Indonesian Muslim candidate wins Jakarta election: Pollsters

Anis Baswedan, right, hugs his deputy Sandiaga Una during a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2017
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Indonesian Muslim candidate wins Jakarta election: Pollsters

JAKARTA: A former Indonesian education minister won the race for Jakarta governor on Wednesday after a polarizing campaign that cast a shadow over Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a tolerant form of Islam.
Anies Baswedan won with 58 percent of the votes versus 42 percent for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his Chinese nickname “Ahok,” based on 100 percent of the votes in an unofficial “quick count” by Indikator Politik. Other pollsters showed similar results.
The national elections commission will announce official results in early May.
The turbulent campaign featured mass rallies led by a hard-line Islamist movement, which has strengthened in recent years in a country long dominated by a moderate form of Islam. More than 80 percent of Indonesia’s population professes Islam.
“Going forward, the politics of religion is going to be a potent force,” said Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting and an author of books about Indonesian politics.
Baswedan’s huge margin of victory was surprising since opinion polls in the run-up to the election had pointed to a dead-heat. Purnama won the first round of voting for governor in February in a three-way race.
Indonesian social media users likened the election outcome to the shock results of the US presidential vote and the Brexit vote of last year.
One Twitter user, @fuadhn, said Indonesians “can feel what US and British citizens feel now. Welcome populism...”
The election came on the eve of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, as the Trump administration seeks to engage the world’s fourth-largest nation and largest Muslim-majority country as an emerging regional power.
Pence is scheduled on Thursday to visit the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia, Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque.
The Jakarta election will be seen as a barometer for the 2019 presidential election, given the city’s outsized importance as both the nation’s capital and commercial center.
Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo’s ruling party. Baswedan is supported by a retired general, Prabowo Subianto, who narrowly lost to Widodo in a 2014 presidential vote and is expected to challenge him again.
Police said 15 people were detained following reports of disturbances at several polling stations in the city of 10 million people, after what the Jakarta Post this week dubbed “the dirtiest, most polarizing and most divisive” election campaign the nation had ever seen.
Security appeared light at several polling stations, though police said 66,000 personnel were deployed across the city.
Religious tensions have been an undercurrent in the campaign, with Purnama on trial for blasphemy over comments he made last year that many took to be insulting to Islam.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets late last year to call for his sacking and to urge voters not to elect a non-Muslim leader.
One person died and more than 100 were injured after one protest turned violent.
Some voters may have been reluctant to vote for Purnama because of worries about “five more years of protests on the streets by Muslim hard-liners,” Loveard said in a telephone interview.
Ismail Yusanto, spokesman for one of the groups, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, said the election showed Jakarta voters did not want a non-Muslim leader.
“It is forbidden under Islamic law to have an infidel leader,” he told Reuters.
Baswedan, a respected scholar who many viewed as moderate, drew widespread criticism during the campaign when he aggressively courted the conservative Islamic vote, appearing publicly with hard-line Islamic leaders during anti-Purnama rallies.

Baswedan, surrounded by his political patrons including Prabowo, struck a reconciliatory tone at a news conference after unofficial results came in, pledging to “safeguard diversity and unity.”
His platform has focused on improving public education, providing no-deposit home loans for low-income groups and opposing a giant seawall in Jakarta Bay that Purnama has advocated. Baswedan has denied he plans to implement Islamic sharia law in Jakarta if elected.
Baswedan will officially take over as governor in October.
Purnama congratulated his rival in a news conference.
“We still have six months (in office) until the new governor is inaugurated and we will finish up our homework,” Purnama said. “We hope that in the future everyone can forget the campaign period.”
Purnama’s blasphemy trial resumes on Thursday and he faces up to five years in jail if convicted.
Investors in Indonesian markets are likely to return to fundamentals such as corporate earnings, now that the political uncertainties surrounding the divisive Jakarta election have diminished, analysts said.
“As long as there are no security issues, the election outcome should not significantly stall the reform program of the national government, in our view,” Citigroup said in a note.
It maintained its year-end target of 6,150 points for the Jakarta stock exchange, which represents an 8 percent upside.


Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

Updated 18 August 2018
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Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office says Afghanistan has not shared any evidence to support its recent allegations against Pakistan
  • Imran Khan’s idea of a soft border between Pakistan and Afghanistan may have suffered a big setback in the wake of the Ghazni attack

PESHAWAR: In the backdrop of the Taliban’s brazen assault on the southern city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the bodies of the perpetrators had arrived in Pakistan, though Islamabad maintained that Kabul had not officially shared any information or evidence in this regard.
Soon after that, the Afghan president said in a fiery speech to a jirga in Ghazni: “I have a message for Pakistan. Dead bodies (of the Taliban) have arrived in (Pakistan). Peace cannot be forcefully imposed on Afghanistan. Where did they (Taliban) come from and why are they being treated in (Pakistani) hospitals?”
But Pakistan strongly rejected reports claiming that some Taliban fighters involved in the Ghazni attack had been offered medical treatment in its hospitals.
In the absence of any official communication through regular channels established bilaterally, such reports cannot be given any credence, said Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Haq Nawaz, a senior Peshawar-based security analyst, told Arab News that the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a string of daunting challenges, such as economic revival, political stability, tackling corruption, and improving relations with his country’s immediate neighbors.
However, he added that recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up violent activities, will probably constitute a much bigger predicament for the new political administration.
He recalled that Khan had mentioned in his victory speech that he wanted a European Union-style soft border with Afghanistan, claiming that the idea had seemingly received a setback after the Ghazni attack.
“The latest bout of allegations will have a negative impact on the process of reviving good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Nawaz noted.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed “deep concern” over the recent surge in violence in Afghanistan and lamented in a statement released by the military’s media wing the loss of precious lives.
Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan was not supporting terrorist activities inside Afghanistan. He added that the allegation about the movement of injured or dead terrorists from Ghazni to Pakistan was incorrect.
However, the army chief noted that there were scores of Pakistanis working in Afghanistan, and that some of them periodically fell victim to acts of terrorism along with their Afghan brothers inside Afghanistan. “Terming such victims as terrorists is unfortunate,” he maintained.
Yet, the Afghan president sought an explanation from Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on the Ghazni attack.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. General Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga.
Bajwa said that different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hiding in their sanctuaries in Afghanistan after assuming Afghan identities, were transported to Pakistan for medical help after receiving injuries.
Nawaz said the Afghan government should share relevant evidence with Pakistan in this case, arguing that using the media or social media to deal with such serious and sensitive developments can worsen the situation.
He said it was not just a statement or allegation from an ordinary official since the claim was made by a head of state, adding that both countries should settle such teething issues through dialogue and diplomatic channels.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement: “Such reports can only be viewed as malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”