Relief and insecurity
The provincial government of Balochistan called upon Baloch separatist groups to halt attacks on earthquake relief efforts on Thursday night (Dawn, ET, BBC). Jan Muhammad Buledi, a government spokesman, said: "People will die of hunger, if the attacks continued." The call followed an attack on the helicopter of the National Disaster Management Authority chairman, Maj. Gen. Alam Saeed. One military official stated: "The area is rife with insurgency and has presence of Baluchistan Liberation Front insurgents." The poor security situation in the areas hit by the earthquake has constrained the government's relief efforts.
A bomb exploded on a bus carrying government officials in Peshawar, killing 17 people and wounding dozens on Friday (AP, RFE/RL). Officials told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the bomb was detonated by remote control. As of yet no group has claimed responsibility.
The Dengue fever outbreak that has killed 23 people in Swat valley and infected 6,500 people since August is likely to subside, health officials said on Thursday (Dawn). According to Dr. Qutbuddin Kakar, a doctor with the World Health Organization: "The number of dengue cases is decreasing and the countdown has been started" and the cold weather will kill the mosquitoes that spread the disease.
Pakistan's Telecommunications Authority blocked access to Pakistan's first website providing support to the Pakistani gay community, the website said on Thursday (ET, Dawn). The website, www.queerpk.com, provided a platform for people to network and support each other. An emailed statement from the website read in part: "The government would ban anything that is progressive and talks about the rights of minorities." The government has not commented on the ban, but homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan and the Telecommunications Authority often blocks content it considers pornographic or blasphemous.
Karzai in China
According to Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will discuss the US military presence in Afghanistan post-2014 with Chinese leaders during his ongoing visit to Beijing (Pajhwok). According to Afghan diplomatic sources, the issue is of great importance and interest to China as are economic issues between the two countries. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang commented on Chinese-Afghan ties on the sidelines of the Euro-Asia Economic Forum, saying: "China will strengthen economic and trade cooperation with Afghanistan to achieve win-win results and advance the strategic partnership between the allies."
Aimal Faizi, Karzai's spokesman, told reporters on Friday that oil and gas extraction was among China's economic interests in Afghanistan (Pajhwok). He added that Karzai was scheduled to meet with China's director-general of fuel. Afghanistan's Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, is also conducting talks regarding Chinese investment in oil and mining. In 2011, the China National Petroleum Corporation was awarded a contract for some extraction in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch called on a government committee investigating prison conditions in Afghanistan to end torture and enact reforms (Pajhwok). According to the international human rights organization, torture and other abuses are rife throughout Afghanistan's prisons. Brad Adams, the organization's Asia director, said, "President Karzai's new committee could be an important step for addressing the horrific abuses in Afghanistan's prisons. But the committee will need not only to shine the light on the abuses going on behind prison doors but to come up with ways to fix the system." The group's call follows a January report by the United Nations that found 635 pretrial detainees and prisoners convicted on national security grounds had been tortured.
Pakathon, a conference held in cities in both Pakistan and the United States brought together activists for sustainable development in Pakistan (Dawn). A 40 hour conference, the Pakathon produced several new ideas including a smartphone application that can map the route to nearby medical facilities using emergency SMS. The event crossed national borders drawing upon the resources of Boston's Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University connecting them to Pakistan's Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and National University of Management and Technology. The organizers seek to continue their efforts, stating: ""We would be looking for ‘Pakathon Fellows'; effectively project managers, students or young professionals willing to stay in Karachi for the sake of continuity of the project. We would like to see this become an annual event in the future."
--David Sterman and Bailey Cahall
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images