Pakistani Taliban Split; Abdullah Withdraws From Afghan Vote Audit; Modi Excited About Visit to Japan
Bonus Read: "Militancy in Pakistan," Saba Imtiaz (SouthAsia)
Wonk Watch: "Militancy in Pakistan and Impacts on U.S. Foreign Policy," Saba Imtiaz (NewAmerica)
Pakistani Taliban split
The Pakistani Taliban announced its second major split in three months this week, with militant leaders confirming the emergence of a splinter group, Jamaat-e-Ahrar, this week (NYT). The new group, which split from the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), is a hard-line splinter group made up of disaffected Taliban factions from four of the seven tribal districts along the AfPak border, according to the New York Times. Omar Khalid Khorasani, who is believed to be leading the group, issued a video statement in which he explained that the Pakistani Taliban had become undisciplined. Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the new group, told the Times that they are "the real TTP" and that they would refuse to take orders from Mullah Maulana Fazlullah, the Talaiban's commander who is currently living in Afghanistan.
Sharif tells Parliament he will not step down
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Parliament on Wednesday that he will not step down despite the persistence of protestors demanding his resignation (Dawn, RFE/RL). In his first address to Parliament on the ongoing crisis since it began over two weeks ago, he said that the phase would pass and that his party would not use force against the protestors camped out in the capital. "Governments come and go, prime ministers come and go," the prime minister said, adding, "keeping faith in democracy and the constitution is what ensures that democracy survives" (ET).
Abdullah withdraws from audit
Abdullah Abdullah, one of Afghanistan's presidential candidates, pulled out of the internationally supervised audit of the run-off election results on Wednesday (NYT, RFE/RL). Abdullah's aides walked out of the country's Independent Election Commission's headquarters after a series of demands about the audit -- made on Tuesday -- went unmet. U.N. officials then asked Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah's opponent, to also withdraw from the audit so neither campaign would have a perceived unfair advantage and the audit could continue with only international and independent observers. Ghani's campaign team said they would comply with the request and withdraw their observers from the audit process. However, it's not clear whether Abdullah will accept the results of the audit, regardless of Ghani's withdrawal.
Taliban behead village mullah
Taliban militants beheaded a village mullah on Tuesday in Afghanistan's western Farah province after accusing him of cooperating with the government, Afghan officials said (RFE/RL). Javad Afghan, a provincial government spokesman, said that Mullah Farooq, who served as an imam at a local mosque, was decapitated by militants after he led morning prayers on Tuesday. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the Afghan security forces are struggling for control in the northern province of Kunduz, where Taliban insurgents are threatening to overrun the capital and terrorizing residents (Reuters). The Afghan government still holds the capital, but lacks the resources needed to regain areas beyond the perimeter of Kundez city, where the Taliban have taken control. "People are concerned and most of them have already fled to safe places outside Kunduz," said Chahar Darah district police commander Abdul Shukor Surkhi. Kunduz was the Taliban's last stronghold before the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance drove them out in 2001, but with most Western troops due to leave Afghanistan this year, the fighting in Kunduz reflects a broader trend of increasing insurgent attacks across the country.
PM Modi "excited" about his trip to Japan
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Indo-Japanese relations on Tuesday, and said the two democracies were committed to "advancing peace and prosperity in the world" (Indian Express, Times of India). Ahead of his visit to Japan, Modi tweeted, @narendramodi: "On 30th August, I will begin my visit to Japan. I am keenly looking forward to the visit which will boost relations between our two nations." Modi also tweeted that Japan's friendship with India is "time-tested," and he was "particularly excited to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. I deeply respect his leadership and enjoy a warm relationship with him from previous meetings." A business delegation is set to accompany Modi on this trip to Japan. A government official said: "This is the most-high-powered delegation that has travelled with any Indian PM in recent years" (Economic Times).
Modi government appoints four new governors
On Tuesday,? Indian President Pranab Mukherjee appointed Kalyan Singh, Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, and Mridula Sinha as the governors of the states of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa, respectively (The Hindu, Indian Express, NDTV). The announcement was made shortly before Congress leader Sheila Dikshit announced her resignation as the governor of Kerala. Since the Modi-led government won the national elections earlier this year, the new government ?has made it clear that they wanted to replace previously-appointed governors with its own nominees. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power, many of the governors have either quit or been replaced. Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan resigned on Sunday after he was abruptly transferred to Mizoram. Earlier this month, Kamla Beniwal was sacked as the governor of Mizoram, a move that was prompted by "serious allegations" that she had indulged in activities leading to private gains.
BJP veterans shunted from new Parliamentary Board
The ?BJP dropped three veterans from its parliamentary board, the party's highest decision-making body, on Tuesday -- including former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and senior BJP leaders? Lal Krishna Advani, and Murli Manohar Joshi (Economic Times, NDTV, Livemint). The Margdarshak Mandal (guiding body) has been created as a new body, where these three veteran BJP leaders will serve as mentors. This change is consistent with the BJP's strategy of targeting the country's younger population. More than 65 percent of India's population is below 35 years of age. Amit Shah, the BJP's newly elected president, will chair the 12-member parliamentary board.
The Congress party was quick to respond to the move, and said that the BJP's decision to put its veterans in an "old-age home" indicated the centralization of power into one hand. Congress leader Rashid Alvi said: "It is a mookdarshak mandal (mute spectator board). It is like an old-age home from where Advani and Joshi will witness the functioning of BJP like mutes. We were all aware that they are being sidelined" (Indian Express).
-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images