Monday, January 26, 2009

RCC to sack 470 staff to cut expenditure

Authorities say they were appointed on political consideration

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

10 indigenous persons in UZ vice chairman race in Rajshahi div

At least ten persons including two women from six indigenous communities are contesting for vice chairman posts in the upazila election in Rajshahi division.

Five of them are from Santal tribe and one each from Razoar, Urao, Munda, Ganju and Rajbansi tribes. Two of them are housewives, one village doctor while the other candidates mentioned agriculture as their profession in the affidavits.

In the affidavit, one indigenous candidate mentioned that he graduated in Social Science, two candidates passed HSC, one passed SSC, five read at high school while one mentioned that he is literate.

Indigenous leaders are participating in local government election for the first time this year, said Rabindranath Saren, general secretary of Jatiya Adibasi Parishad (JAP).

"Such participation will help empowering indigenous people in local government as well as upholding our history of depravity and losses of lives and properties".

JAP sources said 38 different indigenous tribes live in 16 districts of Rajshahi division.

Protima Rani of Razoar tribe and Rushina Soren of Santal are contesting for women vice chairman posts in Nachole upazila in Chapainawabganj and Ghoraghat upazila in Dinajpur district respectively.

Both of them are housewives.

From Santal community, JAP President Anil Marandi who is just literate and BSS degree holder Haren Tudu are contesting from Godagari upazila while HSC pass Paban Mardi from Tanore upazila in Rajshahi district.

Rajbanshi tribe's Sadhan Chandra Barman who mentioned his profession to be a village doctor is contesting from Sariakandi upazila while Zugesh Singh of Ganju tribe from Sherpur upazila in Bogra district.

In Naogaon district, SSC pass Daud Marandi of Santal tribe is contesting from Niamatpur upazila while Hakim Urao from Patnitala and Jobin Pahan of Munda community is contesting from Badalgachhi upazilas.

In last general election, Rabindranath Saren withdrew his candidacy after failing to get grand alliance ticket for Dinajpur-6 constituency. JAP's Romanath Mahato placed fourth as a candidate of Communist Party of Bangladesh from Natore-4 constituency in the December 29 election.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

8 upazila polls runners face criminal charges in Rajshahi

About eight persons who are facing criminal charges are contesting the upcoming upazila elections for chairmanship in Rajshahi district.

One of the candidates was convicted in a criminal case while two others are accused of torturing their wives and demanding dowry from in laws.

These were revealed from the candidates' affidavits submitted to the Election Commission.

Bagha upazila chairman candidate Abdul Gani Mandol mentioned that he was convicted in a misappropriation case. He was sentenced to suffer six months 15 days imprisonment with fine of Tk 5,000.

Golam Rabbani, Tanore Awami League (AL) president resigned from chairmanship of Pachondor Union Parishad for taking part in the election race for chairmanship in Tanore upazila.

He mentioned in his affidavit that he is an accused in two cases, one filed under Women and Children Repression Prevention Act for torturing his wife and another under Muslim Family Law for marrying without permission from first wife and divorcing the latter without paying dues (denmohor).

Rabbani's wife Monwara Khatun who is also contesting for chairmanship post told newsmen that she is contesting not to win, but to defeat Rabbani.

However, Rabbani said he married for second time for a child as he has no child from his first wife to whom he married in 1986.

Charghat upazila BNP president and chairman candidate Abu Sayeed Chand is an accused in three cases for terrorist activities and cheating.

Puthia upazila chairman candidate and central vice president of Bangladesh Chhatra League Ahsanul Haque Masud mentioned that he is an accused in five criminal cases which are now being tried at various courts.

Durgapur upazila BNP president and chairman candidate Ashraful Kabir said in his affidavit that he is accused in three cases including one for murder and all the cases are now under trial.

Talpur Zia Parishad president M Golam Dastgir, also Godagari upazila chairman candidate, is an accused in a dowry case filed by his ex-wife Angura Begum.

Godagari upazila chairman candidate AKM Ataur Rahman who is also former vice president of district AL is an accused in a criminal case lodged with a Rajshahi court in 2007.

Two criminal cases are under trial against Tanore upazila chairman candidate and upazila AL general secretary Abdullah Al Mamun while his rival BNP's upazila chairman candidate Emran Ali Mollah is facing three criminal charges.

Paba upazila chairman candidate Abdur Rouf Nannu is also an accused in a criminal case filed in 2004.

Besides, several other chairman candidates in different upazilas were either acquitted or relieved of criminal charges previously.

Assault by senior official alleged; Guards revolt in Rajshahi prison

They demanded immediate removal of senior jail superintendent Harun-ur Rashid for assaulting prison guard Mustafizur Rahman.

The protesters called off demonstrations at around 10:00pm after Maj Hafizur Rahman Mollah, deputy inspector general of prisons in Rajshahi division, over speakerphone from Naogaon assured them of taking necessary steps. 

The prison guards alleged that Harun first slapped Mustafiz for failing to control the prisoners during an event inside the jail at about 4:00pm.

He then beat him with a stick until he fell to the ground and his clothes were torn, alleged Mustafiz's colleagues, who rescued him. 

About 500 prison guards staged protests at the jail demanding immediate removal and punishment for the jail super around 6:30pm after all prisoners were taken to their cells from the event. 

They alleged that Harun often beats prison guards over trivial matters.

Harun however could not be contacted.

Hafizur told The Daily Star, "The situation is now under control. We shall listen to the prison guards and take proper action according to the rules.”

Committee to probe Rajshahi jail incident

The headquarters of prisons yesterday formed a two-member investigation committee to probe into a demonstration by the jail guards in Rajshahi Central Jail on Saturday.

They staged the demonstration demanding removal of Senior Jail Super Harun-ur Rashid who infuriated them by assaulting one of their fellows before the jail inmates.

The agitating guards brought allegations against Harun for his torture on the male and female guards of the jail.

The committee, comprising Deputy Inspector General (DIG)-Prisons in Rajshahi division Maj Hafizur Rahman Mollah and Senior Jail Super of Bogra Abdur Razzak, will start investigation tomorrow.

The probe body was asked to submit its report within seven days suggesting tasks to avoid such revolts in future after finding out those responsible for the revolt.

Mollah told The Daily Star that, “The senior jail super definitely committed an offence by assaulting a jail guard before the prisoners, but they cannot avoid responsibility in the name of protests”.

Awami League lawmaker Abdul Quddus, left, receiving a gold replica of his party's electoral symbol, boat, from Shamsul Haque Sheikh, a candidate of upazila parishad polls in Gurudaspur, Natore. Photo: STAR

The Election Commission (EC) yesterday decided to warn an Awami League (AL) lawmaker for violating the electoral code of conduct of the upazila parishad elections in its efforts to refrain MPs from influencing the crucial polls to local government bodies.

The EC will soon issue a letter to AL lawmaker Abdul Quddus of Natore warning him of his reported bid to influence the upazila elections. Quddus received around 80 miniature gold-made boats, AL electoral symbol, and campaigned for an upazila polls contestant. 

Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain labelled the activity of Quddus unethical and said it was a clear attempt to influence the upazila elections. 

Meanwhile, the EC yesterday warned Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton for violating electoral code of conduct by campaigning for a candidate openly, sources in the EC Secretariat said. 


Quddus violated the electoral rules by campaigning for an upazila chairman candidate after receiving around 80 gold-made boat replicas from him, our staff correspondent in Rajshahi reports.

Apart from party leaders, prominent businessmen, traders' organisations and authorities of nearly 70 private schools and colleges gave him the replicas during his reception at Shaheed Shamsuzzoha Degree College ground Wednesday, said party-men.

Addressing the gathering, Quddus said, "All development works of Gurudaspur municipality and upazila areas will go through our hands. If you want development, vote for our candidates." 

Abul Kashem Sarker, chief electoral agent of a chairman candidate Sarker Emdadul Haque M Ali, submitted a complaint in this connection with Natore's returning officer alleging violation of election rules.

Asked about the allegations, Quddus told reporters that he did not take the replicas home. "If anyone offers me a gift out of love, how can you find anything wrong in it," he said, adding that he left the gifts at the reception.

Talking to The Daily Star Monoj Kanti Boral, returning officer and additional deputy commissioner (general) of Natore, had said "We are looking into the allegations.”

Rajshahi Jubo Dal leader murdered

Police recovered the body yesterday morning from Bagdhani Sashanghat near Barnoi river. 

There were injury marks on various parts of the body, said police.

Babu (38), also a mathematics teacher at Tanore Women's Degree College, left for home at Sadhur Mor in Rajshahi city on a bike at around 10:30pm after participating in a upazila poll campaign for local BNP leaders, said his fellow party activists.

Police suspected that the criminals intercepted him at Kalitala and beat him to death there. Later, they dragged the body to Sashanghat, some 500 yards from the spot.

The criminals also took away Babu's motorbike and two mobile phones. 

"It was a planned murder and part of the on-going tortures on BNP activists across the country," said Babu's father Mahtab Uddin, president of Kolma union BNP.

Babu's brother Hazrat Ali filed a case with Paba Police Station.

He however did not mention any name as murder suspect but said the motive behind the killing was 'political.' 

Locals said incidents of mugging have become commonplace at Kalitala.

Zillur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Paba Police Station, told reporters that the police have started investigating the case.

Freestyle campaign by Rajshahi mayor ignoring EC rules

Rajshahi Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton and Bagha upazila chairman candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu jointly hold an umbrella at Bagha High School ground on Tuesday as Liton calls upon the audience to vote for Mizan, an Awami League leader.Photo: STAR

Rajshahi City Corporation Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton has continued campaigns in favour of Awami League leaders who are contesting in the upazila elections.

Such act by the mayor, who bears the status of a state minister, flouts directives from the Election Commission that served a notice on Sunday asking ministers, state ministers and persons holding similar statuses to refrain from taking part in upazila election campaign.

The mayor is found visiting the upazilas everyday after his office hours to introduce local AL leaders contesting as candidates for the upazila election and seek votes for them, although the upazila elections are held non-party basis.

Mayor Liton in a large public meeting at Hatgangopara High School in Bagmara upazila yesterday afternoon introduced Ibrahim Hossain, former joint secretary of district AL, as the party's chairman candidate for the upazila and sought votes for him.

In a meeting at Bagha High School field on Tuesday, Liton campaigned for Bagha upazila chairman candidate Mizanur Rahman Minu, former organising secretary of the upazila AL.

Liton is also scheduled to visit Tanore today and Puthiya on Friday.

Liton had to resign from the post of general secretary of the city Awami League before he took oath as Rajshahi mayor.

Afsar Ali, on behalf of upazila chairman candidate Layeb Uddin Lavlu, who is also an AL leader, lodged a complaint yesterday afternoon alleging Liton's violations of EC directives in Bagha, said Assistant Returning Officer Dewan M Shahriar Feroz.

When asked about Liton's taking part in upazila election campaign, Returning Officer M Abdul Barik, also the additional deputy commissioner (General) of Rajshahi, said, “I am aware of the matter but I am helpless. He [mayor] holds the status of a state minister. I requested Rajshahi deputy commissioner to talk to him about it.”

Asked if he informed the Election Commission of the matter, he said, “No. As we received Afsar Ali's complaint this evening [Wednesday], we will now send it to the Election Commission.”

“No action can be taken in case of such violation of Election Commission directives as there is no such bar in the election code of conduct. We just read the notice in newspapers,” the RO added.

As this correspondent talked to Rajshahi Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton over phone yesterday, he said, “I am always respectful to the Election Commission and so the question of ignoring the EC directives does not arise. I just joined meetings arranged for my reception as the mayor, not any election campaigns."

"Those political speeches are quite natural...I am the mayor now because of my political background. How can I leave politics when grassroots politicians are so much involved with the upazila election?" he said when asked about his speeches seeking votes for AL leaders.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Urdu back in Bangladesh's political scene

Urdu, the language that Bangladeshis fought as an imposition during the Pakistan era, has staged a comeback in the country's political discourse.

Urdu posters and pamphlets were distributed for the first time since independence in 1971 by contending parties in last month's ninth general elections to woo the non-Bengali voters.

The Daily Star newspaper, in a report from Nilphamari, said that candidates for the posts of chairman and vice-chairman in Saidpur upazila (sub-district) are using Urdu in their campaign.

Urdu-speaking voters comprise half the voters in the upazila.

"Walking along the streets of Saidpur town, one would frequently hear loudspeaker announcements in Urdu.

"It is also being used for slogans in processions and in public speeches by the candidates who know well that Urdu speaking people, commonly known as Biharis, would play a decisive role in Saidpur upazila parishad election," the report said.

Urdu's use is more extensive in this month's upazila elections where the electorates are small and the Urdu speaking people could be the deciders in many constituencies.

What has changed the near-total Bengali language complexion of the estimated 140 million electorate is the inclusion of a small minority, no more than 140,000 voters, whose mother tongue is Urdu.

They are the erstwhile "stranded Pakistanis" or "Biharis" - since a bulk of them arrived from the Indian province of Bihar at the time of the Partition in 1947.

After over three decades of wanting to be repatriated to Pakistan, from which Bangladesh separated in 1971, they have accepted Bangladeshi citizenship.

Living in 160 camps across the country supervised by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), they were registered as voters last year.

However, no one from the Urdu speaking community is in the electoral race from the upazila.

There was no Urdu-speaking candidate among the 1,550 candidates in the country's parliamentary poll last month either.

Indo-Asian News Service


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Strawberry flavours export dream

View of a strawberry garden in Rajshahi.Photo: STAR

The Quantum Foundation authorities in Rajshahi bought over 1,000 strawberry plants for Tk 20,000 a month ago. They spent a further Tk 13,000 cultivating a fallow eight decimal pieces of land in Shitlai Kazipur area. They are now waiting to cash nearly Tk 2 lakh, six times the amount they invested, by selling 250kg of the lip-smacking fruit, in just 10 days.

“Strawberry cultivation is relatively new in the country, but it is not difficult. It spins money," said Muzahidul Islam Zahid, an official of the foundation.

"For the first time I have cultivated the fruit."

Major Hafizur Rahman Mollah, deputy inspector general of prisons for the Rajshahi division, cultivated some 2,500 strawberry plants at the Rajshahi Central Jail property, six months ago.

The jail authorities have spent over Tk 50,000 on the cultivation and now sell 1,000 saplings for Tk 70,000. Also, they are set to sell around 600kg of the fruit at an expected Tk 4.20 lakh.

“Attracted by the economic viability of the fruit, I made necessary arrangements on the jail premises, so that jail inmates can learn the tricks of the trade and adopt them later in their lives,” Major Hafiz told The Daily Star.

M Shahidullah, a local agent of Holcim Ltd, has also cultivated strawberries recently. Strawberries are also being farmed by at least 25 other individuals in Rajshahi -- for the first time this season.

By cultivating 1.5 tonnes of strawberries on a leased plot at Rajshahi University, botany teacher Dr M Manzur Hossain is expected to sell 10 tonnes of strawberries, worth around Tk 70 lakh, by March.

Strawberry farming is already in motion in 30 districts in the country. With the average price of a kilogram of the fruit standing at Tk 700, the commercially viable fruit presents great export potentials and ushers in economic prospects for those who wish to get high and fast returns from limited land resources, according to pioneers in the field.

Originating in the US, the crop is usually grown in Europe and Australia. It gained popularity in parts of Japan and tropical India. Each year, a global production of about 30 lakh tonnes of strawberries on two lakh hectares of land was recorded in the FAOSTAT Database.

The country has demand for 50 tonnes of strawberries per season, which local traders import from different countries including the US, Thailand and Australia. Strawberries are usually eaten raw or used in preparing ice creams, jams, jellies, pickles, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and milk shakes.

The strawberry, a nutritious and delicious foreign fruit, is now adapted to the Bangladeshi climate. It was registered with the National Seed Board recently, following its successful experimental cultivation at Rajshahi and the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute in Joydevpur, said Dr Shafikul Islam, senior scientific officer of Rajshahi Fruit Research Centre.

The government experiments started in 2006 and three years later, Manzur developed several new varieties adapted to the local climate. Another horticulturist, Quamruzzaman of Natore, experimented with the fruits' field results and successfully took it to market.

Many visitors from different parts of the country are now thronging to their strawberry fields. Over 150 people from 30 districts started cultivating the fruit. The Bangladesh Strawberry Association (BAS) was formed with Manzur as its chairman, to fuel the growth of the cultivation.

Strawberry cultivation was successful in the hilly Matiranga Army Zone in Cox's Bazar last year. This year, many fresh initiatives were taken to develop the trade in Panchagarh, Dinajpur, Tangail, Rangpur, Kurigram, Mymensingh, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Jessore, Magura, Faridpur, Madaripur and many areas around Dhaka.

In the early 1990s, Dr Manzur was in Japan, pursuing his PhD, when Quamruzzaman joined him in a one-year training session. They together planned the cultivation of the fruit in the country.

Returning home in 1996, Manzur brought along eight varieties of saplings and Quamruzzaman collected six varieties from Japan and America. But none of them sustained.

A breakthrough occurred when Manzur developed some new varieties through tissue cultures at his Botany department's Plant Breeding and Gene Engineering Laboratory, while Quamruzzaman did the same in Natore.

In 2003, after five years of research, three varieties yielded encouraging results. Out of the three, the 'RU-3' and 'Modern-3' variety proved to be very impressive in all aspects of size, taste, and flavour, with each fruit weighing from 20 to 25 grams. At present, the methods are now more developed, following successful cultivation over the last five years.

Strawberry cultivation is no difficult from growing potatoes or brinjals. Saplings are sown into prepared beds of matted rows in November and December. Pioneers also inform that organic fertiliser is best for the fruit.

Strawberry plants begin to flower within a month of plantation and fruits can be collected till March. Saplings can be collected from nurseries run by Dr Manzur and Quamruzzaman in Natore. Different NGOs are also producing strawberry saplings.

Each plant bears around 250 to 300 grams of fruits and some 6000 plants can be grown on a bigha of land, they say. A farmer can spend Tk 20,000 to yield 2000 kg fruit on a bigha of land. “Even if strawberries sell at Tk 100 a kg, a farmer can easily earn Tk 2 lakh,” said Manzur.

“I experimented at first by selling 35 kg of strawberries at Tk 300 a kg in 2006. In 2007, he sold 87 kg at Tk 550 per kg, gradually increasing the business in this manner,” Manzur said. This year he expects 1.5 tonnes of strawberries from some 6000 plants.

With great export potential, the sweet and attractive fruit will open new horizons for farmers, he told The Daily Star.

Local fruit importers and foreigners, who visited Manzur's strawberry field, comment that the produce was better in size, colour and taste than those found in many other countries.

Quamruzzaman hopes some 8,000 strawberry plants in his nursery will yield more than two tonnes of produce. He even sold good quality strawberries at Tk 2,000 per kg in Dhaka last year.

“I recently planted two new varieties from America Camarosa and Festival. Each fruit of the export quality varieties would weigh about 50 grams,” he says. Other strawberry varieties usually weigh around 25 grams.

However, strawberry cultivation is still lacking government initiatives, which resists expansion, although the trade was registered in the country last year.

“The fruit will no doubt be a profitable crop for farmers. If it is grown on a large scale, the highly nutritious fruit will come within the reach of the common people. There will be no need for imports,” said Manzur.

“Once it is popularised, the fruit can play a role in alleviating poverty and help overcome problems associated with malnourishment,” said Quamruzzaman.

Reject Jamaat in upazila polls, Rajshahi BNP leaders tell party men

Minu, Kabir say dependence on Jamaat weakened BNP and caused poll debacle

Five front ranking BNP leaders who lost the national election in Rajshahi and grassroots party leaders from their areas at a meeting here have called upon all party men and supporters to reject Jamaat-e-Islami candidates in the upcoming upazila election in the district.

The BNP leaders also pointed out that BNP's alliance with Jamaat weakened its organisational strength which is a major cause for its debacle in the December 29 national election.

People do not like Jamaat for its role against the country's independence, they said at an extended meeting of party workers held at Kharkhari High School ground on the outskirts of the city Saturday evening.

Some BNP leaders' affinity to Jamaat-e Islami and corruption alongside a 'deep-rooted conspiracy by the immediate past caretaker government' are also responsible for BNP's poll debacle, they told the meeting.

Darshanpara union BNP president Abul Kalam Azad chaired the meeting.

Central BNP's Liberation War affair secretary Kabir Hossain, organising secretary Mizanur Rahman Minu, Azizur Rahman, Abdul Gafur and Nazrul Islam addressed the meeting. All the five front ranking BNP leaders in the district ran in the parliamentary election but lost to Awami League-led grand alliance candidates.

Paba upazila BNP's organising secretary Ali Hossain conducted the meeting.

BNP bagged only eight parliamentary seats out of 72 in Rajshahi division in the December 29 poll against 43 in 2001 election.

The BNP leaders' comments against Jamaat involving many BNP leaders created commotion among the audience, but it was cooled down following intervention by senior BNP leaders.

The speakers also alleged that the caretaker government 'conspired' in the poll to see BNP defeated.

Kabir Hossain asked party-men to say 'no' to Jamaat as it was the main obstacle to BNP leaders' candidature in many areas in the last election.

As an ally, Jamaat demanded candidature in many constituencies knowing well their internal weaknesses and lack of public support but they finally got tickets through lobbying, he said.

Mizanur Rahman Minu who was criticised at the meeting for his Jamaat affinity also stressed the need to 'reduce dependency' on Jamaat.

“BNP suffered huge loss in all six Rajshahi seats for one Jamaat candidate in one seat”, he said.

“Shunagoriker Shondhaney” staged at RU

The programme at RU was well attended by teachers, students and noted cultural personalities.Photo: STAR

Anushilon Nattyadal of Rajshahi University staged "Shunagoriker Shondhaney" (in search of ideal citizens) at the Shaheed Minar Mukto-mancho on campus last Saturday.

Activists of Anushilon took part in the show that was followed by a congregation of cultural activists.

The show highlighted the slogan, 'Lets reach out to people, and abandon the culture of unjust take-over.'

RU teacher Moloy Bhoumik, who directed the show, told the audience that the programme was their first attempt to "revive the campus from an almost dark era for cultural activists."

"Cultural practices had been greatly hampered in the last few years following the rise of militancy and influence of religious fanatics on campus," said Bhoumik, as he was going over the background of staging the play.

Religious extremists had unleashed terror on RU campus, threatening cultural activists, he said.

Eminent litterateur Hasan Azizul Haque along with teachers, students, cultural activists and journalists were present on the occasion.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pro-BNP bus owners' office occupied by AL men

Pro-Awami League bus owners' group yesterday forcibly captured the office of district bus minibus owners' association in Natore (NBMOA), dominated by pro-BNP bus owners' group.

Witnesses said some 50 people of pro-AL bus owners' group and another 100 party cadres barged into the office of the association in Kanaikhali area at about noon and asked NBMOA leaders to go out of the office.

The NBMOA leaders, including convenor Zamilur Rahman Kabir, left the office immediately.

Manjur Alam Hasu, former NBMOA president and a leader of pro-AL bus owners' group, told newsmen that the BNP men had captured the office illegally and they (pro-AL) want to bring order in the association through holding an election.

He also informed that a negotiation is going on to form a committee comprising the representatives of both AL and BNP.

There are allegations that the CBA election of Natore Sugar Mills was rigged to ensure victory of pro-AL panel.

Pro-BNP panel president candidate Feroz Ali showed a document that he bagged 569 votes while his rival pro-AL candidate Ataur Rahman got 512 votes.

He alleged that Ataur was declared winner despite the result.

Addressing separate public meetings in Sadar Upazila of Natore, State Minister for Youth and Sports Ahad Ali Sarker yesterday warned that any type of terrorism and oppression would not be tolerated.

Dulu freed on bail

Former BNP deputy minister for land Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu was released on January 2 from the prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

Dulu was freed from the prison cell at about 1:15pm, said Towhidul Islam, superintendent of Dhaka Central Jail, while talking to The Daily Star.

The BNP leader, who is sentenced to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment in two cases, had surrendered to a Dhaka court on February 20, 2007 and is now facing a total of 23 cases, including six for his alleged link with militancy.

Of the cases, a tribunal court in Natore awarded him 12 years' imprisonment on August 7 last year for arson attack. Another court on July 26 sentenced him to eight years' in jail for looting and arson.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rajshahi BNP men urge party high-ups to abandon Jamaat

Jamaat trying to reorganise party


Blamed by its major partner BNP for the poll debacle, Jamaat-e-Islami has intensified organisational activities to protect its existence in Rajshahi region, an area that saw rise of Islamist militancy allegedly under Jamaat protection while in power.

BNP sources here said they have already suggested party high-ups to 'reconsider' its alliance with Jamaat, saying its popularity dipped for siding with the fundamentalist party.

"After the election, we are now busy in organisational activities", said Abul Kalam Azad, general secretary of Rajshahi city Jamaat.

Replying to questions, he said, "We are not taking into account what others talk about us. If any one thinks we are no more his friend, he has his liberty. We are not concerned about it", he said.

Among the four-party alliance contestants, Jamaat leaders lost in all 17 seats to grand alliance and BNP gabbed only 8 out of 72 in Rajshahi division in the December 29 polls.

Seeking anonymity, several front ranking BNP leaders expressed their anxiety that the party might suffer more losses if it continues to deny people's verdict against anti-liberation forces and war criminals.

They said Jamaat men always serve their own interest and use BNP's strength to gain strength.

Many Jamaat leaders did not take part in poll campaigns of BNP nominees. Instead they worked for Jamaat candidates in the region. Moreover, Jamaat contested against BNP candidates in Rajshahi-3 and Chapainawabganj-3 constituencies, the BNP leaders said while talking to this correspondent.

"We were defeated in the city corporation election also because Jamaat did not support the BNP candidate with full heart", said a BNP leader in Rajshahi city.

Another BNP leader in Natore termed the election result a 'calamity' on BNP and said the only way to escape it is to get rid of Jamaat. They said they have suggested party high-ups to keep away from Jamaat.

"It is for Jamaat's protection that the so-called Islamist militancy found root in the country. Besides, people's support to Jamaat is decreasing fast", he said.

Echoing the Natore BNP leader, a BNP candidate who lost in Rajshahi district said, Jamaat leaders' negative campaign during the election created a huge gap with peace loving people. "BNP paid a high price for friendship with them (Jamaat)", he said.

Jamaat made a false propaganda of death of a BNP candidate on the even of the election and used parody songs in campaign to criticise opponents of Jamaat candidates in some areas of the region. This drove voters away from BNP candidates, he said.

In Chapainwabganj, Jamaat factor was a major cause for BNP's defeat, said a party leader. Nominating candidates facing corruption charges was also a factor, he said.

However, two Jamaat leaders in Natore and Chapainwabganj held the alleged corruption by former BNP stalwarts responsible for their poll debacle. They said, there is nothing to gain from any division in the four-party alliance.

Rajshahi BNP president Azizur Rahman, a close aide to BNP stalwart Mizanur Rahman Minu, said there is nothing to blame Jamaat alone. "A big party must have some faults when it governs a country for five years".