Between June 3-10, a three-member delegation of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) visited India. The team from Dhaka’s leading Opposition party, consisted of National Standing Committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo, and Humayan Kabir, its international affairs secretary. A recap and post-mortem of the trip by Shah Hussain Imam — once a senior journalist and now adjunct faculty at East West University — in The Daily Star, indicates that at least two themes of concern within the BNP were explored by the delegation in their interactions with think tanks, and interestingly, the RSS. First, the delegation came “looking for an “unbiased approach to election from India” and claimed “a positive change in the attitude of New Delhi to have a credible, inclusive and neutral election”. The BNP, which boycotted the 2014 general election in Bangladesh, virtually giving a walk-over to Shiekh Hasina’s Awami League, likely does not want a repeat of that scenario in the general elections scheduled for later this year. PM Hasina has since helped forge closer India-Bangladesh ties as well as proceeded with a controversial war crimes tribunal with regard to those that worked against the country’s independence from Pakistan. The second major point in Imam’s article relates to New Delhi’s scepticism with regard to the BNP. The former, it seems, is still wary of the fact that Khaleda Zia’s party has not done enough to distance itself from fundamentalist forces.
Pak family politics
With just over a month to go for the Pakistan general elections, Nawaz Sharif’s party, the PML-N, is rife with internal division while the TTP leader Imran Khan’s ill-disguised misogyny is also becoming an issue in the English language press in the country. PML-N leader Zaeem Qadri, a party stalwart, has announced that he will contest against his own party as an independent candidate in Lahore. His outburst was directed against Hamza Shahbaz, a PML-N legislator and son of the current chief minister of Punjab and nephew of Nawaz Sharif. While Qadri has claimed that the corruption and misgovernance in Punjab and his refusal to “lick the boots” of Hamza Shahbaz lies at the root of his chagrin, it appears from a series of reports in the Dawn that Qadri’s rebellion may be related to the distribution of tickets for the elections. Qadri believes he and some others have been given short shrift. According to The Express Tribune, the rebellion indicates that “all is not well within the PML-N”.
Imran Khan’s 50-minute interview to Hum News earlier this month created an international uproar because of the cricketer-turned-politician’s views on motherhood and feminism. In a crass juxtaposition, Khan said the “western concept of feminism had degraded motherhood”. That his statement betrays an essentialised and incomplete understanding of both feminism and motherhood has been pointed out by Dawn in its June 20 editorial: “The statement is both asinine and offensive. It betrays a total lack of understanding about feminism, a concept that underlies many rights for women taken for granted today (or on which the ongoing struggle for women’s rights is based).”
Oli in China
Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli, long perceived to be for closer Nepal-China ties, held delegation-level talks with the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic, Li Keqiang, as a part of his six-day visit to China. Nepal and China, signed 14 MoUs, including for railway construction by China. That China is keen to increase its strategic and economic depth in Nepal is no secret. While newspapers in Nepal, from The Himalayan Times to the Kathmandu Post have understandably given extensive coverage to the visit, an opinion article in the Post by Bishnu Raj Upreti, executive director of the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research argues that the rise of China as a global power presents an opportunity for Nepal. While explaining, even commending, China’s “multiple strategies to shape global order by engaging in oil industries, mines and minerals, dams, trade, private business, developing infrastructures around the world”, the article also argues that the time is ripe for “Nepal to engage meaningfully with China”. Given the two-thirds majority that Oli enjoys in the legislature, he can use his visit as a stepping stone to “maximise and materialise the economic cooperation [with China] that will provide the basis for political stability, durable peace and collective prosperity for Nepali people”.
Sri Lanka and UN
The United States’ decision to leave the 47-member UN Human Rights Council because — according to Nikki Haley, US envoy to the UN — it is a “cesspool of partisan politics” has upset certain quarters in Sri Lanka. According to a report-cum-analysis article in The Island by Shamindra Ferdinando, former External Affairs Minister G L Peiris “recollected the circumstances under which the US coerced Sri Lanka to co-sponsor the Resolution just over a week after the then Sri Lanka Permanent Representative in Geneva quite rightly rejected the text”. Peiris was a cabinet member of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government which, according to the article, “certainly owed an explanation to the public over its refusal to make fresh representations on behalf of Sri Lanka in respect of Geneva Resolution 30/1 in the wake of Naseby revelations in Oct last year”. The article suggests that with the US’s exit, the censures and campaigns against Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations against the LTTE and Tamil population might lose their teeth.
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