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South Asia: Looking Back At 2009 (Part 2)

This is the second part of our retrospection of some of the major events, which took place in 2009 in the South Asian countries, seen through the eyes of the citizen journalists. If you have missed, here is the first part.

Maldives:

Male, the capital of Maldives. Image by Flickr user mode, and used under a creative commons license

Male, the capital of Maldives. Image by Flickr user mode, and used under a creative commons license

Several dissident and alleged anti-Islamic websites were filtered in Maldives in the first quarter of year 2009 and that raised a debate in the blogosphere questioning the political motives behind the ban. Bloggers commented that through the blocking of websites the authorities were hampering freedom of speech and were turning “the internet into an intranet”.

It was a tough year for journalists too in Maldives as some of them were physically abused or threatened for their work as reported by some blogs.

This year the first free parliamentary election of Maldives took place. In May more than 400 candidates contested for 77 seats in the parliament.

Maldives is in the forefront of the affect of climate change. Several organizations in Maldives had geared up for the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Nepal:

Maoist protest In Nepal

Maoist protest In Nepal. Image by Flickr user izahorsky, used under a creative commons licence

It has been a turbulent year for the Himalayan nation. 2009 can be named as the year of protests in Nepal: whether its the political parties or the minority groups, their means of demand or protest were occupying the streets and shutting down businesses and offices.

In April there was a rumor that some Generals of Nepal Army was planning for a ’soft coup d'état’ to tackle Maoist leader and prime Minister Prachanda's plan to dismiss the Chief of the Army Staff General Rookmangud Katwal. The bloggers weighed in on the rift between the two quarters. This conflict was aggravated and Prime Minister Prachanda resigned when President Ram Baran Yadav reinstated the sacked army chief Rookmangud Katwal. This had put Nepal into political uncertainty as to who would lead them in the future. The Maoists had announced new round of protest against the President.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Image by Utudanuki, Wikipedia

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Image by Utudanuki, Wikipedia

Nepal had a fresh start with the new Prime Minister Madhab Kumar Nepal, veteran Communist leader and former general secretary of Nepal communist party (United Marxist and Leninist). However Working with the Maoists seemed to be an uphill task for prime minister Nepal.

At the end of the year there was still no good news from Nepal politics as the peace process between the Maoists and the government was faltering. Nepal slipped further down on the Transparency International's (TI) anti-corruption scale and corruption spread beyond the government and politicians into the social life impeding development in Nepal.

On the brighter side there were some achievements like the successful bio gas revolution in Nepal.

Pakistan:

In March 2009 Pakistani Lawyers and political activists arranged a Long March and sit in protest demanding to reinstate the deposed judges. Citizen journalists covered the event live. Democracy won as the government bowed down to the people pressure and reinstated The Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. The victory raised the question what is next for Pakistan.

Pakistani govt.'s truce deal with the Taliban earlier this year raised much debate in Pakistan. Some bloggers thought that the peace deal has come with enormous costs and abandoned the people of Swat valley region to the Taliban warriors and hinted that this will not spell an end to the violence in Swat.

They were right as the Taliban offensives escalated in extreme nature. After the attack on Sri Lanka Cricket team, Lahore came into limelight again when a Police training camp in the suburbs of Lahore was attacked by heavily armed terrorists killing many.

Swat refugees, Image courtesy Dr. Awab Alvi (teeth.com.pk/blog)

Swat refugees, Image courtesy Dr. Awab Alvi (teeth.com.pk/blog)

The Pakistan army started to fight back against the Taliban and Pakistan plunged into a civil war like situation. And the country was hit by a severe humanitarian crisis with a staggering number of internally displaced people as a result of the military onslaught against the Taliban insurgency. After some months the Pakistani government arranged their repatriation and the handling of the process raised much debate.

The whole exercise of displacement and return was a horrible tragedy in the history of Pakistan. However this saga did not end. Pakistan army's operations in South Waziristan against the Taliban led to mass exodus of people for safety.

Meanwhile the Taliban mayhem continued as numerous suicidal terrorist attacks were carried out in Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Karachi and elsewhere in the country. Bloggers elaborated the resentment of Pakistanis who were rallying against these Taliban offensives.

There were some respite as the news of the death of the Taliban leader Baitullah Masud emerged. However Talibans continued with their wanton killings. Pakistan was also troubled with sectarian riots in Gojra and Karachi.

Go Green Campaign via Twitter

Go Green Campaign via Twitter

The citizen journalists of Pakistan were active in 2009 trying to take back the country from the impacts of terrorism and deterioration of law and order. Notable online campaigns included ‘go green campaign‘ and ‘take back the tech campaign‘.

Pakistan also had a step forward towards the right direction as the country’s National Assembly passed a bill to outlaw domestic violence.

Sri Lanka:

For the people of Sri Lanka, 2009 marked a bloody and bitter end to the war with LTTE. And the win, albeit controversial, brought hope to the nation which suffered for long.

Funeral Procession for Lasantha Wickramatunga, Photo by Indi.ca, used under a Creative Commons License

Funeral Procession for Lasantha Wickramatunga, Photo by Indi.ca, used under a Creative Commons License

The repression of pro LTTE voices continued as the studios of Sirasa TV, a major broadcast network in Sri Lanka was attacked and an outspoken critic of government Lasantha Wickrematunge, (editor of the Sunday Leader) was murdered.

In January The president of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakshe officially announced that the government troops have captured LTTE rebel's de facto headquarters Kilinochchi after suffering heavy loss in the battle. But commentators said that “the real victory would come when LTTE loses the support of the Tamil people and the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora”.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were holding on to a small portion of land in the north of Sri Lanka, but a lot of innocent civilians were still trapped in the war zone. the ‘international community’ and the international media were confused by the propaganda and counter allegations by both the parties. So they could not do much for the trapped civilians.

The war virtually ended when the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran was defeated and killed. Many conspiracy theories emerged making Prabhakaran's death controversial and some also resorted to Photoshop to prove that he is still alive.

IDP Camps in Sri Lanka, Image by Foreign and Commonwealth Office, used under a Creative Commons License

IDP Camps in Sri Lanka, Image by Foreign and Commonwealth Office, used under a Creative Commons License

The end of war brought peace in Sri Lanka and the overwhelming sentiment in the country was relief, and hope. However sense of disbelief and worry was still present among many Sri Lankan Tamils especially the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora because of reports that from more than 300,000 IDPs ‘13,000 people were missing from their camps in Sri Lanka‘. These kinds of reports were criticized by some of the bloggers. On the other hand reports said that anonymous blog entries were the only source of information from IDP camps.

In November the blogosphere came alive with the news that General Fonseka, former military chief who spearheaded the total annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), had resigned and a newly formed opposition alliance nominated him as their candidate for the next presidential election in Sri Lanka.

I hope you have enjoyed our South Asia coverage and in 2010 we look forward to provide you with more insights of citizen journalists into the lives of the people of this region and the issues that affect them. If you are interested to contribute as a bridge blogger of your respective countries, please contact us.

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