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September 30, 2008.

It can be taken as an assertion of the regime to clarify ACC is not just a tool of political suppression. The international recognition of the military backed regime’s current stance was influenced by the high court granted bails of politicians at a row. Many people inside or outside the government, political or apolitical, have been found to get aggrieved by having the politicians back to the show. So, the High Court’s denial of Sheikh Hasina’s bail appeal at Noor Ali’s extortion charge and ACC’s charging Begum Zia to the Barapukuria Coal Mine charge, can be taken as a showdown of, that the media attracting anti-graft drive has not gone that alcoholic, as of Addition Attorney General Mansoor Habib told, the denial of Sheikh Hasina’s bail appeal has been a regain of the public image of the Appellate Division.

But we must not kick the reality away.

We are now in the timeline, cleanly eighty days away of the national poll. People of Bangladesh, though most of them are not too much optimistic, are looking forward for nothing but a free fair general election. They don’t care whether a High Court or Supreme Court judge gives a judgement freely or having the pen held apart by somebody else. Presently the most important concern of everybody is a free and fair poll. And it ain’t necessary to mention that two events been held today, High Court’s denial of Sheikh Hasina’s bail appeal at Noor Ali’s extortion charge and ACC’s charging Begum Zia to the Barapukuria Coal Mine probe, can be anything but not to be taken as a move by the regime with deliberation of holding a free and fair poll.

BBC interviews Barrister Rafiqul Haque and Additional Attorney General Mansoor Habib

It will be an addition to this regime’s long ‘fun list’ if they defend these two incident as the outcome of freedom of judiciary. Sheikh Hasina’s release at parole, meeting with four advisors at Sudha Sadan, flying abroad to children, all in some 20 hours, has let people know how free the judiciary is. But that supersonic speed of the regime was not questioned due to people took it as a step ahead to an election. Where the judiciary is in no way free rather is under full control of the authority, Sheikh Hasina’s not getting bail today is definitely a move which wants her to get free not in a short time. She is scheduled to return home on October 17. My personal speculation is Sheikh Hasina will get the bail by then, if nothing unexpected is happened. And this lead us to see the sudden blustering of ACC is nothing but to show up their prolificacy, a response to the claim of ACC’s going off the effects.

But all of the lines above can have ascription to the reality if we let that the election is going to be held. It’s still a ‘national confusion’ that how long Bangladesh is going to take to see an immediate election on her soil. A lot of conspiracy theories are being stated, some explicating there’ll be an election in December 18, most of the theories bring references from the history that all the military backed regimes have been found least keen to have an election held. For some major differences between the present military backed regime and previous martial regimes, references from Bangladesh’s experiences are less prioritized. But if we look abroad, the most common chronicle of a military (directly or not) takeover of the government-

• Ousting the democratic system with excuse of massive street violence with an immediate promise of nearest possible polls,
• Summoning the loyalist media to convince people about corruption of politicians, then arresting them,
• Setting apolitical civil society members to give the regime a look of ‘not a complete military setup’.
• Massive deployment of military officials to the civil system.
• Expected decline of economy due to lack of keen investors to invest in a ‘yet to have democracy’ state.
• After a certain amount of time, surrendering to the politics.
• And tremendously sluggish and stumbling restoration of democracy (confusions or failures over election) with millions of questions to answer and sometimes with a flow of blood in parallel.

The embarrassing fact is, the list of events above has taken place in Bangladesh exactly as same, the list which ends with the possibility of extremely torpid restoration of democracy, sometimes with a line of blood flowing in parallel. That’s why the fear grows that whether it’s really going to be an election or something else. Sheikh Hasina’s release (in parole or whatever) was great shake-up to the political deadlock. After Khandoker Delwar got EC’s invitation, this was another jump to progress. Begum Zia’s release has been a nearly fulfilment of the process. Now, what it needs is Sheikh Hasina back to the show in order to have a free and fair election. Already Begum Zia has stated, “This government may have complicacy in legality, but we must take this government as a reality, and maybe we will have to accept this government.” The same statement was from Sheikh Hasina months and months ago. This must be a high time for the regime to list the state of emergency in order to carry on a free-fair election rather than  the High Court denying anymore bail appeals of Sheikh Hasina and anymore charge sheets with Begum Zia’s name.

Sunita Paul
September 29, 2008. New Delhi.

Couple of months back, I wrote an article, which was published in American Chronicle, Global Politician, Daily People’s View [in Bangladesh], Weekly Blitz [Bangladesh] and other newspapers and sites around the world. Subsequently, Mr. Kalyan Barooah, correspondent of The Assam Tribune published a report quoting some of the excerpts of my article. Later, another journalist in Assam, Nava Thakuria wrote a report for Newstrack titled ‘ULFA money in Bangladesh media’, where he categorically mentioned how people in the questioned newspaper and media group named Daily Star tried to ignore his questions and the editor was not available for comments, with the excuse of being in abroad.

But, lately I saw a response from Mahfuz Anam, editor of Daily Star [the media empire built with ULFA money], which should be definitely attended for the sake of upholding the truth against lies. I am going to give my clarifications on some of the points raised by Anam, which surely is his attempt to save the face of this media group from the attention of anti-terror organizations around the world, as ULFA is a notorious terror group in North-Eastern part of India.

Let me first quote the entire response of Mahfuz Anam for my reader’s reference. He wrote, “Your correspondent admits he based his write-up on a piece in the Internet portal called Global Politician written by one Sunita Paul titled “When the media turns into evil”. Should a journalist write a report purely based on an Internet piece without verifying anything himself. Your correspondent made no attempt to contact us for our comments nor did he do any research on his own to find out the veracity of the Internet piece.

Your reporter writes, “it (meaning ULFA) partly owns or used to own Transcom Media publisher of the prestigious Bengali daily Prothom Alo, English daily The Daily Star besides two periodicals.” The simple fact is that there is no media house called Transcom Media. The Daily Star is owned by Mediaworld, which is a registered private limited company and has six shareholders who have been the directors of the company from the outset. Prothom Alo is owned by another company called “Mediastar” with few of the same owners as Mediaworld.

Mr Kalyan Barooah selectively quotes Sunita Paul, without verifying the facts, that Latifur Rahman, one of the owners of The Star and Prothom Alo became bankrupt in the nineties when Anup Chetia gave him a “few million dollars to reorganise his collapsed business”. These are deliberate canard and outright lies. Mr Latifur Rahman was and is one of the most respected businessmen of the country and has been elected, starting from the nineties, numerous times as the president of the most prestigious business chamber of the country, namely the MCCI (Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry), a post to which he has been recently re-elected.

Transcom, as a company, was not started, as your reporter quotes Sunita Paul, in the nineties but has been in business since early seventies, after Bangladesh was born. Again, it was not Latifur Rahman who brought me to the Star, as claimed by your reporter quoting Paul’s piece. I am one of the founding directors of the company and was the founder Executive Editor of the paper at the start and became editor at the untimely death of SM Ali within less than three years of the birth of the paper.

About the writer of the Internet portal piece, Sunita Paul, suffice it to say that Paul never contacted me or any of my administrative staff while writing the story to ascertain facts about our company and its finances. To the best of my knowledge she did not talk to any senior staff or any of the other directors of the paper, or any of the other persons who could have given her some facts about The Daily Star and Prothom Alo.”

So, now it is my turn to give clarifications to the points raised by the editor of the ULFA funded newspaper.

Mahfuz Anam said, Latifur Rahman [founder of the media empire] was never bankrupt. But, I have extensively checked with various sources in Dhaka and it was clearly revealed that an industrial project named W. Rahman Jute Mills, which is located at Bangladesh’s Chandpur area was amongt the top listed load defaulting enterprises in Bangladesh and Latifur Rahman was a defaulter and was even attacked by the workers of his factory for non payment of salary, before he could manage ULFA money. Latifur Rahman’s wife is the first cousin sister of Anup Chetia [there is no word from Anam on this point].

Anam writes in his response “The simple fact is that there is no media house called Transcom Media. The Daily Star is owned by Mediaworld, which is a registered private limited company and has six shareholders who have been the directors of the company from the outset. Prothom Alo is owned by another company called “Mediastar” with few of the same owners as Mediaworld.”

But, after investigation, everyone will discover that, Transcom is the owner of all these newspapers including Daily Star when they will log on to and click for ‘MEDIA.’

In the Transcom website, it is clearly mentioned that “In recent years Transcom has emerged as an increasingly significant media house in Bangladesh.”

So, why Anam is shy in accepting the fact that Transcom owns all these newspapers? Just because, he too knows that the back ground story of money in Transcom was from ULFA?

Anam wrote “Transcom, as a company, was not started, as your reporter quotes Sunita Paul, in the nineties but has been in business since early seventies, after Bangladesh was born.”

Again a clean lie! If anyone will log on to the link and will read the ‘A brief look at history’, they will see that the company claims it to have been establsihed in 1885 as tea plantors. But, wherefrom Mahfuz got the fact of Trancom’s journey from 1970? The tea garden business is something else, like W Rahman Jute Mills as I already mentioned. Transcom became known in Bangladesh when it got the sole distributorship of Nestle products in 90s. Before that, the family was struggling with losing businesses of teas garden, jute mills etc. Latifur Rahman’s name is listed by the present rulers in Bangladesh as a suspected corrupt man, as his source of income and fund is extremely dubious.

Anam did not say a single word about Aina Broadcast Services [ABC], which is a FM band radio station, that Transcom Group bought with huge amount of money from another newspaper owner. Such dealings were mediated by Daily Star man who is now the press secretary to the Chief Avdisor of the millitary controlled government in Bangladesh. Daily Star group is continuing to influence the government in salvaging Latifur Rahman from being arrested and tried for series of financial irregularities. It was even reported in the press that, Transcom was importing unknown goods in various containers with false declaration of being milk product or electronic equipment. According to several sources, illegal supply of weapons were also conducted by Transcom under the garb of business commodity for years.

It may be mentioned here that, after getting fund from ULFA, Latifur Rahman opened several accounts with foreign banks. He managed franchisee of KFC and Pizza Hut with each US$ 1 million plus. According to investigations, no permission were ever sought from Bangladesh Central Bank for such huge transfer of money. It is learnt that the money were wire transferred to KFC and Pizza Hut from Latifur’s overseas bank accounts.

* * * * *

Sunita Paul is an Indian writer, columnist, political analyst and regular contributor of American Chronicle, The Global Politician and The Asian Tribune.

September 27, 2008.

It’s not important that whether this is fortunate or unfortunate, but we are always to stuck some phrases and the political circumstances constantly precipitate our discussions to move towards those words. Prior to the January 11, 2007 coup d’état, the word banging our skulls was, ‘Dialogue’ (Bengali: সংলাপ). Every evening we were used to watch news in TV channels with video clips of Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and Abdul Jalil. Smiles they were used to have was more friendly than necessary, that many suspected whether they are on the discussion of becoming in-laws in some consent. It’s clear that they were not talking about being in-laws as they have not been in-laws till today. But, this is never to be unfolded that what really these two guys had been talking about for five long days in the North Plaza of Bangladesh Jatiyo Shangshad.

Immediately after the coup d’état of January 2007, two words that have taught us and made us through all possible levels and layers of annoying monotony on earth, were ‘Corruption’ (Bengali: দূর্নীতি) and ‘Reformation’ (Bengali: সংস্কার) After going through a high quality X-ray test, the regime finally completed the list of leaders from all over the countries whose spines were subsequently missing, although they could stand straight. May be it was their standing straight without a backbone which impressed the regime; they were all admitted to the School of Reformation. Pickups from BNP got their graduation in October 29, 2007, whereas the whole studies of Awami League leaders were a complete covert effort. They were either given high quality lectures, or the lectures were so poor that they cannot act constantly in a flow, sometimes talk completely contradictory to the lectures they were given, again sometimes talk exactly how they are supposed to talk after reformation learning. However, after Begum Zia was released in bail, the BNP reformist pickups deserted their reformation alumni at a row, so the reformation word now is a bit suppressed, or you can say dropped.

Well, these are all old stories, but important. We were talking about words at hike. And beyond all suspicions, the word that is now trailing our ears aggravatingly is, ‘Dialogue between Two Leaders’ (Bengali: দুই নেত্রীর মধ্যকার সংলাপ). With the blessings of FBCCI leader and ‘progressive’ and ‘shushil’ businessman Anisul Haque and astray involvement of the 1/11 regime, Barrister Rafiqul Haque’s slack proposal for sake of words now have been the word to entitle the lead political news reports of media. The involvement of this regime in this case is the counted one. According to straight-forward talker Barrister Haque, we’ve learnt that Advisor Hossain Zillur phoned him at that very night of his statements at High Court office, to let him know that the regime is interested immensely to be a hand to the effort to combine two leaders at a table.

BNP-AL unity, two leaders embracing each other, resolving all political complicacies, these words have shiny attractive colours at the eyes of the media, as well as Anisul Haque and others of his type feel immensely glad to come to the media with these gaudies. We must not forget FBCCI President Abdul Awaal Mintu in 2001 presented a boat-printed sari to Sheikh Hasina and a paddy-printed sari to Khaleda in order to bring peace over this country. I don’t know where those saris presently are, but what I know is the outcome of those attempts was zero. If this memory recall sounds like I’m discouraging Anisul Haque to combine two leaders, well, the recall doesn’t sound that wrong.

The government have many questions to be asked about their interest behind having two leaders together in a dialogue. First question will arise about their own stance. They want two leaders talking to each other, but for what? In what point they’ll be insisted to come to agreement? Hossain Zillur Rahman consequently hails honesty and sincerity in the intension of the regime. But by showing strictness, the regime can’t have two leaders agreeing with them. They are adamant about having the elections amid state of emergency. They are adamant about having two elections back to back. Whereas our two political parties are almost similar in following issues:-

• The election in no way and no way can be held amid state of emergency. There is no utility of lifting it hours before the dawn of election date. It must be lifted, some weeks before the election.

• Upazilla election cannot be carried on seven days after the general election. In general election, candidates will have to reach people through grass-root leaders and activists. But grass-root leaders will be already campaigning for the Upazilla election where many of them will be candidates. In the circumstances, the whole campaign will be a complete mismanagement.

• There should be councils before having the parties approving any proposal from the government. The communication with all layers of party activists must take place. This is the prerequisite of democratization of political parties that the present 1/11 regime has been hailing like তোতাপাখি (parrot).

But here this is the other part of regime’s deliberation of arranging Khaleda-Hasina dialogue, where they’ve sternly turned down all these three points of unity of two parties. CEC Shamsul Huda in Dhaka, Hossain Zillur Rahman is Washington and D. Fakhruddin Ahmed in New York, have been saying, “There will be no problems with back to back elections!!! There will be no problems with back to back elections!!!” But we must not reproach the reality. It’s easy for a school to take back to back exams in its rooms. Teachers won’t have it as a big deal to invigilate back to back exams if they are provided with enough rounds of tea with biscuits and most importantly special allowances. But the students will be losing momentum and confidences to sit for both the exams. What would happen if the CEC Shamsul Huda were set to sit for matriculation exam and intermediate exam in one week? In that case he were not the one be the CEC today for sure.

Many have become quite relaxed after D. Fakhruddin’s addressing to the nation that the confusion over state of emergency is almost over. This is ridiculous. At the initial stage of 1/11 government when almost only person who knew to talk in Bangladesh was Barrister Mainul Hussain, who subsequently tried to debate in favor of carrying on election amid emergency rules. Barrister Hassan Arif several times stated that it’s possible to go for any election amid emergency rules. Gen. Matin, because of not being a guy of the courts, didn’t stated anything directly, but told the regime will consult its lawyers to explore resorts to hold the election amid emergency rules. Because of this is the emergency rules, nobody dared to ask any adviser that why the emergency ain’t lifted. This question will be a direct hit to the foundation of this regime which is extremely weak and fragile. Having a lawsuit being carried on in Supreme Court which challenges the regime of its legality and lawfulness of existence, this regime’s situation is enormously vulnerable and in the circumstance, they must come to agreement with political parties in issues of emergency rules and back to back election controversies. Before looking for the agenda of two leaders’ dialogue, they must take care of the one which is already an agenda at the agreement of BNP and Awami League.

icon for podpress The New Age Editor Nurul Kabir speaks to BBC Play Now | Download

Now, about the dialogue between two leaders. My personal observation is no such thing is going to take place in near future. I can see the attitude of Amir Hussain Amu. I can see the statements coming out of Suranjit Sengupta’s mouth. Shameless word selection of Abdur Razzaq in working committee meeting is also taken under consideration. This is almost clear that these three leaders, Amir Hussain Amu, Suranjit Sengupta and Abdur Razzaq, in no way are interested to have the two leaders dialogue to turn to reality. Sheikh Hasina still ain’t a free lady as Khaleda Zia is. But the momentum is stepping ahead in such way where we will have her free in some days. After getting free, she should recollect what happened to the party in last 18 months and what roles these three leaders played. This will be totally unexpected if these three leaders are taken back to positions those they held before 1/11. Bashing the family members of opponents is the way Amu, Suranjit and Razzaq have chosen to reconcile whatever they have learned from School of Reformation. But Sheikh Hasina must be good enough to recognize this. This will be a total discouragement for other loyal AL leaders if they see these three are forgone untouched. If Sheikh Hasina is going to take steps against backstabbing tendency of these three leaders, we can have hope of a dialogue. Otherwise, there is no way for the dialogue to be a reality. Though a dialogue (may be of month long) cannot solve all political disputes overnight, but the socialization of two top leaders I think should be considered.

Not in order to have political solutions overnight, just for sake of being less aggressive in future, the socialization of these two leaders are very important. And FBCCI President Anisul Haque is not the guy for this job. Barrister Rafiqul Haque is okay, he helped both of the ladies to bail out of the hell, and he is trusted by both of the ladies. Two parties too can take the initiative. I’ll prefer initiatives taken by Khandoker Delwar Hussain and Zillur Rahman. B

icon for podpress BC Interviews Syed Ashraf and Khandoker Delwar: Play Now | Download

But FBCCI, BGMEA, Anisul Haque and bla bla, really should mind business.

September 26, 2008

Most of the Ramadans in my school life I have passed through different vacations. During school, I had the month long vacation after the final exam and the Ramadan was found to get stuck with either the post-final exam vacation or the very starting of a New Year and new level at school. Ultimately Ramadans in my school life were times of my relaxation due to lack of pressure from school or other study related stuffs. So, unlike many others who’ve seen most the Ramadans of their adolescence to be amid a year with a lot of pressure of studies, I have quite pleasant Ramadan memories of my adolescence.

Ramadan of Dhaka has its exclusive characteristics. The metropolitan lifestyle gets through changes in various sectors, like a whole new working schedule, a different manner of traffic in streets etc. Most of these properties of Ramadan in Dhaka theoretically are all unpleasant experiences. Like holding the steering wheel of the car amid traffic for hours, unexpected and unacceptable rush in markets, are not quite likeable. But the summation of all of these makes a special attitude of the city during Ramadan, which is a time to enjoy for me at least. I told earlier that my adolescence memories of Ramadan are quite pleasant because of less or no study related pressures indeed. But in college days, I’ve to remain stuck with classes or quizzes. I need to attend the class just few hours after the sehri and in some weekdays, the time I return home from college is just some minutes before the iftar. But the kind of my feeling over Ramadan started evolving from my childhood; as a result Ramadan is still a month of relief for me, to be precise a perfect pleasant time.

With other family members, cousins, an atmosphere in Ramadan is created to precipitate ourselves to be enjoying whereas still many of us are concerned with studies, work etc. Walking by iftar bazars in Bailey Road or other neighborhoods, attending Khatm-e-Tarabi after the iftar, tranquil attitude of people in streets or elsewhere, an added population in Jumua are some exclusive characteristics of Ramadan. The time immediately prior to the iftar is the one to be noted. Streets become off the crowd all of a sudden. Kids are seen to run towards public careers awaited at the traffic signal with water bottles. All these things, slides and scenes make a summation to form a pattern that is the overall Ramadan to me. Crowd at public places, traffic at streets, rush at iftar bazar, these are all part of it, nothing to get sore of, rather is be taken as a tradition.

Here I have put some images of Dhaka’s iftar bazar; shots mostly have been taken from Old Dhaka or Chakbazar’s narrow streets, where the real attraction of Dhaka’s iftar bazar can be discovered. For people who are not resident of Old Dhaka, the Chakbazar is the place to get weirder dishes for the iftar with weird names. One example is Boro Baper Beta, which is prepared by mostly Old Dhaka based cooks, is a rough mixture of sprouts, mutton or lamb roast, dry rice, salad with many kinds of spices.

Click on the images to get the enlarged copy.

Jilapi, has become a mandatory item in Dhaka’s iftar.

Mutton roast in traditional Old Dhaka style, is a popular choice for iftar in Old Dhaka.

Varieties of iftar item being sold at Chakbazar.

Chicken and mutton roasts with various spices.

Fruits are inevitable part of Bengali iftar.

Chicken bhuna curry, with excessive amount of spices.

Qababs are a popular item in Old Dhaka’s iftar tables.

Minutes prior to the iftar. Kids looking for customers on the way to break the holy fasting.

Date, is another inevitable part of Bangladeshi iftar.

Various kinds of qababs, prepared in perfect Old Dhaka style.

A typical Bengali iftar combination.

Anand Kumar
19 September, 2008.

Attempts to neutralized the battling Begums appear to be faltering

As Bangladesh slowly moves towards its much-delayed December parliamentary elections, the military-backed caretaker government is still trying to figure out what to do with the bitter political enemies, known as the “battling Begums,” whose decade-long feud nearly wrecked the country and debilitated its political system.

It appears likely that Shaikh Hasina, chief of the Awami League, and Khaleda Zia, who heads the Bangladesh National Party, will be in the thick of electoral politics despite attempts by the caretaker government to neutralize them in a desperately poor country where politics have overshadowed attempts at economic reform, state-owned enterprises are strikingly inefficient, power generation is inadequate to handle the economy and there have been continuing delays in exploiting natural gas resources.

Per-capita income is only US$1,300 and public debt is a staggering 37.4 percent of GDP. Garment exports and remittances from Bangaldeshis working in the Middle East and East Asia are mostly responsible for economic growth of 5-6 percent as the two women struggled for political power until the military heaved them out in January 2007 as the country descended towards chaos, partly in alarm that religious fundamendalists were making dangerous inroads on power.

The government’s credibility is at stake, given the continuing emergency. Although hundreds of political, judicial and government figures were jailed on corruption charges after the crackdown, the return of corruption has been another dampener and many fear that the country has gone back to square one.

The parliamentary elections now look almost a certainty as both former prime ministers have been freed. Shaikh Hasina, chief of the Awami League party, was released on July 11 by the government, and subsequently went to the United States for treatment of her ears, damaged during a bomb-blast in a political rally in Dhaka in 2004. The blast was suspected to be organized by her political rivals.

Khaleda Zia, on the other hand initially resisted an offer of freedom from the caretaker government, demanding the release of her elder son Tarique Rahman, widely seen as her political heir. Although the caretaker government wanted her to go abroad as well, Khaleda refused, fearing she would not be allowed to return before the elections. The caretaker government, like many others in Bangladesh, views the two bitter enemies as responsible for many of the country’s woes and would prefer what has been called a “Minus-two Formula.”

But the Minus Two Formula seems to have fallen flat, now being exchanged for what is being termed the “Manage Two Formula.” The government has been unable to foster any alternative political scenario despite including encouraging splits and dissensions in the existing two parties. They are now trying to create a better democratic environment by putting restrictions on the two women.

When Shaikh Hasina and the Awami League criticized the release of Tarique Rahman and Khaleda, the caretaker government got the sense that the old political rivalry had not disappeared. To stop Bangladesh from returning its era of perennial political hostility they have pressured the two women to enter face-to-face talks although it is believed that they have not spoken with each other for nearly a decade. The purpose of these talks is to discuss how to promote fair competition in politics and do away with the culture of mudslinging.

The caretaker government has apparently asked Barrister Rafique-ul Huq, who is defending both of them in court, to mediate. Khaleda appears to be ready, but Hasina and the Awami Legue first want an apology from Khaleda for her earlier behavior. They also see her hand in the attack on Hasina which deafened her in the 2004 rally in Dhaka.

Khaleda has also been asked to keep her son Tarique Rahman out of politics for few years. Often referred to as the most powerful man in Bangladesh despite having held no ministerial post in his mother’s government, Rahman is widely regarded as the epitome of corruption. Khaleda has agreed, sending Tarique to the UK for “treatment.” He is not likely to return before the coming elections. She also announced that Tarique’s continuing treatment will keep him out of politics for the next three to four years.

The caretaker government has also suggested that Khaleda withdraw the expulsion order of ex-BNP secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and joint secretary general Ashraf Hossain and accommodate the pro-reformist faction of the party.

It is clear, however, that the earlier feudal trend in Bangladesh is not that easily eradicated, as was manifested when, after a meeting of the BNP Standing Committee, the party’s highest policymaking forum, it was decided that Khaleda would lead the party for life. When that proposal was made public, however, it attracted widespread criticism and created controversy among the party rank and file. The development shocked the lower rungs of party leadership who were expecting the devolution of power and intra-party democracy instead of the earlier centralized party structure.

Khaleda refused the offer although it was because of the overarching presence of the military-backed caretaker government. Some of her party members even offered to make changes in the BNP constitution, in which the chairperson now nominates all 15 members of the National Standing Committee (NSC) with the chairperson as its chief. That would have effectively reduced Khaleda’s fiefdom.

Dissenters are also being sidelined in the Awami League. Abdul Jalil, the former party general secretary, was not allowed after his release from jail, mainly because he fiercely criticized Hasina in a mercy petition to the caretaker government in July last year. Instead, Syed Ashraful Islam was asked to continue as acting general secretary Hasina’s instructions.

Another problem is likely to emerge from the religion-based parties, particularly the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, which is also part of the BNP’s four-party coalition. New provisions promulgated by the caretaker government bar parties from being registered on religious ground. This will create problems for Khaleda’s partners like Jamaat and Islami Oikya Jote. The registration of political parties is however being resisted even by the two leading parties BNP and Awami League. They are citing shortage of time for not being able register.

The present political situation in Bangladesh has created a dilemma for the international community, which wants a political transition to democracy and are concerned by the continuing emergency. However, they also seem to have reached a compromise.

European Union (EU) officials say that the EU might not send a full election observation mission if the government does not restore people’s ‘basic freedoms’ at least six weeks before the national polls planned for December. However, if fundamental rights such as freedom of movement, assembly, association, and speech are reinstated, it would send observers even under the state of emergency.

A struggle for concessions seems to be on between the caretaker government and the leading political parties of Bangladesh before the parliamentary elections that are likely to be held in the third week of December. If the two main political parties have agreed for certain restrictions, the caretaker government has also conceded few things. The government has relaxed the ban on trade-union activities at industries, commercial enterprises, ports and factories on certain conditions.

They have also now agreed to hold Upzila (sub-district level) elections after the parliamentary election. This has been a major point of dispute between the Bangladesh Election Commission and the leading political parties. This seems to have removed the last hurdle. But whether Bangladesh get the democracy it needs, for which the caretaker government tried during their stay in power for last two years, remains uncertain.

Anand Kumar is an Indian journalist and specialist in Asian political analysis, contributes in Asia Sentinel, Asian Window etc.

Nurul Kabir
September 18, 2008. Dhaka

The decision of the board of directors of Biman Bangladesh Airlines to appoint a former air force official as the new managing director of the company is, in our opinion, an unfortunate and disappointing move. It comes at a time when we have been hearing so much of the need to corporatise Biman, particularly following its transformation into a public limited company in July 2007. On many occasions, we have written in these columns, supporting the plans for the corporatisation of the national carrier, particularly with the view to improving overall management and rooting out the endemic corruption, which has for years beset the airline. However, by following the old practice of hiring ex-air force officials to head the national carrier, the Biman board has suggested that it is perhaps not ready to undertake the drastic restructuring that is required to save the ailing carrier.

We find this decision particularly baffling because just a few weeks ago, Biman had advertised in national dailies to solicit applications for the post of managing director, setting strict criteria for eligibility which had suggested that the airline would finally hire someone with not only the experience of running a major airline but someone who has a proven track record of excellence in the sector. Although we cannot comment on the new managing director without finding out more about him, it is safe to presume that the person in question has no experience of running an airline, much less a successful track record. We wonder how being an ex-military official and chairman of the civil aviation authority qualifies someone to take up the job of running an airline, which is a completely different beast, and that too at a time when the company needs to go through a process of complete restructuring and corporatisation.

Unfortunately, without going through with an exhaustive process to find the best person to head Biman at this time – if such a person was not available here, an international search could easily have been carried out – the board of Biman took the short-cut of hiring an ex-air force person which has been the common practice here. Just because both are essentially to do with airplanes does not mean that being in the air force qualifies someone to become the managing director of an airline. This may be obvious to most but has continued to evade the senses of those who govern our national carrier.

If, however, this administration is serious about bringing qualitative change to Biman, it must take certain step immediately. It must bring in competent management, allow the management to streamline the airline and carry out the corporate restructuring that is necessary and put an end to corruption. The recent decision with regard to the hiring of a new managing director is, in our view, a step in the wrong direction.

Nurul Kabir is a senior journalist and the Editor of The Daily New Age.

September 18, 2008.

I am shocked!
I am surprised!
I am worried!

That’s all I can say after hearing the news that 14 Bangladeshi Players are going to play Indian Cricket League (ICL) which is a private cricket league and banned by BCCI and ICC also said that it is ‘NOT’ a legal cricket league.

Bangladesh is a land of dreamers. It does not matter whether we have two square meals or a place to sleep, we dream big and when most of these dreams do not come true we get frustrated. The entire Bangladesh nation is sports crazy. Off late cricket became a game of billions. Cricketers put Bangladesh in the world map. It is not that we became world champions .We lost most of the matches in all forms of games, most by comfortable margins. Yet our brilliant occasional victories made us rejoice wild. Bangladeshi cricketers became heroes. Millions worship them. They are ambassadors of the 150 Million Bangladeshis. Everywhere they play Bangladeshi community remains present to cheer them up. Our cricketers also carry Bangladesh on their shoulder. They did enough to make Bangladesh proud. Whatever they earned they earned with their hard labour .They deserved it. No one gave them any money for charity.

14 Bangladeshi players recently join the REBEL Cricket League which is BANNED in the country where it is based. They players who joined knew that they will be banned because of joining the league. Because other country boards also do the same. They players are-

Habibul Bashar (capt), Aftab Ahmed, Shahriar Nafees, Alok Kapali, Dhiman Ghosh (wk), Farhad Reza, Manjural Islam, Golam Mabud (wk), Mahbubul Karim, Mohammad Rafique, Mohammad Sharif, Mosharraf Hossain, Tapash Baisya . Another one is yet to be confirmed. Nazimuddin give his resign letter to BCB but didn’t signed with ICL yet. Let’s see what he do.

I will not blame Mohammad Rafique because he already retired from international cricket career few months back. So he has right to earn money now at the terminal part of his career from my point of view. So he has right to join ICL but others are not.

In spite of knowing this, they join the league. Among the 12 players there are some players who has potential to be famous player and star by playing for Bangladesh. But they has gone to the wrong way and they are just FINISHED. Bangladesh Cricket Board banned the 13 players from each type of cricket for 10 years that means there is few chances for them to play for Bangladesh and to be proud by playing for his country.

Now the question arise why they do so? What was there problem? Why they become REBEL and joined ICL?

Is it for money? I think yes. It is for money. The players signed for ICL just for money. They forget what the country gave them. Whay they are Habibul, Aftab, Nafis now. Why the whole World know them know. They just thought about the money.

In their resignation letter to BCB said that they are resigning is for ‘PERSONAL PROBLEM.’ And then they joined ICL. They didn’t say it to any officials of the cricket board or directly to cricket board. They just give the letter and went for India.

I think BCB tries their best to keep the player and bring the to right path after knowing the issue. They tried to discuss about the matter with the players. They send SMS to the players to attend the meeting. They called them but their mobile phones were switched off. But after all, the players refuse to talk with the board and went to India to sign contract with ICL to play for Dhaka Warriors, a new team which will play in ICL this season. Thay said to media that they didn’t get any letter or phone call from BCB to attend the meeting. They just get a SMS. How BCB will get them if their phones are switched off. And I think sending letters with in a day to all 14 players is tuff for any organisation as well as BCB. So I can say that players were determined that they will not meet the cricket board and wil run for money.

Government and board expended a lot of money behind them. They get a lot of money for them. They get treatment in abroad when they are injured. They get well facilities. They get money. After after all they forget all of these and ran for ICl, you know what for. Players complained that unsupporative structure and behavior lead them to play for ICL! “Some of the players are joining the ICL because they are fed up at the way they have been treated by the board,” batsman Shahriar Nafees has been quoted as saying. Is there any logic in this comment? They could talk with the board and inform them what is there problem. Cricket Board arrange meeting for this after knowing they are resigning, But they refuses to talk. Why?

“Please don’t call us rebels,” said Habibul Bashar. “The ICL contracts do not prevent us from playing for Bangladesh. We are as keen as anyone to play for our country.”

I don’t know why they forgot the country, pride, people? They take this kind of decission just before New Zealand series which is very important for Bangladesh now. They just create a problem for the country’s National Cricket Team.

Bangladesh now facing the disastrous face of the illegal league ICL. BCCI already said that it is the internal matter between the cricket board of Bangladesh and the players. But I think BCCI should talk to ICL authority. They should not force to split cricket into two parts which will not be good for cricket.

I think Bangladesh Cricket Board took the right steps for the players. They banned the players joined ICL for ten years. I hope that will stop more players to join ICL. But Board work is not finished. Board have to think why it happened, who are responsible and have to take more steps. They have to think about the contracts of the players. They have to bring more facilities for the players and offcourse the all players who are not in contract with Bangladesh Cricket Board.

Report said that the unrecognized Indian Cricket League took a swipe at the sport’s governing body on Wednesday after signing 11 Bangladesh internationals for their second season.

Meanwhile Bangladesh coach Siddon said, “All I’ll say is that we haven’t lost one player who was in the team for the last Test,” who will shortly begin preparing a squad for a home series against New Zealand. “The guys who were going are gone – and the guys who are staying can get on with the job,” he added.

This post has also been published in Onnesha Blog.

Nava Thakuria
New Delhi, India.

The militants from Assam are not only taking shelter in Bangladesh, but they had also invested money in the local media. It is suspected that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has taken stakes in a popular English daily publication. The Daily Star, a Dhaka based newspaper had reportedly received money from the leaders of ULFA at the initial stage.

The office of the daily was contacted for clarification on the issue, but the response was not convincing.

The issue comes alive with a series of articles with concern in the international media. First it was Sunita Paul, who made a comprehensive article on media’s link to ‘evil forces or vested interest’. Mentioning about the Bangladesh’s leading media group (Transcom Media), which owns the English newspaper ‘The Daily Star’ with a Bengali daily ‘Prothom Alo’ and two periodicals namely ‘Shaptahik 2000’ and ‘Anandadhara’. Known as the ‘Daily Star Group’ in Bangladesh, which enjoys highest circulation among English dailies in the country, also owns an FM radio named ‘Aina Broadcasting Corporation’.

In the article titled ‘When the media turns into evil’ and released by the portals of Global Politician and American Chronicle recently, the writer elaborated the back ground of the media group. She mentioned that one Latifur Rahman, the man behind the success of the media house, came in contact with a powerful ULFA leader. Anup Chetia, the then ULFA secretary (presently behind bars in Dhaka’s central jail), came forward to help him in business.

“It is learnt that a few million dollars were placed with Latifur Rahman in re-organising his collapsed business and ULFA kept a secret stake of shares in all businesses initiated by Latifur Rahman after receipt of this secret fund,” the writer explained.

Latifur Rahman soon launched a company named Transcom, which began businesses as the sole distributor of Nestle brand milk products in Bangladesh. Soon, it emerged as one of the mightiest enterprises in the country. Meanwhile, when Dhaka’s well respected journalist S M Ali took the initiative of launching an English language newspaper, Latifur was suggested by ULFA to buy shares, as such investment would buy media influence for the separatist group, revealed by the writer.

“S M Ali was successful in placing Daily Star at the forefront of Dhaka’s English press, because of his extra-ordinary qualities and courage. Just in few years, this newly launched newspaper subsided most of the competitor dailies such as Bangladesh Observer, Bangladesh Times (now defunct), New Nation, Morning Sun (now defunct) and Financial Express. But sudden demise of S M Ali opened the opportunity for Latifur Rahman to swallow the newspaper. He brought Mahfuz Anam as the editor of the newspaper, who subsequently ousted ancestors of S M Ali and grabbed his shares. This was the beginning of notorious journey of Daily Star group,” the writer documented.

More recently, a Guwahati based English daily ‘The Assam Tribune’, made an important news item describing about ULFA’s investment in the Bangladesh Daily Star group. Quoting, of course, Sunita Paul’s write up, the acclaimed daily reported that ULFA’s business interests in Bangladesh was no secret, but ‘what has come as a surprise is the revelation about its stakes in a leading media house in the neighbouring country’.

“Even as Indian security agencies kept up pressure on Dhaka to shut down the enterprises run by ULFA, the militant outfit has quietly expanded its business portfolio in the country. New Delhi had, a couple of years ago, furnished a list of businesses suspected to be owned by ULFA along with a series of account numbers. None of the business entities could be traced, Dhaka had told India. ULFA’s business interests were diverse, ranging from driving schools, nursing homes, hotels to garment export houses to deep-sea trawlers,” the Assam daily described.

Following the exposure, this writer tried to contact the editor of the Bangladesh daily by telephone. As the editor was out of the country for quite some times, a senior journalist from the news desk of ‘The Daily Star’ responded to this writer to deny this allegation. But he was not ready for initiating any official clarification to the issue. Later he wanted the details of the article and report through e-mail, which was sent to him with a request to clarify their stand on the issue, but no response came till date.

The issue became a matter of discussion and concern among many senior editor-journalists of Dhaka as well. Responding to my queries, a senior Bangladeshi journalist told that he had no idea about the issue, but he did not rule out the possibility of such nexus between the militant group and the media group. Moreover, he emphasised for an open debate on the issue. But a Dhaka based editor asserted that the information put by the writer on ULFA’s money in the media group was correct. And hence, the newspaper authority remained silent though the allegation was raised by the media and even later their office was contacted (by telephone and e-mail) with full details.

* * * * *

Nava Thakuria is a senior journalist from Assam, India and regularly contributes in The Assam Times, Assam Tribune, Meri News, News Track India etc.

Sunita Paul
6 September, 2008. India.

Media can play important role in up building a nation, while the same media, being influenced by evil forces or vested interest, could turn into devastating element for any nation. Take the example of Bangladesh’s leading media group named Transcom Media, which owns a vernacular daily newspaper named Prothom Alo, an English language daily named The Daily Star, two periodicals named Shaptahik 2000 and Anandadhara. Recently the group has acquired ownership of an FM radio station named ‘Aina Broadcasting Corporation’ (ABC). The group is rather known as ‘Daily Star Group’ in Bangladesh, because of tremendous influence of its English language daily as well as its top most position amongst all competitor dailies.

Before going into notoriety of Daily Star group, let me first put focus at the back ground of the emergence of this business-media group. During early nineties, present owners of ‘Star Group’ turned financially bankrupt when its main figure Latifur Rahman’s paternal property W Rahman Jute Mills at country’s Chandpur district had to declare lay-off thus leaving thousands of workers and labors unemployed. Numerous cases were filed with the Chandpur district labor and criminal courts against Latifur Rahman and other members of the factory, as they defaulted payment of worker’s wages. On the other hand, W Rahman Jute Mills was listed as one of the top defaulting enterprises with Bangladesh Bank (Central Bank) for long standing loans.

But, luck started moving in positive direction, when Latifur Rahman’s wife’s cousin Anup Chetia (leader of ULFA separatist group) came forward with hidden help of finance in businesses in Bangladesh through Rahman. It is learnt that a few million dollars were placed with Latifur Rahman in re-organizing his collapsed business and ULFA kept a secret stake of shares in all businesses initiated by Latifur Rahman after receipt of this secret fund. Rahman understanding his failure in running industrial enterprise profitably launched a company named Transcom, which began businesses as the sole distributor of Nestle brand milk products in Bangladesh. Initial response although was very poor from the local market, due to solid financial back up from ULFA, Latifur Rahman managed to ultimately penetrate in the business and in few years, Transcom emerged as one of the mightiest enterprises in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, when Dhaka’s well respected journalist S M Ali took the initiative of launching an English language newspaper, Latifur was suggested by ULFA to buy shares, as such investment would buy media influence for the separatist group, which fights against Indian government in separating seven North-Eastern states within India.

S M Ali was successful in placing Daily Star at the forefront of Dhaka’s English press, because of his extra-ordinary qualities and courage. Just in few years, this newly launched newspaper sub sided most of the competitor dailies such as Bangladesh Observer, Bangladesh Times (now defunct), New Nation, Morning Sun (now defunct) and Financial Express. But sudden demise of S M Ali opened the opportunity for Latifur Rahman to swallow the newspaper. He brought Mahfuz Anam as the editor of the newspaper, who subsequently ousted ancestors of S M Ali and grabbed his shares. This was the beginning of notorious journey of Daily Star group.

Later, when Anup Chetia was arrested by Bangladeshi law enforcing agencies, Latifur Rahman stopped paying any share to ULFA. This was the first beginning of feud between notorious ULFA separatists and Latifur Rahman. It is widely rumored in Dhaka that, ULFA had hidden hands behind murder of Latifur’s daughter Shazneed Rahman, who was brutally raped and murdered right inside her residence at Dhaka’s posh Gulshan area.

But, the handsome investment from ULFA, gave Transcom an excellent opportunity to grow. Latifur decided to launch a vernacular daily newspaper with the initial capital of 10 million Taka in 1997. Prothom Alo recruited large number of top newsmen from Dhaka’s press community. It also had dynamic Matiur Rahman as its editor, which helped the newspaper to rapidly turn into one of the leading dailies in the country. Later two vernacular periodicals were also launched by this group, one with celebrated journalist Shahadat Chowdhury as its editor.

In some years, Transcom group acquired ownership of Pepsi, Phillips and several large industrial enterprises. Luck always clicked in favor of this business group, as far as its investments in media was concerned. None of the newspapers, belonging to Transcom group had ever faced any financial adversity. to such influential ownership of media projects, Latifur Rahman got the excellent opportunity of continuing various illegal businesses including import of goods from abroad under false declaration. Several consignments imported by Transcom were stopped by customs officials in Bangladesh and evidence of revenue evasion of millions of Taka was unearthed. But, everything was managed, by using the influence of Prothom Alo and Daily Star. Even after the political changes in Bangladesh on January 11, 2007, Daily Star group managed to send its Executive Editor Syed Fahim Munayem as the Press Secretary to the Chief Executive of the interim government. Even at later stage, when Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) issued notice on Latifur Rahman asking declaration of his wealth and assets, the entire issue was some how put into suppression with the help of Daily Star-Prothom Alo group.

Everyone knows the news about cracks in Jamuna Multi-purpose Bridge in Bangladesh. But, possibly no one knows the fact that the main reason behind such cracks was due to use of a particular brand of cement, which in the name of Portland Grey Cement is in fact fly ash mixed lowest grade cement. And, this inferior quality of cement went into various high cost projects in Bangladesh just because; chairman of the company producing and marketing this brand is none but Transcom’s Latifur Rahman. No one in the government dares to utter even a single word about Holcim, which supplied such cement to various projects, as they are afraid of wrath of Daily Star and Prothom Alo. Despite the fact that, both the newspapers are largest in circulation in Bangladesh, main purpose of these publications is serving the interests of Corporate Crime.

Prime intention of Daily Star group is to stand against various business groups, whenever there is any business rivalry with that specific company or individual. This group went into heinous propaganda against Beximco Group, Bashundhara Group and many others in past. There is even clean track record of dubious behavior of this group is sabotaging various projects in Bangladesh, with the ulterior motive of either supporting businesses of Latifur Rahman, Transcom or members of this syndicate.

Many projects were already sabotaged by this group, thus causing tremendous loss to Bangladesh’s economy. The latest episode of such rivalry of Daily Star group was with Bangladesh’s lone hard rock mining project at country’s Dinazpur district. Maddhyapara Hard Rock Mining Project (MHMP) became a pray of Daily Star for past several years. It is learnt that, some vested interest groups, including importers of stones and stone-chips from India, Myanmar and Malaysia are patronizing such media terror by Star, thus attempting to sabotage country’s most prospective project, which not only is already saving millions of dollars, but, also is set to turn into a huge prospect of earning millions of dollars from export of world-class Granite Tiles.

First rivalry with the MHMP began when Bangladesh government appointed Polish consulting firm Kopex SA, defying the fact that this firm had no experience of hard rock mining. It is learnt that, appointment of this Polish firm was a result of heavy persuasion from some high level corrupt bureaucrats in the Energy Ministry and Petrobangla. From the very appointment, the Polish consultant had been frantically trying to sabotage the project for reason unknown.

In June 2006, Kopex SA submitted a paper with the Energy and Mineral Resources Division saying, “Maddhyapara Hard Rock Mining project has become ‘virtually sick’ and the employer (the government) has suffered huge financial loss.”

It said Petrobangla and the project authorities, Madhyapara Granite Mining Company Limited, should ask Nam-Nam for final commissioning and test production immediately to ascertain the actual status of mine development.

“The Petrobangla and MGMCL should take over the mine after ascertaining its actual state and on documentation to establish the legal ownership of the mine,” it said.

Kopex said, “The Nam-Nam has complemented major installation of the mine in over 12 years but they have not yet done the final commissioning and test run although the original development period of the mine was 6.5 years since the signing of the agreement between Petrobangla and the company in 1994.”

Sources in Petrobangla, however, ditched the Kopex report, saying that the consultant should also be held responsible for the delay as it failed to come up with proper plan.

“Kopex also wants to be involved more with the mine for which it came up with such a report,” Petrobangla source added., on October 15, 2005, The Daily Star published a front page news item titled ‘North Korean company looks for legal coverage to finish task’. In this report, Daily Star said, “When completed, the Maddyapara hard rock mine will commercially sell 1.65 million tonnes of granite a year. The country annually imports 3.4 million tonnes of granite. Local production will save between $38 million to $58 million US dollars. The project has a life span of 45 years. However, the price of Maddhyapara granite will not be cheaper than the rocks that are commonly imported from India because of the increased project cost.”

It was clearly understood that the report was published with the very intention of killing the project to protect the interest of importers-exporters syndicate, which enjoys business of millions of dollars every year by continuing to import stone from India and other countries. In this report, Daily Star claimed that the cost of production of MHMP hark rock was higher than imported one, which is nothing but a clean deviation from truth. It is learnt from dependable sources that, production cost for each tons of hard rock from Maddhyapara project stands at US$ 10 while the minimum import cost is US$ 22.

On May 18, 2006, Daily Star once again published a front page report titled “Petrobangla to take it over from DPRK firm”, where it repeated the same lie on the price of the locally extorted hard rock. It said, “Maddhyapara granite will however not be cheaper than the rocks that are commonly imported from India because of the increased project cost.”

Nam-Nam Corporation successfully completed and handed over the project in May last year and meanwhile; commercial production in the project is already going on. Due to timely steps taken by the present government in Dhaka, locally produced stones are purchased and used in various domestic projects on priority basis, while the cost of local stones are more than half the cost of imported ones. Being totally frustrated at the completion of the project, vested interest groups once again managed to published another front page report in The daily Star on May 16, 2008 titled “Miner now wants return of non-existent loans”.

In this report, Daily Star wrote, “Nam-nam is now operating the mine with 65 South Koreans under a one-year service contract due to expire on May 27. As it did not fully transfer the South Korean technology to the MGMCL, it will get yet another year’s service contract, the sources said.” part of the news shows two things. One, the reporter knows nothing of the project but was writing thing being dictated by vested interest groups. In the same news, while the reporter said Nam-Nam is a North Korean company, how he could discover 65 South Koreans in the project (does he lack the minimum knowledge that North and South Korea do not have any diplomatic relations as yet?). The reporter also said that, Nam-Nam is not fully transferring South Korean technology to MGMCL. Ridiculous, who edits and passes such rubbish news in Daily Star? Being Dhaka’s leading dailies, it should be ashamed of such poor journalistic quality. The entire report as well as all previous reports is part of propaganda and conspiracy to kill the entire project, which stands as the most prospective one for Bangladesh. Anyone can easily understand that, vested interest groups, including enemies of North Korea are patronizing such dangerous campaign not only to sabotage the project, but, also to give a good lesson to the North Korean company for being dedicated and helpful to Bangladesh is saving millions of dollars from import of hard rock.

Bangladesh government not only needs to patronize this extremely profitable and viable project, but even needs to go into fresh negotiations with Nam-Nam or the North Korean government in signing fresh agreements for exploration of more mining projects in the country. According to mining experts several more hard rock mines are already existing in the Northern region of Bangladesh, which will be able to help the country in stopping import of stones from abroad, thus saving billions of dollars each year. At the same time, government needs to identify vested interest groups within Energy Ministry and Petrobangla in order to not only protect the national interest but also to punish the culprits for their notorious roles.

Further harassment of the North Korean company will earn bad reputation for Bangladesh from the potential foreign investors. Nam-Nam deserves to be appreciated for completion of the MHMP despite series of harassment and non-cooperation from the Energy Ministry and Petrobangla.

* * * * *

Sunita Paul is a Indian writer, columnist, political analyst and regular contributor of American Chronicle, The Global Politician and The Asian Tribune.

Rumi Ahmed

Since I last wrote a blog post, the political landscape has changed dramatically in Bangladesh. My last real blog post was around the time when former PM and Awami league leader Sheikh Hasina got parole as a result of an executive order from government in response to an application made by Mr. Wazed, Mrs. Hasina’s husband. At that time, thanks to the after-hours operation of Bangladesh court system, the night time release of Mrs. Hasina, the rushing of four advisors to meet her at Sudha Sadan, the 20 minute telephone conference with chief advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed and quick departure of Mrs. Hasina from Bangladesh., there was a wide speculation of a deal between Awami League and the military government. Only one person, who could refute the allegations or make the political observers believe otherwise, would have been Mrs. Hasina herself. We all expected her to ‘be herself’, ‘be critical’ of the atrocities of the military regime. She was only expected to continue expressing her dislike of the military government; she did before she was arrested. Unfortunately she did not do any of the above. She remained unusually muted and refrained from repeating her criticisms of the government. Moreover, to all political observers dismay and awe, she was heard repeating general Moeen’s buzz word’s (e.g. mid income country by 2020… etc) verbatim.

Recently, Awami League as well as Prothom Alo group has started promoting an idea that there has been a détente between BNP and the military government. As per these speculations, this deal has facilitated the release of Tarique Rahman and impending bail of Mrs. Khaleda Zia. Now the issue is, when there is a deal between two sides, both sides’ makes steps to reach each other. But in this so called BNP-Army government detente; I am having difficulty identifying the concessions Mrs. Zia has made. For over a year, since the days when one could get hardly three people to represent mainstream BNP and both her sons were being taken into military remand rampantly and being tortured, Mrs. Zia was steadfast in her demands. Her basic stand was that she would not get free herself until both Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman are released and are allowed to go abroad for treatment. And until she gets free, her party would not participate in the processes initiated by this government. Khaleda Zia or her party never categorically announced boycotting the election, rather they have always maintained that BNP was a party of elections and it would participate in election if it was allowed to do so.

On one side, Khaleda would not budge an inch from her basic demands and on the other side, Moeen’s delegation would NEVER let Tarique loose and would only free Khaleda if she agrees to go to Saudi Arabia ( In line with Sheikh Hasina solution). In the middle, doctors are sending one after another SOS message that Tarique’s health situation is deteriorating and he needs immediate treatment abroad. More over Khaleda would not apply to the government for her release. Neither would she register to be a voter while incarcerated. Months after months have passed in this deadlock. And at the same time, elections dates came dangerously close.
To be fair, what we are seeing these days is nothing but total materialization of Khaleda’s demands. So far I do not see any of the demands of Moeen government being materialized. None. Nada.
For a deal to take place, both sides have to make some compromise. I really do not see any compromise from the side of Mrs. Zia yet.

So unless we see Mrs. Zia rushing to leave for Saudi Arabia soon after her release and giving a speech about Bangladesh being a middle income country by 2020, I would say NO deal has taken place. I would rather say, Moeen’s mighty military-civil society-Prothom Alo-Daily Star quartet suffered a humiliating and crushing defeat at the hands of a lonely, jailed and poorly educated woman.

I promise to return tomorrow with my take on the other factors leading to the sudden change in the heart and nature of this military government.


Rumi Ahmed is a blogger from United States.

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