MonitorsPublished on Sep 20, 2013
Last month, the security forces of Bangladesh unearthed the existence of a new terrorist group called Ansar Ullah Bangla. The discovery of this group surprised many since the country for a few years has been having an active counter-terror operation in place.
Understanding Anar Ullah Bangla, a new terrorist outfit
< class="heading1">Analysis

Election season has begun in the country as in the next two months, five states are going to have assembly elections which are being billed as mini-general elections. Soon thereafter, parliamentary elections will be held in the first four months of the next year to elect the 16th Lok Sabha (lower house).

Assembly elections are slated to be held in November-December this year in the states of Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan. Out of the five states, the two national parties - the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - are in direct contest with each other in states of Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

There are Congress government in Delhi and Rajasthan. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are ruled by the BJP. Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is seeking popular mandate in Delhi for the fourth time in succession while her party counterpart in Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot is fighting to remain in power second time in a row.

Chhattisgarh’s BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh, in power since 2003, is going into election to remain in power for the third time. Similarly in Madhya Pradesh, party Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in power since November 2005, is leaving no stone unturned to regain people’s confidence in his leadership second time.

In 2003, the BJP had wrested power from the Congress government of Chief Minister Digvijay Singh under the leadership of Uma Bharti who could remain at the chief ministerial chair for a short period of little over eight months. Chouhan took over reins of power from Babulal Gaur who had replaced Bharti in 2004.

The fifth state which goes to polls is Mizoram where a Congress government has been in power since 2008 and Chief Minister Pu Lalthanawala is seeking a second term. He had replaced Pu Zoramthanga who ruled the state for a decade. Lalthanawala is going to be challenged by the Mizo National Front (MNF), a regional political party.

Making Modi the issue?

The five-state assembly elections are going to be held at a time when a raging debate is going on in the country over the BJP’s prime ministerial candidature of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has been addressing public rallies. Public rallies have already been held in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and even in southern Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where no assembly elections are due. A Modi rally was organised in the national capital of New Delhi, which is also the capital of Delhi state, on Sunday (September 29).

With rallies addressed by Modi already being held in all the four states due for polls in next two months, results are bound to be interpreted as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’s full endorsement, partial rejection or full rejection. The results would also set the tone for the general elections as a BJP victory in all the four Hindi-speaking states of north India would be projected as a triumph of Modi brand of politics.

The reverse would be argued if the BJP lost, wholly or partly. In the four Congress-BJP ’bi-polar states’, the Congress could breathe easy in the light of the anti-incumbency factor purportedly afflicting the party-led coalition government at the Centre, owing to a series of scams, economic issues, political problems and the like. Against this, for the BJP and Modi personally to gain greater confidence and acceptance - the latter also within the party - they will have to ensure a clean sweep or something close to that.

Anti-incumbency issue

In the four bi-polar states, anti-incumbency against the incumbent government is as much an election issue, if not more than that against the Centre, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Government has come under much flak. By providing a launch-pad for Modi in these states, the BJP strategists also seem wanting to raise the level of contest and competition, away and ahead of the state governments, politics and issues.

Whether anti-incumbency factor is going to play a major role in determining the outcome of the elections is a proposition that is going to be tested this time. In the last couple of years, ruling parties have defied the recent logic of anti-incumbency and have romped home. Good governance, rather a relatively better performance, has been respected by the electorate and has thus forced elected leaders to pay more attention to their governing styles.

Notwithstanding opinion polls that have favoured the BJP, and have been proven wrong on most occasions, a close look at each of these states point out that the contests are going to be close and the two national parties have their own set of problems. Moreover, local issues and candidate’s personality also play a role in deciding the preference of the electorate and in this context each state election is going to be influenced by a different set of factors.

Sympathy for Congress?

In Chhattisgarh, a decade of Chief Minister Raman Singh’s rule has obviously resulted in dissatisfaction and a kind of fatigue has already set in. The killing of the state Congress’ top leadership on 25 May by left-wing Naxal extremists in the tribal area has created a sort of sympathy for the opposition party. Out of the total 90 Assembly seats, 29 seats are in the tribal-belt. It is here that victory of the BJP or the Congress is going to be decided. There are 51 general seats and 10 seats for the Scheduled Castes.

In 2008 contest, the BJP had polled 40.33 percent votes winning 50 seats while the Congress had a vote-share of 38.63 percent with 38 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had a vote -hare of 6.1 percent with two seats.

A close contest is awaited but the Congress camp, at present, is best with internal bickering and clash of group interests. Former state chief minister Ajit Jogi has been demanding a major say in the distribution of tickets, for his followers while the other camp that enjoys party’s national leadership’s blessings wants candidate selection to be objective and fair.

If the Congress is able to manage the current differences within the state unit and is able to strike a balance between the two camps thus project a united image of the party then the electoral results could go either way.

’Aam Admi’ to the fore?

In Delhi, the electoral battle is mainly between the ruling Congress and the BJP but a new party, Aam Admi Party (AAP), is trying its best and is leaving no stone unturned to make the contest three cornered. In 2008, the Congress had won 43 seats securing 40.31 percent votes while the BJP had won 23 seats with a vote percentage of 36.34. The BSP had contested 69 seats winning two seats with a poll percentage of 14.05 percent. The contest could well become four-cornered this time.

The AAP has emerged out of the wide-spread civil society protests against corruption and black money that took place in 2011 and 2012. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like India Against Corruption (IAC) were at the vanguard of the protests that were observed in many cities and towns across the country, starting with New Delhi. One section of the civil society movement decided to float the political party and its leader Arvind Kejriwal is leading the party. The AAP has decided to field candidates in all the 70 seats of Delhi Assembly.

The AAP is said to be attracting all those voters who are both angry and disgruntled with the ruling party and it would be interesting to watch whether it damages the chances of the BJP or the Congress because in normal course anger of the electorate helps the opposition party but it could be different this time.

At a personal-level, Chief Minister Shiela Dixit has had three terms and has relatively remained non-controversial. If the Congress party could succeed in warding off the anti-incumbency along with the purported popular anger prevailing in urban centres against the party-led UPA government at the centre remains to be seen. In any case, results are likely to be close with margins of victory of a successful candidate being not very huge.

Infighting in MP Congress

Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP has been in power since 2003, is in for a keen contest as after a very long time the Congress has decided to project a young leader in Union Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia as its chief ministerial candidate. He has been undertaking mass-contact programmes since February this year and is said to be attracting crowds to his interactions.

In 2008 elections, the BJP’s tally in state assembly had come down to 143 from 173 in 2003 and the Congress had gained 33 seats and has a tally of 77 in the present assembly. The total strength of the state legislature is 230. The Bhaujan Samaj Party, which had contested all the 230 seats, had won 7 seats in 2008, improving its tally by five seats and had polled 8.97 percent of total votes cast.

The Congress in the state has suffered a lot on account of internal fighting between rival camps but this time Scinida is likely to project a united face in the electoral battle. The performance of the BJP government during last 10 years has been average but on some vital parameters it has not done well. Issues of rising crime related to upkeep of the law and order, delivery of public services and corruption are being raised by the Congress. There are 47 tribal seats in the assembly and issue of tribal welfare is going to play a major role in the elections. It remains to be seen as which way the electorate of the state swings this time.

Whether the people of the state keep the BJP government in power or prefers a young Congress leader whose ancestors as rulers of the erstwhile State of Gwalior lorded a major part of the state in British India is one of the question that is being asked in political circles.

Tribal voters matter

The Rajasthan elections are very crucial to the electoral fate of the Congress Party. Here, a Congress government of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is facing a challenge from his BJP predecessor Vasundhara Raje who was at the helm from 2003 to 2008. In a House of 200, the Congress had polled 36.82 percent votes, winning 96 seats while the BJP had secured 78 seats with a vote-share of 35.60 percent. The BSP had won seven seats with a vote share of 7.6 percent.

The elections are going to be close and once again tribal population of the state is going to determine the fate of the two national parties. There are 25 tribal seats in the state assembly and in 2003 and 2008 elections, these seats had decided the victory margins.

That is why precisely, both the national parties have been devoting considerable energies in wooing tribal population. Challenger Raje, who hails from the erstwhile princely State of Gwalior by birth and to the princely state of Dholpur by marriage, began her three-month, 14000-km long electoral campaign journey (’Suraj Sankalp Yatra’) from the tribal-dominated area of Udaipur in April this year. The ruling Congress party organised a big public rally in September which was addressed by Rahul Gandhi, party vice-president and scion of Nehru-Gandhi family.

While the ruling Congress is suffering from anti-incumbency and resultant popular woes and complaints on delivery of public services and prevailing law and order situation, the BJP is also faced with internal bickering. The BJP’s national leadership with the full backing its mentor, Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), had appointed Raje chief of the state unit of the party and thus anointed her as the chief ministerial candidate of the party but this decision also resulted in dissidence and rivalries.

Dissidence in the party and handling of aspirations of the claimants to the party ticket at the time of picking up candidates for the 200 assembly seats, which may add fuel to the simmering fire of dissidence, would play a major role in the outcome of elections. Raje’s imperious style of functioning and her royal behaviour may also play a role in deciding the choice of the electorate.

It remains to be seen whether the projection of Narendra Modi from the neighbouring state of Gujarat as the prime ministerial candidate of the party is able to unite the BJP in Rajasthan and minimise, if not totally eliminate the disgruntlement of the party leaders.

On the other hand, the present Chief Minister has apparently been able to regain some ground by announcing a slew of popular schemes that include free medicines and free medical check-up for the people o the state. But the Congress, like its main political rival, also suffers from internal rivalries as different state leaders work at cross-purposes with the objective of maximising their individual popularity and following.

Unmistakable trend

In Mizoram, where the Congress has been in power since 2008, the contest is going to be between a regional party, Mizo National Front (MNF), and the country’s grand old party. The Congress had wrested power from the MNF in 2008 by polling 38.89 percent votes and winning 32 seats in total assembly strength of 40. The MNF had polled 30.65 percent votes and had won three seats losing 18 seats.

The five-state election results will establish an unmistakable trend of the general elections that will take place in early 2014. It would also indicate whether decision of the BJP and the RSS to project Narendra Modi before the assembly elections was right or wrong as victories of the two national parties in four Hindi-speaking states of Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are a definite clue to the BJP’s overall appeal in rest of the country.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives : Heading for a ’democratic turmoil’?

N Sathiya Moorthy

With the Supreme Court reserving orders on the election petition pertaining to the nation’s presidency, and the Election Commission (EC) countermanding the decisive, second-round, run-off polls for the nation’s highest office, rumours, speculation and political threats and statements have begun ruling the roost, throwing Maldives’ fragile and infant democracy into avoidable confusion with consequences of their own, particularly if left unchecked for a longer time than already. Clarity may thus begin emerging as and when the Supreme Court pronounces its verdict on the election petition, and thus clears the deck for the presidential election process to be revived, in ways the highest judiciary of the land deemed fit under the circumstances.

Through over two weeks of legal battle, the Election Commission had declared that it would abide by the Supreme Court’s countermanding of the second round vote for the presidency, constitutionally scheduled for Saturday, 28 September. It had confined its public observations / posturing about the relative roles of constitutional authorities, including the Supreme Court and the poll panel, by bringing its position on the matter to the notice of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik. However, speculation became rife after the EC reportedly began preparations for a second-round vote as scheduled, possibly going against the court order.

Possibly, the EC was stopped in its course by two related developments. On the one hand, the Supreme Court suo motu ordered the nation’s security forces to ensure that its orders on countermanding the first round poll was not violated by anyone. The police chief then went to town, and clarified that the interim amassing of the force around the EC office buildings followed specific information on possible attacks, and not otherwise. Two, the Finance Ministry announced that pending the court orders, it was in no position to provide funds for the conduct of the second round polls.

A couple of days prior to the EC decision, the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had acted with equally relative responsibility. After the first-round polls for the presidency, the party now enjoys a 39-member ’simple majority’ in the 77-seat Parliament, in the company of some MPs belonging to one-time rival Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP). When the legal wrangle over the first-round vote threatened to delay the sun-off voting, the MDP was reported to be toying with the idea of moving a no-trust vote against Justices of the Supreme Court. It has since confined the parliamentary motion, passed by voice-vote against din and noise, to a resolution for all constitutional authorities to function within the four walls of the nation’s statute. In between, conflicting signals did emerge after the MDP-DRP combine resolved to urge the EC to go-ahead with the second-round polls.

India-initiated R2P?

In the midst of all these, the international community, which is keen on ensuring that the long-wounded Maldivian transition to democracy is not delayed, distracted or disturbed en route, appealed for polls as scheduled. The UN, the Commonwealth, the European Union, the US and neighbourhood nations with a stake in Maldives’ political stability and democratic continuity have made similar appeals. Most nations and international organisations wanted second-round polls as scheduled. However, the US was quiet on the matter.

India, as the regional power with an abiding interest, concern and responsibility in neighbourhood stability and consequent collective, cooperative prosperity, specifically urged the Maldivian actors to abide by the constitutionally-mandated second-round poll-date. The Indian concern and contribution to ensuring stability in Maldives has been amply demonstrated over the past decades, most noticeably since ’Operation Cactus’. At the time, India intervened militarily to abort a coup bid against the incumbent leadership, as far back as 1988.

In more recent days, Dr Ahmed Shaeed, former Maldivian Foreign Minister under Presidents Maumoon Gayoom and successor Mohammed Nasheed, has tweeted a call for the Commonwealth for an India-centred ’R2P’ (’Responsibility to Protect’) initiative, acknowledged by the UN, among others, since 2005, to protect Maldives and Maldivian democracy. The call from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq, has invited tweeted criticism from Dr Mauroof Hussain, vice-president of religion-centric Adhhalath Party (AP). Intentions apart, Dr Shaeed’s call could put India in avoidable embarrassment, after the Maldivian Foreign Ministry summoned Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Sahare following his meeting with Election Commission officials in their office.


In the midst of the current developments, as President Waheed has asked the international community, including the UN, not to comment on the internal schemes of the Indian Ocean archipelago. Justified prima facie , the call is flawed by inadequate Maldivian exposure to modern democracy, which otherwise the nation as a whole was keen to embrace with all its inadequacies. Despite the democratic turbulences of the first five years of infancy, Maldives and Maldivians have shown greater, not lesser resolve and commitment to democracy. The near-90 percent voter turnout in the first round polls of 7 September is testimony enough.

There can be no ’template model’ for democracy in its application to different nations, cultures and peoples. The West thus may have faltered on many an occasion and many an instance in trying to imbue cultural and cosmopolitan values that are alien to nations, that too in a language and diction that the other seldom understands, to be able to appreciate the same. Across the world, from time to time since the conclusion of the Second World War in particular, the result has been mixed at best, but disastrous in most cases.

Compared to other forms of governments, modern democracy is distinctively more advantageous for peoples and nations for two main reasons. One, the people get to elect the government of their choice. The choice includes policies and programmes, as outlined by - and identified with -- contesting political parties and their comparable leaderships. The more important aspect of democracy is the concept of institution-building, as different from individual-driven.

Clearly, through a series of elections for multi-layered power-sharing institutions since the adoption of a multi-party democratic Constitution in 2008, Maldives has proven unto itself that it has passed the first test. It is on the second, possibly, constitutional institutions have repeatedly been at logger-heads, not wanting to acknowledge the relative supremacy of one another, depending on the role and responsibilities assigned to each one of them under the very same constitutional scheme. It is one fault-line that each one of them has repeatedly crossed, over the past five years, blaming it on one another, rather than wanting to correct its course and hold themselves collectively responsible for the healthy functioning and enrichment of the nation’s democratic experience. It all may have flowed from ignorance, caused by the overnight, yet wholesale adoption of a governmental scheme that was alien to them, though at the same time beneficial to each and every section of the population than any other in the past. ’Institutional arrogance’ may be a misnomer to explain the cause-and-effect conditioning of the current state of affairs.

Sharing space, responsibility

It is in this context, modern-day Maldives needs to look outside for precedents and processes that it could adapt to the nation’s cultural ethos and value-systems that it may have been more comfortable with. The adoption of the ’presidential form of government’ under the 2008 Constitution itself was such a learning experience that acknowledged the ground reality that the nation had got used to it.

Truth be told, the presidential form had been super-imposed on a Parliament-driven administrative scheme that the ’Founding Fathers’ of the 2008 Constitution had originally drafted. This happened after the Maldivian people expressed their views on the system of governance in a referendum, and preferred the entrenched presidential form to the extra-schematic parliamentary system. None wanted to rework the original draft to suit the people’s verdict.

It is unfortunate that over the past years, the constitutional institutions had behaved the same way that they had done in the past, without acknowledging the changed roles, responsibilities and accountability to one another - which is at the core of any democratic model. Instead, it all continued to be in an era of relative supremacy and an attendant unwillingness to share space and responsibilities. When institution-building should have been at the core of democratic infancy, constitutional comparison and competition became the pass-word. The results are there for the whole world to be concerned about now - and all Maldivians to worry about.

Learning from mistakes

Democracy is also about learning from mistakes. Most other forms of governments, repeat those mistakes, instead. In the 21st century scenario, it is not necessary for nations to commit those mistakes themselves. Instead, they can - and should stop with - learning from the mistakes of others. For those others, it is also about ’democratic experience’ in their case. Those ’learning experiences’ are also about such other nations experimenting with democracy in slow and constant doses over decades and centuries.

If India, for instance, expresses its concerns, it is not only about neighbourhood stability and consequent security. It is in fact sharing its democratic experience and experimentation of the past three-plus centuries, when the British ruler brought with him elements of the ’Magna Carta’, dating back centuries earlier. Today, India is not only the largest democracy in the world, owing to relative size and population. It is also a dynamic democracy, willing to make changes to the nation’s constitutional scheme, which itself was voluminous at inception.

The Indian Constitution and constitutional scheme thus hav in-built corrective mechanisms, and have applied them too without reservations, to make ’modern democracy’ work in Indian conditions, societal systems and people-based values. There is a lesson that infant South Asian democracies like Maldives and other Third World democracies, otherwise, can learn from the Indian experimentation and experience.

It is thus that judicial and constitutional precedents from countries like India matter in the courts and parliaments of other democracies of the kind. Even decades after India became accepted as a matured democracy, constitutional precedents from elsewhere in the world, democracy or not, continues to be agitated in Indian courts, and outside, too. So much so there are globally-acknowledged books and jurists and authors like Kaul and Shakder, and H M Seervai, that are oft-cited elsewhere too, just as India itself lived off Mayne’s ’Parliamentary Practice ’ for decades - and continues to do so even today.

Expression of views and concerns based on institutional experience and memory of the kind should not be mistaken for interference with the internal affairs of Maldives or any other country in its place. If anything, the political events and democratic developments of the past five years of democratic infancy should - and should have, already - opened up an otherwise inward-looking archipelago into opening up, to learn from other nations’ experiences and experimentations - nothing more, nothing less.

Impacting on tourism economy

A nation that could open up to tourism-driven economy decades ago when the rest of South Asia was still hobnobbing with State-driven ’socialist model’ cannot have excuses or complaints on other fields. It is particularly so, when those fields have expanded as an inevitable product of earlier experimentation on the economic field. In the case of Maldives, multi-party democracy was, and is a product of education and healthcare expansion over the past three decades, funded and facilitated by ’tourism economy’.

Today, there is again a threat to the tourism-driven economy all over again, after those that followed the ’Sultan Park bomb-blast’ at the height of the pro-democracy protests in 2007, and the controversial power-transfer in February 2012. Citing the current political situation, countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and even China - which accounts for the highest number of tourist arrivals in Maldives - have issued ’travel advisories’ to their people wanting to travel to the archipelago for fun, relaxation and recreation as families. This is independent of the MDP’s call for the travel industry labour in the country to protest the delayed polls.

On a related front, Bangladesh, which supplies much of the travel and related construction industry labour, has banned fresh immigration to Maldives until ’labour practices’ improved. Earlier, India had to take a tough position on the score. Unfortunately, the pre-occupation of the Maldivian people and political leadership with the emerging political turmoil nearer home has not spared enough time or interest for them to address issues that could permanently affect the nation’s economy. The US too has already threatened ’economic sanctions’ of some kind unrelated to the current democratic turmoil if Maldives did not improve its ’migrant labour’ conditions in the next year.

Maldivians have forgotten how in the late Seventies and more so in the early Eighties, early signals of the ethnic turmoil in neighbouring Sri Lanka had helped divert western tourists to their country - and how the conclusion of ’ethnic war’ in that country in 2009 had opened it up for overseas tourism in a big way, since. Democracy under the circumstances could still take stable and deep roots in Maldives, but the intervening experimentation of the unconventional kind could have destroyed the nation’s economy by then. Truth be told, Sri Lanka, which Singapore wanted to ape in the Seventies, is still trying to stabilise its economy, four full years after the end of ’Eelam War IV’.

Consistency and common sense

Democracy is not just about institutions and institutions-building, not even about elections alone. It is also about consistency and common sense, which such institutionalisation brings in with it. It is not only about division of constitutional powers and responsibilities. It is also about living with institutions and learning to grow with them, even while facilitating them to grow, as well. It is thus that constitutional institutions would not - and should not - cross the invisible dividing-line, which is more in the mind than in the book. Violating it once means vitiating democracy as a whole.

Any election petition, agitated pending the completing of the electoral process could ipso facto justify multiplicity of such petitions, attended by relative justification, political even if not legal. It’s thus that in countries like India law and Constitution bars poll petitions once the election process had been set in motion, until after its completion, with the announcement of the final results. For his part, Abdulla Yameen, the candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), who came a distant second after MDP’s Mohammed Nasheed, has already moved the Supreme Court, seeking time for second-round campaign, as the three weeks available for the purpose had been lost to the court case for annulment of the first round, moved by the third-placed Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhoore Party and Coalition.

Flowing from the Indian experience is also the current Indian concern that underlines the fact that the poll process should be adhered to in a way that the next elected President assumes office on 11 November, the traditional date fixed for the purpose. That is also when the constitutional five-year term after the earlier presidential poll of 2008 ends. In the absence of an elected President assuming office on that day, there would be a constitutional vacuum.

In the current context, it could also mean a possible - or, a tempting - return to the past from which Maldives has moved forward. The regression that it could set in is not what Maldives deserves, and what the Maldivians - all 90 percent of the voters - have voted for. Yet, no single individual can be blamed for it. Every Maldivian leader, political, societal and institutional, has his share.

In the process, they all need to acknowledge the democratic reality that where one institution fails, another steps in to fill the vacuum. In the Maldivian context, if the Supreme Court and the Election Commission are in focus, and maybe crossing swords, too, they are only filling the vacuum that the rest of it all had created. Politics and polity are at the centre of it all, and they are now slugging it out for their acts of omission and commission - and blame one another, and also others outside their immediate periphery.

To this end, the MDP, for instance, should also re-look at its more recent strategy of wanting to have the People’s Majlis , or Parliament, passing no-trust motions against a host of senior Government officials, including Ministers, Attorney-General and Prosecutor-General, citing a host of reasons and possible justification(s). One, it could politicise what has since been reduced to a legal issue with a judicial pronouncement.

Two, in these weeks of ’constitutional holiday’, or lame-duck presidency between now and the time the elected President is sworn in, by default, the party would have conferred on the few officials/ministers left behind, a host of ministerial and official responsibilities, even if not exclusively in the office of the President - which is what it would boil down to, in the ultimate analysis. They cannot then blame the rest, and the rest alone, for the consequences.

Catch-22 situation?

Pending the Supreme Court verdict on the ’annulment case’, Maldives is headed for a Catch-22 situation. Institutions that were created to work together in strengthening democracy, are at logger-heads, thus bringing with them elements of weakening the processes that they were to have protected. The court decision now would decide the crucial fate of Maldivian electoral processes, and in this case that of the Presidency, whose incumbent is also the Head of State, Head of Government and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Whatever the verdict, the court would then be called upon to decide on Yameen’s plea for more time separately, or such other petitions that people may be imaginative enough to bring forth between now and the 11 November swearing-in of the elected President, at the conclusions of the constitutionally-mandated five-year upper-limit for any presidential term. Should the court now decide to grant relief to petitioner Gasim Ibrahim in the ’annulment case’, the Bench in its wisdom may cause a re-count of the votes polled in the first-round.

This again could add to the time-delays, thus making 11 November a more difficult deadline to achieve. The one consolation is that in the first-ever multi-party presidential polls of 2008, the second-round vote was concluded only on 28 October. There is thus no deadline for the EC to conclude the poll process, as long as it is completed within 11 November. If so, the time-lag that might have been otherwise available for courts to entertain election petitions would have been lost, as the Constitution confers legal immunity for the incumbent.

It is here Maldivians should learn to look at the experience of countries such as India with an open-mind. In India, where the election of President V V Giri was challenged in the Supreme Court, as per legal and constitutional provisions, not only did the incumbent voluntarily submitted to the court’s jurisdiction. Giri also created legal precedent - which has been unmatched since in independent India - by appearing in the dock of the Supreme Court - of which he was the titular Head as President. It is another matter that the Indian court upheld his election, and threw out the poll petition.

In the absence of a decisive electoral mandate for any before 11 November, the constitutional scheme in Maldives is threatened with inevitable collapse. For now, the MDP National Council has resolved that Candidate Nasheed, who had bagged the highest 45.45 percent vote-share in the first round should automatically become President should legal matters delay the poll process beyond 11 November.

The MDP does not seem to have considered the fact that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had to swear in any new President and inside the People’s Majlis , or Parliament. The party is not favourably disposed to the person, if not office of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain. Should the electoral process go beyond 11 November owing to pending court processes, the Chief Justice cannot be expected to swear in a new President until those processes were completed, and so do the poll processes afterward.

If for instance, media speculation about the MDP wanting to move no-trust motion against Supreme Court Judges, it also owed to constitutional provisions in the matter. The statute clearly provides for a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which the MDP coalition does not enjoy. The law also stipulates that the Majlis could take up no-trust motions against Judges of the Supreme Court only after the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), yet another creature of the Constitution, had been approached and had investigated complaints and reported to Parliament.

The worse-case scenario may involve the presidential poll processes not getting completed by the mandated 11 November, thus entailing incumbent President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, possibly to consider proclamation of a ’State of Emergency’ under Chapter XI of the Constitution, if only to avoid a constitutional impasse. However, relative provisions in the matter do not specifically entail an outgoing President to continue in office and it would then possibly for the Majlis and/or the courts to decide the matter, all over again.

The Constitution is however clear that the President has to notify Parliament for approval, by a simple majority, for any notification on the imposition of Emergency within 48 hours, if the House is in session, or convene a special session within 14 days for the purpose. Either way, the initial proclamation would last only for 30 days, and from then on advance parliamentary clearance would be required for the purpose. Under the circumstances, an MDP-controlled Majlis cannot be expected to clear the proclamation.

It is in this context that the more recent PPM statement on moving the Supreme Court against MPs for contempt of court, flowing from the countermanding of the second-round polls, assumes added significance. Already, the Maldivian Police Service (MPS) is reported to have initiated criminal proceedings against two MDP parliamentarians for contempt of court, based on speeches made outside Parliament. Should these legal proceedings lead to imprisonment for a term not less than a year, they may be debarred from continuing as members.

The Constitution has conferred on the Supreme Court to adjudicate on the continued membership in the Majlis and parliamentary vacancies. It has also simultaneously provided for a two-thirds members’ support for any extension of Parliament’s term but not exceeding one year, if a ’State of Emergency’ was in operation. Though academic at the moment, with the presidential polls hanging fire, and parliamentary elections too due in May next year, these technicalities may have already assumed greater relevance for a backroom refresher course.

Already, PPM vice-presidential running-mate and former Home Minister, Dr Ahmed Jameel, has been off and on raking up the pending criminal case against MDP’s presidential candidate, Nasheed, in the ’Judge Abdulla abduction case’. Original speculation had it that any conviction and sentencing of Nasheed could lead to his being barred from contesting the presidential polls. A delay in the court proceedings, brought about possibly by the international community arguing the case for ’inclusive elections’, had contributed to Nasheed being allowed to contest, and his getting the highest poll-percentage in the indecisive first-round.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC yields to SC order, puts of run-off vote

After initial protests that had threatened Maldives with an imminent constitutional breakdown, the Election Commission (EC) conceded the Supreme Court orders, postponing the second-round, run-off polling for the nation’s presidency, scheduled for Saturday, 28 September 2013.

The first-round vote saw Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) nominee and former President Mohammed Nasheed topping the race with 45.45 percent vote-share, but still short of the mandated 50-plus percent mark for victory.

In its interim order on the second runner-up and Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate, Gasim Ibrahim’s plea for the annulment of the 7 September, first-round polling, four of the seven-Judge Supreme Court Bench, directed the EC not to proceed with the run-off polls until the legal issues were settled.

Though the EC initially accepted the court’s order, a majority of the Commission’s members soon resolved to go-ahead with the run-off polls, as scheduled. EC chief Faud Tawheeq, in a letter to President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, and also in media interactions, underscored the relative constitutional authority and responsibility of the Election Commission and the Supreme Court, and indicated an intention to revive the poll process.

After a member of the Commission differed with the majority and declared that they should abide by the court orders, the EC decided to postpone the runoff polls, until the Supreme Court decided on the matter. The EC decision was preceded by Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Sahare and a four-member Commonwealth delegation calling on the EC officials.

In between, the Supreme Court, obviously in response to the EC’s interim moves for scheduled polls on 28 September, had directed the security forces to ensure that none violated its orders on the postponement of Saturday’s voting. The police quickly issued an official circular on the matter, and also withdrew from the contractual assistance to the EC on poll-duty until the court had cleared the matter. For its part, the Finance Ministry announced its unwillingness to foot the second-round poll bill if it violated any court order.

At the height of the Supreme Court’s hearing of Gasim Ibrahim’s plea, which also included a recount of the first-round vote, Parliament, meeting in an emergency session sought by the MDP, stopped with passing a resolution, urging all constitutional authorities to abide by their respective mandates, to facilitate the run-off polls as scheduled. With the post-poll cross-over by eight of 10 MPs belonging to the Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP), the MDP coalition now has a parliamentary majority.

Media reports had indicated that the MDP had sought an emergency session of Parliament to have no-trust motions moved against the Supreme Court Judges, and Attorney-General, Azimath Sukhoor, a suo motu intervener in the election case. While the MDP did not press the matter in the full House, the party-controlled Governance Oversight Committee of Parliament, has since taken up no-trust motions against the AG, the Prosecutor-General and a few Government Ministers.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 21-27 September 2013, Haveeru Online, 21-27 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">B’desh bans labour migration

In a significant step that will have far-reaching consequences for the labour-starved Maldivian market, Bangladesh has banned expatriation of workers to the country until the ’situation’ in the country improved.

Bangladesh is the second country, after India, to highlight poor labour law protection and administrative callousness for migrant labour. Bangladesh accounts for close to a third of nearly 100,000 low-end migrant-labour supporting the tourism-centred economy and attendant construction industry of Maldives, with a 350,000-strong local population.

India follows suit with a 20-plus migrant-labour contribution, mainly of skilled and semi-skilled variety. Only months ago, New Delhi stiffened its position on visa-on-arrival for Maldivians, after its repeated calls to successive Governments in Male to improve immigrant labour conditions fell on deaf ears.

Various international agencies have come down on Maldives for poor labour protection laws and implementation. For the third year in a row, the US has named Maldives in the matter, and has threatened the nation with mandated non-economic sanctions if the situation did not improve by the time of the next annual review.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 23 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">The Elders’ call to end religious strife

Jimmy Carter and two other former world leaders who are part of a group known as "The Elders" wrapped up a visit to Myanmar on Thursday with calls to address spiralling Buddhist-led violence against minority Muslims. "No one can afford to ignore these senseless, destructive, repeated acts of brutality," the group said in a press release. "This is a very serious problem for the world community," the former US President said, adding how it is tackled by the new quasi-civilian government will be a "key test as to whether Myanmar is going to honour international standards of human rights."

They also praised Myanmar’s transition from a half-century of military dictatorship to a budding democracy, pointing to the release of thousands of political prisoners, ceasefire agreements with many of the country’s armed ethnic groups and an end to censorship.

"Myanmar still has a long way to go," said Mr. Carter. He was joined on the trip by Finland’s former President Martti Ahtisaari and Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. "It could take decades to overcome the ingrained prejudices promoted by extremist voices in parts of the country," the Elders said in their statement. "This will require far-reaching cultural changes in all parts of society, including through changes in the education curriculum."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 26 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">World Bank aids power project

The World Bank approved Tuesday aid for a power plant project in Myanmar aimed at boosting electricity production in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

The Bank’s board of executive directors authorised a $140 million interest-free loan to the Myanmar authorities, the development lender said in a statement. The credit is from the International Development Association, the institution’s fund for the world’s poorest countries.

"The World Bank will support the installation of a modern, high-efficiency power plant in Mon State, as part of Myanmar’s power expansion plan and the cornerstone of the World Bank Group’s support for Myanmar’s energy sector," the Bank said.

New gas turbines, replacing aging ones, are expected to produce 250 percent more electricity with the same amount of gas and reduce emissions. "The project is the first step to bringing more and cleaner electricity to the people of Myanmar," the Bank said.

In Myanmar, more than 70 per cent of the people have no access to electricity. Currently, more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, and the electrification rate is among the lowest in South-East Asia.

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, 25 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Meet on ASEAN migrant workers’ rights

Myanmar will lead the discussion on the ASEAN Charter for Promotion and Protection of migrant workers’ rights to ensure its approval in 2014, when Myanmar takes charge of the ASEAN chair.

Director-General Myo Aung of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Welfare made the announcement on September 23 at the ninth meeting of Drafting Committee. The meeting hosted by Myanmar at the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel in Yangon was attended by representatives of ASEAN member countries.

"There were heated debates on how granting special favours to migrant workers should not affect national interest adversely. We are yet to negotiate these issues, so the charter will be in the draft stage for a long time. Myanmar will have discussions with ASEAN member countries to ensure its approval in 2014," he said.

The ASEAN Charter for Promotion and Protection of migrant workers’ rights is an essential instrument for establishing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. Under the provisions of the charter, migrant workers may enjoy rights not only in ASEAN countries but also in other countries in the world in accordance with laws, rules, regulations and procedures of the countries concerned.

There are over 200000 documented Myanmar migrant workers in ASEAN countries. Another 1.7 million Myanmar citizens have applied for work permits in Thailand alone, according to the official figures. There are 214 million official migrant workers world-wide and it is projected to grow up to 400 million in 2050, according to the Ministry of Labour.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 25 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dahal tells India not to ’micro-manage’ Nepal

United CPN (Maoist) Ccairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda has said that India trying to ’micromanage’ Nepal would be detrimental to the southern neighbour and that it will hamper its relationship with Nepal.

Speaking at a programme organised to launch a book "Prayogshala: Nepali Sankramankalma Delhi, Darbar ra Maobadi", authored by Kantipur daily’s Editor-in-Chief Sudheer Sharma, Dahal called on the Indian leadership to desist from instigating Nepali political parties. He rather emphasised on holding direct talks to address common concerns between both the countries, including economy, security and sovereignty, at the political level.

Sharma’s book reveals the ’secrets of India’s heavy influence’ in Nepal’s political activities. The book revolves around the Maoist insurgency, the deposed monarchy and India’s role in the peace agreement signed between the Maoists and the mainstream political parties.

Dahal admitted that his party had made diplomatic agreements with national and international powers, as mentioned in Sharma’s book, but claimed that all those accords were not against the interests of the Nepali people. He added that he would take responsibility for the facts mentioned in the book.

Speaking at the programme, Nepali Congress (NC) leader Pradeep Giri said, "History shows that bigger countries have the policy and tendency to dominate smaller countries...."Our leaders should show courage to oppose Indian influence as did Junga Bahadur Rana in the past."

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 23 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parties in spot over candidates

With the Election Commission (EC) deadline for nomination of candidates approaching fast, major political parties, including the UCPN (Maoist), the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML are busy finalising poll candidates from among thousands of nominations received from across the country.

But since each party can nominate only 575 candidates, comprising 240 under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) scheme and 335 under the proportional representation (PR) part of the hybrid electoral system, political parties are finding it a real challenge not only to strike a balance between rival factions within the party, but also to appease poll aspirants.

On September 25, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal´s aide Nirmal Kumar Bhattarai quit the party accusing it of not recognising his contributions. "Political parties are in a tight spot because of an inordinately large number of aspiring candidates. Some of these are from the same constituency and are equally influential," admitted UML leader Ram Nath Dhakal.

The internal feud between the factions led by Chairman Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and K P Sharma Oli has made matters worse for UML. These factions have parallel groups in almost all districts and constituencies across the country.

As per the adjustment made by EC in its calendar of events, political parties should file candidacies for proportional seats on September 30 and for FPTP seats on October 3.

Factional rift prevails in the UCPN-Maoist and the NC as well. There are three factions in the UCPN (Maoist) and two in NC. While NC has started internal homework after forming its parliament board, factional rift in the UCPN (Maoist) only appears growing.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 27 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CPN-M alliance announces agitation

With the intention to foil the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections slated for November 19, the alliance of 33 political parties led by CPN-Maoist has announced agitation programmes.

Organising a press conference at CPN-Maoist party office in Buddhanagar, Kathmandu on 26 September, the alliance of poll-opposing political parties declared their agitation programmes, including general strike.

The alliance has decided to enforce general strike from November 11 to November 20. Likewise, the dissenting parties have decided to send warning letters to the aspiring candidates urging them to take back their election candidacy.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 26 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NBA writes to UN against Regmi

Nepal Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella body of Nepali lawyers, has appealed to the United Nations to urge Chairman of Interim Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi to resign from the post of chief justice.

The NBA has expressed deep concern about the visit of Chief Justice and Chairperson of Interim Council of Minister to participate in the 68th United Nations General Assembly, which is being held in New York. Regmi left for New York on 26 September to participate in the UN General Assembly.

"Regmi accepted the post of Chairperson of so-called Interim Election Council of Minister unconstitutionally, even without waiting for the final verdict of the sub judice case at the Supreme Court against his appointment. In addition, he refused to resign and hold the posts of head of executive and judiciary jeopardising the notion of independent judiciary," the NBA stated in the letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The letter signed by NBA Secretary General Sunil Kumar Pokharel has requested the Secretary-General to raise the concerns about the protection of independence of judiciary, rule of law and human rights in Nepal. The NBA has claimed that there has been systematic attack on the lawyers by the state authority.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 26 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Island emerges after quake

An earthquake of 7.7 magnitude on the Richter scale hit the Balochistan region of south-west Pakistan on Tuesday, 24 September. The toll, on Friday, had risen to 359 with thousands left homeless. An estimated 765 people have been wounded and 300,000 people have been affected by the earthquake, the tremors of which were felt in New Delhi, the capital of neighbouring India.

The epicentre of the quake was Omara at a depth of 10 kms and the intensity was so high that it caused a small island to emerge in the Arabian Sea, just off the Gwadar coast. An aftershock of magnitude 5 was felt in the Awaran district on Friday.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 25 September 2013, Dawn, 27 September 2013, The Express Tribune, 27 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Peshawar church-bombing hits peace talks

A pair of suicide-bombers killed 81 people in a blast outside All Saints Church in Peshawar on Monday, 23 September. While the TTP has said this is not its work, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban, Jandullah, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that these kinds of attacks were not conducive to holding peace talks with the Taliban. He stated that if the peace talks are to move forward, the Taliban must lay down arms.

< class="text11verdana">Source: CNN, 23 September 2013, Reuters, 23 September 2013, The Express Tribune, 27 September 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA sweeps Northern polls

In the first-ever elections to the Provincial Council in the Tamil-majority North, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 26 of the 36 elected seats. With two ’bonus seats’ coming its way for obtaining the highest, 80-per cent vote-share, the party will have 30 members in the 38-seat NPC.

With 132,000-plus votes, TNA’s chief ministerial nominee, retired Supreme Court Judge, C V Wigneswaran was the highest vote-getter. He was followed a distant second by Aanadhi Sasidharan, whose husband ’Ezhilan’ was a second-rung LTTE commander, and reportedly went missing, post-war. Aanandhi secured close to 90,000 votes, followed by D Siddhardhan, who with 39,000 votes, came a further distant third.

In simultaneous polls to the North-Western and Central Province Councils, the ruling UPFA romped home to a comfortable win, to retain both Councils. Despite minor incidents, the three-PC polls of 21 September were relatively peaceful, according to international observers monitoring them.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 23 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">A ’few nations’ cannot ’police’ others: President

In an obvious reference to the US and the rest of the West, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly that a ’few nations cannot police others’ when the UN was there to do the job.

Coinciding with the speech, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a brother of the President, in a statement back home, joined issue with the US Embassy in Colombo, which had claimed that ’democracy is not about elections alone’. He referred to the three terms won by German Chancellor Angela Markerel recently, and said how the international community opposed the possibility of President Rajapaksa doing so in Sri Lanka after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution had facilitated the same.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 25 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Land power’ vests with the Centre: SC

In a land-mark verdict flowing from a case originating in the non-Tamil Central Province, the Supreme Court has ruled that ’Land powers’ under the politically-contested 13th Amendment to the Constitution vested with the Centre and not the Provinces.

The Provincial Councils and administration can legislate only in relation to those lands that are vested in them by the President and Parliament, the court clarified. In this context, the court referred to the role of the Lands Commission under 13-A, aimed at vesting land ownership between the Centre and the Province concerned.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 25 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mullah Baradar released

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was released by Pakistan this week. Baradar, who was captured and imprisoned by Pakistan in a supposedly joint ISI-CIA operation in 2010, was said to be second or third in command of the Quetta Shura at the time of his capture. The Afghan government had been demanding his release for long believing that his proximity to Mullah Omar could provide a breakthrough in the Afghan reconciliation process.

The officials of the High Peace Council (HPC) warmly welcomed the release and said that the move will definitely have a positive impact on the peace process. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief spokesman, Aimal Faizi also welcomed the move and called upon Baradar to return to Afghanistan in order to facilitate the peace process.

Reports have surfaced suggesting that Afghanistan, the US and Pakistan are working on a new peace mechanism according to which the Taliban will have not have an office in any country. A Pakistan official claimed that "Uunder the new plan, discussions will probably take place in Saudi Arabia but without giving Afghan Taliban any formal office".

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 23 September 2013, Pajhwok, 21 September 2013, Tolo News, 21 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai visits China

President Hamid Karzai started his four-day trip, from 25 to 28 September, to China this week with an aim to further cement the political and economic relations between the two countries. The two countries are expected to sign MoUs on financial assistance to Afghanistan, extradition of prisoners and cooperation between Kabul and the Xi’an University of China.

Karzai also delivered a speech during the opening ceremony of the Euro-Asia Economic Forum (EAEF). During the speech he cited terrorism as a major challenge not just for Afghanistan but other countries as well. Karzai also supported the recent plans of Chinese President Xi Jinping with regard to reviving the ancient "Silk Route," and said that renovation of the historic road will help in expanding and strengthening trade not only within the region but across the globe.

Karzai said that Afghanistan offers exciting opportunities for investment and business development. "I encourage business participants at this Forum to explore business opportunities in Afghanistan, and to follow the example of the Metallurgical Company of China and the China National Petroleum Corporation by investing in Afghanistan," President Karzai said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 26 September 2013, Pajhwok, 25 September 2013, Tolo News, 27 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Presidential nominations open

Bismillah Sher, the leader of the Wefaq Millie Party (WMP), along with Abdul Karim Ahmadyar and Sultan Hameed Sultani have filed their nomination for Presidency. Reports also surfaced this week that Dr. Abdullah Abdullah may also file his nomination papers for the presidency in the coming week.

Abdullah Abdullah is also expected to announce the candidacy of Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal and Hajji Muhammad Muhaqeq for the post of First Vice-President and Second Vice-President, respectively. The nominees will be representing the newly formed coalition, Afghanistan Electoral Alliance (AEA).

The candidates have until 5 October to file their nomination papers. The final list of candidates will be announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on 16 October.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 24 September 2013, Pajhwok, 24 September 2013, Tolo News, 22 September 2013, Tolo News, 25 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JP won’t join polls sans major parties

Jatiya Party Chairman H M Ershad this week categorically said that his party will not take part in the coming parliamentary election if the major political parties boycott it. "The major political parties aren’t willing to join the polls under the current regime? Therefore, Jatiya Party won’t participate in the general election if all other parties decide to stay away," he said.

Ershad, a key leader of the ruling Awami League-led Grand Alliance, said Jatiya Party, the country’s third biggest political party, thinks that a fair election is not possible if the current regime stays in office during the polls.

Major opposition the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has declared that it will not participate in the election unless caretaker government system is re-introduced to supervise the election. Contrarily, government is adamant on hosting the election under an elected government. Non-compromising attitude of the major political parties have made future of election uncertain.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 26 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest over power plant

People in hundreds joined a long march this week demanding cancellation of the Rampal power plant project. The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports organised the long march. The committee in association with several leftist parties, including the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) and Gono Sanghati Andolon, hosted the rally.

Bangladesh and India had inked a deal on April 20 to set up a 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant at Rampal, only 14 km off the Sundarbans.

Energy adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury has said the government is determined to move ahead with the 1320 MW coal-fired Rampal power plant project and lay its foundation stone on October 22.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 25, 2013, The Independent, 26 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Garment workers’ protest

The readymade garment factories faced shutdown following week long protest by garment workers demanding higher wages. Police fired rubber bullets and used batons and tear gas-to disperse hundreds of garment workers who blocked highways and disrupted traffic on September 25 in two industrial hubs on the outskirts of Dhaka. Fearing violence, about 100 garment factories shut down. Several have been shuttered since the street protests began five days ago. Dozens of people have been injured.

Negotiations have failed to end the demonstrations. Garment industry workers want the monthly minimum wage to be more than doubled, from $ 38 at present to $ 100. They have turned down an offer of a 20 percent wage hike, calling it "inhuman and humiliating". Factory owners said they could not afford a steep pay hike because global clothing companies were not willing to pay higher prices at a time when Western countries were facing a downturn.

Bangladesh’s apparel exports are worth $ 20 billion, the second highest in the world after China.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Voice of America, 25 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Assembly to discuss law-change

Triggered by the recent resignation of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa president the amendment will be discussed in the next session. Assembly deputy speaker did was move the motion to review National Assembly, National Council and Local Government Acts and it sparked a lengthy debate on Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) president’s recent resignation.

Limukha-Toewang constituency representative and deputy speaker Chimi Dorji said none of these Acts had clear provisions on elected members’ resignation. He said the laws had to be strengthened and procedures spelt out for an elected member’s resignation.

Similarly, he said certain provisions in the Local Government Act pertaining to thromde also required amendment to ensure its agreement with relevant provisions of the Constitution.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kuensel, 26 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power tariff revision irks Indian states

India could be looking at another diplomatic pothole in Bhutan after the episode involving brief cessation of cooking gas subsidy. Three eastern states, which draw power from hydel projects built in that country with Indian aid, have now raised objections to premature revision of tariffs.

During a series of meetings with power ministry officials, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand have opposed another round of revision saying tariffs have been raised prematurely on an ad-hoc basis many times more than prescribed in the bilateral protocols governing such issues.

There are three hydel projects that currently supply power to these states — 336 MW Chukha, 1,020 MW Tala and 60 MW Kurichhu. Their tariffs are governed by individual protocols that specify the periodicity of the revisions.

Five revisions have already taken place till this year, albeit on different years than agreed. The sixth revision is due this year as per the 2009 calendar, although the last revision has technically taken place prematurely in 2005. While the second revision was to take place in 1997 following the signing of the protocol in 1993, it happened in 1995 itself.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 22 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three sentenced in Nganglam land scam

Nganglam dungkhag court in Pemagatshel on September 25 sentenced a former land record officer, a former gup and a businessman to prison terms ranging from one to three years for illegal encroachment into government land between 2005 and 2010. The court also seized 44.16 acres of land and restituted it to the government.

Tshering Dendup, the former land record officer of the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS), received a non-compoundable sentence of three years. The office of the attorney general (OAG) booked him on three charges: forgery, tampering and manipulation of land documents.

Tshering Dendup, who was the team leader during the survey in Nganglam in 2005, had tampered with the Chazha thram (land ownership certificate), forged and manipulated land transfer document to change the land holding of former Norbugang gup, Tenzinla, to 2.59 acres from 10 decimal without indicating excess land.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel, 27 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Convicted law-makers can contest polls

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared an ordinance nullifying a recent Supreme Court judgement that said lawmakers convicted of offences punishable with two years with two years or more would automatically stand disqualified from the membership of Parliament or state legislatures from the date of conviction by a trial court.

Reversing the apex court order, the Cabinet- chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh- approved the ordinance which says convicted MPs and MLAs can stay in office and contest elections if they have appealed against the conviction and the said appeal has been admitted for hearing by a higher court within 90 days of conviction by the trial court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, 25 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM leaves for talks in US

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave on Wednesday on a visit to the US during which he will hold talks with President Barack Obama and attend the UN General Assembly, besides having a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Implementation of civil nuclear deal, ways to expand cooperation in the fields of defence, security and economic issues will be high on the agenda for the Singh-Obama meeting to be held in Washington on September 27.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, 25 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nod shale gas

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Tuesday approved the shale gas and oil exploration programme to be executed by national oil companies (NOCs) on acreages under the nomination regime.

This policy will allow NOCs to carry out exploration of unconventional hydro-carbon resources, particularly shale gas and oil, in their already awarded onland petroleum mining lease (PEL/PML) acreages under the nomination regime.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 25 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rajan data backs Nitish plea

A new official index to capture backwardness ranks Orissa and Bihar as the two poorest states, in that order, bolstering the case being made by both these state CMs Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik to be declared backward so as to get Central funds at concessional rates.

The index, developed by a committee led by Raghuram Rajan when he was Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India before being appointed RBI Governor, shows Bihar is more backward than all the north-eastern and other hilly states to which the Centre had been giving special support under various Plan schemes.

Odhisa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been ranked as the least developed states, in that order, by the committee. If the panel’s recommendations are accepted, it will translate into a larger share of Central funds for these states. Interestingly, Gujarat figures in the list of "less developed" states and is ranked 12th overall in terms of development. It is less developed compared to Haryana, Uttarakhand and Kerala.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 27 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak told to make ’some beginning’

India on asserted that there has to be "at least some beginning" by Pakistan in addressing its serious concerns including terror infrastructure, a day after Pakistan said a response was awaited from Indian side on a possible meeting between their Prime Ministers in the U.S.

"We have serious concerns on many things that we have conveyed to Pakistan over a period of time. We need some satisfaction. We need some deliveries. We need some indications that there is seriousness on the items that we have indicated to them.

"Dismantling of terror infrastructure is a critical point. Accountability for what happened in Mumbai is another critical point. At least some beginning has to be made," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told PTI when asked whether there will be a meeting between Dr. Singh and Mr. Sharif on the margins of the UNGA.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, 20 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four separate dialogues with China

India and China on Wednesday began in Beijing a series of dialogues ranging from the disputed border and trade-related issues as a build-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposed visit to China in late October.

Key officials from India who are part of the working groups on the Strategic Economic Dialogue and the Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs are in China to consult with their Chinese counterparts to take the ongoing dialogues forward.

Four separate dialogues will be held in Beijing over the next five days that will include the Working Group Meeting of the Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED), Financial Dialogue, Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs and Foreign Office Consultations.

The SED meeting is taking place in the backdrop of dwindling bilateral trade between the two countries which dropped to around $66 billion last year from a high of $74 billion in 2011.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 26 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coal India awaits green clearance

State-owned Coal India (CIL) is awaiting environment and forestry clearances pertaining to its 241 projects, amid the flak the company is facing for not achieving its production target.

"At present, 48 environmental clearance proposals, having a capacity of about 109 Mty (Million tonnes Per Year), are awaiting clearances at different levels," a Coal India document said. "At present, 193 forestry proposals are awaiting clearances either at Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) or at the state levels," it added.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 22 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">16 more HW reactors planned

Indian nuclear power plants posted their highest performance in 2012, Department of Atomic Energy chief R K Sinha told IAEA recently. From the time when Indian power plants had to close because they did not have enough fuel, these have come a long way, because after the nuclear deal, Indian plants have been able to access fuel from overseas.

India is planning to build 16 more pressurized heavy water reactors. India plans to generate 63,000 MWe nuclear power by 2032, according to official figures.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Times of India, 24 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Civil nuclear deal with Japan likely

India and Japan on Thursday vowed for an ’early conclusion’ of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement even though there are still a range of issues that need to be resolved for implementing the deal.

In a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy for Japan Ashwani Kumar and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo today it was decided that both sides will take the stalled negotiations forward, which began in 2010, and expedite the talks in order to conclude it early.

"India and Japan pledged to take forward the ongoing negotiations for an early conclusion of the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement," said a statement issued by the ministry of external affairs (MEA).

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, 19 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More oil fields from Venezuela?

India on Tuesday asked Venezuela for more crude oil supplies and oil fields.

India’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, M. Veerappa Moily, met the Minister of Popular Power of Petroleum and Mining of the Latin American nation, Rafael Ramírez, today in New Delhi. Both the nations discussed ways to strengthen oil trade between them.

"We are asking for more oil fields and crude oil. We would also like to provide infrastructure and technology," Moily told media persons after more than an hour long meeting with Ramírez.

Indian companies, both privately held and Government firms, would visit Caracas during 7-8 October 7 to fine-tune the deals that are being discussed on Tuesday. Moily said that India would like to invite Venezuela President, Nicolás Maduro, shortly. Ramirez said that his country is willing to ramp up crude oil supplies to India.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 24 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Electricity to Bangladesh on cards

India is set to start electricity exports to Bangladesh, despite its own chronic power shortages, in a project that could improve relations soured by a water supply dispute, play into upcoming elections and be a key link in an eventual South Asia power grid.

The surplus electricity that India will send to its north-eastern neighbour can’t be delivered to power-hungry areas of India because of deficiencies in its grid. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who faces elections next January, will be able to use the project to justify pro-India policies that haven’t gone down well with some sections of the political spectrum.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 18 September 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India:Dr.Satish Misra

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Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee (1975 2021) was Senior Fellow with ORF. She specialised in Indias neighbourhood policy the eastern arch: Bangladeshs domestic politics and foreign policy: border ...

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