The South Asia Channel

Fuel Shortage Rocks Pakistan; Chaos Surrounds Afghan Cabinet Nominations; Delhi Court Sides With Greenpeace Over Government

Pakistan Fuel shortage rocks Pakistan A severe fuel shortage is sparking public anger and criticism of the government across Pakistan according to a report on Tuesday in the Washington Post (Post). In Pakistan’s second largest city of Lahore, 95 percent of the gas stations ran out of gas and ambulance service was suspended. Rashid Amjad, ...

PAKISTAN-ENERGY-OIL
Pakistani men wait to fill bottles and containers with fuel as they queue at a petrol station in Karachi on January 20, 2015. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on January 20, expressed extreme displeasure over Pakistan's severe petrol shortage, forcing the petroleum minister to apologise for a crisis that has brought parts of the nation to a standstill. AFP PHOTO / Rizwan TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Fuel shortage rocks Pakistan

A severe fuel shortage is sparking public anger and criticism of the government across Pakistan according to a report on Tuesday in the Washington Post (Post). In Pakistan’s second largest city of Lahore, 95 percent of the gas stations ran out of gas and ambulance service was suspended. Rashid Amjad, an economist at the Lahore School of Economics told the Post that the situation could take a month to stabilize adding: “We all thought falling oil prices would be an impetus to getting the economy back on track, but instead the government has fallen flat on its face in handling this.” Lahore’s District Co-ordination Office established a complaint center to field complaints regarding the shortage (Dawn). The office has so far designated eleven gas pumps in the city for emergency services. The Deputy General Manager of Pakistan State Oil, Maryam Shah, denied that there was a shortage in Karachi on Tuesday (ET). Shah told reporters: “People should not panic about the shortage of petrol in the city.” Also on Tuesday, the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party called for a judicial probe into the shortage (Dawn).

Senate committee approves anti-rape law changes

Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved amendments to Pakistan’s anti-rape laws on Tuesday (ET). The amendments among other changes supported the use of DNA profiling as evidence in rape cases. Another approved amendment barred the character assassination of victims during trial. Aitzaz Ahsan, a Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker, stated in support of the amendment: “People do not lodge rape cases fearing stigmatisation, and character assassination of their daughters.”

Pakistani cabinet minister accuses Saudi Arabia of promoting instability

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination, Riaz Hussain Pirzada, accused Saudi Arabia of destabilizing the Muslim world on Tuesday (VOA). Pirzada said it was time to stop the flow of Saudi funding “promoting its ideology.” Pakistan’s government has not commented on Pirzada’s statement, but Rana Muhammad Afzal, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, told Voice of America that the comment was not party policy adding: “If we have a complaint against Saudi Arabia, this is not the forum that a party minister not even involved with [foreign relations] should talk about this.” Pirzada stands by his comment asking Voice of America in an interview: “What have I said wrong?”

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Attacks on Journalists Threaten Media Freedom in Afghanistan,” Lynne O’Donnell (AP)

Chaos surrounds Afghan cabinet approval process

Chaos has surrounded the approval process for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s cabinet nominees according to multiple recent media reports (NYT, RFE/RL). Multiple nominees have already withdrawn their names from consideration and several more are expected to as the process continues. Yaqub Haidari, the proposed minister of agriculture, withdrew when it was revealed that there was an INTERPOL warrant out for his arrest while Jilani Popal, the proposed finance minister, withdrew telling friends that he was asked by members of parliament to bribe them with 400 jobs in exchange for his approval. Mahmoud Saikal, the proposed minister of water and energy, withdrew his nomination just hours before Ghani presented his proposed list of ministers to Afghanistan’s lower house for approval (TOLO News). The chaos surrounding the nominations comes after long delays in the nomination process with the list being submitted for approval three months after Ghani took office.

U.S. charges two Yemeni nationals for fighting in Afghanistan

On Tuesday, the United States unsealed charges against two Yemeni nationals for crimes related to their having fought in Afghanistan (NBC). Saddiq al-Abbadi, 36, and Ali Alvi, 30, have both been brought to New York to face charges that they traveled to Pakistan to receive terrorist training and then conducted attacks in Afghanistan. The prosecution alleged that “Al-Abbadi led a battle against U.S. forces in Paktya Province in May 2008 during which one U.S. Army Ranger was killed and several others were seriously wounded.” The men allegedly also fought against the U.S. in Iraq between 2003 and 2007. According to the government, Bryant Vinas will be a key witness in the case. Vinas pled guilty in 2009 to fighting with al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Ghani promises Afghan-Iranian strategic cooperation pact

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani promised that he would soon sign a long term strategic cooperation pact with Iran following meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif in Kabul on Tuesday (Pajhwok). During his visit, Zarif invited Ghani to visit Iran and Ghani accepted the invitation. Zarif also met with Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah during his visit. Among other issues the two discussed Afghan access to Iranian railway lines and expanded trade through the Chabahar port.

— David Sterman

India

Delhi court sides with Greenpeace over government

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday ordered the government to release frozen funds belonging to Greenpeace India, an environmental group accused by India of running campaigns that damaged the country’s economy (IndianExpress, Times of India, FirstPost, ZeeNews). “This is a vindication of our work and the role that credible NGOs (non-governmental organizations) play in support of India’s development,” said Samit Aich, Greenpeace India’s executive director (FirstPost). He continued: “This is a strong signal from the judiciary that the government must cease its campaign of harassment of civil society.” Allegations arose last June when India’s intelligence service said the NGO was challenging power, mining, and modified food projects. Despite Greenpeace’s denials, the government asked the central bank to tighten the group’s international funding from its headquarters in Amsterdam. The court has ordered the release of $300,000 to the environmental group (ABCNews).

Inviting Obama to Republic Day parade, Modi’s idea

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the person ultimately credited with deciding to invite U.S. President Barack Obama as the guest of honor — known officially as the chief guest — to India’s grand Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26th in New Delhi, according to various Indian sources on Wednesday (Economic Times, Zee News). Reports suggest the prime minister’s office asked Indian Ambassador to the United States S. Jaishankar to assess the “doability” of such an idea and to assess the possibility with the White House (Zee News). After a series of discussions with senior U.S. officials during which Jaishankar conveyed the significance of both the day and invitation, the United States warmed up to the idea. Obama finally accepted Modi’s invitation in November of last year (NDTV). In the highly anticipated bilateral meeting next week, Obama will join Modi in New Delhi from Jan. 25-27.

India’s tiger census increases nearly one-third

India’s tiger population has increased nearly one-third from 1,706 to 2,226 over a three-year span beginning in 2011, according to the latest tiger census released on Tuesday by Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar (Guardian, Times of India). Javadekar said the figures speak to the success of government strategies to create reserves for this endangered species. “That is why we want to create more tiger reserves, “Javadekar said (Guardian). He continued: “This is a proof of India’s biodiversity and how we care for mitigating climate change [and] this is India’s steps in the right direction, which the world will applaud.” While these trends are encouraging, critics point out that such a “success story” could go south if national infrastructure reforms are insensitive to forests and wildlife (FirstPost). Conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, nearly 10,000 camera traps were used and about 80 percent of counted tigers were photographed. India lays claim to around 70 percent of the world’s wild tigers, who a century ago numbered roughly 45,000.

Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen

 RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

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