The South Asia Channel

Afghan Officials Interrogate Reporter; Pak Court Issues Notices to Protest Leaders; Party Denied Position in Indian Parliament

Afghanistan

Afghan officials interrogate New York Times reporter

The Afghan attorney general's office questioned New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg on Tuesday and barred him from leaving the country after the Times published an article Monday about discussions among Afghan officials regarding the possibility of imposing an interim government (NYT). Gen. Sayed Noorullah Sadat, the senior prosecutor who summoned Rosenberg, asked him to identify his anonymous government sources, which Rosenburg declined to do. He was then allowed to leave the interrogation room on the condition that he return the following day with an attorney. Later on Tuesday, Tolo News reported that a travel ban was in effect for Rosenberg. The attorney general's office then confirmed that the ban was in effect "until this issue over this article is resolved."

This incident marks the fourth time this year the Afghan government has threatened or initiated legal action against the Times because of complaints by senior Afghan officials over articles it published. Rosenberg's article said that a coterie of powerful ministers were threatening to impose a new government to ensure stability in the country, and that the officials were hoping the threat would prompt the two presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to compromise and end the crises. The U.S. State Department criticized the Afghan government's actions, saying: "We...urge the Afghan government to respect fundamental freedoms of expression and expression of the press, and we'll continue to monitor it."

Foreigners stabbed in Kabul

Unidentified men reportedly attacked a foreigner Monday morning on Kabul International Airport road (TOLO). According to eyewitness accounts relayed to TOLO news, the foreigner was escorting trucks through the area and stopped near a police checkpoint to obtain permission to pass through when unidentified men jumped out of a car and stabbed him. They attackers immediately fled the area. Police took the victim to a nearby hospital, but details about his health are unknown.

Pajhwok Afghan News reported a separate stabbing incident where a foreigner was stabbed in the Bib Mahro section of Kabul on Monday (Pajhwok). That report said the foreigner was purchasing food from a shop when unidentified men stabbed him in the neck. He, too, was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Pakistan

Supreme Court issues notices to Khan, Qadri

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday issued notices to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahir al Qadri during the hearing of a petition filed by the Lahore High Court's Multan Bar Association (Dawn). The bar association asked the court to enforce the constitution and restrain Khan and Qadri from illegal and unlawful trespassing. Although the court said during the hearing that every citizen has a right to protest, it did admit the petition and issued notices to the parties. The Supreme Court Bar Association noted that other high court bar associations were filing similar petitions.

Meanwhile, PTI has agreed to hold talks with the government about its claims that the 2013 general elections were rigged (Dawn).  Senior PTI leader Shah mehmood Qureshi said the party had a six-point agenda that it will put on the negotiating table, and added: "We wish the government had taken our demands seriously before [...] our strategy is clear, we want to strengthen democracy and not derail it."

Pakistani beheaded in Saudi Arabia

Mohammed Ayub Ajab Khan, a Pakistani national,  was beheaded by sword in the south west of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday after being convicted of killing an Afghan citizen, Khair Mohammed Saz (AFP). According to a Saudi ministry statement, Khan killed Saz by striking him several times with a metallic object. This is the 34th execution to be announced by Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to a tally by Agence France Press.

-- Emily Schneider

India

Congress denied leader of opposition status

In a blow to the Congress party, Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has rejected the Congress party's demand for the leader of opposition position in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday (Economic Times, NDTV). Mahajan conveyed her decision in writing to Congress President Sonia Gandhi after taking the opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. As per the Parliament rules, to be eligible for the leader of opposition post, the biggest opposition party in the Lok Sabha should have at least 10 percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha, or 55 seats. Congress managed to get only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year. The leader of opposition in both of the houses of parliament enjoys the status of a cabinet minister and participates in committees along with the prime minister to select important positions. These include, among others, members of the national ombudsman and the chief of the Central Vigilance Commission, an autonomous body that monitors vigilance activities under the central government.

Indian PM calls for labs with under-35 researchers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing an awards function on Wednesday at the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) -- an agency responsible for the development of technology for military use -- called for labs manned by "under-35" people for defense research that can be useful on the battlefield (IBNLive, NDTV, Economic Times). Commenting on the delays in several major defense projects, Modi said: "The time demands... the world will not wait for us. We have to run ahead of time. That is why whatever we do, we should try hard to do it before time. It should not be so that a project is conceived in 1992 and in 2014 we say it will take some more time. The world will move on." Modi added further that India did not lack talent, but was rather defeated by a "chalta hai (meaning lackadaisical) attitude."

Modi spoke of corruption during the inauguration of a national highway project in the northern state of Haryana on Tuesday, which will link the states of Haryana and Rajasthan (Economic Times). Modi said: "It [corruption] is worse than even cancer and can destroy the country. The country is not willing to tolerate the evil any longer.... Should strong steps not be taken to remove corruption. We will take those steps." Incidentally, during this event, Congress leader and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was by booed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters attending the event (IBNLive). According to news reports on Wednesday, all Congress party chief ministers may skip future public events with Modi.

Irom Sharmila, Indian activist fasting since 2000 to be released

A court in the northeastern state of Manipur ordered the state government to release human rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu -- popularly known as India's "Iron Lady" -- on Tuesday, who was imprisoned on charges of attempted suicide since she began a hunger strike almost 14 years ago (IBNLive, Economic Times, NDTV). Sharmila has been on a fast for 14 years, demanding the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a law that grants special powers to the Indian armed forces in disturbed areas.

Sharmila was arrested on charges of attempt to commit suicide after she began her fast in November 2000 when she saw armed forces killing civilians during an encounter with militants. Sharmila has constantly been residing in a security ward of a hospital in Manipur's capital city Imphal, which has been declared as a sub-jail. Sharmila, who refuses to take water and food, has been fed through a nasal tube, and has been released and rearrested every year as the law allows detention only for 364 days. Last year, the National Human Rights Commission had said that the conditions of Sharmila's imprisonment were a "breach of India's obligations under international human rights standards and principles." Sharmila's brother has said she will continue her 14-year-long fast after her release.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Edited by Peter Bergen

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