Top of the Agenda: Order of PM Arrest Shakes Pakistan Politics
Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and fifteen others over corruption allegations (Dawn), raising fears of a political crisis just months ahead of an election. Thousands protested (AFP) in the capital of Islamabad, demanding the immediate dissolution of parliament on the third day of a mass march led by an influential cleric. Ashraf denies accepting bribes when approving power projects as a minister in 2010.
"Qadri's platform hinges on a demand that the judiciary bars corrupt politicians from running for office and that the army plays a possible role in the formation of a caretaker government which is due to manage the run-up to elections this spring. But his sudden ascent has prompted speculation that the military, which ruled Pakistan for decades, may be using him as a proxy to delay the polls and install a compliant interim administration to serve at the generals' pleasure," write Matthew Green and Mubasher Bukhari for Reuters.
"The ruling coalition government battles its latest challenges just a day after Prime Minister Ashraf invoked Article 234 of the Constitution, dissolving the provincial government and imposing governor's rule in the restive Balochistan province. The government was forced to give in to hundreds of protesting ethnic Shia Hazaras who had been refusing to bury the victims of bombings in Quetta, the provincial capital, to protect government inaction over attacks targeting the community," writes Sajjad Haider for Dawn.
"Over the coming year Pakistan's leadership will be playing a complicated political game at home. National elections and the scheduled retirements of the army chief and the supreme court's chief justice by the end of 2013 all raise the specter of instability and crisis. In similar historical circumstances, Pakistan's military has asserted its influence in extra-constitutional ways," writes CFR's Daniel Markey for the American Interest.
China to Survey Disputed Islands
China will conduct a geographical survey (AFP) of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea as part of a program to map its "territorial islands and reefs." The maritime dispute intensified last year when the Japanese government nationalized islands in the small chain it didn't already own, triggering demonstrations in China.
This CFR Backgrounder explains China's other big territorial row in the South China Sea.
JAPAN: The Japanese ambassador said Tuesday in Seoul that he is optimistic about the possibility of improving its strained relations (Yonhap) with South Korea and defended Japan's defense budget increase.
The conversation on Japan's decline continues, writes CFR's Sheila Smith in this blog post.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
India Warns Pakistan of Increased Tension
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned Pakistan that the two countries cannot be "business as usual" (HindustanTimes) in their ties after the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
Egyptian Military Train Crash Kills Nineteen
At least 19 people were killed and more than 100 injured Tuesday in Egypt after a train carrying conscripted youth derailed southwest of Cairo (Bloomberg). The incident, the fifth such accident since President Mohammed Morsi's election in June, could provide new ammunition for critics of the president.
ISRAEL: A sixteen-year-old Palestinian boy was killed (Haaretz) by Israeli Defense Force fire on Tuesday in the West Bank, making him the fourth Palestinian killed by IDF fire in recent days.
France Plans Troop Surge in Mali
France's defense ministry said Tuesday it will boost its troop presence in Mali (France24) to 2,500 as the country rushes to push back Islamist rebels controlling the country's desert north. French-Malian soldiers are still awaiting the deployment of a pledged 3,300-strong multi-nation African force.
CFR's John Campbell speculates on the efficacy of France's intervention in Mali in this blog post.
TOGO: At least four journalists were injured by police while covering an anti-government protest (CPJ) in Togo's capital of Lomé. Demonstrators have demanded government reforms before parliamentary elections in March.
David Cameron Counts on Dutch Support
UK Prime Minister David Cameron chose the Netherlands as the venue for his long-awaited speech on Britain's relationship (FT) with the EU. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said uncertainty over the UK's membership could have a "chilling effect" on the economy (Independent).
GERMANY: The German economy grew by 0.7 percent in 2012, a sharp slowdown (BBC) compared to year-ago figures that some analysts say could signal Germany's own entrance into a recession.
Brazil Demands Elections Should Chavez Die
Brazil directly urged Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro to hold snap elections (Reuters) if President Hugo Chavez dies, marking a major intervention by a regional power that could help ensure a smoother leadership transition in Caracas.
COLOMBIA: Colombia reconvened with FARC rebels in Havana Monday for a third round of peace talks (MercoPress) that the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos says need to progress faster.
Hagel Courts Pro-Israel Democrats
Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel sent a letter to California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Jewish Democrat, saying he fully supports unilateral sanctions on Iran, and condemned Hezbollah as a terrorist threat to Israel. Hagel is also expected to meet with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer in a larger effort to "assuage concerns raised by pro-Israel Democrats" about his stances on the region, reports Politico.