oct 2012  |  the Guardian
A 14-year-old Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Mingora, Swat Valley, for her advocacy of girls' education. The attack, which also injured another girl, was claimed by Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who condemned Malala's work as 'obscenity.' The incident has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the Pakistani military's operations against militants in the region. Malala, known for her anonymous blog for the BBC and her National Peace award, had been on the Taliban's hit list. The attack has led to calls for government action and highlighted ongoing issues faced by women in Pakistan, including a separate case of girls being bartered to settle a blood feud.

Islamic countries brace for anti-west protests

21 Sep 2012  |  the Guardian
Security forces in Islamic countries are preparing for widespread anti-western protests triggered by a YouTube video and French cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. France has closed embassies and schools in numerous countries, while Pakistan has taken extensive security measures. The US and French embassies in Jakarta and Kabul are on lockdown. The situation has led to heightened tensions and violence, with various governments and organizations condemning the provocative materials and calling for religious tolerance. The death of the US ambassador in Libya and ongoing protests highlight the deep-seated conflicts between the West and the Muslim world.

Safety flaws blamed as Pakistan factory fires kill more than 300

12 Sep 2012  |  theguardian.com
Over 300 people died in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan, due to barred windows, poor building standards, and ignored safety regulations. The Karachi fire, the city's worst industrial disaster in decades, trapped workers inside with no escape routes. The Lahore fire, caused by faulty wiring and improperly stored chemicals, killed at least 25. The incidents highlight Pakistan's inadequate workplace safety in its crucial garment and textile industries.

Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy to be freed from jail

07 Sep 2012  |  the Guardian
Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, is set to be released from jail after a judge granted her bail. Her lawyers argued that she was framed by a local cleric, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, who allegedly planted burned pages of the Qur'an in her possession. The case has drawn international attention to Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which are often abused and carry severe penalties. Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision and called for charges against Rimsha to be dropped, urging the government to ensure her safety and reconsider the blasphemy laws. However, significant legal reform is considered unlikely ahead of national elections.

Pakistani mullah 'planted charred texts' on girl accused of blasphemy

02 Sep 2012  |  the Guardian
Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, a mullah, has been accused of framing Rimsha Masih, a young Pakistani Christian girl with Down's syndrome, by planting burnt Islamic texts to strengthen a blasphemy case against her. The case has drawn international condemnation and highlighted the misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which can result in death sentences. Chishti's actions were allegedly aimed at displacing Christian families from the area. Rimsha's lawyers argue she is innocent and should be tried as a juvenile. The incident underscores the dangers and abuses associated with the country's blasphemy laws.

Ramadan 'police' target Pakistan's cafe society

07 Aug 2012  |  the Guardian
Islamabad's police have intensified enforcement of a decades-old law prohibiting public eating during Ramadan, targeting upscale cafes like Mocca Cafe and Gloria Jeans. The raids, prompted by public complaints, have sparked criticism of rising Islamic conservatism and heavy-handed policing. Critics argue that the police are more efficient in enforcing Islamist positions than addressing significant issues. The enforcement has heightened sensitivities, especially in areas like Kohsar market, where past incidents of violence have occurred.

Doctor who ran fake CIA vaccination drive to find Osama bin Laden is jailed

23 May 2012  |  theguardian.com
Dr Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani medical official who ran a fake CIA vaccination program to locate Osama bin Laden, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison. His arrest and the subsequent sentence have highlighted strained US-Pakistan relations, especially following a perceived snub of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari by President Barack Obama at a NATO conference. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed concern over Afridi's arrest, criticizing Pakistan for penalizing efforts to combat terrorism. The operation led by Afridi did not confirm Bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad, but it did contribute to obtaining a phone number that helped the CIA identify Bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Nato air attack on Pakistani troops was self-defence, says senior western official

26 Nov 2011  |  theguardian.com
A NATO air attack on Pakistani troops, which allegedly killed up to 28 soldiers, was claimed as an act of self-defense by a senior western official. The incident occurred in the Afghan province of Kunar, where a joint US-Afghan force was reportedly attacked first. This has led to Pakistan banning NATO supply trucks and demanding the US to vacate the Shamsi airbase. The event has escalated tensions between the US and Pakistan, with Pakistan viewing the attack as a violation of sovereignty. The US has promised a full investigation, while Pakistan is reviewing its relationship with the US. The border's ambiguity and the presence of insurgents are potential factors in the incident.

Groomed for suicide: how Taliban recruits children for mass murder

17 May 2011  |  the Guardian
The article details how the Taliban coerces and manipulates children into becoming suicide bombers, highlighting the case of Noor Mohammad, a 14-year-old boy who chose to become a suicide bomber to avoid punishment for theft. The piece discusses the increasing reliance on child bombers by the Taliban, the psychological and physical coercion involved, and the broader implications of this tactic. It also touches on the role of madrasas in radicalizing children and the challenges faced by Afghan authorities in addressing this issue.

Taliban join the Twitter revolution

12 May 2011  |  theguardian.com
The Taliban, historically known for shunning modern technology, have adopted Twitter to disseminate information, often with exaggerated claims about their attacks against foreign forces and the Afghan government. Their Twitter account, @alemarahweb, has gained followers and recently began tweeting in English. Despite the challenges of maintaining a consistent online presence due to server evictions and shutdowns by authorities, the Taliban continue to engage with a global audience, including following the accounts of a US Air Force officer and a British troop support charity.

WikiLeaks cables expose Afghan contempt for British military

02 Dec 2010  |  theguardian.com
Secret US diplomatic cables revealed contempt for the British military's failure to secure Helmand province, Afghanistan, as expressed by President Hamid Karzai, Afghan officials, and the US commander of NATO troops. The cables highlighted corruption in the Afghan government, Iran's influence in Afghanistan, and frustration over a US military handling fee on funds for the Afghan army. Criticism focused on the British inability to secure Sangin and connect with locals. The UK's approach was contrasted with the US Marines' success in Garmsir. The British were also criticized for their handling of the drug trade, particularly in Musa Qala. Despite the growing British presence since 2006, a senior UK official admitted no more troops could be deployed.

Stanley McChrystal recalled over Rolling Stone article

22 Jun 2010  |  the Guardian
General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, has been recalled to Washington after making critical comments about the Obama administration in a Rolling Stone article. McChrystal expressed feelings of betrayal by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and disappointment with President Obama. Despite issuing an apology, McChrystal's remarks have sparked controversy, with some administration figures supporting him while others, like Vice President Joe Biden, oppose him. The article highlights internal conflicts and differing views on the US strategy in Afghanistan.

US commander in Afghanistan bans burger and pizza bars at Kandahar base

25 Mar 2010  |  theguardian.com
General Stanley McChrystal, the US commanding general in Afghanistan, has ordered the closure of fast-food outlets such as Burger King and Pizza Hut at Kandahar airbase to refocus troops on their mission. This move is part of a broader policy to eliminate distractions and luxuries from the base, which also includes a ban on activities like salsa classes. The closures are aimed at supporting the troop increase and mission readiness, with Sergeant Major Michael Hall stating that the base is a war zone, not an amusement park. The decision has been met with mixed reactions from soldiers, with some appreciating the austerity and others feeling it adds unnecessary burden during their 12-month tours.

Afghanistan passes 'barbaric' law diminishing women's rights

14 Aug 2009  |  the Guardian
Afghanistan has enacted a controversial law allowing Shia men to deny their wives food if they refuse sexual demands, and granting child guardianship exclusively to fathers. The law, backed by hardline cleric Ayatollah Mohseni, has faced international condemnation for its repressive measures against women. Human Rights Watch has called for its repeal, criticizing President Hamid Karzai for using the law to gain political support ahead of the upcoming election. Polls indicate a close race between Karzai and his rivals, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.
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