After securing 244 votes in the 342-member parliament on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif was formally elected as Pakistan’s 18th prime minister (BBC, Dawn, ET, RFEFL, VOA, WSJ). Returning to power after surviving a military coup, a seven-year exile in Saudi Arabia, and a government dismissal, Sharif told the elected body the time had come for the politics of principles, not power (Dawn, Pajhwok). He went on to say that his government’s priorities would be giving the country a solid infrastructure, bringing in economic reforms, and tackling corruption. He vowed to improve the conditions of religious minorities in the country and reached out to media organizations for their assistance in reviewing the performance of his cabinet and their reform efforts.
At least seven people died in Hangu on Tuesday as violent protests over the killing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblyman Farid Khan on Monday flared across the region (ET). The news of Khan’s death spread quickly and angered hundreds of people, some of whom resorted to arson attacks on nearby shops, gas stations, and private offices. Elsewhere in Khyber Agency, local authorities placed a one-day ban on the movement of NATO shipping containers Wednesday as re-polling occurs at 21 stations accused of vote rigging during the May 11 election (ET).
Following last week’s attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compound in Jalalabad, the international humanitarian organization said it was withdrawing part of its staff Tuesday (RFEFL, VOA, WSJ). ICRC spokesmen reaffirmed the group’s commitment to Afghanistan and stated that this was a temporary measure as they assessed the security situation (Pajhwok). While it is unclear how many staff were pulled out of the country, the ICRC said it would continue to provide orthopedic services to disabled Afghans, support a hospital in Kandahar, and facilitate contacts between detainees and their families.
During a two-day NATO meeting in Brussels this week, U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander and head of international forces in Afghanistan, said the coalition will likely wait until after this year’s fighting season to decide the how many coalition troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 (Pajhwok, Post, Reuters, WSJ). Regardless of the size of the international military force, any remaining troops will only train and assist the Afghan troops who are now taking the lead in planning and executing military operations against the Taliban. Gen. Dunford also noted the significant losses the Afghan security forces have sustained since taking over military operations but expressed confidence in their abilities to defend the country on their own (VOA).
Family members believe they have found the bodies of the last three men who went missing with 14 others in Wardak province earlier this year (NYT). The bodies were found lying facedown and covered by large, flat stones about 800 yards from a base formerly used by an American Special Forces team. Four other bodies were found nearby late last week, which raised the total number of corpses discovered near the base to 10.
Six civilians died in two separate explosions in the Sangin district of Helmand province on Wednesday, according to government officials (Pajhwok). The individuals, who had left the area due to Taliban harassment, were killed when they returned to their homes after Afghan security forces had cleared the area. Omar Zwak, the governor’s spokesman, said security forces were currently busy defusing additional explosive devices.
Please don’t go
While much of the international community breathes a sigh of relief every time Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledges not to try for a third term in office, some in Afghanistan wish he would (Pajhwok). Hundreds of Kandaharis gathered on Tuesday to show support for changing the Afghan Constitution and allowing Karzai to seek a third stint as president.
— Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall