The South Asia Channel

Suicide Bombing Kills Pakistani Provincial Minister; Sri Lanka to the Polls; Indian Airline Places Order With Airbus

Suicide Bombing Kills Pakistani Provincial Minister; Sri Lanka to the Polls; Indian Airline Places Order With Airbus


Suicide bombing kills provincial minister

On Sunday, Shuja Khanzada, a senior provincial minister for Punjab, was killed in a suicide bomb attack in his home district of Attock (NYT, VOA, WSJ). The bomb killed at least fourteen other people. Khanzada, the home minister for Punjab, was known for his efforts against militants. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a sub-group of the Taliban, issued a claim of responsibility for the attack. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the group’s spokesman, stated: “We want to tell government of Pakistan and his [sic] army that you lose [sic] this battle of ideologies.” Punjab police have also suggested that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi may have been behind the bombing with senior officials saying the group is “one of the top suspects.” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif commented on Khanzada’s death saying: “the courage and valor of Shuja Khanzada is a message to the masterminds of terrorists that they are bound to be defeated.”

On Monday, the Pakistani press reported that a First Information Report initiating a criminal case had been filed in the bombing that killed Khanzada (ET, Dawn). The First Information Report invokes the Explosives Act 1884, Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the section on “punishment for wilful murder,” Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act, and Section 16 of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance. The United States has offered assistance in the investigation. Bonus Read: “Changes in Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Legal Regime” by Zulfiqar Hameed (New America)

Hamid Gul, former ISI chief, dies

Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence from 1987 to 1989 died on Saturday at the age of 78 (NYT, LAT, BBC). Gul died of a brain hemorrhage according to his daughter, Uzma Gul. Gul was a strong critic of the United States and opposed Pervez Musharraf’s decision to side with the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Gul was born on Nov. 20, 1936.

Senator resigns over ISI plot allegation

On Saturday, Mushahid Ullah Khan resigned as environment minister after alleging that Zaheer-ul-Islam, a former head of the ISI, had organized the anti-government rallies by opposition leader Imran Khan last year in order to overthrow Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Guardian, BBC). A military spokesman called the comments “totally baseless” while Information Minister Pervez Rashid called them “irresponsible and contrary to the facts.” On Monday Prime Minister Sharif accepted Khan’s resignation (ET, Dawn)

U.S. aims to increase drone flights

The Pentagon aims to increase the number of drone flights it runs world-wide over the next four years according to a report Sunday in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ, ET). According to the report, daily drone flights would increase 50 percent under the plan including greater intelligence collection in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, the South China Sea, and North Africa. The increase would be the first increase in drone flights since 2011. The Pentagon is also expected to increase lethal drone missions. According to data collected by New America, there have been nine drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year compared to 22 in all of 2014 (New America). In Yemen, there have been 17 drone strikes so far in 2015 equivalent to the total number of strikes in 2014 according to New America (New America).

— David Sterman

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka goes to polls as Rajapaksa attempts a comeback

Sri Lankan citizens are going to the polls on Monday in a general election, with the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa hoping to return to office as prime minister (Reuters, BBC). Rajapaksa lost the presidency in a snap election in January to his former health minister, Maithripala Sirisena. Four people have died in violent incidents during the campaign although election monitors say there has been less violence than in previous years.

Fifteen million people are eligible to vote in Sri Lanka and the results are expected on Tuesday. Sixty nine year old Rajapaksa is thought of as a hero by many of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala-speaking Buddhist majority for crushing a 26-year Tamil uprising in 2009. But opponents accuse him of running a corrupt, brutal, and dynastic regime. Bonus Read: “Rajapaksa on the ropes,” by Justin Lynch (FP)


Bonus Read: “Why a rising star of Muslim politics in India stirs hope and fear,” by Rama Lakshmi (Post)

Bonus Read: “Why is India dragging its heels over the criminalisation of marital rape?” by KumKum Dasgupta (Guardian)

Indian budget airline IndiGo places a large order with Airbus

French aviation firm Airbus has finalized a deal with Indian budget airline IndiGo to sell 250 A320neo aircrafts (NYT/AP, BBC, Reuters). A spokesman for the firm said that the agreement is Airbus’ single largest order by number of aircrafts. The deal is worth $26.5 billion USD at list prices, although airlines typically get a discount. IndiGo is India’s largest domestic airline by market share, and caters to a third of the domestic Indian air travelers. The agreement, which was signed on Saturday, confirms an earlier provisional order by IndiGo for the narrow-body planes which was announced in October. It is the second-largest order by value for Airbus. IndiGo was founded in 2006 by travel entrepreneur Rahul Bhatia and Rakesh Gangwal, a former chief executive of U.S. Airways.

“India has an investment potential of 1 trillion USD,” Modi tells UAE businessmen

On Monday morning Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two day tour of United Arab Emirates, met with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of United Arab Emirates and the deputy supreme commander of the country’s armed forces, on “key issues of security and trade” (BBC, PTI, NYT). Earlier in the day, addressing a group of investors in Masdar city, Modi said India has an immediate investment opportunity of $1 trillion USD and that his government will take urgent steps to address concerns of the businessmen from UAE. Modi also visited a labor camp in Abu Dhabi in the wake of international calls to improve the working conditions of migrant laborers in Gulf countries.

Narendra Modi is the first Indian premier to visit the country in 34 years. More than 2.5 million Indians, comprising a third of UAE’s population, live in the federation. Modi said India is the UAE’s second-largest trading partner and the UAE is India’s third largest trading partner behind the U.S. and China. Trade between India and the UAE reached $60 billion USD last year.

— Shuja Malik


Bonus Read: “Is Afghanistan Backsliding?” by Hannah Bloch (NPR)

Gunmen kidnap German in Kabul

On Monday unidentified gunmen kidnapped a German national in Kabul (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The kidnapping reportedly occurred in the Taimani Wat locality. Brig. Gen. Humayun Aini, the police helpline chief at the Ministry of Interior, said the kidnapped woman had been working with GIZ, a German government owned company working on development. A shopkeeper told Pajhwok Afghan News: “I was in the shop that I heard someone is kidnapped. When I came out of the shop I saw two gunmen who had broken the glasses of a Hilux car and took the lady to their Corolla Model Car.”

Taliban impose harsh governance

Despite its adoption or portrayal of moderating stances on interaction with female diplomats and women’s education, the Taliban continue to impose a harsh form of governance similar to that it imposed when it ruled Afghanistan in the parts of the country it now holds, according to a report in the New York Times on Friday (NYT). Men who shave their beards are jailed and the group performs spot turban checks. Cell service is tightly controlled and women are only allowed to leave their homes with a male escort. Omar Khan, a shopkeeper in Taliban-held Baghran told the New York Times: “You have to obey the rule of the Taliban, and you have to be a good man and not even think of bad things.” Another shopkeeper commented: “In Baghran, you feel like you are in a mini-emirate of the Taliban,” adding, “When I am out of Baghran, I feel like I am in a different world.” Despite the harsh rule, many residents interviewed by the Times expressed support for the Taliban’s rule.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen