The South Asia Channel
Abdullah Vows to Reject Vote Audit Results; Pak Navy Repels Taliban Attack; Modi to Meet Obama
Afghanistan The Rack: "The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys," Jenny Nordberg (Atlantic). Abdullah vows to reject results of vote audit Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah insisted on Monday that he had won both of the country’s disputed elections — held in April and June of this year — and vowed to reject any future ...
The Rack: "The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys," Jenny Nordberg (Atlantic).
Abdullah vows to reject results of vote audit
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah insisted on Monday that he had won both of the country’s disputed elections — held in April and June of this year — and vowed to reject any future government formed on the basis of the run-off election vote audit (AP, Pajhwok, RFE/RL, TOLO News, VOA). While the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said the audit has been completed, the results have not yet been released. However, nearly all observers expect Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah’s opponent, to be declared the winner.
Though Abdullah’s supporters have suggested that he could form a parallel government, Abdullah himself made no mention of that possibility in his speech on Monday or at the press conference that followed (NYT). The New York Times‘ Rod Nordland also noted that he didn’t "explicitly repudiate his signature on an agreement, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit [in Kabul] in August, to accept the results of the audit and cooperate in forming a national unity government, which would give crucial positions to the losing side as well." Abdullah also did not rule out resuming negotiations with Ghani about creating a national unity government.
Speaking on Monday at a ceremony to honor Ahmed Shah Massoud, a revered anti-Taliban commander who was killed days before 9/11, President Hamid Karzai urged the crowd to help him pressure both Abdullah and Ghani to agree on the details of a unity government, telling them: "Call on them now and call on them loudly. Tell them that we will not let them leave (the venue) unless they reach an agreement and rescue the country" (Pajhwok, Reuters). The event, however, ended in discord with Abdullah supporters booing other speakers off the stage, and both Karzai and Ghani leaving early (NYT).
At a separate press conference on Monday, IEC Chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told reporters that the audit results would be announced soon, regardless of whether or not Abdullah and Ghani have reached a power-sharing agreement (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Neither Ghani nor anyone from his campaign has commented on this latest breakdown in the country’s political process.
Navy repels dockyard attack in Karachi
Pakistan’s navy issued a statement late Monday night that said it had repelled an attack on a naval dockyard in the port city of Karachi on Saturday, adding that two militants and one sailor had been killed in the incident; seven sailors were also wounded (AP, ET). According to the statement, authorities arrested four people involved in the attack around the country following the incident, though it was unclear how many assailants may have been involved. Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday, telling Agence France Presse that they had "support from inside the naval force for this attack" (AFP, BBC). Bonus Read: "Pakistan’s Dueling Military Cultures," Raza Rumi (SouthAsia).
Dozens buried in mosque after roof collapses
Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported on Tuesday that at least 40 people were trapped under debris at a mosque in Lahore after the roof caved in from rain damage (ET). According to the initial reports, two people have been killed and three have been rescued from the rubble. Rescue teams have reached the site and rescue efforts are underway, with local residents trying to pull the survivors out.
The roof collapse comes as the death toll from flooding in both India and Pakistan has topped 400. International media outlets noted on Tuesday that at least 200 people have died in India, while 205 have been killed in Pakistan (AP, BBC). Saeed Qureshi, an official at Pakistan’s State Disaster Management Authority, told Reuters that the amount of rainfall over the last week had rendered the country’s contingency plans useless, commenting that: "Nobody can fight with nature" (Reuters).
The New York Times reported that the rains have also further strained relations between India and Pakistan, with some Pakistanis blaming "India for suddenly releasing river water into Pakistan, violating an understanding of giving warning before opening dams" (NYT). The crisis has also added additional stress to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, which continues to "[grapple] with a month-long political crisis caused by opponents demanding his resignation."
BBC: Qadri protestors paid to participate
While one of the protest leaders calling for Sharif’s resignation, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party chairman Imran Khan, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that he believes victory over Sharif is near, a new BBC report suggests that support for him and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party leader Tahir ul-Qadir may be lessening (WSJ, BBC). According to the BBC, much of Khan’s support has thinned out as the protests have dragged on, while Qadir’s supporters were reportedly paid Rs. 6,000 (around $60) to join the political rallies in Islamabad for "three or four days," but are now being prevented from leaving.
The protestors BBC Urdu spoke to were predominantly students, and one told them that they had been threatened by PAT party leaders, saying that: "The party leaders told us they had their people posted on all bus stands and if they saw any of us trying to catch a bus, they would send us to the ‘next world’ and tell our families we were killed by the police." Omar Riaz Abbasi, the PAT’s deputy information secretary, denied that the party had paid or threatened protesters, telling the BBC that all protestors were there "of their own free will." Abbasi also noted that Qadri had recently let 800 protestors go home because they had exams coming up or other responsibilities to attend to.
— Bailey Cahall
PM Modi to meet President Obama in Washington
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Sep. 29 and 30, a senior U.S. official said on Monday (BBC, Economic Times). Modi, in his first visit to the United States after being banned from entering the country in 2005, will discuss bilateral and strategic issues with Obama. An official White House statement said: "They [Obama and Modi] will discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, bolster security cooperation, and collaborate in activities that bring long-term benefits to both countries and the world [and] will also focus on regional issues, including current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, where India and the United States can work together with partners towards a positive outcome" (NDTV). Modi had been denied a visa to the United States since 2005 on the grounds that, as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, he failed to stop the 2002 riots in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred.
Chinese president to visit India next week
Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first visit to India as the head of state next week, China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday (Livemint, NDTV, Economic Times). Although the exact itinerary of Xi’s visit has not been shared yet, he will also visit Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Tajikistan. The Chinese president has postponed his trip to Pakistan — which was originally part of this tour — because of the existing political unrest there. According to The Hindu, prior to talks in New Delhi, Modi will receive Xi in Gujarat, where two memorandums will be signed between the Gujarat government and China on Sep. 17, which is also Modi’s 64th birthday (The Hindu).
At a press conference on Monday, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: "With regard to the Chinese president’s visit, we are expecting a lot and they are also expecting a lot. Hopefully there will be lots of announcements" (Economic Times). Sitharaman said further: "We are expecting [the] Chinese to come and invest in India. We have been able to convince [them] to manufacture those goods here which they export. It is going to create more jobs in the country." India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is presently in Beijing finalizing the details of Xi’s visit (Livemint).
Indian minister presents ‘report card’ on Modi’s 100 days
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj — in her first media briefing after becoming a minister earlier this year — said on Monday that there is "no full stop" in Indo-Pakistan relations, rather only a "comma or semicolon" (Indian Express). Swaraj, giving her update on the Modi government’s first 100 days, said that the existing administration’s foreign policy is "strong, sensitive and proactive" (NDTV). Last month, after Abdul Basit — Pakistan’s high commissioner to India — met with Kashmiri separatist leaders just a week before foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries, India called them off. When asked whether Modi will meet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month, Swaraj said that they were not going with any "preset mind." Bonus Read: "Recommitting to a Shared Mission Against Terrorism," Shaida M. Abdali (SouthAsia).
On Modi’s upcoming trip to the United States, Swaraj elaborated on the difference between the previous United Progressive Alliance administration and Modi’s government, saying: "This time a strong government will be talking to Obama. That will be the main difference" (Economic Times). On Indo-China relations, Swaraj said: "We have [a] very good relationship with China. I must articulate that our relationship is that of cooperation and competition. But when Prime Minister Modi met President Xi in Fortaleza [in Brazil], they had very good equation. I think the outcome of this visit will be substantial and solid." Swaraj added that New Delhi wants Beijing to "understand and appreciate" its ‘sensitivities’ regarding the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, as India respects China’s position on Tibet and Taiwan (Economic Times). Both India and China have accused each other of border incursions and have held numerous talks over the disputed state border. The Chinese government claims sovereignty over Tibet and Taiwan.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen.