Welcome to Gandhara’s redesigned weekly newsletter aimed at bringing you exclusive coverage by our correspondent network in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In this newsletter, I will share with you every Friday 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.
Protests loom in Pakistan
In Pakistan, the week began with the 21st anniversary of the last military coup, which is blamed for plunging the country into a political and security crisis. The country is now bracing for more political instability as opposition leaders seek to bring an end to the military’s political role.
An opposition alliance launches a movement today that seeks to end the military’s political interference by ousting Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration. Observers are keenly watching whether the protest will attract massive public support.
The sharp economic downturn has led to protests like this one by hundreds of government employees in Islamabad, the capital, on October 14, demanding pay hikes to keep pace with soaring consumer prices.
The Taliban on the offensive in Helmand
In Afghanistan, our colleagues at Radio Free Afghanistan sent us reporting from the front line of the Taliban offensive on Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, where more than 6,000 families have taken refuge. The fighting has blocked all exit routes.
By the week’s end, Washington pushed for and achieved a Taliban agreement to reduce the violence. As peace talks between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban enter their fifth week, the issue of a cease-fire looms large over the fragile peace process as the Taliban stands to benefit from continued hostilities.
Preserving Herat's Jewish heritage
While tens of thousands of Jews left Afghanistan in the last century, efforts are underway to preserve their heritage, Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
Much remains to be done. Monuments and properties have either fallen into disrepair or disappeared completely amid murky rules of tenure and stewardship for historical sites.
Morality campaign extends to wedding celebrations
Hard-line Muslim clerics in a Pakistani village in the conservative northwestern Khyber district have announced a boycott of music and dance at weddings, Radio Mashaal reports.
It is part of a wider morality campaign in which clerics, conservative activists, and even government organizations have banned music, TV shows, and mobile phone apps in the name of battling vulgarity.
A first sit-in protest by women in North Waziristan
In Pakistan, Radio Mashaal documented the first sit-in protest by women in the remote North Waziristan tribal district.
The protest was aimed at gaining the release of more than a dozen men who were rounded up during a security raid after a September attack on a military convoy.
Informed analysis from a contributor: The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a civil rights movement emerging from this region, has inspired marginalized groups across the country.
A resurgence of violence in parts of Pakistan
On October 15, Pakistani officials said 14 security troops were killed in two separate attacks in the northwestern Pashtun regions along the border with Afghanistan and in southwestern Balochistan Province.
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