The South Asia Channel

Modi and Sharif to Meet at SCO Summit; Bangladeshi Police Arrest 12 Al Qaeda Suspects; Train Derailed in Punjab Due To Speed

Modi and Sharif to Meet at SCO Summit; Bangladeshi Police Arrest 12 Al Qaeda Suspects; Train Derailed in Punjab Due To Speed


Modi and Sharif to meet at the SCO Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif will meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Russia on July 10 (Reuters, PTI). On Monday a senior Chinese diplomat confirmed that Pakistan and India will start the process of joining a security bloc led by China and Russia at the summit later this week. Modi will be in Moscow for a summit of the BRICS group of emerging markets and both he and Sharif will attend a special SCO “outreach” session as part of the gathering. India applied to join the regional security GROUP last year and SCO foreign ministers gave a positive recommendation when they met in June. “We await further developments,” said Sujata Mehta, a senior Indian foreign ministry official. Pakistan is also expected to join the bloc. SCO members include China, Russia, and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, while India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mongolia are observers.

Supreme Court agrees to hear plea concerning removal of Governor Ram Yadav

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a petition seeking removal of Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav on the ground of his alleged involvement in the massive admission and recruitment scam (PTI, BBC, Hindu, Washington Post). The government ordered an investigation into the allegations in 2013 when details emerged that “undeserving” candidates were repeatedly given admissions in medical and engineering colleges, and given government jobs after paying bribes involving a “large part of the state’s apparatus.” Known widely as the Vyapam scam, the scale of the scandal is such that opposition Congress party alleges that since 2007, 770,000 candidates paid bribes as part of the scam. There are 2,500 accused in the scam. The scandal has been making headlines since 2013, but the death of investigative reporter Akshay Singh in the state on Saturday has brought the media’s spotlight back on the case. Singh began coughing and foaming at the mouth after drinking tea during an interview; doctors said he died of a heart attack and police said an initial exam revealed anything “suspicious.” Officials in the state say that at least 30 people linked with the scam have died under mysterious circumstances since the start of the investigation in 2013, including eye witnesses.

Airbus announces it will build military helicopters in India

Europe’s Airbus Group and India’s Mahindra Group have struck a deal to build helicopters jointly as they bid to win an expected wave of orders from the country’s armed forces, the companies said in a statement on Friday (Reuters). The two groups will form a joint venture in the coming months, aiming to become the first private manufacturer of helicopters in India, the statement said. It did not say how much the two will invest. India is in the midst of an upgrade of its armed forces and analysts forecast it will spend $250 billion over the next decade. In the meanwhile Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to encourage more indigenous manufacturing to end India’s position as the world’s largest arms importer. Airbus Helicopters, part of Airbus Group, is joining forces with Mahindra after talking to several Indian companies that are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to capitalize on the government’s push to build arms at home.

One Indian soldier killed in cross border firing

One Indian soldier was killed on Sunday in what has been described as “intermittent exchange of fire” between Pakistan Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force, along the line of control in Nowgam sector of Kashmir valley (PTI, PTV, LiveMint). Both side have blamed each other for unprovoked attacks.


Bangladeshi police arrest 12 al Qaeda suspects in Dhaka

Police in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka announced on Thursday that twelve men suspected of membership in al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent have been arrested in three separate raids (NYT). A spokesman for an elite police unit called the Rapid Action Battalion, Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan said that the raids began on Wednesday morning and lasted past midnight, and were based on internal intelligence reports and preliminary interrogations of suspects. He said one of the men arrested, Mainul Islam, is a chief coordinator for the group in Bangladesh, and another, Zafar Amin, is an important adviser. Commander Khan said the men arrested had been “inspired” to affiliate with the aL Qaeda branch after the worldwide leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, announced the branch’s existence last September in a video posted on jihadist forums online. In May, the leader of the branch, Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, claimed responsibility for the murders of two bloggers critical of extremism in Bangladesh, including a Bangladeshi-American, Avijit Roy, who was killed in Dhaka in February by men with machetes as he was leaving a book fair with his wife.


Train derailed in Punjab due to speed

An investigation into a train crash near Gujranwala on July 2 that killed 17 revealed that the train was speeding prior to the accident (Dawn). Federal Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said on Monday that the driver was speeding and pulled the emergency break 945 feet before the Chanawan Bridge causing the engine and bogies to derail and the train to fall into the canal below. The train was carrying military personnel on their way to a military exercise in Kharian. The driver is being investigated; he was one of the most senior drivers and scheduled to retire in a few months.

Police halt mob lynching of Christians

Police in Makki, Punjab stopped a mob lynching of a Christian couple on July 2 (RFE/RL). The mob was attempting to lynch the couple for allegedly committing blasphemy. Sohail Zafar Chattha, the district police chief, said the illiterate Christian couple had obtained an old advertisement awning — containing slogans of various colleges that included passages from the Quran — and were using it as a mat to sleep on. Chattha said police have arrested a cleric. This incident is one of the very few times that police in Pakistan have intervened in mob attacks for blasphemy.

Protests over electric supply turn violent

Protesters in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province became violent on Monday frustrated over the lack of power and constant outages, particularly during the deadly heat wave Pakistan is still experiencing (ET). Protesters attacked the Water and Power Development Authority office, vandalizing the office, and shut down the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway in Tarujaba with villages throwing plantains at motorists. One of the protesters claimed that electricity is restored for “five minutes every 24 hours.” Officials said load shedding as the largely number of illegal connections cause severe line loss.


Report: US soldiers used restraint in Kabul attack

A military investigation into the actions of U.S. soldiers last week after an attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul found that troops acted with “admirable restraint” (NYT). On June 30, a Taliban car bomb targeted the convoy of NATO troops, killing 21 Afghan civilians and killing one more. As U.S. soldiers got out of their vehicles to form a cordon, witnesses reported that Afghans began throwing stones at the soldiers and shouting “death to Americans.” A U.S. soldier opened fire with some witnesses claiming the solider was firing into the crowd while others say he was aiming away from the crowd; an Afghan stabbed a U.S. soldier during the confrontation. By the time Afghan security forces took control, the scene was calm.

Parliament rejects defense minister nominee

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s nominee for the defense minister, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, failed to garner the required number of votes in Parliament for confirmation on Saturday (NYT, RFE/RL). The New York Times reported that Stanekzai was 23 votes short of confirmation while Radio Free Europe reported that he received only 84 of the 231 votes cast. This is Ghani’s second defense minister rejected by Parliament but the third defense nominee to fail as another nominee withdrew his name before a vote. A Wolesi Jirga (lower house) member from Herat province Nazir Ahmad Hanafi said they voted against Stanekzai because “he was unprofessional and had no experience in military area.” (Pajhwok). Stanezkai was appointed acting defense minister by Ghani in May.

Hero of Parliament attack arrested in traffic accident

Sergeant Essa Khan, the 28-year-old Afghan solider who killed six militants in the June 22 Parliament attack, was arrested on Thursday for a fatal traffic accident (RFE/RL). Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said that Khan was “involved in an unfortunate traffic accident in which one civilian lost his life,” and that “police are investigating the case and Essa Khan is in police custody.” Independent Kabul journalist Mustafa Kazemi used Twitter to report that Khan was detained by police for hitting a man in a Toyota pickup given to him by Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum after the attack.

–Shuja Malik and Courtney Schuster

Edited by Peter Bergen