The South Asia Channel

Gunmen Kill 42 in Attack on Bus in Karachi; US Helicopter Missing in Nepal; Opposition Criticizes Land Bill in India; Afghan First Lady Speaks at Ceremony

Pakistan Gunmen kill 42 in attack on bus in Karachi Gunmen on motorbikes attacked a bus carrying 42 people who were members of the minority Ismaili Muslim community on Wednesday (CNN, BBC). Six  attackers used 9 mm pistols to shoot at the 60 people on the bus as they were traveling to a Shia place ...

Pakistani volunteers stand beside the bus that was carrying Shiite Muslims and taken to a hospital after an attack by gunmen in Karachi on May 13, 2015. At least 43 members of Pakistan's Shiite Ismaili minority were killed when gunmen opened fire on their bus in Karachi on May 13, police said, with a leaflet at the scene claiming the attack on behalf of the Islamic State group.  AFP PHOTO/ Rizwan TABASSUM        (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani volunteers stand beside the bus that was carrying Shiite Muslims and taken to a hospital after an attack by gunmen in Karachi on May 13, 2015. At least 43 members of Pakistan's Shiite Ismaili minority were killed when gunmen opened fire on their bus in Karachi on May 13, police said, with a leaflet at the scene claiming the attack on behalf of the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO/ Rizwan TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Gunmen kill 42 in attack on bus in Karachi

Gunmen on motorbikes attacked a bus carrying 42 people who were members of the minority Ismaili Muslim community on Wednesday (CNN, BBC). Six  attackers used 9 mm pistols to shoot at the 60 people on the bus as they were traveling to a Shia place of worship in Karachi. After the attack, the bus was driven to a hospital parking lot. Jundallah, a violent extremist group that targets Pakistan’s Shiite Muslim minority claimed responsibility for the attack. “This is the first such incident of its kind towards the Ismaili community,” said Zohra Yusuf, the chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “Nothing on this scale has ever been seen before.” Previously, the Ismaili community was not targeted by extremist groups, unlike many of the other minority Shiite groups.

Pakistan hangs former MQM worker for murder

On Tuesday, Pakistan hanged Saulat Mirza,  a former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) worker convicted of murder,  after delaying his execution multiple times (BBC, Dawn). Mirza was convicted in 1999 of killing the head of Karachi’s power utility service, Shahid Hamid. His execution was scheduled for March 19, 2015 after Pakistan lifted its unofficial moratorium on the death penalty earlier this year following a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar. His execution was delayed after he released a video alleging that the killing of Hamid was ordered by MQM chief Altaf Hussain. His video-taped allegations came just one week after authorities raided MQM headquarters in Karachi. Hussain, who lives in self-imposed exile in London, has denied any involvement in the murder of Hamid.

Nepal

Casualties rise from second earthquake

A U.S. Marine helicopter in Nepal carrying six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers went missing Tuesday evening while delivering aid to victims of the latest earthquake. The helicopter and its crew have yet to be found, but officials are hopeful that the helicopter did not crash (BBC).

As of early Wednesday, Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center had reported 65 deaths and 1,988 injuries as a result of Tuesday’searthquake (New York Times). India’s home minister said 16 people were killed in the northeastern state of Bihar, with an additional person killed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. CCTV, the Chinese state-run broadcaster, reported one person killed by the earthquake in Tibet. The earlier earthquake on April 25 has killed over 8,000 people.

India

Opposition renews criticism of government’s land bill

Opponents of the government’s proposed land acquisition bill once again took aim at the legislation in India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha (NDTVThe Times of IndiaZee NewsThe Huffington Post). The bill has been introduced by the ruling party, the BJP, and it would make it easier for the government to acquire land for development. Critics of the bill claim it hurts the poor, particularly farmers, while proponents argue that it is a much-needed measure that can streamline economic development efforts. The proposed law was previously debated in the Lok Sabha in April. Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party in Parliament, took advantage of the new debate and proclaimed that the government has “murdered” the existing land acquisition laws. Gandhi has been the most vocal opponent of the bill after returning from a mysterious voluntary two-month hiatus from Parliament. The bill has stalled in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s parliament, where the government is in a minority.

Study finds lack of regulatory approval for drug combinations sold in India

A study published Tuesday in the medical journal PLOS Medicine found that almost two-thirds of drug combinations sold in India to treat pain, depression, and psychotic conditions lack adequate regulatory approval (Reuters). These cocktails of drugs are known as fixed-dose combinations (FDCs). In 2012, an Indian parliamentary panel had warned that a large number of FDCs were reaching the market only with approval from state regulators, despite laws requiring regulatory approval from the central government for all new drugs, including FDCs. In some cases, according to the study, some of the individual drugs included in the FDCs were banned or unapproved internationally. The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Patricia McGettigan of Queen Mary University of London, argues that India should ban the sale and manufacturing of FDCs not approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), the country’s central regulatory authority on pharmaceuticals (Science Daily).

Google to expand in India

Google and the government of the state of Telangana have signed a deal for Google to build a 2 million square foot campus outside the city of Hyderabad. Google will invest 10 billion rupees ($156 million) in what would become the company’s largest campus outside the United States and Google’s first company-owned campus in Asia (Livemint). Construction for the facility will begin in 2016 and is expected to be completed by 2019. Google currently has four offices in India, in the cities of Bengaluru, Mumbai, Gurgaon, and Hyderabad. The new facility would double the size of Google’s Indian workforce from 6,500 to 13,000, according to Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao (The Times of India). Meanwhile, Hyderabad may also become the first Indian city to be entirely covered by Google Street View, which provides panoramic street-level imagery for Google’s map services.Google is negotiating with the Indian home ministry for permission to expand this service at a city-wide level, and the company has agreed to the Telangana government’s request to launch the service in Hyderabad (Hindustan Times).

Afghanistan

Afghan first lady speaks at awards luncheon

Afghan first lady Rula Ghani spoke at the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) 2015 Madeleine K. Albright luncheon on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (Pajhwok). At the luncheon, NDI awarded its 2015 Albright Grant to the Worker Women Social Organization (WWSO), a grassroots group based in Kandahar, Afghanistan that empowers young girls to become leaders through after-school programs and training sessions. Ghani’s remarks focused largely on the plight of Afghan women, but her tone was optimistic. She said: “Afghan women are among the strongest women I have ever had the privilege to know,” and added that “they are hardworking, persistent, resourceful, and they are tough. If they need support and help it is not because they are weak or clueless but because they are strong and will put every little bit of support to good use.”

Afghanistan, Pakistan pledge to fight terrorism together

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to fight terrorism together in a press conference on Tuesday at the end of Sharif’s first visit to Kabul since Ghani’s inauguration (Guardian). Strengthening relations with Pakistan has been a top priority for Ghani, who previously hosted Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, who was also part of the most recent delegation. At the press conference, Sharif said: “I assure you, Mr. President, that the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be friends of Pakistan.” He explained that “any effort by any militant or group to destabilize Afghanistan will be dealt with severely and such elements will be outlawed and hunted down.”

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

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