The South Asia Channel

Taliban Making Advances As U.S. Withdraws; Mob Violence Kills Three Ahmadis In Pakistan; Three Dead In Indian Communal Clashes


Taliban making advances as U.S. withdraws

The Taliban are making advances as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan according to two new reports in the New York Times one by Azam Ahmed and the other by Carlotta Gall and Taimoor Shah (NYT, NYT). According to Ahmed, the Taliban have extended their reach beyond their traditional safe havens and now control crucial highways surrounding Kabul. One Western official told Ahmed, "They are running a series of tests right now at the military level, seeing how people respond" continuing, "They are trying to figure out: Can they do it now, or will it have to wait." Gall reports that a sudden Taliban offensive in Kandahar province has caused protracted fighting and the Taliban overran a district center near the border with Pakistan.

Afghan presidential candidates support U.N. audit guidelines

The United Nations stated on Saturday that both Afghan presidential candidates -- Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani -- have expressed support for a U.N. proposal regarding guidelines for invalidating votes in Afghanistan's electoral audit (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Neelab Mubarez, a spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, stated: "Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai have both told the UN that they support the UN proposal regarding the recounting and invalidation of votes." Despite the U.N. statement, however, both campaigns expressed reservations regarding the proposal. Fazel Rahman Oyra, an Abdullah spokesperson stated: "This proposal is not a comprehensive proposal, and does not cover all angles, we have some suggestions and will send them to the UN." The Ghani campaign announced that it had accepted the agreement despite its reservations. Afghanistan's electoral audit has been plagued by delays, including two suspensions of the audit -- one over the criteria for invalidating votes.

Karzai announces probe into Ghor killings

Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced, on Sunday, the establishment of a delegation to probe the killing of 15 people in attacks on buses in Ghor province, where the attackers specifically targeted members of the Hazara community (Pajhwok). According to the statement, the delegation would be headed by presidential advisor Abdul Majeed and would also include Brig. Gen. Janan Barakzai and Brig. Gen. Taza Gul Nuristani as well as representatives from the Interior and Defense ministries.  Though the Taliban has been accused of conducting the attacks, they have denied any involvement.

National Directorate of Security foils three suicide attacks

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security announced on Sunday that it had foiled three suicide attacks that would have targeted Eid prayers (Pajhwok). According to the announcement, one attack was foiled in the Orgun district of Paktika province; another was foiled in Sharana, the provincial capital of Paktika; and a third was foiled in Herat province.

Afghanistan's cricket team goes 2-2 in Zimbabwe

Afghanistan's cricket team returned to Afghanistan on Sunday after winning two matches and losing two matches against Zimbabwe; all of the games were played in the African nation (TOLO News). Asghar Stanikzai, a member of the team, stated: "Zimbabwe has a permanent membership in the International Cricket Council and we beat them twice, which shows that Afghanistan's cricket has improved." Bonus Read: "The Batsman," Jeffrey Stern (South Asia).


Three Ahmadis killed in mob violence over alleged blasphemy

Three members of Pakistan's minority Ahmadi community, including two young girls, were killed on Sunday when a mob set fire to a house in Arafat Colony, Gujranwala in Punjab province (ET, Dawn). The mob's violence was sparked by an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post by an Ahmadi youth. One police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Dawn: "Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused," continuing "As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis." Salimuddin, an Ahmadi community spokesman, called the attack the worst in four years; four years ago 86 Ahmadis were killed in simultaneous attacks on places of worship around Pakistan.

Army claims 70 percent of Mir Ali cleared

Pakistan's army claimed on Sunday that it had cleared 70 percent of Mir Ali as part of an ongoing operation in North Waziristan (Dawn). An army spokesman reported the discovery of two large ammunition factories, as well as 30 barrels of chemicals used in explosives production that were hidden in two tunnels. The spokesman also claimed that 570 terrorists have been killed so far during the operation. Due to the restrictions on journalists' access in North Waziristan, news sources have been unable to independently verify the army's statements. Bonus Read: "Pakistan: Right War, Wrong Battlefield," Arsla Jawaid (South Asia).

National airline flying three outdated jumbo jets

Amid heightened fears over air safety -- stemming from the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine and the crash of an Algerian airliner in Mali -- the acting chairman of Pakistan's national airline, Muhammad Ali Gardezi, stated that the airline was flying three outdated jumbo jets, according to a report Sunday in the Express Tribune (ET). Two of the planes are more than 25-years-old according Gardezi, who added that while the airline should have at least 34 aircraft, only 19 functional

Report: 100 police killed in Karachi in past 200 days

At least 100 police officers have been killed in Karachi in the past 200 days, according to statistics released by the city's police on Sunday (ET). Police reports show that in 2013, 166 police officers were killed in the city. Karachi has seen a wave of violence recently, as well as targeted operations by police and the Sindh Rangers, a paramilitary organization.

--David Sterman


Communal clashes in India; three dead and curfew relaxed

Communal violence between Muslims and Sikhs began on Saturday in Saharanpur, a city located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, after Sikhs started building on land that Muslims say belongs to them (Hindustan Times, IBNLive, BBC). The riots claimed three lives and injured 33 people. At least 38 people were arrested in connection with the violence. The police used rubber bullets to disperse the rioters who damaged and set ablaze 22 shops and 15 vehicles in Saturday's violence. Paramilitary forces, including Rapid Action Force and Central Reserve Police Force, were also deployed in the troubled areas with additional forces of state police to maintain law and order.

Curfew and shoot-at-sight orders remained in force on Sunday. On Monday, the curfew was relaxed in Saharanpur in two phases for four hours to allow people to stock up on their daily necessities and also shop before the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The state of Uttar Pradesh has experienced many communal clashes in the past. Last year, 43 people died in religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. In 1992, there were nationwide riots after a mob demolished the Babri Mosque in the holy city of Ayodhya.

Bomb threat in Mumbai over Gaza operation

Mumbai, India's financial capital in the western state of Maharashtra, is presently under high alert after the Mumbai Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria received on Friday a letter signed by the Indian Mujahideen, which threatened a terror attack in the city to "take revenge for Gaza" attacks (NDTV, Hindustan Times, IBNLive). According to Maria, the letter, written in Hindi and English, hinted a terror attack in the city and also said: "We will take revenge for Gaza... Stop us if you can." Security has been tightened in Mumbai, particularly in light of the Eid festival, and all anti-terror cells in Mumbai have also been put on high alert.

The Indian Mujahideen -- which is banned or considered a terrorist organization by India, the United States, and the United Kingdom -- is an Islamist militant group that has carried out several attacks against civilian targets in India. More than 1,000 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed during the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

India's Home Ministry denies bugging cabinet minister's residence

"High power listening devices" were "accidentally" found in the residence of Nitin Gadkari, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and minister of road, transport, and highways in New Delhi, according to media reports on Sunday (NDTV, Hindustan Times, Economic Times). In response to the reports, Gadkari tweeted: "Reports in a section of the media about listening devices having been found at my New Delhi residence are highly speculative." On Monday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh rejected calls for a home ministry probe in the bugging and said: "How can we intervene in this [when] Mr Gadkari himself has denied it."

The Congress party said on Monday that the recovery of the listening devices reflects "lack of faith and mutual trust" among ministers of the newly elected BJP government. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for an investigation on Sunday and said: "If ministers' houses are bugged, then it is not a good omen. It should be investigated. How can it happen? It should be explained by the Government in the House [of Parliament]."

Modi government completes two months

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a web platform -- --  on Saturday to mark the completion of 60 days in office of the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which won an overwhelming electoral mandate in May of this year (Economic Times, Indian Express, NDTV). The website aims to help citizens contribute to governance by giving their opinions and views on important issues. At the launch of the web portal, Modi said: "Technology is key to development. I am hopeful people will welcome government's step and associate themselves with this platform. I am open to suggestions on this platform." Modi said further: "The platform would bridge gap gulf between people and government. Democracy cannot succeed without people's participation in government and this participation should not be limited only during elections."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen