Politics heats up in the Maldives
Security forces physically ejected protesting MPs from the Maldives Parliament in chaotic scenes during a failed opposition attempt to impeach the Speaker and de-stabilise the President ahead of elections next year. Lawmakers shouted and stood on their chairs and one tried to remove the speaker's seat ahead of the impeachment vote, which came a day after exiled opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed announced a unity pact with the president's Powerful half-brother -- the former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Nasheed had hoped that the surprise alliance with Gayoom would provide enough parliamentary support to oust the speaker, but even with that deal the opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) apparently failed to win over enough MPs. At least 13 opposition lawmakers were removed from parliament as a result of the ruckus and the rest walked out in protest before the vote, which the government then easily won. "Government brings in military to occupy the parliament chamber to obstruct and rig the no confidence vote on the Speaker," Nasheed tweeted during the chaos in parliament. President Yameen had presided over a major crackdown on political dissent in the nation of 340,000 that had raised fears over its stability and dented its image as an island tourism paradise. Almost all key opposition leaders and a number of ruling party dissidents had either been jailed or fled into exile since he took office in a controversial run-off election against Nasheed.
A new alliance in the Maldives
The exiled former President of the Maldives Mohammed Nasheed had announced plans to take control of the national parliament after hammering out a rare unity pact with his politically influential erstwhile enemies. Mohamed Nasheed said he entered into a pact with three other parties to wrest control of the 85-member national parliament currently held by President Abdulla Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives. He said former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a half-brother of Yameen, signed an agreement at the weekend vowing to work together to secure, among other things, freedom for those convicted of politically motivated charges. “We are going to prove our majority in parliament on Monday,” he told AFP during a visit to Colombo. Last month, he had said he would return to run for election as president of the Maldives, despite facing jail after a controversial conviction on terror-related charges.
Islamic State claims Bangladesh attack
Islamic State had claimed an attack by a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a security checkpoint near the country's main airport. Two bomb blasts took place in the northeastern district of Sylhet. "At least six people including two police official were killed in two explosions, one near the hideout and another in front of the building," said Sylhet police spokesman Zedan Al Musa. Islamic State claimed responsibility "for a bombing on Bangladeshi forces in Sylhet", the SITE monitoring service said, citing the militant group's news agency Amaq. Army commandos had stormed the hideout, which belonged to a domestic Islamist group that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and was blamed for a cafe attack in July last year in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners. On Saturday, commandos rescued all 78 people trapped inside the five-storey building for more than a day in an operation that was still underway. The raid came after a string of suicide attacks on security bases this month. Friday's attack was a suicide blast that was the third incident involving explosives in the capital, Dhaka, in a week.
The funding of terror groups in Pakistan
In Pakistan a report by the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) in Pakistan, titled 'National Risk Assessment on Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing 2017,' reportedly detailed how terror groups generated funds through criminal activities. Waves of crime in Pakistan - including extortion, smuggling and kidnapping for ransom - were major sources of terrorist financing for extremist groups in the country according to the report. The report, which had not been released publicly but had been covered by Pakistan’s media said over 200 local and international terrorist organizations generated billions of Pakistani rupees to fund their activities. 'Annual operational budget of terrorist organizations is from 5 million rupees [about $48,000] to 25 million rupees [about $240,000],' the report said, according to The News website, which published excerpts. According to the report, terrorist groups also received money through the hawala system which had largely been used in money laundering. The income sources included 'hawala/hundi,' cash couriers, [and] dealings in foreign exchange. A part of foreign exchange collected abroad might include funds for terrorist financing, and the rupee counterpart disbursed in Pakistan might help terrorist financing said the report. Some terrorist groups got rich by selling off military equipment looted from NATO supplies that passed through Pakistani land before arriving in neighboring Afghanistan. A U.S. Treasury Department report on terrorist financing last year said many militant groups in Pakistan, including those that 'continue to pose a direct threat to the U.S. interests and allies in the region,' funded their activities through proceeds from illegal businesses and charitable organizations. The Treasury report said the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba group, which was blamed by law enforcement for attacks in 2008 in Mumbai that killed more than 150 people, including six Americans, received millions of dollars through funding from several humanitarian organizations within Pakistan and private donations. 'The issue has been neglected within the framework of the war on terror in Pakistan,' said Fida Hussain, a finance expert in Islamabad. 'Combating terror financing and money laundering should have been a priority for the authorities but they don't seem serious in combating it.' Analysts said the government was well aware of the income sources for terrorist groups, though it did not go far enough to curb them. 'The government has the ability to combat the terrorist financing, but it lacks a strong a will to do so,' veteran Pashtun politician Afrasiab Khattak told VOA. 'It enacts laws, including anti-terrorism laws, but fails to implement them.'