Our door is [not] always open
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday confirmed reports that Pakistan had asked U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Marc Grossman not to visit Islamabad until Pakistan's parliamentary review of bilateral relations between the two countries is complete (BBC, Reuters, Tel, Dawn). Amb. Grossman is traveling to Afghanistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates this week to garner support for U.S. peace talks with the Taliban. Meanwhile, Pakistan agreed to release commercial cargo destined for Afghanistan that has been building up since Pakistan blocked NATO supplies on November 26 when 24 Pakistani troops were killed in a NATO attack on two border posts (ET, Dawn). Afghanistan had expressed worries that blocking containers of food could cause a food shortage in the country. Pakistan also said it would resume the sale of jet fuel to Afghanistan to meet the country's commercial demands, though a ban on the sale of fuel to NATO will remain in place (ET).
The lawyer representing Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Aitzaz Ahsan, denied Wednesday that Gilani is in contempt of court, but said that "there is no harm" in asking Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, since Zardari "has complete immunity as president" (AFP, AP, ET, Dawn). Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the Indian news channel New Delhi Television on Wednesday that Gilani will not be resigning, and that "nobody has the right politically, morally to ask us to resign" (ET). The Associated Press takes a look at what the current political situation signifies about the declining power of the Pakistani Army (AP).
In Pakistan's other bubbling political crisis, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has reportedly received a visa to travel to Pakistan to appear before the commission investigating the "Memogate" scandal on January 24 (ET, Dawn). And sacked Defense Secretary Khalid Naeem Lodhi filed a petition Tuesday challenging his dismissal by Prime Minister Gilani on the grounds that no inquiry had been carried out to prove his alleged "gross misconduct" (ET).
At least ten militants were killed in the Behlol area of Balochistan on Tuesday during a clash with Frontier Corps troops (ET). And gas supply to the Balochistan capital city of Quetta was disrupted Tuesday after militants blew up a pipeline (ET). A senior tribal journalist, Mukarram Khan Atif, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen as he prayed at a mosque in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda District (ET). In North Waziristan, local tribesmen reportedly attempted to shoot down a U.S. drone using Kalashnikovs and machine guns (Dawn).
A U.S. military investigation into the Afghan army officer who opened fire on his American trainers in April 2011, killing eight airmen and one civilian, discovered that the gunman, Col. Ahmed Gul, had previously said he wanted to "kill Americans," but was considered a "reformed Taliban" by Afghan officials (AP, CNN, WSJ, Post, LAT). And U.S. troops in Afghanistan say that training engineers and maintenance personnel to fix military aircraft is of critical importance to the country's security in anticipation of NATO's 2014 withdrawal (AP).
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN on Tuesday that the Taliban will allow a polio vaccination campaign to operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, after polio cases in the country tripled in 2011, prompting the government to ask the militant group to grant immunity to health workers (CNN, NYT). Finally, the Afghan government said Wednesday morning that security forces had killed nine militants and captured 23 suspected militants across the country over the previous 24 hours, as fighting seemed to diminish after Taliban strongholds received heavy snowfall (AP).
Top Chef comes to South Asia when a new reality show entitled Foodistan premiers on New Delhi Television on January 26 (ET). The show will feature sixteen professional chefs -- eight from Pakistan and eight from India -- who will compete to impress the judges with their finest dishes.
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