MonitorsPublished on Dec 22, 2008
The week saw the President of Sri Lanka taking decision to proscribe the LTTE if it fails to release the remaining Tamils of the North living in its captivity, before 2009. According to an estimate,
South Asia South Asia Weekly 51

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Surge in civilian casualties’

The week saw the President of Sri Lanka taking decision to proscribe the LTTE if it fails to release the remaining Tamils of the North living in its captivity, before 2009. According to an estimate, there are nearly 2,50,000 Tamils still living in the non-liberated areas of the North under an inhuman living conditions. They are not allowed to go to the safer places because LTTE wants to use them as human shields in their fight against the state forces. LTTE is also forcibly pulling out the women, children and those who are as old as 60 years from amongst the Internally Displaced Persons to join as regular soldiers in their army. Their conditions have become worse in the absence of the international humanitarian agencies that were forced to leave the area following the directive of the state government. The warning issued by the President seems to have gone unheeded as no response so far, have come from the LTTE side. With the encirclement of the LTTE cadres in the areas of Kilinochchi and Muhamalai, it seems that the civilian casualties will surge which might serve as opportunity for the LTTE to gain international sympathy against the atrocities committed by the Rajapaksa regime.  It is to be noted that Human Rights Watch has already started criticizing the Rajapaksa regime for its ineffectiveness to stop the civilian killings.  

< class="maroontitle">Press Attacked

Later this week, a crowd of some 50 self-described supporters of the Maoist Party assaulted the staff of the South Asia fortnightly magazine Himal, inside the office premises in Kathmandu. The group was led by the President of the Maoists-affiliated All Nepal Hotels and Restaurants Workers Union (ANHRWU) Ramesh Panta. They also vandalized the office and left 15 minutes after it was completely ransacked. Though the unions had earlier threatened HimalMedia for writing against the workers in its latest issue by burning the copies of its latest edition, the attack was however, considered by Himal Media, one of the country’s biggest newspapers publishing house as nothing but an attempt by the Maoists to control the media. 

Under Article 15 of the Nepali Interim Constitution complete freedom from censorship in publishing, broadcasting and printing has been granted but of late, attacks on media outlets, particularly those who are non-conformists have been constantly increasing. Physical assault of the journalists is something that is new to the nascent Nepali democracy. Prachanda, the Nepali Prime Minister told Nepal Media amid strong protests by the national and international media organizations, rights activists and foreign diplomats belonging to the United Nations and United States that the attack was by “immoral agents” who had “infiltrated” the Maoists. Meanwhile, Maoist spokesperson Dinanath Sharma said his party has no policy to attack the media and such incidents should be independently probed and the guilty to be booked. The Nepali cabinet has asked Minister of Information and Broadcasting Krishna Bahadur Mahara to take action against the culprits but the Police have been so far, successful in arresting only 2 out of the 50 odd culprits.

< class="maroontitle">Fear of militant attack looms large over 2008 election

Large number of cadres belonging to the banned Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was arrested with huge amount of explosives during the week. Sudden upsurge in the activities of the country's Islamist militants before December 29 Parliamentary elections has aroused the fear of a possible sabotage of the elections. Fearing militant attacks, the authorities have beefed up security in the country and deployed 50,000 military personnel and 6000 of the elite Rapid Action Force. Special security has been provided to senior political leaders mainly, Awami League President Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chief Begum Khaleda Zia. Grenades were recovered from an election rally which was to be addressed by the BNP leader Khaleda Zia, early this week which was considered as a bid to thwart elections. Militancy in the country saw a sharp decline following the caretaker government's drive to combat militancy in the country. But revival of the militant organizations like the JMB has dealt a major blow to the government initiatives.

< class="maroontitle">Nasheed’s Visit to India

This week, the newly-elected President Nasheed arrived India on his 3-day state visit. The visit is President’s first-ever foreign visit after assuming the duties of a president. Two new bilateral agreements related to the air services and $100 million standby credit facility were signed by the two countries. President had also extended an invitation to Indian business leaders to invest in the island nation, mainly in the areas of infrastructure, electricity, water, sanitation, transport and fisheries. Mr. Nasheed also sought India’s partnership in building airports and stressed the need for increasing the trade manifold. To ward off increasing terrorists threats coming from seas, President Nasheed suggested enhancing maritime and anti-piracy cooperation between the two countries. Both the countries agreed to increase interaction between their Coast Guards. During an interaction with several prominent personalities, President Nasheed admitted that between 30 to 40 out of 150 Maldivians in Madrassas in Pakistan are getting education in more radical ones. Only way to stop them getting radical education is to provide opportunities to study in the Indian educational institutions. On the issue of buying land as a guarantee against environmentally-induced drowning of the atoll nation, President Nasheed made it clear that he had never made such a statement.             
< class="maroontitle">Troop Redeployment

Amid growing tensions with India, Pakistan deployed around 30,000 troops towards its eastern border, including troops that were earlier stationed in FATA. The Army has moved its 10th Brigade to Lahore, the 3rd Brigade towards Jhelum. Sources suggest that the 10th and 11th Divisions have been put on high alert and moved to the Rajouri and  Poonch sectors, while the 14th Division has been deployed to Kasur and Sialkot. Pakistan Air Force and Navy also stepped up operational preparedness and security of strategic assets increased. Air Force fighters flew sorties over Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore during the past week in a show of strength, garnering public applause.
US Military Aid   

According to diplomatic sources in Pakistan, Central Command (CENTCOM) has proposed a new military aid package to Pakistan consisting of more than $300 million a year over the next five years. Aimed at increasing the counter-terrorism skills of the Army as well as that of the Frontier Corps and the police, this package would be outside of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and the Foreign Military Financing (FMF).

Tehrik-e-Taliban’s Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud announced full support to the Army and vowed to fight till the end in the event of a war with India. There has been a drop in military operations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), with little or no air strikes in the past week. The anticipated operation in Khyber has also been cancelled. 
The US launched another drone attack at Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan on December 22. The strikes launched at vehicles carrying local and foreign militants killed eight people. 
More than 30 people were killed in the Swat district in different clashes in the past week. Fighting has reached Mingora, the district headquarter.
The past week saw greater Taliban activity in Peshawar. Militants torched three buses of a public school and blew up a section of the school. CD parlours and barbershops were attacked in the adjoining Nowshera district. In the midst of heightened Taliban hostility, transport companies carrying NATO supplies through the Frontier shifted their logistic terminals from Peshawar to Punjab.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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


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