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Election on December 23

Holoday report

Despite protest of opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front, the Election Commission on Thursday announced the schedule for the 11th parliamentary elections fixing the polling date on December 23.
The chief election commissioner, KM Nurul Huda, in his address to the nation, said that the last date of filing nomination papers by the candidates is November 19 and the returning officers will scrutinise the nomination papers on November 226.
The last date of withdrawal of nomination papers is November 29, he said.

Full Story

Holoday report

Despite protest of opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front, the Election Commission on Thursday announced the schedule for the 11th parliamentary elections fixing the polling date on December 23.
The chief election commissioner, KM Nurul Huda, in his address to the nation, said that the last date of filing nomination papers by the candidates is November 19 and the returning officers will scrutinise the nomination papers on November 226.
The last date of withdrawal of nomination papers is November 29, he said.

The CEC said that the candidates will be allowed to file nomination papers online for the first time.

The CEC said that the commission is planning to use electronic voting machines in the general election for the first time in a small scale in city areas.
He also said troops will be deployed in election activities in aid of civil administration.
The around 15-minute speech of the CEC was broadcast simultaneously on Bangladesh Television (BTV) and Bangladesh Betar.


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Odds pile up against timely election

Shahid Islam

Elections inject oxygen into democracy’s body politic. Timely and fairly held elections keep democracy alive and kicking. As Bangladesh leap frogs from one electoral setback to the other, the 2018 general election too seems to have been bottlenecked and, destined to hit a major bump. In the midst of the Election Commission’s (EC) insistence on holding the election on time, the United National Front (UNF) under the lead of Dr. Kamal Hossain wants the front’s demands to be met first, prior to the announcement of an election schedule that’ brooks no further delay,’ says the CEC.

Meanwhile, the series of dialogues between the incumbent PM and the clusters of opposition parties have produced nothing substantive so far, except a ritualized assurance from the PM that the oppositions will be allowed to hold meetings and rallies. Another sign of assuaging the opposition has emerged in the PM’s asking of technocrat ministers to resign, a move, according sources, to make room for some neutral minded technocrats to be inserted in the poll time cabinet.

Level playing field
Full Story

Shahid Islam

Elections inject oxygen into democracy’s body politic. Timely and fairly held elections keep democracy alive and kicking. As Bangladesh leap frogs from one electoral setback to the other, the 2018 general election too seems to have been bottlenecked and, destined to hit a major bump. In the midst of the Election Commission’s (EC) insistence on holding the election on time, the United National Front (UNF) under the lead of Dr. Kamal Hossain wants the front’s demands to be met first, prior to the announcement of an election schedule that’ brooks no further delay,’ says the CEC.

Meanwhile, the series of dialogues between the incumbent PM and the clusters of opposition parties have produced nothing substantive so far, except a ritualized assurance from the PM that the oppositions will be allowed to hold meetings and rallies. Another sign of assuaging the opposition has emerged in the PM’s asking of technocrat ministers to resign, a move, according sources, to make room for some neutral minded technocrats to be inserted in the poll time cabinet.

Level playing field
Holding meetings and rallies are inalienable rights enshrined in the constitution. That the government did not allow the opposition parties to do the same in the bygone days is a blot and an aberration that only sullied the government’s image at home and abroad. The poll time campaign cannot run its full courses unless all the participants in the polls are allowed unfeterred access to campaigning on equal footing.
As well, despite PM’s assurance, thousands were turned back –and thousands detained— from attending the UNF’s grand rally at Shorwardy Uddan on November 6. From that rally, the UNFreiterated its  demands — including resignation of the government, dissolution of parliament, and reforms of the EC—and threatened to launch nationwide movement from November 8, following the conclusion of its second leg of dialogue with the PM on November 7.

Divided opposition
The parties arrayed to fight out the incumbent regime are of checkered nature, most of them, now under different banner of alliances, are deferential to the government’s wishes of joining the election under the PM Hasina and her government’s incumbency. The most challenging plank and the Achilles heel to the regime, as of now, is the UNF — with the main opposition BNP as its bulwark and the centre of gravity, and with an assessed 55 percent of vote bank in its credit. Should the UNF manage to launch a movement following its dissatisfaction about the outcome of a second dialogue with the government on November 7, many of the swing voters will tilt toward the UNF due to the likelihood of a credible and fair election taking place only under an interim/ caretaker regime, which the UNF desperately wants.
Among the other oppositions, the left alliance and the Juktofront led by former president Dr Bodruddoza Chowdhury are likely to insist until the last moment to having the polling under a caretaker regime while the Jatio Party (JP) and the little known other Islamic parties will be pliant and amenable to anything the government wishes. The reasons being: the JP has already lost its credibility by being an opposition party by name only, having ministers in the existing cabinet, while the Islamists, other than the mainstream Jamat-I-Islami (JI) — which is no more a legitimate political party — are not at all a force in terms of vote bank and  public empathy. Worse still, the Hefajat-I-Islam, once an ardent opponent of the Hasina regime, had ‘sold itself to the government’ lately, to have discredited the image of political Islam further.

Conspiracy abounds
As dialogue fails, and a mass movement ramps up, there are rumours of various hues in the grapevine that, liked the bus burning incidents in the wake of the 2014 election, a ‘designated fifth column’ will create anarchy in the country to proffer suitable pretext to foil the polling and bringing about an emergency regime. Exactly who will perpetrate such a demarche is hard to guess, let alone pontific empirically. Yet, such an outcome seems in the liking of both the ruling AL and the BNP as it enables both the parties to obtain a face saving outcome and set aside the gridlock on which they can ill afford to be reconcilable in principle.
Here’s why? The BNP cannot join the polling unless it takes place under a neutral regime; a demand for which it had boycotted the 2014 election and paid heavy prices in terms of political re-capitalization and personal well beings of the party’s leaders and workers. For the government — after having gone through so much while amending the constitution to annul the caretaker provision in the interregnum –caving onto the same demand now is not an option, as it makes the BNP instantly victorious.
Besides, survey/polls conducted by private groups and few intelligence services conclude that, in a fair election, incumbent AL faces the prospect of being browbeaten by landslide victory of the BNP and its electoral allies. Hence the apprehension that the government itself might resort to the tactic of surreptitiously-conducted false flag operation to blame the opposition of criminal conspiracies to abandon the election by invoking emergency, extenuating reasons, as did the 2007 military-led regime.

Constitutional ramifications
Deferral or annulment of the election, without any unavoidable exigency, will tantamount to constitutional aberrations and trigger future litigations on political imperfection, breach of constitution, as well as other allegations of authentic import. For instance, allegations can range from mishandling of, or being complicit about the Peelkhana massacre of 2009 to being complicit and lukewarm in bringing the Bangladesh Bank money heist group to task; being cavalier in investigating and punishing the stock market racketeers and bank money looters; and, being inhuman and illegitimate in punishing hundreds of thousands of political dissenters over the last 10 years, etc.
Added to the electoral misconduct and the failure to holding an inclusive election in 2014, and the alleged deportation/ eviction of a chief justice from the country, the odds against the incumbent regime are of Himalayan magnitude.
That explains why a regime, being in power for two consecutive terms, is hell bent on clinging onto power ‘eternally’ at the cost of rendering the nation undemocratic and utterly despotic. That also explains, why not a single substantive demand of the UNF is being granted as a way of ensuring the holding of a free, fair election.

Triumph of nationalism
These days, political waves across the globe are stoking intense nationalism. Not only the US had witnessed the election into office of a ‘protectionist president’ like Donald Trump,  Brazil witnessed the victory of JairBolsonaro in the October 7 election. Intensely nationalistic, former army Captain Bolsonaro is a hard-core right winger who had promised to restore his country’s ‘lost national honour’ by not being subservient to global powers. In Mexico, a baseball-loving leftwing nationalist, Andrés Manuel LópezObrador (64), became the president while in neighbouring Maldives, Ibrahim Solih, a nationalist leader and a firm believer of multi-party democracy, won the last election.
Our government has a choice to make now, as the election bell rings loud and the hours come closer. It can choose to be authoritarian by brushing aside the popular demands of an election under a neutral, caretaker regime, or be ready to be swept away by a nationalistic surge, today or tomorrow. The government may be blind-folded by the eulogies of sycophants; we can see writings on the wall that are not black and while.


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Enayetullah Khan’s death anniversary

Holiday Report

We  the Holiday family- readers, patrons and wellwishers- remember with profound respect and honour  the founding Editor of the political weekly, A Z M Enayetullah Khanon on his  13th death anniversary of death.  
A journalist of international repute and an iconic newsman of this region, Enayetullah Khan died of cancer at the age of 66 in Toronto, Canada on November 10, 2005.

Full Story

Holiday Report

We  the Holiday family- readers, patrons and wellwishers- remember with profound respect and honour  the founding Editor of the political weekly, A Z M Enayetullah Khanon on his  13th death anniversary of death.  
A journalist of international repute and an iconic newsman of this region, Enayetullah Khan died of cancer at the age of 66 in Toronto, Canada on November 10, 2005.

Mr. Khan joined the profession of journalism in 1959 as a reporter in the  now-defunct Pakistan Observer published from Dhaka.
Enayetullah Khan launched the weekly Holiday, a political views-paper, in 1965 and later founded the daily New Age in 2003.
Enayetullah Khan was arrested and put behind bars for a brief period for publishing a write-up in the Holiday in 1975.
Later he served  as the Editor of The Bangladesh Times between 1975 and 1977. He also served the government of President Ziaur Rahman as a cabinet minister. Later  in the 1980s, he  was Bangladesh Ambassador to China, North Korea, Cambodia and Mayanmar.
Enayetullah Khan was the President of the National Press Club, Dhaka (1973-76) and the Dhaka Club (1984-85).
Son of Justice Abdul Jabbar Khan, a Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly, Enayetullh Khan was born in Mymensing town on May 25, 1939.


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Dialogue’s failure to clear uncertainty over election may cost the nation too big

Faruque Ahmed

The much expected political dialogue over the forthcoming national election formally ended on Wednesday over two sessions last week without any tangible results.  Awami League general secretary and communication minister Obaidul Qader’s announcement of the formal closure of the dialogue was immediately branded as an eye wash that produced nothing. It has mislead the nation.

Full Story

Faruque Ahmed

The much expected political dialogue over the forthcoming national election formally ended on Wednesday over two sessions last week without any tangible results.  Awami League general secretary and communication minister Obaidul Qader’s announcement of the formal closure of the dialogue was immediately branded as an eye wash that produced nothing. It has mislead the nation.

Jatiya Oikyafront leaders claimed it achieved nothing while its spokesman and BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam said they would continue movement to realize people’s demand and also take preparation for election. The decision will be made based on the unfolding situation.   
The government leaders’ apathy to seriously take the major election issues for discussion in the dialogue left the opportunity to total failure.  Oikyafront leader Dr Kamal Hossain said the ball now in the Prime Minister’s court to find ways to hold a peaceful inclusive election. 
He has called upon the people to come out and save the country by protecting their voting rights. The country belongs to people and in his view it is nobody’s private property. 
However the disclosure by Obaidul Qader that Dr Kamal Hossain can meet the Prime Minister this time to continue further discussion is indicative of the fact that the Prime Minister despite her hardline is still open to some backdoor discussion.
The resignation of four technocrat ministers on advice of the Prime Minister before the second round of dialogue last week also bears significance. Many believe she wanted to convince the Oikyafront to nominate its representative to replace them in the cabinet to turn it into an election time all party government.
Meanwhile, the postponement of Prime Minister’s press conference on the outcome of the dialogue on Thursday also is being interpreted by many as keeping open the door to last minute developments in the one to one dialogue.
The speculation become further stronger from the postponement of the Oikyafront’s long march towards Rajshahi on Thursday following announcement by Mirza Fakhrul Islam which was earlier fixed to protest the failure of the dialogue. But their programme to hold the big public rally in the western city remained unchanged.
Another speculation on possible release of Begum Zia on parole before election is unfolding new frontiers when the indication is circulating in the air from none but senior government ministers.        
It appears the week long politics of dialogue of the government engaging the major opposition may have cleverly misled the nation with big media headlines. It appeared full of lies and deceit unless it proves otherwise by course of events in next few days.    
In fact the dialogue came so quickly which was denied to BNP over the past several years but it also formally ended so quickly. But the small opening gave Awami League the opportunity to claim it had sat for the dialogue respecting the public demands to sort out major differences on election issues.  
Oikyafront leader and Gonoforum president Dr Kamal Hossain, who had initiated the dialogue publicly expressed anger and frustration as the government leaders turned down proposal for changes in election process telling them they can’t step out of the constitutional framework they amended earlier on how to hold the one-sided election.
They said at least 24 other political parties are supporting the government election initiative under the present constitutional arrangement including Jatita Party, the newly formed Joktofrnt and so on. So election will take place no matter the Oikyafront with BNP as the major opposition in the block keeps out of election. 
The OIkyafront’s seven point demands that included a neutral election time council of advisers to hold election, dissolution of parliament and delaying election to be held during 90 days after expiry of the present parliament, release of political prisoners including BNP chairperson Begum Zia before election were almost flatly ignored.
Their demand for deployment of army with magistracy power to arrest trouble mongers at polling centers also went unheeded. The government agreed to deploy army as striking force outside polling centers but it will not any them to  prevent trouble mongers inside the polling centers.
Meanwhile, the EC’s election schedules announced on Thursday is likely to further complicate the situation. Oikyafront has already demanded reconstitution of the EC and meanwhile called for delaying the schedule. Their plan to lay siege on the EC if it announces the schedule without resolving major issues left open threat to chaos and EC has also warned against such move. 
The EC’s unilateral election schedules appears highly controversial at a time when  it could use its independent position to make election peaceful and acceptable to all despite manifold government pressure.
The next few weeks are going to be highly sensitive as the fate of the nation may largely depends on crucial developments that may take place during this period at political levels.


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Don’t destroy Gonoshasthaya Kendra: Zafrullah Chy

Zafrullah Chowdhury speaks in a press conference organised by Gonoshasthaya Kendra at Savar on Wednesday on the recent incidents of vandalism at the Kendra and phone tapping.

Special  Correspondent

Prominent  Freedom Fighter dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury on Wednesday appealed to the government and the countrymen to protect Gonoshasthaya Kendra, founded by him during  the  war  of  liberation.
Addressing at a news conference called by Gonoshahthaya Kendra at its Public Health Assembly Bhaban at Savar, Zafrullah said that he was one of the seven trustees of Gonoshasthaya Kendra and that he never took any benefit from it.
‘I don’t own Gonoshahthaya Kendra land. Even I will not be buried there. Please, don’t destroy Gonoshasthaya Kendra,’ he appealed.

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Zafrullah Chowdhury speaks in a press conference organised by Gonoshasthaya Kendra at Savar on Wednesday on the recent incidents of vandalism at the Kendra and phone tapping.

Special  Correspondent

Prominent  Freedom Fighter dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury on Wednesday appealed to the government and the countrymen to protect Gonoshasthaya Kendra, founded by him during  the  war  of  liberation.
Addressing at a news conference called by Gonoshahthaya Kendra at its Public Health Assembly Bhaban at Savar, Zafrullah said that he was one of the seven trustees of Gonoshasthaya Kendra and that he never took any benefit from it.
‘I don’t own Gonoshahthaya Kendra land. Even I will not be buried there. Please, don’t destroy Gonoshasthaya Kendra,’ he appealed.

He criticised the government for intercepting his phone conversations with one of his colleagues and described the interceptions as ‘unethical’.
‘I think my fundamental right I getting violated,’ he said referring to the leaked conversations between him and his colleague.
He said he never gave any instruction to create violence as the leaked doctored conversations were trying to show.
He also said that requested students to ensure security of participants in the international conference to be held at the PHA Bhaban from November 15 to 19.
He repeated that the Gonoshasthaya Kendra would not come under attacks and not a single case would be filed against him if he had not joined the Jatiya Oikya Front.
GK trustee Sondha Roy was present among others.

At least seven cases
have been filed against Zafullah Chowdhury for his criticism of the government.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra’s Public Health Assembly Bhaban complex, with residential quarters, auditorium, dormitories for students and employees was attacked at least twice since October 26, mostly by ruling Awami League leaders and activists carrying sticks and iron rods.
The PHA Bhaban’s furniture and valuables worth at least Tk 25 lakh were looted during the attacks but the police took no case against the attackers.


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Indian forces to modify SOP in Kashmir

Abid Bashir, Greater Kashmir

Government forces operating in Kashmir Tuesday said that they would perhaps have to modify their standard operating procedure (SOP) to minimise killings of mentally-challenged persons who wander around security camps during late hours.
The tacit admission by the forces that there is no specific mechanism to deal with mentally-challenged persons near the camps comes barely two days after Rayees Ahmad Wani, a mentally challenged person was shot dead outside an army camp in Shopian.

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Abid Bashir, Greater Kashmir

Government forces operating in Kashmir Tuesday said that they would perhaps have to modify their standard operating procedure (SOP) to minimise killings of mentally-challenged persons who wander around security camps during late hours.
The tacit admission by the forces that there is no specific mechanism to deal with mentally-challenged persons near the camps comes barely two days after Rayees Ahmad Wani, a mentally challenged person was shot dead outside an army camp in Shopian.

Rayees was not the first person to be killed in such a manner. In February this year, a mentally-challenged, aged person was killed outside Air Force Station in Srinagar. According to rights activists, at least 16 persons, all mentally challenged, fell to the bullets of the forces near forces’ camps between 2002 and 2018.
In 2002, according to rights activist Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, a godly person Salam Din Khan, a resident of Diver, Lolab, in Kupwara district was killed by the army when he was dusting off his shoes during a search operation.
“The army then claimed they killed a militant. It was later proven that the slain was mentally unsound. According to the data I have collected since 2002, Salam was the first person who fell to the bullets of forces. There could have been more before him,” Untoo said.
The year 2011 witnessed two such killings. On 5 January 2011, an unidentified mentally-challenged person was killed in Lolab, Kupwara, and on 7 August 2011, forces claimed to have killed a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant commander Abu Usman in Surankote, but later it was established they deceased was a mentally-challenged Hindu youth.
In April 2009, army shot dead a speech and hearing impaired person, Abdul Rashid Reshi, at Gupkar, the day Omar Abdullah took oath as the chief minister of the state.
A year earlier, in April 2008, a mentally-challenged person, Shakeel Ahmed Malik of Boniyar, Uri, in Baramulla district, was killed outside an army camp. The army had termed Malik’s killing as unfortunate.
In October 2007, Akeel Ahmed Mir, a mentally- challenged boy was shot dead near a forces’ camp at Watlab, Sopore, in Baramulla district. In May 13, 2006, army killed mentally-challenged Muhammad Abdullah Sheikh in Baramulla district.
In July 2006, another mentally-challenged person, Muhammad Abdullah Wani of Braripora, Handwara, was shot dead. The forces said they mistook him for a militant.
In June 24, the army expressed regret after shooting dead a mentally-challenged person at Ganwan, Kangan, in Ganderbal district.
The year 2004 saw four such killings— Ghulam Muhammad Bhat of Chatru, Kishtwar, Shameema Begum of Banihal, Nazir Ahmed Chaku of Anantnag, Ghulam Hassan Chopan of Zainapora, Shopian and Shamshad Ahmed Ganai of Tral, Pulwama.
In 2003, two such incidents had taken place—an unidentified woman was killed in Nogwam Banihal while as a mentally challenged boy was shot dead by forces in Abi Guzar area of Lal Chowk, Srinagar.
A police officer said that it is very difficult to identify a mentally unwell person during the night.
“No specific SoP is in place for dealing with such people when they approach towards forces camp. Normally, forces follow the existing SoP in place for facing the potential threats,” the officer said, wishing not to be named.
“From now onwards, extra measures would be taken to avoid such killings,” he said.
Inspector general of police CRPF Ravideep Singh Sahi said for an alert sentry guarding a camp, it is very difficult to ascertain whether the person approaching towards the camp is mentally ill.
“I am sure, if a sentry is sure that the person coming closer to the camp is mentally unwell, he won’t fire. This is possible only during day hours. During night, it becomes very difficult to identify the person approaching towards the camp. Most of such incidents happen during night hours,” he said.
He said such incidents are avoidable and for that extra alertness and patience is needed.
The army too asserts that it follows proper rules and the existing SoP to deal with suspicious persons who inch closer to their camps. “In the recent incident at Shopian, the SoP was followed. After repeated loud verbal cautions, the person didn’t stop and the alert sentry asked him for hands-up at least thrice as part of the SoP but the person didn’t respond,” an army official told Greater Kashmir.
“The alert soldier guarding the camp also fired several warning shots in air and when the person continued to get closer to the camp the solider was left with no choice other than to fire at the suspicious person.”
Shakeel Qalander, a civil society activist, said the SoP of forces for dealing with the mentally challenged persons is faulty and full of loopholes.
“The forces should only open fire when there is fire from the opposite direction. Killing mentally unsound persons on mere suspicion exposes the policy of forces that for them every Kashmiri was a suspicious person and they can kill at their will,” he said.

Fresh clash on Thursday
Meanwhile,  Clashes erupted after forces lay siege to Arihal village in south Kashmir early on  Thursday ( 8 nov).
Clashes erupted during a  cordon-and-search-operation (CASO) launched by the government forces at a village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday morning.
A police official said that around 5:30 AM joint teams of 44 RR, CRPF and SOG  personnel laid a seige around Arihal village following inputs about the presence of militants.
While the search operation was in progress, scores of youth came out of their homes and pelted the forces with stones, he said, adding that the forces responded by firing tear smoke shells.
The operation, according to the official, was called off after no militant was found in the area.
Earlier  on Tuesday,  Two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militants including an army man turned militant were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Shopian district even as thousands of people joined the funeral prayers of the slain amid frosty weather conditions.
The gunfight, according to officials, broke out in Safnagri village of Shopian during pre-dawn hours after the forces threw a cordon around the area after receiving credible intelligence inputs about the presence of militants.
Officials said that as soon as the forces laid a siege in the area and zeroed in on a particular cluster of houses, the militants hiding in a residential house opened fire on them triggering a gunfight. Amid exchange of fire, the hiding militants, officials said, came out of the house in a bid to break the cordon and flee. However, they said, both of them were killed in open while trying to escape. “It was a brief encounter in which no collateral damage was caused as both the militants were killed in open,” officials said.
The killed militants were identified as Idrees Sultan alias Chota Ibrahim of Safnagri where the encounter took place and Amir Hussain rather of Awneera village.
Idrees, local said, was working in army before joining militant ranks in April this year. An official said before returning home to join Hizb ranks, Idrees was posted in Bihar with a JAKLI unit. His another slain associate, an official said, Amir Hussain was also active from last eight months.
A police spokesman said that the slain were involved in many attacks on security establishments in the area.
Amid cold and frost weather conditions thousands of people gathered at the funeral of the slain duo in their native villages. Local sources said that soon after the news about the killing of two militants spread early morning, people from adjoining and far off places braving cold and frosty weather marched towards their native villages to attend their funeral prayers.
Witnesses said that in Safnagri village, five rounds of funeral prayers were held for the army man turned militant to accommodate the huge rush of mourners while as for his another associate three rounds of funeral prayers were offered. Laters funeral gathering, according to local sources was also addressed by Hurriyat (G) chairman, Syed Ali Geelani over telephone.
Source: Greater Kashmir


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New Delhi’s interest in Hasina’s re-election

Nava Thakuria in Guwahati

As the  neighboring  Bangladesh approaches general (national) elections by next few weeks, India can witness more political drama, confusion and chaos broken out from the populous nation. The ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL)  led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expects another term in Dhaka, but the opposition parties are somehow organized this time to challenge the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Full Story

Nava Thakuria in Guwahati

As the  neighboring  Bangladesh approaches general (national) elections by next few weeks, India can witness more political drama, confusion and chaos broken out from the populous nation. The ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL)  led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expects another term in Dhaka, but the opposition parties are somehow organized this time to challenge the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Hasina's party won the last national political battle in 2014 with little troubles as the main opposition party led by Begum Khaleda Zia boycotted the polls. Majority of AL  nominees were elected unopposed to the 350 member-house. But this time, even though the former Premier Begum Zia has been put behind bars saince  February  under corruption charges, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has decided to join the polls with some other like-minded parties under the banner of Jatiya Oikya Front  (national united front).
The next national elections must be conducted before 28 January 2019 and the opposition parties are demanding to dissolve the Parliament.  In absence of an upper house, the country preferred a neutral election-time (caretaker) government  to run various essential affairs, but the ruling AL has already rejected the demand. Ms Hasina only assured that the election commission  would be given appropriate power to conduct the polls in a free and fair manner.
Bangladesh  government has already stepped up its all round initiatives for a peaceful polls and its law enforcement agencies are also put on high alert to prevent any untoward incidents in the coming days. The government agencies suspect that few elements in opposition camp, terrorists, underworld criminals and anti-liberation forces may create troubles in the country during the election. Meanwhile, special drives were conducted across the country to seize the illegal arms by the concerned authorities.
Speaking to this writer from Dhaka last week, a well-known  journalist and political commentator disclosed that there are some confusions arising after continued detention of Begum Zia and few other activists, but the polls must happen by end of the second term of Ms Hasina as their Premier. The people are very enthusiastic to cast their votes, he added.
He however  admitted that the recent rise of Islamist extremism has been posing a serious threat to his Muslim majority country along with its neighbouring Indian states like West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. He narrated how secularist bloggers and LGBT activists are increasingly becoming the target of radicalised Muslims forces there.
He also expressed concern over the new Digital Security Act 2018, which has already come under fire from journalists, including editors, rights defenders and anti-corruption advocates.  International rights watchdogs have condemned the draconian law, which looks to criminalise freedom of press, speech and expression in that country.
Claiming that no visiting Indian political leader had ever spoken about illegal Bangladeshi migrants during parleys with their Bangladeshi counterparts, he pointed out that for the people of Bangladesh the issue of the National Register of Citizens updation in Assam remains an internal affair of India.
Though Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee made a hue and cry about the Assam NRC draft, Bangladeshi politicians and the civil society are still reluctant to comment on the sensitive matter. Even Dhaka-based media outlets had little coverage about the process and its larger implications,.
For New Delhi's interest Ms Hasina's re-election  may be an expected outcome, as the lady has made her commitment to make Bangladesh free from cross-border terrorism. Because of Dhaka's relentless crackdown on terrorism, the northeastern militants had fled the country and many of the separatist leaders were pushed back into India. Only fugitive on the run is Paresh Barua (top leader of United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent), who also faces death penalty in the Bangladesh court.
There are more reasons for  India to support the continuation of Ms Hasina's regime in Dhaka and both the countries had reached a steady bilateral relationship after many decades of diplomatic hiccups. Both New Delhi and Dhaka now regularly share common issues in an atmosphere of confidence and friendship.
The mutual trust has been further heightened after resolving half-a-century- old border demarcation disputes. Duty-free trade, joint venture infrastructure projects, commerce, tourism, visa regime, communication through road, rail, river and air were a few areas of discussion between both nations. The talks on sharing of water from 56 international rivers are still  in progress.
Celebrated exiled Bangladesh author Taslima Nasreen, while expressing anguishes over recent arrests of  many distinguished personalities under the digital security laws, made it clear that she still prefers Ms Hasina over Begum Zia (allied with Jamaat-e-Islami) to rule her country. However she admitted that the faith and respect many progressive individuals across the globe had for Hasina is slowly dwindling.


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In a first, two Muslim women get elected in US Congress

Online Agencies

Two  women, Ilhan Omar, 37, a onetime Somali refugee and Rashida Tlaib, 42 , the  daughter of Palestinian immigrants- became the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress on Tuesday.
Both  Democrats from the Midwest and outspoken advocates of minority communities have found themselves in the sights of US President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

Full Story

Online Agencies

Two  women, Ilhan Omar, 37, a onetime Somali refugee and Rashida Tlaib, 42 , the  daughter of Palestinian immigrants- became the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress on Tuesday.
Both  Democrats from the Midwest and outspoken advocates of minority communities have found themselves in the sights of US President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

Omar won a House seat in a strongly Democratic district in Minneapolis, Minnesota, succeeding Keith Ellison who was himself the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.
Tlaib’s victory was no surprise. She ran unopposed in a congressional district that stretches from Detroit to Dearborn, Michigan.
Their stories trace a similar trail-blazing rise through local politics.

Ilhan Omar
“I’m Muslim and black,” the hijab-wearing Omar said in a recent magazine interview.
“I decided to run because I was one of many people I knew who really wanted to demonstrate what representative democracies are supposed to be,” she said.
Omar fled Somalia’s civil war with her parents at the age of eight and spent four years at a refugee camp in Kenya.
Her family settled in Minnesota in 1997, where there is a sizable Somali population.
She won a seat in the state’s legislature in 2016, becoming the first Somali-American lawmaker in the country.
Before that, she had worked as a community organizer, a policy wonk for city leaders in Minneapolis, and as a leader in her local chapter of the NAACP — the African-American civil rights group.
She decided to run for Congress after Ellison, who is also black, decided to give up his seat after 12 years in Congress to run for attorney general of Minnesota.
Omar has forged a progressive political identity. She supports free college education, housing for all, and criminal justice reform.
She opposes Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, supports a universal health care system, and wants to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has conducted deportation raids.
Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib is the Detroit-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants — the eldest of 14 children.
A fighter who once heckled US President Donald Trump during a 2016 campaign stop in Detroit, she says she didn’t run to make history as Muslim.
“I ran because of injustices and because of my boys, who are questioning their (Muslim) identity and whether they belong,” Tlaib said in an US television interview in August.
“I’ve never been one to stand on the sidelines.”
Like Omar, she blazed a trail through Michigan politics, becoming the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature in 2008.
In August, she emerged as the winner of a Democratic primary for a seat vacated by John Conyers, a long-time liberal lion who stepped down in December amid sexual harassment allegations and failing health.
With no Republican challenger in the race, Tlaib’s election on Tuesday became a formality.
The seat she won is in a predominantly African-American congressional district with few Muslim voters.
She says her constituents were attracted to her progressive politics, which are the polar opposite of Republicans.
Tlaib has advocated for universal health care, a USD 15 national minimum wage, union protections, and tuition-free college education.
She also has been mindful of the historic nature of her candidacy.
During her tearful primary election victory speech in August, with her immigrant mother by her side, she said relatives in the West Bank were watching her success.
“It just shows how incredibly wonderful our country can be,” she said.


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Khashoggi’s murder: the beginning of the Greater Middle East Project

Roohullah Ghasemian

It’s not the first time that the Al-Saud regime brutally treats opponents, but it is the first that Western countries react to its hostility. The West generally hides and rejects anti-humanitarian measures because of their dependence on Saudi’s oil, or the sale of billions of weapons or generous suggestions made by the ruling regime.
However, the review of the European approach to prohibiting the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, or the ban of the Saudi investment conference by the world’s major corporations, and even Trump’s double standard remarks in this regard, and the stress on the immediate ceasefire in Yemen, all indicate that a new development is in process.

Full Story

Roohullah Ghasemian

It’s not the first time that the Al-Saud regime brutally treats opponents, but it is the first that Western countries react to its hostility. The West generally hides and rejects anti-humanitarian measures because of their dependence on Saudi’s oil, or the sale of billions of weapons or generous suggestions made by the ruling regime.
However, the review of the European approach to prohibiting the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, or the ban of the Saudi investment conference by the world’s major corporations, and even Trump’s double standard remarks in this regard, and the stress on the immediate ceasefire in Yemen, all indicate that a new development is in process.

In fact, neither oil nor the market of Saudi Arabia seems to attract the Western countries any longer, as Khashoggi’s case has provided the necessary pretext for Europe to end alliance with one of the most reactionary and primitive states in the world.
Various analyses have been made on the future of US-Saudi relations. Some believe that the only reason behind the US backing of the Saudi government is the issue of oil and energy security for the world’s largest economy.
Meanwhile, with the US self-sufficiency in oil production, there is virtually no reason for Washington to support Saudi Arabia, and Trump’s remarks on the requirement for the Saudi side to pay for their security costs precisely means that they should not exceed the credibility and interests of the United States for such an alliance.
Referring to the Greater Middle East Project and the need to break up the powers of the region into smaller increments, the experts believe that the US should provide the necessary ground for the balkanization of the region immediately by cutting back from Saudi Arabia.
Interestingly, in most scenarios drawn by Western think tanks for the West Asian future, the Mid-East, along with China and Russia, must be submerged in insecurity and civil wars, ultimately from the ashes of warfare to consolidate the global empire and realization, providing a new order for the country as well as ensuring Israel’s security. Interestingly, the emergence of ISIL, whether willingly or unwillingly, served the greatest part in the realization of the US scenario.
According to the plan, all countries in the region should be split into smaller states based on languages, ethnic, religious, and racial divisions, and without any exception.
Therefore, although the use of Saudi leverage to curb Iran’s power in the region is necessary, eventually this regime, like Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan and other countries in the region, must be broken up subtly, with the formation of small, bankrupt and weak states, Israel will become the most powerful actor in the West Asian region.
Source: Mehr News Agency


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