The South Asia Channel

U.S. Citizen Deported from Pakistan Faces Terrorism Charges in NYC; Afghan Commission Confirms Farkhunda’s Innocence; India to Bolster Defense Cooperation with Thailand

Pakistan Bonus Read: “A New Language for Pakistan’s Deaf,” Bina Shah (NYT). U.S. citizen deported from Pakistan faces terrorism charges in New York Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, a U.S. citizen that allegedly traveled from Canada to Pakistan to train with al Qaeda and carry out jihad, appeared before a federal judge on Thursday on a ...

U.S. Citizens Arrested On Terror Charges Appear In Brooklyn Federal Court
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 2: A U.S. Marshals standsoutside U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn during the arraignment on terrorism charges of two Queens women, identified as 28-year-old Noelle Velentzas and 31-year-old Asia Siddiqui, as well as American citizen and accused Al Queda member Muhanad Mahmoud al Farekh, 29, April 2, 2015 in New York City. Velentzas and Siddiqui supposedly discussed potential plots online and expressed admiration for terrorist attacks but are presumed not to have constructed an explosive device. al Farekh was apprehended and Pakistan and secretly flown to New York, and is accused of being a top operative for the terrorist organization. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “A New Language for Pakistan’s Deaf,” Bina Shah (NYT).

U.S. citizen deported from Pakistan faces terrorism charges in New York

Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, a U.S. citizen that allegedly traveled from Canada to Pakistan to train with al Qaeda and carry out jihad, appeared before a federal judge on Thursday on a charge of conspiring to kill American soldiers (Reuters). Farekh said nothing and entered no plea during the brief court appearance, and his lawyer did not comment on the proceedings. If convicted, Farekh faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Farekh, who was born in Texas, traveled from Winnipeg, Canada to Karachi, Pakistan with two other co-conspirators in 2007. According to the criminal complaint, one of the co-conspirators, Ferid Imam, trained three men on how to use AK-47s and other weapons at an al Qaeda training camp in 2008. Those men – Najibullah Zazi, Zerin Ahmedzay, and Adis Medunjanin – were later convicted of plotting to bomb New York City’s subway system and are cooperating with federal authorities (AP).

The Washington Post’s Adam Goldman and Tim Craig reported on Thursday that Farekh had been nominated by the U.S. Department of Defense to a “kill list” of suspected terrorists by 2013, but noted that the Obama administration decided not to authorize his killing as there were questions about how prominent a role Farekh played in al Qaeda (Post). Goldman and Craig added that Farekh “is the second terrorism suspect with U.S. ties to be captured or killed in Pakistan in recent months.” In December 2014, Pakistani forces killed Adnan el Shukrijumah, a senior al Qaeda operative on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list and a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Six Islamic militants sentenced to death by Pakistani military courts

The Pakistani Army released a statement on Thursday that said six Islamic militants had been sentenced to death by the country’s military courts on charges ranging from kidnapping to murder to terrorism (BBC, VOA). A seventh man was sentenced to life in prison. The army did not say where or when the courts handed down the verdicts or how many trials were held, but noted that the convicted men can appeal their sentences.

The death sentences marked the first time such rulings had been issued by military courts since Pakistani authorities lifted a moratorium on the death penalty after a Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that killed 150 people, mostly children, last December. In the three months since that attack, more than 50 people have been executed (RFE/RL).

Sharif arrives in Turkey to discuss Yemen crisis

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left Pakistan on Friday for a one-day visit to Turkey, where he is scheduled to discuss the ongoing conflict in Yemen with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (Dawn, ET, RFE/RL). The trip comes one day after Sharif chaired a meeting on Yemen with Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership, and as Pakistan weighs what role, if any, it will take in the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Media outlets reported on Thursday that Pakistan faces some tough choices over the Yemen crisis, noting that if “Pakistan chooses to stay out of the conflict, it could risk angering Saudi Arabia, a close strategic, religious, and historical ally. But if Islamabad does intervene, it risks overextending its armed forces, which are already engaged in a vicious fight against militants at home” (RFE/RL). Voice of America’s Ayesha Tanzeem also highlighted Sharif’s personal connection to Saudi Arabia, which intervened to get him out of jail and sheltered him during his exile after a 1999 military coup that ousted him from power (VOA).

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Afghanistan’s famed war carpets are getting a makeover – once again,” Sudarsan Raghavan (Post).

Fact-finding team confirms Farkhunda’s innocence 

An Afghan commission tasked with investigating the brutal murder of a woman in Kabul on March 19 confirmed her innocence on Thursday, releasing a report that said she was raising her voice against superstitious activities (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The 27-year-old Farkhunda, who like most Afghans went by only one name, had just completed a degree in Islamic studies and criticized a cleric at a well-known shrine for selling amulets. The cleric then accused her of burning the Quran, prompting a mob to attack and kill her.

The commission – which included civil society activists, Islamic scholars, lawmakers, and members from the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission – said that it had collected evidence and reports from eyewitnesses, the country’s security and intelligence agencies, Farkhunda’s family, and the men accused of killing her. After reviewing everything that had been collected, the commission concluded that she had been falsely accused of burning the Quran as no evidence substantiating the claim had been found. The commission also blamed policemen for negligence in controlling the situation as more people joined the mob, and ordered the National Directorate of Security and the Ministry of Interior Affairs to detain all those involved and bring them to justice.

India

India, Thailand to bolster defense cooperation

Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, during a two-day visit to Thailand, said that both countries will bolster their maritime security, defense, and strategic cooperation, and counterterrorism efforts, according to news reports on Friday (Economic Times, Zee News). Doval met Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other top ministers, and said: “The overall kinetics was very positive. We discussed a range of issues, including terrorist activities, defense production, keeping the sea lanes safe, piracy, human trafficking and terrorism,” and adding that: “Both countries want to see the sea lanes remain free and safe, and issues like piracy, human trafficking are a concern to both sides” (NDTV).

Foreign investors want clarification on Indian tax regime

Investor groups in the United States and Europe have asked the Indian government to clarify its tax regime for foreigners, after tax inspectors attempted to collect money on years of previously untaxed gains, according to news reports on Thursday (Reuters, NDTV). Tax experts claim that international funds and banks may have to pay as much as $8 billion as the Indian tax department attempts to levy the minimum alternative tax on foreign investors’ profits. Patrick Pang, a managing director at the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association in Hong Kong, said: “This development has caught everyone by surprise and is extremely worrying for foreign investors… It suggests that the Indian government can come out at any time and re-clarify what was believed to be an established tax policy on foreign investments” (Livemint).

Two girls allegedly gang-raped at gunpoint

Two teenage girls were allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped at gunpoint by five men in the Badaun district, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, according to news reports on Tuesday (BBC, Indian Express). The two girls, who are cousins, had gone to the fields on Tuesday night to relieve themselves as they don’t have bathrooms at home. Saumitra Yadav, a senior police officer, said: “The villagers were searching for the girls. When screams were heard at 5 in the morning, the search party caught the five offenders and brought them to the police station” (NDTV). In May 2014, two teenage girls were allegedly gang-raped and hanged from a tree in the Katra village in Badaun, causing national outrage. 

Edited by Peter Bergen.

Victor J. Blue/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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