Ghani Sworn in as Afghan President; Modi Gets Rockstar Welcome in U.S.; U.S. Drone Strike Kills 4 in South Waziristan
Afghanistan Ghani, Abdullah sworn in Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan’s new president on Monday, and moments later inaugurated former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah as the country’s chief executive, ending a fractious, nearly six-month-long election season and marking Afghanistan’s first-ever democratic transfer of power (BBC, NYT, Pajhwok, TOLO News, WSJ). In ...
Ghani, Abdullah sworn in
Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan’s new president on Monday, and moments later inaugurated former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah as the country’s chief executive, ending a fractious, nearly six-month-long election season and marking Afghanistan’s first-ever democratic transfer of power (BBC, NYT, Pajhwok, TOLO News, WSJ). In an oath administered by the chief justice, Ghani pledged to "support the holy religion of Islam, observe the constitution and all laws and remain vigilant for its application, guard the independence, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and protect the rights and interests of the people of Afghanistan" (RFE/RL). He also promised to confront the country’s endemic corruption, telling the nation: "We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable" (AP, Pajhwok). Bonus Read: "Ashraf Ghani: the intellectual president who can now put theory into practice," Emma Graham-Harrison (Guardian).
John Podesta, a counselor to U.S. President Barack Obama, led a 10-person delegation to the ceremony, while President Mamnoon Hussein and Vice President Hamid Ansari represented Pakistan and India, respectively. RFE/RL noted that: "Many other countries, including Britain and France, were represented only by their ambassadors in Kabul, while China sent Yin Weimin, minister of human resources." According to reports, about 1,400 people were in attendance.
The day, however, was not peaceful with a bomb exploding near the Kabul International Airport shortly before the ceremony; several bystanders were killed and wounded, though actual numbers have not yet been reported (Pajhwok, Reuters, VOA). Militants also stormed the Zurmat district headquarters in Paktia province on Monday in a coordinated attack (Pajhwok). Media outlets reported that at least 16 people, including eight attackers, were killed and more than 10 others were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside the complex’s entrance and a firefight between the fighters and police guards ensued. Bonus Read: "Taliban Press for Advantage as Politicians Work on Maneuvers in Kabul," Declan Walsh and Fazl Muzhary (NYT).
Karzai reflects on time in office
In his last address to the nation on Sunday night, outgoing president Hamid Karzai reflected on his 13 years in office and defended his rule, noting that: "When I first took charge of office, we did not have a flag, or a currency. We were the target of foreign agendas, we were homeless in our own country. I am proud to have worked toward rebuilding the nation and bringing [people] together to live in their shared homeland under one flag. I am proud to have worked toward rebuilding the nation that our ancestors had built. I am proud to see kids going to school all over the country and singing the national anthem with pride and joy every day" (TOLO News, VOA). However, he also admitted that his relentless efforts to establish a lasting peace in the war-torn country had failed, but said he was confident that peace would be restored (Pajhwok). Bonus Read: "The Eminently Quotable Karzai," Frud Bezhan (RFE/RL).
Karzai signs off on death sentences for gang rapists
In his last act as president, Karzai signed orders on Saturday allowing the executions of five men convicted of rape and armed robbery (RFE/RL). The incident, which sparked nationwide outrage, occurred in Kabul’s Paghman district on Aug. 29 as a family was returning home from a wedding ceremony. According to police, the men stopped the victims’ cars and raped four women, including one who was pregnant, before robbing the family. The five men were sentenced to death earlier in September after a swift trial that has been deemed unfair by Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the U.N.’s top human rights official (NYT). It was not clear, however, when the executions would take place, though the New York Times‘ Rod Nordland suggested they could take place soon.
— Bailey Cahall
Modi gets a rockstar welcome in the United States
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in New York City on Friday for a five-day visit, after being barred from entering the United States since 2005 (NDTV). Modi had been denied a visa to the United States on the grounds that as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, he had failed to stop the 2002 riots in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred. Upon his arrival, Modi was welcomed by members of the Indian American community who chanted "Modi, Modi," and held placards greeting him at the hotel where was staying.
In his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly as prime minister on Saturday, Modi renewed India’s position on reforming the Security Council, where India has long been aspiring to a permanent seat (BBC). Modi talked about the Indian government’s positive outreach to its neighbors, including Pakistan, saying: "We want to promote friendship with Pakistan too, but we can only talk without the shadow of terrorism over us" (Times of India). Modi also urged the U.N. General Assembly to create an "International Yoga Day" (NDTV).
After addressing the U.N. assembly, Modi spoke to a gathering of nearly 60,000 people at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, highlighting the need for clean water, healthcare, and sanitation (NDTV). At the concert, Modi told the audience that he was delighted to be amongst the youth in an open park instead of a closed conference room. Modi concluded his speech, and prompted loud cheers from the audience, by saying: "May the force be with you," a salutation used by Jedi knights in the Star Wars franchise (Livemint).
Modi also addressed a cheering audience of about 18,000 people at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, which consisted of U.S. lawmakers, prominent Indian celebrities, and Indian Americans (Livemint). Upon arriving at the auditorium, Modi walked to a rotating stage, where 30 American politicians were waiting for him. In his speech, Modi said India should be proud of "three things – democracy, demographic dividend, and demand." He used the opportunity to announce the easing of travel restrictions and visa norms for persons of Indian origin and Indian citizens living in the United States.
Modi also thanked the Indian diaspora for helping him during his election campaign earlier this year, and said: "I have not had a chance to thank you yet. And let me tell you that I have not even taken a 15-minute break since taking over as Prime Minister" (Indian Express). Modi said further: "This kind of love has not been given to any Indian leader ever… I will repay that loan by building the India of your dreams" (NDTV). After the event, Modi — @narendramodi — tweeted: "The programme at Madison Square Garden was overwhelming. It was very special to interact with members of the diaspora. A big thank you."
In his first three days of the visit, Modi met several other heads of state and U.S. politicians, including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (Economic Times, Livemint, NDTV). Modi also visited Ground Zero in New York City, and paid tribute at the 9/11 memorial (NDTV).
Indian politician jailed for corruption
Jayaram Jayalalitha, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was sentenced to four years in prison on Saturday, after she was found guilty of accumulating more than $10 million, which remains unaccounted for (BBC, WSJ, Livemint). A special court, located in the southern state of Karnataka, found Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption in a court case that had lasted for 18 years. Jayalalitha, a former movie star, and one of the most popular politicians in southern India, will also have to pay a fine of $16 million.
Jayalalithaa, the first serving chief minister to lose her post and be sent to jail, has decided to approach the Karnataka high court for bail, and will appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of India. Under a Supreme Court ruling in July 2013, lawmakers convicted of serious crimes are barred from serving in national and state legislatures, unless the conviction is stayed or overturned by a higher court. O. Panneerselvam, Tamil Nadu’s finance minister and a Jayalalithaa loyalist, was newly named as chief minister on Sunday.
Dattu sworn-in as the 42nd chief justice of India
Justice Handyala Lakshminarayanaswamy Dattu was sworn-in on Sunday as India’s 42nd chief justice by President Pranab Mukherjee (Economic Times, Indian Express). The 63-year-old Dattu will have a tenure of 14 months and will retire on December 2, 2015. After the swear-in ceremony, Dattu, the senior-most Supreme Court judge, said: "We can understand what a common citizen of India feel when we, the last court, tell him ‘no’. So every case is important for us. I sit as a common man in the court" (NDTV). Dattu’s predecessor, Justice R.M. Lodha, who retired on Saturday, was present at the ceremony.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
U.S. drone strike kills four
Pakistani officials told reporters on Sunday that a U.S. drone strike earlier that day killed four people suspected of being militants in South Waziristan’s Karikot district (Dawn, VOA). According to reports, the strike targeted a vehicle parked near a house in the town of Wana, and killed two Arab militants and two of their local allies (AP). The New York Times noted that it was the second drone strike to occur in Pakistan’s tribal regions in less than a week, but the first one to hit South Waziristan in almost a year (NYT). The strikes resumed in June, after a six-month hiatus, around the same time Pakistan launched a military operation in North Waziristan, aimed at clearing out militant strongholds in the region.
In a separate incident, eight people were killed and 17 were wounded on Sunday when a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded in a refugee camp on the outskirts of the city of Hangu (Dawn). Local police officer Anwar Saeed Kundi told the Associated Press that the people in the camp had been displaced by a conflict in the Orakzai tribal region, but added that it was not clear why anyone would target the camp. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Pakistani news outlets also reported on Monday that five militants were killed and at least three were injured in an explosion in the remote Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency (Dawn, ET). According to intelligence sources cited by Dawn, the blast occurred at a Lashkar-e-Islam base in Kandao, where the militants were testing an explosive device.
— Bailey Cahall
Edited by Peter Bergen.
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