Support My Pakistan and Afghanistan Reporting Project
Who am I?
I’m an award-winning journalist. I have worked as a print/broadcast journalist and news/current affairs producer for many years and have experience in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I have written for newspapers and magazines and produced for radio, television, and film. Since 2000 I’ve worked as a national current affairs producer and documentary producer for CBC Radio in Canada.
You can follow me on twitter at @naheedmustafa. To get a sense of what kinds of work I do, here are two of the many pieces I produced after similar trips in 2008, 2009, and 2010 – one print and one radio:
1) Walrus Magazine – Three Meals in Afghanistan
2) CBC Radio, The Current -- The Water Merchants (scroll down to part 2)
Pakistan and Afghanistan have existed as news stories -- almost always in the context of war and conflict -- for decades. For the last dozen years, Pakistan’s been playing the role mostly of villainous spoiler in the war in Afghanistan, subverting and double dealing at every turn. Afghanistan’s been cast as the noble warrior that needs saving from himself. The narratives have been useful in telling the story of war. But as the war winds down and, with it, media coverage, how will we understand the legacy of this war for the people in the region?
My campaign is to raise funds for a 7-week reporting project that will take me to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I’m planning to:
- write several magazine stories
- produce two lengthy radio documentary pieces
- blog regularly about the things I observe and conversations I have
My key stories will be looking at America’s drone campaign in Pakistan’s north as well as sectarian violence that has taken the lives of hundreds of Hazara Shias in Balochistan province.
In Afghanistan, I’m planning to look at the challenges Afghans face in shaping a national identity.
The Afghan and Pakistani Context
Afghanistan and Pakistan are two very different countries but they are inextricably linked. Pakistan is a nation forever “on the brink” -- a nation of almost 180 million people a breath away from tumbling over into darkness. After Afghans, Pakistanis have borne the highest cost of these most recent years of war – more than 20 000 civilians and security personnel killed in terrorist violence in the last decade. Insecurity is both endemic and pervasive. America is leaving behind the battlefields of Afghanistan but it is not leaving behind the war. The legacy of that war is playing out all over Pakistan in myriad ways.
The challenges in Afghanistan are more basic. In 2008, I had a conversation with a reporter who had spent the past couple of years chronicling the gathering pace of his country’s downward spiral. He talked of corruption and insurgency, a return to warlord impunity, and the ever-harsher reality of working in the media. The reporter wrote about little girls in the north being traded for fighting dogs. He turned out column inches about war criminals standing on stage with foreign diplomats, gripping each other’s hands and grinning into cameras. Ordinary Afghans, knowing justice would never be done, were left to soothe their own hearts. I asked him why he continued doing this work when he lacked protection and was constantly harassed. He said he spoke out because he wanted people to understand that it didn’t have to be this way: “I want Afghans to know that life can also be good. I want them to know that life can be beautiful.”
In Afghanistan, the conventional war carries on. But Afghans have much more to grapple with than military strategy. They are thinking about what kind of nation they want, who gets to play a role, and what does it mean to be an Afghan.
Why I Need Your Help
Your contribution will go toward paying the hard costs of travel and reporting.
I’ve been talking to people about launching this campaign for some time. I’ve gone back and forth on the decision, I’ve revised how much I’m asking for, and I’ve wrestled with feelings of guilt for reaching out. A few friends and colleagues have asked why I don’t do this project the way I’ve done every other project of this type – pay for my expenses by selling my work.
That’s an absolutely legitimate question given that I’m asking people to part with their hard-earned money.
Every story I’ve written, every documentary I’ve produced, I’ve paid for my costs myself, recovering them when I sell the work. I’ve never applied for a grant or asked for this type of crowd-funding.
But here’s the thing: to offset the costs for these types of overseas projects, I have to churn out an incredible volume of work. Most of what I produce on these reporting trips is simply for the purpose of paying my way. I end up with very little time to invest in the types of deeper stories that require patient, focused reporting and lots and lots of time – the kind of stories that give readers and listeners a better understanding of the reality in the region.
What I’m Asking For
I’m hoping to raise $15 000. On the face of it, that sounds like a lot of money. And it is but there’s good reason. Below I’ve broken down as best I can my costs. I’m a freelancer, I’m used to working cheap and have been known to skip meals when money gets tight but there are always unforeseen costs.
*return ticket, economy, Toronto – Islamabad – Kabul – Islamabad – Karachi - Toronto = $2400
Pakistan 4 weeks:
*room rate $35 - $50/d (depending on where I am) = $980 - $1400
*fixer-translator/driver/car $150/d * 22 days in the field = $3300
*miscellaneous costs $20/d = $560
Afghanistan 3 weeks:
*room rate = $55/d = $1155
*fixer/translator/driver/car $150/d * 16 days in the field = $2400
*miscellaneous costs = $15/d = $315
*domestic flights (Pakistan and Afghanistan) $400
*Indiegogo 4% fee (9% if I don't meet my campaign goal): $1050
I will spend the four weeks after I get back writing, editing, logging tape, and working on scripts. I will use the remaining $2020 during this time since I won’t be working on anything else.
If you can’t contribute financially, you can still help by getting the word out. Thanks for your support.