News Timeline: South Asia 2009


January 2: Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan army captures the Tamil Tiger rebels’ main base in Kilinochchi. It is a major blow to the rebels who held Kilinochchi for the last decade and turned it into their administrative headquarters. (January 8): The Sri Lankan troops take the rebels’ bases at Pallai and Sorampattu. (January 9): The army captures Elephant Pass, the causeway of strategic importance that controls access from the Jaffna Peninsula to the Sri Lankan mainland. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa says that the army’s advances completely dislodged the rebels. (January 25): The army takes the rebels’ last major base in Mullaitivu, which, with its surrounding areas, was the center of the Tamil Tigers’ military power. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in recent fighting and about 250,000 trapped in the areas held by the rebels.

February 3: Sri Lanka

International community urges the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to declare a temporary ceasefire and discuss terms of surrender to avoid more casualties of civilian trapped in the fighting zone. However, the government says that the rebels’ defeat is imminent and it will accept only unconditional surrender.

February 11: Afghanistan

At least 27 people die and 35 are injured in attacks on three government buildings in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Suicide bombers target justice and education ministries and a prison office. The Taliban claims the responsibility. The attack is another in a string of similar assaults last year.

February 12: India/Pakistan

Pakistan admits that last year’s terrorist attacks on Mumbai were partially planned in Pakistan. It also says that it has detained dozens of suspects from the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. India welcomes Pakistan’s admission, saying that this will help the strained relations between the two countries.

February 18: Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama approves a deployment of additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, fulfilling his campaign promise to make Afghanistan his administration’s priority. The troops will be positioned in the south of the country in an effort to stabilize the most violent part of the country.

March 9: Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government appoints former deputy leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels Colonel Karuna minister of national integration and reconciliation. He split from the rebels in 2004 with more than 6,000 insurgents, causing a major setback to the movement. (March 10): The Tamil Tiger rebels launch suicide bomb attacks on Sri Lanka’s southern city of Akuressa, about 100 miles from the capital, Colombo, killing 14 people and wounding another 35. The Sri Lankan government says it has made progress in encircling the rebels in a small area. However, heavy fighting continues, with 218 people killed and 1,205 injured since the beginning of March.

May 4: Nepal

Former Nepali Maoist-leader-turned-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, resigns after President Ram Baran Yadav opposed his demand to dismiss the army chief. The Maoists want about 19,000 of their former rebels to be incorporated into the Nepalese army, which is being opposed by the army. (May 23): Nepal’s parliament elects the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, to the post of prime minister. The Maoists, the largest party in the parliament, do not put forward their candidate and boycott the vote. They also vow to continue protesting against new prime minister.

May 7: Pakistan

Pakistan launches a full-scale military operation to defeat insurgency and eliminate about 5,000 militants in the Swat Valley and neighboring Dir and Buner districts by the Afghan border, the area torn by tensions for months. The government signed a peace agreement with the Taliban last February, allowing it to establish Islamic courts based on the Sharia law in the controlled territories. But the militants have violated their part of the agreement by refusing to disarm and attacking Pakistani checkpoints and bases in recent weeks. (May 18): The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that hundreds of people have been killed and about 1.5 million have fled the fighting between the government and militants in north-western Pakistan, most of them into camps in the neighboring North-West Frontier Province.

May 13: India

India concludes the five-phase general elections that started on April 16. India has 714 million eligible voters. (May 16): After counting all the votes, the ruling Congress Party and its allies emerge as strong winners with 262 seats in parliament followed by the BJP-led alliance that wins 158 seats. The Congress’s decisive victory brings hope for a strong and stable government. (May 19): The Congress Party unanimously elects Manmohan Singh its leader in parliament, paving the way for his second term as India’s prime minister.

May 19: Sri Lanka

The founder of the Tamil Tiger rebel organization (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, or LTTE) and its main leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is killed by the Sri Lankan military together with two of his commanders. The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse declares victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels and an end to the 26-year civil war. He also reaches to the Tamil minority, promising to give the province more political power.

August 2: Afghanistan

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has dropped by 22 percent and production by 10 percent. The biggest decrease has taken place in Helmand province, which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s production. However, endemic corruption and popularity of poppy growing among Afghan farmers still makes Afghanistan the country that produces 90 percent of the world’s heroin.

August 20: Afghanistan

Afghanistan holds presidential and provincial council elections. Insurgents have intensified violence in the days leading up to the elections in an attempt to disrupt the polls. More than 30 candidates challenge incumbent President Hamid Karzai. Abdullah Abdullah, representing the main United National Front opposition alliance, is the main competitor. The voters are also choosing candidates for about 420 seats in provincial councils. The country hosts 250,000 election observers and journalists. Early results put Karzai in the lead, but 2,000 reports of fraud and intimidation surface immediately. The election day is also marred by several hundred Taliban attacks against voters. It is expected to take weeks before the election results are determined.

August 30: Afghanistan

U.S. top military commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal submits a long-awaited report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates containing an assessment of and recommendations for the war in Afghanistan. In the report, McChrystal states that the U.S. could lose the war, but success is possible if some changes are implemented. He calls for a deployment of additional troops, interacting and protecting civilians when fighting insurgents, and better and faster training for Afghan military and police. The report and the recommendations come at the time when the support for the eight-year-old war at home has diminished.

September 4: Afghanistan

At least 90 people are killed and many injured, including scores of civilians, during an air strike by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on fuel tanks hijacked by the Taliban insurgents in the Afghan province of Kunduz. The Afghan government is outraged at the civilian casualties and the NATO promises investigation.

September 8: Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s Election Complaints Commission (ECC), the United Nations-backed organization, orders some recounts of the votes from the August election after widespread fraud became evident. (September 10): The ECC invalidates some ballots and orders a recount of those polling stations where turnout was over 100 percent and where one candidate won more that 95 percent of the vote.

October 1: Pakistan

The United States Congress approves the Kerry-Lugar bill, which triples non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for the next five years. The bill has, however, several conditions attached: Pakistan has to dismantle its nuclear proliferation networks; it has to stop supporting militant groups; and it has to strengthen its laws on counter-terrorism and money-laundering. The aid will not be disbursed directly to the Pakistani government, but monitored by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

October 17: Pakistan

Pakistan launches a military offensive against Taliban militants in its north-western semi-autonomous region of South Waziristan. About 28,000 Pakistani soldiers face tough resistance from up to 20,000 militants. South Waziristan has become a haven for Islamic militants and terrorist training camps from where the militants have been launching terrorist attacks across the country. Pakistan vows to clear the area of terrorist organizations. The campaign is expected to last up to two months.

October 19: Afghanistan

After having investigated 600 serious complaints, Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission deducts hundreds of thousands of votes from the main candidates in the August Afghan presidential election, lowering Hamid Karzai’s win below 50 percent. This forces Karzai into a run-off against his rival Abdullah Abdullah, which will take place on November 7.

November 2: Afghanistan

Afghanistan cancels the run-off election and declares Hamid Karzai the winner of the August presidential election. The announcement comes a day after Karzai’s contender, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from the race, stating that the scheduled run-off cannot be free and fair because the Afghan government had refused to remove the corrupt election officials involved in the widespread fraud in the first round of the election.

December 2: Afghanistan

After months of discussions with top advisers, the United States President Barack Obama orders to deploy 30,000 troops to Afghanistan with an objective to defeat al-Qaeda. After the surge, the U.S. will have more than 100,000 troops supported by 32,000 NATO troops, as well as close to 200,000 Afghan National Army and National Police troops. However, President Obama also adds that the U.S. will start withdrawing its forces by 2011.

December 8: Pakistan

Two bombs explode at a busy market in the Pakistani city of Lahore, killing more than 48 people and injuring more than 100. Another suicide bomb on a rickshaw in the city of Peshawar kills 10 people. Since the Pakistani army started an offensive against the Taliban in the country’s north-western region, hundreds of people have been killed by violent attacks across Pakistan.