Wednesday, August 6, 2008

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.

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