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

As the ruling party in Pakistan completes its first year in power, opposition parties are raising the issue of ‘election rigging’ again, and plan to launch nationwide protests in the coming weeks. The elections last May were deemed the most-rigged elections in the history of the country by a number of mainstream political leaders, including Former President Asif Ali Zardari, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Chairman Altaf Hussain, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan. However, the election results were accepted after the government’s assurance of a fair investigation into the allegations. This promise of investigations, though, was never fulfilled. Although the government, led by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) party, seems confident in the face of these protests, the deteriorating law and order situation in the country, unbridled inflation, continuous load shedding, and the government’s strained relations with the military can exacerbate the situation and may pose a serious threat to the government and democracy in Pakistan.

Relevant News Links
COAS briefs Nawaz on situation in Karachi, Balochistan, KP, FATA (The News)
Destroy N Waziristan terror sanctuaries, Burns tells COAS (Daily Dawn)
Pakistan performs better than neighboring countries on ‘miserable economy’ index (Express Tribune)

As Afghanistan heads towards a runoff presidential election, and as coalition forces plan to pull out of the country, the Afghan Taliban vowed to launch a renewed spree of attacks. In a statement issued this week, the Afghan Taliban claimed they are set to launch their annual ‘spring offensive’ for the final and complete ‘cleansing’ of Afghanistan. The statement also included that the offensive will mainly target NATO troops, western contractors, and government installations. The planned offensive is being dubbed as ‘Khyber’, referring to a famous war in the early period of Islamic history. Since the US-backed coalition drove the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan, they gather and regroup every year in the spring and summer to carry out deadly strikes on coalition partners, military and government offices.

Relevant News Links
BSA – A preliminary Challenge for Incoming President (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)
Afghan Taliban promises to strike NATO troops, Western contractors in coming days (Washington Post)
Hezb-e-Islami Shura endorses Ashraf Ghani in election runoff (KHAAMA Press)


With election results due to be announced in one week, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi has expressed confidence in forming the next government. Though he has optimistically forecasted 300 seats to form an independent BJP government, he is not ruling out the option for a coalition government lead by the BJP. A party or coalition of parties requires 272 seats to form a government. This week, while talking to media personnel, Modi invited all parties to join hands if they want to contribute to the “development of the country.” Modi’s invitation, though, has not met a warm welcome. Responding to his statement, Mayawati, a prominent political leader from Uttarakhand said that her party would never support Modi or a BJP-led government at any cost. Another prominent Indian Leader Mamata Banerjee, accused Modi of instigating hate speech against ethnic minorities and said if she were in power, she would have sent him to jail. She said an image was created as if the BJP had already won the election, which was mainly due to the abetment of the congress.

Relevant News Links
Mayawati, TMC reject possibility of tie up with BJP-led NDA govt post Lok Sabha elections (Hindustan Times)
Clashes and violence mar polls in Indian Kashmir (Asian Correspondent)
BJP ‘ready’ to take support from any party as Mayawati says no (The Times of India)

As Iran revisits its foreign policy, its president Hassan Rouhani said that the country has extended a hand of friendship towards other countries that respect the rights of the Iranian nation. President Rouhani also said that his government has gained significant success in terms of improving ties with neighboring countries. In a different development, the country termed its nuclear discussions, held again this week with the P5+1, as fruitful. In order to improve the economy and to mend and reestablish economic ties with European countries, Iran repeated its offer to provide gas to Europe.  Iran has maintained, however, that its offer has nothing to do with the region’s differences with Russia.

Relevant News links
Iran, Pakistan to up antiterrorism cooperation (Iran Daily)
Iran rejects limiting its crude oil exports (Iran Herald)
Foreigners jostle for deals (Iran Daily)

Bangladesh, struggling with political uncertainty and unrest, finds its economy facing a slowdown. Professor M.A. Taslim, chairman of the Department of Economics at Dhaka University, cited poor performance of the country’s garment industry and a declining demand of its workers in jobs overseas as the source of this slowdown. On top of these concerns, the government’s revision of subsidy policy  has pushed prices of electricity up and caused inflation to increase. The increasing inflation is having a toll on people’s purchasing power, a direct result of which is that education has also become more expensive for poor children in Bangladesh, forcing many children to drop the schools.

Relevant News Links
Will go to international forums if Teesta talks fail: Bangladesh (Bangladesh Sun)
Bangladeshi academician concerned over slow economic growth (Bangladesh Sun)