South Asia Theater
Bangladesh on May 25 banned an Islamist militant group suspected of involvement in the murders of atheist bloggers that sparked protests in Dhaka earlier this year. The Home Ministry's move to outlaw the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) comes after police asked the government to ban the group. Police have also charged ABT followers with the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. ABT is the sixth Islamist militant group to be banned in the country, which has seen a rise in militant attacks in recent years. The msot recent slaying of a blogger, which took place two weeks ago in Sylhet city, was claimed on Twitter in the name of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). AQIS previously claimed responsibility for the February slaying of blogger Avijit Roy in Dhaka. An Islamist has been arrested in connection with his murder but not formally charged. (Channel NewsAsia, May 25)
Gunmen on motorcycles stopped a commuter bus carrying Ismaili Muslims in Karachi May 13, boarded it and opened fire on the passengers, killing at least 45. Outside the hospital where some dozen wounded survivors were taken, and where the bus was parked, scores of grim-faced young Ismali men formed a human chain to block everyone but families and doctors—apparently fearing a follow-up attack. English leaflets left in the bus were headlined "Advent of the Islamic State!" The leaflet used derogatory Arabic words, blaming the Ismali community for "barbaric atrocities...in the Levant, Iraq and Yemen." Pakistani media said the attack was claimed by the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, the Jundullah network, and militants claiming to represent ISIS. (AFP, BBC News, May 13)
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Dhaka Feb. 27 to denounce the murder of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, hacked to death with machetes earlier that day while walking near a book fair he was visiting in the city. Roy was founder of Mukto-Mona (Free Mind) blog, which advocated secularism and atheism. He had received numerous threats from Islamists in recent months. His wife was also injured the attack. There have been no arrests. At the rally, protesters chanted "We want justice" and "Raise your voice against militants."
Last month's US-India nuclear deal obviously signaled a rise in Sino-Indian tensions, seen by Beijing (accurately) as part of an encirclement strategy. The deal called for inclusion of India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which drew immediate criticism from China. The NSG is comprised of 46 nuclear supplier states, including China, Russia and the US, that have agreed to coordinate export controls on civilian nuclear material to non-nuclear-weapon states. The group has up to now been made up of signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—which, as China was quck to note, does not include India (or Pakistan, or the "secret" nuclear nation Israel). More to the point, India is not a "non-nuclear-weapon state." (The Diplomat, Feb. 14; Arms Control Association)
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Feb. 18 convicted and sentenced Islamist leader Abdus Subhan to death. Subhan, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) political party, was charged and convicted of of mass killing, looting and arson during during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan. Subhan is the ninth senior leader of his party to be convicted of war crimes since the tribunal opened in 2010.
Nepal created two commissions Feb. 10 to investigate allegations of war crimes and disappearances that occurred during the nation's 10-year civil war, announced Nepali Law Minister Narahari Acharya. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will investigate abuses committed during the conflict, and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances will investigate the disappearances of more than 1,300 people still missing after the conflict ended in 2006. This agreement by the coalition government to address the war-time accusations comes just two weeks after Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed its concern regarding the government's delay in the formation of the commissions. The commissions will start their investigations within six months of their creation and will operate on two-year tenure.
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) sentenced (PDF) Islamist leader ATM Azharul Islam to death on Dec. 30 for war crimes committed during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan. Azharul Islam is the assistant secretary general of the nation's largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). He was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, including mass murder, rape and torture, while fighting for Pakistan during the war as a member of the student party Islami Chhatra Sangha. The defense argued that Azharul Islam was only charged with these crimes for "political victimization," but the court stated that it did not find any evidence proving prosecution for political purposes.
Pakistani police have detained the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on abduction charges a day after a court ordered his release. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was detained in Pakistani custody since 2008 for heading the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (CFR backgrounder), which was held responsible for the Mumbai attacks that killed 165 individuals. Earlier this month, Lakhvi was granted bail, but the government immediately imposed a three-month detention order to keep him in prison. Lakhvi successfully challenged the order with the Islamabad High Court, and was conditionally released on Dec. 29. Hours after his release, Lakhvi was in police custody again for the alleged kidnapping of a man. The Pakistani government has stated plans to challenge the original decision to grant Lakhvi bail.