The South Asia Channel

Progress Made in Ending Afghan Election Crisis; Modi: Indian Muslims Won’t Dance to AQ Tune; Siddiqui Seeks to Drop U.S. Appeal

Event Notices: "The Rise of Lashkar-e-Taiba," MONDAY, 12:15 – 1:45 PM (New America); "Jihadist Terrorism: A New Threat Assessment Report Release," TUESDAY, 10:00 – 11:30 AM (Bipartisan Policy Center). Afghanistan  "Important progress" made in political talks Afghan presidential contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani (pictured above, on the right and left, respectively) told top political ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Event Notices: "The Rise of Lashkar-e-Taiba," MONDAY, 12:15 – 1:45 PM (New America); "Jihadist Terrorism: A New Threat Assessment Report Release," TUESDAY, 10:00 – 11:30 AM (Bipartisan Policy Center).

Afghanistan 

"Important progress" made in political talks

Afghan presidential contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani (pictured above, on the right and left, respectively) told top political and judicial leaders on Friday that "important progress" had been made in their negotiations over creating a national unity government in the country (Pajhwok). While no additional information was given about what kind of progress had been made, the men said the prolonged election process would soon come to an end, just a few days after the talks seemingly stalled yet again.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was pleased with the progress that had been made, and hoped Abdullah and Ghani would sign a final power-sharing deal soon. Arrangements for the next president’s inauguration were also discussed.

The high-level meeting at the Presidential Palace came one day after Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Complaints Commission announced that it had addressed all of the complaints raised by Abdullah and Ghani, and had sent its decision on complaints to the Independent Election Commission (TOLO News).

Powerful blast rocks Baghlan bazaar

An Afghan provincial council member told Pajhwok Afghan News that at least seven people were killed on Friday afternoon, when a powerful explosion rocked a crowded bazaar in Baghlan province (Pajhwok). Councilman Haji Mohammad said the explosion occurred in front of a grain market in the Baraka district center as people were preparing for afternoon prayers; it is unclear if the bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber or remotely. According to Mohammad, four civilians and three members of the Afghan Local Police were killed, while 13 other people, including seven children, were injured. He is concerned, however, that the death toll could rise, considering how many people were at the market when the bomb went off. 

According to Afghanistan’s TOLO News, a group of insurgents also attacked a market in Herat province’s Shindand district early Friday morning (TOLO News). While there are no official reports yet on the number of casualties, a security official told TOLO that two Afghan military officers and one civilian had been killed.

Elsewhere in Laghman province, four militants were killed on Friday when the roadside bomb they were planting along the Kabul-Jalalabad highway exploded prematurely (Pajhwok).

Afghan police officials disappear from Washington

Two Afghan police officials — Mohammad Yasin Attayee and Mohammad Naveed Samimi — who were in Washington, D.C. for a five-week training program with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Sensitive Investigation Unit have gone missing, according to the DEA (CBS News). CBS News reported on Thursday that the men, who were among 31 officers attending the training, disappeared on Saturday, after being "bussed to Georgetown… for a day of sightseeing, which included an evening boat ride. DEA special agents accompanying the group realized the two men were missing when they failed to show up for the boat’s 7 p.m. departure."

Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the DEA, said: "They are among the best and brightest of their country and that’s why they were chosen to train at Quantico," adding that: "We are very concerned for their safety." The DEA is working with law enforcement agencies to locate the two men, who they believe may be heading to Buffalo, N.Y. to reunite with a relative. 

— Bailey Cahall

India 

Modi: Indian Muslims will not dance to al Qaeda tune

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said al Qaeda will struggle to recruit members from India, and that Indian Muslims will not dance to the tune of the terror outfit, according to pre-interview excerpts from CNN, which were released on Friday (NDTV, Indian Express). In an interview with CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria, when asked whether al Qaeda would succeed in recruiting Indian Muslims, Modi replied: "If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India. They will die for India. They will not want anything bad for India" (CNN).

In response to why few Indian Muslims have joined al Qaeda, Modi said that terrorism is a "crisis against humanity, not a crisis against one country or one race. So we have to frame this as a fight between humanity and inhumanity. Nothing else." Al Qaeda had recently announced the creation of its first South Asian wing dedicated to waging jihad. With over 175 million Muslims, India has the third-largest Muslim population in the world.

Muslim clerics and leaders in India welcomed Modi’s comments. Cleric Mufti Mukarram said: "We welcome what PM Modi has said. PM’s remarks are a reply to those accusing us of love jihad. PM’s remarks are a reply to those trying to create a rift" (IBNLive). Najma Heptullah, the minister of minority affairs and a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, said: "He has mentioned this to us in the past. I am glad that he is now speaking in public. It will prevent young Muslim boys from falling in [the Islamic State], Al Qaeda trap. Its laughable if opposition and critics are still labeling Modi as anti-Muslim." Modi, as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, was accused of failing to stop the 2002 riots in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred.

Chinese troops withdraw from Indo-China border

Chinese troops, after an eight-day standoff with Indian forces in Ladakh, located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, started withdrawing on Thursday, after Modi raised concerns with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to India earlier this week (Indian Express). On Thursday, Xi said that China is not a war-like nation, and that he was sad that tensions on the border had "cast a shadow" on his visit (Reuters). A government source, talking about the Chinese troops’ withdrawal, said: "At point 30R, the Chinese have withdrawn nearly 1 km [0.6 mile], and at two other positions, they have gone so far back that they are not visible in the night," and added that Indian troops had also begun pulling back (Hindustan Times).

While Chinese troops were seen withdrawing, the media in China accused India of "instigating" incidents along the border (Indian Express). Chinese think tanks said that, to gain more leverage in the summit talks between Modi and Xi, India had taken an "offensive" strategy. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of the countries’ shared border.

Indian organization to save moms with mobile phones

Project mMitra — launched in Mumbai in December 2013 — is a voice call service that sends targeted information on preventive care directly to the phones of pregnant women and new mothers in local languages (AJE, Asian Age). mMitra is a project launched through a public-private partnership between Armman, an Indian non-governmental organization; the LTMG Hospital, commonly known as the Sion Hospital; and pharmaceutical company Glenmark’s corporate social responsibility initiative. The project bridges the communication and counseling gap for pregnant women and recent mothers, by automatically adding pregnant women to the database once they are registered in the civic and government hospitals.

Aparna Hegde, the founder of mMitra, in a conversation with Al Jazeera, said: "Voice messages are more intimate than texts, and so we got an older woman to record them. Her voice gives the impression of an ‘elder sister’ speaking to the younger pregnant woman." Sion Hospital, which operates on many of Mumbai’s poor people, conducted 14,000 birth deliveries in 2013, of which about 3,500 were Caesarian-section surgeries. Armman works in underprivileged urban and rural communities in India to implement sustainable interventions in an effort to reduce maternal, neonatal, and child mortality and morbidity.

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan 

Pakistan 

Aafia Siddiqui seeks to drop U.S. court appeal

Reuters’ David Ingram reported on Thursday that Aafia Siddiqui, "[a] Pakistan-born neuroscientist [who] has become a rallying cry for militant groups demanding her release from a U.S. prison… is trying to abandon her legal fight for freedom, saying the U.S. court system is unjust" (Reuters). Siddiqui, a "42-year-old mother of three with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University," is currently serving an 86-year sentence at a prison medical center in Texas. Known as "Lady al Qaeda," she was convicted by a jury in 2010 for attempting to shoot and kill a group of FBI agents, U.S. soldiers, and interpreters in Afghanistan who were about to interrogate her about alleged ties to the militant group.

According to Ingram, Siddiqui wrote to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan on July 2, seeking to end her most recent appeal, saying: "I refuse to participate in this system of total injustice that has punished and tortured me repeatedly, and continues to do so, without my having committed a crime." U.S. prosecutors were scheduled to respond to her letter by Wednesday, though no word was given about whether or not that had actually occurred.

Sharifs acquitted in money-laundering case

An accountability court in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi on Friday cleared Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, of all charges related to a money-laundering case that was filed 14 years ago (Dawn, ET). Justice Anwar Ahmed at the National Accountability Bureau court noted that case — concerning Hudaibiya Paper Mills, Raiwind Palace, and the ownership of illegal assets — had been pending since 2000, but not a single witness had appeared in court. He added that the charges against the Sharif family were "politically motivated," and had no factual basis. There is one more case currently pending against the Sharifs, for allegedly defaulting over a bank loan, but the hearing in that case has been adjourned until Oct. 2.

The Lahore High Court, however, also announced on Friday that it has decided to start ex parte proceedings against 61 politicians, including both Sharifs, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party chairman Imran Khan, and former president Asif Ali Zardari, for the alleged illegal transfer of assets to foreign countries (Dawn). The next hearing in that case will be on Sep. 29.

— Bailey Cahall

Edited by Peter Bergen

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. @neelishah

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