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EDITORIAL

Custodial killings persists, dreadfully

Regardless of the High Court ruling, warning the by Human Rights Commission, media outcry, public protests and chorus of disapproval by national and international NGOs over ghastly cold-blooded custodial, and therefore extrajudicial, murders by the law enforcing agencies killings in custody have been going on unabated. Appallingly, some leaders of the Awami League (AL) including Home Minister Sahara Khatun is showing a cavalier attitude towards this most brutal crime committed on earth by a state, to say the least. During the past two years several hundred people died in custody.
   Nothing is more unfortunate than a situation when the State is insensitive to cruel custodial deaths and torture in remand. Is it not state terrorism? Universally recognised in the civilised world, the right to life is the supreme right of any individual. Hence the State is bound to ensure its enforcement under Articles 31 and 32 of the country’s Constitution, and also under its international treaty obligations. Many deaths have taken place of remanded people.
   Relating to safeguards as to arrest and detention, the Constitution unequivocally states that: No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate. When any person is detained in pursuance of an order made under any law providing for preventive detention, the authority making the order shall, as soon as may be, communicate to such person the grounds on which the order has been made, and shall afford him the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order.
   Extrajudicial killings continued by the RAB and other law enforcement agencies despite a High Court order for the authorities concerned on December 14, 2009 not to kill any more people in ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ until it hears the rule it issued suo moto on the government in this regard earlier. It is a common sight of a victim of custodial death: his lifeless body lies on the floor of a morgue with blood oozing out of the ear and festering wounds from below the knees and other parts of the corpse. The usual scenario is like this: a person is picked up by lawmen and nothing more is heard of him. The numbers of such victims have shown frightening rise. In June 2010 the High Court said it would no more tolerate deaths in custody and defiance of its orders to stop such murders.
   Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law. No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. And most importantly, “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.”
   In the civilised world the criminal law system goes to tremendous lengths to protect the individual rights of the accused, and that the accused person is presumed innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt “to a moral certainty”. Most systems of American criminal law require a “unanimous verdict by the jury” to convict.
   Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on February 3 rather admitted to extrajudicial killing by law enforcers when she claimed that her government had been investigating every such killing and awarding punishment to offenders. The Prime Minister then said that it was not possible to stop extrajudicial killing ‘overnight’, though it was the ruling party’s pre-election promise to end it. Will her word ‘overnight’ discourage personnel of the RAB, police and other agencies to commit custodial murders?

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Finally Nepal has a new Prime Minister

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Nepal with its 29 million people has gone through a rapid and unprecedented transformation of politics and social life. The people of Nepal can take pride in transforming the country politically since 2006.
   The Maoists rebels under the 2006 peace deal became a political party “Maoists Communist Party” and participated in the election in April 2008. The party secured majority of seats in the parliament which would also work as the Constituent Assembly to frame a new Constitution for the country.
   The parliament abolished 239-year old monarchy on 28 May 2008. Nepal became a Republic instead of being a Hindu Kingdom. The image and standing of Nepal changed dramatically and people had to struggle and sacrifice their precious lives and eventually their determination and courage paid of.
   It was peaceful revolution through which people have discarded the monarchy, converted a Hindu Kingdom into a secular, democratic republic and created a constituent assembly to formulate a new constitution.
   
   The genesis
   Nepalese became disillusioned with the game-play of their elected leaders. “We live in a broken state”, says Mandira Sharma, a leading human rights activist. Many people say that we have abolished “monarchy” to get “anarchy” in the country.
   The Maoists’ leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (known as Prachanda) became Prime Minister on 15 August 2008 but had to resign on 4 May 2009 because of his differences of views with those of the President Dr. Rambaran Yadav in the dismissal of army chief.
   Madhav Kumar Nepal from United Marxist-Leninists Communist Party (UML-the third largest party) replaced Prachanda and over one year late he resigned on 30 June 2010 under pressure from the Maoists. He is acting as a care-taker Prime Minister until a new Prime Minister is elected.
   Meanwhile the Nepalese public became disillusioned with the political impasse and faltering economy. Many government projects were frozen because of uncertainty. After seven months of crippling political deadlock, Nepal now has a prime minister: Jhalanath Khanal. Khanal secured the position after the Maoists withdrew their candidate and supported him – the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).
    A former science teacher and life-long communist, Khanal is expected to push for the re-inclusion of Maoists into the fractured government.
   The voting on 3 February was the 17th consecutive attempts to elect a prime minister in the Nepal where the government has ground to a virtual halt since June when Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned over a row with Maoists about the inclusion of former rebel soldiers in the national army as per the peace accord.
   The Maoists and and their prime ministerial candidate Pushpa Kamal Dahal known as Prachanda pulled out of the latest race just one hour before the vote, saying his party made “this sacrifice in order to end the political deadlock”. They say to comply with the people’s wish that a new government be formed and a constitution drafted, we have decided to support Jhalanath Khanal.”
   Analysts say that the Maoists’ decision to bow out of the prime ministerial contest was likely motivated by the belief Khanal was sympathetic to their cause.
   Last month Khanal, a political veteran involved in pro-democracy protests against the Nepalese monarchy between 1990 and 2006, told reporters: “Meaningful Maoist participation in the new government is essential to deliver peace. (We should) be ready to accept the leadership of whoever succeeds in bringing them on board.”
   The US has already welcomed Khanal’s appointment and expressed optimism that it would “give renewed momentum to the peace process and constitutional drafting”.
   Nepal missed a self-imposed deadline of May last year to draft a constitution, a key step in the country’s transition away from a decade of civil war that ended in 2006
   
   Challenges face Nepal
   The political leaders face great challenges and some of them deserve mention:
   First, the constitution –writing has been difficult because it has to formulate the type of national government (presidential or parliamentary) and create autonomous zones in a country where none previously existed. The powers of the President and those of the Prime Minister are to be described in the constitution. The question is: should the President be directly elected by people or by members of parliament?
   Should a parliamentary system prevail, how much powers would be vested in the Prime Minister and whether there would be checks and balances with the powers of the President ?
   Second, an important issue is the reorganization of army. The difficult question is whether People’s Liberation Army, controlled by Maoists would be merged with the regular army as per 2006 Accord.
   There are 19,000 soldiers in the Maoist army who remain inside the cantonments that need to be integrated with the regular army. However the process was stalled during 2009. It was supposed to be solved within six months from the signing of the November 2006 Peace Accord. Maoists blame the Nepalese army for resisting integration and accuse Delhi for instigating this.
   Third, socio-economic national policies such as redistribution of land, affirmative action policy for disadvantaged people, and recognition of several new official languages are to be incorporated in the constitution.
   The two largest political parties in the 601-member of parliament—the Maoists and the Nepali Congress are deadlocked by lingering bitterness between the two.
   In the above context, there are four inter-related elements that appear to be visible in Nepal as of today. They are:
   a) Lack of political unity among political parties; b) Demand of minority classes for political participation; c) Economic weakness adds to social tension; and c) Interest of international stakeholders in the country’s stability.
   Obviously lack of unity among political leaders of parties is contributing to manifold problems—both political and economic. Weak economy is an important factor that leads to instability in the country.
   Many believe fiscal mismanagement has led to the chronic fuel shortages across the country, lines to the petrol station in the capital extend for kilometres and prices have tripled in less than half a year.
   Furthermore minority classes who are neglected in the past want recognition in the political system and wish to be treated as equal with others.
   
   Sino-Indian rivalry
   Nepal is sandwiched between India and China. India shares porous border in the south while China’s Tibet in the north. The train line between Beijing and Lhasa has brought it closer to Nepal.
   International actors, especially the US, India and China are watching closely the Nepalese situation. India has been always a dominant neighbour but Maoist leader Prachanda is known to be inclined more to China than India.
   India is facing its own Maoists insurgency and is naturally wary of a possible Maoist-run government in Nepal.
   China fears any consensus between the US and India on Nepal’s political system may be a haven for anti-Chinese Tibetan activists. Some say a proxy war is going on between China and India in Nepal so as to influence the country’s political events.
   The country is unfolding to a new environment in which a new Nepal is being created. South Asia must be ready to ensure that a new Nepal is a positive factor within its political, economic and social environment.
   Political leaders, civil society and armed forces in Nepal are required to take into account that they face a new challenge where cooperation and unity of purpose will be required at all levels to formulate the new constitution and restore confidence of the public to the new political system.
   The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

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VIEW POINT

In support of Dr. Yunus and
Grameen Bank

Dear Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank Family: As academics and professionals working at home and abroad, we write to express our gratitude and support for the enormous contributions made by micro-credit, by you and by the Grameen Bank (GB) to the task of poverty alleviation in Bangladesh and worldwide.
   The GB, micro-credit as a poverty alleviation strategy, and you personally - have come under criticism in recent days. Although, no idea, person or institution should be above criticism or the law, we believe many of these criticisms are ill-informed and wanting in context and perspective. We must not allow any minor administrative lapses to cause the nation to lose sight of the enormous good that has been achieved through micro-credit; nor should we float a political balloon on the issue in order to enable naysayer to deny Bangladesh’s most innovative solutions in the struggle against poverty. The world is watching to see how we treat one of our finest institutions, and its founding leader.
   We are happy to see that you have welcomed an inquiry, and have responded, publicly and frankly, to questions from the media. Further, many esteemed citizens, including Professor Rehman Sobhan, have spoken eloquently and judiciously in support of your lifework and the institutions you have built.
   Your work has received international acclaim, and also much scrutiny. As Bangladeshis, and citizens of the world who care about a better world, we are proud of these achievements. Over three decades you have served the cause of the poor and disenfranchised, especially women, at home and abroad. Your uplifting messages – every person is born an entrepreneur; just because one is poor does not make one unworthy of credit; believe in yourself and create your own employment and the future you wish to have – have impacted the lives of many. Your books and speeches, and the many awards, including the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace, have done much to bring the problem of global poverty to the forefront of the UN agenda and government efforts.
   Your partnerships with President Bill Clinton on extending the scope of philanthropy, with Bill Gates and other business and political leaders on the concept of ‘Social Business’ have brought exciting new ideas, technologies, talent and resources to bear on this most difficult challenge faced by the civilization today. You have presented and implemented innovative solutions. From the 27 borrowers in Jobra, Chittagong, your modest experiment in banking has become a global movement lifting millions out of poverty. The work of the GB and the microcredit model you pioneered has stood the test of time, culture, and geography. There has been a silent revolution uplifting millions of poor, and the status quo has been upended for the better.
   Sir, you are a dreamer who has demonstrated the courage and genius to realize your dream of ending the misery of extreme poverty. We salute you for staying the course. Although much has been achieved, there is much more that needs to be done. Millions of people in Bangladesh and billions across the globe remain mired in poverty with no access to institutional credit, education, clean water, or health care. Through a network of companies and partnerships ­ Social Businesses ­ you are trying to employ the power of markets to alleviate poverty. We applaud these efforts. We also note with great satisfaction that your work has inspired the young in many societies to dedicate their time to serve the poor. We wish you and the Grameen Bank family all success in the future, and look forward to assisting this noble cause in any way we can.
   Sincerely,
   1. Dr. Munir Quddus ­ Dean, College of Business and Professor of Economics, PVAMU, USA (contact person: muquddus@pvamu.edu); Dr. Salim Rashid ­ Professor of Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA; Dr. Ruhul Kuddus ­ Associate Professor of Biology, Utah Valley University, USA; Dr. Farida Khan ­ Professor of Economics and Co-Director, Center for International Studies, University of Wisconsin, Parkside, USA; Dr. Faizul Islam ­ Faculty, University of Maryland University College, Washington DC, USA; Dr. Halimur Rashid Khan ­ Professor of Business Administration, Eastern University, Dhaka; Dr. Zahid Hussain, Banani, Dhaka; Dr. Mahmudul Anam, Professor of Economics, York University, Toronto, Canada; Dr. Farhad Ameen - Professor of Economics, Westchester Community College State University of New York, Valhalla, NY, USA; Dr. Rahim Quazi, Associate Professor of Economics, Director, Center for International Business Education, PVAMU, USA; Dr. Ahsan Habib, Professor and Chair Economics, Adrian College, Michigan, USA; Dr. Tanweer Akram, Private sector (asset management), Atlanta, GA, USA.
   PS: The views expressed in this letter solely reflect the opinions of the authors, and not of the organizations they are associated with. Email : munirtasmina@sbcglobal.net

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LETTERS

Climate-induced migration

Dear Editor:
   An Asian Development Bank (ADB) regional project is working to develop policy options to support climate-induced migration. This project will identify policy options for governments and international agencies to address the risk of human displacement in Asia and the Pacific as a consequence of climatic events.
   Each year, extreme weather in Asia and the Pacific —-flooding, tropical storms, droughts, wild fires and other occurrences —-are causing significant loss of life and property, and forcing thousands of people to flee their home areas for safety. This displacement of people and the uprooting of their lives are likely to intensify over the coming decade and further worsen as global temperatures rise through this century.
   Despite these imminent threats, large-scale migration is typically not taken into account in most national adaptation strategies, and available financial mechanisms are not sufficient to cope with displacement on a large scale.
   This ADB project will produce a range of outcomes including targeted policy recommendations for better management of these migration movements in Asia and the Pacific, as well as options for financing needs arising from climate-induced migration.
   Other outputs will include a series of country and sub-regional studies on recent experience and future planning for climate-induced migration, regional dialogues with key stakeholders, and an awareness campaign highlighting the need for policy makers to give this issue proper attention.
   Christopher Hawkins,
   E-mail: christopher@hawkins-briceno.com



Valerie Taylor and Frank Peters

Dear Editor:
   I read with interest the excellent idea of inducting Sir Frank Peters and other foreigners as “Goodwill Ambassadors” and “Friends of Bangladesh”.
   Ever since my wife and teenage boys have been trying to guess who else might qualify. We made it a family game. For every suitable name suggested, I promised to award a 100-taka prize.
   Sir Frank’s name easily rolled from the lips of my teenage sons because of his success in abolishing corporal punishment and designing the unique poster of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but then there was silence and blank faces all around.
   I thought my money was safe when Shumon (15) put forward the name Valerie Taylor, another British person, who founded the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Savar, where he had visited.
   While researching the correct spelling of her name, I came across a story in which Sir Frank describes her as “the Mother Teresa of Bangladesh”.
   Md. Walid Rahman,
   Dhaka.
   Email: md.walid.rahman@lawyer.com



Shift DSE from MCA

Dear Editor:
   Motijheel Commercial Area (MCA) is the commercial hub of our capital city Dhaka. Manyy high rise buildings, hundreds of public and private sector organisations, offices, establishments, banks, insurance companies, export and import enterprises, mercantile houses and Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) are located there.
   Thousands of employees, members of the public, motor vehicles rickshaws, hawkers and vendors abound in the area, so MCA always buzz with economic and monetary activities, trade and commerce.
   Unfortunately from time to time the whole area gets a serious jerk, suffers from panic and horrible situation and all types of normal and routine works come to a dead stop and the road traffic is disrupted for hours together due to sudden and abrupt pandemonium, disturbance, violence and subsequent Police/RAB action in and around Dhaka Stock Exchange due to fall in share price.
   Due to law and order situation in the MCA the sufferings of the members of the public know no bounds.
   We would appreciate if the authorities concerned shift Dhaka Stock Exchange from Motijheel C/A to a new constructed building in a less commercially important, less crowded place, at least 100 to 200 feet away from any public road in public interest.
   O. H. Kabir,
   Dhaka.



Health services in existing hospitals

Dear Editor:
   The government is going to established 18,000 community clinics to ensure quality health services of the people. The government is also planning to establish specialised hospital in every divisional headquarters for the same.
   May I ask a question to the government? Is it not the duty of the government to serve quality health services in the existing hospitals? It is an open secret that the people are not getting quality services from the existing hospitals. Sometimes even the minimum services in rural areas as well as urban areas are not available.
   The services in the existing hospitals have deteriorated much during the last two years. It is also mentionable that doctors are hardly found in the hospitals particularly in the rural areas.
   People observe that the incumbent government is very much keen only about recruiting ruling party members in all sectors —- health, education, police, etc., ignoring the merit of the candidates. It is alleged that the Awami League members are taking a huge amount of money from the applicants.
   Shamsunnahar,
   Khulna.
   Email:snaharbd@gmail.com



Corruption in terminal exam of Grade five and eight!

Dear Editor:
   I am living a in a residential school of Dhaka where most of the students did not study though they were supposed to study from morning to night as they have full-time teachers. I usually take meal with the teachers of that school and the teachers spontaneously said that all the students will fail in the public exam or terminal examination grade five and JSC.
   All of grade five and grade eight students passed respectively in the terminal examination of five and JSC and all the teachers are still astonished how it happened! Not only that--- all except one have got first division and one got second division in terminal exam of grade five.
   Concerned authorities should look into the matter this time and in future.
   Habibur Rahman,
   Mohammadpur, Dhaka
   Email: rahman.habibur.ao@gmail.com



Poor helpless villagers

Dear Editor:
   The shackling and cruel confinement of poor helpless villagers by a brickfield owner was published in most dailies on 27th January and some dailies even published the picture of the shackled victims. This is a shameful and shockingly unbelievable incident far beyond the norms of a civilised society. It is a slap in the face of our struggle to take Bangladesh out of the stigma of poverty; which should be a matter of urgency and a national priority for us.
   The owners of this enterprise, which should not be allowed to carry out these heinous activities, must be given the harshest possible punishment for this inhuman crime. We should “throw the book of punishment” at them, as the saying goes; for these criminals, who make money out of human misery.
   These are the people who bring shame to the nation, and in that context they are enemies of the nation. They should be publicly identified, and their background and details should be published in all dailies and presented in the audio-visual media, so that we all can identify them and ostracise them from any social contacts.
   Please follow up on the matter; and provide more details about such criminals. The authorities must also ensure that do not take revenge on the innocent people so brutally by confining them; as reported subsequently in the press from some interviews of the victims.
   S. A. Mansoor,
   Dhaka.

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