Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rajshahi govt college campus off limits to females after 4pm


Friday, August 29, 2008

Militant kingpin Galib freed on bail

Asadullah Al Galib, chief of Islamist militant outfit Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh (Ahab), was freed on bail yesterday from Bogra Jail.

The High Court (HC) granted him bail in two cases as the trials could not be held within the time set by the HC six months ago.

Since his arrest on February 23, 2005, a total of ten cases were filed against the militant kingpin and a close ally of executed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) chief Shayekh Abdur Rahman.

However, during the then BNP-Jamaat alliance government, Galib was relieved of charges in six of the cases and was granted bail in another case.

On July 26, during the term of the present government, a Gaibandha court declared him not guilty in an explosives case.

Six months back, the HC ordered that Galib would be awarded bail in two other cases (one for explosions in Shahjahanpur and the other for murdering a person in the explosions) unless the trial of the murder case is completed within three months and the trial of the explosion case in six months.

Galib was released on bail at around 5:30pm yesterday following the HC order as both the trials could not be held in time.

In 1978, Galib formed Ahab's youth wing Ahle Hadith Jubo Shangha (AHJS), said AHJS workers.

While forming the AHJS, Galib argued that they needed to engage in Jihad against Islamic fallacies including the mazar culture to bring an Islamic rule in the country.

Galib received funds from the Middle East through an Indian Islamist leader named Moulana Abdul Matin Salafi. In 1988 the Ershad government expelled Salafi, who had been working as a Muballig (religious preacher), for anti-state activities. Abdul Matin Salafi sent huge funds to Galib from Saudi Arabia, sources said.

The mainstream organisation Ahab was formed in late 1994.

With Galib's help and funds from Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), the JMB militants used 700 mosques across the country. The bank accounts of RIHS in Pakistan were seized after the 9/11 incident.

Galib toured Afghanistan, India and Pakistan with fake travel documents. He had close relations with Islamist militants in Kashmir. He visited India in 1998 with a business passport.

Police and intelligence sources said Ahab is just a cover-up of the JMB and most of the Ahab members are involved in JMB activities.

Militants arrested in Thakurgaon, Joypurhat, Bogra and Natore told police that Galib was their leader and he used to meet with them at Ahle Hadith mosques.

JMB chief Rahman and Ahab Amir Galib were well-known to each other. Rahman studied at Madina University in Saudi Arabia on Galib's recommendation and after completing his course, he joined with Galib.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Galib may be freed in a few days; Bogra court grants bail in Shahjahanpur jatra bombing case as per an earlier HC order

Spiritual leader of Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) Dr Asadullah Al Galib may be freed in a few days.

Galib, Arabic teacher at Rajshahi University and also chief of Ahle Hadith, Bangladesh (Ahab), was granted bail by Bogra Session Judge's court in Shahjahanpur theatre (jatra) bombing case in pursuance of an earlier conditional bail by the High Court. Now there is virtually no legal barrier in his release, said his lawyers.

His release would take a few days more as there were two warrants for producing him before courts in under-trial cases, they said adding that recalling warrants are a matter of time.

Out of total nine cases filed against him by the state since his arrest, he was acquitted in one case while final reports were given in five cases, relieving him of charges. He was granted bail by High Court in three other cases.

However, acquitting Galib in Polashbari jatra blast case in Gaibandha, the judge had said, the prosecution failed to prove charges against him.

Final reports in the five cases against Galib were given at the fag wend of BNP-Jamaat coalition government.

The cases include Brac and Grameen Bank office robbery cases in Kotalipara of Gopalganj, Govindaganj of Gaibandha, Ullapara of Shirajganj, Porsha of Naogaon districts and Khejur Ali murder case in Raninagar of Naogaon district.

Among the three cases still under trial in Bogra, Galib was granted bail by High Court in Gabtali blast case before the present caretaker government assumed power.

Six months ago, the High Court ordered Galib's bail in two other cases (one for Shahjahanpur blasts and another filed death of a person in the blast) on condition that trial of the murder case should be completed in three months and that of explosion case in six months.

As the trials could not be held in time, Galib was granted bail following a HC order.

After yesterday's bail, Ahab leaders said Galib was being harassed by the government in false cases.

Galib was arrested in February 2005 from Nawdapara in Rajshahi city after JMB leaders arrested earlier named Galib to be their spiritual leader.

Law enforcers also seized a huge quantity of documents including audio cassettes of Galib's Jihadi speeches during his arrest.

Intelligence agencies were reporting on Galib's underground activities since 1997, but bigwigs in both Awami League and BNP-Jamaat governments protected him. Rajshahi Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu have a certificate in 2004 that he was not engaged in militancy.

Galib's name came in 2000 when militant organization 'Qital Fee Sabilillah' circulated leaflets terming Ahab to be their ally.

He was blamed for maintaining relations with overseas militants and abetting local militants under cover of Ahab and his AL Markajul Islami Salafia Madrassah.

Intelligence sources said Galib started receiving foreign funds through an Indian Islamist leader named Moulana Abdul Matin Salafi who was expelled from Bangladesh in 1988 for anti-state activities.

In mid 90s, JMB was formed headed by Shayakh Abdur Rahman. With Galib's help, Rahman's JMB militants used facilities of some 700 mosques built across the country by the RIHS.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Upazila polls may trigger intra-party feud in AL, BNP


Leaders of Awami league and BNP in Rajshahi are worried that they may face a 'risk of impending intra-party rift' by approving candidature of party men in the planned upazila election.

They apprehend that grassroots leaders who will not get party nod in upazila elections may work against them in general election.

The situation is worst for BNP. Party leaders in many northern districts are already witnessing splits in the party while the gap between BNP and its ally Jamaat is widening.

"We are against holding of upazila election before national polls as it will create manifold problems in country's politics that is already in crisis", said Azizur Rahman, president of Rajshahi BNP.

He, however, admitted that many BNP leaders have expressed opinions for contesting the upazila election. "They are taking their own decisions as we are against the polls".

Some Awami League bigwigs said, rift in the party has already started surfacing as a number of grassroots leaders are showing up to contest for posts of upaizla chairmen. The aspirants are also facing obstacles.

On Saturday night, Abdul Latif, a chairman aspirant in Durgapur upazila in Rajshahi lodged a complaint with Puthia police station that district Awami League president Tajul Islam M Faruk and his cohorts threatened to kill him.

Latif of Hoja Anantapur village wrote in his complaint that Tajul's men were threatening him since he started campaign for upazila election following support of grassroots leaders.

"I am feeling insecure as Tajul's cadres threatened me with death on August 20. His cadres had attempted on my life in 1998 after giving threats", he said in the compliant.

Three other accused in the complain are Tajul's brother Anisur Rahman, Durgapur upazila Awami League president Nazrul Islam and his close aide Tofazzal Hossain.

Reacting to the complaint, Tajul said, "How Latif, being a listed terrorist, was allowed into the police station for lodging complain?.

"Such embarrassment like the one created by Latif will surely hamper our image ahead of parliamentary election", Tajul said.

Ahsanul Haque Masud, former central vice-president of Bangladesh Chhatra League and a probable chairman candidate in Puthia upazila echoed Tajul's sentiment.

He said, leaders who are likely to contest in parliamentary polls are already in a dilemma in choosing party men for contesting for the post of upazila chairman.

Mozaharul Islam, former vice-president of Chowgram union BNP in Shingra upazila in Natore district said, district leaders who are likely to contest in parliamentary polls are not intervening into upazila election affairs.

"They are giving assurances to all aspirants in planned upazila election", he said. Many leaders are avoiding workers in the unhealthy political scenario, he added.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Move to regularise 72 RCC staff sparks controversy

A fresh controversy is racking Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) as the corporation authorities are getting ready to give permanent appointments to 72 temporary staff just ahead of the new mayor-elect's induction to the office.

The temporary staff had allegedly been hired on political consideration during the tenure of former mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, a BNP leader currently in jail on charges of corruption.

RCC Mayor-elect AHM Khairuzzaman Liton is scheduled for taking the oath of office on August 29, and the recruitment move just before his induction has given rise to some questions in the city.

RCC officials said current Acting Mayor Rezaunnabi Dudu, who also claims to be a member of BNP, has been pressuring them to complete the recruitment process 'in a hurry'.

Liton, who won the recent mayoral election with an Awami League ticket, condemned the move and termed it a part of RCC authorities' 'recruitment business'. He already complained to the LGRD ministry about the matter and urged the authority concerned to take immediate measures for stopping the process of permanent recruitment.

The staff selected for permanent recruitment are two deputy tax officers, 18 lower level clerks, 13 tax collectors, 27 health assistants, four pump operators, four chauffeurs, one MLSS, one work assistant, one imam, and one tube-well installer.

Sources said Minu recruited around 500 temporary staff without any test in 2004, although he had put out an advertisement in the media for the recruitment.

Dudu, who had been the councillor of ward no 9 before becoming the acting RCC mayor a year and a half ago, identified some 300 staff as unnecessary.

He told reporters during a meeting about the corporation's budget in June that 500 temporary staff would be dismissed in July due to a budget deficit of Tk 17 crore, which in his words 'had been incurred due to unnecessary recruitment and corruption that had been plaguing the city corporation'.

Dudu also observed at the time that those staff 'do no work but take part in BNP and Jamaat events'.

But he however did not dismiss any of the staff till the August 4 mayoral election, in which he also was a candidate.

In an abrupt reversal of position after the election, the acting mayor is now hurrying to make permanent the 72 temporary staff, and also sent a letter to the LGRD ministry for sending a representative to the RCC recruitment board.

Meanwhile, Mayor-elect AHM Khairuzzaman Liton announced that he will dismiss political cadres and unnecessary staff who were appointed by Minu.

"The corporation is already suffering from a fund crisis and it has become difficult to pay even the salaries of regular staff. Under the circumstances when the authorities were planning to downsize, the sudden fresh move for permanent recruitment has utterly disappointed us," said a senior RCC official.

He also said the mayor-elect also requested the acting mayor and the staff to handle only the day to day affairs until his induction to the office.

"The move is a conspiracy. A certain quarter is trying to make things difficult for me ahead of my induction to the office. At the same time, some are planning to make some quick bucks from the recruitment process," Liton told The Daily Star.

When contacted, Acting RCC Mayor Rezaunnabi Dudu said, he initiated the process of making temporary staff permanent as he has 'a responsibility for them'. "Their permanent recruitment has been stalling for the last several years," he said.

Asked about his sudden 180 degree turn on the matter, he said, "The process was scheduled to begin before the election, but it was delayed due to the polls."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rebelling Liton in Mayoral Polls: Rajshahi city AL expels Dulu, Labu

Rajshahi City Awami League last night expelled two of its front ranking leaders including its president Masudul Haque Dulu for contesting in the August 4 city corporation election against party leader AHM Khairuzzaman Liton. Liton was elected mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation.

The city AL unit in its executive committee meeting also expelled vice-president of the city unit Mostaque Ahmed Labu, Dulu's close associate.

The expulsion orders would be sent to AL central committee for its approval, said meeting sources.

Twelve other Dulu's men including three city AL vice- presidents were also asked to explain why they would not be expelled from the party for 'breaking party rules'.

The vice presidents are Bazlar Rahman, Mir Iqbal Hossain and Tabibur Rahman Sheikh.

The other leaders are Shamsur Rahman, Mir Abul Kalam Azad, Khairul Bashar, Salauddin Raju, Menajjul Hossain, Mansur Zaman, Khairul Kabir, Wares Ali and Saiful Islam.

They were asked to show cause within seven days.

The decisions were taken unanimously at the executive committee meeting that was presided over by the unit's vice president Rafik Uddin, said city AL acting general secretary Shafikur Rahman Badsha.

Among the 71 members of the committee, 56 were present in the meeting, the sources said.

Badsha told newsmen that the actions came mainly as Dulu contested in the mayoral election against his party man while others assisted him in election campaign, defying the city AL unit's approval of AHM Khairuzzman candidature.

They are also blamed for violating many other party decisions and for inaction in party activities in the past, he said.

Before the decisions, Dulu and Labu were asked to show cause on August 10.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Editorial: How do we get over this clannish hysteria?

WHEN the backlash to a trivial matter has such upshots as injuring 60 people, damaging private and public property, shutting down traffic and closing of a university sine die then there must be something seriously wrong with our collective psyche. We have the discomfiture for the umpteenth time to comment on a series of errant outbursts, this time originating in a coach conductor's ham-handed treatment to a student of Rajshahi University.

The student was allegedly forced out of a Dhaka-bound bus for demanding a seat he has paid for. The behaviour of the bus conductor was reprehensible calling for disciplinary action, no doubt. What should have been the normal option for the student to exercise was to approach the coach authority to lodge a formal complaint with, ask for refund of the fare and furthermore demand compensation for the journey missed. Instead, he reported the incident to his fellow students which had the effect of agitating them to attack Rajshahi-Dhaka bus ticket booth at Binodhpur Bazar. This in turn triggered a retaliatory strike by the workers of transport services and other local businesses.

At each point of the way there was a trouble-shooting potential to calm the agitating students and the workers. Just as the university authorities, if they were agile and serious enough, could effectively persuade the students to keep their cool on an assurance of taking up the matter with the coach authorities so also the latter should have intervened with their workers making sure that they didn't take the law into their own hands.

We attribute the creation of the law and order situation to the manifest sense of irresponsibility on the part of the students, the mindless behaviour of the workers and their employers and the combined failure of the university authorities and the local administration to get a move on timely. Let the inquiry instituted be not a barren exercise in blame-trading; something should come out of it as a preventive recipe.

The paramount question that we must find an answer to is: Why can't we rise above petty-fogging and clannish mentality in dealing with things that can be perfectly soberly handled with a positive and constructive attitude. If we can't do it, clannish reprisals will make the society descend into total anarchy. The sociologists and community leaders must put their heads together to find a solution out of this vicious circle.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Aug 21 attacks: Missing masterminds mock probes, charge sheets

The masterminds behind assassination attempt on Awami League (AL) chief Sheikh Hasina on August 21, 2004 remain undetected even after charges have been pressed in two cases filed in this connection.

The government investigators believe although 22 people are charge-sheeted, the key planners of the grisly grenade attack are still untraced.

"The gravity of the attack indicates it was not possible to be carried out without backing of any influential group or some most powerful people. But we don't see any such findings," says an investigator who was assigned soon after the attack and discharged the duty for quite a long time.

Referring to charge-sheeted accused BNP leader and former deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu and Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji) top leader Mufti Abdul Hannan, another former investigator says though it's convincing that Huji was involved, they could not trace those who were behind Pintu and Hannan to carry out such a well-planned attack.

"It's not possible to reveal the mysteries of an unreachable place. I've submitted my investigation report on the area within my reach. If I could go further, more mysteries of the attack might have been revealed," current investigation officer (IO) of the cases CID Assistant Superintendent Fazlul Kabir told The Daily Star.

RU closed after violent clashes

Rajshahi University (RU) was closed for an indefinite period yesterday following violent clashes that erupted the night before between students and local businesspeople.

The RU authorities asked resident students to vacate all of the 16 dormitories by 12:00 noon yesterday.

At least 60 people including teachers, students and police personnel were injured and six off-campus stores vandalised during the clashes. Out of the seriously injured, mostly students, 20 were admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital while the rest were given first aid at RU Medical Centre.

Bangladesh Rifles and Rapid Action Battalion were deployed on the campus at around 2:00am to contain the situation.

The RU syndicate in an emergency meeting held later in the morning at the vice chancellor's (VC) residence decided to close the university sine die.

Prof Mamnunul Keramat, the acting VC, said the decision was taken to avoid further casualties or damage to properties. "Academic activates will resume as soon as possible," he added.

Many students had to start vacating their dorms as early as 2:30 in the morning when senior teachers following a meeting with law enforcement agencies informed them that the RU authorities had decided to close the university.

RU Proctor Enamul Haque, Assistant Proctor Abdul Haque, Student Adviser Faridul Islam, Prothom Alo photojournalist Azahar Uddin were also injured in the clashes

The students were infuriated with transport service operators at around 8.30pm on Tuesday as one of their fellow students was allegedly forced out of a Dhaka-bound bus, said sources.

The student, Humayun Kabir, said even though he had paid Tk 250 for the trip, the bus crew refused to ensure his designated seat. As he insisted on getting a seat, he was forced off the bus near Natore -- 45km away from Rajshahi.

Kabir's fellow RU students were agitated when he returned to Rajshahi and told them about his ordeal. A large number of students then attacked a Rajshahi-Dhaka bus ticket booth at Binodpur Bazar, triggering workers of transport services and other local businesses to retaliate.

Chase and counter chase continued for hours when a number of students pelted stones at the VC's residence and the locals assaulted the proctor.

Vehicular movement on Dhaka-Rajshahi highway came to a halt as both the clashing groups barricaded the highway.

At one stage, as Shah Mokhdum and Sher-e Bangla halls and the residences of hall provosts came under attack of outsiders, police fired blank shots and lobbed tear gas shells to get the situations under control, said Mahbubur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police.

No one was arrested till filing of this report.

Meanwhile, AHM Khairuzzman Liton, the mayor-elect of Rajshahi City Corporation, blamed the RU authorities for not taking necessary steps to avert the incident that ensued over a trivial matter.

He also urged the authorities concerned to investigate into the matter and take stern action against responsible persons.

The RU syndicate yesterday formed a seven-member committee headed by Prof Dr Delwar Hossain of Applied Physics Department to probe into the incident.

Other members of the committee are Prof Entajul Haque, syndicate member

Siddik Hossain, Dean of Social Sciences Faculty Prof Sadekul Islam, former

RU proctor Prof Shamsul Alam Sarker, Prof Abdul Latif and Shahabuddin Sarker.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rajshahi University closes sine die; Students to vacate halls by this noon

Rajshahi University has been closed sine die following clashes overnight between students and traders at Binodpur area adjacent to the campus.
The authority asked residential students to vacate all their halls in the campus within 12pm. Meanwhile, the students started leaving halls from the midnight when senior RU officio informed of an indefinite closure of the university.
The university high ups in a meeting with local administration opined for the closure in the midnight. Later in the morning, the RU syndicate took the decision formally in a brief emergency meeting in the morning.
The clashes erupted following cheating of a student by businessmen Tuesday afternoon and the melee left around 100 persons hurt, three shops torched, and five others damaged. Attacks were launched at the residence of acting RU vice chancellor Prof Mamnunul Keramat and Shah Makhdum and Sher-e Bangla halls during violence.

Millers in 22 dists threaten to stop rice supply to govt

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Split in Rajshahi AL surfaces: Liton loyalists demand expulsion of Tajul followers fo r violating party decision in city corporation polls

After the victory in Rajshahi mayoral elections, the feud in Rajshahi Awami has come into the open while some bigwigs in the local committees are publicly saying about change in the leadership to 'ensure victory in next polls'.

The split will certainly affect the party's vote bank in next upazila and parliamentary polls, a number of party insiders told this correspondent. The party's fate in the two elections will be uncertain without changes in leadership, they added.

The difference between the groups loyal to city AL general secretary AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and district AL president Tajul Islam M Faruk surfaced during campaign for the August 4 city corporation polls when Tajul backed the 'rebel candidate' and city AL president Masudul Haque Dulu instead of Liton.

After Liton won the polls, the split became quite open as grassroots leaders and workers loyal to him demanded action against those who worked against him (Liton) defying party decision.

At two meetings of Liton loyalists held on August 8 and 10 in the city, party leaders and workers identified Tajul, Dulu, city AL vice-presidents Mir Iqbal, Bazlar Rahman, Tabibur Rahman and Mostak Ahmed Labu as 'violators' of the party's decision as regards the mayoral polls.

They demanded expulsion of those leaders branding them 'unnecessary' and 'conspirators'.

Senior AL leaders including Sardar Amjad Hossain and AL adviser Prof Abdul Khaleque expressed solidarity with the grassroots claim and said those who conspired against AL should be identified and brought to book.

After the meetings, acting city AL general Secretary Shafikur Rahman Badsha told newsmen, "A recommendation for expulsion of conspirators inside the party will be sent soon to Dhaka for approval".

He said, a change in the leadership may occur any time as the demand is growing from inside the party.

He said the 'rebel' candidate and his men spoiled over 5000 votes though Liton won the election.

On the other hand, feeling somehow cornered, Tajul blamed Liton and district AL general secretary Omar Faruk Chowdhury for 'creating intra-party rivalry'.

At a press conference on August 10, he claimed that he did not work for or against any one in the city corporation polls and so the demand for his expulsion for working against party's candidate is illogical.

He also blamed Omar Faruk for using influence of Liton against him.

The feud between Liton and Tajul began years ago over establishing supremacy in leadership.

Tajul blamed Liton and Omar Faruk for working against him in January 22, 2007 general election in Rajshahi-4 (Puthia-Durgapur). The election was cancelled later.

Party sources claimed that there were two other reasons behind the rivalry between Liton and Tajul. These are murder attempt on Tajul on February 2004 at Bagha and false case against his son-in-law and journalist Jahangir Alam Aakash.

"For these very reasons, I did not work for Liton or any one else in last poll", Tajul said while talking to this correspondent.

Liton said, "I have no personal enmity with him (Tajul). He took me as a rival when I was trying to organise the party in BNP-Jamaat dominated areas in different upazilas",

Some Liton loyalists claimed that Tajul's men have no support among grassroots workers, which was proved in the last city corporation polls.

However, Tajul's supporters claimed that presence of presidents and secretaries of 15 upazila committees out of 18 in the district in a post-election party meeting called by them proves that they enjoy majority support.

Liton's supporters brushed aside the claim, saying those who showed up at Tajul's meeting are members of his pocket committees.

Party insiders however think the crisis in the party started since Tajul and Omar Faruk was elected district AL president and secretary respectively in September 2005.

Although Tajul and Omar Faruk were responsible for forming district and upazila committees within three weeks, they could not do it so far except some pocket committees formed by Tajul, they said.

Prof Yunus Murder: Charge framing against 8 JMB men deferred for third time


US envoy on Elections under emergency; Criminalisation of politics still prevails: Shujan; NBR, cops asked to check vital records of winners in Aug 4 polls

Says US envoy

US Ambassador James F Moriarty yesterday said elections under the state of emergency would not be "that much acceptable" as expected.

The envoy made the remark while talking to reporters after addressing the inaugural ceremony of a joint medical exercise styled "Medical and Dental Civic Action Programme -2008" in the district.

He also expressed his hope that the Election Commission would be able to hold the elections in line with its roadmap.

"The US stands ready to assist Bangladesh in facilitating democratic governance, prosperity and stability," he said.

Shujan says in Aug 4 polls analysis

Easy victory of the candidates, allegedly involved in corruption and crimes, in the August 4 local body polls proves that the country has not got rid of political criminalisation, said Shushashoner Janney Nagorik (Shujan).

Political parties are yet to act against political criminalisation while a 'feudal mentality' among voters still persists, said a report prepared by Shujan on the basis of the recent city corporation and municipality polls.

The voters considers partisan loyalty not honesty or competency of a candidate while casting votes, said the report presented by Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder at the National Press Club yesterday.

The Election Commission (EC) yesterday asked the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and police department to check income tax returns, wealth statements and police records of those elected in the August 4 polls.

The documents submitted to the commission before the elections were sent to the NBR and the office of inspector general of police (IGP) yesterday afternoon, EC Secretariat sources said.

Earlier on August 4, the EC decided to investigate allegations that some of the officials-elect had turned in false or incomplete information.

Monday, August 18, 2008

RCC polls engineered: Alleges BNP-backed candidate Bulbul

Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, the defeated BNP-backed mayoral candidate in the Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) election, yesterday alleged that the August 4 RCC polls were engineered on a large scale.

Bulbul, also the president of Rajshahi city unit Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, demanded removal of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda at a press conference at the Shalbagan BNP office in the city.

No election in the future can be free and fair under the present CEC, said Bulbul, who rejected the polls result yesterday. Earlier, he conceded defeat to other mayoral candidate and Awami League leader AHM Khairuzzaman Liton on August 5.

He, however, told newsmen that he would not challenge the election results in any electoral tribunal.

"We have already welcomed the mayor-elect. But we are now questioning the electoral process as no election in the future will be free and fair if this flawed process is followed," said Bulbul.

He alleged that many of his polling agents were not allowed to enter the polling centres while some of them were driven out during voting.

Showing a ballot paper bearing a seal on his name, Bulbul said it was found at the Seroil Colony vote centre.

"Many such ballot papers were found scattered on streets the next day of the election," he said.

Bulbul said he was defeated in the RCC polls due to opposition to his candidacy from central BNP.

"Besides, the local Jamaat leaders extended their support to me at the eleventh hour," he added.

District BNP president Azizur Rahman, organising secretary Alauddin Ahmed, former city BNP vice president Ekhlak Hossain and Boalia thana BNP president Saidur Rahman, among others, were present.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Liton Hurt In Road Accident: Attempt to murder case filed

An 'attempt to murder' case was filed with Puthia Police Station yesterday in connection with a head-on collision between a truck and a car that left five people, including Rajshahi Mayor-elect AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, injured on Wednesday.

Abdus Sattar, president of Baneswar union Awami League, lodged the case accusing unknown persons as witnesses' accounts of the accident suggest an attempt to murder.

The plaintiff in his case said that the accident was preplanned with an aim to kill the mayor-elect.

Liotn's companion Abdul Awal told reporters that their car was moving slowly when the accident occurred.

Car driver Rezaul Islam said, "The truck was standing on the road but it suddenly started rolling towards us. When I realised that it is going to hit us, it was too late." He is now undergoing treatment at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.

Officer-in-charge of Puthia Police Station said they launched an investigation into the case. The truck belongs to Dhiraj Uddin of Iswardi in Pabna and its driver also hails from Iswardi, he added.

The accident took place on Rajshahi-Dhaka highway on Wednesday afternoon when the mayor-elect was going to Tungipara to visit the grave of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Acting Rajshahi Mayor Rezaunnabi Dudu and Workers' Party leader Fazle Hossain Badsha visited injured Liton at his home yesterday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rajshahi Mayor-elect hurt in car crash

Rajshahi Mayor-elect hurt in car crash at Puthia on August 13 afternoon. Read the news...

Rajshahi mayor-elect visits den of militant kingpin

Front Page

Even before taking oath, Rajshahi mayor-elect and Awami League leader AHM Khairuzzaman Liton has drawn considerable controversy for his activities like visiting the den of militant-kingpin Asadullah Al Galib.

Referring to the visit, even his party men say he bagged votes from many of Galib's followers.

They add Liton during campaign avoided clearing his stance on militancy fearing impact on his vote tally and now made the visit.

He visited central offices of Galib's outfit Ahle Hadith Andolon, Bangladesh (Ahab), its youth front Ahle Hadith Jubo Sangha (AHJS) and Ahab-run Al Markajul Islami As-Salafi Madrasa in Nawdapara on Sunday and was accorded a reception.

An AHJS press release says Liton in his speech observed that Ahab and AHJS [suspected militant outfits] leaders and workers faced atrocities during BNP-Jamaat rule as Galib and his men were detained over "false" accusation.

The release also claims Liton demanded Galib's release as none of the cases against him was proved.

Acting Ahab Ameer Shayekh Abdus Samad Salafi chaired the reception. Ahab Organising Secretary and AHJS Central President ASM Azizullah were present.

Salafi and Azizullah were arrested with Ahab chief Galib in February in 2005 on charge of scheming militancy and the outfit's connections with different international militant outfits.

Among others, councillor-elect Shahadat Hossain Sahu, Ahab-run monthly At Tahreek editor Dr Muhammad Shakhawat Hussain and Rajshahi Ahab chief Abul Kalam Azad were present during the reception.

Some arrested militants of the outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) across the country have named Galib as their supreme leader.

"He [Liton] has now become mayor of all citizens and so he can look after everyone's well-being. But the news is alarming if the mayor's relation with militant outfits is deep," said Rajshahi district Awami League chief Tajul Islam M Faruk.

"We wanted a clear stance regarding militancy from the mayor hopefuls before the election. As none of them gave us [voters] their opinion, they are now taking the opportunity," said Abdul Bari, a voter and victim of JMB torture.

Liton also drew flak from party men for visiting the house of Rafi-us Shams, a former general secretary of Rajshahi District Sports Association on August 6. Shams is an accused in a graft case for misappropriation of around Tk 22 lakh from the association fund.

Many of party insiders also question his personal visit to Dhaka on Monday using a microbus provided by Rajshahi road transport owners group.

Talking to The Daily Star, Liton denied Ahab claim of his demanding Galib's release and refuted other allegations.

"Why should I want his release when he is being tried for militancy?" he said. "I went to visit the madrasa, not Galib's den."

"Besides, no-one can be called guilty unless judgement is delivered by a court... our chief Sheikh Hasina is also accused in a case; will I stay away from her?" he said on his visit to Shams' house.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mayor-elect Liton draws flak from party men

Rajshahi mayor-elect AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, an Awami League leader, drew flak from his party men at a reception in the city yesterday evening as he said he was mayor of all and wanted to serve all citizens irrespective of political ideologies.After election on Wednesday, Liton told the media that he wanted to rise above his political identity, remove politicisation of the city corporation administration and serve all citizens alike.Retorting to his remarks, central Awami League adviser Prof Abdul Khaleque said at the reception yesterday, “Winning the election with Awami League support, Liton should not be courageous enough to say about rising above party politics”.Prof Khaleque, also a former vice-chancellor of Rajshahi University, said, “Liton once told me you are in the chair (of vice chancellor) as Awami League is in power. In the same way, I want to remind him that he won the election on Awami League support”.In reply, Liton however said he would never forget contributions of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his father and national leader AHM Quamaruzzaman and Awami league.“My political ideologies are in my blood. I can't forget it even if I am to step down”.“But, I got vote of all people. I bagged 98,360 votes against an Awami League vote bank of some 55,000. I must honour the rest voters who have reposed their confidence on me”, Liton said.Rajshahi District Awami League general secretary Omar Faruk Chowdhury chaired the reception meeting held at Rajshahi Nagorik Committee office where former minister Sarder Amzad Hossain was present, among others.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rajshahi mayor-elect vows to probe Minu's 'graft'

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Party's image, split down BNP candidate


AHM Khairuzzaman Liton sailed through the race on the back of the BNP's image crisis and a congealed pro-liberation force to fend off Jamaat that backed BNP candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul at the last moment.

The AL victory in the BNP-Jamaat stronghold is first in the last 35 years after Liton's father and national leader AHM Quamaruzzaman was elected in the 1973 parliament elections.

The election results show despite rivalry in the AL-led 14-party combine over nominations, Jamaat support for BNP is not always effective.

Meanwhile, in a rare democratic stance after the election results, AHM Khairuzzaman rushed to his nearest competitor BNP's Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, who also readily accepted the defeat.

"I was fresh in the race... In fact, the central BNP was boycotting the polls. None of the senior leaders helped me," Bulbul was describing the reason behind his defeat after admitting it before The Daily Star.

"Many of our party opposed my candidature. That is why you haven't seen even former lawmaker Kabir Hossain [from local BNP] in any of my campaigns when senior Awami League leaders like Motia Chowdhury, Tofail Ahmed worked for Liton."

"Jamaat extended its support, although at the eleventh hour; but my own party men didn't help me that much," Bulbul pointed out.

"We'll announce our formal reaction to the election results tomorrow [Wednesday] after we have an internal meeting tonight," he said.

Many BNP men say they were already facing an image crisis following imprisonment of and graft charges against a number of leaders including party chief Khaleda Zia and her sons.

"Fundamentalist Jamaat's support at the last moment helped uniting the entire pro-liberation force that also went against BNP," said a BNP leader preferring anonymity.

Two AL candidates including city unit President Masudul Haque Dulu was contesting against Liton and were in advanced position until Jamaat support, he observed.

Prior to the election, Workers Party was at loggerheads with AL over nomination of Fazle Hossain Badsha, who remained silent after withdrawing willingly. Local Workers Party also kept away from joining Liton's campaigns.

Rajshahi was always considered to be a BNP-Jamaat stronghold as AL never won any elections in the district since 1973.

The AL similarly could not do any good in Rajshahi City Corporation since its inception in 1987.

BNP leader Mizanur Rahman Minu was elected mayor in 1991 and was re-elected in 1994 and 2002. He was put behind bars over corruption and other charges last year.

Khairuzzaman Liton was defeated by BNP's Kabir Hossain and Minu in the national elections of 1996 and 2001 respectively.

"Liton's victory is significant as people were tired of misrule and wanted a change. Besides, one of his major election pledges was to burry the tradition of misrule," said Abu Bakar Siddique, a trader, of Shaheb Bazar.

Another voter, Abu Sayeed, said, "We wanted a change and we are happy that we have a new mayor."

However, voter Abdur Rashid doubts the unexpected victory of AL. "It's unbelievable; there might be some mechanism behind it."

Liton was awarded a reception at Rajshahi Nagorik Committee office. From there he rushed to the residence of Bulbul in Uposhahar. They exchanged good wishes and sweets.

Bulbul told Liton he accepted the defeat as he had earlier promised for it several times.

"I myself expected a change in the mayor office and I'm happy that the change has occurred meaningfully. What if I was defeated unfortunately," said Bulbul promising again to assist Liton in running RCC.

Dress rehearsal promises further success

Read THE DAILY STAR lead story: Monday's (August 4, 2008) local government elections were more or less a success for the government and the Election Commission (EC), with some minor but important problems to be accounted for.Absence of violence, turnout of a large number of voters and almost rigging free elections with the exception of some allegations in Barisal which probably should not be taken lightly, were some of the most pronounced features of the first polls under the current state of emergency presided over by a military backed caretaker government.Almost dispute free poll results, again with the exception of Barisal, can be considered as the sign of the polls' credibility and fairness. But all that had to be earned at the expense of democracy under a state of emergency in full force. Perhaps the biggest setback for the government is that their mission to bring honest and clean public representatives did fall short somewhat, as a large number of people with criminal records contested in the polls while one of the mayors-elect is currently in jail on charges of corruption and other crimes. He was put behind bars by the current government itself.

And Shakhawat Liton's story Voters stay loyal to old faces : As many as 36 out of 46 mayoral contestants in four city corporations lost their deposits and almost all of those who did not forfeit the sum belong to either Awami League (AL) or BNP. According to political observers, this suggests that voters in the four cities and nine municipalities have little interest in 'new leadership', a buzzword in the post-1/11 period. The results of Monday's contest confined to the old hands backed by AL and BNP also show that the claims of public disillusion with the two major parties still do not stack up, they added.Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday said many people thought that fresh faces would come out of the elections, but the voters chose the ones who have been around for quite a long time now.The candidates from AL and BNP shared most of the votes while those who were relatively new and outside the two parties fared too badly to retrieve their deposits.According to the electoral laws, mayoral contestants shall forfeit their deposits (Tk 10,000) if they fail to poll one-eighth of the vote. Of the 10 candidates who managed to secure deposits, four were supported by AL and won the polls while five were backed by BNP at local levels.

After Arzina ducked the lighted matchstick, her husband chased and caught her and set fire to her, this time, with a gas lighter before locking the door from outside to ensure her death.While in flames she suddenly realised rolling on the floor might put out the fire. The idea worked, but by that time 57 percent of her body was already burned.Doctors termed Arzina Khatun's condition "very critical" as she suffered serious burns in her face, breast, abdomen, both arms, back and part of thighs.Struggling for life at the Burn Unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), Arzina, a master in geography from Rajshahi College who passed the 27th BCS exams last year, described the torture she underwent since her marriage 10 months ago.Her husband, Kamruzzaman Kamu, who teaches geography at Nohata Women's Degree College in Rajshahi, turned mad towards her as he had an affair with a student, according to locals and the victim."Twenty-two days into our marriage, the girl student came to our area and told people about their relation," Arzina, who works as a data entry operator with the Women Affairs Department, said. She added she used to live with her parents at Lakkhpiur Bhatapara until wedding formalities were completed on March 1.When her parents informed her in-laws about the relation, they assured that they would force Kamu to get out of it, though Kamu denied having any relation. "But it was an open secret in the area," the victim said.After the couple moved to Shalbagan, she often found Kamu talking to that girl over cellphone. "He used to hurl abusive words and beat me up me whenever I protested against it." At 6:00am on July 29, Kamu's girlfriend called at Arzina 's cellphone twice. Despite knowing that her husband was awake and waiting for the call, she told the caller he was asleep.When Kamu sat on the bed at 6:30am, Arzina, who was preparing breakfast on a kerosene stove, asked him how long the relation would last and that she would leave after cooking and would never return.Immediately he started kicking and punching her, she said, adding some kerosene spilled on her body as she was holding the stove."He emptied the stove on me, lighted a matchstick and threw that at me. But I dodged it and tried to run away," she said.But in the end she could not escape. While screaming, Arzina started rolling on ground to douse the fire. She managed to put out the flames seconds before neighbours stormed in for help.After she was rushed to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, the neighbours turned to Kamu, beat up him and handed him over to police.She was shifted to DMCH the next day.Liton Sheikh, her brother, filed a case against Kamu under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act with Boalia Police Station.Talking with The Daily Star over phone, a next-door neighbour, who desired not to be named, said the marriage fell apart as the husband did not want it to continue. "He used to torture her at times.""Neighbours say they rushed there hearing her screams and rescued her. They will give statement against the husband," investigation officer Shamsuddoha Sarker told The Daily Star.Kamu denies the charge against him and claims Arzina accidentally caught fire while cooking.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rajshahi Polls: Confusion over NID


An enthusiastic Amjad Hossain headed out to cast his vote at the Sabitri Girls' High School polling centre at Ghoramara of Rajshahi city with his shiny new digitised national identity card (NID).

No sooner had he reached the centre at around 11:00am, than his bubble burst. He was told by the polling officer that the voter registration number, not the NID number, is required to cast vote.

It took an hour and a half for this elderly person to go home and get back to the polling centre with the voter registration number. He had to spend the next half hour in the queue again.

After all this, who would have thought that more shocking discoveries awaited the 52-year-old?

After Amjad's voter registration number was verified, he found it hard to believe that someone else had already cast his vote.

"How could the polling officer allow someone else to cast my vote when there's my photograph printed on the new voter roll?" he said while lodging a complaint with Rajshahi regional Election Commission at around 2:00pm.

"The government spent a lot of public money on the NID, but now it is useless for voting purposes," said a disgruntled Amjad.

Several other voters complained about their votes having been cast by others at different polling centres in the city including the centres at Institute of Health Technology (IHT) and Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industries (RCCI).

A number of other voters left the polling centres without casting their votes as they failed to provide their voter registration numbers to be verified with voter rolls kept at the polling centres.

Sayed Muhammad Musa, the regional deputy election commissioner of Rajshahi and also the returning officer for Rajshahi City Corporation polls, told The Daily Star that the voter registration number on the voter roll is required for casting a vote, not the NID number.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Poll spending crosses limit by wide margin

Violating the rules for poster size, a Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) councillor aspirant, top, hangs posters printed on plastic paper. An RCC mayor candidate uses large replicas of his electoral symbol while another goes even further by using coloured ones. Photo: STAR
Anwar Ali, Rajshahi
Campaign expenditure of most mayoral and councillor candidates, especially of politically nominated ones, doubled the limits by the time electioneering in Rajshahi metropolis ended at zero hour Sunday.The mayor hopefuls in Rajshahi City Corporation were set to spend Tk 5 lakh and councillor aspirants Tk 1 lakh during campaigns.But reports say mayor candidates spent even Tk 12 lakh to Tk 20 lakh each, while several councillor aspirants spent at least Tk 5 lakh.Speaking anonymously, a number of candidates' polling agents admitted the fact and said real expenditure would be even higher due to rampant distribution of money among the poor voters.Many voters also believe though the spending was much "less" than that of previous elections, the candidates exceeded the limits fixed by electoral laws.Under the new law, all candidates will have to submit returns of their election expenditure in prescribed forms 30 days into election results.Although the electoral rules made it mandatory to spend from dedicated bank accounts, some of the candidates avoided it.Moreover, many others showed obscure sources of their probable expenditure in their affidavits, while some showed grants from friends and relatives and bank loans.The mayor hopefuls show a common expenditure of around Tk 4.2 lakh spent for running campaign through at least 30 election camps at 30 wards. They spent as low as Tk 2,000 on each camp every day.Besides, they spent Tk 90,000 for canvassing through loudspeakers on three-wheelers in 20 days of campaign.Front-page advertisement at a rate of Tk 3,000 per day was given to three local dailies every day that cost around Tk 1.8 lakh in 20 days. The candidates however claim the dailies offered special discounts on the occasion of polls.Moreover, all the candidates are expected to spend minimum Tk 1.59 lakh for employing polling agents at all 774 booths of 129 poling centres today. This expenditure will increase if anyone employs more than one polling agent, who gets at least Tk 200.The agents of BNP-backed candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul said they spent over Tk 12 lakh since July 14.They printed at least 60,000 posters at a cost of Tk 1.39 lakh, while 4 lakh handbills were printed at Tk 1.16 lakh. Bulbul arranged two processions on July 17 and 31 spending Tk 2 lakh. Over 1,000 people, including women and boys, joined the processions. Sources say some 500 workers were paid Tk 200 each for organising the participants.Bulbul built 50 replicas of his election symbol tiger spending Tk 10,000 and four large replicas at Tk 2,000.Bulbul's annual income is Tk 1.68 lakh and in his affidavit he shows "other" source for managing Tk 2.4 lakh and bank loan for Tk 3 lakh.Some one lakh posters were printed for Awami League-nominated candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton at Tk 2.31 lakh, two lakh leaflets at Tk 58,500. He spent Tk 2 lakh for two processions on July 15 and August 1 and built some 500 replicas of his symbol 'lock' spending Tk 15,000.His agents said they spent no less than Tk 11.02 lakh. In his affidavit Liton said he would spend Tk 50,000 from his own income and take grants of Tk 2.75 lakh from relatives and Tk 2.5 lakh from "other" source.Another contestant AL city unit President Masudul Haque Dulu spent Tk 1 lakh more than Liton as he hanged some 200 multi-coloured banners in all 30 wards at Tk 400 each.Acting Rajshahi Mayor Rejaunnabi Dudu spent around Tk 10 lakh, his agents say. He brought out only one big procession of several thousand people at Saturday afternoon.He distributed Tk 100 each among some 200 women participants. Later that night, some 50 other women surrounded his house. The Rapid Action Battalion arrived on the scene and took the situation under control, witnesses say."Dudu's men took me to his procession promising me Tk 100 but did not keep their words," said Cynthia, a voter of Pathanpara. Her neighbour Bithi claimed the same. Dudu, a contractor by profession, printed one lakh posters, 2 lakh leaflets and 150 banners.He claims his annual income is Tk 3.46 lakh against annual expenditure of Tk 1.95 lakh. Still he shows Tk 3 lakh from his income as probable source of election expenditure.Progressive Development Party candidate Raihanur Rahman has also allegedly exceeded the limit. Although his annual income is Tk 1.6 lakh, he claimed Tk 4 lakh would come from his income and prize bond money, while he would get grants of Tk 1.75 lakh from his wife.Jatiya Party's Durul Huda and BNP's Enamul Haque too have allegedly crossed expenditure limit.Talking to The Daily Star, all the candidates have denied crossing the expenditure limits. They however said the fixed amounts are too little to run for office these days. They had to spend more than expected for posters and handbills following increased rates of printing items, they explain.The price of paper rose by Tk 300 per ream, ink by Tk 30 and printing plates by Tk 15, leading to extra spending.Sources say paper price was Tk 1,200 per ream even in June which now stands at Tk 1,500.To save posters from rain, many candidates had to cover those with polythene, which increased the expenditure by at least Tk 700 for each 1,000 posters, printers say. Moreover, some candidates printed posters on glossy plastic paper each at Tk 50 to Tk 70.

RCC Mayoral Polls: Jamaat support may not benefit BNP candidates as infighting widens


Pro-BNP mayoral candidates in Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) election are unlikely to achieve any gains despite Jamaat's last moment support due to widening infighting between them.

The split between the groups loyal to jailed mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu and former BNP lawmaker Kabir Hossain was created over the selection of acting mayor Rejaunnabi Dudu and city Jubo Dal President Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul as mayoral candidates

Apparently, Kabir-group is supporting BNP-adherent Dudu while Minu's group is backing Bulbul.

But, a large section of Minu's group has reportedly developed opinion against Bulbul widening the crisis further.

They alleged that those who were engaged in tender vandalism and corruption during BNP-Jamaat coalition rule and responsible for Minu's jail, are also campaigning for Bulbul.

Although Minu gave his support to Bulbul from jail, but many of his followers said Minu does not want the emergence of any other leader than he himself, especially a junior leader like Bulbul.

Former district BNP general secretary Enamul Haque is also in the election race making another split of BNP.

Though 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 including Minu are facing charges for graft and abetting militancy.

At this stage of crisis in Rajshahi BNP, a faction of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh led by its city General Secretary Abul Kalam Azad announced its support for Bulbul yesterday.

Jamaat was abstaining from electioneering from the very beginning, but in a quick twist of stance, it provided the support as Azad and Bulbul are cousins, said sources.

Considering splits in BNP, Awami League (AL) candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton is dominating the race, but he will also have to overcome rivalry with other party compatriots like city AL President Masudul Haque Dulu and AL leader Nasir Ahmed Biddyut.

Besides, Liton was still lobbying with the AL- led 14-party's Fazle Hossain Badsha for his support, but Badsha had declined as his Workers' Party is boycotting the election.

However, Liton's followers are more organised following the visits of central AL leaders including Motia Chowdhury, Tofail Ahmed, Prof Abu Sayeed and Sardar Amjad Hossain.

Prominent among other mayor hopefuls are Jatiya Party candidate Durul Huda, Progressive Development Party's Raihanur Rahman, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh's Akhtaruzzaman Bablu, Bangladesh Samajtrantik Dal's Ruhul Kuddus Tunu and independent candidate Siddikur Rahman.

Also in the race are 63 candidates for 10 reserved seats for women and 203 candidates for 30 councillor seats.

The number of voters in the city is 2,58,759.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

RCC Poll: Candidates shun militancy issue

Even though the electorate expect a clear stance on the militancy issue from the mayoral candidates of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC), the candidates, however, avoided talking about it fearing it would affect their vote tally.

The election campaigns ended yesterday midnight ahead of the start of polling at 8:00am August 4.

Campaign sources said the candidate supported by the Awami League AHM Khairuzzaman Liton believes it is better not to talk about the militancy issue at the local government election since he expects to draw large number of votes from BNP-Jamaat supporters. These votes could swing if he talks too much against militancy, an issue that plagued the region during the BNP-Jamaat regime.

The BNP-backed candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul felt relieved as no other candidates discussed the issue which was an "embarrassment" to the BNP-Jamaat government, party insiders said. Other candidates thought talking about the militancy issue would create disputes among candidates.

Rajshahi region, once infested with outlaws, saw the rise of militants of dreadful Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), led by executed JMB leader Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai, in April 2004 with their "jungle rule".

The vigilante outfit in the name of action against outlaws 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, detained RCC Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, and former state minister Alamgir Kabir reportedly patronised the militants using the police and 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 memorandums over to the then Rajshahi deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and deputy inspector general of police.

This is the first RCC election after the rise of the militants and voters understandably want a clear stance on the militancy issue from the mayoral candidates.

"Following feuds inside BNP I hope to get many votes from BNP supporters as I expect many votes from conservative Muslims. My words against Islamist militants could be wrongly interpreted by voters. That is why it is better to avoid the issue," said Awami League-supported candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton.

Liton, however, promised to combat all kinds of terror.

BNP-backed mayoral candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul said the rise of militancy was an embarrassment to BNP across the country and of course in Rajshahi.

"During this election campaign voters made many queries. But talking about militancy will not bring us any positive results rather it would impact negatively on our vote tally. So it is better to keep silent about it," he said.

"I did not plan talking about militancy as none of my competitors raised the issue," said Bulbul.

Sources said other candidates, who are apparently lagging behind in the race, also believe the militancy issue to be very sensitive and it should not be discussed during local government elections as it would create opportunities for disputes to arise.

"At this moment, I do not want to talk about the issue as none of my competitors have raised it," said mayoral candidate and acting RCC Mayor Rezaunnabi Dudu, also a BNP adherent.

Rajshahi University Prof Hasan Azizul Haque said many political leaders including former Rajshahi mayor patronised militants of Bangla Bhai and so the mayor hopefuls must promise that they would never do such a thing if elected.

"Dreadful the militants may be but if Mayor Minu or other big political leaders had not helped Bangla Bhai and his cohorts, they would never have dared to do such tortures. So, we want to hear their commitment against militancy prior to elections," he said.

Manoranjan Nandi, a prominent playwright, said, "We want to be sure that the mayoral candidates will take actions against all those who were engaged with militancy."

Golam Arif Tipu, convenor of Rajshahi Concerned Citizens Committee of Transparency International Bangladesh said, "There is no reason to remain silent as militants are still active. They will come out whenever a suitable ground is found. But we are helpless as the candidates are silent on the issue."

M Abdul Bari, a victim of Bangla Bhai's torture and also a voter of the city, said he wants the candidates to pledge actions against militants and bring them under trial.

"Apart from taking legal actions, the candidates must give us word that they will never allow the militant sympathisers in their parties or activities," he said.

"We want the candidates to promise that they would never provide shelters or funds to militants," said Mozammel Haque, another JMB-torture-victim and a voter of the city.

Intimidated by the militants, Bari and Mozammel were forced to flee several times their homes in Bagmara to Rajshahi city in 2004-05.