April 2011


Indeed, a very bad precedent you are creating Dear prime Minister Hasina.

It started with the arrest of an elected Dhaka City Ward Commissioner ( Councilor) Mr Chowdhury Alam.

Removal of Chowdhury Alam was very important to ruling Awami League Government’s political strategy. Mr Chowdhury Alam, as elected representative from Dhaka’s city center area, was the key field level organizer of all the city center rallies/ programs of opposition of BNP. Awami League takes opposition activities very seriously. They simply don’t want opposition to exist or act in any form. Departure of Mr. Alam came as a big debacle for opposition BNP as Mr. Alam was their key figure in it’s efforts to organize street agitation in Dhaka.

It has been nearly a year Mr. Alam went missing. Nobody accounted for his whereabouts.

In this list of missing under the current regime, Chowdhury Alam definitely was not the only name. The list became long quickly within first two years of this regime.

Last name in this list is the son of an opposition political figure. A rightwing orthodox islamic political leader and a Madrassa principle, Mr Fazlul Haque Amini had been protesting, peacefully, against the new fuggy inheritance policy of the government. A nationwide strike was organized last week and rallies are taking place on regular interval. Government’s top leadership reflected the whole issue personally on Amini. Statements made by the the prime Minister as well as other senior ministers were clear indication of the level of discomfort this government is experiencing in Handling this Amini trouble.

So not sure how to handle Amini, as any direct crackdown on Amini led madrassa based politics may be perceived as attack on political Islam by rural Bangladeshis, this prime Minister seemed to have taken the Chowdhury Alam route. Like Chowdhury Alam, the news broke as an arrest of Fazlul Haque Amini’s son Abul Hasanat by plain clothed policemen. Multiple news outlets carried this news.

And exactly like Chowdhury Alam case, since his abduction, Mr Abul Hasnath remained unaccounted for. Except for denying that he was arrested, there has not been any statement from any corner of the government regarding this incident. There has not been any visible action by law enforcement agencies to solve the problem by rescuing the abducted person. Mr. Amini, the father of the victim, has been complaining that he is regularly been threatened from the mobile phone belonging to his son. Bangladesh law enforcement agencies has the capabilities to track the phone records and locate from where the calls are made. Using this system, they solve most of the crimes these days. The silence from government quarters about the abduction, Prime Minister Hasina’s continued verbal attack on Amini ( Her last statement about Amini was that Khaleda Zia let Amini loose on the government), absolute absence of any action by law enforcement men to rescue or at least trace the abducted — should be enough evidence to suspect government’s hand behind the abduction of Amini’s son.

The government must understand that denying the abduction does not let them off the hook. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the safety of it’s citizen. A man suddenly can be whisked away in broad daylight from mains street Dhaka and Government will not have any say in it — this cannot happen in a civilized society.

Abducted and missing opposition activists and their families have been the historical hallmark of all the fascist governments in history. We don’t want to believe that our country is heading the fascist way. But the series of events, starting from Dr Yunus saga to the abduction of the son of Fazlul Haque Amini force us to fear about impending fascism.

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Out of the two items posted below, at least one is a explosive news, if only news value is considered and if we decide not to mention the significance of this news in terms of Bangladesh local politics, geopolitical conflicts, soveignity of Bangladesh, land disputes etc. And the other news points to high stake financial mismanagement, esp during the weeks when our media is obsessively focused who siphoned how many billion taka from a bank or from the stock market.
Dhaka relaxes norms for India to erect border fenceApr 9, 2011, 12.23am IST
AGARTALA: Dhaka has allowed New Delhi to erect fencing along the zero line of the international border so that Indian homes and farms located close to it are not impacted, a Tripura minister said here on Friday.

India has been erecting the barbed wire fence along its 4,095-km border with Bangladesh passing through West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram to check trans-border movement of militants, prevent infiltration and prevent border crimes. As per international norms, the barbed wire fencing has to be built 150-yards inside India from the zero line of the international border.

“For erecting the fence (at 150-yards from the border line) along the 841-km of the 856-km India-Bangladesh border with Tripura, over 8,730 Indian families’ homes, paddy fields, lands, farms and other assets had fallen outside the fence (making them) vulnerable,” Tripura revenue and finance minister Badal Choudhury said.

He said: “Due to stipulated distance for putting up the fence, over 19,359 acres of land, including farmland, have fallen outside the fencing in Tripura alone.”

“Following Tripura government’s persistent demand, New Delhi appraised Dhaka about the problems in erecting the fencing at the 150-yards from the boundary and the Bangladesh government has allowed India to erect the fencing at the zero line’ in certain stretches to save Indian properties and congested human habitations.”

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Airtel has unfair advantage, say Dhaka operators
IANS, Apr 10, 2011, 01.03pm IST

DHAKA: Indian telecom major Bharti Airtel has an “unfair market advantage” over its competitors in Bangladesh, a report said here Sunday.

The draft Cellular Mobile Telecommunication Operators Licence Renewal Guidelines 2011, prepared by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on behalf of the posts and telecommunications ministry, allows unfair market advantage to Airtel, the latest operator to enter the market, “telecom industry insiders” were quoted as saying in New Age.

Right from Airtel’s 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom for $100,000 to allowing Airtel to exchange spectrum band access free of charge, “the government and the commission have displayed a bias towards Airtel in their treatment of the telecom industry”.

Four leading operators – Grameenphone, Orascom (Banglalink), Axiata (Robi) and Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Ltd (Citycell) – are up for licence renewal in November, after the expiry of the 15-year term of their licences.

Airtel, which acquired the licence in December 2005 for $50 million, is not up for renewal until 2020. It gets a window of nine years in which it will be providing services for much lower rates, the report says.

According to the draft, operators will need to pay application fee, licence renewal fee, annual licence fee, revenue sharing, social obligation fund as well as separate licence fees and charge for spectrum use.

The spectrum fees have been set at Tk 1.5 billion ($20 million) per MHz of GSM 1,800MHz band frequency and Tk 3 billion ($40 million) per MHz of GSM 900MHz band to be multiplied with the utilisation factor of each of the operators.

In total, Grameenphone would have to pay Tk 55 billion ($755 million), Banglalink Tk 29 billion ($410 million), Robi Tk 30 billion ($400 million) and Citycell Tk 6.2 billion ($85 million).

Top officials of the four leading operators say the proposed fee is too high and will force the operators to increase prices for services.

“Outside of Grameenphone, the three other operators still operate on losses and, therefore, we do not understand the justification of this staggering fee,” a top official of Banglalink said.

An official said Airtel’s promotional offer of dinner with Indian actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor was against BTRC regulations. On complaints from other mobile operators, BTRC just issued a letter to all operators to not flout rules, foregoing any punitive action against Airtel.

[ P.S. These news items were missing from main pages of main stream print and electronic media in Bangladesh. May be someone can find some mention of the above news in a one column 2 inch news on the 17th page. Both the news mentioned above deserved high value treatment and lack of such trreatment means the news was missing in Bangladesh media.]

In 2003-04, when Petrobangla faced an arbitration case against Petroleum giant Cairns in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the lawyers who were selected to represent Bangladesh and PetroBangla had no experience in international commercial arbitration. The second Khaleda Zia government made that selection based on the lawyers pro-BNP lebel. The result was expected, PetroBangla lost the winnable case and Bangladesh lost a substantial amount of money. The defeat was attributed to poor legal representation and lack of understanding between Petrobangla and its lawyers.
However, in early 90s Bangladesh government and petrobangla won an international arbitration against Canadian petroleum giant Scimitar. The lawyer representing Bangladesh Government was Dr Kamal Hossain and Associates.

So, when Bangladesh was again forced to go to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in March, 2006 for another dispute involving Chevron, Dr Kamal Hossain Associates were called back in to represent Bangladesh and PetroBangla. The hearing took place between 2007-2009. Although similar case against Cairns went against Bangladesh in 2004, this time the international arbitration court turned down US oil giant Chevron’s claim of around $240 million from Petrobangla. Dr Hossain’s able representation did not only save Bangladesh $240 million dollars of back pay, it also ensured $320 million more savings over the next 20 years contract period.

(more…)