Afghan Election Audit Has Rocky Weekend; Pakistan Interior Minister Tries To Call Off PTI March; Modi Visits Nepal
Bonus Read: "Why Afghanistan's National Unity Government is Risky," Srinjoy Bose and Niamat Ibrahimi (South Asia)
Election audit has rocky weekend
Afghanistan's election audit experienced a rocky Sunday as presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah refused to participate in the review, citing concerns over the criteria for disqualifying ballots and making fresh accusations of fraud (NYT, Reuters). The Abdullah camp released a tape on Sunday allegedly showing Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili calling upon his followers to support Abdullah's rival, Ashraf Ghani. Khalili's spokesperson denied the accusation. However, Abdullah later agreed to rejoin the audit, according to the United Nations, and members of his campaign team were present when the audit resumed on Monday (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). The electoral audit has already been suspended twice over disagreements over the audit procedure.
Ghor governor accuses Pakistan of involvement in massacre
The governor of Ghor province, Syed Anwar Rahmati, accused Pakistan of being involved in the massacre of 15 people who were taken off buses and killed in the province on July 25 (Pajhwok). According to Rahmati, a Taliban commander named Qari Rahmatullah was behind the attack and had spent the past winter in Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appointed a delegation to investigate the killings.
Meanwhile, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to worsen over claims of cross-border shelling. Shuja-ul-Mulk Jalala, the governor of Kunar province, decried Pakistani shelling in his province, telling TOLO News on Sunday that: "Rocket firing has increased in the past few days and in just the past 24 hours, 118 missiles have landed in Dangam and Sarkano districts, killing two children and two women" (TOLO News). Later that day, Afghanistan's National Security Council also criticized the shelling into Kunar province, a perennial source of dispute between the two countries, and accused Pakistan of not being serious about preventing terrorism noting an increase in Pakistani militants entering Afghanistan (Pajhwok).
Bonus Read: "After Jihad: Abandoned...," Irfan Haider, (Dawn)
Interior minister tried to have PTI march called off
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported on Monday that the country's interior minister. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, spoke with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party (PTI) leader Imran Khan via telephone late last week in a failed attempt to have him cancel a planned August 14 march on Islamabad (Dawn). According to the report Imran Khan refused to meet Nisar Ali Khan in person and would not call off the march. The march is aimed at protesting the perceived rigging of the May 2013 general elections, and the PTI has already used social media and mass text messaging to mobilize people (ET). The march has engendered concerns over security in the capital city and was rumored to have been the reason the government called up the military to provide additional security, though officials dismissed the connection.
Pakistani stock market continues fall
The Karachi Stock Exchange continued to fall on Monday, dropping over 800 points (2.78 percent) by midday (Dawn). Local news sources attributed part of the fall to concerns over political stability, citing the PTI's planned march on Islamabad. Monday's fall continued a 160.68 point decrease from the previous Monday, the last day the market was open before the Eid holiday.
Rangers conduct raid near MQM leader's house
On Monday, Farooq Sattar, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement deputy convener and national assembly member, said that the Sindh Rangers had conducted a raid on his house in Karachi (Dawn, ET). However, a Rangers spokesman, Maj. Sibtain Rizvi, denied the allegations saying instead that the paramilitary organization had conducted a raid two streets down (Dawn). Initial reports stated that during the raid, the Rangers closed traffic to the area and arrested two of Sattar's guards as well as another MQM member. Commenting on the raid, Sattar said: "I am left unprotected after the arrest of my guards and seizure of my 9mm pistol."
PML-N national assembly member in contact with police while fugitive
A search of police mobile data on Sunday revealed that Rana Shoaib Idrees, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz national assembly member accused of torturing a police sub-inspector and helping three people escape from Khuarianwala police station in Punjab province, was in contact with another police sub-inspector as local authorities conducted raids in an attempt to arrest him (ET). Idrees had also been in contact with the sub-inspector when he allegedly conducted the raid on the police station. On Saturday, Khuarianwala police reported that a file on the case had disappeared and arrested Umar Daraz, the assistant sub-inspector in charge of the file, and Ansar Mehmood, the head constable (ET).
Modi visits Himalayan neighbor Nepal to strengthen ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in the capital city of Kathmandu on Sunday during his two-day visit to Nepal (NDTV, Economic Times, The Hindu). Modi and Koirala held a bilateral meeting where they signed three pacts and discussed ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation in key sectors including trade, investment, hydropower and agriculture. The first Indian prime minister to visit Nepal in 17 years, Modi descended from his car several times on the streets of Kathmandu to meet local Nepalese waiting along the sidewalks.
In his speech to Nepal's Constituent Assembly on Sunday, Modi said India respects the aspirations of a Nepalese Federal Democratic Republic and added: "It is not our job to interfere in your internal affairs but to assist you in the path you have chosen." Modi, the second foreign minister after the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to deliver a keynote speech to Nepal's Constituent Assembly, started his speech in Nepali amidst cheers from Nepalese lawmakers. Modi announced $1 billion as a concessional line of credit to Nepal and proposed a "HIT" formula for Nepal, where the focus would be on ‘H' for highways, ‘I' for information technology, and ‘T' for transmission lines for electricity.
Modi talked about Nepal's abundant potential for developing its hydropower sector, and emphasized India's commitment to establish transmission lines for exporting and importing electricity. Modi said: "Nepal can free India of its darkness with its electricity." Modi added that India wanted to buy electricity from Nepal, and said further: "But we don't want free electricity, we want to buy it. Just by selling electricity to India, Nepal can find a place in the developed countries of the world."
On Monday, Modi offered prayers at a famous Hindu temple, Pashupatinath in Kathmandu and said he "felt extremely blessed" (Indian Express, NDTV). Modi also met Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav, who said to Modi: "You have won our hearts with your speech at the Parliament yesterday."
India condemns derogatory Sri Lankan ‘love letters'
Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry issued an "unqualified apology" on its website on Friday after a controversy involving a derogatory article that mentioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa (The Hindu, Livemint, NDTV). The letter said: "We extend an unqualified apology to the Hon Prime Minister of India and Hon Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu." The statement said further that an article titled "How meaningful are Jayalalithaa's love letters to Narendra Modi?" had been published without authorization and thereafter removed from the website. The article talked about Jayalalithaa's repeated correspondence to Modi on the harassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen and also portrayed a caricature of Jayalalithaa dreaming about Modi in a heart-shaped thought bubble.
On Monday, both the houses of Parliament were adjourned over the derogatory article (Livemint, NDTV). Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Parliament: "India strongly condemns this. We will definitely call their high commissioner and discuss this issue." Jayalalithaa also protested and asked Modi to seek an apology from the Sri Lankan government as the article "depicted both the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in a very trivialized, derogatory and disrespectful manner."
Since the incident, anti-Sri Lanka sentiments have been extremely high in Tamil Nadu. A Sri Lankan team of under-15 cricketers, who arrived to play in a tournament in Tamil Nadu, were sent back on Monday after the local police cited security concerns. Members of the Tamil film fraternity protested the Sri Lankan government outside the Sri Lankan consulate in Tamil Nadu on Monday (NDTV). On Saturday, a banner appeared in Tamil Nadu showing Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa looking at Jayalalithaa with folded hands, and read: "Amma [mother], I have made a big mistake. Please forgive me and give me life" (Deccan Chronicle, DNA). There have been several disputes between India and Sri Lanka over the safety of fishermen that are taken into custody while fishing in the Palk Strait, where the distance between the two countries is 12 nautical miles.
India evacuates over 70,000 people amid flood alert
The Indian government had evacuated over 70,000 people by Monday from the eastern state of Bihar over fears of floods from Nepal (BBC, IBNLive, NDTV, Hindustan Times). A landslide on Saturday in Nepal, which killed 19 people and left over one-hundred people missing, created a mud dam blocking the Sunkoshi river, which runs into Bihar as the Kosi river. As a consequence, water levels in the Kosi river rose significantly. As the Nepalese army conducted controlled blasts to clear the blockage, it was feared that the released water would wipe out neighborhoods from Bihar. The Bihar state government said "there is no need to panic" and reassured people that all measures had been taken. In 2008, more than 500 people died in Bihar after a dam burst on the Kosi river.
-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images