- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Day in court
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was formally charged with contempt of court by the country’s Supreme Court on Monday, to which Gilani pleaded not guilty as his allies voiced their support and opposition politicians called for his removal (AP, Tel, LAT,Post, Reuters, ET, Reuters, ET/AFP, Dawn, NYT). Gilani said in an interview aired Saturday that the corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari that the Supreme Court wishes to reinstate are politically motivated, while others in Pakistan welcome the court’s willingness to take action where the government will not (Reuters, LAT). Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) is also facing trial over 11 detainees held without charge since 2010, four of whom died in custody (CNN, ET).
The five-member leadership council that purports represents Pakistan’s largest militant groups released a pamphlet on Saturday calling on all militants to refrain from launching attacks on the Pakistani Army in the insurgents’ stronghold of North Waziristan (AP). And Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed in a statement posted on the group’s website the death of former Taliban Defense Minister Obaidullah Akhund in a Pakistani jail in 2010.
In Balochistan on Friday, around two dozen Afghan soldiers reportedly crossed the border, kidnapped two Pakistanis at the home of a tribal chieftain suspected of harboring Taliban, and killed them (ET, Dawn, DT). Two children were killed when a motorcycle bomb targeting a police van was detonated in Balochistan on Monday (ET,Dawn). A senior Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander told Reuters on Saturday that a German and an Italian aid worker were being held by the militant group and are in good health (ET).
Do as I say, not as I do
Zakaria al-Sadah, the brother of Osama bin Laden’s youngest widow, Amal al-Sadah, told the Sunday Times in an interview this weekend that bin Laden told his children, "you have to study, live in peace, and don’t do what I am doing or what I have done" (Sunday Times, Tel, ET). Al-Sadah is currently in Pakistan seeking to secure the release of his sister — a Yemeni citizen — and her five children. And a U.S. court on Friday heard the appeal of Pakistani doctor Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence for shooting at U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but whose lawyer says she was too mentally ill to have stood trial (AP, ET). Pakistani police dispersed a pro-Siddiqui rally in Karachi on Friday, firing tear gas into the crowd and shots into the air (Dawn).
Pakistan’s most prominent hardline religious parties held a massive rally in Karachi on Sunday, railing against the likely reopening of NATO supply routes, and calling for all foreigners to leave the country (ET, ET, DT, The News). And the Pakistani Army on Saturday said it had begun court martial proceedings against five soldiers accused of having links to the banned extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (AP, ET, DT, Dawn).
For the first time during the 10-year war in Afghanistan, more private military contractors working for American companies than U.S. soldiers died in 2011, as more and more military jobs are outsourced to private companies (NYT). And the number of contractor deaths, estimated by the Times at around 430, could be much higher in reality because private security firms are not required to publicly disclose the deaths of their employees. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed Monday that its troops had mistakenly killed a group of children in an air strike last week, but said it was due to incorrect information received from an informant on the ground (Reuters, NYT). And the Post’s Anup Kaphle this weekend examined the difficulties facing ISAF troops attempting to train the Afghan Local Police force, as recruits complain about the low pay, insufficient weaponry, and argue amongst themselves (Post).
Gunmen assassinated Mohmmad Nasir, the head of the appeals court for Kunar Province on Saturday night when they entered the house of Nasir’s sister-in-law and opened fire, killing Nasir’s eight-year-old niece, too (AP, LAT). And five Afghan policemen were killed on Friday by a roadside bomb in the southern province of Uruzgan (AP). A Taliban video released on Saturday shows a man claiming to be Mohammad Roozi, an Afghan soldier who opened fire on Australian troops at a military base last year, announcing that he and his fellow Afghan soldiers often used to discuss killing foreigners (AFP). And two 12-year-old boys wearing suicide vests were detained in Kandahar over the weekend, telling reporters at a press conference that teachers at their school in Quetta, Pakistan had told them "You won’t be hurt’ just go and carry out a suicide attack" (NYT, AFP).
Media coverage of the harsh winter temperatures causing the deaths of Afghan children in Kabul’s refugee camps has spurred a flood of aid including blankets, charcoal and milk, but the lack of coordination between the many different aid organizations has caused repeated deliveries of the same supplies (NYT). As NATO troops prepare to draw down, many Afghans worry about the prospect of a financial crisis in the country when Afghanistan’s wealthiest shift their money out of the country because of heightened security concerns (Reuters).
Taliban are cricket fans, too
Afghanistan’s first international cricket match against a powerful Pakistani team on Friday resulted in a loss by seven wickets, but officials say it did wonders for the country’s unity and morale (ESPN). Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, told ESPN Cricinfo, "Nothing has ever brought us together like this…Even the opposition Taliban have sent a message of support. Their spokesman said we are praying for the success of the team."