Major Developments in South Asia, Monday, October 5, 2020

MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS AFFECTING OPERATIONS

1. PML-N stages agitation in Lahore, Pakistan. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) launched protests with a rally on Temple Road, Lahore on October 3. Several party workers were gathered there, shouting slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and ‘National Accountability Bureau-Niazi nexus’. They expressed solidarity with their leaders — Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif. Opposition parties have recently formed a new alliance called Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). Although the PML-N has pledged to fully participate in rallies to be taken out under the PDM, it has planned some separate public meetings in Punjab. PML-N leaders alleged that the ruling government had destroyed the country’s economy in two years. They slammed the government for its “revenge” policy against the opposition. Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz is expected to address a party rally at Gujranwala on October 16. The first rally of the PDM has been rescheduled to take place in Quetta on October 18, instead of October 11.

Background: PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif was arrested on September 28 after the Lahore High Court rejected his bail plea in a USD 41.9 million money laundering case. A Lahore court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s wife Nusrat Shehbaz and daughter Rabia Imran in a money laundering case.

Assessment: The PML-N is likely to continue protests in Pakistan due to increasing hostilities between the opposition and the ruling government. A political tug of war between opposition parties and the army establishment is set to intensify, as opposition forces form a new united front to address their grievances against the military. PDM will likely stage protest gatherings and rallies for the upcoming weeks. Opposition parties could potentially mobilize people in major cities like Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore. Islamist parties are likely to organize in Balochistan and in Karachi, Sindh. It is important to note that the support for PML-N is waning, as the traditionally older support base has given way to popular support by younger people for Imran Khan.

Advice: Clients in Pakistan are advised to follow the latest developments. Avoid all protest sites and public gatherings as a precaution. Adhere to the instructions issued by local authorities. Prepare contingency plans for possible disruptions to supply chain, transportation, and business. Monitor advisories and alerts from APAC Assistance for updates.

2. PPP and MQM-P hold simultaneous rallies in Karachi and Hyderabad, Pakistan. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), staged separate rallies in Karachi and Hyderabad respectively, yesterday. PPP began the demonstration at the Ayesha Manzil area of Karachi under the banner “Karachi solidarity” protest. The rally then proceeded to the Empress Market via Liaquatabad, Teen Hatti, Guru Mandir, Peoples’ Secretariat, and Lines Area. The rally was organized to counter the recent back-to-back political rallies by rivals MQM-P and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).  PPP leader and Sindh education minister Saeed Ghani said, “Today’s rally is against the people who aim at dividing Sindh.” The PPP accused both MQM-P and JI of fueling ethnic tensions in Sindh, particularly in Karachi. PPP Sindh president Nisar Khuhro said “The conspiracy to divide Sindh is against the spirit of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s ideology.” Political tensions between the two have flared, especially since MQM-P demanded a separate province in Sindh.

Meanwhile, the MQM-P staged a protest in Hyderabad yesterday. The rally started from the Hotel City gate area and ended at the Station road area. The rally was primarily held to protest against the incumbent Sindh government’s perceived failure in governing the province. The party has accused the PPP government of ignoring the rights of the Muhajirs, Urdu-speaking population. They have also accused the government of favoring the native Sindhi-speaking people in various fields, including government jobs.

Assessment: The cracks in Pakistan’s political landscape have resurfaced after back-to-back protests emerged in Karachi in recent weeks. The ongoing rivalry between the PPP and MQM-P over dominance in Sindh is expected to continue. The opposition parties will likely present a united front to oust the incumbent government. Further protests against the government in Sindh are possible in the coming weeks. Similarly, the PPP will likely counter any efforts by the opposition to destabilize the government. Sindh, a traditional stronghold of the PPP, could potentially see large participation in rallies organized by the party in the province. Likewise, both MQM-P and JI too have the potential to mobilize large support. They will likely continue with their demands for a separate province and more rights for ethnic minorities within the province. It is unlikely that the ruling government will give in to their demands, but will possibly look to negotiate with the opposition parties in the face of resistance. Ethnic tensions have the potential to escalate into a large-scale conflict in Pakistan. If protests are carried out, there is risk of formation of new COVID-19 clusters in the country.

Advice: Clients in Pakistan, especially in Karachi, are advised to follow the latest political developments. Avoid all protest sites and public gatherings as a precaution. Adhere to the instructions issued by local authorities. Avoid travelling around government buildings, crowded districts and other protest hotspots at the time of the protests. Strictly follow the measures implemented by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Prepare contingency plans for possible disruptions to supply chain, transportation, and business. Monitor advisories and alerts from APAC Assistance for updates.

Clients can contact APAC Assistance (iqueries@apacassistance.com) for a more focused insight on any issues that are critical to operations. An in-depth assessment can be tasked by our membership clients on any issue of concern.
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OTHER MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS

INDIA

1. Congress party workers staged demonstrations in Guwahati, Assam, to protest against the attack on former party President Rahul Gandhi by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police last week. Several leaders of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, Youth Congress, Mahila Congress took part in the protest. They burnt effigies of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and UP Police.

2. The Maharashtra Government issued standard operating procedures for restaurants that are set to reopen from today under the ‘Mission Begin Again’ initiative. As per the guidelines, restaurants including cafes, canteens, dining halls, licensed food and beverages units, clubs and bars can reopen with 50% occupancy. Buffet service is not allowed. Face masks are mandatory. People without masks will be denied entry.

3. A personnel of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, was killed and another was injured in an ambush by suspected militants in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh yesterday. The incident took place around 9:00 AM (local time). The militants allegedly detonated improvised explosive devices on the road and fired bullets on the tanker before fleeing from the spot.

4. The air quality in various parts of Delhi has deteriorated, as Rohini and Jahangirpuri areas recorded an average air quality index (AQI) of 206 and 230, which falls under the ‘poor’ category. Similarly, areas like Wazirpur and Delhi Technological University also recorded a poor AQI. The late withdrawal of monsoon and associated stagnant winds are likely to influence Delhi’s air quality negatively by the weekend.

5. A terror attack was averted after four suspected terrorists were arrested in New Delhi’s Daryaganj area on October 2. The suspects were allegedly indoctrinated by a banned terrorist organization, Ansar Ghazwat-Ul Hind, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda.

6. Four Afghan nationals were allegedly arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in New Delhi on October 3. The NCB officials busted an international module of drug trafficking and arrested four suspects involved in the crime. They recovered 380 gms of heroin from their possession.

7. Hundreds protested at Jantar Mantar in Delhi against the Uttar Pradesh (UP)’s government’s handling of an alleged sexual assault case and murder, on October 2. Protesters, including politicians and civil society leaders, alleged that the UP authorities were seeking to cover-up the incident that occurred in Hahras in the previous week. Authorities in UP have since suspended the Hathras superintendent and deputy superintendent of police, along with three other officers.

8. As part of easing lockdown measures, states across the country are allowing the resumption of certain activities from today. In Maharashtra, restaurants, bars, and cafes can reopen. In Puducherry, schools can reopen for grades 10-12. Schools in Tripura can similarly operate for grades 9-12. The Kolkata Metro will run for longer, while running more trains from tomorrow. In Chennai, essential staff will be permitted to use local trains.

PAKISTAN

9. Security forces killed two terrorists and arrested one in Mir Ali, North Waziristan, yesterday. The suspects were allegedly involved in attacking security forces and civilians.

10. Karachi authorities sealed nine marriage halls and 171 restaurants for flouting COVID-19-related safety measures yesterday. They also imposed a micro lockdown in the Malir area on October 3, which is to run until October 15. Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Pakistanis to wear masks, citing concerns of a second COVID-19 wave.

11. Authorities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir decided to re-impose a region-wide lockdown “in principle”, yesterday. The full policy will be drafted within two days. Religious and social gatherings will not be allowed, while locals are required to wear masks. Authorities will conduct checks at entry points.

12. Residents of Karachi’s Defense Housing Authority and Clifton locales held a protest at the Press Club on October 3. They threatened to stop paying taxes. They have been demonstrating against the lack of basic facilities since heavy rains in August caused property damages to the area.

13. Seven suspected drug dealers were arrested with a huge contraband in Islamabad yesterday. Police recovered more than 21 kgs heroin, 50 gms of methamphetamine and 81 narcotic pills from their possession. They were allegedly involved in supplying heroin to foreign countries as well as within Pakistan.

14. The Sindh and federal governments agreed to start trial runs of local trains within 12 kms distance during the next two months. This decision was made during a meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar. The meeting was held to chalk out a strategy in respect of launching the Karachi Circular Railway project.

BANGLADESH

15. The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh relaxed guidelines for Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines on flights to Saudi Arabia until October 24. Previously the airlines had a cap on the maximum number of passengers these flights could take.

16. The Home Minister said that processions for the upcoming Durga Puja will not be allowed across the country. The festival will be celebrated in the last week of October. He also stressed the need for COVID-19 protocols.

17. Mobile financial services transactions declined by approximately 34.3% in August from July. The number of daily average transactions also declined by approximately 13.1%, as compared to the previous month.

18. Jute mill workers held a protest at the Crescent Jute Mill area of Khulna City yesterday. They were protesting the government’s decision to close all state-owned jute mills due to the COVID-19 outbreak. They also demanded arrears. They alleged that the police barred hundreds of them from participating in the protest.

19. At least two Rohingyas were killed and 10 others were injured after a set of clashes at the Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar yesterday. Authorities said that two groups of Rohingyas fought over establishing supremacy in the area. Additional security forces were deployed to the scene.

20. Authorities baton-charged migrant workers after the latter broke through one of the entrances of the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka yesterday. Several workers were injured. The workers subsequently blocked Karwan Bazar Road, disrupting traffic in the area. Migrant workers had been gathered at that venue to secure tickets to go to Saudi Arabia to work. Migrant workers also gathered at the Biman Bangladesh Airlines office in Motijheel.

21. The Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Owners Workers Unity Council announced that there would be a nationwide goods transport strike from October 12-13. They are calling for the amendment to the Road Transport Act by December 31 this year, among other demands.

SRI LANKA

22. The Jathika Samagi Balawegaya is to launch a protest campaign against the draft 20th amendment from today. The 20th amendment affords more power to the president, allegedly at the expense of democratic institutions. The group is to begin the campaign by distributing leaflets and displaying posters. They have planned a protest in Hyde Park, Colombo, on October 8.

23. All international schools and private schools will be closed from today until further notice. All tuition classes in the districts of Colombo and Gampaha are also similarly suspended. Primary schools will also remain closed.

24. A police curfew was imposed in Veyangoda, Divulapitiya, and Minuwangoda yesterday. This came as a precautionary measure after cases of COVID-19 were detected in the areas. Authorities also increased security in Gampaha.

NEPAL

25. Police arrested a suspect alleged to be involved in Rautahat’s Rajpur bomb explosion that took place 12 years ago. Police arrested the suspect on October 3 with the support from India’s Special Task Force. The suspect had allegedly burnt 23 injured persons in the brick kiln to destroy evidence.

26. Various individuals from the business community, political parties, and social organizations, held protests in Butwal yesterday. The protest was against the central government’s naming of Deukhuri in Dang as the provincial capital of Province 5. Protesters demanded that Butwal in Rupandehi be declared the provincial capital. Protests over the same took place across the province on October 3 as well.

27. Approximately 150 members of the Nepal Resident Doctors’ Association and medical students protested at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu yesterday. The demonstration was to show solidarity with a doctor on hunger strike, and also to voice opposition to the government with respect to healthcare provisions.

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