Pakistan’s educated militants

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.

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Female jihadis in Pakistan

A street in Johar Town, Lahore. Three women left for Syria from this area in December 2015.
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.

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Richard Beeston Bursary 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.34.41I’m thrilled to have been awarded the 2015 Richard Beeston Bursary. Set up last year, the award is for a young British journalist to spend six weeks abroad, researching and reporting on a foreign news story for the Times newspaper. The bursary was set up to further the legacy of Richard Beeston, the distinguished and much-loved foreign editor of the Times, who passed away in 2013. As the Times’ report on the bursary award this year says:

Richard Beeston, known as “Rick”, was a much-admired foreign editor of The Times from 2008 until his death, aged 50, in 2013. He was passionate about encouraging correspondents at the beginning of their careers and the bursary set up in his name addresses his belief that reporters are made in the field – not the classroom.

His own career began aged 21 when he moved to Beirut during the civil war to work for The Daily Star. He was forced to move back to London after a series of kidnappings of foreign journalists and joinedThe Times in 1986. Rick earned the reputation of being the “fireman” on the foreign desk – the reporter sent to war zones and natural disaster areas at a moment’s notice.

More information on the award, and on the project I plan to report on, can be found at the Richard Beeston Bursary’s website. I’ll be posting links to my stories when I start reporting, probably early next year.