South Asia Theater
Gunmen attacked a Sufi religious gathering in Pakistan's port city of Karachi Feb. 9, throwing grenades and then opening fire on the worshippers, leaving eight dead and that number again wounded. Followers of Mehrban Jalali Shah Baba, the spiritual leader who runs the gathering place, blamed the attack on the Deobandi militant group Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat. (AP, ABNA, Feb. 9) On Jan. 21, three bullet-riddled bodies were found near the Sufi shrine of Shah Wilayat Shrine in Karachi. On Jan. 7, six bodies were found at the shrine of Ayub Shah in Karachi's Maymar suburb. In December, five bodies were found at a Sufi shrine on the shores of Kalri Lake in Thatta, just outside Karachi. The shrine was also defaced, and a note left, signed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, warning the public against visiting Sufi sites. (Central Asia Online, Jan. 24; PTI, Jan. 21)
The main opposition party in Sri Lanka, the United National Party (UNP), released a statement Feb. 13 demanding the government conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes that occurred during the 26 year Sri Lankan Civil War that ended in 2009. The Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or Tamil Tigers) have both been accused of war crimes and human rights violations, primarily in the final months of the conflict. According to the AP, the government has been accused of deliberately shelling civilians, blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone and deliberately undercounting civilians caught up in fighting. The Tamil rebels have been accused of using civilians as human shields, killing those who tried to escape their hold and recruiting child soldiers. According to a November 2012 UN report (PDF) an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict.
Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) leader AKM Yusuf, died at age 87 on Feb. 9 of cardiac arrest. Bangladeshi authorities arrested Yusuf in May on 13 charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Yusuf became ill while in jail, where we was detained while facing the war crimes charges, which included genocide, arson and rape. The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh ( ICTB) had been scheduled to begin Yusuf's trial on February 12. His defense counsel had previously sought bail due to the man's old age, and now claim that the jail should have provided better treatment.
A leader in Bangladesh's main Islamist party was charged on Dec. 31 in connection with war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War with Pakistan. Abdus Subhan, who was arrested last September, was formally charged after Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) conducted an investigation. However, human rights groups say that the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed in that war, does not meet international standards and supporters of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) say the tribunal is used politically to eradicate its leaders. The Bangladesh war of independence caused an estimated 10 million civilians to flee to India, and an estimated 3 million deaths. Subhan has denied all charges.
The Bangladesh government on Dec. 12 executed Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party. Mollah was convicted by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and sentenced to life in prison; however, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in September sentenced Mollah to death without appeal. Mullah's execution has sparked widespread protests throughout the country, with opposition groups calling for a countrywide strike on Dec. 15.
Celebrations of Muharram, the Shi'ite holy month highlighted by the Ashura festival, saw sectarian violence that left several dead across Pakistan. The government has imposed a curfew and blocked mobile phone services in the capital and nearby Rawalpindi after a Shi'ite procession in the garrison city exploded into clashes with gangs of Sunni militants Nov. 15, leaving seven dead. Three days later, a mob set shops on fire in a Shi'ite district in the northwestern town of Kohat in clashes that left a civilian and a paramilitary officer dead. The northwestern city of Hangu is also under curfew following clashes. In Karachi, a bomb attack injured two as Shi'ites were gathering at a shrine Nov. 13; a second bomb went off as rescue workers arrived, injuring six more. (Reuters, Nov. 18; Geo TV, Nov. 15; AFP, Nov. 14)
At least three are dead in clashes as opposition parties attempt to enforce a three-day general strike in Bangladesh, aimed at bringing down the government. All public gatherings have been banned in the main cities of Dhaka and Chittagong, but protesters have repeatedly defied the decree, leading to street-fighting with police and government supporters. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islam are demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina install a caretaker administration to oversee the January general election. Hasina, who heads the ruling Awami League, rejects the demand. Tensions have been growing for months between the secular but increasingly authoritarian Awami League and a radicalizing Islamist opposition. (BBC News, Times of Oman, Oct. 27; Bangladesh News, Oct. 24)