MonitorsPublished on May 04, 2009
Blaming the ruling Awami League government for the deteriorating condition of power, water and law and order of the country, Bangladesh's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) launched a month-long agitation against the government.
South Asia Weekly Report 70

< class="maroontitle">Awami League, BNP at each other’s throat

Blaming the ruling Awami League government for the deteriorating condition of power, water and law and order of the country, Bangladesh’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) launched a month-long agitation against the government. In the protest, BNP is planning to hold country-wide rallies, processions and form human chains. The Awami League, for its part, has decided to confront the BNP on a political front. Keeping this in mind, the party plans to strengthen its organizational capabilities and is planning to send its leaders to various parts of the country. Interestingly, framing of fresh corruption charges against top opposition leaders, like former speaker Jamiruddin Sarkar, former deputy speaker Akhtar Hamid Siddiky, influential BNP leader Delwar Hossain, is being perceived as politically motivated. The international community, including the United States, has expressed its concern over the rising tensions between the two political parties and urged for amity.

< class="maroontitle">Offensive against the Taliban

After weeks of ambivalence, the Pakistani security forces launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Buner, Swat and other areas in Malakand division. The military operation witnessed the use of heavy artillery and combat helicopters, once again betraying the inability of the Army to follow an effective counter-insurgency strategy against the militants holed up in populated areas. The use of excessive military force in the tribal areas has in the past caused severe collateral damage and alienated the people, filling, ironically, in the process the ranks of the Taliban. The heavy handed response has also driven a large number of people from their homes, forcing them to take shelter in nearby as well as far off areas. These displaced persons not only complicate the offensive against the Taliban but also fan the dissident sentiments against the State. Though it is too early to say, the military offensive must be followed in quick succession by economic and political measures to facilitate an early return of the civilians, protection to them from the Taliban elements which are likely to return once the Army withdraws from the area and usher in economic development of the region to wean away from the militants.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Defiant Tamil Tigers refuse to lay down arms

After being cornered within an area of 800 sq metres, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leaders are making last-minute efforts to persuade the international community to pressurise the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to end the army offensive against them. Despite facing a total rout, the Tigers have refused to surrender and vowed to continue their fight for a separate Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. Amidst reports of mounting civilian causalities, Canada urged the Sri Lankan government to declare truce. The United Nations (UN) also joined the call, when in a telephonic conversation with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed fears of more civilian casualties if the war continued. Moon, however, accepted the Sri Lankan government’s invitation to visit Sri Lanka to take stock of the ground situation. In India, political voices from southern part of the country have intensified favouring a ceasefire in the island nation. In fact, some Indian politicians are openly advocating cessation as the viable solution to the decade-old conflict.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government summoned the UN Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne to seek an explanation after a sensitive UN document containing satellite images of Sri Lanka’s ‘safe zone’ was leaked to the media. In the images, the Lankan forces were seen using heavy weaponry on helpless civilians. During the week, several countries, including China, Australia and Italy offered to provide humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka.                

< class="maroontitle">Maldives goes to polls amidst credibility doubts

Maldives witnessed its first-ever multi-party parliamentary elections on May 9, 2009. Despite fears of violence during the run-up to the elections, the polling day was largely peaceful. But there were about 800 cases of voting irregularities, including instances of vote buying and vote-selling, reported from various polling booths all across the country. Earlier, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives had raised doubts on the credibility of the elections even before it was held. After the elections, the country witnessed widespread protests over the delay in declaration of results. Some sections have been demanding an immediate annulment of the elections. The elections were fought by two personalities – President Mohammed Nasheed and former president Maumoon Gayoom. The initial poll result points towards the victory of President Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, but there is a possibility of Gayoom’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) emerging victorious. Gayoom is supported by his brother Abdulla Yamin, who is the head of Peoples Alliance (PA), and several independents. During the elections the DRP and PA supported several independent candidates. A total of 38 seats are needed to secure a simple majority in 77-member Maldivian parliament, commonly known as Majlis.                 

< class="maroontitle">Parties miss May 9 deadline; fail to form consensus government

The political parties in Nepal have failed to meet the deadline given by President Dr Ram Baran Yadav to form a new government through mutual consensus by May 9, 2009. The Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist have failed to evolve common ground and seem nowhere close to forming the new government on their own. With the deadline already over, President Yadav has asked the Constituent Assembly (CA) to initiate steps to form a majority government as stated under Article 38(2) of the ‘Interim Constitution’. At the moment, any party or coalition will have to demonstrate majority (a minimum of 301 seats) in the 601-seat CA to form a new government. The NC and UML have already initiated steps to form a UML-led coalition government.  The NC has also agreed upon Madhav Kumar Nepal’s candidature to the prime minister’s post. The NC believes that the UML will succeed in persuading the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and other parties to join the new government, if it heads it. But the irony is that the UML itself seems to be divided with the party chairman Jhala Nath Khanal-led group opposing Nepal’s candidature as the new PM. To make matters worse, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), with a total strength of 50 CA members, is continuing to give confusing signals. It appears that the MJF along with other Madhesi parties are most likely to drive a hard bargain in order to extend support to any new government. The Maoists, significantly have proposed conditions to support any new government, hinting its willingness to participate in the new dispensation. The Maoists have demanded that all parties should declare the President’s move as ‘unconstitutional’ and ask him to resign, failing which they will continue to obstruct the CA proceedings. Experts say that the fulfillment of the Maoists’ demand remains a remote possibility, as it will not get enough support from other parties. At this juncture, the alternative to form a majority government based on political consensus is essential and constitutionally valid. However, the Maoists resolve to obstruct the CA proceedings will affect the election of the new prime minister and prolong the political stalemate.

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