2015 Sees Afghan Civilian Deaths Slightly Down, Overall Casualties Slightly Up; Pakistan’s Sindh Province Allows for First Hindu Marriages; Indian Exports Fall for 14th Straight Month in January
Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Tasked With Combating Opium, Afghan Officials Profit From It,” by Azam Ahmed (NYT) Film Review: “A War: Afghanistan through a Danish Lens,” by Gwyneth Kelly (TNR) 2015 sees Afghan civilian deaths slightly down, overall casualties slightly up According to a report released by the United Nations (UN) on Sunday, the number of ...
Bonus Read: “Tasked With Combating Opium, Afghan Officials Profit From It,” by Azam Ahmed (NYT)
Film Review: “A War: Afghanistan through a Danish Lens,” by Gwyneth Kelly (TNR)
2015 sees Afghan civilian deaths slightly down, overall casualties slightly up
According to a report released by the United Nations (UN) on Sunday, the number of killed or wounded civilians in Afghanistan increased to 11,002 in 2015, the most on record since the UN began compiling the statistics in 2009 and an increase of 4 percent from 2014 (Guardian, NYT, WSJ, Reuters, RFE/RL). Of the 11,002 civilian casualties, 3,545 civilians were killed – a 4 percent decrease versus 2014. The Taliban were responsible for 62 percent of the civilian casualties, which is down 10 percent from 2014. Pro-government forces – including U.S. and NATO troops – accounted for 17 percent of civilian casualties. Of the actions that caused the casualties, ground conflicts were responsible for 37 percent of them, 21 percent by roadside bombs, and 17 percent by suicide attacks. Since 2009, the UN has recorded 59,000 civilian deaths or injuries.
Taliban kill six Afghan security force personnel using stolen Humvees
On Saturday, Taliban suicide bombers riding in two stolen Afghan Army Humvees killed six Afghan security force personnel – four policemen and two soldiers – and wounded eight others during a clash at a security checkpoint in the Sangin district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province (NYT, Reuters). The attack on Saturday came after intense fighting on Friday, during which the Taliban lost roughly 40 fighters, according to provincial police chief General Abdul Rahman Sarjang. The Taliban is believed to have 50 to 100 Humvees in Helmand, while 13 have been taken by the militant group in Badakhshan Province in northern Afghanistan over the last six months. “Taliban are now using confiscated Humvees against us, and this is a matter of worry for us,” General Sarjang said.
Bonus Read: “India and Pakistan: At Loggerheads on Top of the World,” by John Elliott (Newsweek)
Pakistan’s Sindh province allows for first Hindu marriages
On Monday, lawmakers in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province – home to three million Pakistani Hindus – passed a bill that now allows Hindus to register to marry (BBC, Reuters, ET). Hindu women in Pakistan have long been subjected to religious persecution and violence, and the law is deemed a step forward in giving them greater protection. The law, according to the head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, does not go far enough to protect Hindu women from forced conversions (to a non-Hindu religion, such as Islam). According to a controversial clause in the law, Hindu marriages can be annulled if any spouse converts. The law applies retroactively to existing marriages.
Pakistan to participate in Saudi-led counter-terrorism exercise
On Monday, Pakistan confirmed it will participate in a ‘multi-national’ counter-terror exercise in Saudi Arabia (ET). According to Riyadh, the event – deemed the ‘largest, most important military maneuvers’ ever to occur in the region – will host troops from around 20 countries, including Malaysia, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and others. The Saudi Press News Agency released a statement saying the exercise shows that Saudi Arabia and the participating nations “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region.”
Indian exports fall for 14th straight month in January
India’s exports decreased in January for the 14th straight month due to continued weak demand from markets like Europe and United States according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Monday (Reuters, NYT, WSJ). Exports in January fell 13.6 percent compared to January 2015. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to announce export incentives when he presents his annual budget at the end of February. On the other hand, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan has resisted pressure from exporters and policy makers to devalue the currency to support exports, a measure taken by China and Japan. India is Asia’s third largest economy and is expected to grow 7.6 percent in the 2015-16 financial year.
Protests after student leader held on sedition charges
Protests continued through the weekend to Tuesday morning in New Delhi after the president of a student union at Jawahalal Nehru University (JNU) was arrested on sedition charges on Friday (WP, Guardian, WSJ). Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested after he had allegedly helped organize a rally against the 2013 hanging of a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, and anti-India slogans were used. Kumar has denied all charges, saying that he believes in the constitution of India and that he did not raise any anti-India slogans. Guru was convicted for his involvement in a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament when a suicide squad of five attackers stormed India’s parliament complex and killed seven people. However, they were shot before they could enter the main chamber. Guru was convicted of helping organize arms for the gunmen.
On Tuesday police in New Delhi also arrested a former Delhi University professor SAR Geelani on sedition charges after authorities claimed that the request for the space for the rally against Guru’s hanging came through Geelani’s email address (BBC). Geelani was a co-accused in the parliament attack case, but the Supreme Court cleared him in 2003.
Teachers unions and student groups at JNU have held numerous protests over the weekend, condemning the arrest and demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar. Faculty and university staff labeled the arrest as an “excessive police action.” On the other hand, numerous right wing groups also held counter-rallies in support of the arrest. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter: “If anyone raises anti-India slogans and tries to raise questions on the nation’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared.”
Tax officials send Vodafone a renewed bill
Tax authorities in India sent a renewed tax bill of $2.1 billion to telecom operator Vodafone on Tuesday (BBC, Forbes). Vodafone has been fighting Indian tax authorities since its 2007 takeover of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa’s telecom operations in India for $11 billion. Vodafone claims the taxes are inapplicable because the transaction was conducted in a third country. In 2012 the Indian Supreme Court ruled in favor of Vodafone but the government changed laws later that year to allow firms to be taxed retroactively. The move comes as a threat to Prime Minister Modi’s effort to attract foreign investment to India and has been criticized strongly by investors.
Edited by Peter Bergen
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
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