Pak Troops Expand Flood Relief Efforts; Pressure Builds on Afghan Rivals to End Crisis; Rai Blames Singh for Scams

Bonus Read: "In Afghanistan, Creating Jewelry in the Midst of Conflict," Felicia Craddock (NYT). Pakistan Pakistani troops expanding, accelerating flood relief efforts Pakistan’s military told reporters on Friday that it has expanded its rescue and relief operations as flood waters continued to pour into the country’s populous Punjab province (AP, ET). Of particular concern is ...

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Bonus Read: "In Afghanistan, Creating Jewelry in the Midst of Conflict," Felicia Craddock (NYT).

Pakistan

Bonus Read: "In Afghanistan, Creating Jewelry in the Midst of Conflict," Felicia Craddock (NYT).

Pakistan

Pakistani troops expanding, accelerating flood relief efforts

Pakistan’s military told reporters on Friday that it has expanded its rescue and relief operations as flood waters continued to pour into the country’s populous Punjab province (AP, ET). Of particular concern is the city of Multan, one of Pakistan’s largest cities, which "is surrounded by vast tracts of agricultural land and is one of the country’s major cotton producers" (BBC). Authorities have been breaching dykes around the city to help relieve the pressure building in the Chenab River and to redirect the water away from critical infrastructure (Dawn, ET).

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed officials to further accelerate their relief efforts at a federal cabinet meeting on Friday, and told them to present a national disaster management plan for flooding at the next session (Dawn). He also thanked India for its offer of financial assistance in addressing the damage caused by the flooding, but said Pakistan would not approach any country for aid. According to the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, 264 people have been killed, 43,000 homes have been destroyed, and 1,100,000 people have been affected by the heavy rains and resulting floods. 

Mixed feelings after one month of protests

As the protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party leader Tahir ul-Qadri near their one-month anniversary, it seems that their participants have mixed feelings about their efforts. The BBC first reported on Tuesday that some of Qadri’s supporters were paid Rs. 6,000 (around $60) to join the political rallies in Islamabad for "three or four days," but were now being prevented from leaving (BBC). Reuters had a similar report on Thursday, which said party organizers had taken the protestors’ national identification cards and were not returning them to those who asked, effectively keeping them at the sit-in against their will (Reuters).

The Wall Street Journal, however, spoke to a 16-year-old Qadri follower who had a clear reason for why she was living in a tent city in Islamabad: "The system is rigged. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer" (WSJ). Another supporter said: "Dr. Qadri is our inspiration because he is not just a religious leader, but also a research scientist." While Reuters described the protests as listless, others told the Journal that they would not leave until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, had resigned. Bonus Read: "Beleaguered Pakistani Capital Inches Back to Normal," Salman Masood And Zia Ur-Rehman (NYT).

Afghanistan

U.N. Deputy Secretary General visits rivals amid impasse

U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jeff Feltman met separately with Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on Thursday, and urged both men to restart their negotiations over a power-sharing agreement as soon as possible (TOLO News). While Ghani’s team confirmed that he had met with Feltman and noted that the international community hopes the two men will renew their dialogue, Abdullah’s team maintained that the camps were not in direct communication. The meetings came just a few days after the talks between the political rivals broke down over what specific powers to give the newly-created position of chief executive. Bonus Read: "The Only Choice Left for Afghanistan," Ioannis Koskinas (SouthAsia).

Pressure on the two men to resolve their differences sooner rather than later is also coming from inside Afghanistan. Pajhwok Afghan News reported on Thursday that Haji din Mohammad, a powerful tribal leader and Ghani supporter, urged both men to end the electoral crisis (Pajhwok). Mohammad highlighted the fact that the prolonged crisis was threatening the country’s security and economy, and warned that the candidates would be held responsible if things got worse. Bonus Read: "It’s Not All Fear and Loathing in Kabul," Michael Kugelman (SouthAsia).

Much of the tension has come without the final results of the June 14 run-off election vote audit even being announced. Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, told reporters on Thursday that the election results would be revealed next week, though he did not give a specific date for the announcement (TOLO News). According to a report by TOLO News, the last session of vote invalidations is expected to occur on Friday, after which the candidates will have 48 hours to file complaints with the Electoral Complaints Commission. Once those complaints have been addressed, the results will be released.

Afghanistan’s water polo players dream of success

In a country ravaged by war, some young Afghans have turned to water polo to leave the violence behind, and to, hopefully, find peace and prosperity (Guardian). While the team was approved by the Afghan Olympic Committee last year, it still lacks funding and proper resources. But that hasn’t diminished the players’ enthusiasm for the sport. Training once a week in a small private swimming pool in Kabul, the team is preparing for the 10th Asian Water Polo Championships, which will take place in Iran in December. If given the money to attend, it would be Afghanistan’s first appearance at the event.

— Bailey Cahall 

India 

Former CAG blames Manmohan Singh for scams

India’s former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai alleged on Thursday that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chose to ignore certain scandals even after being warned about them (Economic Times, Livemint). Discussing the scams that occurred during Singh’s time in office — including the second-generation spectrum allocation (mobile telephone companies were undercharged for frequency allocation licenses) and coalfield allocations (coalfields were allocated without a competitive bidding process) — Rai said that Singh was more interested in remaining in power.

In an interview with news broadcaster Times Now, Rai said: "You cannot have the nation being subjugated to the state and the state being a coalition of political parties. The belief was that good politics makes good economics too. But does good politics mean just staying in power?" (NDTV). Rai said further: "Integrity is not just financial – it is intellectual integrity, it is professional integrity. You have an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and that is important."

In his book Not Just An Accountant, which talks about his time as CAG and will be published soon, Rai observes: "Had the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) insisted on transparency, the course of political history of this country would have been different… Had he stood steadfastly by his beliefs, the fate of the Indian economy would have been very different" (Indian Express). 

Congress leader backs BJP bid for Delhi government 

The Congress party expressed shock on Thursday after Sheila Dikshit — party leader and former New Delhi chief minister — suggested that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should be allowed to form a government in the capital (Indian Express, NDTV). Dikshit, who served three consecutive terms as chief minister of New Delhi, said: "In democracy, an elected government is always better because it is the representative of people. If BJP is in a situation to form the government, then it’s good" (Economic Times). 

New Delhi has been under the president’s rule since Feb. 14, when Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal quit as chief minister after only 49 days in office, alleging that the BJP and Congress were blocking the introduction and passage of the Jan Lokpal, an anti-corruption bill. On Sept. 4, Lt. Gov. Najeeb Jung wrote a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, recommending that the BJP — the single largest party in New Delhi — be invited to form a government.

Congress was quick to distance itself from Dikshit’s comments. Delhi Congress chief spokesperson Mukesh Sharma said: "We are shocked by Sheila Dikshit’s statement on government formation. It is her personal views and Congress has nothing to do with it. Our stand is very clear from day one that Congress will not let the BJP form government in the national capital" (IBNLive). While the BJP praised the "seasoned politician" for her "straightforward" and "mature" statement, the AAP responded that it was not surprised as "there is hardly any difference between BJP and Congress."

Indian Supreme Court permits Italian Marine to return home

The Indian Supreme Court on Friday allowed Italian Marine Massimiliano Latorre, who faces murder charges for killing Indian fishermen, to return to his country for four months on medical grounds (BBC, Times of India, IBNLive). After Latorre was hospitalized last week for treatment of ischemia — a restriction in blood supply that can lead to a stroke — the Italian ambassador in Delhi pledged to the court that Latorre would return after recovering at home. 

Latorre and Italian Marine Salvatore Girone are facing charges for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, mistaking them for pirates. At that time, the marines were serving as security personnel on an Italian oil tanker. They are presently living at the Italian embassy in New Delhi. While India claimed this case falls under its jurisdiction, Italy had initially argued that the marines should be tried in Italy because the incident occurred in international waters.

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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