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     Volume 6 Issue 14 | April 13, 2007 |

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News Notes

Hasina's Strange Homecoming
On April 7, while on a private visit to the US, Sheikh Hasina, in an interview with the BBC, criticised the Election Comisssion, thereby the present government, for delaying the general elections. Hasina also termed the caretaker government as 'undemocratic and unconstitutional' While admitting that the government had done 'a pretty good job' in trying to clean up politics and trying free the electoral process of muscle power and black money, these reasons should not be used as a pretext for delaying the polls.
No doubt by the 'pretty good job' she meant the hauling in of BNP political bigwigs especially her arch rival Khaleda Zia's son Tareq Rahman.
She may have to eat her own words now that the anti-graft drive has including her as well. Only a few days after her interview with the BBC, the former prime minister and Awami League (AL) chief Sheikh Hasina was sued in connection with an extortion of Tk 3 crore taka.
It was a little known businessman Tajul Islam Farook, chairman of Westmont Power Company, who filed the case with Tejgaon police station under the non-bailable sections of the penal code. In the case Tajul brought allegations against Hasina of extortion and abuse of power in 1998, when she was the prime minister. According to the law, if prima facie case is proven to be well-founded through investigation, an arrest warrant will be issued against the former prime minister.
The case was filed under sections 385, 386, 387 and 109 of the penal code. In accordance with the sections, a person can be sentenced to five years to life in jail if the court finds him or her guilty, which would make the person ineligible for elections.
According to the case statement, Tajul and the foreign company jointly set up a company in Bangladesh called Westmont Bangladesh Limited which was to set up a power plant. After the tenders were floated, Westmont was selected and the government signed an agreement with the company. Tajul alleges that he was called by Sheikh Hasina and asked to pay up a toll of three crore taka if he didn't want his company's work order to be cancelled. Later on, December 12, according to Tajul's statement, he handed the money to Hasina at her home in Dhanmondi. Tajul further said that he had not filed a case against her fearing his life.
Hasina, meanwhile, is supposed to return home on April 26 or 27.

State and Religion
Even weeks after the hanging of top Jihadists, Islamic extremism in the country, it seems, is alive and thriving. Newspaper reports suggest that the zealots are regrouping under different names and are planning to launch a new bout of bomb blasts in the country. While a silent mutation of these extremists going on, the law enforcing agencies are trying their best to nip the zealots in the bud. Last week, from the interrogation of suspected extremists is the Rapid Action Battalion has come across a curious bit of information: Tanjime Tamiruddin, banned by the government for holding Jihadists view has been renamed Hijbe Abu Omar (HAU) and is working in the country undisturbed. The HAU itself was founded by Moulana Abdur Rouf, an Afghan War returnee who once established the Harkatul Jihad Al-Islami, a group that is infamous for carrying out numerous terrorist acts during the nineties. Though Rouf is in jail, his followers are trying their best to keep his ideology of killing and thuggery burning.
Instances of other countries' war on terror show that nabbing and punishing militants alone is not enough to eradicate militancy from a society. It needs a concentrated effort-- at all fronts-- to win the hearts and minds of the toiling masses, most of who live in abject poverty, under the clutches of capitalistic exploitation.
Army's Chief's recent comment that the country's own brand of democracy should also incorporate Islam is not going to help us to establish a secular scientific society in the country. It is indeed a pity that at a time when most of our neighbours are striding towards economic independence, we are still busying ourselves with issues that most of the developed countries have shrugged off about a hundred years ago. To fight religious extremism, one must fight at all fronts. While the forefront should be the arrest and punishment of the zealots, steps must be taken to create a democratic secular environment where state and religion are separated; fundamentalism's biggest enemy, after all, is the modern mind.

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