The South Asia Channel

Reporter Given 24 Hrs to Leave Afghanistan; Congress Party to Boycott Modi Events; Pak Gov't Talks to Protestors

Afghanistan

The Rack: "Last Tango in Kabul," Matthieu Aikins (RollingStone).

Times reporter to be expelled from country

Afghanistan ordered New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg to leave the country within 24 hours on Wednesday after he refused to identify sources for an article he wrote about a potential plan for high-powered officials to impose an interim government (NYT). President Hamid Karzai said in a statement that Rosenberg's article was a sign of "meddling and interference of foreigners for destabilizing Afghanistan." On Tuesday, Rosenberg was first summoned by the Afghan attorney general's office and asked to name his sources. He was then barred from leaving the country pending an investigation. The expulsion, if implemented, would be the first of a Western journalist since Karzai took office after the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001.

Taliban offensive intensifies

The Afghan Taliban have been pressing forward with a nationwide offensive that has exceeded normal seasonal increases in fighting in recent days, according to local officials (WSJ). In eastern Nuristan province, Taliban fighters are laying siege to a government administrative center and have said they seized control of Do Ab, a remote district the province. In Logar province, near Kabul, government forces are working to repel a major attack by insurgents. In southwestern Helmand province, the death toll continues to rise after two months of intense fighting. The fighting, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of insurgents and government security personnel, has increased in light of the impending withdrawals of U.S. and international combat troops.

-- Emily Schneider

India

Congress Party to boycott PM events

Congress leader and Chief Minister (CM) Hemant Soren of Jharkhand, located in eastern India, was jeered at by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attendees -- in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- during the inauguration of a major power plant on Thursday (Economic Times, NDTV). This happened a day after another Congress leader and CM of Haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was booed at by BJP attendees during the inauguration of a national highway project by Modi. Last week, Congress-affiliated CM Prithviraj Chavan from the state of Maharashtra, located in western India, was also ridiculed during two Modi events. While Hooda has vowed that he "will never share the stage again" with Modi at a public event, Chavan plans to skip an event where Modi will be inaugurating a metro rail project in Maharashtra on Thursday.

The Congress party has claimed the BJP has planned to humiliate its chief ministers and maintains that "no self-respecting Chief Minister will attend functions if BJP supporters boo Chief Ministers in the presence of Prime Minister Modi." Congress party spokesperson Shobha Oza said: "It is a conspiracy by the BJP to humiliate our leaders."

Indian SC satisfied with SIT black money report

The Indian Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) -- a special task force established to probe "black money" deposited in foreign tax havens -- submitted its first report to a three-judge bench on Wednesday (Times of India, Livemint, Economic Times). The Supreme Court recognized the efforts of the SIT and said: "We saw the interim report and they [the SIT] are doing their work. Some progress has been made." In its interim report, the SIT has identified certain sectors, such as mining and real estate, that have been prominent on the black money front. The next report from the SIT is due on November 11, 2014.

IFC launches $2.5bn via rupee bonds for infrastructure

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, plans to raise as much as $2.5 billion over the next five years by selling rupee-denominated bonds and swaps to help finance India's infrastructure, according to news reports on Wednesday (Economic Times, Business Standard, Bloomberg). The IFC had successfully completed a $1 billion offshore rupee bond sale in April this year, which had funded infrastructure projects in India. Jin-Yong Cai, the IFC'S Executive Vice President and CEO, said in a statement: "Bonds offered under IFC's rupee financing programme offer a safe investment alternative for domestic pension funds and other investors, while mobilising capital to address India's infrastructure needs."

Students forced to swim to school due to lack of bridge

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice on Wednesday to the Gujarat government, located in western India, to explain why children are swimming across a river to attend school (NDTV, Times of India, Indian Express). The NHRC issued the notice in response to news reports, which stated that 125 children from five villages in central Gujarat were swimming across the Hiran river holding onto brass pots to reach the closest school in the Utavadi village. Parents would take turns supervising the children swimming across the river.

An official statement released by the NHRC said: "The villagers have been requesting for construction of a bridge over the river for a very long time but in vain. The report carries a photograph of the children swimming across the river." In response to the NHRC notice, Gujarat government spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Nitin Patel stated that the state government had approved the proposal for the construction of the river bridge on August 14. Last week, villagers had rejected the district administration's offer to use a boat to ferry students across the river, and demanded immediate approval for the bridge.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Pakistan

Bonus Read: "Why Afghanistan Should Be Worried About Pakistan's Political Crisis," Michael Kugelman (SouthAsia)

Government begins talks with protestors

In Islamabad, initial talks between Pakistan's government and two protest groups began on Thursday, after a week-long campaign where both Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, and Islamic cleric Tahir al Qadri, the head of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek party, led protestors in calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (BBC). On Thursday, Pakistan's lower chamber of parliament unanimously approved a resolution that said that Sharif's resignation on the basis of street protests would be unconstitutional (RFE/RL). But Khan, appearing before supporters camped on Islamabad's Constitution Avenue Wednesday night, ruled out extensive negotiations with the government unless Sharif resigns (Post). "We are a political party, and we are ready for talks with the government, but before that, our first demand is the resignation of PM Nawaz," Khan said, adding that: "He must go." However, military leaders in Pakistan are reportedly growing anxious about the continued standoff between Sharif and Khan amid signs that the protests could become more violent and spread to other parts of the country. U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said on Thursday that "we support the constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan," and that the United States does "not support any extra-constitutional changes to that democratic system" (ET).

Solar-powered tube-well opens

Peshawar Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani inaugurated a solar-powered tube-well in the Kurkha Kor area of the city on Wednesday that will provide power for local residents (Dawn). Rabbani said that nine solar-powered tube-wells had been installed in Mohmand Agency, costing Rs. 7 million (approximately $115,225) each and serving 200,000 people in total. He also noted that the army was extensively engaged in improving the well-being of the people living in Pakistan's tribal regions by implementing a number of different development projects, such as this one.

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen.

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images