UN: Almost 1000 Civilians Killed in Afghan Conflict’s First Four Months; Pakistani Man’s Execution Stayed for Fourth Time; Indian Police Kill “12 Maoist Rebels”
Event Notice: “War of Women,” Wednesday, June 10, 5:30pm -7:00pm (NewAmerica)
UN: Almost 1,000 civilians killed in Afghanistan in first four months of year
Thousands of people are being killed and wounded, and thousands of families have had to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere this year because of the conflict in Afghanistan, said Mark Bowden, the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in the country (TOLO, UN). Speaking at the Second Independent Media and Civil Society Forum in Kabul earlier this week, the U.N. envoy, who is also the deputy head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said the intensifying conflict so far this year is taxing humanitarian capacities. “As of 30 April, 1,989 Afghans were injured as a result of the conflict and 978 Afghan civilians killed, throughout the country,” Mr. Bowden said. He added: “At this period of increased need, it is particularly disturbing to note that humanitarian aid workers are increasingly becoming targets themselves.”
Afghan advocate for bicycling keeps peddling, despite bumpy ride
University student Zahra Hussaini has been riding her bicycle through the central Afghan town of Bamian for three years — sometimes dressed as a man to avoid criticism (LAT). The town has few taxis and women are forced to walk most places, especially at the university, where students walk several miles from their dorms to campus. Hussaini’s mode of transportation was criticized by local religious leaders, but since they didn’t name her specifically, Hussaini kept biking. Hussaini’s cycling also caught the attention of her peers, and in August, five young women she trained made Afghanistan’s national cycling team. Eventually, men approached her for lessons too. Even one of her professors asked her to give lessons to his wife and daughter. Last summer, she helped organize Tour De Bamian, a 22-mile ride that took cyclists past the site of 6th century Buddha statues destroyed by Taliban militants in 2001; the competition drew 100 riders, including nine women. “Bike riding is good for the environment and health,” she said. “I, of course, want more women everywhere to join in.”
Bonus Read: “How High Can Pakistan’s Air Force Women Fly?” Bina Shah (NYT)
Pakistani man has death penalty deferred for fourth time
A Pakistani man whose lawyers say was a child when he was charged with murder and only confessed after being tortured was granted a reprieve on Tuesday just hours before he was due to be executed (Reuters, Dawn). This was the fourth time Shafqat Hussain’s death penalty has been stayed. The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a human rights law firm representing Hussain, said the Supreme Court in Islamabad agreed to hear an appeal against an earlier court decision that rejected an inquiry into the case. Hussain’s lawyers say he was just 14 years old when, in 2004, he was burned with cigarettes and had fingernails removed until he confessed to the murder of a child. Authorities say he was 23 when he was sentenced. His case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and attention from the media has buoyed his family’s hopes that his conviction will be overturned. Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty after a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar in December; since then, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has estimated that 135 people have been executed.
Militants killed in air strikes near Afghan border
Twelve militants were killed in precise air strikes by the Pakistani military Tuesday morning in Khyber Agency, close to the Afghanistan border, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations statement (ET). Initial reports suggested that some militant hideouts were also destroyed. The area near the border is a key smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan and is a refuge for the Taliban. The airstrikes are part of an ongoing effort by the Pakistani military to clear militants from the area.
Bonus: “How India Counts Its Hundreds of Thousands of Missing Children,” Nimisha Jaiswal (Wall Street Journal)
Indian police kill “12 Maoist rebels” in Jharkhand
According to police sources in the eastern state of Jharkhand, 12 alleged Maoist rebels were killed in a firefight with the police early on Tuesday (BBC, Guardian, NYT, Reuters). Talking to Reuters Jharkhand police spokesman S.N. Pradhan said: “We have recovered the bodies of 12 rebels from the spot. This is a big achievement for us.” Jharkhand is among a dozen states in India fighting a four-decade old Maoist insurgency that the previous government described as the country’s biggest internal security threat. The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of peasants and landless labourers. They routinely call strikes, attack government property, and target politicians and police, mostly across rural parts of India’s east and south. Reports indicate that no policemen were injured or killed in the incident. In April 2014 Maoist rebels ambushed a police vehicle in the same region in Jharkhand state and killed six police officers during India’s national elections.
Delhi state law minister arrested over charges of fraud
On Tuesday New Delhi state law minister Jitendra Singh Tomar was arrested for allegedly holding a fake degree in law and registering as an attorney, a move widely criticized by his party members (HT, TOI, NDTV, ZeeNews). He faces charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy, and forging documents, said Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to seven years. According to Bhagat, Tomar said he obtained a law degree from a university in Bihar state, but police found it to be fake. The Bar Association of New Delhi has registered a police complaint against Tomar. Several Indian politicians, including some in the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) face similar charges. Tomar belongs to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) formed by anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal. The AAP won a massive victory in elections in New Delhi earlier this year, defeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.
Indian Coast Guard surveillance aircraft goes missing
An Indian Coast Guard Dornier aircraft went missing off the south eastern coast of Puducherry on Monday night (Hindu, WSJ). The Coast Guard has launched a search and rescue mission for the aircraft which had two pilots and a navigator on board. According to officials, eight ships and two aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard are being used in the search operation. The spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Sitanshu Kar, confirmed that the missing aircraft had been deployed for surveillance of the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coastline. It lost contact when it was about 27 nautical miles southeast off Cuddalore and 32 nautical miles northeast off Karaikal around 9 pm local time.
— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen