The South Asia Channel

Travel Ban Ends for Taliban Leaders Exchanged For Bergdahl; Pakistan Detains Axact Owner; Indian Heat Wave Toll Passes 1100

Event Notice: Contested Terrain: The Future of Afghan Women, May 28, 12:15 -1:45 (New America) Afghanistan Travel ban for Taliban leaders exchanged for Bergdahl ends A one-year travel ban is expiring for the five senior Taliban leaders who were released from U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (AP). The ...

Supporters of freed prisoner of war US Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, including representatives of the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and March Forward, hold up a poster of Bergdahl during a rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC, June 10, 2014, to welcome Bergdahl home after 5-years of being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of freed prisoner of war US Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, including representatives of the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and March Forward, hold up a poster of Bergdahl during a rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC, June 10, 2014, to welcome Bergdahl home after 5-years of being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Event Notice: Contested Terrain: The Future of Afghan Women, May 28, 12:15 -1:45 (New America)

Afghanistan

Travel ban for Taliban leaders exchanged for Bergdahl ends

A one-year travel ban is expiring for the five senior Taliban leaders who were released from U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (AP). The five detainees were sent to Qatar where, under terms of the May 2014 exchange, officials agreed to monitor their activities and prevent them from leaving the country. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said: “The Qataris did pretty good — I wouldn’t say perfect,” adding, “But the big question is what comes next.” At least one of the five leaders reportedly contacted militants during the past year, although no details have been disclosed about that contact. The five detainees may be free to travel as early as Monday.

Guesthouse attacked

Four Taliban insurgents attacked a guesthouse in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul overnight and held out for hours with assault rifles and a grenade launcher until they were killed by government forces early Wednesday (BBC, Reuters, Pajhwok). No other casualties were reported. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The guesthouse, known as the Rabbani Guesthouse, is popular with foreigners and is owned by the Rabbani family, which includes current Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Rula Ghani is “accessible”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani explained why she was breaking taboos in conservative Afghanistan and how she wants to serve the public (AP). Ghani sees herself as “a counselor … a listening post” and according to the article, hundreds of people have shared their problems and sought her advice since her husband took office. “I seem to have answered a need that was there. I think previous first ladies were not accessible,” she said. “I am accessible.” Although women are inevitably the focus of her work, she maintains that she is “going to try to help all the vulnerable populations in Afghanistan — and to a certain extent that’s the majority of Afghanistan.”

Pakistan

Pakistan detains owner of fake degree firm

On Wednesday, Pakistani authorities detained Shoaib Sheikh, the owner of a software company accused of running a global network selling fake degrees, officials said (NYT, BBC, RFE/RL). Sheikh’s company, Axact, is said to have made millions of dollars from the scam and was supposedly going to launch a TV channel in Pakistan using the funds. Shahid Hayat, the provincial director for the Pakistani federal investigation agency, said that investigators raided Axact company offices in Karachi and seized hundreds of thousands of fake degrees. “We have enough evidence to proceed. We have forensic evidence,” said Hayat. Axact has described the case against it as a conspiracy by rival media groups and insisted it is innocent of any illegal activity.  Bonus Read: “Remembering Pakistan’s Biggest and Baddest Fraud Scandal,” Michael Kugelman (South Asia).

Raids in Karachi

Two raids by security forces in Karachi have killed seven militants, a Pakistani military official told RFE/RL (RFE/RL). Gen. Muhammad Khurram said that overnight raids on May 26 were spurred by reports that militants from the Pakistani Taliban planned to attack a security forces headquarters near the airport.

– Emily Schneider

India

Death toll passes 1100 as severe heat wave continues

The death toll due a severe heat wave across India passed 1,100, with southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh being the worst hit, where at least 1,118 people died since last week according the state governments’ officials (BBC, HT, ZeeNews). The India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned that the temperatures will remain high this week, with relief expected when the monsoon hits the mainland at the end of May. The death toll in Andhra Pradesh rose to 852 while another 266 deaths were reported in Telangana where Ramagundam city recorded a maximum temperature of 44.5°C (112 F). Hot weather also persisted in Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal with temperature hovering around 45°C (113 F).

First transgender college principal appointed in West Bengal

For the first time in India, a transgender woman was appointed as the principal of a college in the eastern state of West Bengal (NYT). Chairman of the education panel responsible for college principal appointments in the state Dipak K. Kar announced on Wednesday that Manabi Banerjee, a teaching professional of more than two decades with be taking up the role in early June at the Krishnagar Women’s College, an undergraduate institution located in the town of Krishnanagar. Kar indicated that Banerjee was selected through “the usual selection process.” Last year, India’s Supreme Court declared the transgender community as a legal third gender, granting it minority rights in the areas of privileges to education, employment and health benefits.

Muslim girl denied a flat in Mumbai

Misbah Qadri, a 25-year-old Muslim woman was allegedly forced to vacate her apartment in the south western city of Mumbai, one week after renting it, on the count of “being a Muslim” (TOI, NDTV, Hindu). She claims that she was asked by her broker to sign a waiver releasing the Sanghvi Heights housing society and himself of any responsibility in the event of any religious harassment she may face at the housing complex. “I was told that they do not give flats to Muslim people,” she says. Sanghvi Heights has denied these allegations. Mumbai based lawyer and minority rights activist Shehzad Poonawala brought Qadri’s case before the National Minorities Commission. Last week, 23-year-old MBA Zeshan Khan was denied a job by a multi-national jewelery exports company, which said in an email: “We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.” The company blamed the email on a trainee in its HR department.

— Shuja Malik

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch

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