- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Clashes resumed along the contested Afghan-Pakistan border on Monday after Pakistani troops returned to repair a gate adjacent to a Pakistani border post between the Afghan province of Nangarhar and the Pakistani tribal agency of Mohmand that was the site of last week’s firefight (Reuters, AJE, VOA). Afghanistan, which has refused to recognize the 1893 British-mandated border between the two countries, says the gate is illegally located on Afghan territory.
Just a few days after last week’s border clash between Afghan and Pakistani troops, President Karzai on Saturday urged the Afghan Taliban to "turn their weapons against places where plots are made against Afghan prosperity," in a not-so-veiled reference to Pakistan (Reuters, The News, WSJ). Referring to the Afghan border guard killed in the exchange of fire last week, Karzai called on the Taliban to "stand with this young man who was martyred and defend their soil."
After a meeting with the CIA station chief in Kabul on Saturday, President Hamid Karzai said he had been assured that deliveries of cash from the U.S. intelligence agency would continue despite criticism of the arrangement from many Afghans and some Europeans and Americans (NYT). Karzai told reporters that the payments were "not unusual" among all the different sources of aid in Afghanistan, and the money provided "an easy source of petty cash" that was used to pay rent for various officials, treat wounded members of his presidential guard, and fund scholarships.
Seven U.S. soldiers and one German Special Forces officer were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday: five U.S. troops died in Kandahar when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb; two were killed in an insider attack in Farah Province; and the German soldier was killed in a small arms insurgent attack in northern Baghlan Province (NYT, Reuters, CNN, AP, LAT, RFE/RL, AP). It was the deadliest day for American forces so far this year. On Friday, President Barack Obama named James Dobbins as his special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (NYT, AFP, Post). Dobbins is a veteran diplomat who led the negotiations leading to the 2001 Bonn agreement after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In the run-up to historic general elections this Sunday, Pakistan is seeing many representatives of openly extremist and sectarian political parties contesting parliamentary seats across the country (NYT). Some 130 members of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, formerly known as the banned sectarian group Sipah e Sahaba, are running in this year’s election, and have received a boost from persistent Taliban attacks on the country’s more popular mainstream parties.
A Pakistani band known to produce songs critical of the country’s military and civilian leadership has seen their most recent release blocked on the video-sharing website Vimeo (YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan since September) (NYT). "Dhinak Dhinak" criticizes Pakistan’s generals more directly than the Beygairat Brigade’s last song, and band members believe the military ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block it.
Two explosions killed three and wounded some two-dozen others near an election office of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the Pakistani port city of Karachi late on Saturday (AP). Also on Saturday night, Pakistani troops attacked two militant hideouts in the Taliban- and Lashkar-e-Islam-held Tirah Valley, killing 16 militants ad losing two soldiers as well (AFP). And a roadside bomb targeting a military convoy in the North Waziristan tribal agency killed two Pakistani troops on Sunday.
Pakistan has asked India to return Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah (known by only one name), who was attacked by his fellow inmates at a Jammu jail days after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh died of wounds sustained in an attack by other inmates at a Lahore jail (TOI). Pakistani officials have been granted consular access to Sanaullah.
Fishermen supporters of Sindh Provincial Assembly candidate Haji Usman Ghani held an unconventional political rally outside of Karachi on Friday – on boats floating off the coast (AP). Ghani is the underdog in a race against an incumbent Pakistan People’s Party legislator, but many prospective voters in their constituency are fishermen who feel they’ve been neglected by the ruling party.
— Jennifer Rowland