MonitorsPublished on Jun 24, 2011
The controversy over the Lok Pal refuses to die down. Coupled with the Baba Ramdev's aborted fast over unearthing black money, particularly that which is stashed away in overseas tax havens, Anna Hazare's continuing call on a 'Jan Lok Pal bill'.
Minimal changes to existing laws adequate to fight  corruption
< class="heading1">Analysis

’Jan Lok Pal’ or ’janadalat’?

The controversy over the Lok Pal refuses to die down. Coupled with the Baba Ramdev’s aborted fast over unearthing black money, particularly that which is stashed away in overseas tax havens, Anna Hazare’s continuing call on a ’Jan Lok Pal bill’ has received immense media attention in the country and inspired the middle class, which is wedded to the cause of quick but clean governance. The Government is seen as having scuttled the early flurry of Ramdev, and has contested the suggestions made by Team Anna on the proposed Lok Pal bill, saying that not all provisions in their draft Bill is amenable to the existing constitutional scheme. Independent of what the Government of the day, and even other sections of the polity may have to say over issues of corruption and black money, where they are often seen only as offering lip-service, there seems to be a lot of sense in the recent utterances of the four-member ministerial team on what is described as the ’Jan Lok Pal bill’.

Post-negotiations, the Government seems to be dragging its feet even more by declaring that whatever was agreed upon was by the ministerial team, not the Government per se. This is in contrast to the haste with which the Government began working with Team Anna on the one hand and Baba Ramdev on the other, without considering the constitutional consequences. It seemed wanting to minimise, if not avoid the political/public embarrassment, and nothing more. For their part, neither Team Anna, nor Baba Ramdev for that matter, seemed to know where to draw the line that they should not cross, or have a strategy to produce results, not just news clips and sound-bites for the day. In the coming weeks, it is not impossible that the focus is lost on the very cause, and the diatribes and discourses centring on details could render the entire proceedings tiresome for the people.

The basic reservations of the Government team to the bill drafted by Team Anna relates to the latter’s insistence on the inclusion of the Prime Minister, the parliamentary conduct of members and also the higher judiciary under the proposed law. The Government, or the four-member ministerial team that negotiated with Team Anna, has pointed to the impossibility of including the three sections to schemes such as the Lok Pal. By including the Prime Minister under such a scheme, particularly without having to go through prior clearance for prosecution of any kind from the President, has the potential to hit at the very basis of our constitutional scheme. The very idea of introducing prior clearance for prosecution of ’public servants’ was to avoid frivolous and motivated complaints and petitions being conferred the honour of a serious charge.

Yet, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the ’Antulay case’ clearly expanded the scope of the term ’public servant’ under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) to include the political class in power. Subsequent amendments to the PCA brought in benamis and operational frontmen of such ’public servants’ under the scheme. This would show that the existing scheme has been applying correctives and expanding the scope of the existing law without external pressures. At the same time, memories from the damage caused to the institution of the Prime Minister by the media hype and the political war on corruption launched on the basis of the ’Lakhubhai Pathak case’ is still fresh. Years after the late P V Narasimha Rao had stepped down as Prime Minister, the court acquitted him of the charges made by a pickle-trader, but the damage had been done. No questions were then asked, or since, as to why Lakhubhai Pathak then said what he had said. He was dead by then.

Under the Constitution, and through various court rulings, the parliamentary conduct of individual members have been kept out of judicial scrutiny though the pieces of legislation that they pass in the process could still be challenged for their legality and constitutional validity. This is aimed at ensuring that members of Parliament, and also the State legislatures are guaranteed the freedom to engage in debates without any reservations or apprehensions. It may be another matter that not every one of them has utilised the right with prudence but that cannot be cited as a reason to vitiate the basis of our democracy. The less said about the need for inclusion of members of the higher judiciary under the Lok Pal the better. Even while considering the need for introducing a law to hold members of the higher judiciary accountable, successive Governments at the Centre have been circumspect about the methodology, as it should not be seen either as Executive vindictiveness, or as excessive interference by the Executive and the Legislature in the independence and ordinary functioning of the higher judiciary. Under the constitutional scheme, the judiciary is the watch-dog, and it has acted when other pillars of democracy had weakened or wilted. The Supreme Court’s handling of the 2-G scam and the CWG scandal are a case in point.

Travesty of law and practices

The role assigned to the higher judiciary in choosing the Lok Pal(s) is a travesty of existing laws and established practices. The proposed bill has included the Chief Justice of India and also other Judges for participation in the choice of the Lok Pal. Independent of the choice of the Lok Pal, both the proceedings in the choice and the subsequent proceedings before the Lok Pal could be contested before the courts of law. Where the choice itself is under question, the Supreme Court would be called upon to sit in judgment over the choice made on its behalf. Similar is the case with the proposed inclusion of other constitutional authorities like the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and the Comptroller and Auditor-General in the selection panel. It is another matter to include their offices as the investigative arms of the Lok Pal, considering their existing, defined roles. These are basic tenets of the law, which the learned members of Team Anna seem to have overlooked.

The ’Jan Lok Pal bill’, or the bill drafted by the civil society representatives under social activist Anna Hazare, has likewise used undefined and unquantifiable terms such as ’impeccable integrity’ and a ’record of public service, particularly in the field of fighting corruption’ as eligibility for members and chairperson of a Lok Pal. In recent weeks, we have seen as to what use, misuse or abuse the phraseology, ’impeccable integrity’, as defined by the Supreme Court in the ’VineetNarain case’ was put to, in the choice of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). By confining the choice to civil society members fighting corruption, a new class of persons is being created under the law in its aftermath. It will be seen as the civil society organisations in the field, now and later, sub-serving their institutional interests in the matter. Whether it will stand the constitutional test for ’equality before law’ (in the choice), as it exists now, is the question, even if the higher judiciary were to uphold other parameters of the law, as proposed by Team Anna and were to be passed into law.

The Jan Lok Pal bill seems wanting to have an umbrella organisation for investigation, prosecution and disposal of corruption cases. This creates a vast, new institution that encompasses the three different functions under criminal jurisprudence now being handed over to three distinct institutions, each with a different role, responsibility and accountability. This may not stand any judicial test unless we give a go-by to the existing democratic scheme beforehand. The bill has similarly said that members of Jan Lok Pal need to have only a ’legal background’, not any judicial background, as outlined in the ministerial team’s proposal. The former also wants "repeated violation of a citizen’s charter by a public servant as qualifying as corruption under the proposed law. These are dangerous propositions that need to be nipped in the bud. Even granting that the ’Jan Lok Pal bill’ drafting team had in its mind a minimum educational qualification, or even experience in legal practice under the existing laws and rules as far as ’legal background’ went, the reference to a "citizen’s charter" for identifying the ’corrupt’ smacks of similar charters that are being put out in rural India by Naxalites, Maoists and such other militant and/or insurgent groups.

Talking about a citizen’s charter and conferring judicial/quasi-judicial powers on those with only a ’legal background’ could set dangerous precedents and processes in motion. From what is now Jan Lok Pal bill, it could end up as being Jan Lok Pals, where legality and constitutionality are sought to be conferred on institutions created for the purpose. Multiplicity of such institutions would become inevitable if one went by available figures and accepted perceptions about the level and layers of corruption in this country. This would may qualitative control by a central authority ? be it on the lines of the Supreme Court, or the Governments at the Centre and in the State ? a near-impossibility, as it is already. Together, such terminology only tend to give a new meaning to the very cause and the institutions that Team Anna has been professing thus far, reducing them to the level of ’khappanchayats’ if not ’janadalats’ and worse. While the civil society and the media having criticised the latter two, it is anybody’s guess why such ideas are sought to be institutionalised in ways that could harm their cause even more. It is pertinent to point out in this regard that the Madras High Court, having equated ’khappanchayat’ to ’kattapanchayat’, or ’kangaroo court’, has already barred them.

Constitutional anarchy?

The solution to the existing problem in fighting corruption in particular is simple and can be done using existing legal and judicial mechanisms, laws and rules. The addition of another institution is not only not going to achieve anything that the existing ones have not done, but the very basis for the creation of such institutions are also inspired by defective drafts as in the case of the ’Jan Lok Pal bill’. If it is to fix criminal culpability in corruption cases, we already have the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Laws and rules are not lacking, only enforcement is tardy and at times, accused-friendly than even justice-friendly. Borrowing from the dictum that ’Justice should not only be done but should also be seen to have been done’, our criminal jurisprudence has provided more than enough opportunities to the accused, which is often seen as being abused by most. Courts in independent India have also often frowned upon le stringent laws like those applicable to fighting terrorism, or the rules and processes applied in individual cases. Anti-corruption mechanisms without judicial accountability as established, could lead to constitutional anarchy ? or, constitutionalising and legitimising anarchy of a different kind.

Suffice is to point out how despite the best of intentions, the anti-defection law in the country has come to be misused and abused as not enough thought was not given to the drafting of the legislation. Coming as it did at the time when the Rajiv Gandhi Government enjoyed four-fifth majority in the Lok Sabha, the drafting process did not get as much care and attention as the publicity attaching to the enactment itself. Care, if any, was confined to the possibilities of defections from the ruling Congress Party, which came to be headed by the late Viswanath Pratap Singh, and not to the processes of law-making. At least some members of Team Anna, particularly those with past political inclinations and continuing legal knowledge, would be able to distinguish better the real and the surreal, and apply the correctives, which are as huge and monumental as the draft that they have become party to.

What is required at the moment are only amendments to existing laws such as the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), enabling the fast-tracking of the prosecution of corrupt officials and politicians falling under the existing definition of ’public servant’. For anyone to expect that in a democratic system with its electoral pitfalls and costly campaigns through the run-up to eliminate corruption wholesale is being impractical. Making an example of the corrupt ’public servants’ who could be brought to book under the existing schemes and systems would be a good beginning, if not be its end. What is required is a calibrated and incremental approach to ending corruption, and not any attempt that promises to attempt wholesale elimination and come a cropper like all attempts before it. For probing political accountability that is not within the framework of legal accountability, we have the Commissions of Inquiry Act, whose use may have been flawed, sub-serving the defence of the political masters of the day. There are however Commissions of Inquiry under the Act that have done stupendous service in the cause of establishing political accountability, not to be held accountable under the law.

What we exactly frown upon is not the existing provisions but what are seen as in-built lacunae that go to protect the suspect. Time-delays are one such, rendering criminal action irrelevant and inadequate. In the final analysis, mandatory provisions for the setting up of special courts to try corruption cases valued above a certain bench-mark figure, setting time-limits for the trial court and appellate courts to complete the processes, direct and one-time appeal to the Supreme Court without any opportunity to file interlocutory petitions or writ petitions or public interest petitions any time during the pendency of the trial from stage of the filing of the FIR, should go a long way in addressing the concerns of the present-day civil society groups in the matter. Likewise, amendments to the existing law and empowering the judiciary to set deadlines for the investigating agency to complete the prosecution, and making the judiciary responsible for such processes, along with implementation of police reforms on supervision of investigations, as recommended by the National Police Commission and upheld by the Supreme Court in the ’Prakash Singh case’are other aspects that alone need looking into.

If however, no money-value is fixed for fast-tracking the cases, there will be multiplicity of proceedings, starting with cases involving Rs 100 bribe for obtaining a train-berth to hundreds of crores of rupees worth scams and scandals, leading to unavoidable delays even at the Supreme Court, rendering the entire exercise farcical. In such cases, maybe, the High Court could be named as the one-stop appellate authority. What is thus required is not a closed-door meeting between representatives of the Government and self-appointed representatives of the civil society with no locus standi than the one offered by the Government. The political Opposition, having criticised the Government of the day at every turn on the Lok Pal row, has refrained from commenting upon the Team Anna’s draft bill, thus far. Neither did the Government take them into confidence when it mattered.

Today, the late entry of the political Opposition, with the Government calling an all-party meeting to sort out the differences in the two drafts of the bills, one by Team Anna and the other by the ministerial team, could jeopardise the process than help in arriving at a consensus. If nothing else, the Government may have to clarify beforehand if the all-party meeting was being called to arbitrate on the differences between the existing two drafts or if participating parties could offer other ideas, thus throwing up one or more additional drafts, one way or the other. Despite all this and knowing the drift of the existing drafts, there is no knowing if the Supreme Court of India, as the final arbiter in the matter of addressing the legality and constitutionality of new laws and institutions, would uphold whatever bill is passed into law. The civil society family in the past having applauded when the Supreme Court had held that ’judicial scrutiny’ was a ’basic structure’ of the Constitution (’KeshavanandaBharati case’) cannot argue otherwise ? not that it would have any legal consequences, otherwise. Nor can they be expected ask for a Lok Pal bill of the kind that is now being advocated by them being made non-justiciable under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, they having argued against special protection of the kind for certain laws, passed by Parliament. That case is still before the Supreme Court.

All this is independent of the current civil society attempts to curb black money, and even bring back whatever is stored away in foreign banks. If nothing else, the return of the billions of dollars of ’dead money’ for which the account-holders pay upkeep charge upfront would change the face of the Indian economy. If not earlier, at least from the days of the ’Kuo Oil deal’ in the early Eighties, one can safely assume that foreign players and foreign bank accounts had begun playing a big role in hiding corrupt money in the country. Bringing them out, and into the country, and allowing their calibrated usage would go a long way in making India an economic super-power than all other attempts that are now being made. From being an economic super-power to being a strategic, military and political super-power would be the next step, but the first one would facilitate the same. It cannot be said of the reverse route, where acquiring political super-power status, or even a seat in the UN Security Council as a permanent member with veto power, would be difficult without enough economic muscle for India to flex.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NAC clears draft bills

The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) has cleared the drafts of the Food Security and Communal Violence Bills. The former promises food security to 90 per cent of rural households and 50 per cent of urban households, and latter will ensure justice for minorities if they become victims of targeted, mass violence. The two drafts will now be sent to the government for discussion and introduction into the Parliament.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nirupama Rao to be the next envoy to US

Foreign Secretary NirupamaRao will replace Meera Shankar as the next Indian Ambassador to Washington. Rao’s tenure was distinguished by the fact that Foreign Secretaries will now get a two-year term like other top bureaucrats in the Government, as laid down by the Supreme Court.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Task force to review defence preparedness

The government is setting up a high-powered task force to review the defence management in the country. The 14-member task force will be headed by Naresh Chandra, a former bureaucrat and has as its members, former military commanders, intelligence chiefs, diplomats and strategic analysts.

The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) had led to the setting up of a Group of Ministers which had suggested broad based reforms in the country’s security management system. The Naresh Chandra committee will try to modernise the KRC’s recommendations in view of the fact that 10 years have passed since the report was submitted.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 22, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Campaign for membership

India is building up its campaign for membership of the four bodies the NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia group.

India is concerned on the move to deny Enrichment and Reprocessing technology (ENR) to countries not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which would amount to a reversal from position of the NSG which had granted an India specific waiver towards membership.

Matters will come to head in the next meeting of the NSG scheduled to be held in Norway.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 20, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thasmeen won’t shift DRP congress

The Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has questioned calls to bring forward the party’s 2012 congress amidst initiatives designed to end infighting between his own supporters and those of his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Amidst escalating tension between Thasmeen and former President Gayoom ? the DRP’s honorary leader - a group of party councillors have moved to form committees to try and reconcile divisions that have occurred between the two figures.

Party members critical of Thasmeen’s leadership have said they hope that any potential reconciliation will resolve concerns regarding what they see as the serving DRP head’s failure to adhere to the party’s charter on a number of issues such as dismissing former party member Umar Naseer.

Thasmeen told Minivan News today that from his perspective, he welcomed the possibility of dialogue that served to "strengthen" the party, having nominated three persons to represent him as a committee. The DRP leader added that Gayoom had appointed representatives of his own to take part in the ongoing discussions, which he claimed remained at an early stage and had yet to deal with the key "issues" that had led to divides in the party.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, June 22, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP seeks lower pension for ex-Presidents

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) acting Chairperson, MP ’Reeko’ Moosa Manik has called upon Parliament to vote to pass amendments presented by MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa to the Former Presidents Act.

The amendments presented to the Act lowers the allowances granted to former presidents and also gives the authority to concerned department to cut the allowances if the department finds that the former president was misusing the allowances.

The amendment also requires the state to lower the monthly Rf75,000 (US$4863) financial allowance paid to Rf30,000 (US$1945).

Currently the Former Presidents Act obliges the state to grant Rf75,000 as financial allowance to any former president who has ruled the country for more than two terms, Rf50,000 (US$3242) as a living allowance for rent and other expenses of living and another Rf175,000 ($11,348) to setup his own office and deliver social services to the community.

The amendment presented by Musthafa states that if the former president already has a house or a part of a house registered on his name he shall not receive the living allowance, reduces Rf175,000 to setup his own office to Rf35,000 (US$2269).
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, June 22, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian legal assistance treaty for NSC

Parliament has sent a request made by the President Mohamed Nasheed to sign a ’’Treaty between the Republic of India and the Republic of Maldives on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,’’ to the National Security Committee to revise the matter further.

The objective of the treaty was to strengthen the strong diplomatic relations between the Maldives and India by allowing legal assistance from one country to another, said the parliament on its official website.

In a letter sent by the Home Ministry to the President’s Office, the ministry said that the Attorney General (AG)’s legal advice was sought regarding the matter and that the AG had no objections.

The ministry’s letter said that the advice of the Finance Ministry was also sought, which also had no objections.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, June 22, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt recalls envoy from India

The Government has recalled Nepal’s Ambassador to India Rukma Shumsher Rana on June 21 saying he was ’unwilling to cooperate’ with the current coalition government. The government had asked Rana to tender his resignation earlier.

Foreign Secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai has sent a letter to Rana asking him to return at the earliest, according to an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

With the ’return at the earliest’ note sent to Rana, major Government partners in the UML-Maoist coalition Government have begun exercise to get a candidate of their choice to replace him.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

Note: Ambassador to New Delhi is considered the most crucial diplomatic posting in Nepal. Rana was appointed envoy by the then Nepali Congress-UML coalition Government in October 2009.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Upendra Yadav publicly accused Rana of ’violating Government directives’. He said that Rana did not come to Kathmandu during Indian Minister for External Affairs S M Krishna’s Nepal visit in January. Yadav has also publicly said that the Ministry had asked Rana to resign to make way for his "graceful exit" but Rana argued that he needed to hear it from the Nepali Congress."

Yadav, however, said no decision had been taken as to who will succeed Rana, and added that both UML and the Maoists were vying to name their candidate. Sources close to Yadav, who represents MadhesiJanaadhikar Forum-Nepal in the government, were quoted in media as saying that Yadav wants to send Foreign Secretary Bhattarai to New Delhi as the new envoy.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Security expert new Chinese envoy

The newly-appointed Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yang Houlan arrived in Kathmandu on June 18. China announced his name last month as the successor of Qiu Guohong after the latter made an early departure to Beijing in April 8 -- eight months before his three-year term expired. Talking to media persons at Tribhuvan International Airport, the envoy said that his priority would be to further strengthen friendship and cooperation between Nepal and China.

As a high-profile security expert at Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Yang served as China´s Ambassador for Korean Peninsula Affairs before taking up the diplomatic assignment in Nepal. He was involved for the past two years in dealings of the Six-Party-Talks, a group of six powerful nations comprising the United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea, formed to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition. The envoy has also served as China´s ambassador to war-ravaged Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NC, UML reject Maoist proposal

The Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML have rejected a Maoist proposal to set up border security force comprising former Maoist combatants under Nepal Army (NA). During a three-party meeting at the prime minister’s residence at Baluwatar on June 18 NC and the UML leaders rejected the proposal by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal arguing that border security is a sensitive issue so it would be "unwise" to deploy politically indoctrinated combatants on the border.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terai Armed Group Opts For Peaceful Politics

In a surprise move, Tarai Janatantarik Mukti Morcha (TJMM), an armed outfit led by Rajiv Jha merged into the newly formed Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Republican (MPRF-R) on June 22.

MPRF-R Chairman Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta and TJMM Chairman Jha signed a four-point agreement and announced their merger at a press meet in Janakpur.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">World Bank to fund energy cooperation with India

The World Bank has approved a US$ 99 million package for the Nepal-India Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (NIETTP) to assist efforts of the Government of Nepal to mitigate a national energy crisis. The landmark, cross-border project will provide Nepal with at least 100 MW of additional electricity, to supplement its current electricity generation capacity of 698 MW and help minimise power blackouts.

The country’s peak demand is 885 MW. The project will see the establishment of cross-border transmission capacity of about 1000 MW. It will also develop key segments of the backbone high voltage system to help expand access to electricity across Nepal.

Insufficient and costly electricity is a major constraint to the economic and human development of the country, where only 46 per cent of the population has access to electricity. As a result, rationing of electricity is common, with some areas receiving electricity for as little as 8 hours a day during the dry winter season.
< class="text11verdana">Source: World Bank Office, Nepal

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sharief, Zardari again on confrontation path

After weeks of sustained criticism by Pakistan Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif against poor administration and the civilian Government’s failure to check the army’s domination of foreign and security policies, President Asif Ali Zardari hit back at his rival, resulting in a verbal confrontation between the two. Speaking at an election rally in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on June 20, the former two-time Prime Minister accused the incumbent Government of being the most corrupt in the country’s history, and of securing the interests of the business elite at the expense of the ordinary folk. He also pointed fingers at the Government’s refusal to form independent commissions to investigate recent security failures such as the Abbottabad raid, the Mehran attack and the murder of journalist SaleemShahzad. The following day, Zardari, in his first public address since the Abbottabad raid, hit back and asked Sharif to quit ’defaming generals and institutions of the country for his personal gains.’ A few days later, the PMLN leader openly supported Jamaat-e-Islami’s demand for dissolution of the Government and called for mid-term elections.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, June 21, 2011;The News International June 22, 2011

Note: Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz formed an uneasy alliance to force former military dictator Pervez Musharraf out of office. Since the return of democracy in February 2008, the two have tried to collaborate as coalition partners in both Islamabad (where the PPP is the dominant party) and in Lahore (where the PML-N dominates the Assembly).

Relations between the two have been strained since then over many issues, such as reinstatement of Justice Chaudhry as Supreme Court Chief Justice, and PPP’s dissolution of the Punjab Government in 2009. However, mutual acrimony notwithstanding, Sharif had till now refrained from calling for fresh elections, despite the incumbent government’s growing unpopularity. Greater politics of confrontation between the two biggest parties in Pakistan and their failure of to reconcile their differences will worsen political instability in months to come.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CJ clears names for probe heads

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary formally authorised Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Saqib Nisar to head recently formed commissions to investigate the Abbottabad raid and the murder of journalist Saleeem Shahzad.

The Government has come under intense public pressure following the military operation in Abbottabad in which al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Following bin Laden’s death, militant groups called for revenge attacks across the country. In the most audacious assault, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants stormed a naval airbase in Karachi and destroyed two surveillance aircrafts. Subsequently, Saleem Shahzad, a well-informed investigative journalist who had disclosed al-Qaeda’s infiltration among navy ranks, was found murdered near Islamabad.

Shahzad had apprised colleagues and human rights groups that he was threatened by the ISI. Rather than subdue the media, his murder accentuated calls for greater accountability of Government and security forces. In this backdrop, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced the formation of high-powered commissions to probe the role of government institutions, including security forces and intelligence agencies, in both the incidents.

Soon after the announcement, however, experts questioned the legality of the commission, arguing that any such body comprising members of the judiciary must first be approved by the Supreme Court. Subsequently, the Law Ministry formally requested Chief Justice Chaudhry to appoint judges to lead the probe. With the legal formalities over, the two commissions are expected to commence their task soon.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, June 21, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA alleges Alaveddi attack was politically motivated

TNA parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan on Wednesday alleged that the attack on the TNA at Alaveddi was clearly political and intended to intimidate the voting public, the candidates and MPs and prevent a free and fair election on July 23 to elect members to some local government bodies in the district.

Making a special statement in Parliament, the TNA Parliamentary Group Leader said that their rally held at Alaveddi on June 16 was targeted by the military. The Trimcomalee District MP called for a proper inquiry and punitive action to be taken against those involved in the attack.

Responding, Prime Minister D M Jayaratne said that the Government would order an impartial inquiry into the incident.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, July 23, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt criticises Sri Lankan fishermen poachers

Fisheries Minister Dr.Rajitha Senaratne has said that the Sri Lankan fishing community continued to poach in neighbouring waters causing unnecessary problems.

According to him, the Government spent approximately Rs. 2.5 m a year to bring back Sri Lankan fishermen from India. He lashed out at Sri Lankan poachers, who engaged in illegal fishing at the expense of the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, June 23, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Discord with IMF threatens funding

Talks between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Finance Ministry over enforcing greater transparency in the Kabul Bank have stalled. Following the most recent meeting between the two, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal termed further talks as ’a waste of time’. Failure to revive the collapsed bank, which is used to pay salaries to government officials, threatens to cause a financial crisis as early as next month.

In September 2010, the Kabul Bank, which is co-owned by the brother of President Hamid Karzai, collapsed after it emerged that it has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to the officials and their associates. Since the bank is involved in disbursing international aid, the IMF immediately suspended its support programme. Further, it demanded that they Parliament inject $73 million into the bank as insurance against further abuse. The Parliament’s failure to accept the stipulation resulted in IMF freezing $70 million aid to the government. During the most recent talks, Zakhilwal insisted that the Parliament, which has begun a 45-day summer break, will not summoned to resolve the crisis.

The Kabul Bank is used to pay the salaries of government, police, army officials and teachers. Given that Kabul relies on aid for 40 percent of its operating budget and all of its reconstruction projects, failure to resolve the deadlock could cause a cash crunch as early as next month.
< class="text11verdana">Source: BBC News, June 20, 2011; Reuters, June 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terminologies get in the way

Several candidates hoping to be able to take part in the upcoming local government elections have found themselves grappling with terminologies such as ’apolitical’ and ’non-partisan’. Electoral law in Bhutan requires local leaders to be not affiliated to any party so that governance at the local level becomes effective and immune from politics.

However, there seems to be no strict definition of the terms ’apolitical’ and ’non-partisan’. Simply de-registering from one’s party may not be enough. For instance, many aspiring local leaders were asked to spell out the details of their affiliation with political parties, whether they had accompanied members of the Parliament and ministers during their visit to the constituencies.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bhutan Observer, June 16, 2001.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">People participation in projects high

Economic Affairs Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk told reporters that the participation of Bhutanese people in the construction of the on-going hydropower projects is high. Records produced by the Empowered Joint Group (EJP) show that 2,021 Bhutanese are working in Punatsangchu (PHPA) and Mangdechuhydro-power projects.

The Bhutanese involved in the projects include employees, businessmen and contractors. The hydropower sector spurs the Bhutanese economy the most. Its latest contribution to the government exchequer stands at Nu 4,238.547 million accounting 26.9 per cent of the total revenue.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan Observer, June 20, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bhutan: Sidharth Raimedhi;
India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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