165th Issue Mar.-Apr., 2010
Baby Politics in Bangladesh (Conted)
Hotline’s policy from the beginning has always been non-partisan, so we had to pay attention when a reader of the last issue acused us of being partisan because it was mostly directed against one of the two main parties pitted against each other in the national political arena. It is true that after being critical of both parties in the opening section, we concentrated only one of the parties thereafter. But by the time we had finished writing, the editorial space was already filled up and our deadline was near. We regret that we did not inform our readers (through lack of space) that we had in mind to be just as stiff in this editorial against the other party as we were against the first party in the last issue.
We are happy to note that the biggest criticism of our last editorial against the opposition – abstention from parliament – has now been removed. For this we congratulate the opposition and urge them to give enlightened opposition rather than negative and destructive opposition.
One of the main subjects treated by the newspapers during the past two months and earlier has been the nefarious activities of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL for short), the main student arm of the Awami League (AL). In university after university and college after college the BCL have been using violence to oust the JCD the student wing of the BNP and the Shibir Chhatra League, student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami Party from all positions of dominance and power in many important universities and colleges. The BCL has been raising money through controlling student admissions by demanding “political quotas” at the time of admission and “selling” seats to students who cannot stand on their own merits. It also tried to raise money by controlling the tenders on contracts for construction and projects within university campuses. Land grabbing is another of its activities.
After the Shibir attacked the BCL, resulting in the murder of a quality student at Rajshahi University, the BCL did much property damage and have the cash and possessions of Shibir students. The Prime Minister often mentioned in her talks that there would be “zero tolerance” shown for lawbreakers of any ilk, without partisan protection for party affiliates. The LGRD and Cooperatives Minister and General Secretary of the AL, Syed Ashraful Islam, on February blamed “a few” BCL activists for tarnishing government’s image and called for stern action, like expulsion, against those involved in tender rigging and destructive activities. In the one big case involving murder of a student at Dhaka University, 14 students were to be expelled but six were still living openly in their hall and moving about freely without arrest for over a month. Zero tolerance seems to mean, rather, zero punishment. As long as the mentality prevails that students are completely above the law – for any reason whatsoever – not much can be done to control student violence, no matter how rabid it may be. One remembers only too well the case of the army vehicle that was destroyed in the last big uprising of students and the army held out for over a year in its right to prosecute the lawbreakers, until a large group of teachers and the Vice Chancellor himself, appealed to them to drop the case.
Some of the election pledges of the Awami League are now being belatedly addressed. More than 10 years after the Peace Treaty in the CHT, the Land Commission is finally being pressured to take up land cases t6 help solve the main problem of the hill people – dispossession of their lands by forcible settlement of large numbers of Bengali colonists and continuous migration and settling of large numbers of Bengalis in the hills without legal efforts to control it. The recent flare-ups against tribals in the hills and their violent reaction to the burning of their houses were not simply irrational outbursts or minor provocation. Another aspect, which draws little attention, is the almost complete and discriminatory domination of all trade and commerce in the Hill Tracts by the Bengalis. The defense of the tribal rights, though, is now mainly in the hands of Bengalis humanists who see what is happening through lack of action in fulfilling the Peace Accord.
Another issue which seems to draw little criticism is the recommendation by the Awami League cabinet committee to have more than 2,000 cases, almost exclusively against AL party members, dropped as “politically motivated” cases. They were brought to court by the Anti-Corruption Commission during the time two-year spell under the caretaker government. But although the earliest caretakers were appointees of the BNP, the later caretakers, at the time when most of the cases were actually filed, were not chosen on political considerations. We wonder how these caretaker ministers, and the members of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the judges of the court who sat on these cases, think about this one-sided judgment of their wisdom and honesty.
The main legal issue is not who brought up the cases but whether or not they are verified enough (prima facie evidence) to be taken to trial. ###
BCL demand “political” seats
Some BCL leaders are doing a brisk business in college admissions by forcing college authorities to enroll their chosen candidates according to a “political quota” (unheard of and illegal). Many have accumulated huge sums of money from students whom they assure of admission this year. BCL would not allow the admission of Honours students for the National University to occur unless the authorities agreed to take their candidates. This is a violation of all admission rules. Dhaka College admission was stalled for three weeks as BCL held stubbornly to their special quota demand (in order to enhance their dominance on campus). DS 03.02.2010
The BCL stopped the interview of first year honours admission at Dhaka College on Feb. 2. The teachers held an emergency meeting and decided to suspend all admission activities on Feb. 3.
The NU authorities intervened and decided to complete the admission process by e-mail for the two colleges where outsiders interfered.
On Feb. 14 Kushtia Govt. College had to suspend first-year honours admission because the BCL again demanded to enroll 200 students. Two journalists who were in the principal’s room to collect information were severely beaten by the BCL men and locked in the library. A sub-inspector was suspended for not rescuing the journalists immediately. An anonymous college teacher told a journalist that the BCL leaders had threatened the principal: “anything can happen if the admission process is not stopped without meeting our demand.”
On Feb. 16 the college suspended all organisational activities of the BCL for an indefinite period. After the BCL-Shibir clash on Jan.
15 at Meherpur Govt. College police pressed charges against 23 Shibir leaders on Feb. 17. Among the arrested was Saki Salam, Assistant Primary Education Officer, who gave the accused shelter and from whose pond firearms were recovered.
PM displeased over traffic plan
On Feb. 2 the prime minister at a regular cabinet meeting expressed her unhappiness over the failure or lack of progress of authorities to ease traffic congestion, despite her repeated instructions. Communications Minister defended the authorities, blaming the rapidly increasing number of vehicles. Hasina rejoinder: “Lack of management among you is responsible for the situation.” Being irked she asked how thousands of banned 20-year old vehicles continue to ply the streets despite frequent drives against them.” She also expressed impatience over the slow construction of flyovers and asked the minister to “construct the overpasses immediately.”
2 caught selling fake revenue stamps
Two RAB police in the guise of buyers seized fake revenue, court fee and non-judicial stamps worth Tk 30 lakh on Feb. 2 and arrested two persons, including a licensed stamp seller. One had been arrested six months ago on the same charge but freed on bail. RAB also took Tk 41,118 in cash from them. Their sales centre was near the industries ministry in Motijhil. They told where they got their stamps but did not reveal, however, where the stamps were printed.
New building without parking
The Bangladesh National Rifle Association has rented out a four-storey building for commercial purposes without RAJUK permission and without any provision for parking. The Noudan Group planned to open a mega shop on the ground floor on January 28, a convention hall on the first and second floors on Mr. 1 and a restaurant on the third floor at a later date. Rajuk says it didn’t approve the commercial use of the property or the leasing out to a third party. The building lacks any car parking, which by law must be proportionate to its floor space. DS 4.02.2010
BCL attacks women JCD
At the inauguration of the Annual Book Fair at the Student-Teacher Centre of DU by the prime minister on Feb. 2, activists of the BCL, led by the President of the Zahurul. Haq Hall unit attacked the women of JCD (student arm of the BNP), seizing their banner and slapping them when they were protesting over the choice of the prime minister to open the book fair. Shahbag police took seven BCL activists to the police station but several Awami League leaders, including the Chief Whip, rushed to the station and got their release. A BCL leader said they didn’t assault the women but simple tried to remove their banner, as directed by his higher-ups. DS 03.02.2010
3 kids killed on road in 3 days
Hamlin Sheikh (5), a KG student of Wills Little Flower School, was killed by a speeding minibus on Feb. 3 and his mother (Motaleb Sheikh) who was leading him across the Paltan-Kakrail Road, got critical head injuries. The bus had no mirror on the left side and the driver did not see the victims but felt a large object under the wheel and heard people yelling at him to speed away. Others stopped him and turned him over to the police, to whom he admitted other accidents, due to lack of a side mirror and to having a fake driver’s license for the past two years.
On Feb. 2 a 5-year old schoolboy was killed in a road accident at Hotapara in Gazipur Dt. and his 7-year old brother was seriously injured. A speeding bus hit them as they were crossing the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway. The driver was arrested. Agitated people erected barricades in the road for about an hour.
A 7-year old girl, Sumi Akhter, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Dhaka Feb. 5 and her mother and 14-month old brother Hasan suffered head injuries. A traffic police constable saw them lying on Kazi Nazrul Islam Road, while a speeding bus and car drove off north at Shaheenbagh. The father is a rickshaw puller.
Arms haul prime accused Confesses
The key accused in the sensational Chittagong arms haul case, Md Hafizur Rahman, implicated the same high officials of intelligence agencies and of ULFA, the United Liberation Front of Assam he mentioned in last year’s statement. He took eight hours to make the confessional statement, on Feb. 7, recorded in 43 pages. [The source of the arms and who brought them to Bangladesh has not yet been revealed.]
The Opposition Chief Whip, flanked by seven BNP-MPs, alleged on Feb. 11 that a certain intelligence agency forced Hafizur Rahman to confess that Tarique Rahman held a meeting at Hawa Bhavan with the ULFA leader Paresh Barua, the one for whom the Chittagong arms haul was intended.
Babar and the former NSI chief Rezaqul Haider Chowdhury during interrogation on Feb. 14 both stated that there were several top-ranking and influential officials of the then govt. who were involved and therefore they tried to keep their noses clean.
CID officials, however, felt they were hiding the truth and passing the blame to save themselves.
Constitution to return to 1972
On Feb. 2 the Supreme Court upheld the historic High Court judgment in 2005 that declared the 5th amendment to the Constitution illegal. It meant that the governments between Aug. 15, 1975 and Apr. 9, 1979 were in power without lawful authority. The SC also dismissed two petitions that contested the HC verdict but with some modifications and observations. The amendment act of Apr. 6, 1979 said that all procedures carried out during the previous 4-year period by martial law governments were ratified and declared valid and immune from judicial review. But the petitioners’ counsels claimed that the SC did not fully uphold the HC verdict. DS 03.02.10
Campus anarchy intolerable
The adviser to the PM for Health and Family Welfare Prof. Dr. Syed Modasser Ali said on Feb. 8 that government would not tolerate any anarchy on campuses anymore. “If anybody resorts to anarchy he will be punished sternly, he stated.” He especially pointed out that violence in the name of the Chhatra League will not be tolerated, but blamed most of the chaos that occurred on “infiltrators in the party” [without identifying them, but the AL General Secretary of the AL Syed Ashraful Islam in a meeting of 14-party leaders on Feb. 9 claimed that Shibir men infiltrating the BCL were responsible for the recent spate of violence on campuses]. The Prime Minister added on Feb. 9 that her government would spare none of those responsible for violence at Dhaka and Rajshahi Universities.
The very same day the first opportunity for stern action arose when police at Rajshahi University arrested 10 Shibir activists the night of Feb. 8 for beating up two BCL men and injuring three others.
The following day Feb. 9 mayhem took place on Rajshahi campus when cadres of the Islami Shibir hacked a final-year student, Faruk Hossain, to death and stuffed the body into a manhole. In the ensuing fracas between BCL and Shibir activists about 100 were injured, including at least four BCL whose tendons were cut by Shibir men. A five-member faculty committee was formed to probe the violence.
As a backlash of the Rajshahi U. violence the BCL vandalised several rooms of Shibir men of four dormitories of the University of Engineering and Technology on the night of Feb. 9 and two private hostel of Edward College, Pabna, were torched. On Feb. 14 police arrested 31 more Shibir cadres in Dhaka and Rajshahi.
Though nine police were suspended for negligence, the Rajshahi Metropolitan Police Commissioner blamed the University for not doing its part in controlling the Feb. 9 violence on campus. “Where were the proctors and hall provosts during the attacks? He asked. He said the VC phoned him at 3:06 a.m., long after the killing had already occurred.
On Jan. 16 Rajshahi Detective Branch arrested Siddik Hossain, an RU syndicate member for his role in the campus violence. And on Feb. 22 at least 24 leaders of the Shibir, including its general secretary, quit the group due to internal conflicts over the violence.
On Mar. 8 Ekram Hosain, arrested for the murder of BCL leader Faruk Hosain, linked several key leaders of the Jamaat and Shibir with the killing. One of them, the General Secretary of the Jamaat Ali Ahsan Md. Mohajid, said: “We’d never think of doing such activities. DS 09.03.10
On Mar. 13 a Jamaat leader Gias Uddin confessed before a Rajshahi court that all levels of the Jamaat-i-Islami gave all-out help to the Islami Chhatra Shibir in the Feb. 9 violence at RU, following an organisational decision.
659 more cases to be dropped
Govt. recommended on Feb. 9 that 659 more cases be withdrawn as “politically motivated.” These make a total of 2,893 such cases up to now. The Anti-Corruption Commission had submitted 1,091 cases for consideration by the inter-ministerial committee which made the judgments. None of the “politically motivated” cases was against any BNP or Jamaat leader. DS 10.02.10
Fair price cards for poor
Govt. decided on Feb. 11 to introduce fair price cards from Feb. 21 for 25 lakh ultra-poor families (having no permanent income or land and not included under another safety net program).Women-headed families will have priority. The poor families would get 20 kg of rice per month at Tk. 22 per kg. for three months.
BCL sued for land-grab bid
BCL activists tried to grab 11 acres of land of the People’s University in Savar on Feb. 11 and looted Tk. 5 lakh worth of construction materials. They also beat up the deputy registrar of the university and four other employees. The deputy filed a case against 12 BCL leaders, including the former Joint Secretary General of the central committee, Mazhar Anam. DS 12.02.2010
No allowance for centenarian
A 100-year old woman, Barujan Bibi, has lived 42 years as a widow without getting the Tk. 300 old age allowance to which she is entitled. She said the Sharankila Upazila Welfare Officer of Bagerhat Dt. has ignored her. He could not be contacted for comment. DS 12.02.10
“Return” to Parliament?
Khaleda Zia, leader of the Opposition, arrived in Parliament on Feb.11 just in time to .lead her MPs in a walkout in protest over the home minister’s remarks about the late president Ziaur Rahman.
Again on Feb. 14 the BNP-led opposition MPs walked out of parliament for “indecent remarks” about Pres. Zia’s grave. Pandemonium ensued and the MPs demands that the remarks be expunged. The Speaker promised to investigate all unconstitutional and un-parliamentary words and remove them from the Proceedings.
On Jan. 16 the opposition not only walked out over the renaming of Zia International Airport but the BNP announced country-wide demonstrations on Feb.18 in protest.
The PM stated in a national TV address that BNP deserved to suffer. The BNP had complained that 200-250 names have been changed, but Sheikh Hasina said only a few have been. The AL had begun all those structures and named them but the BNP alliance changed the names.
List student miscreants: OC
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner on Feb. 16 asked the DCs of all eight Dhaka crime zones to prepare lists of troublemaker students of colleges and universities. The lists were to be submitted to the DMP within three days.
Corruption in health recruitment
Recruitment of 6,000 health assistants has been stalled for two months because of alleged massive corruption in recruitment. Many anonymous candidates said that they paid up to Tk. 4 lakh to UP chairmen and district-level AL leaders as demanded bribes. Some five lakh candidates applied on Jan. 1 for 6,381 posts of health assistant. There has been no committee appointed up to now to investigate the corruption charges. DS 18.02.10
OC neglects arrests in Rid case
A Dhaka court on Feb. 18 directed Brahmanbaria District Superintendent to take stringent action against the Officer-in-Charge for neglect in submitting any report for the last six months against three absconding officials of Rid Pharma Ltd. for manufacturing and distributing toxic paracetamol.
Trader beaten for toll by BCL
A Panchari Upazila, Khagrachari BCL leader, Uttom Dey, beat a rice trader, Polash, on Feb. 17 for failing to pay an illegal toll. He was in the health complex in critical condition. The local MP demanded stern action but the police did nothing. DS 18. 02.10
Teenagers most sexually harassed
A symposium was organised on Feb. 17 by four divisions of BRAC at the BRAC Centre Inn on the theme “Celebrating development, celebra-ting women.” It was held to commemorate 100 years of Inter-national Women’s Day and 35 years of the ratification of CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women). The results of research by BRAC on 3000 human rights violations between 2006-2009 showed that the most frequent crime was rape (31%), followed by murder (25%), acid throwing (15%), suicide (12%), physical torture (8%) and attempts to rape (7%). Half of the rape victims were below 15 years of age. DS 18.02.10
Tribals attacked in CHT
Two tribal people were killed when the army opened fire on agitated tribals in remote Gangaram Mukh, Baghaichhari Upazila on Feb. 21. This followed an attack, allegedly by Bengali settlers of nearby Russel Square Village on tribals over land “disputes” on Feb. 20. The tribals said settlers were building on their land. The settlers allegedly set fire to 40 tribal houses and the next day burnt 160-200 more houses in 11 villages. They also burned down a church, two Buddhist temples and even a mosque, according to a tribal witness. Locals claimed that the army and the local administration backed the Bengali settlers, while the army claimed the tribals set fire to their own houses “with an ulterior motive.” The army came the next day to check on damage and when large crowds of tribals gathered, the army charged with truncheons to disperse them. When a Sergeant tried to hit a tribal, the latter cut him with a machete, which prompted the army to fire, killing two people. Tribals said that up to 10 had been killed but they could not recover the bodies.
On Jan. 10 tribal people of Baghaihat had given a memorandum to the UNO (upazila executive officer) to return by Jan. 16 the land allegedly grabbed by the Bengali settlers, stop resettlement of Bengalis there and remove settlers from the area. Lacking results, they started agitation and boycotted the Bengali market. Some army on Jan. 1 went to the market and beat up some tribals boycotting the market and injured eight. The tribal commission demanded immediate judicial enquiry into the situation. DS 21.02.2010
The DS reported on Feb 22 that tension continued, as some tribals attacked and damaged the car of the UNO returning from the area with the state minister for CHT affairs. At least 1,500 people of nine villages were displaced and took shelter in two tribal villages. Authorities confirmed two deaths and the bodies were sent for autopsy. The army zone commander said he, the UNO and others had tried to settle the land disputes but neither party paid any heed. The state minister assured the tribal victims of impartial judicial investigation and both the settlers and tribals of proper compensation. Local tribals demanded removal of the army from Baghaihat.
In a joint statement issued on Feb. 22nd 29 eminent persons demanded a discussion on the issue in Parliament.
By Mar. 15 several hundred tribals were waiting for relief from an NGO near Gangaram Mukh passenger shed, the only structure standing. Houses, schools, clinics, temples and churches were all burned to ashes and all hills near the road through Kasalong Reserve Forest lay barren. Local tribals said all the big trees were cut down for building the road, then for building camps and the rest cut by Bengali settlers. DS 15.03.2010
Biggest stock fall since 2001
The biggest stock fall since 2001 when the benchmark index was introduced occurred on Feb. 22. Grameen phone and Marico market shares declined steeply in value due to the market regulators reining in their prices. On Feb. 14 stocks had jumped more than 100 points, mainly due to a 7% rise in Grameen phone shares. Within a short time more than 100,000 new buyers had entered the market, bringing danger of a collapse due to their lack of knowledge about the working of the market.
On Feb. 22 the General Index lost almost 138 points or 2.39%. Previous moves to control the share prices had proved useless. By Mar.14 investor confidence was at a new low ebb, since 89 per cent of the securities declined, the highest number in history.
The General Index went down 2.26 per cent. Many investors abstained from trading because they found the intervention of the Securities and Exchange Commission “unnecessary and unexpected.”
21 killed in sweater fire
Fire in a sweater factory in Gazipur (Garib & Garib Co., Ltd.) on Feb. 25 killed 21. The fire began on the first floor, producing thick black smoke from stored acrylic yarn. The smoke could not escape because of faulty ventilation and 21 suffocated to death, 15 of them female. One of two exits was blocked by yarn-filled bags on the alternative staircase in the 7-floor building. There was a fire in the same building six months before, in which a fireman was killed and seven firefighters were injured. A security guard said there were 11 on duty but none was trained to use fire extinguishers and hydrants, though a marketing director said all workers had proper training on fire safety, but everything happened too fast.
It was decided by the BGMEA (owners association) to give Tk 2 lakh to the victims’ families. Despite hundreds of RMG fire deaths and injuries over the years (nine major fires since 1990), it is well-known that the factories are at high fire risk and have many deficiencies in precautionary measures against fire, though the President of the BGMEA said that every garment factory has to maintain regular drills to ensure compliance with rules. [Who checks on them and what is their punishment for violators?
Suu Kyi’s appeal spurned
Nobel Peace Laureate, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest appeal for release after 14 years of house arrest was rejected on Feb. 26 by the highest court in military-dominated Burma. The French Ambassador termed her “the victim of a sham trial.”
Govt. calls EU claims baseless
The Foreign Ministry on Feb. 27 called the European Union statement on the recent CHT incident “baseless.” The EU wrote that it was aware of allegations that the incident involved army personnel and labourers employed by the army.
Govt. dragged out the “red herring” that it was Sheikh Hasina who had concluded the CHT Peace Accord and in her new term resumed its full implementation, e.g. the Land Commission was reinvigorated. [Unless the Land Commission has worked secretly, there has not been a report of their hearing even A SINGLE lAND CASE in the past ten years. Moreover, the land survey has not been begun either. The land problem was the main reason for the Shanti Bahini uprising and after the Peace Accord it still remains as the crucial problem. The latest incident shows that conclusively.] Govt. also reiterated its pledge of “zero tolerance” against impunity. [How many times have we heard that about the BCL? Yet their crimes are still rampant throughout the nation and so far known offenders have been little punished.]
Rape death penalty illegal
The death penalty for killing after rape under the Women & Children Repression Prevention Act 1995 was declared illegal by the High Court Mar. 2 If death is the only option for crime, it said, the judges’ jurisdiction is too limited. [Also, compulsory death penalty encourages killing of the victim, usually the only witness.]
Pak terrorist captured
RAB on Feb. 28 arrested a Pakistan national, Rezwan Ahmed, who spent 10 years in an Indian jail for hijacking an Indian Airlines plane. He and four local associates are suspected to have links with one of the main terrorist groups of South Asia, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).Another Pakistani, Jawan, escaped capture and may have fled to India. Rezwan said his assignment here was to recruit local youths and prepare them to stage attacks in India. DS 01.03.10
Billal, a suspected Jaish operative, admitted to making safe passage for 12-15 militants from Bangladesh to India in 1999, who were involved in hijacking an Indian plane.
Shibir rented out dorm seats
Documents seized during the raids on various Rajshahi University dormitories by university authorities and police since Feb. 23 show that places were illegally rented out to students by the Shibir in connivance with some office staff. They used the funds for party organisational activities and investments for party members. Proctors and hall provosts prepared a report to submit to police for taking legal action. The Shibir were said to be making about Tk 24 lakh a year from business at 11 dorms since 2005. Leaders from other halls and city units checked the financial books each month. The Shibir also earned up to Tk 2,000 per month from sale, often forced, of six publications. In every hall they built a secretariat, where they planned illegal and terrorising activities. They had a spy among 11 BCL workers in one hall. DS 03.03.10
Furor in Parliament
Many lawmakers on both sides created an uproar in Parliament for about 15 minutes on Mar. 1 by exchanging vulgar and even indecent remarks and issuing a threat of attack. On Mar. 5 Speaker Abdul Hamid, who was absent on the 1st, severely condemned the incident as a shame for the nation. He said he would switch microphones off any time unparliamentary and hostile words are used.
A goldsmith, Prem Krishno Roy, was killed Mar. 4 after filing a GD (General Diary) against a group of extortionists who had threatened him for 3-4 weeks. They first demanded Tk 23 lakh and then 35 lakh when he refused to pay. They warned him he would be killed in front of the police. A witness heard several shots and saw a police team standing where the victim lay with seven bullet wounds, as three men ran off.
HC calls for info on scrap ships
The High Court on Mar. 8 called on Govt. to furnish all documents on 172 ships imported for scrapping after Mar. 17, 2009. In view of the many deaths and injuries of workers from explosions on old ships, the environmental NGO BELA had petitioned the HC in 2008 to close all ship-breaking yards not having environmental clearance. The HC called for environmental clearance certificates, no-objection certificates and letters of credit for the 172 ships.
Immunity for Govt. officials only
The cabinet committee to review anti-graft laws proposed immunity only for govt. officials, which means that the Anti-Corruption Commission would need permission to file cases against them. There would also be provision to lodge complaints to the ACC chairman if MPs and local body representatives disapprove ACC proceedings. The committee ignored ACC reservations on several proposals. The chairman wanted their the ACC observations to be submitted to the cabinet along with the report, lest the ACC become completely non-functional. DS 12.03.10
The ACC chairman Ghulam Rahman on Mar. 14 blamed the prevalence of corruption in Bangladesh on the lack of political will to eradicate it and on election procedures which encourage corruption.
Nike graft case quashed
The High Court on Mar. 11 quashed all proceedings in the Nike Corruption Case against Sheikh Hasina and directed the ACC Chairman to amend its rules regarding filing and proceeding of any case. It observed that the case had been filed at the instigation of a vested quarter to harass her politically and damage her image and popularity.
There are also five petitions pending with the HC over five other cases.
Billboard crash in storm kills 2
Two were killed and eight injured on the evening of Mar. 15 when a thunderstorm toppled an 800 sq. ft. poorly-mounted hoarding on tope of a 6-storey shopping arcade at Gulshan-1. The storm also wrecked four cars and a motorcycle. The dead were a 15-year old employee of a fast food shop and the driver of a wrecked car. By Mar. 15 no one had been arrested, though the fast food shop owner filed a murder case against the shopping arcade owners.
According to the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) Estate Officer, 80 of city hoardings are unauthorised and without considering the weight capacity the building can sustain. The unauthorised advertisers are taking advantage of a High Court order of 2007 that stayed the dismantling until a court case is settled.
Khasi betel plantation threat
Khasi tribals who had run a betel vine plantation for years (growing on betel trees) at Kailin Punji near Nahar Tea Garden, Srimongal feared complete destruction when timber trader Salim Uddin began cutting trees on Mar. 13. He had already cut 1,200 trees in 2008 right after getting a govt. permit. A High Court decision on Feb. 22 had directed the forest department and local administration to allow the cutting down of 3,500 trees. By Mar. 15 Salim had 300 people sawing down trees. The manager of the Nahar Tea Garden asked Salim not to cut down the 450 trees of the Khasi plantation.
Save Modhupur Forest
Acting on a writ petition of BELA and another NGO the High Court on Mar. 16 asked Govt. to protect the natural Modhupur sal forest and settle long-standing disputes over the land and forest rights of the tribal people. It also asked Govt. to stop commercial plantation of banana, papaya and pineapple on the forest land. DS.03.10
CNG gas station roof blown off
The entire roof of a CNG filling station in Abdullapur, Uttara blew off on Mar. 16 and fell on the roof of a neighboring building. Four employees, including an engineer, were critically injured. A booster pipe leak is feared to have caused the huge explosion. Refueling station employees said there were two booster pipes and they needed frequent repaid due to mechanical faults.
Namely Hague, president of Bangladesh Petroleum Owners Association, stated on Mar. 17 that 15 explosions and fires occurred last year due to mechanical faults or disregard of safety measures. He claimed that some unscrupulous business firms are importing and installing substandard equipment from China and Korea at CNG filling stations.
Brahmanbaria Ahmadi trouble
The two-day 63rd Annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Brahmanbaria, started on Friday, 19th March, 2010 amidst tension and threats from local fanatics and undue interference from local police at Kandipara under Brahmanharia Municipality
During the inaugural session on 19th March, 2010 police entered the mosque and asked the authorities to switch off the internal microphone. They replied it was the internal sound system and people were listening on the ground floors as the main speeches were delivered from the 2nd floor. Moreover, the sounds of the speeches were not going outside even to the room of the mosque where the police officers were sitting. But the Second Officer of the Brahmanbaria PS became angry in a commanding voice said, “Don’t argue with me, you have been asked to switch off the sound system and you do so, other-wise face the consequences”.
The fanatics were yelling: “Take lethal weapons, take axes, and behead the Qadianies (Ahmadis),” even in the presence of law-enforcing authorities and the local Member of Parliament. And NO action was taken against them.” Due to publicity in the news, protection was immediately arranged.
Top terrorist list faulty
After a request in Parliament for an up-to-date listing of known terrorists, the home ministry gave a faulty list in the sitting on Mar. 16 in the question- and-answer session. In the wake of widespread criticism in and outside government, the home ministry reviewed the list and found many top-ranking criminals missing from it. They then published a new list on Mar. 18.
Land settlement for CHT refugees
The Land Commission on Settlement of Land Disputes for Chittagong Hill Tracts asked India-returned refugees ousted by illegal settlement on their lands to submit applications within 60 days for “legal disposal of the dispute about their claimed lands.” [It may be recalled that the Peace Treaty to settle a long armed struggle, which was mainly about lands occupied by a huge influx of Bengali settlers, was signed more than 10 years ago. The Land Commission has not heard a single case up to now.] DS 18.03.10
Keep BCL from wrongdoing
Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta on a talk on Mar. 17 called on Govt. to restrain the BCL from its misdeeds, improve law and order and start trial of war criminals instead of just talking about it. He said that AL workers like him would help Govt. to live up to its election pledges.
The same day BCL activists went on a rampage in Shibir-controlled rooms of 12 dormitories of the Khulna Medical College, damaged much valuable property and looted money and valuables.
6 accused in DU murder still free
Six of the 14 students accused of the murder of Abubaker on the Dhaka University campus Feb. 2 were still living openly in Sir AF Rahman Hall and moving freely on the campus in spite of being expelled more than a month ago. A DU official said: “I have requested the police several times to arrest the accused but to no avail…. Some even take part in BCL organisational activities.” The Vice Chancellor said that Tk 2 lakh was given to the family of Abubaker and a job offered to a member of his family. DS 18.03.10
Christian village raided by Muslims
About 500 Muslim extremists armed with batons and knives attacked the Catholic Santal mission of Boldipukur in Rangpur Dt.on Mar. 20 and left about 50 people injured, with 10 in a serious condition, creating panic in the area. Some of the victims were women and children, “They [Muslims] said they will kill some of our people. We are in a panic and are afraid to go out,” said Nirod Bakla, (40) in charge of the parish hostel, who was beat up by 10-12 men. “I have cuts all over my body. All the parishioners are afraid to leave their homes, even though they have to go to work, he said”
It is believed the attack is a result of a seven-year land case, which a court recently decided in favour of the parish and which had begun to build a boundary on the church land previously held by a Muslim-run high school. On Mar. 18 upazila auhorities had removed some business establishements from the “disputed” land. Father Desai said he has already filed complaints against 17 of the attackers. (UCA News)
Drik exhibition banned
Police barred entrance to the Drik Picture Library in Gulshan on Mar. for an exhibition “Crossfire”on “Extrajudicial killings.” because it lacked “permission”and would “create anarchy.” [A DRIK exhibit on Tibet was also banned on Nov.. 1,2009.]Many media and othersm including Amnesty Intenational condemned the blatent censorship as a violation of the law and of the constitutional right to free dom of expression..
Coal miners confine 760 people
On Mar. 24 miners of the Barapuduria Coal Mine confined 760 people, including 370 staff, of whom 220 are Chinese officials and staff of two contracting companies. The miners are demanding a pay hike. Coal production and sale were suspended for two days. Food stocks were to run out on Mar. 2. On the 4th day mioners barrackaded the road and rail lines with tree trunks.
Parents killed for marriage denial
Rubel (24), a drug addict, shot dead the parents who were trying to stop him from dragging their daughter out of their house at Kalachanpur, Gulshan on Mar. 24 after they had rejected his marriage proposal.
Tk 100 cr. food ration in CHT p.a.
Govt. spends Tk 100 crore per annum for food rations to 40,335 families in 81 cluster villages of the Hill Tracts. Since Oct. 1988 26,220Bengali families have been getting 85 kg of rice per month, in spite of most being well-off, it is said. 14,115 tribal refugee families have been getting 5 kg for adults and 2.5 kg for minors per week. They were to get these for one year until Govt. settled them on their own land, but are still staying there for security after Bengali settlers attacked them many times. DS 25.03.2010
“Listed” war criminals barred from exit
The Home Minister Sahara Khatun instructed all exit points to keep “listed war criminals” from leaving the country. She did not state when the ban was imposed nor who the war criminals were, since Govt. has not published any list. On Mar. 25 Govt. formed panels to investigate and try the war criminals of 1971.The tribunal will be headed by a High Court judge.
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