The South Asia Channel

Four Arrested in Lahore Stoning Case; Report: Al Qaeda Growing in Afghanistan; India Seeks to Tame Inflation

Bonus Read: "What Obama Missed in Afghanistan," Frances Z. Brown and Dipali Mukhopadhyay (SouthAsia). 

Pakistan 

Four arrested in connection with "honor killing" 

Police in Punjab province on Friday arrested four more suspects in connection with the death of Farzana Parveen, a pregnant 25-year-old Pakistani woman, outside Lahore's high court on Tuesday; the detainees include her uncle and two of her cousins (Dawn, RFE/RL, VOA). The arrests came shortly after Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's brother, told provincial police on Thursday that they had 24 hours to arrest those involved in the attack. 

Sharif also directed that the case be tried in an anti-terrorism court, and that the maximum punishment be sought for those accused of the crime (Dawn). Sharif even formed a high-level committee, which is tasked with analyzing the progress in the case on a daily basis and reporting to him.

Parveen had been engaged to her cousin, but married another man against her family's wishes. Her father had filed an abduction case against her husband, which the couple was contesting. As they arrived at the courthouse for a hearing, nearly 20 members of her family attacked them with bricks.

While Muhammad Iqbal, Parveen's husband, told international media outlets that the police outside the courthouse had stood by and done nothing during the attack, those involved defended their actions, telling the BBC that Parveen had already died of her injuries by the time they were able to intervene (BBC). 

The case took another turn on Thursday when Iqbal admitted to killing his first wife six years ago so he could marry Parveen (AFP, Post). Zulfiqar Hameed, the deputy inspector general for the Punjab police, told the Associated Press that Iqbal had been arrested for the murder in 2009, but that the case was withdrawn, in accordance with Pakistani law, after his children forgave him (AP). 

Made in Pakistan 

As much of the world prepares for the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil on June 12, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper noted on Friday that Pakistan is one of the world's leading football (soccer ball) manufacturing countries (Dawn). Profiling Syed Tasawar Hussain, a worker in Sialkot who has stitched footballs together for 18 years, the paper highlights the fact that the local football industry has been fairly strong since the Sialkot-based Sublime Soccer made Adidas's official match ball for the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Barcelona, Spain. According to Dawn, the town's reputation as a major hub for sporting goods dates back to British India, and the people of Sialkot have traditionally been craftsmen, specializing in, among other things, musical instruments and leather goods. Safdar Sandal, the CEO of Sialkot's Phedra Industries, told Dawn that 42 million footballs will be exported from Sialkot-based industries ahead of the World Cup. 

Afghanistan 

Daily Beast: Al Qaeda growing in Afghanistan 

While Afghan parliamentarians have already voiced their concerns over President Barack Obama's plan to leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in December, before fully withdrawing all troops two years later, the Daily Beast's Eli Lake reported on Thursday that new U.S. intelligence assessments are warning that al Qaeda is reestablishing a presence in the country (Daily Beast). Lake noted that "the concern for now is that al Qaeda has created a haven in the northeast regions of Kunar and Nuristan and is able to freely operate along Afghanistan's only major highway -- Route One, which connects the airports of Kandahar and Kabul."

He added that for years the U.S. intelligence community estimated that there were some 100 al Qaeda fighters in Kunar province, but that recent estimates have determined that the militant organization has expanded to Nuristan province, and is coordinating its operations and activities with the Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani Network.

Eight militants killed in NATO airstrike

Afghan media outlets reported on Friday that at least eight militants were killed in Paktika province Thursday night when the car they were traveling was blown up in a NATO airstrike (Pajhwok). While NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) released a statement confirming the strike, it said further information would be given after an investigation into the matter was conducted. That investigation is currently underway. 

Elsewhere in Kunduz province, Afghan officials said that at least five Taliban fighters were killed and four others were wounded in an Afghan-led security operation ahead of the upcoming run-off presidential election (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Last week, Afghanistan's interior ministry said 75 security operations were being conducted across the country to secure the June 14 vote.

Karzai, Sharif discuss cross-border shelling

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday to raise his concerns over cross-border shelling in Kunar province (Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to reports, Karzai told Sharif that fighters from Pakistan have crossed the Durand Line -- a border created by Britain in 1893 -- for years, but that Afghan forces have never fired on civilians on the Pakistani side of the border. Sharif reportedly responded by saying that "terrorists come from Afghanistan to Pakistan and conduct terrorist activities," but that he would discuss the shelling with the military. Pakistan has so far denied its involvement.

Karzai also reportedly raised the issue with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the U.S. commander of ISAF, who said the media accounts of the shelling are exaggerated. 

-- Bailey Cahall 

India

RBI Governor to join hands with government to tame inflation 

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday said the country's central bank and the newly formed Modi government share the stance that India's inflation needs taming (Economic Times, Live Mint). Speaking at the Institute for Indian Economic Studies in Tokyo, Rajan also welcomed the new government's decision to curb food inflation. In response to Rajan's comments, India's 10-year benchmark bond yield hit a four-month low. The big task for the new government in the short term is to revive growth, according to Rajan.

He also suggested that an interest rate cut is unlikely in the near term, saying: "There is a sense of conviction about our plan to bring inflation down to 8 percent this year and 6 percent next year." Rajan met newly-elected Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday and addressed India's critical challenge of reviving growth while curbing inflation (Economic Times). The central bank is set to review its monetary policy next week.

Government in no hurry to privatize Air India 

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati said on Thursday that the central government is in no hurry to privatize its loss-making airline, Air India (Hindustan Times, The Financial Express). A public sector carrier, Air India has a cumulative debt of INR 40,000 crore (over $6 billion) and will be given approximately INR 20,000 crore (over $3 billion) by the government by the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year to revive its financial performance (FirstPost).

Pusapati added that all major decisions taken by the previous government would be reviewed to avoid any hasty decisions regarding the airline's privatization. Despite the financial stress of several airliners, he said the country needs more carriers. Pusapati said his ministry will "strive to create a level-playing field for all the players and make the aviation sector more people-oriented."

He also hinted that the new government may review the airport security exemptions of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi (IBNLive). Vadra is the only civilian on the VIP list who is exempted from security checks at airports.

Reliance Industries to acquire Viacom's India partner, Network18

Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), India's largest private sector company, will acquire a majority stake in the country's largest news broadcaster, Network18 Media & Investments Ltd. (Network18), including its subsidiary, TV18 Broadcast Ltd. (TV18), for $680 million (NDTV, The Hindu, Hindustan Times). Network18, founded by entrepreneur Raghav Bahl, operates a set of channels including CNN-IBN, IBN7, CNBC-TV18, and CNBC Awaaz. The group also operates news websites, such as firstpost.com and ibnlive.com, the entertainment channel Colors, and additional news channels in numerous regional languages.

A dominant player in the oil and gas sector, RIL is acquiring Network18 as a potential content provider for its planned 4G Internet services. "This acquisition will differentiate Reliance's 4G business by providing a unique amalgamation at the intersect [sic] of telecom, Web and digital commerce via a suite of premier digital properties," a RIL press statement said on Thursday. According to the statement, the acquisition of Network18 will lead to a "fundamental synergy" with RIL's 4G business. RIL won a license to operate a nationwide 4G broadband service in 2010. Upon completion, this will be one of the largest takeovers in India's media sector. 

Modi opposes life story in school curricula 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday opposed the idea of including his life story in school textbooks, after many Bharatiya Janata Party-led states, including Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, reportedly did just that (Business Standard, BBC). Disapproving the decision, Modi tweeted: "I am reading in the news that some states want to include Narendra Modi's life struggles as a part of their school curriculum," and that: "I firmly believe that the life story of living individuals should not be included as a part of the school curriculum."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen.

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