Diaa Hadid

In the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, on the bank of the river that courses through the Swat Valley, boys play soccer in a dusty field. When the Pakistani Taliban occupied this valley a decade ago, loyalists trudged to the same riverbank with their own television sets, setting them ablaze in a fiery rejection of Western culture.

Why It's So Hard To Wipe Out Polio In Pakistan

May 26, 2018

Two young women burst through the door of a health center in a Pakistani slum. One woman sobs. The other tries to explain what just happened.

Nida, 21, and Sahar, 19, are front-line vaccinators — a small but essential role in Pakistan's enormous effort to eradicate the virus. They were going down alleys knocking door-to-door, administering polio vaccine drops to children, when a man pulled out a gun, slammed Nida over the head, snatched her bag and ran away. (Nida and Sahar asked that their last names not be used to protect their safety.)

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

Multiple bomb blasts, including two apparent suicide attacks on police stations, and earthquake tremors rocked Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, on Wednesday.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for at least one of the bombings. The blasts underscore how the government and its Western backers are struggling to secure the capital against militants who see the city and its residents as their chief targets.

The woman in the brown burqa stood at the gate of court complex as men in suits shouldered past. With one hand, she clutched her son, and in the other, a piece of paper scrawled with a name.

The district police officer gave it to her when she complained about her husband's abuse. He told her to present it at the entrance of the sprawling court administration that serves the Swat Valley. Noorshad Begum couldn't read it, being illiterate.

She handed it to a court guard.

Updated at 4:40 a.m. ET

Pakistan's Interior Minister Ashan Iqbal was shot and wounded on Sunday by a gunman reportedly linked to a hard-line Muslim group. It was the most serious act of violence since campaigning began for upcoming elections, expected this summer.

Updated at 7:50 a.m. ET

Coordinated suicide bomb attacks near the Afghan intelligence agency building in Kabul have killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens more, including several journalists.

In a separate attack in the southern city of Kandahar, 11 schoolchildren were killed and 16 hurt when a suicide bomber in a truck targeted NATO-led forces.

Pakistan's Supreme Court effectively ended the political career of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday, voting unanimously to ban him for life from holding any public office. The verdict plunges Pakistan into more political instability in the lead up to elections, expected this summer.

The ruling by the five-judge panel cited an article in Pakistan's constitution that requires members of parliament to be "honest and righteous."

Opponents of the verdict said it was a dangerous overstep by the Supreme Court to ban Sharif for life.

When he visits rural villages, fans shower him with rose petals. A YouTube user calls him a "rock star activist." It's an unlikely epithet for a 26-year-old from a remote, conservative Pakistani village who sometimes wears a traditional turban.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai returned to her homeland Pakistan today. This is her first visit since a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.

The men huddled on what remained of the marble courtyard, the parts that hadn't been ripped away by a bulldozer's claw. A cloud of smoke rose above them as they passed around hashish joints — for the spiritual high, they said. They shook their heads to the frenzied banging of the drummers. Others leaped up, twirling, contorting and chanting in praise of the Sufi saint at whose shrine they worshiped.

Pakistan says it has avoided landing on a list of global terror funders, despite efforts by the United States and Western allies.

The Financial Action Task Force, a global group against terrorism financing, was convened this week in Paris at the request of Western powers seeking to add Pakistan back on its terror-finance watch list.

The banners were hoisted near Safari Park, a meeting spot for lovers in Pakistan's sprawling megacity of Karachi. In curling Urdu script, they chastised men for celebrating Valentine's Day.

"Don't exploit your daughters by adopting European civilization," the Salafi youth group urged. "Let Islam penetrate your personality — adopt modesty."

Up the road, to Karachi University, another conservative Muslim youth group vowed there'd be no celebrating the day of love on their campus — with the apparent support of many students.

Men and women were piling in to a panel at a recent book festival in Pakistani city Karachi, but a speaker was late. "In a country which is infamous for missing persons," the moderator, Javed Jabbar, announced, "we have a missing speaker."

"Khuda na khasta," Jabbar added, "God forbid" in Urdu — "it is not due to the reason why people sometimes disappear from Pakistan."

In January, 7-year-old Zainab Amin's parents were on a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia when their relatives back in Pakistan called with the news: Their daughter didn't make it to her evening Quran lesson.

"Stay where you are," the father, Amin Ansari, recalls a relative telling him. "Your prayers are answered there."

Her mother, Nusrat, says she sat in the Prophet Mohammad's mosque in Medina, praying: "Oh God, keep Zainab safe and protected. Oh God, I have come to your door like a beggar. Oh God, please do not send me away empty-handed."

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