MonitorsPublished on Sep 01, 2008
Asif Ali Zardari, who led Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to victory in the February elections, became the 14th President of Pakistan by securing a majority in Senate, the National Assembly and three of the four Provincial Assemblies on Saturday (Sept.6).
South Asia South Asia Weekly 35

< class="maroontitle">President Zardari takes over

Asif Ali Zardari, who led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to victory in the February elections, became the 14th President of Pakistan by securing a majority in Senate, the National Assembly and three of the four Provincial Assemblies on Saturday (Sept.6).  Zardari received 481 votes out of an electoral collage comprising 702. His closest competitors, Nawaz Sharif-backed former Supreme Court justice, Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui and PML (Q) general secretary Mushahid Hussain received 133 and 44 votes respectively. Zardari’s election as the President, seen as a clever political move by the PPP leader, is expected to bring to a halt the domestic political squabble and direct the government’s effort to tackle the economic crisis and the threat of terrorism. 

The presidential election comes in the midst of a terrorist onslaught on Pakistan—30 killed in a Peshawar bomb attack on Saturday---and  repeated attacks (Sept. 3) by US  Special Operations troops on FATA, three days after the Pakistan government announced a ceasefire in view of Ramazan. The attacks have raised heckles at home, threatening to drag the Pak-US ties into a deeper crisis.

< class="maroontitle">Prachanda to visit India
Prime Minister Prachanda will make his maiden official trip to India on September 14. The India visit follows his visit to China which sparked a controversy in both India and Nepal. Though Prachanda tried downplaying the issue by claiming that he was visiting China to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics Games, it did not conceal the fact that he had broken the tradition followed by his predecessors of visiting India first.
Prachanda’s first official visit to India would undoubtedly throw up challenges and opportunities. The CPN-Maoist central committee, for instance, has asked the Prime Minister not to sign any agreements with India which might impinge upon their national interest but rather push for abrogating the "unequal treaties" signed between the two countries. Prachanda is expected to talk about the Kosi water treaty of 1954,  a bone of contention between the two countries. Last month, a breach in its embankment caused lot of havoc by flooding several areas both in Nepal and India. He is also certain to assure that India about Nepal’s traditional and abiding friendship with India.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Army enters Mullaithivu

The Sri Lankan Army entered south-west of Mullaithivu, one of the two most important strategic towns controlled by LTTE. The army captured the strategic town of Mallavi in the Mullaithivu district which used to serve as LTTE’s administrative and the logistic. The area, the birth place of Prabhakaran’s wife Madhivadini, houses several important LTTE offices and is the nearest entry point to  Kilinochhi, the capital of the de facto LTTE state.  The army claimed to have killed about 75 LTTE cadre in the offensive. In retaliation, the militant group carried out a bombing in Colombo, leaving 50 injured.

< class="maroontitle">Election Commission formed

After the inception of the Judicial Services Commission last week, it was the turn of the Maldives Election Commission to come to fruition.  The five-member interim commission is formed to supervise the first-ever multiparty presidential elections in the country. Barely a few days ago, two British Conservative MPs on a fact-finding tour in the Maldives expressed doubts about the presidential elections. Two political parties, Social Liberal Party and Islamic Democratic Party, have already called for postponing the elections till late December this year. Information Minister Mohammed Nasheed has also warned that failure to meet the deadlines would create a constitutional void in the country. But going by the  good progress made so far, the ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party appeared to be quite confident in meeting the election deadline.       

< class="maroontitle">Khaleda’s son released

Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s eldest son Tarique Rahman was released on September 3. Khaleda Zia had laid the condition of releasing her sons first for participating in the December elections. Tarique Rahman, the influential eldest son of Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief, was arrested by the military-backed Caretaker Government in March 2007 on charges of corruption. The government and various individuals filed around 16 cases against Tarique on charges of bribe, extortion, dodging income tax, illegally acquiring property and use of influence in lieu of money to save criminals from being booked. The High Court granted bail in 13 of the cases while in three cases no formal charges were pressed. The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and the government challenged the High Court decision in the Supreme Court but the apex court, on September 3, dismissed the appeals, clearing the way for Tarique’s release. Tarique, suffering from spine ailment, is likely to fly to Europe soon (either to Germany or United Kingdom) for treatment. 

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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


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