News and events


The last installment of this analysis tried to explain government’s suicidal fixation on undermining Professor Muhammad Yunus. One possible explanation, as alluded to in that piece- was precision pre-planning for a future where Muhammad Yunus could have been the only formidable stature standing while the whole opposition spectrum is decimated – jailed – removed.

Today lets discuss the prequel or to be frank – impossibility of this government planned prequel to the resistance scenario where the opposition gets decimated. It is clear the state is waiting for advances from the opposition – they want the opposition to start it first. They want opposition to call some hartal – annoy people – anger the chattering class belonging to the civil society – then come down hard on the opposition – the way the state came down hard and gagged the post Ilias ali abduction protests. If the top leadership goes behind the bar, Khaleda Zia remains virtually in house arrest incommunicado and the rest of mid level leadership remain on the run – the ground organization of BNP will come to a standstill — this is the assumption of the planners of Hasina war room. May be in the last moment – just after the election schedule is announced – to show some fake sincerity to hold an inclusive election – Khaleda Zia, along with some other senior leaders, will be released. But the mid-level organizers will be kept at a bay to ensure a BNP boycott of the election. Any possible hartal agitation movement will be dealt with harshest state repression. And once an election is somehow conducted with domesticated opposition and some fake break away BNP participating and  as soon as the 3rd Hasina Government  takes oath – full brunt of the state repression will be unleashed upon whatever is remaining of BNP. Khaleda Zia along with her top lieutenants will face harsh or long term sentences. Per PM Hasina’s game plan – vision 2021 will be halfway on its goal.

 

However the above mentioned scenario still remains within the confines of wishful thinking and planning. History tells us again and again – whatever precision planning one may do, whatever full proof the plans may be – eventually, surprise and unplanned factors dictate the flows, the turns and the curves of the history. Another factor that also cannot be ignored by any avid observer of history – is that whatever powerful one may be – without ground based following and a sizable portion of the population backing the regime – no one can stay afloat with absolute power too long. Nature – sometimes presenting as collective public opinion, sometimes presenting as suppressed public demands – finds its way to correct major anomalies against the nature- again an overwhelming public opinion.

 

The state, led by Hasina and her cronies e.g. political advisers, army, RAB and police chiefs, GOCs of strategic military divisions, DMP and other commissioners, bureaucrats – may design the perfect plan of a brutal bloody suppression of the opposition. They may find the confidence and comfort about their success in their successful dress rehearsals of suppressing the opposition movement after Ilias Ali abduction or Hezazate Islam sit in.

 

The problem is that what the planners of Mrs. Hasina fail to see is that the state power has a shelf life. It decays with time. The vigor this state had shown during Ilias Ali agitation or even during hefazate Islami sit in, is no longer there with the state machinery. In the elected autocratic democracies like Bangladesh – the state power and the opposition strength is mutually complimentary. The stronger the state is, the weaker is the opposition. The weaker the state gets – the more invigorated the opposition gets. Even if the high command orders a brutal crackdown of the opposition, it will be unlikely that all ground level enforcers of the state will comply to high command orders with full complicity. Every single police officer, every single district level administrator will think twice before executing any drastic suppression. Because like the rest of the nation they will also be skeptical about PM Hasina Government’s plans to hang on to a second term by force. They will be very careful in trying not alienating the future ruling party. The state may have foreseen and preempted this problem by heavily recruiting hardcore ruling party zealots from a certain part of the country- but these zealots will be too little too weak to negate the skepticism and inaction of self-serving skeptic members of the  administration.

At the same time the opposition force Hasina’s state machinery will face on the streets will be much stronger than before.  Possibility of an upcoming election will drive constituency based resistance to state suppression. Potential candidates of each constituency as well as their ward level followers will try their best to show their support and organizational capacity in launching a resistance. The incentives were not as high two years ago, the hope of an end to the oppression and hopes of paybacks were not as near.

 

Then comes the other surprise factors. The strongest Prime Minister in history of Bangladesh could not contain a young newbie grassroots leader of her party during Gazipur city corporation elections.  Even when our PM’s clout and stature was at the peak we saw Ivy-Shamim Osman, Afsar Uddin- Simin Hossain Rimi type organizational chaos. At the end of her tenure, how she would expect to contain all the deprived leaders of the party? Esp. how she would dissuade the local leaders  who know it very well that if they again remain within the list of the deprived, if they have to pave the way for the other leader to become the MP or Upazilla Chairman, their political career is practically over.

This factor will weigh heavily in suppressing the opposition. May be the opposition BNP activists will see unexpected allies among the ruling party deprived factions.

 

Then other shocking surprises like 1/11, August 15 is always there in the horizon.

The facts above suggest it very clearly that if the government has any plan to oppress the opposition and hold a one party election, although it will not be impossible, it will not be walking on a cake. If we go back to the Terminator movie analogy – precision planning by the strongest super computer Skynet system and all the full proof pre-emptive acts to protect the planned future failed to human resilience and surprises.  Prime Minister Hasina, with all organs of the state behind her with solid subservience, may have found herself invincible during last four and half years. But her invincibility will be seriously tested by a skeptic administration, a chaotic feuding organization she leads and a n invigorated opposition.

 

[ In the third and final installment of the analysis, we’ll discuss the best exit plan of PM Hasina and about the 3rd Hasina Government if PM Hasina somehow succeeds in hanging on to power]

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Dhaka University Law profesor Asif Nazrul on the Forced Disappearance of opposition leader Ilias Ali

Bangladesh National Human Rights Commissioner on the forced disappearance of Ilias Ali

Dr Asif Nazrul on Forced Disappearance

PM Sheikh Hasina on forced disappearance of Ilias Ali

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.

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.
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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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.

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Heavyset discussions regarding some documentary against Grameen Bank galore in our media and blog scene lately. National and international media, quoting a documentary, reported that Grameen founder prof Yunus embezzled a big sum o money from NORAD, a Norweigian development organization. Capturing that report, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina developed a diarrhea of verbal abuses aimed at prof Yunus, even the org, NORAD, whose money has been reportedly embezzled, is saying that nothing wrong was done by Grameen.

So this blog cannot keep mum on this very important issue and taking cue from all high profile media and blogs, wants to present an in depth analysis old, over-used joke.

At the gate of the hell, one observer noticed that there is a hell guard at the hell holes for every nationals. There are few guards in the hole for American hellers, some guard for the hell of the British people, similarly a lot of guards for the hell of the Indian folks. But there was no guard near the hole for the Bangladeshis. When the hell’s guard in chief was asked about it, he told, ” we do not need to put a guard at the Bangladeshi hole. If one Bangladeshi tries to get out of the hell, the other Bangladeshis jointly pull her/ him down.”

I know you could not laugh at this old over-used joke. But that is all this blog has to say about the recent Grameen issue.

Published in BDnews24.com opinion Section on November 28th.

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Rumi Ahmed

It’s not personal

November 28, 2010

khaleda-cry300pxThe manner in which the leader of the opposition and former prime minister Khaleda Zia was evicted from her cantonment residence was outright shocking to most observers of Bangladesh politics. Not only the physical eviction itself, but the way the opposition leader was literally pushed out of her home of 38 years by an overwhelming government force, speaks volumes of its ‘autocratic’ mentality. The whole chain of events surrounding the eviction process was totally unforeseen in the history of democratic Bangladesh.

Notable in the chain of events were the mind-blowing fast tracking of judiciary, manipulation of hazy legal jargons, and ultimately bypassing of the highest judiciary to push forward with the government’s agenda to remove the opposition leader from her home. The media manipulation of the event was also unprecedented for a democratic government. Advancing on what the previous military-controlled regime did, from the day before the incident, the media was fed with concocted stories of Khaleda Zia leaving her home willingly. And on the day of the event and the day after, the naked dishonesty and partisanship of the defence department’s press wing, ISPR, was simultaneously a painful reminder of the demise of the armed forces as neutral public servants and the last nail in the coffin of an institutional balance of power under present government.

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