MonitorsPublished on Nov 01, 2018
South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. XI Issue 44


Bhutan: Nation votes for change, yet again

Mihir Bhonsale The recent general elections in Bhutan has surprised all with the nascent democratic nation showing the maturity and courage for voting to power a new party, leaving aside former incumbents. The square contest between the Druk Phuesum Tshogpa (DPT) and the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) resulted in the latter winning the contest. The winner, DNT, formed in 2013 won 30 out of 47 parliamentary seats in the second round of the third general elections, the results for which were declared on 19 October. The DNT cornered a vote-share of nearly 55 percent. On 18 October, more than 300,000 voters came out to cast their lot in 865 polling stations across the country. As many as 113,920 voters cast their vote through postal ballot. The voting percentage was 71.46. The mandate for the DNT meant the people want change. There were no lofty claims or even slander campaigns towards the opposition. The image of DNT president Lotay Tshering as a medical practitioner committed to people also favoured DNT.

DNT, a dark horse 

The DNT’s win in the primary round held in September had come as a surprise, while the incumbent People’s Democracy Party (PDP) came a distant third, against all pre-poll predications. The DPT trailed in the second position. In the run up to the general elections, the DNT had already become the favourites. But the DPT that contested the final round was confident that it would turn the odds in its favour. The DPT, that served twice earlier in Parliament, once in office and the second term in the Opposition, was campaigning on the fact that it was the most experienced party and could hence successfully address the challenges facing the nation. Party leaders in public debates televised live on TV also targeted the DNT manifesto. However, the DPT was ready to take the challenge offered by DPT in its stronghold, Eastern Bhutan. The region voted for the DNT in the second and final round of polls. The DNT’s chances of edging past the DPT was only in the poll-math -- that voters of the PDP and the DCT, which were ousted in the first round of polls, will exercise their mandate in favour of the DNT. Also, the DNT unlike in the primary round, won four seats in the East, besides sweeping all seats in West and South Bhutan, in the final round.

Bridging the gap

Farmers constituted a large and important constituency and the DNT’s promise of devising policies for bridging the gap between the stronger and weaker sections in the society is believed to have won the rural vote in its favour. The DNT also promised affordable and proper healthcare and bringing down unemployment levels. All these are likely to have turned votes in its favour. Unlike the first round, in which the postal ballots decided the results in a large number of seats, they decided the fate only in about four seats in the final. This left the maximum thrust on the poll day, a majority of which were votes of non-governmental and rural population. The DNT’s positive campaign without slandering its competitors is believed to have made them stand out amongst the electorate.

Govt formation

The DNT has confirmed that party leader Dr Lotay Tshering will be its prime ministerial nominee. However, it is yet to decide on other members of the cabinet. The Cabinet list is likely to be decided after the prime ministerial nominee receives dakyen from the Druk Gyalpo, the King. As per the Constitution, the invitation is extended to the leader of the party winning a majority of seats in Parliament. Ministerial berths could only be given to the members elected to Parliament, on advice of the prime minister. The prime ministerial nominee, Dr Tshering in the run-up to the final-round polls, had said that his party would like to give ministerial representation of all parts of the country, including the under-represented East. It will take about the second week of November for the Cabinet to be firmed up, and the prime ministerial nominee to be sworn in. A lot of expectations of the Himalayan nation ride on the DNT and prime ministerial nominee Dr Tshering who have not hesitated from experimenting by voting to power an inexperienced party over former incumbents. It is their task to legislate convincingly and in the interests of the citizens, besides taking the opposition in their confidence. Little had one expected at the beginning of this election year that the Bhutanese electorate could experiment well to drive home a point that no political party is immune to nudge of the electorate and the task of the political class is to deliver on the promises from the past before seeking another term or terms.
The writer is a Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata

Nepal: Federal, provincial government differences growing

Sohini Nayak The ever-widening rift between the Federal and Provincial governmental frameworks of Nepal has been in the limelight for quite some months now. Often dismissed by the Chief Ministers of the respective provincial cabinets, the lack of coordination between the two has been comprehensively prominent, with its reflection through the outcome of the stipulated work. In this backdrop, there have been several delays, on part of the central government to draft the indispensible federal laws, calling for assessment as early as possible. The new Constitution of the Himalayan country envisioned a three-tier system of government, which was previously just one in number. The central or Federal government is based in Kathmandu, working along with the presence of seven provincial governments, functioning as the second layer of administration. The establishment and structure of such a provincial framework has been defined by Part 13 of the Constitution. Here is also the presence of 753 local governments, as the third layer, which includes six major metropolitan cities (mahanagarpalika), 11 sub-metropolitan cities (upa-mahanagarpalika), 276 municipalities (nagarpalika) and 460 rural municipalities (gaunpalika). In between the Provinces and the local governments, there are the districts with district coordination committees, trying to correspond between the local units. This new organisational system was in complete contrast to the unitary system of government that was prevalent in Nepal since decades. The federal structure, introduced in 2015, was seen as an elixir to help bring solution to several problems that were being faced by Nepal at that time ranging from geography to demography and other societal complications. However, with the passage of time, and in just three years, this new system has emerged up as a challenge in itself that is surrounded by contentions with regard to revenue shared between the local and the national equivalents. There have been claims and counter claims for the autonomy granted for raising and spending revenue, thereby hindering successful implementation.

Recent problems

Several complaints and allegations have been launched through time. As grievances like the lack of proper skilled and non-skilled human resources along with other fiscal discrepancies increase, there have been proofs of many provincial governments introducing provincial laws on their own, much to the infuriation of the federal government. The Provincial Police Bill is one such latest example (October 2018). Province 2 Assembly, the south-eastern region of the country, with its capital temporarily situated at Janakpur, has gone ahead to suspend a provincial assembly regulation by introducing and endorsing the Provincial Police Act. With an intention to establish its own police organization, the venture has been vehemently opposed by the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The assembly meeting was also convened twice, in the same day to pass the bill, which had been pending for the last four months. Nonetheless, the ruling parties of Province 2, SSF-N and Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) have stood for it. In retaliation, the federal government declared that such implementation cannot come in practice without the Federal Police Act. One of the major reasons stated by the provincial government of Province 2 for defying the law has been stated as delay. In fact of matter, the province is also set to include additional laws that oversee administration, civil service and the public service commission. With increasing centralization of power in the country, this has come up as a major upheaval that must be taken into note to curb dismantling of the federal format.

Roots of feud

It was nearly two years after the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2015 that the Natural Resources, Fiscal Commission and Inter-Governmental Fiscal Transfer Bill were tabled in the Parliament, on July 2017, which were extremely crucial for the division of power and responsibility in federalism. Unfortunately enough, the new bills had given the central government a greater and increasing share of national revenue at the expense of the local governments. A few instances had come up during that time like the retention of around 85 per cent of the tax by the central government from sectors like mountaineering, hydropower, mines, forests and other natural resources. This also came up as a relapse of the Local Self-Government Act, of 1999, assigning specific shares to the local bodies like 50 per cent from the natural resources and hydropower revenue, 30 percent from mountaineering and 10 percent from forest revenue. The centrist forces are derailing decentralization. Lawmakers also tried to amend the Inter-Governmental Financial Management Bill that tried to address the barrier in place. As of now, the new government has also not been successful enough in bringing about solution as of now, though hopes remain high. It must be understood that empowering the provincial governments with the decision making capacity is an integral part of the system. This power will come in function only when the second layer is given an opportunity to raise its revenue and set their own budget. This is how the agenda of decentralization will be executed in its full fervor. However, it must be noted that the corporate income taxes and VAT are still with the central government with the relatively low yielding revenue sources like property and vehicle with the provinces. Only with coordinated inter-governmental fiscal transfers a proper format will develop.

Federalism, losing worth

The main essence of the Constitution, namely, federalism, is losing its worth in this due course. Power sharing between the three tiers has become a cumbersome process that needs proper evaluation and reassessment. The government is also yet to identify the laws that are inconsistent with the new constitution for mandatory amendment, due in the next five months or so. Around 339 Acts are also in need of proper revision that had come before 2015. 4 March 2019 has been decided as the date to submit the proceedings, requiring a lot of planning and toil. As for the matter of Province 2, best would be to refrain from acting unilaterally as they would be setting a wrong example from view of the essence and nitty-gritty of the Constitution. Although Provincial governments also have their own discretionary powers, the federal laws must be given its due importance as well. Instead of competing, the federal and provincial governments must complement each other as two sides of the same coin with interdependence and understanding.
The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata

Country Reports


Murder plan conceived in Pak?

Addressing a gathering of tribal elders of Kandahar, Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani claimed that the assassination plan of the former Police Chief of Kandahar General Abdul Raziq was hatched in Pakistan. He thus demanded the extradition of the perpetrators who had executed this act. Ghani further conferred the title of ‘Hero of independence’ to General Raziq and changed the name of the Kandahar Police Training Academy to bear the name of the former Police Chief of Kandahar.

US lauds poll efforts

US Vice President Mike Pence recently congratulated the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani for steadily advancing Afghanistan on the path towards democracy. This comes as the long delayed parliamentary elections were held in the country on 20th October. He further voiced his appreciation for election officials, military for managing the electoral process and the US and international forces for their support to the Afghan government despite the ceaseless efforts by the Taliban to intimidate the Afghan population against voting.


China asked to put pressure on Myanmar

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina urged China to mount pressure on Myanmar so takes back Rohingyas, who are living in the country as refugees. Prime Minister made the call during her meeting with Chinese state councillor and minister of public security Zhao Kezhi, who visited Bangladesh in the week. Rohingyas are a community from the Rakhine state of Myanmar who is living in Bangladesh as refugees in following persecution in Myanmar.

Four obstacles to growth

Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu this week informed Parliament that the four major factors hampering industrial development include scarcity of raw materials, lack of skilled manpower, electricity and gas crises, and lack of adequate experienced and knowledgeable entrepreneurs. The Minister further informed the measures taken by the government to overcome the obstacles.

Port access to India

Bangladesh and India signed an agreement to use the Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India. The two countries also have agreed to initiate Kolkata-Dhaka-Guwahati-Jorhat river cruise services. The agreements were signed during the 19th standing committee meeting under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade in New Delhi. Bangladesh shipping secretary Abdus Samad led his country’s delegation in the two-day secretary-level meeting between India and Bangladesh.  The Indian side was led by Shipping secretary Gopal Krishna. The move is expected to strengthen connectivity and trade between India and Bangladesh.


Tshering for PM post

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) that won 30 out of the 47 parliamentary seats in the recently held general elections confirmed Lotay Tshering as its prime ministerial nominee. The DNT is, however, yet to decide on the members of the cabinet. The members of the cabinet are likely to be decided after the nominee receives Dakyen from the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck.

HC acquits six

The High Court on 24 October acquitted a total of six people- four Royal Bhutan Army officers and two non-commissioned officers- of the charges they were convicted of by the Military Court in Lungtenphu. The acquittal of the six, takes the number of acquittals in the DeSuung fund embezzlement case to eight. The court said in its judgement that the lack of concrete evidence to prove their involvement in the embezzlement case had made the court decide on the acquittal.

Highway by year end

Works on the East-West Highway in Trongsa is expected to complete by end of December. According to road officials about 85 percent of work on the 97 kilometers highway is complete. The East-West Highway widening stretch in Trongsa region started from Chuserbu to Nangar in Bumthang.


Need for strong govt: NSA

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on 25 October drew inference from the style of governance under Sardar Patel, independent India’s first deputy prime minister, and said the democratic institution of the nation needed to be strengthened, India Today reported. “India needs a strong and stable government for the next ten years. We are not governed by people’s representatives, but by laws made by them. The rule of law, therefore, is extremely important,” he said, while delivering a lecture at the Sardar Patel memorial in New Delhi.

Citizenship for ‘minorities’

The Union government has authorised 16 district collectors across seven states to register as Indian citizens Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh under the Citizenship Act, 1955 — a move which the Congress alleged was aimed at garnering votes in the upcoming assembly elections in five states. The order will come into effect from 22 December. The districts include Raipur (Chhattisgarh); Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch (Gujarat); Bhopal and Indore (Madhya Pradesh); Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane (Maharashtra); Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur (Rajasthan); Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh); and West Delhi and South Delhi.


For Nasheed’s return

With the Supreme Court upholding the results of the presidential polls of 23 September and dismissing the constitutional plea of defeated incumbent Abdulla Yameen, MDP-JO law-makers, comprising a vast majority in the 85-member Parliament, have resolved to move a resolution, seeking to restore all rights of self-exiled former President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, and facilitate his early return home, possibly by the 1 November deadline set by him. They have also moved a no-trust move against Yameen-led PPM’s Parliament Speaker, Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, and replace him with Jumhooree Party founder, Gasim Ibrahim, who too had returned from self-exile and cleared of some of the pending court cases against him.


Joint venture with Singapore

A Myanmar-Singapore joint venture company has increased its capital injection by 10.2 million U.S. dollars in aviation fuel import, storage and distribution businesses. The National Energy Puma Aviation Services Company is shared by state-owned Myanmar Petroleum Products Enterprises and Singapore-based Puma Energy with the Myanmar enterprise company holding more stake. With an initial capital of 106.02 million U.S. dollars, the joint venture business is operating Yangon's Thanlyin Liquefied Petroleum Gas Terminal since March 2016, the Directorate of Investment and Company.

Trade with Germany up

Myanmar’s trade with Germany from April to August in the past interim period amounted to US$321.7 million, comprising $245 million worth of export and $76.67 million valued import. Germany was ranked first among EU countries having the largest trade value with Myanmar, followed by the UK with about $233 million. France was listed at the third place with trade values of about $191 million. Beyond regional trade regime, Myanmar has established trade links with EU member countries.

MoU with India on ports

India has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Myanmar on the appointment of a private operator to run and maintain Sittwe port, Paletwa inland water terminal, and associated facilities in the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project. The signing was witnessed by Indian Foreign Secretary Shri Vijay Gokhale, who paid an official visit to Myanmar on 22 October adding that the deal was a significant step in the implementation of India’s Act East Policy. The statement release by the ministry said the MoU will enhance Myanmar’s connectivity with India and add to development of the region, particularly Rakhine and Chin states.


Registration pending

It has been six months since the formal unification of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center). However, the Election Commission of Nepal is yet to formally register the party. The main reason for this delay is supposedly due to the claims of another communist leader, Rishi Kattel, who has said that the name belongs to him. The efforts to bring in solution are still futile.

Dahal visits India

A day- long visit to India has been scheduled for Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The primary reason for this visit has been stated as attending the inaugural session of “The India Ideas Conclave” with the theme “Citizen’s Manifesto – Churn of Ideas”, being organized by the India Foundation, in New Delhi. Whether there would be any meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, on the sidelines of this conference, is a question that remains.

Yechury in Kathmandu

Closeness of ties seems to be brewing between the Communist Part of India (Marxist) and the ruling Nepali Communist Party (NCP). This was further confirmed by the visit of Sitaram Ychury, General Secretary, CPIM (M) to Kathmandu on the invitation of the NCP. Bilateral meetings are supposed to be held with the Nepali leaders. Yechury is also supposed to deliver a talk on ‘Experience of Indian Communist Movement’.


Aid to ailing economy

After weeks of speculation, Saudi Arabia has finally decided to assist Pakistan with a $6 billion bailout package. Agreements for this have been signed on the sidelines of the second edition of the annual Future Investments Initiative Conference, organised in Riyadh. In this offer $3 billion has been assigned for balance of payments supports and the other $3 billion is for deferred payments on oil imports. For Saudi Arabia the gesture is part of its Vision 2030.

Curbing power tariffs

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Ministry of Power to take immediate measures to reduce the electricity tariff and burdens on the customers which are caused by power theft and line losses. He added that for the first time the government was formulating policies in keeping with the country’s domestic and industrial requirements for the next 25 years. Steps will also be taken to reduce the dependence on imported fuel by optimum utilisation of local resources.

Sri Lanka

Presidet sacks Ranil, appoints Mahinda as ‘PM’

In a none-too-unexpected move, whose processes and timing however were unexpected, President Maithripala Sirisena sacked UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday evening, replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom he had replaced in Elections-2015. Sirisena also prorogued Parliament till 16 November, when Budget presentation was due on 4 November, while Wickremesinghe claimed he had the majority, what with the leaderships all ‘minority parties’ supporting him pledging him continued support.



Opinion Pieces

Thomas Gibbons-Neff and John Ismay, “Series of Lapses Led to Army Soldier’s Death in Afghanistan”, The New York Times, 22 October 2018 Hujjatullah Zia, “Taliban – Foul Player in Peace Talks”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 22 October 2018  Mujib Mashal, Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi, “Afghanistan Votes for Parliament Under Shadow of Taliban Violence”, The New York Times, 20 October 2018


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “ISO Standards: Challenges and Opportunities”, 24 October 2018 Afghanistan Times, “Election irregularities”, 23 October 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Deepening Democracy: Election Management in Afghanistan’s Divided Society”, 23 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Naomi Burke Shyne, “Bangladesh’s Deadly War on Drugs”, Project Syndicate, 24 October 2018 Naimul Karim, “Bangladesh's innovation challenge”, The Daily Star, 26 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Tenzing Lamsang, ‘Why DNT won and DPT lost’, The Bhutanese, 20 October 2018


The Bhutanese, ‘The Priorities’, 20 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Ritu Sarin, “A lower low”, Indian Express, 26 October 2018. Sanjay G. Reddy,”UNDP data on poverty shows gains are in line with Modi’s slogan, not a product of it”, The Print, 26 October 18. Amar Bhushan, ”Find ways to make Aadhaar necessary”, The New Indian Express, 21 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Maldives: Democracy comes of age, but issues remain”,, 23 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Atiya Achakulwisut, “Army at centre of Thailand’s vicious circle”, The Myanmar Times, 26 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Meena Bhatta, “Politics for power”, Republica, 23 October 2018 Sangita Thebe Limbu, “Surveillance state and minorities”, The Kathmandu Post, 26 October 2018


The Kathmandu Post, “Work in tandem”,26 October 2018 The Himalayan Times, “Too costly to borrow”, 23 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Rafia Zakari, “The definition of aggression”, Dawn, 24 October 2018 Zahid Hussain, “Population and security”, Dawn, 24 October 2018 Shahbaz Gill, “End of one-man show in Punjab”, The Express Tribune, 23 October 2018


The Express Tribune, “Cleaning house or glass house?”, 23 October 2018 Pakistan Today, “PTI and the opposition”, 22 October 2018 Pakistan Today, “Respecting foreign contracts”, 21 October 2018

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

G H Peiris, “Post-war occupation of land by military”, The Island, 27 October 2018 D B S Jeyaraj, “How Sampanthan made Wigneswaran TNA’s chief candidate in 2013?”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 October 2018 C A Chandraprema, “Wigneswaran’s new party: Debut at PC polls or presidential election?”, The Island, 26 October 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “So, Wiggy does it, after all!”, Colombo Gazette, 25 October 2018 Lynn Ockersz, “SL still to hit on a sensible India policy”, The Island, 25 October 2018 Kelum Pandara, “Prez furthers patriotic agenda as rift with UNP widens”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 October 2018 Harim Peiris, “SB and the attempted caretaker Government”, The Island, 25 October 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “US not the only elephant in the room”, Ceylon Today, 24 October 2018 Ranga Jayasuriya, “UNP-SLFP domestic rivalry threatens to distort foreign policy”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 October 2018 Jehan Perera, “Dealing successfully with the past needs a public and truthful process”, The Island, 23 October 2018


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Sohini Bose Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India: Ketan Mehta and T.N. Suhas  Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak
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