MonitorsPublished on Dec 15, 2011
Pakistan's "memogate" controversy has raised questions about the strength of the country's civilian government. This has been admitted even by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
'Memogate' raises questions over civilian government
< class="heading1">Analysis

Pakistan’s "memogate" controversy has raised questions about the strength of the country’s civilian government. This was admitted by the Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar. The controversy took a new twist with the comments from Army Chief, General Kayani, acknowledging the existence of the document and stating that it had an impact on national security and sought to lower the morale of the army.

The controversy surfaced through a column in the Financial Times on October 10, in which Mansoor Ijaz, a businessman, said that a senior Pakistani diplomat requested that a memo be delivered to the Pentagon with a plea for US help to stave off a military coup in the days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. Ijaz later identified the diplomat as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who denied involvement in the memo, but resigned over the controversy. Ijaz, who met the ISI Chief, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, to explain details of the memo document, has now claimed that the General had visited a few Arab countries for discussions on a possible coup by the army, further complicating the issue. So far, no evidence has emerged to show that the military was plotting a coup.

The Army and the ISI Chief in their replies to the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition filled by Nawaz Sharif, have demanded a thorough investigation on the issue. It has also become clear from both the replies that Ambassador Haqqani had been summoned to the country on their insistence, following which Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani asked him to resign. Haqqani is known as an outspoken critic of the military. However, many think Haqqani`s woes were not because of his strong anti-army views, but because of an ongoing struggle between the military and the civilian leadership for control over relations with the United States. His earlier fallout with the military was when he courted controversy at home over the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid legislation, that he had pushed.

Tensions between Pakistan’s civilian government and the military have been a regular feature for almost its entire existence. Haqqani’s resignation was seen by many as further weakening of the civilian government, which is already beset by allegations of corruption and incompetence. Fears of a rift between the civilian and military establishment have been growing in the past month. The disenchantment of the military with the present leadership was also expressed by former Air Marshal Shahid Lateef. In a statement, he had said that the government had failed to deliver in the last four years. He also said that the present electoral structure was flawed and that elections held under this system would result in the return of a dysfunctional corrupt government.

Pakistan is also facing trouble on the diplomatic front with its ally the United States. The latest crisis erupted after the November 26 NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. In retaliation, Pakistan ordered that its Shamsi airbase be vacated and refused to attend the Bonn Conference.

This comes at a time when President Zardari is in Dubai for a medical treatment, which has further raised speculation that he may resign. Zardari, on his part, seemed to acknowledge the speculation by saying that those who run from the country run with their kids. The opposition and a section of society believe that his Dubai visit was not a health issue and that Zardari had preferred to stay out of the country at least till Dec 19, the day the Supreme Court began the hearing of the memo scandal.

It remains to be seen whether Haqqani will face a legal enquiry. Any elaborate proceedings, however, are not in the interest of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government. There is no doubt that President Zardari faces a risk with Haqqani?s resignation. It may subsequently give the political opposition and military the basis to question his involvement in the ?memogate?. The man at the centre of the memo case, Mansoor Ijaz, inspite of his assurances is yet to depose before the enquiry commission though he had promised to do so. The question arises is why he hasn’t done so till now and if anyone was stopping him.

Evan as the ’memogate’ controversy is rages on, the military is yet to restore its image following the Abbottabad incident. General Kayani’s meeting with Prime Minister Gilani on December 16 was aimed at dispelling the impression of a confrontation between the military and civilian leadership. However, if Pakistan’s civilian leadership continues to disappoint, Gen. Kayani would have a tough time convincing sections of the senior military leadership, which views the civilian government as corrupt and inept, to stay out of domestic politics.

(The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zardari says he is ’fine’

President Asif Ali Zardari rubbished rumours about his imminent resignation and said that he was fine and that he would return home soon. "Those that run from the country run with their kids," the president was quoted as saying. "My son is in Pakistan. I left him there."

It is believed that President Zardari was under pressure after recent allegations of his involvement in the ’memogate’ scandal and the rising tensions with the US. He still needs to address Parliament regarding his involvement, following a direction by the Supreme Court demanding explanation.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that President Zardari’s visit to Dubai was for a ’pre-existing heart condition’ and feared life threats at Pakistan hospitals. He also denied rumours of a military coup. He said that the NATO convoy blockade may continue. He refused to comment on the fact that Pakistan airspace may be closed to the U.S.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, December 10, 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Memo exists, say chiefs of Army and ISI

The Army Chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Chief, General Shuja Pasha, in their first official statements on the memo scandal acknowledged that the memo document existed and expressed satisfaction with the evidence provided by American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

In replies filled to the Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions related to the matter, they called for a thorough investigation about the memorandum, which they blamed on former Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani. General Kayani said that the issue had an impact on national security and attempted to lower the morale of the army. It has also become clear from both replies that Ambassador Haqqani had been summoned to the country on their insistence following which Prime Minister Gilani asked him to resign. Meanwhile, General Kayani also met with the Prime Minister to dispel the impression of a confrontation between the military and civilian leaders over the memo case.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December, 15-16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US vacates Shamsi base

The last contingent of US personnel and technicians left the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan on December 11, along with the equipment and military vehicles.

Around 20 US cargo planes had landed at the airbase over the past week to shift sensitive equipment, vehicles and belongings of the US troops who had been using the base for the last 10 years. The Frontier Corps have now taken control of the base.

At least nine NATO tankers returning to Karachi from Balochistan were gutted on November 15. Another 44 oil tankers and goods trucks were parked at the temporary terminal, one of three set up in and around Quetta for stranded vehicles. Four container ships and two vehicle carriers have unloaded around 2,000 boxes and 1,200 military vehicles since late last month, clogging the container terminals as the embargo entered the third week.

The US is also taking Pakistan’s counter-terrorism measures and promises seriously, it is believed. A Congressional panel has decided to freeze $ 700-m aid until Pakistan assures promises to control the spread of homemade bombs targeting the coalition forces.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 11-15, 2011,:Daily Times, December 12, 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law to protect women

The Senate has passed the Women Protection Bill and the Anti- acid Throwing Bill unanimously. Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar had presented the Bill that included the criminalisation of forced marriages, physical violence, and sexual torture against women. It stipulated a 14-year jail term and heavy fines for offenders.

The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention (Amendment) Bill is an amendment and a new insertion in Section 336-A in Pakistan Penal Code 1860 that increased the mandatory fine to one million that would be paid to the victim.

In a similar instance, The Upper house passed The Women in Distress and Detention Fund (Amendement) bill 2011 that provides legal and financial assistance to women suffering in jails.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, December 13, 14, 2011.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LLRC concedes civilian casualties

Keeping its promise, the Government presented the LLRC Report on ’war crimes’ to Parliament on Friday, and promised to withdraw the armed forces from civilian work and decision-making. The Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) conceded ’considerable’ civilian casualties during the concluding weeks and months of ’Eelam War-IV’ but concluded that the armed forces had taken considerable care not to target civilians.

The Government’s follow-up, presented to the House by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, did not mention if it favoured withdrawal of the armed forces from routine security work in the war-torn areas, or if it accepted the LLRC recommendation for delinking the police force from the Defence Ministry’s administrative control.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China no threat, says army chief

A Chinese military delegation, led by the Deputy Chief of General Staff, Ma Hixiaotian, met with Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuria, the Army Chief, to discuss military training and exercise activities. The Chinese delegation also promoted the idea of military assistance to Sri Lanka.

Talking to newsmen at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where he was the chief guest at the passing-out parade, Gen Jayasuria said that China posed no threat to the Indian sub-continent despite its growing influence in the Indian Ocean. He said that bilateral military relations between India and Sri Lanka were growing with no threat from China.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, December 11, 13, 2011; Colombo Page, December 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Farmers protest ’crates law’

A country-wide farmers’ agitation broke out against the implementation of the controversial law that makes it mandatory for them to use plastic crates for the transportation and storage of several types of perishable items. Military troops were deployed to the towns of Dambulla and Bandarawela in order to assist the local police in controlling the law and order situation. The protests originally broke out opposite the Fort Railway Station, led by those running the Pettah market in the capital city of Colombo, demanding that the Government reversed the decision to implement the ’crates law’.

In an attempt to ease the situation caused by non-availability of vegetables in the markets across the country, the Government suspended the implementation of the law by a month after PresidentMahinda Rajapaksa met with representatives of traders and the Manning market. Internal Trade and Commerce Minister Johnston Fernando defended the new law, saying that it was based on a five-year study on minimising wastage of vegetables and fruits, which caused the consumer and the nation dearly.

Parliament Speaker and former Agriculture Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, a brother of the President,said that the Government should seek assistance from the local authorities to educate the farmers and traders about the advantages of using plastic crates.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, December 14, 2011; Colombo Page, December 14, 2011; The Island, December 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Qatar keen to invest

Qatar is keen to invest in Sri Lankan projects especially developmental activities, and the travel and tourism sector. Addressing a gathering of the nation’s top businessmen in Colombo, the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani, said that investors had shown great interest in partaking in Lankan developmental projects through the education and tourism sectors.

The visiting Qatari delegation and the Sri Lankan representatives also agreed to increase the frequency of flights between Doha and Colombo and vice versa to cater to the growing number of people travelling on this route. Additionally, the discussions also focused on the Kalpitiya Tourism Development Project, and future prospects for the bilateral relationship, including the possibility of people from Qatar entering the Lanka stock exchange.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, December 9, 2011; Daily News, December 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Envoy to Qatar recalled

The Afghan Foreign Ministry has announced the recall of the country’s envoy to Qatar, Khalid Ahmad Zakaria, following media reports that the Taliban were opening an office in the country. Kabul said the recall was only for consultations, and Doha too denied that it had permitted a Taliban office, following consultations with the US and Germany.

President Hamid Karzai promised that the peace process would continue according to the recommendations given by the Loya Jirga. President karzai consulted with jihadi leaders over the implementation of the Bonn conference declaration at an special over night meeting.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera, December 14, 2011, Outlook Afghanistan, December 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister, army brass escape suicide-attack

Interior minister of Afghanistan Bismullah Khan Mohammadi narrowly escaped a suicide bomber who failed to blow himself up. The minister was travelling in Sayed Khail district of Parwan province. Security guards opened fire on the bomber as he tried to approach the minister, shooting him dead before he could detonate the bomb.

Gen Abdul Hameed, the highest ranking military commander in southern Afghanistan, narrowly escaped assassination. Gen Hameed, was attending a graduation ceremony for Afghan soldiers at a training centre for the Afghan National Army in Kandahar and had risen from his seat to hand out certificates, when five remote control grenades were exploded. The grenades were kept under his chair. Gen Hameed was unhurt by the explosion.

In another incident in Southern Afghanistan the district governor for Khanshin Masoud, was killed by an explosion in Helmand province. The incident happened when he was on his way home, after he had participated in an operation to eradicate opium fields in Helmand province. He had been serving as the district chief for the last three years.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, December 14, 2011; Surgar, December 11, 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Top in remittance-earning

A recent World Bank study has revealed that Bangladesh is the eight largest remittance- earning country in the world. Despite the global economic crisis, migrant deployments from Bangladesh grew strongly this year. The Gulf regionwas the most popular destination for the migrants.

Bangladesh’s inward remittance stood at $11.99 billion. India came in first with revenue earnings worth $57.82 billion and China stood second at $57.28 billion.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, December 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opening of border trade centre

To boost trade across border between India and Bangladesh a Border Trade Facilitation Centre at Tlabung town in Indian state of Mizoram was jointly inaugurated by the state minister for Chittagon Hill Tracts Dipankar Talukdar and Mizoram Trade and Commerce Minister Lalrinliana Sailo this week.

The centre was constructed at the cost of Rs 108.07 lakh and was funded by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. The two ministers also unveiled the India-Bangladesh Shared Vision of Peace, Prosperity and Partnership stone at Kawrpuichhuah.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 10, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Keen on IIM-A campus

The Government has invited the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) to start a full-time MBA programme in the Himalayan kingdom. This is in addition to the current short-term programme that is being offered by the institute since 2011.

The yet to be launched full-time course will include a number of international students, including students from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 8 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protests over internet censorship

Internet users were in uproar across India after Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal ordered Google and other social media networks to screen "objectionable" content. "Tell the (ruling) Congress (party) that trying to squash freedom is like squeezing water in a fist," advised a twitter-user on December 7.

The "squeezed water" splashed back badly on Sibal and his Congress party, as in China, Pakistan, South Korea and in other countries where governments are trying to impose themselves on the Republic of the Internet.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 10, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cooling tensions with China

Ratcheting down tensions after the recent Dalai Lama episode, India and China have agreed to soon ink their new joint mechanism to prevent border flare-ups as well as bolster military CBMs and defence exchanges, which is likely to include another edition of the "hand-in-hand" bilateral army exercise in 2012-13.

The clear message emanating from the three-hour long bilateral annual defence dialogue (AAD), held in New Delhi on Friday, was that while resolution of the long-festering boundary dispute "would take time", the two countries should ensure that "peace and tranquility" is maintained all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, December 10, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US official discusses civil n-deal

India and the US held talks on several issues, mainly the civil nuclear issue, in a follow-up to the Manmohan Singh-Barack Obama meeting in Indonesia last month.

After talks in New Delhi, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said Indian interlocutors, including Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, agreed on the need for "full implementation" of the civil nuclear agreement.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Oil imports from Iran to go up

Indian Ambassador to Tehran D P Srivastava dismissed the US-led sanctions on trade with the Persian Gulf country stressing New Delhi’s eagerness to boost oil imports from Iran.

"We want an increase in Iran’s oil exports to India," Srivastava said in a meeting with the Governor-General of Iran’s Southern Hormozgan Province.

The Ambassador announced his country’s intention to invest in the private sector in Hormozgan Province and said India is eager to start up three investment companies in Iran, including a company for producing urea from gas.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 10, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Inflation slows down

India’s inflation slowed to the lowest level in a year, boosting the central bank’s scope to support growth by pausing its record interest-rate increases.

The benchmark wholesale-price-index rose 9.11 percent in November from a year earlier, the commerce ministry said in a statement in New Delhi today, compared with a 9.73 percent jump in October. The median estimate of 26 economists in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 9.02 percent gain.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Investors losing faith?

Is India the broken BRIC? Global investors in end-2011 overweigh Brazil, Russia, and China, but resolutely under-weigh India, according to a survey by Bank of America.

The Bank of America-Merrill Lynch ’Survey of fund managers’, which polled 190 institutional investors with combined assets of $608 b, found nearly two-thirds of respondents expected 2012 to be a year of low growth and below-trend inflation. Investors indicated a preference for US and emerging market equities.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Death-threat by ’hacked’ website

The website of the mass protest organised by the Civil Society Coalition to be held on December 23 has been hacked with slogans and death threats against the anti-Islam activists in the nation.

Ali Ahsan, the administrator of the website, had been summoned for questioning by the police, and then arrested, while his computer and hard disk were also confiscated for further investigation.

The Adhaalath Party, one of the main political parties involved in the protest, has issued a clarification that it does not support violence, while the website said that the sent by protest supporters and was uploaded in error.

President Mohamed Nasheed has warned that if the protest turns violent on December 23, the Government and members of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will be out on the streets in retaliation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, December 13-14, 2011; Miadhu News, December 13-15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More trouble for GMR

The divided Opposition has threatened a no-confidence motion against Mahmoud Razee, the Minister of Economic Development, for his role in the handing over of the Ibrahim Nazir International Airport in Male to the Indian infrastructure group GMR, under 25-year-long contract.

The decision comes in the wake of a civil court quashing a GMR decision to increase passenger duty to $ 25 from $ 18 from next year, and amounting to $ 25 m in a year. Maldives Customs has also announced action against GMR for removing saleable, concessional goods in the shop of an existing concessionaire, whose contract has been cancelled by the group and upheld by a local court.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, December 14, 2011; Minivan News, December 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Check against frivolous graft cases

The Cabinet has decided to file defamation lawsuits against all those who have accused the Government of corruption, if these accusations are proved to be false. The Attorney- General’s Office has been assigned the task of monitoring all complaints made against the government with regard to corruption.

The Government will also set up an independent entity to counteract all corruption allegations, it was announced.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, December 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NLD rejoins mainstream politics

The National League for Democracy (NLD) received a shot in the arm after the Government formally reorganised it as a political party. This would now enable the NLD to re-join mainstream politics and contest the upcoming by-elections.

The NLD has already announced its election logo -- a fighting peacock gazing at a white star, which is similar to the party flag.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 12 and 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karen renegades sign peace pact

The renegade Brigade 5 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) of the Karen ethnicity has signed a six-point peace agreement with the Government. Accordingly, theethnic militia will assist the State in regional developmental projects, fight against narcotics and work for social economic development of the people. This peace deal comes after the collapse of the 15 year old peace deal between the government and the DKBA and the subsequent break away of the Brigade 5 from the DKBA.

On the other hand the Government has ordered its troops to cease attacks against the Kachin rebels in a bit to resolve the conflict through peaceful means. The armed forces have been instructed to engage the militants only in self-defence and not for any military offences.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 12 2011;, December, 13 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliamentary team in India

A delegation of parliamentarians led by Speaker Thura Shwe Mann is in India to study the practices and procedures of the Indian Parliament. It is expected that this would help in promoting democratic practices in Myanmar.

The delegation will also study the Indian practices in the field of agriculture, education and information technology. This visit has been a result of the invitation extended by the Vice-President of India and Chairperson of the Upper House of Parliament, Dr Hamid Ansari, and Speaker of the Lower House, Meira Kumar.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 13 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese PM’s visit postponed

In a surprising move, China has announced ’postponement’ of the visit of its Premier Wen Jiabao, who was earlier set to visit Nepal for three days beginning December 20 leading a 100-member delegation.The decision was conveyed to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha by Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yang Houlan.

Several official explanations have been offered and many theories are doing the rounds in Kathmandu following the postponement. There is wide-ranging speculation if Beijing was unhappy with the present Government’s efforts at curbing Tibetan activity.Just a few days back, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also recalled Nepal’s envoy to China Tanka Karki.

Some intelligence inputs suggest that the flow of Tibetan refugees from Dharmashala, India, to Kathmandu has increased significantly in recent days. There are claims that the refugees were planning to hold protests duringWen’s visit. The recent self-immolation attempts made by Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu have also made the Chinese side wary, security officials have commented.

The Chinese Embassy in Nepal, however, said that Wen had decided to stay back because of pressing economic issues. It has also been said that Premier Wen’s visit to Vietnam and Myanmar too, ahead of Nepal, are now cancelled.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, ekantipurcom,,, December 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Limbuwans continue stir

Daily life in the eastern part of the country has come under stress with no sign of the strike called by Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) coming to an end. The council has announced an indefinite bandh and has demanded due representation in the State Restructuring Commission recently formed by the government. The FLSC has also been demanding formation of an autonomous Limbuwan State along with the right to self-determination since the beginning of the peace process.

All talks between the representatives of the FLSC and the local chamber of commerce in the presence of civil society leaders to seek out an alternative to the strike ended inconclusively.Sanjuhang Palungwa, the President of the Council, has said that the strike would be withdrawn only if their demands were addressed or a dialogue could be held only after assurance from the government side to meet those demands.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Rastriya Samachar Samiti,, December 14, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Haripal Brar;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Myanmar & Bhutan: Sripathi Narayan;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Astik Sinha and Aarya Venugopal;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: Preeti John;

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