The South Asia Channel

LGBT Magazine Editor Murdered in Dhaka; Afghan Taliban Delegation in Pakistan; Fire Destroys Natural History Museum in New Delhi

Bangladesh LGBT magazine editor murdered in Dhaka Police in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka say that a well known gay rights activist in the country, Xulhaz Mannan, was murdered in his home on Tuesday (BBC, WSJ, Reuters). 35 year-old Mannan was the editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine Roopbaan, and also worked at the U.S. ...

A Bangladeshi social activist pays his  last respects to slain US blogger of Bangladeshi origin and founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site, Avijit Roy in Dhaka on March 6, 2015 after he was hacked to death by unidentified assailants in the Bangladeshi capital on February 26.  An FBI team has arrived in Dhaka to help investigate the American-Bangladeshi writers gruesome killing.  AFP PHOTO / Munir uz ZAMAN        (Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Bangladeshi social activist pays his last respects to slain US blogger of Bangladeshi origin and founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site, Avijit Roy in Dhaka on March 6, 2015 after he was hacked to death by unidentified assailants in the Bangladeshi capital on February 26. An FBI team has arrived in Dhaka to help investigate the American-Bangladeshi writers gruesome killing. AFP PHOTO / Munir uz ZAMAN (Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bangladesh

LGBT magazine editor murdered in Dhaka

Police in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka say that a well known gay rights activist in the country, Xulhaz Mannan, was murdered in his home on Tuesday (BBC, WSJ, Reuters). 35 year-old Mannan was the editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine Roopbaan, and also worked at the U.S. embassy. Officials confirmed that Mahbub Rabbi Tonoya, a friend of Mannan’s present at the apartment, was also killed in the attack. Witnesses say six men forced their way into the apartment after pretending to deliver a package. The murders come just three days after a Bangladeshi professor, Rezaul Karim, was killed in the northwestern city of Rajshahi as he left his home to go to work. Karim was rumored to be an atheist, a claim his daughter has denied. These attacks seem to be the latest in a series of murders of secular bloggers/activists by suspected Islamist militants in Bangladesh, raising concerns about rising extremism in the country.

Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban delegation in Pakistan

An Afghan Taliban delegation arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday in an effort to restart negotiations, Afghan officials and Taliban leaders announced (NYT). Pakistani authorities did not confirm their arrival, and at this time it is unclear with whom the delegation is slated to meet. Last month, Taliban leadership said the group would not be participating in any reconciliation process until foreign forces vacated the country.

However, a senior Taliban leader confirmed to the New York Times this morning that a Qatar-based Taliban delegation of leaders were in the southern port city of Karachi participating in talks with Pakistani officials. “Our people held a meeting with Pakistani officials and I am sure they may meet the Chinese on Tuesday,” said one of the Qatar-based leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Times. Dawa Khan, a spokesman for Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said, “We are aware that Taliban delegations are in Pakistan, but we will not go there until Pakistan fulfills the promises that they made.”

Afghan vice president barred from entering the U.S.

Days before Afghanistan’s first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum was scheduled to depart for a trip to meet with officials in New York and Washington, D.C. this month, U.S. officials threatened to deny his visa, forcing him to cancel his trip (NYT). The U.S. State Department refused to comment to the New York Times on Monday for privacy reasons, but Dostum has been called the “quintessential warlord” by the State Department in the past. Dostum is considered a war criminal by the United States.

India

Fire destroys natural history museum in New Delhi

India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar confirmed that a fire severely damaged the National Museum of Natural History in the Indian capital, New Delhi, destroying rare specimens of flora and fauna, on Tuesday (BBC, WSJ, Guardian). It is not yet clear what caused the fire to break out. Local media reports suggest that fire safety mechanisms of the museum were not functioning, making it very difficult for fire fighting staff to control the blaze. Five firefighters are reported to be injured. An investigation into the cause of the fire has been ordered by the fire department along with an immediate safety audit of India’s 34 major museums.

India, Pakistan, foreign secretaries hold talks

Foreign secretary of India, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry held talks on Tuesday, ahead of the ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process in New Delhi, that will discuss the security situation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan (HT, PTI). This is the first meeting between senior diplomats of India and Pakistan since the January attack on an Indian air base in Pathankot. The delegations are reported to have discussed ways to move forward the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) that has been frozen since the attack. The statement by the Pakistani High Commission on the occasion said “All outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, were discussed.” This is also the first formal meeting between Jaishankar and Chaudhry after the announcement of CBD by the foreign ministers in Islamabad last December.

Pakistan

Pakistani foreign office responds to statements by Afghan president

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Tuesday that Pakistan is not solely responsible for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table (Dawn). FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria stated that Pakistan condemns all forms of terrorism and faces violent extremism within its own borders. Zakaria placed responsibility on the entire quadrilateral group, which includes the United States, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, to bring peace to Afghanistan. This statement follows a speech given by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on Monday threatening to make a formal complaint to the United Nations if Pakistan refuses to take military action against the Taliban. Following the FO spokesman’s statements, reports surfaced that an Afghan Taliban delegation is in Pakistan to negotiate.

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images

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