Strategy for Rise
For the first time in the history of Bangladesh, donors are
sitting in Washington in a high profile meeting to take some
serious decisions on their aid strategy for Bangladesh. Against
the backdrop of the heightening concerns about deteriorating
governance, rising lawlessness and the fear of ever-increasing
incidents of attacks by the religious extremists, a large
group of European donors, among them an influential European
country having substantial aid involvement in Bangladesh,
held a meeting to pursue a tough line regarding aid assistance.
They sat to link aid with good governance and human rights,
While the government is out to shift blame on the opposition,
the donors based their logic on the view that the Bangladesh
government is too lenient with militants and its inaction
has led to the recent spate of bomb attacks and killings.
The meeting in Washington on February 23-24 was jointly organised
by the World Bank, the EU and the US State Department. According
to information available before the meeting, the countries
and blocks that gave Bangladesh $60 million in the fiscal
year 2003 want the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank
and the US to rethink their financial assistance to Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, the adviser to the Foreign Ministry Reaz Rahman,
after returning from Washington, where she met US Assistant
Secretary for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, told the
reporters that the US administration considers Bangladesh
as an important partner and a role model for liberal democracy.
In the face of rising extremism in Bangladesh, Irene Khan,
the Amnesty International chief says the space for liberal
thoughts is shrinking in Bangladesh. A wave of fundamentalism
is sweeping the world, endangering fundamental rights and
civil rights, says Khan, the chief of the rights watchdog.
"There is the Christian right in the US, there is Muslim
fundamentalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and there is Hindu
fundamentalism in India," Khan told IANS here in an exclusive
interview. She stressed that the rise of fundamentalism is
very dangerous for civil society and for women. While reflecting
on the dipping human rights situation the world over, she
termed the post 9/11 world as being a changed one and added,
"It shook us all up. It exposed how vulnerable the human
rights situation is in the world. Countries with long tradition
of human rights started behaving as though they couldn't care
people died and several others remained missing when a launch
with 200 passengers on board caught in a storm in the Buriganga
River. Chandpur bound MV Maharaj left Sadarghat terminal at
10:00pm and 45 minutes later it was caught in a tornado; according
to the survivors, the launch went upside down and about 50
to 60 passengers could be rescued.
Over 4,000 people have died in the last 10 years in several
ferry disasters. Akbar Hossain, the beleaguered shipping minister
had said on May 25, 2004, "I shall resign if any major
(launch) accident occurs again." This time, he had a
very good reason for not resigning. "I heard the weather
forecast on Saturday. It did not mention about any tornado,"
Akbar said expressing his surprise.
In a village under Modhupur upazila of Tangail, a plastic
bag filled with nine bombs was recovered by the police on
Friday, February 18. A villager named Shaheen found the bag
accidentally in a ditch beside Madhupur-Jamalpur highway at
Baniyajan Uttarpara village under Dhanbari Police Station
in Tangail. He was fishing at around 11:45 the evening before
when his net captured the bag. He took it out of the ditch
mistaking it for something precious. Upon opening the bag
he found nine bombs wrapped with scotch tape, fitted with
electric switches and six-inch long batteries. He then quickly
informed the local union parishad chairman who then informed
Dhanbari police. The police reached the spot around 12:15am
An examination was conducted by a team of explosives experts
of police led by ASP Mahbubul Alam who informed the army explosives
experts at Shahid Salahuddin Cantonment in Ghatail.
Another team of 14 army explosives experts led by Major Ali
Reza detonated the bombs in an open field. Tangail Superintendent
of Police (SP) Abdur Rahman Khan claimed that the bombs were
crudely improvised explosives devised by putting explosives
and splinters into doorbells. Apparently the bombs had been
put under water a few days before they had been recovered.
with the US
With the US being the single largest investor in Bangladesh
with a shopping investment of $1.4 billion (mainly in the
energy and power sector), the finalising of the draft of Trade
and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) is the latest feather
in the present government's cap. On February 15 Dhaka and
Washington after two days of negotiations, finalised the draft
although the formal signing is still to take place. The agreement
promises to promote bilateral trade and investment. The areas
Tifa will cover include removal of non-tariff barriers, implementation
of intellectual property rights, promotion of trade and private
investment, improvement of workers' rights and pursuing WTO
talks on the basis of the Doha Development Agenda. The US
side has proposed a 'US-Bangladesh Council on Trade and Investment'
which will meet at least once a year to discuss bilateral
trade issues. The US has Tifas with more than a dozen countries
including Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
While the government may have a sense of accomplishment in
this deal, how far the agreement will benefit Bangladesh is
a major concern.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005