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

Teenager Aitzaz Hasan was killed on January 9 after stopping a suicide bomber at his school in northwest Pakistan. Hasan reportedly prevented the bomber from entering the school, and was killed when the bomber then detonated his suicide vest. There were over 2,000 students in the school, which is in a Shi’ite majority area, at the time of the attack. The Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ), a Sunni extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. This latest incident highlights the ongoing sectarian violence that plagues Pakistan.   

Relevant News Stories:
The Nine Lives of Pakistan’s ‘Dirty Harry’ (FP)
Afghan Taliban killings in Quetta may be part of a pattern (Dawn)
Pakistani Teen Dies Stopping Bomber from Striking School (NPR)
Aitzaz Hassan: Pakistan ‘hero’ recommended for award (BBC)

President Hamid Karzai has ordered the release of 72 prisoners currently held in Bagram prison. The order comes after an internal panel review which suggested 45 detainees are innocent and 27 detainees lack sufficient evidence for trial. US representatives objected to this assessment, stating all 88 prisoners are dangerous criminals and pose a serious threat to security forces in the country if released. According to General Joseph Dunford, American commander of international forces in Afghanistan, this move stands against the memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in 2013. US Senators warned last week that this move may irreparably damage relations, and cause a slash in aid to Afghanistan.

Relevant News Stories:
Afghan girl forced to wear suicide vest may be sent home, against wishes  (BBC)
Afghanistan’s Worsening, and Baffling, Hunger Crisis (NYT)
Gates: US Tried to Oust Karzai in ‘Failed Putsch’ (FP)
White House: Obama believes in Afghanistan mission (CNN)
With Release of Prisoners, Afghan Leader Again Defies US Wishes (NYT)

The Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won another term in elections that have been widely decried as a ‘farce’ as nearly all other parties boycotted. Voter turnout was also estimated to have been as low as twenty percent. Opposition leaders and activists continue to be detained and arrested, while others have gone into hiding. 2013 was one of Bangladesh’s most violent years since independence, and 2014 is unlikely to go any better. At least twenty people died on election day and there are reports of Islamists attacking the Hindu minority in rural areas since then. The political gridlock also plunges Bangladesh deeper into economic stagnation, as the garment industry has seen its own turmoil after a series of horrific accidents, strikes, and demands for increased wages.  

Relevant News Stories:
Bangladesh’s Election: Another Beating (The Economist)
Bangladesh poll: ‘I have never felt this scared’ (BBC)
Bangladesh election unrest squeezes key garment sector (Reuters)

Negotiations are underway between Russia and Iran to trade oil for goods, currently valued at $1.5 billion per month. The deal would export 500,000 BPD to Russia, doubling the country’s oil exports. Iran’s biggest buyer China imported 420,000 BPD in 2013. Iranian representatives are exhibiting urgency in finalizing the deal. Though the potential respite to Iran’s struggling economy is not being considered an obstacle in the nuclear talks, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is seemingly distancing himself from the negotiations. Khamenei denounced the United States on Thursday, citing hostility towards Iran and the Muslim world. Analysts suggest Khamenei is positioning himself, particularly to his hard-line conservative constituency, in the event that Iran is forced to compromise or negotiations collapse.

Relevant News Stories:
Exclusive: Iran, Russia negotiating big oil-for-goods deal (Reuters)
As Iran Nuclear Talks Resume, Ayatollah Criticizes U.S. (NYT)
Iran’s fingerprints in Fallujah (NYT)

Less than a month after taking charge of Delhi’s government, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has set up a helpline to allow individuals to report corrupt practices and demands for bribes. It offers advice and tips on how ordinary citizens can set up sting operations to gather proof of corruption. The AAP has stated arrests will take place within 24 hours of receiving a complaint with evidence, which should be in either video or audio form. The helpline, which was launched this past week, received over 4,000 calls within the first few hours.  Due to the sheer volume of calls, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, has stated that he will triple the number of staff manning the helpline.

Relevant News Stories:
India’s Delhi government’s anti-corruption helpline gets thousands of calls (BBC)
India-China Trade: record $31 bn deficit in 2013 (The Hindu)
Election Q&A: Inside India’s Race to the Polls (FP)
India launches satellite from space centre (Al Jazeera)