Stories about South Asia

Nusrat Rafi is to Bangladesh what Jyoti Singh was to India – a rude awakening

Nineteen-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi should be doing what any other average teenager does in their day: sitting their exams, stressing about their results, surrounding themselves with piles of books, and spending time with their friends. Instead, 19-year-old Nusrat is being mourned by her distraught family after she was doused in kerosene and set on fire. Her crime? She filed a police complaint against the headmaster of her madrassa who sexually harassed her. In Bangladesh, like many other conservative countries, sexual harassment is a taboo subject and women are reluctant to speak out against those who harass them, for fear of ...

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Divided by borders, united by Bushra Ansari: Why Humsaye Maa Jaye should be an Indo-Pak anthem

Amidst skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) and a threat of further military escalation between Pakistan and India that could lead to the menace of nuclear conflict in South Asia, a flicker of hope appears in the form of a satirical rap song by the dynamic sister duo, Bushra Ansari and Asma Abbas. Illustrating the harsh realities and craving for amity, the song Humsaye Maa Jaye has gone viral on various social media platforms and is immensely appreciated by Pakistanis and Indians alike. The Punjabi song is written by Ansari and Abbas’ elder sister and poetess, Neelum Ahmed Bashir. It ...

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Why is the US making a mountain out of the Masood Azhar molehill?

The United States has introduced a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution to blacklist Masood Azhar as an international terrorist. Azhar is the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (banned in Pakistan since 2002) and has been blamed by India for masterminding February’s Pulwama incident, even though no evidence has been produced which links Azhar to the incident. China has refused to list Azhar as an international terrorist after careful consideration of the definition of international terrorism according to international law. China has made this position absolutely clear and as such, it would appear that the US is looking to transform the UNSC ...

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Why India does not want any US-Afghanistan peace talks

The clearest indication of how the Indian military, intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracies (‘deep state’) truly feel about US’s Afghan peace talks with the Taliban can be seen in India’s Major-General (R) Harsha Kakar’s recent article on this topic written for The Statesman. Intuiting India’s interpretation India, which hasn’t shied away from sounding off about all manner of international issues ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about its attitude towards US’s Afghan peace talks with the Taliban. This led many observers to intuit that it’s extremely unhappy with this process but is applying the age-old wisdom ...

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“Nothing changes here! Pakistan was, is, and will always be the same”

In 2015, I left to pursue my Fulbright scholarship aspiring to conquer the world and change the landscape of research in Pakistan. I have always found the general pessimism that prevails in our country to be severely problematic. For instance, how we as a country lack unity amongst ourselves and can never rise above gender differences, religious discrimination amongst the people and the innate negativity against the government. Two years of Fulbright gave me a whole new perspective on life. I discovered a world where things such as age, race, colour, gender and other such superficial constructs were irrelevant and ...

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When “holy men” become sinful predators

Growing up in South Asia, we are taught about our religion from a very young age. Be it Islam, Hinduism or Christianity, we are all instructed to do right by our religion by abstaining from evil and taking the path of righteousness, as intended for us by God. Children are made to understand the significance of religion, for it is through religion that parents teach kids about the difference between right and wrong, and good and evil. Of course, children are naïve. They genuinely believe that because their religion is pure, then surely the ones teaching it to them must be ...

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Is Saudi Arabia “taking over” Pakistan?

Earlier this year, when the election campaign in Pakistan was running at fever pitch, I found myself listening to an old classic by The Who. The song was Won’t Get Fooled Again and the line that got me pondering was “meet the old boss, same as the new boss”. I shuddered when I heard this line while watching parties push their candidates. It was literal horse-trading as politicians scrambled to capture the number of seats required to secure the government for themselves. We are barely a few months into the new government and people are already questioning and debating the current government’s decisions. For example, take the ...

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The scars of her henna

Zarah Hussain, a 17-year-old girl from Lahore Grammar School International, won an essay competition organised by the British Royal Commonwealth Society. This is a proud moment for Pakistan and highlights how much talent we have in this country. We hope she continues her love for words and wish her all the best for the future. The following is the short story that won her the accolade: Red. Gold. Adorned in jewels, henna lacing her fingers with intricate, never ending flowers. And hidden in the henna somewhere would be written the name of her most beloved. A dream she’d dreamt since she’d seen the ring ...

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Talks on, talks off: Modi, a prisoner of the past, is afraid of peace

Does the Indian government have a coherent policy towards Pakistan? Is ‘adhocism’ now the mantra followed by India’s foreign policy?  After the abrupt cancellation of talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan by New Delhi, the aforementioned questions – which were only whispered earlier – are now being raised loud and clear.  India has not been taken for such a ride by its own government before, the way it is under the Narendra Modi regime. Never before has a party with such an overwhelming majority treated its own people so shabbily. What the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been doing ...

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#OneSouthAsia: 8 delicious foods of 8 foodie nations, all on one table

There are moments when an idea simply drops onto your lap when you least expect it to. I experienced one of such moments recently. Last week, I was sitting and waiting for the sun to set when my Indian friend, Riya, sent me a link. I didn’t have the brain power at that moment to open anything remotely intellectual; however, my curiosity eventually gave in. The link brought me to a page detailing a competition conducted by the World Bank called #OneSouthAsia. Participants from eight South Asian nations were invited to submit a photograph showcasing what an integrated South ...

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