I’m a huge radio nerd and Kate Adie fan, so was really delighted to have a couple of pieces on the BBC’s flagship show From Our Own Correspondent this year. The programme airs on Radio 4 and the World Service.
The first piece, which aired in October, tells the story of Ali (not his real name), a survivor of what has been dubbed Pakistan’s biggest sexual abuse scandal. He was one of hundreds of victims of a child abuse ring in the city of Kasur, in Punjab. But despite widespread media coverage of their case, justice has been elusive, and Ali and other survivors are facing social exclusion.
The second story, which also aired first in October, looks at the many internally displaced people in Iraq who are living in half-built construction sites in Erbil. Many of these buildings were abandoned by property developers when the conflict with ISIS began, and they have been repurposed as homes for the million people who lost their homes.
On Friday 31st October, I appeared on BBC News Channel’s paper review, discussing the following day’s front pages. Oliver Brown of the Telegraph and I talked about Foreign Office travel warnings, the Virgin Galactica crash, and the government’s child sex abuse inquiry. A recording of the show is on iPlayer(available until the end of November).
I’ve also appeared on numerous Monocle 24 shows, including this oneon 4th November, when I discussed various aspects of counter-terrorism policy with Raffaelo Pantucci of the Royal United Services Institute.
Recently, I’ve also taken part in various panel discussions, including a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Manchester for the Foreign Policy Centre, discussing global peace-building.
I wrote a piece for Deutsche Welle about the new counter-extremism guidance in schools that was introduced following the “Trojan Horse” scandal. You can read the full piece here.
The government’s new guidelines for “promoting British values” in schools are on top of the existing “Prevent violent extremism” program, which makes teaching about online safety and other elements of counter-extremism compulsory. There have been questions from head teachers, who say that the new guidelines have been rushed through without an adequate consultation period.
I’ve continued to blog regularly for the New Humanist, where I’m assistant editor, and for Middle East Monitor. I’ve also appeared on numerous Monocle 24 radio shows, including both general discussions of foreign policy, and analysis of ongoing political instability in Pakistan. On Thursday 4th September I appeared on BBC 5 Live’s Richard Bacon Show, discussing the top stories from social media that week.
Thought I’d share links to some of my recent work. Last week I wrote a piece for the New Statesman about the “I, too, and Oxford” and “I , too, am Cambridge” campaigns which highlighted racism at elite institutions.
Of course, whiteboards do not have the space for the full complexity of the arguments about racial insensitivity, about prejudice at elite institutions, or about where curiosity ends and offensiveness begins – and nor did the original campaign pretend to. But those whiteboards serve the important purpose of articulating the small instances – the mundane comments, not always intended to offend – that are difficult to confront in the moment, but add up to a painful whole.
On Monday 16th December, I appeared on the BBC News Channel’s paper review, discussing the next day’s front pages with the broadcaster David Davies. I’ll be appearing regularly on the show, with my next appearance on 14th January.
During December, I also appeared on BBC Radio Five Live’s Richard Bacon show, discussing the week’s headlines, and on several shows on Monocle radio, discussing the Afghanistan-US security pact, among other topics.
I’ve written a few more blogs for the New Humanist, including this oneon gender stereotyping in schools and the assumption that girls can’t do science, and this piece looking at the shifting definition of modern slavery.
Earlier in the month, following the death of Nelson Mandela, I wrote this piecefor the New Statesman. It recounts my interview with Mandela’s right-hand man, Ahmed Kathrada, who served 26 years in prison with him in Robben Island. Here’s a short excerpt:
I met Ahmed Kathrada on a chilly autumn day in 2010. A book of Nelson Mandela’s personal papers, including transcripts of taped conversations and letters, was being released. Mandela, even then, was too unwell to travel to promote the book, so Kathrada – his closest friend and adviser – was doing the media rounds on his behalf.
About a decade younger than Mandela, Kathrada was in his 80s and needed assistance to walk. He told me that in the last few years, they had started to call each other “Madala”, or “old man”, a sign of their affection and mutual trust. There was good reason for this trust: they both stood in court at the high profile Rivonia Trial, and subsequently spent 26 years in jail together. After their long captivity and the end of apartheid, they stood in parliament together, too; while Mandela was president, Kathrada was a member of parliament for the African National Congress (ANC).
Earlier this week, I took part in a Google Hangout for the BBC’s World Have Your Say. I’ve appeared on their TV and radio shows before, but this was a new experience! The video, where I’m discussing the future of Pakistan with the BBC’s Lyse Doucet, and Pakistani journalists and bloggers including Bina Shah and Sana Saleem, is still available to watch here:
I’m a regular contributor to Monocle radio, and have appeared on a few shows recently. On 24th June, I discussed the big stories in Pakistan that week (podcast here), including the massacre of foreign tourists in Gilgit, and the charges against Musharraf. On 2nd July, I appeared on the Asia Show to explain the energy crisis and Nawaz Sharif’s plans to tackle it (podcast here).
On Saturday 11 May, Pakistan went to the polls. It was the country’s first ever democratic transtion from one government to another, and many thought it wasn’t going to happen at all. I spent the day visiting polling stations in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and the atmosphere was carnivalesque.
I wrote about the election – and the results – for the New Statesman:
On Saturday 11 May, Pakistan went to the polls, and the mood was jubilant. The international headlines may have described this as an election “marred by violence”, but in much of the country, it was like a giant street party. In Rawalpindi, young men with party colours tied around their head, Rambo-style, cruised around the streets, cheering, and jokingly exchanging insults with rival party supporters. People, from old to young, turned out in their droves to cast their votes, many for the first time, producing the highest voter turnout since the 1970s. In many areas, the queues at the women’s’ voting section were far longer than the men’s.
Imran Khan, the wildcard candidate, didn’t come close to winning, a disappointment many had predicted. A week before the election, I went on the campaign trail with his team, and wrote about it for the NS:
It’s 7pm on a hot Sunday evening and I’m standing at a barbed wire barricade. Behind me is crowd of disgruntled but enthusiastic Imran Khan supporters, and in front of me some very uncooperative policeman. I’m in Faisalabad, Pakistan, trying to catch Khan on his whistle-stop tour of Pakistan.
In the preceding eight days, he has appeared at more than 50 jalsas (rallies) across the country, travelling by helicopter so he can visit up to three or four – sometimes more – sites in a day. These barnstorming rallies are the cornerstone of his campaign. Khan, with his celebrity status, charisma, and huge personal fan base, knows that he is the main attraction of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, and he’s making sure he gives the people what they want.
Nawaz Sharif emerged victorious. I wrote a column for the June issue of Prospect magazine about his victory:
As the dust settles and the new government forms, the two key challenges are the flagging economy and, of course, the security situation. The election campaign saw more than 130 political workers killed in Taliban attacks. Secular, liberal parties were unable to campaign openly at all. Others, like Sharif’s PML-N, held huge rallies with sound systems and live tigers.
On election day (11 May), I provided commentary for both Sky News and BBC News Channel.
The same day, I appeared on the BBC’s World Service, both radio and television, to discuss the upsurge of political violence. The podcast of the radio discussion is here and will be available until Friday 10th May.