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xanthis
October 31, 2008.
Dhaka.

The present undemocratic, unelected and constitutionally proscribed government has virtualized a barometer that they use as a probability scale for the upcoming general election in December. They say this scale to be strictly showing that there will be a free and fair election in December this year. Every time an issue stands up that causes confusion over the election, they are to become stronger in their voices that “there is no confusion over election, politicians shouldn’t spread confusions”. Yesterday New Age editor Nurul Kabir has added some satire over the reality, that even the advisers, the fellow cabinet members when they are reached by him in some social gatherings, express their own confusions over the election when their conversation turns to a little more personal to nearer ones.

[Nurul Kabir told in Channel One’s Nirbachito Khobor:
বর্তমান সরকারের যারা উপদেষ্টা রয়েছেন, এখানে সেখানে তাদের সাথে যখন আমাদের কথা হয়, কানে কানে জিজ্ঞেস করলে তারাই তো বলেন, কি জানি ভাই ইলেকশান হবে কি না জানিনা]

Highest ranked people of the government among those who can be reached by the press but do not enjoy the power of the policy-maker, actually have no reasons to be believed as the reflectors of the real scene that his going on inside the present regime.

The truth is getting brighter as the election is closing in, that is they are only the civilian cream of a military backed government, is the velvet covers of an unwanted iron hand, should be designated as nothing more than errand men. As far as they are not allowed at the policy-making end of this regime, it’s expected that many of their speeches will have contradiction to the reality, as they themselves are not told the full story. So, it won’t be our bad if we underline the Appellate Division’s rejection of Hasina’s bail appeal two days after the unofficial spokesperson of this undemocratic regime Hossain Zillur Rahman told that there remains no legal blockade that could bar Sheikh Hasina and Begum Zia from the general election. People, who immensely look for a free fair election but never have come to believe this regime’s fable of a free and fair election in December this year, may remain impassive after the Appellate Division has made Hossain Zillur looking like a fool. But people, who have been nourishing their utmost optimism over a free and fair election by the end of this year, now should rethink a few things those they should have been taking under consideration from long before.

What can be a more unpalatable misfortune than a nation having this much uncertainty over an election that is very much up ahead? How somebody can have the right to blame others, who themselves tomorrow states the election will surely take place and the other day say there remains uncertainty? Don’t we find a free and fair election was never certain if we look back?

There are a lot of reasons to not get convinced that a free and fair election will take place by the end of this year. There have been many times where this regime has gone through the other way than what they told. There have been many times the words given by this regime has been proved to be fake and for sake of buying time by convincing the people. I have previously written these same very sentences many times in many posts. I like to show some reasons behind this of my opinions. Readers are requested to keep patience while going through my reasons given here.

Naked partialities in arbitrary arrests of politicians. Arbitrary arrests of politicians and shameless partiality to protect leaders those had belief on this regime more than a priest has on Christ. Do you think Sadek Hossain Khoka, Mannan Bhuiyan, Tofael Ahmed all are saints thrown from the heaven?

Patronage for establishing traitors’ factions in both the parties. The line between traitors and loyalists in BNP is now too clear because the October 29 hijack attempt was too noisy. On the other hand the attempt over Awami League has been a semi-success completely under disguise and still in action. Do you think Tofael-Amu-Suranjit-Razzaq quadro even does care about what Zillur Rahman thinks and wants? Don’t you know Sheikh Hasina had wanted names of those went to Heathrow to receive Amu? Don’t you know Sheikh Hasina sat him at the waiting room for hours and finally hasn’t seen him?

Double role about dynastical appointments. One of the major issues of this regime’s overthrowing the democracy was, removing political dynasties and family favouritism. BNP’s reformist Enam A. Chowdhury, kingpins of Oriental Bank scandal Selim A. Chowdhury and Masud A. Chowdhury, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar A. Chowdhury all are brothers having same parents. D. Fakhruddin Ahmed is their sisters’ husband while Hassan Mashhud Chowdhury is a cousin. Nazim Qamran Chowdhury, the husband of ex-adviser Geeti Ara Safia Chowdhury, who is charged in a graft charge, is another cousin who has never been sued. All these men and women from a single Sylheti Chowdhury family, can you show me a more depraved example than this ever took place in Bangladesh? Note it, the Oriental Bank misappropriation was done when D. Fakhruddin was the Governor of Bangladesh Bank.

Spiteful biasing of the anti-graft drive. The ACC anti-graft drive, more than a jihad to abolish corruption, has been a tool of political repression and keeping some officials under the thumb. GATCO graft case, which pulled almost all of the senior BNP 2001 cabinet members to the court, had two important names as suspects of grafts. They are D. Sadat Hussain and Maniklal Samaddar. These two have been cleared by the ACC investigation. D. Sadat, the overnight shushil, is now the Public Service Commission chairman and Manik Lal Samaddar has been named as the special assistant to Fakhruddin, equivalent to a minister. Anti-graft mujahidin, eh?

Minus Two Formula. There is no reason to forget the hide & seek game with Sheikh Hasina and unofficial house arrest of Khaleda Zia. There is no reason to forget the Home Ministry resolution that described how a threat Sheikh Hasina is to the national security and tranquility. Continuous attempts to send Begum Zia abroad for physical treatment and her constant denial are also not to be forgone.

Election Commission’s complete loss of reliability. Can’t we remember how impudently the Chief Election Commission backed the unscrupulous treachery inside a political party? The CEC on September 1, 2007 told,

“জনাব মান্নান ভূঁইয়ার বহিস্কারাদেশটা অবৈধ ছিল, এটা শুধু আমিই মনে করি না, কমিশনের সবাই মনে করেন। এসব বিবেচনা করেই হাফিজুদ্দিন আহমেদকে চিঠি পাঠানো হয়েছে। আরে বিএনপির তো সংবিধানই ঠিক নাই। যাইহোক, এসব রাজনীতির কথা, এখানে এগুলো বলে লাভ নাই। কেচো খুড়তে সাপ বেরিয়ে আসবে।“

Is this a statement from a man who is supposed to be neutral? A strong example of political mistreatment and unreliability lies in that statement from the Chief Election Commissioner. Now it’s your decision that whether he and his team are credible for a free and fair election.

Obscure treatment with Sheikh Hasina. If I am not wrong Sheikh Hasina was supposed to return home a week after the Eid-ul-Fitr. Now, there are happening a lot of talks invisibly so that all the realities cannot be explicable clearly. But having only some weeks before the election, Sheikh Hasina is still being obscurely barred to return home. Her party leaders ain’t seen sound to have her back to action. These are not at least signs of sincerity for a free fair election. This is also a reference to the second point.

Indefinite enforcement of emergency rules and denial to withdraw. Whereas the whole nation wants withdrawal of emergency rules, whereas both of the major parties wants the withdrawal without a delay, whereas one of the initial moral backers of this regime, the European Union wants the lift of these rules, the government is suspiciously and illegitimately wary to lift this tool of repression. A regime, who doesn’t feel comfortable to rule without having rights of people and freedom of all barred by the emergency rules, is difficult to rely for prosperous moves.

Impudent partiality. Playing blind about Ali Hasan Mujahid has been too noisy. Complete surrender to Islamic organizations has been too naked. Ali Hasan Mujahid’s meeting with Chief Adviser under an issued arrest warrant has abolished the total neutrality of the present government. It’s not like they have been neutral in all other cases than Mujahid’s one, but their sacred treatment of Ali Hasan Mujahid has been a shameless showdown and it came clear that, they are not to be relied as neutral.

After having all these points in knowledge, can we be so bum to count days for a free and fair election? Under this government?

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Nurul Kabir
October 31, 2008.
Dhaka.

That the Election Commission has once again missed its own deadline, this time with regard to the registration of political parties by October 30, does not come as a surprise to us at all. As a matter of fact, in the almost 21 months that have passed since the commission was reconstituted in February 2007, all that the commission has given us are empty words and broken promises. Hence, if serious concerns and apprehensions still remain in the public mind regarding the promised elections, and we believe they certainly do, it is the military-controlled interim government and the Election Commission that are squarely to blame for giving rise to such apprehensions.

Since the launching of the electoral ‘roadmap’ by the Election Commission in July 2007, which itself was a delayed response to growing concerns regarding the interim government’s and the commission’s agenda, the commission has failed to meet the vast majority of its own deadlines. Dialogues with political parties were meant to be completed by the end of last year but those dragged on for many months more and the delimitation of electoral constituencies, which was meant to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2008, is yet incomplete. Only the new voters’ roll, which was sub-contracted out to the army, has been completed roughly on time even though the constituency-wise voters’ rolls have yet not been published and verified. The failure to meet the Thursday deadline for party registration is, therefore, just the latest in a long list of failures for the commission and the likely delay of the announcement of the polls schedule, currently slated for November 2, will be yet another ignominious chapter in the history of this commission. The election commissioners may have at different times tried to fault external factors, and even on some occasions the media, for their many delays; but the fact remains that the bungling of the electoral reform process and the repeated failures to meet roadmap deadlines are faults of the commission’s alone.

Under these circumstance, it is no wonder at all that the people have little faith left in the commission, or on the regime for that matter, and openly question whether they will be able to hold participatory and credible elections before this year is out. However, while the people have every right to feel anxious about our electoral and political future, the current regime and the Election Commission in particular have absolutely no excuses left to delay the general elections any further. Instead of blaming others, the commission must now work overtime to ensure that all necessary actions are taken and all outstanding issues resolved so that proper elections can be held on the government’s announced election date of December 18.

* * * * *

Nurul Kabir is the editor of daily New Age.

Barack Obama
October 28, 2008.
Richmond, Virginia.

We just finished a meeting with Senator Biden and members of my senior working group on national security. We had a wide-ranging discussion on the challenges facing our nation.

I’ve been pleased to draw on the support of these distinguished Americans during this campaign. I was also honored to receive the support of Colin Powell on Sunday, who is a friend and former colleague to many of those here with me. General Powell is one of the finest soldiers and statesmen of our time. He has been a source of advice, and I look forward to drawing on his counsel – and the counsel of all of those standing with me today – if I am President.

The next President will take office at a time of great uncertainty for America. We are in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. And as challenging as our current economic crisis is, the next President will have to focus on national security challenges on many fronts. The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large and plotting, and we must be vigilant in preventing future attacks. We are fighting two wars abroad. We are facing a range of 21st century threats – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation to our dependence on foreign oil – which have grown more daunting because of the failed policies of the last eight years.

To succeed, we need leadership that understands the connection between our economy and our strength in the world. We often hear about two debates – one on national security and one on the economy – but that is a false distinction. We can’t afford another President who ignores the fundamentals of our economy while running up record deficits to fight a war without end in Iraq.

We must be strong at home to be strong abroad – that is the lesson of our history. Our economy supports our military power, it increases our diplomatic leverage, and it is a foundation of America’s leadership and in the world. Through World War II, American workers built an Arsenal of Democracy that helped our heroic troops face down fascism. Through the Cold War, the engine of the American economy helped power our triumph over Communism.

Now, we must renew American competitiveness to support our security and global leadership. That means creating millions of jobs in a new American energy sector, so that we’re not borrowing billions from China to buy oil from Saudi Arabia – for the sake of our economy and our security, we must end our dependence on foreign oil. Keeping America ahead also calls for investments in American education, innovation and infrastructure, so that our kids can compete, our homeland is secure, and our country remains on the cutting edge.

It also means leading an international response to the financial crisis. On September 19th, I called for a globally coordinated effort with our partners in the G-20 to stabilize the credit markets. I’m happy that today, the White House announced a summit of the G-20 countries that provides an opportunity to advance the kind of cooperation that I called for last month. America must lead, and other nations must be part of the solution too.

We must recognize that from global economic turmoil to global terrorism, the challenges we face demand American leadership of strong alliances. When America is isolated, we shoulder these burdens alone, and the security and prosperity of the American people is put at risk. Yet for eight years, we have seen our alliances weakened and our standing in the world set back.

We cannot afford four more years of policies that have failed to adjust to our new century. We’re not going to defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries through an occupation of Iraq. We’re not going to deny the nuclear ambitions of Iran by refusing to pursue direct diplomacy alongside our allies. We’re not going to secure the American people and promote American values with empty bluster. It’s time for a fundamental change, and that’s why I’m running for President.

This change must start with a responsible end to the war in Iraq. We shouldn’t keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqis sit on a huge surplus. Today, we discussed how to succeed in Iraq by transitioning to Iraqi responsibility. For the sake of our economy, our military, and the long-term stability of Iraq, it’s time for the Iraqis to step up.

Ending the war will help us deal with Afghanistan, which we talked about at length this morning. In 2002, I said we should focus on finishing the fight against Osama bin Laden. Throughout this campaign, I have argued that we need more troops and more resources to win the war in Afghanistan, and to confront the growing threat from al Qaeda along the Pakistani border.

Over seven years after 9/11, the situation in Afghanistan is grave. This is the most violent year of the war, with the highest number of American casualties. The Taliban is on the offensive, al Qaeda has a sanctuary across the border in Pakistan, and some experts believe that 50 percent of the Afghan economy comes from the heroin trade. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently said, “The trends across the board are not going in the right direction.”

Make no mistake: we are confronting an urgent crisis in Afghanistan, and we have to act. It’s time to heed the call from General McKiernan and others for more troops. That’s why I’d send at least two or three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan. We also need more training for Afghan Security forces, more non-military assistance to help Afghans develop alternatives to poppy farming, more safeguards to prevent corruption, and a new effort to crack down on cross-border terrorism. Only a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes Afghanistan and the fight against al Qaeda will succeed, and that’s the change I’ll bring to the White House.

There is a clear choice in this election. On issue after issue, Senator McCain has supported the key decisions and core approach of President Bush. As President, he would continue the policies that have put our economy into crisis and endangered our national security. And as he’s shown over the last few weeks, he would also continue the divisive politics that undercuts the bipartisan cooperation and national unity that is so badly needed in challenging times.

We need to change course. At home, we must invest in the competitiveness of the American economy. Abroad, we need a new direction that ends the war in Iraq, focuses on the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, and restores strong alliances and tough American diplomacy. To keep our country safe and prosperous, we need leadership that brings the American people together. That is the lesson of our history. Together, we cannot fail; together, we can rise to meet any challenge.

* * * * *

Barack Obama is a junior Senator from Illinois and the Democratic Candidate for U.S. Presidential Election 2008.

Capt. Husain Imam
October 27, 2008. Dhaka.

According to adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman, the unofficial spokesman of the caretaker government, the much sought after national election, scheduled to be held on December 18, is now on the highway and it is determined to reach its target dead on time. Yet the uncertainty with the election that has all along overcast the political horizon ever since the present CTG took over the helm of affairs of the country some 21 months ago is not over.

Mr. Suranjit Sen Gupta, one of the top ranking leaders of Awami League, thinks that the election train might have got on to the highway, but the possibility of a highway crash can never be totally ruled out. So the people should still be extremely cautious about it. I tend to agree with himDespite the fact that there have been several dialogues (official as well as unofficial) between the government and the two major political parties, AL and BNP, and after the one held last Thursday both sides claimed to have narrowed down the differences significantly, three major demands, almost common to both the parties, as pre-conditions for participating in the election, still remain unresolved.

The demands are: One, the party chairperson/president has to be fully, permanently, and unconditionally freed and allowed to participate in the election. Two, the emergency has to be fully lifted. Three, the upazilla election date has to be rescheduled and held at least 15 days after the national election.If we understand what Dr. Zillur Rahman has been telling the public in the recent days, the CTG is prepared to relax emergency rules to an extent so that the political parties can carry out their election campaign and the voters can cast their votes freely and independently without any fear or intimidation from any quarters. But they are not prepared to lift the emergency rules fully.

The reason is not difficult to understand. They do not want those political leaders who have been held on charges of corruption and convicted in the trial courts under emergency rules to contest the next election. If the emergency is lifted, they will all be probably eligible for contesting the election.

The political parties might have to come to an understanding with the government at least on this issue if they really mean business. Because, one thing is for sure, people don’t want to see those who are perceived or known to have committed large-scale corruption, abusing state power in the recent past, entering politics or contest the next election.

And for the caretaker government, it is probably high time they gave up any hope, if they still have, of implementing the “minus two” formula. When Dr. Zillur Rahman can confidently say that there is no bar whatsoever for the two ladies, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, to lead their respective parties in the next election and get their party candidates elected in the parliament, but is unable to say in clear terms whether they will be able to contest in the election themselves, one has valid reason to be wary.

BNP secretary general Khondokar Delwar Hossain has clearly and repeatedly said that his party will not participate in the election without Khaleda Zia. The stand of Awami League on this particular issue is not different either. That there can be no election, let alone a credible election, in the country without these two ladies is a stark reality.

Even if the central leaders of both AL and BNP, under compulsion and in the interest of a smooth transfer of power to an elected government (for argument’s sake), decide to go to polls without Sheik Hasina and Begum Zia, there is every possibility that they will face stiff resistance from the grassroots level workers and leaders of their parties, making it almost impossible to go through the election process. The earlier the CTG realises it, the better it will be.

As for upazilla election, most of the political parties including AL and BNP think that the date fixed for upazilla election, with only five days gap from national election, is an impractical proposition, running the risk of creating a mess for both the elections, and have rightly asked for shifting the date of upazilla election by a fortnight or so. The Election Commission will be well advised to listen to the mainstream political parties and act accordingly.

One more thing the caretaker government needs to realise. With only 50 days or so left for the national election, there is no scope for them to undertake any more experiment or embark upon any further adventure with democracy. They have had enough of them over the last 22 months. A few of them might have proved productive. But most of them, I dare say, met with disappointing consequences.

The latest idea to get the two ladies sit across the table and talk, a brainchild of their common lawyer Barrister Rafique-ul Huq, died its natural death before it could even see the light of the day. And now when we hear from Dr. Zillur Rahman that they would like to continue holding dialogues with the political parties to bring about a qualitative change in politics, we welcome their initiative but when they say that they would like to get a commitment from the political parties as to how they are going to run the country after the election, one cannot but feel pity for them.

If the CTG is really serious about holding a free, fair, and credible election on December 18, they ought to resolve the three core issues — participation of Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia in the election, lifting of emergency, and rescheduling of upazilla polls — before even declaring the election schedule on November 2.

* * * * *

Capt. Hussain Imam is a retired merchant navy officer and a contributor to New Age and Daily Sangbad

(দৈনিক সংবাদ).

xanthis
October 26, 2008

It’s been exact three years of my nearly witnessing a severe road accident. It was the October 26 night of 2005 on our way to Cambridge from Stratford, East London; a dark blue Lotus M1oo overtook our National Express bus. The vehicle was dangerously quick and the driver looked too good with his wheels as it had the tremendous speed although there was quite a rush at the highway. But I said it was mere dangerous. Hardly some minutes passed after I, for the last saw the rear lights of Lotus M100, as our bus went ahead a little far and the worst was found. The blue Lotus M100 crashed at the place where the right-handed lane of the highway was divided to two routes, one to Cambridge and straight I didn’t know. The crash initially looked pretty bad. We could see the rear part of the car was a little lifted up to few inches from the asphalt. Rear glasses were transparent so the suddenly appeared bluish airbags were visible. Our driver was grudgingly passing by the scene too slowly for a highway as well as all the vehicles on our line were doing so. The crash site which was never more than two to three minutes old when we first had that at our sight and the surprise for all South Asians of the bus including myself from Bangladesh was the surroundings of the crash, cordoned by police personnels, the whole highway was turned to nearly illuminated with blue and red lights of ambulances and patrol cars. We passed by and the bus got back its usual highway speed. After some while the driver of our bus god knows from where learnt so, did let us know that two passengers, both male, survived the severe crash and have been rushed to hospital. The accident chapter at my thought was soon shut as we were in a hurry to Cambridge. It was my mother’s birthday and we were carrying a chocolate cake bought from a Sainsbury’s shop at Stratford. The cake was about to lose its speciality if we couldn’t make it before 11:59PM, before her birthday’s getting a day older. But it was beyond everything that I was really amazed with a so rapid response of police and medical agencies to rush to the crash site and rescuing the victims.

Bangladesh Highway Police was first introduced in 2004. We have never got in touch with any statistics that how the situation of Bangladesh road traffic accidents (RTA) have gone better after the formation of a whole new unit devoted to serve the highway matters. We are also not familiar with the reality that whether there has been any improvement or it has gone worse. Heavy rain, foggy weather in the winter, extra rush due to two Eid vacations are special cases when we are never to miss the news headlines of deadly automobile accidents at our highways, specially two notorious ones, the Jamuna Bridge link road at Elenga, Tangail and the whole of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway. Bangladesh is one of the most usual to face this problem increasingly and we can blame and we can throw the responsibilities of these mishaps arbitrarily to the police forces for their poor management of putting some control on highway drivers and off course the post-accident handling. But those who have got in touch with some severe highway accidents anyways, will be found a little exceptional about this blaming part, must protest it and must state it that the Bangladesh Police are the first and fastest governmental agency to respond any deadly or any highway automobile accidents. Their transportation, their manpower and their effort is almost one of the unique one that accident victims get for being helped.

The thing needed is the proper coordination of all government abilities behind helping the issue of these highway accidents and massive loss of lives. Medic teams after each five miles won’t serve the purpose if the drivers on the highway are presented with a relaxed enforcement of traffic rules. We hailed the services of police at the aftermath of a highway automobile accident, but their role before the occurrence must be strengthened. In most of the cases of highway accidents in Bangladesh, the spot is almost never found without fatalities. Especially reckless driving in special occasions mentioned earlier, end up with a larger number of fatalities and in most of the cases with dead and badly disfigured drivers themselves. Little strict coordination of related institutions of the government can deal with these mishaps. It’s about saving lives of people, on their way to home or work or elsewhere.

Asif Saleh
United States

Ever since the doctors told him, “Mr. Saleh, you have bad cells”, his fate was sealed. A perfectly honest and seemingly healthy man has been given a death sentence. The doctors gave him three months time or less. The phone rang at three thirty AM in New York in mid October. My sister, Lopa, called from North Carolina crying. My mother had just called her from Bangkok telling her about this death sentence. My head started spinning. How can this be possible? I just saw him off in New York two weeks ago – saw off a perfectly healthy man, telling him that I would see him again in Dhaka in two months. How can this be possible? I picked up the phone and called Bangkok. My mother was calm as steal. “Your father is crying”, she said. The doctor had just told him the news – “Mr. Saleh, you have bad cells.” My mother gave the phone to him. I tried to be calm and composite and was getting ready to say “Bapi, don’t be afraid, you have fought so many times before. You will fight again.” But letting a voice out of my choked up throat became the hardest thing to do. I gave the phone to my wife Eeshita. All she could say was “Hello”. I don’t know if she heard the muffled voice of my father or whether she heard him cry but she could not speak anymore either. Thus we received the news that our father only has a few days left as cancer had spread all over his body.

Two days later, we found ourselves in the plane. I moved up my relocation to London by a couple of weeks. I took those two weeks off from work to spend time with my father in Bangladesh. My wife and daughter parted with me in London. I was going home after 5 years. My mother really wanted me to visit home. I could finally come. But the circumstances surrounding could have been so much better.

So I came. I came to an airport where there was no one to receive me other than our driver. I wasn’t greeted by the usual smile of my father. I didn’t see his anxious face looking out to find me among the arriving passengers. I tried to stop thinking about it. Driver Abdul bhai was crying. He cried all the way while driving me home. I was determined to keep a cheerful face. I called home from the mobile phone. My father picked up the phone –that ever familiar voice, the voice of love and affection, the voice of our dependence, that voice of our joy. I was so pleasantly surprised that he picked up the phone that I elated in joy, “Bapi , you sound so good! You’ll be fine in no time.” I came home and Bapi greeted me. He looked so normal! It was impossible to tell that things had changed so much from the last time I saw him only three weeks before. We talked about his life in Kaptai, his childhood. It was wonderful. I took some pictures of him. That in the end turned out to be the best day of my visit. From that day onwards, it was all downhill. Things changed at an unbelievable pace and his condition worsened little by little every single day. Eventually, we had to move him to a hospital.

Next few days became the worst days of our lives. My sister, Lopa, arrived from the US; so did my brother, Imon. We were together as a family again. Bapi greeted them both with warm hugs from the bed. Imon and I would swap days to stay at the hospital at night. It was so painful to see him suffer every night! One such night Bapi could not sleep. I asked him if he wanted me to sing. I remembered the days when I returned from my music school, Bapi would make me sing the new song I learned that day. I would get annoyed but he would say, “Please baba tinta line shonao”. I would then sing the song half heartedly in a grudging voice. When once I was singing at the Shahid Minar with maestro Kalim Sharafi, he was there as proud as a father can be. Today I was singing for him again. All those memories came flushing by right in front of me. I could not sing in a choked voice. For the first time, I broke down in front of him. I hugged him and cried. So did he. It was perhaps the last time I was singing for him.

“ganer bhelay bela abelay, pranero asha, bhola moner srote bhasha paler haowa bhorsha tomar, korish ne bhoy, pother kori na jodi roy, shonge ache badhon nasha, bhola moner srote bhasha.”

(“গানের ভেলায় বেলা অবেলায়, প্রাণেরো আশা, ভোলা মনের শ্রোতে ভাসা পালের হাওয়া ভরসা তোমার, করিসনে ভয়, পথের করি না যদি রয়, সঙ্গে আছে বাঁধন নাশা, ভোলা মনের শ্রোতে ভাসা…”)

With the help of this wind of the sail, slowly my father’s lifeboat started its journey towards the unknown. The first few days, he cried. You could tell that he was having trouble coming to grip with the finality of the whole matter. After a few days he stopped crying. He accepted his fate. We all said good bye one by one. Relatives came, his friends came by the scores, and workers from his factory came in buses – all left with weeping goodbye. At the end, he did not want to see anyone. He just wanted to have his children and his wife to be around him. He saw the old photographs of his wedding, the early pictures of his first child, Lopa. He listened to Rabindra Sangeet by her niece, Shama, who came every single day to sing for her dearest Kabu (Kakababu in short).

Then one day, I had to leave and say good bye for the final time. I left for London. I started my new life and new career. I was greeted by my one year old daughter Anahita who called me Bapi. As one Bapi was getting ready to leave, another Bapi had arrived. Two days after my arrival, I woke up unusually early in the morning seeing a dream. I called Dhaka right away. Lopa was on the phone with a shaking voice, “I think Bapi is leaving us as we speak”. Although I was not there in person, by some strange coincidence, I was with my family at the exact time when my Bapi was saying his final good bye.

Thus the life of Mr. Abul Khair Saleh came to an end on the 11th November, 2003. He led a simple life – a life that was not grand in nature, but a life which was full of love and affection. A life that was bound by principle. Being a government officer for a long time, we were always very proud to say that he never took any bribe from anyone. In stead, he helped so many people to stand up on their feet! He always told me that it takes so little to make a difference, why should one not do it. Unassuming person as he was, amazingly, he never told anyone about his acts of charity. Only before his death, I learned that he single-handedly rehabilitated all the families who were affected by the liberation war of Bangladesh in Kaptai, where he served as a government officer. He miraculously survived the bullets of Pakistani army in 1971 and later, helped the family of those who were not as lucky as he was.

Two years before his death, he created a school near his factory seeing the need of his factory workers’ kids’ education. That school now boasts three hundred student with full recognition from the government. As a civil engineer from BUET (then Ahsanullah engineering college), he worked at Kaptai, Chittagong Hill Tracts as a government officer since the building of Kaptai dam. Later he joined private business firms. He did not earn a lot of wealth – just about enough to give his children good education and good life. He wasn’t a towering success in business. He was not the biggest crowd puller in a party. Yet his unassuming, modest character left an impression and became an inspiration to many people’s lives who he touched. And he didn’t even know it.

Never one to boast about his family heritage, he was, however, really proud of all his three children where he invested all his energy, love, passion and affection. All of us, his children, can say without a blink, that he was the greatest father a child could ever have had. His affection and love for us was so abundant that we were always fulfilled in our lives. A man of a few words in front of outsiders, he would never have any problem expressing his love for us — whether it was over the phone or whether it was in person.

And that is what that makes it so difficult to deal with this loss. I try to remember his voice everyday so that I do not ever forget that loving voice that greeted me all the time. I miss him so very much. A friend who lost his father a few years ago wrote, “This is a loss, I am afraid, one can never get over with.” I hope he is true. I don’t want to get over with the loss. There is one little corner in my heart that I want to keep tucked away for him where I will keep all my sorrows for losing him. Along with that, I will keep all the wonderful memories that we created together.

* * * * *

Asif Saleh is a Bangladeshi author, a contributor at Uttorshuri and founder of the Bangladeshi expatriates based human rights and social activist organization Drishtipat. This article was first published in November 3, 2003.

Emergency may be relaxed early Nov: Adviser
Tue, Oct 21st, 2008 6:19 pm BdST

Dhaka, Oct 21 (bdnews24.com)—The caretaker government may relax the state of emergency next month, to coincide with the arrival of a European Commission delegation, said an adviser Tuesday.

“The chief adviser has assured that the state of emergency will be relaxed to hold a free, fair and credible election,” foreign adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told reporters following a meeting with the EC mission head in Bangladesh at the foreign ministry.

A 10-member core assessment team of the EC will arrive on Nov 6 to study the pre-election political situation.

“The government may well make the announcement on relaxing the emergency during their stay,” Iftekhar said.

Said EC mission head Stefan Frowein after the meeting: “I have talked to the adviser on the polls observation mission. The information continues to be that there will be relaxation or lifting (of the state of emergency) as soon as possible and we will see some announcements from the government very soon.”

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May be we have discovered some superstitious potential in this present undemocratic-unelected 1/11 regime, that though they have suspended the democracy of a democratic state; though students and teachers have been beaten mercilessly, followed by their rage; though they are the crude stipulator of enforcing the state of emergency for an indefinite duration; though they are uncomfortable to proceed without such bold legal enforcement that reproaches the rights and freedom of people; though they have tried to legally establish factions of political parties who claimed their genuineness with forgery and surreal ambition; we are looking forward that this government is to present us an election after which all odds of the present political instability will be squared out.

Actually we should not go too far from some truths; those have come to our experiences in last twenty two and half months. Still this government is completely unwilling to lift the state of emergency. They have called for all parties to compete in election. Now all of the parties those have been founded before 1/11 coup d’état, have strongly stated that they are not going to take part in any election on earth, if the state of emergency is not lifted. Especially if we count the timeline of early October this year, all parties have come to an undeclared unity that no election under emergency. The European Union, which is allegedly one of the Western instigators of the 1/11 coup d’état, have made it very clear no election under emergency will get have accountability to them. After all of these ‘to the point’ declarations of abandoning an election under emergency at a row, Hossain Zillur Rahman the unofficial spokesperson of this military backed undemocratic government, have said that they will relax the state of emergency. So it’s definitely your decision, do we still have any reason to convince ourselves that this government is keen to carry out a free and fair election? Do we still have any reason to alight from the belief that the result of the election has been fixed?

Previously I have written several posts (this, this, this etc.) where facts were compiled and conclusively it was clear that there were no reasons to get sure about a free and fair election is going to be held by the end of this year. And we are so unfortunate that still we are to finish posts with the sentences those we used during the crude exposure period of this regime’s political ill-motives.

There are many points still glistening, those urge us that the present government is not interested to carry out an election that will free and fair. And the people of Bangladesh and her politicians have to realize this more than UNDP, EU and those meddling high-commissioners.

xanthis
October 16, 2008.

In the middle of outnumbered political reforms propositions, the issue which should be considered as one of the vitals, the issue of student politics, is not getting the status of ‘outspoken’ yet. There are many questions and confusion created around this issue. And the most disappointing proposal over student politics issue have come from a community or cult in Bangladesh, recognized as ‘Shushil Shomaj’. There have been several chats in the civil society meetings or seminars, where speakers proposed to ban the student politics in Bangladesh. Banning the student politics!!! More than ousting democracy, more than jailing party leaders, more than aiding 29th October type coup d’états, the most suicidal move for the politics, political future and the overall system of Bangladesh, will be the this if anybody even thinks about banning, barring, ending the student politics.

Ban over the student politics will be a solution like ejecting eyes in order to cure an optical disease.

This sort of procedure I believe the present regime feels most comfortable to apply; something like, suspending democracy as politics have gone wrong, jailing politicians arbitrarily as some of them have gone violent, in order to save the nation you know. But a cordial ‘thank you’ to the almighty and may be to the present regime kingpins, that they haven’t thought of anything like banning student politics by law yet. But the sense, or the thought which have helped them best to create their initial moral ground, I feel is most keen to look forward for a law that’ll ban student politics. The issue which I have discussed here, is, the craze of power of our politicians, completely imprudent ‘getting to power’ policies of the parties and exploitation of the situation of some apolitical individuals (from inside or abroad), have given birth of the present government. And, the role of the politicians here have been most vital, which has encouraged Bangladeshi people to call the politics in ‘dirty’ and staying out of it, rather than getting into it and cleansing it. And from this of the attitudes of seeing the politics as a nun looks at a whore, many of our educated countrymen think that banning student politics must be a prerequisite of peace.

But banning student politics will be a prelude of many of our political disasters. The present government has not yet acted to ban the student politics, but they thing they feel very glad to ask is, people should bring honest and patriot politicians from the society. This is definitely a complete depthless opinion, only expected from people less interested to take up responsibilities.

The history of Bangladesh shows us patterns of politics to evolve where many of the most loved politicians have had their ‘entity of politician’ to be born in universities and colleges, places those are considered to be the conscience of the whole nation. No other part of the society thinks and acts in the way that the students of a country do. There are many problems identified and many questions asked only by the student society of a nation. Today in Bangladesh we can talk about sidelining the culture of student politics, because we have become so reticent to recall our past and history where we have many of our political crisis pursued, dealt and replied progressively by the society of students. It’s the society of students which is able to react and to send tremendously effective pulses to all and all sectors of the system immediately after discovering stressful glimpse of commons. Now, some apolitical individuals whose courage of ignoring the national interest is the result of our indefinite reticence and our imprudent politics, are to attempt to bar this society from getting concerned about our national affairs.

Is it thought for a single time that how a student society we will be building by banning it from politics? At our universities and colleges, a student society will be under construction where students will be taught to build themselves as self-centred, short-sighted and immensely preoccupied with own interests with a complete unawareness of his way to play the role for the nation, for the country. Now we, the people are to consider that whether this will get us to better things or not.

It’s an open secret that what nowadays student leader have been doing. It’s completely known to all that being a student leader nowadays is almost the way to get the opportunity to exploit their entity of a to be politician, as well as most of the student leaders are somehow shacked up with their lobbying efforts, grabbing illegitimate financial gains being in as medium between their fellow party leaders and others. In bigger institutions, residential seats are another issue of trade and showing down the influence. Now I can go down to the bottom of this blog page if I start a sincere presentation of negative things about our student politics. There are a lot of things to get soar about student politics, and there are a lot of reasons for the guardians to stay cautious about their children, to be least interested to see them to go to student politics.

But banning the student politics is not a solution to these after all. It’s not acceptable that at one side we will be shouting, “There should be no goons in politics”, and on the other hand it will be ourselves shouting, “Students politics should be banned”. If the student politics is banned, there will be definitely a political vacuum, which will excite our so called ‘goons’ to come forward and fill that up. And such a proposition of an attitude completely apolitical or politically imprudent, is clearly self-contradictory. If somebody is so concerned about the present condition of student politics, he or she must ask for a massive reform of the whole student politics, but the banning of it is no solution, rather clearly suicidal for a country like Bangladesh.

Sikder Haseeb Khan

Imagine that you’re sitting on the throne of Bangladesh’s politics. You are ruling with emergency powers, but dissent is swelling. You are in the midst of an economic crisis. You are threatened by powerful shadowy figures in your own security and intelligence apparatus. Your previous international patrons now uncomfortable. You need an exit, preferably an honorable one.

So you want to hold elections. But a fully free and fair election will almost certainly result in an outcome that you have reason to distrust, for it may return to power many popular politicians that your administration has persecuted severely. So what do you do in this tense situation?

The answer: engineer the elections—but do so carefully, without raising too many alarm bells. Ensure that voting goes smoothly on election day, without hijacking of ballot boxes, prevention of voters from casting ballots, or any such crude tactics that would be obvious to an observer. In other words, engineer it, not rig it. Here’s how…

Bar dissenters

The first step that the regime has taken: prevent feisty politicians from running in the election. Convicting politicians in quick trials—whatever the charges—will come in handy: declare them ineligible for holding public office. Then government would then intensify an “anti-corruption drive” prior to the candidate registration date in order to bar the local political activists that it doesn’t like.

Field proponents

At the same time, the regime has to leave enough of Awami League and BNP outside the legal net so that the parties themselves can participate in the election. It will continue hand-picking “reformist” politicians or possible turncoats, and intimidate or otherwise persuade them to compete. It will support selective campaigns from both security and funding standpoints. As a recent report by the International Crisis Group noted, “the army is preparing a countrywide list of its own ‘clean’ candidates to contest the 2008 polls.”

Whether or not these candidates will represent a King’s Party or an existing political platform doesn’t matter. What matters is that mostly pro-regime candidates will be allowed to compete.

Shape the grassroots

Then the regime has to ensure that the party rank and file do not rebel. It has already arrested thousands of activists all over the country to prevent dissent, and intimidated thousands others to conform. The government is also trying to bar parties from having students’, teachers’, and workers’ organizations, which usually house most of the activists. In this altered playing field, the government wants to hold local elections first, under either a state of emergency or very limited openings, to ensure that its supporters are able to infiltrate the grassroots level prior to a national election.

Since parliamentary candidates have to rely on grassroots leaders to carry their campaigns, shaping the grassroots will help ensure that parliamentary candidates are forced toe a pro-regime line.

And local elections are not going to be monitored as much by international observers, so the field will be set to stage ‘upsets’. After all, this unrepresentative government claims that it’s only doing what the ‘people’ presumably want.

Control the cities

Another area that the regime has been trying to bolster is its support base among the urban civil society elite. Its attempt to get Dr. Yunus to lead this effort failed. Many of its other supporters among the urban elite are unappealing and unelectable in the perspective of the majority of voters. So, to the extent possible, it is redefining the boundaries of constituencies to give urban areas a greater share. This increases its chance to increase regime loyalists at least in the metropolitan areas. Holding non-party municipal elections is part of this plan.Increase authorityThe final ingredient is to increase the power of electoral authorities to arbitrarily declare results void. The Election Commission has been doing exactly the same. It is about to “empower it to cancel the candidature of any parliamentary contender for gross violation of electoral laws and declare vacant the seat of an elected lawmaker for giving false information in the account of the election expenses” (New Age, 29 April 2008). And who’s going to determine this violation? The Commission of course. Given this government’s woeful record, you can wave due process bye-bye in any such decision.Satisfaction guaranteedSo voila! Now hold national elections, and at the end of the day, you have engineered a nice exit strategy by making sure only your friends are elected. No violence, no ballot box hijacking, and a lot of claps from foreign observers.

* * * * *

Sikder Haseeb Khan is a Bangladeshi author. This story has also been published in The Progressive Bangladesh.

GrameenPhone and Bangladesh Post Office (BPO) have closed a deal that allows the country’s largest mobile phone operator to supply over 24,000 SIMs to staff working in more than 8,000 post offices countrywide.

GP chief executive officer Anders Jensen and BPO director general Mobasherur Rahman inked the agreement on Wednesday at the city’s Westin Hotel.

Special assistant to the chief adviser in charge of post and telecoms ministry MA Malek, secretary Iqbal Mahmud and other officials of ministry were also present at the ceremony.

In March, the BPO invited expressions of interest asking for solution that would help postal employees generate income and facilitate communications among them.

The GP’s proposal was picked as it was deemed as ‘the most economical’, said BPO chief Mobasherur Rahman.

Malek thanked the GP for the initiative that he believed would enhance the state postal entity’s services.

He however, said that GP should increase its infrastructure base since its subscriber base had almost touched 20 million.

“We get complaints especially from rural areas,” he said.

Jensen said he believed the partnership would usher in another ‘new dimension’ to the services provided by the postal services.

The connections provided by GP to the BPO’s rural post office employees blends recharging facilities, Flexiload, with voice and data services, Health Line and Bill Pay services.

The endeavor is believed to enable revenue-generating source for rural post office employees and the BPO headquarters as GP would share 5 percent of the revenue generated from these connections with the BPO.

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