Surge in violence hits Afghan police, civilians

Event Notice: Jihad and Politics in North Africa. TODAY, May 20, 2013; 12:00-1:30PM (NAF). Unclaimed violence continues  A wave of violence swept Afghanistan this weekend, killing dozens of police officers and civilians. The attacks continued on Monday when a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform struck the provincial council building in the capital of Baghlan ...

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

Event Notice: Jihad and Politics in North Africa. TODAY, May 20, 2013; 12:00-1:30PM (NAF).

Unclaimed violence continues 

Event Notice: Jihad and Politics in North Africa. TODAY, May 20, 2013; 12:00-1:30PM (NAF).

Unclaimed violence continues 

A wave of violence swept Afghanistan this weekend, killing dozens of police officers and civilians. The attacks continued on Monday when a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform struck the provincial council building in the capital of Baghlan province, killing 14 and wounding 9 (Dawn/AFPPajhwok, AP, NYT, WSJ, VOA). The attack specifically targeted Rasoul Mohseni, the head of Baghlan’s provincial council, who was killed in the blast. Widely regarded as the most powerful man in Baghlan, Mohseni was a veteran commander who had led northerners in a revolt against the Taliban (NYT). There were no immediate claims of responsibility, though President Hamid Karzai blamed "enemies of Afghanistan," a phrase often used in reference to the Afghan Taliban (Pajhwok). 

In Kandahar on Friday, two bombs hidden in a motorcycle and a car exploded inside a gated community that was developed in part by Mahmood Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s younger brother, killing at least 9 and wounding more than 70 (NYT).  An investigation is currently under way to determine how the explosive-laden vehicles slipped past the complex’s heavy security but there has been no immediate claim of responsibility.  

Two gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Abdul Ghani, a district police official in the Khaki Safed district of Farah Province in western Afghanistan, in front of his home on Friday night (NYT). A spokesman for the Farah governor said the attack appeared to have been in retaliation for a recent crackdown on the Taliban that killed several militants. In the southern province of Helmand on Saturday, six Afghan policemen were killed and four others wounded when a roadside bomb was detonated near their vehicle in the volatile Gereshk district. And a bomb blast on Saturday morning in Khost, which borders Pakistan to the east, killed one border police officer and wounded eight others.

On Saturday, women’s rights activists proposed revisions to Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence Against Women Act in the country’s lower house of parliament, and then quickly withdrew them in the face of fierce criticism from mullahs and other conservatives (NYT). The bid to alter the unprecedented law, led by ambitious women’s rights proponent and member of parliament Fawzia Koofi, has been criticized by other activists as a danger to the very existence of the law. Any attempt to amend it could result in conservatives dismantling it entirely.

Hundreds mourn PTI vice president

Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of Zohra Shahid, the vice president of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, who was gunned down outside her home in Karachi on Saturday (AP, BBC). Police said gunmen on a motorcycle killed the senior party leader in an attempted robbery but others believe the attack was politically motivated. There were no immediate claims of responsibility, though Khan has blamed Muttahida Qaumi Movement party leader Altaf Hussein (Guardian).

Protests over the killing broke out on Sunday as Karachi voters headed back to the polls in an election re-run (ET).  Voting in Karachi was suspended early on May 11 after reports of violent intimidation, and while there was an army presence at the constituency’s polling places, Shahid’s killing had an immediate impact on voter turnout.  In stark contrast to the 60-percent nationwide turnout in last Saturday’s election, election officials believe only about 10 percent of the 86,316 registered voters in Karachi voted on Sunday (BBCNYT).  

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of Pakistan’s powerful army, visited prime minister-elect Nawaz Sharif on Saturday to show support for stronger democracy and greater stability (Post).  The meeting, described as informal and cordial, lasted for more than three hours and was a remarkable first in a country with a long history of military coups. Former president Gen. Pervez Musharraf was granted bail on Sunday in the Benazir Bhutto murder case and the Supreme Court adjourned its hearing in the treason case against him until Wednesday (DawnET, Reuters).  Musharraf will have to pay two bonds worth one million rupees each, and while the bail does not grant his automatic release, some believe it "certainly paves the way for his exit" (AJ). 

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a group of health workers administering polio vaccinations in the Bajaur tribal district on Monday, killing a paramilitary soldier who was escorting the team (NYT). Once again, no group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban have declared the vaccination program "un-
Islamic" and have carried out attacks on polio workers in the past.

Declan Walsh, the former New York Times bureau chief in Islamabad who was expelled by Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on May 10, published a must-read article this weekend on Pakistan’s decaying railway as a symbol of the country’s decline and a symptom of its deep-seated problems (NYT).

President Barack Obama will reportedly give a speech at the National Defense University this Thursday on U.S. counterterrorism strategy, including the legality of the CIA drone program, which has come under increasing fire this year (AP).

New heights

Samina Baig, a 21-year-old mountaineer from the Shimsal valley of Hunza, became the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest on Sunday (Dawn).  To the surprise of many, she joined twin sisters, also 21 years old, from India to make the climb to the summit, which she completed at 7:30 am on May 19. 

— Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall 

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