Ghani Says Goal is ‘Peace;’ Northeastern Staff Kept Away during Xi’s Visit; At Least Four Killed in Peshawar Suicide Blast
Goal of government is peace, Ghani says
In his first press conference as Afghanistan’s president-elect, Ashraf Ghani told supporters in Kabul on Monday that the goal of the country’s new national unity government is "peace," and that it will be a "government of accountability, justice, the rule of law and the implementation of the constitution (BBC, Pajhwok, TOLO News). In his remarks, which were televised around the country, Ghani added that Afghanistan should celebrate its first democratic transfer of power from one president to another (VOA). After a fairly acrimonious election process, with both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah alleging voter fraud, the president-elect promised that his government would represent all Afghans, telling the nation: "We will not follow [an] exclusion policy. Those who were our rivals yesterday are our colleagues today" (RFE/RL). Bonus Read: "Monitors of Afghan Vote Are Said to Back Secrecy," Rod Nordland (NYT).
While Abdullah was not present at the press conference, Afghanistan’s TOLO News reported on Monday that there is broad support for him to assume the newly created position of chief executive, which will be similar in power to a prime minister (TOLO News). Under the power-sharing agreement he signed with Ghani, either Abdullah or someone he nominates could fill that office.
Karzai takes parting shot at U.S., Pakistan
Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave his farewell speech to the nation on Tuesday, and "blamed the United States for his country’s long war, a final swipe at the country that helped bring him to power 13 years ago but towards which he has become increasingly bitter" (Reuters). Karzai also criticized neighboring Pakistan for the ongoing Taliban-led insurgency and warned the incoming government to "be extra cautious in relations with the [United States] and the West," according to Reuters. He did note, however, that Afghanistan’s "government and our structures today are a hundred times better than when [he] first took office," and stressed that the country’s national unity was strong (TOLO News).
Missing Afghan soldiers found at U.S.-Canada border
Three Afghan soldiers who were in the United States for a training exercise and went missing over the weekend were found on Monday at a northern border crossing near Niagara Falls (BBC, NYT). The soldiers, who had disappeared from a Massachusetts shopping mall, were taken into Canadian custody at the Rainbow Bridge crossing (VOA). Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that the United States is still working with Canadian and Afghan authorities to determine the next steps in dealing with the three men.
Identified as Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada, and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar, the soldiers were among several Afghan military personnel participating in the annual U.S. Central Command Regional Cooperation training exercise in Cape Cod. It is still unclear why the men disappeared from the mall, but it was the second time in about a week that visiting Afghan security personnel went missing in the United States. On Sep. 13, two Afghan police officers training with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration went missing in Virginia; they were later found near Buffalo, N.Y.
— Bailey Cahall
Xi’s visit: Northeastern staff kept away from hotel
The Indian home ministry ordered the country’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) on Monday to report whether a hotel in Ahmedabad, located in the western state of Gujarat, asked its employees from northeastern India to stay away during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India last week (Livemint, NDTV). It was also reported that employees of northeastern origin were asked not to come to work at a mall in Ahmedabad during Xi’s visit. The home ministry, taking note of news reports, asked the IB to issue a report by Tuesday after investigating the veracity of the reports, and determining whether the orders came from the Ahmedabad police.
The Hyatt Ahmedabad, which hosted Xi during his visit, expressed surprise over the reports. Ayesha Mishra, the hotel’s marketing manager, said: "There was no such order given to the hotel staff on that day. All staff, including those from the northeast, was present in the hotel and doing duty when Chinese President arrived. I’m surprised as to how such baseless reports are doing the rounds" (Indian Express). The Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) A. K. Sharma said: "I am not aware of any such diktat [order] given by police to the hotel authorities about their staff. We were just concerned about the Tibetans" (IBNLive). According to reports, the city police were concerned that Tibetian protestors would sneak into the hotel disguised as employees. The Chinese government claims sovereignty over Tibet; India is home to the largest Tibetan refugee population in the world.
Indian government: 18 years to clean Ganges River
The Indian government gave the Supreme Court on Monday a blueprint of its short, medium, and long term measures — spread over 18 years — to stop the discharge of untreated sewer and waste water into the holy Ganges River (Times of India). The affidavit that was filed said: "It is respectfully submitted that in order to ensure rejuvenation of the Ganga, the action plan envisages phase wise timeline in terms of short term — a period of three years, medium term — a period of next five years and long term — a period of next ten years and more" (NDTV). The Ganges River is a 1,569-mile-long river that originates in the Himalayas, and runs through both India and Bangladesh. Although the Ganges is the most sacred river for Hindus, it is extremely polluted because of industrial effluents, untreated sewage, and garbage present in the river.
The affidavit said further that, in the short term: "118 towns have been tentatively identified for necessary interventions to achieve total sanitation targets including water waste treatment and solid waste management" (IBNLive). The central government presented the affidavit weeks after the Supreme Court asked it to come up with a roadmap for making the Ganges River pollution-free. A consortium of seven Indian Institutes of Technology, commonly known as IITs, is also preparing a Ganges River Basin Management Plan to maintain the "geological and ecological integrity of the river."
A white tiger mauls a student to death at a zoo
A white tiger attacked and killed a teenage schoolboy at a New Delhi zoo on Tuesday, after the boy ended up in its enclosure (BBC). According to eyewitnesses, the boy slipped and fell 18 feet into a dry moat in the tiger enclosure, though zoo officials dispute those reports. Riaz Khan, the zoo manager, said: "The boy seems to have leapt over the railing into the tiger enclosure. It was a white tiger that attacked" (AFP). Zoo Director Amitabh Agnihotri said that the enclosures are "absolutely safe," and that the boy "crossed the barrier of the enclosure and jumped in" (NDTV).
A photograph taken by an eyewitness shows the boy cowering before the tiger with folded hands. NDTV reports that "a white tiger had caught a boy by his neck and he was writhing badly in pain. He kept suffering for the next 10-15 minutes but nobody helped him" (NDTV). White tigers, found in southern and eastern Asia, are considered endangered species.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Bonus Read: "Pakistan is eyeing sea-based and short-range nuclear weapons, analysts say," Tim Craig and Karen DeYoung (Post).
Suicide bomber hits paramilitary convoy in Peshawar
At least four people were killed and nearly 20 were injured in Peshawar on Tuesday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle near a paramilitary convoy as it moved through the city (ET, WSJ). According to Faisal Shahzad, a senior police official, the attack appeared to be targeting Brig. Khalid Javed, the second most senior officer on Peshawar’s Frontier Constabulary force; though he was in the convoy, Javed escaped unhurt (RFE/RL).
While Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been fairly quiet in recent months, it is the gateway to Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal regions, where the military has been battling Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants since June (BBC). Speaking to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, police chief Ijaz Khan said: "It seems like the blowback of operation Zarb-i-Azb [in North Waziristan] has started" (Dawn). No one has claimed responsibility for the incident. Bonus Read: "Why Pakistan’s militants can still strike at will" (BBC).
Sharif heads to New York for U.N. General Assembly
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left Islamabad for New York City on Tuesday to attend the 69th annual U.N. General Assembly meeting (ET). According to a statement issued by Tasneem Aslam, a spokesperson for the country’s Foreign Office, Sharif is expected to address the assembly on Friday. He will also co-chair a U.N. peacekeeping summit with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and several other world leaders. Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper cited diplomatic sources that added Sharif would focus on building cooperation-based relationships with India and Afghanistan, though he is expected to highlight the Kashmir issue in his speech on Friday (Dawn). India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of them were over Kashmir. Both countries have claimed Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years.
Sharif may also have to address the issue of cross-border shelling as Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani is expected to share his concerns on the matter at the assembly session (ET, Pajhwok). While Pakistan has denied firing rockets into civilian areas across the border, and insists that its forces only fire when fired upon, Afghan officials have claimed the strikes cause civilian casualties.
— Bailey Cahall
Edited by Peter Bergen.