"Negative message": Pakistan's ruling and opposition politicians on Thursday condemned the U.S. reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba and accused mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (NYT, DT, ET, Dawn). Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the $10 million reward for information on Saeed would "further widen the trust deficit between the two countries," while opposition lawmakers called it "mind boggling." Saeed is one of the leaders of Difa-e-Pakistan, a an umbrella political party for many of Pakistan's hardline religious groups, supporters of which rallied against the U.S. reward on Friday in Muzaffarabad, and called for jihad against the United States (AFP).
The United States on Thursday welcomed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's trip to India on Sunday, when he will become the first Pakistani head of state since 2005 to visit his nation's historical rival (BBC, AP, AFP). The visit has been termed a "personal" trip to a Muslim shrine, but Zardari will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for lunch on Sunday.
Senior Pakistani police official Rao Anwar Ahmed Khan, who was targeted in a suicide bombing in Karachi on Thursday, has accused a colleague and two of his brothers of orchestrating the attack (AP, ET). Unidentified gunmen assassinated the provincial leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan in Quetta on Friday on his way to lead Friday prayers, sparking protests in the neighborhood (Dawn, ET, The News). And intelligence officials in Peshawar reportedly arrested several suspected terrorists and seized two suicide bomb vests at a home on Friday (Dawn, ET, The News).
Justice at last?
Afghan president Hamid Karzai has ordered a special prosecutor and special tribunal to try officials involved in the 2010 Kabul Bank scandal, and ordered the loan-takers - who include the president's brother Mahmoud Karzai - to return the hundreds of millions of dollars remaining in outstanding loans within two months (NYT, Guardian). The scandal, which involved the handing out of interest-free loans to the bankers themselves as well as their friends and family member, required an almost $900 million bailout, and has been seen as a symbol of the corruption plaguing the Afghan government.
U.S. military investigators earlier this week made their first visit to the villages where U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly massacred 17 Afghan civilians over three weeks ago (AP, CNN). Bales' lawyer John Henry Browne has said he is not sure the government will be able to convict his client without forensic evidence, and it remains unclear how much evidence the investigators were able to gather this long after the incident. Meanwhile, Afghan foreign minister Zalmay Rasool said Thursday that his country would not be used as a launching point for U.S. drone strikes following NATO's withdrawal by the end of 2014 (Reuters).
Finally, a suicide bomber killed the head of the High Peace Council in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar on Friday, Maulavi Mohammad Hashem Munib, along with his son as they traveled home from Friday prayers (AFP, AP).
Break a legA Pakistani rendition of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew will be performed at the London 2012 Olympics, the first time a Pakistani theatre group has had the opportunity to play at the Games (DT). The play's cast bemoans the lack of government support for Pakistani theatre, though, which has forced them to rehearse in unlikely locations such as science labs and rooftops.
-- Jennifer Rowland