MonitorsPublished on Jun 02, 2008
With the stalemate on the judicial restoration continuing, the focus was back on the man who is responsible for most of the mess Pakistan is in today. President Pervez Musharraf¿s three-and-a-half-hour meeting with Army Chief, General Ashfaq Kayani,
South Asia South Asia Weekly 22

< class="maroontitle">Musharraf going?

With the stalemate on the judicial restoration continuing, the focus was back on the man who is responsible for most of the mess Pakistan is in today. President Pervez Musharraf’s three-and-a-half-hour meeting with Army Chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, raised more than mere eyebrows. Islamabad remained strife with rumours and conspiracy theories about Musharraf’s impending exit which were of course denied by the President’s spokesman quite vehemently. The media however chose to play up the story about the new Chief looking Musharraf`` in the eye`` and the furious pace of packing and clearing being done at the presidential house while an `anonymous` plane waited at the Islamabad airport. What really lent fire to the smoke was the removal of his trusted Brigadier Asim Salim Bajwa as the Brigade Commander of 111 Brigade. The Brigade, which looks after the defence of Islamabad and keeps the Chief coup-proof, is always headed by an officer who has the trust of the Army Chief. Musharraf later tried to dismiss such speculations by revealing that he had met Kayani not once but six times in the recent past; the number was raised to seven. Musharraf came out emphatically that he was not going anywhere; Pakistan, he said, needed him more than ever. The political parties, struggling to hang on to the people’s verdict desperately, had a different view on the subject. The result was rising levels of anxiety and despondency in Pakistan. Musharraf, till the time of going to the press, nevertheless, remained as the President.

< class="maroontitle">Massive crack down on political party workers

The week saw a massive crack down on political party workers. Thousands of workers of various political parties namely Awami League (AL), Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jammet-e-Islami (JI) were arrested from various parts of the country. The raids followed soon after the declaration of the decision by the main political parties BNP and AL not to join the dialogue with the government unless chiefs of their parties Sheikh Hasina (AL) and Khaleda Zia (BNP) were released. These parties have also threatened to launch protest to press for the release of their leaders. Sheikh Hasina (AL) and Khaleda Zia (BNP), two top leaders of the country’s main political parties, had been in jail  for a year on various charges of corruption.

Justifying the government action, Maj. Gen. (Retd) MA Matin, Adviser (Home) to the present military backed caretaker government said the combing operations were launched to prevent miscreants from creating law and order problems in the run up to the December elections.  He refuted any political motive behind such an action and insisted that those arrested were miscreants.

The political parties have reacted strongly against the government action. BNP leaders said the drive had a political motive while the AL leaders accused the government of intimidation. AL leaders said such a drive vitiated the spirit of the promised elections and deterred any meaningful dialogue.

< class="maroontitle">Political Stalemate Continues in Nepal

The political transition in Nepal continues to be uncertain. The three big parties – the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and CPN-Maoist-- are still at loggerheads, unable to resolve the political deadlock over government formation, amendment to the Constitution and the election of a ceremonial President.

The Maoists have exhibited flexibility in their position and decided to give up their claim on the presidential post. They proposed that the presidential post should go to a respected representative of the civil society. The parties rejected the proposal. The Maoists have agreed to amend the interim Constitution but only if the parties agreed on a package deal linked to the key issues. On the issue of ceremonial President, NC is already lobbying and trying to ensure that Girija Prasad Koirala was made the first President of the country. UML, on the other hand, has proposed that the President should be elected.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Living out of gear

Flooding and fighting took a heavy toll in Sri Lanka this week with thousands displaced and hundreds perished on both fronts. Added to this is the government decision to hike petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices further pushing up the cost of living. LTTE’s renewed bomb attacks in civilian areas also threw normal life out of gear. Past week witnessed two bomb explosions and the security forces fear more in the near future after they discovered nearly 17000 detonators missing from a Trichy’s warehouse in Tamil Nadu.
A bitter succession struggle within LTTE led to the house arrest of the Head of the Peace secretariat Pullidevan by its intelligence Chief Pottu Amman at the behest of Prabhakaran. In the meantime, the Sri Lanka government girded up for more fighting by making drastic changes in its Defence Department in order to make it more efficient, accountable and transparent. This was followed by the guidelines for media reporting of the war issued by the President’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa which obviously raised heckles among the media and human rights activists.
< class="maroontitle">UN hailed Maldivian new Constitution

The Maldivian Constitution, yet to be ratified by the Parliament, became a subject of discussion when a top UN Human Rights expert hailed the document as being the model of judicial independence. The sub-committee overseeing in the task of ratifying the new Constitution has accepted six out of the seven recommendations made by the President Gayoom. As for the seventh recommendation related to the President’s immunity, it was decided to refer the matter to the Constitution Drafting Committee for specific details.

In its run up to the polls, the main opposition party Maldivian Democratic Party finally decided to ‘go solo’. The decision was announced by its Chairman and Presidential candidate Mohammed Nasheed Anni at a press conference after the Opposition alliance formally crashed. Anni, however, did express the hope that the alliance will get together at some later stage.
< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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


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