Friday, October 23, 2009

Outline of the republic

Basharat Peer, author Curfewed Night, reports from Pakistan (via Amitava). Excerpt:
One mid-June afternoon, while walking in the heart of mainstream Pakistan, on the Mall Road in Lahore, I stopped briefly at a row of tables collecting relief for the Swat refugees. One of the largest was run by an organisation called Falah-i-Insaniyat – Benefit of Humanity. A young man was at the table; stacks of clothes, pulses, rice bags and utensils were piled in the tent behind him. He gave me a pamphlet with details of his organisation’s relief work. It proclaimed in Urdu: “Hundreds of thousands displaced by the Operation are waiting for your assistance! Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation is feeding 20,000 displaced people everyday. We have treated 15,000 in our medical camps across the frontier. We have distributed one month’s food to 1,100 families.” It ended with a call for monetary support and gave the number of a bank account in Lahore.

I told the young man I had never heard of Falah-i-Insaniyat.

“The name is a new one,” he replied. “We are the Lashkar-i-Taiba. Have to come up with new names because of the ban by America and our own government.”

Lashkar-i-Taiba has mostly attacked Indian targets, particularly in Kashmir, and India blames it for last year’s assault on Mumbai. A week earlier, the Lahore High Court had released their chief, Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed, from house arrest for lack of sufficient evidence. “Hafiz Sahib is free now despite the pressure from India and America,” the man behind the table said with a smile. “Thousands of people are coming to see him at the city office. You should go there.”

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