Event watch: Please join the New America Foundation today from 12:15 pm to 1:45 pm for a presentation and discussion of the first detailed data on the link between civilian casualties and insurgent violence in Afghanistan (NAF).
Spark in a tinderbox
Unidentified gunmen killed a provincial parliamentarian from the Muttahida Qaumi Party (MQM) in Karachi yesterday, sparking a wave of furious rioting that has killed at least 40 people and torched dozens of shops and cars (AJE, Dawn, BBC, ET, Daily Times, WSJ). Although nearly 300 people have been killed in mostly political fighting in Karachi in the last few years, the MQM MP, Raza Haider, is the most senior and first sitting parliamentarian to be killed.
As violence engulfed the city MQM leaders placed the blame for Haider’s killing on the Awami National Party (ANP), a rival party representing Pashtuns who nonetheless are part of a governing coalition with the MQM (Dawn). At this time it is unclear if Haider, a Shi’a Muslim, was killed for political, sectarian, or other reasons (ET, BBC). However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik Tuesday said the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the anti-Shi’a Sipah-e-Sihaba were responsible for Haider’s killing (Reuters, Dawn).
The death toll from flooding in Pakistan has reached 1,500 people, and could affect 2.5 million according to the International Red Cross, even as forecasters predict new storms and doctors fear an outbreak of flood-related disease (Guardian, NYT, Dawn, AP, BBC, ET). Aid has begun reaching flood victims, though residents are growing more frustrated with the Pakistani government’s slow response to the disaster (CBS, Wash Post, ET, LAT, WSJ). And Islamic charities, including some with alleged ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, are stepping in to provide assistance to flood victims (NYT).
Not so cordial
The row over comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron about possible Pakistani duplicity in fighting terrorism continued Monday, as Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi summoned British high commissioner Adam Thomson to the foreign ministry to explain Cameron’s words (VOA, ToI, Guardian, BBC). Cameron refused to back down from the comments, made in the Indian city of Bangalore last week, but said that his statements referred to elements of the Pakistani state, not the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. Zardari, in France yesterday for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, will meet with Cameron Friday and will "put him straight" in the words of one Pakistani official (AFP, Guardian, AJE, NYT).
And despite earlier news that former Pakistani ruler Pervez Musharraf would return to Pakistan in September, a spokesman said yesterday that Musharraf would announce the date of his return that month instead (Dawn).
Off the list
A United Nations Security Council committee has removed 45 individuals and organizations from a blacklist of those linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda, including 10 linked to the Taliban, 14 linked to al Qaeda, and 21 organizations (BBC, CNN, Daily Times). To be taken off, the individual (some of them long-dead) or organization needed to have renounced violence and accepted the Afghan constitution, as well as gain the approval of all 15 U.N. Security Council members (AFP, Reuters). The de-listing of certain figures is seen as part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reconciliation plan.
More details emerged about a failed suicide attack in the Dand district of Kandahar province yesterday that killed six schoolchildren by mistake (LAT, Daily Times). The attack was targeting the governor of Dand, who has faced three suicide bomb attacks and eight attempted assassinations in the past, and the governor of Kandahar told reporters the suspected attacker was a "blond, light-skinned foreigner" (NYT). Insurgents also unsuccessfully attacked Kandahar airfield this morning, and bank robbers in Northern Afghanistan poisoned and then beheaded six guards before taking $269,000 in U.S. and Afghan currency (AP).
ISAF commander Gen. David Petraeus issued his first directive to his troops yesterday, emphasizing the importance of avoiding civilian casualties, and telling his forces to protect the Afghan population and "live among the people" (ISAF, VOA, Guardian). The document also encourages ISAF forces to combat corruption and poor governance and does not alter former ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s controversially stringent rules of engagement. Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that ISAF commanders are using techniques learned in Baghdad during the 2007 "surge" in Kandahar in the hopes of better separating Afghans from insurgents (Wash Post).
A senior Afghan Border Police officer, Maj. Gen. Malham Khan, went on trial yesterday on charges that he facilitated the drug trade between Afghanistan and its neighbors Iran and Turkmenistan (WSJ). Separately, Afghanistan’s major-crimes task force has asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai for permission to investigate up to three cabinet members and other senior Afghan officials on corruption charges. And an influential Afghan T.V. host has sparked a backlash against women’s shelters by running a program accusing the shelters of forcing women into prostitution and suggesting that they are un-Islamic (WSJ).
Police responded violently to continued protests across Kashmir, as seven Kashmiris were killed in clashes with security forces and witnesses noted a systematic effort to attack police and army bases as well as administrative structures (AJE, WSJ). Approximately 30 people have been killed in recent confrontations between protesters and security forces, and 22 since Friday.
The players’ revolt
Former star players took sides in Pakistan’s ongoing cricket war today, lashing out at Pakistan’s cricket board for selecting players that would make Pakistani cricket a "laughing stock" according to former Pakistani Captain Amir Sohail (The News).