Consequent upon the impudent utterance of rabble-rouser and one of the most foul-mouthed Awami League leaders, the chucked out Posts and Telecommunications minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui’s most presumptuous remark on the annual pilgrimage Hajj, the fifth of the fundamental Muslim institutions and the Holy Prophet of Islam—-who has been universally admired by the greatest scholars and sages of the Orient and the Occident—-a wave of indignant remonstrance ran high as reaction, albeit there is no dearth of uncouth high-flying leaders in the ruling Awami League (AL).
One of the top leaders of ruling AL, Siddiqui, who was visiting New York as part of the Prime Minister’s entourage to the UN General Assembly, also criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajib Wazed Joy in particular and journalists in general. He made the remarks while exchanging views with expatriates of Tangail living in New York at a hotel. Regarding the holy Hajj, the minister said, “I strongly oppose the Hajj and Tablig Jamaat.” Addressing the expatriate Bangladeshis, he asked, “Why do you mention about Joy again and again? Who is Joy? Joy is nobody of the Bangladesh government. He is nobody for taking decision of the government.”[Vide-observerbd.com/ 2014/09/29/46219.php] Disapproving of journalists and the media he said, “Those who attend talk-shows, are basically talk-men. They jabber in front of cameras as they have nothing to do.” He even used offensive words to refer to the persons who join talk-shows. [en.prothom -alo.com/ bangladesh/ news/54397]
Hefajat-e Islam Bangladesh’s Narayanganj unit leaders on October 03 declared a Tk 5 lakh bounty on Siddiqui’s head for his comments on Hajj and the Prophet. Addressing a rally Hefajat-e Islam organised in Narayanganj city’s DIT commercial area, the leaders said the sole punishment he deserved was “beheading in public”, as reported in the Daily Star dated October 04, 2014.
However, Siddiqui said he had no qualms about his comment, and in an interview with the BBC he emphatically said he would never seek apology for that.
There was neither gobbledygook nor any gibberish in Siddiqui’s speech; without mincing words he explicitly used plain phrases. Siddiqui is not any Tom, Dick or Harry to be unaware of which way the wind blows; critics suspect there may be “method” in his deliberate faux pas. Critics question whether or not it was a studied scheme of a game plan to create or inflame anti-government commotion and havoc to tell the US and Western masters that the opposition parties in general and the BNP in particular are Jihadi terrorists. It did not work. Another unanswered enigma is why there was inordinate delay in removing Siddiqui, which should have been done 12 days ago.
Daud Haider was imprisoned during the reign of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1973 for writing a heretical poem denouncing Islam. Later on the then AL government forced him to leave the country and take refuge in Cacutta, India, and finally in Germany. Two decades later feminist author Taslima Nasrin was forced out of her country in 1993 during the first term of Begum Khaleda Zia as Prime Minister because of Nasrin’s sacrilegious attack on Islam in obscene language. In her so-called novella Lajja—-described by eminent film director Mrinal Sen as “rubbish”—-she plays with the fire of inter-faith hatred which could incite communal hostility. In Calcutta she further angered conservatives in 1994 which led to violent commotions there which compelled the Indian government to drive her out of India. A couple of days back it was inferred according to a BBC interview that Siddiqui would follow in the footsteps of Haider and Nasrin for seeking asylum in India. [dailynayadiganta.com/ 15 Oct 2014]
But the Sheikh Hasina government does not want Siddiqui to stay in India, and it has already communicated a message to New Delhi to this end, a highly placed source in the government has told The Daily Star on October 16. Policymakers in the administration fear that his stay in India might create an unwanted situation in the country, as the “AL government is often seen as a pro-India”. And if Siddiqui stays there, it might be further used to establish that sentiment, according to the source. Also, this might send a signal to religious parties and organisations that the government is supporting Latif. The latest development comes amid reports that the government does not want Latif, who sparked controversy by making derogatory comments on hajj and Prophet Muhammad, to return to the country, at least for now.
Irrespective of a what one creature like Rushdie or two pigmies like Nasrin or Siddiqui cry or chatter about Islam and its Prophet owing to their pitiably inadequate familiarity with the works of giants, universally recognised scholars and intellectuals of the world like Thomas Carlyle, Edward Gibbon, Reverend Bosworth Smith, Alphonse de LaMartaine, Mahatma Gandhi, Bernard Shaw, Comrade M N Roy, Karen Armstrong and many other renowned non-Muslim personalities have analysed and critically eulogised the Prophet of Islam.
While the BNP deserves a word of praise for its mature and sound handling of the situation arising out of the highly sensitive issue by limiting its reaction to statements, the government should waste no time in bringing the culprit home and prosecute him for due judicial trial because he has hurt the cherished passion and reverence of the people for their spiritual faith.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Mongolia has expanded political and financial ties with the US, Japan and the European Union, but its main trading partners are neighbouring Russia and China. The latter is the biggest market for Mongolian exports; Beijing is also keen to exploit Mongolia’s mineral and energy resources.
President Xi Jinping visited the country in August and signed many agreements to give landlocked and resource-rich Mongolia easier access to Chinese territory for its exports.The Chinese President pledged to almost double their annual two-way trade to $10 billion by 2020.
Mongolia, nervous about over-dependence on its enormous neighbor-China, had once favoured a more circuitous and expensive northerly rail route via Russia that would connect its mines to the Pacific coast, a plan the World Bank said was unrealistic.
Mongolia thinks China best option
But in an apparent recognition China is still the best option for Mongolian exports and Mongolia is now talking with China about a route directly south.
Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao said that making the trans-shipment of goods from Mongolia was one of the topics for discussion during Xi’s two-day trip to Ulan Bator.
“Everyone knows that Mongolia is a land-locked country with no sea ports, so the issue of trans-shipment, especially via China, is a very important need for Mongolia. China fully understands this and will do all it can to help Mongolia to smoothly and more easily carry out trans-shipments,” Liu told reporters in Beijing.
“Both sides are currently having talks on this issue,” he added, declining to provide details. “The direction of these talks is to make Mongolia’s trans-shipments easier and smoother.” Soaring Chinese demand for commodities like coal has underwritten Mongolia’s rapid growth, with more than 90 percent of its exports sold to China.
Still, Beijing’s growing economic power has caused disquiet among Mongolian lawmakers, who hastily drafted a law in 2012 to limit foreign ownership in “strategic” sectors. The law was designed to block efforts by China’s state-owned Chalco Group to acquire a majority stake in Mongolian-based coal miner South Gobi Resources.
Mongolia had ambitions to become China’s top coking coal supplier, largely through the development of one of the world’s biggest untapped mines at Tavan Tolgoi, near the Chinese border.
However Mongolia has complained that it has not received fair value for the coal, arguing that the lack of alternative buyers allows Chinese firms to drive down prices. A dispute with Chalco, which signed a supply deal with Tavan Tolgoi in 2011, has contributed to a decline in coal shipments.
Liu said that while there were “different points of view” on certain issues, generally China felt that Mongolia welcomed Chinese business. “From what we can see from our contacts with the Mongolian government, people and companies, the Mongolia side really welcomes China’s investment. Both sides have had very effective cooperation on the energy and mining side. Talks on relevant projects, including coal mines, railways and roads are ongoing. We hope that there can continue to be progress.”
Mongolia agreed to establish a working group with China to oversee the construction of new road, rail and pipeline infrastructure connecting the two countries with Russia.
Moscow firmly controlled Mongolia during the Cold War and retains considerable influence over this vast landlocked nation sandwiched between Russia and China. Mongolia relies on Russia for almost all of its gasoline and diesel fuel and much of its electricity.
Russian’s relationship with Mongolia is in some ways more straightforward than China’s. Russia and Mongolia get along quite well, experts say. Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with his Mongolian counterpart in September during a five-hour working visit to a traditional friendly neighbor amid soaring tensions with Washington and NATO over a Kremlin-backed offensive in Ukraine. Putin’s visit is his third since he first became Russia’s president in 2000.
Even before the crisis over Ukraine, Putin had been seeking to upgrade Russia’s relations with countries to the east, including Japan and South Korea. As a stable, low-risk neighbor, Mongolia plays an important role in the strategy, particularly as a southward transit route for Russian exports,
Putin discussed on increasing trade and upgrading transit links. The two leaders saw the signing 13 agreements across a range of fields before Putin’s late afternoon departure.
Moscow also holds a 51 percent stake in Mongolia’s railway and a 49 percent stake in its largest state-owned copper mine.
Trade with Russia reportedly fell by 16 percent to $1.6 billion in 2013 versus the year before, and dropped by another 13 percent in the first six months of this year, according to Russian figures. That was attributed to reduced demand for oil products, machinery and equipment as a consequence of the ailing Mongolian economy.
Mongolia turning to China, Russia
With Western investment declining, Mongolia is turning increasingly to China and Russia to support its mining and animal herding-based economy, while also maintaining close ties with the U.S. and others as a counterbalance.
Coming so soon after Xi’s visit, Putin’s stop in the country is a further indication of the increased significance Mongolia’s neighbors are playing in its economic development, said Neil Ashdown, an expert on Mongolia at London-based information and analysis firm IHS.
Despite Mongolia’s transition to Western-style democracy, Russia and Mongolia remain close, something seen in the positive views of ordinary Mongolians, particularly the older generation Experts say attitudes toward China tend to be somewhat less trusting, reflecting fears of being swallowed up by their giant neighbor.
Mongolia’s brief profile
Once the heartland of the Mongol empire in the 13th century stretching to Europe under Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kublai Khan, Mongolia is a landlocked country dominated by sparsely populated steppe and semi-desert. The legacy of Genghis Khan, has been invoked in an attempt to foster national pride.
It is slightly larger than Alaska and is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Mongolia spreads across 1.5 million sq km of the Central Asian plateau, but its population (2.8 million) is far smaller than the Mongol population of China. Muslim Kazakhs in the west are the only significant national and religious minority, comprising less than 5% of the population. Migration to Kazakhstan in the 1990s reduced their numbers.
Mongolia has an extreme climate. Drought and unusually cold and snowy winters have decimated livestock, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of families.
Little population, vast resources
Ulaanbaatar, the capital and also the largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. A third of the population lives in the capital, while around forty percent of the country’s workforce herds livestock in the extensive pasturelands. However, the centuries-old nomadic lifestyle is coming under pressure from climate change and urbanisation.
In 1990 Mongolia abandoned its 70-year-old Soviet-style one-party state and embraced political and economic reforms. Democracy and privatisation were enshrined in a new constitution, but the collapse of the economy after the withdrawal of Soviet support triggered widespread poverty and unemployment.
Mongolia sits on vast quantities of untapped mineral wealth, and foreign investment in a number of massive mining projects is expected to transform its tiny economy in coming years. Mongolia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, driven by this foreign direct investment. It reported a 17% growth rate in 2011, and 16.7% in the first quarter of 2012.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
M. Jamat Ali
The adoption in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly of the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children marked a important milestone in international efforts to stop the trade in people known as human trafficking. As the guardian of the Protocol, UNODC addresses human trafficking issues through its Global Programme against Trafficking in Persons. A vast majority of States have now signed and ratified the Protocol. Translating it into reality is problematic as very few criminals are convicted and most victims are probably never identified or assisted.
The menace of human trafficking is not only a heinous offence but also a phenomenon which undermines the value, worth, and dignity of the persons trafficked. It is the fastest growing international crime and is second only to the drug trade followed by arms dealing. In May 2014, the International Labour Organization released a groundbreaking report estimating that this crime generates a staggering $150 billion in profits per year for the private global economy: $99 billion in the sex industry and $51 billion in other sectors.
Bhutan is a destination country for men, women, and children vulnerable to forced labour and sex trafficking, and a source country for Bhutanese children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking within the country and in India. The Labour and Employment Act 2007 of Bhutan prohibits most forms of forced labour, with penalties from 3 to 5 years imprisonment.
Maldives is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, and a source country for women and children subjected to labour and sex trafficking. The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act 2013 of the country prescribes penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Nepal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. The Global Slavery Index 2013 estimated that there are about 270,000 people in various forms of modern slavery in Nepal. Nepali women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Nepal, as well as in India, the Middle East, China and Malaysia,
Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. The Global Slavery Index 2013 estimated that about 2.2 million people are in various forms of modern slavery in Pakistan. According to experts 2 to 4 million people are subjected to bonded labour in Pakistan. Pakistani men are subjected to forced labour in the EU, and Pakistani women are subjected to prostitution in the Gulf States.
Sri Lanka is primarily a source and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. The Global Slavery Index 2013 estimated that there are about 20,000 people in various forms of modern slavery in Sri Lanka. Some of the Sri Lankan men, women, and children who migrate to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, and the United States are subsequently subjected to forced labour.
India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. The Global Slavery Index 2013 estimated that there are about 14.7 million people in various forms of modern slavery in India. Ninety per cent of India’s trafficking problem is internal. Men, women, and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture and embroidery factories.
Bangladesh is primarily a source, and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. The Global Slavery Index 2013 estimated that there are about 360,000 people in various forms of modern slavery in Bangladesh. Some of the Bangladeshi men and women who migrate willingly to the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Lebanon, Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Sudan, Mauritius, the United States, and Europe for work subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labor.
A new route for human trafficking has been revealed recently by our local media. Some foreign fishing trawlers with the help of local agents are now engaged in human trafficking through new water ways. Corrupt officials of the local administration are in the nexus. BNN online24.com took a drive for a follow-up report to justify the story. Its local correspondent visited several piers and wharfs of the river Karnaphuli and St. Martin Island and came to know from the fishermen that the illegal trafficking activities now have been disrupted due to intensive raid by police. A new method of illegal trafficking to Malaysia sprang up and has started comprising citizens of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. With the help of some powerful godfathers, local traffickers are carrying out illegal immigration to Malaysia by sea route with a halt at Karnafully river banks. The traffickers bring people with false hope of good jobs from Kolkata and Dhaka. Women and minor girls are sometimes included. The local brokers and agents living on the bank of the river Karnaphuli provide temporary shelter to them. The brokers then take the migrants to Patenga, St. Martin and Teknaf by small boats. Local agents scout the immigrant people to board them in the trawlers waiting in deep sea. The foreign trawlers then sail for Myanmer. The next transit point is Sittwe shore at Myanmer, again Rangong ghat pier in Thailand to Malaysia border by sea route. Each migrant has to pay 60,000 to 80,000 Taka to the agents for migration to Malaysia. Fifteen days to a month’s journey does not always turn successful. Some die on the way and only a few lucky persons can reach the destination. After reaching Malaysia they face legal problems. The government agencies and coast guards should intensify surveillance in the suspected zones.
The writer is a journalist.