The editors of the AfPak Channel Daily Brief are deeply saddened by the death of Marie Colvin, one of the greatest war correspondents of our time (Reuters).
Deadly blast: A powerful car bomb ripped through a minibus terminal in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar on Thursday, killing 15 people and injuring dozens more (NYT, ET/AFP,Dawn, BBC, The News, AJE, AP). One security official said police had been warned about an impending attack by pro-Taliban militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, though no group had yet claimed responsibility. Meanwhile, Pakistani jets bombed militant hideouts in Upper Orakzai on Thursday, killing at least 15 suspected Taliban insurgents (AFP). Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday firmly voiced Pakistan's intention to support, not lead, a peace process in Afghanistan, reiterating that the process must be Afghan-led (Reuters).
Reuters reported on Thursday that just before the United States resumed drone strikes in Pakistan following a two month pause, senior U.S. officials including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called their Pakistani counterparts and informed them that the strikes would begin again despite Pakistani opposition (Reuters). Also on Thursday, hundreds of people gathered in North Waziristan's largest city, Miranshah, to protest U.S. drone strikes and demand compensation for their losses (AFP). Pakistani native Majid Khan, who has been held at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility for nine years, has tentatively agreed to a plea deal that secures him a reduced sentence if he testifies against other detainees (NYT, CNN, Post, AP).
Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz testified before the committee investigating the "Memogate" controversy via video link from the Pakistan High Commission in London on Wednesday and Thursday, and supplied written testimony including his BlackBerry PIN, phone numbers, and emails (DT, ET, BBC, Bloomberg, LAT,Dawn, ET/AFP). He reiterated his claim that former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani had asked Ijaz to deliver a message to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen requesting U.S. help preventing a coup by Pakistan's military leadership, but that Ijaz himself wrote the first draft of the memo because he couldn't get hold of Haqqani.
And the Associated Press on Wednesday examined the outrage sparked in Pakistan by U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher's (R-CA) assertion last week that the Baloch people in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan "have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country" (AP).
No end in sight
The Afghan Taliban on Thursday called on Muslims to attack NATO targets and kill its servicemen as protests against NATO troops' Quran burning raged across the country for a third day (CNN, Reuters, NYT). An Afghan soldier reportedly joined the protests later Thursday, and then shot and killed two NATO servicemen outside a NATO base in Nangarhar Province (Reuters, Tel, WSJ, AFP, AP). At least eight people were killed Thursday, including the two foreign troops, as protesters and police exchanged gunfire in the northern province of Baghlan and the southern province of Uruzgan (BBC, AP). And Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi rejected claims from the Kandahar peace council that the insurgent group had been holding talks with Afghan officials, but said the group does support the peace talk plans in Qatar (Dawn).
Human rights activist group Amnesty International said Thursday that half a million Afghans displaced by the ongoing conflict are currently living in makeshift shelter, and every day an additional 400 people flee their homes (AP, BBC, Guardian, Reuters). Amnesty reports that neither the Afghan government nor foreign donors provide enough aid to the refugees, leaving many struggling to survive. And Afghanistan's central bank chief Noorullah Delawari told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that he plans to announce new restrictions on the amount of currency that may be carried out of Afghanistan, in an effort to stem the flight of billions of dollars in cash as NATO troops withdraw (WSJ).
All fun and games
Pakistan's National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Lok Virsa, has completed a book in partnership with the Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage that details the rules of 24 different children's games played in the two countries (DT). Though the book is targeted toward children, Lok Virsa Executive Director Khalid Javaid assures visitors that adults will also be able to enjoy it, "as it brings back priceless memories of the past."
-- Jennifer Rowland