This Week in Asian Conflict… February 15th-22nd, 2012.

  • President Karzai of Afghanistan confronted the Pakistani leadership on Thursday during a visit to Islamabad, accusing Pakistani officials of harbouring the Taliban; he also was quoted as saying there were secret contacts between the US, Afghan governments and the Taliban, and that the militant group was interested in ending the war; while the Pakistani President publicly pledged efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban with hopes of ending the Afghan war. On Saturday, the two days of high level talks ended in acrimony with Afghanistan saying it was “preposterous” to think that Pakistan could deliver the Taliban chief Mullah Omar to the negotiating table. On Sunday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that education in the country would be taking a big step backward, as new textbooks would cut out much of the country’s post-1973 history since none of the major groups can agree on a basic set of facts. On Monday, a prominent female lawmaker repeated her intention to run for the presidency when Karzai’s term runs out in two years time; while a car bomb in Kandahar killed one policeman and wounded four other people. On Tuesday, US and NATO forces rushed to apologize for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of angry Afghans protested outside the Bagram military airbase; Chatham House released a new report on how the withdrawal of international forces will affect the country; Afghan officials reported that Taliban militants beheaded four Afghan civilians who they believed had been spying for the government; President Karzai reportedly invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while urging Pakistan to help with negotiations; a man wearing an Afghan police uniform killed an ISAF service member in southern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb killed four civilians including a child in southern Kandahar; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two insurgents, wounded three and detained one more in Kabul and Logar provinces; and Pakistan announced it will not support an American-driven initiative to start Afghan peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar until it is clear that they have backing from Kabul. On Wednesday, Georgia’s Defense Ministry announced that three of their soldiers were killed in Helmand province while serving alongside NATO forces; while President Karzai appealed for calm as demonstrators protesting over the burning of copies of the Qur’an clashed with security forces, resulting in at least seven deaths.
  • The military in Pakistan rejected criticism by Human Rights Watch concerning the murder of a Pakistani journalist that suggested the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was beyond the reach of the criminal justice system, as “derogatory, biased and contradictory”; while intelligence officials said two suspected US drone missile attacks killed more than 10 people in the North Waziristan region near the Afghan border. On Thursday, a suspected US drone aircraft reportedly fired two missiles at a car in the North Waziristan region, killing ten people; a homemade bomb planted in a vehicle exploded in the city of Quetta; a militant threw a hand grenade at police officials in Peshawar, injuring three people; one soldier and eight militants were killed in clashes between Pakistani forces and a group of militants in Wana; a suicide bomber killed two people and wounded five others in the Upper Dir district; and a suspected US drone aircraft killed six and wounded two others as it fired two missiles at a house in Miranshah. On Friday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that the Americans should “suck it up” and apologize to Pakistan for the “friendly fire” incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last fall; a homemade bomb exploded, killing three Pakistani soldiers in Tirah; three militiamen were killed when Pakistani forces and a pro-government militia attacked a militant base in Bara; a clash between two militias left five militants and three members of a government-sponsored militia dead; while a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed up to 32 people and injuring at least 60 in a market in a town close to the Afghan border. On Saturday, the death toll from Friday’s suicide bombing rose to 39; and militants ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded in the northwestern Khyber region, killing seven pro-government militia members and critically wounding five others; while militants reportedly attacked a military checkpoint, killing a soldier and wounding three others in Wana. On Tuesday, the Interior Minister announced that the government in Islamabad intends to ask Interpol to arrest the former President and military chief Pervez Musharraf in connection with the assassination of former PM Bhutto; a homemade bomb exploded outside a hospital in Peshawar with no reported casualties; a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the Bagzai area with no casualties; and policeman was killed when militants attacked a police checkpoint in Panjgur.
  • The International Crisis Group released a new report on Timor-Leste’s upcoming elections, and the possibility of a more peaceful future.
  • The President of Kyrgyzstan announced on Friday that he plans to demand overdue fees for Russian military assets on Kyrgyz soil during upcoming talks in Moscow. On Monday, the President announced at a meeting with visiting US State Department officials that “no foreign troops” should remain at the Manas airport after 2014, which the US pays to use as a transit centre for operations in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, a state-controlled Internet provider blocked access to a leading independent news website.
  • Activists suspected of playing a role in December’s violence in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan are reportedly still being rounded up by authorities and detained. On Tuesday, five men were reportedly sentenced on terrorism charges for creating an illegal armed group and of organizing and conducting a bombing in the northwest, to jail terms varying from 5 to 13 years; while the former VP of the Kazakh national nuclear company was arrested in Canada for violating immigration laws.
  • Human Rights Watch criticized the authorities of Azerbaijan for the alleged forcible eviction of hundreds of residents to demolish the last standing building in the neighbourhood of Baku where the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is to be held. On Saturday, security forces allegedly arrested and jailed an Iranian journalist within the country without any specific charge. Authorities announced on Tuesday that they had busted an alleged terrorist group working for Iran’s secret services.
  • The government of Myanmar/Burma announced it expects to reach a ceasefire deals with all of the ethnic minority rebel armies within three months time before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”. The Bangkok Post ran an article that suggested that the recent ceasefire deals are driven by a desire of the army and politicians to capitalize on the booming narcotics business and not a real desire for change. On Thursday, the World Bank said it was in the process of returning to the country after 25 years, but the nation must first clear its arrears to global financial institutions before the bank resumes lending. On Friday, the EU announced it was lifting travel restrictions and sanctions against the country, in the first step towards rewarding the government for democratic reforms. On Sunday, a dissident monk who helped lead the 2007 anti-government uprising is facing fresh legal action for “squatting” illegally in a government-sealed monastery and breaking into two others. On Monday, the Guardian reported that a monk jailed for his role in the 2007 protests and then released in an amnesty in January now faces action by the authorities because he has “repeatedly broken Buddhist monks’ code of conduct and the law” by rejoining the religious order without requesting authorization and joining a monastery that has been sealed off by the government. On Wednesday, Karen rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy in the country for the last six decades, outlined their demands for peace with the government, including a complete withdrawal of government troops from posts near villages along the Thai border.
  • Recent re-elected President Berdymukhammedov in Turkmenistan vowed to lay the foundations for a multiparty system and a free media on Thursday, after being elected with some 97 percent of the vote.
  • Radio Free Europe reported that articles in the Uzbek language on Wikipedia have not been accessible in Uzbekistan for weeks, though no official statements have been released by authorities about the blockage. On Wednesday, it was reported that prominent cleric Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov survived an attempt on his life in a Swedish city where he was granted political asylum in 2006.
  • The government of China reportedly detained several hundred Tibetans who were returning from teaching sessions by the Dalai Lama in India and is forcing them to undergo political re-education. On Wednesday, Chinese police reportedly detained a Tibetan writer in a western area. On Thursday, the exiled Tibetan PM said that the plight of Tibetans has deteriorated since a wave of deadly protests in 2008, stressing that Tibetans live in a “lockdown”. On Saturday, another Tibetan Buddhist monk reportedly set himself on fire in western China.  On Sunday, the 21st Tibetan monk this year set himself on fire after shouting slogans in favour of Tibetan independence and the exiled Dalai Lama.
  • The new President of the Maldives agreed to hold early elections on Thursday to break the political impasse brought on by the allegations that the former President was forced to resign in a coup. On Friday, thousands of supporters of the former President rallied peacefully in the capital as Commonwealth ministers arrived to investigate the circumstances of his exit from power.
  • Two fishermen in India were reportedly shot dead in a confrontation with an Italian oil tanker off the southern Indian coast on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries. Indian police detained the entire Italian crew.
  • North Korea threatened to launch “merciless” strikes against South Korea over its planned regular live-fire drills near their disputed sea border on Sunday. On Monday, South Korea conducted live-fire military drills from five islands near its disputed sea boundary with the North, despite their threat of retaliation; while North Korea’s state media announced that the ruling Worker’ Party will hold a key conference in April where it will likely make official the succession of power to Kim Jung-un.
  • The family of two young brothers in Indonesia have blamed police brutality for the death of their two boys, aged 13 and 17, who died in police custody. A new poll on Monday suggested that the ruling Democrat Party has lost major support, to the point that it could be pushed out in the next election. On Wednesday, security forces reportedly stormed a prison on Bali following a riot by inmates, injuring several people.

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