Another Pakistan

 

We're in Pakistan at mid-summer 2011 -- "the country that could kill the world," in a native line that lingers.  Or maybe the new normal.  Think of Pakistan, we're told by Pakistanis, as a model or perhaps a warning of the rising, rough, tough inequalities in the world, even in our embattled United States...

Early on we planned to see this nightmare aslant -- less with oft-quoted strategists, more with the imaginative class, so to speak: with the typically grim but mettlesome singers, story-tellers and artists of Sind and the Punjab.  They are wonderfully available, individual, candid women and men who have their own dark, truth-telling traditions.  They each tell different stories, of course -- and almost all of them different from the standard line of an "Af-Pak" crucible of global terrorism.  Many of them point rather to "Indo-Pak" roots of the modern turmoil, in the Partition that carved two wounded and unequal sibling rivals out of the British Raj in 1947.

I am deeply interested in the anxiety that has escalated in 2011, in the assassination of Salman Taseer and the official murder of the Sy Hersh of Pakistan, Saleem Shahzad, which has rattled our best friends in journalism.  In general, though, I'm drawn to Pakistanis who can think about the long story, as far back as birth by partition, and who can think of Pakistan's trajectory ahead for a generation. It's part of the lure for me that Pakistan has a booming literary culture that is more and more linked and noticed in the West; also that it has a talented modern pop music culture that is heard all over the Indian airwaves, and all over Asia.

"Another Pakistan" is a co-production of the Watson Institute and the Asia Society. Zarminae Ansari helped produce the series in Pakistan. Thanks also to Beena Sarwar at the Jang Group.

  • Chris Lydon | November 2nd, 2011
    Here's the short form, as we say: nearly a month of strong conversation in Pakistan this past summer, distilled to two radio hours. The first hour explores the living history and dynamic present of "the country that could kill the world ...":...
  • Chris Lydon | September 21st, 2011
    Ashis Nandy, our sparkling Sage of New Delhi, is in effect a psycho-analyst of post-colonial South Asia. On the way home from Lahore, we stopped to ask the great man about Pakistan -- and the "myth of Pakistan" which, he has written, "originates...
  • Chris Lydon | September 19th, 2011
    LAHORE -- Rashid Rana is Pakistan's prize entry in the global art scene. Images that contradict themselves on closer inspection are his signature work. In his "Veil" series, for example, what look like stylized impressions of shrouded Muslim...
  • Chris Lydon | September 15th, 2011
    Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan is one of Pakistan's superstar singers, an embodiment of the dynamism inside South Asian music. The mix is full of contradictions and surprises, starting with the rule of thumb that -- for all the agonies associated with the...
  • Chris Lydon | September 14th, 2011
    Imtiaz Alam has the gruff manner of your classic, chain-smoking, get-to-the-point "Front Page" news editor. He seems a Chicago sort of newspaper guy, except that he works and represents the profession in Pakistan, "the deadliest place in the world...
  • Chris Lydon | September 12th, 2011
    LAHORE -- Kamil Khan Mumtaz, an eminence in Pakistani architecture, is giving us the gentlest of introductions to a revival in Pakistan of Islamic thinking about art and design and meaning in life. He's tracking two West-to-East journeys of his own...
  • Chris Lydon | September 8th, 2011
    SpeakSpeak, your lips are free.Speak, it is your own tongue.Speak, it is your own body. Speak, your life is still yours.See how in the blacksmith's shop The flame burns wild, the iron glows red; The locks open their jaws, And every chain begins to...
  • Chris Lydon | September 6th, 2011
    LAHORE -- Zeb and Haniya could set you to wondering all over again why musicians aren't asked to run the world. In their studio in Lahore, we are puzzling how they make it look so easy to teach us new songs? to call fresh tunes on stage -- as so...
  • Chris Lydon | September 1st, 2011
    Nadeem ul Haque introduced himself with a bit of bluster as Pakistan's official "growth" strategist, then began blurting out his frustrations. There's no growth to speak of in Pakistan, he said -- less than inflation anyway, and nothing like India'...
  • Chris Lydon | August 31st, 2011
    Salman Rashid, adventurer and prolific author, had offered to guide our discovery tour of Pakistan -- in the spirit of Kipling's Kim and his lama, or earlier of the Victorian genius and spy Richard Burton. Our terrain would run from Karachi -- from...
  • Chris Lydon | August 29th, 2011
    LAHORE -- Mohsin Hamid wrote the hair-raising novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist that will soon be a major motion picture directed by Mira Nair of "Monsoon Wedding" fame. The character in the title is a young Pakistani with a resumé a lot like...
  • Chris Lydon | August 25th, 2011
    Ali Dayan Hasan polices the shaky, wavy line of free speech and civil rights in Pakistan with iron conviction, a booming parliamentary baritone, and not much else. He was the first to sound the alarm last May at the abduction of the journalist...
  • Chris Lydon | August 24th, 2011
    ... One inmate had got so badly caught up in this India-Pakistan-Pakistan-India rigmarole that one day, while sweeping the floor, he dropped everything, climbed the nearest tree and installed himself on a branch, from which vantage point he spoke...
  • Chris Lydon | August 23rd, 2011
    It takes a historian of Ayesha Jalal's power to crystallize an awkward truth: that the agony of Pakistan today is inseparable from the tragedy of Pakistan's birth in 1947. Still more bluntly, that Pakistan as we know it is not at all the country...
  • Chris Lydon | August 22nd, 2011
    I-S-L-A-M-A-B-A-D, baby.Let's play Wii: Crash into each other till we have to sleep. There's no other place I'd rather be... I-S-L-A-M-A-B-A-D, baby. Get caught up in this motha fuckin cycle of life, And we're all just having fun... ... from Adil...
  • Chris Lydon | August 20th, 2011
    ISLAMABAD -- Alia Amirali is a second-generation change agent in a society that's stuck -- or maybe worse: scared, confused, depressed, afraid it might be sinking. Her project, she begins, is to "rebuild the left" in Pakistan. She is giving us...
  • Chris Lydon | August 17th, 2011
    KARACHI -- "Plausible deniability" has been the first principle of the US-Pakistan relationship, from the beginning, as Haris Gazdar explains it. He's explaining not least why nobody else can explain it: because like a sleazy affair or an abusive...
  • Chris Lydon | August 16th, 2011
    KARACHI -- Dying is easy, as the old comedian could have said about Karachi today. It's making jokes about it that's hard. This is Saad Haroon's calling as a Pakistani version of Jon Stewart, on television and in the comedy clubs that survive,...
  • Chris Lydon | August 15th, 2011
    KARACHI -- Shahrukh Hasan is a Pakistani media mogul who's made peace with India his personal, professional crusade. In American terms, he's a throwback to the days when lively newspapers, fat with readers and profits, had editorial chieftains who...
  • Chris Lydon | August 11th, 2011
    KARACHI -- We are taking the fishermen's measure of Pakistan's distress here in a fishing village that goes back to antiquity, that fights the present-day odds with spirit. The fisherfolk all around us are the sea-level "canaries" in a shrinking...
  • Chris Lydon | August 9th, 2011
    KARACHI -- Dr. Geet Chainani is the young American dream I hadn't counted on meeting in Pakistan this summer. She's a Yank born in India, raised in New York City, trained as a medical doctor in the Caribbean. And for most of a year now she's been...
  • Chris Lydon | August 9th, 2011
    KARACHI — Mohammed Hanif, prize novelist of A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008), is piercing a cloud of calamity and crisis that hangs over his city, Karachi, as we speak. The news headline as we arrived was "Karachi Continues to Burn and Bleed...