The South Asia Channel

Indian Farmer Commits Suicide at AAP Rally; PM Sharif to Visit Saudi Arabia; ISIS Denies Jalalabad Bombing Responsibility

Editor’s Note: We congratulate Anand Gopal, a recent New America Fellow, who was announced as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book “No Good Men Among the Living” about the Afghan War (Pulitzer). India Farmer commits suicide in AAP rally A farmer from the northern state of Rajasthan committed suicide during a rally organized by ...

INDIA-AGRICULTURE-FARMER-SUICIDE
In this photograph taken on March 25, 2015, family members of deceased farmer Nityagopal Barman (43) mourn at his home in Dhupguri village, in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal state. Family members found the body of Barman, who commited suicide, hanging on a tree at his home. Farmers in different parts of Bengal committed suicide after being unable to repay his agricultural loans despite a bumper crop, taking the toll in the state to eight. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: We congratulate Anand Gopal, a recent New America Fellow, who was announced as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book “No Good Men Among the Living” about the Afghan War (Pulitzer).

India

Farmer commits suicide in AAP rally

A farmer from the northern state of Rajasthan committed suicide during a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP – anti-corruption party) in New Delhi on Wednesday (Indian Express, Economic Times). The farmer used a towel to hang himself off a tree, and also left a note stating that his crops had been destroyed by the weather. New Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal was present at the rally to protest the land acquisition bill introduced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government. Opposition parties have united to oppose the land acquisition bill, stating that the bill will force farmers and the poor to lose their lands. In 2014, the government used an executive order to amend the land acquisition bill and facilitate the buying of land for industrial projects. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh ordered a probe into the suicide and expressed his grief over the suicide.

Rahul Gandhi accuses the government of giving the internet to corporations

Rahul Gandhi, the Vice-President of the Indian National Congress party, raised the Net Neutrality issue in India in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on Wednesday (Hindustan Times, NDTV). Net neutrality means that users should have access to all the websites at the same cost and speed, and all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Gandhi demanded that the government introduce a new law or amend existing laws, and further said: “This government wants to divide the Internet and hand it over to a few big companies. India needs a Net Neutrality law that won’t allow the Internet to be divided into parts” (Indian Express). In response to Modi’s comments, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “We want internet for 125 crore [1.25 billion] Indians. Don’t worry, we will protect the future of the Net” (Economic Times).

AAP expels members for ’anti-party activities’

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP – anti-corruption party) issued a statement that founder members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were removed for “gross indiscipline and anti-party activities,” according to news reports on Tuesday (BBC, Indian Express, Livemint). AAP also expelled senior members Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha. Since AAP won the elections in New Delhi earlier this year by winning 67 of the 70 assembly seats, the party has been embroiled in internal fighting. It was reported that the expelled members had issues with AAP leader and New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership style, and they were also accused of supporting a breakaway group from the party. AAP served show-cause notices to the four senior leaders on April 17 for violating the party’s code of conduct, and also removed them from important committees.

— Neeli Shah

Pakistan

PM, Army Chief to visit Saudi Arabia

On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of the Army Raheel Sharif will visit Saudi Arabia to discuss the issue of Yemen and express solidarity with Saudi Arabia (ET, Dawn). The two will be accompanied by Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. Prior to the visit Prime Minister Sharif will meet with civil and military leaders to determine the parameters of reassurances to be given to Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement of an end to air strikes in Yemen (ET, Dawn). Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam stated: “This will pave the way for a political solution of the crisis in Yemen.” Aslam added: “Pakistan shares the desire of Saudi Arabia for a peaceful settlement of the Yemeni crisis.”

MQM severs ties with Sindh governor

On Wednesday, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain announced that Sindh Governor Dr. Ishratul Ibad was no longer affiliated with MQM (ET, Dawn). Hussain called Dr. Ibad, who has a long history with the MQM party, a “representative of the establishment” and criticized his purported indifference to the March 11 raid by the Sindh Rangers, a paramilitary force tasked with countering violence in Karachi, on the MQM’s headquarters in Karachi. Hussain made the comments to a private television channel via telephone from London.

Pakistan bans new solar and wind projects

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that the Pakistani government had banned the launch of new solar and wind energy projects in favor of focusing on natural gas development (ET). The decision was taken at a cabinet committee meeting on April 8. The Ministry of Water and Power told the committee that solar and wind energy would be expensive. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired the meeting.

Afghanistan

ISIS denies Jalalabad bombing responsibility

ISIS representatives in Afghanistan are denying responsibility for the bombing in Jalalabad on Saturday that killed 35 people and U.S. officials are also calling the link into question according to a report in the Daily Beast on Tuesday (Daily Beast). Sheikh Muslim Dost, a spokesman for ISIS in Afghanistan, told the Daily Beast: “ISIS was not behind the deadly blast in Jalalabad, and we condemn such an attack,” continuing: “This is an act of the Pakistani agencies to damage reputation of the ISIS.” Army Lt. Col. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for NATO’s mission in Afghanistan stated: “We have not yet seen evidence of ISIS direction or support of the attacks. Jalalabad continues to be an area with significant Taliban influence and this attack fits the pattern of past Taliban attacks in the region—underscoring that this attack does not represent a fundamental change in the security environment.” Earlier in the week an ISIS representative reportedly claimed the bombing releasing a photo of the bomber on Twitter and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attributed the bombing to ISIS.

Abducted deminers released

On Tuesday, nineteen deminers who had been abducted earlier in the week by unknown gunmen near Gardez were released (Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to Zalmai Oryakhail, the police chief for Paktia province where Gardez is located, the deminers were released after efforts by government officials and local elders. The deminers are employees of Sterling Demining Afghanistan. Four vehicles stolen by the gunmen when they abducted the deminers were also returned.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. @neelishah

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