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SHUN POLITICAL UNTOUCHABILITY AND BRINKMANSHIP
Violence worsens, an ill wind blows

Sadeq Khan

Can the coercive power of the state be solely applied to resolve a political crisis? What could be the consequences of the spiraling violence resulting from the exclusive policy, and extra-legal brinkmanship of the two leaders of the highly polarised mainstream political forces of the country? To find an answer, I have put together hereunder four comments from foreign media by Bangladesh watchers.

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Sadeq Khan

Can the coercive power of the state be solely applied to resolve a political crisis? What could be the consequences of the spiraling violence resulting from the exclusive policy, and extra-legal brinkmanship of the two leaders of the highly polarised mainstream political forces of the country? To find an answer, I have put together hereunder four comments from foreign media by Bangladesh watchers.

The common thread in those commentaries are for dialogue and a political solution. But will the entrenched leadership of mainstream politics in Bangladesh heed that advice?

AL erring not to enter dialogue
On January 8, The Times of India published a comment on its editorial page authored by Rudroneel Ghosh under the caption: “Political Turbulence: Time for Bangladeshi parties to shun political untouchability and sit for dialogue”. It noted: “The political situation in Bangladesh stands at a crucial juncture. Opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia has been confined to her office by police and security personnel since last Saturday (at the time of writing, the office gates had reportedly been opened but law enforcement officers continued to block the entrance). The action was taken as her party had called a rally in Dhaka to mark the first anniversary of last year’s general election that BNP and its allies had boycotted.
“BNP has dubbed January 5 as ‘Murder of Democracy Day’ and it was to mark the occasion that the party had called the Dhaka rally. But Zia’s confinement has led the party to call an indefinite blockage across the country. There is no denying that BNP made a huge mistake in not participating in the last general elections in Bangladesh.
“Awami League too is erring in not initiating a dialogue with BNP. True, both morally and legislatively it is in the right. But it cannot ignore the political turmoil in Bangladesh today. BNP, even though outside Parliament, still commands a sizeable constituency. This is a fact that Awami League simply can’t wish away. Already Bangladeshi society is split right down the middle on the basis of people’s political affiliations. This is hardly healthy for Bangladeshi democracy. Riven by a bloody and turbulent history, Bangladesh needs to bridge this divide if it wants to prosper and advance.”

Violence in Bangladesh worsens
On January 14, The Wall Street Journal reported under the caption “Violence in Bangladesh Worsens,” as follows: “Antigovernment activists in Bangladesh called for intensified street protests after an opposition politician was shot late Tuesday, January 13, setting the stage for worsening political violence in the South Asian country.
“Four people, including a child, died next day morning when the bus they were riding on was firebombed by opposition supporters attempting to disrupt road, rail and river transport across the country, police said. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Premier Khaleda Zia, has been locked in a bitter confrontation with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League since the government this month banned an opposition rally and confined Ms. Zia inside her office. Since Jan. 5, in support of Ms. Zia, the opposition has used varying tactics to try to prevent people from using public transportation services.
“Police say they have rounded up hundreds of opposition activists in what they said was an effort to contain violence, which has claimed at least 15 lives in the last 10 days. The government has denounced the opposition as ‘militants and terrorists.’ BNP leaders say they have no choice but to take to the street since the government has clamped down on peaceful protest.
“On Tuesday evening, gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Reaz Rahman, a former foreign minister and a key aide to Ms. Zia. Mr. Rahman’s family said he was shot four times in the waist and legs near the Westin hotel in the center of Dhaka, the capital. The assailants fled on motorcycles after the attack, witnesses said. Doctors said Mr. Rahman was in a “serious but stable” condition Wednesday. The police said they were investigating.
In a statement, Ms. Zia blamed government agents for the attack on Mr. Rahman, calling it ‘an act of cowardice and terror.’ The government denied involvement. The U.S. condemned the attack on Mr. Rahman, calling it “outrageous and cowardly act”.

‘Deepening political violence’: OHCHR
At a press briefing on 16 January, 2015, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said: “The deepening political violence in Bangladesh, resulting from the failure of the two major political parties to resolve their differences peacefully, is very disturbing…We are concerned about the potential for the violence, which already led to deaths, injury and disruption, to spiral.
Ahead of scheduled general election in January 2014 boycotted by the mainstream opposition, supporters of the country’s major parties clashed with each other and with security forces, leaving scores of people dead, hundreds injured, and causing extensive damage to property. The-then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay had sent an emissary and earnestly urged Bangladesi political leaders to set their differences aside, immediately halt the “destructive brinkmanship” and use their influence to ease the unrest.
Amid the escalating violence, OHCHR said in its press release, the “rampant use” of arson attacks on vehicles was “particularly disturbing,” citing a recent incident in which a crowded public bus was set on fire, resulting in the immolation deaths of four people including one child. The same day, a senior BNP advisor was shot at and his car set on fire.
“We urge all political parties to show restraint and to bring an immediate end to the violence,” OSCHR spokesperson said. “We also call on the authorities to ensure the prompt, impartial and effective investigation of all killings committed – irrespective of whether they were committed by State or non-State actors.”
The OHCHR spokesperson particularly urged the Government to ensure that all arrests and detentions of key opposition leaders were “not arbitrary,” and that all measures taken to restore law and order are “conducted in line with the parameters set by international human rights law, including respect for the freedoms of peaceful assembly, movement and speech.”

A preemptive crackdown
On January 16, former US ambassador to Bangladesh, now a Woodrow Wilson scholar and a keen Bangladesh watcher, wrote under the caption “An ill wind blows from the east” as follows: “This intensification of the repressive measures against all forms of opposition could signal a decision by the AL leaders (really Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who seems to answer to no one these days) to consolidate the AL one-party government into a one-party state before growing popular disillusion solidifies into popular resistance. If so, it probably also means a cycle of increasing repression, increasing violence, and much greater instability. The violence may have begun before this article is published. The BNP wants to hold a rally to protest government action despite the official ban on street demonstrations put in place recently by the government. Insisting on doing so would be a recipe for violence.
“Clearly, the first item on the agenda of an authoritarian minded party seeking absolute power is to destroy any opposition that can claim to be legitimate. The BNP can claim legitimacy despite its abysmally poor record when in office. Both parties have governed very badly. Rumour has circulated for a number of months that Mrs. Zia would be arrested on some charge or other, possibly on corruption, or perhaps as the Economist has suggested, on sedition. Given the control the government exercises over the courts, and the authoritarian mindset that seems to be inspiring the AL, speaking as opposition leader against the government could lead to a charge of sedition that the courts would uphold.
“One wonders, however, if the sudden crackdown on all opposition is not a preemptive move of a government that feels growing levels of dissatisfaction in the country. The AL has, it is assumed by many observers, managed to avoid popular discontent so far because the economy keeps chugging along at 5-6% growth, and poverty continues to decline, albeit at a fairly slow rate. The Prime Minister took to the media herself the other day to boast of the government’s plans for the future largely on empowering women and the underprivileged.

Heady promises for future
“One might infer that it was an effort to take peoples’ minds off the present and focus them on heady promises for the future. It is not clear to me, despite statistics that are almost always manipulated to make the government look better than it is, that the economic outlook is as rosy as many predict, especially in the rural areas. In any case, it is possible that Sheikh Hasina’s legitimacy may not be as solid as she thought it was, and she may have decided to hammer the opposition on the one hand and offer up bucolic visions of the future on the other to the masses.
“With most of the opposition locked up or clammed up or bought up ­the only voices of dissent I see in the English language press are from the Bangladeshi Diaspora – it is not certain that she can be stopped. The international community seems inclined to look the other way, perhaps believing that Bangladesh is a lost cause for democratization. India, which stands to lose most if instability becomes chronic and dysfunctional, seems unconcerned now. This, in itself, is a disincentive for those in Bangladesh who are opposed to the AL’s authoritarian ways to step up and voice dissent. Can the West, and will it try to, keep them out of jail and out of harm’s way?

Model of autocratic democracy?
“As one wag recently wrote that Sheikh Hasina has trained the Awami League ‘in the art of bullying, bashing, muzzling free voice, thuggery (sic.), creating and abolishing movements (like the Shahbag movement), creating an opposition party that is a part of her government and [whose leader] sits in her cabinet and votes in favor of the ruling party…’. She has, this anonymous writer says, created the ‘world’s first model of autocratic democracy’. (I note the author of this send up did not sign his name to the article. I also note that the BNP wasn’t bad at these same skills when in power.)
My guess, however, is that the democratic elements of civil society and the opposition parties will not bow down without a fight. Sooner or later, in the absence of a peaceful turnover of government, there will be violence ­and it may be pretty serious. We may regret our indifference. Among the other unwanted consequences of violence is usually an army takeover.”


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India’s spy agency RAW behind Rajapaksa’s defeat?

Shamsuddin Ahmed

REUTERS investigative report published by daily Mirror of Colombo on January 18 revealed the Indian spy agency RAW was behind the unexpected defeat of strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 mid-term presidential election in Sri Lanka. Delhi blessed opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena ousted President Rajapaksa who annoyed Delhi for tilting to Beijing.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

REUTERS investigative report published by daily Mirror of Colombo on January 18 revealed the Indian spy agency RAW was behind the unexpected defeat of strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 mid-term presidential election in Sri Lanka. Delhi blessed opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena ousted President Rajapaksa who annoyed Delhi for tilting to Beijing.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Tamil party (TNA) leader early last year he enquired whether it was possible for Sri Lankan minorities and opposition to unite. His indication was clear. Soon the RAW stationed in Colombo was activated. The spy masters cultivated the critics of Rajapaksa within his government including health minister Sirisena. They persuaded and allured him to come out of the government with those shared his views, join the opposition and contest Rajapaksa in the upcoming presidential election saying their task is to get him through in any way.

RAW facilitated secret meetings
In the process RAW facilitated clandestine meetings attended also by main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and TNA leader. They decided to put up a common candidate Sirisena against Rajapaksa. Reuters talked to certain MPs defected from the government party and officials to confirm the role of RAW in defeating Rajapaksa before releasing the revealing and sensational report.
The Rajapaksa government came to know the RAW conspiracy in late last year when it was too late. RAW station chief in Colombo whose name was not disclosed was expelled in December for involving in internal politics ­ to mobillize support for the opposition candidate. By the time the RAW chief left Colombo, all arrangements were complete to ensure the defeat of Rajapaksa.
India has often been involved in the internal politics of all neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka. In 1987 Delhi sent troops in a botched effort to broker peace between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels. A commentator in Colombo identified as Sumud wrote: “India is the country which ruined Sri Lanka by training and arming Tamil terrorists. No country in the world has done damage to Sri Lanka like India (did). What Indian wants is to keep this country under its heal and dictate terms to us. Former President (Rajapaksa) did not heed to the Indian dictates but acted like a leader with backbone. Let other leaders also act in the similar manner.” Another commentator wrote “if all this (Reuters report) is true, Ranil, Chandrika and Sirisena should come out with explanations to clear the public minds.”
Rajapaksa’s unexpected defeat after two terms in office coincided with growing concern in India that it was losing influence in Sri Lanka because of his tilt toward regional rival China. The concern turned to alarm late last year when Rajapaksa allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Sri Lanka without warning New Delhi as he should have under a standing agreement.
In less than a week of taking over power the Sirisena’s government suspended Northern Expressway project.

China-aided projects to be suspended
The 1billion dollar 300 km long highway project was awarded to Chinese construction firm for implementation. The government said the cost of the project is too high. Rajapaksa, who was given the credit in defeating LTTE ending over two  decades of bloody civil war, had ceremoniously launched the road project in November last year under a loan agreement with China. The new government also decided to stop payments for various “dubious transactions” with China. It is stipulated that other development projects awarded to China like the port city, airport and sea port will be suspended.
The Sirisena government took the steps when foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera was in Delhi. He flew to Delhi on the fifth day of the new President was sworn-in, showing the priority the Sri Lanka attached to India. Suspension of Chinese project during his stay in Delhi raised doubt if it was done at the behest of India.
Echoing the views expressed by India, Mangala told an interviewer of daily Hindu that there is no substance at all in the Reuters report that said RAW promoted opposition candidate in defeating Rajapaksa. Asked about Rajapaksa’s China tilt, he avoided direct reply and said the former President followed a paranoid foreign policy which the new government will correct. It is worth mentioning that Mangala was once foreign minister during the 13-year tenure of Rajapaksa.
Sunday Times of Singapore report under the heading “Loosening Beijing Embrace” said Sri Lanka’s new government move to review infrastructure projects awarded to China is bound to please India and western powers who are concerned about Beijing’s access in Sri Lanka. In fact, India was furious with Rajapaksa after he allowed Chinese submarines to dock in Sri Lankan port.
It is not Sri Lanka alone. RAW interfered in internal politics of all the neighbouring countries to promote that India’s henchmen rose to power.  According to legal experts, interference in internal affairs of another country is illegal.


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President el-Sisi: Islam’s Martin Luther?

Peter Smith

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has done what no other leader of an Islamic nation has dared: called on an assembly of imams to lead “a religious revolution” that renounces the jihadism which has made the creed a synonym for bloody outrage. Judging by the subdued applause he shouldn’t consider it a done deal.

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Peter Smith

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has done what no other leader of an Islamic nation has dared: called on an assembly of imams to lead “a religious revolution” that renounces the jihadism which has made the creed a synonym for bloody outrage. Judging by the subdued applause he shouldn’t consider it a done deal.

It seems too farfetched to be true. And the silence — so far as I can tell — of the mainstream media adds to the mystery. Did Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – a devout Muslim, despite his dislike of the Muslim Brotherhood — make an extraordinary and revelatory speech on New Year’s Day at Al-Azhar University in Cairo (a leading center for Islamic learning)? Did Sisi let the smelly cat out of the bag?
Are Muslims everywhere self-reflecting or trying to stuff the cat back in the bag lest the smell gets abroad? Is the mainstream media trying to ignore the smell in hope it will Shall but a doppelganger, the product of an Islamophobic stunt. Questions and still more questions, without answers at this stage.

The impossible task
For those in Australia who depend on the mainstream media for their news and are curious about ‘the speech’, here is a translated extract of it, as reported by Raymond Ibrahim on his own blog, on the Middle East Forum, on PJ Media and on a number of other online sites.
“I am referring to religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing – and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before. It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be the source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!
“That thinking – I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’ – that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!
“Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants –that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
“I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and umela – Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I am talking about now.
“All this that I am telling you; you cannot feel it if you remained trapped within this mindset. You need to be able to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.
“I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost – and it is being lost by our own hands.”

“There is no smelly cat’
The video, just posted on YouTube, can be viewed with subtitles below.
You can appreciate the extraordinary nature of the speech, measured against civilised standards. Imagine some Western leader saying: ‘Is it possible that two billion plus Christians should want to kill the rest of humanity so that they themselves can live?’ I will guess: it just might make the headlines, before the spoof was laid bare. But, apparently, if the reports are correct, this is no spoof. Welcome to the cockamamie world of Islam, where the leader of the largest Arab nation feels it necessary to reject an Islamic agenda to kill all non-believers.
He calls for a ‘religious revolution’ within Islam. And this is why I have my own doubts about the genuineness of speech. Why, if Islam is the religion of peace, as we are constantly being told, do the imams have to engineer a profound reformation? It quite simply doesn’t make sense, which is why I am puzzled. If, in fact, President Sisi has been correctly reported I suggest that he speak to President Obama, former President George W. Bush or Prime Minister Cameron, who will all be able to put him right.
Islam needs no reforming, Sisi! It is a religion of peace. Don’t you get that? Haven’t you been listening?
Every evil act, and they are legion — Sisi is right about that — perpetrated in the name of Islam are really being perpetrated by followers of a radical perversion of Islam. But don’t expect the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils or the Council on American-Islamic Relations or any other of the growing plethora of Islamic associations and groups in the Western world to echo President Sisi’s call.
I also doubt that many Imams, wherever they preach, will be lining up to reinterpret their scriptures — to turn themselves inside out in other words.  There is no reason to do so. Islam is already a religion of peace, remember.
Sisi must be talking through his hat. There is no smelly cat. It is clearly a false narrative cunningly crafted by infidels.
Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics
http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2015/01/islams-martin-luther/


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EP upset with situation in Bangladesh

Special Correspondent

The European Parliament (EP) delegation for South Asia has expressed “deep concern” over the spiralling political violence in Bangladesh.
In a statement, Chair of the delegation Jean Lambert termed the current situation “profoundly disturbing”.
She said, “Basic freedoms, including freedom of assembly, speech, and movement have to be respected by all political forces, without exception”.

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Special Correspondent

The European Parliament (EP) delegation for South Asia has expressed “deep concern” over the spiralling political violence in Bangladesh.
In a statement, Chair of the delegation Jean Lambert termed the current situation “profoundly disturbing”.
She said, “Basic freedoms, including freedom of assembly, speech, and movement have to be respected by all political forces, without exception”.

The delegation “strongly hopes that Government and Opposition will both demonstrate maximum restraint what has been lacking so far”.
“….a true willingness and responsibility to engage in genuine dialogue in order not to further endanger Bangladesh’s democratic course and development”.
Khaleda Zia’s BNP has been enforcing a Bangladesh-wide blockade since Jan 5 after police prevented her from leading street protests against her archrival Sheikh Hasina.
But the blockade has triggered ripples of violence that has left more than two dozen people killed and scores injured in acts of arson and bomb explosions.
BNP was planning to observe Jan 5 as ‘Democracy Murder Day’ to mark a year of the 2014 elections they boycotted.


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Dialogue is the only way out

Mohammad Ali Sattar

The nation is once again in grip of fearsome politics. It is not the first time that we are faced with such political conditions, but this juncture appears to be more threatening as we stand further divided and opinionated. 

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Mohammad Ali Sattar

The nation is once again in grip of fearsome politics. It is not the first time that we are faced with such political conditions, but this juncture appears to be more threatening as we stand further divided and opinionated. 

Reports of deaths, killings, loot, arson and economic losses have turned us into a demoralized bunch of morons.  We are in effect paralyzed. We lost our vision to behold and our cerebral circuit has failed.  
Since late 1972, we have been either witness to or victims of political impasse. Scruffy tales of political crisis and killings keep us haunting.
Circumstances got more explosive as we have added parties and additional interests involved. Undemocratic violent political acts, illicit financial deals and power capture by means of manipulation of state machinery have brought things at a point of no return.

PM’s gutsy more
The growing mistrust between two big political parties (AL & BNP) directly connects a major political concern of the state with a new challenge to democracy. It was apparently a gutsy move by the Prime Minister to do away with the caretaker system, but later events turned divisive.
National polls under Awami League government were never likely to be accepted by BNP and allies, the trouble started there. Recall the December 2013 and January 2014 events. The last one year had not been peaceful. Tacit political unrest grew thicker with the time.
There was repeated attempt by BNP and allies for fresh polls under a caretaker government. Each time the government has hammered these down.
AL acted with force. One by one, movement efforts by the opposition were neutralized. 
However much the government tries to put the dissent, down there will remain the angst among the sympathizers and activists of the opposition and these are being vented in various forms. The upshot of the government action and the opposition response are there for all to see.
BNP and its allies suffered from the penetration of politics by violence in the street. However, sympathizers say, they have no options but to resort to violence to make the government listen to the opposition voice. 
The problem of ‘violence ‘and ‘blockade’ enforced by the BNP led parties have been the highlighted topic in both national and international media. Instead of hiding or denying the problem, BNP leaders call for international solidarity and action. The recent meeting of the diplomats from EU and other countries with the BNP leaders and later with the foreign minister is one such event.
Voice of the government gets louder and harsher. The Prime Minister has made it clear that every measure would be taken to contain the ‘opposition acts’. So we expect more acerbic treatment for the opposition activists.

Heading towards nowhere
The hard-line declarations come out every day from the government quarters. Ministers, advisers and senior party members warn the opposition of dire consequences if any of their members is caught red handed by the ‘people’ while committing vandalism. Pro-government activists might now treat us with acts of lynching of opposition members.
The police and Rab bosses have given out statements against the opposition. These drew flak from certain quarters who termed the statements ‘political’. 
The BGB chief threatened to use lethal weapons in the event of any attack or threat to the BGB members or the public.  Of course, right to self-defense is always there. Nevertheless, ‘shoot to kill’ is a risky venture, as such; the decision towards this ought to be worked out in the right frame of mind.
The growing rift between the parties has boosted the TV panel debaters. There remarks and comments are sometimes incisive and enlightening, but somewhere along the line it appears we are heading nowhere.
There is a clear and unanimous perception that the increased animosity between parties and growing influence of confrontational minds in subduing political decision-making is indeed a major challenge to our democracy.
Money generated from illicit financing, quick-buck operations, gold and human trafficking, finds its way into politics and buys shares of political power.
Then the political immorality creeps in. Power is abused to make suitable changes in the constitution and other legal statues, distorting the will of citizens and eroding the very credibility of democracy.

Open democracy is vulnerable
States in transition towards a more open and deeper democracy are more vulnerable: democratization is always about changing entrenched power structures and networks in society. While a consolidated democracy should provide for stability, transitional stages may be destabilizing and often violent.
Today we stand dangerously divided. The government and the opposition sit unyielding. It is a state of war.
There is an overwhelming complexity of addressing the problem effectively because it often has socio-economical and structural root causes.
We need a multi-pronged approach covering security and law enforcement, but also one, which seeks to make democratic institutions more effective, particularly in delivering social and economic development, thus enabling political actors to respond to popular needs and to make society more resistant to the pressure of unlawful network.
Even if we witness bloodiest scenes and thrashing of social and economic configuration, in the end, a compromise will be the only end, and the only means would be ‘dialogue’.


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Vandalism in Nepal Constituent Assembly

Special Correspondent

The deadline for promulgating the constitution of Nepal ended on January 22 with no result. The constituent assembly (CA) has been convened to meet at 11 am Thursday as the last effort. But it seems the CA has fallen into a confrontation mood and the leaders stopped sitting for talks. Interparty relations continued to be bitter at this critical time. Consensus based constitution looks nowhere in sight.  Even adopting the constitution drafted by the ruling Congress-UML through voting looks impossible with the opposition determined to obstruct.

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Special Correspondent

The deadline for promulgating the constitution of Nepal ended on January 22 with no result. The constituent assembly (CA) has been convened to meet at 11 am Thursday as the last effort. But it seems the CA has fallen into a confrontation mood and the leaders stopped sitting for talks. Interparty relations continued to be bitter at this critical time. Consensus based constitution looks nowhere in sight.  Even adopting the constitution drafted by the ruling Congress-UML through voting looks impossible with the opposition determined to obstruct.

The CA had witnessed the ugliest scene of vandalism early hours Tuesday.  Fighting broke out as the Speaker Subash Nembang prepared to put the draft constitution to vote. The opposition led by UCPN (Maoist) resorted to vandalism, throwing chairs and microphones to obstruct adoption of the draft through voting without consensus. The ruling coalition has two-thirds majority needed for adopting the constitution without Maoist support. Scuffle left four security personnel injured and damage of furniture worth Rs. 30 lakh. Hours after on Tuesday morning the opposition enforced countrywide strike. The strikers resorted to arson.

Maoists apologized
The vandalism in parliament evoked condemnation at home and abroad, blaming the Maoist party.  However, good sense has dawned among the Maoists later. UCPN (Maoist) at a press conference on Wednesday admitted their mistake. Regretting the incident in parliament party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda said it was a mistake and committed to correct their behaviour. His deputy Baburam Bhattarai said vandalism was not pre-planned as alleged by the government.  Explaining he said their purpose was only to stage peaceful protest, to block adoption of the constitution without reaching consensus. But confusion surrounded the lawmakers. “We are ready to correct the mistake,” he said.
Disagreement among the major parties persisted on crucial issues. The opposition seeks for new provinces to be created along lines that could favour historically marginalised communities, like the untouchable Dalits and the Madhesi ethnic minority. Other parties say such a move would be divisive and a threat to national unity.
Nepal has had two elections and six prime ministers since the civil war between Maoist insurgents and the government ended in 2006. But its warring political parties have failed to make headway on disputed issues and conclude the peace process.
India which wields much influence in landlocked Nepal’s politics is likely to use its leverage in Kathmandu to maintain its domination in the country. In a carefully worded statement on Tuesday issued by the external affairs ministry said Nepal is deeply polarized. A constitutional draft - let alone a new constitution ­ now appears impossible.  Instability in the northern neighbour will have a direct impact on India, given the open border. The failure of the constitutional process will threaten prospects of democratic consolidation, strengthen right and left wing extremists in Kathmandu, and jeopardize the bilateral relations. India cannot remain silent.  Delhi should use its leverage in Kathmandu to pull back Nepali parties from the brink.
The statement further said it may be possible to draft a statute through the majority vote, but this will not be owned by key political forces or social groups. And such a constitution will lead to only more conflict, which will add to India’s strategic concerns.


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