- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Rapprochement: Two senior U.S. military officials, the head of U.S. Central Command Gen. James Mattis and the U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen, will meet with Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Wednesday in the first such meeting since NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike four months ago (AP, Reuters, AFP). The military officials will discuss the investigation of the deadly airstrikes, and ways to improve cooperation at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Opposition politicians largely stymied the the first two days of the Pakistani parliament’s scheduled discussion this week on the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, by deferring debate to show their objection to the recommendations put forth by a parliamentary committee last week (ET).
The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in Seoul on Tuesday on the sidelines of the international nuclear summit taking place there, after which Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that both sides had agreed upon the need to move past the trust-building stage and toward a "result-oriented dialogue" (Dawn). Meanwhile, a leaked letter purportedly from India’s army chief Gen. VK Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reveals weaknesses in India’s army, indicating that India’s air defenses are "97 percent obsolete" and its special forces lack appropriate weaponry (AFP).
The purportedly forced conversion of a 19-year-old Hindu woman in Sindh Province, Rinkel Kumari, has heightened fears among Pakistan’s minorities that coerced conversions to Islam are becoming Islamist extremists’ new weapon of choice, with some calling it a "conspiracy" to force Hindus and Christians out of Pakistan (AP). And the Associated Press reports on Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus, who committed suicide in Rome on March 17 while her husband and attacker has avoided punishment, sparking outrage from activists against the debilitating attacks (AP).
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense briefly went into lockdown on Tuesday following the reported discovery of 10 suicide vests in and around the ministry on Monday afternoon, and authorities’ suspicion that the vests were to be used aboard buses ferrying ministry employees home from work (NYT, AP, CNN). However, the ministry released a statement on Tuesday denying the media reports of arrests and suicide vests, saying they had been based on faulty intelligence (Reuters).
A joint raid by Afghan and NATO forces in the northern province of Faryab on Monday killed Makhdum Nusrat, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Afghanistan, according to a statement released by the international coalition Tuesday (AP, Post). Nusrat was wanted by both NATO and Afghan authorities for allegedly coordinating attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration reportedly sent formal diplomatic letters to 64 countries this month, appealing for greater pledges of aid to Afghanistan following the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 (Post). To meet the Afghan budget requirement outlined by the administration, international donors must contribute $1.3 billion, three times as much as they currently give. And U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday in response to a recent New York Times poll indicating plummeting U.S. public support for the war in Afghanistan that the war must be fought based on strategy, not polls (Reuters, AP).
Human Rights Watch released a report Wednesday claiming that many Afghan women are still being jailed after running away from abusive husbands, forced marriages, and forced prostitution, often wrongly accused of committing adultery (AP, Reuters).
When ninth-graders in Lahore sat down to take their Urdu exams, they were unprepared for one of the four options presented in response to the question, "What is the system of life based on?" (ET). They could choose from: Religion, world, money, or Zardari sahib; it is still unclear whether the Pakistani President’s inclusion on the paper was a joke, but an investigation is underway.
– Jennifer Rowland