Between the Lines

by Andrea Scrima

Try it: try talking about the subject of reading without drifting off into how the Internet has changed the way we absorb information. I, along with the majority of people I know whose reading habits were formed long before the advent of digital magazines and newspapers, Google Books, blogs, RSS feeds, social media, and Kindle, usually feel I’m only really reading when it’s printed matter, under a reading lamp, with the screen and phone turned off. But the reality is that I do a vast amount of reading online.

Unsurprisingly, my attention span has gotten jumpy: I click from one article to another, suddenly remember a mail I need to write, consult the online dictionary on a browser that has at least thirty-five open tabs, and before I reach my destination, I see that I have several new Facebook notifications and check these first. By the time I click on the dictionary, a half hour has been lost and I can no longer remember the word I intended to look up. The result of all this is the humbling admission to a new handicap: the need for an Internet access-blocker with a Black List.

For my seventeen-year-old son and his growing brain, the potential for relentless distraction is far more pernicious. This is a kid who was read to every night of the first thirteen years of his life for at least an hour at bedtime, more often than not longer, and yet the dominance of smart-phone technology in his young life means that the greater part of his access to the world of ideas now takes place online.

I’m not going to explore the anxiety of parenthood in the digital age or argue the pros and cons of the Internet here; I myself am far too entrenched to ponder a life without it. But what strikes me is the profound change we’ve undergone in our collective ability to think critically. In an era of fake news and AI technology sophisticated enough to produce video footage that looks like the real thing, the conclusion I’ve come to is this: the ability to read is not the only thing we have to salvage for the next generation; we have to save, from oblivion, our ability to read between the lines. Read more »

What if we win?

by Omar Ali

316743_10150340654784292_529734291_7856373_1074019852_n1-300x185 Pakistan’s predicament continues to draw comment from all over the world; in the Western (and Westoxicated Eastern) Left, the narrative remains straightforward(to such a degree that one is tempted to share an essay by Trotsky that Tariq Ali may have missed): US imperialism is to blame. In this story, US imperialism “used” poor helpless clueless Pakistan for its own evil ends, then “abandoned” them (it’s very bad when the imperialists go into a third world country, it’s also very bad when they leave) and they have now returned to finish off the job. I have written in the past about my disagreements with this Eurocentric and softly racist narrative and have little to add to it. In any case, no one in authority in either the imperialist powers or Pakistan is paying too much attention to the Guardian or the further reaches of the Left. But even among those who matter (for better and for worse), there seems to be no agreement about what is going on and what comes next. Everyone has their theories, ranging from “lets attack Pakistan” to “let’s throw more money at them” and everything in between. I don’t know what comes next either, but I have been thinking for a few days about an outcome that many in the Pakistani pro-military webring think is around the corner: What if we win?

The fact that the US/NATO are in trouble in Afghanistan is no longer news. The fact that Pakistan is about to “win” may not be as obvious to many outsiders (or even to many Pakistanis). but “strategic victory” in Afghanistan is now taken for granted by the Paknationalists. And one should take them seriously, since their theories are not only a product of GHQ, they are also the basis GHQ’s own decision making. The circle goes like this: psyops operators create the theory in the morning. It’s taken up by the paknationalist media through the day and is on GEO TV by nightfall. The generals hear it on the evening news and excitedly call up their friends: did you see what everyone is saying!

What does it mean for Pakistan to “win” in Afghanistan?

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Lovers tiff, impending divorce or trial separation?

by Omar Ali


ScreenHunter_08 Feb. 28 10.14 On the 27th of January, while driving through Mozang (an extremely crowded section of Lahore city) in a rented Honda Civic, American citizen Raymond Davis shot two men who were riding a motorcycle. Soon afterwards, another vehicle that was racing to (presumably) rescue Mr. Davis, ran over a third person and killed him too. These seem to be the only undisputed facts about the event. Shortly afterwards, Pakistani TV channels showed one of the dead men with a revolver and an ammunition belt around his waist. It was also claimed that the two men were carrying several mobile phones and possible some other stolen items. But soon after the event, the story began to change. From a robbery attempt gone bad, it morphed into Mr. Davis assassinating two young men without obvious cause. Raymond’s own status was immediately in dispute and within a few days the network of websites that is thought to represent the views of Pakistan’s deep state were stating that Davis was a CIA agent, he was being tailed by the ISI and he had shot two ISI agents. They also claimed Davis was working with the “bad Taliban” to do bad things in Pakistan, while trying to spy on the “good Taliban” and other virtuous jihadist organizations like the LET.

Since then, the US has itself admitted that he worked for the CIA and relatively sober Pakistani military analysts have hinted that the two victims were ISI agents who had been tailing Raymond for over an hour.

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Losing the Plot: Habits of the Heart (Complete Novel)

by Maniza Naqvi Poppy

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles

Chapter Four: Civil War

Chapter Five: Stanley’s Girl

Chapter Six: Hope

“We are just props for validating and furthering their policy! We say no to them and they punch us hard and prove their point with another explosion! Can't you see that?”

“No, jan–I cannot–You have made this a habit–of blaming America for everything!”

“No I have not made it a habit! Isn’t it curious that every time they make a policy statement—quoting D’Touqueville to us—-every time they want to force Pakistan to take a position in their war and Pakistan resists—some sort of a violent event takes place in Pakistan to prove their point? Isn’t that just a little suspect? They are going to increase their troops here—they are going to expand the war into Pakistan—they are going to occupy us—just wait and see!” Zarmeenay had argued, in an urgent tone, her eyes wide and serious as she had packed to leave for Baluchistan. “ We have to stop them Mama.—we have to push back! Amir, Amreekah, Mama! Amir Amreekah!”

“I don’t know Zarmeenay.” Rukhsana had argued with her daughter, “Maybe it’s time we stopped blaming everybody else for all the criminals that have been created right here in Pakistan in the name of religion.’

“Mama! Please—there no such thing as Al Qaeda! There’s no such thing as the Taliban! This is all the same old, same old, overt-covert good old CIA—now breaking up Pakistan—we will have Pushunistan, Baluchistan—Serakiistan—Kashmir, Baluchistan, Karachistan, Sindhistan—just wait. They will do worse to us than what they did to Yugoslavia and the breaking apart of the Soviet Union—just wait—……They will murder all of us!”

“Zarmeenay…”

“Don’t you agree with me Mama, that they killed Benazir Bhutto? They already knew who was her murderer the moment she died? They had decided who to accuse of her murder the day she was murdered? So Benazir is dead, and Baitullah Mesud is dead—But they can’t find Osama Bin Laden in all these ten years of looking for him with all the sophisticated technology that they have?”

“Really! I’m so worried about you darling! Zarmeenay, you are beginning to go too far! I’m scared for you! You talk like this everywhere in public and I’m afraid for you! ” Rukhsana had said to Zarmeenay just before she had left the house.

“Don’t be afraid, Mama. Don’t be afraid! That’s been our main problem we’ve been afraid for too long. It’s too late to be afraid now, we have to take action. We have to save ourselves, our country! You’ll see Mama! I’m right! It’s time to listen to your heart Mama, I’m listening to mine. We have to fight for Pakistan!”

And Zarmeenay had disappeared. Just like that vanished. Now she was dead.

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Losing the Plot: Hope

By Maniza Naqvi Red-Poppies-No-2

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles

Chapter Four: Civil War

Chapter Five: Stanley’s Girl

There is no telling what a murdered man is capable of doing.

Murdered, in the cross hairs of a surveillance camera mounted on an unmanned predator drone; murdered on national and international television—murdered on CNN, murdered on Fox News, murdered on MSNBC and murdered on BBC— the last word in murders. Incinerated over and over again on a 24 hour news cycle—killed, burned, assassinated, maligned, analyzed, sermonized, eulogized murdered, dead.

A murder of a man killed in a burning building expanded and super sized on television screens all over the world—in cafes, and in sports bars—in airport terminals and subways, in doctors’ waiting lounges—in old people’s homes, in tea stalls, in currency exchange kiosks, in living rooms and bedrooms, in newspapers and radio talk shows and in the aspiring manuscripts of hundreds of post killing literature.

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Losing the Plot (Stanley’s Girl)

By Maniza Naqvi Kiss-lips

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles

Chapter Four: Sovereign Debt or Civil War

The terminal entered, Pakistan left behind she adjusted for the gained time. Younger by an hour—she smiled, fiddling with her watch. One of the perks of the job: eternal youth and its secret: jetlag. Staying put could change all that. As she followed the other passengers she recalled her earlier conversation with Stanley. She had said to him in frustration: Dying—Death—Yes Stanley—precisely that. You do seem to be setting off all the alarm bells which are usually associated with men of your age. I suppose it’s that whole last gasp…

In the immediate aftermath of dying would it be like this? A long steep escalator moving slowly towards the light, a glass encased place, shielding the inhabitants from the terrible heat and fire outside. And inside, an abundance of the essentials for life: energy, cool air, gushing fountains, the sound of music, and light aplenty. And all that you could buy all the time, everywhere: Duty Free. And people, many but still in the scheme of things, a few, moving towards their separate journeys—towards that plenty! Towards that abundance. She watched a man in front of her wave a light blue passport and walk through immigration—unquestioned—no border restrictions:, Let Them Pass and So It Was and So it Shall Be! This was Freedom, this was liberty this was the essence of modernity. She had a pang of panic. Was this true? Was this it? Were the chosen few the ones who fit, the “good”, the ones with the right nationalities and those who were granted passports and visas? Had the system distilled itself down to this? Had all of history, ended at this distillation of itself? She thought about being the chosen, being privileged, being powerful, having God’s grace smile upon her. And she was gratified. That it was so.

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