The South Asia Channel

President Asif Ali Zardari’s security chief killed in bazaar attack

President Asif Ali Zardari’s security chief killed in bazaar attack

Bonus read: "Drones and Targeted Killing: Defining a European Position," Anthony Dworkin (ECFR).

Market attack

Bilal Shaikh, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s security chief and one of his most trusted aides, was killed on Wednesday in a suicide attack in Karachi (AJE, BBC, NYT, Reuters, WSJ).  According to police investigating the incident, Shaikh – who had survived at least two previous attempts on his life – died when he stopped his armored vehicle to buy some fruit at a local bazaar and a suicide bomber blew himself up outside of the car (Dawn, ET, RFERL).  Two of Shaikh’s bodyguards were also killed in the attack and about a dozen bystanders were injured.  No one has claimed responsibility for the assault.

Enhsanullah Ehsan, also known as Sajjid Mohmand, the former spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, approached a Taliban Islamic court on Wednesday to challenge the group’s recent council decision to sack him (ET, NYT).  Ehsan rejected claims that he had made threats against the Afghan Taliban and the leaflet distributed in North Waziristan that announced his dismissal, saying the group’s leaders had failed to formally present their charges to him. 

At least three people were killed and several were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday when a bomb exploded outside of a mosque in Kohat (Dawn, ET).  Kohat police officials said the explosive device was planted in a motorcycle that was parked outside of the mosque, and was detonated as worshippers left after their noonday prayers. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Zero-option dismissed

Two days after the New York Times released a report stating that U.S. President Barack Obama is considering a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, officials in both Afghanistan and the United States have tried to dismiss the report.  Speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Aimal Faizi, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman said a "zero-option" had never been discussed with Kabul and suggested the story was a tactic "aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan and on public opinion in the country" (RFE/RL).  And in the United States, Congressmen, former military officers, and Afghan observers voiced concerns that the hint of a complete withdrawal "damages our position in Afghanistan, erodes our standing with our allies, emboldens the Taliban, and demoralizes our troops" (CSM, Pajhwok).

Syed Badshah Mangal, a negotiator with Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, died on Wednesday, succumbing to wounds he received Tuesday evening when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his vehicle in Paktia province (Pajhwok).  No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local officials say an investigation into his murder has begun. 

As the Afghan army and police continue to take control of security operations across the country, officials are starting to realize that parts of Afghanistan will likely remain in enemy hands.  General Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan National Army’s chief of staff, told the Washington Post that he "cannot cover every inch of the country.  The Afghan army isn’t big enough" (Post).  As coalition troops withdraw from the country, the number of bases in the country is decreasing dramatically – from 800 in 2012 to about 100 now and a proposed 50 by next February.  Many of these bases are not being handed over to Afghan forces, further limiting their reach in the country.  While Afghan troops have gone on the offensive and have disrupted Taliban havens, they are often unable to hold key terrain.

Regional corruption

According to the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, the world’s largest public-opinion survey on corruption, 46% of people in Afghanistan reported paying a bribe in the last year, while in Pakistan the total was 34%.  (GCB, GCB, Pajhwok, RFE/RL).  In Afghanistan, the judiciary and public officials/civil servants are seen as the most corrupt institutions in the country (63% and 43%, respectively).  While public officials/civil servants are also seen as the second most corrupt sector in Pakistan (81%), 82% of Pakistanis believe the police force in the most corrupt.  In both countries, religious bodies and the media are seen as the least corrupt. 

Sister’s Group

Tired of male-only jirgas that often decide disputes in the favor of other men, the women of Pakistan’s Swat Valley have created their own assembly in the town of Saidu Sharif (AFP).  Tabbassum Adnan, the head of the 25-member Khwaindo Tolana – "Sister’s Group", says that she first asked to join the main Swat Qaumi Aman Jirga but was rebuffed.  Khwaindo Tolana provides legal support to women and, according to Adnan, has helped 11 women get justice thus far.

– Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall