The South Asia Channel

Bihar state assembly election concludes; Punjab factory collapse kills 21, several trapped; Afghan woman wins international award

India Bihar state assembly election concludes The fifth and final phase of legislative assembly elections in the eastern state of Bihar concluded on Thursday (The Hindu, NDTV). The election, which began on Oct. 12, was conducted in five phases, with 66 million voters eligible to cast their votes for a total of 243 seats. Overall voter turnout across ...

LAHORE, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 04: Pakistani soldiers and rescuers search the victims in the rubble of a collapsed factory on the outskirts of Lahore on November 4, 2015. At least 16 people were killed and 40 injured when a factory collapsed near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on November 4, officials said, with around a hundred more still trapped. (Photo by Waseem Ali /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAHORE, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 04: Pakistani soldiers and rescuers search the victims in the rubble of a collapsed factory on the outskirts of Lahore on November 4, 2015. At least 16 people were killed and 40 injured when a factory collapsed near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on November 4, officials said, with around a hundred more still trapped. (Photo by Waseem Ali /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

India

Bihar state assembly election concludes

The fifth and final phase of legislative assembly elections in the eastern state of Bihar concluded on Thursday (The Hindu, NDTV). The election, which began on Oct. 12, was conducted in five phases, with 66 million voters eligible to cast their votes for a total of 243 seats. Overall voter turnout across all five phases is estimated to be around 57 percent. The main contestants in the election are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which currently heads the national government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a “grand coalition” of opposition parties headed by two former Bihar chief ministers. The state election is seen as a bellwether of the national mood on Modi’s government, which came into power after a landslide victory in the 2014 national elections. A victory for the BJP would bolster support for Modi’s national agenda and could lead to more seats for the party in the upper house of the Indian parliament, where it currently does not have a majority. Conversely, a BJP loss in Bihar would galvanize the opposition, which has had some recent success in blocking major portions of Modi’s agenda. The results of the election, which are expected to be close, will be announced on Nov. 8.

Hindu mob beats Muslim man to death

Mohammad Hasmat Ali, a Muslim man, was beaten to death by a mob of Hindus who suspected him of stealing a cow in the northeastern state of Manipur on Wednesday (NYT). This marks the fourth time in six weeks in India that Hindus have killed Muslims rumored to be slaughtering, stealing, or smuggling cows. Many Hindus believe cows to be sacred. Ali’s murder is just one in a series of recent attacks on Muslims and vocal proponents of secularism by Hindus. A growing number of prominent writers and intellectuals in India have spoken out against what they argue is an atmosphere of intolerance and have returned state awards and honors in protest of a perceived passive response from Prime Minister Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP-led government.

Rain and snow shuts down Kashmir highways

Major highways in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir were closed on Thursday following heavy rains and snowfall (NDTV, Financial Express). Heavy rains triggered landslides in the areas of Ramsoo and Magarkote in the western part of the state, forcing the closure of the major Jammu-Srinagar highway. About 500 vehicles, including trucks carrying supplies to the populous Kashmir Valley and passenger vehicles, were stranded on the highway. Meanwhile, in the northern part of the state, over two feet of snowfall accumulation forced the closure of the Srinagar-Leh highway, which is one of the few roads connecting the eastern region of Ladakh to the rest of India.

Pakistan

Punjab factory collapse kills 21, several trapped

At least 21 people were killed and dozens wounded on Wednesday when a factory outside Lahore undergoing construction collapsed into rubble (NYT, Reuters, Dawn). According to Mohammad Usman, the top administration official in Lahore, who is coordinating the response to the disaster, rescue workers have recovered 75 people from the rubble so far. The site, run by Rajput Polyester Factory, manufactured plastic shopping bags and is located in the Sundar Industrial Estate, a 1,750-acre business park about 28 miles southwest of Lahore. The factory was reportedly in a debilitating condition which was exacerbated by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the region on Oct. 26. However, the owner of the plant continued with an expansion effort to add a floor to the dilapidated building. “I have heard about the earthquake affecting the building, but according to laborers the owner continued to build an extension,” according to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. A state of emergency has been declared at all local hospitals.

Rapid deployment force formed as Sindh enters second phase of elections

At a Sindh cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the provincial government decided to form a Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) to control troubled areas and ensure peaceful conduct in coming local government elections (Dawn). The meeting, presided over by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, was organized to review measures for holding the next phase of voting, and it was decided that a ban on weapons will be enforced 48 hours before polling begins on Nov. 19. This comes in response to violent fights that broke out during the first phase of voting, specifically in Khairpur where supporters of competing parties opened fire and 12 were killed. The RDF, which will include Rangers, police, and other law enforcement agencies, will be able to deploy to violent areas within five to seven minutes, according to Senior Information Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro.

Afghanistan

Afghan woman who ran secret schools under Taliban wins international award

An Afghan woman who supported underground schools during a period when the Taliban banned education for girls, was awarded the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) prize in Qatar on Wednesday (Reuters, TOLO News). Sakeena Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 which provided schooling and healthcare in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Her institute also set up the secret home schools, which closed down when Taliban rule ended in 2001. The $500,000 education prize, funded by the Qatar Foundation, recognizes individuals or teams who successfully address global educational challenges that can bring real change to communities. “With this prize, we know that we can continue to educate more and more Afghans, giving them hope and encouraging them to go forward no matter what they are facing,” said Yacoobi at the conference attended by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

— Alyssa Sims and Udit Banerjea

Edited by Peter Bergen

Start the day off with some new FP podcasts posted this week! In the latest Editor’s Roundtable, David Rothkopf, Rosa Brooks, Kori Schake, and Ed Luce discuss why the military can’t fix a broken foreign economy. In this week’s Global Thinkers podcast, 2014 Global Thinker and President of Water-Gen Arye Kohavi joins writer Charles Fishman and host Amanda Silverman to talk water and why it is a fundamental national security issue. Tune in tomorrow for a new Backstory episode! Download and subscribe here

 Photo by Waseem Ali /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Alyssa Sims is an intern in the International Security Program at the New America Foundation.

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