Friday, August 03, 2007

BD Flood Photos

Photo: AFP


Photo: Farzana Khan

Change Bangladesh Org, USA targets to raise US$10 Million for the flood victims

Tuesday July 31 2007 16:13:48 PM BDT
M. M. Chowdhury, USA

We have seen that so much effort and relentless hard work by our people in Bangladesh and Abroad to save the two leaders for not going to jail. I am thinking if they use their effort and money to save the disadvantage and incoming flood effected people in Bangladesh, quite a bit number of people will be saved.I will be observing what those so called party people do in the upcoming natural disaster (flood) situation in Bangladesh. They should prove that all human being are same, so they should exhort huge support to save millions of flood affected people in Bangladesh like they did to the two political leaders in Bangladesh.I will also urge those political party branches in USA, UK, CANADA, NEWZEALAND, and other countries to make a unified effort to help those flood affected people if they really care about Bangladesh.I will do as much as possible through Change Bangladesh Organization, USA ( to raise money for the flood victim. We have at least 5 lack Bangladeshi living in USA, if every body donate at least US$20 to the fund created by the Change Bangladesh Organization, we can send at least US$10 Million or 70 Crore BD Taka to Bangladesh to help those affected people. Change Bangladesh Organization, USA will pay for the administration cost to collect and send this money to various credential NGOs in Bangladesh. So all your contribution will be send directly to the victims. This is our promise and this is our goal.CTG should do the followings:

1) Form a unit within the Govt who will lead the operation.

2) Start the procurement of rice, dal, oil, drinking water and other necessary items and build up the storage now.

3) Allocate at least TK 500 Crore to this flood fund now.

4) If items need to be imported, start the negotiation with the foreign suppliers now.

5) Talk to UN and explain the coming flood situation in Bangladesh where at least projected 90 Million people will be affected. Ask UN to disburse some disaster fund to control the food and shelter crises in Bangladesh . UN has a budget to help in this kind of disaster situation.

6) Govt should start identifying the channels/persons how this disaster relief will be distributed. Develop master plan/strategies now.

7) Govt should do an assessment which areas will be affected most and how much relief to be distributed.

8) Govt should assess what they have and how long it can run with the stored items. This will not be exact to know but at least Govt should be in ball park estimate.

9) Govt should assess and identify the roads and communication channels. What will be difficult and what alternative or options they have to disburse the relief item to the affected people.

10) Govt should identify the shelter location and how many shelters should be around the country.

11) Govt should use its embassies around the world to talk to respectable countries to help in this dire situation.

12) Govt should identify the industries to be affected and what actions should be action to save those industries.We as individuals living abroad have a role to play in this disaster situation by setting up relief fund in respectable countries, get involve in the media to advertise the situation. As most of you know, when people know the disaster through media, public support pours (i.e. Pakistan got US$ 5 Billion for earthquake victims, Tsunami affected countries got US$7 billion dollars from the world community, etc).

Eng. M. M. Chowdhury, Atlanta, USA CEO, Amreteck LLC, USA
Director of Operation, Change Bangladesh Organization, USA (Portfolio: Foreign Investment, Economic Opportunity & Job Creation)
Web Link:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Flood Situation Worsens - Marooned people cry for drinking water

Flood-affected people of Ranigram in Sirajganj dismantle their homes and move to higher grounds yesterday as the flood situation in the district worsens. PHOTO: Syed Zakir Hossain

Vol. 5 Num 1127
Wed. August 01, 2007

Front Page
Flood Situation WorsensMarooned people cry for drinking water

Star Report

The flood situation continued to deteriorate in most flood-affected districts yesterday while scarcity of drinking water has become a serious problem for the marooned people exposing them to various water-borne diseases.
Five people, including three children, died by drowning in floodwater in Ullapara and Sadar upazila of Sirajganj yesterday while another child died in Gaibandha.
Meanwhile, Chief Adviser to the Caretaker Government Fakhruddin Ahmed is to visit the flood-affected areas of Kurigram and Sirajganj today.
He will visit flood-affected areas and distribute relief materials to the destitute people, reports UNB. Fakhruddin, who will be accompanied by Food and Disaster Management Adviser Tapan Chowdhury, will return to Dhaka in the afternoon.
Many, mostly the poor, people who took shelter on higher lands and flood protection embankments, are running short of food and have became helpless due to loss of their livelihoods, reports The Daily Star correspondents Hasibur Rahman Bilu and Golam Mostafa Jibon from Sirajganj.
Women and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis as many mothers cannot breastfeed their children.
Syeda Begum, 20, one of over 12,000 people who took shelter on Ranigram embankment in Sirajganj, said she could not breastfeed her three-month-old boy, as she had nothing to eat for a day.
“We have no food left for tomorrow and we are drinking impure water as all the tube wells went under water," said Josna Begum, 60, of Khokshabari in Sirajganj Sadar upazila.
There are around 2,000 children, along with their mothers, on the Ranigram embankment where there are no toilets. "We are in real trouble here, there is nobody to help us," said Ankhi, 24, mother of a six-year-old.
Carpenter Jahurul Islam, 30 of Khokshabari upazila, said he has been borrowing rice to feed his seven-member family, as he could not find work for the last 12 days. "We require rice worth Tk 66 a day. I do not know how I will repay the debt," he said.
Lakshmi Bewa, 45, of Kawakhola char said the flood washed away her house, furniture and paddy on the field. "We took shelter on the western embankment of Jamuna. We managed to keep our children half-fed but the grownups are passing days without food."
The Sirajganj flood control room said it has asked the Department of Public Health and Engineering to provide water treatment systems in the flood-affected areas. Apart from one such treatment facility belonging to Unicef at Ranigram embankment, no such facilities were found in the district.
Neck-deep floodwater forced almost all shops, kitchen markets, clinics in Sirajganj Sadar to close, leaving the marooned people helpless. "I have never seen such devastating flood. The flood in 1988 was not so devastating," 65-year-old Hazrat Ali told The Daily Star.
Inundated by floodwater, communication between Kazipur and Sirajganj and Sirajganj and Bogra snapped. Power outage has also worsened as several electric poles were uprooted.
According to Water Development Board (WDB), at least four lakh people in nine upazilas of Sirajganj are marooned.
Roads and Highways Department officials said at least 120 roads in the district went under water and most of these were completely or partially damaged. District administration said it set up 200 shelter centres in different places where over 60,000 people are staying.
At least 173 tonnes of rice and Tk 4 lakh in cash have been allocated for relief.
Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) yesterday reported that water level of the Jamuna has started to fall upstream at Noonkhawa and Chilmari points while it continues to rise downstream at Bahadurabad, Sirajganj and Aricha.
The Jamuna was flowing 56cm, 75cm, 88cm, 112cm and 100cm above danger levels at Noonkhawa, Chilmari, Bahadurabad, Sirajganj and Aricha.
The water levels of the Dharla and the Teesta are falling but still flowing over the danger levels at Kurigram.
The flood situations in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Rangpur, Netrakona, Sunamganj, Sylhet and Bogra are unlikely to aggravate and may even start improving within the next 24 hours. The situations in Jamalpur, Sirajganj, Pabna and Tangail are still deteriorating and expected to start improving within the next two days.
The water level of the Padma continued to rise at all points and was flowing 122cm and 78cm above danger levels at Goalundo and Bhagyakul. The river is likely to swell further in the next 24 hours.
More areas of Manikganj, Munshiganj, Faridpur, Rajbari, Madaripur, Shariatpur and Dohar and Nawabganj upazilas of Dhaka are likely to be inundated soon.
Small rivers surrounding Dhaka and Narayanganj continued to swell and are likely to approach danger levels in the next day or two. The Buriganga was flowing 82cm below danger level yesterday.
The Meghna at Bhairab Bazar continued to swell and was flowing 25cm above danger level yesterday. The Meghna is likely to rise even further inundating more low-lying areas of Narsingdi, Brahmanbaria and Narayanganj.
The flood situation in four upazilas of Gaibandha remained unchanged yesterday, but the Ghagot breached the 500-metre stretch of Gaibandha Town Protection Embankment at Konarpara, our Gaibandha correspondent reports.
A 12-year-old boy Jubayer of Purbopara was washed away by the raging floodwater at Falia.
Acute crisis of drinking water, food and fodder plagues the affected areas. Army personnel from the 17-Artillery Field Regiment are supplying drinking water to flood victims using their own water treatment equipment. Their equipment, however, is not designed to meet such high demand.
Road communication between Gaibandha and Balashighat remained snapped while one kilometre of railway line between Trimohoni and Balashighat went under water suspending rail communication.
At least 159 government primary schools were closed while cropland of 20 villages went under water. Flooding in the district has so far affected over 39,243 families.
Floods have disrupted road communication between Netrakona Sadar and Kalmakanda, Durgapur and Kendua upazilas, our correspondent in Netrakona reports.
Twenty-seven flood shelters were opened in the affected areas. Many of the marooned people who took shelters on higher lands and flood shelters are suffering from food and drinking water shortages.
The Someshwary, Kongsa and Dhanu devoured around 70 more dwellings and are threatening to breach the Dampara Embankment in Purbadhala upazila.
Fish in 10,000 ponds in the district worth around Tk 20 crore were washed away, Netrakona fishery office sources said.
The district administration distributed 18 tonnes of rice and dry food in Durgapur, Kalmakanda and Khaliajuri upazilas, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Netrakona Mizanur Rahman said.
Nagarbari-Paturia ferry service is still out of commission as the Nagarbari ferry terminal went under floodwater several days ago, our correspondent in Manikganj reports.
The diversion road of the previously damaged Dotora Bridge at Ghior went under water yesterday snapping road communications between Manikganj, Dhaka and Ghior, Daulapur upazilas.
According to district Agriculture Extension Department, paddy on 10,7000 hectares and vegetables on 1,600 hectares went under water.
A part of the 200-foot Baruria Bridge on Tangail-Balla Road collapsed due to raging floodwater last evening snapping road link between Tangail and Kalihati, our correspondent in Tangail reports.
At least 10 villages of Tangail Sadar were flooded when a breach developed on a flood control embankment at Bir Nahali. Many new areas went under water when another embankment at Hatia was overpowered by floodwater Monday night.
A total of 61,675 families of Sadar upazila are marooned while crops on 26,591 acres of land were completely damaged, district administration sources said.
Ferry service at Elasin has stopped for the last two days as roads to pontoons went under water. Road communication between Tangail and Nagarpur remains snapped.
Our correspondent in Benapole reports: Floodwater inundated 15 villages, leaving the low-lying areas under two feet of water, as overflowing Damodar river of India flooded Bangladesh territory.
A correspondent from Munshiganj reports Srinagar-Mawa-Bhagyakul flood protection embankment developed a 20-foot breach yesterday inundating more areas. The local administration and the joint forces were working to repair it yesterday.
Flood-affected people of Ranigram in Sirajganj dismantle their homes and move to higher grounds yesterday as the flood situation in the district worsens. PHOTO: Syed Zakir Hossain

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hasina arrested, sent to sub-jail

Awami League President Sheikh Hasina being taken to Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in the capital yesterday. The court sent her to a sub-jail on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises. PHOTO: STAR

Hasina arrested, sent to sub-jail Over a thousand law enforcers raid her residence at dawn; she is charged with extorting Tk 3 croreStar Report

The joint forces yesterday arrested Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina at her Dhanmondi residence in the city at around daybreak and later a court sent her to jail on charges of extortion.
Hasina, also a former prime minister, had been detained several times in her 26 years at the helm of AL, all for campaigning against the autocratic regime in the '90s. This is the first time she has been arrested on a specific allegation of criminal offence.
Like it was the case during the rule of former military strongman HM Ershad, she is not entitled to bail under the Emergency Power Rules.
Sources close to her have told The Daily Star that she was bracing herself for what many consider was the inevitable.
Political observers see the arrest as a leap towards the "minus-two theory" that seeks to dethrone Hasina and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia who have reigned over the country's politics for years. As of last night, there was however no indication of a move to haul in Khaleda.
Only a day before, the Election Commission (EC) announced a roadmap for the next general election amid bickering in AL and BNP over intra-party reforms.
Insiders say the pro-reform leaders in both the organisations have been working to arrange the councils in a way so their party chiefs cannot attend those. Some analysts believe the arrest might be somehow linked to those plans that reportedly enjoy tacit support from the military-backed interim administration.
In April, the government had tried to force Hasina stay abroad by imposing a ban on her coming home from the UK. But in the face of criticism both at home and abroad, it withdrew the restrictions, leading to a triumphant return for her.
From the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's (CMM) Court, Dhaka, Hasina was taken to the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex where a two-storey house built for the deputy speaker has been declared a sub-jail.
At the court, she protested her innocence. She said, "I have done nothing wrong. The charges against me have been brought only to hold me back from the next general election."
On June 13, Managing Director of East Coast Trading Ltd Azam J Chowdhury filed the case at Gulshan Police Station, accusing her of extorting, with others, Tk 2.96 crore from him for the installation work of a 210-megawatt power plant at Siddhirganj.
Some 1,000 members of the joint forces mostly from the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and the police sealed off the Dhanmondi Road No 5 area round about 4:40am in driving rain.
A 30-member dog squad along with at least 100 members of Rab and police entered the Sudha Sadan premises at around 4:50am. Five minutes later, as they rapped on the door, Hasina asked her staff to let them in and tell them to wait on the ground floor.
She said she would see them but not before saying her morning prayers, a personal staffer of her told The Daily Star.
Immediately after gaining entrance, the forces snapped all land phone lines and seized the mobile phones.
Minutes later, Sheikh Hasina came downstairs with her husband. "Why are you here? What wrong do you think I have done?" the staff quoted her as asking the waiting security personnel.
In reply, one said, "We have specific charges against you and we are going to take you to a court."
The last ones to talk to Hasina over phone were her son Sajeeb Wajed Joy and her daughter Saima Wajed Putul, both from the United States, and also her sister Sheikh Rehana. But the conversations ended abruptly as the phone lines were cut.
Earlier on Sunday night, she returned from the Bangabandhu Memorial Bhaban at around 10 and told all her relatives and staff that she was going to be picked up shortly. She asked them not to panic.
At around 2:00am, her police protection was withdrawn. They were ordered to report back to the Rajarbagh Police Lines immediately.
During the two-and-a-half-hour raid, the law enforcers rummaged about all three floors of the building. They also sifted through her files and documents.
At that time, the former premier was accompanied by Wajed Miah and two of her relatives--Shamim and Tutul. Her personal staffers were asked to leave the house at around 5:00am.
The joint forces set up at least three barricades on the road leading to the Sudha Sadan. Hundreds of Rab and police men stood guard throughout a two-kilometre radius of the residence.
They began taking position at 4:40am. Soon around one hundred intelligence officials including those from the military were seen going inside the Sudha Sadan.
At 7:30 in the morning, the AL chief, a never-say-die spirit, was walked into a navy blue SUV with tinted glasses. A 20-vehicle convoy carried her straight to the CMM Court as the road was kept free of traffic.
A smiling and seemingly unwavering Hasina in a white sari and scarf around her head was waving at the TV cameras when she was brought to the court at 7:50am. She was escorted to the courtroom of Magistrate Kamrunnahar through a huge crowd.
There presented, she gave a rousing statement defending herself against the charges when hundreds of AL activists and supporters were chanting slogans outside.
At one stage, some of the party faithful came to blows with the on-duty policemen.
Besides, the AL-backed lawyers clamouring for access to the courtroom had heated arguments with law enforcement officers.
The hearing continued for over two hours. Lawyers spoke alternately for Hasina, but to no avail. The court rejected their plea for bail and set August 15 as the date for the next hearing.
Among others, AL leaders Motia Chowdhury, former law minister Abdul Matin Khasru, Kamrul Islam, Sahara Khatun, Dr Dipu Moni stood for Hasina.
As the proceedings ended, she was whisked off the court premises. But meantime thousands gathered outside as the law enforcers struggled to free the road. The slogans calling for Hasina's release echoed through the area.
As things began to get worse with the AL supporters trying to stop the car carrying Hasina, the police charged baton and fired three rounds of rubber bullet to disperse the angry mob.
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Awami League President Sheikh Hasina being taken to Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in the capital yesterday. The court sent her to a sub-jail on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises. PHOTO: STAR

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bangladesh Elections Minus “Three Begums”

Bangladesh Elections Minus “Three Begums”

Tuesday June 26 2007 13:59:53 PM BDT

Source: News from Bangladesh.


By Abdullah Dewan and Kawser Jamal, USA

After arriving in Dhaka on April 3, 2006, the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Patricia Butenis, gave her first major speech exactly 58 days later (June 1 2006) in the American Chamber of Commerce in Dhaka. The speech was written, structured, and delivered in a manner that suggests Ms. Butenis intends to play a prominent role in Bangladesh politics – more specifically, as the third “Begum” along side former Prime Ministers Begum Khaleda Zia and Begum Sheikh Hasina.

The 2202 word speech read like a developing country’s version of the US President’s annual “State of the Union Address” in the US congress in Capital Hill. She said, “Our overarching goal is to help Bangladesh achieve its full potential. As I look forward to the next few years, I intend to work with Bangladesh to strengthen democracy and governance, to support economic growth and development, and to combat the scourge of terrorism, wherever it seeks to take root. To build the future, we must make sure these foundations remain strong.”

As her speech progressed, Patricia spoke about elections, rule of law, human rights, training police and prosecutors, criminal trafficking of women and children, local governance, combating corruption and financial crimes and terrorists’ financing, foreign direct investment, infrastructure development, rising inflation, high fuel and commodity prices, customs and tax regimes, gas and electricity distribution system, family health and combating HIV/AIDS, education and the list goes on and on. Premise

The speech was obviously very uplifting for the impoverished Bengali nation. However, looking back, one finds that the envoy squandered her 14 months tenure by brokering for political reconciliations among the country’s most pigheaded and rancorous politickers.

The US envoy and to a much lesser degree all the EU diplomats- appear to operate under the premise that their diplomatic assignment is to meddle in the internal politics of a sovereign country. A cliché that is often tiptoed around is that being a development partner doesn’t make one a governing partner.

After the 1/11 state of emergency, all visiting foreign envoys and resident diplomats have been courting the favor of the beleaguered politicians by voicing their demands for lifting the emergency, restoring indoor politics and holding “election as soon as possible”, much to the detestation of the country’s intelligentsia and concerned citizens at home and abroad. Thanks to the army backed government for rebuffing all spurious pressures and continued with its focused mission.

In her June 12 farewell speech at the Gulshan Club, Dhaka, Begum Butenis acknowledged the expediency of institutional reforms and proclaimed that corruption is a “long overdue recognition of an insidious disease that saps the nation’s vitality and promise”. However, she failed to emphasize the dimensions of the effort and time that will be needed to pave the way for a free and fair election.

Her suggestion that “the USA among other interested parties and countries would hope to see the elections as soon as possible, not necessarily wait until the end of 2008” is not merely inappropriate—it’s also shortsighted and dangerously rash. Why can’t the US and other countries “necessarily wait until the end of 2008?” Tell us why? In this respect, the Canadian HC Barbara Richardson’s June 3 observation that “the people of Bangladesh would have to decide whether democracy and state of emergency could move together” appears more sensitive to our country’s government and its sovereignty.

At her Gulshan Club speech Begum Butenis made another insinuating statement: "I’m disappointed that I’m leaving Bangladesh with the ban still in place on all political party activity, a ban which doesn’t seem to apply to some behind-the-scenes activity promoting the concept of a new party."

As if that pointed jab at the government wasn’t undiplomatic enough, she continued to remind the government, "However, it’s also clear that a government that is seen to deny the people their fundamental and sovereign right to pick their leaders and determine their future does so at the risk of its legitimacy and legacy."

She gives an impression that she is a sympathizer of the country’s political parties now in dire disarray? We wonder if the US government sent her to Bangladesh to serve the interest of the corrupt politicians there or the interest of the US citizens. Are her statements and assertions propelled by her personal feelings and associations with corrupt politicians, or are they driven from pressures back home? She may have somehow overlooked the surveys which found that over 90% of the people want the reforms consummated before the 2008 elections?

After meeting with Islamic fundamentalist party Jamaat-e-Ismali leader Matiur Rahman Nizami on June 12 the envoy said "Longer the ban is kept in place, the more difficult it would be to enact reforms, it’s as simple as that,” If it’s so simple why does she think the CTG and intelligentsias here don’t see it that way? Are the people in the government lesser intelligent in any way?Begum Butenis made a lot of friends here—unfortunately, many of them are corrupt politicians who are now languishing in prisons. One would like to know many intellectuals and common citizens she had conversed with and made friends during her 14 months as US envoy? On many occasions, she openly wined and dined with some of our most brazenly corrupt and criminal wrongdoers (e.g.,former state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar, who hosted her farewell party etc.).

What has she accomplished here as US ambassador other than capturing news headlines for meeting and criticizing politicians? Have there been any improvements in any of the issues listed in her virtual “State of the Bangladesh address” on June 1, 2006?

She claimed that her “biggest regret” was that she didn’t did not witness the free, fair and credible elections. What about other issues she so passionately spoke about? Her overreaching goal- which ostensibly was to serve the interests of the common people of Bangladesh, not its throngs of debauched politicians-- now seems nothing more than baldly rhetorical.

There will be a free and fair election in Bangladesh by the end of 2008, save any devastating natural disaster. We will concede that Begum Butenis was a significant player, largely self-imposed, on recent events.

The ‘minus two’ doctrine (two former Prime Ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina) is a politically astute policy and the government must succeed in debilitating the political wings of both Khaleda and Hasina. The planned election “minus the third Begum” the outgoing Begum Patricia Butenis” won’t change anything except that she may be missed from newspaper headlines.

On a personal note, ambassador Butenis said, "I know that some Bangladeshis believe that I was sometimes too outspoken," but rationalized that by suggesting that in a fast and complex world of diplomacy, "Ambassadors must be clear about their country's interests and viewpoints to avoid misunderstanding."

To judge objectively, there was no “misunderstanding” on our part and we find that she was not just “outspoken”- Ms. Butenis openly meddled, apparently beyond her mandated duty, in the internal affairs of a sovereign country and made it look like a client state of America.

Dr. Abdullah Dewan is Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University and Kawser Jamal is an IT Professional at Little Rock, Arkansas (Board Members of E Mail :

Feel free to comments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wall Street Journal and Emergency

The daily star, Bangladesh

Vol. 5 Num 1079

Thu. June 14, 2007


No NonsenseWall Street Journal and emergency

Dr. Abdullah A. Dewan

Yaroslav Trofimov's June 4 Wall Street Journal article, "Bullets and Ballots: Army Takeover in Bangladesh Stalls Key Muslim Democracy," convinced many of us that the article was intended to serve the interests of Bangladeshi politicians and their surrogates living overseas. Even the title of the article offers an exaggerated depiction of what really happened on 1/11.

No one heard an echo of a single bullet being fired, except Yaroslav. On the one hand, he wrote "army intervened to abort a flawed election," and on the other, asserted that democracy was stalled by an army backed government with sinister motives.
Instead of lauding the ongoing institutional reforms, he dismissed them as back-pedaling pretences intended to prolong this version of military rule. Lack of objectivity, and the negative tones of the article are evident in the following paragraph:

"But now the army-installed caretaker government is back-pedaling on its pledge to organize a quick, clean election, and then relinquish authority. And the once-bloodless coup is turning into something more sinister. Since January, an estimated 200,000 people, including hundreds of leading politicians and businessmen, have been jailed under emergency rules that suspend civil rights and outlaw all political activity. According to human-rights groups, scores of others seized by the troops in the middle of the night have been tortured to death or summarily executed."
Many of these statements such as "tortured to death or summarily executed" are indefensible fabrications. Was it a military coup, or intervention by the army to avert "blood letting" and "internal security" explode out of control? Isn't it the calling of the country's defense forces to respond to such an occasion?

The jailing of 200,000 people is another indefensible exaggeration, since Bangladesh prisons do not have the capacity to hold one fourth of that number at one time. Knowing that the government is instituting long awaited reforms that'll facilitate a free and fair election by the end of 2008, but calling the process back-pedaling is deliberately deceptive.
He also quoted Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, who said that the government "is very quickly squandering the goodwill that it had at the beginning. At this point, it's quite clear that he army is running the country. And they're making it pretty clear they don't intend to leave anytime soon."

If the government wants to perpetuate its power, why would it reform the judiciary, the Election Commission, and the Anti-Corruption Commission, ensuring that these institutions will remain constitutionally independent of the executive?
The democracy that existed prior to 1/11 was classified as one of the 55 "flawed democracies," (ranked 75th out of 165 countries) in a global survey released by the Economist Intelligence Unit on November 24, 2006.
The survey identified only 28 full democracies. Hopefully, once the reforms are instituted and a free and fair election is held by December 2008, Bangladesh will emerge as a new member of the fraternity of full democracies.

Foreign journalists must desist from propagating tendentious rhetoric against a country struggling to scramble out of a near collapse. Why is it hard to see that the army isn't running the country? It is only backing the government in law enforcement and the all enveloping anti-corruption drives.

The army does not have the expertise to orchestrate the all encompassing institutional reforms that are underway. Besides, what's wrong if the army is backing the government? The country doesn't belong to the corrupt politicians alone -- it belongs to the army and the people as well.
Is there any other country where a state of emergency coexists with freedom of the media and basic civil rights, as it does in Bangladesh today? Which civil rights are being violated, save the prohibition of political violence, lock-outs, street protests, and industrial blockades?
Why not ask the people on the streets if they know what civil rights they're being denied? Although a moratorium has been enforced on political activities, no one has been detained for open political discourses on television talk shows, living room chats, restaurant meetings, or in newspaper columns.

Yaroslav referred to the concern of 15 US senators over the ongoing "state of emergency" and "custodial deaths" in the country. How seriously should we take these senators' concerns about Bangladesh politics when they are persuaded by lobbyists to react to partisan views? When was the last time these Senators took issue with the human rights (HR) violations in Iraq or in Palestine?

Any law enforcing government would imprison alleged and suspected criminals (terrorists, extortionist, drug traffickers, smugglers, illegal gun owners etc) to restore and maintain law and order and, thus, protect the HR of 145 million law abiding citizens.
When the criminals violate peoples' rights the HR watchdogs call it a law enforcement problem. When the law is enforced they call it HR violations; a classic Catch-22 dilemmas for the government.

There is no question that the government should be transparent about any human rights violations that may have occurred, and must prevent such violations at all cost. Interestingly though, after the 1/11 emergency and the arrests of corrupt politicians and wrong-doers, some HR watchdogs have popped up suddenly in the US. These hitherto invisible watchdogs are now clamouring that many of the arrested are innocent victims of the army's indiscriminate campaign to destroy the democratic process.

This bickering can be dismissed as being deliberately fabricated -- a deceitful campaign staged by political fixers in Bangladesh, and designed to distort the foreign media's perception of the reformist government.

The arrested politicians, government officials, and businessmen have no sympathizers except their beneficiaries -- some of whom were educated in the US. Many of these beneficiaries have now turned into internet bloggers and lobbyists, campaigning against the current reformist government to save these corrupt people from rotting in prisons. These lobbyists don't understand how the corrupt politicians exploited their own citizens, who elected them to serve their (the people's) interests.

When the politicians looted funds from development and poverty reduction projects they violated the human rights of 60 million people living in poverty.
When they traveled to neighbouring countries for medical treatment, with money looted from hospitals and health care projects, they violated the HR rights of the sick and the helpless who crowd the hallways and corridors of under-funded public hospitals.
When they educated their children overseas with looted funds, they violated the human rights of the country's children who spoiled their childhood in "child labour" instead of schoolwork.

To human rights watchdogs, these problems originated from a lack of good governance and a disregard for the rule of law. If that is so, then shouldn't we give the reforms initiatives a chance to succeed? Like everywhere else, people here also deserve good governance, and all indications are that the country is moving -- albeit slowly -- in that direction.

Dr. Abdullah A. Dewan is Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University and also a board member of Change Bangladesh Initiative.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Budget 07-08

Eyes locked on immediate prioritiesTackling inflation, improving power generation, expanding social safety net get major attention in proposed budgetInam AhmedFinance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam yesterday proposed a budget for the next fiscal year setting his eyes on the current development priorities--tackling inflation, spending on power and infrastructure, expanding the social safety net programme and supporting the agriculture.
He has prioritised power generation as a thrust action for the next three years and has sequenced the generation as 345MW in the first year, 900MW in the second year and 1,050MW in 2010 by when he aims to bring load shedding to nil.
However, industrialists will not find much to cheer about, except for retaining and increasing the current export subsidy to Tk 1,100 crore. Entrepreneurs will need to go through a more detailed work to understand whether the new harmonisation of duty slabs and supplementary duty and withdrawal of infrastructure development surcharge will gnaw away their protection and competitiveness. The textiles sector, which acts as the backward linkage for the main export sector readymade garment, will face a jolt as zero duty facility for textiles machinery import will be abolished.
Aziz has tried to be transparent in a number of areas. He has clearly shown, for the first time, what the nation buys with the resources mobilised--34.4 percent to be spent on physical infrastructure, 34.3 percent on social infrastructure and 19.3 percent on public administration. He has also internalised Tk 7,523 crore of the liabilities of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, which from a macroeconomic point of view was the right thing to do to relieve the nationalised commercial banks from losses.
However, in meeting all these goals, Aziz had to go for an expanded budget for the next fiscal year with the expenditure increasing by 19 percent from the revised expenditure of the current fiscal year. The current year's budget was only 14 percent bigger than the previous year's revised budget.
Such huge expenditure crucially needs bigger revenue collection target and effort too. He plans a 15.82 percent higher revenue collection for the next fiscal year from this year's revised figure. This looks higher if one compares it with the poor revenue collection of this fiscal year, which until now clocked a piffling 9 percent growth. Especially, many would view with scepticism the tax revenue collection increase of 17 percent. But then compared to this year's growth projection--19 percent over the previous year's revised figure--one would tend to say that Aziz was more closer to reality in proposing his revenue collection target.
Sensing the enormity of facing the revenue collection challenge, Aziz has talked about expanding the tax base, strengthening tax collection procedures, transparency and accountability of tax administration and quality management in tax regime.
But a bulk of his financing the budget will come from borrowing--both domestic and foreign. He plans to borrow Tk 19,276 crore from domestic sources, up from Tk 10,031 crore of the current year's revised budget, and Tk 6,305 crore from foreign sources, again up from Tk 5,183 crore of the current revised budget. Such huge domestic borrowing, 2.2 percent of GDP, may pose the risk of crowding out effect on the private sector. The risk would even spike if the revenue collection effort falters, leading to more borrowing.
But the impact of the past borrowing was evident in the proposed non-development expenditure analysis as interest payment is projected to account for 20.5 percent of the outlay from the current year's 17.7 percent.
And his budget deficit target--4.8 percent of GDP--is quite high from this year's 3.3 percent. He may have the feeling that a lack of ADP implementation will automatically bring down the deficit. But if his vow to firm up ADP implementation process works, the macro indicator will remain bloated.
But the other good thing the budget proposes is the cut down on block allocation from 16 percent of this year's total development allocation to 5 percent.
Aziz has set a higher GDP growth of 7 percent for the next year, which will depend on the government's spending capacity, growth of the agriculture and industry. He also hopes his measures will bring down inflation to 6.5 percent next fiscal year.
As part of his anti-inflation measures, Aziz proposes strengthening sales of essentials through BDR-operated markets and import of commodities by the government to stabilise the market. He also plans a more productive agriculture through increased allocation for research.
Aziz has proposed setting up of an SME Foundation with an allocation of Tk 100 crore and another Tk 23 crore for a Trust Fund under Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation to give a fillip to the small industrial sector.
The finance adviser has gone quite a way to establish equality in the society. He has increased ADP outlay by 35 percent in Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal divisions--areas that witness the worst income distribution. Education has received a big boost in his proposed budget with 15.2 percent of development allocation going in that direction with the idea that a better education mass will have better income. A huge number of teachers--15,000--will be recruited to better the teacher-student ratio, 55 lakh primary students will get stipend at the rate of Tk 100 each, classrooms will be built and income generating training will be given to the literate.
In his bid to heavily support the agriculture, Aziz has proposed 23 percent of total allocation to the sector. A Tk 350 crore endowment will help agriculture research and development. More than that, he proposes a Tk 750 crore allocation for diesel subsidy for farmers and Tk 1,500 crore as fertiliser subsidy.
The proposed budget sees an extended form of the current social safety net programmes like VGD, and allowances for the destitute women and a Tk 550 crore employment generation programme for the rural poor.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dump date-expired politics: are they worth recycling?or fling them all in the bay of Bengal?

Vol. 5 Num 1056
Tue. May 22, 2007

Sense & Insensibility
Dump date-expired politics
Shahnoor Wahid

The commodity called 'Politics' that is still being sold in Bangladesh was made in the sixties and seventies. The date of manufacturing has long expired hence it has become unfit for human use. Therefore, on an urgent basis politicians will have to dump it in the Bay of Bengal and manufacture a new version that will look smart, be futuristic, pro-poor, pro-development and powerful enough to take on the challenges of the 21st Century.
No, dear politicians, you did not get it. You did not get it because your mindset has not changed yet. By futuristic we mean looking ahead with new concept and not selling the dreams of past leaders like Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman in new packets (No more cashing in on them, for God's sake!). By pro-poor we do not mean poverty alleviation of your poor sons and poor relations. By pro-development we do not mean you buying a taka two crore car or owning two hundred flats!
Therefore, it is apparent that besides dumping the date expired politics you will have to discard many more of your old habits, which are ridiculous, to say the least. You will have to discard the century old hartal (shut down), gherao (siege), jalao porao (burning) kind of programmes to achieve your political objectives.
You have no right to destroy the property of the state or that of the people or hold the nation as hostage. Oh, we forgot to mention another favourite programme of the political parties... "Showdown" ...whatever that may mean! That has to stop too.
Then comes the most visible part of your ludicrousness. Please refrain yourself from showing that 'wagging finger' at one another (thank God they do not show the finger that has an universal obscene connotation!). Look around the world and you will see that no politician threatens another by pointing a finger the way you people do in Bangladesh.
People are talking about more reforms. The list is in fact getting longer. In public meetings or in parliament you must not attack the opposition political parties with obscene words or gestures.
Parliament is not your private club. You have been sent there by the people, through a mightily expensive process called 'election,' to create laws and debate on the rising price of food items and not display your deftness in saying crude jokes concerning your opponents.
More of that refreshing wind of change is blowing across the swathe of the country. Do you feel it, dear politicians? If you do then it is good news for us. But to live up to our expectation you will have to do more. You will have to stop laying foundation stones of bridges, hospitals, community centres, schools and colleges in your name.
Remember, those are done with public money. We do not see American president or French president or British prime minister or Indian prime minister running all over the country to look at their own names on a foundation stone. This trait is called narcissism.
If something is done with your own money, or your father's money, then and only then, you can have a foundation stone etched with your name. By the way, why don't you people bring an honest old resident of the area; an old staff of the hospital; a farmer or a dedicated schoolteacher to cut the ribbon or lay the foundation?
Next, you will have to stop holding public meetings in the city or its outskirts. You do so only to get media coverage but in the process you totally bring the traffic to a halt for hours. Have you ever seen it done in any civilised country of the world?
If not then why do you do it? Why do we have to tell you repeatedly not to do so? Don't you carry your common sense around?
Dear politicians, how come you are agreeing to all the reform suggestions being put forward in various talk shows or seminars where many of you are taking part? What had happened to your good sense when you were in power? How come many of you are venting your anger now at the way the 'illustrious' sons and their cronies ripped through your beloved party and have taken it to where it is at the moment?
As the founding members of the party it was your moral obligation and solemn duty to lodge protests and compel the party chairperson to take action against the corrupt elements within the party. Your silence is tantamount to abetting in the act.
You see, today people hardly trust the entire lot of politicians in Bangladesh. The reasons are best known to you. Therefore, now the onus is on you and you will have to come up with credible words, plans and actions. Times have changed.
Shahnoor Wahid is a Senior Assistant Editor of The Daily Star.
The article is sole property of The Dailystar, but we are just taking comments from our respected readers for their say.
Please comment honestly and sensibly.
ChangeBangladesh Team.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

British Airways refuses to fly Hasina to Dhaka:

British Airways refuses to fly Hasina to Dhaka

Dhaka court issues arrest warrant against her in Paltan killing caseStar ReportThe British Airways (BA) last night refused to fly former prime minister Sheikh Hasina from London to Bangladesh as a Dhaka court ordered her arrest in October 28 Paltan killing case.
A tearful Hasina left the airport at Bangladesh time 8:10pm after intense negotiations with the BA authorities, who told the Awami League (AL) chief that the government would not let the flight land in Dhaka if they carried her, Syed Nahas Pasha, editor of the largest circulated UK-based Bengali newsweekly Janamat, told The Daily Star over the phone.
Hasina, who had two British MPs with her during the negotiations, was also asked by BA authorities to consider the 'safety and security' of the passengers on the flight, who would be facing an uncertain fate with Hasina on board.
As an emotional Hasina was leaving the airport, she told reporters, "I am the daughter of the father of the nation. I will return to the country, for sure."
"Today an arrest warrant has been issued against me. Before that they imposed a ban on my return. I am ready to accept any consequences in the country. I want to be back with my people on my own soil. Whatever be my fate, I will return to Bangladesh," she said.
Asked whether she would stay in London or return to her son and daughter in the United States, Hasina said she will remain in London for now but decide her future soon.
The AL chief entered London's Heathrow airport at 7:15pm and was accompanied by British Labour Party MP Emily Thornberry, who later said that there must be some miscommunication that resulted in Hasina being barred from returning home.
Thornberry, who also engaged in negotiations with the BA authorities, told reporters that she would raise the issue with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and also in British parliament.
Hasina was accompanied by her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, other family members, and a number of UK-unit AL leaders and activists.
Arrest Warrant Against HasinaA Dhaka court yesterday issued arrest warrants against Awami League (AL) chief and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and two others after accepting the charge sheet in connection with the Paltan killings on October 28 last year.
The same court accepted the charge sheet submitted against Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and nine others for killing a Workers Party activist.
Two others who were issued arrest warrants yesterday are former home minister Mohammad Nasim and another AL activist Kiron alias Abdul Malek. They have been shown absconding in the charge sheet, even though Nasim is now in jail custody.
The investigation officer (IO) prayed to the court for issuance of arrest warrants against the accused 'fugitives' and confiscating their properties.
After scrutinising the case docket and other relevant documents of the case, Metropolitan Magistrate Mir Ali Reza passed the order on the IO's plea for issuance of arrest warrants against them.
But the court did not pass any order on the IO's plea for confiscating their movable properties.
The court directed the authorities concerned to send the copies of arrest warrant to the respective addresses of fugitives Hasina, Naism and Kiron.
Following the order, general recording office (GRO) sent a copy of arrest warrant issued against Hasina to the officer-in-charge (OC) of Dhanmondi Police Station yesterday.
Earlier on April 11, police pressed charges against Hasina, AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) President Hasanul Haque Inu and 42 others for killing five Jamaat-e-Islami activists and injuring several others.
The IO dropped names of Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed and 14 others from the charge sheet, as the charges brought against them were not proved.
Of them, Roymohon Shil, Omar Faruq and Sumon are now in jail custody.
Forty others including Mofazzel Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Dr HBM Iqbal and Jahangir Kabir Nanak were earlier granted bail from the High Court.
Two sub-inspectors of detective branch (DB) had submitted the charge sheets in both cases to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in Dhaka showing 91 people as prosecution witnesses.
Prior to the takeover of power by the caretaker government on October 28, seven people were killed in a fierce clash between activists of AL-led 14-party coalition and Jamaat-e-Islami in Paltan area. A day later Workers Party and Jamaat filed separate cases in connection with the same incident with Paltan Police Station.
In the case filed by Jamaat, complainant ATM Sirajul Islam, amir of the Paltan unit of the Islamist party, mentioned that on directives from AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon and JSD President Hasanul Haque Inu, the other accused killed five Jamaat activists and injured several others.
In the first information report the complainant had not named Hasina as an accused but the charge sheet had the AL chief as an accused.
The IO put Hasina's name at number 31 on the list of 46 accused as he claimed that the AL chief had been found to be involved in the incident.
Case Against Jamaat The same court yesterday accepted the charge sheet submitted against Matiur Rahman Nizami and nine others in connection with the killing of a Workers Party activist on October 28 last year.
The court also sent it to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's (CMM) Court for taking next steps, as the case was ready for trial.
The IO of the case, AKM Idris Hossain, sub-inspector of the Detective Branch of police, pressed charges against 10 leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir for the killing of a Workers Party activist Rasel Ahmed Khan.
Nine others are former minister and Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, Senior Secretary General of Jamaat Quamaruzzaman, Central Nayeb-e-Amir Mokbul Ahmed, Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam, Dhaka City Unit Amir of Jamaat Rafikul Islam, Paltan Unit Amir ATM Sirajul Islam, Islami Chhatra Shibir President Shafikul Islam Masud and its General Secretary Zahid Hossain, and President of Dhaka University Unit of Chhatra Shibir Shishir Monir.
On October 28 last year, activists of Jamaat and its student front Chhatra Shibir gathered in front of the north gate of Baitul Mukarram mosque and launched an attack on the AL-led 14-party coalition activists when they were passing through the area, the prosecution said.
The attack sparked a fierce battle between the rival political activists. During the battle, Shibir activists were found shooting with firearms.
Their rivals also reportedly launched a counter attack with oars and sticks.
Sheikh Hasina talks to newsmen at Heathrow Airport in London yesterday.Courtesy: Syed Nahas Pasha

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pahela Baishakh Bangla New Year 1414

Bangalees' biggest carnival todayStaff CorrespondentWith the sunrise ushering in Pahela Baishakh, people from all walks of life will welcome Bangla New Year 1414 today all over the country while most residents of the capital will throng Ramna Batomul to take part in the biggest carnival of the Bangalees.
Men in panjabi and pyjama, women in sari, and children in colourful dress--all will gather at traditional Baishakhi Mela (fair)--a major feature of the celebration of the first day of Bangla New Year. The celebrations also feature cultural functions at Ramna Udyan, Institute of Fine Arts of Dhaka University (DU), and other places in the capital and elsewhere.
The festivity starts off early in the morning with the gathering of thousands of people under the banyan tree at Ramna Udyan where artistes of cultural organisation Chhayanaut will sing the traditional Pahela Baishakh song of Rabindranath Tagore--"Esho hey Baishakh"--to welcome the day.
Mangal Shobhajatra, a procession seeking well-being of all, will start from the Institute of Fine Arts in the morning.
People will be gorging themselves on delicacies--Panta Bhat (rice soaked in water), hilsha fry, lentil and smoked chilli--at home and places of Baishakhi congregations.
Three-layer security measures have been taken to dispel concerns that stemmed from the deadly bomb blasts at the Chhayanaut Pahela Baishakh programme in 2001 killing at least 10 people.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police declared the roads from Shahbagh to Matsya Bhaban and from Teachers-Students Centre (TSC) to Doel Chattar off-limits to vehicles.
The day is a public holiday. Numerous social, political and cultural organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes to celebrate the day.
Bangladesh Betar and all television channels will air special programmes and newspapers will publish special supplements.
The start of Bangla year with Baishakh has its roots in the days of Mughal Emperor Akbar during 1556-1609. According to one of several opinions about the origin of Bangla year, this was the time when peasants used to pay their taxes to the emperor.
When Bangladesh came under the Mughal rule in 1576, Akbar decided to adopt the Hijri year and termed this season "Fasali" (crop). Thus, Pahela Baishakh marked the start of the crop season.
The present form of the Pahela Baishakh celebrations has some political significance and was introduced in 1965 when Chhayanaut organised its celebration programmes in protest against the suppression of Bangalee culture by the then Pakistan government.
After independence in 1971, the festival became a symbol of the country's nationalist movement as well as an integral part of the people's cultural heritage.
Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and its Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, and Liberal Democratic Party President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury gave separate messages on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh and conveyed New Year's greetings to the people.
CULTURAL PROGRAMMESThe main attraction of the day is Chhayanaut artistes' rendition of Baishakhi welcome songs at Ramna Udyan at sunrise.
The Institute of Fine Arts yesterday started three-day programmes to celebrate the Bangla New Year.
Students and teachers of the institute will bring out the Mangal Shobhajatra at 9:30am. Puppet show and other traditional cultural programmes will be held at the Bakultala of the institute from 11:00am.
The Baishakh Udjapan Council will hold cultural functions at different places in the city.
The DU chalked out a five-day Baishakh Festival at TSC from April 15 to 19.
Dhaka City Corporation will keep open the Shaheed Zia Shishu Park for all on the day from 11:00am.
Sammilito Sangskritik Jote will organise cultural programmes at the Rabindra Sarobar amphitheatre in Dhanmondi and the Central Shaheed Minar at 4:30pm.
The Liberation War Museum organises a cultural programme on its premises from 10:00am.
Cultural organisation Monpala organises its programme at TSC from 9:00am to 1:00pm today.
Wrishiz Shilpi Gosthi organises a cultural programme at the Narkelbithi Chattar on Bhashani Road. Poet Mahbub Ul Alam will be inaugurate the programme.
Bangladesh Shishu Sangathan Oikya Jote will organise a "dress as you like" programme for children at Bangladesh Shishu Academy at 9:00am.
Pink City will organise a celebration programme at East Baridhara in the afternoon. Justice Latifur Rahman, Justice Mohammad Abdur Rouf, Justice Sultan Hossain Khan and other renowned personalities will be present at the programme.
Sonargaon Hotel will also celebrate Pahela Baishakh with "authentic Bangladeshi cuisine" at its restaurants. There will be arrangements for folk songs.
Suryasen Bitarka Dhara will organise an open debate at the DU business studies faculty at 7:00pm.
Publication house Oitijya will sell its books at 40 percent discount from its Banglabazar outlet on the day.
The Dhaka Club will celebrate Pahela Baishakh by holding a session of folk and patriotic songs.
The Bengal Foundation has arranged a three-day music programme at the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts from yesterday.
Sangskritik Jote and Jogsutro will hold a cultural programme at Jahangirnagar University.
Among other organisations, Gulshan Society, Baridhara Society, Bangladesh Chhatra Maitree, Bangladesh Kite Association, Pratibandhi Kalyan Society, Dhakabashi, Benuka Institute of Fine Arts, American International University have chalked out celebration programmes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Yunu's second letter

Yunus' second letter

Dear Citizen,

I am writing to you again. First, let me express my salam to you. I could never imagine that I would get such massive response from the letter I wrote to you on February 11, 2007.
ACCEPT MY SINCERE THANKS AND GRATITUDEYou have encouraged my entry into politics with such logic and emotions that I could not help being astonished. I again felt the infinite blessings of Allah on me. From your replies, I have come to realise that how deep into your hearts you have let me in and you have put me in a position of great trust.
You have come forward and advised me with the desire to create a new politics for a new Bangladesh. A handful of young volunteers have been struggling to keep up with the incessant flow of mails, emails, fax and sms that you have sent to me after reading my letter in the newspapers. Your letters are continuing to flood in. The replies ranged from the people in remote villages of Bangladesh to the enthusiastic expatriates. I have received many valuable advices through your letters. I thank you from the depth of my heart. I express my gratitude to you. I also thank those who have asked me not to join politics out of their love for me. To them, I only have to say that only Allah can give us respect. If one wants respect, that person should earn it himself or herself. I want to go ahead with what I think is my duty. Overall, the message that you have clearly articulated to me, is that people from all walks of life want to go forward with me with a wish to bring widespread changes. I have no way to disappoint them.
I AM JOINING POLITICS WITH YOUR ADVICEIn light of your enthusiasm, I have decided to take part in your efforts for creating a new politics. I will join politics and establish a new party. Please pray, so that I can fulfill your wishes and so that Allah's blessings are with me, as always. The foundation of my new party will gradually build up through the same consultative process I have used to come to this decision.
I have received many proposals regarding the name of the party and have decided on proposing the name 'Nagorik Shakti' (Citizens' Power) to constantly remind the people of the creation of a new politics through unleashing the hidden power among all citizens. In short, we can use "Shakti" for promoting the party. We want to establish our beloved country among the frontline countries with the slogan "March ahead, Bangladesh." We want the central motto to be the pledge being echoed inside each proud citizen today: "We Can."
I have expressed on several occasions my ideas and opinions on the objectives and programmes the party requires to build a new Bangladesh. In this regard, I am enthusiastically trying to discern the hopes and desires of the nation. The messages that I have received from you recently, contained some questions, some opinions and some preferences on this matter. You wanted to know what would be my party's goal and purpose? I will outline the goals and purpose of the party later. The party itself will decide on it once it is formed.
Let me say which aspects would characterise 'Nagorik Shakti' as a political party. I have been saying these for years. The politics of this party would be to move towards the future by coalescing the people under a unified goal; not to go around in the circles of the past by creating divisions. The activists in the towns and villages would be in charge of the party's policy making. Those who break the law will not be allowed to become its leaders. All the nominations from the party for all elections, including national parliamentary elections, would be given by the local committee; and they will decide on the candidate by comprehensively considering their honestly and competency. To maintain public relations, it will follow alternatives to grand rallies. Women and the youth would be the lifeblood of this party, they would come to the leadership in huge numbers. This party will not judge everything from the party perspective; rather it will consult all other parties, non-political citizens, experts, expatriates and others. They will move forward together. Overall, this party would be the beacon of national unity and implementation of the nation's dreams.
OUR POLITICSOur politics would be the politics to materialise the dream of the liberation war. This politics would be a politics of unity, a politics of peace, a politics to establish honesty, a politics of labour, a politics to change the fate of the people as quickly as possible by reviving a new work ethics, a politics to send poverty to the museum. This politics will be non-communal, secular, democratic, good governance, free from corruption and against politicisation. It will be the politics of equity for women in all spheres, building the future of young generation and not to bow down to foreign power and to stand in the world holding the head high. I am urging all the citizens to come forward actively in support of this politics to make it a success.
IMPERATIVES FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THIS POLITICSCome, let us start our work from this moment to establish these characteristics. Let our preparations begin by maintaining the existing provision of internal politics. Key areas of our activities at this moment will be our respective constituencies, villages and wards; take initiative to form, as many possible, 20-member 'Primary Preparatory Team'. If you are staying outside your area, try to visit your area and contact people to take the initiative. It is your task to do the work of the organisation in your area. It is also your task to select honest and competent candidates and make them win in national and local elections; others will not do it for you. And it is also your duty to contribute money and other resources for it according to your ability. Those who can afford, can set up preparatory offices and contact centres of 'Nagorik Shakti' with their own initiative and financing, if necessary at your shop or personal workplace or own house, and hang signboards and banners in this regard. It will be better if these are many in number in an area. Write name of the party and our declaration (March ahead, Bangladesh) in clear letters on them. Make arrangements as best as you can to receive phones, letters, faxes, emails from people, give information and receive people's opinion and let me know. Let the volunteers work here. Send us information and get recorded after forming a 'Primary Preparatory Team' or setting up preparatory offices and contact centres. Also encourage your friends to form preparatory teams. The success of 'Nagorik Shakti' will depend on your zeal and efforts. For the time being, begin your preparatory stage work on the basis of the draft outline as written below. The draft will be finalised after receiving opinion of all.
FORM PRIMARY PREPARATORY TEAMThose, who will be member of the party, set up one or more offices in each ward of the villages of Bangladesh. Form preparatory teams in each ward as many as possible. Each 'Primary Preparatory Team' will comprise of 20 members with one convenor. These will be formed on the basis of different groups. Innumerable such preparatory teams of same groups may be there in each ward or you alone can form several such teams. Make sure that the number of teams of women members is equal to those of the men. Special initiatives have to be taken to form teams of women. To form teams, the groups would be: 1. male students, 2. female students, 3. adolescent male workers, 4. adolescent female workers, 5. young male workers, 6. young female workers, 7. young male social workers, 8. young female social workers, 9. young male service-holders, 10. young female service-holders, 11. young male professionals, 12. young female professionals, 13. young housewives, 14. farmers, 15. workers, 16. professionals, 17. service-holders, 18. small entrepreneurs, 19. businessmen, 20. young male businessmen, 21. young female businessmen, 22. housewives, 23. elderly men, 24. elderly women. It is not mandatory that each of the groups will have to form team. If any group has small number of members they may form team after joining members of other groups.
Elect a group-convenor in a ward (mahalla in the cases of metro cities) from among the convenors of all the teams in the ward. The group-convenors will form a convenors team. One of the tasks of the convenors team is that it would form a 'Ward Preparatory Team' with honest, competent and enthusiastic people of the ward. It will be your collective task to bring in the right people in this regard. Electing at least one third from among women for the 'Ward Preparatory Team' and other teams at all levels is a must; but equal number of male and female members is desirable. Form Union or town or Metro-ward preparatory team with three elected members of each 'Ward Preparatory Team' or 'Mahalla Preparatory Team' in case of metro cities. With three elected members from each such team, form 'Constituency Preparatory Team'. The 'Constituency Preparatory Team' will play the key role in nominating the panel of honest and competent candidates for national and local elections and it, after getting approval at party selection at all levels of union/town/metro-ward, will later be sent to central committee. The district and national level teams can also be formed this way. By electing 'Constituency Team' at this moment quickly, we will have to begin the task of finding out honest and competent candidates for national and local elections. You yourselves will be able to turn these preparatory teams later into well-formed committees. After forming group-based 'Primary Preparatory Teams' as many as possible, you go forward to form preparatory teams at next levels. We will distribute detailed policy to all about the formation process of 'preparatory teams' at different levels to make things clear to all. I myself will begin the task of forming a general preparatory team with those among you who will be identified as more successful leaders among you and the experts.
The ward level team will have many duties. They will be responsible for local development and political organisation. Its key duty will be freeing the area from poverty. Key among its political duties will be to review continuously who will be eligible for contesting in the elections and for which post, and taking the responsibility of electoral task, to perform the task of nominating candidates.
THOSE WHO ARE WORKING OUTSIDE THEIR AREASThose, who are working in a distant workplace outside their village, take a week's leave and go to your village. Going there, form as many as possible Primary Preparatory Teams and come back. These processes will not start if you do not go there. Preparatory teams would form one after another as soon as you go there. Encourage union parishad chairmen and members to establish ward-level preparatory teams. Now there's no scope in criticising politics from your living rooms. Now is the time to overturn the political culture of the past. You are the sole creator of this change. If possible, take a long leave from work and go to your home. It is doubtful whether the chance to change politics would ever come again. Do not let it slip away with indolence. Your fate and the fate of future generations are in your hands.
SUPPORTERS GROUPSThose who cannot come within the organisational structure because of personal reasons, please establish Nagarik Shakti Supporters Group from wherever you are or join your local supporters group. Three to 20 people can join each supporters group, including members or non-members of the party. Let me know the creation of the supporters group and its future developments. Even friends who are located in different areas can establish a supporters group. You can create your supporters group through emails, telephones or even through a blog on the Internet. Contact others and encourage them to create supporters groups. This force is needed to enforce the required change.
Dear Expatriate brothers and sistersI am especially thankful to you. I have received a huge number of emails and telephone calls from you. You have expressed your trust in me. You have clearly stated your interest in bringing change to the country's political arena. Now is the time to start work. Create supporters groups in the countries of residence. Establish its offices at your workplace or your home. Build up communication centres. Effectively use the modes of communication, discussion and disseminating information available through the Internet. Take steps to create supporters groups in your own village or your town back in Bangladesh. If possible, visit the country for a week or two. Go to your locality and create supporters groups. Ensure financial assistance for them. Identify and then talk to honest and competent candidates and then encourage them to join Nagorik Shakti. Constantly maintain contact with us and describe your activities. Give us your advice at every step. If possible, take leave from work or your business to come back during elections. This is your chance to earn the honour of establishing a new politics in the country with your own hands.
Dear YouthYou are the greatest strength of this country. You will establish a respectful future for this country. You surely want widespread changes in the political arena, then you must come forward with innovation and enthusiasm. You will have to build up organisations across the country. You must create effective and proactive support by establishing Nagorik Shakti Supporters Groups in schools, colleges and universities. You must echo the clarion call of "March ahead, Bangladesh."
Call to the women of the countryHalf of the country's people are women. But, your role in the decision-making process is ignored. You have to come forward in publicising the new identity of Bangladesh. You can become a very powerful force in the materialising the dream of a new country. Gather your relatives and friends. Build up Nagorik Shakti Supporters Group. Everyone from Rural women to urban women, teachers, doctors, nurses, and students, all have to come forward. Now is the time to shed your dilemmas, fears, anxieties, and divisions to march forward in resolute steps. Come forward to ensure this beautiful nation becomes a country of peace.
You are the Citizens PowerI will be very happy if preparatory teams are set up in each locality. Those who have and will express such, I will understand that they have come forward to implement the dream of creating a new politics with their own labour, money and assets. You are the citizens' power. I want to work with you. I strongly believe that many others would follow in your footsteps. The challenge ahead of you is big, and time is short. But you cannot forget that citizens' power is a very powerful force. All of you have a strong belief in your heart "I can." We want to awaken the entire nation with the declaration "March ahead, Bangladesh." The merciful Allah will help us.
I am extremely sorry that I could not reply to your messages separately. I will certainly try to do so. But you must continue your communication with me. Your letters are shining the light on the path ahead. Please do not take this light away.
My address, fax number, phone numbers etc will remain unchanged. I am again providing them below. Others have expressed interest in volunteering on conveying your messages to me and vice versa. I will create more opportunities for them. Those who want to assist me in whichever way, please let me know in writing. I urgently need you. Otherwise, arrange the conveyance of people's messages to me by creating preparatory offices and communication centres in your own areas. I am waiting for your progress reports, advice and opinions.
Thank you and greetingsMuhammad YunusFebruary 22, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yunus names his party.

Yunus names his party, decides to contest next polls
Staff Correspondent

Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus on Sunday primarily announced the name of his political party as Nagorik Shakti (citizens’ power), saying the organisation would contest the next parliamentary election. The father of micro-credit, who in an open letter earlier this month sought people’s opinions on his joining politics, said he had finally decided to enter the new realm. Yunus said his party would be formally launched soon. ‘Since my decision to launch a political party is finalised, I will of course contest the polls if everything goes smoothly’ he told New Age on Sunday, adding, ‘There is no question of backing out.’ Yunus, however, said he would have more consultations with the people before the formal launch of the party. ‘The objectives of my organisation will be doing healthy politics keeping away from the path of violence pursued by the country’s [other] political parties… I will do the politics of unity,’ he said. Asked what would be his next step, he said he would write to people again seeking their final endorsement of the principles and objectives of the proposed party. He said he did not invite any one to join his party but would consider it if people from other parties express their willingness to join. About the criticism by major political parties of his decision to venture into politics, Yunus on his return from Chittagong told journalists at the Zia International Airport that they [other parties] would make their comments. ‘I do not deal in words, my business is of work. I will do politics of unity.’ He indicated that his proposed party might field candidates for all 300 constituencies in next parliamentary elections. ‘I think the situation has come to such a pass that there is no scope for backing out,’ Yunus said. About his party-building plan the Nobel laureate said he envisaged organising people from villages and wards by forming 20-member preparatory committees in each unit who would identify themselves as ‘Yunus Samarthak Gosthi or Yunus supporters’ club.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


My personal letter to you

Dear citizen,

I am writing this letter to you with the hope of receiving a personal reply from you. You might have noticed in what situation many people requested me to join politics and why I had to consider it with utmost importance. I, like you, witnessed where our political culture has brought the country and how it attempted to destroy the country's future possibilities. The way the present caretaker government is trying to create an acceptable atmosphere by carrying out necessary reforms has made me optimistic along with all citizens of the country. In this situation, I feel it with my heart that I should, showing due respect to the people's expectation of me, participate in the mission of taking the nation to the height it deserves. It is now clear to all that it is not possible to reach the goal maintaining the existing political culture; it is only possible by bringing a comprehensive change to the culture. Through my work and experience, I feel with all my heart that the people with their innate sense of endeavour and creativity can achieve the impossible if political goodwill, competent leadership and good governance can be established. If I have to form a political party in response to the people's desire, it will be dedicated to this very objective.
I have received pure love and respect from people of all ages ranging from the poorest to the most powerful, I do not know when again a Bangladeshi individual will have this good fortune. By the grace of Allah, I am a very fortunate man. There is nothing left for me to desire. I know that joining politics is to become controversial. I am ready to take the risk if you think me joining politics will help in ushering of a new political climate.
It is high time to form the proper political structure conducive to the huge task of building a Bangladesh we all dream of, by freeing ourselves from all past frustrations. I need the active participation and assistance of you and all others like you if I have to go forward with this mission. I need your advice on how I should go forward. I also want to know how you want to participate and assist in this task. The efforts of you and me to realise everybody's desire for a new politics in order to build a new Bangladesh will get strength if these can be learnt from you in the form of a letter.
You can give your advice in your own style on any topic regarding the formation of a new political party. I can point out some topics as examples: a) how the party can stay involved with the people of all villages and neighbourhoods and work to realise their expectations; b) how the party can be helpful to the common people in their daily struggle and in solving their problems; c) how the organisations of the party can be built on the basis of spontaneous devotion of men and women of all ages and professions; d) what can be done to encourage the eager, enthusiastic, honest and competent people of all levels to align with the party and to become active in it; e) how the honest and competent among them, having public support, can be nominated for different local and national elections; f) how can we ensure transparency and honesty of all the people involved with the party, and of the party itself; g) how democracy can be established within the party; h) how can the flow of opinions directly from the grassroots level be ensured; and i) how the officials and employees serving in state institutions can be prevented from turning into activists of political parties -- your thoughts and advice on many such questions are vital.
At the same time, it is important to know what role you (and your friends) can play in the party, how you can actively contribute or support, is also very important to know. For example, you can play the role: a) of a member of a village or neighbourhood-level organisation; b) of a pioneer of the party's welfare initiatives; c) of a local organiser; d) of an organiser of a community organisation; e) of an activist taking party calls widely among the people; f) of an adviserresearchertheoretician for the party; g) you can contribute to the party by using your special skills or expert knowledge in its service; h) by taking a leadership role in popularising the party as an enthusiastic supporter; i) by demonstrating your organising power; and so on.
I want to know your opinion and get your advice whether you are a political leader, activist, leader or worker of an association or organisation, industrialist, businessman, professor, teacher, shopkeeper, farmer, labourer, artist-writer-thinker, professional, journalist, service holder, housewife, teenager, youth or an expatriate Bangladeshi.
Please write a short or detail personal reply to my letter. Your friends, all members of your family, neighbours, classmates and colleagues can also put in their thoughts in the same letter. You can reply through email and distribute copies of it among all your acquaintances. You can also send a short reply through SMS and encourage all your acquaintances to do the same. You can send copies of my letter to your relatives and friends abroad and encourage them to reply. It will not be possible to come out clean from old politics if a strong momentum for a new politics is not created. We will not be able to reach our goal with feeble support.
I hope my letter and your reply to it will only be the beginning of our sincere communication. The communication established will be able to go forward actively towards a common goal from now on.
You can use my following address to send your reply or may arrange to send it to me in any other way.
Contact Address:
Dr Muhammad Yunus
HAL Mars6/D, 66 Outer Circular Road
Moghbazar, Dhaka 1217
Fax: 9334656
You can call the following numbers for inquiries about the letter:
01713082277, 01717760870
Waiting for your reply.
With thanks and greetings,
Muhammad YunusFebruary 11, 2007(Translated from Bangla by The Daily Star)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"Army has no intention to capture power in Bangladesh"

Army has no intention to capture powerArmy chief Lt Gen Moeen also says armed forces not running country, under new situation politicians won't be able to do politics squandering moneyUnb, BandarbanArmy Chief Lt General Moeen U Ahmed yesterday categorically said the military has no intention to capture power or run the government, but they are assisting the caretaker government to put the country back on the right track.
"The army has no intention to take over. We are not even running the government. But we like to see this government successful as we want to put the country on the right track through concerted efforts of all," he said.
General Ahmed reflected some harsh truths about the trend of politics, mindset of politicians and governance while exchanging views with representatives of the civil administration, political party leaders, journalists and representatives of government and non-government agencies at Bandarban Cantonment
The army chief said the nation needs efficient and honest politicians to move forward as "our politicians do not understand anything beyond their self-interest."
He said a new situation has been ushered in now in the country where politicians will not be able to do politics squandering money. Those who could not do politics so long for want of money will now get the opportunity.
Explaining the background of the promulgation of a state of emergency in the country by the president, General Moeen said the past caretaker government had tired to forge consensus between the two parties for holding a credible election. But it failed, as neither of the two was ready to budge an inch, which resulted in deterioration of the situation.
In this context, he recalled the grisly scene on Dhaka streets on October 28 last year when some people trampled to death another man-a scene "never seen anywhere in the world. This brutal scene was not only witnessed by people at home but also abroad and "everyone has hated us".
He noted that unilateral elections (Jan 22) would not have been accepted at home and abroad and all, including army, BDR, police and ansars, would have been blamed for that debacle.
Under the circumstances, the president decided to impose the state of emergency. He also decided to step down from the office of chief adviser and appointed a new chief adviser. He said new advisers were appointed on the criteria of honesty, competence and sincerity.
"Now it needs people's support. This opportunity will not come time and again," the army chief said, adding that it "should not happen so".
General Moeen urged all to come forward to make a fresh start in national life with a clean slate. "Let's cooperate with this government so we can steer the nation forward," he said.
In an apparent emotion-choked voice, the army chief said the country was destroyed in last 35 years. He likened the predicament of the country to a derailed train.
"We need a heavy crane to put the train back on the track--and strength of the people is the crane. Once you can put the train on the track, it will move smoothly," he said in metaphorical terms about the imperative of a rescue operation in such situation.
Citing corruption an example of degeneration of the polity, the general deplored that because of disputes over who will get the "10 percent" kickbacks, a $ 200m machine-readable passport project could not be implemented.
He said government provides subsidy for fertiliser to help the poor farmers, but, unfortunately, those fertilisers were smuggled out of the country by the vested quarters.
Referring to recent incidents of arson in garment factories that earn 70 percent of country's foreign exchange, General Moeen deplored that this export industry was burnt and destroyed in a planned way. "There is politics behind it," he said, adding, "We even do not try to understand our own well-being."
" We have eaten up the vitals of the country over the years, leaving the country like a skeleton."
About national or voter ID card, General Moeen said some intellectuals said that it will require Tk 1000 crore and five years time. But, he said they have made a calculation that suggests that ID card for the voters is possible within 10-12 months at an estimated cost of Tk 300 crore.
Lashing out at massive corruption, the general wondered how the expensive BMW, Mercedes Benz, Ford cars could ply the streets in Dhaka when people in America even have to think twice before buying such luxury cars. "Where does the money come from? This is our farmers' money," he said.
Referring to non-payment of electricity bills, he said the rich people and companies whose monthly income is Tk 5 lakh or Tk 10 lakh do not pay the bill. But if any action is taken against the defaulters, they go to court for writs. "If we could not change this situation, our next generation would call us name," he told the meeting.
General Moeen said the present government has separated the judiciary from the executive in seven days and is trying to reform the Election Commission. He said the reforms will be brought in the Election Commission so that corrupt politicians cannot do politics.
Criticising the mindset of the politicians, the general said the time has come to stop the politics capitalising on money. The nation needs a competent political leadership so Bangladesh could achieve development and progress like Malaysia and Singapore.
He told the meeting that 90 per cent people support the present caretaker government and the government should now move the country in right direction with the strength of this support.

We whole heartedly support above statement but keeping the democratics process intact for the future generation.