Members of Rapid Action Battalion inspect Paltan Maidan, venue of the 14-party opposition combine's rally, with trained dogs
Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury
AKM Mosharraf Hossain
Mir Nasir
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     Volume 4 Issue 72 | November 25, 2005 |

   News Notes
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News Notes

Back to Square One!
AFTER the week long hi-fi security running all around the country, it's back to the good old days of death threats, the on-going clashes between the government and the opposition party and of course the innocent citizens who happen to just go with the flow, and adjust to the unnecessary changes like guinea pigs. A couple of days before 'grand rally' of the 14-party opposition coalition, its leaders threatened to paralyse the entire country if the government continued to 'conspire to foil the rally by resorting to repression'. The rally was called by the coalition in an effort to launch a fresh spell of united 'oust the government' movement.
Senior leaders of the opposition coalition at a news briefing last week said so far 4,000 grass roots level leaders and activists of the coalition have been arrested across the country in the last few days and termed the incidents as 'government's bid to foil the rally'.

Getting into the Spotlight
IT seems that a monopoly has been established in the outdoor advertising market. Influential persons at the top hierarchy of the ruling BNP have taken control of this business in the name of Dhaka's beautification. In the last few years, Advance AD, a firm owned by prime minister's second son Arafat Rahman, and its unofficial partner Arkay Group have had their hands on the lucrative advertisement spots in the city, the majority of which are owned by the government. Some sources say that it is the PM's own sons who are the owners of Arkay Group. The two giant firms have received all-out support from the DCC (Dhaka City Corporation) and other government parties involved in obtaining and controlling the monopoly. The same sources say that having driven other firms out of business, Advance AD alone has been pocketing the lion's share of over TK 100 crore a year, of the roughly Tk 150-crore annual outdoor ad market of the city. Arkay is not far behind and together, these two company bags around 80 percent of the capital's total outdoor ad revenue. There are about 300 ad firms in the city, some decades old, but none of them dare to raise any questions about this nepotism.

Another Anti-poor Move
THE Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led Four-party Alliance (FPA), before coming to power, promised to establish a society based on economic justice. But for the last four years the government has been pursuing a policy that hits the poor most. Around one million rishaw-wallahs who constitute the backbone of the city's transport, it seems, are deliberately singled out by this anti-poor government. More and more Dhaka-streets are declared off-limits to rickshaws. Though analysts blame motorised vehicles like private cars and autorickshaws for the lion's share of accidents that occur in the streets, Communications Minister Nazmul Huda, allegedly to make a few quick bucks, is in favour of bringing in more and more CNG-run autorickshaws at the expense of rickshaws.
The communications minister's latest jihad against these poor rickshaw-wallahs has manifested itself last week when the government banned a huge stretch of road from Elephant Road to Jatya Press Club to rickshaws. The minister, apparently, is not working alone: the might of the World Bank (WB) is behind him. It is small wonder that Huda's patron, the WB, has earned a good deal of notoriety in some Third World countries. And the organisation has an army of equally notorious godchildren; of them includes General Shuharto and Ferdinand Marcos.
During the South East Asian crisis, the WB's so-called prescriptions worked as a catalyst in deteriorating the already inflation-inflected economies of the countries. In fact, Malaysia has successfully averted the crisis at that time by ignoring the bank's dictums, refusing to devaluate its currency.
Huda and his gangs' unflinching loyalty towards the WB is not at all new. Following the WB's policy, the FPA closed down one jute mills after another, while at the same time the WB, allegedly, told India to establish new jute mills.
It is ironic that we have an elected government; and it is indeed a shame that it's the urban poor who voted the FPA to power.

Ministers are Above the Law

MINISTERS not only enjoy free cars, free houses, free telephone, they also seem to be free from the reach of the law. Over the last four years four ministers or deputy or state ministers resigned or rather made to resign following allegations of graft. Commerce Minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury was the first to go. He allegedly imported goods for his hotel Serina in Gulshan, depriving the government taxes to the tune of several crores. Ahsanul Haq Mollah, popularly known as Pocha Mollah, state minister for post and telecommunications, was next to go, allegedly for his son's involvement in terrorist activities. State minister for power AKM Mosharraf Hossain was forced to resign for accepting an expensive car from Niko as a "gift" while Mir Nasir joined the gang of the snubbed when PM was convinced of his rumoured shady dealings with foreign airlines regarding plane fares of Hajj pilgrims. Significantly, none of these four discarded ministers are facing legal charges for the corruption that cost them their jobs. As if snatching minister-ship is serious enough punishment, and he should be spared with that punishment alone. There is however a saying, all is equal in the eyes of law, but then ministers, even if when they are former, might not be included among "all".

Copyright (R) 2005