The South Asia Channel

Afghan Army To Start Flying Surveillance Drones In March; Pakistan Registers Case Against Unknown Assailants from Pathankot Attack; “Make in India” Fair Raises $222 Billion in Investment Pledges

Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Afghanistan’s Crippled Power Grid Exposes Vulnerability of Besieged Capital,” by David Jolly (NYT) Afghan army to start flying surveillance drones in March On Thursday, Major General Gordon Davis, responsible for the U.S. unit that provides new equipment to Afghan forces, announced that the NATO-led military alliance will begin providing ScanEagle unarmed surveillance ...

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Insitu's ScanEagle, an autonomous aircraft system, launches during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) demonstration day at Naval Air Station Pax River Webster Field Annex in St. Inigoes, Maryland, on August 10, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Afghanistan’s Crippled Power Grid Exposes Vulnerability of Besieged Capital,” by David Jolly (NYT)

Afghan army to start flying surveillance drones in March

On Thursday, Major General Gordon Davis, responsible for the U.S. unit that provides new equipment to Afghan forces, announced that the NATO-led military alliance will begin providing ScanEagle unarmed surveillance drone aircraft – and offer instruction on how to use them — beginning in March (ReutersTOLO News). Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan defense ministry spokesman, said, “Afghan army officers are currently being trained on drones in the United States. As soon as their training is complete, they will be able to fly them here.” The drone operation training in Afghanistan will be based out of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Balkh province.

Five Red Cross staffers kidnapped

On Thursday, the Red Cross announced it would suspend its operations in Ghazni province in central Afghanistan after five of its staff members were kidnapped by an armed group (Reuters). According to an emailed statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, the group has established contacts in an effort to get the five staff members back, who were abducted while traveling through the province. Kidnappings and murders are frequent occurrences on Ghazni’s provincial roads.

Lt. Gen. Nicholson to assume command in Afghanistan on March 2

On Thursday, Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner told Voice of America that Lt. Gen. John A. Nicholson will officially begin his duty as U.S. commander in Afghanistan on March 2 (VOA). Succeeding current commander Gen. John F. Campbell, who will retire from the Army after the transition is complete, Shoffner did not comment on when Nicholson would arrive in the country, due to security concerns.

–Albert Ford

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “Has a rampaging AI algorithm really killed thousands in Pakistan?” by Martin Robbins (Guardian)

Pakistan registers case against unknown assailants from Pathankot attack

Counter-terrorism police in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Thursday filed a formal police report – or Formal Information Report – on behalf of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry against the purported assailants and “their alleged abettors” in the Jan. 2 attack at the Pathankot Air Base in India that killed seven Indian security personnel (ReutersAPWSJDawn). No information on the numbers, names, or the group to which the perpetrators belong is known. Rana Sanaullah, Punjab’s law minister, said, “”The registration of this case shows that there is full commitment and earnestness.” According to Pakistani officials, a joint team of military and civil intelligence agencies was appointed to lead the investigation and have been instructed to take “legal action” against any non-state militant in connection to the Pathankot attack. The recent steps follow Pakistan’s January detainment of Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group Indian officials blame for the attack.

Pakistan executes third most people in the world

In 2015, Pakistan executed 324 people, behind only China and Iran (Reuters). In a report from Reprieve, an international human rights group, and Justice Project Pakistan, seen by Reuters, most people hung to death had no links to militant groups or attacks. However, in response to an increase in militant attacks, Pakistan lifted it’s death penalty moratorium in 2014. According to a statement from Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, “Those going to the gallows are too often the poor and vulnerable. It is hard to see how hanging people like this will make Pakistan safer.” The report also said that the moratorium was originally only lifted for cases in connection to militant attacks, but it was later expanded to cover all cases.

–Albert Ford

India

“Make in India” fair raises $222 billion in investment pledges

A week-long “Make in India” fair in Mumbai closed on Thursday with $222 billion in investment pledges, far below the target of $350 billion, due to less than expected interest shown by foreign firms (Reuters). Amitabh Kant, Secretary of India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), told the media, “This was the biggest multi-sectoral event ever done across Asia,” describing the event as a success. However, independent research commissioned by the free-market Friedrich Naumann and Cato institutes has found the rate of conversion of such pledges into real investments in India has typically been extremely low – with no state exceeding 20 percent. Among investments signed in the last seven days was a $400 million commitment by Oracle Corp. to set up nine business incubation centers.

Caste related violence hits Haryana, 15 injured

At least 15 people were injured on Thursday after a rally by the Jat community in the northern town of Rohtak in Haryana state turned violent (BBC, NDTV, Hindu). The Jat community are currently considered as upper caste in India but they are demanding better access to jobs and education, by being classified as “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs). Authorities tightened security by deploying paramilitary forces in Rohtak and surrounding towns as protesters blocked major highways, stopped railway traffic, and clashed with rival caste groups. Mobile services were suspended and a curfew has been imposed in certain parts of Rohtak.

Supreme Court refuses to hear JNU sedition student’s bail plea

The Supreme Court in India has refused to hear the bail plea of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student leader from Jawahalal Nehru University (JNU) who is under arrest for sedition charges (BBC, Time). The court however has moved the bail hearing to New Delhi High Court after Kumar was severely beaten when he appeared at a lower court in New Delhi last Wednesday. Kumar was arrested on Friday last week, for allegedly organizing a rally against the 2013 hanging of a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, who was convicted for his involvement in a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. On Thursday, thousands of people across India joined in on protests condemning Kumar’s arrest.

–Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Albert Ford is a research assistant with the International Security Program at New America.

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