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     Volume 6 Issue 27 | July 13, 2007 |

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News Notes

All-out War over a Mosque
Months of conflict between the government and extremist seminary students over the controversial Lal Masjid in Islamabad, Pakistan led to further bloodshed when troops under direction from Presidents Pervez Musharraf stormed into the mosque complex following a set of failed negotiation attempts. At least 50 militants and eight security personnel are known to have died in the early morning siege on July 10.
It all started in January of this year when a group of female seminary students from the adjoining Jamia Hafsa Madrasa took hold of a children's library in Islamabad protesting the government's decision to demolish all illegally built mosques and madrasas. Tensions continued to escalate throughout the months when male and female students from the adjoining madrasas continued with their terrorist activities. Three women were abducted for allegedly running a brothel. The mosque's senior cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, vows to launch suicide attacks if the government attempts close down the mosque in retaliation of which the mosque's website and radio are ordered to be blocked by the government. Students kidnapped four policemen, and a further two when mosque supporters were arrested by police. Seven Chinese men and women working in an acupuncture clinic were kidnapped by the extremist madrasa students claiming they are actually part of a brothel.

Free at Last

Abduction in the Chittagong Hill Tracks has been a regular occurrence with foreigners being the target of insurgents. The last one occurred about two years ago. The most recent case of such an incident happened last month on June 25, when programme officer of Danida, the Danish International Development Agency, Shahid Suman was abducted along with his driver during an official visit to Kya Buri Para village in Thanchi upazila. The driver Md. Hanif was rescued unconscious some 40km away from Kya Buri Para.
The Danida staff was finally rescued last week, when law enforcers found him near a stream in the remote forest of Thanchi upazila after two weeks of his abduction. Security forces were maintaining massive rescue operations to rescue the Danida official. Even the locals had joined the rescue operations as part of a new rescue strategy.
Suman's legs were swollen and scratched. A patient of diabetes and high blood pressure, Suman had to go without his regular medication for two weeks. He was immediately rowed to the Chhoto Modok BDR camp since there was no way that a helicopter would be able to land in the remote area. He was later flown to Chittagong Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
In spite of the heavy security measures taken by the government to protect officials, tourists, visitors and other general citizens in these areas, kidnappings and abductions occur every year.

Jalil's Shocker

The detained general secretary of Awami League Abdul Jalil dropped a verbal bomb on AL President Sheikh Hasina in his petition to the caretaker government for his release. The petition was distributed to journalists by his wife Rehana Jalil at their Gulshan residence last week. In the letter which was addressed to President Iajuddin Ahmed and Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, Jalil, who was until now known as one of Sheikh Hasina's most trusted supporters, criticised her supposed dictatorial leadership, claiming that she made party decisions unilaterally, which in turn landed her fellow party members in trouble. According to Jalil, Hasina has harmed herself, the party as well as the country by criticising the interim government and refusing to comply with their wishes and show her support for the interim government, which Jalil claims is a decision she made without her party's consent. The letter also claims that if the government releases Jalil he will retire from politics for the sake of his family and due to his failing health. Jalil was arrested on May 28 from Mercantile Bank (of which he is the chairman) and has been detained since then under the Special Powers Act. However, because of his health problems, he has been undergoing treatment at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University since June 4. In response to this, many political leaders and analysts have questioned the credibility of this letter especially since Rehana Jalil has not explained how she got her hands on the letter in the first place. Many AL leaders, such as AL Presidium Member Suranjit Sengupta, are suspicious about the letter and its contents, and whether Jalil voluntarily signed the letter or whether he was forced into it.
Jalil's statements are indeed quite shocking, considering the fact that only a few months ago he was his party president's right hand man and constantly in the limelight announcing the AL's position as well as stating the controversial April 30th deadline. If he is really serious about his departure from AL it will be a major letdown for a party that has always boasted about its unity and political strength.


The Hilsa Story
Till last week a moderately big size hilsa was sold at Tk 400-500 per kilogram in the kitchen markets of the capital, the government decision to slap a ban on its export has not helped the consumers either. Smuggling is a major reason, along with it comes illegal fishing of the jatka variety of the fish, during the season where the fish spawns. According to a Daily Star investigative report a syndicate of unscrupulous businessmen are at work too, making it difficult for the middle and lower class buyers to taste this delicious fish. A strict monitoring of the border is needed, people belonging to the so-called syndicate have to be brought to book.

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