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Author Archives: Ahsan Butt

Assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason.

Some thoughts on the horrific Peshawar attack

civilian casualties

1. In the overall context of the state’s war against the Taliban and its affiliates, this has been probably the best year since 2007. Fewer civilians are dying in Pakistan in terrorist attacks today than in the last half decade (data source: SATP). The above graph probably understates the level of drop-off, since it includes deaths from all over Pakistan, ... Read More »

Some questions about the North Waziristan operation


I do not know the answers to these questions: 1. Which groups are being targeted? 2. Which groups are not being targeted? What does it say that the likes of JuD have explicitly come out in support of the operation? 3. What are the strategic goals, if any, meant to be accomplished by this operation? Is this employment of force ... Read More »

Thinking out loud about what a “Taliban victory” in Pakistan looks like


I’m using this post mostly to think out loud about something I have been thinking about for a few months, so please bear with me if some of it is dumb. Mostly I’m trying to think through the tension between two narratives that seem reflexively acceptable: The TTP is a loose coalition of fighters with varying degrees of attachment to ... Read More »

This is not our war (Syria edition)


Well if things weren’t bad or stupid enough, they’re about to get worse and stupider. Here’s a graph of Muslim countries, ordered by the percentage of their population that is Shia (I averaged the numbers here, here, and here). What you will see is that of the countries that have non-trivial numbers of Shias (above 15%), they are either majority ... Read More »

Remembering Salman Taseer


Today marks the third death anniversary of Salman Taseer. Usually political figures, even those assassinated, are remembered on their birthdays, but Taseer is different, mainly for what his death represented: the end of hope etc. It’s interesting to go back and examine the run-up to his murder. One of the reasons I remember being particularly upset by Taseer’s killing was ... Read More »

Inequality in Europe’s top four football leagues

Football inequality

Over the weekend, Barcelona beat Levante 7-0 in a breathtaking display of attacking football. Of course, because this is Spain, a great team cannot beat a non-great team convincingly without inviting polemics on inequality, TV contracts, and Marx. Consequently the sterling quality of football was lost amidst cantankerous complaints about “Scotland with the sun” (remember all those UEFA best XIs ... Read More »

Islamist rallies and protests in Karachi

ASWJ rally at Lasbela Chowk

For the last six weeks, I was in Karachi doing research for a paper I’m writing. The project is on Friday prayers and Islamist mobilization. What I was trying to understand was why so many Islamist protests and rallies — and, when they get violent, riots — happen on Fridays. What’s so special about namaaz-e-juma? I’m going to leave the ... Read More »

Guest post: The struggle continues: Mandela and his Legacies

By: S Pakhrin - CC BY 2.0

This is a guest post by Nicholas R. Smith, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is currently completing a dissertation on crime, policing, and vigilantism in post-apartheid South Africa.  South Africa’s national image has been remarkably tied to the image of one man: Nelson Mandela. However, as Mandela’s life seems to be ... Read More »