‘We have no idea where they are . . . but they’re not in the US’

Meeting families of Pakistani missing persons at the FIA headquarters, Interior Minister Rehman Malik made what can really only be described as a less than heartening statement: the Pakistani authorities can guarantee that these people are not with the Americans (under the US’s notorious cash-for-terrorists programme, designed for third-world countries looking for some extra income . . . ), adding that we don’t really have any additional information on them at all.
He offered Rs5 million as a reward for anyone who could provide information as to their whereabouts – I wonder if there are any Majors in the intelligence agencies who really need the money . . .

When the families later protested outside the parliamentary lodges to express their dissatisfaction, Malik apparently asked them to stop because of the SAARC Interior Ministers’ conference going on inside.

“Seriously guys . . . not in front of the guests!”

In other news:

The he-said-she-said-that-guy-with-the-gun-said of the Taliban talks saga continues apace. News out of Kabul suggests that Sirrajuddin Haqqani, COAS Gen Ashfaq Kayani and DG ISI Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha had a sit-down with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (I had to physically restrain myself from referring to him as ’embattled’. He is, but if I see that phrase in print one more time, I may kill someone). The Taliban deny it (of course). The US says it knew what was going on all along, but doesn’t think it’ll work (Panetta is echoing comments made by US envoy Richard Holbrooke a few days ago). Pakistan remains tight-lipped – because surely the ‘national interest’ in which all of these talks are being arranged isn’t to be disclosed to just anybody (A thought echoed in this Dawn editorial).

British officers wouldn’t exactly call the new Taliban tactics ‘sniper fire’. More like they’re shooting at long range with pistols and rifles with rather worrying accuracy. Throws that whole idea of the NATO/US military machine being the most advanced in the world up for questioning . . .

– AFP’s done a story on smuggling across the Pak-Afghan border at Torkham.

Quote of the day:

Mohabbat Khan, 10, told that he looks older than his age, retorts: “Come with me and push this wheelbarrow for a year, then I’ll tell you the same.”

No quotes from Pakistani and Afghan officials on the checks that are supposed to be in place, or what’s being done (if anything at all)? Well-written story, but it isn’t exactly telling us anything new . . . other than that Rs200 isn’t enough to get you across the border.

– Asma Jehangir is running against Ahmed Awais for the Presidency of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and according to The News, leading lawyers (Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Ali Ahmed Kurd, Athar Minallah and others) are undecided on who to back. Apparently they’re concerned that both are political choices.

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