The South Asia Channel

Afghan Taliban Change Stance on Women’s Rights; India Unaware of Dawood Ibrahim’s Location; Pakistan Inaugurates Solar Park

The South Asia Daily Brief for Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Afghan schoolgirls attend a class at the Shahid Nasseri refugee camp in Taraz Nahid village near the city of Saveh, some 130 kms southwest of the capital Tehran, on February 8, 2015. Some 5000 Afghan refugees live at the camp which is run by the Iranian Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants' Affairs (BAFIA), the World Food Program (WFP) and UNHCR. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 950,000 registered Afghan residents in Iran -- some of whom have never even set foot in their homeland -- but interior ministry estimates around three million Afghans living in the Islamic republic. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI        (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan schoolgirls attend a class at the Shahid Nasseri refugee camp in Taraz Nahid village near the city of Saveh, some 130 kms southwest of the capital Tehran, on February 8, 2015. Some 5000 Afghan refugees live at the camp which is run by the Iranian Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants' Affairs (BAFIA), the World Food Program (WFP) and UNHCR. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 950,000 registered Afghan residents in Iran -- some of whom have never even set foot in their homeland -- but interior ministry estimates around three million Afghans living in the Islamic republic. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Taliban change stance on women’s rights

After the two-day informal gathering of Taliban members and an Afghan delegation in Qatar, representatives produced a series of agreements that, while not binding, raised the prospect of peace in Afghanistan (NYT). A summary of the talks was released by the organizers, the Canadian-based Pugwash Conferences, on Monday. One of the points of agreement was education for women, which in the past, has been outlawed by the Taliban. But according to Malalai Shinwari, who was part of the Afghan delegation, the Taliban representative, Abbas Stanikzai, referred to women’s rights in his remarks two separate times during the conference (Pajhwok). She also said that Taliban representatives discussed women’s rights with those women in attendance. Other points of agreement included the need for foreign forces to leave the country soon, the need for the Taliban to have a political office in Doha, Qatar, and that changes to the Constitution of Afghanistan could be up for discussion. Bonus Read: “Afghanistan, Domestic Violence and Divorce: One Woman’s Harrowing Story,” Sune Engel Rasmussen (Guardian).

Militants kill 13 Afghan soldiers

Taliban militants killed at least 13 Afghan soldiers when they stormed security outposts in Afghanistan’s remote northeast, officials said Tuesday (AFP). Noor Mohammad Khawri, the health director of Badakhshan, gave a higher death toll, saying that health authorities received the bodies of 18 border policemen and eight others who were wounded. The attack occurred just a day after the informal talks between an Afghan delegation and the Taliban in Qatar and just weeks after a similar Taliban raid on Army checkpoints in the province killed 18 soldiers.

Mystery seeds boost poppy harvest

According to Afghan officials, this year’s poppy harvest is expected to surpass last year’s country-wide record of 7,800 metric tons (8,600 U.S. tons) by as much as 7 percent and 22 percent in Kandahar and Helmand provinces respectively (AP). The increase is due, in part, to new seeds that have allowed the plants to grow bigger, faster, and without as much water this year. However, no one seems to know where the seeds come from; farmers say that the seeds were hand-delivered by the same men who collect the opium after it’s harvested. Afghanistan’s poppy harvest is worth an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and it provides funding for the Taliban.

India

India unaware of Dawood Ibrahim’s location

Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, a minister in India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, said in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on Tuesday that the Indian government will initiate the extradition process of Dawood Ibrahim — a wanted terrorist in India — once his location is known to the government (Livemint, Dawn). Dawood is accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, where over 250 people died after 13 explosions rocked the western city. Chaudhary’s statement contradicted the Indian government’s longstanding position that Dawood is based in Pakistan. In December 2014, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said: “We have repeatedly asked Pakistan to hand over Dawood Ibrahim. Let’s be patient; action will be taken soon” (NDTV). Reacting to Chaudhary’s statement, Congress party leader Sanjay Jha said: “BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] must explain its u-turn on Dawood” (IBNLive).

India loses $9.8 billion annually due to disasters

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) released its Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction – 2015, which estimates that India’s average annual loss from multi-hazard disasters is $9.8 billion per year, according to the news reports on Monday (IBNLive, Economic Times). The report stated that $7.4 billion from the $9.8 billion average annual loss in India is from flooding. Further, according to the report, 58.6 percent of India’s land is prone to earthquakes and 8.5 percent of India is vulnerable to cyclones.

PM Modi joins Weibo

Ahead of his visit to China later this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined Weibo, China’s main microblogging service, according to news reports on Monday (Indian Express, NDTV). Within hours of joining, Modi had more than 20,000 followers, and his first post in Mandarin read: “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo” (BBC). While most of the responses Modi received were welcoming, many posts called for India to return territory to China. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border. Modi will be visiting China on an official visit from May 14-16.

Pakistan

Pakistan inaugurates solar park

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated Pakistan’s first-ever solar generated energy park on Tuesday, naming it the Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park (QASP) (Dawn, ET). The QASP was designed to generate a total of 1,000MW of electricity, which Sharif said will help overcome the power shortage in Pakistan by 2017 or 2018. The QASP’s first unit reportedly underwent a test run last month, with much success. At the inauguration ceremony, Sharif mentioned the unprecedented $46 billion Chinese investment, which will aid in projects like the QASP going forward.

Pakistan sends more aid to Nepal

On Tuesday, Pakistan sent two C-130 aircraft full of relief goods to Nepal (ET). According to the National Disaster Management Authority, the relief package sent by Pakistan contained 700 tents and 400kg of medicine. Pakistan sent two other C-130 aircraft to Kathmandu on May 2. The goods are being sent in an effort to aid the country after Nepal was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, which has killed more than 7,000 people.

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. Twitter: @emilydsch
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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