The Tricksters of Afghanistan’s New Online-Dating Scene

When Makiz Nasirahmad, a 24-year-old Afghan American who recently lived in Afghanistan, received a Facebook friend request from a woman with an unfamiliar name, she didn’t think twice about accepting it. The woman’s profile picture had clearly been copied off the internet, but Nasirahmad figured that the woman could be a relative of hers, trying to hide her identity; many families in Afghanistan disapprove of women posting their pictures online, so women sometimes hide behind fake names and photos.

Before long, the woman started sending Nasirahmad private messages. “Hello,” she wrote. Then, a couple of days later, another “Hello,” followed by hearts.

Nasirahmad’s new friend, it turned out, wasn’t an aunt or a cousin but a stranger—and a male one at that.

Read the story here.

Pakistan elections: Imran Khan’s supporters dance in the street as former cricketer declares victory

Supporters had gathered to dance and chant slogans outside ex-cricketer and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party leader Imran Khan’s residence in Islamabad late on Thursday afternoon, as he declared victory in a televised speech while final results of yesterday’s dramatic general elections were still waiting to be announced.

Mr Khan is now poised to become the nuclear-armed nation’s next prime minister, amidst rigging accusations by all other major parties.

Mr Khan, however, said his party would help to investigate these claims.

“We will run Pakistan like it has never been run before,” he said.

Read the entire story here.

Pakistan election: Bloodshed and accusations of foul play taint historic democratic vote

Pakistan voted on Wednesday in a historic general election that was as bitter, heated and bloody as expected following weeks of acrimonious campaigning.

Amid claims of vote rigging, election officials insisted there was “no conspiracy” although technical failures meant that the result would be delayed until late Thursday morning.

Earlier in the city of Quetta near the Afghanistan border, a suicide bomber drove a motorbike into a crowd of people near a polling station. Witnesses told The Independent the target appeared to be a police van, and there were at least five security officers among the 31 dead.

Read the entire story here.

Pakistan election 2018: How bulk voting denies democratic rights to up to 60% of Pakistanis

Only an hour away from Islamabad, just past Adiala jail where ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif now languishes after being convicted on corruption charges, the scenery quickly changes from the capital’s manicured lawns to donkey carts, water buffalo and lush fields. The walls of the village’s tiny mud-brick houses have been plastered with campaign posters of two major political parties, represented by the symbols of a cricket bat and a jeep.

But here in Chauntra, it is the powerful who determine who the villagers vote for.

Read the entire story here.

Pakistanin trans­sukupuolisia on kuollut lääkärien pohtiessa, kuuluvatko potilaat naisten vai miesten osastolle – uusi laki turvaa oikeudet kolmannelle suku­puolelle


PAKISTANIN Rawalpindin vanhankaupungin pienet kujat ovat täynnä värikkäitä rikšoja, aasikärryjä ja parrakkaita miehiä suuntaamassa moskeijaan jopa kuumana iltapäivänä ramadanin aikaan.

Miesten ilmekään ei värähdä, kun kadun yhtäkkiä ylittää naisten vaatteisiin pukeutunut transsukupuolinen. Hän on Bubbli Malik, 44, transsukupuolisten oikeuksia ajavan Wajood-järjestön perustaja.

KONSERVATIIVISENA pidetyn Pakistanin transsukupuolisilla on syytä juhlaan: toukokuun 22. päivä maan presidentti Mamnoon Hussainallekirjoitti translain, joka on yksi maailman edistyneimmistä.

Lain mukaan transsukupuoliset saavat itse valita sukupuoli-identiteettinsä virallisissa asiakirjoissa: mies, nainen tai x. Laki kieltää transsukupuolisten syrjinnän ja häirinnän sekä takaa heille yhtäläiset oikeudet.

Malik oli tiivisti mukana laatimassa lakia.

Lue koko juttu täältä.

Pakistanin entinen pääministeri pidätettiin Lahoren lentokentällä – sai korruptiotuomion neljästä luksusasunnosta


PAKISTANIN syrjäytetty pääministeri Nawaz Sharif laskeutui perjantai-iltana tyttärensä Maryam Nawaz Sharifin kanssa Lontoosta Lahoren lentokentälle, jossa heidät molemmat pidätettiin viime viikolla langetettujen korruptiotuomioiden vuoksi.

Poliisi oli aikaisemmin samana päivänä pidättänyt satoja PML-N:n kannattajia kaupungissa, sulkenut teitä konteilla ja katkaissut kännykkäyhteydet estääkseen tuhansien mielenosoittajien pääsyn lentokentälle. Toimenpiteet eivät kuitenkaan riittäneet, ja kannattajat pääsivät terminaali eteen, kun Sharifien kone laskeutui.

Faisal Saif Khokhar, Punjabin maakuntaparlamentin edustajan poika, oli tuonut perjantai-iltana omien sanojensa mukaan 25 000 – 30 000 PML-N:n kannattajaa Lahoreen läheisestä Rawindin kaupungista. He olivat päässeet konteista huolimatta keskustan Mall Roadille, missä he ajelivat moottoripyörillä, heiluttivat puolueen lippuja ja huusivat iskulauseita.

Lue koko juttu täältä.

A Music So Beautiful the Birds Fell from the Trees

Late on a Thursday night in a faraway corner of Old Kabul, a community of musicians and worshippers gathers for an evening of solemn prayer, ecstatic singing, and melodies from days long forgotten.

In a small shrine rebuilt after having been destroyed during one of the worst periods in Afghanistan’s tumultuous history, fires have been lit, milky tea is served, and hashish is being passed around. This shrine, called Charda Masoom (Persian for “the Fourteen Infallibles”), lies at the end of a muddy street with open gutters, lined with houses with cracked paint and tiny shops selling trinkets and household goods. On the surface, this congested alley looks like any other in this part of the city.

But what an outsider would not know is that for several hundred years, this street — known as Kucheh Kharabat, “the alley of desolation,” the word originally referring to taverns where people came to drink, dance, and listen to music — has been home to a vibrant artistic community of musicians, who now find themselves with their backs against a wall. Space for them in Afghan society continues to shrink.

Read the entire story here.

Amb. Zahid Nasrullah Khan on Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations

Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan has been marred by border disputes, proxy wars, and political disagreements ever since the country’s creation in 1947. But especially in recent years, the relationship has been on a downward spiral. Pakistan is accused of providing cover for the Taliban, which are relentlessly attacking Afghan and international targets. Similarly, Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of harboring anti-Pakistan insurgents and this has led the country to threaten Afghanistan with the expulsion of its sizable Afghan refugee population. Meanwhile, Afghans continue to call for international sanctions against Pakistan.

As violence grows, diplomatic efforts are underway to reconcile the two neighbors. Maija Liuhto spoke to Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Zahid Nasrullah Khan, in Kabul, about recent trends in the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship.

Read the interview here.

Afghanistan battles polio: Rumours, mistrust, and negotiating with the Taliban

Three-year-old Farid Ahmad teeters forward, his uncle hovering closely behind.

“He is so weak, mainly his hands and legs,” Abdul Jalil says, watching as the boy roams unsteadily inside the family’s compound here in Spin Boldak District, which stretches to the Pakistan border in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. “Sometimes when he tries to walk, he falls down.”

This week, Afghan authorities launched a new round of polio immunisations – the second nationwide campaign this year. They hope to reach more than 9.9 million children across the country with oral vaccines before the start of the polio “high season” in the warmer summer months, when the virus is most infectious.

The front line of the push to wipe out polio runs through places like Kandahar. Here, hard-fought progress is fragile and easily jeopardised by mistrust, missed vaccinations, out-of-reach healthcare, a dearth of female healthcare workers, and pockets of insecurity – where access for vital immunisation programmes must be negotiated with militant groups like the Taliban.

Read the entire story here.

Afghanistan: Where home is a battlefield

Sitting on a plastic chair here at a UN-run reception centre in the dusty border town of Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province, Durkhane is among almost one million Afghans who have returned from Pakistan over the last three years. They’re coming home to a country mired in conflict, where aid for basic needs, jobs, and support for reintegration are in short supply.

Long a safe haven for Afghans fleeing instability, Pakistan has made it increasingly clear that the nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees on its soil, as well as an estimated one million undocumented Afghans like Durkhane, are not welcome. Pakistan has set a 30 June deadline before identity cards allowing registered refugees to legally stay in the country will expire – the latest in a series of short-term extensions that has put Afghans and aid groups on edge.

 Read the entire story here.