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ROLE OF MILITARY REGAINS PROMINENCE
Khaleda throws first dice in electoral gambling

Shahid Islam

The electoral gambling is slated for a year from now, end of 2018, but the main players are setting the stage by keeping people informed of what they plan to do.
Following 19 months of virtual embargo on holding any public rally in the nation’s capital, and, overcoming the stigma of perennial negation of eight formal requests to the police to do so, country’s main opposition party, the BNP, has had its first shot on November 12 to tell the nation how it wants the next general election to unravel.

Full Story

Shahid Islam

The electoral gambling is slated for a year from now, end of 2018, but the main players are setting the stage by keeping people informed of what they plan to do.
Following 19 months of virtual embargo on holding any public rally in the nation’s capital, and, overcoming the stigma of perennial negation of eight formal requests to the police to do so, country’s main opposition party, the BNP, has had its first shot on November 12 to tell the nation how it wants the next general election to unravel.

Caretaker demand revived
“No election under Hasina,” Khaleda declared during the mass rally — insinuating on the necessity of reviving the caretaker regime—which took place amidst withdrawal of public transports from the street to prevent people from attending the rally, and, under the hermetically tight preconditions of about two dozen restrictions imposed by Dhaka Metropolitan Police about the dos and the don’ts during, before, and after the rally.
The former PM added: “No EVM” and “military deployment with magisterial power” is needed to ensure electoral fair play. These three main demands of the BNP denote total lack of confidence on the incumbent PM; in so far as the PM’s intent and the ability to holding a fair election are concerned.

Message and the messenger
That’s nothing surprising. What does inject doses of awe and wonder is the message the demands of the former PM carried in that speech, and, who she is. Khaleda Zia shot herself into political pre-eminence as an uncompromising leader during the anti-autocracy movement of the 1980s when her party abstained from two consecutive elections in 1986 and 1988.
Little wonder then, that, despite being under the threat of being arrested and sent to the prison any time; either through court verdict awaiting dispensation—or under the quintessential section 54 of the criminal procedure that allows pre-emptive detention of any person under the pretext of maintaining public safety – Khaleda Zia exuded regained confidence in staying glued to her party’s previous demand for a neutral caretaker government; abrogating her moderated stance few months ago of consenting to the formation of a ‘cooperative regime’ of some sort to oversee the election.
This buoyancy – laden tossing of the first dice in what observers believe is the beginning of an electoral gambling for both the main parties has consigned politics back to its former cage: a deadlock that had hung over the nation’s shoulder like the pouncing predisposition of a roaming vulture for over five years. The nation must brace now for a rough winter of discontent after this new initiation of the BNP leader.

Government’s response
The government will certainly throw its responding dice sooner; which shall be primed by, and premised on, the following presuppositions:
First: That the BNP has no faith on the efficacy and the neutrality of the EC, the police, RAB, BGB and other auxiliary forces, excepting the armed forces, when it comes to overseeing the polling and ensuring prevention of rigging and other foul plays by the authorities and their marauding political cadres.
Second: That the BNP is adamant to reverting to the pre-15th amendment modalities of the constitution to revive the caretaker system during the electoral interregnum.
Third: That the BNP feels it can lure and trap the incumbent regime into an anomalous electoral fray like the one held in 2014 in order to pulp its credibility and stir a public uprising sometimes by the end of 2019.

Bane of the regime
In all probability, such a stratagem has another compulsive ingredient in its stocking, and, the latest posturing of the BNP does indicate the adoption of such a gambit in the midst of unbridled price hikes of the essentials, shrunken employment opportunities, unabated corruption, and the government’s apparent inability in having a resolution passed by the UN Security Council branding the Myanmar’s military-backed regime as a violator of fundamental human rights of the Muslim Rohingya minority, and, committing crimes against humanity by engaging in ethnic cleansing of a designated minority group.
Above all, the internal fractionalization and squabbling within the ruling AL relating to rent-seeking and kickback dividends are being used by the BNP as political boon.

Fear of Islamic resurgence
While these are realities that boggle minds of sane observers, and the government is aware of such entrenched banes and hamstrings, the government is yet reluctant to shun aside the calls of its grass root supporters, who’re dead scared of relinquishing power due to fear of wanton vengeance-spree by the political Islamists who had remained silent for years; only to resurface at the most opportune moment like a Phoenix.
That fear in particular is making wary a section of the civil society too, who seems poised to bank on the military’s benevolence to thwart the possibility of another Islamic resurgence. Does BNP too have the same thing in mind? One wonders.
Khaleda’s speech having insisted on military deployment with magisterial power – and the backdrop of the stage from where she’d delivered her latest sermon having been adorned prominently by a uniformed picture of her late husband, General Zia – did insinuate something of that vintage. Or, did it? Stay tuned.


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ENAYETULLAH KHAN
Homage to a dauntless editor

A. U. M. Fakhruddin

LIKE a transient phenomenon the stream of time strides interminably, as if in a linear motion, turning this moment into a matter of the past. Twelve years have elapsed into eternity after the demise of A Z M Enayetullah Khan, founder-editor of the weekly Holiday which came to be respected as the singular force enthusing and inspiring the educated elite and inculcate in them patriotic spirit to fight and defeat tyranny and oligarchy.
The weekly Holiday hit the newsstands in August 1965 verbalising in explicit unambiguous terms and phrases what the 75 million people of the country aspired for in the exploitative quasi-colonial setup of the then Pakistan.

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A. U. M. Fakhruddin

LIKE a transient phenomenon the stream of time strides interminably, as if in a linear motion, turning this moment into a matter of the past. Twelve years have elapsed into eternity after the demise of A Z M Enayetullah Khan, founder-editor of the weekly Holiday which came to be respected as the singular force enthusing and inspiring the educated elite and inculcate in them patriotic spirit to fight and defeat tyranny and oligarchy.
The weekly Holiday hit the newsstands in August 1965 verbalising in explicit unambiguous terms and phrases what the 75 million people of the country aspired for in the exploitative quasi-colonial setup of the then Pakistan.

Popularly known as Mintu, his pet name, Enayetullah Khan was a titan of his time. In essence and spirit, in vision and values he was an editor par excellence. He departed in Nature’s way, but a few persons earn immortality by virtue of their exceptional qualities in their deeds and actions that had far reaching influence on the body politic, the elite, politicians, and policy makers at the hazardous times.

A crusader journalist as he was, Enayetullah Khan, a nonconformist appeared on the print journalism scene of what is now Bangladesh with a bang with his brainchild Holiday, the first political weekly in English from the then East Pakistan which had been languishing consequent upon Pakistan government’s repressive tyrannical rule. It required an enormous amount of unrelenting bravery to move forward amid a tempestuous voyage.
He was esteemed for his bravery and commitment to journalistic values in candidly affirming without fear or favour what he discerned to be right and proper. He critiqued the Pakistani military junta in unequivocal terms.
Regrettably, in his independent homeland Bangladesh such an editor was subjected to persecution, even imprisonment, for his signed articles defending people’s fundamental constitutioinal rights.
That “pen is mightier than sword” is not a cliché evident in his mission and venture absolutely and entirely dedicated to the people’s cause. That mission was sparked in him by his political mentor Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani who had dreamt of and struggled for an exploitation-free Bangladesh since 1949 — only two years after the genesis of Pakistan — when the Awami Muslim League (which later on renamed Awami League) came into being with Bhashani as its founder President. Having egalitarian socialist concept of equitable justice as the Holiday editor’s article of faith, the larger-than-life man endeared himself to genuine patriots, but aroused anger not only of the Pakistani rulers but of even some Bengalis having vested interest.
Today’s Bangladesh misses an undaunted editor of indomitable spirit like Enayetullah Khan.


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Democracy can’t function without independent judiciary

Faruque Ahmed

Vital state organs of the state are losing authority and becoming demoralized as the government is seemingly exercising its power over them to hold them under firm control in the context of national politics. People are witnessing how the state is arbitrarily using its power making the state organs fail to work as per their mandate.
The resignation of Chief justice (CJ) SK Sinha last week while abroad in a highly volatile political climate centering the verdict on 16th amendment to the constitution is no more a surprise and it has shocked the nation. The departure of a CJ in humiliating condition is not honorable to the nation and for a functioning democracy. In fact, it has left a bad precedence.

Full Story

Faruque Ahmed

Vital state organs of the state are losing authority and becoming demoralized as the government is seemingly exercising its power over them to hold them under firm control in the context of national politics. People are witnessing how the state is arbitrarily using its power making the state organs fail to work as per their mandate.
The resignation of Chief justice (CJ) SK Sinha last week while abroad in a highly volatile political climate centering the verdict on 16th amendment to the constitution is no more a surprise and it has shocked the nation. The departure of a CJ in humiliating condition is not honorable to the nation and for a functioning democracy. In fact, it has left a bad precedence.

Lamentable orchestration
Attorney General (AG) Mahbubey Alam has however welcomed it and said the judiciary has been relieved as he was not tolerated and facing the ire of the ruling party following the verdict over the 16th amendment declaring it unconstitutional.
But many others believe the unusual resignation of the CJ has robbed whatever independence the higher judiciary was enjoying as the place of last resort for people to seek justice. One commentator said the judiciary is now in the dust.
He said without a strong and independent judiciary, weak and helpless people would have no protection against the functionaries of the government and other powerful people within the ruling establishments.
Most cases come to the higher judiciary in which ministers, law makers and powerful ruling party men are accused of grabbing property, unlawful confinements, rigging election and so on. Judges can’t hear such cases freely if they are not free from fear of making the power that be unhappy and risk losing jobs.
The verdict in question had struck the power of parliament to impeach the Supreme Court Judges with some critical observations of the functioning of the government.
Since CJ Sinha was not ready to bow to pressure of the government to rewrite the verdict, he was ultimately forced to go on leave in September. On return home the CJ remained confined at his official residence for 12 days barring from attending the court.
Meanwhile, he was forced to go on further leave for ‘treatment’ to Australia last month though he claimed he was not sick and finally resigned from Singapore last week.
The AG and law minister, meanwhile, provided 11 charges against Mr. Sinha that include corruption and moral turpitude and quoted other Judges of the Supreme Court bench that they would not sit with him on the bench for his corruption record. He was, however, considered a highly honest person before giving his verdict on the 16th constitutional amendment.

Questions that need answer
The Attorney General said the fate of the CJ was in fact sealed following the decision of the other Supreme Judges to boycott him and judiciary was finally relieved of his burden on the resignation. But is it the case indeed?
Most people believe what happened to the CJ was sooner or later expected to happen given the ruling party’s indulgence in vindictive politics. But the question is why the other Supreme Court Judges who formed the bench had unanimously passed the verdict on the 16th amendment to uphold the independence of Judiciary from parliament have decided to boycott the CJ; and why they didn’t speak out themselves is a question lingering in the peoples’ mind.
The lower judiciary is already in the firm grip of the administration to control political cases and many fear if the higher judiciary becomes similarly boneless, the separation of power and independence of judiciary will totally become meaningless.
In fact, everything is now being steadily becoming centralized at one place. Parliament is in the firm control of the ruling party; higher judiciary is in the book while political space to the opposition is long being denied. The expectation of a fully working democratic nation where rule of law will protect the weak is fading away fast.
The government is not issuing the gazette for service rules of lower judiciary to hand over control of lower court judges to the Supreme Court. As the situation is developing, no one can hope such a thing will happen soon.
Meanwhile, a case related to a former Supreme Court Judge Mr. Joynul Abedin has opened a bigger constitutional issue. He was appointed in 1991 and retired in 2009. His wealth statement came under Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) scanner on retirement and as he claims he was facing harassment.

Is law taking its course?
Reports said the Supreme Court Registrar issued a letter to the ACC on the instruction of former CJ asking the anti-graft body to stop processing the case since it involves a Supreme Court Judge who deserves to be handled by the Supreme Judicial Council.
Since the government does not accept the 16th amendment verdict and therefore, the restoration of the Supreme Judicial Council, many believe it was pushing the ACC to revive investigation and proceed with the prosecution.
Meanwhile, a High Court bench disposed the full verdict on the matter last week saying the letter from the Registrar’s office to ACC was unlawful asking to stop the case and moreover it has tarnished the image of the Supreme Court. ACC, therefore, can go with the case.
Again the question is, when parliament’s authority to impeach Supreme Court Judges exist no more and the government also does not accept Supreme Judicial Council to try Supreme Court Judges, whether the ACC is the right place to try a Supreme Court Judge.
There exist a big vacuum and a case of arbitrariness comes out of an extra-constitutional outlook of the government. Supreme Court Judges can’t be treated like ordinary criminals.
What is interesting is that the High Court in a ruling recently has accused the ACC of failing to investigate and prosecute powerful people engaging in high level of corruption and irregularities.
In fact ACC is failing to carry out its functions fairly and impartially when it involves powerful people. But its handling of a case of Supreme Court Judge despite a letter from the Supreme Court clearly speaks about some excesses perhaps on political pressure from the power that be.


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BJP, Congress at loggerheads over Nagalim issue

Abdur Rahman Khan

The war of words between the State units of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Congress has intensified with both sides accusing each other of compromising Assam’s interest on the Nagalim issue.
Assam State BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami on Monday charged the Congress with spreading false rumours regarding the Nagalim issue with a view to gaining political mileage.

Full Story

Abdur Rahman Khan

The war of words between the State units of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Congress has intensified with both sides accusing each other of compromising Assam’s interest on the Nagalim issue.
Assam State BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami on Monday charged the Congress with spreading false rumours regarding the Nagalim issue with a view to gaining political mileage.

“The Chief Minister has already clarified the State government’s stand on the matter. Yet, the Congress is trying to incite the people against the government. If the Congress party has proof that Assam’s land will be handed over for creation of Greater Nagalim, then it must have the map. So, let the Congress party make the map public within days or else it will face the anger of the people of Assam,” he said.

Independent Naga state
Reiterating that there is no question of ceding Assam’s land, Goswami said the Congress is trying to create a fear psychosis, even though the details of the framework agreement signed between the Centre and the  Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)  are yet to be made public.
“The Congress is not in power either at the Centre or in the State. How are they claiming that Assam’s land will be given away? The way the Congress is trying to incite the people, it seems, the map is in possession of the party. So, they should make it public,” Goswami added.
He said encroachment by Naga miscreants reached alarming proportions when the Congress was in power in Assam and added that successive Congress regimes failed to do anything in this regard.
The objective of the NSCN was to establish a Sovereign, Naga State by unifying all the Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast India and Northern Burma which the organisation and the people of the area proposed as Nagalim. Unification of all Naga tribes under one administration and ‘liberating’ Nagalim from India is listed as one of the main objectives of the organisation. Its manifesto is based on the principle of Socialism for economic development.
Jouranlist Bertil Lintner has described NSCN’s ideology as “a mixture of evangelical Christianity and revolutionary socialism”.  NSCN, and later NSCN (I-M), have explicitly stated that their vision of a sovereign Nagaland is a Christian one. The NSCN (I-M) manifesto envisages the formation of an “Independent Sovereign Christian Socialist Democratic Republic”.

Make agreement public
Meanwhile, the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) said the public support garnered by the party during recent days has unnerved the BJP.
The APCC has in recent days launched agitations on the Nagalim issue at a number of places near the Assam-Nagaland border in upper Assam districts.
“The support extended by the public to our agitations has forced both Chief Minister Sonowal and AGP president Atul Bora to react,” said APCC vice president Pradyut Bordoloi.
He said the ruling alliance is getting apprehensive of the Congress’ increasing support base. Bordoloi said Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal lacks the courage to speak out in front of the BJP top brass in New Delhi and has failed to seek details of the framework agreement from the Centre.


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UN SC RESOLUTION
A road map for speedy repatriation process of Rohingyas

Abdul Hannan

The latest Security Council consensus statement, the fourth in a row in course of last three months is the most comprehensive, substantive and explicit one providing a framework of road map for speedy repatriation process of Rohingyas to their home in Myanmar. The statement is clear and forthright with no scope for ambiguity or equivocation and calls upon the stakeholders of the crisis to get down to business in right earnest in cooperation with the UN and other relevant international organisations immediately.

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Abdul Hannan

The latest Security Council consensus statement, the fourth in a row in course of last three months is the most comprehensive, substantive and explicit one providing a framework of road map for speedy repatriation process of Rohingyas to their home in Myanmar. The statement is clear and forthright with no scope for ambiguity or equivocation and calls upon the stakeholders of the crisis to get down to business in right earnest in cooperation with the UN and other relevant international organisations immediately.

The Security Council strongly condemned the violence that has caused more than 600,000 Rohingyas to flee Myanmar to Bangladesh. The statement called on Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state and expressed grave concern at human rights violation. The statement stressed the importance of bringing those responsible for human rights violation accountable.

Suu Kyi’s predictable reaction
Britain initially circulated a security resolution with similar language backed by France and the US. But the resolution was legally binding and China strongly opposed it. So Britain and France turned the resolution into a presidential statement which nonetheless remains the strongest Council statement ever on the issue, albeit without the clout and weight of a resolution. The British and French delegations in the Council received well deserved thanks and appreciation from the permanent representative of Bangladesh for their persistent and active interest for adopting the most comprehensive statement on the matter.
The most important operative paragraph in the statement is when it urged upon the government of Myanmar to work with the government of Bangladesh and the UN to allow the voluntary return of all refugees in condition of safety and dignity to their homes in Myanmar. The Security Council statement also urged upon Myanmar and Bangladesh to invite the UN High commissioner for refugees and other relevant international organisations to participate fully in the joint working group for implementation of repatriation process.
This last proposal rankled in the mind of Myanmar which sharply reacted that UN involvement would seriously harm the current bilateral negotiations. Her argument is ridiculous as she wants the joint working group to remain confined to bilateral negotiation between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The reason of Myanmar de facto leader Suu Kyi’s displeasure and adverse reaction of  denunciation of council proposal as an undue pressure is not far to seek. Myanmar wants to pursue a policy of foot dragging, soft peddling and subterfuge through bilateral protracted talks. Her obduracy and intransigence on the matter is clear. By her angry reaction she has only betrayed her hypocrisy and perfidy to thwart and frustrate the repatriation process with one pretext or another.

Follow Security Council’s roadmap
The recent Ananda Bazar disclosure of absurdity of her four conditions of verifying the bonafide of residence in Myanmar of Rohingya refugees is a case in point. But she should understand that the plight of Rohingyas is now fully internationalised and its solution involves participation of international community. There is no getting away from it. The Security Council has provided the road mp for expeditious solution of the crisis and Myanmar military authorities should implement it with unquestioning obedience.
Now during the forthcoming visit of our Foreign Minister to Myanmar, he should insist on inviting participation of UNHCR and other relevant organisations in the joint working group in accordance with the directive in the security council statement and not fall into the trap of bilateral negotiations as laid down by Myanmar as a delaying tactics. Our civil society has always expressed concern about the potential danger of bilateral negotiations without UN and international participation to resolve the problem.
Myanmar delegation in the Council debate continued to refuse to face the reality of Rohingya situation in the face and shifted the blame on so called terrorist attacks by Rohingyas as the root cause.
Bangladesh representative Masud bin Momen regretted the continual denial by Myanmar and nailed the lie of so called terrorist attack as a fiction and figment of imagination. He said that time was of essence to solve the massive humanitarian catastrophe caused by exodus of persecuted and displaced Rohingyas to Bangladesh.

Pressures mounting on Myanmar
The pressure on Myanmar is mounting. The 3rd committee of the UN General Assembly is soon going to pass a resolution on Rohingya crisis seeking early repatriation of Rohingyas to their homes in Myanmar. The Council statement also wanted the secretary general to appoint a special representative to supervise the repatriation process.
The statement was serious when it urged upon the secretary general to report progress on the matter to the Security Council after 3o days. Unless Myanmar wish to be consigned once again as an international pariah, she should heed the counsels of good sense, honour and dignity by the international public opinion.

Abdul Hannan is a columnist and former diplomat.


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FOR COMBATING TERROR
Indian army training Bangladeshi forces

South Asia Monitor
in Kuala Lumpur

THE INDIAN Army will be training Bangladeshi forces in the first of its kind counter-terror and insurgency exercise to be held at the Danapur Cantonment near Patna, amid growing radicalisation and emerging terrorist groups in the neighbouring country that have a direct bearing on India’s security. The training is aimed at carrying out operations against terrorists and insurgents on the lines of those in Kashmir and India’s Northeast.

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South Asia Monitor
in Kuala Lumpur

THE INDIAN Army will be training Bangladeshi forces in the first of its kind counter-terror and insurgency exercise to be held at the Danapur Cantonment near Patna, amid growing radicalisation and emerging terrorist groups in the neighbouring country that have a direct bearing on India’s security. The training is aimed at carrying out operations against terrorists and insurgents on the lines of those in Kashmir and India’s Northeast.

Indian Army has been holding the exercise with a Bangladeshi contingent from November 13 to December 17. The joint exercise will have mutual benefits as both countries are facing similar threats including those from certain groups operating on both sides of the border.
“The shared threat to both countries and adding another facet to strategic cooperation prompted the two countries to state a training capsule prepared by the Indian Army based on our experiences in Kashmir and Northeast,” said Indian Army sources.
During the training, state-of-the art weapons and equipment for close-quarter battle, surveillance and tracking, explosives, IED detectors and communication equipment will be used. The Bangladesh team will train, plan and execute a series of well-developed operations for neutralising these threats.
There will also be discussions to share counter-terror operation experiences that will be mutually beneficial. The training event will be attended by five officers and 25 other ranks of the Bangladesh Army. The Indian Army will be represented by five officers, eight Junior Commissioned Officers and 15 other jawans.

Defence cooperation
“This training capsule is one of the major training events and defence cooperation endeavours between the two Armies and will be first of its kind being organized for the Bangladesh Army at Danapur Cantonment,” sources in the Indian Army said.
The Indian Army will also get an opportunity to absorb lessons from the series of highly successful counter- terror operation carried out by the security forces of Bangladesh.
The operating principles and tactics of both countries while dealing with insurgency and terrorism related incidents are also similar.
https:/southasianmonitor.com/2017/11/14/indian-army-trains-bangladeshi-forces-combat-terror/


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Panic spreads over disappearances, abductions

Shakhawat Hossain

Incidence of missing and abduction has reportedly increased in the capital and other parts of the country in recent times, spreading panic among people. Despite strong criticism from rights groups who have been demanding the government to initiate judicial commission to find perpetrators behind the crimes, incidents of enforced disappearance still continued with a gusto across the country.

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Shakhawat Hossain

Incidence of missing and abduction has reportedly increased in the capital and other parts of the country in recent times, spreading panic among people. Despite strong criticism from rights groups who have been demanding the government to initiate judicial commission to find perpetrators behind the crimes, incidents of enforced disappearance still continued with a gusto across the country.

There is a strong allegation against the law enforcement members to be engaged in such crimes, as some officials were found involved, various media reports and victims of the family members alleged. In recent times, army officers have arrested some Detective Branch (DB) officials when they were taking bribes from a business man in Chittagong.

Victims remain untraceable
Highest number of enforced disappearances was reported in the past two years while maximum number of victims still remained traceless in 2017. Politicians, students and business people were the worst victims of disappearance with whereabouts of 152 still unknown since the Awami League government assumed power in 2009 with election pledge promise stating ‘Rule of law will be established. Human rights will be strictly enforced.’
According to the rights organisation Odhikar, 402 people disappeared between January 2009 and October 2017 and the incidents were clearly of the category of ‘enforced disappearance’ as defined by the international human rights laws, particularly the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
In recent times, at least 10 people, including a journalist, a university teacher, a publisher and political leader, have gone missing or fallen victim to abduction since August 22, 2017. North South University teacher Mobashwer Hossain, Bangladesh Kalyan Party leader M Aminur Rahman and journalist Utpal Das are among those who remained missing. Utpal Das, a senior reporter of news portal Purboposhcim News, has remained traceless since October 10. Almost 30 days have elapsed but the law enforcers are yet to locate him. Mithun Chowdhury, president of newly-formed Bangladesh Janata Party, and his associate Ashit Ghosh were picked up allegedly by law enforcers in the city’s Sutrapur area on October 27. Those who went missing in recent times include Mcgill University student Ishrak Ahmed Fahim. The latest victim of the fresh incidents of disappearance is Tanvir Yasin Karim, owner of Karim International and Darus Salam Publications. He was picked up by plainclothes men on November 8, 2017.
According to rights body Ain o Salish Kendra, 334 of the 524 people, who allegedly became victims of enforced disappearance between 2010 and October 2017 across the country, are still missing. Many of those who returned to their families never disclosed anything to the media about their abductors.

Govt. urged to intervene
Another rights group Odhikar reported that over 400 people became victims of enforced disappearance since Awami League assumed in power in 2009 and, said highest number of such incident took place in 2016.
According to Odhikar, at least 67 persons were allegedly disappeared from January to September. Among them, seven were found dead and 29 were later produced before various courts or surfaced alive. The whereabouts of 31 persons are still unknown.
In October, seven persons allegedly disappeared. Among them, two were later produced before the court and surfaced alive. The whereabouts of five others are still unknown.
On November 7, Abu Muhammad Jamal Rahman, a pharmacist of Sanofi Aventis, was also disappeared and his family filed a missing complaint with the Khilgaon police station. On November 8, a publisher, Tanvir Hasan Karim, was taken in from his house by the plainclothes and a missing complaint was filed with the Gulshan police station.
Against such a backdrop, various social and rights groups in separate statements called on the government to find out the persons went missing or disappeared, and also to find the persons behind such activities, expressing their grave concern over the recent increased incidents of enforced disappearances.
Eminent rights activist Ms. Sultana Kamal said, “Whenever any citizen goes missing this way, it has to be understood that there is no security at all. People are going missing and the issue is not being resolved. Such a crime is an extreme violation of human rights.”
Sultana said allegations have surfaced those members of security forces were involved in the mysterious disappearance of many people.  “In many cases, it is seen that many are shown arrested after their families come up with statements [about the incidents],” she added.
National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said free movement is one of the constitutional rights of the citizens and it is the duty of the state to ensure that. “It is responsibility of the state to find the victims of abduction and enforced disappearance and return them to their families,” he said, demanding exemplary punishment to those responsible for such incidents.
Besides, teachers, students and alumni of Dhaka University on Sunday sought the prime minister’s intervention in tracing North South University teacher Mubashar Hasan who went missing on Nov 7 evening.  They formed a human chain on Aparajeyo Bangla premises and said if Mubashar was guilty of any crime he could be brought to book and tried. His disappearance only proves the state’s failure to protect its citizen, they observed.


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PM Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon: A moment of truth

James M. Dorsey

The proof will be in the pudding when Prime Minister Saad Hariri returns home in the coming days to a country in which friend and foe have rallied around him and he clarifies whether he intends to follow through on his controversial decision to resign.
Few in Lebanon and beyond believe that Mr. Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen whose family company in the kingdom declared bankruptcy earlier this year in one of the first casualties of Saudi Arabia’s fiscal crisis, voluntarily stepped down on November 4 while on a visit to Riyadh.

Full Story

James M. Dorsey

The proof will be in the pudding when Prime Minister Saad Hariri returns home in the coming days to a country in which friend and foe have rallied around him and he clarifies whether he intends to follow through on his controversial decision to resign.
Few in Lebanon and beyond believe that Mr. Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen whose family company in the kingdom declared bankruptcy earlier this year in one of the first casualties of Saudi Arabia’s fiscal crisis, voluntarily stepped down on November 4 while on a visit to Riyadh.

Hariri became a Saudi pawn?
Mr. Hariri’s subsequent interview on his own Lebanese television station did little to erase suspicion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman forced him to resign in an opening bid to counter Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia that constitutes one of Lebanon’s most formidable political forces. Mr. Hariri warned that Saudi Arabia and its allies could ride roughshod on Lebanon’s economy by imposing sanctions and expelling hundreds of thousands of Lebanese employed in the kingdom.
The fact that Mr. Hariri announced that he would leave his wife and children in the kingdom when he returns to Beirut will reinforce suspicion of Saudi arm twisting should he, once back in the Lebanese capital, move forward with his resignation.
Further calling into question Mr. Hariri’s independence, were reports that Khalid al-Tuwaijri, the head of late King Abdullah’s court, who was among scores of princes, officials and businessmen arrested earlier this month on corruption charges in a sweeping purge, had illicitly paid the Hariri family company $9 billion.
Rumours that Prince Mohammed’s leverage over Mr. Hariri involves the prime minister potentially been sucked into the crown prince’s power grab, executed under the mum of an anti-corruption campaign, were reinforced by the fact that the fate of one of Mr. Hariri’s closest Saudi business associates, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, remains unclear.
A son of late King Fahd, whose immediate relatives were one target group in this month’s selective of purge of members of the ruling family, senior officials and prominent businessmen, Prince Abdul Aziz was first reported to have been put under house arrest during a crackdown in September when scores of Islamic scholars, judges and activists were arrested. It remains unclear whether he is still under house arrest or has been transferred to Riyadh’s gilded prison in the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Caught in a catch-22
Lebanon’s foremost Sunni politician, Mr. Hariri was widely credited with keeping the government in which Hezbollah is represented, together, and ensuring that the country remained on the side lines of the Syrian war despite Hezbollah fighting alongside Syrian government forces and more than a million Syrian refugees spilling into the country.
Mr. Hariri announced his resignation a day after meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mr. Hariri’s office said the prime minister had urged Iran to halt its support of the Houthis as a first step towards ending the war in Yemen. Mr. Hariri denied Mr. Velayati’s assertion that the prime minister had offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In his resignation speech on Saudi television, Mr. Hariri uncharacteristically dropped his effort to maintain a modicum of unity in Lebanon by echoing Saudi allegations that Iran and its surrogate, Hezbollah, were attempting sow unrest and instability in the Arab world.
Mr. Hariri may well have been caught in a Catch-22 with Saudi Arabia and more hard-line Lebanese Sunnis demanding that he take a firmer stand towards Hezbollah and the militia and other Shiite groups insisting that Lebanon normalize relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Lebanon minimized contact with Mr.  Al-Assad as part of its effort to disassociate itself from the conflict in Syria.
Reporting from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, one of the country’s poorest urban centres that is home to both Sunnis and Shiites, journalist Sunniva Rose described how some hard liners, supporters of former justice minister Ashraf Rifi, who resigned earlier this year in protest against Hezbollah’s domination of politics, were putting up posters with portraits of Mr. Rifi and Prince Mohammed.

Fomenting sectarian strife?
The risk for the Lebanese is that they will pay the price for Saudi efforts to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East that is being fought on their backs. Saudi Arabia exploited Mr. Hariri’s resignation with Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan declaring two days later that the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of Hezbollah.
Mr. Al-Sabhan warned that “there are those who will stop (Hezbollah) and make it return to the caves of South Lebanon”, the heartland of Lebanon’s Shia community. “Lebanese must all know these risks and work to fix matters before they reach the point of no return,” Mr.  Al-Sabhan went on to say.
Prince Mohammed, in a gesture, towards Lebanese Christians and an effort to project the kingdom’s transition to what he described as an undefined form of moderate Islam, received Lebanon’s Maronite Christian Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai this week. The patriarch met separately with Mr. Hariri.
Sporting a big cross on his chest in a country that bans expressions of non-Muslim religions, Patriarch Al Rai’s visit constituted a rare occasion on which the kingdom welcomed a non-Muslim religious dignitary. He was the first Lebanese public figure to visit Saudi Arabia since Mr. Hariri’s resignation.
Lebanon’s political elite, including the prime minister’s Future Movement and Hezbollah, beyond rallying around Mr. Hariri, has called for calm and sought to ensure that the political crisis does not destabilize the country further, or even worse, constitute a prelude to its descent into renewed sectarian strife.

‘Lebanon to take free decision’
The elite as well as many ordinary Lebanese fear that their country has become the latest pawn in a Saudi-Iranian proxy war that has primarily been at the expense of others. Saudi efforts to counter Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East sparked the kingdom’s ill-fated military intervention in Yemen with devastating humanitarian consequences. Iranian and Saudi intervention in Syria alongside many others aggravated the bloodshed in a brutal six-year long civil war.
Mr. Hariri’s risky resignation constitutes a Saudi-inspired bid to deprive Iranian influence of the legitimacy conveyed upon it by being part of the Lebanese government.
Speaking in Paris, Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil insisted that “Lebanon would like for its decisions to be taken freely. Lebanon creates its internal and foreign policy with the will of its people and its leaders who are elected by the people…. Once Hariri is back in Lebanon he can take any decision he sees as right and possible.”

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and   Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa


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Kazakhstan summons Central Asian summit

Almaz Kumenov
EurasiaNet

Kazakhstan is seeking to reprise its role as a locomotive for regional integration by calling for a landmark summit of Central Asian leaders to be held in Astana next year.
The proposal was reportedly voiced by Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov in Samarkand on November 10 at a UN-sponsored conference devoted to security and sustainable development in Central Asia.

Full Story

Almaz Kumenov
EurasiaNet

Kazakhstan is seeking to reprise its role as a locomotive for regional integration by calling for a landmark summit of Central Asian leaders to be held in Astana next year.
The proposal was reportedly voiced by Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov in Samarkand on November 10 at a UN-sponsored conference devoted to security and sustainable development in Central Asia.

“Ever since the acquisition of independence more than 25 years ago, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has actively advanced policies of regional integration that accounted for the interests and expectations of all governments in the region. Today this process has beengiven a new impulse as we are seeing a burst of regional contacts at all levels,” Abdrakhmanov said.
The minister said there were already successful precedents on which to build. Among those he cited the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, collective efforts for maintaining Central Asia as a nuclear-free zone and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre, an anti-drug trafficking body.
These are largely hollow boasts, however, since achievements in the areas mentioned by Abdrakhmanov are scanty.
After some early abortive attempts at regional integration derailed by the uncompromising demands of national leaders and governments, Central Asia began to fall under the sway of broader geopolitical projects advanced by its larger partners, Russia and China.  Accordingly, presidents and heads of government typically meet at events organized by the panoply of political and security groupings that have taken shape over the past quarter century, be it the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization or the Eurasian Economic Union, just to mention a few.
Where Kazakhstan was nominally the most visible promoter of exclusively regional cooperation, Uzbekistan has traditionally played the spoiler.
The new impulse alluded to by Abdrakhmanov is, of course, the policy of good neighborliness adopted by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has swiftly shed the at-any-cost isolationist policies of his late predecessor, Islam Karimov. The last year has been marked by a dizzying array of breakthroughs in Uzbekistan’s relations with bordering nations with trade deals galore, a flurry of high-level bilateral meetings and long-awaited border delimitation settlements.
Indeed, for all Kazakhstan’s desire to be seen once again leading the regional charge, current developments suggest that it is Uzbekistan that is now best disposed to take up the role. As The Diplomat reported from Samarkand, even as Abdrakhmanov was speaking of the need for the nations of Central Asia to come together, his Kyrgyz counterpart, Yerlan Abdyldayev, complained that an ongoing border dispute between their countries was harming the cause of sustainable development.
All the same, an Astana summit, which Abdrakhmanov has in a gesture of likely purposeful symbolism said could be held around Nowruz — the spring festival of renewal that is celebrated across the region —portends a potentially promising moment.


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Be forewarned

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin

Pakistan is close to Julian Barnes’s alternative definition of a net as ‘a collection of holes tied together with string’. It is less a country than a mesh of voids, bound by coils of self-interest.
A vacuum in leadership within each political party, for instance, is ringed by the loyalty of its electorate. Our economy is a mosaic of potholes, of gaping deficits: budget deficits, fiscal deficits, trade deficits, recurring deficits in the railways and PIA.  Add now a trust deficit between the legislature, the judiciary and the armed forces.

Full Story

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin

Pakistan is close to Julian Barnes’s alternative definition of a net as ‘a collection of holes tied together with string’. It is less a country than a mesh of voids, bound by coils of self-interest.
A vacuum in leadership within each political party, for instance, is ringed by the loyalty of its electorate. Our economy is a mosaic of potholes, of gaping deficits: budget deficits, fiscal deficits, trade deficits, recurring deficits in the railways and PIA.  Add now a trust deficit between the legislature, the judiciary and the armed forces.

Over the past sixty years, political analysts have viewed the balance of power in Pakistan as a see-saw, with an elected government at one end, a Bonaparte at the other, and the judiciary as a pivot. It was not always like this. General Ayub Khan admitted in the memoirs he wrote in 1967 while a civilian president: ‘The army has inherited a great tradition of loyalty, a sense of duty, patriotism and complete subordination to civil authority.’
Ten years later, General Ziaul Haq imitated his former chief by removing an elected government in a bloodless coup. On 5 July 1977, he felt impelled to explain in his first address to a dispossessed electorate: ‘The Army takeover is never a pleasant act, because the Armed Forces of Pakistan genuinely want that the administration of the country should remain in the hands of the representatives of the people who are its real masters.  The people exercise this right through their elected representatives who are chosen in every democratic country through periodic elections.’
Anyone who took their words at face value had not read the 19th century pocket manual issued to the General Staff of the Prussian army. Their officers were instructed always ‘to be more than you seem’. A parallel between the militaristic state of Prussia and modern Pakistan is often drawn by persons unfriendly to Pakistan. They never tire of repeating Prussian Minister Friedrich von Schrötter’s remark that ‘Prussia was not a country with an army, but an army with a country’. Sadly, recent events indicate that Pakistan may well be sliding closer towards its Prussian precedent.
Our armed forces have not come fully out of the closet.
Newspaper reports covering the ouster of Nawaz Sharif still refer coyly to ‘the security establishment’. Guardedly, they describe the invisible brokers of the shotgun marriage between the MQM-P and its rival PSP as ‘the powers that be’. Now, even before it has formulated its manifesto for the 2018 general elections, the PML-N finds it necessary to announce that it is laying out ‘a policy of non-confrontation with state institutions, such as the army or the judiciary’. It is an all too obvious admission that the boundaries between the political parties and other organs of the state have become blurred and need, like constituencies, to be redefined.
Former President-General Musharraf’s announcement that he proposes to cobble together ‘a grand alliance’ of 23 political parties to contest the next elections has not helped. It has reinforced the suspicion that khaki remains an indelible smudge in our nation’s politics, the third colour in our national flag. Should Musharraf’s grand alliance be feared? Or is it just a forlorn hope of disparate parties, with more letters in their names than actual followers? Some feel that Musharraf should be more circumspect, that at his age he should change his diet. Flattery is known to be low on calories.
By the time of the next general elections, the configuration of contestants standing at the starting line may not be the same as those presently exercising themselves in the dressing room. Which avatar of the PML for example will contest the 2018 elections? PML-N with Nawaz Sharif still as its damaged mast-head?  A PML-S, with Shahbaz Sharif holding a Chinese pen in one hand and a white handkerchief in the other? Will the PML-Q and other ingots off the old PML block be forged together on the anvil of expediency? Will the MQM-P and the PSP be able to sink their differences in time to fight a campaign under the same initials? Will the PPP flog again its ideology of ‘Progressivism, Democratic socialism, Social liberalism, Islamic socialism’, when the only –ism prevalent within the party is crony-ism?
Whoever forms the next government should brace himself for a hectic period in office. He will need deep pockets to meet repayments of the onerous CPEC loans. He will need strong nerves to resist pressure from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to join a Saudi-US funded coalition against Iran.  He should be courageous enough to accept Farooq Abdullah’s acknowledgement that Azad Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of Pakistan, and not demand more. And he should be prepared to deal with an uber-conservative Mike Pence as the 46th US president.

This article was first published in Dawn, Karachi


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