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     Volume 4 Issue 76 | December 23, 2005 |

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News Notes

Ershad in Thick Soup
AFTER his ouster in a mass upsurge in 1990 deposed president HM Ershad has become the dead horse of Bangladeshi politics. Though his party faired reasonably well in the 1991 elections given most of its leaders were in jail, no sooner Jatya Party (JP), Ershad's brain child, entered the democratic polity, it began to lose its charm offensive, if it had ever any.
So far the only thing Ershad has done successfully is (politically speaking) the production of small splinter groups that crept out when the General was undergoing a relatively short prison sentence for graft charges. For the military-dictator turned failed politician it was, however, no fun to watch tiny little JP's squabbling over the Plough, the party's traditional election symbol. With every JP claiming itself to be the original one, and Ershad himself barred from contesting, the 2001 general elections proved fatal for the Ershad-led JP. The leader tried to forge coalition with like-minded microscopic organisms of Bangladeshi politics, but that hardly helped the confused voters, who found the general's politics even more confusing.
Ershad-led JP eventually managed to get the Plough as the party's symbol, but that did not yield the party anything significant.
Now, after a few dormant years, Ershad is back, or that's what he wants his weary disciples to believe. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) wants him to support the Four-party Alliance: The Awami League, on the other hand, will be delighted if the ousted president walks alone in the 2006 elections. Ershad, for his part, has been playing along with the BNP who threatens to put him behind bars again for numerous cases of grafts that are still hanging over his head.
So, though most of his party leaders owned the view that the JP should fight its own battle, Ershad has so far been silent about taking any steps as such.
Ershad does not have any other way but to become the rope of both the major political parties' tug of war. The sad part (for Ershad of course) is that both the BNP and the AL are using the rope just for the hell of it.

Niko Pushes Bapex to okay its Illegal Pipeline
CANADIAN company Niko is pushing its Bangladeshi partner Bapex to approve its 19-kilometre flawed and illegal pipeline from Tengratilla to Sunamganj and a $10 million development programme for the Tengratila gas field, energy ministry sources said.
At the same time, Niko is independently negotiating with multinational cement factory Lafarge for sale of Tengratila gas in future. A Daily Star report says that it has proposed to Lafarge a gas sale price of $3 per thousand cubic feet.
Surprisingly, such gas price negotiation is the first of its kind in Bangladesh. No other oil companies are allowed to independently negotiate with a third party or gas buyers, not unless Petrobangla declines to buy the gas. Although Niko's step was an anomalous one, it was facilitated only as a result of the faulty Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) signed between Bapex and Niko.
Niko is also hammering on drilling two development wells in the Feni marginal gas field where daily gas production has drastically fallen in the recent months. The Canadian company and Bapex started supplying Feni gas to Petrobangla in November last year.
It has sent a proposal to the Joint Management Committee consisting of representatives from Bapex and Niko for approval of its plans for Tengratila and Feni gas fields.
Tengratila gas field exploded twice in January and June due to Niko's gross negligence.
At present, Niko has drafted a proposal to drill a well in Tengratila at a cost of $3 million, spend $1.7 million for site development and another $ 6 million for installing a process plant. In addition, Niko is seeking post-implementation approval of its illegal 19-km pipeline costing $4 million. This pipeline was installed using Titas Gas Company's pipe, which were imported for the Dhaka Clean Fuel Project. Such gross irregularity was allowed by the then state minister for energy AKM Mosharraf Hossain, who was later sacked.
As for the present proposal that Niko has come up with, an official of the energy ministry said the Bapex is not interested in Niko's work programmes because it is trying to ligalise its irregular activities. However, the higher authorities have already asked Bapex to consider Niko's proposals.

JMB military commander Sunny held
TWO of JMB's (Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh) main kingpins were arrested in a span of two days by RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) forces. One of them is JMB's Operations Commander, Ataur Rahman alias Sunny and the other is the Chittagong divisional chief, Mohammad alias Aman Ullah. Sunny, younger brother of JMB chief, Shaekh Abdur Rahman, is also one of the seven members of the highest policymaking body of the outlawed Islamist militant outfit. He was behind all suicide attacks; in a warehouse at Sabujbagh grenades, pistols, bullet dies, bomb-making gel were found. Acting on his confession, RAB recovered one of the biggest caches of JMB explosives, grenades, arms, ammunition, and bomb and bullet-making paraphernalia from a Sabujbagh den in the city. From Sunny's confession, RAB took him on a hunt for JMB militants and explosives. RAB teams made several raids in Tongi, Savar, Kalabagan and Manda areas and recovered a huge cache of explosives, arms and ammunition. RAB also recovered bullet-making dies, bullets of rifle, revolver and pistol, a huge quantity of other bomb-making materials and over one thousand books and booklets on Islam, militancy and jihad. Arrested JMB 'operations commander' Ataur Rahman Sunny was involved in militant activities while he was a student at Kushtia Islamic University, different sources on the campus have revealed. Sunny was admitted to Daw'ah and Islamic Studies department where he got involved with JMB and Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), student wing of Jamaate-e-Islami. Some sources claimed that he trained at least 500 ICS activists at the University on bomb making and Marshal Art.


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