THE INDEX — February 26, 2009

The two-day long soldier revolt in Bangladesh ended today with an offer of amnesty from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed. The soldiers, members of the Bangladesh Rifles, the unit responsible for guarding the country’s borders, demanded increased pay and better conditions. According to published reports, the rebels killed the director general of their unit, 7 other officers, 1 border guard, and 3 civilians before holing up (with hostages) at the Bangladesh Rifle headquarters in Dhaka. The new Bangladeshi government, less than two months old, and Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina Wajed tried to settle rising tensions, eventually offering amnesty to the rebel troops. According to Bloomberg News, the two-day revolt has left the 2,486-mile long border Bangladesh shares with India completely unguarded.

Three European countries are calling for tougher sanctions on Iran. A confidential document given to the Financial Times and an Italian newspaper that listed entities involved with Iran’s nuclear program could be an attempt to “strengthen” new U.S. policy towards the country. President Barack Obama said in his campaign, and during his early days in office, that he advocates a policy that would consider conditionally engaging Tehran, though he has also said that it would be unacceptable for that nation to develop a nuclear weapon. European Union officials said that Germany, France, and Britain are not trying to influence the Obama administration’s review of Iranian foreign policy but rather strengthen Obama’s “ability to act” in talks with Iran, reported Reuters.

Rwandan troops are are leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo just a little over a month since they crossed the border to fight mainly Hutu rebels alongside Congolese government forces. Roughly 3,000 Rwandan troops will exit the country by the end of the week. Rwandan Foreign Minister Rosemary Museminali said the conflict was “not resolved” but that the militia was “seriously weakened”—despite reports that many of Rwandan rebels have already returned to some of their jungle bases. The foreign force also arrested a Tutsi militia leader. The brief alliance recalls the Rwandan army’s long and troublesome involvement in Congolese conflicts, and underscores years of instability caused by rebels—some of whom are wanted for their involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Pakistan‘s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, have been ruled out of running for public office, according to a BBC report. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruling forbids either of the Sharifs from holding official office, effectively removing Shahbaz Sharif from his position of chief minister of Punjab province. Both brothers are members of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) political party, the prevailing party in Punjab, which has accused the Supreme Court of having its strings pulled by President Zardari. The court, composed of three Musharraf-appointed judges, has ruled just one week before elections for the upper house of Pakistan’s Parliament. Thousands of Sharif supporters took to the streets to protest. Many see the ruling as only furthering the personal and political rifts that already riddle the country.

Confrontations in southern Thailand between a Muslim separatist group and government forces exploded this week killing two and injuring 12. Rebels in the south have long advocated for independence from the Buddhist country. A leader of the National Revolutionary Front Coordinate (BRN-C) told Al Jazeera that “our main aim is not war but we are forced into this because without violence Siam [Thailand] will never stop discriminating against the Malay people in the south.” In the last five years, about 3,500 people have been killed amongst the sporadic fighting and mounting tension.

Henry Kissinger, lays the way forward for the United States in Afghanistan. He recommends the United States propose a “working group” of Afghanistan’s neighbors (one that includes India, especially) that would be responsible for “assisting in the reconstruction and reform of Afghanistan and establishing principles for the country’s international status and obligations to oppose terrorist activities.” Afghanistan requires the help of a group of countries, says Kissinger, who also notes the importance of Russia and Pakistan in this process, as decisions made by either country will greatly affect the stability of the region.

A United States report on human rights offenses in China is being rejected outright by Chinese officials. Reacting almost immediately to U.S. State Department criticisms of China’s human rights record, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu urged the United States to “reflect on its own human rights problems, stop acting as a human-rights guardian, and stop using human rights as an excuse to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.” The U.S. report notes “‘severe cultural and religious repression’ of ethnic minorities in Tibet and in Muslim areas in western China.” But according to Chinese spokesperson Ma, the situation in Tibet is stable. Yet China is rumored to still quietly ban tourists and journalists from Tibet after the uprising last March—perhaps due to concern over next month’s fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule.

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