The South Asia Channel
“2015 Was the Worst Year for Pollution in India,” Greenpeace; U.S. Senator Repeats Opposition to U.S. Sale of F-16 Fighter Jets to Pakistan; Disconnect Over Expectation for Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks in First Week of March; Passenger Plane Crashes in Western Nepal
India “2015 was the worst year for pollution in India,” Greenpeace According to a report released by Greenpeace India on Wednesday, 2015 was the most polluted year in India’s history (WSJ). The report also claims that the average pollution Indian citizens were exposed to went beyond the same measure for China’s citizens for the first ...
“2015 was the worst year for pollution in India,” Greenpeace
According to a report released by Greenpeace India on Wednesday, 2015 was the most polluted year in India’s history (WSJ). The report also claims that the average pollution Indian citizens were exposed to went beyond the same measure for China’s citizens for the first time.
The report said pollution levels are highest in the north of India and that West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh had the largest increases in pollutants. Greenpeace analysed particulate levels measured by satellites belonging to the U.S. agency NASA. The report said that from 2011 to 2015, China’s efforts to reduce pollution were successful while India’s smog intensified. China had its worst year, pollution-wise in 2011 and since then has improved.
Two more students arrested under sedition charges
Two Indian students, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, accused of sedition for their role in organising a protest at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, surrendered themselves to the police on Wednesday (Guardian, BBC). A day earlier Delhi High Court rejected their pleas for bail before arrests. Khalid and Bhattacharya are among several students wanted for sedition in connection with a rally held on Feb 9 at JNU campus that condemned the execution of Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru convicted for his involvement in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. The president of the student government at JNU, Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on February 12 for his role in organizing the event and allegedly shouting anti-India slogans. Critics condemn these charges as an assault on freedom of expression in India, but the government has refused to “tolerate anti-national elements.”
Bonus Read: “Pakistan Frets Over Potential Appeal of Islamic State,” by Saeed Shah (WSJ)
U.S. Senator repeats opposition to U.S. sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, on Tuesday voiced serious concerns about the U.S. sale of up to eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan (Reuters). Speaking during Secretary of State John Kerry’s appearance before the committee, Sen. Corker stated, “They (Pakistan) continue to support the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and give safe haven to al Qaeda.” On Feb. 12, the U.S. government said it had approved the sale of the jets to Pakistan in a deal valued at $699 million. Members of Congress have 30 days to block the deal before it becomes official. Seeking to downplay Sen. Corker’s concerns, Secretary Kerry responded by saying, “I understand your reservations about it but their military has been deeply engaged in the fight against terrorism.”
Provincial assembly passes bill protecting women
On Wednesday, the Punjab Assembly passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill of 2015 (Dawn). Included in the bill are treatment options for victims of violence, laws that criminalize such acts, and the establishment of centers that give access to victims with less administrative red tape. Shelter homes to house victims and their children will be established for those who choose to leave their home. The law also includes provisions to dissuade the filing of false complaints, which will be punishable with a three-month jail sentence or a roughly Rs50,000 ($478) to Rs100,000 ($955) fine.
Bonus Read: “A mysterious skull adds new twist to old legend of Kabul’s ‘cruel king,’” by Michael E. Miller (Post)
Disconnect over expectation for Afghan-Taliban peace talks in first week of March
Following Tuesday’s meeting of the four-country Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in Kabul, the Afghan foreign ministry released a joint statement with the QCG countries expressing their expectation for peace talks between Afghan and Taliban officials in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to occur in the first week of March (Post, Reuters). The participation of the Taliban – which continues to be highly splintered – remains in doubt. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, Mohammad Naim, the official spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, reiterated the group’s demands that their participation in peace talks is, among other factors, conditional upon all foreign troops leaving Afghanistan and that the Taliban’s Qatari office was “unaware of plans for talks” (RFE/RL). At the non-QCG affiliated peace talks in Doha, Qatar in January that the Taliban attended, the group listed additional requirements for their participation in peace talks that included removal from the UN terror blacklist and the freeing of Taliban prisoners from all jails. In response, the Afghan government stated their inability to accept them.
Germany and Afghanistan partner to return refugees
On Wednesday, a plane carrying 125 refugees who voluntarily agreed to leave Germany and return to Afghanistan landed in Kabul (Reuters). This is expected to be one of many such flights, organized by the German and Afghan governments and the International Organization for Migration. In January alone, Afghans constituted 27 percent of the 100,000 refugees who arrived on Europe’s shores via the Mediterranean Sea, second only to Syrians. However, Germany has upped their efforts to discourage potential refugees from entering their country, warning of limited job prospects and the dangers of human traffickers. Upon the recent arrival of the Afghan refugees returning from Germany, they were greeted at the Kabul airport with signs reading: “Welcome back, Afghanistan needs you.”
Passenger plane crashes in western Nepal
A small passenger plane crashed near the city of Jomsom in western Nepal on Wednesday, killing all 23 people on board (BBC, Reuters). The Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Tara Air, was travelling from Pokhara to Jomsom and lost contact with the control tower shortly after taking off. Most of those on board were Nepalis. The cause of the crash has not been established yet.
–Albert Ford and Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images