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     Volume 6 Issue 29 | July 27, 2007 |

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News Notes

The Game Called Politics
Being a politician in Bangladesh means having the capacity to say the most outrageous, contradictory and hypocritical things in public, giving a hint of how politicians see the public - as a mass of gullible fools. One of the latest examples of such remarkable audacity is Khaleda Zia's statement at a teleconference with BNP leaders in Japan. Stern actions, the BNP Chairperson said, would be taken against those party leaders whose involvement in corruption will be proved as well as all those errant reformists who were conspiring to break up the party. It seems she has totally forgotten that her son is still in jail on massive corruption charges along with many of her favourites - Falu, Babar, Najmul, Salahuddin…the list goes on. But perhaps we are underestimating our former PM. She did after all use the phrase 'will be proved'. Maybe she is under the impression (or delusion) that the charges against her son and legion of cronies will ultimately not be proven and all or most of them will go free.
Khaleda also criticised the interim government saying that arrests were being made at whim, which she said was against the interest of democracy. She has even gone as far as criticising the government for arresting Sheikh Hasina, her arch rival, chiding the authorities for the way Hasina had been jostled by crowds during her arrest. Zillur Rahman, AL's Presidium member explained this unexpected commiseration for her most disliked opponent by saying: "She has acted like a true politician."
Khaleda of course is facing a lot of trouble within her party, which has become sharply divided between pro-reformists and pro Khadedaists. She has even hinted that she may expel secretary general Mannan Bhuiyan as urged by many of her loyalists. The pro-reformists have said that they will resist any action taken against the secretary general. For the public it is rather strange to see leaders who only a few months ago were thick as thieves, (pardon the expression) to become so divided.
AL president Sheikh Hasina, meanwhile has little to do save wait. She sent a letter to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in which she said that the notice served by the ACC asking for her wealth statement was full of errors. The one she mentioned was that she had been referred to as a male and had been asked to submit the wealth statement of the wife. The ACC did not accept the letter and stands by its directive asking for Hasina's wealth statement.
There have been many protests against Hasina's arrest and detention, from her supporters, DU teachers wore black badges and even abstained from work for a few hours; six British MP's have requested her release since the poses no 'conceivable' security risk or risk of evading justice having given up her passport. For the time being at least, the AL seems less interested in internal divisions and more concerned about their president being in jail.

Trafficking Gang Member Arrested
Last Friday, the Rapid Action Battalion caught Abul Shikder, a member of a human trafficking gang in the capital city, while he was in the process of trying to kidnap four children. The arrest took place around 7:30 P.M. in the Khilgaon area near the Chhapra Mosque after the parents of the four children alerted the elite forces. Apparently, Shikder tried to lure them to him by offering them dolls. The children, Taslima (10), Irin (9), Akash (7) and Rozina (7) informed their parents about Shikder and RAB conducted a raid when he was in the area trying to take the children with him.
Shikder, who had been a rickshaw-wallah for 15 years before he got into the trafficking business five years ago, confessed that he has kidnapped over 50 children between the ages of six and ten, each Friday, from various areas in Dhaka and supplied them to different people who usually traffic children to the U.A.E. Shikder's fee, on average, was Tk. 50,000 per child. A case has been filed in the Khilgaon police station, but RAB sources claim that, since Shikder is only a field level worker, they are trying to find the other members of his gang. According to RAB Shikder named one of his bosses during the interrogation.
Trafficked women and children from Bangladesh are usually sent to neighbouring countries such as India and Pakistan, or to the Middle East. On average about 15,000 women and children are trafficked to India every year and 400 are trafficked to Pakistan monthly. These victims are usually forced into prostitution, domestic labour, factory labour and marriage, while young boys are taken to the Middle East under false pretences usually to be camel jockeys.

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