Former Afghan senator and district governor defects to the Taliban

High-level defection Qazi Abdul Hai, a former Afghan senator and district governor in Sar-e-Pol province, has defected to the Taliban, Afghan officials and the insurgents reported on Wednesday (BBC, Pajhwok).  Hai is thought to be the highest-ranking civilian official to join the militant group, but the reasons for his defection are unknown.  Asadullah Khurram, the ...

QAIS USYAN/AFP/GettyImages
QAIS USYAN/AFP/GettyImages
QAIS USYAN/AFP/GettyImages

High-level defection

High-level defection

Qazi Abdul Hai, a former Afghan senator and district governor in Sar-e-Pol province, has defected to the Taliban, Afghan officials and the insurgents reported on Wednesday (BBC, Pajhwok).  Hai is thought to be the highest-ranking civilian official to join the militant group, but the reasons for his defection are unknown.  Asadullah Khurram, the provincial chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the central government had recently told them that Hai had links to militants and ordered authorities to fire him. 

At least 10 Afghan national police officers were killed and 15 to 20 were captured in Badakhshan province on Wednesday when Taliban fighters ambushed their convoy (Reuters, RFE/RL).  According to provincial administrative chief Dawlat Mohammad, the attack came as the police worked to clear the Wardoj district.  Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry confirmed the attack and casualties, but denied that any officers had been captured. 

The Taliban’s financial manager for Farah province, Mullah Tajmeer, was detained in Herat province on Wednesday by local Afghan police officials (Pajhwok).  Col. Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, a police spokesman, said that Tajmeer had been arrested "on the basis of an intelligence report," but did not provide further details on the charges. 

Afghanistan’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad was summoned on Wednesday after reports emerged that five Pakistanis had been killed by cross-border fire in Balochistan on Tuesday (Pajhwok).  The Pakistani Foreign Office asked for an investigation into the incident and said Afghanistan must adhere to a tripartite agreement between the two countries and the United States, which says military operations are not allowed within four kilometers of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  Gen. Abdul Raziq, the Kandahar police chief, told reporters that the operation had been conducted on Afghan soil against insurgents and that information about any casualties was not immediately available. 

Law and disorder

To confront the continuing terrorism crisis in Karachi and elsewhere, the Pakistani government is considering a number of amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, according to the Express Tribune (ET).  The proposed amendments would reduce restrictions on the use of force by security forces, allowing them to open fire even when not fired upon, as well as increase the amount of time a person accused of terrorism, extortion, kidnapping, or targeted killing can be detained from 30 days to three months. 

As the government mulls its legal response to terror, the violence in Karachi continues. Zafar Baloch, an important figure in the outlawed Peoples’ Aman (Peace) Committee — a banned group associated with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — was killed on Wednesday when unknown gunmen opened fire on his vehicle (Dawn). The murder was condemned by Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the PPP provincial leader, and security services said they had adopted new security measures to prevent a responding outbreak of violence.  Police in Karachi also announced on Wednesday that Hazrat Ali, a Taliban commander, was killed during an operation in the city on Tuesday (RFE/RL).  According to Chaudry Aslam, a senior police official, 43 people have been arrested in the past two days. 

With the ongoing violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s Supreme Court continued its hearings on the implementation of law and order in the city on Thursday (ET).  The Attorney General reported that between September 5 and 16, 1,357 criminals had been arrested in the city, and that 1,000 closed circuit cameras had been placed throughout Karachi.  That number is expected to reach 2,060 by November.  The court is also investigating the alleged disappearance of over 19,000 containers filled with weapons, ammunition, liquor, and other goods.

Mohammad Faqir, a man accused of attacking former president Pervez Musharraf’s convoy in 2003, was acquitted on Wednesday, but initially refused to leave the prison out of fear that security agencies would abduct him (Dawn).  Faqir was eventually persuaded by his family to return home.

Health emergency 

Authorities declared a health emergency in Swat Valley on Thursday after 5,000 cases of Dengue fever were reported in August (AFP).  Spread by mosquitoes, the potentially deadly virus has killed 12 people so far.  The disease is believed to have spread from Lahore, where an outbreak in September 2011 killed 120 people.  In Punjab province, health officials have released fish into village ponds in an effort to kill the larvae that spread the virus (Dawn).  Dr. Ansar Ishaq, a district health officer, said health officials have also been focusing on bus terminals servicing Swat Valley in an effort to prevent the fever’s spread.

Pakistan Idol 

Pakistan’s Geo TV officially announced on Wednesday that it would launch Pakistan Idol, a Pakistani version of the successful global singing talent show (The News). Auditions start in Islamabad on Thursday and will then be held in other cities.  Asif Raza Mir, the managing director of Geo Entertainment, said that despite security concerns, the show would hold auditions in Quetta and Peshawar and provide its participants with security.  As for the spoils that will go to the winner, he said "we will certainly provide the winner with the opportunity to sing for the Pakistani film industry which is growing with each passing day."

— Bailey Cahall and David Sterman

 

David Sterman is a program associate at New America and Assistant Editor of the South Asia Channel. He tweets at @DSterms Twitter: @Dsterms

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