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     Volume 4 Issue 5 | July 23, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
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News Notes

Dispute over History
Opposition party Awami League walked out of the Jatiya Sansgad twice in protest on Sunday, July 11th. The first walk out was a result of the latest additions of the Muktijuddher Dolilpatro. The addition claims former President Ziaur Rahman to be responsible for the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence. AL lawmaker Mohammad Nasim accused BNP of attempting to distort the history of the Liberation War and stated that former prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration of independence was incorporated in the constitution of Bangladesh. In response to this, State Minister for Youth and Sports, Fazlur Rahman, accused the opposition party of trying to distort the country's history. He then went on to quote the proclamation, which reads, "Ziaur Rahman, in the name of our great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced the independence."
The second walk out of the day was fueled by the last minute cancellation of a general discussion, which had been decided upon by the house earlier. The discussion, being conducted by Textiles Minister Shajahan Siraj came to a halt when Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Prime Minister's Parliamentary Affairs Adviser, asked Speaker Jamir Uddin Sircar to give the floor to the opposition bench first. This was followed by protests by AL, who encouraged Shajahan to continue with his discussion. LGRD Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Law Minister Moudud Ahmed and Health Minister Mosharraf Hossain requested the speaker to hold a general debate. This was, however, overruled by apparent gestures being made to the speaker by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Finance Minister Saifur Rahman, supposedly for the discontinuation of the discussion. Members of both parties engaged in heated arguments before the speaker called for order in the house.

RAB Arrest and the Death of a Witness to the Ahsanullah Murder
A key witness to the killing of AL lawmaker Ahsanullah Master died in hospital in Tongi early July 16 apparently during interrogation in the custody of the Rapid Action Batalion (RAB). The death of 30-year-old Sumon Ahmed Majumder, vice-president of Jubo League's ward no. 10 unit, came 10 hours after arrest putting the death toll in the wake of RAB interrogation to four. RAB officials made the arrest two hours after they raided the victim's house. "They (RAB members) tortured my son severely in custody that led to his death," the mother of the victim said while talking to the journalists. The police went to Sumon's Amtali house with a local BNP leader to search for firearms, and after they made the arrest he was taken to the Tongi thana. Sumon was arrested along with two others in connection with their alleged involvement in extortion, a Prothom Alo report said. But according to Sumon's brother he was taking a shower when a team of 15 member RAB team came and they asked him to go with them for interrogation regarding Ahsanullah murder case. As one inmate claimed to have heard Sumon crying, his relatives confirmed that they offered money to stop the torture. But a RAB official had a straightanswer, he said, "Sumon scuffled with RAB officials during his arrest and was injured."

A Murder, or a Victim of Shootouts?
What is the use of filing a case and even asking for justice from the law enforcement authorities? I will ask for justice to Allah…" wailed the wife of Mohammad Ali, the man allegedly pulled out of his house by the police while hunting for criminals belonging to a notorious group on Monday, July 12. On that day a police constable died while exchanging gunfire with the local hoodlums. Right after that the angry battalion of police went on a rampage alleged a Prothom Alo report. Aklima Begum, the wife of the deceased, who was a deed writer, told newsmen that the people in bulletproof vests stormed in and hauled her husband out of the house. While some of the men in uniform attacked Aklima hitting her black and blue and crushed the TV set and the showcase, out in the lawn Mohammad Ali kept begging for his life. But that did not save him. He was tortured and later shot by members of the law-enforcing agencies.
But the OC of the Mohammadpur thana had an altogether different story to tell. He said that the police opened fire only on self-defense. And he also claimed that a revolver with bullets in it was recovered from Mohammad Ali's house. Many witnesses said that it was during the shootout with the police that Liton, one of the listed criminals, took shelter in Ali's house. A group of police came and left after failing to find the criminal. But, Later, after an hour, the same house was cordoned off as a source leaked it to the police that Liton was still hiding inside the house. RAB officers who accompanied the police asked the owners of the house to hand him over, but they declared that no criminal was hiding there. The police and RAB personnel then stormed the house and pulled out both Ali and Liton and started beating Ali up mercilessly said a neighbour, a witness to the scene. The people of the area have long been the victims of ill-treatment by Liton's group of criminals, and no one ever had the courage to protest against their unlawful acts. Neighbours believe that Ali must have denied having Liton in his house out of fear, and that cost him his life. He died on his way to the hospital.

Policing Lifestyle
The latest infringement on individual privacy is a new directive from the National Board of Revenue (NBR) for all seven lakh tax payers including government officials, to fill out forms giving details on their lifestyle. This means citizens will have to give information on pretty much everything how many houses they have, what cars they drive, where their children go to school, whether there are any children studying abroad, even how many trips they took abroad and to where. The idea is to ask every citizen in so many ways the rude question of "how did you afford it?" -
The NBR moreover, has decided to collect advance income tax (AIT) through designated representatives or agents of the tax paying orginisations. Apparently this move is aimed at eliminating the probability of tax officials taking bribes. The new form IT 10 BB must be filled up and sent to the NBR along with the annual tax return.
The move was challenged in the High Court as being discriminatory and the court stayed it. But this has not diminished the zeal of the NBR in going along with it. Especially with the pressure of achieving 20 percent tax collection growth. The AIT covers bank interest, land registration fees, contractors and suppliers bills and securities etc. The NBR gets three to ten percent AIT from these areas.
All this is very touching in that the move promotes more government revenue 'to do good for the country'. But what are the implications on the personal lives of people? It means officials can barge into one's private house and ask obnoxious questions about one's personal life. At a 2002-2003 budget address Finance Minister Saifur Rahman stated "Many individuals in our country have luxurious lifestyles. They live in grand houses, travel in expensive cars and take their families abroad for holidays. But many of them state incomes that do not reflect such lifestyles. Wonder if the Finance Minister will be open to officials scrutinizing his own 'lifestyle' and that of his family members.

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