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     Volume 5 Issue 107 | August 11, 2006 |

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News Notes

The Queen and the Harlequin
Deposed dictator HM Ershad's fall in a mass upsurge in 1990 is integral to the rising popularity of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), especially to the build-up of an 'uncompromising' aura of its leader Khaleda Zia. She did not participate in any elections held under the corrupt General's regime, Hasina did; and this, in the elections that followed Ershad's ouster, made Khaleda a darling of young voters. Hasina's participation in the 1985 general elections was seen as a betrayal, and she and her party were punished heavily: the Awami League, the most organised political party in the country though it was, all of a sudden found itself in a quagmire. The BNP, which was timidly preparing to sit on the left side of the Speaker, could not believe its luck.
So 16 years after that, when Khaleda seeks a helping hand of Ershad to win elections, it certainly becomes news. For Khaleda the irony is a tragic one, and is twofold in nature. Her party needs the support of Jamaat, who committed acts of rape and genocide in 1971 during Bangladesh's Liberation war; the BNP needs the Islami Oikko Jote, which is the Bangladesh version of Muttahida Majlish-e-Amaal, a party that has established Sharia in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. The list does not just end here: The BNP has already under its fold Ershad's ministers, some of whom used to manage the Swiss Bank accounts of the dictator. There has been only one name missing on the list, and that is Ershad himself.
The BNP leadership it seems has felt the need to fill that gap. Ershad, otherwise an elderly man in Bangladesh politics who has served prison sentences for corruption, has been visited by Khaleda's emissary Tareq Rahman. Ershad's demands to lift the corruption cases against him and to make him president have been accepted by Tareq, who is also Khaleda's elder son.
Though the BNP leadership is trying to put a brave face, one can always sense the panic and desperation they are gripped by. This time round, in the elections that is only a few months away, only Jamaat or IOJ will not do, the BNP badly needs new allies.
To many, this initiative will come as a plot in one of those gangster movies where thugs and goons shift their allegiances quicker than the audience can predict. Many may find it funny that the BNP, itself immersed in corruption and misrule, has turned to Ershad, an established, recognised crook.
It is sad for our democracy that their exist some politicians who think they can do whatever they like, and can win elections. History has always proved them wrong.

Wrath of a cold-blooded aunt
What was going through the aunt's mind when one fine day unable to live with her jealousy she poured acid down the throat of a newborn baby? Her motive? Her daughters would be deprived from the family inheritance according to Hindu law and this newborn baby, Durjoy would be taking it all away from her. Now, after more than a year Durjoy is still alive, but barely so.
According to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), he needs a rather complicated operation to be performed by a team consisting of a child plastic surgeon, facial surgeon and an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist. Dr Palash Karmakar, ASF's medical officer said that Durjoy may never be able to speak again and further added that he will always have complications but he can be given enough treatment to live, which unfortunately is not available in this country.
Durjoy's aunt and uncle have been on the run ever since the incident.

Tigers at Home, Lambs Away
Bangladesh continued their roller coaster ride through international cricket this week, by losing to un-fancied Zimbabwe. For the first time ever Bangladesh went into an away series as favourites. As usual the team failed to live up to expectations, and like a bad case of deja vu we lost when least expected. After it was all said and done, the series was actually a close one, Zimbabwe won the first ODI by 2 wickets with only five balls left. In the second match Bangladesh squeezed out a victory with a slow bowling master class from Abdur Razzak and the ever-reliable Mohammed Rafique. The following two matches the Tigers showed us the full repertoire of their Jekyll and Hyde performances. Shadat Hossain took a hat-trick which reduced Zimbabwe to 147 for 7 in persuit of an improbable 237. With 17 needed of the last over Mashrafe sprayed down full tosses and half volleys and with 5 needed of the last ball Brendon Taylor did a Miandad and hit a 6. Mr. Hyde was in plain sight again when a pathetic batting performance by Bangladesh opened the door for Zimbabwe to walk over them. The Tigers won the last match with an ease that was expected from the beginning. The tag of favourites is not one we can live up to, if we continue our Jekyll an Hyde performances. An away series victory is still a distant dream, one fears we will forever be tigers at home and lambs away.

Why Should We Allow Killing in Custody!
At a time when felling of lives in custody of both police and Rab has almost become a routine, and the government inaction regarding the matter has continuously served to encourage the extra judicial actions, a human rights organisation based in Bangladesh took a bold step and challenged the status quo. This non-government outfit called Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) took the matter to court. What the flurry of news items that catalogued the extra judiciary killings in custody failed to do, a High Court (HC) rule now strives to accomplish -- holding the law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions.
An HC division bench passed the order following a writ petition filed by the human rights organisation. The petition challenged the failure of the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) to protect the lives of the arrestees and detainees in its custody. The respondents, who have been asked to reply within three weeks, are home secretary, inspector general of police, director general of Rab, and directors of Rab-1, Rab-2, Rab-3, Rab-4 and Rab-10.
HRPB chairman Syed Arif Niazi, advocates Asaduzzaman Siddique, Aklas Uddin Bhuiyan and Mujibur Rahman filed the petition on behalf of the human rights organisation. And in the petition they have boldly taken a stance against the questionable actions of Rab. “Surprisingly from the very first day, the activities of Rab were neither within the limits of the constitution nor within the bounds of the law of the land,” they observed in the petition.
It is the right of every arrestee to be treated according to the law, the petitioners pointed out in their appeal. According to their estimate, which has been drawn up from the newspaper reports, 500 people have fallen victim in Rab custody so far. It certainly is a formidable number.
Manzil Murshed, counsel for the petitioners, argued that death in custody is unacceptable even if the arrestees are accused in a number of cases. They have the right to a fair trial, he observed. He admitted that many among the arrestees killed in crossfire were renowned terrorists and killers. Though their links to heinous offences were acommon knowledge, Murshed rightly observed that it does not make their lives expendable. Termination of life cannot be looked as a way to deal with crime, as it goes against the very ethos of lawful governance. With a criminal the aim should be to get a conviction, that is why the country has an adversarial judicial system in place. While dwelling on the issue of criminals getting the chance to defend themselves, one should also take notice of the fact that it is not only known criminals who lost their lives in crossfire but also a number of innocent people.
Murshed was of the opinion that the victims of crossfire were deprived of their fundamental right to get protection of the law. As his views reinforce, killing in custody only means that the law enforcers are out to make the judicial system redundant.

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