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).
I thought I’d share some links to some of my recent work.
I’m still blogging regularly for the New Humanist. My recent posts include this one on breastfeeding and whether state-funded bribery is the best way to encourage it; this post on the shocking conditions for migrant labourers in Qatar and other Emirate states; this on the National Sex Survey and our continued failure to have a grown up public discussion of sex; and this blog on the disturbing report that budget cuts are pushing domestic violence services into a “state of crisis”.
I also recently wrote a piece for Index on Censorship about declining press freedom in Bangladesh, a country I’ve visited many times in the past:
Journalists in Bangladesh face a double threat: Violent retaliation from Islamist groups on the one hand, and official repression on the other.
I’ve appeared on numerous Monocle radio shows, including a discussion of the new head of the Pakistan army on 27 November (podcast here), and of the new Pakistan Taliban chief on 8 November (podcast here). I’ve also continued to blog regularly for Middle East Monitor on various issues affecting the Arab world.
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).
I contributed a short segment to Monocle 24’s special package on World Press Freedom Day. The podcast is available here. I’m on from about 19 minutes in. Here’s the text of what I said:
It’s sometimes a surprise to outsiders quite how free and vibrant the media in Pakistan actually is.
The outgoing government has many faults, but it’s done a lot to further freedom of expression. Newspapers have played a significant role in uncovering corruption and acting as a check on power over the last decade.
Reporters critical of the government face less official interference today than they did before the return to civilian rule in 2008, but it’s not an entirely positive picture.
Last year, a United Nations report ranked Pakistan as the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Since 2000, more than 90 journalists have been killed– mostly Pakistanis.
Last year, I did some work with the national newspaper Dawn, and entering their offices in Karachi involved multiple metal detectors, bomb detectors, and bag searches, because the Taliban had directly threatened media groups over negative coverage.
This high risk of death leads to a degree of self-censorship. This year’s Human Rights Watch report said that “a climate of fear impeded media coverage of the state security forces and militant groups”. So while government corruption is freely reported on, the powerful military establishment remains largely untouched. Journalists know which areas they can push and which they can’t.
Foreign reporters are safer – and therefore freer – than local journalists, partly because we can afford to take more security measures. But most still proceed with a degree of caution on certain topics, like the ISI. However, we can be safe in the knowledge that the worst that’s likely to happen to us is a swift exit from the country, while local journalists have nowhere to escape to.
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.
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.
On 15 January, Tahir ul Qadri’s “long march” reached Islamabad and camped outside Parliament. While it stopped short of the 1m people he’d promised, a good 30,000 or so turned out. I wrote this blog for the New Statesman looking at the Qadri phenomenon and explaining why some people are suspicious of his motives. On the same day, the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. Immediately, the talk was of a judicial coup; a power-grab by the back door. I appeared on this Monocle 24 show discussing the latest developments and what it meant for the forthcoming election. In the typical, dramatic style of Pakistani politics, the crisis was soon resolved and the election is back on track. As the dust settled, I wrote this column for the Express Tribune, exploring the underlying reasons that Qadri was able to muster so much support so quickly: deep dissatisfaction with the political system as a whole.
Other things I’ve been working on over the past few weeks include this post about the Delhi gang-rape case over at my New Statesman blog. It looks at the difficulty of translating “watershed” moments into action in a misogynist society with an under-equipped police force.
I also wrote this column for the Express Tribune about the 10 million Pakistani women missing from the electoral roll, and the challenges of getting women to the ballot box.
The picture on the left is one I took during a visit to a small village on the outskirts of Karachi, for a piece about water sanitation. Below is a link to that piece (written for Dawn), and to some of the other things I’ve been writing recently.
Malala Yousafzai was released from hospital last week, but has anything really changed for women activists since she was shot? This piece asks why we wait for women to become victims of serious violence before taking action.