MonitorsPublished on May 10, 2013
Pakistan's first democratic transfer of power should have been a moment of hope and triumph. But, as it stands, widespread violence has marred the historic elections and all but halted the public campaigning by several prominent parties outside of Punjab.
Pakistan: The cost of poll violence
< class="heading1">Analysis

Pakistan’s first democratic transfer of power should have been a moment of hope and triumph. But, as it stands, widespread violence has marred the historic elections and all but halted the public campaigning by several prominent parties outside of Punjab.

Over 80 were killed and hundreds injured over the past month in dozens of bombings on rallies and campaign offices by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and its allies. The three parties who have borne the brunt of the violence - the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP), and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) - continued to campaign on a door-to-door basis to prevent attacks on campaign workers and candidates. While some party faithful hoped that the attacks would serve to rally supporters, their direct impact was to muffle the voices of large portions of the political field.

At one stage, the surge in violence was also expected to impact voter turnout across much of the country - but it was not to be, as the 75 per cent polling proved subsequently. Pakistanis have bravely faced down threats of violence and intimidation many times before, but with provisional governments seemingly incapable of providing even the most basic security guarantees, it was reasonable to expect that at least in the hardest-hit regions, there could be problem voting.

Beyond the elections

The Government’s apparent helplessness in tackling the growing security crisis is likely to have the additional effect of further discrediting Pakistan’s civilian institutions of governance. Pakistanis have long lamented the poor performance of those elected (or self-elected, as the case has often been) ostensibly to serve them. Rampant mismanagement and corruption, dismal government services, lagging economic growth and a crippling energy crisis are but a few of the challenges impacting the daily lives of millions of ordinary Pakistanis that the government has been unable, or unwilling to correct. As a Pew Research poll taken in March showed, prior to the current round of violence, indicated that 91 percent of Pakistanis feel the country is heading in the wrong direction while only 14 percent view President Asif Ali Zardari, whose PPP was in power until now, favourably.

The authorities’ inability to counteract the growing boldness of the TTP and its allies is yet another highly visible symptom of the poor governance that the average Pakistanis must bear on a daily basis. Key public officials, including Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, are of increasing unanimity that the declining internal security situation poses the single greatest threat to the nation. The Pakistani public, faced with the daily threat of violence, is starting to come to the same conclusion. In the same Pew poll cited above, 49 percent ranked the Taliban as a "very serious threat" to Pakistan - only three percent fewer than those that held the same view of India. Once again, this poll was held before the election carnage.

In the Army we trust

In this climate of uncertainty and insecurity, with faith in civilian institutions justifiably low, it is of little surprise that the public would turn to the one institution still widely viewed as well-functioning and credible (an image it has skilfully promoted and staunchly defended): the Army. The March opinion poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre places the Army well above any other institution listed in the survey in terms of the percentage of Pakistanis who view its influence as positive: 79 per cent. Those receiving a smaller favourability ranking include religious leaders (69 per cent), the media (68 per cent), the judiciary (58 per cent), and the national government (24 per cent).

Gen Kayani deserves some credit for more or less keeping away from making overtly political statements during poll-time, but the Army remains Pakistan’s most influential political institution in part due to its perceived capacity for effective governance when compared to the politicians. At present, the increasingly assertive judiciary, and not the civilian regime, may be the Army’s strongest competition. The highly-publicised case of former President Gen Pervez Musharraf, did not possibly to impact the elections, is the most recent example of struggle between the two institutions to fill the current power vacuum.

The Army’s traditional role as the country’s stalwart defender was on prominent display during recent speeches at the Military Academy graduation ceremony and on Youm-i-Shuhada (Martyrs’ Day), in which he reassured the Pakistani public that the Army would continue the struggle to "strengthen democracy and rule of law in the country." Both speeches received considerable coverage in national media outlets.

The irony, of course, is that military intelligence agencies continue to view certain militant groups as strategic assets, particularly in Afghanistan. There is little to suggest that the ISI has abandoned its policy of distinguishing between "good" and "bad" Taliban, despite recent reports of growing collusion between Afghan Taliban and TTP forces. Leaders in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have recently accused the other of supporting terrorist groups, and an agreement between the Kabul government and the ISI-backed Taliban appears all but impossible in the near-term. As long as the status quo persists, it is likely that violence will continue on both sides of the border.

Everyone’s problem

While much depends on Afghanistan, which is largely the Army’s domain, the rampant election violence should serve as a wake-up call to Pakistani parties of all political persuasions. Conservative religious parties have always had a disproportionate impact on Pakistani politics, beginning with JI and its student wing, Jamaat-e-Taleba. These parties followed a dual-pronged strategy of making friends in high places while drowning out - and often shoving aside - more moderate elements with their oversized street presence. The brand of Islamism propagated by the TTP and its allies differs from that of its ideological forbearers, however, in that rather than seeking to integrate itself into Pakistan’s political system it aims to burn it to the ground.

Until this point, a combination of fear and political expediency has prevented those parties who have yet to receive the full brunt of the TTP onslaught from taking even the first steps toward checking their influence. Much of the Right continues to deny that the battle is even Pakistan’s to fight. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), for instance, advocate withdrawing from the US-led "War on Terror" and negotiating with the TTP, and a February All Parties Conference declaration, sponsored by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), refused to even use the word "terrorism" in calling for peace talks with the militants.

Previous agreements have not held, and it is difficult to see what could come from negotiations with an organisation that continues to call for the unconditional overthrow of the State and the imposition of Shariah law. This is especially true as long as their forces are able to operate with relative impunity along the Pak-Afghan border. While the TTP has thus far focused on the "liberal" parties that are the most outspoken against its radical ideology (primarily the ANP, MQM, and PPP), those who have shied away from coming out more forcefully against terrorism in the hopes of being spared should take note. As recent bombings of PML-N and even JUI-F rallies and offices have demonstrated, no party participating in elections should consider itself immune.

Silver linings and the lessons

As always, there are silver linings to be found. In spite of the violence, elections will be held on time. Many candidates have persisted in the face of grave danger - including the first female from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to contest in general elections. Men and women across the country will brave the dangers and emerge from their homes to cast ballots, each one a heroic act of defiance; a refusal to be intimidated into silence.

Unfortunately, unless the next government (in conjunction with the military) takes concrete steps to begin to reverse the tide of violence, such as improving relations with both Afghanistan and India, stepping up security cooperation with Afghan forces along the border, ceasing to aid and abet "good" Taliban elements, and categorically denouncing all forms of political and religious violence, one can expect the security situation to remain the same or deteriorate further. The past months’ election violence ought to indicate to all parties the very real danger of continuing down the current path.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka: Which way could India go in September?

N Sathiya Moorthy

More than month after the DMK withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh Government over the Sri Lanka vote issue at the UNHRC session in Geneva, no one is talking about the ’Tamil Nadu factor’ influencing India’s Sri Lanka policy. If anything, after a decade and more, a Government at the Centre has survived without parliamentary support from any of the ’Dravidian parties’ in Tamil Nadu.

It is believed that the differences between the original draft and the final one at Geneva might have been influenced by New Delhi. And tactically, India could not have influenced the draft-changes without supporting the US. Even an abstention at UNHRC could not have helped. On substantial issues, India’s vote would have to be construed as making Sri Lanka ’accountable’, not on ’human rights issues’ but on a ’political solution’. This also seems to be the view of many of the voting-members at UNHRC, given the practicalities of the issues and procedures that are involved.

In this background, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reiteration that the elections to the Tamil-majority Northern Provincial Council will be held in September, if implemented, could go a long way in making countries such as India to reconsider their current position in the UNHRC session the same month. Though no vote is scheduled at UNHRC - which becomes due only in March next year - free and fair polls to the Northern PC in Sri Lanka would not only convince India, but also many other nations to reconsider their present position. Tactically, the US too may have to reconsider moving a fresh motion, procedural or otherwise, where even if it were to win, the vote-count at the UNHRC would have come down. There will then be a strong message, not for Sri Lanka, but for the US and its European allies, instead.

Making ’accountability’ a stand-alone issue?

A lot will depend on the level of fairness and free-play in the conduct of the Northern PC polls. Held in September, before the monsoon lashes the region, it could have a welcome bearing on the prestigious Commonwealth Summit that Sri Lanka is hosting in November. An elected provincial administration in the North, headed by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), is a distinct possibility, and it may then will have to be left for them and the Government in Colombo to make the required adjustments, both in terms of approach but more in terms of attitudes and mid-sets. A non-TNA administration is still a theoretical possibility. Issues and attitudes would still remain, and they could be equally complex.

If between the NPC polls and the March-2014 session of the UNHRC, the Sri Lankan Government were to commence the consultative process for a negotiated settlement to the ’ethnic issue’ that could well go a long way in assuaging the genuine apprehensions of the international community on that score. This in turn could render ’accountability’ a stand-alone issue, where individual nations will be deciding on their experience in the matter - or, perceptions in such matters. For now, Government Chief Whip Dinesh Gunawardene has revived on the floor of the House the call for the UNP Opposition to join the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) process. UNP’s Ranil Wickremesinghe has come out with the party’s views on joining the process, whether or not the ’limited’ TNA ’ally’ joined in.

It could cut both ways, as nations backing the cause of ’accountability’ for ’war crimes’ in Sri Lanka might still want ’justice’ as they understand - or, want it to be. But it is not always that the rest of the world understands the same, the same way. Counter-arguments on HR allegations against western countries in their engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq may then get more patient listeners than at present. The table then would have the potential to be turned against the protagonists themselves, after a point. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game, and numbers have a way of swinging on their own after a point.

The UNHRC resolutions of course derive from Sri Lanka’s past commitments, just as India’s vote in the past may have flowed from Colombo not implementing war-time commitments on a political solution in the post-war era. Perceptions remain, as the methodology of post-war solution was not discussed during the war-time. It was obvious Parliament would have to be involved at some stage, but PSC had not been thought of, possibly even by the Sri Lankan Government at the time.

’Sole representative’ ?

Now, the PSC has become the talking-point to the talking-point, and that’s where the Government’s negotiations with the TNA collapsed. Today, the TNA itself is facing a threat of collapse, though not to the same degree, but internal differences within the multi-party Alliance could hit the roof, and then the streets, in time for the September polls in the North. Even when talking to the TNA, Colombo left no in doubt that the Alliance could not be the ’sole representative’, which status predecessor-Governments had conferred on the LTTE. If the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa talked to other Tamil groups as well, others did not take those talks seriously, to confer on Colombo’s efforts the character of multi-layered, multilateral process. That was a problem, too.

Provincial Council elections in the North, as and when held, could be the precursor for reviving the negotiations, either through the PSC or with the Tamil parties, or both. If the TNA were to form a provincial administration, none of the party leaders have had the experience of sitting on the Treasury Benches, and would begin know where the shoe really pinched, how and why. It could then be easy for them to apprehend the larger and smaller issues involved in political administration. Equally so, they could throw up their hands and cry foul on the devolution front. Either way, they could still begin somewhere, and prove that they are up to it - to themselves and to their people, before proving themselves to the Sri Lankan State, the Sinhala polity and the rest of the world, which is all for further devolution, without possibly knowing and understanding what it is all about.

The TNA began well by the status quo when it contested the Eastern Provincial Council elections under a retired navy officer as the Governor. It has a retired army officer as the Governor in the North. It has sought his replacement with a ’civilian governor’, since. In a Province where the army’s presence is a reality for its own reasons and possible justification (if only up to a point), and their involvement in infrastructure development has shown results on the ground, a new government with no experience in administrative matters could gain as much in practical terms as it might stand to compromise in political terms - or, contest both, from experience. The negotiations that the TNA seeks with the Government are also one of give-and-take, and hence of compromises - where both sides would not now budge from their past positions, after all.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt mulls backing independents in NPC polls

Speculation is rife in political circles that an independent group with state backing may enter the fray at the Northern Provincial Council election scheduled for September. Well-informed sources told The Island that the independent group comprising civil society personalities had explained to top level government representatives that they intended to go it alone.

Sources quoted the group as having told the government that the vast majority of those living in the Northern region resented both Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as well as the UPFA constituent, the EPDP. The group has suggested that the Government should ensure a level-playing field in the Northern Province, according to sources. EPDP leader Douglas Devananda has already declared his willingness to be the UPFA’s chief ministerial candidate.

Asked whether the entry of an independent group into the fray could weaken the government campaign, UPFA sources said the ruling coalition would campaign hard in the Northern Province. However, an influential section of the government was of the view that regardless of the consequences, the right of this particular independent group to contest the election should be respected.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, May 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India tight-lipped as US wedging into region: Wimal

National Freedom Front (NFF) MP and Minister Wimal Weerawansa said today that the United States was making its way into the region and India had become powerless in this backdrop. Expressing concerns over the reports on the US plan to sign a contract with the Maldivian Government to establish a military-base, he said, India was paving the way for it.

"The US is trying to breach the region with their power. India is also silent on the issue. There was a time when Indian authorities objected to the setting up of Voice of America (VOA) service in Iranawila. It seems present rulers of India are powerless," he said. He said recent attacks on Sri Lankans and protests against Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu were a result of a contract given by former US State Secretary Hilary Clinton to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram.

Speaking about the northern provincial election, he said, holding this election without removing police and land powers mentioned in the 13th Amendment would endanger the unitary status of the country. "If the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) wins the northern election it will use police and land power to the maximum and take out the Sinhalese and Muslim people from the North along with the military camps," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Air Arabia suspends flights to Mattala

Air Arabia, the only international carrier that flew to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), is believed to have either cancelled or temporarily suspended its flights to the newly-built second international airport in southern Sri Lanka. The website of the Sharjah-based airline no longer provides reservation facilities to or from MRIA and the airline’s destination map only contains Colombo as its sole Sri Lankan destination.

When contacted, Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Dr. Ravindra Ruberu, cited low levels of passenger traffic as the primary reason behind disruptions to the flight schedule. "Reports that Air Arabia has completely stopped flights are false. We have signed agreements with them that state that they will fly to Mattala however the frequency of flights is for them to decide based on the levels of passenger traffic."

A website called reported that Air Arabia has cancelled its flights to MRIA from May. When queried, Nawaloka Aviation Pvt Ltd General Manger, Ramly Vilcassim, General Sales Agent (GSA) for Air Arabia in Sri Lanka, said that Air Arabia is operating at MRIA without any disruptions. But he declined to comment on the frequency of flights.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, May 9, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tensions with Pak continue

Pakistan military’s attempts to reconstruct the security posts along the border next to Goshta district in Nangarhar province resulted in clashes between the forces of the two countries. Thirty Pakistani troops were killed, 30 others wounded and four of their posts destroyed during the clash.

Afghanistan, however, lodged a strong protest against Pakistan for what it described as an unprovoked attack by Pakistan on the Afghan forces in the eastern Nangarhar province. The Pakistani Charge d’Affaires in Kabul, Mr. Shah Nazar Afridi was summoned by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The incident has provoked a strong reaction in Afghanistan. The Afghan Senate House called upon the Afghan government to take serious action against the Pakistani military aggressions. They warned Pakistan that if their actions didn’t improve they would face serious repercussions from the Afghan people. Such a reaction was already visible in Khost, Kapisa, Helmand and Kabul, where protests were staged against Pakistan denouncing them and expressing support for the Afghan security forces.

Parwan province also saw protests with the people asking to be registered in the fight against Pakistan. The students of Nangarhar University in Jalalabad also launched an anti-Pakistan protest of their own declaring jihad against Pakistan and kept the Kabul-Jalalabad highway closed for three straight hours.

Despite such a reaction, reports surfaced claiming that Pakistan had constructed four security posts in Kunar province. Such a move was condemned by the Governor of Kunar, who requested the government for extra security forces to deal with the challenge.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, May 6, 2013; Pajhwok, May 6, 2013; Pajhwok, May 8, 2013; Tolo news, May 5-6, 2013; Tolo News, May 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US to maintain nine bases

Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared that the US is keen to maintain 9 bases in Afghanistan post-2014. According to Karzai, the US wants to maintain these bases in Kabul, Bagram, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalalabad, Gardez, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand and Herat. Karzai stated that his government would be willing to accept such a demand on the part of the Americans only if the US made some "security and economic guarantees" to the Afghan government first.

Such guarantees are currently being negotiated as part of the bilateral security agreement between the two countries, which will determine the nature and size of the American military presence in Afghanistan post-2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Polls important for foreign aid

Dominic Medley, NATO’s civil senior representative’s spokesman, called the 2014 polls to be a critical part of Afghanistan’s smooth political transition, which was essential for ensuring continued international assistance post-2014. He said that the Afghan government’s efforts to meet the commitments would allow the global fraternity to continue supporting the war-devastated nation in the years to come.

During the Chicago NATO Summit and the Tokyo Financial Summit held in 2012, the Afghan government had committed to hold transparent elections and fight corruption. In the meanwhile, the ISAF also announced that foreign troops would advice the Afghan National Security Forces regarding the security arrangement during the election process.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, May 5-6, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition protest leaves 30 dead

More than 30 people have died and hundreds have been injured in fierce clashes between law enforcement agencies and Islamist protesters in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, compounding the chaos in a country struggling to come to terms with a building collapse that killed more 900 people last month.

A large rally was organised by the Hefazat-e-Islam, a pressure group consisting of teachers and students of Qawmi Madrasa (religious schools) descended into violence on May 5 evening when HeIfazat protesters clashed with law enforcement agency. Several hundred shops and vehicles were burnt during pitched battles that raged into the night.

The Hefazat was protesting in favour of an anti-blasphemy law and demanding punishment for "atheist" bloggers who they say have insulted Islam and the Prophet. Many continued to clash with police on May 6 in the Narayanganj suburb of Dhaka and in the Chittagong district in the south-east, with at least 15 protesters and 3 police officers dead.

Law-enforcement agencies claimed that security personnel had acted to safeguard the lives and property of citizens after Islamists resorted to violence. However, Hefazat accused the government of a "massacre in the dead of night".

Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had urged Hefazat to postpone their planned protests in Dhaka scheduled for March 4 and 5 respectively taking into consideration the ongoing rescue operations for the building collapse. But the organisation declined to accept the call made by Prime Minister.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Guardian, May 6, 2013; The Independent, May 4, 2013 The Daily Star, May 6&8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pitching for South Asian currency

Finance Minister Bangladesh Abul Maal A Muhith this week had pitched for a common currency for South Asia to promote trade and investment and facilitate greater economic integration within the region.

The Minister made this call at seminar in New Delhi organised on boosting sub-regional development through investment and trade. He also observed that India and Bangladesh should take the initiative for the common currency.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, May 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Death-sentence for Jamaat leader

In a major development the International Crimes Tribuna(ICT) this week sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman to death as he was found guilty of crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. The three-member tribunal convicted the Jamaat leader in connection with five, out of seven, charges. The three members of the tribunal unanimously delivered the judgment against Kamaruzzaman.

Earlier, ICT had handed down the death penalty to Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar and sentenced to life imprisonment the other assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Quader Mollah, for their participation in crimes against humanity in 1971. Nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, was also awarded capital punishment by ICT.

Regarding the role of Jamaat-e-Islami, the tribunal said the potential religion-based political party was the brainchild of Mawlana Sayyid Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi. It had been significantly proactive in collaboration with the Pakistan occupation army in carrying out its mission of wiping out the Bengali nation. It stood firmly against the War of Liberation in 1971 in the name of shielding Pakistan. Al-Badr was formed mainly of workers of its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the order added.

It can be recalled that International War Crime Tribunal was established in March 2010 try those who committed crimes against humanity during the country liberation war of 1971.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Few takers for Thai scholarships

Of the 90 scholarships, the Shinawatra University in Thailand offered to Bhutan this year, only twenty one were filled, Bhutan chamber of commerce and industry (BCCI) officials said. The scholarships to study in Thailand were announced, after the university attended the third international education fair held in Thimphu this March.

The scholarships covered only tuition fees and the students had to bear the travel, food and lodging expenses. The university awarded five full scholarships (free tuition fees), eleven scholarships at seventy five per cent and twenty nine half scholarships with fifty per cent off tuition fees. The highest scholarships, forty five slots, were offered at twenty five percent tuition fee discount.

There were 66 under-graduate slots and twenty four master’s degree scholarships on offer for Bhutanese students. Of the twenty-one, only one applicant, who applied for a bachelor’s of science in management technology, received 100 per cent scholarship on tuition fee, according to a letter from the president of the university to the BCCI.

Four applicants were awarded seventy five per cent scholarships, eleven got fifty per cent, and five others received twenty five per cent scholarships. The first fair in 2011, which had thirty eight international education institutions, resulted in twenty seven scholarships from Shinawatra University and Thai Chamber of Commerce, and Dhurakij Pundit Universities in Thailand at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The Shinawatra University offered thirty scholarships at the second fair, where 199 education institutions participated.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tashi Air eyes Airbus

Tashi Air (Paro (PBH)) is said to be considering acquiring A320 family aircraft to help with the launch of international operations.

Given Bhutan’s rugged mountainous terrain, analysts speculate that the order will most likely be for A319-100’s given that they are the only Airbus aircraft capable of operating out of Paro (PBH) which, with surrounding peaks as high as 18,000 ft (5,500 m), is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports.

Currently Tashi Air operates a single Pilatus PC 12 on an exclusively domestic network.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cultural exchange and conservation

The officials of Samdrup Jonkhar district of Royal government of Bhutan and Indian officials of Udalguri district and members of environmental NGOs of Assam met at sub-divisional HQ Daifam in Bhutan on May 2 recently to discuss conservation of nature and cultural exchange between the two districts of India and Bhutan.

Mutual cooperation for speeding up conservation of flora and fauna near the international border was also discussed at the meeting. Indian side was led by Thaneswar Malakar, Deputy Commissioner, Udalguri. The Bhutan side was led by Gholing Tshering, Deputy Commissioner, Samdrup Jonkhar district.

Welcoming DC, officials and distinguished people Bhutan DC said that conservation of environment had been difficult in Bhutan side these days following massive destruction of forests in Assam, India. He pointed out that taking advantage of difficult terrain and less security forces, anti social activists from India had started destroying forests in Bhutan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Assam Times, May 6, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BJP loses Karnataka to Congress

Sending out a powerful signal for change, Karnataka has voted the Bharatiya Janata Party out of power while giving the Congress an unambiguous mandate to rule; with 121 seats in the 224-strng Legislative Assembly (polling for one seat was countermanded due to the death of a candidate). The defeat of the BJP in the only south Indian State where it had managed to establish a solid presence marks a stunning reversal for a party that has tried hard to grow beyond the Hindi-speaking areas of the country over the past decade and more.

The BJP, which was elected to power in 2008 with 110 seats, won only 40 seats this time. While the Congress which had won just 80 seats in the May 2008 Assembly elections, increased it tally by 41, an unexpected but significant outcome of these elections is the strong showing by the Janata Dal (Secular), led by former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy.

The JD (S) which upped its tally to 40 (from 28 in 2008) shares the second spot with the BJP. The Karnataka Janata Paksha, a BJP break-away headed by former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa was in six constituencies falling far short of its own double digit expectations. Another BJP breakaway, the Badavara Shranikara Raitra Congress of B S Srirramulu, an associate of the Reddy mining barons from Bellary, won in four seats. The remaining 12 constituencies were won by Independents.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CBI arrests Minister’s nephew

The CBI on Friday arrested a nephew of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakhs to fix a top Railway Board appointment. A senior Railway official was also arrested, following which the Opposition demanded the Minister’s resignation.

Businessman Vijay Singla, who is the son of Bansal’s sister, was arrested from an upcoming mall in Chandigarh’s Sector 28, where he had allegedly gone to pick up the bribe. The cash is learnt to have been seized.

Mahesh Kumar, one of the country’s most senior Railway officers, who was elevated to the Railway Board as its Member (Staff) only on Thursday, was arrested in Mumbai.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, May 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CBI, a ’caged parrot’: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the CBI for allowing "the heart of status report" on the investigation into the ’coal scam’ to be changed on the suggestion from officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Coal Ministry.

A Bench of Justices R M Lodha, Madan B Lokur and Kurien Jospeh, examining the CBI Director’s affidavit, also criticised Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar for accessing the draft status report. Justice Lodha observed:"We want to know whether the Law Minister can ask the CBI to show details of (the) probe or status report in a case involving people of other ministries and the PMO. Does it not subvert integrity of the investigation if changes are brought in the status report on suggestions of the Law Minister and Government officers? Even if administrative superintendence is there for the Ministry concerned, investigation must be left alone."

Earlier, contrary to the claims made by the Law Minister and the Attorney-General G E Vahanvati, an affidavit filed by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha on Monday (May 6) had said that "changes" had been made at their instance in the status reports that had been submitted in March in connection with the ’coalgate’ probe. In his nine-page affidavit, Sinha said that while a "majority" of the changes had been made in consultation with, among others, Mr Ashwani Kumar, "a few changes were also done on the suggestion of the Attorney-General and officials of the PMO and Ministry of Coal".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 9, 2013, The Times of India, May 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sarabjit laid to rest, Pak prisoner attacked

All roads led to Bhikhiwind on Friday as the Punjab border town bid farewell to Sarabjit Singh, its son who finally came home after 22 years in a Pakistan jail. As sister Dalbir Kaur lit the pyre, thousands lined the narrow road to the cremation ground, perched on walls, rooftops and any spare space. Some cried, some raised their voices in anger, none were unaffected.

Politicians also made a beeline for Singh’s funeral. Among those present were Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, Punjab CM Prakash Singh Badal, his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal and minister of state for external affairs Parneet Kaur.

The anger possibly resulted in a retaliatory attack on a Pakistani man jailed in Jammu and prompted an immediate response from Islamabad. Sanaullah Ranjay, 54, a convicted terrorist and murderer serving life sentence in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail, is in coma at PGI Chandigarh, where he was shifted after he was hit with a brick by fellow inmate and ex-army man Vinod Kumar, also serving a life term for murder.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, May 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No clarity behind Chinese incursions

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Thursday in Beijing that there was still "no clarity" on the reasons behind the April 15 incursion by the People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh, but added that he did not seek an explanation from the Chinese during talks. Mr Khurshid, who held talks with his counterpart Wang Yi for over three hours on May 9, said both sides had expressed "satisfaction" over the fact that the stand-off in Ladakh was resolved peacefully through existing mechanism.

Earlier, the Government had hardened its stand on the Chinese incursions in Ladkah and for the first time, indicated it could review the External Affairs Minister’s Beijing visit in case no substantial progress was made to break the deadlock. The developments came on a day intelligence inputs received in Delhi suggested a scaling down of activity at the site of the incursions and the possible dismantling of some tents. "This input is being ascertained," said a senior diplomatic source.

Although the Government maintained on Monday that no concessions were offered to the Chinese to end the face-off, Indian forces appear to have agreed to the removal of bunkers built by the Army on Chunar, close to the Line of control (LAC) to facilitate an agreement.

Sources familiar with the negotiations and the local topography said that the 21-day confrontation on Ladkah’s desolate Depsang plains ended only after the Indian Army agreed to demolish bunkers it had built in the region of Chunar near the LAC.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 10, 2013, The Times of India, May 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NDA slams Govt on twin issues

Opposition NDA on Friday opened a new front against the UPA government over the "visible drift" in management of foreign relations in the context of death of Sarabjit Singh and the Chinese incursion in eastern Ladakh.

Its top leadership met President Pranab Mukherjee and argued the government owes an apology for not ensuring the safe return of Singh and termed as "unacceptable" the handling of the Chinese incursion.

A team of senior leaders including L K Advani, NDA convenor Sharad Yadav, BJP chief Rajnath Singh and Opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, May 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Help to develop Iranian port

India on Saturday announced its participation in the Chabahar port project -a move that would reinforce New Delhi’s strategic ties with Teheran and Kabul ahead of next year’s withdrawal from Afghanistan by the US. The decision to forge a trilateral partnership was announced in Teheran by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

In a vast, tastefully furnished hall in the Iranian Foreign Ministry where he was flanked by his counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, and delegates of the two countries, Mr. Khurshid’s words rang loud and clear: "The convergence of views between India and Iran goes beyond the ambit of bilateral relations and extends to the regional and international arena as well. The Chabahar port project is one such area which reflects our commitment to the stability and peace in Afghanistan."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Consular access on daily basis

India on Saturday granted consular access on daily basis to Pakistan officials to visit Sanaullah Ranjay, who was injured in a scuffle with another inmate in Jammu jail and has been admitted to a Chandigarh hospital. Earlier, a team of Pakistan High Commission officials had met Sanaullah at PGI Chandigarh "We have given Pakistan High Commission officials consular access on daily basis. They can visit Sanaullah once in a day. They will also be briefed twice a day on the condition of the prisoner," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said here. He also said there was no change in the condition of Sanaullah. He remains serious but there is no worsening of his condition, the spokesperson said.

Pakistan High Commission officials had visited the injured prisoner at the hospital at 3:30 AM and had also met the attending doctor.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US warned on Sikh caucus

Aghast at the role of pro-Khalistan elements in the launch of a Sikh Congressional Caucus last week, the Indian Government has cautioned the Obama Administration and US lawmakers who joined the group against helping revive what was a violent separatist affair that has largely faded away.

Indian officials have been briefing US lawmakers about the near-defunct movement and its bloody history after discovering that the principal movers of the Sikh caucus were Khalistani activists trying to revive separatist sentiments.

The Indian effort to sensitise US lawmakers to New Delhi’s concerns began even before the launch of the caucus, but much to the Indian Embassy’s surprise and dismay, pro-Khalistani Sikhs succeeded in getting the caucus off the ground. In the process, they are said to have sidelined mainstream nationalist Sikhs.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sensex hits 20,000-mark

Riding on a global upsurge in equities, the BSE Sensex on Wednesday scaled the psychologically important 20,000-level for the first time in over three months.

After hitting 20,000 levels, the Sensex closed 101.23 points or 0.51 percent, at 19,990.18, a level last seen on January 31. It had gained 313 points in the last two sessions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI cuts repo by 25 bps

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday slashed the repo rate-the rate at which the RBI lends funds to the banks-by 25 basis points to 7.25 percent in line with expectations but cautioned that the "balance of risks" stemming from the Reserve Bank’s assessment of the "growth inflation dynamic yields little space for further monetary easing".

Bankers, however, said there was no scope for an immediate reduction in th lending rates as the quantum of the repo-cut was not enough to bring down their cost of funds.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, May 4, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN official for political dialogue

Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco has stressed the need to engage in political dialogue amongst all parties. He made this remark at a meeting President Dr Mohamed Waheed in Male. At the meeting, the two discussed the current political situation of the country and the preparations been made for this year’s presidential elections.

Underlining the importance of conducting a transparent, free and fair electoral process, Taranco noted the tremendous strides made by the country towards embracing and institutionalization of multi-party democratic governance. He applauded President Waheed for his leadership techniques in restoring peace and stability following the change of power in February 2012.

President Waheed expressed appreciation for the continued support and cooperation received from the UN for the development of the Maldives. The President reiterated the Government’s commitment, to create a stable and transparent environment conducive to dialogue and to strengthen democratic reform and institutions.

Talking to newsmen, Fernandez-Taranco stressed the importance of implementing the recommendations given by UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul and the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI). He urged all groups to work towards making the upcoming election free and fair, and making it an election in which all candidates wishing to participate are able to do so.

He also called for the immediate strengthening of the Maldives Police Service, the Police Integrity Commission, the Judiciary, the Judicial Services Commission, the Parliament, and the Human Rights Commission.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, May 10, 2013, Sun Online, May 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US provides $2.5m as election support

The US has provided $2.5 million (MVR 39 million) to public institutions and civil society organisations promote civic participation in the upcoming election. In a statement, the US Embassy said that an 18-month programme aimed at promoting an open and democratic election would be implemented by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) with Maldivian partners Transparency Maldives and the Raajje Foundation.

The statement says, "The programme aims to support the election process through resolution of disputes and voter education. This assistance will provide national and regional forums for dialogue with policy makers and civic leaders as well as dispute resolution and mediation training for community leaders. For Maldivian citizens, the program will launch a public awareness campaign to promote political reconciliation and a free and fair election. In addition, civic and voter education programs will provide training and grants for community based organizations to increase citizen participation and improve voter education across the atolls."

The Embassy said that IFES staff will arrive in Maldives mid-May to meet with local partners and the program will commence in June.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, May 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jameel named Yameen’s running mate, asked to quit Govt

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has been appointed as the running mate of Presidential Candidate of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdullah Yameen. This was announced by the party’s Presidential Candidate Abdullah Yameen at a ceremony at Dharubaaruge in Male.

The announcement came after Dr Jameel was asked by the President’s Office to tender his resignation if he plans to act as running mate for another party.

Press Secretary of the President’s Office Masood Imad said that since the president himself would be running for office, it would create a conflict of interest to have a member of his cabinet as his rival candidate or rival candidate’s running mate.

A senior official of the Government said that the posts of Minister of Defence and Minister of Home Affairs are different, and persons holding those posts must show loyalty to the President.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, May 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian army doctors on duty

On the invitation of MNDF, a team of highly-qualified doctors from Armed Forces Medical Services, India, are in Maldives for one week, beginning May 5, for conducting medical camps at various islands in Thaa Atoll. The team, headed by Col(Dr) Sukriti Baveja, comprises of 06 specialist doctors in various fields.

The medical team is going to various islands in Thaa Atoll and consulting patients in regional health centres and, if required, will conduct minor operative procedures. This will greatly benefit the people of these islands and will assist in providing specialist medical assistance to the people of Maldives.

This is a major initiative in Defence cooperation between the Government of Maldives and India to reach out to the people of Maldives with the assistance of the MNDF, and will further strengthen the bilateral relations between India and Maldives.

The Indian Government had provided major assistance for establishment of the military hospital SenaHiya, which was officially opened in September last year during the visit of Indian Defence Minister Mr. A. K. Antony. India has also sent 2 specialist doctors and 4 paramedics on long term deputation to MNDF, who are stationed in Male’ to man the SenaHiya hospital.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, May 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India will not assist Maldives: Nasheed

Presidential candidate of the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, MDP, former President Mohamed Nasheed, has said that India will not assist Maldives in any way no matter how much paper and ink are wasted to send requests to India.

Speaking at Usfasgandu, former President Nasheed said that India will not grant any assistance to Maldives with Dr. Mohamed Waheed being the President of Maldives. He said that India will not grant easiness in processing visa for Maldivians and that the neighboring country will not grant sand and gravel to Maldives.

"No matter how much paper and ink are wasted with Dr. Waheed as the President India will not grant any assistance to Maldives. Without sand and gravel, the roads that he talks about cannot be developed whether in Kulhudhufushi, Addu or Male’," he said.

Former President Nasheed said that no harbours and flats can be developed by the Government of President Dr. Waheed. He said that it will be impossible for the government to get any assistance from Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh that India denies to give.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Miadhu, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India hosts Maldive’s poll body

India’s Elections Commission (ECI) and parliament are hosting respective delegations from the Maldives’ Elections Commission (ECM) and Majlis in an effort to ensure September’s presidential elections are conducted in a "free, fair and credible manner".

A seven-member delegation from the Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) is in India for six days as part of a cooperative program with the Elections Commission of India (ECI) to enhance the Maldives’ capacity to hold the upcoming presidential and local council elections.

While in India, the ECM has the opportunity to acquire first-hand experience during the Karnataka state assembly elections. The ECI is also organising a special election-related training module for the ECM in Mysore.

ECM President Fuad Taufeeq is leading the delegation, which includes other ECM senior officials. Prior to departing for India on May 4 the Maldives’ delegation met with the High Commissioner of India Rajeev Shahare to discuss the visit and other election related issues.

Meanwhile, a Maldivian parliamentary delegation led by Speaker MP Abdulla Shahid is also in India and met with Indian Parliamentary Speaker Lok Sabha Smt. Meira Kumar yesterday (May 6). Kumar assured the visiting delegation that India would extend "all possible assistance" - in close coordination with the ECM - to ensure the September presidential elections are conducted smoothly and peacefully. She expressed her hope that elections may be held in a free, fair and credible manner.

Kumar said that India and Maldives enjoy "special and time ¬tested relations" and reiterated India’s continued commitment to further strengthen and diversify the bilateral relationship. Along those lines, she emphasised the collective task both nations have to create an atmosphere of "strong understanding and interdependencies" in the region to achieve collective progress and prosperity.

Kumar also stressed the need to further strengthen bilateral parliamentary linkages, with the first meeting of the India-Maldives Parliamentary Friendship Group being held during the Maldives delegation visit, acting as a "step in the right direction".

The Maldivian Government was urged to take measures for establishing investor- confidence in the country as well as conduct structural reforms to prevent harassment and improve living conditions for the nearly 30,000 strong Indian expatriate work-force. Shahid assured Kumar that the Maldives would work closely with India for the mutual benefit of both nations and extended an invitation for the India’s parliamentary speaker to visit the Maldives.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Minivan News, May 10, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President for upholding Muslim rights

President Thein Sein on Monday pledged to uphold the "fundamental rights" of Muslims in strife-torn Rakhine State, in the wake of deadly religious unrest that has spread across the country. In a speech to the nation following the release last week of an official report into last year’s violence in western Rakhine that killed around 200 people, Thein Sein said the country should aim for "peaceful coexistence".

"Regarding Rakhine, our Government will take responsibility for upholding Muslims’ fundamental rights," he said, adding that ethnic Rakhines, who are mainly Buddhist, "will not be neglected". Thein Sein said he accepted that "there were human rights violations... because of the policies that we used formerly", without elaborating on which measures he was referring to. He pledged to use his authority "to make sure that security forces fully implement measures to restore peace and the rule of law".

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, May 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Manhunt on for the bomb-maker

The National Police’s Densus-88 counter-terrorism unit is hunting for a 23-year old bomb-maker, ’SI’, in connection with a plan to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta. "He allegedly helped assemble bombs for the attack," National Police spokesperson Brig-Gen Boy Rafli Amar said on Monday in Jakarta.

Boy said that SI, along with two suspects -- Sefa Riano, 28, and Achmad Taufiq, 29 -- made five bombs to attack the embassy in retaliation against persecution of the Rohingya, the Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar. Sefa and Achmad were apprehended on Thursday on Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta with a backpack containing five bombs.

Soon after the arrest, the counterterrorism squad questioned Sefa’s wife, Syaripah, and searched his house in Jl. Bangka, South Jakarta where they found chemical substances, batteries and bullets. Boy played down a rumour saying that the three suspects were linked to major terror cells. "They have no criminal record. This is the first time they committed a criminal act," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Jakarta Post, May 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protests against resettlement

Hundreds of Buddhist residents in western Myanmar’s Arakan state took to the streets this week to protest a Government plan to resettle Rohingya Muslims, who were uprooted in last year’s ethno-religious clashes, according to local sources.

Residents from around 30 Arakanese villages near Kyaukphyu township -where Buddhist mobs razed several Muslim quarters in October last year, displacing tens of thousands of people -have led vocal protests since Sunday against resettlement projects planned nearby.

It follows a government pledge to start building new houses for displaced Muslims in Pauktaw, Myebon and Kyaukphyu townships by the end of April. Most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) slated for resettlement are currently living in camps prone to flooding, which aid workers say are likely to be devastated at the onset of rainy season.

But residents from Kyaukphyu, which has been predominately populated by Buddhist Arakanese and Kaman Muslims who have Burmese citizenship, say they will not accept the stateless Rohingya minority, viewed as "illegal Bengali immigrants", to resettle there.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, May 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Drug-free’ deadline postponed

Myanmar will give itself an extra five years to eliminate drug production within its borders, a senior official said as officials from China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam gathered in Rangoon on Monday to discuss the region’s drug crisis.

A report by AFP quoted deputy police chief Zaw Win as saying that Myanmar had "extended its drug elimination to 2019," from a previous deadline of 2014. Myanmar has experienced a rebound in poppy cultivation, while amphetamine-type stimulants are also surging. A minister-level meeting in Naypyidaw on Thursday is expected to produce a regional declaration on the issue.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Irrawaddy, May 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dalai Lama condemns Buddhist attacks

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday decried Buddhist monks’ attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, saying killing in the name of religion was "unthinkable."

The Dalai Lama, a foremost Buddhist leader, told an audience at the University of Maryland at the start of a US tour that the root of seemingly sectarian conflict was political, not spiritual.

"Really, killing people in the name of religion is unthinkable, very sad. Nowadays even Buddhists are involved in Myanmar," with monks attacking Muslim mosques, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said after delivering the Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace at the university. "I think it is very sad," he said, adding, "I pray for them to think of the face of Buddha."

"That group of individuals of the 20th century are ready to say bye-bye," Tibet’s most revered spiritual leader said. "You have the responsibility to create a new world, based on the concept of one-humanity."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Irrawaddy, May 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Prachuap Pass upgraded

Myanmar on Wednesday unilaterally upgraded its Mortong border checkpoint with Thailand to the status of a permanent pass, with Bangkok dragging its feet and still to officially announce the promised change. The frontier crossing links the Myanmar township with Singkhorn checkpoint in Muang district of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Prachuap Governor Veera Sriwattanatrakul said at the ceremony to open the Myanmar border office that Thailand had not officially announced a matching upgrade from temporary to permanent checkpoint because of unsettled border demarcation issues in the area. Thai and Myanmar officials were due to survey the border from May 27-30, he said.

The upgrading of the Myanmar checkpoint allows Thais holding a passport or a border pass to travel on Myanmar vehicles to Mergui, a key town on the Andaman coast in the Tanintharyi Region 200 kilometres from the Thai border. Thailand and Myanmar plan to open two other permanent checkpoints - at Three Pagodas Pass and Ban Nam Pu Ron, both in Kanchanaburi.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Bangkok Post, May 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sagaing to buy electricity from Manipur

Sagaing regional government has informed the Manipur Chief Minister in India of its desire to purchase electricity for Tamu Township, Sagaing region. "When we went to discuss about it, Manipur Chief Minister agreed to sell electricity to us. He told us he will inform about the proposal to the central government. He also wanted to improve bilateral relationship. Tamu has been currently given with generator and there is not enough electricity," Kyaw Win, Minister of Electric Power of Sagaing regions said.

The regional government will buy about 2 MW or 3 MW of electricity from Manipur to distribute in Tamu. "If we are able to make the purchase, we will organize a public company and sell electricity to citizen. We will know the rate after we discuss with them how much we have to pay. Currently the township electricity office is distributed electricity about 3.5 hr per daily to Tamu and private generators are distributed electricity about four hours daily to Tamu," Myo Nyunt, District Engineer of Tamu said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven News Media, May 8, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dawood in fake-currency racket?

The arrest of a Pakistani national and his Nepali associate at the Tribhuwan International Airport on May 7 has led to indication that the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim is still actively involved in sending fake-currency notes to India using the porous Indo-Nepal border.

Sheikh Mohammed Fukran, 48, a resident of Azizabad in Karachi, was arrested by a team of Nepali police after he landed in Kathmandu on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha. Fake Indian currency notes worth Rs. 1 crore in denominations of 500 and 1000 were recovered from the false bottom of the suitcase carried by the accused, who was dressed as a Muslim preacher.

This is the second biggest haul of fake Indian currency at the airport this year since arrests of a Pakistani mother-son duo last month with Rs. 45 lakh. The two had arrived from Karachi on a PIA flight. But it is the arrest of Mohammed’s Nepali associate, Nurullah Miya, which has led the police to suspect Dawood’s continued involvement in the fake currency racket operated in Nepal.

The 61-year-old, who was to receive the currency notes from Fukran, was being followed by the police. The owner of a travel agency in Kathmandu, Nurullah is said to have old ties with Dawood. The Nepali citizen fled the country after the 2010 murder of Jamim Shah, a local businessman alleged to be the mastermind of Dawood’s fake currency racket in Nepal.

Nurullah stayed in Dubai for two years before returning. "We thought he had severed his ties (with Dawood). But started to keep a tab after noticing suspicious activities," a local newspaper quoted an unnamed police officer.

Police are also searching for a person called Anil Singh, a former associate of Jamim Shah, to whom Nurullah was to forward the fake currency to be further transported to India.

"There are reports that the accused could belong to Dawood’s gang, but there is no official announcement in this regard. Investigation is on and we expect big disclosures in a couple of days," Nepal Police spokesperson Keshav Adhikary has said.

Nepal is a major route through which fake Indian currency originating from Pakistan is pushed to India. Agents use small time operators to send the money across the 1800 km open border. Earlier, Pakistanis used to be the major carriers of fake currency. But with increased security measures, racketeers are using citizens of other countries and newer routes to smuggle the contraband into Nepal.

In 2011, Yunus Ansari, a Nepali politician-cum-media baron and an alleged Dawood associate who is in prison for involvement in the fake currency racket, was shot at by an Indian shooter inside jail.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Kantipur, May 8, 2013, The Hindustan Times, May 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karki nominated CIAA chief

Despite objections from some political parties and ministers, former Chief Secretary Lokman Singh Karki was sworn in as the head of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). The Constitutional Council (CC), which is led by Chairman of the Interim Election Government Khil Raj Regmi, recommended his nomination on May 5 and was endorsed by the President.

Karki’s appointment has invited criticised from across the civil society and media as has been accused of smuggling gold when he was chief of the Department of Customs. A high-level probe committee led by former Justice Bhairab Lamsal had also accused him of amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. The Supreme Court had acquitted Karki of the charges on technical grounds.

The Rayamajhi Commission, formed to look into state excesses, had indicted Karki of attempting to suppress the 2006 Jana Andolan. A Cabinet committee under the then Home Minister KP Sharma Oli that was formed to implement the recommendations of the Rayamajhi Commission declared Karki "ineligible" for holding any public position.

The top post of the anti-graft body had been vacant since former chief commissioner Surya Nath Upadhyay retired in May 2009. United CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal pitched for Karki’s appointment in a meeting of the High-level Political Mechanism on March 17.

Legal experts have also said that Karki is not constitutionally eligible for the post. Article 119 (5 c) of the Interim Constitution states that one has to have at least 20 years of working experience in the fields of accounting, revenue, engineering, law, development or research to be appointed as chief commissioner or commissioner.

A day after the CC’s recommendation, the Supreme Court (SC) declined to register a writ petition challenging the decision. The decision has drawn widespread protests in the country. While civil society members and students organisations have taken to the streets, political parties have urged the President Dr Ram Baran Yadav to re-consider the decision. Some young wing leaders also burnt the effigies of Chairman Regmi and Karki. The civil society leaders have announced that they will seek answers why the leaders chose to nominate Karki as the head of the powerful body like CIAA against the sentiment of thousands of people.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, Republica, may 6-9, 2013;, May 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Qatar jails Nepali teacher on charges of insulting Islam

A Nepali teacher, who was teaching Chemistry at Doha Academy, has been jailed in Doha on felony charges for insulting Islam.

Dorje Gurung, who has taught chemistry to middle and high school students in the US, Britain and Australia, appeared in a Doha court on May 9. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison, according to Doha News.

Gurung was fired from Qatar Academy after arguments with students on April 22 and 23. Although he was set to leave the country, he was summoned by the police and has been jailed since last Wednesday, according to The Himalayan Times.

Gurung has been accused of comparing all Muslims to terrorists. But two of his friends shared Gurung’s version with Doha News: On April 22 Gurung said he had a sit-down chat with three 12-year-old boys who were making fun of him. Among other things, the seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him "Jackie Chan," a famous Chinese actor. On April 23, the mocking again began in earnest while Gurung was in line for lunch. At first, he said the teasing was light-hearted, but then one student put his hand on Gurung’s shoulder and a finger in his nose. At this point, Gurung grew agitated and said remarks to the effect of, how would you like to be stereotyped i.e. called a terrorist?

Gurung has no legal representation, but the Nepali embassy is seeking permission from the Kathmandu government to meet with Gurung. Without a lawyer, Gurung’s friends fear he would not get a fair trial. The court would rely on the complaints from Qatar Academy’s students, they said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, The Washington Post, May 9-10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four-year-old raped in New Delhi

A four-year Nepali girl Nepal has been raped by her neighbour in South Delhi´s Chirag Delhi on May 8. The child victim, who is now undergoing treatment at New Delhi´s AIIMS Trauma Centre, hails from Argakhanchi district in Nepal. The accused has been identified as one Vijay, a native of Rourkela in Orissa state of India. He works as a delivery boy in a restaurant in the same Chirag Delhi area.

The accused also allegedly attempted to have unnatural sex with the four-year-old due to which she suffered severe injuries in her private parts. After a surgical operation, the minor is at the intensive care unit in AIIMS and her condition has been stated to be stable.

Media reports said that Vijay attempted to flee after the crime but was nabbed from a railway station in Delhi. The Malviya Nagar police have said that Vijay lured the victim to his room under the pretext of giving her a toffee. The girl´s parents and brother are daily wage labourers and were away when the crime took place. As Vijay was her next door neighbour, the girl went to his room when offered a toffee. After sexually assaulting her, Vijay left the room leaving her in a pool of blood. Hearing her frantic screaming from the room, some neighbours informed the police.

Meanwhile, the minor girl´s statement was recorded in which she identified the accused. A case has been registered and the accused has been sent to Tihar jail on Thursday.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, May 10, 2013; Hindustan Times, May 9, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Imran Khan injured

Pakistan Tehrik-i Insaaf (PTI) chief and former cricketer Imran Khan sustained " stitches to his head and a compression to his backbone" while attempting to address a rally in Lahore on May 7. Khan fell from a 15-foot high forklift that was transporting him to the raised stage. Addressing still-shocked supporters at Ghalib Market from the Intensive Care Unit at Shaulat Khanum Hospital, Khan said on TV, "Now it is your (people’s) turn to take charge and ensure the making of ’naya’ Pakistan."

On doctor’s advice, Khan would not be able to campaign in person before the May 11 elections. Instead, Khan addressed 25,000 supporters in Islamabad’s D-Chowk on the night of May 8 via video-link. Still dressed in his hospital gown, Khan asked Pakistan to vote for "their future and their children’s future."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Nation, May 8, 2013; The Dawn, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sanaullah Ranjay dies

India-Pakistan tensions have been high since the death of alleged Indian spy Sarabjit Singh. Shortly after Singh was attacked, Sanaullah Ranjay -imprisoned for participation in Kashmiri separatist activities-suffered serious head wounds in a prison in Jammu. He was attacked by a court-martialled Indian soldier. Ranjay was admitted to a hospital in Chandigarh, but on May 8 he died of renal failure. On May 8, Ranjay’s body was returned to his hometown of Sialkot. Protests in Pakistani administered Kashmir flared up in response to the attack. This episode has only heightened tensions between the two nations, which suffered a border dispute earlier this year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, May 8, 2013; The Nation, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-PM Gilani’s son kidnapped

Ali Haider Gilani, the son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, was kidnapped after an attack at a PPP rally in Multan on May 9. Gilani was contesting the PP-200 constituency against a PML-N candidate. He was at a campaign rally when roughly 15 gunmen in two cars opened fire on the rally.

Hours later, authorities were receiving reports that Gilani and his kidnappers were in Khanewal District, a reported hideout for groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Two bystanders, including Gilani’s personal secretary, were killed and eight others injured. Reports also say that Gilani may have been shot during the attack.

The primary target of the attack was reportedly the former PM, who was also at the event and who said that he had been receiving TTP death and kidnapping threats. Meanwhile, the PPP has said it will not contest the PP-200 constituency unless Gilani is returned, and PPP Chair Bilawal Bhutto cancelled all political gatherings for May 9 in response to the attack.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, May 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bilawal leaves Pakistan

In the wake of threats to his life, the chief of the Pakistan People’s Party and son of President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto, left Pakistan and will not return for elections.

Bhutto is the chief architect of PPP’s election strategy, and party sources said he would assist the campaign from abroad. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has targeted parties and candidates deemed hostile to its interests-including PPP, ANP, and MQM. Underscoring the threat, on May 3, 2013, the Taliban shot dead Sadiq Zaman Khattak, an ANP candidate for Karachi in NA-254, and his three-year-old child.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Pakistan: Daniel Rubin and Louis Ritzinger;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan:Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Medha Chaturvedi;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.