The South Asia Channel

Abdullah Ally Warns of Unrest; Antigovernment March Begins in Lahore; Indian Parliament Passes Bill on Judge Appointments




Abdullah ally warns of unrest

Attah Mohammed Noor, a powerful Afghan governor and former militia leader, warned on Wednesday of a "civil uprising" if the election audit fails to name Abdullah Abdullah the winner (Post). Noor threatened mass protests after the disputed presidential runoff election in June, but then had not been seen in public since the election controversy and it was rumored he fled Afghanistan. But on Wednesday, he appeared in Kabul and immediately challenged the legitimacy of the audit, saying: If the vote recount is one-sided or fraudulent, we will not bow down and accept the results." His statements come a day after Abdullah's rival, Ashraf Ghani, rejected the power-sharing agreement that U.S. Secretary of State Kerry brokered in June.

Blasts target policemen

A blast in Jalalabad city of eastern Nagarhar province killed three policemen and wounded nine others on Thursday (TOLO, Pajhwok). Explosives were placed on a bicycle and were detonated when a police vehicle drove by, according to Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the provincial spokesperson. In a separate incident in eastern Laghman province, three local police officers were killed and four others wounded on the same day when their vehicle hit a roadside mine.  No group has claimed responsibility for either attack.


Antigovernment march begins in Lahore

Thousands of protestors began a march on Islamabad on Thursday to take part in one of two major protests planned for Pakistan's Independence Day (RFE/RL, Dawn). Both Politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir al Qadri announced separate marches on Islamabad to protest the current government. They allege that the 2013 elections that brought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to power were rigged and demand Sharif's resignation and new elections. The government has allowed Khan's march, but prohibited Qadri's supporters from protesting amid fears of violence. Qadri's supporters clashed with police in Lahore for several days last week. However, Qadri joined in the protest in spite of the government's attempt to keep him away and now both men and thousands of people are making their way from Lahore to Islamabad as part of the protest (ET).

Pakistan's newest superhero: Bloody Nasreen

Shahan Zaidi, a designer and cartoonist in Pakistan has created a new female superhero who fights terrorists, traffickers, and gangsters in Karachi (BBC). Zaidi, who helped make the award-winning Burqa Avenger cartoon series for children, is hoping to launch his graphic novel and live-action movie about the Pakistani girl next door who picked up fighting skills to battle the bad guys later this year.  His newest creation has created a stir on social media sites -- drawing both praise and criticism. The criticism surrounds her outfit, which does not include a dupatta (scarf). However, Zaidi wanted his heroine to be as realistic as possible and thought she wouldn't be able to keep a dupatta in place when she's running and jumping off of buildings.

-- Emily Schneider


Indian Parliament Bill ends judges' collegium system

The Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) passed the National Judicial Appointments Bill and the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill on Thursday, after it was passed by the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) on Wednesday (IBNLive, NDTV, Livemint). In a significant political victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the passed bills will change how judges are appointed. So far, a collegium of senior Supreme Court judges appointed judges. Under the new proposal a committee of six members: the Chief Justice of India, the next two most senior judges of the Supreme Court, the Law Minister, and two eminent persons will appoint judges. The Modi-led government asserted that the measure would ensure that only meritorious people are selected as judges.

The Constitution Amendment Bill will put the proposed Commission and its entire composition in the Constitution, and the National Judicial Appointments Bill will establish the procedure to appoint Supreme Court judges, and the transfer and appointment of chief justices and other judges of the high courts.

However, the Modi-led government bowed to the opposition parties, including Congress, and referred the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill to the select 15-member committee in the Rajya Sabha (IBNLive, Economic Times). Opposition parties had raised the issue of substantial increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) as the proposed bill recommends a 49 percent hike in the FDI limit in the insurance sector.

Violence in Assam-Nagaland border, thousands flee

Over 6,000 people fled their homes from the northeastern state of Assam as one person was killed, several others injured, and houses set on fire along the Assam-Nagaland border by armed criminals from the neighboring state of Nagaland, police said on Wednesday (Times of India, The Hindu, DNA). While people living on the disputed Assam-Nagaland border have taken shelter in eight camps, para-military forces have been deployed to the tense border. The state government has ascribed the violence to the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) -- a Naga nationalist group operating in Northeast India whose aim is to establish a sovereign state of "Nagalim," unifying all the areas inhabited by the Naga people in northeast India and neighboring country Myanmar. G.D. Tripathi, the state home secretary of Assam, said: "We don't deny the involvement of NSCN," and said further his Nagaland counterpart has described the incident as "people-to-people animosity."

The violence took place on Tuesday when NSCN militants starting firing at angry locals who were protesting against the abduction of two boys by the NSCN on July 26. Tension along the Assam-Nagaland borders has been a long-standing concern between the two states since Nagaland attained statehood in 1963. Both states blame each other for encroaching their respective land.

Indo-Americans prepare for Modi

Over 300 Indo-American organizations from across the United States have come together to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "historic public reception" when he comes to the United States in September (Hindustan Times, New Indian Express, Economic Times). The only other time such a large number of Indo-American organizations worked together in the United States was for the civilian nuclear-deal. The event will be held by the newly-formed Indian American Community Foundation, USA, and the estimated budget for the celebration is $1.5 million. Madison Square Garden in New York city has been booked, and it is expected that 20,000 people will attend the largest-ever gathering for an Indian leader in the United States. Ram Madhav, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary, was in Washington D.C. and New York city earlier this week to assess the preparations.

One Indo-American group has launched an online petition on the White House website congratulating U.S. President Barack Obama for extending an invitation to Modi. The petition states: "This petition congratulates the White House for inviting PM Modi. This occasion must be used to celebrate Indian democracy." While one group has congratulated Obama, another U.S.-based rights group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), has started an online petition to cancel the White House invitation to Modi because of the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred (Times of India). SFJ has gathered enough signatures to elicit an official response from the White House. SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said: "The overwhelming response to the petition indicates that strong anti-Modi sentiments exist among the American [sic]."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen