- By Andrew LebovichAndrew Lebovich is a Sahel consultant and researcher with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, based in Dakar, Senegal.
Give and take
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions Thursday on seven people with alleged links to the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani Network, including a Haqqani "shadow governor" in Afghanistan, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Pakistan to bring an "end to safe havens" and other support for militants (Reuters, AFP, AFP). However, the United States has sought in recent days to decrease the tension and rhetoric against Pakistan, as one U.S. diplomat said that, "the worst is over" between the two countries (AFP, ET).
Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha said Thursday that Pakistan had never provided support to the Haqqani Network, after the close of an "All-Party Conference" in Pakistan, where delegates rejected charges of complicity with the group, and signed a resolution calling for peace in Afghanistan and talks with militants in the country’s tribal areas (Reuters, NYT, ET, AP, ET, LAT, Dawn). And Rob Crilly reports on a Pakistani man who’s made a profitable side business out of selling American, Israeli, and other flags to be burned in protests (Tel).
A suspected U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan has reportedly killed at least three militants (ET, AP). An apparent gas cylinder explosion wounded six in an Islamabad hotel Thursday night, a blast police said did not appear to be linked to terrorism (ET, AFP, The News, DT, AFP). The Tribune reports on an impending shuffle of top police posts in Pakistan in the coming days (ET). And 34 laborers were kidnapped in Khyber agency Friday in two separate incidents (Dawn).
Security concerns in Pakistan have prompted a Chinese company to pull out of a $19 billion mining deal in Sindh province, set to be the country’s largest foreign investment, as Pakistan approaches a record deficit for the 2010-2011 fiscal year (WSJ, Dawn). Investigators are looking into the deaths of six miners in Buner Tuesday (ET). In Lahore, five more people have died from dengue fever, including a parliamentarian from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) (ET). A group of female parliamentarians on Thursday called for a 10 percent quota for women in all party tickets in Pakistan’s next elections (Dawn). And spending on education has reportedly decreased in the last three years in Pakistan, along with enrollment in government schools (ET).
The coalition begs to differ
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) released its own data on security in Afghanistan Thursday, saying that violence had dropped two percent in the country this year (Post, AP, Reuters, CNN, AFP). The release came a day after a United Nations report that found "security incidents" had increased nearly 40 percent this year, a discrepancy originating in part from different definitions and standards for inclusion; the U.N. count includes arrests, assassinations, and weapons stores discovered, for instance, while ISAF’s does not. However, the coalition found that while violence had decreased markedly in Afghanistan’s south, it was up 15 percent in the country’s east compared to last year (Post). And al-Jazeera looks at the rise in complex suicide attacks in Afghanistan (AJE).
The fallout from the assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani continues, as Afghan officials announced Thursday that they will suspend three-party talks with the United States and Pakistan about a peace deal in Afghanistan (WSJ). Ernesto Londoño reports that Iran hosted a Taliban delegation this month, a sign of improving relations between the two, and an indication of Iran’s desire to shape Afghanistan’s future (Post). And the BBC talks to the parents of American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, nearly 10 years after his capture in Afghanistan (BBC).
Two stories round out the news: At least two policewomen and a civilian were killed by a roadside bomb in Herat Thursday (BBC). And U.S. President Barack Obama held talks with Uzbek President Islam Karimov Thursday about expanding supply routes to U.S. troops through Uzbekistan, as concerns grow about the viability of supply routes through Pakistan (Reuters).
Dawn reports that trade has dropped between Pakistan and India over the last three years, days after the two countries agreed in principle to more than double their commerce (Dawn). Pakistani exports to India were less than a third of Indian exports to Pakistan.
The insatiable crocodile
A new documentary, "Mor Sahib’s Wish," goes inside a Sufi shrine in Karachi where crocodiles are kept as pets, but treated like gods (ET). Devotees at the shrine feed the crocodiles sweets and meat, believing that their wishes will come true if their offering is consumed.