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Rumi Ahmed
18 July, 2010. USA

Updated: Amar Desh online version again available.

Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh:

39. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed.
(2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of
the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation
to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
(a) the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and freedom of the
press, are guaranteed.

Bangladesh Supreme Court just struck down the Awami League government’s ban on popular newspaper Amar Desh. Amar Desh online version is now available.

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Based on precedence of two previous cases concerning Daily Ittefaq and Daily Banglar Bani, this verdict was very straightforward and expected. Accordingly High court verdict came with very clear judgment and an appeal by the government was a very shameful and surprising act. Esp when the government itself declared that Government had nothing to do with the ban, it was done by the district administrator of Dhaka.  And more shameful and less surprising was the act of the chamber judge of Supreme Court, Justice S K Sinha. Without letting any hearing to be allowed, he simply stayed the judgment of High court.

It is shameful because the chamber judge just violated his oath to uphold Bangladesh Constitution by allowing a Newspaper to remain closed illegally. It is not surprising considering the precedences in which  the court of the Chamber Judge is being used more frequently by the government to stall high court verdicts unfavorable to the Government.

More interestingly a case in pending in the Supreme Court in this regard. A contempt of court case was filed against Amar Desh editor Mr. Mahmudur Rahman  because Amar Desh quoted a senior lawyer of the supreme court, suggesting the same allegation against the chamber bench. In the report Daily Amar Desh quoted senior most lawyer of Supreme court and ex justice Mr TH Khan as saying, ” Chamber Judge means a stay of high court order”.

And yet more interesting was the fact that Mr Mahmudur Rahman is now ‘shown arrested’ in a case of anti corruption Commission for not submitting wealth report. In a recent spate of Supreme Court verdicts,  all acts of anti corruption commission were deemed illegal. Persons convicted by ACC are all set free and many of them are in important positions of current government. Even our current prime Minister challenged the wealth submission order of ACC, never submitted her wealth report and fought a lengthy court battle.

Sometimes, acts of the government, its law enforcement apparatus and the attorney General’s office seems bizarre. Yet again, more bizarre is the silence of the collective conscience of the country, our columnists-our editors-our TV anchors, regarding this total mindless acts of our government.

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Rumi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi blogger contributing from United States.

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Hussain Imam
31 January, 2010, Dhaka

When BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia criticises Sheikh Hasina or her government on any matter, (or vice versa), it can be in most cases assumed that the latter must have done something good. The more severe the criticism, the higher is the chance of such assumption turning out to be true.

If we go by this theory, the way BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has reacted to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to India is a clear indication that Sheikh Hasina’s trip has been a tremendous success.

Sheikh Hasina has during her visit signed three treaties, one memorandum of understanding (MoU), one protocol, and a joint communiqué. While the treaties related mostly to ensure security of the region through united action against terrorism, religious jingoism, political insurgency and women and drug trafficking, the other agreements including the joint declaration aimed at resolving all other bilateral and multi-lateral issues through mutual discussion based on good friendly relations between the two countries.

Sheikh Hasina thinks that her visit has been a complete success. She thinks that the visit has opened a new horizon of bilateral and regional cooperation between the two countries. Why should she not?

As reported by an Indian journalist, when Sheikh Hasina, during her summit meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, took out her list of demands, Manmohan Singh told her that she did not have to ask anything. Whatever was the need of Bangladesh, India would go to the furthest extent to meet those demands.

Begum Khaleda Zia

Regarding Tipaimukh Dam, the most sensitive issue for Bangladesh, Manmohan Singh has categorically told Hasina that India will not do anything that will harm Bangladesh. About sharing water of Teesta and other common rivers, both the countries have agreed to a ministerial level JRC meeting on urgent basis.

India is our big neighbour, bordering us on three sides — east, west and north. It is a vast country, seven times bigger than our country by population alone. It is the largest democracy and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, poised to be the third biggest economic superpower in a decade or so.

When the prime minister of such a country, and if the prime minister is Manmohan Singh, one of the finest men at the helm of affairs anywhere, gives such assurance, why should not Sheikh Hasina, as prime minister of Bangladesh, feel confident of her success in the mission?

Given the nature of the politics BNP has been pursuing ever since it came into existence, it is not surprising that the chairperson of the party will oppose every move Sheikh Hasina makes, and if it is anything related to India, she will use her anti-Indian trump card and go to any extent to spoil the broth.

Begum Zia has tried to do exactly that. She has, through a hurried press conference, termed the visit not only a total failure but also harmful to the nation. She has accused Sheikh Hasina of giving everything to India and getting nothing for Bangladesh in return. She did not stop there. She has, as she did when the AL government signed the historic peace treaty of Chittagong Hill Tracts in 1997, accused Sheikh Hasina of selling the country to India.

In 1997, it was up to Feni that Khaleda Zia accused Shekh Hasina of selling to India. This time it is the whole country. No wonder, Sheikh Hasina was quick enough to ask Begum Zia if she needed an Indian visa to visit her hometown in Feni.

Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India and the agreements or understandings arrived at during the visit have, as many a political analysts, academics and economists across the region agree, turned over a new leaf of relation between the two countries, and if the treaties and the agreements see the light of the day, both the countries, indeed the whole South Asian region will be immensely benefited. The whole region will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. Why not wait and see?

Bangladesh has allowed India, along with Nepal and Bhutan, to facilitate transit of their cargo to their hinterlands through Chittagong, Mongla and Ashuganj port and, in return, Bangladesh will also be able to transit its cargo to and from Nepal and Bhutan using Indian territory. This will not only bolster economic activities of our ports and earn huge revenue but also help develop trade and business activities between the countries. This is a practice not uncommon elsewhere. Singapore and Rotterdam are glaring examples in front of us.

It is unfortunate that Begum Zia or for that matter her think tanks and advisers do not realise that their anti-Indian card has gone all blunt. The present generation is not prepared to buy it any longer. They want to go ahead with the others. They know very well that in the face of imminent threat of climate change and terrorist activities across the region there is no alternative to active cooperation and friendly relation among all the neighbouring countries of the region.

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Hussain Imam, a former merchant navy officer, is a regular contributor to The New Age, the Daily Star and Daily Sangbad.

Originally Published on: Onnesha.TK

Ti[aimukh Dam

Tipaimukh Dam. It is clear that it will put it's adverse effect on Surma and Kushiara as well as other rivers of Bangladesh too.

The Indians are going ahead with the construction of the massive Tipaimukh barrage-this events collectively impinge on us in more than one ways but the one which directly affects our very ability to survive is the issue of water-sharing of some 53 common rivers between India and Bangladesh. By constructing Tipaimukh and other barrages, India is depriving us of life-giving waters, drastically reducing our ability to survive and therefore this is the issue needing immediate and continued public attention and the subject of this commentary. India has resumed construction of the Tipaimukh barrage on the Barack river just a kilometer north of Jakiganj in Sylhet; the construction work was stalled in March 2007 in the face of protests within and outside India. The barrage when completed in 2012 is supposed to provide 1500 megawatts of hydel power to the Indian state of Assam but in return its going to bring about a major disaster for Bangladesh, practically contributing to drying up of 350 km long Surma and 110 km long Kushiara rivers which water most of the north-eastern regions of Bangladesh. The Tipaimukh barrage is going to seriously affect not only agriculture in large portions of Bangladesh, particularly in winter, but is also going to bring about negative ecological, climatic and environmental changes of vast areas in both Bangladesh and India.

Indian government is constructing the dam without consultation with Bangladesh government, which is violation of International River Law. Three crores people of the northern and eastern parts of the country would be vulnerable seriously when the construction of the dam would be completed by 2012.

It’s not just this one Indian barrage that is a source of considerable concern and trepidation in Bangladesh; in 1976 India put into operation the Farraka Barrage which more or less destroyed the Ganges-Brahamaputra Basin, most of which lies in the deltaic plains of Bangladesh and in 1990 India also constructed a barrage along the Teesta river thereby virtually making ineffective much of the Teesta barrage project constructed down-stream in Bangladesh to support irrigation and agriculture in the north-west region of the country. What is even more worrying is that India has evolved plans to divert waters, from the north of the country to its drought-prone southern and eastern states, of some 53 river which flow from India to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh shares a common border with India in the west, north and east and with Myanmar in the southeast. These borders cut across 57 rivers which discharge through Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal in the south. The upstream courses of these rivers traverse India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. Trans-boundary flows, which enter Bangladesh from remote catchments extending short distance to thousands of kilometers upstream, are the important source of water resources.

Bangladesh gets 7 to 8 percent of its total water from the Barak in India’s northeastern states. Millions of people are dependent on hundreds of water bodies, fed by the Barak, in the Sylhet region for fishing and agricultural activities.

Environmentalists in Bangladesh have held many talks on the adverse impact of the proposed dam. They say the dam would dry up the river and the water bodies in the downstream, leaving millions jobless and upsetting the ecological balance.

Among the trans-boundary rivers, the ones most affected by Indian barrages and their related systems of canals, reservoirs and irrigation schemes are Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Teesta. Although the Indian and Bangladeshi governments have a water sharing agreement for the Ganges, there are none for the other 53 rivers that cross the border. With the Tipaimukh barrage now underway, India seems to be going ahead with its mega-project of diverting river waters from its north to its south and east, thereby putting Bangladesh’s very survival at stake.India is taking unilateral decisions about matters which affect Bangladesh’s core interests and if these cannot be resolved bilaterally, Bangladesh must look at options of going to multilateral forums such as the UN to get its right not only recognized but also implemented. International laws dealing with water-sharing of common rivers and sources are ambiguous, unclear and contentious and so, Bangladesh ought to vigorously pursue these matters, perhaps even garner international support for a change in those laws dealing with water-sharing – this international dimension is a crucial factor affecting the management of the trans-boundary river systems. There is thus, no scope for Bangladesh to be deflected from this core issue of water-sharing notwithstanding Indian deceitful and diversionary insistence and propaganda on “terrorists and transit”.

The Indian high commissioner has admitted that a dam will be built on the proposed Tipaimukh hydropower project over the cross-boundary river Barak but said it will not harm Bangladesh. (But I don’t know how? You will put a barrage in the river and it will not affect the nature???)

The Tipaimukh hydropower project was not like the Farakka irrigation project. A little amount of water will be diverted to produce hydroelectricity and the water will be released soon, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty said. (So he agreed that Farakka Barrage is a problem for Bangladesh. And saying that Tipaimukh will not be like that! But how Bangladesh would beleive it? India previously said many thing abouthis Farakka Barrage. But ultimately Bangladesh is suffering from it. So how will we beleive that you are talking truth? And one barrage must put it’s adverse effect on nature. And the position of the Barrage clearly indicates that Bangladesh will offcourse suffer with this project. It will be a destructive project for Bangladesh. We must protest it now!)

Bangladesh should not be wary of the project, he told.

He said bilateral discussions have long been on-going on the project. Indian government has invited Bangladesh to see the dam site and its design, Chakravarty said. A Bangladeshi organisation, International Farakka Committee, demanded suspension of ‘construction of Tipaimukh barrage’ and rightful share of the Indian river Ganges.

The organisation called upon the United Nations to form a regional river commission involving China, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Government of Bangladesh and people of Bangladesh must be aware of this project from now and must have to protest. It will come as a destructive project for Bangladesh. bangladesh will become desert if the project is completed. India is using their power to complete this destructive project. They are trying to giving wrong ideas to Bangladesh as they given at the time of constructing Farakka Barrage. They are doing the same thing here. We all now that how Bangladesh is suffering because of this Farakka Project. How our Bangladesh is affected by the Farakka Barrage. We don’t want to see more destruction in bangladeshi economy and nature. We must protest. And it is the time. Bangladeshis must be aware of this from now and this is the only way to safe our beautiful country Bangladesh.

M. Tawsif Salam
Dhaka

http://xanthis.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/2a.jpg

It was a party at Bury Saint Edmunds (Suffolk, England) attended by some Bangladeshi professionals with their families. Though it was only a week passed after the election, politics was not popular among the words circulated. But at one moment someone raised the point of student politics and almost certainly most of the guests consented that there should be a ban over the student politics in Bangladesh.


Like these Bangladeshi professionals living abroad and having conscious eyes over the politics back in homeland, most of the educated people of Bangladesh are seen to be very keen about a ban on the national 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 previous regime felt 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 previous regime kingpins that they haven’t thought of anything like banning student politics by state legislation or something. But the sense, or the thought which have helped them best to create their initial moral ground, I feel is most enthusiastic 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), gave birth of the 1/11 government. And the role of the politicians here has been most vital, which have gradually convinced Bangladeshi people that peace and progressiveness are to appear as elusive in Bangladeshi politics. 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.

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 as 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 shockwaves 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, took over the government ousting democracy which got prominence in name of 1/11. The birth of the 1/11 government has already been a political disaster for Bangladesh. Closing down the door of politics for students will be a closure for many youths with devotion, patriotism and brilliance. It will appear as nothing but self-contradiction if we look for better politicians by banning student politics; will appear as invitation for 1/11 kind of disaster to once again suspend democracy.

However there is no argument over the fact that events often take place in Bangladesh for people to get sore on student politics. The present government which is outcome of however an election have taken office accompanied by hope and expectations of better politics and better practice of democracy. Keeping the debate aside whether any physical cause of such hope ever existed, expectations have been deeply buried by activities of respective wings of ruling party. Behavior of the government, the Election Commission as well as the ruling party at Upazila polls have been in such way that the unpleasant fact is about to come out; there was nothing in the idea and deeds of the 1/11 regime that could buy us a culture of better democratic practices. In fact it can be stated about the 1/11 regime that a government which itself appears amid an evil expulsion of democracy can never be a subject to deliver better practices of democracy. The takeover of the newly elected government has been visibly followed by incidents of political violence and culture of muscling which most unfortunately had major roles for student wing of the ruling party.

I consider the newly elected and formed government to not be fully prepared to take and work on the control they have got. The house is still to get its pace and the cabinet too does not look or seem structurally compact. There was a major task to work on at the very initial stage that is the Upazila polls where the present government has seen overwhelming failure and hopefully they will admit it. Considering failures as part of everything and considering statements of Tanjim Ahmed Sohel as attempt to cover-up as a governmental spokesperson often does, the complete stability in the national politics is yet to come; eventually still the focus is not over the issue of student politics. But the issue is too important and requires effective attention of our statespersons.

A group of people who like us to call them as the “progressive civil society” or “shushil shomaj” and who outlines longer and scholarly foreseeing plans for better Bangladesh judging things only those they see in or around Dhaka, has very different views about the student politics. Some of them have missed some appointments or seminars because some Dhaka University or Titumir College students have gone rowdy and created a mess on the streets. So they want student politics banned forever. This is just an example and I am not going to generalize the whole thing just based on it. The point which plays here is, the only proposition that “shushil shomaj” could deliver about student politics is campuses should be kept clear of politics. In this kind of demand, there is disrespect for politics; disrespect for our history thereby there remains disrespect for us. We can easily imagine what the scenario could be if student politics is banned indiscreetly in all campuses. A generation of students will be under construction which will concern nothing other than their self interests, which will have a dilapidated view on politics of Bangladesh and will contain no respect for our statespersons. Keeping the debate of respect worthiness of our politicians aside, the closure of student politics will trigger an unhealthy process of depoliticizing of our youths. The process will give birth of a large apolitical population who will just learn to take part in criticism rather than delivering constructive ideas. There will be a lot of people which we already have a handful of, to put more than perfect slangs behind failures and misappropriation by people in politics. But there will be none to have enthusiasm to get into what they call “dirty” and to cleanse it. We already have plenty of critics. But we need people to get to work more than we need people to do criticism. And for meeting such need or at least to help such people come forward, there should be a very effective reformation over our national student politics.

Bangladesh has seen number of political crisis and there were politicians and experts with brilliance to help us overcome the deadlocks. Student politics should be taken as a concern by them and should be pushed through reformations. As an overview of Bangladeshi student politics does not tell us it is in good shape, strategists of all political parties are to be unleashed to explore rooms to reform it. The major challenge for such reformations will be campus violence those often erupts based on illegitimate interests inside campuses those shouldn’t concern the students ethically. There take place hasty and violent political moves by student wings those come up as annoyance for general students. Reformers of student politics will get in touch with many of these problems those obstruct it to move onwards progressively. There will be seen problems and these will have to be resolved. But no room should be given to the proposition that a ban will work over the student politics. We have a certain sector of politics having troubles. Now if banning that certain sector is one of options rather than thinking about fixing it up, then there is no point of having politicians to deal with tricky situations, in fact there remains no point in our expectation of better democratic practices to move onward progressively in politics.

So “no” to ban, “yes” to reorganization and reformation.

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This post has also been published here in Weekly Economic Times.

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