MonitorsPublished on Dec 07, 2013
Of the many pressing challenges and crises facing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the one which is perhaps the most difficult to address is the sectarian blood-letting that has been tearing the social fabric of Pakistan for decades now.
Pakistan: Stemming sectarian violence, Sharif's tough task
Analysis Of the many pressing challenges and crises facing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the one which is perhaps the most difficult to address is the sectarian blood-letting that has been tearing the social fabric of Pakistan for decades now. Sharif is acutely aware of the unbridled killing-spree in Karachi and Quetta particularly, and has ordered the intelligence and security agencies to hunt down the killers of Hazara Shias in Quetta last month. The numbers are frightening. During 2012, 396 Shias were killed in 113 targeted attacks across Pakistan, of which 152 were killed in Balochistan alone (in 54 incidents). In 2011, a total of 136 Shias were killed in 24 incidents across the country -- 88 of them in Balochistan, in 11 incidents. Shias constitute 20 per cent of the overall population, roughly 40 million in number with Gilgit-Baltistan and Kurram Agency (in the tribal areas) as the two Shia- majority areas. Shias constitute a sizeable number in major cities like Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. Yet, the persecution of the community in Pakistan has a long history. Protesting Islamisation It began after Shias protested military dictator President Zia-ul Haq’s Islamisation drive by laying a siege on Islamabad in July 1980. The dictator relented but decided to punish the Shias for challenging the authority of the military. The army helped found a rabidly anti-Shia group called Anjuman Sipah-e-Saheba, which later created an armed wing called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ). Since then, several thousand Shias have been killed in targeted attacks of LJ and its allies. Shia organisations put the figure at about 12,000. No official figures are available. Of late, there has been a sudden spike in the violence against Shias, particularly the Hazaras who trace their lineage to Mongols and Turks and have for centuries settled in central Afghanistan and Iran. In Pakistan, there are over 650,000 Hazaras, mainly in Karachi and Quetta. Shias by belief, the Hazaras have come under sharp attack from Sunni extremist groups like LJ and the Taliban. Opposing Taliban Besides the religious differences, the Hazaras are being targeted for their opposition to the Taliban regime during the late 90’s. The Taliban leadership, sheltered in the Balochistan capital city of Quetta, suspect the Hazaras to be working with adversaries, notably Iran and the US. The LJ, which helped the Taliban leadership to escape the October 2001 US bombing of their stronghold in Afghanistan and find shelter in Pakistan, including Quetta, wants to drive the Hazaras out of the city. In the first two months of 2013, more than 200 Hazaras and others were killed in two incidents, provoking Prime Minister Sharif to castigate the security forces openly and call for better coordination among the intelligence agencies. Yet, sharp criticism alone may not suffice to stem the bloodshed. The issue is complicated. The Hazaras have accused the intelligence agencies of being sheltering Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other Sunni extremists. The Hazara elders rue the behaviour of the security forces, which view them with suspicion. The Sunni extremists not only enjoy the patronage of the security forces but also that of political parties, including the PML-N, headed by Prime Minister Sharif. In fact, the senior leadership of LJ campaigned for Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in Punjab during the recent elections. LJ is headquartered in Jhang, southern Punjab. Prime Minister Sharif therefore has a tough task at hand. He will have to not only prod the security forces and intelligence agencies to protect the Hazaras and other minorities but also ensure that his party’s association with extremist groups does not become a millstone around his neck in the days ahead. (The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation) Sri Lanka : Three-track approach to India evolving, discernible? N Sathiya Moorthy The signing of the ’Outcome Document’ on trilateral maritime security cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka in Colombo recently is significant for more reasons than one. The overlapping strategic security concerns of the three South Asian nations in the shared Indian Ocean neighbourhood apart, it may herald the shaping of the post-war India policy of Sri Lanka. To a greater or lesser extent, the same may be true of Maldives, too. India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who was in Colombo for signing the Outcome Document, discussed Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue and proposed amendments to, and abrogation of 13-A, with President Mahinda Rajapakasa and various political party leaders, starting with the TNA and the UNP Opposition at the national-level. Before him, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other interlocutors conveyed continuing Indian concerns in this regard to Sri Lanka’s Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa at New Delhi. The Indian leadership had also met with a visiting TNA delegation a fortnight earlier, as part of the continuing engagement with stake-holders in Sri Lanka, without allowing it to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of the island-nation. Rightly and rightfully, India, for some time, has delineated the continuing post-war concerns on the ethnic issue, from the Tamil polity in Sri Lanka, and the ’Tamil Nadu factor’ - particularly for the benefit of Sinhala hard-liners in the island-nation. By highlighting the fact that commitments on 13-Plus were given at the highest levels, to India and the international community, the UN included, India has taken the ethnic discourse in Sri Lanka to a different level. The latter belonged as much there as in the Sri Lankan domestic scene, particularly after the country had sought and obtained excessive and at times exclusive external support, starting with India’s, to end LTTE terrorism, war and violence. The ’international safety-net’ that former UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had talked about - and President Rajapaksa got to implement, thanks to continued LTTE intransigence - was comprehensive, not compartmentalised. Sri Lanka, unlike the LTTE non-State actor, was not expected to renege on part of the commitments while benefitting from the other parts. Or, so has gone the spirit of the arguments that drove the US and the rest to move against Sri Lanka at UNHRC and some multilateral forums, as well. With India, the commitments and consequent understanding was even more clear and comprehensive. Gota’s call In the midst of India engaging the island-nation’s stake-holders, Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had told an interviewer that bilateral cooperation with India would remain but that does not mean it had to abide by Indian wishes on the ethnic issue and 13-A -- or, words to that effect. As with other Gota pronouncements, it remains unclear if the Defence Secretary was speaking for himself, the armed forces or for his brother, the President, too. Secretary Gota is not alone in holding such a view, either on a political solution to the ethnic issue being ’home-grown’ and being ’13-Minus’ and not ’13-Plus’, as promised by President Rajapaksa in the past. Others outside this Government also seem to hold near-similar views but they are not always expressed in similar terms and times. Yet, in the years after the conclusion of the ’ethnic war’ in Sri Lanka, bilateral defence talks and visits at the highest-levels of the armed forces between India and Sri Lanka have continued without much hitch or let-up. Though the period has been marked by India having to withdraw some Sri Lankan officers doing specific courses in institutions in southern Tamil Nadu State, owing to political protests linked to the ethnic issue and ’accountability’, that has stopped precisely there. It compares well with the war years and the period prior to the conclusion of ’Eelam War IV’. On those occasions, bilateral defence talks were mostly confined to specifics, invariably revolving around Sri Lanka’s shopping-list for pursuing the war effort. In more recent times, the talks have been on larger issues of bilateral understanding and cooperation, one early result of which is the ’Outcome Document’. Both nations, Sri Lanka in particular, seem to have learnt and managed to address the delineation between India’s strategic concerns and Colombo’s political position on the domestic front, well. Yet, over-lapping and consequent clash of interests between their security concepts and political perceptions cannot be avoided after a point. At times as such, the political acumen and the diplomatic skills would be put to test. If the recent past is any indication, both could move away from their inevitable differences at UNHRC-Geneva, and move on with maritime security cooperation talks, for instance, on a separate track. Yet, perceptions remain, and no efforts have been made to clarify the position or clear notions flowing from such perceptions. Such perceptions, if it became more noticeable and distinguishable, could lead to assumptions, particularly in and for India, about the possibility of Sri Lanka adopting a three-track approach towards the country and its concerns pertaining to the southern neighbour. It is the kind of perception and assumption that has influenced the Indian strategic community on the ’Hambantota port issue’. No amount of arguments and assurances by the Sri Lankan strategic community would convince their Indian counterparts beyond a point. The trilateral maritime cooperation, as it stands, may not mean much in terms of conventional security or geo-strategic concerns of one another, particularly India’s. Yet, it may be the beginning of all-embracing security cooperation with width and depth. In its fullest, such cooperation need not be confined to non-conventional threats as from non-State pirates and non-traditional concerns as with environment. At every turn, regional and geo-strategic elements could be added in a calibrated manner, after testing the efficacy of what has already been agreed upon. Such a course could satisfy India on the geo-strategic security front, where the strategic community in the country has its eyes exclusively on a rising China with an emerging ’blue water navy’. Going by experience dating back to decades, India’s concerns will remain, at least as long as both nations had sorted out the border issue to mutual satisfaction, and China also addressed India’s concerns pertaining to Pakistan. But India’s other neighbours are not remaining idle. Development & domestic politics Prior to expressed security cooperation addressing India’s concerns and involving Maldives, Sri Lanka had made its position clear on another area of India’s China worry. It pertained to Sri Lanka, and other neighbours, obtaining huge development aid from China, including the Hambantota port project (which was offered to India twice), Norchcholai power-plant and more. The Indian strategic community continues to harp on these. However, the Indian policy-maker seems to have resigned himself to the reality on two grounds. One, as neighbours point out, Indian economy has not reached a stage for the country to endlessly under-write neighbourhood development projects. Nor could India expect those neighbours to wait and watch until it is in a position to do so. More importantly, there is an acknowledgement of neighbours of India wanting to choose their friends, but without upsetting India’s security concerns, both over the short and long-terms, with medium-term thrown in between. The realisation flows from the reality that in the post-Cold War era, India too had moved away from the erstwhile Soviet camp to the all-American western bloc, almost at one-go and wholly. The Indian policy-maker acknowledges the reality in the case of its neighbours, too. It is however discerning that India and most of its neighbours end up giving the impression of being in rival global camps, be it during the Cold War, or in the post-Cold War era. It has more to do with developmental funding and policy options emanating from the ’world leader’ of the day - the US in the case of Sri Lanka in the past, and China at present. The Indian concerns have mostly security-related, Pakistan-centric in the past and more and more of China-centric at present. Or, so all it seems. Secretary Gota’s reiteration of his known position, particularly if he is speaking for the armed forces and President Rajapaksa, implies that Sri Lanka would want to proceed with a ’home-grown solution’ to the ethnic issue, as he too has said. In the past, such expressions of personal/official position by him have been tempered subsequently by President Rajapaksa himself. Alternatively, they have been allowed to die down after a point. It’s no different this time round, what with the upcoming Commonwealth Summit in Colombo, if not the habituated bi-annual global reprimand at the UNHRC, necessitating a cool-off period. Sri Lanka, not alone? It may not be intentional or pre-programmed, as an automated three-track Sri Lankan approach has become a part of the post-war evolutionary process of bilateral relations with India. If not in whole, elements of such an evolution is becoming discernible, if not overtly detectable. Indian perceptions of the ethnic issue and other domestic issues and politics in Sri Lanka on the one hand, and India’s existing priorities and emerging realities in terms of the nation’s strategic security concerns in the shared Indian Ocean neighbourhood could steer the course of the bilateral discourse, and consequent interactions. Sri Lanka is also not the only South Asian neighbour where a three-track approach towards India may have been in the process of evolving. Independent of the upcoming presidential polls in September, followed Parliament elections in May next, Maldives too seem to be falling into the pattern - of isolating Indian security concerns and addressing them, at the same time adopting an independent approach on overseas developmental aid (read: from China in particular, but also involving others, including the US, but all of them non-territorial nations). The Maldivian position too had evolved over a period, not overnight, though the controversial ’GMR airport contract’ involving an India-headquartered infrastructure major, may have swung the domestic angle in bilateral relations - one way at a time, and the other way, with the change of Government in the Indian Ocean archipelago, all in a matter of months. Media reports now have it that India’s relations with Bhutan is also facing tumultuous times, with the withdrawal of fuel subsidy and attendant issues, that too on the very eve of parliamentary polls in the evolving Himalayan democracy. Both Bhutan and Maldives ushered in multi-party democracy in 2008. Before Bhutan, Nepal, which again has become a Republic, had problems with the larger Indian neighbour in the Eighties when the latter blocked truck-traffic to the land-locked nation, then under a monarchy, in the late Eighties. That was also when Sri Lanka’s relations with India got strained. ’Eelam War IV’ in Sri Lanka and democratisation of Nepal, again around the same, time helped to put the past behind - but that has not helped the restoration process, wholly as current events and developments indicate. These apart, India’s relations with Bangladesh, another neighbour that it had helped in a crucial stage in its history - birth, in fact - is measured in terms of the party and leader in power at any given point in time. It is definitely not in terms of bilateral policies or institutional mechanisms that could outlive personalities and their political priorities, influenced by electoral politics nearer home. Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia’s India visit at the invitation of the latter was expected to help balance equations in Bangladesh and relations with India. Subsequent events, including Begum Zia’s unwillingness to meet visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when an electoral ally was facing local pressures showed that domestic compulsions mattered more. India’s hands full... India may thus have its hands full. Having seemingly reverted to improving ties in the neighbourhood after looking beyond them in the first phase of the post-Cold War geo-strategic redefinition of emerging foreign policy, India now finds new strains in old relations. It is one thing to attribute them to the other party, and carry on as such. It is another way to look at individual aspects of bilateral and multilateral relations in the immediate neighbourhood, and treat them all as stand-alone issues, requiring a different approach and understanding. Prioritising the Indian concerns and institutionalising the Indian thinking and understanding may be one way of resolving inevitable deadlocks. India has mastered the art in its relations with the West after years of unflinching friendship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War years. It may have to acknowledge the reality and extend the policy in relations with neighbours, without any intended overlapping of any kind. Yet the temptation on either side could still be to allow individual thinking on individual issues to govern the overall thinking on overall bilateral relationship. It may have become increasingly pronounced in the case of India-Sri Lanka relations, but it had existed prior to this in the case of some other neighbours, and may have emerged later in the case of others - a reality that India too needs to acknowledge and address, one way or the other. (The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation) Country Reports Sri Lanka Maritime security cooperation pact India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have entered into a tripartite agreement on maritime cooperation to secure sea routes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Maldives’ Defence Minister Mohammed Nazim and India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon signed the agreement on Monday at the end of meeting on trilateral cooperation on maritime security. "At the conclusion of the meeting an outcome document detailing specific areas of cooperation in the maritime security sphere was signed," said a statement from Sri Lankan Defence Ministry. "The agreement was reached by all on the importance of raising the maritime cooperation between the three countries in the current context of maritime security environment in the Indian Ocean region," the statement said. It said the deal follows several senior official and technical level consultations held among the three nations. Source: The Hindustan Times, 9 July 2013 President meets TNA chief Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has held talks with TNA on holding free and fair elections in the country’s north, days after the main Tamil party skipped a key parliamentary panel meet on devolving power to provinces. The Tamil National Alliance’s leader R Samapanthan met with Rajapaksa and discussed holding free and fair elections in the region, a statement from the TNA said. "The President expressed his desire to solve all outstanding issues relating to the National question," it said. The TNA leader also reiterated the party’s commitment to evolution of an acceptable, workable and durable political solution within the framework of a united undivided country, the statement added. The meeting came on a day the Commissioner of Elections commenced the process of accepting nomination papers for the much awaited elections in the former LTTE-held areas after a gap of 25 years. The first-ever election for the Northern Provincial Council is being seen by the international community as a major reconciliation move with the island’s Tamil minority since the end of a brutal three-decade-long ethnic war in 2009. Source: Daily Mirror Online, 12 July 2013 India calls for ’meaningful’ devolution India has called for an early political settlement and national reconciliation in Sri Lanka through meaningful devolution of power. This is necessary to ensure that all Sri Lankans, including Tamils, can lead a life marked by equality, justice, dignity and self-respect, India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon to Sri Lanka’s top leaders during his meetings with them in Colombo on Monday. Menon was in Colombo to participate in the second NSA-’level Meeting on Trilateral Cooperation on Maritime Security between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. During his two-day stay in Colombo (Monday and Tuesday), he called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and held bilateral meetings with Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that Menon conveyed to them the Indian Government’s views on the recent political developments in the island-nation. He also emphasised the need for adhering to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government to India and the international community on a political settlement in Sri Lanka that would go beyond the 13th Amendment. In these meetings, both sides reviewed the progress in bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on areas of common concern. They expressed satisfaction on the progress in implementation of the Indian-assisted projects for relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs, including the Housing Project, as well as projects relating to the development of railway infrastructure in the Northern and Southern Provinces. They also discussed the fishermen issue and agreed on the need to deal with it in a humane manner without resorting to violence under any circumstances. They agreed that fishermen’s associations on both sides, which had met in the past and reached some understandings, needed to meet again to work on developing this further. This could then serve as the basis for finding a solution to this humanitarian issue. Menon also met with other political leaders, including Leader of the Opposition and Chairperson of UNP Ranil Wikremesinghe, Chairperson of SLMC and Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem, and a delegation of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by R Sampanthan. Source: The Island, 12 July 2013 TNA still undecided on CM A cold war is fast brewing within the Tamil National Alliance regarding the nomination of its Chief Minister candidate for the North Provincial Council. Asian Tribune learnt that the TNA leadership has not shown any marked interest on the chief minister candidature of Mr. Mavai Senathirajah. As it is, sources say it is unlikely that Mr. Mavai Senathirajah gets the nomination. Another source told that the manipulations and manoeuvring regarding Mavai Senathirajah’s candidature should not be under-estimated. They are past masters’ of the game, the sources added. Earlier, Senathiraja’s name was proposed by the Jaffna branch of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchchi (ITAK). It is now learnt that this proposal by the ITAK’s Jaffna branch was manipulated by the vested interest groups within ITAK to promote Mavai Senathirajah. Asian Tribune now learns that he is not going to be a consensus candidate and it is being held that it was he who brought many Tamil moderate leaders as well as Tamil militant leaders into the fold of the former terrorist organization LTTE and its political Czar Tamilselvan - which recruited them through threat and intimidation. However, rightly or wrongly, V.Anandasangare steadfastly stood firm and refused to accept the political leadership of the LTTE and it was an open secret that even Mr.R.Sampanthan showed a high degree of reluctance to join the LTTE political grouping. So there exists a ’love and hate’ relationship with Mavai Senathirajah within the TNA groups. Source: Asian Tribune, 11 July 2013 Afghanistan Taliban shuts Doha office Less than a month after the Taliban opened its political office in Doha, the insurgents are said to have shut down their office in Qatar. Officials in Qatar confirmed that the office had been temporarily shut down and it was unclear when the office would be reopened. The decision to shut down the office is said to have been taken following the removal of the Taliban’s white flag and the plague inscribed with ’Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ by Qatari officials. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had denounced the group for displaying such symbols and claimed that they represented the Taliban’s attempts to set up a parallel government. The Taliban flatly rejected Karzai’s peace offer made Tuesday ahead of the start of the holy month of Ramadan. A Taliban spokesman said in a statement that they saw jihad, or holy war, as an even greater obligation during the holy month. "We will continue with our attacks on the infidels and their slaves," he said. In the meantime, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) was criticised heavily by Afghan parliamentarians for its inability to get productive results with the Taliban and for dishonesty in its communication of the process with the Afghan people. Source: Associated Press, July 9, 2013; Khaama Press, July 9, 2013, Tolo News, July 7, 2013 US still considering ’zero option’ There were reports this week that suggested that the US may be considering a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan and have not ruled out the ’zero option’, or not retaining any residual force in Afghanistan post-2014. Such reports have surfaced against the backdrop of rising tensions between the US and Afghan governments on account of the Afghan Government’s reaction to the opening of the Taliban office in Doha. President Karzai accused the US of bypassing his government by attempting to jumpstart negotiations with the Taliban and terminated discussions regarding the Bilateral Security Agreement, which is intended to determine the nature and size of the US military presence in thed country, post-2014. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that while the US was considering all possible options, including the ’zero option’, as far as its military presence post-2014 is concerned, the exact pace of withdrawal and the number of US troops in Afghanistan in the future was not imminent. Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi, however, rejected such reports claiming them to be a tactic employed by the US to ’put pressure’ on Afghanistan. "The complete withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan is an issue that has never been brought up in joint meetings between Kabul and Washington," Faizi said. Source: Pajhwok, July 10, 2013, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 10, 2013, The Express Tribune, July 11, 2013, Tolo News, July 10, 2013 India turns down arms plea New Delhi has turned down Hamid Karzai’s request for the supply of lethal weapons by India to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). This request was made by President Hamid Karzai during his visit to India in May, when he had put forward a ’wish list’ of weapons to the Indian Government. India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "We are going to help with non-lethal equipment but I don’t think we are either in the position to or willing to contribute lethal weapons right now." Khurshid said that given the fragile nature of peace in Afghanistan and the presence of external stake-holders, it would not be advisable for India to supply lethal weapons to the ANSF. He said, "if we can help Afghanistan without creating further problems for them, I think that would be a preferred way to do it." The Afghan Ministry of Defence, however, issued a statement saying that the Indian Government had not given any formal response to their request for lethal weapons and it would officially react only when such a formal response was given by India. Source: Khaama Press, July 6, 2013, Pajhwok, July 6, 2013 Bangladesh Awami loses Ghazipur City Yet another setback to the ruling Awami League led 14-party alliance, the party faced defeat in the Ghazipur City Corporation poll. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party supported candidate won the election with a huge margin. This election was important as Ghazipur is one of the biggest city corporations of the country and is located very close to capital Dhaka. This election was also important since parliamentary election is likely to take place later this year. The poll result has warmed up politics in the country. BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia said that the defeat of the Awami League-led alliance in all the five city corporation elections was the people’s mandate against the Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She declared that BNP-led 18-party alliance would launch tougher action against the Government after the holy Eid-ul-Fitr. Prime Minister Hasina reiterated that the next parliamentary polls will be held as per the Constitution. She claimed that her government had strengthened the Election Commission and it was now working independently. She further observed that all the elections in different tiers held during the tenure of the present Government were free, fair and credible. Source: The Independent, July 9, 2013 ’No’ to Chinese offer Finance Minister A M A Muhith has said that the proposal from a Chinese firm for building Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) was not acceptable as it wanted to appoint a fixed contractor. "As there are allegations of corruption against the PMB project, we can’t accept the proposal of a fixed contractor," he added. Earlier, Communication Minister Obaidul Quader had said that the Chinese State-owned company Poly Technologies had proposed to invest $2.4 billion in the PMB project. The Government has already floated the international tender for the project after it withdrew the World Bank funding request following an impasse over graft allegations. Source: The Independent, July 12, 2013 Bhutan India withdraws subsidies India’s decision to withdraw the subsidies on the cooking gas and kerosene it supplies to Bhutan is not an isolated diplomatic manoeuvre, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) pushing for showing Thimphu the red flag in several critical areas of cooperation, including hydropower generation. Communication within the MEA on releasing funds to Bhutan and on hydropower cooperation reveal a clear stridency towards disbursement of funds to the Himalayan kingdom, approval of small development projects (SDPs) and also mark a clear change in stance on funding future hydroelectric projects (HEPs). The downturn in sentiment towards the traditionally-friendly neighbour comes as Bhutan holds National Assembly elections this month, the second democratic exercise in its history. Source: The Indian Express, July 11, 2013 India told of tariff revision Himalayan country Bhutan has urged its next door neighbour India to accept an upward revision of tariff for hydropower that comes from Chukha project in Bhutan to India. According to Managing of Druk Green Power Corporation, Bhutan, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, Bhutan is in touch with the GoI for an upward revision of the Chukha power tariff from the present rate of Rs 2 per unit. "The price revision should be done considering the international benchmarking and bilateral relationship between Bhutan and India," said Bhutan finance ministry officials. According to Dasho Karma Ura, Advisor to the Bhutan Ministry of Finance, Power Trading Corporation of India purchases power from Bhutan at a base price of Rs 1.55 per unit. But GoI gives a subsidy of Rs 0.45 per unit making the total price received by Bhutan as Rs 2 per unit. With its average production of around 180 crore units a year, Chukha will have to face a revenue reduction of around INR 90 crore per year following this subsidy cut down. "And that will be a major jolt for Bhutan for which power is a major source of income. GoI will definitely put an eye on restructuring of tariff of Chukha that remained at this level of Rs 2 per unit since 2005," said officials at DGPC. As a matter of fact, Bhutanese authority wants India to agree on a base price of higher than Rs 2 per unit that can not only maintain but increase Bhutan’s revenue earning from Chukha. Source: The Economic Times, 8 July, 2013 Political parties swear by India Bhutan may introduce a law or convention to stop its political parties from making its relationship with India an election issue in future. After weeks of mudslinging over who "displeased or provoked" India, the kingdom’s incumbent party, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), and the major opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday hinted at the possibility of a provision to prevent India-Bhutan ties from turning into a political issue. "After the July 13 general election, we may review the electoral process and explore means and ways to stop parties from discussing bilateral ties with India during campaigning," DPT vice-president Sangay Thinley Dorji said. The PDP, too, is keen on the proposal. "We can always have an agreement not to discuss India-Bhutan ties during electioneering. Bhutan’s relationship with India is of utmost importance for all Bhutanese," said PDP secretary-general Sonam Jatso. Considering Bhutan’s great dependence on Delhi for its economic survival, the debate over India seems to have put DPT, which won 45 out 47 seats in the 2008 election, on the back foot. For DPT, Prime Minister Jigme Thinley is said to have warmed up to Chinese overtures, giving New Delhi a severe heartburn. DPT, however, refutes this. "It’s during our tenure the India-Bhutan relationship reached its zenith. Anyone can make out this by the number of bilateral visits by leaders of the two countries. Our prime minister visited India nine times," said DPT’s officiating president Yeshe Zimba, who himself served as the Prime Minister twice under the King’s direct rule between 2000 and 2003. Source: The Times of India, July 10, 2013 India Serial blasts rock Bodh Gaya temple The Bodh Gaya temple complex in Bihar was rocked by a series of explosions recently. Over a hundred worshippers had just finished 30 minutes of chanting and a few were entering the temple complex- a UNESCO World Heritage site associated with the Buddha’s enlightenment -when the first blast occurred at 5.45 am. Nine explosions followed in next hour- four at the temple sites, five within a 500-metre radius and one in Baijubisha. The Special Task Force (STF) of the Kolkata Police is looking into whether a man held late on Saturday evening and suspected to have links with the banned terrorist outfit, the Indian Mujhadeen, is involved in the Bodh Gaya serial blast. Source: The Hindu, July 8, 2013 Ordinance on Food Bill President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday gave his assent to the United Progressive Alliance’s ordinance on the ambitious food security programme. The ordinance will bestow upon 67 percent of the population the legal right to avail cheap food grains from ration shops through the Targeted Public Distribution System. Source: The Hindu, 6 July, 2013 President’s rule revoked The Cabinet on Thursday gave is nod for the revocation of the President’s rule prevailing in Jharkhand since Janaury. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA Hemant Soren, son of former Chief Minister Sibu Soren, had on Tuesday staked a claim to form the government in the State with the support of the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) (RJD). President’s rule will come to an end on July 18. Earlier, the Congress on Friday had formally announced its support to the JMM to form a government in Jharkhand and enter into an alliance with the Shibu Soren led party in five states for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Mr Hemant Soren, sources said, is set to stake claim for forming the government soon. Source: The Hindu, July 12, The Indian Express, July 6, 2013 Advani meets RSS chief Veteran leader L K Advani and RSS moved closer Friday with the former BJP president visiting the Sangh headquarters in Nagpur and engaging in "meaningful" discussions with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and senior functionary Bhaiyyaji Joshi. "We mainly discussed planning for the coming elections in four states and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The discussions were very good in that respect," Mr Advani told the media coming out of the RSS building in Mahal. Former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi met Mr Bhagwat on Thursday in Nagpur. BJP president Rajnath Singh also had a meeting with Mr Bhagwat on Saturday. Last week’s back-to-back parleys involving top BJP leaders Advani. Joshi and Rajnath Singh and the RSS chief indicate a new course in the party’s ties with its ideological parent to brace up for the Lok Sabha polls in 2014. Source: The Indian Express, July 6, 2013, The Hindu, July 8, 2013 Conviction enough for disqualification: SC In a big leap towards cleaning up Indian politics, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that MPs and MLAs will be immediately disqualified if they are convicted in a criminal case by a trial court. The court struck down Section 8 (4) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which protects convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months, on the ground of pendency of appeal. A Division Bench comprising Justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhyaya, however, said its order will not apply to sitting MPs and MLAs who have filed appeals against their convictions in higher courts. But those convicted after the verdict will not be saved by this provision, said the court, adding that Parliament had exceeded its powers in providing this immunity. Source: The Indian Express, 11 July 2013 SC says ’legal custody’ a bar now A person cannot fight legislative elections from jail even if not convicted, the Supreme Court has ruled, signalling an end to the practice of politicians contesting polls from behind bars awaiting trial. Upholding a 2004 Patna High Court verdict, a Bench of Justice A K Patnaik and Justice S J Mukhopadhyaya said that a person would cease to be an "elector" and cannot vote when in custody (both police and judicial). Such a person would be disqualified from fighting elections as the Representation of People’s Act allows only qualified "elector" to contest. In a parallel development, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahadbad high court on Thursday banned all caste-based rallies and conferences in Uttar Pradesh-a state where politics is driven by caste. Acting on a PIL, the court issued notices to the Union and state governments, election commission, ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Congress and the BJP. Seeking a ban on such gatherings, Mr Yadav alleged parties such as the BSP and SP were dividing society by organising Brahmin, Kshatriya, Kurmi and Dalit rallies. Source: Hindustan Times, 12 July, 2013 Freebies get court’s thumb-up In a big relief to political parties, the Supreme Court on Friday held that freebies offered by them in election manifestos would not come under "corrupt practices" and "electoral offences" under the Representation of the People Act. A Bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi, however, directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines in this regard in consultation with all recognised parties. Writing the judgement, Justice Sathasivam said" "how to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy is a matter within the domain of the government, hence, the state distributing largesse in the form colour TVs, laptops, mixer-grinders, etc, to eligible and deserving persons is directly related to the Directive Principles." Source:The Hindu, July 6, 2013 SC glares at VIP squatters Taking a serious note of former Ministers, Members of Parliament, retired judges and government servants staying beyond the period for which it was allotted, the Supreme Court on Friday issued guidelines to the authorities including stoppage of pension, for vacating such unauthorised occupants. A Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Rajan Gogoi, while fixing a time limit of 30 days for judges of all fora for vacating the premises from the date of their superannuation, did not fix a time limit for others, who can stay for a period ranging from four to eight months from the date of demitting office. Their stay beyond this period will be treated as unauthorised occupation. Source: The Hindu, July 6, 2013 Military exchanges with China India and China have agreed to boost exchanges between their two militaries, including expanded professional contact between the Air Forces and Navies, as they look to address the persisting strategic mistrust. Defence Minister A K Antony and is counterpart, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Chang Wanquan, also firmed up plans for the first joint military exercise since 2008, to be held in October in China, as they met for talks in Beijing. Antony played down the comments made by hardliner PLA Major General Luo Yuan, who in an interaction with journalists warned India not to "stir up" trouble along the border. Chinese officials have emphasised that Maj-Gen Luo, who is known for his particularly hawkish views, did not represent the official viewpoint. "My discussions were with official people", Antony said when asked about the comments. Meanwhile, officials from the two countries will sit down together for the first time after the Depsang incident to discuss border security, and work on a defence cooperation agreement, in Delhi on July 23-24. Source: The Hindu, 6 July 2013, Times of India, 11 July 2013 India has exploration rights: Vietnam Notwithstanding growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, Vietnam today made it clear that India has every right to carry out with "exploration" and "exploitation" work it was undertaking in the blocks allotted to it by Hanoi in the disputed sea. "Our position is that we need to respect the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to resolve any issue arising in the South China Sea," Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said at a press conference with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid after the two chaired the 15th meeting of the joint commission between their two countries. Source: The Tribune, July 12, 2013 Pak diplomat meets PM New Delhi played host to veteran Pakistani diplomat and old India hand Shahryar Khan, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Satinder Lambah, who had visited Islamabad in May, soon after parliamentary elections in that country. High-level sources, back from a dinner where the afternoon’s trend of "positive conversation" continued, said it would not be accurate to call the meeting back channel or Track Two negotiations. "It only signals reinforced engagement, consonant with the imperatives of better relations," they felt. Source: The Hindu, 6 July, 2013 Afghans arms plea rejected India has turned down Afghanistan’s request for supply of lethal weapons, saying it was not "either in a position or willing" to contribute lethal weapons right now, days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai raised the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "We are going to help with non-lethal equipment but I don’t think we are either in the position to or willing to contribute lethal weapons right now," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said here. Noting that India already supplies important elements of supporting equipment, transportation, which includes helicopters, the minister said, "We think it is not advisable to go beyond that. It is a fragile area, there are stakeholders, and there are other people. We don’t want to become part of the problem." During his recent visit to India, Karzai had handed a "wish-list" to Indian leadership seeking greater military and civilian support in the wake of proposed withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan in 2014. Khurshid, in an interview to Straits Times, said there are lots of people who have perceptions about the future of Afghanistan and "if we can help Afghanistan without creating further problems for them, I think that would be a preferred way to do it". He said, "We are in touch with them and we are committed and have said very categorically. We are not looking at exit routes for ourselves which means we are there to stay for a long term. We are very comforted by the fact that Afghans have confidence in us. We won’t let them down." Source:, July 6, 2013 RBI pulls out rupee The rupee on Monday plunged to a record intra-day low of 61.21 against the dollar after a US job report showing companies hired more workers than economists forecast added to the case of the US Federal Reserve to reduce monetary stimulus. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) sold dollar through state-run banks and pulled back the currency, which finally close 0.62 percent or 39 paise lower at 60.61 Source: The Indian Express, July 9, 2013 Maldives Adhaalath Party leaves coalition Religion-centric Adhaalath Party has left President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s ’Forward with the Nation’ coalition. President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdullah said at a news conference that the party decided to leave the coalition after a meeting of its council, with 97 percent support. Issuing a statement on the party’s decision, Sheikh Imran sad that the purpose of creating coalition was to ensure that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s crimes were not repeated, but working with the coalition did not result in any progress towards that goal. He also cited ’suspicious activities’ within the coalition as a reason for leaving it. In response, the coalition said in a statement last night that the coalition had ’no hard feelings’ against Adhaalath Party’s decision, which had come a time of discord between the two groups. The coalition wished Adhaalath Party progress in the future, and assured that it would work with the party after the election. Source: Sun Online, 11 July 2013 Waheed for Mecca, Nasheed delayed Former President Mohamed Nasheed has run into a stone wall trying to obtain visa to Saudi Arabia to go for Umra. Nasheed’s spokesperson Mariya Ahmed Didi told Sun Online today that Nasheed is presently in Sri Lanka and efforts are ongoing to obtain Saudi Arabian visa for him. An official of the Saudi Embassy in Colombo told Haveeru that fforts are still ongoing by re-submitting the papers, to obtain the visa for Nasheed. An official of the Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka said that Nasheed is facing delays because of the delay in submitted the papers. Meanwhile, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik departed to Saudi Arabia for an Umrah pilgrimage. Prior to departure, the president told Haveeru that he would meet top Government officials during his visit. He would also look to expedite some of the requests made by the Maldives to the Saudi Government. Source: Sun Online, 10 July 2013 Lanka moved for aggregates Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed has requested Sri Lankan assistance to develop his country’s construction industry. Waheed, who was on a two-day working visit to Colombo, told The Island that he had held wide ranging talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday, at the President’s House. "There was a positive response to the requests made including our offer to purchase aggregates and sand for Maldivian construction projects," President Waheed said. He noted that the possibility of purchasing more food items from Sri Lanka, medical tourism, educational and security cooperation, etc had also figured in the discussions. "With an increasing number of Maldivians studying in Colombo, I also raised the need for both parents to be given visas for the duration of their children’s schooling, instead of one as at present," President Waheed said. Waheed said that the Maldives and Sri Lanka has had a long-standing relationship and it was the policy of both countries to strengthen and broaden the existing friendship and cooperation in all areas including people to people contacts. In a separate meeting with President Rajapaksa, visiting Maldives Defence Minister Mohammed Nazim requested Sri Lanka to assist with the supply of agricultural products to ensure food security in his country. The Colombo Page said that at Temple Trees yesterday afternoon. Nazim described to the President some of the hardships experienced by the Maldivian population due to inadequate supplies and high prices of some agricultural products such as rice and certain vegetables. Source: The Island, 6 July 2013, Sun Online, 10 July 2013 Myanmar UN for Rohingyas as citizens The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday warned Myanmar that it must end Buddhist attacks on minority Muslims in the Southeast Asian country if it wants to be seen as a credible nation. Ban said on July 10, "It is important for the Myanmar authorities to take necessary steps to address the legitimate grievances of minority communities, including the citizenship demands of the Muslim/Rohingya." He says failing to do so could risk "undermining the reform process and triggering negative regional repercussions." In 1982, Myanmar passed a citizenship law recognizing eight races and 130 minority groups -but omitted the nation’s 800,000 Rohingyas, among Myanmar’s 60-million people. Many Myanmar Buddhists view the Rohingyas as interlopers brought in by the British colonialists when the nation was known as Burma. Earlier this year, Myanmar passed a law limiting Rohingyas in two townships in the western state of Rakhine, bordering Bangladesh, to having two children, a law that does not apply to Buddhists. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi criticised the law, and was widely denounced by Buddhists in Myanmar. Seen as likely to be elected president of Myanmar, she has had little else to say about Rohingya rights. Source: Associated Press, July 10, 2013 Renewed talks with Wa ethnic group Myanmar’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee and United Wa State Army (UWSA) would hold peace talk in Panghsang, committee member Ohn Myint told the Daily Eleven. "We are still negotiating. We have already said talks would be held. It was said that talks were suspended but the date has not been set," Ohn Myint said. Committee Vice-Chairman Thein Zaw, who always took part in the previous talks with the ethnic Wa would lead the government delegation to Panghsang. "We will go there (the Wa side) for talks. The ongoing problems are not serious," he commented. UWSA spokesman Aung Myint told the Daily Eleven on Thursday that he believed the tension between the Wa and government would be defused. He also said they had received an offer of talks from the government while Ohn Myint rejected the suspension of talks by the UWSA, saying it as a rumour. Tension mounted after the government army occupied a rubber plantation owned by UWSA in Mongyun sub-township, Tachilek district, southern Shan state, in May. The army also reportedly demanded that the Wa to make a list of the number of its outposts and move some of them. Source: Daily Eleven, July 7, 2013 Govt, Suu Kyi slam Bodh Gaya blasts The Myanmar Government and Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed unhappiness about the terror attacks in Bodh Gaya. In separate meetings with visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, Myanmarese leaders condemned the blasts and requested increased security. Mathai met Myanmarese Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Naw Pyi Taw, and Suu Kyi in Yangon. Suu Kyi expressed shock and hoped for greater security. Mathai also gave an update on the status of the Myanmarese monk, Vilsagga, who was injured. He said the monk would be taken care of by Indian authorities. India and Myanmar have agreed to step up security cooperation. Mathai also met with the commander-in-chief of the armed forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Source: The Times of India, July 8, 2013 Militants attack Indian security posts Militants attacked security posts near the Indian-Myanmar border and exchanged fire with the forces in Manipur, officials have said. About 100 militants surrounded a post of 35th Assam Rifles at Aigejang hill area in interior Chandel district yesterday and fired at the personnel. The para-military personnel returned the fire and an encounter ensued for about an hour, they said adding that the militants fled under forest cover. In another militancy-related incident, suspected militants hurled a powerful improvised explosive device at the residence of Chairman of Imphal urban co-operative Bank R K Mobisana at Uripok area in Imphal West district but it failed to explode. It was not clear if the attack was linked with the monetary demand from the bank official. Source: The Times of India, July 10, 2013 Nepal India wishes well for Nov polls While expressing readiness to extend all necessary support for holding fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid has urged political parties in Nepal to hold the poll on the scheduled date of November 19 at any cost. Khurshid made a day-long visit to Kathmandu on July 9 at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart Madhav Prasad Ghimire. Minister Khurshid urged the political parties to go to elections on the scheduled date even if efforts to bring the agitating parties on board the election process fail. "Do not defer elections even as efforts to bring the agitating parties on board the election process fail to yield any results," Khurshid remarked. During a meeting with Chairman of the Interim Election Council Khil Raj Regmi, the Indian side agreed to provide all logistical support for the security agencies and the Election Commission of Nepal. This includes providing 764 vehicles of different types costing approximately NRs 800 million. The vehicles will be delivered to Nepal by October, 2013. India agreed, among other things, to supply stores and equipment for the Nepal Army, as identified in the Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues, over the coming months, in view of the successful completion of the integration process. The immediate supplies sought by Nepal are valued at NRs 1.76 billion. Mr Khurshid also paid a courtesy call on President Dr Ram Baran Yadav during his visit. Source: Republica, The Kathmandu Post, July 10, 2013 China for Baidya in polls China has suggested to the CPN-Maoist to participate in the upcoming Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and contribute to political stability and economic prosperity in the Nepal. Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao offered the suggestion to CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya during a meeting between the two sides in Beijing on July 10. Baidya had suddenly left on a visit to the northern neighbour earlier last week. According to media reports, Vice-president Li made a special request to Baidya and CPN-Maoist Vice-chairman CP Gajurel to reach a political agreement and make the coming CA polls a success. Source: Republica, July 11, 2013 India to resume arms supply After an eight-year hiatus, Nepal Army (NA) is all set to receive the first consignment of military hardware from India. The southern neighbour had banned the supply of such hardware since 2005 after former king Gyanendra Shah took over executive powers and restricted democratic and civil liberties. "Following the successful completion of the integration of former Maoist combatants into the NA and the decision of the Government of Nepal to resume imports of equipment for the NA, these materials, identified in the Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues, will be supplied to Nepal over the coming months," a fact sheet on Nepal-India partnership released on July 9 said. The immediate supplies sought by the Nepali side are valued at NRs 1.76 billion and that includes those for military education exchanges, joint exercises and supplies of other military equipment. While some of them will be given as grant, some will be in the form of loan. However, India will later write off the loan upon Nepal’s request. Source: The Kathmandu Post, July 11, 2013 Trade deficit outstrips budget Even an amount equal to Nepal’s annual budget for the current fiscal year will not be enough to pay for the country’s rising trade deficit. Nepal imported merchandise worth more than NRs 508 billion till the end of the 11th month of the current fiscal year, which is NRs 104 billion more than the total allocated expenditure of the government, as stated in the annual budget for fiscal year 2012-13. The trade deficit stood at NRs 438.67 billion by mid-June, a surge of 24.5 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to the macroeconomic report of Nepal Rastra Bank. Last year it had gone up by 16.8 percent. Despite the appreciation of the dollar exchange rate, Nepali exporters have not been able to increase exports to take advantage. But despite the widened trade deficit, overall Balance of Payments recorded a surplus of NRs 52.69 billion during 11 months of the fiscal year. The surplus BoP has increased foreign exchange reserve by 16.4 per cent to Rs 511.69 billion in mid-June 2013. Source: The Himalayan Times, July 11, 2013 Peace-keepers in Syria Amid deepening crisis in Syria, scores of Nepali peacekeepers are set to be deployed in the war-ravaged country to defuse possible tension between old-foes Syria and Israel. A total of 230 Nepali Army soldiers are being deployed on the Syrian side of Golan Heights, the strategically sensitive Syria-Israel border area. UN peace-keepers, under the name of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), have already been deployed in the Golan Heights to maintain ceasefire between Israel and Syria since May 31, 1974. The Cabinet on July 11 decided to send a contingent of 130 Nepali peacekeepers to Syria from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), where as many as 850 Nepali peacekeepers are working to maintain ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel. Source: The Himalayan Times, July 11, 2013 Buddhist shrines unearthed Fresh evidence unearthed by international scientists at Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal, have found shrines believed to be the earliest Buddhist worship sites in South Asia. Till date, the oldest surviving Buddhist temples in the region have been attributed to Emperor Ashoka, who spread Buddhism in the third century BC by building stupas and shrines. In Nepal, he constructed a pillar and a brick built temple known as Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, a UNESCO world heritage site. "Excavations at the temple site have revealed a pre-Ashokan temple of brick, which itself was built over an earlier one of timber," said Prof. Robin Coningham of Durham University. He along with other experts from universities of Tokyo and Rome were part of a Japan-funded UNESCO project which began in 2010 on conservation and management of Lumbini. Experts claim that since temples found underneath the Maya Devi Temple followed exactly the same layout with an open area in the middle they are concrete proof of them being Buddhist shrines. Source: Hindustan Times, July 8, 2013 Pakistan Abbottabad panel report leaked The 336-page classified report of the Abbottabad Commission, dealing with Osama bin-Laden’s Pakistan sanctuary when taken out by the US forces, was leaked this week on the Al Jazeera website. The Commission was formed in June 2011 following the US raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound on May 2, 2011 that led to the death of the former al Qaeda leader. The Commission concluded that that bin-Laden’s nine-year-long stay in Pakistan and the May 2011 secret US raid, in which he was killed, was the result of "culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government". The report believed that the entire system had become dysfunctional and described the situation as "Government Implosion Syndrome". The Commission was particularly critical of the ISI for being too casual in first tracking him and then investigating the May 2 raid. The report claimed that the most well-resourced ISI acted unprofessionally, lacked commitment to fight extremism and terror and obstructed the performance of other spy outfits. The report said that the country’s civil and military leadership should apologise to the nation for their "collective failure". The Commission recommended restructuring and overhauling civil and military intelligence agencies through a parliamentary oversight and proposed a well-defined national security policy to ensure effective counter-terrorism performance. "The excessive powers and non-accountability of Pakistani intelligence establishment have posed the greatest threat of state failure to Pakistan," the commission noted in its findings. The leaked report states that the National Assembly should set up an expert committee to look into the performance and mandate of the various civilian and military intelligence agencies. The report, however, has not named any individuals or suggested any punishment for those guilty of this dual lapse. It also failed to answer the question whether Pakistani officials had any prior information about the US raid. The report claims that while the question was raised it was unable to get a satisfactory answer. The commission said "The leaders at the helm of affairs, who were in a position to provide the most reliable information, didn’t meet with the commission, which would have put questions on this and other unanswered questions directly". According to the report, there seemed to be some suspicion among PAF personnel that the air force for some reason deliberately took no action against the American intruders, possibly in response to some kind of communication from the US to the Pakistani leadership. Source: Dawn, July 9-10, 2013, The Express Tribune, July 9-11, 2013, The News, July 10, 2013 ’Foreign hand in Balochistan’ Veteran Baloch politician Sardar Akhtar Mengal admitted this week to the presence of "death squads sponsored by Pakistan’s neighbours and foreign powers". Pakistan government and intelligence officials have been claiming that some foreign forces have been stoking violence in the province, a claim that has so far been refuted by Baloch nationalists. Mengal also condemned the deadly violence perpetrated by Baloch separatists in the province and acknowledged that Baloch insurgents have been targeting non-Baloch settlers, mainly those from Punjab, in Balochistan. Mengal also stated that the only way to establish the trust of the Baloch people on the federation and ensure peace is the acceptance of their rights. Source: Dawn, July 9, 2013, The Express Tribune, July 8, 2013 Sharif still open to talks Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed this week that his government has not ruled engaging with the various militant and insurgent groups as an integral part of its counter-terror strategy. While addressing lawmakers from FATA in Islamabad Sharif said, "The door to dialogue should be kept open at all times,". Listing elimination of terrorism as his priority, the premier said his government would evolve consensus on the proposed national security policy. "We have no option but to vigorously pursue a well-planned and coordinated strategy to find a meaningful solution to the problem of terrorism," he said. Source: The Express Tribune, July 11, 2013 Contributors: Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy; Pakistan & Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar; Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale; Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee; India:Dr.Satish Misra; Nepal: Akanshya Shah
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