Sting of rejection
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday threw out Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's appeal of the contempt of court charges brought against him last week, meaning Gilani must appear before the court on Monday to be formally charged (CNN, NYT, Post, AP,Reuters, AJE, BBC, ET). If convicted, Gilani could face six months in prison and would be barred from seeking political office. The commission investigating the so-called "Memogate" scandal said Friday that Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who has repeatedly refused to travel to Pakistan to appear before the court, will be allowed to record his statement via video link from the Pakistani High Commission in London (ET). However, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) later overturned this decision (Dawn).
Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Friday rejected U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter's assertion Thursday that although Pakistan had closed its borders to NATO supplies destined for Afghanistan, Pakistani airspace is still being used to transport that cargo (ET, ET). Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman informed U.S. legislators of Pakistan's anger over Wednesday's congressional hearing on alleged human rights abuses in Balochistan, calling it "ill-advised" and detrimental to the trust between the two countries (ET, ET, Dawn, Dawn). Meanwhile, Rehman Malik said Friday that the government is prepared to hold talks with Baloch separatists (Dawn).
Pakistani security forces on Friday killed 11 suspected militants in Kurram Agency, which has seen a sharp escalation in fighting between insurgents and government troops in recent weeks (Reuters). And Pakistan's Supreme Court delayed a public hearing originally set for Thursday for the country's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), which has been asked to bring forth seven men it is accused of holding since 2010, and explain the deaths of four others in ISI custody (CNN, Guardian).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused NATO on Thursday of killing eight children in an airstrike on the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa, and said he has created an official delegation to investigate the strike (AP, Reuters). On Friday, Afghan government officials said that Pakistani security forces in Quetta have arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination of former Afghan president and head of the High Peace Council Burhanuddin Rabbani (AP).
The AP's Heidi Vogt has a must-read on the dangers of nationalizing the 11,000 Afghan security forces currently working for private security by President Karzai's March 20 deadline (AP). Many foreign aid workers and Afghans worry that the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), which will take responsibility for all of these forces, is not ready to provide security to Afghanistan's numerous development projects. And the BBC on Thursday examined the story behind the Afghan soldier who killed four French troops last month, Abdul Saboor, who purportedly suffered from mental illnesses that Afghan Army doctors failed to detect (BBC).
Game faces on
The Afghan national cricket team is playing its first match against a Test-playing nation today, facing the experienced Pakistani team in a one-off international at Sharjah Stadium (ESPN). The match marks a momentous achievement for the sport in Afghanistan, a country that had not shown much of an interest in it before refugees were forced to flee the U.S. invasion and spend time in cricket-crazy Pakistan.