I read so you don't have to: A week of terror
The worst articles of the week: well, they tended to fixate on the Taliban.
It may have been over a month since the US Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad but Pakistan, and the world, hasn’t forgotten Osama bin Laden yet. From the blowback to the militant attack on PNS Mehran, which might have included the life of reporter Saleem Shahzad, to the death of Ilyas Kashmiri, the week was dominated, as most weeks in Pakistan are, by terrorism and militancy.
But, the best pieces of the week tended to take a step back from the most obvious issues plaguing the country.
The worst: well, they tended to fixate on the Taliban.
(June 2, 2011 - June 9 2011)
Best pieces of the week
1. Ayaz Amir: Bhutto in the Pakistani imagination (Newsline)
With all the mythologising that followed his unjust trial and ruthless execution, we tend to forget just how flawed a figure Zulfikar Ali Bhutto really was. As the Supreme Court re-hears ZAB’s murder case more than 30 years later, Ayaz Amir provides a useful reminder of both the arrogance and dazzling charisma of the original Bhutto, peppering his analysis with priceless anecdotes.
2. Urmila Venugopalan: Pakistan’s Black Pearl (Foreign Policy)
We hear so much about how our sovereignty is being violated by our American allies but precious little about growing Chinese influence in the country, particularly in Balochistan. In an incisive, even-handed analysis, Venugopalan looks at why China might be looking to take over Gwadar, but also why it will move cautiously.
3. Interview with Tahir Naqvi (Five Rupees)
Cultural anthropologist Tahir Naqvi manages to intelligently discuss the MQM without engaging in the histrionics that typically accompany all debate about the notorious political party. Although quite dense and technical at time, Naqvi has a lot of interesting things to say on ethnicity, identity and nationalism.
4. Bilal Tanweer: Faiz for Dummies (Caravan)
Truly immersing oneself in the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz requires more than just listening to a rock band jumping on the Faiz bandwagon and adding guitar to his beautiful verses. Bilal Tanweer, in a humorous and engaging way, shows how to become a true Faiz fanatic, or at least learn enough about the poet to avoid looking stupid.
Worst pieces of the week
1. Christopher Hitchens: From Abbottabad to Worse (Vanity Fair)
Since writers rarely come up with their own headlines, Hitchens can be forgiven the groan-inducing pun in the title. What he can’t be forgiven is his simple-mindedness and basic errors of fact. He takes it as a given that the army murdered Benazir, paints Zardari as anti-American and claims Pakistan hates the US because we have taken so much money from them. His argument that the US needs to stop giving aid to Pakistan may have its merits, but none worth considering are pursued by Hitchens.
2. Caroline Jaine : Simulated Realities, Manipulated Perceptions (World Bank blog)
Jaine is guilty of two mistakes, one against the English language and one against Pakistan. Her writing style is a mish-mish of post-modernism and as such comprehensible only to enemies of readable writing. The thrust of her piece, as best as it can be ascertained, is that Pakistan, despite the militancy, has real people too. Thanks for the reminder, Jaine.
3. Christine Fair: Baffled by the Taliban Shuffle (Huffington Post)
There is nothing terribly wrong with Fair’s description of the hyper-controversial Kim Barker memoir, The Taliban Shuffle. Yes, the book is filled with Barker’s sexual exploits, disgust with Pakistan and Afghanistan and flirtations with Nawaz Sharif. It’s of her critique of it that is so disappointing. Fair expects Barker to produce a book that ‘explains’ these countries. Really, though, it’s just nice to have a book by a foreign correspondent that just narrates tales rather than assume the author has all the answers, or even knows the questions to begin with.
4. Ian Jack: It’s not the arithmetic of genocide that’s important. It’s that we pay attention (The Guardian)
The writer favourably reviews a soon-to-be-published book which argues that maybe the Pakistan army wasn’t all that bad in its killing of Bengalis in 1971. Enough said.