MonitorsPublished on Apr 08, 2011
The Maldivian authorities can now breathe easy. Now that the Cricket World Cup, played in venues across Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, is completed without any security problems, the reported Interpol alert against Maldives-based religious terrorists targeting the match venues have receded for good.
Maldives: Increasing fundamentalism a threat
< class="heading1">Analysis

The Maldivian authorities can now breathe easy. Now that the Cricket World Cup, played in venues across Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, is completed without any security problems, the reported Interpol alert against Maldives-based religious terrorists targeting the match venues have receded for good. With that, any possible perceptions about the Maldives emerging as yet another Asian venue for global terrorism too has vanished ? at least for the present.

However, the World Cup matches saw unprecedented security, especially during India’s matches against Pakistan in the semifinal and Sri Lanka in the final. With international relations also playing a key role in both these matches with the presence of the Heads of State and Governments of the three countries, the security arrangements were very tight.. In the seas off the venues like Mumbai, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard took positions, learning their lessons from the sea-passage that the terrorists took for the 26/11 terror-attack. In Mohali, the Indian Air Force was put on the alert and anti-aircraft defence positions were erected when Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Yousuf Raza Gilani met during the semifinal match and afterwards during the dinner.

It was in this background, the reported Interpol alert about the possible presence of terror groups in Maldives with the specific target of attacking any of the World Cup venues gained credence. The Maldivian Government was prompt in scotching such reports, saying that neither did they have any Interpol alert nor did they have any terrorists in the country.

It all began with the local newspaper, ’Haveeru’ citing Interpol officials confirming that two Maldivian nationals suspected of involvement with Pakistani militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) were now wanted for planned attacks at the high-profile cricket tournament. Haveeru said that Interpol representatives had confirmed that two unidentified Maldivian nationals were now wanted alongside four Pakistanis and an Afghan for alleged involvement in plans to strike at the tournament.

The report came 24 hours after prominent regional media outlets such as the Times of India claimed that Iqbal Mohamed, who had been arrested by police earlier this month on charges relating to a homemade explosive device attack in Male’ in 2007, was suspected of being part of an alleged terror plot at the cricket World Cup. The LeT was implicated in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, India. It claimed that Interpol’s information had been based on the interrogation of several terror suspects it had arrested, which it was now using to collaborate with officials from South Asian nations like the Maldives.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Ali of the Maldives Police Service told Minivan News that they had been given no information on any Maldivian nationals wanted for allegedly planning attacks on the World Cup. The only arrest police confirmed to have made of late linked to terrorism was that of local man Iqbal Mohamed over alleged involvement in an attack on the capital in 2007. Ali said that although the Maldives Police Force was a member of Interpol, it has not been collaborating over the alleged terror investigations of Maldivian suspects or supplied with any information on the matter.

As coincidence would have it, Mohamed was himself released around the same time by the country’s Criminal Court. Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed said the decision was made after an apparent "lack of information" in the police chargesheet. The police had no comments to offer immediately, but the case itself related to the ’Sultan Park’ incident, during the run-up to the first multi-party democratic elections in the country in October 2008. The Government of then President Maumoon Gayoom had attributed the blast to pro-democracy groups based in the UK, and not to any religious extremist organisation.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said allegations of Maldivian involvement in planning potential terrorist attacks during the 2011 World Cup was "old news" and that the Ministry had not been provided with details of any such investigations being carried out by Interpol. "We really don’t have details about this. It is a matter for the police," an official spokesperson added.

While the safe conduct and conclusion of the World Cup have put a veil over speculative reports of the kind, there is no denying the fact that Maldives has been getting mentioned lately in the context of religious extremism and terrorism. In 2009, for instance, the US-led coalition forces arrested six Maldivian militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It made big news and turned international attention to Maldives for a while. Now, the purported Interpol assessment has done it again, but with no conclusive proof, unlike on the earlier occasion.

Independent of extremism and terrorism, fundamentalist tendencies and imageries are becoming increasingly visible in the national Capital of Male and other urban centres. The increasing use of head-dress (different from head-to-foot purdah) by young, educated girls in public has become a common practice. Traditionalists attribute it to the large-scale migration of young rural women into urban centres in search of employment and their carrying the tradition with them into the cities.

According to official sources, the Government is keeping a close watch, and continue to share information with friendly nations in this regard. However, it is unclear as yet if the Government can marshal the kind of resources that might be required if the worst fears come true, affecting not only the tranquillity in the country but also the consequent flow of western tourists into Maldives, making tourism a large stake-holder in the growth and development of the country as a whole, and yet becoming shaky if terror reports of the kind are allowed to float around, without check and rebuttal.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament over-rides Presidential veto

Parliament has voted through a Bill on determining atoll capital islands for a second time after President Mohamed Nasheed had returned the legislation for reconsideration. A motion proposed by opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim to pass the bill again without any changes received 39 votes in favour from the 68 MPs present and voting, the bare minimum required to over-ride a presidential veto.

Under Article 91(b) of the Constitution, a Bill returned for reconsideration and passed by a majority of total membership of Parliament has to be "assented by the President and published in the Government gazette."

According to the Bill, atoll capital islands listed in the Appendix of the Constitution when it was ratified on August 7, 2008 shall retain their status unless decided otherwise by a two-thirds majority of an atoll council and approved through a public referendum. The legislation also lays out a number of steps to be completed before relocation could be considered by atoll councils. Following the Local Council elections in February, disputes over atoll administrative centres in Shaviyani and Kaafu atolls led to a tense standoff between islanders and riot police.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed names new Auditor-General

The serving internal auditor at the Maldives Ports Limited has been forwarded by President Mohamed Nasheed as a candidate for the post of Auditor-General, in an attempt to fill a position that has remained vacant for over a year, according to news reports.

Haveeru has reported that Niyaz Ibrahim’s name is expected to be nominated to Parliament for the position pending committee review after attempts in December to appoint the former Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) President Ali Rasheed Umar were rejected. The decision led to allegations from the government that Rasheed Umar was the victim of a partisan plot to hinder the appointment.

Opposition politicians, who form a majority in the Majlis, claimed at the time that the vote against the appointment was related to ethical concerns over the candidate and called for greater consultation by the President on finding a nominee forAuditor-General. The post has remained vacant since March 2010 when Ibrahim Naeem lost a parliamentary no-confidence motion by 43 votes to 28.

While the governing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) voted to retain Naeem in the role, opposition MPs and a number of independent members voted against him over allegations of corruption. Naeem stood accused of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for using the government’s money to buy a tie and fund a visit Thulhaidhu in Baa Atoll.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New law seeks to limit suspect’s rights

An amendment bill has been submitted to the Act on the Prohibition of Gang Violence, in a bid to constrict the right to remain silent and the right to be released from custody during investigation, for suspects involved in gang-related crimes. The amendment proposed by Galolhu-South MP, Ahmed Mahloof, seeks to deny suspects in gang-related crimes of the right to remain silent (Article 20) and puts custody in preference to freedom as the suspect is (anyway) "a threat to social security, or might try to hide evidence or threaten a witness" (Article 21).

An amendment has also been proposed to Article 16(b), which otherwise reads thus: "The limitation of a right or freedom specified in this Chapter by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis (Parliament) as provided for in this Constitution, and in order to protect and maintain the tenets of Islam, shall not be contrary to the Constitution."

Mahloof has also proposed an amendment to the Maldives Tourism Act, in a bid to develop and implement a security system, which complies with police standards, in the privately-owned resorts in the country. Possibly taking a leaf out of the current practices in western countries, the proposal requires a security system that complies with the standards of the Maldives Police Service to be established at the tourist resorts, hotels, and guesthouses. The Maldives Police Service is required to inspect the system at least once a year, the amendment-draft adds.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt’s Treasury-Bill debt at Rf 5 billion

The Government’s debt in Treasury Bills, sold to companies and banks through the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), has reached some Rf5 billion ? an amount that is equal to about 40 per cent of this year’s Rf12-billion national budget. MMA figures show the Government should settle Rf4.98 billion for T-Bills of 91 days, 28 days and 182 days, within the period starting from April 11 to October 3. The T-Bill debt stayed at Rf 4 billion at the beginning of this year.

The Government sells Treasury Bills to companies and banks every week, with the last one sold with an interest rate of 4.57 percent, 5.34 percent and 5.53 percent. The national budget approved by Parliament this year proposes to receive Rf1.3 billion by selling T-Bills.

The Government introduced the sale of T-Bills in September 2006 in order to settle the short-term debts.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Former Prime Minister attacks Prachanda

Former Prime Minister and CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has accused UPCN Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal of plotting to oust his government from the day it was constituted.

Inaugurating the first national convention of ULM-affiliated Loktantrik Tharu Union, Nepal said "Maoist Chairman Dahal made every effort possible to overthrow my government". He claimed that new statute could not be promulgated under the shadow of weapons and violence". "UPCN-Maoists are talking of statue drafting and army integration process simultaneously, that means it wants to make statue under the shadow of arms."

Criticising the Jhala Nath Khanal-led government, Nepal said it was ridiculous that the government had failed to acquire its full shape even two months after its formation. On Maoist demand for supplementary budget, Nepal said it will not be acceptable to his party and urged the Prime Minister and Finance Minister not to accept the Maoist agenda. "CPM-UML is not a stooge of the UPCN-Maoists. It is a mistake to believe that UML cannot move ahead without the Maoist support".

On the seven point deal between UPCN-Maoist and CPN-UML, Nepal said the deal had become meaningless after the election of Jhala Nath Khanal as the Prime Minister of the country and accused the Maoists of being lackadaisical in the integration of their fighters.

Talking at various programmes, Nepal has been attacking the Maoists and also cautioning the Prime Minister against serving the interests of UPCN-Maoists. He claimed to have foiled the Maoists’ strategy to capture the state through people’s revolt when he was the prime minister.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 2-4-5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four killed in explosions in western Nepal

Four persons, including two children, were killed in bomb explosions in Humla and Dolpa districts -- two western districts of the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 3, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Grief at killing of five UN peacekeepers in Afghanistan

Five Nepali security guards deployed at the United Nations office in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, have been killed by an angry mob. The mob reportedly beheaded two guards, seized their weapons and stormed the U.N. office killing others. The attack came after Friday prayers, where Afghan Muslims learned that a Christian pastor in the United States had reportedly defiled their holy scripture, the Quran.

Thirteen persons, including five Nepali security guards, three U.N. workers and five demonstrators died in the assault, according to U.N. Peacekeeping Director in Afghanistan Alain Le Roy. According to Roy, the security guards, who were Gurkhas, tried to save the lives of U.N. staff members, but were overtaken by the mob.
< class="text11verdana">Source: All Headline News, April 2, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal Army Chief meets UN officials

Nepal’s Army Chief Chhatraman Singh Gurung has met top UN officials in New York and discussed his country’s contribution to the world body’s various peacekeeping missions. During meetings, they discussed Nepal’s contributions and role to the various UN peacekeeping missions. Gen Gurung is on a week long visit to the US.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Finance Secretary resigns

Finance Secretary Rameshore Khanal has resigned, apparently under pressure from Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary.

According to Chandan Sapkota, who works for an Economic think tank, Khanal’s decision to resign was not voluntary. "Rameshore Khanal, an honest civil servant working as finance secretary of Nepal, resigned due to undue pressure from Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary and his cronies (including businessmen who were about to be charged for tax evasion). God knows how much Adhikary and the political parties are being paid by the crooked businessmen to oust Khanal from the finance ministry. This is corruption and dirty lobbying at its height. The morale of civil servants will further go down. The optimal solution right now is to take moral responsibility by Adhikary, resign immediately, and recall Khanal without any preconditions."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Global Voices, April 4, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal to count endangered rhinos

Nepal has begun combing its southern plains for endangered one-horned Asian rhinoceroses to determine their numbers and locations to help protect them from poachers who sell their hors as an aphrodisiac.

Dozens of elephant-riding experts armed with global positioning system devices and cameras will scour the plains over the next three weeks to see how many rhinos are left, chief of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Departhment Krishna Acharya said on Wednesday (April 6, 2011).

The horn of the rhino is believed to have aphrodisiac qualities although it is made of keratin, the same substance in fingernails. Nevertheless, demand for the horns for use in concoctions in high and poachers can make thousand of dollars for one in the black market, which is based in China mainly.

Nepal, the second largest home for the animal after India, had 435 of the rhinos when the last count was made in 2008. But officials said at least 60 of them had died in the three years since them, 28 at the hands of poachers.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia to double assistance by 2015

Australia promised to double its foreign assistance to Nepal by 2015. Currently, Australia has been providing $ 19 million per annum in assistance, largely for forest conservation and disaster management.

The promise was made during a meeting between Australian Ambassador Susan Grace and Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal at the latter’s office. The increased aid, however, would be utilised for health and education sectors, according to the PMO.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal-India talks in Pune, resumptions of arms supplies likely to figure in the meet

High level security talks between officials from Nepal and India concluded in Pune on April 7, 2011.

Officials of both countries will formally sign a minute tomorrow. A 15-member Nepali team was led by Hari Kumar Shrestha, South Asia Division Chief of Foreign Ministry, while the Indian team was led by Satish Mehta, Northern Division Chief of Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Six high level army officials of Nepal also participated. Senior Indian army and police officials were among the Indian delegates.

The Nepali team informed about Nepali Army’s need of arms and ammunition, military hardware, vehicles, uniforms, equipment and advanced training for army officers, said Nepali team member colonel Ashok Narsingh Rana, military attaché at the Embassy of Nepal. "As far as resumption of Indian arms assistance to Nepal is concerned, government of Nepal needs to make a formal request to the Indian government," Rana said. He said though the Indian government was ready to resume arms supply to Nepal, it wanted to do so only when the government of Nepal makes a formal request. Rana said the Indian government understood well the sensitivity of resuming arms supply at this stage when the peace process was still on. Nepali Army is in dire need of arms and ammunition for its training and other duties including for peace missions, but the government of Nepal has so far shied away from making a formal request to the Indian Earlier, a 15-member Nepali team led by South Asia Division chief of the Foreign Ministry of Nepal Hari Kumar Shrestha had reached Pune from New Delhi. A senior official from Defence Ministry, DIG level officials from National Investigation Department, Nepal Police, Armed Police and six high level officials from Nepal Army including Brigadier General Mahesh Karki are taking party in the meeting.

The Indian team is being led by Satish C Mehta, chief of Northern Division at the Ministry of External Affairs. High level officials of Indian police and Indian army are among the Indian delegates, according to Colonel Ashok Narsingh Rana, Military Attache, Embassy of Nepal.

Shrestha was tight-lipped about the agendas and possible outcomes of the meeting. Khaganath Adhikari, Deputy Chief of Mission of Nepali Embassy said both the countries had been engaging in bilateral security talks for the last few years under bilateral security consultative group and the ongoing meeting was a part of it. The meeting is held in India and Nepal alternatively. The last meeting was held in Kathmandu. This is the eighth such meeting. Earlier, the Nepali team met Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Army Chief VK Singh, according to Rana.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 6-7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Security expert suggest innovative army integration

A security expert has suggested that Nepal should surpass the conventional discourse of post-conflict integration and explore new approaches in relation to the UNCPN-Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army integration with the Nepal Army.

Talking to Xinhua, security analyst Chiran Jung Thapa said that the nation should seek solutions to the matter, which can address the issues of all the parties involved. "The best possible way is by considering the long term interests".

"It should address the issue of the Nepal Army and the PLA combatants. It should also address the national as well as the international interest", Thapa said and added that "Nepal should also consider the theory of supply and demand for the solution".

Meanwhile, the Army has sent a proposal to Prime Minister Khanal to constitute a separate force. But Defence Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel ruled out constituting a separate force, comprising the Maoist combatants.
< class="text11verdana">Source: People’s Daily online, April 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hindu, Christian tug-of- war over Pashpatinath temple intensifies, Government constitutes a committee

In response to the continuing agitation of the Christian community in the Himalayan country, the Government has formed a five-member panel to look into their demand for a separate burial ground.

Christians, a minority in the erstwhile Hindu kingdom, have been undertaking a relay hunger strike since March 23 seeking land to bury their dead. Urging the community to end the strike, the Ministry for Federal Affairs, Constituent Assembly, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Culture have formed the committee. Chief of the committee Rishikesh Niraula said that it would study the case and submit a report within the next 45 days.

However, Christian groups have decided to continue with the relay hunger strike till their talks with Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and specific assurances from the Government.

More than 80 percent of Nepal’s 30 million population comprised Hindus while the Christians are about 5 percent. The country became a secular democratic republic in May, 2008.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, April 6, 2011, Hindustan Times, April 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Prachanda praises Nepal Army’s proposal for integration of Maoist combatants

UPCN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said that the proposal on army integration as circulated by the Nepali Army ’was a positive thought on the part of the national army to make a new Nepal together’.

"The positive thoughts expressed by the Nepali Army indicate that they are also willing to join hands in the making of a new Nepal," said Dahal while addressing a programme organised by his party to mark the People’s Movement Day here at Basantapur today.

The NA has been reported to have circulated a draft proposal in which it has zeroed in on setting up a separate directorate to look into a force comprising NA personnel, Maoist combatants and personnel from other security forces.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">British Prime Minister makes maiden visit

British Prime Minister David Cameron made his first visit to Pakistan on April 5. Cameroon held meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, besides taking part in other important interactions. He termed relations between the two countries as ’an breakable partnership’ and pledged 650 million pounds for the country’s education. More importantly, he took part in the ’enhanced strategic dialogue’, which also involved the head of British spy agency MI6, John Sawers, and its military chief David Richards, as well as Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and chief of ISI, General Shuja Pasha.

The purpose of the British Prime Minister’s visit was to mend fences with Pakistan. Relations soured last year in July when Cameron had accused Pakistan of complicity in terrorist activity by ’looking both ways’. Since then, as many as four cabinet ministers have visited Pakistan to restore their relation. Pakistan’s role as a crucial counterterrorism ally gives it immense leverage against the Britain and the US, who have sustained growing loses against the Taliban in recent years. Pakistan’s non-discriminate prosecution of militant groups, western analysts believe, is a pre-requisite to success in Afghanistan.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Guardian, April 5, 2011; The News International, April 5, 2011; Daily Times, April 6

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban suicide bombers attack Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan

Suicide bombers attacked Darbar Sakhi Sarwar, a famous sufi shrine, in Dera Ghazi Khan in western Punjab, killing 46 devotees and injuring around 100 others on April 2. Two militants, belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, struck the shrine of the revered 13th century Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, while the third assailant was caught before he could denote explosives strapped to his body. He has been identified as Fida Hussain, a teenaged Afghan refugee from Bajaur in the tribal areas. Shrine administrators had earlier received threats, demanding them to stop the traditional practice of dhamaal during the annual Urs. Taliban militants, who draw much ideological motivation from their Arab cohorts, have threatened Sufi clerics as they consider their mystical approach to Islam against their more puritanical philosophy.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, April 3, 2011; The News International, April 4, 2011; Daily Times, April 5, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt not keeping promises: TNA

On return from India after months of convalescing following a cardio-thorasic surgery, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan told Parliament that the Government was not keeping the promises made to the Tamil people.

Sampanthan referred to the multiple-Bills on electoral reforms, and said that the Government had gone back on its promise to set up multi-ethnic de-limitation committees at the district-level, to work under a national authority. The powers for naming district committee members was now being sought to be conferred on the Minister concerned, he pointed out.

The TNA’s reference to the Government not keeping up its promises comes in the wake of the on-going two-tier negotiations with the Government, on rehabilitation of war victims and a political solution to the ethnic issue.
< class="text11verdana">Source: (Tamil), April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army frisks the East

In what the local population said reminded them of the war years, the armed forces undertook an unannounced search operation across the Eastern Province on April 5, which official sources said was only a drill. There were apprehensions that the army personnel might be looking for the four Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) men who went missing in the mid-sea (Pro-LTTE Tamilnet website has since claimed that Tamil fishermen had sighted the uniformed bodies of the SLN personnel floating in the seas, even as their dinghy had beached days ago).

In Jaffna, Maj-Gen Huttrusinghe, the Northern Commander of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) claimed that the TNA and a section of the Tamil Diaspora were looking for a return to the war. Claiming that the armed forces had to be retained on the streets following large-scale complaints of robbery, dacoity and harassment of women, he attributed the incidents to ’some politicians who have lost the war’, adding that they would be brought to book with ample evidence.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Uthayan, Jaffna (Tamil), (Tamil), April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President unhappy over Mumbai match visit

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s entourage was said to be unhappy over the non-availability of adequate number of passes/tickets for watching the India-Sri Lanka World Cup cricket finals in Mumbai. They were also said to have been upset with the lack of opportunity for the President to greet the two teams ahead of the commencement of the match, and also a photo-op with the winning Indian team.

Indian authorities explained that the greeting ceremony did not happen as President Rajapaksa, unlike Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani at Mohali, was not on an official visit. The ticket-shortage occurred owing to the last-minute intention of the presidential entourage to witness the match, and also the large number of passes/tickets procured by a Sri Lankan Minister and the nation’s cricket board.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Mumbai Mirror/Daily Mirror Online, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest against Quran-burning spreads to major cities

Protests sparked by the recent burning of the Quran by an extremist pastor in Florida spread to major cities during the past week. 30 people were killed and another 150 injured in violent protests in the southern city of Kandahar. Earlier, a United Nations compound was attacked in Mazar-e-Sharif in which seven foreigners were killed. While the Taliban voiced their support, they have denied direct involvement. Afghan officials, however, claim that insurgents infiltrated civilian protestors and sparked clashes with law enforcement agencies. In fact, some protestors carried the Taliban’s symbolic white flags, and shouted slogans such as ’long live the Taliban’ and ’death to America.’ Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad, on the other hand, witnessed peaceful protests. In Kabul, 250 students gathered at the university campus and another 300 assembled at a mosque, while in Jalalabad, protestors blocked a highway for three hours. They called for US troops to leave and burnt an effigy of US President Barack Obama.

Taliban stands to gain from the turmoil and way well have precipitated the violence. Yet, the manner in which the protests, including peaceful demonstrations, have fused religious grievance with an unequivocal disapproval of the presence of foreigners in the country, and apparent sympathy for insurgents points towards widespread disillusionment with the government of Hamid Karzai and its international supporters.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, April 2, 2011; Panjwok, April 3, 2011; Al-Jazeera, April 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. in peace talks with Taliban?

A high-ranking official has revealed that the government is in serious negotiations with the Taliban. Mohammad Massoom Stanekzai, secretary of the High Peace Council, said in a press conference that the two sides have sent representatives for sustained talks. Stanekzai said that the latest parlays are not merely ’talks about talks’, and are more substantive than similar dialogues attempted last year. The United States supports the program with aid worth $50 million and insists that negotiations are ’Afghan-led’. Critics, largely belonging to non-Pashtun communities, however, allege that the Council is a cover for more influential negotiations between the Taliban and international actors like US, Britain, Germany and the UN. Afghanistan’s neighbours, most notably India and Russia, remain unconvinced of the efficacy of the plan. According to them, Pakistan will play a decisive role behind the scenes to secure its interests by jockeying for groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani network, which it allegedly supports.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The New York Times, April 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suicide bombers strike police compound in Kandahar

Taliban militants attacked a police compound in Kandahar and killed six policemen on April 7. The assailants targeted the base’s perimeter with guns and grenades. Amidst the confusion, two suicide bombers tried to move past the check-post and detonated their explosives. The third bomber, disguised as an ambulance driver, blew himself as rescue workers arrived. While the militants failed to penetrate the compound’s defence, the incident highlights growing number of attacks against Afghan security forces. Recently, insurgents kidnapped 40 policemen in Nuristan and killed 35 people outside an army recruitment centre in Kunduz province. Coalition forces have based their ’exit strategy’ on building the capacity of the country’s police and army to take charge of security. The Taliban seem to have recognised this as the pivot of their adversary’s strategy and therefore, have increased attacks against local law enforcement agencies to stymie their progress and force dissention.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Associated Press, April 8, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest against Women Policy

More than 250 people, including 16 policemen, were injured as the activists of Islamic Ain Bastabayan Sangstha (IABS), a group associated with the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), organised violent protests across the country this week to protest against the new National Women Policy. They staged a day-long agitation on April 4, dressed in white clothes symbolising shrouds and carrying copies of the holy Quran. Vehicles were damaged and some commercial establishments were set on fire. The IABS activities also attacked some members of the ruling Awami League. Around 200 people were arrested.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Export earnings cross $16 billion in nine months

Exports saw an impressive growth of around 40.31 percent in nine months of the current fiscal year as compared to the same period last year. Recent report of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) showed the country exported goods worth $16,207 million during July-March of the current 2010-11 fiscal, up from $11,551 million in the same period of 2009-10. The major exported items include knitwear, woven or cut and sew garments, jute and jute goods, home textiles, frozen food, shrimp and leather goods.

EPB had set an export target to earn $18.5 billion for the current fiscal year.
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, April 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stock crash probe says Tk 20,000cr swindled

Investigation into the recent stock market crash has revealed that the retail investors had lost at least Tk 20,000 crore because of some dishonest traders, who were in a deep collusion with stock market regulators. According to the report, direct listing alone accounted for Tk 5,000 crore and went to private pockets, while Tk 15 crore was siphoned out of the country. The probe committee headed by Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, a former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, said that all institutions involved in the stock market were responsible for this debacle. The Finance Minister has promised to take necessary action.

The report said scrupulous traders took Tk 20,000 crore out of the market through direct listing, private placement, preferential shares, mutual fund and book-building method. The report listed 100 people, who received shares in private placement, including many influential politicians and businessmen.

However, the head of the probe committee doesn’t think that politics had anything to do with the debacle. The report said a syndicate of around 30 people had a hand in the unusual ups and downs of the market.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President stresses on India-Bangladesh naval cooperation

President Zillur Rahman this week stressed the need for exchanging visits and training programmes for naval officers and sailors of Bangladesh and India. The President made the remarks during the visit of Chief of Indian Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma.

Admiral Nirmal Verma was in Bangladesh on a five-day goodwill visit. The Indian Navy Chief also met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and all the three Chiefs of Defence Staff.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bangladesh Today, April 7, 2011/ The Daily Star, April 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First ever Local Government elections announced

Bhutan’s transition to democracy is set to be complete by the end of the month with the announcement of the first ever local government elections. The election commission announced May 24 as the poll day. A total of 1,101 polling stations will be established for the elections.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, April 07, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">66% turnout in Assam phase I voting

More than 66 per cent of the electorate voted in the first phase of elections in 62 of Assam’s 126 Assembly constituencies. Polling passed off peacefully, with no untoward incident or disruption reported from any constituency. This is the first time since the Emergency that an incumbent party (Congress) is seeking a mandate thrice in succession in the State.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 05, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Centre endorsed Judicial appointments plea in Supreme Court

The UPA government endorsed a plea asking Supreme Court (SC) to reconsider its 1993 verdict that gave primacy to the judiciary over the executive in appointment of judges in the apex court and high courts (HC).

Citing apparent inconsistencies in the 1993 SC Advocate-on-Record Association case judgment, Attorney General Vahanvati said that the appointment process needed to be reconsidered. Earlier, appearing as amicus curiae (court’s friend), senior counsel AK Ganguly supported Suraj India Trust’s view and said that the judiciary should not have absolute power in appointment of SC and HC judges.

Under Article 124(2) and Article 217(1) of the Constitution, a judge of SC/HC has to be appointed by the President after "consultation" with Chief Justice of India (CJI). In 1993 , the SC introduced the collegium system taking over primacy in appointments to higher judiciary .A 9-judge Constitution Bench in 1998 ruled "consultation" must be effective and CJI’s opinion shall have primacy. In 2008, the law commission stated that it favoured restoration of pre-1993 position. Now, the government wants Supreme Court to review its 1993 and 1998 verdicts.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindustan Times, April 04, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Earthquake prompts nuclear concerns

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake of "moderate" intensity with epicenter in the India-Nepal border region shook parts of North India. The two units of the Narora Atomic Power station in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, located in the seismic zone around 450 km from the epicenter of the quake, were reported to be safe.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, April 05, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fast against corruption

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare embarked on a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted through a civil society. The Union government has begun negotiations and agreed to some of their demands. The government said it would set up an informal joint committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill, but Mr. Hazare is demanding official notification to ensure legal validity. There is no consensus on who will head the committee.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 08, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">All-time high foodgrains output estimated in 2010-11

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said that the country would achieve an all-time high production of foodgrains, estimated at 235.88 million tonnes in 2010-11. This came on the strength of a record output of wheat and pulses. The estimates are based on the third advance estimates released by the ministry. The highest output of foodgrains, so far, has been the 234.47 million tonnes produced in 2008-09.

Food inflation meanwhile fell to a four-month low of 9.18 per cent for the week ended March 26.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 07, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to slap three-month ban on Japanese food imports

With rising fears of nuclear radiation contaminating the Japanese food chain, the Indian government has decided to ban the import of all food items from Japan for at least the next three months. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will carry out weekly reviews of the situation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 06, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">National health research policy finalised

The Union Health and Family Planning Ministry has finalised the National Health Research Policy. This will maximise the returns on investments in health research through creation of a health research system to coordinate and facilitate conduct of effective facilitating policy formulation and launching programs aimed at improving health especially of the vulnerable population. It proposes to ensure at least two per cent of the national health funding is utilised for research. This move will help overcome the weaknesses of the publicly funded health structures that restricted research in priority health areas.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 04, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal: Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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