The South Asia Channel
Pakistan Upholds Bibi Death Sentence; India Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile; Finance Ministry Approved Kabul Bank Suspects’ Bail
Pakistan Court upholds Asia Bibi death sentence The Lahore High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 (AP, Dawn). Bibi, a mother of five was convicted of blasphemy after an argument with a Muslim woman and has been on death row since ...
Court upholds Asia Bibi death sentence
The Lahore High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 (AP, Dawn). Bibi, a mother of five was convicted of blasphemy after an argument with a Muslim woman and has been on death row since November 2010. Her lawyer, Sardar Mushtaq, stated: "We have the right to appeal in 30 days, and we will continue this legal battle by approaching the Supreme Court of Pakistan." Mushtaq told the Associated Press: ""We have a strong case, and we will try our best to save her life." Bibi’s death sentence has drawn criticism domestically and been a source of tension in the country. In 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for minorities, and Salman Taseer, the governor of eastern Punjab province, were killed after publicly stating their opposition to the prosecution and Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia Pacific director commented on the court’s ruling, saying: "This is a grave injustice."
Iran warns of intervention if Pakistan border not secured
Iran warned on Thursday that it would intervene on the Pakistani side of the Iran-Pakistan border if Pakistan could not provide border security, according to Iranian state television (ET). Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, stated: "We are, in principle, against intervening in the affairs of any country, but if they fail to abide by their obligations we will have [no choice but] to act." Salami added: "Terrorists, wherever they may be, even on the soil of neighbouring countries, we will find them, and if they do not give up acts of terrorism, we will deal with them without reservation." In recent months, Sunni extremists based in Pakistan have stepped up their attacks into Iran along the border (NYT).
Pakistan calls for international drone norms
Amb. Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s delegate to the United Nations General Assembly First Committee, called for greater adherence to and development of international norms regarding the use of armed drones, according to reports on Friday (ET, Dawn). Akram stated: "Technology must follow the law and not the other way around." Speaking about the risk from the development of autonomous weapons, Akram said: "[they] pose a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and the notion of affixation of responsibility and transparency." Akram also emphasized the threat to sovereignty, arguing: "The ambition for world domination and hegemony has undermined accommodation and engagement as the basis of a rules-based cooperative multi-polar world; absolute security for one state or a group of states cannot come at the cost of diminished security for others."
Domestically, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) called the use of drone cameras illegal and a threat to privacy and security (ET). A senior Pemra official stated: "The drone-cameras used by TV channels are illegal and against the rules set by Pemra. Channel owners have to get advance permission from the interior and defence ministries for using such technology." According to Pakistani law, Pemra has the authority to regulate the use of drone technologies.
Armed men assault PPP office
Armed men attacked and torched a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) office in the Moach Goth area of Karachi on Friday though no injuries were reported (Dawn). Four attackers reportedly arrived on motorcycles and fired weapons into the air after setting fire to the office. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
— David Sterman
India test-fires nuclear-capable missile
India successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable cruise missile Nirbhay — meaning "fearless" — on Friday, which was indigenously-developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) (Livemint, NDTV, Zee News). Nirbhay can strike targets from more than 700 km (434 miles) and has good stealth features. This was the second flight trial of the Nirbhay missile; the first one in March last year was aborted when the missile deviated from its path.
After the successful test, DRDO Director General Avinash Chander said Nirbhay performed better than expected, and that land, air, ship, and submarine versions of the missile will be developed. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — @narendramodi — tweeted: "Congratulations to our scientists on the successful test-fire of the Nirbhay missile. This is a great impetus to our defence capabilities."
India successfully launches navigation satellite
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched its navigation satellite IRNSS 1C, which was on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, on Thursday (WSJ, NDTV, Economic Times). ISRO launched two other similar satellites in July 2013 and April of this year, as part of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), which will launch a total of seven satellites.
The Indian-developed IRNSS is designed to provide accurate position information to users in India and will extend 1,500 km (932 miles) from the Indian boundary. IRNSS’s applications include disaster management, terrestrial and marine navigation, vehicle tracking and fleet management, navigation aide for hikers and travellers, and visual and voice navigation for drivers. In June, ISRO’s PSLV, in a single launch, put into space one satellite each from France, Singapore, and Germany, and two from Canada. Modi congratulated the scientists from ISRO, and said: "Congrats to the scientists at ISRO for the successful launch of navigation satellite IRNSS 1C. It is a matter of immense pride and joy" (Indian Express).
U.S.-based economist India’s new chief economic adviser
India appointed U.S.-based economist Arvind Subramanian as the country’s chief economic adviser in the finance ministry on Thursday (Economic Times, NDTV, Livemint). Subramanian is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington D.C., and has worked at the International Monetary Fund in the past. Subramanium, "honored" to serve the government, told reporters in New Delhi: "For any economy like India, the two big things are macroeconomic stability and of course creating conditions for rapid investment and growth. While creating opportunity for all segments of Indian society, no one should be left out of this process" (Post).
The chief economic adviser position has been vacant since September 2013, when Raghuram Rajan left the position to become the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, India’s central bank. If confirmed for a three-year term, Subramanian will produce the annual Economic Survey, a document on the country’s economic development, and a mid-year economic update that is presented to the Parliament. Subramanian obtained his undergraduate degree from St. Stephens College in New Delhi; his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad; and his M.Phil and D.Phil from the University of Oxford in England.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Bonus Read: "The Afghanistan Withdrawal: A Potential Disaster in the Making," Peter Beinart (The Atlantic)
Finance ministry approved bail for out-of-country Kabul bank suspects
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance approved the bail for two suspects — Musa Khan Ghazi, CEO of New Kabul Bank CEO, and Mohebullah Safi, CEO of the Millie Bank — in the Kabul Bank investigation who are now abroad, according to a report by TOLO News on Thursday (TOLO News). According to the report, Deputy Minister of Finance Mustafa Mastoor signed the bail documents, maintaining that the ministry had not received any documents regarding their charges or sentences. TOLO News reported that he held this view "despite the fact that it was widely reported news when the special court originally assigned to the Kabul Bank case convicted the two men, along with many others who were involved in the embezzlement scheme." Mastoor defended his actions, stating: "In [the] Kabul Bank case there are many powerful individuals who are still free, the issue of guarantee is constantly brought up while there are 17 other accused individuals in the case," and adding: "These two are on trips based on the approval from the Minister of Finance, one on a official trip, the other on leave." According to the Afghan Attorney General’s Office, unless the two men appear in court, those who enabled their exit from the country will be investigated.
Jandullah network leader killed
Mullah Shamsuddin also known as Qari Zubair, the leader of the Jandullah terror network in Afghanistan, and a second unnamed militant commander were killed in an air strike on Thursday (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). Ministry of Interior spokesman Siddique Siddiqui stated Shamsuddin was killed by American forces in the Ishkamish district of Takhar province. In addition to leading Jandullah in Afghanistan, Shamsuddin was suspected of plotting several attacks on Afghan police officers. According to Afghan intelligence officials, Jandullah is the name under which the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan operates in Afghanistan.
Volleyball tournament begins in Wardak
A three-week-long volleyball tournament involving 44 teams from Wardak province began on Friday in the provincial capital (Pajhwok). Twenty-six of the 44 teams will be listed as probable choices from which the province’s official volleyball team will be chosen. One tournament participant told Pajhwok Afghan News that while Wardak’s volleyball players are skilled, they lack the necessary training facilities. Also on Friday, Attaullah Khogyani, the spokesman for the governor of Wardak, announced the construction of 36 new playgrounds, including volleyball facilities, as well as other sports fields (Pajhwok).
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen