Pakistan: sectarian strife mars Ashura
Celebrations of Muharram, the Shi'ite holy month highlighted by the Ashura festival, saw sectarian violence that left several dead across Pakistan. The government has imposed a curfew and blocked mobile phone services in the capital and nearby Rawalpindi after a Shi'ite procession in the garrison city exploded into clashes with gangs of Sunni militants Nov. 15, leaving seven dead. Three days later, a mob set shops on fire in a Shi'ite district in the northwestern town of Kohat in clashes that left a civilian and a paramilitary officer dead. The northwestern city of Hangu is also under curfew following clashes. In Karachi, a bomb attack injured two as Shi'ites were gathering at a shrine Nov. 13; a second bomb went off as rescue workers arrived, injuring six more. (Reuters, Nov. 18; Geo TV, Nov. 15; AFP, Nov. 14)
Musharraf granted bail in Red Mosque killings case
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf was granted bail Nov. 4 in a criminal case concerning the death of radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi during an operation ordered by Musharraf on Islamabad's Red Mosque, which left more than 100 dead. Musharraf was arrested on these charges on Oct. 10. His bail is set to be paid in two bonds of $1,000 each. Prosecutors claim Musharraf caused the deaths by recklessly deploying security forces, while Musharraf's lawyers argue that his involvement was limited. Even after posting bail, Musharraf will be unable to leave the country under the orders from the Pakistani government. Musharraf's house arrest began in April after he was charged with involvement in the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and others.
Pakistan Taliban leader killed in drone strike?
A US drone strike on a vehicle in Danday Darpa Khel village near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal agency, is reported to have killed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Hakimullah Mehsud Nov. 1. At least six others were also killed in the attack, including two militant commanders, identified as Tariq Mehsud and Abdullah. Locals are still trying to retrieve the dead and injured from the wreckage, and it is not yet confirmed that Hakimullah Mehsud was in the vehicle. Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called the attack an attempt to sabotage the government's plan to hold talks with the TTP. It was the second drone attack since Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif's visit to the US last week, when he demanded President Barack Obama to stop the attacks. (The News, Pakistan, Nov. 1; Reuters, Oct. 24)
Mauritania: polls boycotted, slavery condemned
Parties that make up Mauritania's Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD) have announced a boycott of November's legislative and municipal elections after talks with the government collapsed without agreement earlier this month. The ruling Union for the Republic is the only party fielding candidates in every district, with the next highest representation from Islamist group Tewassoul, the only member of the 11-party COD that will field candidates. Tewassoul calls its participation a form of struggle against the "dictatorship" of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who took power in a 2008 coup. The opposition is demanding the polls be postponed until April to allow time for a voter census and guarantees of the independence of the electoral commission. A vote was due in 2011 but has been repeatedly delayed due to disagreements between the opposition and government. The last legislative election was held in 2006. (AFP, Oct. 29; Reuters, Oct. 4)
Iran hangs 16 after Baluch border clash
Sixteen accused militants were hanged Oct. 26 at Zahedan prison in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province, on the Pakistani border—in apparent retaliation for the deaths of 14 border guards in an ambush just the night before. Officials blamed the attack outside Saravan on "anti-revolution guerrillas"—an apparent reference to the armed Baluch Sunni group Jundallah. But loca parialment member Hedayatollah Mirmoradzehi named a new Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, as responsible for the attack. The BBC's Kasra Najisaid the mass execution "smacks of revenge killing by the judiciary."
US must investigate Pakistan drone strikes: Amnesty
Amnesty International (AI) on Oct. 22 urged the US to conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone strikes have resulted in recent civilian casualties in Pakistan. AI reviewed (PDF) more than 50 reported US drone strikes in Pakistan from January 2012 to August 2013, many of which resulted in multiple civilian deaths. AI asserts that, because the US government refuses to provide "accurate information" with respect to specific drone strikes, and its drone program in general, certain CIA operatives may be guilty of arbitrary and extrajudicial executions in violation of international law. According to AI, the US is obligated by international law to fully investigate each strike and ensure that guilty parties are brought to justice.
Malala Yousafzai: still a hero!
Malala Yousafzai is still taking abuse even amid the adulation accompanying her American tour last week. Upon her shooting one year ago, her Taliban would-be assassins claimed she had praised Obama and expressed support for "Western culture." This was quickly exposed as nonsense, as it became clear that Malala was a sympathizer of a Marxist tendency that was fighting for secularism in the mullah-dominated Swat Valley! However, some voices on the "left" continued to diss her in self-righteous terms, even engaging in lugubrious conspiracy-mongering that the whole affair had been set up as a propaganda job. So what are we to make now that Malala has spoken before the United Nations, appeared on Jon Stewart, and met with Obama in the White House? Are the cynics vindicated? Has Malala now, finally, been co-opted?
Pakistan stock market soars on terror wave
Over the past year of growing violence and chaos in Pakistan, the Karachi Stock Exchange has surged more than 44%, placing it among the world's top-performing stock markets according to Bloomberg. (NYT, Oct. 3) On Sept. 29, a bomb placed in a Peshawar marketplace killed more than 40 and injured over 100. (BBC News, Oct. 1) On Oct. 3, Taliban militiants attacked the headquarters of local chieftain Nabi Hanafi Karwan in Spin Thall, Bulandkhel district, Orakzai agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A car bomb and suicide attacker overwhelmed the guards, and gunmen followed, killing 17. Nabi Hanfi has been leading an anti-Taliban militia. (The News, Pakistan, Oct. 4; AP, Oct. 3)
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