The South Asia Channel

India Arrests Suspected Al Qaeda Cell; Pakistan Says it is Part of Saudi Anti-Terror Alliance; Afghanistan Joins WTO

India India arrests suspected al Qaeda cell New Delhi police said on Thursday that they have arrested three men suspected of being members of India’s al Qaeda cell (TIME, Indian Express, BBC, TOI). Two of the suspects were identified as Mohammad Asif and Abdul Rehman, both residents of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Asif is believed to ...

Indian Force One special commando forces apprehend a man during a simulated terrorist attack at the elite unit's inaugural function in Mumbai on November 24, 2009. The 256-strong unit Force One, modelled on India's National Security Guard, is designed as a quick response team for counter-terrorism following criticism that Mumbai police was under-equipped, ill-trained and lacking manpower to tackle the heavily-armed gunmen during the November 26, 2008 terror attacks. AFP PHOTO/ Indranil MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Force One special commando forces apprehend a man during a simulated terrorist attack at the elite unit's inaugural function in Mumbai on November 24, 2009. The 256-strong unit Force One, modelled on India's National Security Guard, is designed as a quick response team for counter-terrorism following criticism that Mumbai police was under-equipped, ill-trained and lacking manpower to tackle the heavily-armed gunmen during the November 26, 2008 terror attacks. AFP PHOTO/ Indranil MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

India

India arrests suspected al Qaeda cell

New Delhi police said on Thursday that they have arrested three men suspected of being members of India’s al Qaeda cell (TIMEIndian ExpressBBCTOI). Two of the suspects were identified as Mohammad Asif and Abdul Rehman, both residents of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Asif is believed to be the head of Indian operations for al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the regional arm of the terrorist group that proclaimed its existence in September 2014. AQIS has claimed responsibility for the killings of four secular bloggers in Bangladesh as well as several attacks in Pakistan. The Indian Express and the Times of India reported that after interrogating the suspects, intelligence officials have identified the overall head of AQIS as Sanaul Haq, an Indian national and one-time resident of Uttar Pradesh. Haq, previously only known by the alias Maulana Asim Umar, remains at large.

Upper house of parliament holds “all-party meeting”

Faced with legislative gridlock resulting from protests and disruptions, the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of parliament, convened a meeting of all parties on Friday to discuss the house’s legislative agenda for the remainder of the winter term, which expires on Dec. 23 (The HinduNDTVIndian Express). At the meeting, chairman Hamid Ansari, who is the country’s vice president, lamented what he considered to be one of the “most unproductive sessions of parliament in recent history” and encouraged the parties to reach a consensus. While the members of the meeting failed to reach a total consensus, they did agree to the passage of six pending bills in the remaining days of the term. “All political parties attended a meeting called by the chairman, Rajya Sabha, and agreed to let the house function from Monday and get down to what they are supposed to do — pass bills,” said deputy chairman PJ Kurien. However, the parties failed to reach agreement on the passage of a long-awaited goods and services tax (GST) bill, which is a major component of the government’s economic reform platform. The GST bill would overhaul India’s tax code, replacing many state taxes with a national value added tax at the point of sale. The bill was passed by the lower house of India’s parliament with a target implementation date of April 1, 2016, but the bill has been repeatedly blocked by the opposition in the upper house of parliament.

5 Indians abducted by pirates in Nigeria

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Friday that five Indian sailors who were abducted by pirates in Nigeria on Dec. 11 are safe (ETIndian Express). The Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria met with the Nigerian president on Dec. 12 to begin efforts to secure their release. Swaraj reported that contact with the pirates has been established.

— Udit Banerjea

Pakistan

Pakistan says it is part of Saudi anti-terror alliance

On Thursday, Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah confirmed that Pakistan joined Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism alliance (RFE/RL). Khalilullah told reporters “Yes, we’re part of it.” The confirmation comes amidst a confusing reaction on the part of Pakistan to the announcement in which senior officials including Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry expressed surprise the country was included in the list of nations having joined the alliance released by Saudi Arabia.

Pakistani ID cards sold to Indian families

Among other irregularities, Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority provided ID cards and citizenship documents to Indian families, according to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper on Friday (ET). At least two Indian families reportedly obtained citizenship documents through corruption. The report is the latest in a series of scandals regarding corruption in the National Database and Registration Authority including the provision of fake ID cards to terrorists. Since 2011, 136,981 ID cards issued by the authority have been blocked for being illegally issued, and 116 employees have been fired.

SRAP: We have had frank discussions with Pakistan over nuclear weapons

On Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson testified before Congress, saying the U.S. has had frank discussions with Pakistan over tactical nuclear weapons (Dawn). Olson stated: “We’ve had a very candid discussion with the Pakistanis about some of the concerns that we have, including about shorter-range nuclear systems. And Pakistan has been prepared to engage with us in those — in those discussions.” He, however, denied that the United States is negotiating a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan commenting, that the administration was “not negotiating a one-two-three agreement — a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan.”

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Navy SEALs, a Beating Death, and Claims of a Cover Up,” by Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, and Matthew Rosenberg (NYT)

Afghanistan joins WTO

On Thursday, the World Trade Organization formally approved Afghanistan’s membership in the WTO (Reuters, Business Standard, Pajhwok, TOLO News). The approval occurred at a ministerial conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and follows eleven years of talks regarding the possibility of Afghanistan joining the organization. Afghanistan has until June 30 to ratify the agreement and officially become a member of the WTO.

US Defense Secretary visits Afghanistan

On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a surprise visit to Afghanistan (NYT, Reuters, Post). The visit was Carter’s second since becoming defense secretary and first since the United States halted its plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Carter met with U.S. military commanders during the visit.

IS launches radio station in Afghanistan

The Islamic State launched a FM radio station in Nangarhar Province according to reports on Thursday (VoA, RFE/RL). According to Anaat Khan, a local journalist, the station has been operating for almost a month. Local Provincial Council Member Zabihullah Zmaray said the station broadcasts from 6 to 8 PM. On Thursday, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology says it found out about the station about two weeks ago and that they “are working to establish the station’s location.”

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

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