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The South Asia Channel
US Transfers Guantanamo Detainees to Afghanistan; Pakistan Begins Executions; Indian Parliamentarians Protest Conversions
The South Asia Daily Brief for Monday, Dec. 22, 2014.
Detainees transferred from Guantanamo to Afghanistan
The United States transferred four detainees from the U.S. military’s detention center in Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan late Friday, the Defense Department announced on Saturday (NYT). The Pentagon identified the men as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani, and Mohammed Zahir, all of whom were “unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies” that review such cases. The transfer was made as a show of good will and fulfilled a request from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. With these transfers, there are only eight Afghans — out of the 132 detainees — still being held at Guantanamo.
Taliban kill 7 at police checkpoint
The Afghan Taliban attacked a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan, killing at least seven policemen, an official said on Sunday (AP). Abdul Manan Raoufin, the operational chief in Jawzjan province, where the attack occurred, said that five other policemen were wounded in the attack. After reinforcements were sent to the location, a gunfight ensued and five insurgents were killed.
Romania to send 450 more troops to Afghanistan
Traian Basescu, the outgoing Romanian president, said that Romania has committed to sending an extra 450 troops to Afghanistan started in 2015, in addition to the previously announced 200 military instructors and trainers (RFE/RL). Basescu said on Friday — at his final news conference before leaving office — that Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defense approved the deployment of the additional soldiers, who will be tasked with guarding Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan. The decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan was made after a request from Romania’s allies.
Bonus read: “Changing Pakistan’s Militancy Narrative,” Imtiaz Ali (South Asia)
Pakistan begins executions
Pakistan hanged four Islamist militants on Sunday in the second set of executions to occur since the government reinstated the death penalty after a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar on Dec. 16 (Reuters). The four convicts were executed for their role in an assassination attempt on former President Pervez Musharraf. Two others were executed on Friday and officials said more convicts would be hanged. Pakistan has about 8,000 prisoners on death row, with more than 500 of them convicted of terrorist offenses. Bonus read: “A Morass of Its Own Making: Pakistan’s Destructive Taliban Policy,” Javid Ahmad (South Asia).
Suspects in Peshawar school attack arrested
Police in Pakistan said on Sunday that they arrested several people suspected of being involved in the Dec. 16 attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 141 people (BBC). Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said that the men arrested were “facilitators” in the attack and that intelligence indicated another attack was being planned. Khan said: “We are receiving intelligence from across the country that the militants are getting ready for another savage and inhuman counter-attack.” Khan did not divulge the number of men arrested or their identities. Bonus read: “A Wake-Up Call for Pakistan’s Leaders,” Arsla Jawaid (South Asia).
Bonus Read: “In 2008 Mumbai Killings, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle,” James Glanz, Sebastian Rotella, and David. E. Sanger (NYT).
MPs protest over conversions
The Rajya Sabha (India’s upper house of Parliament) was adjourned on Monday after parliamentarians from the country’s opposition parties protested over hardliner Hindu groups — close to the governing Bharatiya Janata Party — converting Christians and Muslims to Hinduism (Post, BBC, NDTV, Reuters). Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also criticized for remaining silent on the issue. Recently, numerous ceremonies were organized in India where religious minorities were forced to convert to Hinduism. The constant protests over conversion in Parliament have paralyzed the passing of key bills, such as those focused on increasing foreign participation in the insurance sector and overhauling the coal sector.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, a hardline Hindu group) leader Pravin Togadia said at a rally on Sunday that his organization will make sure that the population of Hindus in India increases to 100 percent. Togadia said: “We want to protect Hindus today and 1,000 years from now. We won’t let their population decline from 82 percent to 42 percent because then their property and women will not remain safe” (Indian Express). Hindu groups including the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), VHP, and Bajrang Dal claim that Indian Christians and Muslims were originally Hindus forced to convert to other faiths over the last few centuries.
India to seek clarification from U.N.
India will seek clarification from the United Nations for referring to Hafiz Saeed, an accused suspect in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, in a deferential manner — by addressing him as ‘sahib’ (sir) — in an official document, according to news reports on Sunday (NDTV, Indian Express, Hindustan Times). Gary Quinlan, the chair of the U.N. Security Council Committee, referred to Saeed as “Hafiz Mohammad Sahib” in an communication banning Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terror organization that was founded by Saeed. In 2008, 10 Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai, killing 166 individuals and injuring hundreds in an incident that lasted over 70 hours. Members of Lashkar-e-Taiba were charged with planning, financing, and executing the attacks. The United States placed a $10 million bounty on Saeed in 2012. Saeed presently lives in Pakistan and often addresses public rallies.
Flipkart plans to go public; raises $700 million
Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce company, raised $700 million during its third round of financing this year, according to news reports on Saturday (Livemint, WSJ). The company is now valued at nearly $11 billion, and the latest round of financing included five global investors. Flipkart said a statement: “As with previous funds raised, these funds will be used towards long-term strategic investments in India and to build a worldclass technology company, delivering superior customer experiences” (Economic Times). Also, Flipkart Ltd., the parent company incorporated in Singapore, filed an application to become a public company. Flipkart faces competition in the online retail market from global e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, fashion portal Jabong, and the online marketplace Snapdeal.