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The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh and its implications for women May 28, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Bangladesh, By contributor, By country, Guest authors , comments closed

Eshan Motwani

The attack on Nadia Sharmin, a news reporter for Ekushey Television, by a group of Islamist activists last month was a brutal reminder of the wave of anti-secularism that has gripped Bangladesh in recent months. Her perpetrators belonged to the Islamic Group ‘Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh’ (hereafter referred to as Hefajat). The group was staging a rally in the capital Dhaka to push a list of demands that stand in clear contradiction to the nation’s secular principles. Sharmin was providing coverage of the protests for her network when the group of activists took notice of her. To them, Sharmin’s presence represented one of the many facets of modern day Bangladesh that they were protesting against, namely the free mixing of males and females. Sharmin, who was fortunate to survive the attack, spoke of her experience from hospital and stated that “fifty-six activists hurled brickbats and water bottled at me at Bijoynagar. They snatched my mobile phone and handbag having several thousand Takas. Then they threw me on the ground and beat me up”. Hefajat’s list of demands further threatens the advances that women like Sharmin have achieved since Bangladesh gained its independence.

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Chinese “Blue Book” optimistic on Indian future May 27, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Daniel Barnes

The first Chinese “blue book” on the state of India has expressed concern over a government in ‘serious crisis’, but also believes India will emerge stronger after conquering its current obstacles.

Background

Chinese think tanks release “blue books” every year on numerous issues; the books have tacit backing by the Chinese government, even if they do not fully represent its views. The “blue book” on India runs to over 300 pages and was compiled by Yunnan University, which hosts one of China’s biggest South Asia programmes.

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The great Hindi debate May 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Alexandra Hansen

A public call for submissions into the Government’s Australia in the Asian Century country strategies turned into a debate on whether a focus on Asian languages was necessary for improving relations between Australia and our five priority Asian partners. Constituents from the Higher Education sector called for a focus on key Asian languages; Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Indonesian, and Korean, saying it’s impossible to do business with Asia or understand their culture if we don’t speak the same language.

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Pakistan’s new government: a harbinger of hope? May 15, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Pakistan has just experienced the first democratic change of government in its history. It did so despite a violent campaign by religious extremists to derail the election. This violence targeted secular-oriented parties such as the ousted Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the victory by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party (PML-N) is still a genuine one. The 60% voter turnout is excellent for Pakistan and indicates that Pakistanis defied the religious extremists.

Voters were clearly fed up with the PPP’s corruption and poor economic management. The country has suffered from serious electricity cuts and an anaemic economy. It is burdened by a rapid population growth rate, fuelled by poor levels of general and especially female literacy. Environmental problems in the heavily irrigation-dependent economy are growing.

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Can Imran Khan’s rise and ‘fall’ shape the nation’s destiny? May 9, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Misra, Ashutosh, Pakistan , comments closed

Ashutosh Misra

At the time of writing this article Imran Khan’s condition was reportedly stable and improving, but not rapidly enough to enable him to cast his vote on May 11. What an irony that a leader whose political fortunes depend on every vote will not be able to cast his own. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) party had sustained serious head and back injuries in a terrible fall from a wobbly car-lifter, supporting one personal guard too many, as it tried to hoist him atop a container-cum-stage. This accident must have instilled a frightening sense of déjà vu in the people of Pakistan who had witnessed the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto just before the 2008 elections, who later succumbed to the suspected gun-shot wound in the head. In the ensuing sympathy wave the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came to power, making Asif Ali Zardari the President, in a yet another accident of history.

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India-China border tension and nuclear posturing May 9, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The standoff between China and India in Ladakh has been resolved, at least for now. After China set up five tents for 40 personnel 19 km inside what India regards as the line of control, India set up similar tents facing them.  Both lots of tents are now to be removed, but it is still unclear whether India is to remove any of the structures at Fukche and Chumar, as demanded by the Chinese.

The Chinese withdrawal only occurred after India had hardened its position on the impending visit of Indian foreign Minister Salman Kurshid to Beijing on 9 May and the reciprocal visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi on 20 May. The Indian government was forced to harden its position by the strong public reaction to what was perceived to be its week-kneed response to the Chinese ‘incursions’.

A disturbing feature of the incident was the way it had been politicised on both sides, thus risking the protagonists being ‘locked in’ to their respective positions.

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Decent work deficits in Pakistan May 3, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, Pakistan, Uncategorized , comments closed

Aly Ercelan

The labour movement in Southasia has often expressed its deep concerns of development priorities being abandoned. Economic growth is indeed necessary. But increasing inequality prevents rapid eradication of income poverty and vulnerability. The excluded population rises not in numbers but also as share of a (growing) population. Policy failures are visible on several counts. Most of all is a missing active social policy that would not just mitigate the adversity, but offset the profit bias inherent in neo-liberal economic policy — of promoting capital-intensive growth and cheap-labour led export expansion (which privilege foreign capital by subsiding their consumers, and probably even subsidise the arms trade). This note discusses Pakistan.

Claiming divine will or peoples sovereignty, Islamabad asserts prosperity and progress in Pakistan, ‘achieving’ large food exports including cereals from a country filled with hungry citizens. Our interest in such assertions is focused upon inequality and poverty as consequences of neoliberal policies for output and employment growth. The primary concern remains the state structures whose oppression produces and sustains mass impoverishment and exclusion. When generations already feel abused then deadly terrorism will undoubtedly remain as a curse even upon our grandchildren. (more…)