The South Asia Channel

China Finalizes $28 Billion Pakistan Trade Deal; Sixteen Afghan Ministers Sworn In; Gandhi Attacks Modi Government

Pakistan Xi finalizes $28 Billion trade deal On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on a two-day state visit and finalized $28 billion in trade agreements and projects with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (WSJ, Reuters). The agreements are the beginning of a series of agreements that will amount to $46 billion. Xi ...

PAKISTAN-CHINA-DIPLOMACY
Pakistani commuters drive past a welcoming billboard featuring pictures of visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain (L) and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (R) in Islamabad on April 18, 2015. Pakistan needs a "huge amount of financing" for infrastructure and energy projects and China is ready to announce help when President Xi Jinping visits next week, a foreign ministry official said April 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Farooq NAEEM (Photo credit should read FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Xi finalizes $28 Billion trade deal

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on a two-day state visit and finalized $28 billion in trade agreements and projects with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (WSJ, Reuters). The agreements are the beginning of a series of agreements that will amount to $46 billion. Xi and Sharif signed 51 agreements at a ceremony in Islamabad. Sharif stated: “Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” while Xi stated: “I feel satisfied with the rich deliverables of the visit,” continuing: “The building of the China-Pakistan corridor concerns, and has a bearing on, the national strategy [and] livelihoods of the two countries and their long-term development.”

Government challenges execution stays

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s federal government filed a petition to the Supreme Court challenging its stay of six death sentences handed down by Pakistan’s newly established military tribunals (ET, Dawn). Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt said the trials had not been conducted in secret and therefore the sentences should not have been stayed. The challenge to the sentences is expected to be heard on Wednesday.

Cybercrime bill encounters opposition

Pakistan’s proposed cybercrime bill has encountered opposition in Pakistan’s parliament according to a report in the Express Tribune on Tuesday (ET). A post on the Facebook page of Imran Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf party read: “PML-N drafts a fascist bill to curb freedom of expression. It is shameful that the ruling party has chosen to draft a bill that will make it a criminal offence to criticise politics and politicians online.” A post on the Facebook page of Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party stated: “Politically motivated  #CyberLaw in its current form is totally unacceptable. We will not allow govt to curb human freedoms in the name of security.” On Monday, Human Rights Watch released a statement criticizing the bill (HRW). The statement warned: “We have serious misgivings about the process by which the PEC Bill [the cybercrime bill] was drafted and revised. By excluding civil society and the private sector from consultation on the Bill, the government prevented genuine public scrutiny of the Bill prior to the vote in the National Assembly.” It also linked the bill to the issue of drone strikes, stating: “If adopted, the Bill will allow the Federal Government to unilaterally share intelligence gathered from investigations with foreign spy agencies like the United States National Security Agency, without any independent oversight. Given the role of intelligence in US drone strikes in Pakistan, this puts the security and privacy of ordinary Pakistanis at risk.”

Afghanistan

Sixteen ministers sworn in

On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s lower legislative house swore in 16 new ministers (TOLO News, Pajhwok). The newly sworn in ministers included: Homayoun Rasa, Minister of Commerce and Industries; Farida Momand, Minister of Higher Education; Asadullah Hanif Balkhi, Minister of Education; Asadullah Zamir, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock; Abdul Bari Jahani, Minister of Information and Culture; Ali Ahmad Osmani, Minister of Energy and Water; Sayed Saadat Mansoor Naderi, Minister of Urban Development Affairs; Nasreen Oryakhil, Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled; Dilbar Nazari, Minister of Women Affairs; Mohammadullah Batash, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation; Abdul Satar Murad, Minister of Economy; Abdul Basir Anwar, Minister of Justice; Abdul Razaq Wahidi, Minister of Communication and Information Technology; Mahmood Baligh, Minister of Public Works; Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter-Narcotics; and Mohammad Gulab Mangal, Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs. The swearing in ceremony goes a long way to filling the many cabinet positions that remained vacant months after the National Unity Government assumed office. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the new ministers: “Over the next three weeks you should draw up our cabinet’s first hundred-day plan and then go out and perform.” Four of the sixteen newly sworn in ministers are women (Post).

Ghani addresses Afghan refugees in Iran

On Tuesday, the office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani released a statement saying he would address the issue of Afghan refugees in Iran and had discussed the issue during his visit to the country (Pajhwok). According to the statement, Ghani met with refugees at the Afghan embassy in Tehran and told them: “The government will take all steps to facilitate the countrymen. Your safe return is the prime duty of the government.” According to the statement, Ghani discussed the early release of refugees jailed by Iran and said that the two countries would resolve the problems in four months.

— David Sterman

India

Congress leader Gandhi attacks Modi government

Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of India’s Congress party, criticized the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government for favoring corporations and abandoning farmers in India, during a speech in Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on Monday (WSJ, Economic Times). Gandhi, in his first speech in Lok Sabha after losing the national elections last year, sharpened his attack on the Modi government and criticized the land acquisition bill, which makes it easier for the government and businesses to buy land in rural India. Gandhi said: “This is a government of big people, of suited and booted people” (Reuters). The Congress party vice president also said: “I would like to offer advice to your PM. If you hurt the interests of 67% of the population, who depend on farming, it will hurt you politically. If he understands political calculations (BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] vote share was 33%) why is he making the 67% angry? I thought he was a pragmatic man” (Indian Express).

India detains Pakistani boat carrying suspected smugglers

The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard, in a joint operation, seized a Pakistani boat allegedly carrying approximately $100 million worth of heroin off the Porbandar coast, located in the western state of Gujarat, on Monday (NYT, NDTV, Times of India). Officials also found satellite phones on the boat, and arrested eight sailors onboard. Commander Coast Guard (North West) Kuldip Singh Sheoran said: “The boat has been intercepted close to Porbandar coast. The operation is, however, going on at the sea for verification of the sailors and contraband and will be informed in detail after verification process is over” (Indian Express).

New Delhi gets its first female bus driver

New Delhi hired its first female driver in an effort to make female passengers feel safe, according to news reports on Tuesday (The Telegraph, NDTV, BBC). The Delhi Transport Corporation hired Vankadarath Saritha — a 30-year-old driver from the southern state of Telangana — after 28 days of training. Saritha said: “My father works as a farmer. We are five sisters and I am the youngest. All my elder sisters are married. One of my sisters is also a driver with Meru Cabs. I want to give a message to the women in our society that no job is meant only for men. Women can do anything if they value their potential” (Times of India). Saritha’s recruitment comes at a time when New Delhi is struggling to deal with sexual harassment of women. On Dec. 16, 2012, a 23-year-old student was brutally gang-raped and tortured by six men on a moving bus in New Delhi. A driver for Uber, the U.S.-based online taxi service, is on trial for allegedly raping a woman in New Delhi last year.

— Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

FAROOQ NAEEM/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

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