The South Asia Channel

Televised standoff in Islamabad ends with politician's lunge at gunman

Televised standoff

A five-hour standoff between a gunman and police in Islamabad ended late on Thursday night when the suspect was shot and wounded by police snipers, and then taken into custody (AP, BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT, Pajhwok).  After failing to elude a police chase, the gunman, Muhammad Sikandar, parked the stolen vehicle in the middle of the capital's Constitution Avenue and emerged with two assault rifles, as well as his wife, his son, and his daughter.  Sikandar demanded that Pakistan adopt an Islamic system of government and hold new elections that complied with Islamic laws.  Pakistani talk shows broadcast the incident live and several politicians tried to negotiate with Sikandar.  The incident ended when Zamarud Khan, a former lawmaker and politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, walked up to the family and lunged at Sikandar, catching him off guard (ET).  Police sharpshooters then opened fire, narrowly missing Khan, but wounding Sikandar, who is now in critical condition and in custody at a local hospital. 

At least two people were killed and 24 were wounded near Machh Town in Balochistan's Bolan district on Friday when unidentified gunmen launched a gun and rocket attack on a passenger train that was traveling from Quetta to Rawalpindi (Dawn, ET).  According to Zubair Kurd, a local government official, most of the wounded are in critical condition so it is likely the death toll will rise.  While the attackers were able to escape, Kurd said a search operation is underway.  Friday's assault comes a little over a week after gunmen with the Baloch Liberation Army kidnapped and killed 11 civilians from Punjab-bound passenger buses, also near Machh Town.

The latest border clash between India and Pakistan in Kashmir continued on Thursday with reports of firings by both sides that killed one civilian and injured a number of other soldiers and civilians (ET).  Pakistani military sources said India fired twice into the Kotli sector on Thursday, injuring six civilians, including two young girls; and Indian Army officials said three soldiers had been wounded and one civilian killed when Pakistani forces fired into the Balakot sector.  Both countries have denounced the other's violations of the 2003 ceasefire along Kashmir's Line of Control, and have claimed they are simply acting in response to the other's shelling of the disputed region.

More NATO casualties

Eight NATO troops were killed and wounded in Kandahar province on Friday when a suicide bomber attacked their convoy, though specific figures for the dead and injured are not known at this time (Pajhwok).  Gen. Abdul Hamid, the commander of the Afghan National Army's (ANA's) 205th Atal Military Corps, told reporters that four ANA troops and three civilians were also wounded in the attack.  NATO's International Security Assistance Force said they had been informed about the attack but had no details as of yet (Pajhwok).  No one has claimed responsibility for the incident.

In Farah province, Taliban fighters set fire to four NATO supply trucks on Friday and while there were casualties in the attack, local government officials, a witness, and a Taliban spokesman have all cited different numbers (Pajhwok).  According to these conflicting reports, between zero and eight local police officers and two to four of the attackers were killed during the incident.

A bomb attached to a car in the Pamir Cinema area of Kabul exploded on Friday morning, destroying the car and damaging nearby shops, but causing no casualties (Pajhwok).  According to Brig. Gen. Mohammad Daud Amin, Kabul's deputy police chief, the vehicle belonged to a local shopkeeper and the incident is being investigated. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman rejected media reports on Thursday that claimed Karzai was supporting Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf in next year's presidential election (Pajhwok).  Aimal Faizi, Karzai's spokesman, said that while the president had begun holding meetings with political and jihadi leaders on the country's political future, he had not yet voiced his support for a particular candidate.  Speculation over whom Karzai will support has been growing for months and continued despite Faizi's statements, as an anonymous source told Afghanistan's Pajhwok that the candidacy of Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul has also been discussed.

In an address to Kabul police officers on Thursday, acting Interior Minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang said that up to 13,000 policewomen would be needed to provide security for female polling centers during next April's presidential and provincial elections (Pajhwok).  As there are currently 2,000 policewomen in the force, Patang emphasized the need for "cooperation from civil society groups in this regard."  He also noted that the ministry has created a comprehensive security plan to help ensure that the numerous challenges that have plagued past elections would be addressed quickly.

Spoils of war

As NATO logistics convoys continue to come under attack and the U.S. military faces high customs fees, much of the equipment from the 12-year war is now available to the public, according to a report by Fox News (Fox News).  At, interested buyers can purchase anything from rafts and trucks to fire engines and pretzel stands, though it is unclear if the shipping would be free.

-- Bailey Cahall