Event notice: Afghanistan 2014: Planning for the Transition, MONDAY, February 4, 2013. 12:15-1:45PM. Featuring Saad Mohseni, who has been described as Afghanistan's first media mogul, and Peter Bergen, director of the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program (NAF).
At least 22 people were killed and 45 wounded in the northwestern Pakistani town of Hangu when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a crowded market on a narrow lane that houses both a Sunni and a Shi'a Muslim mosque, as worshippers were leaving the mosques following Friday prayers (Reuters, AP, Dawn). Local officials say the anti-Taliban Sunni Supreme Council often holds its meetings at the Sunni mosque in the lane, which may have been the target.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that general elections go ahead as planned in May, amid rumors that the powerful judiciary and military are working to oust the elected civilian government and delay the elections (Reuters, ). Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry also summoned the head of the government's anti-corruption board, Fasih Bokhari, to appear before the court on February 4 to explain a letter he wrote to President Asif Ali Zardari accusing the Supreme Court of trying to sway the upcoming elections (AP).
Pakistan's Minister of Information confirmed on Thursday that the strategically important Pakistani port of Gwadar would be moving from the control of the Port of Singapore Authority to a company called Chinese Overseas Port Holdings Limited (ET, NYT). The transfer has been planned for some time now, and is expected to bring investment that will revitalize the largely unused port.
A new report commissioned by the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program from leading Indian economist Nisha Taneja finds that potential trade between India and Pakistan is around $19.8 billion, ten times its current value of $1.97 billion (The Hindu). However, reaching this potential will require a bilateral investment treaty, as well as the revision of both countries' negative and sensitive lists.
As NATO plans for the logistics of moving tens of thousands of vehicles and some 120,000 shipping containers out of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan has stepped up to offer use of their roads in return for some of the international coalition's used equipment (NYT). The Uzbek government, which is ranked by Transparency International as the 6th most corrupt in the world, is looking to obtain armored vehicles, mine detectors, navigation equipment, and night-vision goggles.
In a sign of NATO's transition away from a combat role and into a training and support role for Afghan forces, American troop deaths in Afghanistan dropped to their lowest rate in four years in January (AP). Just three U.S. soldiers died last month, one of them from injuries sustained in December.
A bomb blast among spectators at a bird fight in Helmand Province killed a teenager and wounded eight others on Thursday (AFP). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack against a "gambling match where local police were present."
Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper has little mood-lifter for the ladies that they call "Hottie of the Week," which profiles a different man every week (ET). This week it was Danish Taimoor, who is not only a terrific actor, but "also comes with an MBA degree from Karachi University, and it is that mixture of brains and brawn that makes us all giddy."
-- Jennifer Rowland