The South Asia Channel

Indian MP ‘Force Feeds’ Fasting Muslim; Afghan Vote Audit Suspended; Pakistani Peacekeeping Contribution Drops 32 Percent

India

Parliament Uproar: Indian MP "force-feed" fasting Muslim worker

India's Houses of Parliament were temporarily adjourned on Wednesday in Delhi as opposition members protested after a Shiv Sena member of Parliament (MP) forced a Muslim staff member at the Maharashtra Sadan, the state guest house in Delhi, to break his fast during Ramadan (Economic Times, NDTV, Indian Express). Approximately 11 MPs from Shiv Sena, a right-wing Hindu political organization from the west Indian state of Maharashtra, angry over not being served local Maharashtrian food, forced Arshad Zubair, a Muslim catering supervisor who was fasting for Ramadan, to eat a chapati (Indian bread).

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) that was catering for the Maharashtra Sadan, stopped all operations in protest, and wrote a letter to the Maharashtra Resident Commissioner. It stated that Zubair had been "deeply pained and hurt ... as religious sentiments are attached." Zubair said in a written complaint that he was wearing an IRCTC uniform and a tag that identified him by his name. Zubair said further: "They caught me and put chapatti in my mouth ... which caused my fast to break on the eve of Ramazan" (NDTV). While the Shiv Sena MPs denied the accusation, video footage of the force-feeding was subsequently released.

A heated exchange occurred between parties in the Lok Sabha (India's lower house of Parliament), where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Ramesh Biduri tried to assault other MPs. Biduri, who was forced to apologize for his conduct, said: "I regret if I have hurt the sentiments of the members of this House." Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the Lok Sabha when the issue was raised. The Shiv Sena is an ally of India's ruling BJP.

Modi sets dos and don'ts list for party members

BJP Members of Parliament (MP) on Tuesday received a dose of "dos and don'ts" during a parliamentary meeting in Delhi, where they were informed, for example, that travelling on an "official" or "unofficial" trip to a foreign destination during an ongoing parliament session or lobbying for appointments in various house committees were strictly prohibited (Hindu Business Line, NDTV). Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu reprimanded party members that came late to the meeting on Tuesday, and said: "The Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] was here at 9.25 am sharp. But I can see that people are still trooping in. I would urge members to take these meetings as seriously as we do."

Party members were also told not to miss the weekly Monday meetings with BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who is also India's defense and finance minister. BJP MPs were told further that a weekly report on the meetings will be sent to Modi. According to BJP sources, the party meeting on Tuesday was a process of structural changes and "professionalizing" the functioning of the party.

One killed, three injured in Assam bomb blast

One person was killed and three others were injured in the northeastern state of Assam on Wednesday from a bomb blast triggered by suspected militants in the Goalpara district (NDTV, IBNLive, Business Standard). Goalpara Superintendent of Police Nitul Gogoi said rebels affiliated with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) could be responsible for the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast, which was planted on a bicycle near a police station. Banned by the Indian government, the UFLA is a separatist group from Assam that has been waging violent protests since 1990, seeking to establish a sovereign Assam through an armed struggle.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: "Why Afghanistan's National Unity Government is Risky," Srinjoy Bose and Niamat Ibrahimi (South Asia)

Vote audit suspended again

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission suspended the audit of votes cast in the country's run-off election for the second time late on Tuesday, in order to train representatives for the candidates and election observers (Pajhwok). The audit had previously been suspended on Saturday after a disagreement between the campaigns of the two candidates -- Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah -- over the counting techniques. It remains unclear when the audit will resume.

Suicide attack in Kunduz kills one, injures police chief

A suicide attack in northern Kunduz province on Wednesday injured the district police chief of Chahar Dara and killed one of his bodyguards, while also injuring two other bodyguards (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack, naming the attacker as Abdul Basit Takhari, and saying that two bodyguards were killed.

SIGAR report says open pit burning continues despite incinerators

A July report released by the United States' Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that the U.S. military continues to burn waste in open pits despite the construction of incinerators (NYT, LAT). The report stated that the use of open pit burning wasted millions of dollars in unused incinerator capacity. In one instance, at the Shindland base in Herat, incinerators that cost five million dollars, and could handle the entire base's waste were eschewed for open pit burning of two-thirds of the base's waste. The report found similar problems at every base the inspectors visited. The report also noted that the military violated regulations meant to protect health. On Tuesday, John Sopko, the inspector general, stated: "There was a lack of planning and a lack of holding people accountable and as a result the health of our troops was put at risk." 

Pakistan

Pakistan's peacekeeping contribution drops 32 percent

According to United Nations data reported in the Express Tribune on Tuesday, the number of troops Pakistan contributes to U.N. peacekeeping operations has dropped by 32 percent in the first half of 2014 (ET). Pakistan plays an important role in supporting U.N. peacekeeping operations. In 2009, it contributed the most troops of any nation, with 10,680 Pakistanis serving as peacekeepers. The drop in Pakistan's contribution is part of a long-term trend among the top contributors, but Bangladesh and India -- two other leading contributors -- actually increased their contribution in 2014. The decline in Pakistan's contribution may be related to the need for troops to serve in ongoing operations at home.

Emirates airline resumes flights to Peshawar

Emirates International Airline and Etihad Airways announced on Wednesday that they would resume flights to the Bacha Khan Airport in Peshawar (ET, Dawn). Emirates will fly its first flight of resumed service on Thursday morning, while Etihad Airways will fly its first flight Aug. 1. Flights were suspended after an attack on the airport on June 25, which killed a woman and injured two flight attendants.

--David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images