Pakistani Military Sweeps Miramshah; Indian Congress Attacks Modi For His Silence; Afghan Security Chief Calls out Islamabad
Military sweeps Miramshah
At least 15 militants were killed and three soldiers were injured on Monday as the Pakistani military began the second phase of its offensive in North Waziristan with a ground operation in Miramshah (NYT, ET). The military released a statement on Monday that said infantry and special forces units moved from house to house throughout the city and uncovered networks of tunnels and bomb factories. The operation included the mobilization of tanks, artillery, and gunship helicopters in support of those infantry forces. The statement also said that 376 militants and 17 soldiers had been killed since the beginning of the offensive, which started in early June with an air assault.
The military has claimed that no civilians were killed in the offensive, which seems unlikely given the accounts given by some of the 500,000 refugees who fled the area. For instance, the New York Times spoke to one 15-year-old girl whose home was destroyed by an air strike -- she suffered serious burns and remains hospitalized weeks after the incident. There is no way to independently verify casualty counts since North Waziristan is so remote and inaccessible to journalists.
Pakistan demands Afghan cooperation
The Pakistani army reiterated its longstanding demand that the Afghan government help it destroy Pakistani Taliban sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border on Tuesday, specifically asking Afghanistan to "eliminate or handover" Mullah Fazlullah, a Taliban commander (ET). Fazlullah is the chief of the Pakistani Taliban, but he resides in Afghanistan, from where Major General Asim Bajwa said he controls the militant fighters. Pakistan has also requested that Afghanistan reinforce its border areas so that no militants can escape their ongoing offensive. Pakistani forces have established more posts on its side of the border as a precaution as well.
Congress attacks PM Narendra Modi for his silence
India's Congress Party mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday for his silence on the issue of China's reported claim over Arunachal Pradesh, Pakistan's ceasefire violations, rising prices, and an alleged "rapist" in the ministry (Indian Express, Times of India, NDTV). Congress criticized Modi for his claims during the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) election campaign that a strong government in Delhi could set things right.
Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmad, referring to Modi's frequent use of the word "maun" (silence) and "mauni" (someone who is silent) to emphasize the silence of his predecessor Manmohan Singh, questioned Modi's lack of response on some critical issues. "Pakistan also keeps on violating ceasefire. Modi would say over transgressions by China and Pakistan that the weakness was not in border but in Delhi. He would remind us of his 56 inch chest. What has happened to all this? Why is he silent? He should at least tweet," Ahmad said. "I have been asking, has the chest shrunk to 5.6 inches?" Ahmad said further. During the election campaign, Modi often repeated the 56-inch chest remark to pitch himself as a decisive and strong leader.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor dug up a May 23 tweet of Modi attacking the Manmohan Singh government over increase in fuel prices. The Modi government increased petrol and diesel prices on Tuesday due to the political unrest in Iraq. Tharoor also tweeted on June 26, saying: "New NaMo [Narendra Modi] alphabet? A for achhe din [good days]; B for bitter pill; C for cave-in rollback; D for disempowered Ministers; E for excuses; F for fuel price rise (sic)" (Zee News). Congress also demanded the resignation of Union Minister Nehal Chand over his alleged involvement in a rape case.?
Indian MP threatens to murder, unleash rapists on Marxists
Member of Parliament Tapas Pal, of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party and from the eastern state of West Bengal, allegedly threatened to kill workers from his rival party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], and have their women raped, according to reports on Monday (BBC, NDTV, Business Standard, Livemint). Although Pal made the remarks weeks ago, a video clip was aired for the first time on Monday. "If any rival touches any Trinamool woman, father or child, then I will ruin their generations. I will let loose my boys, they will commit rape. Yes, they will commit rape," Pal warned. Pal, denied his comments on rape and said: "What I said was I will tell my workers to ‘raid.'"
Pal's outrageous remarks have caused widespread disgust and disbelief. TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was shattered by Pal's comments, and the TMC party has demanded a written explanation from Pal within 48 hours, according to TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee (Hindustan Times). Pal's wife also apologized for his remarks. The CPI (M) has asked the parliament speaker to disqualify Pal. Several opposition parties and the National Commission for Women have also condemned his comments. Pal is a two-term MP and an award-winning Bengali actor.
Government eases visa policy for Afghans
India's new liberal visa policy, which goes into effect on July 1, allows Afghan citizens to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds for up to two years, according to a Home Ministry release on Monday (NDTV, DNA). "Exemption from police reporting will be granted for Afghan nationals up to two years or those above 65 years of age," the release also said. Additional categories that will be exempt from police reporting include Afghan students, medical patients, short-term visitors, businessmen, scholars, and eminent people.
The amenities at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Delhi have been upgraded for Afghan nationals. "A system of biometric enrollment and photography would be introduced to ensure that such facilities are not misused by unscrupulous elements," a Home Ministry spokesperson said.
Modi marital case: not disclosing wife's name was an offense
An Ahmedabad court in the western state of Gujarat held on Monday that although Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed an offense under the Representation of People (RP) Act by not disclosing his marital status while contesting the Assembly polls in 2012, a First Information Report (FIR) cannot be filed against him as the complaint was not filed within the prescribed time limit of one year (Indian Express, Business Standard). Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Nishant Verma filed an application earlier this year, sixteen months after the alleged offense, to register an FIR against Modi for "hiding" his marital status when he had filed with his nomination in 2012.
?Modi disclosed his marital status and his wife's name, Jashodaben, for the first time this year when he filed his nomination for the Vadodara Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) seat.
-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Top security chief calls for elimination of terrorist hideouts
Just as Islamabad asked Kabul to secure its borders and root out Taliban commanders hiding within the country, Afghanistan called on Pakistan to deny safe havens to terrorist groups inside Pakistan and adopt a non-interference policy towards Kabul (TOLO News). Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan's national security advisor, told reporters on Monday that he gave Pakistan a letter during his visit to Islamabad last week that called on Pakistan to not be selective in their fight against terrorism. The letter also called on Pakistan to end the cross-border shelling -- nearly 3,400 rockets have been fired on areas in eastern Afghanistan in the past 18 months, causing at least six civilian deaths, according to Afghan officials.
Five kidnapped in Maidan Wardak
Militants kidnapped five National Solidarity Program workers in the Kajab area of Maidan Wardak province, an official said on Tursday (Pajhwok). The workers were visiting the area to monitor rural rehabilitation projects, Jan Mohammad Hikmat Jo, the department director, told Pajhwok Afghan News. Ataullah Khogynani, the provincial governor's spokesperson, confirmed the incident and said that the initial investigation suggests that the workers were taken toward Ghazni province. He said every effort was being made to ensure the early release of the five men. No one has claimed responsibility for the incident.
Former ALP commander cuts power lines
Jan Agha, a former Afghan Local Police commander, cut off power supply lines to eastern Laghman and Nangarhar provinces from Kabul's Naglo district on Tuesday, according to officials (Pajhwok). Agha contacted Nangarhar power director and said that he disconnected the supply because he and his colleagues were not paid for the last three months. According to Mohib-u-Rahman Momand, Nangarhar's power director, engineers who tried to restore the power supply were blocked by Agha and when he spoke to Agha on the phone several times, Agha demanded that the government pay their salaries before any electricity could be restored.
-- Emily Schneider
Edited by Peter Bergen
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