External Affairs

South Asia Briefing: Pakistan, Between Panama and a Gang of Dacoits; Flying Docs in Bhutan

A round-up of the most important stories from the South Asian region

Nepalese police personnel chase Madhesi protesters (unseen) demonstrating against the new constitution in Birgunj, Nepal November 5, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

File photo of Nepalese police personnel chasing Madhesi protesters (unseen) demonstrating against the new constitution in Birgunj, Nepal November 5, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

NEPAL: Unsettled federalism

The Kathmandu Post noted that even as the new constitution will become six months old this week, there has hardly been any progress in talks between the government and the Madhesi parties with “trust deficit” being the main culprit identified.

A new penal code, under consideration in the Nepal parliament drops exisiting provision of confiscation of property of murder convicts – and has left the legal fraternity divided, reports the Himalayan Times.

Both papers reported Nepal’s win against Namibia in the ICC World Cricket League Championship before a home crowd as the lead news.

Three years after being being put in ICAO’s list of countries with significant safety concern, Nepal’s civil aviation regulator shows no urgency to improve the aviation sector, with political interference continuing to rule the roost, claims The Himalayan Times.

BHUTAN: Flying medics

The Bhutanese has a detailed analysis of the helicopter medical services which began in November 2015 and has already saved 20 lives by airlifting critical patients from remote parts of the mountainous country.

BANGLADESH: Media under pressure

The arrest of the weekly magazine editor Jaijaidin Shafik Rehman on charges of attempting to abduct and kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son dominated front pages in English newspapers in Bangladesh. The Daily Star, just like other media outlets, reported that Rehman was taken into custody from his house by detective branch policemen posing as TV journalists. The Dhaka Tribune has a run down on the proceedings inside the court, with the defence lawyer pointing out that Rehman’s father was a teacher of Sheikh Mujibur-ur-Rehman.

The Daily Star also published a report on the statement of the Editors Guild of India expressing concern at the intimidation of DS editor Mahfuz Anam.

Opposition leader and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia appeared before the court in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case on Sunday.

In other news, questions have been raised on the quality of the construction of Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant by a Russian state firm, Dhaka Tribune reported.

The Independent writes that Indian firm, Engineers India Limited, will be awarded the consultancy for the second unit of Eastern Refinery Limited, which could triple Bangladesh’s annual refining capacity.

In another “unsolicited” deal, the Bangladesh government will negotiate with Adani Power Limited to import 1600 megawatt of electricity from a plant in Jharkhand, under the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy Act, reports Daily Sun.

PAKISTAN: RAW, Panama and a gang of dacoits

In a report about the arrest of two fishermen with “RAW links”, a senior police official is quoted as saying that 200-300 employees of local government in Karachi have links with the Indian intelligence agency, Dawn writes.

Meanwhile, the government could issue a ‘red warrant warrant’ against former president Pervez Musharraf to return to Pakistan to appear in a treason case, the Express Tribune reports.

The terms of reference for the judicial commission to probe into the Panama paper allegations continue to roil national politics. The opposition were quick to reject retired Supreme Court Justice SJ Osmany’s nomination to head the investigation. While Imran Khan’s PTI was adamant that the chief justice should lead the probe, the PPP has said that senate chairman Raza Rabbani could also lead the commission.

The Pakistan information minister Pervez Rashid has claimed that PTI chief Imran Khan is in London to help the mayoral campaign of  the“son of Goldsmith”. Zac Goldsmith is Khan’s former brother-in-law, standing against Sadiq Khan of Pakistani ethnicity. Currently, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari are also in the British capital.

The Panamanian vice minister of economy claimed to have met with finance minister Ishaq Dar in an CNN interview. On Sunday, the Panamanian minister clarified in a tweet that it was not Dar, but the Pakistan finance secretary.

The special report section of News on Sunday magazine is on the fall-out of the Panama papers

In Dawn, Cyril Almeida muses over the “bizarre” reaction from Nawaz Sharif government at the Panama papers and the continued encroachment into PMLN’s Fortress Punjab by the “boys”.

The army’s operation against the Chotuu gang in southern Punjab continues to be reported in the front pages.

SRI LANKA: Indian role under a cloud

The Sri Lankan government’s proposal to build 65,000 houses for internally displaced persons in the north continues to generate controversy. The Sunday Times has a report based on the assessment of a technical expert team that the steel houses to be built by Arcelor Mittal will be entirely unsuitable. Ceylon Today interviews the Sri Lankan minister for resettlement, who defends the project staunchly.

The balance of payment crisis has led the Sri Lankan government to ask for an Enhanced Extended Fund Facility of $3 billion from the International Monetary Fund. This is in addition of the $1.3 billion EFF to be extended by IMF. The Sunday Times reports that both the finance minister and Central Bank governor were in Washington to negotiate the loan.

The Sunday Leader editorial claims that the government, and the people, have not grasped the seriousness of the debt crisis.

Complications in acquisition of land for the Sampur power plant, which was to have been funded by India, have led to delays in the project which was supposed to have been ready by 2016, the Sunday Leader reports. Meanwhile, Ceylon Today writes that the delay will have grave implications for Sri Lanka’s power sector which is already in dire straits.

AFGHANISTAN: ‘Rising insecurity’

Schoolgirls walk past a damaged mini-bus after it was hit by a bomb blast in the Bagrami district of Kabul, Afghanistan April 11, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Schoolgirls walk past a damaged mini-bus after it was hit by a bomb blast in the Bagrami district of Kabul, Afghanistan April 11, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The ‘passing-out’ of Afghan cadets from Pakistan Military Academy was reported by both Pajwokh and Khaama news agencies. Khaama notes that Afghanistan had sent cadets to Pakistan for training after the latter protested that majority of Afghan army officers were trained by India.

The Outlook Afghanistan editorial points to the “rising insecurity” in the country, with no signs that the peace process will be revived.

While civilian fatalities have come down, the number of injured have increased in the first quarter of 2016, as per a UNAMA report.

MALDIVES: The UN tries its hand

With Maldives’s oldest newspaper now closed for two weeks, the children of the Haveeru Daily’s founder have filed a counter claim in a complicated legal case, which critics argue is part of the ongoing concerns about press freedom, Maldives Independent reports.

Meanwhile, a United Nations senior advisor is in Maldives to kick-start talks between the government and the opposition, Miadhu reports.