Mar 082013


NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday appealed to all political parties of the country to show “wisdom” to endorse land accord with Bangladesh, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament during the current session.

“As a means of promoting ties between the two countries, this House and the other House would have the wisdom to endorse the land border agreement that I signed in Bangladesh,” Singh said in Rajya Sabha while replying to Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address.

Singh’s appeal came at a time when BJP is opposed to the land swap agreement saying it would compromise country’s territorial integrity.

Referring to the recent visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to Bangladesh, Singh said it was deeply appreciated by the people and government of that country.

“I hope the political parties will show the same wisdom in passing the Land Boundary Agreement Bill that I propose to bring in Parliament,” the Prime Minister said.

He said this agreement would ensure peace and tranquility along the borders with Bangladesh and peace and order in both the countries.

The Constitution Amendment Bill, cleared by the Cabinet last month, is likely to be tabled in the ongoing Budget session of Parliament.

The Bill, which will replace India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, 1974, involves exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on Indian soil.

Bangladesh has already ratified the pact. Indian enclaves in Bangladesh are spread over 17,149 acres, while Bangladesh enclaves in India are located in 7,110 acres of land.

Additional protocols for 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, signed during Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September 2011, require a constitutional amendment. adds: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed to all political parties to support the Constitution Amendment Bill, which his government is likely to introduce in Parliament soon in order to ratify New Delhi’s 1974 Land Boundary Agreement with Dhaka and its additional protocol signed in 2011.

Singh expressed hope that all political parties “would have the wisdom to endorse” the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, including its additional protocol signed during his visit to Dhaka in September 2011.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the Rajya Sabha – the Upper House of Indian Parliament – on Friday.

The Indian government on Feb 13 last approved the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill required to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement and its additional protocol. The Bill is now set to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing Budget Session.

“As a means of promoting ties between the two countries, this House and the other House (Lok Sabha – the Lower House of Indian Parliament) would have the wisdom to endorse the land border agreement,” Singh told the Rajya Sabha, while replying to a debate on a Motion of Thanks to President Pranab Mukherjee for his address to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.

Singh said Mukherjee’s recent visit to Dhaka was deeply appreciated by the people and Government of Bangladesh.

“I hope the political parties will show the same wisdom in passing the Land Boundary Agreement Bill that I propose to bring in Parliament,” said the Prime Minister, adding that the agreement was intended to ensure peace and tranquility along the India-Bangladesh borders.

Though the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government in New Delhi does not have enough numbers in both the Houses of Parliament to ensure a smooth passage of the Bill, it is still preparing to introduce it, apparently to reassure the Bangladesh government of its commitment to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement and the protocol.

India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has been meeting leaders of all political parties over the past few months seeking support for the Bill to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement.

Singh’s government needs at least two-thirds majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to get the Constitutional Amendment Bill passed. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is also likely to oppose the Bill as it had joined the regional party Asom Gana Parishad in Assam to protest against the protocol that New Delhi and Dhaka inked to resolve long-standing boundary disputes, by swapping 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India and preserve status quo on the adversely possessed swathes of land.

To ratify the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement along with the protocol signed, the Indian government needs to amend the Constitution.

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Feb 252013


Dhaka, Feb 24, 2013, PTI:

At least five people, including a woman, were killed and over 50 others injured on Sunday as police opened fire during clashes with Islamists who enforced a nationwide shutdown demanding execution of “atheist bloggers” for alleged blasphemy.

Five people were killed when strike supporters clashed with the police and local people in Manikganj’s Singair upazila during the nationwide strike called by 12 Islamist parties, police and witnesses said.

“Five people including a woman were killed in clashes… the Islamist groups claimed four them to be activists of theirs,” a witness said.

The witness said that several activists of Islamist outfit Kherlafat Majlish backed by fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) attacked policemen as they intervened at the scene after the Islamists assaulted a senior ruling Awami League leader.

Feb 232013

AP, DHAKA, Feb 23, 2013 –  Thousands of students have rallied in Bangladesh’s capital demanding death to several Islamic political party leaders who are on trial for alleged war crimes during the country’s 1971 independence war.

Eight top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party, are being tried on charges of mass killings, rapes and arson during Bangladesh’s nine-month war of separation from Pakistan.

Earlier this month, a tribunal convicted party leader Abdul Quader Mollah of mass killings during the war and sentenced him to life in prison, a verdict considered lenient by many Bangladeshis.

On Saturday, about 5,000 students shouted “Death to the killers” as they rallied in Dhaka, the capital.

The government says it will appeal Mollah’s sentence before the Supreme Court this coming week, asking for the death penalty for 65-year-old.

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Jan 042013

Hartal call a mad decision, he says

UNB, Sylhet, Jan 4:  Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Friday said the opposition parties in Bangladesh are ‘very irresponsible’ and that is a sad matter.

Pointing finger at the main opposition BNP, he said they should know how the government runs as they were in power in the past.

The Finance Minister came up with the remarks while talking to reporters after inaugurating the 4th Regional Scout Conference in Golapganj upazila.

About the fuel price hike, Muhith said the prices of petroleum are still less in the country compared to that on the international market.

Responding to a question about Sunday’s hartal of the BNP-led 18-party alliance, he said, “It’s a decision came from madness. It can’t be the decision of a responsible political party.”

Opposition BNP in an emergency meeting on Thursday night decided to enforce a countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal on Sunday in protest against the fuel price hike.

Earlier, on Thursday night the government raised the petroleum prices with effect from Friday, the second time after December 30, 2011 and the fifth in this tenure.

The prices of diesel and kerosene have been raised by Tk 7 per litre while that of octane and petrol wereby Tk 5 per litre.

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Jan 042013

Dhaka, Jan 4, 2013: Apparently hinting at Jamaat-Shibir, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday said BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia would not be able to save the ‘snakes’ no matter how loudly she shouts with the basket of snakes on her head, reports UNB.

“She (Khaleda) won’t be able to save the snakes no matter how loudly she shouts taking the basket full of snakes on her head,” said the Awami League president.

The premier made the remarks when the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) leaders paid a curtsey call on her at Ganobhaban marking the organisation’s 65th founding anniversary.

Pointing finger at the BNP chairperson, Hasina said, “I want to tell her that a shaman (ojha) dies from snakebites. Her situation will turn serious because of them (Jamaat) as she is roaming with the basket of snakes.”

The ruling party chief also said the trial of the war criminals is going on in the country despite desperate efforts to save the war criminals.

Hasina said the trial of those who killed people, looted people’s wealth and violated many mothers and daughters during the Liberation War in 1971 must be held on the country’s soil as it is a desire of the entire nation and common people.

“The trial must be held. We’ll surely accomplish the trial,” she said.

Taking a swipe at a section of civil society members, the Prime Minister said, “Whenever any military or military-backed caretaker government assumes power, their importance rises and they get national flags in their vehicles.”

She went on: “That’s why they don’t want continuation of the democratic process in the country; rather they always try to destroy democracy. Conspiracy will be there but we’ll have to ensure the continuation of democracy.”

She claimed that the military dictators destroyed the politics of the country. “Otherwise, country’s politics could have been better.”

Hasina advised the BCL leaders and activists to give priority to their studies. “Study comes first and then the organisation. During examination, study will be the one and only work.”

She urged them to come up with brilliant results bringing pride for their parents and organisation.

The AL chief also asked the students to get involved in the organisational activities maintaining moral values.

BCL president HM Badiuzzaman Sohag and general secretary Siddique Nazmul Alam also spoke on the occasion.

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Jan 042013

Narayanganj, Jan 4: President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) Kazi Akramuddin Ahmed on Friday said that hartal is the biggest barrier to country’s economy.

The top leader of the country’s apex business body urged the political parties to withdraw ‘harmful’ political programmes like hartal, and suggested them to find out alternative peaceful programmes to keep the economy unhurt.

“Hartal is one of the biggest enemies of and barriers to the country’s economic development,” he told a function at Narayanganj Club on Thursday night.

He said Bangladesh is on the path of gradual progress as the avenues of opportunities are opening up one after another. “If there’s a programme like hartal or blockade at this emerging stage that will impede the country’s development.”

For this reason, the FBCCI president said, the political parties must think of alternative peaceful programmes.

Narayanganj Chamber of Commerce and Industry and seven national organisations based in Narayanganj arranged the function to greet the new FBCCI (Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry) leaders.

Akramuddin Ahmed said there is no conflict among business leaders in Naraynganj. “Today’s presence of the business leaders proves that.”

He said the miseries of the people of Narayanganj will be eased as the Jatrabari Flyover will be opened to traffic on March 26.

The FBCCI president also assured of providing all possible supports to revive the lost glory of Narayanganj.

FBCCI first vice president Monwara Hakim Ali, vice president M Helal Uddin and FBCCI directors spoke at the function held with Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Narayanganj Chamber of Commerce and Industry President AKM Selim Osman in the chair.

Beximco Group Chairman Sohel F Rahman attended the function as the chief guest. Abdullah Abu Kaiser, MP and former MP Mohammad Ali were also present.

Later, a cultural function was held where noted singers Andrew Kishor and Konak Chapa performed.


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Dec 222012

Dhaka, Dec 22 (UNB) – Leaders of the Awami League led 14-party alliance on Saturday reiterated that the ongoing war crimes trial will be completed at any cost defeating those conspiring against it.

“We’ll win again as in 1971 by trying the war criminals, and then we’ll bring out a victory procession,” Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed told a pre-procession rally.

The rally was held at the South gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque prior to bringing out a procession in the city protesting the ‘conspiracy’ of BNP-Jamaat against the ongoing trial of war crimes.

At the rally, Awami League leader Amir Hossain Amu announced that the 14-party alliance will form a human chain on January 7 across the country protesting the conspiracies of BNP-Jamaat against the trial and demanding quick completion of the trial.

After the rally, a mass procession was taken out in the city that terminated at Suhrawardy Udyan after parading Noor Hosssain Square, Paltan intersection, National Press Club and Matsya Bhaban roads, creating huge traffic congestions in the areas.

Hundreds of leaders, activists, supporters of the ruling coalition took part in the rally demanding the trial of war criminals who committed crime against humanity during the country’s Liberation War in 1971.

Tofail said BNP and Jamaat together want to foil the trial of war crimes and urged the countrymen to get united like in 1971 to try the war criminals.

Agriculture Minister and Awami League presidium member Matia Chowdhury alleged that Khaleda Zia took to the streets with a desperate attempt to stop the trial of war criminals. “We’ll take the trial to its own destination. The offenders will get the punishment for their misdeeds. No one will be able to save them,” she said.

Awami League advisory council member and minister without portfolio Suranjit Sengupta said the whole nation except Khaleda Zia and Ghulam Azam is united with the demand for the trial of war crimes.

“You had won by killing Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975 by hatching conspiracy. This time, the people of the country will win by trying the war criminals and the conspiracy will get defeated,” Suranjit added.

Workers Party president Rashed khan Menon regretted, “In the month of victory where we are supposed to celebrate the victory, but we are holding a procession demanding the trial of war crimes.”

Senior Awami League leader and former Home Minister Mohammad Nasim said opposition leader Khaleda Zia has declared a war against the people of the country.

“Her main demand is to free the killers of 1971 who are now in jail on charges of war crimes. Khaleda not only betrayed with the people of the country but also betrayed with her husband Ziaur Rahman by siding with the war criminals,” Nasim said.

Awami League joint general secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal general secretary Sharif Nurul Ambia, Ganotontri Party general secretary Nurur Rahman Selim, Gano Azadi League president Abdus Samad, National Awami Party general secretary Enamul Haque also addressed the rally held with Awami League leader Amir Hossain Amu in the chair.

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Dec 222012

RANGPUR, Dec 22, 2012: One person was killed and at least 19 others were injured others were injured in a post poll clash between the supporters of two defeated councilor candidates in Bangladesh’s northern city ‘Rangpur’ on Saturday, police and local sources said.

Police said supporters of Belal Hossain and Shamsul Alam, two defeated councilor candidates of the just concluded Rangpur City Corporation (RCC) election, got entangled into bloody clashes at Kishamat Bishu village at around 11:30 am.

The clash ensued following exchange of hot words between the supporters of both the groups when they were blaming each other for defeat of their respective candidates in the RCC polls held on December 20.

Getting information, large contingent of police force from Kotwali Thana and members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from Rangpur camp rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control using baton-charges.

By this time, 12 persons belonging to the warring groups were injured and they were rushed to Rangpur Medical College Hospital (RMCH) where one Dalim Hossain, 23, son of Syed Ali Bagha of village Kishamat Bishu succumbed to his injuries at 4:30 pm.

”Adequate police and RAB members have been deployed in the area and we have arrested 13 persons of Belal and Shamsul groups including Shamsul Alam so far,” Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Kotwali Thana Altaf Hossain told reporters.

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Dec 182012

Pulack Ghatack

Dhaka, December 18: A peaceful general strike paralyzed Bangladesh on Tuesday demanding ban on religion-based political parties.

Schools remained closed and stores kept their shutters down for the day, when vehicles almost disappeared from the streets across the country. There was no report of violence or bloodshed, which is unprecedented for Bangladeshis who are acquainted to frequent destructive political programs.

A two-party coalition of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) called the dawn-to-dusk nationwide hartal (shutdown) to press home their demands mainly to prohibit Islamic political parties.

More than two-dozen Islamic parties in Bangladesh want the country to be governed by Sharia, or Islamic law. The leftists say the Islamic parties should be banned because they oppose the constitutional provision that says Bangladesh be governed by secular law.

The leftists are targeting mainly the nation’s largest Islamic fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which campaigned against Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan, another Muslim-majority nation in South Asia.

Jamaat is accused of collaborating with Pakistani troops during the bloody nine-month war that Bangladesh says saw 3 million people killed and about 200,000 women raped. Eight leaders from the party are currently on trial for allegedly committing murder, arson, rape and other atrocities during the independence war.

The leftist parties are also demanding that the war crimes tribunals speed up the proceedings. The other demands of the two parties included arrest and punishment of Tazreen Fashions Limited owner and other government officials responsible for the Nov 24 tragedy, ensuring of workplace safety and workers rights on pay and trade unions in all garment factories and reduction of power prices and transport fares

The Awami League led ruling alliance that include scores of leftist parties was apparently in a supportive mood to the strike when Ganotantrik Bam Morcha, another left-coalition, extended their active support to it.

The government’s lenience to the protestors was evident in kind behavior of the law enforcers, who, in other days, are used to fight against.

Police were seen diverting the traffic at key intersections to avoid trouble with the strike supporters who intercepted the core avenues of the capital in Paltan and took out occasional processions.

Sub Inspector of Ramna Police Station Ibrahim told reporters that they have requested vehicles to use diversion route to avert any untoward incidents with supporters of the strike.

Authorities deployed about 10,000 police and security forces in Dhaka as hundreds of protesters took to the streets Tuesday, blocking roads and halting traffic. There were no immediate reports of violence, except in the apparel hub Gazipur, outskirt of the capital.

Thousands of garment workers resorted to brief violence in support of the hartal in the industrial zone that forced the owners of over a hundred factories to declare a holiday and allow the labors to join the protest.

The over all hartal feature, however, contrasts the shutdowns sponsored by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami led 18-Party Alliance sponsored shutdown , which were marred by vandalism and arson throughout the country.

Television channels and news agencies reported that the strike disrupted communications in many of the country’s 64 districts. Transport workers’ organizations extended their supports to the shutdown, the organizers said.

The strike also left thousands of commuters stranded at bus stations, but the government said trains and river ferries were operating without disruptions.

Strike spontaneous, successful: CPB chief

CPB president Mujahidul Islam Selim has claimed success for their countrywide shutdown they enforced on Tuesday for a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami.

“This strike has been more successful than those enforced by the Awami League and the BNP [in the past]. They have to explode bombs and set vehicles on fire, but we have got spontaneous support for our strike ,” Selim told journalists during the shutdown.

The CPB leader denied government backing for the strike, saying its supporters faced baton-charges at Barisal and Magura and attacks on their procession in Netrokona.

“Not only police but also Chhatra League and Juba League (Awami League fronts) activists attacked our supporters,” Selim alleged.

He claimed police detained seven CPB supporters at Sunamganj and some in Narsinghdi on Tuesday. .

“We were determined to make a success of our strike despite opposition from administration,” he said.

The CPB chief claimed he had reports of ‘spontaneous’ response to the strike across the country.

“This proves two things. The war criminals will have to be tried and the Jamaat and Shibir will have to be banned. This proves that those responsible for the Tazreen Garments tragedy will also have to face justice.”

“Today’s (Tuesday) strike has proven that true strikes are enforced with the support of the people. Those who enforce shutdowns by creating panic are alienated from the people,” Selim said.

General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Bangladesh Khalekuzzaman said Tuesday’s spontaneous general strike with popular support marked the beginning of a new political era.

“It is the new political beginning , one outside the two-party ambit.”

Ganotantrik Baam Morcha convenor Zonaid Saki told journalists that they believed the seven-point charter of demand reflected the people’s wishes. “It is not necessary to forcefully impose the strike on the people.”

Home Minister thanks Leftists

Home Minister M K Alamgir thanked pro-hartal activists for maintaining peace during the hartal.

The minister said, the only violence reported during the whole day was a case of vandalism on a public van (leguna). “That is why the police instead of thwarting them, helped them.”

He urged troublemakers ‘draw lessons’ from the shutdown in an oblique reference to the recent violence during the 18-Party Alliance blockades and shutdowns.

Gazipur turns into battlefield

Different areas on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway turned into battlefield as the workers of garment factories took to the roads and vandalized vehicles supporting the CPB-BSD hartal Tuesday morning.

All the units of garment factories of both sides on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway were closed.

The agitating workers threw brick bats to the factories which remained open and let workers to take to the street.

The authorities also were compelled to declare their factories closed for Tuesday.

The hartal supporters brought out a procession from Chandana Chowrasta around 7am.

Later, another procession was brought out from Signboard area led by district president of Communist Party Comrade Joynal Abedin. Thousands of RMG workers joined the procession.

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Sep 302012

A statue of Lord Buddha is left standing amid the torched ruins of the Lal Ching Buddhist temple at Ramu, some 350 kilometers (216 miles) from the capital Dhaka on Sunday, Sept. 30. Thousands of rioters torched Buddhist temples and homes in southeastern Bangladesh Sunday over a photo posted on Facebook deemed offensive to Islam, in a rare attack against the community. (AFP)

 COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims angry over an alleged derogatory photo of the Islamic holy book Quran on Facebook set fires in at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes near the southern border with Myanmar, reports AP.

Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), the state run news agency of the country, also confirmed the excess done  by “Muslim dogmatists,” who torched 11 Buddhist temples and damaged two others in Ramu town near Cox’s Bazar.

 The violence began late Saturday and continued until early Sunday, said Nojibul Islam, a police chief in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar.

 He said the situation was under control Sunday afternoon after extra security officials were deployed and the government banned public gatherings in the troubled area.

 He said at least 20 people were injured in the attacks that followed the posting of a Facebook photo of a burned copy of the Quran. The rioters blamed the photo on a local Buddhist boy, though it was not immediately clear if the boy actually posted the photo.

Some 25,000 people torch a village of Buddhist temple in one of the worst attacks in Bangladesh triggered by a Facebook posting allegedly defaming Islam. (AFP)

Bangladesh’s popular English-language Daily Star newspaper quoted the boy as saying that the photo was mistakenly tagged on his Facebook profile. The newspaper reported that soon after the violence broke out, the boy’s Facebook account was closed and police escorted him and his mother to safety.

 Joinul Bari, chief government administrator in Cox’s Bazar district, said authorities detained the boy’s parents and were investigating.

BSS adds: Witnesses and officials said several thousand people took to the street shortly before the midnight Saturday and attacked the temples and the Buddhist neighbourhoods in the area forcing the followers of the faith to flee their homes in fright.

During the several hour long attack, they torched 11 Buddhist temples, damaged two others and ransacked at least 30 Buddhist homes . However, no casualty was reported as most Buddhists fled their homes to evade the attack.

A group of people staged a street protest around 10.30 pm alleging that a Buddhist youth in the area posted a photo insulting the holy Quran and instigated the mob to carryout the attack on the old Buddhist sites.

The situation prompted authorities to call out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops alongside elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and riot police while army soldiers from nearby camps came out to patrol the neighbourhood.

“The situation was brought under control before dawn and we enforced a ban on street rallies and protests,” Cox’s Bazar district’s police chief Salim Mohammad Jahangir told newsmen as he was reached here by phone.

Home Minister MK Alamgir and other Bangladesh high officials visit Buddhist sites which were attacked and torched by Muslim rioters at Cox’s Bazaar on Sept 30, 2012.

Home Minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir flew to the scene along with the inspector general of police and director general of RAB and ordered immediate actions to expose to punitive actions the attackers, calling the incident part of a plot to destroy the traditional communal harmony in the country.

Industries Minister Dilip Barua accompanied Alamgir as they visited the Buddhist neighbourhoods, talked to the residents and assured them of all out government support to rebuild the temples and actions against the attackers.

Information minister Hasanul Haque Inu, meanwhile, in a hurriedly called press conference at his office in Dhaka said “an identified communal force” carried out the attack under a pre-planned design.

“The fundamentalist elements spread a rumour to destabilise the peaceful political environment,” he said.

The Buddhists, meanwhile, staged a human chain protest at the port city demanding exemplary punishment against the attackers warning that otherwise members of the community would wage a greater protest.

“Unless the culprits are immediately arrested and handed down exemplary punishment, we will be forced to go for fast unto death,” Bangladesh Buddhist Association president Ajit Ranjan Barua told the rally in Chittagong.

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Sep 232012

Pulack Ghatack

The prospects of resolving crucial water sharing issues and border demarcation between Dhaka and Delhi may have only become bleaker with the withdrawal of Trinamul Congress from India’s ruling coalition, officials and diplomats in Dhaka say.

Mamata Banargee is likely to become more defiant against Delhi in its attempts to resolve the pending issues with Dhaka, and it means Bangladesh will have to wait for a political change in the West Bengal which looks a distant possibility, analysts believe.

Officials in Dhaka are now more worried over reaching agreements with India in different cross-border issues, especially about getting its just share of Teesta river water, sources in the foreign ministry said.

Settling border issues and reciprocal transfer of enclaves between the two countries may become tougher now, foreign ministry officials believe. But they are cautious about making any blunt comment.

Asked about direction of the next course of negotiations over the pending issues with India after Trinomul-Congress break up with the centre, director for South Asia affairs in the Foreign Ministry ATM Rokebul Haque declined to make any comment.

Talking to this correspondent, he said one should wait for return of the senior officials for comment as they are out of the country at the moment with the Prime Minister, visiting New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting.

Some officials, however, believe otherwise they hold the view that Trinamul’s divorce with the ruling coalition will cut Mamata’s ability to influence the central government decisions on issues related to Bangladesh.

But she might still have the power to exert pressure with a very nationalistic attitude from West Bengal.

The central government has lost its ability to make Mamata understand the importance of resolving the crucial issues with Bangladesh. So “it has become more tough to get the crucial issues resolved,” Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, an analyst, says.

“A major breakthrough or end the deadlocks may only wait until a political change occurs in the West Bengal. “We will have to wait for the next election in the West Bengal,” he said.

Former ambassador Waliur Rahaman is still optimistic and said, “Mamata is a clever women. She is nationalistic for West Bengal and her break with the centre may not have any importance for Bangladesh.”

“We will not face any problem to deal with Delhi, after Mamata’s withdrawal from the central government,” he said.

But diplomats in India believe bigger problems may arise. Times of India on Friday reported that “Indo-Bangla ties will take a body blow with Mamata pulling the plug on the UPA government.

Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s success in economic reforms, two big initiatives with Bangladesh — the Teesta water-sharing and Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) — are taking substantial hit, it said.

Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina raised the issues when she met her Indian counterpart Manmohon Singh ahead of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Iranian capital Tehran last month.

Singh told Hasina that internal consultations on Teesta water-sharing and exchange of 111 enclaves were on and “both will happen as soon as feasible.”

Singh made clear that India was “firmly committed” to both the accords, signed during his visit to Dhaka in September last year.

“India’s failure to complete the LBA is a bigger problem,” the Times of India wrote, as the updated agreement, signed between Singh and Hasina, was historic: for the first time.

India should pass a constitutional amendment to bring about territorial change. For three sessions, the UPA government has not been able to push this through in Parliament.

The amendment can be passed with a two-thirds majority. However, Mamata is not the only obstacle to the passage of the LBA, the main opposition party, BJP, too is not taking interest. And, now, for a minority government at the centre, this agreement is going to be much tougher, Times of India says.

Sep 202012

Dhaka, Sep 20: After a series of hectic negotiations, the World Bank has decided to return to Padma bridge project after meeting Prime Minister’s Advisor Gawher Rizvi in Washington, online newspaper reports.

Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States Akramul Qader confirmed about the development on Thursday, it says.

“The World Bank has decided to engage itself in Padma bridge project and informed other lending agencies (ADB, JICA) about the decision,” Qader said.

He expected a formal announcement to this effect Thursday night.

Earlier in the day Finance Minister AMA Muhith at a function said that they were expecting a positive signal from the World Bank for revival of its Padma Bridge loan deal, but want the announcement in this regard from the global lending agency first.

“We’re expecting a positive announcement from the World Bank (for revival of the loan deal), but we want the announcement from their (World Bank) end first,” he told reporters at a programme at Cirdap Auditorium in the city.

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) organised the event with its founding president Selima Ahmad in the chair.

BWCCI president Sangita Ahmed and senior vice president Munmun Rahman were also present at the seminar, titled ‘A Pathway Towards Women Entrepreneurs’ Development in Bangladesh: National Budget 2012-2013.’

Replying to a query, the Finance Minister said there will be no involvement of the Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman in the project.

Amid confusion over Mashiur Rahman’s proceeding on leave, the government reportedly sent an envoy to Washington with an alternative proposal — Mashiur will remain disengaged from government responsibilities instead of going on leave – for the revival of the Padma bridge loan deal.

Responding to another query, a smiling Muhith said, “The World Bank and others donor agencies – Jica and ADB – will together make a formal announcement. We hope we’ll have a chance any time. Then we’ll share it with you (media).”

Insisted, Muhith said, “Right now I don’t want to tell you much about the matter…and I can’t tell you exactly when the good news will land.”

He said they, from the very beginning, had engaged their best efforts to have the World Bank’s decision changed. “…to reach an understanding, we had to sacrifice a lot and they (WB) too.”

Muhith said they had taken many steps what should not be taken.

The Finance Minister lauded the role of the World Bank and said, “We receive foreign aid. May be it’s less now, but it’s very important for us.”

He criticised the opposition for apparently not getting them beside the government during its crisis period.  “Over the last three years, the country’s budget and resources have doubled. It’s a big achievement…particularly in the context of global crisis.”

He also said ‘political opposition’ is very powerful which never recognises any achievement of the government. “They never recognise it, they don’t want to recognise actually.”

Meanwhile, sources at the World Bank Dhaka office said they are waiting for the message from Washington as the negotiation to revive the cancelled loan deal is at a positive stage.

The World Bank, Dhaka office will formally announce it if it gets the message from Washington.

The World Bank, the lead co-financer of the Padma Bridge project, cancelled its committed $1.20 billion loan on June 29. Since then, the government has been trying to convince the global lender for revival of its fund it cancelled on the allegation of corruption in the selection process of consultant for building the 6.15-km-long bridge.

Sending Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman on leave was one of its (WB) four conditions to revive the loan.

Dismissing media reports that he has gone on a month-long leave, Mashiur on Tuesday said he is still doing what is his job.

The government undertook the Padma Bridge project in August 2007 estimating the cost then at $1.40 billion (Tk 101.62 billion).

Later, the project cost was revised upward to $2.9 billion because of the rising costs of construction materials and foreign currency fluctuations.

Later, the lenders -– the WB, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) — made separate commitments to provide an aggregate amount of $2.35 billion as credits to build the bridge.

Though the WB cancelled the loan, the ADB and the Jica extended the loan effectiveness for the first time on July 31 by one month to August 31.

Meanwhile, the ADB and extended the loan effectuation timeline by a month for the second time while Jica by three weeks from September 1.

The two major lenders have also asked the government to settle the matter with the WB within the timeframe before getting their committed funds for the Padma Bridge project.

The Manila-based ADB had earlier committed $615 million, Jica $400 million and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank $140 million in loans for building the bridge.

PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi is now in Washington to discuss the loan revival issue with the World Bank. World Bank Country Director Ellen Goldstein is also in Washington.

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Sep 202012

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Lalmonirhat, Sept 20: Renewing her firm commitment to continue democracy in the country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said that no one will be able to play with the fate of the people of Bangladesh, reports UNB.

“We’ve strengthened democracy through the 15th amendment of the constitution… now the people of Bangladesh will live keeping their head high,” she said while addressing a public rally at the local Collectorate Ground in the afternoon.

Hasina also said that the right to vote and also the constitutional rights of the country’s people will remain in tact.

State Minister for Primary and Mass Education M Motahar Hossain presided over the meeting, organised by the district unit of Awami League.

Jatiya Party chairman Hussain Muhammad Ershad, Commerce Minister GM Quader and Awami League joint general secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif addressed the meeting.

The Prime Minister said democracy will continue in Bangladesh. “Development comes through democracy. If there is no democracy, there won’t be any development.”

Referring to the trial of the war criminals and crimes against humanity, she said: “We’ve initiated the trial of the war criminals. Insha-Allah, the trial will be completed in this soil.”

Hasina said father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman began the trial of the war criminals, but “those who captured power after 1975 through the assassination of Bangabandhu had stopped the trial proceedings.”

She expressed her strong resolve to build a happy, prosperous and peaceful Bangladesh as well as to turn it into a middle income country by 2021.

Mentioning that the soil of the country is fertile, she said: “We’ll stand on our own feet not relying on others… Bangladesh will stay as an independent and sovereign state.”

The Prime Minister also expressed her strong determination to ensure economic emancipation and build a poverty-free Bangladesh as well as to give better living standard to the country’s people to materialize the dream of Bangabandhu.

She said that whenever Awami League comes to power it works for the welfare of the people.

The present government, she added, has curbed militancy and terrorism in the country with iron hand although there were “numerous militant and terrorist activities in the country during the rule of BNP-Jamaat alliance.

Listing various development activities of the present government, Hasina said these included providing various allowances under different social safety net programmes, innovation of flood and saline tolerant paddy, distribution of free textbooks up to secondary level, ensuring food security, establishment of Union Information and Service Centres, and reducing maternal and child mortality rates.

Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui, Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Tipu Munshi, MP, and eminent lawyer Barrister Rafiq-ul-Haque were present on the occasion.

Earlier, the Prime Minister inaugurated the renovated rail line of Burimari-Lalmonirhat route, laid foundation of the Lalmonirhat Nursing College, inaugurated the multi-storey building of Lalmonirhat Diabetic Samity, laid the foundation of the 850-metre-long 2nd PC guarder road bridge on River Teesta and of the 2nd Dharla Bridge on Lalmonirhat-Kulaghat-Phulbari-Kurigram route.

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Sep 202012

Bangladesh opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia rejects Supreme Court verdict that voided the election-time caretaker government system.

Dhaka, Sept 20: Opposition leader in Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia on Thursday rejected the Supreme Court verdict that had overturned the caretaker government system ‘by declaring the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution illegal and void.

“The judgement is biased’ and ‘unacceptable’,” Khaleda said at a press conference in Dhaka and reasserted that the next general election must be held under a non-partisan caretaker government.

“If the government doesn’t restore the caretaker government system, there’ll be no election. The biased Supreme Court verdict on the caretaker government system can’t stop our movement,” she said.

The chairperson of the country’s main opposition party, BNP, claimed that the Supreme Court verdict on the constitution’s 13th amendment pronounced by former Chief Justice Khairul Haque on May 10 has been “distorted” in its full text.

Khaleda said the vivid difference between the full text and short verdict is unprecedented. “We strongly condemn such behaviour of the former chief justice. It’s a serious judicial misconduct. There’s political ill-motive behind it.”

Khaleda said such a bad example has not only undermined the judiciary but also the people of the whole country.

She said the direction in the verdict about an interim government for holding the election under a small cabinet is the reflection of the Prime Minister’s speech. The verdict was delivered as per the Prime Minister’s advice.

Khaleda warned that the verdict may lead the country towards instability.

“People won’t accept the politically motivated, illogical and self-contradictory verdict and won’t participate in any election to be arranged in light of the verdict. There’s no alternative to a non-party caretaker government to protect the people’s right to franchise. Pro-democratic people won’t participate in any election under any partisan government,” she asserted.

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Sep 202012

Major war crime suspect and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maulana Abdus Sobhan arrested in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Sept 20, 2012: The Detective Branch (DB) of Bangladesh police on Thursday arrested seasoned Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maulana Abdus Sobhan, a major war crime suspect, state sponsored news agency BSS reports.

“Sobhan was arrested from the eastern part of the Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge in Tangail,” police superintendent Hafiz Akhtar said.

According to sources, Tangail Police are quizzing the Jamaat leader, and he may be produced before the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka on charges of crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.

SP Hafiz said Sobhan was arrested this morning from near the toll plaza of the bridge while he was moving towards Pabna. He was subsequently taken to Pabna to produce before the court that issued the warrant against him in connection with a case filed in 2003.

But officials familiar with the 1971 war crimes trial said Sobhan could also be charged for war time crimes against humanity” and be exposed to International Crimes Tribunal.

Witnesses said plain clothe police arrested the Jamaat leader along with his two political companions as the jeep carrying them reached the eastern end of the bridge.

Jamaat activists tried to stage a violent street protest as the news reached Sobhan’s hometown Pabna prompting police actions. Several people including a police officer and two newsmen were injured in the clash between Jamaat supporters and police.

Maulana Abdus Sobhan is the member of the fundamentalist Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s central Shura (committee). He was a member of parliament elected from Pabna Sadar in 1991, and deputy leader of the Jamaat’s parliamentary group.

Sobhan had been serving the Jamaat-e-Islami as acting Ameer (chief) of Pabna during the liberation war and he nominated for the so-called by-election in 1971. He was the vice president of Pabna unit of Peace Committee, an organisation of Pakistani collaborators.

Different war documents suggest that Sobhan organised the auxiliary forces of Pakistan army including Al-Badar, Razakar and formed the infamous ‘Peace Committee” during the war. There are numerous allegations about his involvement in war time crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity.

As he was fluent in spoken Urdu, he easily managed to come close to the Pakistanis and become a policy maker of anti-liberation forces. He supervised almost every activities of the Razakers and Al Badars.

Sobhan became an accused under Collaborators Act in 1972 and was being tried in a special tribunal for his heinous activities during the war. He was asked to attend before the Sub-divisional magistrate court on February 29, 1972. But he fled to Pakistan with Gulam Azam at that time.  (Source : ‘Ekattorer Dalalra’ by Shafiq Ahmed and Advocate Shafiqul Islam Shibly, Patahrtala Pabna). However, he returned Bangladesh during the rules of martial law government of General Zia who had scrapped the the collaborators act and dismantled the tribunals for safely rehabilitate the war crime accused in Bangladesh.

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Sep 192012

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina responds to the questions of parliament members at Jatiya Sansad

Dhaka, Sept 19: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) that the next general election would not be held keeping the current parliament in place, but everything would be done as per the President’s directives.

“The election won’t be held without dissolving parliament, but everything will be done as per the President’s directives,” she said in parliament while responding to a supplementary question from Jatiya Party MP M Mujibul Haque during the PM”s question-answer session.

As per the Westminster’s system, she said, the head of the government will inform the President about the election schedule. “I’ll request him (President) to declare the date of the election and he’ll declare it,” she told the House.

The Prime Minister  ruled out the necessity of any caretaker government for holding the next general election and said such an administration might thwart the country’s democratic system.

“There is no necessity of caretaker government (CG) as a suitable environment for holding free and fair elections is prevailing in the country,” she said adding,  “The President will give directives and everything will be done as per that. He’ll decide the number of the cabinet members, whether it would be small or large,” she mentioned.

The Prime Minister said it is the jurisdiction of the President to dissolve Parliament. “It’s his jurisdiction whether to dissolve parliament or not.”

Responding to a starred question of ruling party MP M Emajuddin Pramanik, Hasina said she had no information about the caretaker government system in any democratic country in the world.

“But we had information that no caretaker government prevails in the world formed with unelected representatives. In a democratic system, there’s a provision for running the state with elected representatives. So, the caretaker government system doesn’t prevail,” she said.

Describing the incidents of misrule, including staying in power for over 90 days by the immediate past caretaker government, Hasina said the experiences of the caretaker governments have created panic among the people of the country.

“If the system stages a comeback, the caretaker government won’t leave power, and then people will lose their democratic rights,” she said.

Hasina mentioned that the Supreme Court of the country in its verdict declared the 13th amendment, by which caretaker government system was included in the Constitution, illegal and unconstitutional as this system is conflicting with the Constitution.

On June 30, 2011, she said, parliament by a division vote brought the 15th amendment to the Constitution scrapping the caretaker system.

Referring to around six thousands peaceful polls held under the present government, she said the elections were free and fair. “So when the environment to hold a free and fair election in the country has returned during the Awami League-led grand alliance government, there’s no need for caretaker government,” she said.

The Prime Minister said vote rigging is not the policy of her party (Awami League). “We will remain in the power, if people want us. If
they don’t like us we will not stay in power for a single day,” she said.

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Sep 192012

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee is facing charges of crimes against humanity in Bangladesh for his role during the country’s war of independence in 1971.

Dhaka, Sept 19 : A defence witness (DW) on Wednesday told the International Crimes Tribunal-1 in Bangladesh that the members of Peace Committee (collaborators) used to show the Pakistan occupation army the shops and houses of the minority Hindu community members prior to going for looting and arson attacks during the Liberation War.

During the cross-examinations, DW-3 Nurul Islam Hawlader corroborating the evidence of prosecution witnesses’ said Razakars in collaboration with Pakistan occupation army had carried out looting in shops at Parerhat Bazar once.

But they did not set fire to the looted shops owned by members of the Hindu community, he added. “I had been at Parerhat Bazar during the looting spree.”

He, however, told the three-member tribunal headed by Justice M Nizamul Huq that the perpetrators had torched the houses at Badura and Chitholia villages the following day.

According to the charges, Sayedee, a Razakar commander, who had also helped recruit Razakars, an auxiliary force of Pakistan Army, and invited army occupation by establishing makeshift camps in Pirojpur for committing crimes against humanity.

The charges include genocide, rape, arson, looting, forcibly converting Hindus to Muslims during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in collaboration with the Pakistani occupation forces.

Replying to a question, Nurul Huq told the tribunal that the Hindus converted into Muslim in fear of their lives as they came to know that their community members being made victims of killing.

The DW said during the Liberation War he did not cross the threshold of the makeshift army camp set up at Parerhat Rajlaxmi High School, a stone throw distance from his house.

“Both the army or Razakars did never disturb me and even go to my village home at Togra or Parerhat, the then abode.

Replying to a question, Nurul Huq informed the tribunal that he had gone through the reports published in vernacular dailies, including Jugantor and Janakantha, about the alleged 1971 misdeeds perpetrated in collaboration with the Pakistan occupation army by Jamaat-e-Islami nayeb-e-ameer Delwar Hossain Sayedee.

Denying a volley of suggestions put forward by the prosecution lawyer dubbing his family as ‘Razakar family’ who had actively opposed the Liberation War, the defence witness said, ”It’s not true.”

“It’s also not true I’m involved in Jamaat–e-Islami and made evidence for Sayedee concealing the truth,” he said.

Asked whether his father was a member of Peace Committee (collaborator), the defence witness said, “I heard it for the first time.”

With the detained accused in the dock, prosecutor Syed Haider Ali cross-examined DW Nurul Huq.

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Sep 182012

Dhaka, Sept 18 : The parliament of Bangladesh on Tuesday passed the ‘Grameen Bank (Amendment) Bill, 2012’, aiming at making the appointment of its managing director more transparent. But it founding managing director Professor MD Muhammad Yunus criticised the move by terming it a “government ploy to take full control” over the Nobel winning organisation.

Planning Minister AK Khandaker, in absence of Finance Minister AMA Muhith, tabled the bill in the House that was passed through voice vote. Lone independent MP Fazlul Azim walked out in protest when the bill was passed.

The bill says that the post of managing director of Grameen Bank remained vacant for a long time due to complexity in the Grameen Bank Ordinance-1983.

The Cabinet on August 2 last approved the ‘Gameen Bank (Amendment) Ordinance 2012. As Parliament was not in the session, the President promulgated the Ordinance on August 22. The Ordinance was placed in Parliament on September 4.

Changes have been brought with the Ordinance in the process of appointment and eligibility criteria for the post of managing director. With the Amendment, the authority power has been given to the chairman of the Grameen Bank Board to appoint a five-member selection committee.

The selection committee will make a panel of three candidates after reviewing the eligibility of the aspirants. The Board of Directors of the Grameen Bank Board then will appoint a managing director after getting approval from the Bangladesh Bank.

Grameen Bank has been running without a Managing Director for over one and a half years when Muhammad Yunus resigned in May last year after losing legal battles to stay in the office.

The Cabinet on Aug 2 decided to alter the way the bank appoints the chief executive and asked the revenue board for a report on whether he brought in any money from abroad as a wage earner and if so, if he was allowed to do so and whether he got any tax waiver on the amount.

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Sep 182012

Dhaka Sept 18, 2012 : The parliament of Bangladesh on Tuesday passed the long awaited “Hindu Marriage Registration Act 2012”  giving its Hindu population the option for official documentation of their marriages.

The law is aimed at providing legal and social protection to Hindu community members particularly safeguarding women from marriage related frauds.

Piloting the bill, state minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Advocate Quamrul Islam said the Hindu women, who have long been deprived of their rights due to absence of such a law, would be able to prove their marriage and will get rid of marriage related cheating by their husbands.

He said the law has been formulated in line with a demand coming from the Hindu community members as there is no such law in the country to register their marriages.

The parliament also passed the “Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2012”, under which people belonging to all religions (Hindu, Buddhist and Christian) like Muslims would be allowed to transfer their property to their posterity giving a fee of Taka 100.

In 2005, the government made the provision of registration of ‘Heba Dalil’ under which a Muslim is allowed verbally to donate/transfer his/her property to any person giving Taka 100 as fee to the government.

The new law would provide similar opportunity to members of other communities-Hindu, Buddhist and Christian- to donate/transfer property to anybody.

The citizens belonging to the Hindu community, who constitute nearly a tenth of Bangladesh’s 148-million-strong population, are held back by centuries-old customary laws which majority of them want to get updated suiting the modern socioeconomicmilieu.

A balanced progress of society is being decelerated due to those customary laws, for the women are being deprived of their natural rights and many complexities are arising out of such inhibitions.

The voice of conscience decries the plight of thousands of Hindu women for deprivations, discriminations, complicacies and the absence of codified laws for a much-sought-after change. Members of the Buddhist community are in the same boat, as they also go by Hindu laws and customs.

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Sep 162012

Click here for full verdict of the Supreme Court that declared the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Bangladesh illegal

DHAKA, Sept 16, 2012: The Supreme Court of Bangladesh on Sunday published its full judgment that scrapped the provision of caretaker system of government by declaring the 13th amendment to the constitution is illegal and void.

Former Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque and six other Appellate Division judges’, who heard the petition challenging the High Court verdict, had signed in the full judgment at about 10pm, few minutest before its was posted on the Supreme Court’s website:

Earlier, a High Court bench declared the 13th amendment to the constitution is illegal. The epoch making judicial review  forced the democratic system of Bangladesh to take a new course.

Attorney General Mahbubay Alam told reporters that after the judgment there is no existence of the Caretaker Government (CG) system.

Replying to a question, he said in the final judgment there is no mention about holding of next two general elections under CG system, though earlier it was told that two polls might be held under CG system but no judges’ of the SC will be chief of the Caretaker Government.

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