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     Volume 5 Issue 109 | August 25, 2006 |

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News Notes

Return of the Bigots?
One of the biggest mistakes we, the public make is become complacent about everything. The much publicised reigning in of religious zealots and their leaders who have admitted their involvement in many of the grisly blasts, made us believe that we could finally heave a sigh of relief thinking that the worst was over. But is it? Last Friday newspapers reported a huge rally organised by members of the banned militant outfit, Harkatul Jihad al islami under the banner of a new party. According to reports several leadrs sought by the law took part in the meeting openly while members of intelligence agencies looked on.
Funnily enough, the State Minister for Home Affairs said that he was completely unaware of the rally until he read about it in the newspapers the next day. Even stranger is the fact that even after the newspapers published pictures of wanted militant leaders sitting on the dias, the law enforcers have not been able to apprehend a single one of them. The State Minister has said that he has instructed the law enforcers to 'find out the fact' and submit a report.
It all seems like deja vu . The government is again adopting a wishy washy stance regarding religious extremists who have previously launched a reign of terror all over the country.
It is high time for us to realise that the threat is still very much present. The huge rally which was attended by hundreds of people who obviously conform to extremist views, confirm that it is only a matter of time before the militants will regroup and find new ways to carry out their brutal plans. Will the government act now or wait for the next ghastly attack?

Another dowry case
It's a shame as to how families even today tend to look at their daughters as burdens lingering around at home, good only for marriage and giving birth to babies. One still wonders as to how parents of daughters are still bullied into giving a dowry to the families of the grooms, otherwise feeling threatened to keep hold their heads up high in society.
Yet another victim of the ills of the dowry system, Swapna Begum, 28, finally gave in last week at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
A housewife from Kutubpur in Kishoreganj, Swapna was allegedly set on fire by her husband and his relatives over dowry.
According to Swapna's family members, Swapna and her husband Muhammad Bulbul, a shoemaker, would often get into fights over Bulbul's demand for dowry and got into a big one last Friday. At one point during the scuffle, Bulbul along with some of his relatives poured kerosene on her and torched her.
Swapna was rushed to the Zahurul Islam Medical College Hospital at Bajitpur and later transferred to DMCH. According to the hospital sources, 95 per cent of the victim's body was found burnt.
Swapna's brother Nadim Mia said that she had been married to Bulbul for five years and they had two children. Ever since then, Bulbul has been demanding different amounts for the last two years and Swapna's family gave him Tk 25000 last year. Bulbul turned very aggressive over the last two months and has been pressurising Swapna for more money.

Keeping the Alliance Happy
Recognising Qawami Madrasa degrees as equivalent to the mainstream education system might seem like a very profitable decision for Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia in the short term to keep her alliance members happy but could have serious consequences for the education system and the public administration in general.
The decision has come as a shock to academics, politicians and civil society members. Not only was there no evaluation of the quality of education in the Qawami Madrasas they do not even have an equivalent curriculum and syllabi in place. Students in the general education system will now be deprived socially, academically and professionally
It would seem that the ruling party BNP caved in to the mounting pressure from its coalition partners-- Jamaat-e-Islami, who rallied for Fazil-Kamil degree to be made equivalent to bachelor-master's degree-- and Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), who were out to realise recognition for the Qawami education.
Unless the quality of Qawami madrasas and education system of Fazil and Kamil are not evaluated and certified, the government cannot issue an equivalent certificate.
Many fear that the government decision is going to help realise the long-cherished ambition of the Jamaat-Shibir to sneak into the public administration and consolidate its strength. The dream of the religion-based parties will also come true shortly as over 30,000 madrasas across the country are going to ensure steady flow of graduates for the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examinations every year, they said.
The Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, controls 98 percent Alia Madrasas, from which over 25 thousand students obtain degrees every year, sources said.
It would be very easy for madrasa graduates to get good grades because of the flexible, questionable education system.
The number of general educational institutions, which receive government funds, has increased 9.74 percent against a 22.22 percent growth of madrasas from 2001 to 2005, according to statistics of the Bangladesh Economic Review.

Ball Tampering, Lies and Videotape
Drama was played out on the penultimate day of the 4th Test match between England and Pakistan, and it was started by a familiar foe, Australian Umpire Darrell Hair. Hair who is best known for no-balling Muralitharan for chucking in '95 added another feather to his anti Asian cap as he penalised Pakistan for ball tampering. The incident occurred in the 56th over when umpire Hair and Doctrove claimed the seam on the ball had been illegally raised and it would be changed. In the process he also awarded England 5 penalty runs. Pakistani captain Inzamam had an animated discussion with Hair on field but continued to play untill bad light cased an early end to the post lunch session. But all hell broke loose as after the tea interval when Pakistan refused to take the field in protest to Hair's decision. The two English batsman and the umpires took to the field alone. Five minutes later after the Pakistanis refused to take the field, Hair called stumps and awarded the match to England as Pakistan forfeited. An hour later Pakistan took the field only to find no one there and promptly returned to the dressing room. Now this is not the first tame that Hair has courted controversy, he is well known for his anti Asian attitude and this could seemingly be the act of his career. Firstly he flouted the laws which he is supposed to adhere by when he claimed the ball had been tampered with. Under the rules the umpires must catch someone in the act of changing the condition of the ball rather than just claiming that the ball had probably been tampered with. The scenes were even more farcical because none of the 26 Sky Sports cameras had caught any of the alleged ball tampering on film. It seems rather obvious that Hair's bias worked in his favour as he awarded the game to England without discussing the matter with the Pakistani camp. Inzamam took it particularly badly as he said “This game is about more than winning and losing, it's about respect and countries come first. If someone says to me you are a cheat and Pakistan is doing wrong things, my first priority is to my country." For the first time in 129 years of Test match cricket a game was won by forfeit, one wonders where this incident is headed.

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