The South Asia Channel

Bomb Kills 22 in Islamabad Market; 2014 Afghan Election Deemed Relatively Clean; IMF Sees Increased Growth for India


Explosion at the market

At least 22 people were killed and over 80 were injured in an explosion at a fruit and vegetables market on the outskirts of Islamabad early Wednesday morning (Post, ET, NYT, Dawn). Pakistani police say that around five kilograms of explosives were planted in crates of guava fruit and detonated by remote control, leaving a 20-foot crater in the market. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have condemned the blast. TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said his organization had nothing to do with it and said it was ‘haram' (forbidden under Islamic law) and illegal to attack innocent people in public places. The TTP recently extended their ceasefire agreement until April 15 in order to continue peace talks with the Pakistani government.

Foiled attacks

A blast on railway tracks at the Sarhari station in Nawabshah in Sindh province missed an express train passing through by just minutes on Wednesday (ET). No injuries were reported. The explosion comes just one day after 17 people were killed and dozens wounded when a passenger train was bombed at Sibi railway station - an attack claimed by the United Baloch Army, a separatist movement fighting to gain independence from Pakistan (ET).

A bomb weighing 13 kilograms was defused in Karachi on Wednesday after police received a phone tip (Dawn). The device was placed in a fertilizer sack and was planted near residential apartments. 


A clean election

The Independent Election Complaints Commission recorded 1,573 formal complaints during the 48-hour filing period after the country's recent presidential election, a smaller number than in the 2009 election, where they recorded 2,842 complaints (NYT, Reuters, Pajhwok, Post).  So far, none of the leading candidates have said they would dispute this year's balloting - though results have not yet been announced - and each of the leading candidates has praised the election as relatively clean.

However, Zalmai Rassoul is the only one of the major candidates who has made a clear promise to accept whatever results the election commission announces.  Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani said they submitted reports of fraud the commission, and Ghani posted on his Twitter account that "there are reports of serious fraud in several locations but all is documented." Neither Ghani nor Abdullah have committed to accepting the official outcome.  Preliminarily results are due April 24.

Happy endings

A British soldier has saved the life of a bomb-hunting dog that served alongside her in Afghanistan after she learned the dog was to be put down because he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (BBC). Angie McDonnell, a paramedic, said that the dog, named Vidar, saved her life by locating a haul of guns and grenades during a routine patrol near Camp Bastion in Helmand province. When she heard that Vidar, who served two tours in Afghanistan, was facing retirement, she knew she had to return the favor and rescue him. Vidar is now enjoying a happy retirement with McDonnell in south Wales.

-- Emily Schneider


IMF predicts higher growth for India

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts an economic recovery for India starting in 2014-2015 (Mint). After predicting 4.4 percent growth for the current 2013-2014 fiscal year, the IMF sees the Indian economy growing at 5.4 percent in 2014-2015 and by 6.4 percent the year after. It also expects inflation to cool down to 7.5 percent in the next two years. According to its report, expectations of a resurgent Indian economy come from improving export competitiveness and policies supporting investment.

Recent reports indicate the rupee may be shaking off its ‘fragile five' tag (dubbed by investors as being one of the world's weakest currencies for its chronic current account deficit and depleting dollar reserves) as India's forex cushion has increased to $303.67 billion, $29 billion up from last August (WSJ India Realtime). Moves by the Reserve Bank of India to limit the import of gold as well as easing rules to attract more foreign currency deposits have helped grow India's FX reserves.

However, a likely dampener to the Indian economy may come from the ‘El Nino effect,' a phenomenon which greatly impacts the Indian monsoon and subsequently, agricultural productivity (Economic Times). The Australian Bureau of Meteorology predicts the warming of the Pacific Ocean to El Nino thresholds in the winter months in the southern hemisphere. The El Nino phenomenon emerges every three to seven years and past droughts in 2002, 2004, and 2009 have coincided with the emergence of El Nino.

Elections continue across northeastern India

Some mind boggling election numbers to begin your morning: eleven million people across six constituencies in four states in northeastern India cast their vote on the second day of the nine-phase Indian election (BBC, NDTV). By noon, it was reported that 40 percent of people in Manipur had cast their votes but that polling in Mizoram was been postponed after groups in the state protested the granting of voting rights to refugee Bru tribals, who were displaced by ethnic violence in 1997. Arunachal Pradesh is concurrently carrying out assembly elections for 49 of the 60 state assembly seats.

Meanwhile, Congress Party sources have said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin campaigning for the party in Uttar Pradesh on April 12. The Prime Minister is expected to address rallies in Pilibhit, Pooranpar, and Lakhimpur Kheri (Hindustan Times).

Leaders of the Aam Admi Party  (AAP) are reportedly worried that having left government over moral grounds in Delhi may cost them heavily in national elections (Economic Times). According to a poll by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 29 percent of voters in Delhi expect an AAP win, down from 35 percent in its February poll.  In addressing the issue AAP leader Ashutosh has said, "We quit on principle and there could have been no two ways about it, but in hindsight maybe we could have gone back to the people for their opinion also. " ?

Let them eat popcorn

Those looking for a good deal need look no further than their neighborhood polling station- malls, petrol pumps, and movie theatres in Indian cities have been jostling to provide goodies for those that vote in the Indian election (Hindu Business Line). Those with a little black ink on their finger are eligible for discounts on petrol and diesel, free popcorn at theatres, discount vouchers and upgrades on flight tickets. Car service Uber Delhi is offering free credits to voters and a chance to win a car ride to the polling station and back (Uber). Secretary of the Federation of All India Petroleum Traders (FAIPT), Ajay Bansal, hopes the fuel discount scheme will attract 18 year olds who are eligible to vote for the first time. With 120 million first time voters predicted in the upcoming election, that's going to be a lot of popcorn (The Guardian).

-- Shruti Jagirdar

Edited by Peter Bergen