The South Asia Channel
Afghanistan, Pakistan Deal Causes Controversy; Indian Finance Minister Says Economy Will Grow; Pakistani Police Raid Political Leader’s Home
Editor’s note: The South Asia Channel will not publish a daily brief on Monday, May 25th in honor of Memorial Day. Regular publication will resume on Tuesday, May 26th. Afghanistan Deal with Pakistan causes controversy Reports of dissatisfaction and disagreement over an intelligence deal that Afghanistan signed with neighboring Pakistan have surfaced (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). It ...
Editor’s note: The South Asia Channel will not publish a daily brief on Monday, May 25th in honor of Memorial Day. Regular publication will resume on Tuesday, May 26th.
Deal with Pakistan causes controversy
Reports of dissatisfaction and disagreement over an intelligence deal that Afghanistan signed with neighboring Pakistan have surfaced (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). It was reported on Monday that the spy agencies of the two countries would share intelligence on militant groups near the border, according to a Memo of Understanding that was signed. According to an anonymous government official who spoke to RFE/RL, Chief Executive Office Abdullah Abdullah opposes the document, which allows cooperation between the two country’s intelligence agencies, and considers the deal “unacceptable.” Another Afghan official told Pajhwok Afghan News that a deal had never been signed, contrary to all other reports. Najibullah Manali, the media and culture advisor at the National Security Council, told Pajhwok that Afghan President Ghani would consult parliament and civil society groups over the proposed agreement, which is still in draft form, according to him.
Militias defend Kunduz
The Afghan government has enlisted hundreds of militia fighters near the northern city of Kunduz to help fight Taliban militants (Reuters). The militias, which are controlled by local commanders, are being used on a larger scale than before. “[Afghan National Security Forces] are capable of providing security, but these people know the area better and they are more useful,” said Kunduz Governor Mohammad Omar Safi. He told Reuters that about 1,000 fighters had been recruited and given ammunition and money in recent weeks. The Taliban have come close to capturing Kunduz through a weeks-long siege that has involved thousands of militants. The scale of the assault, which comes just a few months after NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan, has many worried.
Finance Minister: economy on track for stronger growth
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said that India has been getting back on track for stronger economic growth in the first year of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government (HT, WSJ, Hindu, Reuters). Talking to reporters in New Delhi on the occasion of Modi government completing its first year in office, Jaitley said: “There was a general environment of gloom one year back,” and emphasized that the strength of government efforts lay in “transparency in decision making and clarity of growth path.” Jaitley addressed the concerns of the business community by promising to tax “corporate profits at competitive rates,” and saying the government would do all in its power to implement a new goods and services tax (GST). He cited economic indicators such as falling current-account and fiscal deficits and rising foreign exchange reserves as proof of a strengthening economy. India’s economy is expected to grow between 7.5 and 8.0 percent in the year started April 1 2015, outpacing even China.
Tamil Nadu Governor invites former CM Jayalalithaa to form government
On Friday the governor of the southern state of Tamil Nadu invited former Chief Minister and leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party J. Jayalalithaa to form the state government (HT, Hindu, BBC). Governor K. Rosaiah accepted the resignations of AIADMK party leader and a Jayalalithaa loyalist O. Panneerselvam and his cabinet, and invited Jayalalitha to form a government “at the earliest.” Earlier on Friday, legislators belonging to AIADMK party met and elected Jayalalitha as the leader of the legislature party. Jayalalitha, a former actress, has been a leading figure in south Indian politics for three decades. Last year she was convicted in a corruption scandal where she was found guilty of amassing unaccounted-for wealth of more than $10m and had to resign as chief minister. Earlier this month, Karnataka High Court hearing on her appeal petition, decided in her favor, overturning the conviction. Although AIADMK is primarily a regional party, mostly influential in Tamil Nadu, it is also the third largest party in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament.
Police raid Pakistan Peoples Party leader’s home
A contingent of police entered the home of Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Pary and the former home minister of Sindh, on Monday (Dawn). Eight to ten supporters, including two of Mirza’s guards, were arrested by security personnel, who were acting on information about the presence of wanted persons in the residence. At least four police vans and several armored police vehicles were part of the raid. Mirza has three cases registered against him for rioting, looting, and attempted murder after he and his supporters allegedly attacked a police station and shops in Badin, but he is currently out on bail until May 30.
Airstrikes kill 15 militants in North Waziristan
Pakistani intelligence officials say Pakistani airstrikes killed at least 15 suspected militants on Thursday (RFE/RL, Reuters ). The strikes occurred in the northwestern Shawal Valley in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, according to a local security commander and two intelligence officials. The Taliban previously controlled all of North Waziristan, but has lost much of the territory after the Pakistani military launched an operation there in June. There have been a number of airstrikes in the region over the past week, but no sign of a ground offensive.
— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen