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SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
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Vol. V Issue. 45
Obstacles ahead of Afghan presidential polls
Aryaman Bhatnagar
09 November 2012

0Analysis

The Afghan Election Commission has set the next presidential elections for April 5, 2014. This move has been welcomed in the country as well as by the international community as a positive development.

This announcement is being hailed for two reasons. First, it is felt that announcing the election date 18 months in advance provides adequate time to prepare for the election season in order to ensure transparency. This is important to prevent massive electoral fraud that tainted the 2009 presidential polls and the 2010 parliamentary elections. Second, it has eased some of the concerns regarding incumbent President Hamid Karzai's alleged ambitions to stay on in power for an unconstitutional third term.

While the setting of the date is definitely a step in the right direction, there are obstacles to be cleared and a lot of work still to be done before 2014. The measures to be taken and being demanded in order to ensure a 'satisfactory' election include the revision of the voter registry, a change in the voting system, and ensuring the independence and neutrality of the Election Complaints Commission (ECC). Similarly, more stringent punishment for interference in and manipulation of the elections, greater role for civil society in the electoral process, a comprehensive voter education programme and a freer media are some of the other demands that have been made.

However, there is a great deal of debate and confusion regarding a number of these contentious issues, which do not seem likely to be resolved anytime soon. According to some estimates, more than seven-million fraudulent voter cards are in circulation, which allegedly contributed to the large-scale electoral fraud in 2009 and 2010. There are suggestions to continue with the old voter ID cards ? which is being strongly opposed by the Opposition groups and by international organisations due to the "past bad experiences". Consequently, three are demands for the issuance of completely new electronic ID cards (e-tazkeera). But the expectation is that such an exercise now will cover only 70 cent of the voters by 2014.

Similarly, there is confusion regarding the composition of the EC with some groups insisting on the presence of foreigners on the body in order to ensure its neutrality. President Karzai and his allies have rejected such suggestions as tantamount to foreign interference and threatening to veto any such move.

While some of these issues may be resolved over time, the advantage of time may not be enough for such reforms to be implemented. The necessary political will for any proposed changes is missing in Afghanistan. This is evident from the fact that similar recommendations made following the elections in 2004 and 2009 have still not been acted upon. More recently, the recommendations made by the International Crisis Group were completely rejected by the Afghan Government. Moreover, the absence of a party system in Afghanistan makes the task of reaching a consensus in Parliament on any major changes an uphill task.

Ultimately, the enormous powers vested in the President could also prevent these changes from being implemented. Important aspects of the electoral process like the regulatory powers of the electoral institutions, selection of electoral officials and post-election redress mechanisms are governed ? apart from the Constitution ? by a number of presidential decrees. These are all factors that can be manipulated to swing the election result one way or the other. It is feared that President Karzai would be keen to retain control over them, especially as they give him an opportunity ? if required - to sway the result in favour of his own preferred candidate. His opposition to the presence of foreigners on the EC is being highlighted as evidence that he may interfere with or manipulate the final result to protect his interests.

Such problems are further compounded by the state of security in Afghanistan. In 2014, the elections will coincide with the withdrawal of the foreign troops. Despite significantly higher troop presence in 2009 and 2010 ? as compared to what it would be in 2014 ? the electoral process was hampered by the insurgency. Thus, it is highly plausible that it would be tougher to conduct elections in 2014 against the backdrop of a security transition and troop-withdrawal.

The issue of insecurity can be particularly problematic in southern Afghanistan, where the insurgency is the most rampant and which is inhabited by the majority ethnic group, the Pashtuns. Violence in the area had led to the disenfranchisement of many Pashtuns in 2009 and 2010 with actual voter turnout estimated to be between one and five per cent. A similar situation in 2014 could either force Karzai and his allies to once again rig the elections in order to ensure the victory of a Pashtun candidate or lead to a situation ? if the elections are not rigged - where the president is not from southern Afghanistan or a Pashtun. Either ways, this could have a detrimental impact on the political legitimacy of the new regime and be exploited appropriately by the Taliban.

Finally, the elections are dependent on funds from the West and without substantial western funding it would be nearly impossible to hold these elections or implement some of the measures mentioned above. For instance, the UN has estimated that a new voter registration scheme will cost around $ 80 million ? a sum that can be found only through western funding. Western governments have reneged on their financial commitments to Afghanistan in the past, and the financial crunch in the West and increasing domestic dissatisfaction with prolonged engagement with a Government seen as corrupt and inefficient has already reduced the aid for a number of developmental projects. Although, the amount needed to hold the elections may not be a lot in comparison to the billions of dollars already spent in Afghanistan, it is possible that funding may not be easily accessible, especially if the Afghan Government does not take the steps towards ensuring a transparent process.

Time, for once, seems to be on the side of the 'good' side in Afghanistan. However, a smooth and legitimate political transition in Afghanistan depends on many more variables other than time.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

Bangladesh: Jamaat worried over International Crime Tribunal

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

The recent violent protest movement in Dhaka and other places in Bangladesh by the Jamaat-e-Islami show-cases the desperation of the party to stop the trials of the war criminals from 1971. The cadres of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the influential religion- based political party, embarked into a violent protest movement demanding release of their leaders who were arrested on charges of war crimes. The JI cadres involved in clashes with law enforcement agencies, hampering normalcy. Looking into JI's network, the fear is that situation might deteriorate further and extremism might re-emerge. Hence, the international community should support the Bangladesh Government so that it can thwart all provocation by JI and the trials could see its conclusions.

The trial of criminals of the Liberation War of 1971 had been a long-pending demand of the people of Bangladesh. The Awami League Government, after a landslide victory in the 2008 election, declared to form an International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for the purpose. On March 25 2012, the Government instituted ICT by amending the International Crime (Tribunals) Act, 1973, to carry out trials against those who perpetuated various crimes against the freedom-loving people of Bangladesh during its Independence movement in 1971. The tribunal comprise of a three-member panel of judges. Also a special investigative agency has been constituted to carryout investigations. During the Liberation War, around three million people were killed, 10 million people fled to India and a further 30 million were displaced.

The JI, the most prominent religion-based political party, despite enjoying an influential position, was not comfortable with the idea of an ICT, owing largely to its own role in the independence war. At the time, the JI supported Pakistan forces and its cadres, in collaboration with the Pakistan Army, had committed various crimes against the people of Bangladesh. Soon after the country's Independence, the JI was even barred from entering politics. It was the military rule (1975-90) that lifted the ban. Since then the JI's influence has grown in Bangladesh politics.

The JI still never enjoyed support of the majority but it was able to enter into power by the dint of coalition politics. The power of the JI reached its zenith during the last BNP rule (2001-06) since members of the party became Ministers in the Government of Prime Minister, BegaumKhaleda Zia. Simultaneously, the people's dislike for the party also reached its height during this period mainly due to a surge in the activities of religious militant organisations. People held JI responsible for the growth in activities of groups like Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh and Jamaatul Mujahidin Bangladesh. It was at that time, the demand for trial of the war criminals became louder.

The arrest of the three top leaders of the JI, namely, party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary-General Ali Ahsan Muhammud Mujahid and Nayebe Ameer Delwar Hussain Sayeedi, in June 2010 on charges of war crime proved the JI's fear over the ICT to be true. It is now arguing that the trials are politically-motivated. With most of its top leaders being arrested on war crimes the party is becoming insecure about its future.

The JI's desperation has also increased following the Election Commission's order to reform its charter which is in contradiction with the country's Constitution. The problem for the party has also intensified as there is a popular demand for banning the party. In absence of major alternative the party known for having wide international connections with countries like Pakistan, some West Asian and European nations, the party is running propaganda against the ICT and the current Awami League Government of Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina.

Considering that the General Elections are to be held in late 2013, all these factors might result in warming up the nation's politics in the near future. There is a need to watch the developments closely, so as to ensure that they do not create instability and that might hamper the strengthening of democracy in Bangladesh.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

Country Reports

Bangladesh
PM attends Asem meet

Bangladesh has formally joined the 52-nation Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) devoted to building cooperation between Asia and Europe on political, economic and social issues. The induction of Bangladesh happened along with two other countries -- Norway and Switzerland -- in an enlargement ceremony prior to the launching of the 9th Asem Summit held this week in Laos.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the enlargement function. Addressing the function, she said Asia and Europe have diversity and differences as well as mutuality of interests. In the contemporary world, economic inter-dependence between the two continents remains substantial, and it continues to grow."We should strengthen our resolve to act collectively. Asem has embodied our faith in the intensified dialogue and in the innovative and practical initiatives based on the best practices across our two continents.

Hasina hoped the Asian neighbourhood would be able to work with the European friends in seeking convergence on various global as well as regional challenges and opportunities.

Source: The Daily Star, November 6, 2012

No shift in India policy, clarifies BNP

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia's recent visit to India did not bring about any change in the party's earlier stance on relations with the country, according toTariqul Islam, standing committee member of the party. Islam said that the party still maintains the same view as in the past on different bilateral issues with India. Islam made this comments during a press briefing organised to clarify the main Opposition party's position in the wake of reports on its "change of policy" towards India following Begum Khaleda's India tour.

Islam further observed that the aim of the visit was to rise before the Indian leaders different bilateral issues unresolved for years. And it had nothing to do with BNP's going to power.

Source: The Daily Star, November 7, 2012

Joint patrol to curb border crimes

The Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and the Border Security Force (BSF) of India are conducting around 100 coordinated patrols and night coordinated patrols every week at 120 border points under the Bangladesh-India Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP). The plan was jointly signed on July 30, 2011, to put a stop to border killings and to check illegal activities such as smuggling and human trafficking.

Maj. Gen. Anwar Hussain, director general (DG) of the BGB informed that the border forces of the two countries so far carried out over 3,000 coordinated patrols at more than 100 vulnerable border points of India and Bangladesh.

BNB chief further claimed that the coordinated patrolling has reduced incidents of border killings and smuggling of arms and drugs, human trafficking and other illegal activities along the border areas.

Source: The Independent, November 7, 2012.

Bhutan
Compensation for displaced

The Bhutanese Government has promised the people who have been displaced by the 540 megawatt (MW) Amochhu Reservoir Hydroelectric Project, adequate compensation. According to the Detailed Project Report 1,726 people are likely to get displaced once the project begins, making it the highest number of people displaced by a dam so far.

The compensation includes the supply of 10,000 units of free power till to the displaced households till the end of life line of the project apart for resettlement packages and employment to at least one person of each of the affected family.

Source: bbs.bt, November 9, 2012.

BKP's candidates for the elections

The Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), one of the aspiring political parties, has named three more new candidates for the next parliamentary elections at a news conference on November 7. This is in addition to the list of eight candidates.

The candidates are GopalMahat, 58, a former civil servant for 36 years and will be contesting from Patala-Tsirangtoe Constituency. As a bureaucrat, he served in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests at various capacities.

The party's candidate from Shompangkha constituency is R.B. Rana, 58, who too was a bureaucrat of 20 years' experience. And the last is UgyenDorji an entrepreneur will be representing the Party from Jomotshangkha- Martshala constituency in SamdrupJongkhar.

Source: bbs.bt, November 7, 2012.

India
Maritime security stressed at IOR-ARC

Advocating deeper economic ties in the Indian Ocean Region and emphasis on maritime security, India on Friday pitched for more robust "cooperative regionalism" and said the geo-strategic importance of the area cannot be underestimated.

"As focus of global economic growth shifts to Asia, it will occupy even greater salience in our strategic perspective," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said in his address at the ministerial meeting of the 20-nation Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in Gurgaon.

"We envision IOR-ARC as a regional body that can respond effectively to this need and enhance our individual and collective capacities to deal with contemporary challenges facing our common maritime domain," he said on the concluding day of the five-day conference.

Earlier, the US was admitted to the 19-year-old IOR-ARC.

Source: www.thehindu.com, November 2, 2012.

Six per cent GDP growth expected

India's economy should expand by 5.5 percent to 6.0 percent this year and return to 7 percent growth in 2013, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told Reuters on Sunday, although he said inflation was at an "unacceptable" level.

"I'm looking forward to this year ending with 5.5-6 percent growth, barring any unexpected shocks, and next year getting back to 7 percent growth, and in 2014-15 getting back to 8 percent growth," he said in an interview at a G20 meeting in Mexico.

Source: www.reuters.com, November 5, 2012.

Four more IM men sought

With the deportation of three suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives from Saudi Arabia, the Indian authorities have now approached the Saudi government with a fresh request for four more persons, suspected to be hiding there.

Sources in the security establishment did not disclose the identity of the four IM suspects, citing security reason. However, they confirmed that one of the names is FayyazKagzi, mentor of 26/11 terrorist Abu Jundal. Kagzi hails from Beed district in Maharashtra and has been on the radar of security agencies for the last couple of months.

Source: www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com, November 5, 2012.

Monsoon may fail more often: Study

The Indian monsoon is likely to fail more often in the next 200 years threatening food supplies, unless governments agree how to limit climate change, a study showed on Tuesday.

The monsoon rains could collapse about every fifth year between 2150 and 2200 with continued global warming, blamed mainly on human burning of fossil fuels, and related shifts in tropical air flows, it said.

Source: www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com, November 6, 2012.

Punjab Dy CM in Pakistan

Amid high hopes of strengthening economic ties between two Punjabs, a 45-member delegation led by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal crossed over to Pakistan throught the Attari-Wagah route. The delegation comprised five Cabinet Ministers, eminent industrialists, traders and agriculture experts.

Among the key issues figuring on the agenda are lack of trade infrastructure on the Pakistani side, the opening of Hussainiwals border, the issue of Kartar Sahib Corridor and cultural and sporting ties. At present, India can only export 137 items to Pakistan via the Attari-Wagah land route as the neighbouring country is yet to switch to negative list for this key trading point.

Source: The Tribune, November 6, 2012.

Social security, defence pacts with Canada

India and Canada Tuesday inked an agreement on social security besides MoUs on cooperation in information technology and electronics and for joint research and development cooperation in defence science and technology.

The agreements were inked after talks between visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

The agreement on social security, inked between India's Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and Canada's Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, provides for avoidance of double social security contributions by "detached workers" -- employees who are subject to the legislation of a country and are sent by their employers to work in another country -- from the host country's legislation.

Source: www.india.nydailynews.com, November 6, 2012.

Maldives
Govt parties set deadline on GMR

It was announced at the gathering at Artificial Beach that the Government has been given a deadline of six days to reclaim the airport from GMR.The deadline was announced by President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdullah. At the rally, protesters called to reclaim the airport from GMR before 15 November. The gathering has been suspended for the evening, but will resume at 20:00 tonight.

The Civil Society Coalition on GMR meanwhile said that 10,000 people have signed the petition against the Indian company operating the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), to be presented to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

Former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader, Mohamed Nasheed, addressing a rally, said that the Government's efforts to reclaim the airport GMR are irresponsible, and could cause irreparable damage to the country. Conceding that the airport port would fetch MVR 45 b in 25 years from GMR against 60 per cent if operated by the Government, he detailed how the second set of figures were cooked up. Instead, international consultants had indicated a 25 per cent increase in tourist inflows, thus increasing the cumulative benefits to the country in terms of higher hotel accommodation that needed to be built and the consequent increases in employment, etc.

Source: SunOnline, November 4-5, 2012.

Transport minister loses job

Minister of Transport and Communication Dr Ahmed Shamheed has been dismissed from his post.This has been confirmed by Media Secretary of President's Office MasoodImad.

Dr Shamheed, who is a member of Jumhooree Party (JP), was dismissed shortly after the announcement of the extension of the lease period of Maamigili Airport to JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim for 99 years.A senior official said that the decision to extend the lease period was made at a meeting of the Economic Committee, but required clearance by the full Cabinet.

Dr Shamheed later said that his dismissal followed differences with President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik on major issues. He claimed to have challenged President Waheed and Vice-President Mohamed WaheedDeen on issues such as the border surveillance contract to MalyasiancompanyNexbiz and the recent sale of Addu Airport Company's shares to Kasa Holdings as examples.

In a separate yet related development earlier in the week, Ministry of Finance asked to halt the signing of the agreement to confirm the sale of 30 percent shares of Gan Airport to Kasa Holdings.

Source: SunOnline, November 4-8, 2012.

SC stays action on Nasheed's appeal

The Supreme Court has ordered High Court to defer action on the case appealed by former President Mohamed Nasheed.An official of Supreme Court said that Supreme Court issued this order because the appealed case includes a procedural point concerning the legitimacy of the Hulhumale' Court, about which a petition was already pending before the Apex Court.

At the same time, the Supreme Court ordered the Hulhumale' Magistrate Court to resume work as per normal, but the trial of President Nasheed will remain suspended.

Source: SunOnline, November 8, 2012.

Myanmar
Obama to come on November 19

US President Barack Obama is expected to visit Myanmar on November 19. This would be the first visit by a US President since the independence of Myanmar (then Burma) from the British in 1948.

The US President is visiting the nation as part of his three nation tour from November 17-20 and includes Thailand and Cambodia. The visit to Cambodia would be another first by a U.S. president.

During his visit, President Obama would be calling upon President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi among others leaders as well as addressing members of the civil society.

Source: irrawaddy.org, November 9, 2012.

Nepal
Prachanda inks deal with Chinese unilaterally

On November 7, Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, former military commander of rebel Maoist forces in Nepal, now chairman of the Unified Communist Party and at present Chairman of the Lumbini Development National Directive Committee of Nepal (LDNDC), inked a deal with the China-backed Asia Pacific Exchange Cooperation Foundation (APECF) that will bring in a reported $3 billion to develop Buddha's birthplace at Lumbini.

Prachanda signed this Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Xiao Wunan, Executive Vice-Chairman of APECF Foundation. Presumably, Prachanda took it upon himself to make the deal in his capacity as chairman of Nepal's steering committee. But leaders of other political parties, including Dr Minendra Rijal, member of LDNDC and ex-Minister of Culture, have challenged Prachanda's right to sign the deal unilaterally.

Apparently, no one in Nepal's Government was privy to Prachanda's deal with the Chinese. The signing of the MoU was behind closed doors. The media was not invited. The Prachanda-APECF connection has been controversial from the beginning?not only for its questionable motives, but for its furtiveness.

Source: http://www.mikeldunham.blogs.com, November 9, 2012.

Labour pacts with six countries

The Nepalese Government is set to sign labour agreements with six emerging labour destinations? Malaysia, Kuwait, Israel, Oman, Jordon and Lebanon. While labour pacts with Malaysia, Kuwait, Lebanon and Israel are in progress, the Government is working on an initial draft to that effect with Jordon and Oman.

Thousands of Nepali migrant workers enter these six countries every year in search of jobs. In absence of a formal accord at the State-level, a raft of Nepali workers are deprived of minimum rights, including their safety, wages and welfare.

Nepal had signed a labour accord with Malaysia in 2007 and it has not been renewed so far. Malaysia is the second biggest labour destination for Nepali workers with an estimated 500,000 currently at work there.

A recent Government record showed that 55,343 workers are currently working in Kuwait. As majority of workers enter Lebanon, Oman and Jordan through illegal channels, the government is clueless about the exact number of Nepalis working there. Some unconfirmed records claim that the actual number of Nepalis in these three countries has reached 150,000.

Source: ekantipur.com, November 5, 2012.

Elected to ECOSOC

The 33rd Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations held here in ew York elected Nepal as a member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the term 2013-2015.

The Meeting elected 18 members for the Council from different regions. The other elected members from the Asia and the Pacific group are Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.

Source: Permanent Misssion of Nepal, New York, Press Release, November 9, 2012.

Pakistan
Army Chief warns Supreme Court

The Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, issued a strong warning to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to stop interfering in Army affairs.

Talking to a group of officers at GHQ, Gen Kayani said that the nation is passing through a defining phase and the Army is looking at the mistakes made in the past and trying to set the course for a better future.

On October 19, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary ordered the Government to take action against former Army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Asad Durranni, both since retired, for distributing millions of rupees to politicians to manipulate the 1990 General Elections, which the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) lost at the hands of the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI).

Source: pakistantoday.com.pk, November 6, 2012.

Suicide-bomber claims six

A suicide-bomber killed at least six people in Peshwar including the Assistant Superintendent of Police HilalHaider. Two members of Shia members of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) were shot and killed by an unidentified gunman in Karachi.

In another incident, at least three soldiers were killed and many others wounded in a suicide attack on paramilitary base in Karachi.

Source: bbc.co.uk. , November 8, 2012.

Sri Lanka

President proposes change in PC system

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, presenting the nation's the 66thbudget to Parliament, stressed the need for a change in the Provincial Council system. He said: "A change in the prevailing Provincial Council System is necessary to make devolution more meaningful to our people. Devolution should not be political reform that will lead us to separation but instead it should be one that unifies all of us."

Devolution should not involve high-spending and complex governance structures that would impose further burdens on people, the President said. "Everybody who met me from all corners of Sri Lanka, whether they were Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese, asked for greater access to education, health, employment opportunities, better living and equal standards across the nation. The elimination of provincial disparities using national standards is the main weapon through which national reconciliation can be promoted. This government remains committed to ensure that these aspirations of our people will be fulfilled."

President Rajapaksa urged the Leader of the Opposition, Leader of the TNA and the JVP to cooperate with his Government constructively to solve problems confronted by the people. "That will be an effort which ensures greater self-respect than having to lobby foreign countries to interfere in our national problems. The Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the TNA and me, are experienced enough in life and politics to spearhead this task."

The President said that if the opposition parties could extend the same spirit of cooperation that they displayed to make the recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Sri Lanka a success, it would not be a hard task but also would ensure none would undermine the sovereignty of our nation.

Source: The Island, November 8, 2012.

LTTE leader killed in Paris

The killing of a prominent LTTE leader and leader of the Pro-LTTE Tamil Coordinating Committee (TCC) in France, Nadarajah Matheenthiran alias Parithy, on Thursday has been the outcome of an internal conflict within the LTTE rump for dominance or leadership, according to informed sources.

Parithy was shot dead in Paris. Last year, too, he was critically wounded when he was attacked with a sword in the power struggle within the group that has its eyes on the financial benefits from the Tamils living around the world.

The latest killing indicates the rift's severity and their inability to compromise with each other. According to highly-placed sources, there had been an internal rivalry between the Rudrakumaran faction and Nediyavan since last year or so. Sources said that the leadership struggle had erupted when the remnant factions came together to celebrate their Heroes' Day" which is round the corner, as it involved money.

When contacted, the Army Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya, denied the LTTE's allegation that the army had killed Parithy. He said it appeared to be the result of rivalry among the LTTE rump and the Government of France would find out the perpetrators after investigating the killing.

Source: The Island, November 9, 2012.

CJ denies allegations

Attorneys-at-law and Notaries Public Neelakandan and Neelakandan, referring to allegations against their client and Chief Justice Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake, now facing impeachment proceedings in Parliament, have said that there had been no financial impropriety on her part and she had declared all her operative bank accounts having assets, in her declaration of assets and liabilities, and after her appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court on October 30, 1996, she had not received any remittances from anyone in Sri Lanka or abroad save and except the remuneration as a judge and the remittances from her immediate family.

Dr Bandaranayake's sister and her husband, working as engineers in Australia, had reserved an apartment when they were in Sri Lanka and had, from time to time, remitted Australian dollars for the purchase thereof, the lawyers for Dr Bandaranayake said, adding that the money had been converted to Sri Lankan rupees (approximately Rs. 27 million) and remitted by cheque directly to the seller in instalments, and the National Development Bank had confirmed those transactions. The sum of Rs 34 million mentioned in news reports not accurate, the lawyers said.

Dr. Bandaranayake's lawyers said she totally denied allegations against her and could easily refute them.

Source: The Island, November 8, 2012.

Welikada prison toll put at 27

The death toll in the Welikada Prison riot rose to 27 by last and the Commissioner- General of Prisons, Major General (Retd) P.W. Kodippily said that the head count and a search for escapees and missing weapons were continuing.

A three-member committee of inquiry headed by Commissioner of Prisons Wickremasinghe has been appointed to commence a department inquiry into the riot and submit a report without delay, he said.

The Commissioner-General rejected reports that an LTTE suspect had died in the riot saying that such suspects are only held at the Colombo Remand Prison and the Magazine Remand Prison and not at Welikada. "I believe that the person who had died was a Tamil but not a LTTE suspect," he said.

Protesting search operations for drugs in their possession and alleged humiliation and beatings in the process, the prisoners had broken out of their cells into the prison armoury and removed 82 weapons including pistols and assault rifles. In January this year, there was a similar riot in the Magazine Prison. Although no prisoners was able to escape, all documents in the record section of the prison had been destroyed before order was restored after moving out LTTE suspects held there.

Source: The Island, November 9, 2012.

Afghanistan
UN sanctions against Haqqani network

The UN Security Council has ordered global sanctions against the Haqqani militant group and its chief suicide attack organiser, Qari Zakir. The US had put the Haqqani network, which is considered the most dangerous faction of the Afghan Taliban, on its terror blacklist in September.

The UN sanctions imply that nations must apply an assets freeze and travel ban against Zakir and seize any assets belonging to the network as well as impose an arms embargo. The UN designation said that the group was linked to al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and a string of militant groups in Pakistan including Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jaish-i-Mohammed.

The move was welcomed by the US. The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice said that the UN measures "confirms the international community's resolve to end the Haqqani network's ability to execute violent attacks in Afghanistan".

The Afghan government also backed the US decision but felt that it should have been taken ages ago to weaken the Haqqanis. Although, the Afghan government is attempting to reach a political settlement with the Taliban, they have ruled out any reconciliation with the Haqqanis.

Pakistan, in the meanwhile, claimed that it is already taking action against the Haqqani network, which is said to operate out of safe havens in Pakistan. According to Pakistan's Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, "the three elements of the ban - arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban - are all already in place in Pakistan," and Pakistan does not need to take extra measures against the group.

Source: Reuters, November 6, 2012; The Express Tribune, November 6, 2012.

Pacts with Germany cleared

The Meshrano Jirga, or the Upper House of Parliament, has approved the strategic cooperation accord between Afghanistan and Germany, which was signed in May by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

According to this pact, Germany would assist Afghanistan in areas of higher education, the judiciary, health and civil aviation, and advice on economic issues and exploitation of mineral resources. The pact also envisages cooperation in the field of defence through military training and other bilateral programs. Both instruments will be renegotiated annually on the basis of available capacity, previous scope of use and their efficiency.

Source: Daily Outlook Afghanistan, November 5, 2012.

Foreign critics to be expelled

The Afghan Government is considering expelling members of the International Crisis Group (ICG) over a recent critical report. The report painted a bleak future for Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign troops and warned of a civil war in the absence of free and fair elections.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi said that the Afghan government finds the ICG's activities "detrimental to Afghanistan's national interests" and is "in the process of assessing the ICG's operations in the country."

The pressure on the ICG and Karzai's recent criticism of the foreign press has raised concerns among the international community that a crackdown on the freedom of expression is under way.

The ICG, however, claimed that they have not been contacted by the Afghan government or asked to end their activities in Afghanistan.

NATO has also disagreed with the finding of the report claiming it to be highly "pessimistic". NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed that the main weakness with the report was that it ignored the role that the international community is likely to play post-2014. However, he expressed his support for freedom of speech claiming that democracy in Afghanistan would benefit from an open vibrant debate on how the country should be governed.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2012; Tolo News, November 6, 2012.

Contributors:

Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Kunkhen Dorji
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;