Jul 25, 2010 at 19:50 o\clock

Bangladesh govt to modernise constitution

The Bangladesh government would modernise the constitution according to the High Court verdict on the Fifth Amendment of it, Awami League presidium member Obaidul Quader said yesterday.

Urging the main opposition BNP to join the parliamentary special committee to bring fundamental changes in the constitution, he said numbers do not matter, logical stand from one or two members could prove vital than all other members.

“According to the High Court verdict, there is no chance to get back to the constitution of 1972 and even full abolishment of the Fifth Amendment,” Quader said as the chief guest at a discussion meeting on “Context present politics and constitution of '72” organised by Bangabandhu Academy at the Dhaka Reporters Unity.

“The constitution will be modernised in the light of the verdict upholding the basic spirit of the Liberation War.”

Indicating to the Opposition leader Khaleda Zia, the AL leader said he could not make out why she doesn't want the fundamental spirit of the Liberation War to be revived in the constitution as upholding the spirit of Liberation War is also in their election manifesto.

Terming the constitution not a holy book, Quader said, “It can be changed according to the people's needs and the demand of the time.”

Quader said some responsible persons are making irresponsible comments which harm the party, people and the country.

AL organising secretary Ahmed Hossain and information and research secretary Afzal Hossain among others spoke at the discussion.

Jul 22, 2010 at 21:21 o\clock

Bangladesh ranks 4th largest clothing exporter in world

Bangladesh has been ranked as the fourth largest exporter of clothing with a 3 percent share of the global market by the world body World Trade Organization (WTO), Vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Faruque Hassan said on Wednesday.

Hassan made the remarks while speaking to the members of Overseas Correspondents of Bangladesh (OCAB at the office of BGMEA.

Hassan said the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh, with 30 years of experience, has turned into sourcing hub in the global market and demonstrated a spectacular growth in export over the past two decades.

He said Bangladesh is the largest exporter of cotton T-shirts and second largest exporter of cotton pullover and jeans for the European Union and the second largest exporter of cotton trousers to the United States by volume.

The BGMEA vice-president said although the low cost production of clothing is still an important competitive edge for Bangladesh, the increasing competition in the global apparel market has caused manufacturers to produce quality products, increase the commitment with buyers and social responsibility in factories, which have made Bangladesh a reliable option in the global supply of clothing.

At present, there are about 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh and over two million workers are employed in the sector, 90 percent of them are women.

Jul 16, 2010 at 11:55 o\clock

Bangladesh arrests are opening act of war crimes tribunal

by: bangladesh   Keywords: war, crimes, tribunal

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh’s government on Wednesday arrested two of the country’s leading Islamist politicians, charging them with committing mass murder during Bangladesh’s liberation war from Pakistan 1971.

Both men are members of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, the country’s largest fundamentalist party. Their detention comes after the government arrested three of Jamaat’s top leaders, including the party’s head, Motiur Rahman Nizami, in late June.

The arrests, which have effectively neutralized Jamaat’s leadership, are the opening act in a tribunal that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed established in March to try war crimes committed during 1971.

1971 Bangladesh atrocitiesThe government claims it has evidence that Jamaat-e-Islami collaborated with the Pakistani Army, which killed, according to some figures, as many as 3 million Bangladeshis – most of them fellow Muslims - and raped more than 200,000 women.

On the one hand, analysts say the trial could be a model for the world: a Muslim-majority democracy trying one of the modern world’s worst acts of religious extremism.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Hasina has harassed Jamaat-e-Islami with strong-arm tactics that undermine the rule of law, according to critics, as a result of which Jamaat has vowed to retaliate, possibly with violence. Fears already abound that the tribunal could now ignite a social explosion.

Starting a war crimes tribunal isn't easy“The Jamaat leaders will make every effort to stop this trial. Will it be a political resistance? Will it be a hidden, violent resistance through terrorism? All possibilities should be taken into account, and we should be prepared accordingly,” says retired Bangladeshi Maj. Gen. Muhammed Abdur Rashid, an independent political analyst in Dhaka.

Starting a war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has not been easy. Past efforts have stalled or been swept aside for 40 years, given that a trial threatens to implicate many of those currently or recently in power. But Hasina won a landslide victory in 2009 on campaign promises that she would do just that. The stakes are personal for her Awami League party: the core of Bengali nationalists, they were one of the main targets of the brutality in 1971.

Many questions still hover over Hasina’s tribunal, including the extent of reliable evidence, the list of witnesses, and the number of accused. Last week, the government banned about 40 suspects from leaving the country, indicating that the proceedings would begin soon.

But one thing seems certain, observers agree: Jamaat-e-Islami’s leadership will come under scrutiny during the trial.

What does this mean for the political party?It’s a troubling moment for the party. Jamaat has been able to build a solid base as a legal, respected party, with some 12 million supporters here.

It has managed to weather accusations – long held but never proven – that it secretly supports militancy. In 2001, the party even won 17 seats in Parliament, and took three ministerial posts.

Hasina’s tribunal threatens to dig up a past Jamaat would rather forget.

International scholars and living witnesses have all accused Nizami and other Jamaat leaders of directing militias - known as Razzakars - that killed Bengali Muslims and Hindus in 1971. The fighting began after Bengali nationalists, accusing Pakistan’s leadership of economic, cultural, and political exploitation, took up arms.

Scholars point out, however, that the vast majority of crimes committed during the 1971 war, were not committed by Jamaat-e-Islami, but by Bangladeshis who sided with Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami denies chargesJamaat-e-Islami vehemently denies the charges. But many believe the government has a solid case, as well as wide sweeping public support. That is why the government’s approach has been so disappointing, observers say.

Hasina’s government has not simply arrested Jamaat’s leaders for war crimes. Instead, it has implicated Nizami and others in dubious cases, observers here say, including for religious blasphemy, the murder of a rickshaw puller during a street protest, a sedition case, and for attacking the police. War crimes charges were only later added to the list.

This approach threatens to undermine the integrity of the proceedings, observers say. And it could backfire. Nizami and others – who may actually be guilty of war crimes – will have to be let go if evidence for these others offenses is not sufficiently supplied.

“The arrest for such apparently trivial … charges, as opposed to crimes against humanity, has created an opportunity for … the opposition to come up with a statement demanding their release and terming the detention as politically motivated,” Mozammel H. Khan, of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh, wrote in a recent editorial in The Daily Star, Bangladesh’s leading English newspaper.

Jamaat vehemently protests the government’s actions. “This issue has no legal basis, no moral basis. It has been overplayed,” Jamaat’s assistant secretary, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, told the Monitor in a recent interview.

Hasina’s government seems determined to proceed. Mr. Kamaruzzaman was one of the two arrested on Wednesday. He is being charged for his alleged role in killing more than 300 people in 1971. During an interview before his arrest, he insisted on his innocence.

“The media has made me so important – one of the top 10 war criminals, according to the press. It is because I am actively involved in politics. If I was not in politics, nobody would have remembered me,” he said.

An opportunity to start fresh? or incite violence?Analysts here worry that the arrests, by focusing narrowly on Jamaat, will distract from the larger significance of the trial: because Muslims killed other Muslims in the name of Islam, and were never punished, a culture of extremism has taken root with impunity in Bangladesh. The tribunal is a chance to address that larger injustice, not just skewer one party, observers say.

“This trial can be a new moment. It will be a great moral defeat for the forces of extremism,” says M.A. Hasan of the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, a private organization that has been collecting evidence on behalf of the tribunal.

Before his arrest, Kamaruzzaman insisted to the Monitor that his party would follow legal procedures to prove its innocence.

But he added that militancy might be the last resort for his party’s younger followers if the government continues harassing his party.

“It is very difficult to control the younger people at such an emotional issue. We are afraid some of them can go for underground militancy, for retaliation,” he said.

It may be an empty claim. But many here are now bracing for what could be more violence. Still, they say, the price would be worth it.

“This trial is very needed. We should have tried them much, much earlier,” says first year college student Jahir Ruslam Joy. Standing next to him, his friend, Dipak Detisha, interjected, “We are ready to face the violence for the greater sake of the country.”

Jul 13, 2010 at 12:00 o\clock

War crime suspects get travel ban

War crime suspects get travel ban

Bangladesh imposed a travel ban on Monday on 40 people, mostly leaders of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, over alleged war crimes during the country's war of independence four decades ago.

The party has denied charges that it collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 war, and has accused the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of concocting war crimes charges to try to undermine it.

Jamaat is the main ally of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

Those banned from leaving the country included Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, his deputy Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, and another key leader, Delwar Hossain Saidee - who were arrested last month on charges ranging from obstructing police to sedition.

Immigration officials at Dhaka's Hazrat Shah Jalal international airport said they had received a list of 40 people with photographs, along with instructions from the government not to allow them to leave the country.

Police said the same list was also posted at other international airports, seaports and border transit points.

The government plans to begin war crimes trials soon, and police said some suspects including former Jamaat chief Golam Azam, had been preparing to flee the country.

Bangladesh won independence in December 1971 following a nine-month war against Pakistan. Around 3 million people were killed and thousands of women raped.

Trying war criminals was an election pledge of Sheikh Hasina, who returned to power in January 2009 after polls that ended two years of rule by an army-backed interim authority.

Bangladesh set up a special tribunal in March to try the war criminals, 40 years after independence. – [Source:Reuters]