The South Asia Channel

Karzai's Brother Bows Out; Clashes between AAP and BJP; New Peace Committees Needed in Pakistan


Karzai's brother bows out

Qayum Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother, formally withdrew his bid for president on Thursday and announced his support for Zalmay Rassoul, the former foreign minister (NYT, Pajhwok, Reuters). Although Qayum Karzai had the support of many of his family members when he announced his candidacy, President Karzai is said to have opposed his brother's decision. In an interview with the Washington Post just day ago, President Karzai openly admitted he was stepping in to prevent his brother from running (Post). The president has not officially endorsed any candidate, but analysts believe he backs Rassoul.

U.S. drone kills Afghan soldiers

A drone strike killed give Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and wounded at least eight more Thursday morning in the Charkh district of Logar Province (NYT, Pajhwok, Reuters, BBC, AFP). The ANA soldiers were in an outpost that was part of the security in the district where insurgents frequent the area and drone strikes are a common occurrence. But Din Mohammad Darwish, a spokesman for the governor of Logar Province, said they "believe[d] the strike was the result of poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone." Major Cathleen Snow, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force confirmed the deaths and American officials said they would investigate the incident.

--Emily Schneider


Violent clashes between AAP and BJP

A day after Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal was detained in Gujarat, supporters of the party entered violent clashes with the Bharatiya Janata Party across cities in India (Indian Express, The Hindu, BBC, India Today). The violence was most acute in Delhi, where both parties have large support bases, and clashes have injured 28 people. Mr. Kejriwal's arrest, allegedly for violating an election code of conduct, prompted supporters of the AAP to group outside BJP headquarters in New Delhi where a battle between supporters of the two parties ensued. The police were later brought in to defuse the violence with water cannons. Thus far, 14 have been booked for actions including stone pelting, rioting and damage to public property, including senior AAP leaders Shazia Ilmi and Ashutosh. Similar clashes took place outside BJP headquarters in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and BJP workers shattered the glass in Arvind Kejriwal's car as he toured Gujarat. Leaders from both parties have criticized the actions of their supporters.

Kashmiri students booked for sedition, spark outrage

A group of 67 Kashmiri students studying at a university in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh have been booked for sedition for cheering Pakistan to win the Asia Cup match against India on Sunday (NYT, BBC, ET). They were charged under section 124a of the Indian Penal code, which says whoever excites or attempts to excite disaffection with the Indian government shall be punished with a fine or imprisonment.  The move invited criticism from several quarters including Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who called the move "unjustifiably harsh," saying the punishment would "ruin the students futures and further alienate them." The vice chancellor at the private Swami Vivekanand Subharti University,Manzoor Ahmed, justified the move by saying "you cannot pass judgments against your own national team."

The celebration over India's defeat on Sunday turned contentious when groups of students began arguing over the teams being supported, with the argument allegedly turning violent, where a window pane and a chair was found broken. The students were watching the match at a hostel and according to reports, some were shouting Pakistan zindabad, an expression of Pakistani patriotism (ET, Hindustan Times). Nearly every Kashmiri student resident on campus was then escorted out of the university on Monday and, while they were assured they could return in three days, they have not yet been allowed back in (NDTV).  A formal case has now been registered against them and an investigation is ongoing.

Gaming the Indian election 

In the run up to national elections, several apps have been introduced to grab the attention of the Indian voter (WSJ India Real Time). While some of these apps have been designed to inform the voter, such as the ‘Election Watch Reporter' which keeps a record of corrupt practices by various candidates, a slew of mobile games have been cashing in on the hype surrounding the upcoming elections. ‘Angry Voters' allows players to throw eggs, coins, slippers or flowers against frontrunners such as Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. Another takes a cue from India's most popular sport cricket, and allows players to pit political parties against one another in a virtual match. Developers expect the games to have considerable buy in as over 200 million Indians own smartphones, and (not entirely accurately) estimate they form a quarter of India's 814 million voters.

-- Shruti Jagirdar and Ana Swanson


New peace committees

The Pakistani government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) decided during a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday in Islamabad that both groups would form new intermediary committees with more members (ET, DAWN). As peace negotiations enter a new phase, government negotiators have asked that those who have the authority to make decisions, such as military and government personnel, be included in the talks as representatives, according to Rahimullah Yusufzai, one of the current government negotiators. Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of a faction of Jamiat Uleme-e-Islam who is heading the TTP intermediary committee, said a trip to Waziristan to negotiate directly with the Taliban "shura" or council was going to occur in the near future (Business Standard).

Bombs in Hangu

A remote-controlled explosive device struck the convoy of Kurram Agency Chief Administrator Riaz Mehsud as he was travelling to Peshawar on Thursday (DAWN, ET).  Riaz Mehsud and two assistant political agents were injured in the attack. Earlier on March 5, a roadside bomb killed six Frontier Corps personnel and injured eight others when it exploded near their convoy (DAWN).

--Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen