MonitorsPublished on May 01, 2015
The recently-concluded elections to three city corporations of Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong put forward some interesting trend about the present political situation in the country.
Bangladesh: What city corporation elections indicate
< class="heading1">Analysis The recently-concluded elections to three city corporations of Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong put forward some interesting trend about the present political situation in the country. The ruling Awami League-backed mayoral candidates won all the three city corporations. However, there is doubt about the impartiality of the elections which is putting a question mark on the popularity of the Awami League. The controversy regarding the election results emerged following opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) withdrawal from the polls on the very day of the election questioning its impartiality. Political parties in Bangladesh are famous for their confrontational nature of politics. Prior to the elections, the country witnessed the worst kind of politics with BNP organising three months of violent shutdowns throughout the country, trying to dislodge the Awami League led government from power. The three-month long protests resulted in the loss of more than 300 lives as activists often used petrol bombs on the rivals. Fresh hopes These local elections came as a fresh breeze of hope for the people of the country as the BNP agreed to join the elections, withdrawing the shut-downs. The elections provided an opportunity to the political parties to prove their popularity since the BNP for long had been demanding the resignation of the Awami League government, claiming it to be unpopular with the voters. The expectations were that these elections would chart a new path for the country and the political parties would engage in dialogue with each other and work more on consolidating democracy in the country. But nothing of the sort happened. So, the elections ended up in deepening the feeling of despair among the people. Both the Awami League and the BNP were blamed for this. While the BNP’s withdrawal from the day of the election is seen as a mark of insincerity, Awami League is being blamed for not being able to create a congenial atmosphere to convince the BNP to stay in the elections. Various media reports talked of rigging in many booths, giving credence to the BNP’s claim. However, the election commission has claimed that the elections were free and fair. Dedicated voter-base In spite of all the controversies, one important truth that has emerged is that both the political parties have substantial numbers of dedicated voter bases. But the question is how long these voters will remain committed? The two political parties should not forget that radical forces are getting strengthened in the country and many claim this is happening because of the weaknesses of the liberal political forces, mainly due to the rival nature of politics, which prevent them from realising what the people desire -- good and corruption governance. Bangladesh has achieved many successes. The country which at one point was described as a ’basket case’ is now one of the fastest growing economies. For more than a decade now, it has maintained six per cent growth. It is now internally appreciated for its achievements in human development. The fear is that all these positives could be derailed because of the political uncertainties that often arise due to the controversial nature of politics. It is not yet late. The political parties should leave their confrontational politics and work more on strengthening democracy in the country to achieve the potential the country possesses. (The writer is a Fellow at t Observer Research Foundation, Delhi) < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka: From the ’Big Two’ to a ’Big Bang’? N Sathiya Moorthy If nothing else, the upcoming parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka can be expected to erase the current phase of continuing lack of clarity bordering on uncertainty though not political stability in the country. The transition, whatever it may be, too may take some time to stabilise. But once that happens, the nation can hope to put back the ’war years’ behind for good. The current scheme of ’confused cohabitation’ between President Maithripala Sirisena’s SLFP and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP, the ’Big Two’ in the nation’s politics and elections, was built into the presidential poll processes of January. Whether they had thought about it or not beforehand, their externally-enforced inability to ensure that their own mutual understanding permeated down their ranks ensured that loose ends remained to wag in the air, at times candidly, at others casually. Having sworn in Ranil Wickremesinghe, possibly as the world’s first ’minority’ leader to be sworn in Prime Minister, President Sirisena had to ensure that the new government had parliamentary support from the ’majority’ SLFP-UPFA group that he came to lead after he had assumed office. There was the contradiction in the form of the majority group coming to assume a ’minority’ role in government, and the Leader of the House, Nimal Sirispala de Silva, becoming the Leader of the Opposition. All three, starting with PM Ranil’s swearing-in, happened without any visible change in the parliamentary composition through formal defections for which Sri Lanka is famous for. If all these smacked of constitutionality and democratic procedural issues, no one is complaining. It has been more so for the SLFP-UPFA, who are yet to readjust to their leader and then President Mahinda Rajapaksa losing the presidential polls to their leader Maithripala Seresena. To ’em all it’s like "The President has lost! Long live the President!" Yet, from Mahinda Rajapaksa to Maithripala Seresena, it is not just a change of a single and sequential alphabet for them. It’s about continuity with change, and change with continuity. Leading them all in these confusing days are both Seresena and Rajapaksa, who too are yet to readjust themselves to the changed reality viz each other, and viz the rest of the nation’s polity. It’s an ally for one in the government that he has been elected to lead, it’s an adversity for the other from his own presidential past. For both, the UNP is a political adversary that they have to take on electorally, individually - and if possible, collectively - if they are to sound credible and creditable at the same time. Testing time Considering that the upcoming polls would be fought under the new electoral scheme, there is going to be greater confusion for predicting the final tally more than any time after the existing proportionate representation (PR) scheme was introduced. Parties, cadres and voters alike would require more than this election to understand the polls and processes, the results and their interpretations. The current PR system has ensured that even the loser between the two Sinhala majors gets its voice heard, as much in Parliament as has become possible outside. The new scheme needs to be tested on the ground to know what it all means, more in terms of the numbers than at present. Under the PR scheme, too, where the loser still had the votes, it still retained the seats as was possible. The problem with the new scheme is for the minor Sinhala parties, and the ’minority parties’ of the Sri Lankan Tamils, Upcountry Tamils and the Tamil-speaking Muslims, not necessarily in that order. They have already discussed the proposed scheme among themselves, cutting across ethnicity and ethno-politically hard-line stand that some of them have come to represent. Among them, the three denominations of Tamil-speaking ethnicities account for a fourth of the nation’s population, or even more. Their coming together on a common electoral platform can take their individual seat-share in Parliament too to a new high. For this to happen, they need to bury their own inter and intra contradictions, which are mostly personality driven. In the case of the SLT polity, particularly the TNA, they have internal problems, based on personalities, but when it comes to working with the rest, they fiend an ideological excuse that’s not really there. Internally and externally, they are afraid of losing the leadership position, both within a party, alliance of a future arrangement. It’s better and worse at the same time, if all ’ethnic minorities’ were to work together among themselves first, and work with the ’minor’ Sinhala parties, where again conflicting polities such as the JVP and the JHU on the one hand, and the JVP and the traditional Left had come to discuss ’electoral reforms’, particularly in terms of the de-limitation processes among themselves and with the ’ethnic minorities’. The fear of being wiped out completely from the face of Sri Lankan electoral politics is at the back of the Sinhala ’minors’ to find common cause and ground with the ’ethnic minorities’, who together are on a much stronger wicket, individually and more so, collectively. There are ideological contradictions among them, yes. If in the fear of losing identity, they could discuss common concerns, they can sit together again in the larger cause of resolving what all they acknowledge the ’national problem’. Insurmountable It does not flow that the minor and ’minority’ parties in the country are going to go ga-ga about it all. Yet, in a nation wherein the conventional ’Big Two’ are working a ’cohabitation’ government, though dubbing it a ’national government’, which it is not, a post-poll realignment of electoral forces over the post-poll years is a possibility that they cannot rule out, either. At the end of the day, none among the ’minor’ and ’minority’ parties have real issues that they could not sit down, discuss and decide upon. Even while tagetting individual Sinhala-Buddhist monks and even the religion’s symbols and symbolisms, the LTTE, for instance, did not attack individual leaders of the Sinhala-Buddhist polity per se, nor the political parties that they led. Post-war, the JHU had taken political positions as was its wont, just as the TNA and the SLMC had taken. The JVP went a step further and had senior leaders visiting the war-ravaged areas, speaking about issues of rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation that the SLT political leadership too is still talking about. Needless also to point out that a high number of 31 MPs from the ruling UPFA coalition had stood by the TNA demands for more powers to the provinces under the Rajapaksa regime, and were the bulwark against any ’13-Minus’ getting past the political class and Parliament, alike. Together, they may all be able to account for 30-35 percent of the nation’s vote-share, concentrated in the case of some and dispersed for the rest. All of them may have been indifferent to the cause and concerns of the Upcountry Tamils, but none of them could be said to be adversarial towards them, either. Under the emerging situation, many of them may want to work with the Upcountry Tamil polity, and also want the latter to work together among themselves. Interestingly for all of them, and distinctively otherwise, the presidential polls showed up other ’religious’ minorities like the ’Sinhala-Catholics’ who might have started wearing a separate constituency identity of their own, through the southern shores and the inland too, at times defying their traditional social leadership. Add the eternally non-conformist Sinhala intellectuals and the votes that they could command, the seeds for a new constituency and politico-electoral combine, cutting across ethnic and ideological lines, and accounting for close to 40 percent of the nation’s electorate might have already been sown. For long the ’Big Two’ in national politics have argued openly and otherwise, the positive side of minor and minorities’ parties aligning with one or the other between them two. They have overlooked the realities of all times for long, and had not foreseen the need and possibilities of them both having to work together under testing circumstances and different sets of rules that they had not thought out earlier, or for the ’others’. Yet, the ’cohabitation’ of the present kind and the possibilities that the promised/electoral reforms may have thrown up already, have the flood-gates opening up on their own faces. Having thought only for themselves, they might from now on begin witnessing the rest thinking for themselves and on their own. It may sound far-fetched just now, but a pre-poll coalition between the UNP and a section (however minor) of the SLFP and a post-poll cohabitation between the two too did not sound feasible or successful (however limited or wide the need and reference be) even three months ahead of the precedent-setting presidential polls. The ’Big Two’ is here and at times together. They may have already triggered the ’Big Bang’ in the nation’s politics, however delayed and muted it might already become! Post-war political realignment, while being inevitable, for a variety of reasons, need not however take the course dictated by the ’Big Two’ or anyone else. It can find a way out for itself, and a way out of itself, too. (The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter) < class="heading1">Country Reports < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Afghanistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">India reiterates commitments Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made his first official visit to India since assuming office in September last year. During his three-day visit President Ghani met with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both leaders spoke about the importance of the bilateral relations highlighting the close ties the two countries have enjoyed over the years. Mr Modi assured Dr Ghani that India’s commitment to Afghanistan was an enduring one and committed New Delhi to jointly tackle terror in the region. India also agreed to expand its assistance in the field of infrastructure, connectivity, human resource development, agricultural and community projects. Dr Ghani also addressed business leaders and urged the Indian industry to invest in Afghanistan’s gas, fertilisers and chemical industries and spoke about the need for greater phone connectivity between the two countries. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "President Ghani Meets His Indian Counterpart", Tolo News, 29 April 2015; "India will walk shoulder to shoulder with people of Afghanistan, says Modi", The Hindu, 28 April 2015; "Afghanistan invites India to invest in fertilisers, chemicals", The Business Standard, 29 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">India delivers helicopters India delivered three Cheetal helicopters to Afghanistan this week. The helicopters are unarmed and have been ready for delivery since June 2014, but a number of delays and political obstacles prevented their shipment till now. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India delivers 3 Cheetal helicopters to Afghanistan", The Economic Times, 25 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bangladesh < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Awami League wins city corporation polls Elections were held in 3 major city corporations of Dhaka North and South and Chittagong. Awami League led mayoral candidates emerged victors in these elections. These elections were the first after the parliamentary elections held in January. Although the elections were more or less peaceful but it was not free of controversies. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had accused ruling Awami League of mass rigging in various polling centres and termed it to be mockery of democracy. Interestingly, Chief of Election Commissioner claimed that there were to anomalies. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Pro-AL mayoral contenders win polls in 3 cities", The Bangladesh Observer, 29 April 2015; "It’s mockery with democracy: BNP", The Independent, 29 April 2015; "Bangladesh’s polls chief says no anomalies or threat in city elections", The Daily Star, 29 April 2015. < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Global players for gas-hunt The government is encouraging international oil companies to explore for onshore gas in Bangladesh. Earlier, international oil companies were barred from exploring onshore gas blocks following a writ petition filed in the High Court. The court recently disposed of the rule. Bapex, the state agency in charge of exploration of natural resources in the country, invited expressions of interest from international oil and gas companies to jointly carry out exploration and development of four geological structures. Bapex hopes to explore a number of well-defined four-way anticline closures - Patiya, Jaldi, Kasalong and Sitapahar - situated in Chittagong and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Onshore gas hunt open to international companies", Dhaka Tribune, 1 May 2015. < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rana Plaza victims sue Dhaka Govt, Wal-Mart in US The government of Bangladesh, Wal-Mart, JC Penney and The Children’s Place have been sued by victims and families of victims of a garment factory collapse that killed more than 1,000 people two years ago. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, claims the retailers and the government were aware of the unsafe conditions. Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building housed many readymade garment factories, collapsed on 24 April 2015, in which 1,129 persons were killed and 2,515 injured. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Rana Plaza victims sue Bangladesh govt, Wal-Mart, JC Penney", Dhaka Tribune, 29 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bhutan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anxiety over quake-readyness Is Bhutan ready for a big earthquake is the question on the minds of many Bhutanese after a massive earthquake affected Nepal and some parts of India? Experts have long predicted an earthquake in Bhutan. However, disaster preparations are incomplete. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Is Bhutan ready for the big one?", Kuensel Online, 2 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Commissioners’ terms end in August In what is said to be a period of transition, the heads and commissioners of three constitutional bodies, namely, the Anti-Corruption Commission, Chief Election Commissioner and two commissioners of the election commission of Bhutan will be finishing their terms by August this year. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Constitutional Heads of ACC, ECB And RAA To Finish Term By August 2015", The Bhutanese, 27 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">India < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Finance Bill 2015 passed The Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill 2015 through a voice vote. As many as 41 official amendments were introduced focusing on direct, indirect and service taxation. While addressing the Lok Sabha, the Finance Minister also expressed his intent to hold camps across the country for express-issuance of PAN cards. Since the PAN has been made mandatory for transactions over 1 lakh, the government promises to issue the card within 48 hours of enrolment. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "LokSabha passes Finance Bill 2015", The Hindu BusinessLine 30 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rs one lakh crore for urban development In an effort to meet the challenges of growing urbanisation, the Union Cabinet approved Rs 1-lakh crore for urban development over the next five years. This will be undertaken through the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation of 500 cities. Both projects aim to provide basic infrastructure services such as water supply, sewerage, etc. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Cabinet nod To Rs 1 lakh cr for urban renewal, 100 smart cities to take off", Business Standard, 30 April 2015; < class="heading12boldGeorgia">More teeth for anti-graft law The Cabinet approved amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, which upgrades corruption to the heinous crime category and increases minimum sentence from six months to six years, besides making provisions to expedite trial. The BJP came to power last year after promising sweeping reforms to curb rising graft. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Cabinet clears stronger anti-corruption Act", The Hindu, 29 April 2015; "Cabinet Okays Strong Anti-Corruption Act", Outlook, 29 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Licenses of NGO’s cancelled The Home Ministry cancelled licenses of 8,975 NGOs that receive foreign funds on grounds of non-compliance to regulations. The government had sent notices to more than 1000 NGOs to submit details of foreign funds under the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA). According to official claims, failure to report documents led to the cancellation. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Foreign funding: Govt cancels licences of nearly 9,000 NGOs", The Indian Express, 28 April 2015; "Government cancels registration of 9,000 NGOs", Business Standard, 29 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to boost investment The Japanese delegation to India headed by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry promised investments of up to USD 3 billion in India in the immediate future. The commitment was formalised through the signing of an agreement between the two governments on areas of promotion of investment, infrastructure development, collaboration in information technology, enhancing cooperation in strategic sectors and Asia-Pacific economic integration. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India, Japan sign action plan to double investments in 5-years", Business Standard, 1 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tremors kill 72 Tremors caused by the Nepal earthquake killed 72 people in India, in addition to casualties among Indian citizens present in Nepal. Most of the damage was caused in neighbouring states; 56 died in Bihar, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, three in West Bengal and one in Rajasthan. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India quake toll rises to 72", Hindu, 27 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Maldives < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arrests after Opposition rally The police took MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed, JP Vice-President Ameen Ibrahim and Adhaalath Party (AP) chief, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the chief organiser, after the Opposition rally against President Abdulla Yameen’s regime passed off without anticipated incidents on May Day evening. The Government that had offered to hold talks with AP’s Imran ahead of the rally later withdrew the offer even as the latter, in his rally speech, said that President Yameen could continue in office after signing a negotiated agreement with the Opposition. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "AP leader Imran Abdulla arrested", Haveeru Online, 1 May 2015; "May-Day Protest: Adheeb: Chairperson of MDP, Ali Waheed has been arrested", SunOnline, 1 May 2015; "Opposition leaders arrested in late-night crackdown", Minivan News, 1 May 2015; "’Rally will end with our victory’ says AP", Haveeru Online, 1 May 2015; "Tyranny will come to an end at 9pm on 1st May- Sheikh Imran", Miadhu, 27 April 2015; "’Protest not peaceful, will act with zero tolerance’", Haveeru Online, 1 May 2015; "Adheeb offers to meet with Imran", SunOnline, 29 April 2015; "Tomorrow’s rally will be peaceful, AP informs police", SunOnline, April 30, 2015; "Government accuses opposition of plotting May Day coup", Minivan News, 30 April 2015; "PPM: We don’t believe tomorrow’s protest would be a peaceful one", SunOnline, 30 April 2015; "Thousands arrive in Malé for May Day protest, police threaten crackdown", Minivan News, 29 April 2015; "Qasim: I did not fund tomorrow’s rally, Adheeb is lying", SunOnline, 30 April 2015; "Gasim was forced to speak against the govt- Sameer", Miadhu, 27 April 2015; "EC warns of action against parties that violate the law at mass rally", SunOnline, 30 April 2015; ""President dismisses calls for resignation", Minivan News, 27 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU wants talks, threatens sanctions Ahead of the May Day Opposition rally, a visiting European Union (EU) team met with ruling PPM, and also Opposition MDP and JP leaders, and called for negotiations among the domestic stake-holders to end the continuing political impasse in the country. In Brussels, the EU Parliament passed a non-binding resolution on member-nations to pass tourist sanctions on Maldives, triggering strong reactions from Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and ruling PPM. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "EU resolution based on ’fabrications, misconceptions, and misrepresentations’", Minivan News, 1 May 2015; "’Negotiations essential to relieve tension’", Haveeru Online, 30 April 2015; "EU meets with PPM, MDP and JP", SunOnline, 29 April 2015; "EU calls on Maldives government to free ex president immediately", Minivan News, 30 April 2015; "European parliament to vote on travel advisory for Maldives", Minivan News, 30 April 2015; "US shines spotlight on missing Maldives journalist", Minivan News, 30 April 2015; "President calls on army to defend government as international pressure increases", Minivan News, 29 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP writes to Indian PM Eva Abdulla, Opposition MDP parliamentarian and a kin of jailed former President Mohammed Nasheed, has written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to help obtain his freedom. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "MDP MP appeals for Indian pressure to release Nasheed", Minivan News, 25 April 2015; "MP seeks Indian help in fighting ’government tyranny’", Haveeru Online, 25 April 2015; "Jailed ex president’s wife to brief US press", Minivan News, 27 April 2015; "Government accuses Amnesty of colluding with MDP to tarnish Maldives’ image", Minivan News, 26 April 2015; "President Nasheed has been moved to Maafushi Prison", SunOnline, 27 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Myanmar < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Wa expresses solidarity The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has a relationship akin to "a jaw and its teeth" with a trio of ethic armed groups engaged with Myanmar army. A conference of ethnic leaders is on in the Wa stronghold. Palaung, Arakanese and Kokang armed rebels have continued engaging with the army in recent weeks. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "At Ethnic Summit, UWSA Backs Rebels in Conflict with Govt", The Irrawaddy, 1 May 2015; "Ethnic armed groups meet in the Wa region Mizzima, 2 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Speaker to visit US The speaker of Myanmar’s Union Parliament Shwe Mann will speak at a public session organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 1 May. Mann will also meet with members of U.S. Congress and Deputy-Secretary of State, Anthony Bilken. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Shwe Mann continues US-Burma rapprochement with visit to Washington", Democratic Voice of Burma, 1 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rohingya bodies resurface Thirty bodies belonging to Rohingya people were discovered in southern Thailand on 1 May, according to the Human Rights Watch. A joint Thai-military-police taskforce found the bodies at an abandoned human trafficking camp. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Global concern grows as Rohingya bodies surface in Thailand", Mizzima, 2 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Nepal < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Post-quake reconstruction The government on Thursday set up a national reconstruction fund to rebuild the physical infrastructure that collapsed as a result of Saturday’s deadly earthquake. The Cabinet meeting allocated Rs 20 billion for the fund and aims to collect Rs 200billion. The fund will be used for the resettlement of people rendered homeless by the disaster with the construction of low cost houses, and so on. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Govt announces Rs 20b trust to fund rebuilding", eKantipur, 1 May 2015; "Govt to set up Rs 200b fund for reconstruction", Republica, 30 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Israel evacuates surrogate babies An Israeli Boeing-747 returned from Nepal to Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, and among its 229 passengers were 15 Israeli babies, all born within the past six weeks to surrogate mothers in Nepal. None of the surrogate mothers was allowed to travel. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Israel Evacuates Surrogate Babies From Nepal but Leaves the Mothers Behind" TIME, 28 April 2015; "Israel begins evacuating babies born to surrogate mothers in Nepal", The Guardian 27 April, 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">All-out efforts by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India will make all out efforts to help the people of quake-hit Nepal and wipe their tears in this hour of crisis, giving priority to saving lives of those who might be buried under the debris. He said a number of rescue teams along with sniffer dogs have been sent to Nepal to save as many lives as they can after the earthquake. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "India will make all-out efforts to help quake-hit Nepal: Modi", The Times of India, 26 April 2015; "Nepal earthquake: BSNL, others pitch in with local, free calls", The Economic Times, 25 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 10-m through Facebook Facebook raised more than $10 million in two days for relief efforts in Nepal. The social network gave people the option to support local relief networks in Nepal after the earthquake hit, and in two days they quickly topped $10 million. Zuckerberg said Facebook would contribute an extra $2 million. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Facebook users raise $10 million for Nepal earthquake survivors in two days", The Washington Post, 30 April 2015; "Facebook Raised More Than $10 Million in 2 Days For Nepal", TIME, 30 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Pakistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">MQM called a terrorist outfit Two members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were arrested this week on charges of terrorism. Both, who were employees of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, were said to have been trained by India’s intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing. Both suspects were accused of being involved in terrorist activities at the behest of India. SSP Malir Rao Anwar called for MQM to be banned as a terrorist organisation. Mr Anwar claimed that senior leaders of the MQM were funding these terrorist activities from London. The MQM denied these charges as "baseless allegations" claiming that problems for the party started following their massive victory in by-elections held recently. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MQM denounces SSP’s allegations as baseless", Dawn, 30 April 2015; "Arrested suspects affiliated with MQM, trained by RAW: SSP", Dawn, 30 April 2015; "SSP Malir calls MQM a terrorist outfit, recommends banning it", Geo TV, 30 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Stability returning to Pakistan’ The Chief of Army Staff, Gen Raheel Sharif, has claimed this week that the country’s stability had improved significantly as a result of the military operation, ’Zarb-e-Azb’ in North Waziristan and the surrounding areas. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Stability returning to country after Zarb-e-Azb: COAS", The News, 29 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM’s unit for China projects Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set up a self-nominated monitoring unit, Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) to oversee the execution of all projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Through this task force, Mr Sharif would be able to monitor the performance of all 50 ministries working on these projects. The PMDU will comprise top-flight professionals from the private sector. Earlier in the week, in a letter to Mr Sharif, the Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s commitment to these projects. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pak-China corridor: Task force formed to monitor projects", Express Tribune, 1 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka < class="heading12boldGeorgia">President gets 19-A passed Taking direct charge of the Government’s efforts to get the promised 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed, President Maithripala Sirisena, operating out of his office in the Parliament Complex, ensured a high vote, far ahead of the required two-thirds majority in the 225-member House. With the passage of the Bill, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s UNP, partnering the Government, has revived demands for early dissolution of Parliament, and consequent fresh polls, far ahead of May 2016, when alone it is due. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "President in marathon effort to get 19A passed", The Island, 28 April 2015; "President thwarted last minute bid to sabotage 19 A - Rajitha", The Island, 29 April 2015; "President says he is willingly sacrificing his powers like no other leader in the world", The Island, 27 April 2015; "President has lost his immunity, answerable to parliament - Rajitha", The Island, 29 April 2015; "Some Independent Commissions not answerable to Parliament", The Island, 29 April 2015; "19 A: Govt claims victory, declares presidential wings clipped", The Island, 30 April 2015; "Half of Constitutional Council to be picked by PM and Opposition Leader", The Island, 30 April 2015; "Don’t bypass historic opportunity: President on 19A", Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2015; "President presents copies of 19A to prelates", The Island, 26 April 2015; "JHU backs19A", The Island, 26 April 2015; "UNP calls for immediate dissolution of Parliament?UPFA factions violated peoples wishes by diluting 19th Amendment", The Island, 30 April 2015; "Presidential powers now used by others - MR", The Island, April 26, 2015; < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Friendship for all: MS In his much-expected May Day rally call of his SLFP, President Maithripala Sirisena called for unity among all communities, and for strengthening the party. While the SLFP said that they would be happy to have predecessor President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the rally, his predecessor in turn, Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga, stayed at the venue for about 30 minutes. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "President vows to extend hand of friendship to all", The Island, 1 May 2015; "President says it’s his duty to steer SLFP to victory", The Island, 26 April 2015; "SLFP eager to welcome former President Rajapaksa at their May Day rally", The Island, 29 April 2015; "MR says he will win if he contests", Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2015; "Mahinda wooing minority voters by attacking BBS alleges Ven. Gnanasara", The Island, 28 April 2015; "Opposition Leader says UPFA unity means defeat of UNP at next poll", The Island, 29 April 2015; "Prof. Peiris contradicts Ranil’s accusation, insists ’impossible to work with PM’", The Island, 28 April 2015; "One-off jumbo Cabinet after next polls to bring SLFP, UNP together?19A restricts number of ministers to 30", The Island, 30 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">’LTTE behind most disappearances’ The three-member Presidential Commission appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and continued into the present government, has found that 60 percent of all war-time abductions owed to the LTTE. Another 10 percent of the disappearances could be traced back to non-LTTE Tamil militant groups and 30 percent to the armed forces, Justice Maxwell Paranagama, panel chairman, has said. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Presidential Commission: 60 percent blame LTTE for war time abductions", The Island, 28 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA Bill on bottom-trawling In what’s still a surprising move, TNA parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran has moved a private member’s Bill in Parliament, against the use of bottom-trawling and other banned methods of fishing in Sri Lankan waters, where Indian fishers often stand accused. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "TNA moves anti-bottom trawling legislation", The Island, 26 April 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Primary Documentation < style="font-size: medium;">Afghanistan Breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar and dinner in Kabul, that’s the world we seek: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, CNN-IBN, 30 April 2015 Media Statement by Prime Minister during the visit of President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India, Ministry of External Affairs, 28 April 2015 Joint Statement during the State Visit of President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India, Ministry of External Affairs, 28 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Tshering Tobgay’s Visit to Kathmandu, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 27 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Debate between Ajay Maken (president, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee) and Shrikant Sharma (national secretary, Bharatiya Janata Party), "The Congress is right in banking on Rahul Gandhi for its revival", The Asian Age, 30 April 2015 Ashutosh (member, Aam Aadmi Party), "Modi lessons for CPM", The Indian Express, 30 April 2015 "Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry calls on PM", The Prime Minister’s official website, 29 April 2015 "Union Cabinet approves Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation and Smart Cities Mission to drive economic growth and foster inclusive urban development", The Prime Minister’s official website, 29 April 2015 Excerpts from 16th D P Kohli memorial lecture by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (Finance Minister), The Indian Express, 28 April 2015 Media Statement by Prime Minister during the visit of President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India, Ministry of External Affairs, 28 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Union Minister for Foreign Affairs H.E. U Wunna Maung Lwin received a delegation from National Defence University of Pakistan, Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Seoul, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 May 2015 Press Release on the visit of UNOCHA delegation & EU delegation to Nepal., Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 April 2015 Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Tokyo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 April 2015 Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Dhaka, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 April 2015 Press Release on Courtesy Call on by Special Representative of Sri Lanka. , Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 April 2015 Press Release on the Calls paid on the Hon. Foreign Minister today., Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 April 2015 Press Release on Earthquake in Nepal 2015., Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 April 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Bibliography < style="font-size: medium;">Afghanistan Opinion Pieces Vikram Sood, "India’s neighbourhood may soon get a new look", The Hindustan Times, 29 April 2015 Harsh Pant, "Ghani visit: Modi needs to tell Afghan prez he’s not a softie", Daily O, 28 April 2015 C Raja Mohan, "More modestly, with Kabul", The Indian Express, 27 April 2015 Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, "Ghani’s India visit: A new chapter in India- Afghanistan relations?", South Asia Monitor, 27 April 2015 Rakesh Sood, "Changed variables, same equation", The Hindu, 27 April 2015 Phunchok Stobdan, "Reduced to just a toehold in Afghanistan", The Hindu Business Line, 26 April 2015 Britta Petersen, "India should overcome hesitation to play greater role in Afghanistan",South Asia Monitor, 26 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bangladesh Opinion Pieces GM Quader, "What democracy?", Dhaka Tribune 29 April 2015 Zain Ahmed, "Elephant on the move: Metamorphosis point in Bangladesh", The Independent, 1 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Opinion Pieces The Bhutanese, "Relooking at the Rural-Urban Migration Debate", The Bhutanese, 27 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Opinion Pieces C. Rangarajan, "Growth: the next steps to be taken", The Hindu, 1 May 2015 Swapan Dasgupta, "The city & the carnival", The Asian Age, 30 April 2015 Shashank Joshi, "In defence, time for tough decisions", The Hindu, 30 April 2015 Ashutosh Varshney, "Untie the farmer", The Indian Express, 29 April 2015 Sanjaya Baru, "The bricks to rebuild IBSA", The Hindu, 28 April 2015 Mohan Guruswamy, "The politics of suicide", The Asian Age, 27 April 2015 Vasundhara Sirnate, Nithya Nagarathinam ,"What enables rape reporting?", The Hindu, 25 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Maldives Opinion Pieces N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives: MDP’s ’May Day call’ yet again to India",,, 30 April 2015 N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives: To make ’flawed’ and fractured democracy work", South Asia Monitor, 27 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Opinion Pieces Nay Htun Naing, "Peace is not for sale", Eleven Myanmar, 30 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Opinion Pieces Megharaj Adhikari, "Building Back Better", eKantipur, 1 May 2015 Pratichya Dulal, "Top Down", eKantipur, 1 May 2015 Pramod Mishra "A Tough Test", eKantipur, 30 April 2015 Thomas Fuller, "To The Epicentre", Republica, 29 April 2015 Mike Sanford, C.P. Rajendran and Kristin Morell, "The Science Behind", Republica, 29 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Pakistan Opinion Pieces Sakib Sherani, "Evaluating CPEC", Dawn, 1 May 2015 Shahzad Raza, "Karachi’s concerns", The Friday Times, 1 May 2015 Ayesha Siddiqa, "Price of Idealism", The Express Tribune, 29 April 2015 Lois Parshley, "The Life and Death of Sabeen Mahmud", The New Yorker, 28 April 2015 Syed Talat Hussain, "China’s mega move", The News, 27 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka Opinion Pieces Jehan Perera, "President’s commitment to give up his powers is his political strength", The Island, 27 April 2015 N Sathiya Moorthy, "What does a Rajapaksa return entail", The Sunday Leader, 26 April 2015 < class="brown12verdana">Contributors: Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar; Bangladesh : Joyeeta Bhattacharjee; Bhutan & Myanmar : Mihir Bhonsale; India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti and Shruti Gupta; Maldives & Sri Lanka : N Sathiya Moorthy; Nepal : Pratnashree Basu ;
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.