Pakistan’s Hub for Global Jihad Is Under SiegeExcerpt from Aboard the Democracy Train

`But even as the US-leaked memos and statements accused the ISI of secretly supporting the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan put its foot down on allowing the US to operate inside settled areas. While US drone missile strikes grew more frequent, they were only allowed to operate in the FATA belt along Afghanistan. Drones became a weapon of choice in North Waziristan, where Al …

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Excerpt from `Aboard the Democracy Train’The Press Fights Back

Pak demo for press freedom
(Credit: nation.com.pk)

1991 will go down as the year in Pakistan when the press united and stopped the attacks on journalists. Several journalists had been attacked before us, but the attack on Kamran and me started a fire. There was a reason for it. Kamran worked for the Jang group of newspapers, while I was reporter for the Dawn group of newspapers …

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From Newtown, USA to the Killing Fields of KarachiWhen Guns & Bullets first changed the culture of the Pak-Afghan region
Aboard the Democracy Train (Pages 45-6)

Guns & Bullets Seized in Pakistan (Credit: tribune.com.pk)

While it is normal practice for Pashtuns to bear arms, the Cold War gave them unprecedented access to the weapons that transited from Karachi to their native Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan. It was a time when the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 had forced three million Afghans to cross the porous borders into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly …

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A look back at the force behind the PPP government – Slain Woman Prime Minister Made Many ‘Promises to Keep’Excerpt from Aboard the Democracy Train

Benazir Bhutto with Nafisa Hoodbhoy in 70 Clifton, Karachi on June 1986 (Photographer: Zahid Hussein)

I first met Benazir Bhutto in 1986 at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) – where she had come to meet members of the press. A bevy of journalists surrounded her, as she was taken to the upper floor of the building. The former president of KPC, the late Mahmood Ali Asad thrust me through the crowd to introduce me as …

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Introduction to Aboard the Democracy Train (Excerpt)

Karachi Gymkhana

The British exited India just as Pakistan was carved out of it in 1947.  As a child in the 1960s I grew up in the bubble they left behind. Being a well-off new Pakistani, my father was among the select few to become a member of the Karachi Gymkhana. The gymkhana was part of a chain of exclusive clubs left …

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Mumtaz Bhutto’s party merges with Sharif’s PML (N)The Anti-PPP Sindhi Feudal throws his lot with the Punjab
Excerpt from Aboard the Democracy Train

Mumtaz with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Credit: nation.com.pk)

Years later, as I flew to Larkana to interview the aristocratic Mumtaz Bhutto at his ancestral home, I found he had also not forgiven the PPP “riff raff” for their challenge to the feudal lords. With his cool demeanor and long moustache, Mumtaz spoke slow clipped sentences in British English. It established his credentials as a barrister-at-law from Lincoln’s Inn, …

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Why Karachi Grew DividedExcerpt from Aboard the Democracy Train (Pgs 41-4)

MQM chief Altaf Hussain (Credit: nation.com.pk)

It was no coincidence that ethnic violence first broke out with the creation of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) in 1985, shortly after Gen. Zia had held non-party elections as part of his plan to usher in controlled democracy. That year, the Mohajirs led by a former Karachi university student, Altaf Hussain contested as independents and won a landslide victory. …

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Swat Operation – Back to the FutureBy the Author (Excerpt from ATDT Pgs 208-211)

Swat operation rfi.fr.com

By the time Zardari took over as president, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariati- Mohammedi (TNSM) had established a parallel Taliban state in parts of Malakand division where it ostensibly practiced Nizam-i-Adl (Order of Justice: essentially Sharia law). Awami National Party’s Senator Afrasiab Khattak told me that his new government was taken aback to find it had inherited an ill-trained, ill-equipped police force that …

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Four Years on – Benazir’s Murder Remains MysteryExcerpt from ATDT
The Rawalpindi Conspiracy

Photo Credit: qua.edu.pk

Islamabad, in which Benazir Bhutto twice took oath as Prime Minister, had during her exile moved firmly into the U.S. orbit of influence. It looked nothing like the provincial capital I had visited in 1991 or even 2001. Instead by toward the end of the decade it had become a cosmopolitan city where big money and an entrenched mafia had …

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Women Legislation Outlaws Best Kept Feudal SecretExcerpt on Practice of 'Marriage to Quran' in ATDT (Pgs 105-8)

Sindhiani Tehrik - key player against customary laws

In 1991, a male colleague and I headed to a small town in interior Sindh, where the peasants and low-income traders were spiritual disciples of feudals in Benazir’s cabinet. We were escorted by guards through a magnificent fortress with high walls and cemented pathways, which wove into a labyrinth. My male colleague and I were taken into a grand drawing …

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Musharraf Era Waziristan Accord turns to DiscordThe Taliban Sets up Shop in Pakistan

North Waziristan in Pakistan's FATA area (Photo Courtesy: en.wikipedia.org)

‘Aboard The Democracy Train’ Excerpt Pages 170-172: With stepped-up US and NATO patrols in Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda found Pakistan’s tribal Waziristan belt a much more hospitable terrain to resettle and reorganize. The Al Qaeda’s militants, who were welcomed by the U.S. to fight against the Soviets during the Cold War, had already integrated through marriages within the …

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Pakistan’s Epic Monsoon FloodsExcerpt from 'Aboard the Democracy Train'

Pakistan’s catastrophic monsoon floods of 2010 – which scientists link to climate change and global warming and which has mostly hurt the farmers who eke a living along the Indus River – have turned into a defining moment for the nation. The world watched with disbelief as the torrential rains, which bloated the Kabul and Indus rivers, swept away hundreds …

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How 9-11 Configured in Pakistan’s Aspirations for Democracy (Excerpt from Aboard the Democracy Train)Published in Toward Freedom, September 8, 2011

Some two decades may have separated President Gen. Zia ul Haq and President Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf’s military rule in Pakistan, but they had one person in common – Benazir Bhutto. The twice-elected woman prime minister of Pakistan took on both military rulers, one by one, with a promise to take the nation from dictatorship into democracy. Ironically, on both occasions …

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Pakistan in the Shadow of 9/11 (Excerpt from Aboard the Democracy Train)Why Do They Hate US

JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressing a rally in Pakistan

It was 9:15 am on September 11, 2001 when the phone rang. There was a strange urgency to the ring. It made me spring out of bed in my tiny apartment in Sunderland, Western Massachusetts and run to the other room to quiet it. It was my relative, Shabnam, who had left Pakistan decades ago and lived in Houston, Texas. …

Posted in 9/11, Excerpts, Featured | 6 Comments
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    "Nafisa Hoodbhoy’s detailed reporting helped me look at the complex world of Pakistani politics differently. Hoodbhoy’s proximity to key players...

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