<%-- Page Title--%> Newsnotes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 143 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

February 27 2004

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BNP and AL at Loggerheads Again
National politics took a nasty turn last week; while the Awami League called the third general strike in five days, the prime minister (PM) Begum Khaleda Zia, alluding to the main opposition, Bangladesh Awami League (AL), told a public meeting in Jatrabari, "Those who put a block on my roadmap for progress, will be blocked inside their houses." The main opposition reacted angrily: "Days of putting resistance are over. Get ready for counter attacks," AL presidium member Motia Chow-dhury told party workers on February 14.

What the PM meant by her "road map for progress" is unclear though; one thing is for sure: so far her government has miserably failed to improve the ever-deteriorating law and order situation. Lately, her party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and its student wing, the JCD, have been behaving like a private army of bully boys, which can outmatch even the forlorn days of Sheikh Mujib and the Jatya Rakkhi Bhahini in notoriety.

The opposition, on the other hand, has not lived up to the expectations of the public either. The AL remained mysteriously silent when around 40 innocent civilians died in the hands of the army under the so-called Operation Clean Heart. It seems, with the general election looming the AL has suddenly aware of the ruling coalition's misdeeds and corruption. The party has lost its liberal democratic touch long ago; hunger for power might be new; it was, however, not unexpected.

BBC Faces Blair's Wrath
Though its coverage on the Iraq war has dented BBC's image of being the most reliable and objective news media, it is still the only western media to have a fair amount of credibility. But even that is at stake. The Blair government is working on a plan to break up the BBC into separate regional entities for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The government is also planning, and it is extremely significant, to take away the job of ensuring BBC's impartiality from the corporation's board of directors, the body that has so far shouldered this responsibility. The government's efforts to reign in the BBC was not absolutely unexpected though. BBC's report last May that accused the Blair government of exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq's WMDs triggered a bitter row between the BBC and the British government. The Hutton inquiry formed to look into Kelley's death found the BBC story unfounded and absolved the government of any crimes. The BBC had to appologise and its Director General, Chairman and the concerned reporter had to resign. But looking at the government plans it seems the BBC has a lot more to lose. This is not good news as far as the future of neutral and objective media is concerned.

Judiciary in Pandemonium
The Chief Justice (CJ) has recently recommended the dismissal of a sitting judge at the High Court for corruption. The incident seems to have opened a Pandora's box. About 100 lawyers at the Dhaka Bar have urged the CJ to replace three judges and five magistrates, including current Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge (DMSJ). The lawyers, according to the newspaper reports, have accused them of corruption, irregularities and misconduct.

DMSJ Md Motiur Rahman and Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Ayub refused to comment, but Dhaka Divisional Special Judge Rezaul Karim Khan dismissed it as baseless and asked the lawyers to prove the allegations against him, reports say. Charges of corruption against judges are not at all new; but the frequency has certainly surprised everyone.

Killed by Negligence
It is carelessness at its best (or should it be worst?). Nearly 100 cattle died when they drank water from a canal that goes by Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Limited (CUFL). When the pipelines of CUFL carrying industrial waste got leaked, the poisonous toxic gas flew into the canal and caused this terribly tragedy. Usually the CUFL authorities warn the people on the loudspeaker before releasing their industrial waste. But this time no prior warning was issued. Newspaper reports suggest that some 40 families affected by this tragic loss will be compensated by the CUFL authorities. But should some monetary help to the victims absolve a crime of such magnitude? Shouldn't the responsible person/s be punished?

Kushtia--Kidnappers' Haven
Kushtia has recently become a haven for kidnappers. In January alone at least 20 people were abducted according to police records and newspaper reports. The number is most likely to be higher as many incidents remain unreported for fear of reprisal from the abductors. In the cases where the victims were freed, the families had to pay huge ransom. Often the police have urged the families to pay the ransom to save the victim' lives. Most of the abductions have been carried out by out lawed gangs such as Gono Mukti Fouz (GMF) of the Sramojibi Mukti Andolan, New Biplobi Communist Party (NBCP), Gano Bahini which claims links with a faction of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal. Victims include school children, a college teacher and even farmers. The usual pattern is to release the victim upon getting the desired ransom or killing the victim if the ransom is not paid. In one instance a college teacher, who managed to escape, told the police the identity of the kidnappers but they did not arrest the culprits.

Peer Habibur Rahman; veteran politician and leader of the National Awami Party (NAP) died of old age complications on February 15. He was 84. Rahman actively took part in the Liberation War as an organiser, later, after the Independence, as a leader of the NAP. He played a pivotal role in several anti-communal movements.



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