Conducted against the wish of the overwhelming majority [at least 84 per cent] of the Bangladeshis hook, line and sinker, the real-life charade and farce in the name of polls in which 153 lawmakers including their supremo do not know who voted for them --- apparitions, phantoms or supernatural powers --- which caricature the principal opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by former PM Khaleda Zia, cogently boycotted as the ruling clique refused to install the neutral caretaker government to oversee the process to stop rigging (which credible system was universally praised at home and abroad during and after the preceding 7th, 8th and 9th general elections).
The so-called winner Awami League (AL) chief Sheikh Hasina and her cohort are feigning as if everything is hunky-dory; but extrajudicial killings and mis-governance persist as before to remind the body politic the maxim: A leopard cannot change its spots. Extrajudicial killing is on the rise as on an average, one person has been victim of such killings every day in 2014. Obsessed by constant fear, innocent citizens have been gripped with an eerie feeling of looming abnormal death which may befall them any moment because human life is a very cheap commodity in this crime-infested country. With thugs, robbers and muggers everywhere, killings are happening every day. But when state apparatus is involved in abnormal deaths in the guise of the so-called ‘encounter’ with the victims --- known as extrajudicial or custodial death --- then one goes back to the dreaded Rakkhi Bahini days in the early 1970s during the first Awami League (AL) regime when allegedly some 15 thousand people were killed.
Headlined “Bangladesh: End Spate of Extrajudicial Killings: Opposition Members Killed in Post-Election Crackdown” the statement of the Human Rights Watch (HRW), dated January 27, 2014, says, “We are seeing a frightening pattern of supposed ‘crossfire’ killings of opposition members in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government needs to ensure proper control of the security forces and order an independent and credible investigation into these deaths,” observed Brad Adams, Asia director, HRW.
It added that Joint Forces consisting of the Bangladesh Police, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and the Border Guards Bangladesh continue to arrest opposition supporters, some of whom are accused of involvement in violent protests before and during the January 5, 2014 elections which were boycotted by opposition parties. Security forces claim that the deaths after arrest occurred during “crossfire,” which Human Rights Watch has previously documented is used by security forces as a common euphemism to describe what they claim to be shootouts, but which in reality appears to be the killing of people.
Calling for a new election Lord Avebury, Liberal Democrat Peer of UK House of Lords, in his commentary said, “It was revealed that many of these deaths were in custody. Student leaders of both BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami have been found dead after being arrested. Further reports of opposition members being taken from their houses, beaten and killed continue”. He suggested that to avoid an intractable political crisis, polls must be held immediately under a neutral administration, with fully sanctioned international supervision. After years of intimidation, bloodshed and division, to be offered a fair choice is the least ordinary Bangladeshis deserve. Clearly, there is a simmering wave of discontent and injustice across the country after millions were disenfranchised. This anger cannot simply be wished away”.
Dhaka is for an “amicable solution” to take back the Myanmar refugees from Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who visited the Myanmar capital last week, made the call during her meeting with President Thein Sein. According to official estimate, around 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees and some 3 lakh to 5 lakh undocumented Myanmar nationals are living in Bangladesh. Of them, a significant number intruded here following persecution during the previous military rule in Myanmar.
“Burmese security men filled mass graves with Muslims” reported Damien McElroy in The Daily Telegraph of London on 22 April 2013 Burmese security forces organised and stood guard over Buddhist attacks on Muslim settlements before burying scores of bodies, some with their hands tied behind their backs, in mass graves, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
Myanmar’s Opposition leader Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who suffered a great deal, knows how the stateless Rohingyas have been enduring for the last 34 years and have to submit themselves to whatever the Yangon government dictates. It is deplorable that the “moral voice” Suu Kyi, as described by Norwegian Nobel Committee, is yet to take a stand about the fate of the persecuted Rohingya Muslims of Arakan, victims of Myanmar pogrom, who had supported Suu Kyi’s candidates and they won all the 23 seats of Arakan some years ago. So courtesy and love backfire too!
By all definitions it is a Burmese problem in the first place; Yangon cannot and must not force mass exodus of this minority Muslim groups. More importantly, the onus is on the UNHCR in particular and the UN in general to resolve this long-drawn-out human crisis. The US and the EU too should adopt positive steps towards lasting solution of this serious humanitarian tragedy which has inflicted the Rohingya Muslims for the last seven decades.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Pakistan’s friendship with China has been the cornerstone of its foreign policy, enjoying a national consensus. China has been described by Pakistani leaders at various times a time-tested and all-weather friend. Both countries are against India’s domination in South Asia.
President Mamnoon Hussain paid an official visit to China from February 18 to 20. This was his first state visit abroad after assuming office and this demonstrates the importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with China
It may be recalled that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited China last July on a five-day official visit to China, his first foreign trip in his new term as the prime minister of Pakistan.
The President held summit-level talks with President Xi Jinping. He had meetings with Premier Li Keqiang and Mr. Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China.
“Friendship with China is the most important pillar of our foreign policy and security policy,” Hussain said in brief comments at the start of their meeting, which followed a formal welcoming ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Xi said “the Chinese people cherish a profound friendship with the people of Pakistan.”
Sino-Paki Economic cooperation has expanded significantly in recent years. Under a comprehensive framework Pakistan and China have bilateral economic cooperation in the form of Joint Economic Commission, Economic Cooperation Group, Joint Energy Working Group and a Joint Investment Committee, besides several other mechanisms.
Soon after the announcement of the historic Pakistan-China economic corridor, the two countries have started planning the implementation of infrastructure projects. The projects included construction of a motorway from Lahore to Karachi and upgrading a stretch of road from Chinese border to Islamabad. Another project is to upgrade railway between Lahore and Peshawar.
The ongoing projects to develop the Thar coalfield and the construction of power plants in Gadani in Baluchistan and Sahiwal in Sindh are in progress.
The Chinese commitment to Pakistan will be about $20 billion for joint energy and infrastructure projects to be completed by 2018. The projects will be funded by Chinese private investment companies on a build-operate-transfer basis as well as concessional loans from China.The two sides last year already agreed to build a fiber-optic cable to be laid from the Chinese border to the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi which will boost Pakistan’s access to international communications networks. China is to provide 85 percent of the financing for the three-year project’s $44 million budget, with Pakistan covering the rest.
Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform reportedly said that in the past the economic relationship could not match the political one. Now the leadership on both sides realized that the gap must be bridged.
The trade volume has crossed US$ 12 billion, with Pakistan’s exports increasing by 48 per cent, a tiny fraction of China’s overall commerce with the world. (China’s bilateral trade with India stands at $70 billion per year.)
Currently, more than 120 Chinese companies are engaged in Pakistan, and Chinese investment touched $2 billion in 2012.
Karakorum economic corridor
On 19th February, longtime allies Pakistan and China signed agreements to build a new airport and upgrade the fabled Karakorum Highway as part of efforts to build an “economic corridor” through rugged mountains and regions torn by insurgent violence.
The planned economic corridor will incorporate a 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) transport link connecting Kashgar in northwestern China to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran.
If the corridor project takes off, oil from the Middle East could be offloaded at Gwadar, which is located just outside the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and transported to China through Baluchistan province in Pakistan and over the towering Karakoram mountains. Such a link would vastly cut the 12,000-kilometer (7,500-mile) route that Mideast oil supplies must now take to reach Chinese ports. That could at some point include a railway and oil pipeline.
The project received a major boost when control of Gwadar was transferred to China’s state-owned China Overseas Ports Holding Co. Ltd. in February 2013. Built by Chinese workers and opened in 2007, Gwadar is undergoing a major expansion to turn it into a full-fledged, deep-water commercial port.
One of the agreements signed was a preliminary accord for constructing an international airport at Gwadar. Another was for upgrading a section of the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) Karakorum Highway connecting to Islamabad.
While Islamabad and Beijing have long found common cause in opposing mutual rival India and cooperate closely in military and diplomatic affairs, economic ties have lagged.
That’s largely a result of Pakistan’s poorly functioning government and lack of basic infrastructure such as power plants for generating electricity, something Pakistan is looking to China for help improving.
The threat of terrorism was also reportedly discussed. Pakistan would support China’s efforts in combating the “Three Evils” of extremism, terrorism and separatism.
The two sides believed that the evolving situation in Afghanistan has great implications for the regional security and stability. The two sides reaffirmed their support for the “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace and reconciliation process, and will work with the regional countries. It means negotiation with the Taliban by Afghanistan is the only solution for stability in that country and Pakistan’s involvement, as a neighbor, is imperative.
Analysts say that the visit sends out a powerful signal that Pakistan has an important backer in Beijing should the US push Islamabad too far.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
Emma Bonino in Rome
More than two-thirds of nations —-over 150 of the 193 members of the United Nations—-have now rejected the death penalty or do not carry out executions.
Until the late 1970s, only 16 countries had abolished the capital punishment for all crimes. Today, abolitionist nations are the overwhelming majority.
This evolution was led by the recognition that in any judicial procedure there is always the risk of a miscarriage of justice. If a person is jailed and later found to be innocent she or he can be released and provided compensation for the time unduly spent in prison. But this is not possible if an innocent person sentenced to death has already been executed. The punishment is final and irreversible and there is no possible appeal from the grave.
Unfortunately the cross-party in favour of the death penalty is still operating on a global scale. The list of crimes punishable by death is extensive and changes with time. Only the reason to justify the death penalty remains unchanged: it is considered as a deterrent against criminals.
‘Most premeditated of murders’
In the words of Albert Camus, the French Nobel prize winner for literature, “capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders.”
No one has ever been able to demonstrate the deterrent effect of the death penalty on crimes. Executions do not deliver public safety or deter violent crimes. It is no surprise the States that have abolished the death penalty often have lower murder rates than those that have yet to do so.
It is, therefore, of paramount importance that countries that still envisage the death penalty ensure that information and statistics regarding its use are made publicly available. Only an objectively informed public opinion can accept and support reforms of the penal system aimed at abolishing the capital punishment as cruel and ineffective.
Nowadays there is a growing awareness on the issue and it is a fact that the trend towards abolition finds echoes in every region of the world. Even retentionist countries are rethinking their approach.
Having said so, we must recognise that much progress still remains to be done. The situation in many countries is still a cause of grave concern. In some cases, we have witnessed the worrying phenomenon of some countries, which had previously agreed on endorsing the moratorium, to take the decision of re-establishing the death penalty. This is an involution which has distinguished mostly Asia but also Africa.
UNGA resolution against death penalty
Italy is proud to be part of the cross-regional coalition of States supporting the international campaign against the capital punishment. It took a strong and principled position against the death penalty. This campaign represents a priority for Italy’s foreign policy and has the full support of its Parliament and civil society.
Italy has been a major sponsor of the United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on a universal moratorium of the death penalty since its inception in 1994. She is an active part of the interregional task force entrusted with its drafting. We also are one of the most active promoters of the campaign to convince countries previously abstaining or voting against the text to switch their votes in favour of the resolution.
The United Nations resolutions have been a political breakthrough, sending a strong message to the minority of countries still adhering to capital punishment that it is time to reject what is increasingly seen as a cruel and counter-productive practice.
It is hard to overstate progress on this issue. A watershed moment came six years ago when, in December 2007, the UNGA first adopted a resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to ensuring complete abolition.
This achievement was reinforced by three further UNGA resolutions, in Decembers 2008, 2010 and 2012. On each occasion, the vote supporting the call for a moratorium gathered strength: rising from 104 votes to 111, while those States voting negatively fell from 54 to 41.