- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Final decision: After weeks of what appeared to be intractable disputes, the Pakistani parliament on Thursday unanimously approved a proposal for new bilateral relations with the United States, which include demands for an immediate end to drone strikes and prohibiting the transport of lethal supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory (ET, NYT, AP, Dawn, DT, AFP, LAT, BBC, CNN, WSJ). Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani promised lawmakers that their recommendations would be implemented "in letter and spirit," while in Washington State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. officials "look forward to discussing these policy recommendations with the government of Pakistan."
As rescue workers attempt to dig a 130-foot tunnel in the snow to reach over 100 Pakistani soldiers buried in an avalanche on Siachen Glacier on Saturday, calls are growing within Pakistan to find common ground with India and to end the decades-long standoff over Kashmir (McClatchy, AFP, Dawn, ET).
As the first Pakistani trade fair in India proceeds in New Delhi, and just hours before a trade post between the two countries was to be opened at Wagah, Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma said Thursday that India has decided "in principle" to allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan (Reuters, AJE).
Gunmen in Balochistan killed three ethnic Hazaras in two separate incidents on Thursday, and provincial governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi said Friday he fears a civil war could erupt in Balochistan if targeted killings are not stopped (ET, DT, Dawn). And violence broke out in Karachi as protesters demonstrated against police raids in the Lyari neighborhood, resulting in the deaths of three people (ET).
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) sent a letter Thursday to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, pushing the Secretary to address his concern that giving Afghan forces authority over night raids in the country could increase the risk to U.S. troops and jeopardize U.S. intelligence-collection efforts (AP). An agreement on night raids between U.S. and Afghan officials broke down a key barrier to finalizing a long-term strategic partnership agreement, which the Obama administration hopes to complete before the NATO summit on Afghanistan to be held in Chicago in May.
Afghan experts say rampant corruption is one of the key drivers of unrest in the country, one example being the myriad of checkpoints protecting civilians and coalition forces, that militants could only get through by bribing corrupt policemen (ET).
Short end of the cue
Pakistan’s top snooker players are reportedly having a tough time in the lead-up to the Asian Championship to be held in Doha, Qatar at the end of this month (ET). Cueist Mohammad Asif laments, "People expect us to achieve a lot, but they don’t see the poor training camps we get before high-profile events."
— Jennifer Rowland