The South Asia Channel
Afghanistan, IMF Hold Talks Over Sale of New Kabul Bank; Modi Denounces Communalism; PM Sharif Spoke at Expo Pakistan
Clarification: The Feb. 25 edition of the South Asia Daily brief published a story citing Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper on U.S. consulates suspending services in Lahore and Peshawar following the U.S. State Department issuing travel warnings to Pakistan. According to the U.S. State Department, the two consulates remain open but are not providing routine consular ...
Clarification: The Feb. 25 edition of the South Asia Daily brief published a story citing Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper on U.S. consulates suspending services in Lahore and Peshawar following the U.S. State Department issuing travel warnings to Pakistan. According to the U.S. State Department, the two consulates remain open but are not providing routine consular services and have not for quite some time. In addition, the language of the travel warning referenced in the Express Tribune article had not changed from the previous travel warning.
Bonus Read: “The unlikely life of Afghanistan’s first female taxi driver,” by Sudarsan Raghavan (Post).
Afghanistan, IMF hold talks over sale of New Kabul Bank
Afghan treasury chief Alhaj Mohammad Aqa told Reuters on Thursday that the new Afghan finance minister has been meeting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Dubai to discuss a plan to privatize the New Kabul Bank (Reuters). The bank — formed after the original Kabul Bank collapsed in 2010 generating a financial crisis in the country — has lost around $56 million in the last four years. There have been two previous attempts to locate a buyer for the bank, both of which failed. According to Aqa, there are two options on the table: sell the bank or merge the three public banks in Afghanistan, including the New Kabul Bank. Aqa said that a decision by the IMF is expected tomorrow. The IMF has confirmed that the talks are occurring but did not say when a decision was to be given.
Provincial authorities blame three groups for bus abduction
Zabul provincial authorities, including Acting Governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasiri, have said that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Chechen militants helped the local Zabul Taliban abduct 30 passengers traveling on a bus on the Kabul-Kandahar highway on Monday (TOLO News). The passengers are from the Hazara ethnic minority. Nasiri said: “We are trying to free them by the help of tribal elders and religious leaders, but if it doesn’t happen, then the security forces have the authority to conduct any type of operations.” No group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.
Modi denounces communalism; assures religious freedom for all
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi denounced communalism in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on Friday, and said: “My government’s only religion is ‘India first’, my government’s only religious book is ‘Indian Constitution’, our only devotion is ‘Bharat Bhakti’ [devotion to India] and our only prayer is ‘welfare of all” (Indian Express, Livemint). Modi further said: “Nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of religion… No one has the right to take law into his hands” (DNA). Modi also addressed the land acquisition bill in Lok Sabha and said that the government is ready to amend the controversial bill if it is anti-farmers. Opposition parties have united to oppose the land acquisition bill, stating that the bill will force farmers and the poor to lose their lands. In 2014, the government used an executive order to amend the land acquisition bill and facilitate the buying of land for industrial projects.
Government presents Economic Survey
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the annual Economic Survey — a document on the country’s economic development that is used as a basis for the annual budget — in Lok Sabha on Friday (Indian Express). According to the survey, the Indian economy is on the path of recovery, and is estimated to grow 8.1 – 8.5 percent in the next fiscal year. The survey states: “India has reached a sweet spot—rare in the history of nations—in which it could be launched on a double-digit medium-term growth trajectory which would allow the country to attain the fundamental objectives of wiping every tear from every eye” (Livemint). Arvind Subramanian, India’s economic adviser and author of the Economic Survey, said at a news conference on Friday that he was “puzzled” by the new growth figures. Subramanian further said: “India’s economy is still recovering, and not surging” (Reuters).
Greenpeace India expresses regret on sexual-harassment claim
Greenpeace India, an Indian arm of the global environmental non-governmental organization, issued a public statement on Friday to apologize for mishandling a former employee’s sexual harassment complaint (WSJ, Indiatimes). According to the statement Greenpeace is re-examining the claim after the former employee discussed the claim on Facebook. Divya Raghunandan, the program director for Greenpeace India, said that the incident happened in 2012, and Greenpeace’s internal review committee is investigating the matter. Earlier this week in India, another complaint was filed for sexual harassment in the workplace. Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the chief of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a New Delhi-based research institute focused in the areas of energy and the environment, stepped down from IPCC after a 29-year-old woman working with Pachauri in TERI, accused him of sexual harassment.
— Neeli Shah
PM Sharif spoke at Expo Pakistan
At Expo Pakistan 2015 in Karachi on Thursday — Pakistan’s largest trade fair now in its ninth year — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif delivered the opening address (ET). Sharif spoke on security, energy, and the economic conditions in Pakistan. Sharif said that the government would rid Karachi — Pakistan’s financial center — from crime and militants, shepherding in an ear of enduring peace, and that Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan is successfully being carried out. On the chronic energy shortage in Pakistan, Sharif pledged that it would be solved by the end of 2017. Sharif also expressed his hope that exports would rise to $50 billion in the next three years and urged businesses to create an investor-friend environment in Pakistan.
Pakistan army chief visits Line of Control
Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, visited Pakistani troops near the Indian border on Thursday (RFE/RL). He reportedly spoke on the bilateral security situation, saying that Pakistan would respond to India’s repeated cease-fire violations along the Line of Control — the military boundary that separates the two countries. Gen. Sharif added that India’s frequent violations were a “distraction for Pakistan from its campaign against terrorism.” His visit and comments come as Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is scheduled to visit Pakistan next week to resume bilateral talks after a six-month hiatus.
— Courtney Schuster
Edited by Peter Bergen
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