Daily brief: Pakistani PM charged with contempt

Crisis moment Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday initiated contempt of court proceedings against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for the latter’s failure to take steps to re-open a Swiss corruption investigation of President Asif Ali Zardari (NYT, Post, WSJ, ET, Dawn, BBC, CNN, LAT, AP, Reuters). Gilani, who reportedly offered to step down Monday, will ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Crisis moment

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday initiated contempt of court proceedings against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for the latter's failure to take steps to re-open a Swiss corruption investigation of President Asif Ali Zardari (NYT, Post, WSJ, ET, Dawn, BBC, CNN, LAT, AP, Reuters). Gilani, who reportedly offered to step down Monday, will testify before the court Thursday, as concern mounts that the Supreme Court will seek to remove Pakistan's civilian government through a "constitutional coup" (ET, Dawn, Tel, Guardian, LAT). The court's decision came as talks aimed at easing Pakistan's political firestorm were continuing Monday between Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Dawn, NYT, Tel, CNN, AJE, AP). And Pakistan's parliament on Monday passed a resolution expressing confidence in the current government, though the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) boycotted the vote (ET, CNN, Bloomberg, NYT).

Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has said that he would testify in Pakistan on January 24 about the "Memogate" affair, as the Supreme Court adjourned "indefinitely" former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani's petition challenging the court's authority to investigate the matter (ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET, AJE, ET, Dawn). The Post's Karen DeYoung has a must-read on attempts between Pakistan and the United States to establish a "new normal" in their relationship (Post). And Saeed Shah reported this weekend that Pakistan's government had agreed to hold early elections, perhaps in October of this year (Guardian).

Crisis moment

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday initiated contempt of court proceedings against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for the latter’s failure to take steps to re-open a Swiss corruption investigation of President Asif Ali Zardari (NYT, Post, WSJ, ET, Dawn, BBC, CNN, LAT, AP, Reuters). Gilani, who reportedly offered to step down Monday, will testify before the court Thursday, as concern mounts that the Supreme Court will seek to remove Pakistan’s civilian government through a "constitutional coup" (ET, Dawn, Tel, Guardian, LAT). The court’s decision came as talks aimed at easing Pakistan’s political firestorm were continuing Monday between Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Dawn, NYT, Tel, CNN, AJE, AP). And Pakistan’s parliament on Monday passed a resolution expressing confidence in the current government, though the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) boycotted the vote (ET, CNN, Bloomberg, NYT).

Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has said that he would testify in Pakistan on January 24 about the "Memogate" affair, as the Supreme Court adjourned "indefinitely" former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani’s petition challenging the court’s authority to investigate the matter (ET, Dawn, Dawn, ET, AJE, ET, Dawn). The Post’s Karen DeYoung has a must-read on attempts between Pakistan and the United States to establish a "new normal" in their relationship (Post). And Saeed Shah reported this weekend that Pakistan’s government had agreed to hold early elections, perhaps in October of this year (Guardian).

Radio intercepts of Taliban communications have reportedly led the United States to believe that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a January 12 drone strike in North Waziristan, reports the TTP denied on Sunday (AP, Reuters, McClatchy, DT). Also Sunday, a bomb in the city of Kharpur in central Punjab tore through a Shi’a religious procession, killing at least 18 people (AJE, NYT, Reuters, BBC, CNN, AFP). And on Saturday, police repelled an attack involving four suicide bombers on the main police station in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, an attack that ended with the deaths of the attempted bombers but also killed one police officer and three civilians (ET, CNN, The News, Dawn, DT, AFP, Dawn).

Four stories round out the Pakistan news: Pakistan this weekend mourned the death of 16-year-old Arfa Karim, a computer prodigy and the youngest person ever named "Microsoft Certified Professional" a title she garnered in 2004 (ET, Dawn, DT, Dawn, ET). Three Iranian border guards arrested January 2 after crossing into Pakistani territory and allegedly killing a Pakistani were pardoned by the victim’s family and deported Sunday (AFP, DT). The L.A. Times looks at the increasingly embattled aid groups trying to operate in Pakistan (LAT). And in February Pakistan will reportedly start repaying a $7.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (DT).  
Conflicting claims

Three contractors were killed Monday when their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, as the Taliban claimed credit for downing the chopper (Tel, NYT, Reuters). C.J. Chivers, meanwhile, reports on shifts in the air war in Afghanistan, as American forces have curtailed the use of air strikes in fighting the Taliban (NYT). Reuters’ Missy Ryan outlines the growing doubt that cash-strapped Western countries will be willing to shoulder the burden of paying for Afghanistan’s security forces after the 2014 withdrawal date of international troops from Afghanistan (Reuters). And NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Amb. Sir Simon Gass, said Monday that Afghanistan could take as long as 30 years to develop the security and institutions necessary to be a "proper democratic state" (Tel).

Insurgents on Tuesday killed a prominent anti-Taliban leader, Mohammad Nahim Agha Mama, as he prayed in a Kandahar mosque (AP). Also, Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the Taliban to allow teams to carry out a polio vaccination campaign (AP).

And finally, heavy snow and avalanches have killed at least 16 people in the northern province of Badakhshan (BBC).

A new world record

After five years of work, an Afghan calligrapher has created the world’s largest Quran (Reuters). The book measures 90 inches by 61 inches, cost nearly $500,000 to create, and weighs in at around 1,100 pounds.

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