The South Asia Channel

Pakistan Condemns Afghan Taliban; Ghani: Let Taliban Be Part of Peace Talks; India Rejects U.S. Religious Freedom Report

Pakistan Condemns Afghan Taliban; Ghani: Let Taliban Be Part of Peace Talks; India Rejects U.S. Religious Freedom Report

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Pakistan

Pakistan condemns Afghan Taliban

On Thursday, Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman, Tasneem Aslam, in her weekly press conference in Islamabad condemned the Taliban’s “spike in violence” in its annual spring offensive in Afghanistan (VOA, ET). Aslam said: “[Pakistan] would like to see a national reconciliation process in Afghanistan.” Voice of America reports that Pakistani officials have been in secret contact with Taliban leaders urging them to participate in peace talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Pakistan, which has been accused of providing support for the Taliban’s past spring offensives, is considered a wild-card factor in any potential Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.

Peace committee leader killed by roadside bomb

Khalid Khan, a peace committee leader, was killed on Friday when a roadside improvised explosive device planted 20 meters [66 feet] from his home exploded in Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (ET, Dawn). Khan’s father, Maulana Guldad Khan, is a prominent anti-Taliban peace committee leader who has survived at least 13 similar attacks. According to a statement from the TTP spokesperson, Muhammad Khorasani, its Janbaz Ali faction carried out the attack in reaction to Pakistan’s Khyber-II military campaign.

Afghanistan

Ghani: let the Taliban be part of peace talks

While on his official state visit to India, President Ghani spoke at the Indian Council on World Affairs in New Delhi on Thursday on the right of insurgent groups to participate in the government (TOLO News). Ghani, referring to the Taliban and other anti-government insurgent groups, said: “Anyone who has a political reason for being against our government must enter the political process. This is not preferred, but rather is compulsory. With the formation of a national unity government we proved that we are determined to pursue broad-based politics and not to deprive a party [of inclusion].” According to Ghani, he is ready for talks with the Taliban and allowing them to take part in the politics of the country within the framework of the constitution.

Afghan clerics condemn ISIS, Taliban

Afghan religious scholars gathered in Kabul on Thursday at the Abdul Tahman mosque to show support for the Afghan government and Saudi cleric Sheikh Khaled Al-Ghamedi (TOLO News). Al-Ghamedi spoke recently in the holy city Mecca condemning ISIS and the Taliban as “deviants from Islam and calling on all true Muslims to stand against them,” according to TOLO News. Maulvi Abdul Basir Haqqani, head of Kabul Ulema, said the continuation of the war in Afghanistan was a violation of Islamic values and it must end, adding: “This war between Taliban and the government is political war. Both the sides should put an end to it,” (Pajhwok).

Fierce fighting in Kunduz province continues

Afghan security forces continue their now week long fight against the Afghan Taliban in its annual spring offensive in Kunduz province (RFE/RL). Around 2,000 Afghan Taliban members hold territory in four parts of the province near Kunduz city while security forces are battling inside the city, attempting to drive the Taliban out. Hundreds of residents of Kabul have donated blood and asked health officials to use the donations to aid wounded security forces in Kunduz (TOLO News).

India

India rejects a U.S. report on religious freedom

India rejected a report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which strongly criticizes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for subjecting minorities to violent attacks, according to news reports on Thursday (BBC, IBNLive). A statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated: “It [the USCIRF report] appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its constitution and its society. We take no cognizance of this report” (NDTV). The USCIRF report states that religious minority communities have been subject to “derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)” (Economic Times). The report recommends that the Indian government “publicly rebuke government officials and religious leaders that make derogatory statements about religious communities.” U.S. President Barack Obama, during his visit to New Delhi earlier this year, said that “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines.”

Snapdeal under heat for selling prescription drugs online

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the state of Maharashtra, located in western India, filed a first information report (FIR) against the e-commerce giant Snapdeal.com for allegedly selling prescription drugs online, according to news reports on Friday (NDTV, Livemint). FDA Commissioner Harshadeep Kamble said: “These are prescription drugs and cannot be sold in unlicensed premises. These drugs are only supposed to be sold under the supervision of registered pharmacists and only when prescribed by a registered medical practitioner. They cannot be sold like regular commodities… We will also be checking Flipkart and Amazon for such violation” (Times of India). The FDA had raided Snapdeal.com last month after it found the company was selling precription drugs online. The e-commerce company had said that it was delisting the drugs, and was assisting in the investigation.

Yoga guru’s drug promises male children

Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) demanded a ban on yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s drug called “Putrajeevak Beej” (the seed that gives life to a son) on Thursday (Indian Express). Opposition parties criticized the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of appointing Ramdev as an ambassador of the northern state of Haryana, which has the worst gender ratio in India. In response to the demand on banning the drug because it was illegal and unconstitutional, the Indian Health Minister J. P. Nadda said: “It is a serious matter. [The] Government is serious about gender ratio. All departments are working towards it. PM is himself monitoring ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme… The Government will look into it and proper action will be taken” (Times of India). Modi’s “Beti Padhao Beti Bachao” (Save the girl child, educate her) program aims at reversing the skewed gender ratio in India. Ramdev’s medical trust denied creating a drug that promotes male children, and issued a release stating: “Few peoples’ ignorance and vested interest is trying to malign Ayurveda. The botanical name of the ingredient used is Putrajeevak Roxburghii, and that it has nothing to do with sex determination” (NDTV).

— Courtney Schuster and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images