The South Asia Channel

Pakistan, Iran Strike $5 Billion Trade Deal; India Bans Al Jazeera; Afghan Taliban Beheading Hazaras

Pakistan Pakistan, Iran strike $5 billion trade agreement On Wednesday, Pakistan and Iran reached an agreement to increase their bilateral trade to $5 billion over five years during the seventh Pakistan-Iran Joint Trade Committee meeting held in Tehran (Dawn). The Pakistani delegation was headed by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan while the Iranian delegation was ...

Iranians work on a section of a gas pipeline linking Iran and Pakistan after the project was launched during a ceremony in the Iranian border city of Chah Bahar on March 11, 2013. The presidents of Iran and Pakistan inaugurated the construction of a much-delayed section of a $7.5 billion gas pipeline linking the two neighbours, Iranian media reported. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)


Pakistan, Iran strike $5 billion trade agreement

On Wednesday, Pakistan and Iran reached an agreement to increase their bilateral trade to $5 billion over five years during the seventh Pakistan-Iran Joint Trade Committee meeting held in Tehran (Dawn). The Pakistani delegation was headed by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan while the Iranian delegation was headed by the Minister for Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh. As part of the deal, Pakistan will arrange the construction of pipeline from Gwadar, the port that is the capstone of China’s trade corridor through Pakistan, to Iran to enable the import of gas.

Pakistan in touch with India over boat investigation

On Thursday, Pakistan claimed that it is involved in an ongoing investigation of a Pakistani boat allegedly carrying 200 kg (441 lbs) of heroin that was stopped by India (ET). Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam stated: “The government is constantly in touch with our High Commission in New Delhi.” Eight crew members, reportedly from Pakistan, were detained aboard the boat.

— David Sterman


India bans Al Jazeera over a map of Kashmir

India took the Al Jazeera channel off air for five days starting on Wednesday, claiming that the channel had shown incorrect maps of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (BBC). According to India, the map shows the Kashmir region divided between China, India, and Pakistan. While maps approved by the Indian government show Kashmir entirely under the control of India, other maps show the de facto border between India and Pakistan. The Al Jazeera channel displayed a blue screen with a message stating: “As instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available from 00.01 hours on 22nd April till 00.01 hours on 27th April 2015” (NDTV). Al Anstey, the managing director of Al Jazeera English, called the ban “disproportionate,” and further said it “needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programmes” (Al Jazeera). Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between both countries for more than 60 years.

Indian cabinet approves proposal to change juvenile age

India’s Union Cabinet, rejecting the recommendations of a parliamentary committee, approved a proposal to try juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 years as adults when they are accused of heinous crimes like rape or murder, according to news reports on Thursday (WSJ, Indian Express). The government released an official statement stating: “Since this assessment will be made by the Board which will have psychologists and social experts, it will ensure that the rights of the juvenile are duly protected if he has committed the crime as a child. The trial of the case will accordingly take place as a juvenile or as an adult on the basis of this assessment” (Livemint). The federal Ministry for Women and Child Development drafted the amendments to the juvenile justice law in response to the 2012 gang-rape, where a 23-year-old student was brutally gang-raped and tortured by six men on a moving bus in New Delhi. One of the accused rapists was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed.

Storm kills 42 in eastern India

A severe storm killed 42 people and injured hundreds in the eastern state of Bihar, according to news reports on Tuesday (Indian Express, BBC). The storm uprooted electric poles and trees and damaged crops, including wheat, maize, and pulses. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said: “Crops have also severely been damaged. In fact, the maize crop has been completely flattened. We are in the process of estimating the destruction. We are going to hold video-conferencing with all the affected districts today evening over it” (Economic Times).

— Neeli Shah


Bonus Read: “Richard C. Holbrooke’s Diary of Disagreement With Obama Administration,” Matthew Rosenberg (NYT)

Taliban beheading Hazaras to match ISIS

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the Taliban have engaged in a wave of kidnappings and beheadings of members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority in part as a result of an effort to match ISIS (NYT). On Sunday, police in Ghazni Province confirmed that four Hazara farmers had been found beheaded in Ajristan District and local reports suggest that another six were beheaded in Ajristan. Shahgul Rezaye, a Hazara Member of Parliament, stated: “The Taliban are trying to send out a new message that they are similar in their brutality to ISIS,” continuing: “They’re trying to show they are as bad as ISIS.” While ISIS has embraced beheadings citing Quranic justifications for the practice, the Taliban has traditionally distanced itself from the practice even releasing a statement on Tuesday calling beheading un-Islamic after Taliban followers in Badakhshan province beheaded Afghan soldiers.

Man detained in Farkhunda case

On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security announced that it had arrested another suspect in the murder of Farkhunda – the man who allegedly drove over her with his car (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Farkhunda, a 27-year-old woman was killed by a mob in Kabul last month after she was accused of burning a Quran. The arrested suspect drove his car over her and is also suspected of being one of the people that later threw Farkhunda’s body into the Kabul River and set it on fire. Following the murder, the suspect reportedly sold his car and fled from Kabul to his hometown, Kapisa.

Government holds first cabinet meeting without a defense minister

On Wednesday night, Afghanistan’s government held its first cabinet meeting seven months after the National Unity Government took office (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Afghanistan’s lower house confirmed sixteen cabinet ministers earlier this week. Environmental issues were reportedly to be on the agenda of the meeting. Despite the cabinet meeting, there has yet to be agreement on a nominee for defense minister and the position remains unfilled (TOLO News). On Monday, Muhammad Nazeer Ahmadzai, the second deputy of Afghanistan’s lower house, said that the government agreed on Abdullah Habibi as a nominee but no official nomination papers have been filed.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen


 Twitter: @Dsterms
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. Twitter: @neelishah
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