Six Al Qaeda Leaders Killed in July 10 Drone Strike; Congress Party Splits With Ally; Insider Attack Kills Four in Kabul
Event Notice: "Pakistan's Interminable Energy Crisis: Is There Any Way Out?" Wednesday, 9:15 AM - 4:00 (Wilson Center)
Bonus Read: "Pakistan: Right War, Wrong Battlefield," Arsla Jawaid (South Asia)
At least six al Qaeda leaders killed in drone strikes
A July 10 drone strike in the Dattakhel section of North Waziristan killed at least six al Qaeda leaders, according to al Qaeda leaders quoted in The News on Tuesday (The News, Dawn). The report named three of the leaders, all mid-level commanders, while leaving three others unidentified. The confirmation came over Twitter from Sanafi al-Nasr, the head of al Qaeda's Victory Committee, who is based in Syria. According to data collected by the New America Foundation, the drone campaign in Pakistan has killed 58 militant leaders since the campaign began in 2004 accounting for around two percent of all the deaths in the campaign (NAF).
Two women injured in acid attack
Two women were injured on Tuesday by unidentified attackers who threw acid upon them while they shopped in Balochistan's Mastung district (Dawn). The attackers managed to escape. The attack comes just one day after four women were injured in another acid attack in Quetta.
Congress splits with its J&K ally; creates opportunity for BJP
India's Congress party and the National Conference (NC), a state political party in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), have decided to part ways in J&K and will separately contest state elections later this year, according to news reports on Sunday (Hindustan Times, Hindu, Times of India). Both parties are claiming they initiated the split. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said: "We've consulted the various stakeholders within the party and they were not in favour of any pre-poll alliance with any political party in the state. Hence, it has been finalized that the party shall go it alone in the assembly elections."
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), still on a political high from its landslide victory in the national elections, is planning to contest all 87 seats in J&K. The BJP has never won a seat in the Kashmir Valley region, and is welcoming new entrants to their party in J&K, including former Congress and NC workers (Hindustan Times). Hina Bhat, daughter of former NC leader Mohammad Shafi Bhat and a doctor by profession, recently joined the BJP and said: "I know the consequences of joining BJP, but the decision came after carefully weighing the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi government's approach towards the state." Bhat added further: "We know what the mainstream parties, which are headed by Muslims, have given to the state? It might be possible that a non-Muslim party rescue this state."
As the Congress party is still recovering from its loss at the national elections earlier this year, the dissent against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi is increasing among party members (Economic Times, IBNLive). Many Congress leaders have suggested that Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of party President Sonia Gandhi and sister of Rahul Gandhi, should represent the party. Unhappy with the Gandhi family, a senior Congress leader said: "The political USP [unique selling point] of a Gandhi in Congress is his/her ability to keep the party united. If the Gandhi family is not bothered about retaining this role through deft political management, what can others do." Besides splitting with NC, the Congress party lost two key leaders from the states of Maharashtra and Assam on Monday, who resigned their posts due to Congress' failure at the national elections.
Alleged breach at Jammu and Kashmir border
One Indian soldier was reported killed under fire from the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC) in the Akhnoor sector of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on Tuesday (NDTV, Times of India, NDTV). In response to the ceasefire violations, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley said to the Rajya Sabha (India's upper house of Parliament): "Indian Army has given befitting reply to Pakistan's repeated attempts of ceasefire violations along the LoC. India will keep retaliating to such violations."
On Monday evening, meanwhile, the Border Security Force (BSP) foiled a suspected infiltration attempt by armed intruders across the international border (IB) in J&K's Kathua district where one intruder was killed. A senior police officer said: "As the [BSP] troopers realised it was a group of militants who were trying to sneak into the Indian side, they fired at the intruders, who also retaliated with automatic gunfire, but were finally forced to withdraw back into the Pakistani side."
This is the second infiltration attempt along the IB in less than a week. The LoC is a military boundary between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. The BSF guards the international border in J&K, while the Indian army guards the LoC.
PM Modi emphasizes energy security to drive development
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited on Monday the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai where he met scientists and reiterated energy security as a critical driver for India's sustained long-term development (Economic Times, Financial Express, Business Standard). Modi said: "India's self-reliance in the nuclear fuel cycle and the commercial success of the indigenous reactors demonstrated that with vision, resolve and hard work, India could be a front-ranking country in the most challenging fields."
Modi also stressed the significant role of the private sector in the field of nuclear energy, and said: "We would need to tap additional sources of investments for our ambitious expansion programme." The Indian Prime Minister also asked scientists at BARC to present a "human face" of India's capabilities in nuclear science to the world and commended India's nuclear energy program for succeeding despite international sanctions in the past. After his trip to BARC, Modi tweeted: "Our focus should be on developmental dimensions of atomic science with a special outreach to India's youth." This visit was Modi's first trip to the western state of Maharashtra after becoming prime minister in May.
-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Insider attack kills at least four in Kabul
An individual, reportedly wearing an Afghan intelligence police uniform, killed at least four people on Tuesday in a suicide attack at a police building in Kabul that is used by Afghanistan's counter-narcotics department (Pajhwok, TOLO News, AJE). According to a security official, who spoke to TOLO News: "The suicide bomber was an Afghan security guard for the U.S. soldiers in the anti-narcotics office and he worked for them for many years." The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.
Upper house passes access to information law
Afghanistan's upper house of parliament passed an access to information law on Tuesday, requiring the government and private organizations to provide press access for the public good (Pajhwok). The draft law now goes to the lower house for approval. According to Mehmood Danishjo, a member of the Religious and Cultural Affairs Commission, the law would be implemented through a nine-member panel with representatives from key ministries as well as the Independent Human Rights Commission, the lawyers' fraternity, and the journalists' fraternity.
IEC promises to speed up audit
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced on Monday that it would speed up the audit of ballots cast in Afghanistan's run-off election (Pajhwok). The commission had been criticized for a slow process, and over the weekend the audit had been halted for 23 hours after a disagreement between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah -- the two contenders -- over procedures. IEC Spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said that the audit teams have already grown to 50 people in each shift and would reach 100 in each shift with new reinforcements. According to Noor, just short of 50 percent of the ballot boxes have arrived in Kabul.
With the audit proceeding, representatives for both candidates expressed continued steadfast support for the process on Monday (TOLO News). Ashraf Ghani's deputy spokesman, Tahir Zuhair, said: "The agreement that was made between the candidates through the mediation of the U.S. Secretary of State and in the presence of the UN envoy is irreversible and it is 100 percent sure." Syed Fazil Aqa Sancharaki, a spokesman for Abdullah, stated: "Whatever the election results may be, the political agreement is in place and the political structure would be shaped on the basis of this agreement, disagreements and misinterpretations will not affect the future of the agreements."
Magic number 39
According to statements this week by officials from Afghanistan's General Directorate of Traffic, rumors regarding the criminal links of the number 39 on license plates have resulted in a 50 percent drop in traffic police revenues (TOLO News). The rumors have led people to reject license plates with the number 39. Traffic Directorate Chief Assadullah stated: "We cannot delete number plates that include 39, we are asking people to forget these meaningless statements and accept the numbers." He added that: "None of the world's countries have a traffic system like Afghanistan." The Ministry of Interior has stated that it will not remove license plates with the number 39 from use. The rumors may have a far more serious impact, however; Sediq Sediqi, a ministry spokesman, stated: "There are mafias who benefit from such numbers; they purchase cars at low rates, then sell with high rate."
Edited by Peter Bergen
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