16 killed in attack on political rally in Peshawar

New post: Michael Kugelman, "What’s holding up India-Pakistan trade normalization?" (AfPak) Electoral violence At least 16 people died in Peshawar on Tuesday in a suicide attack at a rally attended by senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who was the railways minister in the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government (AFP, ET). ...

HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images
HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images
HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images

New post: Michael Kugelman, "What's holding up India-Pakistan trade normalization?" (AfPak)

Electoral violence

At least 16 people died in Peshawar on Tuesday in a suicide attack at a rally attended by senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who was the railways minister in the outgoing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government (AFP, ET). Bilour escaped with cuts and bruises, and the Taliban apologized for injuring him, saying the attack was meant to target his nephew Haroon, whose father Bashir Balour was assassinated last year. The attack brought the death toll from election-related bombings on Tuesday to 20, with four killed in an attack on another politician in Balochistan earlier in the day.

New post: Michael Kugelman, "What’s holding up India-Pakistan trade normalization?" (AfPak)

Electoral violence

At least 16 people died in Peshawar on Tuesday in a suicide attack at a rally attended by senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who was the railways minister in the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government (AFP, ET). Bilour escaped with cuts and bruises, and the Taliban apologized for injuring him, saying the attack was meant to target his nephew Haroon, whose father Bashir Balour was assassinated last year. The attack brought the death toll from election-related bombings on Tuesday to 20, with four killed in an attack on another politician in Balochistan earlier in the day.

In Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, the election field is comprised almost exclusively of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) (Post). But some analysts say PTI’s slowly growing popularity will just siphon votes from the PML-N at the national level, boosting the chances that the outgoing PPP will win a significant proportion of the parliament.

The death toll from Tuesday’s earthquake in Iran has risen to 40 in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan (Dawn, AFP, AFP, BBC). The United States offered humanitarian assistance to both Iran and Pakistan. Meanwhile a U.S. drone strike killed five suspected militants at a Taliban training compound in South Waziristan on Wednesday (AFP, Dawn). 

Post-war plans

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the United States should wait until November, when the summer fighting season has ended, to make a decision on how many U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in December 2014 (AP). The heavy fighting that is likely to ensue this summer will give American military officials the chance to assess the true strength of Afghan forces, which will give them an idea of how many U.S. troops will be necessary to help maintain stability.

Gen. Dunford added that the United States should keep troops in Kabul and in all "four corners" of the country, where the U.S. military maintains regional training centers, marking the most ambitious suggestion from the Pentagon so far for the future U.S. presence in Afghanistan (Post). Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pushed back on Dunford’s advice to delay announcing the post-2014 U.S. troop levels, saying "Don’t you understand, general, that one of the reasons why we’re having so much difficulty in some areas is because the Afghans don’t know what our commitment is?" Dunford also insisted that the U.S. war in Afghanistan can still be won (CSM).

Taliban insurgents killed seven civilians with a roadside bomb in the western province of Herat on Wednesday, and slit the throats of four Afghan soldiers who were kidnapped while travelling home on leave (AFP, Pajhwok).

Donkeys with different carts

While much of Pakistan is in full election fervor, some Pakistanis are entirely disenchanted and uninterested in voting at all (Post)."I don’t like politicians," says 70-year-old fruit vendor Amin Jan. "They are all donkeys with different carts."

Jennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

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