- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Violent protests broke out across Pakistan Friday as the country marked a national holiday, entitled "love of Prophet Muhammad day," created to encourage peaceful protests of the anti-Islam film that has roiled the Muslim world for over a week (NYT, AP, ET, Dawn, Reuters, Tel, BBC). Police in Peshawar shot and killed a television station employee as he drove through a crowd of demonstrators armed with sticks, who were attacking movie theaters and burning posters of female movie stars. A police officer in Lahore died of his injuries after clashing with demonstrators who were attempting to march on the U.S. Consulate building there, and police in Islamabad quickly ran out of rubber bullets as they tried to repel thousands of protesters heading for the U.S. Embassy.
The U.S. State Department has launched Urdu-language advertisements on Pakistani television channels condemning the incendiary film (Reuters, AP, AFP). Pakistan’s Foreign Office summoned acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Hoagland on Friday to demand that the U.S. government remove the film from YouTube and take action against the people who produced it (Dawn).
A two-person United Nations investigative team pressed the Pakistani government to do more on the issue of forced disappearances on Thursday, at the end of a ten-day research trip during which the team met with government officials and around 100 people who say their relatives have been illegally detained by the government, and in some cases tortured or even killed (NYT, AP, Dawn). But the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and paramilitary Frontier Corps, which have been accused of being behind many of the disappearances, refused to meet with the UN delegates.
The U.S. military on Friday completed the withdrawal of the 33,000 "surge" troops ordered by President Barack Obama in December 2009, bringing the number of American forces left in Afghanistan to 68,000 (NYT, AFP). The milestone was not marked by a statement from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan or from the Afghans themselves.
Meanwhile, the Times reported Thursday that President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai made significant progress in resolving a dispute over the rules for indefinitely holding suspected terrorists without trial, during a video call on Wednesday night (NYT). President Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said the two leaders "got very specific on the details regarding the 650-plus Afghan prisoners," who the U.S. military has refused to hand over to the Afghans for fear that they will not continue to be held without trial.
President Karzai made changes to the leadership of almost a third Afghanistan’s 34 provinces on Thursday, including the firing of five provincial governors, as part of a decree issued by Karzai two months ago to crack down on nepotism and corruption (Reuters). The changes likely replace powerful local leaders with ones more loyal to the Karzai regime.
Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool complained to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that the shelling of Afghan villages by Pakistan’s Army threatens bilateral relations between the two countries, and must be stopped (Reuters).
Display of civilizations
As a Western-made anti-Islam film sparks outrage across the Muslim world, the Louvre Museum in Paris will open a new wing dedicated entirely to Islamic art this weekend (BBC). Over a decade in the making, the exhibit was funded in part by the French government, and contains some 2,500 objects from multiple centuries and regions.
– Jennifer Rowland