Event notice: Please join the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program on TUESDAY, March 6 for a conversation with Daud Khattak, a veteran Pakistani journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (NAF).
At least 10 Pakistani soldiers and 23 militants were killed Friday in a battle sparked when dozens of militants attacked a hilltop military outpost in the remote Tirah Valley in northwestern Khyber Agency (Reuters, CNN, BBC, AP, NYT, ET, The News). Later, a suicide bomber detonated his vest outside a mosque in the Tirah Valley just after Friday prayers, killing at least 23 people (AFP, AP). Gunmen in Peshawar shot and killed an intelligence official identified as Bashir Khan on Friday (AFP).
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Afridi said Thursday that the insurgent group was responsible for killing a Chinese woman who was gunned down in a market in Peshawar on Tuesday, to avenge what he called atrocities carried out by Chinese security forces in China's predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang (AP, Reuters, DT). Bonus read: Brian Fishman, "Al-Qaeda and the Rise of China" (TWQ).
Members of Pakistan's provincial assemblies voted Friday for members of the indirectly elected upper house of the federal parliament, with 54 of the 104 seats available to be filled (AFP, BBC, AFP/ET). Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan voiced his disappointment at Senate seats being "publicly auctioned," and called for the "bad fish" responsible for the practice to be thrown out of parliament (Dawn). And the New York Times' Eric Pfanner has a must-read on Pakistan's transparency in the ways in which it wants to censor the Internet, including an open advertisement for submissions on the "development, deployment and operation of a national-level URL filtering and blocking System" (NYT).
Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna on Thursday welcomed the Pakistani federal cabinet's decision this week to approve a list of banned goods, allowing all other goods to be traded with India, and also to phase out this negative list over the next ten months (AFP, Dawn, ET). Meanwhile, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar flatly rejected U.S. pressure to drop a gas pipeline deal with Iran, saying the project is "in Pakistan's national interest and will be pursued and completed irrespective of any extraneous considerations" (WSJ, Dawn, ET, ET, CNN, BBC, AP).
Let the bidding begin
The Afghan government next week plans to auction off a section of the oil-rich Afghan-Tajik basin believed to hold at least 600 million barrels of oil (Bloomberg). Securing an investor will be a step toward establishing the economic independence Afghanistan will desperately need when NATO withdraws in 2014.
Right-wing Hindu activists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad stormed the set of Hollywood director Katherine Bigelow's movie on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Chandigarh, India on Friday (AFP). The activists tore down Urdu language signs that had been erected, as VHP secretary Ramkrishna Srivastava rejected the idea that Indian markets should look like Pakistani markets.
-- Jennifer Rowland