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Taliban, Imran Khan, Ali Wazir: Your Briefing From Afghanistan And Pakistan

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (right) walks alongside Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar upon the delegation's arrival for talks in Islamabad on December 16.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (right) walks alongside Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar upon the delegation's arrival for talks in Islamabad on December 16.

Dear reader,

Welcome to Gandhara’s weekly newsletter. This briefing aims to bring you the best of our exclusive reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Every Friday, you get select dispatches from our extensive network of journalists and all the context you need to make sense of the political, economic, security, and cultural trends in the two countries.

If you’re new to the newsletter or haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.

Rural Afghans forced to seek Taliban justice

As the Taliban and the Afghan government negotiators take a break from intense talks in Doha to consult with their respective leaders and constituencies, we bring you a glimpse of their intense competition over state-building.

Afghans in some remote areas are turning to Taliban ‘shadow’ courts instead of official ones, despite the investment of billions of dollars into creating a functioning judiciary in the country.

One reason is red tape. "Many civil and criminal cases remain stuck in our courts,” one rural official in Ghor told my colleague. “Local elders help with [resolving] some of these cases while those with more serious cases go to the Taliban courts.”

United in grief across battle lines

As the leaders of the warring sides in Afghanistan fight a complex political and military battle, families of fallen Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters are united in demanding peace to end their suffering.

With reporting from colleagues in Kunar and Uruzgan, I bring you the story of three families who lost sons, brothers, and husbands fighting in the four-decade war that has killed more than 1 million and uprooted millions more.

“I just want Allah to bring peace to Afghanistan through a reconciliation among Afghans,” the mother of a fallen Afghan soldier told us.

Political turmoil builds toward a crescendo in Pakistan

Opposition alliance the Pakistan Democratic Movement has called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down before the end of the year or be ready to face mass resignations from the parliament and a sit-in protest aimed at jamming Islamabad.

With a large protest gathering in the eastern city of Lahore this week, the opposition showcased its willingness to go to the extreme in pressuring Khan and the country’s powerful military, which they accuse of propping up his regime.

Lawmaker arrested again for anti-state speech

The Pakistani security apparatus’s wrath again fell on civil rights campaigners when police arrested Ali Wazir, leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) while attending a protest to commemorate a school massacre six years ago.

Wazir, a firebrand leader who lost his father, brothers, and a dozen more family members to terrorist attacks, is no stranger to prison. Yet again, he faces anti-state charges. Such arrests have galvanized the PTM in the past.

Afghans ‘want their dignity back’

In an exclusive interview, Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, talks about the need for continued international support for her country in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Her hope for the success of the peace talks is “to feel that you can gain back your pride and dignity as an Afghan. I think that's the hope, desire, wish, and vision of every Afghan -- and that's mine, too,” she says.

Pakistan enshrines chemical castration for rape

Islamabad adopted a tough new law this week that could see rape offenders chemically castrated among a range of other tough punishments to stem rising cases of sexual assault.

But going by a report from Amnesty International this week, the country’s criminal justice system needs an overhaul. The global watchdog has criticized Pakistan for increasing its population of prison inmates from 73,000 to nearly 80,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brick by brick, Afghan grandmother builds future

In a video report, we profile Bibi, a determined grandmother who works at a brick factory to keep her family alive amid mounting violence and rampant poverty.

She is just one of countless women who carry the burden of feeding their families in the war-torn country.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s 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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Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.