Daily brief: Pakistani court blocks release of American
Standoff continues The Lahore High Court has blocked Raymond Davis, the American citizen the U.S. asserts is a diplomat who allegedly shot and killed two Pakistanis in what he claims was self-defense, from being handed over to U.S. authorities and from leaving Pakistan (AFP, AP, Reuters, BBC, ET, Dawn). Davis, whose release a U.S. congressional ...
The Lahore High Court has blocked Raymond Davis, the American citizen the U.S. asserts is a diplomat who allegedly shot and killed two Pakistanis in what he claims was self-defense, from being handed over to U.S. authorities and from leaving Pakistan (AFP, AP, Reuters, BBC, ET, Dawn). Davis, whose release a U.S. congressional delegation brought up with Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari yesterday, is reportedly not cooperating with Pakistani authorities (CNN). Zardari said Pakistani courts should decide Davis’ case; the Lahore court demanded that the federal government determine whether he has diplomatic immunity within 15 days (The News, Dawn, Daily Times).
A court in Rawalpindi has deferred the indictment of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, because the prosecution has apparently not yet provided the defense with six police statements (AFP). The next hearing is scheduled for February 4. Bonus read: equality in the eyes of the law in Pakistan (FP).
The NYT adds to reporting about Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal, describing American intelligence assessments which assert that Pakistan is on track to overtake Britain as the world’s fifth largest nuclear power (NYT). Government officials from several countries, including India, are reportedly concerned less over the number of weapons but over increases in the production of fissile material, including plutonium.
Yesterday, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus met with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Rawalpindi to discuss "matters of professional interest" (Geo). And the Pakistani Army is reportedly withdrawing thousands of soldiers from certain areas of the Swat Valley, the site of a major offensive in 2009, and turning over security control to local law enforcement (Dawn). The districts of Shangla and Buner are pilot projects for the transition, and officials say a complete transfer could take up to two years.
Suspected militants reportedly from Lashkar-e-Taiba have been accused of shooting two teenage sisters to death in Sopore, a town 35 miles north of the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, in what Indian police are calling the first civilian killings by militants of the year (BBC, AFP, PTI, CNN, NDTV). Police said the militants suspected the girls of providing information to Indian security services, and chief minister Omar Abdullah condemned the attack.
Abductions, opium, and money
A local Taliban commander in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar has claimed responsibility for kidnapping, eight days ago in Marawara, 21 tribal elders whose relatives apparently work for NATO and the Afghan government (AFP). The recent broadcast of a video of a young couple being stoned to death in Kunduz last August for eloping against their families’ wishes has prompted "at least the appearance of action" by the Afghan government, which has made no arrests in the case in spite of abundant evidence about the attack and the killers’ identities (NYT). According to the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, a watchdog group in Kabul, 2010 was the worst year yet for Afghan civilians, with more than 2,400 killed and 3,200 injured (AFP).
Yesterday, an Afghan judge who sits on Kabul’s main counternarcotics court warned that NATO needs to put more effort into providing alternatives for Afghanistan’s opium farmers, commenting, "How many people should we capture and put in jail? Maybe nobody will be left in Afghanistan, everyone will be in jail" (AFP). Afghanistan’s opium industry is reportedly worth close to three billion dollars a year.
Afghanistan’s Central Bank strongly disputed yesterday’s reports that the Kabul Bank, the country’s largest and most politically connected, "had hundreds of millions of dollars more in losses than previously publicized," and Central Bank chairman reportedly appeared to be concerned about another possible run on the bank (NYT, Post). The Kabul Bank allegedly avoided closer scrutiny for years "by giving clandestine loans, bribes and other payoffs to senior government officials," according to Afghan, American, and former bank officials (WSJ). Some of the senior officials who are said to have received payments from the bank include top Karzai government officials who had been "touted by U.S. and European officials as potential reformers."
Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, tasked with searching for political solutions and exploring reconciliation with insurgents in the country, says it will meet again with the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin faction soon in Kabul (Tolo). And British Labour leader Ed Miliband took a surprise visit to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan and expressed his support for British troops fighting there (Times).
Nuclear sludge recalled
A candy bar imported to the U.S. from Pakistan called Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge, which sold $32,000 worth last year, has been recalled because of lead contamination (AP). A vice president for the candy distribution company noted, "Nuclear Sludge did have a fan base, but our other products have been more popular."
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