Capital of corruption
A United Nations report released on Thursday finds that $3.9 billion was spent on bribes in Afghanistan in 2012, twice the country's domestic revenue, and 40 percent more than the amount paid in bribes in 2009 (AP, AJE, BBC). In a survey of 7,000 Afghans, half of the respondents reported having to pay at least one bribe to a public official in 2012, and 68 percent said low wages are an acceptable reason for demanding a bribe.
A NATO helicopter crashed Thursday in the eastern Afghan Province of Kapisa, but no crewmembers were seriously injured (AP). Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed that the group's fighters shot down the helicopter, but a U.S. military official said the cause of the crash is still under investigation.
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan this week to visit U.K. troops in Helmand Province and meet with Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi in Kabul (AP). The visit came just after British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in London last weekend for talks on the stalled Afghan peace negotiations.
A bomb blast in an impoverished neighborhood of Karachi on Thursday killed a policeman and injured five others (AFP). According to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 2,284 people died in ethnic, sectarian and political violence in Karachi in 2012.
Another blast, this one in the tribal agency of Orakzai in Pakistan's northwest, killed at least six people and wounded 15 others on Friday (Dawn, AFP). A local official said the remote-controlled bombing appeared to target a gathering of anti-Taliban tribesmen. And a Shi'a Muslim lawyer who was also a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan was gunned down in Peshawar on Friday while taking his children to school (Dawn, ET).
Outgoing ISAF commander Gen. John Allen paid a farewell visit to Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday, after which Kayani said there is more work to be done in the fight against terrorism (Dawn). An ISAF official said, "both leaders were pleased with the progress to date" in the battle to defeat militancy in the region.
Violent extremists in Pakistan have long used the country's popular three-wheeled rickshaws as a canvass for messages of intolerance and hate, but one Pakistani youth leader is giving these militants a taste of their own medicine (AP). Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is leading an initiative to donate a fleet of rickshaws emblazoned with messages of peace and religious tolerance to the bustling city of Karachi.
-- Jennifer Rowland