The South Asia Channel

Telangana Votes for the First Time; Pakistan Begins Campaign Against Power Thieves; Afghan Intelligence Chief Resurfaces

India

Bonus read: "Love and Longing in Mumbain," Alison Mcaule (BusinessLine

Telangana votes for the first time

On April 30, over 20 million voters will cast their ballot in the newly created state of Telangana to elect its first government (NDTV, Economic Times). After a multi-decade struggle that threatened to unravel at the last minute, the new state was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in February 2014 by an act of the lower house of parliament.  Major players such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Congress and a Telegu Desam Paty-Bharatiya Janata Party (TDP-BJP) will compete with a host of local political outfits for 119 seats in the state legislature and 17 in the lower house of the Indian parliament. Vigorous campaign efforts were made by several political parties, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing rallies with Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi and separately, the BJP's Narendra Modi campaigning with former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu.

While the TRS is expected to win votes for being at the forefront of the struggle to create a new state, it is expected to face a stiff fight in the state's southern portion and also lacks much presence in the joint capital, Hyderabad (Indian Express). The Telangana government is expected to come into power on June 2.

The Election Commission has said it would take additional precautions to ensure there was no fraud in the election; the Commission claimed it would stream proceedings from 17,000 polling booths online and record activity at another 13,518 booths. The election watchdog has also seized Rs. 125 crore ($20 million) in cash from various political parties, ostensibly to be used to bribe voters(NDTV).

EU bans imports of Indian Alphonso mangoes 

Citing shortcomings in the "phytosanitary certification conditions" of Indian agricultural imports, the European Union has decided to ban Alphonso mangoes and four Indian vegetables until December 2015 (Mint). The decision was taken after it was found that 207 consignments carrying agricultural produce from India were found to have been contaminated with pests, including fruit flies. While the EU imports less than 5 percent of its perishables from India, IT is afraid of risking damage to its own agricultural production.  India plans to fight the EU's directive by taking up the matter with the Director General and have demanded further require scientific evidence on the matter. The move is reportedly likely to cost businesses on both sides hundreds and thousands of pounds: the U.K. alone imports 16 million mangoes from India a year. 

He said, she said- election edition

As is expected from the current phase of the Indian election, mudslinging among political candidates appears to have reached an all time high (or low), with enough hyperbole employed to leave Shakespeare stunned.

The BJP's Narendra Modi stirred controversy with threats to deport illegal Bangladeshi immigrants should he come to power (NDTV). In a rally in Serampore, West Bengal, which shares a porous border with Bangladesh, Modi said: "You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed."  In an earlier critique of Bangladeshi immigrants, Modi had said the Congress government in Assam was killing rhinos to make space for incoming Bangladeshis. Lashing out at Modi's remarks, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee said: "Mr. Modi wants to pack off Bengalis from India. Who is he to decide?" before adding the country would be "ruined" if he came to power, and that Bengal would be "drenched in an ocean of blood" (NDTV).

-- Shruti Jagirdar 

Pakistan

Lights out

Abid Sher Ali, the Minister of State for Water and Power, ordered Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO) on Tuesday to disconnect the electricity supply to 18 government institutions, including the President House, the Parliament lodges, Sindh House, Balochistan House, National Database Registration Authority, Motorway police and the Capital Development Authority (ET, Dawn, RFE/RL). During a press conference in Islamabad, Ali said that the electricity connections to all institutions and individuals who have not paid their bills would be disconnected in what he called a campaign against power thieves.

Ali's campaign against unpaid utility bills comes at a time when most of Pakistan is struggling under temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  But even those with paid electricity bills might not get relief, as electricity shortfalls across the country caused power outages of 12 to 18 hours on Monday (ET).

Pakistani serial killer confesses

A paramedic named Muhamma Ejaz was arrested in Lahore on Sunday after confessing to using a social networking website for gay men to lure three men to their deaths (Dawn). Police say that Ejaz used Manjam, a social networking site that has thousands of members in Pakistan, to meet gay men at their homes. He then drugged them with sedatives hidden in food and strangled them. Ejaz explained his actions by saying, " I tried to convince them to stop their dirty acts, but they would not [...] so I decided to kill them" (NYT).

As a result, Manjam announced on Sunday that it was closing its website to nonmembers in Pakistan until further notice because of security and privacy concerns. Social media has been quietly used to widen freedoms among the gay community in Pakistan even though homosexuality is illegal. Although Ejaz's arrest eliminates a security concern for many, some are worried about the chilling effect the media coverage could have on social networking sites.

Afghanistan

Afghan intelligence chief resurfaces

Haji Gulalai, the former chief of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), has resurfaced in the United States after disappearing from Afghanistan in 2009, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday (Post). Gulalai was known for his brutality as the head of the intelligence agency: human rights abuses by the agency were well documented in human rights reports throughout his tenure. The Taliban tried to kill Gulalai at least twice and United Nations officials and U.S. coalition partners sought to have him removed from his post until he disappeared in 2009. According to the Post, he now lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles, though how he came to be in the United States is unclear. CIA officials deny bringing Gulalai into the country in spite of the close ties between the CIA and the NDS.

Army dog honored

A British Army dog killed alongside her handler in Afghanistan is to be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, the highest military award for an animal (BBC). Sasha, a four-year-old yellow Labrador, is credited with saving the lives of dozens of soldiers and civilians by sniffing out explosives. Sasha was deployed with handlers from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps attached to the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, but was killed in an attack by the Taliban in 2008. The medal is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration in Britain, which is awarded for valor in the face of the enemy.     

-- Emily Schneider

-- Edited by Peter Bergen 

NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images