Bonus read: "Mixed Legacy for Departing Pakistani Army Chief," Declan Walsh (NYT).
As recent U.S. drone strikes strained the country's ties with both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party continued its protests against the strikes last Wednesday by revealing what it said was the name of the CIA station chief in Pakistan, a claim that could not be verified (AP, CNN, Reuters). Shireen Mazari, the party's information secretary, issued a letter to Pakistani police officers accusing the man, along with CIA Director John Brennan, of "committing murder and waging war against Pakistan," particularly for a drone strike in Khyber Paktunkwha province -- where the party controls the local government -- that killed five people on Nov. 21 (NYT). She also claimed that the man did not enjoy diplomatic immunity and may give up the names of U.S. drone pilots if interrogated. It was the third time in as many years that the name of the agency's top spy in the country has been revealed (Post).
While the PTI's protests appeared to have died out on Monday, with almost no one showing up to agitate against the strikes, there are plans to protest outside of the country's parliament building in Islamabad on Thursday, Dec. 5 (ET). The latest drone strike in Pakistan occurred on Friday, Nov. 29, killing three suspected militants and wounding several others in North Waziristan (AFP, AP, CNN, Dawn, ET).
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul on Saturday, his first official trip to Afghanistan since being elected in May, to hold "in-depth" consultations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on how to best promote bilateral relations between the two countries and Afghan peace efforts (AFP, BBC, Reuters, VOA). Sharif also met with members of the Afghan High Peace Council and agreed to let them continue talks with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former top Taliban commander (AP). Baradar, who was released from a Pakistani prison in September, has long been seen as a way to restart the stalled Afghan peace talks. While little was given in the way of specifics, Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan's interest in having a stable, peaceful Afghanistan (RFE/RL, WSJ).
Along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, militants attacked a security convoy in the Bazai area of the tribal regions on Saturday, killing three soldiers and wounding two others (RFE/RL, VOA). Pakistani officials said that the attackers opened fire on the convoy as it delivered food supplies to a border checkpoint. Sajjad Mohmand, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the incident, which occurred the day after Gen. Raheel Sharif replaced Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as the country's chief of army staff (Dawn, RFE/RL).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the United States of withholding military supplies on Sunday, as tensions between the two countries over the stalled Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) continued to worsen. The statement released by the presidential palace said that "the cutting of fuel supplies and support services to the Afghan Army and police is being used as a means of pressure" to ensure Karzai's signature (RFE/RL). Washington has denied the accusation and the International Security Assistance Force released its own statement saying, "There has been no stoppage in the delivery of requested fuel and we continue to process all orders as soon as they are received" (Pajhwok, VOA).
Karzai's latest accusations are part of "an increasingly acrimonious stalemate" between the two countries that makes the signing of the BSA, which will determine the size and scope of the post-2014 U.S. mission in Afghanistan, even less likely (Post). According to the Washington Post, the United States appears to be seriously considering the so-called ‘zero option' -- pulling all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan when the NATO combat mission ends next December -- while Karzai again refused to sign the security pact on Thursday when it was revealed that a U.S. airstrike had killed an Afghan child and injured two Afghan women (NYT). While Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, personally called Karzai on Friday to apologize for the strike in Helmand province, there has been no further comment from Karzai's office about what this means for the BSA (AP, LAT, NYT, Post).
While Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the chief of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan party, called on Karzai to standby his refusal to sign the BSA, this is not a view shared by many Afghans (Pajhwok). Abdullah Abdullah, a key opposition leader and presidential candidate, told Afghanistan's Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday that, though the BSA is not a cure-all for the country's myriad problems, "we need non-stop international community support until we are able to stand on our own feet" (Pajhwok).
Afghans are also starting to question Karzai's disparate reactions to attacks that kill civilians. The New York Times reported on Saturday that, while Karzai had decried the U.S. strike in Helmand that killed a young child, he had no comment for a Taliban suicide bombing that killed an 8-year-old boy and wounded two other children (NYT). According to several Afghan lawmakers cited in the piece, most of Karzai's cabinet wants him to sign the BSA, arguing that it is necessary for the country's future security.
At least four Afghan police officers were killed on Monday and 17 other people were injured in the Narkh district of Afghanistan's Wardak province when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle outside a police base (BBC, Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Abdul Ghafour, the district police chief, was among the dead. Four of the injured are reportedly in critical condition, so the death toll could rise. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Nangarhar province, 10 people were injured on Monday when a motorcycle bomb exploded in the parking lot of the Nangarhar University's Education Facility (Pajhwok). According to Ahmad Zeya Abdulzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, the vehicle belonged to a student, who has been detained by police.
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You go girls!
Sixteen young Pakistani women made history this past weekend when they headed to India to compete in the 2013 Kabaddi World Cup (AFP). Kabaddi, according to Agence France Presse, is a "traditional tag-wrestling sport [that] involves players trying to tag an opponent before making it back to their half of the field," and this is the first time Pakistan has ever fielded a female kabaddi team for international competition. The sport originates from the Punjab provinces in India and Pakistan, and is played throughout South Asia. The tournament, which began on Saturday, will run through Dec. 14.
-- Bailey Cahall
Tough battle ahead
India will likely reject the so-called "peace clause" on agricultural subsidies at the WTO's ministerial meeting in Bali on Tuesday, Dec. 3. India's plans to provide food security to 67 percent of its population are at odds with WTO rules, which limit agricultural subsidies to 10 percent of production. As a bargain, an interim peace clause was offered to India, which would not penalize the country for breaching WTO rules for four years, an offer that remains unacceptable to Indian negotiators. Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma blamed farm lobbies in the developed world for setting the WTO agenda and said: "We can no longer allow the interests of our farmers to be compromised at the altar of mercantilist ambitions of the rich" (The Hindu).
In its Bali round, the WTO is looking to broker a deal across developed and developing nations, creating a framework for trade facilitation at border crossings, a temporary reprieve to agricultural subsidy violations, and duty free exports for least developed countries. The issues form part of a single deal and a disagreement in one area could jeopardize the entire agreement. The WTO has failed to secure a single global deal since its inception in the 1990s.
Tejpal arrested in high-profile harassment scandal
Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Telhelka magazine, was taken into custody in Goa on Saturday and is now being questioned over allegations that he sexually assaulted a female journalist (BBC, Times of India). Goa police sought to hold Tejpal for 14 days, but on Sunday, a court remanded him into police custody for six days. The victim, whose identity remains concealed, has leveled claims of rape against the editor. Six journalists, including the publication's managing editor, have now resigned over the controversy. The case has dominated headlines in India, as Tehelka is a top investigative magazine in the country and has featured exposes of gender inequality. A poll released on Sunday showed that 93 percent of Delhi voters named violence against women as a priority in upcoming elections (Hindustan Times).
Historic turnout in Rajasthan
The western Indian state of Rajasthan recorded its highest ever turnout in state elections this weekend (Times of India). An estimated 73 percent of the electorate came out to vote in over 199 districts, higher than the 63 percent turnout recorded a decade ago. With elections in the states of Chattisgarh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh and now Rajasthan complete, the focus will be on elections in Delhi. Every state thus far has surpassed its previous record in election turnout, with some states seeing an increase in voting from different demographics, such as women (Chattisgarh, Mizoram) and youth (Madhya Pradesh). Monday marked the final day of campaigning in Delhi and voting is set to begin on Wednesday.
A militant attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Budgam district on Monday killed one police officer and injured two outside the Chadoora station. No group has come forward to claim responsibility (Times of India).
Indian GDP, manufacturing on the rise
The Indian economy grew by 4.8 percent in the second quarter, besting bleaker expectations of 4.4 percent to 4.6 percent growth that were predicted by analysts (NYT). The increase in GDP was attributed to a healthy monsoon, although the finance sector, real estate, electricity and construction recorded positive levels of growth. Analysts interviewed by the New York Times did not expect India's GDP to surpass 5 percent in the 2014 financial year due to persistent inflation, project delays, a weak supply chain, and a slowdown in domestic demand. In a further reprieve to the economy, HSBC's manufacturing purchasing manager index (PMI) showed an increase in manufacturing activity last month. Manufacturing orders grew for the first time in six months, pushing India's PMI to 51.3 in November, up from 49.6 in October (Mint).
Fiscal deficit hits 84 percent of year's target
Data released by the Controller General of Accounts on Nov. 29 suggests that India has reached 84 percent of its target fiscal deficit for the current financial year (Hindu Businessline). As of October 2013, total receipts stood at Rs. 4.64 lakh crore ($745 billion) while total expenditures were at Rs. 9.22 ($1.4 trillion). This put the fiscal deficit at 4.57 lakh crore ($724 billion) in close range of the target 5.42 lakh crore ($872 billion). The deficit has been blamed on low tax collections and an increase in planned and non-planned expenditures by the central government. Analysts cited in the article predicted that Indian tax collection would have to increase by 30 percent to meet its current shortfall. If the government fails to do this, it would have to borrow from the market, putting liquidity pressure on corporate, commercial, and individual borrowers.
To infinity and beyond
India's first mission to Mars left Earth's orbit early on Sunday, becoming the farthest object sent into space by the country (AP, Reuters, Times of India). The Mangalyaan, or "Mars craft," is now on a trek that will take it around the sun and into Mars' orbit by next September. India has now overtaken China's progress in launching a Mars probe, media reports said. China launched a Mars probe on a Russian spacecraft in November 2011, but the spacecraft failed to leave Earth's orbit. Only the United States, European Union, and Russia have successfully sent probes to orbit or land on Mars. Analysts said the milestone could also help India's low-cost technology capture a larger portion of the $304 billion global space market. India's current mission has a price tag of 4.5 billion rupees ($73 million), about one-tenth of the cost of NASA's latest Mars mission.
-- Shruti Jagirdar and Ana Swanson
A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images