The Rack: Steve Coll, "Sporting Chance: Can a sex symbol and cricket legend run Pakistan?" (New Yorker)
The United Nations said Wednesday that the number of Afghan civilian casualties have dropped for the first time in five years, falling 15 percent in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year (CNN, AP, AFP). However, UN officials cautioned that the conflict intensified in May, and civilian casualties increased again as the summer fighting progressed.
A suicide truck bomber detonated his explosives outside a NATO base in Afghanistan's Logar Province on Tuesday, failing to cause significant damage to the base, but wounding at least 13 Afghan civilians and NATO service members (CNN, VOA). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Two gunmen wearing Afghan army uniforms killed a U.S. soldier on Tuesday, in the latest apparent "green-on-blue" attack (AP). And two suicide bombers targeted NATO troops as they walked to a meeting with Afghan officials in the eastern province of Kunar on Wednesday, killing three coalition service members (Post, BBC, AP, AFP).
In an effort to revive peace talks with the Taliban, the United States has reportedly offered a concession on their proposal to transfer five Taliban prisoners to Qatar in return for the release of U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (Reuters). The new deal would see all five Taliban prisoners sent to Qatar before Sgt. Bergdahl's release, while the previous plan was to send the prisoners in two groups, and ask for Bergdahl's release in the middle as a good-faith gesture. The Express Tribune reports that Pakistan may release a top Afghan Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bahadur, who was captured in Karachi in 2010, to encourage reconciliation between the government and the Taliban in Afghanistan (ET).
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to appear before the court on August 27 to explain to a five-judge panel why he has not followed their directive to investigate corruption allegations against President Asif Ali Zardari (AP, Dawn, The News). The latest development threatens to escalate tensions between the government and the Supreme Court over the same issue that cost the previous prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani his job in June.
A bomb blast in Turbat, Balochistan killed four policemen and wounded 14 others on Tuesday night (Dawn, ET, AFP). Another bomb attack, on a Frontier Corps vehicle in the northwestern city of Peshawar, injured at least six people on Wednesday (ET). And the Pakistani Army on Tuesday denied recent reports that it is planning joint operations with U.S. forces against militants based in North Waziristan (Dawn, ET, DT).
Though Eid is still two weeks away, fashion designers in Pakistan are scrambling to launch their newest collections, and women eager to get the outfit that will have their friends talking are swarming stores and boutiques (ET). The crowd at midday in Elle'mint Pret had subsided on Monday, but shop workers said women had lined up outside the store that morning to have first pick of the new pieces.
-- Jennifer Rowland