Vol. V Issue. 32
India: UPA seeks to regain initiative
10 August 2012
A battered UPA-II, battling to shrug off the 'policy paralysis' tag, appears to be regaining confidence after it managed to get its presidential and vice-presidential candidates elected. The Congress-leadership, whose public image had touched a historic low in recent months, deftly handled rifts and differences within the ruling coalition by brining not only its coalition partners on an united platform but also succeeded in driving a wedge in the opposition BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
In both presidential and vice-presidential elections, UPA's candidates Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari got elected with convincing margins, defeating the Opposition candidates P ASangma and Jaswant Singh, respectively.
Even while the election process was in motion, the UPA leadership began to undertake a couple of steps to shrug off its 'policy paralysis' tag. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, by keeping the Finance portfolio with himself after the resignation of former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee from the Council of Ministers after becoming the presidential candidate, sought to restore confidence among the international investors and domestic industrial and business lobby. In close consultation with the Prime Minister, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who had closely monitored the presidential election campaign and had also deftly managed the political crisis with one of powerful UPA allies namely Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) by agreeing to constitute a coordination committee comprising of all the ruling coalition partners, the UPA succeeded in projecting its united image which had been hit badly by some of recalcitrant allies like the Trinamool Congress. Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had kept the UPA leadership guessing till the last-minute on its support for the UPA presidential and vice presidential candidates.
The Prime Minister, architect of the Indian economic reforms in early Nineties, lost no time and gave couple of signals which contributed to cheering of the markets. Then in a minor reshuffle of his Cabinet after the election of the President, Manmohan Singh allocated the important Finance portfolio to one of his confidants P Chidambarm who enjoyed a pro-reform image. He was made the country's Home Minister after the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists in 2008.
The crucial charge of the Home Ministry was given to Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde who had faced serious flak for the power grid failures for two full days, which had plunged the northern and north eastern parts of the country, including the national capital of New Delhi, into darkness. Possibly, Shinde's shift to the Ministry of Home Affairs was a conscious effort on the part of the UPA leadership to bring on board many reluctant States which have been dragging their feet on the crucial issues like the setting up of a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and other similar sensitive issues.
Many Chief Ministers, particularly those where non-Congress Governments are in power, had been complaining about Chidambaram's tough and arrogant approach. Shinde's soft manners and his Dalit background, in the assessment of the UPA leadership, may go a long way in persuading the States to agree to a national approach to sensitive issues like left wing extremism confronting the country.
At the same time, the Government also succeeded in defusing the civil society movement led by social activist Anna Hazare who sat on a fast along with other members of the Indian Against Corruption movement for the enactment of a Lokpal bill which was being examined by a committee of Parliament. Unlike in 2011 when Hazare'sfasts had thrown the Government out of gear, the ruling coalition declined to engage the activists of the movement who had been insisting on their version of the Lokpal Bill. The Government's cold-shouldering of the movement not only forced the leaders of the movement to end their indefinite fast but also resulted in lowering their credibility in public estimation. Hazare and his team members declared that they would enter the electoral fray in the next general elections.
Another indication of the regained confidence was witnessed on the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament when the UPA chairperson and Congress president reacted sharply to senior BJP leader L K Advani's calling the UPA-II Government "illegitimate" during an adjournment motion debate on the situation in Assam. This forced the senior Opposition leader to withdraw the remark.
While the UPA leadership was busy in fighting the political battle, the newly-appointed Finance Minister lost no time and announced a slew of steps to evoke confidence in Indian economy. Within a week of assuming charge of the Ministry, Chidambaram said that on his agenda was an aggressive road map for revamp of fiscal policy, including a rollback of the retrospective tax laws and removal of policy impediments for sectors, both of which have crippled investment.
Immediately after meeting RBI Governor D Subbarao, the Finance Minister said:"Interest rates inhibit the investors and are a burden on every class of borrowers. Sometimes it is necessary to take carefully calibrated risks in order to stimulate investment and to ease burden on consumers. We will take appropriate steps in this regard." Sure enough, this was a clear hint of reduction of interest rates.
The coming days and weeks would offer firm evidence whether this regained confidence would produce concrete results and would make the ruling alliance fit as a political force to challenge its rivals? One possible test is waiting for the Government. Yoga teacher Ramdev has started his three-day fast on August 9 and the Government's handling of it would emit positive signals and bungling of it would put serious question mark on the credibility of the ruling alliance.
(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)
Bangladesh: Uncertainty on political front
The fear of Bangladesh politics slipping into uncertainty has become prevalent after the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) rejected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposal of joining an interim government to conduct the election. Sheikh Hasina, in July during an interview with of BBC said that the BNP could join a small, interim government to conduct next general elections if it agrees.
The political logjam began after Parliament in 2011 abolished the system of caretaker government, a mechanism instituted by amending the Constitution in 1996, to ensure the credibility of the election process. The Opposition BNP declined to accept it. The party declared that it will not participate in the next parliamentary polls, likely to be held in late 2013, unless the caretaker system is reinstated. The party has threatened to embark on a protest movement soon after the Ramadan to pressure the Government to accept its demand. The Awami League Government is firm on it stance of not returning to the caretaker Government system. The present scenario has raised doubts about the credibility of the future elections.
The feeling is that any continuation of this political stalemate will only lead to increase of clashes among the cadres of political parties and hartals (street protest), a common with that country's politics, might be more frequent crippling daily lives of common people.
Resentment against the ruling Awami League is said to be growing. Allegations of corruption against the ministers have been raised frequently. Recently, Information and Communication Technology Minister Syed Abul Hossain had to resign following charges of corruption. The Government's image was affected substantially over its perceived reluctance on not taking action on the officials against whom World Bank accused of corruption while granting contracts of Padma Bridge.
The controversy deepened after the World Bank cancelled the loan to Bangladesh for constructing the Bridge. The Government's dealing with the Opposition party added to the annoyance of people. Government levelled charges of arson against 33 top leaders of the opposition BNP party including BNP's BNP's acting secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir is popularly perceived to be politically motivated.
The track record of the Opposition too has not been encouraging. Instead of playing a constructive role, the Opposition remained absent in Parliament almost the entire length of this tenure. Its main role has been only to threatening the Government of bringing it down by launching country-wide agitations.
Despite the criticism, the Government has been appreciated for initiating the war crime tribunal. The arrest of top received Jamaat-e-Islami leaders on charges of war crimes have been appreciated by large percentage of population. Jamaat-e-Islami is known of having supported Pakistan army during Liberation war of 1971 and alleged of perpetrating crimes on the people of Bangladesh who were fighting for independence.
Some sections, mainly Jamaat supporters, however, expressed doubts about impartiality of these trials. They claim that Jamaat leaders have been targeted because the party is an ally of BNP, major rival of ruling Awami League.
Meanwhile, the Government had been successful in dismantling a coup attempt was a conspiracy hatched by some junior officers of army having radical religious views. It is popularly believed that the coup was conspired to stop the trial of war criminals. However, Army's handling of the coup has proved that the government has been able to manage a balance its relationship with the Bangladesh army. Army's role is crucial in Bangladesh's politics since it has a history of muddling into the country's politics.
The reduction of inflation which resulted due to a fall in food prices also going in favour of the government. In July inflation was recorded 8.03 percent which was recorded 12 percent in September 2011. The readymade garment industry, major export product of Bangladesh, faced turbulence due to workers strike still the exports of the country recorded growth. In spite of global economic meltdown the country has been able to maintain its economic has been able to manage a steady 5 percent sustained for past few years. Considering its economic growth expectation is that the country is likely to emerge as a middle income country soon.
Political instability will ruin such prospect as it will likely to affect the economy. For the greater good of the country the two parties should work together to find a compromise formula and end this impasse.
(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)
No EVM in next general elections
The Election Commission (EC) this week declared that it will not use the Electronic Voting Machine in the next general elections as it needs further improvement to make it dependable. However, the EC plans to use the EVM on a limited scale in the local government polls. The EC further informed that the holding of free, fair and neutral general elections would not require any amendment to the existing laws as the country has accepted the existing laws, including the recent amendments to the Constitution.
The EC will have to hold elections to the upazilas on any date between July 2013 and January 2014. The national elections are scheduled to be held on any day between 26 October, 2013 and 24 January, 2014.
Source: New Age, August 6, 2012
Inflation drops to 8pc
The overall point-to-point inflation declined to 8.03 percent in the first month of the new fiscal year in July from 8.56 per cent in June because of a drop in prices of rice and other food items, informed Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
The BBS data showed that food inflation decreased to 6.30 percent in July from 7.08 per cent in June and the non-food inflation also came down to 11.54 per cent from 11.72 percent.
According to the BBS data, in urban areas, the general point-to-point inflation rate was 8.85 per cent in July compared to 7.71 per cent in rural areas. The general inflation in urban areas in June was 10.29 per cent compared to 7.88 per cent in rural areas.
Source: August 6, 2012
12 blocks in Bay for bidding
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has cleared the amendment to the model Production Sharing Contract (PSC) of Petrobangla, and has directed the Energy Ministry to refer the matter to the Cabinet next week, so that the State-run oil and Gas Company can start the process for next round's bidding.
Petrobangla has identified 12 new blocks in shallow and deep-sea regions of the Bay of Bengal, which will be auctioned for oil and gas exploration in 2012.
Source: The Independent, August 7, 2012
US worried over Grameen Bank
The US has expressed concern about the Bangladesh Government's move to give the Grameen Bank chairman control over the selection of the bank's new managing director. It has also urged the Government to ensure transparency in the selection of a new managing director for the bank.
Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesperson, Office of Press Relations of US Department of State, in a statement said that the US is deeply concerned about recent actions the Government of Bangladesh has taken to give the Government-appointed chairman of the Grameen Bank Board control over the selection of the bank's new managing director.
Grameen Bank (GB), the global microcredit lender, was founded by Mohammed Yunus in 1976. GB is known for its poverty alleviation programmes specially focusing about women. Yunus was removed from GB by the government last year. The government last week approved a proposal for amending an ordinance to give more powers to the Grameen Bank chairman to choose the managing director of the micro lender.
Source: The Daily Star, August 6, 2012
New immigration law in place
The Home Ministry has launched immigration rules and regulations (IRR), which is expected to expedite and bring about transparency and accountability in rendering immigration services. The 37-page booklet specifies power and functions of immigration officials, port of exit and entry, categories of non-immigrants, immigrant's arrival and departure formalities, work permits, and fines and penalties. Until now, Citizenship Act, Immigration Act and VISA manual were the guidelines with respect to immigrates.
Close to 70,000 expatriate workers from India are working in Bhutan in various private and government projects, as well as in the hydropower projects. They come through the numerous foreign labour recruitment agencies that charge a fee to do the paperwork and medical clearances.
Home and Cultural Affairs Minister MinjurDorji said IRR would provide strong legal tools for immigration officials, while rendering routine immigration services to the public.
Source: kuenselonline.com, August 9, 2012.
Growth rate slips
According to the Royal Monetary Authority, money supply growth rate dropped to 5.4 percent as of March 2011, as compared to 14 percent at the end of the same period last year.
The decrease was contributed mainly by decline in time and foreign currency deposits and currency in circulation. The currency in circulation decreased after the introduction of electronic funds transfer and point of sales. However, the growth rate of savings and current account deposits increased from 17 percent in March 2011 to 21 percent in March 2012.
Inflows of money from India to build hydropower projects do not have much impact on the overall money supply, according to RMA officials. This was because, although money comes in, most of it goes out again in the form of import payments to build the projects and payments to workers. The total money supply in March 2010 was Nu 44.3 billion; it reached Nu 50 billion in March 2011, and then Nu 53B in March this year.
In the Bhutanese context, money supply only contributes around 20 percent to inflationary trends, because 70 percent of the inflation is imported from India. Bhutan has over 70 percent trade integration with India.
Source: kuenselonline.com, August 9, 2012.
No polls on Nov 22
The Election Commission (EC) formally announced its inability to hold fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) elections scheduled for November 22. It cited constitutional and legal hurdles and absence of consensus among political parties as the reasons.
The EC has reportedly advised the government that it would be best to hold the elections in the second week of April next year.
The EC on July 31 formally said it would not be able to hold the CA election on November 22 following the government's failure to amend election related laws and the Interim Constitution on time.
The government had announced CA election minutes before the CA's term expired on May 27.
Source: myrepublica.com, July 31, August 8, 2012.
India's senior politician and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha met Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and other top leaders during his visit to Kathmandu last week.
During the meetings, Sinha is said to have expressed his concern over political deadlock, government announced poll and constitution drafting process, among others.
However, the 'state guest' status accorded by President Ram Baran Yadav to BJP leader Sinha triggered a controversy, with PM Bhattarai raising the protocol issue.
Bhattarai later told reporters on that "someone holding a high position must be careful about the dignity of the office", implying that the President should not have accorded 'state guest' status to someone against the established protocol and norms.
Source: ekantipur.com, July 31, The Indian Express, August 6, 2012.
Australia scales up aid
Australia has scaled up its aid to Nepal by five million Australian dollars this year, bringing it up to Aus $35 million (about Rs 3.29 billion) per annum.
The raise in assistance was announced during Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Secretary of Australia Richard Marles' visit to Kathmandu last week. Australian government's annual development assistance to Nepal has tripled since 2008.
Marles also announced that AusAID, the development agency of the Australian government in Nepal, will invest Aus $35 million in education, health, rural livelihoods and governance reforms in order to improve the quality of life of the Nepali people.
Source: myrepublica.com, August 6, 2012.
Suu Kyi to head Parliamentary Committee
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) has been s approved by the Parliament to Chair the newly formed Committee for Rule of Law and Stability. This is the first committee that Suu Kyi has been appointed since she and other elected members of her party entered Parliament.
This committee is to supervise whether the four important pillars of the state?legislature, judiciary, civil service and the media?are functioning according to the rule and regulation that have been laid down.
Three other NLD Parliamentarians are listed in the committee, which is comprised of 15 members, including MPs representing the Chin, Kachin, Karenni, Arakanese, Mon and Shan ethnic minorities.
Commenting on her new position, Suu Kyi told reporters that "Rule of law is not about control, but about protecting society."
Source: irrawaddy.org, August 7, 2012.
Talks with the Ethnic groups
The Government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) say they are ready to resume talks aimed at ending more than a year of fighting in northern Myanar, but have yet to agree on a place to meet.
"We are still trying to choose a suitable place for both sides," said James Lum Dau, the KIO's deputy chief of foreign affairs, speaking to The Irrawaddy . "We have suggested meeting somewhere in our territory or in China, but they want to meet in an area under their control."
While on the other hand the Karen National Union (KNU), Chairman Tamla Baw Calimesa that the government is avoiding real political dialogue despite with the ethnic groups despite claiming that it wants to build peace with them. This statement was made before the KNU hold's a third round of official peace talks with the government in Pa-an, the capital of Karen State, on August 27. This round of talks will focus on a "code of conduct" for the ceasefire that is currently in place.
Source: irrawaddy.org, August 7 and 9, 2012.
Pepsi in Myanmar
The US soft drink company PepsiCo has signed an agreement with Diamond Star Co. to distribute its beverage brands in Myanmar, after a 15-year hiatus. Diamond Star Co, a unit of the Capital Diamond Star Group and among the largest consumer packaged goods distributors in Myanmar has exclusive rights to import, sell and distribute Pepsi-Cola, 7-Up and Mirinda. Pepsi is also plans to explore opportunities to invest in agricultural development projects in Myanmar.
Pepsi's Chief Executive, Indra Nooyi called Myanmar "a market with great potential" and said the Diamond Star agreement is an important first step in expanding Pepsi's presence in the country.
Pepsi last did business in Myanmar in 1997. The company plans to evaluate other opportunities in the Myanmar market, including the potential for local manufacturing operations. Under the agreement, Diamond Star purchases and imports the products from Pepsi's Vietnam operations.
Source: wsj.com, August 9, 2012.
Debit cards have arrived, Credit cards in 2013
As part of the ongoing economic reforms the nation's leading local banks are to offer Giro Billing Payment System (GBPS) and debit cards from August end with credit cards planned before the 2013 South East Asia Games.
Currently five of the eleven banks currently allowed to offer foreign currency accounts will introduce GBPS, which helps customers with the easy payment of utilities such as telephone or electricity bills. They will also start debit cards by the end of the month which will be the first step towards allowing credit cards.
Source: irrawaddy.org, August 7, 2012.
A cakewalk for Ansari
History repeated itself on Tuesday after five decades when United Progressive Alliance nominee Hamid Ansari was re-elected Vice President. He is the only the second Vice President to get a second consecutive term after S Radhakrishnan, who enjoyed two terms from 1952-62.
Ansari won with a thumping majority against the National Democratic Alliance candidate Jaswant Singh by polling 490 votes against 238 by his rival.
Source: The Hindu, August 8, 2012.
Fast ends, politics begins
Charging the Government with "stonewalling" their demand for an effective Lokpal, social activist Anna Hazare and his three colleagues called off their fast here on Friday with a call for public support to take the anti-corruption movement from "the streets to Parliament."
Announcing its decision to take plunge into electoral politics, Team Anna said it was a logical culmination of its struggle. Hazare, however, made it clear that he would not launch a party or contest elections.
Source: The Hindu, August 4, 2012.
Madhya Pradesh team in China
Led by Madhya Pradesh Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development GopalBhargava, a high-level team from the State has left 0n a 20-day study tour of China and the US.
Stating this, an official release said here on Monday that the team has reached China and inspected various projects in rural areas of Guangzhou region.
The team will visit various places in the US and China during its tour and will return to New Delhi on August 22.
Source: The Hindu, August 7, 2012.
PC keen to put growth on track
Aimed at battling economic slowdown, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, on Monday, said the government was ready with an action plan to "regain the confidence of all stake-holders".
His recipe for reversing last two years moderate growth includes tackling high inflation, possible cut in interest rates, a progressive tax regime and financial consolidation through modification or fine-tuning of policies.
Source: The Hindu, August 7, 2012.
Oil stake in South Sudan safe
The State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) can heave a sigh of relief, with signs of a truce, at least in oil, between Sudan and South Sudan raising hopes that India's $3 billion investment in the world's newest nation is safe.
"It's an (oil) agreement about all of the matters. The issues that were outstanding were charges for transportation, for processing, transit," former South African President and African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki told reporters here.
Source: www.nydailynews.com, August 4, 2012.
Sharpening its missile teeth, India on Thursday successfully test-fired its medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile with a strike range of 2000km as part of a user trial by the Army from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. "The trial of the surface-to-surface missile was conducted from a mobile launched from the Launch Complex-4 of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at around 8.48am," defence sources said.
Describing the launch as a complete success, ITR Director MVKV Prasad said, "All mission parameters were met during the trial of the indigenously developed missile."
Agni-II Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) has already been inducted into the services and today's test was carried out by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Army with logistic support provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Source: www.hindustantimes.com, August 9, 2012.
N-triad operational soon
India's nuclear triad-- the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea -- will soon be in place. After some delays and hiccups, the country's first nuclear submarine INS Arihantis getting ready "to go to sea" within the next few months.
"INS Arihant is steadily progressing towards becoming operational...we are pretty close to putting it to sea (for extensive trials and missile firings)," announced Navy chiefAdmiral NirmalVerma on Tuesday.
Source: The Times of India, August 8, 2012.
Mission to Mars cleared
The Government has cleared plans to put an orbital probe around Mars next year to study the red planet's climate and geology, a report said Saturday.
The mission would mark another step in India's ambitious space programme, which placed a probe on the moon three years ago and envisages its first manned mission in 2016.
Source: www.marsdaily.com, August 4, 2012.
MDP halts protests, Govt welcomes it
The Government of Maldives has welcomed the decision of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)'s decision to halt their on-going demonstrations to facilitate meaningful political dialogue to end the political crisis the country.
In the statement of the President's Office it was noted that the "All Party Talks" were suspended because of MDP's failure to recognise the first issue mentioned in the agenda of the talks, which is to create a peaceful environment. "However, now with the announcement of the MDP, the Government believes that the All-Party-Talks can be resumed. The Government will decide on a date to reinitiate the dialogue after discussions with the coordinator of the talks," the statement said.
However, the Government said later that it would reconsider the participation of the President's delegate in the peace talks between leaders after a protest against Vice-President Mohamed Waheeddeen (Deen) in the suburban Hulhulumale Island.
The Government accuses MDP of having organized this protest, during which offensive language was used against the Vice-President and Ministers.
Source: SunOnline, August 10, 2012.
No date yet on Parliament session
An exact date for resuming parliamentary sessions in the Maldives has "yet to emerge" following the suspension by the Majlis Speaker, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said, as Government-aligned parties request for the chamber to be reopened to MPs.
MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul said that the decision by Speaker Abdulla Shahid to suspend Parliament "indefinitely" on July 31 had been the correct course of action, adding that MPs were on the "right track" to finding a potential resolution during the final 10 days of Ramazan.
Despite the claims, Government-aligned MPs have continued to criticise the conduct of the MDP over the Majlis suspension. The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has this week urged that parliamentary sessions continue with the assistance of security forces to remove any members attempting to disrupt hearings.
Speaker Shahid at the time of announcing the suspension of Parliament said that MDP MPs had confronted him in his private chambers after party member Mohamed Rasheed 'Kubey' was forcibly removed at the beginning of sitting.
Source: Minivan News, August 9, 2012.
Police cannot order MDP to quit camp
The Maldives Police Service does not have legal authority to order the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to vacate its 'Usfasgandu' protest camp on May 29, the Civil Court has ruled.
On May 29,police raided Usfasgandu with a search warrant from the Criminal Court and ordered the MDP to vacate the area before 10pm, after which the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) began dismantling the protest camp.
The Civil Court however issued an injunction ordering the security forces to halt the dismantling after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation. The injunction was to stand until the court reached a verdict and was later upheld by the High Court.
Police alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise on May 9, and that, on May 25 "MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers."
Source: Minivan News, August 9, 2012.
MNDF, Govt register joint venture
With plans to generate revenue to fund welfare services for the armed forces, the government and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has registered a joint venture company aiming to invest in various businesses, including the tourism industry.
The "MNDF Welfare Company" registered at the Economic Ministry on Tuesday, is 10 percent government owned, and 90 percent by Sifco, MNDF 's cooperative society, which provides welfare services for defence force officers and their families, including subsidised products and loans.
Talking about the company, MNDF Spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem said the MNDF have been discussing the idea of expanding the cooperative society's works through a registered company over the past 10 years.
He observed that the main objective of registering the company was to invest and run businesses, which can subsequently generate revenues to contribute to welfare services provided to the 7000 strong-armed force bod.
"The allocated State budget is not enough to fund the welfare services. We are facing several financial problems. Therefore, our plan is to register the joint venture with the Government and increase profitable business activities," Major Abdul Raheem explained.
Source: Minivan News, August 7, 2012.
ACC told to expedite GMR probe
The Government has called upon the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to expedite its investigation prompted by accusation of corruption being involved in awarding the Male International Airport contract to the Indian infrastructure major, GMR.
Spokesperson of the President's Office Abbas Adil Riza said that the Government will consider the ACC's investigation report when making its decision on the GMR issue. He added that the ACC's report would clarify the legal issues involved in the agreement made with GMR.
Meanwhile, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has said that the party will take a decision on the GMR issue after the Government shares its decision on the same.
Thasmeen has urged the Government to respect the agreement made with GMR, provided that the agreement is valid.
Source: Minivan News, August 9, 2012.
Supreme Court summons PM
The Supreme Court issued a show cause notice for contempt of court to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for not implementing its order of reopening the graft cases. A five member special bench of the apex court directed the Prime Minister to ensure his appearance before the court on August 27.
The court observed that its orders were not complied with and it was unfortunate that the incumbent prime minister failed to follow the court orders. Earlier at the outset of the hearing, Attorney General IrfanQadir stated that the government was taking serious steps to resolve the issue and asked for more time. The court however ruled that sufficient time had been given to the government to formulate a response in this regard.
Source: The News International, Daily Times August 9, 2012.
Amid increasing cases of violence and lack of security against the community, sixty Hindu families from Balochistan and Sindh have decided to migrate to India. Four out of the sixty families have already left for India and the rest of the families are expected to leave soon as well.
The families had complained that their shops were looted, their houses were raided by unknown men and their women were forcefully converted. Responding to news reports that Pakistani Hindus were being driven out of Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik dismissed the reports of migration as propagandas. The Chief Minister of Sindh Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the pleas of Hindu community and formulated a three member committee comprising minority ministers to look into the matter.
Source: The Express Tribune, August 10, 2012.
New ministries illegal: Rabbani
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security Senator Raza Rabbani has declared that the creation of the new ministries after the 18th Amendment stands illegal and unconstitutional. Most of the new ministries have been assigned to the ministers belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
In a meeting of the Special Senate Committee, Senator Rabbani adopted a strict stance on the creation of new ministries and said that the rights of provinces had been usurped after the 18th Amendment. He opined that seventeen ministries were abolished under the 18th Amendment and seven were created unconstitutionally.
Source: The News International, August 7, 2012.
No end to energy crisis
The endemic energy crisis in Pakistan has crippled its economy and has been responsible for making millions of lives a daily misery.
Six weeks after the new Prime Minister promised that the shortage would be his top priority, blackouts have reached a peak, up to 16 hours a day in urban and 22 hours a day in rural areas.
With political posturing becoming more acute as the weak coalition stutters towards general elections, there is in fact no quick end to the problem.
Source: Daily Times, August 9, 2012.
India needs to take relook at neighbours: MR
In the strongest reaction yet to India's contentious support to a US sponsored resolution at the UNHRC against Sri Lanka earlier this year, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has broken his silence by calling upon the Indian Government to have a relook at its dealings with its neighbours.
In a freewheeling interaction with TOI at his Temple Trees residence in Colombo, his first full-length interview since India's vote for the resolution in March, Rajapaksa suggested that India could be abdicating its leadership role in the region.
Rajapaksa, in fact, did not fully agree with India's contention that it had helped tone down the resolution against alleged human rights abuses, saying that if India had continued with its support to Sri Lanka, there may not have been any resolution against his country at all.
"Any good intentions and actions are always appreciated. But I must add that if India stood by us and supported Sri Lanka's request for more time and space, who knows, there may not have been a resolution at all," the president said when told how PM Manmohan Singh had himself intervened to make the resolution "non-intrusive".
"The region looks up to India but India must examine itself whether or not it is doing the right thing in dealing with its neighbours... what they are doing is the best thing or not," Rajapaksa said. This was in reply to a question about India's vote and how it seemed to have fuelled an anti-India sentiment in the island nation. "All I can say is that we are not a nation and people without feelings. India and Sri Lanka share common cultural and historic values and so we can feel deeply about such moves," he elaborated.
However, he stressed that the two countries needed to move on, saying that he didn't see the vote as changing the dynamics of ties between the two countries. "Past is past, let's look at the future now," he said, reiterating his comment in the past that Indians will remain like "relations" and that the two countries remain "much more than good neighbours''.
The President also brushed aside the issue of growing Chinese involvement in Sri Lanka, one of New Delhi's pressing concerns, describing it as paranoia. In fact, taking a swipe at India for its own burgeoning trade ties with China, the President said, "The way India is doing business with China, Sri Lanka is not."
"Whether it is Sri Lanka's exports or imports, wholesale business or investment in land and hotels, it is India which is the main power involved. It is only India which is involved in the telecom sector too," he said, adding that Sri Lanka will not hurt India's interests in the region and that any such fear was unfounded.
Rajapaksa, however, did not give any assurance on whether or not the Chinese will be given operational control of projects like Hambantota port and airport which they are building. It is well known that Hambantota was first offered to India but the president confirmed that even in the case of Colombo port, the contract for which went to a Hong Kong-based company, it was India which did not show any interest.
"India could have participated in the tender but it did not. These are commercial interests and not a sign of any Sri Lankan strategic drift," he said.
However, he acknowledged the help from the Chinese in decisively ending the conflict in 2009. "When we had to fight the most brutal terrorist outfit in the world, we had to buy arms and ammunition from legal entities that were ready to sell them to us at the best terms," he said.
"It is important to look at things in the right perspective and not rush to conclusions. India has undertaken to build the northern Kankesanturai harbour as China builds at Hambantota in the south. India is also rebuilding Palaly airport in the north," he said. He described India's decision to allow the sacred Kapilavastu relics to travel to Sri Lanka for the first time since 1978 as a gesture that will be regarded with highest esteem and gratitude.
Source: The Times of India, August 9, 2012.
Troops will remain: Gota
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said though the military presence in the north had been drastically reduced, troops would continue to remain at strategic locations for security reasons but their presence will be non-intrusive.
"The number of troops deployed and the number of camps remaining in the North and East has also been reduced to a bare minimum. Twenty eight battalions have been relocated in the South and East. The overall number of troops in the North has been reduced by more than 21,000 since 2009.
Troops will remain in strategic locations for security purposes, but their presence will be non-intrusive. The day-to-day maintenance of law and order has been handed over to the police," Rajapaksa said.
He made these comments speaking at the inaugural sessions of the 'Defence Seminar 2012' for lasting peace and stability with special focus on 'Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Reconciliation (5-Rs)' at Colombo Galadari Hotel. Several state administrators, academics, military leaders and resource personnel from here and abroad attended.
Rajapaksa speaking on the 5Rs described the ample gains that had been made by the government with the active support of the Army, which has now transformed from their fighting roles to protector roles.
The Army-initiated seminar held for the second successive year was attended by about 300 delegates, drawn from more than 43 countries including representatives from US, India, Pakistan, UK, China, Bangladesh, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, August 8, 2012.
'Sorry' for 'saffron terrorism'
SLMC leader and Minister of Justice, Rauff Hakeem has tendered an apology to the Sangha and the JHU over the controversial statement he made during his PC election campaign in the East a few days ago.
"With no further attempts at procrastination, I wish to tender an unreserved apology to all Buddhists of Sri Lanka. I specifically request the MahaSangha of Sri Lanka to accept this apology for which I, as the Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress take personal responsibility," he said, referring to his campaign speech for the Eastern Provincial Council elections at Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai.
"My reference to any grievance of the Muslims was entirely confined to a local issue in a very specific locality," the Minister said. "Unfortunately, my choice of words, when removed from the specific context, has resulted in creating a perception that it was a derogatory remark on the Sangha who are the guardians of Buddhism, the predominant faith of our people," he added.
Earlier, Deputy Science and Technology Minister Faiszer Musthapha, had, charged that the SLMC leader with spreading ethno-religious hatred among the communities by making spiteful statements to gain cheap political mileage. Musthapha said that recent media reports of the SLMC speaking of 'saffron robe terrorism' in the country were clear indication of its intention to foment racial hatred.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, August 8-9, 2012.
Parliament outs ex-Ministers
Two of the most important members of the Cabinet, Defence Minister Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi resigned after losing no-confidence motions in Parliament. Both the former ministers were deeply involved in counter-insurgency efforts, and their exit cast doubts over the success of the scheduled transition of the country's security to Afghan forces from ISAF.
Earlier, Parliament voted to remove Wardak and Mohammadi over a series of charges, culminating in their failure to stop cross-border shelling from Pakistan and a spate of assassinations of senior Government officials. Besides these recent charges, Wardak is accused of channelling lucrative trucking contracts to this son, while Mohammadi irked Parliamentarians for favouring fellow Tajiks in crucial posts within the Afghan National Police, which is directed by the Interior Ministry.
The former Interior Minister, who belongs to the Panshir Province of northern Afghanistan, is blamed for purposefully placing police officers from his ethnic group in important posts as well as saturating lower-level district police jobs. This long standing practice has infuriated members of the Pashtun community, who form a slim majority and complain of under-representation in the security services.
Source: Reuters, Khaama Press, August 7, 2012; The New York Times, August 4, 2012
Police official kills 17 civilians
A police commander pulled out 20 civilians from their houses in a village in Uruzgan Province and killed 17 of them. The commander, identified as Shujaie, served in the Afghan Local Police and belonged to the Ghazni Province.
The officer, a member of the Hazara ethnic group, directed his actions against Pashtun civilians, generating fears of renewed ethnic violence. Prior to the incident, the Taliban had killed two Hazaras in the region on suspicion of their collaboration with international forces. The Hazaras faced severe atrocities during the Taliban's rule between 1996 and 2001, and as a result, remain fiercely antagonistic towards the Pashtun community, from whom the Taliban draws its identity and membership.
The Afghan Local Police is a village-level indigenous force conceived by the US in 2011 despite opposition by President Hamid Karzai. Though officially supervised by the Interior Ministry, in reality, it retains the features of a traditional militia with little checks against human rights abuse.
The incident demonstrates that the concentration of non-Pashtun communities such as the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in security services carries substantial risk of generating state-abetted violence against the Pashtun community. Such wanton human rights abuse, while not without precedent in Afghan history, undermines the legitimacy of the Government and feeds into the Taliban's propaganda.
Source: Associated Press, Khaama Press; August 3, 2012.
Afghanistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Ankit Arvind
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;