South Asia Theater
A bill is advancing in Pakistan's Senate that would amend the coonstitution to give Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and Balochi the status of "national languages" along with Urdu. The bill this week cleared the Senate's Standing Committee on Law and Justice. Under Article 251 of the 1973 constitution, Urdu is recognized as the only "national language," with text calling for it to become the "official" language within 15 years. The text states that English can be used provisionally for official purposes until the transition to Urdu is complete. Other tongues may be promoted as "provincial languages," but this is a clearly subsidiary position. Urdu is actually a minority language itself, as Punjabi has the most speakers of any language in Pakistan. Urdu, long used as a lingua franca by various peoples, was chosen above Punjabi as the "national language" so as not to unduly favor Punjab province, the country's most populous. But English is still used for most administrative functions, and the transition to an "offically" Urdu state was never completed. The proposed amendment would make the other languages equal to Urdu, and "establish a fund for the development and promotion of national languages." It would also allow the provinces to promote other local languages, forseeing their eventual adoption as "national languages."
Hundreds have protested in Pakistani cities to denounce the mob slaying of a leftist university student who was accused of "blasphemy" after an argument with fellow students in the northern city of Mardan. The April 14 incident at Mardan's Abdul Wali Khan University attracted a crowd of hundreds. Journalism student Mashal Khan was dragged into a public area on the campus and beaten to death after a mob kicked in the door of his dormitory room. Witnesses said Khan was forced to recite verses from the Koran before his death. The incident apparently followed a heated argument over religion with other students. Images of his dorm room after the attack showed posters of Che Guevara and Karl Marx, as well as the phrase painted on the wall: "Be curious, crazy and mad."
The high court in India's Uttarakhand state issued a ruling March 20 recognizing the Ganga (Ganges) and Yamuna as "living entities," officially giving these rivers that have seen long years of ecological damage a legal voice. "This order may be seen as a precedent and come across as strange but it is not any different from the status of being a legal entity as in the case of family trusts or a company," said Raj Panjwani, attorney with India's National Green Tribunal, a body charged with prosecuting enviromental crimes. Under the ruling, the rivers are accorded all rights guaranteed by India's constitution, including the right not to be harmed or destroyed. The ruling, which comes in a public interest litigation brought by the NGT, mandates action by the national government if Uttarakhand state authorities fail to meet their responsibilities regarding the rivers.
A suicide attack on a Sufi shrine Feb. 16 killed at least 75 worshippers and wounded dozens more—the deadliest in a string of blasts in Pakistan this week. At least 250 others were wounded, with the only hospital in the area overwhelmed. The blast went off outside the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in the town of Sehwan, Sindh province. The blast took place during Dhamal, a weekly dance ritual, with hundreds of devotees present inside the shrine and lined up to enter. The Islamic State's Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack. (Hindustan Times, Indian Express, BBC News, Al Jazeera)
A Pakistani anti-terrorism court acquitted 112 individuals suspected of taking part in the 2013 burning of 150 Christian homes and two churches in Lahore's Josep Colony. Ghulam Murtaza Chaudhry, the lawyer defending the suspects, stated that the suspects were acquitted because of a lack of evidence. Chaudhry stated the testimony of the plaintiffs was inconsistent and they could not identify those accused. The suspects were being charged under Pakistan's blasphemy law, which outlaws blasphemy against any recognized religion and provides penalties that range from a fine to death. At the time the acquittal was handed down, all 112 suspects were out on bail.
The Balochistan High Court issued an arrest warrant Nov. 28 for former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is accused of involvement with the murder of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in a military operation in 2006. Bugti had led a campaign for greater autonomy in the Balochistan region. Cases against Musharraf have been ongoing since 2010. In April Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Court issued a nonbailable arrest warrant against the former president and military leader for detaining more than 60 judges after declaring a state of emergency in 2007. He was also indicted in 2014 on charges of high treason, for which could face the death penalty. Musharraf pleaded not guilty to each of the charges against him, including unlawfully suspending the constitution. He called the charges politically motivated and maintained that the country had prospered under his 2001-2008 rule.
ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban both claimed responsibility for the Oct. 24 suicide attack at a police academy in Quetta that killed at least 60 and wounded more than 120. But Pakistani officials claim another jihadist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, carried out the assault. At least three fighters armed with assault weapons, grenades, and suicide vests attacked the dormitory of the academy as cadets were sleeping. Two of the suicide bombers detonated their vests, causing the bulk of the casualties, while the third was shot by security guards. Pakistan's Frontier Corps said that a cell of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi network carried out the attack, and claimed that the assault team communicated with handlers based in Afghanistan. The Islamic State's "Khorasan Province" also took responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Amaq News Agency, the ISIS propaganda arm. The Karachi faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan likewise claimed credit for the attack. In an e-mail received by Long War Journal, the group said four of its "suicide fighters" executed the attack, which was carried to "avenge the martyrdom of our mujahideen." (LWJ, Oct. 25)
India's highest court ordered (PDF) the state of Karnataka to share water with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu on Sept. 12. The two states have disputed rights to the Cauvery River for decades. Last week the court ruled that Karnataka must share 15,000 cubic feet per second for 10 days, but Karnataka appealed that decision. Karnataka officials argued that the state does not have enough water to share and that Tamil Nadu is not suffering hardship over the water. The court ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cubic feet per second instead of 15,000. After the decision violent protests erupted which led to attacks on hotels, shops, and buses. In response, police deployed 15,000 officers to the area and are prohibiting large public gatherings.