A bomb killed at least eight—including four children—and wounded some 70 at a Shi'ite procession marking the Ashura holy day in Pakistan's northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Nov. 24. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. "We carried out the attack against the Shi'ite community," spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location. "The government can make whatever security arrangements it wants but it cannot stop our attacks." (Reuters, Nov. 25; AFP, Nov. 24) On Nov. 25, a second blast targeting an Ashura procession in Dera Ismail Khan left at least a further four dead. (BBC News, Nov, 25) The blasts follow a suicide attack that killed 23 at a Shi'ite procession in the garrison city of Rawalpindi—Pakistan's deadliest bombing for five months.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said Nov. 18 that US forces were capturing and holding Afghans in violation of a detainee transfer pact and that US forces should turn over that responsibility to Karzai's forces. Karzai's statement urged Afghan officials to make efforts towards toward obtaining entire responsibility for Bagram Prison. Listed abuses included Afghan detainees held by US forces despite Afghan rulings to the contrary and the continued arrest of Afghans by US forces. The statement comes less than a week after negotiations began on a bilateral security agreement that will govern US military presence in the country after the majority of US troops withdraw from Afghanistan after 2014. The US has delayed the handover of detention facilities to Afghanistan citing both lack of preparation by Afghan leaders in detention center management and discrepancies over treatment of detainees the US deems too dangerous to release. Both countries agreed to sign the bilateral security agreement within a year.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned a senior Taliban official on Nov. 15 for his alleged role in the Afghan opium trade, saying the traffic is used to finance insurgent activities. Mullah Naim Barich, who operates as Taliban "shadow governor" in Helmand province, is named in the action, which freezes any of Barich's assets held under US jurisdiction and bars anyone in the United States from conducting any financial or commercial transactions with him. "Today's action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban's reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence," David Cohen, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
From Foreign Policy's The Cable blog, Nov. 15:
The next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is prepared to testify that he wants to see a robust U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, as U.S. and Afghan negotiators began formal work on that troop presence Thursday in Kabul.
Wow. We called out Obama's Peace Prize in 2009 as Orwellian, but the Nobel committee have now sent the irony-meter into full tilt. An appropriately exasperated commentary in Spain's El Diario, wryly titled "That Which the Nobel Prize Calls Peace," states: "The Nobel Prize goes to a European Union being ruled for the banks and financial power, at the expense of the increasing asphyxiation of the people: In Spain the misery index has already reached 26.4%... In Greece, operations are being denied to cancer patients who have lost their health coverage and cannot afford treatment. There are growing cases of diseases such as tuberculosis. Public hospitals limit the supply of vital medicines, and are denying care to the needy..." And the debacle that Euro-unification has become is actually causing a bitter divide in Europe—not this time between Germany and France, but between Germany and the Mediterranean nations of Greece, Spain and Portugal—where a new austerity budget sparked angry protests yesterday, AP notes. And we should probably add Italy, where students clashed with police in protests against austerity measures nearly across the country, Reuters reported Oct. 4. Greek protesters against German-led budgetary whip-lashing have been quick to recall that their country was occupied by the Nazis in World War II, reopening old wounds—even as a Greek neo-fascist movement has emerged to exploit the misery with the usual bogus populism that scapegoats immigrants, leading to a wave of violent attacks. Wow, what an astonishing advance for world peace the European Union represents!
Malala Yousafzai has been moved to a hospital in Rawalpindi, the military administrative center outside Islamabad, and we are told the next 24 hours are critical for her survival. News media in Pakistan and the Subcontinent are expressing the widespread awe at her heroism and disgust at the cowardly attempt on her life. Islamabad's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar called the shooting a "wake up call" that could represent a "turning point" for the nation, Pakistan's Express-Tribune reports. An editorial in India's Hindustan Times hails her as "the braveheart who took on the Taliban." Pakistan's Dawn newspaper calls her a "symbol of courage," and its columnist Syed Fazl-e-Haider has an op-ed in the New York Times, entitled "Malala Has Won."
Young Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who was attacked by Pakistani Taliban on Oct. 9 at Mingora in the Swat Valley, is fighting for her life in a Peshawar hospital and will be sent abroad for urgent medical treatment following emergency surgery. The 14-year-old girl was shot in the head by gunmen who waited outside her school, and then followed her on to the bus. Two other children were injured in the attack. Malala, like her father, has been a vocal advocate of girls' rights to education—making them both a target of local Taliban militants. Speaking from an undisclosed location, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told reporters that the TTP accepts responsibility of the attack, accusing Malala of "promoting Western culture" and "secular" thought among the youth of the area. He also pointed out that she had recently expressed her admiration for Barack Obama. "This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter," he said.
Hundreds of Pakistanis, joined by dozens of activists from the US, on Oct. 6 launched a motorcade "march" against US drone strikes that they hope will reach the Afghan border region in the South Waziristan tribal area. The march—actually, a long vehicle convoy—is being led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star-turned-politician and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) party. The American activists are from the US-based anti-war group Code Pink. Authorities say the foreigners will not allowed into the tribal areas, and warn that the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack the march (presumably because of the PTI's moderate—although not secularist—politics). But Khan implied that the government had created the threat. "I condemn the hypocrisy of the government, who tried their best to make this march fail," Khan told around 5,000 supporters at a rally along the way. "They are saying that Taliban have sent nine suicide attackers. If [President Asif Ali] Zardari sends even a 100 suicide attackers this march will not stop."