The South Asia Channel

Popular Indian author abducted and killed by militants in Afghanistan

Popular Indian author abducted and killed by militants in Afghanistan

Author killed

Sushmita Banerjee, an Indian woman who married an Afghan man and wrote a popular memoir about life under the Taliban, was shot and killed by militants early Thursday morning in an Islamic religious school in Paktika province (BBC, RFE/RL).  According to Dawlat Khan Zadran, the provincial police chief, Banerjee was abducted from her home shortly after midnight by masked men who then took her to the Al Jihad madrasa in the village of Sarrai Kala, where she was shot 25 times.  While Zadran said the police are not yet sure why she was killed, Banerjee was sentenced to death by the Taliban 18 years ago for refusing to wear a burqa in public.  However, Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, denied the group’s involvement in Banerjee’s death, saying that they didn’t kill people without first holding a trial (NYT).  Rajeev Shukla, the Indian Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, condemned Banerjee’s killing and said the matter would be addressed with the Afghan government (Pajhwok). 

In its latest audit, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) criticizes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for its multi-million dollar contracts with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, an organization that has been repeatedly cited for fraud and abuse (Fox).  According to the Center for Public Integrity, SIGAR has previously warned USAID that "the aid was at risk of being misused or stolen through corruption," and recommends in the new report, released earlier this week, that no further funding be provided "until program costs are validated as legitimate" (CPI, Post).  USAID officials rejected the SIGAR’s criticism of the $236 million Partnership Contracts for Health program, and said that the report only cited the risk of misspending, not its actual occurrence. 

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force released a statement on Friday saying that a coalition soldier had died in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan but did not give further details on the exact location of the incident or the nationality of the victim (Pajhwok).  Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news service reports, however, that U.S. soldiers are predominantly serving in the country’s eastern provinces, and that 96 have died this year. 

Drone strikes

At least six suspected militants, including a senior commander of the Haqqani network, were killed and three were injured in North Waziristan on Friday when a pair of missiles fired from a U.S. drone struck a compound near the Afghan border (AP, BBC, Dawn, ET, NYT, Reuters, RFE/RL, VOA).  According to multiple reports, the strike was directed at a house in the village of Dargah Mandi in the Ghulam Khan section of the tribal region. Pakistani authorities said Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a Haqqani commander, was among those killed, but the identities of the other victims were not released (Dawn, ET).  It was the second drone strike to hit Pakistan in less than a week.

Sardar Syed Lal Darwaish, a local leader for the Awami National Party, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in Karachi on Friday as incidents of violence continued to rock the city (Dawn, ET). The attack came just days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said the Sindh Rangers, a provincial paramilitary force, would conduct operations to restore law and order in the city, which has seen a spate of attacks in recent weeks. 

Sharif and Khan also reviewed the arrangements on Friday for a multi-party conference to be held next Tuesday, September 9, that will focus on the country’s new draft counterterrorism strategy, as well as the security situation in Karachi (Dawn, ET).  Both men are trying to ensure that all political parties are represented at the meeting, which will also look at whether the government should seek dialogue with the various militant groups operating in the country or if it should use military force to curb terrorism. 

The other Guantanamo

The Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit human rights law firm based in Lahore, launched its Bagram Prisoner Campaign on Wednesday, a multimedia effort seeking to bring attention to the nearly 40 Pakistani citizens who remain incarcerated at Afghanistan’s Bagram prison (JPP).  In addition to releasing a new report, Closing Bagram – The Other Guantanamo: Repatriating Pakistani citizens from U.S. detention in Afghanistan, the organization has also worked with photojournalist Asim Rafiqui to create a collection of portraits and first person testimony from released prisoners and their families.  The photo exhibit, which is on display at Pakistan’s National Art Gallery, is designed to highlight "how many lives are being damaged, and how many futures are at stake" (Dawn).  

– Bailey Cahall