The South Asia Channel

U.S. Report: Religious Tolerance Deteriorating in India; Canadian Man Ordered to Leave Nepal After Critical Tweets; Pakistani COAS Approves 11 Death Sentences; Big Poppy Harvest in Helmand Yields Profits, New Recruits for Taliban

India U.S. Report: Religious tolerance deteriorating in India United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) warned on Monday that India is on a negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom (Forbes, TOI). USCIRF is U.S. government body that monitors religious freedoms in different countries. USCIRF’s annual report finds that “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated ...

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Christian devotee offering prayers on the occasion of Merry Christmas festival in side a Church in Allahabad. (Photo by Ravi Prakash / Pacific Press) (Photo by Pacific Press/Corbis via Getty Images)

India

U.S. Report: Religious tolerance deteriorating in India

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) warned on Monday that India is on a negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom (Forbes, TOI). USCIRF is U.S. government body that monitors religious freedoms in different countries. USCIRF’s annual report finds that “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups.”

The commission said it would closely monitor the situation in the year ahead to determine if India should be recommended to the U.S. State Department for designation as a “country of particular concern,” under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom. The Indian government rejected the findings of the report, saying it “fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society.”

India rejects Apple’s plan to import used iPhones

The Indian government on Wednesday rejected a plan by U.S. technology firm Apple Inc., to import used iPhones for sales in the country, on the basis of anti-dumping laws (Reuters). Apple sells “refurbished” iPhones at a discount in many countries, including the United States and planned to extend the practice to India. Apple’s proposal was opposed by domestic phone makers who believe cheaper iPhones could cut into their market share. The telecom ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday that “India does not encourage dumping or recycling of hazardous materials.” Apple posted its first-ever drop in iPhone sales this quarter due to the Chinese slowdown, its most important market after the United States.

Nepal

Canadian man ordered to leave Nepal after critical tweets

The Home Ministry in Nepal revoked the work visa of a Canadian citizen, Robert Penner, and asked him to leave the country within two days for posting “anti-Nepal” messages on social media (WP). Penner has worked for a software company in Nepal for three years. He was detained on Monday for questioning and released late on Tuesday on the condition that he leaves the country in two days. Home Ministry official Yadav Koirala said Robert Penner’s work visa was revoked because his critical posts on Twitter threatened national unity. Penner had criticized the new constitution adopted by the Nepali government last September and the government’s handling of violent ethnic protests in reaction to the new constitution.

Pakistan

Pakistani Chief of Army Staff approves 11 death sentences

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Raheel Sharif late on Tuesday night approved the death sentences for 11 Taliban militants who, according to an Army statement, were convicted of crimes such as terrorism, kidnappings, attacks on civilians and assaults on police and army officers (AP). Pakistan’s laws require the COAS’s approval for all death sentences given to those tried in military courts. Pakistan overturned their ban on capital punishment, passed initially in 2008, after the Peshawar Army Public School massacre in December 2014 that killed 150 people. The date of the executions for the 11 Taliban members is yet to be determined, and the convicted individuals are allowed to appeal the COAS’s decision.

Chief of Army Staff opens inquiry into political activist’s death

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif opened an inquiry into the death of Aftab Husain (also known as Aftab Ahmed), a political activist with the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and aide to the party’s National Assembly leader Farooq Sattar, who died on Tuesday after being arrested at his home in Karachi on Sunday by the Rangers paramilitary force (Reuters). The Rangers initiated a crackdown on crime in Karachi in 2013 and have been accused by MQM of conducting extra-judicial killings of the party’s members, an accusation the Rangers refute. Businesses in Karachi have welcomed the Rangers anti-crime operations as murder rates have significantly fallen. Conversely, the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances acknowledged a “pattern of specific targeting” of MQM by the Rangers. The Rangers said at the outset that Husain died of a heart attack, but MQM said he was “extra-judicially killed” in the Rangers’ custody.

Pakistan and China sign agreements worth $4.2 billion

Pakistan and China agreed to $4.2 billion worth of financing for two road projects along the eastern portion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during planning, development, and reform minister Ahsan Iqbal’s visit to China last week (ET). The two new projects are a key part of connecting Beijing and the port city of Gwadar and are arranged through a Chinese concessionary loan of $1.3 billion for the 74.5 mile-long Karakoram Highway-II (KKH-II) and $2.9 billion for a 243.6 mile-long section of the Lahore-Karachi motorway. To date, the CPEC investment package totals $46 billion, with $11.5 billion allocated to road and railway development.

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “How a Robust Media Has Transformed Afghanistan,” by Saad Mohseni (Asia Society)

Big poppy harvest in Helmand yields profits, new recruits for Taliban

The 2016 poppy-harvesting season in Afghanistan’s Helmand province has produced strong yields, according to a report in the New York Times that surveys Helmand’s opium harvest that began in late March and early April and is now drawing to a close (NYT). As a result, the Taliban has an inflow of cash and a pool of nearly 15,000 jobless, young men to recruit to join their ranks at the conclusion of Helmand’s harvest season. According to Bashir Ahmad Shakir, the head of security committee at the Helmand provincial council, “The poppy harvest is a good time for the Taliban to interact with new faces — best time for new recruitment.” He continued, “The poppies support the Taliban financially. The commanders of the Taliban stuff their pockets with cash. Once they receive the cash that makes their stomachs oily, they prepare themselves for fighting.” Financially, the Taliban makes money through imposing and collecting local opium taxes and a 10 percent Islamic tax on farm produce.

–Shuja Malik and Albert Ford

Edited by Peter Bergen

Ravi Prakash / Pacific Press / Corbis via Getty Images

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

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