- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Pakistani authorities have reportedly begun making contact with some of the country’s historical adversaries in Afghanistan, including primarily non-Pashtun political leaders who have criticized Pakistan for supporting the Pashtun-dominated Taliban (AP). The new diplomatic outreach could bode well for a successful political settlement in Afghanistan.
Last week, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Amb. Marc Grossman, sparked furor in Afghanistan with an off-hand comment endorsing the Durand Line that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan (NYT). The border was drawn by the British in the late 19th century and remains a contentious issue in Afghanistan, but the disproportionate response to Amb. Grossman’s comment is a sign of deeper distrust and worry on the part of Afghans today as NATO begins withdrawing and the nation’s myriad challenges remain.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday released the contracting firm DynCorp International from its responsibility constructing an Afghan Army base in Kunduz Province, citing a recent audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that found "structural failures, improper grading and new sinkholes" at the site (Post). Also on Friday, Taliban militants pulled five Afghan civilians off of a bus in Ghazni Province and shot them dead (AP).
The father of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head and neck by Taliban militants earlier this month, arrived with the rest of his family in Birmingham on Friday, where they saw Malala for the first time since the attack (AP, Reuters, NYT, LAT). Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai called her recovery "a miracle," and vowed, "she will rise again."
Pakistani politician Imran Khan, who is a fierce critic of U.S. drone strikes, said Saturday that U.S. officials pulled him off a New-York-bound plane in Toronto for questioning (CNN, Tel, Reuters, Guardian, BBC, The News). Khan said the immigration officers questioned him about using "violence against drones," which he called "ridiculous." Khan missed his flight because of the questioning.
First for everyone
Pakistani thrill-seeker Namira Salim is set to become the first Pakistani in space when she boards a flight with the Virgin Galactic space tourism project next year (The News). Salim is no stranger to headlines; in 2007 she became the first Pakistani to go to the north pole, and in 2008 became the first Pakistani to visit the south pole.
– Jennifer Rowland