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Dateline: Classroom

first_imgPir Zubair Shah, a Pakistani journalist who shared the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard this year. He has a Green Card in his pocket, has a master’s degree in foreign policy, and speaks seven languages, including Pashto, Punjabi, and Urmari, the language of his tribal boyhood. When Shah was a reporter for The New York Times, more than half of his stories appeared on the front page. And today (Dec. 15) is his 34th birthday. Life is good.But things could have turned out differently.In 2007, while reporting for Newsday, Shah set out for a village in his homeland of South Waziristan, the mountainous region in northwest Pakistan famed for its volatility. (It borders Afghanistan and harbors its own Taliban fighters.) Before reaching the village, he got a warning: Turn back.Shah drove away, but then saw someone emerge from the darkness, a bearded man carrying a walkie-talkie and an AK-47. They looked at each other — the trim cosmopolitan journalist and the Taliban fighter — with recognition and shock. “We used to play together,” said Shah of their shared village boyhood. “This guy had now become a commander. He had found a purpose.”It was a familiar story of fateful divides and divergent worlds in tribal Pakistan. “That’s what you want as a young guy — a vehicle, a gun, and some status,” said Shah. “I could have been the same.”Instead, Shah was drawn to journalism after preparing for a foreign-service career — convinced that his mission was to report on a part of the world that is little understood. “No one knows anything about our area,” he said of the Waziristan region, which has a fierce warrior ethic and rugged terrain. “It’s all stereotypes.”Even Pakistanis fear to go there now, and foreign journalists are banned, he said, adding,  “No one had access. But I had access.” Shah slipped into the tribal areas to report on drone attacks, Taliban economic activity, police recruiting, Taliban terror campaigns in the Swat Valley, and the extrajudicial killings that he said followed a Pakistani military sweep of the same area.Shah fled Pakistan last year, more afraid of reprisals from the government for his reporting than from the Taliban. “I can’t go back; it’s too dangerous,” he said. “You can’t protect yourself from the state. They’re everywhere. They go everywhere with impunity.”In his years of reporting from Pakistan, Shah said the danger was continuous for reporters working along the fault lines of a politically volatile country. Fellow journalists and friends of his were tortured, he said, and one was killed. In 2008, he was held by the Taliban for five days, released unharmed, and then detained by Pakistani government interrogators for three more days.With all that behind him, there is for now Harvard, a place he never dreamed of being. “When we first arrived,” said Shah of his Nieman class, “we were told Harvard is a candy shop. After some time, I realized it’s true,” and he is taking advantage of its offerings.This semester, he is auditing classes at the Harvard Kennedy School on media and politics; human rights tools for practitioners; and American foreign policy decision-making in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He also is taking a course on narrative writing to sharpen his storytelling. “Every moment I reported has a story behind it,” he said, but “English is not my language. It takes time.” His plan for next semester is to explore courses in law, business, and divinity.While he learns, Shah is also willing to share. In November, he was a guest in two successive morning sessions of “The Voice of Authority,” a freshman expository writing class taught by novelist and veteran preceptor Jane Unrue. She’s a member of Harvard’s Scholars at Risk Committee and has a special interest in writers who face danger in their home countries.“The questions were good,” said Shah, “what I would expect from real journalists.” Students asked him about trust, bias, competition, sources, social media, danger, and the personal costs of reporting from a country like Pakistan.He was especially quick to answer the last: His reporting cost him access to his homeland. “I am paying the cost of being outside my country,” said Shah.But he added, “what I do will have a big impact in the long term.” For the world, the cost of not reporting accurately from a capricious and nuclear-armed Pakistan is too high, said Shah. “The consequences are so dire. You need to be informed.”And the quality of international journalism “depends on the quality of local reporters,” he said. You have to know the language, follow the customs, and look the look. Some days, Shah dressed up for an embassy reception, but later donned a dastar and shalwar kameez to visit a local madrasah. “You can’t go with a clean shave and a tie and a suit,” said Shah of Islamic religious schools. “No one will talk to you.”As a boy in tribal South Waziristan, Shah watched firefights, carried a gun at the request of his village elder father, and witnessed the dancelike battle cry that is a Pashtun custom. As a reporter, he took late-night calls from intelligence agents, sorted through missile fragments at attack sites, counted bodies and graves, interviewed suspected suicide bombers, came under small-arms fire, and watched drones chatter 5,000 feet overhead. (“They sound like bees,” he said.)But in the November writing class Shah was glad to meet students who are free to study, exchange ideas, and live in peace. He said later, “I wanted them to be as innocent as they are.”last_img read more

Lord Goldsmith QC to head up new commission on ‘crime and problem gambling’

first_img UKGC hails ‘delivered efficiencies’ of its revamped licence maintenance service  August 20, 2020 Submit StumbleUpon Related Articles Share UKGC launches fourth National Lottery licence competition August 28, 2020 Winning Post: Swedish regulator pushes back on ‘Storebror’ approach to deposit limits August 24, 2020 Share UK prison reform charity, the ‘Howard League for Penal Reform’ has launched a new commission investigating links between problem gambling and criminal behaviours.The Howard League has disclosed that the first meeting of its ‘Commission on Crime & Problem Gambling’ took place in London on 20 June, kick-starting a three-year research project led by Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith QC as Commission Chair.In its mandate, the Commission will bring academics, betting professionals, public health experts and industry stakeholders investigating ‘patterns of crime linked to problem gambling, and the societal harms that connect the two’.The Commission’s work, research and evidence will be made available to the UK government, gambling leadership and criminal justice system stakeholders.The new body will look at the driving forces influencing change and practice, including legislation, politics and the media. It will engage with industry and political leaders throughout its work.Lord Goldsmith QC, Chair of the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling, said: “Concern about harmful gambling activity has been growing for some time, but this is the first commission to focus specifically on the relationship between problem gambling and crime.“Our commission will seek to establish what the links are; what impact they have on communities and wider society; and, crucially, what steps could be taken to reduce crime and make people safer.”The Howard League has published the 15 appointed commissioners, who will work with Lord Goldsmith on the criminal research project, which includes former Betfair enterprise co-founder Andrew Black, represented as an industry expert.Dr Jamie Bennett, Governor of Long Lartin prisonAndrew Black – Co-founder of BetfairDr Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, – Founder and Director of the National Problem Gambling ClinicMatt Burton – Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, Cheshire PoliceDr John Chisholm CBE, Chair, Medical Ethics Committee, British Medical AssociationJon Collins, Chief Executive, Magistrates AssociationFrances Crook OBE, Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal ReformElizabeth Morony, Partner, Clifford Chance LLPAndrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns, Howard League for Penal ReformNeil Platt, Clinical Director, Beacon Counselling TrustSarah Ramanauskas, Senior Partner, Audit and Research, Gambling IntegrityProfessor Gerda Reith, Professor of Social Science, University of GlasgowCouncillor Norma Stephenson OBE, Councillor, Stockton-on-Tees Borough CouncilSue Wade OBE, former chief probation officerThe UK Gambling Commission has stated its support for Howard League research on the complex subject, UKGC Executive Director Tim Miller stating:“This independent Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling will fill a significant gap in understanding the relationship between gambling harms and crime. ““We support the Howard League’s evidence-based and comprehensive approach and anticipate that the recommendations from the Commission will help us make better and faster progress in delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.”last_img read more