The South Asia Channel

Suicide Attack in Panjshir Valley; Day of Mourning in Karachi; Government to Investigate Modi’s ‘Snoopgate’

Afghanistan

Suicide attack kills 12 in Panjshir Valley

A suicide car bombing killed at least 12 people, including five Afghan security force members, in Panjshir Province on Thursday (NYT, Post). According to reports, a suicide bomber drove his vehicle to the gate of a police checkpoint in the Dalan Sang area of the Valley at around 5 p.m. and detonated a bomb before any security officers could stop him. In addition to the lives of four police officers, an agent for the National Directorate of Security and seven laborers standing near the gate were also killed, according to Abdul Gahman Kabiri, the provincial governor (Pajhwok). At least 25 others, mostly civilians, were wounded and the death toll is expected to rise. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to reporters (BBC).

Panjjshir has long been the bedrock of anti-Taliban resistance and the area has been known as one of the safest in Afghanistan. "The Taliban are trying to show that they are able to target the safest province in the country," said Zahir Saadat, a member of parliament from Panjshir (WSJ). He added that: "In terms of propaganda, this attack could be [a] big achievement for Taliban." Presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, who won 44.9 percent of the preliminary vote, was long based in Panjshir.

Pakistan

MQM announces day of mourning

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a new political party, has called for a day of mourning in Karachi on Friday after the bodies of four party workers were found in Memon Goth on Wednesday night (Dawn). The bodies were identified as MQM activists who, according to the MQM, were picked up by law enforcement on April 13 from Gulzar-e-Hijri and hadn't been seen since. Khalid Maqbook Siddiqui, the party's deputy convener, said that they planned to hold a peaceful protest against the "extrajudicial killing" of the four workers who were shot dead on Wednesday and made an appeal to traders and shop owners in the city to observe a day of mourning on Friday. In response, the majority of commercial centers were closed on Friday and public transportation was unavailable, making it difficult for people to travel around the city.

World bank approves loan

The World Bank approved three loans for Pakistan this week totaling $1.125 billion, including $600 million for energy sector reforms (ET). The energy sector loan is aimed at reducing power subsidies and line losses and improving accountability of the power sector, as well as minimizing the role of the government in determining electricity prices. The bank approved a new five-year strategy for Pakistan under which it will extend $11 billion loans until 2019.

Tiniest Holy Quran?

Shanil Ahmed from Rawalpindi claims to have the world's smallest Holy Quran (ET). The copy of the Quran, which he inherited from his grandfather, is only 1cm wide and 1.69 cm long. The small book has 476 pages and is enclosed in a protective silver case with decorative carvings on it. The writing is so small that it can only be read with a magnifying glass.

-- Emily Schneider 

India

Government to appoint ‘snoopgate' judge before May 16

Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal said a court investigation into BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's alleged spying on a young woman in Bangalore will go ahead as planned, with a judge in the case appointed before May 16th, when the results of the Indian election will be announced (Indian Express).  The remark appears to have been in response to BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley, who said no judge would willingly participate in the "political and malafide" exercise targeting Modi. The incident, commonly referred to as ‘snoopgate,' came to light after a November 2013 investigation by Cobrapost.com revealed that Modi had allegedly used state machinery to monitor the activities of a young woman in Bangalore in 2009, allegedly at the behest of her father.

Meanwhile, a television interview with Modi by national broadcaster Doordarshan ruffled a few feathers (BBC).  In the interview, Modi said he was close friends with Sonia's chief aide, Ahmed Patel, who then vehemently denied these claims and called the move a political stunt to create confusion during elections (The Hindu).

Media reports that followed the interview said that Modi allegedly referred to Priyanka Gandhi as being ‘like his daughter' and therefore not political rivals like her brother Rahul or mother Sonia-and that this portion had been edited out of the interview. The BJP denied this was ever said and released a transcript of the interview, which showed Modi saying, "a daughter is a daughter." Priyanka Gandhi responded by saying she did not "appreciate the comparison at all."

India breaks into top 100 new varsities list

The Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, Assam is the only Indian varsity to have made it to a list of top 100 young varsities in the world (Mint, Times of India). According to the Times Higher Education ranking of top global universities that are less than 50 years old, the 20 year old IIT ranks at number 87. The absence of Indian institutes of learning from any universities rankings list has been a source of embarrassment for the successive governments. The Ministry of Human Resource and Development has allegedly set up a committee to look into the issue.  

-- Shruti Jagirdar

-- Edited by Peter Bergen 

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images