Sharif Chairs Emergency Session of Parliament; Abdullah Threatens Boycott; Modi Tells Japan ‘No Red Tape’ in India

Pakistan Bonus Read: "Street Challenges to Pakistan’s Democracy," Moeed Yusuf (SouthAsia). Emergency joint session begins as protests turn deadly  Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired an emergency joint session of Parliament on Tuesday in an effort to rally lawmakers against the protestors calling for his resignation (AP, BBC, VOA). While Sharif did not speak during ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan

Bonus Read: "Street Challenges to Pakistan's Democracy," Moeed Yusuf (SouthAsia).

Pakistan

Bonus Read: "Street Challenges to Pakistan’s Democracy," Moeed Yusuf (SouthAsia).

Emergency joint session begins as protests turn deadly 

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired an emergency joint session of Parliament on Tuesday in an effort to rally lawmakers against the protestors calling for his resignation (AP, BBC, VOA). While Sharif did not speak during the session, mainly taking notes and listening to speeches, he is expected to make some kind of address on the ongoing political crisis toward the end of the week (Reuters).

The move came after a third day of clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Islamabad, which turned violent over the weekend. Three people were killed and nearly 500 were wounded on Saturday when protestors attempted to storm Sharif’s residence in Islamabad (AP, CNN, NYT). The violence prompted Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif (no relation to the prime minister) to hold an emergency meeting with the military high command. While the military stressed its commitment to the country’s democracy and urged rival politicians to resolve their differences quickly, it also stated that: "[F]urther use of force will only aggravate the problem" (Dawn, ET).

With the protests spreading to other major Pakistani cities, speculation is increasing that the military could intervene and force Sharif to resign. Sharif, for his part, has said that he will not resign voluntarily, noting that: "There shall be no precedent in Pakistan that only a few people take as hostage the mandate of millions by resorting to force" (Post).

Protestors briefly seize television station 

On Monday, anti-government protestors briefly seized the headquarters of Pakistan TV (PTV), the state’s television channel, causing the broadcast to go dark (BBC, Dawn, NYT, WSJ). Armed soldiers and members of the paramilitary Rangers force arrived at the station around noon local time, prompting the protestors to leave the building (Reuters, VOA). PTV eventually came back on the air.

Imran Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party chairman who has been leading one of the two protests, tried to distance himself and the PTI from the incident on Monday, denouncing the occupation of PTV and stating that: "Whoever entered the PTV headquarters is not part of PTI" (ET).

Prominent academic freed by Taliban

Pakistani security officials announced on Friday that Muhammad Ajmal Khan, a prominent Pakistani academic held hostage by the Pakistani Taliban since 2010, has been freed. Though few details were provided about his release, a senior security official in Peshawar told AFP that Khan had been recovered from "an operational area in North Waziristan" (RFE/RL). However, Mullah Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban’s commander, announced in a rare video released on Sunday that Khan had been traded for three Taliban commanders (Dawn, ET). Pakistan’s military has not yet commented on the video. Khan was the vice chancellor of Peshawar University when he was abducted four years ago.

Afghanistan

The Rack: "Kandahar’s Mystery Executions," Anand Gopal (Harper’s). 

Abdullah threatens to withdraw from process for a third time

As Afghanistan’s presidential run-off vote audit entered its final stage, Fazal Sanchakari, a spokesman for presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, said on Monday that Abdullah’s campaign "will boycott both the political and audit processes" if its concerns over the audit are not addressed (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Speaking to reporters, Sanchakari said the campaign would not accept the results of what it sees as a non-transparent process, and set Tuesday as the deadline for meeting its demands. Abdullah and his team have already withdrawn from the audit process twice over disagreements about vote invalidation criteria and how the recount is being managed. Bonus Read: "Afghan Elections: Back in Full Crisis Mode," Ioannis Koskinas (SouthAsia).

IEC: 48,000 votes have been thrown out

Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), stated on Sunday that more than 48,000 votes from the run-off election in June have been thrown out during the ongoing vote audit, but he did not say for which candidate the votes had been cast (Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to the IEC, 19,047 ballot boxes (83 percent) from the run-off election have been audited in the presence of international observers, and the remaining 3,781 boxes will be recounted as soon as possible (Pajhwok). 

Though the United Nations said last week that the results of the audit would not be announced before September 10, IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told reporters on Saturday that they could finalize the recount sooner than that, noting that "in the next few days the election process will end" (TOLO News). 

Twelve killed in attack on NDS office

At least a dozen people were killed in Jalalabad on Saturday when Taliban insurgents attacked the local headquarters of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Nangarhar province (AJE, VOA). According to reports, a powerful car bomb was detonated outside of the building around 5:00 am local time, damaging hundreds of homes nearby (NYT). After the blast, six attackers entered the building, killing two intelligence officials and wounding five others; four civilians were also killed and 40 were wounded during the incident. All six fighters were killed inside the compound.

Elsewhere in Farah province, a group of armed men stopped a truck carrying 15 Afghan workers to a construction site near the southwestern border with Iran on Saturday and shot them, killing 11 and leaving four badly wounded (Reuters). Jawad Afghan, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told the New York Times that "it was unusual for Taliban insurgents to be operating in Farah Province in the west, and the authorities were not sure if the attackers were insurgents or an armed gang supported by Iran."

— Bailey Cahall 

India

Modi to Japan: Red carpet not red tape in India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a keynote address at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan on Tuesday, and noted that: "Just as India is focusing on [a] Look East policy, we expect a Look at India policy from Japan" (NDTV, BBC). Modi further said: "I have come to assure you that there is no Red Tape but Red Carpet in India. We have eased off lot[s] of regulations" (Indian Express). Modi is on a five-day tour to Japan to strengthen defense, strategic, and business relations between the two countries. After arriving in Japan on Saturday, Modi visited the former imperial city of Kyoto and witnessed the signing of an agreement where the Indian city of Varanasi — Modi’s parliamentary constituency — will be developed as a "smart city" in partnership with a Japanese city. Both India and Japan also decided to speed up talks on a civil nuclear deal.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe committed to giving India over $33.58 billion in public and private investment, in addition to overseas development assistance, over the next five years to fund manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation systems, clean energy, smart cities, connectivity, and skill development. Modi and Abe agreed to launch the Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership to double Japanese foreign direct investment and the number of Japanese companies in India within five years. Both countries also finalized an agreement allowing the import of rare earth materials — important in manufacturing technology products such as mobile phones — from India to Japan. 

During his visit, Modi also announced that he would establish a special team to fast-track clearances for Japanese investment proposals. Modi said the choice of his first bilateral visit outside the subcontinent "is a reflection of the fact that India considers Japan among its closest and most reliable partners and that India’s relations with Japan is of the highest priority for my government" (Livemint). Modi said further that India and Japan must act as a force for development and called for the approaches of "vikas vaad (development) instead of vistar vaad (expansionism)" (Economic Times). To read the Tokyo Declaration released by both countries after their bilateral talks, click here.

Security forces kill militants in Jammu and Kashmir 

After an encounter with Indian security forces in Pulwama — located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir — three militants were killed on Tuesday, according to police officials (NDTV, IBNLive, Hindustan Times). The intermittent firing between the security forces and the militants started on Monday night, after the guards received information that the latter were hiding in the region. The three militants were locals and were said to have recently joined Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a jihadi organization based in Kashmir.

Indian NGO launches low-cost toilets for every household

Indian charity Sulabh International handed over 108 low-cost toilets to villagers in Badaun — located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — on Sunday as it started its nationwide Toilets for Every House campaign (Indian Express). The sanitation drive was launched in response to the alleged gang-rape and murder of two sisters in Badaun this past May; the teenage girls were found hanging in a tree after they went unaccompanied to relieve themselves in the fields. 

Bindeshwar Pathak, the charity’s founder, said: "I believe no woman must lose her life just because she has to go out to defecate." He added that: "Our aim is to provide a toilet to every household in the country in the not-too-distant future" (BBC). Modi also raised the issue of open defecation during his Independence Day speech on August 15, saying: "We are in the 21st century and yet there is still no dignity for women as they have to go out in the open to defecate. Can you imagine the number of problems they have to face because of this?" (NDTV).

Ancient Indian university re-opens after 800 years

India’s Nalanda University (NU), located in the eastern state of Bihar, re-opened for the first time in 800 years on Monday with a new campus (Indian Express, Times of India, BBC). Spread over 443 acres, NU is nine miles away from its original location. NU was originally established in the fifth century during the Gupta dynasty, and was said to have attracted thousands of scholars and thinkers from around the world before it was destroyed by an invading Turkish army in 1193 AD.

Although NU received over 1,000 applications from students in 40 countries, the first academic session will include just 10 faculty members and 15 students. The students include five women and one student each from Japan and Bhutan. Courses are currently offered in the School of Ecology and Environmental Studies and the School of Historical Studies. Once construction is complete, NU will offer courses in science, social sciences, philosophy, and spirituality. NU is funded by the Indian government and backed by the 18 East Asia Summit (EAS) countries. The EAS is a regional forum for strategic dialogue and cooperation on key challenges facing the East Asian region.

Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen

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. Twitter: @neelishah

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