The South Asia Channel

Pak Suicide Bomber Kills 55 People; Chinese Army Enters Indian Waters; Afghan First Lady Quoted as in Support of Burka Ban

Pakistan Suicide bomber kills at least 55 A suicide bomber set off an explosive on Sunday evening near Lahore at the Wagah border crossing between India and Pakistan killing at least 55 people and wounding another 120 (Dawn, Washington Post, BBC). The bomb went off during the daily flag-lowering ceremony held by security forces on ...

ARIF ALI / Stringer
ARIF ALI / Stringer


Suicide bomber kills at least 55

A suicide bomber set off an explosive on Sunday evening near Lahore at the Wagah border crossing between India and Pakistan killing at least 55 people and wounding another 120 (Dawn, Washington Post, BBC). The bomb went off during the daily flag-lowering ceremony held by security forces on both sides as the only border crossing between the two countries closes for the night. Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban splinter group, claimed responsibility, with spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan stating: "This is a continuation of our jihad for the implementation of an Islamic system in Pakistan," (NYT). However, two other groups have also claimed the attacks: Jundallah, an al Qaeda offshoot, and Hakimullah Mehsud faction, another Pakistani Taliban splinter group.

Pakistani Prime Nawaz Sharif has expressed "grief and sorrow" for the victims and called for an investigation into the incident while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the attack a "dastardly act of terrorism" (ET). Trade at the border crossing was suspended Monday as was the daily ceremony for the first time since 1971 when the two countries were at war (WSJ, Dawn).

Jirga held with Pakistani Taliban

A tribal jirga — or tribal assembly — was held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan on Sunday between Mehsud tribesmen and the Mehsud Taliban to negotiate an end to the conflict between the government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Dawn). The 11-member jirga was headed by Ikramuddin, the father-in-law of deceased TTP founder Baitullah Mehsud. TTP was represented by its chief, Khan Said, and other commanders.

Security increased for Muslim holiday

Pakistan has ordered that security be increased for the ninth and tenth days of Muharram, also known as Ashura, a Muslim holiday occurring on Monday and Tuesday (Dawn, ET). Cell phone service in Karchi, Hyderabad, and Sukkur districts is suspended, pillion riding has been banned, and guns are prohibited from being carried or displayed. Surveillance cameras with nigh visions capabilities were used by police in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Cell service was interrupted after all four provinces recommended such to the federal government due to security concerns that terrorists may use cell phones to plan and execute terrorist plots. The last attack during Muharram occurred in 2009.

 — Courtney Schuster


Chinese army enters Indian waters

China’s People’s Liberation Army recently crossed the Indo-China border in Ladakh — located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir — by sending troops into the Pangong lake and entering five kms (3.1 miles) into the Indian territory through the land route, according to news reports on Sunday (Deccan ChronicleNDTV). Press Trust of Indiareported that Chinese boats moved into the Pangong lake on October 22 (PTI). On noticing the Chinese troops, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police intercepted them at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the lake, and also blocked the Chinese troops who were trying to cross over the LAC by road. While 90 kms (56 miles) of the Pangong lake is on the Chinese side, 45 kms (28 miles) is on the Indian side. In September, India and China had their biggest military standoff this year, with both countries mobilizing troops along the border. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.

Modi delivers radio address

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his second radio speech  — ?titled "Mann ki Baat" (A talk from the heart) — on Sunday (LivemintIndian Express). In his 18-minute-address, Modi spoke about Indian untaxed money stashed overseas and the increase in use of khadi. Modi said: "The last time, I urged people to purchase khadi. I have been told that khadi sales have increased by almost 125 per cent" (NDTV). In his first radio speech in October, Modi had encouraged people to use khadi (hand-woven cloth) products to help the poor.

While speaking about black money, Modi said it was "an article of faith" for him to bring back "every penny of the poor man’s money" stashed abroad as untaxed or black money. He said: "Nobody, not this government, not you, not the previous government, knows exactly how much black money is stashed abroad. I don’t want to get into the figures. Whether it is two rupees or five rupees or crores, I’m committed to getting that money back" (NDTV). Modi further asserted: "And I can assure you that nothing will be lacking in my efforts. I only want your blessings to continue." Modi also said that he will discuss the issue of drug abuse in his next radio address.

Google announces alliance to promote Indian languages

Google launched the Indian Language Internet Alliance — a new platform to offer better content and technology for the Hindi speaking population in India — in New Delhi on Monday (NDTVEconomic Times). Google also launched a Hindi voice search option, a portal that will offer curated Hindi content on the internet. Google India Managing Director Rajan Anandan said: "To reach to our goal of 500 million Internet users [in India] by 2017 we need to make the Internet accessible to those who don’t speak English" (Indian Express). Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar inaugurated the initiative, and said: "This [alliance] will help in realization of digital India initiative of the government. It is an important initiative" (Livemint).

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Agence France Press quotes Afghan first lady as in support of French burka ban

Agence France Press quoted Afghan first lady Rula Ghani on Saturday as supporting France’s ban on the burka and niqab though the first lady denies it (AFP). The first lady was quoted as saying: "Regarding the French law against the niqab and burqa which prevent women from being able to move freely and see, because the niqab is a bit like blinders, I am in full agreement with the government of France." During the interview Ghani also mentioned her time at Sciences Po University in Paris during the 1960s. The presidential palace on Sunday denied that Ghani had stated support for the ban saying she had been quoted out of context (Pajhwok). According to a statement released by the palace, Ghani meant to say that when she studied in France many women wore the veil with no problem.

Kandahar deputy governor shot dead

Abdul Qayum Patyal, the deputy governor of Kandahar, was shot dead on Sunday by unknown gunmen (PajhwokReuters). Patyal was shot while visiting Kandahar University in the province’s capital, Kandahar City. A spokesman for the governor confirmed Patyal’s death on Monday. The spokesman stated: "Patyal was transferred to hospital by his bodyguards … and passed away there." Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on Monday ordered an investigation into the incident (Pajhwok). Ghani appointed Brig. Gen. Salem Ihsas, a senior interior ministry official, to lead the investigation. Sunday’s attack follows a series of other high profile attacks in Kandahar this year including a bombing that killed the provincial governor’s chief of staff in March.

Also on Sunday, unknown gunmen shot and killed a judge in Ghor province (TOLO News). Ghulaam Rabbani Hadafmand, a spokesman for the Ghor police chief, said on Monday that the judge, Qazi Abdul Majid, was injured and later died at the hospital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Taliban shadow governor killed

The Afghan National Security Forces killed a Taliban shadow district governor and seven other militants on Monday in the Argo district of north-eastern Badakhshan province according to local officials (TOLO News). Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the provincial police chief said that clashes are ongoing. The Taliban have not commented on the government’s claim.

Ghani drops tribal name

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai dropped his tribal last name, Ahmedzai, from use last week (AP). The presidential palace administrative affairs office sent a letter signed by Ghani to all government departments requesting that they stop using Ahmedzai when referring to the president. According to Fayeq Wahidi, the deputy palace spokesman, Ghani wants to use the name that appears on his national identification card.

Suicide bomb kills eleven

A suicide bomb killed at least eleven people in Logar province on Saturday, according to local officials (ReutersRFE/RL). Din Mohammad Darwish, a spokesman for the provincial governor stated: "The suicide bomber detonated his car near a residential area in Azra district of Logar, killing four army soldiers and seven local policemen." No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen. 

Courtney Schuster is a research associate with the International Security Program at New America and an assistant editor with the South Asia Channel.
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
 Twitter: @Dsterms
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