Rifts revealed: Ousted deputy Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad told Reuters on Tuesday that he has held peace talks with the Pakistani government, but never without the "permission and advice of the TTP central leadership" (Reuters, Tel). TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, however, has rejected negotiations with Pakistan, which may be the reason for removing Mohammad. Pakistan's information minister for the northwest, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said Tuesday that Mohammad's dismissal "clearly shows the differences among Taliban ranks" (AP).
The hearing of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's contempt of court case was adjourned Wednesday after Justice Nasirul Mulk, who heads the seven-member bench overseeing the hearing, said time was being "wasted with irrelevant questions by [Gilani's attorney] Aitzaz Ahsan" (ET, Dawn). The Pakistani Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of a resolution condemning the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops in Afghanistan last month, and demanding that those responsible be punished (Dawn, AFP).
A nine-year-old boy was killed and three others were injured when a bomb placed in a sewer exploded in Peshawar on Wednesday (The News, Dawn, ET). And shelling by Pakistani security forces on Wednesday in Upper Orakzai Agency killed at least 17 militants (ET).
The commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, will reportedly travel to Pakistan in 10 days for talks with officials about reopening ground routes that have been closed to NATO supply trucks since the November 24 NATO attack on two Pakistani border posts (AP, AFP, ET). And the senior official in China's restive Xinjiang Province, Nur Bekri, said Wednesday that militants in Xinjiang have extensive ties to terrorist groups based in Pakistan, an uncharacteristically explicit suggestion of Pakistan's inability to restrain militant groups (WSJ, Reuters).
Six British soldiers were killed late Tuesday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the Gereshk district of Helmand Province, in the largest single loss of British life in Afghanistan in six years (Tel, NYT, BBC, CNN, AP, LAT, Reuters, AFP). And on Wednesday, a bomb strapped to a motorcycle was detonated remotely in a crowded market in Kandahar, targeting the border security commander for the area but instead killing four civilians.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the recent violent protests in Afghanistan in response to the Quran burnings are a sign that "now is the time" to let Afghan security forces take the reins on combat operations (Reuters, LAT, AP). And Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations forces, recently hosted a quiet meeting with some of the U.S. military's most senior officials, to discuss the future of U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan after NATO withdraws in 2014 (CNN).
Rescue teams are digging for survivors after an avalanche buried a village of 200 people in northeastern Badakhshan Province on Tuesday, leaving at least 47 people dead and dozens more missing (AP, BBC, NYT, Tel, AJE, LAT, CNN). And AFP reports on the reasons behind the self-immolation of teenaged brides in Afghanistan (AFP).
Slow - double penalty zone
The Punjab government has increased the penalties for a wide range of driving offenses by about 100 percent, raising fears about abuse of the new rules by traffic police, or increased road rage from drivers (Dawn). The increased fines were applied to infractions such as driving without a seatbelt, driving at excessive speeds, and using the horn in a silent zone, though drunk driving is still reportedly not on the list of offenses at all.
-- Jennifer Rowland