When the New Statesman said they were running a themed week of posts on “transport”, the idea didn’t instantly grab me, but in the end, I really enjoyed writing this piece about travelling around Pakistan by car. It starts with an account of the time I got lost in a militarised zone:
We are driving along the highway, a big, multi-laned road that could be in any major European country, when we realise we’ve missed the turn for Attock. There is nowhere to turn off the highway for miles; by the time we finally manage to get off the road and drive back the way we came, it is getting dark. I tweet an inane joke about being lost in north-western Pakistan. A response comes back: “I’m not sure you want to be roaming around that area at this time of night.”
As well as this, I’ve been contributing to lots of Monocle radio shows. The most recent include this on the indictment of Pervez Musharraf for the murder of Benazir Bhutto, and this on John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan. I also discussed the Musharraf case on LBC earlier in August (no podcast available).
I’ve written a piece in the latest issue of the New Statesman about how banned organisations in Pakistan are increasingly embracing social media. It was an interesting piece to work on; I spoke to the “social media wings” of several banned groups about how they are using the internet to change their image. I was quite surprised at how tech savvy and organised these groups were.
Here’s the opening of the piece:
On 22 November last year, a new magazine sought writers through an advert on Facebook. “Dear brothers and sisters, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Now you have a chance to use this mighty weapon,” said the ad, which was posted on Umar Media, the Facebook page of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The previous month, the same page had announced “online job opportunities”, including “video-editing, translations, sharing, uploading, downloading, and collection of required data”. Offering an email address on which to contact the Taliban, the two adverts urged readers to spread the word in case the Facebook account was deleted.
You can read the rest over at the New Statesman website, and the cutting is below.