MonitorsPublished on Oct 11, 2013
Nepal will hold elections to the second constituent assembly (CA) on November 19, 2013. The first CA polls were held in 2008. The major political parties, currently represented in the High Level Political Committee (HLPC),
Nepal: It's elections on November 19
< class="heading1">Analysis

Nepal will hold elections to the second constituent assembly (CA) on November 19, 2013. The first CA polls were held in 2008. The major political parties, currently represented in the High Level Political Committee (HLPC), are committed to hold the polls, which is truly the only way out of the long-drawn political chaos in the Himalayan nation. Unfortunately, however, the Baidya-led CPN-Maoist will not be participating in the polls, which gives ample reason to doubt whether the upcoming polls will be totally peaceful.

The Mohan Baidya ’Kiran’ group has been vehemently opposing the current political set-up in Nepal since it split from the mother party, the United CPN (Maoist) headed by Prachanda, last year. Baidya and his top associates say that the HLPC has hijacked the country’s polity and this "syndicate must be broken" to accommodate dissenting voices. Their main demands are resignation of Khil Raj Regmi government and formation of a political consensus government. It feels that it is against the principle of the separation of power for a sitting Chief Justice to occupy the highest executive post. Thus Baidya is demanding Regmi’s resignation and has sought four months time to prepare for polls.

Baidya-led 33 party alliance which has threatened to obstruct the polls also wants termination of the 25-point deal, which paved the way for holding fresh elections. It has demanded dismantling of the HLPC and bringing every party for a roundtable conference. It wants to postpone elections and create a national unity government. It has demanded explanation as to why the constitution could not be written in 2012 and guarantee that the same mistakes won’t be repeated. It feels there must be agreement in principle about major contentious issues, including state restructuring.

It has also demanded that the constitution must include a clause that prevents heads of the government from dissolving the parliament. In addition, Baidya wants enforcement of all agreements regarding ex-combatants, marginalised communities, and enforce inclusive quotas. Baidya faction has also demanded scraping of "humiliating" Nepal-India treaties of the past.

The leaders in HLPC echo different perspective. They regard Baidya’s demands as regressive. Prachanda has said that all "legitimate demands" will be met. But all efforts in last few months to negotiate and get Baidya on board have failed to convince the latter to join the election process.

The Baidya faction has the capability to incite violence. Its top leaders were in the forefront during the insurgency heading Maoists’ covert operations. Around 82 former CA members are with Baidya, which makes them second largest force as of 2008 mandate. Already news are flowing from different parts of the country regarding clashes between Baidya’s cadres and other party workers. On October 11, the United CPN (Maoist) confirmed that the cadres of CPN-Maoist thrashed its cadres in Myagdi district while they were campaigning. United CPN (M) First-Past-the Post candidates, Pushkar BK and Ishwor Subedi, who were injured in the attack, are undergoing treatment at District Hospital.

On the other hand, the Regmi government seems totally in control of the situation. The state is capable of holding the polls given the security arrangement. The government has put in place a good security plan for November 19 and will mobilise army to maintain peace. Chairman of the Interim Election Government Khil Raj Regmi has said the November 19 election will be held as scheduled "with no or minimum instances of obstruction or disturbance."

Clearly, the upcoming polls will be the last chance for Nepali political actors to frame the constitution. This election could be decisive for formulation of the new constitution. As 80 per cent of the work was completed by the first CA, the second CA should complete its task within a year. Although those issues agreed earlier were not codified, the new CA can retain the gains of the past. On federalism, the main contention is over the name, number and boundary demarcation and this will be major challenge before the new CA.

Adhering to the principle of inclusiveness, the government has already formally decided to elect a 601-member CA for drafting a new constitution by changing the earlier provision of 491 members to a 601-member assembly. The election will have fought on both First-Past-the-Post system and the proportional representation to include the minority voices.

In all likelihood, the United CPN (Maoist) stands a good chance to emerge as the largest party even after facing a split. The new group will surely take away some of its vote bank, but it could remain the largest force. The Nepali Congress, although divided from within, may increase its strengthen due to its opposition to ethnic division of the state. The CPN-UML, which emerged as third force in last CA polls, is weakened as many ethnic leaders have left the party.

The constant pressure from the international community, including India, has also been a major factor for the upcoming polls. India has consistently supported the poll process as it feels it is the only way to safeguard the gains of people’s movement of 2006 and usher towards long-lasting peace, democracy and prosperity in Nepal. In case the elections are disturbed or held back, the country faces the danger of another phase of instability and chaos.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka : Problems of ’power-sharing’ in TNA now

N Sathiya Moorthy

Independent of the sweeping election victory, the ruling Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province (NP) seems to have been beset with teething troubles, already. These problems are not over ’power-sharing’ that the TNA and the Tamil voters at large in the Province had aspired for, for decades, but over ’power-sharing’ within the Alliance and the government that it has since formed.

At immediate focus is an issue that had plagued the Alliance, pre-poll, almost from the conclusion of the decisive ’Eelam War IV’ in 2009. Even as the party was talking loud and clear about ’power-sharing’ protocol with and from what they called the ’Sinhala majority’ Government at the Centre, it was faced with dominance-issues that some constituents had charged the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) with, almost from the beginning.

For right reasons and wrong, however, these constituents have refused to accept the preponderant presence of the ITAK, both at the cadre and the voter-level, that the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) polls now have acknowledged. For instance, the ITAK got/took a lion’s share in the list of TNA candidates for the NPC polls. The party’s claims were justified as the voters, particularly in Jaffna district with 19 members in the Council with 36 elected seats, voted in a relatively higher number of its nominees in under the scheme of ’preferential representation’ (PR) scheme.

Under the scheme, ultimately the ’voter is the master’. Individual candidates matter as much as their party affiliations. Yet, even under the complicated scheme aimed at ensuring that the ’minority’ Tamils did have their electoral say without reference to their demographic status, the Founding Fathers might not have visualised the possibility of an Alliance of Tamil parties like the TNA, fighting within itself for ’proportional representation’ - acceptable to some as it was seen as working on the ground, but not-so-acceptable to others, for near-similar reasons - and now, more.

Welcome gesture, but...

The post-poll problems within the TNA comes even as the Alliance per se is seen the world over as making a positive gesture towards the Government, after asserting its popular mandate. The decision for Chief Minister, C V Wigneswaran, a retired Judge of the nation’s Supreme Court, to take his oaths in the presence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, did not go unnoticed. TNA’s Sampanthan mooted the idea at a post-poll meeting with President Rajapaksa, and the latter too accepted the proposal with equal grace.

’Tamil nationalists’ of the LTTE vintage and earlier, both within the TNA and outside would argue that the Constitution did not mention that an elected provincial Chief Minister had to take his oaths in the presence of any particular authority. Since Provincial Councils came into being in the country under the India-brokered Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, read with the near-simultaneously enacted Provincial Councils Act, both in 1987, provincial Governors, appointed by the President, have been administering the oaths to Chief Ministers.

Before Justice Wigneswaran, post-war de-merged Eastern Province’s elected Tamil Chief Minister S Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan, a one-time child-cadre of the dreaded LTTE, had taken oaths before President Rajapaksa, after the first EPC poll of 2008. Chief Ministers of the seven other Sinhala-dominated PCs too have done so from time to time, occasionally depending on intra-party, intra-alliance squabbles.

What made the difference in the Northern elections this time was the TNA’s stand-alone mandate from the Tamil population unlike in the past. A creature of the LTTE at its peak, the TNA constituents did not really have a say in the decision, or in the choice of ITAK’s Sampanthan as the parliamentary party leader. Apart from the senior-most leader of the moderate Tamil polity at the time (after the LTTE had done away with some and anguished a few others), Sampanthan’s choice was but natural.

As NPC Polls-2013 showed, gone were the days when the LTTE forced the Tamil voters in the North and the East to vote TNA candidates of the LTTE’s choice. In seat-distribution, the LTTE retained some for non-party nominees of its choice for the parliamentary polls at the time. Without the LTTE around this time, the Tamils voted the TNA overwhelmingly this time. Interpreted, this meant that the vote was for those candidates that contested under ITAK’s ’House’ symbol, given to the Tamil community by party founder, the late S J V Chelvanayagam, in the pre-militant, pre-war era of moderate Tamil polity.

In all this, the dominance of the moderate ITAK constituent was unmistakable, unassailable. Going by popular perception, and the political perception of the same by other TNA constituents, the latter could not muster courage to challenge the former. They also lacked political conviction, which however could come to be played up in the coming weeks and months - and years, if the TNA’s problems are not resolved by then, one way or the other.

The Alliance’s controversial poll manifesto may not have as much to do with the mandate. Yet, the massive TNA victory was a reflection still of the ’Tamil political aspirations’, by whatever name called and whatever way described. That the manifesto allowed the TNA’s victory to be interpreted differently by different people, and not just in the Sri Lankan Government, or the ruling combine, or the ’Sinhala chauvinist-nationalist’ ranks in the future has under-cut the greater relevance of the victory, however.

Principled protest - or, what?

Including the two ’bonus seats’ that the high 80-percent vote-share for the TNA in the NPC polls meant that the Alliance now has 30 members in the 38-member NPC. Yet, when it came to the swearing-in of the new members, and four Ministers from among them, at Jaffna after Chief Minister Wigneswaran had taken the oaths in Colombo a few days earlier, a total of nine stayed away. All nine of them belonged to the non-ITAK genre. This has revived the pre-poll intra-Alliance squabbles over ’dominance-issues’ in and of the TNA.

Over the years, these problems have gone beyond the overall acceptance of ITAK’s R Sampanthan as the most acceptable of ’em all, otherwise. Translated, this also refers to the post-war demand of non-ITAK constituents for registering the Alliance as a separate political party with the Election Commission, with an election symbol other than the current ’House’ symbol of the ITAK for the TNA as a whole.

In the long run-up to the promised NPC polls in May this year, the TNA constituents met at Mannar, under the auspices of the local Tamil-Catholic Bishop, Rev Rayuddu Jospeh, and decided to find a way out of the irritant issue before the year was out - or, after the NPC polls, promised for September. The post-poll protest could thus be considered a revival of the pre-election demands by the non-ITAK constituents. It is not as simple and straight as that.

The immediate provocation for the protests stemmed from two issues. One, what the non-ITAK partners considered the party’s continued dominance, after it was announced that the party would take two out of the four sanctioned ministerial positions for the Provinces, excluding the Chief Minister. A non-politician in Justice Wigneswaran having been promoted as the ’common choice’ of the TNA for chief minister’s post, the ITAK justified its demand on the high number of PC members that it had in its bag, post-poll.

According to other TNA partners, a decision had however been taken post-poll, for the four constituent members of the TNA, including the ITAK, to share a ministerial berth each, but the ITAK had gone back on the same, ’unilaterally all over again’. However, not all partners were united on the issue, as the TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation) is itself split in participating in the swearing-in of the new ministers and Councillors at Jaffna, even while staying away from Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s swearing-in at Colombo, earlier.

At the heart of the issue was not just the ITAK’s dominance alone. The latter meant that other TNA partners had to give up their claims to ministerial berths, independent of the number of PC members at their respective command. In their place, the ITAK had reportedly offered the Council Chairman’s position to D Sidharthan, leader of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), which has only two members in the NPC. The party was not agreeable to the proposition, it would seem.

From the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRLF), the more vocal of the non-ITAK partners in the TNA, Chief Minister Wigneswaran had chosen P Aingaranesan for a ministerial position - after obtaining the CVs of all those councillors aspiring for a berth in the Board of Ministers. The very concept had gone against the non-ITAK partners’ demand for the respective parties to choose their ministerial nominees, with the chief minister or the TNA leadership having no say in the matter.

Chief Minister Wigneswaran was known to have sought and obtained assurances from the TNA leadership, giving him a free hand in running the government, post-poll, even when he was approached to accept the position. After the controversy broke out now, he has gone on record that the problem with the EPRLF followed party leader Suresh Premachandran’s demand/expectation for nominating his brother Sarweswaran for a ministerial berth.

Pre-poll, it was known that EPRLF’s Suresh had agreed to Justice Wigneswaran’s choice as TNA’s chief ministerial nominee only on the hope that his brother Sarweswaran would be made a minister. However, no demands were known to have been made, nor any accepted by either by Sampanthan as the TNA chief or Justice Wigneswaran as the chief minister candidate. However, the non-ITAK participants, having been given the freedom to choose the candidates for the NPC polls once seat-sharing within the TNA had been finalised, had hoped for a similar freedom in ministerial nominations. They claim to be feeling cheated on that score.

A third specific issue pertaining to ministry-making relates to the choice of TELO nominee in the Board. The party collective had chosen veteran leader, M K Shivajilingam for a ministerial berth, which however was not acceptable to TELO president Selvam Adaikalanathan, MP. It was incidental that Shivajilingam continued to remain a persona non grata in neighbouring India, whose contributions to the post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the war-torn Tamil areas of the island-nation are well known. The problem had more to do with internal squabbles within the TELO, and leader Selvam’s pre-poll promise to get a ministerial berth for the backward Vanni district, as against the elite and relatively prosperous Jaffna district, from where Shivajilingam had got elected.

Parallel ’oath-taking’ and more

Having boycotted the Jaffna oath-taking for the TNA members of the NPC, the nine Councillors have reportedly decided to do so at Mullivaikkal, the venue of the last and un-joined battle of the decisive ’Eelam War IV’, where the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) had claimed to have extinguished thousands of Tamil civilians (with no independent evidence being produced by anyone, be it locals or members of the international community). Unsaid, it is also seen as the place where LTTE’s ruthless supremo V Prabhakaran died with the war.

Mullivaikkal may not represent the ’unfinished war’ for a separate ’Tamil State’, yet it has relevance/reverence for ’Tamil nationalists’ in the country and their Diaspora brethren. Translated, it means that the emerging ranks of ’TNA rebels’ would want to identify themselves with the ’Tamil nationalist cause’, and try and use it against the party leadership and the chief minister after a time, if they could sustain their present-day unity, agenda and consequent protest for a longer period.

A whisper-campaign was on when Justice Wigneswaran took the bold and imaginative ’Tamil initiative’ to take oaths before President Rajapaksa, whom ’Tamil nationalists’ have painted as the larger community’s ’enemy number one’, post-war. They have had no explanation for their support for the war-time SLA commander Sarath Fonseka in the post-war presidential polls of January 2010. The anti-Wigneswaran campaign is said to have included misplaced reference to his two sons marrying daughters of two Sinhala politicians - one of them, pro-Tamil, Left-leaning Minister, Vasudeva Nanayakara.

It is one thing for the ’TNA rebels’ to justify their post-war, post-poll actions, centred on the dominance-issue relating to the ITAK. It is another for them to contextualise it all to the ’Tamil nationalist cause’. After all, the PLOTE, which is now in the rebel camp, was openly against the LTTE and the TNA until after the conclusion of ’Eelam War-IV’. More importantly, it was equally with the Government of President Rajapaksa at the time, and even afterward - until after his re-election against Sarath Fonseka in 2010.

For now, the rebels, addressing a news conference in Jaffna, have called for the TNA administration and the Alliance-dominated NPC to pursue their ’election manifesto’, which had referred to nothing but the ’Tamil nationalist cause’. Against this, the TNA leadership of Sampanthan has been referring to the daily problems being faced by the larger sections of the residual Tamil community staying behind in the war-torn areas. He has hence stressed the need for the provincial administration to work with the Centre, to alleviate the sufferings of the common man. The priorities seem different.

The ’TNA rebels’ may however have a case (and cause) if the issue relates to their allegation that the Alliance leadership (translating into ITAK leadership) had wantonly side-lined ex-militants from among them, exclusively in favour of all-time political moderates. An attempt was even made to make out an informal case that the preference for Justice Wigneswaran over ITAK’s Jaffna strong-man and parliamentarian Maavai Senathiraja owed to the latter’s militant past, however distant and less relevant it might now be.

It is noticeable that the ’TNA rebels’, after using the ’Sangaree card’ in the days after the polls seems to have forgotten their demand to make the TULF veteran the Chairman/Speaker of the NPC. The post now has gone to former civil servant, C V K Sivagnanam, a ’Tamil nationalist’ leader in his own right from within the ITAK. The Deputy Chairman’s post too has gone to the party, possibly after the ’rebels’ declined to accept any position.

Otherwise, the ’rebels’ have begun clarifying their positions. PLOTE leader Sidharthan has since said that the party would continue to be in the TNA without participating in the government. What it means for the health of the TNA’s strength in the NPC when in matters of wholesale and wholesome support for the Alliance administration remains to be seen.

Likewise, TELO’s NPC member from Mannar district, Dr G Gunasekaran, had pooh-poohed reports in a section of the Tamil media that he could not participate in the Jaffna oaths-taking because his wife had met with an accident. He has publicly stated that his absence from the Jaffna ceremony owed to political reasons, and nothing else. For his part, EPRLF’s Suresh Premachandran has referred to Chief Minister Wigneswaran not mentioning the party’s demand for a ministerial berth for the backward Mullaitivu district, which had borne the brunt of ’Eelam War IV’ as being the real cause for the current estrangement. The TNA leadership that way may have to address the grassroots-level issues flowing from the preponderance of Jaffna-driven ’Tamil nationalist cause’ and the townspeople’s dominance over the larger Tamil aspirations before it became too late, in electoral terms and otherwise, too.

Through three decades of militancy and terrorism, war and violence, the LTTE had managed to keep it under check. As post-war events have shown intermittently, the much-feared/respected outfit could not resolve some of these issues, which also had - and still has - a dominant ’caste element’ attaching to it. For the Jaffna folks, it is ’culture-driven’ after a point. For the rest of the Tamil people in the backward Northern districts of Mannar, Killinochchi, Vanni and Mullaitivu, it is based mostly on elitism, identified with caste and traditional prosperity, education and new-generation employment, overseas.

Outside of what is essentially a divided Tamil community, the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala majority polity in the country may find it hard to choose between the emerging factions, with ’lil ones within the smaller one between the two, to deal with in terms of political negotiations on the ’ethnic issues’ in the coming weeks and months. The Tamil people having placed their faith in Justice Wigneswaran as much as the TNA per se (going by his vote-share and the Alliance’s seat-share), the ’divided mandate’ as some of them might now be tempted to interpret it, should not be used against each other -- for the ’Sinhala nationalists’ in particular to go to the world and tell them: "We told you so, but would not listen."

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Northern CM takes oath before MR

Elected to power on a massive mandate, Northern Province’s Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran took oaths before President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the latter’s ’Temple Trees’ official residence in Colombo on Monday. Though not stipulated under the Constitutions, the political gesture became possible after TNA leader R Sampanthan proposed the idea at a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the latter accepted the same.

However, nine of the 30 TNA members in the 38-member Northern Provincial Council (NPC) boycotted the official swearing-in of four Alliance ministers at the NPC headquarters town of Jaffna, citing a series of reasons. They have now threatened to take oaths without the party’s blessings at the Mullivaikkal site of the decisive battle in the conclusive ’Eelam War IV", where thousands of Tamil civilians were claimed to have lost their lives.

The controversy surrounding the ministry-making and the subsequent ’rebel oath-taking’, proposed for Monday, 14 October, has the potential to tear the long yet fragile TNA coalition asunder - and could be cited as a reason for lack of progress on the ’ethnic negotiations’ involving the Centre, in the weeks and months to come.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 7-11 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">It has to be PSC still, MR tells India

Any solution to the ’ethnic issue’ has to be through the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), which has already commenced its work, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Salman Khurshid, India’s External Affairs Minister, at Colombo.

During his maiden visit as EAM, Khurshid underlined the Indian position for the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and an improvement on the same, to address the concerns of all communities in the island-nation.

Khurshid also met Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister G L Peiris, and discussed the vexatious ’fishers issues’ between the two nations, impacting particularly on the Tamil-majority Northern Province in Sri Lanka and the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu. They reiterated their collective resolve to revive the consultation process involving the fishing communities in the two countries.

In the presence of the Ministers, the two sides signed the agreement for the Indian joint-venture Sampur thermal power project in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, and Indian technical expertise for implementing Colombo’s trilingual formula, aimed at addressing an aspect of the ’ethnic issue’ in the island-nation.

Talking to newsmen in the company of Prof Peiris, Khurshid said that he as EAM would be participating at the CHOGM at Colombo in November. The Prime Minister’s Office will announce the schedule of PM Manmohan Singh’s participation at the Summit, he said.

Khurshid also visited Jaffna, where he called on Northern Province Governor C A Chandrasiri and Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran, and reviewed the progress made in the India-funded reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in the war-torn areas.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 7-12 October 2013, Daily Mirror Online, 7-12 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Presidential nominations closed

The registration process for candidates for the 2014 Afghan Presidential Elections officially came to an end this past week. A total of 27 candidates filed nominations for the upcoming elections. The list will now be vetted by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and the final vetted list will be announced on October 19 by the Independent Election Commission.

Of the 27 candidates, the seven frontrunners are considered to be Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani, Qayum Karzai, Abdul Rahim Wardak, Zalmai Rassoul, Gul Agha Sherzai and Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf.

The ECC also announced that it has already received eighth complaints against the presidential candidates, but it refused to comment on the nature of the complaints or the names of the candidates they were lodged against. Noor Mohammad Noor, the spokesman of the IEC, assured on Wednesday that if any candidate is found to have violated any of the laws in the submission of a nomination application, his/her candidature would be rejected.

There have also been claims that incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been seeking support for his favoured candidate. Atta Muhammad Noor, the Governor of Balkh province and a member of the Jamiat-e Islami Party, offered his party money in hopes of recruiting their support for his favoured presidential candidate.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 7 October 2013; The Wall Street Journal, 6 October 6; Tolo News, 6-7 October 2013; Tolo News, 9 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai to hold Loya Jirga for BSA

President Hamid Karzai announced at a news conference, that he would convene a Loya Jirga or a gathering of tribal elders to determine the fate of the Afghan-US Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) within one month. Karzai said that the participants of the Jirga, expected to be largely made up of the top leaders from across the country, would weigh the pros and cons of the agreement that has been negotiated between the U.S. and Afghanistan over the past months and make the final call on it. The President did not provide a specific date for the gathering.

However, this announcement was met with a mixed reaction from the Afghan Senate. The Afghan senators said that the legitimacy of the Afghan parliament will be violated if a Loya Jirga is organized to discuss and obtain views of the Afghan people regarding the BSA. The senators urged the Afghan government to present the Afghan-US bilateral security agreement to Afghan parliament in order to obtain the views of the lawmakers. At the same time, a number of senators also backed the president’s decision to call for the Loya Jirga.

In the meantime, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Karzai’s National Security Advisor, said that nearly all of the BSA had been agreed upon between Afghan and U.S. negotiators, and that only two provisions remained contested. Reportedly, the items still needing to be ironed are said to be defining what constitutes a "threat" to Afghanistan’s national security and the parameters of U.S. unilateral operations. A US government official also recently declared that the negotiations over the BSA were moving forward.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 8 October 2013; Pajhwok, 8 October 2013; Tolo News, 6-8 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’ Baradar still in Pak custody’

Releasing its first public statement following the reported release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban declared that the senior Taliban commander had not been released by Pakistan and was still in the custody of the Pakistan military. The Taliban added that Baradar’s health is peril and urged the Afghan government to move quickly to address the situation.

The statement stressed, "e is still spending days and nights locked up behind bars in worrisome health conditions which are deteriorating by the day". This comes as recent reports suggested that Mullah Baradar has been shifted to a safe house in Peshawar, in a bid to start peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

However, the Taliban claims were rejected by the Pakistan Foreign Office. Its spokesman, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry insisted Baradar had been released. He said, "As far as we are concerned, he is free to meet and contact anyone to advance the cause of reconciliation".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 9 October 2013; Tolo News, 9-10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Key military base handed over

Germany handed over the control of a key military base in northern Afghanistan to local security forces as part of the gradual pullout of Western forces, which is set to be completed by December 2014.

The transfer of the military base was completed during an unannounced visit by German defense minister Thomas de Maiziere and German foreing minister Guido Westerewelle in northern Kunduz province.

Germany has deployed at least 20,000 troops in Kunduz during a 10-tyear operation in this province, and it has lost at least 20 troops in this province, which forms part of the Germany’s 35 combat deaths.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 6 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Blast at Hefajat leader’s madrasa

At least seven students were injured in a bomb blast at a Hefajat leader’s madrasa in the port city of Chittagong. Police in its investigation have discovered huge explosives, including more than 30 handmade grenades, in the madrasa. Police also arrested teachers and students of the madrasa suspecting their involvement in the blast.

Jamiatul Ulum Al Islamia Madrasa in the port city was established by Hefajat Islami’s Nayeb-e-Ameer Mufti Izharul Islam Chowdhury, also suspected activist of banned militant outfit Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji).

Hefajat had attracted limelight following its seize of Dhaka in May 2013 demanding death for bloggers on charges of blasphemy.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 8 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Life-term for BNP leader for ’war crimes’

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) this week awarded jail-sentence unto death to ex-Bangladesh Nationalist Party(BNP) minister Abdul Alim, for committing crimes against humanity, during the War of Liberation in 1971. Nine out of 17 charges levelled against the 83-year-old were proved beyond reasonable doubt.

In its verdict, the tribunal observed that the accused deserved the highest punishment for his acts of actively facilitating numerous killings and atrocities. Alim was arrested for alleged crimes against humanity on March 27, 2011. Four days later, the tribunal had granted him bail on the ground of poor health. The bail was cancelled on September 22 and Alim was sent to prison, so that he could be present during the time of the verdict.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dialogue better: Chinese envoy

Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jun has re-emphasised the need for talks between the major parties to overcome the current political impasse surrounding the upcoming general elections, saying that dialogue is much better than confrontation. He also said that people and political leaders know very well what the country needs under the current situation and that he could not say what should be done.

The Chinese Ambassador made these comments while addressing a seminar on ’China’s Look South and Bangladesh’s Look East Policy: Convergences and Constraints’ organised by the Institute of Governance Studies of the BRAC University.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Extradition treaty with India ratified

Eight months after the extradition treaty with India was signed, the Cabinet this week ratified it to facilitate handover of criminals between the two countries. The Indian government also ratified the treaty recently. Cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan informed that the treaty will come into effect after the documents are exchanged. Officials from the Indian high commissioner in Bangladesh claimed that India is ready to exchange the documents as it has already ratified the treaty. Date for exchanging the documents will be fixed after getting a letter in this regard from the Bangladesh government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 8 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New institute for governance

His Majesty the King has graced the inauguration of the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategy Studies (RIGSS) in Phuentsholing, an autonomous institution established under royal patronage, with His Majesty as the chairman of the institute’s governing body.

RIGSS, according to the institute’s website, which was also launched yesterday, was established to provide a forum to train both incumbent and potential leaders in all major areas of nation building. RIGSS will also "provide a think-tank that will engage in critical thinking and research, and serve as an incubator for new ideas for both governmental and non-governmental organisations."

Project coordinator, Chewang Rinzin, who is also the member-secretary of the institution, said RIGSS was a result of the noble vision His Majesty attaches to the development of intellectual capacity of leaders in the country. "This will enhance leadership skills and develop human resource in the country," Chewang Rinzin said.

The RIGSS building, constructed using stone with rich Bhutanese traditional architectural design, magnificently stands out as one nears Phuentsholing town. The building comprises two lecture halls, an auditorium, library, faculty rooms and administrative and finance departments.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 8 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ADB to help import power

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) would help Bangladesh import power from hydro-power-rich Bhutan, with the setting up of a regional power transmission line for cross-border electricity trading, an energy expert at the Bank’s headquarters said.

"If both Bangladesh and India are linked through the Indian power market, power trading opportunities can be explored in the South Asia region," Len V. George, Energy Specialist, South Asia Department of the ADB, told the FE. Following the Bangladesh-India cross-border power transmission grid operation, the ADB expert was interviewed by the FE as the agency had helped in installing the 400- kilovolt (kv) transmission line to import electricity by Bangladesh from India.

Initially India is supplying 175 megawatt (mw) of power that has begun early this month. Gradually, the neighbouring country will supply 500mw of electricity by the year-end and another 500mw from the next calendar year.

When asked on ADB’s possible help in Bangladesh-Bhutan power trade, Len V. George said: "Setting up of the regional grid connecting Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Myanmar over the medium term allows greater investment and more optimal utilisation of regional energy resources, e.g. hydropower resources in the region." The ADB energy expert said variations in weekly or seasonal demands between the countries of the region encourage power trading and more optimal use of resources.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Financial Express (Bangladesh), 9 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Five-State Assembly polls in Nov-Dec

The Election Commission (EC) of India on Friday announced the dates for assembly elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, touted as semi-final between Congress and the BJP and a litmus test for the popularity of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are ruled by the BJP for the past 10 years and Delhi by the Congress for the past 15 years. Congress won Rajasthan from BJP five years back.

Even before the election dates were announced a fierce campaign is already underway in the four states in mainland India. The BJP is looking to retain Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and wrest Rajasthan from Congress, while the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party has turned the fight for the 70 seats in the national capital triangular.

Elections to these states would be spread over a period of about two-and-a-half months, chief election commissioner V S Sampath told a press conference. Except Chhattisgarh, all States will have polling on a single day. The EC has decided to hold polls in Maoist-affected districts of Chhattisgarh in two phases after consulting the home ministry.

"There will be adequate security available to ensure fair and peaceful elections," a commission official said. Over 100 companies of para-military force would be deployed in sensitive areas of these five poll bound states.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 5 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade deficit falls to 30-month low

In encouraging news for the beleaguered rupee, India’s trade deficit — the difference between imports and exports of goods and commodities — fell to a two-and-a-half-year low of $6.76 billion in September.

Lower imports of gold mainly, but also crude oil and other goods, and a healthy 11.15 per cent growth in exports helped pare the deficit to well below Augusts’ figure of $10.9 billion.

This is good news for the current account deficit — the difference between imports of goods, services and all transfers of money, and exports of goods, services and transfers — which bloated to $88.2 billion or 4.8 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) in 2012-13, raising fears of a balance of payments crisis.

"Imports showed a significant fall of 18.1 per cent, and exports a rise of 11.15 per cent in September. The trade deficit is the lowest in the last 30 months. I am quite confident that import-containment measures put in place for non-essential imports are playing out extremely well, and we need to continue this so that our rupee becomes stronger," Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao told reporters here.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Energy deals with Russia

India is looking to finalize multibillion-dollar deals on liquefied gas and nuclear-power technology with Russia before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow later this month, a senior government official said Friday.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is in Russia to decide on the agenda of Mr. Singh’s program, such as his meetings with Russian leaders including President Vladimir Putin, said the official who didn’t want to be named. He is scheduled to attend the annual India-Russia summit on 21 October.

Russia and India are traditional allies with their ties stretching back to the Soviet era when they were major trade partners. Their partnership has lost some sheen in the post-Cold War with India strengthening its ties with the West; especially the U.S. India is also increasingly buying defence equipment from the U.S. and Europe to upgrade its predominantly Soviet-era weaponry.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 4 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Visa on arrival for US, UK

India intends to extend visa on arrival facility to tourists from 40 more countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, a move which will make the country a more tourist friendly destination and promote foreign exchange earnings.

The Planning Commission called a high-level meeting of different ministries and National Security Advisor on 7 October to deliberate on the feasibility of the move. "This could help in garnering more foreign exchange and containing the current account deficit," Planning Minister Rajeev Shukla told PTI.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 6 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Energy-independent by 2030: Moily

Stressing the need to step up production of fuel in the country, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily today said India should become energy independent by 2030.

"Expert Vijay Kelkar is preparing a road map. According to it, by 2020 our imports will go down by 50 per cent, by 2025 it should go down by 75 per cent and by 2030 our country should become energy independent and it is possible," he said

"We need to produce, either you produce oil or perish; ...only when we start producing oil and natural gas in our own country, we will have the right to have a say on its prices," he added.

Stating that we have oil and natural gas available in the country and there is only a need for us to makeup our mind to explore it, Moily said "first we must mine your mind, only then you can mine the oil; but our mindset is such that we are suspicious about every initiative."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 6 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Forex reserves drop by $ 1.11 b

India’s foreign exchange (forex) reserves fell by $1.11 billion to $276.26 billion for the week ended Sep 27 as compared to $277.38 billion in the previous week due to a sharp drop in the value of foreign currency assets, official data showed.

The forex reserves have declined sharply after significant gains in the previous two weeks. The reserves had increased by $277.38 billion and $544.7 million respectively in the previous two weeks.

According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Weekly Statistical Supplement, India’s foreign currency assets, the biggest component of the forex reserves, dropped by $1.29 billion to $247.92 billion for the week ended Sep 27.

The foreign currency assets, expressed in the US dollar term, include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies held in reserve, such as the pound sterling, euro and yen.

However, India’s reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) jumped by $177.7 million to $2.19 billion and the value of the special drawing rights (SDRs) increased by $1.1 million to $4.42 billion.

The value of India’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $21.72 billion during the week under review.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 7 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">"Incursion reports baseless", says Pak

Terming baseless the narrative in the Indian media about incursions and infiltrations from Pakistan on the Line of Control, Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir on Sunday called for a "broad range engagement" between the two countries to improve ties.

Whipping up frenzy and creating hysteria did no good to anybody. Rather than commenting on this "very negative narrative, we have been saying that let the two competent authorities, the military authorities, deal with the situation," Mr Bashir told journalists in Hyderabad.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 7 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Telangana impact: Blackout continues

On the second consecutive day on Monday, the impact of the indefinite strike by the Joint Action Committees of Seemandhra and power employees continued to cause misery to the common man in all the 13 districts in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

The public felt the pinch of lack of power, as they could not draw money from ATMs while suffering shortage of water and petrol. Even emergency medical services were hit while lakhs of mobile phones went dead as they could not be charged.

The impact was mainly due to the complete shutdown of the Vijayawada Thermal Power Station (VTPS), Rayalaseema Thermal Power Station (RTPS), Sileru-Donkarayi hydel power station and the right canal of Srisailam hydel project.

Close to 5,000 MW of power generation has been completely halted, including supply from three private thermal plants — Reliance, Lanco and Spectrum. Over 145 sub-stations have been shut down and the estimated power shortage is almost half of the total State requirement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 8 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Prithvi-II test-fired successfully

India on Monday successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear-capable Prithvi-II missile with a strike range of 350 km from a test range at Chandipur.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 8 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC annuls September polls

In a move that may have far-reaching political and constitutional consequences, by a 4-3 verdict, the Maldivian Supreme Court annulled the first-round of presidential polls of 7 September, and ordered fresh first-round by 19 October and a second-round, if needed, by 4 November. Upholding allegations of bogus-voting, and citing police forensic experts’ reports in this regard, the majority verdict laid down a 16-point guideline for the Election Commission (EC) to conduct fresh elections.

In doing so, the majority judgment, which excluded Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, sought to silence possible criticism about an enveloping constitutional crisis should delayed polls lead to a presidential vacuum when power-transfer became due on 11 November. There is nothing to suggest that the incumbent (President Waheed) should not continue, the Judges averred.

The EC promptly welcomed the court verdict, and fixed 19 October for first-round polls. All contesting candidates, including President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, promised to cooperate with the EC decision, based on the SC verdict. President Waheed announced his intention not to contest the fresh polls, after the SC vetoed the EC ruling against inter-election withdrawals, but reversed his earlier decision to back PPM’s Abdulla Yameen in the non-starter of the second round. He would stay neutral, President Waheed, with a low 5.5 percent vote-share declared, after Thasmeen Also, his DRP running-mate from the annulled polls, crossed over to the rival camp, and promised support to MDP’s Mohammed Nasheed, the front-runner in the annulled polls.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 7-12 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Priority for human rights

President Thein Sein highlighted seven points, giving priority to establishment of an ASEAN Community as well as improving human rights as Myanmar assumes the chair of the ASEAN bloc of nations for 2014.

Thein Sein was giving an acceptance speech at the 23rd ASEAN Summit held in Brunei on October 9, vouching that Myanmar would continue working together with members states to create a better future for the region. The President highlighted that Myanmar would focus on climate change, natural disaster management, security, transnational crime, food and energy security, small-and-medium enterprises and human rights issues.

He also said that priority would be given to the establishment of an ASEAN Community in accord with national objectives of each country. Thein Sein thanked the remaining ASEAN countries for their encouragement and support for enabling Myanmar to take the role of ASEAN chairmanship.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Amnesty for 56 prisoners

Myanmar released 56 political prisoners in a presidential amnesty on Tuesday, the same day peace talks began between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Nearly all the prisoners of conscience released had been arrested for their connection with ethnic armed groups or their members. They were imprisoned for unlawful association in accordance with Act 17(1), said Ye Aung, a member of the scrutiny committee for remaining political prisoners.

Among the prisoners released by the presidential amnesty, 27 are from the Kachin Independence Organization/ Army (KIO/KIA), 20 are from Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), and 4 are from the Rehabilitation Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA). Political prisoners of national races, such as Palaung and Naga, are also represented among those released yesterday.

In April, 93 prisoners of conscience were released. In May the number was 23. In July, 73 political prisoners were released by presidential amnesty with the approval of the scrutinizing committee for remaining political prisoners.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Benefits sought from SEZ

Residents of forty-two villages in Kyaukphyu Township, Rakhine State, issued a list of mandates that need to be met before they will cease protesting the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be implemented in their area.

The demands, issued on 9 October, include implementing regulations for local area development, paid compensation for seized land, increased career opportunities for those within the SEZ and the systematic resettlement of relocated villagers.

"In the Shwe gas pipeline project, made us many promises and then imprisoned us when we staged protests after these promises were broken," Tun Lwin said. "Now, we simply want to avoid similar injustices. We will protest this SEZ project until our demands are fulfilled."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 11 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No talks yet with Taliban’

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud has said that the government has not directly spoken to the Taliban about the announced peace negotiations but if any jirga is called, it will be welcomed and provided full security.

Mehsud has also stated that the TTP does not want to talk through the media. It does not want to listen to the government’s conditions and put forward its own conditions through the media.

The TTP chief has said that the scheduled withdrawal of NATO and US forces from Afghanistan will not change the situation in Pakistan and that it will continue operations as it remains opposed to the friendship between Pakistan and the US. It also wants to establish a more Islamic form of government. Mehsud has stated that if USA stops drone attacks then the TTP will consider stopping violence. He has also disowned the blasts that have recently been taking place in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 9 October 2013; Dawn, 9 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban denies death of Mullah Radio

Media reports state that at least three Taliban commanders were killed in a clash between Pakistani and Afghan Taliban on 10 October, 2013. This clash took place in north-eastern Kunar, Afghanistan adjacent to the Pakistan border.

Sources say that Mullah Fazlullah, also known as ’Mullah Radio’ was one of those killed. The Taliban, however, deny this claim. They stress that no Swat Taliban commander or fighter died in this clash.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 10 October 2013; Dawn, 10 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kayani announces Nov retirement

Chief of Army Staff, Ashfaq Kayani, on 6 October 2013, officially announced that he will be retiring in November. This puts to rest speculations concerning whether Kayani would try to extend his three year term for a third time.

But, he did not directly address the reports that after retirement he would take over as the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. This appointment would mean that Kayani remained the de facto head of the military.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Reuters, 6 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU human rights prize for Malala

Pakistani activist, 16 year old Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for better rights for girls has won the European Union’s annual human rights award on 10 October, 2013. She beat US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden for the honour.

She was also tipped as a favourite for the Nobel Peace Prize but on 11 October, 2013, that award went to the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which was established to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention and recently sent inspectors to dismantle Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

The Taliban has announced that it will attack Malala again if it gets the opportunity. They said the first attack was not because she went to school but because she made anti-Taliban and anti-Islam remarks.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera; The Express Tribune; The Nation; BBC News, 7-11 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Musharraf rearrested for Lal Masjid

Pakistan’s former military ruler, Gen (retd), Pervez Musharraf, was granted bail in three cases and on 9 October, 2013, his later said he was cleared to leave the country. But on 10 October, 2013, he was rearrested in the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) killing case.

He has been put under house arrest according to a senior official of the Islamabad police. A spokesperson of his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party has confirmed the arrest and stated that they will now apply for bail in this latest case.

The Lal Masjid operation was a 2007 government crackdown on the controversial pro-Taliban mosque in Islamabad, which ended in a bloody eight-day siege killing at least 58 Pakistani troops and seminary students. This operation followed a week-long standoff between supporters of the mosque and security forces.

A magistrate refused to grant five-day remand of Musharraf in the Ghazi Abdul Rasheed murder case because he failed to appear before the court in person.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 11 October 2013; The Express Tribune, 11 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt assessing poll security

As part of its preparations for the November 19 election, the Ministry of Home Affairs has started a ’micro assessment’ of the security situation across the country. The move follows threats from the CPN-Maoist-led 33-party alliance to boycott and disrupt the second Constituent Assembly polls.

In his briefing to officials and journalists, Home Minister Madhav Ghimire said the Nepal Army has not been mobilised against any particular party, group or individual.

The assessment that began from Dhangadi in the Far West will be carried out in all the five development regions. There will be series of meetings to find shortcomings, assess the challenges in holding the polls, and discuss possible interference from poll-opposing forces.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 8 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Alam declared dead

CPN-UML leader and election candidate Mohammad Alam, who was shot in Bara last week, was declared dead on 10 October in Kathmandu. Alam was shot in the head by two unidentified persons when he got out of the car to talk on the phone in front of Chasawati Pulse Mill.

Crowds of party cadres, leaders, kin and well-wishers thronged his home in Lipanimal, Bara. Visitors at Alam’s house called his death an irreparable loss for Nepali politics and the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 10 October 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah

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