Daily brief: Coup fears abound in Pakistan
Changing tides Pakistan’s National Assembly will vote Monday on a resolution expressing confidence in the country’s political leadership and democracy, as fears of a military coup continue to dominate coverage (NYT, BBC, Reuters, Dawn, ET, Post, Reuters). President Asif Ali Zardari is said to have returned from a short trip to Dubai Friday, as the ...
Pakistan’s National Assembly will vote Monday on a resolution expressing confidence in the country’s political leadership and democracy, as fears of a military coup continue to dominate coverage (NYT, BBC, Reuters, Dawn, ET, Post, Reuters). President Asif Ali Zardari is said to have returned from a short trip to Dubai Friday, as the AP reports that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani placed a "panicky" call to Britain’s High Commissioner in Pakistan this week, asking for Britain’s support and expressing concern about a military takeover (AFP, AP). Gilani will host a meeting with military leaders Saturday, as Pakistan’s army publicly backed the country’s judiciary — which is currently investigating the civilian government on several issues (Reuters, ET, Dawn, ET, Dawn). And the commission investigating the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad released its report Friday, blaming unnamed "belligerents" for Shahzad’s death but recommending that Pakistan’s intelligence services be more accountable (ET, Dawn).
Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz said Friday in an interview that he would return to Pakistan to tell the "unaltered truth" about the "Memogate" affair, including what he says is the role former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani played in supposedly dictating a memo asking for American support against a military coup in May (Guardian, Dawn, DT). However, Ijaz’s appearance before a commission investigating the incident may not take place on January 16, as planned, because Pakistan’s foreign office had still not received a visa request for Ijaz as of Thursday night (ET, Dawn). And FP’s Josh Rogin reveals a May 9 email from Ijaz to former National Security Advisor James L. Jones, who passed the memo in question to Adm. Mike Mullen, in which Ijaz says three people, rather than one, collaborated in writing the unsigned note to Mullen (FP).
The second suspected U.S. drone strike in 2012 destroyed a vehicle near Datta Khel, North Waziristan Thursday, killing at least six reported militants (ET, Reuters, AFP, BBC, CNN). More than 100 militants attacked a police checkpoint outside of Peshawar late Thursday, killing two policemen (ET, Dawn). And Pakistan’s Supreme Court is looking into a claim that a displaced Swat Valley resident trying to reclaim land seized by the military is a terrorist (Dawn).
The Taliban released a statement Thursday saying that they would not recognize the "stooge" government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai or the country’s constitution, even as negotiations may soon start up again with the United States (WSJ). The statement was released as Karzai and American officials roundly condemned a video that appeared this week purporting to show U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters (Guardian, Tel, NYT, Post, Tel). Two of the men in the video have been identified, and will be questioned about the incident (WSJ, CNN, BBC). And prominent Afghan opposition leaders, including representatives of ethnic minorities and former members of the Northern Alliance, voiced tentative support for negotiations with the Taliban Friday, on the condition that the minority representatives participate in the talks (AP).
Also on Thursday, a suicide bomber killed the governor of Kandahar’s Panjway district, Haji Fazeludin Agha, as well as his two sons and two police officers, as they were returning from Kandahar City (CNN, BBC, Reuters, Tel, AP, AFP). And the United Nations reported Thursday that the price of Afghan opium had gone up 133 percent in 2011, and that opium farmers likely earned more than $1.4 billion last year, 9 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP (BBC, AP).
Reuters goes inside Afghanistan’s only music academy, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, where 140 students study full-time (Reuters). The school hopes to heal some of Afghanistan’s wounds through art, and relieve a measure of the country’s hardship — half of its students are orphans or street children.
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