Pakistan reportedly to ban Haqqani Network in coming days
According to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune on Thursday citing unnamed senior officials, the Pakistani government will ban the Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which had previously been designated by the United States and United Nations as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as other organizations in a “paradigm shift” in its counterterrorism and security policy (ET). The United States designated the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization in 2012. A senior intelligence official told the Express Tribune: “It’s our first step towards execution of the National Action Plan. The nation will see more positive steps towards dismantling militant groups. Both civilian and military leadership decided to ban the Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa.” With the reportedly forthcoming bans the number of organizations Pakistan proscribes will rise to 72.
Drone strike reported in North Waziristan
According to local Pakistani media reports on Thursday, at least five suspected militants were killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan’s Shawal area (Dawn, Pajhwok). Intelligence sources, however, have not confirmed that a drone strike occurred or the number of casualties. If confirmed, the drone strike would be the second drone strike in 2015 and the 394th drone strike in Pakistan since the campaign began according to data collected by New America (NA)
Pakistani lawmakers unanimously condemn Charlie Hebdo cartoons
Pakistan’s National Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the latest cover of Charlie Hebdo which portrays the Prophet Mohammed (AP, ET, Dawn). The resolution reads in part “These cartoons are a conspiracy to create misunderstanding among civilizations,” and was presented by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. It is not clear how many lawmakers were present for the vote. Last week the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris were attacked by armed gunmen who killed 12 people.
PM Sharif visits ailing Saudi king
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday as part of a state visit to meet with Saudi Arabia’s ailing King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (ET, Dawn). The visit will be the third high level contact between the two countries in less than a year and in a pre-visit statement, Sharif said: “Being the custodians of two holy mosques Saudi leadership has a special place in the heart of every Pakistani.”
— David Sterman
U.S. Court drops riots-related lawsuit against Modi
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres of New York on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “attempted genocide” in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots on the basis of immunity as a sitting head of state (Guardian, NDTV, Hindustan Times). Filed by The American Justice Center in September of last year, the lawsuit claimed Modi committed crimes against humanity during riots that left approximately 1,000 people dead in the state of Gujarat, where Modi was chief minister at the time. Modi has since denied any wrongdoing.
While India’s courts have cleared Modi of all charges, the failure of his administration to contain the communal violence and prevent the high death toll raised many questions and left suspicion (Guardian). The recent court dismissal comes less than two weeks shy of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi, where he will join Modi as the guest of honor for the Republic Day celebrations.
India’s central bank unexpectedly cuts interest rate early
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) unexpectedly cut interest rates by 25 basis points early Thursday morning as a step to improve economic growth in Asia’s third largest economy amid struggling growth rates, falling oil prices and cooling inflation (Bloomberg, Economic Times, Reuters, WSJ). This move comes ahead of both a scheduled RBI policy meeting and the Indian government’s yearly budget statement in February. The repurchase rate — which is the primary lending rate — was cut from 8 to 7.75 percent, and consequently the reverse repurchase rate — the rate at which the RBI drains excessive liquidity from the banking system — also dropped from 7 to 6.75 percent (Reuters).
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the move “a positive development” and said “it will lead to more money in the hands of the consumers for greater spending” (Bloomberg). On the flip side, analysts say the rate cuts now put the ball in the government’s court with managing the fiscal deficit, stimulating investment, and improving infrastructure (Reuters). This rate reduction was the first in nearly two years and the first made under RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan since he took office in September 2013 (WSJ). During the last two financial years, India’s economic growth has stayed below 5 percent, however the RBI projects growth at 5.5 and 6.3 percent in the coming two years, respectively (Economic Times).
Jammu and Kashmir still without a government
The northern state of Jammu and Kashmir is still without a government three weeks after the legislative assembly elections yielded a fractured mandate in an 87-member House among the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the National Conference (NC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Indian National Congress Party (INC) [NDTV, DNAIndia]. Carrying the lead was the PDP with 28 seats, followed by the BJP with 25, the NC with 15, and lastly the INC with 12. A game of political courtship has ensued primarily among the NC and BJP, who are each vying for a coalition government with the majority PDP.
NC rival Omar Abdullah’s recent offer to partner with the PDP was rejected on the basis of a “power hungry” move as a means “to return to power through the back door,” said PDP Chief Spokesman Naeem Akhtar (NDTV). Attempts by the BJP to share power have also been made to no avail as a result of disagreements on conditions relating to talks with Pakistan, Kashmiri separatists, and the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (NDTV). Despite high voter turnout during the staggered elections last November and December, Governor’s Rule was imposed on January 9 amid a hung Assembly. This rule will stay in effect for the next six months absent a government formation by January 19, when the current Assembly expires (Financial Express).
— Jameel Khan
Bonus read: “Exploring a New Role: Peacemaker in Afghanistan,” Edward Wong (NYT)
Afghanistan and UAE sign cooperative pact
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed a cooperative pact with the United Arab Emirates on Thursday following lengthy high-level discussions in Abu Dhabi (Pajhwok). As part of the agreement the UAE agreed to support the Afghan peace process and host negotiations if needed. The agreement will also allow Afghan workers to enter the UAE with only an Afghan passport.
Taliban commanders killed in air strike, arrested
The Taliban deputy governor for Afghanistan’s central Kapisa province was killed in an airstrike on Wednesday (Pajhwok). Police spokesman Humayun Rashidi told Pajhwok Afghan News on Thursday that Abdul Ghaffar, the Taliban deputy governor, and his four associates had been killed in the Tagab district. Also on Thursday Kunduz police chief, Brig. Gen. Abdul Saboor Nasrati told Pajhwok Afghan News that Abdul Ghayr, another militant commander, had been arrested (Pajhwok). Ghayr was reportedly linked to the killing of thirteen members of Afghan Local Police member Mohammad Omar Aqtash’s family last year.
Afghan unit continues night raids as NATO ends mission
According to a report by TOLO News on Tuesday the Afghan Air Force’s 777th brigade has successfully continued to conduct night raids even as the NATO mission in Afghanistan ends (TOLO News). Gen. Abdul Fahim Ramin, the brigade’s commander, the brigade has suffered no casualties so far. Mohammad Dawood, an Afghan air force pilot, told TOLO News: “We have the ability to lead the operations independently against insurgents and drug traffickers in coordination with our ground forces.” Night raids have long been considered one of the toughest missions which had previously been undertaken by foreign forces but are now increasingly the province of the Afghan security forces.
— David Sterman
— Edited by Peter Bergen
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images