Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #48, 26 July 2023, Wednesday

S&P downgrades Bangladesh’s credit rating

India-Sri Lanka joint statement still misses key concerns: The Hindu Editorial

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #48, 26 July 2023, Wednesday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Dhriti Mukherjee and Lakshmi Parimala H

The central committee meeting unmasks the rift in the Nepali Congress
The Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament, convened a central committee meeting after a year to address pressing issues. However, despite not addressing many of the issues, the meeting showed a divide in the party. The meeting was live-streamed on social media. Rival factions within the party displayed divisions, with General Secretary Gagan Thapa criticizing party leadership and facing opposition from Deuba loyalists. The meeting exposed significant rifts and disagreements among leaders, with debates over the country's electoral system, the suspension of one of its leaders Balakrishna Khand who is imprisoned in the Bhutanese Refugee Scam, and the party's future leadership adding to the overall polarization within the Nepali Congress. (Anil Giri, Gathering exposes deep rifts in Congress,” The Kathmandu Post, 26 July 2023)

S&P downgrades Bangladesh’s credit rating
On 26 July, The Daily Star reported that Standard and Poor’s, a global rating agency, downgraded the long-term rating outlook of Bangladesh from ‘stable’ to ‘negative.’ In May, Moody’s had downgraded Bangladesh’s credit rating. This comes amidst the declining forex reserves of Bangladesh, despite the IMF reform programe and a substantially lower current account deficit. Besides the poor ‘external position,’ the polarized political citation, with more power centered on the Awami League, also decreases the effectiveness of the institutions. (Rejaul Karim Byron, Now S&P goes negative on Bangladesh economy,” The Daily Star, 26 July 2023)

Beijing wants Myanmar to root out online scammers affecting Chinese citizens 
On 24 July, Beijing's ambassador held special negotiations with Foreign Minister Than Swe at the Chinese embassy in Yangon, to root out the online criminal syndicates in Myanmar. These scammers have been accused of kidnapping or luring Chinese citizens and leading them to invest money in fake investment platforms, along with other ruses. The ambassador said: “Communication frauds continue to spread in Myanmar border areas including northern Myanmar by severely harming the personal interests of people in both China and Myanmar.” (China Tells Myanmar Junta to ‘Root Out’ Online Scam Group,” The Irrawaddy, 26 July 2023)

Junta regime plans to transfer Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to house arrest 
On July 26, The Irrawaddy reported that the Myanmar junta is planning to move Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the Naypyitaw prison to house arrest. She was sent to solitary confinement in June last year. There was a rumor circulating around Suu Kyi’s transfer, in order to ease the mounting international pressure since Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai visited her on 9 July in the prison. Daw Sandar Min, a former member of the central committee of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), said: “It has been a few days since I learned that the SAC [State Administration Council, the regime’s governing body] intended to move her from the prison. But I’m not sure if it has been done yet.” (Myanmar Junta ‘Set to Move Daw Aung San Suu Kyi From Prison to House Arrest’,” The Irrawaddy, 26 July 2023)

MFP should not consider to Pita’s renomination for review: says Mr. Wan
On 26 July, House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha advised the Move Forward Party to shelve the plan to review the rejection of the re-nomination of Pita Limjaroenrat on 19 July. He said that the MFP should wait until the Constitutional Court rules on the Ombudsman's petition backed by the senators. The decision to postpone the prime minister selection voting indefinitely was free from any political motives. Mr. Wan said that he could set a date for the next voting if the court did not accept the matter for consideration. (Pita advised to shelve House petition on rejected renomination,” Bangkok Post, 26 July 2023)

Constitutional Court seeks media to improve relations with public   
On 25 July, an annual forum called ‘Constitutional Court Meets the Media’ was held by the court, aimed at educating the public about the role of the court and improving relations with the media. Constitutional Court President Worawit Kangsasitiam emphasized on the media’s role in promoting understanding between the court and the public. Jarun Pukditanakul, a former Constitutional Court judge, said: “Constructive criticism helps the court improve, but criticism must be based on fairness, accurate information and the rule of law, not false evidence.” (Charter court seeks help from the media,” Bangkok Post, 26 July 2023)

Quran burning in Denmark; Maldives registers condemnation
On 24 July, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the burning of the Quran outside Iraq's embassy in Copenhagen. The incident took place on 21 July, involving members of the Islamophobic and far-right group called the Danish Patriots. The Maldivian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that such acts could not be justified in the name of freedom of expression. It further stated: “It is high time that the international community unite unequivocally to condemn these appalling acts of religious hatred against Islam." The Ministry also called for collective action from the global community to prevent the recurring of such incidents. ("Maldives condemns burning of Quran in Denmark," Sun.mv, 25 July 2023)

India-Sri Lanka joint statement still misses key concerns: The Hindu Editorial
On 25 July, The Hindu reported on the joint statement issued by India and Sri Lanka after the latter's president visited India. The statement highlighted the "Economic Partnership Vision", aimed at the areas of maritime, air, energy, trade, and people-to-people initiatives. It also cited future investments in ports, airports, ferries, flights, and renewable energy projects planned for Sri Lanka. The Hindu opined that despite outlining a comprehensive economic plan, the statement failed to address key issues such as the devolution of powers to the north and east provinces, and resolving disputes over Indian fishers' arrest. The Indian prime minister, in his speech, underlined these concerns and further called for ensuring the “life of respect and dignity” for the Sri Lankan Tamil community. The reluctance on part of Sri Lanka shows its stance that India's historical concerns were not welcomed in bilateral talks. ("Still incomplete: on India-Sri Lanka ties and their vision," The Hindu, 25 July 2023)

Baha’is arrested for spying for Israel
Iranian authorities have arrested several Baha'i followers, accusing them of espionage. The Baha'i faith is Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority. The arrested individuals were linked to the Bayt al-Adl located in the occupied Palestinian territories. They were also accused of promoting Baha’i teachings through ‘infiltration into art and media institutions.’ The Baha'is consider Baha'u'llah their prophet and founder. The community has around seven million followers globally, with 300,000 in Iran. They are branded as "heretics" by the Islamic Republic. (Iran Arrests Baha'is, Citing Israel Links,” VOA News, 25 July 2023)

Iran declares its support for Syria’s reconstruction
On 24 July, addressing a UNSC meeting on “The Situation in the Middle East: (Syria),” the Un Permanent Representative of Iran, Amir Saeed Iravani, declared Iran’s support for Syria’s territorial integrity He underlined Iran’s commitment to support Syria in overcoming terrorism and to assist its reconstruction. He further expressed Iran’s commendation for the UN’s efforts in delivering aid to the country and condemned Israeli regime attacks on Syria, calling for addressing such violations of international law. (Iran prepared to aid Syria during reconstruction period: envoy,Tehran Times, 25 July 2023)

Afghan refugees protest in Islamabad over delayed case processing
On 25 July, TOLO News reported on a gathering of several Afghan refugees in front of Islamabad’s UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office, expressing their frustration over the lack of practical action to address their problems. According to statistics, more than 1.6 million Afghans have migrated to neighboring countries due to an increase in the humanitarian crisis in Kabul. An Afghan refugee Faizullah Turk stated: “There is no quick case processing. The Afghans have been waiting for review of their cases for the past two to three years, for their cases to proceed. There are also pressures if someone does not have a visa.” The Afghan refugees urged the UN to recommend solutions and alleviate their current predicament. Meanwhile, the Islamic Emirate, which now governs Afghanistan, called for the refugees to return to their homeland. (Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Hold Protest at UNHCR Office,” TOLO News, 25 July 2023)

UN urges reversal of women’s beauty salon ban in Afghanistan
On 25 July, the ban on women’s beauty salons came into effect after the end of the deadline given by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue. However, the UN has raised its voice over the forced closure of women’s beauty salons, warning that it could have a negative impact on the economy of women in the country. The Deputy Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, urged the Islamic Emirate to reverse the ban with the support of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Further, UNAMA highlighted the detrimental effects of the ban on women’s entrepreneurship. Beauty salon owners expressed distress over the closure and worried about its effects on their livelihoods. Meanwhile, a spokesperson of Kabul Municipality, Nematullah Barakzai, stated: “After the third of Asad, these licenses will no longer be valid. In the city of Kabul, only those classes are allowed to operate that have licenses.” (Ban on Women's Beauty Salons Goes Into Effect on Tuesday,” TOLO News, 25 July 2023)

US State Secretary Engages in Talks on Afghanistan with Qatar and Pakistan
On 25 July, US State Secretary Antony J. Blinken engaged in separate phone calls with his Qatari and Pakistani counterparts to discuss the humanitarian and political situation in Afghanistan. Blinken and Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari talked over Russia’s war against Ukraine and the shared interest of the US and Pakistan in a peaceful and stable Kabul. Meanwhile, he discussed bilateral ties and extension of support to Afghans amidst ongoing developments, with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. In response, Islamic Emirate’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, appreciated US support for Kabul and requested the US to engage in dialogue and diplomatic contact with them, without creating obstacles. (Banafsha Binesh, Blinken Discusses Afghanistan With Qatari, Pakistani Counterparts,” TOLO News, 25 July 2023)

Government Proposes 54 Amendments to Election Act for Economic Decisions
On 26 July, the federal government proffered 54 amendments to the Election Act, 2017, encompassing revisions to Section 230, conferring the caretaker government with the authority to effect momentous decisions pertaining to the economy. Subject to sanction, these amendments would endow the caretaker government with the capacity to undertake pivotal actions aimed at fortifying the economy, including entering into bilateral agreements and engaging with esteemed international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Election Act (Amendment) Bill, 2013, further delineates alterations in the process of reporting election results and imposes new regulations governing campaign financing for electoral candidates. (Waqas Ahmed,54 amendments proposed to Election Act,” The Express Tribune, 26 July 2023)

Pakistan Ranks 99th on Global Hunger Index, Serious Hunger Level Revealed
On 26 July, Pakistan's ranking on the Global Hunger Index (GHI-2022) was revealed, placing the country at the 99th position out of 121 countries. The report indicates a serious hunger level with a score of 26.1, a drop from 38.1 in 2006. As the report highlights, "up to 828 million people were forced to go hungry, and 46 countries will not even achieve a low level of hunger by 2030, much less eliminate hunger entirely." A statement from the report revealed that armed conflicts, climate change, and the coronavirus pandemic are exacerbating hunger for millions worldwide. Welthungerhilfe's Country Director Aisha Jamshed, emphasized assisting food-insecure communities, while Punjab's Local Government and Community Development Department’s Director, Shafat Ali, stressed citizen participation in food system transformation. (Ikram Junaidi, Pakistan ranked 99th on Hunger Index,” Dawn, 26 July 2023)

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