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Songs of freedom ring hollow amid constant rights violations

Shahid Islam

Bravo the nation that can earn freedom and preserve it. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds,” so sang Bob Marley in his epic ‘songs of freedom’ release.
Alas, that seems not the case in Bangladesh where fundamental human rights of the citizens are constantly under threat, and, the state is either unable, or unwilling to redress the situation. Nor the citizens dare to say a word about it. Let’s call it ‘sustained suffocation.’

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Shahid Islam

Bravo the nation that can earn freedom and preserve it. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds,” so sang Bob Marley in his epic ‘songs of freedom’ release.
Alas, that seems not the case in Bangladesh where fundamental human rights of the citizens are constantly under threat, and, the state is either unable, or unwilling to redress the situation. Nor the citizens dare to say a word about it. Let’s call it ‘sustained suffocation.’

Relic of French revolution
This scary situation reminds one of the French revolution and the concomitant reign of terror that had turned Robespierre – an otherwise firm believer in defending the principle that the ‘rights of man should extend to all men’ — into a tyrant amidst rapid deterioration of the French political situation between 1789 and 1792, and, the failure of the French nation to set up a workable constitutional monarchy under Louis XVI.
In Bangladesh, who to be blamed for the ongoing grievous lapses in ensuring rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of the citizenry is a question that finds an answer, one may plausibly think, in knowing who is the most powerful person in the country. Yet, that could be misleading. For, like the revolutionary French, Bangladesh today is under the grip of enemies without and saboteurs within. No wonder precious little is known who does the wrong things, why, when, and for what cause.

Slight to martyrs’ dreams
We do not label these incidents as reign of terror, not as yet. But these chilling lapses in public safety are grievous affronts to the dreams of our martyrs whose illustrious sacrifices we remember and celebrate on every December 16th. Irony is: Forty-six years since those heroic sons and daughters of the soil sacrificed lives to gain freedom and ensure safety, liberty and happiness for all of us, hundreds of families are still passing sleepless nights, as did millions during the liberation war of 1971, when the Pakistani occupation forces kidnapped and killed in thousands, in similar gruesome manner.
The victory of 1971 hence degenerated, gradually but certainly, from a cause of celebration to a serious concern for how to preserve it. For the victory against the Pakistani tormentors aimed at creating a society free of such arbitrary, illegitimate, allegedly ‘state-sponsored’ abuses of fundamental human rights, which, forty-six years on, is still in motion, and, the random instances of rights violations are often either denied by the state, or justified under a variety of pretexts.
This is a slight, as well as a slap, to the dreams of those who laid down their lives to ensure that the posterity they’d left behind lives under the fog and the cloud of freedom and safety.

Rights groups’ observation
Such a bleak portrayal of the nation’s socio-political dynamics is neither polemical, nor devoid of profundity. In an 82-page report in July, the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced a detailed analysis of cases where individuals were picked up, often in front of witnesses or family members, by security forces who identified themselves as members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Detective Branch (DB), or the “administration.”
The report claimed: “Bangladesh’s law enforcement authorities have illegally arrested and detained hundreds of people in secret detention since 2013, adding that at least 90 people were victims of enforced disappearance last year alone, while 21 of the detainees were reportedly killed.”
The report further claimed: “When these people were not produced in court within 24 hours, as required under Bangladeshi law, family members repeatedly approached police and other officials, who denied the person was detained.”
More gruesome was the report’s post-fact- finding, that stated: “While many of these men were eventually produced in court, after a period of weeks or months of illegal detention, others were released with warnings to stay silent. Several were later found killed in so-called gunfights or “cross-fire,” and scores remain “disappeared.”
Within the country, the Ain O Shalishi Kendro (ASK), a renown rights watchdog, documented from authentic newspaper reports the incidents of 50 abductions between January to October 2017; of which two were found dead and left abandoned, seven released, and only three confirmed by RAB to have been arrested.
A tally of the ASK’s findings reveals, as many as 519 people have allegedly fallen victim to enforced disappearances between 2010 and July 2017, and, 329 of them were still missing.”

Global media’s concerns
Since the missing of former ambassador Maroof Zaman on December 4, global media once again turned its spotlight on Bangladesh, portraying the nation as the one where safety and security of even the elites are not ensured either.
Zaman, a former army captain and later ambassador to Qatar and Vietnam, drove toward Dhaka airport that day to pick up his daughter, only to find his car diverted on the way by gunmen. He remains missing, but police found his abandoned car in Khilkhet, about 3.7km away from the airport. Is he alive, or already killed? No one knows.
The Al Jazeera reported: “Zaman’s apparent “disappearance” comes on the heels of some similar prominent incidents in the last four months, including that of Mubashar Hasan, a North South University (NSU) teacher, who has been missing since November 7.”

Probable cause(s) of abduction
Various reports claimed: “Academic Hasan sometimes wrote articles on militancy and political Islam in Bangladesh.” On Zaman’s latest activism, the Al Jazeera report said: “Maroof occasionally shared posts critical of the Awami League-led government of Sheikh Hasina on social media.”
The Al Jazeera report added: “Zaman was appointed ambassador under the rule of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the other major political party in Bangladesh, and an army-backed caretaker government, and was thought to be “anti-Awami League minded.” Fact is: He was absorbed into foreign service and served as a career diplomat.
According to the Dhaka Tribune newspaper, “14 people have disappeared in different parts of the capital in the past four months without a single ransom claim being made. In some cases, the kidnappers have shown an interest in the belongings of the people who went missing. The disappearances are different this time around in that the victims are mostly from middle-class, educated families and not members of any political parties.”
An investigation by this scribe discovered something quite chilling.  Most of these incidents, including the one involving poet Forhad Mazhar, were masterminded and executed by a group within that claims to be tied to the professional intelligence organs of the nation. In reality, they’re foreign agents working under disguised blessings of some ‘disgruntled’ elements within the law enforcement. They must be hunted and decommissioned sooner to pull our hard-earned freedom back from the brink.


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FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
CEC must initiate talks to reduce gap

Faruque Ahmed

Intricacies facing the next general election are on rise. As BNP and other opposition parties are calling for an election time government to make the polls free and fair suggesting it is important for their participation, Prime Minister’s latest remark reiterating her party’s stance is making compromise uncertain.
Meanwhile , the European Union in a statement last week stressed for an all inclusive election to be held in a free and fair manner.

Full Story

Faruque Ahmed

Intricacies facing the next general election are on rise. As BNP and other opposition parties are calling for an election time government to make the polls free and fair suggesting it is important for their participation, Prime Minister’s latest remark reiterating her party’s stance is making compromise uncertain.
Meanwhile , the European Union in a statement last week stressed for an all inclusive election to be held in a free and fair manner.

Prime Minister SDheikh hasina said on December 7 in the city that political parties in a multiparty democracy are required to take part in the polls from their own. It is their own decision; the government’s job is to hold the election.
Adding yet another dimension to the issue last week Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) K M Nurul Huda has said the Election Commission (EC) wants to see all political parties will be taking part in the election to make it inclusive, free, fair and acceptable to all. But in his view it is almost impossible unless some changes are made in the election system that looks after the election.
He laid out the contradictions at a meeting with members of law enforcement agencies saying responsibility for holding a free and fair election lies on the government. It is not possible for EC without cooperation from the government; which runs the election time administration.
However, the ruling 14-party alliance after a meeting last week hinted that there will a small size cabinet with PM Hasina and it would serve as election-time government.
Indeed it is a big paradox in our system to make election free and fair. This is because one who will hold the election has no power to hold it free and fair as he has no power and control over the field level administration; which maintains law and order during election.
On the other the one who holds the power to create the right environment is not willing to use the power to keep the election time environment free from violence to give voters the opportunity to cast their vote freely.
This is what constitutes the biggest challenge before the nation and particularly to the CEC who seems to have honestly raised the issues as one mandated to hold the election in which all parties will participate. The future peace and stability of the country largely depends on how peaceful and inclusive the next election will be.
The key to this question depends on if the government will agree to allow a neutral government to supervise election or some such other changes in the system. As of now the prospect is really gloomy.
People however don’t want to see a repeat of the January 2014 election in which the fair election environment was altogether missing because of shelving of the care taker government. The new constitutional arrangement allowed the Prime Minister and her cabinet to continue in power and parliament not being dissolved. It was openly focused on returning the incumbent Awami League government to power.
So the major opposition BNP and Jamaat did not participate that led to widespread street violence and blockade throughout the country. People died, property torched and the national economy suffered the worst, which is still struggling to overcome the impasse.
It is a story everybody knows and at least two former Election Commissions (EC) and the CECs in particular had to publicly align their position with the government election strategy to return it to power. They were not able to hold the election free and fair that severely diminished people’s trust in the EC and the entire election system.
Now that the present CEC somehow understands the intricacies that prohibit holding a free and fair election, people believe he should also invest time and strategy to find out ideas how he can make the election acceptable to all stakeholders and give voters the right environment to choose their candidates.
It is encouraging that he has admitted the shortfall and if it is not something empty just to create his own acceptability to opposition parties as many skeptics say, the CEC should at least initiate talks at national level now to fix the problem of election time government. AS head of the constitutional body he is in a position to open the talks.
This is very crucial given the existing mindset of the government. The Prime Minister’s remark is yet another reminder that the next election is quite vulnerable to face deadlock on election time government issue.
Nowhere in the world in parliamentary system of government, parliament is not dissolved that allow incumbent MPs, sarcastically ruling party MPs in our case to win next election from power. The Cabinet also resigns and it only functions on advise of the head of the state exercising limited power as a caretaker government for the period to supervise elections.
The nation saw a totally different situation in 2014 when 153 ruling party MPs from the outgoing parliament were declared elected in absence of contest from opposition parties. Others were similarly elected in a mock election without opposition.
So how the CEC will give the nation a free and fair election this time and how he will make the opposition parties feel ensured that the next election will be different from earlier two appears to be the biggest challenge.
Civil Society leaders on last Sunday gathered at a discussion in the city on how to make the next election free and fair in the backdrop of the Prime Minister’s remark. They laid emphasis on resolving the issue right now through consensus so that it does not emerge as the biggest crisis before election.
People believe political parties have only one way to represent the people and that is to go to voters and win their support in a free and fair election. Awami League as the biggest and popular party should not have leg dragging to face the people. This policy will only create distance with the people.
Corrupt and dishonest people will overtake the government machinery and run the nation towards wrong direction that is already doing the biggest damage to the nation. There must be a change of the outlook.
People are at least happy that the CEC has realized the complexity of the issue and the need for a neutral election time government. So he should initiate the discussion with the government how best the system can be made acceptable to all. However it is not his job alone the nation must build bigger pressure to bring change to the system.


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VICTORY DAY
Patriotism is unwavering love of motherland

The Holiday desk

The nation celebrates tomorrow its 47th Victory Day (Bijoy Dibash) with exhilaration and enthusiasm. The people of Bangladesh gallantly fought the nine-month long War of Liberation, which found its complete success on 16 December 1971 when the enemy troops surrendered.

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The Holiday desk

The nation celebrates tomorrow its 47th Victory Day (Bijoy Dibash) with exhilaration and enthusiasm. The people of Bangladesh gallantly fought the nine-month long War of Liberation, which found its complete success on 16 December 1971 when the enemy troops surrendered.

For this much-aspired Victory millions including freedom fighters and general masses embraced martyrdom. This is why the Victory Day is so much precious to us.


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A communist win in Nepal elections is bad news for India

Abdur Rahman Khan

K P Oli, makes  a  comeback with  election victory

The final results of Nepal’s first parliamentary elections held since 1999 are expected in a  week.  But on Saturday, the country’s election commission announced that a coalition of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre had won more than three-fourths of the seats in the federal assembly. This is no  good news for India, which has long exerted an influence on the mountain-country’s politics and economy. The Left coalition, which will now take office, is likely to lean far more towards China than the incumbent Nepali Congress, the grand old party of Nepali politics.

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Abdur Rahman Khan

K P Oli, makes  a  comeback with  election victory

The final results of Nepal’s first parliamentary elections held since 1999 are expected in a  week.  But on Saturday, the country’s election commission announced that a coalition of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre had won more than three-fourths of the seats in the federal assembly. This is no  good news for India, which has long exerted an influence on the mountain-country’s politics and economy. The Left coalition, which will now take office, is likely to lean far more towards China than the incumbent Nepali Congress, the grand old party of Nepali politics.

The  Communist alliance swept to power in elections to the federal and provincial Parliament after winning 110 seats, bringing moderate Left leader K P Oli back to power as the republic’s new Prime Minister.  However, India refrained  from a quick reaction  to the Himalayan political earthquake.
Oli’s United Marxist Leninist (UML) party had won 76 seats, and was leading in five seats, in a federal Parliament of 275 members (165 from direct contests and 110 from proportional representation). The Maoists won 34 seats and were leading in two.
The Nepali Congress won only 21 seats.
Oli’s return can be seen as a loss of face for India’s Nepal policy, as New Delhi had sought to bring Madhesis into the mainstream by unofficially supporting a six-month blockade of the Terai region. Oli led the protest against the Indian blockade — and against the Madhesis. He used the card of Indian interference in its sovereignty to move away from India —and towards China.
In 2006, with the end of the Nepalese civil war between the government and Maoists opposed to the constitutional monarchy, India took a commanding role in events in the Himalayan state. In 2015, it was first off the block in helping Nepal recover from a devastating earthquake that left close to 9,000 people dead. A year before that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a much-publicised trip to Nepal.
But the India-Nepal relationship hit a hurdle in September 2015 when Kathmandu announced a new Constitution that gave less than adequate powers to ethnic groups such as the Madhesis in the country’s Terai region. The Madhesis speak Maithili, Bajika and Bhojpuri and share close ties with Matihili, Bajika and Bhojpuri groups across the border in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In response, a Madhesi border blockade stopped all essential supplies from India from reaching the hills of Nepal – a pressure tactic reportedly supported by New Delhi. The five-month blockade had a devastating effect on Nepal, which depends on India for almost all of its supplies. The country experienced severe shortages of petrol, medicines and even food.
On the eve of this election, India made a decision to stop the turning tide, and when Oli and Prachanda got together in a power-sharing agreement, the writing on the wall was clear: the Nepali Congress and the Madhesi parties would have to wait to fight another day.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much lauded foreign policy of “neighbourhood first” seems to have literally hit the Great Wall of China.

China card
Angered by India’s big brother stance, Nepal looked to China to balance New Delhi’s immense power over Kathmandu. In 2016, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli travelled to China and signed a transit agreement. This would give Nepal access to Chinese ports and connect the countries by rail. The two sides also discussed the possibility of China selling petroleum to Nepal – which, if achieved, would greatly reduce New Delhi’s leverage over Kathmandu.
This year, Nepal signed on to Beijing’s One Belt, One Road plan – an ambitious project to connect the Eurasian landmass with China at its engine. The agreement would further cement Nepal-China communication links. In August, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang visited Nepal, making sure to visit leaders from the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre. China even played up its Buddhist links with Nepal, countering New Delhi’s Hindu card.
Oli’s use of the China card worked. The Modi government stepped back from its support of the Madhesis, encouraging them instead to take part in the elections.
The Madhesis’ participation in the polls is a big boost for Nepal. The country saw years of civil war and turmoil that ended just a little over a decade ago. Its new republican Constitution moves Nepal away from a unitary system to a federal state – even if the minorities in the Terai still feel short-changed in the new system. In a throwback to India’s own tumultuous decade of state formation in the 1940s, the largest Madhesi party, the Rastriya Janata Party, has called Nepal a multi-nation polity in its elections manifesto, inviting charges of separatism from Nepal’s hill elite.

Left out
The Left’s big win would in all probability mean that KP Oli will become prime minister. This is bad news for India. Oli had reached out to China in 2016. The 2017 campaign also saw Oli call for Chinese investment in Nepal. In November, the ruling Nepali Congress scrapped a major Chinese hydropower project that the Communist alliance has promised to bring back if it comes to power.
The sudden uptick in China’s fortunes in Nepal mirrors Maldives, where China-backed Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had defeated the candidate supported by India in the 2013 presidential elections, sharply reducing New Delhi’s influence in the country.
China has also developed close links with Sri Lanka, which has joined the One Belt, One Road plan. Another close Indian ally, Bangladesh, has signed on to the project as well. In response to India’s $2-billion credit line to Bangladesh, China offered it $24 billion in credit in 2016, making it the country’s biggest foreign credit line. China also sold Dhaka its first two submarines in 2017.
India and China are seeing a contest even in Bhutan, which is currently practically under Indian military protection and does not have formal diplomatic relations with China.


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Rohingyas  trapped in Cob-web of dirty politics

Badrul Islam

The Rohingya crisis reflects intention of the Myanmar government to forcibly oust the Muslims from Rakhine State. The brutal attack on unarmed civilians and placing of landmines along its border by Military in coordination with Border Guard Police and armed Rakhine Buddhists is the proof. Coastal area in Rakhine state is clearly of strategic importance to both China (0ne Belt 0ne Road Policy) and India (Look East Policy).Myanmar government has vested interest  in clearing land for development projects  that brings oil and gas revenues, transit fees, employment for its citizen- that boost economic growth. In such situations human costs are terribly high.

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Badrul Islam

The Rohingya crisis reflects intention of the Myanmar government to forcibly oust the Muslims from Rakhine State. The brutal attack on unarmed civilians and placing of landmines along its border by Military in coordination with Border Guard Police and armed Rakhine Buddhists is the proof. Coastal area in Rakhine state is clearly of strategic importance to both China (0ne Belt 0ne Road Policy) and India (Look East Policy).Myanmar government has vested interest  in clearing land for development projects  that brings oil and gas revenues, transit fees, employment for its citizen- that boost economic growth. In such situations human costs are terribly high.

Myanmar Military and its elected, State Counsellor denies the mayhem but Amnesty International Director says “Given their ongoing denials Myanmar authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on massive scale. But modern technology coupled with rigorous human rights research have tipped the scale against them”. BBC’s South East Asia correspondent on a government organised media trip  says “0n September 7,2017, at Alel Than Kyaw, we heard automatic weapons fire at in distant and saw four large columns of of smoke indicating villages burned. Rohingya village at Gaw Du Thar Ya,was being set alight by Rakhine Buddhist men in front of armed police.” Both these statements confirms that “huge iceberg of misinformation” come from Myanmar itself.
Myanmar has a military dominated government, wherein, only the Bamar Buddhist group, forms the government, the police and army. In the Parliament the Military has 25% reserved seats. None from the 135 recognised ethnic groups are represented in any of these positions. The present elected representatives, including Aung San Suu Kyi, role is to play second fiddle to the Military regime.

The Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar(2008),The Land Acquisition Act(1894),The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Act(2012), Economic Zone Law(2011), Farm Act(2012 and The Foreign Investment(2012) gives the government the full authority to (A) adopt “Burmanisation”,( implemented since military junta came to power in 1962) and (B) to protect, control and utilize the country’s natural resources. Thus “Burmanisation” and inability to find a formula for sharing the country’s natural resources between Bamar Buddhists majority and 135 Ethnic groups became the main reason for conflict between them. However, as  they are not Muslims, they are not affected by the Citizen Law of 1982. They retain their Citizenship, but since the assassination of late Gen Aung San voided the Panglong agreement (1947), conflicts with government continued to bedevil the country.
Rohingyas, not part of 135 Ethnic group, but as they are Muslims, are eyed with suspicion, and since  Gen Ne Win’s junta rule(1962) it became a part of the national policy, to plan their living in squalid ghettos and apartheid conditions with severe restrictions on movement, family life, employment, healthcare and education for their children .Discriminated and persecuted, they also became victim of religious hatred led by Ashin Wirathu, branded by Time Magazine as “Face of Buddhist Terror”, is leader of 969 Movement and Ma Ba Tha. Wikepedia reports, in 2012 Ashin led a rally of monks to promote President Thein Sein’s controversial plan to send Rohingya Muslims to third countries. His 969 movement is related to boycott of Muslim owned business. Additionally he has been vocal in  citing examples of neighboring countries(Indonesia and Philippines)that Muslims will overtake,dominate and get rid of Buddhists- though there is no such concrete proof specially when demography confirms that Muslims are 4% while Bamar Buddhists are  over 89%.To “add salt to their wound,” the Citizen Law of 1982, robs them of their Citizenship and right to vote.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and United Nations Satellite Application Program have captured the images and shared it with international Media(print and electronics),international organizations and international community that prompted action by United Nations Secretary General, UN Security Council, Heads of  different UN Agencies and its Special Rapporteurs, European Union, US State Department officials, and 27 eminent personalities that includes 12 Nobel Laureates. Their coordinated efforts brought the following positive results:(A)quick supply from different countries of food, essential medicines and vaccinations, emergency shelter, blankets, other essentials, to immediately rehabilitate the Rohingya Refugees;(B) the pledging by Donor countries of US$434 million for continued relief programmes for Rohingyas and support to host communities in Bangladesh; (C) condemnation of Myanmar Military’s  excessive force and urging them to stop  further violence; (D) urging Myanmar government to take steps to implement the Kofi Annan Commission Report so than an environment is created to rehabilitate the repatriated Rohingyas from Bangladesh under UN Supervision; (E) to allow a UN Fact Finding Team to visit Rakhine state.
The Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh has received accolades from,United Nations and leaders of the world for accommodating the victimised Rohingyas, and in her speech, at the 72nd UN General Assembly, she said “0ur humanity compels us to stand by them”. She placed her proposals for solutions to the crisis ,the most significant being, implementation of Kofi Anan Commission Report and creating a “Safe Zone” in Rakhine State.
However,”Safe Zone”, similar to one made at Srebrenica (Bosnia’s eastern border with Serbia) by UN and defended by UN Peacekeeping Force, or  the recently signed agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh for repatriation, will not solve the crisis or confirm repatriation, because Military and Bamar Buddhists still vehemently hate the Muslims; and this attitude must change. The First priority of Military Junta and the State Counsellor, is to take lessons from Singapore, which is predominantly ethnic Chinese.The new president elect is from minority Malay. After being sworn in, Ms Halima Yacob in her speech said “Although this is a reserved election, I am not a reserved president. I am a president for everyone regardless of race, language, religion or creed. I represent everyone”. Myanmar must have this spirit.
Secondly, U KO NI, constitutional expert and legal adviser of  State Counselor, had initiated a dialogue with the Military for some amendments to the constitution that would clip some powers of the Tatmadaw and help Rohingya to get citizenship. Unfortunately he was shot and killed at the Yangon airport. But the government can still discuss with the authorities of USA, UK, Germany ,Canada, Australia and Sweden as to how their constitution have accommodated, both, democracy and  immigrants in their country. Suu Kyi had studied in UK and lived long enough to see how immigrants have  merged with British citizen, have a secured life and contributes towards national development.
Now Aung San Suu Kyi, should be  to reminded   of some lines from her Noble Lecture, that she delivered in 2012 “For me receiving the Noble Peace Prize means personally extending my concern for democracy and human rights.....War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever sufferings are ignored there will be seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.”
There are 646,000(and more are still fleeing) Rohingya Muslims, who fled from Myanmar because of atrocities by your military, and they are terribly suffering in different refugee camps in Bangladesh. What can you as Noble Laureate do to alleviate their sufferings? Will the Myanmar government act positively to solve this humanitarian crisis? The world is waiting to see.

Badrul Islam is a Freelancer and Political Analyst. He previously worked for Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and United Nations Agencies in Bangladesh, Somalia and Uganda. He can be reached at bislam66@gmail.com


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The playing fields

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin

The electoral battles of India are fought on the playing fields of Pakistan. Once again, this time in the state elections of Gujarat, the dog-eared Pakistani card is being played to reincarnate Indian nationalism. It was not so long ago, during the Assam state elections, the Assamese were being warned of a threat from Pakistan, a distant enemy located over 2,000 kilometres away. Now it is western Gujarat’s turn to be similarly intimidated.

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Fakir Syed Aijazuddin

The electoral battles of India are fought on the playing fields of Pakistan. Once again, this time in the state elections of Gujarat, the dog-eared Pakistani card is being played to reincarnate Indian nationalism. It was not so long ago, during the Assam state elections, the Assamese were being warned of a threat from Pakistan, a distant enemy located over 2,000 kilometres away. Now it is western Gujarat’s turn to be similarly intimidated.

To PM Narendra Modi, Pakistan is the equivalent of President Donald Trump’s numerous demons – North Korea, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Cuba, Mexico, and the Democrat party - all rolled into one. Trump may be afflicted by many headaches; Modi has only one - a migraine called Pakistan. He has tried numerous remedies, from bombastic rhetoric to boastful retaliation. He is now veering towards a more potent prescription.
To sane Pakistanis and Indians, the recent deterioration in Indo-Pak relations is a cause for genuine concern.  It issliding from the inconceivable towards the inevitable. Indian Muslims – whether Bollywood superstars like Shahrukh Khan or poets like Javed Akhtar – have become inured to the all-too frequent tests of their patriotism. Indian Sikhs have buried their dreams of Khalistan so deep that the murmur of its slogans will never again be heard. It is now the turn of Indian Hindus. They are being called upon to abjure any contact with Pakistan to prove their Indian-ness.  
Since August 1947, three prominent Indians have worn the hair-shirt of Indo-Pakistan amity. Khushwant Singh believed in it to his dying day; he is dead. Kuldip Nayyar arched himself into a bridge to span the chasm; he is wise but wizened. Mani Shankar Aiyar has repeatedly risked his reputation to assert that the Indo-Pak bottle is half-full, not half empty; the other day, unfortunately, he slipped on his own tongue.
Until a week ago, the BJP regarded Mani Aiyar with a mixture of fear streaked with disdain.  He uttered criticisms about its leadership that the Congress high command preferred to hear but not mouth.  His friendship with the late Rahul Gandhi and then Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s reliance on his judgment and experience were his armour.  He knew Pakistan better than almost any other Indian (outside RAW). He wrote perceptive books and informative articles on Pakistan.  He expressed himself lucidly and persuasively at think-tanks whenever he detected the need to agitate the swill of stale verbiage.  When in Pakistan he spoke as a loyal Indian, and in India, he spoke as any intelligent outspoken Pakistani would do – given a visa.
On 6th December, Mr Aiyar hosted a dinner in his New Delhi home for the visiting ex-Foreign Minister of Pakistan Mian Khurshid Kasuri, a fellow Oxonian. It was the sort of high-brow gathering where everyone speaks and no-one listens.  The next morning, Aiyar and Kasuri shared a common platform to discuss Indo-Pak relations. Carelessly, Mr Aiyar referred to Mr Modi as a ‘neech aadmi’.  That did it. The BJP emptied its barrels at Mr Aiyar. He stayed on his feet, but was felled when his own protégé Rahul Gandhi (now Congress chief) ordered him to apologise to PM Modi. A second arrow shot into Aiyar’s other heel: he was suspended from his party’s membership.
For Mr Modi, an apology by Mr Aiyar was not enough. PM Modi has gone further. He has given credence to a tweet (withdrawn immediately after being posted) by a retired senior Pakistani ex-serviceman suggesting that Mr Ahmed Patel should be Gujarat’s next Chief Minister. Modi called it ‘a matter of concern’, even though he knew that an obviously under-employed ex-serviceman could hardly ensure Mr Patel’s selection, no more than Trump’s could induce the British government to appoint his controversial friend Nigel Farage as UK’s ambassador to Washington.
Then, Mr Modi threw in a scorpion of suspicion. He claimed that the dinner given by Mr Aiyar for Mr Kasuri was a conspiracy to subvert the elections in Gujarat, even when those present were prominent Indians: ‘former Army chief Deepak Kapoor, former foreign minister K Natwar Singh, former diplomats Salman Haidar, TCA Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal, K Shankar Bajpai and Chinmaya Gharekhan, former PM Manmohan Singh and former vice-president Hamid Ansari.’  Do Guy Fawkes conspirators really meet with such a laughable lack of caution?  Mr Aiyar should take comfort from Lord Halifax’s observation (in a slightly different context) that ‘the best party is but a conspiracy against the rest of the nation.’
For Pakistan, Mr Modi’s more sinister accusation is that his predecessor Manmohan Singh had wantonly ignored the advice of his specialists to order a surgical strike after the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Manmohan Singh’s caution had deep roots, for didn’t the ancient Roman poet Horace warn us that ‘force without wisdom falls of its own weight’?
fsaijazuddin2@gmail.com


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Pakistan paying the price of chaos

Holiday Report

The latest victims of the Pakistani Taliban were teenagers who feared for their lives as they fled from the jihadists attacking their agricultural research institute in Peshawar.
“We took shelter inside the bedroom and were begging the injured student not to make any sound as the terrorists might hear it and kill us,” Noor Wali, a 19-year-old student at the institute, told Sky News.
The Dec. 1 attack, claimed 12 lives and injured 35 others, was the third on an education institution in northwest Pakistan in recent years, the Associated Press reported.

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Holiday Report

The latest victims of the Pakistani Taliban were teenagers who feared for their lives as they fled from the jihadists attacking their agricultural research institute in Peshawar.
“We took shelter inside the bedroom and were begging the injured student not to make any sound as the terrorists might hear it and kill us,” Noor Wali, a 19-year-old student at the institute, told Sky News.
The Dec. 1 attack, claimed 12 lives and injured 35 others, was the third on an education institution in northwest Pakistan in recent years, the Associated Press reported.

Some say it’s indicative of how Pakistan has been spinning out of control lately, not least because of tensions over religion.
Those observers point to protests that brought the capital and other major cities to a standstill for three weeks recently as hardline Pakistani Islamists convinced the country’s law minister to resign over his plan to allow lawmakers to make a simple declaration rather than swear a religious oath, reported Reuters.
He was accused of blasphemy.
Meanwhile, clashes between the police and demonstrators in Islamabad on Nov. 25 resulted in seven deaths and 200 wounded. Eventually, the army moved in.
The chaos exposed the fault lines between religious and civil authorities in Pakistan.
In a sign of the balance of power between the two, a Pakistani court recently ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, the suspected architect of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India. The court said Indian authorities had insufficient evidence to keep him under house arrest. The decision was sure to alienate the US.
Recent events have raisedserious questions about the stability of the government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, brought in to bring peace to Pakistan’s politics when he took over in July. He replaced former leader Nawaz Sharif after the Supreme Court ousted him in connection with a corruption scandal over his assets that arose from the Panama Papers revelations about offshore wealth.
As Bloomberg reported, Sharif could not explain how his family purchased expensive apartments in London on his public servant’s salary. Abbasi and Sharif are both from the same ruling political party.
More importantly, the protests and the attacks have raised questions over the government’s attempt to rein in religious hardliners and defeat extremists.
It’s a battle Pakistani authorities are losing, says the Washington Post.
And as political campaigns kick off for elections next year, it’s anyone’s guess how much more chaotic – and violent – things will become. But one thing is clear: the hardliners are growing in power, and it’s likely they will become a real force in the next vote, and possibly in government afterward.


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German politicians condemn anti-Israel protest as “anti-Semitism”

Dr Ludwig Watzal

President Trump’s unilateral decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earned him worldwide criticism and condemnation, except for Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called charm offensive in Brussels, where he wanted to convince the EU to follow Trump’s example, was shunt by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, saying that “this move will not come.” She stressed the support of the EU for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

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Dr Ludwig Watzal

President Trump’s unilateral decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earned him worldwide criticism and condemnation, except for Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called charm offensive in Brussels, where he wanted to convince the EU to follow Trump’s example, was shunt by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, saying that “this move will not come.” She stressed the support of the EU for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

By the way, Netanyahu was not invited by the EU but asked himself to read the EU the riot act. Instead of kicking him out, the EU representatives endured him and became prominent and firm after he left the stage. Community, which tries to act as a global player, would have shown such a political rascal the door. Instead, they got insulting by Netanyahu and took it with a smile.
There have been widespread demonstrations all across the Muslim world, especially in occupied Palestine. Demonstrators also went into the streets in Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, Sweden, and Berlin, protesting before US Embassies calling anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans.
Turkish President Erdogan uttered harsh criticism about Trump’s decision and Israel in particular, calling Israel a “terrorist state” and a “killer of children” slamming the Zionist regime as an “oppressive, occupation state.” And the US is a “partner in bloodshed” in the Middle East, so said Erdogan. At a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Lebanon’s foreign minister Gebran Bassil, a Maronite Christian, called for sanctions against the US.
In Berlin, two thousand demonstrators gathered at the Brandenburg Gate close to the US Embassy, shouting anti-Israeli slogans and burning a self-made Israeli flag. This childish symbolism originated out of frustration, anger, lack of power and despair, created a hype among German politicians who branded it an act of “anti-Semitism.” One can ask why the demonstrators didn’t burn the American flag too, which would have made much more sense. The burning of flags is not a crime and falls under the right to demonstrate, as long as it’s not attached to a foreign embassy, which isconsidered a crime in Germany.
What criticism of Israel’s criminal behavior is concerned, the exercise of freedom of speech is in great danger. Among German politicians and the fawning media, the anti-Semitism-club is always at hand to make critics silence or stigmatize any Israel critics as “anti-Semites.” It still works, although we are living in the 21st century and not in the Middle Ages. With reference to Karl Marx one can say; a ghost is going around in Germany, the specter of anti-Semitism!
Unanimously, the German political class condemned the burning of the Israeli flag as a form of “anti-Semitism and xenophobia”, how Chancellor Merkel called it. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière stated: “We don’t accept it when Jews or the state of Israel are disgraced in this way.” He continued saying: Germany is “bound in a special way to the state of Israel and people of Jewish belief.” And Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that despite understandable criticism of Trump’s decision, “there is no right and also no justification to burn Israeli flags, incite hatred against Jews or question the right of Israel to exist.” Not enough of this political nonsense, Gabriel claimed that such acts do not only oppose Israel but also “the constitutional order of Germany.” None of the demonstrators denied Israel’s right to exists and nobody called the “constitutional order” into question, Mr. Gabriel. Perhaps the Foreign Minister doesn’t understand democracy.
Justice and “Censorship” Minister Heiko Maas was in on it declaring “Every form of anti-Semitism is an attack against us. There is no place for any anti-Semitism.” Rightly so, but there has been no anti-Semitism at the Berlin rally only criticism against the Israeli occupier and its ally the US. Jens Spahn, a politician from Merkel’s CDU, wrote on Twitter: “We have been looking at imported anti-Semitism for too long out of the misreading of misunderstood tolerance.” One could continue this kind of political rhetoric on pages without any gain of knowledge.
The President of the Central Council of Jews in German, Josef Schuster, also added his two cents to it. According to him, the burning of the self-designed Israel flag was pure Anti-Semitism and a threat to Israel’s existence. Schuster never criticized Israel’s brutal occupation and the mistreatment of the Palestinian people. Not only the Central Council of Jews but also other Jewish functionaries are fighting tooth and nail against criticism of Israel. Even Jewish critics of Israel such as the editor-in-chief of the online magazine “the Semit,” Abraham Melzer, was slandered by the chairperson of the Jewish community in Munich, Charlotte Knobloch, as a “notorious anti-Semite.” A court in Munich has forbidden her this slander, but Knobloch appealed the judgment.
One tenor in many articles was a kind of anti-Semitism that came with the refugees from the Arab world, although it was stressed that there is a latent anti-Semitism in Germany of about 20 percent among the population. It comes to no one’s surprise that all the headlines linked the demonstrations to “Anti-Semitism.” On a regular basis, many of the anti-Semitic “scandals” are initiated by infamous Jewish journalists. Too often, the press jumps on their bandwagon and the slander of innocents take its course.
The reaction of the political class is pure hypocrisy and ingratiation to Israel. The politicians kept mum when Israel committed war crimes against the population of the Gaza Strip killing several thousand. No word against settlements, house demolitions, land theft, random killings, settler inflicted terror, demolitions of institutions financed by the EU et cetera. Across-the-board, the German political class has no empathy for the oppressed Palestinians but only for the Zionist oppressor.

Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn , Germany. He runs the bilingual blog between the lines. http://between-the-lines-ludwig-watzal.blogspot.de/


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Tajul Islam is no more

Holiday Desk

M. Tajul Islam, former director of the NGO Federation, has passed away at his Green Road residence in Dhaka at the age of 79. He breathed his last on 11 December, according to a press release.
He served for NGO Federation (FNB) from 2003 to 2017 as director. He was director of Public Affairs at BRAC from 1994 to 2003 and minister (press) at Embassy of Bangladesh, Belgium and Washington DC from 1987 to 1990.

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Holiday Desk

M. Tajul Islam, former director of the NGO Federation, has passed away at his Green Road residence in Dhaka at the age of 79. He breathed his last on 11 December, according to a press release.
He served for NGO Federation (FNB) from 2003 to 2017 as director. He was director of Public Affairs at BRAC from 1994 to 2003 and minister (press) at Embassy of Bangladesh, Belgium and Washington DC from 1987 to 1990.

He was also press secretary to the president during 1984-1987. He was also director of Public Affairs at Biman Bangladesh Airlines from 1979-84, Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1976 to1978 and Bangladesh Water Development Board from 1972 to1975.
He was also the newscaster and commentator of Bangladesh Television and newsreader of Bangladesh Betar and newspaper columnist.
He left behind a son and two daughters to mourn his death.


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