<%-- Page Title--%> News Notes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 155 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 21, 2004

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The Economic Puzzle

How is the economic condition of Bangladesh? It depends on who you are willing to believe. The government would have us believe that Bangladesh is in an extremely good position, while opposition political parties want to say it is in shambles. There is also a third party, the Development partners of Bangladesh, which, as always, don't seem to have any clear-cut answer. Somehow they always manage to find out something good and something bad. The last BDF meet from May 8 to 10 was no exception as far as their confusion about the economic state of the country was concerned. Though they have praised some of the government's reform initiatives in the economic sector they have been critical about poor governance as well as non-economic factors like the teetering law and order situation, unbridled corruption, etc. There is one thing, though, over which perhaps no one has any disagreement--our economic progress could have been far better. Our GDP, which seems to be fixated within the range of 5 to 5.5 could be easily 6 to 7, even 8 if Praful C Patel, World Bank's Vice President for South Asia, is to believed. What is necessary for that is the realisation by our political leadership that the nation's interest should come first, much before personal and party interest. When will they understand this?

"The Terror", Bangla Bhai

Bangla Bhai, alias Azizur Rahman, alias Omar Ali Litu, alias Siddiqul Islam, earned his title as a Bangla teacher at coaching centres in Dhaka. Today, he leads the outlaw cleansing activities under the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) which has established a Taliban-like rule in the past six years. The JMJB, however, denies direct links to the Taliban. Besides wielding guns openly and randomly picking up and punishing leftist outlaws or Sarbaharas in full knowledge of police, the group also paints black women with their navels exposed, forces men to wear beards and women burkhas and extorts protection money. The activists have carried out around 100 operations in different regions, attacking and murdering people who they believe have committed crimes. The latest report on the organisation is that it is patronised by certain members of the ruling party.

Bangla Bhai, possibly a student of Rajshahi University, quit Islami Chhatra Shibir after completing college after Jamaat accepted female leadership which is considered sacrilege. Though the JMJB does not believe in the present political trends in Bangladesh, it does not want to go to power as a political party -- unless the people want it, they say. They want to build a society based on the Islamic ideologies set out in the Quran and Hadith. Not explaining how they will go about this in the future, they have asked the people to wait and see. "We will continue until Qiamat," Bangla Bhai has said.

After 8 years, Congress Rocks

Elections are over and results are out. After eight years, Congress is all set to come back to power proving all sorts of pre-election surveys wrong. The BJP-led coalition government was so confident of coming back to power for the second consecutive term that it gave the national election much before they were due. But their slogan of “India shining” has clearly failed to persuade the general voters to believe in what they have been claiming so loudly. The huge BJP defeat is being interpreted as the Indian voters' rejection of religion based politics and their preference for secular politics. Surely, the Gujrat riots where the BJP government actually instigated the Hindu fanatics to unleash a reign of terror and even used the state machinery to fan violence instead of stopping them is believed to have contributed to the BJP's bad election result. Another notable feature of this year's elections is the thumping victory of the leftists in West Bengal, which many see as another victory of secular politics. Sonia Gandhi is almost sure to become the next Prime Minister of India, a record of sorts as it means the largest democracy in the world is getting a foreign-born Prime Minister.



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