Bonus read: “John Kerry’s sense of déjà vu,” Shuja Nawaz (AfPak).
Early morning attack
At least 11 people, including several children, were killed and 26 others were injured in Karachi on Wednesday when a bomb exploded outside a crowded soccer stadium (BBC, Dawn, ET, Reuters, VOA). Razaq Dharejo, a senior police official, said the bomb was hidden in a motorcycle that was planted near the vehicle of Javed Naghori, a provincial minister from Sindh province who was attending the late-night match between local teams in the Lyari district of the city; Naghori was not wounded in the blast. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the second targeting Naghori this year.
The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday that it has added Bahawal Khan’s name to its list of specially designated global terrorists, freezing any assets he may have had in U.S. jurisdictions and prohibiting Americans from conducting any transactions with him. (AP). The notice describes Khan as the leader of the militant Commander Nazir Group, which has "run training camps, dispatched suicide bombers, provided safe haven for al-Qaida fighters, and conducted cross-border operations in Afghanistan" since 2006. The group is named after Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban commander who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in January.
At a separate State Department briefing, deputy spokeswomen Marie Harf said that while threat levels in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region have decreased, they haven’t dropped enough to stop drone attacks (Dawn). Harf’s comments came after U.S. government officials revealed the source of the terror threat in the Middle East and North Africa was a communication between Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, and Nasir ul-Wuhayshi, the head of the group’s Yemeni affiliate (Dawn, NYT). Zawahiri, who is in hiding, is thought to be living somewhere in Pakistan.
After gun battles between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the Line of Control in Kashmir killed five Indian troops and two Pakistani soldiers on Monday and Tuesday, the Directors General Military Operations (DGMOs) for both countries established a special hotline Wednesday morning to talk about the situation (AFP, AJE, Dawn). Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmed, Pakistan’s DGMO, told reporters that he had strongly rejected Indian allegations that Pakistan had violated the 2003 ceasefire that was established in the disputed territory. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry agreed with Nadeem’s statements, saying that Islamabad was committed to the Kashmir ceasefire and wanted to strengthen existing channels of communication to prevent "such ill-founded reports" in the future.
Three Pakistani police officers were killed in the Diarmar district of Gilgit-Baltistan province on Monday night when members of the Pakistani Taliban opened fire on their motorcade (Reuters). According to Pakistani officials, the officers were investigating the June massacre of foreign climbers, also by the Taliban, at a base camp on Nanga Parbat, Pakistan’s second-highest mountain. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack on the police officers.
After days of terrorist "chatter" that placed Islamabad on high alert and closed dozens of U.S. embassies, Afghanistan’s Interior ministry announced on Wednesday that additional security forces have been deployed to sensitive parts of the country as part of a special security plan for the Eid ul-Fitr festival (Pajhwok). Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is currently scheduled for Thursday, as the new Shawwal crescent moon was not seen Tuesday night (Pajhwok). Ghulam Siddiqui Siddique, an Interior spokesman, said that the police have always been on high alert to prevent any terrorist activity, but that special measures have been taken to ensure a peaceful festival. However, he did urge Afghans to prevent their children from playing with firecrackers or similar explosive toys during the celebrations.
Rooh Gul, a female lawmaker for Farah province, was injured on Wednesday when suspected militants opened fire on her vehicle as she traveled through Ghazni province (Pajhwok). Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, Ghazni’s deputy director, said Gul’s daughter and her security guard were killed in the early morning attack, while she and her husband sustained injuries. They are both currently in critical condition.
Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami militant group, addressed his supporters on Wednesday and urged them to spare non-combatants when they launch attacks against coalition forces (Pajhwok). In his Eid message, he instructed them to "avoid bombings that harm civilians. Don’t attack civil servants, teachers, judges, cleric, engineers, doctors, journalists, and other non-combatants." He also expressed his hope that coalition forces would be gone from the country in time for next year’s Eid celebrations.
The power of sports
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Monday that it will play Afghanistan in a Twenty20 — professional inter-country competition — game this year in an effort to bring cricket to the war-ravaged nation (AFP). Cricket has become the most popular game in Afghanistan but the country needs help improving its infrastructure and team standards. The game, which will be held on December 8 in the United Arab Emirates, is part of an agreement with the PCB to help with those improvements.
Update: The "Burka Avenger," an Urdu-language cartoon that features a burka-clad superhero fighting for girls’ education, is now set to go global (AFP). While Haroon Rashid, the show’s creator, designed the show for a Pakistani audience, he has been contacted by a European television distribution company that is interested in translating the show into 18 languages, including English and French, and screening it in 60 countries.
– Bailey Cahall