The South Asia Channel

Penalties Against Farkhunda’s Killers Sharply Reduced; Oldest Guantanamo Prisoner, A Pakistani Man, Gets First Parole Hearing; Pakistan Requests Change of Venue for Upcoming Cricket Match in India

Penalties Against Farkhunda’s Killers Sharply Reduced; Oldest Guantanamo Prisoner, A Pakistani Man, Gets First Parole Hearing; Pakistan Requests Change of Venue for Upcoming Cricket Match in India

Event Notice: Cybersecurity for a New America, Wednesday, March 9 (Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.)

Event Notice: Future of War Conference, Thursday, March 10 (Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.)

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “As the Taliban Menace Afghanistan, the Helmand River Offers Solace,” by Mujib Mashal (NYT)

Penalties against Farkhunda’s killers sharply reduced

Late on Monday evening, Afghanistan’s attorney general confirmed the decision of the Afghan Supreme Court to vacate four death sentences and ease the punishment on nine other defendants accused of murdering Farkhunda Malikzada (NYT). This action by the Supreme Court is in keeping with the largely forgiving stance taken by the judiciary against Farkhunda’s accused killers. Of the 49 men arrested in connection to her death, only 13 have faced serious penalties, most have been greatly reduced, and all death sentences have been vacated. Farkhunda Malikzada was beaten to death on March 19, 2015 after being falsely accused of desecrating the Quran. Farkhunda’s brother, Mujibullah Malikzada, speaking on behalf of his family who fled to Tajikistan in the aftermath of Farkhunda’s killing, said, “Not only do we oppose the decision of the Supreme Court, but the entire nation is dissatisfied. I’m not saying that the perpetrators must be lynched the way they lynched my sister. But all I want is fairness and justice, which has not been done.”

China offers additional funding to fight the Taliban

The Afghan Defense Ministry announced an increase of military financial assistance from China to aid in Afghanistan’s fight against extremist groups, including the Taliban (WSJ). The deal was put together in February when a delegation of Chinese military officials, led by General Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army, visited Kabul and met with President Ashraf Ghani, among others. China’s military financial support totals $70 million. While far less than the investment made by the United States, it is significant due to China’s previously neutral posture in Afghanistan as they sought to manage relations with the Taliban to further broaden peace in the country. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, the Afghan defense minister’s deputy spokesman, Mohammad Radmanish, said, “A commission has been assigned to make the wish list,” and that uniforms, light weapons, and aircraft parts could be included. The Chinese government’s motivations to clamp down on the continued rise of terror groups in Afghanistan also lie with its tense, sometimes violent relations with its Muslim Uighur population who are known to operate in the AfPak border region and China’s bordering Xinjiang province.

Government office in Helmand attacked by Taliban militants

On Wednesday morning, Taliban operators attacked the police head office and intelligence offices in Gereshk, located in south-central Helmand, according to Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor (AP, RFE/RL, VOA). Suicide bombers struck inside the police compound, but security officials were able to deter the attackers at the intelligence offices. A legal, investigative representative appointed by President Ashraf Ghani to serve in Helmand, Jabbar Karaman, reported that seven Taliban militants had been killed, while three police officers and an unknown number of civilians had died as the gunfight continued. Helmand remains in a precarious position, as all but three of the 14 districts are controlled by Taliban forces.

–Albert Ford

Pakistan

Oldest Guantanamo prisoner, a Pakistani man, gets first parole hearing

On Tuesday, 68 year-old Saifullah Paracha appeared before the Washington, D.C.-based Periodic Review Board via teleconference to make his first case for parole (AP, Dawn). Paracha, formerly a Pakistani businessman and the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo, has been imprisoned there for 12 years for providing financial and other support to senior al Qaeda figures. He was captured in a U.S. government-operated sting in Bangkok, Thailand in 2003. Paracha and his son, Uzair, were also accused of assisting an al Qaeda operative travel to the United States. Uzair is serving a 30-year sentence at a prison in the United States. Saifullah Parach’s lawyer, David Remes, is optimistic about his client’s chances as he contends the Periodic Review Board’s core consideration is whether the defendant poses a future threat to the United States, not his past offenses. Remes said in a phone interview, “He’s a 68 year-old man. He has a serious heart problem. He has severe diabetes. This is not the man who was seized 14 years ago. The board has to make a fresh assessment.”

Zika-carrying mosquitoes found in Pakistan

According to a representative of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO), reported that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been found in Pakistan (ET). The WHO has classified the Zika virus as an international public heath emergency due to its linkage to birth defects on infants in Brazil. The virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The GOARN representative, Dr. Muhammad Najeeb Durrani, told The Express Tribune, “The health sector is on high alert and has been urged to devise a strategy for its possible appearance and spread in the country.”

–Albert Ford

India

Pakistan requests change of venue for upcoming cricket match in India

The International Cricket Council (ICC) confirmed on Wednesday that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has requested the venue for India-Pakistan cricket match on March 19 be moved from Dharmsala in the northern Indian state of Himachel Pardesh (BBC, Cricinfo). Calcutta will now host the match (NDTV). The match is part of the WorldT20 tournament being hosted by India and is one of the largest events in the cricket world.

The PCB made this request after a three man security team visited Dharmsala. The team was not satisfied with security arrangements at the ground. Earlier, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also expressed security concerns after reports suggested that there is local opposition to the match being played in Dharamsala since the area was home to some of the soldiers who died in a militant attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in January. India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack.

Environmental groups say “World Culture Festival” a threat to Yamna banks

One of the best known spiritual gurus, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is organizing a “World Culture Festival” in Delhi this Friday. 3.5 million visitors are expected to attend this event that will be spread on 1,000 acres (Reuters). Numerous environmental groups have filed petitions at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s top environmental court, and expressed serious concerns about the impact of the event on the Yamna River, upon whose banks this event is being hosted. Ravi Shankar, who enjoys a following in India and abroad, rejected the criticisms. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to speak at the opening ceremony on Friday, but it remains unclear as to whether he will change his plans in light of the controversy.

–Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images