The writer retired as professor of physics from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad
Shahbag Square ? where?s that? Abdul Kader Mullah ? who?s he?
A bunch of university students in Islamabad, with whom I was informally conversing yesterday, hadn?t heard of either. Of course, they knew of Tahrir Square and Afzal Guru?s recent execution. But they showed little interest upon learning that Shahbag Square was in Dhaka and that, as we spoke, the city was seething with protest. Between 100,000 to 500,000 Bengalis had converged to Shahbag to sing patriotic songs, recite poems and read out episodes from Bangladesh?s history of the Liberation War. At the centre of the protesters? demands was Abdul Kader Mullah?s fate.
On February 5, the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) found Mullah guilty in five out of the six charges against him. Known as Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur) because of his atrocities against citizens in the Mirpur area of Dhaka, he was charged with beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and murdering 344 people. The ICT sentenced Mullah, presently assistant secretary general of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, to life in prison. For the protesters in Shahbag Square, this isn?t enough ? they want Mullah hanged. On the other side, the Jamaat-e-Islami protested violently and also took out demonstrations. But its efforts to influence global opinion foundered in spite of a well-funded effort. Continue reading “Shahbag Square ? why we Pakistanis don?t know and don?t care”
The photographs were shockingly graphic, detailing the torture and execution of men suspected of collaborating with pro-Pakistani militias during Bangladesh?s 1971 war for independence. Featured on front pages and magazine covers around the world, they provoked outrage and won awards, including World Press Photo and a Pulitzer ? both shared by Horst Faas and Michel Laurent.
Only three Western photographers were on the scene of the executions: Mr. Faas, Mr. Laurent and Christian Simonpietri. The Magnum photographer Marc Riboud left the scene minutes before and later said he did so because his presence was only encouraging the brutality.
But there was another photojournalist there, whom the others didn?t know: Rashid Talukder, who worked for a Bangladeshi newspaper. Though he also made dramatic images, he did not publish them. He couldn?t. Mr. Talukder knew that ? unlike the foreign photographers ? he would not leave Bangladesh and dash to the next overseas hot spot. He would be staying. And the men behind the executions were among the most powerful in the country. Continue reading “Images of Independence, Finally Free”
Hakimullah Mehsud is the emir of Pakistan’s biggest terrorist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. He is also wanted by the US for murdering seven Americans on December 30, 2009 at a CIA base in Khost, and the failed bombing of Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010. Washington and Islamabad have announced a bounty of $5m and Rs50m on his head. But the chief of the country’s biggest religious party – Jamaat-e-Islami – says he does not exist. Continue reading “Brotherhood of bombs”
Many celebrated by keeping vigil for Malala Yousufzai.
Malala is the 14-year-old girl who was an outspoken advocate for girls? rights. She blogged from her home in Pakistan. She lived in the Swat Valley, an area near the border with Afghanistan that is heavily influenced by Islamic fundamentalism. Her activism focused on education and on girls? rights to learn.
She directly challenged the Taliban. She confronted their views that girls should not be educated. She defied their beliefs through her advocacy and her actions.
For this, she became the Taliban?s target. She was shot Oct. 9 by a Taliban assassin. She remains in a hospital, in critical condition after surgery to remove the bullet that struck her in the head.
I too keep vigil for this brave girl and abhor the attempt to kill her.
But where is the outrage for the thousands of Malalas who are regularly being slaughtered because a US president deems it within his right to do so?
Retreat at #stopdronenow
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Three years ago, the Sri Lankan cricket team rode through the streets of Lahore, Pakistan, on the third day of a five-day test match. Team captain Mahela Jayawardene, who is to his country what Derek Jeter is to the city of New York, rode near the back of the bus. The convoy, with a police escort, rolled through the streets outside the stadium. Mahela, known as MJ, took out his phone to call his wife, and that’s when they all heard what sounded like fireworks. Someone shouted, “They’re shooting at the bus!” They heard the bullets, marching down the side exposed to the terrorist gunmen, sounding like rain on a metal roof. Mahela dove for the floor, and the first 30 seconds of what happened next ended up on Christina Jayawardene’s voice mail. An RPG flew over the bus. A grenade rolled under it. It was a blur: policemen being shot in the street, dying on a Tuesday morning, bullets striking the tires, players screaming. When she played the message for Mahela’s oldest friend, tears flowed down her face as he listened. Continue reading “Sri Lanka's stars bridge past, future”
The UN estimates there are around half a million chronic heroin users in Pakistan, with many living in the country’s biggest city Karachi. But help for addicts is in short supply, and locking them up is one of the only forms of treatment.
The street outside Zainab market in Karachi is a great place for people-watching. Everyone has a story. A moment of eye contact can inspire an entire imagined history. Traders, customers, students – and heroin addicts.
It is here I talked to 26-year-old Hussain. With him there is no need to imagine. All dark skin and scars, Hussain has been plagued by addiction most of his adult life. Continue reading “Karachi heroin addicts: Cold turkey the only cure”
In his first campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama promised to reverse the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism ? such as the use of torture, the rendition of terrorist suspects to CIA-run black sites around the globe, and the denial of basic legal rights to prisoners in Guant?namo ? and to develop a counterterrorism policy that was consistent with the legal and moral tradition of the United States.?In an address at the Woodrow Wilson Center in August 2007, Obama criticized the Bush administration for putting forward a “false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand”, and swore to provide “our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our constitution and our freedom”.
As a candidate, Obama also promised to restore proper legislative and judicial oversight to counterterrorism operations. Rather than treat counterterrorism policy as an area of exception, operating without the normal safeguards that protect the rights of the accused, Obama promised that his approach “will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that?justice is not arbitrary.”
Four years later, it is clear that President Obama has delivered a very different counterterrorism policy from that which he promised on the campaign trail. (Full disclosure: I was an adviser on the Obama campaign’s counterterrorism expert group from July 2007-November 2008.) In fairness, he?has?delivered on a few of his promises, including closing the CIA-run “black site” prisons abroad and ordering that interrogations of all suspects be conducted according to the US army field manual, which proscribes?many of the tactics widely considered torture. And some failures were not wholly his own: Obama’s inability to close Guant?namo Bay was due more to congressional opposition and to an array of legal obstacles than to his own lack of initiative. Continue reading “Obama's drone wars and the normalisation of extrajudicial murder”
This is an amazing book because although it is the tale of the most successful Bengali politician of all times, it is one of the simplest stories told. The lack of pretension and straightforwardness of the narrative is humbling.?It is not the ?great leader? who is speaking in this book but the ?ordinary person? who is offering his version of history, both personal and political. One is thankful that he wrote it long before history itself crowded him so overwhelmingly after independence. In that narrow space that he occupied after 1971 this book couldn?t have been written. At so many levels the book introduces the man as never done before, turning the public persona into a real human being. This Mujib is an unknown Bangladeshi who through this book becomes someone we would know very well. Continue reading “The autobiography of an unknown Bangladeshi”