A few South Asia links to round off the week, and Happy Independence Day to our Indian and Pakistani readers:
Pakistan’s civilian government, led by the Pakistan Muslim League under Nawaz Sharif, is facing its biggest challenge since coming to power this week. Thousands of Pakistani protesters took to the streets of Islamabad, led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan and cleric Tahur ul-Qadri. The protesters are demanding that Nawaz Sharif’s government step down. Imran Khan threatened the independence day protests in advance, prompting the Pakistani government to move the Pakistani military into Islamabad to bolster security ahead of the occasion. So far, the government insists that its response has been non-violent. A government statement rebuffs claims from PTI that protesters had been fired upon: “There were absolutely no gunshots fired at his rally and such PTI-driven sensationalism is unfortunate.” The PTI describes its march on Islamabad as an “independence march.”
Meanwhile, in Quetta, Pakistan, Taliban-linked militants carried out attacks on two Pakistan air force bases. The attackers were killed in the offensive while 13 Pakistani troops were injured. The Pakistani military has sharply escalated its fight against the Taliban this summer as part of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. According to a spokesperson for the Fidayeen Islam, the Taliban-linked group that claimed responsibility for the attack, the attack was “revenge for the army’s killing of innocent people in North and South Waziristan.” He noted that “there will be more attacks in coming days.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Meanwhile in India, Narendra Modi delivered a speech to mark India’s 68th Independence Day. He spoke from the Red Fort, allegedly extemporaneously. In his speech, Modi promised a new India “where basic amenities, health and hygiene, security for women and an end of differences on the basis of caste and religion will take the country towards development.” The speech marks one of Modi’s highest profile public speeches since his inauguration as prime minister in May this year. Rhetorically, Modi emphasized good governance, similar to his focus during his campaign for prime minister. He additionally pitched himself as a leader who looks to lead by consensus: “I do not believe that the way to go forward is on the basis of majority strength but through consensus…We must think what kind of country our freedom fighters and ancestors wanted to build. We should move ahead together, think together and take this country forward together.” He further added: “We have been divided on the basis of caste and religion, we had fought for freedom together and then got divided. Nobody got anything because of violence on the basis of caste and religion. Peace, unity and brotherhood will give strength to take the country forward and we must stay away from all evils.”