Jan 31, 2011 at 11:45 o\clock

PM Sheikh Hasina for actions against those responsible for extra judicial killing

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Lord, Abury, Human, Rights, Sheikh, Hasina

January 31, 2011

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday categorically said that her government would take stern actions against those found responsible for AL_news.jpgjudicial killing in Bangladesh. "If anyone found guilty after investigation for extra judicial killing, we will take action against the persons as we believe that all citizens have the right to get justice," she said. The Prime Minister said this when Chairman, Standing Committee of Human Rights of House of Lords Lord Abury, Director Asia chapter of Amnesty International Abbas Faiz and Director HR Caucus, New York Prague Adams paid a courtesy call on her at her Hotel Suite here. About the meeting Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni said that the human rights leaders expressed satisfaction over the existing human rights condition in Bangladesh. They also lauded Sheikh Hasina for her relentless efforts for improving the country's human rights condition and establishing democracy in Bangladesh. The Prime Minister said her government has already taken steps to stop extra judicial killing in Bangladesh and said that human rights were protected in the country after assumption of office by her government. Sheikh Hasina requested them to provide information if any, to the government regarding violation of human rights in Bangladesh. "You can help us to take action against human right violators by providing information..," she added. Mentioning her government's efforts to protect human rights across the country, she said it has taken fresh measurers to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Treaty signed during the previous tenure of her government in 1997. "We have signed the treaty to establish peace in the troubled torn Chittagong hill tracts...But, the BNP-Jamaat government did not take any initiatives to implement the accord," she said. The Prime Minister said with the signing of the treaty, peace had been restored in the CHT region when a large number of programs were undertaken for the development of the region by her previous government. Later, the BNP-Jamaat government suspended many of the development projects and delayed for implementing the peace accord, she pointed out. In this context, Sheikh Hasina said as part of ongoing development programs, her government has taken a plan to set up a modern university in Rangamati especially for ensuring higher education for the hill students.

Jan 30, 2011 at 01:54 o\clock

Bangladesh opposition may end boycott

by: bangladesh   Keywords: BNP, Khaleda, Hasina, Parliament

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies may return to parliament to aggressively take on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, ending their boycott after eight months.

BNP’s better performance in civic polls and snatching a parliamentary seat from the ruling Awami League, besides economic problems like rising prices of essential commodities and power cuts are expected to boost the opposition campaign in the Jatiyo Sangsad, a media report said yesterday.

The BNP would also like to contest the eviction of its chief, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, from her house last year, as well as alleged harassment of her two exiled sons against whom a number of graft cases are currently on before various courts.

The opposition was decimated in the parliamentary polls in December 2008 and now comprises 38 members in a house of 300.

The BNP-led alliance legislators risk losing membership of parliament if they continue to boycott the House that went into its new-year session last Tuesday, and is scheduled to have 43 more sittings.

They have already absented themselves for 48 days. House rules do not permit absence beyond 90 days.

Both sides are readying for a renewed confrontation in parliament, The Daily Star said.

Zia asked her party officials to ensure the presence of the lawmakers and prepare them to return to the House, slated to resume proceedings on
February 5.

“The treasury bench might have to face an aggressive opposition in the current parliamentary session, as lawmakers from the BNP-led alliance are preparing to launch a blistering attack on the government for the stock-market crash and some other crucial issues,” The Daily Star said yesterday.

A boycott of parliament by the opposition is a frequent occurrence in Bangladesh. Hasina had boycotted parliament for over two years when her party was in the opposition. [source: IANS]

Jan 28, 2011 at 22:47 o\clock

BNP plans fiery protest in JS

BNP plans fiery protests in JS

Opposition may return to JS to hit out at govt on stockmarket crash, other issues

The treasury bench might have to face an aggressive opposition bench in the current parliamentary session, as lawmakers from the BNP-led alliance are preparing to launch a blistering attack on the government for the stockmarket crash and some other crucial issues.

The alliance MPs, who have been boycotting the House proceedings since June last year giving a comfortable time to the treasury bench, are planning to return to the House anytime as they believe it is the proper time for them to speak for “people's cause”.

Already irked by the government's various activities including cancelling the lease of BNP chief's cantonment residence, the opposition lawmakers want to portray it as anti-people.

Sensing the opposition plan, the treasury bench MPs are also preparing to counter this, promising a heated debate and discussion on different issues in the House after more than six months.

Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia asked opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque on Wednesday to ensure that party lawmakers are prepared to strongly protest “failure” of the government to deliver.

"We should return to the House now to speak for the people. You [BNP lawmakers] make preparation to strongly speak on different crucial issues including share market, border killings and price hike of essentials," BNP lawmaker ABM Ashraf Uddin Nizan on Thursday quoted Khaleda as telling Farroque.

Nizan, also chief of the parliamentary standing committee on the fisheries and livestock ministry, was present when the BNP chairperson was talking the opposition chief whip.

Contacted on Thursday, Farroque said, "We are ready to join the House whenever madam will ask us to do so," Farroque said.

The Daily Star contacted a number of BNP lawmakers seeking to know their thinking about return to parliament. They said they have to join the House during its current session to save their membership.

So, they prefer to return to parliament without further delay to make better use of the time they will get to speak on the thanks giving motion on the president's address.

They said they have already submitted notices to the parliament secretariat demanding discussion on share market collapse, price hike of essentials, border killings, and law and order situation, suspending other scheduled business of the House.

If the treasury bench does not allow formal discussion on many issues, they will be able to raise all the crucial issues during discussion on the thanks giving motion, they mentioned.

The BNP-led alliance legislators risk losing membership of parliament if they continue to boycott the House that went into its new-year session on Tuesday, and is scheduled to have 43 more sittings.

The opposition legislators already skipped 49 consecutive sittings since June last year. If they remain absent from 41 more sittings consecutively, they will lose membership as per constitutional provisions.

MK Anwar, BNP's national standing committee member, said they will have to return to parliament at least for saving their membership. Therefore, the party will take decision to this effect at the right time.

"We will sit to discuss our parliamentary affairs and other issues soon after the by-polls [which were held on Thursday]," Anwar told The Daily Star on Wednesday.

Party lawmaker Nazrul Islam Monzu said, “We are interested in participating in parliament proceedings. We want to raise our voice strongly on capital market collapse, ruling party's defeat in the just concluded municipality polls and skyrocketing of prices of essentials.”

Earlier, 38 opposition lawmakers belonging to BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Jatiya Party remained absent from the House proceedings for 64 consecutive days since June 2009 to February 11, 2010.

Asked about the opposition plan, treasury bench Whip ASM Feroz yesterday said, "We know the opposition lawmakers were boosted by the just concluded municipal poll results. And they will launch attack on us on some issues including the share market."

He mentioned that they have already asked the ruling AL-led alliance lawmakers, particularly young ones, to take preparation to face the opposition.

AL lawmaker Khalid Mahmud Chowdury, also an organising secretary of the party, said they will welcome their (opposition) return and face them with arguments and logic.

The parliament sitting will resume on February 1 kicking off a 40 hour discussion on the thanks giving motion on the president's January 25 address.

Jan 24, 2011 at 13:19 o\clock

Municipality Election 2011

Bangladesh Municipality Election :

The Election Commission (EC) has decided to deploy armed forces in 56, Border guards in 56, armed and Border guards in 8 districts, Several law enforcement agencies including the police, RAB, battalion Ansar in 123, out of over 243 municipalities in 29 districts, during the upcoming city polls on Jan 12, 13, 17, 18 and 27. Total Municipalities 310

Here are the results of Rajshahi, Rangpur, Barisal, Sylhet, Comilla, Chittagong and Dhaka divisions 

Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions Municipality Election Results 2011

Rajshahi and Rangpur division: Bangladesh Pourashava Poll Result 2011

Continue updating Election Results:

Mayor Winner are given below:
Akkalpur, Joypurhat Pourashava Winner : Alamgir chauduri Badsha (BNP)
Arani, Rajshahi, Pourashava Winner : Mizanur rahman minu (AL)
Baraigram, Natore,  Pourashava Winner : Ishak ali (BNP)
Badargonj, Rangpur Pourashava Winner : Uttom Kumar Shaha (AL)
Birgonj, Dinajpur, Pourashava Winner : Maulana Muhammad Hanif (Jamait)
Chatmohor, Pabna, Pourashava Winner :Ajijul Islam Hira (BNP)
Chapainababgonj Pourashava Winner :Maulana Motin (BNP)
Durgapur, Rajshahi, Pourashava Winner : Tofazzol Hossen (AL)
Dhunot, Bogra, Pourashava Winner :  AGM Badsha (AL)
Faridpur Pabna  Pourashava Winner :A Kh Mo Kamrujjaman Mazed (AL)
Fulbari, Dinajpur Pourashava Winner :Mortuza Sarker Manik (AL m.)
Gopalpur Notore, Pourashava Winner : Monjurul Islam Bimol (BNP m.)
Godagari, Rajshahi, Pourashava Winner : Aminul Islam (Jamat)
Gobindoganj Gaibanda, Pourashava Winner : Ataur Rahman (AL)
Gabtoli Bogra, Pourashava Winner : Morshed Milton (BNP)
Gurudashpur, Nator, Pourashava Winner : Shahnawaz Molla (AL)
Haragasa Rangpur, Pourashava Winner : Sadakat Hossen Jhontu (JP)
Hakimpur, Dinajpur, Pourashava Winner : Shakawat Hossen Shilpi (BNP)
Joldhaka, Nilphamari , Pourashava Winner : Anwarul Kabir Chauduri (BNP)
Jaipurhat sadar,Pourashava Winner : Abdul Aziz Molla, (Sotonto)
Kajipur Sirajgonj Pourashava Winner : Abdus salam (BNP)
Kalai, Jaipurhat, Pourashava Winner :  Taufikul Islam Belal (AL)
Kakonhat Rajshahi, Pourashava Winner :Abdul Mozid Master (AL)
Kashorhat,  Rajsahhi, Pourashava Winner : Alauddin Alo (BNP)
Lalmonirhat Pourashava Winner : Riazul islam rintu (AL)
Mundomala, Rajshahi, Pourashava Winner :  Golam Robbani (AL)
Najipur, Nauga  Pourashava Winner :Anower Hossen (BNP)
Naldanga, Nator, Pourashava Winner : Abbas ali nannu (BNP)
Nachol, Chapainawabgonj, Pourashava Winner : Abdul Malek Mithu Chuduri,(Sotonto)
Nandigram, Bogra, Sushanto Kumar Shanto (BNP)
Nilphamari, Pourashava Winner : Dawan Kamal Ahmed (AL)
Nondigram, Bogra, Pourashava Winner : Susunto Kumar Santo (BNP)
Pachbibi, Jaipurhat Pourashava Winner :Habibur Rahman habib (AL m.)
Patgram, Lamonirhat Pourashava Winner : Shomser ali ( sotornto)
Panchagor Pourashava Winner : Touhidul Islam (BNP)
Pirgonj, Thakurgoan, Pourashava Winner : Rajiur Rahman Raju (BNP)
Raigong, Sirajgonj Pourashava Winner :Mosharof Hossen Akond ( Jamait )
Ranishonkol, Thakurgoan, Pourashava Winner :  Moklasur Rahman (BNP)
Rohonpur, chapainawabgonj, Pourashava Winner : Golam Mostofa Biswas (AL m.)
Shanthia, pabna Pourashava Winner : Marajul Islam Pramanik (AL)
Satabgonj, Dinajpur, Pourashava Winner : Abdus Sabur Master (AL) 
Shingra, Natore Pourashava Winner :  Shamim al raji (BNP)
Sujanagar, Pabna Pourashava Winner :Toffazzol Hossen tofa (AL m.)
Shariakandi, Bogra, Pourashava Winner : Tipu Sultan (BNP m.)
Santahar, Bogra Pourashava Winner : Tofazzol Hossen (BNP)
Shibgonj, Bogra, Pourashava Winner : Motiur Rahman Motin (BNP)
Shibgonj, Chapainowabgonj, Pourashava Winner : Shamim Kabir Helim (BNP)
Sharpur, Bogra, Pourashava Winner :  Shadhin Kumar kundu
Sudorgonj, Gaibanda, Pourashava Winner : Nurunnabi pramanik Saju (Jamait)
Tahirpur, Rajshahi Pourashava Winner : Abul Kalam Azad (AL m.)
Tanor, Rajsahhi, Pourashava Winner : Abul Hasanat Moklasur Rahman Firoz sarker (BNP)
Thakurgoan Sador, Pourashava Winner :  S M Moin Uddin (AL)
Ullapara, Sirajgonj Pourashava Winner : Bellal Hossen (BNP)
Vangura, Pabna Pourashava Winner : Abdur rahman ( AL.)
Vabanigonj, Rajshahi,Pourashava Winner : Abdur Rajjak (BNP)

Total Paurashava: 72
Awami League AL :22
Awami League (micelius) AL (m): 05
Bangladesh National Party BNP: 29
Bangladesh National Party BNP (m): 05
Jamait Islaim Bangladesh: 05
Jatio Party jp: 02
Sotonto: 04



Jan 20, 2011 at 12:32 o\clock

Bangladesh to stop scrapping ships

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Ship, scrapping, Bangladesh

Bangladesh to stop scrapping ships

Ashutosh Sarkar and Pinaki Roy
The Daily Star
Publication Date : 20-01-2011

The campaign to ensure safety for workers at ship-breaking yards apparently had little impact. This photo taken in Chittagong on Wednesday shows workers doing the heavy lifting without even shoes. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

Bangladesh's High Court on Wednesday (January 19) issued a rule directing the government to stop all kinds of scrapping of ships in the country until further order.

The HC order came against the backdrop of another explosion on a ship at a ship-breaking yard in Sitakunda that killed four workers on Tuesday (January 18).

The HC bench also ordered the authorities concerned to move the unclean hazardous ship away from the beach until further order. It also issued a contempt of court rule against the owner of the yard Master Abul Kashem, and officials concerned.

The HC in March 2009 directed the government not to allow any ship in Bangladesh without cleaning its in-built toxins.

But with the permission of the Department of Environment, Master Kashem, owner of MAK Corporation, imported three hazardous ships in December last year and started dismantling those despite the HC ban.

The HC directed them to keep the ships, which were already imported for dismantling, at such places that those could be relocated in a short notice, and the officials concerned from customs and port authority could easily visit those.

The court also prohibited unloading materials from those ships until further order.

On Wednesday the court also ordered the chairman of Chittagong Port Authority to form a committee with three experts within seven days to investigate the explosion.

The committee has to probe whether anybody was negligent in ensuring the workers' safety, and if there was any violation of the court's order regarding scrapping ships.

The committee will have to find out whether any negligent person was ever brought to book and whether the victims were duly compensated.

As per the court order, the committee also has to investigate what measures have been taken to prevent such accidents in the future.

The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain issued a contempt of court rule against Master Abul Kashem, also vice-president of the Ship Breakers Owners Association, and the officials concerned.

In the rule the court asked them to explain within two weeks why they should not be punished on charge of committing contempt of court by breaking ships despite the HC restrictions.

The court ordered them to appear before it on January 28 for explanation.

The court came up with the order following a news published in The Daily Star on Wednesday with the headline, "Tragedy at ship-breaking yard again: Blast kills 4 workers".

The HC observed in the order that the court is not against import and breaking of ships, but those ships have to be free of any risk for health and security.

In another order the same bench also issued a rule upon the government to explain within two weeks why it should not be directed to allow four imported ships, now in outer anchor in Chittagong, to enter into the inner anchor.

This rule came following four separate writ petitions filed by three ship-breaking companies seeking direction from the court on the government to allow the four ships to enter the inner anchor.

The ship-breakers filed the petitions earlier this month.

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (BELA) opposed the petitions saying those ships are not safe, as they have no pre-cleaning and environmental certificates.

Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud and Advocate Anisul Huq appeared for ship-breakers, while Advocate Syed Rizwana Hasan and Advocate Iqbal Kabir Lytton argued for BELA.

In its March 17, 2009 order the HC directed the government to close operation of all ship-breaking yards in two weeks for running without environmental clearance.

The Supreme Court later stayed the HC order for closing the yards, while all other verdicts were sustained.

During that time only 36 ship-breaking yards were in operation. The number has now shot up to over 100, although the court had directed the government not to allow any new yard to start operation without clearance certificates.

In the order the HC considering the country's environmental degradation also ordered that no ship would enter Bangladesh territory for scrapping without cleaning its hazardous materials at source or outside the Bangladesh territory.

Meanwhile, DoE's Chittagong office that provided temporary clearance certificate to MAK Corporation for dismantling hazardous ships said the explosion was caused due to defiance of guidelines set by the explosives department.

DoE Chittagong Director Zafar Alam told The Daily Star on Wednesday, "According to our initial findings, the owners of the ship did not proceed as per guidelines set by the Department of Explosives during the pre-scrapping inspection," reports our Chittagong correspondent Daypayan Barua.

DoE is going to serve a show-cause notice to MAK asking its owners why their permission to scrap the ship should not be declared null and void, Zafar added.

The explosives department asked the owners to remove the stranded gases with blowers and inundate the areas with water in order to empty gas pockets before launching the actual dismantling work.

"We found out that the owners, in their haste, deployed inexperienced workers to cut the areas without taking any precautionary step suggested by experts," Zafar said, adding that they will take legal action against the yard.

Zafar Alam earlier told The Daily Star that they had been monitoring the activities of ship-breaking yards that got temporary clearance certificate to dismantle ships.

Jan 7, 2011 at 23:08 o\clock

PM Sheikh Hassina Address to Nation

 PM Sheikh Hassina Address to Nation

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photo

BSS, Dhaka January7, 2011: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday sought cooperation of the people in realising her government's Vision-2021 programme as she addressed the nation marking completion of two years of the Awami League-led grand alliance in office.

"We may not reap immediately the benefits of the programme we undertook in the past years . . . as we had to start everything afresh because our preceding governments had left no development programmes for us to follow," she said.

She, however, said people will see the results of her government's development programmes in course of time while she listed the sector-wise achievements in the past two years.

"I urge the countrymen, have a little patience, cooperate with us, Insha Allah (Allah willing) we will definitely fulfill our commitments," the premier said.

Hasina said being a party of general people, Awami League intends to ensure optimum development of the country through the promotion of ordinary people and the past two years of development initiatives carried the testimonies to its commitments.

But she said a quarter that had amassed wealth looting people's money and siphoned out a huge amount of money abroad was now trying to obstruct the progress of the country.

"They earlier tried to foil the Bangabandhu murder trial and now they want to obstruct the war crimes trial. We seek countrymen's support in this regard," Hasina said.

The premier said her government will continue to work to fulfill the electoral pledges discarding the obstacles as "we are working for the benefit of the people, not for personal gain.”

She urged all irrespective of political affiliation to join hands leaving aside the petty differences and work for the country's welfare.

"We have already passed 40 years since the independence, the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for an exploitation-free society, the 'Golden Bangla' is yet to be realised," Hasina said.

She expected Bangladesh to be as the most peaceful and dignified nation in South Asia.

Since taking office, the premier said, “My colleagues and I are frantically trying to change the lot of the common people.”

Requesting the countrymen to compare the first two-year tenure between the present government and the BNP-Jamaat alliance government, she said, "You will see how much success we achieved in the last two years."

Hasina said all democratic institutions of the country were destroyed during the seven-year rule of the four-party alliance government and the caretaker government.

Bangladesh, she said, was known abroad as the country of terrorism, corruption and extremism and it was a very difficult task to keep the country functional by removing the maladies left by them and fighting global recession.

"I can firmly say we are trying our best and we also achieved many successes and infused dynamism into economy," she said.

The PM said her government has taken a tough stance against terrorism and corruption and became successful in restoring peace in the life of the people.

On price of essentials, the PM said, "When we formed the government, the prices of essentials including rice were skyrocketing. But we were able to bring them down significantly.

"Due to our pragmatic steps, price of rice per kg was reduced to Tk 18 to 20 from Tk 45," she said.

Later, the price was increased to Tk 28 to ensure that the farmers get a fair price, she said.

"We are investigating why the price of rice went up in the peak season and taking proper steps in this regard," she added.

The prime minister said her government is concerned as the prices of essentials increased to a great extent internationally influencing the local market.

Calling upon the countrymen to raise agriculture production, she said, "Do not leave a single inch of land uncultivated, the government will assist you."

The premier said her government has raised salary of the government officials and employees as well as the working class people, while the income of the people went up to one-and-a-half to two times.

Hasina said Bangladesh has been established as a liberal, democratic and economically potential country.

"Bangladesh achieved United Nations MDG Award for its significant progress in reducing child and mother mortality rate. And it is an achievement for the entire nation," she said.

The PM said international journals -- The Economist and The Wall Street Journal -- and different organisations highly praised the current activities of the government. "In the UN Human Development Report 2010, Bangladesh has been placed third out of 95 countries," she said.

When the previous AL government completed its five-year term in 2001, all sectors, including economy, agriculture, industry and power, were in a strong position, she said.

"Inflation was 1.59 percent; the country became self-sufficient in food; literacy rate was increased to 65.5 percent, while power production went up to 4,300MW from 1,600MW during the past AL government," she said, adding that her government had also undertaken many projects in these sectors.

But after assuming office in 2001 through a rigged election, Hasina said, the BNP-Jamaat alliance government stopped their unfinished works out of vengeance. Besides, she said, they also cancelled a large number of approved projects, causing huge losses for the country.

The premier in her speech gave special focus on the economic sector, which was significantly vibrant amidst global recession.

She referred to some significant achievements in the financial sector under in the past two years.

One of the historical achievements was the highest ever reserves of foreign exchange that crossed $ 10 billion mark on November 11, 2009 for the first time in the country's history.

The reserves, which were only $ 5.41 billion in November 2008 before the AL formed government, rose by over 91 percent in one year and stood at $ 10.09 billion on December 21.

"Bangladesh has become the third largest exporters on the global apparels market even after economic downturn in the major importing countries," the premier said, adding that it happened because of the timely stimulus packages offered by the government to the country's readymade garment sector.

Export sector, which also marked a phenomenal 41 percent rise in the first half of the current 2010-11 financial year, was given special attention in the past two years to cope with the recession fallout.

The other significant progress was the increase in the per capita income that rose to $ 780, an encouraging advancements towards promoting country to the middle-income group from low-level status.

Revenue income was also another area of major success, which surpassed the target by 22.6 percent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.

The PM said country's economic growth is six percent when the rest of the world faced financial crisis.

She said her government wants to increase the per capita income to $ 2,000 by 2021.

To achieve this goal, the government in the past two years created conducive atmosphere to promote both domestic and foreign investments and create employment.

"The contribution of industrial sector to GDP should be increased to 40 percent by 2021," she said.

Hasina referred to the public-private partnership (PPP), a landmark initiative of her government, to foster large-scale investment involving government and private sectors.

"The interest rate of bank loans has been reduced to 13 percent from 17 percent to encourage investment," she said.

She said the government allocated Tk 38,500 crore for Annual Development Programme (ADP) and streamlined the monitoring process for its proper implementation.

Hasina said the government employees also got increased salary packages when the government announced the minimum wage for the garment workers.

She said the government took various initiatives to ease the remittance process and stop money laundering. These steps include opening of money exchanges and bank branches overseas.

"The migrant Bangladeshis now can send money to their beneficiaries at home within 24 hours," Hasina said.

Referring to the Expatriate Welfare Bank, the PM said the Bank would help people get jobs overseas without going through the pain of selling home, crop land and other assets.

She said the passport and visa process have been improved in line with the international standard.

Besides the successes in the core economic issues, the PM also cited some social-economic areas where her government gave special attention to meet the basic needs of citizens.

Major initiatives to this effect include four planned satellite towns around the capital city and one lakh apartments to meet the increasing accommodation problems of middle-income group in Dhaka.

Hasina said the government would take similar programme in every district and upazila to offer people affordable housing.

The PM said the government is working persistently towards achieving the target of Digital Bangladesh by 2021.

"Already we have formulated ICT Policy 2009 and established 1,600 computer labs in educational institutions, 20 cyber centres in different universities, 152 community e-centres and information centres in 64 districts," she said.

Besides, she said 4,501 information service centres had been set up at union level.

"A high-tech park will be set up in Kaliakoir and an ICT incubator will be built in Karwan Bazar to help expanding ICT industry," the PM said.

Referring to the technology park being built in the capital city, Hasina said initiative had been taken to set up similar park at all the divisional headquarters.

She said the government also included the ICT education in the national curriculum and distributed 1,500 laptop computers to different schools across the country.

Hasina said effective measures had also been taken to produce cheaper laptop computers at home.

The PM said all the unions would have fibre optic cable connection by 2013.

Focusing on her government's plan to solve the country's existing power crisis, the premier said it has undertaken immediate, medium and long-term programmes to meet the present electricity demand as construction of a new power plant takes three or four years.

She said construction works of 33 power plants with a total capacity of 2,941 megawatts have already been started and tenders have been invited for setting up 24 more plants capable of generating 3,840MW.

Apart from this, the PM said her government has also undertaken a programme to set up power plants to produce 12,000MW electricity during the next five years.

Hasina said process is on to set up 2000MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant with the cooperation of Russia.

Besides, steps have been taken to import electricity from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar to meet the growing demand at home.

Process has been completed for importing 500 MW electricity from India by 2012," she added.

The PM said her government has so far distributed 1.05 crore energy-saving CFL bulbs among the people free of cost to save electricity and another 1.75 crore CFL bulbs would be distributed among the consumers.

Hasina said the crisis in power sector deepened due to mismanagement and corruption of the past BNP-Jamaat government as it did not take any initiative to produce a single megawatt of electricity during its tenure.

She said her previous government during 1996-2001 had increased the country's power generation from 1,600MW to 4,300MW and took massive projects in the interest of the people. "But, the BNP-Jamaat government after coming to power through a rigged election in 2001 suspended all unfinished and approved projects just because of its political vengeance which caused immense harm to the nation," she added.

The premier said her government is trying its best to solve the power crisis to bring the country out of the crisis at the soonest.

She said the government has already started work to produce electricity from sources like liquid fuel, coal, duel fuel and renewable energy along with the setting up of gas-based power plants.

On the development of new gas fields and extraction of gas, she said her government is implementing various programmes to increase the country's gas production. Besides, steps have been taken to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) equivalent to the volume of 500 million cubic feet daily by 2012.

Hasina said daily gas production in the country has increased to 2,035 million cubic feet last month while the production was 1,750 million cubic feet in 2009.

Regarding the country's law and order, the PM said the situation is better than anytime in the past as the government has taken stern actions against the terrorist and militant groups.

"The present government believes that better law and order is the prime and foremost condition for development. We have taken measures so that people can freely move and do their business safely and sleep without any anxiety," she said.

Extending her sincere thanks to the members of law enforcement agencies including police, RAB and intelligence services for their relentless services, the premier said people enjoyed festivity in real terms during last two Eids, Puja and Christmas. They went for shopping till midnight as the law and order was excellent, she noted.

Referring to trial of incident of BDR carnage in Pilkhana in February 2009, the PM said new law has been enacted for this trial. Necessary measures were also taken to strengthen the Border Guards and equip it with modern artilleries.

The PM highlighted her government's initiative to maintain law and order in industrial zones and said Industrial Police has been formed to check any violence in the industries.

The process for formation of the Tourist Police, Marine Police, Security and Protection Battalion and Police Bureau of Counter Terrorism to encounter militants is now progressing.

Hasina said her government has been making relentless efforts for implementing various programmes for welfare of the freedom fighters. As part it, she said, the honorarium of the freedom fighters has been raised to Taka 2,000 from Taka 900 and 30 percent government jobs has been kept reserved for their children and grand children.

Expressing her government's firm commitment to ensure free flow of information, the PM said the government has enacted Right to Information Act (RTA) and Information Commission to make sure citizens' access to all information.

She said Bangladesh media is enjoying full freedom. Present government after taking power has given permission to 12 new television channels, 14 Community Radio and one FM radio. We, for the first time in the country, allowed private television channel when we came to power in 1996, the premier noted.

Hasina reiterated her electoral pledge to strengthen local government system and said Upazila Parishad Act-1998 has been amended to set up local government at upazila level. Laws related to Pourasabha, City Corporation and Union Parishad have been amended to held election at local level, she said.

The PM said 4,484 unions were allocated Taka 442 crore this year to carry out their development programme, she said.

Pointing out the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change, the PM said international community ranked Bangladesh as the riskiest among the ten countries vulnerable to climate change.

"We have established our own fund to face the risk and so far undertaken 134 projects to face the adverse impact of climate change," the PM said.

The premier welcomed the decision of global climate conference to form a Green Climate Fund (GCF) to support the developing countries to address climate change and said the present government from its own fund so far allocated Taka 1,400 crore for climate change.

She said projects were taken for capital dredging of the Gorai and Jamuna Rivers and re-excavation of the dying rivers to revive their channels.

The PM said her government has made the parliament as the focal point of all democratic practice. A total of 130 laws were passed in 174 working days of the 9th Jatiya Sangsad in last two years, she said.

All important decisions of the government and issues including national education policy, poverty reduction strategy paper, nuclear power plant, climate change, proposal for making Bangla as the official language of the UN were discussed in the parliament.

She said all parliamentary committees are working regularly, despite the opposition's complete failure to play their role in the House. The opposition was present only 44 days out of 174 working days in last two years while Leader of the Opposition attended the House only five days though they are allowed to raise any issue in the parliament.

The PM said the government has executed the National Human Rights Commission to ensure basic right of people.

The Anti-Corruption Commission and Election Commission are also working freely.

The judiciary is enjoying complete freedom and working to establish rule of law in the country, Hasina said.

Describing agriculture as the main driving force of economy, Hasina said her government has been implementing various programmes to make the country self-sufficient again in food.

She said her government has reduced fertilizer price three times during the last two years, distributed agricultural cards, provided subsidy and agri-inputs to farmers and facilitate them to open bank account with an initial deposit of only Taka 10.

She said her government would distribute Taka 12,000 crore agricultural loans among the farmers during this fiscal though it has disbursed a loan of Taka 11,117 crore in the last fiscal.

"With these initiatives, fair price of agriculture produce has been ensured," she added.

Hasina said her government has reinvigorated the country's dying jute industry through genome sequencing of jute, once called as 'golden fibre' of Bangladesh. With the government's initiatives, farmers are now selling per maund of jute at Taka 2,000 to 2,500, she added.

Besides, she said her government has been distributing food free of cost among the poor and low-income people while a programme of selling rice through ration among the Class-IV government employees, police and village police force is going on.

Regarding 'Monga', she said her present government has been successful to eliminate the seasonal famine in the northern region of the country.

She said her government has allocated Taka 331 crore in providing allowances for the distressed and elderly women as it has increased the number of beneficiaries as well as the amount of the allowances.

Besides, she said Taka 1,176 crore has been spent in implementing the programme for creating jobs for the ultra poor people in the current fiscal.

Apart from this, she said her government is implementing "Ekti Bari, Ekti Khamar" (One homestead, one farm), Ashrayan (housing) projects for homeless people and providing collateral free loan to the unemployed youths.

Focusing on various programmes being implemented in health sector, she said her previous government had taken a step to set up 18,000 community clinics across the country to reach medical services to the doorsteps of people.

But, she regretted that the BNP-Jamaat government suspended the project. "After assuming office this time, we have introduced 10,000 community clinics," she added. Besides, she said the present government has recruited 13,500 healthcare providers, 4,500 doctors, 2,000 nurses and 6,500 health assistants.

She said all upazila health complexes have been brought under internet service when maternity leave has been increased to six months.

The PM said her government is working to bring about qualitative changes in the education sector.

The government has formulated a science-based and time-befitting education policy in consultation with all, she said and vowed to remove illiteracy from the country by 2014.

She said distribution of 23 crore books among the primary and secondary school students has started and the books are also available on the website.

Holding terminal examinations for class V and class VII students have begun and the success rate in secondary and higher secondary exams in last two years was about 80 percent, she added.

Hasina said her government has raised the number of stipends for school students to 30 lakh from 17 lakh and included 1,624 educational institutions in the monthly payment order (MPO).

The present government has recruited about 52,000 assistant teachers and about 2,000 headmasters for primary schools, she added.

The PM said work has started to construct 3,000 secondary schools, academic buildings in 71 colleges and 306 model schools.

Eleven secondary schools and six colleges are being set up in Dhaka city, she said and added that one university would be established in every district of the country.

Hasina said the government has formulated a new law to enhance quality of education in private universities.

For expansion of higher education, University of Professionals has been opened in Dhaka, Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur and Science and Technology University in Pabna, she said.

Work has started for setting up six specialised universities, she said and added that initiatives have been taken to set up one technical school in every upazila.

The PM said madrasa education is being modernised and religious education has been made compulsory at the secondary level.

Thirty model madrasas have been set up, vocational courses introduced in 100 madrasas and honours courses opened in 31 madrasas, she said and urged all to educate the new generation properly in religious education and modern teachings.

The PM said her government brought about radical changes in country's communications system in last two years.

"We have already inaugurated Sultana Kamal Bridge, Shaheed Buddhijibi Bridge and Chittagong Shah Amanat Bridge," she said and also referred to construction of Dhaka bypass road, Dapdapia Bridge and the bridges to be constructed over the Karotoa and Tista rivers.

Dhaka-Chittagong and Chittagong-Hathajari highways are being upgraded into four-lane roads. Joydebpur-Mymensing and some other highways would also be brought under the process, she said.

The premier said the main construction work for the much-expected Padma Bridge will begin soon along with the construction of railway lines on both the sides.

About measures to ease traffic jam in Dhaka city, she said the Bijoy Sarani and Tongi Ahsanullah Master flyover have been opened and the constriction of Kuril, Gulistan-Jatrabari and Banani-Jurain flyovers is going on.

The PM said the construction of 26km elevated expressway will begin in Dhaka soon. Study on metro rail in Dhaka has also completed.

She mentioned introduction of 100 new BRTC buses in Dhaka and said 430 more buses would be pressed into service soon.

Referring to the opening of Aminbazar-Sadarghat waterway around Dhaka city, she said steps have been taken to introduce commuter trains on Dhaka-Narayanganj, Dhaka-Joydebpur and Dhaka-Mymensingh routes.

Jan 2, 2011 at 21:53 o\clock

Bangladesh - From Secularism to Talibanization

Bangladesh - From Secularism to Talibanization

During the British rule, the Wahabis led by one Syed Ahmed declared India 'Darul Harb'[1] and locked themselves in a war against the Sikhs in Punjab and against the British in a bid to establish the 'Darul Harb' brand of Islam. The brand of Islam that had been preached by the Sufis in the sub-continent was by and large liberal. The Sufis were very tolerant towards other faiths and adopted certain elements from Hinduism, Buddhism and the local culture, which helped spread Islam all over India.

In 1947, Pakistan emerged as an independent state as a consequence of the partition of India. Pakistan was divided into the Punjabi-dominated West and a Bengali-speaking East. The Indian land mass divided the two wings of Pakistan. The Bengali-dominated East Pakistan emerged as the independent state of Bangladesh in 1971 after facing ruthless military repression at the hands of the Pakistani Army. An indigenous nationalist movement, the Mukti Bahini with active Indian assistance helped the people of East Pakistan achieve statehood.

In its infancy, religion had very little role to play in Bangladesh polity, primarily because the founding father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, following the Indian model, had sought to make the state a secular democratic republic. However, even during the turbulent period preceding the birth of Bangladesh, certain sections of the East Pakistani society, especially members of the Jamaat-e-Islami actively supported the Pakistani Army in perpetrating atrocities and were subsequently accused of complicity in the massacres that took place. Hence they were marginalised after the formation of Bangladesh. Before democratic institutions could take roots, Sheikh Mujib was assassinated and his regime overthrown in August 1975. In November 1975, General Ziaur Rehman seized power. Gen. Ziaur Rahman and his followers met in Kurmitola cantonment and drew the blueprint for a nationwide transformation from democratic secularism to nationalism. Gen. Ziaur Rahman was abetted by many intellectuals including newspaper editors, lawyers, barristers, educationists, businessmen, etc., when the Pakistani trained military man had consolidated his power. He sowed the seeds of radicalism by encouraging return of Islamist elements who had collaborated with the Pakistani Army and built ties with the Jamaat. This was done with a view to legitimizing his rule. General Ziaur Rehman was assassinated in May 1981. There was a brief period of civilian rule under a former Supreme Court Judge, Abdul Sattar. He was also overthrown in a military coup in March 1982. General H.M. Ershad took over the reigns of Bangladesh. During his tenure, both society and state continued to be Islamicized. General Ershad amended the constitution and declared Islam the state religion. Bangladesh limped back to civilian rule after the military ruler was ousted as a result of mass popular uprising. However, by this time the "Military-Islamist Complex" had taken roots in Bangladesh. Bangladesh had embarked on a journey to becoming Islamicized or more precisely 'Talibanized'.

The Militant Islamist Groups

In January 2005, a Bangladeshi human rights group had claimed that 31 Islamic militant outfits were operating in the country targetting non-Muslims and seeking to establish a "greater Islamic nation" including parts of some adjacent Indian states.

The Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is reported to be the youth front of Al Mujahideen, the parent organization that began working in the mid 1990s and which has continued to remain obscure even today. Other organizations, such as Jama'atul Jihad, JMB, Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh (AHAB), Ahle Hadith Jubo Shangha, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI), Hizbut Tawhid, Tawhidi Janata, Islami Jubo Shangha, Islami Shangha, Al Falah A'am Unnayan Shanstha and Shahadat-e al Hiqma are believed to be part of the Al Mujahideen network. JMB was reported to have been formed in 1998 in the Jamalpur district. While the exact origins of this group is not clear, its existence became known on May 20, 2002 with the arrest of eight Islamist militants at Parbatipur in the Dinajpur district along with 25 petrol bombs and documents detailing the outfit's activities. Subsequently, on February 13, 2003, the JMB is reported to have carried out seven bomb explosions in the Chhoto Gurgola area of Dinajpur town in which three persons were wounded. The Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Party of the Mujahideen) aims at establishing the rule of Islam in Bangladesh through an armed struggle. The outfit is opposed to the establishment of democracy and calls for the conduct of government under Islamic law. Thus the JMB's aim is to replace the current state of Bangladesh with an Islamic State. The JMJB follows the ideals of the Taliban militia and propagates a movement based on Jihad.

On March 30, 2007, six top militants of the JMB, including its 'supreme commander' Maulana Abdur Rahman and second-in-command, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai were executed in different jails in Bangladesh. The other senior leaders of the outfit who were hanged were Majlish-e-Shura (the highest decision-making body) members Abdul Awal, Khaled Saifullah and Ataur Rahman Sunny and suicide squad member Iftekhar Hasan Al-Mamun. All of them had been pronounced guilty by the Supreme Court of involvement in the killing of two judges in Jhalakathi in November 2005.

Prior to the March 30, 2007 execution, JMB was led by a triumvirate consisting of its ‘supreme commander’ Abdur Rahman, a former activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai of the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Muhammad Asadullah al-Ghalib, an Arabic language lecturer at the Rajshahi University and chief of the Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (AHAB). Of these, Maulana Rahman was projected as spiritual leader of the organisation while Bangla Bhai functioned as the second-in-command and the outfit’s 'operational chief'. The outfit is known to maintain about 10,000 fulltime and 100,000 part-time cadres.

The Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) meaning Movement of Islamic Holy War was established in 1992, reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front. It is a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist organization whose activities extend not only within Bangladesh but also in India. On April 30, 1992, several of the HuJI leaders addressed a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka and demanded that Bangladesh be converted into an Islamic State. The HuJI is led by Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid. Imtiaz Quddus is the general secretary of the outfit. HuJI aims to establish Islamic Hukumat (rule) in Bangladesh by waging war and killing progressive intellectuals. It draws inspiration from bin Laden and the erstwhile Taliban regime of Afghanistan. The slogan, Amra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan (We will all become Taliban and we will turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan) itself speaks volumes about the radicalisation of Bangla society and polity.

With an estimated 2,000 dedicated fighters among 15,000 odd members, HuJI is closely affiliated with Al Qaeda and is a member of Bin Laden’s International Islamic Front.

The coastal area stretching from the port city of Chittagong south through Cox's Bazaar to the Myanmarese border, notorious for piracy, smuggling and arms running, is the principal area of activity of the HuJI.

The madrassas have been a major source of recruits for HuJI. The group reportedly maintains six camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong, where its cadres are trained in the use of weapons. Unconfirmed reports have also indicated that it maintains six training camps near Cox's Bazaar.

The HuJI cadres allegedly also infiltrate frequently into the eastern corridor of India to maintain contacts with terrorist and subversive outfits of the region.

Although there is no authoritative information on the actual cadre strength, most reports mention it to be around 15,000. Several of these recruits were trained in the Kormi and Kasia areas of Bangladesh. Further, many hundred recruits were reportedly trained at various training camps in Afghanistan, primarily during the reign of the Taliban.

The HuJI reportedly receives financial assistance from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan through Muslim Non-Governmental Organisations in Bangladesh, including the Adarsa Kutir, Al Faruk Islamic Foundation and Hataddin.

Since 2002, some of the major terrorist strikes that have been carried out in India (outside Kashmir), have been attributed to HuJI. It is reported to have the backing of some sections of the Bangladesh polity, the army and intelligence agencies and may have been engaged by ISI and other Pakistan based groups to carry out terrorist activities within India.

Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) meaning Awakened Muslim Masses of Bangladesh is an Islamist vigilante outfit that espouses the ideals of the Taliban. It has been reported in the Bangladeshi media that the JMJB is an outgrowth of the Islamist militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

When the JMJB first came in the news in April 2004, it was also known by other names like Mujahidin Alliance Council, Islami Jalsha and Muslim Raksha Mujahideen Oikya Parishad.

JMJB does not approve of the prevailing political system in Bangladesh and that it aspires to "build a society based on the Islamic model laid out in Holy Quran-Hadith." Its stated objective is neutralizing the left-wing extremists, especially the cadres of the PBCP and its professed long-term goal is to usher in an ‘Islamic revolution’ in Bangladesh through Jihad.

The JMJB reportedly has a three-tier organisation. The first tier of the outfit consists of activists called Ehsar who are recruited on a full-time basis and act at the behest of the leadership. The second tier, known as Gayeri Ehsar, has over 100,000 part-time activists. The third tier involves those who indirectly co-operate with the JMJB.

The JMJB created strong bases mostly in north-west Bangladesh, in the districts of Rajshahi, Satkhira, Naogaon, Bagerhat, Jessore, Chittagong, Joypurhat, Natore, Rangpur, Bogra, Chittagong, and Khulna. It has allegedly spread its network to most Madrassas (seminaries) and other educational institutions in these districts.

The outfit also established at least 10 camps at Atrai and Raninagar in the Naogaon district, Bagmara in Rajshahi district, and Naldanga and Singra in Natore district. There have been reports of JMJB recruits being given training through recorded speeches of Osama bin Laden and the video footages of warfare training at the Al Qaeda's Farooque camp (now defunct) in Afghanistan.

Some JMJB leaders reportedly stated that the outfit is headquartered in Dhaka. However, media reports indicated all activities of the organisation revolving around Jamalpur.
JMJB is reported to have 300000 activists across the country and has about 10,000 full-time activists.

JMJB cadres during their vigilante operations in 2004 were seen with firearms. They also reportedly wielded swords, other sharp weapons, hammers and hockey sticks. JMJB also had access to crude explosives.

Purba Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) headed by Mofakkar Chowdhury is one of the many Maoist splinter organizations in Bangladesh. It was formed in 1968 after splitting with the Bangladesh Communist Party (BCP). It has been outlawed since the military regime of Zia-ur-Rehman. However, there has been a spurt in the activities of the PBCP since 2002.

Like Maoist groups around the world, the objective of the PBCP is capturing state power through armed struggle. Its draws inspiration from the Chinese revolution. In the opinion of the PBCP, oppression by the people of the then West Pakistani was the principal reason that lead to the liberation war in the territories of the then East Pakistan following which Bangladesh was formed. The PBCP is strongly opposed to the presence of feudal elements in Bangladesh. Ideologically, it is closer to the Marxist-Leninist groups of India and desires to launch a joint movement along with progressive parties in India, particularly the Naxalites of West Bengal. The PBCP is hopeful that China would, at some time in the future, provide significant assistance in realising its goals. The PBCP operates in south-west Bangladesh, bordering the Indian State of West Bengal. Its presence can be noticed in districts such as Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Magura, Meherpur, Narail, Kushtia, Jessore, Jhenidah, Chuadanga and Pirojpur.

PBCP cadres have reportedly been involved in acts of murder, robbery, extortion, land grabbing and abduction for ransom. Like the mafia, they are allegedly involved in settling land disputes in rural areas. In the process of adjudicating disputes, PBCP cadres collect money through their strong-arm tactics from both the parties to a dispute. In its strongholds, the PBCP levies a ‘tax’ on civil contractors who undertake construction works such as laying roads and bridges and constructing culverts and schools. This has resulted in impeding development work in southwest Bangladesh. The PBCP also publishes a journal Purba Bangla, meaning East Bengal.

Islami Chhatra Shibir is the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which came into existence in 1941.

A person at the time of joining the organisation is considered as Karmi, meaning worker. When a Karmi meets a predefined standard of knowledge, rituals, moral status and leadership quality, he is promoted to a Shathi meaning comrade. When a Shathi is able to meet a higher standard of knowledge, rituals, moral status and leadership quality, he is promoted to a Shadashawa meaning member.

Nurul Islam Bulbul is the Central President of the ICS. Mohammed Nazrul Islam is the Secretary General of the outfit. Other important leaders are: Kamal Ahmed Sikder, A S M Faruq, Muhammad Mujibur Rahman Manju, Muhammad Raisul and A S M Ashraf Mahmud Uzzal. The Executive Council is the highest decision-making body of the outfit.

The group's objectives, inter alia, are to change the existing system of education on the basis of Islamic values, to inspire students to acquire Islamic knowledge and to prepare them to take part in the struggle for establishing Islamic way of life. A very important aim of the outfit is to establish an Islamist regime on the Taliban model in Bangladesh similar to the one that existed in Afghanistan. Consequently, the outfit is opposed to forces of modernization, secularism and democracy. The group is one of the strongest student fronts in the Universities of Chittagong, Dhaka, Rajshahi and Jahangirnagar. It is also emerging as a dominant group in the Khulna and Sylhet Universities. Within the vast madrassa (religious seminary) structure in Bangladesh, this group is reported to be a dominant and uncontested organisation.

The Shibir also been maintaining close links with the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and has been working to support Islamist subversive agenda particularly in areas bordering Bangladesh. It is also reportedly has close links with various terrorist outfits operating in South Asia and Afghanistan.

(to be continued)

[1] "Abode of War." A land ruled by infidels that might, through war, become the "Abode of Islam," dar-ul-Islam. In the nineteenth century, some Muslims argued that India had become dar-ul-harb because of British rule.
1. South Asian Terrorism Portal
2. Wikipedia