MonitorsPublished on Feb 17, 2008
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani has issued statement to pull armed forces out from the mire of politics in which they have become entrenched. The latest statement by the COAS came at a corps commander's conference held in Rawalpindi.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 6

< class="maroontitle">Kayani to pull out troops from civilian offices

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani has issued statement to pull armed forces out from the mire of politics in which they have become entrenched. The latest statement by the COAS came at a corps commander’s conference held in Rawalpindi. Gen. Kayani clarified that keeping law and order in hands of military will play no part in the polls. He stressed that it is duty of Election Commission to hold free and fair polls and army would not get embroiled into controversy by making situation messy.

In the past, interference of retired army personnel in civilian institutions had disrupted the systems of management within army and built hostility for army among the civilians, many of whom saw their postings in civilian offices as proof of favouritism.

According to article by Rahimullah Yusufzai in The News International (9/2), he explains reason behind General Kayani move is to dissociate his soldiers from the electoral process, and on a premonition that the outcome of polls may not be acceptable to opposition parties and this has prompted him to keep the army out of the electoral arena. By this army would not be in the centre of controversy regarding the verdict of elections in Pakistan.

Army’s reputation suffered considerably when Gen (Retd) Musharraf dragged army into politics. Army was criticized by the way in which Musharraf manipulated army to let his personal ends meet. Days are not be forgotten when Musharraf got his corps commanders to sit on stage with him in uniform while speaking at public meetings. General Kayani move to de-link military from politics can be seen as a decision which would increase thaw with his predecessor. Kayani would infuse professionalism among the armed forces which are engaged in counter-terrorism operations in FATA and NWFP areas.  According to article by Alizeh Haider in The News International (9/2) which says ‘Ideally speaking, if the army surrenders its monopoly of powers, restricts itself to the role defined by constitution and curtails the agencies from destabilizing the country, the scene would be set for state institutions to strengthen and let democratic process evolve.’ Time and evolving scenario in Pakistan would let us know if action weighs heavier than words.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">India, a second Jaffna

This week Sri Lanka’s chief peace negotiator Nirmala Sripala de Silva made the government’s intention amply clear when he declared that the administration is now not keen to talk with the Tamil Tigers. Believing that federalism would ultimately lead to the partition of the country, the government is totally focused on fully implementing the 13th amendment of the constitution, he further said. Such a high level of confidence which the government exuded now a days vis-à-vis the LTTE comes from the regular victories that the defence forces are clinching from the Tamil rebels. Added to this is the fact that the Sri Lanka Army is being strengthened with the more men putting the combined number of forces above 200,000. Moreover, in just two months, one third of the LTTE fighting force was estimated to be perished in their struggle for the separate Tamil Eelam.

But according to some analysts, the war is not going to finish soon. President Rajapaksa himself conceded that it will take a year and half before the LTTE could be finally defeated. If the war stretches then it would have a disastrous effect on the already mounting cost of living and would gradually evaporate the popular support for the government war efforts which it is currently enjoying. A prolong war would also invite international sanctions as was made clear by Germany in its recent statements. In the north, the government forces were not able to capture even a single bunker out of 200 though they have destroyed many of them. In fact, the amazing capacity of the LTTE to reconstruct their bunkers is slowing down the march of the Army further.

The extended wires of the LTTE network were further plugged by the Tamil Nadu Police Intelligence wing when they arrested a person who was believed to be the supplier of explosives to the LTTE. The increasing number of such instances in the southern part of India prompted the Sri Lanka’s largest Tamil democratic party leader V.Ananda Sangaree to remark that if India does not act fast to rein in the LTTE activities in Tamil Nadu then it would become a second Jaffna soon. Notwithstanding the warning-cum-accusation, India accorded warm welcome and advanced intelligence training to the high level team of officers from the Sri Lanka Military Intelligence Corps (MIC) and Army (SLA).

< class="maroontitle">Election commission to restore dialogue on poll reforms

Prospects for reforms of election laws remerged in the political scenario of Bangladesh following Election Commission’s announcement on February 14 of holding second round of dialogue with political parties from February 24 in resolving the differences on this issue. This dialogue is necessary as it will help EC to assess opinions of the political parties on issues of differences and agreement on proposed solutions. But the final decision is to be taken by the EC only. EC announced a five day schedule to hold dialogue with different political parties. Awami League (AL) is invited in the first day. However, Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) name was missing from the schedule. It needs to be mentioned that since the EC invited the Saifur Rahman faction of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for the first round of the dialogue, Khaleda Zia had filed a case in the court challenging EC’s decision of inviting the rival faction and the case waits to be resolved.

Political parties also were pressing the caretaker government for holding of the dialogue for sometimes now. The intensity of this can be assumed from assertion of the Awami League leaders who declared that the main agenda for the party is the dialogue. “Our main aim is dialogue. We will go to dialogue and discuss,” said AL presidium member Amir H0ssain Amu. Seeing chances of a possible unification of BNP, BNP Supremo and detained former Prime Minister Begun Khaleda Zia had once again urged EC to invite the BNP faction, which is enjoying her blessings for the dialogue.

However, thinking in the government for withdrawal of emergency seems to be evolving slowly. This can be assumed from the statement of the Law Advisor AF Hasan Ariff, who on February 14 said that emergency was a barrier in the holding free and fair elections. He said, “The government is thinking over relaxing the state of emergency but, specifically, from when it would be relaxed or lifted it cannot say.” Meanwhile, the voices of protests are quietly rising as students of Dhaka University this week held protest demanding release of AL Chief Sheikh Hasina. Though it was a peaceful demonstration but this was the first of the protests directly demanding release of Hasina. Analyst believes that there might be upsurge of anti government demonstrations in future as there are high possibilities that such incidents might spread across country.   

< class="maroontitle">India reiterates support for Nepali elections

< class="maroontitle">India reiterated her support to Nepal for holding timely elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) and expressed confidence that the elections would be held on April 10, 2008. Spelling out her position India also stated that it does not support any type of secessionist movement in Nepal. Rather India wants to support Nepal in her attempts to accomplish her democratic goals.

In a goodwill gesture and to express solidarity to the Nepali government, the Indian National Congress (INC) party, key constituent in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) sent a four member high-level delegation to Nepal. The delegation was led by Divijay Singh, accompanied by Veerappa Moily, Dr Shakeel Ahmed and Jitin Prasada. The delegation was assigned the task to take stock of political situation in Nepal and to extend India’s support to the Nepali people.

In Kathmandu, the delegation met with the Nepali Congress (NC) President and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Situala, Minister of Peace and Reconstruction R C Poudel, Speaker of House, Chief Election Commission CEC), senior leaders of all political parties including the Maoists, leaders of agitating Terai parties and civil society representatives. The delegation extended all possible support for timely election. India also offered to mediate between the Nepali government and agitating groups in Terai, if both parties agreed to it. India hopes that the demands of the Madhesis and other agitating groups to be addressed within the framework of agreed principles.

Over the years, India has played a crucial role in assisting the Nepali government and parties in resolving political problems. During times of crisis and confusion it has been able to broker peace between conflicting parties. Thereby, India will continue to remain a major player in Nepal.

However, unfolding of events, deepening political crisis and eruption of violence in Terai remains a serious concern for India. It is concerned over the deteriorating security situation in Terai which might impinge upon India’s own security in states along the India-Nepal border. Besides, it is apprehensive that if the elections are delayed further the country will experience more chaos.

< class="maroontitle">A fruitful visit to Sri Lanka, India

< class="maroontitle">The week started with the arrival of Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in India to attend the Sustainable Development Summit in New Delhi. In recognition of his contribution towards the environment, Gayoom was awarded the Sustainable Development Leadership Award for 2008. The Indo-Maldives ties got further strengthened when President of India appreciated the Maldivian reform process initiated by President Gayoom. Hailing President Gayoom as the “close friend of India”, “the architect of India-Maldives relations”, a “distinguished leader of SAARC” and a “great statesman”, President of India asked President Gayoom to join hands with India to tackle the evil forces of terrorism and fundamentalism. India and Maldives also signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of science and technology.

On a two day visit to Sri Lanka, President Gayoom was conferred “Mithra Vibhushan” the highest honour bestowed on a foreign head of state by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both the countries signed two agreements on visa waiver and prisoner exchange and transfer. The visa waiver would be extremely beneficial for the students and trading community coming to/from Sri Lanka.

Back home, while a National Unity Alliance, a consortium of five opposition parties are busy finding and building a consensus on the common candidate among so many presidential hopefuls, President Gayoom is still riding high on a popularity chart. To restore economy from its present ills, the work is underway to establish Credit Information Bureau to improve secure lending by banks and efficient borrowing for good customers. This will also introduce a greater role for the private sector in the economy of the country. Combined to it is the highest GDP in South Asia which the Maldivians are enjoying under the Gayoom rule. Some of these factors will surely turn the table in favour of President Gayoom in the forthcoming elections.                   

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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