Afghan Taliban Delegation Denies Being in Pakistan for Peace Talks; India Will Be Short on Sugar Next Year; JuD Accused of Running Unauthorized Sharia Courts

Afghanistan Afghan Taliban delegation denies being in Pakistan for peace talks The Qatar-based political office of Afghanistan’s Taliban on Wednesday denied reports that a Taliban delegation is in Pakistan to discuss joining peace talks with the Afghan government (RFE/RL). Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Voice of America on Wednesday that ...

Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri (R) and the Talibans office spokesman Mohammed Naim (C) speak during a joint press conference at the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha on June 18, 2013. The office is intended to open dialogue with the international community and Afghan groups for a "peaceful solution" in Afghanistan Naim told reporters. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TIMIMI        (Photo credit should read FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images)
Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri (R) and the Talibans office spokesman Mohammed Naim (C) speak during a joint press conference at the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha on June 18, 2013. The office is intended to open dialogue with the international community and Afghan groups for a "peaceful solution" in Afghanistan Naim told reporters. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TIMIMI (Photo credit should read FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images)
Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri (R) and the Talibans office spokesman Mohammed Naim (C) speak during a joint press conference at the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha on June 18, 2013. The office is intended to open dialogue with the international community and Afghan groups for a "peaceful solution" in Afghanistan Naim told reporters. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TIMIMI (Photo credit should read FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban delegation denies being in Pakistan for peace talks

The Qatar-based political office of Afghanistan’s Taliban on Wednesday denied reports that a Taliban delegation is in Pakistan to discuss joining peace talks with the Afghan government (RFE/RL). Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Voice of America on Wednesday that the delegation traveled from Qatar to Karachi, Pakistan to discuss “close relations, long border, and commercial transactions” between Pakistan and the Taliban (VOA). Naeem reiterated that the issue of negotiations with the Afghan government is not on the agenda for the delegation.

Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban delegation denies being in Pakistan for peace talks

The Qatar-based political office of Afghanistan’s Taliban on Wednesday denied reports that a Taliban delegation is in Pakistan to discuss joining peace talks with the Afghan government (RFE/RL). Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Voice of America on Wednesday that the delegation traveled from Qatar to Karachi, Pakistan to discuss “close relations, long border, and commercial transactions” between Pakistan and the Taliban (VOA). Naeem reiterated that the issue of negotiations with the Afghan government is not on the agenda for the delegation.

This statement conflicts with remarks made to AFP by an unnamed Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban source who asserted on Wednesday that “a three-member Taliban negotiating team was in Karachi on April 25 and would soon begin initial contacts with Pakistani and Afghan officials” (Press TV). Part of the dialogue concerned “ways and means to bring peace to Afghanistan,” according to AFP’s Taliban source.

Russia interested in joining Afghan peace negotiations

Russia is interested in facilitating peace negotiations in Afghanistan alongside the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China, however, not as a part of the QCG (NYT). On Wednesday, Zamir Kabulov, a Russian envoy to Afghanistan, was cited by Interfax news agency as saying that Russia considers the current format of talks inefficient. While Russia does not plan to join, according to Kabulov, Moscow is interested in creating a new format.

After talks between Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Karimov asserted Russia’s importance to Afghan peace talks (NYT). “Russia has and always had its vital interests in this region,” he said after talks with Putin in Moscow. “We believe that attempts to resolve this (Afghan) issue without Russia are unreasoned and precipitous.”

India

India will be short on sugar next year

The president of the Bombay Sugar Merchants Association (BSMA), Ashok Jain, said on Wednesday that India will need to import sugar next year due to a production shortfall owing to consecutive years of drought (Reuters). Jain urged the government to stop exports now to reduce import requirements in the next season. India is the world’s largest consumer of sugar and this season will be exporting only 1.65 million tons. In the past, Indian imports of sugar have boosted global prices in which case, next year there could be a drop in Indian sugar consumption for the first time in seven years.

Government demands all cell phones to have a “panic button”

As a part of a campaign to improve women’s safety, the telecommunications ministry in India announced a new regulation on Wednesday whereby all mobile phones sold in the country, starting in 2017, must include a panic button (BBC, NPR, Bloomberg). From 2018, phones will also have to include GPS navigation systems. Officials are also attempting to introduce a countrywide, centralized emergency number this year as well. There is a growing concern in India over the increasing sexual violence against women. Government data shows that there were 337,922 reports of violence against women, including rape, molestation, abduction and cruelty in 2014, a rise of 9% on the previous year’s figures.

President’s Rule to continue in Uttarkhand

The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday extended its stay on overturning a decision by the Uttarkhand High Court to dismiss President’s Rule — direct rule of the state by the federal government — in the state (Hindu, HT). The court was entertaining an appeal by the federal government against a previous decision by the Uttarkhand High Court dismissing the federal government’s decision to use Article 356 of the Indian Constitution to install President’s Rule in Uttarkhand.The court had said that the federal government acted in “blatant falsehood” and the speaker of the state assembly had “double standards.” Uttarkhand High Court had ordered the state government to get a vote of confidence from the state legislature on April 29, which will now be canceled after the Supreme Court ruling.

Pakistan

JuD accused of running unauthorized sharia courts

A Pakistani judge accepted a case against Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Jud), an Islamic charity widely acknowledged as a front for the militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, who are accused of running unauthorized sharia courts in Lahore (NYT). The case was brought by Khalid Saeed, a real estate agent, who filed a lawsuit after JuD summoned him in January to appear at the organization’s court in Lahore to resolve a property dispute. Saeed told Reuters that if he was not present at the trial, the letter from JuD threatened that he would be sentenced according to sharia law. Lahore High Court Judge Shahid Bilal Hassan agreed to hear the case on Tuesday, but it is unclear when proceedings will continue.

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images

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