The South Asia Channel
Taliban Attacks School in Peshawar; Obama Marks Milestone in Afghanistan; Modi Condemns Attack in Pakistan
The South Asia Daily Brief for Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Event notice: “Empowerment Through Education in Pakistan,” Today, 12:15pm – 1:45pm (New America).
Taliban slaughter school children
The Taliban stormed a military-run school in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 100 people — most of them children (NYT, CNN, BBC). Around 10:00 a.m. local time, five heavily armed Taliban gunmen entered the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, opening fire on some students and taking dozens of others hostage and holding them in the main auditorium; some managed to escape the school compound. As the day wore on, military forces battled with militants still inside the school, but the rescue operation is ongoing and it is unclear if there are still hostages inside.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was in retaliation for the military’s offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region. The Pakistani military has been carrying out the offensive, known as Operation Zarb-e-Azb, since June.
Khan postpones protests
Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party, announced on Tuesday that he would delay his party’s countrywide protests — scheduled for Dec. 18 — in light of the attack on the school in Peshawar (Dawn). The protests were aimed at shutting down the country in order to pressure the government to investigate allegations of vote rigging 2013’s general elections.
Obama marks a milestone
U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on Monday to thank troops for their service, and after more than 13 years, mark the end of America’s war in Afghanistan (White House, Pajhwok). Obama said: “Even as our combat mission ends, our commitment to Afghanistan endures. We’ll continue to have a limited military presence there because we’ve got to keep training and equipping Afghan forces, and we’ve got to conduct counterterrorism missions because there are still remnants of al Qaeda there.” When the president took office, there were nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; by the end of December, there will be fewer than 15,000 in both countries.
Abdullah meets with regional leaders
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah attended the 13th gathering of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana, Kazakhstan this week (TOLO News). Speaking at the conference on Monday, Abdullah said that security in Afghanistan is still threatened and regional cooperation is needed to address the remaining challenges. Abdullah admitted that Afghan security forces are in need of further training and technical support as the NATO combat mission ends this month. Since the formation of Afghanistan’s national unity government in September, senior government officials have taken part in eight regional and international meetings.
Modi condemns deadly school attack in Pakistan
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday condemned the deadly school attack in Peshawar by Taliban militants that claimed the lives of nearly 100 students (NDTV, LiveMint). “It is a senseless act of unspeakable brutality that has claimed lives of the most innocent of human beings – young children in their school,” Modi said in a Twitter message. Home Minister Rajnath Singh joined the prime minister in his sentiment, saying: “I strongly condemn the terrorist attack on a school at Peshwar (Pakistan) [sic]. This dastardly & inhuman attack exposes the real face of terrorism.” According to reports, the attack was in retaliation for Pakistan’s military offensives in the country’s north as an effort to rein in militancy. The Tehreek-e-Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, considered one of the worst-ever in Pakistan (BBC).
India bans Islamic State inside its borders
India has banned the Islamic State (IS) from operating inside its borders, just days after the arrest of Mehdi Biswas, a 24-year-old Bangalore-based engineer who allegedly ran a pro-Islamic State Twitter account (NDTV). Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament on Tuesday: “We had taken cognizance of [the] Islamic State in Iraq and Syria activities in other countries… as a first step, we have banned this outfit in India.”
“It is true the number of Indians in the group or involved in its activities is only a handful,” Singh added, “but I want to make clear we are taking this seriously.” Such a ban enables the government to prosecute suspects related to IS more easily. India has the world’s third-largest population of Muslims and government police say that four Indians are known to have joined the militant organization. Until now, India had decided not to ban the group due to IS’s lack of activity within its borders and concern over 39 Indian construction workers that went missing in Iraq earlier this year (Reuters).
Government plans to roll out public Wi-Fi in 25 India cities
The Indian government plans to roll out public Wi-Fi services in 25 select cities across the country by June 2015 as part of its Digital India Program (LiveMint, Times of India). Cities with populations of over one million people are the focus of the project, which is a joint effort by the Ministry of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Urban Development. The government also plans to set up public Wi-Fi hotspots at 25 archaeological sites, including among others the Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort in Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram, and the Martand Temple and Leh Palace in Jammu and Kashmir. “The idea is that people even foreign tourists should stay connected. Besides, Wi-Fi spots will also lower traffic burden on telecom networks,” one official source said (Times of India).
— Emily Schneider and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen