The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: drone reportedly strikes Pakistani tribal region

On the offensive in Pakistan A U.S. drone attack has reportedly killed at least eight people, four of them militants, in South Waziristan, near the village where erstwhile Pakistani Taliban chieftain Baitullah Mehsud was killed in early August (Geo TV and BBC). Two intelligence officials told the AP that the strike targeted a suspected militant ...

On the offensive in Pakistan

A U.S. drone attack has reportedly killed at least eight people, four of them militants, in South Waziristan, near the village where erstwhile Pakistani Taliban chieftain Baitullah Mehsud was killed in early August (Geo TV and BBC).

Two intelligence officials told the AP that the strike targeted a suspected militant hideout in the stronghold of Taliban commander Wali ur-Rehman, but it's unclear if it targeted any specific leader (AP). It is the 33rd drone strike this year, compared to 34 in all of 2008.

On the offensive in Pakistan

A U.S. drone attack has reportedly killed at least eight people, four of them militants, in South Waziristan, near the village where erstwhile Pakistani Taliban chieftain Baitullah Mehsud was killed in early August (Geo TV and BBC).

Two intelligence officials told the AP that the strike targeted a suspected militant hideout in the stronghold of Taliban commander Wali ur-Rehman, but it’s unclear if it targeted any specific leader (AP). It is the 33rd drone strike this year, compared to 34 in all of 2008.

The drone attack comes a day after the Pakistani army began pounding South Waziristan with jets and helicopter gunships in an assault on the insurgent stronghold that may be designed to exploit internal Pakistani Taliban rifts in the wake of Baitullah’s death (AFP and Reuters). The group, now under the leadership of commander Hakimullah Mehsud, has vowed revenge for its leader’s death (AFP/Dawn).

Show me the money

Pakistan’s finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, told the Financial Times that half of the U.S.’s planned assistance to Pakistan is likely to be spent wastefully on administrative costs, and urged the U.S. to channel the funding through Pakistani agencies in lieu of their U.S. counterparts (FT). Tarin emphasized that Pakistan would resist any attempts to condition aid on anything related to its nuclear program or relationship with India (BBC).

Afghanistan aflame

A day after one of Afghanistan’s deadliest bombings in years, a rocket attack hit the city center of Kandahar close to a branch of the Kabul Bank at around 10:30pm last night (Al Jazeera). Tuesday night’s car bombings may have thrown Kandaharis into deeper despair about the prospects for peace in their notoriously agitated province (New York Times).

And early this morning, NATO and Afghan forces attacked a hospital in the restive eastern province of Paktika where a suspected Taliban commander was being treated for injuries sustained in election day fighting (BBC and AFP). The gun battle between militants and coalition forces lasted about six hours, and and an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) statement said no civilians were killed.

These incidents are part of a broader pattern: Taliban militants have begun exacting revenge against voters in last Thursday’s presidential election, launching nearly a dozen attacks since then, stealing ballot boxes, executing government officials, and as promised, chopping off the inkstained fingers of voters (Wall Street Journal).

As the results come trickling in

As results of last week’s Afghan presidential election continue to trickle in, incumbent president Hamid Karzai’s lead has grown (Pajhwok). With 17 percent of the vote counted, Karzai has 42 percent, while his main competition Abdullah Abdullah has 33 percent. The two longshot candidates, Ramazan Bashardost and Ashraf Ghani, are holding steady at 11 percent and three percent, respectively. The sample is too small and unrepresentative to make projections, however, and election officials have announced they will not release any more figures until at least Saturday (Reuters).

Karzai is still short of the 50 percent he needs to avoid a second round against Abdullah, though final certified results won’t be available until at least mid-September (AP). Few votes from Helmand and Kandahar, two southern provinces where the Pashtun Karzai is likely to perform well, have been counted, and complaints of corruption and fraud are adding to the uncertainty around election results.

Along similar lines, Karzai has enveloped himself in a cadre of warlords like his former defense minister Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, who is suspected of ties to Afghanistan’s lucrative poppy trade (New York Times). Karzai has apparently calculated that the warlord’s support in his election campaign outweighs the U.S.’s warnings that selecting Qasim Fahim as a running mate would hurt his standing with the west.

Traffic jams: universally annoying

Drivers in Rawalpindi, Pakistan are complaining that the traffic in the evenings before Muslims break their fasts during the month of Ramadan is chaotic and poorly managed by the more than one thousand traffic cops patrolling the roads (Daily Times). One resident observed that the few traffic wardens who don’t "disappear" from their posts seem to focus more on writing up motorists for minor infractions than actually keeping cars moving along the road.

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