The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: 40+ dead in Karachi violence
Bullets and ballots More than 40 people have been killed in Karachi over the last few days as residents voted yesterday for the replacement for Raza Haider, an MQM lawmaker who was murdered in August (ET, Reuters, ET, Dawn, Daily Times, AP, AJE, AFP, Geo). The rival Awami National Party, which has its base among ...
Bullets and ballots
More than 40 people have been killed in Karachi over the last few days as residents voted yesterday for the replacement for Raza Haider, an MQM lawmaker who was murdered in August (ET, Reuters, ET, Dawn, Daily Times, AP, AJE, AFP, Geo). The rival Awami National Party, which has its base among ethnic Pashtuns, in a surprise announcement said it would boycott the Sunday poll because of concerns about MQM vote rigging (ET). The MQM, which represents much of Karachi’s Urdu-speaking population, won the seat, though threatened to pull out of the Zardari coalition government, which it is pressuring to better protect MQM workers (Dawn, Daily Times, Geo, Reuters). Bonus read: Karachi’s complex culture of violence (FP).
After last week’s reports in the Pakistani media that the Zardari administration was planning to oust Supreme Court judges before they could rule on corruption cases involving the president and other top officials, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said his government respects the courts and denied a clash between the institutions (Post, AFP, LAT, Daily Times, Dawn, Dawn). The Pakistani government has recently been criticized for its "jumbo-sized" cabinet, which has 61 members, several of whom are "marginally qualified or shadowed by graft allegations" (Post).
Of drones and troops
Regional media reported over the weekend that Qari Hussain, a top Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander who is said to train suicide bombers, was killed in a U.S. drone strike earlier this month, though differed on the details of when and how (PTI, ET, Geo). The TTP has denied his death and promised he will talk to the media soon (Dawn, Daily Times, ET). Hussain was reported killed last year as well (AJE). A second drone strike was reported on Friday afternoon and is said to have killed a handful of alleged militants in North Waziristan (AP, AFP). The Pakistani military continues to defend its actions in North Waziristan, where 34,000 Pakistani troops are stationed, asserting that "when, how and what is to be done in North Waziristan is based on judgment" (Dawn).
Court records show that one of the German men believed to be killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan on October 5, Naamen Meziche, who had reportedly traveled from Hamburg in early 2009 for training with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was possibly in contact with Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the alleged 9/11 plotters, several days before the September 2001 attacks (WSJ). CNN reports that Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding in relative comfort in an area of northwest Pakistan ranging from Chitral to Kurram, and Mullah Omar has moved between Quetta and Karachi several times in recent months (CNN).
Two of David Coleman Headley’s three wives are said to have informed American authorities that he was plotting an attack and was a member of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, in 2005 and 2007 (Post, NYT). Federal officials say the women’s tips "lacked specificity" (Post). Officials also acknowledged over the weekend that Headley was a DEA informant while training in Pakistan, and said they suspect a link between the Chicago businessman and militants in Pakistan whose alleged plotting has sparked recent terror concerns in Europe (Post). India is studying the disclosures (FT). And Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports that last summer, al-Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri sent Headley to meet two men in Derby who were supposed to help him with plans for a truck bomb on the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (Tel).
Flood watch: Pakistani families affected by the summer’s floods are struggling to rebuild their homes before winter; the floods destroyed nearly two million houses and impacted around 20 million people (AP). The U.S.’s flood relief mission continued through the recent tensions over the border between the U.S. in Afghanistan and Pakistan (AP). Some 2,000 to 3,000 trucks with supplies for NATO in Afghanistan are moving through Pakistan on any given day (McClatchy).
South and north
On Saturday, about 800 Afghan soldiers and American mentors began a new assault in the Panjwai area of Kandahar, and though most local residents have reportedly left, those who remain "complain that they are trapped between insurgents and the foreign forces, often suffering damages for which they remain uncompensated" (NYT, Independent, NYT). The same day in Kandahar City, a motorized rickshaw carrying explosives detonated behind a police headquarters and insurgents attacked an oil tanker in the east of the city, killing two Afghan civilians (AP, Reuters). There are at least 600 vacant positions in the local government of Kandahar (Pajhwok).
Ahead of this December’s review, Afghan and Western officials are asserting that they see concrete progress in the Afghan war, with a NATO official citing as a specific example the area of Marjah, which was the site of a coalition offensive earlier this year (Post). On Friday, a roadside bombing killed six Afghan civilians near the provincial capital of Zabul, Kalat (Reuters). Nine Afghan workers were killed earlier today in the Gereshk district of Helmand when gunmen attacked the NATO convoy they were guarding (AP, AJE). The governor of the northern province of Balkh called for "massive operations" to "prevent further spread of [the] Taliban insurgency," and an Afghan spokesman said yesterday that a military operation is about to be launched in three districts of Takhar, another province in the north (Tolo, Tolo).
Some ten percent of voting centers from last month’s Afghan parliamentary elections have had ballots thrown out, and Afghan officials may toss as many as a million votes, around 25 percent, because of concerns about fraud and corruption (AP, NYT). The Post profiles U.S. military efforts to work with local inspectors to identify graft in development work in Afghanistan (Post). And the Joint Operations Command, a system that is supposed to ensure Afghan officials are consulted on military operations, has been "ineffective," according to the Afghan government (AP).
The Afghan government has clarified that its ban on private security contractors does not include those providing security to embassies and foreign diplomats, and negotiations continue over protection for NGOs (CNN, Tel, Pajhwok). The 52 private security firms operating in Afghanistan were ordered phased out by the end of the year.
Seeds of hope
Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s agriculture ministers recently visited Iowa farms to see how they operate and what might be transferable back home (CNN). An average farm in Iowa is some 2,000 acres, while in Afghanistan and Pakistan it’s between 5 and 25 acres.