Taliban

♦ The FT’s Henny Sender on how hedge funds are making big bucks shorting China’s banks in what looks a lot like the Chinese equivalent of the Big Short.
♦ Hillary Clinton has entered the lucrative world of paid speechmaking – and her political rivals are already keeping tabs on the schedule.
♦ Malala Yousafzi, the Pakistan schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban, will mark her 16th birthday by delivering a speech at the UN headquarters. She will call on governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child. In her home country, however, the Taliban war against girls’ education continues unabated.
♦ Americans may be living longer, but not better.
♦ Sultan al-Qassemi, a Dubai-based analyst, argues that Al Jazeera has turned from the voice of Arab Freedom to a shill for Egypt’s Islamists.

 

♦ The BBC visits two Goodyear-owned tyre factories in Amiens, north France, to look at how the country is getting to grips with labour reform.
♦ The nuclear stand-off with Iran can be resolved now that Hassan Rohani has been elected, writes Ayatollah Seyed Salman Safavi.
♦ Thousands of mainland Chinese have permanent residency in The Gambia – as the fastest and cheapest way for a Chinese citizen to gain right of residency in Hong Kong is to first gain permanent residency in mainland Africa’s smallest country.
♦ For the first time in human history, overweight people outnumber the underfed, and obesity is widespread in wealthy and poor nations alike.
♦ The US scrambles to save Taliban talks after an Afghan backlash. Also, take a look at the Taliban’s new Doha office.
♦ With protests continuing in Brazil, it’s a good time to take a read through our São Paulo correspondent’s feature on BBQ activists. 

Election campaign posters are pictured along a busy road ahead of Pakistan's general election on April 15, 2013 (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

(FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan is preparing for its first constitutional democratic handover since partition as it heads to the parliamentary polls on May 11.

The campaign period has been marred by outbursts of violence, especially attacks by the attacks by the Taliban on candidates, rallies and offices of the country’s smaller, secular and liberal parties.

What’s at stake?

There are 342 seats available. Voters elect 272 members on a first-past-the-post basis. The 70 remaining (60 reserved for women and ten for non-Muslim minorities) are allocated to parties on the basis of their showing in the contests for the directly elected seats.

The outcome of this election may also determine which way the wind will blow for President Asif Ali Zardari when his five-year term ends in September. Zardari is widely considered an ineffectual president who has nevertheless proved oddly effective at clinging to power. And although he was forced to step down as co-chair of the Pakistan People’s party, he is definitely considered to be its standard bearer.

Who are the runners and riders for the role of prime minister?

It really boils down to three key players.

The Favourite Nawaz Sharif, leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League, is a front runner.

Former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif attends a meeting of traders during his election campaign in Islamabad on May 1, 2013 (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

(Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty)

A force in Pakistani politics for some time, he was ousted during his second stint as PM by former General Pervez Musharraf in a military coup in 1999. A victory in the forthcoming election would herald a third return to power. But is this a Shinzo Abe-style comeback – or more of a Silvio Berlusconi?

The Economist charts a favourable track record that may hint at the former:

“In Lahore alone, a bus system set up last year was opened in January; officials nearly eradicated dengue in 2012; and Mr Sharif built a motorway to Islamabad, the capital, in the 1990s. Such tangible schemes are popular.”

 

Esther Bintliff

“Today you can see that I’m alive. I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone, and today I can speak. And I’m getting better day by day.”

A lot has been written about Malala Yousafzai since she was shot in the head by the Taliban in October. On Monday, we heard the 15-year-old speak, in her first video statement since the attack.

“This is a second life, this is a new life. And I want to serve, I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated.”

The quiet determination in her voice helps explain why the Taliban see her as such a threat. As Adam B. Ellick, the New York Times journalist who made a short documentary about Malala in 2009 put it: “Don’t be fooled by her gentle demeanor and soft voice. Malala is also fantastically stubborn and feisty.”

The Channel 4 reporter Fatima Manji notes that Malala also released statements in Urdu and Pashto on Monday. “One line in Urdu particularly stands out for me,” writes Manji. “Malala says she believes so strongly in education that she would be willing to ‘sacrifi 

 

Our picks for today include some very different pieces on protests from around the world. Here they are: