In a letter originally published by Britain's Channel 4 News on Wednesday, Adnan Rashid, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander, tells Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai that he was shocked by her shooting last year, but ultimately blames her for provoking the attack (BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT, VOA). Rashid, a former Pakistani Air Force Officer, said he was writing to Yousafzai in a personal capacity, but espoused the group's argument that it attacked the girl, not for going to school, but for running a smear campaign against them. He closes the 1,863-word letter by encouraging Yousafzai to return to Pakistan, "adopt the Islamic and Pushtoon culture, join any of the female Islamic madrassas near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah." Yousafzai's family has not commented on the letter, accept to say that they have not received their own copy.
While the content of Rashid's letter is not a surprise, Pakistani observers have noted that the Pakistani Taliban's radical views, particularly with regard to Yousafzai, are becoming more mainstream. A Wall Street Journal article about the letter quotes Zubair Torwali, a newspaper columnist in the Swat Valley, as saying: "Many people hate Malala. Anything here in Pakistan related to the West or America becomes of thing of conspiracy" (WSJ). After receiving an outpouring of public sympathy immediately after the attack, Yousafzai has since been called a "prostitute" and is seen as a Western pawn by some. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shahbaz Sharif, criticized her U.N. speech, saying it "seemed to be written for global consumption."
During a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan wants better relations with all countries and acknowledged that it has revived backdoor diplomacy with India (Dawn, ET). The two officials also discussed Afghanistan, and the role Pakistan could play once coalition forces are withdrawn in 2014. Hague recognized Pakistan's efforts in its war against terrorism and offered to assist Pakistan in developing a counterterrorism strategy. At the same meeting, Sartaj Aziz, Sharif's advisor of foreign affairs and national security, announced that he will go to Kabul on Saturday for a day-long ice-breaking trip (Dawn).
Eight Afghan civilians were shot and killed by unidentified gunmen on Thursday morning as they headed to work at a U.S. military base in Logar province (AFP, BBC, Pajhwok). According to Rais Khan Sadeq, Logar's deputy police chief, the men were forced out of their car, blindfolded, and executed. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, issued a statement saying he was aware of the attack but that the group's fighter did not target civilians. It was the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that is traditionally a time of prayer and charity.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased concerns that next year's presidential election could be delayed or put off indefinitely by signing an electoral law on Wednesday that outlines the structure, duties, and powers of the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission (NYT, Pajhwok). In particular, parliamentarians agreed to set aside 20 percent of the seats on provincial, district, and village councils for women, and gave the Electoral Complaints Commission, a five-member, all-Afghan body, the authority to annul fraudulent votes and announce the final election results.
Mohammad Wali, the brother of Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Karzai's National Security Advisor, was gunned down Wednesday morning in Herat province (Pajhwok). Wali, a district attorney, was killed by two gunman outside a public bath, according to a police spokesman. Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, released a statement saying the insurgent group was behind the attack, and that it was a part of the militants' spring offensive (Post).
An escalating dispute between the Afghan and U.S. government over customs procedures halted the flow of U.S. military equipment out of Afghanistan on Thursday, according to U.S. military officials (NYT). In particular, the Afghan government is demanding that the U.S. pay $1,000 for each departing shipping container that does not have a validated customs form; the Afghan customs agency says the U.S. military has incurred $70 million in fines thus far. The dispute is causing military commanders to rely more heavily on air transport, which has dramatically increased the cost of the drawdown. It is also being used to hold up discussions on the Bilateral Security Agreement which will determine what kind of U.S. presence remains in the country after 2014.
In an interview with North Carolina's WSOC-TV Channel 9, Staff Sgt. Joseph Chamblin, a U.S. Marine who was videotaped in 2011 urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters, said he has no regrets about the incident, which was meant to have a "psychological" impact on the Taliban, and would do it again to avenge the deaths of American soldiers (NYT). In a slight defense of his actions, Chamblin asked, "Do you want the Marine Corps to be a group of Boy Scout pretty boys or do you want guys that will go out there and kill the people that are trying to take advantage of your country and kill Americans... you can't have both."
-- Bailey Cahall