Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #46, 24 July 2023, Monday

Afghan Taliban want Pakistan to seek peace with TTP

We won't let the people down: says Pita

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #46, 24 July 2023, Monday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H

Chinese politburo member visits Kathmandu
On 23 July, Yuan Jiajun, the secretary of the Communist Party of China, as well as a member of the party's politburo, visited Kathmandu as part of his three-day visit. He called on President Ramchandra Paudel on Sunday, and the two discussed bilateral relations and mutual interests. He also held a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The primary purpose of his visit, according to Yuan, was the implementation of the programmes and projects signed during President Xi Jinping’s visit in 2019. Yuan further thanked Nepal for its stance on the one-China policy. (“Chinese politburo member calls on Nepal President Paudel,” The Kathmandu Post, 24 July 2023)

Dahal emphasizes on the need for school meal programme at UNFS 
On 24 July, at the United Nations Food Systems 2023 in Italy, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal underlined the importance to address the obstacles towards achieving SDGs. Along these lines, he emphasized achieving zero hunger, stressing the need for school meals. He further highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the progress of school meals, which was at its highest in 2020. Highlighting the positive impact of school meal programs on the student’s overall development, he stated that “Nepal’s experience with school feeding is a success story.” (“Prime Minister Dahal underscores importance of school meals at UN meet,” The Kathmandu Post, 24 July 2023)

Junta’s Election Commission chairman observes the controversial election in Cambodia
On 21 July, the Junta regime’s Union Election Commission (UEC) Chairman Thein Soe, flew to Cambodia to observe the controversial election in Cambodia on 23 July. He and his team visited the election system, election procedures, voting and vote counting of the 7th National Assembly in the country. On 24 July, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller denounced the election and said: “[Cambodian] authorities engaged in a pattern of threats and harassment against the political opposition, media, and civil society that undermined the spirit of the country’s constitution and Cambodia’s international obligations. These actions denied the Cambodian people a voice and a choice in determining the future of their country.” (“Myanmar’s Election Czar Visits Cambodia to Observe ‘Sham Election’,” The Irrawaddy, 24 July 2023)

Junta detains commander and deputy commander for refusing to fight 
On 24 July, The Irrawaddy reported that the commander and deputy commander were detained for refusing to fight against the resistance forces near the Myawaddy in Karen State. Both were part of Myanmar military’s second Light Infantry Battalion (LIB), belonging to Mon State’s Kyaikto Township, overseen by the 44th Light Infantry Division. On 21 July, junta forces had faced defeat and heavy casualties in the hands of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). KNLA occupied a hill-top junta outpost near Myawaddy and seized the weapons. (“Myanmar Junta Detains Battalion Commander, Deputy for Refusing to Fight,” The Irrawaddy, 24 July 2023)

Alliance with Move Forward Party would reduce the chance of of government formation: says Cholnan  
On 23 July, Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew said that the chance of winning support in the parliament was less if the Move Forward Party (MFP) was part of the coalition alliance. On 23 July, Pheu Thai held talks with representatives of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), who said that they would not support the coalition because of the proposal to amend the lèse-majesté law. Dr. Cholnan said: “Most parties (that Pheu Thai met) are unlikely to vote in favor of the coalition alliance.” On 24 July, there would be a meeting of coalition parties, and he expects that a conclusion would be reached on 25 July. The next voting for the prime minister is on 27 July 2023. (“Pheu Thai: coalition including Move Forward unlikely to prevail,” Bangkok Post, 23 July 2023)

We won't let the people down: says Pita 
On 23 July, the Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat said that the party would not quit the Move Forward coalition brought by the party, which would dump 14 million votes and disappoint the people. He gave this response when the reporters asked whether the coalition parties were apparently trying to convince the MFP to leave the coalition for the formation of a new government. On the talks held between the Pheu Thai and the parties who oppose MFP, Pita said: “As far as I know, the parties were invited only for an exchange of opinions. I will wait for an explanation from the Pheu Thai Party... I confirm that I still have trust and confidence in the Pheu Thai Party.” (“Pita: Move Forward 'keeps promise with voters, won't quit coalition'Bangkok Post, 23 July 2023)

Without the MFP, Pheu Thai could invite strong public resistance: say academicians 
On 24 July, Asst Prof Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, director of the Law Center at Thammasat University, said that the Pheu Thai attempt to create an inter-bloc coalition without MFP could lead the country to further polarization. The acceptance of the people should be taken into consideration in the government formation. The cooperation of the MFP is important for Pheu Thai, even if MFP is forced out from the coalition. He proposed two options for the Move Forward Party- either to continue the stance on the lèse-majesté law and end up in opposition, or focus on reforming the enforcement of the law. Pichai Ratanatilaka Na Bhuket, a political science lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration, said that the Pheu Thai should have lobbied the senators before approaching parties outside the bloc. This created an impression that Pheu Thai was forcing MFP out of the coalition. (Aekarach Sattaburuth and Penchant Charoensuthipan, “Academics wary of new coalition,”Bangkok Post, 24 July 2023)

Former senator petitions to NAAC about irregularities declared assets of six senators 
On 23 July, political activist and former senator Ruangkrai Leekitwattana said that he had found irregularities in the declared assets of the six senators who voted for Pita Limjaroenrat on 13 July. He said he had petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NAAC) to examine whether the tax payment of the senators and their spouses were consistent with the declared amount. (“NACC urged to investigate 6 senators,” Bangkok Post, 24 July 2023)

Constitutional lawyer questions Presidential pardon for two LTTE cadres
On 23 July, Manohara de Silva questioned the move to give presidential pardon to two LTTE cadres, who currently serve jail terms for wartime crimes outside the northern and eastern provinces. He noted that the convicts were granted pardon for good behavior. Despite this observance and further not objecting to presidential pardon under special circumstances, he underscored the need for extra caution in granting such pardons to those convicted of terrorism. ("Bomb attack on CB: Manohara frowns on presidential pardon for two convicted Tigers," The Island, 24 July 2023)

SC dismisses Yameen’s constitutional case
On 19 July, the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by former President Abdullah Yameen, which appealed to restore his right to candidacy in the upcoming presidential election. The petition stated that Yameen’s electoral rights were being tampered with due to multiple delays in his appeals pending in the High Court. The court ruled that the petition did not come under constitutional matters as defined by the Courts Act. (“SC rejects ex-pres' electoral rights petition,” Avas.mv, 23 July 2023)

Film festival banned over a poster of an actress without hijab
On 23 July, The Guardian reported that the Iranian authorities banned the 13th ISFA film festival for using a poster featuring an actress without a hijab. The compulsory hijab rule has been in place since 1983. Last year, Iran had seen a rise in protests against the rule. Police have increased efforts to enforce the dress code, leading to legal actions against an e-commerce company and an actor for similar violations. The Tehran court has also handed a suspended two-year sentence to actor Afsaneh Bayegan, for not wearing a hijab at a public event. She was further ordered to visit a psychological center to treat the mental disorder of having an ‘anti-family personality.’(“Iran authorities ban film festival over poster of actor without hijab,” The Guardian, 23 July 2023)

Sweden has "gone into battle-array for war on the Muslim world," says Khamenei
On 22 July, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated that Sweden has "gone into battle-array for war on the Muslim world" by supporting those responsible for the desecration of the Koran. He further stated that those responsible deserve the most severe punishment and must be handed over to the judicial systems of Islamic countries. On 28 June, Salwan Momika, an Irani refugee, desecrated the Quran repeatedly by tearing it up, lighting it on fire, laying a strip of bacon on it, and stamping the holy book, while another man with him spoke through a megaphone, outside the Stockholm Central Mosque. This received wide criticism from countries across the Middle East, with protests raging across Iran and Iraq. (“Iran's Khamenei says Sweden in 'battle-array' over Koran desecrations,” Reuters, 22 July 2023)

Increase in casualties due to devastating floods 
On 23 July, TOLO News reported on the statement made by the Taliban-led Ministry of State for Natural Disaster Management,Shafiullah Rahimi’s, on casualties caused due to floods. He stated that the floods in Afghanistan have caused at least 31 fatalities, with 74 people injured and 41 still missing from the last 72 hours. Further, he reported on the deaths of livestock and damages to agricultural lands. A resident of Maidan Wardak reported to TOLO News: “12 hours have passed but we don’t see anything. The provincial governor arrived but a very weak team was with them. The incident is big but it has not been addressed accordingly.” On the contrary, according to Taliban-led provincial governor Bakhtiar Maaz, efforts were undertaken to provide food and shelter to the affected people. (“Afghanistan: At least 31 people killed, 74 injured and 41 missing in flooding,ANI, 23 July 2023)

Guidelines were not implemented by women’s beauty salon: Ministry of Vice and Virtue
On 23 July, ANI reported on a statement provided by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue on the ban on women’s beauty salons in Afghanistan. He stated that the salons failed to implement the guidelines, in spite of issuing those four months ago. The guidelines included various instructions such as female make-up artists performing prayer, observing the Islamic hijab, taking ablution before makeup, and restricting female artists from visiting clients’ houses. Mohammad Akif Mahajar, a spokesman for the Ministry of Vice and Virtue stated: “We have allowed them in whatever condition for several months but as they didn’t fulfill the guidelines in the letter and it was not implemented, they were closed.” However, the Union of Women’s beauty salons claimed that the ban was imposed without any prior information. Additionally, some of the members of the Union asserted that majority of them followed the guidelines provided by the ministry. (“Women's beauty salons banned for neglect of guidelines, says Afghanistan's Ministry of Vice and Virtue,” ANI, 23 July 2023)

Afghan Taliban urges Pakistan to seek “path of peace” with TTP
On 21 July, Afghan Taliban renewed their call for peace negotiations between Pakistan and the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). That week, Pakistan sent a special envoy headed by Ambassador Asif Durrani to Kabul on a three-day trip, to deliver a message demanding the interim government to act against TTP. After a series of meetings, the Taliban iterated to seek the “path of peace” instead of “use of force.” However, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan declared that they won’t pursue peace talks until TTP surrendered. This indicates the doubtfulness of Pakistan in accepting the Afghan Taliban’s offer. Additionally, Afghanistan’s Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mawlawi Kabir was certain that the Afghan Taliban government had a policy of non-interference in the internal matters of other countries, including Pakistan. (Kamran Yousaf, “Kabul refuses to take action against TTP, urges Pakistan to pursue dialogue,” The Express Tribune, 22 July 2023)

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