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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | June 24, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
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News Notes

Just Don't Get Caught..."
When the entire ruling party high-command is neck-deep in corruption, AKM Mosharraf Hossain was forced to resign for taking a Land Cruiser as a gift from Niko, a Canadian oil company. Both Hossain and Niko have a long history of unabated corruption that spans more than a decade. In the early nineties, as the Chairman of Bangladesh Chemical and Industries Corporation and later as the energy secretary of Ershad's regime, Hossain struck a deal with a Japanese company named Marubeni that led to the establishment of Karnapfuli Fertiliser Company (KAFCO) in Chittagong. Since then KAFCO has become a stone round the country's neck. Every year Marubeni and associates suck millions of dollars out of the country, depriving the local economy of the earnings that a thriving fertiliser industry could have brought.
Nothing significant, however, has happened to the bureaucrat-turned politician for this: Hossain was convicted for a minor case of graft--a la Land Cruiser-- and like the other overzealous Zia faithful, turned to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The party is full of politicians who have conveniently loved and hated the "ideology of Shaheed Zia" in their life, and Hossain's graft-soaked past never became a problem for the BNP.
It is indeed not surprising that companies like Niko will love technocrats like Hossain who can be readily bought. So when 10 billion cubic feet of gas was blown out in the Tengratila Gas Field, spelling an environmental nightmare, the energy ministry sacked the managing director of Bangladesh Petroleum Company. During the Awami League regime, too, the company, as the newspaper reports suggest, bought the then energy secretary Tawfik-e-Elahi's blessings to run business smoothly. After the AL lost power, Niko has developed a good rapport with the Hawa Bhaban.
Hossain's Land Cruiser story, however, has opened a whole new Pandora's box. Now it has been established that ministers take such "gifts" from different multinationals in lieu of their "blessings". Every politician in the country is out on the market for sale, a good bargain is that all that is needed. The most awful thing about power is not that it corrupts absolutely but that it makes people so utterly boring, so predictable…

An epic win
Bangladesh has now been put on the map once and for all, as far as cricket is concerned, at least. Where cricket is a second religion, the nation had gone absolutely speechless with the overwhelming win, which was totally unexpected. History was made at Sophia Gardens in a most stunning fashion when Aftab Ahmed hit the first ball of the final over for a magnificent six and then sneaked a single off the next delivery, with which Bangladesh toppled the world champion, Australia by five wickets. Mohammad Ashraful has now become something of a living legend in the country, thanks to his magnificent century pulling off the biggest upset in the annals of one-day cricket.
It was Bangladesh's tenth win in their 108th ODI appearance and their first against the mighty Australians. Chasing 250 to win, Bangladesh batted like true professionals with Ashraful leading the way with a poetic 101-ball 100.

Wheels for the Fortunate
Of the 50 members of the cabinet of this government, 45 of the ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers are currently using vehicles belonging to their respective departments and directorates as well as development projects. A Prothom Alo report alleged that most luxury vehicles of development projects are in constant use by the ministers. It is also been alleged that the ministers are spending more than 10 lakhs in fuel cost each month.
The State Minister for Energy AKM Mosharraf Hossain was sacked as earlier reports confirmed that he had been using a one crore taka vehicle given as a gift by the Canadian oil company Nico. His aberration and sacking has shed light on a practice that has been going on indiscriminately.
The ministers' unlawful practice has inspired the secretaries and their deputies to tread the same path. They too are using the luxury vehicles meant for development projects. Although there are specific regulations against the use of the cars acquired for different projects, in practice the vehicles are regularly being used by ministers and secretaries.
The present government, after taking over, had sent a directive on July 6, 2000 to all the ministries allowing the ministers to borrow vehicles from their respective departments and directorates while travelling outside Dhaka. And 10 litre a day was the daily allocation of fuel. A minister who likes to remain anonymous told a journalist that under the present regulations there has been a great upsurge in misusing this facility. He also adds that many ministers are using the vehicles of projects to move around in Dhaka. While they can borrow vehicles from the government transport pool, most ministers are using cars that they are not supposed to use.

JCD Men held for Mugging
JCD men are now out to enlarge their area of interest and try their hands on mugging. Police on June 19 arrested three Dhaka College students and pro-BNP Jatyotabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) leaders of the college unit on charge of mugging Tk 12 lakh. They are Ruhul Amin, the assistant general secretary of the Dhaka College JCD unit, Golam Ohab Liton, science and technology affairs secretary, and Azizul Haq, cultural secretary of the same organisation.
Police sources said that when Abul Kashem, an employee of Uma jewelery of Baitul Mukrram market, was crossing the street near Dhaka Stadium, a car suddenly obstructed his way and three men pulled him into a car. He had on him 12 lakh he was carrying in a bag. There were three JCD activists on the car and they kept driving towards Motijheel. Meanwhile a scuffle broke out as Kashem resisted their attempts to grab hold of his money-filled bag. At this point a constable named Masud Mia of the Dhaka traffic police heard Kashem scream and saw the three thugs trying to push Kashem out of the car and came to his rescue. Masud drew the attention of a traffic sergeant who later arrested Golam Ohab Liton and Azizul Haq while the other absconded with the bootie.
The arrestees later admitted that their fellow activist and student Ruhul Amin had escaped with the stolen money and firearms. It was in the late hours -- at around 12 pm -- that police raided the International Hall, where Amin resides in room 303, and arrested him and recovered the money as well.


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