Daily brief: Regional talks on Afghanistan end with “declaration”
Talks about talks Afghanistan and 12 regional countries concluded an agreement Wednesday in Istanbul to cooperate on a number of security, development and anti-drug issues, with details of the agreements to be announced next year at a meeting in Kabul (NYT, Post, Reuters, Dawn, ET, WSJ). In addition to the "confidence-building measures" included in the ...
Talks about talks
Talks about talks
Afghanistan and 12 regional countries concluded an agreement Wednesday in Istanbul to cooperate on a number of security, development and anti-drug issues, with details of the agreements to be announced next year at a meeting in Kabul (NYT, Post, Reuters, Dawn, ET, WSJ). In addition to the "confidence-building measures" included in the so-called Istanbul Declaration, the signatories expressed their support for a reconciliation process in Afghanistan, and pledged not to interfere in each other’s affairs (Globe and Mail). And in a separate meeting Wednesday, Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged to put biometric tools on their border in order to stem the illegal flow of people back and forth (ET).
A gun and suicide car bomb attack struck the compound of a NATO contractor in the western city of Herat Thursday, killing two Afghan guards and sparking a gun fight that lasted several hours (AP, BBC, Dawn, Reuters). The Journal reports that the United States is considering accelerating its timetable for transitioning control of security in Afghanistan, with the Obama administration possibly shifting American forces to an advisory role in Afghanistan as early as next year (WSJ). And in an interview with Reuters in the Pakistani border town of Chaman, a mid-level Taliban commander who held two French journalists hostage, Qari Mahmud Mujahid, called proposed peace deals with the Taliban an effort to, "divide our various fighting groups" (Reuters).
Finally, the trial of U.S. Army Sgt. Calvin Gibbs for allegedly murdering three Afghan civilians continued Wednesday, with one soldier testifying that Gibbs killed one Afghan "with a smile on his face" (Reuters).
What’s in a deal?
Though Pakistan’s federal cabinet voted unanimously Wednesday to grant "Most Favored Nation" trade status to India, officials and members of the business community on both sides of the Line of Control are still debating what the new trade stance will mean in practice (Post, Dawn, ET, WSJ, BBC). While the measure will lower tariffs and reduce trade barriers, other issues — such as stiff visa regulations and a lack of trade routes — may mitigate the impact of the new designation (Post).
The cabinet on Wednesday also voted to give the government of Balochistan control of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the province, while two Frontier Corps personnel were killed in the Baloch area of Turbat (Dawn, ET). Meanwhile, in Islamabad, a Frontier Corps detachment is providing protection to industrialist Malik Riaz Hussain, while he faces charges of land fraud (Dawn). Police in Balochistan recovered seven bodies on Wednesday and Thursday (ET). Authorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa defused four bombs in the province on Thursday (Dawn). And a suspected U.S. drone strike on a compound just outside of Miranshah in North Waziristan has reportedly killed at least three militants (AFP, AP).
Five stories finish off the day: A report by Pakistan’s defense ministry has found 88 cases where members of the armed forces were involved in corrupt dealings (ET). The Punjab government has announced a series of austerity measures limiting how officials and employees can spend government money (ET). A 27-month-old boy in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has tested positive for polio despite receiving a vaccine against the virus, causing concern about the vaccine’s effectiveness (Dawn). Former Pakistani cricket captain Salman Butt was sentenced to 30 months in jail in London for fixing matches, while two other former players received lesser sentences; agent Mazhar Majeed was sentenced to 32 months in prison (ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET). And former Pakistani cricket captain Shahid "Boom Boom" Afridi has returned to the national team, after losing his place as captain and retiring from the sport in protest after a dispute with Pakistan’s Cricket Board earlier this year (ET).
A harder sacrifice
Prices for sacrificial animals in Pakistan have skyrocketed in the run-up to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, leading many families to take part in "collective sacrifices" with larger groups of people (DT). Observers blame a number of factors for the cost increase, including devastating floods, animal smuggling, and inflation.
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