Daily brief: Zardari opens Pakistan’s parliament

Speechmaking    In his yearly address at the opening of Pakistan’s parliament yesterday, which was boycotted by several opposition parties that staged a walkout as the speech began, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari offered "vague calls to combat religious extremism and violence" amid a "recitation of his government’s domestic accomplishments" (Post, NYT, Dawn, The News, ...

RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

Speechmaking 

 

In his yearly address at the opening of Pakistan's parliament yesterday, which was boycotted by several opposition parties that staged a walkout as the speech began, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari offered "vague calls to combat religious extremism and violence" amid a "recitation of his government's domestic accomplishments" (Post, NYT, Dawn, The News, ET). Zardari also paid tribute to the recently assassinated Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who had both campaigned to change Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, though Zardari's government has dropped its plans to revise the laws. Zardari, Pakistan's foreign ministry, and U.S. ambassador to Pakisan Cameron Munter all condemned the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor (ET/Reuters, NYT).  

Speechmaking 

 

In his yearly address at the opening of Pakistan’s parliament yesterday, which was boycotted by several opposition parties that staged a walkout as the speech began, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari offered "vague calls to combat religious extremism and violence" amid a "recitation of his government’s domestic accomplishments" (Post, NYT, Dawn, The News, ET). Zardari also paid tribute to the recently assassinated Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who had both campaigned to change Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, though Zardari’s government has dropped its plans to revise the laws. Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign ministry, and U.S. ambassador to Pakisan Cameron Munter all condemned the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor (ET/Reuters, NYT).  

 

On the outskirts of the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar earlier today, a donkey cart drove over a roadside bomb, killing both the driver and the donkey (Dawn, ET, AP). In a separate incident, 11 people, including nine Pakistani policemen, were injured when a remote controlled bomb detonated in Hangu near a police vehicle. In neighboring Kurram, militants reportedly affiliated with the ‘Sattar group’ from Waziristan kidnapped two dozen tribesmen in Lower Kurram and transferred them to a hideout in Central Kurram (Dawn). And political violence continues in Karachi, where at least 43 people have been killed in the last few days (Dawn, ET, Dawn, DT, The News).    

 

Welcome announcements 

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s announcement yesterday of a plan for Afghan security forces to begin assuming control of several areas of the country, along with NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen (AFP, Post). A spokesman for the Taliban called the transition plan "a symbolic act to deceive the people" that would not "help resolve the main problem, which is the occupation of Afghanistan by foreign forces," and Karzai again called on the insurgents to join peace talks and stop burning down schools (NYT, WSJ, AP). Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus again warned that military progress in Afghanistan is fragile and reversible, as the U.N. representative to Kabul, Staffan de Mistura, said the surge "is working" (AP, AFP).

 

Germany’s cabinet approved sending up to 300 additional German troops to Afghanistan to help patrol Afghan air space, "under a policy of easing the burden on NATO while refusing to participate in strikes on Libya" (Reuters, DW, Bloomberg). The deployment also requires parliamentary approval, and will be voted on later this week; Germany has some 5,000 troops in Afghanistan.  

 

The Independent reports that Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission has urged the Karzai government to investigate claims of human rights abuses by Commander Azizullah, an Afghan strongman who leads a U.S.-backed militia in Paktika province (Independent). Analyst Thomas Ruttig also urged an investigation, though asked, "how to get transparency into forces which are designed to operate covertly?" 

 

Happy Pakistan Day! 

 

Today is the 71st annual Pakistan Day, which is being celebrated with gusto across the country, beginning with a 21-gun salute in all of the provincial capitals (ET, The News). March 23 marks the day in 1940 when the All India Muslim League adopted the Lahore Resolution, which called for a separate homeland on the subcontinent for Muslims and eventually led to the creation of Pakistan. 

 

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