The South Asia Channel

Afghan Taliban’s changing makeup permits expansion; Sri Lankan President meets Modi; Suicide attack in Lahore kills at least 8

Event Notice: “Pakistan’s Interior Minister on New Plans to Counter Terrorism,” February 18, 2015, 2:00-3:30 (USIP).  Event Notice: Future of War First Annual Conference, February 24-25, 8:00-5:00 (New America). Afghanistan Afghan Taliban’s changing makeup permits expansion A Washington Post report has found that “the Taliban is transforming into a patchwork of forces with often conflicting ...

Taliban Militants Surrender In Badakhshan
BADAKHSHAN, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 26: Taliban Commanders attend a ceremony as a group of more than 100 members of the Taliban surrender themselves to the Afghan Government, on August 26, 2011 in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. The militants surrendered their arms in the presence of the Head of the Afghanistan Peace Council and former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Militant leader Mawlawi Abdul Hadi called for the country's rebuilding process to be accelerated with greater job opportunities available. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Event Notice: “Pakistan’s Interior Minister on New Plans to Counter Terrorism,” February 18, 2015, 2:00-3:30 (USIP). 

Event Notice: Future of War First Annual Conference, February 24-25, 8:00-5:00 (New America).

Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban’s changing makeup permits expansion

A Washington Post report has found that “the Taliban is transforming into a patchwork of forces with often conflicting ideals and motivations, looking less like the ultra-religious movement it started out as in the mid-1990s,” (Post). In northern Badakhshan province, the only province which the Taliban could not control when the group rules from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban do not take their usual approach: girls attend school, soldiers and police are not executed, fighters are not Pastun — the main ethnic group of the Taliban — and even fought against the Taliban’s initial uprising. This changing makeup has allowed the group to expand into the north and other areas outside its strongholds in the south and east. According to a former Taliban member, Maizuddin Ahmedi: “the Taliban here are against the ideology of the Taliban in the south.”

Suicide bombers attack Afghan police stations

On Tuesday, at least 20 policemen were killed and nine others injured after militants stormed the police headquarters in central Logar province (Pajhwok). Din Mohammad Darwesh, the governor’s spokesman, said one of the attackers detonated his explosives at the entrance gate while two others detonated explosives inside the facility. On Monday, at least 13 policemen were killed in a clash with militants in the Maiwand district of southern Kandahar province when the police were attempting to defuse an ammunitions cache recovered that evening (Pajhwok).

Afghan councilwomen dies from injuries

Angeza Shinwair, a provincial councilwoman in eastern Nangarhar province, succumbed to injuries received during the Feb. 10 bombing in which she was the target (BBC). Shinwari was injured when a bomb attached to her car exploded in Jalalabad, killing her driver and injuring four others. Zabihullah Zmaray, a fellow provincial council member, told the BBC that Shinwari lost too much blood from having lost both of her legs in the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and no individuals have been arrested.

Over 400 aid projects in Kunduz

Officials with the Rural Rehabilitation and Development said on Monday that 435 welfare projects have been carried out in Kunduz province during the ongoing year (Pajhwok). The projects include graveling rural roads, constructing canals and culverts, and building 587 water wells, five schools, and 17 community centers. An estimated 200,000 residents have benefitted from the projects.

–Courtney Schuster

India

Bonus Read: “Has world’s biggest democracy got a Big Brother problem?” by Mackenzie Sigalos (CNN).

Sri Lankan President meets PM Modi

Sri Lanka’s newly-elected President Maithripala Sirisena and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a civilian nuclear energy agreement in New Delhi on Monday, and also discussed expanding defense and security cooperation (WSJ, Economic Times, BBC). Addressing reporters, Modi said: “The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is another demonstration of our mutual trust… This is the first such agreement that Sri Lanka has signed. It opens new avenues for cooperation” (Bloomberg).

This is Sirisena’s first official foreign visit after taking office in January. Sirisena’s predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had established closer relations with China, resulting in strained relations with India. During his visit to India, Sirisena will also visit Bodh Gaya, the Buddhist pilgrimage site located in the eastern state of Bihar, and a Hindu temple in Tirupati, located in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

PM Modi vows to protect religious minorities

Modi vowed to protect all religious groups, pledged action against those who perpetrated religious attacks, and warned against efforts to incite hatred against minorities in New Delhi on Tuesday, in response to recent attacks on churches in the capital city (BBC, Times of India, Reuters). Speaking at an event organized by Christian groups, Modi said: “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly… We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard” (NDTV).

There have been a series of vandalism and arson attacks on churches in New Delhi in the past few months. According to critics, Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has failed to protect minorities. The Modi government was recently criticized after right-wing groups affiliated with the BJP initiated numerous campaigns to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. During his visit to India last month, U.S. President Barack Obama said that India’s success would depend on religious freedom in the country.

Indian baby born in train toilet falls on tracks and survives

After a woman delivered a baby boy in the lavatory of a stationary train, her newborn slipped through the toilet bowl and fell on the railway tracks in the northern state of Rajasthan, according to news reports on Tuesday (Indian Express, Times of India, BBC). Manu, 22-years old, fell unconscious after giving birth, and by the time her family found her in the toilet, the train had departed. A guard at a warehouse near the railways tracks heard the baby crying and alerted the railway officials. The baby was later reunited with his mother. While the baby did not suffered any serious injuries, it was born underweight, weighing only 4.4lb. Similar incidents have been reported in the past as most Indian train lavatories have a toilet hole opening on to the tracks.

— Neeli Shah

Pakistan

Suicide attack in Lahore kills at least 8

A suicide bomber attacked Lahore near a police building killing at least eight and injuring 19 (ET, Dawn). The bomber was stopped at the main gate of Police Lines due to heavy security and was unable to enter the police building. Inspector General Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera said that 5-8 kilograms (11-18 pounds) of explosives were used in the attack. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesperson for the Jamaatul Ahrar faction of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan told Dawn the group carried out the attack.

Pakistan, Turkey sign agreements

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met in Islamabad for the fourth meeting of the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (Dawn, ET). Sharif praised the bilateral relationship as “unparalleled” while the Turkish leader called is “exemplary.” The leaders discussed increased cooperation in trade, energy, communications, education, culture, and tourism, and signed eleven agreements and memorandums of understanding. Turkey also pledged $20 million in aid for people displaced by the military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, in North Waziristan.

Pakistani polio team attacked

Yet another polio team was attacked in Pakistan this past weekend, the most recent in a long string of attacks against the polio teams (NYT). Gunmen targeted a vehicle carrying the team in the Khyber tribal region, killing the driver and wounding a health care worker. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Also on Saturday, two polio workers and two security guards were reported missing in Balochistan, however, it is unclear if they came under attack or simply fell out of contact due to the remoteness of the area where they were working.

Jammat-e-Islami orders review of textbooks

The right-wing party that controls large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Jammat-e-Islami, is reviewing textbooks to limit the region’s 4 million public schoolchildren to Western academics and authors (Post). A professor from Islamia University in Peshwar who is leading the review, Zahir Shah, said: “Pakistan is an Islamic country, and nothing should be taught in our schoolbooks that [is] un-Islamic and against the ideology of Pakistan.” So far the recommended subject matter for removal includes: Helen Keller, pictures of Christmas trees, discussion of Charles Darwin and evolution, and images of women in jeans, t-shirts, and skirts.

–Courtney Schuster

Edited by Peter Bergen

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Courtney Schuster is a research associate with the International Security Program at New America and an assistant editor with the South Asia Channel.
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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