Universally recognised as the sine qua non of governance in any country, the very basic and indispensable function of a government [be it independent, protectorate, subjugated, enslaved or colonised], is public security ensuring the protection of all its citizens against threats to their safety and well-being regardless of their socioeconomic status — low, moderate or high.
Contrary to acknowledged norms and practices prevalent even in banana republics, out in Bangladesh even luminaries like the country’s top jurists, foremost journalists, Chief Whip of the BNP, arguably the largest opposition political party supported by an overwhelming majority of the populace, and so on do not feel safe under the ruling Awami League (AL) government, as is well-known across the globe through the local and foreign human rights organisations and domestic and overseas media. Perpetrators were often found to be politicised, criminalised and most dreaded special force RAB — now assumed to be engaged in ‘‘contract killings’’ after the grisly 11 slaughters in Narayanganj and murders after abductions by police and other security agencies.
Add to these the most-frequent internecine gun battles and murderous attacks by AL’s untamed student front Chhatra League’s (BCL) armed cadres on opposition political party activists who are so formidable that they can swoop on individuals like innocent Biswajit Das who was murdered in cold blood in broad daylight by BCL boys of the Jagannath University, while senior police officers were reportedly in close proximity.
It is about police brutality again. The family of Mahbubur Rahman Sujan has planned to file three cases, including one for murder, accusing Sub-inspector Jahidur Rahman Khan of Mirpur Police Station, Dhaka city, of torturing Sujan to death on July 13, 2014. Victim’s brother-in-law Omar Faruk said they would also accuse Officer-in-Charge Mohammad Salauddin, SI Asad and a few others of the police station. Sujan, a garment waste trader in Mirpur, was picked up from his residence by a team of Mirpur police led by SI Jahidur. Morgue sources said injuries to Sujan’s head, hands and other parts of his body caused his death, giving substantial grounds to his family’s claim that he was tortured to death. The men in uniform reportedly went to Sujan’s house to extort money from him. Sujan’s widow Lucy claimed the Mirpur OC had forced her to sign on a blank sheet of paper on Sunday morning.
No earnest appeal, no amount of tearful entreaty of Rabbi, the five-year-old son of Sujan, could melt the heart of the police to stop beating his father. Before a shocked Rabbi, the police kept on beating his father until the brutes were sure Sujan was dead. The stony-hearted cruel members of the state machinery, now feared as torture machine, murdered him. Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker said, “We have initiated an investigation into the matter,” and denied making further comments, saying it would not be appropriate to make any remark at the investigation stage.
While abduction fear persists, a female ward councillor, Parvin Akter of Gazipur City Corporation, was abducted on July 10, 2014, and was rescued after 37 hours in Habiganj on Dhaka-Sylhet highway. Parvin claimed the abductors carried her on a microbus before leaving her on the highway. Parvin’s husband Minhajul Islam lodged a case with Joydevpur Police Station.
As is evident from various incidents over the past five years, to call spade a spade, violent and white collar crimes have increased manifold so much so that these have panicked all and sundry, and the alarmed Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chief expressed his concern in no uncertain terms. Amid rampant and unbridled incidents of killings and enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders in particular and common people in general, when the NHRC chairman articulated at a university symposium about the situation in August 2010 that “there is no rule of law in the country”, the body politic was in absolute agreement with his statement hook, line and sinker in view of the terrible law and order situation in the country.
Now it is pertinent to spotlight the utterances and remarks at various stages of Sheikh Hasina who holds two very vital portfolios of Defence and Home ministries, because of her partisan attitude and indiscretion are bound to have adverse effects in fair administration. On several occasions she gave her preconceived opinion without verifying the criminal records of her certain suspected AL leaders.
Most recently the High Court very admirably ruled arrest of suspected RAB men. Talking about the May 11 HC order that asked the authorities to arrest the three Rab-11 officials, Hasina told a press conference “When we were still investigating the matter … and before that investigation was complete … tell us how come a High Court bench orders the arrest of the three?”[Vide Daily Star, June 02, 2014]. Sheikh Hasina’s open announcement in parliament in favour of Shamim Osman [whose possible complicity has been extensively reported in the media from day one] will certainly affect and obstruct the due process of law and proper investigation. This is most undesirable, unfortunate and unacceptable.
With the AL’s so-called ‘elected’ government plus loyal opposition in place with huge scandals of bank scams and stock market swindling, there is frightening darkness all around.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Within less than a month of becoming Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi chose his first foreign visit to Bhutan on 15th June for two days. This shows he has attached great priority to Bhutan among neighbouring countries. There are many reasons and some of them have been described in the following paragraphs.
Bhutan, a country of 700,000 people, is a tiny kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between its powerful neighbours, India and China. Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy in 2008.
Observers say that India has always a special relationship with Bhutan. India had signed the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Friendship in 1949 which was replaced by the 2007 Treaty. The 2007 Treaty more or less kept similar provisions as those of 1949 Treaty except that the new treaty replaced the provision requiring Bhutan to take India’s guidance on foreign policy and not requiring Bhutan to obtain India’s permission over arms import.
Under the Treaty, Bhutan and India shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. The phrase “national interests” has not been defined and means a broad range of matters vital to the security of both countries. Under the Treaty, neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.
Although India does not guide Bhutan’s foreign policy under the 2007 Treaty, India remains influential over Bhutan’s foreign policy, defence and commerce. As of 2012-13 fiscal, India’s budgetary support to the Kingdom country stands at US$ 600 Million, about one-third of India’s overall annual foreign aid. Bhutan’s new Prime minister, Tshering Tobgay, (replacing Thinley) secured an aid package from India worth US$ 819 million, for his nation during his visit to New Delhi in August 2013.
During the visit, Modi spoke of all possible areas of cooperation from satellite technology to sporting ties, to buttress his point that “Bhutan and Bharat” have been made for each other.”
Besides offering to intensify cooperation on the hydropower front, Modi emphasised the essence of greater educational contacts and stated that India will double the present number of scholarships for the Bhutanese in India, worth approximately US$ 3 million. Modi stated that India will also assist Bhutan in the setting up of a digital library that will provide access to over two million books and periodicals.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Bhutanese Supreme Court building which was built here by India at a cost of around Rs 70 crore, a gesture hailed by the Bhutanese Chief Justice as a “symbol of generosity.” Hailing Modi, he said he is “now a figure of destiny, not only of India but also of the region and the world”. The goodwill displayed by India will “be forever ingrained in the hearts of people of Bhutan”, he said.
The Modi government has stepped up economic and trade linkages, including exempting Bhutan from any restrictions on export of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.
Modi promised more Indian investments to Bhutan, going beyond the successful cooperation in the hydropower sector that is set to achieve a production target of 10,000 MW.
Modi also reassured his Bhutan counterpart Tshering Tobgay of India’s continued commitment to capacity building especially in the education and IT sectors in Bhutan. This includes providing grant assistance for the establishment of the digital section/ E-library in the National Library of Bhutan and in all its 20 districts.
In a larger message to India’s neighbours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a joint session of the Bhutanese parliament on 16th June, said a stronger India would be better for the Himalayan kingdom and other South Asian nations.
He assured that ties between India and Bhutan were very strong and a change of government in New Delhi would not alter the dynamics of their bilateral ties. Modi taking to a series of catch-phrases such as “terrorism divides and tourism unites” said the Himalayas, which ran across many countries in the region as a border, should bring the nations together.
“Strength of a democracy is very important for the region and its people. The stronger India will be, the better it is for Bhutan and other SAARC (South Asian Association for regional cooperation) nations. A strong and stable India is needed to make sure that we can help our neighbours with their problems,” he said in an extempore speech delivered in Hindi.
New Delhi also wants to ensure that the anti-India insurgents groups don’t get any haven in Bhutan. China reportedly claimed Bhutan’s Chumba valley that would impact Indian interest in the Siliguri corridor the gateway to the North-East. A long-standing border dispute between China and Bhutan has seen nearly two dozen rounds of talks without any resolution in sight.
A day after India’s new Prime Minister visited Bhutan, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay reaffirmed that they would not allow China to open an embassy in the national capital, Thimpu. However there were recently concerns in India’s diplomatic circles when Bhutan’s last Prime Minister Jigme Thinley had met Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in 2012 on the sidelines of an international summit. It was the first meeting between the heads of the two nations.
China on 16th June said it was monitoring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vist to Bhutan to strengthen bilateral ties as Beijing continues its efforts to forge relations with Thimphu, the only country in the region with which it has no diplomatic ties as yet. Beijing remained silent on Modi’s Bhutan visit.
Beijing’s diplomatic overtures
Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told a regular press briefing on Monday: “….. we have not established diplomatic relations but our two countries maintain friendly exchanges and visits.”
“We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan and we are willing to further develop good neighbourly relations with Bhutan based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence,” Hua added.
The report quoting Hua as saying: “China attached great importance to its relationship with India, recent years have witnessed the healthy and stable development of the strategic partnership of cooperation between the two. China has full expectation and confidence in promoting ties with India”.
Hua, talking about Sino-Indian bilateral relations, said both countries will continue to maintain momentum of high-level visits and press ahead with the development of China India strategic cooperative partnership. “Generally speaking we are full of confidence in the further development of China India relations in the future,” Hua said.
It may be recalled that the meeting of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley at the sidelines of the Rio +20 summit on 21 June 2012, forcefully brought one of the most sensitive and contentious issues of Bhutanese foreign policy back into the limelight.
Wen said, China is willing to complete border demarcation with Bhutan at an early date and strengthen exchanges in various fields so as to push bilateral ties to a higher level. Wen said China highly appreciates Bhutan’s staunch support of China’s position on major issues concerning Taiwan and Tibet. China, Wen said, also values the traditional friendship between the two nations and respects Bhutan’s choice for its development path according to its own national conditions.
Noting that China pursues a foreign policy of building a good-neighborly relationship and partnership with its neighbors, Wen said China is ready to forge formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
Thimpu’s daunting task
Meanwhile, for his part, Thinley said his talks with Wen carry great historic significance as it marks the first meeting between the heads of the two governments. The Bhutanese, he said, admire the great achievements China has made and highly appreciate China’s endeavor to safeguard the common interests of developing countries in international and regional affairs.
Bhutan firmly sticks to the one-China policy and has strong desire to strengthen understanding of and friendship with China, Thinley said. He confirmed that Bhutan wishes to forge formal diplomatic ties with China as soon as possible. Bhutan is willing to settle border issues with China in a cooperative manner, enhance bilateral economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and carry out close communication and coordination in international and regional affairs.
Indian media commented that Modi cannot but be aware of the diplomatic challenges India faces in the whole of South Asia. China, flush with money, has been resorting to “chequebook diplomacy” in the region. New ports, major infrastructure projects financed and built by the Chinese, have been coming up in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
For the first time, China’s investment in Nepal has surpassed India’s. China has also been wooing Bhutan with tempting investment proposals. It is against this backdrop that Modi’s Bhutan visit should be seen.
It seems that landlocked Bhutan is within firm grip of India’s influence and Bhutan’s gateway to the world is through India’s territory. Analysts believe that China has made a political mistake in claiming Bhutan’s areas and the dispute needs to be settled by both sides amicably so that China may open a diplomatic mission in Bhutan.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
Generally people here use the word ‘copy’ and its derivatives to mean the dishonest practice of adopting unfair means in academic examinations; the correct word is to cheat.
The Dr. Kudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission Report of 1974 stated that “recently held examinations witnessed widespread cheating” and that “cheating has turned the examination into a farce.” The 1988 Report of the National Education Commission also commented that the continuing slide in the condition of examinations took a bad shape. A survey conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) states that the main challenge for the secondary education is posed by “prevalent cheating in the Board-conducted examinations, leaking of question papers and such other rampant corruptions.”
Bold unpopular step
About nine years ago, during the BNP rule, the then State Minister for Education A N M Ehsanul Haq Milon took a bold unpopular step and did a lot along with other officials and teachers to overcome the serious problem. It was really a commendable achievement by the then government from 2001 to 2006. As a result the total situation across the country could be brought under control and healthy academic atmosphere prevailed in the educational institutions. Thus copying in the public examinations stopped.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid is working hard; but there are some questions. Recent fantastic results of public examinations such as SSC, HSC etc look like a miracle. In December 2013, the result of the Primary School Certificate (PSC) examinations broke all the previous records with the highest pass rate of 98.58 per cent. True, the pass rate in Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams too have increased substantially in just seven years. For example, in 2007, the SSC pass rate was 58.36 per cent, while the percentage rose to 91.34 per cent in 2014; but what about quality? Educationists believe that despite the improved results, the quality of education in schools may actually be falling, while others think that pass rates are increasing due to changes in the examinations and evaluation systems.
In 1990, the SSC pass rate was only 22.82 per cent in the humanities group, while it was 43.63 per cent in the science group, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Education Information and Statistics.
Instruction for marking scripts generously is bad
The practice of marking scripts generously during the present regime is a very harmful policy, because it runs counter to real education.
So the question arises whether the increasing pass rates and GPA5 scores mean that the quality of education has improved, or fallen. Jalal Uddin, director of Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research (IER), said with the increasing pass rates, a question remained on whether the quality of education was improving or falling. He also claimed that sometimes, political and other external factors determined the higher pass rates.
Former director and a professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research, Siddiqur Rahman, said while increasing the pass rate and GPA 5 scores normally means that quality of education is improving, there should be research on this. “Pass rates and GPA 5 scores are increasing in all public examinations in the last couple of years. There should be a research on whether the increase is due to improving quality or due to any other reasons,” he said.
When asked what contributed to the good results, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said the government had taken some measures, which contributed to the good results. He said that the pass rate was evidence that the quality of education was increasing. However, some examiners and officials of the Directorate of Primary Education said examiners had been instructed to mark scripts generously. It has been reported that examiners/teachers were asked to give pass marks to even those who failed to secure pass marks. This bad practice is sure to cause great harm to the very backbone of education.
Let us look at the consequence: many high achievers in HSC cannot pass admission tests at public universities, as has been reported in the print media.