MonitorsPublished on Jan 11, 2013
The recent developments in the Afghan reconciliation process have evoked a new sense of optimism regarding a peaceful solution to the conflict in the country. First, there was the release of 26 prisoners, in batches, by Pakistan and then the two-day talks in Paris,
Afghanistan: Reconciliation process and Indian concerns
< class="heading1">Analysis

The recent developments in the Afghan reconciliation process have evoked a new sense of optimism regarding a peaceful solution to the conflict in the country. First, there was the release of 26 prisoners, in batches, by Pakistan and then the two-day talks in Paris, where representatives of the Taliban met those from the Afghan Government for direct talks for the first time. Earlier, according to the ’Peace Process Roadmap’, drafted by the Afghan Government -- reportedly in conjunction with Pakistan and the US -- the Taliban and its various splinter groups would be accommodated in the Kabul Government and that Islamabad would play a leading role in facilitating the process.

From India’s perspective, these developments are worrying. Chinmaya Gharekhan, veteran diplomat, wrote in The Hindu: "India should watch these developments most warily. There is no reason for us to rejoice at the possibility of the Taliban becoming a part of the Government."India has never subscribed to the theory of ’good’ Taliban, considering the very idea to be an artificial one constructed by the West in order to facilitate an orderly drawdown in Afghanistan. Such wariness is mostly shaped by the past experience of the Taliban rule in the Afghanistan of the Nineties.

It was the Taliban rulers who had provided a safe haven to anti-India militants and colluded with the hijackers of the Indian Airlines IC-814, which eventually led to the release of Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed and three other terrorists from Indian prisons. More recently, attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan such as the terror-strike on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008, have also been traced back to the Taliban - albeit to the Haqqani network, and not the Quetta Shura with whom the talks have now been initiated - confirming the suspicions and doubts of the Indian administration about the insurgents.

Linked to the scepticism about Taliban’s sincerity is the doubt over their independence. New Delhi continues to look at the Taliban as a Rawalpindi proxy that is dependent on the Pakistan military for its refuge, training and funding. Thus, its ability to negotiate independently is virtually non-existent.

This is linked to India’s second concern relating to the reconciliation process, and Islamabad/Rawalpindi assuming a greater role in determining the future of Afghanistan post-2014. India’s reluctant support for the Afghan reconciliation process was based on the condition that it should be led by Afghanistan, in the hope that it would reduce Pakistan’s influence on the entire process.

No change-of-heart by Pak

Pakistan has neither dismantled the terror infrastructure on its soil, nor has it shown any signs of taking action against anti-India groups despite the repeated demands of New Delhi. It is for this reason that analysts in India doubt the apparent ’change of heart’ of Islamabad/Rawalpindi vis-a-vis Afghanistan or the claims that India is no longer Pakistan’s biggest enemy. Thus, it is feared that Pakistan is attempting to hijack the reconciliation process so that with passage of time and covert assistance to a select group of commanders within the Taliban, it would be able to further its interests in Afghanistan, especially ones directed against India.

In the light of these developments, should India seek a place for itself in the reconciliation process, or attempt to reach out to the Taliban themselves? Iran’s National Security Advisor, Saeed Jalili, during his recent visit to India, said that New Delhi should be involved in the Afghan peace process.

A number of countries have reached out to the Taliban directly in order to protect their interests in Afghanistan. Taking such a step may help India in overcoming possible opposition from the Taliban in the future and undercutting Pakistani influence with the group and with the peace process, but it could come at a huge opportunity cost.

Contradicting stated aim

For one, attempting to engage the Taliban independently and directly goes against India’s stated aim of supporting an Afghan-led reconciliation process. Circumventing the Afghan Government to talk to the Taliban would clearly be contradictory to this. It not only risks endangering Indian relations with the Karzai government, which in the past resented even American attempts to exclude it from the proceedings, but also antagonising Pakistan, thereby making its presence in Afghanistan even more vulnerable.

Secondly, even though India’s aid and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan have clear political and strategic objectives, its engagement with Kabul has largely been non-political. New Delhi, besides the provision of limited training to the Afghan National Security Forces, has stayed away from intervening in political matters such as the political transition process and elections in Afghanistan.

India has also tended to restrict its engagement to socio-economic and development issues deemed as a priority by the Afghan Government. Despite, the importance of the reconciliation process, this is not an area in which the Afghan government has sought Indian help. Such an approach has been greatly appreciated in Afghanistan and won India tremendous goodwill over the past decade. However, claiming a stake in the peace process could be perceived as India intervening politically in Afghanistan.

Finally, any Indian overtures to the Taliban are likely to be resented by India’s traditional support base in Afghanistan - the non-Pashtun dominated Northern Alliance, who could fear abandonment. The situation could become worse for India if instead of a Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura, a more radical element within the shura or a completely different faction of the Taliban comes to power. In such a scenario, India would not only fail to win new allies in Afghanistan, but also lose out on its existing constituency in Afghanistan.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Climbing the ladder on social indices

Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Noted economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen this week said that Bangladesh has overtaken India in every parameter of human development. Sen’s observation has surprised many in the country, but, at the same time, the observation focused on the quite development taking place in Bangladesh, a model that can be imitated by many countries in South Asia.

Soon after its Independence in 1971, Bangladesh was hit by famine. Poverty, hunger, military coups and political instability affected the country badly. Looking at the initial state of affairs of the country, veteran American diplomat and political scientist Henry Kissinger called the country ’a basket case’. Although the country still belongs to the group of least developed nations, Bangladesh has recorded remarkable improvement in the social sector. Narrating the country’s achievements in the sphere of human development, The Economist titled the article, "Out of Basket".

Higher life-expectancy

India, despite being the larger country, both by the size of geography and economy, is lagging behind Bangladesh in various human development indicators. In spite of being a Muslim majority country, there has been little resistance to the social change. It is a rare example for any Muslim country.

Today, life expectancy of an average Bangladeshi is more than that of an average Indian. Average life expectancy in Bangladesh is 68.9 years, while in India it is 65.5. The enrolment of girls in schools has out-numbered the male students in Bangladesh. The country has reduced considerably the infant and maternal mortality rates. It has more women in the labour force. The social development attained by Bangladesh is one of the fasted in the world.

What is special to Bangladesh? Women had been made the drivers of this social change. Women were not only encouraged to acquire education but also to accept family planning voluntarily. These measures led to a considerable drop in the country’s fertility rate - from 6.95 in 1970 to 2.25 in 2010.

Smaller family size and the rise in the education of women immensely helped in improving the status of women in the society. Women now have greater say in the family as well as the society. It also led to economic benefits for the country. Today, women constitute one fifth of the work force of ready-made garments industry, a major export product of the country.

Confrontational politics, but?

Although Bangladesh is known for its confrontational politics, the two major political rivals -- the Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- have pushed their social agenda, whenever in power. Even military dictators supported social issues. Due credit should be also given to the NGOs, who have been successfully taking up social issues. Bangladesh is home to world’s big NGOs like the Grameen and Brac.

Bangladesh is today one of the fasted-growing economies of the world. It has maintained a six per cent growth for more than 10 years. It aspires to become a middle income country. Further investment on the human development will definitely contribute in achieving this goal.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition protest turns violent

The dawn-to-dusk hartal (street protest) called by the Opposition to protest the hike in fuel prices witnessed sporadic incidents of vandalism, explosions, arson and clashes between police and picketers across the country, on Sunday. Supporters of the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance vandalised and torched several vehicles in capital Dhaka. Around 70 persons were arrested from different parts of the country during the day-long hartal.

Earlier, the Government announced a 9 per cent hike in fuel prices. This was the fifth increase after the ruling Awami League returned to power in 2009. The Government claimed that the hike was necessary to cut down on the fuel subsidies-- estimated to be more than $300 million.

The Government’s move has been criticised by some. Mokaddes Akash, an economist, claimed that the hike will have a chain-effect on transport fares, the cost of agricultural and industrial production and will thus compound public suffering.

< class="text11verdana">< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bell rings on duty-free access to US

Bangladesh might lose duty free access to the US market unless labour standards are improved. The US for a long time has been urging the nation to act on labour standards. The US has finally initiated action that may take away Bangladeshi products’ duty-free access to the US.

The media in Bangladesh claimed that the US Trade Representative on December 2012 sent a letter to Commerce Minister G M Quader stating, "We are beginning to consider options that would affect Bangladesh’s continued eligibility for benefits under the GSP". GSP (Generalised System of Preference) is a facility that allows duty-free export from a country.

Sources in the Commerce Ministry claimed that the US is going to have a public hearing on the cancellation of GSP in March this year, and unless the Government can say something meaningful to pacify resentment in the US against low labour standards in Bangladesh, the duty-free facility would be cancelled.

The US has been showing its concern over labour right standards for a long time and the recent fire at a readymade garment industry quickened this process.

< class="text11verdana">< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’BSF killings unpardonable’

Foreign minister Dipu Moni has said that the killing of Bangladeshi nationals by India’s Border Security Force (BSF), along the border, can never be forgiven under any circumstances. The minister said that the Government has lodged a strong protest with the Indian authorities, for the killings of four Bangladeshis earlier in the month at the border.

Speakers at a discussion in Dhaka expressed concern over the recent border killings. The event was organised by a Dhaka-based think-tank. Speakers said the country is now passing through the worst phase of border relations with India.

Border killings are a major irritant between India and Bangladesh. It is the single most issue that ignites emotion in Bangladesh. India has taken several steps to reduce border deaths, including providing non-lethal weapons to BSF soldiers. Ironically, the softer stand by India has emboldened the criminals who operate across the border, leading to an increase in the number of attacks on the BSF.

< class="text11verdana">< class="text11verdana">Source:


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Financial institutions stable

The Governor of the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, Daw Tenzin, has said that all the country’s financial institutions are in "a comfortable position to meet their obligations", despite the on-going liquidity crisis, according to the central bank’s annual report for July 2011 to June 2012.

In the report, released on January 7, Tenzin warned that the domestic currency liquidity was tight and would remain so in the medium term, but said an assessment has found banking liquidity to be adequate to meet all existing commitments. The report focused on the rupee shortage and the credit crunch.

In the wider economy, the report revealed real GDP growth dropped from 11.7 per cent at the end of the second quarter in 2011, to 8.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2012. Owing mostly to an increase in food prices, Bhutan’s annual inflation increased from 8.3 per cent to 13.5 per cent in the same period.

The central bank expects the growth rate to fall further in 2013, to six per cent, before rising to an average of 11 per cent in the following five years. The report also said that the banking sector has seen a decline of 17.7 per cent of their total assets.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 7, 2013;, January 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SAARC Fund to the rescue

Bhutan will get $ 100 million, or 5.5 billion, from the Reserve Bank of India for a period of six months as part of the SAARC currency-swap arrangement which was set up in May 2012 with an interest rate around 6.5 per cent.

The Royal Monetary Authority Governor Daw Tenzin said, "The RBI under Government of India’s instruction has set aside $ 2 billion for the currency swap for SAARC countries. Bhutan, going by the size of our economy, is entitled to $ 100 million."

According to the RMA Annual report the Reserve Bank of India on November 15, 2012 announced calls to all SAARC member nations to apply for the bilateral SWAP arrangement. "The RMA and RGOB will be entering in its first Rupee SWAP arrangement with India in early 2013 for a sum of $ 100 million (’ 5.5 billion),"says the report.

According to the RBI the swap-arrangement is intended to provide a back stop line of funding for the SAARC member-countries to meet any balance of payments and liquidity crises, till longer term arrangements are made or if there is a need for short-term liquidity due to market turbulence. As per the latest data Bhutan’s rupee-borrowings have already touched more than Rs 17 billion.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 9, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistani troops cross LoC, kill two soldiers

Pakistani soldiers killed two Indian soldiers and mutilated the body of at least one of them after crossing into the Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir. This development could impede a tenuous peace process between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Following the incident, which has caused all-round condemnation in the country, Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday to protest against the killing and the mutilation.

Pakistan, however, said it was the Indian Army which started the chain of events. Things took a turn for the worse early on Sunday morning following the death of one Pakistani soldier and critical injuries to another.

India believes that any hasty step on its part in the wake of the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops would not only hurt the nascent dialogue process but also weaken the civilian regime.

The Pakistani Government, on the other hand, continued its aggressive stance and suspended the trans-LoC trade from Poonch-Rawalkote route and refused to respond to the hotline message from the Indian side.

In Washington, the US spiked Pakistan’s effort to seek third-party intervention in the flare-up, saying that "at the moment, we’re urging them to talk to each other".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 11, 2013, The Tribune, January 11, 2013, The Times of India, January 11, 2013, The Indian Express, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Visa on arrival at Attari for senior citizens

The long-pending promise to ease travel between India and Pakistan may finally get a fillip as the visa on arrival for senior citizens, aged over 65, is rolled out on January 15. The reciprocal system, as agreed upon last year, is all set to get operational but not without caveats.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Miandad plays it safe, cancels Delhi trip

Former Pakistan cricket team captain Javed Miandad cancelled his visit to Delhi to watch the last match in the India-Pak one-day series.

The issue of granting visa to him was mired in controversy as he has family ties with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, one of India’s most wanted terrorists.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Naxals insert bomb in body of slain CRPF man

An explosive planted inside the stomach of a CRPF personnel killed by the banned CPI (Maoists) in an encounter in Latehar district on Monday was defused at Rajender Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi on Thursday. The body of Constable Babulal Patel of CRPF’s 112 Battalion had been flown to Ranchi for an autopsy on Wednesday morning.

The incident is first of its kind in the country. Doctors found that the abdomen had been cut open horizontally with "surgical precision"and sutured again. Vital organs like intestines and spleen had been removed to fit the bomb.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 11, 2013, The Indian Express, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coalition collapses, Jharkhand CM quits

Political uncertainty deepened in Jharkhand on Tuesday with Chief Minister Arjun Munda submitting his resignation to Governor Syed Ahmad. On Monday, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) announced withdrawal of support to the BJP-led government.

Munda recommended that the Governor dissolve the Assembly to facilitate fresh elections. But the political uncertainty continued as political parties made a beeline to Raj Bhavan making out a case for an against the imposition of President’s rule.

Desperate for an image makeover after a sling of allegations of scams against party leaders and Ministers at the Centre, the Congress leader of the ruling coalition at the Centre, is giving cold vibes to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and other stake-holders who are pressuring the high command to cobble up an alternative coalition government in Jharkhand.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 9, 2013, The Indian Express, January 10-11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Governor ticks off West Bengal Govt

The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal appears to be on a collision course with Governor M K Narayanan over his remarks on the recent CPM-TMC clashes in the state. Narayanan had on Wednesday night said that "goondaism"was taking place in the state.

"This has nothing to do with political culture. I think some sort of goondaism is going on here,"the PTI quoted him as saying. He had also asked police to work impartially.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Owaisi arrested for hate-speech

Capping a day of high drama, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Msulimeen (MIM) legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi was arrested on Tuesday and whisked away by the police to Nirmal in Adilabad, 220 km from capital Hyderabad, after being subjected to medical tests at a government hospital.

Owaisi is facing charges for an alleged hate speech. The MIM MLA, who was directed by the police to present himself for questioning, had cited medical reasons while requesting the police to give him four days to appear before them.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indira-killers honoured by Akal Takht

Two assassins of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were on Sunday honoured by a senior clergyman to mark the 24th anniversary of their hanging. The head of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, honoured the kin of the assassins at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, January 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">All-round increase in railway fares

In a rather unusual move, Railway Minister P K Bansal on Wednesday announced an across-the board hike in passenger fares less than two months before presenting the Railway budget.

The hike comes into effect from January 21. As a consolation, however, Bansal said there would be no further hike in the budget.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">In-camera trial for Delhi gang-rape

A Delhi court on Monday ordered in-camera proceedings in the December 16 gang rape-cum-murder case of 23 year old paramedic student.

The Metropolitan Magistrate in her order invoked Section 327(2) (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which restricts anyone from printing or publishing any matter or content relating to the proceedings of the case, except with the permission of the court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Asian Age, January 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No consensus on death for rapists

Representatives of the Central and State Governments on Friday failed to evolve a consensus on death penalty for rape convicts at the day-long meeting of Chief Secretaries and DGPs convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs after the Delhi gang-rape.

Many State Governments, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Goa, proposed that the law should be amended to reduce the upper age limit for juveniles from the present 18 to 16.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, The Indian Express, January 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran pitches for extending pipeline

Iran made a pitch on Friday for the extension of gas pipeline with Pakistan to India with its visiting chief of Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, saying that Teheran had the "best capacity" to provide security for the pipeline.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Jalili was on a three -day visit to India during which he met his counterpart NSA Shivshankar Menon.

Apart from Iran’s nuclear power programme, the two sides also discussed regional issues like terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan as Kabul pushes for its controversial Peace Process Roadmap with the Taliban.

Its healthcare system crippled by international economic sanctions, Iran has also asked India for help to procure life-saving drugs for patients battling critical illness in that country.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Times of India, January 4, 2013, The Indian Express, January 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Airbus pips Russia for 9000-crore deal

Russia’s hope of bagging the 9,000-crore contract to supply mid-air refuellers to India is over. It has been piped at the post by the European aviation giant, Airbus Industrie.

This is the second time that Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (A-330 MRTT) has emerged as the first choice of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The IAF has a fleet of six Russian-made Illyusin-78 (IL-78) refuellers; it wants to acquire another six mid-air refuellers.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Court moved on e-clearance for highway-

Claiming that the Environment Ministry’s norms on green clearances were playing "havoc"with highway development projects, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) moved the Supreme Court Wednesday.

It sought a "clarification/modification"of the 2011 judgment that prompted the Ministry to come up with a new set of criteria.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, January 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Private vaccines cost more

The Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) seems to have slipped almost entirely into the grip of the private sector as the government’s vaccine institutes that were reopened in February 2010 after being shut down two years ago are yet to contribute in any significant way. In the process, the cost of most vaccines has more than doubled since 2006-07.

Barring oral polio vaccine, the cost of other routine vaccines that added up to a little over a quarter of the annual routine immunization budget has increased to account for more than 50% of the entire budget, shows the response to an RTI application filed with the Vaccine Procurement Cell in the health ministry by Dr K V Babu, central council member of the Indian Medical Association.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, January 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mars mission in November

In a year when India should have actually fired a second rocket to the moon, after Chandrayaan-1, space scientists will instead send a mission to Mars in November that, if successful, will propel India into the elite club of four - the US, Russia, Europe and Japan.

The announcement was made on Friday by J N Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad and the principal scientist of Chandrayaan-1, at the Indian Science Congress (ISC). Mangalayaan, as India’s Mars mission has been christened, will look for signs of life and reasons why the red planet lost its atmosphere.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, January 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Georgia, the new emigration destination

Georgia, neighbouring Russia, is the latest country attracting Punjabi farmers fleeing the agrarian crisis in their home State. "The Jat farmer’s first love is farming and if Georgia allows him to pursue his dream, then he will move to Georgia,"says Swarn Singh Kahlon, author of the book ’Sikhs in Latin America’.

Cheap land in Georgia is luring many wishing to emigrate. Though fly-by-night agencies are projecting Georgia as another Canada or the US, two favourite destinations for Punjabis, those who have actually begun farming there say, "It’s a risky proposition as yet, because the country’s agriculture has still not recovered from its severance with the Soviet Union and more recently from its war with Russia in 2008".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 7, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President returns parties, privileges Bills, clears rallies law

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has returned the Political Party Bill and the Parliament Privileges and Powers Bill to Parliament for reconsideration, on the advice of the Attorney-General.

In a communication to Parliament through Speaker Abdullah Shahid, the President observed that Article 11 (a) of the Bill, requiring the signatures of 10,000 member-applicants for the Election Commission to register a political party was in contravention of Article 30 (a) of the Constitution, conferring on every citizen the right to establish, manage and participate in activities of political parties. The communication said that according to Article 16 of the Constitution, such rights and freedoms can only be restricted to reasonable extents acceptable in a democratic society by a law enacted by Parliament in a manner that is not contrary to the Constitution.

The President noted that article 7 of the regulation on political parties in effect currently states that the number of members required for a party to be registered is 3,000, and said that it is not clear in the regulation what this number is based on or how it was determined. He highlighted that the figure of 10,000 in the new Bill on political parties also does not give any reasons for increasing the number.

The President noted that while Article 35 (b) of the Bill states that funds from the State budget should be provided as per the policy described in Article 35 (a) to parties that fulfil the requirement of 10,000 members within the three months given to do so after the Bill comes into effect, the Bill lacks any provision that states that thre months should be given to parties that do not meet the requirement of 10,000 members to meet this mark.

Referring to the policies in effect on dissolving political parties formed and operated within the legal structure, the president said that countries around the world allow dissolving parties only under special circumstances which include serious issues such as constitutional sustainability of the state, issues related to independence, threats to the nation’s constitutional structure, or racial, social and religious divisions in the country. The president noted that once the bill is ratified, some parties will be dissolved due to no ’wrong-doing’ of their own, and without being given the opportunity to reform the parties to fit the legal structure.

The President highlighted that while article 36 (a) of the Bill states that a 1,000 sq ft land plot in Male’ will be given by Male’ City Council to parties that have 20,000 members for establishing an office and carrying out political activities, Article 4 of the Land Act states the purposes for which land can be assigned in Male’, and this does not include political purposes.

Referring to the Bill on Privileges and Powers of the Parliament, the President said that while the bill is defined as ’the law that describes some of the privileges and powers of the parliament under privileges and powers guaranteed to the parliament in the constitution’, some issues included in the bill are special provisions to MPs rather than privileges of MPs or parliament employees.

The President said that while Article 4 (b) of the Bill describes activities that breach the privileges of Parliament as crimes, some of the activities described in this regard are not clearly determined as crimes. As the penalty for some of these crimes are imprisonment, it is not appropriate that the activities categorised as crimes are ambiguous.

While Article 6 of the Bill states that security and protection should be provided to MPs by state security forces, to obligate the provision of security and protection by state security forces is not within the limits of Article 105 (c) of the Constitution, said the President.

He further stated that while Article 12 of the bill states that if an MP is suspected of a crime he should be checked with due respect and that if he is to be checked in a public place, this should only be done if suspicions are strong enough to prove that he is guilty, and while the purpose of this article is to end misuse of MPs’ political exposure; this could, under some circumstances, obstruct legal checks conducted under criminal procedures.

The President said that while Article 16 states that an MP who is serving a criminal sentence of less than 12 months should be produced for Parliament sittings and committee meetings, an MP convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period even less than 12 months will also be considered a criminal before the law, and thus under this circumstance, he would be a criminal representing the people in Parliament.

The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Bill, for which the President has given his assent, has since been published on the Government Gazette following ratification. The law describes the policies on exercising the right to peaceful assembly stipulated in article 32 of the Constitution.

Article 32 of the Constitution states that ’everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission of the State’, and the new law establishes the policies on freedom of assembly in in line with Article 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Also, as Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that the right to freedom of assembly can be restricted under a law in order to protect certain interests, the Bill refers to Article 16 (a) of the Constitution and defines circumstances in which this right can be restricted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, January 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel summons President on poer-transfer

The Parliament Committee on Government Oversight has concluded that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has violated the Constitution.

The Committee made this decision after the President’s Office failed on multiple occasions to provide the statements gathered by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), formed to investigate the transfer of power, to the committee. The committee passed at today’s meeting, with five votes in favour, that the President has violated Article 99 of the Constitution. Three members voted against the motion.

Article 99 (a) of the Constitution states that the "People’s Majlis or any of its committees has the power to summon any person to appear before it to give evidence under oath, or to produce documents; and that any person who is questioned by the People’s Majlis as provided for in this Article shall answer to the best of his knowledge and ability."

The committee however rejected a Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) attempt to obtain a Parliament order to request for statements collected by CoNI was rejected with only five votes in favour. The motion requires six votes for it to be passed. However, the committee cleared a proposal to hire two international experts for a period of two weeks to conduct analysis of the report published by the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI).

The committee had on a previous occasion decided to employ an international expert aid in the investigation of the $800 million dollar case involving former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his brother Abdulla Yameen. It also decided to include such an expert in their travels to Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar to investigate the $800 million case.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, January 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed summoned

The temporary committee, formed under a resolution presented to the Parliament to investigate the activities of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Government in violation of the Constitution, has passed a motion, at an emergency meeting to summon Nasheed to the committee.

The committee, in which pro-Government parties hold majority, said that the meeting will be held in Singapore to ensure the safety of the committee members. The meeting is scheduled for February 10.

The temporary committee is made up of seven members, following a resolution submitted by Kaashidhoo MP Abdullah Jabir when he was a member of Jumhooree Party. The resolution was submitted to fulfil his campaign promise, where he said that ’action will be taken against Nasheed through the parliament’.

Jabir previously acted as the Committee Chairman. However he lost this post when he joined Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed was appointed as the new chairperson at the emergency committee meeting held last night.

The decision to summon Nasheed to the committee was passed with three votes in favour, out of four members present at the meeting. The member who voted against this motion was MDP Parliamentary Group Deputy Leader, Thoddoo MP Ali Waheed.

The members who voted in favour of summoning Nasheed to the committee were Vili-Maafannu MP Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik, Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, Kin’bidhoo MP Moosa Ramiz and Fares-Maathoda MP Ibrahim Mutthalib.

The committee also resolved to summon the four members of the Judicial Reform Commission formed by President Nasheed, to the committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday night. The members of the commission are Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Mu’uthasim Adnan, High Court Judge Ahmed Shareef, MDP Legal Committee Chairman Ahmed Abdullah Afeef and Mahchangolhi-north MP Mariya Ahmed Didi.

It was also decided at the meeting to request the President’s Office for information on the activities of the Nasheed’s Government mentioned in the resolution submitted by Jabir.

Jabir presented the resolution against Nasheed to Parliament on the day he took oath as an MP after he won the Kaashidhoo seat by contesting - with the support of the pro-government parties - in the election for Kaashidhoo constituency as a candidate of Jumhooree Party.

The resolution notes that Nasheed threatened and influenced judicial institutions, locked up the Supreme Court, issued illegal orders which were in conflict with court rulings, and issued orders to carry out illegal activities against Judges.

The resolution also mentions that former President Nasheed, who was also the Commander in Chief, illegally ordered the arrest of several MPs, misused the Government budget, disregarded equality of citizens and prioritised the needs of people of a certain political view and encouraged hostility and anger in the society.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC schedules hearing on Parliament decisions

The Supreme Court will hear two separate cases filed against decisions taken within Parliament next week.

According to the Supreme Court’s official website, a case lodged by former Civil Services Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan against parliament’s decision to impeach him over allegations of sexual harassment is scheduled for January 14.

A separate case will then be held two days later on January 16 concerning the Majlis’ decision to hold no-confidence votes against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and other senior Government figures through a secret ballot.

The two cases have been criticised within the People’s Majlis, with some MPs claiming the Supreme Court did not have the jurisdiction to look into matters approved by Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has concluded the hearings on the corruption laden border control system (BCS) project. The seven-Judge bench of the Supreme Court had heard the statements of ACC and Nexbis on Wednesday before concluding the hearings of the case on the same day.

The Supreme Court had earlier annulled the two temporary orders issued by the High Court to halt the BCS project. The Court had also previously invalidated a temporary order issued by the High Court on the pretext that the order was issued by an invalid bench of Judges.

The Government had earlier stated that it had decided to comply with the Parliament’s decision to terminate the contract with Nexbis.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, January 10, 2013, Haveeru Online, January 10, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New vigilance watchdog

President Thein Sein has formed a nine-member anti-corruption team, the Action Committee against Corruption and will be headed by one of the country’s two vice presidents.

According to Transparency International, Myanmar is perceived as one of the world’s most corrupt countries, ranking 172nd out of 176.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January, 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mon National Day, Govt wants to participate

The Mon State Government officials want to participate in the upcoming ’Mon National Day’ and are requesting local ethnic organisations for their approval, according to Mon leaders. The request is being met with scepticism by local leaders, who point out that the government has long ignored expressions of Mon culture and identity.

Min Nwe Soe, a State minister, met with met five members of Mon National Day Committee in Moulmein to discuss state government participation in the 66th Mon National Day on February 26, which until now was organized only by Mon ethnic groups and local communities.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January, 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NLD National Conference

The National League for Democracy (NLD) is planning to hold a national meeting in February. Around 1,500 delegates are expected to attend the meeting, where among other issues the leadership of the party will be defined as its sets its sights on crucial 2015 polls.

The party is facing the challenge of further reinventing itself as its ageing leadership faces the growing expectations of a new generation. The party is also caught between the reality of campaigning for power and its "revolutionary" ideals.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Investors’ Summit

The Myanmar Private Sector Investment Summit (MPSIS) is scheduled to take place on 28-30 January 2013 in Yangon and is expected to attract foreign investors from 15 different countries. Besides the neighbouring Asian countries like India, Japan, Thailand and Singapore that have been actively investing in Myanmar, companies from Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Switzerland and Brazil are also eyeing business opportunities in Myanmar and use MPSIS as a gateway to insights and contacts.

Besides foreign delegates, the MPSIS will also be attended by a large delegation of local Myanmar companies, law-makers and Government executive bodies, in a balanced foreigners-locals ratio of 60:40. The sectorial profile of the attendees includes consumer products, agriculture, manufacturing, garment, wood processing, infrastructure development, information technology, logistics and many others, making PSIS a diverse and neutral platform for conducive business discussions.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 10, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India confers honorary rank on CoAS Rana

Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS), General Gaurav S J B Rana, arrived in India on January 6 on a 10-day visit upon an invitation from his counterpart Gen Bikram Singh.

On January 8, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee conferred the Honorary Rank of General of the Indian Army on CoAS Rana at an Investiture Ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace.

The honorary title given to Rana is the continuation of long-held tradition between Nepali and Indian armies.

Rana met Indian Defence Minister A K Antony and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. He also held meeting with Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Director-General of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, January 6-8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Failure on transit may hit aid

The support pledged by World Bank (WB) for Nepal-India trade facilitation might be affected, as Nepal has failed to sign new transit treaty with India for paving the way for implementation of additional lock system for Nepal-bound transit containers and operationalisation of new trade routes.

The Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) was forced to abort the process of signing new treaty after Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised objection on provisions related to additional lock system in the draft. The MoCS has now decided to go for automatic renewal of the existing treaty instead.

The treaty expired on January 5.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Republica, January 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Baidya document prescribes revolt

CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya presented his political document at a closed session of his party’s general convention on January 10, calling for a "revolt laid by the People’s War".

The session, attended by over 1,400 delegates, formed 21 groups to comment on the document and present suggestions regarding the roadmap the party should take up for accomplishing a "new people’s revolution". The party will discuss whether to pursue peaceful politics or take up an armed struggle to achieve the unfulfilled agendas of socio economic development and "people’s republic".

In the document, Baidya says the mother party, United CPN (Maoist), demolished ’people’s war’ by sticking to the parliamentary system. His paper terms the United CPN (M) a "neo-revisionist force"whose leaders have surrendered before "expansionist and imperialist forces".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kantipur, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN no to diplomatic immunity for colonel

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will not grant Nepal Army Col Kumar Lama any diplomatic immunity as a UN peace-keeper.

Lama is currently in police custody in the UK on charges of two counts of torture committed in Kapilvastu during the decade-long Maoist insurgency. The senior Nepal Army officer, who was serving as an expert in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UN MISS), was arrested on January 3 from St Leonard’s-on-sea near Hastings while visiting his family.

The UN decision follows the Nepal government’s efforts to secure Lama’s release, claiming that he was serving in a UN mission at the time of his arrest.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, January 11, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Ceasefire violation by India’

In what is being seen as a stumbling block for the recent progress in India-Pakistan relations, both countries accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control that has been in place since 2003.

Pakistan accused India of raiding their Sawan Patra check post in Kashmir, which led to the death of one Pakistani soldier. However, India denied that its soldiers crossed the LoC blaming the incident on Pakistani provocation. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin termed the Indian response as one of "controlled retaliation".

Two days later, India accused Pakistan of sending troops across the LoC, killing two Indian soldiers and mutilating their bodies. Pakistan denied the accusations, claiming it to be Indian propaganda in order to divert attention from India’s own violation of the ceasefire agreement.

The severe condemnation of "the brutality"by the Indian government and the reaction to the incident in India was criticised by Pakistan’s External Affairs Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar. She said "Let me just say that we are a bit appalled at some statements that are coming in from India because the government of Pakistan has absolutely rejected that any such incident took place. It is not Pakistan’s policy to not observe the ceasefire on LoC".

She added that such incidents should be dealt with in a responsible manner and proposed a UN investigation of the incident. This proposal, however, was rejected by the Indian government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 10, 2013, The Daily Pioneer, January 11, 2013, The Express Tribune, January 6, 2013, The Express Tribune, January 9, 2013, The Hindu, January 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC pardons MQM chief

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief, Altaf Hussein was pardoned by the Supreme Court after he tendered an unconditional apology. He was being tried for the contempt of court following his adverse remarks against the judiciary.

In a telephonic address from London to a gathering in Karachi on December 2, Hussain had criticised the judiciary and said that judges of the Supreme Court should apologise for their remarks about delimitation of Karachi’s constituencies or face consequences.

In his apology, the MQM chief not only withdrew the remarks he had made, he also made a commitment not to repeat the same in future and to uphold the majesty and dignity of the judiciary at all cost.

Hussein has become the first-ever politician to have tendered an unconditional apology to the court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Bleak chances’ of opening Zardari cases

Pakistan’s High Commission in Geneva informed the Presidency on Wednesday that there is a "bleak chance"of reopening of dormant graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari under the existing local laws.

A Swiss attorney, who is assisting Pakistan’s mission in Switzerland, communicated to the concerned diplomats in Switzerland that Islamabad’s request for reopening the corruption case against the president has "no substantial grounds". Therefore, revival of Swiss cases against President Zardari seems unlikely, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, January 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Petition against Qadri’s march

Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s planned march to Islamabad has drawn a strong reaction from various quarters. Resorting to legal measures, an advocate Asad Mehmood filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a direction for stopping Qadri from undertaking a ’million-man march’ on January 14. Mehmood claims that if Qadri had reservations about the present political setup then he should resort to constitutional methods to protest it.

The petition said that Qadri was threatening to bring down a democratic set up and by doing so, he was violating Articles 6, 8, 9, 62, 17, and 67 of the Constitution. The petition also stated that Qadri has committed treason by "inciting"the army and "inviting"the judiciary to be part of the caretaker set up.

The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) also filed a petition against Qadri. The CPP central chairman, Jameel Ahmed claimed that Dr Qadri’s Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran was an NGO, and not a political party, and thus constitutionally was not allowed to call for a long march. He also alleged that Dr Qadri was working on foreign agenda and his march was a conspiracy against democracy and elections.

These were just two of the many petitions that have been filed against Qadri. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has announced that it would not be participating in Qadri’s long march, despite MQM chief Altaf Hussein having given reassurances earlier that his party would definitely be joining the march.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 8, 2013; The Express Tribune, January 9, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two-thirds vote for CJ’s impeachment

The impeachment motion against Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake was passed with a two-thirds majority in Parliament yesterday-155 for and 49 against. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa informed President Mahinda Rajapaksa of the ratification of the motion last night itself. It was the first time in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary history that an impeachment motion was passed against a Chief Justice.

LSSP member Y G Padmasiri voted with the Government though party leader and Senior Minister D E W Gunasekera and two other Left Front leaders Tissa Vitharana and Chandrasiri Gajadeera abstained. A fourth Left Front stalwart Vasudevananayakara strongly criticised the Chief Justice during the debate and also voted with the Government. UPFA National List member, Prof Rajiva Wijesinghe, too, abstained. The UNP and the TNA voted against the motion while the JVP and the DNA had staged a walk-out after protesting the motion, on introduction in the House. However, Galle district MP Ajith Kumara, elected on the DNA ticket, but an independent in the House, participated in the debate.

The President is expected to announce the removal of Shirani Bandaranayake from the office of Chief Justice shortly. Parliamentary sources said that an acting chief justice would be appointed by the President to fill the vacancy.

Commenting on recent statements attributed to senior UN and EU officials, Minister Dullas Alahapperuma commented outside the House that a section of the international community was playing politics with a purely domestic issue. He said that the Government had no option but to proceed with the impeachment to prevent an unprecedented crisis. The failure on the part of the government to act swiftly and decisively would have caused uncertainty and negated the post-war recovery process, he said, and referred to the high-profile UNP attack against her until the impeachment process was launched.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Saudi execution forces envoy recall

Sri Lanka has recalled its Ambassador in Saudi Arabia in protest against the execution of Rizana Nafeek, who was on death row over the killing of an infant. She was executed on Wednesday.

Condemning the execution, a spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry said that the Government had made every attempt to get clemency for the girl, but according to the law of Saudi Arabia, she could only be pardoned with the approval of the victim’s family.

Chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) Amal Senalankadikara has since promised assistance for uplifting the living standards of Rizana Nafeek’s family. He said that the External Affairs Ministry, Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Ministry and SLBFE would take care of her parents and would bring in some measures to compensate her loss.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, January 10-11, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Reduced US role in 2013

Following a meeting between the presidents of Afghanistan and the US, it was announced that the US troops would be switching to a support, advisory and training role by spring 2013. This move would allow the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to take the lead for security across the entire country before the complete transition of security is expected to take place in 2014. However, President Obama announced that the US forces would still engage in combat operations alongside the ANSF, but would not be taking the lead role.

A final decision on the number of US troops stationed in Afghanistan has still not been taken. Earlier reports had suggested that the White House and Pentagon were considering various options, all of which would see a reduced US troop presence in Afghanistan. This included the "zero option"implying no foreign forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014. The "zero option"had been opposed by President Karzai and had raised concerns among the Afghan lawmakers, who believed that a complete withdrawal of US troops would lead to a civil war in Afghanistan.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta reassured Karzai that the US would not abandon Afghanistan and "walk away from the sacrifices that have been made over the past 10 years."During the meeting with Panetta, President Karzai was also able to secure the transfer of responsibility of the Bagram prison to the Afghan authorities. The control of the prison had been a major source of friction between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, January 9, 2013; Pajhwok, January 11, 2013; The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition to US residual forces

As President HamidKarzai left for his visit with President Obama in Washington, opposition to the prolonged military presence of the US in Afghanistan beyond-2014 surfaced from different quarters.

The Afghan Taliban released a statement on its website, Voice of Jihad, denouncing the security pact between the two countries. The statement claimed that if the US wants peace in Afghanistan it should immediately remove all its troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban blamed all the chaos in the region to the American military presence and promised to continue its "sacred Jihad"against it. Subsequently, as reports emerged suggesting that the US may withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban issued another statement welcoming the complete withdrawal of the US from the region.

Apart from the Taliban, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction, the Hizb-e-Islami is also averse to the US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. A senior leader for the party, Daud Abidi, claimed that the US presence would pave the way for Afghanistan’s neighbours to increase their meddling in the country’s internal affairs. Abidi also called upon the West to end their presence in Afghanistan for the sake of the country’s stability and stressed that they would continue their armed struggle against them.

Iran also expressed its concerns about the impending US-Afghan Security Pact as it is wary of American presence on its eastern border. Iran sent its National Security Advisor, Saeed Jalili to express such concerns to President Karzai.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, January 6-7, 2013; Voice of Jihad, January 5, 2013; Voice of Jihad, January 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISAF to fight through winters

The NATO-led International Assistance Security Force (ISAF) announced that this year, it would continue its fight against the insurgents even during the winter season in order to diminish the insurgents’ capability to regroup for their spring offensive.

The spokesman for ISAF, General Gunter Katz said "during these winter months, which the insurgents have typically used to regroup, waiting for what they have termed the ’fighting season’, I want to make it clear that ISAF and the ANSF have no operational pause. In these months we continue our relentless pressure on the insurgency."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, January 8, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Increase in investments

According to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), investments by domestic and foreign companies in the country increased by 26 per cent in 2012 compared to the previous year. The investments in 2011 were $463 million, which increased to $585 million in 2012.

The aviation, industrial, agricultural and real estate sectors received the greatest amount of investments. AISA added that a number of companies in the industrial, agricultural and mining sectors have shifted from working on ISAF-funded projects to investing in longer-term projects in 2012.

However, a number of small and medium businesses closed their doors in 2012. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries said that such companies decreased by 20 per cent, mainly due to challenges such as shortage of power.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, January 8, 2012

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan and Pakistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;

The Independent, January 8, 2012, The Daily Star, January 9, 2013
The Daily Star, January 7, 2013
The Independent, January 7, 2013,, January 7, 2013
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