The South Asia Channel

Afghan Attack Kills 3 NATO Officers; Opposition Criticizes Military Mobilization in Islamabad; India Bank Keeps Policy Rate


Three NATO officers killed in insider attack

An attacker wearing an Afghan National Army uniform killed three NATO service-members in an attack on Tuesday outside Kabul (NYT, NBC, BBC, AJE, RFE/RL). While details about the incident are scare, media outlets reported that the attacker was killed in the incident, and that a senior Afghan military official was also wounded in the attack. The attack was the first insider attack on foreign troops in months.

As U.S. withdraws, war material scrapped or sold

As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan it is scrapping or selling tons of material from its bases, according to a report by Ernesto Londoño in the Washington Post (Post). Lt. Joe Mannor, who works in determining what is scrapped, stated that: "After 13 years of war, lots of stuff is just lying around." According to Alan Estevez, the top Pentagon logistics official, the withdrawal is on track and is expected to cost $6 billion. The destruction of some equipment has raised protests from Afghans who would prefer that it be sold or donated to Afghan businesses. Najibullah Wardak, a senior Afghan finance ministry official, told Londoño: "we were a bit concerned when they started destroying things. Some of this might be of use in the market and could generate revenue."

IEC declares election criteria final

On Monday, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) declared that the United Nations' proposed criteria for conducting the electoral audit would be final (Pajhwok). The declaration came amidst Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's refusal to participate, a decision that he reversed after the IEC said it would continue its review of votes regardless. IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said the commission was legally bound to complete the audit in a timely manner.

Human Rights Watch calls on Taliban to stop blocking polio team access

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a call on Monday for the Taliban to stop preventing polio vaccination teams from operating in Afghanistan's Helmand province (Pajhwok). Phelim Kine, HRW's deputy Asia director, stated: "The Taliban prohibition on mobile polio vaccination teams puts children at risk, and jeopardizes a global eradication campaign, of a disease that has crippled and killed millions of people. The Taliban should assist the operations of mobile vaccination teams rather than interfere with their lifesaving work." On July 7, the Taliban accused the mobile teams of spying. The Taliban have also been implicated in a number of violent attacks on health workers. In December 2012, a volunteer assisting with polio vaccination in Kapisa province was killed by unknown gunmen.

Afghanistan's IT boom

Afghanistan is undergoing an information technology boom, according to a report in Ozymandias (OZY). Amirzai Sangin, Afghanistan's Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, told the digital magazine that the sector generates about 10 percent of the government's revenue through taxes and fees and provides 140,000 jobs. According to the report, 86 percent of Afghanistan's population has cellular access and 80 percent of Afghan women own a mobile phone. In addition, Sangin stated that 20 of the 34 provincial capitals have 3G network coverage.


Opposition parties criticize army's mobilization

The leader of the opposition in Pakistan's National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, criticized the government's decision to call up the country's army to provide security in Islamabad, saying the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf's (PTI) march should not worry the government (Dawn). Jamaat-i-Islami party leader Sahibzada Tariqullah also criticized the decision, arguing that it showed weakness, and offered to mediate between the government and the PTI. Members of the Qaumi Watan Party, Awami Muslim League, Awami National Party, and Pakistan Muslim League-Zia also criticized the decision. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan defended the government's decision to call up the army and denied that it was due to the PTI march saying: "Since the clause [authorizing the military's mobilization] was added it was invoked 24 times since 2007 and the Parliament's approval was not sought, no joint sessions were held nor were other political parties consulted in every case, at least not according to the records available with the interior ministry."

Air strikes kill 30 militants

Air strikes in the Datta Khel, Marsikhel, and Kamsham areas of North Waziristan killed 30 militants on Tuesday, according to the Pakistani army (Dawn, ET). The strikes were part of the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. However, due to the restrictions on journalists' access to North Waziristan, news sources are unable to independently verify the death toll.

Pakistani designers to attend Lakmé fashion week

Pakistani fashion designers, including Faiza Samee, Rizwan Beyg, Zara Shahjahan, and Sania Maskatiya, will attend the Lakmé Fashion Week in Mumbai, India from August 24 to 28, according to a report in Dawn (Dawn). The event's organizers say it will "redefine the future of fashion and integrate India into the global fashion world." Rizwan Beyg, one of the Pakistani designers, who will be showcasing designs based on Pakistan's indigenous truck art, stated: "Despite the political divide, the globalisation process is inevitable." He added: "We have different identities and we come from different places and go to different places. In that sense, we designers become ambassadors for Pakistan every time there is an international fashion show."

--David Sterman


India's Central bank keeps policy rate unchanged

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its bi-monthly policy review on Tuesday, lowered the mandatory bond holding requirement for banks, but kept its policy rates unchanged (Livemint, Indian Express, NDTV, Financial Express). RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan kept the key policy repo rate (the rate at which RBI lends funds to commercial banks) unchanged at 8 percent. To bring more liquidity into the Indian economy, the RBI lowered the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) -- banks' minimum bond holding requirements -- by half a percentage point to 22 percent, effective Aug. 9. The RBI also reduced the debt ceiling for bonds that must be held-to-maturity -- where banks do not have to price bonds at current market rates -- by half a percentage point to 24 percent.

Rajan cautioned that uncertainty over the present monsoon could impact food inflation and said: "...with some continuing uncertainty about the path of the monsoon, it would be premature to conclude that future food inflation, and its spill-over to broader inflation, can be discounted." The stock market reacted positively to the RBI's bi-monthly policy review (Economic Times). After volatile fluctuations through the day, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) benchmark Sensex rose by 185 points.

Supreme Court asks government to solve Delhi deadlock

The Indian Supreme Court decided not to step into the political deadlock in New Delhi on Tuesday, and asked the central government to come up with a solution on the government's formation issue (IBNLive, NDTV). New Delhi has been under President? Pranab Mukherjee's rule since Feb. 14, when Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal quit as chief minister, alleging that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress were blocking the introduction and passage of the Jan Lokpal, an anti-corruption bill. Kejriwal filed a petition to dissolve the existing New Delhi assembly and hold fresh elections in the capital. In response to the petition, a five-judge constitution bench of the court directed the central government to resolve the issue within the next five weeks.

As both the BJP and AAP have indicated they are not ready to form a government in New Delhi, the court said: "One party says it has no strength. Other says it has no desire. Third has no strength. In a situation like this why should people suffer?" The court said further: "We are not looking at political party before us. We are looking at the Delhi citizen's point of view...he may say he has elected a representative and he is drawing salary from taxpayers' money and sitting idle."

Pregnant woman swims across choppy river to save unborn

Yallamma Balappa Gaddi, a young pregnant woman in her third trimester from the small island village of Neelakantarayanagaddi, swam across a choppy river amid inclement weather to access a hospital in the southern state of Karnataka last week (BBC, Times of India, Deccan Herald). Yallamma, 20, lives in a village where the only way to travel to the mainland is by raft, which does not operate during turbulent currents. To receive timely medical help, Yallamma, who is nine-months pregnant, decided to swim across waters 12 to 14 feet high with the help of her father, brother, and cousins. Yallamma tied dried bottle gourds and hollowed pumpkins around her to remain afloat in the water, and crossed the Krishna river surrounded by her family. A local government doctor who examined Yallamma upon her arrival on the mainland said the mother and "her baby, due in 20 to 25 days" are fine.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen