MonitorsPublished on Mar 30, 2012
Now that the nation has regained some semblance of order and some of its lost direction, it is time that the divided polity in Maldives sat down and discussed pending issues for a political solution aimed at breaking what is increasingly becoming a passive deadlock.
Maldives: Why 'national govt' ahead of polls?

< class="heading1">Analysis

Now that the nation has regained some semblance of order and some of its lost direction, it is time that the divided polity in Maldives sat down and discussed pending issues for a political solution aimed at breaking what is increasingly becoming a passive deadlock. There is now realisation on all sides that street protests do not substitute for hard bargain at negotiations table, and that there has to be a lot of give-and-take in larger national interests in the current peace has to prevail. However, translating perceived belief, as acknowledged by some senior leaders, into action has its limitations, but that should not be held against either the parties or the processes that they have commenced.

The MDP leadership has to be congratulated for demanding fresh polls after the resignation of President Mohammed Nasheed, and his succession by Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, whose constitutionality has not been contested, either. What is under question is the legality and constitutionality of the resignation. That a young democracy like Maldives should be faced with a ticklish legal and constitutional question at infancy should also prepare the nation for a future without strains. Independent institutions have thus been called upon to adjudicate the issues.

Independent of the commission appointed by President Waheed, as sought by the MDP and also the international community, to probe the circumstances under which President Nahseed resigned the higher judiciary may (have to) be involved at a subsequent stage. It thus could answer another pending demand of the MDP and the prospective initiative of the Nasheed Government. The dividing line, for instance, between ‘judicial reforms’, as President Nasheed dubbed it, and ‘judicial independence’ as his successor has defined it since, is thin, if one contextualised the circumstances under which they were used. Branding or tagging of the kind does not help.

The terms are not inter-changeable but inter-dependent, nonetheless. Shared judicial experiences, even if not of a similar kind, from the neighbourhood could hold a candle. Yet, any judicial pronouncement on the facts and circumstances of the case could be precedent-setting in South Asia, and much of the rest of functioning democracies. It confers greater responsibility and accountability on the part of the higher judiciary in the country. The world is watching, and so are the nation’s populace. It is an opportunity, even more.

Not the favourites

There is an urgent need to revive the ‘Roadmap talks’ to resolve the political deadlock. It is more in the interest of the MDP that the talks revived and continued until an agreement is reached. In its political interest, the party cannot allow the status quo to settle down. It cannot sustain street-violence indefinitely without inviting the wrath of the urban middle class voters in Male and elsewhere. They are the party’s perceived constituency. They value democracy, yes, but they value personal security even more. Street-protests that interfere with their life, livelihood and lifestyle are not their favourites to register resentment.

The MDP may have got it wrong when it failed to discourage party protestors from taking to the streets over the ‘resignation episode’. Party leaders conceded after a point that the cadres could not take to violent ways, but the damage to the party’s image, nearer home and overseas, had been done. If anti-socials were involved, the burden of proof had turned on the MDP, instead. Engaging the police and the security forces on the streets eternally, yet hope to return to power and run a government with their institutional involvement under the Constitution and the laws of the land could have become a theoretical mis-construct. The events of the past months and years have defeated the very purpose of the bifurcation of the NSS to form the MNDF and the Police. It is another area the nation has to take a closer look.

A ‘national unity government’ propagated by President Waheed and enthusiastically welcomed by all sections but the MDP would be in order. At present, all but the MDP has joined the Government. Not having demanded status quo ante, not contesting it in courts and ready to face fresh presidential polls under the post-resignation dispensation, the Nasheed leadership should have no legal or political argument on lending greater legitimacy to the present dispensation by joining it. It would lend greater legitimacy and stability to the electoral process, as well. The MDP needs political stability more than any other, if only to pursue its agenda on early polls.

Politically, too, participation in a ‘national unity government’ could offer a pressure-point for the MDP to guide the Government from within, towards early polls. In tandem with major or minor partners in the present Government, the MDP could keep the system afloat if presidential polls, whenever held, threatens to tear apart the ruling coalition from within, as could happen in the run-up to fresh presidential polls. The party’s parliamentary majority and its ability to retain most members after President Nasheed has been out of office for weeks should be a political message that the Government parties at present can afford to ignore. It has greater potency than street-protests, whose consequences are mixed at best.

Yet, the exit of a former DRP member who had joined the MDP in the past year, to re-join the parent outfit should signal the tentative nature of that majority in Parliament. News reports have named two more members as wanting to cross over, this time to the Jumhooree Party of former Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim, who is among the richest man and ambitious politicians in the country. Having improved upon the parliamentary numbers by encouraging defections after coming second in the 2009 polls, the party cannot complain if others woo its MPs in turn, now.

Fizz out of fundamentalism charge

The formation of a government with wide representation from established political parties forming the ‘December 23 coalition’ floated by Islamist NGOs, has taken the fizz out of the religious focus on what was essentially a political act to force President Nasheed to quit office. Independent of the legitimacy issues and constitutional crises flagged by the MDP as attending on President Nasheed’s resignation, the smooth succession act by itself ensured that the fundamentalist tag, feared in circles nearer home and afar, and attaching to what otherwise was a political coalition, tore away. The MDP lost an argument even before the latter could sink in.

Parties whose leaders had been entrenched in Government for long had problems readjusting to their new democratic role in the Opposition after President Nasheed had assumed office. The MDP, in turn, refused to think and act as the legitimate ruling party, despite having a President of its choice and despite having acquired the required number in the People’s Majlis, albeit subterfuge, a characteristic that it had frowned upon in the rest. It thought and acted as if it were still in the Opposition. Party leaders and cadres continued to confuse political rallies while in power with street-protests that was their weapon as an infant Opposition in a nation without democratic norms. This readjustment problem in the polity has cost the nation dearly. Still, it has prepared the young democracy to telescope issues that other nations in its place had taken decades to tackle.

Alienating urban middle class

The complexity of the electoral constituencies in the country would dictate that the MDP did not alienate the solid urban middle class voters. With a third of the nation’s population settled in the capital city of Male, and the southern Addu City erupting over the exit of President Nasheed, continued street protests culminating in violence could upset the urban voters who had voted solidly with the MDP, both in the presidential polls and parliamentary elections, respectively in 2008 and 2009. The votes that made Candidate Nasheed the President did not automatically translate into parliamentary seats, owing to the non-demography based delimitation of electoral constituencies.

Whoever won or lost the April 14 by-election to two Majlis seats and two urban council seats, it would be tom-tomed as a referendum, the claims and interpretations based on the results. The two parliamentary seats fell vacant after courts unseated incumbents in the days and weeks after the resignation of President Nasheed. The Thaa Atoll Thimarafushi seat was held by MDP member Mohamed Musthafa. He had defeated a son of former President Abdul Gayoom in a hotly-fought election in 2009, but was unseated owing to an un-cleared debt. After clearing his debt, Musthafa is at present the MDP candidate in the former constituency.

The Kaashidhoo seat in Kaafu Atoll had returned an Independent, Ismail Abdul Hameed, in 2009. He became disqualified after the court sentenced him to imprisonment on corruption charges. Given the complexities that the by-elections have acquired in these weeks after the ‘resignation controversy’, they have also become a referendum of sorts among the Government parties. The results would help them measure their relative electoral strengths (which are ordinarily atolls, islands and constituency-specific) -- and strategise jointly and/or severally for the presidential polls, whenever held.

Strategising for polls

The strategy of the Government parties could involve individual parties in the Government fielding candidates in the first round, but consolidating their vote-shares in favour of the top-most from among them if the polls went into a run-off second round. The tactic paid off the last time round, and President Nasheed came to power. Yet, confusion over the choice of vice-presidential running-mate ahead of the first round could make compromises, re-alignments, and consequent confusion unavoidable. How it would affect the coalition Government’s credibility and stability is the question.

Former President and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) founder Maumoon Gayoom triggered confusion more recently by declaring support for Jhumhooree Party partner in the post-resignation Government to one of the Majlis seats. The PPM nominee named for the seat withdrew but has refused to campaign for the common candidate. Independent of this, DRP, the party originally founded by Gayoom and which has the highest number of MPs in Parliament from among the Government parties, has fielded candidates for both seats. With the conclusion of the by-poll could commence trading of charges among coalition partners, each consequently pulling the Government in different directions. President Waheed would then have his job cut out.

It is time the nation’s polity took stock before they proceeded on the path of reconciliation. Morality lends credibility to the polity, but politics is not about morals. Religion is more likely to be the fountain-head of morality in private and public life, including politics. The issues do not need deliberation but active consideration. Caught between the reality of the past and the inevitability of the future, Maldives’ present demands a consensual approach, not a confrontationist attitude. The latter cannot take the nation anywhere. If so, it cannot take the constituent polity somewhere else, either.

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

< class="heading1">Nepal: Ban Ki-moon and Lumbini plan

Akanshya Shah

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is keen on the development of Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha and a World Heritage site. Last month, he accepted an invitation to visit the sacred site from the Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, who has recently been appointed as Chair of a National Committee for the Development of Lumbini by the incumbent Maoist-led Government of Nepal.

The Secretary-General’s desire to develop Lumbini as a major world pilgrimage site has been welcomed by Nepal and the Buddhist community of the world at large. He is the second Asian chief of the UN to show such a keen interest in Lumbini. It was former Myanmar-born Secretary-General U Thant who took great interest in the overall development of Lumbini. Moved by the desolation of the place near the Nepal-India border during his visit in 1967, U Thant established an international committee for Lumbini and the UN thereafter helped to prepare a master-plan for its development. The master-plan was completed in 1978 and the project was supposed to have been over by 1989. Unfortunately, however, given the sensitivity of the place and also due to Nepal’s own internal instability, the much talked-about master plan remained largely unimplemented.

Ban-Ki-moon’s proposed visit to Nepal could help greatly in reviving the Lumbini development plan. However, it is most wrongly timed. Nepal is still struggling to come out of the decade-long civil strife and is yet to conclude the vital peace process. The major political parties remain divided over key issues of integration of former Maoist combatants and on federal restructuring of the State. His visit scheduled for April 28 has been “postponed” for now due to dissenting voices from within Nepal. The critics said that such a visit is against the spirit of UN charter, which enshrines human rights and humanity. They said it would be ironical that the UN Secretary-General would share a seat besides Prachanda, whose party has shown no real commitment towards human rights and peace.

The UN and the international community have not applied enough pressure on the Maoist-led Government to conclude the peace process as the new deadline for the Constituent Assembly nears on May 28. Parchanda has a key role in Nepali politics at this stage. Many a time, his party has retracted from stated positions over major issues of peace process and Constitution-drafting. Even after the November 1 peace deal, which was hailed by the international community as a “breakthrough,” the parties have not arrived at a consensus. The UCPN (Maoist) wants further bargaining on the number of combatants to be integrated into security forces. The Maoist party is also yet to return of seized property, a key clause in the new agreement.

In addition, the Government is yet to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Disappearance, which are vital to address human rights atrocities committed by the former rebel party and the State agencies. Instead of bringing the perpetrators of gross rights violation to justice, impunity continues in Nepal with rights violators and those with criminal charges like murder being promoted by the Maoist-led Government. By agreeing to co-chair a conference in Lumbini alongside Prachanda, the UN chief will be seen as undermining the values of the UN charter. Instead, the UN must seek commitment from Prachanda to formalise peace and stability in Nepal and to respect international human rights law.

On the other hand, UN does not have a good record in Nepal’s peace process. The United Nations Mission in Nepal, which was established to verify and monitor the former combatants, returned home in early 2011 without seeing through the completion of the peace process. The UNMIN was severely criticised inside and outside the country for being “soft” towards the Maoists as the number of verified combatants reached over 19,000. The real number, as claimed by Parchanda himself later, was said to be not more than 7,000-8,000.

In addition, the Lumbini development project has attracted a lot of controversy of late. Last year, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a Hong-Kong based Chinese NGO, had proposed a mega project of $3 billion for the development of Lumbini and its vicinity. Prachanda is the vice-chairman of the Foundation and he now heads a six-member steering committee that is expected to develop a master-plan for a mega project to develop Lumbini among various areas. It is still unclear how the funds will be managed for the mega project. The APECF also claimed to have entered into anMoU with Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) for Lumbini Special Development Zone project.

However, the issue was dismissed after Nepal Government professed ignorance about the project. Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture were kept in the dark about the MoU. It is the Ministry of Culture, through the Lumbini Development Trust, that oversees Lumbini-related projects in the country. Any agreement with a foreign organisation had to be thus cleared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Prachanda was thrown deeper into controversy after reports claimed that former Crown Prince Paras was the co-chair of APECF.

Both India and China have shown interest in developing Lumbini. The town also has strategic angel due to proximity to Indian borders. In November last year, Dr Karan Singh, convener of the Foreign Affairs Cell of the ruling Indian National Congress and former Minister, Government of India, told the media in Kathmandu that New Delhi would be interested in developing Lumbini in a manner befitting its status on the world map. The announcement came soon after APECF’s proposal, which is entirely backed by China.

There is no doubt that Nepal should take the lead in Lumbini development plan, but it must ensure transparency and respect towards the views of the Bhuddhist community at large. The UN Secretary-General, on his part, should urge for greater commitment from all political actors in Nepal, especially the Maoists, towards concluding the peace process. This is at the heart of the present day crisis in Nepal.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Irregularities in West Seti deal

A parliamentary subcommittee report on the 750 MW West Seti Hydroelectric Project has pointed at massive irregularities during the signing of the MoU with the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC).

The Committee on Natural Resources and Means had formed a probe committee on March 9. The majority of the lawmakers of the Committee have questioned the intention behind signing the MoU with CTGC instead of going for competitive bidding. The MoU was signed on February 29.

The Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and authorities of the Nepal Investment Board have stated that they were “not informed” about the decision.The lawmakers contended that an individual ministry cannot make loan arrangements with foreign countries or foreign financial institutions without consent of the Finance Ministry.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister sacked

Minister for Labour and Transport Management SaritaGiri was sacked by Prime Minister BaburamBhattarai for defying the latter’s directives to usher in reforms in foreign employment and take tough action against manpower companies involved in duping migrant workers.

The PMO had directed the ministry to approve demands for manpower from foreign companies only after getting a clearance from Nepali missions based in the countries from where the demands have been received and not to issue license to any new manpower companies, arguing that the existing manpower companies -- around 900 -- are enough for a country like Nepal.

Giri, on her part, has said that she was sacked because she refused to participate in corruption. Giri also announced that her party, Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi), would pull its support from the coalition Government.

The Prime Minister has since appointed Malbar Singh Thapa as the new Minister. Thapa is Chairman of Jana Mukti Party Nepal.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 23, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Baidya forms 12-party alliance

The disgruntled faction of UCPN (Maoist) led by Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidyahas formed a 12-party alliance with small parties to exert pressure for a ‘people’s constitution’.The protest programme of the alliance includes collecting signatures from all 240 electoral regions, painting walls and appealing for democratic republic constitution.

The alliance with CP Gajurel as a coordinator has the support of leaders like MatrikaYadav, Chiran Pun, ParshuramTamang, RajkumarLekhi, Dr LalanChaudhary and Suresh Ale, among others.
< class="text11verdana">, March 23, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt for ending IOC’s monopoly

In a bid to cultivate competition in petroleum exports to Nepal, the Government is preparing to request India to allow fuel imports from other Indian oil marketing companies along with the present supplier, namely, the public sector Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). At present IOC holds supply monopoly in the Nepali market.

The Ministry of Commerce and Supplies is pushing the issue through Nepal Oil Corporation, which is presently holding talks with the IOC to review the bilateral Petroleum Supplying Agreement that expires on March 31.

The Government is raising the issue after Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPC), another Indian public sector company, formally approached the ministry, expressing an interest to export petroleum products.

The country’s petroleum consumption is growing fast and is expected to touch Nepali Rs 100 billion in next one year. It was around Rs 30 billion in 2007.
< class="text11verdana">, March 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament debate on US ties hits a lull

The highly anticipated parliamentary debate on US ties and national security has been pushed to the backburner. Domestic issues of urgent importance like the power crisis and sectarian violence in Karachi have received much attention of the parliamentarians in the past week. The Government tried to calm fears that it may unilaterally decide to resume NATO supplies. Meanwhile, the Taliban has warned lawmakers against voting in favour of a resolution allowing NATO to resume shipping supplies through the country to troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In a short meeting with Prime Minister YousafRazaGilani on the side-lines of the Nuclear Summit in Dushanbe, South Korea, US President Obama reiterated that American interests be preserved in the deliberations of Pakistan Parliament. While the American side stressed on its security needs, Gilani spoke of respect and sovereignty.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, 27 March, 2012. The Daily Times, 30 March 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Violence again in Karachi

Violence returned to the streets of Karachi after a MuttahidaQaumi Movement’s worker was killed. In the arson and reactionary violence, 10 persons lost their lives. While vehicles were torched, police stood as a mute witness and acted only after the situation spiralled into a major crisis.

Following a day’s lull, killing of an Awami National Party (ANP) worker added fuel to the unrest that began a day earlier after the murder of an MQM activist. The total economic cost of the violence was pegged at $1.2 billion

In related violence, the Hazara community faced the brunt in Quetta, when five people were gunned down.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Times, March 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yasin Malik in ‘Memogate probe’

Yasin Malik, Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation front (JKLF), appeared before the Memogate commission in Pakistan. Malik had requested the commission to make him a party to the case after Mansoor Ijaz alleged that it was Malik who had arranged his meeting with a chief of India’s external intelligence agency, namely, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Malik was representing his own case and came without a hired lawyer.

The Supreme Court has also extended the commission’s term for another six weeks as the commission decided to defer the next hearing by six weeks in wake of Haqqani’s absence. The commission insisted Haqqani to be present for the next hearing and return to the country within four days.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, March 27-28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kabul to opt out of TAPI project?

Afghanistan has hinted to back out of the Turkmenistan-Iran-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project. By doing so, Afghanistan is letting go off its share of 500 million cubic feet per day gas which will expectedly be distributed between Pakistan and India now. The 1,680-km long TAPI gas pipeline backed by the Asian Development Bank will bring 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Turkmenistan’s gas fields to Multan and end at the north-western Indian town of Fazilka.

In another important development, Pakistan is now seeking to avail the Russian offer to finance its 781-km long gas infrastructure for the $1.5 billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project. The industrial and commercial bank of China (ICBC) had quit the bidding last week.
< class="text11verdana">Source:The Daily Times, March 29, 2012.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No one has to tell us what to do: President

While claiming that the Government is committed to walk an extra mile to establish permanent peace through reconciliation, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that no one has to tell Sri Lanka what to do. “Sri Lanka is in the midst of peace won at great sacrifice. We are progressing on the path of peace and reconciliation. Our Government is committed to walk that extra mile to establish permanent peace through reconciliation. That is our commitment to our people and no one has to tell us what to do,” the President said, inaugurating ‘Sri Lanka Expo-2012’. The President said the presence of investors shows the failure of the efforts of those who still support the agenda of separatist terror that prevented development in the country for more than three decades.

Addressing another ceremony, President Rajapaksa said that the country has become a victim of the western media, stating that there is a clear distinction between what is portrayed in the media and the truth. “We do not see any change in this distressing trend in the western and certain local media even after almost three years since the defeat of LTTE. What we hear from the media is not the work done by the Government such as the rehabilitation and reintegration of nearly 10,000 ex-LTTE Cadres, resettlement of 300,000 IDPs, the vast reconstruction and development programmes in the North-East or the efforts taken for the reconciliation and the restoration of democracy. Sadly, we still hear the voice of the LTTE sympathisers and unfortunately we are not in a position to put a stop to this,” he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, March 28 & 30, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Avoid another resolution, urge Elders

A group of world leaders formed by Nelson Mandela has urged Sri Lanka to try and avoid another showdown in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by adhering to the recent resolution adopted by the body.

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson told BBC that the Elders are very pleased that UNHRC adopted a resolution urging Sri Lanka to ensure a proper reconciliation process after decades of a brutal conflict.

Saying that the "quite mild resolution" was not a Western sponsored one, she insisted that it was not an attempt to "do down a country”. Instead, "we were particularly encouraged that large countries like India and Nigeria supported the resolution,” she added.
< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, March 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JVP rebels form new party

Last year’s split in the JVP is now permanent with the rebel faction deciding to register its own political party with the Elections Secretariat. Addressing the media in Colombo, rebel spokesman Senadeera Gunatilleke said that the new party had been named the Progressive Socialist Party or Peratugama Samajawadi Pakshaya, though they were yet to seek the polls chief’s approval.

Responding to a query, Gunatilleke said that the party wouldn’t be guided only by the ideals of slain JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera. Instead, the new party would follow the policies of those who had spearheaded their struggle in the late 1980’s, one-time JVP deputy leader, Upatissa Gamanayake, Sumith Atukorale and R Gunaratnam.

The first convention of the party is scheduled to take place at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. The spokesman said that Kumar Gunaratnam, too, had been invited to attend the convention. Acknowledging the possibility of the Government making an attempt to arrest Gunaratnam, widely believed to be the elusive leader of the new party, the spokesman emphasised that there were not any charges against him other than opposing the political culture of the day.

Security authorities believe Gunaratnam was a hard-core JVP cadre responsible for violence at the height of the outfit’s second uprising.
< class="text11verdana">Source:The Island, Colombo, 29 March 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US compensation for shooting-spree victims

The unusual large pay-outs were the latest move by White House to mend relations with the Afghan people after the shooting-spree deaths. The US paid $ 50,000 in compensation for each villager killed and $ 11,000 for each person injured in the shooting rampage. Kandhar Provincial Council member, Agha Lalai said that the families of the dead received the compensation amount on Saturday at Governor’s office.

US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of sneaking off his base on March 11, then crept into the houses in two nearby villages and stated firing on families when they were sleeping. The act which US claimed to be a mistake followed after the burning of the Holy Koran at a US base in February, leaves relation between Afghanistan and US tensed and strained.

The Afghan officials and villagers have counted 16 people dead, 12 in the village of Balandi and four in the neighbouring Alkozai, with six more injured. The US military has charged Bales with 17 murders and he can face death penalty. Adding a new twist, the lawyer for Robert Bales said that he will cite that the serviceman was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) to defend him.
< class="text11verdana">Source:: Associated Press, March 25, 2012,, March 25, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai calls for educating girls

Afghan President Hamid Karzai attending the ceremony marking the start of the country’s school year said that religious leaders and Tribal elders should encourage the education of girls. He also urged insurgent groups to not attack teachers and children just on their belief that the country could not develop through the spread of education.

In Kabul and major cities in Afghanistan, enormous progress has been made in women rights since 2001. US laid invasions brought down the Taliban regime, which banned girls from going school and women from working but life has barely improved for women in remote areas where patriarchal system prevails.

For Karzai, lack of education is keeping Afghanistan backward and miserable. In 2002 only one million Afghan children were enrolled in schools while in 2010 30 percent of teachers in afghan were women. Figures are improving but still 9.5 million children are deprived of education in the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Agence France-Presse, March 24, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Revised budget up by $ 4 m

After the rejection of previous draft by the Parliament two weeks ago, the Ministry of Finance has redrafted the federal budget with an increase of 200 million Afghani, or $ 4.19 m. A ministry spokesman said that the updated budget has been sent to the House of Representatives with 100 million Afghanis increase in the National Budget and 10 million Afghani increase in the Development Budget.

Parliament rejected the budget two weeks ago saying that it was unsymmetrical in development projects as not enough funds had been allocated to less developed Provinces and also for the reason that $ 80m was allocated to the Central Bank to support Kabul Bank. It completely missed the point that there was not enough allocation for the development of Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education

According to Senator Abdul Wahab Orfan, the budget previously totalled $ 4.8 billion, a 41 percent drop from the previous year because of the decrease in donor-funding.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 25, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Etisalat launches 3G services

The head of corporate communication at Etisalat Afghanistan, Imran Afzal Janjua said that with 3G services GSM user can have access to fast internet on mobile phones, connect to live video calls, exchange videos, photos and music. The Ministry of Communication and Information technology says that more than 18 million (86%) of the country’s population use GSM services.

According to Telecommunication Ministry, Etisalat paid US $ 25 million for the license. Etisalat Afghanistan is the part of United Arab Emirates Etisalat group which operates in Africa, Middle East and South-East Asia.

AmirzaiSangin, the Minister of Telecommunication and Information Technology said that Afghanistan will earn $ 100 billion yearly with 3G services.
< class="text11verdana">, March 26, 2012


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Court-martial for 50

The court-martial of 50 people will begin in April for their involvement in a plot, hatched by a group of army officers, retired and serving, to topple the Government earlier this year. A court of inquiry has already completed its work after recording statements from a number of suspects, including retired and serving army officers and their associates.According to the Army Act, the accused may face a range of punishments, including death, depending on the level of their involvement in the foiled plot against the democratically elected government.

The Bangladesh Army, on January 19, told a news conference that a plot, hatched by a group of derailed retired and serving army officers, to topple the Government had been foiled.

A timely alert by the military intelligence about a possible coup attempt helped the army keep the plotters under strict surveillance and finally foil the attempt.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, March 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Satellite by 2015

Bangladesh is planning to launch its first satellite into space by 2015. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission this week signed a Tk 82.5 crore consultancy deal with a US firm, Space Partnership International (SPI). The firm will design the satellite, named ‘BangaBandhu’.

The satellite will reduce reliance on foreign satellites for cable channels and improve telecom services to the remote areas of the country. Moreover, meteorological data, including disaster warnings, will be easily available via the satellite. It might also be used for mapping natural resources. Bangladesh will be able to earn $3 billion in the next 15 years by offering various services through using the satellite, claimed Bruce D Kraselsky, managing director of SPI.

Currently, Bangladesh pays $11 million in satellite bandwidth rent to other countries’ satellites a year. The country will be able to make $50 million per year from the satellite. The satellite would also help Bangladesh in global communication and also facilitate telemedicine, emergency service and border security.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, March 30, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foreign friends honoured

Foreign friends who contributed in the nation’s ‘War of Independence’ against Pakistani occupation forces in 1971 were honoured this week. Around 83 foreign friends who were present in person or sent their representatives received ’Liberation War Honour’ and ’Friends of Liberation War Honour’.

On this occasion people of India were honoured. On behalf of the people of India, Pankaj Saran, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, received the friends’ award while Minister of State for Defence, M M Pallam Raju, received the honour as representative of the Mukti Bahini (liberation force).
< class="text11verdana">Source: :, March 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee crunch linked to food imports

The on-going rupee crunch is being attributed to food imports and transportation of goods from India. According to trade figures, Bhutan spends over Nu 5,000 million to import food products from India annually. In 2010, the country’s total import value from India stood at Nu 29,338 million. This means that 17 percent of the total imports from India were food imports. This is despite the fact that 64.4 percent of its population depends on agriculture.

On the other hand, the excessive lending by financial institutes to the transport sector has not made things any better. For 2008, the loans to this sector stood at Nu1,241.05 million but jumped to Nu 4,374.52 million by 2011.The increase in transport loans owed to the low level of financial limit requirement, increasing demand for transport loans (especially for heavy vehicles) due to construction boom, favourable repayment period and less stringent collateral requirement.

According to the annual report of the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) for 2010-2011, the overall transport loan for light vehicles (mostly imported from India) remained at an all-time high from 2005 to 2010. Before 2009, transport loans from financial institutions were mostly for medium vehicles such as commercial and non-commercial light vehicles. After 2009, the situation changed with the financial institutions largely financing heavy vehicle purchase.
< class="text11verdana">, March 24, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cement companies not to merge

The planned merger between Penden Cement and Dungsam has been shelved by the Finance Ministry. This decision was taken after a study was carried out by the ministry, which pointed out that the merger was ‘principally incorrect’.

Finance Secretary Lam Dorji said that Dungsam, the yet to be commissioned biggest cement plant in the country, was a new company fully owned by the Government. Penden as a coporate entity has been in existence for over 30 years, with a number of private share-holders. He added that the some level of competition between the two companies would be beneficial since monopoly of the cement market would not serve the interest of the Kingdom.

But the there are other opinions being expressed. Since the Government holds most of the shares in both the companies, a merger will it will ultimately impact Government revenue. The Government is the largest shareholder in Penden with 40.33 percent holdings. The public and institutional investors own the rest. Share-holders of Penden have raised concerns since their share value could be diluted. Penden’s shares are among the most valued in Bhutan’s sluggish stock market.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 30, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hygiene drive from April

In a bid to control waste, the Government has introduced a new law called ‘Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012’, which will come into force on April 18. The fine various from Nu100 to Nu20,000 and covers a whole host of issues. It covers issues from dumping waste in undesignated places, operating businesses without waste bins, storing goods on streets and house owners failing to provide common waste bins, dumping wastes into the streams, rivers, drainage systems or other water bodies and dumping industrial waste in areas other than in designated location.

Similar guidelines have been formulated for construction waste, including excavated material and structural demolition. But the dumping of hazardous wastes that could cause public health hazards, one could even be charged with criminal offence and be sentenced for life. This is mainly focused on e-waste, medical waste and other kinds of wastes that are hazardous in nature.

The Government has also designated implementing agencies to oversee the enforcement of this law. They are the Ministry of Health, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DITT), Department of Industry and the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA)
< class="text11verdana">, March 30, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coal scam loss put at $ 210 b The Government lost up to $211 billion in revenue by selling coalfields too cheaply, a government auditor’s draft report said, sparking a furore in Parliament that added to pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after months of scandals and policy missteps.

The Prime Minister’s office called the estimated loss "exceedingly misleading," after the report - leaked from the federal auditor and published in the Times of India - prompted law-makers to demand an explanation and rattled investors.

The auditor later backed away from the loss calculation and said its thinking had changed.
< class="text11verdana">, March 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kidnapped Italian freed

Claudio Colangelo, one of the two Italians kidnapped in Kandhamal district of Odisha on March 14, was released by the Maoists late on Sunday (March 25) afternoon.

The hostage crisis, however, remain unresolved as the other Italian national, Basusco Paolo, and the ruling Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka were still in the clutches of different factions of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoists).
< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, March 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence ties with South Korea

South Korea has asked India to allocate a suitable site for setting up Korean nuclear reactors, as the two countries sought to boost their strategic partnership with significantly scaled up cooperation in defence, space and nuclear programmes, and bilateral trade.

After a summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, it was announced that India will open a defence wing at its Embassy in Seoul and appoint a Defence Attache before the end of the year.
< class="text11verdana">Source:The Indian Express, March 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Graft by 14 ministers: Team Anna

Hardening its stand and talk again after the Assembly elections, Team Anna has moved from setting deadlines for the Lokpal Bill to naming Union Ministers, and threatened a nationwide agitation if FIRs weren’t filed against them by August.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bid to bribe Army chief?

Army Chief General V K Singh’s sensational charge that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore for purchasing sub-standard trucks has sparked a crisis that threatens to escalate into a frontal confrontation between the military brass, the Defence Ministry’s civilian bureaucrats and the political leadership.

In a separate development only days later, a letter written by Genl V K Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on lack of defence preparedness appeared in a national daily, added a new dimension to the on-going controversy sparked by his earlier interview. Defence Minister A K Antony assured Parliament that the Government is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the nation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 27 &29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Self-immolation by Tibetan

A Tibetan exile lit himself on fire and ran shouting through a protest in the Indian capital Monday, just ahead of a visit by China’s President and following self-immolations in the Himalayan region against Beijing’s rule.

The protester apparently had doused himself with something highly flammable and was engulfed in flames when he ran past the podium where speakers were criticizing China and the visit by President Hu Jintao.
< class="text11verdana">, March 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade with Russia in local currency

Moscow and New Delhi will switch to trading in domestic currencies in three years, the chairman of Russia’s largest State development bank said on Thursday.

"With China it took us three years to (evolve) from initial conversations to trading in local currencies," VEB Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev told reporters on the sidelines of the BRICS summit of emerging world powerhouses - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"I think we will meet similar terms with India," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BRICS’ concern on IMF reforms

The BRICS group of emerging market nations voiced concern about the slow pace of reforms within the IMF in a draft summit declaration that also called for a transparent process to select the next World Bank president.

The leaders of the so-called BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - were meeting in the Indian capital Delhi on Thursday.

Promised changes to give the emerging powers greater voting rights at the International Monetary Fund have yet to be ratified by the United States, adding to frustration over reform of the G-7 and the U.N. Security Council, where India and Brazil have been angling for years for permanent seats.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Waheed will stay till 2013:Gayoom

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that holding snap elections has no legal basis and that President Dr. Mohamed Waheed will remain as the President of Maldives till 10th November 2013.Gayoom said this while addressing the by-election campaign rally of his PPM’s Thimarafushi constituency candidate Ahmed Shareef Adam.

The interim leader of PPM, Gayoom said that it is unconstitutional to hold early elections. He said that a political expert who visited Maldives recently met him and told him that there is no need to hold early elections and that is unconstitutional. He added that the person also told him that to change the constitution just to hold early elections is not acceptable.

Gayoom noted that constitutionally elections can be held only after every five year term of presidency. And nowhere in the Constitution is there provision for an early election, in the face of a legitimate President in office, he said. Gayoom said that an early election can only be held when the President and the Vice President both resign in the five year term.

He said that President Dr.Waheed ascended to the Presidency as stipulated in the constitution when Nasheed resigned. And he made his oath in front of the Speaker of the Peoples’ Majlis and the Chief Justice. “The Constitution is not a dress that needs to be changed once or twice a day. A constitution should remain for at least ten years. Yes, amendments can be brought. This is not just my view nor that of another person’s view. This is what a very famous international political expert told me. This is how it should be. So what is this early elections that some are calling to?,” he said.

Gayoom said that Dr. Waheed’s government is facing many challenges, therefore to establish peace and harmony in the country it is important to increase the members of PPM or the national unity coalition in the People’s Majlis.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, March 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Majlis’ moved for clearances

To seek parliamentary approval for Mohamed Waheed Deen as the Vice-President and members of the cabinet appointed by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has been included in the agenda for the first Parliament session scheduled for Monday. They will be forwarded to the relevant committees of the Parliament.

In addition, the proposed changes to the framework of Government institutions by President Waheed have also been included in the agenda for Monday. Another item included on the agenda is the issue of Maldives becoming a full-member of SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment.

Furthermore, first reading of the resolution proposed by Hulhu-henveiru MP Moosa "Reeko" Manik and preliminary debate of the amendments to the Judicial law proposed by Ungoofaaru MP Dr Afraasheem Ali has also been included in the agenda of the first session of the Parliament for the year.

The first session of the Parliamnt has been scheduled for Monday despite divergence of opinion by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with regard to amending the Parliament regulation procedure. MDP Parliamentary Group had earlier passed a motion against amending the regulation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, March 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP parliamentarian rejoins DRP

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Abdulraheem has re-joined the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), a year after leaving his original party while it was in opposition.

Raheem joined the MDP in the footsteps of former DRP Deputy Leader, now MDP MP Ali Waheed, former DRP Sports Wing head Hassan Shujau, and deputy head Assad ‘Adubarey’ Ali.

Talking to newsmen, Raheem said he came back to DRP because his views did not match those of the MDP leadership, and because he felt that in the future the number of MDP supporters would deteriorate. Raheem said the current Government was constitutional and was formed according to the law.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, March 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">International observers for polls

According to the head of Union Election Commission, Tin Aye, 159 international observers will monitor April 1 by-elections. The observers include diplomats from Yagoon-based embassies, and election specialists from Asian countries, European Union nations and the US.

Tin Aye said that the Election Commission will announce the results of the April 1 election within one week. However, he said, the election commissions at township and district levels will announce the results of the polls immediately after ballots are counted.On March 20, Myanmar invited the Association of South-east Asian Nations to send a five-member election delegation along with more than two dozen parliamentarians and media representatives. The invitation, however, was extended on March 21 to include the US and the EU.

India will asend two election observers and Japan will send three observers to monitor the polls. They are P C Lawmkunga and Maninder Singh, the Chief Electoral Officers of Manipur and Assam, respectively. These two officers were chosen not only because of Manipur and Assam’s geographical and cultural proximity to Myanmar but also because they had successfully carried out elections in their states under difficult circumstances.

The 159 accredited observers will have access to any of the more than 8,000 polling stations which will be open on for polling on April 1 from 6 am to 4 pm. Contesting parties can also nominate their own observers to monitor the polls and the ballot-counting process at each polling station.
< class="text11verdana">, March 28, 2012;, March 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Election highlights ethnic divide

The upcoming by-election that is to be held on April 1 is said to highlight the ethnic divide of Myanmar. This is most visible in the Shah State, with the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) said to be a major factor in the state. The SNDP has evolved from Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the second largest political party of the 1990 elections and is the second largest political part in Parliament.

However, the role of the SNDP and the political outcome is expected to be low since only 2 of the 48 seats are going to polls in the by-eletion for the Shah state. According to observers NLD’s decision to contest from all the seats have antagonises some minor and ethnic groups and has given room for legitimate worries that their interests will be trampled with NLD being more interested in securing its political future.
< class="text11verdana">Source:’ March 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">By-poll postponed in a few places

The Government has postponed voting in its conflict-hit far north in closely watched by-elections to be held on April 1. the state television said as the this decision was taken in the view of the fact security situation was not conducive for free and fair elections.

As a result of this three constituencies in Kachin state will go to polls on a yet to be announced later date.
< class="text11verdana">Source: March 23, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">‘Float currency’ from April 1

Myanmar will overhaul its exchange rate system to allow a managed flotation of its currency from April 1 as part of the new government’s economic reforms. The Kyat, will be determined by supply and demand conditions in the exchange market while the central bank would manage the unit’s movement. Myanmar has a highly complex exchange rate regime, with official, semi-official and unofficial rates.

The official government rate -- which is widely ignored -- is fixed at around just six kyat per dollar, while in stark contrast the rate on the black market stands at about 800 per dollar.
< class="text11verdana">Source: March 28, 2012

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan:Vinesh Kaushik;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Bangladesh:Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India:Dr. Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Pakistan-Abhishek Dadhich;

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.