Officials Investigating Synagogue Attacker’s Link to 2010 Terror Case

Aafia Siddiqui has spent almost 12 years in a U.S. federal prison after being convicted of trying to kill American soldiers and plotting to blow up the Statue of Liberty.

#akram-malik-faisal, #congregation-beth-israel-colleyville-tex, #jews-and-judaism, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #pakistan, #siddiqui-aafia, #statue-of-liberty, #synagogues, #terrorism, #texas

The Taliban Have Staffing Issues. They Are Looking for Help in Pakistan.

Government jobs are given as patronage to ex-fighters and exiles living quietly in Pakistan. But not all possess the technical skills required for the job.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #darul-uloom-haqqania-pakistan, #government-employees, #haqqani-sirajuddin, #pakistan, #taliban

Pakistan Paves Way for Ayesha Malik to Be First Woman Supreme Court Justice

Justice Ayesha A. Malik’s nomination, intensely opposed by some lawyers that have threatened to strike, was hailed by others as an important victory in improving representation for women.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #courts-and-the-judiciary, #discrimination, #malik-ayesha-a-1966, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #supreme-court-of-pakistan, #women-and-girls

Born and Raised in Pakistan, but Living in Legal Limbo

Pakistan has refused to grant the children of Afghan refugees full rights as citizens. A lack of identification documents limits their livelihoods and puts them at risk of deportation.

#afghanistan, #citizenship-and-naturalization, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #karachi-pakistan, #khan-imran, #labor-and-jobs, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #refugees-and-displaced-persons

U.S. Policy Toward Pakistan Can’t Be All About Afghanistan

A reset won’t be easy: Resentment is rife.

#afghanistan, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #pakistan, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations

Pakistan Madrasa Taught Afghanistan’s Taliban Leaders

Darul Uloom Haqqania in Pakistan argues that the madrasa and its graduates have changed. Some worry they could be the source of new radicalism.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #darul-uloom-haqqania-pakistan, #education-k-12, #haq-maulana-sami-ul, #haqqani-network, #muslims-and-islam, #pakistan, #taliban, #terrorism

Inflation Batters Pakistan and Puts Pressure on Imran Khan

Rising prices and a weakened currency are straining households, intensifying pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan to find solutions.

#credit-and-debt, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #food, #inflation-economics, #international-monetary-fund, #international-trade-and-world-market, #khan-imran, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #pakistan, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates

India Wants to Send Wheat to Ease Afghan Hunger Crisis. Pakistan Has Yet to OK Transit.

Indian officials say Islamabad is dragging its feet on a request of transit for 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan, where nine million people are on the brink of starvation.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #grain, #india, #international-relations, #khan-imran, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #shortages, #world-food-program

Malala Yousafzai Is Married in England

Ms. Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and the youngest-ever recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, married her partner at a small ceremony in Birmingham, England, she said on Twitter.

#asser-malik, #birmingham-england, #education-k-12, #england, #marriages, #pakistan, #weddings-and-engagements, #yousafzai-malala

Pakistan Reaches Cease-Fire With Resurgent Taliban Militants

The Pakistani government said it would offer amnesty for insurgents who are willing to disarm.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #defense-and-military-forces, #khan-imran, #pakistan, #peace-process, #politics-and-government, #tehrik-e-taliban, #terrorism, #yousafzai-malala, #zardari-bilawal-bhutto

The Developing World Is Falling Short on Emissions Reductions

Plans for new power generation won’t meet global climate goals.

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #carbon-dioxide, #china, #coal, #corporations, #electric-light-and-power, #energy-and-power, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #international-energy-agency, #international-trade-and-world-market, #japan, #mexico, #pakistan, #south-africa, #third-world-and-developing-countries, #vietnam

India’s Treatment of Muslims Erodes Its Moral High Ground

The hard-line attitude of Narendra Modi’s ruling party toward Muslims has undermined the nation’s reputation as a voice for tolerance in South Asia.

#bangladesh, #bharatiya-janata-party, #hinduism, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #india, #international-relations, #minorities, #modi-narendra, #muslims-and-islam, #nationalism-theory-and-philosophy, #pakistan, #sri-lanka

After Violent Standoff, Pakistan Strikes Deal With Banned Islamist Group

The pact, announced Sunday, defused a crisis that had paralyzed several cities, but it also highlighted the government’s struggle to assert itself against religious extremists.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #khan-imran, #muslims-and-islam, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #tehreek-e-labaik, #terrorism

For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites

In a sentencing hearing, Majid Khan, a Pakistani who lived in suburban Baltimore before joining Al Qaeda, detailed dungeonlike conditions and episodes of abuse.

#al-qaeda, #central-intelligence-agency, #detainees, #guantanamo-bay-naval-base-cuba, #khan-majid, #military-tribunals, #pakistan, #september-11-2001, #terrorism, #torture, #waterboarding

In India, Facebook Struggles to Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech

Internal documents show a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence in the country, the company’s biggest market.

#artificial-intelligence, #computers-and-the-internet, #engineering-and-engineers, #facebook-inc, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #hate-speech, #haugen-frances, #india, #muslims-and-islam, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #whistle-blowers

Pakistan and India Face Off in Cricket’s T20 World Cup

It’s one of the greatest rivalries in sports, when war off the field allows it — a contest of national identities that will be renewed this Sunday in a World Cup match.

#cricket-game, #fans-persons, #india, #indian-premier-league, #kashmir-and-jammu-india, #pakistan

Abdul Qadeer Khan, Father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Program, Dies at 85

Starting from scratch in 1976, he acquired the technology and knowledge that allowed Pakistan to detonate its first nuclear device in 1998.

#deaths-obituaries, #defense-and-military-forces, #khan-abdul-qadeer, #nuclear-weapons, #pakistan

Earthquake Kills at Least 20 in Pakistan

The 5.7 magnitude quake struck Thursday morning, while most people were asleep, and officials feared the toll may rise.

#associated-press, #british-broadcasting-corp, #deaths-fatalities, #earthquakes, #pakistan

A Pakistan Photographer Rushes to Save the Past

Shahid Zaidi is working to preserve the photos his father shot of Pakistan’s first leaders and of its people in the era of the country’s founding.

#archives-and-records, #content-type-personal-profile, #lahore-pakistan, #pakistan, #photography, #zaidi-shahid, #zaidi-syed-mohammad-ali

For India’s Military, a Juggling Act on Two Hostile Fronts

Tensions with China and Pakistan stretch a cash-starved military, while the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban removes a potential ally.

#budgets-and-budgeting, #china, #defense-and-military-forces, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #himalayas, #india, #international-relations, #ladakh-india, #modi-narendra, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #territorial-disputes

China Pledges to Stop Building Coal Plants Abroad: Explained

Beijing is the undisputed king of coal, but the announcement at the United Nations General Assembly this week was cautiously welcomed by climate experts.

#boston-university, #building-construction, #china, #coal, #export-import-bank-of-china, #finland, #general-assembly-un, #greenpeace, #japan, #mines-and-mining, #pakistan, #steel-and-iron, #united-nations, #xi-jinping

Pakistan edtech startup Maqsad gets $2.1M pre-seed to make education more accessible

Taha Ahmed and Rooshan Aziz left their jobs in strategy consulting and investment banking in London earlier this year in order to found a mobile-only education platform startup, Maqsad, in Pakistan, with a goal “to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students.”

Having grown up in Karachi, childhood friends Ahmed and Aziz are aware of the challenges about the Pakistani education system, which is notably worse for those not living in large urban areas (the nation’s student-teacher ratio is 44:1). Pakistani children are less likely to go to school for each kilometer of distance between school and their home — with girls being four times affected, Maqsad co-founder Aziz said.

Maqsad announced today its $2.1 million pre-seed round to enhance its content platform growth and invest in R&D.

The pre-seed round, which was completed in just three weeks via virtual meetings, was led by Indus Valley Capital, with participation from Alter Global, Fatima Gobi Ventures and several angel investors from Pakistan, the Middle East and Europe.

Maqsad will use the proceeds for developing in-house content, such as production studio, academics and animators, as well as bolstering R&D and engineering, Aziz told TechCrunch. The company will focus on the K-12 education in Pakistan, including 11th and 12th grade math, with plans to expand into other STEM subjects for the next one-two years, Aziz said.

Maqsad’s platform, which provides a one-stop shop for after-school academic content in a mix of English and Urdu, will be supplemented by quizzes and other gamified features that will come together to offer a personalized education to individuals. Its platform features include adaptive testing that alter a question’s level of difficulty depending on users’ responses, Aziz explained.

The word “maqsad” means purpose in Urdu.

“We believe everyone has a purpose. Maqsad’s mission is to enable Pakistani students to realize this purpose; whether you are a student from an urban centre, such as Lahore, or from a remote village in Sindh: Maqsad believes in equal opportunity for all,” Aziz said.

“We are building a mobile-first platform, given that 95% of broadband users in Pakistan are via mobile. Most other platforms are not mobile optimized,” Aziz added.

“It’s about more than just getting students to pass their exams. We want to start a revolution in the way Pakistani students learn, moving beyond rote memorization to a place of real comprehension,” said co-founder Taha Ahmed, who was a former strategy consultant at LEK.

The company ran small pilots in April and May and started full-scale operations on 26 July, Aziz said, adding that Maqsad will launch its mobile app, currently under development, in the coming months in Q4 2021 and has a waitlist for early access.

“Struggles of students during the early days of the pandemic motivated us to run a pilot. With promising initial traction and user feedback, the size of the opportunity to digitize the education sector became very clear,” Aziz said.

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the education industry, heating up the global edtech startups that made online education more accessible for a wider population, for example in countries like India and Indonesia, Aziz mentioned.

The education market size in Pakistan is estimated at $12 billion and is projected to increase to $30 billion by 2030, according to Aziz.

It plans to build the company as a hybrid center offering online and offline courses like Byju’s and Aakash, and expand classes for adults such as MasterClass, the U.S.-based online classes for adults, as its long-term plans, Aziz said.

“Maqsad founders’ deep understanding of the problem, unique approach to solving it and passion for impact persuaded us quickly,” the founder and managing partner of Indus Valley Capital, Aatif Awan, said.

“Pakistan’s edtech opportunity is one of the largest in the world and we are excited to back Maqsad in delivering tech-powered education that levels access, quality and across Pakistan’s youth and creates lasting social change,” Ali Mukhtar, general partner of Fatima Gobi Ventures said.

#asia, #edtech, #education, #funding, #indus-valley-capital, #maqsad, #mobile, #pakistan, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Chicken Steam Roast Recipe: A Wedding Dish Worthy of Weeknight

Chicken steam roast is a centerpiece at Pakistani weddings, but it’s also become a dinnertime staple.

#cooking-and-cookbooks, #pakistan, #poultry

Digital freight marketplace BridgeLinx raises $10 million in Pakistan’s largest seed funding

BridgeLinx, a 9-month-old Lahore-headquartered startup that operates a digital freight marketplace, said on Tuesday it has raised $10 million in what is the largest seed financing round in Pakistan.

Harry Stebbings’ 20 VC, Josh Buckley’s Buckley Ventures and Indus Valley Capital co-led the startup’s financing round, which Salman Gul, co-founder and chief executive of BridgeLinx, told TechCrunch completed within weeks.

This is 20 VC and Buckley Ventures’ second lead investment in Pakistan in recent weeks following an $85 million round in quick-commerce startup Airlift. Indus Valley Capital, which recently also backed business-to-business marketplace Bazaar, has invested in all three of the recent high-profile investments in the South Asian country.

Wavemaker Partners, Quiet Capital, TrueSight Ventures, Soma Capital, Flexport, Magnus Rausing’s UNTITLED and founders of Convoy and Bazaar also participated in the round.

BridgeLinx is building an asset-lite digital freight marketplace. The platform connects shippers — such as manufacturing companies, cement factories, textile companies — with truckers and private fleets.

The platform provides its tech solutions to ensure documents validation on both ends, timely pickups, port operations and safety of cargo, said Gul, who previously worked at consultancy firm KPMG in Canada.

BridgeLinx has already onboarded thousands of carriers and is moving thousands of freight-loads each week for many large customers, he said.

As is true in India, Pakistan’s trucking system has a big inefficiency problem that continues to drag the economy. One of the biggest problems faced by truckers is that they are unable to find any use of their vehicles once they have made a delivery. So a truck delivering something to Karachi from Lahore is likely traveling empty on its return journey, which wastes both time and money.

Startups like BridgeLinx are attempting to find ways to make this system more efficient, said Gul, who added that he has closely studied how Convoy, and India’s BlackBuck and Rivigo have expanded their businesses.

BridgeLinx, like BlackBuck, currently operates on an asset-lite model — that is, it doesn’t own any vehicles. But Gul said there is benefit in replicating something from Rivigo, which owns its fleets. By having some trucks of its own, BridgeLinx will be able to ensure that vehicles on its platform are operating round the clock by having multiple drivers working in shifts.

“We will eventually have a hybrid of what BlackBuck and Rivigo offer,” he said.

BridgeLinx will deploy the fresh capital to expand to more verticals and broaden its tech offerings. The startup is also working on hiring more talent, he said.

“BridgeLinx has cracked the code for making end-to-end freight work in a hassle free manner and therefore signed up some of the top businesses in Pakistan. We believe this team is well on its way to bring unprecedented efficiencies to the country’s economy and are really excited to partner with them,” said Aatif Awan, Managing Partner at Indus Valley Capital, in a statement.


On a side note, it’s interesting to see Stebbings and Buckley being the earliest investors to back startups in Pakistan at a time when several high-profile venture funds in Asia — including Sequoia Capital India, Accel, and Lightspeed — are yet to make any move in the country. Arguably, it’s the best time to back startups in Pakistan. The internet penetration has grown considerably in the country in the past decade and scores of startups are beginning to build the railroads for commerce, logistics, and payments.

Prosus has backed one startup in Pakistan — Bykea — and it recently made its first investment Bangladesh — ShopUp, which counts Sequoia as one of its earliest backers.

#asia, #bazaar, #blackbuck, #buckley-ventures, #convoy, #funding, #harry-stebbings, #josh-buckley, #logistics, #pakistan

Afghans Flee to Pakistan. An Uncertain Future Awaits.

Refugees have drawn an angry response from many in that country, leading to discrimination and efforts to force them to go back to Afghanistan.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #pakistan, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #taliban

As Taliban Crush Dissent, New Leaders Face Cascading Challenges

The Taliban continued to brutally crack down on demonstrations against their rule. The new government faces an unfolding humanitarian crisis and flaring tensions on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #freedom-of-the-press, #kabul-afghanistan, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #taliban

New Taliban Leaders Face Cascading Challenges

The Taliban continued to brutally crack down on demonstrations against their rule. The new government faces an unfolding humanitarian crisis and flaring tensions on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #freedom-of-the-press, #kabul-afghanistan, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #taliban

Kashmir Separatist Leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is Dead

Mr. Geelani was an uncompromising opponent of the Indian government’s control of the Kashmir valley and favored Pakistani sovereignty over the mostly Muslim region.

#deaths-obituaries, #geelani-syed-ali-1929-2021, #india, #kashmir, #kashmir-and-jammu-india, #kashmir-valley, #muslims-and-islam, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #secession-and-independence-movements, #territorial-disputes

Why Biden Didn’t See the ISIS-K Threat Until Too Late

Twenty years later, the terrorism threat from Afghanistan hasn’t faded. And militant competition from ISIS-K has merely increased the stakes. 

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #al-qaeda, #drones-pilotless-planes, #evacuations-and-evacuees, #kabul-international-airport, #khorasan, #pakistan, #south-asia, #taliban, #terrorism, #united-states, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Biden Didn’t See the ISIS-K Threat in Afghanistan Until Too Late

Twenty years later, the terrorism threat from Afghanistan hasn’t faded. And militant competition from ISIS-K has merely increased the stakes. 

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #al-qaeda, #drones-pilotless-planes, #evacuations-and-evacuees, #kabul-international-airport, #khorasan, #pakistan, #south-asia, #taliban, #terrorism, #united-states, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #war-and-armed-conflicts

As the Taliban Tighten Their Grip, Fears of Retribution Grow

Taliban leaders have promised amnesty to Afghan officials and soldiers, but there are increasing reports of detentions, disappearances and even executions.

#afghan-national-police, #afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #amnesties-commutations-and-pardons, #amnesty-international, #central-intelligence-agency, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #ghani-ashraf, #ghazni-province-afghanistan, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #human-rights-watch, #inter-services-intelligence, #kabul-afghanistan, #kandahar-afghanistan, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #quetta-pakistan, #taliban

The Real Winner of the Afghan War? It’s Not Who You Think.

Pakistan, nominally a U.S. partner in the war, was the Afghan Taliban’s main patron, and sees the Taliban’s victory as its own. But now what does it do with its prize?

#afghan-national-security-forces, #afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #al-qaeda, #bajwa-qamar-javed, #baradar-abdul-ghani, #belt-and-road-initiative-china, #bin-laden-osama, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-and-military-forces, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #grenier-robert-l, #haqqani-khalil-ahmed, #i-s-i, #international-relations, #muslims-and-islam, #obama-barack, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #september-11-2001, #terrorism, #uighurs-chinese-ethnic-group, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #wang-yi

Pakistan’s B2B marketplace and digital ledger platform Bazaar raises $30 million

A one-year-old startup that is building a business-to-business marketplace for merchants in Pakistan and also helping them digitize their bookkeeping is the latest to secure a mega round in the South Asian market.

Bazaar said on Tuesday it has raised $30 million in a Series A round. The new financing round — the largest Series A in Pakistan — was led by Silicon Valley-based early stage VC Defy Partners and Singapore-based Wavemaker Partners.

Scores of other investors including current and former leaders of Antler, Careem, Endeavor, Gumroad, LinkedIn and Notion as well as new investors Acrew Capital, Japan’s Saison Capital, UAE’s Zayn Capital and B&Y Venture Partners and existing investors Indus Valley Capital, Global Founders Capital, Next Billion Ventures, and Alter Global also participated in the new round.

One way to think about Bazaar is — especially if you have been following the Indian startup ecosystem — that it’s sort of a blend between Udaan and KhataBook. “That’s a good way to describe us,” said Hamza Jawaid, co-founder of Bazaar in an interview. “We had this benefit of hindsight to not just look at India but other emerging markets,” he said.

“We saw lots of synergies between these two. If you look at commerce, you have to acquire every single merchant in every single category differently. Whereas with Khata, merchants in any city and category can download it. So effectively, it’s a great customer acquisition tool for you,” he said on a WhatsApp call, adding that this also provides greater insight into businesses.

Bazaar’s business-to-business marketplace, which provides merchants with the ability to procure inventories at a standard price and choose from a much larger catalog, is currently available in Karachi and Lahore, the nation’s largest cities, while Easy Khata is live across the country.

At stake is a booming market that is yet to see much deployment of technology, said Saad Jangda, Bazaar’s other co-founder. Both of them have known each other since childhood and reconnected in Dubai a few years ago. At the time, Jawaid was at McKinsey & Company while Jangda was working with Careem as a product manager for ride-hailing and food delivery products.

There are about 5 million micro, small, and medium-sized businesses in Pakistan. Like India, even as a significant portion of the population has come online, most merchants remain unconnected.

“We’ve been investing in FMCG B2B marketplaces across the region since 2017. After working with Hamza and Saad over the past year, we’ve been impressed by their customer-centric approach to product development and the speed of their learning and execution,” said Paul Santos, Managing Partner at Wavemaker Partners, in a statement.

“It’s no surprise that they’ve received glowing reviews from their customers and partners. We’re excited to support Bazaar as they solidify their market leadership and digitize Pakistan’s retail ecosystem,” he added.

The startup said it has amassed over 750,000 merchants since launch last year. And it appears to have solved a problem that many of its South Asian peers are still grappling with: Retention. Bazaar said it has a 90% retention rate.

I asked Jangda if he plans to expand to the ‘dukaan’ category. Several startups in Asia are currently building tools to help merchants set up online presence and accept digital orders. He said the market is currently not ready for a dukaan product just yet. “The B2C market is still developing, so there is not so much demand from the consumer side yet,” he added.

Instead the current new focus is financial services. In recent months, the startup said it has tested a buy now pay later product and early results have shown a 100% repayment.

“Bazaar is going after a massive opportunity with the ultimate aim of creating a generational story in and from Pakistan. In a country with incredible talent and huge market opportunity, it’s about time we create an inspirational story that brings together the country’s best talent who can go on to create many such stories in the future,” said the founders.

The startup eventually wants to become a super app, or a broader operating system for retail in Pakistan. It plans to deploy the fresh funds to expand its services to more cities across Pakistan and build and scale more products.

“What Bazaar has managed to accomplish in the last year is incredible. We are extremely impressed by the speed and robustness with which they build and deploy. As Defy’s first investment into Pakistan’s burgeoning tech ecosystem, we feel Bazaar is on its way to create a category defining company for the country” said Kamil Saeid – Partner at Defy Partners.

Tuesday’s announcement comes a week after Airlift, another Pakistan’s startup, announced a big round.

#airlift, #asia, #ecommerce, #funding, #pakistan

America Lost Patience in Afghanistan. The Taliban Swooped In.

The American disaster in Afghanistan that Biden’s impatience brought about is not a disaster just for us. It’s a huge boost for the Taliban too.

#afghan-national-security-forces, #afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #ghani-ashraf, #islamabad-pakistan, #karzai-hamid, #muslims-and-islam, #pakistan, #september-11-2001, #taliban, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-politics-and-government, #world-trade-center-manhattan-ny

Social platforms wrestle with what to do about the Taliban

With the hasty U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan underway after two decades occupying the country, social media platforms have a complex new set of policy decisions to make.

The Taliban has been social media-savvy for years, but those companies will face new questions as the notoriously brutal, repressive group seeks to present itself as Afghanistan’s legitimate governing body to the rest of the world. Given its ubiquity among political leaders and governments, social media will likely play an even more central role for the Taliban as it seeks to cement control and move toward governing.

Facebook has taken some early precautions to protect its users from potential reprisals as the Taliban seizes power. Through Twitter, Facebook’s Nathaniel Gleicher announced a set of new measures the platform rolled out over the last week. The company added a “one-click” way for people in Afghanistan to instantly lock their accounts, hiding posts on their timeline and preventing anyone they aren’t friends with from downloading or sharing their profile picture.

Facebook also removed the ability for users to view and search anyone’s friends list for people located in Afghanistan. On Instagram, pop-up alerts will provide Afghanistan-based users with information on how to quickly lock down their accounts.

The Taliban has long been banned on Facebook under the company’s rules against dangerous organizations. “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law… This means we remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them,” a Facebook spokesperson told the BBC.

The Afghan Taliban is actually not designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, but the Taliban operating out of Pakistan has held that designation since 2010. While it doesn’t appear on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, the Afghanistan-based Taliban is defined as a terror group according to economic sanctions that the U.S. put in place after 9/11.

While the Taliban is also banned from Facebook-owned WhatsApp, the platform’s end-to-end encryption makes enforcing those rules on WhatsApp more complex. WhatsApp is ubiquitous in Afghanistan and both the Afghan military and the Taliban have relied on the chat app to communicate in recent years. Though Facebook doesn’t allow the Taliban on its platforms, the group turned to WhatsApp to communicate its plans to seize control to the Afghan people and discourage resistance in what was a shockingly swift and frictionless sprint to power. The Taliban even set up WhatsApp number as a sort of help line for Afghans to report violence or crime, but Facebook quickly shut down the account.

Earlier this week, Facebook’s VP of content policy Monika Bickert noted that even if the U.S. does ultimately remove the Taliban from its lists of sanctioned terror groups, the platform would reevaluate and make its own decision. “… We would have to do a policy analysis on whether or not they nevertheless violate our dangerous organizations policy,” Bickert said.

Like Facebook, YouTube maintains that the Taliban is banned from its platform. YouTube’s own decision also appears to align with sanctions and could be subject to change if the U.S. approach to the Taliban shifts.

“YouTube complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws, including relevant U.S. sanctions,” a YouTube spokesperson told TechCrunch. “As such, if we find an account believed to be owned and operated by the Afghan Taliban, we terminate it. Further, our policies prohibit content that incites violence.”

On Twitter, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has continued to share regular updates about the group’s activities in Kabul. Another Taliban representative, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, also freely posts on the platform. Unlike Facebook and YouTube, Twitter doesn’t have a blanket ban on the group but will enforce its policies on a post-by-post basis.

If the Taliban expands its social media footprint, other platforms might be facing the same set of decisions. TikTok did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment, but previously told NBC that it considers the Taliban a terrorist organization and does not allow content that promotes the group.

The Taliban doesn’t appear to have a foothold beyond the most mainstream social networks, but it’s not hard to imagine the former insurgency turning to alternative platforms to remake its image as the world looks on.

While Twitch declined to comment on what it might do if the group were to use the platform, it does have a relevant policy that takes “off-service conduct” into account when banning users. That policy was designed to address reports of abusive behavior and sexual harassment among Twitch streamers.

The new rules also apply to accounts linked to violent extremism, terrorism, or other serious threats, whether those actions take place on or off Twitch. That definition would likely preclude the Taliban from establishing a presence on the platform, even if the U.S. lifts sanctions or changes its terrorist designations in the future.

#afghanistan, #encryption, #facebook, #kabul, #military, #pakistan, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #spokesperson, #taliban, #tc, #united-states, #whatsapp

How the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Helps China

Unlike the United States, China brings no baggage to the table in Afghanistan.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #beijing-china, #china, #international-relations, #pakistan, #peoples-liberation-army-china, #politics-and-government, #taliban, #wang-yi

Shahzia Sikander’s Exquisite, Entangled Worlds

Her study of miniature painting set the artist on a path to challenge terms that hem us in: East and West, masculine and feminine, abstraction and figuration.

#art, #discrimination, #manhattan-nyc, #morgan-librarymuseum, #museums, #muslims-and-islam, #pakistan, #sikander-shahzia

Pakistan’s Airlift raises $85 million for its quick commerce startup, eyes international expansion

A one-year-old startup that is attempting to build the railroads for e-commerce in Pakistan has just secured a mega round in a major boost to the South Asia nation’s nascent startup ecosystem.

Airlift operates a quick commerce service in eight cities in Pakistan. Users can order groceries, other essential items including medicines and electronic products from Airlift website or app and have it delivered to them in 30 minutes.

The startup said on Wednesday that it has raised $85 million in its Series B financing round at a valuation of $275 million. Harry Stebbings of 20VC and Josh Buckley of Buckley Ventures co-led the financing round, by far the largest for a Pakistani startup.

Sam Altman, former president of Y Combinator, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and Medium, Steve Pagliuca, co-chairman of Bain Capital, Jeffrey Katzenberg, ex-chief executive of Disney and Quibi, and Taavet Hinrikus, founder and chief executive of TransferWise also participated in the new round, which brings the startup’s to-date raise to $110 million.

Stanley Tang, co-founder of DoorDash, Simon Borrero, founder and chief executive of Rappi, Baastian Lehman, founder and chief executive of Postmates, Quiet Capital and Indus Valley Capital also participated in the new round.

Airlift started as a transit business, building a service similar to Uber for buses in Pakistan. The startup was already clocking over 35,000 rides a day before the pandemic arrived, disrupting all mobility in the country.

That’s when Usman Gul, the founder and chief executive of Airlift, took the call to pivot to quick commerce, he told TechCrunch in an interview.

“This entire space of quick commerce is on the brink of global transformation. Airlift is in the forefront for leading that transformation in Asia and Africa,” he said. Gul said he plans to expand the service to many international markets in the next few months.

Gul left his job at DoorDash and moved back to Pakistan to start Airlift. “The idea was to create impact at the base of the pyramid and solve problems that would enrich millions of lives for whom change is desperately needed. That drove my transition franky,” he said.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#asia, #funding, #harry-stebbings, #pakistan

Malala: The Taliban Have Taken Over. I Fear for Afghanistan’s Women.

In the last two decades, millions of Afghan women and girls received an education. Now the future they were promised is in imminent danger.

#afghanistan, #education, #education-k-12, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #pakistan, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #taliban, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

Ruth Pearl, Mother of Murdered Reporter Daniel Pearl, Dies at 85

A reluctant celebrity, she was thrust into the spotlight after his brutal death, and created a foundation in his memory to promote cultural understanding.

#deaths-obituaries, #jews-and-judaism, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #muslims-and-islam, #news-and-news-media, #pakistan, #pearl-daniel, #pearl-judea-1936, #pearl-ruth-1935-2021, #terrorism, #wall-street-journal

Egyptian ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a $1.5B SPAC merger

Cairo and Dubai-based ride-sharing company Swvl plans to go public in a merger with special purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, Swvl said Tuesday. The deal will see Swvl valued at roughly $1.5 billion.

Swvl was founded by Mostafa Kandil, Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah in 2017. The trio started the company as a bus-hailing service in Egypt and other ride-sharing services in emerging markets with fragmented public transportation.

Its services, mainly bus-hailing, enables users to make intra-state journeys by booking seats on buses running a fixed route. This is pocket-friendly for residents in these markets compared to single-rider options and helps reduce emissions (Swvl claims it has prevented over 240 million pounds of carbon emission since inception).

After its Egypt launch, Swvl expanded to Kenya, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The company also moved its headquarters to Dubai as part of its strategy to become a global company.

Swvl offerings have expanded beyond bus-hailing services. Now, the company offers inter-city rides, car ride-sharing, and corporate services across the 10 cities it operates in across Africa and the Middle East.

Queen’s Gambit, the women-led SPAC in charge of the deal, raised $300 million in January and added $45 million via an underwriters’ overallotment option focusing on startups in clean energy, healthcare and mobility sectors.

The statement also mentions a group of investors — Agility, Luxor Capital and Zain Group — which will contribute $100 million through a private investment in public equity, or PIPE.

Per Crunchbase, Swvl has raised over $170 million. From an African perspective, Swvl features as one of the most venture-backed startups on the continent. The company has been touted to reach unicorn status in the past and will when this SPAC merger is completed.

The company will aptly trade under the ticker SWVL. The listing will make it the first Egyptian startup to go public outside Egypt and the second to go public after Fawry. It will also make the mobility company the largest African unicorn debut on any U.S.-listed exchange, beating Jumia’s debut of $1.1 billion on the NYSE. Swvl joins music-streaming platform Anghami as the second startup in the region to go public via a SPAC merger in the Middle East.

Swvl had annual gross revenue of $26 million in 2020, according to the statement, and the company expects its annual gross revenue to increase to $79 million this year and $1 billion by 2025 after expanding to 20 countries across five continents.

On why Queen’s Gambit picked Swvl for this deal, Victoria Grace, founder and CEO, said in a statement that the company fit the profile of what she was looking for: “a disruptive platform that solves complex challenges and empowers underserved populations.”

“Having established a leadership position in key emerging markets, we believe Swvl is ready to capitalize on a truly global market opportunity,” she added.

In May, TechCrunch wrote that SPACs didn’t target African startups for several reasons, including a lack of global appeal and private capital and market satisfaction. Judging by Grace’s comments, Swvl has that global appeal and is ready to venture into the public market despite being in operation for just four years.

#africa, #cairo, #crunchbase, #egypt, #finance, #funding, #jordan, #kenya, #middle-east, #pakistan, #private-equity, #saudi-arabia, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #startups, #swvl, #tc, #transportation

Textbooks Featuring Malala Yousafzai Are Removed From Bookstores in Pakistan

Authorities began confiscating a social studies textbook featuring a photo of Ms. Yousafzai, the education activist, after she questioned marriage norms.

#books-and-literature, #education-k-12, #lahore-pakistan, #muslims-and-islam, #nobel-prizes, #pakistan, #politics-and-government, #textbooks, #yousafzai-malala

Extra Crunch roundup: NS1 EC-1, Pakistan’s tech ecosystem, SPACs bonanza

Did you see the viral videos of yesterday’s flooding in New York City subways?

In one, riders waded through brown, waist-deep water; another video showed a cascade rushing down a flight of stairs to a subway platform where passengers waited for a train.

Infrastructure doesn’t attract much attention until it fails. Domain name services (DNS), the system that directs readers to techcrunch.com when they say or speak it into their web browser, are much the same way.

For the latest entry in a series of longform articles that explore the inner workings of notable startups, we looked at NS1, an internet infrastructure company best known for its software-defined DNS.

Since its founding in 2013, NS1 has raised more than $100 million to build an engineering team and robust product portfolio that’s expanded to include DDI, which helps companies manage internal networks.

If you’re curious about how NS1 transformed “a slumbering and dreary yet reliable aspect of the internet” into “a strategic moat and an enterprise win” in just eight years, read on.


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


Part 1: Origin story: how three engineers decided to rebuild the internet’s core addressing system.

Part 2: Product development and roadmap: experimentation, open-source efforts and expanding beyond DNS.

Part 3: Competitive landscape: a look at the broader internet infrastructure market.

Part 4: Customer development: how their top competitor’s stumble became “the gift that kept on giving.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch — have a great weekend!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Startups have never had it so good

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim didn’t mince words in today’s Exchange.

“The venture capital market is racing ahead, foot on the gas, middle finger out the window, hair on fire.”

That’s their hot take after analyzing the Q2 data released so far about how much money VCs deployed across the globe between April and the end of June.

Leaning on data from CB Insights, Crunchbase News and FactSet, Alex and Anna walk through the data from the U.S. and a few other regions — and promise deeper regional dives next week.

What I learned the hard way from naming 30+ startups

Image of a pink toy dinosaur holding a name tag on a yellow background.

Image Credits: Juj Winn (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

If you’re starting a company, choosing a name can feel like a fraught choice. But actually, as long as you follow some basic guidelines, it shouldn’t lead to paralysis.

“The truth is that business names fall on a bell curve — you have a small number of outliers that actively contribute to your success and a small number of outliers that actively impair your ability to succeed,” Drew Beechler, who’s named more than 30 software startups, writes in a guest column. “The vast majority, though, fall somewhere in the middle in their impact on your business.”

Nextdoor’s SPAC investor deck paints a picture of sizable scale and sticky users

American Suburban Neighborhood Tilt-shift Aerial Photo

Image Credits: jhorrocks / Getty Images

The SPAC parade continued apace this week as Nextdoor announced it would go public via a blank-check company, with the community social network making its pitch based on scale, claiming users in one in three U.S. households.

Alex Wilhelm unpacks Nextdoor’s “clear-eyed look into [its] financial performance in both historical terms and in terms of what it might accomplish in the future,” noting that “our usual mockery of SPAC charts mostly doesn’t apply.”

Pakistan’s growing tech ecosystem is finally taking off

Image of the Karachi, Pakistan, skyline.

Image Credits: shan.shihan (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

So far this year, startups in Pakistan are on track to raise more than in the previous five years combined, according to Mikal Khoso, an early-stage investor at Wavemaker Partners.

“Even more excitingly, a large portion of this capital is coming from international investors from across Asia, the Middle East and even famed investors from Silicon Valley,” he notes in a guest post for Extra Crunch.

He’s identified three factors that are fueling investor interest: rapidly expanding mobile connectivity, an improved security situation, and critical legal and regulatory changes that are making the country more startup- and VC-friendly.

Drawing a map of Pakistan’s tech ecosystem, Khoso identifies local companies trying to grab a slice of grocery delivery, e-commerce, ride-hailing and other sectors before examining the challenges still in place.

“The segments in Pakistan that are likely to attract the best entrepreneurs and most investor capital in the years to come will be fintech, e-commerce and edtech,” says Khoso.

Investors find European unicorns reluctant to join SPAC boom

The nonstop news of startups partnering up with SPACs in the United States had Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim wondering if the blank-check boom expanded to other countries.

“Unicorns are hardly unique to the U.S. startup ecosystem,” they write. “Are we seeing similar SPAC interest in Europe?”

Anna and Alex talked to investors to see why — or why not — European startups would take the SPAC path to become a public company.

For successful AI projects, celebrate your graveyard and be prepared to fail fast

Image of an origami crane and several crumpled pieces of paper to represent success from failure.

Image Credits: Wachiwit (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

When you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in a project, it can be difficult to decide to shelve it — or worse, kill it.

But for AI projects, teams should be prepared to fail fast, Sandeep Uttamchandani, the chief data officer of Unravel Data, writes in a guest column.

“In order to fail fast, AI initiatives should be managed as a conversion funnel analogous to marketing and sales funnels,” he writes. “Projects start at the top of the five-stage funnel and can drop off at any stage, either to be temporarily put on ice or permanently suspended and added to the AI graveyard.”

Uttamchandani walks through the five stages of the funnel and offers suggestions for when to start digging a hole for your project in the graveyard.

Circle is a good example of why SPACs can be useful

Yes, we’re all a bit over-SPAC-ed at this point. It’s just been a nonstop torrent of startups linking up with blank-check companies.

But Circle, a Boston-based technology company that provides API-delivered financial services and a stablecoin, is just “the sort of business that is correct for a SPAC-led debut,” Alex Wilhelm writes in The Exchange.

“It could not go public in a traditional manner in its current state of maturity,” he writes.

“But a SPAC can get it a huge slug of cash at a price that it has locked in, allowing it to complete its growth into corporate adulthood while public. A gamble, sure, but one that will be very fun to watch.”

Can advertising scale in VR?

Image of a person wearing a VR headset and two 3D orbs in front of his hands.

Image Credits: da-kuk (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

It’s not hard to imagine how advertising could be valuable in VR: billboards on streetscapes, magazine covers on newsstands, cereal boxes in virtual kitchens.

But Facebook’s stab at experimental VR ads didn’t last very long; after an onslaught of negative feedback from players, the test was quickly scuttled.

That said, VR advertising has a ton of untapped potential — but it’s going to take a minute to reach profitable scale.

Achieving digital transformation through RPA and process mining

concept of machine learning or digital transformation, wireframe hand pointing with key finger

Image Credits: Jackie Niam (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“Robots are not coming to replace us,” Alp Uguray is quick to note in a guest column about robotic process automation. “They are coming to take over the repetitive, mundane and monotonous tasks that we’ve never been fond of.”

That’s the good news. But RPA is still in the early stages, despite rapid growth through IPOs, acquisitions and funding rounds.

“Adoption of RPA and process mining in your organization will define the operational excellence of your firm,” he writes. “If you are behind in this race, just think of how your enterprise can continue to compete with fully digital peers. Your organization won’t want to be in the back of this race.”

Demand Curve: 10 lies you’ve been told about marketing

Image of an advertiser speaking in front of a podium with a shadow of a long nose to represent lies.

Image Credits: Abscent84 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In a guest column, Nick Costelloe, the head of content for Demand Curve, notes that the content you stumble across in a Google search might not be “intentionally misleading,” it might not lead you in the right direction.

Here, he debunks 10 common myths about marketing — and offers suggestions for what to do instead.

5 fundraising imperatives for robotics startups

Image of a robot hand holding a fistful of cash to represent funding for robotics startups.

Image Credits: Paper Boat Creative (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

This guest post from three contributors from Next47, MassRobotics and Lux Capital looks at best practices for robotics startups looking to raise cash.

“There has never been a better time to pursue funding for robotics startups, but you are more likely to succeed if you build a fundraising strategy that is marked by the same sophistication and informed understanding you already bring to many other aspects of your new business,” the writers say.

Here, they lay out five strategies to ensure robotics startups get the funding they need.

#alex-wilhelm, #artificial-intelligence, #chief-data-officer, #dns, #e-commerce, #extra-crunch-roundup, #lux-capital, #massrobotics, #pakistan, #private-equity, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #wavemaker-partners

Pakistan’s growing tech ecosystem is finally taking off

Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country, has been slow to adapt to the internet economy. Unlike other emerging economies such as China, India and Indonesia, which have embraced digitization and technology, Pakistan has trailed the region in the adoption of technology and startup formation.

Despite this, investors have dreamed for years of the huge opportunities in unlocking Pakistan’s potential as a digital economy. As a country of 220 million people, almost two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30, Pakistan draws natural comparisons to Indonesia — which has rapidly emerged as one of the most vibrant technology ecosystems outside the U.S. and China.

In 2021, Pakistani startups are on track to raise more money than the previous five years combined.

After years of lagging behind, over the course of the past 18 months, Pakistan’s technology ecosystem has come to life in unprecedented fashion. In 2021, Pakistani startups are on track to raise more money than the previous five years combined. Even more excitingly, a large portion of this capital is coming from international investors from across Asia, the Middle East and even famed investors from Silicon Valley.

Image Credits: Mikal Khoso

The rapid emergence of Pakistan’s technology ecosystem on the international stage has been no accident — it’s the result of a confluence of changing facts on the ground and shifting dynamics in the startup and investing world as a result of the pandemic.

Unlocking Pakistan’s potential

The sudden emergence of Pakistan’s tech ecosystem on the international stage has been driven by three major factors: an improving security situation, quickly growing mobile connectivity, and critical legal changes and deregulation.

As a frontline state and coalition partner in the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan saw fatalities from terrorist violence soar from 295 in 2001 to a peak of over 11,000 in 2009. This climate of instability and violence scared away international business and investors from Pakistan for much of the first two decades of the 21st century.

#b2b, #column, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-indian-subcontinent, #ec-pakistan, #funding, #pakistan, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Behind Biden’s Pledge to Share 80 Million Vaccine Doses

A shipment to Pakistan was part of a new phase of the administration’s pandemic response: a round-the-clock effort to clear regulatory and logistical hurdles to share doses with countries in need.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #covax, #moderna-inc, #pakistan, #state-department, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vaccination-and-immunization

Pakistan’s Imran Khan Talks About U.S. Ties, Afghanistan

Pakistan’s prime minister on Afghanistan, India and the future of the relationship with America.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #ghani-ashraf, #khan-imran, #pakistan, #peace-process, #taliban, #terrorism, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations

Police in Pakistan Spark Outrage With Free Burger Demands

Tired of law enforcement corruption, the owners of a fast-food chain in Pakistan sought justice over social media.

#corruption-institutional, #lahore-pakistan, #pakistan, #police, #restaurants, #social-media

A Multibillion-Dollar Plan to End Polio, and Soon

A global partnership announced plans to spend more than $5 billion to eradicate poliovirus.

#afghanistan, #africa, #campaign-finance, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #nigeria, #pakistan, #poliomyelitis, #taliban, #vaccination-and-immunization, #your-feed-science

Train Crash in Pakistan Kills at Least 30

Most of the passengers on an express train were asleep when it derailed and its cars fell across the track into the path of another.

#deaths-fatalities, #pakistan, #railroad-accidents-and-safety, #traffic-accidents-and-safety

C.I.A. Scrambles for New Approach in Afghanistan

The rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops has left the agency seeking ways to maintain its intelligence-gathering, war-fighting and counterterrorism operations in the country.

#afghan-national-security-forces, #afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #al-qaeda, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #burns-william-j, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-department, #drones-pilotless-planes, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #inter-services-intelligence, #military-bases-and-installations, #pakistan, #state-department, #taliban, #terrorism, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government