The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Pakistani judge orders American held 8 more days
Under pressure Sherry Rehman, a liberal Pakistani lawmaker, has reluctantly agreed to withdraw a bill she proposed to amend Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws; she accused Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who she said did not consult her on the decision to preclude amendments to the laws, of sabotaging reform efforts and commented, "Appeasement of ...
Sherry Rehman, a liberal Pakistani lawmaker, has reluctantly agreed to withdraw a bill she proposed to amend Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws; she accused Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who she said did not consult her on the decision to preclude amendments to the laws, of sabotaging reform efforts and commented, "Appeasement of extremism is a policy that will have its blowback" (AFP, ET, BBC, Daily Times, Geo, Independent). Human rights advocates called on Pakistani authorities to release a 17 year old boy held in Karachi over accusations of writing blasphemous comments on an exam out of frustration at not being able to answer a question (FT). Critics say the blasphemy laws have been used to target minorities or settle grudges.
A judge in Lahore decreed that Pakistani authorities can continue to hold Raymond Davis, the American who allegedly fatally shot two Pakistani men who he says were attempting to rob him last week, for another eight days to allow more time for investigations (Reuters, AP, AFP, The News). Yesterday, around 250 demonstrators protested outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore, with which Davis was affiliated, demanding that the "Blackwater agent" be hanged.
Pajhwok reports two incidents, in Khost and Nangarhar, of clashes between Pakistani and Afghan forces; in the first case, Pakistani officials said "Afghanistan-based foreign troops" attacked a Pakistani checkpost in Ghulam Khan, North Waziristan, and in the second, an Afghan border police commander said Pakistani forces used warplanes and ground forces to attack two border police checkpoints (Pajhwok, Pajhwok). Authorities in Kabul reportedly ordered Afghan forces not to respond to the incident in Nangarhar. Farther north in Pakistan’s tribal areas, 30 suspected militants and one Pakistani soldier were reported killed in separate clashes in Kurram and Orakzai (Daily Times, Dawn, AP).
Bring on the investigators
Omar Zakhilwal, the finance minister of Afghanistan who has been accused of taking payoffs from and benefiting from corruption at the troubled Kabul Bank, denied the allegations and called for the Afghan attorney general’s office to launch a full investigation (WSJ, AP). Reuters reports that Afghanistan’s Central Bank will seek to sell the Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest, within three years after cleaning up fraud and mismanagement (Reuters). Last fall, the Central Bank took control of the Kabul Bank following allegations of misconduct.
For the fourth time, Afghanistan’s parliament failed yesterday to elect a speaker, a week after the body was inaugurated (Tolo, Pajhwok). The parliamentarians vote again on Saturday. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, told McClatchy that Afghanistan won’t offer to share power with the Taliban in return for a peace deal, asserting, "If they want to join power or win power, they have to take part in the democratic processes" (McClatchy).
Afghan president Hamid Karzai is currently in India and held talks with Indian leaders, including prime minister Manmohan Singh, about Afghan reconciliation, Pakistan, the security of Indian interests in Afghanistan, reconstruction, and other topics (Pajhwok, LAT, HT, AP, RFERL). India is Afghanistan’s fifth largest international donor, having pledged $1.3 billion in reconstruction aid since 2001. Bonus reads: India’s strategic interests in Afghanistan and the future of Indian-Afghan relations (FP, FP).
A U.N.-Afghan interior ministry poll conducted in early November 2010 found that the reputation of Afghanistan’s police has deteriorated in the south of the country, with only 48 percent of respondents assessing a favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of the police, down from 67 percent in 2009 (AP). And a roadside bombing in the northern province of Kunduz killed a father and son (AFP).
Pakistan’s youngest rockers
A 10 year old, a 15 year old, and a 19 year old make up "The Others" — a name inspired by the television series Lost — Pakistan’s youngest rock band, which opens for concerts in Lahore two or three times a week (ET). The group gets inspiration from Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and Iron Maiden, among others. Their Facebook page has nearly 1,200 fans.