Welcome to Gandhara’s weekly newsletter that brings you exclusive coverage by our correspondent networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
My name is Frud Bezhan, and I am a correspondent covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I’m filling in for my colleague Abubakar Siddique.
We decided to share some brief updates early this week because of the grim nature of the state of affairs in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you’re new to the newsletter or haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.
Every Friday, Abubakar shares with you the week’s best dispatches from our extensive network of journalists and all the context you need to make sense of the political and cultural trends in the two countries. He will be back next week.
Arrested Pashtun Leader Claims ‘They Will Kill Me’
The family of Pakistani lawmaker and Pashtun rights leader Ali Wazir, who is in custody on a sedition charge, say he fears his life is in danger.
His wife and nephew spoke to Radio Mashaal on December 20, describing how Wazir, who suffers from diabetes, was forcibly taken to a hospital a day earlier.
Saira Ali said her husband had anticipated his seizure: “They will kill me and then will claim I died of some illness.”
On the same day, authorities arrested Muhammad Sher Mehsud, another Pashtun rights activist, in a raid of his office in Karachi. The two detentions appear to be part of a government crackdown on members of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
Prominent Baluch Activist Found Dead In Canada
Karima Baloch, a dissident Pakistani human rights activist living in exile in Canada, was found dead in Toronto on December 22 after going missing. While the cause of Baloch’s death was not yet known, her husband said foul play could not be ruled out. She is the second dissident from Balochistan living in exile to be found dead this year.
As Radio Mashaal reported, Baloch was a vocal critic of the Pakistani security services and state. She had campaigned against the forced disappearances of thousands of ethnic Baluchis.
Afghan Journalist Gunned Down
Afghan journalist Rahmatullah Nekzad was shot dead by unknown assailants in Ghazni Province on December 21, raising to four the number of journalists killed in the country within two months.
Nekzad is the latest victim of a surge in targeted killings and assassinations that has swept Afghanistan, where violence has soared despite peace efforts aimed at ending the war.
Many of those being targeted are civilians – journalists, rights activists, cultural figures, moderate religious leaders, and women in public roles.
Remembering Kabul’s ‘Golden Era’
Today, Kabul is an overcrowded, polluted, and war-scarred city. It is the scene of gruesome militant attacks, endemic poverty, and widespread crime. But before the onset of war in the late 1970s, the capital was known as the “Paris of Asia.”
Nineteenth-century poet Mohammed Iqbal from Lahore once wrote in a poem that “Kabul’s splendor cannot fall into the grasp of words,” praising its climate “resembling paradise” and its water “so glittering and earth radiant.”
My colleague Nilly Kohzad looked back at how Kabul was once a hub of innovation, modernity, progressive ideas, and urban living, representing tolerant times for both the country and Southwest Asia in the 1960s and ’70s, and how the city has changed since.
I hope you enjoyed this weekly newsletter, and I encourage you to share it with colleagues who might find it useful. Again, if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.
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Balochistan, PTM, Kabul: Your Briefing From Afghanistan And Pakistan
Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.
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