Pakistan: Hearts and Minds

In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and the Obama administration's announcement of troop increases in Afghanistan, Pakistan has emerged as a central front in the War on Terror. As new leaders in Washington and Islamabad struggle against a surge of Islamic militancy and growing political instability in the country, it is increasingly clear that their success will not be a question of military strategy alone. The larger challenge will be to win the hearts and minds of 170 million Pakistanis, whose lack of economic and educational opportunities and frustration with neglect by the country's political elite, threaten Pakistan's fragile stability.

Pakistan: The Battle for Hearts and Minds is a reporting project focused on education issues throughout the country, from rural madrassas to schools being built in slums for the urban poor. In a country where estimates show total literacy rates hovering at fifty percent (36% for women) and where Islamic schools—often charged with promoting religious extremism—offer the only education opportunity for many, education will be critical to Pakistan's future.

This project seeks to go beyond daily news reports on the latest bombings and military reprisals to cover instability and change in Pakistani society as a whole. We aim to introduce American audiences to the people behind the headlines and explore the complex issues of this pivotal nation. A key element of this reporting project is its innovative educational component. Students at Seattle's public high schools will read reports from the field and interact online with Pakistani students at partner schools to discuss the local and global education issues that impact their daily lives.

Ali Jaffri

Listen to this report.

This story also aired on KUOW on Oct. 26.

Like India, Pakistan has its share of call centers, offering everything from customer service and tech support to health insurance and home security systems. Jessica Partnow takes us through a night in the life of Ali Jaffri, a professional telemarketer in Lahore.

Poverty and Faith Fill Pakistan's Madrassas

Filmmaker Alex Stonehill explores the complex intersection of faith, poverty and education in Pakistan today.

Ghost Schools

Primary education is compulsory in Pakistan, and the country has a large public school system. But many of these schools are just marginally functional. Corruption is rampant, teachers play hooky, and some schools exist only on paper. The problems are so widespread that the term "ghost school" has become a household phrase.

Jessica Partnow reports from Karachi.

Listen to this report.

Shehzad Roy

Pakistani singer Shehzad Roy spent much of his childhood in the U.S., and was troubled by the poor quality of public education he saw when he got back to Pakistan. So he founded an advocacy group called the Zindagi Trust, designed to reform failing public schools.

This program re-aired on World Vision on Oct 2, 2010.

Listen to this report.

Round seven: Winning essays

In July 2009, the Pulitzer Center again partnered with Helium to produce round seven of the Global Issues/Citizen Voices Writing Contests. Contestents chose from writing prompts and crafted essays regarding the most pressing international issues of the day.

Top round seven winners based their essays on the following question:

With mounting violence, a surge in Taliban support and growing numbers of displaced persons making front-page news in Pakistan, are we getting an accurate picture of realities on the ground?