MonitorsPublished on Feb 11, 2011
In Bangladesh, the municipal elections held last month (January 2011) provided an opportunity to assess the trends in the country's politics. The results showed that the ruling Awami League is on a declining graph as far as its popularity is concerned.
'Honeymoon over' for Hasina Government
< class="heading1">Analysis

In Bangladesh, the municipal elections held last month (January 2011) provided an opportunity to assess the trends in the country’s politics. The results showed that the ruling Awami League is on a declining graph as far as its popularity is concerned. This has emphasised the urgency for the Government to implement its promises made at the time of the parliamentary elections in 2008.

The ruling Awami League fared poorly as compared to its performance in the parliamentary elections two years ago. The party, which had scored a landslide victory bagging 230 seats of out of 300 parliamentary seats, won only 90 municipalities, while the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which had got only 30 seats in the parliamentary election, won 97 municipalities.

This clearly showed the re-emergence of the BNP, which was reported to have been affected by factionalism and splits during the military-backed caretaker regime in 2007-08. Before the municipal elections, the feeling among political observers was that the grassroots-level organisation of the BNP had become literally non-existent. And the party was expected of win only in areas like Greater Noakhali, Bogra and Barisal, which have been its traditional strongholds. But the results showed that this assessment was completely wrong.

In a country which had been infamous for the unscrupulous tactics being adopted by political parties, the municipal elections, one of the fairest elections held under any democratic government, are a turning-point in the country’s history. To maintain the credibility of the parliamentary elections, the country had to install a system of impartial caretaker government to supervise the polls. Still, the BNP complained of foul-play. But, the success of the party in the municipal elections, has established the credibility of the existing system. The election observers too have endorsed the fairness and impartiality of the municipal polls.

What has led to the drastic fall in the popularity of the Awami League in just two years of its five-year term? To assess the causes, we need to analyse the performance of the Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the period. People did appreciate the Government’s commitment to fight militancy. People also appreciate the Government’s decision to initiate criminal trial against ’war criminals’ from the ’Independence War’ of 1971. But the Government seems to have failed to make much difference in certain vital areas which touch the common man, like the continuing rise in the prices of essential commodities, crisis in the power sector, spreading corruption, etc.

In its pledges ahead of the parliamentary polls, the Awami League had promised to contain the prices and improve the power situation. However, contrary to the promises, the prices of essential commodities are sky-rocketing. On the power front, although the Government has taken steps, like the commissioning of new power projects over the past two years, the results are yet to be visible. The Government has also fallen short on the corruption issue. The chief of Anti-Corruption Commission has himself called it a toothless tiger. The reckless behaviour and highhandedness of the ruling party’s youth and student wings also impacted on the people’s psyche. Besides, the factional feud in the party also affected its performance. The presence of a large number of rebel candidates in the field led to a division in its committed votes, leading to victory of Opposition candidates in most cases.

Some political analysts, however, feel that these elections cannot be the sole parameter for assessing the popularity of any party. They argue that local issues and local personalities influence the results in the municipal elections as voters often vote cutting across party lines. Yet, it cannot be denied that the popularity of the Awami League has come down. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina too has realised this and declared that the days of honeymoon with the voter are over.

Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Day-long street-protest by BNP

Street protests have returned to haunt the political landscape of Banagldesh. On February 7, the main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) staged a day-long street-protest to voice their concern over a number of issues, including the filing of a case against party chairperson Khaleda Zia following the recent violent clash at Arial Beel in Munshiganj, the crash in share market and the increase in the prices of essential commodities.

The hartal, as street-protest is commonly called in the country, evoked a mixed response. Though the BNP claimed it to be successful, observers felt that it was the fear of violence that persuaded the common man to remain off the street.

Sporadic incidences of clashes between the cadres of the party and law enforcement agencies were reported from across the country. The BNP also accused the ruling Awami League workers of indulging in atrocities against party workers to prevent the strike. These clashes left nearly 100 injured. The BNP claimed that around 500 part workers were arrested while nearly 800 activists were injured in clashes.

The Awami League, on the other hand, claimed that the BNP had called for the hartal and resorted to violence to sabotage the preparations for the forthcoming World Cup Cricket matches and tarnish the image of the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blamed the BNP for the on-going stock market crisis and increase in the prices of essential commodities.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, February 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indo-Bangla FMs meet

The Foreign Ministers of India and Bangladesh expressed satisfaction at the progress on "each and every" issue decided during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s New Delhi visit in January 2010. The two Foreign Ministers, Mr. SM Krishna and Dr. Dipu Moni, met on the side-lines of the 33rdSAARC Council of Ministers at Thimpu, and decided to push the implementation of various initiatives announced last year, including in the field of connectivity and water-sharing, with the aim of concluding them prior to the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later this year. The two Ministers also committed to maintain and sustain the momentum of the implementation of the initiatives undertaken during Sheikh Hasina’s visit.

India-Bangladesh relationship has grown significantly after the Awami League returned to power in 2008. There has been a significant advancement in the relations. The visit of Sheikh Hasina to India added a further momentum to this. The relationship is expected to reach new heights with the visit of Manmohan Singh to the country. As a preparatory to it, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will visit Bangladesh in March.

Still there are certain issues which need to be addressed -- like the issue of border-firing which has often provoked antagonistic feeling towards India. Last month, a young Bangladeshi girl was killed and the incident was severely criticised in the country. Dipu Moni had also raised this issue with Mr. Krishna at Thimpu, and the Indian Minister assured her that New Delhi had taken adequate steps to check repeat of such unfortunate incident. Bangladesh also needed to take some steps to augment this relationship. This included the extradition of ULFA leader Anup Chetia, an issue which India has been raising repeatedly. On this account, Dipu Moni, however, informed that under the current agreement between the two countries, Bangladesh can extradite only convicted prisoners, who suo motu opt for the same.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, February 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MoU signed between TERI and DHI

India is providing a grant worth Rs. 15 crore to help develop Bhutan’s education sector. The announcement was made by visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Mr. S.M.Krishna after calling on Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and meeting the country’s acting Foreign Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk. The Rs.15 crore grant is being made to the Kidu Foundation, which was jointly launched by Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley and India’s Ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K. Varma on Februry 3. The foundation aspires to effectively complement Government efforts to address critical issues in the areas of education development and to preserve the country’s environmental and cultural heritage.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the TERI University, an energy resource institute in New Delhi, and Druk Holding and Investments was also signed on similar lines, under which the former would help the latter in developing Bhutan’s education city by providing guidance and expertise, including facilitating relevant contacts. The TERI will also collaborate with institutes and agencies in Bhutan to study and research on energy, climate change, carbon neutrality, renewable energy and sustainable development. The DHI is carrying out discussions with the Royal University of Bhutan, Royal Thimphu College and Royal Institute of Management to take the lead in forming collaboration with TERI University. DHI Infra is also planning to sign more MoUs with other foreign universities such as the Columbia Earth institute and Yale University.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, February 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan, a new investment destination?

The Bhutanese Government has taken a historic decision to open up its economy to external and private sector. The bent towards privatisation was seen during the release of its Economic Development Policy in June 2010 that had a host of incentives for private sector development from commercial farming to solid waste management. A more liberalised Foreign Direct Investment policy was also launched, opening up new sectors to investors.

The two policies were advertised in a road-show to Bangladesh, India, Singapore and Thailand. Indian investors asked about the hydropower sector. As of December 2010, the GDP stood at Nu 61-billion and the growth rate worked out to 6.7 per cent. The Government’s revenue receipt, including tax and non-tax revenue, stood at Nu 28 billion. The inflation rate stood at 9.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2010.

India has remained Bhutan’s main development partner as well as its leading trade partner. A free- trade regime exists between the two countries.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel/Asia News Network, February 8, 2011, Sify News, February 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Membership of banned outfit won’t attract criminal action, says SC

The Supreme Court has held that mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence. The Government, however, is likely to challenge the ruling citing national security concerns.

A Bench of the Supreme Court also said that confessions were a very weak kind of evidence and there was a widespread practice among the police in the country to use third-degree methods for extracting confessions. It asked the courts to be cautious in accepting confessions made to the police by the alleged accused.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Another spectrum deal under the scanner

The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has started inquiries into another spectrum scam -- a 2005 spectrum agreement between the Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd and a private firm Devas Multimedia Private Ltd.

The agreement relates to ISRO’s launching of two satellites for Devas, with rights for the latter to have unbridled use of 70 MHz of the scarce S-band spectrum over a 20-year period.

The CAG is reported to have asked for an explanation from the Department of Science on the preferential allocation of S-band spectrum without Antrix going through a competitive bidding process; on diverting public resources to two customer-specific satellites for Devas Multimedia; and misinforming regulators about the project’s financial aspects and its full commercial implications.

The Government said that it was in the process of reviewing the deal, indicating possible annulment of the deal.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taking the Pak dialogue forward

The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met on the sidelines of the SAARC ministerial meeting in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu in an attempt to put the stalled dialogue process back on track and try to bridge the trust deficit plaguing the relationship.

Pakistan, as was the case last time, insisted on resuming the composite dialogue, while India said it was not shy of discussing outstanding issues.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IAF inducts ’Super Hercules’

The Indian Air Force has inducted the tactical airlift transport C-130J Super Hercules aircraft at the Hindon Air Force Station. The aircraft, the first of six that India ordered three years ago from the US, will be based under the newly raised 77 ’Veiled Vipers’ squadron.

The C-130J is a four-engine turboprop aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It can be used for troop deployment, special operations, air-to-air refuelling, disaster relief and humanitarian aid operations. Equipped with night vision imaging, the C-130J is capable of airdropping personnel and material even in complete darkness. It can also land on unprepared or semi-prepared landing strips and has self-protection to operate in hostile environments.

The aircraft is capable of undertaking low-level air-to-air refuelling that enhances its range and rapid forward-basing of personnel and equipment in emergent situations.

Defence Minister A K Antony meanwhile re-emphasised that his Ministry did not favour any hike in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cap from the current limit of 26 per cent, while maintaining that the final call was yet to be taken by the government.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 6 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nilekani submits TAGUP report

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani, who also heads the Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP), submitted the seven-member group’s report to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, detailing, among other things, specific recommendations for various IT-intensive projects pertaining to the Finance Ministry.

The report is slated to help in various IT projects such as Tax Information Network (TIN), New Pension Scheme (NPS), National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), Expenditure Information Network (EIN) and Goods and Service Tax (GST)

The group has recommended the setting up of a National Information Utilities (NIUs), working in the spirit of partnership with the Government, to handle all aspects of IT systems. The report noted that while strategic control is to be retained by the Government at all times, the NIUs should be set up as private companies with a public purpose. They should be financially independent and empowered to take quick and efficient business decisions pertaining to attracting and retaining talent, procurement, rapid response to business exigencies and adopting new technologies.

The report mentioned strong support from the top leadership within the Government, dedicated team at the level of project implementation, and ownership and commitment at various operational levels were necessary concomitants of success of any project as among the efforts to face the challenges in the field of human resource.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Environmental clearance for mine

Over-ruling the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has approved the diversion of 595 hectares of forest land for mining in the Chiria mine area in Paschimi Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. The mines will supply iron ore to the public sector Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) for the next 20 years. Chiria lies in a region affected by left-wing extremism and has a substantial tribal population.

The approval comes with the condition that only mining, primary and secondary crushing should take place in the forest area, while processing, beneficiation, blending, stockpiling, railway siding, infrastructure and all township facilities have to be located be 15 km away in a non-forest area. Only conveyor systems should be used for ore transportation. SAIL should also provide Rs 20 crores over the next five years for wildlife management and bio-diversity-related programmes in the Saranda Forest Division and at least two per cent of the net profit should be earmarked for CSR activities.

Given the ecological sensitivity of the Saranda forest area, the MoEF will assume direct responsibility and set up a multi-disciplinary expert group that will monitor and evaluate compliance and concerns relating to the impact of mining on elephant habitats and migratory routes.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tusnami warning-centre to go regional

The round-the-clock Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre will, in 2012, become a regional provider, providing alerts to all Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) countries. As a prelude, a five-day meeting of experts from 17 countries will be held at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) here, which houses the Tsunami Early Warning Centre.

INCOIS director Satheesh C. Shenoi said the Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission had suggested that the Indian Centre and those in Indonesia and Australia be regional providers for the IOR countries. He said INCOIS was also establishing a ground station to receive data from Oceansat-2. It would be operational in two months.

National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) Director, V. Jayaraman, said the models generated by them were probably better than those developed by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and lauded INCOIS for providing services to user agencies.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Local Council elections a mixed bag

Despite rival claims, the nation-wide local council elections in Maldives has been a mixed bag for the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of President Mohammed Nasheed and the Opposition Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP) under a divided leadership. While the MDP swept population centres like the national capital of Male, where it won all the council seats and also all but two seats in Addu town, the DRP claimed better showing in the atoll and island councils. The Election Commission cautioned against drawing conclusions based on unofficial figures and said that the official figures would be put out in time.

In his early reaction, President Nasheed claimed that the MDP’s success in population hubs across the country was a "clear indication of the current political situation" in the country and said that the party could win any election "blind-folded" and that there was no reason why he should not seek re-election in 2013. DRP’s founding leader and former President Maumoon Gayoom attributed the party’s less-than-hoped-for showing on the Government while his successor and incumbent leader blamed it on "internal differences" ? an indirect reference to the former.

Significantly, the fundamentalist Adhaalath Party, an ally of the MDP which contested the council elections independently, won 17 seats. President Nasheed said he was "surprised that I couldn’t see anyone voting for Adhaalath Party except from Kinolhas (Raa Atoll). I did not see any party carrying out a good campaign except the MDP."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News & Haveeru, February 7-8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldivian democracy a developing entity: UN

The UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, Andrew Cox, has suggested that democracy was still a developing entity in the country, and would require some time before it could grow "deep roots". Talking to Haveeru News Service (HNS), he said, "I think it (democracy) has made very large strides but one should not assume that one has democracy the day after the first National Elections. Democracy is a very hard thing to develop, to give deep roots."

His comments came two days ahead of Maldives’ first local council elections, which the country’s chief UN figure said, offered an opportunity to strengthen democracy "in a very different way". "It is not entirely clear how a local government will work in the Maldives. All we can do is try and see how it goes," he exerted, adding that it nevertheless "gives the opportunity for democracy to develop in a very real way for many Maldivians". Cox said that one of the main steps the UN will have to take in the Maldives, post-election, will be to create a project which identifies and supports the work of a local government institution.

"Everybody has a responsibility to deepen democracy. I think that there is not quite a shared vision of what democracy should become here in the Maldives, and I think that in one way or another everybody could do much more in the political domain to deepen democracy."

Speaking on the UN’s future objectives in the country, Cox said that the world body would collaborate closely with the Elections Commission and the Supreme Court, two vital components for a stable democracy.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru News, February 4, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GMR chartered flights to bring Maldivians from Egypt

The Maldives Government brought back its nationals in Egypt on a flight chartered by India’s GMR Infrastructure. Accordingly, 104 Maldivian students in Egypt travelled to the Maldives via Mumbai on a Kingfisher Airlines flight chartered by GMR -- the company that manages Male International Airport.

"They came to Mumbai with the assistance of India. The flight was actually chartered to evacuate the Indian nationals in Egypt. The Indian Government allowed us to bring Maldivian nationals on the flight as well," a Foreign Ministry official said in Male.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, February 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protests over UML-Maoists tie-up

Soon after the election of a new Prime Minister, a secret deal between the ruling section of the UML and the Maoists which paved the way for the withdrawal of Maoist leader Prachanda’s candidacy and Jhala Nath Khanal’s elections have spurred another crisis in the politics of the country. The seven-point deal signed between the two stalwarts agreed on a rotational system of prime ministership. Besides, both the parties agreed to form a coalition government. A high-level mechanism will be created to help in the functioning of the Government, and will be led by the chairman/president of the two parties on a rotational basis. On Maoists cadres’ integration in the State security sector, the parties agreed to form either a separate force of these combatants or a combined force.

The deal has not only created a serious rift, but has also delayed the formation of the Cabinet. However, due to the internal divisions caused by the deal, the Maoists have decided to stay away from the Cabinet and support the Khanal Government from outside. Prachanda is learnt to have cited UML’s reluctance to implement the seven-point agreement between the two parties on the basis of which Maoists had supported Khanal’s election to the top executive post and the continued bickering over sharing of ministerial positions as the reasons for party’s decision to opt out of the Khanal-led Ministry.

However, the UML is making efforts to include the Maoists as well as other political parties in the current Cabinet. It is reported that the two sides are stuck with their respective claims over plum berths, especially the Home Ministry.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Himalayan Times, February 5-6, 2011,, February 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India-Pak formal dialogue to resume

During talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan, Ms. Nirupama Rao and Mr. Salman Bashir, in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu, a decision was taken to resume the formal dialogue that was suspended after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

India had previously suspended a 2004 peace process between the two countries after the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, February 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police reject self-defence plea, says ’clear murder’

After investigations, the police have rejected the self-defence plea by US Embassy official Raymond Davis, who was arrested on January 27 following his close-range shooting of two men at a traffic-signal in Lahore.

City Police chief Aslam Tareen stated at a news conference that the "the police investigation and forensic report showed that it was not self-defence. Eye witnesses have told police that he directly shot at them and kept shooting even when one was running away. It was an intentional murder".

The US is reported to have suspended bilateral contacts with Pakistan until Islamabad released Davis from custody. The issue could affect the $ 7.5-billion, five-year civilian aid package from the US.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, February 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PIA strike hits passengers

PIA employees went on strike mid of last week in opposition to the proposal of a route-sharing deal with the Turkish Airlines. With over 90 flights cancelled since Tuesday, 25,000 passengers were stranded in four consecutive days, with a revenue loss of Pak Rs 400 million for the exchequer.

Suhail Baluch, president of the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), said the strike would continue until the code-share agreement was abandoned, PIA Managing Director Aijaz Haroon sacked, and all suspended employees reinstated. Minister for Interior Rehman Malik said that the issue would be resolved soon.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Pakistan Tribune, February 11, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt fears 50 pc fall in food production

The country’s rice production will drop by more than 50 per cent due to the impact of the two waves of floods that hit the agricultural areas, Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake told Parliament. Not only Sri Lanka, but the entire world was on the verge of a food crisis, he said.

Dissanayake said that 32,000 tonnes of rice was needed for Sri Lanka per year. "This would drop by more than half this year due to the devastation caused by the floods," he said adding, "Natural disasters are not unique to Sri Lanka, but have hit other countries in the world. For example, floods have caused immense damage to Australia."

During the last two years wheat prices had increased in the world market by 130 percent, soya by 160 percent, meat by 175 percent and fish by 110 percent. Escalation of prices of food is not only something that had occurred in Sri Lanka, he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, February 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ferry Service to India from March

The ferry service between Thuthookudy, or Tuticorin in the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu, and Colombo is scheduled to commence in March. It is a joint venture between the Sri Lanka Shipping Corporation (SLSC) and its Indian counterpart.

According to SLSC Chairman Prasad Galhena, there will be three voyages per week between the two destinations. A total of 500 passengers would be accommodated on each trip. He said that the fares would be affordable and each passenger could carry 100 kg of ’baggage’. Students going to India for higher studies would be charged at concessionary rate.

The SLSC also proposes to ship goods from small-scale industrialists, also at a concessionary rate. While coal for the Norachcholai Power Plant is also being shipped by the SLSC, it is now considering acquiring more ships.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, February 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran assists Lanka flood victims

The Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran has donated 20,000 Swiss Franc through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help the flood victims in Sri Lanka, according to an Embassy spokesman in Colombo.

In the wake of renewed heavy floods in several Provinces, Germany too has decided to double its flood relief to the country which now adds up to SL Rs. 75 million (500,000 euro.)

"The latest news from the flood-affected areas is devastating. We feel for all those affected by the second flood. Within weeks, many families have had to abandon their homes twice" German Ambassador Jens Ploetner explained. "In Germany, people are saddened to see so many Sri Lankans undergoing such severe hardships - the reason why the Federal Government has decided

Donations from the European Commission and EU member states added together now amount to over Rs. 450 million (3 million euro) making the EU the biggest single donor towards flood relief in the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, February 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First phase of transition by March

President Hamid Karzai has announced that the first phase of transition of development and security tasks to the Afghan Government will begin on March 21, the traditional Afghan New Year. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, he said that Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and private security firms have restricted the growth of his Government and called for their reduction in numbers, a view supported by the US.

The event was attended by several dignitaries, among them, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, British Premier David Cameron, and NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Rasmussen. Russia, however, expressed concern over plans to decrease international presence, and argued that the security-deficit will endanger Russia. Currently, the strength of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police stands at 300,000, and is expanding rapidly. However, their ability to engage the Taliban without assistance from international forces is severely limited.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Panjwok Afghan News, February 6, 2011; Tolo News, February 6 and 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Govt interfering with Parliament’

The leader of the ’Change and Hope’ party, Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the executive of meddling in the affairs of Parliament. He singled out the elections tribunal as one of the means by which the Government has tried to coerce parliamentarians.

Mr. Abdullah, a former Foreign Minister and close aide of Mr. Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of the famed Northern Alliance, said that such manipulations have contributed to the failure of Parliament to elect a Speaker in spite of six rounds of voting.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, February 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament to review budget

The Ministry of Finance has sent the draft of the annual budget to Parliament for its approval. The ministry’s parliamentary affairs department forwarded the final draft last week. The budget is believed to have allocated 150-billion Afghanis for non-development work and 65-billion for development related tasks.

Parliament is required to approve the budget before the Afghan New Year, which falls on March 21. Given that the Lower House, or Wolesi Jirga, has failed to elect a Speaker, the upcoming budget session is likely to further exasperate the crisis.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Panjwok Afghan News, February 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint anti-narcotics operations

The border police organisations of Afghanistan and Iran have agreed to cooperate against narcotics smuggling along their shared border. Commander of the Afghan border police, Maj- Gen Sher Ali said that the planned joint operations will involve clearing the region of smugglers and establishing check-posts in sanitised areas. He added that Afghan and Iranian law enforcement agencies will operate in their respective countries, but will coordinate their actions more closely.

Narcotics trade is one of the main sources of revenue for the Taliban. Iran, which serves as a passage for the smuggling of heroin produced inside Afghanistan to Europe, is affected by high levels of drug abuse.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Afghan Islamic Press, February 8, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal & Bhutan: Anjali Sharma;
Pakistan: Anjana Verma;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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.