It’s been a tumultuous period for British politics. Since my return from Pakistan, I’ve been covering events in Britain for Deutsche Welle. In May, I wrote about the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London, the first Muslim mayor of a major capital city – an optimistic moment that already feels like it happened a long time ago.
As the referendum campaign heated up, I wrote numerous pieces, including these interviews with British people living in other European countries, this report on the different Leave campaigns vying for space, this visit to the bizarre UKIP flotilla that sailed to Westminster, this article on what might come next for Nigel Farage and UKIP after the referendum, and this profile of Boris Johnson who, at that point, looked as if he might be the next Prime Minister. (How quickly things change!)
In mid-June, the Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered in her Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen, a devastating incident that sent shockwaves through the country. As I reported, her murder raised questions over the tone of the debate – although sadly little seemed to change afterwards.
Politics ground on, and as Britain took to the polls I spoke to voters from the Remain, Leave, and undecided camps about their views. On Friday 24 June as it became clear Britain was leaving the EU, I spoke to members of the public – some celebrating, some shellshocked – about the surprise vote in favour of Brexit. The political fallout from the vote is just beginning; there was, distressingly, an immediate spike in xenophobic attacks, and both of the main political parties are embroiled in internal power struggles. I’ll be continuing to report regularly for Deutsche Welle as the fallout continues. You can see a full list of my pieces for the outlet here.
Out on patrol with Karachi police in the former militant stronghold of Sohrab Goth
The second part of my project for the Times, looking into support for ISIS in Pakistan, came out in the paper on 21 June.
This piece focused on ISIS cells and supporters in universities and amongst the intelligentsia: a very different profile to the usual militant in the country, who are traditionally drawn from lower income backgrounds. I met with several students who openly professed their support to ISIS. Rather than direct involvement in violence, the majority focused on fundraising, propaganda and logistical support. Most had links with other terrorist sympathisers overseas, both in the Middle East and in Europe and in some cases in Britain. The full piece is available at the Times website (paywall-ed) and the clipping is below.
A street in Johar Town, Lahore. Three women left for Syria from this area in December 2015.
My most recent trip to Pakistan (from March-April this year) was with the Times newspaper, under the auspices of the Richard Beeston Bursary. As well as covering general news, I was researching support for ISIS in Pakistan. The authorities have been keen to downplay any threat from ISIS within their borders, claiming that it is non-existent as a political force there – but there have been numerous attacks claimed by the group’s supporters. I was surprised by what I found; while there is currently little evidence of an organisational presence of ISIS in any meaningful sense – for instance, a fighting force with the capability of capturing territory – there are significant pockets of support. Those that I met did not fit the stereotypical demographic of militants in Pakistan, who are stereotypically rural and from lower income backgrounds. The first of my pieces on the topic for the Times came out on Saturday 11th June, and looked at support for ISIS (and other terrorist groups) amongst educated women. You can read the piece at the Times website here (link behind paywall) and the clipping is below.