The South Asia Channel

Iran Supplying Afghan Taliban with Arms, Cash; NGOs Purportedly Working Against Pakistan Must Leave; Chandigarh’s Sculpture Gardens Artist Dies

Afghanistan Iran supplying Taliban with cash, arms Iran is supplying weapons, ammunition, and funding to the Taliban as well as recruiting and training their fighters, according to Afghan and Western officials (WSJ).  “At the beginning Iran was supporting Taliban financially,” said a senior Afghan official. “But now they are training and equipping them, too.” Iran ...

This photo taken on June 7, 2015 shows the projected image of a Buddha statue in Bamiyan that had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The initiative to visually restore the destroyed antiquities was dreamt up by Chinese couple Zhang Xinyu and Liang Hong, who are travelling through countries on the historic Silk Road route.  AFP PHOTO / Kamran Shafayee        (Photo credit should read KAMRAN SHAFAYEE/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 7, 2015 shows the projected image of a Buddha statue in Bamiyan that had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The initiative to visually restore the destroyed antiquities was dreamt up by Chinese couple Zhang Xinyu and Liang Hong, who are travelling through countries on the historic Silk Road route. AFP PHOTO / Kamran Shafayee (Photo credit should read KAMRAN SHAFAYEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Iran supplying Taliban with cash, arms

Iran is supplying weapons, ammunition, and funding to the Taliban as well as recruiting and training their fighters, according to Afghan and Western officials (WSJ).  “At the beginning Iran was supporting Taliban financially,” said a senior Afghan official. “But now they are training and equipping them, too.” Iran has even begun to turn to Afghan immigrants within its borders to find new recruits for the Taliban by offering to double their salaries if they join the Taliban. Officials say Iran’s strategy in backing the Taliban is countering U.S. influence in the region and providing a counterweight to the Islamic State’s move into Taliban territory in the country. “Iran is betting on the re-emergence of the Taliban,” said a Western diplomat. “They are uncertain about where Afghanistan is heading right now, so they are hedging their bets.”

Buddhas resurrected using lasers

The Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, a cultural icon in Afghanistan for more than 1,500 years that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, were recreated using 3-D projection this past week (Atlantic). The two Buddhas, which stood at over 100 feet tall, were constructed in the sixth century when Bamiyan was a site of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Since the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas in March 2001, UNESCO officials and Afghan authorities have failed to reach a consensus on how to best address the devastation. The temporary projections that occurred on Saturday and Sunday were holograms, cast from projectors mounted on scaffolding, were the work of a Chinese couple who are traveling the world and filming a documentary. They designed and finalized the project in China, then received approval from UNESCO and the Afghan government to display the projections at the site. The event was not publicized, but around 150 showed up to watch the spectacle.

Pakistan

NGOs purportedly working against Pakistan’s interest must leave

Interior Minister Chadhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday said that no NGO working against the coutnry’s interest would be allowed to continue its work in Pakistan (Dawn, ET). He said that some NGOs should be investigated for performing outside of their domains and that the plan formulated last year to regulate the functioning of NGOs needed to be implemented. “We don’t want to put ban on any NGO but we want to compel them to work under their charter,” Khan said. The statement comes a day after authorities ordered the international aid group Save the Children to leave Pakistan saying the charity was “working against the country.”

Pakistan upset by India’s raid into Myanmar

The Indian army’s brief raid into Myanmar to hunt rebels on Tuesday set off alarm bells in Pakistan, whom it blames for stoking rebellion in the disputed region of Kashmir, and some officials believe that the incident could set a precedent for more cross-border raids (Reuters). Tuesday’s cross-border raid prompted a series of verbal exchanges between Indian and Pakistani officials. For example, Hours after the 70 Indian special forces crossed into Myanmar from two northeastern states and killed an unspecified number of rebels, junior minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said it was a message to Pakistan that India will go after militants anywhere, which some heard as a direct reference to Kashmir. Pakistan then accused India of creating trouble in Baluchistan, a province torn by militant violence.

Pakistan rejects EU concerns over executions

Pakistan on Friday rejected European Union (EU) concerns over the death penalty in Pakistan, saying that Pakistan is not violating any international laws (Dawn). “Only such convicts are being hanged who are involved in heinous crimes,” said Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah during a news briefing in Islamabad. He added that the awarding of death sentences is Pakistan’s internal affair. On Thursday, the EU expressed concerns over the increasing frequency of executions in Pakistan and demanded that the government reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty, which had been lifted earlier this year.

India

Chandigarh’s sculpture gardens artist Nek Chand dies at the age of 90

Indian artist Nek Chand, known for his creation of the sculpture garden in the northern city of Chandigarh, has died at the age of 90 (BBC). His son Anuj Saini announced his death on Friday morning after suffering a heart attack at a hospital in Chandigarh. Chand, a former road inspector with no formal education, used rubble from construction sites across the city to create rock sculptures. The self taught sculptor took 18 years to finish the garden which opened to public in 1976 and is popular among tourists to this day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes, saying Chand would “always be remembered for his artistic genius.”

Banks to reduce interest rates shortly: Finance Minister Jaitley

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said that banks have promised greater rate cuts in the coming days and weeks which will help reduce equated monthly installments on loans (Hindu, ET). He said that the government would also consider favourably the demand of public sector banks for more capital infusion, higher than what was earmarked in the federal budget for 2015-16. He said that some banks expressed their inability to pass on the rate cuts on account on problems with their respective balance sheets and higher rates on small savings schemes. Earlier this month the Indian Central Bank cut its interest rates for the third time this year to take advantage of the low inflationary trend. The World Bank in a report on Thursday predicted India to be the fastest growing economy, clocking in at 7.5 percent and outpacing China.

— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

 

 

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. @emilydsch

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