The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Afghan Quran burning protests spread

The Rack: Pakistan: a great deal of ruin in a nation, Economist.     Book burning leads to blood letting     Protests against the March 20 burning of a Quran in Florida continued into a fourth day in Afghanistan, after at least seven U.N. workers — a Swede, a Norwegian, a Romanian, and four ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

The Rack: Pakistan: a great deal of ruin in a nation, Economist.  

 

Book burning leads to blood letting  

 

Protests against the March 20 burning of a Quran in Florida continued into a fourth day in Afghanistan, after at least seven U.N. workers — a Swede, a Norwegian, a Romanian, and four Nepalese guards — were killed after angry protesters stormed the U.N. compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, the deadliest attack on the U.N. in Afghanistan since 2009 (Reuters, BBC, McClatchy, AP, Post, Pajhwok, NYT, AP, AFP, Reuters). Afghan and U.N. authorities believe 7 to 15 insurgents infiltrated the crowd of some 3,000 demonstrators, at least five of whom were also killed in the attack, which was condemned by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council (AFP, Reuters, Pajhwok, Times, Tel, NYT). Afghan president Hamid Karzai expressed regret for the deaths, while demanding that the U.S. and U.N. "bring to justice" the pastor responsible for the Quran burning, and the AP reports that, "Many Afghans did not know about the Quran-burning until Karzai condemned it four days after it happened" (AP, Guardian, LAT). The WSJ reconstructed the Mazar attack, writing that "ordinary Afghan demonstrators played a critical role in the attack" (WSJ). 

 

The protests spread over the weekend to Kandahar, Jalalabad, Parwan, Laghman, Kabul, Takhar, and Herat, and as many as 30 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded (Post, AP, Pajhwok, Reuters, Post, FT, Pajhwok, Tolo, LAT, Pajhwok, NYT, AFP, BBC, AJE). Several reporters were beaten and had equipment destroyed by protestors while covering demonstrations in Kandahar (Pajhwok). Two Taliban suicide bombers targeted a NATO base in Kabul on Saturday, and a third was gunned down before he detonated his explosives (AP, AFP, CNN).  Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Christine Fair and Thomas Ruttig on the Mazar attacks.  

 

A man wearing an Afghan border police uniform reportedly shot and killed two NATO soldiers in Faryab earlier today, and a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a court house in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, wounding his fellow suicide bomber and three others (AP, BBC, Pajhwok, NYT, AFP).  

 

Attack on a shrine 

 

As many as 50 worshipers were killed and 65 wounded yesterday when a pair of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan suicide bombers detonated explosives at the shrine of the Sufi saint Sakhi Sarwar in Dera Ghazi Khan, in Punjab province (DT, NYT, LAT, Geo, The News, AJE, Reuters, AP, Reuters, AFP, ET, Dawn). Pakistani police said the attack was planned in Bajaur and have arrested three people, including a 14 year old boy who struggled against police and shouted, "Let me go, I want to be a martyr, I want to send all you policemen to hell!" and the Express Tribune reports that a secret Punjab government document found that 261 of the province’s 319 shrines had no security, while the remaining 58 had unsatisfactory security (AP, ET). Earlier today, seven people were killed in a suicide bombing at a bus station in the small town of Jandool in Lower Dir (BBC, AP, ET).   

 

In Khyber, clashes between Zakhakhel tribesman and the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which reportedly captured and killed a Zakhakhel religious leader several days ago, left at least 20 dead and 50 injured (Dawn, ET). Pakistani military operations continue in Khyber, Hangu, and Darra Adam Khel (Dawn, Geo, ET). Karachi police report that at least 109 people were killed in targeted attacks in the city in the first quarter of 2011, though human rights groups say as many as 260 have died (ET).   

 

As expected, the chief of Pakistan’s intelligence service the ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, received another one year extension of his term (NYT, Hindu, AFP). The Hindu reports on a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks assessing that until the day before the deadly attacks in Mumbai, the British government considered Pakistani Army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani the only "remaining obstacle" to a deal between Pakistan and India on Kashmir in late November 2008 (Hindu). The AP reports on Lashkar-e-Taiba’s growing international agenda, and the Express Tribune writes that the family of one of the men killed by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in late January has gone into hiding and resettled in the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab (AP, ET).  

 

Project Runway: Pakistan

 

The Pakistan Fashion Design Council fashion week started on March 30 in Lahore, showcasing designs from Nikki Nina, Sublime, Muse, Beekay, and others (ET, ET, ET). The runway show ended on April 2. 

 

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