The Buddhas of Aynak: The Afghan Cultural Site That the World Does Not Care About

by Malik Achakzai

Originally published at policymic.com

One of Afghanistan’s biggest archaeological treasures may soon be turned to dust as a Chinese mining company which has bought the site turns it into a sprawling, billion-dollar copper mine.

The Buddhas of Aynak, situated in a desert region 20 minutes southwest of Kabul, is an archaeological site containing ancient Buddhist artifacts dated over 2,500 years old. It also holds rich mineral deposits, especially copper. Formerly an ancient Buddhist monastery complex, the historical center has more than 150 Buddha statues. It is of immense worldwide importance and is one of Afghanistan’s richest historical sites.

The site also has a violent and troubled history. A common rumor is that Al-Qaeda planned the 2001 September 11 attack from a camp in Aynak. The area is also a major transit route for insurgents coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Archaeologists have found a number of artifacts dating backing over a millennium on the site, even unearthing manuscripts that may provide evidence regarding the presence of Alexander the Great’s troops in the area.

The Buddhist ruins are scheduled to be destroyed at the end of December 2012. In November 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan’s history.

The Afghan Mining Ministry estimates that the mine holds some six million tons of copper. The mine is expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars, and to generate jobs and economic activity for the country but all of this critically threatens the site’s archaeological remains, which are now being hurriedly excavated by private organizations.

Brent Huffman, a volunteer working to preserve this archaeological site, has produced a documentary about the Buddhas of Aynak, and is busy collecting donations to boost the excavation work. In an interview with Huffman, I asked about the history and the status of the excavation of the Aynak.

 

Malik Achakzai: Could you discuss the historical importance of the Buddhas of Aynak?

Brent Huffman: Mes Aynak, or “little copper well” is a vast ancient Buddhist city 400,000 square meters in size. There are over 400 hundred life-size or larger Buddha statues, a circular monastic complex and dozens of temple (stupa) structures. 

More is being discovered daily, including hundreds of ancient manuscripts hidden inside many of the stupas. 

Archaeologists are only beginning to find remnants of an older 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site beneath the Buddhist level including an ancient copper smelter.

M.A: How important is this site for Afghanistan and the world?

B.H: This site is extremely important to not only Afghanistan but to the entire world. The incredible discoveries at Mes Aynak will redefine the history of Buddhism and Asia. Mes Aynak represents a major hub on the Silk Road where pilgrims and traders would exchange ideas and influence each other. People at Mes Aynak also mined for copper themselves using ancient mining techniques.

M.A: How long will this process of excavation go on, and how many organizations are taking part in it?

B.H: Excavation is set to end Dec. 25th, and the site is set to be destroyed by the Chinese mining company unless we do something to stop it. This should be a 30-year excavation job, but it has been a sporadic three-year rushed rescue archaeology job so far. DAFA, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Mines are all involved.

M.A: What’s the stance of Afghan Government and the Chinese Company to preserve this important Buddha’s heritage?

B.H: The Ministry of Culture is attempting to save all small artifacts and move them to the National Museum in Kabul. All the bigger relics, statues, structures, temples, etc. are too fragile to be moved and will be destroyed after Dec. 25th.

M.A: UNESCO and other international organizations for culture and heritage — have they played any role pressuring the Chinese company and Afghan government to extend the period of excavation?

B.H: No, UNESCO has not played any role so far. There have been several international groups (ARCH, Global Witness, the Smithsonian, the Thai embassy, and my own campaign) putting pressure on MCC and the Afghan government.

M.A: Is the security of The Buddhas of Aynak satisfactory, have you or other organization felt any threat, because Taliban and other militant organizations view them as un-Islamic?

B.H: The security at Mes Aynak is very poor. Rockets have been fired at both the MCC mine and the archaeology site and anti-personnel land mines have been placed on the road at night. These attacks are all over money, not Buddhism.  

Six villages in Logar province have to be leveled to make way for this enormous open-pit style copper mine. These villagers are angry about the way this process played out – either they were never compensated for their loss or the compensation was very low. They have been partnering with the Taliban to attack the MCC mine and the archaeology site.  

The copper mine will also cause terrible environmental devastation, poisoning the land and water permanently.

Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In a man’s world: The women politicians of Afghanistan by Ayesha Hasan

It was a sight rarely seen in traditional Afghan society. Last month, Fawzia Koofi, a presidential candidate for the 2014 elections and one of the 69 female Afghan parliamentarians, arrived to meet a delegation of Pakistani journalists. In the times of the Taliban, this face-to-face encounter between a woman and a group mostly comprising men, would have been inconceivable.

Watching her interact so freely and with such obvious confidence, one can see why she’s been named among the world’s “150 Fearless Women” by The Daily Beast news website for her bold account of the hardships that women face in Afghanistan in her book The Favoured Daughter. Wearing a solitaire ring and a chunky gold wristwatch on one hand, and carrying a designer bag on her arm, she reminded me a bit of Pakistan’s own foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

There’s a great deal of substance to go with the style as well, and Koofi talks eloquently and with passion. She talks openly about women’s empowerment through education and access to better healthcare, saying that great strides have been made in the 11 years after the fall of the Taliban regime. She may not quite be the modern Malalai of Maiwand, the celebrated 19th century folk hero who rallied the Pashtun army against the British in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand, but her struggle is equally heroic.

In a deeply patriarchal society that is yet to fully accept women’s rights and participation in public life, Koofi and her fellow women parliamentarians have refused to bow down to rigid ideals and often suffocating customs.

Talking to us, a group of journalists who were part of an Af-Pak fellowship, she describes how women had to physically grab the microphone to make a speech in parliament because the male MPs would ignore their turn and would oppose resolutions put forward by them, just because they were women.

Being a shrinking violet in Afghanistan’s often rowdy parliament just isn’t an option. In June this year, women MPs caused an uproar when Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb suggested, during a conference organised by the Women’s Affairs Committee, that more than 250 women living in 12 foreign-funded shelters were prostitutes. He had said the shelters were encouraging girls to disobey their parents if they were stopped from going outside their homes.

While the women MPs were unable to get Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sack Ghaleb, it was nevertheless an achievement to be able to challenge the opinions of a man on the floor of the parliament.

Likewise, the dismissal of former politician Malala Joya from parliament in May 2007 for publicly denouncing the presence of those she called warlords and criminals in parliament was followed by condemnation from female politicians and local women. Three years later, Joya’s name appeared in the list of 100 Most Influential Women prepared annually by Time Magazine.

For Koofi, these are signs of hope. As her achievements would suggest, female parliamentarians have not settled for just being able to lambast society and state over the treatment of women. They have managed to wriggle out substantial — though still few — policy changes from the government.

After years of activism by Koofi and her fellow women parliamentarians, the government has fixed a quota for women in higher education institutions without which, she says, there is no point in allotting quotas for women in parliament. Egged on by this development, Koofi, who is also the chairperson of women rights in parliament — the only woman to have the post of a chairperson — has now proposed to President Karzai that at least one woman member be appointed in the Supreme Court.

“We need to increase women’s capacity for them to be able to effectively function on the political front,” she says. “This is the first time such a programme [like the new higher education policy] has been introduced for women. Trust me, this was not easy as months of work and campaigning are involved before a policy is approved.”

No matter how difficult it may be to overcome age-old Afghan traditions, women seem to be slowly making their presence felt in the political domain.

One indication of this is the Taliban’s absence of dissent to the presence of women in the High Peace Council’s governing body that is assigned with carrying out peace negotiations with them. Najia Zewari is one of two women who serve on the 15-member body, and it seems the Taliban have accepted her presence.

“The governing body directly negotiates with the Taliban, and that is not an easy thing to do,” she says. “But I am glad that us women have not once been criticised for being a part of the council.”

Overall, the HPC has 70 members, nine of which are women.

As Afghan women prepare themselves for a post-US withdrawal scenario, many of them are eager to take on new-found opportunities in Afghan politics. There has been a surge in admissions of female students in the Institute of Diplomacy (ID) in Kabul, and 21-year-old Hadeia Amiry, head of NGOs at the economics department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, is one of them.

She hopes to become a politician one day, and says that she “would be more of a people’s representative than a conventional politician”. She is happy that the present government is supporting female political participation which, she says, cannot be increased until women receive higher education.

The ID’s one-year mandatory course for future diplomats includes subjects like politics, global political economy, conflict resolution, policy making, international relations, foreign languages, culture, ethics, organisational behaviour and entrepreneurship.

Other than the course, Amiry is also in the process of self-training: she wears suits and light makeup, and walks with obvious confidence. She crosses her hands at her back and broadens her shoulders while she stands to talk to her colleagues and guests at the office.

Yet at the same office, her colleague Samira (not her real name) is worried about getting permission from her husband for a one-week business-related foreign trip. She is a new bride and is not allowed to attend conferences abroad, even though her husband knew her from before and was aware that she worked at the foreign office.

This is what critics point to when they downplay the importance of Koofi and other likeminded women politicians and activists. To think that allowing women a few displays of opposition and giving them token political representation amounts to any substantial change in the way people think and act around them is naive at best, these critics contend.

“It will take another three decades before Afghanistan is ready for a female president,” says Faheem Dashti, editor-in-chief of Kabul Weekly. “I doubt even five men can handle the country after all that it has been through.”

Women parliamentarians are, in fact, aware of their limitations. A prominent feminist, journalist-turned-politician Shukriya Barakzai, agrees that even if an Afghan woman is successful, she still remains a victim of tradition.

For traditions to change in a patriarchal society, men need to change their mindset. But the country director of the Open Society Foundation, Najla Ayubi, a judge-turned-human rights activist, says there is still a long way to go before education starts changing the minds of men in Afghanistan. She believes that the government is trying to appease the Taliban, and hence would not want women in decision-making political offices.

But no matter how painstakingly slow the progress on women’s political representation is, for a country like Afghanistan, where war has ravaged lives for decades and the patriarchal mindset has reigned supreme, it is at least a starting point. It may take many years, even generations, before Afghan women can measure up to their counterparts in other countries, but the first steps on the road to emancipation have been taken by women like Koofi and Barakzai.

(This report was written during the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Af-Pak fellowship 2012 in collaboration with The Express Tribune).

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 4th, 2012.

 

After ban, no Pakistani papers getting through border: Envoy

by Ayesha Hasan and Taha Siddiqui
Originally published in The Express Tribune on 8th October 2012
KABUL: There is confusion on a reported ban on Pakistani newspapers’ entry into Afghanistan. Embassies in Kabul have not been getting newspapers since September 20, which is a cause for concern, said Pakistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq while talking to a delegation of Pakistani journalists on a 10-day visit to Afghanistan on Sunday.

But the Afghan authorities insist the ban is just on 15 Urdu dailies and not English papers.

The ambassador said he was not informed why the mainstream English media from Pakistan, including The Express Tribune, were being stopped by the border post.

“[The mainstream] English newspapers have no hate literature. This is a bit too much and really sad,” said Sadiq.

“We raised our concerns with the ministry of information and the foreign ministry in Afghanistan, but they said they were not aware of the ban on mainstream Pakistani English newspapers.”

He said some foreign magazines were also banned. The ban, he said, was not affecting the common reader. However, the foreign embassies in Afghanistan were not receiving any Pakistani newspapers, he added.

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqi has denied any ban on the mainstream Pakistani newspapers. “Only 15 Urdu newspapers that have low circulation in Pakistan have been banned for spreading hatred for the Afghan government and supporting the Taliban stance,” he said.

Adding on the issue, a senior official at the embassy said that the Afghan government often acted impulsively because it is a young democracy, and decisions such as the recent ban on the Pakistani newspapers reflected that.

Earlier, the ambassador also discussed bilateral trade relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The ambassador said that the Pakistan-funded development projects in the country have helped create a better image of the country in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan’s annual trade with Afghanistan is around five billion dollars.

“There are more than 140 trade routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said. However, he added that the illegal cross-border movements, which he said, are detrimental to the trade and law  and order in both countries.

“Most Afghans move in and out without visa and it’s a failure of border control on both sides. It needs to be controlled,” he said.

Elaborating on the future of Afghanistan, the ambassador criticised Pakistan’s past policies of interfering in Afghan internal matters. “We do not really know what will happen after the pull out of International Security Assistance Force, but we are talking with all the stakeholders, especially people from the northern region who were ignored previously,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2012.

The To-Do List for Kabul by Sundus Rasheed

The second leg of the FES Af-Pak Journalism Fellowship 2012 is due to begin in early October. In the second phase of the program, 11 Pakistani journalists will travel to Afghanistan and once again work with their Afghan counterparts on stories of mutual interest.

As we start thinking about what stories we want to do, I can’t help but want to know more and more about the magnificent yet heart-breaking city of Kabul – it’s past splendour and current attractions. However, it is not often that people think of Kabul in terms of it’s ‘attractions’ – but why not? Browsing through various travel websites and blogs has lead me to believe that Kabul is a city that’s brimming with excitement, you just have to know where to look.

So here’s my list of ‘things to do in Kabul’ – let’s see how many of these things I get around to doing:

  1. Visit the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) :

As a project of the Ministry of Education, ANIM provides free music education to young Afghans. Students who have financial difficulty and/or are earning members of their family are even given special ‘scholarships’ to make up for their loss of income. The institute was founded by and currently run by Dr. Ahmad Nasser Sarmast, a PhD in Music. I was introduced to ANIM by my very talented friend, musician and ANIM faculty member – William Harvey. Harvey is also the co-founder of the Afghan Youth Orchestra

2. Check out Chicken Street

This sounds a lot like Bohri Bazar in Karachi. All kinds of handicrafts are available here, from jewellery to carpets, ‘antique’ muskets to lapis lazuli. Most of the buyers are foreign, so prices are bound to be scaled up. I’m not sure what the verdict is on women wandering around Chicken Street. I think I am going to need a male escort – preferably a local.

3. Trek on the foodie trail

Kabul seems to be have a greater variety of restaurants than Karachi – thanks to the huge expat population in the city – Mexican, Italian, Korean, Russian, Thai, Japanese,  French, Indian, Middle Eastern and of course, the delectable Afghan cuisine itself. I am hoping to check out more local food  establishments than foreign but definitely want to see how the more ‘posh’ outlets compare with those in Pakistani cities.

4.  Visit an Afghan family home

Simple enough. You never really understand a city until you visit a home. Hopefully I can get one of my Afghans colleagues or friends to invite me to their home and meet their families and talk to them

5. Kabul nightlife

Yup. There is such a thing. Kabul has a thriving expat scene supported by well paid aid workers, journalists, diplomats and ‘contractors’. Interesting to see what it would be like to party in the time of war ( a bit like Karachi, perhaps?). The two names that keep popping up are Gandamak, established by a former British soldier turned BBC cameraman and L’Atmosphere by a French radio journalist.

Sounds like a plan! Who’s with me?

A Day in Kabul by Raza Rumi

Originally published in The Friday Times

As we landed in Kabul, the place was familiar, unfamiliar. The city reminded me of Quetta for its locale and topography and cultural diversity. But then for many Pakistanis, Afghanistan is a remote figment of imagination. A place which has sent many refugees and where Pakistan directly and indirectly has been part of violent conflict and political upheavals for the last thirty years.


We were part of a delegation, which accompanied the beleaguered Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on his first foreign trip. That this trip was made to Afghanistan is a significant reminder of the importance that Pakistan attaches to the country both for the conventional strategic reasons and perhaps for the existential dilemma that the country faces now with multiple brands of extremists on both sides of the Durand line.

Kabul, once a happening place in the 1970s, is now a sorry reminder of its past. Whereas the recent years’ development efforts are visible through a housing boom and new apartment blocks, one cannot miss out on the mud houses and infrastructure deficits that are a direct result of what the world has done to this country. The world has treated it as an arena of war, conflict and pandering to ‘national’ jingoistic egos.


Be it the Soviet Union, the United States, or the self-appointed guardians of Islamic faith i.e. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, each country has contributed to where the Afghans are today. Little wonder that the younger Afghans have grown up resenting Pakistan – its immediate neighbour that has not once but twice been a party to US’ imperial games in the region. Who said that the Great Game was over? In fact its newest manifestation is the age that we live in and where terms such as ‘energy corridor’, ‘stability’ and ‘regional players’ denote the simple fact that no one is willing to leave the country alone and there might be yet another scramble for influence, leverage and gains. All I hope is that the Afghan youth, its vibrant civil society and skilled diaspora will negotiate with the world not to repeat what has been happening in the past.

The high powered Pakistani contingent was in Kabul to achieve several things: some symbolic, some substantive. The day began with the inauguration of the reconstructed Pakistan embassy in an area that is dominated by non-Pashtuns. The earlier building was destroyed during the time when when Pakistan backed Taliban were at loggerheads over the capture of central power. It is some measure of Pakistan’s diplomatic success – especially the untiring efforts of our Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq – that we are engaging with the leaders of erstwhile Northern Alliance, which has now permutated into several political coalitions. The leader of Afghanistan National Front, Ahmad Zia Massoud, who is also the brother of the slain Ahmad Shah Massoud, was present. Others in attendance at the embassy function included Ustad Mohaqiq, leader of the Hazara community, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and even the deputy of General Dostum. All of these leaders vilified by Pakistan’s Urdu press and their puppet masters indicated that for a change we were doing the right thing: By not reducing Afghanistan to the land of Pashtuns or ‘anti-Pakistan’ or ‘pro-India’ Northern Alliance. Ahmad Wali Massoud, Ahmad Zia Massoud is a soft-spoken man and is charismatic like his brother.


While talking to us he emphasized how Pakistan, not unlike Afghanistan, was a victim of extremism and how the two ought to be working together to counter these worrying trends. In fact most of the people present aired similar views in their informal chit chat. This reminded me of the recent declaration that the anti-Taliban forces had signed and released earlier this year: “…any negotiation with the Taliban can only be acceptable, and therefore effective, if all parties to the conflict are involved in the process. The present form of discussions with the Taliban is flawed, as it excludes anti-Taliban Afghans…The present negotiations with the Taliban fail to take into account the risks, sacrifices and legitimate interests of the Afghans who ended the brutal oppression of all Afghans.”

Symbolism always says a lot. Former Prime Minister Gilani had started the work on the reconstruction of the embassy as a small plaque reminded us while the completion and reopening of the building was being undertaken by his successor, another PPP Prime Minister. Ironic that we are always keen to play down the efforts of the civilians including the Foreign Office in the policy process but at the end of the day even Pakistan’s security establishment needs them. The inauguration ceremony took place in the presence of the all-powerful ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam.

As we departed from the high security zone and passed through the empty roads of Kabul (apparently the traffic was closed to ensure that there was a secure passage of the delegation) one could see how Kabul represents a series of protected zones given the onslaught of Taliban who remain powerful in the South and East of the country.

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In a few minutes we were entering Karzai’s palace, another fortress where layers of security kept the President of the country safe. This is not all too different from Pakistan where the President’s movements are limited and he operates in a highly protected zone. But the palace with its pine, chinar and other old, rare trees is immensely beautiful. Parts of several buildings have been reconstructed given the recent history but one can see the old and new forms of architecture layered on each other.

We waited as the PM, Foreign Minister, Interior Adviser Rahman Malik and DG ISI met President Karzai, visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron and presented themselves before world cameras. Perhaps all sides want to show that there were engaged and this is what diplomacy is all about. Getting conflicting views laid out on a table and finding a common ground and not letting conflict become a means of ironing out such differences.

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Karzai and Raja held detailed parleys while we waited in the annex of the Presidential Palace. I spotted a lovely painting which depicted Afghan musicians at work. The image made me both hopeful and sad. That Afghan were celebrating their culture, the threat of a medieval ideology had to be addressed. Reintegration of Taliban warriors is once again a common challenge for both the countries.

The regal press conference was held under the shade of huge chinar trees and a lovely breeze kept on ruffling the arrangements. Both the leaders were poised and gave a friendly feel to their public appearance. There were tough questions raised from both the sides especially by the AlJazeera correspondent based in Kabul. The latter asked our PM if the civilian government actually controlled the military and ISI. To his credit PM Raja handled this question rather well and displayed his well honed political skills by citing the Pakistani constitution and how it distributed powers. Of course we are miles away from such ideal constitutional governance but to hear this being said in a foreign land made me a little proud. Unlike the Zia and Musharraf eras, which constitute my lived memory, there was a beginning howsoever tenuous the civilian rule might be. Small mercies in a martial state, I told myself.


As we drove back to the airport the posters and iconography around the ‘national’ martyr Ahmad Shah Massoud could not escape my attention. His presence is ubiquitous. How will a 1990s repeat take place under such circumstances? This is what Pakistan needs to reflect and also the Pakistanis who dream of crushing India on Afghan soil to ensure that there is a ‘friendly’ government next door.

It is time that we engage with Afghans as our neighbours, respect their autonomy and also not shy away from talking to our feared adversary India. We cannot stop India from investing in Afghanistan if that is what Afghans want. But we can trade with India and also agree on a common ground. Most importantly, after the repeated tragedies in our Afghan expeditions we should have learned a lesson or two. For instance we may have to focus on the Taliban off-shoots that endanger our way of life at home. Perhaps that should be our top priority.

Raza Rumi is Director Policy & Programs at Jinnah Institute in Islamabad. The views expressed are his own. He is also a consulting editor at TFT. His writings are archived at www.razarumi.com

The Week of Breaking Stereotypes by Ayesha Hasan

The funniest person I’ve met in my life is not a Pakistani, neither an Indian nor an American. He is (surprisingly for me) an Afghan. The most poignant person I’ve met in my life is not a Pakistani, neither a British, nor a Bengali. He is (surprisingly for me again) an Afghan.
I spent the third week of June with 11 Afghan and 10 Pakistani journalists. Though we had gathered to understand our Western neighbor, I also saw a different side of my Pakistani fellows as never seen before.
Hailing from all four corners of the two countries, we, journalists, returned home with positive images, changed perceptions, unforgettable memories and most important of all: new friends.
Everyone had a unique story to tell, an idiosyncratic account of their lives and pied explanations and expectations, but some left an impression on my mind.

The funny side

I am grateful to Atif Fakirzada of Mediothek for letting us return home in “one piece”.
The frequency of his jokes, comical allegory and the his unique way of connecting the dots that raised a wave of laughter across the boardroom were exceptional. While some would laugh to tears, other would hold tight to their ribs.
He killed the preconceived notion, which at least I had about Afghans, that they are rigid and serious and rarely laugh, on the very first day he had arrived. Stereotype number one, gone there and then.

The emotional side

When Bismillah Jan, a Pashtun Afghan, said in his self-introduction speech on the first day that he cried if he hurt someone or vice-versa, most of us speculated he was making up. But then, I came to know that he actually cried after finding out about the recent death of one of the participant’s father. When he laughed, he would lay down on the floor, simultaneously avoiding Cem, one of the moderators, who would try to capture the moment in his camera.
Once Bismillah Jan went missing. We looked for him everywhere and later found him praying at the back of one of the notice boards.
The way he hugged my husband, when I introduced him to the group on the last day, and called him “Afghanistan’s son-in-law”, was one of the most respectful ways we both had been treated.
Contrary to the perception the world has about Pashtuns, and specifically Afghan Pashtuns, as being “harsh” and “uncompassionate”, Bismillah Jan showed us their new side. Stereotype two, removed there and then.

The assiduous side

When Malik Faisal Moonzajer from Sare Pol in Afghanistan told us that he was accepted at one of the best private universities in Islamabad, it was not less than a surprise for us. When he said it was a scholarship, we were flabbergasted.
He seeks education and refers it to his peers as well. He speaks fluent English and German and understands a little bit of Urdu, too. He belongs to a generation that grew up in war, was deprived of education, health facilities and freedom and held back from interacting with the world.
It was amazing and relieving, simultaneously, to see that he and his fellow colleagues, mostly in their 20s, have not grown into rebels after all. Stereotype three, broken there and then.

The writer is a Sub-editor at The Express Tribune and mostly writes about gender issues and human rights. She is also the 2011 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Fellow at DW, Bonn.