Saturday, July 28, 2007

Verdict against militancy: Editorial; Verdict against JMB patrons celebrated, Many still unpunished

Verdict against militancy
Let no one doubt our resolve to fight it
The conviction of former minister Barrister Aminul Haque and 24 others to a long prison sentence is clearly a historic judgment. There are quite a few reasons why this verdict stands out as a judicial landmark. In the first place, it is a maiden conviction ever to be handed in a case of patronising militants.

The number of convicts -- 25 to be exact, including the former minister -- is indicative of the magnitude of the crime committed. The fact, however, that 17 of them, inclusive of the ex-minister, are absconding, means that they have to be ferreted out and made to face justice.

That they have been found guilty of promoting and supporting Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh in their acts of extortion and torture of people in a court of law puts across some strong signals. It lends a robust credence to the widely acknowledged fact that elements within the erstwhile BNP-led coalition government with Jamaat had harboured, sheltered and promoted the extremist elements of JMB spearheaded by so-called Bangla Bhai. The government going in a denial mode despite wide newspaper coverage of the rising extremist spectre only helped strengthen the militant causes. The interrogation of terror suspects had revealed names in the erstwhile government who allegedly nurtured armed extremism. They should be pursued now -- to the fullest.

With the conviction delivered, numerous people who were maimed and crippled by the JMB would feel that justice has been done.

This court verdict along with the execution of the six top extremists should deliver a strong message to those who harbour militant agenda. The ideology these people work on having been based on exploitation of religious sentiments of innocent people may still be rubbing with some; so the need for an all-out campaign against the protagonists of armed extremism.

That the rise of militancy is a potential threat to state security and social equilibrium is universally acknowledged today. We have to build on this basic realisation of our people.

The latest court verdict against patronisation of militancy should convey the message to the outside world as to our national commitment to combating terrorism.

Verdict against JMB patrons celebrated
Many still unpunished, say people in Rajshahi

Happy with the punishment of JMB patrons barrister Aminul Haque and Ruhul Kuddus Talukdar Dulu, many people in Rajshahi now want to see more JMB patrons, especially bigwigs of Jamaat-e-Islami, face justice.

At many places in Bagmara of Rajshahi, people yesterday distributed sweets to celebrate the retribution.

"Former prime minister, home minister, a few senior bureaucrats and Hawa Bhaban were frequently mentioned in the media to be linked with the militants...Besides, Jamaat leaders, the real godfathers of the fanatics, have remained out of reach," said former Rajshahi University vice chancellor Prof Abdul Khaleque.

"We are happy to see the JMB patrons like Aminul, Dulu to be jailed...but Jamaat men are still out and sources of funds to the militants are yet to be unearthed," he said.

The verdict against the JMB patrons has helped to generate some trust and confidence in the present government, another former RU VC Prof Saidur Rahman Khan said.

"Other patrons of the militants, especially Jamaat men and administration officials who aided them, should also be punished," he added.

All the patrons of JMB should face justice, said Workers Party politburo member Fazle Hossain Badsha who had received death threat from militants on several occasions.

Expressing his happiness, Abdul Bari, a torture victim who is still residing in Rajshahi city in fear of the militants' aides, said, "Korban [one of the militants jailed with Aminul] used to boastfully say that they would rule as long as Tarique Zia was behind them. I did not anticipate that they would be punished so quickly."

Family members of the victims of torture in Atrai, Raninagar of Naogaon, Bagmara in Rajshahi and Naldanga in Natore have demanded execution of the JMB patrons.

"Yells of my son to save his life still drive me with horror. I want similar death of the JMB patrons," said 65-year-old Khodeza Begum, mother of Golam Rabbani Mukul.

Tortured in public on April 11, 2004, Mukul succumbed to his injuries on April 16.

They made Mukul's crying during the torture heard in the neighbourhood through a loudspeaker.

"I want godfathers of militants to be tried just before us as they tortured and killed people in open torture cells," said Ismail Hossain, father of Yasin Ali who was beaten to death after the militants hung him upside down from a tree in front of Kodapara Madrasa on June 29, 2004.

"Militants dragged me out of classroom. I could count 30 hits of iron rod until I lost consciousness. My father sold lands to bear my treatment cost. I am yet to know what my faults were," said Abdul Malek, a class nine student of Hamirkutsa High School demanding hanging of JMB patrons.

The JMB militants started the so-called 'outlaw cleansing operation' through open murder of Wasim Osman Babu on April 1, 2004 and they killed over 25 persons and maimed some 500 people in only four months.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Masterpieces of Ganges delta. Collections from the Bangladesh museums

Masterpieces of Ganges delta. Collections from the Bangladesh museums
Musée des arts asiatiques Guimet

Bangladesh possesses an immensely important cultural heritage, this arising from the fact that the eastern half of Bengal has been one of the cultural richest regions of the Indian world; a vision far from the catastrophic one that the western world often tends to favour. The region is associated with the art of the Pala and Sena dynasties (8th – 13th century). Archaeological study has however revealed vestiges that are more ancient like the Mahasthan site which stands on what used to be Pundravardhana, and goes back to the Maurya and Sunga periods (3rd – 1st century BC). It has also revealed vestiges from the Gupta period (4th – 6th century). Pundravardhana-Mahasthan is, to this day, the oldest Indian city known to be in the east. But Bangladesh also harbours the oldest Buddhist monastery of the Indian world, Paharpur, which has now been listed on the UNESCO's list of protected monuments. Sculptures of a impressive dimension have been recently unearthed: a bronze Buddha measuring 1,3 metres in Paharpur in 1982, a Gupta Buddha (from Sarnath) sculpted on both sides at Mahasthan in 1992, a bronze Vajrasattva, 1,40 metres in height, at Mainamati in 1995, and finally an Avalokitesvara found on the same site of the same material and size. These pieces have rarely been published and will be leaving Bangladesh for the first time for the exhibition. To this one must add the fact that Bangladesh has a Muslim majority as compared to the Indian west Bengal, and consequently the Islamic heritage is original and of special interest.
The objective of this exhibition is to show for the first time outside of Bangladesh, the unbelievably rich and complex heritage of this country. Benefiting from recent archaeological research helps us to show works from the Maurya period and go on until the 19th century. And thus we will retrace history whilst emphasising on a certain number of major sites. As a matter of fact, one of the characteristics of this heritage is that a lot of the pieces are well documented and enable us to situate the same in their precise historical and artistic context. The four great religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Islam that determine the history of Bangladesh will be duly represented.
The lenders are all government institutions:
  The Bangladesh National Museum at Dhaka, under the Ministry of Culture
  The site museums under the directorate of Archaeology and thus the Ministry of Culture.
  Mahasthan Archaeological Museum
  Mainamati Archaeological Museum
  Paharpur Archaeological Museum
The Varendra Research Museum at Rajshahi, under the University of Rajshahi and thus depending on the Ministry of National Education, it is the oldest museum in Bangladesh.

Access :
6, place d'Iéna, 75116 Paris
M° Trocadéro, M° Iéna
How to book

Exhibitions full price: 7€, reduced price : 5€

JMB Patron Aminul Jailed; Dulu given 8 yrs RI for arson, looting; Justice delivered to Fazlu; JMB ruled supreme with their blessings; Extortion charges against Minu

JMB patron Aminul jailed
24 others also handed 31 years behind bars for helping militants

Former post and telecommunications minister barrister Aminul Haque and 24 others were yesterday sentenced to 31 years and six months' imprisonment in the first-ever judgment of a case for patronising Islamist militants.

The convicts also include Rajshahi district BNP Secretary Shish Muhammad.

The Second Additional Sessions Judge's Court, Rajshahi convicted them for aiding and abetting the militants of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in extorting and torturing people in Bagmara upazila of the district in 2004.

The convicts were also fined Tk 25,000 each and in default they will have to suffer three years more in jail.

Two accused union council chairmen--Besharatullah and Rafiqul Islam--were acquitted in the case.

Judge Rezaul Islam delivered the judgment amid tight security in the absence of 17 accused including Aminul and Shish.

JMB adviser professor Lutfar Rahman, a teacher of a madrasa in Atrai of Naogaon, Bagmara upazila JMB leader Abdus Sattar, JMB activists Killer Mostak, Korban Ali, Afzal, Akram, Amzad, Nazrul and Mizanur were present in the court during the verdict.

Other absconding convicts are Siddiq, Monayem, Jahangir, Abdul Jalil, Latif, Mostafizur Hitler, Bulbul, Mokles, Halim, and Juta Mantu.

The state employed no lawyer for the absconding accused in the case since there was no charge against them for capital punishment.

The convicts were sentenced to 30 years' rigorous imprisonment--10 years each under section 326 for injuring grievously, section 307 for attempt to murder and section 387 for extortion--and 1 year's simple imprisonment under section 342 for wrongful confinement and six months' imprisonment under section 143 for unlawful assembly.

They were fined Tk 20,000 each--Tk 10,000 each under sections 326 and 307--and Tk 5,000 under section 387.

JMB torture victim Fazlur Rahman had lodged the case on March 30 with Bagmara Police Station. The poor farmer of Hasanpur village in the upazila was abducted, tortured and forced to pay ransom for his release from the militants in April 2004.

Sub-Inspector Mukhtar Hossain submitted the charge sheet of the case on April 23.

Briefing the court before announcing the verdict, Judge Rezaul said it is well known that Bagmara was the centre of JMB's rise and there was a torture camp at the Hamirkutsa house of accused Korban Ali's father Ramjan Kaya who is widely known as a Razakar (collaborator of the Pakistan armed forces) during the Liberation War of 1971.

"Incidents of lynching people were almost open and common during the tenure of the previous [BNP-led four-party] alliance government and through such incidents the JMB militants not only took the law in their hands, but they expressed their no-confidence on the law of the land," the judge said.

"What the JMB militants had done in the areas on the plea of cleansing Sarbahara communist outlaws were no different from the deeds of these outlaws," he added.

About former minister Aminul and BNP leader Shish, the judge said the accused persons were influential in their areas and the militants continued their brutalities following direct and indirect patronisation of these two persons.

Referring to several verses of the holy Quran and Hadith, the judge said Islam is a moderate religion and it does not support any such torture and force on people to abide by the religion.

Executed JMB operations commander Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai had said in his statement that Shish Muhammad used to visit him and executed JMB chief Abdur Rahman in Bagmara during their "anti-outlaw" operations.

Bangla Bhai and his men also visited Shish Muhammad's houses at Tanore in Godagari upazila and Upashahar Housing Estate in Rajshahi city and Shish, also chairman of Mundumala municipality, gave the militants money, the statement said.

Hearing the judgment, JMB's Bagmara adviser Lutfar started shouting, "I do not honour the is partial."

Other accused present in the dock and their relatives in and outside the court burst into tears.

"My husband is Fazlu's [the plaintiff] cousin and he was implicated in the case out of jealousy and rivalry over land. He was never linked with militants," Kajal Rekha, wife of convict Nazrul, said.

Public Prosecutor Ekramul Haque said, "The JMB came into being, flourished and continued criminal activities with the finance and assistance of barrister Aminul Islam, Shish Muhammad other ruling party men of the BNP-Jamaat alliance. So, the judgment is appropriate."

Additional PP Nurul Islam said, "Minister Aminul was responsible for the district and its law and order. He came to learn about the rise and criminal activities of the JMB through various newspaper and media reports. But, he did not take any action against the criminals.

"Aminul's silence [about the militants' activities] corroborated the depositions of witnesses and it is proved that he was one of the abettors and conspirators," he said, adding, "Aminul and other politicians directly and indirectly financed and patronised the JMB and they instigated the militants to collect tolls for their smooth operation."

The additional PP said four prosecution witnesses told the court that they saw the militants talking with former minister Aminul over mobile phone and that the militants boasted before them of having links with the minister and his men.

Lawyers Hamidul Haque, Mansur Rahman, Ankur Sen and Abul Kalam moved for the defence. They said the case was false and filed with an ulterior motive to harass personal and political rivals taking advantage of the changed political atmosphere.

They said the prosecution side did not come up with enough witnesses and evidence. Moreover, they could not show any material evidence against the accused persons.

Dulu given 8 years for arson, looting
88 others including his relatives also jailed

A Natore court yesterday sentenced former deputy minister for land Ruhul Kuddus Talukdar Dulu to eight years in prison for guiding and abetting arson and damage of houses at three villages in Naldanga upazila in 2004.

The Court of Additional District Magistrate (ADM) also sentenced Dulu's cousin Atikur Rahman to eight years in jail and 87 others including his brothers, cousins and nephews to rigorous imprisonment for seven years.

It fined all the convicts Tk 10,000 each, and in default ordered them to suffer one year more in jail.

The judgement delivered by ADM Rawnak Mahmud in presence of Dulu is the first in 22 cases filed against him and also the first one in the country by a magistrate's court punishing a former minister.

The convicts include Dulu's brothers Nabi Talukdar, Anisur Rahman Talukdar, Mujibar Rahman Talukdar, Rafik Talukdar, cousins Nurunnabi Talukdar, Abidur Rahman, Mujibar Rahman nephews Rentu, Belal, Helal, Bulbul, Dalim, Dollar, nephew-in-law Rahim Newaz and Natore municipal ward commissioners Sadrul Huda Dambel, Sohag and Nasim Khan.

The other convicts include former president of Jatiyatadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) Natore unit Dewan Shahin, secretary Mostafizur Rahman Shahin, BNP workers Mintu, Ratan, Hazrat, Shafi 'gunman', Shanti Mastar, Mamun, Razzak, Kuddus, Alamgir, Hafizul, Majibur, Azizul, Jalal, Aziz, Rahim Bux, Golap, Kalu, Kausar, Tofazzal 'Rajakar' and Saiful.

The court acquitted five accused in the case including district Jubo Dal General Secretary Babul Chowdhury, Rupchand, Mohsin, Majnu and Jubayer.

ADM Rawnak Mahmud read out order portion of the 53-page judgement amid tight security and in presence of 28 of the 94 accused including Dulu.

In the verdict, Dulu and Atikur were sentenced to five years in prison for arson, one year for causing damage and for looting, one year for rioting with deadly weapons and one year for directly guiding and abetting the crimes.

The other accused were given five years' jail term for arson, one year for damage and for looting, and one year for rioting with deadly weapons.

Jatiya Chhatra Samaj Natore district unit President Asaduzzaman Shah had filed the case with Naldanga police station (PS) on February 25 accusing 105 people.

On May 3, Officer-in-Charge of Naldanga PS Arman Hossain submitted two charge sheets -- one for arson and looting and another under explosives act-- accusing 94 people.

Later, the charge sheets were sent to the ADM's court and the district judge's court. Charges were framed at the ADM's court on June 27.

According to charges, accused persons launched a series of attacks in Ramsa Kazipur (Dulu's home village), Shahpara and Amtali Bazar villages following Dulu's (then state minister) orders for retaliating the murder of his nephew Sabbir Ahmed Gama on February 7 in 2004.

Dulu rushed to the village following the murder and started torching Asaduzzaman's house. He carried gunpowder in government vehicle and himself supplied it to the arsonists.

In a couple of days, some 37 houses and shops were torched by using gunpowder and belongings were looted and damaged.

Dulu's armed cadres unleashed a reign of terror in the areas exploding bombs and firing shots, the charges said.

Complainant Asaduzzaman expressed his joy over the judgement. "When the incident occurred, I believed my life is also threatened. And I thought I would not get justice ever."

He said all the affected people are somehow linked with the Awami League and, Dulu acted against them with a political motive. "Dulu tried to progress and sustain in politics by killing his rivals".

Public Prosecutor Abdul Kader and assistant PP Shamsul Haq Bhuiyan expressed satisfaction at the verdict. Depositions of all the 26 witnesses corroborated each other and proved allegations against the accused without any doubt, they said.

Defence lawyers Shakhawat Hossain and Mozammel Hossain said they would appeal to higher court against the verdict. Most of the witnesses are relatives of the complainant and they have political rivalry with Dulu, the lawyers said.

Moreover, the complainant and witnesses are convicts in Gama murder case. So, they made false depositions, the defence said.

Justice delivered

With nine bolts and a stainless-steel rod inside his legs and all fingers broken and permanently bent, Fazlur Rahman still suffers the pain but the justice he received yesterday gave him some compensation.

"I thank God as I was able to see justice delivered in my life time," Fazlur Rahman, the plaintiff of the case filed against former BNP minister Aminul Haque and others told The Daily Star over telephone yesterday after the verdict of the case was delivered.

"Even though most of the JMB [Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh] kingpins were hanged and their masterminds put in jail, I still cannot go to my village as their followers remain," said Fazlur, a JMB torture victim. He now lives at his in-law's house in Bogra.

"The militants have handicapped me, not only physically but also financially as I had to either sell or lease out all my properties for my treatment," he added. "Still, I cannot sleep properly due to pains in my body," he said adding that he needs more money for treatment. Fazlur, a farmer from Baghmara, took treatment for almost two years after JMB second-in-command Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai and his men tortured him.

Fazlur lodged the case on March 30 this year with Baghmara Police Station, Rajshahi. Sub-inspector Mukhtar Hossain submitted the charge sheet of the case on April 23 accusing 27 people including former BNP minister Aminul Haque and the verdict of the case was delivered yesterday. Fazlur said he filed the case of his own accord hoping to get justice as he was encouraged by the deeds of the present caretaker government.

A Rajshahi court yesterday handed down the jail sentence of 31 years and six months to 25 people including BNP leader and former minister Barrister Aminul Haque for financing and abetting JMB militants. The second court of Additional Sessions Judge also fined each of the convicts Tk 25,000, in default, they would have to suffer three more years behind bars.

Bangla Bhai himself and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) militants kidnapped him on April 20, 2004 and took him to their torture camp, set up at the Hamir Kechchha house of Ramzan Kaya, who the locals claim to be a Liberation War collaborator.

Fazlur, in an interview with The Daily Star earlier, said, "Armed with machetes, iron rods, bamboos and hockey sticks, 20 JMB thugs led by Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai picked me up at Hasanpur."

Only three weeks earlier, Bangla Bhai started his operation publicly and set up a camp in Baghmara under the banner of JMJB.

"I was going to the Union Health Centre in my village along with my wife and three daughters. They showed up on motorbikes and took me to the house of Ramzan Kaya at Hamir Kechchha and locked me inside a room," he said.

A number of men of Bangla Bhai got Fazlur out of the house and asked him if he knew them. "You are a Sarbohara [member of an outlawed party]. Where is your arms and ammunition?" he quoted Bangla Bhai as saying. "I am just a poor farmer. I never worked for any underground party," he told Bangla Bhai.

As he kept denying he was a Sarbohara, he was asked to pay a ransom of Tk 2 lakh.

Being refused the ransom, Bangla Bhai started beating him. As other armed zealots joined in. He soon fainted, he told The Daily Star during the interview.

His wife Jotsna Begum recovered him later by a pond next to the camp and took him to hospital. He was later moved to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital and Bangladesh Rehabilitation Centre for Trauma (BRCT) in Dhaka.

JMB ruled supreme with their blessings

Barrister Aminul Haque, ex-BNP minister sentenced to a 31-year term yesterday, not only blatantly patronised Islamist militants using the police and administration during the BNP-Jamaat-led coalition government but also barred local authorities in Rajshahi to take action against the militants in 2004-05.

Since the open rise of Bangla Bhai-led militant organisation Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in northern Rajshahi in 2004, The Daily Star in its continuous investigation in the past few years has revealed Aminul's role from the forefront as one of the key patrons of the militants.

Aminul, also former lawmaker of Rjshahi-1 constituency, and Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu, former lawmaker of Natore-2 and former deputy minister for land, jointly patronised the JMB in the region.

Dulu was sentenced to eight years imprisonment yesterday in an arson case.

Dulu and Aminul also talked Rajshahi Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, fellow MPs Nadim Mostafa of Rajshahi-4 and Alamgir Kabir of Naogaon-6 into their JMB game.

The militant patrons made it mandatory for all to send public and private jeeps, cars, microbuses and motorcycles to the processions of Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai. Police cars would stay within 500-1000 yards of the operation area to back up Bangla Bhai and officers-in-charge of different police stations were also compelled to be there.

They personally controlled police officials including superintendents of police in Rajshahi, Naogaon and Natore for their political and personal interest and prevented those who took initiatives to stop militant activities in the region.

Even the then state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar left the responsibility of the region's law and order with Aminul's personal whim.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nur Mohammad, who was deputy inspector general (DIG) in Rajshahi range in 2004, is one of the witnesses of Aminul's defiance of the existing legal and administrative systems to establish his control over the region.

The IGP told The Daily Star last month, "I talked to the home minister twice or thrice on this matter, but he kept on pushing me towards Aminul Haque. When I talked to district minister Aminul Haque, he said, 'Do not talk on this matter. You do not need to pursue this matter. This has come from the highest level. From the prime minister to Tarique Rahman, everyone knows about it.'

"I have told Aminul several times that you are the local minister and I am the DIG. I cannot allow this to go on. He asserted again saying this matter has the approval of the prime minister and Tarique Rahman," the IGP said.

Bangla Bhai swung into action in certain upazilas of Rajshahi, Naogaon and Natore after outlaws, popularly known as Sarbahara, killed four persons--relatives, close political aides and cadres of the patrons--in five months from November 2003.

In November 2003, operatives of the outlawed Purba Banglar Communist Party killed BNP's Bagmara upazila president Abdul Hamid Moru in Rajshahi city. Gunmen killed Dulu's nephew Sabbir Ahmed Gamma in Natore's Naldanga upazila in February 2004.

Under cover of outlaw cleansing, the BNP bigwigs in the North actually intended to stamp their political supremacy over Rajshahi, Natore and Naogaon regions. They effectively used the militants to destroy their political opponents, ensuring BNP's dominance in the long run.

Following the execution of six JMB militants including Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, a few victims of Bangla Bhai had filed several cases since March this year, accusing Aminul, Dulu, Nadim and many other JMB goons.

The case against Aminul was the first to have been disposed of as its verdict was given yesterday while other cases are awaiting disposal.

Among the JMB patrons four are now in different jails in different cases. They are Tarique Rahman, Babar, Dulu and Minu.

Charges pressed against Minu in extortion case

Charges have been pressed against Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) Mayor and former BNP lawmaker Mizanur Rahman Minu and ten others in an extortion case on July 26.

Police submitted the charge sheet to the Court of Additional District and Sessions Judge AS Sheikh Zahirul Haque yesterday.

The case was filed by Shamsul Alam Khan, a member of the managing committee of Evergreen Model School and College in the city, with Rajpara Police Station on April 21.

In the case, the complainant alleged that Mayor Minu and his ten associates demanded Tk 4 lakh in toll from him.

The joint forces arrested Minu on June 1 in connection with the case. Later, he was produced before the court that sent him to jail on a three-month detention.

District BNP Vice-President Nazrul Huda and former general secretary of BNP city unit Shafiqul Haq Milon are among the accused.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bangladesh arrest: The Times, UK

July 23, 2007
Bangladesh arrest

Sir, Bangladesh, a strategic country of 150 million people, has a proud history of progress under secular democracy since its independence in 1971, punctuated by regrettable periods of regression under authoritarian military rule. We are therefore gravely concerned about the undignified arrest this week of the former Prime Minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina. She was seized in the early hours of July 16 and imprisoned under emergency powers that appear to deny her basic legal rights, including legal representation.

Sheikh Hasina returned voluntarily to her homeland in early May to answer accusations of extortion and murder laid against her, even though the Government sought actively to keep her in exile while transiting through London after a family visit to the US. There are widespread allegations that her arrest is politically motivated before the promised elections now unfortunately delayed to 2008 by the caretaker Government. It is also deeply insensitive that she has been summoned to appear before a criminal court on August 15, which is the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who founded the modern Bangladeshi state along with 15 other members of her family.

We call upon the authorities to release her on bail so that she can prepare her defence. She has already surrendered her passport and poses no conceivable security risk or risk of attempting to evade justice. Sheikh Hasina must also be afforded a fair and impartial trial in the event that this prosecution is pursued further.

When the caretaker Government was formed earlier this year we all had high expectations that it would follow through on its promises of rapid, free and fair elections, and enable a restoration of the rule of law with full respect for fundamental human rights.

We are friends of a free and democratic Bangladesh and now urge the caretaker Government to live up to its political and moral obligations.



Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat



Ancient Bengal treasures finally being flown to Paris for display

Ancient Bengal treasures finally being flown to Paris for display

Finally, the 24 rare ancient Bengal treasures of Barind Research Museum (BRM) under Rajshahi University (RU) are being flown to Paris for display at a museum there for 'a great global exposure' of Bangladesh.

The priceless objects of historical interest will be flown in the first week of next month.

A team from France's Guimet Museum are already in Bangladesh and it is due to visit BRM soon for packaging the treasures, said BRM Director Mohammad Zakaria.

These are scheduled to be taken to Dhaka on August 1 and to be flown for Paris on August 4, he said.

Some 120 objects selected from Bangladesh National Museum, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur and Mainamati Archeological Museum and BRM will be put on display at the mMuseum, said sources.

France's famous Guimet Museum, dedicated to Asian arts, will sponsor a four-month exhibition styled 'Sonar Bangla' from Oct 24 this year to March 3 next year.

The BRM assets include two 5th century manuscripts and 22 other old sculptures of 7th to 12th centuries. They include a unique gold-coated bronze statue of Manjusri.

The 'Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita' manuscript is a rare collection of texts of Mahayana doctrine in 32 chapters and 8000 lines. It has 49 polychrome miniatures representing gods and goddesses of ancient Vajra family. Dhyani Buddha Aksobhya was the founder of the family.

The sculptures include 7th, 9th and 11th century Suriya, 10th century Bara Havtara and 12th century black stone statues of Ganga, Ardha Nariswar (half female and half male god), Shiva, Shiva Ardhanari Nritta Ganapati and Karttiketa.

Former Rajshahi Bar Association secretary Muhammad Yahiya in a public interest litigation on April 4 had challenged the RU decision to send BRM treasures abroad. But it was rejected on July 11. Besides, some 326 RU teachers on many occasions protested the decision.

Dr Sultan Ahmed, a senior teacher of Islamic History and Culture department at Rajshahi University, in an appeal published yesterday in local Bengali daily Sonali Sangbad said the selected BRM treasures are of great historic and archeological value and these should not be sent abroad.

Many archeological assets of this region were taken to different European museums during British and Pakistan periods, but none were returned, he pointed out.

Rajshahi University Vice-chancellor Prof Altaf Hossain said, BRM Advisory Committee and RU Syndicate took the decision in February following a government directive to help Bangladesh get a global exposure.

Earlier, in October 2006, RU Syndicate rejected the French appeal, reasoning that any transfer or exchange of treasures was prohibited by the Charitable Endowments Act of 1880.

Established in 1910 by Dighapatiya Zamindar Kumar Sarat Kumar Roy, the BRM has 10,000 archaeological treasures that attract at least 300 visitors a day.

Aminul Haque submit wealth report

Aminul Haque, 3 other graft suspects submit wealth report

Four more high-profile graft suspects including former telecommunications minister Aminul Haque and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's nephew Shahrin Islam Tuhin submitted wealth statements to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) through representatives yesterday.

The other two are ex-communications secretary Ismail Zabiullah and former Awami League (AL) lawmaker from Jessore Ali Reza Raju.

Barrister Aminul Haque, who stands accused of aiding and abetting the Islamic militants, turned in his statement through his lawyer Nazmul Alam.

According to the statement, he owns a four-storey building on an eight-katha plot in Baridhara, a house on the outskirts of Rajshahi, a plot in Savar, and around 139 decimals of land in different other places.

Aminul, his wife and daughters have Tk 30 lakh in 21 bank accounts. Besides, he has gold worth around Tk 1.6 lakh, Tk 2.3 lakh in cash, furniture and electrical appliances priced at over Tk 4 lakh.

In his statement handed in through SM Sharif, Tuhin said he has a flat in Gulshan-2 in the city and around 700 decimals of land in Dhaka and other places.

Besides, he has Tk 2.5 crore deposited with the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) for three plots in the capital. As movable property, he showed a security deposit of around Tk 5 lakh, furniture priced at Tk 3 lakh, shares worth around Tk 31.5 lakh, and Tk 41 lakh invested in different ventures.

He has two insurances each worth Tk 4.5 lakh. He mentioned 15 bank accounts in his statement but did not disclose the amount.

Tuhin and his wife Aisha Islam each own 100 tolas of gold. Around Tk 9 lakh has been deposited with the Rajuk in his wife's name.

Aisha has share certificates worth around Tk 7 lakh and Tk 7.4 lakh in cash.

Former communications secretary Ismail Zabiullah declared his wealth to the anti-graft body through AK Mostafizur Rahman. In his statement, he showed a plot in Purbachal and four other plots in Dhaka and one in Chittagong city.

He said he owns a flat at Lake City Concord in Dhaka. His movable properties include savings certificates worth Tk 10 lakh, fixed deposit Tk 25 lakh, share certificates worth over Tk 1 lakh, and a credit card with a limit of withdrawing $ 3,000.

According to the statement, he also has Tk 27 lakh with different banks and $3,000 in cash. He showed savings certificate of Tk 10 lakh and gold weighing 25 tolas in his wife's name.

Former lawmaker Ali Reza Raju tendered his statement through his representative Zahirul Alam.

He showed 500 decimals of land and about Tk 4 lakh in five bank accounts.

Digitised Voters' List

No chance of vote rigging in digitised voter list
ECs say in Rajshahi

The two election commissioners, who are visiting Rajshahi to see the preparations for the enumeration of the voter list with photographs, yesterday asked for cooperation of all in this regard.

Election Commissioners Brig Gen (retd) Shakhawat Hossain and Sahul Hossain also said there would not be any chances of vote rigging after completion of the digitised voter list.

In the morning, the election commissioners met with district level officials and newly appointed assistant registration officers at the conference room of Rajshahi deputy commissioner's office.

Presided over by Deputy Commissioner Khalilur Rahman, the meeting was also attended by Col Taher of 11 Artillery Division, District Election Officer Sayed Mohammad Musa, senior army and police officials.

They said there would be tight biometric security measures under the new voter enrollment system. Before the election, political parties will be given voter lists without photo.

The election commissioners warned government officials and other related to the voter listing of stern actions if they adopt any unfair means.

Brig Gen (retd) Shakhawat Hossain said political leaders spent crores of money in previous elections and once the got elected, practiced corruption for lack of accountability. But, this won't be allowed this time, he added.

Election officer apprised the election commissioners that there would be 101 registration centers in Rajshahi City Corporation and one data entry operators for 300 voters.

Data entry operators will be appointed after applicants from ward no 1 to 15 sit for tests tomorrow and those of ward no 16 to 30 sit for the tests on Wednesday on Government Laboratory School premises.

The election commissioners also attended a meeting with civil society members at the same venue in the afternoon.

Workers' Party politburo member Fazle Hossain Badsha, business leader Manjur Faruk Chowdhury, journalists Liakat Ali, Sardar Abdur Rahman and Bulbul Chowdhury, lawyer Mohsin Ali, representative of persons with disabilities Joy Chand Karmakar and several ward commissioners were present in the meeting.

EC prepares to start voter listing in Rajshahi

The Election Commission (EC) expects to start collecting voter details in the Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) area from the first week of August as hectic preparations got underway.

Two election commissioners -- Muhammad Sohul Hussain and Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain -- arrived in Rajshahi yesterday evening to monitor the preparation.

Both the new voter roll and the national identity (NID) cards will contain voters' photographs. The NIDs will also have voters' fingerprints -- a biometric security feature, said the EC officials.

After the completion of the pilot project in Sreepur of Gazipur, the EC is going to launch the full-fledged voters' enumeration process in Rajshahi. Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed is likely to inaugurate the programme, the election commissioners added.

The district EC office already appointed 30 assistant registration officers, 908 information collectors and 182 supervisors for 30 wards under RCC. The enumeration process, with logistic support from the army, will be conducted at over 100 centres in the city.

Kansat Villain Jailed for 5 yrs; Verdicts in Natore Arson & JMB patronage cases on July 26; Judgement of Gurudaspur thana loot

Shahjahan Mia
Extortion Case
Ex-BNP MP in Kansat jailed for 5 years
A Chapainawabganj court yesterday sentenced former BNP lawmaker Prof Shahjahan Mia and two others to five years imprisonment in a case filed in connection with extorting Tk 70,000.

District and Sessions Judge of Chapainawabganj Hrishikesh Saha also fined them Tk 10,000 yesterday; if unpaid they would remain in prison six more months.

The other two convicts are BNP president of Shibganj municipality unit Shafikul Islam and BNP adherent Aynal Haque.

All of them were produced before the court during the delivery of the verdict yesterday. After the verdict, Shahjahan screamed out claiming he was innocent. He told his lawyers that he would appeal in higher court.

One Panaullah filed the case with Shibganj Police Station on April 23 this year accusing the three of extortion. Panaullah in his complaint alleged that the accused, misusing their power, forced him to pay Tk 70,000 on November 19, 2005. They also threatened him with death and harassed him by implicating him in false cases.

Police on June 7 submitted the charge sheet before the court against the three after an investigation.

The accused surrendered before the same court on June 20 and the court framed charges the same day.

Three out of nine witnesses of the case gave depositions supporting the allegation. The trial completed within 90 working days.

Shahjahan is also under trial in four other cases filed in connection with ordering criminal activities, extortion, fraud and misappropriation of people's money.

Shahjahan raised controversy by his role in Kansat, Chapainawabganj early 2006 when Palli Bidyut Unnayan Sangram Parishad led by Golam Rabbani started demonstrating there demanding uninterrupted power supply. He failed to mitigate the power crisis the villagers were going through then. He allegedly had a hand behind the police excess and the shootings that left 17 people dead in Kansat. He supposedly had Rabbani arrested as well.

Charges of Arson, Looting of Houses in 3 Natore Villages
Verdict of case against Dulu, 93 others on Thursday
A court in Natore has fixed the date for pronouncement of verdict in a case filed against former BNP deputy minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukhdar Dulu and 93 others on Thursday (July 26).

The accused were charged with arson and looting 18 houses in three villages in Natore.

The court of additional district magistrate in Natore Rawnak Mahmud heard arguments by state and defence lawyers yesterday before fixing the date.

As many as 28 accused including Dulu were produced before the court.

The court examined the accused under Section 342 of Criminal Procedure Code to know about the allegations against them. All the accused, however, claimed innocence.

While arguing, public prosecutor (PP) Abdul Kader and assistant PP Shamsul Haq Bhuiyan said the depositions of all 26 witnesses corroborated each other and proved allegations against the accused without any doubt.

They sought tough punishment for the accused. Court inspector Abdur Rashid also presented a written argument demanding the same.

In defence, lawyers Shakhawat Hossain and Mozammel Hossain pleaded that most of the witnesses are relatives of the plaintiff and they have political rivalry with the accused.

The plaintiff and witnesses are convicted accused in Dulu's nephew Gama murder case and so they gave false depositions, they claimed.

Natore district Jatiya Chhatra Samaj president Asaduzzaman Shah filed the case with Naldanga police station on February 25 in 2004 accusing 105 persons.

On May 3, officer-in-charge of Naldanga Police Station Arman Hossain submitted two separate charge sheets one for arson and looting and another under Explosives Act accusing 94 persons.

Later, the charge sheets were sent to ADM and district judge's courts for trial. Charges were framed at the ADM court on June 27.

According to charges, the accused persons launched a series of attacks in Ramsa Kazipur (Dulu's village home), Shahpara and Amtali Bazar villages at Dulu's instigations to retaliate the murder of the former minister's nephew Sabbir Ahmed Gama on February 7, 2004.

Dulu's armed cadres unleashed a reign of terror in the areas blasting bombs and firing gunshots, it was alleged in the charges.

The arrested included Dulu's brothers Nabi Talukder, Rafik Talukder, cousins Atikur Rahman, Nurunnabi Talukder, Abidur Rahman, Mojibor Rahman, nephews Rentu, Belal, Helal and Bulbul, nephews-in-law Rahim Newaz and Natore Pourasabha ward commissioners Sadrul Huda Dambel and Nasim Khan.

Charges of Abetting and Funding JMB
Verdict of case against Aminul, Shish, 26 others Thursday

Verdict in the case against BNP leader and former minister Barrister Aminul Haque, Rajshahi district BNP secretary Shish Muhammad and 25 others for allegedly financing and abetting JMB militants will be delivered on July 26.

The second court of Additional Sessions Judge Rezaul Islam fixed the date yesterday after argument by the state and defense lawyers.

"JMB militants came into being, flourished and continued criminal activities unabated with finance and assistance from Barrister Aminul, Shish Muhammad and other ruling party men", said public prosecutor Ekramul Haque during argument.

He told the court argued that at least three eye witnesses among a total of 15 prosecution witnesses (PWs) and many other evidences proved the allegations beyond doubt.

"Aminul was a minister and he was responsible for the district and its law and order. He had learnt about the rise and criminal activities of JMB through various newspapers and media reports. Despite that, he did not take any action to control the criminals", Ekramul pleaded.

"Aminul's silence (about militants' activities) corroborated the depositions of witnesses and it is proved that he (Aminul) was one of the abettors and conspirators", he said.

"Aminul and some other politicians directly and indirectly financed and patronised JMB and they instigated the militants to collect toll for their smooth operation", said the PP.

Additional PP Nurul Islam pleaded that four PWs testified that they saw militants talking with Barrister Aminul over mobile phone and the militants boasted of having link with the minister and his men.

Lawyers Hamidul Haque, Mansur Rahman, Ankur Sen, Abul Kalam moved in defense.

They said, the case was false and filed with an ulterior motive to harass personal and political rivals, taking advantage of a changed political situation.

They said, the prosecution side did not come up with many essential witnesses and evidences. Moreover, they could not show any material evidences against the accused.

The judge said, "The witnesses and evidences and argument will be thoroughly examined to uphold law".

JMB torture victim Fazlur Rahman lodged the case on March 30 with Bagmara police station. Rahman, a farmer of Hasanpur village in Bagmara, was abducted, tortured and forced to pay ransom for release by militants in April 2004.

Sub-inspector Mukhtar Hossain submitted charge sheet of the case on April 23.

Ten of the accused were at the court dock during argument. Aminul, Shish are among 17 absconding accused.

Other accused include Union Parishad chairmen Besaratullah and Rafikul Islam, JMB leaders Mostafizur Rahman Mostak, Prof Lutfar Rahman, Abdus Sattar BSc, Siddik, Korban Ali, Akram, Amjad, Monayem, Abul Member and Montu.

60 get 84-yr in jail in Natore arms loot case

A Natore court yesterday sentenced 60 people to 84 years imprisonment in two cases--Gurudaspur Police Station looting and murder of a cop during the incident--in Natore district in 1987.

Additional Sessions Judge Jebunnesa pronounced the judgment in a packed courtroom. The judge also fined the convicts Tk 20,000 each in the cases, in default they are to suffer another two years in jail.

Of the convicts, 46 were present in the court, six died during trial of the cases and the rest have been absconding.

Those present in the dock during delivering of the judgment are Ansar Ali Jasim, Saiful Tota, Aziz, Yunus, Abu Sayeed, Abed, Hatem, Motalib, Shahjahan, Abdul, Lutfar, Jhantu, Majid, Jonika, Rois, Akram, Omar, Laddu, Yunus, Aktar, Manik, Idris, Ismail, Bankes, Salam, Mannan, Reaz, Khoda Bux, Rashid, Mukul, Salam, Golam Rabbani, Jalal, Mojibor Rahman, Altaf, Kader, Amjad, Bakkar, Rafiq, Bhulon, Nazir, Nurul, Rahman, Faruk, Nurul and Shakhawat.

The 14 absconding accused are Sobhan, Zahangir, Lalu, Latif, Kamal, Nabir, Kader, Hamiduzzaman, Gopal Thakur, Shahid, Fazlu, Saiful, Amin and Yakub Pakhi.

The accused who died during the trial are Jalil, Enamul, Rustom, Sattar, Asgar and Ali.

In the police station looting case, the accused were given 52 years' jail under Section 3 of the Explosives Act of 1908 and under Section 4 of the same act.

The accused were also awarded another 32 years' imprisonment for killing a policeman during the looting.

According to the prosecution, a gang of armed criminals attacked Gurudaspur Police Station in Natore on February 24, 1987. They shot dead constable Habibur Rahman and took away three arrested persons, Abdus Sattar, Abed Ali, Abdul Hakim, breaking open the hajat.

The armed gang also looted 24 firearms and 1380 bullets from the police station and left the scene firing gunshots, blasting crackers and chanting slogans in favour of Purbo Banglar Communist Party.

Sub Inspector Wabaidul Haq lodged the two cases with the police station concerned 20 days after the incident.

During police investigation, three of the arrested accused gave judicial confession. But police failed to recover the looted arms and ammunition.

On November 15, 1990, Niranjan Chandra Saha, superintendent of CID police, submitted two separate charge sheets in the cases accusing 66 people.

In 1993, the case went to Natore District and Sessions Judge's Court for trial.

Friday, July 20, 2007

60 get 84-yr in jail in Natore arms loot case

60 get 84-yr in jail in Natore arms loot case

A Natore court yesterday sentenced 60 people to 84 years imprisonment in two cases--Gurudaspur Police Station looting and murder of a cop during the incident--in Natore district in 1987.

Additional Sessions Judge Jebunnesa pronounced the judgment in a packed courtroom. The judge also fined the convicts Tk 20,000 each in the cases, in default they are to suffer another two years in jail.

Of the convicts, 46 were present in the court, six died during trial of the cases and the rest have been absconding.

Those present in the dock during delivering of the judgment are Ansar Ali Jasim, Saiful Tota, Aziz, Yunus, Abu Sayeed, Abed, Hatem, Motalib, Shahjahan, Abdul, Lutfar, Jhantu, Majid, Jonika, Rois, Akram, Omar, Laddu, Yunus, Aktar, Manik, Idris, Ismail, Bankes, Salam, Mannan, Reaz, Khoda Bux, Rashid, Mukul, Salam, Golam Rabbani, Jalal, Mojibor Rahman, Altaf, Kader, Amjad, Bakkar, Rafiq, Bhulon, Nazir, Nurul, Rahman, Faruk, Nurul and Shakhawat.

The 14 absconding accused are Sobhan, Zahangir, Lalu, Latif, Kamal, Nabir, Kader, Hamiduzzaman, Gopal Thakur, Shahid, Fazlu, Saiful, Amin and Yakub Pakhi.

The accused who died during the trial are Jalil, Enamul, Rustom, Sattar, Asgar and Ali.

In the police station looting case, the accused were given 52 years' jail under Section 3 of the Explosives Act of 1908 and under Section 4 of the same act.

The accused were also awarded another 32 years' imprisonment for killing a policeman during the looting.

According to the prosecution, a gang of armed criminals attacked Gurudaspur Police Station in Natore on February 24, 1987. They shot dead constable Habibur Rahman and took away three arrested persons, Abdus Sattar, Abed Ali, Abdul Hakim, breaking open the hajat.

The armed gang also looted 24 firearms and 1380 bullets from the police station and left the scene firing gunshots, blasting crackers and chanting slogans in favour of Purbo Banglar Communist Party.

Sub Inspector Wabaidul Haq lodged the two cases with the police station concerned 20 days after the incident.

During police investigation, three of the arrested accused gave judicial confession. But police failed to recover the looted arms and ammunition.

On November 15, 1990, Niranjan Chandra Saha, superintendent of CID police, submitted two separate charge sheets in the cases accusing 66 people.

In 1993, the case went to Natore District and Sessions Judge's Court for trial.

Lock up your leading ladies : The Economist


Lock up your leading ladies

Jul 19th 2007

From The Economist print edition


A curious democratic roadmap

IN MOST countries, ambitious generals and unelected governments have a poor track record of delivering democracy. But this is still the promise to Bangladesh made by the generals who assumed emergency powers in January and the pliable administration they installed. This week the election commission published a roadmap to parliamentary elections to be held before the end of 2008. But the government was silent on when the state of emergency will be lifted.

The next day the government reminded people of one reason why their constitutional rights remain suspended. It stepped up its purge of corrupt politicians, officials and businessmen, more than 150 of whom have been arrested since the beginning of the year.

The police arrested and jailed Sheikh Hasina Wajed, prime minister between 1996 and 2001. She is accused of both extortion and complicity in murder. The police also summoned her nemesis, Khaleda Zia, prime minister until last October, but now in effect under house arrest, to appear in court next month. Both leaders will have to submit "wealth statements" to a powerful Anti-Corruption Commission. Unlike Mrs Zia, who has been more or less dropped by her party, Sheikh Hasina is still popular. So security forces were on the alert after her arrest. But protests were patchy rather than nationwide.

The government had earlier tried—and failed—to exile the two "begums". In April it barred Sheikh Hasina from returning to the country from Britain, but relented under domestic and international pressure. Then it banned her from leaving. If the prosecutions of the two begums fail, it could spell the end of the interim government. The abortive bid to exile the women, who both led kleptocratic regimes, has already badly dented its credibility.

The anti-corruption drive has made the unelected regime relatively popular. But critics are now accusing it of abusing its wide-ranging emergency powers for political purposes. With almost the entire political class behind bars, the fear is that elections staged at the end of the clean-up will produce a puppet regime.

Last week the army chief, General Moeen U Ahmed, said that there was a need to "correct the constitution", after a new parliament is in place. Though largely unreported, General Ahmed's promotion in May to a four-star rank means that he will stay on as army chief beyond his original retirement date of June 2008 into 2009, beyond the deadline for elections. There is already talk in Dhaka that the army is thinking of changing the constitution along Turkish lines, giving itself a bigger role. This raises a grim prospect of a technocratic, top-down constitutional review, and an outcome few Bangladeshis would accept as legitimate.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This is no way to strengthen democracy; Just as "command economy" failed, so will "command politics"

This is no way to strengthen democracy
Just as "command economy" failed, so will "command politics"

The only reason that the caretaker government has survived six months in power, and the chief advisor acknowledges it every time an occasion arises, is because the general public think of it to be an instrument to strengthen democracy. But now if this very instrument of 'strengthening democracy' becomes a symbol of mindless and arbitrary use of power, then how will the public distinguish it from such previous abusers of power and continue to lend it support?

As a newspaper which supported the reform process of this government, we raise the above question in all seriousness. For we think by arresting Sheikh Hasina on charges that can easily be tried without her internment, the government has put at risk all its achievements of the last six months. To us Sheikh Hasina's arrest is totally misconceived and smacks of arrogant use of power without due process of law. To say that nobody is above the law must also mean that law is not the handmaiden of anybody either.

Examine the arbitrariness with which Sheikh Hasina's has been treated. She was allowed to go abroad and just because she spoke out against some actions of this government, (having earlier promised to ratify everything) suddenly several cases were filed against her. Then, when every government would want an accused to return to the country to face the charges, the government decided that she would not be allowed to come. Why and under what law and whose authority, we still don't know. In a most childish move all foreign airlines were asked not to take her on board, ignoring specific international laws that govern international travel. Then, just as suddenly she was allowed to return to a tumultuous welcome at the airport, which then resulted in cases against 5,000 unidentified attendees. (How these cases will be pursued only God knows).

Things were quiet for a while as the AL chief kept mum. She was allowed some movement but stopped whenever she would make a comment. In the latest instances of arbitrariness, Sheikh Hasina was allowed to visit the ailing Sabina Yasmin but Khaleda Zia was not.

In Khaleda Zia's case a comedy was enacted with her going abroad. The plan was to send her into exile and the bargaining was whether or not she will be allowed to take her two sons with her. We saw the drama of Koko -- being charged with extortion (same as Sheikh Hasina), arrested and then released within a day with the case still pending. The drama continued for days which later turned out to be a farce as the BNP chief did not even have a visa for any country willing to host her. She had to negotiate to visit her husband's grave and seek clearance every time she went anywhere. Again the question is why, and under what law her movements are curtailed.

We trust the chief of staff when he says that the Army is not involved in politics or forming any new party. But what do we do when we receive reports from our correspondents that district administrators are making lists of so-called clean politicians and that many of them are being visited by the powers that be goading them to join the new so-called king's party? What do we do when senior leaders of both the BNP and the AL tell us of powerful visitors asking them to move against their party leaders or face corruption charges?

We would like to strongly suggest that this is no way to strengthen democracy. Just as 'command economy' failed so will 'command politics'. The core of democracy is people's right to choose their leaders and those who will represent them in the government. We accept that we made some bad choices in the past. We accept that our leaders, including Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, betrayed our trust in many cases and over many years. We also agree that we got tired and fed up with confrontational and destructive politics and that we all yearned for a change. But we never agreed to bargain our democracy for 'knights in shining armour' to save us from dire straits.

We repeat that we welcomed the emergency for the simple reason that the election that was looming before us was going to further destroy our democracy, which had been battered by years of partisan politics from both sides. We supported the caretaker government, and we still do, simply because we want to go back to democracy, albeit greatly strengthened and made free of corruption. But arresting leaders at whim and 'punishing' them for making critical comments is no way of doing that.

In reference to the economy our Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus had told an earlier government: "We do not need your help, just remove the obstacles and let people do the rest." We say the same thing today about politics to the caretaker government and to the armed forces that are helping them. We don't need your help in doing politics. Just remove the obstacles and let people do the rest. Here obstacles means corruption, lack of appropriate laws, necessary oversight mechanism, independent judiciary, Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, Public Service Commission, depoliticised bureaucracy and law enforcement agencies.

Much of the above the government is doing, and creditably so. But the tragedy is that it is doing something more. It is attempting to manipulate our politics by trying to predetermine who will be and who will not be a part of its future. This is neither desirable nor doable and even if forced, not sustainable. Every leader possessing slightest bit of integrity will shy away from being a part of this process. Those who will be forced to participate in this process will lack credibility to command any respect and thus be unable to provide stability. And those who will volunteer to be part of this process, and there will be many as there has been in the past, will not be worth the paper their names will be written on.

If anybody expects to bring about a dynamic Bangladesh through such group of opportunists can only be termed as being totally devoid of any knowledge of history, especially of this part of the world, and specifically of Bangladesh.

The chief election commissioner's roadmap of Sunday had cleared the air considerably about the coming elections. But yesterday's arrest of Sheikh Hasina brought in some dark clouds over the election horizon. Suspicion has been sown that though the process and mechanics of the coming election may be free and fair, through "command politics" those participating in it may be pre-selected and thereby predetermining the outcome. Simply put "command politics" will yield "command victors" and thus instead of elected government we'll have a puppet government.

We hope that the above nightmarish scenario will not happen. It is imperative that immediate and credible steps be taken to remove all suspicion about it. For a start we think Sheikh Hasina should be set free. Let all credible cases be brought against her and let her face the law and the courts and let the people judge her for what she is. Further, we need lifting of ban on indoor politics. This will allow the reformists and the old guards to fight in the open and give the public a chance to understand the issues and make their judgment. It is our firm belief that there is a groundswell of support for reforms in every aspect of our politics. The leaders who will oppose reforms will be rejected by the voters, if not by the party activists and supporters. But the reform process has to be open and free, and not manipulated.

We conclude by urging the army-backed caretaker government not to jeopardise the whole reform process and the considerable success that this government has achieved in fighting corruption and bringing some institutional reforms by wittingly or unwittingly becoming over-ambitious and taking more on their plate than they can digest. The fundamental mistake committed by past proponents of "command politics" was to underestimate the wisdom of our masses. We cannot afford a repeat of that mistake.

Intellectuals at Hasina's arrest


Prominent litterateur Hasan Azizul Haque yesterday termed the AL chief Sheikh Hasina's arrest as misfortune of the nation and said that establishment of democracy would be deferred at the move.


Besides, 131 RU teachers in a joint statement expressed their anxiety and demanded Hasina's release.


"There is no fortune for the nation in her arrest. It will create doubt (Bibhranti) among people", Prof Hasan, also a retired Philosophy professor of Rajshahi University (RU) said talking to a group of newsmen.


"There might be positive or negative impact (in the arrest), she (Hasina) should be judged by an elected government...the more the election is deferred in this way, the nation will be discouraged and democratisation will be delayed", he said.


The joint statement signatories include professors -- Abdus Sobhan, Mohammad Nurullah, Ananda Kumar Saha, Mahbubur Rahman, Fayekuzzaman, Moloy Bhoumik, Sujit Sarker, Dr Mizan Uddin, Mozaffar Hossain, Entajul Haque, SM Abu Bakar, Jalal Uddin, Shamsuddin Illias, Golam KAbir Sayed Shamsuddin Ahmed and Abul Kashem.


They said in the statement that Hasina was sent to jail, despite there was no lawyer for her at the court. "This resembles that the law was not taking its own course".


"We are deeply concerned and anxious at her arrest when fundamentalists are out to jeopardize the country's sovereignty".


They urged the government to uphold the law and human rights as per rules of the land.

AL man with sweets at Hasina's arrest!

Sweets were distributed at among shopkeepers and pedestrians in front of Rajshahi divisional police DIG's (deputy inspector general) office at Bheripara in the city to celebrate Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina'a arrest.


Witnesses said, three Rajshahi City Corporation employees – Rofik, Sadek and Abbas distributed three packets of sweets at around 11.30pm.


The three were distributing sweets and telling that these were gifts on behalf of local ward commissioner for Hasina's arrest as well as for Brazil won the Copa America finale, said a shopkeeper.


Rofik, Sadek and Abbas, talking to reporters present at the scene, said that they are employees of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) and other institutions.


They named Abul Hashem Hasim, commissioner of No. 5 ward of RCC to have employed them in the distribution.


When contacted at the ward commissioner's office, Hashim denied that he employed anyone to distribute sweets.


A few of Hashim's close aides, however, informed journalists without elaborating that Hashim, an Awami League adherent was pressurised to distribute the sweets.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Fertiliser supply adequate in C'nawabganj, says admin

Fertiliser supply adequate in C'nawabganj, says admin

There is adequate supply of fertiliaer in Nachole upazila and other areas of Chapainawabganj district and the law and order is normal as farmers are satisfied with the supply, the district administration said yesterday in a press release.

The district administration and joint forces have taken joint steps to ensure smooth supply of fertiliser following the July 4 Nachole incident, it said.

The press release said no case was filed against farmers. An FIR was recorded with the local police station to take action against the unidentified persons responsible for the incident.

The administration is monitoring fertiliser distribution and order has been issued to all concerned not to harass farmers.

The administration also urged people not to be worried about the fertiliser.

New fertiliser distribution system from next season

New fertiliser distribution system from next season

Agriculture Adviser Dr C S Karim yesterday said the government is to introduce a new fertiliser distribution system from next season stretching the network to union level.

" Fertiliser will be distributed directly from unions...and for transparency in fertiliser management, registers would be maintained at dealers' shops and farmers would be given cards," he said while addressing a meeting at the conference room of Rajshahi Deputy Commissioner in the afternoon.

"Fresh dealers will be appointed from among the locals at union level so that a dealer can have both the opportunities, to serve his neighbours as well as to have business," he added.

Dr Karim, also a nuclear scientist, informed that steps towards introducing the new system are already complete and necessary instructions were given after series of surveys and researches.

He asked officials concerned especially in the district administrations and agriculture to supervise and monitor the entire system with utmost dedication to make it a success.

"Buffer stocks will be built up in old districts for helping those areas that are yet to have buffer godowns," he added.

The adviser asked the officials to enforce their highest power given by the law of the land to prevent smuggling of agricultural inputs, adulterated fertilisers and pesticides.

About reaching Tk 750 crore subsidies on diesel, he said those farmers, who are using diesel-run irrigation machines, would be given the subsidy directly through cards.

These cards will be distributed among the farmers in open meetings at union councils after proper scrutiny by union parishad members, chairmen, block supervisers and upazila administration, he added.

Dr Karim called for training and motivation of farmers for balanced use of fertilisers.

He instructed officials to empower farmers by ensuring their direct access to markets.

"Introduce farmers' markets at every district to fight middlemen who are eating up their benefits," he added.

He also gave order for taking all measures to control prices of essentials during the Ramadan.

Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner Mohammad Shafiul Alam chaired the meeting which was attended by Agriculture Secretary M Abdul Aziz and Director General of agricultural extension department (DAE) Abdul Bari.

Deputy commissioners, DAE deputy directors and forest officials from 16 northern districts were present at the meeting.

Ministerial body visits Nachole

Attack on UNO Office
Ministerial body visits Nachole

A high-powered four-member ministerial committee last night went to Chapainawabganj from Dhaka to investigate the July 4 Nachole violence that left 10 persons including four government officials injured and government properties damaged.

The committee, headed by Anwar Faruk, director general of seed wing under agriculture ministry, is to start investigations today. Two joint secretaries from the same ministry and an additional divisional commissioner of Rajshahi are also on the committee.

Meanwhile, the three-member probe committee headed by Mustafizur Rahman, additional district magistrate of Chapainawabganj, submitted its report yesterday recommending punitive measurers against the Nachole Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) whose misconduct triggered the mob violence as well as the ones orchestrated the rampage from behind the scenes.

In its report, the committee said that a number of dishonest fertiliser dealers -- especially the ones obtaining controversial appointments during the past four-party alliance government -- and a few other individuals for their vested interests were out to smear the image of the present government by creating an artificial fertiliser crisis, said sources.

Law enforcement agencies have made a list of 10 individuals who were found to have ulterior political motives and played roles from behind to instigate violence by the fertiliser-seeking farmers, sources in the law enforcement agencies said.

Shahadat Hossain, deputy commissioner (DC) of Chapainawabganj, told The Daily Star that the probe report will be sent to the ministry concerned for further action.

The health condition of Nachole UNO Manjur Morshed, who received serious head injuries, deteriorated yesterday, said the DC, adding, "He is experiencing partial memory loss and visual impairment."

The UNO has been receiving medical treatment under personal arrangements and was yet to be admitted to a hospital, the DC added.

UNO of Chapainawabganj sadar upazila, Shafikul Islam, has been assigned with additional responsibilities of Nachole upazila.

A number of witnesses as well as government staff told the probe committee that the UNO's misconduct had led to the violence. UNO Manjur Morshed, talking to the probe team, however denied the allegations.

A government official said, "Aus cultivation period is already over. Farmers now are collecting urea for the upcoming Aman season and for other uses. The stock of urea is there should not be any crisis...."

There are many reasons why the demand for urea always runs so high. One of the reasons is, affluent farmers tend to stock up on urea for future cultivation. Besides, it is profitable to smuggle it to Myanmar or to sell it on the black market where a 50kg sack of urea is sold at Tk 400 to Tk 500 over the rate fixed by the government, the official explained.