The South Asia Channel

Pakistan drafts ambitious counterterrorism policy, first in 13 years

Bonus read: "The Dead Afghan's Tale: How Afghanistan's Poorest Bear the Brunt of War," Mujib Mashal (TIME).

New CT policy 

Pakistan's Interior Ministry delivered an ambitious draft counterterrorism policy to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday that seeks to dismantle all terrorist outfits and networks in Pakistan through counterinsurgency and intelligence efforts, as well as reforms to the police and judiciary (ET).  According to Pakistan's Express Tribune, which received a copy of the draft, the National Counter Terrorism and Extremism Policy 2013 is focused on dismantling, containing, and preventing terrorism, reforming the country's education system, and reintegrating low-level militant foot soldiers.  The new policy also integrates military action and civilian follow-up, emphasizing the need for greater development and economic support in areas affected by terrorism.  Interestingly, the draft policy also calls for a "serious revisit" of Pakistan's existing foreign policy, a likely reference to the country's relationship with the United States.

After being briefed on the draft policy by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters that terrorism was a national problem and that concerted efforts were required to combat it (Dawn).  In addition to the policy, Pakistan's first national security policy in 13 years, Sharif is considering creating a national anti-terrorism force.

India and Pakistan continued to trade accusations on Tuesday of cross-border attacks over the Line of Control in Kashmir, extending more than a week of increasing tensions between the two countries (AFP, AP, BBC, Dawn, ET, Reuters, NYT).  An Indian army commander said that Pakistani troops had fired shots at border posts in the Mendhar section of Kashmir intermittently on Monday night, while a Pakistani military official claimed Indian troops had fired on Pakistani military posts first and they were just responding.  No casualties were reported on either side. 

Responding to the continued firings, Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the U.N., offered to be an arbitrator between India and Pakistan in an interview on Tuesday (Dawn).  He said that he expects "the Indian and Pakistani leadership to continue their dialogue, to create some confidence-building measures," but added that U.N. military observers are working to prevent a possible war between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed territory. 

The outlawed Punjabi Taliban, an offshoot on the Pakistani Taliban, distributed a pamphlet in southern Punjab and North and South Waziristan on Monday that said the militant group would consider itself at war with the Pakistani government if it follows through with a plan to execute four prisoners currently on death row (Dawn, ET). Last Thursday, Nusrat Mangan, the Inspector General of Sindh prisons, said that four convicts, including two members of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant organization, would be executed on August 20, 21, and 22 - the first executions of civilian prisoners in five years (Dawn). 

Bilateral issue

Christopher Chambers, NATO's Senior Civilian Representative Spokesman, and Gen. Heinz Feldmann, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said in a joint press conference on Monday that the stalled Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was purely an agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, and would not impact NATO's commitment to Afghanistan post-2014 (Pajhwok).  Chambers added that while the international alliance would welcome and support a signed BSA, NATO had already decided to continue advising and training Afghan security forces after coalition combat troops withdraw at the end of next year.

Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a female parliamentarian in Afghanistan's lower house, was kidnapped by Taliban fighters on Tuesday as she travelled through Ghazni province with her children (Reuters).  According to a local police commander, Kakar's three daughters were later released, but her kidnappers are demanding the release of four Taliban prisoners in exchange for the parliamentarian.  Kakar's husband has denied the attack took place but Samad Khan, the Kakar tribe's elder, said attempts to reach an agreement with the Taliban were underway.  Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters that he did not know who had staged the attack and that the group was "still investigating."  Kakar is the second female parliamentarian to be attacked in Ghazni in less than a week. Bonus read: "The long arc of justice in Afghanistan," Heather Barr (AfPak). 

The bodies of eight passengers seized by the Taliban in the Maqur district of Ghazni province last week were found on Monday in the province's Bawal Haq neighborhood (Pajhwok).  According to Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy governor, the victims were pulled from a bus on the Kabul-Kandahar highway last Wednesday evening.  An witness told reporters that the Taliban had worn Afghan National Army uniforms and had told the passengers that they had been directed to escorted government employees due to dangers on the road.

Noor Mohammad Noor, the spokesman for Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC), told reporters on Monday that voter registration centers in about a dozen districts could not be opened during the second round of campaign preparation due to security concerns (Pajhwok).  The first phase of the nationwide enrollment drive began with centers in the capitals of all 34 Afghan provinces, and the second phase focused on opening centers in 399 districts.  According to Noor, that number has now dropped to 387 due to security concerns in Ghazni, Helmand, and Zabul provinces.  Bonus read: "Afghanistan 2014: Better late than never," Hamid M. Saboory (AfPak). 

What's in a name?

After three NATO soldiers were killed on Sunday, a reporter at USA Today noticed that there has been a subtle change in the tone of military death announcements in Afghanistan (USA Today).  According to the report, until May 26, attackers were referred to as "insurgents;" now they are "enemies of Afghanistan."  While the shift is ostensibly to "conform with the way Afghan authorities report their troop deaths," other observers suggest it's a reflection that Afghans are starting to see the Taliban as actual adversaries.

-- Bailey Cahall 

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images