The South Asia Channel

Taliban gunmen kill chief election commissioner for Kunduz province

Taliban gunmen kill chief election commissioner for Kunduz province

Event Notice: "Out of the Mountains" book discussion with Dr. David Kilcullen, TODAY, 12:15-1:45PM (NAF).

Gunned down

Amanullah Aman, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kunduz province, was shot and killed early Wednesday morning as he headed to work in Kunduz City (AP, BBC, Pajhwok, Reuters, RFE/RL).  Aman was the first commission member to be assassinated since the IEC began its work in May.  Within an hour of the attack, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, issued a tweet claiming responsibility for the shooting (NYT).  Aman’s death came one day after he told Reuters that deteriorating security across the country was threatening next year’s presidential election.  

Five men were arrested in Helmand province on Tuesday in connection with the recent murder of Lt. Negar, the most senior female police officer in the province, but no additional details were given (CSM, RFE/RL).  Negar’s death came just two months after her predecessor, Lt. Islam Bibi, was also gunned down and highlights the dangers faced by Afghan women in high-profile public roles.  As a New York Times report suggested on Tuesday, however, these dangers can come from both inside and outside of the police force (NYT).  That report cited an unpublished U.N. study that said close to 70 percent of female Afghan police officers have been subjected to sexual harassment or violence at the hands of their male colleagues. 

More than 180 prisoners at the central jail in Farah province have been on a hunger strike since Thursday and at least 25 of them have sewed their lips shut to protest the lack of investigations into their cases (Pajhwok).  According to Abdul Basir Khairkhwa, a provincial council chief, all of the striking detainees are political prisoners who believe that presidential decrees reducing jail terms have not been applied to their cases.  Khairkhwa said that the decrees did not include political prisoners, but he added that the provincial government is investigating the issue.  Deputy Governor Mohammad Younas Rassouli added that a joint delegation of the Supreme Court and the General Directorate of Prisons was expected to arrive in Farah to negotiate with the protesting inmates but provided no further information.

Border clashes

At least five Pakistani citizens were killed and three were injured in Balochistan on Wednesday when Afghan security officials allegedly opened fire near the Qamar Din Karez border area (Dawn, ET).  An unnamed district official blamed the Afghan security forces, while another said the cause of the shootings could not be ascertained.  Neither the Afghan nor the Pakistani foreign ministries have commented on the incident.  

In the ongoing battle for Karachi, Sindh Rangers and police personnel killed three alleged terrorists on Wednesday and arrested 29 additional suspects during targeted operations across the city (Dawn).  Nadeem Hashmi, a former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) politician, was also freed from prison on Tuesday and cleared of all charges related to last week’s killing of two Karachi policemen (Dawn).  The security operations are designed to restore law and order to Pakistan’s financial capital after weeks of increasing violence from criminal, political, and terrorist organizations.

The Sindh Assembly in Karachi unanimously passed a witness protection bill on Wednesday that will allow witnesses to wear masks, change their voices and appearances, and testify by video conference feeds in order to protect their identities (ET).  The law also provides for the relocation of witnesses.  Dr. Sikandar Mandhor, the provincial minister for parliamentary affairs, said the law was created in light of increased terrorist activities in the province, as well as to protect witnesses in criminal proceedings.  It is the first such law of its kind in the country.

While on a state visit to Turkey, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif confirmed his intent to release Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former deputy commander of the Afghan Taliban, but said he would not finalize the details until after he returns to Pakistan on Thursday (Pajhwok, Reuters). Kabul has long pushed for Baradar’s release, seeing him as a potential linchpin in getting the Afghan Taliban back to the negotiating table.  Sharif’s comments came a day after Sartaj Aziz, his foreign affairs advisor, said that Baradar would likely be released this week but provided no details about where or to whom that release would occur.  

An app for that 

In Lahore, Pakistan’s "heritage capital," a burgeoning technology sector is producing mobile apps for industry giants like Google and Samsung (CNN).  Technology incubators like Dr. Umar Saif’s Plan 9 have developed apps that inform emergency services about car crashes, enables paralyzed individuals to work on a computer with an optic mouse, and allows an individual taking a group photo to place himself in it.  In describing Lahore’s growing tech boom, Saif said: "The geography, the political situation, the security situation is becoming totally irrelevant in a country like Pakistan." 

— Bailey Cahall and David Sterman