taliban

From an armchair in Pakistan’s version of the Oval Office, Nawaz Sharif points towards the forested slopes of the Margalla Hills. “They are the foothills of the Himalayas,” says the man who reacquired the rights to this office — and to this view — when he returned for a third stint as prime minister in June. This comeback has given Mr Sharif arguably the toughest job in the world: governing a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people, beset by terrorism, economic crisis and a perilous confrontation with India.

Noor Zia Atmar, a young activist and then one of the country’s first woman MPs, travelled the world with her colleagues to show that things were changing. That was three years ago. Now, she lives in a shelter for battered women, the victim of an abusive husband - and a symbol of the way progress in women’s rights is unravelling as the West withdraws and more traditional conservative values return to the fore.

August 10, 2013

On a sunny, crisp November day in 2008, three American civilians joined a platoon of United States soldiers on a foot patrol in Maiwand District, a flat, yellow patch of earth crowned by black-rock mountains in southern Afghanistan. The civilians were part of the Human Terrain System, an ambitious, troubled Army program that sends social scientists into conflict zones to help soldiers understand local culture, politics and economics.

Burka Avenger is a Pakistani cartoon about an ass-kicking superheroine who fights bad guys and wears a ninja-style burka to conceal her identity. The show has been making its rounds through the media echo chamber, sparking discussions on the appropriateness of using the burqa as a tool for female empowerment. For the blowhards, either the Burka Avenger is exactly what the Pakistani youth need for social reform, or it's corrupting the youth by trying to normalize burkas for children.

Insurgents attacked the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's eastern capital on Saturday, killing nine people and reinforcing fears that a bloody regional power struggle will be played out in the country once most foreign troops leave. Twenty-three people were wounded when checkpoint guards stopped three attackers in a car as they approached the consulate in Jalalbabad city, the office of the governor of Nangarhar province, Gul Agha Sherzai, said in a statement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Pakistan Wednesday to discuss American drone strikes and the war in neighboring Afghanistan. Kerry will meet Pakistan's civilian and military leaders with the aim of easing tensions over the strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. He will also meet with recently elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has opposed the strikes, calling them a breach of the country's sovereignty.

Art can reflect the soul of a nation. But for the past three decades, Afghanistan has been defined by the art of war that has painted its countryside in broad strokes of red and black. Despite both the conflict and the former Taliban regime, who opposed the depiction of any human or animal forms in photographs, drawings, or paintings, art has not only survived in Afghanistan, but has re-emerged as a creative and provocative force in the capital of Kabul.

The first thing I do when I arrive in Kabul is to try to get up on a roof. I am in most ways a respectful guest, but this is a city that places a premium on privacy that I routinely disregard. It is a place where people have long prized discretion, so homes were built behind walls, those walls now have walls built on top of them, and the whole thing is often garnished with concertina wire and corrugated tin sniper shields, the idea being that people may shoot at you, but they'll be shooting blind.

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