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The South Asia Channel

Handler in Mumbai attacks arrested

The Rack: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Obama’s troop increase for Afghan war was misdirected" and "Infighting on Obama team squandered chance for peace in Afghanistan" (WaPo, WaPo) On Monday Indian police announced the arrest at Delhi international airport of a key suspect in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks which killed 166 people (Dawn, Reuters, ET, BBC). Abu ...

AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images

The Rack: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Obama’s troop increase for Afghan war was misdirected" and "Infighting on Obama team squandered chance for peace in Afghanistan" (WaPo, WaPo)

On Monday Indian police announced the arrest at Delhi international airport of a key suspect in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks which killed 166 people (Dawn, Reuters, ET, BBC). Abu Hamza, also known as Sayed Zabiuddin, is a member of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and was seen by Indian officials as one of the key planners of the operation. Abu Hamza was an alleged handler for the operation, based in Karachi, who reportedly gave instructions over the phone to the militants who carried out the attack. Indian authorities said the suspect would remain in police custody for 15 days for questioning. India has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to take more action in the investigation of the terrorist attacks, especially to move against Hafiz Saeed, the supposed mastermind of the attacks (for its part, the U.S. has offered $10 million dollars for information leading to his arrest).  

At least six Pakistani soldiers were killed Sunday after militants from Afghanistan crossed into the Upper Dir region of Pakistan (WaPo, ET, Dawn, CNN). The Pakistani military reported that at least 11 militants were also killed in the fighting that saw a reported 100 Taliban fighters attack three separate military posts. In a statement the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, but denied any militant casualties and did say whether the attackers had come from Afghanistan.

New Prime Minister sworn in

On Friday, the Pakistani parliament elected Raja Pervez Ashraf, a former cabinet minister, as Prime Minister (NYT, WaPo, BBC). The calm ceremony was a respite from a tense week for President Asif Ali Zardari as the Pakistani Supreme Court invalidated the premiership of Yousaf Raza Gilani and an anti-narcotics force run by the military subsequently issued an arrest warrant for the proposed successor to Gilani, Makhdoom Shahabuddin. Ashraf, who was minister for water and power between 2008 and 2011, is not without his own controversy. He is dogged by allegations that he previously took kickbacks over private energy contracts when he was minister and is a potential lightning rod for criticism over the electricity shortages that have recently plagued Pakistan, given his previous portfolio.

In an interview with Reuters, the Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, said  the Taliban and the U.S. must make their intentions clear for the cause of peace in Afghanistan (ET, Reuters). "We don’t think all these issues can be solved by fighting," he said, "there must be a political process, but the parties need to be serious about it." Sadiq said the Taliban need to clarify whether they are actually interested in substantive peace talks, while for their part the U.S. needs to overcome bureaucratic infighting as well as concluding inconsistent offers to the Taliban on transferring detainees held by the Americans.

On the road again

An NPR story over the weekend chronicled the newfound importance of the Salang Tunnel, a decades-old tunnel situated in Northern Afghanistan at 11,000 feet in the Hindu Kush mountains which is one of the primary transportation conduits for supply efforts (NPR). Since Pakistan closed its border to NATO supply convoys, the U.S. military says that it spends an additional $100 million per month in the Afghan war theater, and the additional money goes to service the Northern Distribution Network, a longer supply route that goes through Central Asia and Russia. The tunnel, built by the Soviets in 1964, is a crumbling route which, due to its bad road and lack of space, has become a transportation choke point in the country. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 vehicles now pass through the tunnel per day, up from 1,000 to 2,000 a year ago.

Four NATO servicemen were killed in southern Afghanistan in two days over the weekend (WaPo). Two of the soldiers were killed in separate incidents on Saturday, one in a bomb blast and the other in an insurgent attack; the other two servicemen were killed Sunday in a traffic accident.  

Flash floods in Afghanistan in central Ghor province and Badakhshan province killed at least 30 people over the weekend (AFP). The floods, which came after days of torrential rain, are the second deadly case of flooding in the country in two months after 50 Afghans were killed in Sari Pul province in May.

High society to the rescue?

The publication of Hello! Pakistan, a new glossy print magazine being launched in Pakistan, is attempting to show a different side of the country (NYT). Zahraa Saifullah Khan, the magazine’s 29-year old publisher, said that while they weren’t out to save the world, the publication was trying to "show that we’re not all a bunch of terrorists with beards."

–Tom Kutsch

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