SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Deception, political maneuvers and desperate struggle to conserve, secure and seize power have marked year 2006 in Nepal. The wanton violence of the past years has been contained within the framework of a ‘peace process’, with at least two of the principal parties in conflict – the dominant Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) that has cobbled together a Government at Kathmandu – engaged in negotiations. It is, however, far too early for celebrations, and the endgame is still to manifest its contours in the Himalayan Kingdom.
The most significant development is, without doubt, the cessation of hostilities and the ensuing efforts to manage the peace. That said, the consequent political developments, essentially oriented to a consolidation of Maoist dominance, are bound to be complex and uncertain. The pace of consequences of the April 2006 Jana Andolan (People’s Movement) against King Gyanendra’s ‘direct rule’ has been, rightly or otherwise, far too swift and complex for orthodox political forces to evaluate. While the average Nepalese exults over the current state of play, the proximate future may well prove to be the most perilous and critical phase for contemporary Nepal.
Fatalities in Nepal, 2001-2006
* Data till December 15
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal
The evident peace of the post-April 24, 2006 period across Nepal, with fatalities falling steeply and the Government-Maoist détente holding, has exponentially fed hope in the war-wracked nation. There is, nevertheless, substantial residual cause for pessimism, especially in view of Nepal’s own past trajectory on negotiations, as also the rather dismal record of cease-fires and peace processes in South Asia – the Sri Lankan case being an immediate and tragic reminder.
On December 15, 2006, the ruling SPA and the Maoists finalised a Draft Interim Constitution, which relegated the King to the margins. Maoist negotiator Dev Gurung declared: "Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala will act as the head of the state till the elections to the Constituent Assembly to be held in mid-June next year... The King will remain suspended till that period and his fate will be decided by the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly."
While King Gyanendra – and with him, Nepal’s doomed monarchy – gradually becomes history, the ultimate winners in the long-drawn contest for power will be the Maoists. The current regime in Kathmandu, with not inconsiderable assistance from other quarters – including India and a bemused ‘international community’ – has allowed the Maoists to dictate terms. As a result, the insurgents’ roadmap to power is being significantly implemented. Essentially, the Maoists are consolidating through negotiations what they had secured through violence in their ten-year "peoples’ war" in which at least 13,000 lives were lost. The current and unbalanced equation of power in Kathmandu is a direct consequence of the insurgency the Maoists have sustained since 1996.
The current ‘peace process’ crystallized on August 9, 2006, when the Government and the Maoists arrived at a Five Point Agreement to seek the assistance of the United Nations (UN) in the peace process and ‘to create a free and fair atmosphere for the election to a Constituent Assembly’. The five points agreed to were:
Thereafter, in the wake of hectic and often tense negotiations, Prime Minister G.P. Koirala and Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal a.k.a. Prachanda signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) 2006, on November 21, bringing the decade-long armed insurgency officially to an end and promising to chart a new destiny for a "peaceful and democratic" "new Nepal". The ten-point CPA included provisions on human rights, civil and political rights, arms and army management, socio-economic transformation, et al. Koirala declared: "Beginning today, the politics of killing, violence and terror will be replaced by the politics of reconciliation." But Prachanda’s endorsement of the CPA was more combative and triumphal: "The continuity of 238-year-old tradition has been broken now. This is the victory of Nepalese people and the loss of regressive elements."
After another five days of deliberations, the two sides – represented by the Coordinator of the Government’s talks’ team, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Situala, and Maoist Chief Negotiator, Krishna Prasad Mahara – signed a further ‘Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies’ on November 28, at Kathmandu. The salient features of this Agreement included:
The difficulties that confront the arms management scheme are manifold: identification of insurgents and ‘irregulars’; detecting and defining the Maoist chain of command; the two sides have to provide information on the number of ‘fighters’, who they are, what their chain of command is – a system fraught with risk, since Maoist good faith cannot be taken for granted, and the Nepalese Army’s structure and personnel are clearly documented; managing the Maoist combatants within the camps and keeping them engaged, etc. Further, the storage terms clearly favour the insurgents, imposing parity with the Nepalese Army. An immense quantum of faith has evidently been placed on the Maoists and the manner in which they choose to utilize their access to arms. The Maoists have repeatedly violated the terms of the Ceasefire Agreement in the past, and it is not clear that they would abruptly change to accommodate the letter and spirit of the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies. The tremendous challenges of arms and cadre management have tended to be underplayed by all players in the present ‘peace process’, but these are more than evident, for instance, in Sri Lanka and even in Nagaland in India’s Northeast. In Nagaland, the problems of managing barely 700 armed cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak Muivah (actual strength of around 2500) in four designated camps have proven insurmountable even for a stable and powerful state like India. How a weak and volatile Kathmandu will meet the challenges of cease-fire supervision remains to be seen. The truth of the various ‘agreements’ in Nepal lies in their small print: As long as the Maoists retain their armed capacity, they will continue to exercise decisive influence on the political process, and will secure a defining role in the future of Nepal.
Amidst the hectic negotiations and politicking, for instance, the Maoists, on the ground, continue to recruit and extort. Kantipur reported on November 15, 2006, that the Maoists were undertaking fresh recruitment drives in the districts of Ilam in far eastern Nepal, Sankhuwasabha in the north-east and Surkhet and Rupendehi in western Nepal. General Secretary of the Nepali Congress, Ram Chandra Poudel, said the Maoists were luring youths by offering monetary rewards. The Maoist recruitment slogan, according to Kantipur, was "Peace has returned to our country. Join our army and get 7,000 rupees (100 US dollars) a month." The Kathmandu Post quoted a security official in Sankhuwasabha District as stating that the Maoists planned to recruit 525 people from the District as they failed to meet the target of 5,000 insurgents to be housed in a UN supervised cantonment in Ilam in eastern Nepal.
Significantly, the ‘peace process’ is yet to rid the country of violence and intimidation. 43 persons were reportedly killed during the first six months after the reinstatement of Parliament on April 24, 2006. A report released by the National Human Rights Commission on December 11 said the state was responsible for the killings of 11 persons whereas the CPN-Maoist was responsible for 15. Five persons were killed by 'retaliation' groups, seven by local villagers and unknown groups and five persons were killed in stray bomb explosions. The report said "security forces were involved in beating and intimidating the public transport staffers. Similarly, the CPN-Maoist were also found continuing with tortures under different pretexts in various Districts including Kailali, Nepaljung, Bhaktapur, Dolakha, Rupendehi, Kaski." A continuous chain of abductions, forcible recruitment – including child recruitment – and other violations of the cease fire terms, blatantly justified by various Maoist leaders, have regularly marred the ‘peace’.
The Maoists have also intensified their efforts to stop the relocation of police posts (initiatives are underway to relocate police posts that were displaced in the past) in several parts of the country. Insurgents reportedly declared that they would not allow police post relocation till an Interim Government including them is formed. Maoists are currently obstructing such relocation in the Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre and Sankhuwasabha, Doti, Kanchanpur and Achham Districts. The Maoists are also barring Village Development Committee secretaries from returning to their respective villages.
It is evident that the Maoists do not plan to squander away the ‘rewards’ that they have seized through the ‘barrel of the gun’, and will certainly not barter away their stronghold on the ground (all 75 districts are Maoist-affected) for an equal place in the democratic process. Under the circumstances, only the incurable optimist could doubt that the Maoists would continue to seek to enforce their agenda on Nepal. It is useful, within this context, to remind ourselves that the constituent elements of the SPA leadership have a miserable record of governance and bickering, and are largely responsible for the turmoil in Nepal. Unless an unexpected consensus visits the SPA and non-Maoist political spectrum in the country, no solution – other than one eventually imposed by the Maoists – can be permanent.
On November 28, 2006, the Supreme Court rejected the petitions of six militant leaders and cadres of the Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), seeking permission to appeal against a High Court judgment upholding the death sentences awarded to them by a trial court in Jhalakathi. A total of seven persons (including the six arrested and one absconding member) had been convicted on May 29 2006, for their involvement in the killing of two Senior Assistant Judges, Jagannath Pandey and Sohel Ahmed, at Purba Chadkati in Jhalakathi town on November 14, 2005. The convicts include JMB chief Abdur Rahman, the second-in-command and the chief of the Jagrata Janata Muslim Bangladesh (JMJB) Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, Majlish-e-Shura (the highest decision-making body of the JMB) members Ataur Rahman Sunny, Abdul Awal, and Khaled Saifullah, bomber Iftekhar al Mamun and Asadul Islam alias Arif, who is still absconding. This leaves the JMB leaders and cadres, some of whom had reportedly shown a great deal of resistance in filing the petitions to the Supreme Court, left with the sole option of appealing for Presidential mercy within seven days of the official communication of the Supreme Court order. The official communication of the order, however, is yet to be conveyed to the convicted militants.
Bangladesh, which appeared to be rapidly consolidating its position as a potential refuge for Islamist extremist and terrorism in the early years after 9/11, appears to be showing some signs of recovery. The high point of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh was reached in the August 14, 2005, country-wide explosions, and further demonstrated through a series of attacks targeting judicial institutions in the country between October and December 2005. After this, the Government not only managed to arrest the entire top brass of the JMB and JMJB, but has also secured the final judicial verdict on their fate.
Celebrations, however, would be premature, and there is something amiss even in the ‘success’ against the JMB-JMJB. A great deal had been written about JMB’s ‘extensive network’ of ‘100,000 cadres and sympathizers’ and a group of ‘2000 suicide bombers’, as well as its nexus with international terror networks such as the al Qaeda. However, the collapse of the JMB-JMJB combine within eight months of the August 15, 2005, blasts (the last of the Shura member, Khaled Saifullah was arrested on April 26, 2006) suggests an efficiency of intelligence and operation that militates against the possibility of the groups’ free operation over the two preceding years. It is, indeed, increasingly evident that the rather swift neutralization of this particular stream of Islamist militancy is intended to quickly and permanently bury these groups’ ominous linkages with certain power centres in the country.
It is now well-documented that Islamist militancy has thrived in Bangladesh under a regime which not only tolerated its growth but also sought to benefit from the reign of terror it unleashed. Confessions of the ‘operations commander’ of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), Mufti Abdul Hannan, arrested on and under detention since October 1, 2005, brought out the dynamics of the Islamist movement in the country. In a 19-page note on November 19, 2006, Hannan, while admitting his role in several past explosions, including those targeting the Awami League (AL) leader Sheikh Hasina, also threw lights on the contours of Islamist mobilization, the generous flow of funds from abroad and the rather unmonitored madrassa (seminary) network in the country that facilitated recruitment and training of cadres. Hannan narrated his experiences in India where he was educated in the Deoband madrassa and the Aligarh Muslim University; in Afghanistan, where he fought along with the ‘holy warriors’ against the Soviet Forces; and his stint at ‘educational’ institutions in Karachi in Pakistan, a trajectory many of the Islamist extremist leaders in South Asia share.
Indications of Hannan’s linkages with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led regime were provided by his statements issued to the media and subsequently to the Court following his arrest. On October 2, 2005, Hannan, who claimed to be a supporter of the BNP-led four-party alliance, stated: "Soon after the [BNP-led] coalition had assumed power, I submitted a mercy petition to the Prime Minister, Home Minister and some other ministers and in reply they assured me that they will let me off." Providing more specifics, Hannan also claimed that BNP leader and the then Commerce Minister, Altaf Hossain Choudhury, who was formerly Bangladesh’s Home Minister, had assured him of protection and guaranteed his freedom following his involvement in the assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in July 2000. Hannan added, further, "The Minister advised me to submit a mercy petition and asked me not to move openly until the situation normalizes. Although I submitted a mercy petition, the Home Minister was made Commerce Minister before he could do anything for mercy to me." Hannan went on to state that he did not flee the country because of the Minister's assurance. Moulana Muhinuddin, a leader of the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), which was a partner in the four-party alliance, played the role of intermediary man in arranging for Hannan’s meeting with Altaf Hossain Choudhury. Choudhury, incidentally, also served as the Chief of Bangladesh Air Force. Reports have also indicated linkages between Choudhury’s nephew Shakil and Hannan.
Significantly, there was an official clampdown on the reportage of statements provided by the arrested militants to the Courts during the trial process, and the Press was barred from covering the Court proceedings. The BNP-led alliances’ ministers, including the much-talking Minister of State for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar, have not explained the Government’s apprehensions that led to the gag order. Incidentally, details of Hannan’s confessions were provided only after the BNP-led alliance had handed over power to the caretaker Government, in the run-up to General Elections.
Several commentators have stressed that the secular cultural fabric of Bangladesh militates against the rise of a fundamentalist Islam. However, what has been evident is the presence of equally significant and influential power centres that remain committed to the growth of radical Islamism. Thus, on December 2, 2006, the detained chief of Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (AHAB), Asadullah Al Galib, was elevated to the post of a Professor at the Department of Arabic in the Rajshahi University. The 61-year-old Galib, under arrest since February 2005, was accused in eight cases of bombings. Of these, he has been acquitted in five, is facing trial in two, while one is under investigation. On December 13, the High Court granted a six-month bail to Galib in a bomb blast case in Bogra.
While it would be erroneous to believe that Bangladesh has already emerged from the trough of chaos and disorder perpetuated by the Islamist militancy it has certainly entered into a reign of political pandemonium marked by considerable violence in several districts. Ahead of the elections to the 300-member Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly) in January 2007, the search for a Chief Advisor (CA) to head the Caretaker Government, followed by a search for an acceptable Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), and again followed by demands for correcting the faulty voters’ list, have each been met with quick-fix solutions, retaining their potential to provoke further discontent and polarisation. Amidst rejections of each others’ candidates by the BNP and the AL, President Iaujuddin Ahmed assumed responsibility as CA on October 29. Similarly, after the controversial CEC, M.A. Aziz, proceeded on a three-month leave on November 22, one of the election commissioners, Justice Mahfuzur Rahman, assumed charge as the acting CEC on November 23. Justice Rahman’s neutrality has also been questioned by the AL-led 14 party alliance, which also demanded the removal of two other election commissioners, S.M. Zakaria and Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury. Similarly, the long-standing demand of the AL-led alliance for correcting the controversial voters’ list, which allegedly contains names of 10 million fake voters, is reportedly being met by the EC through an eight-day exercise starting December 6. The exercise, marked by acute shortage of registration forms, was extended till December 18. Acute political polarization has also led to a postponement in the polling schedule originally announced to be held on January 21, 2007. On December 8, the AL-led 14-party coalition jointly issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the caretaker government to implement fully a package of proposals, threatening that the alliance would not participate in the elections in the event of non-compliance. The demands include the reconstitution of the EC, updating of the voters’ list, rescheduling of the polls schedule and restoration of neutrality of the administration. The President’s December 9 action of deploying the Army to maintain law and order seems to have infuriated the Opposition further.
The BNP is widely alleged to have used its five-year rule to create an efficient machinery for its comeback to power through a process of forced retirements, contractual appointments, and preferential promotions and postings. Before it relinquished power, for instance, it appointed 30 Deputy Commissioners (DC) in as many Districts. The Caretaker Government did initiate a process of revamping the bureaucracy by way of transfers and fresh appointments, but considering the size of the bureaucracy and the little time at its disposal, such measures were necessarily limited in scope. The Opposition alleged, moreover, that even the fresh appointments of DCs in 16 Districts were made out of a list provided by the BNP regime. The Caretaker Government could make only 100 appointments out of 480, at the level of Upazila Nirbahi (sub-district administrative) officers (UNO), leaving a vast array of BNP sympathizers in vital administrative positions.
In sharp contrast to its lackadaisical orientation towards Islamist extremists and terrorists, the BNP Government maintained a relentless onslaught against alleged Left Wing Extremists (LWE). Compared to the 63 Districts (out of a total of 64 in the country) in which the JMB carried out explosions in August 2005, LWE incidents have been reported from just 17 Districts: Jhenidah, Narail, Rajbari, Pabna, Naogaon, Jessore, Barisal, Satkhira, Natore, Kushtia, Tangail, Khulna, Chuadanga, Bagerhat, Meherpur, Rajshahi and Sirajganj. SAIR had emphasized earlier on Bangladesh’s rather fraudulent war on terrorism, underlining that a country that is riddled with Islamist militancy has chosen to see its principal threat – and the primary target of security forces’ activity – in a minuscule LWE movement concentrated in small pockets of the country. This bizarre ‘war’ continued in 2006. Compared to 169 fatalities in LWE- related incidents, only 12 fatalities were reported in Islamist-militancy related incidents. While 136 LWE cadres were killed by the state, mostly in fake encounters – what is conveniently described as ‘crossfires’ – six Islamist militants were killed in various encounters, at least two of them by LWE cadres in Naogaon and Rajshahi District. Thus, while law-enforcers found it convenient to focus on ‘eliminating’ the LWEs, they displayed greater consideration towards the Islamists, allowing the judicial process to determine their fate.
Militancy/Extremism related fatalities in Bangladesh: 2005-2006
* Data till December 15
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal
Through 2006, Bangladesh emerged as a major launch pad for terrorism in India. Besides sheltering a number militant leaders operating in India’s Northeast and providing safe havens and camps for their cadres, Pakistan-based Islamist groups, in combination with HuJI-B and in close coordination with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Directorate of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), have used Bangladesh’s territory to plan and execute several terrorist attacks in various Indian urban centres over the past years, a trend that saw sudden escalation in 2006. In a status report on internal security presented to the Indian Parliament in the first week of December, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that Pakistan based groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) "use territory and elements in Bangladesh and Nepal for movement of terrorists and finances." A decisive Bangladeshi footprint was also found by Indian investigators in a number of terrorist strikes across India, including the Mumbai blasts, the Delhi Diwali bombings, the Varanasi blasts, the Hyderabad suicide attack and the Banglaore shooting at the Indian Institute of Science.
Despite a selective approach, Bangladesh appears to have succeeded in convincing the West of its sincerity in dealing with Islamist militancy at home. Nonetheless, the next Government at Dhaka will have to do some serious explaining regarding its role in endangering India’s security.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 11-17, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck hands over power to Crown Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck: King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan handed over his responsibilities as the Monarch and Head of the State to the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who would be the fifth Druk Gyalpo (King). The transition was formally announced on December 14, 2006, the 24th day of the 10th Bhutanese month. "The time has now come for me to hand over my responsibilities to Trongsa Penlop Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck," said the King. He added, "I am confident that a very bright future lies ahead for Bhutan with the leadership of a new King and a democratic system of government that is best suited for our country as enshrined under the Constitution. I have every confidence that there will be unprecedented progress and prosperity for our nation in the reign of our fifth King." The King had earlier pledged to relinquish the throne when the Kingdom would switch over to a Parliamentary form of Government in 2008. Kuensel Online, December 15, 2006.
Israel warns of al Qaeda attack in Goa: On December 12, 2006, Israel issued a travel advisory asking its citizens not to travel to the coastal State of Goa during the next few weeks in view of "concrete" threats of an al Qaeda attack there. A statement issued by the National Security Council Counter Terrorism Headquarters, which is attached to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, said, "In light of terrorist threats by Al-Qaida in India, a concrete threat now exists specifically for Goa, which hosts many tourists, among them Israelis, during late December and over the civil New Year." The statement added, "Those traveling to Goa in the next few weeks will be under serious threat of Al-Qaida terrorist attacks." Times of India, December 14, 2006.
Seven Party Alliance and Maoists finalise interim constitution: The leaders of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and Maoists in Nepal have put their signature on the interim constitution after over seventeen hours of marathon talks on December 15, 2006. The interim constitution will be formally promulgated once the arms management of the Maoist is completed. According to the interim constitution, the Prime Minister is authorized to use all the powers hitherto exercised by the King. "All powers related to rule or administration will now be exercised by the Prime Minister," said Bharat Mohan Adhikary, standing committee member of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist). The leaders agreed on two separate ballot papers and ballot boxes for the election to a constituent assembly, which will be held on first-past-the-post and proportional representation basis. They also reached a consensus that besides the fundamental rights guaranteed by the 1990 constitution, right to education, health and employment - all Maoist demands - would also be incorporated as the fundamental rights of citizens. Nepal News; The Himalayan Times, December 16, 2006.
43 people killed during cease-fire, says NHRC report: A report published by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on December 13, 2006, informed that 11 persons were killed by the Government's security forces (SFs) and 15 by the Maoist insurgents since April 26, 2006, when the cease-fire was declared. It stated that resistance groups killed five people and villagers or unidentified groups killed seven persons while five people were killed in accidental explosions. The NHRC Acting Secretary, Dhruva Nepal, said several cases of physical torture in police custody, mistreatment and threatening of transport workers by the SF personnel were recorded during this period. Similarly, Maoists tortured civilians in the Kailali, Nepalgunj, Bhaktapur, Dolakha, Rupendehi and Kaski districts. The Commission alleged that Maoists continued to force civilians to appear before the 'People's Courts', and carried on with extortion, abduction of civilians and confiscation of properties. Maoists also set up posts to collect taxes, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Village Development Committees and District Development Committees. Nepal News , December 14, 2006.
Rawalpindi court drops terrorism charges against Rashid Rauf: An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi on December 13, 2006, dropped charges against a British man of Pakistani origin suspected of being a key figure in an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners. 25-year old Rashid Rauf had been arrested in August 2006 and officials had claimed that his detention had led to the uncovering of the conspiracy and that he was linked to the al Qaeda. His advocate, Hashmat Habib, said that the court had agreed to his petition that two charges relating to terrorism were "not relevant and this court cannot try him." "That practically means that Rashid Rauf has been acquitted of charges relating to terrorism," Habib said, adding that the case would now be sent back to a regular court. Rauf reportedly still faces charges of impersonation, carrying a fake identity card, fake documents and using those documents, Habib informed. "These are minor charges and we hope to see him free," he said. Dawn, December 14, 2006.
Afghan President Karzai accuses Pakistan of being Taliban’s boss: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on December 12, 2006, accused Pakistan of being "the boss" of the Taliban and said that resolving difficulties with Pakistan would put an end to terrorism in Afghanistan. "The problem is not Taliban. We don’t see it that way. The problem is with Pakistan," Karzai said in an interview with foreign journalists. "If we resolve the difficulties with Pakistan, the question of Taliban will go away automatically," stated Karzai. When asked if Pakistan is essentially the boss of the Taliban, Karzai responded, "Absolutely. That has been the case from the very first day. That is how the Taliban came into being. It’s more than a boss… The state of Pakistan was supporting the Taliban, so we presume if there is still any Taliban, that they are being supported by a state element." The News, December 13, 2006.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson says Pakistan never claimed Kashmir as its territory: Pakistan said on December 11, 2006, that it had never claimed Kashmir as an integral part of its territory, that its legal position was based on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, and that it wanted a settlement that would be acceptable to itself, to India and to the people of Kashmir. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam made these remarks when asked to comment on President Pervez Musharraf's statements to the New Delhi-based television channel NDTV that Pakistan would give up its claim on Kashmir if India showed similar flexibility. "First, Pakistan does not claim Kashmir. The dispute is about the aspirations of the Kashmiris. According to the UNSC resolutions, Pakistan and India are parties to this dispute, and Kashmiris have to essentially decide their future," Aslam said at the weekly press briefing in Islamabad. Asked to clarify Pakistan's position, she said it was the legal position based on the UNSC resolutions for a plebiscite in the disputed territory. Pakistan "hoped" the Kashmiris would choose to join it, were a plebiscite to be held. The Hindu, December 12, 2006.
LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham dies in London: Anton Balasingham, political adviser of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), passed away in London on December 14, 2006, after a spell of illness. A close associate of the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, Balasingham had participated as chief negotiator of the LTTE in almost all political negotiations, beginning with the Thimpu talks in 1985. Balasingham was suffering from diabetes for 35 years and in the late 1990s developed renal disease, for which he underwent a kidney transplant. Tamil Net; The Hindu, December 15, 2006.