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     Volume 6 Issue 5 | February 9, 2007 |

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News Notes

Imams to the Rescue
Langaljhhara, a remote village in Kalaroa upazila was quite the talk of the town when Imams of local mosques took part in a rally, hand-in-hand with the locals in an effort to resist acid violence. The rally was organised by Sodesh, a local NGO, and Action Aid Bangladesh and took place last Friday. There were discussions on public motivation to resist acid violence and the speakers strongly urged all to come to the victim's aid and punish the culprits. Recently, there has been an alarming increase of acid related violence across Bangladesh as most of the culprits manage to skip prosecution through legal loopholes. Speakers at the rally emphasised the need for Imams, as religious leaders, to spread awareness among people as they are in a good position to do so. The speakers also called upon the authorities concerned to impose tougher sentences for the culprits, while giving proper treatment and rehabilitation of acid survivors.

The Fall of the Titans
Nothing could make the suffering public of this nation more happy than to see corrupt politicians and their cronies be rounded up and taken away to jail. The apparent 'cleansing' operation carried out by the joint forces recently has given the message that the glory days of these unbelievably corrupt individuals, are finally coming to an end. The collection of political Mafiosi arrested includes corrupt bigwigs of BNP and Awami League (AL). The high profile detainees include Nazmul Huda, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Mohammad Nasim.
The arrests came three weeks into former central bank governor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed led caretaker government's declaration of war against corrupt individuals and criminal godfathers
Preparations are on to bring graft charges against the detainees.

The joint forces also have the names of 41 other top politicians and businessmen on their wanted list and will soon make an announcement for them to surrender.
Apart from former communications minister Huda, and former prime minister Khaleda Zia's parliamentary affairs adviser SQ Chowdhury, other detainees from the BNP fold are former state minister for civil aviation Mir Nasir Uddin, former Dhaka-10 lawmaker and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's political secretary Mosaddak Ali Falu, former state minister for power Iqbal Hasan Mahmud, former state minister for labour and employment Amanullah Aman, former deputy minister for land Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu, former lawmaker from Khagrachhari Abdul Wadood Bhuiyan, former lawmaker from Sylhet Naser Rahman who is also former finance minister Saifur Rahman's son, and former lawmaker from Comilla Manjurul Ahsan Munshi.
Arrestees from AL are former home minister Mohammad Nasim, Adviser to AL and Beximco Vice-chairman Salman F Rahman, former state minister for planning Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, former member of parliament (MP) Lotus Kamal, and Swechhasebak League General Secretary Pankaj Devnath.
Most of the arrests took place after midnight. Newspapers flashed photographs of these bigwigs looking dishevelled and nervous as they were being taken into custody.
The security forces also raided the houses of Ali Asgar Lobi, a former BNP MP, Hasnat Abudullah, former chief whip and cousin of AL President Sheikh Hasina, Jubo League Chairman Jahangir Kabir Nanak, and its Secretary Mirza Azam, but did not find any of them.
The joint forces arrested Falu from his house at 10:45pm in Old DOHS after he had returned from Biswa Ijtema. Before his arrest, Falu met Khaleda in Hawa Bhaban.
Falu surrendered to the joint forces after calling them asking whether they had been looking for him as they had raided his house the night before. He asked the forces to come and pick him up from his DOHS residence if they wanted to arrest him.
Falu had gone under the shelter of immediate past prime minister Khaleda Zia since the start of the current anti-crime drive. The joint forces were in communication with him over the last few days warning him that the consequences would be dire if he did not surrender, which led to his surrender last night.
Falu has amassed a huge amount of wealth during the five years of four-party regime and was also one of the main conspirators behind the scam of siphoning crores of taka from Oriental Bank.
The detainees are apparently being interrogated in army custody although the government did not make any official statement in this regard.
The joint forces also arrested BNP leader and former forest and environment minister Tariqul Islam, and another former lawmaker of the party Rashiduzzaman Millat from their houses the following day.
Obviously the drive intends to show that it means business by catching the 'big fish' and making no distinction between parties. In the past although successful governments have arrested individuals on charges of corruption, usually they were rival politicians.
The only exception to the rule was former military ruler HM Ershad who served time in jail for corruption.
All this seems to be in line with the Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed's declaration, during his January 21 address to the nation, that tough actions would be taken in a methodical way, to curb corruption. The Chief Advisor said that pervasive corruption and plundering of national wealth by a handful of dishonest people pushed the national economy, society and politics into a disastrous state.
The caretaker government has announced recently that the crackdown on corrupt individuals would continue irrespective of their positions in the society or in political parties.
The crackdown has been seen as a welcome move by most people - many want public trials of the detainees. We can only hope that they are tried under the rule of law and punished according to the extent of their crimes.

Bandar gets Rupali Bank
Finally, the government approved the proposal to sell out its remaining 26 percent shares in Rupali Bank to Saudi Prince Bandar for $128 million last week, which would give him 93 percent ownership of the state-owned bank.
For quite a while now, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been pushing long for the privatisation of all four state-owned banks. The other National Commercial Banks (NCBs), namely, Sonali, Janata and Agrani were corporatised by the caretaker government as well.
Earlier, the Saudi prince had bought 67 percent shares of the bank from the BNP-led coalition government. According to the Privatisation Commission proposal, Prince Bandar was given the nod because his offer of $128 million was considered the highest after several analyses by the commission to estimate the bank's market value. The commission estimates that the market price for each Rupali Bank share is Tk 1800, whereas Prince Bandar is paying Tk 2,670 per share.
The Saudi prince plans on investing $150 million to improve the bank's condition over three years, such as -- developing its infrastructure and human resources, expanding foreign branches etc, the government felt that it would have to share an unequal burden of the investment comparing its minority share in the bank. The prince also plans to purchase helicopters and several other technologically advanced vehicles for improved monitoring and management of bank affairs. About $55 million will be spent on developing the information technology (IT) and telecommunications of the bank, while $33 million would be spent to improve the bank's infrastructure.

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