The South Asia Channel
Ghani: ISIS Behind Jalalabad Bombing; India’s Budget Session Resumes; Saudi Arabia Continues to Expect Pakistani Role in Yemen
Afghanistan Ghani: ISIS behind Jalalabad bombing On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that ISIS was behind the bombing of the Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad earlier in the day that killed 35 people and injured 125 more (NYT, WSJ, Reuters). Ghani stated: “Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility.” Daesh is a ...
Ghani: ISIS behind Jalalabad bombing
On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that ISIS was behind the bombing of the Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad earlier in the day that killed 35 people and injured 125 more (NYT, WSJ, Reuters). Ghani stated: “Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility.” Daesh is a pejorative name some use to describe ISIS. Indeed, Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, wrote on Twitter: “We condemn/deny involvement,” and in 2011 the Taliban did claim responsibility for an attack on the same bank branch with similar casualties. In a cellphone interview with the New York Times, Zabiullah Mujahid reiterated his denial and refused to comment on ISIS’s role. On the other hand, ISIS’ Afghan group, which calls itself the Province of Khorasan claimed the attack releasing the bomber’s photo and stating: “Many congratulations to all on the first…attack by the Province of Khorasan.”
Insurgents storm police station, 19 deminers kidnapped
On Sunday, insurgents wearing police uniforms stormed a police station in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province (Pajhwok, TOLO News, RFE/RL). The number of casualties remains unclear, however, according to some reports, the attack killed two policemen and wounded 11 others. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Also on Sunday, unknown gunmen kidnapped 19 deminers in southeastern Paktia province (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The province’s Deputy Governor Abdul Wali Sahi told Pajhwok Afghan News that the deminers were employees of Sterling Demining Afghanistan and had been kidnapped near Gardez. Seventeen deminers reportedly escaped. Those who did not escape are believed to have been taken to Zurmat district and police have initiated efforts to find and rescue them.
Ghani, Khameni meet stress ties
On Sunday, Afghan President and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni stressed their two countries’ ties after meetings in Tehran (Pajhwok). Khameni stated: “I am happy that we can work together to solve problems and improve our bilateral ties.” Ghani emphasized security issues in particular regarding ISIS stating: “Emergence of Islamic State (IS) group is the root of Al-Qaeda is an international terrorist movement, which is a threat to entire world.” Ghani also praised the recent nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. Ghani also met with Iranian Vice-President and head of the Environmental Protection Organization, Masoumeh Ebtekar (Pajhwok). Ghani asked for assistance in protecting the environment citing flash floods, deforestation, dying meadows, and illegal hunting as threats.
India’s budget session resumes
The first day of the second part of the budget session — after a recess in March — began in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on Monday (Times of India, NDTV). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said to reporters: “The first part of the Budget session witnessed unprecedented outcomes. Even in terms of productivity, it was successful after many years because of the cooperation of all parties. I thank all parties for that… I am confident that in the second part also the level of discussions will keep rising” (Economic Times). Modi also tweeted: “Parliament session begins today. I look forward to a productive session, filled with constructive debates on several issues.”
Lok Sabha was adjourned for a while, and the land acquisition bill was tabled on Monday, after oppositions parties created a ruckus in the Lok Sabha by raising slogans, including “withdraw the bill” and “down with the anti-farmer government” (Times of India). Opposition parties have united to oppose the land acquisition bill, stating that the bill will force farmers and the poor to lose their lands. In 2014, the government used an executive order to amend the land acquisition bill and facilitate the buying of land for industrial projects.
Police shoot teenager during protests in Kashmir
The Indian police killed a 16-year-old boy in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday during a protest by locals over the arrest of Masarat Alam, a separatist leader, on charges of waging a war against India and sedition (Reuters, NYT. Livemint). The police used batons and fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, during which the teenager was shot. The police later issued a statement that said: “Preliminary inquiry conducted in the matter indicates that the forces deployed have acted in violation of the laid down SOP [standard operating procedure]” (Times of India). The Pakistani government expressed its concern over the shooting, and issued a statement condemning the “brutal use of force by Indian security forces against peaceful and unarmed protesters. The people and Government of Pakistan extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims” (Livemint).
Modi government announces 24/7 farming television channel
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced a new round-the-clock channel called Kisan TV (Farmers’ TV), which will update farmers on relevant information, including farming practices, ways to enrich soil, and the potency of seed varieties (WSJ). During the budget last year, Modi allocated $16 million to Prasar Bharati — India’s public service broadcaster — to specifically focus on agriculture and rural development. Since 1967, Doordarshan — a division of Prasar Bharati — has broadcasted Krishi Darshan (Agriculture Television), which is a 30 minute show that focuses on farming issues. However, the show was broadcasted at 5:30 p.m., a time when most of the farmers are still working in the fields.
Bonus Read: “Why Are We Sending This Attack Helicopter to Pakistan?,” Hussain Haqqani (WSJ).
Saudi Arabia continues to expect Pakistani role in Yemen
On Saturday, Special Adviser to the Saudi Ministry for Religious Affairs Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al Amar reiterated Saudi Arabia’s expectation of Pakistani support for its intervention in Yemen despite the decision by Pakistan’s parliament to stay out of the conflict (ET). Al Amar stated: “I don’t want to comment on the internal affairs of Pakistan, but the kingdom’s expectations from Pakistan are very justifiable and rational when we say join us to fight against a cruel minority [Houthis] to save an oppressed majority in Yemen.” On Monday, Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar reassured Pakistanis that the government’s refusal to intervene in Yemen would not result in the expulsion of Pakistanis from Gulf states (Dawn). Dar stated: “I am almost sure that we will not face this situation,” continuing: “The parliamentary resolution on Yemen was misunderstood in some Arab countries but we have clarified our position.” Dar also noted the government’s opposition to a Houthi takeover in Yemen stating: “We have condemned the Houthis and support the restoration of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. No armed group should be allowed to oust a government.”
PTI Rallies in Karachi
On Sunday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party held a rally in Karachi headlined by party chairman Imran Khan who urged residents to vote for PTI on April 23 in the National Assembly election (ET). Khan stated: “People of Karachi must come out on April 23, register their vote, and show support for PTI to help us create a new Karachi and a new Pakistan.” The rally took aim at the MQM party and its leadership with Khan accusing Altaf Hussain, the head of the MQM, of being absent from the city while in London and holding the rally in near a MQM-stronghold.
Pakistan arrests 47 Indian fishermen
On Saturday, Pakistani maritime forces arrested 47 Indian fishermen accused of violating Pakistan’s territorial waters in the Arabian Sea (AFP). Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency seized eight boats and handed the fishermen over to police in Karachi. Arrests of fishermen in the region are common due to the lack of good navigational capabilities, and fishermen often languish in jail because of India and Pakistan’s tense relations. In February, Pakistan released 172 Indian fishermen in a goodwill gesture. However, arrests have continued with 45 arrests last month.
— David Sterman and Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen
Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images