Selected essays by Mohsin Hamid from 2000 to 2014 are collected in the book, Discontent and Its Civilizations.
"In the land of the pure, no one is pure enough", on the rise of nationalism and the importance of both impurity and writing, from: the Guardian
"If the world was ending what would your last message be?", on the lessons of an imagined end, from the New York Times
"Writing Exit West", on the story behind writing the novel, from: the Guardian
"Partition, 70 years on", on old hatreds still dangerously alive, from: the Guardian
"The kites are leaving", on people (and birds of prey) making way for the construction boom in Lahore, from: the New York Times Magazine
"How I solved it: New York or Lahore?", on figuring out where to live, from: the New Yorker
"On the dangers of nostalgia", on the need for storytellers to imagine a desirable future, from: the Guardian
"What is wrong with repatriating Afghan refugees?", on the need for Pakistan to allow refugees to stay, from: Herald
"Is travel writing dead?", on writing and migration, from: Granta
"Refugees: overcoming our fear", on refugees and the need for courage, from: TIME
"Unity, faith, discipline", on faith and living in Pakistan, from: Tin House
"No Lucky Charms in Pakistan", on food and moving from California to Lahore as a child, from: the New York Times Magazine
"The turmoil of today's world", on the refugee crisis in Europe, from: the Guardian
"Life in the age of permawar", on violence, fear, kink, technology, religion, and writing, from: the Guardian
"Does the size of a book suggest significance?", on efficiency and art, from: the New York Times
"Do money woes spur creatvity or stifle it?", on writing fiction and making a living, from: the New York Times
"The great divide", on finding human connection in a world of walls, from: the New York Times Magazine
"Does fiction have the power to sway politics?", on literature and changing the world, from: the New York Times
"Why migration is a fundamental human right", on the right to move, from: the Guardian
"Should the United States declare books an essential good?", on writers as workers, from: the New York Times
"Does where you live make a difference in how and what you write?", on home and writing, from: the New York Times
"How has parenthood informed your writing life?", on being a father and a writer, from: the New York Times
"What are the draws and drawbacks of success for writers?", on novelists and commercial hits, from: the New York Times
"'Write what you know' - helpful advice or idle cliche?", on different approaches to writing, from: the New York Times
"Are the new 'golden age' TV shows the new novels?", on possibilities for fiction, from: the New York Times
"How do e-books change the reading experience?", on being human and new technology, from: the New York Times
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan
a report by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at the NYU School of Law
165 pp., available at chrgj.org
Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands
edited by Shahzad Bashir and Robert D. Crews
Harvard University Press, 327 pp., $27.95
US drones operated by the CIA first struck in Pakistan in July 2004. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), there have now been a total of 367 such strikes. These have reportedly killed between 2,541 and 3,586 people in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the seven regions including North Waziristan and South Waziristan that border Afghanistan. The tribes on either side of the border were officially cut in two when the Durand Line between the countries was established in 1893, but in practice the border is porous. Of the 3.5 million people who live in the FATA, most are Pashtuns, a group of tribes that claim common ancestry, divided into many subtribes and clans.
The frequency of US drone strikes in Pakistan has been strongly linked to US troop levels in Afghanistan. During the four and a half years that the drone campaign was conducted by President Bush, the American contingent in Afghanistan was typically 20,000–30,000 troops. Fifty-two drone strikes on Pakistan were conducted in this period. President Obama ordered a vastly intensified counterinsurgency operation that saw US troop levels in Afghanistan rise to 100,000. Under Obama’s command, drone strikes on Pakistan likewise spiked to 315.
This link has been maintained since forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011. US drone strikes in Pakistan began diminishing that year as well: from a peak of 128 in 2010, they fell to seventy-five in 2011 and forty-eight in 2012. Nonetheless, the tempo of US drone strikes in Pakistan today remains considerably higher than it was under President Bush.
Living Under Drones, an excellent report by researchers at the Stanford and NYU law schools on the impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan, fails to give prominence to this declining number of drone attacks. (It was published last September, before full-year data for 2012 became available.) But it remains a vital and important document. The US government provides little public information on its drone campaign. The Pakistani government restricts journalist access to the tribal areas. Citizens of both countries should welcome the report’s attempt to provide a rigorous accounting.
If there is any misconception that the drone strikes are primarily counterterrorist in nature, aimed at key leaders of international terror networks, this can be dispensed with. The report from Stanford and NYU highlights research separately conducted by Reuters and by the New America Foundation that comes to similar conclusions: the elimination of “high-value” targets—al-Qaeda or “militant” leaders—has been exceedingly rare—fewer than fifty people, or about 2 percent of all drone deaths. Rather, “low-level insurgents” have been the main targets of drones. The US drone campaign in Pakistan is thus largely a counterinsurgency operation, targeting men presumed to be intent on…
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