The South Asia Channel

Death Toll From Heat Wave Rises in India; Pakistani Women Barred From Voting in Local Elections; Kidnapped German Aid Worker Rescued in Afghanistan

India Death toll from heat wave continues to rise Over 1,800 people have now died as a result of a severe heatwave sweeping across India, according to government officials (NDTV, CNN, TOI, BBC). The southeastern part of the country has been the hardest hit, particularly the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. However, relief was ...

Indian cycle rickshaw riders sleep during the heat of the day in New Delhi on May 28, 2015.  More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue.   AFP PHOTO/Chandan KHANNA        (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian cycle rickshaw riders sleep during the heat of the day in New Delhi on May 28, 2015. More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue. AFP PHOTO/Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

India

Death toll from heat wave continues to rise

Over 1,800 people have now died as a result of a severe heatwave sweeping across India, according to government officials (NDTV, CNN, TOI, BBC). The southeastern part of the country has been the hardest hit, particularly the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. However, relief was in sight, with a forecast of rain on Friday in some of the worst-affected areas. Climate experts believe that climate change is a significant contributing factor to this extreme weather event, along with depleting forest cover, vanishing water bodies, and unusually dry winds. An analysis by the risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft suggests that this type of weather may become commonplace across all of India within a generation. “There is now sufficient evidence to suggest that the increase in temperatures is linked to climate change and we will see more such extreme weather patterns in the near future,” said Nitin Desai, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s climate panel (TOI). Bonus read: “Put Climate Change on the Agenda for India-Pakistan Relations,” Neil Bhatiya (South Asia)

Gap enters Indian market

The American clothing retail company Gap will open its first store in India in a high-end mall in Delhi on Saturday (TOI, Quartz). Gap entered the Indian market by partnering with Arvind, an established Indian clothing retailer with over 1,000 stores in 192 cities across India. The company plans on opening 10 stores by the middle of next year and 40 stores in the next five years, focusing only on major cities. India’s clothing retail market is estimated to be valued at $41 billion and is expected to grow to $60 billion by 2020, attracting a number of international high-street retailers. Zara and Marks & Spencer already have a presence in India, and H&M and Uniqlo are expected to soon follow.

Pigeon ruffles feathers on India-Pakistan border

A pigeon that apparently flew across the border from Pakistan to India was captured by villagers and turned over to the local police under suspicion that the bird was being used for espionage or covert operations by Pakistani forces or extremist groups (TOI, Indian Express, Zee News). The bird attracted attention due to a suspicious message stamped on its body, which appeared to spell out the name of a nearby location in Pakistan in English along with some numbers and words in Urdu. The local police, from a border village in the northwestern state of Punjab, alerted the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Border Security Force (BSF) to the development and took the pigeon to a veterinary hospital for an X-ray, which did not reveal anything inside the bird. The discovery of the bird comes two days after the Intelligence Bureau alerted the Punjab state police to possible terrorist activity in the region.

Pakistan

Women barred from voting in local elections

In some areas of Pakistan, the local government elections taking place this weekend will bar women from participating (Guardian, Dawn). Parties contesting elections for district and village council seats in Hangu and parts of Malakand, districts in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have struck deals that will prevent women from voting, according to local politicians and elders. Many fear that the arrangements will stretch across KP, where cultural traditions are so strict that many female candidates do not publish photographs on election posters. On Wednesday, the high court in Peshawar threw out a petition lodged by 12 women from Lower Dir who requested that the election be re-run. Shahab Khattak, the women’s lawyer, said the case was dismissed after 15 minutes, adding: “The honorable judge asked whether it was a fundamental right for women to vote. We said indeed it is a fundamental right and a constitutional right.”

Nearly 60% of Americans back drone strikes overseas: survey

Nearly 60 percent of Americans approve of drone strikes that target extremists in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen despite concerns that they endanger innocent civilians, a new survey by the Pew Research Center released on Thursday found (AFP). The survey showed that 58 percent of Americans approve of U.S. drone strikes in those countries and that support for drone strikes crosses party lines, although Republicans are more likely than Democrats to favor the use of drones to target extremists. Just under half of respondents — 48 percent — said they were very concerned that drone strikes endanger the lives of innocent civilians. 

Afghanistan

Kidnapped German aid worker rescued in Kunduz

A German aid worker who was kidnapped more than a month ago in northern Afghanistan was freed early Friday morning, Afghan officials said (Pajhwok, AP). Abdul Wadood Whaidi, the spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province, said that the German national, whose name has not been released, was rescued by local security forces around 2 a.m. in the Charhar Dara district. The man, who is in good health, has been transferred to Mazar-i-Sharif, where Germany has a military base.

Clashes continue in Uruzgan province

Violence between the Taliban and Afghan security forces continue in Uruzgan province, with at least 19 policemen killed and 31 others missing after 16 straight days of fighting (TOLO). Mohammad Hanif Hanafi, Uruzgan representative in the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of Parliament) said that 54 police posts have fallen and another four are currently under siege. Residents of the province have asked the Afghan Interior Minister and Chief of Army Staff, who visited Uruzgan on Thursday, to take steps to provide more security. “It has been fifteen days of war in Uruzgan and there are posts that have no water, no food and no bullets and also our martyrs have not been transferred yet,” one of the tribal elders said.

— Udit Banerjea and Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

 

 

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch

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