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     Volume 6 Issue2 | January 19, 2007 |

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News Notes

On the Run
Several political leaders and businessmen including former influential ministers are on the run now that the army raided the residences and offices of these leaders, just hours into the declaration of state of emergency on Thursday night. The raids were carried out as part of a crackdown on 'corruptionists and godfathers of criminals'.

During the first few hours, troops detained Giasuddin Al Mamun, a close friend and business partner of BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Tarique Rahman, though he was freed after several hours. The army also arrested former Awami League (AL) lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Majumder from his Banani residence. Unconfirmed sources said the army also raided the residences of former BNP lawmakers Mosaddek Ali Falu, Mirza Abbas, Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, Salahuddin Ahmed, Ali Asgar Lobi, and former AL lawmaker Haji Mohammad Selim. According to the Intelligence sources, at least 30 leaders of the two main political parties -- BNP and AL have been put under surveillance. Tarique Rahman, former law minister Moudud Ahmed, former ministers Nazmul Huda, Mirza Abbas, former lawmaker Falu, and Dhaka City AL General Secretary Mofazzal Hossan Chowdhury Maya are also on the list of persons to be watched by the intelligence agencies.

Land and airports have been alerted so that the listed persons cannot leave the country. According to reports the army arrested Kamal Majumder from his Banani house around 1:30am yesterday. As they knocked on his door in C Block, Kamal himself opened the door. He was handed over to Gulshan police around 4:00am.

Meanwhile, at one point last week, the crackdown was suspended as neither the home ministry nor the police high ups had issued any directive regarding what steps should be taken in dealing with the influential arrestees. In spite of this, the army picked up several ward commissioners in both Dhaka and Chittagong.

Worst Victims of Human Rights Abuse
It might be the case that two women who are the most powerful people in Bangladesh but that is hardly representative of the real scenario of the condition women are living in, in this country. According to a report by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a total of 6,054 women were 'reportedly' tortured and killed in the last twelve months from January to December 2006 across the country. But this report was made from clippings of 12 daily newspapers, so it is just a fraction of the actual number of incidents.

According to the report 967 women were raped and tortured brutally. Of them, 248 were victims of gang rape and 170 were killed after being raped. A total of 141 were victims of molestation while 176 were burnt with acid and 71 burnt with fire. In the meantime, 342 women and children were trafficked and 18 were sold in brothels.

Dowry related violence took life of 274 women while 112 women were tortured by their husband or in-laws, as they could not pay dowry. A total of 1,086 women and children were killed and 1,118 were tortured physically within this period. Police assaulted 150 women while 66 women were victims of fatwa (religious edict) and 41 domestic aides were tortured. Some 478 women committed suicide during this period.

Stripped Off Their Life's Belongings

A woman braves the blaze in a last moment attempt to save her belongings as the devastating fire spreads in a slum near FDC gate in the capital

They are the poorest of poor who come to Dhaka. They have little or no land in the villages and come to Dhaka with high hopes and dreams of making a good life for themselves. These are the people who live in the worst of conditions in the capital city in the thousands of makeshift slums all over Dhaka. They have to bear the worst of the extreme weather conditions and are often evicted at the government's whims without any prospect for rehabilitation. And it seems there's no end to their grief.

Last Friday fires broke out in two different slums and gobbled up the entire possessions of thousands of slum-dwellers in a very short time. The first one broke out at Dhaka Match New Colony slum in Shyampur at 4:45AM and brought down 350 shanties and burnt to death 55-year-old Mohammad Hanif Mia. Police said Hanif was trapped and burnt alive inside a shanty. He had come to visit his brothers-in-law from Begumganj, Noakhali. Locals claimed the fire started due to an electric short-circuit in a shanty and quickly spread to other dwellings in the slum. Five fire engines from fire service headquarters, Postagola and Sadarghat stations rushed to the spot and doused the flame around 5:45am.

In the other fire incident at FDC level crossing slum in Ramna, around 200 shanties were gutted. The fire broke out around 4:00pm and snapped rail communication with the capital for about half-an-hour as fire engines were parked on the railway tracks. Police and members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) rushed to the spot after the fire broke out and halted intercity train Ekota Express, heading for Dinajpur, at Moghbazar level crossing for several minutes causing traffic to come to a standstill on both sides of the Tongi Diversion Road.

Fire service officials claimed no one was hurt in the fire that originated from an earthen oven. Seven fire service units managed to extinguish the fire within 30 minutes of its starting.

The looming power crisis
During recent meetings of top brass of the power and energy ministry, there were talks on the enormous problem the country would face during the coming months. They told adviser to the caretaker government Tapan Chowdhury that the power shortage in the country would be in the range of 1,500MW and 2,000MW while gas shortage would likely be an average of 200 million cubic feet (mmcf) per day. During summer, the demand of power and energy shoots up with little or no change in the supply. Rather, due to pressure, the working power plants usually break down. This summer, Bangladesh's electricity demand will be 5,000MW though the country can only generate about 3,300MW. This crisis should start from March. The demand for gas supply will also increase, as power plants will need more fuel. The same scenario was present last September when 19 power generation units broke down and the country had a shortage of 2,200MW, the highest-ever power shortage in our history. Chowdhury is currently discussing short-term strategies to manage and improve the impending situation.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007