Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bangladesh Election2008 Results

Grand Alliance 263      Four-party Alliance 31 
Awami League 230                    BNP 29

  • Total Constituencies: 300
  • Election held: 299
  • Results Announced: 298
  • Noakhali-3 poll witheld
  • Majority Factor: 151

Rajshahi Division: Total 72
AL 48
J P 14
WP 1
Independent 1

Source: Bangladesh Election Commission website

Rajshahi District
Grand Alliance Candidates Omar Faruk Chowdhury, Fazle Hossain Badsha, Miraj Uddin Mollah, Enamul Haque, Kazi Abdul Wadud Dara and Shahriar Alam at all Rajshahi constituencies are unofficially declared elected.

Vote Centers -Constituency-    Grand Alliance Four-party Alliance Gap
127/127 Rajshahi-1 1,46,785 1,29,450 17,335
79/79 Rajshahi-2 1,16,599 89,050 27,549
102/102 Rajshahi-3 1,42,487 93,649 48,838
67/67 Rajshahi-4 1,07,751 83,633 24,118
92/92 Rajshahi-5 1,24,398 1,08,083 16,315
84/84 Rajshahi-6 1,26,807 99,148 27,659

Source: Returning Officer’s Control Room, Rajshahi

Monday, December 29, 2008

Grand alliance wins 6 Rajshahi seats

All the six grand alliance candidates in Rajshahi constituencies were unofficially declared elected with high turnout of voters in yesterday's historic 9th parliamentary elections.
Shefaul Karim, returning officer and deputy commissioner of Rajshahi, started announcing the final results at around 12:00am.
In Rajshahi-1, Awami League's district unit General Secretary Omar Faruk Chowdhury left behind his nearest rival BNP's newcomer Enamul Haque, former IGP by a margin of 17,327 votes. Faruk bagged 1,46,777 votes while Enamul got 1,29,450 votes.
Worker's Party's politburo member Fazle Hossain Badsha was declared the winner of Rajshahi-2 constituency at around 12:00am. Badsha beat the four-party alliance's Mizanur Rahman Minu by 27,549 votes. Badsha bagged 1,16,599 votes, while Minu got 89,050.
Awami League's new face Miraj Uddin Mollah of Rajshahi-3 beat BNP's former lawmaker Kabir Hossain by 48,838 votes. He secured 1,42,487 votes, while Kabir bagged 93,649 votes. Jamaat-e-Islami candidate Ataur Rahman got 32,527 votes.
In Rajshahi-4, AL candidate Enamul Haque won over BNP's Abdul Gafur by a margin of 24,118 votes. Enamul got 1,07,751 votes while Gafur managed 83,633 votes.
At Rajshahi-5 constituency, AL's Kazi Abdul Wadud Dara beat BNP's Nazrul Islam by 16,315 votes. Dara bagged 1,24,398 while Nazrul got 1,08,083 votes.
AL's newcomer Shahriar Alam of Rajshahi-6 won over Rajshahi BNP's Azizur Rahman.
Local AL decided to refrain from celebrating their victory following directives from the central committee, said Rajshahi AL acting general secretary Shafikur Rahman Badsha.
“We will not celebrate in two days ahead, but our candidates will meet people going to their doors for thanking them,” he added.
With high turnout, voting in the constituencies passed off peacefully, barring some stray incidents and reports of a few fake votes.
Voters started to form long queues at the poling centres even before they opened at 8:00am. Many centres saw a turnout of average 35 percent by 11:00am, which rose to as high as 65 percent by 2:00pm.
The police arrested two BNP adherents for intimidating voters near Sujanagar centre in Rajshahi-2.
A polling officer of Bianabona centre at Deopara in Rajshahi-1 constituency was withdrawn after the polling agents complained that he was a BNP man and appointed on political consideration. The complaint led to tension, resulting in suspension of voting for about 15 minutes.
At Sonadighi Government Primary School centre at Rajshahi-1, the polling agents of Awami League complained that voters were being allowed to enter the polling centre with leaflets containing the election symbol and picture of BNP nominee.
At Kakonhat High School, grand alliance candidate Omar Faruk Chowdhury complained that four people who were visiting the centre as observers of Election Working Group belonged to BNP and they were influencing voters. Later, assistant returning officer rushed to the centre and asked the four observers to leave it.

Anti-Jamaat sentiment in BNP makes grand alliance stronger

Rajshahi Division
BNP candidates in a number of constituencies in Rajshahi division are unlikely to achieve any gains despite support of its key alliance partner Jamaat-e-Islami due to widening rift and anti-Jamaat sentiment in BNP.

Moreover, the vote tally of past elections and the raising demands for resisting war criminals suggest that Jamaat candidates in at least a dozen constituencies, out of total 18 seats where Jamaat-e-Islami has its nominees in the northern region, are likely to see their grand alliance contestants to be stronger. 

In three constituencies Chapainwabganj-3, Rajshahi-3 and Sirajganj-4, Jamaat rebellion may pave the way for grand alliance candidates who are also plagued by Awami League candidates' rebellion at some five constituencies Dinajpur-6, Nilphamari-4, Rangpur-4, 5 and Kurigram 4. Strong battle is expected between grand alliance and Jamaat nominees at Pabna-1 and 5 constituencies.

Taking advantage of the situations, grand alliance candidates are expecting to win a record number of seats in the 16 districts of the division where there are 72 seats in the Jatiya Sangsad.

Four-party alliance leader and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is contesting from Bogra-6 and 7 constituencies while grand alliance's leader Sheikh Hasina will contest from Rangpur-6, Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad from Rangpur-3 and Kurigram-2 and his wife Rawshan Ershad from Gaibandha-5 constituencies.

BNP's vital candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu at Rajshahi-2 is frustrated over his cold war with several party leaders. 

The split between Minu and another BNP candidate Kabir Hossain at Rajshahi-3 is an open secret. It is believed widely by many BNP workers that Minu had role behind Jamaat candidate Ataur Rahman's rebellion against Kabir at the latter's seat.

For Ataur's rebellion, Awami League candidate Miraj Uddin Mollah had chances at the constituency. On the other hand, Kabir followers' revenge against Minu can make the sail of grand alliance's Fazle Hossain Badsha over Minu easy at Rajshahi-2. 

Apart from the group of former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mustafa, Minu is also having some distance with the group of Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul who lacked Minu's support during his August 4 mayoral contest against city mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton.

The group of Nadim Mustafa who is now fleeing abroad being convicted in several corruption and extortion cases has remained silent even during the last-minute campaign for BNP candidate Nazrul Islam at Rajshahi-5. Nadim is annoyed as he failed getting his wife nominated by BNP. 

Many BNP men are frustrated over their political fate as in absence of jailed BNP deputy minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukdar Dulu, his wife Sabina Yasmin Chhobi was nominated at Natore-2 constituency. 

BNP candidate Enamul Haque at Rajshahi-1 is also facing a strong grouping over local BNP's politics centring his family. Enamul was nominated in absence of his brother Barrister Aminul Haque who is now abroad after being convicted in a militancy case. 

Some BNP nominees including Jatiya Sangsad speaker Barrister M Jamiruddin Sarker, Asadul Habib Dulu in Lalmonirhat-3, Shahjahan Mia of Chapainawabganj-1, Harunur Rashid in Chapainawabganj-3, Fazlur Rahman Patal in Natore-1, Kazi Golam Morshed in Natore-3, Mozammel Haque in Natore-4 and M Shokrana of Bogra are contesting amid similar problems.

However, although Rajshahi is a stronghold of BNP-Jamaat, the alliance is now facing an image crisis among the voters as a number of its party leaders are facing charges for graft and abetting militancy.

“The splits in party and above all, BNP's alliance with Jamaat are not tolerable to many party workers like me. If BNP were not allied with Jamaat, perhaps, we would not have to be known as militancy abettors”, said a BNP leader asking for anonymity.

“The BNP splits in Rajshahi region are more or less due to BNP leaders' loyalty to Jamaat-e Islami. BNP in many places lost supremacy since the fundamentalists' role”, said a BNP leader of Rajshahi-1 constituency who was able to avail BNP nomination this year.

He argued that Barrister Aminul Haque phoned from abroad to Jamaat-e Islami Ameer Matiur Rahman for leaving Rajshahi-1 constituency for his brother, not to any BNP leaders. The phone call was made while Nizami was on a visit to Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj, confirmed a Jamaat candidate at Chapainawabganj-3 Latifur Rahman.

Several BNP leaders at northern districts including Natore and Rajshahi echoed the anonymous BNP men. 

However, deputy speaker Akhtar Hamid Siddiki in Naogaon-3 and Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgir at Thakurgaon-3, Jamaat Ameer Matiur Rahman Nizami at Pabna-1 and ABM Abdus Subhan Mia at Pabna-5 are likely to have strong fight with grand alliance candidates. 

AL's Asaduzzaman Noor is contesting with Jamaat's M Moniruzzaman at Nilphamari-2, Noor won the 2001 election by 2 percent votes without the support of Jatiya Party that bagged 22 percent votes.

Jamaat won Nilphamari-3 seat by over 5 percent votes in 2001, but this time JP's Kazi Faruk Quader is a stronger candidate with Awami League support.

Fate of 5 talk of town as alliances lock horn

Six Rajshahi Seats
Fates of five senior politicians in Rajshahi have become topic of lively discussion as 28 candidates are contesting with clear signs for major fight between candidates from Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance and BNP-led four-party alliance in six constituencies in the district.

The senior politicians are Mizanur Rahman Minu, Kabir Hossain, Azizur Rahman of BNP, Fazle Hossain Badsha of Workers Party and Sardar Amjad Hossain of Awami League.

As elsewhere in the country, voting will continue non-stop from 8:00am to 4:00pm at 3921 booths of 551 polling centres in Rajshahi city and nine upazilas of the district that has 15,70,798 voters including 7,70,552 male and 8,00,246 female.

Four-party alliance won all the seats in Rajshahi district in 2001 election.

In Rajshahi-1, AL candidate Omar Faruk Chowdhury will take on BNP's newcomer Enamul Haque, a former law commission member and former inspector general of police.

In 2001 election, BNP's barrister Aminul Haque, now fleeing abroad being convicted in a militancy abetting case, won with 21 percent more votes than Chowdhury's. However, internal feud in BNP may work in favour of Chowdhury this time.

M Salauddin Biswas of Bangladesh Kalyan Party is also contesting from this seat.

The main focus of Rajshahi's elections will be in Rajshahi-2 constituency that comprises all the 30 wards of Rajshahi City Corporation.

Grand alliance nominee Fazle Hosain Badsha is once again getting locked into battle with BNP bigwig Mizanur Rahman Minu who enjoys support from Jamaat-e Islami. 

Badsha, also a politburo member of Workers Party, was defeated to Minu in 2002 RCC poll. Authorities are yet to decide Badsha's complaint of polls rigging at many centres during that election.

Minu, who served as Rajshahi mayor for 17 years, also became a lawmaker wining the 2001 election. 

Enamul Haque of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Akhtaruzzaman Bablu of Bikalpadhara Bangladesh and Sayeed Mahmud Ilyas are also contesting from the constituency.

Rajshahi-3 will see the main fight between BNP's Liberation War Affairs Secretary Kabir Hossain and AL's Miraj Uddin Mollah, although there is Jamaat-e-Islami candidate Ataur Rahman to weaken BNP's position in the seat.

Earlier Kabir was a BNP lawmaker from Rajshahi-2 seat. 

M Abdul Hye of Progotishil Gonotantrik Dal is also a candidate for the seat.

Sardar Amjad hossain is likely to remain as a factor for both grand alliance and four-party alliance nominees in Rajshahi-4 constituency comprising Bagmara that saw rise of religious militancy a couple of years back.

Amjad developed a vote bank in the region winning the elections of 1970, '73, and '86 from Awami League and '88 and '91 with Jatiya Party ticket. In 2006, he returned to Awami League, but was denied nomination allegedly for his role as a 'reformist' during the state of emergency.

This time Amjad is an independent candidate for the seat.

AL nominee Enamul Haque is an industrialist and newcomer to AL. BNP candidate Abdul Gafur, former president of the upazila BNP, is also a first time contestant in parliament election.

Zinnatul Islam Zinnah of National People's Party, Atikur Rahman of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal and Mohammad Mohsin Pramanik of CPB are also in the race. 

In Rajshahi-5 (Puthia and Durgapur upazilas), the main battle will be between AL candidate Kazi Abdul Wadud Dara and BNP contestant Nazrul Islam. Both the candidates are new in the electoral race. 

SM Shafiul Azam of Liberal Democratic Party, Abul Kalam Azad of CPB, Moktar Hossain of Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Shawkat Hossain Khan of National People's Party are also contesting for the seat.

Rajshahi BNP President Azizur Rahman, a former lawmaker will confront AL's new face Shahriar Alam in Rajshahi-6 constituency. 

Maskawat Ahsan of Bikalpadhara and Nurul Islam of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal are other contestants in the seat.

Jamaat affinity leaves Minu in dire straits

To cover his Jamaat loyalty, Minu's followers circulated leaflets identifying his rival grand alliance's Fazle Hossain Badsha as the godfather of underground operatives.

“For his pro-Jamaat attitude, he (Minu) lost trust of maximum party leaders a long ago. Now, he has no way but the support of Jamaat”, said a BNP leader seeking anonymity.

His electoral rival grand alliance candidate Fazle Hossain Badsha has talked about Minu's pro-Jamaat attitude and his role behind militancy quite louder than corruption charges during electoral campaigns. 

Ignoring those campaigning, Minu said it would not hurt his popularity. “People are aware that it was during our (BNP-Jamaat) rule when militants were arrested and tried”.

National hero AHM Kamruzzaman won this seat for the last time from Awami league in 1973. In later elections, BNP has won the seat. The constituency is considered to be important for politics in entire North Bengal.

Senior BNP leader Kabir Hossain won this seat in 1991 and 1996. Minu locked horns with Kabir when Minu got BNP nomination in 2001 forcing Kabir to contest from another constituency of Rajshahi-5. Minu with Jamaat support won the seat. 

The anti-Jamaat sentiment of Kabir, also the central BNP's liberation war affairs secretary, has been another reason of Kabir-Minu rivalry since 2001. 

Kabir-Minu cold war is back again this year, when Kabir chooses Rajshahi-3 and Rajshahi Jamaat Ataur Rahman, also close to Minu, submitted his nomination from the same seat. Kabir followers said, none but 'Minu in league with his Jamaat masters' planned fielding Ataur against Kabir.

Minu too did a lot for Jamaat during the BNP-Jamaat rule, said BNP insiders. He helped Jamaat build a stronghold on Rajshahi University campus and for establishing an economic support in the city, they added.

In addition to allegations of helping militancy and sharp infighting, Minu is passing hard times witnessing BNP in disarray for sky rocketing high prices of essentials, power and water crises.

Minu certified the militant kingpin Asadullah Al Galib in 2004 stating that he was not involved in militancy, but his government detained Galib for the charge.

Minu is also facing rivalry with a BNP faction that was led by former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mustafa who is now absconding abroad.

Despite the groupings, many Minu followers said, “Rajshahi BNP has no worth without Minu.”

Jamaat spreads rumour about rival's death

Protesting the Jamaat propaganda, Kabir yesterday gave a statement to local media that he is still alive and was engaged in election activities till the end of official period of campaign.

He also submitted a complaint in this regard with the Election Commission claiming that it is a violation of electoral code of conduct.

Kabir said a Rajshahi University teacher belonging to Jamaat at a mosque at Shyampur of Katakhali municipal area circulated the rumour of his death.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

BNP, Jamaat cook up tales about militancy

Bid to befool Rajshahi voters, civil society men say

BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami candidates during election campaigns in Rajshahi constituencies have given a 'false version' of the dreadful rise of so-called Islamist militancy in the country to befool voters, civil society members alleged.Jamaat candidates once again brushed aside the dreadful events, saying thees are no more. BNP candidates claimed that the four-party alliance government did not abet militancy, rather it brought militants under justice.They said, the problem of militancy is no more now. Their election campaigns ended yesterday midnight.BNP candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu in Rajshahi-2 constituency in an interview with a local newspaper in Rajshahi termed the allegation of his abetting militancy as 'pre-planned' to tarnish his image. “During alliance rule, we brought militants under law, took them to court, and did not help them. BNP is a liberal party where there is no shelter for militants and extremists. We just hate them”, Minu said in the interview.“BNP government dealt with militancy issue very strictly. It would not have even arisen had the previous governments did like BNP”, said Kabir Hossain, BNP contestant in Rajshahi-3 and also the party's Liberation War affairs secretary.Kabir's rival and Jamaat-e Islami candidate Ataur Rahman said, “There is no militancy in Rajshahi region. It was the incident of Bagmara (an upazila in Rajshahi from where militants were exposed). They rose in Bagmara and they were buried in Bagmara”.BNP candidate in Rajshahi-1 Enamul Haque, brother of barrister Aminul Haque who is abroad after convicted for life in a militancy abetting case, and BNP runner in Natore-2 Sabina Yasmin Chhobi, also expressed similar views. Chhobi is wife of Ruhul Kuddus Talukhdar Dulu, charged as a militant patron.Their versions of the militancy came as grand alliance candidates here spoke about the role of former BNP-Jamaat stalwarts in abetting militancy.Rajshahi region, once infested with outlaws, saw the rise of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants, led by JMB leader Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai in 2004. The JMB cadres in the name of action against underground operatives allegedly killed around 25 people and mimed over 500 in the region in only three months. Former BNP minister Aminul Haque and former BNP deputy minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu, with the help of former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mustofa, former RCC Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, and former state minister Alamgir Kabir reportedly patronised militants using police and the administration. Allegedly backed by Minu, a large group of armed JMB militants marched through Rajshahi city on May 23, 2004.They addressed a number of wayside meetings and handed over memorandums to the then Rajshahi deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and deputy inspector general of police. Militant kingpin Asadullah Al Galib was provided with a certificate, signed by Minu in 2004, which said 'Galib has no link with militancy'. Galib is being tried for his militant roles.As JMB's Rajshahi operations raised countrywide concern, the then government was forced to arrest Rajshahi University teacher and militant kingpin Asadullah Al Galib. Then the JMB militants threatened of a serial blast for freeing Galib. Finally they unmasked it on August 17, 2005 and ran terror strikes on courts and judges, drawing global concern.Later, the then four-party government arrested them as JMB leaders threatened of revealing their links with government high-ups. The arrested militants were executed during the rule of present caretaker government.Eminent littérateur Hasan Azizul Haque said it is no more a secret now that BNP-Jamaat leaders including former Rajshahi mayor patronised militants of Bangla Bhai. It would be better for them (four-party alliance candidates) to promise that they would never patronise militants, if elected, he told this correspondent.“They are now talking false on militancy ahead of election. They can not avoid responsibility of abetting militancy”, said Haque.The truth is that the serial blasts and terror attacks on courts and judges in 2005 occurred when the BNP-Jamaat government was forced to chase militants following local and international pressure, said Mahtab Uddin, a social worker. Mahtab said voices of militants sank when they (militants) threatened of disclosing their links with BNP-Jamaat. “Jamaat denial of Bangla Bhai's existence when local media were focusing on the issue proves their involvement”. Dr AHM Zehadul Karim, a Rajshahi resident, now vice chancellor of Comilla University, said the versions BNP-Jamaat candidates are totally false. “The fact is that militancy is still a threat today”.The militancy issue should have been in election manifestos of BNP and Jamaat as it rose during their rule, he said.“Instead of commitment against militancy prior to elections, they have distorted facts," said Nurul Alam, president of Rajshahi district unit of Shujon (Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik).Dr Mahbuba Kaniz Keya, a Rajshahi University teacher, said there is no need to have a proof that the BNP-Jamaat version is false as the militancy issue is as clear as water. "We are still under threat. The militants will come out whenever they find a suitable ground”. Manoranjan Nandi, a prominent playwright, said, "By distorting the facts, political leaders tried to fool voters. We want tough words against those who are engaged with militancy."


Candidates go door-to-door

Last-minute Campaign In Rajshahi

Rajshahi city and nine upazilas under six constituencies were rocking with last-minute hectic campaign of the candidates yesterday who are competing the general elections tomorrow.The candidates made door-to-door visits since early morning, while their supporters brought out a number of processions and held rallies throughout the day making a carnival atmosphere everywhere.The runners as well as electorates hoped for peaceful holding of the elections, although some of them expressed suspicions of sabotage and some expressed a strong a preference for 'no' vote.The administration, however, has taken a three-tier security measure so that people can vote for their competent candidates in a peaceful atmosphere.In the district, the main focus will be on Rajshahi-2 constituency where grand alliance candidate Fazle Hossain Badsha will take on former BNP lawmaker Mizanur Rahman Minu.Talking to newsmen, Minu said, “The role this government is playing against the four-party alliance has created doubts,” adding that the elections would be held in a free, fair and peaceful way.He further said that the election campaign this year was not spontaneous due to the new electoral laws.Badsha said Rajshahi was never a peaceful area. “Rajshahi was at the top in terms of rising militancy which took place countrywide during the corrupt BNP-Jamaat rule. There are threats from extremists. So, we demanded enough security measures.”Grand alliance held a huge meeting at Bhubon Mohon Park in the city, while four-party alliance held processions and meetings at different points as part of their election campaign.Different cultural organisations staged short plays and performed traditional Gambhira and folk songs at different city points all day long to seek votes for grand alliance candidates and rejecting war criminals.Returning Officer Shefaul Karim told reporters that the Election Commission's preparation for holding the elections in a free, fair and secured atmosphere is complete. He said a three-tier security measure would work on the election day to ensure a huge turnout of voters.According to the new electoral roll, the number of women voters is higher than males in Rajshahi. The total number of voters this year stands at 15,70,848, while female voters are 8,00,256.Additional security measures have been beefed up at 356 important polling centres out of 551 centres in the district to stave off any untoward incidents.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

BNP, Jamaat in Rajshahi-3 locked in internal feuds

In Rajshahi-3 (Paba-Mohonpur) constituency, grand alliance candidate Miraj Uddin Mollah is in a better position than the candidates of four-party alliance belonging to BNP and Jamaat-e Islami who are locked in internal feuds. Former BNP lawmaker Kabir Hossain is fighting here with the symbol of paddy sheaf against Rajshahi city Jamaat Ameer Ataur Rahman with scale symbol. Voters said Miraj has intensified his campaign as his chances of winning the seat has become brighter amid fighting between Kabir and Ataur. While addressing several election meetings, supporters of Kabir, also liberation war affairs secretary of central BNP, have called for resisting Jamaat candidate at any cost.On the other hand, Jamaat leaders at their election meetings are criticising Kabir as 'unfit' candidate as he is physically ill with parts of his body are already paralysed.Kabir, a senior politician of local BNP, is a 'victim of Jamaat politics' to capture the BNP stronghold of Rajshahi, said a follower of Kabir who had been winning Rajshahi-2 (Sadar) constituency since 1991 election. But during 2001 election when BNP formed an alliance with Jamaat-e Islami, the then Rajshahi mayor and pro-Jamaat BNP leader Mizanur Rahman Minu snatched away the BNP nomination for Rajshahi-2 constituency.As a result Kabir had to contest from Rajshahi-5 (Bagha-Charghat) seat and won the election. Kabir's followers who have a vote bank in Rajshahi-2 constituency blamed Minu for his role in Ataur's candidacy against Kabir in Rajshahi-3 and they are remaining absent from Minu's campaign in the city.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Feud worries grand alliance in greater Rajshahi

Clockwise: Abdul Jalil, Fazle Hossain Badsha, Mizanur Rahman Minu, Abdul Wadud, Enamul Haque, Fazlur Rahman Patal and Sardar Amjad Hossain.

Intra-party rivalry over nomination among Awami League (AL) leaders and lack of AL leaders' cooperation to grand alliance nominees from Workers' Party (WP) and Jatiya Party (JP) may shatter the alliance's hope in constituencies in greater Rajshahi region.The grand alliance could expect easy win in most seats in the region, considered to be stronghold of BNP, as the party remained in disarray due to anti-crime and anti-corruption drives after 1/11, bad reputation of several BNP leaders for abetting militancy, Kansat tragedy and absence of a few vital leaders in the area.Electoral rivalry between four-party alliance partners BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami in a few constituencies could also act in favour of the grand alliance. In previous elections AL candidates in the region had lagged behind by huge margins with four-party alliance winners.With vote banks in the region, Jamaat-e-Islami won three seats of Chapainawa-bganj-3, Naogaon-4 and Natore-3 in 1991 and is likely to add to the strength of four-party alliance as in 2001 elections.Return of five BNP bigwigs to the area have also bolstered BNP's organisational base. The five leaders -- Fazlur Rahman Patal in Natore, Mizanur Rahman Minu in Rajshahi, Shahjahan Mia and Harunur Rashid in Chapainawabganj and M Shamsuzzoha Khan in Naogaon however, are still facing corruption charges.Grand alliance's hope in at least 10 seats out of 19 present constituencies in Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon and Chapainawabganj districts largely depends on the BNP-Jamaat's waning popularity that was evident in August 4 local polls in Rajshahi where AL candidates AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and Abdul Gafur were elected mayors of Rajshahi City Corporation and Nawhata municipality.Among total 18 seats in greater Rajshahi during 1991 general elections, AL won five seats Naogaon-1, Naogaon-2, Rajshahi-4, Natore-2 and Natore-4 and JP won Rajshahi-3 (Bagmara-Mohonpur) while Jamaat captured three seats (mentioned above) and BNP won the nine other seats. But in 1996 elections, BNP won in all the seats except Natore-4 that was secured by former AL state minister Abdul Kuddus and again in 2001, the four-party alliance got 17 seats while former AL secretary general Abdul Jalil won Naogaon-4 seat.Following delimitations of constituencies, the number of seats in greater Rajshahi has increased to 19. Rajshahi mayor and Rajshahi regional grand alliance coordinator AHM Khairuzzaman Liton however, said, “Steps are underway… We are expecting to be free of all problems before the election. We hope to secure maximum seats.”But several AL men said many of AL grassroots would not expect Workers Party politburo member Fazle Hossain Badsha to be elected from Rajshahi-2 (city) constituency although Liton along with his wife is campaigning for him. Badsha's electoral rival is once again BNP's Mizanur Rahman Minu, also central organizing secretary of the party.AL nominated three millionaires -- Enamul Haque, Kazi Abdul Wadud Dara and Shahriar Alam for Rajshahi-4, 5 and 6 constituencies. But they are fresh in politics and have to struggle hard against rebel AL leaders who were deprived of nomination. Sardar Amjad Hossain who won Rajshahi-3 seat in 1991 and got 21 per cent votes in 1996 and 23 per cent votes in 2001 with JP tickets later joined AL. Deprived of nomination, he is contesting as an independent candidate against Enamul Haque.Rajshahi AL President Tajul Islam M Faruk and former AL lawmaker Raihanul Haque are covertly working against Dara and Shahriar respectively.The independent candidacy of district AL vice president M Emaj Uddin Pramanik poses threats for AL candidate SM Abdul Latif in Naogaon-4, paving way for BNP nominee AHM Shamsul Alam Pramanik.Grand alliance nominee Abu Talha of JP is not getting much help from local AL leaders in Natore-1 where Fazlur Rahman Patal is contesting from BNP.Jatiya Party vote in the region has also seen a gradual decline since 1991.AL candidate Abdul Wadud is now hopeful of winning in Jamaat stronghold Chapainawabganj-3 as BNP's Harunur Rashid and Jamaat's Latifur Rahman are in the race.AL candidates in two other seats in the district will see strong fight.In absence of former BNP minister barrister Aminul Haque (now staying abroad being jailed for life in a militancy abetting case), his brother Enamul Haque is contesting in Rajshahi-1. AL candidate Omar Faruk Chowdhury was lagging behind Aminul in 2001 by 21 percent votes while JP got 2.27 percent votes.AL nominee Akram Hossain Chowdhury in Naogaon-3 will also see little chance against BNP's deputy speaker Akhtar Hamid Siddiki as Akram was behind Siddiki by 10 per cent votes in 2001 while JP got 1.45 per cent votes. AL candidates will lock horns with BNP nominees in Naogaon-1, 2, 5 and 6 constituencies with chances for AL candidates Abdul Jalil (former AL secretary general) and Israfil Alam. Jalil will fight with Abdul Latif, a new face of BNP, while Israfil with Anwar Hossain Bulu, brother of former BNP minister turned LDP leader Alamgir Kabir. Ruhul Kuddus Talukhdar Dulu's wife Sabina Yasmin Chhobi is contesting in Natore-2 constituency where AL candidate Ahad Ali Sarker is a prospective candidate.


It was attempt to kill me: Omar Faruk

Published On: 2008-12-23

Awami League candidate Omar Faruk Chowdhury in Rajshahi-1 constituency yesterday expressed concern over security of grand alliance candidates following an attack on him during campaign on the previous night.At a press conference at his house in the city, Omar Faruk said the attack was an attempt to kill him. He demanded his security or return of his legal firearm.Rajshahi mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton who was present at the press conference apprehended that political godfathers of terrorists might have masterminded the attack fearing their defeat in the upcoming election.Omar Faruk came under the attack at Buraburi crossing under Pachondor union in Tanore upazila at around midnight Saturday night while he was returning after campaign in Mundumala municipal area.The terrorists barricaded his road by placing a tree and with two trucks and two microbuses. As his jeep stopped yards away, the terrorists swooped on his vehicle hitting it with sticks, Omar Faruk told the press conference.Sensing danger, his companions took him down the roadside crop field in the dark and the terrorisits chased them shouting 'shoot', 'shoot'. In the meantime, a police patrol team reached the spot forcing the terrorists to flee toward Naogaon in a microbus kept ready there, he said. After the incident, police said they seized the two trucks and arrested their drivers and helpers from the scene, but they denied their involvement in the attack.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Three Martyred Intellectuals of RU

Mir Abdul Quayyum
Pakistani occupation forces with their local collaborators masterminded the systematic elimination of our intellectuals. Beginning on March 25, the massacre continued till the surrender of the Pakistani army on December 16.
The long list of our martyred intellectuals includes three from Rajshahi University (RU). Prof Mir Abdul Quayyum is one of them. He was a teacher of the Psychology Department.
Born on July 6, 1939 at Ghagra village of Gafargaon in Mymensingh, he graduated from RU in 1962. Working as a research assistant and demonstrator for two years, he later joined the psychology department as a lecturer.
During his days on the campus as both student and teacher, Quayyum was known for his free and secular thinking. He did not hesitate to speak of independence even when it could pose a grave risk.
The fateful night came on November 25. Quayyum had left his own house at Malopara and was staying at his father-in-law's house at Ghoramara. His wife Mastura Khanam gave an account of how Quayyum was picked up by the killers. She has been serving as a teacher of the same department with the unbearable agony of having lost her husband 37 years ago.
Grave of Mir Abdul Quayyum
Perhaps Mastura had many things to tell, but she appeared a bit hesitant, even after so many years. “Rajshahi had become a dreaded place with the presence of Pak forces. Panic-stricken, we were living with my parents and did not feel safe at all,” she recalled.
Taiyab Ali, a non-Bengali stenographer of the then RU Vice Chancellor and a covert collaborator of Pak occupation forces, called him by his name at around 9:00pm. He was sick and asked Taiyab to bring the Pakistani soldiers (who wanted to see him) inside his home. As Taiyab insisted, Quayyum had no way but to go out with his identity card.
“Taiyab led him to the army vehicle and then went away, far away from my life”, added Quayyum's daughter Mahbuba Kanij Keya, also a teacher of the same RU department.
All kidnapped persons were usually taken to Shaheed Shams-uz-Zoha Hall where the invaders set up a torture centre. All dead bodies were dumped behind the hall. But Quayyum was not found there. The present-day RU teachers and students say that Zoha Hall is a “cantonment” of some student fronts.
However, after Liberation, 14 bodies of intellectuals including that of Mir Abdul Quayyum's were located at Bablatala on Padma riverbank near Boalia Club.
Quayyum's body was later buried at Hatim Khan-Kadirganj graveyard.
The Gana Tadanta Commission report revealed that the 14 bodies were tied with ropes and there was no mark of injury on their bodies. They were perhaps buried alive.
His family members still recollect with great anguish the sad end of a brilliant career, as Taiyab Ali was known and liked as a devoted teacher and mentor.
The psychology department seminar library was named as 'Martyred Mir Abdul Quayyum Memorial Library' and a memorial monument was set up at Padma Dam in 1995. No other initiative has been taken to keep his memories alive.
Sukharanjan Samaddar
It was April 14. The Pak army had already moved into North Bengal through Nagarbari river terminal and a day before they camped at house no. P-69 on the RU campus just in front of P-71, the building Prof Shukhranjan Samaddar lived in.
An associate professor of Sanskrit department, Samaddar was a simple, peace-loving, non-political personality. He was one of the very few teachers who did not leave the campus. There was virtually a curfew on the campus as the Pak invaders had let loose a reign of terror. At around 9.30am, the Pak army from the P-69 house entered his residence breaking open the door, kicking with boots.
The body of martyred Sukhoranjan Samaddar was laid to rest in front of Rajshahi University Central Library after its recovery from Kajla areas.
They were searching for members of East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) and at one stage they went back to their vehicle.
Dr Matiur Rahman, the non-Bengalee chairman of the psychology department of the university, called back the soldiers and told them that Samaddar was a Hindu.
The Pak military forces dragged Samaddar out of his home and took him away.
“I was almost insane then (after Liberation). My father Prafulla Narayan Basu, uncle Keshab Narayan Basu, cousin Kesta Narayan Basu and brother-in-law Dr Sunil Kumar Roy had embraced martyrdom by then”, said his wife Champa who retired as deputy chief residential teacher of RU Rokeya Hall a year ago.
“Later I came to know that the RU authorities on February 25 in 1972 shifted Samaddar's grave to a place in front of RU Central Public Library premises”, she said.
“None enquired about us for seven days since the Pak military picked up my husband. In July, an aide of the killers came to me and gave me my husband's broken glasses and sandals confirming his death”, she told in a choked voice.
“Many of the aides of the occupation forces are still active on the campus. It is unbearable as many of my near and dear ones were brutally killed by these beastly elements,” said Champa.
Habibur Rahman
RU teacher Prof Habibur Rahman is a Martyred Intellectual. He was the head of the mathematics department.
He went missing since he was picked up by some Pakistani soldiers and taken to the RU guesthouse, Zuberi Bhaban. Brigadier Aslam and Colonel Taj of the Pakistan army conducted the operation with assistance from their local collaborators.
Alas! Rahman never returned.

All eyes on Badsha-Minu fight

Election fever has gripped the divisional city and all nine upazilas of Rajshahi district as all 28 candidates in six constituencies are on hectic campaign.
Unlike in previous elections, most candidates are cautious not to violate the poll code of conduct, although several incidents of violation were reported.
Instead of coloured ones during earlier hustings, black and white posters seeking votes have virtually covered all streets, lanes and bi-lanes. Deafening sounds of loudspeakers are not annoying voters as campaign is allowed from 2pm and 8pm.
Since lifting of emergency, the candidates are making door-to-door visits, bringing out processions and holding rallies to drum up support.
Awami League candidate Omar Faruk Chowdhury is on mass contact to bag Rajshahi-1 Jatiya Sangsad seat while BNP candidate M Enamul Haque has taken the polls as a prestige issue. Enamul Haque is brother of former BNP minister Aminul Haque, now abroad after being convicted for abetting militancy.
All eyes are riveted at Rajshahi-2 constituency where grand alliance candidate Fazle Hossain Badsha is in fight with BNP's Mizanur Rahman Minu, former mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation.
All pro-liberation forces, professionals, socio-cultural and business organisations are campaigning for Badsha, coordinated by Rajshahi mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton.
Minu announced his campaigning schedule at a press conference last week.
The Badsha-Minu battle in April 2002 city corporation election (covering Rajshahi-2) drew a countrywide attention. Minu won the election amid Badsha's allegation of rigging at 20 polling centers. Election violence that time left Awami League activist Waj Nabi Dudu killed.
Former BNP lawmaker Kabir Hossain is embarrassed as Jamaat-e Islami has fielded its candidate Ataur Rahman against him in newly created constituency of Rajshahi-3, where AL candidate Meraj Uddin Mollah is trying hard to cash in on the BNP-Jamaat rivalry.
In Rajshahi-4, both BNP's Abdul Gafur and AL's Enamul Haque are anxious as veteran politician and AL leader Sarder Amjad Hossain is also in the race there as an independent candidate. Amjad has a vote bank in the area, locals said.
Both BNP and AL have fielded new faces Nazrul Islam and M Abdul Wadud Dara at Rajshahi-5.
“I do not have any time to talk to family members…I want to visit every house and meet every voter before the election”, Dara told this correspondent yesterday.

Minu prints 5 lakh posters

Published On: 2008-12-19

Nearly 5 lakh posters are being used for election campaign of BNP candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu in Rajshahi-2 constituency where the number of voters is just half of the posters.Prior to BNP chief Khaleda Zia's visit Thursday night, the entire Rajshahi city was almost covered with posters of Minu.According to Minu's election workers, a truck loaded with papers for printing around five lakh posters are now stored at Provat Printing Press in the city.Minu, also former Rajshahi mayor in his nomination papers submitted with the election commission stated that his annual income is Tk 25,000 from agriculture.In his statement of probable election expenditure, Minu stated that he would spend Tk 3 lakh he earned as mayoral honorarium and agriculture.He also stated that he would borrow Tk 5.75 lakh from his relatives, including Tk 3.75 lakh from relatives staying in the United States and he would get Tk 2.5 lakh voluntary donations.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Birds falling prey to traps

An orchard keeper trying to untangle a bird from illegal fine nets put up around the farm at Chandipur of Rajshahi to protect fruits on trees. Photo: STAR

Around 200 birds of various species were killed in the last 20 days after getting tangled up in illegal fine nets while flying around a fruit orchard at Chandipur in the city.The birds include sparrow, bulbuli, haludia, firingi, oriole and vampires and bats.Two fruit growers covered their joint orchards on over one acre of land with fine nets 20 days ago to protect fruits, especially plum, from birds.On an average 10 birds are getting trapped in the nets and dying every day, said labourers at the orchard. Around 12 birds were found dead yesterday.The labourers added that they try to save birds entangled during the day, but they cannot help those that get caught in the nets during the night.The area is now filled with the stink of the dead birds.An employee of the orchard told The Daily Star that they are not aware that fine nets are illegal. "If it is illegal, we will take down the nets even if it incurs losses to us," he said.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

1971 remnants still active in politics

The daily Azad news and photograph published just five days before the Victory Day shows Jamaat's Ali Ahsan Mojahid talking as Al-Badr chief against the birth of Bangladesh. Photo: STAR Collection

A band of key players, who made a botched attempt to abort the birth of Bangladesh, is none other than the top brass of Jamaat-e-Islami, young in 1971.They had joined forces with the Pakistani occupation army to commit what shaped up into a full-blown genocide in the nine-month bloody war.For Motiur Rahman Nizami, now chief of Jamaat and the then president of Islami Chhatra Shangha, it was a parallel struggle to protect every inch of Pakistan during the Liberation War.The head of the Islamic party said the activists of the student front had been pledge-bound to attack the mainland Hindustan [India] to protect a united Pakistan.Nizami's speech is evident in the September 8, 1971 issue of the Daily Sangram that carried a report headlined “Chhatra Shangha activists will protect every inch of Pakistan's land”.Nizami worked his way deeper into mainstream politics with the backing of the BNP-led four-party alliance. He is now an alliance candidate from Pabna-1 constituency for the year-end national elections.Nizami is not alone.Many of the current Jamaat top leaders had moved against Bangladesh's liberation. Leaders of Islami Chhatra Sangha, now known as Islami Chhatra Shibir, and some other groups had been involved in anti-liberation activities.Jamaat's present secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid was president of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Shangha in 1971.The Jamaat leader who moved up the ranks after independence is now contesting the ninth parliament elections from Faridpur-3 constituency on the slate of BNP-led alliance.In 1971, Mojahid directed his party workers to build Al-Badr Bahini to resist freedom fighters, according to a "Fortnightly Secret Report on the Situation in East Pakistan". In line with an official procedure, the report had regularly been dispatched by the then East Pakistan home ministry to General Yahya Khan, the head of government.Many researches, academic studies, accounts of both victims and collaborators, and publications including newspapers revealed that Mojahid, who headed the Al Badr team in Dhaka at the time, allegedly led those who had been involved in the killings of the intellectuals -- only two days before the victory of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971.Thousands of people still bear the scars of war crimes by Jamaat and its student front Islami Chhatra Shangha, and some other controversial outfits such as Nizam-e-Islami. Jamaat's opposition of the struggle for independence has been documented in different publications including those by Jamaat itself.At a rally to mark what was then known as Badr Day on November 7, 1971, Mojahid came up with a four-point programme to "wipe Hindustan off the face of the earth"."Move forward with your head held high and with the Quran in heart to materialise the programme. If necessary we will march up to New Delhi and fly the flag of greater Pakistan," he told the 1971 rally.He raised funds, organised armed trainings for Razakars and persuaded students to join the paramilitary force, designed to eliminate freedom fighters.Addressing a function of the Chhatra Shangha in Faridpur on September 15, 1971, Mojahid said: “Razakars and Al Badr forces and all other voluntary organisations have been working to protect the nation from the collaborators and spies of India.”"But unfortunately we observe that a section of political leaders like ZA Bhutto, Kawsar Niazi, Mufti Mahmud and Asghar Khan have lately been making objectionable remarks about the patriots."Ironically, the 1971 publications of The Daily Sangram, a newspaper known as the mouthpiece of Jamaat, carry evidence enough to expose Jamaat's anti-liberation roles.An issue of the Sangram published on September 15, 1971 quoted Nizami, also the then commander-in-chief of Al Badr, as saying: "Everyone of us should assume the role of a soldier of an Islamic country. With assistance of the poor and the oppressed, we must kill those who are engaged in the war against Pakistan and Islam."The same newspaper on the third page of its September 16, 1971 issue ran another report headlined “No force on earth will be able to destroy Pakistan". In the news report, Nizami called on people to face a conspiracy of the so-called Banga Daradi (Lover of Bengal).Jamaat formed Razakar Bahini and Al-Badr Bahini to oppose Bangladesh's struggle to win freedom from Pakistan.At a rally of 96 Jamaat workers at an Ansar camp on Khan Zahan Ali Road in Khulna in May 1971, as historical documents show, Moulana Yusuf established the Razakar force."It was also Moulana Yusuf who gave this force its name," according to Genocide '71, a book that details accounts of the wartime killers and collaborators.On November 28, 1971, Yusuf spoke to journalists in Karachi, "The Razakars are standing shoulder to shoulder with our brave soldiers in combating the Indian aggression."In order to annihilate miscreants, the Razakars should be provided with more modern weapons, Yusuf suggested.The number of the Al-Badr and Al-Shams was 100,000 at one point in time, plus the Mujahid force, Genocide '71 quoted Yusuf as saying.Another member of Jamaat's central executive committee, ATM Azharul Islam, was the leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha in Rangpur.The so-called "Fortnightly Secret Report" said Azharul Islam had presided over a conference of Islami Chhatra Sangha in Rangpur town on October 17, 1971.Mojahid had also addressed the conference, “explaining the present situation of the country and urging the party workers to mobilise the youths of Islamic spirit and launch a strong movement against anti-Islamic activities”. Mojahid also urged them to form Al-Badar Bahini at different levels to defend the country from "internal and external attacks".Mir Kasem Ali, another top player on Jamaat's central executive committee, was general secretary of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971.On December 10 of the same year, five days before the victory, Al Badr force organised a rally at Baitul Mukarram Mosque to orchestrate public opinion against 'Hindustani attacks'. Kasem also addressed the rally, according to a news report published in the Daily Azad on December 11, 1971.Kasem called upon people not to get misled by the “rumours and false publicity of Hindustani warmongers and Akash Bani”, the report said."We are fighting for truth and fairness. Victory must be on our side with the blessings of Khoda", Kasem was quoted in the report as saying.Kasem was also president of Chittagong City Islami Chhatra Sangha and chief of the Chittagong district Razakar forces in 1971. It is alleged in several historical documents, Kasem led the Al Badr force in Chittagong.In the latest development, Kasem filed a nomination paper to contest the ninth parliamentary election from Dhaka-8 constituency only to pull back.The list goes on.Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, senior assistant secretary general of Jamaat, launched himself into the polls foray with a ticket from the four-party alliance in Sherpur-1 constituency. The Jamaat leader has a tainted past with Islami Chhatra Sangha and is blamed for his close links to the Al Badr force."The Chhatra Sangha of Mymensingh district was converted into the Al Badr force and provided with military training. The man responsible for organising the Chhatra Sangha into the Al-Badr was the chief of the Mymensingh district Islami Chhatra Sangha: Kamaruzzaman," Genocide '71 says."Under Kamaruzzaman, the entire body of workers belonging to the Mymensingh district Chhatra Sangha were recruited into the Al Badr within a month. That Kamruzzaman was indeed the man who consolidated this force in its initial stages is obvious from a report that was published on August 16, in the Sangram," the book says.In the early 1990s, a People's Inquiry Commission was formed to investigate the activities of war criminals and collaborators.According to a report by the commission, Jamaat's incumbent central executive committee member Moulana Abdus Sobhan had served the party as its acting chief of Pabna during the Liberation War. He was nominated for the so-called by-election in 1971.With the blessings of the four-party alliance, Sobhan found himself in the ninth parliamentary election, set for December 29.Sobhan was the vice president for Pabna unit of Peace Committee, an organisation of Pakistani collaborators. A field-level investigation revealed that Sobhan had organised the Al Badar and Razakar and had been involved in a series of criminal activities.The dreaded year, 1971, calls to mind the active role of Delwar Hossain Saydee, now a member of Jamaat's central executive committee. Saydee played an active part in organising Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams forces in the southern district of Pirojpur, his stronghold, to assist the Pakistan army in the crackdown on Bangladeshis, says the commission report."Saydee was not associated with any political party in 1971, but conducted his activities in his individual capacity as a 'maulana' or Islamic scholar. There are allegations that he actively helped the Pakistani forces in their campaign of killings, looting, rape, arson, by forming local para-military forces," says the report."During the war, he along with four associates formed an organisation called "Fund of the Five". The principal aim of the organisation was to loot and take over property of freedom fighters and Bangalee Hindus. He used to sell looted property and run a profitable business from the sales proceedings."Saydee, an active player in politics, entered this year's election race, as a candidate from Pirojpur-1 constituency, leveraged by the BNP-led alliance.Abdul Kader Molla, currently a central executive committee member of Jamaat, was known as a "butcher" to Bangladeshis in the Dhaka suburb of Mirpur in 1971, according to the report of the commission headed by the late poet Begum Sufia Kamal."Mirpur at the time (1971) was mainly populated by non-Bengali Muslim migrants from India, many of whom were among the most ardent champions of the Pakistan army's actions in Bangladesh,” says the report.One of the largest mass graves of people butchered by Pakistani troops and their allies was discovered in the Shialbari area of Mirpur after independence.Local people told the commission that Molla was behind the killings of thousands of Bangalees in Shialbari and Rupnagar areas of Mirpur during the war."According to local inhabitants, Molla had begun his killing spree even before the army started its operation", the report says.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Iraqi’s Shoe-Hurling Protest, Arabs Find a Hero

BAGHDAD — Calling someone the “son of a shoe” is one of the worst insults in Iraq. But the lowly shoe and the Iraqi who threw both of his at President Bush, with widely admired aim, were embraced around the Arab world on Monday as symbols of rage at a still unpopular war.
In Saudi Arabia, a newspaper reported that a man had offered $10 million to buy just one of what has almost certainly become the world’s most famous pair of black dress shoes.
A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, reportedly awarded the shoe thrower, Muntader al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, a medal of courage.
In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, people calling for an immediate American withdrawal removed their footwear and placed the shoes and sandals at the end of long poles, waving them high in the air. And in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, people threw their shoes at a passing American convoy.
In street-corner conversations, on television and in Internet chat rooms, the subject of shoes was inescapable throughout much of the Middle East on Monday, as was the defiant act that inspired the interest: a huge and spontaneous eruption of anger at President Bush on Sunday in his final visit here. Some deplored Mr. Zaidi’s act as a breach of respect or of traditional Arab hospitality toward guests, even if they shared the sentiment. (Mr. Bush, having demonstrated his quick reflexes, then brushed it off as an expression of democracy.)
“Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi feelings, which is to object to the American occupation,” said Qutaiba Rajaa, a 58-year-old physician in Samarra, a Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad.
But many more expressed undiluted pleasure. “I swear by God that all Iraqis with their different nationalities are glad about this act,” said Yaareb Yousif Matti, a 45-year-old teacher from Mosul, in northern Iraq.
Mr. Zaidi, who remained in custody Monday, provided a rare moment of unity in a region often at odds with itself. Glee, even if thinly veiled, could be discerned in much of the reporting, especially in places where anti-American sentiment runs deepest.
In Syria, Mr. Zaidi’s picture was shown all day on state television, with Syrians calling in to share their admiration for his gesture and his bravery. In central Damascus, a huge banner hung over a street, reading, “Oh, heroic journalist, thank you so much for what you have done.”
In Lebanon, reactions varied by political affiliation, but curiosity about the episode was universal. An American visitor to a school in Beirut’s southern suburb, where the Shiite militant group Hezbollah is popular, was besieged with questions from teachers and students alike, who wanted to know what Americans thought about the insult.
“It’s the talk of the city,” said Ibrahim Mousawi, a Beirut journalist and political analyst affiliated with Hezbollah. “Everyone is proud of this man, and they’re saying he did it in our name.”
The instantly mythic moment took place Sunday night at a news conference by President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a session meant partly to trumpet recent security gains in Iraq.
As Mr. Bush was speaking, Mr. Zaidi rose abruptly from about 12 feet away, reared his right arm and fired a shoe at the president’s head while shouting in Arabic: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!”
Mr. Bush deftly ducked and the shoe narrowly missed him. A few seconds later, the journalist tossed his other shoe, again with great force, this time shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” Again, the shoe sailed over the president’s head.
Mr. Zaidi was subdued by a fellow journalist and then beaten by members of the prime minister’s security detail, who hauled him out of the room in his white socks. Mr. Zaidi’s cries could be heard from a nearby room as the news conference continued.
A number of Iraqis said they were dismayed by what Mr. Zaidi had done. Ahmad Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening Council in Anbar Province, a group of tribal leaders that started a wave of popular opposition to fighters linked to Al Qaeda, condemned the move.
“The American president is the guest of all Iraqis,” he said. “The Iraqi government has to choose good journalists to attend such conferences.”
Mr. Zaidi, who has not been formally charged, faces up to seven years in prison for committing an act of aggression against a visiting head of state. It was unclear whether his popularity would prompt Mr. Maliki’s government to lighten his punishment.
A statement from Mr. Maliki’s government described the shoe-throwing as a “shameful, savage act that is not related to journalism in any way.” It called on Al Baghdadia, the Cairo-based satellite television network for which Mr. Zaidi works, to publicly apologize.
But as of Monday night, no apology from the network had been forthcoming. Instead, it posted an image of Mr. Zaidi in a corner of the screen for much of the day. When viewers were invited to phone in, the vast majority approved of his actions.
During an interview in Sadr City, a brother of Muntader al-Zaidi’s, Maythem al-Zaidi, 28, said Muntader had been offered representation, free, by more than 100 lawyers from around the world, including one who had represented Saddam Hussein.
He mentioned that his brother had been detained early this year for several hours by the United States military, but he described him as apolitical and said the act had been spontaneous.
“I am proud of my brother,” he said, “as all Iraqis would be.”
But Saif al-Deen, 25, a copy editor at the television network, said Mr. Zaidi had been planning some sort of protest against Mr. Bush for nearly a year.
“I remember at the end of 2007,” Mr. Deen said, “he told me, ‘You will see how I will take revenge on the criminal Bush in my personal way about the crimes that he has committed against innocent Iraqi people.’ ”
Mr. Deen said that he had tried to talk his friend out of doing anything, but that Mr. Zaidi had “insisted he would do it.”
Mr. Zaidi’s hero status continued to grow on Monday.
In Damascus, a 34-year-old shop owner, who gave his name only as Muhammad, said he was on his way to celebrate the shoe-throwing incident with friends.
“This is like a holiday,” he said. “This is just what we needed for revenge.”
Reporting was contributed by Riyadh Mohammed, Atheer Kakan, Suadad al-Salhy, Mudhafer al-Husaini, Alissa J. Rubin and Eric Owles from Baghdad; Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Mosul and Samarra; Robert F. Worth from Beirut, Lebanon; Roula Nasrallah from Damascus, Syria; and Michael Slackman from Cairo.

War Monger Bush

Click on the photos for reading the suppliment

Another war around corner, 37 years after

Call to boycott war criminals through ballots gets louder

Just before the surrender of the Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971, a skirmish breaks out between them and freedom fighters near the then Hotel Continental in Dhaka. Moments later they too surrendered. Two paper cuttings from Bangladesh Observer and daily Azad show reports on the government seeking information about Al-Badr and the government ban on five parties that opposed liberation. Photo: Star File Photo

Julfikar Ali Manik and Emran Hossain writes in THE DAILY STAR
The government of independent Bangladesh in its first decision banned five communal outfits including Jamaat-e-Islami, which not only opposed the nation's independence but also actively helped Pakistani occupation forces commit genocide and other war crimes.Thirty-seven years into independence, those who won freedom of Bangladesh through a nine-month bloody war are waging another fight against the defeated anti-liberation forces in a battle of vote.The leading veterans including the living commanders of the Liberation War have launched a unified battle to wake up people once again to stand against Jamaat and alleged war criminals contesting the national polls.Prior to the celebration of Victory Day today, the sector commanders and other Liberation War forces have already identified 14 candidates as war criminals in the BNP-Jamaat alliance.The banned parties including Jamaat were given the green light to do politics during the rule of late president Ziaur Rahman after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.After victory on December 16, 1971 the first issue of newspapers of the new nation carried the government's decision to ban five communal parties on December 18.The Morning News run the report reading, "The government of the peoples' republic of Bangla Desh has banned four communal parties with immediate effect. These four political parties are Muslim League and all its factions, Pakistan Democratic Party, Nezam-e-Islam and Jamat-e-Islami. In addition to these the government has also banned the Pakistan People's Party. The announcement was made by the Bangla Desh government in a radio broadcast."The Liberation War forces are waging the fight against Jamaat and war criminals as the long-standing demand to restrict participation of war criminals in the polls has failed.A ray of hope, however, shimmers in the dark as the Election Commission for the first time decided to debar war criminals from polls and included a provision in the Representation of People (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008.The provision states: "A person shall be disqualified for election as or for being, a member, if he has been convicted as war criminal by any national or international court or tribunal."But the move to debar war criminals from polls falls flat on its face as the government has not initiated a move to officially identify them.Former army chief Lt Gen (retd) M Harun-ur-Rashid told The Daily Star: "The government has neither initiated any move to identify war criminals nor even informed the Election Commission about them though the government has many old records and documents in this regard.""The Liberation War ministry could have done the job on behalf of the government," added Harun, also coordinator of the Sector Commanders' Forum, which would launch a campaign soon in the constituencies of candidates belonging to anti-liberation forces.Besides conducting door-to-door campaign against war criminals, they will also publish posters and leaflets making voters aware why these elements should not be elected.The leaflets and posters will feature credentials and roles of the respective war criminal candidates during the Liberation War.Committees to resist these elements will also be formed in those constituencies in addition to carrying out regular rallies and processions to be attended by the sector commanders and freedom fighters.Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, a forum for secular Bangladesh and trial of war criminals, will carry out simultaneous campaigns.Acting president of the forum Shahriar Kabir told The Daily Star: "We ran such campaigns ahead of polls in 1996 and 2001 with the slogan 'We want Razakar-free parliament'. We also distributed posters, leaflets and pamphlets containing credentials of war criminals in their respective constituencies during those campaigns."Meanwhile, the Qur'an Sunnah Research Institute, Jhikargachaa, Jessore, and Sachetan Nagorik Samaj have already published posters and leaflets against Jamaat this time.The publication contains some statements of Jamaat founder Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi that appear contradictory to Islam."Had we got expected response from the political parties regarding our appeal of debarring war criminals from polls, the fight need not be launched," Gen Harun said.When the Sector Commanders' Forum moved to hold a dialogue with political parties with the appeal, BNP did not response. The party rather formed an alliance with anti-liberation force Jamaat.Even Jamaat was not supposed to get registration with EC but allowed the registration to bring all parties in polls.Just six days ahead of victory in 1971, incumbent Jamaat Secretary General Ali Hasan Mohammad Mojaheed, who was then president of its student wing Islami Chhatra Shangha, was active to foil the Liberation War.Mojaheed addressed a rally organised by Al Badr on December 10. The Daily Azad covered the rally and reported on December 11: "President of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Shangha Al Mujaheed urged people to deal a deathblow to expansionism of Hindustan. He said, "We cannot accept existence of Hindustan. It has become an indispensable task to eliminate Hindustan for the sake of ensuring security to Pakistan."

Jamaat men's eye camp for freedom fighters!

'Election tactics' in Rajshahi-2 sparks protest

The authorities of Rajshahi Islami Bank Medical College Hospital (IBMCH) dominated by Jamaat people has organised a free eye camp for freedom fighters on the Victory Day today to befool freedom fighters as well as deceive voters. About 200 freedom fighters at a meeting held at Miapara General Library auditorium here Sunday strongly condemned the move saying it was aimed at humiliating freedom fighters.Badiuzzaman Tunu, Bir Protik, chaired the meeting. Speakers said the killers and collaborators of 1971 organised the eye camp with an ulterior motive to create confusion among freedom fighters ahead of general elections. They called upon the voters to vote for Grand Alliance candidate Fazle Hossain Badsha in Rajshahi-2 constituency and its other candidates in other constituencies to thwart the evil design of anti-liberation forces. Among others, Fazle Hossain Badsha, eminent freedom fighters Dr Emdadul Haque, Shafikur Rahman, Motahar Hossain, Hamidul Haque and Malek Chowdhury addressed. Interestingly, the IBMCH advertisement was first published at the highest circulated local Bengali daily Sonali Sangbad owned by Grand Alliance candidate Badsha Later, the advertisement was published on other local newspapers. In the advertisement, IBMCH wished a happy Eid to freedom fighters asking them to enrol themselves for free eye operation at the camp to be held at the hospital. Islami Bank Foundation is financing the camp for welfare of freedom fighters, the advertisement said. 'The eye camp is nothing but an election tactic to distract voters who feel proud of Liberation War', said Mahtab Uddin, a prominent freedom fighter here. 'Jamaat men are fully aware that their existence is at stake', he said. 'So, they have adopted the deceptive tactic to allure voters', he said. 'Those who killed freedom fighters during Liberation War are now showing sympathy to them,' Rajshahi Muktijuddho Pathagar general secretary Dr Sayed Shafikul Alam said. However, the IBMCH authorities said the eye camp has nothing to do with election. Dr Muhammad Jahangir of Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH) Pharmacology Department is conducting the camp, IBMCH sources said. He is also superintendent of IBMCH and is funding election expense of Jamaat candidate Ataur Rahman in Rajshahi-3 constituency. However, Dr Jahangir could not be reached over phone although this correspondent tried in vain to contact him several times. Talking to The Daily Star, IBMCH administrative officer ASM Mamun Shahin said the camp is in no way related to election. Jamaat is supporting BNP nominees in five constituencies here although the party fielded its own candidate besides the BNP candidate at one seat here. When asked about publication of the advertisement on his own newspaper, Badsha said he would inquire into the matter.


Monday, December 15, 2008

An AL candidate's spending spree

Top-Bottom: A slide show being screened for a crowd on the premises of a cold storage in Bagmara as part of the costly election campaign for Enamul Haque in Rajshahi-4 while one of the giant posters displayed by Enamul Haque at a road intersection in Bagmara. Photo: STAR

Exorbitant spending by Awami League candidate millionaire Enamul Haque during his election campaign in Rajshahi-4 (Bagmara) has become a much-talked matter in the constituency. “Enamul is violating the election code of conduct as he is crossing the limit of election expenditure,” said several supporters of Sardar Amjad Hossain, who is contesting as independent candidate after failing to get nomination from Awami League. “I am worried about whether I would be able to survive before Enamul's money,” BNP candidate Abdul Gafur said. Enamul, who stated in his nomination papers that he has wealth worth over Tk 10 crore, employed several hundred workers on daily payment and set up two dozen election offices with multimedia facilities. His speeches are being circulated among people through multimedia projectors and CD players at the election offices. Enamul announced that he would personally arrange Tk 500 monthly allowance for freedom fighters in the constituency, if he is elected. According to his workers, more than one cow is being sacrificed daily for entertaining thousands of visitors to his election offices and money is being distributed quite openly at his meetings. T-shirts with labels of his business institutions are also being distributed among voters. "Haven't you taken your money yet? Go and take it… I came in the morning leaving my work in the field; I got Tk 200 and a packet of food. I took another packet for my family,” said Hasan Ali, a farmer of Bagmara. Hasan Ali is one of over one thousand people who gathered on the premises of Enamul's cold storage on Saturday and yesterday, knowing well that none of them will go empty handed, locals said. “I must vote for Enamul as he is feeding us daily,” said Biswa, a poor resident of Bagmara.Unlike Biswa, there was Mahmud who said, “It is true that I am now taking Enamul's money. But I will consider later whom to vote.”


Violation of the RPO

T-shirts inscribed with 'Saleha-Imarat', a real estate company of Enamul Haque, a grand alliance candidate in Rajshahi-4 , were distributed on Saturday at Bhabaniganj in the district in violation of the RPO. Photo: STAR

Big boost for Badsha

Freedom fighters, mayor and professional bodies seek vote for him

Grand alliance candidate Workers Party leader Fazle Hossain Badsha campaigning at Shaheb Bazar in Rajshahi city yesterday. Awami Leage leader and RCC Mayor Khairuzzaman is also with him. Photo: STAR
Freedom fighters, professional bodies and cultural activists at different meetings yesterday in Rajshahi city sought vote for grand alliance candidate Fazle Hossain Badsha in Rajshahi-2 constituency in the upcoming parliamentary election.On the other hand, Rajshahi City Corporation Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and grand alliance candidate Badsha jointly launched election campaign in the city and sought vote for Badsha.They also went from door to door, business centres, houses and different areas in Rajshahi city and appealed for vote in favour of Badsha.Freedom fighters of Rajshahi yesterday held a meeting at Public Library auditorium and extended their support to grand alliance candidate Badsha.Badsha was present as the chief guest while freedom fighter Bodiuzzaman Tunu Bir Protik presided over the meeting.The freedom fighters alleged that former four party alliance government patronised war criminals, did not bring them to trial and rehabilitated them.A huge number of freedom fighters and progressive minded people were tortured and attacked during the BNP-Jamaat government's tenure, they also alleged.'It is high time to establish spirit of the liberation war in the country by electing pro- liberation candidate in the upcoming election', the freedom fighters said.The freedom fighters urged people from all strata to work together for the grand alliance candidate and sought vote for Badsha.Badsha called upon the common people in Rajshahi to boycott war criminals, black money holders and terrorists to establish real democracy in the country.Sammilito Sangskritik Jote (SSJ), Rajshahi unit yesterday held another meeting at Muktijodha Pathagar and extended their support to Badsha.Eminent litterateur Prof Hassan Azizul Haque, former Rajshahi University vice chancellor Prof Abdul Khaleque, former Kushtia University VC Prof Kayes Uddin, language movement veteran Golam Arif Tipu, Mosharraf Hossain, economist Prof Sanat Kumar Saha, advocate Zillur Rahman, engineer Tajul Islam, SSJ president Abul Hossain and general secretary Dr Sayed Shafiqul Alam also addressed the meeting.Earlier, SSJ brought out a condolence procession led by RCC Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton in the city.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rajshahi AL finally extends support to Badsha

But over 100 of his party men join BNP

Grand alliance nominee Fazle Hossain Badsha receiving a 'boat' as polls symbol at a campaign meeting at Rajshahi Zila Parishad auditorium yesterday. Photo: STAR
Rajshahi Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and local Awami League (AL) have finally extended their support to grand alliance candidate Fazle Hossain Badsha in Rajshahi-2 constituency in the upcoming parliamentary election. However, frustration of Badsha, also a Politburo member of Workers' Party, is still to end as he is facing opposition from a group in his own party.
Over 100 leaders and activists of Workers Party (WP) and its youth front Jubo Moitree (JM) left the parties and joined BNP yesterday to strengthen hands of Badsha's rival BNP candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu.
Liton, also chief coordinator of Rajshahi unit of grand alliance, at a meeting of alliance's workers yesterday, introduced Badsha as an alliance candidate. The meeting was held at Rajshahi Zilla Parishad auditorium.Liton asked all party-men to dedicate them to ensure his victory in the election forgetting the 'bitter past' as he (Badsha) termed the election as a 'war against fanaticism, communalism and corruption'.
But Badsha had to say 'sorry' for his alleged role against Liton during the August 4 Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) polls. Pressurised by Awami League (AL) high command, local AL held a six-hour extended meeting of party workers at Rajshahi city AL office Friday evening. AL workers at the meeting demanded of Badsha to say 'sorry' for not taking part in Liton's election campaign in RCC polls and telling his party men not to vote for Liton, meeting sources said. Later at around 9pm, Liton and Badsha arrived at the meeting. As Badsha said 'sorry' at the meeting, Liton asked party men to make sure Badsha's victory. Earlier in the morning, about 105 leaders and activists of WP and JM joined BNP at BNP candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu's election office at Sona Dighi crossing. Minu welcomed the group led by former Jubo Moitree president Mahfujul Hasnain Hikol. The 105 activists are among 300 who resigned from their parties in September protesting what they called 'wrong decisions' of senior leaders during August 4 RCC polls. Meanwhile, Rajshahi city WP general secretary Liakat Ali said that the renegades were expelled from the parties many times earlier for anti-party activities.

Election Campaign in Districts

Clockwise: Four-party candidate Enamul Haque conducting mass contact in Rajshahi-1, grand alliance nominee Omar Faruq Chowdhury campaigning in the same constituency, alliance nominee Iqbalur Rahim leading a procession in Dinajpur-3, and supporters propagating for four-party nominee Shamsul Alam in Chittagong yesterday. Photo: STAR