Over 30 Dead in Kandahar Attacks; UN Tribunal Rules for Bangladesh; Pakistan Army Claims 80% of Miramshah Cleared
Over 30 Dead in Kandahar Attacks
On Wednesday, militants attacked the governor's house and a police headquarters in Kandahar City; more than 30 people on all sides died in the attack according to Dawa Khan Menapal, the provincial police spokesman. (Pajhwok, AJE, Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Menapal said that the attack on the police headquarters began with two suicide attackers driving into the police headquarters (TOLO). Gen. Abdul Raziq, Kandahar's police chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News that eight fighters -- who all died in clash -- attacked the police headquarters after detonating a car bomb (Pajhwok). The Talban have not yet commented on the attack.
President Obama urges Dialogue on Election
President Barack Obama urged Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to engage in political dialogue during separate phone calls on Tuesday (Pajhwok, AP). Obama also told both candidates that "resorting to violent or extra-constitutional means, which would result in the end of US assistance to Afghanistan," according to a White House statement. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, emphasized the need to wait for final, rather than preliminary, results.
The White House was not alone in urging patience. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the candidates to wait until the completion of a thorough check of the votes, which should be completed by July 22 (Pajhwok).
Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, also urged Afghanistan's leaders to maintain calm and work together to maintain Afghanistan's unity (Pajhwok). Hague called for "swift action" on allegations of fraud, and warned of the consequences if Afghan leaders do not work together, saying: "to do otherwise risks political fragmentation, jeopardising the progress Afghanistan has made since the fall of the Taliban, and its partnership with the international community."
Civilian Casualties Surge in First Half of 2014
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose 24 percent in the first half of 2014, reaching the highest level since 2009, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday (NYT, AP). Jan Kubis, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, stated: "The nature of conflict in Afghanistan is changing in 2014 with an escalation of ground engagements in civilian-populated areas." The report also noted that casualties among children doubled from a year ago. According to the report, insurgents were responsible for three-quarters of the civilian casualties, while the government and its supporters were responsible for less than 10 percent.
Taliban Shadow Governor Killed
On Wednesday, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security announced that Afghan forces killed the Taliban shadow governor of Badakhshan province and 14 other militants in an operation in the Jurm district of Badakhshan on Tuesday (TOLO News). The announcement also noted the presence of Tajik and Pakistani terrorists at the location of the raid. The Taliban denies that the shadow governor was killed.
U.N. Tribunal rules for Bangladesh in maritime border dispute
The U.N.'s Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on Tuesday drew a new maritime border by awarding 19,467 square kilometers (7,516 square miles) of the total disputed area and territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal to Bangladesh (Business Standard, Economic Times, Wall Street Journal, The Hindu). The total area spans 25,602 square kilometers (9,885 square miles). Bangladesh's Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali welcomed the ruling, saying it was a "victory of friendship between Bangladesh and India." Ali said further: "This would help to take the relationship between the two neighbours one step forward."
India said it was "studying" the "full implications" of the verdict of the Arbitration Tribunal for Delimitation of Maritime Boundary in the Hague. "We believe that the settlement of the maritime boundary will further enhance mutual understanding and goodwill between India and Bangladesh by bringing to closure a long pending issue. This paves the way for the economic development of this part of the Bay of Bengal, which will be beneficial to both countries," a spokesperson in the Indian external affairs ministry said.
The PCA delivered the verdict after nearly five years of arguments and counter-arguments by the two nations, spot visit by judges, and examination of survey reports. Bangladesh, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), opted for arbitration over the delimitation of maritime boundary in October, 2009. The ruling is binding on both parties.
India asks U.N. mission to Kashmir to vacate Delhi premises
India sent a communication to the United Nations on Tuesday asking the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to vacate its government-provided accommodation in New Delhi (Economic Times, Business Standard, The Financial Express). UNMOGIP has been asked to vacate the 7,000 square foot bungalow, which was given "free of charge" to the U.N. mission, and has been serving as its office for the last four decades. "As far as we are concerned, we have always maintained that UNMOGIP has outlived its relevance. This is a consistent stand we have taken and articulated over the time," Syed Akbaruddin, ministry of external affairs spokesperson, told the media. Akbaruddin said further: "We are in budgetary season and everybody is tightening their belts.... And as far as the UN is concerned, I am certain it is an organization with adequate resources with no paucity of funds."
In response to vacating the New Delhi premises, UNMOGIP's Military Information Officer Major Tomas Malm, based in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, said: "UNMOGIP's response is to relocate to another location in Delhi." UNMOGIP has been in India and Pakistan since 1949 supervising the truce between the two countries. New Delhi's position has been that the U.N. had little role to play after the neighboring countries signed the Simla Pact in 1972, when both nations agreed to resolve all disputes including Kashmir bilaterally. However, Pakistan has frequently called for third-party involvement to settle the Kashmir dispute.
Indian refiners pay Iran $550 million
Indian refiners paid the second installment of $550 million to Iran to clear over one-fourth of its dues for crude oil imports, according to news reports on Tuesday (Financial Express, Wall Street Journal, Economic Times). The total amount due in May was $4 billion, of which Indian refiners will finish paying Iran $1.65 billion by the end of July. After the United States blocked payment channels to Iran due to sanctions on its nuclear program, India has been paying 45 percent of its oil bill to the country in Indian rupees through a UCO Bank branch in Kolkata, located in the east Indian state of West Bengal. For the remaining 55 percent, both Iran and India have to find another payment mechanism.
Although Iran is claiming interest on the dues, the Indian government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have rejected the request, saying that the problem of mode and channel were because of Iran. An interim deal between the United States with five other powers and Iran has allowed Tehran to partially access blocked funds globally.
-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Army Claims 80 Percent of Miramshah Cleared
Maj. Gen. Zafarullah Khan claimed on Wednesday that 80 percent of Miramshah had been cleared during the ongoing operation in North Waziristan (Dawn). Khan also stated that the operation had found evidence of an Al Qaeda presence in the area. Miramshah was opened to the media for the first time since the beginning of the operation. Khan's statement followed airstrikes earlier in the day that reportedly killed 11 militants.
PTI Seeks Prime Minister's Disqualification
Two members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf political party, National Assembly members Ali Muhammad Khan and Murad Saeed, announced on Wednesday that they had filed a petition with the Election Commission of Pakistan calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's disqualification as a member of the assembly (ET, Dawn). Saeed accused Sharif of having used bribery to avoid conviction in a case regarding the provision of funds by the government to favored political parties and persons in the 1990 elections.
Edited by Peter Bergen