The South Asia Channel

Backlash to Abdullah's Accusations; Indian Intelligence Bureau Targets Greenpeace; Pakistan Condemns U.S. Drone Strike



Bonus read: Women's Rights as Bargaining Chip in Afghan Politics," Lynne O'Donnell (SouthAsia).

Response to Abdullah's accusations

More than 100 people went on strike in Kabul on Thursday to show support for presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, who on Wednesday demanded an immediate stop to the vote-tallying process to investigate inflated ballot totals (Pajhwok, Tolo). Speaking on behalf of the strikers, Mohammad Hashim Rad told Pajhwok Afghan News that they had "gathered here to protest electoral fraud and election law violations by the [Independent Election Commission]."

The United Nations also reacted to Abdullah's press conference announcement, issuing a statement that asked Abdullah and his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, to abide by the national electoral system. "We believe the electoral process should continue as laid out in the laws passed by the National Assembly," said Jan Kubis, the special representative for the secretary general for Afghanistan (NYT).

Abdullah believes that as many as two million of the seven million votes estimated to have been cast on Saturday are the result of ballot stuffing (BBC). If Abdullah rejects the official results of the vote, it could throw the election that both Western and Afghan officials consider crucial to the legacy of the war in Afghanistan into chaos. Bonus read: "Crisis of Confidence in the Afghan Election Process," Ioannis Koskinas (SouthAsia).

Taliban strikes NATO trucks

Three Taliban suicide bombers targeted NATO fuel trucks at a terminal in Torkham in eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday, setting 37 vehicles on fire and engaging in a gun battle with the police (AP, Pajhwok). Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, claimed that they were responsible for the attack. Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the spokesman for the provincial governor, said two assailants were killed in the gun battle and one blew himself up; he also said two NATO truck drivers were wounded in the assault. Most NATO cargo shipments go through the border crossing in Torkham to get to Pakistan's port city of Karachi.

-- Emily Schneider


Indian Intelligence Bureau targets Greenpeace

India's Intelligence Bureau (IB) has recommended the government cancel the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of Greenpeace, a non-profit organization that exposes global environmental problems, according to news reports on Wednesday (IBNLive, Times of India, Hindu). The report alleges that Greenpeace has engineered anti-nuclear and other protests against economic projects in India, and that it is "actively aided and led by foreign activists" to serve interests of western nations. The report claims Greenpeace has allied with Sierra Club, an U.S.-based environmental organization, in an attempt to eliminate fossil fuel use in India. The report states further that Greenpeace has rallied against the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in the western state of Maharashtra and has "written letters to eight European banks not to provide financial help to support JNPP."

The IB also asked the government to re-assess the organization's tax compliance and place foreign donations to the Greenpeace on the "prior category" list. This is an attempt to require permission before any funding money flows in for its activities. This report follows another IB report issued earlier this month, when it had recognized Greenpeace as a "threat to national economic security." Denying the accusations, Bharti Sinha, communications director of Greenpeace, said: " ... we are being targeted as an NGO which follows all the laws of the country."

Delhi elections: AAP claims BJP poaching its MLAs

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday for allegedly making efforts to recruit AAP's legislators to form a government in Delhi (DNA, NDTV, Livemint). AAP demanded fresh elections in Delhi and tweeted: "BJP tries to lure opposition MLAs unethically. AAP MLAs refuse." The BJP refuted the claims on Thursday that it was trying to poach AAP's legislators to achieve a simple majority in the Delhi legislative assembly rather than going to fresh polls. BJP's Prabhat Jha said some AAP legislators who were upset with Kejriwal had approached them to offer support.

Delhi has been under the President's rule after AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal quit as chief minister on February 14, when he alleged the BJP and Congress were blocking the introduction and passage of the Jan Lokpal, an anti-corruption bill.

Karunanidhi slams Modi's move to promote Hindi on social media

M. Karunanidhi, leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government's directive to bureaucrats to use Hindi as the language for posting and tweeting on social media websites, in a statement on Thursday (IBNLive, Times of India, NDTV, Indian Express). The 90-year-old Karunanidhi asked Modi to focus on India's economic and social development rather than imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people, and said the move was "an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens."

Karunanidhi questioned why Hindi should be given priority over other official languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of Constitution, which lists the 22 languages the Government of India has the responsibility to develop. The southern state of Tamil Nadu has a decades-long history of opposing Hindi imposition. The DMK chief said: "Language battlefields have not yet dried. History has recorded anti-Hindi agitation," and referred to assurances given by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that English would remain an official language as long as non-Hindi speakers want.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Pakistan condemns U.S. drone strike, continues military operation

Pakistan on Thursday condemned the recent drone strikes that took place near Miramshah in North Waziristan, saying there was no connection between the U.S. strikes and the ongoing Pakistani military operation (Dawn). Tasnim Aslam, spokesperson for the Foreign Office, said that it was misleading and wrong to attach the drone strikes to the ongoing military operation, adding that the strikes had a negative impact on Pakistan's efforts to bring peace and stability to the region.

Meanwhile, at least 23 suspected militants were killed in the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb operation launched by the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan (Dawn).  Cobra helicopters targeted 15 militants in the Zartatangi mountains, east of Miramshah, late Wednesday and eight Uzbek militants were killed by military snipers on a road in the same area. The army launched the current, widespread military operation against the Taliban in the tribal areas after an attack on the airport in Karachi earlier this month. Bonus read: "The Return of the Drones?" Emily Schneider and Bailey Cahall (SouthAsia).

Heat wave kills 53 pilgrims

Severe temperatures of around 115 degrees Farenheit for a fourth consecutive day caused fatalities among pilgrims who had traveled to the small town of Sehwan in Sindh province to celebrate the Sufi saint  Hazrat Qalandar lal Shahbaz Qalandar (ET). At least 12 people died on Wednesday, according to Dr. Moinuddin Siddiqi, the medical superintendent of Sehwan hospital, who said that all victims except one had died due to heat stroke. Wednesday's deaths raised the total death toll to 53. The local administration has claimed that they would provide the pilgrims with cold water and make other necessary arrangements to help fight the elements, but according to Express News, that has not been done.  The celebrations have attracted 500,000 to 600,000 people, mainly from Punjab and Sindh provinces, according to unofficial estimates.

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen