Pakistan Suspends ARY News License; Modi Urges SAARC to Work Together; Record Poppy Harvest in Afghanistan

Pakistan Pakistan suspends ARY News license The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Monday suspended ARY News‘ license for 15 days (NYT, AP, BBC, Dawn, RFE/RL). The channel, which supports opposition politician Imran Khan, was suspended for defamation and fined 10 million rupees ($97,000). The suspension was reportedly related to the network’s coverage of ...

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan

Pakistan

Pakistan suspends ARY News license

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Monday suspended ARY News‘ license for 15 days (NYT, AP, BBC, Dawn, RFE/RL). The channel, which supports opposition politician Imran Khan, was suspended for defamation and fined 10 million rupees ($97,000). The suspension was reportedly related to the network’s coverage of the opposition protests organized by Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri this summer, and it banned ARY News‘ Sunday anchor Mubashir Lucman from appearing on national television on any network. PEMRA’s ruling was preceded by a decision by the high court of the eastern city of Lahore. A spokesman for PEMRA stated: "We just obeyed the orders of LHC [the court] and the ban will remain in force till hearing of the case on Nov 11 when the detailed judgment will be issued."

Pakistani Taliban sacks spokesman

The Pakistani Taliban fired its spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, who had recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, according to media reports on Tuesday (Dawn, BBC). The announcement of Shahid’s firing was released on the Taliban’s website, Omar Media. The announcement stated that Shahidullah Shahid is the nomme de guerre of whoever is the current spokesman, but that Abu Omar Sheikh Maqbool has continued to use it despite his removal from the position. The announcement also reaffirmed that Mulla Fazlullah, the Pakistani Taliban leader, has not pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and remains loyal to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Maqbool has not commented on the announcement.

Cross-border firing from Afghanistan kills one

At least one civilian was killed in Pakistan’s Bajaur Agency on Tuesday by cross-border firing from Afghanistan (Dawn). Pakistani officials confirmed that the firing hit the house of a tribesman named Sheene, killing one person and injuring two others. Militants were reportedly responsible for the firing. Bonus Read: "The Afghan Roots of Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb Operation," Umar Farooq (South Asia)

— David Sterman

India

Modi urges SAARC to work together

Nepalese Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, and handed him a formal invitation from Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to attend the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Kathmandu on November 26-27 (Economic Times, Hindustan Times). SAARC is an economic and geopolitical cooperation between South Asian nations, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. During the meeting, Modi committed India’s full support to the SAARC summit, and emphasized that South Asian countries should identify specific areas of common heritage, challenges, and opportunities to foster region-wide cooperation.

During her meeting with Pandey, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj conveyed India’s willingness to give logistical support to Nepal during the SAARC summit. Nepal had requested India to provide bullet-proof cars and other vehicles for state heads and government officials during the summit. On Tuesday, India and Nepal are expected to sign a power trade agreement, which will facilitate cross-border transmission lines.  

Indian government clears ordinances for coal blocks

The Indian government issued an ordinance on Monday to acquire the land of nearly 214 coal blocks cancelled by the Indian Supreme Court last month (NDTV). The Supreme Court cancelled 214 out of 218 coal block allocations in September, which were declared illegal and arbitrary by the court in its August 25, 2014 verdict (NDTV, BBC). The remaining four blocks allowed to continue belong to major state power projects. The companies, whose shares fell significantly since the court’s decision, were granted six months to shut down their operations, and the government has been given "breathing space to manage the emerging situation" (The Hindu).

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters: "The Cabinet has recommended promulgation of an ordinance to the President [Pranab Mukherjee] in order to resolve the pending issues, particularly the situation arising out of the Supreme Court judgment quashing the allocation of the coal blocks. A key need for the ordinance was to ensure proper transfer of land from the existing owner to the successful bidder to whom the land is to be allotted" (Indian Express). The government cleared the ordinance so that coal mines can be allotted to state-owned companies and to private entities (Livemint). The private sector will bid for such mines through an e-auction. Although India is one of the largest coal producers in the world, the country has not been able to meet consumer demands for electricity.

Delhi gang-rape: rapists jailed for life

A New Delhi court on Monday ordered life imprisonment to the five accused in the abduction and gang-rape of a call center female worker in 2010 (BBC, Economic Times, Daily Mail). The victim was attacked after an office cab dropped her off near her home in the early morning. In his judgement, Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhatt said: "The convicts are psychopaths, having no regard for the honour and dignity of women in the society and thus are a threat to the whole society. It is the demand of justice that they be kept away from the society as long as possible" (Indian Express). The court convicted the five accused on October 14, relying on the victim’s testimony and on the basis of their DNA reports.

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

Bonus Watch: "Last Week With John Oliver: Translators" (HBO)

Wonk Watch: "Afghanistan’s Fate" (Cairo Review)

Afghanistan has record poppy harvest

Afghanistan had its all-time highest poppy harvest in 2013 despite the United States spending $7.6 billion to prevent poppy production according to a report released on Tuesday by the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) (RFE/RL, Mother Jones, Post). According to data from the United Nations cited in the report, 209,000 hectares were used for cultivation in 2013 compared to the previous record of 193,000 in 2007. SIGAR stated that the record production "calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability" of efforts to prevent production.

Kabul blast kills four soldiers

A bomb blast in Kabul killed four Afghan Army soldiers and wounded twelve others including three civilians on Tuesday, according to local officials (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The remote control mine was detonated in the Aqa Ali Shams area of Kabul’s district seven. Najib Danish, a deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Interior stated: "The problem is this that intelligence organizations need to increase their efforts and equipment in searching for mines." The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ghani seeks to connect Afghanistan to Europe via Uzbekistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stated his interest in connecting Afghanistan to European markets via Uzbekistan during meetings on Monday with Uzbek and Tajik diplomats at the presidential palace in Kabul (Pajhwok). Ghani’s discussions with Uzbek and Tajik diplomats also focused on energy and his desire to seek support from Uzbek construction experience as well as the threat of terrorism in the region.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

David Sterman is a program associate at New America and Assistant Editor of the South Asia Channel. He tweets at @DSterms Twitter: @Dsterms
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. Twitter: @neelishah

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