Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eid fails to touch monga-hit

Although a large number of last-minute Eid shoppers are cramming into markets, the festivity could not touch the poverty-striken people of the northern region of the country.

The poverty due to crises of job and food have overshadowed Eid celebration of the underprivileged hundreds, many of whom are flocking to shopping centres at district and upazila headquarters for begging alms.

During this period, the poor people usually suffer from monga, a near- famine situation, following lack of agricultural work and food shortage.

The situation is likely to persist till the harvest in December, said the government officials, adding that the situation has however improved a bit following various government measurers.

"The main buyers at Eid markets in northern region are the villagers. So the traders are also facing dull markets in their absence. Most farmers and day labourers are still in severe hardships," said Mustafijur Rahman, a businessman.

"The markets are crowded, but the business is still low as the potential buyers are yet to come," said Rabiul Hasan, an owner of garment shop at RDA market.

The situation has aggravated following unaffordable prices of daily essentials.

"Many of those who live at villages, especially on the shoals and banks the Padma, depend on khud (broken rice), arum and available vegetables as only foodstuffs," said Abul Kalam Azad, a union council member of Khidirpur shoal.

Miraj Hossain, a farmer of Talanda union under Tanore upazila, said he had sold his goat to buy a dress for his eight-year-old daughter.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rajshahi Hizb ut-Tahrir men denied bail

A Rajshahi court yesterday rejected bail prayers of the 10 Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders and activists who were arrested September 18 on suspicion of their involvement in militancy and anti-state activities.

The Court of Rajshahi Metropolitan Magistrate BM Tarikul Kabir denied the bail prayers after police claimed that investigation was still going on against the accused.

The arrestees were not produced before the court and only their prayers were sent to the court. They are detained under section 54 of the CrPC.

"We also said verification of their previous criminal records, if any, is yet to be completed in police stations concerned," said Court Inspector Mahbubul Kuddus Siddiki.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Coordinator and Dhaka University teacher Syed Golam Mowla and Ahmed Jamal Iqbal, teacher of South East University and a senior member of the Islamist group, were arrested along with eight others on September 18 in Rajshahi.

However, police did not lodge any case against them, as of filing of this report last night, as they reportedly did not receive the go-ahead from government high-ups.

Officials of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) said they are yet to get any signal from the government high-ups about bringing sedition charge against the arrestees.

They said the arrestees were engaged in anti-state activities and provoking people against the country and the government through leaflets which called for toppling the government and establishing Khelafat in the country.

Ramjan Ali, officer-in-charge of Boalia Police Station, told The Daily Star, "The investigation is on. We will submit remand prayers against the arrestees when the investigation demands."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

JMB threatens to bomb Rajshahi police stations

Tahrir Leaders' Arrest Not 'Surprise'; Govt probing militant links for sometime

Investigators are now probing Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh's suspected involvement or link with militancy at home and abroad following Thursday's arrest of 10 of its leaders and activists in Rajshahi.

Sources in the law enforcement agencies yesterday said the arrests were not unexpected and that the agencies were looking for Tahrir men after a few of them distributed leaflets at Baro Masjid in Rajshahi around 10 days before the arrests.

Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) Commissioner Mahbub Mohsin yesterday said the arrest of Tahrir leaders on Thursday was not surprising. "We had been looking for the organisation's leaders and activists for distributing leaflets at Baro Masjid," he told The Daily Star.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh as a militant organisation and kept it under watch for quite a long time although it is not officially declared a militant outfit, said a top official of a law enforcement agency in Dhaka.

Meanwhile, The Daily Star yesterday received a fax dated September 18 sent in the name of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that apparently acknowledged Hizb ut-Tahrir as its 'front organisation' and asked the government and all law enforcement agencies to refrain from harassing its leaders and activists.

The message also reiterates Tahrir Chief Coordinator Mahiuddin Ahmed's demand for releasing the 10 arrested leaders and activists within 48 hours and threatened that otherwise "Bangladesh will be stained with the blood of law enforcers and all the advisers".

Although Hizb ut-Tahrir has been campaigning in the country for several years by distributing leaflets and putting up posters, its activities came to the notice of law enforcers after the grenade attack on the then British high commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury at Hazrat Shah Jalal Shrine in Sylhet on May 21, 2004.

Tahrir men had put up anti-British and anti-US posters around the shrine two days before the attack, which made investigators suspect that the attack was carried out by Hizb ut-Tahrir. And since then the outfit has been alleged to have militant links at home and abroad, said a law enforcement official involved in the probe into the attack.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nur Mohammad yesterday told the media that Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities in Rajshahi are suspicious and that they are investigating the outfit's objectives and activities. He said they are cautious not to let similar incidents take place elsewhere.

"The leaflets distributed in Rajshahi contain objectionable statements against the state and the government. We are investigating the line of their activities," the IGP said.

Another law enforcement agency source said Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh was on the list of suspected militant organisations prepared by intelligence agencies, including police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), when JMB started militant activities openly.

Rab Additional Director General Col Gulzar Uddin Ahmed, who led the investigation into JMB's militant activities and massive terror attacks, told The Daily Star yesterday that many statements of Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh are similar to those of the JMB.

"We are yet to trace any terrorist activity by Hizb ut-Tahrir. Its activities are being watched," Gulzar said.

Boalia Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Ramzan Ali, who was tasked with investigating activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir after Thursday's arrest, said over phone, "I am investigating if the 10 arrested leaders and activists of Hizb ut-Tahrir are involved with militancy."

He said on September 9, Tahrir men distributed leaflets in front of the Baro Masjid in Rajshahi after Esha prayers. "The language of the leaflet was objectionable. Since Hizb ut-Tahrir's name was on the leaflets, we were looking for their activists," he added.

The leaflet reads, "Our rulers have discarded the Quran and Sunnah...They have handed us over to our enemies. In this holy month of Ramadan, we have to take oath to dethrone our rulers and establish the rule of Khilafat."

Hizbut ut-Tahrir also criticises sending of forces in United Nations Peace Keeping missions for protecting "enemies" instead of "turning them into the flag bearers of Islam".

A law enforcement agency source said Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh sought permission from an intelligence agency in Rajshahi on Wednesday for holding a press conference at Rajshahi City Press Club on Thursday but did not get the permission.

The police arrested the 10 Tahrir men when they attempted to hold the press conference without prior permission.

Editorial: The Hizbut Tahrir issue

Government must deal with it firmly

Everybody must have the right to practice his or her religion. But nobody can impose it on others. It is the tone of force or the tenor that concerns us and the sheer audacious manner in which some of those involved with it have been going about speaking of the objectives of the outfit.

The teachers arrested in Rajshahi the other day were carted off to prison because they happened to be distributing leaflets propagating the overthrow of the government. As if that were not enough, some other leading members of the outfit in the capital have now threatened to wage a movement and not allow anyone in Bangladesh to live in peace if the arrested teachers are not released in forty-eight hours.

The attitude smacks of intolerance and contradicts the outfit's claim that it does not believe in violence or force. Obviously, it is a situation that calls for tough handling, given the fact that threats are undermining the fundamental constitutional and political premise upon which the country functions.

The members of Hizbut Tahrir, which has been at work in Bangladesh since 2001, have of course claimed no links with terrorism or terrorist organisations. And yet the reality is that the outfit has been proscribed in a number of countries in the West as well as the Middle East. The question, therefore, is why?

Whatever be their goal, there is little for it to justify its publicly stated goal of overthrowing the government or any government based on democratic political principles. The organisation's chief coordinator has contemptuously rejected democracy. That attitude in itself is symptomatic of the potential for disorder. The unfortunate part of the story is that successive governments in Bangladesh have, in spite of the facts before them, always chosen to soft-pedal on the issue. The approach has been as mystifying as it has been disquieting. Hizbut Tahrir followers can be found holding responsible positions in such reputed bodies as private universities. Just how the organisation has managed to acquire such space leaves one wondering.

We believe that it is now extremely important for the government to deal with the problem, firmly and without losing time. There can be no denying that the contents of the statements and leaflets coming from Hizbut Tahrir are a frontal assault on the constitutional process and democracy. It is values -- those symbolised by the ideals of free speech, tolerance, equality, et al -- that are now under threat. If we are opposed to military coups or any other types of intervention in democracy, we are equally opposed to democracy being threatened with destruction in the name of our religion. Only firmness on the part of the government and an increased sense of awareness among citizens about the lurking danger can prevent this country from sliding into despotism.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

First frozen embryo baby born in Bangladesh

The couple had all the sun yesterday when they heard the cry of their newborn Apsora, the first ever success in frozen embryo implantation in Bangladesh.“She is doing great, she is in good health, she has no physical defect, nor does she need any special care,” Rashida Begum, the doctor behind the groundbreaking success in Bangladesh, told The Daily Star.Now in a ward of Anwar Khan Modern Hospital in Dhanmondi, the baby girl, weighing 3.2 kg at birth, will soon go home, doctors expect.“It can't be described how happy the couple is. They had been waiting for a baby for long five years. It is really thrilling to see such a success,” said Rashida, an assistant professor of the gynaecology and obstetrics department of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.The landmark success came 24 years after the first frozen embryo baby was born in Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. The technology is similar to 'in vitro fertilisation', a process by which egg cells are fertilised by sperm outside the woman's womb in an artificial environment. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulation process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient's uterus for a successful pregnancy.

Hizb ut-Tahrir gives 48-hr deadline to free its leaders

Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh yesterday threatened to oust the government by launching a movement if its 10 leaders and activists arrested in Rajshahi on Thursday are not released within 48 hours.

The threat issued at a meeting of the organisation in the capital was apparently in violation of the state of emergency but no action was taken in this regard as of filing of this report at 10:00pm yesterday.

Akramul Hossain, assistant commissioner of Special Branch of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, said, "We may seek necessary government approval for filing a sedition case against the arrested persons."

Addressing the meeting at the city's Engineers' Institute of Bangladesh, the organisation's Chief Coordinator Mahiuddin Ahmed said, "The Hizb ut-Tahrir will stomp the city streets and no one will be able to live in peace on the soil of Bangladesh if our leaders are not released in 48 hours."

Asked about the open threat against the government amid the state of emergency, Home Secretary Md Abdul Karim told The Daily Star last night that the law would take its own course.

Our staff correspondent from Rajshahi reported that law enforcement agencies were waiting for the government approval to file a sedition case against the Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders and activists for plotting against the country.

Four teachers including Dr Syed Golam Mowla, a Dhaka University teacher and Hizb ut-Tahrir coordinator, and Ahmed Jamal Iqbal, teacher of electrical engineering at South East University and a senior member of the Islamist group, were arrested along with eight others on Thursday in Rajshahi.

They were arrested prior to holding a press conference at the Rajshahi City Press Club. Later, police produced them before a Rajshahi court under section-54 and the court sent them to jail.

In his address, Hizb ut-Tahrir Chief Coordinator Mahiuddin Ahmed vowed to establish Khelafat rule in the country.

"We always want to oust all governments in all Muslim countries in the world to establish Khelafat states. We have been asking for establishing Khelafat rule in the country instead of the present servile government since our first procession in the country," he said.

Mahiuddin said their organisation always opposes all mainstream political parties, including the Awami League and BNP. "We will always oppose all ruling governments and opposition political parties. We also oppose both the democratic and caretaker government systems," he said, labelling the caretaker government as a "puppet government".

Pointing at the media, he said, "We do not have confidence in the present media. Why do you not brand the USA as a terrorist state? Why do you not say the Fakhruddin-led government is a puppet government?

"Police arrested our leaders and activists for circulating leaflets because the caretaker government is afraid of our leaflets," he said and asked all Hizb ut-Tahrir activists to spread the organisation's leaflets across the country to oust the government and establish a Khelafat state.

Mahiuddin said his organisation would stage tougher agitation programmes at all educational institutions including Dhaka University if their leaders are not released within 48 hours.

Ramzan Ali, officer-in-charge of Boalia Police Station in Rajshahi, said the police need to interrogate the arrestees for further investigation and that they would seek remand for the arrestees from the court today.

A senior police official yesterday told The Daily Star that the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir are clearly anti-state as the contents of their leaflets distributed are provocative and call for militancy and toppling the government.

Seeking anonymity, he said, "The leaflets are sufficient for bringing sedition charges against them but we want further investigation since the organisation has been active in the country for several years."

At the top of the Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet, the organisation calls upon Muslims, saying, "Take oath for establishing the rule of Khelafat by ousting the present rulers in this holy month of Ramadan and this will help unite the Muslims and revive their lost glory."

The leaflet criticises sending of forces to the United Nations peacekeeping missions instead of turning them into "flag bearers of Islam".

Security has been beefed up in and around Rajshahi city and adjacent upazilas following the arrest of Hizb ut-Tahrir activists.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hizb ut-Tahrir banned in most of ME


Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders held over 'militancy'

Anwar Ali, Rajshahi

Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) yesterday arrested the coordinator of Bangladesh chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir and nine of his cohorts at Rajshahi City Press Club on suspicion of promoting militancy in the country.
The police said the Hizb ut-Tahrir men were distributing leaflets calling for establishing its self-styled Khilafat rule dethroning the present government in this holy month of Ramadan.
"We arrested them on suspicion of encouraging militancy in the country...We are investigating their activities," said RMP Commissioner Mahbub Mohsin yesterday.
Quoting the Quran in its leaflets, the Islamist group called upon Muslims asking them to "take oath for establishing the rule of Khilafat by dethroning the present ruler in this holy month of Ramadan" to unite Muslims and revive their lost glory.
It criticises sending of forces in United Nations Peace Keeping missions for protecting "enemies" instead of "turning them the flag bearers of Islam".
"Our rulers have discarded the Quran and the Sunnah...They have handed us over to enemies. So, we should take oath to overthrow the present ruler this Ramadan and we have to replace them with Khilafat rule," says the leaflet distributed by the arrestees.
Of the arrestees, four are teachers including the outfit's Coordinator Dr Syed Golam Mowla, who is a teacher of management at Dhaka University (DU) and a resident of Dhanmondi, while others are students of different universities and colleges.
The arrest sparked tension in the city forcing the authorities to beef up security.
The police produced the Hizb ut-Tahrir men before the court of Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate BM Tariqul Kabir under section 54, accusing them of engaging in a conspiracy to topple the government. The court sent the arrestees to jail in the afternoon.
Of the other arrestees, Hizb ut-Tahrir senior member Ahmed Jamal is a teacher of electrical engineering at South East University, Mamun Ansari is a teacher of computer engineering at Darul Ihsan University, and Moniruzzaman Masud is a teacher of mathematics at Lake Head Grammar School.
Others are Rajshahi Islami Bank Medical College students Omar Faruk, 32, of Ghorapakhia, Chapainawabganj and Mozammel Haque Belal of Jhautala, Brahmanbaria, Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (Ruet) students Akhter Hossain, 23, of Fatikchhari, Chittagong and Zahidul Islam, 21, of Kishoreganj, Dhaka Bangla College student Masud Kawsar, 26, of Baburhat, Chandpur, and East West Medical College student Saddam Hossain, 23, of College Para, Brahmanbaria.
They were arrested just before holding a scheduled press conference at the press club around 12:30pm. The police also seized from their possession a lot of leaflets, booklets and posters containing provocative statements against the government.
Ramzan Ali, officer-in-charge of Boalia Police Station, said, "The arrestees were provoking unrest among people in the name of religion...Their activities also violate the state of emergency."
Meanwhile, leaders of Rajshahi City Press Club including its President and Dainik Sangram bureau chief Sardar Abdur Rahman, and daily Naya Diganta correspondent Sardar Anisur Rahman told reporters that the press conference was postponed as the Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders failed to show them any permission from the police.
However, the Islamist group was finally given a schedule for the press conference at 1:30pm without the permission from the RMP.Members of different law enforcement and intelligence agencies and journalists started gathering in front of the press club from 11:00am and the police arrested Hizb ut-Tahrir activists Zahidul Islam and Mozammel Haque around 12:30pm when they were entering the press club with a banner.
Upon their information, the police waited at the scene and arrested the Islamist group's coordinator along with others when they arrived at the place at 1:15pm in a microbus. Later, the police took them to Boalia Police Station.
Senior officials of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and RMP and members of intelligence agencies interrogated the Hizb ut-Tahrir men for hours before sending them to the court. Police released microbus driver Jahangir.
From police custody Golam Mowla claimed to reporters that Hizb ut-Tahrir is not linked with militancy and that they organised the press conference to clear their position following a campaign linking them with militancy.
"We want to establish Islamic rule through a truly democratic way and abiding by the law of the land," Mowla said.Asked about their call for dethroning the government, he said, "Speaking against any ruler or their system of ruling is a democratic right of every citizen."
The Islamist group's senior member Ahmed Jamal Iqbal told reporters that they have convinced the government about their having no connection with militancy. He said the government even allowed them in writing to hold a discussion at the Engineers' Institute of Dhaka this morning.
"I do not understand why we are allowed in Dhaka and arrested in Rajshahi," Jamal said.

Intelligence agencies have been alerting the government about the presence of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the country for several years as it is widely believed to be the political ideologue of all terrorist groups in the world.In a report in 2005, the intelligence agencies expressed fear that the group may turn into an extremist organisation any time and suggested closely monitoring its activities.
Islami thinker Tokiuddin Al Nakhani formed Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1953 in Jerusalem, five years after Israel captured Palestine.
Golam Mowla, a lecturer of management at DU, went to London in 1993 to do his PhD and was introduced to Nasimul Gani and Kawsar Shahnewaz, who were holding an open discussion on Hizb ut-Tahrir at Regent Park.
After returning to Bangladesh in 2000, Nasimul and Shahnewaz set up an office at a coaching centre at Dhanmondi-6/A for the organisation's Bangladesh chapter and launched the group's activities under Golam Mowla's leadership.
The organisation has no committee or constitution. With Golam Mowla working as its coordinator, Mohiuddin Ahmad, senior lecturer of DU IBA department, Sheikh Towfiq of DU public administration department, Kazi Morshedul Haque, Dr Nasimul Gani and Kawsar Shahnewaz are working with the organisation.
Hizb ut-Tahrir preaches a utopian ideology of establishing an Islamic Caliphate across the globe.Terming Muslim majority countries, including Bangladesh, "Daar-ul-Kuffar" (land of the infidels) because they follow non-Islamic laws and practices, it wants to turn them into "Daar-ul-Islam" first and then take on the Muslim minority countries which according to them are "Daar-ul-Harb" (land of war).
Hizb ut-Tahrir men allegedly have misinterpreted the Quran and are being financed mostly by Middle Eastern countries.Although banned in the western and most Muslim majority countries, Hizb ut-Tahrir has been freely operating in Bangladesh for the past few years. On its website it promotes racism and anti-Semitic hatred, calls suicide bombers martyrs and urges Muslims to kill Jews.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

RCC mayor vows to increase civic amenities; Asks staffs for wealth statements


Idris Ali Murder: Naogaon court orders re-investigation

A court in Naogaon yesterday ordered re-investigation into the murder of Idris Ali Khejur by the militants of Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB) in 2004 accepting the no-confidence petition filed by the sister of the victim on the final report of the case.

Nilima Akhtar, Khejur's sister, filed the no-confidence petition with the court on May 11 as police submitted the final report in the case during the rule of previous political government and relieved a number of militant kingpins from the charge of murder.

Accepting the petition, the court asked the officer-in-charge (OC) of Raninagar police station in Naogaon to re-investigate into the case.

In her petition, Nilima, the plaintiff of the case, accused 102 persons for the murder and said a number of accused, including militant kingpin Asadullah Al Galib and former BNP state minister Alamgir Kabir, were relieved from the murder charge.

Other accused include Tota Khandoker, Salehin, Hafez Mahmud, ASM Azizullah, Samad Salafi, Nurul Islam, Shariatullah Simar, Hmayet Hossain Himu, Abdus Salam, Khabir Sheikh, Khairul Islam Mantu, Lalu Fakir, Helal Sheikh, Abul Hossain Master, Lutfar Rahman and Abdul Bari.

The petition said the final report, which relieved some accused from the charge as well as charged some others and did not show any involvement with the murder, was false and without her knowing.

Nilima also claimed that the very first information report (FIR) of the case was not filed by her and it was forged.

On May 19, 2004, the JMJB militants led by Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai abducted Idris Ali Khejur, Abdul Qaiyum Badshah and Bashar at Simba village in Raninagar upazila reportedly to take revenge the deaths of two militants by outlaws.

They were later tortured brutally and their wails were amplified through loudhailers to terrorise the neighbourhood. The gang slaughtered Khejur and cut his body into pieces, says the petition.

The body of Badshah was found hanging with a roadside tree at Bamongram in Nandigram, Bogra on May 20. Police recovered Khejur's body, cut into four pieces, from near Veti camp on May 28, it says.

1971 Killings: 19 sued in Rajshahi

Front Page
A case was recorded yesterday at the Mohonpur Police Station against 19 people on charges of killing 15 villagers during the liberation war.

The case was recorded following higher authority's approval on September 13 after primary investigations, said the police.

A Rajshahi court one and a half months ago directed Mohonpur police to investigate and take necessary actions after day labourer Nezarul Islam of Birsoil filed the case with the court against 19 people.

The accused include Shafiullah, Moyen Uddin, Boyen Uddin of Modonhati, Daud Ali, Nur-e-Alam, Shamsuddin, Sirajul Islam, Matiur Rahman and Awal of Berabari Bamonbari, Alam, Abdul Hai, Abdul Mannan of Mohisbathan, Abu Sayeed of Durgapur, Jan Bux, Abdul, Merajul and Kalim of Paba upazila.

The plaintiff alleged that the accused helped the Pakistani forces to abduct 15 villagers, who assisted freedom fighters, in Mohonpur on November 30, 1971.

All the abducted people were shot dead the next day.

"The war criminals are involved in Jamaat politics," said the plaintiff.

"We are investigating the case and the charge sheet will be submitted as soon as possible," said Asaduzzaman Milon, officer-in-charge of Mohonpur Police Station.

Outlaw killed in 'shootout'

Front Page

A wanted criminal and member of the underground Sarbahara Party was killed in a crossfire between police and his accomplices at Birkutsa Sahapur areas in Bagmara upazila of Rajshahi early yesterday.

The dead man was identified as Abul Hasen alias Kana Abul, 43 of Aloknagar village in Hamirkutsa union of the upazila.

Sahabuddin Khalipha, officer-in-charge (OC) of Bagmara police station said, police arrested Abul from his home on Sunday noon.

Police then took him along to retrieve arms from an area, based on information revealed in his statement. When they reached the spot, Abul's gang members opened fire on police.

The police shot back and at a stage Abul received bullet wounds while trying to flee.

Abul was a listed terrorist and a member of Sarbohara Party, the OC said. He was absconding since a murder case was filed against him. He was sentenced to life-term imprisonment in the case.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Huji eyes JS polls, starts operating in new name

Banned Islamist militant outfit Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji), comprised of Afghan war veterans, has started activities across the country to take part in the next parliamentary polls under a new name.

Huji leaders under the banner of Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) gathered for an iftar party in a Rajshahi community centre in Shalbagan on September 8 claiming to be in negotiations with the government for holding political programmes openly.

Even though they claimed that they are not involved in any criminal or anti-state activities, they admitted that their organisation began from Huji. They said they are still in Jihad as before in Afghanistan but the Jihad is for "rebuilding the country by promoting true democracy".

They said two top Huji founders--Mufti Abdus Salam and Rahmatullah alias Shaikh Farid--are president and secretary of the party. They collected the application form for getting IDP registered with the Election Commission for participating in the next general elections. They already formed fully-fledged IDP committees in 42 districts and in all thanas of Dhaka city to that end. They have begun renting offices in districts and forming committees and organising activists in 300 upazilas across the country.

The government so far has made no visible effort to arrest Huji kingpins since banning the outfit in October, 2005.

Several police and intelligence officials said even though Huji has been banned, they have never received any instructions from the government to launch any drive against Huji leaders and activists.

The IDP launched organisational tours in northern part of the country from September 6. They held meetings in towns and upazilas of Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi and Rangpur.

Local law enforcement agencies were learnt to be ignorant about Huji gatherings, in the name of IDP, even though teams of "Mujaheeds" are touring other parts of the country, sources said.

Chaired by Rajshahi IDP President Maulana Faisal, the meeting in Rajshahi was attended by Afghan war veteran and IDP central Dawat and Tabligi (invitation and campaign) division President Abdul Kuddus and Abul Kalam Azad, an Arakan Mujaheed and president of Natore and northern units of IDP.

Over 300 activists assembled at the meeting while Rajshahi IDP General Secretary Mufti Mustafizur Rahman, Nayeb-e Amir (vice-president) Nazmul Ahmed, Organising Secretary Hussein Ahmed and Aynul Haque and Arifur Rahman were present.

"We are still in a Jihad in the country as we were in the past in Afghanistan against Russia and America. But now we are fighting against evil-education, corruption, and communalism," Abdul Kuddus, who reportedly claimed to have fought in Afghanistan for 17 years against Russian and American forces, said talking to The Daily Star.

"We want to rebuild the country establishing a true democracy and selecting honest and efficient leadership on the lines of the holy Quran. We will take part in the next parliamentary elections. And we believe that we will have a remarkable influence in the political arena within a short time," he told the gathering.

Mahbub Mohsin, commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP), told The Daily Star that IDP did not take prior permission for holding such meetings and the police were unaware of the meeting being held.

Sources say that the IDP claims to have had discussions with the government at different levels and that they had convinced the government of their innocence.

The meeting organisers also said they had even informed the government in advance about their countrywide meetings under the banner of IDP.

"We succeeded in convincing the government that nobody of Harkatul Jihad, other than Mufti Abdul Hannan and Mufti Abdur Rouf, was involved in any criminal activities or has any criminal records. That Harkatul Jihad was dissolved in 1998," Hussein Ahmed told The Daily Star.

"The name of IDP was selected in presence of administrative high-ups after the government was convinced, through its intelligence agencies, that our activities do not pose any problems," he said.

He denied having any negotiations with the government for holding meetings across the country.

Around 40,000 Bangladeshis joined the Afghan war and a number of the returnees formed Huji's Bangladesh chapter in the late 80s during the Ershad regime. Returning from the Afghan war, Mufti Abdul Hannan and Mufti Abdur Rouf floated separate organisation Harkatul Mujahideen, claimed Hussein and Huji sources.

Advised by "senior Islamic scholars", Harkatul Mujahideen merged with Huji and the new Huji was officially launched under the leadership of Mufti Abdus Salam in Dhaka in April, 1992.

When Mufti Abdur Rouf criticised Islamic scholars and Abdul Hannan was found engaged in anti-state activities, they were expelled from Huji in 1998, sources claimed.

Huji was dissolved then and the Huji leaders, except Mufti Abdur Rouf and Abdul Hannan, kept on working under a new organisation--Islami Dawati Kafela, Bangladesh.

"Thirty-nine members out of the 41-member Huji shura [governing body] left in course of time. We changed our organisation's name to Islami Gono Andolan until negotiations with the government started," Hussein said.

Huji leaders and activists went into hiding when the Awami League government launched a crack down on them following an attack on late poet Shamsur Rahman and an assassination attempt on Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina.

As the media ran several reports on the activities of Huji, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) came to the limelight by blasting bombs across the country.

After the government launched a crackdown on JMB, Huji leaders succeeded in convincing the government that none of their leaders and activists was involved in any kind of violence or militant activities.

They also told the government that a faction of Huji men led by Mufti Hannan and Abdur Rouf, who were responsible for violence, was expelled from the organisation in 1998.

"The government banned Harkatul Jihad of Mufti Hannan and Abdur Rouf. The original Huji was dissolved in 1998," Hussein claimed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

JMB threatens bomb attacks on advisers

Govt to ban 18 armed groups

The government is planning to officially ban 18 splinter groupings of clandestine armed communists soon, as law enforcing agencies identified them as organisations engaged in anti-state activities in 13 north-west and southern districts.

According to top officials of police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), the decision is being taken for the first time since the independence of the country, with an aim to eradicating such organisations before the next parliamentary election.

Responding to recommendations of different intelligence agencies, the police headquarters in early August sent a proposal to the home ministry for banning the outfits, sources said.

On Thursday, the home ministry in a top level meeting with chiefs of law enforcement and intelligence agencies discussed the matter and initiated a process of banning the outfits. Home Adviser Maj Gen (retd) MA Matin chaired the meeting.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nur Muhammad confirmed the initiative to The Daily Star saying, "The topic is being discussed."

Once the outfits are banned, they will hardly get any chance of slipping through legal loopholes, which has been common so far, as the new rules will be tougher, the home adviser said.

The government already banned Islamist militant outfits Shahadat-e Al Hikma, Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, and Harkatul Jihad Al Islami.

Armed communist operations started in the country since the independence, but they splintered into many small groupings following intra-party rivalries over blessings of successive ruling parties during tenures of elected governments, and over establishing supremacy.

In the name of so called revolutionary agenda of capturing state power through armed struggle, the outfits so far killed hundreds of people including law enforcers, and robbed a number of police stations making off with government arms and ammunition.

Citing many previous killings of political leaders, the top officials of police and Rab said operatives of the outfits might become more active before the next parliamentary poll.

Intelligence wings of Rab and police identified 18 outfits and their 40 leaders who are active in 13 north-west and southern districts.

Among the 40 leaders, two were killed in 'crossfire' and six were arrested leaving the rest operating.

Among the outfits, Lal Potaka (Red Flag) faction of Purbo Banglar Communist Party Marxists-Leninist (PBCP M-L) is active in Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon, Bogra, Pabna, Sirajganj, Kushtia, and in Gangni of Meherpur.

Red Flag used to be led by Dr Mizanur Rahman Tutul who died in 'crossfire' on July 27. The outfit is now being led by Madhu Babu alias Shafik.

Other leaders of the group are Ratan alias Titas, Abdus Salam Tapu, Zahangir alias Jalal, Rashid, Ibrahim Chairman, Khokon, Wali Chairman, and Anwar.

PBCP M-L Jana Juddha (People's War) faction is active in Jhenidah, Chuadanga, Meherpur, Pabna and Kushtia. It is now without a leader since its former chief Tapan Malitha alias Dada Tapan died in 'crossfire'.

PBCP M-L (Rashid) is operating in Khulna and in its adjoining areas led by Harun Sheikh, where another outfit Bangladesh New Biplobi Communist Party (BNBCP) led by Gazi Quamrul is also active.

BNBCP also has two others factions -- Mrinal Group led by Dev Prashad alias Manik, and Sailen Group led by Shailendranath Biswas.

Another outfit Sramajibi Mukti Andolon or Gana Mukti Fouj is active under the leadership of Aminul Islam Mukul in Jhenidah, Kushtia, Pabna, Chuadanga, Rajbari and Meherpur.

Other leaders of the outfit are Shahin Rumi, Shamsul Islam Robin, Anwar Hossain Debu, and Shisir.

Bangladesh Communist Oikkya Prokria is led by Mosarraf Hossain Musa in Jhenidah.

Omol Krishna Mandol, Hasanul Haq Hasu, and Swapan Chakrabarty are leading Bangladesh Biplobi Communist Party in Chuadanga, Kushtia, Meherpur, and Rajbari.

Nuruzzaman Laltu leads Banglar Communist Party in Chuadanga.

Roni Biswas is leading Bangladesh Communist Juddha in Chuadanga and Meherpur.

Samad Member, Aziz Commander, Kamrul Hasan Himu Kha, and Hapu alias Hasanul Haque are leading Sarbahara Group in Rajbari, Babuganj, Ujirpur, and in Gournadi of Barisal.

Sarbahara Sagor Group is active in Rajbari, led by Bulu Akhtar Sagor.

Sarbahara Party is led by Alam Sadhu and Edward Biswas Nanu in Pabna and Barisal while Sarbahara Zia Group is led by Nur Muhammad Sikdar, Abdur Rahim Hawladar, Fazle Rabbi, and Abdur Rahim Sikdar.

Sarbahara Poresh Group is active under the leadership Abul Kalam in Rajbari and Faridpur.

Jashod Gono Bahini of Azibor Chairman and Anwar Hossain Anu is active in Kushtia.

Regional Bahini is being led by Montu Chairman, Sayeed, and Malek in Pabna.

The leaders arrested so far are Ibrahim, Gazi Quamrul, Dev Prashad Manik, Nuruzzaman Laltu, Kamrul Hasan Himu Kha, and Abul

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Acute water crisis in Rajshahi city

Water crisis is turning acute in many areas of Rajshahi city despite the assurance of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) to maintain smooth supply during the month of Ramadan.

Discontent among the city dwellers is also brewing up for supply of contaminated water.

Residents of Shalbagan, Assam Colony, Shaheb Bazar and Baliapukur area in the city complained of supplying contaminated water. They alleged that diarrhoea and skin diseases are spreading fast in the areas.

Similar complaints also came from Laxmipur, Helenabad, Meherchandi and Binodhpur areas, Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) sources said. 

In the last few days there were reports of water crisis in Baliapukur, Koerdara, Sultanabad, Sastitala, Boaliapara, Bulonpur, Helenabad, Budhpara, Meherchandi, Laxmipur, Talaimari and Kajla areas.

The crisis in ward numbers 1, 2, 16, 17 and 30 are going on for several years. Many areas are still remaining out of water supply network and the authorities have turned a deaf ear to their problems.

However, RCC recently assured people of smooth water supply during the month of Ramadan. 

Many of the city dwellers complained that they are facing water crisis as many households are pumping out water directly from supply line. 

M Ashraful Haque, acting chief engineer of RCC, said the daily demand of water in the city is nearly 11 crore liters. RCC supplies only 7.40 crore liters of water daily. The rest of the demand is met through tubewell.

Water pump operators said load shedding and low voltage are interrupting water supply.

'JMB threat' to bomb Rab offices

300 quit Workers Party in Rajshahi

RCC election fairer than any earlier polls


The Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) elections held on August 4 was a free, fair one and smoother than elections in the past, says findings of the country's first ever scientific exit poll revealed in the city yesterday.

International Republican Institute (IRI), a US-based organisation for advancing democracy with assistance from Jatiya Nirbachon Parjobekkhon Parishad (Janipop), conducted the survey among over 10,000 voters exiting from 50 randomly selected polling centres, out of total 130, on the Election Day.

Bangladesh Election Commission authorised for the international standard survey supported by the British High Commission.

The exit poll has confirmed public confidence in conduct and results of RCC elections, claimed the IRI as the study shows 90 per cent voters consider the RCC elections 'free and fair' with 78 per cent reporting 'no problems, difficulties and irregularities'. 

By all counts, people consider the poll as smoother than elections in the past, IRI Resident Country Director Jeff Vanness said while presenting the exit poll findings at a news briefing at Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industries auditorium.

The exit poll provides independent verification that the ballots cast by voters were counted accurately as interviews with voters exiting polling centres closely match the official results of balloting.

It shows that AHM Khairuzzaman Liton obtained 47 per cent votes officially against the exit poll results of 49 per cent while his nearest candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul gathered 36 per cent votes in official results against 34 per cent officially.

Many voters who were interviewed said they had to wait at polling centres for quite a long time.

Several voters complained of not finding their voter number while a few others said they saw polling staffs who do not know their jobs properly. However, the complaints of problems, difficulties and irregularities would not be over one percent, the study report said.

The exit poll revealed that young women turned out at polling centres in higher number than young men while the picture is opposite in cases of older voters. 

IRI's Senior Programme Officer Aminul Ehsan was present during the news briefing.

Low-lying areas in city's eastern part flooded

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RCC takes up Tk 5 crore waste management project

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Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) has undertaken a Tk 5 crore household waste management project financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), officials said.

Household waste would be properly collected everyday under the RCC-designed project. At present, residents dump their wastes onto roads and drains due to lack of sufficient dustbins.

For proper collection of garbage, at least 20 new dustbins would be set up in different areas, including Terokhadia, Shaheb Bazar, Laxmipur, Mohishbathan, Kajla, Binodpur and Padma Housing area.

Under the project, household waste would be transformed into natural fertiliser for agricultural use, sources in the RCC said, adding that the garbage collected from households in Rajshahi city can produce five tonnes of fertiliser every day.

"To implement the project, we have already selected the land for acquisition and the city corporation has got a machine worth Tk 70 lakh for turning the waste into fertiliser," said M Ashraful Haque, superintendent engineer of the city corporation.

The project will not only reduce the expenses of the city corporation but also help curb mosquito menace and reduce health hazards for the city dwellers, he added.

At present, the RCC workers collect garbage from the households and keep them in open places, posing threat to public health.

Due to lack of specified sites for dumping of waste, the residents throw garbage into drains, badly affecting the drainage system.

Special drives start in 13 dists to nab extremists before polls

Outlaws, Islamist militants active again in 18 groups in northern, southern districts

Police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) have launched special operations in 13 northern and southern districts as intelligence reports said outlaws and Islamist militants have become active again in 18 groups ahead of planned upazila and parliamentary elections.

The law enforcing agencies have started the operations with a list of some 1000 outlaws and about 500 Islamist militants in hand, sources said. Of them, 350 outlaws and 150 Islamist militants are in Rajshahi division.

Their numbers may be more as all the outlaws and militants could yet to be identified, sources in the law enforcement agencies said. The operations are going against both the outlaws and militants simultaneously.

The special operations to dismantle the militant outfits and outlaws' organisations were taken following recent investigations into their activities and analysis of previous killings by them, the sources said. The investigations said they may become active again before the upazila and the parliamentary polls.

Among the outlawed groups, Purbo Banglar Communist Party's Red Flag and People's War factions and Sramajibi Mukti Andolon are most active in Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore, Pabna, Sirajganj, Meherpur, Kustia, Jhinaidaha, Chuadanga districts, the investigations revealed.

The rest 15 outfits are active in Rajbari, Barisal, Faridpur and Khulna districts.

Outlaws were used by political leaders in previous elections. A section of dishonest politicians maintain secret links with outlaws and use them against opponents during election. "Outlaws or any other criminals will not be allowed to influence the polls. 

We must achieve some good results (in action against outlaws) ahead of the elections", said a senior official of Rajshahi divisional police.

Alongside the operation, campaign has also been launched in outlaw-infested areas to allay fear from minds of people and to motivate them to help law enforcers to flush out the criminals. 

As part of the campaign, inspector general of police Noor Muhammad and Rab Director General Hassan Mahmood Khandkar visited Bagmara recently and sought cooperation from locals.

Strength at police stations and outposts has been increased and vigilance strengthened, the sources said. 

Security at jails has been tightened so that the arrested top outlaws can not contact their cadres outside. 

The steps will also include engaging special intelligence units to identify outlaws, their patrons, shelter providers and sources of funding. 

Political leaders suspected of patronising outlaws in the past and beneficiaries of previous murders of politicians are also under watch, they said.