South Asia Channel
Next Monday, November 25, the AfPak Channel will be relaunched as the South Asia Channel on foreignpolicy.com. While we will continue to provide you with news and commentary from and about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New America Foundation has partnered with the South Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies to provide our readers with key stories and insights from India as well. Beginning tomorrow, the daily brief will include an India section, with India-related posts to appear on the redesigned blog next week.
Just days before a Loya Jirga (grand council) is set to meet in Kabul and vote on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the United States and Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rejected one of the provisions in the agreement, placing the entire deal in jeopardy, according to a senior Afghan official and Western diplomat (NYT, Reuters). While much of the reporting on the BSA negotiations over the last few weeks has focused on the issue of immunity for U.S. troops from Afghan law, the question of whether or not foreign troops will be able to search Afghan homes has emerged as a new sticking point. Those familiar with the negotiations say that Karzai rejects the idea of the United States conducting these searches either unilaterally or jointly with Afghan forces, and have said that this is even more important than the question of jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers who commit crimes in Afghanistan.
Reports of the impasse emerged one day after the Washington Post reported that both the United States and Afghanistan had circulated a completed BSA draft to their respective administration officials and lawmakers, suggesting a measure of forward progress (Post). According to the Post, that version of the agreement resolved the immunity issue, though the latest disagreement may make that concession moot. The jirga is set to begin discussing the BSA on Thursday and will advise Karzai on whether he should sign the agreement or not (Pajhwok). If the security pact between the two countries cannot be finalized, it is possible the United States will exercise the "zero option" - pulling all combat troops out of the country when the NATO mission ends in December 2014.
In addition to the diplomatic disagreements that are overshadowing the jirga, security has emerged as another concern after a bomb exploded near the council venue on Saturday, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 20 others (AJAM, BBC, NYT, RFE/RL, VOA). Sediq Seddiqui, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, told reporters that a suicide bomber had detonated an explosives-laden vehicle near a security checkpoint, causing the casualties. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident.
Six bodies that were found beheaded in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on Sunday have been identified as police officers, not contractors as was originally reported (AJAM, AP, BBC, RFE/RL). The officers had disappeared from neighboring Zabul province several days before their bodies were found, and Mohammed Jan Rasoolyar, the deputy provincial governor, said the confusion had come from the fact that the bodies were dressed in civilian clothes. Police officials blamed the Taliban for the killings, though no group has claimed responsibility.
Elsewhere in the two provinces, at least four people were killed, including three children, when the vehicles they were traveling in struck roadside bombs (AP, Pajhwok). According to Rasoolyar, two children were killed and their father and sister were injured in Zabul, while Zia Durrani, a police spokesman in Kandahar, said one child and his father were killed in the province's Shurabak district. No one has claimed responsibility for either incident.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan announced on Sunday that former president and military strongman Pervez Musharraf will be tried for treason (AFP, BBC, ET, NYT, RFE/RL, VOA). Khan said that the government would be charging him under Article 6 of the Pakistani constitution for declaring a state of emergency in 2007 and suspending the constitution. Raza Bokhari, one of Musharraf's spokesmen, rejected the charges and suggested they were "a botched attempt by the government to temporarily take the focus away from existential threats faced by Pakistan" (AP). Musharraf will be the first military ruler tried for treason in Pakistan's 66-year history, and if convicted, he could face the death penalty or life in prison.
Eight Sunni Muslim seminary students were killed in Rawalpindi on Friday by Shiite Muslims traveling in an Ashura religious procession for allegedly insulting them as they passed (AP, RFE/RL). According to officials, more than 40 other people were injured during the clashes and several shops outside of the seminary were set on fire. An army unit eventually reached the scene and took control, imposing a curfew on residents and a local media blackout that lasted until midnight on Sunday (AJE, ET, VOA).
Shortly after that curfew was lifted, another was imposed in the Kohat and Hangu districts of northwest Pakistan after three people were killed by unidentified gunmen during another sectarian clash (AP, Dawn, ET). Fazal Naeem Khan, a local police official, said the fighting occurred during a rally held by the hardline Sunni Muslim group Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat to protest the Friday clashes in Rawalpindi. While one policeman and two civilians were killed, Khan said it was unclear if any of the victims were members of the group.
-- Bailey Cahall
Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images