Bosnia swears in a three-man presidency dominated by nationalists

Newly elected members of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, Croat member Zeljko Komsic, Serb member Milorad Dodik and Bosniak member Sefik Dzaferovic, shake hands as they attend the presidential inauguration ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina November 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2018

Bosnia swears in a three-man presidency dominated by nationalists

SARAJEVO: Bosnia swore-in its three new presidents on Tuesday, with all eyes on Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik, who will be the first to take the helm of a government riven by ethnic divides.
The three men will rotate seats every eight months under the complex peace deal that ended Bosnia's 1990s war and split power between its three main groups: Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats.
In October voters chose nationalists to represent the first two communities, in a sign of how tribalism continues to shape politics more than two decades after the war.
The three men took their oaths inside Sarajevo's Presidency building before several dozen ambassadors and politicians.
Dodik, a pro-Russian politician who is sanctioned by the US, will co-lead with Bosnian Muslim president Sefik Dzaferovic, who hails from the nationalist conservative SDA party, and Croat president Zeljko Komsic.
Komsic, a Social Democrat, is an outlier among the two nationalists and has called for a "Bosnia of citizens" that would transcend communal divisions.
But he is already facing attacks from the main right-wing Croat party that accuses him of betraying his people and now threatens to obstruct activity in parliament.
"It is currently very difficult to find a common denominator between Dodik, Komsic and Dzaferovic for constructive work," Bosnian political journalist Ranko Mavrak said in a radio interview.
"These three will have to decide whether they want to act as a body that seeks points of agreement or creates problems," he added.
While the Dayton Peace Accords that designed Bosnia's power-sharing arrangement ended a devastating war, critics say the system has entrenched communal divisions and hampered effective governance.
The country's unwieldy government is further complicated by two separate administrations in its highly-autonomous sub-regions: one for Serbs and one shared by Croats and Bosnian Muslims.
Those so-called 'entities' are strung together by weak central institutions.
Dodik's elevation to the top office could mark another blow to the fabric of a country he has previously skewered as a "failed concept."
The firebrand led Bosnia's Serb-run half for over a decade and periodically threatened to hold a referendum on its secession.
Last year the US placed him on a blacklist for undermining the country's peace agreement.
The 59-year-old seemed to soften his tone slightly after he was elected to the national presidency, saying he wants to work with Bosnian Croats and Muslims "in the interest of all."
On Tuesday he repeated his assurance that he did not want to "act to the detriment of anyone" and wished for "effective cooperation".
Political analyst Tanja Topic said the politician appeared to be making a "conciliatory gesture," though "it is still difficult to say whether Dodik will be constructive and whether he will work in the interest of the state."
A day earlier Dodik had repeated his demands to undo parts of the Dayton Peace Accords, including shutting down the office of the High Representative -- an international envoy that has been sent by the UN since 1995 to oversee the peace deal.
"My policy is not changing, it's just my workplace that's changing," he said on Monday.
Among ordinary Bosnians, there is little hope for major changes in a paralysed political system that has allowed corruption to flourish and stalled economic reforms for years.
Unemployment affects up to one third of the country, where large numbers are migrating abroad for work.
"There's nothing more to expect here," said Almir Korjenic, a 32-year-old applying for a work visa at the Slovenian embassy, summing up a widespread sense of political fatigue.
"(The politicians) fought each other before the elections to position themselves well after the elections and resume looting the country," he said.


Peaceful, prosperous, strong Bangladesh in Pakistan's interest, says envoy

Updated 45 min 44 sec ago

Peaceful, prosperous, strong Bangladesh in Pakistan's interest, says envoy

  • Pakistan's high commissioner to Bangladesh says more people-to-people contact necessary

DHAKA: Islamabad wants to enhance “people-to-people” contacts with Dhaka and boost bilateral relations in the areas of trade, business, education, culture and sports, Pakistan’s high commissioner to Bangladesh told Arab News on Thursday.
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui arrived in Dhaka this month after being appointed to the role in November, filling a post that had been vacant for nearly 20 months.
“In addition to government-to-government ties, my endeavor will be to promote and strengthen people-to-people contact as well as bilateral, economic, trade and cultural ties between our two countries,” Siddiqui said. He added that he had sensed a “similar desire among the people and the government of Bangladesh.”
At the end of British colonial rule of India in 1947, the territory of what is now Bangladesh became East Pakistan, politically united with West Pakistan but separated from it by hundreds of kilometers of Indian land.
East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh after a war between India and Pakistan in 1971 that killed nearly 3 million people. Relations between Islamabad and Dhaka have remained frosty since.
In 2019, Bangladesh imported goods worth around $736 million from Pakistan, while the country’s export volume was around $44 million, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
Siddiqui said: “There’s huge potential that still remains to be explored and tapped. We have to work in partnership to facilitate frequent productive engagements between our commercial sectors, including robust participation in each other’s trade exhibitions and shows, and closer collaboration between the chambers of commerce and industry.”
The two countries also need to work together to address issues relating to their business visa regimes, he added.
“While Pakistan has already upgraded Bangladesh to Visa Category A, a similar measure by the Bangladesh government could help promote frequent interaction between our business communities, which is a prerequisite for strong trade relations,” Siddiqui said.
The Bangladeshi cricket team is currently playing a three-match T20 series against Pakistan at Gaddafi Stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The third match of the series will be played next Monday.
Siddiqui said the Bangladeshi cricket team’s Pakistan tour is the beginning of a new era of friendship between the two nations. It will enable them “to further promote constructive bilateral engagements at all levels,” he added.
“I believe this cricket series will look more like a sporting event between two brothers and friends, rather than a fight between two rivals,” he said.
“This visit will generate mutual goodwill and friendliness, and will bring our two nations even closer.”
Siddiqui expressed appreciation for the “hospitality” of the Bangladeshi government toward more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a military-led crackdown in August 2017 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.” Myanmar denies this.
Siddiqui said Pakistan is “constructively engaged” with different international organizations on the issue of Rohingya refugees, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“We’ve noted with appreciation the hospitality offered by the Bangladesh government to a large number of refugees, as we ourselves have been sheltering, in the recent past, the highest number of refugees in the world,” he added, referring to Pakistan’s large population of Afghan refugees.
“We support all efforts for the return of refugees in safety and dignity. Pakistan is closely monitoring international developments in this regard, and will remain engaged in the future too.”
He said Pakistan views Bangladesh with “respect, affection and admiration,” adding that “a peaceful, prosperous and strong Bangladesh is in our interest.”