The South Asia Channel
Karachi Heat Wave Continues; Questions Over UK Involvement in Yemen Drone Strike; India Allegedly Funded MQM Party; Afghan Parliament Hero Gets Apartment
Event Notice: “Terrorists at the Table,” Today, 12:15pm (NewAmerica) Pakistan Heat wave continues in Karachi A heat wave in Pakistan has killed more than 780 people in Karachi after four straight days of suffocating temperatures (NYT, RFE/RL, BBC). The government declared a holiday in Karachi on Wednesday to encourage people to stay home and out ...
Event Notice: “Terrorists at the Table,” Today, 12:15pm (NewAmerica)
Heat wave continues in Karachi
A heat wave in Pakistan has killed more than 780 people in Karachi after four straight days of suffocating temperatures (NYT, RFE/RL, BBC). The government declared a holiday in Karachi on Wednesday to encourage people to stay home and out of the heat. “The first to die were the people on the streets — heroin addicts, beggars, the homeless,” said Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman for the Eldhi Goundation, which runs an ambulance service and Karachi’s largest morgue, “then it was the elderly, particularly those who didn’t have anyone to take care of them.” Officials said other victims of the heat have included men over the age of 50, especially day laborers from lower-income groups. In May, a heat wave of similar proportions hit India, killing over 1,000 people in less than a week (CNN).
Malala urges US Congress, UN, World Bank to support education
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to drum up support for universal, free education. With her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai accompanying her, the 17-year-old Pakistani asked lawmakers to increase funding for secondary education for girls through Michelle Obama’s initiative, Let Girls Learn. On Monday, Malala urged the World Bank and the United Nations to include a commitment to 12-year free education for all children in their new millennium goals for the next 15 years. “It is very important that we raise our voices to speak out for girls deprived of a secondary education,” Malala said after meeting with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Details about drone strike in Yemen raise questions about UK involvement
British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is facing fresh calls to reveal the extent of its involvement in the U.S. targeted killing program after details of a fatal drone strike in Yemen were provided to the Guardian by Edward Snowden (Guardian, NYT). The documents, reported in partnership with theNew York Times, discuss how a joint U.S, U.K., and Australian program codenamed Overhead supported a strike in Yemen in 2012 on Khadim Usamah, described by an internal newsletter for the British agency as “the doctor who pioneered using surgically planted explosives” and who was also linked to al Qaeda. British officials rarely speak publicly about cooperation with the U.S. targeted killing program and the leaked documents show the central role of eavesdropping and tracking electronic signals in identifying suspects and determining their location. The previously undisclosed documents show how the National Security Agency worked closely with GCHQ to provide this intelligence to the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command during drone operations.
India “funded Pakistan’s MQM party”
The BBC is reporting that officials in Pakistan’s Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) party have told the U.K. authorities they received Indian government funds as well as training (BBC). U.K. authorities investigating the MQM for alleged money laundering also found a list of weapons in an MQM property while Pakistani authorities recently raid the party headquarters in Karachi and found large quantities of weapons. A Pakistani official has told the BBC that India has trained hundreds of MQM militants over the last 10 years. The Indian authorities described the claims as “completely baseless.” The MQM said it was not going to comment. With 24 members in the National Assembly, the MQM has long been a dominant force in the politics of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, but in many parts of Punjab it is commonly preceived to be a political party deeply involved in gang violence in Karachi. According to the BBC report, India has trained hundreds of MQM militants in explosives, weapons, and sabotage over the last 10 years in camps in north and northeast India. The report also said that before 2005-2006 the training was given to a small number of mid-ranking members of the MQM but more recently greater numbers of more junior party members have been trained.
Union Minister Irani suffers a legal setback
A court in Delhi said it will look into a complaint that India’s Education Minister Smriti Irani allegedly lied about her college degree (BBC, NDTV, HT). The magistrate said he would examine the evidence on Aug. 28 to see if the charges were valid. The complaint alleges that Irani made contradictory claims about her degree in documents filed in different years with the Election Commission.
The Delhi law minister Jitender Singh Tomar was arrested earlier this month on similar charges. Tomar, who is from the Aam Admi Party (AAP), quit his post after he was accused of forgery and cheating and sent to jail amid allegations his law degree was fake.
Pressure on Swaraj, BJP rises over Lalit Modi connections
Pressure is growing on the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj over help she alleged gave to the cricket tycoon Lalit Modi in securing travel documentation from U.K. authorities, after he had fled India in 2010 (Reuters, Hindu, TOI). Authorities were investigating him for money laundering and tax evasion at that time. Swaraj has faced severe scrutiny for her ties to Lalit Modi, who is known for having singlehandedly turned the Indian Premier League into the world’s richest league. The opposition Congress party, voted out last year amid corruption scandals, on Tuesday warned of plans to disrupt parliament after it opens next month unless Swaraj resigns. Swaraj says she met the British high commissioner in July 2014 to recommend that Modi be granted British travel papers, after his Indian passport was rescinded. Her position is that her intervention was humanitarian, because Modi (unrelated to the current prime minister) needed to travel to help his ailing wife.
Bonus Read: “The Saffron Revolution of 2018,” Christopher Kolenda (SouthAsia)
Afghan parliament attack ‘hero’ given new apartment
An Afghan soldier has been hailed as a hero for killing six of the seven insurgents who tried to storm the Afghan parliament on Monday and was given the keys to a new home by President Ashraf Ghani (BBC). Sergeant Esa Khan said that at the beginning of the attack, he was “standing there and saw them running towards parliament” and that he “just killed them.” Ghani said he was proud of Khan’s “resolve and heroism.” Ghani tweeted a picture of himself greeting Khan at his office in Kabul on Tuesday. In addition to a receiving a new home, Khan will also be promoted.
— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images