The South Asia Channel

Car bomb kills at least 42, wounds 100 in historic Pakistani market

Weekend violence

At least 42 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in Peshawar on Sunday when a car bomb exploded and ripped through the city's historic Kissa Khwani bazaar, setting nearby shops and vehicles aflame (AP, BBC, ET, Guardian, NYT, Pajhwok, Post, VOA, WSJ).  Among the dead were at least 14 members of the same family who were at the market to finalize preparations for a wedding.  The attack came one week after twin suicide bombings killed at least 80 people at the city's All Saints Church, though it was unclear if the two incidents were related.  There have been no immediate claims of responsibility, though the Pakistani Taliban has denied being involved (RFE/RL). 

Sunday's attack in the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province came two days after a bomb exploded on a bus carrying local government officials in the city, killed at least 19 and wounding dozens of others (AFP, AP, NYT, Post, RFE/RL).  According to Sahibzada Mohammad Anis, the commissioner of Peshawar, it appeared that the bomb had been planted on the bus and detonated as the workers returned to their homes for Friday prayers.  As with the bazaar attack, no one has publicly stated that they were behind the incident.  

At least three suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike on Monday in the Datta Khel section of North Waziristan (AFP, Dawn, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, VOA).  According to Pakistani officials, the drone fired two missiles at a suspected militant compound in the Mohammad Khel village.  It was the second such strike in as many days, as reports emerged Sunday that six suspected militants were killed and three others were injured in a drone strike in the Dargamandi area of the restive tribal region (AP, Dawn, RFE/RL).  

Diplomatic overture

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Moanmohan Singh, meet briefly in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan on Sunday, shaking hands for cameras before a more formal meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting.  While both men favor normalizing relations between the two nuclear neighbors, as the New York Times' Declan Walsh writes, "both are hamstrung by domestic considerations -- especially hard-line elements in their respective military and political establishments -- that drastically limit their room to maneuver" (NYT).  While the two leaders invited each other to visit their respective countries and said their military chiefs would meet to investigate recent attacks occurring along the disputed Kashmir Line of Control, outside observers wonder how productive any talks will actually be (Bloomberg, ET, RFE/RL, VOA). 

At least five people died in Pakistan's Balochistan province on Saturday after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the region, just days after a 7.8 magnitude temblor rocked the area (AP, Bloomberg, BBC, LAT, RFE/RL).  Balochistan is Pakistan's largest but least populated province, and rescue efforts have been hampered by the rough terrain, as well as rocket attacks by militants (Dawn, Dawn, ET). 

Presidential candidates 

Afghanistan's presidential race appeared to be heating up on Monday when Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister, announced on his Twitter account that he plans to contest next April's election (Pajhwok, RFE/RL).  Ghani, who also ran in 2009, is the first big name to declare his candidacy in the race to succeed current president, Hamid Karzai.  In line with Afghan election rules, which bar current government officials from running for elected office, Ghani resigned his chairmanship of the Transition Coordination Committee on Sunday. 

As he wrapped up a four-day trip to China, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Xinhua, the country's state-run news agency, that: "This visit of mine proved with great certainty that China and Afghanistan have developed a strong relationship, based on commonality of interest" (Pajhwok).  He also said that China was a very stable neighbor and that it had contributed in significant but quiet ways to the Afghan peace process.  

Hundreds of people rallied in Kabul on Sunday to condemn the communist regime for killing and torturing thousands of Afghans in the late 1970s, and demanded the public execution of the perpetrators (Pajhwok).  The rally, which was organized by the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan, came a little more than a week after the Dutch government released a list of nearly 5,000 Afghans who were arrested, tortured, and killed by Afghan officials at the time.  Governor's offices and provincial councils also organized condolence ceremonies across the country on Monday to remember those who had died (Pajhwok). 

Donkey ambulance 

To combat Afghanistan's high maternal and infant mortality rates -- some of the highest in the world -- a British charity has developed an inflatable donkey saddle to help pregnant women in remote sections of the country get to the medical care they need (BBC, RFE/RL).  According to designer Peter Muckle, he created the saddle to ease the burden on women in labor, who often have to travel over rocky terrain to get to nearby health centers.  HealthProm, the charity that financed the project, found that there was no comfortable way for women to travel to give birth, but that if women did make it to a health center, there was a higher chance that they and their child would survive.  Muckle's "donkey ambulance" is pieced together from inflatable camping cushions, the armrest from an airbed, and part of an inflatable pool lounger. 

-- Bailey Cahall 

A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images