The South Asia Channel
Pakistani Lawmaker Offers Reward to Charlie Hebdo Attacker Families; U.S. SecDef Nominee Reconsiders Afghan Withdrawal; Indian Lending Rates Stable
Pakistan Lawmaker offers $100,000 to Charlie Hebdo attackers’ families On Monday, Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a federal lawmaker from the Awami National Party offered a $100,000 reward to the family members of the Charlie Hebdo attackers during a debate in Pakistan’s National Assembly over the bombing of a Shi’a mosque in Shikapur on Friday (ET, ...
Lawmaker offers $100,000 to Charlie Hebdo attackers’ families
On Monday, Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a federal lawmaker from the Awami National Party offered a $100,000 reward to the family members of the Charlie Hebdo attackers during a debate in Pakistan’s National Assembly over the bombing of a Shi’a mosque in Shikapur on Friday (ET, Dawn). Bilour had previously offered the $100,000 bounty in 2012 to anyone who would kill the producer of The Innocence of Muslims. At the time he was the railways minister for the Pakistan People’s Party led government. Bilour stated: “I had already declared that I will not tolerate any attack on the sanctity of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).”
U.S. considers 10 percent aid cut to Pakistan
The Obama administration’s proposed budget would include a 10 percent cut in aid to Pakistan, according to Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper (ET). Despite the proposed cut, the budget would still request more than $800 million in aid for Pakistan. Of that aid $534 million is reserved for civilian assistance.
Grenade attack on road to Karachi schools
On Tuesday morning, men on motorcycle threw a grenade on a road in Karachi that leads to multiple schools (Dawn). There were no casualties in the incident, but the attackers left a threatening letter. An administrative source told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper that the activity of schools in the area was suspended for a day. The grenade attack follows the massacre of 150 people including 141 children at a school in Peshawar by the Pakistani Taliban on Dec. 16.
U.S. Defense Secretary nominee to reconsider withdrawal plan
Defense Secretary nominee Ash Carter said he would reconsider the timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan if events dictated so according to a written set of answers provided to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation hearing (AP, Fox, Pajhwok). Carter also emphasized the need for greater counterterrorism cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan in his comments. The nomination hearing is expected to be held on Wednesday.
Obama proposes $1 billion for Afghanistan
On Monday, President Obama proposed an additional $1 billion economic support fund for Afghanistan (Pajhwok). A State Department statement read: “With a new reform-minded government in Kabul and Afghan security forces leading operations across the country, this will be perhaps the most critical phase of solidifying the progress made over the last decade.” In addition to the $1 billion in economic support, Afghanistan is slated to receive more than $3 billion in security assistance according to Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
Qatar denies Bergdahl exchangee seeking to rejoin Taliban
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry has denied that one of the Taliban leaders released in the prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl is seeking to rejoin the Taliban according to a report in Afghanistan’s Pajhwok newspaper on Tuesday (Pajhwok). Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s foreign minister, said his country would honor its agreement with the United States and that the released Taliban prisoners were being closely monitored. Several media reports in recent days have alleged that the released prisoners are trying to reconnect with the Taliban, and Congressman Ed Royce, the chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated: “This report is troubling, but wholly predictable.” For its part, the White House stated: “None of these individuals (five Taliban) has returned to the battlefield; none of them is allowed to travel outside of Qatar and none has engaged in physical violence.”
Minister of mines announces advisory council
On Monday, Afghanistan’s newly appointed minister of mines, Dawoud Shah Saba, announced the creation of an advisory council to promote transparency and accountability in the country’s mining industry (TOLO News). Saba stated: “The interests of the people of Afghanistan would be prioritized in the policies and programs to make sure all the people benefit from the natural resources.” Ahmadzia Massoud, a special adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on good governance issues, voiced approval for the proposal stating: “Inclusive utilization of natural resources is crucial to the foundation of our economy.” Saba reportedly prefers a development strategy of extracting smaller mineral deposits before phasing into exploitation of larger mineral deposits.
— David Sterman
RBI keeps lending rates unchanged
India’s Reserve Bank of India (RBI – central bank) on Tuesday kept the key policy repo rate (the rate at which RBI lends funds to commercial banks) unchanged at 7.75 percent (WSJ, Economic Times, Bloomberg, NDTV). However, to bring more liquidity into the Indian economy, RBI reduced the statutory liquidity ratio to 21.5 percent from 22 percent. Ahead of the budget scheduled for Feb. 28, Raghuram Rajan, RBI chief, said: “We are looking for further cues on progress of disinflation. And on the fiscal front we have the budget coming up. So those are the important developments we would pay attention to” (BBC).
India committed to climate change issues
Prakash Javadekar, India’s minister of state for environment, forests and climate change, said on Tuesday that India was already demonstrating leadership in addressing climate change issues (Zee News). While delivering the keynote address at a conference organized by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water — a think tank that focuses on environmental issues — Javadekar said that India’s solar energy program aims to generate 100,000 MW electricity by 2020. He also said: “The government has identified 17 critically polluting sectors. The ministry has also mandated stringent rules for cement industries to lessen the pollution. The government plans to engage 3206 units to put in place the monitoring devices on the effluent discharge points and on chimneys of the industries to check the level of pollution” (DNA). The minister said further: “I hope the Budget will give a clear indication on how we want to walk the talk. And, therefore, clean energy, clean water, clean air and many other initiatives of the Narendra Modi-government will get reflected in the Budget” (Economic Times).
‘Selfie with Modi’ campaign a success
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched its “Selfie with Modi” campaign last week to reach out to young voters in New Delhi ahead of local elections on Feb. 7 (WSJ, NDTV). A mobile application has been created to take the selfie photographs, and so far BJP has already collected over 70,000 pictures. The BJP has set up more than 1,000 selfie booths across New Delhi. Ashish Sood, BJP general secretary of New Delhi, said: “Along with prominent marketplaces, selfie corners or walls will be set up in malls and other places. The roadshows will also have this facility. Once people get their selfie clicked, we will take their email ids and mail the pictures to them” (Indian Express).
— Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen