Dedicated to jihad
Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani network, reaffirmed his loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on Friday, saying that he will continue his jihad to establish "a truly Islamic order in Afghanistan" (Pajhwok). Speaking out about the recent death of his son Nasiruddin, Haqqani added that the group's financier was "neither the first martyr from our family nor will he be the last. In fact, the entire Haqqani family is dedicated to jihad and martyrdom." He also called for militants to unite under Omar's leadership and obey their commanders.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post that was published on Thursday, former first lady Laura Bush warned that the hard-won achievements of women and girls in Afghanistan over the last 12 years are at risk of being reversed (Pajhwok). She noted that, just as the civilian death toll has risen dramatically over the past year, the death rate for Afghan women and children rose by 38 percent during the same time period. While Bush highlighted the efforts of female members in Afghanistan's parliament, the American University of Afghanistan, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. companies to increase opportunities for women, she worried that "the message we are sending to Afghan men, women and children is that their lives are not worth our time or attention." She implored readers to let Afghans know that the United States will stand with them as they continue their fight for freedom.
With the Loya Jirga (grand council) preparing to meet in the coming days to discuss the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the United States, some are beginning to wonder if the "zero option" could become reality (RFE/RL). While the option of pulling all U.S. troops out of the country at the end of 2014 if the agreement isn't signed was originally seen as bluster, Frud Bezhan at RFE/RL notes that a majority of Americans no longer think the war is worth fighting and that the United States should "cut its losses." David Young, a civilian advisor to NATO in eastern Afghanistan and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project, added that convincing the American public of the need for a continued military engagement beyond 2014 will be a "tough sell." The jirga will debate the terms of the BSA and the Status of Forces Agreement, including whether or not U.S. troops will be granted immunity from prosecution under Afghan law, and advise Karzai on whether or not he should sign the agreements.
Cabinet ministers in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will not participate in a sit-in Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party is organizing to protest the use of U.S. drone strikes in the country's tribal regions, Dawn reported on Friday (Dawn). Last week Khan vowed to block NATO supplies from crossing through the province on November 20 in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, on November 1. According to the report, Khan has directed the provincial government to "remain distant" from the sit-in, allowing the PTI's central and provincial leadership to assume responsibilities for managing the event.
Addressing the nation on Friday, the day of Ashura -- an Islamic holiday to mark the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain at Karbala in 680 A.D. -- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that "staunch faith in Allah and strong willpower would undermine the enemies of Islam" (Dawn). Noting that Hussain's sacrifice "showed that truth was always victorious," Sharif added that the country should remain determined to make Pakistan a prosperous Islamic welfare state, though he did not provide details on how exactly he hopes to do that during his five-year term.
Ashura celebrations in Pakistan are also occurring under heightened security measures after intelligence reports warned of possible attacks by the Pakistani Taliban (ET). According to the reports, the targeted cities include Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Peshawar, and Abbottabad. As a result of the threats, cellular phone service has been suspended in more than 40 to 50 cities and towns in the country's Khyber Paktunkhwa province. The provincial government has also placed a blanket ban on motorcycles in Dera Ismail Khan. With the exception of a small hand grenade explosion that injured three policemen in Karachi, no incidents have been reported (ET). Bonus read: "Ashura around the world" Photo Gallery (ET).
According to the Associated Press, "an emotional advertisement for Google's search engine has become a hit in India and Pakistan" for highlighting the lives that were affected by the 1947 partition that created the two countries (AP). The ad, titled "Google Search: Reunion," features two childhood friends, now elderly men, who haven't seen each other in years and their respective grandchildren who use the search tool to arrange a surprise reunion for one of the men's birthdays. The commercial, which is "drawing praise and tears on both sides of the border," has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.7 million times.
-- Bailey Cahall
SYED HAIDER SHAH/AFP/Getty Images