The South Asia Channel

Pakistan Kills 21 Militants Following Charsadda Courthouse Attack; Modi Government Rolls Back Proposed Pension Plan; Afghan-Tajik Border Clash Kills Two

Bonus Read: “What the 2016 Presidential Candidates Get Wrong About the Future of War,” by Peter W. Singer (Defense One) Pakistan Pakistan kills 21 militants following Charsadda courthouse attack On Tuesday, the Pakistani military confirmed air strikes that killed 21 militants in the North Waziristan tribal region (VOA). The strikes come in the immediate aftermath ...

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A Pakistani F-16 fighter performs during the celebrations to mark the countrys Defence Day in Islamabad on September 6, 2015. Pakistan on September 6 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its second war with arch-rival India weeks after the two nuclear powers faced off in some of their deadliest skirmishes in over a decade. The major fighting of the war took place between August and September 1965 with both sides claiming victory after it ended in stalemate following the intervention of the United States and Soviet Union. AFP PHOTO / Aamir QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Bonus Read: “What the 2016 Presidential Candidates Get Wrong About the Future of War,” by Peter W. Singer (Defense One)

Pakistan

Pakistan kills 21 militants following Charsadda courthouse attack

On Tuesday, the Pakistani military confirmed air strikes that killed 21 militants in the North Waziristan tribal region (VOA). The strikes come in the immediate aftermath of a suicide attack near a courthouse in the Shabqadar square area of Charsadda district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Monday. 17 individuals are reported dead from the courthouse bombing that was a retributive attack for the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed his former boss and ex-Punjab governor Salman Taseer (RFE/RL). The group responsible for the attack is an affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA). Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, an Army spokesman, confirmed the air strikes targeted the Shawal valley area. The Shawal valley and North Waziristan have been a central location in the country’s fight against terrorism, with the Zarb-e-Azb operation reportedly ridding around 90 percent of insurgents from the Waziristan area.

Son of Salman Taseer recovered after 2011 abduction

On Tuesday, Pakistani security and intelligence services recovered Shahbaz Taseer, the son of deceased former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, in Balochistan’s Kuchlak area (Dawn). The recovery involved a hand-off of Taseer from the unknown kidnappers, who quickly sped away after the operation concluded. Shahbaz Taseer was abducted while driving in Lahore’s Gulberg area on the evening of Aug. 26, 2011. It is surmised that Shahbaz Taseer’s captors were part of a group allegedly trying to negotiate the release of his father’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri was recently put to death as punishment for killing Salman Taseer, motivated by his opposition to Taseer’s support of anti-blasphemy laws that are deemed by many as un-Islamic.

British Foreign Secretary: Kashmir can’t impede Indo-Pak talks

During his two-day visit to Islamabad, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Tuesday that Pakistan and India cannot let the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region block talks between the two countries (Dawn, ET). In a press conference after meeting with Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Hammond said, “I urge both Pakistan and India not to allow non-state actors and other pressure groups to derail the peace process. Settling the Kashmir issue should not be a precondition for starting the dialogue process.” Hammond also charged Pakistan to quickly progress with their investigation of January’s Pathankot Air Base attack in India. Aziz acknowledged that a Pakistani investigative team would soon travel to India further look into the attack.

–Albert Ford

India

Modi government rolls back proposed pension plan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Tuesday withdrew a proposal to tax withdrawals from the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) after opposition from salaried workers (Reuters). The proposal taxed withdrawals from EPF exceeding 40 percent of an employee’s total retirement fund unless the amount was reinvested in an annuity. The proposal was a part of the annual budget presented to the parliament on Feb. 29 and was severely criticized in the media. Many have argued that the government should expand its tax base rather than charge higher taxes to those who are already contributing to the state exchequer. Around 36 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people contribute to the EPF.

15-year old girl raped and set on fire near Delhi

Police arrested a suspect after a 15 year-old girl was raped and set on fire in the Greater Noida district in suburban New Delhi on Monday evening (BBC, Guardian). The victim suffered severe burns on 80 percent of her body and is struggling for her life in a local hospital. Reports indicate the suspect knew the girl and had invited her to meet him near her house. The social stigma of being a rape victim in India leads many women to not report incidents to the police. In 2012, the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a Delhi bus triggered nationwide protests and widespread anger. In reaction, the government passed legislation increasing prison terms for rape.

Female fighter pilots to start serving in June

India’s air force chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, said on Tuesday that the air force will induct its first female fighter pilots in June this year (BBC). Speaking to the Press Trust of India, he said that that three female fighter pilots are on course to complete their training by this summer and will be inducted in combat roles. Female pilots in the Indian Air Force currently only fly helicopters and transport planes. Last month President Pranab Mukherjee announced that women will be allowed in all combat roles in the armed forces. Women currently comprise just 2.5 percent of India’s armed forces, working mostly in non-combat roles. In 2014, Raha expressed reservations about inducting women fighter pilots, saying that “women by nature are not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours.”

–Shuja Malik

Afghanistan

Bonus Watch: “A chronicle of Afghanistan’s modern-day Romeo and Juliet” (PBS)

Afghan-Tajik border clash kills two

On Monday, a clash at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border began as a group of nine, armed militants attempted to cross the border from Afghanistan into Tajikistan (Reuters). According to the State Security Committee, the attempted cross occurred at the Panj border post before a gunfight broke out and one of the militants was killed. The Afghan-Tajik border is 835 miles long and, as of January, is home to roughly 5,000 Taliban and other extremist-group fighters who have gathered near the border, according to a Tajik security official. The other victim of the clash is a Tajik security guard. The affiliation of the nine militants is unknown, but the distinction was made between the militant group and the drug smugglers who are usually the source of border conflicts.

U.S. renews call on Taliban to join peace talks

On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby renewed the United States’ call on the Taliban to join the Afghan peace talks (RFE/RLReuters). Following the Taliban’s announcement on Saturday that they had no intention of joining, Kirby said, “If there’s no peace process in place and the Taliban’s not willing to come to the table and talk about a reconciliation … we would and the Afghan security forces would have to prepare themselves, for the potential for increased violence in the spring and summer months.”

–Albert Ford

Edited by Peter Bergen

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Albert Ford is a research assistant with the International Security Program at New America.

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