MonitorsPublished on May 04, 2008
The US State Department, in its latest report on terrorism, came down heavily on LTTE for its extortionist activities. The terrorist group, despite world-wide ban on its various activities, has been raising funds by forcing business houses to pay tax in areas they dominate.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 17

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Reversals for LTTE

The US State Department, in its latest report on terrorism, came down heavily on LTTE for its extortionist activities. The terrorist group, despite world-wide ban on its various activities, has been raising funds by forcing business houses to pay tax in areas they dominate. The group has been eliciting funds through various Tamil charity organisations who act as its front organizations to raise funds from the Tamil diaspora, the 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism pointed out. At the domestic front too, the group faced reverses in their battle. LTTE light aircrafts once again made their special appearance when they attacked Sri Lankan troops and as a counter-measure, the army captured the group’s ’18 Base’, considered to be the most important and impregnable base. The group, in a bid to expand the theatre of war, bombed a bus in south-eastern Sri Lanka killing 26 and wounding 60 others. Another two bombs, one of about 5 kg, were also defused by the anti-bomb squad in the north-west and in Colombo the same day.

On the external front, The Rajpaksha government signed five agreements with Iranian  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his recent visit which drew adverse comments from Washington. Another noteworthy development was the government’s belated decision to unveil a memorial for the Indian soldiers who died fighting LTTE. A five-year agreement on  road development was also inked by the Sri Lanka’s Road Development Authority and National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). 
< class="maroontitle">Pak Air Chief’s  visit

The relation between Pakistan and Bangladesh further deepened following the visit of Pakistan’s Chief of Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mohamood to Dhaka this week. The main focus of the visit was to enhance military to military cooperation between both the countries and to seek Bangladesh orders for the Sino-Pak JF-17 multi role combat aircraft. Bangladesh is one of the major buyers of Chinese arms. Commenting on the visit, Chief Advisor to the Caretaker government Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed said the visit would deepen the relationship between the two countries as well as the air forces further.

< class="maroontitle">US to engage with Nepali Maoists
The United States made its first official move to establish contact with the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists. The US Ambassador to Nepal, Nancy Powell, met with the top Maoist leadership Prachanda and Dr Baburam Bhattarai on May 2 and discussed the outcome of the Constituent Assembly elections and other political developments. This is the first meeting of any US government official with the former rebels. The meeting gave a clear indication of the US government's willingness to engage with the Maoists in the changed political context. The US had labeled the Maoists as `terrorists` in 2004. Despite the Maoists accepting the multi-party system and joining mainstream politics in 2006,  the US government remained aloof to the group. Even last month, after the Assembly results, where the Maoists emerged as the single largest party, the US government merely congratulated the Nepali people on holding the elections successfully and avoided making comments on the Maoists victory. 
< class="maroontitle">Opposition’s quest for a common candidate

In a run-up to the Presidential elections, Mohammad Nasheed (Anni) of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won the presidential primaries defeating his two rivals. Media reports, quoting reliable sources, said National Unity Alliance was planning to field Dr. Hassan Saeed and Anni as Presidential candidates against Gayoom. While the former is relatively new but a capable politician, the latter is a well-known and seasoned politician. The competition for the Presidential post is thus, going to be very strong this time.  Meanwhile, the team of lawyers from the Attorney General’s office has found several contradictions, grammatical errors and impractical requirements in the recently drafted constitution of the Maldives. In fact, President Gayoom has asked for the review of the already much-delayed document.

< class="maroontitle">Focus on judiciary

Much of the focus last week was whether sacked Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and several other judges would be restored. The judges were sacked and replaced by President Pervez Musharraf in November last when he imposed Emergency to stem the rising tide of protest against his regime. After forming the ruling coalition, post-February 16 elections, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif decided on restoring the judiciary within 30 days of the formation of the new government headed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. Zardari and Sharif, however, had some serious differences over Justice Chaudhary. PPP leader had reservations about the judge, prompted, as several commentators felt, by the possibility of Chaudhary scrapping all the ordinances and laws introduced by Musharraf. One such ordinance, National Reconciliation Ordinance, was instrumental in Zardari’s freedom from several cases of corruption pending against him. And hence Zardari’s minus-one formula to resolve the judicial crises. Sharif, on the other hand, is quite keen on Chaudhary’s reinstatement. Close to the deadline, as people looked forward to the leaders fulfilling their promise, Zardari flew to Dubai and stayed put. Sharif, sensing a serious trouble in the making, first sent his emissaries to find a solution and when it proved a naught; himself flew down to Dubai to persuade Zardari for a settlement. Sharif reportedly told Zardari that there was no way they could backtrack on the promise nor can they let the coalition breakdown. The judges, however, remained as anxious about their future, as the people of Pakistan, even after the deadline expired on April 30.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                     – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Wilson John                   – Pakistan


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