The South Asia Channel

Afghan Government Marks First 100 Days; Pakistani President Signs Military Courts Amendment; Indian Coal Strike Enters Second Day

Event Notices: “Undercover Jihadi,” a discussion with Mubin Shaikh and Dr. Anne Speckhard, TODAY, 9:00 – 10:30 AM (New America); “Algeria and the Sahel in the Arab Spring Aftermath,” FRIDAY, 12:15 – 1:45 PM (New America). Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Heroin addiction spreads with alarming speed across Afghanistan,” Pamela Constable (Post). Unity government marks 100 days ...

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses an event at the Presidential palace in Kabul on January 1, 2015. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on January 1, called for the army and police to defend the country from the Taliban, hours after 20 wedding guests were killed by a rocket fired during fighting between Afghan forces and insurgents. The New Year marked the end of NATO's combat operations and the start of a follow-up "training and support" mission. About 17,000 foreign soldiers, most of them from the US, will still be deployed in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Event Notices: “Undercover Jihadi,” a discussion with Mubin Shaikh and Dr. Anne Speckhard, TODAY, 9:00 – 10:30 AM (New America); “Algeria and the Sahel in the Arab Spring Aftermath,” FRIDAY, 12:15 – 1:45 PM (New America).

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Heroin addiction spreads with alarming speed across Afghanistan,” Pamela Constable (Post).

Unity government marks 100 days in office 

Afghanistan’s national unity government marked its first 100 days in office on Tuesday, but the ongoing deadlock over filling open cabinet positions has frustrated voters, a majority of whom now disapprove of President Ashraf Ghani’s efforts. According to a new poll conducted by the country’s TOLO News and ATR Consulting, the number of people who are “very satisfied” with Ghani’s performance fell from 59.9 percent to 27.5 percent during the government’s first few months in office (TOLO News). The majority (32 percent) of the poll’s respondents were “not satisfied at all” with the president’s progress; a similar number of participants were “very hopeful” that Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah would be able to cooperate moving forward.

While a number of the promises Ghani made before taking office in September 2013 remain “untouched,” a few media outlets did give him credit for hitting the ground running (Pajhwok, BBC). Shortly after being sworn in, Ghani signed the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States and the Status of Forces Agreement with NATO, enabling foreign forces to remain in the country to train Afghanistan’s soldiers. He also reopened the Kabul Bank embezzlement case and has been actively trying to rid the government of corrupt officials. Observers are concerned, however, that the fact many government ministries are being run by caretakers could “fuel the Taliban insurgency after most foreign troops have withdrawn from the country and handed over security responsibilities to Afghan forces” (RFE/RL).

Several wounded in Taliban suicide attack on police training center

At least three Afghan police officers and two civilians were wounded in the eastern city of Khost on Wednesday when Taliban fighters attacked a local training center (Pajhwok, RFE/RL, TOLO News). According to reports, one militant detonated an explosives-laden vehicle in front of the facility; two bombers wearing suicide vests then entered the center and exchanged gunfire with police before detonating their explosives.

The incident happened shortly after Taliban gunmen ambushed a convoy of construction workers in northern Baghlan province, killing six people — including the company’s owner — and kidnapping three others (Pajhwok, VOA). Elsewhere in Nangarhar province, a judge was killed in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, when a bomb attached to his car exploded as he was dropping his children off at school; all three children were wounded, one critically (Pajhwok). No one has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Pakistan

Hussain signs amendment establishing military terrorism courts

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain signed the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill into law on Wednesday, officially approving the creation of special military courts to try suspected militants (Dawn, ET, VOA). The bill passed both houses of parliament unopposed on Tuesday, though a number of lawmakers abstained from voting. The amendment is one of several measures the government has taken since the Taliban attacked an army school in Peshawar in December, killing 145 people, mostly children. The courts are expected to help speed up the trials of alleged terrorists.

Yet despite the shocking attack in Peshawar, the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) reported on Tuesday that the country actually saw a 43 percent drop in the overall number of suicide attacks in 2014, as compared to 2013 (ET). According to a new security report released by the organization, around 1,700 people were killed and more than 3,100 were injured in nearly 1,200 terrorist attacks last year – all decreases from 2013. Of Pakistan’s provinces, only one, Punjab, saw an increase (8 percent) of reported terrorist attacks.

Two militants hanged in Multan

Pakistan hanged two men sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in the southern city of Multan early Wednesday morning, bringing the total number of executions since the government’s moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in December to nine (RFE/RL). Pakistani media outlets reported that both men were members of the banned militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba and had been found guilty of murder in 2002 (Dawn, ET). Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the ban on the death penalty after last month’s attack in Peshawar.

— Bailey Cahall

India

Indian coal workers continue strike

An ongoing strike by Indian workers in state-run coal mines entered the second day on Wednesday, after talks with India’s federal government failed (BBC, Bloomberg, Livemint, WSJ). A total of five unions — representing approximately 3.7 million coal workers employed with the state-run Coal India Ltd. — have called for a five-day strike to protest as the government opens the coal industry to the private sector. In an effort to boost the country’s economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the coal industry to the private sector in October 2013. The unions, however, have opposed any kind of privatization in the coal sector.

The strike is expected to affect 75 percent of India’s daily production of 1.5 million tons of coal. The strike, the biggest walkout since the 1970s, may result in blackouts across India as 42 of the 100 power plants that run on local coal have supplies that, as of Jan. 1, will last less than seven days. Although India is one of the largest coal producers in the world, the country has not been able to meet its consumer demand for electricity.

Indian politician’s wife’s death ruled a murder

Indian police in New Delhi said on Tuesday that Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of former Indian parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, was murdered, almost one year after her body was found in a hotel room (Indian Express, NDTV, WSJ). B.S. Bassi, the New Delhi police chief, said that Pushkar’s death was “not natural and was due to poisoning,” and the poison “was either given orally or injected into her body” (BBC). Tharoor, a former minister in the Congress party government, former senior United Nations official, and author, said: “Needless to say I am anxious to see this case is investigated thoroughly and continue to assure the police of my full co-operation.” Pushkar was found dead in a five-star hotel in New Delhi on Jan. 17, 2013.

U.S.-based economist appointed new vice chairman of NITI Aayog

The Indian government has appointed U.S.-based economist and college professor Arvind Panagariya as the first vice-chairman of NITI Aayog, a newly-created agency that came into being on Jan. 1, according to news reports on Monday (Economic Times, Indian Express, NDTV). NITI Aayog replaces the 65-year-old Planning Commission, an institution that formulated India’s Five-Year Plans. Panagariya holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and is currently a professor of Economics and the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York City. Panagariya was the chief economist at the Asian Development Bank and has also worked for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

— Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen.

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

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. @neelishah

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