The South Asia Channel

Afghan Election Results Expected Monday; Indian PM visits Kashmir; Five Indicted in Woman’s Stoning Death in Lahore

Afghanistan

Afghan Election Results Expected Monday

The Independent Election Commission is expected to release preliminary election results in Afghanistan on Monday (RFE/RL, TOLO).  The release will come amid allegations of "industrial-scale" ballot box stuffing.  Spokespeople for presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani welcomed the planned announcement of results while his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, preemptively rejected the results in a televised news conference on Sunday citing election fraud (Post].  In his statement, Abdullah said: "Unless the clean votes are separated from those that are fraudulent, we will not accept the election results."  On Sunday U.S. Senator Carl Levin stated that the results' release would likely be followed by audits of suspicious votes.  Senator Levin, who met with Ghani and Abdullah, said he had received assurances from the two that they would settle their differences prior to the announcement of results (VoA). U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham also called for an audit while in Kabul on Friday (NPR). 

As tensions continue to surround the election, the Afghan National Security Council met on Sunday and rejected a proposal to ban Facebook in Afghanistan during the ongoing deadlock over elections (RFE/RL, Pajhwok).  The proposal sought to limit the potential for online disputes over the election to escalate.  According to a Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology spokesperson, Afghan President Hamid Karzai opposed the ban. 

400 Trucks Ablaze as Attacks on Tankers Continue

On Saturday, July 5, an attack west of Kabul sparked a fire that set 400 oil tanker trucks ablaze (RFE/RL, BBC).  The tankers were reportedly carrying fuel for NATO forces.  According to a Kabul police spokesman, there were no reported casualties.  Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.

Attacks on tankers are common in Afghanistan.  On Sunday, Afghan police detained three people in northern Kunduz province and recovered a fuel tanker that had been stolen the previous day (Pajhwok).  According to a police spokesman, the tanker was carrying 21 tonnes of fuel to Takhar province when gunmen seized it from a filling station.

Rockets Kill Five Children and a District Police Chief

A rocket killed five children in Kunduz province on Sunday (Pajhwok, CNN).  The rocket, which was fired during a clash between Afghan Local Police and the Taliban, hit a residential building, according to residents, killing four girls and one boy.  According to Mahboobullah Saeedi, the Aliabad district chief, responsibility for the rocket remains unclear.  The Taliban claimed the rocket was fired by the Afghan Local Police.

A separate rocket attack killed a district police chief, Maj. Sher Ahmad, along with four guards in the Farsi district of Herat province on Monday (Pajhwok, RFE/RL, TOLO).  The attack reportedly occurred 15 kilometers from the police headquarters.  No group has yet claimed responsibility.

New Polio Case Confirmed

Test results received on Sunday confirmed a new polio case in the Khak-i-Safid district of western Farah province, according to public health director Dr Abdul Jabbar Shaiq (Pajhwok).  Shaiq said the virus was found in an 18-month-old girl on June 3, and that the tests verified the virus came from Pakistan. 

--David Sterman

India

Indian PM visits Kashmir amid shutdown

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first official visit to the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), was greeted by shutdown called by separatist groups on Friday (BBC, NDTV, Economic Times, Hindustan Times).  During his visit, Modi chaired a high-level security review meeting at the Badami Bagh cantonment headquarters of the army's 15th Corps in the state capital of Srinagar. Modi also inaugurated a hydropower project close to the Line of Control, a military boundary between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. Earlier in the day, Modi inaugurated a railway line in Jammu.

Several separatist groups had called for a shutdown during Modi's visit in Indian-administered Kashmir and security forces were deployed through the Kashmir valley. Religious groups also warned the central government against creating separate settlements for migrant Kashmiri Pandits (hindus) in Kashmir. During his visit to J&K, Modi said: "Jammu and Kashmir has passed through very trying times. It is every Indian's desire to ensure that the state makes progress and youths here get employment." Modi said further: "Our aim is to win hearts of people of Jammu and Kashmir through development."

Last month, a few member's of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had suggested revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants J&K special autonomous status, and states that, except for foreign affairs, defense, communications, and ancillary matters (those specified in the instrument of accession), the Indian parliament needs the state government's concurrence for applying all other laws. Chief Minister Abdullah on Tuesday had cautioned those trying to rake up a controversy over article 370 and said the Kashmir problem cannot be resolved through economic packages. Abdullah said: "We cannot be browbeaten by money and muscle power. We have withstood all challenges in the past and will do it again in the future."

Ahead of Modi's visit to J&K, Pakistan said Kashmir is a disputed territory (Times of India, Indian Express). Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam Khan said: "We do not accept the so-called accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India. Kashmir is not an integral part of India. Our position is that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory."

U.K. ministers begin two-day visit to woo Modi

Britain's most senior ministers arrived in India on Monday to seek stronger trade and investment links in the first such trip since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election win in May (Livemint, BBC, IBNLive). Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague are looking to attract Indian investment into Britain and open up investment opportunities for U.K. firms in India's defence and infrastructure sector. Both ministers will jointly meet Modi on Tuesday. The ministers will also hold on Tuesday delegation level talks with Sushma Swaraj, foreign minister and Arun Jaitley, finance and defence minister.

"I believe a stronger relationship with Britain will help deliver the new economic policy of the Indian Government," Osborne will say in a speech during the visit, according to speech excerpts released by Britain's Foreign Office. "Prime Minister Modi is seeking more investment in India's economy - and I want British companies to provide it, and the British Government to support it." Osborne is also expected to announce that Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla Ltd will invest up to $171 million in drugs research in Britain, and that auto maker Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd will invest $34 million in electric car development in Britain.

Iraq horror ends: Indian nurses return home

A group of 46 nurses trapped in an area seized by Islamic militants in Iraq returned to India on a specially chartered flight on Saturday (Times of India, Hindustan Times, IBNLive, The Telegraph). The nurses, who had been stranded while working at a hospital in the northern city of Tikrit, were freed on Friday. On arriving in the southern state of Kerala, the nurses received a grand welcome by their families and the Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy.

The jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Syria), referred to as ISIL or ISIS, had forced the nurses out of the hospital in Tikrit on Thursday and moved them to Mosul, threatening to blow up the building they had been staying in. On Friday, the militants told the surprised nurses they had been freed. "Ultimately, it is hope that has triumphed," Syed Akbaruddin, external affairs ministry spokesman, told reporters. "I can confirm to you that those Indian nurses who were yesterday moved against their will are now free."

A group of 84 construction workers in Iraq also returned to India on Monday (Indian Express). "Our company did not pay wages for the last three months. We had the contact number of Indian embassy officials in Iraq and they came for our rescue," one worker said. Iraq has been facing an escalating conflict after ISIS seized many cities in a recent series of violent attacks across the country.

Parliamentary budget session begins

The budget session of the Lok Sabha (India's lower house of parliament) convened on Monday and was adjourned on its first day after a rocky start, with members of several opposition parties protesting against inflation, which has seen a hike in railway passenger fares and prices of petrol, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas (Livemint, Financial Express, DNA). Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the Lok Sabha during the entire session along with senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, and Sushma Swaraj. The Modi-led government will be presenting its first Railway budget on Tuesday and the federal budget on Thursday. "The budget session will have 28 sittings and 168 working hours... Government is willing to give full time to discuss any issue," Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said ahead of the session.

Sonia Gandhi, Congress party president, made a strong pitch on Monday for the party to be given the post of leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha (Livemint, NDTV, IBNLive). Gandhi contended that Congress was the single largest party in the opposition and said: "We have got a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to leader of opposition's post." Congress managed to get only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year. To be eligible for this post, per parliament rules, the biggest opposition party in the Lok Sabha should have at least 10 percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha, or 55 seats. Mahajan, who has the authority to make the final decision, has not yet decided on a leader of opposition.

Indian Supreme Court: Shariat courts lack legal sanction

The Supreme Court on Monday held that the Shariat courts do not have legal sanctity or legal status to issue fatwas (the ability to dispense justice among Muslim community members). The Court also held that at times their orders violate human rights and punish innocent people (Hindustan Times, The Hindu, NDTV, Livemint). "No religion is allowed to curb anyone's fundamental rights," the court said in its judgement. A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan questioning the constitutional validity of Shariat courts, which reportedly run a parallel judicial system in India.

The All India Personal Law Board had submitted earlier that a fatwa is non-binding and that it is just the opinion of a mufti, someone who gives rulings based on Islamic law. The Board said further that muftis do not have the authority to implement the fatwa. The Board's counsel had said that if a person is forced to implement a fatwa, that person can approach the court of law against it.

A lawyer for the Darul Uloom Deoband, an Islamic school in India, said the Supreme Court not only disposed off the writ petition questioning their constitutional validity, but also allowed the continuance of Shariat courts. India's 150 million Muslims follow their own laws governing family life and other personal issues with Shariat courts ruling such matters and mediating disagreements.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Pakistan

Five Indicted in Woman's Stoning Death

A Pakistani court indicted five men on Saturday in the May 27 stoning death of Farzana Parveen in front of a Lahore court house (Post, Dawn, RFE/RL).  The five men include Parveen's father, two brothers, and another man claiming to have been married to Parveen.  The stoning, which sparked international outrage, resulted in Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calling for "immediate action."  The case is being heard by Judge Haroon Latif and all seven witnesses are scheduled to be heard on Monday. 

New Chief Justice Sworn In

Nasirul Mulk took the oath of office to become Pakistan's Chief Justice on Sunday during a swearing in ceremony at the President's residence in northeastern Islamabad (Dawn, ET).  The ceremony was attended by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, who administered the oath, and other officials.   Upon being sworn in, Mulk became the 22nd chief justice.  Mulk's term as Chief Justice will run until August 16, 2015 and he replaces Tassudaq Hussain Jillani, who retired from the position on Friday.  Prior to his position as Chief Justice, Mulk served as a Supreme Court Judge, chief justice of the Peshawar High Court, and advocate general of the North-West Frontier Province.

PPP Lodges Protest Against NSA Surveillance

Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Secretary General and former prime minister, wrote a letter formally protesting NSA surveillance of the PPP to U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson (Dawn, ET).  The letter followed earlier criticism from the PPP.  A PPP spokesperson stated that "The revelation of spying on a major political party of Pakistan is a grave, unwarranted and totally unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country and is condemned."  The letter also followed a July 3 protest from the Pakistani government over NSA surveillance of Pakistani persons and institutions that stated: "The reference to a political party in Pakistan was surprising" (MOFA).

Violence in Hyderabad and Karachi

Armed men killed three policemen and injured two others in Hyderabad on Sunday (ET, Dawn).  Since December 2013, ten policemen have been killed in the city.  Meanwhile in Karachi, two members of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a Muslim religious organization banned for suspected terrorism related activities, were killed in a targeted attack by unidentified motorcycle riders in the Sabzi Mandi area of Karachi on Sunday (Dawn).  ASWJ supporters held sit ins at the site of the attack and police conducted a search operation.  The attack followed a May 27 attack that killed a 27 year old ASWJ activist and a May 23 attack that killed two ASWJ members.

--David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images