The South Asia Channel

Claims of Mullah Omar’s Death Circulate; Militant Leader Reportedly Killed in Ambush on Pakistani Police; President Mukherjee is 1993 Bomber’s Last Hope

Afghanistan Claims circulate of Mullah Omar’s death Zafar Hashemi, deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said on Wednesday that his government is examining claims that the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is dead (AP, BBC). “We are aware of the reports of the passing away of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader,” Hashemi said. “We are ...

395454 01: (UNDATED PHOTO) Mullah Omar, chief of the Taliban, is shown in this headshot photo. Military forces from the United States and Britain have begun attacking targets October 7, 2001 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Getty Images)
395454 01: (UNDATED PHOTO) Mullah Omar, chief of the Taliban, is shown in this headshot photo. Military forces from the United States and Britain have begun attacking targets October 7, 2001 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Claims circulate of Mullah Omar’s death

Zafar Hashemi, deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said on Wednesday that his government is examining claims that the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is dead (AP, BBC). “We are aware of the reports of the passing away of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader,” Hashemi said. “We are still in the process of checking those reports, and as soon as we get confirmation or verification, we will inform the Afghan people and the media.” Reports state that Omar died over two years ago from Tuberculosis and was buried in Afghanistan after his son identified his body (ET). The Taliban have not yet commented on reports of Omar’s death, but are expected to make a statement soon. Omar, who led the insurgency against U.S.-led forces after the Taliban was toppled from rule in 2001 and was allied with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been declared dead multiple times before. Failure to prove that Omar was alive was a major factor behind the defection of several senior Taliban commanders to ISIS earlier this year.

Taliban gain in three provinces

The Taliban seized territory across three provinces in northern Afghanistan in recent days as Kabul has struggled to reinforce outposts and checkpoints (NYT). In addition to the more than 100 police officers at the Tigaran base in Badakhshan province on Saturday who surrendered to the Taliban, more than a thousand soldiers and fighters with pro-government militias have retreated (AP). The Taliban’s movement has reached a large district in Sar-i-Pul province in the northwest, where a local police unit surrendered after a 10-day battle. Kunduz province has also been imperiled by the renewed Taliban push, where Taliban forces have seized towns on the outskirts of its most important city, Kunduz.

Pakistan

Militant leader reportedly killed in attack

Malik Ishaq, the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni extremist group, is believed to have been killed in a shootout early Wednesday morning after supporters tried to free him from police custody (NYT, AP). Thirteen supporters of Ishaq were also killed in the clash in Punjab province. Shuja Khanzada, Punjab’s home minister, said supporters attacked a police convoy that was transporting him, his sons, and three of his aides, all of whom had been arrested Saturday on suspicion of involvement in sectarian killings. In a later statement, police said “14 or 15 unidentified armed terrorists” attacked police vehicles to free Ishaq when officers were returning from an area in Muzaffargarh after seizing weapons. Details of Ishaq’s killing remain murky in Pakistan, where extrajudicial killings by police remain common.

Pakistan dropping English as official language

Pakistan is dropping English as its official language and switching to Urdu, the Pakistan Minister of Planning, National Reforms, and Development Ashan Iqbal confirmed in an exclusive interview with TIME (TIME). Iqbal said the change was being made because of a court directive. The Pakistani constitution, passed in 1973, included a clause specifying that the government must make Urdu the national language within fifteen years, but the clause was never enforced. English will still be taught alongside Urdu in schools. Iqbal said the move would “help provide greater participation to people who don’t know English, hence making the government more inclusive.” 

India

President Mukherjee remains as 1993 bomber’s last hope for avoiding execution

The 1993 Mumbai bombings convict Yakub Memon, scheduled to be hanged tomorrow at a Maharashtra Jail, sent a fresh mercy plea to President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday morning, after the Supreme Court dismissed his plea against his scheduled execution (TOI. Hindu, NDTV, BBC). President Mukherjee is expected to forward the mercy plea to Union Home Ministry for examination but the ministry is unlikely to take a lenient view as they have already opposed any relief to be given to Memon.

Earlier on Wednesday Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao also rejected Yakub Memon’s mercy petition. Last year in May, the President, acting on the advice of Home Ministry had rejected Memon’s earlier mercy petition. On the other hand, numerous celebrities ranging from Bollywood film stars to opposition politicians have publicly asked for Memon’s sentence to be commuted. On Wednesday, former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi appealed to the President to reconsider the mercy petition as a “fitting tribute” to former President APJ Abdul Kalam who died on Monday (PTI). The 1993 blasts in Mumbai killed 257 people and wounded 713.

GM to invest $1 billion in India

Top executives at the American firm General Motors Co. (GM) said that the company will invest $1 billion in the next few years to turn operations in India into a new global export hub aimed at boosting sales in fast-growing emerging markets (Reuters). GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said at a briefing in New Delhi, “GM cannot remain a global leader without making a serious investment towards expanding our presence in growth markets like India.” India’s automobile market has been sluggish for the past few years, with annual sales of less than 3 million cars. But by 2020 analysts expect India to become the world’s third-largest passenger vehicle market after China and the United States.

— 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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