Indian Minister Arrives in Kabul; Dozens of Militants Killed in Pak Air Strikes; U.N. Urges Afghan Candidates to End Crisis
India Indian foreign minister arrives in Afghanistan Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Kabul on Wednesday, with an agenda of improving strategic cooperation and working with Afghanistan on stability and security issues (NDTV, Livemint). Afghanistan has given a "wish-list" to India, which includes supplying military hardware to establish stronger security measures in the ...
Indian foreign minister arrives in Afghanistan
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Kabul on Wednesday, with an agenda of improving strategic cooperation and working with Afghanistan on stability and security issues (NDTV, Livemint). Afghanistan has given a "wish-list" to India, which includes supplying military hardware to establish stronger security measures in the country, as NATO forces are scheduled to withdraw by the end of the year. Although India has trained Afghan officers, and invested $2 billion towards aid and reconstruction, it has been cautious about supplying weapons and military hardware due to the armed groups operating in Afghanistan, and amid concerns of provoking neighboring Pakistan. During her visit, Swaraj is scheduled to hold talks with President Hamid Karzai. Swaraj’s visit to Afghanistan marks the first formal diplomatic interaction between the two countries after the new Indian government was formed in New Delhi earlier this year.
AAP shares sting operation details
Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of India’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), along with other party leaders, met Lt. Gov. Najeeb Jung in New Delhi on Wednesday, and shared with him an audio CD of a sting operation, which allegedly showed a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader trying to bribe an AAP member to switch parties (Livemint, Times of India). Kejriwal asked Jung to withdraw his Sep. 4 letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, which recommends that the BJP — the single largest party in New Delhi — be invited to form a government.
On Tuesday, in response to Kejriwal’s claim that: "The BJP has been in touch with 15 of our legislators," BJP member Sanjay Kaul responded: "You cannot buy what is not on sale. If people are willing to leave AAP as they are insecure about their future, they will certainly negotiate with other parties" (NDTV). With 29 legislators and the largest bloc in the New Delhi assembly, the BJP needs five more legislative members to join it for a majority. New Delhi has been under the president’s rule since Feb. 14 after Kejriwal quit as chief minister, after only 49 days in office, when he alleged that the BJP and Congress party were blocking the introduction and passage of the Jan Lokpal, an anti-corruption bill.
Indian legislator: Keep Muslim men away from dance festival
An Indian legislator, Usha Thakur, who is also the BJP’s state vice president in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said on Wednesday that Muslims should be prohibited from attending "Garba" celebrations — a Gujarati dance festival celebrated in several Indian states in October — to stop the alleged "Love Jihad," a term used by pro-Hindu groups to describe the so-called Islamist strategy to convert Hindu women (NDTV). While the BJP has distanced itself from Thakur’s comments, the Congress party criticized the statement, with leader Satyadev Katere saying: "The idea is absurd. You cannot force things on society like this."
Thakur claimed that Muslim men entice Hindu girls to convert to Islam to distort the population ratio in the country. Thakur said: "If they (Muslim youths) want to take part in the festival, they should first convert to Hinduism. Muslim youths hoodwink the organizers by sporting tilak [Hindu religious mark] on their forehead and get inside the venue to mingle with Hindu girls. I am going to write to the organizers to insist on electoral identity cards for men and allow only Hindu men inside the venue" (Indian Express).
Meanwhile, in Gujarat’s Baroda city, "Love Jihad" pamphlets are being discreetly circulated, and ask: "Do you want to Become a Prostitute? No? Then Read, Think and Behave," according to news reports on Wednesday (NDTV). The leaflet, written in Gujarati, lists statistics that allegedly show an increasing number of Hindu women being lured by Muslim men into marriage to live as "second, third or fourth wives." The pamphlets have been created by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a Hindu group affiliated with the BJP’s ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Bonus Read: "Pakistan Leader’s Predicament Shows Power of ‘Deep State’," Yaroslav Trofimov (WSJ).
Dozens of suspected militants killed in air strikes
Pakistan’s military released a statement on Wednesday saying that at least 35 suspected militants had been killed in air strikes earlier that day on three "terrorist" hideouts in the town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan (RFE/RL, VOA). Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that an additional 30 fighters had been killed in air strikes against two hideouts in the region’s Shawal Valley (Dawn).
The strikes were part of a larger security operation in the area, which has been ongoing since mid-June. The army says the offensive has killed more than 900 militants so far, but that number could not be independently confirmed. The strikes came just one day after the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a naval facility in the port city of Karachi last Saturday, which left one sailor and two militants dead and seven sailors wounded.
Death toll rises in mosque collapse
At least 24 people were killed and seven were injured in Lahore on Tuesday when the roof of a mosque in the Darghawala neighborhood collapsed during afternoon prayers (BBC, NYT, RFE/RL). Pakistani authorities believe the incident — which was first reported in Tuesday’s brief — occurred after heavy monsoon rains weakened the roof’s structure. Muhamad Usman, who led the rescue operation, told media outlets that it seemed all of the victims had been rescued or recovered from the site, but noted that the search would continue until all of the rubble had been removed. More than 250 people have been killed in Pakistan since rain started falling more than a week ago, many from roof collapses.
The Associated Press also reported on Wednesday that thousands of Pakistanis have fled their homes "as monsoon flooding that has already inundated the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir coursed down onto the plains, causing a major river to breach its banks" (AP). According to reports, the rains have washed away dozens of houses, crops, bridges, and communications equipment, making rescue efforts more difficult in both Pakistan and India, which has also been hard hit by flooding (NYT, VOA).
Levies official killed in attack on polio team
A member of Pakistan’s paramilitary Levies force was shot and killed in Bajaur agency on Wednesday when unknown assailants attacked the polio vaccination team he was protecting (Dawn, ET). While no one has claimed responsibility for the incident, polio teams have come under frequent fire from militant groups operating in the country’s tribal regions. According to Agence France Presse, nearly 60 people, including health workers and security officials, have been killed in similar attacks since December 2012 (RFE/RL).
Pakistan is one of three countries where the poliovirus remains endemic — Afghanistan and Nigeria are the other two — and the World Health Organization confirmed on Wednesday that another child in Balochistan had been diagnosed with the virus (ET). The one-year-old boy, who lives in Quetta, is the suburb’s first case, and the region’s second. At least 139 children have contracted polio in 2014 alone.
U.N. urges creation of unity government, parliament willing to step in
With negotiations between Afghanistan’s presidential candidates coming to a standstill, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday to conclude an agreement on a national unity government in accordance with the commitments they made in July, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a power-sharing deal between the two political rivals (Pajhwok, VOA). In a statement, Ban said the present political situation was a pivotal moment for Afghanistan, and that a "genuine partnership" was needed to tackle the challenges facing the country. His statement came two days after Abdullah said he would not accept the results of the country’s run-off vote audit, or any government based on those results, which have not yet been released, but are expected to name Ghani as the winner.
Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, also expressed a willingness on Wednesday to mediate a settlement between Abdullah and Ghani, noting that the delay in resolving the election crisis has had a negative impact on the country (Pajhwok). Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a parliamentarian from Parwan province, said he "regretted that foreigners were busy trying to resolve Afghanistan’s political problems[, saying:] ‘Let us find a solution to this dilemma otherwise we could plunge into serious troubles.’"
At least 10 killed in coalition airstrike
Afghan officials told media outlets on Wednesday that at least 10 civilians, including a number of women and children, had been killed in a coalition air strike in Kunar province on Tuesday, though some sources put the death toll at 13 or 14 (AP). According to reports, the strike occurred in the Narang district and around 12 civilians were also injured. Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said on Twitter that Karzai strongly condemned the strike, and the Associated Press noted that the "[a]llegations of civilian deaths are a frequent cause of friction between Karzai and NATO."
While the military alliance’s International Security Assistance Force did release a statement about the strike, it said it "resulted in the death of one armed enemy combatant… [and that] no civilian casualties or damage to structures occurred during this operation" (Pajhwok).
Obama criticized for prisoner swap
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 249 to 163 on Tuesday to condemn President Barack Obama’s failure to give Congress 30-days notice about May’s exchange of five Taliban leaders held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl (Pajhwok). While the resolution expressed relief that Bergdahl had returned home safely after nearly five years in captivity, House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that: "By setting free five top Taliban commanders from U.S. custody, the Obama administration made Americans less safe" (RFE/RL).
— Bailey Cahall
Edited by Peter Bergen.
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