Last week in South Asia, security forces stepped up operations against the Taliban and Baloch separatist militant groups in Pakistan. Indian military forces also conducted anti-militant operations in Kashmir to thwart possible attacks. Anti-government demonstrations against farm laws and increasing fuel prices continued in India. In Nepal, demonstrations declined as the Supreme Court ruled to reinstate parliament. Lastly, women across South Asia staged peaceful protests to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March to demand equality.
In Pakistan, security forces launched operations against Taliban militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and against Baloch separatists in Balochistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 suspected Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, including three commanders, were killed during three Intelligence-Based Operations on militant hideouts in the North Waziristan district. Two other TTP militants were killed in South Waziristan district. The Waziristan region has seen a rising number of attacks on Pakistani security forces and tribal civilians over the past year (for more on militancy in Pakistan, see this ACLED report). In Balochistan, the Counter-Terrorism Department killed five Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) militants in Mastung town during an operation.
Similarly, in India, military forces conducted operations against militant outfits in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) based on intelligence about possible planned attacks. Two Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants were killed during a two-day cordon and search operation at Anantnag district. Security forces reportedly killed the chief commander of Al-Badr in an encounter in Kashmir’s Baramulla district. According to local police, the slain commander had “a significant role in youth recruitment and receiving new groups from across the Line of Control (LoC)” (Deccan Herald, 10 March 2021). Security forces have increased the number of operations to stifle the sporadic yet steady violence by militant groups in the Kashmir region (Times of India, 11 March 2021). In February, security forces killed three Al-Badr militants during an operation in Shopian district and exchanged fire with Lashkar-e-Taiba in another operation in Budgam district.
Also in India, anti-government demonstrations continued last week. Indian farmers marked 100 days of demonstration with road blockades on the outskirts of the capital city and across the country. Tens of thousands of farmers have camped outside the capital’s borders since November to voice concerns about three agricultural laws to deregulate the market (Al Jazeera, 8 March 2021). Last week, the farmers’ union Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) lifted its 169-day-long railway blockade in Punjab state to facilitate crop harvest (The Tribune, 16 March 2021). Union leaders elsewhere assert that they are set on continuing the demonstrations (Hindustan Times, 6 March 2021). Demonstrations led by Indian opposition parties against fuel prices and inflation continued last week, though decreased relative to the week prior. The opposition stalled parliament proceedings for two consecutive days with protests against high fuel prices and demands for the immediate discussion of the issue (The Telegraph, 10 March 2021).
Meanwhile, in Nepal, anti-government demonstrations decreased following the verdict from the Supreme Court regarding the dissolution of Parliament and the governing party. Last week, the Supreme Court removed the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) from the electoral register, stating that the name NCP was already registered by a separate party (Al Jazeera, 10 March 2021). Furthermore, the Supreme Court annulled the merger of the two original parties, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). Two separate parties, the Unified Marxist-Leninist and the Maoist Centre, which had merged in 2018 to form the NCP, were restored. Earlier on 23 February, the judicial body reinstated parliament after its dissolution by the prime minister in December (Reuters, 23 February 2021). With the reinstatement of parliament and the split of the ruling party, Prime Minister Oli will now have to seek a vote of confidence in the parliament to remain in power (Kathmandu Post, 8 March 2021).
In other developments, women across South Asia held demonstrations to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March. In Muslim majority countries Pakistan and Bangladesh, the demonstrations focused on equal rights and violence against women. Pakistani women marched under the slogan “patriarchy pandemic” in many cities and demand laws against sexual abuse as well as both forced and child marriage (Deutsche Welle, 8 March 2021). A few days before the march, thousands of conservative and right-wing Twitter users accused the protest organizers of being “un-Islamic” and of receiving funding from abroad to corrupt Pakistani women (Deutsche Welle, 8 March 2021). Shortly after the protests, the Pakistani Taliban threatened the organizers in a statement, accusing them of blasphemy and obscenity (Reuters, 12 March 2021). Peaceful protests for equal rights and against domestic violence were also held in Bangladesh. In India, thousands of women joined the farmers on International Women’s Day to highlight the contribution of women to farming. About 75 percent of all rural Indian women work as farmers (Al Jazeera, 8 March 2021). In Sri Lanka, women in Tamil majority areas held demonstrations demanding justice for human rights violations against Tamil women by the Sri Lankan government.
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