Daily brief: several dead in Lahore shrine blast
Under fire As many as three people were killed and dozens injured when a low-intensity remote-controlled bomb blast detonated outside the Haider Sain Darbar shrine in Lahore, as a large number of worshipers paid respects to a Sufi saint (Daily Times, ET, Dawn, Geo). Yesterday in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Pakistani province of ...
As many as three people were killed and dozens injured when a low-intensity remote-controlled bomb blast detonated outside the Haider Sain Darbar shrine in Lahore, as a large number of worshipers paid respects to a Sufi saint (Daily Times, ET, Dawn, Geo). Yesterday in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, three people were killed in separate targeted attacks, one of which was claimed by the Balochistan Nationalist Liberation Army (Dawn). In the southern port city of Karachi, Pakistani authorities have arrested three men accused of involvement in 13 politically motivated targeted killings (BBC).
Some 22,000 people have fled ongoing clashes between militants and the Pakistani military in the tribal area of Mohmand (BBC, AP, AFP). Operations there began on January 27. In Orakzai, a group of armed fighters attacked a security checkpost, sparking a "bloody shootout" in which three militants and a Pakistani security official were killed (Daily Times).
The NYT compares Pakistan to Egypt, noting that while Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "Our institutions are working and democracy is functional," and the economy is troubled but not in crisis, "diplomats, analysts and other Pakistani officials admitted to unease, and conceded that Pakistan contained many of the same ingredients for revolt found in the Middle East — and then some: an economy hollowed out by bad management and official corruption; rising Islamic religious fervor; and a poisonous resentment of the United States" (NYT).
Reform and diplomacy
The PPP-led Pakistani government is reportedly set to announce today that it will reduce the size of the federal cabinet — one of the largest in the world, with 52 ministers — to between 20 and 30, in a concession to the opposition the PML-N and as part of economic reforms (Reuters, ET). The ministries of finance, foreign affairs, information, and either defense or interior are likely to stay intact, in a bid to maintain continuity in relations with the U.S. and the IMF.
The U.S. continues to insist that the detention of Raymond Davis, the American arrested in connection with the deaths of two Pakistanis who he said were attempting to rob him last week in Lahore, is "illegal" and said he had been denied due process and proper translation assistance in a court hearing yesterday (ET). The U.S. claims Davis has diplomatic immunity, and asked that he be released, but his status remains unclear (Dawn).
Denials and detonations
The Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad has denied that Pakistani warplanes and ground forces hit targets inside Afghan territory, after this week’s reporting of cross-border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani forces in Nangarhar and Khost (Pajhwok). An official in Afghanistan’s spy agency said yesterday that insurgents have been working inside mosques to plan attacks against government targets, and two imams have been detained in Kabul in connection with plots (Tolo).
The police chief of Kandahar has survived the second bomb attack against him this week, as a car bomb detonated outside his house in Kandahar city (Pajhwok, AP). General David Petraeus, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has condemned the stoning to death of a young couple in Kunduz, but the chief cleric in the northern Afghan province asserted that he "cannot condemn the stoning… stoning is legal under Islam" (Times).
The IMF is reportedly pressuring Afghanistan’s Central Bank to sell off the troubled Kabul Bank, which almost collapsed last fall after allegations of corruption and mismanagement at high levels, but Afghan officials are concerned that the move could trigger new panic in the country’s financial system (FT). And Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh pledged increased aid to Afghanistan during Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s two day visit to India (AP, ). Karzai is headed to Munich for a security conference.
Pakistani state TV is airing a "slick new television show" called Beyond the Call of Duty: Invincible Spirits, Immortal Souls with the goal of rallying Pakistani public support for military offensives in the tribal areas (FT). The program will be on hiatus for some time this month to ensure that "audiences are not distracted by the cricket World Cup."
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