Grow­ing Tur­moil

Former Mal­dives Pres­i­dent Nasheed has once again made head­lines for fail­ing to ap­pear in court and chal­leng­ing the ju­di­cial sys­tems.

Southasia - - Maldives - By Raza Khan

The Mal­dives, a small In­dian Ocean state, once again finds it­self em­broiled in yet an­other po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. The de­ten­tion and prob­a­ble ar­rest of former pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Nasheed, has at­tracted much at­ten­tion in the Mal­dives. Con­se­quently, the tus­sle be­tween the government and op­po­si­tion par­ties on the one hand and po­lit­i­cal forces and the coun­try’s ju­di­ciary on the other lends to fur­ther un­rest amidst ris­ing in­ci­dents of re­li­gious ex­trem­ism.

The po­lit­i­cal cri­sis was trig­gered in the Mal­dives with the dra­matic res­ig­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Nasheed last Fe­bru­ary. Nasheed ar­gued that the res­ig­na­tion was sub­mit- ted un­der duress at “gun­point.” The un­rest in the Mal­dives reached its cli­max when Nasheed was mo­men­tar­ily ar­rested for vi­o­lat­ing court or­ders re­gard­ing crim­i­nal charges of il­le­gally ar­rest­ing the Crim­i­nal Court Chief Judge, Ab­dul­lah Mo­hammed on Jan­uary 16. Nasheed re­fused to ap­pear be­fore the court as he de­nied abus­ing

his power and vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tion by re­mov­ing and send­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel to ar­rest the chief judge of the crim­i­nal court. Ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion, the judge can only be re­moved by the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

How­ever, Nasheed ar­gues that he was com­pelled to take ac­tion against the judge as the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion could not pro­ceed fur­ther af­ter fac­ing a se­ries of al­le­ga­tions. The re­moval of the judge led to wide­spread protests, which cul­mi­nated in a mutiny by the po­lice. Nasheed con­tended that armed po­lice of­fi­cers were part of a con­spir­acy hatched by the loy­al­ists of former pres­i­dent and Nasheed’s ri­val, Mamoun Ab­dul Gay­oom. Nasheed’s Mal­di­vian Demo­cratic Party ( MDP) de­feated Gay­oom in the 2008 elec­tions. Gay­oom, known largely as an au­to­cratic leader, ruled the Mal­dives for three decades since 1978, us­ing an as­sort­ment of au­to­cratic tac­tics to quell po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion. The sit­u­a­tion was fur­ther com­pli­cated, when Nasheed’s deputy and cur­rent Pres­i­dent, Mo­hamed Wa­heed, stated that Nasheed was not forced to re­sign and was not threat­ened by the po­lice or armed of­fi­cers.

In the cur­rent realm of af­fairs, the former pres­i­dent’s re­fusal to ap­pear be­fore the court was jus­ti­fied by his lack of ex­pec­ta­tion of a fair trial. It is dis­ap­point­ing that a per­son with sound demo­cratic cre­den­tials like Nasheed shied away from ap­pear­ing in court, hav­ing spent long stints in jail dur­ing Gay­oom’s rule while strug­gling for democ­racy in the Mal­dives.

Be­sides Nasheed’s lack of faith in the coun­try’s ju­di­cial sys­tem, if he is found guilty and sen­tenced to im­pris­on­ment, he will be dis­qual­i­fied to hold pub­lic of­fice for three years. In this re­spect, the cases against Nasheed seem to be some­what po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated since he is the MDP’s can­di­date for next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. The MDP has also de­scribed the government and es­tab­lish­ment’s ac­tions against Nasheed as po­lit­i­cal vendetta and a move to pre­vent the MDP from win­ning the elec­tions.

On its part, the government of the Mal­dives em­pha­sized that they had noth­ing to do with the fil­ing and pur­su­ing of crim­i­nal cases against Nasheed. They ar­gue that the case against the former Pres­i­dent was ini­ti­ated by the in­de­pen­dent Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s of­fice when he was still in of­fice.

Only time will re­veal whether Nasheed re­signed to bol­ster his prospects in the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tions or it was the re­sult of col­lu­sion be­tween op­po­si­tion par­ties with “pow­er­ful net­works” to re­move the MDP from power.

Only time will re­veal whether Nasheed re­signed to bol­ster his prospects in the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tions or it was the re­sult of col­lu­sion be­tween op­po­si­tion par­ties with “pow­er­ful net­works” to re­move the MDP from power. The po­lit­i­cal sce­nario in the Mal­dives is mired in a lack of a demo­cratic cul­ture, weak­ness and in­de­pen­dence of state in­sti­tu­tions. Due to th­ese prob­lems, the coun­try’s lead­ers seem­ingly lack the ma­tu­rity level, which is a hall­mark of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in well-en­trenched democ­ra­cies.

In ad­di­tion to this, the re­cent as­sas­si­na­tion of Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, Afrasheem Ali, has fur­ther ag­gra­vated po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in the Mal­dives. MP Ali was con­sid­ered a mod­er­ate Is­lamic scholar in the pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni pop­u­la­tion of more than three mil­lion peo­ple. The bru­tal as­sas­si­na­tion marks the first-ever killing of a mem­ber of par­lia­ment in Mal­di­vian his­tory. An­a­lysts have at­trib­uted Ali’s killing to the ris­ing phe­nom­e­non of re­li­gious ex­trem­ism in the coun­try, which tra­di­tion­ally has had lib­eral so­cial tra­di­tions. By as­sas­si­nat­ing a mod­er­ate Is­lamic scholar and an MP, re­li­gious ex­trem­ists hope to fur­ther fo­ment po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and take ad­van­tage of the pre­vail­ing chaos. This has been the modus operandi of re­li­gious ex­trem­ists in South Asia dur­ing times of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.

There is am­ple room to be­lieve that for­eign ter­ror­ist groups op­er­at­ing in the name of Is­lam could be be­hind the as­sas­si­na­tion. The Mal­dives has a strate­gic ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion and ex­trem­ists must be stopped be­fore they ex­ploit the ar­chi­pel­ago for their own agenda. Mea­sures must be taken be­fore the coun­try, known for its beauty and ex­quis­ite tourist re­sorts, be­comes an­other hot­bed of re­li­gious ex­trem­ism in South Asia. Raza Khan is a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and re­searcher on po­lit­i­cal econ­omy and the Af-Pak re­gion. He has served in sev­eral se­nior po­si­tions in the Pak­istan government and is cur­rently writ­ing his doc­toral the­sis on re­li­gious ex­trem­ism-ter­ror­ism in Pak­istan.

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