Daily brief: Karzai demands control of major prison

Sudden shift In a surprise move Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded the transfer of prisoners at the Parwan detention center from American to Afghan control, calling what he alleged were violations of the Afghan constitution and prisoners’ rights at the facility a "breach of Afghan sovereignty" (NYT, Post, WSJ, Tel, CNN, Guardian). The prison, ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Sudden shift

In a surprise move Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded the transfer of prisoners at the Parwan detention center from American to Afghan control, calling what he alleged were violations of the Afghan constitution and prisoners' rights at the facility a "breach of Afghan sovereignty" (NYT, Post, WSJ, Tel, CNN, Guardian). The prison, believed to house nearly 3,000 inmates, is a key holding site for alleged "high-value" detainees, and American officials did not plan on transferring control to the Afghan judicial system until at least 2014, according to the Post (Post). And a spokesman for Karzai told the AFP Friday that the Taliban had demanded that Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo Bay be transferred to Qatar as part of negotiations with the United States, but that Karzai insists they be sent instead to Afghanistan (AFP). 

The Afghan government also announced Thursday that it was revoking the license to operate of the Canadian private security firm GardaWorld, one of the largest security firms in Afghanistan, after two of its contractors were arrested this week with a large number of AK-47 rifles (NYT, Tel, Reuters). The company says that the guns were properly licensed and were being taken to a firing range for testing at the time of the arrests, adding that they hoped to "rectify the situation as soon as possible."

Sudden shift

In a surprise move Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded the transfer of prisoners at the Parwan detention center from American to Afghan control, calling what he alleged were violations of the Afghan constitution and prisoners’ rights at the facility a "breach of Afghan sovereignty" (NYT, Post, WSJ, Tel, CNN, Guardian). The prison, believed to house nearly 3,000 inmates, is a key holding site for alleged "high-value" detainees, and American officials did not plan on transferring control to the Afghan judicial system until at least 2014, according to the Post (Post). And a spokesman for Karzai told the AFP Friday that the Taliban had demanded that Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo Bay be transferred to Qatar as part of negotiations with the United States, but that Karzai insists they be sent instead to Afghanistan (AFP). 

The Afghan government also announced Thursday that it was revoking the license to operate of the Canadian private security firm GardaWorld, one of the largest security firms in Afghanistan, after two of its contractors were arrested this week with a large number of AK-47 rifles (NYT, Tel, Reuters). The company says that the guns were properly licensed and were being taken to a firing range for testing at the time of the arrests, adding that they hoped to "rectify the situation as soon as possible."

And at least six children and an adult were killed Friday when a bomb hidden among trash exploded in the Uruzgan city of Tarin Kowt (BBC).

Pushing back

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said Thursday that the their government would ignore a Pakistani Supreme Court deadline to request that Swiss officials re-open an old corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari, arguing that as president Zardari enjoys immunity from prosecution (McClatchy, Dawn). Officials have also said that Swiss authorities would not be able to re-open the case, even if Pakistan were to request such a move (ET). And Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz on Friday gave his Blackberry personal identification number (PIN) to the three-member commission investigating the "Memogate" affair (ET). 

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Thursday released 17 young men abducted from Bajaur in September (CNN, BBC, AFP). Nearly 30 boys were initially taken captive because their tribe, the Mamund, supports Pakistan’s government, and at least eight remain hostage. Elsewhere, faculty at Sindh University protested Wednesday to demand the resignation of the school’s vice chancelor, Dr. Nazir Mughal, after a professor there, Bashir Chanur, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle Monday (ET). And in Karachi, two Awami National Party activists and two Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activists were shot dead in separate incidents hours apart on Thursday (Dawn).

Opposition politician Nawaz Sharif offered to host an "all party seminar" Friday in order to discuss the situation in the restive province of Balochistan, and in order to "bring Balochistan in the mainstream again" (ET). Meanwhile, a call Thursday for Pakistan’s National Assembly to discuss the creation of new provinces led to an uproar among parliamentarians, forcing the Assembly’s deputy speaker to suspend proceedings (ET). And the Telegraph has more information on Khalil Dale, a British nurse working with the Red Cross who was kidnapped in Quetta this week (Tel). 

Pakistani Finance Minister Dr. Hafeez Shaikh warned a parliamentary committee Thursday of Pakistan’s possible economic isolation if the country seriously revises the terms of its engagement with the United States, saying, "There are some shocks Pakistan can absorb but there are others it can’t" (ET). Also on Thursday, the Pakistani Rupee traded at an all-time low relative to the dollar, even as foreign exchange reserves rose to $16.85 billion at the end of last year (Dawn, Dawn).  

Up in smoke 

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistanis spent approximately Rs200 billion ($2.21 billion) on cigarettes in 2011 (Dawn). Official numbers for locally-produced cigarettes have dropped in the last two years, though the report did not take into account production from unlicensed factories or the number of fake name-brand cigarettes produced in the country.

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