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World Agenda: is South Asia falling apart? -Times Online

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  • World Agenda: is South Asia falling apart? -Times Online

    I think unstable countries around India will create major problems, which already started. When Pakistan and many others are under negeative GDP growth, India is growing at a rate of 7%. Those countries with many territorial, ethnic, communal, governmental problems and above all there is a probability of military-rule would effect India miserably. So far most of these are somehow spread into India as well but she is immensely resilient and has much more powerful national integrity and powerful democracy. We should be well prepared and take proper actions to make South Asia a stable region.

    From Times Online
    February 27, 2009

    World Agenda: is South Asia falling apart?

    Michael Binyon

    Rioting in the Punjab. A military mutiny in Bangladesh. The seizure and intimidation of a newspaper editor in Sri Lanka. Is South Asia falling apart? Is instability about to engulf a region that is home to a third of the world’s population?

    In each case, the violence comes after a long period of mounting tension. In Pakistan, the clashes were sparked by popular anger that the Supreme Court has barred Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader and leading politician from Punjab, from holding office.

    In Bangladesh, thousands of mutinous troops from the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles went on the rampage to demand higher pay, better conditions and longer holidays.

    And in Sri Lanka, the police arrest of a Tamil editor attending a funeral came as government troops are on the brink of victory in the long-running war against Tamil Tiger separatists.
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    The causes of the violence differ. But there is a common underlying theme: in each case, anger is rising at the failure of government to cope with looming challenges. The consequences could be dire. Each of the three countries is teetering on the edge of breakdown. Rioting and popular demonstrations will only exacerbate the problems and the tensions.

    In Pakistan, the violence in Punjab is directly related to the political turmoil unleashed in the final year of rule by President Musharraf and the chaotic conditions in which a civilian government succeeded him. The two largest parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League, are regionally based, each drawing their strength largely from the country’s two main provinces — the PPP from Sind and the Muslim League from Punjab.

    The rivalry between Asif Zardari, widow of the assassinated former party leader Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, the leader ousted by General Musharraf’s coup in 1999, is intense. They briefly formed a government of national unity as a way of forcing Mr Musharraf from office last August, but swiftly fell out over whether he should be prosecuted and all dismissed judges reinstated. Within weeks Mr Sharif withdrew his ministers and went into opposition.

    Both leaders are now in a struggle for supremacy. But both feel vulnerable because of previous court convictions that have been set aside. Each party is therefore trying to use the courts, almost the only civil institution still widely respected, to gain political advantage. And few people in Punjab believe that the latest ruling, disqualifying Mr Sharif and his brother, currently the province’s chief minister, from political office is free of pressure by President Zardari.

    The riots are a warning to the Government that it has already lost popular support, failing to tackle religious extremism, failing to quell the rebellions in the tribal provinces and, above all, failing to curb inflation, unemployment and economic decline exacerbated by the global downturn.

    A similar perception of both political and economic failure now dogs the government of Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh. The mutiny was sparked by anger among the 42,000-strong border guard force at low pay and shorter food rations than the regular army. But it represents the general anger of many in government employment at stagnant or falling living standards.

    This, too, is a warning to a civilian government that returned to office only in December. The previous military government had disbanded the two main parties and promised a clean-up of Bangladesh’s notoriously corrupt politics. Sheikh Hasina is one of the two “battling begums” — widows of murdered politicians who have divided the country in the long feud and who were both initially banned and investigated for corruption by the military government.

    There is a real danger now that the mutiny, although brought to an end for now, will be echoed by the traditional rivals of Mrs Hasina’s party. The military coup was meant to end a culture of corruption. But if the result of the election has returned not only civilian rule but some of the discredited politicians to power, frustration in Bangladesh will grow — especially as the recession begins to cut the country’s already low living standards.

    In Sri Lanka, the fear among the Tamils and many moderate Sinhalese is that the present Government, flushed with its victory over the Tamil Tigers, is seeking not reconciliation but triumph. There is a growing intolerance of any criticism of the military campaign, of the plans for dealing with Tamil refugees and of anyone still proposing autonomy for the former secessionist regions.

    Many Sri Lankans are delighted that the 20-year civil war seems to be ending. But many are also deeply worried that the seeds of future conflict are being sown. The arrest and murder of newspaper critics are an ominous sign that free speech may be one of the casualties of the war, along with any hopes for a measure of autonomy for the Tamils.

    The three conflicts are on the periphery of India, which appears far more stable and settled than its neighbours. But with a general election coming in May, tensions will inevitably grow there and political frustrations rise. India is immensely resilient, however, and has a deeply embedded tradition of democracy. Whether this is enough to overcome the looming economic difficulties or help its turbulent neighbours remains to be seen.

    US sees South Asia rights problems

    2 days ago

    WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States has reported widespread human rights violations across South Asia but also noted glimmers of hope thanks to political transitions in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

    In an annual report on human rights, the State Department said abuses remained rife in South Asia with major problems in the treatment of women in much of the region.

    But the report saw progress as Pakistan shook off military rule, Nepal's insurgents transformed into a ruling party and a caretaker government guided Bangladesh into elections. Bhutan and Maldives also witnessed dramatic changes.

    "There were several improvements with regard to elections and political competition in South Asia," the study said.

    The State Department said that Pakistan -- a frontline ally in the US "war on terror" -- had a poor human rights record due to extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances.

    But the report said the number of politically motivated disappearances declined last year, during which military leader Pervez Musharraf -- who had imposed a state of emergency -- stepped down.

    It saved some of its harshest criticism for Pakistan's prison system, which it called "extremely poor" with serious overcrowding, inadequate food and frequent abuse of non-Muslim inmates.

    The State Department also deplored Pakistan's treatment of women, saying that few men were punished for crimes from severe domestic violence to gang rape to so-called "honor killings" of family members.

    The State Department said that the rights situation remained weak in Afghanistan, despite improvements since the 2001 invasion that toppled the Taliban regime.

    It acknowledged that President Hamid Karzai's government lacked control over much of Afghanistan. Citing rights groups, the report said local law enforcement tortured detainees, including by pulling out their nails, burning them with oil and sodomy.

    The State Department said that India -- the region's largest country and the world's biggest democracy -- generally respected human rights.

    But the report said that most extrajudicial killings and other abuse cases went unpunished and it voiced concern about "increasing attacks" against religious minorities in the secular but Hindu-majority nation.

    The report also noted "serious problems" in India in treatment of women, including killings related to dowry payments and infanticide of baby girls.

    One of the bleakest points in the region was Sri Lanka, where the State Department said both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels commited a growing number of abuses as the three-decade war climaxes.

    It said that young Tamil men made up the "overwhelming majority" of victims of human rights violations, even though Tamils make up only 16 percent of the population in the Sinhalese-majority nation.

    By contrast, the report found that violence "declined significantly" last year in Bangladesh, where a caretaker government oversaw elections.

    The State Department, however, said that human rights remained a "serious concern" in Bangladesh with authorities failing to investigate extrajudicial killings.

    In Nepal, the State Department noted that elections produced the "most diverse legislature in the country's history" and peacefully dissolved the monarchy -- the goal of a bloody decade-long Maoist insurrection.

    But the report said there was still an atmosphere of impunity for rights violators and that groups linked to the Maoists -- now in the government -- continued abuses in the former kingdom.

    The State Department said the rights "improved considerably" in the Himalayan state of Bhutan as it transitioned from a monarchy to a democracy.

    It also noted the transition in Maldives, where former political prisoner Mohamed Nasheed ousted Asia's longest serving leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the archipelago's first multi-party election.
    Last edited by Tajmahal; 28 Feb 09,, 09:31.