A Pakistani court indicted former president Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, charging him in connection with the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (AP, BBC, Dawn, ET, Pajhwok, Reuters, VOA). Chaudhry Muhammed Azhar, a prosecutor in Rawalpindi, said the court filed three separate charges against Musharraf, including murder, criminal conspiracy to murder, and facilitation of murder. The indictment marks the first time a former military leader has faced criminal proceedings in Pakistan. Musharraf pled not guilty and was escorted back to the villa where he has been under house arrest since April due to a number of cases stemming from his nine-year rule.
According to the New York Times, the case against Musharraf seems to rest largely on a statement by Mark Siegel, a Washington lobbyist, who told prosecutors that Musharraf made a threatening phone call to Bhutto before she returned in Pakistan in 2007 (NYT). Siegel said Bhutto warned him in an e-mail that if she were killed, the blame should fall on four different people, of whom Musharraf was one. With the exception of the Siegel statements, the prosecution has not made the basis of the charges against Musharraf public. August 27 has been set as the next court date to present evidence.
During his first televised policy speech since assuming office in June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hinted on Monday at his government's desire to hold talks with Taliban militants in the country, though he left the military option on the table should they reject those efforts (NYT). In particular, Sharif said: "Like every Pakistani, I want an early end to this bloodshed, whether it is through the process of dialogue or heavy use of the state force," a contradiction political analysts were quick to point out. While he blamed the government, security services, and the judiciary for failing to crackdown on terrorism, the speech was light on specific security measures or reforms that could be taken to address the problem (BBC, Dawn, ET).
One senior Afghan government official told Afghanistan's Pajhwok news service on Monday that Maulvi Attaullah Ludin, the deputy chief of the High Peace Council, is poised to become Afghanistan's next attorney general after Muhammad Ishaq Aloko was removed for meeting with Taliban negotiators in Qatar without the Afghan government's approval, while another official told Reuters that President Hamid Karzai has not yet signed the dismissal notice, leaving Aloko in the post (Pajhwok, Reuters). The Pajhwok source told reporters that Karzai consulted close aides, jihadi leaders, cabinet members, and other high-ranking officials about Aloko's replacement, and while many participants supported Ludin's appointment, no formal decision has been made. According to Aloko's supporters, his meeting with the Taliban concerned the whereabouts of his brother who was kidnapped by the group, not the peace process.
Four Afghan political parties joined forces on Tuesday and announced the creation of a new coalition called the National Trust Front, an alliance aimed at resolving Afghanistan's problems and ensuring transparency in the 2014 elections (Pajhwok). Mohammad Akbari, a parliamentarian from Bamyan province, said: "Our aim is to protect the core national interest and ward off threats to the country through unity and solidarity." Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, the Senate chairman and not a member of the alliance, was present at the press conference and echoed Akbari's words, calling on all political forces to work together to confront the challenges facing Afghanistan.
The sentencing hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a U.S. soldier who killed 16 Afghan civilians during multiple pre-dawn raids on a village in Kandahar province last March, began on Tuesday and he is expected to face several survivors of the massacre and relatives of the dead who are outraged that his life will be spared (AP). Bales pleaded guilty in June so the sentencing focuses on whether or not his life sentence will offer a chance of parole. The Army has flown in nine villagers from Afghanistan who will testify about how the attacks have affected their lives. If the jurors sentence Bales to a life sentence with parole, he would be eligible for release in 20 years, though there's no guarantee that he would receive it.
"A poet's job"
By day, Matiullah Turab, one of Afghanistan's most famous Pashtun poets, makes a living repairing Pakistani caravan trucks but by night, he writes poems that provide a voice to Afghans who have grown cynical about the 12-year war and those involved (NYT). According to Turab, "A poet's job is not to write about love. A poet's job is not to write about flowers. A poet must write about the plight and pain of the people." Because of this philosophy, Turab's poems appeal to a wide range of Afghans, including President Karzai (though he has often been criticized by Turab), and new poems posted on YouTube quickly become the most-watched among Afghans.
-- Bailey Cahall