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     Volume 4 Issue 35 | February 25, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Straight Talk
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News Notes

Donors Rethink Aid
Strategy for Rise
in Militancy

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, restraining militancy.
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.

Shrinking Freedom
in Bangladesh

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 less."

Death in

Around 120 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 yesterday.
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.

Happy Meetings
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.

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