The South Asia Channel

Afghan Electoral Crisis Averted; Indian Prime Minister Leaves to Attend BRICS Summit; Pakistan Welcomes Afghan Electoral Deal


Electoral crisis averted

Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Saturday a deal to end the ongoing electoral crisis in Afghanistan involving an audit of all of the votes cast and the agreement of both candidates to a national unity government (NYT, LAT, CNN).  At a news conference with both presidential candidates -- Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah -- Kerry stated: "Every single ballot that was cast will be audited."  The deal followed a series of meetings between Kerry and Afghan president Hamid Karzai, as well as the two candidates, on Friday.  Prior to the announcement, Kerry had warned that the United States would cut aid to the country if either candidate attempted to resolve the electoral crisis through extra-legal means.  Bonus Read: Fixing the Afghan Eleciton Mess, Srinjoy Bose and Niamat Ibrahimi, South Asia Channel.

In order to facilitate the electoral audit, Karzai agreed to postpone the new president's inauguration (Pajhwok).  However, when speaking at the press conference with Kerry, Ghani, and Abdullah, Karzai urged the auditors to finish the audit prior to the scheduled August 2nd inauguration date.

The deal announced by Kerry received generally positive reviews from Afghans over the weekend (Pajhwok, TOLO News).  People gathered in Ghor province to celebrate the agreement.  Afghan legislators largely welcomed the deal, while criticizing the failure to resolve the crisis internally (Pajhwok).  Gul Ahmad Azimi, who represents Farah province, stated: "People were tense, losing confidence in their elected representatives and regretting their participation in the election but now a ray of hope has returned to them."  However, Hidayatullah Rahi, who represents central Bamyan province, stated his belief that if Karzai had mediated the situation, foreign intervention would not have been needed.  Similarly, Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, the Senate Chairman, said: "I am sad that foreigners intervened like they did in 2009 and once again resolved our election crisis. It means Afghan elections are synonymous with US Secretary of State John Kerry. " Bonus Read: In Afghanistan, Third Round of Elections or Coup, Ioannis Koskinas, South Asia Channel.

Three NATO troops injured in Nangarhar

Three NATO troops were injured in a car bomb attack in Nangarhar province on Saturday (TOLO News, RFE/RL).   Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, stated that the attack occurred in the Bhesoud district.  No civilian or Afghan forces were injured, and there were no fatalities.  The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Bergdahl could return to active duty Monday

A defense official told CNN that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years and recently released in a prisoner exchange, might return to active duty as soon as Monday, according to a report released on Monday (CNN).  Some critics of the prisoner exchange deal have alleged that Bergdahl deserted and left his base deliberately.  Bergdahl had been undergoing counseling and therapy at an army hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Helmand police chief dismissed

On Monday, Abdul Qayoum Baqizoy, Helmand's police chief, was dismissed from his post (TOLO News).  Juma Gul Hemat replaced Baqizoy as police chief.  The dismissal reportedly arose from the continued clashes with the Taliban in Helmand's Sangin district, where the Taliban took control for more than a week, two weeks ago.

Important detentions in Logar and Balkh provinces

Afghan security forces detained several important insurgent figures in Logar and Balkh provinces over the weekend.  In central Logar province, security forces reportedly detained a militant alleged to be supplying the Taliban with landmines on Sunday (Pajhwok).  The man was reportedly arrested with 53 landmines as well as hand grenades and other arms.  Also on Sunday, an announcement claimed that 12 militants, including a military commander and three shadow governors, were detained in Balk province (Pajhwok).   Maj. Gen. Abdul Rehman Rahimi, the Balkh provincial police chief, said the arrests occurred over night and that residents had cooperated with the search operation that resulted in the detentions.

--David Sterman


Bonus Read: "Move Over, IMF: BRICS Bank Aims to Rewrite the Rules of Development," Ana Swanson and Shrey Verma (SouthAsia)

Indian Prime Minister leaves to attend BRICS summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi departed for Brazil on Sunday to attend the sixth annual BRICS summit, a meeting of leaders from the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (NDTV, The Hindu, Economic Times). After a transit halt in Berlin, Modi was expected to travel to the Brazilian resort city of Fortaleza. Ahead of the summit scheduled for July 15-16,  Modi is expected to hold bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Modi will also meet South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for bilateral meetings during this trip. The summit's theme is "Inclusive Growth; Sustainable Development" and will follow up on decisions made at last year's summit in Durban, South Africa.

Also on the agenda will be the announcement of the BRICS "New Development Bank" and a contingency reserve fund. The BRICS' proposed bank is to be set up with an initial investment of USD 50 billion, with each member country contributing an equal amount of USD 10 billion to avoid distorted shareholding. It is also expected that the summit will repeat its endorsement of India, Brazil, and South Africa as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

In his departure statement Modi said: "We meet at a time of political turmoil, conflict and humanitarian crisis in several parts of the world, and persisting weakness and risks in the global economy. I look at the BRICS Summit as an opportunity to discuss with my BRICS partners how we can contribute to international efforts to address regional crises, address security threats and restore a climate of peace and stability in the world."

Lower House passes TRAI amendment

The Lok Sabha, India's lower house of Parliament, passed a bill to amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act on Monday, which will enable the appointment of former TRAI Chairman Nripendra Misra as the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Hindustan Times, NDTV, The Hindu). Members of the opposition parties including Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI-M], and Aam Aadmi Party staged a walkout as the bill was being passed in the Lok Sabha. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supported the bill and BSP leader Mayawati said: "It is the PM's prerogative to choose his secretary. We should not oppose the appointment if he is a good official."

Minister for Law and Telecom Ravi Shankar Prasad said the focus of this amendment was to remove "a palpable anomaly" as the existing law allowed a former TRAI chairman to take up a private sector job two years after retirement but not a government job. Prasad said further that the government decided to amend the law to bring parity as other regulatory bodies like Competition Commission and Airports Economic Regulatory Authority do not have such provisions.  

Interview with Pakistan's Hafiz Saeed sparks row

The Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of Parliament, witnessed two adjournments on Monday after the Congress party protested and sought an explanation from the Modi government about an Indian journalist meeting with a controversial Pakistani militant leader (Economic Times, Hindustan Times, NDTV). Ved Pratap Vedik, a journalist considered close to Baba Ramdev, a yoga guru and strong Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporter, and L.K. Advani, a senior BJP leader, met with Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan earlier this month. Saeed, the leader of the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah, deemed a terrorist organization by several countries including the United States, is wanted in India for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks where more than 160 people were killed in coordinated shooting and bombing attacks that lasted four days.

Though the government clarified it had nothing to do with the meeting, Congress members sought a detailed statement on the purpose and motive behind the meeting with India's most wanted terrorist. Leader of the Rajya Sabha and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government was not involved "directly, indirectly or even remotely" with any journalist meeting Saeed, and added that the government "has not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him [Saeed]." Vedik rejected Congress' allegations and said he was "nobody's envoy but my own" (Financial Express). In response to the protests in the Rajya Sabha, Saeed tweeted on Monday: "Row in Indian parliament over a journalists meeting with us shows the extremism, narrow mindedness of their politicians. Utterly Shameful."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Pakistan welcomes Afghan election deal

Pakistan welcomed the agreement on Saturday to end the Afghan electoral crisis brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry with Tasnim Aslam, a foreign ministry spokesperson, stating: "We welcome the amicable solution that has reportedly been worked out, and appreciate the efforts of everyone who contributed to this outcome" (ET).  Pakistan's statement in support of the electoral deal followed comments by Gen. John F. Campbell -- nominated to lead American forces in Afghanistan -- and Admiral William Gortney -- nominated to lead US Northern Command -- stating the importance of Pakistan to Afghan stability during confirmation hearings this past week (Dawn).  During the hearing, Gen. Campbell said: "Pakistan is and will continue to be a critical partner in the region."

18 militants reportedly killed in North Waziristan operations

Eighteen militants were killed by Pakistani air force and artillery operations in North Waziristan on Saturday and Sunday, according to security officials (Dawn).  One security official told Agence France Press that thirteen militants, mostly Uzbeks, had been killed in airstrikes in the Mosaki area east of Miram Shah on Saturday night.  According to the Pakistani military, 400 militants have been killed in the operation so far.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police prepare list of Afghan refugees allegedly involved in serious crimes

On Monday, the Express Tribune reported that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial police had compiled a list of 4,000 Afghan refugees alleged to be involved in serious crimes (ET).  According to the list's categorization, 1,000 of the listed individuals were involved in terrorism.  The police are reportedly collecting photos of the people on the list and distributing the list to police stations in the province in order to keep the individuals out of the cities.  The police are also reportedly formulating plans to arrest the listed individuals.

Assistant sub-inspector killed in Karachi

On Monday unidentified gunmen killed Yousuf, an assistant sub-inspector, in the Zia colony of Karachi (Dawn).  Two days earlier, Rehmat Ali, another assistant sub-inspector, was beaten to death by women as he tried to conduct a raid on a house in the Garh Fateh Shah section of the city (Dawn).

Five police officers remanded in Model Town investigation

On Monday, a Lahore Anti-Terrorism Court remanded five police officers for five days for their conduct during the clashes in Model Town, Lahore on June 17 that resulted in the deaths of at least 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers (ET, Dawn).   The court rejected the argument that since the officers had used their official guns, which are now in police custody, during the events that only a judicial rather than a physical remand was necessary.  Last week, the Joint Investigative Team tasked with examining the incident is sued an initial report revealing that Superintendant of Police, Sulaiman Ali Khan, had ordered police to shoot at the protesters' legs (ET, Dawn).

--David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

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