The South Asia Channel

Swine Flu in India Claims 875 Lives; Afghans Forming Militias to Counter ISIS; Pak Intelligence Chief Visits U.S.

India Swine flu in India claims 875 lives Indian Health Minister J. P. Nadda told the parliament in New Delhi on Tuesday that swine flu was a “matter of great concern,” as the death toll in the country to 875 this year (Economic Times, BBC, DNA). Nadda said: “The situation is being closely monitored by us ...

INDIA-HEALTH-SWINE-FLU
An Indian vendor sells face masks for swine flu prevention outside a railway station in Secunderabad on January 27, 2015. Twenty two swine flu deaths have been recorded since January with more than 440 positive cases in the southern Indian state of Telangana, according to a report. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

India

Swine flu in India claims 875 lives

Indian Health Minister J. P. Nadda told the parliament in New Delhi on Tuesday that swine flu was a “matter of great concern,” as the death toll in the country to 875 this year (Economic Times, BBC, DNA). Nadda said: “The situation is being closely monitored by us and all necessary assistance is being provided to the states. Adequate stocks of medicine, masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) are available. No efforts will be spared for effectively dealing with the situation” (Livemint). Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general of the World Health Organization, told reporters on Tuesday: “We are working with the government on this to watch what is panning out in India. So far, there are no signs of the makings of a large outbreak. But we are watching carefully.” The swine flu outbreak in India resulted in 218 deaths in 2014, 699 deaths in 2013, and 405 deaths in 2012.

BJP forms government in Kashmir with regional party

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will form a coalition government in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), with the regional People’s Democratic Party (PDP), according to news reports on Monday (BBC, Indian Express, Reuters). J&K is India’s only majority Muslim state, and the BJP will be forming a government for the first time in the state. During state elections in Dec. 2014, BJP won 25 seats and the PDP won 28 seats. BJP chief Amit Shah said: “There will be an alliance of BJP and PDP in Jammu and Kashmir…in a few days J&K will get a BJP-PDP government” (NDTV). PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is expected to be sworn in as J&K chief minister in March.

AAP slashes power tariff and offers free water

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in New Delhi kept its election promises and slashed power tariff by 50 percent for households that consume up to 400 units per month, and will provide 20,000 liters (5,283.44 gallons) of free water per month to every household, according to news reports on Wednesday (Indian Express, Economic Times, Times of India). Both the schemes will come into effect on Mar. 1. New Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia stated that the reduction in power tariff will benefit 90 percent of families in the city. AAP, commonly known as the anti-corruption party, defeated BJP in an election for the New Delhi assembly earlier this month, after winning 67 of the 70 seats.

–Neeli Shah

Afghanistan

Afghans forming militias to counter ISIS

In order to prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from spreading into Afghanistan, former mujahedeen commanders in cities like Mazar-e-Sharif are creating their own vigilante militias (Post). In Afghanistan, the danger ISIS poses is still minimal but fear that the group will take hold in the country is widespread, including among Afghan and American officials. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants the militias to disband as they are a barrier to Ghani’s promise of a new Afghanistan with the rule of law. Many fear that these militias — who have yet to fight a battle — will create another generation of armed actors and will target individuals they suspect of having ties to ISIS without proper justifications.

U.N.: Afghans detained are tortured

A United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report released on Feb. 25 has found that one-third of Afghans detained for allegations related to the conflict were tortured or ill-treated — down from nearly half in its last report (RFE/RL, TOLO News, Pajhwok). UNAMA interviewed 790 detainees with 278 claiming that between February 2013 and December 2014 they were subjected to severe beatings, suspension from walls or ceilings, electric shocks, and force confessions. The report credits the 14 percent decrease in instances of torture to Ghani’s new policies banning torture, increased visits to detention facilities, and training on interrogation techniques (VOA).

Avalanches kill at least 28

A series of avalanches in the mountainous province of Panjshir northeast of Kabul on Wednesday have killed 28 people with dozens more still missing (RFE/RL, TOLO News, Pajhwok). Heavy snowfall over the past two days has also blocked main roads in the area making rescue operations difficult. Acting Governor Abdul Rahman Kabiri said that snow accumulation has reached one meter (3.3 feet). Deadly avalanches are common in the mountainous provinces during winter.

Pakistan

Editor’s note:

On Feb. 25, due to inaccurate information published by Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the South Asia Daily published a story mistakenly reporting that U.S. consulates in Lahore and Peshawar suspended services following a new travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department. The State Department has told Foreign Policy that the two consulates in fact remain open but are not providing routine consular services and have not for quite some time. In addition, the language of the travel warning had not changed from the previous travel warning, which is renewed every six months.

Intelligence chief visits the U.S.

The director general of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar, is making an official visit to the United States on Wednesday to hold talks on regional security, Afghanistan, and counter-terrorism (Dawn, ET). He will be meeting with the National Security Council and CIA Director John Brennan. This is his first official visit to the United States since taking the post last year.

‘Afghan Girl’ illegally given Pakistani identity card

On Wednesday, it was discovered that Sharbat Bibi — made famous by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry in 1984 and known as the ‘Afghan Girl’ — was illegally issued a Pakistani identity card (ET, Dawn). Bibi still lives in the Nasir Bagh camp for Afghan refugees in Peshawar but submitted a false address and fake documentation in order to obtain Pakistani nationality. The Hayatabad center official of National Database and Registration Authority, Palvisha Afridi, and three other officials were suspended after disregarding regulations and issuing Bibi and her two sons identity cards within one day. The identity cards for the three were canceled.

–Courtney Schuster

Edited by Peter Bergen

NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images

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. @neelishah
Courtney Schuster is a research associate with the International Security Program at New America and an assistant editor with the South Asia Channel.

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