Fri, 25 Sep 2009 South Asia

Nepalese Maoists, Islamists and South Asia

By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Under the heavy influence of Maoists in the small Himalayan South Asian nation of Nepal, several significant things are happening both in political and social arena, thus drawing the attention of political pundist around the world, and especially South Asian nations, to start thinking, if such leftists in Nepal might have joined hands with Islamists, more precisely Al Qaeda, secretly, which would ultimately be a great threat to the peace and security of the region in particular and the world in general. According to analysts, Maoists in Nepal are gradually pushing the fate of the country towards a failed state.

It was already reported several years back, that Al Qaeda has established a significant base in Nepal taking the advantage of huge mountaneous areas, where the Al Qaeda men could find easy places of hideout. It was even reported that, notorious terrorist Osama Bin laden made several secret trips to Nepal to give guidance and inspiration to his Jihadist cadres, who enjoy support from the Nepalese Maoist leftists.

In the name of stopping explotation of women around 100 Maoist protesters staged a sit-in as the 2009 Miss Nepal beauty contest got under way in the capital Kathmandu on September 24, 2009 according to Nepalese police inspector Tul Bahadur Karki.

The demonstrators blocked the road and shouted "down with Miss Nepal" and "stop the exploitation of women," but left voluntarily as the contest began, Karki said.

"Around 100 Maoist women staged a sit-in at the gate of where the beauty contest was being held," he said.

"The protesters left the scene as soon as the program started."

The contest to select Nepal's candidate for the annual Miss World competition is being held under tight security after it was cancelled in 2008 by the former Maoist-led government, which branded it anti-women. Maoists formed a government last year after winning landmark elections, and lawmakers from the party later said they would not allow the Miss Nepal event to take place. But Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal - who goes by the name Prachanda - resigned as prime minister in May 2009 after just eight months in the job.

Contestants for the Miss Nepal crown must impress the judges with a performance of traditional songs and dances, and are questioned on their ambitions and political views. But unlike Western beauty pageants, Miss Nepal does not have a swimsuit round. Contestants in the deeply conservative, majority - Hindu nation appear in traditional saris [A sari or saree or shari is a female garment in the Indian Subcontinent. A sari is a strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from four to nine metres in length that is draped over the body in various styles. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff].

While, Maoist protest against Nepal's peasant contest is hitting most of the news media in the world, Pushpa Kamal Dahal [Prachanda], Maoist leader and former prime minister of Nepal, suddenly went on a fishy trip to the Chinese state of Hong Kong. He flew to Hong Kong on Sept 14, 2009 without prior announcement. According to his aide Manoj Thapa accompanying him, Prachanda attended a training session of the party cadres. "He is busy holding clandestine meetings shortly after arrival," Manoj told Kantipur online, a newspaper in Nepal declining to give further details.

On the same day Vivek Gumaste, an Indian strategist, cautioned that Nepal Maoists are a threat to India. Maoists in India have close links with the comrades of Nepal. "They are waiting for the right moment and right circumstances to launch an armed bloody revolution in India via Nepal with the backing of China," wrote Gumaste for Indian popular newssite Redif News. Obviously, his apprehension is accentuated by a recent articles published in Global Times of China, which advocated break-up of India into 20 to 30 independent states.

On the heels of it, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh frankly admitted the failure to combat the Maoist insurgents and said the militant violence is on the rise in many states. He told the conference of the Inspector Generals of Police from the states on September 22, 2009 that the Maoists have posed the gravest threat to the internal security of India.

Dr. Singh's admission is the clearest signal yet of the government's concern at an insurgency that has virtually put a vast swathe of the countryside rich in minerals out of official control, hurting potential business worth billions of dollars. "Nepal has become one of the grounds for militant's infiltration into India," he said.

Indian media reports say Maoists have spread in 20 out of 29 states of India with rapid expansion of areas under their control and rule. Thousands of paramilitary and elite forces were deployed along with state police two months ago in a campaign against the Maoist guerillas. But the government security forces suffered humiliation and casualties, estimated at about 800 over the last few months.

Sharing his concerns, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the Maoists have increased attacks on railways, power and telecommunication networks to halt economic development. He was scheduled to visit Chhattisgarh, the citadel of the Maoists, in preparation of a fresh drive with redoubled strength. But he cancelled the trip apparently in view of the deteriorating situation. As the heavily Maoist-infested states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar are preparing for a fresh drive, the Maoists are also going ahead with fresh recruitment and intensive training in guerilla warfare, reports Redif News. They are supported by landless peasants, dalits and tribals and getting sympathy from a section of the intelligentsia. It is also reported that, in the name of anti-Indian notions, Nepalese maoists are indirectly serving the purpose of Al Qaeda in extending support to militants in Indian state of Kashmir as well some militancy groups in Bangladesh. Moreover, by shaking hands with Pakistani intelligence agency and administration in Beijing, Nepalese Maoists are continuing actions as per blue print of Islamabad and Beijing in destabilizing Indian thus ultimately causing great threat to India by giving instigations of various anti-Indian insurgency groups in Kashmir, North-Easter region etc.

A completely Maoist Nepal poses a real security threat to India. Maoists on both sides of the border have close links and Nepal is increasingly facilitating anti-Indian activities.

And in Nepal, anti-Indian sentiment is running high. Political parties and social organisations allege encroachment of large areas by India all along the 1,800 kilo meter porous border on the south. The government in Kathmandu is dubbed as puppet of India by the Nepalese people. New Delhi is accused of doing 'naked interference' in Nepali politics. Two Indian high priests of Kathmandu's Pashupatinath temple were recently assaulted evoking strong protest from New Delhi. Maoists demand Indian priests should be replaced by local priests. In this backdrop, Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Roy dashed to Kathmandu during end of September in a bid to assuage the grievances of Nepali people. She discussed with the government leaders the ways and means of blocking Maoist's return to power and warding off the rising Chinese influence on Nepal.

Exile of Pakistan's Musharraf:

In politics nothing is impossible and it is marvellous to see how couple of year makes sea-saw game in politics. President Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan almost nine years with an iron hand but now he is in exile in London.

The General Musharraf finds himself in a city where he once banished his political rivals as Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf stepped down on 18th August 2008 and was replaced by Asif Ali Zardari, a most controversial man in Pakista and the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as the country's president.

From the sprawling presidential palace of Islamabad to reportedly an unassuming three-bedroom apartment behind London's Arabic quarter in Edgware Road is a big fall of personal fortune for General Musharraf. The former military General reportedly bought the apartment with one million pounds. It includes a small study which contains mementoes of past. In London, Musharraf occasionally goes out for golf and is understood to host musical evenings at home with his close friends.

Retirement has been unsettling experience for the former military General and it is a sobering change from the pomp of the former President's privileges. Gone are the legions of political acolytes; gone are the liveried soldiers who used to snap to attention and gone are the pomp and ceremony.

In Islamabad Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister whom the General ousted in a coup in 1999 is after him and Sharif wants him tried for treason, a charge that carries the death penalty. The army led by General Kayani opposes treason charge. So does President Asif Ali Zardari who fears it could upset fragile civilian-military relations. Nevertheless they consider it wiser if the General stays away from Pakistan.

A criminal case has also been lodged in Islamabad and if convicted Musharraf might be in jail for three years. No wonder he moved from Islamabad to London sometime ago. The question is how long he will stay in Britain. The former ruler reportedly said "I am not in exile".

Exile of Bangladesh's Moeen:

Moeen U Ahmed, Bangladesh's former military chief and behind-the-scene ruler of the military controlled interim government, which ruled Bangladesh from January 11, 2007 to December 31, 2008, has already left Bangladesh for taking political asylum in any of the Western nations. Meanhile in Bangladesh, series of cases are already lodged against him for abuse of power as well reckless corruption by using the status of the army chief. General Moeen is also alleged for his extremely controversial role in combating mutiny inside the Bangladesh Riffles headquarters, which took place during February 25 and 26 this year.

General Moeen, instead of sending army to combat mutiny, silently witnessed the entire episode, thus giving chance to the mutineers in killing large number of army officers, their family members as well abusing the female members of those army officers inside the huge area of Bangladesh Riffles in Dhaka.

During the military controlled interim government, Moeen U Ahmed broke service rule and being the chief of army, he wrote political books and published it through a local publication company. The books, although claims to be his biography, was originally aimed at defaming the politicians and democratic system in Bangladesh.

It is even revealed by now that, at the personal interest of General Moeen U Ahmed, both the top leaders of Bangladesh's main political parties were arrested and imprisoned without any legal ground. The present prime minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia although were arrested by Moeen's man with corruption charges, later both were released and Anti Corruption Commission, which served as pupet of General Moeen, later issued officials letters to both the leaders endorsing the fact that there was no evidence of any such corruption.

Both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia were denied medical treatment in prison and large number of political leaders were arrested, harrased, humuliated and finally extorted by the military controlled regime under the directives of General Moeen u Ahmed. In one particular case, when a former junior minister was arrested and placed on remand for interrogation and taken inside Dhaka Cantonment, he was forced to open a bank account with Sonali bank [state owned bank in Bangladesh] and subsequently had to deposit TK. 70 million [US$ 1 million] in that account thus finally drawing the amount and handing it over to his interrogators, who were officers under command of General Moeen. It is also learnt that similar broad-day-light extortion was a regular phenomenon by the military controlled regime in Bangladesh during its entire rule.

No doubt, General Moeen is fully aware of all such misdeeds committed by him or at his instruction since they captured power on January 11, 2007. And that is why, he is now on exile and trying to find any country to accord him asylum.

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