The South Asia Channel
Police Rescue Nine Year-Old Girl from Marriage; UK to Start Deporting Asylum Seekers Back to Afghanistan; India Announces Election Dates for Five State Assemblies
Pakistan Police rescue nine year-old girl from marriage On Friday, Pakistani police rescued and prevented a nine year-old girl from marrying a 14 year-old boy in the Rahim Yar Khan district of Pakistan’s Punjab province (Reuters). Two local families hoping to settle a dispute arranged the marriage. Speaking to Reuters, deputy superintendent of police Mamoonur Rasheed said, “The ...
Police rescue nine year-old girl from marriage
On Friday, Pakistani police rescued and prevented a nine year-old girl from marrying a 14 year-old boy in the Rahim Yar Khan district of Pakistan’s Punjab province (Reuters). Two local families hoping to settle a dispute arranged the marriage. Speaking to Reuters, deputy superintendent of police Mamoonur Rasheed said, “The girl’s brother’s wife died due to some health problems a few weeks ago, and (the wife’s) relatives suspected foul play and accused her family of murder.” The practice of arranging marriages to settle disputes or other issues between families is not uncommon in Pakistan. In January, the Council on Islamic Ideology – a powerful religious body that advises the Pakistani government on the compatibility of laws with Islam – shot down a bill that would have imposed stricter regulations on child marriages. Per UNICEF, three percent of girls are married before turning 15, and 21 percent before turning 18. Parents of child brides can be put in jail for one month and face a $10 fine.
Former Karachi mayor starts new political party to challenge the ruling MQM
On Thursday, after returning from a hiatus in Dubai began in 2013, former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal berated the ruling Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party and its hold on power in Karachi (Reuters, Guardian). He targeted MQM’s leader, Altaf Hussain, who has been in exile in the UK for 20 years yet still leads the party from there. Hussain is wanted in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in a murder case. MQM’s power base in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and economic center, results from their deep involvement in the city’s widely corrupt economy, and a powerful militant wing and political leverage. During Kamal’s two-hour news conference, amidst tears, he said, “Today we are launching a new political party. Children have been slain and generations have been destroyed by Altaf Husain. This is my challenge.”
Top Pakistani religious body rules Punjab law protecting women is ‘un-Islamic’
The Council on Islamic Ideology (CII) ruled on Thursday that the recently passed Women’s Protection Act in Pakistan’s Punjab province is “un-Islamic” (Reuters). According to Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of the CII, “The whole law is wrong.” The law, passed last week, gave women increased protections from domestic, physical, and mental abuse. The law is an important step in Punjab, as 2013 saw more than 5,800 cases of violence against women, according to the Aurat Foundation. Fazlur Rehman, the head of Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam, a religious political party, said, “This law makes a man insecure. This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony again.”
Bonus Read: “Afghan boys: the new face of Europe’s migrant crisis,” by Karl Ritter (AP)
Bonus Read: “Looted Lender for Sale as Afghanistan Seeks Buyer for Kabul Bank,” by Zeke Faux and Eltaf Najafizada (Bloomberg)
UK to start deporting asylum seekers back to Afghanistan
On Thursday, the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Home Secretary Theresa May when they overturned a 2015 ruling that barred deportations of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan amid concerns about the country’s safety (BIJ, Independent). The decision was met with concern from Afghan officials. According to comments made to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism by Hussain Alami Balkhi, Afghanistan’s minister for refugees and repatriation, “People who lived in the UK for so many years till they became 18 are completely unfamiliar with Afghanistan’s situation and challenges and this can cause problems. UK government should have granted them asylum.” Fears of one-time asylum seekers in the UK returning to Afghanistan result from factors including the rise of the Islamic State, 2015’s sharp rise in civilian casualties, and the Taliban’s growing control and influence in many provinces, including Helmand. The UK’s decision to send refugees and asylum seekers back to Afghanistan follows a similar move from Germany, who last week Wednesday – in coordination with the Afghan government – flew 125 Afghans residing in Germany back to Kabul.
India announces election dates for five state assemblies
The election commission of India announced election dates for five state assemblies on Friday (BBC, Reuters). Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said that voting will be held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Bengal and Pondicherry from April 4 to May 16, with the votes being counted on May 19. A total of 170 million voters are eligible to cast their votes in the five states.
Prime Minister Modi’s ruling BJP has seen a drop in its favorability since the general election in 2014 and faces a tough challenge on economic reforms in the parliament. State elections are vital for BJP as members of the upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, are indirectly elected by state legislatures. Currently all five assemblies have non-BJP governments.
India files complaint against the United States at the WTO
The World Trade Organization (WTO) confirmed on Friday that the Indian government filed a complaint against the United States over high fees and limitation on the number of non-immigrant temporary working visas (Reuters). India claims these measures are a violation of the commitment from the United States not to treat workers from India employed in certain fields like computer services less favorably than their own citizens. The United States has to respond to the complaint in 10 days, otherwise the issue will be brought in front of WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.
Border Security Force finds a 10 ft. deep tunnel near Pura sector
India’s Border Security Force (BSF) said it uncovered a 10 ft. deep and 30 ft. long tunnel in Jammu’s RS Pura sector near a post called “Allah Mai De Kothey,” close to the border with Pakistan on Thursday (NDTV, TOI). While talking to the media BSF officer Rakesh Sharma said “It appears that a big terrorist attack was being planned after infiltration through this tunnel in the near future.” Sharma claimed the purpose of the tunnel was to smuggle arms into Jammu city.
BSF filed a complaint with Pakistan Rangers who have assured cooperation in the investigation moving forward. In 2012 a 400-metre tunnel with ventilation pipes was found in the Samba sector and in 2009 another tunnel was found in the Akhnoor sector.
Edited by Peter Bergen
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
Albert Ford is a research assistant with the International Security Program at New America.