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     Volume 4 Issue 15 | October 2, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   A Roman Column
   Human Rights
   In Retrospect
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News Notes

FM's 'Assertion' in the UN
In a seminar of the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) the Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan addressed a number of issues close to the heart of Bangladesh. Not only did he pledge staunch support for the international war on terror but urged the UN to combat the root causes of terrorism. "The disturbing experiences, including the rise in senseless terrorism, warn us that failure in development is an option and that poverty can breed terrorism."

Khan also marked the need for a better management of the water resources of South Asia drawing on the problems caused by last week's severe floods. "In the final analysis it is the long term rehabilitation and reconstruction measures that also require international support."

At the summit, which took place last Thursday in New York, Khan spoke of the omnipresent troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan and called for a UN central role in the democratic and reconstruction processes in both countries. With reference to the ongoing problems in the Middle East, he was in favour of the two-state solution whereby an independent Palestine would be created with boarders based on those created before 1967.

The Foreign Minister also said that Bangladesh would support an international programme of disarmament on all levels as the threat of nuclear weapons remains a grave concern to the country due to its geographical location in South Asia.

On the current discussions concerning reforms of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council, Khan said that instead of being founded on the "perceived interests of the few," consultations should, on the contrary, be broad-based. He continued in this line saying that membership to the Security Council should be established on equal geographical distribution, contribution to international peace and, furthermore, on being a partner in development. "Any reform exercise should be based on enhancing the Security Council's credibility and democratic profile." The minister also drew attention to issues concerning world trade saying that preferential treatment should be given to products from developing countries.

Bangladesh's Permanent Representative to the UN Iftekhar Chowdhury believed the meeting to be "extremely satisfactory."

Desperate Desperados
Local desperados or hoodlums have long been practising Bollywood style shenanigans. It seems that only recently they have woken up to the craftiness so endearingly nurtured by the directors of Hollywood films. In Kushtia, the hub of many a meandering soul, two men, Shumon (23) and Safaiat (28) were arrested on Saturday by the police when the guitar case they were carrying in the car were found to be hiding an AK 47. That is bound to make the hero, Antonio Banderas of Desperado, a movie filled with outlandish actions, proud of himself. It is amazing how the antiheroes of the moviedom affect the real-life people, especially hoodlums. But, the irony of the matter is that, in the movie the protagonist walks away by making use of his hidden weapon, whereas in reality the two men from the Kholsha Upazila simply could not avoid getting arrested.

Erasing the Opposition!
Though not unprecedented during the coalition era, the recent countrywide crackdown on the opposition activists caught all by surprise. The BNP-led government, on the wake of the "April 30" ultimatum given by the largest opposition Awami League (AL), went for the wholesale arrests in the month of April, and now in the face of AL's move to launch a countrywide political agitation to oust the government, the mayhem of arrests is repeated. About 1,300 people were detained in the capital and elsewhere on September 25 alone. Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) records show uniform and plain-clothed police aided by paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) arrested 481 people, 76 of them in block raids, within 24 hours, ending at 6:00 pm on that day, in Dhaka.

The drive led to the arrest of 200 in Chittagong, 400 in Mymensingh, 75 in Rajshahi and over a 100 in other districts, pushing the total figure to 2,200, after four days into the recent frenzy of arrests, a Daily Star report confirmed.

The leaders and the workers of the AL and its front organisation across the country fled their homes in the face of rampant raids.

Jails and police lock-ups are already crammed with prisoners. The police are producing the arrestees to the courts and most are being sent to jail on various fake charges.

Court sources said on September 25 that the Court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Dhaka, sent as many as 300 of 321 people hauled to the Dhaka Central Jail and released 21 of them after acquiring a fine. Of these arrestees, 21 were shown arrested under Section 54 (for suspicious movement) and 179 under Section 74 and the 85 of the DMP Ordinance. Eighty-eight people were arrested on an array of charges including extortion, theft, robbery as well as for their alleged link to the bomb explosion, although their names do not figure in the FIR.

With the Dhaka Central Jail already bursting with prisoners, the newcomers will certainly make things worse. And if the previous arrest spree is any cue, they will keep coming as long as the authorities are bound by the political commitment to erase the opposition.



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