Karachi Commander of AQIS Killed in Raid; Taliban Turns Down Government Posts; Governor’s Rule Imposed in Jammu and Kashmir
Event Notice: “Algeria and the Sahel in the Arab Spring Aftermath,” TODAY, 12:15 – 1:45 PM (New America).
Karachi commander of AQ’s Indian branch killed by security forces
Pakistani police reported on Friday that they had killed Sajad, also known as Kargil, the Karachi commander of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and three of his associates in a raid conducted earlier that morning (Dawn). Reports by the Pakistani press said the raid was carried out by the Crime Investigation Department’s counterterrorism unit and occurred in the Qayumabad section of town. Weapons, ammunition, a suicide jacket, and a hand grenade – allegedly for use in an attack on an intelligence officer – were also found at the scene (ET).
According to police, Sajad arrived in Pakistan from Bangladesh in 2009, and moved to Waziristan after obtaining a national identity card. He became the Karachi commander for AQIS in 2014 after declaring his allegiance to the group’s chief, Asim Umer. Sajad was believed to be an expert on assembling suicide vests and other explosive devices, and had been involved in targeted killings of police officials.
Zuckerberg: Facebook will not cow to extremists
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a statement on Thursday night, describing the social media giant’s own fight against extremists (Dawn). In a post on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg described being sentenced to death by an extremist in Pakistan because the company refused to ban content about the Prophet Mohammed that had offended the user. Zuckerberg noted that: “We stood up for this because different voices — even if they’re sometimes offensive — can make the world a better and more interesting place.” He went on to add: “[A] group of extremists [is] trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world. I won’t let that happen on Facebook. I’m committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.”
In response to a comment about whether or not the offending content had been removed, Zuckerberg replied: “It’s not against our policies to talk about [the] Prophet [Mohammed] (pbuh). We did block the content in Pakistan where it was illegal, but we didn’t block it in the rest of the world where it is legal” (ET).
Man accused of blasphemy is killed after release
Aabid Mehmood, a 52-year-old Pakistani man who had been acquitted two weeks ago on blasphemy charges and released from prison after a court ruled he was mentally unstable, was killed this week by unknown gunmen (AP, Dawn, RFE/RL). According to local police officials, Mehmood was abducted from his home on Jan. 6 and shot in the head and chest at close range. His body was found in the town of Taxila, near Islamabad, the next day. Authorities are currently investigating whether the attack was related to the blasphemy accusations against Mehmood or a personal dispute. Mehmood was arrested for blasphemy in October 2011 after his son-in-law alleged that he had claimed he was a prophet.
Bonus Read: “Drone Rules in Afghanistan Go Unchanged, And Other Reasons the War Isn’t Really Over,” John Knefel (Rolling Stone).
BBC: Taliban members reject government positions
The BBC’s David Loyn reported on Friday that while Taliban leaders have been offered several posts in the new Afghan government, they have turned down all of the positions (BBC). According to Loyn, President Ashraf Ghani had hoped to bring the men into the government in an effort to end the ongoing insurgency that threatens the country’s security as foreign troops prepare to withdraw. Ghani’s spokesman, however, has denied that the positions were formally offered.
Loyn’s sources told him that three men under consideration were Mullah Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan; Wakil Muttawakil, the former Taliban foreign minister; and Ghairat Baheer, a close relative of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan leader whose forces are allied with the militant group. Loyn added that the ministerial posts earmarked for the Taliban members included rural affairs and borders, which would have tasked the group with collecting customs fees. There were also reports of negotiations over appointing Taliban governors in three southern provinces — Helmand, Kandahar, and Nimruz. Loyn notes that this would have been the most contentious part of the deal as most NATO casualties were suffered in an effort to keep the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan.
According to a source close to the Taliban leadership, the offer was turned down due to concerns over the security agreements Ghani signed with the United States and NATO allowing some international troops to remain in Afghanistan. The source also said that, among other things, the group wants immunity from prosecution before entering into negotiations with the government.
— Bailey Cahall
Governor’s rule imposed in Jammu and Kashmir
After political parties failed to form a coalition in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the Governor’s rule — Section 92 of the J&K Constitution allows a governor rather than local politicians to exercise authority in the state on behalf of the President of India until fresh elections — was imposed on Friday (Indian Express, BBC, Economic Times). During state’s elections in December 2014, none of the political parties won the 44 seats needed to form a government in the 87-member state assembly. Omar Abdullah, ruling as a “caretaker” chief minister in J&K after his National Conference party lost the polls, requested to be relieved from the post on Thursday. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee agreed to impose the Governor’s rule in J&K on Friday until a government is formed or the state has fresh elections.
Coal production resumes as two-day strike ends
Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday that coal mine workers had assured the government that they would try to make up for the loss in production, a day after the workers called off their strike (NDTV, Reuters). The workers began a strike earlier this week to protest the government’s decision to open the coal industry to the private sector in October 2013. Goyal assured a total of five unions — representing approximately 3.7 million coal workers employed with the state-run Coal India Ltd. — that a committee would be formed to address their concerns. Coal fuels about 60 percent of India’s power production. 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.
Government employee fired after 24 years of absence
The Indian government recently fired an employee who went on leave in 1990 and never returned to work, according to news reports on Thursday (BBC, NDTV, Economic Times). A. K. Verma, an executive engineer at the Central Public Works Department, a government-owned entity responsible for public sector works, was sacked after 24 years of failing to appear at work. The government said in a statement: “He went on seeking extension of leave, which was not sanctioned, and defied directions to report to work” (Telegraph). While an inquiry was set up in 1992, formal proceedings to dismiss Verma did not start until 2007. Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu ordered his dismissal, stating that a case of “[willful] absence” had been proved against Verma.
Absenteeism is such a problem with government officials in India that Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced a new electronic surveillance system to track the punctuality of government officials in 2014 (Livemint). Biometric attendance terminals were installed in government buildings, and employees check in through their fingerprints and a unique identification number. A website, which keeps track of the government employees’ attendance, is publicly available and allows users to see a real-time chart of how many government employees are present at work.
— Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen.
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