Event Notice: “Contemporary Sovereignty and Pakistan,” a discussion with Ayesha Jalal, FRIDAY, October 18, 2013, 12:30-2:30 PM (SAIS).
Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) - the country's intelligence agency - issued a report on Wednesday that said its initial investigation into the blast that killed Arsala Jamal, the governor of Logar province, showed that the perpetrators had placed the bomb in a copy of the Koran, not a microphone as previously thought (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Jamal was killed at the main mosque in Pul-e-Alam, the provincial capital, on Tuesday as he gave a speech to worshippers to mark the start of Eid al-Adha, the "Festival of Sacrifice." The NDS also released a video of a Koran with burned pages inside the mosque and said the attack showed the militants had no respect for the Islamic holy book or the religion's houses of worship. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a close friend of Jamal, strongly condemned his assassination on Tuesday, and blamed the Taliban for the incident (Pajhwok). In a statement about the incident, Karzai said: "These attacks, which the Taliban do in the name of Islam, cause death and injury to innocent Muslims, and cannot be the work of Muslims, but rather those who have been assigned to kill Muslims." While the militant group has not claimed responsibility for the attack, it regularly attacks government officials and is believed by many to be behind the bombing.
Prior to Jamal's killing, Karzai gave his own speech to mark the Islamic holiday and once again urged the Taliban to stop fighting and join the peace process (RFE/RL). He urged the group's leaders and fighters "not to kill and destroy the dear young people of Afghanistan." It is unclear how Jamal's death will affect the government's attempts to hold reconciliation talks with the group.
While Jamal's murder is one of the highest-profile assassinations to occur in Afghanistan this year, as the 2013 fighting season comes to an end, Afghan and coalition officials are cautiously noting that most of the militants' goals have not been met (NYT). When this year's fighting season began, the Taliban said they wanted to kill top Afghan officials in every major ministry, conduct more "insider attacks" against American forces, and break the Afghan security forces. Though there are still questions about the Afghan forces' ability to manage their own planning and logistics, they have mostly held their own.
Seven low-ranking Afghan Taliban prisoners were quietly released by Pakistan on Tuesday, the second such group to be released in less than two months (ET). While the government did not comment on the releases, several Taliban leaders told Pakistan's Express Tribune that the detainees were released and have rejoined their families, though they did not provide any names. They also said that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former Taliban commander whose whereabouts are unknown, has been allowed to speak to his family twice over the past two days. Pakistani officials have said that Baradar was released in late September, but the Taliban has denied these claims, saying Baradar is still in Pakistani custody.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a Pakistani politician and leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal party, also told the Express Tribune that Karzai is willing to release all Pakistani prisoners currently being held in Afghan jails (ET). Rehman spoke to reporters upon his return from a three-day visit to Kabul and said he would soon speak about the meeting in greater detail with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. While he did not provide further details, Rehman said the prisoner release would be a goodwill gesture towards Pakistan.
Sharif met with his top foreign policy and national security advisors on Tuesday, a day after Amb. James Dobbins, the U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, visited the country, to finalize the plan for his meeting with President Obama next Wednesday (Dawn, ET). Described by the information ministry as a look at the "overall security situation of the country," the meeting also reviewed its offer to talk with Pakistani Taliban militants, the country's role in facilitating the Afghan reconciliation process, and its ties with India. As for the meeting with Obama, a senior U.S. diplomat told Pakistan's Dawn that the relationship between the two countries would be shaped and resourced based on Pakistan's approach towards Afghanistan, India, and the region, as well as its commitment to fighting terrorism at home.
Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's former president, will formally begin his duties as the head of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) tomorrow, five weeks after he successfully completed his five-year term (Dawn). Zardari, who had to quit his role as the party's co-chairman when he became president, was reinstated when his term ended, but he does not hold any elected office within the PPP. Farhatullah Khan Babar, Zardari's spokesman, confirmed that he would be meeting PPP leaders from Sindh province on Thursday and other leaders once the Eid al-Adha holiday had ended.
Painting Pakistan's cricketers
To say that cricket is popular in Pakistan is certainly an understatement, but it's hard to describe the passion the country has for the sport to an outsider. But where words fail, images can succeed. Shanzay Subzwari, a young Pakistani painter, recently debuted several colorful pop-art-inspired paintings of Pakistan's cricket heroes at the Jumma Hafta Art Bazaar in Karachi, including one of cricketer-cum-politician Imran Khan with blue hair depicting the waves of a tsunami (Dawn). Subzwari studied articles and photographs of the cricket players, and selected interesting moments to capture and recreate in her own style. The exhibition, titled "Hero Worship," runs until October 22.
-- Bailey Cahall