The South Asia Channel

Islamabad Hosts Effort to Revive Afghan Peace Talks; Attack on Afghan School Kills Three, Wounds Eight; Governor’s Rule Imposed in Kashmir; Sri Lankan Government Proposes Plans for New Constitution

Event notice: Guantanamo Bay: Year 14: New America is pleased to welcome Dr. Karen Greenberg, Thomas B. Wilner, and Andy Worthington, for a discussion about what can or can’t be done in the next year to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and whether President Obama’s promise will ever be fulfilled. Monday, January 11, ...

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 9, 2015 -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend a 2+2 meeting on the sidelines of the ongoing fifth foreign ministers' conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, on Dec. 9, 2015. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Wednesday that China is willing to see the United States play a "positive and constructive" role in Afghanistan's peace process. (Xinhua via Getty Images)
ISLAMABAD, Dec. 9, 2015 -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend a 2+2 meeting on the sidelines of the ongoing fifth foreign ministers' conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, on Dec. 9, 2015. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Wednesday that China is willing to see the United States play a "positive and constructive" role in Afghanistan's peace process. (Xinhua via Getty Images)

Event notice: Guantanamo Bay: Year 14: New America is pleased to welcome Dr. Karen Greenberg, Thomas B. Wilner, and Andy Worthington, for a discussion about what can or can’t be done in the next year to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and whether President Obama’s promise will ever be fulfilled. Monday, January 11, 2016, 03:00 PM- 04:45 PM

Pakistan

Islamabad hosts four-country effort to revive Afghan peace talks

On Monday, representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States met in Islamabad in a bid to restart Afghanistan’s stalled peace process with the Taliban (NYT, TOLO News). Pakistani Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz clarified in the meeting that the primary goal should be to convince the Taliban to return to the negotiating table and consider giving up violence. “It is therefore important that preconditions are not attached to the start of the negotiation process. This we argue will be counterproductive,” Aziz said. Peace efforts stalled last year after the Taliban announced that their founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for two years.

Pakistan says it will respond to any threat to Saudi Arabia

Gen. Raheel Sharif remarked on Sunday that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territory will result in a “strong response” from Islamabad (NYT, RFE/RL). The remarks were made following a meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Rawalpindi. Salman was in Islamabad for a one-day official diplomatic visit, making him the second top Saudi official to visit Pakistan in a week amid growing tension with Iran over Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr’s recent execution.

Bomb kills two Pakistani coast guards, wounds three

On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed two coast guards and wounded three others in Balochistan province, according to Pakistani officials (NYT, RFE/RL). Police officer Mohammad Sajid said the blast destroyed the vehicle and wounded all five guards. Two of the guards died in-route to the hospital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghanistan

Attack on Afghan school kills three, wounds eight

A mortar bomb hit a secondary school in Khost province on Monday, killing at least three pupils and wounding eight others, according to the education ministry (NYT). The attack coincides with the start of a meeting in Pakistan aimed at restarting the stalled peace process with the Afghan government and the Taliban. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.S. carries out drone strike in Nangarhar

Reuters reported on Sunday that the United States conducted a drone strike in Nangarhar province last week (Reuters). Afghan media reported that as many as 20 ISIS militants were killed when the drone hit a compound. U.S. military spokesman Col. Michael Lawhorn said U.S. forces had carried out a “counterterrorism strike” on Friday, but did not specify a location nor estimate casualties.

Afghanistan turns unused NATO camp into rehabilitation center

Afghan officials recently opened a drug treatment center in an abandoned NATO military base in Kabul, according to a report on Saturday (Reuters). Camp Phoenix — a former training camp on the outskirts of Kabul set up by the U.S. army in 2003 — will take in approximately 1,000 homeless drug addicts who will receive food, medical attention, and treatment, according to Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz. Feroz said to reporters, “We will return them as normal members of society.”

India

Governor’s rule imposed in Kashmir

The governor of the northwestern state of Jammu and Kashmir, Narinder Nath Vohra, imposed governor’s rule in the state on Saturday, after Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away last week (IBT, PTI, India Today). Sayeed led the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance in the state legislature. Reports suggest that Sayeed’s daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, is to succeed her father, but Mufti refused to take the oath of office during her four day mourning period.

Mufti also met with Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP’s Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Sunday. The meetings, along with Mufti’s refusal to take the oath of chief minister’s office immediately, led to the speculation that the PDP-BJP alliance may break. However, BJP’s former Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, while talking to the media on Saturday, expressed confidence that the alliance with the PDP will continue. BJP is yet to formally extend support to Mufti in the state legislature.

Hindu nationalist group asks Islamic seminaries to hoist the national flag

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) subgroup, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), appealed to all Islamic seminary schools in India to hoist the national flag on their buildings on India’s Republic Day (January 26) (TOI, India Today). MRM is an organization aimed at conducting Hindu nationalist RSS’s outreach to the Muslim community. Several Muslim clerics responded to MRM’s latest call by highlighting that RSS itself does not hoist the national flag on its own headquarters in Nagpur on Republic Day.

In the past, a similar controversy arose when clerics from Darul Uloom Deoband, India’s largest Islamic seminary, declared that India’s national anthem, “Vande Mataram,” contained verses which are against the tenets of Islam, and thus, Muslims should not sing it (TOI). Several Islamic seminaries in India already hoist the national flag on Republic Day and also recognize it as a national holiday.

Sri Lanka

Government proposes plans for new constitution

On Saturday, Sri Lanka’s government unveiled its plan in parliament to introduce a new constitution, aimed at strengthening national harmony by devolution of “power to the grassroots level” (Reuters). President Maithripala Sirisena promised to introduce a new constitution when he took office last year after defeating incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ethnic tensions between the Sinhala and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka led to a 25 year long, bitter insurgency in the country that ended in 2009. The death toll of the conflict is estimated to be 70,000. Lawmakers hope that by devolution of powers to lower tiers of government, and strengthening guarantees of fundamental rights and freedoms, they will be able to avoid similar wars in the future.

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

Xinhua via Getty Images

Alyssa Sims is an intern in the International Security Program at the New America Foundation.

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