The South Asia Channel

Pakistan Reinstates Death Penalty; Attack on Kabul Bank; India Mourns With Pakistan

Pakistan Bonus Read: “Pakistan’s 9/11,” Peter Bergen (CNN). Pakistan lifts death penalty Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday in the aftermath of a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 145 people (NYT, ET). The moratorium on the death penalty was in place since 2008; the ...

Indian shooter Jaspal Rana holds a burning candle as he pay tribute to Pakistan children and staff killed in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, in New Delhi on December 17, 2014.  Pakistan began three days of mourning on December 17 for the 132 schoolchildren and nine staff killed by the Taliban in the country's deadliest ever terror attack as the world united in a chorus of revulsion.  AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian shooter Jaspal Rana holds a burning candle as he pay tribute to Pakistan children and staff killed in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, in New Delhi on December 17, 2014. Pakistan began three days of mourning on December 17 for the 132 schoolchildren and nine staff killed by the Taliban in the country's deadliest ever terror attack as the world united in a chorus of revulsion. AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “Pakistan’s 9/11,” Peter Bergen (CNN).

Pakistan lifts death penalty

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday in the aftermath of a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 145 people (NYT, ET). The moratorium on the death penalty was in place since 2008; the government feared lifting it would incite a backlash from militants. In a sign of respect to the victims, the national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country after the government declared three days of official mourning.

General Sharif visits Afghanistan

Gen. Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s army chief, attended a funeral service for the victims of the school attack at the corps headquarters in Peshawar, the city where the attack occurred, before leaving to Kabul to meet with the Afghanistan president and the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force on Wednesday (ET). According to Dawn, Sharif told Afghan leadership that the militants who carried out the attack on the school were using Afghan soil to plan the assault and reportedly revealed classified information showing that the mastermind behind the attack was from Afghanistan (Dawn). Raheel also sought Kabul’s help in extraditing top Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Maulana Fazalullah to Pakistan, where he is wanted on numerous terrorism charges. 

Afghanistan

Militants attack Afghan bank

Four suspected Taliban militants stormed a bank in southern Helmand province on Wednesday, killing at least five people and taking several others as hostages (Guardian, Pajhwok). Farid Ahmad Obaid, the police spokesman, said suicide bombers entered the facility around 11:30 a.m. local time and two detonated their explosives immediately, while the other two opened fire on bank security staff. Police contingents reached the scene and exchanged gunfire with the two militants left inside. The two militants were eventually killed.

Drone strike kills 4 Talibanin Nangarhar

A U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed four Pakistani Taliban militants and seven other insurgents, officials said on Wednesday (Dawn, ET). Mahlem Mashuq, the governor of Sherzad district in Nangarhar province, told Reuters that the insurgents were traveling in a pickup truck when the drone targeted them and that all 11 occupants of the vehicle were killed (Reuters). Although the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are loosely allied and both operate across the porous border between the two countries, the Afghan Taliban issued a statement condemning Tuesday’s attack on a school in Peshawar.

India

India mourns with Pakistan

Indian students observed two minutes of silence and participated in prayer sessions on Wednesday to extend their support to Pakistani children after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to schools to show solidarity with their neighbor following the attack in a school in Peshawar (BBC, Times of India, NDTV). On Tuesday, Modi tweeted: “In the wake of dastardly attack in Pakistan, I appeal to schools across India to observe 2 mins of silence tomorrow as a mark of solidarity.” Tagged with #IndiawithPakistan, Indians also expressed their shock and support on Twitter.

Members of the lower and upper houses of Parliament in India observed a moment of silence on Wednesday. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament: “the enormity of this crime, the cowardly nature of the massacre,” and “the barbaric brutality of the killing” had “evoked revulsion all around” (WSJ). The day before, Modi called Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to condemn the “brutal terrorist attack” (Indian Express). After the call, Modi tweeted: “India stands firmly with Pakistan in fight against terror. Told PM Sharif we are ready to provide all assistance during this hour of grief.”

Struggling carrier SpiceJet ‘grounded’

The struggling airline carrier SpiceJet Ltd. grounded all flights on Wednesday after oil companies refused to refuel its planes; these refusals came despite the civil aviation ministry asking airport operators and fuel suppliers on Tuesday to give the debt-ridden carrier more time to pay its bills (BBC, Reuters, Livemint, NDTV). In order to to avoid the collapse of India’s fourth-biggest airline by market share, the civil aviation authorities also allowed SpiceJet to sell advance tickets until March 31, 2015. SpiceJet has $314 million in debt, has not paid wages to its employees, is struggling to refund customers, and has cancelled more than 70 flights a day for the rest of this year.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at airports after SpiceJet flights were cancelled. Mahesh Sharma, ​a junior aviation minister, said: “It (SpiceJet) is a private carrier and government support to the airline will only be limited. Something is being worked out to resolve the SpiceJet crisis in the larger interest of the passengers. All departments are working to find a solution and the solutions will not be for an individual airline but for the entire industry” (Times of India).

India rejects Italian marines’ travel requests

The Indian Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected ​the travel requests of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012 (Indian Express, BBC, WSJ). The court dismissed Massimiliano Latorre’s request to extend his stay in Italy by two more months. Latorre was allowed to go home in September for four months after he suffered a stroke. It also denied permission to Salvatore Girone, who is presently serving time in India, to travel to Italy for Christmas.

In response to the court’s decision, Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s foreign minister, said: “Faced with such an attitude by the Indian authorities, the [Italian] government reserves the right to take all necessary measures, starting with the recall of the Italian ambassador from New Delhi, although that would not mean breaking off diplomatic relations” (NDTV). Latorre and Girone are facing charges for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, where they mistook them for pirates. At that time, the marines were serving as security personnel on an Italian oil tanker. While India claimed this case fell under its jurisdiction, Italy initially argued that the marines should be tried at home.

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. Twitter: @emilydsch