Pakistan’s battle against terror groups had mixed results over the last fortnight. While the Pakistani army regained control of large parts of Swat, the Lahore High Court released Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity banned by the UN and believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terror group behind the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.
Sri Lanka claimed a major diplomatic victory during a UN Human Rights Council special session, when 29 of 47 countries opposed a call by Western Europe to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the Lankan army operations against Tamil Tigers.
After two years of detention, the Indian Supreme Court released Binayak Sen, a human rights activist who crticized Chhattisgarh’s use of an armed militia to fight Maoists. The release raised questions about the Chhattisgarh government’s anti-insurgency policies and its efforts to silence dissidents.
Pakistan's Military Success in Swat
On May 29, the Pakistan Army announced that it regained control of Mingora , the Taliban's main stronghold in Swat and claimed that over 1200 militants had been killed. Commentators lauded the army's success, but many expressed concern about the government's slow response to the growing refugee crisis, with more than 2.5 million people displaced by the military operation.
applauds the Pakistani army's initial success in Swat and writes that the United States can better fight the insurgency in Afghanistan by adopting Pakistan 's strategy of using overwhelming force.
criticizes the media for giving airtime to experts who advocated negotiating with the Taliban. No political solution is possible because Pakistan and the Taliban have no common interests.
Conservative Islam, Pashtun tribalism, and geography inhospitable to the Pakistani army explain the Taliban's growth in North West Frontier Province. The absence of these three factors in other parts of Pakistan will limit the Taliban's appeal, predicts Javed Jabbar
Hafiz Saeed Released
The Lahore High Court ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed
, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), an Islamic charity the UN named a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Responding to international pressure to crack down on JuD, Pakistan arrested Saeed in January 2009. India expressed its unhappiness
over the court's decision. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, initially called the release disturbing, before declaring it an internal matter
for Pakistan the following day.
explains that Pakistan had to let Saeed go because the UN resolution banning JuD, which Pakistan used to justify Saeed's detention, did not call for the arrest of particular individuals. Without further grounds for detention, the case against Saeed was weak.
Pakistan was able to release Saeed because its offensive against the Taliban has led to reduced international criticism of its inaction against terrorism, writes B. Raman
Binayak Sen Freed
On May 25, Indian human rights activist Binayak Sen, was released on bail by the Supreme Court after two years of controversial imprisonment. Sen, a pediatrician who worked with tribes in Chhattisgarh, a state battling a Maoist insurgency, was arrested for having connections with Maoists. A strident critic of the Chhattisgarh government's decision to arm the Salwa Judum against the Maoists, Sen's case gained international attention when twenty-two Nobel Laureates signed a letter demanding his release in May 2008.
appeals for attention to remain focused on the Chhattisgarh government, which targets activists and NGOs that assist those displaced by Salwa Judum's violence.
A Chhattisgarh law made it difficult for Binayak Sen to be released on bail before the Supreme Court decision overruled it. Business Standard
calls for a stricter review of state laws when they are presented for presidential approval.
Attacks on Indians in Australia
Eight separate incidents of violence against Indian students in the last three weeks have created diplomatic tension between India and Australia. Speaking in Parliament, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned the attacks after 3000 Indian students rallied in Melbourne on May 31 against what they perceive as racism. Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan turned down an honorary degree from an Australian university in protest over the attacks.
The Times of India
warns that Australia could lose many of the 95,000 Indian students, who contribute $1.6 billion to the Australian economy, if it does not swiftly counter the perception that they are the target of racist attacks.
The attacks on Indian students are rooted in fear among Australian youth that Indians are taking away jobs, already scarce in a faltering economy, writes Sanjay Srivastava
Zoya Hasan debunks the idea that Indian Muslims give highest priority to their religious identity when they vote. Muslims voted for parties likely to provide security and jobs rather than candidates endorsed by clerics in the recent Indian elections, she writes.
Trends from Indian Elections
Political dynasties have become further entrenched in India after the recent elections. Vir Sanghvi
bemoans the trend and hopes that Rahul Gandhi's attempt to increase intra-party democracy in the Congress inspires other political parties to do the same.
Sri Lanka at UN Human Rights Council
On May 26, Switzerland submitted a resolution supported by Western European countries at the UN Human Rights Council
, to investigate allegations of war crimes by the Sri Lankan army during the military offensive against LTTE and grant international aid agencies direct access to more than 300,000 people displaced by the war. China, Russia, India and Pakistan opposed the resolution and presented an alternate resolution calling for the UN to cooperate with the Sri Lankan government in providing humanitarian assistance.
Upul Joseph Fernando
writes that India 's stance is a continuation of its long standing policy of supporting Sri Lanka at the UN.
Challenging the idea that India has supported Sri Lanka unfailingly, B. Raman
points out that India filed a motion against Sri Lanka at the UN in 1983, when Indian Tamil families learned of its attempt to conceal the deaths of many Tamils in the Colombo riots. India supported Sri Lanka this time partly because it did not receive similar information.
M. V. Bhadrakumar
explains that China 's interest in using the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota and India 's fear of losing influence in Sri Lanka to China led the two to oppose Switzerland 's resolution.
Cyclone Aila Hits Bangladesh, West Bengal
On May 25, Cyclone Aila ripped through Bangladesh and the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, killing more than 200 people and displacing nearly 500,000. The cyclone, which broke through many embankments and raised fears of a cholera outbreak because of the scarcity of potable water. Sunderbans, home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger, was the worst hit area. Environmentalists fear that many tigers were washed away.
Building strong embankments after the Sidr cyclone in 2007 could have saved many from disease and death after Aila, writes the Daily Star
. The government must organize a task force to oversee the building of embankments.
Criticizing the ruling Awami League's attempt to prevent a Bangladesh Nationalist Party lawmaker from conducting relief operations in his district, the New Age
writes that an apolitical, coordinated relief effort is necessary to minimize post-cyclone deaths.
The Path Ahead for Nepal
Nepal celebrated the first anniversary of the abolition of the monarchy on May 29. Commentators speculated about the future of Maoists in Nepal given their contentious relationship with the army, and the long term economic development of the country.
Urban elites who supported the erstwhile monarchy kept soldiers from rural areas, the Maoists' main support base, out of the army's top positions. Abhijit Bhattacharya
asserts that the Maoists, who led the movement which ended monarchy, distrust the army because they are unsure of the loyalty of its commanders.
Nepal 's new government should exploit its strategic location by allowing transit links between China and India and attracting tourists from both countries, writes Sujeev Shakya
A national consensus on fighting militants, stable relations with India , and a trust-based relationship with the United States are necessary for Pakistan to successfully confront extremism, said Ambassador Tariq Fatemi, senior foreign policy advisor to Nawaz Sharif, chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League. Fatemi discussed the domestic, regional, and international challenges Pakistan is facing, and its prospects for success at a recent Carnegie event.
CARNEGIE EVENTS & ANALYSIS