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VIEW: A (Deep) State of Denial

First Published inDaily Times / 31 Dec 2012 (Monday)

By: Afrah Jamal

Thank you to the folks interested in publishing this in Urdu


Hapless polio teams are in the crosshair of extremists and people have come up with their own theories to explain the presence of health workers in the montage of violence. If a polio team does not reach any home, the residents can call a number and let them know. Many houses were left wondering about the fate of the drive this year after the three-day carnage that claimed nine lives, six of them women. A maulana on the media attributes the sudden spike in polio-related violence to government. More polio means more $$, he hisses confidentially. Twitter-sphere assigns the subsequent instability to the dreaded ‘deep state’.



According to them, it can sacrifice anything and anyone on the altar of national interest or in this case — the lure of more dollars. Every ‘whodunit’ begins or ends with a deep state cameo. Apparently, their interference is legendary, as is …

Book Review: Personal Histories of Choices: Documenting Renunciation

Published in Daily Times / Dec 15, 2012

Published Under the Title: First Rule of Jihad Club

Thank you Gulmina for the Review copy

Authors: Gulmina Bilal Ahmad, Dr. Anika Ahmed,
Yahya Ahmad, Zulfiqar Haider, Hamza Khan Swati
& a friend who wants to remain anonymous


Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

(The Print Ed has an error - hope they fix it in the online Ed, first para 3rd line that now says 'jihadists are willing' throws my sentence off balance. The 2nd Para has a misprint. not tnatives, natives!)

Unlike the first, second, third rule of fight club (you do not talk about fight club) – retired jihadists willing to open up about their past lives do exist. A dedicated group of researchers bent on tracing the path to radicalization needed no divining rod to identify people who have dabbled in jihad at some point in their lives.

This compilation of ‘confessions’ features interviews with fifteen former terrorists hiding out in the open and not as one would think, skulking in the shadows.…

VIEW: The True Cost of Drone Charades

First Published in SHE Magazine / Dec 2012

The other day cricketer turned politician Imran Khan was unceremoniously hauled off a plane and detained for questioning in Toronto over his anti drone stance.

Khan does not like drones.

The Taliban do not care for them either. Ordinary Pakistanis are passionate about sovereignty, and conflicted about how to handle the ‘safe haven’ situation, which leaves them reaching for the pitcher of outrage after every violation. The past six years has seen a noticeable spike in drone strikes followed by rising temperatures on the ground.

The people on ‘ground zero’ interestingly do not necessarily share these sentiments and might even go along with the idea of using targeted strikes to eliminate a common enemy. More on these people can be found in Irfan Husain’s excellent book Fatal Faultlines – Pakistan, Islam & the West.

WikiLeaks cables place the State on the scene when covert wars became an active part of the scenery. Pakistan is not the onl…

BOOK REVIEW: “After The Rain”: Short Stories for the SAARC Region

Thanks to Ayesha Zee Khan for the Review Copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, December 08, 2012

Also appeared in Google Books Section

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Compiled by: Ayesha Zee Khan

After the Rain is a compilation of short stories that pans over the SAARC region striving to bring a cross section of voices suited for its literary experiment into the fold. The collection houses five writers and ten entries. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is not coincidental since these offerings rely on personalised snapshots to project their exotic vision onto a fresh new canvas.

Budding authors and established names come together from Nepal, Maldives and Pakistan to showcase their range and the region’s rustic charm. This impromptu gathering of ‘the chosen ones’ boasts of names like Ibrahim Waheed ‘Ogaru’, the ‘writer-artist’ from the Maldives; Pushpa R Acharya from Nepal; Arbab Daud and Kiran Bashir Ahmad from Pakistan. Ayesha Zee Khan, the winner of the SAARC Literary Award 2012 f…

E-Book Review (Revised): Treason (Book II) / Author: S.M. Boyce

Thanks to S.M. Boyce for the ARC (Advanced Review Copy)

First Published inDaily Times / Saturday, November 17, 2012

Published under the Title:Isens and Muses & Vagabonds O' My

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

As Ourea looms into view, young Kara Magari, the only human in this fantasy realm is no longer a rookie, Braeden Drakonin is still a reluctant Heir, the trenches remain occupied and cases of intrigue have been dusted off for a re-match.

Treason is the highly anticipated sequel to Lichgates, a YA (Young Adult) novel penned by S.M. Boyce that returns to the magical land of Ourea, home to warring factions, savage critters and disappointed fathers.

Kara, who takes a wrong turn and turns up in Ourea, is revealed as the first Vagabond in a thousand years with the ability to control the Grimoire, a book of revelations. The Yakona race, divided into six Kingdoms, finds her irresistible for their cause. Her newfound powers come with a steep learning curve and a roster of duties. This proves t…

BOOK REVIEW: The Casual Vacancy

Published in Daily Times / 20 Oct 2012

Author: J.K Rowling
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Published under the Title: What Happens in Pagford

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Someone drops dead in a golf club. A malicious rumour mill kicks into action. A silent war brews somewhere in the Council.

And because this is not a whodunit doling out cocktails of conspiracy at the door, there will be no big reveal at the end. J.K. Rowling’s latest book — ‘The Casual Vacancy’, uses the demise of one Barry Fairbrother to pry into the soul of a quaint looking town called Pagford.

The battling citizens loom in view, caught in a stormy sea of addiction, abject poverty, class divide, domestic abuse, molestation, moral deviance, apathy and social injustice. Fans still under the spell woven by heroic wizards and witches might be ill prepared for the culture shock that awaits them beyond the gates. The reigning queen of fantasy returns to the world of fiction tilling an arid field for inspiration. Her…

BOOK REVIEW: No Easy Day : The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden

First Published by Daily Times / Oct 06, 2012

Authors: Mark Owen & Kevin Maurer
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Published under the Title:Signed, SEAL(ed) and Delivered



The men who paid Pakistan a hurried visit in the dead of the night typically do not leave calling cards. Or talk shop with strangers. And they are expected to shun the limelight. One broke the commandment recently. As a member of the SEAL Team 6 — Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DEVGRU, Mark Owen (not his real name) had been in the downed ‘helo’ (helicopter) — the one Pakistanis discovered lying in their backyard.

His book provides a valuable timeline of events leading up to ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ in Abbottabad (or ‘Abababa’ as they insist on calling it), cutting through the official haze. With 13 consecutive combat deployments to his credit, the author paints a group portrait of America’s finest that had been handpicked for the job in an attempt to overturn the media-created hype. He calmly reasons, “If my com…

VIEW: Dissonance of Muslims

First Published in Daily Times / 22 Sep 2012

By Afrah Jamal

Nothing works. Major cities have been sealed and an angry mob rules the streets. Scenes from Pakistan on September 21, 2012 have a distinctly dystopian flavour. TV cameras cut to newsrooms happily discussing the need for peaceful protests as sweet sounding hymns play in the background and then cut back to the mob going berserk.

Someone picked the wrong soundtrack for the occasion.

Pakistan, badly battered by terrorism and in an economic bind, doubled as a set for some war zone on the eve of the ‘Love Your Prophet Day’. The sight of rampaging protestors including representatives from banned outfits closing on Islamabad’s Red Zone on Thursday evening was surreal. The army was summoned to safeguard the diplomatic enclave. The military was placed on high alert. And as the nation braced for yet another day of officially sanctioned protests, the mobile networks were shut down. No one really knows why.

A BBC anchor watching the scen…

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Gentleman; a Muslim boy meets the West — A Memoir

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Oct 2012: Thanks Imran Ahmad for the kind email & Mr. Asif Noorani for recommending this book.

First Published in Daily Times / Saturday 1 Sep 2012 under the title: The Ballad of East & West

A local singer who regularly goes on foreign tours admitted that after the Abbottabad raid, acknowledging his Pakistani origins can be a conversation ender, with the ‘gora’ (white) inevitably taking ten steps back. A local businessman confessed that certain foreign embassies now deem all Pakistani nationals as terrorists till proved otherwise.

Imran Ahmad, who recently concluded his 50-State speaking tour of the mainland United States, had occasional run-ins with the representatives of this fear-driven society that love to herd his entire ilk under a single scary looking banner. A Pakistani, growing up in London of the 1960s and 1970s, he must be familiar with the scrutiny that comes with being different. This first person narrative that dusts off …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

VIEW: Eat, Pray, Agitate / by Afrah Jamal

First Published in Daily Times / Saturday, August 11, 2012

Republished in AhmadiyyaTimes

There was some chatter about a certain coffeehouse this Ramzan on both twitter and facebook. The random post that triggered the wrath had alleged that a posse of females were refused a place to pray en-masse inside the premises. Many agree that little cafes that serve coffee in cramped quarters are not obligated to patronise requests that will inconvenience other customers. Others gleefully scream ‘blue murder’ scrambling to retrieve the Islamic Republic part of Pakistan to bolster their case. Since religion is a contact sport, the new arena was readied for some fireworks. The social media resounded with ‘Down with aforementioned coffee house’ for a few days, offset by a ‘Chalo chalo coffee ke liye chalo’ (Let’s go for Coffee).

Was the café in any real danger? Yes. No. It is hard to say. A few hundred irate consumers threatening to stage a sit-in appear harmless. But they cannot guarantee that the …

BOOK REVIEW: Escape from Oblivion / Author: Ikram Sehgal

Thanks to the lovely Nefer & Haya for the launch Invite

Published in Daily Times / Jul 21, 2012
Under the title: So You Think You Can Escape?
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

'In this game there are no second chances. You either win or you die.’

The man who penned these words 41 years ago was busy planning his escape from an Indian POW camp that was not really supposed to exist. Today, as a defence analyst who owns a successful business empire, he sits amiably on a stage flanked by officers from his old command, some well-known personalities from the media, and at least one fiery cricketer-turned-politician who aspires for the premiership. (See Pix Here)

The extraordinary tale of a Pakistani army captain adrift in enemy territory who went knocking at the US Consulate gate and the American Marine Sergeant on duty who saved the day (part of it anyway) appeared in print a few years ago. That, however, was not the end of the captain’s ordeal. What happened in the interval before Sgt Frank A…