The South Asia Channel

Haqqani militant network loses hometown support

Haqqani militant network loses hometown support

Event Notice: "Afghanistan: A Distant War," a discussion with renowned photojournalist Robert Nickelsberg, TODAY, 12:15-1:45 PM (NAF).

Resentment in the mountains

There are reports of a growing discontent among what used to be one of the strongest and most feared militant groups in Afghanistan: the Haqqani network (NYT, Khaama). Jalaluddin Haqqani built a strong network of support in the mountains of Khost and Paktia in eastern Afghanistan that began during the war against the Soviets. But now, as he and his son take refuge in Pakistan, leaders of Haqqani’s native Zadran tribe in Khost Province say they have formally broken ties with the Haqqani network.

The Zadran tribe’s move away from Jalaluddin Haqqani reflects the complex feelings of many locals. The mosque in the middle of town stands as tribute to Haqqani’s once strong influence over the area, but Haqqani fighters have become increasingly violent towards elders in the community in recent years and community development has been stunted. "Not long ago, Mr. Haqqani was a hero because he defeated the Communists," Mr. Zadran, head of the Tribal Council Liaison Office said. "Now he is an insurgent and a terrorist. We don’t know who made him a hero back then or a terrorist now."

But the Haqqani network is still a serious terrorist threat, as they continue to collect funding from a wide range of sources – from donations to businesses in the Persian Gulf states – and refocus their operations on Kabul. There are also reports that the group has been teaching their fundraising and planning techniques to other insurgent groups.

Bodies recovered

Seven bodies were found outside of Qalat, in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province on Wednesday (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). The security chief of the province said the bodies, all men, are believed to be civilians who were killed by the Taliban. Other reports suggest the men are National Afghan Army soldiers who disappeared last week while traveling from southern Kandahar province to their homes in Zabul. The Afghan army is trying to identify the bodies.

A British soldier was killed in a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday (Guardian, Pajhwok). The Ministry of Defence in London said the "hugely experienced" soldier was patrolling the Kamparak area, northeast of Lashkargah in Helmand province when he was killed by a car bomb.

CIA to DoD move not happening

While Pakistan continued to grapple with the fallout from the recent death of Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, the U.S. quietly made clear that the covert drone program would remain under the auspices of the CIA, according to a Foreign Policy exclusive published Wednesday (FP). In May, a series of anonymous announcements leaked by the White House and President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University signaled a change in drone program policy: Obama was shifting operations from the CIA to the Defense Department (WSJ, DefenseNews). After six months, the transfer to DoD has still not happened. Although one US official told Foreign Policy that the government is moving toward that policy, the "physics of making this happen quickly are remarkably difficult." But other reasons, like the efficacy of the CIA’s drone program in Pakistan, could be the real stalling point.  

Test tube babies OK’d 

Pakistan’s state body on religious issues, the Islamic Ideology Council (ICC), has approved the practice of in vitro fertilization (RRE/RL, ET). The chairman of the ICC, Maulana Muhammad Ali Sheerani, told the press that they also considered the issues of human cloning, sex changes, and DNA tests as primary evidence in rape cases in the council’s latest meeting. Human cloning and sex changes were decided to be un-Islamic, although surgery could be approved for people born with both physical characteristics of both sexes.

The ICC remains undecided on the use of DNA evidence in rape investigations. The standard for rape cases currently endorsed by the ICC is in accordance with Sharia law, which says at least four mature, adult individuals have to testify to an occurrence of rape. Sheerani also spoke out against feeding infants milk obtained from breast milk banks and using secret recordings for evidence in court cases, as both of these things are also deemed to be un-Islamic.

Musharraf free to roam

The judge has declared that the police joint investigation found the evidence against former president Pervez Musharraf in the murder case of cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed to be insufficient (ET, Dawn, AJE). Musharraf’s bail of two surety bonds of Rs0.1 million each was submitted to the court Wednesday after bail was set on Monday. Musharraf will be able to move around the country freely after being under house arrest in his farmhouse in Rawalpindi. Although the jail staff guarding him will be removed, he will most likely continue to live under heavy guard because of the serious threats to his life. The Taliban, for instance, have threatened to kill Musharraf because of his relationship with the US.

And then there were two

News broke Tuesday that, beginning in February 2014, Marvel Comics will begin a new series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City with her Pakistani immigrant parents (AP, AJAM).  Khan, who will be the new Ms. Marvel, can grow and shrink parts of her body and shape shift into other forms, though it is unclear how she acquires her powers.  The creative team behind the series said that Khan comes from a "desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective," but that "this is not evangelism" (NYT).  Ms. G. Willow Wilson, the series’ writer, added that the series "would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken." Khan will join Sooraya Qadir, codename "Dust," as the second female Muslim superhero in the Marvel Universe. 

– Emily Schneider