Monthly Asian-Eurasian Commentary
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Tsunami Toll Hits 150,000 – By Tomi Soetjipto and Dean Yates: The United Nations has put the latest death toll in Asia’s tsunami at around 150,000 and warned it could still soar as relief workers were confronted by huge devastated areas without roads, bridges and airstrips. Helicopters and elephants became the most useful tools on Monday for relief teams trying to reach remote areas to find and feed survivors and shift the rubble of razed towns. Aid workers struggled to help thousands huddled in makeshift camps on Indonesia’s northern Sumatra island, where the tsunami claimed two thirds of its victims, and the U.N. said it was concentrating efforts on the area due to the threat of disease. “The current death toll … what we operate with are the confirmed people who are identified as dead … is around 150,000,” said U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland. Earlier, figures from governments gave a total of 144,970 dead.
“There are many, many more who have disappeared or who are missing or who are for us nameless as of this stage. And it is particularly in the Sumatra coast,” said Egeland, adding that the toll there could rise by tens of thousands. U.S. helicopters began shuttling injured refugees, many of them children, out of some of the worst-hit parts of Indonesia’s Aceh province, where many towns and villages were wiped out in the December 26 disaster. Many airports are now bursting with emergency supplies. But a logistical nightmare looms in distributing them through areas where roads and bridges have been washed away. “The emergency teams are arriving to be blocked by a wall of devastation. Everything is destroyed,” Aly-Khan Rajani, CARE Canada’s programme manager for Southeast Asia, said in Jakarta. Tsunami-hit nations, however, have worked with aid agencies, private relief groups and donor governments to ease some transport bottlenecks to get supplies to the estimated 5 million people requiring some form of help. In Sri Lanka, the second worst-hit nation with more than 30,000 dead and 850,000 homeless, there was little sign of an organised government relief effort, but food distribution looked to be smoother. The U.N International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates about 50,000 children died across South Asia — a third of the toll. Tens of thousands more have been pace. More than $2 billion (1.05 billion pounds) has been pledged by governments and the World Bank, while private donations have been unprecedented. (A BBC report).
UN the Best Place to Tackle Global Ills – Says Secretary General: Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on 16 December at Washington DC Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “The only universal instrument that can bring States together in such a global effort is the United Nations. I am the first to acknowledge that the UN is not perfect. At times, it shows its age. But our world will note easily find a better instrument for forging a sustained global response to today’s threats. Whether the threat is terrorism or AIDS, a threat to one is a threat to all. Our defences are only as strong as their weakest link. We will be safest if we work together.” The report by the 16-member Highlevel Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, “A more secure world: our shared responsibility,” contained 101 recommendations for dealing with the six areas identified as being the greatest threats to worldwide security in the 21stcentury. (Courtesy UNIC New Delhi, vol. 59/51).
AFGHANISTAN: Refugees and Asylum Seekers Subjected to Human Rights Abuses: Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries and further afield continue to suffer human rights violations, rights advocates warned the Afghan government. Its concerns follow recent reports that Greek police officers allegedly tortured a group of some 40 Afghan asylum-seekers, including at least 17 Afghans aged 15 to 17. The torture reportedly included severe beatings and death threats, taking place over several days in mid-December, according to Amnesty International (AI). “The human rights violations of Afghan refugees outside the country continue to be a matter of concern. We have called on the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to look after this issue through their channels,” Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), told IRIN in the capital, Kabul. The commission emphasized that the forced repatriation of Afghan refugees from various countries and a cessation of their refugee status was contrary to international refugee protection standards. According to Nadery, under international standards for returnees’ protection, Afghanistan was still not a secure place for return.
“The major concern is not only their safety in terms of security but also their food and shelter security,” adding that the post-conflict Afghan government was not able to provide enough jobs and health care, while housing continued to pose a major problem for returnees.
The rights advocate said incidents reported included the harassment of refugees by police and other authorities, mainly in Iran and Pakistan, the issue of the reunification of refugees with their families in Australia, the status of Afghan asylum seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru, as well as the alleged beating and torture of Afghan refugees by Greece police. Meanwhile, the Afghan Commission for Human Rights (ACHR) told IRIN that hundreds of Afghan refugees in some Central Asian countries, as well as Russia, were tortured by police, with some falling victim to mafia gangs. “Unfortunately we continue to
see Afghans severely harassed by police and mafia bands in Central Asia as they take this route to go to Europe,” All Gull, ACHR’s chairman told IRIN. (Source: Integrated Regional Information Networks).
Pakistan says Iran-India Pipeline would be Safe: Pakistan has reiterated that it would be able to ensure safe supply of natural gas to rival India should New Delhi join a proposed project to bring gas from Iran via Pakistan.
Pakistan has been keen on the proposed $4 billion pipeline for years but India has been lukewarm given its troubled relations with Islamabad and concerns about security in Pakistan. India began showing interest as its relationship with Pakistan warmed in recent months and on Speaking to Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi in Islamabad Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri called for early implementation of the scheme.
“Pakistan needs the gas pipeline with Iran anyway due to its very high growth rate and in view of an even higher growth expected in future,” an official statement quoted him as saying. “Pakistan would welcome India joining the project while assuring it of security of supplies through Pakistani territory.” Kharrazi visit to Islamabad coincided with a meeting of foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan on the slow-moving peace process for the two nuclear neighbours, but the Pakistani side said there had been no detailed discussion of the project. While energyhungry India has shown interest, it has said the pipeline would be built only if overall economic ties with Pakistan improved, but this has been prevented by continuing political tensions over the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan says the project can go ahead with or without India. (Source: AlertNet provided by Reuters) ADB approves loan for Kashmir development The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US $57 million loan for a multi-sector rehabilitation and improvement project, aimed at improving the physical and social infrastructure in Pakistaniadministered Kashmir. “Our interventions are basically in five areas improve the low levels of communication and social services. The ADB has also approved a loan of $250 million for a similar physical and infrastructure development project in Indian-administered Kashmir, with an additional $108 million coming from the government of India and Kashmir’s state government. The ADB project will restore existing infrastructure facilities and services in two key areas of urban and transport sectors in the state. The urban sector component will cover water supply and drainage systems while the transport sector component will finance the rehabilitation of roads and bridges throughout the state. The ADB, in its first major intervention by a multilateral aid agency in recent times, has approved two similar projects for both the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir, ensuring to some extent that the security situation will improve in the area. (Integrated Regional Information Networks news).
Pakistan’s undeclared war- By Zaffar Abbas: For Pakistan’s powerful military and the rugged Pashtun tribesmen, the South Waziristan region, near the border with Afghanistan, is a virtual war zone. The vast mountainous region remains out of bound for non-locals. Journalists have been barred from the area, and the main town of Wana looks like a military garrison. Almost daily skirmishes, landmine explosions, and use of heavy artillery and occasional aerial bombing, makes it a deadly conflict zone. The latest military offensive in which air force bombers and gunship helicopters pounded an alleged training camp of suspected al-Qaeda militants, has resulted in heavy casualties. And it has taken the conflict to an area that until now had remained relatively peaceful. This was the third time in recent weeks that the military bombed suspected militant hideouts. It has given a new and a more serious dimension to the security operation within the country. Until now, aerial bombing has never been used to crush an armed insurgency in the country. The military may not have suffered any serious casualties in the latest offensive, largely because it used air power and long-range rockets. But since the present conflict began in March, scores of soldiers have been killed, including officers. Dozens of foreign and local militants have also been killed.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that the victims of this undeclared war are the local tribesmen and their families, who have been caught in the crossfire. In some ways it suggests that the military’s assessments about the fighting strength of the militants, and the risk to civilians, were wrong. So what will be the outcome of this bloody conflict, which does not seem to have an immediate end? No-one seems to have an answer. The military offensive had been part of the overall war against al-Qaeda. The US-led forces have largely been operating across the border in Afghanistan, and Islamabad admits, have also been assisting the Pakistani troops in surveillance and communication. The co-ordinated effort is largely aimed at capturing top al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.
The men, and many of their close associates, are widely believed to be hiding in and perhaps operating out of the area. Since the start of operation, the military authorities have firmly established that a large number of Uzbek, Chechen and Arab militants were in the area. Battle-hardened tribesmen have taken the military action as an attack on their sovereignty, and have been putting up stiff resistance. Most parts of the semiautonomous tribal region have traditionally resisted the presence of foreign forces, including Pakistani troops. It was in July 2002 that Pakistani troops, for the first time in 55 years, entered the Tirah Valley in Khyber tribal agency. Soon they were in Shawal valley of North Waziristan, and later in South Waziristan. This was made possible after long negotiations with various tribes, who reluctantly agreed to allow the military’s presence on the assurance that it would bring in funds and development work. But once the military action started in South Waziristan a number of Waziri sub-tribes took it as an attempt to subjugate them. Attempts to persuade them into handing over the foreign militants failed, and with an apparently mishandling by the authorities, the security campaign against suspected al- Qaeda militants turned into an undeclared war between the Pakistani military and the rebel tribesmen. Some analysts say it is a no-win situation for the Pakistani troops. They cannot abandon the operation half-way, but are now having to use bombers and gunship helicopters against what was earlier described as a “handful of foreign militants and some local miscreants”. BBC correspondent in Islamabad.
Central Asian Boys Sucked into Militancy: Pakistani military officials say militants were recruiting more and more teenagers from Central Asian to carry out attacks, and say they have intercepted messages specifically asking their contacts to send them children. “They are the future terrorists,” said Lieutenant-General Safdar Hussain, who leads the army’s hunt for militants in northwestern Pakistan. “They are the best people to be used for terrorism. They can plant improvised explosive devices without anyone suspecting them because they are very young.” Army operations in South Waziristan have flushed out large numbers of militants from the former Soviet-controlled states of Central Asia. Members of al-Qaeda linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), for example, landed up in the semi- autonomous Pashtun tribal lands after first taking refuge in Afghanistan, having been forced out of Tajikistan in 2000. The leader of the Uzbek group, Juma Namangani, was killed by a U.S.- led air strike in 2001, when Washington decided to retaliate against al Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. cities on Sept. 11 by bombing bin Laden’s militant network in Afghanistan. Military officials say Namangani’s charismatic successor, Tahir Yuldashev, was now reorganizing these central Asian militants and recruiting young men for attacks on the security forces in the tribal region. “Qari Tahir Yuldashev, who has his own political motives, is using these boys for terrorism,” Hussain said. Commonly known as Qari because of his clear recitals of passages from the Koran in a beautiful voice, Yuldashev has been on the run since Pakistani security forces launched an offensive on his stronghold South Waziristan last March. He was said to have been wounded, but managed to escape and has not been sighted since. Blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in 1999, Yuldashev was sentenced to death in absentia. Khalid said he had never met Yuldashev but has seen his in pictures. And with his own militant career curtailed, Khalid is at a loss over what he wants from life. Asked if he would like to see his widowed mother again, Khalid can only nod miserably, unable to raise his eyes from the ground. (Source: AlertNet Reuters).
OSCE Raps Uzbek Parliamentary Poll as Undemocratic – By Dmitry Solovyov: Uzbekistan’s parliamentary election fell significantly short of international standards because it involved only parties loyal to President Islam Karimov said Europe’s main human rights body. Karimov, 66, who has ruled the Muslim nation of 26 million since Soviet times, hailed the vote as a step towards democracy, pointing to five loyal parties on the ballot as a sign of a viable multiparty system. But four opposition parties were barred from running in the race after the Justice Ministry refused to register them. “Although minor improvements since the 1999 elections were identified, the mission concludes that the elections did fall significantly short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections,” an observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said. “The similarity of the political platforms of the registered political parties appeared to deprive voters of a genuine choice,” the OSCE said. “Regrettably, the implementation of the election legislation by the authorities failed to ensure a pluralistic, competitive and transparent election,” the OSCE statement quoted Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj, head of the OSCE mission, as saying. The European Union Presidency echoed the OSCE comment. “The Presidency…notes with concern that only government- approved parties were registered,” it said in a statement. Uzbek officials had earlier said the election was “open and honest, held in conformity with the law”. Observers from the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States lauded the “transparency and democratic manner” of the vote. The Central Election Commission called runoffs for around half of the seats, where no candidate had won an outright majority. The runoffs between the two leading candidates will be held within two weeks. “We view this poll as a crime against the Uzbek people,” said Otanazar Aripov of the banned Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party.
“Those five loyal parties serve only one person in this country, the president, and were all created on his orders. In the future parliament, they will continue serving Karimov,” Vasilya Inoyatova, a leader of the opposition Birlik (Unity) Popular Movement, told Reuters. Kopaj said the OSCE had evidence of cases of “proxy voting”, believed to be common in the countryside, when a person brings the passports of his family members and votes on their behalf.
Threat from Al-Qaida and Taliban constantly evolving, Security Council told: 13 September 2004 – Calling on the Security Council “to stay ahead of the curve,” the head of the Council’s committee that monitors sanctions against Al-Qaida and the Taliban said today the world needs “to think of new ways to defeat terrorism and its perpetrators” because the threat from the two groups keeps changing. In an open briefing to the Council, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, Chairman of the sanctions committee, said while it was wrong to suggest that the sanctions approach to terrorist groups had failed, the response could be more effective by being both vigilant and flexible. “The nature of the threat is constantly evolving, just as Al-Qaida itself has evolved from an organization with a structure and hierarchy into a global network of groups unbound by organizational structure but held together by a set of overlapping ideological goals,” he said. Mr. Muñoz said closer cooperation between States on operational issues was one example of how it could be much more difficult for terrorist groups to carry out their work. He also called on States to submit fresh names to the Committee’s list of individuals and entities belonging to, or associated with, Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Currently 429 names, or “only a small fraction of the actual number,” appear on the list, he said. “I understand that there can be many reasons for not submitting names to the Committee, including concerns regarding due process, delisting and potential stigmatization. I strongly believe, however, that Member States and the Committee can resolve such concerns together.” Improving the quality of the list was a priority for the Committee, he added. Mr. Muñoz said he was also encouraged that the monitoring team, which examines what steps individual States have taken to comply with the relevant resolutions against the Taliban and Al-Qaida, has observed stronger interest from many nations in helping the Committee with its work. The Council first imposed sanctions after the indictment of Usama bin Laden for the 1998 terrorist bombings of United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, which left hundreds of people dead.
UNICEF calls for better enforcement against child traffickers in South Asia: As delegates gather in Sri Lanka to review efforts to halt the commercial sexual exploitation of South Asian children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for better enforcement against traffickers and more crossborder cooperation by the region’s governments. “There should be no hiding place for those selling and trading children for sex,” said Sadig Rasheed, UNICEF’s Regional Director. “While governments and law enforcement agencies must do whatever they can to protect children, a lot of problems could be stopped tomorrow if men in South Asia said ‘no’ to child sex.” The three-day meeting in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, is drawing representatives from eight South Asian governments along with children from the region and officials from nearly a dozen UN and nongovernmental agencies to assess progress since the 2001Yokohama Global Commitment, which called for greater worldwide efforts to protect children. Because of links with organized crime it is extremely difficult to get reliable figures on trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, but UNICEF said an estimated 300, 000 women and children from Bangladesh have been trafficked to India and another 200,000 to Pakistan. In addition between 100,000 and 200,000 Nepali women and girls are said to be working in India’s sex industry, the agency added. While not all those trafficked will be employed as prostitutes, a considerable proportion will have become involved in this form of exploitation.
UN human rights official deplores executions in Uzbekistan: 13 September 2004 – Deploring the reported execution in Uzbekistan of people allegedly tortured into confessing and the government’s disregard of United Nations pleas for a stay, a senior UN human rights official today called on the Central Asian country to set a moratorium on the death penalty and urgently consider abolishing it. The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on torture, Theo van Boven, said he “deeply regrets that he continues to receive information” of such executions and noted that at least nine death row prisoners had been executed since late 2002 despite requests by the UN Human Rights Committee for a stay pending its consideration of the cases. Most recently, Azizbek Karimov and Yusuf Zhumayev were reportedly executed on 10 August, despite interventions by the Committee, Mr. van Boven added. Vladimir Sotirov, head of the United Nations’ Tajikistan Office of Peace-Building, announced on 21 September in Dushanbe that Tajik authorities have released 10 former fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). The 10 were part of a group of 103 former UTO.
Tajikistan releases 10 former United Tajik Opposition fighters: Vladimir Sotirov, head of the United Nations’ Tajikistan Office of Peace-Building, announced on 21 September in Dushanbe that Tajik authorities have released 10 former fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). The 10 were part of a group of 103 former UTO fighters who Democratic Party leader Mahmadruz Iskandarov said should have been freed in the post-civil-war amnesty. Sotirov said that the 10 were released after the Prosecutor-General’s Office determined that they had been arrested illegally. He added, “Another 50 people on the list were never detained at all, according to the Prosecutor-General’s Office. The rest were arrested for crimes committed after the amnesty.” The UTO was a key player in the 1992-97 civil war. (Asia Plus-Blitz).
Oil pipeline from Kazakhsan to China: Kazakhstan and China launched the construction of an oil pipeline on Tuesday that will ship up to 20 million tones (400,000 barrels) of Russian and Kazakh oil a year to help feed China’s booming economy. The link will be a major boom for landlocked Kazakhstan. The mineralrich nation aspires to triple its crude output to over 3.0 million bpd by 2015, but it lacks routes to energydeficient world markets. The $700-million, 962-km (600-mile) pipeline will be financed 50-50 by Chinese state oil firm CNPC and Kazakhstan’s KazMunaiGas and run from Atasu in central Kazakhstan to Alashankou in western China. Its completion is planned by December 2005. “This (pipeline) is an opportunity to employ the transit potential of our country to provide shipments of crude from western Siberia across our territory,” Kazakh Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik said at the ground-breaking ceremony in Atasu. “The Chinese side is responsible for filling the pipeline with crude and will hold talks with the relevant oil producing firms of the Russian Federation,” Shkolnik said without elaborating. The pipeline will link China to Kazakhstan’s pipeline network, including a branch shipping oil from Russia’s Siberian fields. It will have an initial annual capacity of 10 million tonnes (200,000 bpd) and a peak level of 20 million tonnes.
Apart from Russian crude, the new pipeline will also ship oil produced in southern Kazakhstan. Shkolnik said that the construction would be financed largely by a $600 million bank loan. “It is going to be repaid in five to eight years. The date will depend on loan terms.” Kazakhstan currently exports most of its oil via Russia, and besides building the China-bound pipeline is buying a tanker fleet for the Caspian Sea, to serve a new pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Kazakhstan also trades oil via swaps with Caspian neighbour Iran, and is currently swapping about 100,000 tonnes a month. (Reuters, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, Tuesday / September 28, 2004).
Pakistan’s economic rebound dependent on investment flows: Last week, it was announced that Pakistan and the U.S. would begin talks on a new Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The BIT framework obligates each party to provide equal treatment to foreign and domestic investors, and breaks down impediments to the free flow of capital between the two signatory nations. This announcement is the latest in a series of positive developments for Pakistan’ economy over the past few years, and shows that the U.S. aims to promote Pakistan as a viable trade and investment partner. The path to such future negotiations has arguably been paved by Pakistan’s successful placement of a new US$500 million eurobond with global investors. Peter Laurens in Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst).
Indian scientists discover a new molecule against Tuberculosis: Indian scientists today claimed to have made a major breakthrough when they reported a discovery of a new molecule against tuberculosis, which may help reduce treatment duration from the current six-eight months to two months. “Since 1963, this is the first success achieved in developing a new therapeutic molecule for TB, though efforts have been going on all over the world,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters in New Delhi. The new molecule called “ Sudoterb” is a result of public— private partnership under the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative Project launched by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. It has been discovered by Lupin Laboratories in artnership with four institutions. The partnership has applied for permission to start clinical trials to the Drug Controller. Applications for an Indian and a US patent had also been filed, he said. The new molecule, a synthetic one, is less toxic, and there is no recurrence of disease observed in animal studies, he said. If successful as a drug, it would help overcome the problem of resistance experienced with current TB drugs as they involve treatment for six-eight months and require multiple doses in a day, leading people
to skip or stop treatment midway. “It may reduce the treatment time to two months and may also reduce the dose to once daily,” Sibal said. DB Gupta from Lupin said that the molecule may be launched as a new drug in India after about four years of start of clinical trials. (By India Express Bureau).
Indian physicist vindicated in black hole controversy: An Indian theoretical physicist who questioned the existence of black holes and thereby challenged Stephen Hawking of Britain at last feels vindicated. But he is sad. Abhas Mitra, at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, was perhaps the first and the only scientist who had the guts to openly challenge Hawking of Cambridge University who is regarded by many as the modern-day Einstein. For over 30 years Hawking and his followers were perpetuating the theory that black holes — resulting from gravitational collapse of massive stars — destroy everything that falls into them preventing even light or information to escape. Mitra, four years ago, in a controversial paper in the reputed journal, “Foundations of Physics Letters,” showed that Hawking’s theory was flawed. He proved black holes couldn’t exist because their formation and existence flouted Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Except a handful, the majority of mainstream scientists dismissed Mitra’s conclusions even though, till now, no scientist has contradicted him in writing. Mitra invited several notable black hole theorists including Hawking and Jayant Narlikar of India to criticise his work but no one replied. Naturally, Mitra now feels vindicated following Hawking’s own admission two weeks ago at a conference in Dublin, Ireland, that there isn’t a black hole “in the absolute sense.” (By IndiaExpress Bureau 03rd Aug 2004).
The roots of jihad – By Middle East analyst Fiona Symon: Jihad has become a rallying cry for some Muslims. The Arabic word jihad means literally “struggle” and Islamic scholars have long been divided on how it should be interpreted. For some it means the struggle to defend one’s faith and ideals against harmful outside influences. The Afghan war against the Soviets attracted many Islamic radicals. For others it has come to represent the duty of Muslims to fight to to rid the Islamic world of western influence in the form of corrupt and despotic leaders and occupying armies. This is a view that has come to be widely accepted among the more militant Muslim groups, although most would not agree with the methods adopted by Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda movement.
Modern jihad: The origins of Bin Laden’s concept of jihad can be traced back to two early 20th century figures, who started powerful Islamic revivalist movements in response to colonialism and its aftermath. Pakistan and Egypt – both Muslim countries with a strong intellectual tradition – produced the movements and ideology that would transform the concept of jihad in the modern world. Maududi translated and interpreted the Koran: In Egypt, Hassan al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood and in Pakistan, Syed Abul Ala Maududi’s Jamaat Islami sought to restore the Islamic ideal of the union of religion and state. They blamed the western idea of the separation of religion and politics for the decline of Muslim societies. This, they believed, could only be corrected through a return to Islam in its traditional form, in which society was governed by a strict code of Islamic law. Al-Banna and Maudoudi breathed new life into the concept of jihad as a holy war to end the foreign occupation of Muslim lands. Wide acceptance: In the 1950s Sayed Qutb, a prominent member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, took the arguments of al-Banna and Maududi a stage further.
Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini developed his own version of radical Islam. For Qutb, all non-Muslims were infidels – even the so-called “people of the book”, the Christians and Jews – and he predicted an eventual clash of civilisations between Islam and the west. Qutb was executed by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1966. According to Dr Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, Qutb’s writings in response to Nasser’s persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood, “acquired wide acceptance throughout the Arab world, especially after his execution and more so following the defeat of the Arabs in the 1967 war with Israel”. Qutb and Maududi inspired a whole generation of Islamists, including Ayatollah Khomeini, who developed a Persian version of their works in the 1970s. Afghan impetus: The works of al- Banna, Qutb and Maududi were also to become the main sources of reference for the Arabs who fought alongside the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s. One of these was the Palestinian scholar, Abdullah Azzam, who had fought with the PLO in the 1970s but became disillusioned with the Palestinian leadership because of its secular outlook. Islam has developed a radical agenda. Azzam studied Islamic law at Cairo’s Al- Azhar, where he met the family of Sayed Qutb, and went on to teach at university in Saudi Arabia, where one of his students was Osama Bin Laden. In 1979, the battle to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation gave Abdullah Azzam a golden opportunity to put his revolutionary Islamic ideals into practice. Dubbed the ‘Emir of Jihad’, he was one of the first Arabs to join the Afghan mujahedeen, along with Osama Bin Laden. Together they set up a base in Peshawar, where they recruited and housed Arabs who had come to join the “holy war”. Azzam published books and magazines advocating the moral duty of every Muslim to undertake jihad and he travelled the world calling on Muslims to join the fight.
‘Mentality of jihad’: Saudi Arabia, which follows the fundamentalist Wahhabi school of Islam, had become a natural haven for radical Islamist scholars, including the radical Egyptian Islamist Ayman al-Zawahri. The ruling family, which had been criticised for its pro-western stance, seized upon the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a cause which could rally Islamist support and deflectt internal criticism. Osama Bin Laden has continued a strain of militant Islam. The kingdom now threw its political and financial weight behind the Afghan jihad, which was also backed by Pakistan and the United States. Pakistan found it useful to nurture its own jihad movements, which could be harnessed in its territorial dispute with India over Kashmir. The Saudi Islamist Saad al- Faqih says that the Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia were careful at that time not to talk in terms of a jihad against anyone other than the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan. But he says that the war in Afghanistan created a longerterm “mentality of jihad” which some found hard to abandon.
Once the Soviet forces had been expelled from Afghanistan, Azzam believed that the Arab fighters should return home and resume their former occupations, according to Dr Tamimi.
Gulf war blow: But followers of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement, an extremist offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood led by al-Zawahri, argued that “Afghanistan should be a platform for the liberation of the entire Muslim world”. Bin Laden’s followers could not accept US troops in Saudi Arabia. Dr Tamimi believes Azzam’s assassination in a car bomb in Peshawar in 1989 helped Zawahri’s more hardline view to prevail. Zawahri’s cause was strengthened by the 1991 Gulf war, which brought US troops to Saudi Arabia. After devoting their lives to the liberation of Muslim territory from foreign occupation, it was a bitter blow for Bin Laden and his Arab mujahideen to see land they regarded as sacred occupied by “infidel” soldiers. Zawahri’s growing influence over Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organisation paved the way for the notorious 1998 “declaration of war” against the United States and the spate of terrorist attacks on American targets that followed. (BBC NEWS, Tuesday, 16 October, 2001).
UN: Secretary-General condemns terrorist attacks on India and Pakistan.
India: The Secretary-General has learned with shock and dismay the news of bomb and gunfire attacks that took place on 2 October in crowded public places in Nagaland and Assam states, India, which have claimed the lives of a large number of people.
The Secretary-General strongly condemns these terrorist attacks. No cause or grievance can justify such senseless and cruel acts that target innocent civilians. He expresses his sincere condolences to the victims and their families.
Pakistan: The Secretary-General has learned with dismay and abhorrence the reports of a terrorist attack on a mosque in the town of Sialkot in Pakistan during Friday prayers on 1 October, which has killed and injured a large number of worshipers. No cause or motive can justify attacks on places of worship and innocent civilians. The Secretary-General condemns this cowardly act in the strongest terms. He also calls for calm and restraint in the wake of the dastardly act. (UNIC/Press Release/262-2004).
World Habitat Day: The theme of World Habitat Day this year, Cities – engines of rural development, was chosen to remind development policy-makers at every level not to think of “urban” and “rural” as separate entities, but rather as parts of an economic and social whole.
Cities interact with rural areas in many ways. Migrants living and working in cities send money to families in rural areas. Cities absorb excess rural populations, and offer markets for farm produce and other rural products. They provide services and amenities – such as universities and hospitals – that may not be available or feasible in rural areas.
Cities are also the locus of most global investment, raising demand for goods, labour and other inputs from rural areas.
In the next 25 years, virtually all population growth will take place in the world’s cities, most of it in the cities of developing countries. The fastest growing cities will be secondary and market towns, which are especially close to rural areas. This growth can help to improve rural life and ease the problems associated with mega-cities. But to do so, it will need to be well-managed, with significant investments in communication, transport channels and other infrastructure, and with concerted efforts to ensure that all people have access to adequate services.
While there are obvious differences between urban and rural development that require different interventions, ultimately sustainable development cannot and should not focus exclusively on one or the other. On this World Habitat Day, let us recognize that cities have a crucial contribution to make to rural development, and let us pursue development in a comprehensive way that reflects that understanding. (UNIC/Press Release/261-2004).
NGO: AEHRF Secretary General participated in workshop on CA. Secretary General of Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum DR. K.N. Pandita participated in a four – day Advanced Research Workshop organised by the Institute of Asian Studies of Leiden University in Holland in collaboration with the NATO. He presented a paper titled ‘Drugs and Arms trafficking in Central Asia’. More than two dozen eminent scholars drawn from prestigious academic institutes in Central Asia, Europe and the USA attended the workshop and made presentations on a variety of themes pertaining to contemporary Central Asian history, politics, society and ecology.
Drugs: Russia and Kyrgyzstan coordinate anti-drug efforts. Kurmanbek Kubatbekov, Director of Kyrgyzstan’s Drug Control Agency, and Viktor Cherkesov, head of Russia’s State Committee on Drug Trafficking, signed a cooperation agreement in Bishkek on 25 August to coordinate their countries’ anti-drug efforts, akipress.org reported. Cherkesov called the agreement an important step toward stemming the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan to the West via Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Cherkesov also met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, Kabar news agency reported. President Akaev noted that Kyrgyz-Russian cooperation to fight drug trafficking is important because the narcotics trade funds terrorism.
EU: Turkey meets last European Union test. The passage of sweeping penal reforms has eliminated a sizeable roadblock in Turkey’s European Union membership bid. Yet despite the reforms – much lauded by EU officials – debate still rages within Europe over Turkey’s suitability to join the EU.
The reforms, passed in an emergency session of parliament on September 26, are the last in a four-year series of radical changes made by Turkey to bring its legislation in line with EU political norms. EU officials had termed their passage “critical” to the country’s hopes for joining the union.
Women will be among the biggest beneficiaries under the revised penal code, the first overhaul of the legislation in 78 years. Leniency for rape within marriage and honour killings will disappear, and assaults on women will be treated as attacks on individuals, rather than on a family unit. Religious, ethnic and sexual discrimination will be made a crime. Penalties for torture have been increased. Police will be barred from entering houses without sufficient cause, and tight restrictions will be placed on the state’s compilation of private information about individuals.
A clause that made adultery a jailable offence was removed at the last moment after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew his support for the provisions. The about-face occurred after an emergency trip on September 23 to Brussels by Erdogan to discuss the clause, the subject of heated objections throughout Europe, with EU officials. In response to objections from the Turkish opposition, the government had withdrawn the penalty reform bill from parliament last week, raising the possibility that Turkey would fail to pass the penal reforms in time for a progress report on the country’s EU application due on October 6.( Mevlut Katik).
CA: Afghan foreign minister wraps up Uzbekistan visit. Abdullah Abdullah ended a three-day visit to Uzbekistan on 30 August, Uzbek TV reported. The visit focused on trade and transport relations between the two countries, Uzbekistan’s role in Afghan reconstruction, and the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking in the region. According to Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safaev, “Afghanistan should participate in the integration processes in Central Asia and restore its historic role as a linking point in the region,” ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August. Safaev pointed to expanding cooperation between the two countries and trade volume of $80 million in 2003. For his part, Abdullah thanked Uzbekistan, saying, “Uzbekistan, with its active economic and technical assistance, is playing an extremely important role in the construction of a new Afghanistan, in particular in the construction of roads and bridges.” The Afghan finance minister and public transport minister accompanied Abdullah on the visit.
Russian base in Tajikistan finishing touches: Dushanbe, 6 August: Tajikistan and Russia are putting the finishing touches on a plan aimed at transforming the Russian Defence Ministry’s 201st Motor Rifle Division into a Russian military base in Tajikistan, Russia’s acting charge d’ affairs in Dushanbe, Levan Dzhagarian, told Interfax. “Following the summit in Sochi on 4 June, 2004, each country’s agencies have been negotiating on the final versions of one inter-state and three intergovernmental agreements that will accompany the April 1999 treaty on creating a Russian military base in Tajikistan,” he said.
“This set of documents will bring relations between Russia and Tajikistan to a fundamentally new level. The parties are working today in a constructive manner, and are committed to close cooperation in negotiating and performing interstate procedures,” he said. Once the documents are ready, the countries’ authorities will decide when and where they will be officially signed, he said. (Source: Interfax-AVN military news agency web site, Moscow).
Russian membership of CACO ratified… . Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev announced on 28 August that the council of foreign ministers of member states in the Central Asian Cooperation Organization ratified Russia’s accession to the organization during a 27 August meeting in Astana, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Toqaev said that the main topics at the meeting were the inclusion of Afghanistan in regional integration processes, the creation of an international hydropower consortium within the organization, shared television and radio broadcasts, and the removal of trade barriers between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Today reported. Toqaev also stated on 28 August that the OSCE needs to pay more attention on issues of trade and security, and avoid an excessive focus on humanitarian concerns. His remarks echoed a Russian-initiated statement on 3 July by a number of CIS states. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on 28 August that it is satisfied with the results of the Central Asian Cooperation Organization’s 27 August meeting, RIA-Novosti reported. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan founded the Central Asian Cooperation Organization in February 2002. The leaders of the member states will gather for a summit in Dushanbe in October.
Central Asian Republics plus Japan meeting. The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan met on 28 August in Astana with Japanese Foreign Minister Yokiro Kawaguchi, Kazinform reported. The meeting ended with a joint declaration and a vow to hold further “Central Asia-plus-Japan” meetings. The declaration stressed the need to broaden cooperation in a variety of areas, including the economy, energy resources, the environment, and exchange programs, Kazakhstan Today reported. On the latter count, Japan will accept 1,000 students from Central Asia over the next three years. Japan will also organize training for Central Asian specialists on energy supplies, the environment, and water resources. At a separate meeting with Kazakh Foreign Minister Toqaev on 27 August, Kawaguchi said that Japan is prepared to help Kazakhstan in its bid for WTO membership, Kazinform reported.(Source: Uzbekistan Daily Digest.
Strong ties between Russia and Armenia, by Sergei Blagov. As Armenia and Azerbaijan prepared for presidential summit on Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia has begun to emphasize its own ties with Yerevan, prompting Baku to question the Kremlin’s role as an objective mediator for the conflict.
Chances for a genuine breakthrough in the September 15 talks at the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) conference in Astana, Kazakhstan are doubtful, but both Azerbaijan and Armenia are already touting their respective inclinations for peace. On September 2, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev told reporters in the province of Naxcivan, near the Armenian border, “The fact that I have not yet abandoned negotiations on Nagorno- Karabakh means that I believe in their productivity,” Interfax reported. In turn, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian announced at an August 30 meeting in Prague with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov that the two sides had made progress in laying “the foundation” for the September talks, according to Interfax.
But that foundation is one that Baku believes should include Russia. In August, Azerbaijan called on the Kremlin to step up its own contributions to a Karabakh peace deal. Russia, long the region’s heavyweight, appears to be seen by Baku as a potentially influential counterweight to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose own peacemaking efforts via the tripartite Minsk Group have been the subject of much criticism from Azerbaijani parliamentarians and government officials.
When Moscow’s response to Baku’s demand came, however, it took place at a meeting with Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian — the sixth such in the past year. At an August 20 summit in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that “Russia is ready to play a role of mediator and guarantor” in the Karabakh conflict, but noted that “there have been no breakthrough decisions.”
A show of Russian support could stand Armenia in good stead at the CIS talks. Speculation has recently mounted that Kocharian is prepared to return the seven Azerbaijani territories it occupies in exchange for a peace deal on Armenian-controlled Karabakh. According to one recent opinion poll, that would place Kocharian at variance with nearly half of Armenia’s population — a delicate situation for a leader who withstood weeks of opposition protests earlier this spring. In a June 25 poll by the Armenian Centre for National and International Studies, 45.5 per cent of Armenians stated that they believe that territories seized during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan should remain under Armenian control.
Meanwhile, Moscow appears ready to assist. Russia’s long time influence in the Caucasus is already under political pressure from the US in Georgia and Azerbaijan and also under increasing economic pressure in both Georgia and Armenia from outside energy players like Iran. Even while expressing no official concern at reported US plans to establish a base in Azerbaijan, Moscow has been busy reinforcing its traditionally strong ties with Armenia.
Recent military exercises between the two long time allies appear to have sparked the sharpest concern in Baku. At a training base not far from Yerevan on August 24-28, 1,900 Armenian and Russian troops fought back an imaginary invasion and assault on Russia’s 102nd military base at Guymri.
Despite assurances from Armenia’s army that the manoeuvres are not directed against a third country, Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry has taken a different view. Voicing concern that Russia had held war games with “an aggressor state,” Defence Ministry spokesman Ramiz Melikov has stated that the operations contradicted Russia’s role as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In November 2003, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov described Armenia as Russia’s “only ally in the South.” The Russian military presence in Armenia has deep roots. A 1995 treaty gives Russia’s military base a 25-year-long presence in Armenia, while a 1997 friendship treaty provides for mutual assistance in the event of a military threat to either country. Currently, there are 2,500 Russian military personnel stationed in the country. Recent military materiel shipped to Armenia includes MiG-29 jetfighters and S300 PMU1 air defence batteries, an advanced version of the SA-10C Grumble air defence missile. Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service is also deployed to guard Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Iran.
Economic ties could also fuel Azerbaijani fears of favouritism toward its long-time rival.
Armenia is heavily dependent on Russia for its natural gas and nuclear fuel supplies. In 2002, Russia wrote off $100 million of Armenia’s external debt in return for control of five state-run Armenian enterprises, including the Razdan thermal power plant. Russia’s state-run Unified Energy Systems power monopoly also controls Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power station and hydro-power plants under a similar debt repayment arrangement – a deal which has placed 90 percent of Armenia’s energy system in Russian hands.
At the same time, however, divergent interests have begun to emerge, most notably with Armenia’s aspiration to limit its dependence on Russian energy supplies by building a $120 million, 141-kilometer gas pipeline from Iran to Europe. Iran reportedly has agreed to supply 36 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Armenia from 2007-2027, a plan that could undercut Russian energy companies’ own position in the Caucasus. The plan has yet to be finalized.
Such a situation would appear likely to push Russia to forge even closer links with Armenia to protect its own energy interests. If so, the bid to promote Moscow as an objective mediator could be fraught with additional difficulties.
In the meantime, with little time remaining before the summit in Astana, the Kremlin is playing its own cards carefully. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mamedyarov had little to show after an August 19 trip to Moscow to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh other than an official statement that the Kremlin recognizes Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Kocharian was treated to similarly circumspect language at his Sochi summit with Putin. Wedged between foes Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Russian leader said, is in “a very difficult geopolitical situation.” (Sergei Blagov is a Moscow-based specialist in CIS political affair.
British troops begin exercises in Kazakhstan. Kazakh airborne units and 164 troops from a British infantry battalion began Steppe Eagle-2004 international peacekeeping exercises in south-eastern Kazakhstan on 18 August, Interfax Kazakhstan reported. The exercises, which are being held for the second consecutive year, focus on anti-terrorist and stabilization operations, Kazakhstan Today reported. Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Sheeley, military attaché at the British Embassy, told a briefing that “since we are working with the Kazakh military in Iraq, we need to learn together how to hold safe exercises,” Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The exercises are scheduled to end on 28 August Sub-continent: Indo-Pak thaw promises peace in the sub-continent. President General Musharraf of Pakistan and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September last. The two leaders talked for forty-five minutes. In a joint communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the two leaders reiterated their pledge to resolve their differences through bilateral talks in a peaceful atmosphere.
The statement has been well received by the people of both the countries. Print media has welcomed the development and hoped that hostilities will cease and an era of peaceful coexistence will be ushered in. In this background a 16-member media team of Pakistan lead by the eminent journalist Mr. Imtiyaz Alam paid a good-will visit to India. The team also visited Jammu and Srinagar where they met with a cross section of political activists, journalists, human rights promoters, and leading personalities from civil society. In Jammu they also visited a refugee camp of the internally displaced Kashmir.
Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum Presented Its Case To NGO Committee : The President of our NGO’s European Branch, Ms Sophie Barathieu presented herself at the May 2004 session of the ECOSOC NGO Committee of the UN in New York where our application for grant of ECOSOC status came up for consideration. Earlier she had also been present in the December 2003 session. She replied to the questions raised by one of the members of the Committee. This is the fourth time since 2001 that we were asked to send our representative to the sessions of the Committee. Each time new questions are raised. In a subsequent communication the Secretariat of the NGO Section wrote to us that owing to the paucity of time, our representative’s reply could not be taken up for discussion. We were further informed that the case would be taken up in the December 2004 session at NY.
Our Organization Participates In Seminars, Symposia and Conferences: AEHRF Secretary General, Dr. Kashinath Pandita participated in a two-day international seminar on Naqshbandiyeh Sufi Order organized by the Tajik Academy of Sciences in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) 29 – 30 June 2004. He presented a paper on the theme of “Impact of Naqshbandiyeh Sufi teachings on the Indian mind”. The seminar was organized by the Tajikistan Academy of Science.This was Dr. Pandita’s second cultural visit to Tajikistan in two years. Last year he had participated in the five-day seminar cum conference on Nasir Khusraw, a 10th century Isma’ili ideologue of Badakhshan region in modern Tajikistan. The London-based Agha Khan Institute of Isma’ili Studies organized that seminar. Dr. Pandita presented a scholarly paper discussing the humanizing impact of the teachings of Central Asian mystics in mediaeval times and its role in shaping the Indian composite civilization. The paper has been accepted for publication.
Our Vice President’s Book Is Formally Released: Our Vice President, Maqsooda Sarfi Shiotani released her book titled Japan: From the Eyes Of An Indian Girl in a formal function held at the Indo-Japan Centre in New Delhi. A distinguished gathering of more than fifty persons was present in the function. Introducing her book briefly, Maqsooda Shiotani said that as an Indian girl married to a Japanese man, she had bizarre experiences of adapting to a new culture that was broadly different from the one in which she was born and brought up. Published by B.R. Publishing Corporation, New Delhi, the 195 – page volume carrying a couple of photographs is an absorbing study of comparative cultures on which very little has been written so far. The work is a valuable contribution to the strengthening of good relations between the peoples of the two countries.
AEHRF Will Participate In The Annual Conference Of World Association of Non-Government Organizations: The European Branch of our organization will send a three-member delegation under the leadership of its President Sophie L. Barathieu to participate in the Annual Conference 2004 of World Association of Non-Government Organizations (WANGO) from 21 to 25 October in Budapest, Hungary. The conference in question will specifically discuss at length the aspects of the role and importance of NGOs in contemporary world order. Two members of our delegation are expected to present papers in the briefings.
New UN Anti-Terrorism Official Outlines Plans To Tackle Scourge: The new head of the United Nations counter-terrorism Committee’s (CTC) Executive Directorate on 2 July outlined plans to tackle the scourge by working with allies in the flight and operating with maximum efficiency. “I’ll try and do my utmost to fulfill my tasks at the end of the day to produce something which would be considered by the world at large to have been a successful counter-terrorism activity,” Javier Ruperez told reporters at his first news conference in New York. The CTC draws its mandate from Security Council resolution 1373 – adopted in the wake of 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States – which compels countries to report regularly on their efforts to combat terrorism.
Mr. Ruperez hailed progress since the measure’s passage. The sensitivity concerning terrorism has been changed around the world “precisely because of the existence of that resolution,” he said. Asked about the current situation in Iraq, he said,” What we are watching right now in Iraq has all the appearance of terrorist acts, and those people who are using violence for the purpose of achieving political goals and on the way killing civilians, innocent people, and using this indiscriminate violence to me are terrorists,” he said. “Terrorism is trying to eat up our own reasons for being,” he observed. “It is the fight against reason, it is the fight against the principles of the United Nations.” A national of Spain, Mr. Ruperez said terrorism has sadly been a part of both his national and personal life. “I was kidnapped by the Basque terrorists in 1979,” he recalled. Spain had been able to assert its power as a democratic State. “I think that we were able to build up a very strong sense of what we wanted to achieve against the terrorists,” he said.
“Even if it does take place, the world will continue, and democracy will continue, and freedom will continue. “We know that the fight will be a bit longer, but at the end of the day we will prevail, he said.- (Courtesy UNIC New Delhi, 10 – 16 July 2004).
UNEP Announces New Project To Clean Up Pollution In Western Indian Ocean: Environment ministers meeting in Madagascar in July have agreed to an $11 million project to cut pollution in the Western Indian Ocean through strengthening pollution laws, regulations and regional and national cooperation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on 6 July. The three-year project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Government of Norway, will help eight East African countries devise action plans to curb sewage, chemicals and other pollutants coming from the land into the region’s rivers and coastal waters. The Western Indian Ocean – one of the most wildlife-rich in the world with important mangrove forests, sea grass beds, lagoons and coral reefs – is thought to hold more than 11,000 species of plants and animals including such creatures as the dugong, a marine mammal believed to be the inspiration for sea-farers’ tales of mermaids, the coelacanth, a fossil fish, and more than a fifth of the world’s tropical inshore fish species. According to UNEP, some 30 million people in the five mainland countries of Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania and on the islands of the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles, depend upon the area’s marine and coastal resources for food, livelihoods and recreation. The project was announced at the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the Nairobi Convention for the protection, management and development of the marine and coastal environment of the eastern African region. The meeting took place in the Madagascan capital of Antananarivo. The treaty is a regional mechanism established by UNEP through which global treaties and agreements, including the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from land – based activities (UNEP/GPA) and those relating to the Urn’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), can be implemented. The GEF is a multi-billion –dollar fund that invests in projects in developing countries. UNEP, along with the UN Development Bank, play key roles in managing the Fund’s projects on the ground.- (Courtesy UN Newsletter, UNIC, New Delhi, 10-16 July 2004).
Global Tobacco-Control Treaty On Track To Become Law By End Of Year: The United Nations global treaty to curb tobacco use, which now claims almost 5 million lives every year and causes an estimated annual net loss of $200 billion in treatment and lost productivity, is on track to become binding international law by the end of the year, the UN health agency reported on 2 July 2004. With the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) closing for signature this week, barely 90 per cent of the world’s countries have signed the treaty, which requires them to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labeling and clean indoor air controls and strengthen laws clamping down on tobacco smuggling. The FCTC has become one of the most rapidly embraced UN conventions, with 167 WHO Member States and the European Community (EC) signing, and 23 countries ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding – thus making it law – just one year after the pact opened for signature in Geneva. More than half the required 40 ratifications are now in hand. “Although we have good reasons to be confident, a relentless effort will still be needed for the foreseeable future,” WHO Director-General Dr. Lee Jong Wook said. “Current projections show a rise of 31 per cent in tobacco-related deaths during the next 22 years, which will double the current death toll, bringing it to almost 10 million a year.” WHO urges countries that have signed to ratify the Treaty as soon as possible. “The sooner the 40 ratifications are in place, the sooner effective and coordinated action within the Framework Convention at country level can begin,” said Catherine Le Gales-Camus, Assistant Director-General, Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health. The treaty, adopted unanimously by all 192 Member States in May last year, is the first public health treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. It was designed o become a tool to manage what has become the single biggest preventable cause of death. There are currently an estimated 1.3 billion smokers worldwide. Half of them, some 650 million people, are expected to die prematurely of tobacco-related diseases.
SOLIDARITY WITH DETAINED AND MISSING STAFF MEMBERS – Message of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “On 25 March 1985, Alec Collett, on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), was abducted by armed men near Beirut Airport. His fate has never been determined The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, now being observed for the nineteenth time, is meant to draw attention not only to Alec’s case, but also to the plight of any and all civilian personnel who have been arrested, detained, abducted or “disappeared” while serving the United Nations. Last year, at least 10 staff members were taken hostage in separate incidents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia and Liberia. Earlier this year, a staff member was kidnapped and held for more than a week in Somalia. The threats faced by UN staff, international and local alike, as well as by our non-governmental colleagues and the press, remain profound. I would like to commend the Staff Union’s Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service for its determination to focus global attention on this issue of crucial importance for our mission. I call again on the 120 Member States that have still not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel, to do so without delay.
But that, of course, is merely a first step, and one on paper, too; there is far more that States can and must do to provide secure and safe working conditions, to prevent hostage-taking, arbitrary detentions and “disappearances”, and to seek justice when such things occur. For United Nations staff, the wounds and memories of last year’s horrific attack in Baghdad are as painful as ever, and have created a new context and awareness in which all our work now takes place. I wish to assure all staff that their safety remains my foremost concern, and I am committed to ensuring that the policies, protections and accountability measures are in place that will enable them to carry out their vital work.”
US STRATEGIC PRIORITIES SHIFTING IN CENTRAL ASIA – Stephen Blank:: US strategic priorities are shifting in Central Asia, raising the likelihood that the United States will establish a long-term presence in the region. Under the Bush administration’s still-developing plans, US military forces hope to maintain small-scale outposts in Uzbekistan, and possibly Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek officials seem receptive to such an arrangement, but any move by Washington to extend the American military’s stay in the region could quickly become a source of friction with other regional powers. Then the United States established bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, US political and military leaders indicated that American forces would stay only as long as the regional terrorism threat remained. In recent months, however, US officials have quietly voiced the possibility of making permanent what were supposed to be temporary Central Asian bases. Washington still won’t admit this officially.
Nevertheless, US officials increasingly speak about the need to retain an ability to rapidly project power around the globe. American officials have extolled the value of existing US facilities in Central Asia – at Khanabad in Uzbekistan, and at Manas in Kyrgyzstan – for playing a key support role for ongoing US anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan. Now, it appears the United States is interested in expanding the existing infrastructure to be prepared for future strategic contingencies in Asia. In a search for more regional allies, the United States has begun talks with India on extending to it a missile defence umbrella. US officials also have hinted at exploring the formation of an Asian collective security organization, a so called “Asian NATO.” In addition, Washington has been steadily strengthening military ties with Japan, Southeast Asian states, and Australia. Thus, the determination to retain access to Central Asia meshes with Washington’s overall strategy in Asia. During a late February visit to Uzbekistan, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld provided insight into the Bush administration’s strategic vision. Stressing that “no final decisions” had been made, Rumsfeld indicated that the US wanted to establish what he termed “operating sites” in Asia. The defence secretary went on to explain that such facilities would “not be permanent as a base would be permanent, but would be a place where the United States and coalition countries could periodically and intermittently have access and support.” Rumsfeld’s rhetoric in Tashkent indicated that Uzbekistan was a prime candidate to host a potential US operating site. “We [the United States] have benefited greatly in our efforts in the global war on terror and in Afghanistan from the wonderful cooperation we’ve received from the government of Uzbekistan,” the told reporters. Military planners place operating sites into two categories — forward operating bases (FOBs) and forward operating locations (FOLs). The latter would be situated closest to the theatre of operations, while the former would likely serve as logistical or command-and-control centres for those operations. Under peacetime circumstances, FOBs and possibly FOLs would be manned by small groups of forces.
In the event of a crisis, however, these facilities would expand to accommodate a rapid influx of military personnel and equipment. The Pentagon’s evident desire to retain access to facilities such as Khanabad is in keeping with its overall desire to dramatically increase the rapid deployment capabilities of the US military. In stressing that a potential long-term Central Asian presence does not necessarily mean a large-scale military deployment, US officials hope to keep Russian and Chinese opposition to their plans to a minimum. China and Russia have only reluctantly tolerated the US strategic presence in
Central Asia. They are clearly concerned that permanent American bases in the region would be primarily designed to limit Beijing’s and Moscow’s own influence in Central Asia. The US base issue appears to be an increasingly sensitive topic for Russian leaders. Moscow will accept US bases in Central Asia only for the duration of the Afghan anti-terrorism operation, “and for no longer,” the Gazeta.ru web site quoted Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov as saying in late 2003. It remains an open question as to whether the new US strategy will be fully implemented. Even if US military planners can overcome Chinese and Russian opposition, it is no sure thing that US taxpayers will be willing to sustain the financial burden of maintaining operating sites. ( Stephen Blank is a professor at the US Army War College).
CENTRAL ASIAN MILITANT GROUP REMAINS ACTIVE IN PAKISTAN – Mike Redman:: The Pakistani military’s ongoing offensive in tribal areas near the country’s border with Afghanistan has turned up evidence that a Central Asian militant group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, remains active. Pakistani generals also indicate that government troops may have narrowly missed capturing Tahir Yuldashev, the IMU’s leading commander. The Pakistani security sweep has focused on South Waziristan, near the Afghan border. On March 20, reports circulated that a “high-value target” – widely reported at the time to be al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri – was surrounded. On March 22, however, the target was reported to have evaded capture, apparently escaping from the village of Kaloosha via a tunnel. In addition, the target likely made his escape at the outset of the Pakistani campaign, before government forces could fully seal the area. Now, officials believe that al-Zawahri, one of the masterminds behind the September 11 terrorist attack, was likely not the one in Kaloosha. Instead, consensus is building that the target was Yuldashev, the IMU’s political leader. Though the target evaded capture, Pakistani military leaders suggest he may be wounded. Referring to intercepts of Islamic radical communications, Pakistani Army Brig. Gen. Mehmood Shah, who is in charge of security for South Waziristan, appeared to confirm the presence of a high-level IMU leader in the area. Shah specifically cited the transcript of an intercepted conversation about a wounded militant who was
seeking to get out of the area and would require “four men to carry him and 10 or 11 people to protect him.” The IMU’s combat capabilities were widely believed to have been smashed during the US-led anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan, where the Central Asian militant group maintained a training base. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The IMU’s military leader, Juma Namangani, was reportedly killed during the US blitz on Afghanistan, tough concrete evidence of his death has been lacking. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The fact that the IMU has been largely silent in recent years lent credence to the belief that it had fallen apart. A building body of evidence, however, indicates that there is a considerable IMU presence in Pakistan.
According to a Pakistani assessment, the roughly 500 or so militants in Kaloosha are mostly Uzbeks and Chechens. The remainder of the fighters in the area are thought to be local tribesmen. The initial report pointing to the presence of foreign militants came from Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, the Pakistani commander of the counterinsurgency operation. According to Hussain, military communications experts have intercepted radio transmissions in both Chechen and Uzbek, with Arabic words peppered throughout conversations. According to Central Asian analyst Arkady Dubnov, Chechen and Uzbek militants often use Arabic to communicate, having learned it during training with Arabic-speaking al Qaeda instructors in Afghan training camps during the Taliban era. Though the Soviet Union collapsed just under 13 years ago, many young Uzbeks, especially those from rural areas, now lack the ability to converse in Russian. Thus, Russian cannot serve as a lingua franca for Chechens and Uzbeks.
According to Pakistani military officials, dozens of militants have been killed during the recent the security sweep and dozens more have been captured. Pakistani troops have met stiff resistance, Hussain confirmed. “They are extremely professional fighters,” the general told reporters on March 21. The IMU launched insurgent strikes into the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in 1999-2000 with the avowed aim of toppling Uzbek leader Islam Karimov and establishing a new Islamic order in the country.
During this time, Yuldashev and Namangani were believed to have built close ties with al Qaeda and the radical Islamic Taliban movement, which governed much of Afghanistan until being driven from power by the US anti-terrorism campaign in late 2001. Since then, it appears that the IMU has been quietly rebuilding its organization in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Confirmation that the IMU has restored its combat capabilities would deliver a hard political blow to Uzbek leader Islam Karimov, who at home has attempted to stifle individual rights, including freedom of religious expression, in an effort to snuff out the Islamic radical security threat. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Reports that Yuldashev and his followers remain active could invigorate clandestine Islamic radical activities inside Uzbekistan, making it easier for the IMU to recruit new members. Already, Uzbek authorities are struggling to contain another radical group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Despite the unrelenting crackdown in Uzbekistan, Hizb, a non-violent group that seeks to oust Karimov and establish an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia, has steadily expanded its membership in recent years, while at the same time stepping up its anti-government agitation. The news coming out of Pakistan has clearly gotten Karimov’s attention. At a March 23 news conference, the Uzbek leader called on Pakistan to hand over any Uzbek citizen taken prisoner during the South Waziristan security sweep. “If they [Uzbeks] are detained, they should be handed over to Uzbek judicial powers. This is an international norm and we hope that Pakistan will treat our demands with understanding,” the Tribune-uz web site quoted Karimov as saying. On March 1, a report in the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta alleged that the IMU operatives were active in the Afghan capital, Kabul, as well as in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Funding for IMU activities was being provided by “Arab sources,” the newspaper report claimed, without providing details. It went on to quote a self-described former militant – a man identifying himself as Uigun Saidov, and saying that he left the radical movement in late 2003 because he wanted to return to Uzbekistan – as saying the IMU had received assistance from anti-Western elements within Pakistan’s security apparatus. Saidov also claimed that IMU fighters had participated in recent Islamic radical raids into Afghanistan, and had fought in Kashmir. (Mike Redman is a security analyst based in London.)
The Issue of the Rights of Children – Maqsooda Shiotan: The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of women and children has been doing a good work ever since the position was created. The study and reports submitted by him from time to time have immensely enriched the fund of knowledge on the subject. Along with the violation of the rights of children, child abuse in different parts of the world and in different societies has also come to light. Child abuse has various forms and manifestations. Putting the teen-aged children to manual work for the sake of making benefit from their labour is still a widespread phenomenon in the developing countries. In particular such small scale and household industries as require minimum mobility for the children are biggest offenders against the rights of children. There are reports that in situations of conflict, children are used for carrying small arms and explosives to be delivered clandestinely to the receivers. In the process many children get killed, wounded or disabled by accidental explosions. In Afghan war, thousands of children became victims.
A major source of child abuse is the system of education in some countries of the world. The children are given education in religious fundamentalism and orthodox faith and they are taught hatred against the people of other faiths. This is particularly true of some religious seminaries. In doing so the children are deprived of their right to modern scientific and technological branches of learning. Pornography is another aspect of child abuse. Despite some restrictions imposed by local regimes, the computer is becoming a source of dissemination of pornography. Children are amused to play with the computer and thus they are exposed to pornographic fund. Serious steps need to be taken to put this practice to an end. It is very unfortunate that children are subjected to sexual assaults even in advanced societies. In most cases, the event is suppressed. True, countries have framed laws to punish the culprits but it becomes difficult to establish the crime and inflict punishment. Child marriage is still prevalent in some backward countries in the Asian and African continents. A foolproof system has yet to be evolved to stop child marriage. Denial of secular education to children is a violation of human rights.
Segregation of children on the basis of gender, race or language is also violation of children’s rights. Broken families leave a very bad impact on children. They are traumatised because the family is not enjoying the warmth of love and affection. Subjecting children to a harsh disciplinary regime makes them psychological wrecks. Initiatives have to be taken to educate parents not to be too harsh disciplinarians for their children. (Maqsooda Shiotani is Japan-based Vice President of Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum).
The Keys – Dr. K.L. Choudhwry
Even after a decade in exile
I hang this bunch of keys from my girdle.
Keys that I carried with me
When I was forced to flee
Keys to my home,
Keys to my library, my diaries, my relics,
Keys that opened the sanctum
Where my gods reside, all the keys
Except the keys to my new destination.
Keep wandering in exile,
Carrying thee keys
Like an albatross.
I know the locks to these keys
Have been force open or broken
And all they guarded taken away,
My little possessions squandered,
My secrets laid bare,
The books consigned to flames
Or sold worth their weight as trash,
The prayer room desecrated,
The gods defiled.
These keys that I carry with me are rusted with disuse
But I do not throw them away
I rub them softly, gently,
Like Aladdin’s lamp,
And all my treasures materialize.
They help me unlock the memories of yesteryears.
(Dr. K.L.Chodhury is the renowned physician exiled from Kashmir)
Support to Afghanistan beyond Bonn Timetable: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 24 September asked a special ministerial meeting of some 20 countries, including some of the world’s richest, for renewed help for the Afghan Government and said the support will likely be required into the future because “ the need is even greater than we thought and likely to last longer.” According to a text of his remarks released after the closed – door meeting, Annan said the governments should be prepared to plan for continued assistance beyond the 2004 time-frame set by an international donors’ conference in Bonn in 2001 and called for a new international meeting early next year to re-assess needs. “The (Afghan) Government needs your support in finding the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund,” Mr. Annan said. “In particular, it may be necessary to take another look at reconstruction and development needs beyond the timeframe set out in the Bonn Agreement. Many of the pledges made last year in Tokyo extended only through the end of the Bonn process. It has become clear since then that the need is even greater than we thought, and likely to last longer.” (Courtesy UN Newsletter, 27 Sept-3 Oct 2003, New Delhi).
Accountability for abuse of Afghan Women’s rights – K.N. Pandita: Afghan women were the worst sufferers in country’s civil war. On top of that, the Taliban had denied them fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of movement, association, and expression, and equal access to work and education, in all aspects of their lives. As the conflict intensified with the U.S.- led war against terrorism, Afghan women faced the likelihood of further suffering and deprivation of their human rights, fundamental freedoms, and personal dignity at the hands of warring factions. Additionally, women were made to endure some of the most serious humanitarian consequences of the military action. As the international community, and particularly the U.N., ponders the future of a post-conflict Afghanistan, accountability for past abuses and respect for women’s rights – in law and in practice – must be a central feature of any reconstruction and development plan. To date, there has been no accountability for the human rights abuses committed during the civil war, nor for the additional violations of women’s rights inflicted under the Taliban. Refugees, the majority of whom were women and children, faced a bleak future and little assistance in Pakistan or other neighboring countries.
At a minimum, the international community must clearly affirm its commitment to ensuring women’s human rights. Among other things, it must fully integrate women – not merely as recipients, but also as decision makers – and gender-specific issues into all post-conflict reconstruction and development plans. Second, it should be sure to bar perpetrators of violations of women’s human rights from participating in the government, present or future and ensure that they are held fully to account for the abuses they have committed.
The Gender Concept Comes to Armenia: Armenia is a landlocked, mountainous country located in the southern part of the Caucasian region. It covers an area of 29,800 sq. km and has a population of 3.9 million, over 96% of them ethnic Armenians.
After the collapse of the former Soviet Union and declaration of independence, Armenia, the landlocked Trans-Caspian country of 3.9 million people faced many challenges, political, socio-economic and spiritual as did other Central Asian States. The main burdens have fallen upon the most vulnerable part of the population – women, who constitute the majority of the population (52%). Unemployment and poverty among the women in Armenia is high in the global agenda. In April 1997 the Armenian Government, in collaboration with the UNDP local office began the project “Capacity Building of the Gender in Development Unit in Armenia”.
The main project objectives were formulated as the integration of gender perspectives in legislation, public policies, programming and projects.
• Review of legislation; amendments and commentary;
• Encouragement of research.
Two research initiatives were encouraged within the framework of the Project. The first one is the “Legislation Review from Gender Perspectives”. The main task of this group of experts, which includes learned people from the executive, legislative and non-governmental sectors, is to make an expert evaluation of the gender perspectives of woman’s participation in entrepreneurial activities. The currency of the project is significant due to current female face of unemployment in the country. Encouragement of women’s business activity could, in some way, contribute to the solution of problems of job creation, high on today’s global agenda, due to contemporary downsizing in industry.
The Project calls for intensive training activities for certain groups of beneficiaries from the governmental and NGOs sectors on general issues of gender and gender analysis, English language and computers. Beginning in 1998, the first round of the four- month courses has been held. The seminar “Democracy, Gender Legal Equality, Political Participation of Women” was organized in collaboration with the “Association of Women with University Education,” on 15-16 April, 1998, for leaders and active members of newly created Women NGOs (Courtesy BBC)
Kyrgyzstan’s ban on Islamic radical groups: ‘Kyrgyzstan authorities justify an ongoing clampdown against the underground radical Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir by citing a ban on the group’s activities.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir advocates the ouster of incumbent authority in Central Asian states, and the
establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia. Hizb activists have primarily focused on spreading the organization’s message through the distribution of leaflets and other printed matter. Such publications often contain calls for the government’s overthrow.
National Security Service officials say Hizb-ut-Tahrir may have links to terrorist groups in the region.
Kyrgyz officials estimate that there are approximately 2,000 Hizb activists in Kyrgyzstan, operating in small cells of five members or less. Membership in the group is steadily growing, officials add. The large majority of activists do not know the identities of other Hizb members, the overwhelming majority of whom are believed to be ethnic Uzbek. The organization has carried out most of its subversive activities in southern Kyrgyzstan, which has a large Uzbek minority. However, in recent months Hizb-ut-Tahrir has reportedly become more active in northern Kyrgyzstan.
According to an Itar-Tass report in June, six Hizb activists were convicted in 2002 of crimes relating to their underground actions. Several more have been sentenced in 2003, the most recent conviction coming on October 1, when 24-year-old Akzhol Karagulov received a nine-month jail term for distributing Hizb leaflets in a Bishkek market. Law-enforcement officials had 193 cases open against suspected Hizb members as of June, Itar-Tass reported.
According to state security agents, 18 suspected Hizb activists were arrested in Kyrgyzstan’s three northern provinces during the first half of 2003.
Some influential Kyrgyz politicians have advocated an Uzbek approach to the Hizb-ut-Tahrir challenge. Tashkent is notorious for its sweeping arrests of those suspected of engaging in Islamic radical activity. Sabirov counters that, even if it wanted to, Kyrgyzstan does not have the resources to undertake an Uzbek-style crackdown.
Secretary General sends Special Representative to Turkey: The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani, will undertake a fact-finding mission to the Republic of Turkey from 1 to 10 December 2003 at the invitation of the Government.
With this visit, the Special Representative aims to assess the situation of human rights defenders in the country, and specifically the legal framework in which they work. She will also be looking into allegations of incidents relating to the defence of human rights.
The Special Representative is scheduled to visit Ankara, Istanbul, Diyarbakir and Izmir.
She has requested to meet with, among other officials, the Prime Minister; the Ministers of Foreign
Affairs, the Interior and Justice; the President of the Grand National Assembly; members of the National Security Council; the President of the Supreme Court; the President of the Constitutional Court; and the President of the State Security Courts. She has also requested to meet with senior officials from the army, the police and gendarmerie, and the chief of the Anti-Terror Branch from the Ministry of Interior. She will also meet with local authorities, representatives of civil society and the press, and with officials of the United Nations and diplomatic missions in the country.
The Special Representative will present the findings and recommendations on her visit to Turkey in a report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Ms. Jilani, an advocate at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General in August 2000. This will be her sixth country visit since the creation of her mandate by the Commission on Human Rights in April 2000.
Religious freedom in Georgia under stress: Georgia has tolerated hundreds of assaults on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and those outside Georgian Orthodox Christianity. More than 700 attacks have been carried out against non-Orthodox believers in Georgia. According to Levan Ramishvili, Director of the Tbilisi-based Liberty Institute, various officials, police officers, politicians and members of the “fundamentalist wing” of the Georgian Orthodox Church either condone or effectively support religious oppression.
Parliamentarian Sharadze charged Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze of “high treason” in connection with a complex issue about repatriation. But tellingly, Sharadze said the speaker had “deprived…Georgians of their faith.” Such remarks are not surprising from Sharadze, who has publicly burned Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature and tolerated the beating of people of minority faiths.
Attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses, such as the raid by Orthodox Christians of a religious congress in May, have gone largely unanswered in Georgian society. Zurab Zhvania, a former ally of President Eduard Shevardnadze who now leads the United Democrats, accused a political rival in June of tolerating “religious extremism” and fanning ethnic strife. But while it appears relatively easy to score political points by declaring oneself in favor of ethnic peace, it seems almost impossible to rouse police or politicians to assert minority religious rights.
Human Rights Watch, in its testimony, noted the passive nature of police response to religious attacks. “Police failed to intervene when they could have stopped attacks that were underway,” the testimony says. “Where police have responded to victim complaints, they often fail to collect evidence, question suspects, or detain perpetrators, even when the perpetrators have been identified. On numerous occasions, police displayed open hostility to the victims.”