Life after acid attack

An acid victim poses with a picture of her before the attack.Acid violence is a particularly brutal form of gender-based violence, whereby acid or other corrosive substances are thrown at people – usually women – with the intent of disfiguring. The problem is prevalent in rural areas of Pakistan, and came to international attention with the Oscar-winning documentary Saving Face in 2012. I visited the Acid Survivors Foundation in Islamabad and interviewed some survivors. The full feature is available at the New Statesman.

Zainab was 12 when it happened. She was at home in her village in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, asleep in bed. Her neighbour’s son climbed over the low walls separating the houses, came into her room, and threw acid on her face.

“It felt like someone had put fire on me,” she says. “No-one could forget that pain. It stays all your life.”

Weeks earlier, the neighbour’s son had proposed to Zainab’s sister and been rejected. He was seeking revenge, but attacked the wrong sister.

Zainab, who is now 19, comes from a poor family, with little money or influence. Rather than go to the police, the family sought the help of their tribal elders, who brought the young man in question before them and demanded to know whether he had committed the crime. He swore on the Qur’an that he hadn’t, and given the potency of the religious book, was released.

“I was scared and I wanted to move,” says Zainab. “I didn’t want to stay there in case it happened again, but all the elders said ‘such things don’t happen all the time’. After exactly one year, he threw it again.”

Tribal women to stand in electons

Badam Zari.
Badam Zari.

Two women from Waziristan, the militancy plagued northern region of Pakistan, are standing in elections for the first time ever. I’ve reported on the story for the New Statesman.

Pakistan’s tribal areas are not known for female empowerment. The Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata) which borders Afghanistan is an ultra-conservative region where women are mostly uneducated, and rarely leave the house without their husbands, if at all.

However, a female resident from Bajaur district made history yesterday, by becoming Pakistan’s first ever tribal woman to stand in elections. Badam Zari is a 40 year old housewife, with no children. “I want to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas,” she told the Associated Press on Monday. “This was a difficult decision, but now I am determined and hopeful society will support me.” Her husband, Sultan Khan, accompanied her when she went to file her nomination papers. He says she has his full backing.

Recent opinionating

PTI supporters attend Imran Khan's rally in Lahore, 23 March.
PTI supporters attend Imran Khan’s rally in Lahore, 23 March.

Here’s a round up of some of the opinion pieces I’ve been writing recently.

New Statesman

Manoeuvres and rallies as Pakistan’s election campaign heats up

I wrote this piece after attending Imran Khan’s big jalsa (rally) in Lahore. This is set to be a tight race, and nothing – not even assassination – is beyond the realms of possibility.

Historic moment as Pakistan’s elected civilian government completes full five year term

There are still challenges to be overcome, but merely surviving is something of an achievement.

The Kafkaesque reality of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, is under police investigation for alleged blasphemy after making the case on television for the law to be re-examined and for the death penalty to be removed.

Express Tribune

Protecting women from domestic abuse

It seems unlike­ly that any of the major partie­s will includ­e a commit­ment on gender-based violen­ce in their manife­stos

Pakistan’s youth bulge

How import­ant will young people actual­ly be in decidi­ng the electi­on result?

The Good, the Bad and the Election

With the curren­t climat­e of uncert­ainty, it will do wonder­s for public confid­ence if the electi­on goes ahead at all.

Who is a terrorist — and who isn’t — in Pakistan?

If Pakist­an cannot agree on how they view TTP, it’s diffic­ult to see how anythi­ng fruitf­ul can come out of peace talks.


I’ve appeared on a few shows on Monocle 24 in the past few weeks. On 22 March, I discussed Perves Musharraf’s return to Pakistan (podcast here). On 26 March, I ran through the top political stories in Pakistan, including Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif’s respective election campaigns, and the power crisis (podcast here).


I also blog regularly on the Middle East for Middle East Monitor. An archive of those blogs can be seen here.