India cancels poll in southern area over ‘vote buying’

Tens of millions of Indians joined nationwide queues on April 11 to give their verdict on nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi as the world’s biggest election started amid deadly clashes. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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India cancels poll in southern area over ‘vote buying’

  • It is the first time a ballot has been canceled in a national election over attempted vote-buying, officials said
  • The decision comes as Indians vote in a mammoth national election being held over several phases

NEW DELHI: Indian election authorities have canceled voting in a southern region of the country after seizing more than 110 million rupees ($1.5 million) they believe was meant to influence the outcome, officials said Wednesday.
It is the first time a ballot has been canceled in a national election over attempted vote-buying, officials said.
The decision comes as Indians vote in a mammoth national election being held over several phases, the next of which begins Thursday.
But voters in the Vellore constituency in coastal Tamil Nadu state will not be going to the polls as scheduled after the Election Commission of India ruled there were fears of a “systematic design to influence voters.”
The ruling came after authorities seized more than 110 million rupees from a candidate in the run-up to the vote.
The commission said late Tuesday that the environment in Vellore was no longer conducive to “free and ethical” elections.
No fresh date has been announced for polling in the constituency.
Nearly 100 constituencies in 13 states go to the polls Thursday in the second round of the seven-phase election that began on April 11.
Almost 900 million voters are eligible to cast their votes to elect 543 members to the lower house of the parliament, with results expected on May 23.
Attempts to secure votes in return for cash, liquor, electronic gadgets and even goats have been reported across Tamil Nadu in the run-up to voting.
More than 1.3 billion rupees ($18.7 million) and one ton of gold worth 3 billion rupees have been seized in the state since the poll dates were announced on March 10.
Elsewhere in the country, polls have been delayed by five days in parts of the northeastern state of Tripura over security fears.
Polls will be held there on April 23 instead of Thursday.
And in the country’s east, Bangladeshi star actor Ferdous Ahmed has been forced to leave India after he was discovered campaigning for a candidate from the opposition Congress party, officials at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kolkata said.


UN: Pro-government forces kill more Afghans than insurgents

Updated 38 min 45 sec ago
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UN: Pro-government forces kill more Afghans than insurgents

  • The report says 1,773 civilians were hurt or died in the first three months
  • This is a significant drop from the same period last year when 2,305 civilians were killed or wounded

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghan and international forces had killed more civilians than insurgents in the first three months of the year, the UN announced Wednesday, the first time the deaths caused by the government and its allies exceeded their enemies.
Still it was insurgents who were responsible for the majority of dead and wounded civilians combined, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s report, which was released in Kabul.
The report said 1,773 civilians were hurt or died in the first three months, which is a significant drop from the same period last year when 2,305 civilians were killed or wounded. Last year, many brutal suicide bombings were blamed for the high casualties.
Between Jan. 1 and March 31, the report said 581 civilians were killed and 1,192 were hurt. While insurgents caused a significant majority of the injuries, it was pro-government forces, including NATO, whch killed the majority of civilians. They were responsible for 305 civilian deaths, nearly half of them in airstrikes. The other heavy death toll took place during searches, according to the report.
At the same time, the government and international forces injured 303 civilians, compared to insurgent attacks that injured 736, the report said.
It’s the first time since 2009, when the UN began compiling statistics on civilian casualties, that the deaths as a result of actions by the government and its allies exceeded their enemies.
Most of the deaths were the result of aerial attacks, which were most often carried out by international forces. While the report does not identify the United States, it is the US that carries out airstrikes when called in to assist Afghan forces. It also follows a trend reported in last year’s UN annual report on civilian casualties, which showed a dramatic hike in civilian deaths by pro-government forces including more than 1,000 civilian casualties from airstrikes, the highest since the UN began keeping track 10 years ago.
In September last year, Masih Rahman’s entire family of 11 __ his wife, four daughters, three sons and four nephews __ were killed when a bomb flattened their home in Mullah Hafiz village in the Jaghatu district of Afghanistan’s central Maidan Wardak province.
“It’s not just my family, there are dozens of families just like mine who have been lost in bombings,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Rahman was working in Iran when he was told his entire family had been killed in an airstrike on his village, which is controlled by the Taliban. Rahman has sought redress from the United Nations. He has taken his case to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, which put out its own report on civilian casualties on Tuesday.
In that report, the commission said 11,212 civilians were hurt or wounded between March 31, 2018, and March 31 this year. In just the last 10 years of Afghanistan’s 17-year war, the commission said 75,316 Afghan civilians had died.
“A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
He said that anti-government elements need to stop deliberately targeting civilians and using improvised bombs, which cause indiscriminate harm, while pro-government forces are called upon “to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations.”