22 September, 2020

A Landslide And A Graphite Wall

A year after the coup, Pakistan is still confused, clinging to the faint ray of hope

A Landslide And A Graphite Wall
A cool early autumn evening in Islamabad. In the Ultimate Fitness gym, in sector F6/2, the usual half dozen local bodybuilders are building their bodies. They have torsos thick with slabs of muscle. The meat, shrink-wrapped in skin, hangs from their shoulders like cuts in a butcher's shop. Dance music pounds out from a battered stereo. Shortly after 6 pm, the music is off and the gym has gone quiet. Everyone is clustered before the television. For once it isn't showing mtv.

Instead, the cnn logo shows in the bottom corner of the screen. Next to it, five words: Attempted Military Coup In Pakistan. I swear quietly. It was the evening of October 11 last year. I had returned from Delhi in the afternoon, around 4 pm. After a shower, and a call to my newsdesk—"no, nothing happening, very quiet"—I walked through the silent, dark Islamabad streets to the gym. I can remember sending an e-mail to a friend in Brussels, a former South Asia correspondent himself."Wondering what the hell I am going to write about," the message said.

In fact, the cnn broadcast had it slightly...


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