The South Asia Channel

Pakistan Close to Revealing Mosque Blast Mastermind; 6 Afghan Cadets Train in Pakistan; India Reacts to Obama’s Comments

Pakistan Security agencies close to revealing Shikarpur mosque blast mastermind On Friday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the National Assembly that the security agencies had identified “to a great extent” the masterminds behind the bombing of a Shi’a mosque in Shikarpur that killed at lest 62 people (ET, Dawn). Nisar refused to ...

PAKISTAN-UNREST-NORTHWEST-TALIBAN-PEACE
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on February 20, 2014. Pakistani jets launched strikes on Taliban hideouts in the northwest, killing 15 people according to security sources, in retaliation for attacks by the militants which have derailed peace talks. Khan said that the talks were suspended because of the terrorist attacks but negotiators were still there to work for peace AFP PHOTO/Aamir QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Security agencies close to revealing Shikarpur mosque blast mastermind

On Friday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the National Assembly that the security agencies had identified “to a great extent” the masterminds behind the bombing of a Shi’a mosque in Shikarpur that killed at lest 62 people (ET, Dawn). Nisar refused to provide further details on the investigation’s progress. However, he did state: “The federal government is aware of its responsibilities and is working in close liaison with the Sindh government in this regard.” Nisar also noted that Pakistan is working with Afghanistan to hunt down the perpetrators of December’s attack on a school in Peshawar, stating: “A number of raids have been carried out across the border with the help of Afghan officials to hunt down terrorists and I want to assure families of the victims that we cannot forget and we will never forget.”

No IMF change for Pakistan deficit target

On Friday, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that the International Monetary Fund would not change its deficit target for Pakistan (Dawn). In an interview with the newspaper, Jeffrey Franks, the outgoing IMF mission chief for Pakistan stated: “The target remains at 4.9 per cent for this fiscal year.” Pakistan’s government had urged a relaxed target due to the costs of the National Action Plan and the integration of refugees. Franks acknowledged the increased costs stating: “We understand that there is a legitimate need for expenditure increases.” However, he stated that while discussions are ongoing there has been no change yet.

EU condemns Bilour’s Charlie Hebdo attacker reward

On Thursday, the European Union condemned Pakistani lawmaker Ghulam Ahmed Bilour’s offer of a $200,000 reward for anyone who would kill the owners of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was the target of a deadly terrorist attack in January (ET). A statement read: “The European Union and its Member States deplore the statement made in Parliament by ANP Lawmaker on Monday.” The statement continued: “We encourage the government of Pakistan to condemn all such statements inciting violence and terrorism.” The European Union has reportedly taken the issue up in talks with Pakistan’s government.

Afghanistan

Six Afghan cadets to receive training in Pakistan

On Thursday, Janan Mousazai, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, confirmed that six Afghan National Army cadets had arrived in Pakistan to receive training (Pajhwok). The cadets will receive training at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. The training will last for a month and a half and follows Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif’s offer of such training during a visit to Kabul last year. The group of six cadets are the first Afghan cadets to attend the Pakistan Military Academy. Mousazai stated: “The induction of these young Afghan cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy is an important step in both countries’ efforts to strengthen, broaden and deepen security and military relations, and cooperation in all areas.”

Ghani leaves for Munich Security Conference

On Friday Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left to attend the Munich Security Conference in Germany (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Ghani was accompanied by his National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. He is expected to speak about Afghanistan policy at the conference which begins Friday and lasts three days.

Youth constructs helicopter

Ishaq Noori, an 18-year-old from the Greshek district of southern Helmand constructed a helicopter from old motorcycle parts according to reports on Thursday (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Noori graduated from Helmand’s technical high school last year and built the helicopter while he was in high school. Noori has had the opportunity to test the helicopter once stating: “I flew the copter once, but because of its weak engine I did not fly far or high.” The talented 18-year-old has expressed hopes that the Afghan government will help fund his further study and work so he can build more helicopters.

— David Sterman

India

India reacts to U.S. President’s comments

India reacted to U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments during the National Prayer Breakfast address in Washington D.C., on Thursday, where Obama said that religious intolerance in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi (BBC, Business Standard). While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government did not officially react to the comment, individual party members responded, with Indian Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley saying: “The best example of India’s tolerance was the Dalai Lama sitting next to Obama” (NDTV). Another BJP leader, GVL Narasimha Rao, said: “I think President Obama’s comments are not in reference to any community. He was referring to general intolerance” (NDTV).

Political opponents of the BJP also reacted to Obama’s comments. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, said: “I think Mr. Modi will answer this, they are very good friends” (Firstpost). The Congress party’s Manish Tewari tweeted: “Did the Prime Ministerial Tea reinforce Barrack’s understanding of the revival ism & intolerance intrinsic in the BJP govt Another stinker? [sic].” Obama had tea with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to India.

India, Pakistan exchange words

In response to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s comment that Kashmir was his country’s “jugular vein,” India reacted sharply on Thursday (IBNLive, The Nation). Sharif’s remarks came on Kashmir Solidarity Day, observed in Pakistan to support the people of Indian-administered Kashmir. Syed Akbaruddin, Indian foreign ministry’s spokesperson, said: “Our view is that Pakistan’s self destructive and futile quest for territorial aggrandizement in Jammu and Kashmir is well known to us. Let me repeat for you that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is and will always remain an integral part of the Indian union. It is therefore high time for Pakistan to start paying attention to all the problems that afflict them rather than covet that is not theirs and never will be” (Livemint). India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of which were over Kashmir. Both countries have claimed Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years.

Indian nurses rescued from Iraq

A group of 11 Indian nurses were rescued from the conflict-hit Kirkuk area of Iraq, and will return to India on Saturday, according to the external affairs ministry on Thursday (Times of India, NDTV, BBC). Akbaruddin tweeted on Friday: “Beginning the day with good news. 11 Indian nurses from Kerala, evacuated from Kirkuk, to return home from Irbil on 7 February.” In July 2014, 46 Indian nurses working at a hospital in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, were rescued and handed to Indian officials. According to reports, jihadist fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Iraq are still holding around 40 Indians hostage.

— Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. @neelishah

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