The South Asia Channel
Pakistan Arrests 97 Militants in Karachi, Foils Plot to Free Daniel Pearl’s Killer from Jail; Coca-Cola Shuts Down Three Bottling Plants in India; Targeting IS, U.S. Airstrikes Increase in Afghanistan
Editor’s Note: In observance of the President’s Day holiday, the South Asia Channel will not publish a daily brief on Monday, Feb. 15. The daily brief will resume on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Pakistan Pakistan arrests 97 militants in Karachi, foils plot to free Daniel Pearl’s killer from jail On Friday, the Pakistani military reported the arrest of 97 al ...
Editor’s Note: In observance of the President’s Day holiday, the South Asia Channel will not publish a daily brief on Monday, Feb. 15. The daily brief will resume on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Pakistan arrests 97 militants in Karachi, foils plot to free Daniel Pearl’s killer from jail
On Friday, the Pakistani military reported the arrest of 97 al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants, in addition to preventing a plot to get U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl’s killer – Ahmed Omar Sheikh – out of the Hyderabad Central Jail, in the port city of Karachi in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province (BBC, NYT, Reuters, RFE/RL). Among those arrested were LeJ’s Naeem Bokhari and Sabir Khan along with the deputy chief of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Farooq Bhatti. A military spokesman, Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, reported that those arrested are accused of participating in major attacks across Pakistan between 2009 and 2015 at two Pakistani air bases, the Karachi airport, and multiple intelligence and police operational locations. They had also allegedly been working with the Pakistani Taliban.
Bacha Khan University will reopen on Monday
Bacha Khan University (BKU) in Charsadda, the site of a deadly terrorist attack that killed at least 21 students and one faculty member on Jan. 20, will reopen on Monday, Feb. 15 (Dawn, ET). Though briefly reopening on Jan. 25, the decision was made to re-close the university due to security concerns. Speaking to Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune, BKU public relations officer Saeed Khalil Khan said that additional walls and watch towers were built, CCTV cameras were installed, and local police will be on standby to provide supplementary security to the university. Fazal Raheem Marwat, BKU vice chancellor, said counseling services would be available to all students suffering from the traumatic experience.
Bonus Read: “Afghan courts said these ex-U.S. detainees should be freed. Why weren’t they?” by Tim Craig (WP).
Targeting IS, U.S. airstrikes increase in Afghanistan
Due to U.S. President Barack Obama’s granting of additional authority to the U.S. military in January to directly target the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan, the number of air strikes against the group is on the rise (Reuters, RFE/RL). On Thursday, Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, a U.S. military spokesman, commented, “We have significantly increased our pressure and the number of strikes we’ve conducted against Daesh (IS) in Nangarhar province over the past three weeks.” With the number of IS militants in eastern Afghanistan reportedly in the range of 1,000 to 3,000 individuals, the Afghan interior ministry estimates that international and Afghan forces have conducted some 20 operations against IS since January.
Obama’s 2017 budget includes $2.5 billion allocation for Afghanistan
President Barack Obama, in his final budget proposal as president, has allocated $2.5 billion for Afghanistan and an additional $860 million for Pakistan to demonstrate the United States’ continued commitment to both countries and to ensure the availability of necessary resources to fight violent extremism in both countries (TOLO News). Highlighting the budget’s broader funding for the fight against IS, Heather Higginbottom, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, said, “The funds will also help communities liberated from ISIL, assist those who have fled the conflict, and discredit terrorist propaganda.”
Coca-Cola shuts down three bottling plants in India
U.S.-based Coca-Cola suspended bottling at three plants in India amid protests from local farmers over the company’s use of the scarce groundwater reserves in the plants’ surrounding areas, though the company claims the decisions were made for “rationalizing capacity and economic viability” (WP, NYT, ET). Kaladera plant in Rajasthan and two other plants in the northeastern state of Meghalaya and the southern state of Andhra Pradesh are the locations affected by the company’s decision. This is the fourth instance of Coca-Cola’s plants being shut down over protests of groundwater depletion. The company’s plant at Plachimada in the state of Kerala was closed in 2005 following an agitation over similar claims and two plants in Uttar Pradesh were also shut down over local resistance over claims of groundwater depletion.
Groundwater access is becoming a contested issue in India. The country is heavily dependant on monsoon rains for recharging rivers and underground aquifers, and thus parts of the country regularly suffer from drought. There seems to be no nationwide plan for how India will cope with growing demand for water as hundreds of millions of farmers across the country are still pumping ground reserves with little to no oversight. Agriculture accounts for 91 percent of the country’s groundwater use, while cities swallow up about 7 percent and industry takes 2 percent.
India introduces its “lightest gun”
India has introduced a new 250 gram handgun that lays claim to be the lightest handgun in India (BBC). The new .22 caliber revolver is named Nidar and costs just above 500 USD. A state-run arms factory also introduced Nirbheek two years ago, a handgun pitched as the country’s “first gun for women.” An official at the state-run Rifle Factory Ishapore, near the eastern city of Kolkata said they expected to sell 10,000 units of Nidar this year. Both Nirbheek and Nidar are synonyms of Nirbhaya – the nickname given by the Indian press to Jyoti Singh, the 23 year old victim of a fatal gang rape on a bus in Delhi in December 2012. All three words mean fearless in Hindi.
Edited by Peter Bergen