The South Asia Channel

Taliban Sabotages Supply of Electricity to Kabul; India Under Pressure to Fund Iran’s Chabahar Port; Earthquake Hits Lahore Weeks After One in Islamabad; Sri Lanka Destroys Ivory Shipment

Afghanistan Taliban sabotages supply of electricity to Kabul Taliban insurgents destroyed one electricity transmission tower in the northern province of Baghlan and damaged two others on Tuesday, cutting a supply of electricity from Uzbekistan to Kabul, according to Wahidullah Tawhidi, a spokesman for the national power company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (NYT, TOLO News). Tawhidi ...

LUEBBEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 04:  Workers prepare an electricity transmission tower, also called an electricity pylon, in order to hang electricity transmission cables from it on December 4, 2014 near Luebben, Germany. Germany is expanding its electricity grid as part of its large-scale shift from conventional coal, gas and nuclear-based energy production to renewable sources, especially wind and solar.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
LUEBBEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 04: Workers prepare an electricity transmission tower, also called an electricity pylon, in order to hang electricity transmission cables from it on December 4, 2014 near Luebben, Germany. Germany is expanding its electricity grid as part of its large-scale shift from conventional coal, gas and nuclear-based energy production to renewable sources, especially wind and solar. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Taliban sabotages supply of electricity to Kabul

Taliban insurgents destroyed one electricity transmission tower in the northern province of Baghlan and damaged two others on Tuesday, cutting a supply of electricity from Uzbekistan to Kabul, according to Wahidullah Tawhidi, a spokesman for the national power company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (NYT, TOLO News). Tawhidi said utility workers could not begin repairs until Afghan security forces dismantle mines left by insurgents and secure the area and predicted the service would be restored on Wednesday.

China urges Afghanistan to restart talks with Taliban

The Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement on Tuesday urging the Afghan government to restart peace negotiations with the Taliban (NYT). Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who met in Beijing on Tuesday with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said in the statement, “As a peaceful mediator of the Afghan issue, China supports the ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ reconciliation process. China appreciates the move by the Afghan government to restart the negotiations with the Taliban.” China is a member of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, and is promoting the peace process.

UN seeks $393 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

Mark Bowden, the United Nation’s humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, launched an appeal on Wednesday for $393 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan (NYT, VOA). In a live national television broadcast with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Bowden said, “Last year, violence led to more than 300,000 people fleeing their homes for safety. That’s a 160 percent increase over the year before. This year we estimate that a quarter of a million people will flee their homes due to armed conflict.” Abdullah added that he was hopeful that donor countries would match their commitments of previous years.

–Alyssa Sims

India

Bonus Read: “From Facebook to Vodafone: A Short History of Foreign Companies’ Troubles in India,” by Preetika Rana (WSJ)

India under pressure to fund Iran’s Chabahar port

India’s government is facing pressure from Iran to act soon to provide monetary assistance for the development of Iran’s Chabahar port or lose out on the deal, the Indian Express reported on Wednesday (Indian Express). “A number of economic projects with Iran are required to be implemented at the earliest. The Iranian government has stressed to us at high levels the urgency to extend the necessary financial support for these projects without further delay,” India’s foreign ministry wrote to other ministries last week. Chabahar is a strategically important port for India, as it provides a route to Afghanistan by sea and land without going through Pakistan, India’s main strategic rival in the region. India agreed to provide funding assistance in exchange for access to the port. The government hopes to decide on a favorable response to Iran’s request ahead of the planned Feb. 4 visit of Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia & Pacific Ebrahim Rahimpour.

Bomb threat grounds two flights

Two flights heading to Kathmandu from Delhi were grounded after airport authorities received an anonymous tip on Wednesday (The Hindu,HT). The anonymous caller told the airport police that there were bombs hidden in laptops on each of the flights. All passengers were evacuated from the airplanes, and the the airplanes were taken into isolation bays for additional security screening. Bomb threats were also received earlier on Monday and last week, but in both cases, no suspicious items were found.

–Udit Banerjea

Pakistan

Earthquake hits Lahore weeks after one in Islamabad

On Wednesday, an earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale struck parts of Punjab, including the provincial capital of Lahore (DawnET). This comes weeks after another earthquake with a 5.8 Richter scale rating shook parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa, including Islamabad. The Punjab quake had a depth of slightly over six miles, and there are no casualties to report as of yet, Muhammad Qamar, an official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, reported to The Express Tribune.

Pakistan sees modest improvement on Transparency International Corruption Index

In the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report to be released Wednesday by Transparency International (TI), Pakistan improved against the 2014 ratings (Dawn). With a 2015 score of 30 on a rating scale where 0 is most corrupt perception and 100 is very clean perception, Pakistan improved by one point and moved up 3 positions in the global rankings. “Pakistan should have performed better, which can be achieved by having on-ground measures for the implementation of zero tolerance to corruption,” according to TI Pakistan chairman Sohail Muzaffar.

–Albert Ford

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka destroys ivory shipment

The Sri Lankan government crushed and burned over 300 elephant tusks worth an estimated $3 million in ivory on Tuesday (NYTWSJ). The destroyed ivory came from a single shipment weighing 1.5 tons that was seized by Sri Lankan customs authorities in Colombo in May 2012. The destruction of the ivory was conducted in a planned, public ceremony, beginning with prayers from religious leaders for the African elephants killed for their tusks. Ivory is popular in Asia as a symbol of prosperity and for use in Buddhist ceremonies. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 100 tons of poached ivory has been destroyed since 1989.

–Udit Banerjea

Edited by Peter Bergen

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