The South Asia Channel

Susan Rice Visits Pakistan, Urges Crackdown on Militant Groups; Taliban Admit Covering Up Mullah Omar’s Death; SC Overturns Ban on Jain Ritual

Pakistan National Security Adviser Susan Rice visits Pakistan, calls for crackdown on militant groups On Sunday, United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice visited Pakistan and met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif (NYT, WSJ, Reuters, Dawn, Pajhwok). During her visit Rice extended an invitation for Prime Minister ...

National Security advisor Susan Rice adjusts her glasses during an event in the East Room of the White House March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.  AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
National Security advisor Susan Rice adjusts her glasses during an event in the East Room of the White House March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

National Security Adviser Susan Rice visits Pakistan, calls for crackdown on militant groups

On Sunday, United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice visited Pakistan and met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif (NYT, WSJ, Reuters, Dawn, Pajhwok). During her visit Rice extended an invitation for Prime Minister Sharif to visit the White House. According to an unnamed senior official, Rice told him that the militant attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan were “absolutely unacceptable” and called for a crackdown on militant groups including the Haqqani Network. The official commented: “We share the concern of the Afghan government.” On Twitter, Rice tweeted: “In Islamabad today, discussed how to deepen coop. to tackle shared priorities. Encouraged Pakistan to advance regional peace & stability.” A statement from Prime Minister Sharif’s office read: “The United States is an important partner of Pakistan in all areas especially the economy, defense and counterterrorism.”

Indian Chambers of Commerce: India should bypass Pakistan with gas pipelines

On Monday, Pakistani press reported that the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India suggested that India should bypass Pakistan and import natural gas directly from Iran (ET). The industry group stated: “Lifting of western sanctions on Iran throws up a great opportunity for India to transport natural gas from Iran to Porbandar port in Gujarat, bypassing Pakistan — the main sticking point for other multilateral projects of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI).” The group noted the proposal of a sea pipeline that woud bypass Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone. The group’s Secretary General D S Rawat linked the suggestion to Pakistan’s political context stating: “Given the kind of serious political problems, the proposed pipeline projects involving Pakistan, it is feared, may remain a pipe dream. All other viable alternatives to enhance India’s energy security must be explored.”

Attack on Jiwani airport kills two

On Sunday, gunmen stormed Jiwani airport in Balochistan’s Gwadar district killing two people (Reuters, AP, CNN, RFE/RL). Provincial spokesman Jan Muhammad Buledi said a dozen men on motorcycles were involved in the attack. According to a senior police official: “they entered the control room at about 3:30 a.m. and set it on fire.” One engineer was killed during the attack and another was abducted. His body was found in the mountains later that day. On Monday, police officials arrested nine individuals suspected of involvement in the attack (ET). Gwadar district is home to the key Gwadar port which serves an essential role in the $46 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor.

Afghanistan

Taliban admit covering up Mullah Omar’s death

On Monday, the Afghan Taliban confirmed for the first time that the group had knowingly concealed the death of its leader Mullah Omar (ET, Dawn). A Taliban biography of Mullah Omar stated that he had died on April 23, 2013 adding: “Several key members of the supreme leading council of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) and authentic religious scholars together decided on concealing the tragic news of passing away of (Omar)… and keep this secret limited to the very few colleagues who were already informed of this incorrigible loss.” The biography justified the concealment on strategic grounds continuing: “One of the main reasons behind this decision was… that 2013 was considered the final year of power testing between the mujahideen and foreign invaders who… had announced that at the end of 2014, all military operations by foreign troops would be concluded.” The Taliban had confirmed Omar’s death in late July but not the concealment of his death.

British Library drops Taliban project due to anti-terror laws

The British Library has refused to host a massive collection of Taliban documents out of fear of British anti-terrorism laws despite having cooperated with the project for years according to reports on Friday (NYT, Guardian, BBC, Dawn). The Taliban Sources Project spent more than a decade translating and digitizing more than a thousand newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, military and administrative documents from Taliban sources. The British Library which had been approached to host the material declined last month stating: “It was judged that it [the project] contained some material which could contravene the Terrorism Act.” Felix Kuehn, an organizer of the project, commented that the project “gives a unique window into the Taliban’s world views, their negotiations with foreign governments, how they viewed history,” adding, “Our knowledge of the Taliban in the 1990s is dominated by Western media coverage that was highly politicized, in part because information was not easily accessible.” Alex Strick van Linschoten, an academic who works on the project, commented: “It’s a pity, since the value that ours – and other, similar collections – have is really important for the historical record, as well as for researchers, analysts and policymakers, not to mention Afghans, to allow them to understand and come to terms with their own history.”

More than 100 schoolgirls and teachers believed poisoned

More than 100 Afghan schoolgirls were poisoned at the Habib-Al-Mustafa Girls’ School in Herat province on Monday according to Afghan officials (Pajhwok, TOLO News, NBC). An official stated: “More than a hundred people, all females, were poisoned.” Col. Abdul Rauf Ahmadi told NBC News “Our initial finding shows some kind of spray was used by some of the students to freshen up the classrooms” continuing, “Our investigation is ongoing to determine if it was an act of sabotage or poor quality spray.” No group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Forty of the sickened girls were from a minority Shiite neighborhood.

 — David Sterman

India

Bonus read: “Sword-wielding Hardik Patel threatens Modi’s “model” in India” by Rupam Jain Nair (Reuters)

Supreme Court overturns ban on Jain ritual

The Indian Supreme Court on Monday suspended a Rajasthan High Court verdict which had declared the Jain ritual of santhara illegal (BBC, Hindu, TOI). Santhara, also known as sallekhana, is a controversial practice of giving up food and water with the intention of preparing for death. Many human rights activists consider this practice of fasting till death as suicide, but followers of the Jain faith argue that suicide is a sin whereas the practice of santhara is a religious rite. Earlier the Rajasthan High Court on August 10 declared the practice punishable under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code as an attempt to commit suicide.

Kannada scholar and religious critic killed in Karnataka

On Sunday morning, former vice-chancellor of Karnatak University and a well known rationalist scholar Malleshappa Kalburgi was murdered in his home in Dharwad in the southern state of Karnataka (Indian Express, BBC, NYT/AP). Police are investigating whether his death was linked to his recent comments against idol worship. A scholar of the ancient language of Kannada, Kalburgi was known to have angered right wing Hindu groups over the years with his critical comments about traditional practices in his own Lingayat community. The Lingayat are an influential Hindu sect dominating the political spectrum in Karnataka.

In 1989 Kalburgi received death threats after his book Marga One was published which allegedly contained blasphemous references to Basavanna, the patron saint of the Lingayat community.

Modi changes stance on land acquisition bill

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during his monthly radio address that he will not be reissuing a controversial land acquisition executive order, set to expire on August 31 (LiveMint, WSJ). The government has already issued the ordinance thrice since December 2014 and had hoped to pass the land acquisition reform bill during the monsoon session of the parliament but met strong opposition in the house. The aim of the bill as well as the executive order has been to make agricultural land acquisition by private firms easier, in some cases without the owners’ consent. The BJP government has argued that such a law would help accelerate growth in the country but it has sparked protest demonstrations by farmers and opposition parties across the country.

— Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

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