The South Asia Channel
NATO Soldier Killed in Insider Attack; Modi Increases Compensation for Farmers; Iranian Foreign Minister to Visit Islamabad
Afghanistan Bonus Reads: “The Ascent of Afghan Women,” Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (NPR); “Capturing the beauty of Afghanistan frame by frame” (BBC). One NATO soldier killed, two wounded in ambush by Afghan soldier International wire services reported early on Wednesday morning that an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops in Jalalabad, shortly after a meeting ...
One NATO soldier killed, two wounded in ambush by Afghan soldier
International wire services reported early on Wednesday morning that an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops in Jalalabad, shortly after a meeting between Afghan provincial leaders and a U.S. Embassy official (AP). According to the reports, at least two U.S. soldiers were wounded before the shooter was killed, though an eyewitness told the Associated Press’s Lynne O’Donnell and Rahim Faiez that four U.S. service members had been injured in the incident. U.S. officials have not commented on the incident, except to say that they were aware the soldiers had come under fire and that all embassy personnel were accounted for (Reuters). Later in the morning, NATO released a statement saying that one coalition soldier had died in the attack, but no nationality was given (Reuters).
Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, the police chief in Nangarhar province, told reporters that at least one Afghan solider was also injured in the attack, and identified the shooter as Abdul Azim (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Azim’s motive for the attack is still unknown, but an investigation is underway.
This was the second insider attack to occur in Afghanistan this year. On January 29, three American contractors were killed by an Afghan soldier at a military base near Kabul’s international airport.
NDS says all Hazara hostages are alive and well
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) rejected reports – such as the one in the South Asia Daily Brief – on Tuesday that one of the 31 passengers who had been abducted in Zabul province in February had been killed in captivity (Pajhwok). The BBC reported that a video released by militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan showed one of the hostages being beheaded, but NDS officials said the individual shown in the clip was an Afghan National Army soldier who had no links to the abducted passengers. In a statement on Twitter, the NDS said that an investigation into the soldier’s murder had begun, and called the act inhumane and un-Islamic (AFP).
Ludin withdraws from consideration for defense minister
Gen. Mohammad Afzal Ludin, the Afghan government’s latest choice for defense minister, withdrew himself from consideration on Wednesday, citing concerns that “some may use [his] candidacy as an excuse to create problems for [the] country” (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). President Ashraf Ghani nominated the former Soviet-era commander earlier this week after the cabinet rejected his first choice in January.
Ludin’s withdrawal comes one day after several media outlets reported on the Afghan government’s inability to fill most of its cabinet positions. According to RFE/RL, only eight ministerial appointments have been made since Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah entered into a power-sharing agreement last fall.
Modi increases compensation for farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased compensation for farmers impacted by the recent unseasonal rains, asked banks to restructure loans for affected farmers, and told insurance companies to settle farmers’ claims faster, according to news reports on Wednesday (Bloomberg, NDTV, Livemint, Reuters). While speaking at the launch of a microfinance bank and regulator, Modi further reduced the threshold of the crop damage requirement from 50 percent to 33 percent for farmers to claim state aid. In the past few weeks, more than a dozen debt-laden farmers have committed suicide after unseasonal storms damaged over 24.7 million acres of crops in northern India. About 20 percent of India’s winter crop was damaged due to the rains, which may lead to food inflation. Agriculture comprises approximately 15 percent of India’s gross domestic product.
‘Make in India’ campaign threatened by lapsed tenders
Domestic firms in India have rejected approximately $15 billion worth of government tenders to manufacture defense weapons since 2013, according to defense ministry officials on Tuesday (Reuters, DNA). This may impact Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign, which is an ambitious initiative to make India a manufacturing hub. As India is presently the world’s largest arms importer, Modi wants to promote domestic manufacturing in the defense sector. It was reported that Indian firms are reluctant to bid on the nation’s defense projects because of the military’s unrealistic quality demands. Further, the Indian military is not keen to purchase weapons from domestic firms that don’t have a track record in defense manufacturing.
Indian police shoot 20 for stealing sandalwood
Indian police officers killed at least 20 people for allegedly stealing red sandalwood, which has been banned in India since 2000, near the town of Tirupati, located in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, according to news reports on Tuesday (Indian Express, Times of India). Most of the men killed were laborers who were allegedly hired by red sandalwood smugglers. The police have been accused of using excessive force, and the killings led to an uproar in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, where most of the laborers were from. The National Human Rights Commission said in a statement: “Firing cannot be justified on the ground of self-defense since it resulted in the loss of lives of 20 persons,” and further stated that there had been a “serious violation” of human rights (BBC). Red sandalwood is found in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in India, and is primarily used for making furniture.
Bonus Read: “Ayyan Ali: Supermodel in a Pakistani jail,” Usman Zahid and Shahzad Malik (BBC).
Iranian foreign minister expected in Pakistan
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to arrive in Islamabad with a 21-member delegation on Wednesday for talks about the ongoing crisis in Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s request that Pakistan send military aid and troops to help fight Houthi rebels in the Arabian Peninsula (Dawn, Reuters, RFE/RL). Zarif’s visit comes one day after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Parliament that Iran should be involved in talks to end the conflict. Several Arab countries, however, have accused Iran of using the fighting in Yemen to expand its influence in the region by allying itself with the Houthis, a charge Iran denies.
Ahead of Zarif’s visit, Pakistan’s Foreign Office assured Iran on Wednesday that the country’s security agencies are actively investigating an incident on Tuesday in which militants from Pakistan reportedly killed eight Iranian border guards (Dawn, ET). Tasneem Aslam, a spokesperson for the office, said that if the culprits had crossed over to Pakistan, they would be apprehended and brought to justice. She also offered condolences to Iran and the families of the victims.
Former CIA lawyer also charged for role in drone strikes
Pakistani media outlets reported on Tuesday that the Islamabad High Court had issued an order to register criminal charges against Jonathan Bank, a former CIA station chief, over the deaths of two tribesmen in a 2009 U.S. drone strike, but Western news sources noted that a former CIA lawyer, John A. Rizzo, had been charged as well (NYT). According to the reports, Haji Abdul Karim Khan, a resident in North Waziristan, claims that his brother and son were killed in a drone strike nearly six years ago and he has threatened to sue the CIA over the incident. Neither Bank nor Rizzo could be reached for comment, and Chris White, a CIA spokesman told the Associated Press that the agency would have no comment on the charges (AP).
Police officials in Pakistan have been reluctant to file criminal charges against the Americans, fearing that they would harm U.S.-Pakistan relations. A civil judge dismissed Khan’s case in 2013, saying that the court lacked jurisdiction in the matter.
Edited by Peter Bergen.
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