The South Asia Channel

Murder Charges Filed Against Pakistani Cleric; Pakistan Violates Ceasefire; Report Finds No Justice for Afghan Civilians


Murder charges filed against cleric

Pakistani authorities have opened an investigation against anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri after a police officer was killed during clashes with the Qadri's supporters on Friday and Saturday (Post). Qadri's supporters were on their way to a rally planned to take place on Sunday in Lahore when they battled with police, resulting in the deaths of eight of Qadri's supporters and the police officer. Officials said the investigation was based on recordings of Qadri allegedly inciting people to violence. Qadri, along with politician Imran Khan, have called for the government's ouster in recent weeks and have vowed to bring thousands of people to Islamabad on Thursday for a march on the capital in an attempt to throw the government into crisis. 

Railways on high alert

Pakistani railway police have taken extra security precautions on Monday in light of an intelligence report that said terrorists were planning to attack stations and hijack passenger trains (Dawn). Police dug trenches around the stations in Rawalpindi and Chaklala and built bunkers on the roof to house snipers. An army unit has been placed on standby to assist in the case of any terrorist attack.  An unnamed senior police office said that the access to the railway station had also been restricted and that passengers are being screened thoroughly.

Pakistani drone crashes

A Pakistani drone crashed on Sunday while trying to land at a base after a routine flight in eastern Punjab province (AP). Air Commodore Tariq Mahmood said the drone sustained damage in the crash but no one was injured on the ground. Pakistan's military uses domestically produced drones to counter the Taliban and other militant groups.

-- Emily Schneider


Pakistan violates ceasefire despite recent commitment

Pakistani troops on Monday fired heavily with small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar shells on seven Border Security Force (BSF) outposts along the international border in Jammu district, located within the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) [Livemint, Economic Times, NDTV]. Two BSF jawans (soldiers) were injured when Pakistan Rangers resorted to unprovoked firing -- the third ceasefire violation in less than 48 hours.

On Sunday, the Pakistan Army had violated ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district. The violations come despite the recent commitment between BSF and Pakistan Rangers to uphold peace and tranquility on the border during a Commandant-level flag meeting on Friday, and ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to J&K's Leh and Kargil districts on Tuesday, when he will inaugurate power projects and address Indian troops. 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.

RSS Chief downplays Modi's victory 

Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) -- a Hindu nationalist organization from which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) draws its ideological roots  -- said on Sunday that the credit for forming the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government earlier this year goes to the people and not to any individual or party (Livemint, Indian Express, Times of India). Although Bhagwat did not mention any names, he said further: "The same individuals and the party existed earlier also. Why were they not voted to power then? It is the people who wanted change and brought the party to power," and asserted that if people are not happy, they will change the existing government. At the BJP National Council Meet in New Delhi on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi complimented former BJP president and federal home minister Rajnath Singh and the new BJP President Amit Shah for the election victory.

Bhagwat also stirred a controversy on Sunday after he said: "The entire world recognizes Indians as Hindus therefore India is a Hindu state. This is a very simple thing, if inhabitants of England are English, those of Germany are Germans and USA are Americans, all those who live in Hindustan are known as Hindus" (NDTV). In response to Bhagwat's comment, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: "Mr Bhagwat will be well advised to read the Constitution. It is written that India is a country of combination of states. Words used by framers of constitution was India or Bharat and not Hindustan. RSS does not understand the reality."

Indian court convicts ‘Bandit Queen' killer 13 years later

An Indian court convicted the main suspect in the murder of India's "Bandit Queen" Phoolan Devi, 13 years after the iconic bandit-turned-politician was gunned down in broad daylight (NDTV, Hindustan Times, BBC). Sher Singh Rana, the main accused, confessed to murdering the 38-year-old politician to avenge the deaths of 22 upper-caste men Devi had killed on Valentine's Day in 1981. According to Devi, the massacre was in retaliation for her gang rape by upper-caste men. The judge acquitted 10 other defendants in the case due to lack of evidence. The trial was handled by 12 different judges over 13 years, and the court recorded the testimony of 171 prosecution witnesses. 

Devi was born in a small village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in 1963, began life as a fugitive at age sixtenn, and by the time she was twenty years old, Devi had allegedly committed multiple murders. Devi surrendered to the authorities in 1983 on the condition that she would not get the death penalty and served a prison sentence until February 1994. Two years later she became a member of the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament). In his 1996 movie "Bandit Queen," Indian film director Shekhar Kapur captured Devi's turbulent life.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Report finds no justice for Afghan civilians

A report by Amnesty International released on Monday documented how difficult it can be for the families of Afghan civilians killed in attacks by U.S. and other foreign forces to obtain justice. David Griffiths, Amnesty's deputy director for the Asia-Pacific region, told Radio Free Europe that the report concludes that Afghan civilians have nowhere to turn for justice, that the military justice system of foreign forces does not ensure accountability for their cases, and that the failure to properly address these grievances leaves behind "a dangerous legacy of resentment" (RFE/RL). Amnesty interviewed 125 Afghan civilians who gave accounts of air strikes and raids that left civilians injured or killed between 2009 and 2013, focusing on the performance of the U.S. government in investigating possible war crimes. 

Abdullah reaffirms commitment to recount

Just one day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Afghanistan to press for more cooperation between the two presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah reaffirmed his commitment to accepting the results of the recount from the runoff vote held in June (Post). The election process broke down after Abdullah alleged massive fraud had been committed, but both sides agreed to a total recount and a two-year shared government after Kerry intervened. Abdullah's affirmation of his commitment to the brokered peace deal follows outcry by some of his supporters who threatened violence if he was not declared the winner. Abdullah's opponent, Ashraf Ghani, made no public comments on Saturday, although he did publicly pledge to honor the audit and joint government during Kerry's visit on Friday. Bonus read: "Afghanistan's Logar province offers a window onto disputed presidential vote," Pamela Constable (Post).

Suicide bomber kills 4 in Kabul

A suicide bomber killed four people, including one woman and two children, and injured more than 20 others on a crowded street in Kabul on Sunday (NYT, TOLO). The attack was aimed at a NATO convoy but no foreign forces were injured, in spite of Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, tweeting to journalists that the attacker had killed eight foreign "occupiers" (Post).

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen