iGem Peshawar Wins Bronze Medal

Posted November 16th, 2016 at 7:13 pm (UTC+0)
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by Niala Mohammad

A group of 7 biotechnology undergraduate students from Peshawar nabbed the Bronze medal at MIT’s  annual “iGem Competition”. The iGEM, or the international genetically engineered machines competition, is an annual flagship student contest hosted by MIT. This year iGem had 301 competitors from across the globe. iGem Peshawar was the sole representation of Pakistan, whereas India had 8 different teams that made it to the iGem competition. Dr Faisal Khan, the lead of the iGem Peshawar team, as well as the director of the Institute of Integrative Bio-sciences at CECOS University, Peshawar proudly stated, “Our lab in Peshawar is the only one in the country! That is why top biotechnology students from all over Pakistan flock to it. This is something we are really proud of!”

Dr Faisal Khan said that the iGem Peshawar team is a group of 12 mostly Pashtun students that were selected out of hundreds of applicants throughout Pakistan. However, due to funding only seven of twelve students could travel to Boston to take part in the final stages of the competition. Dr. Faisal Khan told VOA Deewa, “all of the girls in our iGem Peshawar team are Pashtun, hailing from Waziristan, Mardan, Swat, and Peshawar.”

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The iGem Peshawar team created a biosensor for the detection of levels of CO and NOx (Carbon Monoxide and Oxide of Nitrogen) in vehicle emissions. The sensor invented by the iGem Peshawar team is a cost effective, time efficient, easy to use, and compact. The strip technology can help improve air quality by detecting CO and NOx.

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The inhalation of these lethal gases are hazardous to human health. In Fact, the Global Atmospheric Pollution Forum states that Carbon Monoxide, “at higher concentrations, exposure can cause impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. Exposure to CO at moderate concentrations, angina attacks, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At very high concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.” And, “Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) are a family of gases that can cause a number of serious health effects. One form of NOx, nitrogen dioxide, is unhealthy to breathe, especially for children, the elderly, asthmatics and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. NOx is also a key component to the formation of ozone and photochemical oxidants. Breathing low levels of ozone, for example, can trigger asthma attacks and other problems for people with preexisting respiratory problems.”

The new sensor developed by the iGem Peshawar team can be used for more than just testing vehicle emissions, it can also be used to test space heaters and portable gas stoves used by the majority of households in Pakistan. Although cars are a major contributor to air pollution in the world, inhalation of poisonous gaseous material from household heaters and cookers is a more imminent threat in Pakistan where a number of people die each year due to its inhalation.

The iGem Peshawar team not only devised a solution to curb air pollution world-wide but addressed a pertinent domestic issue. Congrats Team iGem Peshawar – Rabia Gul Dawar (South Waziristan), Sarah Farooq (Mardan), Sidra Usman (Peshawar), Maleeha Mashkoor (Peshawar), Abdul Hadi Abro (Hyderabad), Sami Ullah (Swat), Muhammad Ali (Karachi), Rayyan Khan (Lahore), Masoom Hossein (Peshawar), Asif Hanif (Kalat), Mansoor Saleem (Swat), Muhammad Ismail (Karachi), Dr. Faisal Khan (Mardan)

Learn more about iGem here: http://igem.org/Main_Page

iGem Peshawar Team Official site: http://2016.igem.org/Team:Peshawar

iGem Peshawar Team Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/igempeshawar/

 

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#RediscoverKP

Posted October 11th, 2016 at 8:38 pm (UTC+0)
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#RediscoverKP #GoZest Initiative aims at bringing tourism back to Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and changing the negative stereotypes associated with the province and its people.

 

A group of young men and women who were sick of being synonymous with negative connotations, took it upon themselves to change the perception of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Pashtuns. Under the banner of #GoZest, these youngsters invited the rest of Pakistan to #RediscoverKP. Traditionally known as “the land of hospitality”, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is now commonly associated with extremism, terrorism, insecurity, and intolerance. Pakistan, and in particular Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is perceived as one of the most dangerous places in the world, adversely affecting the tourism industry in the region. The #GoZest Initiative aims at bringing tourism back to KP, and changing the negative stereotypes associated with the province and its people.

#GoZest

GOZEST was Pakistan’s very first 5-day cultural retreat. The event attracted more one hundred and seventy participants ranging from ages 20 to 30 from all over Pakistan. GoZest gave participants a taste of Pashtun hospitality and allowed them to experience the hidden beauty of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Partakers in the excursions viewed five different scenic areas within Abbottabad District including Naththia Gali, Khanaspur, Donga Gali, Bara Gali, and Ayubia.

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Participants explored Naththia Gali, Khanaspur, Donga Gali, Bara Gali, and Ayubia

Apart from daily excursions, participants took part in interactive sessions, question/answer panel discussions, and networking activities. Because the event attracted leading young personalities from the world of business development, politics, media, civil society, and academia participants were provided with a platform to discuss national challenges towards democracy, education, and peace. Overall the experience enabled inter-cultural dialogue and promoted national integrity. Participants left with a unified vision of peace and harmony for Pakistan and a positive impression of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.

Day 1: Arrival Day

The opening ceremony of #GoZest was held in Abbottabad with British-Pakistani journalist and film producer Reham Khan as the Chief Guest. After a series of motivational speeches by guest speakers and event coordinators, participants were registered and assigned to their hotel rooms in Nathiagali.

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“It is up to the youth of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, to change the image of their province. No one else will do it for you.” –Reham Khan

 

 

 

Day 2: Promoting Tourism to #RediscoverKP: 

Delegates were divided into groups of 15 with a designated guide as they embarked a series of activities which included a friendly cricket match at the historic Khanaspur Cricket Ground located in Ayubia. The cricket ground is at an altitude of about 2250 meters (7500 feet) above sea level. Next the participants trekked the 4km Pipeline from Ayubia to Donga Gali. Participants took chair lifts to Ayubia National Park, where they planted 1500 plants donated by the Galiyath Development Authority as #gogreen initiative.

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Khanaspur Cricket Ground located in Ayubia. The cricket ground is at an altitude of about 2250 meters (7500 feet) above sea level.

 Day 3: Cultural Exchange:

The third day involved a visit from young political activist Sardar Sami from Azad Jammu Kashmir and Senator Javed Abbassi of Murree. The day progressed with a visit to Lalazar Safari Park located on Lalazar mountaintop in Nathiagali.

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Sardar Sami of Azad Jammu Kashmir a addresses #GoZest participants. 

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Senator Javed Abbassi of Murree speaks to #GoZest participants about the need for youth to partake in the Democratic system. 

That evening guests participated in a celebration of cultural exchange. Participants were encouraged to wear their traditional ethnic dress and introduce the group to their respective cultures via mini-presentations.  Meanwhile, the hosts of #GoZest entertained the participants with traditional food, music and entertainment of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province. Pashtun folk singer Fayaz Kheshgi wooed crowds with his patriotic tunes.

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The hosts of #GoZest entertained participants with traditional food, music and entertainment of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province. 

 

 

Day 4: Exploring Khyber Pukhtunkhwa:

Day four of #GoZest2016 began with in interactive dialogue amongst participants themed, “peace and harmony”. This was followed by a hiking excursion to Mushkpuri Trek. Mushkpuri Top is a 4 kilometers (2.5 mile) trek located 9,400 feet above sea level in Nathiagali, Abottabad. Once participants reached the magnificent hilltop, they took part in an interactive training session conducted by renowned psychologist and a life coach Ibrahim Siawash. The evening ended with musical entertainment.

 

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Mushkpuri Top is a 4 kilometers (2.5 mile) trek located 9,400 feet above sea level in Nathiagali, Abottabad.

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Nazia Parveen-FATA’s first female athlete with fellow participants at #GoZest2016

Day 5: #GoHome:

The closing included keynote speeches by the Guests of Honor including government officials. Final thoughts on how the young generation of Pakistan can contribute to promoting peace and harmony in the country through promoting tourism and culture. Guests were presented with certificates of honor and shield awards for their participation and valuable contribution to #GoZest.

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The closing ceremony was conducted at the Abbottabad Press Club. Guests of Honor included; Shamun Yar Khan Abbasi, Omer Sher Khan, Shahzeb Anwer Hazarywal, Asad Javed Khan, Sardar Shafiq, Arshad Hussain (Director Youth Affairs KP),  Kashif Rehman Khalil (SPO) and Abid Atozai (PYA).

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“It is the younger generation’s responsibility to change the negative perception of Pashtuns and their land. Promoting tourism will not only help promote the image of KP but also boost the economy, and employment sectors.  By promoting tourism, #RediscoverKP is trying to break the link that is often automatically associated between Pashtuns and terrorism.”-Abid Atozai

Trends and Impact:

#Gozest was an extremely successful event and took to social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat) like wildfire. #RediscoverKP and  #GoZest reached more than 30 million people on Twitter and Facebook. In fact these hashtags reached first position on Twitter’s “Pakistan trends panel”.

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Written by Niala Mohammad 

Photos courtesy of #GoZest 

“Jaanan” Shatters Stereotypes Associated with Pashtuns

Posted September 17th, 2016 at 7:24 pm (UTC+0)
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By: Niala Mohammad Khalil 

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“Jaanan” is a 2016 Pakistani romantic comedy film which revolves around a Pashtun family from Swat.

The film was directed by Azfar Jafri, written by Osman Khalid Butt, and co-produced by Hareem Farooq, Reham Khan, Munir Hussain and Imran Raza Kazmi. The film stars Armeena Khan, Bilal Ashraf, and Ali Rehman Khan in lead roles. It also stars seasoned Pashtun cinema actors such as Ajab Gul and Nausaaba.

The movie shattered several negative stereotypes associated with Pashtuns and was perhaps the first movie in Pakistani cinema that depicts Pashtuns in a positive and progressive light. The movie shows Pashtuns as educated, non-violent, modern, and classy. This is a refreshing change considering Pashtuns have continuously been depicted as uneducated, aggressive, and backwards in Lollywood.

Although the movie is light-hearted, the script-writer touched upon heavy social issues such as education, and child sexual abuse. The female characters in the storyline are showed as strong and independent not oppressed.

Critics of Reham Khan and the film claim that the movie “doesn’t paint an accurate picture of Swat” and have referred to the movie as a “waste”. However others consider it “a must see film”. Rozina Khan, an audience member, told VOA Deewa, “Jaanan, finally shows Pashtuns in a proper manner. I brought my daughter with me to show her the softer side of Pashtun culture.”

The visuals and aesthetics were beautiful and the costume design was impeccable. Another audience member Esha said, “I want to go to Swat after seeing this movie.”

Although the main characters were not fluent in Pashto they tried their very best to incorporate Pashto words in their dialogue. You have to appreciate the use of the extensive Pashto language, the comedy and the incorporation of Ghani Khan’s poetry used in the song “Reidi Gul”.

Ali Rehman Khan, undoubtedly takes the cake for his role in “Jaanan”. But for Pashtuns, the highlight of the movie was Naushaaba, who plays the “grandmother” of the Khan family. Her comedic disdain for her granddaughter’s Punjabi fiancé is an epic twist on the usual dig against Pashtuns.

Eid ul Adha-Across the Durand

Posted September 14th, 2016 at 5:47 pm (UTC+0)
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Although Eid ul Adha heavily revolves around the concept of sacrifice, Pashtuns in the region associate this holiday with fashion and of course food.

Children in Charsadda & Khost wearing their most colorful and sparkly outfits

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Young men wearing traditional hand embroidered “jama’ clothing in Paktika and Khost. %d9%be%da%a9%d8%aa%db%8c%da%a9%d8%a7-%d9%88%d9%84%d8%a7%db%8c%d8%aa14349214_1022471984545151_1960841955_n

Elder men dressed in traditional clothes, polished shoes, fashionable vests, and traditional head-wear in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khost.

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Young men sporting the newest trends in Charsadda and Khost.

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Picnics in Kabul and Barbecues Peshawar.

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Pictures Courtesy of Voice of America Deewa Reporters Arshad Mohmand (KP & FATA) and Haqmal Rawan (Kabul)

Write-up: Niala Mohammad

Game of Thrones in the Land of Drones

Posted August 23rd, 2016 at 8:47 pm (UTC+0)
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By Niala Mohammad

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If you are not addicted to Game of Thrones, you’ve at least heard about the popular fantasy drama series and its catchy theme song. The young men of Khumariyaan have given new life to Ramin Djawadi’s composition by adapting the GoT theme song to a Pashtun beat. This track is quickly becoming a hit among the younger generations of Pashtuns in the “Land of Drones”.

The HBO television series has become a craze worldwide, captivating audiences in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obsessed fans in the region are looking for ways (both legally and illegally) to stream the show in order to keep up with the six season series.

The Game of Thrones television series is an adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s sequence novels. The story-line of the show revolves around competing claimants for succession to the “Iron Throne”. The theme of the series resonates well with Pashtun audiences who are similarly entrenched in tribal competitions and battles for succession. Fan-followings often draw comparisons between characters in the show and Pashtun men.

Pashtun youth have generated memes comparing Game of Thrones characters such as Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow to locals and celebrities like Fawad Khan.

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Khumariyaan’s self proclaimed “Jon Snow”, and avid Game of Thrones fan Sparlay Rawail explained to VOA Deewa, “it was fairly easy [to adapt the song], it’s not actually on the 7 beat cycle that Pashto music normally is on, just the regular 6 beat cycle. But we’ve made it sound like it’s the Pashto beat.

The young men of Khumariyaan were able adapt the theme song of Game of Thrones so naturally to their native orchestra that the instrumental track has become addicting to listen to.

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Listen to Khumariyaan’s Cover to the Game of Thrones theme song here:

Pakistan: One State, Different Narratives

Posted August 14th, 2016 at 7:23 pm (UTC+0)
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By Pir Wilayat Shah and Iftikhar Hussain

Pakistan’s powerful Army Chief General Raheel Sharif warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, in the aftermath of Quetta’s massacre, that lack of proper implementation of the National Action Plan would result in serious consequences. The General said, “Establishing long term peace and stability in Pakistan would remain a ‘distant dream’ unless all stakeholders deliver meaningfully on the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism”.

The General’s remarks were indirectly responded to by Punjab Province’s Law Minister, Rana Sanullah. He stated, “If the criticism against military can take us away from our target, in the same fashion, criticism of our civilian institutions and law enforcement agencies can take us away from our objectives”. The ping pong approach to the shift in blame blatantly exposes the gaps in the Pakistani civilian-military approach in the fight against terrorism.

Gaps in Pak Civilian-Military Approach to Terrorism

Discrepancies in the Pakistan civilian-military approach to confronting terrorism and terrorists in the country has long been debated by independent analysts, who have viewed the policy with concerns. To analysts the reasons are obvious, the stakes for fighting terrorism are different for the military and civilian government are different.

Pakistan’s leading analysts caution on the widening gap between the state and military institutions. Most worrisome for them is perhaps their view of how Pakistan continuously insists that there is a distinction between good and bad Taliban. Meanwhile, Nawaz government is criticized by his opponents for failing to take action against extremist groups within in his home province of Punjab.

Although they share the same surnames, the two Sharifs hardly share the same views on terrorism apart from acknowledging it is a severe issue and shifting the blame on foreign entities. In the aftermath of the Quetta massacre both General Sharif and Prime Minister Sharif stated that a “foreign hand is involved,”

One State, Different Narratives

Former Pakistan Army General and leading security analyst, Talat Masood dubs the army stance that the civilian government is selectively pursuing the 20 point National Action Plan. “The army chief wants to put pressure on the civilian set up to make it more pro-active against the menace of terrorism”, says Talat Masood. General Masood says if the blame game continues, the gap between the two institutions can widen further.

However, Pakistan’s military campaign against terrorism in the tribal region titled, Zarbe- Azb has also come under serious scrutiny following the Quetta attack.

Pakistan Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani, a respected voice within the Pakistani political scene, equaled Pakistan’s state approach to eliminating terrorism as ‘fire-fighting’; the state puts out one fire and then waits for the next fire to erupt. He called for changing the fundamentals of the strategy after the bloody Quetta massacre. Raza Rabbani’s sentiments on Pakistan’s policy on terrorism are echoed both in Pakistan and abroad.

Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Plan

Pakistan National Action Plan is a concise 20-point plan of action that PM Sharif’s government devised in the aftermath of Peshawar school massacre by terrorist outfit Tehreek Taliban Pakistan in December 2014. Analyst Zahid Hussain believes that selective implementation of the national action plan has yielded very limited results. “Hate material is still easily available in the country and the government claims of arresting thousands of terrorists under national security cannot be verified independently”.

Nawaz Sharif’s Punjab Problem

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif draws his political power from his home land Punjab, the largest province in Pakistan. His government is accused of inaction against Punjab based terrorists such as, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Analysts say inaction against militants, or simply the lack of it, in Punjab will diminish any gains operation Zarb-e-Azb’s has achieved. Their view. is that the root causes of extremism lay in Punjab and unless a decisive action is taken into action, counterterrorism efforts elsewhere will not be able to yield results.

‘Pakistan’s Enabling Environment is the Perfect Cultivation Ground for Extremism’

Michael Kugelman of Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC says an enabling environment in Pakistan allows terrorists to remain resilient. kugelman told VOA Deewa, “The issue here is the environment, the climate continues to be conducive for terrorists. You have the types of narratives, the types of ideologies that drive militancy and terror. This messaging coming from clerics, that appears in school text books, that you quite frankly hear on the television that talks about how India, the US and Israel are trying to surround and harm Pakistan and Islam. These are narratives that are everywhere across society in Pakistan. And these are the types of narratives that terrorists are able to act upon violently”.

Where is Pakistan Heading on Terrorism?

Experts think the more pressing issue at hand are the differences in the state and the military’s priorities. Both institutions are eager to pursue their own interests in the fight against terrorism. Regardless of what each side might say of its success, the nation is caught in a bloody quagmire due to institutional ambivalence. The nation bleeds and the ethnic Pashtun, Baloch, and Sindhis are the innocent bystanders of terrorism as the stakes of peace remain amidst disparities between the military and civilian government of Pakistan.

**Niala Mohammad contributing editor

“Pakistan’s Enabling Environment Makes Terrorists Resilient” -Michael Kugelman

Posted August 11th, 2016 at 8:39 pm (UTC+0)
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Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson

By Iftikhar Hussain and Niala Mohammad

Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington D.C. and a leading expert on Pakistan. Kugelman says that militants in Pakistan are resilient due to the enabling environment of extremism. Following the Quetta suicide attack, Michael Kugelman spoke with VOA Deewa on the continuous militant attacks within Pakistan, limited impact of Pakistan’s campaign against terrorism, the military’s anti-India approach, and its policy of distinguishing between good and bad Taliban. The interview with Kugelman was done by VOA’s Iftikhar Hussain. Following is a complete transcript of the Michael Kugelman’s interview:

Question: Your recent WSJ piece “Hospital Bombing in Quetta, Pakistan, Fits Pattern of Terror Attacks on ‘Soft Targets'” gives an interesting insight to why militants thrive in Pakistan. Could you elaborate on those reasons for our audience?

Kugelman Answer:  I think it’s very simple why Pakistan continues to suffer from terrorism even after two years of a heavy military offensive in North Waziristan. The issue here, the environment, the climate continues to be conducive for terrorists. You have the types of narratives, the types of ideologies that drive militancy and terror. This messaging coming from clerics, that appears in school text books, that you quite frankly hear on the television that talks about how India, the US and Israel are trying to surround and harm Pakistan and Islam. These are narratives that are everywhere across society in Pakistan. And these are the types of narratives that terrorists are able to act upon violently. So, you have that on the one hand and then of course the other issue is that you have a Pakistani state that continues to distinguish between so called good and so called bad militants. And it only goes after the terrorists that launch attacks in Pakistan. You have plenty of terror groups inside Pakistan like Lashkar e Taiba and the Haqqani network that don’t attack Pakistan they attack other places, other countries.

All of these terrorist groups regardless of who they target, they are all cut from the same cloth, and they all want to do terrible things. And most importantly you have members of these diff orgs that go back and forth between the other. This comes back to what I was saying earlier, that the climate and the environment in Pakistan is simply so enabling for extremism and allows terrorism to flourish. This is why you can kill so many terrorists as Pakistan has. And yet until you kill the ideology that drives these terrorists you are not going to make terrorism go away.

Question: Pakistan’s military chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited Quetta following the massacre stated that the attack was “an effort to destabilize CPEC”.  This statement was widely criticized because terrorism was already in existence in the region and attacks had occurred prior to CPEC being launched in the province. Why do you think General Sharif he devised his statement as such?

Kugelman Answer: I think it was really inconsiderate and inappropriate of the Pakistani military to essentially suggest that this attack was meant to sabotage CPEC and to undermine the improved security environment to sabotage CPEC. I mean, let’s face it, Baluchistan was not exactly a stable place before this attack happened. The military by pitching its argument that way, by saying this was meant to sabotage CPEC that allows the military to really subtly accuse India of being behind this attack. Because the Pakistani army for several months has been accusing India for trying to sabotage this CPEC. And of course CPEC is very important for the Pakistani military. So essentially what you have here is the Pakistani security establishment has been resorting to the same type of blame game and denial that it has so many times. It simply refuses to acknowledge that there are forces inside Pakistan that continue to have the ability to launch horrific mass causality attacks.

A group like Jamat ul Ahrar its status or connection to the Taliban is unclear. At one point it had broken off I think it is still a part of the TTP, but the bottom line is that even after two years of military offenses in North Waziristan you have a terror group like Jamat ur Ahrar that is able to stage mass causality attacks across the country as its done in the Lahore park attack, its attacked, it’s gone after churches. This is a group that staged at least 10 attacks over the last year or so. It has a lot of ability to get things done, and if the army were to acknowledge that, then it would essentially be admitting that the military has not eliminated the all of the major threats, the terrorist threats to the Pakistani state. So instead it simply resorts to the usual blaming of India and blaming outside forces which is not very helpful and of course is not very accurate.

Question: Pakistan’s anti-terrorism policy has not delivered. To put it in the words of Pakistan’s Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani “it’s like fire-fighting, the state puts out one fire and then waits for the next fire to erupt.” What type of strategy does the state of Pakistan need in order to yield results?

Kugelman Answer: I would actually agree with what Senator Rabani has had to say in this regard that Pakistan really does need a strategy, it needs a very clear strategy, a very specific strategy that lays out exactly what’s going to happen and when. But on the other hand Pakistan has come up with strategies, plenty of strategies, Pakistan has developed all kinds of policies and measures to deal with terrorism. One of the more prominent ones in recent years was the National Action Plan (NAP), which was a 20 point agenda for dealing with terrorism and violent extremism. The problem is that the measures laid out in that NAP have not been followed up on, they really haven’t been implemented. And this is the crux of the problem, I think that devising the right strategy is hard enough but the issue of implementing, and overseeing and enforcing various aspects of implementation are the challenge. And quite frankly it’s perfectly nice to have this 20 point plan that talks about the need to criminalize hate speech to remove hardline extremist narratives but, actually getting that done is very difficult. And in Pakistan the reason why it’s so hard to get that done is that you have very powerful interests such as those that I had mentioned earlier, religious forces and even elements of the state that really don’t have interest. They don’t want these enabling environments to be eliminated because let’s face you could argue that the state in Pakistan derives some benefit from propagating these hardline narratives about India and all because it essentially portrays India to threat which therefore gives the military legitimacy to essentially have a big role in the state in Pakistan to protect the country from India.

So, I would argue that the big problem and the big challenge for Pakistan is not as much with developing policies and strategies but actually implementing them and following through on them. And for that to be done you’re going to need some whole sale changes in state policy. One being the need to essentially reject all forms of terrorism and its practitioners.

 

Afghan Fashion Designer Set to Rock Paris Fashion Week

Posted June 7th, 2016 at 4:25 pm (UTC+0)
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By Niala Mohammad

Although his first collection was named “Culture Clash”, Nawed Zazai does quite the opposite. He harmoniously blends Western cuts and Eastern patterns and proudly displays the combination of his two worlds on one palette.

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Nawed Zazai is an ethnic Pashtun from Paktia province in Afghanistan. He moved to the Netherlands from Kabul at the age of 14 and has not returned since. Amsterdam is his home, but it is the memories of his homeland and his people that are the root of his creativity.

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The fashion designer told VOA Deewa, “I’ve always loved fashion and having unique style”, his distinctive style alone is evidence of this statement. Nawed is one of those designers that you want to copy. His style is so edgy and unique that it captures your attention instantaneously.

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Photo Courtesy: Debra Barraud

Zazai’s western men’s fashion line showcases distinct features of his traditional Afghan background.  He reinvents the traditional shamal (turban), pakool (wool hat) and saadar/paatu (shawl) in a way that makes the Western world want to “rock Afghan wear”.

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Nawed learned how to make clothes himself (sew, stitch and cut patterns) via the internet by watching videos. He stated, “I don’t like sewing, and I’m not a tailor by trade but I had to learn in order to create the specific look I wanted.” He also admitted, “Yes, I have messed up and ruined my clothes several times” in the trial and error process. But that didn’t stop this innovative young designer from reaching his goal, which is to portray the softer side of Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan is often linked to several negative conceptions such as war, extremism, poverty, etc. Hardly anyone thinks to link Afghanistan and fashion together, but Nawed Zazai intends to change that.

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Nawed’s aim is to revamp the image of Afghanistan and Afghans in the world through his bold designs. Zazai states, “instead of automatically associating us with war and the Taliban, people will start to link us with something more positive.”

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The designer will be featuring his new line at Paris Fashion Week on July 6th, where he intends to send a powerful message about Afghanistan.

 

Photos courtesy of Nawed Zazai & Zazai Design 

Mother by Abaseen Yusafzai

Posted May 7th, 2016 at 5:51 pm (UTC+0)
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Translated by Niala Mohammad 

 
My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life


And if I were to be what would I become without you

I live in comfort today because of your blessings

I remember your sadness, I remember your worry

You prayed for me all night, I recall those nights

You turned me into a flower and yourself into dust, you are the scent of spring breeze


My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life

Whenever I was sick, I remember the tears you shed

When I faced difficulties, I saw your heart ache

It is my responsibility to fulfill your every wish, but how will I ever fulfill this?

How will I go through life if, God forbid, you are not here by my side

God forbid, the day should come when I am here but you are no longer with me

My home is a heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of my life

From the moment I started crawling, you taught me about life

The fond memories I have sitting in your lap

When tears began to fill my eyes, your soul would fill with worry

In every pain and in every difficulty you are my strength


My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life

You raised me, you taught me every beautiful thing in life

If I am proud, it is because Allah made me your child

I will never hurt you, I will shed my blood for you

You enlightened me, you are the light in my path

My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life

Tell me- should I go up in smoke for you, or turn the world into smoke for you

I would sacrifice my wealth and gold for you, I would sacrifice my life for you

I will sacrifice my poetry and my existence for you

If it were permissible to worship you, then you would be my Ka’bah


My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life

If I compare you in the realm of beauty, you are more beautiful than anyone

Despite the hardships you face in life, people only recall your pampered past

You would not hesitate to spill your blood for me

You are worthy of every praise, you lack not a thing

My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life

If I wrote my whole life, I would never be able to finish your praise

Only a mother’s love is sweet, you will never find this love from a father

I pray that everyone gives you respect

God made you a miracle in my life

My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life


This poet would sacrifice himself for you

You are a great inspiration

 

My home is heaven because of you, you are my angel,

your life is an example for all to follow, you are the sustenance of life

US Calls for Dr. Afridi’s Release Further Tests Ties With Islamabad

Posted May 2nd, 2016 at 7:31 pm (UTC+0)
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Dr Shakil Afridi
By Iftikhar Hussain and Ihsan Mohammad Khan
With the fifth anniversary of Al-Qaeda Chief Osama Bin Laden killing in Pakistan Abbottabad city, US lawmakers are renewing their call on Pakistan to free Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the surgeon who helped CIA track OBL.

Dr. Afridi was arrested following the US Navy Seals raid of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011. Dr. Afridi was first accused of treason for working for a foreign intelligence service, CIA. But later he was sentenced to a jail term over charges that he had ties with an Islamic militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam, in his native Khyber tribal area.

Dr Afridi life inside prison

Dr. Shakeel Afridi is in a high-security prison in Peshawar but his life is in a complete blackout. A narrow journalistic peek into his restricted life behind the bars shows that he was being held in virtual isolation, only jail authorities and intelligence officials have free access to him. His occasional meetings with family are kept secret.

Family Visits

“Nobody, even me, except his wife and three children (have) occasional access” to Shakil Afridi, his lawyer Qmar Nadeem Afridi, told VOA Deewa. The jailed doctor and the lawyer are not relations. They share the same common last name Afridi because they both belong to a larger tribe with the same name.

Dr. Shakil gets visits by his wife and two teenage sons once every two months. But his lawyer said he does not get any updates about his client because the family lives in hiding and incommunicado. “His family used to live in Peshawar but now their whereabouts are not known. They avoid meeting anybody. I do not know that his three teenage kids goes to school or not”, his lawyer Qamer Nadeem told VOA Deewa over the phone.

Dr Afridi case status

Dr. Afridi was arrested a few days after the killing of OBL. Initially Pakistani officials accused him of collaborating with a foreign intelligence service, CIA. He is suspected of running a fake anti-hepatitis campaign in the vicinity of OBL Abbottabad compound, part of efforts to collect DNA samples to confirm bin Laden’s identity.

He was later handed over to authorities of his native tribal area and a government administrator of Khyber, who adjudicated his case, sentenced him to 33 years in prison, under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a set of rules dating back to the region’s British colonial rule. On an appeal, his sentence was reduced to 23 years. Qamar Nadeem Afridi said he is seeking that his jail term be dismissed but the case has not moved forward since 2012.

US stance on Dr. Afridi case

Dr. Afridi case has become a litmus test for the shaky US Pak relations. A furious US senate committee voted to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million — $1 million for each year of his original sentence.

“The aid cut threat will not work, diplomatic efforts are needed by the US and that is the only way to Dr. Afridi can be released”, says Qamar Nadeem,

The United States’ ultra-secretive Central Intelligence Agency tweeted the details of an operation that killed a top terrorist leader Sunday, drawing thousands of retweets and likes from apparent supporters while others responded with criticism that ranged from “please don’t” to “WTF?”

Lawyer’s Perils

Before, Qamar Nadeem, took up Dr. Shakil’s case, another lawyer for the doctor has been killed.
Unidentified gunmen attacked Dr Afridi first lawyer Samiullah Afridi, in his car near the city of Peshawar in March last year. Qamar Nadeem, talking of any threat to his life told VAO Deewa, “I am cautious but do not think any threat to my life at the moment”.

Pakistan stance
Pakistani officials were outraged by the bin Laden operation, which led to international suspicion that they had been harboring Al Qaeda’s founder.
On Monday, Pakistani authorities rejected a call by visiting US congressional staff delegation to release Dr. Afridi, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.

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