MonitorsPublished on Jul 29, 2011
Though there is a need for a neutral Afghanistan, the prevailing geopolitics of South Asia and the domestic politics of Afghanistan make the 'Congress of Vienna' model and a neutral Afghanistan too utopian a dream to be achieved anytime soon.
Afghanistan: Neutrality dreams unrealistic
< class="heading1">Analysis

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said that the ’Congress of Vienna’ (1814-1815) model of power realignment will be suitable for Afghanistan after 2014. The US has also been aiming to turn the war-torn South Asian country into a "neutral" zone. The US and the rest of the West have initiated a massive diplomatic surge to make this happen. It is fairly well known that a "neutral" Afghanistan is in the interest of not only the regional powers and the international community but also the people of Afghanistan. Despite its necessity, however, the prevailing geopolitics of South Asia and the domestic politics of Afghanistan make the ’Congress of Vienna’ model and a neutral Afghanistan too utopian a dream to be achieved anytime soon.

To start with, the model per se and the characteristics of a neutral country as explicated in the Hague Convention of 1907 are not feasible in the South Asian context, and particularly not in the case of Afghanistan. The Congress of Vienna came about after the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte, in which different European powers, ie Austria, Russia, Prussia and Great Britain, massively reshaped the borders of Europe to maintain peace and stability. The key characteristic was the internal resolve among these powers to put an end to conflict using whatever mechanisms available, of course, after a lot of diplomatic trapeze. With the defeatl of France, they didn’t have to worry about a strong adversary opposing them in any significant way.

Now, compare this with what exists on the ground in Afghanistan, given the regional powers that are expected to sit across the table include India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, and the US. India and Pakistan are nowhere near to sorting their differences anytime soon, the Afghans have little trust in Pakistan as well as the US and its Western allies, and there is almost no clarity over China’s intentions in Afghanistan ? both strategic and economic. Pakistan on the other hand has its own interests and insecurities to deal with in the Pashtun hinterland on its western frontier, and the US seems to have its own plans to maintain strategic presence in the region even after full military pull-out in 2014. Adding on to the list of contentions is the tension between Tehran and Washington. All the powers involved in Afghanistan, thus, have conflicting interests and lack what was central to the ’Congress of Vienna’ ? political will to solve the problem.

However, granting that these countries will show diplomatic maturity and agree upon turning Afghanistan into a ’neutral’ zone, on paper at the least ? as these countries have agreed towards an Afghan-led reconciliation process (even if it was under pressure from the West). The question then is whether the domestic politics of Afghanistan would allow such neutrality to sustain. As it is well known, the national reconciliation process and the Afghan security forces are not in the best of their health. Some indicators of a weak security structure were the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, allegedly by the Taliban, on 12 July 2011, in his home in Kandahar and the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The younger Karzai’s assassination was swiftly followed by the killing of Kandhahar’s Mayor, Ghulam Haidar Hamidi.

There are currently 200,000 Afghan soldiers coupled with 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan. Despite such a heavy troop presence, insurgent groups continue to have a significant presence. The three main insurgent groups ? the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami ? have strong presence in provinces south of Kabul, ie, Logar, Wardak, Ghazni, as well as those in the north, namely, Parwan, Kapisa and Laghman. These groups are stronger in the southern Provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz and Uruzgan. Moreover, the Haqqani network has displayed capacity to keep Kabul psychologically terrorised by its sporadic attacks on high-value targets in coordination with the Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami.

In this situation, even if external forces agree not to make Afghanistan a battleground for their rivalries, they have strong interests in not having the Taliban in power once NATO forces leave. Given the current scenario, although the probability of a Taliban takeover of Kabul is remote, the possibility of insurgents consolidating their power base remains very high. Therefore, given these regional geopolitical constraints and domestic compulsions not only do the prospects of a neutral Afghanistan and the Congress of Vienna model remain bleak, it is too early to predict what shape the Afghan endgame might take.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at the Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US funds being diverted to Taliban

A year-long investigation led by the US military has shown that US taxpayer money has been indirectly funnelled to the Taliban under a $ 2.16-billion transportation contract that the US has funded in part to promote business in Afghanistan.

The unreleased investigation provides seemingly definitive evidence that corruption puts US transportation money into enemy hands, a finding consistent with previous inquiries carried out by Congress, other federal agencies, and the military. Yet, American and Afghan efforts to address the problem have been slow and ineffective, and all eight of the trucking firms involved in the work remain on the US payroll. In March, the Pentagon extended the contract for six months.

According to a summary of the investigation, the US military found "documented, credible evidence of involvement in a criminal enterprise or support for the enemy’’ by four of the eight prime contractors. Investigators also cited cases of profiteering, money laundering, and kickbacks to Afghan power brokers, government officials, and police officers. Six of the companies were found to have been associated with "fraudulent paperwork and behavior.’’
< class="text11verdana">Source: Washington Post, July 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No permanent US bases

Ryan Crocker, the new US Ambassador to Afghanistan, says that the US is not interested in creating military bases in Afghanistan and is not intending to use the country as a platform for increasing its influence in South and Central Asia.

Washington currently is negotiating with the Afghan government on a deal to define the long-term American role in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014, when NATO-led combat troops are due to leave after handing security control to the Afghan army and police.

It remains unclear whether the "strategic partnership" agreement would explicitly refer to possible US military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the possibility of long-term US bases can only be addressed once peace has been achieved.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, July 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kandahar Mayor killed

Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, the Mayor of Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar -- a public official who was regularly surrounded by armed guards and long under threat of death -- was assassinated on Wednesday in a suicide bombing.

Hamidi, 65, was killed during a city hall meeting in the provincial capital when explosives detonated inside the turban of his attacker, according to Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the Kandahar Governor’s office.

The attack is the latest in a string of killings across the country, and the most recent for a region that appears to be deadly for high-ranking officials. Two deputy mayors of Kandahar city have been gunned down by militants in the past year, according to the governor’s office.

Kandahar Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid was also killed by a suicide bomber in April. Hamidi told CNN in December that the chief was a warlord.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack, though rumours soon swirled that his death could also have been the result of a murder over personal grievances.
< class="text11verdana">Source: CNN International, July 2, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border haat with India opened

A border haat (weekly market) has been opened by Commerce Ministers of India and Bangladesh in Meghalaya, marking a new high in the on-going bonhomie and trade links between the two countries.

Indian Mminister Anand Sharma said the opening of the border haat at Kalaichar in WestGaro Hills district would add a new dimension to the economic cooperation between India and Bangladesh. It is the realisation of a dream and fulfilment of the commitment made in the Joint Communiqué issued during the landmark visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi in 2010.

Bangladesh Minister for Commerce Muhammad Faruk Khan said the reopening of the border haat symbolized the will of the people of the two countries to strengthen their economic ties.

Bangladesh and India have agreed to set up a number of Border haats, which are expected to witness bilateral trade worth US $20 million every year. Initially, the border haats are to be opened as pilot projects at Baliamari (Kurigram District, Bangladesh)-Kalaichar (West Garo Hills, Meghalaya,India and at Lauwaghar (Dalora) (Sunamganj District,Bangladesh)-Balat (East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya).

The commodities sold at the designated border haats are exempted from the payment of Customs duties. Commodities are allowed to be exchanged in the designated border haats in local currency or on a barter basis. Estimated value of such purchases shall not be more than respective local currency equivalent of US $ 50 for any particular day. Residents of the area within five km radius from the location of Border Haat will be allowed to sell and buy products in the border haats, an official release said.

Vendors at the border haats will carry photo identity cards. The opening of the haat is likely to benefit about 42 villages of the area within 5 km radius from the haat.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, July 24, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indira Gandhi honoured

Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was conferred the "Bangladesh Freedom Honour" for her unparalleled support and contributions to Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971.

Her daughter-in-law and President of India’s ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, received the posthumous award from Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman on behalf of Indira Gandhi at a ceremony in Bangabhaban. Indira Gandhi is the first among the foreign friends of Bangladesh to be conferred the highest state honour.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, July 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FDI ranking improves

Ranking in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rating has improved for Bangladesh The country has moved to the 114th position in 2010 from 120th in the 2009 revealed World Investment Report (WIR) 2011 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

The country attracted $913.32 million in 2010. The FDI grew by 30 percent in 2010 compared to that in 2009. In 2009, Bangladesh attracted $700.16 million in FDI.

Out of total FDI inflow, $92.06 million had gone to the power, gas and petroleum sector, $238.78 million to manufacturing, $186.63 million to trade and commerce, $360.31 million to transport, storage and communication and $21.7 million to the services sector.

Singapore ranked top by investing $317.19 million in Bangladesh in 2010, while UK second with $105.68 million investment, the Netherlands third with $64.92 million, Hong Kong fourth with $63.84 million, USA fifth with $56.95 million and India sixth by investing $43.19 million.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, July 27, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Contract signed with Chinese firm

Bangladesh Railway signed a deal with a Chinese firm on upgrading the Tongi-Bhairab Bazar, a major section in the Dhaka-Chittagong route, from single-line track to double lines.

The project would cost Tk 1,405 crore and is expected to be completed by 2014. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing 94.7 percent of the project cost, equivalent to Tk 1,330 crore, while the rest will be borne by the Government.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, July 28, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ammunition seized

Security agencies have seized a large quantity of ammunition and explosives from a forest in the eastern district of Gazipur. Security forces recovered 13,582 bullets and 13 kg of explosives.

The seized explosives were made locally and were enough to make 100 small bombs, it was said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Star, July 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FDI in multi-brand retail sector

A Government panel has approved a proposal to allow direct international investment into India’s retail sector, in a step toward further opening the country’s huge retail market to foreigners.

The Committee of Secretaries recommended that foreign investors have to invest at least $100 million to set up multi-brand retail operations and only in cities with population of at least one million people, an official who is directly involved in the matter said.

Foreign multi-brand retailers are prohibited from directly investing in domestic retailers selling to consumers. The policy change means international retailers may start selling to Indian shoppers through partnerships with Indian retailers and will be allowed to own up to a 51% stake in such local joint ventures.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, July 23, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">N-cooperation pact with South Korea

India and South Korea signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement on Monday (July 25, 2011) after a year of negotiations, paving the way for Seoul to export nuclear power plants to fast developing nation.

The pact, signed after summit-level talks between visiting President Pratibha Patil and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, is a requirement and provides legal ground for South Korea’s participation in India’s atomic power plant construction project. She asked South Korea to participate in India’s infrastructure programme and invited Korean companies to invest.

Later, on a three-day visit to Mongolia, the President said that the country will further ties with the north-east nation through three E’s -- Enterprise, Economics and Education."India will focus on the ways and means to impart more economic content to our relationship and to see how India can play a more dynamic role in the core strengths of the Mongolian economy for example in coal and steel," she said, addressing the India Club.

Three agreements to expand cooperation in defence, planning and education and media exchanges between the two countries were signed. The President asked Indian Diaspora to contribute towards the strong relationship of both the countries.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, July 25, 2011, The Hindu, July 28-29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New CBMs with Pakistan

Foreign Minister level talks between India and Pakistan ended on Wednesday (July 27, 2011) with the two sides announcing some confidence-building steps in Jammu and Kashmir and promising to take the bilateral dialogue forward.

The two neighbours pressed ahead with their peace engagement, steering around contentious issues -- particularly Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism -- that bedevil their ties.It was agreed that the two countries have decided to double the trading days at the line of control symbolising a small step forward.

A joint statement, issued after the talks, gives details of the progress of talks which were conducted by the two Foreign Secretaries Nirupma Rao and Salman Bashir first and were then further deepened by the two Foreign Ministers S. M. Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar.

Khar also met Prime Minister Manmhan Singh, and also leaders of the separatist Hurriyat Conference from Jammu and Kashmir, despite Indian reservations. She also met Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and senior BJP leader L K Advani. The BJP leaders also expressed their opposition to her meeting with Hurriyat leaders.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, Indian Express, The Hindu, July 27-28, 2011

Note: Khar’s visit and her talks with Krishna have undoubtedly succeeded in creating a positive environment for improving bilateral ties in a slow and calibrated manner. Even in past, similar atmosphere was present but forces inimical to better ties have invariably succeeded in derailing the normalisation process.

In the weeks and months to come, the sides would have to move cautiously taking care of negative forces in their respective countries to take the process of improving relations.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Double-taxation avoidance pact with Switzerland

The protocol signed by India and Switzerland to amend their existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement to facilitate information sharing on black money stashed away in Swiss banks may come into force by the end of this year, the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has said.

"We have signed a protocol amending the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Switzerland last August. As per their law and Constitution, their international agreements are to be ratified by both houses of Parliament and local authorities.

"The ratification by the two houses is over. Ratification by local authorities may be over by the end of this year," he told newsmen at India House here last evening.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, July 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Saudi Arabia promises oil as Iran halts oil shipment

Following Iran’s decision to halt oil shipments to India, Saudi Arabia has stepped in, to the breach and will provide an additional three million barrels next month with other GCC producers also chipping in.It is a temporary arrangement until India’s problems with Iran are resolved, one way or the other.

Iran had been providing it with 400,000 barrels a day, 12 percent of India’s requirements. Problems arose after western banks refused to transfer Indian funds to Iran for the purchase, citing UN sanctions.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, July 27, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Currency-swap with India on cards?

Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem has said that the government was making arrangements on an India-Maldives currency swap.Replying to the query at the joint news conference with the visiting External Affairs Minister of India, S.M. Krishna, Minister Naseem said that two countries were holding discussions to arrange for a direct exchange between the Rufiya and Rupee.

Naseem said that the shortage in foreign currency is one of the major problems the country was now facing and expressed his gratitude to the Indian Government for offering to help Maldives resolve this problem.

The Minister said that the Government was seeking to arrange currency swaps with countries including the neighbouring Sri Lanka. He said that this will help solve the foreign currency shortage in Maldives.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu Daily, July 29 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India gifts $5 million for SAARC summit

The Indian Government has gifted$5 million to Maldives, to assist in the preparations for the upcoming SAARC summit due to place November in Addu City. Visiting Indian Minister for External Affairs, S M Krishna, handed over the aid to Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, in the presence of President Mohammed Nasheed.

The registration papers for a plot of land in Male for a new Indian High Commission building was presented to High Commissioner D.M. Mulay by Foreign Minister Naseem.Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz presented the signed agreements for a multi-disciplinary university, a wellness centre and medical resort to be developed in Laamu Atoll by Universal Empire Infrastructure to the Indian company’s Chairman Bala Chandran.The infrastructure company also signed an agreement yesterday to upgrade the Laamu Gan regional hospital. Upon completion of the $200-million projects, Laamu Gan would become a regional hub for medical treatment.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, July 28 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Democratisation irreversible: President

The democratisation of Maldives through the burgeoning multi-party system cannot be reversed, President Mohamed Nasheed asserted in his Independence Day address. "No government can last in this country anymore except through clearly stated policies, pledges made to the people and the extent that the pledges are fulfilled," Nasheed said. He congratulated Maldivians for being forerunners to the ’Arab Spring’ revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt as well as democratic-change in other parts of the world.

In his Independence Day message, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom cautioned the nation against "foreign influences" that could compromise the economic indepdendence, sovereignty and "independence of thought" in the country. He argued that while "enslavement of Maldivians" by foreign armies was unlikely given the vast changes that have taken place in the world, the undue influence of powerful external forces was a challenge to small states like the Maldives."In light of this reality, we have to renew efforts to strengthen and fortify the Maldives’ political and economic independence," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, July 23, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constitution may take five years

The CPN-UML leader Pradip Nepal has claimed that the promulgation of a new Constitution would take at least five years. He also added that it was useless to blame all the members of the Constituent Assembly for the delay while adding only a few political parties and leaders were responsible for pushing both the peace process and drafting of the Constitution into a state of coma.

It was a big mistake to give a two-year term for statute drafting process initially, he said, adding that there is no alternate to go for a fresh people’s mandate if the constitution was not promulgated within the stipulated time frame.In another context, he said that the concept to divide the country into federal states was impossible and opined the country should first be economically independent for that.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 July 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM, UML seek tangible steps for reshuffle

Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal and his party CPN-UML have sought immediate and tangible progress in the peace process from the major coalition partner UCPN (Maoist) as a precondition for induction of the latte’s ministers into the cabinet.

The Prime Minister urged the Maoist leaders to appreciate his constraints. "Personally I respect your (Maoists´) right to change ministers from the party but I just wanted to be cautious that the move does not hinder the politics of consensus," the Prime Minister was quoted as saying. "I am more conscious in this matter since we have agreed to follow the course of consensus mainly after the five-point deal."
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 July 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Transition increases vulnerability: India

The Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram has said that a strong and stable government which cannot focus on day-to-day affairs in Nepal is increasing vulnerability in the security of both India and Nepal.

Chidambaram lamented that governments in Nepal have been of caretaker nature for a long time. He also expressed some particular concerns of his country such as ’Pakistani extremists using Nepal as a transit-point, the flow of fake Indian currency and weak security mechanisms at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Katmandu.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Islamabad working for durable regional security

Pakistan is keen to see a durable and sustainable regional security with four dimensions, says Pakistan Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Masood Khan.Highlighting these four dimensions in an interview in Beijing, Ambassador Khan said that first, "we should definitively address issues related to counterterrorism," second, "we should have conditions of peace and stability in Afghanistan," third, "Pakistan and India should build confidence and address outstanding issues and fourth but most importantly, we are making efforts to accelerate Pakistan’s economic development and are participating in activities aimed at regional economic integration and connectivity.

About domestic challenges faced by Pakistan, he said, the country was consolidating democracy, developing our economy, and forging unity."Our quest for stability is what defines our struggle today. We have to get rid of terrorism and extremism, the two evils that have plagued our country for a while. We want to move past this stage to create conditions for rapid development of our economy as well as social harmony. Pakistani nation has the will, the ability and the environment for achieving these objectives," he noted.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, July 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PPP, allies decide not to back off

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its partners in the ruling coalition decided to defend the ’supremacy of Parliament’ and not to back off on the crucial issue of the authority of the Executive.

According to sources, the decision was taken at a meeting of leaders of the coalition parties at the presidency. It lasted for two and half hours and was jointly presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Coming as it does against the background of a tough stance taken by the Supreme Court over non-compliance of its orders by the Government, the decision may have serious implications for the future of national politics.

"The coalition decided that the Government will not change its decision regarding the removal of Establishment Secretary Sohail Ahmed and will not transfer the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Gilgit-Baltistan, Hussain Asghar, to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate the ’Haj scam’, despite the orders of the Supreme Court," a senior politician who attended the meeting told this reporter. He didn’t want his name to be mentioned.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, July 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Security forces behind disappearances’

The Human Rights Watch has said in a report that the Government of Pakistan should immediately end widespread disappearances of suspected militants and activists by the military, intelligence agencies, and the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Balochistan province.

Several of "disappeared" people were executed extra judicially in recent months in the province. The 132-page report titled, "We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan," has documented dozens of enforced disappearances.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, July 29, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LG polls: UPFA wins in South, TNA sweeps North

Saturday’s local council elections saw the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) winning the local councils in the south while the main Tamil party the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won nearly all the local councils in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. With the conclusion of Saturday’s election the local councils in the North can now be made functional for the first time after more than a decade.

The election was held in 65 local council areas, with the ruling UPFA winning 45 local councils while the TNA won 18 of the 19 councils in the North and the East. The Opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP) were unable to secure even a single local council.

In the Jaffna district ? except in the Jaffna Municipal Council area ? the local council election was held for the first time after 1998 with the TNA winning 13 local councils with five local councils in the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in the North, and Digamadulla and Trincomalee in the Eastern Province. The Tamil United Left Front (TULF) led by V. Anandasangari won two local councils in Poonekery and Pachchilepalai (Palai) in the Kilinochchi district. In these areas, the TULF was backed by the TNA whose nomination papers were rejected.

The UPFA, backed by the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), won three local councils -- Kayts Pradeshiya Sabha, Delft Pradeshiya Sabha and Velanai Pradeshiya Sabha.However, the UPFA lost the Karainagar Pradeshiya Sabha to the TNA by a narrow margin of less than 100 votes.

TNA MP Suresh Premachandran said the Tamil people had voted for a dignified political settlement at this election despite intimidations and threats by the ruling UPFA. "We campaigned for a dignified political settlement. We asked for a mandate to fight for some sort of regional autonomy for us. People have endorsed it,"Mr. Premachandran said.

Minister Douglas Devananda who is also the EPDP leader accused the TNA of using inflammatory language during the campaign. He said the TNA even referred to the incidents such as the burning down of the Jaffna library in 1987 and the communal riots in 1983, to gain political mileage at this election.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, July 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four MP slots reduced for Jaffna

With the decrease of the number of voters in the Jaffna district, the total number of MP slots allocated for the district had been reduced from nine to five based on the 2010 electoral register, officials said yesterday.

In the past, there were around 816,005 voters in the Jaffna district.However, the names of those who left the district during the war time were removed from the 2010 electoral register, and accordingly, the total number declined to 484,791.

Wayback in 1989, 11 members were elected from the Jaffna district, and the number was reduced to 10 in 2000 and nine in 2004. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the largest Tamil party having the bulk of its parliamentary seats elected from the Jaffna district, said the decision was totally unacceptable to them though it could be compatible with the law. Alliance MP Suresh Premachandran said his party would engage the government in this regard soon."In Jaffna, there is a different situation. There are people yet to be resettled in the district.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, July 27, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Journalist attacked ’with iron bars’

A Tamil journalist in Sri Lanka’s formerly embattled north was brutally attacked with iron bars, police said on Saturday, the latest in a string of assaults on the nation’s media. Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, was attacked by a gang of men wielding iron bars on Friday near his home in the area formerly held by separatist Tamil rebels, police said.

"The man is in intensive care in hospital" with serious head injuries, police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody told AFP, adding no arrests had yet been made. At least six workers at the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper, including four journalists, have been killed since 2006 over its alleged pro-nationalist Tamil stance.

"This attack is aimed at scaring our employees so they will leave journalism," Uthayan’s publisher and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian E Sarvanapavan told AFP. He believed the assault was in response to the recent sweeping win by his party in local council elections. Some 17 journalists and media employees have been killed in Sri Lanka in the past decade, with none of the murders being solved, according to rights groups.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, July 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Emergency to be lifted this year

The Government has said that emergency regulations would gradually be relaxed and totally lifted before the end of this year. Addressing the weekly media briefing, Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the phasing out and the lifting of the emergency had nothing to do with pressure exerted by any outside power as the security and administration of Sri Lanka was entirely a domestic responsibility of the government.

Minister Rambukwella said President Mahinda Rajapaksa was keen to lift emergency regulations and would not keep it for a day more than necessary. Asked whether last Thursday’s US House Foreign Relations Committee resolution to ban development aid unless Sri Lanka lifted emergency regulations had any bearing on the government’s decision, Minister Rambukwella said "Absolutely not... The US action was a domestic issue of that country..."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, July 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UK should act against Channel 4: Gota

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has questioned the credibility of the latest Channel-4 video broadcast on Wednesday night charging that the British Government should take action against Channel-4 for airing what he called "irresponsible videos".

In the fresh documentary broadcast on Wednesday night over Channel-4, two people claiming to be soldiers had alleged that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered Brigadier Shavendra Silva to execute those who had surrendered.

"We are protecting the families of Soosai and Thamilselvan. Soosai’s family was caught when they attempted to flee the country. We could have killed them as Soosai was responsible for the death of all the sailors. We are taking care of them now. We took good care of (LTTE supremo) Prabhakaran’s parents as well", he added.

"More than 11,000 ex-combatants who were mass murderers and suicide cadres surrendered to the security forces. We rehabilitated and educated them and released them back to the society", he said. "We have evidence that the woman who appeared in the previous video was a former LTTE cadre. She was among the 200,000 civilians who were rescued by the security forces", Secretary. Rajapaksa said.

Military Spokesman Ubaya Medawala said the people appearing in the latest video were not from the Sri Lanka Army. "This is yet another attempt to justify their earlier video...They have attempted to tarnish the image of the security forces several times and this is another similar attempt," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, July 29, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Avinash Paliwal;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Sripathi Narayanan;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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