The South Asia Channel

Afghan Officials, Taliban Meet in Qatar; Indian Soldiers Killed in Militant Attack; Sharif Visits North Waziristan

Afghanistan Afghan officials, Taliban meet in Qatar On Sunday, Afghan government officials and Taliban militants met for two days of meetings near Doha, Qatar (NYT). Although neither side denied that the meetings were taking place, both failed to categorize the sessions as peace talks. The Taliban said that the eight members of their delegation were ...

Guests arrive for the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha on June 18, 2013. The office is intended to open dialogue with the international community and Afghan groups for a "peaceful solution" in Afghanistan office spokesman Mohammed Naim told reporters. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TIMIMI (Photo credit should read FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images)


Afghan officials, Taliban meet in Qatar

On Sunday, Afghan government officials and Taliban militants met for two days of meetings near Doha, Qatar (NYT). Although neither side denied that the meetings were taking place, both failed to categorize the sessions as peace talks. The Taliban said that the eight members of their delegation were attending the meetings in their personal capacities, releasing a statement calling the meetings a “research conference,” and adding that the meetings “should not be misconstrued as peace or negotiation talks.” Afghan government officials called the meetings “scientific discussions.” On Sunday, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told Voice of America that Pakistan welcomes the talks in Qatar (VOA).

A joint final statement is expected to be released on Monday, however one Taliban participant in the talks told Reuters by phone late on Sunday that they discussed a possible cease-fire, but ultimately disagreed over the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (Reuters).

Trial begins in Farkhunda case

On Sunday, the trial of 49 defendants, including 19 police officers, on charges stemming from the mob killing of Farkhunda — an Afghan woman beaten to death on March 19 in Kabul — began (AP, VOA, Pajhwok). A mob attacked 27-year-old Farkhunda after she was accused of having burned a copy of the Quran, which prosecutors say was a false allegation. The police officers are charged because they failed to stop the attack, and some are alleged to have even participated.

Freedom of press in Afghanistan under fire

On World Press Freedom Day in Kabul on Sunday, Afghan media expressed concerns over restriction on local media placed by the Ministry of Information and Culture in which officials from the ministry reportedly referred some print media agencies to the media complaints commission for breaking regulations set out for freedom of the press (TOLO News). Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Bari Jahani denied any restrictions on the media and added that their recent actions against some newspapers were because “articles being published by these newspapers are offending others.” Ajmal Obaid Abidi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said that government was committed to supporting freedom of expression in the country. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, 47 percent of violence against journalists is attributed to government departments.


Indian soldiers killed in militant attack

Militants ambushed and killed eight soldiers in the north-eastern state of Nagaland on Sunday, while they stopped to fetch water from a stream (NYT, NDTV, BBC, Indian Express). According to the Indian police, four other soldiers are still missing, and six have been injured. The militants, demanding an independent state for approximately two million Naga people, primarily live in the north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland. This was the second militant attack in recent weeks. There has been an increase in violence in the north-east region after the government broke off a ceasefire agreement with the militants last month.

India seeks U.N. intervention for 26/11 mastermind

India sought the United Nations’ (U.N.) intervention in the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander and alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, according to news reports on Saturday (NDTV, Indian Express, ET). Lakhvi was among the seven people charged with planning, financing, and executing the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed. In response to India’s letter, Jim McLay, the chair of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, informed the Indian government that it will circulate the letter among all committee members. On Sunday, Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said: “It is not obligation to keep in detention those persons who have been banned by the UNSC al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee,” and further said that the UNSC al Qaeda Sanctions Committee can only freeze assets and impose sanctions on terrorists linked with al Qaeda (The Nation).

India media slammed for Nepal earthquake

While India was the first country to rush to Nepal’s aid after a 7.9-magnitude quake in April killed more than 7,000 people, the Nepalis criticized the Indian media for its “relentless and aggressive” coverage, according to news reports on Sunday (Economic Times, Hindustan Times). By Sunday, #GoHomeIndianMedia was the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Nepal, created to slam the Indian media. Twitter users accused the Indian media of being insensitive to survivors, and not helping those in need of immediate medical aid. While one user tweeted: “Stop your media-quake!! We are already in pang by devastating earthquake and your news are not helping the victims,” another tweeted: “Indian media ruining harmony, neighbourhood, respect and affection between Nepal-India by their unethical journalism”  (Times of India).


Bonus Read: “After years of tension, Anti-American sentiment ebbs in Pakistan,” Tim Craig (Washington Post).

Sharif made rare visit to North Waziristan tribal area

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited North Waziristan on Friday, praising the army for its successes in the ongoing military offensive in the area (RFE/RL). Sharif said in a televised statement: “Peace has been restored. It is because of the sacrifices of the armed forces.” He also encouraged the 80,000 displaced people from the region to return home. Over the weekend, the Pakistani military announced it killed at least 44 militants in airstrikes in the region (RFE/RL).

Supreme Court hearing state religion case

On Monday, a 17-judge panel of the Pakistani Supreme Court heard constitutional petitions against the 18th and 21st amendments challenging Pakistan’s official status as a Muslim state (ET). Many justices were concerned with the process of how Pakistan would change to a secular state, including Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk. Justice Mian Saqib Nisar questioned how a political party in power would go about doing such, while Justice Asif Saeed Khosa questioned whether parliament had the power to pass an amendment to the Constitution changing the religious status of the state.

Inflation rate falls for April

Pakistan’s annual inflation rate fell from 2.49 percent in March to 2.11 percent in April, translating into only a 1.32 percent increase in prices in April, according to a statement by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on Monday (Dawn). The average annual inflation rate from July 2014 to April 2015 was 4.81 percent. The bureau’s chief statistician, Asif Bajwa, expects inflation to stay in its current range, barring an increase in oil prices or any unexpected incidents. Inflation in Pakistan is now at an 11 year low. Jeffrey Franks, the International Monetary Fund mission chief for Pakistan, said in April: “The economy grew about 4 percent last year, and we’re expecting a similar figure this year.”

— Courtney Schuster and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen


Courtney Schuster is a research associate with the International Security Program at New America and an assistant editor with the South Asia Channel.
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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