The South Asia Channel

Pakistan Freezes Jamaat-ud-Dawa Assets; U.S. Official Outlines Obama India Visit Agenda; Afghan Cabinet Chaos Continues

Pakistan Pakistan freezes Jamaat-ud-Dawa assets On Thursday, Pakistan announced that it had frozen the assets of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a group labeled a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba by the United Nations and the United States, and imposed travel restrictions on its leader Hafiz Saeed (Dawn). Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam stated: “Pakistan took this decision under the UN ...

PAKISTAN-POLITICS-SAEED
Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat Ud Dawa, addresses the two day convention in Lahore on December 4, 2014. Saeed said that the convention sent a message of solidarity and unity to enemies trying to destabilise Pakistan through terrorism and sectarianism. AFP PHOTO/Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Pakistan freezes Jamaat-ud-Dawa assets

On Thursday, Pakistan announced that it had frozen the assets of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a group labeled a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba by the United Nations and the United States, and imposed travel restrictions on its leader Hafiz Saeed (Dawn). Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam stated: “Pakistan took this decision under the UN obligation and not under pressure from any other quarter including John Kerry.” Aslam also announced that the Haqqani Network had also been banned. The announced policy follows reports last week that Pakistan intended to ban the two groups and comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan arrests ISIS recruiters

On Wednesday, Pakistan arrested three men allegedly recruiting for ISIS (ET). Yousaf alSalafi, a Pakistani-Syrian, who was arrested, confessed to being a representative of ISIS. AlSalafi had previously been detained in Turkey after returning from Syria, but escaped. Hafiz Tayyab, one of alSalafi’s two arrested associates led prayers at a Lahore mosque and allegedly recruited people to fight in Syria. An official told Pakistan’s Express Tribune that the men were arrested during a raid in the Shahdara area of Lahore and that ISIS propaganda was discovered during the raid.

Sharif cancels Davos trip amid fuel shortage

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif canceled his planned visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland amid the ongoing fuel shortage rocking Pakistan (Bloomberg). Sharif has also suspended five officials in relation to the shortage since the crisis began last week. Rashid Ahmed Khan, a professor of international relations at the University of Sargodha in Punjab, told Bloomberg: “This crisis has embarrassed the government.”

Pakistan arrests 38 Indian fishermen

Pakistan arrested 38 Indian fishermen on Wednesday after they entered Pakistani territorial waters (ET, Dawn). Javed Jiskani, a senior police official, said that the men had been turned over to the police. Arrests of fishermen who enter territorial waters are common on the part of both India and Pakistan with the poor relations between the two countries often resulting in them serving their full prison terms.

— David Sterman

India

Senior U.S. official outlines Obama’s India trip agenda

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on Tuesday said energy policy and climate change will rank as high-priority agenda items during the bilateral talks set to take place next week when U.S. President Barack Obama will join Indian Premier Narendra Modi in New Delhi for the Republic Day Parade (Times of India, NDTV, Post). “We are looking to increase our cooperation in pursuit of developing clean energy, but also pursuing a successful and ambitious round of climate negotiations this year, leading in to Paris,” Rhodes said (Times of India). Paris is host to the 2015 global U.N. climate change conference, where hopes are high for landmark legally-binding agreements for all nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, of which the United States, India, and China are the top emitters.

Other discussion items in New Delhi include the economy, defense, and regional security issues, according to U.S. officials. “As the world’s two largest democracies, there’s extraordinary potential in this relationship,” Rhodes told reporters during a conference call (Times of India). He continued: “We want to turn this potential into concrete benefits for our people. And so this trip comes at a time when we have a growing agenda with India.” In addition to a speech on the future of U.S.-India relations, Obama will also visit the national memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and the Taj Mahal (Post).

Obama to join Modi’s monthly radio address to nation

Indian Premier Narendra Modi on Thursday tweeted that U.S. President Barack Obama will take part in his monthly radio address to the nation — known as “Mann Ki Baat” — on Tuesday, Jan. 27th on All India Radio (LiveMint, The Hindu, Hindustan Times). “This month’s Mann Ki Baat episode will be a special one, where our Republic Day guest @BarackObama & I will share our thoughts together,” Modi tweeted Thursday morning (LiveMint). “I am eagerly looking forward to the special Mann Ki Baat programme with President @BarackObama, which will be aired on 27th January,” he said. Modi has also encouraged questions from the national audience, who can submit questions to the hashtag “#AskObamaModi” or the prime minister’s website at mygov.in. Starting in October of last year, Modi has been delivering an address on the Mann Ki Baat program, where discuss various issues and answers questions from citizens. Ahead of Modi’s visit to the United States in September last year, Obama and Modi co-authored an editorial piece in the Washington Post (Hindustan Times).

India’s Muslim population grows 24 percent, slower than previous decade

India’s latest religious census for the decade spanning 2001 to 2011 shows the Muslim population has grown 24 percent, a rate below the previous decade’s of 29 percent and above the national average of 18 percent, according to several Indian news sources on Thursday (Times of India, Financial Express, Zee News). Among India’s population of over 1.2 billion people — the world’s second-largest after China (1.357 billion) — Muslims make up 14.2 percent, which is nearly 180 million people (World Bank). Jammu and Kashmir has the highest share of Muslims (68.3 percent), followed by Assam (34.2 percent) and West Bengal (27 percent). The only state witnessing a decrease is Manipur, where the Muslim population fell from 8.8 to 8.4 percent. Compiled by The Registrar General of Census, the official data is set to be released soon according to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. One report suggests the census data was compiled in March of last year, but was prevented to release by the UPA government at the time (Financial Express).

–Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

Seven nominees rejected for dual citizenship as Afghan cabinet chaos continues

The chaos surrounding Afghanistan’s delayed cabinet nomination process continued on Wednesday when the Wolsei Jirga, Afghanistan’s lower house, rejected seven cabinet nominees for holding dual citizenship (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Wolsei Jirga Deputy Secretary Irfanullah Irfan said the rejections came through the decision of four parliamentary commissions. The rejected nominees were identified as Noorul Haq Ulumi (nominated for interior minister), Saadat Naderi (nominated for labor and social affairs), Ai Sultan Khairi (nominated for information and culture), Salahuddin Rabbani (nominated for foreign affairs), Shah Zaman Maiwandi (nominated for urban development), Faizullah Kakar (nominated for counter-narcotics) and Ahmad Syar Mahjoor (nominated for justice). In addition two other nominees, who have not been named, were rejected because their documents were invalid. Abdul Qadir Zazai, the head of the international affairs committee called the rejections “a no-turning-back decision.”

Spymaster nominee lays out views on Afghan security situation

On Thursday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s nominee to head the National Directorate of Security, Gen. Rahmatullah Nabil, announced his views of the security situation in Afghanistan (Pajhwok). Gen. Nabil emphasized the continued importance of confronting terrorism stating: “Despite its multiple achievements, terrorism remains a threat to our people. Additionally, new threats are emerging in the region, where some countries are using terror as a policy tool to reach their targets.” He alleged that 34 religious and political parties were recruiting people to fight in Afghanistan at the behest of foreign countries and warned that those countries destabilizing Afghanistan would suffer from the destabilization. Gen. Nabil was born in Wardak province and holds an engineering degree from Kabul’s Polytechnic University.

India offers Afghanistan duty free market access

On Thursday, India offered Afghanistan duty free access to its markets (Pajhwok). The offer was extended under the South Asia Free Trade Area. India’s embassy in Kabul stated: “We hope this offer will overcome the limitation currently being faced by Afghanistan and also contribute to greater regional integration, an objective pursued by all SAARC member.”

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

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