Commentary from the South Asia Center on the most relevant news from the region, and suggested “must-read” analyses from the week.


As the current Lok Sabah, India’s lower house of parliament, approaches it end on May 31, The Election Commission of India announced the dates on which the nation’s 814 million voters will go to the polls. The commission announced that elections would begin on April 7 and continue on nine separate dates until May 12, following which the results are expected to be announced by May 16. Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate and current leader in polls, needs to sway the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh, which has the largest number of seats (80) in the Lok Sabah. Muslims make up around 18 percent of the approximately 200 million people in the state who have historically provided support for either the ruling Congress Party and the regional Samajwadi Party currently governing the state. Modi faces a challenge in swaying the Muslim vote in his favor given that he presided as Chief Minister Gujarat during the 2002 riots, which led to the death of scores of Muslims. Moreover, winning the Muslim vote in UP “requires a more complex strategy than just fielding a Muslim candidate, because they don’t vote as a bloc and they don’t base their vote solely on religion.”

State Election Dates, Number of Seats & Number of Registered Voters

Name of State

of Seats
Election Date

Number of
Registered Voters (Millions)
Andhra Pradesh 42 April 30, May 7 62 
Bihar 40 April 10, 17, 24, 30. May 7, 12 62.1
Gujarat 26 April 30 39.8
Jammu & Kashmir 6 April 10, 17, 24, 30. May 7  
Jharkhand 14 April, 10, 17, 24 19.9
Madhya Pradesh 29 April, 10, 17, 24 57.7
Maharashtra 48 April, 10, 17, 24  
Rajasthan 25 April 17, 24 42.5
Tamil Nadu 39 April 24 50.7
Uttar Pradesh 80 April 10, 17, 24, 30. May 7,12 134.3
West Bengal 42 April 10, 17, 24, 30. May 7,12  

Relevant News Stories

Interactive Map: Find Your Local (Tainted) Lok Sabha MP (The 545)
New Delhi vs. Washington: India hardens stance against US protectionism (The Times of India)
How to Woo Muslim Voters in Uttar Pradesh (The New York Times)
India drops sedition charge for Kashmiri students in cricket row (BBC)

As Pakistan continues to lack social and political consolidation for military action against terrorists, the country bleeds further at the hands of ‘unidentified insurgents’ attacking at will. This week, after the Minister of Interior denounced media reports about terrorist groups maintaining ‘sleeping-cells’ in the federal capital, and declared it the safest city in the country, about 12 militants stormed into a district court in Islamabad killing 11 people, including a district judge. Following the event, there are proposals for transferring Islamabad’s security responsibilities to the rangers. After the recent attacks, the military has voiced concerns over government’s policy of negotiating with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terrorist organization responsible for the killings. Since the change of government in Pakistan, not only has security situation has deteriorated, but also human rights conditions have reached new lows. Fed up over abductions and killings of Balochs at the hands of Pakistani secret agencies in Balochistan, a group comprising of relatives of the missing persons marched about 2800km from Quetta to Karachi and then Karachi to Islamabad to register their protest and complaints with the UN office. In another development, over forty children died in a drought in Tharparkar, Sindh province. The government’s inability to tackle increasing inflation and shrinking economic opportunities is feeding into suicides in Punjab, especially Lahore.

Relevant News Stories
Serious Rights Violations Persist in Pakistan (The Nation)           
Pakistan’s Trade Strategy (Daily Dawn)  
Spine Deficit: Pakistan’s Leadership Crisis (The News)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is reviewing allegations of ‘murder, torture and forced disappearances’ that have been leveled against the Bangladesh government by the International Coalition for Freedoms of Rights, a European human rights organization. While it is unclear how many people were killed in the election related violence, the organization claims it is the responsibility of the ICC to investigate since Bangladesh’s Awami League-led government has thus far refused to do so. The executive summary sent to the ICC prosecutor stated “The Government has systematically and systemically sought to increasingly repress opposition to its rule, through murder, torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts. The crimes were committed as part of a widespread or systematic act, thereby constituting crimes against humanity.” The case filing comes a month after the United States withdrew a training program for Bangladesh’s notorious paramilitary force known as the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which is one among a number of security forces implicated in the extrajudicial killings.

Relevant News Stories
Bangladesh accused of crimes against humanity (Al Jazeera)
Fire breaks out at Bangladesh garments factory, no casualties (Reuters)
Afghan president Hamid Karzai promised his people a free and fair election prior to his departure from the office. He does not explicitly support any particular presidential candidate, and claims that peoples’ president will be his president too and he will remain available to provide assistance to his successor in national and international matters concerning the country. However, the President’s brother, Qayum Karzai, this week dropped out of the presidential race, and encouraged his supporters to back Zalmai Rassoul, the President’s alleged choice in successor. In another development, US ambassador to Afghanistan has reiterated President Obama’s stance that if a legal framework (Bilateral Security Agreement) is not signed, the United States will withdraw the entirety of its forces from the country.

Relevant News Stories
World Briefs: Karzai criticizes U.S. War efforts (Pittsburgh Post-gazette)
US faces political, technical problems; BSA Impasse (Outlook Afghanistan)

Amid the backdrop of one of Iran’s most influential critics in American politics, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) Annual Policy Conference, the Israeli military claimed the seizure of an Iranian shipment of weapons allegedly bound for Palestine. The Israeli military detailed the seizure of “dozens of Syrian-made M-302 rockets that Iran had helped to transport to Iran, where the ship had loaded them.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, suspicious of the timing of the accusation amidst the background of AIPAC tweeted, “an Iranian ship carrying arms for Gaza, captured just in time for annual AIPAC anti-Iran campaign. Amazing Coincidence! Or same failed lies.”

Relevant News Stories
Iran Media Censors Polish FM On Iranian Media Censorship (Radio Free Europe)
Iran says nuclear talks with powers ‘substantive and useful’ (Reuters)