Daily Brief: Rumors of a coup swirl in Pakistan
Rumor has it The United States on Wednesday wished Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari well following reports that he had suffered a small heart attack, and rejected the rumors swirling in Pakistan that Pres. Zardari’s sudden trip to Dubai is linked to a "soft coup" attempt by the country’s military leaders (AFP, ET, AP, Dawn). Mustafa Khokhar, an ...
Rumor has it
Rumor has it
The United States on Wednesday wished Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari well following reports that he had suffered a small heart attack, and rejected the rumors swirling in Pakistan that Pres. Zardari’s sudden trip to Dubai is linked to a "soft coup" attempt by the country’s military leaders (AFP, ET, AP, Dawn). Mustafa Khokhar, an advisor to the president on human rights, said Wednesday that there is "no question of any resignation," and Pres. Zardari’s spokesman said Thursday that his condition is "stable" (ET, AFP). The Karachi Stock Exchange fell 88 points on Wednesday as volatile domestic politics and a deteriorating U.S.-Pakistan relationship reportedly discouraged investors (ET).
The director of the Kashmiri American Council, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) to lobby the U.S. Congress for Kashmir (Post, BBC, Dawn, ET, Reuters, CNN, AP). Fai admitted to concealing his receipt of approximately $3.5 million from the Pakistani government since 1990, but insisted that his lobbying work was not directed by Pakistan.
In Islamabad, the Abbottabad Commission tasked with investigating Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan will hold what some are calling an "unusual" press conference Thursday (ET). And aircraft began to arrive at Pakistan’s Shamsi airbase in Balochistan Wednesday to move American personnel and equipment after last month’s NATO air strike on a Pakistani border post left Pakistan demanding the U.S. vacate the base (ET). The Pakistani government is reportedly considering a permanent ban on the export of all domestically produced fuel supplies except jet fuel, a move that could hamper NATO operations in Afghanistan even after supply routes through Pakistan are re-opened (ET).
At least three Pakistani fishermen were shot and killed Wednesday by Iranian security forces after their boat entered Iranian waters (ET). And four militants were killed Wednesday during clashes between two extremist groups in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency (ET).
War of words
Pakistan Wednesday urged Afghanistan to share any evidence it has that a splinter of the banned Pakistani sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), was responsible for Tuesday’s devastating bombings of Shi’a Muslims in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif that killed 56 people (AFP). Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman responded by telling news agencies, "it was the Lashkkar-e-Jhangvi which claimed responsibility…it’s up to Pakistan to take action" (NYT, Post, AFP). The U.S. State Department echoed President Karzai’s sentiments, telling reporters that LeJ was "precisely the kind of organization" Secretary Clinton had in mind when she urged Pakistan to do more against militant groups during an October visit to the region (AFP).
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Wednesday sought to calm the flaring tensions between the United States and Pakistan during a two-day meeting in Brussels to discuss the alliance’s future role in Afghanistan (WSJ). Sec. Gen. Rasmussen pledged NATO’s "long-term involvement" in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014 (Deutsche Welle). Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said Thursday that the U.K. is not trying to create a "perfect Afghanistan," but that NATO just wants to leave Afghanistan safe from use as a base for terrorist groups (BBC).
Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau have a must-read account of a daring but failed escape attempt three months ago by captive U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since he was captured in Paktika Province in June 2009 (Daily Beast).
Celebration amid tragedy
As Afghanistan mourned the loss of 56 Shi’a Muslims on Wednesday, the Afghan national soccer team routed Bhutan in an 8-1 victory in the quarterfinals of the South Asian Football Federation Cup (AP). The team’s victory in New Delhi marks the first time it has advanced to the semifinals of this tournament.
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