The South Asia Channel
Pakistan Will Likely Top Polio Record; Taliban Bomber Targets Army Bus, Kills 3; Modi Wields Broom to ‘Clean India’
Pakistan Bonus Read: "In al Qaeda attack, lines between Pakistan military, militants blur," Syed Raza Hassan and Katharine Houreld (Reuters). Pakistan set for record number of polio cases Pakistani health officials reported on Thursday that, with three more confirmed cases of polio, the country is inching closer to breaking a 14-year record for the highest ...
Bonus Read: "In al Qaeda attack, lines between Pakistan military, militants blur," Syed Raza Hassan and Katharine Houreld (Reuters).
Pakistan set for record number of polio cases
Pakistani health officials reported on Thursday that, with three more confirmed cases of polio, the country is inching closer to breaking a 14-year record for the highest number of cases in one year (Dawn, ET). The new cases, reported on Wednesday, brought the total number of confirmed polio cases in 2014 to 187, just 14 cases away from a record of 199, which was set in 2000. The number of cases this year is also double that of 2013, when 72 cases were recorded. A senior official at the World Health Organization in Islamabad suggested the number of polio cases in Pakistan would likely cross 200 by the end of the year.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is still endemic — Afghanistan and Nigeria are the other two — but national and international efforts to stamp it out have been hard hit in recent years by attacks on vaccination teams. According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, some 59 people, including health workers and the security officers protecting them, have been killed in militant attacks on vaccination teams since December 2012.
Seven killed in Peshawar bomb blast
At least seven people were killed and another six were wounded in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, on Thursday when a bomb aboard a passenger bus exploded (RFE/RL). According to police officials, the explosives had been placed under a passenger seat on the bus and exploded as the vehicle headed from the capital to the town of Hangu (AFP, AP). No one has claimed responsibility for the incident, though some officials speculated that it had been a targeted attack (Dawn).
The incident occurred one day after two unidentified attackers threw hand grenades at a school located some 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) northeast of Peshawar, killing a female teacher and injuring two female students (Dawn).
Zakaullah appointed as new Chief of Naval Staff
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain promoted Vice Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah to the rank of Admiral on Thursday, and appointed him as the country’s new Chief of Naval Staff (Dawn, ET). Zakaullah will replace Admiral Asif Sandila, who is retiring, and is expected to assume command of the Pakistani navy on Oct. 7 at a ceremony in Islamabad.
Bonus Read: "A Strategic Scorecard for Afghanistan," Christopher D. Kolenda (SouthAsia).
Taliban bomber targets army bus in Kabul, kills three
Three people were killed and at least seven more were wounded in Kabul on Thursday when a Taliban suicide bomber targeted an Afghan army bus, just one day after two similar attacks killed 11 and wounded more than 20 (AP, BBC, RFE/RL). Afghan media outlets reported that all of the victims were soldiers, though international news sources didn’t distinguish between military and civilian casualties (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Reuters noted that it was the "fourth high-profile attack in the capital since Monday when the new president [Ashraf Ghani] was sworn in" (Reuters).
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the three attacks targeting the army soldiers, and spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid "told the French News Agency [on] Wednesday that the militants were sending a ‘clear message’ to the Afghan government for its signing of a long-delayed security deal with United States [on Tuesday], and that they would increase attacks" (VOA). According to Reuters, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar also "urged Afghans to wage jihad to establish an Islamic rule in Afghanistan, calling the election a ‘publicity stunt.’"
Ghani reopens graft investigation
On Wednesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani "ordered fresh investigations into a $850 million fraud case that nearly brought about the collapse of the country’s largest commercial bank in 2010," saying that: "The time for action has come, and as we had pledged, the fight against corruption will be done in a thorough and systematic way" (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). At the time, Afghan courts were criticized for imposing light sentences on those convicted in the case, said to be one of the world’s largest fraud schemes, and for granting immunity to then-President Hamid Karzai’s brothers and one of his vice presidents (BBC). The New York Times noted that the move was meant to reassure Western donors that Afghanistan would not be a bad investment, especially as the case has proven to be a "major sticking point for donor nations and the International Monetary Fund" (NYT).
— Bailey Cahall
Modi wields a broom for his ‘Clean India’ campaign
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined millions of schoolchildren, officials, and ordinary people on Thursday to clean public buildings, parks, and streets, as he launched his "Swachh Bharat" (Clean India) campaign (Livemint, BBC). Modi launched the campaign in New Delhi to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on Oct. 2. Speaking to a large audience near India Gate in New Delhi, Modi said: "I urge every one of you to devote at least one hundred hours every year, two hours every week, towards cleanliness" (NDTV). About four million federal government staff and schoolchildren all over the country answered Modi’s call by taking up brooms and dusters. It was the first time that employees were called to work on a government-declared holiday.
Modi also kicked off his "Clean India" social media challenge, where users can upload "before and after" videos of people cleaning an area on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and naming or tagging people to do the same (Indian Express). Modi — @narendramodi — tweeted a "Why Clean India" picture, and then, after cleaning a street, posted a "My Clean India" picture. After that, he invited nine other people to join the campaign by posting a picture before and after cleaning a street, and then inviting nine more people to join the campaign.
Pakistan violates ceasefire, India retaliates
The Pakistan Army reportedly violated a ceasefire on Wednesday, and fired at Indian posts on the Line of Control (LoC) — a military boundary between the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir — in the Poonch district in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (NDTV, Indian Express). In response to the firing, an Indian Army officer said: "Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing and mortar shelling in three forward areas along [the] LoC in Jammu and Kashmir today," and further elaborated: "Due to the provocation, the Indian troops appropriately responded" (IBNLive). The cross-border firing took place after nearly a month of peace on the LoC. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of them were over Kashmir.
Indian boxer bags a gold in the Asian Games
Indian boxing icon Mary Kom became the first Indian woman boxer to win a gold medal at the Asian Games — a multi-sport event held every four years amongst athletes from Asia — on Wednesday, after she defeated Kazakhstan’s Zhaina Shekerbekova in the women’s flyweight final (BBC). After her victory, Kom, a five-time world champion, said: "It was very important to get a gold medal…. I dedicate it to all my country" (WSJ). Kom, a mother of three children, grew up in a village in Manipur, located in northeastern India. Earlier this year, a Bollywood biopic was made about her childhood.
While Kom was celebrating her gold medal, L. Sarita Devi, an Indian lightweight boxer, refused to accept her bronze medal after losing a semifinal round at the Asian Games (NDTV, Indian Express). At the awards ceremony, a sobbing Devi refused to wear her bronze medal, and handed it to the silver medalist, Jina Park of South Korea. Devi later said: "This is for you and all Korea, because you only deserve a bronze" (Times of India). Devi lost to Park in the semifinals on Tuesday in what was allegedly an unfair decision, biased towards South Korea, the host country. After the match, India lodged an official protest with the technical jury team of the Amateur International Boxing Association. Also, India’s chief coach Blas Iglesias Fernandes protested calling the decision "a clear case of a pre-determined judgment."
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen.