Top of the Agenda: Sharif on Course for Pakistan Victory
Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League appear set to secure a majority in Pakistan's parliament and form the next government (BBC) after his victory in Saturday's election. He has reportedly opened talks with independents to ensure a majority. Sharif's main opponent, Imran Khan, says his party will investigate charges of vote-rigging.
"[T]hose who heeded the call to vote for Pakistan were casting ballots in favor of democracy itself. Rising above political, ethnic, linguistic and sectarian differences, many--especially the young, the urban, the middle-class, the first-timers--were voting for the continuity of civilian rule in a country plagued by military dictatorships, and for a chance to renegotiate the elite political bargain in a way to make the public genuine stakeholders," writes Huma Yusuf for Dawn.
"Sharif is no stranger to Washington, and by all accounts, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader knows how to hold a grudge. The years of generous U.S. support to the Musharraf regime that sent him packing are bound to rankle. Time, along with a changed administration in the White House, may have started to heal that wound, but Sharif wouldreturn to power with little trust or affection for the United States," writes CFR's Daniel Markey.
"Mr Sharif was deposed in a coup in 1999, having earlier been swept to power in an emphatic (though partly rigged) election swing. After fourteen years away, how he manages his relationship with the army will be crucial for Pakistan's stability. Few expect an outright confrontation, but if Mr. Sharif loses his moral authority--he was the subject of widespread and convincing allegations of corruption during previous rule--the army (or courts) may quickly feel empowered against him," says the Economist.
U.S., South Korea Conduct Naval Exercise
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (Stripes) headed into the Sea of Japan to participate in a joint two-day naval exercise with the South Korean navy, which North Korea called, "a grave military provocation to unleash a nuclear war."
CHINA: Chinese authorities launched an investigation into corruption charges (AP) against the vice-chairman of the country's economic planning agency, Liu Tienan, made by a prominent journalist. The probe is seen as a target of the new leadership's anti-graft drive.
President Obama and South Korean President Park should even more closely coordinate efforts to change the North Korean leadership's calculus, writes CFR's Scott A. Snyder.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Taliban to Release Turkish Prisoners
Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan say they will soon release the remaining four of eight Turks captured last month. The eight Turkish engineers (RFE) were seized when bad weather forced their helicopter to make an emergency landing in Afghanistan's Logar Province.
Turkey Calls for International Action on Syria
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused a group with links to Syrian intelligence of car bombings that killed forty six people (Reuters) in a Turkish border town on Saturday, and said the world should act against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
SYRIA: Syrian troops have taken full control of Khirbet Ghazaleh (AP), a town near the highway linking the capital of Damascus with Jordan, an important setback for rebel forces and a new advancement in the regime's campaign to drive rebels from the strategic south.
In this blogpost, CFR's Steven A. Cook looks at the pros and cons of imposing a no-fly zone in Syria.
BULGARIA: Partial results show the center-right GERB party with a narrow lead in the country's parliamentary elections. The party of former prime minister Boiko Borisov (Euronews) appears set to win 31 percent of the vote over the Socialists.
U.S. Senator John McCain called for a special committee to investigate the administration's handling of last year's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya (ABC), which he characterized as a "cover-up."
HAITI: In his first public statements since his return to Haiti two years ago from exile in South Africa, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (MiamiHerald) suggested his party could win a majority in upcoming local and senatorial elections.