The South Asia Channel

Family gunned down in pre-dawn attack; Karzai in London

Family gunned down in pre-dawn attack; Karzai in London

Pre-dawn attack

Dodha Khan, a pro-government tribal elder in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, and six members of his family were killed on Tuesday when unknown gunmen stormed his house in Quetta and opened fire (Dawn, ET).  According to Abdul Jabbar, a senior government official in the city’s Dera Bugti district, more than a dozen attackers armed with assault rifles and other weapons burst into the home early in the morning and gunned down the family; at least one family member is in critical condition at a local hospital.  No one has claimed responsibility for the attack and officials said they are investigating whether Khan was targeted because of his support for the federal government or because of a personal dispute.    

A team of officials with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be visiting Pakistan this week, Reuters reported on Monday, to see if the country is trying to meet loan conditions intended to promote reforms (Reuters).  In September, the IMF agreed to loan Pakistan $6.7 billion over three years, but the organization’s quarterly review requirement means that the cash is not guaranteed to come through.  The report noted that, since 1998, 11 out of 12 IMF programs have been cancelled or halted due to Pakistan’s failure to institute reforms.  According to one Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity: "The next six months is crunch time." 

Reuters also reported on Monday that a young Pakistani man has stabbed at least 25 women in the small town of Chichawatni in Punjab province during the month of October, causing many local female residents serious injuries (Reuters).  Dr. Asim Waqar, who has treated several of the victims, said most were attacked after sunset and were stabbed on their legs, stomachs, or backs.  Police officers in the town said that they are searching for a single attacker, though they did not release any additional details about the potential suspect. 

Humanizing drone strikes

A Pakistani family whose account of a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan was cited last week in Amnesty International’s report on the covert program arrived in Washington on Tuesday, intent on putting a human face on the number of civilian casualties (AFP).  According to Nabila Rehman, she was picking okra with her family in their garden last October when a drone strike killed her grandmother and injured seven other people; the U.S. government has never officially acknowledged the strike.  The Rehmans, who will appear at a press conference with U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) on Tuesday, are also featured in a new documentary by the Brave New Foundation called "Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars." 

The stage is set

Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in London on Monday evening, beginning his four-day visit to the United Kingdom (Pajhwok, BBC). While Karzai is there primarily to attend the World Islamic Economic Forum, he will also meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in hopes of fostering peace efforts between the two countries. Karzai is expected to bring up the issue of the Taliban’s Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, whom he believes would be valuable to future peace talks. The Pakistanis supposedly freed Baradar, a former key commander of the Islamic militant movement, last month but the Taliban allege that he is still in their custody under pressure from the United States. His whereabouts are currently unknown. 

A senior Taliban official told the Associated Press that Baradar is under house arrest in Pakistan and is not allowed to see his family until he agrees to meet with Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (AP). According to that official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Baradar met with Taliban members while he was in custody and assured them that he would not defy orders from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar that forbid direct contact with the Afghan government. 

The meeting between Karzai and Sharif comes at a sensitive time. Last month, the U.S. raided an Afghan convoy carrying a Pakistani Taliban militant, Latif Mehusd, who the Afghan government was using to cultivate an alliance with the Pakistani Taliban (NYT).  Afghan and U.S. officials are just now revealing that Mehusd was part of an Afghan government bid to aid the Pakistan Taliban militants. Afghan officials said they were hoping to later use the militant support as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Pakistan.

Stoned to death

It has now been confirmed that locals in the Ander district stoned a man to death because they believed he was responsible for the bomb that killed 18 people on their way to a wedding on Sunday in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province (Guardian, RFE/RL, AJE).

The crowd of over 100 people found the suspected bomber hiding near his home in Ander. The villagers claim that the man admitted he was responsible for the attack and told them that he had planted a second bomb nearby. The crowd dragged the man from his hiding spot, beat him with sticks and shovels, and then stoned him to death. Villagers then fired about 200 bullets into his body.

The Taliban have issued a statement "vehemently" denying any involvement (BBC).  Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the area is under the control of militiamen allied to the government, called Arbakis. "The mujahideen do not go there and targeting a wedding ceremony vehicle is not an act by the mujahideen," Mujahid said. "Rather, such acts are carried out by the arbakis themselves because of personal disputes."

 Transgendered still under attack

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered that the national identity card include a third gender category in 2009, but that has done little to improve the plight of transgendered citizens in Pakistan (RFE/RL). On October 20th, local police and residents raided a neighborhood of Peshawar where many of the minority lives, known as the Imamia Colony. Residents were forced outside and many were beaten while their homes were destroyed.

Although many transgender candidates and voters were able to participate in general elections this May when Pakistani election officials were ordered to register third-gender voters, members of the minority are still victims of extortion, sexual violence, and criminal gangs which force them to gather into unofficial settlements like the Imamia Colony (Guardian).