Commentary from the South Asia Center on the most relevant news from the region, and suggested “must-read” analyses from the week.

Amidst targeted army strikes on militants’ hideouts in Waziristan, Pakistan’s released its first-ever internal security strategy primarily focused at eliminating the terrorist insurgency. The long awaited strategy takes a strong handed approach, stating “any terrorist action anywhere in Pakistan” will result in retaliation on militant headquarters against those who planned or carried out attacks. The strategy also seeks to remove communication barriers among security agencies, build capacity of personnel, and improve coordination of militancy response. In a concurrent development, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) activists cleared a blockade of the Pak-Afghan transit trade route, restoring a NATO supply line to Afghanistan. PTI initiated the blockade as a protest to US drone strikes in Pakistani territories. With a temporary halt in strikes, the last occurring in December 2013, the Peshawar High Court ordered an end the blockade protest. The Obama administration informally agreed to a halt in US drone strikes, with the exception of Al-Qaida operational leaders, while the Pakistan government pursues peace with militants.

Relevant News Stories
Pakistan draws up tough anti-Taliban strategy (Al Jazeera)
Pakistan party drops its blockade of NATO supply routes (Washington Post)
Pakistan not assisting rebels in Syria: Sartaj (The News)
Pak-India trade normalisation: Dar stresses on non-discriminatory market access (Express Tribune)


Frustrated with Afghan government’s denial to sign Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) President Barak Obama has threatened Afghan President Hamid Karzai of complete withdrawal of his troops from Afghanistan. However, Obama has hinted at a limited military engagement with the next government in Kabul for the training of Afghan forces. A complete withdrawal will put limits on security cooperation between the two countries, and will embolden Afghan Taliban to attempt to regain their control over Kabul. In a concurrent development, Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to work together to tackle the ‘common enemies’ spread on both sides of the border.

Relevant News Stories
Obama warns Afghan president of Full Troop withdrawal (World News)
Concerns over Govt. Interference in Election (Outlook Afghanistan)
US army chief fears complete troop withdrawal would encourage Afghan Taliban (Afghanistan Sun)

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif declared that Tehran would keep its nuclear program intact, whilst also emphasizing Iran’s political will and good faith required to achieve a comprehensive deal. This statement was interpreted a signal of intent from Tehran that any final accord reached would not include a dismantling of atomic facilities. Foreign Minister Zarif asserted that Iran was “prepared to make sure that the program is exclusively peaceful and create the necessary understanding for the West. I believe there are multiple ways of doing that and we are willing to entertain those ways”. In a separate development, the United Nations Human Rights office declared its deep concern about the high number of executions in Iran this year. With at least 80 and as many as 95 believed to have been executed since the start of the year, the surge in the use of death penalty has decreased the prospects of human rights reforms under Presidents Hassan Rouhani’s government.

Relevant News Stories
What’s behind Iran and Iraq’s ‘boosted’ military cooperation? (Al-Arabiya)
Iran says nuclear program to stay ‘intact’ (Reuters)
Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline shelved: Islamabad (The Times of India)
Iran: Surge in Executions Worries Rights Experts (New York Times)

The run up to the Indian national elections took yet another turn as regional parties formed new coalitions and altered their alliances. Eleven political parties, including some of the biggest regional parties in India such as the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United), formed a coalition with the aim of diverting votes away from India’s two main national parties in the general elections due by May. Should either of the two main parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), fail to get a majority of seats (273) in the lower house of parliament, the coalition could play a major role in the forming of the next government. Moreover the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which quit the National Democratic Alliance a decade ago over the Gujarat riots, returned to the alliance this week giving a significant boost to alliance leader BJP. Meanwhile, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party announced that the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Rajmohan Gandhi, would be the party’s candidate from the East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency.

Relevant News Stories
11-party ‘alternative’ front has BJD, AGP missing (The Indian Express)
Ram Vilas Paswan’s party returns to NDA, agrees on seat-sharing pact with BJP (NDTV)
Narendra Modi Exhorts Small Businesses to Embrace Competition (New York Times)
Police reported that group of at least two dozen gunmen exploded bombs and opened fire on a van that was transporting three prisoners belonging to Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, a banned Islamist group that wants to establish strict Islamic law.  During the attack the prisoners successfully escaped while a police officer was killed in the process.  Local police have since claimed one of the escaped convicts has been recaptured.

Relevant News Stories
Bangladesh Islamist prisoners snatched from police (Associated Press)
Bangladesh crackdown damages human rights – HRW (Reuters)