The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: U.S. suspends $800 million in Pakistan aid

Aid, interrupted The Times reported this weekend that the United States would suspend, and in some cases cancel, nearly $800 million in military aid to Pakistan, approximately 40 percent of the $2 billion slated for the country’s armed forces (NYT, LAT, AJE, AP, AFP, Tel, CNN, ET, WSJ, Reuters, The News). The move, which impacts ...


Aid, interrupted

The Times reported this weekend that the United States would suspend, and in some cases cancel, nearly $800 million in military aid to Pakistan, approximately 40 percent of the $2 billion slated for the country’s armed forces (NYT, LAT, AJE, AP, AFP, Tel, CNN, ET, WSJ, Reuters, The News). The move, which impacts nearly $300 million in planned reimbursements for operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas as well as money for equipment and training that can no longer be used now that American Special Forces trainers have left the country, is a sign that Washington is taking a harder line on Pakistan as relations between the two continue to deteriorate (Reuters, NYT, BBC, ABC, Guardian).

Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the cuts would have "no significant effect" on ongoing military operations in the tribal regions, while CBS notes that the gap in aid could be filled by China, and analysts warned of consequences from the public rebuke of Pakistan (BBC, Reuters, ET, CBS, AP). Abbas also responded this weekend to reports in the Times that Pakistan’s intelligence service ordered the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad and continued to support militant groups, calling them a "direct attack" designed to "weaken the state" (Reuters, ET, AFP, The News).

Military operations in the country’s tribal areas continued this weekend, as several news outlets looked at the Pakistani army’s deradicalization program in the Swat Valley (AFP, Dawn, BBC, Reuters). Dawn reports that Afghan cell phone service is available in the tribal areas and even adjoining "settled" territories, demonstrating the limits of efforts to curtail militants’ use of phones (Dawn). And the Tribune reveals that in Punjab province, authorities have failed to file charges in 18 high-profile terrorism and sectarian violence cases since 1998 (ET).

Uneasy calm

Paramilitary forces and police this weekend took control of Karachi, as the city quieted down after nearly a week of bloodletting in which more than 100 people were killed (BBC, ET, DT, AP, LAT, Post). Authorities have reportedly arrested upwards of 150 people in relation to the violence, and security forces may expand their operations in the city in the coming days (ET, Dawn). The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), one of Karachi’s major political forces, lashed out at the government after phone service to its headquarters was cut this weekend, and also said they would protest changes that will decentralize Sindh province’s government (Dawn, ET, DT, ET, ET, ET). The MQM’s office in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood was reportedly attacked this morning (Dawn). Bonus reads: Bilal Baloch, "Breaking Karachi’s cycle of violence," and Shaheryar Mirza, "The origins of Karachi’s wars" (FP, FP).

A suicide bomber killed six people in Khyber-Puktunkhwa province at a rally for the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, while in Islamabad one person has been killed and several others injured in an accidental explosion at an arms depot (NYT, AFP/ET, BBC, Reuters, AP, AJE, Reuters, Dawn, AFP, ET). Five people were reportedly killed in northwestern Pakistan when militants fired on a car, and the driver of a NATO tanker was shot dead in Baluchistan (AFP). And three men were also shot dead this weekend in Quetta in an apparent sectarian killing, while an explosion near the city’s cantonment injured two (AFP, DT, DT, ET).

Finally this weekend, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed some of former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s assets in Pakistan, including a farmhouse in Islamabad and nearly Rs80 million in different bank accounts (ET).

So close, and yet…

U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta, in remarks made to reporters this weekend while traveling to Kabul for an unannounced visit, said that the United States was, "within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda" and that targeting 10-20 key leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa would cripple the organization (NYT, Post, LAT, CBS, BBC, AFP). Panetta added that, according to intelligence reports, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is hiding somewhere in Pakistan’s tribal areas, while a Pakistani army spokesman said the U.S. was expected to share intelligence on Zawahiri and other terrorist leaders (Dawn, Reuters, DT, ET). And the AP this weekend has a must-read story about Iran’s changing relationship with al-Qaeda’s leaders (AP).

The Post reports on the growing strain on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, while hundreds of Afghans protested against cross-border attacks in the city of Jalalabad (Post, AFP, AFP). The Times looks at growing concern over violence along the lengthy border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan (NYT). And Afghan businessmen threatened this weekend to block the Torkham border crossing if problems in a trade agreement with Pakistan are not fixed (ET).

Up to seven Afghans working for the country’s demining agency were found brutally murdered this weekend after being kidnapped by the Taliban last week, while over two dozen other kidnapped deminers were freed (Dawn, AJE, CNN, BBC, AP). A bodyguard for a member of Afghanistan’s intelligence service killed a NATO servicemember and civilian Defense Department employee in the northern province of Panjshir this weekend, though the motivations for the attack are unclear (NYT, Post, AP). In Kandahar, three policement were killed by a remotely-detonated bomb, and Graeme Smith reflects on how Kandahar has changed since he started traveling there in 2005 (AFP, Globe and Mail).

Finally this weekend, Carlotta Gall writes that top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus is optimistic about reductions in violence and the transition to Afghan control of security as he prepares to leave the country (NYT). She also reported on the impact Special Forces "night raids" are having on Taliban forces, as Afghans continue to protest the toll the attacks take on civilians (NYT). And in his remarks upon leaving Afghanistan, the outgoing day-to-day commander of U.S. and NATO forces Lt. Gen. David Rodgriguez echoed Petraeus’ statements on reduced violence in Afghanistan’s cities, but said combat will continue in the country’s rural areas (AP).

From Scotland to South Asia

Business for bagpipe manufacturers is booming in Pakistan, which is the world’s second-largest exporter of the instruments, after Scotland (AFP). The city of Sialkot in Punjab province boasts more than 20 private bagpipe bands.

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