Despite the fact that there is no sign of a let-up in the inexorable wave of opposition blockades in all the large cities including even sleepy towns not worth mentioning where much to the pnicky people’s chagrin; the numbers of the dead and wounded in police firing as well as violent clashes are mounting, while charred wreckage of automobiles and derailed railway coaches are common sights resembling battlefields almost cutting off Dhaka city from the rest of the country --- senior Awami League leader Amir Hossain Amu finds the law and order satisfactory!
Emerging from an inter-ministerial meeting on law and order situation at the home ministry, new food and land minister Amu in his wisdom said on December 4 that the law and order situation was “improving at a very satisfactory pace. Communications between Dhaka and other districts have almost been restored. So, the election will take place on time.” The ostrich cannot escape from desert storm burying its head in the sand. To turn a blind eye to the ground reality like this --- which the ruling Awami
League chief Sheikh Hasina is doing now out of her irrational intransigence --- speaks of her sheer political myopia as the actual situation suggests.
Though the ongoing political violence has been taking a heavy toll, killing and injuring innocents, government high-ups said the overall law and order situation was improving significantly. At least 41 people have been killed and a hundred others injured since November 26 in the violence during hartals and blockades.
Echoing Amu’s claim, senior AL leader Tofail Ahmed, who also attended the meeting, said, “The law and order situation is improving rapidly though BNP tried and is trying to foil the upcoming national election by waging agitation.”
A source of the meeting said chiefs of police, Border Guard Bangladesh, Special Branch and other intelligence agencies had presented their reports on the prevailing political situation. They said that at least 1,041 points of around 3,000 kilometres of rail tracks across the country were vulnerable to attacks and over 61 upazilas were violence-prone areas.
Terming the BNP chief Khaleda Zia ‘Ashanti’ (meaning clash, conflict or discord) Begum, on 29 November the PM Hasina blamed the main opposition leader for the ongoing turmoil across the country resulting casualties and destruction, as reported in the popular Bengali daily Bangladesh Protidin, dated 30 November . Much the same way Hasina’s cohorts in the Awami League and her grand alliance leaders echoing the same tune. These are enormously confusing some people. Some even seem to ask, albeit vaguely, if the BNP and other 17 opposition parties are wreaking the havoc. Public memory may be short, but certain horrendous crimes are unforgettable --- such as the four years long violent movement of the then Awami League and Jamaat–e-Islami from 1992 until 1996 demanding Caretaker Government andthe ‘logi boitha’ (stick and oar) ferocity of October 2006 in which several young men were beaten to death at the Purana Paltan intersection by pro-Awami League goons. Who was then ‘Ashanti Begum’?
However, according to police, from making crude bombs to exploding them and arson, every “bomb package” costs from Taka 10 lakh to Taka 25 lakh which is done by a number of groups. They also manage to inform the media in the capital, revealed ‘Boma Rahman’, as reported in the daily Ittefaq on
November 14 last. So without resorting to blame game it will be correct to initiate a judicial enquiry committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
Over the past years the country has witnessed violence and fatalities during protest rallies and Hartal called by the main opposition BNP headed by Khaleda Zia and 17 other parties only because of the very ill-advised annulment by Sheikh Hasina of the universally accepted and praised unique Caretaker Government (CG) system. In its verdict on the CG issue, the Supreme Court said that two more parliamentary elections may be held under a caretaker government.
Let us recall what Gita Sarker, a victim of bomb attack, said the other day to PM Sheikh Hasina, “We do not go to Hasina nor do we know Khaleda. We do not want to see a diseased government.”
About a month ago Sheikh Hasina declared --- à la Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, her late lamented father --- that she did not like to continue as Prime Minister. If that statement was not a slip of the tongue, then why does not she resign? If she really does so, there will be complete calm and peace in Bangladesh.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Bigger than France, Turkey is a part of Europe and Asia and adjoins oil-rich Iran and sits astride the Dardanelles, through which the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet would have to pass.
Turkey has been a member of NATO to anchor down the Eastern end of the NATO defence line. Its strategic significance is immense to the US and allies.
Turkey acts as a bridge between oil and gas producing countries in the Caspian region and Middle East and Europe. Turkey, a country where energy needs are rapidly growing, has also become an important market. The main goal of energy strategy is to strengthen the transit role of the country on the axis of the East-West and North-South, as well as transform Turkey into the energy center of the region.
Turkey occupies an important place in several pipelines from the Caspian Sea in the field of oil and gas. BTCBaku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (Turkey) pipeline is of great importance from the point of view of global energy security. The pipeline ensures transportation of Azerbaijani oil along the route and since the opening of the pipeline in 2005, about 700 million barrels of oil have been transported.
Syrian conflict hurts Turkey
Before the revolts and revolutions of the Arab Spring, observers say Turkey used its economic clout and cultural influence, including from the soap operas that are wildly popular around the region, to expand its reach around the Middle East, even imagining a regional alliance along the lines of the European Union.
However the civil war in Syria has derailed its economic and political influence in the region. Furthermore Egypt’s military takeover has also laid bare the limits of Turkey’s so-called soft power. Also its idealism of leading a new Sunni alliance in the region has been given up.
While Turkey’s relation with military controlled regime of Egypt has been ruptured, expelling the Turkish Ambassador to Cairo, Turkey is seriously thinking to reshape the region and is reaching out to Shiite powers-Iran and Iraq.
Turkey, in supporting the rebel fighters in Syria, is on the opposite side of that war from Iraq and Iran, who have been strong supporters of the Shiite government of Bashar al-Assad. But as the international community pursues a political solution to the conflict, Turkey has fallen in line with the diplomatic path, in part because it is frightened by the rise of Islamist radicals leading the rebels along its border.
It would have preferred Western-led military action in Syria but the West including the US have no appetite for waging war in the Middle East.
Given the context, Turkey has realized that it has to take a more pragmatic approach centred on securing access to gas and oil for its economy, improving conditions for Turkish businesses and finding a way out of the conflict in Syria. Many suggest that the Turkish long-standing doctrine in foreign policy-“zero problems with neighbours” has been revived.
Policy change on Iran, Iraq
Turkey and Iran have managed to maintain a relationship, if often a strained one, mainly because of energy interests. As a rising economic power but with few of its own sources of energy, Turkey relies on Iran and Russia for natural gas and oil imports.
When it comes to Iran, Turkey is trying to position itself to be able to persuade Tehran to support any peace plan. That, at least, would allow Istanbul to save face after having been adamant that Assad leaves office.
On 26th November, the Syrian government has confirmed it will attend peace talks planned for January, but says it is not going in order to negotiate a handover of power.
Its delegation to the talks in Geneva will receive direction from President Bashar al-Assad, official media report.
Turkey and Iran - who back opposing sides in the conflict - have united in calls for a ceasefire ahead of the 22 January talks known as Geneva II, Iranian media reports.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmad Davutoglu, said every effort should be made to stop the fighting as soon as possible, Mehr news agency says.
The head of Syria’s main opposition group has said he will attend planned peace talks in Geneva in January aimed at ending the civil war. Ahmad Jarba said the Syrian National Coalition saw talks as a step towards “leadership transition”, meaning President Bashar al-Assad’s removal.
For the last couple of years Turkey and Iraq have had a strained relationship, centered on a bitter personal feud between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
In Iraq’s hotly contested 2010 elections, Turkey supported the secular/Sunni Allawi block, which lost to the Shiite dominated party of Nuri al-Maliki. Ankara had viewed al-Maliki’s party as a Shiite and pro-Iranian force, having grown accustomed to viewing the Middle East through a sectarian (Sunni-Shiia) lens,
Turkey had supported the Sunni opposition within Iraq, and when Maliki targeted the former Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges in late 2011, Turkey gave Hashemi refuge. In Iraq, Turkish businesses suffered boycotts and Turkish workers found themselves detained for work permit violations, while Maliki shut down an important route through Iraq for Turkish trucks.
One of the most striking indications of the shift came when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently visited Baghdad and said “there is no limit to cooperation” between the countries.
Davutoglu reportedly dressed in black, a symbol of mourning that is central to the Shiite faith, prayed at a famous Shiite shrine, met the spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and the militant Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr, and talked about embracing his Shiite “brothers” in the holy city of Karbala.
He had already hosted his Iranian counterpart in Turkey, and officials say Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will visit Baghdad and Tehran.
Attempts to regain stature
Turkey’s diplomatic initiative in May 2010 in swapping Iran’s nuclear enriched uranium with Turkey supported by Brazil is one of the instances of its role as interlocutor in the region. The deal did not impress the US because it does not stop enrichment of uranium by Iran.
Turkey has lost its earlier key influencing role in the region because of events in Egypt and Syria. Critics say for Prime Minister Erdogan, the missteps and failures of Turkey’s Middle East policy have cost him stature in the region. “Erdogan is no longer a hero in the Middle East,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chairman of Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party. “He believed he could do everything by himself, and design everything himself.”
As an opposition figure, Kilicdaroglu is expected to criticize the prime minister, but similar sentiments are voiced privately by government officials close to the governing party.
Ankara will view a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, coupled with a negotiated settlement in Syria, as Washington turning a blind eye to Iran creating a Shiite axis along Turkey’s southern border.
A U.S.-Iran deal has, however, taught the Turks the following lesson: Do not put all your eggs into America’s basket. This explains Ankara’s recent decision to buy Chinese weapons, in anticipation of a U.S-Iran deal. Going forward, Turkey will look for additional security partners, from the Russians to the Chinese, while continuing to court the Americans.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassadsor to the UN, Geneva.
A. M. K. Chowdhury
According to newspaper report, the government issued licenses for firearms to persons on political consideration. About 10 thousand licenses for firearms were issued so far by the incumbent government. Most of the license holders are the activists and cadres of Jubo league and Chhatra league —- respectively the youth front and student front of the ruling Awami League (AL). None gets license without political lobbying. As a result those who need fire arms do not get license. On the contrary those who do not require fire arms get license on political consideration. The ministers, state ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) influence the authorities to issue licenses. [Vide the Bangladesh Protidin, dated October 22, 2013.]
Is it not understandable why AL ministers, state ministers and MPs influenced the authorities to issue licenses?
Another news report said, supply of firearms, especially pistol and revolver through bordering districts, has become rampant. Firearms are being smuggled into the country as professional criminals like to use those mainly because of cheaper price of those firearms.
A total of 59 foreign made pistols and 19 revolvers were recovered by the police from different parts of Dhaka cit in between January and July 2013 (See the Daily Sun, dated September 21, 2013).
The Daily Sun, dated September 21, 2013 reported, “Small firearms, reportedly manufactured in the Indian states of Bihar and Kolkata, are being smuggled into the country. Illegal firearms brought by the gunrunners from India are supplied promptly to different parts of Bangladesh. Special Task Force (STF) at Patna and the Nalanda police in a joint operation unearthed a mini-gun factory in Biharsharif, India, and recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition and equipment (required) for making illegal firearms in September last”. In April, Indian police unearthed another illegal mini-gun factory in Bihar’s Nalanda district.
In Dhaka on August 22, police recovered 10 firearms including seven pistols, and arrested five illegal arms traders. On May 23, police recovered five pistols and one revolver and arrested five alleged illegal arms traders from different parts of Dhaka. The report quoting the DB (Detective Branch) official preferring anonymity said the local kingpins of the arms smuggling chain remain out of touch as they have close links with influential political leaders. (Vide the Daily Sun, dated September 21, 2013).
214 killed, 2370 injured in 14 years
Some 214 people were killed and 2370 were wounded in separate bomb and grenade attacks in the country in the last 14 years. (The Daily Sun, dated 22 August 8, 2013). In many instances, it is found that innocent people are killed as rival political parties had hurled bombs that killed and wounded many innocent people.
Over 12 years ago10 people were killed and 35 injured in the Ramna Batamul bomb blasts during the traditional celebration of Bangla New Year 1408 on April 14, 2001 as reported in the media. (The daily New Age, dated 14 April, 2013.) It will not be irrelevant to mention here that four persons awarded death penalty in different cases got Presidential clemency during the period from 1972 to 2008. The BNP-led government gave clemency to 2 persons in 2005. The army-backed caretaker government granted clemency to one person in 2008.
The Daily Star dated November 15, 2012 reported that the late President Zillur Rahman in the three years from 2009 granted clemency to 21 persons sentenced to death in different cases. Four others awarded death penalty in different cases got presidential mercy during the period from 1972 to 2008, home minister said replying to lawmakers’ queries. President Zillur Rahman pardoned one convict on death row in 2009, 18 in 2010 and two in 2011, home minister said in Jatiya Sangsad on November 14, 2012. In 2008, the then president granted clemency to one death row convict and two others in 2005. Another condemned person got presidential pardon in1987.
So the highest record was scored in the last three years from 2009 onwards during the present AL rule.
Armed JL, BCL cadres, police attacked opposition BNP
It is often seen the cadres of AL, Jubo League and Chhatra League with firearms attack activists and workers of BNP, Jamaat and the18-party alliance partners when they bring out procession during Hartal. A picture captioned “Chhatra League cadres with arms in presence of police were moving on Feni Trunk Road in broad daylight” was published in the media on November 5, 2013.(See Naya Diganta, November 5, 2013.
Two photos were captioned, “Armed Jubo League (JL), Chhatra League (BCL) cadres and police jointly attacked on the procession led by BNP in Chittagong.” (Vide Naya Diganta, November 5, 2013). Another picture captioned, “Chhatra League cadres with arms chased pickets in Comilla”, was published in the media on November 6, 2013 ((See Naya Diganta, November 6, 2013).
To end killings, combing operation is a must
It is needless to say the armed cadres of AL and its front organizations will lead violent attacks to kill or injure supporters and activists of opposition BNP-led alliance during general election. Violence causes casualty, death and a lot of destructions.
The government must immediately launch a combing operation to recover unauthorised arms as well as arrest of criminals ahead of general election in the country. Such drive should be launched area-wise suddenly and secretly without any publicity through news media. Otherwise the criminal would be able to go into hiding and to keep their arms and weapons at safer places. People want an atmosphere congenial and conducive to peace and security.