Event Notice: "Jihad Joe," a book discussion with J.M. Berger, TODAY, 12:15-1:45 PM (NAF).
Editor’s Note: "Manhunt," the Emmy award-winning documentary based on Peter Bergen’s book of the same name is now available for purchase on DVD at Barnes & Noble.
At least 10 people were injured on Friday in a bomb attack on a wedding party in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, less than a week after a similar attack in Ghazni province killed 18 (Pajhwok). The victims included four women and three children, who were immediately transported to a local hospital; two remain in critical condition. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Taliban has been blamed for similar incidents in the past, as they believe the music and entertainment at wedding parties are unacceptable (Dawn).
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) announced on Wednesday that it will launch a campaign against the sexual abuse and slavery of young boys in Afghanistan (RFE/RL). The practice, called bacha bazi, is widespread among powerful men in Afghanistan and is showing no signs of decline. The AIHRC’s campaign will try to raise awareness of the problem over the next six months and discuss how to address its causes and its effects. According to the AIHRC, male prostitution – one of the practice’s effects – used to be considered shameful, but is now considered a source of pride (Pajhwok). Bonus read: "Bacha Bazi: An Afghan tragedy," Chris Mondloch (AfPak).
Nearly 3,000 Afghan public representatives, tribal elders, subject matter experts, and government representatives will be attending this month’s Loya Jirga to advise the Karzai administration on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), though the dates of the assembly are still undecided (Pajhwok). According to the Afghan government, the participants will discuss the draft security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States in 50 committees over a four- to seven-day period. Some civil society groups have criticized the decision to hold the jirga, saying it is actually an attempt to delay next year’s presidential and provincial council elections – a claim government officials deny. These officials insist the jirga will be focused solely on aspects of the BSA, such as which country will have jurisdiction over U.S. troops who commit crimes in Afghanistan.
Clarifications and contradictions
After the Pakistani High Commission released a statement on Thursday saying that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had told British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that talks with the country’s Taliban insurgents had begun, officials in Islamabad released separate statements clarifying that only the "process of dialogue" had started (BBC, Dawn, ET, RFE/RL). According to the reports, Sharif told Clegg that he "hoped and prayed the dialogue works within the constitutional framework of Pakistan," and that he "could not wait and see the innocent people being killed in the streets of Pakistan." More than 50,000 Pakistani civilians, militants, and soldiers have been killed in the unrest.
Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the militant group, disputed these statements on Friday, telling Agence France Presse that there have been no direct overtures from the Pakistani government (AFP). Criticizing the government for "making announcements only by media," Shahid said that the talks would begin when the parties sat down at a table and began discussing the issues that divide them.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) came under severe criticism on Thursday after it reported to the Pakistani Senate that only 67 civilians have died in U.S. drone strikes since 2008 – making up just three percent of the reported casualties (BBC, VOA). The ministry’s statement conflicts with earlier government reports that have variously put the civilian death toll at nearly 400 since 2004, or 1,400 since 2008. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, which has been citing the 400 number, has asked the MoD for more information about their numbers (Dawn). The MoD report also contradicts an Amnesty International report that came out last week and said that there were 19 civilian deaths in 2012 alone – the MoD says there hasn’t been a civilian casualty since 2011. The conflicting reports have increased calls from human rights groups for greater transparency into the U.S. drone program, as well as how the casualties from these strikes are being counted. The New America Foundation’s "Drone Wars: Pakistan" database can be found here.
Over 1,200 women from 80 districts in Pakistan participated in a conference on Thursday that was held in connection with the Rural Women Day event at the Lok Virsa Museum in Islamabad (Dawn). According to speakers at the conference, almost 79 percent of rural women are engaged in agricultural work, but they share only 21 percent of the total income earned in Pakistan. To help correct this imbalance, participants discussed having women represented in at least 33 percent of the positions in all levels government, granting women access to micro-credit facilities, and providing financial assistance to acid crime victims. It was the sixth annual Rural Women’s Day conference to be held in Pakistan.
– Emily Schneider and Bailey Cahall