Daily brief: Afghan parliament picks speaker

The Rack: Anatol Lieven, "A mutiny grows in Punjab," The National Interest. Deepening rifts Aaron DeHaven, the American security contractor who was arrested in Peshawar late last week for having an expired visa, according to local police officials may be tried under the Foreigners Act, which carries the punishment of deportation or three months in ...

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The Rack: Anatol Lieven, "A mutiny grows in Punjab," The National Interest.

Deepening rifts

Aaron DeHaven, the American security contractor who was arrested in Peshawar late last week for having an expired visa, according to local police officials may be tried under the Foreigners Act, which carries the punishment of deportation or three months in prison (Tel, Geo, ET, The News, Guardian). DeHaven, who is due back in court on March 14, is reportedly married to a Pakistani woman and has worked on at least one construction project in the region (AP).

The Rack: Anatol Lieven, "A mutiny grows in Punjab," The National Interest.

Deepening rifts

Aaron DeHaven, the American security contractor who was arrested in Peshawar late last week for having an expired visa, according to local police officials may be tried under the Foreigners Act, which carries the punishment of deportation or three months in prison (Tel, Geo, ET, The News, Guardian). DeHaven, who is due back in court on March 14, is reportedly married to a Pakistani woman and has worked on at least one construction project in the region (AP).

Pakistan’s intelligence service the ISI has reportedly demanded a full accounting from the CIA of all of its contractors operating in the country as the Raymond Davis incident continues to cause tension (NYT, Dawn, LAT). Davis, a CIA contractor, shot and killed two Pakistanis he claimed were trying to rob him late last month, though the men may have been ISI agents who were concerned that Davis was "encroaching on their turf" (Times). The CIA and ISI have reportedly opened "direct negotiations" over the case (Time). The Punjab government is arguing that the ISI should take over Davis’s interrogation from local police (ET). And sources tell the Express Tribune that at least 30 suspected covert American operatives have suspended their activities, and 12 have left the country (ET).

The trial for Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, began on Saturday with testimony from police and medical officers, who told an anti-terrorism court that Taseer was killed instantly after being hit with 36 bullets (ET, The News, AFP). Some 250 supporters of Qadri held a rally outside the Adiyala jail where Qadri is being held in Rawalpindi.

And as gunmen continue to target NATO oil tankers in Baluchistan, the AP profiles the Pakistani drivers of the vehicles and the supply lines to the war in Afghanistan (AP, AP). Last year, Pakistani officials estimate that nearly 200 trucks were destroyed in attacks.

Flashpoint

The separatist JKLF leader Yasin Malik staged a hunger strike on Saturday in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, to protest the detention of some 4,000 separatists by Indian authorities (Hindu, AFP, Indian Express). Indian police say all but 208 have been released, which is disputed by separatists.

Old faces in new places

After a month of squabbling, Afghanistan’s parliament has elected Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi, an Uzbek former warlord from Kunduz who fought with Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin in the 1980s against the Soviet occupation, as its speaker, though analysts don’t expect him to assert much power (WSJ, McClatchy, Reuters, Tolo, Pajhwok). A Pashtun MP from southern Afghanistan commented, "To be honest, the parliamentarians were very tired. He’s a neutral person. We can live with him."

An Afghan government investigation into NATO operations in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar earlier this month found that 65 civilians, including 40 children, were believed to be killed, which NATO, still in the process of its own investigation, disputes, claiming those killed were insurgents and only 5 to 9 civilians were injured in the airstrikes (NYT, WSJ, AFP, Post). Investigations by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations, the most thorough and impartial reports, have not yet been completed. Afghan officials also claim NATO operations killed 2 civilians in Zabul over the weekend (Pajhwok).

Several attacks struck Afghanistan over the weekend: an IED in Khost killed 9 Afghans on Saturday (Post); a pair of bombings killed 8 civilians and 2 police officers at a dogfight in Kandahar’s Arghandab district (AFP, LAT, AJE, Tolo, Pajhwok); a 10 year old boy was killed in a roadside bombing in Herat (WSJ); and a suicide bomber targeted a game of buzkashi in the northwestern province of Faryab, killing 4 (AP, NYT). In less than four weeks, at least 116 Afghans have died in 7 suicide attacks, suggesting new tactics by the Taliban: "bombers who create high casualties to sow terror," and a planned campaign of targeted assassinations this spring (NYT). The Taliban is reportedly investigating claims of civilian casualties, and blaming the Haqqani network for the deadliest of the attacks (WSJ). 

A few more stories wrap up the weekend’s news: the Taliban have reportedly kidnapped a Canadian tourist in Ghazni (Reuters, BBC, AFP); Afghan president Hamid Karzai is visiting Britain this week (AFP); and many Afghan women in the United States face domestic violence (NYT).

Crossroads of the ancient world

Next month, the British Museum in London will display some 230 archaeological finds from Afghanistan and Central Asia in an exhibit called "Crossroads of the Ancient World" (Tel, Guardian). Afghanistan’s national museum lost some 70 percent of its collection during the 1980s, but some was preserved by the current director general of the Kabul Museum, Ameruddin Askarzai. For more about the exhibit, visit the British Museum.

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