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Dispatches from Pakistan

Madiha R. Tahir

Publication Year: 2014

Since 9/11, Pakistan has loomed large in the geopolitical imagination of the West. A key ally in the global war on terror, it is also the country in which Osama bin Laden was finally found and killed—and the one that has borne the brunt of much of the ongoing conflict’s collateral damage. Despite its prominence on the front lines and on the front pages, Pakistan has been depicted by Western observers simplistically in terms of its corruption, its fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, and its propensity for violence. Dispatches from Pakistan, in contrast, reveals the complexities, the challenges, and the joys of daily life in the country, from the poetry of Gilgit to the graffiti of Gwadar, from an army barrack in Punjab to the urban politics of Karachi.

This timely book brings together journalists, activists, academics, and artists to provide a rich, in-depth, and intriguing portrait of contemporary Pakistani society. Straddling a variety of boundaries—geographic, linguistic, and narrative—Dispatches from Pakistan is a vital attempt to speak for the multitude of Pakistanis who, in the face of seemingly unimaginable hardships, from drone strikes to crushing poverty, remain defiantly optimistic about their future. While engaging in conversations on issues that make the headlines in the West, the contributors also introduce less familiar dimensions of Pakistani life, highlighting the voices of urban poets, rural laborers, industrial workers, and religious-feminist activists—and recovering Pakistani society’s inquilabi (revolutionary) undercurrents and its hopeful overtones.

Contributors: Mahvish Ahmad; Nosheen Ali, U of California, Berkeley; Shafqat Hussain, Trinity College; Humeira Iqtidar, King’s College London; Amina Jamal, Ryerson U; Hafeez Jamali, U of Texas at Austin; Iqbak Khattak; Zahra Malkani; Raza Mir; Hammad Nasar; Junaid Rana, U of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; Maliha Safri, Drew U; Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Lahore U of Management Sciences; Ayesha Siddiqa; Sultan-i-Rome, Government Jahanzeb Postgraduate College, Swat, Pakistan; Saadia Toor, Staten Island College.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

What Does Pakistan Mean?: Pakistan ka Matlab Kya?

Habib Jalib

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pp. vii-x

Introduction: Pakistan’s Futures

Madiha R. Tahir, Qalandar Bux Memon, and Vijay Prashad

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pp. xi-xvi

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Several Dawns over the Indus: Three Maps

Zahra Malkani

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pp. 1-3

Maps are not perfect copies of what lies on the ground. They are re-presentations, explorations: they harbor feelings as much as lines and curves. The first map, with English writing in stencil, names Pakistan’s largest administrative areas: Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan...

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New Wine in Old Bottles

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

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pp. 4-18

Following the sensational discovery of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbotabad in May 2011, it has become more difficult than ever to write about Pakistan without digressing into superficial narratives about religious militancy, the machinations of the country’s...

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The Neoliberal Security State

Saadia Toor

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pp. 19-41

Between 2001 and 2003, 18 villages in the district of Okara in the Punjab were the focus of a violent crackdown by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers.1 Villagers, regardless of age or gender, were subjected to a campaign of sustained harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture...

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The Modern Mixed Political Economy of Pakistan

Maliha Safri

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pp. 42-52

the political economy of pakistan is Janus-faced. One face is feudal and pretends to look to the past, while the other is capitalist and attempts to ignore its twin. Both, however, are inextricably linked in the Pakistani context, existing side-by-side in the countryside, in the...

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The Generals’ Labyrinth: Pakistan and Its Military

Ayesha Siddiqa

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pp. 53-63

In 2008, a popular perception was that Pakistan’s political military’s name was tarnished due to Army Chief Pervez Musharraf ’s ten years of rule. Indeed, the 2008 elections brought a civilian government to power. Many saw a major shift in Pakistan’s civil–military relations...

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The Desperate U.S.–Pakistan Alliance

Junaid Rana

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pp. 64-78

It is by now a familiar script for anyone following Pakistani politics on a regular basis. First, the customary gambit: Pakistan needs to maintain its sovereign rights as an independent nation-state. After all, that was the raison d’être for Pakistan’s formation and the partition...

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I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Politics of Pakistan’s Populism

Madiha R. Tahir

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pp. 79-103

In 1972, when Imran Khan was still playing cricket, a commission set up by the Pakistani government to inquire into the causes for the loss of Bangladesh (then, East Pakistan) issued its report. Its conclusions were damning. The report described the military dictator, General Yahya...

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Feminism and “Fundamentalism” in Pakistan

Amina Jamal

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pp. 104-120

In pakistan, the “Islamic” movements seem to be more successful in mobilizing women of different classes than the mainstream women’s movement ever was.1 These Islamic movements have enabled modest but noteworthy social transformations. For example, women of the...

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Punjab in Play

Humeira Iqtidar

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pp. 121-134

Narratives of an overbearing Punjab dominate discussions about Pakistani politics. Yet Punjab today is quite easily the most paradoxical and divided province of Pakistan. It was not always so. The current dominance of Punjab in Pakistan’s politics was not in evidence in...

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Blood on the Path of Love: Faisalabad, Pakistan

Qalandar Bux Memon

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pp. 135-149

At about 3:00 in the morning on the day I left for Faisalabad in 2010, where I was to investigate a strike of 250,000 workers demanding a 17 percent wage increase, I picked up a poetry book from the side table in my bedroom and soon landed on a poem by the progressive writer Ali...

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Balochistan Betrayed

Mahvish Ahmad

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pp. 150-167

Abdul Wahab Baloch is afraid to talk on the phone. In 2008, he was picked up by security agencies after leading a rally through Karachi protesting the tenth anniversary of Chagai-I—the notorious underground nuclear tests that polluted a Baloch district to serve Pakistan’s...

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A Tempest in My Harbor: Gwadar, Balochistan

Hafeez Jamali

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pp. 168-184

On first sight, Gwadar, a small coastal town in the southwestern Balochistan province, is a landscape of abandonment, a bit like a frame from a decaying movie reel that has suddenly wound to a halt and the objects have frozen in action. Skeletons of unfinished buildings, parks, stadium...

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Swat in Transition


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pp. 185-202

Swat lies at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, and China.1 Once the cradle of the great Gandhara civilization, Swat is now part of Pakistan’s Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. The “Switzerland of the East,” Swat...

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Inside Militancy in Waziristan

Iqbal Khattak

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pp. 203-212

Heavy clouds covered the sun. Rain lashed the hard land of Mehsud. A car carrying a group of journalists made its way to Makeen, the headquarters of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan. Hakeemullah Mehsud, the new face of the TTP and...

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Poetic Reflection and Activism in Gilgit-Baltistan

Nosheen Ali

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pp. 213-228

Poetry recitation has a prominent place in the social life of Pakistan, and especially in the northern, mountainous region of Gilgit- Baltistan. In the key administrative city of Gilgit, participants at casual gatherings, cultural celebrations, NGO conferences, or political seminars...

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The Nature of Conservation: Conflict and Articulation

Shafqat Hussain

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pp. 229-237

Since 1975, Shimshal, a small village of agro-pastoral people in Pakistan’s mountainous Northern Areas (now Gilgit-Baltistan), has been embroiled in a conflict with the government Forest Department over the establishment of the Khunjerab National Park (KNP) on traditional...

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An Art of Extremes

Hammad Nasar

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pp. 238-254

Nationhood and identity; political tussles between the army, clergy, and politicians; gender roles “fixed” by society and state; a lack of infrastructure for art; the effects of globalization in general, and an India-fueled emerging art market in particular—these are some of the...

Will You Not See the Full Moon: Kya Tum Poora Chand

Fehmida Riyaz

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pp. 255-256


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pp. 257-260


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pp. 261-288

E-ISBN-13: 9781452941943
E-ISBN-10: 1452941947
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816692248

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014