Three Polio Workers Killed in Pakistan; Karzai Begins Visit to India; BJP Refuses to Form Delhi Government
Attacks on polio teams kill three
Unidentified gunmen attacked two separate polio vaccination teams operating in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing one vaccination worker and two police guards (AP, Dawn, ET). According to police, the first incident took place in Swabi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where two policemen were killed as they headed to provide security for a local polio vaccination team (BBC, RFE/RL). Several hours later, a gunman killed a vaccination worker who was on his way home after vaccinating children in Jamrud, on the outskirts of Peshawar. No one has claimed responsibility for either incident.
The attacks came one day after Dr. Akhtar Hussain, the head of the World Health Organization's polio eradication office, announced the agency had started a three-day inoculation campaign in Pakistan's tribal region (RFE/RL). Hussain said the campaign hopes to vaccinate around 727,000 children under the age of 5 by Sunday. While a leading Islamic cleric with ties to the Pakistani Taliban recently issued a fatwa saying the anti-polio drops were legitimate and Islamic, Pakistani officials said vaccination teams would not visit some areas in North and South Waziristan because of security concerns. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where the poliovirus is still endemic.
Afridi lawyer flees Pakistan
Samiullah Afridi, the lawyer for Dr. Shakil Afridi (no relation) -- a Pakistani doctor who was recruited by the CIA to launch a vaccination drive in Abbottabad that many incorrectly believe led to information about Osama bin Laden and is currently in a Pakistani jail -- fled Pakistan this week after receiving death threats (BBC, RFE/RL). Coworkers and relatives confirmed that he had left the country on Wednesday, fearing for his life. Afridi is the second member of the doctor's legal team to flee the country, and his departure comes just days before a ruling that will determine whether or not Afridi will face a new trial. Dr. Afridi was convicted in May 2012 for allegedly having links to a banned militant organization in Pakistan, a sentence he is appealing; he is also facing murder charges related to the death of a patient in 2005.
Military convoy hit by roadside bomb
At least four Pakistani soldiers were killed and five were wounded in the village of Spinwam in North Waziristan on Friday when their convoy struck a roadside bomb (RFE/RL). No one has claimed responsibility for the incident, but authorities have blamed the Pakistani Taliban for similar attacks, as North Waziristan is one of their strongholds in the country's tribal regions.
Karzai arrives in India
Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in New Delhi on Thursday for a four-day official visit to India (RFE/RL). Karzai is expected to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, and other Indian officials. He will also address a conference titled "India and Development Partnerships in Asia and Africa: Towards a New Paradigm" at Symbiosis International University, according to a statement released by the presidential palace (Pajhwok). Media reports said that Karzai is seeking Indian support and military aid as foreign forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of next year. In particular, he is looking for military helicopter, tanks, and artillery for the Afghan security forces (NDTV, Reuters).
While U.S. officials told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that both Pakistan and India agreed on the need for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan and that Karzai's visit to India could be "quite influential," Karzai told India's NDTV on Friday that he would not be "intimidated" or coerced into signing the Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave thousands of U.S. troops in the country after the NATO combat mission ends next year (Pajhwok). According to Karzai, "We are not a nation known for giving into intimidation" and "We will sign it when we will [be] sure that our signature will bring peace and security."
Number confusion in the U.S.
Reports emerged on Thursday that at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, none of the witnesses could say how much the United States was spending on an annual basis in Afghanistan or how many service members had been killed or wounded in the last 12 months (WSJ, Washington Times). When pressed by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), James Dobbins, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Donald Sampler, the assistant to the administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Michael Dumont, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, said they would have to get back to him. Rohrabacher called the admission "disheartening," while Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) said he was stunned by the lack of oversight. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that at least 2,153 U.S. soldiers had died in the war in Afghanistan, but did not provide a year-by-year breakdown (AP).
Meanwhile, John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), is investigating the G222 aircraft program and how the U.S. military spent nearly $500 million dollars to provide 20 refurbished planes to the Afghan Air Force that are now sitting on airfields in Afghanistan and Germany and may be scrapped in the future (FOX News). Started in 2008, the program was shut down last year after officials determined that Finmeccanica SpA's Alenia Aermacchi North America unit, the contractor responsible for building the planes, did a poor job getting the necessary spare parts needed to keep the planes flying. The SIGAR investigation will examine the decision to provide planes Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, the top acquisition officer in the U.S. Air Force, recently said weren't right for the hot, dusty environment.
On the catwalk
While Pakistan's fashion designers may be helping the country shed its "bombs and burqas" image, they are quick to dismiss any claims that they are doing so to fight extremism in the country (AFP). According to Kamiar Rokni, "We're not. We're doing this for the business of fashion!" Though certain precautions, like never disclosing the location of a fashion show in advance, are taken, the country's fashion industry has grown in the last few years, with shows being held regularly in Lahore and Karachi and attracting foreign buyers. The garments, which often feature gold thread, beads, and seed pearls, are adding variety to an old "clone culture" of white salwar kameezes.
-- Bailey Cahall
AAP invited to form Delhi government after BJP refuses
The impasse over the formation of a government in the state of Delhi continued this week as BJP Chief Ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan met with Lt. Gov. Najeeb Jung on Friday, but refused to form a government until the party won a clear majority in a fresh round of elections (Economic Times, Times of India). The BJP won 31 of 70 seats in the recent assembly elections, five seats short of a majority. Jung now hopes to meet with the Aam Admi Party's Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday, as the party holds the second-highest number of seats.
Speaking to the press about the invitation to form the government, Kejriwal said he would reveal the party's strategy after meeting with Jung, but would not resort to "deal making on government formation" (NDTV). In such a scenario, it is likely that Jung will ask that the President's Rule be enforced in the state until new elections are held. Under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, President's Rule empowers the state's governor to take charge of administrative affairs under the central government's directive. Elections are likely to be held, along with national elections to India's parliament, in May.
Lokpal Bill introduced in Upper House, adjourned almost immediately
The Lokpal Bill, introducing anti-corruption ombudsmen, was tabled in the Upper House of India's Parliament on Friday, amid much protest by members from the Samajwadi Party and the Telegu Desam Party. Following the uproar, the house was adjourned until Friday afternoon; Saturday's session was also cancelled when the protests continued (Indian Express, Times of India). The Samajwadi Party has expressed its displeasure at not being consulted before the bill was introduced, and has stated it will support a "no-confidence motion" by the Telegu Desam Party over the formation of Telangana, a new Indian state. When a no-confidence motion is introduced, the ruling party or coalition has to prove it holds a majority membership in parliament's Lower House to continue its mandate to form the government. Failing this, the parliament is dissolved and elections are held.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha (lower house) was unable to conduct business for the fifth straight day on Friday after a raucous discussion over the government's non-intervention in removing a former Supreme Court judge accused of sexually harassing his former intern from his position as a human rights commissioner. According to a study by the think tank PRS India, the Indian Parliament lost 36 percent of its productive time to disruptions in 2012 (PRS).
New economic data points to stagflation
India experienced both a downturn in industrial production and rising inflation in this fall, casting doubt on a seemingly incipient recovery in the world's third-largest economy. Industrial output contracted for the first time in four months in October, falling a steeper-than-expected 1.8 percent from last year, while retail inflation jumped to 11.24 percent in November, up from 10.17 percent in October, according to separate data release on Thursday (Times of India, WSJ). Inflation, which was driven by a 61.6 percent increase over last year in the price of vegetables, adds pressure on India's central bank to raise interest rates when it announces its policy review on Dec. 18 (Economic Times). The Reserve Bank of India has already raised the country's key lending rate twice in recent months.
India ranks fifth globally in illicit capital flows
India exported roughly $344 billion in illicit capital flows between 2001 and 2011, ranking it fifth among developing countries after China, Russia, Mexico and Malaysia, according to a report by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a research and advocacy organization (WSJ). In 2012 alone, more than $64 billion in illicit money was illegally taken out of India, up 24 percent from the previous year and equivalent to nearly one-third of the Indian government's budgeted expenditure, according to the Times of India (Times of India). GFI estimates illicit flows by analyzing changes in external debt and trading mispricing; nearly all of India's illicit outflows were carried out through trade mispricing, the discrepancy between the value of goods when exported and when recorded as imports at their final destination.
Man on the move
On his current visit to India, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province and brother of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, joined 2.6 million travelers as he rode Delhi's metro (NDTV). The three-stop ride along Delhi's Yellow line occurred during off-peak times and was followed by a briefing on the transportation system. Sharif joins Britain's Prince Charles and Japan's Shinzo Abe in riding Delhi's metro, one of the fastest growing urban transportation systems in the world.
-- Shruti Jagirdar and Ana Swanson
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