MonitorsPublished on Dec 13, 2013
Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, who retired on December 12 after heading Pakistan's apex court for seven years, has left behind a contentious legacy of judicial activism, in many senses unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult to follow.
Pakistan: The difficult task of continuing legacy of Chief Justice Chaudhury
< class="heading1">Analysis

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, who retired on December 12 after heading Pakistan’s apex court for seven years, has left behind a contentious legacy of judicial activism, in many senses unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult to follow. By daring to take on the establishment, including the powerful Pakistan Army, Justice Chaudhary galvanised popular sentiments but certain controversial rulings have left serious question-marks on judicial probity.

Though Justice Chaudhary was appointed as the top-most judge in 2005, it was in the year of 2007 that he marked his footprint so vividly in the contemporary history of Pakistan which will always be remembered. He, in a sense, can be said to have ’liberated’ Pakistan. The country, which saw the first glimpse of independence in 1947, was soon engulfed in the clutches of military dictatorship. It was not until March 2007 that the edifice of military rule was shaken up. The man responsible for this jolt to the dictatorship of Gen Pervez Musharraf was Justice Chaudhary.

Born in Quetta on 12 December 1948, Chaudhary was the longest-serving Chief Justice in Pakistan’s history. He brought to attention many important human rights violation cases and passed a number of landmark judgements, which form a part of the legacy that he leaves behind for his successors.

One of the most serious human rights problems in Pakistan is that of ’enforced disappearances’. It was a constant source of political tension, even between the Supreme Court and Gen Musharraf. Justice Chaudhary has been a long-standing crusader for the missing persons in the country. He summoned high-level military intelligence officials before the Supreme Court and ordered them to explain the legal basis for the detention of the ’disappeared’ persons. The court also ordered the military to physically produce the ’disappeared’ persons.

In another instance, Justice Chaudhary shocked the whole country when he suspended the privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) on the plea of the PSM workers’ union. He observed that although the main objectives of the privatisation policy were poverty-alleviation and debt-retirement, these were not given due weightage in the PSM’s privatisation deal.

Equal protection of the laws

Following the judgment in the Pakistan Steel Mills case in 2006, Justice Chaudhary began to increase the use of Article 184(3) of the Constitution to address rampant corruption in Pakistan. Soon after his restoration to the position of Chief Justice in March 2009, the Supreme Court struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

The court declared the NRO unconstitutional on the grounds that the Ordinance violated, among others, the right to equal protection of the law. The Ordinance gave immunity to more than 8,000 persons accused of corruption and other offences. Those who benefitted included government ministers, landlords, civil servants and politicians.

The NRO especially protected the late Benazir Bhutto and former President Asif Ali Zardari from a pending money laundering case in Switzerland. As part of its judgment, the Supreme Court directed the Government to restore Pakistan’s position as an interested party in the money-laundering proceedings in Switzerland against then President Asif Ali Zardari.

In the process, Justice Chaudhary forced then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to step down in 2012 after he refused to implement the Supreme Court’s orders to revive graft cases in Switzerland against President Zardari. Justice Chaudhary is also responsible for the arrest of the following Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf and 15 others over corruption allegations.

Overall, Justice Chaudhary is credited with taking the initiative of using the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court which was hitherto given minimal importance, except that it was misused by the military ruler, to his own advantage. He is responsible for changing the face of the Supreme Court and ensuring that it acts as the custodian of law.

Abusing discretionary powers?

Although Justice Chaudhary is credited with unleashing a whole new era of judicial activism in Pakistan, at the same time he has been criticised for abusing the court’s discretionary powers.

For instance, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice when a female Member of Parliament slapped a woman polling officer because it ’brought shame to the country’. But the Court remained silent when an anti-terrorism court sentenced six labour leaders to 10 years of imprisonment for protesting against the refusal of power loom owners to increase their wages as per governmental policy.

Another controversial example of Justice Chaudhary’s purportedly partisan approach to Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction related to the case of corruption allegations made against his son, Arsalan Iftikhar, by the business tycoon Malik Riaz. In June 2012, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the allegations under Article 184(3), considering the matter to be of public importance. However, in December 2012, the Court disposed of the case and held that it was only a personal matter between Arsalan Iftikhar and Malik Riaz and was, therefore, not of ’public importance’.

One cannot deny how in his tenure Justice Chaudhary not only strengthened the judiciary and made it independent but also took responsibility to check wrong-doing by other branches of the government. He thus became an embodiment of the people’s desire for change in Pakistan’s socio-political set-up.

The tenure not only marked the overthrow of military dictatorship in Pakistan but also renewal of faith of people in the judiciary. This should constitute the legacy of Justice Chaudhary and must serve as an inspiration to his successors. He is leaving behind a robust and assertive judicial system, the responsibility of protecting which falls on his successors. Justice Chaudhary’s legacy will be defined, or rather redefined, by how it is carried forward.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka: Time to revive domestic initiative, devolution discourse

N Sathiya Moorthy

The UNHRC-driven near-exclusive engagement with ’accountability issues’ over the past two years has erased even memories of the post-war, pre-poll devolution discourse between the Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The talks got stalled in the face of the Government’s proposition and preparations for setting up a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), after the international community (read: West) began reviving ’HR issues’, culminating in the UNHRC resolutions on ’accountability issues’ that refuse to end.

The problems remain in Sri Lanka. So should be the solution. That includes ’accountability issues’ as well. The UNHRC and the international community had accepted the premise when it acknowledged the LLRC Report. It went without saying that the domestic processes would alone follow domestic inquiries, once accepted.

External processes, whatever that be, in the name of an ’internal inquiry’ could (seek to) side-step established legal and judicial processes. For instance, under the Westminster scheme of criminal jurisprudence in vogue in Sri Lanka, the accused is assumed to be ’innocent’ until proved guilty. Ongoing efforts at the UNHRC could strain this process, undermining the South Asian social values, in turn.

A newer element is being sought to be re-introduced in the form of the ’South African model’ of ’Truth and Reconciliation Commission’. It is unclear if the international protagonists, if any, behind the current move want the LLRC Report thrown out, or worked upon. The former makes a mockery of the UNHRC resolutions. The latter would demand new and external elements, not in sync with Sri Lanka’s ’victor-victim’, ’majority-minority’ ethnic milieu.

Unlike the EU-driven move defeated ten days after the conclusion of the ’ethnic war’, Sri Lanka has not acknowledged the more recent US-initiated resolutions. Introducing any additional move like an UNHRC monitor for LLRC Report’s implementation could be complicate the international community’s even more - particularly in the minds of ordinary Sri Lankans, the Sinhalas in particular.

Sri Lanka cannot escape the commitments otherwise given to the international community on ’accountability issues’, particularly to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It should not wriggle out of follow-up explanation. Whether given without prior thinking and internal consultations or not, the Government’s commitments in the past have come to be seen as buying time - worse still, reneging on promises made at the highest level.

Media reports that President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga will be travelling to Geneva soon to report progress on LLRC Report implementation in the coming days should be welcome. His visit would be coming weeks ahead of the UNHRC March session. It will give stake-holders out there an occasion to review their current positions. It will also give Colombo the occasion to assess the current mood - starting with what the international community is up to, in the first place!

The UN cannot escape ’accountability’ for the Darussman Report, the untested processes and unproven claims - not to mention the unprecedented leakage. People in glass houses cannot throw stones, only because they have more men than even stones. Gone also are days when the rest of the world could get away with decisions imposed from outside. There is worse price to pay as post-Cold War international interventions have proved. The recent EU advice for Sri Lanka to approach the UN panel on disappearances would have made greater sense before the Secretary-General commissioning the Darussman Report. Today, they too will be burdened with proving Darussman right or wrong, to begin with. Sri Lanka’s concerns, real and imaginary in context, would then have to wait.

The international community may be hoping for Sri Lanka to ’blink’ first at the UNHRC. Outside of the UNSG, the UNHRC mandate is uninfluenced by the veto-votes of China and Russia. It is unclear, if friends of Sri Lanka can take the UNHRC processes to the UNSG - if so, why, when and how.

The international community, outside of the UNHRC and inside, has given no indication of any goal(s) or road-map for ’accountability issues’ to end. Sri Lanka may thus be internally grabbling with more questions than any visible answers at every turn and with every new pronouncement, particularly from the international community.

Domestic initiative

It is heartening to note that the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has started talking all over again - though with certain reservations to the Government’s decisions and actions, said and unsaid. Malcom Cardinal Ranjith’s recent statement touching upon all unresolved questions and issues on the ethnic front has the potential to evolve into a domestic initiative to side-step international intervention, which the Church too has indicated was unwelcome.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and brother, the Defence Secretary, Gota R, have exhibited great reverence for the Pope in the past. The Catholic Church in the Tamil areas of the country have identified as a part of the ethnic problem, and hence have to be made a part of the solution. External initiatives would still be required for the Sinhala and Tamil ’churches’ to work together and with an open mind.

The Sinhala-Buddhist Mahanayaka Theros may be equally well-placed, if not more, to take the domestic initiative. They all understand politics as much as religion. They can be facilitators, not conductors, as that could complicate the issues and processes. At the end of the day, these are political issues, and should be left to the politicians to resolve.

Through the past decades, academics, NGOs and other civil society organ, including the vast resources of veteran bureaucrats and diplomats have taken initiatives that ended up being seen as ’one-sided’, ’foreign-funded’, or both. They all have the capacity to think for Sri Lanka, and as Sri Lankans.

Chicken-and-egg situation

The post-war, Government-TNA talks did not move beyond re-stating of the known positions, if any. ’Accountability issues’ intervened. Today, there is only talk of ’accountability issues’ and in animated voices. Things need to be put in perspective. It should be Sri Lankan perspective, neither Sinhala, nor Tamil, not certainly that of the ’outsider’.

The re-prioritisation between ’political solution’ and ’accountability issues’ in the past couple of years in particular has triggered a ’chicken-and-egg’ situation. The Tamils - or their international backers - cannot expect to win over the Sinhala hearts - and a permanent political solution - after a global song-and-dance over ’accountability issues’. Worse will follow if the UNHRC were to drive it to illogically thought-out ’logical conclusions’.

A domestic discourse could give the right mix of perspective and practicality, and re-work the priorities and/or their pace, if that is what is required. But even such an assessment will demand a domestic mind-set, not an external inducement, whether of the international community or the Tamil Diaspora. For starters, the TNA can end/suspend the belated clamour on ’accountability issues’.

At the very least, the Government should shelve the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) for now - and give domestic initiatives, if any were to pop out, a chance. Not just the Government but even the TNA should stop playing for time - and prove, that is the case. In between, the Government would still need to address ’accountability issues’ with greater seriousness and concerns for the safety of the individual as much as the sovereignty and continued integrity of the nation.

The Government needs to take serious note of Japan’s Special Envoy of decades, Yashushi Akashi’s concerns that people are "waiting for action, not just sound and fury". The revived trial for ’war crimes’, committed in 1971, and the more recent ’Qader Mollah execution’ in Bangladesh in the near neighbourhood should be an eye-opener that Sri Lanka needs an early closure, not an elastic deadline, to address ’accountability issues’ for good. It will be more so for the common and long-term good of all those faceless and nameless men, in uniform and otherwise, for offences that are specific and otherwise, too.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Catholic church opposes foreign intervention

Alleging that western powers had caused massive destruction in various parts of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, the leader of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has strongly objected to international intervention in the country. He said direct dialogue with the TNA would help solve the problem easily as no party harboured ill-will towards each other. He also urged the Government to fully implement the LLRC recommendations.

Addressing a news conference with Bishops of southern Sri Lanka, Cardinal Ranjith also called for judicial independence and of curtailing the powers of the Executive presidency. Issues such as disappearance of people should be addressed, he said.

"Sri Lankans are not a pack of fools, who are unable to solve their problems and therefore a solution should be found by both parties with the government and the Tamil National Alliance being flexible to each other for co-existence," he pointed. "Let us solve the problem. We have great religions in Sri Lanka and our leaders have proclaimed religious values to unite on our own as brothers of one family using spirituality with pure heart and sincerity as a tool to reconciliation," the Cardinal said.

Asked the approximate number of disappearances during the war, he said about 500 to 600, as the victims’ relatives had sent letters to the respective Bishops regarding their loved ones demanding justice and their whereabouts. The government should either prosecute such detainees remanded in the prisons in different parts of the country or free them without postponing the dates of the trails, he said.

Highlighting the murders that had taken place since 1971 to date, he said so many men and women and even politicians were killed but most of the criminals had not been brought to justice. He asked, "Where is the justice for the victims? The democracy is weakened!"

The artificial colonisation of different communities in the habitual habitat of its original community should be stopped, and such colonisation should be allowed to take place in the time to come with integration, The Cardinal said. "And so, we feel that it can be accepted that the North and East were the areas in which the Tamil community had traditionally lived and the administration, through the democratic structures of these areas, by their own leaders, need not be considered a hindrance to peace and integration or unity. It has to be a two-way track too which welcomes others while being linked to one another through their family and other ties

"Unfortunately, the introduction of a large number of administrative and security personnel, who have come from the other areas in to North and East, seems to have been understood as that kind of attempted colonization by the Government. We feel that this policy could be counter-productive to true integration and unity and should be changed. If not, it could only lead to further tension and future violence. Such intermingling indeed should take place, but in a gradual and natural way as has happened in some areas in the south already," the Cardinal stressed, adding the ’tri-lingual’ policy should be implemented with greater vigour.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 11 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Invite UN Working Group on disappearances: EU

The European Union has urged the Sri Lankan government to extend further invitations to facilitate outstanding visit requests by UN special mandate holders including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

"We welcome the visits by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Envoy on Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and encourage the Sri Lankan government to extend further invitations to facilitate outstanding visit requests by other UN special mandate holders, including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances," the EU Heads of Mission in Sri Lanka said in a statement issued to coincide with the World Human Rights Day (December10).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 10 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Heroin smuggling bid: PM’s aide resigns

Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne’s coordinating secretary, Keerthi Sri Weerasinghe, has claimed that he intervened on behalf of persons accused of smuggling in a consignment of heroin, as they were known to Gampola urban council member, Tharanga Wittachchi.

The Coordinating Secretary to the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, Weerasinghe accused of allegedly directing the Customs to release a container of heroin, tendered his resignation to Prime Minister and the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs D. M. Jayaratne on Dec 9.

Weerasinghe said in his resignation letter that he wasn’t involved in any clandestine activity. He said that a letter was issued by him in good faith believing those accused of smuggling in heroin were genuine importers.

The Opposition had demanded the PM’s resignation/arrest after the latter said that he had been approached for clearing a huge haul of heron from the Customs, but refused to divulge the details.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 11 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Pressure from US to sign pact’

Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said this week that certain sections of the Afghan government were facing pressure from the US to accept the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Faizi said that this, however, will not be able to compel the US into signing the BSA.

Faizi said, "If there is a perception in Washington that certain elements in Kabul can force President Karzai to succumb to any pressure, it is seriously flawed and mistaken". He further added, "We cannot allow business as usual for the U.S. after the signing of the BSA," Faizi said. "It simply cannot be another ten-year chapter of raids on Afghan homes, civilian casualties and seeking peace in Afghanistan".

In the meantime, President Karzai accused the US of behaving like a colonising power. He said, "hey threaten us by saying ’We will no longer pay your salaries; we will drive you into a civil war.’ These are threats. If you want to be our partner, we must be friends. Respect Afghan homes, don’t kill their children and be a partner. So bluff or no bluff, we want respect for our commitment to the safety of Afghan lives and to peace in Afghanistan".

He later stated that he will not be intimidated into signing the BSA. "Aggressive rhetoric won´t work? We are not a nation that is known for giving into intimidation" he said. President Karzai stated that the pact will only be signed if his government was satisfied that the BSA could bring peace and stability to the region.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martine Dempsey announced that the US was not planning any further renegotiation of the BSA. "I think it was clear that over the course of exhausting negotiations over many months there was a text that was agreed upon and that text was considered to be closed at some points and presented to the Loya Jirga," Dempsey said.

"It’s not our intention to reopen the text and to renegotiate that which had been previously been discussed, and that’s not a threat." The US has said it and its NATO partners need the BSA to be signed before the end of the year in order to make plans for their troops post-2014, which are expected to fill a training, advising and assisting role for the Afghan forces.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hegel also reiterated the US warning that it will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan if the BSA was not signed soon. Mr. Hegel, who visited Afghanistan this week, met with the Afghan Defence Minister, Bismillah Mohammadi Khan, and the Deputy Interior Minister, Mohammad Ayub Salangi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, December 7 2013; Khaama Press, December 13 2013; Pajhwok, December 10 2013; The New York Times, December 7 2013; Tolo News, December 10-12 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concern over stronger ties with Iran

Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Iran this week and held discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders agreed on signing a ’Friendship and Cooperation Agreement’ that would expand relations between the two nations for regional peace and stability and further economic ties.

A number of Afghan lawmakers, however, spoke out against this announcement as they were fearful that closer ties with Iran could come at the expense of relations with the US. Lawmakers on Monday emphasised that given the ongoing threats to Afghanistan, especially with the NATO combat mission ending in December of 2014, the country needs a powerful ally that could help meet the needs of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Police (ANP).

Rouhani again echoed Iran’s opposition to the long-term presence of US troops in the region. Rouhani told Karzai that "Iran is opposed to the presence of any foreign force in the region, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and particularly the Islamic country of Afghanistan". He further added that the US "should all leave and leave the security of Afghanistan to its own people".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, December 9 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First-ever execution of a ’war criminal’

In the first-ever execution of any war criminal in the country’s history, Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, 65, termed as ’the Butcher of Mirpur’ for his heinous crimes against humanity during the liberation war in 1971, was hanged at 10.01 pm on 12 December hours after the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the petitions filed by the defence.

Mollah was the assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that opposed Bangladesh’s independence and sided with Pakistani occupation forces.

The execution of Mollah is seen as a significant achievement of the ruling Awami League government led by Sheikh Haina in fulfilling one of her key election pledges to try the war-criminals. Jamaat is a key ally of the opposition BNP.

The Supreme Court on 12 December rejected the two petitions of Mollah, clearing the way for the execution of the Jamaat leader. One of the two petitions, defence counsels sought stay on the death warrant passed by the International Crimes Tribunal. The other plea sought a review on Supreme Court verdict that sentenced Mollah to death. On September 17 this year, the apex court had awarded death penalty to Mollah for crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 13 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Key UN official visits

Key UN official Oscar Fernández-Taranco visited Bangladesh this week to find a solution to the on-going political crisis. The visit of Taranco, the UN Assistant

Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is apparently the last-ditch diplomatic effort to encourage all interlocutors for dialogues to hold the polls.

Ahead of his visit, the government had turned down the UN envoy’s request to meet President Abdul Hamid and Chief of Army Staff Gen Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan. However, Taranco in his 5 day visit held meetings with leaders of major political parties’ and civil society. He met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia when he would convey each other’s messages mainly to encourage dialogues for a peaceful solution.

However, the much-hyped Taranco mission ended inconclusively as both the ruling and the opposition parties remained firm on their respective stances over the poll-time government format, the apple of discord of the current impasse. But according to many, Taranco’s visit was a success as it was able to engage both the sides in the discussion table and has got assurances that they would continue talks to find ways and means to resolve the crisis.

The main opposition BNP publicly said that there was no meaningful progress in the discussions between the two parties held at the initiative of Taranco and vowed to continue their movement to press home its demand. Awami League leaders after a meeting of the 14-party alliance also made it clear that they would not accept anybody other their party president and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the head of the poll-time government.

"The UN stands for free, fair, inclusive and non-violent elections. It is clear that the Bangladeshi people want and deserve this. The credibility of the election will ultimately rest with the people of this country," Taranco informed media before leaving for New York wrapping up his five-day visit.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 7 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition’s week-long shutdown

This week saw sporadic incidences of violence following weeklong shutdown observed by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 18 party alliances. Initially the shutdown was called for 72 hours but later was extended by another 72 hour. During the weeklong shutdown around 8 persons died and hundreds were injured.

The opposition is agitating for restoration of the caretaker government system which used to supervise parliamentary election. The caretaker system was abolished by an amendment of the constitution in 2011.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 10 December 2013; The Independent, 11 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda to India: Take position similar to others

Opposition BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia this week urged India to take a similar position as the United Nations, European Union and world powers like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, China and Japan have taken on the present political stalemate in Bangladesh over the next parliamentary elections.

"I urge the government and the people of India also to express solidarity with the world community showing respect to the sentiments, feelings and demands of the overwhelming majority of people of Bangladesh," the leader of the opposition said in a press statement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 13 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Assurance from donors on assistance

At the end of the two-day round-table on Bhutan’s 11th Plan, Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorje, who co-chaired the meeting, said it was a successful meeting with some partners increasing their assistance significantly.

Some 80 delegates from 23 multilateral and 20 bilateral development partner organisations attended the 12th round-table meeting. Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commission Secretary Karma Tshiteem said some development partners even tripled their assistance.

Another good outcome of the meeting, he said, was the country’s eligibility to avail loans from the European Investment Bank, a leading international bank. "The bank provides loans at very low interests, which would lead to better financial situation in the country," Karma Tshiteem said.

Although donor agencies and countries committed their support at the policy meeting, UN assistant secretary-general, UNDP assistant administrator and regional director, Asia and the Pacific, Mr Haoliang Xu said it is equally important the country followed up on the commitments. He said the dialogue was "open and business like".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 13 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LDC tag likely to be shed in 2021

The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) of the UN would recommend Bhutan’s graduation from Least Developed Countries (LDC) in 2018 to then take effect in 2021. This was stated in a UNDP report that its economic advisor Richard Marshall presented during the 12th round-table meeting on 11 December.

Three indicators of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, Human Asset Index (HAI) and Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) would be assessed for the purpose. For a country to graduate from LDC, it is mandated that at least two of the three criteria be met.

The report states the country’s GNI per capita had more than doubled over the last 10 years, from US$ 690 in 2006 to US$ 1,700 in 2012. As of last year, for a country to heave itself from LDC status, its GNI had to be US$ 1,100. Considering two more hydropower projects would be commissioned in the 11th Plan, Bhutan’s GNI per capita was projected to hit around US$ 2,415 by 2015 and US$ 3,100 by 2018.

The report stated that Bhutan would meet the GNI criteria even if the graduation threshold may rise to US$ 2,740 in 2015. Although Bhutan has made significant progress on human assets in recent years, it had yet to meet the required number. The country’s HAI in 2006 was 44 and 59 last year, against the required index of 66. The higher values of HAI indicate positive progress on human asset.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 13 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four bodies found near border with India

Four bodies were recovered by the police near the India-Bhutan border in Assam’s Chirang district on 12 December. Two of the bodies are suspected to be of India’s Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel, who were kidnapped by militants of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbjit) from near Panbari area of the district on 6 December.

"It is more or less confirmed that two of the four bodies were of the abducted SSB personnel. We are awaiting the family members for identification. The other two bodies are a bit older and yet to identified. We suspect it might be of two of the four Bodo persons who went missing in the district about one-and-half months ago," Chirang Deputy Commissioner Virendra Mittal said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 13 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Vote against ruling Congress in State elections

The Bhartiya Janata Party’s campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections got a significant leg up Sunday with the party winning Assembly elections in three of the four heartland states —Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh —and emerging the largest party in the fourth, the national capital of Delhi.

Its main rival Congress was decimated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi, so much so that it came a poor third in the last of the three, unable to reach even the double-digit mark in the city-state it ruled for 15 years and claimed credit for its transformation.

The Congress ran the BJP close in Chhattisgarh and was ahead in the initial stages of counting, raising hope that the 0-4 drubbing prediction may not come true after all. However, the neck-and-neck race eventually saw Raman Singh’s BJP racing past the post.

Sunday’s other spectacular outcome belonged to the Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal. Making its political debut through the Delhi elections, the one-year-old party won 28 seats to the BJP’s 31, while the Congress got a paltry eight in the House of 70. Mr Kejriwal himself ended up as a giant killer, trouncing three-term Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in her New Delhi constituency.

But the results also meant no party got a majority in the capital, and with Kejriwal ruling out support to any political party to form a government, Delhi was staring at uncertainty —and possibly Central rule —until fresh elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 9 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Inflation increases, exports fall

In a double whammy for the struggling economy, consumer inflation jumped to a nine-month high of 11.24 percent on the back of costlier vegetables in November and industrial production contracted after a gap of three months by 1.8 percent in October.

The twin set of data brought grim news for the economy as inflation has soared while the recovery in the economy remains tentative. Analysts are pointing to a rate hike by the RBI in its monetary policy next week due to the high inflation figure.

Industrial production entered the negative territory after three months, contracting by 1.8 percent in October this year mainly due to poor performance of the manufacturing sector. Vegetable prices rose 61.6 percent in November from a year earlier, compared with a 45.67 percent increase in the previous month. Analysts said the inflation number will lead to a rate hike which may further increase the burden on consumers.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, 13 December 2013;, 12 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Place sought in ’Washington Accord’

India is aspiring to become a member of the Washington Accord by June 2014, to help improve mobility of engineering graduates of the country by getting their degrees recognised on a wider global platform.

The accord, signed among six countries in 1989, is an international agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting engineering degree programmes. The signatories as of 2013 are Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, China, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, UK and USA.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Draft pact to be signed soon to develop Chabahar port’

A draft of an agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop Iran’s Chabahar port —aimed at giving India access to land-locked Afghanistan —is ready and could be signed soon, Afghan ambassador Shaida Abdali said this week.

Mr Abdali was speaking to reporters ahead of Mr Karzai’s visit, his 14th in 12 years. The timing of the trip is crucial—ahead of Afghan national polls scheduled for April and ahead of the withdrawal of US-led international troops from the war torn country after a 13-year stay.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 9 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maritime dispute with Bangladesh at The Hague

India is presenting its arguments before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, in a case of maritime dispute with Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.Attorney-General G E Vahanvati is leading the Indian delegation. The oral hearings are being held 9-18 December , on the issue of delimitation of maritime boundary between India and Bangladesh.

On 8 October 2009, Bangladesh instituted arbitral proceedings concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between it and India under the United Nations Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS). Bangladesh had also filed an arbitration case with Myanmar over their maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, which issued an award in March 2012 favouring Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 9 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Widening trade deficit with China

Though there has been extensive growth in engagement between India and China, the widening trade deficit in the bilateral partnership has emerged a cause of concern, said Ashok Kantha, Ambassador-designate to the People’s Republic of China and Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs.

Delivering the keynote address at the 6th All India Conference of China Studies which started off at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIM-K) this week, he said the trade deficit has risen to $ 39 billion, which is not tenable.

"There is a general perception in the business and industry sectors in the country that the present pattern of economic engagement with China is unsustainable. Indian businesses are facing significant market access issues especially in sectors where we have a competitive advantage like pharmaceuticals, engineering products and IT," he said, adding there is something lacking in India’s efforts to bridge the gap as China is the world’s largest importer with a huge domestic market.

He said that India was looking at China as a source of long-term capital and also intends to draw upon the country’s expertise in the field of manufacturing and infrastructure development. He added that Chinese projects in India totalled US$ 60 billion and the country is now India’s second largest trading partner.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 13 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Navy to take part in US war-game in Hawaii

Reflecting their close defence ties, the Indian Navy for the first time will take part in one of the world’s biggest naval war-games hosted by the US in Hawaii in June next year. More than 20 countries, including China and Japan, are expected to take part in the international maritime war exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).

The Navy will be sending its warships for the multilateral exercise hosted by the US Pacific Command in which it has so far been only an observer, sources said here. Navy sources said no final decision has so far been taken by the government about the ships and aircraft to be sent.

India and the US have been enhancing defence ties in the last decade and the navies of the two countries have held the Malabar and Salvex series of exercises.

Meanwhile, India’s Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Bikram Singh and his US counterpart, Gen Ray Odierno reviewed defence cooperation between the two countries during the former’s December 2-5 visit to the US. Gen Singh also utilised the opportunity to discuss the US-India defence relationship with other senior US military leadership and advance India’s military interests, according to a statement by the Indian embassy here.

< class="text11verdana">Source:,, 6 December 2013, 8 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President establishes Cabinet councils

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has established a Social Council and an Economic Council within the Cabinet and charged Vice-President Mohammed Jameel Ahmed to head the same.

The Social Council comprises Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiahm, Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela and Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim. At a news conference following the council’s first meeting, Islamic Minister Dr Shaheem said that the full Cabinet would decide on special issues. "Apart from that, the Cabinet has been divided the Social Council and the Economic Council. We four are Social Council."

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 11 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence, Finance Ministers join PPM

Defence Minister Mohammed Nazim and Finance and Treasury Minister Abdulla Jihad have signed for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Both Ministers said they had joined the party, in separate functions, at the request of PPM founder and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Independents otherwise, their joining the PPM assumes significance after the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), controlling Parliament indicated that they would ’confirm’ only those Ministers identified with President Yameen. It implied that the PPM’s alliance partners would have their confirmation vetted by MDP more rigorously.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 12 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thein Sein to attend ASEAN-Japan summit

Myanmar’s President Thein Sein will attend the 40th ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit to held from December 13 to 15. This summit brings together ASEAN heads of state to discuss regional issues with Japan.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra may not attend the summit as Thailand faces anti-government protests, but Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok will attend.

The summit will be in Tokyo, but the location is still being kept a secret for security reasons. Each country is likely to meet separately apart from the summit. Territorial disputes between Japan and China are expected to be a main foci point of the summit. China has not been invited.

Normally, Japan invites China and Republic of Korea to attend the ASEAN Summit, but this time it will meet only the 10 ASEAN countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 12 December, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IMF call to tackle poverty

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has urged Myanmar to urgently prioritise tackling widespread poverty. "As Myanmar opens up and expands, it needs the structural foundations of a modern economy. This is an urgent priority," Lagarde said in a speech to students at the Rangoon Institute of Economics.

Lagarde was in Yangon on 7 December on her first official trip to the country. She met with a range of government officials and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Three-quarters of the population have no access to electricity... only 1 percent of the population uses the internet," she said. High annual growth rates and a large, untapped domestic market, have triggered a surge of interest from foreign investors, but Lagarde pointed out that 26 percent of the country’s population still lives below the poverty line.

"The next step is to build on these gains and take the path of sustained, strong, and inclusive growth to lower poverty and lift the prospects of everyone in Myanmar," she said. "Clearly, too many people are not yet equipped for the economy of tomorrow," she added.

She highlighted the importance of agriculture to the country’s economy, pointing out that it accounted for over a third of GDP and more than half of all employment. Lagarde said the IMF was going to ramp up assistance to the country, adding more staff to its team in 2014, but warned there was "a lot of groundwork to do".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bangkok Post, 7 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army chief visits Kolkata

The Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Myanmar Defence Service and Commander-in-Chief, Myanmar Army, Vice-Senior Gen Soe Win visited the Eastern Command HQ of the Indian Army in Fort William Kolkata this week.

The Eastern Army Commander, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, in his interaction with the Myanmar Army Chief, discussed issues concerning security, enhancing military ties between the two armies and other issues of mutual interest between the two countries.

Gen Win, accompanied by his wife, is on a six-day visit to India. The dignitaries left for New Delhi in the evening. The visit will go a long way in cementing relations between the two countries, strategists believe.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 10 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Armed ethnic groups postpone conference

A coalition of ethnic armed groups has announced that it will postpone the 2nd Ethnic Organisation Conference, which was to be hosted by the Karen National Union (KNU).

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) announced the decision on 11 December, citing reasons that accommodation was not sufficient for all those attending. "The conference will now be held from 5-15 January," said Colonel Khun Okka, Joint Secretary of the UNFC. The KNU General Secretary Pado Kwe Htoo of the KNU Win confirmed the delay.

The first conference was held in Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Kachin State at the end of October 2013. The UNFC aims to lay down a framework to proceed with a nationwide ceasefire deal with the government and ensure ongoing political dialogue.

President Thein Sein delivered a radio speech on 1 December to discuss the current peace process, reiterating his desire to negotiate a political solution to end decades of civil war. "For peace it is important to discuss political methods based on genuine goodwill," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 12 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Big-Three set to ink consensus deal

In the first meeting of the High-Level Political Committee (HLPC) held after the November 19 election, the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and the UCPN (Maoist) have agreed in principle to sign a new political agreement to ensure a consensus and not go for constitutional amendment for the same as demanded by the Maoist party.

Leaders said that this agreement was able to "ease" the mistrust among the major parties that cropped up after the election. The NC and the UML, however, argue that if consensus politics is inducted as a mandatory provision in the constitution, some parties that are against federalism and republicanism could create hurdles.

On the Maoist party’s demand for an independent probe into alleged election irregularities, the NC and the UML said that though they are firmly against investigating all the 240 constituencies, looking into the matter in areas where the alleged vote rigging took place could be possible.

Non-Maoist leaders fear that the demand to investigate the overall election process will raise serious questions on the legitimacy of the polls and the integrity of the Election Commission. NC General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula said the UCPN (M) need not worry as the parties are committed to move ahead as per political consensus. "The HLPC can serve as a platform to discuss contentious issues by bringing in more parties in it," said UML leader Gyawali.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 12 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poll panel extends deadline for candidates

Nepal’s Election Commission extended the deadline for political parties to submit their list of proportional representation candidates chosen on the basis of results of the recent Constituent Assembly polls till December 18. The deadline was due to end on 10 December. Election Commission Deputy Secretary Laxmidevi Humagai announced the extension in a statement issued here.

Under the proportional representation system, 335 members of the Constituent Assembly will be chosen according to the proportion of votes secured by political parties in the 19 November election. The Nepali Congress, which emerged as the single largest party, had demanded the extension of the deadline.

The poll panel’s decision came in the wake of a decision by a 16-party alliance, led by the UCPN-Maoist, to boycott the Constituent Assembly. The alliance has demanded an independent probe to examine alleged irregularities in the poll, in which the UCPN-Maoist was relegated to the third position after bagging 80 seats in the 601-member Constituent Assembly.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 10 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC asks parties to list 50% women seats

The Election Commission (EC) this week urged all the 30 parties that won seats under the proportional representation (PR) system to award at least 50 percent of the seats to women. Officials at the EC said their request for the parties to make up for the loss of women candidates in the direct election system was aimed at ensuring 33 percent representation of women in the new Constituent Assembly.

Of the total 240 law-makers elected under the first-past-the-post system, only 10 are women. However, the EC’s request is unlikely to be followed by the parties, given the legal ambiguities. Although the election law has a provision of electing 50 percent women candidates under the PR system, some clauses of the Act state that the EC could accept the name list even if the requirement of women’s representation is failed to be met by 5-10 percent.

The election law states that the parties who have fielded candidates for less than 30 percent of the total 575 seats get a waiver from the provision of ensuring 50 percent women’s representation in the PR category. There are 11 parties which have secured only one seat each and they are unlikely to ensure women’s representation.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, 13 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese delegation in Nepal

A seven-member Chinese delegation led by Vice-Minister of Culture Ding Wei arrived in Kathmandu on 12 December to take part in the annual Sino-Nepal Cultural Festival to be held at the Nepal Academy from 13-17 December. Scores of performers and artistes have also arrived.

Vice-Minister Ding will be calling on Vice-President Parmananda Jha and Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports Ram Kumar Shrestha during his stay in Kathmandu. "This festival is for strengthening cultural relations between Nepal and China and exploring more in this regard," said Ambika Devi Luitel, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, who looks after the North Division.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 12 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pentagon chief in talks with PM

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif engaged in talks about the US drone strikes being carried out against militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan. This was the first visit by a Pentagon chief to Pakistan in almost four years. Islamabad is against drone strikes and says that they kill civilians and violate the country’s sovereignty.

Recently, the US had to suspend NATO ground shipments leaving Afghanistan via Pakistan due to anti-drone protests. The Pakistan government has denied that the US Defence Secretary threatened aid cuts over the blocking of these NATO supplies.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 9 December 2013; The Express Tribune, 12 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian Prime Minister accepts invitation

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accepted a formal invitation from his Pakistani counterpart Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan.

The invite was presented by Prime Minister Sharif’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif who met with Prime Minister Singh during their visit to India this week. The Chief Minister underscored the importance of resuming the Indo-Pak dialogue for peaceful resolution and also delivered a message of goodwill from his elder brother and Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 13 December 2013; The Express Tribune, 13 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC pressures military to produce prisoners

The Pakistan military produced some of the hundreds of prisoners it has been holding without charge in partial compliance with a Supreme Court ruling.

Human rights lawyers and relatives of missing prisoners have been fighting for years to get information about the detainees. Most have not appeared in court or been charged with a crime while others were acquitted but seized after being freed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 8 December 2013

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

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