The South Asia Channel

‘Panama Papers’ Reveal Sharif Family’s Offshore Holdings; BJP in Tight Races in Assam and West Bengal; 11 Land Mine Clearers Kidnapped in Western Afghanistan

Pakistan ‘Panama Papers’ reveal Sharif family’s offshore holdings The family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was among the dozens implicated in a massive leak of secret files from a Panamanian law firm that specializes in offshore tax havens (Dawn). According to documents available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one ...

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at the White House October 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Prime Minister participated in a bi-lateral meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at the White House October 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Prime Minister participated in a bi-lateral meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Pakistan

‘Panama Papers’ reveal Sharif family’s offshore holdings

The family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was among the dozens implicated in a massive leak of secret files from a Panamanian law firm that specializes in offshore tax havens (Dawn). According to documents available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one of the approximately 100 news organizations that worked on mining the data – Nawaz’s children Mariam, Hasan, and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorize transactions for several companies.” The Panama Papers — one of the biggest leaks in history according to the Guardian — are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing.

Responding to the allegations of tax evasion on Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, told television channel Geo that his family had done “nothing wrong” as they defended their ownership of offshore companies. “It is according to British law and laws of other countries that it is a legal way to avoid unnecessary tax via offshore companies,” Hussain said, referencing the London real estate owned by him and his brother Hasan. He left Pakistan in 1992 and is therefore not resident, Hussain said, adding that Pakistani tax law “says that if you are not staying in Pakistan for more than 138 days, then you are not required to declare your assets.”

Floods kill 45 in northwest Pakistan

Flash flooding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed at least 45 people on Sunday and injured 34, according to officials (NYT). Residents of villages close to rivers in the province were given warnings to vacate and leave for safer places, said a Pakistani national disaster management official, Latif ur Rehman. Pre-monsoon rains like the downpour that triggered the floods frequently cause damage in Pakistan, particularly in rural villages with minimal infrastructure.

India

Bonus Read: “India Can’t Find Love for Its Offshore Rupee Bonds,” by Shefali Anand (WSJ)

BJP in tight races in Assam and West Bengal

Polling for state legislatures began on Monday in the states of West Bengal and Assam where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) is in close races with Congress and other regional parties (BBC, Reuters). Opinion polls show the BJP will lose in Assam, further weakening Modi’s position in the parliament. Last year, BJP was unsuccessful in Bihar which led to their failure in pushing through Modi’s economic reform agenda such as the General Sales Tax bill. In the eastern state of West Bengal, polling shows the regional Trinamool Congress party, led by the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee, will be successful.

Pathankot investigative officer killed in Uttar Pradesh

An officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Tanzil Ahmed, was shot and killed on Sunday as he returned from a wedding ceremony in Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh (ZeeNews, India Today). Officials confirmed that Ahmad was a part of the team investigating the attack on Pathankot airbase in January this year. NIA Inspector General Sanjeev Kumar told the media that Ahmad’s wife, who was also shot in the incident, has survived and is “out of danger.” He termed the incident as a “planned attack.”

Modi makes first official visit to Saudi Arabia

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Sunday, during his first official visit to the country (Post, NYT). Saudi Arabia is a major business partner for India with trade between the two countries reaching $39 billion in 2014. Saudi Arabia is also India’s largest oil supplier and accounts for nearly 19 percent of India’s oil imports. During the meeting, the sides signed five agreements, including plans to cooperate in intelligence sharing related to terror financing and money laundering, as well as a labor cooperation agreement. Saudi Arabia is home to a large number of South Asian laborers.

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “A Year Later, Still No Justice for Farkhunda,” by Noorjahan Akbar (Foreign Policy)

11 land mine clearers kidnapped in western Afghanistan

Gunman abducted 11 land mine clearers on Friday in western Afghanistan, according to an Afghan official (NYT). Rauf Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Herat province police chief, said on Saturday that six suspects have been detained so far in a military operation to retrieve the de-miners. Tribal leaders failed to retrieve the abductees in attempted negotiations.

Traffic accident in western Afghanistan kills 11

An Afghan official says at least 11 people were killed on Friday in a traffic accident outside the western city of Herat in Herat province (NYT). Rauf Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said on Saturday that the crash took place amid celebrations of the Persian New Year and injured an additional seven people.

Police convoy attacked in northern Afghanistan, killing six

At least six police officers were killed on Sunday in a Taliban ambush on their convoy in northern Balkh province, according to a regional official (NYT). Abdul Manon Raoufi, operational commander for police in the region, said insurgents attacked the convoy as the police were en route to neighboring Jawzjan province. An insurgent leader of the Taliban was killed in the gunfight, according to Raoufi. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Former governor of Balkh province refuses to step down from post

Atta Muhammad Noor, who was dismissed as governor of Balkh province in 2014, said in an interview with the New York Times that he would be willing to step down from his post as provincial governor as soon as he is formally remade governor again (NYT). Noor was dismissed by President Ashraf Ghani as part of a mass firing of all 34 Afghan provincial governors, but has refused to give up the office or the powers of the position. “If it is necessary for me to step down,” said Noor, “we decide what to do next and who should become governor here. They cannot remove me by force — I am with my people.” Ghani’s government has not responded to the matter publicly.

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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