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     Volume 6 Issue 9 | March 9, 2007 |

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News Notes

At least Another Year to Go…
The assumption behind the continuation of the caretaker government is that it is still here because the environment for a free and fair election has still not been reached. In fact it is far from it. The ongoing cleansing drive whereby, one after the other, members of the leading political parties are being rounded up and sent to jail for their corrupt and criminal activities, only goes to show that it will be a while before an election will take place. But even looking at the sheer logistics of holding an election gives enough proof that the caretaker government is here for at least another year. It will take at least that long to get the voter identity cards ready and the whole process will require around 430 crore taka, according to a researchers committee appointed by the government.
The committee's head Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, in an interview with the BBC, has said that the committee will be assessing various aspects of the voter ID issue such as how to simplify the making of voter IDs, how much money this will require, how long it will take and so on.
Chowdhury has said that the voter ID information has to be done by going from house to house, procuring all the relevant facts and taking the voter's picture at the same time. The picture has to be taken at the time of getting the information to avoid errors. In addition, those people who will go from house to house will carry a computer and camera with them so that they can enter the voter information into the computer and also take the voter's picture. The process, which will at least take a year to complete, seems to be the most logical way of making sure that authentic voters get to vote.

Fiery Episodes
Bangladesh seems to be going through some kind of a chaos, referring not only to the social and political 'spring cleaning' being carried out by the Caretaker Government, but also a series of unexplained fires that keep breaking out every other week in the country.
People are still talking about the mysterious fire that broke out in the 10 storey BSEC building in Kawran Bazaar, where hundreds of staff workers and employees, belonging to ntv, Rtv, Amar Desh, Dandy Dyeing, a few of the many offices, were trapped for several hours before being rescued. Four people died.
Still trying to get over the horrible experience, the people get hit by yet another news of a firebreak at a towel factory in Chittagong Export Processing Zone last week. It seems that the fire had started at the Tareq-Azim Textiles Mills at around 3:30pm due to electric short-circuit, though no one was reported to have been hurt or injured critically.
If that's not enough, yet another major fire broke out last week at a slum in Chittagong, were at least 25 died, which included 10 children. About 25 were injured and taken to the hospital for serious burns. The fire erupted in the Bau Bazar slum in the Bakulia area, burning at least eight houses before rescue workers and fire people could bring the blaze under control. Initially, rescue workers recovered at least 21 charred bodies from the burnt houses. Believed to have originated from a nearby shop, the fire burnt alive five members of a family, outof many others, which included 45-year-old Kamala Begum and her fiver children. Kamala's 50-year-old husband Abdul Momin is the only surviving member of the family and is being treated at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury said that he would arrange temporary tin-roofed houses for the affected people and buy the survivors rickshaws to them live by, amongst many other plans.
A fire can start anywhere. If not noticed at an earlier stage, a small fire can eventually lead to a big tragedy. The simple concepts and ideas of a fire exit or an alternate escape, smoke detectors at office buildings and homes as well and simple techniques to save one self and a neighbour from a blazing fire, are now being practiced all over the world. Why is it that we have to watch trapped people crying for help from high storey buildings and slum dwellers die from blazing fires when we can take steps to prevent these breakouts from happening?

Bangladesh's War on Terror
Six Islamist militants of banned Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) are to be hanged in about a month for masterminding a suicide attack on two judges in Jhalakathi two years ago. Last week the President has turned down the mercy petitions of zealots Abdur Rahman, Bangla Bhai, Ataur Rahman Sunny, Khaled Saifullah, Abdul Awaul, Ifekhar Al Mamun and Asadul Islam Arif. All the fanatics except for Arif are in prison now. The High Court on August 31 last year handed down death penalty to the six Jihadists for killing judges Jagannath Pandey and Sohel Ahmed. The presidential rejection is going to seal the fate of these zealots, who along with their yet to be captured followers unleashed a reign of terror across the country. Though the hanging of the fanatics will usher in a new dawn in Bangladesh's own war on terror, more still needs to be done to deradicalise the youth who because of extreme poverty and hate-preaching have fallen into the hands of extremists jihadist outfits like the JMB. More militants have lately been arrested by law enforcers and according to newspaper reports absconding JMB members and new recruits are regrouping to launch new attacks. If issues related to the rise of extremism are not addressed there is a risk that we will have to witness the rise of new Abdur Rahmans and Bangla Bhais. A bold step towards freeing the country from bigotry and fanaticism may start with the separation of the state from the mosque. Politics based on religion and hate preaching should altogether be banned, and money driven consumerism must be reigned in before we dream of a secular and democratic Bangladesh.

An Inside Story
Aleader of a political party, no matter what his position is must have got to that position after showing some leadership qualities, which should invariably include sympathy in some form. Lutfur Rahman, a Jamaat leader, is not only devoid of any feelings but he unleashed his most evil side to the person he is supposed to be closest to, his wife Sharmila Khatun. According to a report by Prothom Alo, from the day of her wedding 17 years ago, Sharmila was abused by her husband for dowry.
Helpless Sharmila, bound by the cruel norms of society did not dare to leave her husband. She even gave birth to a little baby boy. That did not seem to appease Lutfur either. When their little boy was only five days old, and Sharmila had yet to recover, Lutfur went after her again, this time with a heavy iron rod. He injured the frail Sharmila in several places. Unable to take the humiliation and disrespect she finally lodged a complaint at Kaliganj Police Station.

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