The South Asia Channel
Afghan Taliban Feels Pressure from ISIS; Malala Suspects Secretly Acquitted in Pakistan; Protests Intensify in Jammu
Afghanistan Afghan Taliban fighting ISIS for territory, recruits Militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or ISIS in Afghanistan are becoming more than a nuisance to the country’s larger militant group, the Afghan Taliban, by claiming territory and attacking Taliban members, the New York Times reported on Thursday (NYT). Throughout the month, ISIS ...
Afghan Taliban fighting ISIS for territory, recruits
Militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or ISIS in Afghanistan are becoming more than a nuisance to the country’s larger militant group, the Afghan Taliban, by claiming territory and attacking Taliban members, the New York Times reported on Thursday (NYT). Throughout the month, ISIS members have been attacking veteran Taliban units south and east of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Afghan Army corps in the region said that ISIS fighters captured and beheaded 10 Taliban fighters who had been fleeing a military offensive. ISIS has been recruiting in Afghanistan since at least April 2014, but hasn’t been very successful, according to Graeme Smith, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Kabul.
Afghans and Taliban members have ‘informal’ talks in Norway
A group of Afghan politicians and civil society members, including several women, have been holding talks with Taliban representatives in Norway, according to an email sent to members of the media on Friday (AFP, RFE/RL, TOLO). Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office issued a statement saying, “We appreciate these are nongovernment talks, they are not representing the government of Afghanistan.” A Norwegian Foreign Minstry spokesman said that participants are attending in their individual capacities and are expressing their personal views and that it is Norwegian policy to facilitate these types of contacts. Female lawmakers Shukria Barekzai and Fawzia Kofi and two female members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council are reportedly among the participants. Bonus read: “How to Promote Women’s Rights, in Afghanistan and Around the World,” Elizabeth Weingarten (SouthAsia)
Malala’s suspected attackers ‘secretly acquitted’
Eight of the 10 men reportedly jailed for the attempted assassination of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai were acquitted, BBC reported Friday (BBC, ET). In April, officials in Pakistan said that 10 Taliban fighters had been found guilty and were sentenced to 25-year jail terms, but sources told BBC that only two of the men who stood trial were convicted. The secrecy of the trial and the fact that it was held behind closed doors at a military facility raised questions about its validity. Muneer Ahmed, a spokesman for the Pakistani High Commission in London, said on Friday that the eight men were acquitted because of a lack of evidence.
Human rights groups alarmed at Pakistan’s executions
Human rights groups expressed concern over the fast pace with which Pakistani authorities are executing death row prisoners, as the total number of executions this year reached at least 135 this week — higher than any other year in a decade (NYT). The Pakistani government does not release official figures on executions, but Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group, estimated that 135 executions had taken place in the five months since lifting the moratorium on the death penalty in December. Reprieve, a Britain-based nonprofit group, estimated the number to be 150 executions. Rights groups say that the executions do not necessarily halt incidents of terrorism in Pakistan and with its disorganized criminal justice system, the risk of wrongful convictions is high.
Bonus read: “India is building millions of toilets, but that’s the easy part,” Rama Lakshmi (Post)
Protests intensify in Jammu valley over removal of posters of Khalistan militant leader
Protests have intensified in the north western Jammu valley on Friday over the removal of posters of Khalistan militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (TOI). The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement which aims to create an independent homeland for Sikhs in South Asia and during the 70s and 80s was the main source of militancy in Indian Punjab. Sikh youths took to the streets for the third day after a young man Jagjit Singh, was killed and seven injured in clashes with police over the issue on Thursday. Authorities have imposed a curfew in numerous cities in the valley including areas of Satwari, Ranibagh, and Gadigarh. Protesters blocked the Jammu-Pathakote highway. Similar protests were held in Poonch, Kathua, and Rajouri areas. Mobile and internet services were suspended in Jammu while educational institutions in several districts of the region were closed. Police sources in Jammu have described the situation as “tense but under control.”
Air India crew member detained in Jeddah
A cabin crew member of India’s national flag carrier Air India was detained at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, allegedly for attempting to smuggle gold out of the country (NDTV, TOI). Air India has confirmed that one of their employees was detained but said the reason for detention for not known at the moment. Sources in New Delhi told NDTV that the detained cabin crew was to board the flight bound for Kochi, along with 11 other crew members.
India bans Nestle’s 2-minute instant noodles snack
India’s food safety regulator, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said on Friday that tests found Nestle India’s Maggi instant noodle products to be “unsafe and hazardous” and that Nestle has “failed to comply with food safety regulations” (TOI, LiveMint,Hindu). Nestle withdrew the Maggi brand from stores, after regulators found higher than allowed levels of lead in some packets. Several states have also been testing the noodles for the chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG. Maggi is a market leader in India, where a packet of the 2-minutes instant snack costs 12 rupees (19 cents). Nestle’s global chief executive Paul Bulcke told reporters in New Delhi, “I am confident that we are going to come back very soon.” Safety concerns about the product continued to spread with Singapore’s food safety authority announcing on Friday morning that it will be testing samples of Maggi’s instant noodles imported from India.
— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen