MonitorsPublished on Jul 31, 2010
The process of government formation in Nepal seem to be going nowhere if one is to go by the record of recent political parleys between the leaders of the three 'big political parties' of Nepal.
In Nepal, the crisis lingers on
< class="heading1">Analysis

The process of government formation in Nepal seem to be going nowhere if one is to go by the record of recent political parleys between the leaders of the three 'big political parties' of Nepal. The three big parties viz. Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal ? Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and Unified Communist Party of Nepal ? Maoists (UCPN-M) has been discussing the modalities of forming a 'national consensus' government for the past one month. The parties had even decided the names of their Prime Ministerial candidates for the purpose. Earlier, Ram Chandra Poudel of the NC, Jhalanath Khanal of the UML and Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias 'Prachanda' of the UCPN-M were in the race for the prestigious post. But, the withdrawal of the UML chairman Jhalanath Khanal on account of his failure to secure a two-thirds majority in the second run-off has left only NC and UCPN-M in the electoral fray. While everybody agrees in principle to form the national unity government, none of them is prepared to let go off the opportunity to rule over the Himalayan republic. This is where the main impediment to the formation of the new government emerges. As all political parties, numbering 25, lack the required majority to form the government, the only option available is to form a coalition government based on the consensus over certain issues. In this scenario, a new factor comes on the forefront which has made Nepali politics susceptible to the pressures of the political bargaining. This particular factor symbolizing the unity of the Madhesi parties was earlier present in the Nepali politics. However, its importance as a kingmaker has been felt only recently in the event of a present political crisis. There are four Madhesi political parties in the Constituent Assembly viz. Sadbhavana Party, Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic. They have formed, or rather revived, their alliance United Democratic Madhesi Forum (UDMF) which has emerged as the fourth largest group with 81 seats in the Assembly and whose support is considered crucial in the government formation. The UDMF alliance has laid down certain demands forwarding the cause of Madhesh and its population in lieu of their support to the new government. While NC hoping to form a 'majority government' in the third electoral run-off on August 2 has decided to accept the Madhesi demands, the Maoists have a problem in agreeing to their wish list, citing their demand of 'One Madhesh Province' as impractical. With UCPN-M not wishing to abide by the Madhesis wish list, the possibilities of the NC to form a new 'majority government' seems bright. During a recent interaction organized by UML-affiliated Youth Association Nepal, NC Vice President Gopal Man Shrestha has said that the most urgent task at the moment is to conclude the prime ministerial elections rather than changing the system to a consensus-based government through constitutional amendment. However, the faction within the NC led by the acting president Sushil Koirala and deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala is not in favour of forming a 'majority government'. Indeed, it will be difficult for any government to successfully complete the processes of constitution-building and peace-making, if it fails to take the Maoists and UML factions on board. It is a matter of concern that every single political party has created ruckus in creating a stable government and polity in Nepal. In 2009, Maoists government's decision to resign sacrificed political stability at the altar of their bloated egos. The inability of the weak Madhav Kumar Nepal's government to rein in dissidents, sometimes from within his own party, has clearly demonstrated internal fissures within the Nepali polity. These days, Nepal is witnessing power mongering from none other than its oldest and the second-largest political party, the Nepali Congress. In reality, Nepal does not need a 'majority' or a 'consensus' government. These are just different names given to the series of weak governments unable to govern the country in the event of recurring political deadlocks. In this respect, Nepal is unlucky to have such political parties for whom self-interest matters more then the national interest. What Nepal needs is strong and determined leaders to take the nation on a path of progress. Opportunist leaders must remember that only a spark is needed to fire the revolutionary zeal of the 30 million people of Nepal who is suffering a great deal in the hands of such a corrupt and inefficient polity.

Dr. Anjali Sharma is Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delh

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Pakistan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Reaction to Wikileaks

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency refuted its alleged close connections with Taliban militants fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan, saying they were from raw intelligence reports that had not been verified. These reports were part of the documents leaked to the media by a private organization called Wikileaks.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesperson also contested the claims and said that these were inconsistent with realities on the ground. Ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul who has been named in many of the leaked reports has dismissed the allegations against him as a ploy employed by the United States.

Reactions from the Pakistan media are mixed with some continuing to emphasise the lack of concrete evidence saying that the reports incriminating Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence were based on 'information' provided by Afghanistan's leading spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) .It was said that the NDS was dominated by personnel affiliated with the former Northern Alliance which held a grudge against Pakistan. They also said that the main point was the proof of major human rights violations inflicted by U.S and its allies.

However some media reports do indicate the obvious nature of the allegations and comment that these revelations were not new.
Source: Dawn, July 27, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Balochistan Floods

Floods in several districts of Balochistan caused 70 deaths and left about 100,000 people affected. Many people were rendered homeless in Barkhan, Kohlu and Sibi districts with about 28,000 people in Sibi and 50 in Theher area of Lehri being marooned. Aid and rescue work was affected because of long distances and damaged roads

Rail service between Quetta and the rest of the country remained suspended because repair of tracks that had been washed away could not be completed. Trade and business activities also came to a halt in most parts of the districts and farmers have estimated their losses at millions.

The Indus River System Authority has transferred operational responsibilities of reservoirs, barrages and head works to WAPDA to take decisions on water discharges in case of emergencies. The Meteorological Department meanwhile predicted heavy rains in various parts of Sindh and Balochistan in the days to come.
Source: Dawn 24 July, 2010, Daily Times, 26 July, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-terror bill

The government introduced the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2010 legislation in the senate to curb terrorism in the country in an effective manner. This is an amendment to the Anti-terrorism act which was passed in 1997.

The bill contains proposal to place restrictions on the grant of passport, loans, arms license and credit cards. Carrying explosives without reason would be presumed as being used for terrorism and assets of a convicted terrorist unless proved otherwise would be presumed to have been acquired through terrorist activities. The bill also allows detention of any suspect arrested under terror charges for upto 90 days

No court would grant bail to a person accused of an offence under this act, punishable with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years. According to the new law, a confessional statement made before the district police officer involving an attack on members of the armed forces, civil armed forces, law enforcement agencies, government installations, hotels or public property would be admissible as evidence.

The bill if passed could be a positive step which could help salvage Pakistan's deteriorating law and order situation.
Source: Daily Times, July 28, 2010

Nepal
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal, Pakistan to sign FTA?

Nepal intends to sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan in the next meeting of Joint Economic Commission scheduled for October this year. If the FTA is inked between these two countries, then Nepal would become the second country after Sri Lanka to sign such an agreement with Pakistan. Although Nepal is keen on having FTA with Pakistan to reduce its dependence on India, but Pakistan does not see this to be beneficial. Nepal, being a landlocked country, does its external trade through the transit route of India, which is unlikely to allow Pakistan get access in Nepalese market like Pakistan denying the same facility to India to penetrate in Afghanistan, which, too, is a landlocked country. Moreover, in the presence of SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement), there is no need to have separate free trade agreements with the countries of Nepal, the Pakistani officials believe.
Source: Daily Times, July 24, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NC, Maoists to court Madhesis and fringe parties

In yet another prime ministerial run-off on August 2, both the Nepali Congress and Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists have been courting the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) ? an alliance of four Madhesi parties. The four Madhesi parties -- Sadbhavana Party, Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic -- commands 81 seats in the Constituent Assembly which makes their support indispensable in any future government formation. The Madhesi parties have, however, laid down certain preconditions to advance the interests of Madhes and its population for obtaining their support. A demand pertaining to the formation of "One Madhes Province" is not acceptable to any of the 'big three' political parties -- Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal?Unified Marxist Leninist and Unified Communist Party of Nepal?Maoists -- which led to a further political bargaining and a consequent delay in government formation. However, UDMF decided not to remain neutral in August 2 prime ministerial voting.
Source: Review Nepal, July 26, 2010

Bangladesh
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">5th Amendment verdict

The Bangladesh Supreme Court on 27 July released the judgment on the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The court dismissed all the changes that were made in the Constitution following this amendment. The 5th Amendment of the Constitution enshrined the rules made by the military rulers Khandker Mushtaque Ahmed, Abu Sadaat Mohammad Sayem and Maj General Ziaur Rahman, who ruled the country from August 15, 1975 to April 9, 1979.

The court verdict has paved the way for restoration of the four fundamental principles of state policy --- nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism. The judgment also put a bar on all religious political parties. Because the court ordered restoration of Article 12 of the original constitution that says: The principle of secularism shall be realized by the elimination of - (a) communalism in all its forms; (b) the granting by the State of political status in favour of any religion; (c) the abuse of religion for political purposes; (d) any discrimination against, or prosecution of persons practicing a particular religion.

Another important aspect of this verdict has been the court's decision to denounce military rule and suspension of the Constitution by martial law proclamation in future. However, the court retained the identity of the people of Bangladesh to be 'Bangladeshi'. In the 1972 Constitution, the nationality of people of Bangladesh was termed as 'Bengali'. It was military ruler Ziaur Rahman who changed the national identity from Bengali to Bangladeshi.

Still, there is skepticism about whether the country would continue to be an Islamic country or denounce its religious identity, as the verdict did not make any observation on this. The country declared Islam to be its state religion following the 8th Constitutional Amendment in 1988.
Source: The Independent/The Daily Star, 29 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Exploring Opportunities in Africa

In its effort to reduce its dependence on the European and American markets, Bangladesh is contemplating to expand its markets in Africa. In this regard, a fact finding mission from Bangladesh will tour various African countries in August this year. The team will explore prospects for exporting its products and skilled and unskilled manpower. The delegation would also try to attract investment from African countries
Source: New Age, 29 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India, Bangladesh sign power agreement

India and Bangladesh signed a 35-year long power transmission agreement on 26 July. The agreement was signed by the representatives of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). This agreement will facilitate India to export 250 megawatt electricity to Bangladesh from 2012. The agreement also included provision for Bangladesh to export power to India in future. As per the agreement, PGCIL will construct 80 km of transmission line and own, operate and maintain it. The Indian company will recover the construction cost under a fixed rate over 35 years. The agreement is the outcome of a memorandum of understanding signed between both the countries during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in January this year. Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, Bangladesh Prime Minister's Energy Adviser, expressing his pleasure over the signing of the agreement said that this may be a small step for Bangladesh and India, but a giant leap for regional cooperation.
Source: The Daily Star, 27 July 2010

(Contributors -- Pakistan: Akhilesh Variar, Nepal: Dr. Anjali Sharma, Bangladesh: Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee)
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