The South Asia Channel

Four dead as protests escalate across Afghanistan

Four dead as protests escalate across Afghanistan

Rage rolls on: At least four people were killed and dozens wounded on Wednesday in Parwan Province when Afghan police opened fire on protesters decrying NATO troops’ burning of Qurans, as rallies against the incident intensified and spread across the country (CNNReuters, BBCAPWSJPostNYT). The protesters directed their anger at Western facilities, including an attempt to storm a housing complex for contractors in Kabul, prompting the U.S. embassy to implement a lockdown. A military official said Tuesday that the religious material was being disposed of because it had been used by detainees to "facilitate extremist communications" in prison (CNN). And ISAF commander Gen. John Allen announced that all coalition forces in Afghanistan must undergo training on the "proper handling of religious material" by March 3.

The U.S. and Afghan governments are reportedly considering removing the troublesome issues of night raids and detainee control from negotiations over a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries (AP). The two issues would be dealt with in separate talks to ensure they don’t get in the way of coming to an agreement over the strategic partnership, which would detail the U.S. role in Afghanistan after 2014.

The Post’s Kevin Sieff had a must-read on Tuesday about the careful procedure that NATO and the Taliban have established in Kandahar Province to return each dead Taliban fighter’s body to the Mirwais morgue for potential identification and a proper burial (Post). One man, Abdul Hakim, is trusted by both the Taliban and the coalition forces to transport bodies in the trunk of his taxicab to their families or to the correct authorities. And Reuters reported Tuesday on the moderation of former Taliban police chief Maulvi Qalamuddin, who used to oversee the police units that destroyed "Western" gadgets and beat women who were dressed immodestly, but who now says he hopes for a political solution to the decade-long conflict (Reuters).

Warrant wanted

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday said Pakistan is in the "final stages" of asking Interpol for help securing the arrest of former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf after an official investigation found that Musharraf failed to prevent the 2007 assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (APCNNAFPTelGuardian). Musharraf has vehemently denied the allegations against him (Dawn). Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday received evidence from the Attorney General in the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and will resume the hearing on February 28 (The NewsETDawn).

Having already been rebuffed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar last week, Afghan president Hamid Karzai telephoned Gilani on Tuesday to reiterate his request for Pakistan’s help bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table (ETAPDT). Gilani repeated Pakistan’s support for a peace process that is "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led." Foreign Minister Khar on Tuesday added that Pakistan will not support the U.S.-led peace talks in Qatar until Afghanistan has thrown its weight behind them (Guardian).

Karzai issued a statement Tuesday calling Pakistan crucial to the peace talks, and urging the Taliban to meet directly with the Afghan government (APAFP). Meanwhile, the head of the Kandahar peace council Ata Mohammad Ahmadi said Tuesday that Afghan officials are holding talks with mid-level Taliban leaders in Quetta, though it’s unclear whether Pakistan’s government had any role in facilitating the meetings (Reuters).

Pakistan and the United Nations issued a joint appeal Tuesday for $440 million to support the newly created "Floods 2011 Early Recovery Framework" that would aim to rebuild flood-ravaged areas in Sindh and Balochistan (The NewsDT). The London-based Committee to Protect Journalists named Pakistan the most dangerous country for journalists in 2011 for the second year running (AFP). And a landmine explosion in Khyber Agency on Wednesday killed three people (ET).  

How do I look? 

Afghan men living in some of the country’s more peaceful regions are embracing Western dress and hairstyles with enthusiasm, crowding hair salons for blonde highlights or strutting the streets in skinny jeans (AFP). And despite the opposition voiced by some of Afghanistan’s clerics, the country expects to see the return of "Afghan Model," a television show inspired by the long-running U.S. series, "America’s Next Top Model."

— Jennifer Rowland