Amaa Network Consultant Inc.

Vol. 10,  No. 26,   Tuesday,  October 9,  2001

Expansion of ministry: eye-sore issue

MPs wrapping up affairs in Houses

Afghan people may be entering Nepal with false identity
Number of ministries to go up
Leftists for amendment to the constitution
Nepal witnesses decline in tourist arrival 
US forcess strike Afghan cities to hunt terrorists


Expansion of ministry: eye-sore issue
creates fissure in NC

Prime Minister Deuba is presently engaged in series of talks on expansion of ministry with senior leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress and fellow MPs. Although most have advised him to be effective in governance and dialogue with the underground leftists, a few have stressed expansion of ministry as a means to bring about balance in support for him in the party network.

Some of his ministers are pressing the PM to go immediately for the expansion. They say their words given during the election of the leader of the parliamentary party should not be allowed to be wasted. Those who supported Deuba as against NC general sectretary Sushil Koirala during the race of NCPP - leader should be rewarded in time. "Not to do so would put the Premier in awkward position."

The issue of expanding the ministry has actually brought about a fissure in the ruling NC. Both the party president and general secretary are not prepared to back Deuba in the issue for it could strengthen his hand and weaken the organizational leadership. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, seeks to make the cabinet a real Deuba-body, something the party high command does not like to see.

The ways to expand the size of the government are thorny. To cut the government expenses, a high level administrative body had during the NC rule recommended series of merger of ministries besides cutting down their number. The same should be reversed for accommodating new faces in the cabinet.

Sources close to Deuba maintain the government has devised a smooth way out of the problem. "The expansion will be carried out next week with no additional burden on the national exchequer." The Prime Minister had earlier established a record of heading a jumbo cabinet of 48 during his coalition government a few years ago when his party was in minority in the parliament.

The issue of expansion places Deuba and NC leader and former Premier Koirala on head on collision course for the latter wants to have his menís rule in the cabinet.

In an attempt to cement his stand in the NC, Koirala has already got his men and women control the youth wing Tarun Dal and womenís organization Nepal Mahila Sangh. The same score he wants to make in the government and Deuba does not like to have this. The issue has, therefore, divided the leadership of the government and the party.

In the meanwhile, the ministry will have a deputy prime minister in the reshuffle said a source adding the person to occupy the position will be none other than the former DPM Ram Chandra Paudyal. Considered a moderate high profile politician in contemporary NC, Paudyal, a former parliament Speaker with near full term experience, is learnt to have given word to Deuba that he will cooperate.

Many of the MPs known for their stand close to that of Bhattarai, the former Premier, will have a berth in the cabinet this time, said a source.


MPs wrapping up affairs in Houses

Members of parliament of both Houses - the House of Representatives, and the Rastriya Sabha - are about to wrap up their affairs in the current budget session. They would, however, not be able to finalize discussion on some bills that are of high public interest. The session, despite being comparatively smooth, witnessed some interesting scene besides adopting the governmentís policies and programmes and budget for the current fiscal year.

One scene of a minister criticizing another minister publicly in House debate was unique. Communication Minister Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta carped Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat for not releasing budget in time causing huge loss in the sector of rural communication.

Similarly series of boycotting the session in protest against land reform measures were witnessed. The opposition party UML that had actually brought out public procession lauding Prime Ministerís plan for land reform had to stage boycott over the same issue in the House. "The cause was the difference between the Premierís pledge and the high ceiling in land hold envisaged in the bill."

The next agenda for the MPs after the parliament session is the local election not far away. Their parties will have to face the local level poll for the third time. The first one, it might be recalled, was dominated by Nepali Congress and the second one by leftist UML. Which party will emerge winner in the third poll is the question of the day.

Although the MPs do not have direct role in the poll, their position in their constituencies determines the outcome, it is believed. That is why their activities in the near future particularly after the current session of the parliament is being watched with care and interest by politicians.


Afghan people may be entering Nepal with false identity

Some Afghan people might have flown to Nepal seeking asylum as the US forces began to comb the parts of Afghanistan in a bid to destroying the networks of al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation headed by Osama bin Laden, according to sources close to the Home Ministry.

Daily at least 10 Pakistani nationals are coming to Nepal through PIA, the disclosed a high level Home Ministry source adding some of them are believed to be Afghan nationals. Many Afghan people are believe to have entered Nepal in the cover of Pakistani nationals.

The Home Ministry is learnt to have directed the visa department of the Nepalese Embassy in Islamabad to be careful while issuing visa to the Pakistani nationals, it is learnt. We have already give instruction to the concerned officials to be careful while issuing visa to the Arabian nationals through various diplomatic missions of Nepal based in Arabian countries, says a high level source in the Home Ministry.

The possibility of Afghani terrorists entering Nepal with false identity cannot be ruled out, say Home Ministry sources.


Number of ministries to go up

The governmentís decision to raise the number of ministries will strengthen Deubaís hand in cabinet, said politicians in Kathmandu on Monday. The move seems to be in line of accommodating more MPs in the cabinet berth.

Deuba is also learnt to have gained cabinet approval for finalizing the structure of the Commissions on women, oppressed people and the indigenous population. The move to prepare a new Citizenship bill to replace the controversial old bill that visited even the Supreme Court is also underway.


Leftists for amendment to the constitution

Leftist parties, in a high political switch-over of attitude, have suggested fresh amendment to the constitution making most politicos surprised. However, they are learnt to have stressed consolidation of the spirit of the 1990 Peopleís Movement.

The areas to which they seek amendment are not known. Informed sources say that they want to have amendment in order to accommodate the provisions that would help tackle the problems facing the country in the past decade.

As for amendment to the constitution, some politicians say it is not necessary although they do not have an appropriate answer to why successive governments after 1990 could not solve political problems. Others opine that the problems that did not allow various party governments over the past ten years stress "the constitution needs amendment."

Over the past four months, the leftist parties are coming together for common goal in a rather incredible manner and unprecedented way. In the name of broad leftist unity, they have joined heads and hands despite countless differences among themselves over ideological matters or organizational issues. The issue of amendment has also been taken up by a high level team constituted by the mother wings of communist parties currently divided into over dozen streams.

The opposition party UML is also among those seeking amendment to the constitution. M.L., United, Marxists, MLM, Masal, NWPP, Unity Centre, UPF are those who have emphasized amendment to the highest law.

The official version of the decision in which they have sought amendment to the constitution has not been made public yet. Some informed sources believe the same would be discussed openly in the near future in all forums of the party and the people.


Nepal witnesses decline in tourist arrival 
tourism entrepreneurs seek govt. protection

Tourist arrivals declined sharply in this year as compared to the previous year, according to a latest data. Tourist inflow declined by 9 percent in the first nine months of the current fiscal year in comparision with the corresponding period of the previous year.

Royal massacre of June 1 and the terrorist attacks in US cities on September 11 had adversely affected Nepalís tourism, say tourism experts. About 60 percent hotel bookings have been cancelled following the terrorist attack in the United States, according to Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN).

An interaction programme was held in Kathmandu the other day to discuss the outcomes of the September 11 incidents. Travel trade entrepreneurs, government officials, tourism experts and journalists who took part in the interaction programme hosted by PATA Nepal Chapter pointed out the need to explore new markets, revamp Nepal Tourism Board, diversify marketing efforts and provide various incentives to the tourism entrepreneurs in order to relieve tourism industry from the present crisis.

PATA Nepal Chapter President Ashok Pokherl, HAN President Narendra Bajracharya, tourism entrepreneur RR Pandey highlighted various problems facing the tourism industry at present. Joint secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Shanker Koirala assuring the tourism entrepreneurs of necessary help from the government side informed the Nepal-China tourism agreement will be signed within a month.

On the occasion it was informed that PATA, HAN, NATA, TAAN and TURGAN issuing a joint statement asked the government to give 50 percent concession of various royalties, extend grace period for paying tax and to declare open some new areas for trekking purposes.


US forcess strike Afghan cities to hunt terrorists

Exactly four weeks after the terrorist attack on the American cities leaving nearly 6,000 civilian dead the United States and British forces hit Afghan cities to hunt main suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, with stealth bombers and cruise missiles.

Day light broke over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, after hours of heavy bombing by US led forces. The strike by US forces came several weeks after President George Bushís deadline to hand over Osama bin Laden, passed without any positive response by the Taliban government.

The first strikes began about 8:45 p.m. local time Sunday and targeted the Talibanís air defense installations, defense ministry, airport-based command centres, airfields, electrical grids and other energy production facilities.

About 15 land-based bombers, 25 strike aircrafts and U.S. and British ships and submarines took part in the strike against terrorist targets, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The arsenal included B-2 stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri equipped with satellite-guided munitions. They were joined by B-1 and B-52 bombers from the British base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the Pentagon said. The latter aircraft use both precision-guided munitions and more conventional "dumb bombs."

The regimeís command system and radar system at the Kandahar airport was destroyed, admitted a senior Taliban official. However, bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mullah Omar survived the attacks, said Taliban ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef talking to journalists.

"Bright flashes of light, one after another" hit the region for six hours, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. local time reports CNN. The opposition Northern Alliance also fired rockets at Taliban front lines.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and the leaders of the Northern Alliance were in formed beforehand while striking Afghan cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad by the US led forces.

"From the feedback which we have had so far, the targets have been hit accurately in Kabul, Kandahar and especially in Mazar-e-Sharif," said Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the North Allianceís foreign minister.

The strikes in Afghanistan could continue for several days as the United States and Britain try to soften Taliban air defenses and damage key military infrastructure.

President Bush said in a national address the military action was "carefully targeted," and said its aim was to "cut the military capability of the Taliban regime." Bush said the action was taken after the Taliban refused to meet several non-negotiable American demands.

"More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the al-Qaeda network, and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in your country," President Bush said.

"As none of these demands was met, and now, the Taliban will pay a price," he added.

Power went off throughout Kabul almost immediately after the first of the thunderous blasts, which appeared to have been in the southwest of the city. The southwestern part of Kabul includes the Darulaman Palace, an ancient royal residence, and the Balahisar Fort, an old Mogul style installation

The first wave struck the Kandahar airport, destroying radar facilities and the control tower. The strike also targeted hundreds of housing units built for members of bin Ladenís al-Qaida terror movement.

The second wave, which appeared to be more precisely targeted, struck the Taliban national headquarters in downtown Kandahar, the sources said. They said smoke was seen billowing from Mullah Omarís high-walled compound about nine miles outside the city.

Afghanistanís former King Mohammad Zaher Shah said he recognised the "legitimate right" of the United States to launch the attacks. Zaher Shah, who has been working to select a new government for Afghanistan, said his paramount objective was the safety and dignity of Afghans and the integrity of the country.

"Unfortunately, the unpatriotic position of the Taliban and their sponsors has again inflicted pain, sorrow and destruction on the people of Afghanistan," observed the king issuing a statement.

The city was quiet, with no sign of panic. Kabulís 1 million people are inured to war after more than two decades of relentless fighting that has destroyed most of the city.

In their first official reaction, the Taliban called the assault a terrorist attack and vowed that America "will never achieve its goal." The statement was issued by Zaeef, the ambassador to Pakistan. Later, Taliban Deputy Defense Minister Mullah Noor Ali said "the people of Afghanistan will resist. They will never accept the rule of infidels."

Also Sunday, Qatarís Al-Jazeera television carried a tape which showed bin Laden praising God for the Sept. 11 attacks and saying the United States "was hit by God in one of its softest spots."

The tape, released after the U.S. and British strikes began, showed bin Laden dressed in fatigues and an Afghan headdress. It appeared to be daylight, which would mean that the tape was made before the nighttime attack Sunday.

"America is full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that,íí bin Laden said on the tape.

Not all in Pakistan were behind the strikes, however. The influential and Taliban-sympathetic Afghan Defense Council, based in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, issued a call for "jihad," or holy war. The council comprises more than 30 religious and militant groups.

"It is the duty of every Muslim to support their brothers in this critical hour," central leader Riaz Durana said.

Earlier Sunday, the Taliban had made an 11th-hour appeal to prevent U.S. attacks: They offered to detain bin Laden and try him under Islamic law if the United States made a formal request. The Bush administration quickly rejected the Taliban proposal.

Washington has also rejected Afghanistanís attempt to use eight jailed foreign aid workers as bargaining chips to pressure the United States to halt its planned anti-terrorist offensive. The eight aid workers in Kabul - four Germans, two Americans and two Australians - were arrested in August on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The Taliban are estimated to have some 40,000 fighters - around a quarter of them from bin Ladenís organisation - and many of those are involved in fighting the alliance.