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Diaa Hadid

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."

I recently hunched over my desk lunch and typed: How to get a cat from Israel to Pakistan.

This is not a question that Google easily answers. There are no holiday packages from Israel to Pakistan — no direct flights, and no diplomatic relations.

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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In a Muslim shrine in Lahore's ancient quarter, men and women pray around the tomb of a local saint. They hurl garlands and flower petals toward the tomb, each from their own, gender-segregated side: men from the left, women from the right.

On each side, transgender women lead the believers in song.

Among the men, they sing flamenco-style laments. A teenage trans woman leads the women. They struggle to keep up with her urgent chants in praise of the Prophet Muhammad's family.

Pakistan reacted defensively on Friday to an announcement that the White House would suspend most security assistance to its military.

The suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid is meant to pressure Pakistan into taking action against militant groups.

It followed days of tensions that began with a New Year's Day tweet by President Trump accusing Pakistan of "deceit" for taking billions of dollars in aid while sheltering terrorists the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan.

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Pakistan reacted angrily to President Trump's first tweet of 2018, in which he accused the country of taking billions of dollars in U.S. aid while continuing to harbor militants.

"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years," Trump tweeted on Monday morning, "and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

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To say living as a gay person in Pakistan is difficult is an understatement. Homosexuality is illegal there, so gay and lesbian Pakistanis live secret lives. But as NPR's Diaa Hadid reports, to be a transgender woman in Pakistan is an entirely different experience.

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In Kabul, a suicide bomber has targeted a Shiite cultural center and news agency. The Afghan Interior Ministry is saying more than 40 people were killed and dozens were wounded this morning. NPR's Diaa Hadid has been following this news from Islamabad.

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Citing security concerns, Pakistani authorities ordered over 20 foreign aid groups to cease operations by February.

Aid workers said the move could upend services to the country's neediest people. The groups on the list do everything from providing contraception to women to helping farmers purchase drought-resistant seeds. In addition, the aid workers say, hundreds of local jobs could be threatened.

For one Pakistani mother, sunburn signals her desperation to find her son.

Zarjan Atta rode rickshaws and buses for four days on desert roads, deepening and reddening her brown skin, as she traveled from her village to Karachi, Pakistan's southern port mega-city.

That's where her son Nawaz, 23, was living with relatives and studying at Karachi University. Her relatives say armed men dragged him from their flat on Oct. 28. They were in civilian clothes.

They pushed the women and children into a room. They warned: If you speak, you'll be next.

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