TTP Infighting Continues; Indian Politician's Rape Remark Stirs Controversy; Afghan Candidates Ready for Run-off
At least 13 militants were killed in a bombing and gunfight in north Waziristan on Friday in the latest clash in almost a week of infighting between Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) factions (ET, Dawn, AJE). The dispute between supporters of commander Khan Syed Sajna and followers of the late Hakimullah Mehsud began last November after Sajna was rejected for the TTP leadership position. The recent violence between the two factions that erupted on April 6 and has killed a total of 56 militants; it is thought to be over interference in matters inside one another's domains. The TTP has remained silent on the issue of infighting between the two groups and focused all of its attention on the ongoing negotiations with the Pakistani government, which began in February.
Most recently, the group has demanded the release of "non-combatant" prisoners and the establishment of a "peace zone" where security forces would be barred, but peace talks are still ongoing. The ceasefire announced by the TTP on March 1 for a month and later extended by 10 days ended on April 10 with no word from the group.
Attack on district court
At least two people were killed and several were injured on Friday in a shootout at a district court in Rawalpindi (Dawn). According to police, the indiscriminate firing was between two groups and with bystanders getting caught in the crossfire, but no more information was given about the groups who were firing. However, other sources alleged that an attorney, Sardar Amir, was the real target of the unknown attackers. The attack follows another, more deadly one on a courthouse in Islamabad on March 4 that killed 11 people and injured dozens.
-- Emily Schneider
Another Indian politician makes reprehensible rape remark
Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party, a regional party from Uttar Pradesh, announced on Thursday his befuddlement with death sentences for rape because, "boys make mistakes...there will be changes in the law if we come to power" (Indian Express, BBC, Economic Times). The remarks were made at a rally in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, and immediately invited the ire of many, with the opposition, BJP, saying the move amounted to "shameless votebank politics." Coalition ally, Congress, described the remarks as "unfortunate" and "encouraging to persons involved in such crimes" (Indian Express). Parents of the victim in a 2012 Delhi rape and murder called on voters to not elect leaders like Mulayam, as did former Delhi top cop Kiran Bedi who called for "the total boycott of such a political leader" (Hindustan Times).
Quick to defend his party boss was Uttar Pradesh politician Abu Azmi, who is perhaps best known as the man who fired two police officers for failing to find his missing cattle. Azmi went a step further than Mulayam Singh and suggested that women who engage in sex before marriage be hanged. Speaking to Mid-Day, Azmi said, "rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty. Girls complain when someone touches them, and even when someone doesn't touch them. It becomes a problem then," before adding the solution would be to hang both men and women (Hindustan Times).
High turnout in elections continues
The third phase of the Indian election continued to see a high turnout; Jammu and Kashmir recorded a 66 percent turnout (which the Election Commission described as ‘outstanding'); Delhi saw a turnout of 64 percent (up 12 percent from 2009); and Uttar Pradesh saw 65 percent at the polls (up 14 percent from 2009). It has been reported that over 100 million Indians voted yesterday (Mint, NDTV).
Taking a cue from the high turnout in phase three, shares of industrial house Adani Group, perceived as close to BJP's Narendra Modi, saw its stock rise 23 percent to Rs. 470.25 ($7.81). Investors expect this is sign of victory for Modi. The Adani Group, which has business in ports, electricity generation, mining, and trading has risen 233 percent since September 2013 (Hindustan Times). In a dig at Modi's purported business backers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi remarked that Modi replacing Advani with Adani, a reference to the infighting within the BJP which has supposedly sidelined top leaders (Times of India).
-- Shruti Jagirdar
Ready for a run-off
Afghanistan's presidential hopefuls are now turning their attention to the next stage of the race: the very real possibility of a run-off (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Abdullah Abdullah began what is expected to be a long period of deal-making with the announcement that he met with rival candidate Zalmai Rassoul to discuss the possibility of Rassoul giving his support to Abdullah in a second round: Rassoul is considered a distant third in the race. Ashraf Ghani said on Friday that he would prefer contesting a run-off election over withdrawing in favor of a rival candidate. In a video message, Ghani said that he was ready if the elections went to a second round run-off.
The country's Independent Election Commission announced on Thursday that it too was ready for a second round run-off election if necessary (Pajhwok). The commission, which reportedly has entered into its data system more than 45 percent of ballots cast, said the potential run-off would be free from any legal and technical problems.
The tomb of Prince Abdullah, one of two historic graves just south of Herat, is being reconstructed at a cost of $400,000 (Pajhwok). The tomb, built in the late 15th century, is plain brick on the outside but richly decorated with what is probably the best surviving tile work from medieval Herat on the inside. Herat Information and Culture Director Ariya Raufian told Pajhwok Afghan News that the United States had provided $340,000 for the project, with the Heart Culture Legacy Foundation giving the remaining $60,000. He also said the grave would be reconstructed in line with the UNSCO's engineering designs.
-- Emily Schneider
Edited by Peter Bergen
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images