MonitorsPublished on Jun 27, 2014
The year 2014 is, in many ways, the year of reckoning for Afghanistan which is undergoing three simultaneous transitions - security, political and economic. Unlike the first two, the economic transition has not had the advantage of clear deadlines and roadmaps and has suffered from lack of long term planning.
Afghanistan: Can the private sector be a driver for growth?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The year 2014 is, in many ways, the year of reckoning for Afghanistan which is undergoing three simultaneous transitions - security, political and economic. Unlike the first two, the economic transition has not had the advantage of clear deadlines and roadmaps and has suffered from lack of long term planning. A tense security situation fraught with potential risks has halted private and regional investments. This has to change and now.

Economic development must be seen as a driver of political stability and not something to be pursued after peace has been established. Putting the economy on a sustainable path should be the regional and international priority, especially since the military drawdown and consequent reduction in aid will have an adverse economic impact.

New drivers of growth

The Afghan economy has made significant progress since 2001 - nine percent annual growth in real GDP, low inflation, and improved public funds and budget expenditure. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan has done better on macroeconomic indicators than the strong performers among comparator countries in post-conflict transitions. Structural change in Afghanistan has been similar to strong performers, i.e. share of agriculture in GDP is declining and that of industry and services is rising. However, this shift appears to be aid-driven. Afghanistan needs new growth drivers.

The private sector can be this new growth driver. Afghanistan’s geo-strategic location, abundant natural resources, and high quality agricultural products provide profitable business opportunities. In fact, the sector is steadily growing. Small and Medium Enterprises have started meeting local demand. Industrial parks are housing food and beverage processing, marble cutting, plastics, iron, and other profitable industrial businesses. A mainly indigenous telecom industry has grown to cover 18 million cell phone users. Afghanistan has a rich tradition of trade and entrepreneurship which must be capitalised on by neighbouring countries.

Why private sector?

A healthy private sector can be the engine of sustainable recovery and growth in fragile states. It can provide alternate livelihoods, thereby creating economic security to counter the appeal of joining the insurgency. Job creation is crucial to the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme. The private sector can help build networks of shared interests, both internally as well as in the neighbourhood. Business networks can rebuild disrupted internal market links as well as develop strategic trade corridors linking the neighbourhood. Giving people a stake in economic interests is a big part of achieving political settlement.

Afghanistan needs to overcome its dependency on aid, which has become monstrously large. The size of aid (both civilian and military) in 2010/11 was $15.7 billion, about the same as the entire GDP of the country. The World Bank estimates that Afghanistan will need $ 3.9 billion a year through 2024 to boost development. So far, under the Tokyo Framework of Mutual Accountability, international donors have pledged $16 billion for economic reconstruction for four years following troop withdrawal. Reduction in international aid will have a significant impact on the economy unless aid dependency is also reduced.

The nation is at risk of a deteriorating fiscal situation as expenses rise and donor aid falls. This year’s budget is more than three times the projected revenue. The country desperately needs avenues for sustainable revenue generation and GDP growth, which can be provided by the private sector. Sectors with high potential need to be identified and policies tailored to accelerate growth.

Where do the opportunities lie?

Afghanistan has long-term competitiveness in agriculture and natural resources which must be prioritised for export purposes. Services and infrastructure sectors such as trade, retail, construction and transportation are also important as they typically account for half of the GDP and approximately two-thirds of employment growth in developing economies.

A transport based development strategy has been proposed and accepted by Afghan and regional governments. The New Silk Road initiative is seen as instrumental in bringing in private sector opportunities, pathways for transport of legitimate agricultural goods as well as energy and resource corridors. It can generate revenue from transit fees and tariffs. The transport sector has modest start-up costs and limited overhead and is open for investment.

Mining is a key sector which can provide long term revenue generation for Afghanistan. Private sector engagement is the only way to extract minerals but despite the presence of huge reserves of lucrative globally traded minerals, the sector has not progressed. Uncertain security situation, lack of power, absence of railways to transport the materials and delay in passing the new mining law has stalled the Aynak and Hajigak projects. Though it will take a long time to reap the benefits of natural resources, there is massive potential for generating revenues, employment and secondary service sectors. Local Afghan firms are already mining industrial materials such as marble, gravel and sand.

Agriculture is the other main sector for private sector engagement. Afghan food products are considered some of the best in the world. They are not able to maximise profits from these products due to gaps in cold storage, food processing and packaging. The private sector can come in to plug these gaps and build value addition. Construction and housing projects are on the rise. There is high demand for pharmaceuticals, fast moving consumer goods and vehicles (trucks, SUVs, etc).

Deal with the risk

Corruption, inhospitable business environment and lack of power are identified as the major challenges to the development of the private sector. The World Bank Doing Business 2014 report ranks Afghanistan at 164 out of 189 countries on ease of doing business, no change from last year. However, the country is ranked first in the ease of starting a business in the whole of South Asia, which shows that the government is keen to get private sector wheels turning.

On corruption, Transparency International placed Afghanistan last in 2012 and 2013. These problems can be solved with a combination of public and private support in improving the business climate. Leveraging public and private capital to build basic infrastructure, such as power plants, ports, and communications, transport and energy systems is crucial. Investors must also be ready to deal with risk as a factor.

The region must remain committed to Afghanistan and engage more actively in the private sector. Providing strong economic incentives to regional players is the best way of building regional consensus.Some examples are the European Union’s support for reconstruction in the Balkans through the incentive of EU membership, and the role of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Non-Western governments and companies are better equipped to enter the Afghan market due to their knowledge of the market, tolerance for risk and therefore, willingness to operate in Afghanistan.

If countries lose interest, this will only serve to embolden spoilers. Governments have pumped money and support to Afghanistan for the past 13 years without achieving their stated goals. It is time the private sector led the engagement with the government playing the role of facilitator.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Repatriation of stranded Pakistanis

Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

The incident of violent clashes between the Biharis, or stranded Pakistanis, as they are popularly known, and native Bengalis at Dhaka that resulted in nine deaths earlier this month has brought the issue of the repatriation of Biharis under the spotlight. The incident has also brought to light the miserable conditions of these people who are waiting to be repatriated since 1971.

At the time of India’s partition, Urdu-speaking Muslims from the State of Bihar had migrated to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. During Bangladesh’s Independence in 1971, there were around one million Biharis living in the country. Biharis who considered themselves as Pakistanis opposed the independence of Bangladesh and supported the Pakistani army.

Unfortunately, after independence of Bangladesh, Pakistan evacuated all its soldiers and civilian but it forgot Biharis. As a reconciliation process, Bangladesh had offered citizenship to these Biharis in 1972 but they declined to accept it. Instead, they expressed their desire to be repatriated to Pakistan. This was the beginning of their endless wait and stateless condition.

For the Biharis, who mostly live in designated camps in Dhaka, life not has been easy. They are mostly living in abject poverty, in cramped one-room units which lack basic facilities like toilets and electricity. Since they are not citizens and had opposed the creation of the nation, authorities in Bangladesh also do not take much interest in upgrading standards in these camps. Bangladesh has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take back its citizens. In spite of Pakistan’s assurances, repatriation of Biharis is pending.

In the Simla Agreement of 1972 with India, Pakistan agreed that it will take back its stranded citizens in Bangladesh. Initially, Pakistan agreed to repatriate 83000 Biharis which was later increased. Around 108,000 Biharis were repatriated. Another lot of 163,000 Biharis were repatriated by Pakistan from Bangladesh in 1981.

Major initiatives

Some of the major initiatives undertaken by Pakistan are- Motamar-Al-Alam Al-Islami, an organisation in Pakistan launched a fund collection for the stranded Pakistanis in 1988. Some reports claims that it collected millions of dollars for this purpose. The Pakistan High Commission in 1994 released a list of stranded people waiting to be repatriated.

In 1991, Pakistan announced that repatriation of the Biharis would be expedited. In fact, after the visit of the then Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia’s visit, Pakistan declared that the stranded Pakistan will be airlifted. But not major action has been taken from Pakistan. Although there have been many regime changes in Pakistan from democratically-elected rulers like Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto,or military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, they all only reiterated the promise.

Meanwhile, the High Court in Bangladesh in a verdict granted citizenship to 10 Biharis in 2003. In another verdict, the High Court ruled that 150,000 Biharis, who were minors at the time of war, may be granted citizenship in Bangladesh. The verdict also said that the citizenship be extended to all those Biharis who were born after independence of Bangladesh. These verdicts have given a major excuse to Pakistan to delay the repatriation. The sentiment in Pakistan authorities is that the issue is a closed chapter since many of the Biharis have got citizenship.

Although many of the Biharis are eligible for Bangladesh citizenship, still there are many who does not fulfil the criterion to become a citizen and their number runs in few hundreds and thousands. Desire for a home to these Biharis still remained unfulfilled as they are still citizens of Pakistan.

Since the bilateral efforts could not bring much result to improve the condition of these people it will be pragmatic to seek international support. Many in Bangladesh are pressing government to raise the issue in international forums. The international community should take initiatives to improve plights of these stateless people and help them to repatriate the country which they call home.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Visa-relaxation in India

India-Bangladesh relations got a major boost following India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit this week. Swaraj’s three-day goodwill visit from 25-27 June was her first stand-alone visit abroad after she became External Affairs Minister.

During the visit, the Indian minister held meetings with top Bangladeshi leaders including President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia.

During her meetings with Bangladesh top leaders both sides discussed bilateral issues. One of the major outcomes of the visit was India’s declaration to relax visa restrictions for Bangladeshi nationals above the age of 65 and below the age of 13. Senior citizens and young Bangladeshis will now be eligible for five-year multiple entry visas as against the one-year visa available earlier.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 27 June 2014;, 26 June 2014 & Dainik Ittefaq, 27 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Eight Huji men to walk the gallows

In a major judgement a court in Bangladesh has ordered that banned militant organisation Harkat-ul Jihad-al Islami (Huji) leader, Mufti Abdul Hannan and seven of his aides, walked the gallows for killing 10 persons in a bomb blast during the celebration of Bengali New Year at Dhaka’s Ramna Batamul Park on 14 April 2001.

On 14 April 2001 two remote-control bombs exploded in the crowded Ramna Batamul Park where thousands of people gathered to celebrate the New Year. Seven innocent people died on the spot during the first explosion and 20-25 people sustained injuries.

Later three persons died at hospitals while undergoing treatment. Delivering the judgement the court opined that the motive of the attacks was to create political turmoil and panic, to pollute the cultural arena and stop cultural activities in the country.

Huji is a major militant organisation of Bangladesh that came into existence 1992 has been accused of various militant activities in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dhaka Tribune, 24 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Initiate dialogue or face movement: Khaleda

Renewing her party’s call for reaching an understanding over holding a fresh election through talks, Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia threatened this week to wage a harsher movement after Eid if the ruling Awami League government does not respond to their call.

The BNP chief maid her comments while was addressing a rally at Joypurhat at district town in northern Bangladesh. In her address, the BNP chief claimed herself as the real representative of the country’s 95 percent people who did not cast their votes in the January-5 election.

Khaleda also claimed that the government has got unnerved due to change in government in the neighbouring India. "Awami League has lost soil from beneath its feet as people are not with them. There has been a change of government in India. Awami League leaders are making unguarded remarks as they’re very nervous and disappointed with the change of government in India."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 23 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Short on tackling trafficking: US

The US has expressed concerns over ’modern-day slavery’ in Bangladesh as it ranked the country as ’tier-2’ in its just released ’Trafficking in Persons’ report. It means Bangladesh does not "fully meet" the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making "significant efforts" to do so.

The report released by US government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. The report enjoys the Congress’ mandate and it looks at what the governments are doing to combat human trafficking (modern day slavery) through the lens of what the US describes as the 3P paradigm -- "prevention, protection, and prosecution".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 21 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to help fund next GNH survey

The next Gross National Happiness (GNH) survey to be conducted later this year in Bhutan will be supported by Japan. The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH research (CBS) will receive a little more than Nu 20M through the Japan international cooperation agency (JICA).

The remaining requirement of Nu 5M will be borne by the government. The Japanese assistance was announced by JICA president, Akihiko Tanaka, during his visit to Thimphu, earlier this month. It is expected to begin in September and take around seven months to complete. The survey questionnaire is currently being fine-tuned by CBS researchers, while methodology and indicators are already finalised.

Bhutan Prime Minister, Tshering To¬b¬gay, Prime Min¬is¬ter of Bhutan accompanied by Aum Tashi Doma will be on a four-day visit to Japan from 29 June to 3 July upon the invitation of the government of Japan.

The Prime Minister’s delegation will in¬clude Rinzin Dorji, Foreign Minister and Yeshey Dorji, Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Maj-Gen V. Namgyel, Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan and four other officials.

At the Summit Meeting between the two Prime Ministers that will be held during his stay in Japan, the two leaders will discuss bilateral relations and other issues of mutual interest and concern. Tobgay will also meet with the mem¬bers of the Japan-Bhutan Parliamentary Friendship League and senior officials of the Government of Japan.

This is the first bilateral visit to Japan by a Bhutanese Prime Minister. The visit will further strengthen the close ties of friend¬ship and cooperation that exist be¬tween the two countries. Japan is a long¬standing development partner for Bhutan. The two established diplomatic relations in 1986.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, Bhutan Observer, 22 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt criticised for weakening democracy

In a strong statement, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has condemned both the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Opposition Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party over the large pay hike and entitlements given to Politicians during the recent Parliament session.

The statement of the DNT is also being seen in the context of it trying to develop itself into a viable alternative to either of the two parties in Parliament.

The DNT statement said, "The issue per se is not about pay raise. Nyamrup’s deeper concern is that this has weakened our young democracy." It also alleged that both PDP and DPT had colluded together on the hike.

"Nyamrup is surprised at the strange marriage of convenience between the ruling and the opposition parties - a political collusion - that led to the pay hike of the politicians," said the statement. It asked if politicians are giving the country a wrong precedent by being more self-serving than people serving in the hall of the Parliament.

The DNT said that as a political party, though not in the Parliament, it is also feeling ashamed to face the people of Bhutan. DNT’s statement said that as elected representatives, politicians have a sacred responsibility to work toward the greater interest of the nation, serve the people selflessly, and set good examples for fellow citizens to follow.

"Above all, they must strengthen the foundation of democracy, gifted by Our Beloved Kings, through nonpartisan politics and sustained engagement of Bhutanese citizens at all levels," it added.

The statement said that Bhutan is a young democracy, barely six years old and against this backdrop, Bhutan’s politicians have a huge responsibility to shape and model Bhutan’s democracy as envisioned by the enlightened Monarchs.

It says that since Bhutan is in the early stage of its democratic experiment, politicians have the opportunity to create an exemplary and unique democratic culture, worthy of emulation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bhutanese, 27 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Officials trash US think-tank report

Indian officials have trashed a report published by a US-based military intelligence think-tank, which, citing satellite imagery alleged that India was covertly expanding its nuclear weapons programme. Findings by IHS Janes suggested that the nuclear centrifuge plant near Mysore was being extended which could "substantially" expand India’s nuclear submarine fleet and support development of thermonuclear weapons.

An unnamed official rejected the perceived references in the report that India was pursuing "runaway" expansion of its atomic arsenal. He cited New Delhi’s willingness to negotiate the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), intended to impose a worldwide ban on nuclear material for atomic weapons, as an expression of India’s nuclear restraint. However, the source clarified that New Delhi "would not accept a ban on the production of enriched uranium that is used for the propulsion of nuclear submarines".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 21 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Swiss Govt prepares black money list

The Switzerland government has decided to share with India a list of its citizens who are suspected to have stashed away untaxed wealth in Swiss banks. Justice M.B. Shah, chairman of the Special Investigation Team on black money, welcomed the move calling it a major breakthrough.

"These individuals and entities are suspected to have held untaxed money in Swiss banks through structures like trusts, domiciliary companies and other legal entities based out of countries other than India," a senior Swiss official told PTI.

He refused to divulge the identity of these persons and entities, as also the quantum of funds held by them in Swiss banks, citing confidentiality clause of the bilateral information exchange treaty between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 23 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Import duty on sugar raised

The government will raise its import duty on sugar to 40 percent from 15 percent as the government tries to revive business at mills that owe farmers around $1.84 billion. The climb in import duty will make overseas purchases nearly unviable for refiners in the world’s biggest consumer of the sweetener, hitting shipments from suppliers in Brazil, Thailand and Pakistan.

Local sugar prices, which had been stifled by rising stockpiles, jumped 1.5 percent following the announcement and are likely to rise further if monsoon rains stay subdued as expected in the next few weeks, dealers said.

Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters the subsidy on raw sugar exports, which was increased earlier this month to boost output and exports would be extended until September. But large-scale exports are unlikely in the short term, as most of this year’s raw sugar output has already been shipped.

The country is likely to export more than 2 million tonnes of sugar in 2014/15 as the top consumer is set to produce a surplus of the sweetener for the fifth straight year despite chances of reduced rainfall, a commodities executive said earlier this month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 23 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 600m sought from China, Japan for Male airport

The government of Maldives is in talks with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and China Exim Bank to secure a US$600 million for airport development.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said the government is seeking US$200 million from JBIC and US$400 million from China’s Exim Bank to develop a terminal and runway respectively.

Sinagpore’s Changi Airport Group will be hired as consultants as they are better qualified to work with Chinese and Japanese contractors, he added. The government is in the process of finalising an agreement with Changi, he said.

Speaking to the media, Adeeb said he does not expect the Singaporean tribunal’s ruling ordering the government to pay damages to former airport developer GMR Infrastructure for wrongful termination to affect the government’s new plans.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 23 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’GMR contract not valid under local law’

Former Attorney-General Aishath Azima Shakoor has said that despite the a Singapore tribunal’s finding, the government’s annulled contract with India’s GMR Infrastructure was not valid under Maldivian law.

"Even if the agreement is legit under Common Law, it does not necessarily concur that the agreement had also been made according to Maldivian laws. Nobody sitting as AG in Maldives can still pronounce the deal to have been done as per the Public Finance Act. No one can. That’s why I spoke against it even then," she said.

Azima noted that she had warned even then that the annulment of the agreement with GMR would lead to compulsory compensation, and that she had continuously tried all the ways that might reduce the compensation. Although Azima had previously estimated the compensation to be about $600 million, she said on Saturday that the amount would be smaller now, after having observed the arbitration’s progress.

Azima admitted that the process of terminating the contract did not go as smoothly as it should have happened, but added that she had then concentrated more on minimising the loss Maldives would face during the 25-year period of the agreement.

"If we had continued with the deal, the amount we have to pay in compensation would have been greater than the amount that is required of us now. I made the decision then to save the economy from unimaginable losses later. Those who prodded such an impact-heavy deal upon the State must be found and held responsible. They need to be revealed," Azima said.

She said that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - the Maldivian government’s consultant on the GMR deal - must also be held responsible for the loss Maldives is facing due to the agreement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 23 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Won’t approve external pressure on Sri Lanka: Yameen

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said that his nation doesn’t approve external pressure over countries and said that was why the Maldives consistently stood for Sri Lanka at international fora.

"Our two countries have been very good neighbours for a long time. We do not approve undue external pressure over countries. That is why the Maldives consistently stood for Sri Lanka at international fora. We will continue to do so shoulder to shoulder with Sri Lanka," Maldivian President said during a bilateral discussion with President Mahinda Rajapaksa held at President’s Office in Malé.

Following the one-to-one meeting between the two Presidents, bilateral discussions between the delegations of two countries commenced. "Our countries have been subjected to harassments and too much foreign intervention," the Maldivian leader said. "This should stop. For that we must stand together."

While noting that President Rajapaksa had visited the Maldives on four previous occasions, President Abdul Gayoom expressed his gratitude for the support Sri Lanka extended to his country. He also sought Sri Lanka’s vote for Maldives’ re-election to the 13-seat Asia grouping in the UNHRC.

President Rajapaksa expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome he and his delegation received. "Your visit to Sri Lanka in last January was helpful to further cement the relations between our two countries," President Rajapaksa said. "We see that Maldives progressing ahead with a new vigor. Maldives’ role in SAARC is commendable." The Sri Lankan President also thanked Maldives for its support for Sri Lanka at international fora.

Friendship and cooperation among South Asian countries will not only be beneficial to the countries in the region but also it helps for world’s peace and stability, President Rajapaksa pointed out. "We should speak in the same voice on a common platform, he said. Sri Lanka-Maldives Joint Commission should be utilized to enhance bilateral relations in a systematic manner, President Rajapaksa added. In response President Abdul Gayoom said that the Commission is meeting in August.

President Rajapaksa identified certain areas of cooperation, including the development of hospital service, education, scholarships, youth development, sports, vocational training, culture, crime prevention, security and military training. "We have a huge shortage of doctors and the lack of specialists is a big problem. Help us to resolve this," the Maldivian President requested of Sri Lanka to which President Rajapaksa readily agreed.

President Rajapaksa drew his attention to the issue of not paying a pension to Sri Lankan migrant workers in Maldives to which President Gayoom replied: "That problem is solved." President Gayoom said Maldives intends to negotiate with member-countries to empower SAARC more. He requested Sri Lanka’s support to his country for the membership at the UN Human Rights Council.

"Maldives completes 50 years after gaining independence next year," President Gayoom said. "The year 2015 will also mark the Golden Jubilee of establishing bilateral relations between Maldives and Sri Lanka," he continued, while inviting President Rajapaksa to attend the occasion.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 26 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka to provide air combat training to Maldives

President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday agreed to help to develop the defence services in the Maldives including air combat training, the President’s Office said.

The President, who in Maldives agreed during a meeting with Defence and National Security Minister of Maldives Col (retd) Mohamed Nazim at the Kurumba Island Resort.

The Defence Minister briefed President Rajapaksa on a number of defence priorities that Maldives hopes to achieve.

In addition to the assistance provided in various areas including the training of soldiers, President Rajapaksa agreed to look into other requests and assist Maldives in whatever possible manner.

Col Nazim further said that Maldives has formed a special unit to protect the country from certain international forces attempting to destabilise nations.

The Defence Minister requested Sri Lanka’s assistance in providing air combat training for this unit, to which President Rajapaksa agreed.

The Defence Minister further requested to explore the possibility of Sri Lanka manufacturing boats for the Maldivian coast guard and sought assistance from the Bank of Ceylon to obtain credit facilities for this purpose.

During President Rajapaksa’s visit, the two countries signed three agreements. They comprise a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Health Cooperation, a MoU on Strengthening Cooperation between Board of Investment of Sri Lanka and Ministry of Economic Development of Maldives, and an Arrangement on Search and Rescue. Business delegations from the two countries also held a net-working session during President Rajapaksa’s visit.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 27 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka assures safety of Maldivians

The Sri Lankan government on Thursday said that Maldivians residing in the country will not face any danger from the anti-Muslim riots in the country and that it was "conscious" of the safety of Maldivians.

At a joint press conference with Maldivian foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, Sri Lankan external affairs minister GL Peiris, who is accompanying Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on a two-day state visit to Maldives, said that the 9000 plus Maldivian community in Sri Lanka lived a contended and safe life. He said that no violence have been observed from Dehiwela and Mount Lavinia -- areas where most Maldivians are settled in.

"Absolutely no incident has happened in these areas. The incident was very localised. No Maldivians have been affected due to those incidents," the minister said, stressing on how Sri Lankan Muslims and Buddhists have lived in harmony for centuries.

Despite the Sri Lankan Minister’s comments, hard-line Buddhists have attacked Muslim-owned shops and mosques in Dehiwela and nearby areas. But no one has been injured in these attacks.

Maldivian foreign minister Dunya said that Maldivians have the Sri Lankan government’s word on their safety and that her ministry was monitoring the situation closely via the high commission in Sri Lankan capital Colombo. But she admitted that rumours on social media and some media reports have panicked some Maldivians in Sri Lanka.

"I’m not saying that there are no serious issues. But our foreign ministry is constantly in touch with the high commissioner Zahiya in Colombo, contacting locals there and assessing the situation," the minister said.

"We’re confident that the Sri Lanka will soon be able to overcome the challenges arising from the tensions that flares up between Muslims and Buddhists in some parts of Sri Lanka in the recent weeks. Peace and stability is vital for any country or community."

Dunya also noted that the Maldives recognises the strength and speed of Sri Lanka’s recovery from the 30-year old civil war, which ended in 2009. that had raged, exuding assurance and confidence on the country’s complete recovery from this war.

President Rajapaksa arrived in the Maldives Wednesday afternoon on a two-day state visit. He had met with President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Wednesday, and held official talks with President Yameen and his government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 25 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JSC finds Justice Ali Hameed not guilty

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has found Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed not guilty of charges of sexual relations outside of marriage.

The JSC announced this decision more than one year after it commenced its investigation into this case.

The commission said that the Forensic Service Directorate of Maldives Police Service had not been able to prove that the person seen in the leaked video, which allegedly shows Ali Hameed engaging in sexual activities outside of marriage, is in fact Ali Hameed.

The JSC said that Maldives Police Service had confirmed that the investigation had been closed on account of not being able to obtain sufficient evidence to prove the charges, and thus, taking disciplinary action against the judge cannot be justified as long as sufficient evidence had not been produced to prove the ethics violations alleged against him.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 25 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Off US’ trafficking watch-list

The Maldives has been removed from the US State Department’s Tier 2 watch list for human trafficking following the introduction of legislation last December.

This year’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report - regarded as the key global measure of anti-trafficking efforts - sees the Maldives avoid relegation to Tier-3 along with the accompanying sanctions.

"The Government of Maldives does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so," read the report.

The report saw Venezuela, Malaysia, and Thailand join 20 other countries deemed to be making no significant efforts to reduce trafficking. Other States on Tier-3 include Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia.

While the introduction of the Anti-trafficking Act in the Maldives was lauded, as well as the opening of the Maldives’ first shelter for trafficking victims and the first conviction for the offence, the report made a number of recommendations for further improvement.

"Serious problems in anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim-protection remained," said the TIP report, which noted that an unknown number of the approximately 200,000 expatriate workers in the country experienced forced labour.

Among the advice given in the report was the development of guidelines for public officials to "pro-actively identify" victims, noting that thousands of migrants have been deported recently without adequate screening for indications of trafficking.

A voluntary repatriation programme started last December for undocumented workers, while the government has pledged to detain and deport all undocumented workers in the capital Malé over the coming months.

The report called for greater efforts to ensure victims are not penalised for acts committed as a result of being trafficked as well as a systematic procedures for referring victims to care providers.

It was noted that the newly introduced legislation made progress towards victim protection - including health care, shelter, counselling, and translation services, in addition to a 90-day in which victims can decide whether to assist authorities in criminal cases.

However, the report’s researchers observed that "victims were often afraid of making statements to the police because they did not believe effective action would be taken on their behalf."

Black-listed recruitment agencies - who often recruit migrant workers for up to $4000 for non-existent jobs - often re-emerged under different names, the report explained. A government report in 2011 revealed human-trafficking to be the Maldives’ second most lucrative industry after tourism - worth an estimated $ 123 million a year.

"Observers reported that Maldivian firms could recruit large numbers of workers without authorities verifying the need for the number requested; this led to an oversupply of workers," said the State Department report.

Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim - also in charge of the Immigration Department - has previously announced that, within 12 months, recruitment quotas will only be issued to agencies rather than individuals..

It was also noted in the US report that authorities had again failed to criminally prosecute any labour recruitment agents or firms for fraudulent practices.

"Passport confiscation was a rampant practice by private employers and government ministries, who with-held the passports of foreign employees and victim witnesses in trafficking prosecutions the government did not prosecute any employers or officials for this offence."

Furthermore, the State Department received reports of organised crime groups - some of whom were said to run prostitution rings - receiving political support.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News 19 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives police to be deployed abroad

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has announced that the Maldives Police Service is working to deploy its officers to foreign countries.

"We have considered some neighbouring countries. Although we will not reveal the countries at this time, once we establish police liaison officers, you will be able to see the results," Waheed said.

"You will hear that police have arrested some or other person who attempted to smuggle drugs into the Maldives from some country. This is the kind of happy news that I wish to hear. You will then know which countries we deploy our officers to,"

According to Waheed, one of the main objectives of the said operation is to tackle the problem of illegal drug smuggling into the country.

He stated that, while police are at present working with counterparts abroad, the actual deployment of Maldivian officers in other countries will prove to be more effective.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 21 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Xi Jinping holds talks with Thein Sein

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Myanmar’s leader Thein Sein held talks today as the relationship between the Asian giant and the long-time international pariah adapts to dramatic political changes.

The two shook hands outside the Great Hall of the People and inspected an honour guard as Thein Sein - a former general - was given full military honours. Xi noted the four-day trip is Thein Sein’s fifth visit to China and third official journey.

"This fully demonstrates the importance you place on developing China-Myanmar relations," Xi said. Beijing was a traditional supporter of Myanmar for decades when the resource-rich Southeast Asian country was diplomatically isolated as human rights suffered under military rule.

Thein Sein is also due to attended the celebration to commemorate the 60thanniversary of an agreement on peaceful coexistence by China, Myanmar and India. The 1954 Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence include mutually respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as mutual non-aggression and mutual non-interference in domestic affairs.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 27 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President signs amendment to peaceful assembly law

President Thein Sein has signed a bill on 24 June amending the controversial Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, relaxing prison sentences but still making it mandatory for people to seek prior permission to protest.

Section 18 of the original law has been used numerous times by the government to lock up peaceful protestors and stifle dissent. It not only requires people to seek permission from local authorities to hold a demonstration but imposes stiff penalties on those who do so without.

"Sections 6, 7 and 18 of the law say that permission must be sought to protest. This is unfair and contrary to the constitution," said Ko Ni, a lawyer for the opposition National League for Democracy.

While the amended law still requires prior consent, it eliminates a clause allowing the authorities to reject permission so long as they remain peaceful. It also reduces the maximum penalty for those charged with causing unrest to one year in prison.

Pro-democracy advocates and rights groups are still adamant that the law goes against Section 354 of the current constitution which guarantees the right of peaceful assembly.

"The amended version states that protestors still have to seek permission but the authorities have to approve it. That means protestors are still guilty if they fail to seek permission," added Ko Ni.

Protestors will now receive six months in prison if they fail to get permission before a demonstration.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 26 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Precursor chemicals may lead to increase in illicit drugs

Myanmar in 2013 received increased amounts of precursor chemicals from India and stable amounts of the chemicals from China that could be used to make illicit drugs, a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World found.

The 2014 UNODC World Drug Report released on 26 June said it found a disturbing increase in supply of the chemicals ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and ancetic anhyndride that can be used to make methamphetamines and heroin.

UNODC representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas, said the precursor chemicals are themselves not made in Myanmar.

"The two largest manufacturers are India and China, right next door," Mr Douglas told a briefing at Yangon’s Drug Elimination Museum on June 26. "You cannot make without precursor chemicals."

UNODC country manager for Myanmar, Jason Eligh, said it was difficult to estimate the production of synthetic drugs in Myanmar, citing the mobility of synthetic drug labs.

"As long as there is a facility, the chemicals and expertise, can make wherever you want," Mr Eligh said. "Obviously those who produce it, produce it where the government has limited control."

Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs reported 10 million amphetamine-type stimulant pills (including methamphetamine) and 13,482 kilograms of ephedrine and pseudoepredrine were seized in 2013.

"Crystal meth seizures have been rising year after year for the last few years," Mr Douglas said. He said increased law enforcement was among the reasons for larger amounts of seizures, but added that the increase of synthetic drugs into Myanmar had led to the findings.

The 2014 UNODC Drug Report also found that Myanmar has seen a staggering increase in poppy cultivation for opium, from 21,500 hectares (53,127 acres) in 2005 to 57,800 hectares (142,827 acres) in 2013.

Opium production has also increased, with Myanmar producing 870 tonnes of opium in 2013 compared with 312 tonnes of opium in 2005, the report said. In addition, 12,288 hectares (30,364 acres) of poppy fields were destroyed in 2013 compared with 3,907 hectares (9,654 acrews) in 2005.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 27 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Seven fringe parties join hands

Seven fringe political parties including main opposition UCPN (Maoist) on 26 June joined hands in favor of ’federalism with identity and Constitution with federalism’. At a meeting held at UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s residence in Lazimpat, the seven-party alliance known as ’Federal Republic Front’ decided to go among the people to garner support for the cause.

"The meeting decided to move ahead unitedly to ensure new constitution with identity," said General Secretary of the Federal Socialist Party-Nepal Rajendra Shrestha, adding, "We agreed to move ahead unitedly for the cause, as there is a slim possibility to have a people-oriented constitution promulgated from the current Constituent Assembly."

The alliance said it will unveil its concept paper on July 2. Top leaders of the fringe parties include UCPN (Maoist), Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (Democratic), Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal, Tarai Madhes Democratic Party, Federal Socialist Party-Nepal, Sadbhavana Party Nepal and Tarai Madhes Sadbhavana Party.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 26 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foreign funding sought in hydropower sector

Energy-starved Nepal called for increased FDI from South Asian nations, including India, in its hydropower sector to fulfill its domestic needs and optimum utilisation of the country’s water resources. Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali said Nepal committed to introduce policy reforms and simplify regulations to create a conducive environment for foreign investors.

She was speaking at the inaugural session of the SAARC Workshop themed Harmonizing Regulations and Policies for Cross Border Power Trade in Kathmandu. Gyawali expressed hope that Nepal and India would soon sign bilateral Power Trade Agreement.

Veteran Indian diplomat, G Parthasarthy underlined the need for greater participation of private sector in areas of power generation and distribution as government projects are plagued by delays in the region. Independent Power Producers’ Association of India (IPPAI) Director-General Harry Dhaul said harmonisation of hydropower policies and regulations at regional levels are essential for cross-border power trade. Some 60 delegates from seven South Asian countries --Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- are taking part in the two-day event.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 26 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China doubles investment-quota

The Chinese central bank has allowed Nepal to double its investment in Chinese government securities, paving the way for Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) to put more cash in secure debt instruments, like bonds, issued by the neighbouring country.

The permission was extended following a request made by NRB Governor Yubaraj Khatiwada. "We will soon sign an agreement with the People’s Bank of China (the Chinese central bank) in this regard," Governor Khatiwada told The Himalayan Times. Nepal is currently allowed to invest up to 1.2 billion renminbi (approximately Rs 18.59 b) in Chinese government securities per year.

With the upward revision in the ceiling, the government will be allotted an annual quota of 2.4 billion Renminbi for investment in instruments like Renminbi-denominated bonds floated by the world’s second largest economy. Nepal had started investing in Chinese government securities from last year following signing of a memorandum of understanding between NRB Deputy Governor Gopal Prasad Kaphle and People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Hu Xiaolian.

The agreement was signed when the country was looking for avenues to diversify its foreign investment portfolio. As of now, NRB has put money in government securities floated by countries like India and the United States, among others.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 25 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM has early-stage lung cancer

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has been diagnosed with lung cancer that is now in its first stage, his personal physician Dr Karabir Nath Yogi confirmed on June 26. Dr Yogi, who is accompanying the prime minister in the US, said that Koirala will undergo a course of radiotherapy on Friday at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

Eight years ago, Koirala was diagnosed with preliminary-stage cancer of the tongue and it was stopped from spreading further. "The lung cancer detected this time is also at a similar stage," Dr Yogi said. Doctors involved in his treatment have recommended a course of radiotherapy, which will now start on Friday.

It is yet to be decided how long the prime minister should remain in New York for further treatment. He will return home after two weeks if there are no further complications, Dr Yogi said. "If the treatment continues he should remain in New York at least for the next six weeks," he added.

"I believe there will not be any serious hurdles in the day-to-day activities of the government because of my absence," Prime Minister Koirala told the party leaders over the phone. Prime Minister Koirala left for New York on 16 June for his medical check-up.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 27 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Flight comes under fire at Peshawar

A female passenger was killed and two crew members were injured when a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) airplane came under fire near the Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA) in Peshawar late on Tuesday evening.

It is reported that unidentified persons opened fire on the airliner in which a woman was killed and two people were injured during its landing. PIA flight PK-756, travelling from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, was about to land at the Peshawar airport when it was struck by ten bullets.

The plane was carrying 178 passengers. Soon after the incident, all flights from the airport were suspended as a precautionary measure and Pakistan Army units cordoned off the entire airport to ward off any untoward incident. A search operation has been launched by the Airport Security Force (ASF) and local police. This is the third such incident at the Bacha Khan airport.

Following the attack, domestic and international airlines have suspended flights to Peshawar. Soon after the 9/11 incident, Peshawar was declared a Red Zone for foreigners including diplomats, officials, tourists and traders, which had badly affected hotel services.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 24 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">47 militants killed in NWA, Khyber blitz

Fighter-planes targeted militants’ positions at Mir Ali and its surrounding areas in the afternoon. As a result, some 11 hideouts of the militants were destroyed, besides killing at least 27 terrorists in the action and destroying a huge cache of arms and ammunition.

In another similar action, at least 20 more terrorists were killed in air strikes after their hideouts were pounded in Khyber Agency, the ISPR said, adding 12 hideouts of the terrorists were destroyed. The assault on the militant bastion of North Waziristan, long urged by Washington, came after a bloody and dramatic attack on the Karachi airport brought an end to months of largely fruitless government efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 25 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Imran wants operation suspended

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan called upon the government to suspend the military operation in North Waziristan till complete evacuation of civilians from the area.

Addressing a press conference after visiting Bannu, where a large number of people displaced from the tribal region have taken shelter, he urged the Centre to provide Rs6 billion from the Coalition Support Funds to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to enable it to provide relief to people leaving the operation-hit areas.

The PTI chairman said that a large number of people, including women and children, were still stranded in North Waziristan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 23 June 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP Govt failed in ’83 riots: Ranil

Admitting that his United National Party (UNP) government did not take adequate action to prevent racial riots in July 1983, Sri Lanka’s Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the present regime should not make the same mistake.

"There were shortcomings on the part of our United National Party (UNP) government of 1983 as we did not take adequate action prevent Black July 1983 and the same mistake should not be repeated," he said addressing a meeting of religious leaders and heads of civil society at the parliamentary complex.

Wickremsinghe said the issues between the Sinhalese and the Muslims had not ended though the riots in Aluthgama and Beruwala had ended and that the government should see to it that matters are resolved before they get out of hand.

The Most Venerable Girambe Ananda Anunayaka Thera, who also addressed the meeting, stressed the need for the preservation of peace and goodwill between the Muslims and the Sinhalese.

The Venrable Thinyawala Palitha Thera also highlighted the fact that both the Sinhalese and the Muslims suffered as a result of the clashes created by some interested groups.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 24 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Alutgama: Army will carry out rebuilding, says Gota

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that the army would re-build destroyed property and repair those damaged in recent racial violence at Alutgama, Beruwela and adjoining areas.

Responding to a query, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had already released the required funds to begin the work. The military would provide free labour, while the government would pay for building material and other requirements, added.

Rajapaksa said that security forces remained on alert to thwart attempts to trigger racial violence. "We are maintaining a substantial security presence in areas ravaged by recent violence. Security forces are ready to face any eventuality in any part of the country."

Asked whether he believed that there was an organised attempt to destabilise the country, the Defence Secretary said that a spate of statements issued by foreign governments as well as various organisations was proof that there was an attempt to undermine the country’s post-war stability.

Racial violence would only strengthen the hands of those conspirators who had been pushing for war crimes probe targeting the country, he added. Anyone with an iota of love for the country, wouldn’t attack another community, the Defence Secretary said.

The Defence Secretary said that the government was aware of ongoing attempts by some elements to cause chaos. Wild allegations against the intelligence services over Alutgama violence, he said, were nothing but an essential part of a strategy to embarrass the government.

Dismissing allegations that the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) accused of causing massive destruction at Alutgama and Beruwela by the SLMC had government backing, Defence Secretary asked whether any government would try to destroy what it had achieved.

"Give me just one reason why we should cause chaos as the country is heading for national elections. Having won every election, except the first Northern Provincial Council polls last September, there is absolutely no reason for the government to dig its own grave," the Defence Secretary said. "Give me one reason why the government wants to antagonsze its coalition partners."

The Defence Secretary said that disruptive elements were using social media networks in a bid to harass the government. Unfortunately, some Sinhalese as well as Muslims had unwittingly contributed to this strategy by propagating lies, he said.

The Defence Secretary detailed the circumstances under which a foreign government sought to rush body guards to Sri Lanka, where one of its VIPs was on holiday. Although the VIP turned down the offer, his government was cagey due to media reports on Alutgama violence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 24 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US, UK welcome UNHRC probe panel

The United States has welcomed the United Nations’ announcement of experts, who will advise the team probing the alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the last months of civil war in 2009.

"The US welcomes UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s announcement of the distinguished experts who will advise the panel conducting the international investigation into the alleged human rights violations and related crimes in Sri Lanka, as called for in the March 2014 Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said.

Urging the Lankan government for its full cooperation with the Office of High Commissioner and investigation, Harf said: "We continue to urge the Government (of Sri Lanka) to fulfill its obligations to its own people and to take meaningful, concrete steps to address outstanding concerns related to democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, justice, and accountability." The United States stands ready to assist Sri Lanka in facilitating progress on these issues, she assured.

In London, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, William Hague, welcomed the appointment of the team of experts to investigate alleged abuses in Sri Lanka. "I welcome (outgoing UNHRC chief) Navi Pillay’s announcement on the appointment of experts to the Sri Lanka investigation established by the March Human Rights Council?.This investigation is an important step in establishing the truth and facilitating reconciliation within Sri Lanka," he said adding, "I strongly urge the government of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner and this investigation and to ensure those engaging with the investigation can do so without fear of intimidation or reprisals."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 26 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Human rights defenders silent on TN poachers: Army

The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora claimed to champion the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils and Tamil Nadu politicians also pretended to do so but they were silent on poaching which deprived Sri Lankan Tamil fishers of their livelihood, Brig Ruwan Wanigasooriya said.

Addressing the weekly media briefing, Brig Wanigasooriya said, "It is surprising that not a single organisation has protested against illegal fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan waters in spite of hardships poaching caused to their Sri Lankan counterparts. The Tamil Nadu fleet used banned methods such as bottom trawling," he said.

Due to terrorism for about three decades fishing bans had been imposed by successive Sri Lankan governments considering security situation at the time and the people living there had suffered enough and it was now the time for them to economically prosper, he said, urging the Tamil Diaspora, Tamil Nadu politicians, NGO activists and other defenders of human rights to come forward and fight for the rights of the Sri Lankan fishermen affected due to poaching by Indians.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 24 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IEC chief resigns

The chief of the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC), Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail announced his resignation this week following allegations of electoral fraud against him raised by front-runner Dr Abdullah Abdullah.

Dr Abdullah had earlier released phone recordings of conversations allegedly between Amarkhail and members of the campaign team of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The recordings tend to suggest a broad plot to engineer rigging in favour of Dr Ghani. However, the identities of the voices are yet to be confirmed.

Mr Amarkhail rejected all accusations against him, but stated that he resigned so that the remaining electoral process could be carried out smoothly.

Following his resignation, the IEC has called upon Dr Abdullah to resume his relations with the commission. Dr Abdullah, who had declared his decision to boycott the commission, had demanded the resignation of Mr Amarkhail as a precondition for resuming his relations with the IEC. Subsequently, a representative of Dr Abdullah’s team confirmed that negotiations between his representatives and the IEC had begun under UN mediation.

Dr Abdullah’s demands before he is willing to return to normal relations with the IEC include a full investigation of fraud cases he is most concerned with and clarification on the turn-out numbers of the runoff. Abdullah has claimed up to two million ballots cast in the runoff could be invalid and maintained that the IEC’s estimate that seven million Afghans participated is far higher than the true number.

There has been growing resentment within Afghanistan over the building roadblock in this process. Dr Ghani’s team issued a statement welcoming the negotiations, but claimed that it will not change the final outcome of the result. Dr Ghani also claimed that the boycott announced by Dr Abdullah tends to suggest that he has already accepted his defeat in the elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 25 June 2014; Tolo News, 23-24 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NATO endorses post-2014 plan

NATO endorsed a detailed operational plan for Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan this week at a meeting of NATO Council with ISAF contributing nations at the level of foreign ministers urging Kabul to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement.

NATO announced its intention to continue providing financial support to the Afghan forces. At the meeting, member states reconfirmed their commitment to providing funds to sustain the Afghan forces.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that without these security agreements they "will not be able to keep any troops in Afghanistan from next year".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 26 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ranked among the most fragile states

In a new index of the most failed states issued by the Fund for Peace Organisation, Afghanistan has been ranked seventh. The list has been formulated based on assessments of countries in terms of human rights, external interference, government credibility, social services, capabilities of security institutions and religious wars.

The report has said that administrative corruption, drug smuggling and extremism are the biggest challenges for the country. According to the report, there has been no visible and drastic change in the lives of the people in Afghanistan as compared to last year, and good governance still does not exist in large parts of the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 26 June 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India: Niharika Betkerur;
Maldives: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan : Bhavya Pandey;
Afghanistan:Aryaman Bhatnagar & Niharika Betkerur

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.