Continuous electrical outages cripple Pakistan

Event Notice: "Online Radicalization: Myths and Realities" TODAY, 12:15-1:45PM (NAF). Into darkness Electricity shortages, which have plagued Pakistan for years, have reached crisis proportions according to a report by the New York Times (NYT).  With no power for at least 10 hours a day in major cities and up to 22 hours in rural areas, ...

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Event Notice: "Online Radicalization: Myths and Realities" TODAY, 12:15-1:45PM (NAF).

Into darkness

Event Notice: "Online Radicalization: Myths and Realities" TODAY, 12:15-1:45PM (NAF).

Into darkness

Electricity shortages, which have plagued Pakistan for years, have reached crisis proportions according to a report by the New York Times (NYT).  With no power for at least 10 hours a day in major cities and up to 22 hours in rural areas, and temperatures hitting 118 degrees Fahrenheit, practically everyone in Pakistan is affected (Dawn).  In a speech commemorating Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power, Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif said the crisis prevents him from sleeping at night and he asked for patience as the country works to solve the problem (ET).  However, while the government can certainly rebuild power plants, replace transmission lines, and prosecute electrical theft, the quickest way to get the lights turned back on is for Pakistanis to pay their bills — of which $5 billion currently goes unpaid (NYT). 

While many international observers heralded President Obama’s landmark counterterrorism speech last Thursday, a shift away from the region may not be quite what Pakistan wants (NYT). While Pakistan’s leaders have long demanded an end to CIA drone strikes and an American exit from Afghanistan, broader disengagement will likely diminish the relative importance Pakistan has enjoyed in Washington for the last decade.  According to the New York Times’ Declan Walsh, without an American scapegoat, Pakistan’s leaders will also have to address on-going internal challenges, particularly security.  Bonus read: Peter Bergen, "Bush’s war on terror is over" (CNN).

Unidentified assailants opened fire on a team of female health workers in Peshawar Tuesday, killing one and critically injuring another (Dawn, ET).  The World Health Organization and UNICEF withdrew their field workers from the area in December due to security threats from militant groups but workers from national health bodies continue to serve the local population.

Five police officials, including a deputy superintendent, were killed on Monday in a roadside bomb attack in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province (AFP, Dawn, ET,).  Deputy Superintendent Khan Bahadur Khan, the intended target, was patrolling the Shangla district when members of the Pakistani Taliban detonated a bomb next to his vehicle (Dawn).  It was the first attack in the area targeting a senior police officer since a 2009 military operation to clear militants from the district.

Burgat Ali Jaja, son of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Mian Sher Ali Jaja, died Tuesday in a bomb blast in Swat (Dawn, ET).  Ten other people were injured in the unclaimed roadside attack.  Jaja was a relative of Deputy Superintendent Khan. 

Sixteen schoolchildren, aged 5 to 12, and their teacher died on Saturday when their school van caught fire in Punjab Province (BBC, LAT, NYT).  At least seven other children were injured in the fire, which was caused by faulty wiring in the van that ignited when the driver tried to switch from gasoline to compressed natural gas.  Authorities are currently searching for the driver, who ran away from the scene.  

Afghanistan 2014

Voter registration for Afghanistan’s presidential election, to be held April 5, 2014, began on Saturday in Kabul (Post, RFERL, UPI).  Registration, which will expand from larger cities to smaller districts, will take about two months and encompass four million people who have turned 18 since the last election, have not previously registered, or have lost their voter registration cards.  Like the recent election in Pakistan, poor security is expected to be the main challenge to the democratic process as election officials will only go to places secured by Afghan police officers. 

Though there are no officially declared candidates for next year’s election, President Hamid Karzai’s younger brother Mahmoud told reporters their older brother Qayum will run in the election (Reuters).  Neither of the elder Karzai’s could be reached for comment.

At least 20 insurgents and 6 Afghan policemen were killed in violent incidents across Afghanistan on Monday, according to government officials (Pajhwok).  Fifteen insurgents, including three Pakistani nationals, were killed in Helmand Province; five militants and three policemen died in Uruzgan Province; and three policemen were killed in Jawzjan Province.  These incidents came two days after Afghan Wireless Communication Company chairman Amin Ramin survived a roadside bomb that killed five, and 10 international aid workers were rescued after a two-hour firefight between Afghan police and the Taliban in Kabul (Pajhwok, Post). 

The Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) released a statement Monday calling the beating incident of a policeman, allegedly by the son of the Afghan Army’s Chief of Staff, "unacceptable" and said that anyone involved should be punished (Pajhwok).  The incident, which occurred Saturday, made international news when the police officer gave a rare interview about the attack to an Afghan television station (NYT).  According to the victim, he was instructed to search any car entering a security cordon, and was attacked when he tried to check Major Ahmad Zia Karimi’s car.  The incident has caused several other police officers to speak out against the abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of those in power.  The MoI has called for charges against Karimi, though he currently remains at large.  

10,000 Pink Balloons

Aiming to create a "stream of shared instances of unexpected happiness," Afghan volunteers traversed Kabul on Saturday, handing out 10,000 pink balloons as part of a performance art project (NYT).  While the brainchild of artist Yazmany Arboleda has been criticized as silly and wasteful, and was even denounced by the Taliban as a trick to encourage the young volunteers to "break the culture of hijab," participants valued having a chance to go out and meet other Afghans (AlJ, AlJ).  Inside each balloon was a message of peace and hope and Kabul was filled with the sound of popping balloons instead of gunfire.   

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