The World Today for December 11, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

PAKISTAN

The Price of Chaos

The latest victims of the Pakistani Taliban were teenagers who feared for their lives as they fled from the jihadists attacking their agricultural research institute in Peshawar.

“We took shelter inside the bedroom and were begging the injured student not to make any sound as the terrorists might hear it and kill us,” Noor Wali, a 19-year-old student at the institute, told Sky News.

The Dec. 1 attack, claimed 12 lives and injured 35 others, was the third on an education institution in northwest Pakistan in recent years, the Associated Press reported.

Some say it’s indicative of how Pakistan has been spinning out of control lately, not least because of tensions over religion.

Those observers point to protests that brought the capital and other major cities to a standstill for three weeks recently as hardline Pakistani Islamists convinced the country’s law minister to resign over his plan to allow lawmakers to make a simple declaration rather than swear a religious oath, reported Reuters.

He was accused of blasphemy.

Meanwhile, clashes between the police and demonstrators in Islamabad on Nov. 25 resulted in seven deaths and 200 wounded. Eventually, the army moved in, the New York Times wrote.

The chaos exposed the fault lines between religious and civil authorities in Pakistan.

In a sign of the balance of power between the two, a Pakistani court recently ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, the suspected architect of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India. The court said Indian authorities had insufficient evidence to keep him under house arrest. The decision was sure to alienate the US, reported PBS.

Recent events have raised serious questions about the stability of the government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, brought in to bring peace to Pakistan’s politics when he took over in July. He replaced former leader Nawaz Sharif after the Supreme Court ousted him in connection with a corruption scandal over his assets that arose from the Panama Papers revelations about offshore wealth.

As Bloomberg reported, Sharif could not explain how his family purchased expensive apartments in London on his public servant’s salary. Abbasi and Sharif are both from the same ruling political party.

More importantly, the protests and the attacks have raised questions over the government’s attempt to rein in religious hardliners and defeat extremists.

It’s a battle Pakistani authorities are losing, says the Washington Post.

And as political campaigns kick off for elections next year, it’s anyone’s guess how much more chaotic – and violent – things will become. But one thing is clear: the hardliners are growing in power, and it’s likely they will become a real force in the next vote, and possibly in government afterward.

WANT TO KNOW

YEMEN

Pointing Fingers

The United Nations said that missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi militias appear to have a “common origin,” but stopped short of validating claims from Riyadh and Washington that Iran supplied the weapons.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in a confidential report Friday to the UN Security Council “that the missiles had similar structural and manufacturing features which suggest a common origin,” according to Arab News.

Washington has called for Iran to be held accountable for violating UN Security Council resolutions by supplying weapons to the Houthis.

Investigators examined three components from missile debris that bore markings suggesting the weapons were manufactured by Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group – a UN-blacklisted company from Iran. But the panel said it “as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier” of the missiles.

The Saudis have been backing the internationally recognized government in Yemen’s two-year civil war, while Iran backs the Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia shot down two ballistic missiles fired into its territory from Yemen in November – retaliating with a blockade.

MEXICO

Throwing in the Sombrero

Mexican opposition leader Ricardo Anaya resigned his position at the helm of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) to run for president in an alliance between his party and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens Movement party.

He still needs the approval of the coalition, which presented its official request to compete in the 2018 polls on Friday, but he is considered the frontrunner, Reuters reported.

He would likely face leftist former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, who is seeking the nomination for the ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

PRI officials are hoping Meade can distance the party from corruption scandals, an issue that Anaya highlighted in announcing his candidacy. “This corrupt and inefficient PRI government has been an absolute national disaster,” Anaya said Sunday. The Mexican press has also questioned the 38-year-old about his family’s “inexplicable” level of wealth, although he denies any wrongdoing.

A poll currently puts him at second place behind Lopez Obrador.

KENYA

Conflicting Coronations

Kenya’s opposition postponed an alternative swearing-in ceremony for its leader Raila Odinga, raising hopes that the political crisis resulting from a disputed presidential election may be fading.

The opposition coalition, NASA, had planned an alternative inauguration for Tuesday, Kenyan independence day, a move that the attorney general said would amount to treason.

NASA said in a statement it would postpone the swearing-in after “consultations and engagement with a wide range of national and international interlocutors,” Reuters reported. But it said it would soon announce a new date for the ceremony.

On Oct. 26, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta easily won a repeat election, which Odinga boycotted, after the Supreme Court nullified the results of the first election in August. The political uncertainty has stymied private investment, and election-related violence has claimed more than 70 lives.

“He (Raila) doesn’t want to throw the country into turmoil and he has reasoned with those asking him to shelve the plan,” a NASA insider told Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

DISCOVERIES

Slice of Culture

That slice of Chicago deep-dish or Brooklyn pan pizza has roots in an art now respected as a part of world heritage.

The “pizzaiuolo” art of twirling dough and baking it in a wood-burning brick oven – a tradition most associated with Naples, Italy – was recently granted world heritage status by UNESCO, the BBC reported.

The tradition has been handed down by generations of Italians. Aside from the dough-slinging, the songs, stories and gestures that take place between pizza makers and diners in Naples’ working-class boroughs are integral to the art.

The new status was well-received by Italian officials and citizens, who also took the opportunity to snipe at foreigners who often add unorthodox toppings to their pizza, like pineapple or Nutella.

“Now we must insert the pineapple in the list of crimes against humanity,” said one Italian Twitter user.

“Pizzaiuolo” was chosen this year over 33 other local customs, like the Kyrgyz horseback game of Kok Boru and the Saudi women’s practice of interior wall painting.

Pizza making is now an art – just say no to the pineapple.

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