Thursday, April 13, 2006

Days of monarchy numbered in Nepal: Kunda Dixit

With strikes, clashes and curfew being the order of the day in Kathmandu, the common man has lost faith in all the political forces of the kingdom, says editor of a leading weekly in Nepal.

"The common men and women are fed up of the violence, strikes and disruptions. They don't trust any of the political forces, be it King, parties or Maoists," Kunda Dixit, Chief Editor of Nepali Times told Hindustan Times.

Dixit's comments comes a day after 29 journalists were arrested for demanding an end to a crackdown on the media by the government.

More than 100 other journalists have been arrested since the latest wave of protests against King Gyanendra began on April 5. However, all have been released.

"They (the journalists) could be in for a while longer, in the past they have been kept for a month, said Dixit, whose brother Kanak Mani Dixit, editor of Himal South Asia Magazine, is among the 29 detained scribes.

King Gyanendra seized control over the government 14 months ago, saying he needed to root out political corruption and put an end to Maoist mania that has left thousands dead in the past decade.

The royal government has since imposed severe restrictions on journalists and introduced new media laws.
Criticism of the King, the royal government and security forces has since been banned.

"The attempts to gag the press is part of a wider crackdown on democracy since the King took over last February. If he restores democracy, press freedom will be automatically safeguarded," Dixit explains.

The King is all set to announce election dates on April 14 when the kingdom celebrates its New Year. Polls may take place between February and March 2007.

"If he (Gyanendra) cannot get the political parties to join the elections, it will be a sham. The parties won't join unless the King first restores democracy," says Dixit.

Analysts dubbed the last month's municipal polls in Nepal as a "sham" as 95 per cent of the parties did not take part in the exercise.

"For his own sake and the sake of his dynasty, the King should agree to be a Constitutional monarch. If he doesn't, then I think the days of monarchy in Nepal are numbered," says Dixit, who strongly believes that democracy will be restored in Nepal.

Nepal's seven major political parties have carried out daily protests and clashes with the security forces throughout the country to pressurise King to restore democracy.

Dixit, who is a graduate from Columbia University, has worked with BBC at UN headquarters in New York. He was also the Asia-Pacific director of Inter Press Service.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Why fire Aiyar?

Moments after being given the charge of petroleum ministry, this man stepped on the gas to ensure that energy hungry India's gas needs are met.

And after vigorously pursuing the $7 billion Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline project, all that Mani Shankar Aiyar got at the end of the day was a red card from Sonia and clan.

Leading Bangladesh daily New Age said that the "carelessness with which Aiyar has been moved out of the petroleum ministry does not credit to Manmohan Singh's government".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reshuffled his Cabinet recently to induct 19 more ministers and the biggest loser was Aiyar, who lost his portfolio to Maharashtra industrialist and Congress strongman Murli Deora.

Lauding Aiyar and his efforts, the editorial said, "Aiyar had been doing a good job and all those who have seen him operate…have remarked on the wisdom and foresight he brought to bear on the subject."

Analysts saw the dynamic minister as too anti-American who also had his share of encounters with bureaucrats.
"We must contend the fact that Aiyar has had to go because the Americans might not have been comfortable with him and his attitude to Iran," the paper said.

"Aiyar's removal from the oil ministry is widely seen as a result of intense pressure from domestic private lobbies and the Americans, who were not happy with his left-oriented view of the global economy," Pakistan's Daily Times reported.

"If that is what induced the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi into dumping a competent minister and, indeed, shifting him to a ministry where he will have little or nothing to do, it is a sad commentary on Indian politics," New Age said.
Aiyar's successor Murli Deora is known to be pro-US and often throws parties for visiting US legislators.

The Daily Times further said, "Deora may not be able to pursue the high-pressure oil diplomacy that Aiyar carried out in the past 20 months which lined up over a dozen countries for partnership with India in the energy field".

Reports in India said that Aiyar was shunted out because his views on oil diplomacy were not in conformity with those of the prime ministerial establishment.

What the Pakistan's leading daily found surprising was that Aiyar's "close terms with the Gandhi family since Rajiv Gandhi's days couldn't help him retain the portfolio, leading observers to conclude that there might have been some kind of pressure on the prime minister".

"If performance were the criterion, Aiyar would not have been touched," the paper said.