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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Laos to host regional summits in March

Laos to host regional summits in March
Laos will host the 6th CLMV Summit (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) and the 5th ACMECS Summit (Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy) in Vientiane from March 11-13.

The 7th Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Summit, which will be hosted by Vietnam, will also take place in Vientiane at the same time.

Vietnam had originally planned to host this summit last year but decided to postpone the meeting. Vietnam now takes this opportunity to host the summit as regional leaders gather together.

Yesterday, the CLMV Senior Officials' Meeting and the ACMECS Senior Officials' Meeting took place in Vientiane chaired by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bounkeut Sangsomsak.

Senior officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam met to prepare for the CLMV Summit and senior officials from the four countries and Thailand met to discuss the ACMECS Summit.

“Today, officials discussed and exchanged opinions on several matters in preparation for the two summits. Regarding the CLMV, we discussed issues related to connectivity within the four countries and agreed to make full use of the roads we have built for our ultimate benefit, including Road No. 9,” Bounkeut told media yesterday.

“One of the important things is to address our shortcomings, such as practical problems with the one-stop service.

This service is considered very important as it provides quicker results and facilitates the passage of goods and people, contributing to the effective use of the East-West and North-South Economic Corridors as well as other major road links. We have discussed how to address this issue.”

Bounkeut said CLMV senior officials have also discussed tourism cooperation, accepting that tourism in the four countries has grown rapidly over the past few years.

In 2012, the CLMV countries received over 14.8 million international visitors, an increase of more than 19.7 per cent compared to 2011.

The senior officials also touched upon 16 cooperation projects between the CLMV countries. Of the total, eight are underway and some have been completed. The remaining projects will start within the next two years.

They also discussed assistance provided to the CLMV countries by the Japanese government worth US$20 million.

Of this, Laos received funding to finance five projects and to improve services along Road No. 9 in Savannakhet province.

The CLMV Summit is a very important meeting under the Asean framework. The first CLMV Summit was held in November 2004 in Vientiane and saw the adoption of the Vientiane Declaration on enhancing economic cooperation and integration among the member countries.

Currently, the priority areas for cooperation include trade and investment, transportation, industry and energy, human resource development, agriculture, ICT, health, and regional economic integration.

ACMECS is a cooperation framework between Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to utilise member countries' diverse strengths and to promote balanced development in the sub-region.

The first ACMECS Summit was held in 2003 in Bagan, Myanmar. Currently, eight priority areas of cooperation include facilitation for trade and investment, agriculture, industry and energy, road connectivity, tourism, human resource development, health and the environment.
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Poor policing

Publication Date : 27-02-2013

There are many problems with law and order in Nepali society, but long hair and ear rings are surely not one of them. The Nepal Police’s arrests on Tuesday of more than 700 youths for wearing their hair long and having ear rings and studs, is a ridiculous example of an inefficient police force trying to win the sympathy of a gullible population that stereotypes everybody who doesn’t dress and behave like them as criminals. The arrest of the youth is an attack on individual freedom and liberty, and is reminiscent of the dictatorial Panchayat system of 'self-governance' that was in effect here until 1990, when over-zealous police officers resorted to such arrests to gain cheap popularity. The Nepal Police should immediately charge those arrested at the court, if it has evidence that the youths have committed crimes. If not, it should apologise to them for infringing on their individual freedom and set them free.

The arrests on Tuesday are an example of easy policing, not good policing. The police did not display a minimum understanding of their duties - it is simply unexcusable to arrest people who have done nothing wrong just because in the prejudiced minds of the officials, everyone who wears long hair is a suspect. Even if some of the arrested have criminal backgrounds, that doesn’t justify arresting those who don’t.

What the incident proves is that, unfortunately for law-abiding Nepali people, the police force considers itself above the law. The incident also highlights the need for lovers of civil liberties to keep an eye on excessive police power. It must be understood that the erosion of civil liberties is a gradual process. Today, you’re arrested for wearing long hair, tomorrow for walking home late at night and the day after for doing something the authorities don’t like.

Such arrests are an attack on fundamental civil liberties, and will erode the confidence of minorities - in this case, those with unconventional looks. Just like other state institutions, such as the judiciary and the executive, the police must earn the public’s confidence. This lack of confidence in the police is also a result of often-oppressive power that resides in party headquarters and state’s institutions. Every aware Nepali knows that in today’s Nepal, it is often the politicians and policemen who protect the criminals and thugs. For example, the policemen who gang-raped Suntali Dhami got away without serious punishment because of political protection. What’s more, the personal aide of Home Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar is a notorious thug. Similar unsavoury personalities are cultivated by all the ‘big parties’ to use strong-arm tactics to gain lucrative government contracts, or to intimidate voters’ during elections. These thugs, instead of being arrested or thrown behind bars for the crimes they have committed, enjoy the close company of senior police officials and politicians. That is why it’s the real thugs, the masters of the political-criminal nexus, who should be arrested, not youth with long hair. The police needs guts to get down to the root of the law and order problem, instead of just scratching the surface and rounding up easy targets for harassment.

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The matter of governance

There has been a lot of talk about how bad governance has been during the outgoing government’s term in office. But how does a government govern from its seat of governance? Obviously, with the help of instruments of governance. And what are these instruments? The civil service, the police, the judiciary and the armed forces. A top civil servant in the mid-1980s told me that if all the summaries moved by his colleagues for consideration of the cabinet, the ECC or the NEC were made public, most who authored these would be lynched by the public in public. According to a former interior minister, he told General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in early 2000 that it was next to impossible for a minister to dip his hand in the official till without the active cooperation of the secretary in charge of the ministry and then he (the minister) gave the general the list of secretaries, who had served his ministry during his tenure, a good number of whom were in or out of service army men. The general, for obvious reasons, made no further inquiries and recruited the services of the politician on the spot!
The late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the super-duper civil servant of the 1980s, was known for his financial honesty but not for his intellectual integrity. That he had a very low economic IQ would certainly be affirmed by many. He had almost closed down the Karachi export processing zone right at a time when China was opening up Shenzhen! Despite being a financially honest man, by the time he left Wapda, the Authority had become infested with corruption to the core. The generals that followed him in the Authority milked it so dry that by the late 1980s, no multilateral aid agency was prepared to fund its power projects.
The rot in the civil service had started setting in by the time Mr Khan was elevated to the position of president. Exceptions to the rule notwithstanding, the civil service presently attracts only those who wish to make a bundle on the side. Most make money by selling to interested parties, strategic information about our national endeavours. And I don’t think anybody would controvert the claim that most of the ‘lucrative’ thanas in the country, especially in the urban areas, are auctioned among police officers. In the rural areas, it is the thaneydar who rules through the terror of his uniform and extorts protection money from both the poor and the rich. The intelligence agencies keep files full of innovative and invented skeletons of politicians and use the information for blackmailing purposes or to plant them on the gullible media, when and if their masters want to malign any politician or a group of politicians. The less said about the declining professionalism in the armed forces the better.
So, that is the kind of instruments of governance that the successive governments in this country have been burdened with since at least the mid-1980s. And that perhaps, is the biggest reason behind what is termed as bad governance, especially during the last 59 months. This is not to say that the politicians who ruled the country during this period were all innocent. But let us not miss the forest because of the trees.
Even to hold free, fair and impartial elections, we need to have clean civil servants manning the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Otherwise, those who are today serving as instruments of governance in the ECP would only do what they have been doing all these years — rig elections and manipulate their results to help saddle those who paid them the most. It is officers of this type who create controversies where there should have been none. The pre-requisite of a degree is no more there for the coming elections. These officers were also aware of how the Supreme Court had acted in the case of Mr Jamshed Dasti, who after having been found out to have submitted a fake degree to contest the 2008 polls, was allowed after he had resigned from his seat, by both the SC and the ECP, to contest the by-polls. Still, the man who wrote the letter to so many parliamentarians, including the leader of the opposition, in a highly provocative language, one feels, simply wanted to entangle the chief election commissioner in an unnecessary controversy.
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If a Shia, you are on your own

If a Shia, you are on your own

Let me make it simple: if you are a Shia in Pakistan, you are on your own. This fact I state for the benefit of all those citizens of this country, Shia and Sunni, who are grieving the slow demise of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan and expecting that the tide could be reversed through state action.
Now for the longer answer.
There is no doubt about who is killing the Shia. The Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) has repeatedly taken responsibility for it. Its captured terrorists have often stated before courts that they have killed Shias and, given the opportunity, will do it again. The identity of the killers is a settled issue.
Nota Bene: The issue of the proxy war between Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iran, the funding to Sunni extremist groups and whatever is left of Shia extremists, and circumstantial evidence of indirect involvement of hostile agencies is important but peripheral to the main issue, i.e., the terrorists are Pakistanis and killing on the basis of centuries-old denominational differences. The current murderous spree, of course, has a modern political and geopolitical context.
A more relevant question is: if the group that is involved in these killings has not only been ID-ed but IDs itself, what is stopping the state from acting against it, and effectively?
This is where the problem begins.
The LeJ was begotten from the dark womb of the Sipah-e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The SSP, banned by Pervez Musharraf, has reincarnated itself as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. It has a certain political presence. It is technically not the LeJ, even as de facto it is. LeJ terrorists, along with the hardline splinter group of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), have over the last five years, come to form the backbone of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) conglomerate. The TTP is an entity that political parties now — the ANP included (in desperation) — want to talk to, even as the state considers the LeJ a terrorist entity.
So while the LeJ is a terrorist organisation providing manpower to the TTP, the state is being pressured to talk to the latter and give it the legitimacy of an insurgent group.
But this is not all. In Punjab, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is in talks over seat adjustment with the ASWJ, the Dr Jekyll to its Edward Hyde, the LeJ. Leaving aside the PML-N’s petty lying about the issue, it is a fact that it wants to placate the LeJ through a dangerous liaison with the ASWJ. The general impression is that this is being done to win votes. That’s only partially true. The primary reason is that the PML-N doesn’t want mayhem in Punjab, its central vote bank, where it wants to win and win big through a lot of development work (even if lopsided) by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The Faustian bargain is meant to keep the LeJ, and by extension the TTP, at bay. In other words, the PML-N is doing this for the same reasons that the ANP wants to talk to the TTP. The problem with this short-term approach is just that: it is short term and allows these groups the respite and the space to strengthen themselves and emerge as even more potent contenders against the state.
What about the army and the ISI; how do they look at this phenomenon?
Short answer: they are greatly worried. Next question: what are they doing about it?
Short answer: not much.
Central question: why the hell not? This requires a longer answer and some perspective.
Fact 1: The total strength of the army is about 550,000 troops. Out of this, around 110,000 are deployed in the operational areas in the west. Approximately 60,000 to 70,000 are deployed along the Line of Control as part of 10 Corps and Force Command Northern Areas. The rest are in peacetime locations, to be mobilised to defend the eastern border when required. Additionally, there are a number of other command and staff duties to be performed.
Fact 2: Armies generally operate on the 33.33 per cent principle. At any time, 33.33 per cent are deployed, the same percentage is in training and equal numbers, more or less, are resting and retrofitting. Pakistan’s internal war has thrown this awry. The deployment has gone up to 44 to 45 per cent, training retains the same percentage and the resting and retrofitting has gone down to about 12 percent. The ops areas tenure has upped from 22 months to over two years and a high percentage of units are now awaiting second and third rotation to the ops areas. Evidently a killer.
Fact 3: The Pakistan Military Academy has had to raise the 4th Pak Battalion because the internal war has taken a heavy toll of young officers. The officer-to-soldier kill ratio is very high, upped from 1:16 to 1:14 and now stands at 1:8. This means a shortage of YOs. (Some officers consider it a matter of pride; I consider it a weakness but that’s a separate topic.)
Corollary: the army is stretched thin. It cannot be everywhere and, quite apart from operations to wrest territory, is not meant to address the problem of urban terrorism. Even the counterterrorism sub-units in the Special Services Group, like the Zarar and Karar companies, are meant for fire-fighting, not gathering intelligence and pre-empting.
And the ISI? It has the capacity to gather intel and it does. But equally, there are other organisations like the police, the Intelligence Bureau and the CID units whose primary job is to gather intel. Why are they not effective? Answer: when political governments make alliances with the very terrorists these organisations are supposed to bust, then they cannot be effective. There are other reasons too but this is the primary one.
And when Frontier Corps does get involved, sending terrorists to their afterlife, as in Quetta, the leaders of these organisations invoke the law and register cases against the FC. Recently, the new Inspector General Police (IG) Balochistan met with LeJ leaders and defended this by saying the police have to reach out to them.
The question is: if the LeJ is a banned terrorist organisation, how are these leaders at large and meeting the IG?
The confusion gets confounded. More on this next time.
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Sindh Assembly resolution condemns PML-N's patronisation of militants

Sindh Assembly resolution condemns PML-N's patronisation of militants

Sindh Assembly also passed a law on organ trasplantation. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE
KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly while passing resolution to condemn the recent string of attacks on religious scholars and attacks on shrines in Sindh and urged the Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) to discontinue its patronisation of militant organisations.
An attack on a shrine in Shikarpur earlier this week was the latest in a series of attacks on shrines and religious scholars. A resolution against the attacks was moved by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s MPA Imran Zafar Leghari where they said the recent attacks in Sindh were carried out by banned organisations and were a continuation of the vicious campaign against the Hazara community in Balochistan.
In a surprising move, lawmakers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who have recently split from the government and taken up seats in the opposition, supported the resolution.
However, no lawmaker from any of the other opposition parties including that of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and National Peoples Party (NPP), who have recently announced electoral alliance with PML-F, were present in the house.
Law on organ transplantation
With transplantation of human organs and tissues devolved to the provinces in view of the 18th Amendment, the provincial assembly on Wednesday passed a law for regulation, removal, storage and transplantation of human organs and tissues for therapeutic purposes.
The law notes that transplantation of human organs or tissues or removal of any part of the human organ for the same purpose will only be carried out by recognised professionals from the body of the deceased ensuring that a written certificate has been obtained from an evaluation committee.
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A broken Land

A broken Land

The dismissal of the provincial government last month has made no difference at all, and we need to think about what can be done to end the unrelenting violence. PHOTO: FILE
Things have gone so badly wrong in Balochistan it is hard to know if they can ever be fixed. The degree of violence sweeping across the province is overwhelming and it is now clear that there is no evidence it is dying out. The Governor’s Rule imposed by the centre a month ago has had no impact on killings in the province. In the latest gory incident to stain the province with still deeper marks of crimson, six labourers working on the Makran Coastal Highway, about 25 kilometres from the town of Pasni, were ordered out of their camp by unknown gunmen, lined up along the roadside and shot-dead in cold blood. All the victims were from Zhob district.
The motive behind this atrocity is unclear. The Makran Coastal Highway links Gwadar with Karachi. The port has recently been handed over to a Chinese firm. But it is impossible to say if this factor was in any way linked to the death of the labourers, who could naturally have played no role in the decision. They had been brought in from Zhob, a few days before, to make repairs to the road. Their bodies have now been sent home. A 12-year-old boy present at the site was spared.
Local authorities hint there had been some warning of an attack. Some fingers point towards Baloch nationalists engaged in an insurgency in the province. Other voices speak of a possible anti China hand, given that country’s opposition to any involvement by China in Gwadar. The truth is impossible to know. Things in Balochistan are too complex to reach conclusions quickly. The key issue is whether our state has the capacity and will to calm the sectarian, nationalist and ethnic tensions that have crushed Balochistan. So far, there is no indication that this capacity exists. The dismissal of the provincial government last month has made no difference at all, and we need to think about what can be done to end the unrelenting violence which continues across a province where there are still no signs that the rule of law can be made to prevail.
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Sri Lanka military dismisses rights group's claims of sexual violence on Tamil detainees

 Sri Lanka military dismisses rights group's claims of sexual violence on Tamil detainees
Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 02:18 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Feb 26, Colombo: Sri Lanka military on Tuesday dismissed a report by the international rights group, New York-based Human Rights Watch tat alleged the country's security forces continued to use sexual violence on suspected Tamil Tiger terrorists in detention.
Responding to report, the Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya dismissed the allegations as "fabricated lies".
He said the 75 cases of alleged rape victims who provided their harrowing experiences to the right group were those who have applied for the asylum in the west.
"These are fabrications to justify their claims for asylum," Wanigasooriya said adding that the Army is ready to investigate if there are proper complaints filed.
In a 141-page report titled " 'We Will Teach You a Lesson': Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces,' the New york-based Human Rights Watch details the personal accounts of 75 alleged cases of rapes and assaults occurred since 2006.
He said the government has resettled about 300,000 displaced people in the conflict while another nearly 12,000 LTTE ex-cadres had been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
"No one has made any complaint of rape", he said.
The military spokesman said this is a well-established pattern of the LTTE rump to hoodwink the international community.
Every time Sri Lanka goes before an international forum such as UNHRC, the interested parties set out to publish photos and reports alleging the Sri Lankan security forces of war crimes.
Citing an example, the spokesman said the alleged photos of the LTTE leader's son were in public domain for a long time and were available for any interested party to view.
"If anyone really wanted to, the pictures could have been published then. The fact is they never wanted to publish them at the time, nor did they hand them to any authority with the relevant information (that they claim they know for certain beyond any reasonable doubt) for investigation. This indicates their objective is to keep the tempo going before each HRC session," Wanigasooriya explained in a media release.
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* Sri Lankan government not prepared to face international community at UNHRC - UNP MP

Leading News from Sri Lanka::

Sri Lankan government not prepared to face international community at UNHRC - UNP MP
Feb 27, Colombo: Sri Lanka's main opposition United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayaka says the government is not prepared to go before the international community at the UN Human Right Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva.
Karunanayaka says the government has been unable to meet the international obligations.
He has explained that the President had given certain undertakings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon; gave undertakings to implement the LLRC and also gave certain undertakings to the Indian Prime Minister, but nothing was met.
"None of them have been put in place. We from the opposition are demanding because this is not their country but it is our country on the basis that all of us take a protective action on Sri Lanka. We are calling upon the government to rephrase their international obligations and to please tell the people as to why they are acting in this manner since it is not a case of their own," Karunanayaka said.
He observed that when a certain commitment is made as a country, they are expected to be fulfilled and ramifications flow by not doing so.
"It is not just a political party's destiny, it is the country's destiny and we hold the government responsible. We demand the government to tell us how we could help and what we should do in order to prevent more resolutions being presented against Sri Lanka," the UNP MP added.
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Analysis: Politicians, donors question donor neutrality in Nepal

Analysis: Politicians, donors question donor neutrality in Nepal

KATHMANDU, 26 February 2013 (IRIN) - Dissent in Nepal over the role of ethnicity in a post-conflict state has put donor agencies under increased scrutiny, with politicians and analysts accusing them of meddling, taking sides and circumventing the government to push an agenda of “social cohesion”.

“We got a lot of criticism from all sides. We took the brunt [from all sections of society including marginalized groups, citizens, media and political parties] saying we interfered or didn’t do enough,” said the director of the UK government’s aid arm, Department for International Development (DFID), in Nepal, Dominic O’Neill. DFID is Nepal’s largest bilateral donor, recently increasing its annual spending by US$60 million to some $150 million in 2013.

The national debate surrounding an ethnic identity-based federalism - where power is devolved from the national government to local units determined largely along ethnic lines - has been at the core of Nepal’s transition to post-war stability, with some politicians, analysts and journalists painting Nepal’s international donors as instigators of ethnic tension.

Almost seven years since the country ended a decade-long civil war with a peace deal, efforts to birth a post-war constitution and new government are still stalled amid political infighting, which has only exacerbated the country’s ills

Nepal is one of world’s poorest countries with 25 percent of its 30-million people living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Pockets of chronic under-nutrition, especially in the country’s Far West mountainous region, exceed emergency levels, and access to safe sanitation remains perilously inaccessible for 20 million people.

“Changes are drastically needed in this country, but didn’t happen at the pace they were supposed to. Aid agencies got too involved in the peace process, political transition and democratization issues rather than development,” political analyst and professor Krishna Khanal told IRIN.

Aid agencies should have been focusing, instead, on building up national institutions rather than duplicating efforts and competing among themselves, Khanal added.

Checks and balances

After years of failed constitution-making, a new interim prime minister was appointed on 18 February; Nepal's opposition parties have refused to consider holding elections for a new constituent assembly (the previous one was dissolved in May 2012) under the incumbent Maoist-led regime.

But as recently noted by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit, significant hurdles remain “to end the destructive political wrangling. In the meantime, Nepal's civic functions are in effect paralysed and economic activity is depressed”.

Robert Piper, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nepal, told IRIN the current political situation is “naturally of real concern” to donor groups.

The position of chief of the Centre for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and national auditor-general are still vacant after seven years. In addition, there is no Public Accounts Committee - a parliamentary body that tracks spending of donor monies.

“These checks and balances are important in any democratic society,” Swiss ambassador to Nepal, Thomas Gass, told IRIN. He is also the chairperson of donor group Nepal Peace Trust Fund

Similarly, analysts and government officials make the same accountability charges against aid agencies that circumvent the government, directly implementing projects without consultation or approval.

Such a practice has become a de jure modus operandi in a country that has had five prime ministers in the last six years, according to the national umbrella group of more than 5,300 development local NGOs, the NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN). Local elections were last held in 1997, leaving local governance barren, but for the few appointed government caretakers.

Local development programming has withered as the government has been consumed by jockeying for power in Kathmandu, said Gopal Yogi, NFN’s vice-president.

“Our crucial concern is lack of locally elected bodies which would make a difference, and in their absence aid agencies are implementing their own projects without any government control.”

But even a power vacuum is no justification for going it alone, national officials told IRIN, noting that even amid political turbulence, donors have steady government counterparts.
“We have ambitions, but donors' ambitions for us are greater.” 

“Aid agencies believe that it is easier implementing themselves than [going] through the government,” said Rabi Sainju, programme director of foreign aid coordination with the National Planning Commission (NPC).

Sainju said the NPC should have the final say over foreign-funded projects due to its responsibility for national development plans and budgeting.

Yet, it is not uncommon for bilateral donors to have a direct agreement with the government and start project implementation without NPC’s knowledge due to poor inter-ministerial coordination, he added.

Aid agency defence
Aid agencies say donors are simply carrying out pre-approved programmes with no intention of interference.

“We don’t want to be competing with the government in the rural areas. In all of our programmes, even if somebody hasn’t gone through [local] government, 100 percent of our activities are approved by the [national] government,” DFID’s O’Neill told IRIN.

He explained that existing local government bodies like the District Development Committees (DDC) and Village Development Committees (VDC) have limited capacity and that this reality is unlikely to change soon.

“I was in Humla and Jumla (remote hill villages in the country’s northwest) where the [local] government has very limited capacity. In these remote places where the situation is complex and [national] government has no presence, why cannot an external partner deliver services on its behalf?” asked O’Neill.

Meddling or mandate?

But donors’ intentions are suspect, say critics, when agencies direct funding towards traditionally marginalized indigenous ethnic groups that rank low in the long-standing feudal caste system, while overlooking the needs of historically privileged “high-caste” communities that are also extremely poor.

O’Neill said DFID’s support of certain ethnic groups was in accordance with the 1996 Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). “The fact is - yes - we have supported a lot of marginalized groups in the past. Our mandate was to do that and it is in the CPA, section 3.5. It was clear that this was recognized as an issue that needed to be dealt with as part of the peace process.”

Donors, including the UN, have funded “social inclusion” programmes to empower historically marginalized ethnic groups, which all sections of society support, say analysts.

Former foreign affairs minister Chakra Prasad Bastola told IRIN last June that while no one disagrees the caste system of preferential treatment and access needs change, foreign donors “are pushing their agenda down our throats”, and demanding instant results. “We have ambitions, but donors' ambitions for us are greater.”

The problem is not whether, but rather how, donors have supported these groups, said foreign affairs analyst Rajan Bhattarai, head of the Nepal Institute of Policy Studies (NIPS). 

“The inclusion [agenda] has been narrowed down to political empowerment, distribution of powers and [job quotas] and anything that has immediate solutions instead of empowering the marginalized people from the bottom level,” he said, blaming foreign donors for a too-exclusive focus on dismantling the political basis of the caste system without financing long-term fundamental change.

Impartiality and neutrality

“We don’t promote identity federalism. We don’t promote territorial federalism. We support Nepal impartially as it explores these difficult questions and tries to find the right formula,” said the UN’s Piper.

The standards of humanitarian assistance - humanity, neutrality and impartiality - are laid out in a 1991 UN resolution that defined impartiality as providing humanitarian assistance “without discriminating as to ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political opinions, race or religion. Relief of the suffering must be guided solely by needs, and priority must be given to the most urgent cases of distress,” while neutrality meant “not taking sides in controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature”.

“Once the people of Nepal and the government decide how it wants to progress into whatever structure, then we will support on that basis, but we don’t have an opinion on federalism,” said DFID's O'Neill.

But even if donors have aimed to remain apolitical, they became dependent on local activists (including the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, NEFIN, a local NGO advocating ethnic-based federalism) for implementation, which politicized and tainted their mandate, said Khanal, the analyst.

Some donors perceived NEFIN becoming too political, and a number, including DFID in 2010, withdrew funding.

“Federalism was not an international donor-driven agenda but they [donors] worked too closely with organizations run by radical activists, and that indirectly affected their neutrality,” said Khanal.

Donors in Nepal insist they uphold all three criteria of humanitarian assistance in Nepal, even as they push for social inclusion.

Piper said the UN has “very deliberately” worked with the most disadvantaged groups in this country over the last decade and has done so without apology.

“But to go from that statement to the statement that international donors and the UN are, for example, actively promoting federalism, and particularly identity-based federalism, or supporting the ‘bandas’ [strikes] called by indigenous or marginalized groups, is ridiculous,” said Piper. - See more at:
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Nepalese woman sets Everest record

Nepalese woman sets Everest record

Guinness World Records said Nepalese mountaineer Chhurim is the first woman to climb the world’s highest mountain twice in the same season.
Nepalese mountaineer Chhurim entered the record book by scaling Mount Everest twice in the same climbing season. In fact, she did so a week apart.
Guinness World Records said she is the first woman to climb the world’s highest mountain twice in the same season — the brief window of good weather each year that allows climbers to reach the summit.
Nepal’s Tourism Minister Posta Bahadur Bogati handed over the Guinness World Records certificate issued to 29-year-old Chhurim on Monday.
She scaled the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit on May 12, 2012, descended to the base camp for a couple of days’ rest and then scaled the peak again a week later on May 19.
Chhurim, who uses only one name like most Sherpas, said she is not ready to quit.
“Everest is the first of the highest mountains that I have climbed, but I will continue mountaineering and hope to scale more peaks,” she said.
Chhurim said there are not many women mountaineers and only a few of them have records.
“The male mountaineers have set many records but women have fallen behind. It can be difficult for women because they are considered not as strong as men and face many problems like finding toilets,” she said.
The Nepal Mountaineering Association said Everest has been climbed by nearly 4,000 people since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal did so in 1953. Women are a small number of them.
The extremely harsh weather conditions that batter the highest Himalayan peaks limit the climbing season to just a few weeks every year. Spring is the most popular season on Everest when hundreds of mountaineers attempt every year. The climbers generally reach the mountain in March or April, acclimatize to the higher elevation and low oxygen and train for climbing the snowy trail to the peak. The weather usually improves for a few days in May when they line up to the summit.
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Adiala’s missing inmates: Convince us on issue of jurisdiction, says SC

Adiala’s missing inmates: Convince us on issue of jurisdiction, says SC

Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE
A stiff challenge awaits the counsel for seven men detained in Parachinar, Kurram Agency after they, along with four others, went missing from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
Their counsel will have to convince the Supreme Court beyond reasonable doubt that the court can exercise its jurisdiction in the tribal areas.
A three-member bench, comprising of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ijaz Afzal and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed deferred the case till February 28 and directed Advocate Tariq Asad to convince them how they could exercise the court’s jurisdiction in the tribal areas.
As far as Attorney General Irfan Qadir is concerned, the apex court has no jurisdiction in the tribal areas, as the seven men detained at an internment centre in Parachinar will be tried under the Frontier Crime Regulations, 1901.
The lawyer representing them tried to highlight what he termed “inhuman treatment” meted out to his clients, but the bench directed him to first explain to the court whether it could exercise its jurisdiction and establish the maintainability of the petitions in the apex court.
On the other hand, Federally Administered Tribal Areas Secretary Jamal Nasir failed to muster a reply when the apex court asked him what evidence was available on record to detain and keep the men at the internment centre.
Last year, the army handed over the seven men to tribal authorities after they were suspected of attacking an army convoy. Weapons were also recovered from their possession.
Four of the 11 men died allegedly in the custody of the army after they were picked up from Adiala Jail by intelligence agencies.
They were kept in the custody of intelligence agencies from May 2010 to January 2012 and were not tried under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952.
The survivors moved the Supreme Court with applications for medical treatment and pleaded for their release on grounds of health and their innocence.
The detainees went missing from Adiala Jail in May 2010 after they were acquitted by an anti-terrorism court. They were acquitted in 209 cases, including allegations of attacking an Inter-Services Intelligence bus and the General Headquarters gate in November 2007.
They were also exonerated of charges of carrying out an anti-aircraft gun attack on former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s plane and launching a rocket attack on the aeronautical complex of Kamra in Attock.
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Rivalry: Sindh CM pokes fun at Sharifs

Rivalry: Sindh CM pokes fun at Sharifs

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE
In a tone of sarcasm, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah congratulated Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on receiving the titles of ‘Takht-e-Punjab’and ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ by Pir Pagara during their visit to Sindh on Tuesday.
Talking to a delegation of PPP office bearers, Shah said the titles clearly demonstrate the Sharif brothers’ credentials as “pygmy politicians,” who are confined to Punjab and Lahore. The Sharifs have a narrow vision and a limited political agenda which is confined to the province of Punjab alone, he added. According to a press release, the Sindh chief minister further said that the alliances Nawaz is making for Sindh will not help him bag even a single seat in Sindh as people know him as a product of zia’s martial law.
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Changing loyalties: Lashkari Raisani sets eyes on PML-N – with conditions

Changing loyalties: Lashkari Raisani sets eyes on PML-N – with conditions

File photo of former PPP leader Lashkari Raisani, who resigned from the party in 2010 and Senate in 2012. PHOTO: FILE
Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani has emerged from 10 months of virtual isolation to say that he is seriously considering joining the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz .
The former president of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Balochistan expressed these views right after a meeting with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif on Monday. However, he did not provide any details of their discussion.
“I am seriously of the mind to join his party,” Raisani briefly remarked. “You will soon find out when I will take a final decision.” These developments come three weeks before the government wraps up its tenure and a caretaker set-up is installed.
However, a political aide said that Raisani had discussed with Nawaz Sharif a few conditions to joining the country’s largest opposition party. “He received an encouraging response from the PML-N leader. Now Raisani is waiting for a reply,” said his aide. “There are some technical issues that Raisani wants to resolve before taking a decision,” he said when asked about the conditions.
The former senior leader of the ruling party in Balochistan had resigned from party office after he developed differences with a few federal ministers in 2010. He continued to be a part of the PPP till he resigned from the Senate in 2012.
Many political leaders, including Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, made him offers but he remained indecisive throughout, his aide told The Express Tribune. Raisani developed considerable clout in the province as the brother of the former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and in his own right as a PPP leader there.
He refused to rejoin the PPP despite intense efforts by the party’s leadership and consequently moved to Karachi from Quetta where he had lived for over 10 months in isolation.
Of late, Raisani has been issuing harsh-worded statements to the media, criticising the PPP’s high command for what he had described as unprecedented financial corruption and bad governance in Islamabad and Balochistan.
However, his major concern was the fate of the Reko Diq gold and copper mines. He suspected a few high-ups were attempting to lease them to some foreign companies.
Raisani has been a bitter critic of Islamabad’s policies on handling the Balochistan violence and had advocated a negotiated settlement. He took a radical stand on the enforced disappearances in the province, pointing fingers at the establishment and security agencies in public statements.
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