Author : Satish Mishra

MonitorsPublished on Apr 04, 2014
Crime and politics have had a very close nexus the world over. But in India, this trend became dominant and struck deep roots in mid-Sixties when the Indian National Congress, the country's oldest party, started losing its sway over the electorate.
India: Crime-politics nexus, despite tall promises?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Crime and politics have had a very close nexus the world over. But in India, this trend became dominant and struck deep roots in mid-Sixties when the Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest party, started losing its sway over the electorate. The missionary zeal of the freedom movement came to be replaced by unbridled ambition of power. Value-based approach to politics made way to cosy, comfortable and practical path to power. All political parties without exception indulged in power-game as more and more players entered the electoral arena.

Money, muscle and media became the tools of individual political leaders initially. With the passage of time, the political system was gradually overtaken by these three elements. In the naked pursuit of power, political parties and leader readily accepted these elements as crime and criminals ensured electoral victory for them and their candidates.

First, political parties and leaders used crime and criminals to come to power slowly, but quickly equation started changing as criminals did not remain content playing second fiddle. Relationship between crime and politics came into the open and criminals demanded their share in power. While by the mid-seventies, every single party had caught up with the growing criminalisation phenomenon, by the beginning of the Nineties this trend grew rapidly as more regional and caste-based parties struck roots.

Successive parliamentary and State Assembly elections increased the representation of criminals in legislatures. In the 15th Lok Sabha, 162 MPs had pending criminal charges against them. These cases involved a diverse array of charges, ranging from mischief to murder. If one were to focus only on serious crimes — such as murder, kidnapping and physical assault — approximately 14 percent or 76 MPs faced pending cases.

In the State Assembly, one in three MLAs has a criminal case, amounting to 31 percent of the MLAs having at least one criminal case against them. Again about half of them, roughly 15 percent of the total, face serious charges.

There has been no systematic analysis of the panchayats and urban local bodies, but there is evidence that local tiers of governance are hardly free from criminal elements. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has done considerable research in this field and has collected extensive data on crime and politics. According to ADR data, 17% and 21% of municipal corporators in Mumbai and Delhi, respectively, have declared involvement in criminal cases.

Greater chances of winning

A close analysis of recent elections tells us that a criminal has greater chances of winning the electoral battle over a person with a clean and sober background. Data of the last two general elections gives solid evidence that it is relatively easier for a law-breaker to become a law-maker. Since tough and rough criminals have greater chances of winning the election and thus bring a political party closer to power, they are preferred over others.

The real question is what makes these candidates winnable. Apart from other factors, one of the dominant reasons is money or hard cash. Criminals easily generate black money through smuggling of arms, drug- trafficking or trade in narcotics, women-trafficking, and other similar illegal acts. It is the combination of money and muscle that makes them win. Once elected, these criminal leaders get sort of immunity as law- enforcing agencies hesitate to book them for alleged crimes.

The hold of crime over politics has been growing. While in the 2004 General Election, the Lok Sabha had 24% MPs with criminal background, this figure went up to 30% in 2009.

’People in the forefront’

The increasing trend had started drawing attention of the Government in 90s and a committee under former Home Secretary N N Vohra was set up which submitted its report in 1993. Studying the problem of criminalisation of politics and nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats, the committee pointed out those criminal networks were running parallel governments in several parts of the country.

In his address to a joint sitting of Parliament on the Golden Jubilee of Independence (August 15, 1997), then President K R Narayanan said: "Sheer opportunism and value-less power-politics have taken over the place of principles and idealism, relationships between people, groups and parties... And corruption is corroding the vitals of our politics and our society... It seems the people have to be in the forefront of the fight against corruption, communalism, castes and criminalisation of politics and life in the country."

Even the Election Commission and the Supreme Court have taken cognizance of the serious problems of criminalisation of politics but piecemeal efforts have failed to make a serious dent. But despite several reports and attention of the EC and the highest court of the land, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Governments and the political parties have only paid lip-service to the threat and nothing concrete or very little has been done so far. In this period, almost all political parties have been in power but precious little has been done to address the problem which has been eating away the very vitals of the democracy.

Undoubtedly, people, particularly the growing middle class, are becoming more alarmed at the trend and public opinion has been vocal in recent years giving rise to civil society movements. The electoral success of the Aim Admit Party (AAP) in 2013 Assembly elections in Delhi was one such evidence of the deep rooted popular desire to break the nexus between crime and politics.

Political parties and leaders are coming under popular pressure but unfortunately the failure of the political class to rise above partisan interests is proving to be a serious hurdle on the way to overhauling of the entire electoral system.

In democracy, only people can force political parties and leaders to take the necessary steps to end the sway of crime over politics. In coming weeks, the electorate needs to send a clear signal by defeating criminals and throwing such bad elements out of the political system that political parties are forced to put an effective system in place to ensure that such elements never return again to electoral arena.

Voting for the nine-phase general elections begins on April 7 and ends on May 12 and the results on May 16 would offer concrete evidence whether recent efforts by civil society, NGOs and media had any impact on the voting behaviour or not. The number of criminals has been growing all these years and hopefully the 16th Look Sabah proves to be the beginning of the end of crime in politics.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives: Putting democracy on a firm footing

N Sathiya Moorthy

First, it was the symbolic cut in salaries for junior ministers. Then it was the move to replace monthly salaries for local council members across the country with sitting-fees - pending parliamentary approval. The more recent one is the shutting down of the Maldivian Embassy in Dhaka as part of the substantial 40-percent slash in the Foreign Ministry’s budget.

President Abdulla Yameen has proved that he means business when it comes to economising on Government expenditure if Maldivian economy has to survive and grow. As a former Finance Minister, he made no bones about cutting down on Government-spending in a big way, through the closely-fought and hotly-contested presidential elections last year. None can thus complain that they were not forewarned.

Whether the nation is on the right economic path, it will take time to evaluate. For now for a variety of reasons, including Government initiatives of every kind, the American dollar, the nation’s fiscal and economic life-line, has become relatively cheaper. With no elections in sight for the next five years, the exchange rate may have revived the people’s faith in their Government. This could encourage the Yameen leadership to attempt more important and equally genuine reform measures on the economic front.

Before the Yameen leadership, the short-lived Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Government (November 2008- February2012) of President Mohammed Nasheed, had taken bold to initiate across-the-board ’economic reforms’, as had never before been attempted. Going by successive voter-behaviour since, the huge slash in Government employee strength and salaries was not as unpopular as had been thought.

Yet, the re-introduction of additional-spending on salaries for the newly-created posts of local councils was a populist political measure set at naught much of the gains from the cuts in staff-strength and their salaries. The rising dollar, owing to the deliberate devaluation of the local ’rufiyya’ in the garb of ’currency floatation’ re-structuring of power-tariff and a host of economic measures did show signs of falling popularity of the Nasheed Government before his controversial resignation on 7 February 2012 shored it up as never before.

Consensus, coalition and contradictions

Despite programme-based differences, the MDP and President Yameen’s PPM have shared an overall common approach to economic reforms. Conceding the election before the official results were out last year, President Nasheed promised cooperation to President Yameen for all policies and programmes that is in the larger interest of the nation.

The MDP has since not criticised - or, even commented upon the fiscal measures of the new Government. It is thus for President Yameen to take the MDP on Nasheed’s word and initiate a ’policy consensus’ to the nation’s problems, starting with those on the economic front. He too has begun well by reiterating that his Government’s programmes would be meant for all Maldivians without party-bias, and would not resort to witch-hunting of any kind.

The ’Progressive Coalition’, headed by President Yameen’s half-brother and predecessor, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, may have managed a two-thirds majority in the incoming 85-member Parliament by encouraging two Independent MP-elects and one from the MDP to join the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). But the MDP still having bagged the highest 41.15 percent vote-share in the Majlis poll, the sentiments expressed by the party cannot be wished away. It should not be wished away, either.

According to accessed data at the official conclusion of the parliamentary poll processes, the Coalition, while bagging 53 seats against the MDP’s 26, could manage only a total of 45.6 percent vote-share (PPM: 28.24, JP 13.19 and MDA 4.17). In theoretical terms, Independent candidates, among whom five won seats, polled a total of 10.6 percent vote-share, followed by the religion-centric Adhahalath Party (one seat, 2.63 percent).

In a way, the ’ruling’ Coalition has got fewer votes than the rest of ’em all in the field put together, making it a ’minority’ of sorts. For the MDP, which continues to be the single largest party in the country in terms of membership, its earlier claims in numerical terms may have been exposed by the vote-share in the parliamentary polls. The steep, 13-percent fall in the voter turn-out between the high-voltage presidential polls (91.41 percent) and the parliamentary elections, should indicate to the polity the level of voter-fatigue within four months, for the former class to re-orient themselves and re-orient national priorities.

The first-past-the-post system applies to parliamentary elections. Against this, the victor in the presidential poll would have to get 50-percent-plus vote-share, either in the first round or the second, run-off round. This would mean that the Coalition has not cleared the yard-stick that the nation has set for electing its President.

The Coalition thus lost 5.79 percent vote-share against the presidential poll figure of 51.39 percent. The MDP, going it alone, on both occasions, saw its vote-share drop by 7.46 percent - from 48.61 percent to 41.15 percent). The results thus convey to all stake-holders that they need to work in and with a coalition if they have to move forward and the nation too were not to get stuck in avoidable political instability.

The lesson is particularly for the MDP, as it has found itself ’friendless’ and ’politically not wholly trustworthy as an ally’ after the presidential polls of 2008. For the Coalition leadership, it is an equally clear message that they cannot afford to split mid-way even before they had commenced a new term for Parliament in May. With President Yameen for the PPM leader of the Coalition, and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim personally showing an interest in the Speaker’s post, there are clear signs of avoidable tensions that no electoral adversary worth his political salt would want to let pass.

Re-visiting democratisation

If economy is one area where there seems to be an overall consensus of some kind, political populism still seems to be having an occasional say - and way. The fragile economy is unable to withstand the pressures that are alien to larger and stronger economies for which the IMF model had been built, and has since been built from, for Third World nations, too, to follow without adapting the same to local demands and situations.

Worse still may be the case of the democratisation process in the country, which was a straight import of a template, text-book model. None at the time considered the wisdom of such mindless aping of the West because that was what was better known. That was also the only scheme acceptable to those demanding multi-party democracy of the western model, wholesale.

Maldives and Maldivians had the option of choosing between two broad western models, namely the presidential scheme and the Westminster parliamentary form of government. The nation chose the former, but with institutions an priorities that were originally adapted with the parliamentary model in mind. This has produced a jinxed system, which has to be exorcised of some misunderstood and at times misinterpreted elements from the immediate democratic past, of all things, if democracy has to take roots.

Six rounds of elections in five years - two sets each of presidential, parliamentary and local council polls - have ensured that multi-party democracy is here to say. The trials, tribulations and reverberations of the first five years are an experience that every nation has gone through at the turn of democratisation. They have learnt from it. Maldives too should do so, now that there is relative political stability and incorporate due changes in the scheme and systems.

With the admittance of three non-Coalition MP-elects into the PPM fold, the Government now has a two-thirds majority required for passing constitutional amendments. There is also a broad consensus now for reviewing the performance of ’Independent Institutions’ under the Constitution. For some like the MDP, the Judiciary needs to be recast. For some others, as those in the Government parties, the Election Commission needs to be re-tuned.

There are also one too many ’independent institutions’ for a country and Government of Maldives’ size and numbers. There are practical issues like the Supreme Court order that polling can be undertaken only after candidates concerned had signed the voters’ list. Equally impossible may be the revision of voters’ list every time round with the future date of polling as the reference-point. They come with systemic deficiencies and exposes schematic inadequacies.

There are questions about the attitude and approach of individual officials in the Government, individual members of ’Independent Commissions’ such as the poll panel, and enlightened members of the higher Judiciary in the country. So can the recent claims to ’democratised approach’ of Parliament members, committees and groups be questioned for their confused priorities, if any. Any charge of non-partisanship may stick as much to as any other. None can confer exclusivity on the other and claim exclusion from the rest.

While the current Maldivian system provides for dynamism, it’s only a part, a tool. Democracy is more than the sum of its parts. For them to juxtapose well, they need to be crafted in ways they were intended to serve the greater cause of democracy and nation - and not necessarily in that order. Rather, that order, the nation itself has to prioritise, and in ways that they all dovetail well into one single piece called ’democratic experience’, as different from democratic-importation. Having lived an isolated life owing to geography and topography, not only Maldives as a nation but also Maldivians as islands, that too under a one-man system, either as a Sultanate or as a relative democracy in the twentieth century, the nation and the people need to give themselves time to assimilate democratic values from elsewhere and tone them ways that becomes acceptable and adaptable under Maldivian circumstances.

That way, the upcoming five years are crucial to Maldives as a nation in terms of democratic experience than maybe even the first five - which was full of experiences, mostly of the wrong and/or misunderstood kind. The nation needs to re-open itself to democratic discourse and debate without such dissertations and dissections getting in the way of normal life and livelihood of the people, and politics and public administration by the Government, political parties and leaderships.

Maldives has to open a new page in democracy, and the initiative for the same rests mainly - not solely with President Yameen and his ruling coalition. He cannot keep the rest out of it for reasons already explained. They cannot escape ’accountability’ either, as the less-emotional parliamentary polls and their results have shown, since.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Maldives

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fiscal problems force closure of Dhaka mission

Maldives on Tuesday closed down its High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Acting High Commissioner to Bangladesh Ahmed Adil said that the mission had to be closed down due to "unprecedented fiscal problems" in the country.

"Even the Foreign Ministry’s budget has been slashed by 40 percent. It’s a very big cut. We had no other option but to close (the mission)," he said.

Maldives will continue to operate in Bangladesh from its mission in New Delhi, India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 2 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CJ moots independent budget for judiciary

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has said that the judiciary should have the right to independent expenditure. He said that there are many difficulties faced by the judiciary in concluding court cases because of insufficient budget.

The Chief Justice said that the judiciary should be granted a sufficient budget and also should have the right to independent expenditure. He noted that the judiciary has to now request the Finance Ministry for the required funds, and courts faced many problems and delays owing to this.

In addition to this, the Chief Justice said that he was not granted the finance required for his official trip to Bhutan on the claims that there are insufficient funds in the Finance Ministry. He said that the Bhutanese government had to pay for his two-way ticket because of this.

CJ Faiz appealed the government and the Peoples’ Majlis to facilitate the judiciary with sufficient funds and grant the judiciary the right to independent expenditure.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 2 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President Yameen says will prove that not all politicians deceive

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said that his government will prove that not all politicians are frauds who try to deceive the people. At a political rally in Male, he said that people voted for the Progressive Coalition in the parliamentary poll because they believed that the coalition would facilitate development, and serve them with honesty and sincerity.

"We want to assure the people of Maldives that leaders who will work with honesty and sincerity do exist. We want to show that not all politicians are frauds. Not all politicians try to deceive the public," he said.

President Yameen said that good politicians are those who apologised when they do wrong. "Politicians need people, and seek the assistance of the people. They have the courage to apologise when things go wrong. They know that people are aware and not ignorant," he said.

President Yameen said that the present government will serve everyone, and not discriminate based on people’s affiliations with political parties. "I will not discriminate based on party colour. Our Government’s services will reach all colours," he added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News 2 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two-thirds majority for government

The ruling coalition has secured a two-thirds majority in the new parliament, as Thimarafushi MP-elect Mohamed Mustafa from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhidhoo MP-elect Abdul Latheef Mohamed signed up for the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on Monday.

With the signing of Mustafa and Latheef, the number of PPM members in the parliament has increased to 37, and the number of members representing the ruling coalition has risen to 57 out of 85 total seats.

Four MPs-elect have joined PPM since the parliamentary elections held on March 22. They are Mahibadhoo MP-elect Mohamed ’Tom’ Thoriq and Naifaru MP-elect Ahmed Shiyam who secured seats as independent candidate, and Mustafa and Latheef.

Coalition partners, Jumhoorie Party and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) had won 15 and five seats respectively. Pro-Government Adhaalath Party, contesting alone, had also won a seat. The opposition MDP originally won 26 seats in the 18th Parliament, but the defection of Mustafa to PPM had reduced their number of seats to 25.

The new Parliament will be inaugurated at the end of May

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 2 April 2014

Myanmar

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Boosting strategic cooperation with China

China and Myanmar have vowed to strengthen comprehensive strategic cooperation, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. The agreement came during a meeting between the visiting Chinese Vice- Premier, Ms Liu Yandong, and Myanmarese Vice-President U Nyan Tun at a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on 11 December, Xinhua said on its website.

It quoted Ms Liu as saying that China and Myanmar enjoyed a deep "phaukphaw" (fraternal) friendship and that the long-term steady development of bilateral ties was in the fundamental interest of both countries. She stressed that the Chinese side would earnestly implement the important consensus reached by leaders of the two countries, reconcile each other’s development strategies and join hands with Myanmar in pushing ahead with mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas, Xinhua said.

Ms Liu added that the two peoples’ understanding and support were indispensable to the long-term steady development of China-Myanmar ties. Xinhua quoted U Nyan Tun as saying that Myanmar was committed to promoting a comprehensive bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and had endorsed China’s ideas and proposals on boosting cooperation. U Nyan Tun said the development of friendly and neighborly ties with China was also one of the most important elements of Myanmar’s foreign policy, the newsagency reported. It quoted him as saying that both sides understand and support each other’s domestic reform process, which has laid an important foundation to develop friendly cooperation in the new era.

After the meeting, Ms Lui and U Nyan Tun witnessed the signing of an agreement on bilateral economic and technology cooperation and the exchange of notes on some projects.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Hundreds of thousands’ hit by Rakhine aid pull-outs

Remote communities that were being supported by NGOs are likely to face crippling and potentially life-threatening shortages of potable water, food and health services in the coming weeks and months, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement released on 2 April.

More than 170 staff members of humanitarian and development agencies were pulled from the region when a mob attacked the office of aid group Malteser.

UNOCHA says organisations will not be able to continue with providing potable water, food supplies and health services to displaced people and remote villages, both Buddhist and Muslim.

Rakhine State is in the throes of dry season, and UNOCHA said water scarcity will soon hit critical levels in some IDP camps, particularly those in Pauktaw township. Reuters reported on 2 April that 20,000 people in camps near Sittwe will run out of drinking water "within 10 days", while food supplies are likely to be depleted within the next two weeks.

Rakhine State health official U Aung Thurein told The Myanmar Times on February 27 he was confident the state government could "fill in the gaps" following MSF’s departure "with the help of the Ministry of Health and other NGOs".

UNOCHA said the reduction in support as a result of the recent violence means 15,000 children in IDP camps no longer have access to psycho-social support and treatment for some 300 children with severe malnutrition has been suspended.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Myanmar Times, 3 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Census begins in Rakhine

Census-taking teams can only collect the national census in ethnic villages in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships and they have collected census from 23,583 residents within three days, according to Census Taking Committee.

The chief of the Maungdaw Township Police Station said the census-taking process started in Maungdaw district in the afternoon of March 30 and the census-taking teams were under the full protection of the security forces.

While the census-taking teams face no troubles in gaining access to ethnic villages, the Bengali villagers would not to participate in the census-taking process if they were not registered as ’Rohingyas’.

Bengali people closed their homes and their shops in the markets when the census-taking teams came to collect the census. "Since the day census-taking process started, the Bengalis closed their shops and went home," said Min Oo from Kyeinchaung Village in northern area of Maungdaw Township.

"They have refused to participate in the census because the ethnicity they want is not going to be registered in the census," said Min Oo. In Kyeinchaung village, north of Maungdaw Township, all the shops were closed. The local ethnic villagers have been on sentry duties without sleeping because of noises from their villages at night," said Min Oo.

Census is being collected in a total of 58,570 households in Maungdaw Township and Taungpyo Latwae sub-township and 39,629 households in Buthidaung Township. Teachers in charge of the census-taking process said they would continue to collect the census from Bamar, Rakhine, and Hindu households for the fourth day.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 3 April 2014

Nepal

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China names Chen to oversee regional ties

China´s ruling Communist Party has entrusted its standing committee member Chen Fengxian with the responsibility of overseeing South and South-East Asia region, including Nepal. Chen, who is Vice-Minister of International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was given the new responsibility following the retirement of Ai Ping, who served in the same capacity until a month ago.

Chen, who is also Vice-Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the twelfth National People´s Congress since March 2013, will work under Wang Jiarui, who is Minister of the CPC´s International Department. As Wang still heads the CPC´s International Department, China is unlikely to change its policy toward Nepal any time soon. It became clearer when Chen, at a recent meeting with a team of UCPN (Maoist) delegates, reasserted China´s interests in Nepal for Tibet apart from peace, political stability and economic development.

< class="text11verdana">Source: myrepublica.com 4 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Malaysia asked to roll back visa-fee

The Malaysian embassy in Kathmandu in November last hiked the visa processing fee to Rs 3,900 from the previous Rs 700. Stakeholders in Nepal said the fee had been increased after the embassy outsourced the visa processing service to a private firm, Malaysia VLN Nepal.

In a meeting with visiting Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on 2 April, Home Minister Bamdev Gautam said Malaysia should ’reconsider’ the current visa processing fee as it is ’too costly’ for poor Nepali migrants. Nepali stakeholders have been protesting the embassy’s ’unilateral’ hike in visa fee.

Workers complain it still takes nine days for the embassy to issue a visa. During the meeting on April 4, Gautam sought amnesty for hundreds of Nepali workers languishing in Malaysian jails. The deputy prime minister also requested his Malaysian counterpart to "do more" in ensuring security and safety of Nepali migrants, while safeguarding their rights for proper wage and labour rights.

Hamidi assured the Nepali side to put up issues of imprisoned Nepali workers to other stakeholders in his country. He said that his government has given special priority to Nepali workers in the security sector acknolwding their contribution in Malaysia national security.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Ekantipur, 4 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt: HRW report ’unnecessary meddling’

While strongly refuting the report entitled "Under China´s Shadow Mistreatment of Tibetan in Nepal" published recently by US rights group Human Rights Watch, Nepal has termed it as an ´unnecessary meddling into the friendly relationship between the two close neighbours´.

The government has said that the report draws on unsubstantiated stories and notions, which have no legal base and objective reality. While maintaining that the report suffers from subjectivity and sensitivity, MoFA said this is an attempt directed to slandering the two neighboring countries under the pretext of the rights and freedom of refugees is uncalled for.

The statement from MoFA comes in the wake of the group criticizing Nepal on April 1, for what it called increasing the restrictions on Tibetan refugees in Nepal bowing down to the mounting pressure from China. The report alleged that Tibetan communities in Nepal are now facing a de facto ban on political protests, sharp restrictions on public activities promoting Tibetan culture and religion, and routine abuses by security personnel.

Nepal has also reminded all parties concerned that it is neither a party to 1951 Convention relating to the status of Refugees, nor its 1967 protocol. While reiterating its continued commitment to respect the principle of non-refoulment , Nepal has said that the refugees resident in Nepal are provided with all rights as per the prevailing laws and in return they are expected to respect the laws of the land.

< class="text11verdana">Source: myrepublica.com 4 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CA secretariat floats calendar

The Constituent Assembly secretariat has floated the calendar for the constitution making process, proposing promulgation of the constitution between 15 January and 12 February, 2015 without specifying any particular date.

The CA secretariat proposed the constitution making calendar in the CA Business Advisory Committee (BAC) today, committing to get the draft of the constitution ratified by 14 January next year.

The secretariat proposed the calendar to the lawmakers in today’s meeting of the 49-member BAC. The committee will finalize the calendar tomorrow, after which it will be put to vote in the Constituent Assembly, said CA Chairperson Subas Chandra Nembang.

The CA Secretariat also proposed to seek consensus among parties to forge consensus on disputed and new issues by 17 October. The document proposes to elect chiefs of all the thematic committees by 28 April.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times 3 April 2014

Pakistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TTP extends ceasefire till April 10

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has announced that it will extend the ceasefire till April 10. This decision was reportedly taken during a meeting of the TTP shura and TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid confirmed the announcement.

He also said that the organisation was waiting for a response from the government and that it was hoped that it will be positive.

The banned organisation had declared the ceasefire on March 1 in an effort to revive the flagging peace initiative with the Pakistan government. The government and the TTP are currently in a second round of talks which have been described by their representatives as ’decisive’.

Pakistan has freed at least sixteen Taliban prisoners with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s approval to boost reconciliation efforts.

According to the political agent of South Waziristan, the highest government official in the northwestern tribal region, the released prisoners are not major commanders and are innocent tribals who were arrested during different search operations in South Waziristan in the last two or three years.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune 4 April 2014, The News International 3 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Musharraf indicted for treason

The special court constituted to try former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for high treason has indicted him.

With regard to the request put forward by Musharraf to be allowed to travel abroad, the court has said that as long as the accused is not in custody, he can seek medical treatment at any place of his choice and an accused cannot be restrained from travelling.

The removal of Musharraf’s name from ECL, however, according to the court, is not its prerogative as it had not ordered for the inclusion of his name in the list in the first place. Musharraf has denied all charged of treason.

Musharraf escaped an alleged assassination attempt a few days after the court indictment when a bomb exploded on the road that his convoy had passed minutes earlier. He was on the way to his Chak Shahzad farmhouse from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), Rawalpindi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn.com 31 March 2014, The Express Tribune, 4 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">KP’s anti-polio efforts in trouble

Non-vaccination of children in the militancy stricken Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) could derail the major anti-polio initiative in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Two new cases were recorded recently, bringing the total number of nationwide cases to 41 this year as opposed to six cases till this date in 2013. This reflects a worrying increase of 900 percent.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn.com, 4 April 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No presidential polls till 2016: President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa told journalists that no presidential election would be held till 2016, when it is due in January that year.

At Medalamuna, where he cast his vote in the Southern Provincial Council poll on 29 March, President Rajapaksa, when asked about the Geneva resolution, said the Government would hold elections democratically and the people would vote intelligently.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 29 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UPFA bags WPC, SPC with lower vote-share

The ruling SLFP-UPFA comfortably secured both Western and Southern Provincial Councils at Saturday’s elections, though the UNP won several electorates in the Colombo district, namely, Colombo North, Colombo Central, Borella, Colombo East and Colombo West.

The UNP’s only gain outside Colombo was the Galle electorate, where it obtained 19,348 votes (39.62%) while the UPFA came a close second by obtaining 18,611 votes (38.11%). The UPFA won Galle electorate at the last SPC poll held in October 2009. Except those six electorates, the UPFA won all 51 electorates in the Southern and Western Provinces. The ruling coalition polled 699,408 votes (58.06%) to secure 33 seats including two bonus slots in the SPC, while the UNP obtained 310,431 votes (25.77%) to get 14 seats. The JVP and the Democratic Party (DP) led by General Sarath Fonseka polled 109,032 (9.05%) and 75, 532 (6.27 %) to secure five and three seats, respectively. The UPFA constituent, the SLMC which contested the SPC on its own secured 1,119 votes (0.12%), hence failed to win a single seat.

At the previous SPC polls in October 2009, the UPFA obtained 38 seats, including two bonus slots, while the UNP and the JVP obtained 14 and three seats, respectively. The JVP with two seats in addition to the three it had at the last council and the DP with three seats made electoral gains at the expense of the UPFA.

In spite of the UNP winning five electorates, the UPFA polled 1,363,675 (53.35%) to take 56 seats including two bonus slots in the WPC. The UNP obtained 679,682 (26.59%) to win 28 seats, while the DP pushed the JVP to the fourth position by polling 203,767 votes (7.97%) to secure nine seats in the WPC. The JVP polled 156,208 (6.11%) to get six seats.

The remaining five seats were shared by the Democratic People’s Front (DPF), which won two seats, the SLMC 2 and All-Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) one. The SLMC, led by Minister Rauff Hakeem and the ACMC led by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen is also a constituent of the UPFA. The five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) backed the DPF in the Western Province.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 31 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">None contested Fonseka voting: EC

Elections Commission chief Mahinda Deshapriya has maintained that whether DP leader Sarath Fonseka has had his civic rights restored or not, did not concern him. If the SLFP had had any objections to his voting, its area politicians should have objected when the voter register in that area was put on public display, Deshapriya said.

"Only if someone raises objections I can inquire and see whether he had registered in terms of the Voter Registration Act of 1980 and if Gen. Fonseka has registered in violation of the act I can institute legal action against him", he said.

The address he had for Fonseka was Welipara, Katupotha, the Election Commissioner said, adding that, for that matter, even S.B. Dissanayake had contested after losing his civic rights, but no one had challenged it.

The Democratic Party said that under Section 89 (d) of the Constitution, Fonseka was not disqualified from casting his vote in an election and accordingly he had exercised his franchise on Saturday at the polling station at Sumanasara Maha Vidyalaya in Batakeththara, Piliyandala.

Fonseka told a news channel after voting, "I came to this polling station today and cast my valuable vote for the Democratic Party, for the first time. Through this I have shown all people in this country who appreciate democracy that my civic rights have not been withdrawn."

The former Army commander was stripped of civic rights when he was jailed in the ’white-flag case’. He was granted a conditional presidential pardon in May 2012.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 30 March 2014

Afghanistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Presidential candidates fined

The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission, the official watchdog for the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, fined two candidates - Gul Agha Sherzai and Zalmai Rassoul - for violating the electoral laws during their campaigns.

The complaints against Mr. Rassoul pertained to the use of official resources during his campaign. Paktia Governor Juma Khan Hamdard was said to have campaigned for Mr. Rassoul and was accused of forcibly closing schools in the province to let teachers and students attend the public meeting. Kandahar residents also alleged that they had been forced by police into taking in Mr. Rassoul’s campaign rally. Mr. Rassoul was fined 200,000 afghanis.

Mr. Sherzai, was fined 100,000 afs for using abusing language during a speech against his rival Mr. Rassoul.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok 1 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ghani renews commitment on BSA

Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, in an interview with CNN, renewed his commitment to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would pave the way for the US to retain a residual force in the country post-2014.

Dr. Ghani said, "My commitment is to sign the agreement so that the intentional forces that are needed to support the building, equipping and training of Afghan security forces are in place."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press 3 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No extra US military gear for Pak

The US State Department, this week, ruled out transferring any leftover military hardware from Afghanistan to Pakistan post-2014. "We note we have not and do not intend to transfer EDA (excess defence articles) from Afghanistan to any of its neighbouring countries, including Pakistan," said the State Department deputy spokesperson, Marie Harf. Suggestions that the US may transfer the excessive military hardware to Pakistan had become a bone of contention between the US government and incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 1 April 2014

Bangladesh

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power corridor given to India

In a major development, Bangladesh has agreed to allow India to use its soil to transmit 6,000 MW of power from Assam to Bihar via Dinajpur through a new electricity network. A committee has been formed to explore the feasibility of transmitting power from Rangia Raota in Assam to Borakpur in Bihar through Barapukuria of Dinajpur, and asked to submit its report in six months. Bangladesh’s Power Secretary Monowar Islam said this after the seventh meeting of Bangladesh-India joint steering committee on cooperation on power held this week at Dhaka.

Explaining how Bangladesh will be benefited, Monowar Islam said that the country will get some power from it. Also, Bangladesh can benefit financially from the transmission of power, as India will pay it wheeling charge, should the project go ahead. India plans to start transmitting power via Bangladesh from 2017.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 4 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$100 b needed for SAARC infrastructure

Bangladesh will have to spend $7.4 billion to $10 billion a year until 2020 to bring its power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard needed to serve its growing population, a World Bank report has said. The report -- Reducing Poverty by Closing South Asia’s Infrastructure Gap -- is the first analysis of the region’s infrastructure needs by the WB.

The report said SAARC, the eight-nation South Asian bloc, needs to spend as much as $2.5 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 to bring the region’s infrastructure to a standard level. It says the region, which comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, could address its enormous infrastructure needs by tapping private and public sector funds as well as by introducing reforms.

The report further claimed that Bangladesh will have to give the highest priority to its transport sector, as the country needs to spend between $36 billion and $45 billion for expanding its communication network.

The power sector will require an investment between $11 billion and $16.5 billion to take credible electricity to the poor in the country where about half of the population is still not connected to the national grid. Improving water supply and sanitation will need a flow of investment of $12 billion to $18 billion, solid waste management $2.1 billion to $4.2 billion, telecom $5 billion, and irrigation $7.7 billion to $11.6 billion until 2020.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star 3 April 2014

Bhutan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India names envoy

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has appointed Gautam Bambawale as India’s next Ambassador to Bhutan. He will be taking up their new assignment over the next few days, an MEA release said.

Bambawale, from the 1984 batch of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), is currently serving as Joint Secretary in the Ministry.

< class="text11verdana">Source: DNA 3 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New identification system for immigration

Phuentsholing’s immigration office has installed biometric authentication system at the checkpoint to keep track of foreigners entering and leaving Bhutan. About 800 labourers from India and 250 tourists enter Bhutan from the Phuentsholing checkpoint every day.

Non-Bhutanese workers are asked to give their fingerprints on the scanner along with their bio-data and picture to register in the database. Tourists have to register their data with the print of their two index fingers.

Immigration Officer Kinley Tshering said with such system, it will help immigration office to trace labourers’ entry and exit status, which was not possible earier. The system will also provide fast and easy enrolment.

"This will also help us trace the labourer if absconded, left the country legally or was deported before," he said. "We’ll blacklist the labourer’s name if he or she absconded. The system will reflect his or her status." Labourers are issued a one-year work permit.

However, to make sure data are recorded in the system, contractors or agents should inform when a labourer makes off," Kinley Tshering said. "If they leave the country without informing the relevant person or authority, the system will show that the particular person is still in the country."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online 4 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Singaporean Co. pulls out from Tech Park

The Assetz Property Group (APG), which holds 70 percent of the Thimphu Tech Park Limited (TTPL), through a letter dated 10th March 2014 has announced its intention to withdraw from the project.

APG in the letter says that it would be in the best interest of TTPL if Druk Holdings and Investment (DHI), which currently owns 30 percent, were to fully takeover TTPL. The letter also mentions that both APG and DHI have had extensive discussions in the last few months over TTPL.

A DHI letter in turn sent to the MoIC supports the idea of buying out APG from the project and has mentioned that the DHI board had granted approval to explore this course. DHI is currently in negotiation with APG on the price of the 70 percent shares.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bhutanese 28 March 2014

India

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IAF cargo plane crashes

An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J Super Hercules cargo plane crashed near Gwalior killing all five persons on board, which included two wing commanders, two squadron leaders and a fifth crew member.

The plane crashed near Gwalior air base after taking off from Agra air force base for a routine mission, the latest in a string of military incidents due to equipment failure. Navy chief D.K. Joshi quit in February after fire onboard the submarine INS Sindhuratna left two officers dead. That followed an explosion on board the submarine INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 personnel in August.

The IAF bought six C-130J transport aircraft in a $1.2 billion contract in 2008. There are six more Super Hercules aircraft on order from Lockheed Martin. IAF most recently pressed the planes into service to search for the debris of Malaysia Airlines MH370 that disappeared in the Indian Ocean on 8 March.

The IAF ordered a preliminary inquiry into the crash. Teams from Lockheed Martin Corp and its AE-2100 engine-maker Rolls-Royce Holding Plc may visit the site at a later stage, the IAF spokesman said, but that will depend on the preliminary inquiry indicating a technical problem.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mint 28 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhullar’s death sentence commuted

Khalistani militant, Devender Singh Bhullar, convicted for a car bombing in Delhi will not hang, the Supreme Court ruled, reducing his punishment to a life sentence. His wife had petitioned the court to stop his execution because he allegedly developed mental illness while languishing on death row and because of a long delay in deciding his appeal for clemency.

Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, which killed nine persons and injured 25 others, including then Youth Congress president MS Bitta. Bhullar filed a clemency petition in 2003 but it was rejected eight years later by President Pratibha Patil.

The Centre had earlier told the court that it had no problem with commutation of Bhullar’s death sentence to life term. It had said that the petition in this regard has to be allowed in view of the court’s 21 January verdict that delay in deciding mercy pleas can be a ground for such relief.

< class="text11verdana">Source: NDTV 31 March 2014, Hindustan Times 31 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US envoy quits

After nearly two years as U.S. ambassador to India, Nancy Powell resigned from the post with plans to leave India at the end of May. The move comes less than four months after India-US relations nosedived over the arrest and alleged ill-treatment of Indian consul-general in New York, Devyani Khobragade.

With Delhi retaliating strongly over the Khobragade incident, diplomatic privileges of US diplomats in India were curtailed, allegations of tax and visa fraud against American teachers at the US embassy school surfaced and high-level bilateral meetings postponed, among others, putting Powell in the spotlight. South Block officials felt that the US ambassador could have handled the situation better and prevented damage to bilateral ties.

US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the move was "in no way related to any tension, any recent situations, there is not any big behind-the-scenes story here". The State Department is likely to bring in a political appointee as Powell’s replacement to help rebuild the relationship with the new government.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: BBC, 31 March 2014; Indian Express, 1 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Overseas investors under tighter tax code

The Government has tightened a provision in the revised direct taxes code (DTC) Bill that will make it tougher for overseas companies to avoid paying taxes in India on transactions where underlying assets are located in the country.

The move has implications for tax battles currently being fought in court against Vodafone Plc. and Hutchison Telecommunications Ltd., which claim that, as they are non-resident companies, they are automatically exempt from paying capital gains taxes.

The revised draft law proposes that if 20% of the total assets of a company are located in India, then the income arising from such a transaction will be taxed in the country. The previous version of the Bill had said such transactions would be taxed if 50% of the total assets were located in India.

The draft also proposes to introduce another tax-slab for individuals earning more than Rs.10 crore a year by taxing them at 35% rate and to include financial assets under the ambit of wealth tax as compared to only physical assets at present.

The draft also proposes to levy an additional 10% tax on the recipient of dividend payments if the dividend income exceeds Rs.1 crore. Other changes include lowering the age of eligibility for tax-paying senior citizens from 65-60 years.

The new version is aimed at widening the tax-net, removing ambiguities and plugging loopholes in the current tax laws. It has been published on the income tax department website for comments from stakeholders. A new government at the Centre could revise some of the provisions of the Bill before it is tabled in Parliament.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mint 1 April 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Niharika Betkerur

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