The South Asia Channel

Pakistani Taliban Declare Support for Islamic State; Deaths in Indo-Pak Border Violation; Afghanistan Allows NYT Reporter Back

Pakistan Bonus Read: "Splits in the Pakistani Taliban," Daud Khattak (South Asia) Pakistani Taliban declares support for Islamic State The Pakistani Taliban declared support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Saturday in a statement from its leader Maulana Fazlullah, which was released by a spokesman (Reuters, RFE/RL, BBC, AJE). The statement said: ...

THIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
THIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan

Bonus Read: "Splits in the Pakistani Taliban," Daud Khattak (South Asia)

Pakistani Taliban declares support for Islamic State

The Pakistani Taliban declared support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Saturday in a statement from its leader Maulana Fazlullah, which was released by a spokesman (Reuters, RFE/RL, BBC, AJE). The statement said: "We are proud of your conquests against the enemies. We are with you in good and bad times," with the Taliban urging unity and promising the provision of fighters and support. The statement followed reports of the Islamic State’s increased influence in South Asia, including the distribution of pro-Islamic State pamphlets in Peshawar and the flying of Islamic State flags in Kashmir. On Sunday, Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid rejected reporting that the statement indicated a shift in allegiance to the Islamic State, emphasizing the group’s loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar alone (ET). Regarding the statement released on Saturday, Shahid said: "We had only praised the Islamic State and advised them to set aside differences and show unity." Bonus Read: "ISIS Makes Inroads in Pakistan, Afghanistan," Najib Sharifi (South Asia)

Drone strike kills five including senior militant leader

A U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan killed five militants, including an unnamed senior militant leader, on Sunday, according to reports citing intelligence sources (Dawn, ET, Guardian). According to data collected by New America, Sunday’s drone strike is the tenth in 2014 and 79 militants have been killed so far this year (NA).

Ten killed in separate bombings

Ten people were killed in two separate bombings in Pakistan on Saturday. A suicide bomber killed five people in the Shi’a-dominated Hazara Town neighborhood of Quetta, while a remote controlled bomb killed five people after hitting a bus carrying hundreds of passengers in the northwestern town of Kohat (AP, RFE/RL). No group has claimed responsibility for either attack.

–David Sterman

India

Civilians killed in ceasefire violation on Indo-Pakistan border

Both India and Pakistan accused each other on Monday of unprovoked firing along the two countries’ disputed border, in which nine civilians died (BBC, Indian Express, NDTV). While India claimed that Pakistani troops targeted border posts in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, killing five Indian civilians and injuring over 30 people, Pakistan said that Indian troops killed four civilians in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. According to the Indian Army, this was one of the worst ceasefire violations between the two countries. Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley accused Pakistan of creating tension along the border, and said: "This is resulting in a series of ceasefire violations, as a result of which innocent civilians have lost their lives. Pakistan must realize that the kind of environment it is generating between the two countries is certainly not going to help in normalizing relations. The onus of creating a positive environment is on Pakistan, which is utterly failing to do so" (Economic Times).

Despite the ceasefire violations, it was also reported on Monday that Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged sweets for the Eid-al-Adha ceremony at the Chakan-da-Bagh border crossing  (Business Standard). However, the two nations reportedly did not exchange sweets along the Wagah border (Hindustan Times). The exchange of sweets between troops on the Indian and Pakistani border is an old tradition, and is also followed during Independence Day celebrations in both countries and the Hindu festival Diwali. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of them were over Kashmir. Both countries have claimed Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years.

Congress asks its leader to stop ‘constant adulation’ of Modi

Congress party leader and Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor expressed surprise on Monday, after his party members criticized him for "his constant adulation of [Indian Prime Minister] Narendra Modi" (NDTV). Tharoor — @ShashiTharoor — tweeted: "I am astonished that anyone would suggest that I am pro-BJP. I have a 30-year paper trail of published writings on my idea of India and my profound belief in India’s pluralism. Being receptive to specific statements or actions of BJP leaders does not remotely imply acceptance of the party’s core Hindutva agenda. The PM pitched his appeal as a non-political one and I received it in that spirit. I am a proud Congressman and a proud Indian. In short: not pro-BJP, just pro-India."

After Modi invited Tharoor to join the "Clean India" campaign last week, the Congress party in the southern state of Kerala, protested against Tharoor’s decision to accept the invitation. Tharoor represents the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala. In response to Tharoor accepting Modi’s invitation, M. M. Hassan, Congress state vice-president, said: "Tharoor should stop praising Modi. The party state unit would not hesitate to contemplate disciplinary action against Tharoor. The party has strong reservations against Tharoor stand" (Indian Express). Modi launched the "Clean India" campaign with an aim to make India ‘clean’ by Oct. 2, 2019, which will be the 150th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.

Stampede kills 33 people during Indian festival

At least 33 people were killed and 28 others were injured in Patna — located in the northern state of Bihar — on Friday, when a stampede broke out during the Hindu festival of Dussehra (NDTV). According to eyewitnesses, people started panicking following rumours that a live electric wire had fallen to the ground (Indian Express). Stampedes are common in India during Hindu festivals, when large crowds are gathered in small spaces (BBC). Earlier this year, 10 people were killed in a stampede at another Hindu festival in central India.

The Bihar government removed several top officials on Monday, after the district administration was criticized over the stampede (Indian Express). Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi expressed anger when he visited the injured victims in a hospital on Monday, and noticed that doctors were missing, bed sheets were dirty, and bathrooms were poorly maintained. Manjhi said: "People were not on duty. The doctors were out. I talked to the stampede victims and other patients also. Eighty percent of the prescribed medicines were unavailable. They were being bought from outside" (NDTV).

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

Afghanistan allows New York Times reporter back

The newly inaugurated administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reversed the decision of its predecessor to ban Matthew Rosenberg, a New York Times reporter who had been expelled from Afghanistan in August, from entering the country (NYT, AP, VOA). Ghani, who had promised during the presidential campaign to reverse the ban, personally called the Times’ International Editor Joseph Kahn on Sunday to convey the news. Rosenberg confirmed the change in his visa status via Facebook. The reversal of the decision comes as Ghani implements several new policies during his first two weeks in office, including signing the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States and reopening the investigation into embezzlement at Kabul Bank (TOLO News). Bonus Read: "A Strategic Scorecard for Afghanistan," Christopher Kolenda (South Asia)

Errant tweet reveals Afghan Taliban figure in Pakistan

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accidentally revealed his presence in Sindh, Pakistan on Friday after tweeting to claim an attack without disabling Twitter’s geo-location feature (Pajhwok, AP). On Saturday, Mujahid stated: "With full confidence, I can say that I am in my own country," and called the tweet "an enemy plot," while providing his Afghan telephone number as proof.

Asian Olympics to include wrestling and zurkhaneh

Afghanistan’s TOLO News reported on Sunday that the head of Afghanistan’s Wrestling and Zurkhaneh Association, Mohammad Anwar Jigdalak, had requested the inclusion of the two sports in the Asian Olympics (TOLO News). Zurkahneh is a traditional regional sport that combines mental and physical effort with a form of martial arts. According to Jigdalak, Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the head of the Asian Olympic Games, agreed to include the two sports. Afghan athletes have won six titles in the two sports in recent years.

–David Sterman

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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