Alice Albinia is kind-hearted, but anger seems to simmer inside her as a sort of passive resistance to the ills she sees around her. Her heart goes out to Pakistan's poor boys with no access to formal education which makes them easy targets for Salafi jihadists.
"If you are sent to a madrassa, you are already poor," she speaks with a writer's flourish. "Maulana Sami ul-Haq never sent his children to a madrassa," she argues. Sami ul-Haq, the "father of the Taliban", is the chancellor of Pakistan's famous madrassa, Darul-uloom -Haqqania, which was attended by several top Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar.
Albinia had travelled extensively in Pakistan and Afghanistan, sometimes in a burkha, "writing about a river". The river is Indus, and the book is Empires of the Indus.