The South Asia Channel

Afghan Peace Talks End With Push To Start Talks With Taliban By Month’s End; Suicide Bomber Attacks Military Convoy, Kills Civilians Near Quetta; India Bans Access To Facebook’s Free Basics Plan

Afghan Peace Talks End With Push To Start Talks With Taliban By Month’s End; Suicide Bomber Attacks Military Convoy, Kills Civilians Near Quetta; India Bans Access To Facebook’s Free Basics Plan

Event Notice: United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists (DC Launch), Tuesday, February 9 (New America)

Film Review: “Review: In ‘Homegrown,’ the Potential Terrorist Isn’t a World Away,” by Scott Shane (NYT) (HBO, Monday, Feb. 8, 9:00pm EST)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Review: Jeffrey E. Stern’s ‘The Last Thousand’ Explores the Mission of a Struggling Afghan School,” by Jennifer Senior (NYT)

Afghan peace talks end with push to start talks with Taliban by month’s end

At the conclusion of the third round of Afghan peace talks between officials from the United States, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in Islamabad on Saturday, the four countries agreed to press forward with talks with members of the Taliban by the end of February (RFE/RLAPNYTVOA). Talks with the Taliban will be conducted by Afghan government officials, but many believe Pakistan plays a key role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. The Taliban has yet to participate in these peace talks. For that to happen, Pakistan’s special adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, says efforts “have to be aimed at persuading (the) maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks.” The next round of talks will be held in Kabul on Feb. 23. No Taliban member or group is expected to attend.

Two journalists attacked by gunmen in Baghlan province

On Saturday, reports surfaced of two radio journalists, also brothers, who were attacked outside their home on Thursday evening in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province (NYT). Both were hospitalized and one is in a coma. The brothers, Mohammad Ibrahim Hashemi, 22, and Mohammad Musa Hashemi, 20, work for Adib Radio in Pul-e-Khumri. The attacks are the latest in a string of violence against Afghan journalists. While the Taliban has not claimed responsibility for the attack, the younger Hashemi said they’ve received phone calls telling them “to leave our jobs or we’ll be killed.”

Afghan soldiers killed in Monday morning bombing in Balkh province

On Monday, three Afghan soldiers were killed and at least 18 other military personnel were wounded when a bomb exploded near an Afghan National Army (ANA) bus in the Dahdadi district of Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province (VOAAP). Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack via email. A presidential palace guard was also killed by unknown gunmen in Nangarhar province in a separate attack.

–Albert Ford

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “Pakistan’s Hand in the Rise of International Jihad,” by Carlotta Gall (NYT)

Bonus Read: “To protect Chinese investment, Pakistan military leaves little to chance,” by Syed Raza Hassan (Reuters)

Suicide bomber attacks military convoy, kills civilians near Quetta

On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed between 8-10 individuals and injured 35 more in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province (WSJReutersDawn). Reports conflict on the number of people killed. The attack was claimed by Mohammad Khurasani of the Pakistani Taliban. The assailant detonated the bomb near a convoy of Frontier Corps vehicles. Among the victims are members of the Frontier Corps, a Pakistani paramilitary force, and numerous civilians, including a 12-13 year old girl.

Pakistani International Airlines partially resumes flights

International flights in Pakistan partially resumed on Sunday with limited flights to and from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and other select cities out of the Karachi and Islamabad international airports (DawnET). Pakistani International Airlines (PIA) flights were grounded the previous six days due to an employees’ strike that is yet to be fully resolved. Starting on Sunday, PIA employees began to return to work, as many feared they would lose their jobs if they continued striking. Voicing concern about the safety of the flights in the face of quickly restarting them, the Society of Aircraft Engineers of Pakistan released a statement saying, “The safety of passengers and the aircraft itself is being jeopardized. Inspections and components’ replacement issues are being waived off by PCAA (Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority) Pakistan under pressure by the government officials.”

–Albert Ford

India

Bonus Read: “Why an Indian lawyer tried to sue God,” by Vikas Pandey (BBC)

India bans access to Facebook’s Free Basics plan

On Monday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) ruled against differential pricing for access to the Internet, effectively banning a plan by U.S. giant Facebook to provide free access to a limited number of websites (BBC, Reuters, WSJ). Facebook’s scheme named Free Basics was designed to provide access to selected local news and weather forecasts, the BBC, Wikipedia, and some health sites to millions in rural India. But critics favoring net neutrality argue that data providers should not favor some online services over others. While defending the Free Basics plan, launched in three dozen countries, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that it is not sustainable for the company to provide access to the entire internet for free.

Mumbai plotter visited India seven times before the attacks

A U.S. citizen convicted for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks told an Indian court on Monday that the November 2008 attacks were the third attempt on the city, after two similar attacks failed earlier in the same year (NYT, BBC, Guardian). The attacks consisted of coordinated strikes on a railway station, luxury hotels, and a Jewish cultural center, claiming 166 lives along with the nine attackers. David Headley also told the court that he had visited India seven times prior to the attack, on behalf of the banned Pakistani militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to gather information scouting potential target locations in Mumbai ahead of the attacks. Headley, 52, was captured in 2013 in the United States and plead guilty to charges of working with LeT and his involvement in the attacks, to avoid the death penalty and extradition to India, and is providing testimony to Indian authorities via video link. Headley previously told U.S. authorities that Pakistani spy agency ISI was deeply involved in planning the attacks and works closely with LeT, a claim Pakistan denies.

–Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

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