MonitorsPublished on Apr 20, 2013
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pankaj Saran had a narrow escape as his car was attacked in Khulna. Initial investigation showed that the bombs were of low intensity.
Bangladesh: Indian angle in internal politics
< class="heading1">Analysis

Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pankaj Saran had a narrow escape as his car was attacked in Khulna. Initial investigation showed that the bombs were of low intensity. Two Jamaat-e-Islami activists were arrested in connection with the blast. The attack on the Indian envoy by Jamaat-e-Islami activists makes one wonder on the motive for the attack, especially at a time when Bangladesh is experiencing political turmoil, which is mostly internal.

It is not the first time that the Jamaat-e-Islami has tried to drag India into the internal politics of Bangladesh. For the past few months, it has been running a propaganda that India is behind the ’Shahbagh movement’ demanding death sentence for ’war criminals’ facing trial before an international tribunal set up by the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League Government. Interestingly, almost all the top leaders of the Jamaat are behind bars and are facing trial. The party is trying out all means to thwart the trials. The Jamaat’s propaganda also found ground following India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shanker Menon’s statement hailing the ’Shahbagh protests’.

What can be the reason for bringing India into the midst of all this? Bangladesh’s association with India began from its independence. India had played an active role in the independence of the country. India not only supported Bangladesh’s liberation movement but its armed forces also fought along with the liberation forces. Soon after the Independence, the relationship between the two was extremely friendly.

The dynamics of the relationship changed after military took over the reign of the country. Military dictator Ziaur Rahman took an anti-India stand, to try and give legitimacy to his rule. The presence of Pakistan-trained officers in the Bangladesh army who were sceptical about India was also seen as a reason for his anti-India stance. The re-establishment of democracy in 1991 changed the dynamics again and India became the centre of Bangladesh’s politics. The Awami League, founded by slain Prime Minister and ’Father of Bangladesh’, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was considered a pro-India party. And in a tactical bid to oppose Awami League in domestic politics, Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), now headed by his wife and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, took a strident anti-India stand.

The Jamaat-e-Islami is an ally of BNP. The Jamaat is also known for supporting Pakistan during the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. Cadres of Jamaat-e-Islami are believed to have been members of the militia Albadr, which along with the Pakistan Army, carried out atrocities against the freedom-fighters and the larger population in Bangladesh. The war-crimes dated back to 1971, but after a few hiccups over the past decades, has been taken up only now with certain finality.

Sentiment, inertia

In Bangladesh, one is wary of the disproportionate size of India, both in terms of geography and economy, in contrast to its own size. This sentiment often restricts the thinking of the political elite while taking decisions on matters related to India. In the past, the bilateral relationship had greatly been hampered by the inertia of the political elite to take steps for mending the relations.

India-Bangladesh relations touched its bottom during the last BNP rule (2001-06). However, there has been significant improvement in the relations in past few years. The present Awami League Government has taken some bold steps to strengthen relationship with India. The most important achievement has been the security cooperation which led to the arrest of many top leaders of insurgent groups like the United Liberation Force of Assam and National Democratic Front of Bodoland, operating in India’s North-East.

India and Bangladesh have suffered significantly because of the internal politics. India should make an effort to break the perception that it supports one of the contenders to power. To change this perception, India should work on building government-to-government relationship, which is not party-centric. To attain this goal, it should deal with all sections of the society, cutting across all the political parties. BNP leader Khaleda Zia’s successful India visit last year was a step in the right direction. There is a need to build on those efforts.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan : Ready for polls, but larger questions remain

Medha Chaturvedi

Bhutan is ready for its second General Elections. The National Assembly held a function last week to officially mark the end of its term in office and give way for elections. It is, therefore, time to assess if this new form of government has brought about any changes in Bhutan; if it has been accepted by the people and if it has been a success.

Under the monarchy, Bhutan’s political structure was largely linear and all the decisions were controlled by the King. However, due to the process of democratisation, a new rung of stakeholders emerged in Bhutan’s internal affairs. Despite this inevitable emergence of a new political class, the people of Bhutan are yet to make peace with the idea of a government which stands to be opposed and brought in line. This has been seen as a check on the powers of the implementing authorities in Bhutan by some people, something they are not yet used to.

The issues of following checks and balances under this new system for the country were felt by those outside the political structure as well. Now, from formulation of policy to its implementation and its effects on the local people are multi-fold. As a consequence, some sections in Bhutan feel that accountability has been diluted. Add to that the growing importance of the business community in a rapidly growing GDP and conducive investment environment in sectors like hydropower, has left many wary.

Increasing the interface

The Government has not tried to increase the interface between the people and State to ensure a transparent, corruption-free government. This has been criticised by a wide section of the society as a withholding factor in the pursuit of a vibrant democracy. Although the number of internet-users has increased over the last five years and their presence has been felt in the social media, the absence of a civil society and policy think-tanks has created a vacuum.

Many feel that the final power still rests with the monarchy and the democracy is only as far as it goes. Such theories have found merit in the very-growing and vibrant internet community, which is more active than ever on the social media. There have been several criticisms against Parliament in the open domain with netizens questioning the validity of the political process. Most recent in the string of criticisms has been on the public debates between candidate that is televised on the national network but is regulated nonetheless.

While the basic tenets of a democracy have been complied by Bhutan, for the system to fully take roots, it will take some time. The evolution of the parliamentary system is already visible in this election with more representation than the 2008 elections where only two parties dominated the centre-stage. Moreover, the Opposition has been vocal in criticising the policies of the incumbent Government on various issues, especially on the problem of refugees in the eastern borders with Nepal.

Overall, the structures of democracy have broadly been established. However, informal structures for citizen opinion are yet to come up. The second, government’s job is going to be tough considering the rising expectations of the people and a budding economic system. That crucial balance needs to be found between bringing in prosperity through political participation by everyone and ensuring that the established systems don’t get corrupt. In the end, being one of the youngest democracies in the world, Bhutan still has a long way to go. If the problems facing some of the established democracies like India and the US are anything to go by, this process of entrenching democracy in the country’s system may take a very long time.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hard life for refugees

Bhutanese refugees, both in camps in Nepal and those who chose resettlement in the US, are facing hardships. A report commissioned by the US Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, for instance, shows that the suicide-rate among the Bhutanese refugees is much higher than the global or national average in the US. The suicide rate for Bhutanese in the US is 20.3 per 100,000 people whereas the comparable statistics for global population is 16. The rate for the US population itself is 12.4. The Bhutanese suicide rate in the camps in Jhapa, Nepal is also abnormally high at 20.7.

In addition, the incidence of depression is also higher among them. These statistics signal a need for heightened efforts to address the issue in the future. The onus to do so lies with the refugee-receiving countries as well as the host, Nepal. The biggest responsibility, of course, lies with the Government of Bhutan, which for more than two decades has chosen to ignore the fallout of the forceful eviction of hundreds of thousands of Bhutanese of Nepali origin in the early 1990’s.

Despite the Nepali Government’s efforts to solve the issue through direct talks with the Bhutanese side, the issue remains unresolved with the latter refusing to accept the refugees back home, at least those who want to return to their homes. It has not been easy for the refugees. More than 74,000 of them who have resettled in the US and other countries continue their grim struggle to find employment and security in worlds vastly different from the one they had left behind. The dislocation is even harder for the older generation who find adjusting to a new community that much more difficult.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bihari labourers held hostage

The families of 12 Bihari labourers held hostage in Bhutan on Tuesday have demanded the State Government’s intervention for their safe release and return. The labourers of Ranibari village of Purnia district are being held hostage in Bhutan for more than a month. Shocked over their plight, the family members have sought the State Government’s help for their safe return.

Mohammad Rahman, one of the labourers who managed to escape and return to his native village, said over telephone that labourers are also tortured and not given proper food. The agent who took the workers to Bhutan is now demanding Rs 6,000 each from their families for their safe release, police said. A district police official, said that a probe has been launched and police are looking for the agent who sent the workers to Bhutan and is now demanding money.

< class="text11verdana">Source: IANS, April 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Transit, connectivity meeting held

The working group meeting on Transit and Connectivity between India, Bangladesh and Bhutan has been considered ’a significant step forward’ towards attaining the highest political aspiration of the region’s mutual benefit, ’economic development and prosperity’. A joint press statement issued after the meeting said it was agreed that roads, rail and waterways were ’building blocks to an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship’.

The meeting was as per the Framework Agreement India and Bangladesh signed in Sept 2011 during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General (South Asia) Mashfee Binte Shams led Bangladesh delegation while Bhutanese Ambassador Dasho Bap Kesang and India’s Ministry of Railways’ Director (Works) Shri Virendra Kumar led their respective countries in the Joint Secretary level meeting.

The meeting agreed to continue discussions to finalise the ’Terms of Reference (ToR)’ of the working group and a framework for facilitating sub-regional connectivity and transit. The next meeting of the group will be held in India ’at a mutually convenient date’, the statement said.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Third attempt to ferry EVM in Lunana

Two helicopters hired from India will make its third attempt to ferry election officials and electronic voting machines (EVM) to Gasa’s remotest gewog, Lunana, for the council elections on April 23, having failed to get there in the past two days because of bad weather.

On April 18, the helicopters lifted off from the Gasa Dzongkhag’s football ground with three polling officials and three EVMs. But they had to return without reaching Lunana, to base at Hasimara in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, India, because of poor weather conditions. The helicopters in a second attempt returned from Dochula, Thimphu, and landed at Paro airport because of poor weather conditions.

On April 14, the Dzongkhag administration sent six teachers of Lunana primary school in a chopper that flew into Lunana to pick the three national council candidates and a returning officer, who had flown there for the common forum campaign.

At this time of the year, Lunana, officially a nine-day walk from Gasa dzong, is inaccessible because of snow cover at Ganglakarchung, the main mountain pass. If weather conditions do not improve and helicopters can’t fly there, one of the major vote-banks in the dzongkhag will not go to polls. Lunana has 457 eligible voters, while Laya has 569, Khamey gewog has 444 and Khatoe has 277 eligible voters.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">The shooting prince

The Crown Prince of Bhutan, Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, was the cynosure of all eyes not just for his simplicity but for trying his hand at the 300-m big-bore event at the National Shooting Championship at the Lake Line Ranges in Yapral near Hyderabad.

In the city for the second time after a gap of 20 years when his mother was here and specifically for this event, the Bhutan royal family member insisted that he loved shooting and sincerely believed that apart from archery, this was one sport which could push his country to the pedestal of glory in the world of sport.

Interestingly, the Crown Prince is also the President of the National Olympic Committee in Bhutan. NRAI chief Raninder Singh said there would be joint training sessions for shooters from Bhutan with Indians in coordination with the Sports Authority of India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 17, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JPC’s clean chit for PM

The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has given a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 2G spectrum allocation, saying he was "misled" by the then Telecom Minister A Raja whose assurance stood "belied".

The draft report of the JPC also rubbishes the loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), saying it was "ill-conceived".

The report , which was circulated among members on Thursday before its adoption on April 25, also accused Mr Raja of forging the press note of January 7, 2008 after it was seen by the then Solicitor General G E Vahanvati.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Blast near Bangalore BJP office

A bomb explosion of low intensity injured 17 people including 12 police personnel, in Bangalore on Wednesday (April 17) morning.

The blast occurred some 100 metres from the headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Malleswaram. The police personnel were in Karnataka State Reserve Police van stationed on 24-hour election duty.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NDA will split if BJP ignores allies: Sena

The Shiv Sena today (April 17) once again warned the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would split if the latter declared its prime ministerial candidate with consulting its allies.

In an editorial in party’s mouthpiece Saamna, the Sena leadership noted that the BJP could itself be a big loser if the NDA split. "Declaring someone as a candidate could bring in five or 10 seats, but if some old allies leave there could be a loss of 25 seats," the editorial said.

Speaking at the Indian Women’s Press Club, BJP president Rajnath Singh on Wednesday (April 17) emphasised that the party does not want any of its allies to leave the NDA. He expressed confidence that the BJP and JD (U) would contest the 2014 General Elections together. The party also made an effort to de-escalate the tension with its ally asserting that the BJP-JD (U) alliance was in the interest of the 10 crore people of Bihar.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, April 18, 2013, The Indian Express, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’12,000-cr Central grant for Bihar

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has sanctioned a ’12,000- crore package for Nitish Kumar’s Bihar under the Backward Regions Grant Fund, a significant move given the raging turmoil in the BJP-led NDA of which the JD (U) is a key player.

The CCEA, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the package under which Bihar will get ’ 3,000 crore a year for four years. This is double the amount allocated to the State by the Planning Commission last year. With the JD (U) slowly moving away from the BJP over the prime ministerial candidate, the timing of the announcement is critical.

In a similar attempt to please Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, the CCEA also cleared a package for its backward region of Bundelkhand. The Centre would give Rs 4,400 crore to the region over the next four years. A Rs 250 crore package was also announced for the economically most backward areas of Odisha, which remains in the grip of poverty.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Land Bill gets broad consensus

The Government on Thursday (April 18) achieved "broad consensus" on the long pending Land Acquisition Bill, paving the way for contentious legislation to be taken up for consideration and passage in the Budget session that resumed on Monday.

"We have reached a broad consensus on the Land Acquisition Bill," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said after the all-party meeting. The Bill proposed to replace the archaic Land Acquisition Bill, 1894.

The Government agreed to a key BJP demand, which suggested that instead of acquisition, land should be leased to developers so that its ownership remain with farmers and also provide them with a regular income. Ms Swaraj said the land mafia had brought huge tracts of land from farmers in the hope of getting a huge compensation from the Government.

"I gave 12 suggestions and the government agreed to almost all of them. We have told the government that when you acquire land, you should give 50 percent of the compensation to the original farmer and the government has agreed to it.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Incentives for exports

The Government on Thursday (April 18) announced a host of measures to boost India’s exports including sops to Special Economic Zones (SEZs). These included easier land requirement norms, simpler exit options, cheaper credit and tax breaks for import of machinery.

The new rules for SEZs will allow IT firms to claim tax-breaks by moving offshore work to such duty-free enclaves. The earlier requirement of minimum 10 hectares for such campuses has been done away with and IT SEZs can now be set up if these are spread across at least 100,000 square metres in seven major cities including Mumbai, Delhi and NCR, Chennai, Hyderabad, Banglaore, Pune and Kolkata.

For category B cities, IT companies can set up SEZs even in a smaller built up area of 50,000 square meters.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN body puts growth at 6.4 pc

The UN Economic and Social Survey of Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) has projected a recovery of sorts in India’s growth to 6.4 per cent in 2013-14 from the previous year’s low of five per cent, even as China’s growth trajectory is estimated to post a moderate increase from 7.8 per cent in 2012 to 8 percent.

The mild optimism in growth outlook, expressed in ESCAP’s 2013 survey, stems from the expected improvement in global demand arising from steady growth in the United States and the limited rebound in major emerging economies which is projected to help raise the developing Asia-Pacific region’s growth to six per cent in 2013 from 5.6 per cent last year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM reviews neighbourhood situation

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have discussed the situation in the region with Indian envoys in neighbouring countries, amid indications that new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will visit New Delhi soon on first overseas official trip.

The Indian Ambassadors to Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Iran, Bhutan and the Maldives briefed Dr Singh on the developments in the country under their respective charge.

It was noticed that all the countries in the region are in a state of transition with elections slated in most of them during the course of the next one year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">H-1B fee hike plan rattles IT firms

A framework for comprehensive immigration reform proposed by a group of influential US Senators has sent shockwaves through the business community after it was revealed that it included measures to significantly hike the employer fees payable for H-1B visa application amidst other steps to "crack down" on abusers of the system."

The outline of the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernisation Act of 2013," was released on Tuesday (April 16" by the so-called "Gang of Eight" Senators with crafting a bill that could win bipartisan support and President Barack Obama’s backing. If it does so, it will go into law and could bring radical reform to what some have described as an outdated immigration system.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 18, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Increased defence ties with India

India and Maldives today agreed to enhance their defence cooperation and continue to work together to tackle regional security concerns at the Defence Minister-level talks between the two sides on Monday.

During the meeting between Defence Minister A K Antony and his Maldivian counterpart Colonel Mohamed Nazim, the Indian side "conveyed that India stands committed to enhance the ongoing defence and security partnership with Maldives."

"Both sides also agreed that there is a need for India and Maldives to continue to work together to tackle security concerns in the interests of peace and stability in the region," the Defence Ministry said in a release.

The two Ministers reviewed the ongoing exchanges between the two sides in training, exercises and strengthening of infrastructure and capabilities and agreed that "as close neighbours sharing common security concerns, there is scope to further develop the relationship in mutually agreed areas."

This is the first visit by a senior Maldivian Minister to India after the recent political turbulence there due to a tussle between the Mohammed Waheed Government and former President Mohammed Nasheed which had brought bilateral relations under strain. The visit also comes in the backdrop of the ’GMR row’ involving the Indian infrastructure major, which has died down since.

During Antony’s Male visit last year, India had pushed for installation of more coastal radars in the Indian Ocean islands-nation.

Before the talks began on April 15 in Delhi, Antony said he and his Maldivian counterpart would take forward the deliberations they had in Male last year.

Nazim also met senior officials from the three Services and visited some defence establishments, particularly training and higher-education centres. the three Services chiefs, officials said. Soon after Antony’s visit to Male, Nazim had gone to Beijing where the two sides decided to expand military cooperation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, April 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gasim meets Waheed

Presidential candidate of Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim has said that he has not decided to stand in the upcoming Presidential Election as someone’s Running Mate.

Through a statement on its website, the JP refuted recent reports that Gasim had been invited to act as President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s Running Mate, and said that Gasim will contest in the election as a Presidential Candidate.

According to the JP, Gasim said that people have suffered greatly due to the government of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which got elected in 2008; and that his aim, by standing for election as president again, is to purge the citizens of the great dismay they have had to suffer since 2008.

Some media groups reported that Gasim had been invited to act as President Waheed’s Running Mate after Gasim, along with Umar Naseer, met with President Waheed late on Tuesday night. Umar Naseer has said that the meeting was about forming a ’broad’ coalition.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Speaker Shahid joins MDP

Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Shahid has signed for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on April 18. He has since confirmed to Sun of his move to the country’s largest Opposition party.

When prompted if he had joined MDP, Shahid replied via SMS saying, "True, I have joined today." He has also confirmed the news through his twitter account by stating, "I believe in the democratic Maldives built in 2008; will not stand by while opportunists and extremists drag our country back. Today, I join MDP."

MDP Chairperson and Hulhu-Henveyru MP Reeko Moosa Manik said that Speaker Shahid has joined their party and that his membership form has been forwarded to the Elections Commission.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Court asked to invalidate PPM primary

A case has been filed in Civil Court seeking to invalidate the recent presidential primary elections of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The case was filed by a general member, Rahma Moosa.

Rahma said that she was prompted to submit the case after a large number of the party’s general membership had expressed the opinion that the matter should be contested in court. Her request from the Civil Court was to invalidate the PPM presidential primary election on the basis that the primary’s voter registry was drawn up against the political parties law, she said.

The case also states that a total of 8,915 who were not included in the party’s registry were allowed to vote, and that this too was a violation of the law on political parties, she argued.

Rahma said that the statistics released by the Elections Commission showed that as of 10th March 2013, PPM had a total of 22,383 registered members, but said that the party had allowed a total of 31,298 people to participate in the vote. Members from different other parties were allowed to vote during the PPM primary, she said, and that this was an infringement on the rights of the members of the PPM.

The case has been submitted in court at a time when a lot of tension exists within the party, after Umar Naseer, who had lost the primary, accused the current presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen of rigging the primary vote, which in turn has prompted the party to demand a public apology from Umar.

Meanwhile, Gemanafushi MP Illham Ahmed, who had won the party vice-presidency in the December organizational polls for the Umar camp, has since quit the party, to join the JP.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, April 18, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karennis for genuine peace

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) ethnic armed group has reiterated its strong desire for achieving genuine peace through the current peace-making process between KNPP and the government, official media reported Friday.

U Swe Myo Thant of KNPP made the remarks in Loikaw, Kayah state, firmly believing that the country could develop only when peace prevails in the country. Efforts would be made for overcoming any difficulty in the peace process as well as the development of Kayah State by maintaining peace, he added.

In March last year, the Government and KNPP reached a ceasefire, followed by central level peace talks in June of the same year.KNPP had once had a ceasefire with the government in 1995 but the truce was broken three months after the signing. The Government claimed that so far, ten out of eleven ethnic armed groups have signed preliminary peace pacts with the government at state or central levels since President U Thein Sein announced peace offer with ethnic armed groups in August 2011.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Global Times, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No easy answer to sectarian violence: Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi made rare comments on the sectarian violence in the country on Wednesday, but said she was "not a magician" and will not be able to solve long-running ethnic disputes. Speaking to students at Tokyo University while on a visit to Japan, Suu Kyi maintained her stand that the rule of law needs to be established in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and parties involved in the violence have to build an atmosphere of dialogue. She did not directly refer to recent monk-led violence in the city of Meikhtila that have killed 43 people. Thousands, mostly Muslims, were driven from their homes and businesses as bloodshed spread across central Myanmar, putting the Muslim minority on edge in one of Asia’s most diverse countries. She added that Myanmar’s courts do not meet democratic standards as they are "totally dominated by the executive."

< class="text11verdana">Source: One News, April 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suu Kyi more popular than Lady Gaga

Aung San Suu Kyi was voted as the Time magazine’s most influential person of the decade on April 17, 2013. She won against Lady Gaga by 61 one per cent of the total votes. It was a proud moment for the people of Myanmar who untiringly voted for her to show their utmost support for ’The Lady.’

It is also regarded as a New Year gift for Aung San Suu Kyi from her people as April 16 is the first day in the Myanmar calendar. Following her victory after the voting closed, many people shared their joy and enthusiasm on Facebook.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-Islamic movement spreading

A shadowy anti-Muslim movement known as 969 is spreading throughout central Myanmar, threatening the country’s historic democratic transition. Pamphlets, stickers, DVDs and internet postings are spreading hatred towards the country’s Muslim minority following violence last month that left 43 people dead and turned Muslim neighbourhoods in central Mynamar to ashen ruins.

The surge in Islamophobia has emerged as a major challenge for Myanmar’s reformist government with President Thein Sein calling for his country to learn from the violence and instability during a speech marking the start of Myanmar’s four-day New Year festival. Muslims who account for an estimated four per cent of Myanmar’s sixty million people have mostly lived peacefully alongside Buddhists for generations.

But Nyunt Maung Shein, President of the country’s Islamic Affairs Council, said all Muslims are now worried their future. One of the movement’s leaders is Mandalay-based monk Wiseitta Biwuntha -better known as the Venerable Wirathu -who has branded Muslims as the "enemy" and accused them of being responsible for Myanmar’s crimes.

The Venerable Wirathu, who describes himself as a "Burmese bin Laden," was jailed for 25 years in 2003 for instigating anti-Muslim riots but was freed last year in an amnesty with hundreds of other political prisoners. The Venerable Wirathu began giving a series of controversial 969 speeches four months ago but has not been stopped by Burmese authorities.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Age, April 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Boosting ties with Indonesia

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, accompanied by his wife Hajjah Ani Bambang Yudhoyono, will pay a State visit to Myanmar in the near future to boost bilateral ties, said an official announcement Saturday. At the invitation of Myanmar President U Thein Sein and his wife Daw Khin Khin Win, Susilo’s visit to Myanmar comes two years after U Thein Sein’s first trip to Indonesia on state visit at the sideline of the eighteenth Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta in May 2011. In October 2011, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa visited Myanmar and held discussion with Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin on bilateral cooperation. Myanmar and Indonesia are making efforts to promote trade between the two countries, which is targeted to reach up to $ 1 billion worth in 2016.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Xinhua, April 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gold plunges, dollar soars

Cyprus reported to sell off its 14 tonnes of gold holdings according to its Central Bank’s bailout plan. The global gold price fell from $1,580 per ounce in April’s second week to $1,338 on April 12, although it recovered up to $1394 per ounce.

This affected Myanmar’s gold price whose fall ranged from $56 to $86 per tical (0.576 ounce). A tical of gold was $840 on April 12 before the Water Festival, but it fell to $760 on April 18 when the market opened again yesterday. By that evening, the price was a bit up again.

Meanwhile, Myanmar currency ’kyat’ has weakened against US dollar, and dollars are traded at higher than official prices in the market during the long holiday. The dollar price rose from K884 on April 11 to K897 in the market. In fact, the official exchange price was lower than that rate.

The exchange rate was set at K877 per dollar at authorised cash exchange counters on April 11 which is before the ten-day holiday for Myanmar New Year. Those authorized cash counters closed on April 12 to 21, and this was one factor which led to the rise in dollar exchange rate. They will open again on April 22.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pipeline in mutual interest: China

China has said that an oil pipeline project in Myanmar will serve the mutual interest of both the countries. The Chinese foreign ministry also said the oil pipeline project in Myanmar could boost the local economy in that country.

"The oil pipeline project has undergone scientific study and strict examination and conforms with local regulations and laws," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing. She said it when asked about a Chinese-invested oil pipeline to be built in Myanmar.

The spokeswoman also said China and Myanmar had carried out trade and economic cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. "We believe such mutually beneficial cooperation works for the local economy. We hope the project can go on smoothly."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Xinhua, April 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Regional narcotics hub, still

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced this week that organised crime in the Asia-Pacific region is a $90 billion a year business-twice the GDP of Myanmar. In its first comprehensive study of transnational organized crime in East Asia and the Pacific, the UNODC said the criminal activity includes human trafficking, migrant smuggling, illicit drugs, environmental crimes such as smuggling wildlife and wood products, counterfeit goods, and fake medicines.

The report estimates that the top money-makers for crime groups in East Asia and the Pacific are: the illicit trade in counterfeit goods ($24.4 billion); illegal wood products ($17 billion); heroin ($16.3 billion); methamphetamines ($15 billion); fake medicines ($5 billion); and illegal "e-waste" ($3.75 billion).

Drug-trafficking accounts for an estimated one-third of the value of transnational organized crime, according to this report. The findings show that an estimated 65 metric tons of heroin worth $16.3 billion flowed within the region in 2011, of which two-thirds were produced in Myanmar’s Shan State. In addition, a significant proportion of the $15 billion worth of methamphetamine within the region is also manufactured in eastern and north-eastern Myanmar, although the report said there are notable amounts entering from West Africa and the Middle East.

UNODC also noted that between one-third to 90 percent of all anti-malarial drugs tested in Southeast Asia are fraudulent, a criminal activity which can have serious global health implications.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, April 19, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four parties ’agree’ to polls in Nov

The four major political forces have agreed in principle to hold fresh Constituent Assembly election in mid-November citing the time constraint, the delay in clearing legal hurdles and differences on some provisions of electoral laws. The new proposed date is November 15-21.

Earlier, the cross-party taskforce, comprising the four major forces, had recommended June 21 as the election date. But the government, which has not yet cleared legal hurdles for elections, has been struggling to announce the date with parties divided over provisions in a crucial election ordinance.

Reports have suggested that the poll date will be declared once key electoral Acts are promulgated and a conducive environment for election emerges with the participation of opposing parties. The Election Commission (EC) has also ruled out the possibilities of holding polls in June.

The Constituent Assembly Member Ordinance 2013, forwarded to the government by the EC some two weeks ago, is still under consideration at the Cabinet following differences among parties. The Government is preparing to iron out differences by holding a joint meeting with representatives of the parties and the EC.

The Maoists and various smaller parties have been opposing the provisions for threshold, property disclosure and time bar for convicts while the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are in favour of the EC’s formulations.

Following differences, the government, which forwarded two election-related ordinances -- on Amendment to Some Election Related Acts 2013 and the Ordinance on Amendment to Nepal Citizenship 2013 -has placed the CA Member Act 2013 on hold. The EC has also expressed serious reservations regarding objections from political parties over the formulated laws.

A nation-wide voter registration process, which began some three years ago, has been stalled for the last two weeks owing to obstructions by the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dahal’s China visit focused on economy

United CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda visited China last week. This was his third visit to the country since the Maoist party joined mainstream politics in 2006.

Dahal was accompanied by his spouse, personal aides and security personnel. However, there were no Maoist leaders from the party’s international bureau in Dahal’s team. During his stay in China, Dahal met the new Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang-and other high-level officials.

Before his departure, Dahal told journalists that his visit would focus on economic development and stability. "We should take initiatives to benefit from the achievements made by our two neighbours. My visit to China and India will focus on this purpose," said Dahal, who will be visiting India immediately after returning from China.

Concerning the political agenda, Dahal said that he will ask the Chinese leadership to provide support for fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) polls and the constitution-drafting process.

Reportedly, President Xi, on his part, expressed his commitment to providing all kinds of economic support to Nepal stating that Nepal’s economic progress has a direct impact on Tibet’s security concerns.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, April 14, 2013, Republica, April 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Longest TV talk-show

A television presenter in Nepal has set a new world record by hosting a talk-show for more than 62 hours at a stretch. Rabi Lamichhane, 36, feat was immediately recognised by officials of Guinness World Records present to witness the marathon feat.

Based on the theme ’Buddha was in Nepal’ Lamichhane started the show at 10 am on April 11 and ended it after 62 hours and 12 minutes on April 13.

He eclipsed the earlier record held by Ukrainian TV presenters who hosted a show continuously for 52 hours in 2011 to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, April 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistanis held with fake Indian currency

The police have arrested two Pakistani nationals for being involved in running a fake Indian currency racket and seized fake Indian currencies worth Rs 4.7 million from the Tribhuwan International Airport. The police have also suspected involvement of two Nepali citizens in the racket. According to SSP Hemant Bahadur Pal of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Office, Ranipokhari, the two were arrested during a regular checking at the departure lounge.

The arrested have been identified as Zulekha Bano, who is in her forties, and her 19-year-old son, Essa Danish. They arrived in Kathmandu from Karachi with the fake currencies by a Pakistan International Airlines flight number 268 on April 15. They had wrapped the currencies around their body.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, April 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">200 houses gutted in fire

Over 200 houses were gutted in fire outbreaks in Bara and Parsa district on April 13. A massive fire in Basbitti Jingadiya and Raghunathpur VDCs in Rautahat gutted over 100 houses.

The fire which started from the house of Isha Ahamad of Basbitti Jingadiya VDC-9 engulfed the entire village and spread toward the neighbouring Raghunathpur VDC in no time leaving 50 families homeless.

It is estimated that the fire destroyed properties worth millions of rupees. No human causality has been reported so far.

Similarly, 125 houses were gutted in another fire outbreak in Dhore of Parsa district. The fire destroyed food grains, livestock and other belongings of the villagers.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, April 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rae is new India envoy to Nepal

India has nominated Ranjit Rae as the new Ambassador to Nepal. Rae will replace current Indian ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad after the latter completes his assignment in Kathmandu in August.

Born in 1957, Rae joined Indian Foreign Service in 1980. He is currently serving as Indian ambassador to Vietnam since June, 2010. Previously, he served in different capacities at various Indian missions abroad including in Uganda, New York and Budapest.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Indian Express, April 14, 2013; Republica, April 15, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Quake claims 80 lives

On 16 April, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake originating in south-eastern Iran killed at least forty residents in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province (locals have pegged the death toll closer to 80). Mashkel, a remote Balochistan village, is little serviced by Pakistani infrastructure and gets its electricity from across the border in Iran. According to reports, roughly 2,000 houses, 150 shops, and at least five Government buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Barozi assured that "All available resources would be utilized to assist the affected people and his administration would help rebuild the houses destroyed by the earthquake." Additionally, Caretaker Prime Minister Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso noted that all possible Federal government assistance would be directed at those affected by the quake and that reconstruction would begin promptly.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Dawn, 17 April, 2013, The Express Tribune, 18 April, 2013, The Associated Press Pakistan, 18 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Musharraf arrested

After being rejected from contesting in three constituencies, former President Pervez Musharraf was notified that his nomination papers for NA-32 Chitral were also disqualified. Additionally, earlier in the day, Musharraf’s challenge to the disqualification of nomination papers in NA-48 Islamabad was rejected.

Musharraf’s week only deteriorated. On 18 April, the Islamabad High Court ordered his arrest over charges regarding 2007 emergency rule decree. On 19 April, he was put under house-arrest after surrendering to a magistrate. He is staying at his farmhouse, which is being guarded by a mass of police officers.

The court wants Musharraf arrested, some say in response to Musharraf dismissing judges during his rule. However, many analysts believe that a speedy treason trial could undermine elections, as Musharraf is likely to implicate other officials. They advocate granting bail until elections are over, ensuring a smooth democratic transition for the country.

The Senate passed a unanimous resolution on 19 April calling for "the trial of former President Pervez Musharraf for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution." Senator Raza Rabbani, addressing the media afterwards, said Musharraf was a "self-proclaimed president and should not be given preferential treatment."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Dawn, 16 April 2013, The Nation, 19 April, 2013, The Express Tribune, 19 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Election-related attacks

In recent weeks, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been responsible for carrying out a string of terrorist attacks aimed at political parties. On 11 April, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan took responsibility for the shooting death of Fakhrul Islam, a MQM National Assembly candidate, saying, "The killing is part of our war against secular parties, including the MQM, PPP and ANP, which committed genocide of our tribal people and Muslims while remaining in power."

On 16 April in Peshawar, an ANP meeting was targeted, and the party’s leader, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, received injuries. On the same day, in Khuzdar district, a blast targeted PML-N provincial chief Sanaullah Zehri. The bombing killed at least four people, including Zehri’s son, brother and nephew.

TTP has called elections "un-Islamic" and is targeting a broad array of political parties in an attempt to undermine electoral participation. Caretaker Prime Minister Hazar Khan Khoso has urged political leaders to continue campaigning and to participate in the polling, assuring them that "foolproof security arrangements" were being made.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Dawn, 16 April, 2013; The Nation, 18 April, 2013; The Friday Times, 19 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Drone-attacks okay-ed’

For years, successive Pakistani Governments denied giving approval for US drone strikes in the tribal regions. A recent excerpt from the new book, The Way of the Knife, has shown these protestations false. In 2004, Pakistan allowed the drone program to begin in exchange for the US killing Nek Muhammad, who was fighting the Pakistani authorities.

Embattled former President Pervez Musharraf admitted, "(The) Government OK’d US drone strikes?only on a few occasions when a target was absolutely isolated and no chance of collateral damage?Pakistani leaders would allow US drone strikes after discussions involving military and intelligence units and only if there was no time for our own military to act." Furthermore, in a 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks, then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was quoted as saying, "I don’t care (about the drone strikes)?We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."

While many analysts have long suspected that anti-drone protests were concocted for public consumption, the upcoming elections have given these falsehoods new significance. The Election Commission of Pakistan has stated that "A candidate even after winning the elections can be disqualified if credible evidence is provided that he or she does not meet the criterion laid down in Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 15 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deadlock over Afghan prisoners

In recent times, Pakistan has played a more central role in the Afghan Government’s Taliban reconciliation talks, principally through releasing possible Taliban negotiators imprisoned in Pakistan. However, Pakistan has "suspended indefinitely" the process of releasing Taliban prisoners after the Afghan Government accused Islamabad of sabotaging the peace process.

Since November 2012, when releases began, Pakistan let go 26 members of the Taliban, including former Justice Minister Nooruddin Turabi and former Helmand governor Abdul Bari. While an agreement over a mechanism for future releases was struck in February, little has been done to further facilitate the process. Additionally, Afghanistan is concerned that released prisoners merely rejoined the insurgency.

Afghanistan now claims that Pakistan "has laid down preconditions for supporting reconciliation" and that Afghanistan would pursue Taliban talks without Pakistan, prompting Pakistan to suspend releases.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 15 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ECP: No religious vote seeking

After causing much consternation by disqualifying prominent politicians from seeking re-election, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) released another controversial mandate regarding the 11 May elections. A senior ECP official said, "Political parties, candidates and their supporters must not campaign against any person on the basis of religion, ethnicity, caste or gender. Candidates and their supporters shall refrain from speeches arousing parochial and sectarian emotions and controversy between gender, community and linguistic groups." Any candidate or party functionary campaigning on ethnic or religious grounds would be in violation of Section 78 of the 1976 Representation of the People Act, which enumerates corrupt electoral practices.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, 15 April, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Steep rise in power-tariff

With the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the regulatory body, giving the green signal to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to go for an electricity tariff hike with effect from April 12, the domestic users will have to pay some 68 per cent more on their monthly electricity bills, while others will have to pay 26 per cent more.

An energy expert, citing examples, said that unlike in the previous revisions, the latest increases would be based on flat rates. "This will certainly hit the poor and needy extremely hard. A person who spends Rs. 200 per month on electricity will now have to pay Rs. 327 going by the minimum five rupees jump. This time around, these groups are the prime target group."

Despite proposals and objections countering the CEB recommended proposals, from number of sectors, a unit price increases are in the range of Rs. 5 five to Rs. 34. In addition, the existing Fuel Adjustment Charge of 25 per cent on the monthly bill has jumped to 40 per cent, affecting some 80 per cent of the existing five million electricity consumers serviced by both the CEB and Lanka Electricity Company (LECO).

The State-run schools, hospitals, vocational training institutions and universities have been exempted from the fuel adjustment charge as they are funded through the national budget and they provide services free of charge to the public.

The Commission has directed a set of eight conditions prior to the next revision. However, critics said the public should take that with a pinch of salt when the PUC promises to lay down conditions. They charged that it was the same Commission that said that the fuel adjustment charges would be scrapped soon after a 25 per cent charge was imposed in 2012.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, April 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Low tax-collection crippling’

Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) General Secretary and Senior Minister D. E. W. Gunasekera called on the government to wake up to the grave crisis facing the country due its failure to increase the tax revenue as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to the latest Central Bank statistics, government revenue had come down to 11 to 12 percent of the GDP, the minister said, noting that it was the worst post-Independence scenario. He said that in spite of the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the government hadn’t been able to streamline revenue collection operations.

"We are in a major crisis and the situation could deteriorate further unless corrective measures are taken immediately. Unfortunately, those responsible for taking remedial measures are acting as if the economy were on the right path," Minister Gunasekera said.

The veteran politician was responding to a query by The Island whether the SLFP-led UPFA could continue to engage in extravagance after having declared that no government could subsidise utility services forever.

The CPSL is a constituent of the UPFA. Minister Gunasekera is the Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), one of the two standing watchdog committees responsible for inquiring into the conduct of those running public enterprises.

Minister Gunasekera said that the Government would have to set an example by doing away with unnecessary projects as well as curbing perks and privileges offered to various people, including politicians at the taxpayers’ expense. Certain controls on imports, too, would be a necessity in accordance with an overall plan to curtail expenditure, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MR meets envoys of Islamic nations

President Mahinda Rajapaksa met 15 heads of mission from Islamic countries at Temple Trees for discussion on various matters of mutual interest.

"We are happy to see the eradication of terrorism and a peaceful situation in the country," the Presidential spokesman’s office quoted Palestinian Ambassador in Sri Lanka Dr. Anwar Al-Agha, as having said. Dr. Anwar was speaking on behalf of the entire delegation. "We are keen to see even more development," he said.

President Rajapaksa assured the delegation that the Government would not allow anyone to create communal or religious disharmony. If anyone has proof and evidence of such incidents, the President said, they should hand over that information and action would be taken promptly.

A statement issued by the presidential spokesman said that President Rajapaksa had thanked the delegation for the support that the Islamic countries had given Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva last month. The delegation collectively expressed that they did not condone any country interfering with the domestic issues of another country.

Diplomatic heads from the following countries were present at the meeting: Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem, Minister of Petroleum Industries Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, parliamentarian A. H. M. Azwer, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Karunatilake Amunugama were present during the discussions.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trains up to Madhu next month

The northern railway lines destroyed by the LTTE would be fully restored by May 2014 with trains being able to once again ply up to Talaimannar and Kankesanturai, the Railway Department has said.

A senior official of the Department said that the construction of the Railway line from Medawachchiya to Madhu Road Junction would be completed by next month while the Northern track section from Omanthai to Kilinochchi would be completed by September.

The Northern Railway Reconstruction Project (NRRP), which includes the Medawachchiya - Talaimannar Jetty stretch and the Omanthai - Kankesanthurai stretch, had been accelerated and it was nearing completion, a senior official said.

The train service had been restored only up to Omanthai on the northern line as the tracks, rolling stock and other infrastructure were destroyed by the LTTE, the official said.

The construction work on the 252 km northern line is carried out by the state-owned Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (IRCON) and funded as part of a US $ 800 million credit line by India.

The new track had been designed using modern technology to sustain speeds up to 120 kmph, an official said, adding that the line had earlier been restored from Vavuniya to Omanthai.

A new signalling system that would help administer the operation of train services in a safe and speedy manner had also been designed and installed as a part of the NRRP, the Department said.

Meanwhile, three new trains provided by India to be used on the Northern Railway Line have already arrived and another three trains for the Northern Line are expected to arrive from India within the next few months. With the completion of the project, over 2,000 residents would find direct employment with a further 1,000 people gaining indirect jobs in the North.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 18, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban kills 13 opponents

As many as 13 members of an anti-Taliban militia were killed after Taliban militants attacked a security check-post in Andar district of Ghazni Province in eastern Afghanistan. Andar district’s anti-Taliban forces commander Eng. Lotfullah Kamrani said that this is the second attack by Taliban forces on a security check post in the last two years. Six anti-Taliban fighters were killed in September last year in a similar attack in the Kansif area of Andar district.

Ghazni’s Andar district has pioneered anti-Taliban uprisings and other provinces like Khost, Paktia, Paktika and Kandahar have followed suit. Andar is amongst the most volatile districts of Ghazni where Taliban militants operate openly. This has led to the initiation of large scale public uprisings against the militants.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, April 19, 2013; Afghanistan Times, April 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MPs want provincial polls first

Members of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, said they would talk to President Karzai and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) over conducting provincial elections ahead of the presidential polls scheduled for April next year, because the service term of two-third of the members of the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house of the parliament, would end in February.

Both presidential and provincial elections are scheduled to be held on 5th April, 2014.

Under article 84 of the constitution, in the 102- member upper house, one-third of the members of the upper house represent the provincial councils, one-third of the members represent the district councils, and remaining one-third of the members are appointed by the President.

According to law-maker Syed Husain Alami Balkhi, "The provincial council elections should come before the service term of two-third of the senate members ends, in order to ensure the necessary number of members in the upper house." He suggested that the issue should be raised with the president and the IEC in order to avoid problems in passing laws and taking decisions of national interest.

Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi also lent his support to Balkhi’s remarks, but said that election commission officials should be summoned to discuss the issue before sharing it with the president.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Daily Outlook 18 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban wants Pashtuns disenfranchised: Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the Taliban were out to socially and politically marginalise Pashtun tribes living on both sides of the Durand Line at the behest of other Pashtun tribes.

President Karzai, who phoned Pashtun nationalist leaders Asfandiyar Wali Khan, the chief of Awami National Party (ANP), and Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, strongly condemned a bomb attack on an ANP rally in Peshawar on Tuesday, a statement from the Presidential Palace said.

The attack claimed by the Taliban left 17 people dead, including a child, and scores of others injured in the Yakatoot neighbourhood. The blast happened as senior ANP leaders, including Mr. Bilour, arrived at the gathering. Mr. Bilour, a former federal minister for railways, escaped with only minor bruises. "The attack was carried out against a party which has been founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a non-violent freedom fighter," the statement said.

The bomb-attack was the fourth such attack on politicians in the last three days as Pakistan prepares to go for general elections on May 11. "Such attacks are being carried out by those who want Pashtun tribes subjugated and deprived of their political and social rights," President Karzai said in the statement. He said the rebels were attacking peace loving Pashtun leaders who worked for the nation’s development. Such inhuman and un-Islamic acts by the Taliban are aimed at meeting the goals of others as part of their opposition to the improvement of Pashtuns’ lives," he remarked.

In a reference to the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the high peace council, ANP leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour, Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto and the massacre of Hazara tribesmen in Quetta, President Karzai said the world should not stay silent on such attacks against humanity. In the statement, President Karzai said Afghanistan is calling on Pakistan to honestly cooperate with it in efforts at countering terrorism and insurgency.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok Afghan News, 17 April, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trilateral on Ganga water, hydropower

In a major development indicating a sub-regional strategic alliance, Nepal, India and Bangladesh (NIB) have decided to join hands to cooperate and exploit the hydropower sector and use water resources management for mutual advantage, including jointly developing and financing projects in the Ganga river basin. Indicating its seriousness to give a boost to this initiative, India has already approved the composition of a working group on water and power that will coordinate with Bangladesh and Nepal.

According to a note prepared by India’s Ministries of Power, Water Resources and External Affairs the Ganga Basin has tremendous potential for development of water resources and hydropower.

Therefore, the role of the Ganges in the agriculture, hydro-power, fisheries, navigation, and environmental sectors and in the economy of the co-basin countries is vital. The joint initiative will contribute to poverty eradication and better socio-economic integration.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Independent, April 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gloom over GDP growth

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the country’s GDP growth this year will fall to six percent, mainly due to lack of any sign of recovery in the US and Eurozone economies. Bangladesh’s GDP growth was 6.1 per cent last year.

The IMF made the forecast in its World Economic Outlook released in the week.

Earlier, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank forecast that Bangladesh’s GDP growth will fall below six percent in fiscal year 2012-13 due to political unrests and the sluggish world economy.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US honour for Yunus

Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus this week received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award of the US, in recognition of his efforts toward combating global poverty.

Yunus is only the 17th person in history to have won both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, another of the highest US civilian awards. Yunus won the latter award in 2009.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Celebration of Bengali New Year

This week the nation celebrated "Pahela Baishakh," the first day of the Bengali New Year 1420 with fanfare and festivity. The grand celebration kicked off as the first sunrise of 1420 became visible on the eastern horizon, welcoming the New Year with especially chosen seasonal song -"Eso Hey Baishakh, Eso Hey!" (Welcome O’ Baishakh, Welcome!).

In Dhaka some of the finest artistes from Chhayanaut, a nationally renowned cultural organization, greeted the day at dawn singing Tagore’s song "Eso Hey Baishakh, Eso Eso" under the now-famous banyan tree at Ramna Park. Wearing deep-colored dresses, some painting their faces with the words "Shuvo Nababarsha" ("Happy New Year"), thousands of people of all ages regardless of caste and creed thronged the park. The students of Dhaka University’s Institute of Fine Arts brought out a massive "Mongol Sobhajatra" or "Well-being Parade" in the city. This year’s theme of the parade was "Razakars-free Bangladesh" ("Bangladesh free of War Criminals").

Traders and shopkeepers across the country opened "Halkhata" (new book of accounts) and entertained customers and visitors with sweets on the first day of the. Bengali New Year is celebrated in Bangladesh with much fanfare as part of the long tradition and culture of the Bengali nation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, April 16, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Bhutan and Myanmar: Medha Chaturvedi;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Daniel Rubin and Louis Ritzinger;
Afghanistan:Aryaman Bhatnagar/ Kanchi Gupta;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

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