The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Karzai breaks off peace talks
Abrupt end In a statement released Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called attempts to negotiate with the Taliban "futile" in the wake of the killing of former president and High Peace Council chair Burhanuddin Rabbani, saying that Afghanistan should instead focus on talking with Pakistan, implying Pakistani involvement with militants (Guardian, WSJ, BBC, ET, CSM, ...
In a statement released Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called attempts to negotiate with the Taliban "futile" in the wake of the killing of former president and High Peace Council chair Burhanuddin Rabbani, saying that Afghanistan should instead focus on talking with Pakistan, implying Pakistani involvement with militants (Guardian, WSJ, BBC, ET, CSM, AFP). The statement came as Afghan government officials said their investigation into Rabbani’s killing found evidence the attack was planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta and carried out by a Pakistani, while Afghan Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said Sunday there were "no doubts" that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) was involved in Rabbani’s death (BBC, Dawn, Reuters, ET, CNN, Tel). Officials said they had handed over the evidence to Pakistan’s government (Reuters).
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied the allegations Sunday, calling Mohammadi’s statement "baseless," while hundreds of Afghans protested against Pakistan in Kabul Sunday (Reuters, LAT, AP, Dawn, ET, ET). Sirajuddin Haqqani, the day-to-day head of the insurgent Haqqani Network, also denied responsibility for killing Rabbani in written statements to the BBC Pashto service, rejected charges that his group is linked to the ISI, and expressed his loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar (BBC, Tel, Dawn, AFP).
NATO said Saturday that international forces in the eastern province of Paktia had captured a Haqqani commander named Haji Mali Khan, whom they identified as the group’s top figure in Afghanistan (NYT, LAT, Tel, AP, BBC, FT). C.J. Chivers looks at how American forces are struggling to fight the Haqqanis in Afghanistan’s rugged east, while the Economist contextualizes Pakistan’s relationship with the Haqqanis, and the L.A. Times parses out the complicated web of anti-U.S. insurgent networks in Afghanistan (NYT, Economist, LAT).
In other Afghanistan news, two civilians were killed when a bomb in Kandahar exploded near Afghanistan’s minister for borders and tribes Assidullah Khan, who survived the attack (BBC, AP, AFP). Ernesto Londoño reports that nearly a year after the troubled Kabul Bank was taken over by the Afghan government, only about 10 percent of nearly $1 billion missing from the bank has been recovered (Post). The AFP’s Katherine Haddon looks at the "dire" situation in Afghanistan nearly 10 years after the U.S. invasion of the country (AFP). The Journal marks the 25th anniversary this week of the introduction of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles into the Afghan war against the Soviet Union (WSJ). And two British charities warned this weekend that Afghan women feared losing their rights in an eventual peace deal with the Taliban (BBC).
An eye for an eye
A Pakistani court on Saturday sentenced Mumtaz Qadri — the police guard who killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer in Lahore over the latter’s outspoken views on Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws — to death for his crimes (NYT, Tel, LAT, DT, Dawn, CNN, ET, Reuters, Independent). Hundreds protested against the verdict in Lahore and Karachi, while the religious party Jamaat-i-Islami issued a statement saying, "Salman Taseer had himself invited death by issuing blasphemous statements and the accused Mumtaz Qadri did not deserve death" (NYT, ET, ET). Qadri’s lawyer promised to appeal the case.
U.S. officials on Friday said there would be no U.S. "boots on the ground" in North Waziristan to tackle the Haqqani Network, while Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called Sunday for restarting a "serious dialogue" with the United States (Reuters, Dawn, AFP, The News). U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Marc Grossman arrived in South Asia on Friday for talks in Kabul and Islamabad, while Zardari marked China’s national day with a letter praising the country as an "all-weather friend" to Pakistan (Dawn, ET, LAT). In an interview this weekend, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander in Bajaur said that the TTP would not necessarily rally to support Pakistan in the event of a U.S. invasion (Dawn). And Reuters’ Michael Georgy reports on an elite unit of fighters he writes was created in 2009 by the TTP, al-Qaeda, and Haqqani Network, the Khurasan unit, who now are said to fight both militants and the Pakistani government (Reuters).
Four police recruits were killed when a roadside bomb detonated next to a van carrying more than 30 recruits Saturday in the Torghar district of Khyber-Puktunkhwa province (The News, ET, ET). Several Pakistani police officers were attacked Sunday as they tried to search for a purported Taliban commander in Karachi (ET). And Karen Brulliard has a must-read on the rise in "missing persons" in Pakistan, people believed to have been detained without trial by the country’s security services (Post).
Violent protests rocked Lahore and other cities in the province of Punjab this weekend as power cuts in the province continued to multiply (Dawn, ET, ET). The United Nations warned Saturday that supplies for flood victims in the country could run out in a matter of weeks, and that they had raised only $19 million out of an appeal for more than $350 million in flood aid (Dawn, Dawn, DT). And dengue fever continues to take its toll on Pakistan, infecting more than 12,000 people and killing at least 125 in the last two months (CNN, DT).
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Kabul played host to its first music festival in 30 years Saturday, welcoming bands from Afghanistan, as well as countries including Australia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan (Reuters). The event’s details were kept secret until nearly the start of the festival to avoid insurgent attack, but still drew more than 450 people.