MonitorsPublished on Feb 02, 2008
Darra Adam Khel a semi-tribal town located between Kohat and Peshawar in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) came under intense threat from militants when conflict broke out between militants and the Pakistan military in the last week of January.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 4

< class="maroontitle">Militants Shadow over Darra Adam Khel

                     Source: The Long War Journal

Darra Adam Khel a semi-tribal town located between Kohat and Peshawar in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) came under intense threat from militants when conflict broke out between militants and the Pakistan military in the last week of January. It began with militants capturing four military trucks with ammunitions and food items near Kohat tunnel on January 24. They also took 13 soldiers accompanying the trucks hostage. This prompted the army to launch a full-scale operation in Darra Adam Khel against militants who took hold of the Japanese-built Kohat tunnel which connected Peshawar (NWFP) with Kohat agency (FATA) to divert attention. The Army launched a major offensive, killing 25 militants before seizing the Kohat Tunnel. The bodies of the missing soldiers were found when the Army regained full control of the town. Security forces recovered three truckloads of ammunition that militants had seized from the troops in Darra Adam Khel.

Despite the Army regaining control of the area, about 80 percent of the population, which had fled the town and taken refuge in areas adjacent to Peshawar or Kohat, has refused to return fearing reprisal from militants.

Last week, the Pakistani military had to fight three concurrent operations in the NWFP and FATA areas. The military launched an operation against Mullah Fazullah’s Taliban in the settled district of Swat in November 2007. The Swat operation is still underway, with more than half of the district yet to be cleared. The military launched another operation in South Waziristan on Jan. 24 after the Taliban overran two military outposts. The Taliban openly control several tribal agencies and maintain a strong presence throughout the North West Frontier Province. The Darra Adam Khel operation was the third one.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Corruption adds to military woes

< class="maroontitle">In the midst of a prolong civil war, the Presidential Commission has found several irregularities in the purchase of defence equipment by the armed forces. A few former military top brasses are facing the prospects of a possible prosecution as they are involved in the embezzlement of public funds.

There was no let up on the conflict front either. A helicopter carrying a high-profile defence delegation from Colombo came under a heavy artillery fire from LTTE in Jaffna. Incidentally, the news of the visit was kept secret and only a few high ranking officials were aware of it. This has raised a serious concern about the possibility of an insider’s job. The attack however, revealed the dwindling fighting capability of the Tigers. During the attack, LTTE fired 34 artillery shells, most of which failed to explode as they were old. This was a pointer to the gradually depleting artillery stocks of LTTE.

Despite numerous reminders to curb the rising violence, several school children died when their bus hit the claymore mine in the LTTE controlled region of Mannar. Despite their wildly varying figures of those dead and injured, the casualties increased on both the sides. Talking to media persons, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara warned of other innovative modes of operation by LTTE to cause more death and destruction in future.

Meanwhile, the devolution proposals were rejected by major political parties, including the main opposition United National Party, ultra-leftist Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) and pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance. The parties also criticised India for backing such proposals and warned against interfering in the internal matters of the country. Ironically, none of them mentioned that the proposals were only a preliminary step in exploring additional devolution proposals in future.

< class="maroontitle">New turn to Hasina case

In a dramatic turn to the corruption case against Sheikh Hasina, Azam Jahangir Chowdhury on January 30 testified in the court that he had filed an extortion case against Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, cousin of Awami League Chief and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and not against Hasina. Azam said, “I know Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim only as the accused in the case.”  Azam Jahangir Chowdhury is the complainant who on June 2007 had filed extortion case against Shiekh Hasina and Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim charging them of taking bribe for setting up a power plant.

Interestingly, Hasina was arrested following charges brought by Azam Jahangir Chowdhury under Emergency rules.  Hasina had filed a writ challenging the legality of the case.

Meanwhile, on January 24, Supreme Court overruled the stay order on the proceedings of the extortion case. The High Court had earlier stayed the proceedings of the case until the legitimacy of trying the case under emergency rules was settled. In another turn to the case, six legal experts, appointed by the court on January 28 as amicus curiae (friends of court in legal term) for cooperating in deciding the petition, told the High Court during the week that Bangladesh’s Constitution did not allow a case, filed before the declaration of Emergency, to be disposed of under Emergency rules.

In a separate development, Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed said this week that the state of emergency will be gradually withdrawn and the ban on indoor politics outside Dhaka will also be lifted if the political parties behaved responsibly. The caretaker government also seems to be on an ‘exit’ mode, going by the statement of Army Chief Moeen U Ahmed on January 31 that “we won’t stay longer ...” 

External pressure for the restoration of democracy was also increasing. Dr. Stefan Frowein, Ambassador of European Union in Dhaka, on January 30 categorically said that donors did not like the state of emergency, and hoped that it would be over sooner or later. Denise Rollins, United States Charge d’ Affaires in Dhaka, on  January 30also had urged the government that it should adhere to the election road map to ensure election by the end of the year.

< class="maroontitle">King Gyanendra breaks long silence

< class="maroontitle">Finally, emerging from a long isolation, King Gyanendra spoke out his mind. He said his silence was not a sign of withdrawal or defeat but action. He argued that he remained silent so that the peace accord signed between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) government and Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) could succeed. Last year, in a significant decision, the SPA government and Maoists had stripped the King of all his executive powers, privileges and seized all his royal properties.

On January 30, in an informal interview with Hari Lamsal, editor of a vernacular Nepali weekly Rastra Bani, the King said the Nepali people have a large heart and can accommodate all Nepalis including the monarchy. He also refuted rumors of fleeing the country and asserted that the Nepali people were aware of the significance of the institution of monarchy and will not undermine it. In his interview, King Gyanendra urged people to gauge the current political situation in the country and said they must peak out rather than keeping quiet.

Interestingly, the King claimed to have reached a secret understanding with the political parties. He declined to provide full details about the deal but said the parties know about it and if it didn’t work out then he will come out in public.

The King’s statement at this juncture is a calculative move; he is testing the waters and gauging people’s reactions. Interestingly, some section of the Nepali people, pro-monarchy parties and some political leaders are also in support of the institution of monarchy in some form or the other. Recently, the Interdisciplinary Analysts (IDA) group carried out a countrywide survey and reported that over 49.3 percent of Nepalis supported the continuation of the institution of monarchy in some form in the new set-up. Are these developments an indication that monarchy might just come to stay in Nepal, albeit only a shadow of the glorious past?

< class="maroontitle">New Era in Indo-Maldives Relations

The week saw warmth in the ties of India and Maldives when Indian Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh, during his discussions with his Maldivian counterpart,  established a time-frame for the renewal of Indo-Maldives trade agreement of 1981. At present, India accounted for 10-11% exports to Maldives which was far less than that of Sri Lanka and Singapore. The new trade agreement with Maldives would not only help in streamlining the procedures by making them more transparent but would also significantly increase the Indian investment in health, higher education, environmental research, human resources and Information Technology. The visit also aimed to rectify the poor availability of credit in Maldives by proposing long-term loans to Maldivian companies from the State Bank of India.

Maldives on its part has offered an entire island to India to set up an IT park in one of its atoll. Mr. Ramesh also appreciated the consistent policy of Maldives towards India in the international arena. Fisheries were another area in which Indian cooperation was sought by Maldives, especially when India was planning to develop its tuna resources in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Maldives has also requested India to develop it as a trans-shipment and logistics hub.

On the domestic front, the People’s Special Majlis was once again adjourned till February 7 to seriously ponder over the provisions of the controversial chapter on the transitional arrangements. However, before going to recess, Special Majlis unanimously passed the Bill on Right to Freedom of Assembly without prior permission. Though the Freedom of Assembly was present in the previous Constitution also, it was restricted and limited to avoid breaching any law of the land.

The first ever multi-party elections will take place in November 2008 when the sixth Presidential term of Gayoom comes to an end. The European Union has formally accepted the request of the Maldivian government to supervise the elections but at the same time made it absolutely clear that it is not going to play a monitoring role to make elections free and fair. Much to the disappointment of the Opposition leaders, a spokesperson of the European Parliament had confirmed that the team sent by the EU to observe the Presidential elections will not be a full Election Observation Mission (EOM) and will neither make any public statement nor make their finding public.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      1. Anjali Sharma                   – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      2. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee   – Bangladesh
      3. Paul Soren                         – Nepal, Bhutan
      4. Rahul Mukand                   – Pakistan 
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