The South Asia Channel

Pakistan Rejects Modi's 'Proxy War' Accusation; Ghani Rejects Afghan Deal; Sharif Asks for Pakistan Election Probe

India

Pakistan rejects Modi's ‘proxy war' accusation; violates ceasefire

Pakistan came out strongly and rejected on Wednesday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's accusation of Pakistan waging a proxy war against India (Economic Times, WSJ, IBNLive). Terming Modi's statement as "baseless rhetoric," Pakistan Foreign Office Spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said: "The press reports of Indian accusations, at the highest political level, are most unfortunate, especially as the leadership of Pakistan wishes to establish good neighbourly relations with India." Aslam said further that instead of engaging in a blame game, both countries should focus on resolving issues. In his Tuesday address to the Indian Army and Air Force troops in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Modi had said that Pakistan had "lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism."

Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire on Wednesday by twice opening heavy fire on several Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in J&K (Hindustan Times, Livemint). The Indian army retaliated, and one Indian soldier was injured in what was the fifth ceasefire violation in five days. The LoC is a military boundary between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. The Border Security Force (BSF) guards the IB in J&K, while the Indian Army guards the LoC.

Indian President tells MPs to behave ‘For God's Sake'

President Pranab Mukherjee reminded the members of parliament that they must uphold the Parliament's dignity, after members of regional political parties fought over a room in Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday (NDTV, Times of India, The Hindu). Mukherjee, attending an event to present the outstanding parliamentarian awards, said: "Please, for god's sake, except you, nobody can do it. It is our responsibility, we the elected members of both Houses including nominated members, to uphold the prestige, dignity and honour of this great great institution."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was also at the event, commented on the lack of wit and humour in Parliamentary proceedings (NDTV, Deccan Chronicle). Modi said: "Humor and wit are gradually fading away from parliamentary proceedings as members are worried about what color the 24x7 (media) will give to even one proverb." As to how lawmakers conduct themselves, Modi suggested a public survey to get feedback about the functioning of the Parliament, and said further: "Unless there is a confluence of oratory, action and leadership, neither can Parliament be influenced, nor can the nation be inspired."

Supreme Court reprimands Modi government over Ganges

The Indian Supreme Court criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government on Wednesday for not showing urgency on the Ganges river initiative, which was a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto during elections earlier this year (Times of India, IBNLive, NDTV). A court bench headed by Justice T. S. Thakur asked Solicitor General Mukul Rohatgi: "Are you saving the holy river? You are showing no urgency in this matter. But only in other matters." Appearing on behalf of the central government, Rohatgi was seeking an adjournment for two weeks on the issue. The Supreme Court has been dealing with a public interest litigation on the Ganges river since 1985, which demands the restoration of the river that is now a sewage line.

In one of his victory speeches after the elections in May, Modi had referenced the Ganges river and said: "Now it is time to do my bit for Maa Ganga [mother Ganges]." Modi said further: "Maa Ganga [mother Ganges] is waiting for her son to free her from pollution." The Ganges river is a 1,569 miles-long river that originates in the Himalayas, and runs through both India and Bangladesh. Although the Ganges river is the most sacred river for Hindus, it is extremely polluted because of industrial effluents, untreated sewage, and garbage present in the river.

Indian University recognizes transgendered

Delhi University is now officially acknowledging transgendered students in postgraduate programs this year, and undergraduate programs in the next academic year, according to media reports on Wednesday (Times of India, ABPLive, BBC). After introducing a column for the third gender in its application forms, Delhi University will accept all nine transgender applicants who had applied for postgraduate programs. Prior to a separate category, transgender students were forced to register as either male or female students. India's Supreme Court recognized transgender people as a third gender in a landmark ruling in April this year.

Bangalore University, located in southern India, was the first university in 2010 to change its application to include transgendered. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists in India welcomed the decision. Anjali Gopalan of Naz Foundation -- a NGO that works on HIV/AIDS and sexual health in India -- said Delhi University's decision is "a step in the right direction. It really empowers people and makes them feel they are part of mainstream life. But there has to be a sustained campaign to understand transgenders, their issues and sensitize the society."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

Bonus read: "How to Fix the Afghan Political Logjam," Omar Samad (SouthAsia).

Ghani rejects power-sharing deal

Ashraf Ghani, speaking to foreign journalists at his compound in Kabul on Tuesday, rejected U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's brokered joint-governing agreement, saying: "Dual authority is not possible [...] the position of the chief executive will solely depend on the discretion of the president" (Post).  Kerry pushed Ghani and his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, to sign a power-sharing agreement last week that called for the runner-up to be named to a new, specially created post of "chief executive" and share control with the president over key decisions (RFE/RL). Many Afghans are confused about the unprecedented power-sharing agreement, and Ghani stressed that "everything begins and ends with the constitution" of Afghanistan and that details of the deal must be spelled out clearly in the coming weeks "to avoid misunderstanding."

New details on insider attack

The U.S. service members who were wounded in the so-called insider attack on August 5 in Kabul have been brought back to the United States, reports the Washington Post. A casualty report about the shooting that killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene offers new details about the wounded. The shooter, who Afghan officials have said was an Afghan army soldier, shot at close range members of the U.S.-led military coalition at a training base. Those injured included an Army specialist who was a reservist, a 31-year-old captain who was one of Greene's aides, an Army major who performed 11 years of service, an Army captain, and a Navy non-commissioned officer. 

Pakistan

Sharif calls on Supreme Court to investigate vote-rigging allegations

In a national address on Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the current political crisis and said he was requesting that the Supreme Court form a three-member committee to investigate allegations that the elections had been rigged (ET, RFE/RL). Sharif's speech was geared towards reassuring the country ahead of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) march on Islamabad, scheduled for August 14. The PTI chairman has accused the government of rigging last year's elections. 

Canada-base cleric Tahirul al Qadri, who has vowed to bring revolution against the Pakistan Muslim League government and also alleges that the elections were rigged, has scheduled a coinciding march on the Islamabad for the same day (ET).  Tensions have been on the rise since Qadri supporters clashed with police in Lahore last week, resulting in four deaths (Guardian).  The Pakistani government has implemented Article 245 of the Constitution, which calls for support of the Pakistan Army in securing Islamabad.  Bonus read: "How Protests and the Military are Curbing Pakistan's Democracy," Marvin Weinbaum (SouthAsia). 

U.S. and U.K. back democratic government

The Express Tribune reported on Wednesday that the United States and the United Kingdom envoys to Pakistan have both held separate meetings with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in his office 48 hours before the planned political marches in Islamabad. Official sources said that both Richard Olson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and Philip Barton, the U.K.'s high commissioner, discussed the political situation with the finance minister, who is considered a close aide to the prime minister.  Both also assured the finance minister that they back democracy in Pakistan.

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

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