MonitorsPublished on Jun 19, 2010
Nepal, one of the youngest republics in the world, is in the midst of a political chaos and uncertainty these days. The chaotic uncertainty is primarily due to the lack of political will to build a consensus on some of the contentious issues plaguing the nation.
Nepal at a political stand-still?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Nepal, one of the youngest republics in the world, is in the midst of a political chaos and uncertainty these days. The chaotic uncertainty is primarily due to the lack of political will to build a consensus on some of the contentious issues plaguing the nation. Politics in Nepal has of late become increasingly opportunistic, whereby everyone wants to have a larger share of the pie. It does not, however, mean that Nepalese politics was simple and pure before the advent of multi-party democracy. Monarchy was witness to, and at times part of many such power struggles. The absolutist tendencies of the monarchy had in fact led to a proliferation of countless voices seeking to find an echo in the decision-making institutions soon after its forced downfall. The current chaos in Nepal is the result of such a cacophony.

The election to the Nepal Constituent Assembly in 2008 was an attempt by all the political parties to forge a consensus to build a 'New Nepal'. It was decided to replace the existing Constitution with a new one in two years, with emphasis on federalism, secularism and republicanism. The task of Constitution-building soon got mired in internal political bickering and power struggles. Prime Minister Prachanda, who led 18-party coalition, resigned over the differences with President Ram Baran Yadav on the issue of the integration of Maoist cadres into the ranks of the Nepali Army. This enabled a non-entity, Madhav Kumar Nepal, belonging to the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), to stage a back-door entry.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Government did manage to get the support of 22 political parties, including the second largest, namely the Nepali Congress (NC), it has failed in the task of finalising the new Constitution. The two-year deadline elapsed on 28 May 2010. The main reason for this was the absence of support from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal ? Maoist (UCPN-M), or simply Maoists, the single-largest party in the Constituent Assembly with 38% of the total seats. However, external pressure and timely political wisdom resulted in the signing of a three-point pact by three major political parties in the final hours of May 28. The agreement committed to a peace process and successful completion of the drafting of the Constitution by 2011. The ruling party also agreed to give up the Prime Minister's post in favour of a 'national unity government', comprising all political parties. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal reportedly gave his oral consent to resign within five days of the signing of the pact.

It was expected that the pact would not only avert an impending constitutional crisis in Nepal but will also pave the way for consensus-building among the warring political groups. Nothing of that sort happened. Prime Minister Nepal back-tracked on his promise to resign, stating that no deadline for his resignation had been mentioned in the oral agreement. There are also other unmet pre-conditions for putting the pact into force. The ruling UML and NC, among other things, wanted the Maoists to dismantle their para-military structure, and return seized property to their owners. But the Maoists insist that no progress is possible on these matters unless the Prime Minister stepped down.

The political situation thus seems to be at a stand-still, as no further progress is possible unless one of the parties showed flexibility. Who blinks first is the question. However, one thing seems certain. That Madhav Kumar Nepal has to resign sooner than later, to open the doors for a 'national government'. He doesn't have many supporters within his own Communist party, and the NC has already made up its mind to find a replacement. Though a consensus government could become a reality soon, but how far will it contribute towards consensus and constitution-building is the moot question.

Dr Anjali Sharma is a Research Fellow at ORF-Delhi

< class="heading1">News & Developments Report

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Search on for new PM

In keeping with the letter and spirit of the agreement signed on May 28 between the three major political parties, preparations are under way to make the promise of a 'national unity government' a reality. Even though Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal is not ready to resign, speculation is rife that Jhala Nath Khanal, Chairman of the ruling UML, has reached an understanding with the Maoists for the latter to support another party nominee for the top job.

The Nepali Congress, the second largest party in the Constituent Assembly, has also decided to support an alternative candidate from the coalition to Nepal. The Maoists have shown some flexibility with the decision to keep their options open ? to backing a Prime Minister other than party leader Prachanda.
Himalayan Times, 15 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Division in Nepali Congress over para-military wing

Despite objections from acting party president Sushil Koirala, Nepali Congress leaders, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Khum Bahadur Khadka, have unveiled their plans for a 900-strong young force 'Tarun Dasta', on the lines of the 'Young Communist League' of the Maoists and the 'Youth Force' of the United Marxist-Leninist Party. According to Deuba, a former Prime Minister, the force would provide security to party leaders.

The NC para-military structure has come into focus when the party is struggling to find a new leader. Sher Bahadur Deuba is one such claimant but he faces challenge from three others. One of them is Sushil Koirala, who hails from the Koirala family and has issued a strict warning against the formation of any militia, pointing out that it was against the principles of the Nepali Congress.
Hindustan Times, 12 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deputy Prime Minister visits India

Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister Sujaata Koirala, daughter of the late G P Koirala, was on a five-day visit to India to meet with Indian Ministers and senior officials. In the previous week, Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, also a Deputy Prime Minister, had visited India for medical treatment.

Last month, K P Sharma Oli, a senior leader of the ruling CPN-UML, went to India for eye treatment. Oli, who is seen as a prime ministerial candidate to replace incumbent, Madhav Kumar Nepal, met many important Indian leaders. Oli's visit assumed significance as it came at a time when a three-point pact was being signed for breaking the politico-constitutional dead-lock back home.

This week, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood too had a meeting with Prime Minister Nepal to discuss the current political crisis. Some critics view all these as overwhelming presence of India in Nepal's affairs., 12 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fake-currency racket

The anti-terrorism Special Task Force (STF) of the Kolkata police (of the Indian State of West Bengal) has arrested Upendra Chowdhary from Nepal's Terai region, and seized Rs. 50 lakhs in fake Indian currency from him. According to the STF, Upendra was a lynchpin of Pakistani ISI plans for economic subversion of India. The plan was to flood India with fake currency ? Rs 10,000 crore is the target this year -- and destabilise the Indian economy.

Upendra had also carried out a successful fake currency-seeding operation through projects under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes (NREGA) in the Indian State of Bihar, along the border with Nepal. His next plan was to target flourishing, medium-sized financial institutions in the rural areas of West Bengal.

Upendra is also believed to be a close aide of Yunus Ansari, the son of influential Nepali politician, Salim Ansari, who was earlier jailed for similar offences. Both of them are said to be part of the ISI-Dawood Ibrahim campaign for unleashing financial terror in the sub-continent. Birgunj in Nepal has turned out to be an important transit hub in this context.
The Times of India, 12 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Islamists' bid to revive alliance

After much speculation, five of the six members of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a defunct alliance of Islamist parties, met on Sunday (June 13). The MMA rose to prominence in 2002, when it won provincial elections in North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan, amidst rising discontent against the US invasion of Afghanistan, and Pakistan's role in the Washington-led 'Global War on Terror'.

Among other key politicians, the meeting was attended by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Syed Munawar Hasan, former JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad. However, JUI-F seemed to have resolved its difference with the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) when it emerged that JUI-F Balochistan chief Maulana Muhammad Khan Shirani would be appointed Chairman of the Islamic Ideology Council (IIC). The JUI-F is unlikely to withdraw support to the federal Government of President Asif Ali Zardari in the near future.
The News International, 14 June 2010
Daily Times, 14 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban captures Pakistani troops

TTaliban insurgents attacked a border check-post between the tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand. In the ensuing fight, 40 soldiers of Pakistan's Frontier Corps were confirmed as missing.

A Taliban spokesperson claimed that his group held 30 of the captured soldiers in Afghanistan, and 10 in Pakistan. A few days later, the insurgents released 14 of the captive soldiers in Afghanistan. The fate of the remaining soldiers remains unknown.
'Daily Times, 18 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Politicians at Lashkar rally

Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its military wing, the banned Lashkar-e-Tayeeba, addressed a rally in Lahore. He was joined by prominent politicians like Syed Munawar Hasan, Senator Sajid Mir of Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadith, and Hafiz Husain Ahmed of Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam.

In his second public rally this month after the Lahore High Court held his house-arrest illegal, Hafiz Saeed spoke against Israel's recent raid on the Peace Flotilla in the Gaza, called for a halt on military operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and accused India of staging the 'Mumbai terror attack' of 2008.
Dawn, 14 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">'Historic' gas pipeline deal with Iran

After years of uncertainty, Iran and Pakistan have finally signed the $ 7.5-billion gas pipeline deal in Teheran. According to the agreement, Pakistan will import 750 million cubic feet a day (mmcfd) of gas for 25 years, which amounts to one-fifth of the current Iranian production.

While Iran has already completed the construction of the required infrastructure on its side of the border, Pakistan is expected to complete the 700-km pipeline on its side by 2014.
The News International, 14 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Elected VP, UN General Assembly

Pakistan has been elected Vice-President of the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly 65th session. Joseph Deiss, a former Swiss leader, was elected President of the 192-member body for a period of one year.

Pakistan had held the position earlier in 2005.
Dawn, 12 June 2010

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Victory Parade

Marking the first anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka's 'war on LTTE terrorism', though delayed by a month, the Government observed 'Victory Day' on 18 June. The celebrations were to have been held on 18 May, the day on which the war concluded a year earlier, but had to be postponed, owing to heavy rains and floods that battered the nation.

Taking salute at a colourful guard-of-honour, where the nation proudly displayed its military hardware, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some nations were unwittingly providing oxygen to the LTTE by allowing the functioning of 'Trans-national Government of Tamil Eelam' from their soil. He also promised to find a just and equitable solution to the ethnic issue, on the lines of the statement contained in the Joint Declaration issued during his India visit the previous week.
Daily Mirror, 19 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Visitors Galore

It was a week of foreign dignitaries choking Colombo, what with senior officials from UN, US and Japan, all focusing on the ethnic issue, and consequent global concerns about rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation, meeting up with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other senior officials of the Sri Lankan Government.

Topping the list was UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, whose visit had been delayed by weeks, owing to reported scheduling problems. Pascoe, not a stranger to Sri Lanka, toured the IDP camps, and studied the political situation, as well. What did not go down well with the Government was his reiteration while in Colombo that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon would still go ahead with his proposal to form committee of advisors for him on Sri Lankan affairs. However, he clarified that the committee would not be probing 'war crimes', as had been made out by media over the past months.

From the US, Ms. Samantha Power, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, and Senior Director for Multilateral and Human Rights of the National Security Council, visited Colombo. Accompanying her was David Pressman, Director for War Crimes, Atrocities and Civilian Protection of the US National Security Council.

Samantha Power, as also US Under-Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Robert Blake ? the latter in a media interview from Washington ? expressed satisfaction with the Rajapaksa Government's efforts at setting up a Reconciliation Commission and also spoke encouragingly about the rehabilitation programme for the IDPs. However, the Power-Pressman visit was a message in itself, and was not missed.

The third foreign dignitary to visit Sri Lanka during the week was Japanese Special Envoy, Yashushi Akashi. In the country for the twentieth time to assess the ethnic situation over the years, Akashi met President Rajapaksa, UNP Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe and a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). He also announced Japanese aid for the IDP rehabilitation and reconstruction programme.
Daily Mirror

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cinema torched

In what looked like a retaliatory act for anti-Sri Lanka protests in the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu ahead of the IIFA festivities in Colombo, a cinema hall in Tamil-majority eastern town of Batticaloa was torched by miscreants, who also pelted stones at it. It was seen as a warning to cinema halls habitually screening Tamil movies, most of them produced in Tamil Nadu, from showing them for 15 days, in protest against the 'IIFA protests' in India.

Ahead of the Batticaloa incident, an unidentified group claiming Tamil lineage distributed hand-bills, supporting the 15-day ban. However, the attackers at the cinema hall, it is said, were Sinhala-speakers. However, the torching of the cinema hall came hours after the stone-throwing incident.
Daily Mirror Online

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Victory Parade

In a political move of some consequence, the Maldivian Majlis, or Parliament, voted in favour of a no-confidence motion against Auditor-General Ibrahim Naeem, requiring the President to name a replacement in his place. The result of the vote was a foregone conclusion, considering that the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of President Mohammed Nasheed is in a minority.

The MDP said that the Opposition Dhivehi Rayyaththunga Party (DRP) of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom wanted "to remove him because of the reports he released, which accused many senior leaders, including the former President, of corruption."

"They had personal issues with the ousted AG," the party said further.

The MDP wanted "many corrections" to be brought to rules and procedure. "The Parliament Speaker has not revealed the Anti-Corruption Commission's report to the House, as it contains things which accuse his own party's members of corruption," the party said while the DRP said it was now "very clear" that the Auditor-General was corrupt", as brought out by the Anti-Corruption Commission. As the party pointed out, "independent MPs who always vote in favour of MDP voted in favour of DRP this time".
Minivan News, 15 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No-trust move against Education Minister

A no-confidence motion against Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy has been put on Parliament's agenda for June 30. Independent member Ibrahim Muthalib, in whose name the motion stands, says that "by divine will" he was "100 percent sure the motion will succeed if the vote is taken."

Dr Luthfy has come under heavy criticism, extending to protests outside his home, after the Ministry's steering committee suggested that the subjects Islam and Dhivehi language be made optional at A-Level. "We now believe that national education matters will not go well because of the attitude and thinking of the Education Ministry, especially Mustafa Luthfy," the member said.

Incidentally, Dr Luthfy sided with the MDP when Vice-President, Dr Mohammed Waheed Hassan, crossed swords with President Mohammed Nasheed over what he said was the 'arbitrary decision-making' ways of the latter.

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Country Report for the Maldives, published earlier this month, pegs Maldives' fiscal deficit in 2009 at 26.25 percent. The "political climate for public expenditure cuts remains difficult?(and) the coming months will be a crucial test of the (Government's) ability to prevail," the report said, in an obvious reference to the work-force and salary-cuts and power-tariff hike initiated by the Government of President Mohammed Nasheed.

The report noted that the Government has "taken remarkable steps to bring about the very large fiscal adjustment?.something seen in just a handful of countries worldwide" alongside "a 40-60 percent increase in electricity tariffs." However, the Government was facing "intense political pressure", and had to publicly challenge the decision of the Civil Services Commission (CSC) on staff-strength and salary-cuts. Minivan News, 16 June 2010
Minivan News, 16 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">DRP contests 'looter' charge

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and former President Maumoon Gayoom have taken exception to a report in the New York Times, describing him as a 'looter' for alleged misappropriation of State funds. The report claimed that the Nasheed Government was now working with the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), a joint initiative of the World Bank and the UN, to recover $ 400 m allegedly stolen by the former administration. The US Government was reportedly assisting Maldives in this regard, the report said.

The DRP, however, stated that the repeated accusations of embezzlement levelled at Gayoom "are the MDP Government's last-ditch efforts to resuscitate its waning public support". It was no different from the one leveled by senior MDP leader Hassan Afeef in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, and later by sacked Auditor-General, Ibrahim Naeem, the DRP said, adding that the former had "to date ignored the verdict of the court of the set compensation" after Gayoom moved the court against him.
Minivan News, 14 June 2010

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