The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Suicide bomber kills mayor of Kandahar

Deadly blow A suicide bomber killed Kandahar mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi this morning, after setting off a bomb hidden in his turban during a meeting with tribal elders who were protesting the demolition of houses in the city’s north (NYT, Post, BBC, Tel, WSJ, AFP). The Taliban have claimed credit for the bombing, the second ...

ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

Deadly blow

A suicide bomber killed Kandahar mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi this morning, after setting off a bomb hidden in his turban during a meeting with tribal elders who were protesting the demolition of houses in the city’s north (NYT, Post, BBC, Tel, WSJ, AFP). The Taliban have claimed credit for the bombing, the second killing this month of a major Kandahar figure and one in a line of assassinations of southern Afghan leaders (CNN, Reuters, AP, FT). A spokesman for the insurgent group said the attack was in retaliation for two children allegedly killed during the house demolitions.

In a speech Tuesday marking the beginning of the security transition to Afghan forces, Afghan president Hamid Karzai said U.S. forces must meet certain conditions before a "strategic partnership" can be signed with the United States, including an end to controversial night raids, while also saying that foreign troops should not hold prisoners outside of Afghan custody (Reuters, AFP). And the Afghan government disputed a report released last week by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that concluded that Afghan government officials are inhibiting U.S. efforts to keep track of aid money given to Kabul (AP). Bonus read: Sarah Holewinski, "Karzai’s game" (FP).

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced Tuesday that they had disrupted a planned attack on the Kabul International Airport, after discovering weapons and Afghan army uniforms buried nearby (Reuters). A senior British officer, Lt. Col. Gerald Strickland, testified Tuesday at the inquest of three soldiers killed last July by an Afghan soldier, defending the practice of embedding with Afghan troops in spite of the incident (Guardian, Tel, BBC). An American soldier, Sgt. Derrick Miller, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a military court, where he stands charged with shooting and killing an Afghan after an interrogation (Reuters). Prosecutors in New York indicted four men Tuesday on charges of weapons and drug trafficking to support terrorism, including one Afghan man who allegedly worked with an informant posing as a member of the Taliban (WSJ). And CNN looks at the death last Thursday of Special Operations soldier Master Sgt. Benjamin A. Stevenson, who was killed during his 10th tour in Afghanistan, the only casualty of a joint U.S. and Afghan attack last week on a Haqqani Network base in eastern Afghanistan (CNN).

Temporary freedom

A naturalized American citizen arrested on charges that he lobbied illegally on the issue of the disputed region of Kashmir on behalf of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, was freed on bail Tuesday (CNN, Dawn, Reuters). During a hearing Tuesday, Fai’s lawyers admitted that their client had taken money from the ISI, but asserted that he had always maintained his independence from the organization and Pakistan’s government, saying that, "[Fai] had always raised the voice for the cause of Kashmiris" (ET). The Guardian reports that ongoing tensions between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies are hurting the flood relief operations of aid organizations hamstrung by visa restrictions and increased scrutiny of foreigners in the country (Guardian, ET). And Omar Warraich notes that in the year since Pakistan suffered debilitating flooding, child labor there has surged (Independent).

The nominee to be the next U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, vowed at his confirmation hearing Tuesday to push Pakistan to tackle extremists within the country’s borders while also promising to work with Pakistan to eliminate terrorist safe havens (AFP). Also Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives put forward a bill that would limit the president’s authority to provide aid to Pakistan, and require certification from the U.S. secretary of state of progress in Pakistan’s fight against militants and in the investigation into Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country (AP). The Post reports that the combined toll of drone strikes and the killing of bin Laden in May have driven al-Qaeda’s core leadership "to the brink of collapse" (Post). And Dawn reveals that in the 1970s, U.S. diplomats secretly sought to block access to materials that would help Pakistan build nuclear weapons (Dawn).

At least 12 more people have been killed in ongoing violence in Karachi, as Sindh information minister Sharjeel Inam Memon announced a "peace campaign" in the city involving the government, NGO’s, political parties, and "celebrities and national heroes" (Dawn, DT, ET, Dawn, ET). In response to the violence, Pakistan’s government will reportedly set up an "inter-provincial response force" for emergency situations (Dawn). Also in Karachi, a Joint Investigating Team (JIT) report has concluded that the paramilitary Rangers accused of killing teenager Sarfaraz Shah should be tried for murder, rather than on terrorism charges (ET). And Pakistan’s army announced the successful completion of an operation to clear militants from South Waziristan’s Janata Valley, while AFP reports that operations in Kurram agency have displaced as many as 100,000 people (ET, AFP).

Finally, police have detained a Faisalabad man who has admitted to shooting dead six of his daughters in front of his wife, because he believed two of the girls were in secret relationships with boys (ET).

Flashpoint

Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar met with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna Wednesday, telling reporters afterwards of the opening of a "new era" in relations between the two countries (Reuters, AFP, DT, WSJ, AP, ET, BBC). However, according to an Indian government source, Khar’s meeting with separatists from Indian-administered Kashmir "soured the atmosphere" before talks had even begun (AFP).

Take paanch

The current No. 1 iTunes jazz album comes not from an American or British group, but from a collection of master Pakistani musicians known as the "Sachal Orchestra" (Post). The album, "Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bossa Nova," features re-imaginings of jazz classics, including Dave Brubeck’s "Take Five." 

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