Ghani Says Afghanistan Cannot Have Two Leaders; Tensions Rise Over Indian Flood Response; Khan to Mark One Month of Protests

Ghani: Country cannot accommodate two leaders  Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani (seen above at a press conference in April) said in a press conference on Wednesday evening that talks between him and political rival Abdullah Abdullah would continue, but he noted that the country cannot have a "two-headed government" (Reuters, RFE/RL). Speaking two days after ...

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Ghani: Country cannot accommodate two leaders 

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani (seen above at a press conference in April) said in a press conference on Wednesday evening that talks between him and political rival Abdullah Abdullah would continue, but he noted that the country cannot have a "two-headed government" (Reuters, RFE/RL). Speaking two days after Abdullah said negotiations on a power-sharing deal were deadlocked and that he won't accept any government based on what he considers a fraudulent vote and recount, Ghani said he will not agree to any deal that compromises Afghanistan's constitution (AP, NYT). While both men agreed to create a national unity government in July -- a deal that was brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry -- the talks have stalled over what powers should be given to the newly-created position of chief executive.

Ghani: Country cannot accommodate two leaders 

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani (seen above at a press conference in April) said in a press conference on Wednesday evening that talks between him and political rival Abdullah Abdullah would continue, but he noted that the country cannot have a "two-headed government" (Reuters, RFE/RL). Speaking two days after Abdullah said negotiations on a power-sharing deal were deadlocked and that he won’t accept any government based on what he considers a fraudulent vote and recount, Ghani said he will not agree to any deal that compromises Afghanistan’s constitution (AP, NYT). While both men agreed to create a national unity government in July — a deal that was brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry — the talks have stalled over what powers should be given to the newly-created position of chief executive.

Sareer Ahmad Barmak, a member of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, told Reuters on Wednesday that the final results of the June 14 run-off vote audit would likely be released next week, though he could not give a specific date (Reuters). Though Barmak said the commission did not need to wait for Ghani and Abdullah to reach an agreement before announcing the results, he noted: "But it would be better if the candidates reach a deal."

During his speech, Ghani thanked the Afghan people for their patience with this year’s electoral process, saying: "Our people have voted for a better, brighter future so that no more blood is shed and so that history doesn’t repeat itself" (TOLO News).

Karzai inaugurates new presidential guesthouse

Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace released a statement on Thursday announcing that President Hamid Karzai had inaugurated a new presidential guesthouse earlier that morning (TOLO News). The building was supposed to be used by Karzai after the end of his presidency — in accordance with Afghanistan’s constitution — but the statement said he has made it a presidential guesthouse instead due to "its high standard of construction." Construction on the facility began last June. 

Ready, aim… splat?

A city more known for real bullets than splatter paint ones, Kabul may seem to be an odd place to open up a paintball club, but that’s exactly what Abbas Rizaiy did just a few weeks ago, according to the Associated Press (AP). While Rizaiy turned down the speed with which the paintball guns fire to reduce the noise for his neighbors, the AP’s Rebecca Santana notes "his customers seem to appreciate the irony of firing toy guns in a country flooded with the real thing." 

Paintball is just one of a small number of leisure activities to open up in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, with a bowling alley, a 9-hole golf course, and a number of pools also catering to the city’s upper- and middle-class elite. 

— Bailey Cahall 

India 

J&K: Tempers rise as waters recede 

Despite the rescuing of nearly 80,000 people by the Indian Army and the National Disaster Response Force among recent flooding in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), anger has been rising over the process. On Wednesday, for example, people in Srinagar threw stones at army trucks carrying relief supplies (BBC, Times of India). Chairing a high-level emergency meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed officials to provide total support to the J&K government to enable rescue and relief operations (Times of India).

As the state battles its worst flood in 100 years, Indian Army Chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag said: "Relief and rescue operations are on…. We now need to supply food, water and medicines to people in need" (NDTV). The army is concerned about potential breaches along the Indo-Pakistan border after the flooding. Northern Army Commander Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda said: "The fence has been breached in the Akhnoor sector. Not only that, critical counter-insurgency positions of the Rashtriya Rifles in the Valley have been damaged or destroyed… As our focus shifts to rescue and relief, there will be attempts made by terrorists to carry out attacks" (NDTV).

To facilitate rescue efforts, the search engine giant Google has launched several tools that will allow people affected by the devastation to gather and relay information (Indian Express). The army has also set up additional satellite phones and distributed mobile communication sets to state administrative officials (DNA). In light of the massive floods, environmentalists have also been quick to direct the cause of the tragedy to increased development efforts. Sunita Narain, the director of the Centre for Science and Environment, an Indian environmental think tank, said: "Several wetlands, lake and water bodies have been encroached upon by developers over the years, especially low-lying areas, the full effects of which are being witnessed now" (NDTV).

Indian government approves divestment in state-run companies 

The Indian government’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the share sales of three state-run companies — Coal India Ltd. (CIL), Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. (ONGC), and NHPC Ltd. — on Wednesday (Economic Times, Livemint, Businessweek). The Modi government will sell a ten-percent stake in CIL, the world’s biggest coal miner; five percent in ONGC, the country’s biggest energy explorer; and 11.36 percent in NHPC, the state-owned hydropower producer. The government presently owns 89.65 percent of CIL, 68.94 percent of ONGC, and 85.96 percent of NHPC. The Indian government hopes to raise around $7.5 billion from the divestment, which is expected to help the government achieve its fiscal deficit target of 4.1 percent in the current financial year.

BJP president charged with hate speech

An Indian court in Muzaffarnagar — located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) — rejected a hate speech charge against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah on Wednesday, with a magistrate court refusing to acknowledge the charge sheet (Economic Times, Times of India). Shah was charged for allegedly delivering a hate speech in Muzaffarnagar while campaigning for the general elections earlier this year. In his speech, Shah said: "A man can live without food or sleep. He can live when he is thirsty and hungry. But when he is insulted, he can’t live. The humiliation has to be avenged," after which the Election Commission banned him from campaigning in UP (The Hindu). Shah, who played a critical role in the BJP’s victory in the general elections earlier this year, was named president in July.

Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Pakistan

Imran Khan to mark one month of protests 

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party chairman Imran Khan told his supporters on Wednesday that his party would host "a grand show" on Saturday to express national solidarity, and to mark one month since the protests against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began (Dawn). He added that they "will unveil things which should have been brought in the parliament," saying it will make his case against the government even stronger. Khan also reiterated his stance that his party had a lawful right to hold peaceful protests and urged the nation to join him. 

Meanwhile, negotiations between government representatives and members of Tahir ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party — which has been conducting its own protests alongside Khan’s — broke down on Wednesday, and were adjourned until Friday so the teams could conduct internal consultations (Dawn). The stalemate seemed to be caused by the PAT’s call for the creation of a joint investigation team to evaluate the use of police force against protestors marching to Sharif’s residence on Aug. 30; three people were killed in the fighting. The government has so far rejected this demand, saying that it would prevent police officers from accepting their orders in the future.

Thousands flee as floodwalls break

Around 700,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes on Wednesday as a river embankment in Punjab province was breached by floodwaters (BBC). Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous province, and home to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family and political base; his brother Shahbaz is the provincial chief minister (VOA). 

According to Ahmad Kamal, a spokesman for the country’s National Disaster Management Authority, the breach occurred along the Chenab River in the Jhang district, about 131 miles southwest from Lahore (RFE/RL). More than 450 people have been killed in recent days by flooding in both Pakistan and India, which has been some of the heaviest either country has seen in decades. 

Pakistan digging trenches along Afghan border

Afghan and Pakistani media outlets reported on Thursday that members of Pakistan’s paramilitary forces are digging a nearly 300-mile-long trench along the border between the two countries in an effort to stop cross-border incursions (Pajhwok, ET). The trench, which will be 8 feet deep and 10 feet wide, is about halfway done and should be completed by Oct. 30. Col. Faheen Babar, the commandant of the Qila Saifullah Scouts in Balochistan, told reporters: "We want to check incursions of terrorists and smugglers into Pakistan and the trenches will help control the situation along the border." Cross-border crossings have long been a source of tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

— 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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