The South Asia Channel
Indian Army Saves Thousands in Flood Zone; Pak Flood Death Toll Tops 200; NYT: Afghan Taliban May Reclaim Sangin District
India J&K Floods: Army saves over 20,000 people A massive rescue operation is underway in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), where after five days of continuous rains, thousands are stranded and more than 160 people have died in flooding considered the worst in 60 years, according to reports on Monday (NDTV). The ...
J&K Floods: Army saves over 20,000 people
A massive rescue operation is underway in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), where after five days of continuous rains, thousands are stranded and more than 160 people have died in flooding considered the worst in 60 years, according to reports on Monday (NDTV). The Indian Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been actively involved in the rescue operation. The chief of the army staff, Gen. Dalbir Singh, said: "The Indian Army will not move back to the barracks till the last man is brought to safety" (NDTV). NDRF Director Gen. O. P. Singh said: "We are facing a big problem of communication as all links are down. We are not able to communicate with our teams sent on ground in flood-ravaged areas. Also, as the water level is high in many places, our personnel are not able to reach the stranded" (Livemint). In Srinagar, the water — about 4 meters-deep (12 feet) — has submerged entire houses.
The army has deployed its personnel for rescue and relief operations, airlifted 85 tons of medicine for the flood victims, and distributed 4,000 blankets and 90 tents. The army has also distributed 23,000 liters (6,076 gallons) of water and 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds) of biscuits in the flood-affected areas. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the devastation as a "national level disaster" after he surveyed the flood-hit areas from a helicopter on Sunday. Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of J&K, tweeted: "This is an unprecedented situation and we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. Please don’t panic, we will reach you, I promise" (Times of India).
German Foreign Minister meets Modi
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been in India since Saturday, met Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday, and conveyed Germany’s strong desire to work with the new government and further expand bilateral relations (Business Standard). At the meeting, Modi said India looked forward to the upcoming visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015. Modi also talked about ongoing cooperation between the countries around clean energy, and developing new relations in the areas of solid waste management, waste water treatment, and cleaning of rivers.
Syed Akbaruddin, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, tweeted about the meeting: "On agenda are trade, investment, high tech cooperation and renewable energy collaboration" (NDTV). German ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, welcomed Steinmeier, saying: "There is huge potential in closer cooperation in several key areas, like trade, business, education, science, environment and energy. This visit will intensify Indo-German relations and help us make progress in these sectors further strengthening our bilateral ties" (Economic Times).
Delhi government formation: BJP dismisses AAP claims
India’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) claimed on Monday that it had secretly filmed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders trying to buy the support of AAP legislators to form a government in New Delhi (The Hindu). During a press conference in New Delhi, where the video was released, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said: "Our operation to expose the BJP’s horse-trading has been going on for over a month. We will submit raw footage to the Supreme Court tomorrow" (NDTV). Kejriwal said further: "The dirty game of the BJP is exposed today." According to the video, BJP leaders Sher Singh Dagar and Raghubir Dahiya were allegedly bribing AAP member Dinesh Mohaniya to join the BJP.
The BJP dismissed the video, with leader Vijender Gupta, saying: "They (AAP) have been doing this for long now. Earlier they made allegations against (BJP leader and union minister) Nitin Gadkari and later apologized and now again they are attacking us" (Economic Times). Gupta said further: "Though, I have not seen the video but even if (Delhi BJP vice president Sher Singh) Dagar interacted with the AAP MLA [Mohaniya], it was in his personal capacity and not as a leader of the BJP." With 29 legislators and the largest group in the New Delhi assembly, the BJP needs five more legislative members to join it for a majority. The Indian Express reports that it is likely that the BJP may be invited to form a government in New Delhi, after Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung sent a report to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking permission to allow the single largest party to form a government (Indian Express). New Delhi has been under the president’s rule after Kejriwal quit as chief minister on Feb. 14, after only 49 days in office, when he alleged the BJP and Congress were blocking the introduction and passage of the Jan Lokpal, an anti-corruption bill.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Death toll from flooding tops 200
More than 200 people have died in Pakistan and thousands of homes have collapsed after heavy monsoon rains triggered landslides and flash floods across the country (Dawn, BBC, VOA, WSJ). After nearly a week of rain, a Pakistani official declared the situation a "national emergency" (AP). Civilian and military rescuers in both Pakistan and India — which has also been hit hard by the rain — "were using helicopters and boats to try to reach tens of thousands of people stranded in their homes as floodwaters rose and submerged many villages" (AP, BBC). Over the weekend, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered to help each other’s emergency relief efforts in the disputed region of Kashmir, lowering tensions after weeks of cross-border firings and heated rhetoric (ET, Reuters).
Militants blow up pipeline in Dera Bugti
Unidentified militants blew up a gas pipeline in Balochistan’s resource-rich Dera Bugti district on Monday, suspending the flow of gas to a local purification plant and causing panic among local residents (Dawn, ET). While security personnel arrived at the scene immediately after the explosion, they had trouble extinguishing the flames. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, but a security official speaking to Dawn suspected Baloch separatists were behind the attack.
NYT: Taliban may reclaim Helmand’s Sangin district
The New York Times‘ Rod Nordland and Taimoor Shah reported on Saturday that Afghan officials in Helmand province fear the Taliban may be able to retake the district of Sangin after a fierce summer-long offensive has killed more than 200 police officers and soldiers (NYT). Though officials at the national level have played down the threat posed by the militant group, "local military, police and government officials, including two Afghan generals, have said in recent days that they are unsure their forces can continue to hold out against the offensive, which has been underway since June."
Nordland and Shah noted that: "The authorities are particularly worried about Musa Qala, a traditional Taliban stronghold and a source of revenue from the lucrative opium poppy trade." In speaking about the district’s security, Haji-Mohammad Sharif, the governor of Musa Qala, told them: "The situation is deteriorating and the Taliban are almost in the bazaar […] If the situation remains the same, the district will soon fall to the hands of the Taliban." Bonus Read: "Building Good Will in a Troubled Afghan District, but Not Without a Fight," Azam Ahmed (NYT).
Seven Afghans given death sentences for gang rape
An Afghan judge sentenced seven Afghan men to death on Sunday for the brutal robbery and gang rape of four women on Aug. 23, just days after the men had been arrested (Guardian, Reuters, RFE/RL). Only five of the men were found guilty of raping the women as they drove with their husbands back to Kabul after attending a wedding in the district of Paghman, but all seven were sentenced to death for armed robbery (BBC, TOLO News). According to reports, some of the attackers were dressed in police uniforms, though the police have denied any connection to the men. Three other men are accused of being connected to the incident, but are currently on the run.
The case has sparked national outrage in Afghanistan, and on Saturday, President Hamid Karzai told a delegation of women that the men would face the death penalty (NYT, Pajhwok). The judge, however, noted on Sunday that the men could appeal their sentences.
National unity government talks collapse
Afghanistan’s election crisis deepened on Sunday when representatives for both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani — the two presidential candidates — confirmed that the negotiations over forming a national unity government had collapsed (Pajhwok). This latest setback came as the country’s Independent Election Commission announced that it had completed its audit of all votes cast in the June 14 run-off election; the results of that audit have not yet been released. While Tahir Zohair, a spokesman for Ghani, said he hoped the negotiations would resume shortly, Abdullah spokesman Mujib Rahman Rahimi announced on Facebook that they would soon reveal their own government instead.
Suicide bomber kills Arghistan district police chief
A Taliban suicide bomber killed Abdul Manaf, the police chief in Kandahar province’s Arghistan district, and two of his bodyguards Sunday night when he detonated his explosives inside the local police headquarters (RFE/RL, TOLO News). Six other policemen were injured in the attack. Zia Durrani, a provincial police spokesman, said an investigation into the incident, and how the bomber was able to enter the heavily-guarded facility, is underway (Pajhwok).
— Bailey Cahall
Edited by Peter Bergen.