MonitorsPublished on Jun 29, 2012
On June 2, 2012, The News International reported, that in the Dera Ismail Khan district of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan the 11-year-old Niazmina and her two-year-old sister Bakhtawar were given as compensation to the house of Juma Khan for the crime that their uncle, Muhammad Ikram, had committed.
Pakistan: Girls as compensation for crimes
< class="heading1">Analysis

On June 2, 2012, The News International reported, that in the Dera Ismail Khan district of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan the 11-year-old Niazmina and her two-year-old sister Bakhtawar were given as compensation to the house of Juma Khan for the crime that their uncle, Muhammad Ikram, had committed.

Muhammad Ikram had allegedly entered Juma Khan’s house with the intention of harassing his wife. When Juma Khan heard about the incident, he reported it immediately to the Kulachi police station, and hours later divorced his wife. After that, the issue was taken to a local, traditional jury that decided that Muhammad Ikram’s nieces were to be given in marriage to Juma Khan and his son, to settle the dispute between the two families.

Unfortunately, this is not a one-off incident. Every so often similar reports surface from all over Pakistan. The custom of handing over minor girls or women as compensation for crimes that adult males from the same family have committed is known as ’swara’ in NWFP, ’vani’ in Punjab, and ’sang chatti’ in Sindh ? or simply, swara.

Madadgaar Pakistan, an NGO that has been compiling data on violations of women’s and children’s rights for 10 years, reported 29 cases of swara during the year 2010. However, this data is based merely on reports in the mainstream print media, so the actual number of cases remains a mystery. This custom is generally considered un-Islamic and is instead rooted deep in tribal tradition. To get a better understanding of the phenomenon, there is a need to understand the reasoning behind it among the Pakhtun people, while at the same time keeping in mind that its practice is not limited to this ethnic group.

The lives of Pakhtuns are controlled by a traditional code of conduct called ’Pakhtunwali’ that guides all aspects of Pakhtun behaviour and often supersedes the laws of Islam and of the federal Government. Honour and reciprocity play a very large role in this system. To maintain honour, one is obliged to repay hospitality with hospitality (’melmastya’) and crime or insult with revenge (’badal’). Revenge in defence of honour varies from seizure of the opponent’s property or of hostages, to beating him up, or in more serious cases, blood revenge. Murder, fornication or adultery with a woman, deliberate, severe bodily harm or any other action that may be considered a major insult, according to the Pakhtunwali, is enough to justify blood revenge.

An act of revenge is often paid back with another, which can lead the opposing parties into a vicious circle. Because of this, even seemingly minor offences, like a dog attempting to drink from a well that is under the control of a rival clan, have been known to escalate into protracted tribal warfare. An unresolved blood feud can linger on for years, even if it leads to only one or two murders.

To put an end to a serious dispute, the case is typically taken to a ’jirga’, a court-like public assembly of tribal elders. The jirga will then decide what kind of compensation must be paid by the offender to the aggrieved party to resolve the issue. The solution offered by the jirga is often more permanent in nature, than any sort of conflict resolution done through the police or the State legal system.

This is because in a jirga, the decision to end the feud is negotiated between the tribes or families themselves. Sometimes the jirga orders the offender to pay blood money, but in cases where it is not considered enough -- or when the offender isn’t rich enough -- he must give one or more daughters from his family in marriage to the aggrieved side.

Handing over one or more girls in marriage is considered to be the most lasting solution to a feud among the Pakhtuns. The idea is that doing this will create a blood bond between the two sides, thus making them a part of the same family. Usually a woman from the aggrieved family will go into the house of the offender and choose one or more girls that are to be taken. The brides-to-be don’t have any say in the matter themselves, and more often than not, they are still minors. They are punished for the crimes that their father, uncle or other close male relative committed.

Arranged marriages are the norm among Pakhtuns outside of the swara custom. However, what makes the situation much worse for a girl given as swara is that she will in many cases be considered an enemy throughout her life in the household she is given into in marriage. This can lead her to remain socially ostracised, tortured and enslaved. In addition, even though the girl is supposed to move into the enemy’s household only when she attains puberty, the enemy will often demand her to be given in advance, just to make the punished family suffer more. Originally, tradition required only one girl to be given, but later the number of girls became a question of status, so that giving at least two brides became the rule.

Often the parents of a swara victim wish for her death before she has to enter the house of their enemy, for if the girl dies beforehand, the dispute will still be considered settled and the victim is freed from a life of suffering. Consequently, suicides are not uncommon among girls declared swara. Instead, if the decision of the jirga is not honoured, the house of the family maybe burned down, or the girls chosen for swara ordered to be abducted, raped or killed.

As a result of a popular documentary by the anthropologist Samar Minallah called "Swara: A Bridge Over Troubled Water", awareness of this unjust tradition has grown immensely during the last nine years. Increased awareness has forced Pakistan’s law-makers to take action, and in recent years several bills and amendments` to earlier laws have been passed to try and bring an end to the custom ? not just among Pakhtuns but among all ethnic groups in the country. Nevertheless, recent legislation has failed to wipe out the practice completely.

The most recent Bill targeting the custom is the Prevention of Anti-Women Practises Act 2011. However, this Bill too has lacuna. The Act terms swara a non-cognisable offence, which means that the police cannot interfere in the jirga proceedings on the implementation of the custom. Consequently, by the time the police come with warrants, a girl’s destiny could already have been sealed. Secondly, the Act leaves it unclear whether marriages under the swara custom should be dissolved and who would decide whether such a case would be taken to court. Thirdly, by directing the punishment to whoever "gives" a girl into marriage as swara, the Act only penalises the parents or the elders of the girl, and doesn’t hold the other party responsible at all.

Even if these laws aren’t perfect, they are still a huge improvement on those in the recent past, when swara was not considered a crime. Another promising step towards eradicating the custom took place on May 29, when a gathering of 800 tribal elders, religious scholars and political activists unanimously declared swara un-Islamic, heartless and antithetical to Pakhtun women’s rights in a convention titled "A step towards recognising women’s rights in FATA". Never before in history have so many tribal elders assembled together to improve the rights of tribal women. Thi may be a sign of a larger trend of increasing awareness of women’s rights among the jirgas around Pakistan, and that in the future innocent girls and women will no longer be persecuted for crimes they didn’t commit.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal: Maoists’ split threaten to derail political process

By Akanshya Shah
The split in the ruling Maoist party has the potential to derail the Constitution-writing process in Nepal by pushing the country into a deeper political turmoil. The break-up has come at a time of huge political and constitutional vacuum created after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on May 27, and has the potential to destabilise the nation as a whole.

After a long-drawn internal party struggle, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) finally split on June 18 when the hardline faction led by Mohan Baidhya ’Kiran’ announced theformation of a new party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. The decision was taken at the end of a three-day national gathering of cadres associated with the ’Kiran’ faction. The new party will have a 44-member central committee but its new leadership structure is yet to be decided.

Many senior Maoist leaders like Ram Bahadur Thapa ’Badal’, C P Gajurel, Dev Gurung, Netra Bikram Chand ’Biplab’ and others have sided with Baidhya. These leaders were in the forefront during the Maoist movement. They are mostly grassroots leaders who had popular support in the remote parts of the country.

The main contention of the Maoist hardliners over which the split occurred was the acceptance of a "Democratic Republic" by Chairman Prachanda, who choose the line of peace and Constitution, represented by vice-chairman and current Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai. The new party has termed two key decisions of Prachanda - collaboration with democratic parties in 2005 and signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006 - as major mistakes. Baidya and several members of his faction were in Indian jails when Prachanda signed the 12-point agreement with the seven-party alliance in New Delhi in 2005.

The hardliners were also unhappy with the manner in which the integration process of erstwhile Maoist militant cadres into the nation’s armed forces was being carried out. They termed the Army mobilisation into the cantonments in the beginning of the year as "humiliating" and a "complete surrender". The ’Kiran’ faction encouraged the former combatants to opt for voluntary retirement instead of choosing for integration in Nepal Army as they labelled the entire process flawed. They criticised Prachanda for compromising on the party line and Maoist ideology, on which their "people’s war" had been based.

Significantly, the Central Committee meeting of the dissident faction endorsed a political document that proposed revolt as its main political line and termed the acceptance of the CPA as one of the major mistakes. In the document Kiran said, "The objective circumstances are favourable for a revolution. We should now create the subjective circumstances for revolution."

The break-up will weaken the Maoist party, which emerged as the single largest party in the CA polls in 2008. Prachanda’s own stature has significantly dented after the split although he has said that Baidhya’s new party will "lose relevance" sooner than later. Prachanda is also silently supporting the petition by Nepali Congress law-makers to revive the dissolved House to complete the Constitution-writing task. The revival could restore his position as the leader of the largest party in the House and he may be able to seek disqualification of party members who have formed the new party under the anti-defection law.

But the split will further derail Constitution-writing. The division in the Maoist party over the key issues of peace process and constitution making was visible soon after the signing of the CPA when Baidhya group opposed the ’democratic republican’ line followed by Prachanda. In the beginning of the peace process, they demanded declaration of a republic and a fully proportional representation-based electoral system for the CA polls. This delayed the holding of CA polls.

When Prachanda took charge, the hardliners pushed for radical changes. The Katawal episode, which led to the fall of the Maoist Government, was a direct fallout of this. While the Maoists were out of Government between 2009 and 2011, Baidhya and his supporters demanded that the party adopt the line of ’revolt’ instead of ’peace and Constitution’. Although Baidhya supported Bhattarai’s nomination as the prime ministerial candidate in August 2011, he opposed the four-point agreement signed between the Maoists and the Madhesi parties. It obstructed every Government decision thereafter and organised street protests when the CA was dissolved in May. If the new party takes to violence as the path to attain their stated objective, the country will be pushed into further instability. Already, ethnic tensions are on the rise over State-restructuring. And even if the new party shuns violence, the radical line adopted by Baidya will destabilise the situation. Although there is reduced possibility of another armed struggle, the new party may reorganise the former combatants who have opted for voluntary retirement. Of the 9,705 combatants who had opted for integration in the first phase of categorisation in November last year, only 3,129 choose to integrate with the Army by April 19, 2012, the time set for the completion of the voluntary retirement process in all cantonments. The Special Committee Secretariat tally marked 6,576 combatants as having opted for voluntary retirement. They have since been released from the cantonments.

And finally, radicalism will be strengthened in the name of nationalism and anti-Indianism. It must be remembered that one of the major differences between the Establishment faction and the Baidhya group in the Maoist party has been over the position regarding the role of India. While Prachanda and Dr Bhattarai termed the Indian role in the peace process as ’constructive’ and New Delhi engaged with these leaders at different levels, Baidhya raised the issue of "protecting national independence". He accused the duo of having a "special relation" with India and blamed the southern neighbour for several problems plaguing Nepal at present.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Additional Indian troops along border

India will deploy an additional 8,000 troops along its borders with Nepal and Bhutan by next month to ensure effective patrolling at these frontiers.

The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) guards the 1,751-km Indo-Nepal and 699-km Indo-Bhutan borders.The SSB chief has said that the border guarding force has also begun creating new Border Out-Posts (BOPs) at these frontiers and these freshly trained troops will be stationed to man these units and patrol the ’open’ frontier.

At present, India has 450 BoPs along the Indo-Nepal border and the distance between two BoPs is 4.5 km. According to the security strengthening plan for the Nepal border, over the next five years, 89 new BoPs will be created with the aim to reduce the inter-BoP distance to 3.47 km. The Nepal border is prone to smuggling of fake Indian currency, arms, narcotics and other items while it has also come to light that terrorists are making use of the border to cross over to India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 28, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese concern

Ai Ping, the point-person in the Communist Party of China (CPC) on South Asian affairs, met CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal on June 30. During the meeting, Ai expressed his concern over the political impasse in Nepal following the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, problems surfaced in the peace process and constitution drafting.

Emerging from the meeting, Khanal said the Chinese delegation suggested all the political parties to move ahead in unity to resolve political deadlock. Ai also said that China was ever ready to assist in any ways for the prosperity of Nepal and its people. Senior UML leader K P Oli and General Secretary Ishwor Pokhrel were present during the meeting.

Ai is the Vice-Minister at the International Department of the CPC. This is the first high-level visit from the north following the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly on May 27.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 30, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Graft: New PM not to write to Swiss

The new Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf stated on June 24 that his policy on writing a Swiss letter to open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari is no different from that of his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani. Refusing to write the letter was why the Supreme Court disqualified Gilani a week earlier.

In his speech, Ashraf played down the importance of the order to write the letter and said that for the time being, he will give priority to resolving the ongoing energy crisis and the maintenance of law and order. The SC has already been requested to issue a show-cause notice to Ashraf for intending to defy the Court’s order. The petition was filed by Maulvi Iqbal Haider.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The News International, June 25, 2012; Daily Times, June 27, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ordinance protects Gilani orders

President Asif Ali Zardari has issued an ordinance to give constitutional protection to the decisions made by former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from April 26 to June 19. The legality of the decisions made by the Prime Minister during this time period came into question, after the Supreme Court retroactively declared Gilani disqualified from membership of Parliament from the date of his conviction.

On June 26, journalist Shahid Orakzai filed a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the lawfulness of the President’s actions concerning Gilani. He requested the court to suspend the implementation of the ordinance.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The News International, June 24, 2012; Daily Times, June 27, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India seen as the top threat

According to a survey of Pakistan by the Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes Project, Pakistanis viewed India as the top threat to their country. Almost six in ten Pakistanis consider India a bigger threat than the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, and only one in five have a favourable view of India.

Conversely, Indian attitudes towards Pakistan also remain largely negative, with roughly six-in-ten Indians expressing an unfavourable opinion of Pakistan. The two countries agree that Kashmir should be a priority for their countries. Approximately eight-in-ten Pakistanis and six-in-ten Indians say it is very important to resolve the dispute over Kashmir.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The News International, June 29, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Another US drone strike

The US conducted a drone strike in Pakistan’s north-western tribal district on June 26. An unmanned aircraft targeted a military compound in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, killing at least five militants. The area is considered to be a hot spot of Taliban and al-Qaeda activity.

All those killed were fighters linked with local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Bahadur, who is allied with Afghan Taliban, is accused of fighting US-led troops across the border. The strike is just one in a series of many targeted attacks that the US has carried out inside Pakistan’s territory recently.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, June 26, 2012.

Sri Lanka

India has expressed its displeasure over the failure on the part of the Sri Lankan Government of Sri Lanka to break the deadlock in the process of evolving a political solution to the national question, to address land issues in the north and to scale down the presIndia’s National Security Advisor Shiv Sanker Menon, during his one day visit to Sri Lanka held talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa over various issues.

Particular emphasis was laid on the political solution. Menon said that his government had increasingly come under domestic compulsions over the impasse in working out a political solution to Tamil speaking people here. During the visit of the Indian parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka in April, Lok Sabha Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj stressed that the stalemate in talks between the TNA and the government should be broken anyhow, and the two sides should resume political talks. Also, she said that the TNA should be persuaded to join the proposed parliamentary select committee if the Government considers it as the only viable forum to resolve the problem.

However, Menon reportedly raised India’s concerns over the failure on the part of the Government and the TNA to find a way forward. After the meeting, he briefed Indian journalists based in Colombo and said, "I discussed recent developments, bilateral relations and areas of common concern. I was also briefed about steps being taken by the Government of Sri Lanka on political reconciliation and settlement. While this is a Sri Lankan issue and something that Sri Lanka has to do, we will continue to remain engaged with all concerned and offer any support required in this regard.

"India has always stood for a united Sri Lanka within which all citizens can live in equality, justice, dignity and self-respect. We have worked closely with the Government of Sri Lanka on relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs. India’s assistance was appreciated by the Sri Lankan leadership in all my meetings. We remain committed to continue our cooperation." TNA leader R. Sampanthan told the Daily Mirror that he saw this visit as a further step in India’s involvement in getting a political solution to the ’Tamil-speaking people’. He said he discussed with Mr. Menon the reasons for the collapse of bipartisan political talks, and the issue over the participation in the select committee. "We do not want to sound rigid in this case. We want the select committee to function purposefully and meaningfully. Yet, there are matters concerning us. They cannot be disposed of in a flippant way," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA protest not now

Only after the dialogue, and actions taken through democratic means exhaust, will the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) resort to satyagraha campaign. It will be a peaceful non-violent struggle based on the principles ahimsa, party leader R Sampanthan said in an interview.

"If the Sri Lankan Government does not deliver a political solution and does not resolve the problems we are presently confronted with, particularly on the questions of lands, militarization, so on and so forth, then we will at the appropriate stage after having made all efforts to resolve it through dialogue and through democratic means exposed, then we will engage in a peaceful non-violent struggle," he said further.

"We will fast, we will inflict pain upon ourselves, we will gather together and we will pray and we will carry on the non-violent satyagraha campaign according to the teaching of Mahathma Gandhi, something similar in line with our 1961 satyagraha," he clarified. Asked if the TNA has given any time frame for staging the satyagraha campaign, Sampanthan said, "No, we have not given any time-frame and in the course of my speech in Batticaloa, I have said that the satyagraha will come about only after all our efforts are exhausted. But in case if we don’t succeed that will be inevitable and will take place.

Asked as to what he meant by calling for a political solution within a ’united Sri Lanka’, Sampanthan said, "Undivided Sri Lanka. That means one Sri Lanka ... Single Sri Lanka, a territorially-united country." Responding to another question of what form of government you expect under a united and undivided Sri Lanka, Sampanthan said, "We are thinking of a Government that will contemplate maximum possible devolution in keeping a devolution sharing of power on the basis of a shared sovereignty within the central Government and the regional Governments."

< class="text11verdana">Source:Asian Tribune, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">STF frees jailor-hostages

The three jailors who were held hostage for nearly 18 hours by 32 LTTE suspects were rescued in a joint operation by the Special Task Force (STF) and prison guards.

The STF fired teargas into the cells in which the LTTE suspects were holding the hostages. The cells were forced open and the three jailors were rescued at about 11.30 am yesterday. They were admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital.

The hostage drama began on Thursday night when LTTE suspects took the three senior jailors hostage and demanded the authorities to bring back the three inmates who were transferred to Boosa from Vavuniya.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terrorism: India for coordination

Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, has called for a coordinated effort aimed at rooting out the syndicate of terrorism that has derailed the security situation in Afghanistan. Hardeep Singh, while speaking during the UN Security Council debate, identified the external sponsored terrorism as one of the main problems in Afghanistan and called attention to the pressing need for a stable environment that allows for an inclusive political process in Afghanistan.

India has lately been trying to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue .This move defines India’s role at peace in the region and playing big brother to the war torn Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, June 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strategic pact with Norway soon

A draft strategic pact between Norway and Afghanistan has been prepeared to be inked b very soon. The statement issued by Presidential Palace further added, the strategic pact between Afghanistan and Norway was discussed during a meeting between President Karzai and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas GahrStøre, who said it was finalized and ready for signing between the two countries this coming September.

President Karza in his statement expressed his gratitude to his Norwegian counterpart for the helping hand extended to it and seemed very hopeful of the future that the two countries aim to forge together.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, June 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 10-b SAIL pact this month

Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani on Thursday announced that the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) may sign the final pact with Afghanistan by July-end to develop a steel plant, a thermal power plant that involves a total investment of over $10 billion.

The Afghan Iron and Steel Consortium had emerged as the preferred bidder for mining exploration rights at three iron ore mines at Hajigak, having an estimated reserve of 1.7 billion tonnes.

Minister Shahrani also vowed to ensure the supply of coking coal, an important raw material for steel making. The Indian consortium had placed the raw material security as a pre- condition for setting up the steel plant.

SAIL Chairman C S Verma had earlier said the consortium proposes to set up of a 6.12 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) steel plant in Afghanistan in two phases of 3.06 MT each, subject to Afghanistan government making available linkages for coking coal and limestone in requisite volumes.

There is also plan to build a 800 MW power plant in two phases of 400 MW each to cater to the operations of the mine and steel plant. As part of building necessary internal infrastructural support, the consortium plans to build 200 kms each of rail, road and transmission line network for the mine and steel project.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, June 26,2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Election conundrum

Politics this week centred on the debate whether election should take place under democratic Government or an interim government. Rashed Khan Menon, president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh and also a ruling alliance law-maker, opined that the Awami League-led alliance Government should amend the Constitution once again to ensure free and fair polls. The reason he cited was that the current provision cannot ensure a level playing field for incumbent law-makers and the aspirants and it stipulates no specific framework for election-time interim administration.

Article 123 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that the General Elections must be conducted within 90 days before the dissolution of Parliament. The Article was reincorporated in the Constitution when the Awami League-led alliance Government effected the 15th Amendment in 2011 scrapping the provision for a non-party caretaker administration system, which had overseen three national elections since 1996. Menon’s assertions came at a time when the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance demanding revival of the non-party caretaker government system which they feel will ensure credible national elections. The ruling alliance had rejected the opposition’s demand.

Reacting to Menon’s comment senior Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta informed that there was no scope to touch the constitution right now and the next general election would be held as it was prescribed in the constitution. BNP standing committee member Barrister Moudud Ahmed strongly opposed the government’s plan of holding the next general election(likely to be held in 2013) under present government without dissolving the parliament and informed that such an arrangement will not be acceptable.

In fact, BNP is planning a mass contact programme, before the month of Ramadan, to garner support for the caretaker government system. Interestingly, the mass contact programme of the opposition is being viewed in political circles as a definitive climb down on BNP’s threat of on launching tougher action. BNP chief Khaleda Zia earlier in June 11 threatened that the 18-party alliance would go for tougher action?including hartal (street protest) and siege?after the holy Eid-ul-Fitr if the government did not accept the opposition demand.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Independent, June 26 & 29, 2012/ New Age, June 26& June 27, 2012/ The Daily Star, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fundamentalists’ economy growing

Eminent economist Dr Abul Barkat claimed in the week that the degree of communalisation of economy has increased radically over the last four decades. Barkat opined that the growing economic strength of fundamentalists has created the opportunity for setting up of a strong base of politics of fundamentalism in Bangladesh. To Barkat the net profit of ’economy of fundamentalism’ can be estimated at Tk 2,000 crore annually in Bangladesh. Major portion of this profit comes from different financial organisations like banks, insurance and leasing companies.

Barkat made these claims during a meeting organised by Ekattorer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee, the group which mainly pleded for the trial of the war criminals.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Daily Star, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to invest $ 2b in power sector

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) will provide around $US 2 billion for Bangladesh’s power sector to install coal fired power plants. Power Development Board (PDB) is set to install two big (600MW x 2) coal-fired power plants and thes projects will be funded by JBIC. Feasibility study will be carried out in four locations in the country to install 1200 MW of coal based power plants.

Earlier, the PDB completed pre-feasibility study at Sangu (South), Anwara, Matarbari and Moheshkhali in Chittagong district.

The Government is planning to use coal as fuel for power generation by setting up seven coal-based plants with a total output of 4,000MW by 2014. Since there are debates over the method of extracting the country’s coal, so PBP is examining the import option.

At present, natural gas fuels 82 per cent of the power generated in the country, furnace oil fuels five per cent, diesel seven percent, while water and coal make up for a total of six per cent. Some reports claimed that the country might import coal from South Africa or Australia.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Independent, June 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade volume up in border haats

Opening of the haats along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya, the two countries have raised the volume of trade from $ 50 to $ 100 for each trader marking success of this initiative.

Commodities which are allowed for trading in this haats includes garments, melamine products, processed food items, fruit juice, toiletries, cosmetics, plastic products, aluminium products and cookeries produced in either of the countries, for bonafide family and personal consumption. The two haats which are now operational are both in Meghalaya.

< class="text11verdana">, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint border management with Myanmar

Dhaka is contemplating upon signing a ’coordinated border management plan’ with Myanmar during a visit of Myanmar’s President Thein Sein. The main motivating behind the agreement is to curb crimes in the borders between the two neighbours.

A draft of the proposed agreement has already been prepared, which also aims at containing cross-border terrorism and reducing border tensions between the two friendly countries. President Thein Sein is expected to come to Bangladesh on a three-day state visit beginning on July 15.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:The Independent, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rain claims over 110 lives

Over 110 people died and thousands rendered homeless as floods and landslides swept three southern districts of Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong and Bandar ban due to torrential rain. Normal live in Chittagong, the second largest city was disrupted due to heavy raining. Services at the Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong halted for 36 hours.

Arrangement for flood and rescue operation was made by the government. Flood is almost an annual phenomenon in Bangladesh which adversely affects the lives of people. In fact natural calamity is claimed to be one of the prominent reason behind migration of people from rural to urban areas.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:The Daily Star, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RTI put on hold

The Right to Information (RTI) Act that was tabled in Parliament during the 10th Session did not pass the floor-test since it did not muster enough votes. The proposed bill received nine votes in the National Council with eight members abstaining and six voted negative.

The motion was moved by Gasa’s National Council member, Sangay Khandu, with two recommendations that called for RTI awareness to be carried out throughout the country and not just in the capital. The second recommendation was to have the proposed law to be discussed as an urgent Bill in the current secession of Parliament.

Owing to the importance of the proposed Bill, a few members felt that it should not be passed in haste ad they needed time for enacting a comprehensive law thorough deliberations.

< class="text11verdana">, June 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BHEL bags contract worth Rs.950 crore

Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL) has secured the contract from Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA) for the electro-mechanical equipment package for a 1,020MW (6x170 MW) Hydroelectric project, valued at Rs 950 crore.

The company is also executing the 1,200 MW Punatsangchhu-I project which is being set-up under a bilateral agreement between India and Bhutan. Located around 80 Km from Thimphu on the banks of the Punathsangchu River in Western Bhutan, the project is an environment friendly run-of-the-river scheme.

BHEL has, so far, executed three hydro projects - 336 MW Chukha, 60 MW Kurichu and 1,020 MW Tala in Bhutan. These projects account for nearly 95% of the total power generating capacity in Bhutan.

For this contract, the six turbines and generators of 170 MW each and associated equipment will be manufactured and supplied by BHEL’s Bhopal facility while the Control system will be manufactured and supplied by the company’s Electronic Division at Bangalore.

< class="text11verdana">, June 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tatas to enter the power sector

Tata Power has approach the Indian Government to formulate a policy that allows a private company to undertake large capacity hydro electric projects in Bhutan and sell power generated to India.

Tata Power has recently had discussions with Bhutan Government officials for development of larger projects. While the response from the Bhutanese Government has been quite positive, the company has been advised to take up the matter with the Indian Government so that Tata Power could be permitted to undertake co-development in Bhutan, in addition to the public sector undertakings of the Indian Government.

Under the current policy, such development support is routed through NHPC or other PSUs (public sector undertakings) which have been exclusively mandated by the Indian Government for development of hydro power projects in Bhutan. Similarly, PSUs alone are mandated for sale of power in India.

Tata Power has been associated in the co-development in t he Dacachu hydroelectricity project (125 MW capacity) and can export all the generated electricity to India after its commission in 2014. Similarly, long distance 400 kV power evacuation systems between Bhutan and India to transmit power from Tala hydro electric project has been constructed and operated by Tata Power under joint venture with Power Grid Corporation of India Limited Tata Power said it was, therefore, important that a recommendation in this regard should come from the highest level to explore all possibilities in this direction.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 25, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Revising the tax structure

The Income Tax Act has not been amended for last 10 and half years. The implementation of the Act began in January 1, 2002. Thus, the National Council yesterday, called the attention of the government to rationalise the policies on income taxes. Lhuentse’s representative, MP Rinzin Rinzin moved the motion that aims to amendment the Tax laws, which has not been revisited for more than a decade.

He said that the tax structure should be a means to bridge the gap between the rich and poor and well as ensuring that earning of individuals do not creat a situation, where one can even afford to buy the country

The proposals to the existing tax system included in increase in the basic exemption level, increase in the highest taxable income slab, and explore the possibility of increasing the current tax rate for the highest taxable income slab.

The House resolved to submit a set of recommendations related to the increase ceiling of Personal Income Tax and educational expenses, revisiting the current practice of levying Business Income Tax, develop policy interventions to provide some form of business tax waivers and to levy same business income tax to all the commercial institutions in Bhutan.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Improving trade ties with Bangladesh

The Government has lifted a restriction it imposed about two months back on importing a number of products from Bangladesh and some other countries. These largely pertain to products like fruit juices and energy drinks.

In April the Government had imposed a ban on importing motor vehicles, furniture, all types of juices and energy drinks, wine, beer and liquor, chips, noodles, cakes and wafers. This decision was taken to address its depleting foreign exchange reserve. The ban on the remaining items, other than all types of fruit juices and energy drinks, will remain unchanged, a trade official said.

The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) officials said they had already informed the exporters concerned including ’PRAN’ relating to the latest decision. Bangladesh’s export of fruit juice and energy drinks to Bhutan is almost half of its total export earnings, which is worth $3.12 million per annum. The other export items from Bangladesh to Bhutan include ready-made garments, pharmaceuticals, melamine, toilet soap, dry food, fruit juice, energy drinks and mineral water.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 25, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Monastery destroyed in fire to be rebuilt

The Prime Minster, Jigmi Thinley has promised that the historic 17th century Wangdue Phodrang temple, destroyed by fire on June 24, will be rebuilt. He also said that the destruction of the temple "had pierced our hearts". Most of the temple’s artefacts were saved however, and the cause for the fire has not yet been identified.

Built in 1639, it is perched on a 1,350 m (4,440 ft) ridge at the confluence of two rivers. The prime minister said that the temple would be rebuilt in the same way that the Tiger’s Lair temple - destroyed by fire in 1998 - was rebuilt five years later.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Saudis help nab 26/11 handler

Saudi Arabia has helped India with a major breakthrough in the probe into 26/11 attacks by facilitating the arrest Of Syed Zabouddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, one of the key plotters of the Mumbai raid.

Jundal, who directed Ajmal Kasab and other 26/11 attackers from the Lashkar control room, was picked up by the Saudi police, who put him on a New Delhi bound flight after alerting the authorities here about the prize catch.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Times of India, June 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Virbhadra quits over graft charge

Union Minister Virbhadra Singh resigned on Tuesday in the wake of a Himachal court framing corruption charges against him. He is the third minister in the UPA-2 government forced to step down on such grounds.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Source: The Asian Age, June 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM seeks to rev up

Getting down to serious business immediately after taking charge of the Finance portfolio from Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday sought to rev up the country’s economy to a higher gear by reviving the animal spirit, reversing the pessimistic climate and cheering up investor sentiment.

Mukherjee quit as Finance Minister to contest the presidency as the nominee of his Congress-led ruling coalition at the Centre. He has since filed his nomination papers, so has his main contestant and former Lok Sabha Speaker, P A Sangma, who has the backing of the Opposition BJP-led alliance.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, June 28-29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New formula ends IIT discord

Ending weeks of disagreement over a common entrance test for admission to undergraduate engineering courses in the Indian Institutes of Technology, the IIT council on Wednesday approved a fresh formula for admission, based on the rank achieved in the advanced test subject to the condition that students are in the top 20 percentile of successful candidates of their Boards.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, June 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bigger stake in IMF

India is set to become the eighth largest shareholder in the IMF after quota reforms which are likely to be finalised at the multilateral agency’s Annual Meeting at Tokyo in October. Once the quota reforms are carried out, India’s share at IMF is set to rise to 2.75 per cent from 2.44 per cent, making it the eighth largest shareholder in the multilateral agency from its present 11th position.

"The quota reforms at the IMF are likely in October at the Annual Meetings of IMF and World bank in Tokyo," a Finance Ministry official told PTI.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 24, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coal import to meet shortages

The Centre asked Coal India on Friday to import coal to plug local shortages and also to rework its fuel supply with utilities, as the Government puts pressure on the State-run miner to ensure adequate supplies in a bid to boost power generation.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Majlis resolution against Nasheed

The People’s Majlis, or Parliament has passed a resolution to investigate and take necessary action against former President Mohamed Nasheed over allegations of illegal decisions while in power. MPs belonging to his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) raised several points-of-order and addressed the Parliament administration as ’traitors’, forcing the session to be brought to an end due to loss of order.

The resolution against Nasheed was passed with the votes of 38 MPs, following which the decision was made to form a seven-member temporary committee to conduct an assessment of the case. The MDP proposed to form a 77-member committee; however, voting for this proposition did not take place as the seven-member committee proposed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was passed.

PPM’s Thimarafushi MP Ahmed Shareef included two members of MDP in the seven-member committee, following which MDP requested that their names be waived from the list, indicating that MDP does not wish to be included in such a committee.

< class="text11verdana">Source:SunOnline, June 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No other country gives as much as freedom to those raising voice against the govt- Abbas

Miadhu, Friday, June 29th, 2012
Press Secretary Abbas Adil Riza has said that there is no other country which gives as much as freedom to those raising their voice against the government as Maldives.

Speaking to Miadhu Daily, Abbas said that there is nothing that the present administration of President Dr. Mohamed Waheed done to intimidate the media.He said that today under the government of President Dr.Waheed no media is under the control of the government, and the freedom of expression is being fully observed in the Maldives.

"RaajjeTV slanders and spreads false information regarding the government however the security of that station is also maintained by the Police. Even if there might occur something that needs the Police in the area, the Police who are maintaining the security of the RaajjeTV will never abandon," he said.

In view of the recent accusation of the former President Mohamed Nasheed that the government is intimidating the media, Press Secretary Abbas said that Nasheed is trying to deceive the people by mixing up raising the voice against the government and acts of terrorism.

"When a group of arsonists put fire in different state offices, the government will not hesitate to take action against such a group," he said.

Abbas said that during Nasheed’s meeting with the Amnesty International his failure to recall any instances where the police and armed forces intimidated the media and those who oppose the government shows that this is a blatant lie.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Every policy of Nasheed is way beyond bounds- DRP

Miadhu, June 29, 2012
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has said that the policies of the former President Mohamed Nasheed are policies way beyond the bounds.

DRP Council member and Kelaa constituency MP Dr.Mausoom said that there is no plausible reason to vote for opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates.

Dr. Mausoom said that vote should be give to responsible and most capable candidates. He added that the opposition MDP is hijacked by a group of fanatics of Nasheed. He said that all the policies defining the MDP are all made by the former President Nasheed.

"MDP is not attuned to the pulse of the people. The party has been hijacked. The policies of MDP are all extremist. In everything Nasheed goes out of the bounds," he said. He said that the people will never elect him as the President again. He added that the former President will not win in the upcoming election.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PPM, PA form joint parliamentary group

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has said that the joint parliamentary group which is claimed to have been formed among the political parties of the national unity government coalition is only formed by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Peoples’ Alliance (PA).

"We know from the recent statement of the Jumhooree Party that they were not informed of this decision. We have come to know that the Adhaalath Party was also not consulted regarding it. Despite which party MP Muthalib has signed his membership, he is a person who is always affiliated with them. Therefore, Muthalib being in this group does not mean that Adhaalath party has a role in it," he said.

Meanwhile, Jumhooree Party issued a statement regarding the formation of the parliamentary group stating that they have not been informed of such a decision to establish a parliamentary group among the members of the government coalition.

Meanwhile, MPs Hassan Adil and Abdulla Abdul Raheem, formerly of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), respectively, have signed for the Jumhooree Party (JP), taking its parliamentary membership to six in a House of 77.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Haveeru, Miadhu, June 26-27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NLD names Suu Kyi for presidency

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the national League for Democracy had told reportes in Paris that that she is prepared to lead her country, if her party comes to power. This statement was made, while she was on her last leg of her European tour.

Asked whether she would be ready to lead the country one day, she said: "I think all party leaders have to prepare themselves for the possibility, if they truly believe in the democratic process". But it’s not something that I think of all the time. In fact, I think one has to concentrate on present work, of course preparing for the future. The present has to be linked to one’s hopes for the future."

< class="text11verdana">, June 29, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kachin peace remains elusive

Despite some positive results from peace talks between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the government, the situation on the ground does not appear to be easing, with conflict ongoing and skirmishes reported in several locations on a near-daily basis.

The KIO has said t hat the government troops has launched military offensives against its positions close to the group’s headquarters at Laiza on the Sino-Burmese border. Several other flashpoints were reported in northern Shan State where the KIO maintains bases.

High-ranking representatives from both sides have sat several times for negotiations in recent months, the latest round being on June 20 when a government delegation led by Aung Min met with Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Vice-Chief of Staff Maj-Gen Sumlut Gun Maw in the town of Maijayang in Kachin State.

The upshot of that meeting was a direct order from Naypyidaw to effectively "legitimize" the KIO by informally repealing Article 17/1, which prohibits the association of citizens with illegal organizations.

Kachin mediator Hseng Aung, who was present at the talks, said that the KIO delegation had specifically requested that Article 17/1 be revoked and that they had been asked to submit a list of political prisoners they expected to be released as a result of the agreement.

Hseng Aung also said that Aung Min had laid out a map detailing the government’s proposal for the relocation of military bases to sites where both armies would be farther apart. The KIO said it would study the plan, and proposed reconvening talks at an unspecified time and place in the near future.

< class="text11verdana">, June 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President to visit Bangladesh

The leaders of Myanmar and Bangladesh will discuss the issue of Rohingya refugees and related unrest near their shared border next month, Bangladesh’s ambassador in Yangon said. The issue will be on the agenda when Myanmar President Thein Sein travels to Bangladesh from July 15-17 to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Major-General Anup Kumar Chakma told AFP.

’It is expected the Myanmar refugee issue will be discussed with more seriousness this time,’ he said.’ Bangladesh supports all actions (and) measures that are being taken by Myanmar to restore normalcy in Rakhine State as early as possible.’

< class="text11verdana">, June 25, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China forcing refugees back

Chinese authorities are forcing back into Myanmar some of the ethnic Kachin refugees who have fled into China trying to escape civil war, and Beijing is denying basic care to many who remain, according to human rights groups.

Myanmar’s Government is in talks with Kachin rebels, and more than a dozen armed or political groups, to try to end all its decades-old conflicts. The Kachin conflict, which flared up in the middle of 2011 after a 17-year truce, has pushed up to 10,000 people to seek refuge across the border in the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said many of these people have little access to proper sanitation, shelter, healthcare or schools for their children

< class="text11verdana">, June 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Senate to clear US envoy soon

US Senators planned to move quickly to confirm the first US Ambassador to Myanmar in two decades, as they pushed to allow investment in the country’s oil and gas sector.President Barack Obama on May 17 had nominated Derek Mitchell, as Ambassador to the country after dramatic reforms including the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.

Senators have also pressed the Obama Administration to allow investment by US energy companies as part of its loosening of sanctions on Myanmar, voicing fear that US companies would lose out to foreign competitors.

Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and champion of the fossil fuel industry, said he heard rumours that the Administration will exclude oil firms from new rules allowing US investment in the country.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 28, 2012;, June 27, 2012,

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Autonomy for central bank

Myanmar’s central bank is poised to win independence to set monetary policy, its deputy governor said, in what would be a major economic reform by a government seeking to attract foreign investors.

President Thein Sein has vowed to put the economy at the centre of his next wave of reforms, following a series of dramatic political changes since decades of military rule ended last year.

In the new Government’s boldest economic reform yet, the country in April began a managed flotation of its currency, overhauling a complex foreign exchange system in a bid to facilitate trade and investment.

An independent central bank, seen as a hallmark of a modern free-market economy, could be the next step to burnish its economic credentials.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 28, 2012

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Pankhuri Mehndiratta;
Bangladesh: Dr.JoyeetaBhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Jussi Albert Jännes
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;

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