July 2011


Strategically Oman is one of the most important countries for Bangladesh’s. After Saudi Arabia, second highest number of Bangladeshi migrant workers live in Oman. Above is a speech of Mr Nurul Alam Chowdhury, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Oman. A political appointee, this local Fatik Chhari upazilla Awami League leader had no foreign policy experience and he was given the appointment as ambassador to the vital embassy without any orientation or training. Several months ago, Oman government requested Bangladesh to take this ambassador back. On several occasions in different programs of Oman Royals and other government programs this ambassador showed total lack of mannerism.

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People as well as the media say President Pardoned Laxmipur murderer AHM Biplob. The difference is that people don’t know the fact while the media know that it is in fact Prime Minister Hasina who made the presidential mercy possible. Constitutionally and by rule of business President only signs what Prime Minister’s office sends him to sign. It’s a constitutional debate whether a President can decline to sign such pardons. The person deciding the pardon is PM Hasina. It only needs the PM to say, pardon him. Then the home ministry ministry paperwork begin, goes through law ministry vetting ( in ideal world, did not happen in Biplob case), Prime Minister’s Office ( PMO) follows through and President signs. The following is a description of the crime AHM Biplob commited and Prime Minister Hasina thought pardonable.

Nurul Islam was a lawyer. He used to provide pro-bono legal help to the grassroots political activists of his constituency, Laxmipur. This was part of his community political activism. He probably hoped to run for a local government public office from his locality. This is the basic of textbook political activism, in any standard — be it in USA, be it in France, be it in Brazil or India.

His opponents in politics, however, were not that avid subscriber of basic textbook political activism. Local Awami League leader Taher hated legal challenges to his lawless and ruthless political career. So one night he sent his sons and other followers to take care of Nurul Islam. A group of men, led by sons of Taher including AHM Biplob, went to Nurul Islam’s home, broke open his door, forcefully brought out Nurul Islam who was trying to hide under the bed. They drove him to Taher’s home. In front yard of Taher’s home, in front of Taher’s wife and probably Taher himself, despite repeated mercy plea by Nurul Islam, despite relentless begging of life, despite loud crying to see his baby daughters one last time —- Biplob et el held Nurul Islam on the ground and slaughtered Nurul Islam. They then chopped Nurul Islam into pieces, carried the pieces in jute bags, drove to the river bank and threw the pieces of Nurul Islam remains in different locations.

Despite huge media coverage, because Taher was a leader of ruling Awami League, because the then PM, Sheikh Hasina did not feel like bringing Taher to books, legal process stumbled and nothing happened until AL was voted out of power. However, once the new government took over, as law ran in it’s own slow pace, finally partial conviction was obtained and Biplob was sentenced to death in lower court. He however remained absconding all along. As Awami League returned to power in 2008, Biplob, an absconding murderer with a sentence of death penalty, came out of hiding and resumed flexing muscle in local Laxmipur politics. Last year Abu Taher got PM Hasina’s blessings and ruling Awami League nomination to run for local government election. His muscle kids forced a victory. And this week PM Hasina used her executive power to have the president commute the death sentence for the above murder.

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Dear Editor Mahmudur Rahman

You lost me today.

Since early days of 2007, I have been a very attentive follower of your writings and at the same time a great admirer of your courage and honesty. During those days of post 1/11 early euphoria; as a blogger I tried my best to tell the truth and expose the facade of the rulers. We had little support from mainstream media. You were one glorious exception.

I am following your Jail diary with great interest. This is the first thing I read daily. But in todays episode, your exeggerate ভক্তি to Maolana Delwar Hossain Saidee raised many eyebrows. Neither does it help you, nor the cause you are fighting for. Even if you contest allegations of Saidee’s 71 role, even if we presume he is innocent until proven guilty– there is no contesting of the fact that he is a religion trader ( ধর্ম ব্যবসায়ী) . If you ever listened to his Quran Tafsirs, will would have noticed that 70% of what he says are pure divisive politics and bigotry. He would use raw bad taste jokes demeaning women and minorities etc. Few years ago, I was listening to one of his speeches being played by Microphone in a public place. Until I stopped counting, he pronounced the word, ধর্ষণ (rape) at least 75 times. He would use the words with a sexually explicit tone to arouse some raw passion among his listeners.

Please don’t dismiss me as another susil/ AL supporter. I am with you in all your struggle.

But I did not like the way you hated to even ride the same van with Businessman Giasuddin Al Mamun or how you refused to take food from him. Mamun defiitely did some corruption. Who does not do that in Bangladesh except a few rare exceptions like you? Don’t you feel you have not been fair with Mamun? You know how much torture this Mamun has suffered since 1/11? Your ordeal is nothing compared to Mamun’s.

Or simiarly I wish you showed at least a part of the respect to your assessment of Mirza Abbas as you showed to Maolana Saidee.

Mamun is a businessman who fought way up from the ditches and Abbas is a street raised politician. They may have many lapses, but none of those are comparable to those of Maola Saidee.

In 2008 Jamaat connection pulled BNP down to the bottom of the ocean. BNP desperately needs to dossociate itself from Jamaat to build a popular coalition and attract educated middle class back to it’s rank and file. Your excssively soft corner for Maolana Saidee would only make the educated middle class suspicious of BNP and push the coalition effort backwards.

If you are one of the few people who haven’t seen the pictures, see them here.

First we heard that Faruq was bad-mouthing the police.

Then we heard that he was assaulting the police.

A Member of Parliament is brutalized in front of the Parliament building, and yet the Speaker won’t let opposition MPs speak on this issue.

And today, our honorable Prime Minister told us he was vandalizing vehicles.

Lies, lies, and lies. How can there be normal politics in a country when one side is led by a habitual liar?

We all understand and expect political spin. But not lies.

And, we need to make a law that no members of political parties or student political organizations, whether JCD, BCL, ICS, or others, can join BCS, police, army, or any other government service. They cannot work as government teachers, doctors, or lawyers.

We need to start looking for solutions to the underlying structural problems. Outrage and indignation can only take us so far.

Government today submitted a supplemental chargesheet in August 21st 2004 Grenade attack on the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. The attack took 24 lives and injured many including Mrs Hasina herself.

Using the supplemental chargesheet, the mainstream media ( read Prothom Alo and DS) as well as other mainstream yes-media ( Read Amader Shomoy of Naimul Islam Khan etc.) were very glad to remind 21st august events to its readers. Multiple news including gruesome photos of the event on filled todays first pages ( whereas Prothom ALo first page news on the day after 15th amendment was about some irregularities in DMCH) of most print media.

In this supplemental chargesheet, almost the whole state machinery of last government is indicted. However reading the news stories today, one won’t understand the implication and seriousness of the matter.

If it is true, as government submitted in the supplemental chargesheet, that the whole state machinery led by the political leadership, in collusion with Army intelligence chief, the national security chief, the whole police top brass ( three consequetive police chiefs of the country, IG Police/ two other top brass police executives/ police investigating officers in the case), other senior intelligence officer — join hands with an international terrorist outfit like HUJI and try to throw grenade in a public meeting to kill the opposition leader —- then we are in a deep shit. BD has no right to be the 25th most failed state, it should have been at number 1 or two.

And if this is not true, i.e if this is only political persecution/ partisan revenge on the part of the current government— we are still in dire straits, in deeper shit. A citizen of this country has no right to tell that this country is better than 24 most failed dysfunctional states.

And more ominous is when nations’ leading media try to become part of this partisan revenge taking game, become tool of government in pushing forward the heinous design.

After evoking strong reactions, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s office has redacted his comments about Bangladesh from the official PMO website. Indian newspapers initially reported that the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain those comments, although both the Indian and Bangladeshi officials are denying that at present. It would be extremely out-of-character for the current government to make such a strong move over these comments; so we should probably, just this once, take Mijarul Quayes’s word for it.

While the “25% of Bangladeshis support Jamaat” portion grabbed the most interest, Dr. Singh’s comments about Indian aid to Bangladesh was also intriguing. Here is what he said:

And that is why we have been generous in dealing with Bangladesh. We are not a rich country. But we offered it a line of credit of one billion dollars, when Sheikh Hasina came here.

To Dr. Singh, one billion dollars in line of credit to Bangladesh seems extremely generous. Keep in mind, Bangladesh has not received a single of those billion dollars do far. Moreover, let’s compare India’s treatment of Bangladesh to its treatment of Afghanistan:

•$100 million grant
•$70 million grant to build the Zarang-Delaram Highway
•$200,000 to the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund
•$4 million grant to repair and build the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul
•$4 million grant to build the Habibba School
•$52 million to the World Food Programme, for Afghanistan and Iraq
•$25 million to build the Afghan parliament in Kabul
•A gift of 3 Airbus airplanes to Ariana, the Afghan national carrier.

While these don’t add up to a billion dollars, keep in mind that the aid given to Afghanistan is through grants, which does not have to be repaid. The line of credit extended to Bangladesh, on the other hand, is credit, that must be paid back, with interest. Moreover, virtually almost all the credit has to be used to hire Indian firms and buy Indian goods.

How generous.

The Indian Foreign Minister, S. M. Krishna, is scheduled to visit Bangladesh soon, a point also mentioned by Manmohan in his comments. Yet, Krishna’s name figures high in the name of those who are expected to lose their jobs in the coming cabinet reshuffle. Intriguingly, part of the reason that Krishna may be fired comes from allegations of corruption regarding lines of credit extended by Indian to neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh:

The controversy (the [Ministry of External Affairs] has scarcely ever been dogged by the C-word) revolves around the award of contracts for projects and the line of credit, worth a few billions of rupees, extended to neighbouring countries, particularly Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and in Africa. This is said to have led to the shifting out of joint secretary T.S. Tirumurti, who till recently headed the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka-Myanmar-Maldives division (commonly known as BSM)…

But soon enough, what had earlier just smelt fishy now began to toss up evidence of the actual corruption. A few days after [the construction of a housing project in Sri Lanka through an Indian line of credit] was given the green signal, senior officials from the other two public sector entities called the BSM enquiring whether the [Ministry] expected a cut from the project. When asked for reasons, PSU officials disclosed that a businessman, claiming to be close to [the Foreign Minister’s advisor], was demanding a cut. The BSM division promptly replied that its expectations were a “zero cut” from the housing project, and the businessman was asked to buzz off…

MEA officials counter that [a Joint Secretary was removed] because he would have insisted on stringent scrutiny of another line of credit pending in Bangladesh, where India is scheduled to build a railway line. (A line of credit is an MEA programme which has India finance a project in another country, with 85 per cent of it executed by Indian companies.)

Despite what Manmohan Singh may think, Bangladesh can get along perfectly well without his precious line of credit. And, if it turns out, that the money of Bangladeshi taxpayers is going to fuel corruption in India, then it would probably be better to cancel the line of credit altogether.

Now, how about sending some of that grant money our way?

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Saturday, July 2, 2013              Front Page

16th Amendment Bill Passed

Staff Correspondent

Parliament yesterday passed the 16th amendment of Bangladesh constitution amid continued boycott of parliament by the lackluster opposition. The amendment which practically inserts ” Bangabandhu Dream fullfilment act” enacted by the ‘special parliamentary committee on materialization of dreams of Jatir Pita” into the constitution with unanimous vote of 301 – 0.

As a result of this bold amendment with far reaching effects, Bangladesh will cease to exist as multiparty democracy and a national party to be named as ” Bangabandhu Dream League” ( BDL) will rule the country. This amendment has also changed Bangladesh back to a strong presidential system as prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, amid 30 minute long cheers/ kadambusi/ tears of joy of MPs, was sworn in as the 21st president of Bangladesh by the speaker at the presidential suit of the parliament. Immediately prior to the passing of the amendment, Justice ABM Khairul Haque, the current President of Bangladesh resigned his position on health grounds.

The preparatory work on 16th amendment started few weeks ago after a landmark verdict by the appeallate division of Bangladesh Supreme Court made it mandatory for Bangladesh constitution to be guided by the dreams of the founder of the state Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As the second revolution, also known as BAKSAL, was the last unfulfilled dream of Bangabandhu, senior Awami League leaders assert that per the Supreme Court verdict, establishment of the principles of BAKSAL becomes mandatory on Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina, after taking oath as president delivered a 90-minute speech to the Parliament.

President Hasina, in her speech told JS that the 16th amendment has ensured “empowerment of people, and their democratic rights and their desire to build a Bangladesh, the father of the nation dreamt of. ” She also pointed out that “People had to suffer a lot in the past. But they will not suffer in the future, as we have been able to ensure prosperity and stability through passage of the constitution amendment bill”.

The chairperson of now defunct Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP), Mrs Khaleda Zia, in a fax message sent from an undisclosed location said  the AL-led ruling coalition has amended the constitution despite protests from the opposition, and by ignoring aspirations of the people. “The consequences will not be good,” she warned. She also added that the national unity party is a farce as it comprises of only Awami League leaders with miniscule presence of its ex grand alliance partners.

In a separate gazette notification, released within minutes of passing of 16th amendment, the registration of 17 political parties including Bangladesh nationalist parties and it’s allies were cancelled.

The reaction of prominent intellectuals and political analysts were mixed. Former secretary Abdar Ali Khan said that it is true that Supreme Court verdict has rightfully mandated the nation to follow the dreams of Bangabandhu and the government did not have anything to do after such a landmark eye-opening verdict. He however stressed that the former opposition should have raised their concern by joining the parliament if they had any objection. Prominent Jurist Shabdhan Malik stressed that the government could wait for the full verdict as the short order consists of only one sentence. He however heavily criticized the former opposition party BNP for not going to parliament and raise the issue.