The South Asia Channel
Taliban Push Into Afghan Districts; Intel Agencies Failed to Stop Mumbai Attacks; Pakistan Fast Tracks Death Row
The South Asia Daily Brief for Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014.
Editor’s note: The South Asia Daily Brief will not be published from Dec. 24, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2014 in honor of the holiday season. Regular publication will resume on Jan. 5, 2015.
Taliban push into districts
The Afghan Taliban have pushed back into several districts this year that the United States had secured four years ago, according to Rod Nordland at the New York Times (NYT). Nationwide, Afghanistan has lost more than 5,000 police officers and soldiers to militant fighting, according to official Afghan data not formally released but obtained by the Times. This figure is much higher than other years. Helmand province has been particularly hard hit: over 1,300 security force members were killed between June and November, with the insurgents’ siege of several key districts continuing past the traditional end of the fighting season. In recent weeks, fighting has been so intense in the province that ambulances have not been able to travel on the heavily-mined roads and police are afraid to use them for fear of attack. Mohammad Khan, a three-year police veteran in Helmand, said insurgents had surrounded his post three times in recent weeks until he was wounded in early December by a mine, and while he noted that “it was better when the Americans were here,” he added that “they cannot break us — they cannot.”
Pakistanis among rebels killed in Dangam
At least 136 militants have been killed this month during NATO-led airstrikes and a ground offensive by the Afghan National Army (ANA) in the Dangam district of eastern Kunar province near the Pakistan border (Pajhwok). Lieutenant Haroon Yousafzai, spokesman for the 201st Selab Military Corps, told Pajhwok Afghan News that ANA was making significant headway and that at least 136 rebels, including 17 Pakistanis, had been killed. One ANA officer was killed and another was wounded in the fighting. The airstrikes and ground operation came ten days after hundreds of militants stormed Dangam and besieged hundreds of residents.
Intelligence agencies failed to stop Mumbai attacks
American, British, and Indian intelligence agencies were already spying on the online activities of Zarrar Shah, the technology chief of the Pakistan-based terror organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, months before the Mumbai attacks took place in 2008, according to a report published by the New York Times on Monday (Indian Express). In 2008, 10 Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai, killing 166 individuals and injuring hundreds more in an incident that lasted over 70 hours. According to classified documents disclosed by some intelligence agencies and Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, despite having intelligence about the terror attack, none of the agencies shared information with each other and were not able to piece together the planned attack.
Shivshankar Menon, India’s foreign secretary at the time of the attacks, said in response to the NYT report: “Only once the shooting started did everyone share,” and then “the picture instantly came into focus.” Marie Harf, the U.S. State Department’s deputy spokesperson, said: “The intelligence community has improved coordination and intelligence sharing between our own agencies, between the intelligence community and law enforcement in the U.S., but also among our partners abroad” (NDTV).
BJP gains in J&K, but falls short of majority
The northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was headed for a hung assembly after the five-phase state elections
held from Nov. 25 till Dec. 20, according to trends and results reported on Tuesday (WSJ, BBC, Livemint). Although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had its best performance in J&K, the party fell short of a majority. The Election Commission of India reported that the BJP won 25 of 87 constituencies in J&K. In the 2008 elections, the BJP won just 11 seats. The regional Peoples Democratic Party — presently the opposition party in J&K — has emerged as the single largest party with 29 of the Muslim-majority state’s 87 seats. A party needs 44 seats to form a government. Election results are also expected for the eastern state of Jharkhand, where the BJP is likely to get a clear majority in the 81-seat assembly.
RBI tightens regulations for defaulters
India’s Reserve Bank of India (RBI) revised the definition of “non-cooperative” borrowers to include bank customers who default on loans despite being able to repay their debts, according to news reports on Monday (Reuters, Livemint, Indian Express). The previous definition had specific criteria listed that was used to determine non-cooperative borrowers, which made it difficult to classify willful defaulters. Under the new regulations, borrowing costs would increase as soon a borrower is classified as non-cooperative to discourage corporate customers from defaulting on loan repayments. RBI also asked banks to create committees to identify such borrowers. RBI said in its circular to all banks: “A non-cooperative borrower is one who does not engage constructively with his lender by defaulting in timely repayment of dues while having ability to pay, thwarting lenders’ efforts for recovery of their dues by not providing necessary information sought, denying access to assets financed/collateral securities, obstructing sale of securities, etc. In effect, a non-cooperative borrower is a defaulter who deliberately stonewalls legitimate efforts of the lenders to recover their dues” (Times of India).
On the fast track and death row
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed his top legal officer on Monday to fast-track the executions of militants on Pakistan’s death row in response to the Taliban’s Dec. 16 attack on a school in Peshawar (NYT). Sharif’s order came after several local courts throughout Pakistan halted planned executions of at least seven convicted militants. Sharif ended a six-year moratorium on capital punishment for convicted militants shortly after the attack on the school; since then, six people have been executed by hanging. An additional 63 prisoners currently on death row for terrorism-related charges will be executed in phases.
Islamabad, Kabul, ISAF on same page
Military commanders from Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Tuesday pledged to participate in an all-out effort to battle terrorism at a trilateral meeting (Dawn, Pajhwok). General Sher Muhammad Karimi, the chief of general staff of the Afghan National Army, and John Campbell, the commander of ISAF, met with General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani chief of army staff in Rawalpindi to discuss the effort. The ongoing military offensive in North Waziristan was discussed, as were measures to improve border security between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both Karimi and Campbell acknowledged that the Pakistan Army was making operational gains due to targeting of militants in North Waziristan. Bonus read: “A Small Measure of Progress,” Julia Thompson (South Asia).
— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen