Pak Lawmakers Rally Behind Sharif; Modi Concludes Visit to Japan; HIA Dismisses Report It Will Join Islamic State

Pakistan  Lawmakers rally behind Sharif The leaders of several major Pakistani political parties expressed support for embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a special joint parliamentary session on Tuesday, insisting that he should not give in to the protestors demanding his resignation (Dawn, ET, NYT, Post). However, several lawmakers from the Pakistan Peoples Party also ...

FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan 

Lawmakers rally behind Sharif

Pakistan 

Lawmakers rally behind Sharif

The leaders of several major Pakistani political parties expressed support for embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a special joint parliamentary session on Tuesday, insisting that he should not give in to the protestors demanding his resignation (Dawn, ET, NYT, Post). However, several lawmakers from the Pakistan Peoples Party also criticized Sharif’s handling of the political crisis, and noted that some of the protestors’ complaints merited attention (VOA). The emergency meeting of the country’s National Assembly and Senate was called after the three-week-long protests turned violent over the weekend, killing three people and injuring nearly 500. Bonus Read: "Pakistan’s Biggest Loser," Arsla Jawaid (SouthAsia).

With protest leaders Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, and Tahir ul-Qadri, an influential cleric and the head of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party, refusing to back down, Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan asked lawmakers on Tuesday to give local police "clear guidance" to treat the violent protestors as "intruders and terrorists" (RFE/RL). Bonus Read: "Pakistan protests: Nawaz Sharif cornered," M. Ilyas Khan (BBC).

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Khan and Qadri had "agreed to talk to a committee of opposition politicians seeking to mediate between the government and the protesters and help find a political solution," but it is unclear when that will happen or if it will end the protests (Reuters).

Military says more than 900 militants killed since June

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) office released a statement on Wednesday that said 910 militants have been killed since Operation Zarb-e-Azb began in June (Dawn, ET, VOA). According to ISPR, 82 soldiers have also been killed, while 269 have been injured. Though the operation is still ongoing, the statement noted that Pakistani authorities have carried out 2,274 intelligence-led operations across the country over the last three months, clearing Miram Shah, Mir Ali, Datta Khel, Degan, and Boya in North Waziristan (AP). 

— Bailey Cahall

India 

Modi concludes Japan visit, returns to India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his five-day visit to Japan and returned to India on Wednesday (NDTV). On Tuesday, Modi expressed his gratitude to Japan for its "trust" in India, and said "yeh fevicol se be zyada mazboot jod hai (this bond is stronger than that of fevicol [an adhesive brand in India])" (DNA). During his trip, India and Japan signed five pacts covering defense exchanges and cooperation in clean energy, roads and highways, and healthcare, among other issues. Japan also committed to giving $35 billion to India over the next five years for developmental projects. While meeting with Indians in Japan, Modi shared a story with a Taiwanese interpreter who had asked whether "black magic and snake charmers still exist in India." Modi replied: "We’ve had devaluation. We used to play with snakes now we play with the mouse. When we move a mouse, the whole world moves" (NDTV).

On Tuesday, Modi met Japanese Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. While addressing the Indian expat community at a reception later in the day, Modi told his audience that he had gifted a copy of the Bhagvad Gita — a Hindu scripture — to the Emperor and said: "I came bearing the Bhagvad Gita as a gift…I always present the Gita to eminent people I meet all over the world. When I met the (Japanese) Emperor I gave him the Gita because I have nothing more valuable to give and the world has nothing more valuable to get" (NDTV). Acknowledging the potential for criticism from "secular" Indians, Modi said: "There’ll be a TV debate… Our secular friends will create ‘toofan’ (storm) that what does Modi think of himself? He has taken a Gita with him that means he has made this one also communal" (Economic Times). His rhetorical question aptly preceded criticism from India’s Congress party.

?At the launch of the TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) Japan Technology and Cultural Academy on Tuesday, Modi entertained the audience by displaying his skills as a drummer (Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle). While visiting an elementary school on Monday, Modi charmed the students by playing the flute and sharing Indian mythological stories. The Congress party attacked Modi’s comments in Japan, with Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha tweeting: "Beating the communal drum-beat in Japan, Mr Prime Minister, by mocking a serious issue of secularism is ungracious, unacceptable, unexpected" (Financial Express).

Indian army discovers underground tunnel

The Indian army discovered a 150 meter-long (492 feet) tunnel along the Indo-Pakistan border in the Jammu region — located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir — that was apparently built to provide safe passage to infiltrating terrorists, according to a defense spokesperson on Tuesday (Indian Express). The spokesperson said the tunnel was four feet high, approximately 20 feet below ground level, and originates from Pakistan, noting that: "Having failed to infiltrate terrorists across the Line of Control in the Jammu Division, there was an attempt to construct a tunnel across the Line of Control [LoC] (to facilitate infiltration)" (Economic Times). The LoC is a military boundary between the Indian-and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. 

Pakistani Hindus demand Indian citizenship

Around 200 Pakistani Hindu families who have migrated to India staged a demonstration on Tuesday in Rajkot city, located in the western state of Gujarat, demanding Indian citizenship (IBNLive). K. H. Kannar, the leader of the Pakistan-based Hindus in India, said in a memorandum submitted to district officials: "Nearly one thousand Hindus comprising 200 families have migrated from Pakistan since 2005 and are willing to settle down in India. We want Indian citizenship as we do not wish to return to Pakistan because our relatives are in Gujarat" (Zee News). The memorandum said further: "Though our relatives live in Gujarat, we find it difficult to move in the state since Gujarat is the only state in the country to have banned visitors from Pakistan travelling in the state." Bonus Read: "Is There Any Hope for India-Pakistan Relations?," Allison Berland and Michael Kugelman (SouthAsia).

Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

HIA dismisses BBC report that it will join Islamic State 

Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), a militant group led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, categorically rejected a report by the BBC on Tuesday that said the group could join the Islamic State as "outrageous and totally baseless" (ET). Speaking to Pakistan’s Express Tribune on Wednesday, Zarghoon said that neither he nor anyone else in HIA recognize the "so-called commander" who made the claim and spoke to the BBC. He also denied any links between HIA and a pamphlet seeking support for the Islamic State that has been distributed along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He did, however, note that HIA recognizes "the fact that the Islamic State has emerged as the result of ‘anti-Muslim policies of the United States and their brutalities against Muslims in Iraq and other Islamic countries.’"

The BBC report quoted a Commander Mirwais, who like most people in Afghanistan goes by one name, who said that HIA would link up with the Islamic State if it proved to be a true Islamic caliphate (BBC). Of the brutal fighters in Iraq and Syria, Mirwais said: "They are great mujahideen. We pray for them, and if we don’t see a problem in the way they operate, we will join them." He also told the BBC that HIA forces will continue to fight the Afghan government, even after coalition forces leave at the end of the year. 

Karzai, Ghani spokesman appeal for end to vote dispute

Speaking at an Independence Day event on Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani to end their dispute over the country’s presidential run-off election results and save Afghanistan from further instability, violence, and economic decline (Pajhwok). Stressing that the results released in June were "early results," Karzai said Afghans were impatiently waiting for final counts and that he hoped both candidates would reach an agreement on creating an inclusive government.

Karzai’s appeal came as Abdullah threatened to withdraw from the vote audit and political processes for a third time and Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of Balkh province and a close Abdullah aide, asked his supporters to get ready to protest the election’s final results. Faizullah Zaki, a spokesman for Ghani’s campaign, also publicly asked Abdullah’s team to review its decision to boycott the vote audit, as well as talks over forming a unity government (Pajhwok).   

Though Abdullah’s team had set Tuesday as the deadline for the country’s Independent Election Commission to address its concerns over vote invalidation criteria, TOLO News reported that it continued to participate in negotiations with Ghani over the power-sharing agreement that was brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in August (TOLO News). According to the report, the main disagreement between the two camps is over the powers and authorities that will be given to the Chief Executive, a new position within the Afghanistan political system.

— Bailey Cahall

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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