The South Asia Channel

Pakistani TV Station Faces Closure; Election Fraud in Andar District; India's Election Commission Seized $49 Million

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Pakistan

Government asked to shut down Geo TV

Pakistan's Defense Ministry on Tuesday requested that the government use media regulations to shutter the country's largest television news station, Geo TV (NYT, Dawn). The ministry accused Geo of running a "vicious campaign" against the military's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, in the wake of Saturday's attack on Hamid Mir, a prominent Geo journalist.

Mir was shot multiple times on his way to the television studio in Karachi; while he was being treated in the emergency room, Geo broadcast statements from his brother, Amir Mir, another well-known journalist, accusing ISI of being responsible for the attack (NYT). During the extended segment, Geo also repeatedly showed a photo of ISI chief Lt. Gen. Zahir ul-Islam, while another senior journalist at the station called for the general to resign. According to Geo, Mir told station managers he had received a threat from ISI about his work.

The Defense Ministry sent a four-page letter to the state-run Pakistan Electronic Media Authority asking for Geo's broadcasting license to be revoked and for criminal proceedings to be initiated against the editors and management (Dawn). The incident with Geo adds to the building tension between the military and civilian leadership over the government concessions to the Pakistani Taliban during peace talks and the continuing trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Punjabi men make progress

A new study by the World Bank has revealed that men in Punjab now seem more concerned about family planning practices due to the financial challenges of raising large families (Dawn). The study, carried out by the Population Council, through the World Bank - Netherlands Partnership Program, found that men want fewer children and are eager to learn more technical information about family planning. In fact, the desire to reduce family size has even led to increased spousal communication about family planning and contraception. Compared with a study done in the early 1990s, Punjabi men appeared to be much more concerned about their fertility intentions now, suggesting that it is no longer the exclusive responsibility of the female partner to initiate family planning discussions.

Afghanistan

Fraud in Afghan election apparent

A review by the New York Times of polling stations in Andar district of Afghanistan's Ghazni Province found that polling centers in more than half of the villages were either closed or had little activity on election day, even though they submitted thousands of votes (NYT). Interviews with villagers near polling stations pointed to a lack of security as a reason for the fraud: Threatening letters from the Taliban were posted on peoples' doors and roadside bombs were placed along routes to the polling stations. According to the Times, of the roughly 47,000 votes registered district wide, one organization put the number of legitimate votes closer to 10,000. Representatives of observer organizations, speaking to the paper anonymously, said that evidence of fraud was widespread and although polls were open across the district, it was unsafe even for monitors to reach them in many places.

Senior Taliban leader freed by UAE

Agha Jan Motasim, the Taliban's former finance minister, who was detained by the UAE about a month ago for unknown reasons was released and returned to Afghanistan on Monday (Post). At the time of his detention, Motasim was talking to Afghan officials about how to best reach a peace deal with the militant organization.  According to Afghan officials, he is ready to help jump-start President Hamid Karzai's efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with the group. 

Motasim is the son-in-law of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and, as a result, may be in a position to help Afghan officials engage in high-level discussions with Taliban figures. Karzai has said that a negotiated peace with the Taliban is the only way to end years of bloodshed as the U.S.-led coalition withdraws; its also a way to bolster his legacy as he leaves office after two terms as president. 

-- Emily Schneider

India 

Election goodies haul: $49 million in cash, 133,000 liters of alcohol 

Busting a different kind of party in India's election period, the country's Election Commission has thus far seized over Rs. 300 crore in cash, 133,000 liters of alcohol and 30,000 kilograms of drugs allegedly meant to be used as bribes for prospective voters (Economic Times). While the distribution of illicit freebies has been widely known to accompany Indian elections, this is the first time a rigorous monitoring mechanism has been implemented to stop its spread, comprised of officials from revenue, intelligence and railway departments. While the figures have not been publicly released, officials say Andhra Pradesh is the top state for distribution of cash and liquor, while Himachal Pradesh has seen the highest distribution of narcotics. 

A study by the Indian think tank Center for Media Studies (CMS) has estimated election expenditures by political parties has surpassed over Rs.1.5 lakh crore in the last six years, with about half coming from unaccounted sources (NDTV). Of this, about one-fifth is said to have already been spent on the ongoing Lok Sabha (lower house) elections, which still have four phases to go until the final results are counted.

India, U.S. counter tax evasion

The United States and India have concluded an ‘in substance' agreement to help counter tax evasion by U.S. citizens in Indian financial entities (Economic Times). The agreement was made under the Foreign Accounts Compliance Act (FACTA), which requires the United States to sign inter-governmental agreements with countries where American citizens hold assets. As per the new directive, Indian financial institutions will have to declare details of U.S. account holders to the Internal Revenue Service. The Securities Exchange Bureau of India has also been approached to find the agreement's applicability to all market intermediaries, and is expected to come up with a set of guidelines by 2015. 

Mumbai college principal sends mass email questioning Gujarat model

A day ahead of polls in Mumbai, the principal of a prestigious city college has garnered considerable media attention for an email to students criticizing the policies of BJP candidate Narendra Modi (Firstpost). Father Frazer Mascarenhas of the jesuit St. Xavier's College in the University of Mumbai sent out an email to every student denouncing the Gujarat model and instead showing support for pro-poor initiatives of the Congress government, such as the Right to Food Act. The email advises students to "choose wisely" and warns against the "alliance of corporate capital and communal forces." The move came as a surprise to parents and educaters in the city, who did not expect political opinions to be expressed as openly or as close to the election date. The city's BJP unit has filed a complaint against Mascarenhas for violating the code of election conduct. 

Political candidate arrested for selling fake degrees

A man contesting the elections from Jhanjharpur, Bihar was arrested by the state's police for selling fake PhD certificates (Hindustan Times). Chandra Mohan Jha, who set up CMJ University in Meghalaya as a self-financed institution in 2009, allegedly awarded over 434 doctoral degrees in 2012 and 2013 and registered 490 as doctoral students in the same year.

-- Shruti Jagirdar

-- Edited by Peter Bergen 

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