The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: Pakistan cabinet resigns
The Rack: An occasional new AfPak Channel Daily Brief mini-feature with highlights from the magazine rack. Today: Nicholas Schmidle, "Putting poppies in the gas tank," The Atlantic. Send suggestions! Politicking in Pakistan Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted the resignations of the more than 50 members of Pakistan’s federal cabinet as part of ...
The Rack: An occasional new AfPak Channel Daily Brief mini-feature with highlights from the magazine rack. Today: Nicholas Schmidle, "Putting poppies in the gas tank," The Atlantic. Send suggestions!
Politicking in Pakistan
Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted the resignations of the more than 50 members of Pakistan’s federal cabinet as part of a bid to reduce the size of the cabinet in order to reduce government spending (CNN, AFP, AP, Reuters, ET, WSJ). The PPP-led government reportedly plans to reduce the size of the cabinet by more than a third, though analysts are skeptical that the revision will do much to improve the structural problems in Pakistan’s troubled economy. The new cabinet will reportedly be announced within days (BBC). Yesterday, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari appointed a close political ally, Syed Masood Kausar, to replace the governor of three years of the northwest province of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, the independent Owais Ahmad Ghani, and Kausar will assume responsibilities on Thursday (AFP, The News). Dawn reports that Zardari had received pressure from the PPP to appoint "a party man" to the position (Dawn).
The conflict over Raymond Davis, the detained American diplomat who shot and killed two Pakistani men he claimed were threatening him in Lahore last month, continues as three members of Congress told Pakistani lawmakers yesterday that U.S. aid to Pakistan — $1.5 billion in civilian aid annually and more in military — could be jeopardized if Davis is not released (AFP, AFP, CNN). The U.S. is also threatening to cancel or downgrade the status of a planned meeting between Pakistani, Afghan, and American leaders in Washington later this month (WSJ, AP, Geo). Though unclear on what exactly Davis’ job in Pakistan was, the U.S. maintains that he has diplomatic immunity.
Davis is reportedly a former U.S. Special Forces soldier who was carrying a "Glock handgun, a flashlight that attached to a headband and a pocket telescope" when he was arrested by Pakistani police, and is being held under house arrest at a police training center in Lahore (NYT). Davis, who has not been charged with any crimes yet, is due back in court on Friday. Prosecutors may also seek to file espionage charges against him because of photographs of "sensitive areas and defence installations" recovered from his digital camera, sources tell the Express Tribune (ET).
Peace deals and bombs
Sunni and Shia tribes in the northwest Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram have reportedly agreed to stop their four year conflict and drove along the main road between Kurram and Peshawar, previously too dangerous to travel, yesterday to publicize the agreement, the terms of which are unclear (AP). For more on sectarian and militant conflicts in Kurram, visit the "Battle for Pakistan" (NAF).
The Baluch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for blowing up the two main gas pipelines near Dera Murad Jamali in the Nasirabad district of Baluchistan, causing the suspension of gas supplies to nine districts of the southwestern province (Dawn).
More than a dozen vehicles, including four NATO tankers carrying fuel to Afghanistan, were destroyed yesterday after a magnet bomb exploded in northwest Pakistan near the Khyber Pass (Daily Times). NATO is exempt from the Sindhi government’s new tax on all goods and fuel going into Afghanistan (AFP). And a roadside bombing in Charsadda killed one, while low-intensity bombs caused structural damage to police buildings in the eastern city of Gujranwala (ET, AP, Geo, Dawn, CNN).
The AP has a must-read investigation into the "unpredictable and inconsistent" system of accountability and discipline at the CIA, finding that "In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officers who committed serious mistakes that left people wrongly imprisoned or even dead have received only minor admonishments or no punishment at all" (AP). For example, two officers involved with the November 2002 death of Gul Rahman, a detainee at the ‘Salt Pit’ prison in Afghanistan, were reportedly not disciplined; one later became deputy chief of tribal operations in Pakistan, and the other the head of the Near East Division.
Yesterday, Afghan president Hamid Karzai called for the release from Guantanamo of Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, the former Taliban governor of Herat and interior minister, to participate in reconciliation talks, a move of which American officials are skeptical (NYT). Karzai also said talks are in progress to discuss permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan, and the AP considers the Afghan government’s "small gains in a race to win the people’s loyalty" (Tolo, AP). The Afghan government has also accused 16 international private security firms of having too many guards, not paying taxes, and not registering weapons and vehicles, which the companies dispute as part of Karzai’s efforts to replace them with Afghan government guards eventually (Post). Bonus read: actually, Karzai is right about the PRTs (FP).
Two more stories wrap up the day’s news: the coalition continues to try and improve efforts to screen out children, drug users, and Taliban infiltrators from the Afghan security forces (WSJ); and yesterday the U.S. signed a $630 million fuel deal with a state company in Kyrgyzstan to help keep Mina Corp supplying the Manas air base (Tel).
A surgeon in Lahore reports an increase of one third over last year of hair transplants, in what the AFP describes is a sign of the "rise of the metrosexual" in Pakistan, which an advertising director attributes to "a much greater disposable income because of all the banking reforms we’ve had over the past 10, 15 years" and a "flourishing media industry" (AFP). Yousuf Ayub Khan, a businessman and politician with his voter base in Khyber-Puktunkhwa, gets a facial at a salon in Lahore every three months.