The South Asia Channel

Two Key Congress Ministers Resign in India; U.S. Drone Strike in North Waziristan; Afghan Electoral Audit Stalls and Resumes


Crisis in Congress: two ministers resign

Narayan Rane and Himanta Biswa Sarma, two key Congress Party ministers, submitted on Monday their resignations, another development that has plagued a party still recovering from the recent national election debacle when it only won 44 seats (IBNLive, Economic Times, Livemint, NDTV). Rane, industries minister of Maharashtra located in western India, quit to protest against the failure of the Congress leaders to remove Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in the wake of Congress‘ humiliating defeat in the election polls.

Sarma, who resigned as health and education Minister in Assam, a state located in northeast India, tweeted: "I have decided not to compromise with my conscience any more." At a press conference, Sarma said: "Where is the internal democracy in the Congress?" Sarma further denied harboring ambitions to be chief minister and said: "We want to save the party. I am not a chief ministerial candidate so this is not a personal thing." Both Rane and Sarma blamed their state party leadership and chief ministers for Congress' poor performance in the May elections this year.

Former SC judge causes upper parliament to adjourn

India's Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament, was forced to adjourn twice on Monday due to alleged claims from former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who said that political pressure during the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led to a judge's promotion despite corruption charges against him (IBNLive, NDTV, Livemint).

Katju, currently the chairman of the Press Council of India, a statutory body that governs the conduct of print media, claimed further that three former chief justices of India (CJI) -- Justices R.C. Lahoti, Y.K. Sabharwal, and K.G. Balakrishnan -- had made "improper compromises" in allowing a judge, against whom there were several allegations of corruption, to continue in office because the judge was protected by a regional ally of the UPA government. Katju said an Intelligence Bureau investigation had also confirmed the corruption allegations.

During an interview with NDTV on Monday, Katju was asked why he waited for ten years after the event to make his disclosure. Katju said: "Concentrate on whether what I'm saying is correct or not. How does it matter if I spoke now?" Katju then exited the interview. In response to these allegations, Lahoti said: "Everything is a matter of record. Whatever I have done or not done is all on record with reasons. I have never done anything wrong in my life."

Reliance: India's first private company to post $1 billion quarterly profit

India's Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) posted on Saturday a net profit of $1 billion from its first quarter this year, the highest quarterly profit by an Indian private firm (BBC, Economic Times, NDTV). Net profit between April and June was 14% higher than a year earlier. One of India's largest conglomerates, RIL posted a 27.3 percent rise in revenue in its oil and gas production business, which was primarily due to the firm's U.S. shale gas business. RIL, which operates the world's biggest refinery complex, topped market expectations, boosted both by revenue growth in its oil and gas business and higher margins in its core refining business.

Mukesh Ambani, RIL's chairman and India's richest man, said: "RIL has delivered a record level of consolidated net profit this quarter." He also said: "The petrochemicals business performance highlights the strength of our portfolio-mix and end-market diversity. We have a great pipeline of new projects which will give Reliance an enduring competitive advantage."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Bonus Read: "In Pakistan, a Master Bomb Technician Fights a New Kind of War," Tim Craig (Post)

U.S. drone strikes North Waziristan again

A U.S. drone killed 15 people in North Waziristan on Saturday in the fourth strike in the area in the past month (NYT, AP). The strike targeted a compound in Datta Khel near Miram Shah.  Residents in the area said 10 of the militants who were killed were from Punjab and five were from Uzbekistan. A security official interviewed by The New York Times confirmed that most of the militants were from Punjab and said that they were likely fleeing the Pakistani military operation in Miram Shah.  According to data collected by the New America Foundation, there have been six drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year (NAF).

Former Afghan Taliban leader condemns Pakistani Taliban

On Sunday, Agha Jan Mutasim, a former Afghan Taliban minister and aide to Mullah Mohammad Omar -- the Taliban commander -- condemned the Pakistani Taliban's war against the Pakistani state (ET). In an interview with the Express Tribune, Mutasim stated: "The war of the Pakistani Taliban against the Muslim army and the government of Muslims is against Islam as our religion doesn't permit this." Mutasim also argued that the continuation of the Afghan Taliban's insurgency after the withdrawal of foreign forces would be against Islam and suggested the militant group would not be able to seize power after U.S. troops withdrew from the country. He stated: "the Taliban are not in a position to overrun the country." Mutasim's comments are the first time an Afghan Taliban leader has openly condemned the Pakistani Taliban.

Four women injured in Qutta acid attack

Two armed motorcyclists attacked and injured four women in an acid attack in Quetta on Monday (Dawn). According to Imran Qureshi, the superintendant of police, the women were shopping at a local shopping center when they were attacked. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.


Bonus Read: "Kerry's Miracle," Ioannis Koskinas (South Asia)

Electoral audit stalls then resumes

On Saturday, Afghanistan's electoral audit halted for 23 hours when Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah disagreed over counting methods; the audit resumed on Sunday (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, explained the disagreement to Pajhwok Afghan News, saying: "Differences between the two camps surfaced over voter signatures and thumb impressions on ballot papers. One of the teams said only those votes are valid which have signatures and thumb impressions."

Despite the 23-hour halt, the audit proceeded on Sunday with the Independent Election Commission announcing that 435 ballot boxes had been audited over the past three days (Pajhwok). Of the nearly 23,000 ballot boxes to be audited -- under an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry -- 8,680 have reached the commission.  Also on Sunday, Amb. James Dobbins -- the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan -- met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss the audit's progress (Pajhwok, TOLO News).

Police killed in Helmand, Uruzgan, Faryab provinces

Two people, including a policeman, were killed in a suicide car bombing on Monday in Southern Helmand (Pajhwok, TOLO News). At least 18 people were wounded, according to reports from the local hospital. In Uruzgan province, policemen turned their weapons on their colleagues, killing four people, before deserting their post on Sunday (Pajhwok). No group has yet claimed responsibility for either attack. In Faryab province, eight policemen, two civilians, and fifteen militants were killed in clashes over the weekend, according to Pakistani government statements on Monday (Pajhwok). The clashes centered on the Bazaar Shakh area of Faryab's Qaisar district.

Lawyers association calls privileges bill illegal

Afghanistan's Lawyers Association, on Monday, urged the Afghan National Assembly to drop a bill that would provide privileges, including a security detail and pay, to lawmakers after they finish their term (Pajhwok). The association argued that the measure conflicts with Article 95 of the Afghan Constitution, which only allows the government to initiate budget proposals. The upper house of Afghanistan's assembly rejected the bill, but because the lower house passed it, a committee must be formed to evaluate the bill and resolve any disputes.

--David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen