The South Asia Channel

Afghan Election Audit Resumes; India Supports UNHRC Gaza Resolution; PML-Q Leader Seeks Arrests in Pakistan Acid Attacks


Bonus Read: "Afghanistan's Election Result Hinges on a Squabble Prone Audit," Matthew Rosenberg (NYT)

Election audit resumes

Afghanistan's audit of votes cast in the run-off election resumed on Thursday after a 48-hour suspension in order to train those conducting and overseeing the audit (Pajhwok, TOLO News). This is the second time the audit has been suspended and resumed since it began. Independent Election Commission (IEC) Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said that the commission had so far received 60 percent of the votes cast and that 160 teams are working on the audit, a number that is expected to increase to 200 by Friday.

Some have criticized the delay's effect on the new president's agenda (TOLO News). Nahid Farid, a minister of parliament from Herat, stated: "The long lasting elections have taken many opportunities from the future president, such as the NATO Summit in the UK beginning of September, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) conference in mid September, London conference--a follow up of the Tokyo conference-- in October and many other conferences." Azizullah Rafiyee, the leader of the Civil Society Association, stated: "The opportunities were a good start for the future of Afghanistan, but unfortunately, the opportunity was lost and the strength that the new president would have brought to the conference, President Karzai will not have." The results of the run-off had been scheduled to be announced on July 22.

U.S. backed militia executed three in Andar, reports Al Jazeera

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported that a U.S. backed militia wearing Afghan Local Police uniforms executed three prisoners in Andar province during a June 1 raid in the area (AJE). According to witnesses interviewed by Al Jazeera, the militia put three captives on the back of motorcycles and drove away as U.S. and Afghan soldiers watched and then gunshots were heard. Georgette Gagnon, who heads the U.N. human rights unit in Afghanistan, confirmed: "The U.N. has investigated and verified allegations of extrajudicial killings of three men by a pro-government militia." Lt. Col. Christopher Belcher, a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), stated: "Postoperational briefings/summaries gave no indication of detainee mistreatment" and added that an ISAF inquiry into the incident "found no information that substantiates the allegations."

Market bombing kills at least nine

A bombing at a market in Takhar province killed at least nine people on Thursday (AP, Pajhwok, TOLO News). The attack reportedly targeted an Afghan Local Police convoy but the motorcycle on which the explosives were loaded exploded prematurely. No group has claimed the attack.

Two aid workers killed

Two Western women working for an international aid organization were shot and killed on Thursday in Herat (NYT, Pajhwok). According to an official who spoke with Pajhwok Afghan News, the two women were Finnish and working for the International Assistance Mission. The women were attacked while travelling in a taxi. Sami Wafa, an aide to the governor of Herat Province, stated: "An investigation is underway and so far no one has been arrested."

Joint committee approves privileges law

A joint parliamentary committee approved a controversial bill giving Afghan lawmakers privileges -- including a security detail and pay after they complete their terms -- on Wednesday (Pajhwok). The upper house had initially rejected the bill, but because the lower house approved the bill, it was sent to the joint committee. The bill had also received criticism from civil society organizations, including the Lawyer's Association, which argued that the bill violated laws regarding the process for establishing financial policies.

--David Sterman


Bonus Read: "India's Defamed Government," Neha Dixit (South Asia)

India supports UNHRC resolution on Gaza

India has joined its BRIC partners to support a United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) resolution to launch a probe into Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday (Economic Times, NDTV, The Hindu). The resolution was supported by 29 out of 49 council members while 17 members abstained. The U.S. was the only country to vote against the resolution, and European countries didn't vote. The Indian statement at the session read: "India is deeply concerned at the steep escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, particularly heavy airstrikes in Gaza and disproportionate use of force on ground, resulting in tragic loss of civilian lives, especially women and children and heavy damage to property.''

Unlike its UNHRC vote, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government refused to pass a resolution on Monday against Israel in its own parliament. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that there was no question of taking sides when India's policy had been to maintain friendly ties with Israel while also supporting the Palestinian cause. More than 680 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed in the 16-day conflict at the Gaza Strip. BRICS is a grouping acronym of the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

India's tough stand on the WTO deal

India's Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman communicated to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo in a telephone conversation on Wednesday, that India will not endorse a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) protocol by its July 31 deadline, unless the country's concerns on food security and public stockholding are addressed (NDTV, Livemint, Business Standard, Hindustan Times). Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman finalized India's position not to support the TFA on Tuesday.

Last year in Bali, Indonesia, WTO member countries had agreed to make trade easier, faster, and cheaper by reducing red tape and making systems transparent. Existing TFA rules cap the value of food subsidies at 10 percent of the value of production based on the understanding that stockpiling subsidized food can distort trade. India's stand is that this cap will affect India's food security program as India stockpiles food for its poor. India subsidizes its farmers through minimum support prices for grains, which it then stores to distribute cheaply to the poor.

India is the most vocal state among a group of developing nations taking a position against developed countries for failing to address their concerns on subsidies. According to Indian trade negotiators, developed countries have pushed for an early adoption of the TFA, which will give them enhanced market access, but have avoided discussions on other issues. Proponents believe the deal could add $1 trillion to global gross domestic product and 21 million jobs.

World Bank President meets Indian PM Modi

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Wednesday in a meeting Modi described as "very fruitful" (Economic Times, Business Standard, Financial Express). Modi told Kim that "rather than dollars" India requires ideas, knowledge, and expertise as there is a need to focus on developing a base of skilled people. After his meeting Kim said: "The Prime Minister reiterated his three most important goals-- skill, scale and speed. I was inspired by his extremely ambitious vision for India and we hope to play some role in achieving that goal." Modi tweeted after the meeting: "We want ideas from the @WorldBank not only on mass production but also on production by masses, which will benefit our workforce."

After coming into power in May, Modi has been actively involved in India's development efforts. After announcing the New Development Bank by the BRICS -- a grouping acronym of the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa -- earlier this month, India is going to suggest to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries a similar regional bank (Economic Times, Hindu Business Line). Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to discuss the proposal of establishing a South Asian Development Bank for financing infrastructure development with all SAARC countries at the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Ministerial meet starting in Bhutan on Thursday. SAARC is an economic and geopolitical cooperation between South Asian nations, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


PML-Q leader seeks arrests in acid attacks

Ruqayya Saeed Hashmi, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid e Azam (PML-Q) women's group provincial president for Balochistan, called, on Wednesday, for arrests in the two acid attacks this week in Mastung and the provincial capital of Quetta (Dawn). Hashmi alleged that the government was not moving as quickly as it could. She stated: "Neither Islam nor any other religion allows for brutality of throwing acid on women."

Textile exports grow 5.3 percent

Data released on Wednesday by Pakistan's Bureau of Statistics showed that Pakistan's textile exports grew by 5.3% during the past fiscal year (Dawn). Textile Minister Abbas Khan Afridi pointed to an increase in exports to Europe as the driving factor behind the overall growth in exports.

Pakistani duo flying around the world crashes

A Pakistani Father-Son duo attempting to fly around the world in 30 days crashed in the Pacific, the Express Tribune reported on Tuesday (ET). Babar Suleman and Haris Suleman had been flying from American Samoa to Hawaii when their aircraft crashed. Haris' body was located but the location of Suleman and the airplane debris remain unknown. Air Vice Marshal (retd) Abid Rao -- Haris' uncle -- told Express Tribune: "We are very sad. It was the last leg of their trip, a journey of 13-14 hours. But their plane crashed within two minutes after they took off."

--David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images