By Aslam Kakar

Aslam is a Teaching Assistant and Ph.D. student in Global Affairs at Rutgers University. In his free time, he reads, writes and manages this blog. His reading interests are positive psychology, philosophy, religion, war, culture, politics and current affairs.

Neglected and Oppressed: Are Pashtuns South Asia’s Kurds?

At the beginning of last year, a group of young university graduates from Pakistan’s northern areas protested the State’s policy of oppression and neglect in the Pashtun region that they represented. Led by the charismatic and heroic young tribesman Manzoor Pashteen, the protest soon turned into a great agitation in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and marked the beginning of what came to be known as the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM)—or Pashtun Defense League. PTM accused Pakistan’s army of atrocities against the local population during the dubious military operations in the Pashtun-populated northern territories. It demanded justice for the Pashtun missing persons,…

Coffee, long walks and reading Camus: The things I would do if I didn’t have to read for school

  It is 7:00 P.M. and I am in the Alexander Library at Rutgers University where I go for my Ph.D. My carrel overlooks the busy highway and the river past that to my right. I am looking out the window and thinking about what to do, as I have a million things on my mind. By the way, I came here to read and take notes for the class that I will be teaching in the spring semester, which is around the corner. I enjoy school and reading for my classes. I really do. But, sometimes it gets meaningless…

My 2018 lesson for you: “where there is a will there is a way”

You may be fed up with the oft-repeated proverb, where there is a will there is way, but to me, it rings true every minute of the day. In 2015, I graduated with a master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. I spent two years looking for a job but could not find one apart from part-time gigs here and there. For those years, I worked side jobs at a gas station and in restaurants. I washed dishes, cleaned toilets, worked as a server and delivered sandwiches on a bicycle. This may be something…

“No matter what people tell you words and ideas can change the world”

  James Allen says, “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” Ideas or sparks are the bedrock of your character. You are who you think you are. Earl Nightingale says, “We become what we think about.” Take a moment and reflect on what you think about on most days. Then reflect on whether what you think about determines in any way what you do most of the time. If you think about becoming a writer, you will write. But if you think about becoming the best basketball player, you will…

Four books I will always remember because they have changed my life profoundly

1. Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl I spotted this masterwork in a bookstore almost five years ago in San Diego. The title made me curious, so I bought the book. In the book, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl talks about his experience in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He narrates the stories of prisoners and explores the meaning of life amidst suffering and pain. Frankl developed the term “logotherapy,” a form of psychotherapy, which can also be described as “existential analysis.” I learned that we are borne to bear…

The Thinking that Feels Home Now 

  I am a strange creature who thinks ceaselessly. The buzz does not stop. I wait for the night for it to calm down, but that is when it actually stimulates. Sometimes it feels like some sort of a disorder that needs to be fixed. But, on the other hand, it has become the routine, the home that I don’t want to leave. It feels good to be at home even if it is not one’s own. The current state I am in is that to no think and not wonder is to leave the home, which is to cease…

8 Easy Ways to Build Your Identity Capital

We are often more interested in the destination than the journey to get somewhere. Many of us pay less attention to how one makes a successful career —as a blogger, writer, politician, professor, etc.—than their current position. But here is the thing: Unless you understand what it takes to succeed in your career, getting to the desired destination would be very challenging. It is important to know this because life for many of us, especially students, can be rough. Economic hardships and lack of time deprive many young men and women of their dreams. It is difficult to devote your…

Tips on How to Take Free Online Courses on Coursera

MOOCs and Coursera Massive open online courses or MOOCs is an excellent resource for education worldwide. Coursera, an online learning platform, hosts thousands of courses with certificates, specializations and even degrees. To take an online course, all you need is a computer and access to the Internet. It is especially useful for those learners who don’t have direct access to higher education, or their universities don’t offer courses in advanced and diverse fields of study. Create your profile here today if you don’t have one yet. Refugees and students in other underprivileged parts of the world can benefit greatly from…

Tips on How to Write a Research Statement for Graduate School & Scholarships

A research statement is similar in many ways to a personal statement, but this is an essay mainly about your research goals and career objectives. Universities and scholarship entities may evaluate your application for Master or Ph.D. program admissions based on your research statement among other documents. Keep in mind that if required, this is one of the most critical components of your application. You should show that you are genuinely interested in studying an issue and that you are worth their time and money. Writing an excellent research statement is indeed tricky, but there are things that can help…

10 Questions Writers Should Ask Themselves Every Day​

The following ten questions apply to all writers, but some may be more relevant to you than others. Are you challenging yourself continually to search for new ideas and write about them? Without search and curiosity, it is difficult to bring innovation and creativity to writing. If you are keen, ideas are everywhere to find. John Steinbeck said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” Are you thinking about what it takes to serve or inspire a change in the world through writing? It is essential to…