MonitorsPublished on Mar 09, 2008
LTTE's operational capabilities, in different dimensions, were hit hard at several places this week. While the Sri Lanka Air Force jets pounded the LTTE¿s communication base with transmitting tower in the north-east of Oddusudan junction, British parliamentarians came down heavily on the group's credit card frauds to fund its terrorist activities.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 9

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">LTTE’s Channel of Communication

LTTE’s operational capabilities, in different dimensions, were hit hard at several places this week. While the Sri Lanka Air Force jets pounded the LTTE’s communication base with transmitting tower in the north-east of Oddusudan junction, British parliamentarians came down heavily on the group’s credit card frauds to fund its terrorist activities. The Toronto Police arrested two Londoners and two Canadians alleged to have links with the LTTE and recovered a a large numbers of skimmed British credit cards.

The Sri Lankan Army succeeded in capturing the town of Parappakandal but was not able to track down sophisticated weapons which it fear could be used by the terrorist group to reverse the recent defeats.
Meanwhile, intelligence agencies in India exposed the underground network of the terrorist group in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. On a tip off, the Kerala Police seized a vessel being built by a private company at the Kochi dockyard for LTTE. The police said Rs. 12 lakh were already paid as advance for the boat.. The police are now in the search of some other similar boats being constructed for LTTE.

Undeterred by these setbacks, LTTE inaugurated its new Tamil TV Channel Tharshanam for propaganda purposes via Eurobird 9@ 9 East satellite platform. Though its studio is in Switzerland, the channel is broadcast from Milan in Italy. All the ex-TTN (Tamil Television Network) employees have been invited to work for the channel. The group has also re-started the transmission of another channel National Television of Tamil Eelam (NTT) from Vanni through Asiasat platform.

< class="maroontitle">Moves to send Bangla Begums abroad

The main buzz of the week was a reported move by the caretaker government to persuade both the Begums to leave the country under the pretext of medical treatment. Awami League Chief Sheikh Hasina is likely to be the first one to leave the country.  What fuelled the rumours was the League demanding Hasina’s release on March 5 and her treatment abroad. A team of physicians on March 5 had examined Hasina on the request of the jail authorities. This is being seen as a move to send her abroad. Sheikh Hasina is reported to be suffering from various illnesses namely, high blood pressure, allergy, ear and eye problems.  Although no specific time-frame has been set for her release, she is likely to be released on parole at the earliest to undergo treatment abroad. 

Similarly, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had been demanding the release of its chairperson Begun Khaleda and treatment abroad.But Khaleda had declined to go abroad for treatment. She has not been keeping well for sometime now.  The caretaker government might release some of the VIPs detained on charges of corruption on parole for them to go abroad for treatment. The government had already released former Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil on parole who left for Singapore.
On the issue of militancy in the country, Bangladesh’s Home Secretary Abdul Karim revealed that terrorists in the country were home grown and were being supported by some political parties. He said Jamatual Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkatul Jihad Al Islami (HuJI) do not have operational linsk with any international terrorist organization. He,however, conceded that these organizations were influenced by the ideology and strategies of Islamist terrorist networks like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He pointed out that there had been a proliferation of small Islamist militant groups in the country like Allahr Dal, Hijbut Tahrir and Hijbut Touhid.

On the economic front, the country struggled to come out of the after shocks of the government’s anti graft drive. This came to light in the report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Despite government’s efforts, inflation hovered above 11 per cent. More critical was food inflation which was above 13 percent; the food prices continued to rise raising fears of a breakdown in the distribution chain. Inflation, especially rising levels of food prices has become biggest challenge for the government today.

< class="maroontitle">China keen to re-engage with Nepal

China last week supported the April 10 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and  reaffirmed its support to the peace process and economic assistance aimed to bring peace and political stability in the country. Of late, China has begun taking a keen interest in the unfolding political developments in Nepal. On March 2, Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei led a nine-member delegation to Nepal. During their three-day visit, the delegation met with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Chief of the Army Staff General Rukmangat Katuwal, Foreign Secretary Gyan Chandra Acharya and participated in the 7th consultative conference of Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

Although China had sent several high-level official delegations to Nepal last year, it was the first official foreign ministry delegation to Nepal. Through these visits China aimed to revive the dormant relationship between the two countries, stagnated primarily due to Nepal’s internal political instability and the active-presence of foreign powers in the region. China also promised to extend road and railway network and supply fuel to Nepal. The proposed rail link connecting Kathmandu to Lhasa will put the Chinese in a more advantageous position. This will reduce Nepal’s over-dependence on India. Furthermore, China promised to expand cooperation with Nepal and support Nepal’s cause in regional and international forum, including SAARC. 

Earlier, China maintained a distance from the democratic forces and preferred to align with the monarchy. However, in the changed circumstances, China was keen to engage with the democratic forces and the new political dispensation. It would like to have a dispensation in Kathmandu which would benefit China’s national interest and support its policies on Tibet and Taiwan. More importantly, China would like to see the Indian influence and growing western presence in Nepal reduced.

< class="maroontitle">DRP-MDP deadlock

The constitution-making process once again got stuck when Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) rejected the chapter on transitional arrangement by labeling it as ‘undemocratic’ and alleged that the Chairman of the Drafting Committee Ibrahim Ismail had “abused the powers and influence of his office”. The chapter, in reality, favoured the opposition party as there was no provision for the Presidential Appointees in the transitional arrangement. There was also a bar on the incumbent president who heads the interim set up, to stand in the forthcoming elections. This move would prevent the longest-serving Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom from contesting the elections.

But though the Chapter, if passed, may prevent Gayoom from contesting the first multi-party elections, it would not give any advantage to the opposition parties as their chances of winning the Presidential race were, in any case, extremely thin. No consensus was arrived at this week’s meeting of the so-called National Unity Alliance on a common presidential candidate. A final decision is expected to be taken after April 25 when the main opposition party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), would decide on its own candidate.

< class="maroontitle">Elections and After

The results of the February 18 elections in Pakistan were, in some ways, unexpected. For one, no one really thought Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN) would capture Punjab so emphatically, and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would only win just about enough seats to be in the driver’s seat but with the gear in the hands of coalition partners. Second, it was widely believed that the King’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid-e-Azam (PMLQ) would be rooted out but it did not; it remained third biggest party at the National Assembly level and in Punjab, giving it a faint hope (quickly dashed) of cobbling together a coalition of opportunists and deserters as was done in the 2002 elections. But then, at that time, Musharraf was all-powerful and Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were in exile. Few outcomes were expected. The verdict was clearly against Musharraf and his party. It was more than the anti-incumbency factor for both Musharraf and PMLQ which were felled by the public ire against the way the regime went about crushing every public sentiment and faith for personal ambitions and gains. The Mullahs were defeated, again quite emphatically, leaving no one in doubt that the Mullahs may run seminaries and terror groups but the very people who perhaps might be sending in contributions for `Kashmir jihad`, were not interested in seeing them in the National Assembly. For those who thought they have seen the last of Musharraf and his Mullah allies, there may be some surprises in the days to come. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a politically (over)ambitious cleric closely associated with the Taliban and quite a few `Afghan Jihad` groups, has managed to claw his bulky way to the power centre, persuading both PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif to accept his support in forming the government. But the most crucial question facing the country is how long will Sharif and Zardari hold the hands together?

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:
      1. Anjali Sharma                 – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      2. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      3. Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      4. Pakistan                           – Wilson John


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