MonitorsPublished on Jun 22, 2009
Local council elections in the Northern Province districts of Vavuniya and Jaffna will be held on August 8. Though President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured free and fair elections, the opposition wants foreign observers to oversee the conduct of the elections.
South Asia Weekly Report 77

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Government announces Jaffna, Vavuniya poll dates

Local council elections in the Northern Province districts of Vavuniya and Jaffna will be held on August 8. Though President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured free and fair elections, the opposition wants foreign observers to oversee the conduct of the elections. In a related development, the nomination list of two main minority parties -- Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) -- has been rejected by the Election Commission due to a discrepancy in the signature of the nominee. In another development, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an extremist Tamil party, got split into two after most members decided to join the President Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition.               

< class="maroontitle">Maoists hoist red flag inside Indian territory

In the wake of recent reports of alleged border encroachment and harassment of Nepali citizens by the Indian Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel, the Unified CPN (Maoist) cadres allegedly damaged three border pillars along the India-Nepal border area. The Maoist cadres damaged the border pillar number 618, 623/2 and 625 along the Nepal-India border. They also hoisted a red flag of the party inside the Indian territory. The incident occurred in Shravasti district of Uttar Pradesh, which neighbours Nepal's Dang district, where the alleged case of border encroachment had occurred.

Following the incident Indian authorities contacted Nepali officials and informed them about it. They also asked their Nepali counterparts to prevent such incidents in the future and ensure better coordination between the border unit of the Nepal Police and SSB. There are two reasons why Maoist cadres carried out this bold step inside Indian territory. After their ouster from the government, the Maoist leadership remains discontented with the Indian establishment’s approach and believe that India was behind their downfall. Secondly, though the alleged border encroachment issue has died down, the Maoists want to seriously pursue it to further their own domestic political interest by invoking anti-Indian sentiments. 

< class="maroontitle">BNP demands recall of Indian High Commissioner

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has demanded the immediate recall of the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty charging him of meddling with the country’s internal affairs.  Chakravarty faced the opposition’s wrath following his defence of India’s stand on the Tipaimukh Dam at a seminar on June 21  He argued that India had consulted Bangladesh on the construction of the dam. He pointed out that the recent anti-India stand of the BNP is politically motivated. Tipaimukh dam is proposed to be constructed on the Barak River in Manipur, which feeds many rivers in northeastern Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited the BNP to send a separate team to visit the dam site in India. Earlier, the BNP had been reluctant to be part of the parliamentary team scheduled to visit the dam site in response to India’s proposal.  Sheikh Hasina, however, categorically said her country’s decision about the dam will be in Bangladesh’s best interest.

< class="maroontitle">Army and MPs complains of lack of resources

President Mohamed Nasheed’s proposal for a 20 per cent wage cut hasn’t gone down well with the Members of Parliament of the Maldivian Majlis. They rejected the proposal as an attempt by the President to fool the people and to further his political career. The MPs were of the view that the current salaries are not enough even to maintain a living standard befitting a Member of Parliament. Some of them think that higher salaries are necessary to control corruption in public life. The Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) also expressed its dissatisfaction at the inadequate finances being allotted to them. The chief of the MNDF said it is impossible to maintain an effective force with the meagre allocation being assigned to them. Besides, plans to establish Air Force will only materialize when more funds will be pumped in.             
< class="maroontitle">Pakistan poised to launch Operation Rah-e-Nijat in Waziristan
After pounding South Waziristan with artillery and aircraft for more than a week, security forces made their first foray into Baitullah Mehsud’s stronghold by securing vital road links and ‘strategic positions’ ahead of the much anticipated offensive named Operation Rah-e-Rash (Path to Salvation). Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited the Agency on Thursday (June 25) and laid out the government’s aim of ‘re-establishing the writ of the state while ensuring minimum loss of life and damage to property’. However, the army’ strategy suffered a setback when Qari Zianuddin, a tribal militant leader opposed to Baitullah was assassinated on Tuesday (June 23). Security forces have forged alliances with anti Mehsud groups in the surrounding areas of Tank and Bannu, indicating that the Iraq model of recruiting tribal militias in counterinsurgency operations might be adopted right from the onset.
Suicide attacks on major cities in Pakistan are likely to increase once Operation Rah-e-Nijat commences. Further, opening another front, according to the UN, will cause half a million people to migrate, further exasperating Pakistan’s ethnic fault lines. Thirdly, concurrent operations in Malakand, Waziristan and Charsadda will spread thin the army’s lines of communication along the Frontier. The next few months leading up to the elections in Kabul scheduled for August is going to remain crucial for Pakistan’s internal security.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                        – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee        – Bangladesh
      • Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti  – Pakistan
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