- By David StermanDavid Sterman is a program associate at New America and Assistant Editor of the South Asia Channel. He tweets at @DSterms
Sources close to Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have suggested that Kayani will continue to head the army after stepping down next month (Reuters). Sources suggest that Sharif wants to put Kayani in charge of a revamped and empowered Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. According to an intelligence source, the committee would move from being a mostly ceremonial office to being in charge of the entire military establishment, including Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kayani’s term as army chief was extended for three years in 2010, but is unlikely to be extended again in order to allow for movement in the military’s top ranks.
The Sindh provincial government moved to ban Skype and other messaging services in Karachi on Thursday as part of its targeted operations in the city (Post, ET). According to the information minister for Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital: "Terrorists are using these networks to communicate with each other in the wake of targeted operations launched in Karachi," and he requested a three month ban on messaging services. However, Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has expressed opposition to the plan and said no decision has yet been made. The proposed ban has angered Internet freedom activists, and in a press statement, the Internet freedom group Bolo Bhi called the ban "a violation of fundamental rights of citizens."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed an Anti-Terrorism Legislation meeting on Thursday and called for the closure of loopholes in Pakistan’s anti-terror laws (ET). Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed highlighted the need for faster judicial processes, protection of witnesses, and better use of evidence, though he did not provide any specific policy prescriptions.
Unidentified gunmen kidnapped Lal Wazir, a journalist for a local paper who also worked for the Fata Reasearch Centre, a think tank specializing in tribal affairs, in South Waziristan on Friday (Dawn). Local officials confirmed the kidnapping, but according to the family, as of yet, no party has claimed responsibility or made a ransom demand. According to Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan was the third deadliest country for reporters last year, only surpassed by Syria and Somalia.
The Pakistani government approved the sale of at least 26 percent of its shares in 31 state-owned entities, including Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills, on Thursday as part of a $6.7 billion bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund (ET). The Cabinet Committee on Privatisation approved the agreement three days after the IMF-set deadline expired. But some officials have expressed worries regarding the privatization. One Finance Ministry official noted that: "The future of the employees and political backlash against the privatisation will be key determinants for reaching a decision of full or partial privatization."
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former second-in-command of the Afghan Taliban, who was released from Pakistani custody on September 21, will likely meet with Taliban representatives in Saudi Arabia, according to a media report out Friday (Pajhwok). However, his former colleagues have expressed skepticism and a wariness about the meeting with Baradar, who was released as part of a plan to jumpstart reconciliation negotiations. Speaking about a proposed meeting in Peshawar, Pakistan, an Afghan Taliban leader said: "Unfortunately, none among the senior people agreed to see him due to the presence of security personnel around him."
World cup bound
Afghanistan’s cricket team qualified for the cricket World Cup on Friday after defeating Kenya by seven wickets (AP, NYT). It represents the first time Afghanistan has qualified for the World Cup and follows Afghanistan’s recent triumph in the South Asian Football Federation Championship. Earlier in the week, Mohammad Nabi, the team captain, said: "To play in a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand would be the perfect icing on the cake." Due to the current security situation, the team will be unable to play international matches in Afghanistan.