Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Police Action Against Nat'l Committee Betrays Govts Undemocratic Attitude

THE police action against leaders and activists of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power And Ports on Monday as they tried to bring out a procession at Mohammadpur in the capital Dhaka in support of the committee’ s half-day general strike on July 3 tends to lend credence to the public perception of the Awami League-Jatiya Party government’s growing intolerance with dissenting voices in society. According to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, the law enforcers beat up national committee leaders and activists and snatched away banners and placards from them. They also detained two members of the committee. The police action appears in sync with the antagonistic political rhetoric that key functionaries of the government, including the prime minister, have directed at the committee for protesting against the signing of a production sharing contract with the US oil giant ConocoPhillips on June 16 for hydrocarbon exploration in, and extraction from, two offshore blocks. The national committee, a citizens’ forum featuring eminent intellectuals, has provided critical views on and analysis of the economic and energy policies pursued by successive governments since its inception in the late 1990 s. Time and again, it has mobilised public opinion and organised popular protests against non-transparent agreements that the ruling quarters have entered into with international oil companies and multilateral lending agencies, apparently compromising the state’s policy sovereignty on the one hand and undermining the people’s interest on the other. Ironically, after the national committee had forced the previous elected government of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party- led alliance into shelving a plan to engage Asia Energy for open-pit mining in Phulbari through a popular movement, the current prime minister, then the leader of the opposition in parliament, went all the way to Phulbari to express her solidarity with the committee. However, since coming to power, she and her government seem to have thus far been antagonistic towards the committee and the cause it stands for. It may be pertinent to recall here that the police swooped on a peaceful procession of the committee in September 2009 leaving at least 20 , including its member secretary, an eminent economist, injured. The government’s apparent antagonism to the committee has seemingly intensified since the latter started to oppose the deal with ConocoPhillips and called a hartal in protest. Ultimately, the government’s hostility towards the committee seems to stem from its intolerance with divergent and dissenting views, which has found expression time and again in its legal and extra-legal actions to encroach upon the democratic political space of the opposition camp. The government, besides taking recourse to section 144 to foil opposition rally and procession, even obstructed the opposition from holding a decidedly peaceful and innocuous programme such as human chain. Such repressive actions, needless to say, not only are antithetic to universal democratic principles but also runs counter with the constitution of Bangladesh, which guarantees the rights to the freedom of assembly. It is thus imperative for the rights-conscious and democratically-oriented sections of society and the media to raise their voices and mobilise public opinion against the government’s undemocratic attitude and action.

Summersaults, Contradiction And Confused Populace

The bottom line is that the government is confusing ordinary people with not just what they are saying but also with what they are doing. The government seems busy trying to make everybody happy at the same time, writes Mubin S Khan   WHILE speaking to the press on June 25 , Suranjit Sen Gupta, co- chairman of the special parliamentary committee on amendment to the constitution, observed that a constitutional void was unhealthy for a country— apparently as a justification for moving the bill for constitutional amendment in parliament. A rather amusing observation because, if I remember correctly, just the other day, the leader of the opposition in parliament, Khaleda Zia stirred a storm by saying the country was running devoid of a constitution to which members of the government and the party in power reacted with all their rhetorical wrath. Politics is often dominated by rhetoric and, in our country especially, the rhetoric can over a very short time completely switch sides, without changing so much of an ‘adjective’ in its content. Take the example of the caretaker government issue. In 1996 the Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, and its allies Jatiya Party and Jamaat-e-Islami claimed that ‘ for a free and fair election a neutral caretaker government was necessary to save democracy, people’s voting right and national economy.’ Khaleda Zia, then the prime minister, ‘rejected the opposition guideline for caretaker government terming it undemocratic, unconstitutional and insulting to people’s verdict.’ Khaleda kept asking the opposition to sit for talks, offered to strengthen the Election Commission by reforming relevant laws, and asked the opposition, repeatedly, to come to parliament and make their observations heard. Hasina refused to go to parliament ‘until and unless the government makes an announcement of its readiness to move a bill on an acceptable caretaker government’. In the most amusing of political rhetoric, according to The Bangladesh Times in 1996 , Khaleda Zia said ‘since her government came to power there had been a number of elections including 16 by-elections.’ ‘These elections were free and fair, even the ruling party candidates were defeated in Dhaka and Chittagong city corporation elections. This highlights the fact that our government believes in free and fair election,’ she had said. Déjà vu indeed! In a world with an eroding value of idealism and fleeting public memory, it is quite understandable that politicians will resort to just about anything to retain, or regain, power. Often, it provides fodder for the round-the-clock media, and healthy amusement to a lot of people otherwise strained for entertainment in a country whose entertainment industry provides very little—in fact, rather ironically, is riddled in politics. In a conservative society where the young are raised to never question the virtues and wisdom of the elderly, I am sure, it is more amusing for the younger generation to watch middle-aged men and women, of the generation of their parents and grandparents, take centre stage and utter gibberish, discard opinions and positions like they discard dirty laundry and quibble like children in a football match gone awry. Ever since the AL-led government came to power two and half years back, political rhetoric has been at one of its finest best in terms of doing summersaults and providing contradictions. To be fair to them, the expansion of the mainstream media may also have increased the attention of such utterances and brought more of them into public domain. With the 30- odd seats in parliament, the opposition seems to find it more airy to stay on the streets, while the parties-in-power- run parliament has been a feast in the exercise of ‘democracy’, with heads of the parliamentary affairs committee and many of the potential minister-rejects more often assuming the roles of pseudo-opposition. One is almost tempted to wonder if the unfulfilled dream of BKSAL would have looked something like this. From the very beginning of this government we have enjoyed many a battle—Suranjit vs. HT Imam (the prime minister’s adviser), Suranjit vs. Shafique Ahmed (the law minister), Tofail Ahmed (a former commerce minister) vs. Abul Hossain (the communications minister), Syed Ashraful Islam (the LGRD minister and AL general secretary) vs. Abdul Jalil (former AL general secretary), the list goes on and on. There have been further battles—AL MPs Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and Abdul Jalil’s crusade to see the Moeen Uddin-Fakhruddin government brought to book, Alamgir’s crusade against the Anti-Corruption Commission, or the entire government’s crusade against former Grameen Bank managing director Dr Yunus. In all the battles, the divisions that gaped in the beginning and merged at the end provided ample entertainment to news followers. Suranjit no longer boasts the supremacy of the legislative over the judiciary; there are no longer battles between the victims and beneficiaries of the Moeen Uddin-Fakhruddin government, Muhith no longer stands up for Yunus’s innocence while the Rapid Action Battalion, once referred to in parliament by the prime minister ‘as an institution which has tasted blood’ receives an unprecedented level of political and rhetorical support from all quarters of the government. But the lines between amusement and troubling can often get blurry. Take the instance of the amendment to the constitution. The Supreme Court has declared the fifth amendment, the seventh amendment and the thirteenth amendment to the constitution illegal. We have been informed through the media that the constitution is being reprinted at government-owned BG Press and yet, the parliamentary committee for amendment to the constitution went around discussing with various groups amendments to the constitution. The committee members in the midst of their discussions voiced their support for election-time caretaker governments in the future, and yet went completely silent when the prime minister discarded their long list of possible forms of caretaker government, taking refuge in a single portion of a Supreme Court judgement. Amidst all this, Ziaur Rahman retains his signature in the constitution through ‘ Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem’ and HM Ershad through ‘Islam as the state religion’ while the constitution apparently also retains secularism as one of its pillars. At the present moment, it is safe to say that nobody knows exactly what social contract binds together the people of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Contradictions and summersaults have not just remained in the world of rhetoric and polemics, but have also stepped into policies of this government as well, and that is where it gets dangerous. During the much-hailed National Education Policy of 2009 , the committee first gave the impression that the government would finally remove the constitutional anomaly of various streams of education in the country but in the end settled for a more uniform curriculum, also omitting the word ‘secular’ from the policy. In the Women Development Policy 2011 , the government made a long list of proposals for the emancipation of women in the country and then conveniently refrained from guaranteeing equal inheritance to women, the issue that had made the policy imminent in the first place. The bottom line is that the government is confusing ordinary people with not just what they are saying but also with what they are doing. The government seems busy trying to make everybody happy at the same time. A look at the proposed budget for the fiscal 2011-2012 aptly illustrates this point, where there appears to be huge allocations for almost every citizen and every sector—from social safety nets to provisions for turning black money white— without hurting anyone’s sensitivity. In the end we have a humongous deficit of Tk 45 ,204 crore. Reaching the two-and-a-half year mark in tenure is an important landmark for any elected government in Bangladesh. It is often when people decide, and begin to voice their impressions of the government in power. Sitting on such an important juncture, the AL-led government should better decide whose government it exactly is, rather than try to win over everyone. It should finally try and answer questions which they have so far either left ambiguous or bombed confusion, with contradictory statements. Does the prime minister think ‘Moeen Uddin- Fakhruddin’ government was a ‘ crocodile’—if we infer from her most recent comments—or does she think, like her telecommunications minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu, that Moeen U Ahmed is one of the finest Bangladeshi generals of the last forty years? Does she intend to ever rein in the Rapid Action Battalion as she promised in parliament or does she now believe that it has never committed extrajudicial killings like a host of her cabinet members? Will the finance minister please tell us whether we are pursuing free-market economic policies or socialist economic policies? And most importantly, will the prime minister and the government please tell us whether we live in a secular country or an Islamic one? If the government fails to answer these questions, they will not only ever win over the ones that did not vote for them but may also lose the ones who voted them to power.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

India Needs To Change Attitude In Dealing With Bangladesh

ONE-way traffic in India- Bangladesh relations becomes apparent once again if we take into consideration the news that Bangladeshi citizens are not allowed to enter India through the Botuli check post in Sylhet, although Indian citizens are allowed to make the trip the other way round. According to a report published in New Age on Monday, the Indian authorities have stopped issuing visas to Bangladeshis since November 2003 at the Botuli check post in Moulvibazar, reactivated by both countries in 2001 , after a 26- year gap.    While the issue of a single check post may appear minor in the greater scheme of things, it nonetheless feeds on the growing perception, at least amongst a significant section of the population in the country, that India-Bangladesh relations are affected by a lopsided foreign policy, where Bangladesh end up giving a lot more concessions to its powerful neighbours. At a time when both governments are vocal about improving relations between the two countries, such news can feed into abovementioned perceptions. The Bangladeshi government has already initiated the process of allowing India transit to its north- eastern states, and Botuli certainly does set a bad example in this regard. It does raise the question as to why, when the Bangladesh government has extended a hand despite significant resistance from many quarters in the country, the Indian government is still inclined to keeping its doors closed. More simply put, if ‘friendly relations’ is the word that is being bandied around, why should there be double standards, albeit in one check post or many? It has been apparent since the Awami League-led alliance came to power that the government has among its priority agendas to improve ties with India. In this regard, the government has initiated transit facilities, have cracked down on Indian fugitives seeking refuge in Bangladesh and also opened doors to a number of trade and investment opportunities. However, India’s response to Bangladesh’s concerns has so far been lukewarm. Killing of unarmed Bangladeshi citizens along India-Bangladesh borders continue to take place despite repeated assurance from the top brasses of the Indian state. The Indian government is also yet to address the issue of enclaves between the two countries, the un- demarcated borders or for that matter, conclusively address the issue of water share of the river Teesta. Botuli could very well be an administrative oversight or a strategic concern of the Indian authorities, but it is nonetheless consistent with the Indian government’s attitude in dealing with the people of Bangladesh. If the governments of both countries are indeed interested in developing lasting ties between the peoples and governments of the two countries, then a change in attitude—whether it concerns large issues such as Teesta or small ones like Botuli—is in order.

Friday, June 24, 2011

National Interest : Vis - ä - Vis Gas Deal

Patriotism means love of and devotion to one’s country; and a patriot vigorously supports and defends its interests with dedication. It is universally recognised, and there are no two opinions about the truism that martyrs for the cause of the motherland like the Bangla Bhasha martyrs and the three million martyrs during the Bangladesh Liberation War were the patriots of the highest order as they had sacrificed their lives for their homeland. And nobody will ever question the patriotism of Sher-e- Bangla A K Fazlul Huq, Awami League’s founder-President Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman et al.    The question of ‘patriotism’ has become relevant as the Prime Minister herself bragged about possessing this virtue in reference to the deal signed on June 16 by her government with Texas-based ConocoPhillips for exploring surveys in offshore blocks 10 and 11 , in line with a model PSC-2008 formulated during the last caretaker government. “While we’ re trying to march ahead, these groups keep opposing us,” Sheikh Hasina said, in an oblique reference to the protest programmes carried out by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports (NCPOGMRPP).    Hasina also mentioned that during her previous term, from 1996-2001 , she had turned down the proposal to sell gas. She said that in 2001 polls, her party could not come to power, as it did not want to sell gas to some foreign companies. “I used to consider national interest above everything else,” Hasina said adding, “Who is a better patriot and protector of the country’s interests?” It has to be admitted that in 2001 she did a true patriot’s job. But what about the present one?    A prominent English daily had contacted in December, 2010 foreign minister Dipu Moni, and the energy adviser Chowdhury. It had sought official responses on the disclosure of the deal. “They had avoided questions; afterwards they stopped receiving calls. They did not respond to text messages either”, the daily noted.    Surprisisngly enough, NCPOGMRPP’s specific criticisms of the terms of the contract are not answered. The unresponded questions are: why has the leasing company been awarded the right to sell off 80 per cent of the gas extracted? Why will the multinational companies will sell gas to us at very high prices? Why will gas prices double from earlier prices, $2.92 , or Tk 210 for a million cubic feet to $5-6 or Tk 420 , which will push up the prices of daily necessities and services further?    In September 2009 police assaulted and wounded varsity professor Anu Mahmud and the others who were proceeding towards Petrobangla. It was ludicrous to see the farce of seeking apology to Mahmud and other badly injured persons including female participants in the protest rally. The hidden cause of this drama could be that the government has something to hide about the details of the deal. This year the victim is eminent columnist, anthropologist and scholar Ms. Rahnuma Ahmed who was injured during the clash between police and protesters on 14 June 2011. The nation was aghast and shuddered to watch her blood-drenched head and face on most of the satellite TV channels and a small number of newspapers.    Among the masses, unquestionably, the consciousness and feeling regarding the national interest and resources run deep; and this sentiment should be respected by any government if it has the least concern for this resource-poor country and its resources. It is advisable that instead of enthusiastically gratifying international oil companies and concurring with their exploitative terms and conditions that harm the nation economically, the incumbents should weigh up this disadvantaged nation’s essential and indispensable requirement. If the government leaders fail to be farsighted then the posterity will not forgive them.    While there is life, there is hope: dum spiro spero. Every individual, in adversity, keeps on hoping against hope. The country’s non- renewable natural resources, such as gas, oil, coal and other minerals, are extremely precious; in fact priceless. So, no government, even with three- fourths majority in parliament, has the right to sell at a lower price the exhaustible resource that can never be regenerated at an enormous cost in future. We keep our fingers crossed to see the proof of patriotism.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Patriotism And Deal With ConocoPhillips

THE question that the prime minister posed on Saturday—i.e. ‘ who is more patriotic and looks after the interest of the country than I?’—is pleasing to the ears and even encouraging. After all, the person elected by the people to run the country needs to be a patriot beyond question. While we do not question an elected government’s patriotism, we expect the government to prove its claim by its deeds, not by empty rhetoric. However, there are reasons to believe that the question is not merely aimed at vouchsafing the patriotism of the prime minister or, for that matter, the government that she heads. Came as did in the wake of the call for a dawn-to-dusk general strike by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports on July 3 in protest against the production sharing contract signed between the Awami League-Jatiya Party and the US oil giant ConocoPhillips on June 16 , the question seems to be an indirect way of undermining the committee’s patriotism. The citizens’ forum has provided critical analysis of economic and energy policies of successive governments since its inception in the late-1990 s and persisted with the demand that the people’s ownership should be established on the country’s natural resources. It has never opposed exploration and extraction of the country’s hydrocarbon resources, e.g. coal, gas, oil, and their utilisation in its economic development; its prime demand has been that these resources should be explored and extracted under the supervision of the state-run exploration entity BAPEX and used to the benefit of the people at large. In doing so, its leaders and activists, supporters and sympathisers have time and again proved their readiness to make the ultimate sacrifice. Three persons were killed when the law enforcers opened fire on a largely peaceful demonstration in August 2006 against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance government’s plan to engage Asia Energy in open-pit coalmining at Phulbari in Dinajpur. If these are not patriotic demands and deeds, one wonders what is. The prime minister may recall the movement that the committee spearheaded then; after all, she, then the leader of the opposition in parliament, went all the way to Phulbari after the government had shelved the plan in the face of the popular uprising and warned the then incumbents of dire consequences if the agreement they had signed with the protesters were not implemented. One needs to keep in mind that patriotism does not lie in episodic public assertions but has to be proved round the clock, round the year through deeds. Regrettably, however, the successive governments have pursued neo-liberal policies and unbridled market economy and commercialised services that are supposed to be rendered by the state, e.g. education and health care, at the behest of the imperialist West; these in no way protect the people’s interest or are any measure of patriotism. Hydrocarbon exploration and extraction agreements have been signed with international oil companies, deals that have allegedly lined up the pockets of a handful of bureaucrats and businesspeople and been used by the ruling quarters as a diplomatic tool to appease the global and regional big powers with a view to perpetuating control over state power locally. Moreover, the ruling quarters have maintained secrecy about the contents of these agreements. Besides, whenever questions and allegations have been raised about these agreements, those in power more often than not resorted to repressive means, thereby only underlining the legitimacy of these questions and allegations. The incumbents have not been any exception either. They have also employed the law enforcers to oppress not only their political rivals but also the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports. They have also kept the content of its agreement with ConocoPhillips under the wraps, just as their predecessors did other such agreements. What makes the national committee’s hartal stand out is the fact that these are meant to neither retain nor return to state power, unlike similar programmes called by the political parties like the Awami League or the BNP. Thus, the general strike is anything but ‘nonsense’, as the finance minister, according to a report published in New Age on Sunday, termed it on Saturday.

Has Bangladesh's Elite Police Force Gone Too Far?

On March 27 , Bangladeshi doctors amputated the leg of Limon Hossain, a 16- year-old student, four days after he was shot during a raid by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh's elite security force. Almost everyday since, Hossain's name has made headlines in Bangladesh, becoming a symbol of accusations that the governments paramilitary force acts as judge, jury and executioner in its official mission to clean up this south Asian nation of crime and corruption. "RAB is misusing their power," Hossain says. " They are killing people." On March 23 , Hossain says he was taking his family's calf back home from the fields to his village of Jhalakati in southwest Bangladesh. Out of nowhere, he says, members of RAB arrived on motorbikes. One grabbed Hossain's collar and accused him of being a criminal. Another pulled out a gun and put it against Hossain' s head. Weeping, the boy fell to the ground, pleading for his life. After dragging him to another spot in the village, a RAB member pulled out a revolver and shot him point blank in his left leg. Days later, doctors had cut it off to save his life.RAB, of course, has a very different story. According to RAB's Commander Mohammad Sohail, the village of Jhalakati is the hub of a powerful syndicate headed by Morshed Jamaddar. Everyone there, says Sohail, is in the pocket of Morshed's gang. He says law enforcement agencies have filed 19 cases against Jamaddar, including rape, murder and abduction, and that the Morshed gang has bought "everyone except RAB" — including some local politicians. Sohail says RAB, headquartered in Dhaka, had heard information that Jamaddar was in the village on March 27 , and dispatched a team to capture him. When RAB approached, gang members shot at them, and RAB returned fire. Hossain, Sohail says, was a Morshed lackey caught in the crossfire. "The other story," he says, "is made up by bad people." RAB filed cases against Hossain for illegal arms possession, obstructing law enforcement agents and attempted murder the same day as the shooting.
Dressed in all-black uniforms with black bandanas and wraparound sunglasses, RAB cuts an imposing presence on the streets of Bangladesh. The group was founded in 2004 during a time of "huge deterioration of law and order in the country," according to Sohail. Drug lords, extremists and arms traffickers worked with impunity. Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, says when RAB was created, "rich people implicated in serious crime could buy their way out." By selecting the best from the military and police and loaning them to RAB in two- year rotations, the force was supposed to be above corruption and put an end to the crime wave. By that measure, even the groups harshest critics — and there are many outside of Bangladesh — admit it has been successful. Since 2004 , the force of about 8 ,500 has captured more than 95 ,000 criminals and confiscated 10 , 000 illegal firearms, 5 ,000 bombs and grenades and 400 kilos of heroin, according to RAB statistics. The problems with RAB began, says Adams, when its members began taking justice into their own hands. "They started targeting criminals, because they had no faith in the criminal justice system," he says. RAB admits that their team members have killed some 600 criminals in firefights since 2004 , though Odhikhar, a Bangladeshi human rights group, says the real number is over 730. Human rights organizations say many of those deaths have been intentional extrajudicial killings, sometimes targeting the wrong individual, and that RAB employs violent methods in questioning their suspects. In May, Human Rights Watch released a report cataloging some of RAB's alleged torture incidents and killings, including a case in which they say RAB mistakenly murdered a man because he had the same nickname as a criminal. According to the report, no one has ever been punished in connection to any of the 600- plus deaths. Sohail says Human Rights Watch didn't approach RAB for information and relied on family members of those who had been shot for information. The result, he says, is that the report is "a one-sided complaint book of the criminals and their families." And despite human rights groups' objections, RAB still enjoys wide grassroots support. In a 2009 cable released by Wikileaks, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh called RAB the country's "most respected police unit." Interviews in Bangladesh bear this out. In a typical comment, Anthony Sarker, a hotel manager, said "RAB are real heroes to the poor. They are like black pirates." He not only acknowledged that RAB oversteps its mandate; he said it was necessary. "The normal judicial processes dont work, so sometimes its best to control a criminal RAB's way," said Sarker. This kind of attitude may be changing. Recently, Bangladeshi newspapers have been more openly critical of RAB's alleged extra-judicial killings. Adams says that for the first time, significant segments of public opinion are being critical of RAB's ethics. How the upcoming Hossain court cases play out in public will be a telling barometer of RAB's support. Recovering at a hospital in Dhaka, Hossain and his family fear the lives that await them back in their village. Hossain's mother has sued six members of RAB, but there has yet to be a hearing on their case. "I don' t think there's any hope," says Tofazzal Hossain, Limon's father. He says RAB has powerful allies who have physically threatened his family. "We sued them," he says, "because we didn't want any another boy like Limon to lose his leg. We didn't want any more mothers to cry or fathers to live in agony."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mobile Courts : The Question Of Legality

In today’s Bangladesh – digital or otherwise – the word “mobile” definitely carries with it positive connotations of technological advancement, development and so on. Take for example mobile phones, or mobile clinics or even mobile libraries.  These innovations have all come with the primary goal of providing access; be it access to telecommunications, access to healthcare or access to knowledge. The initial idea behind the new phenomenon called “mobile court” was perhaps motivated by a similar aim, namely, access to justice. But what the fruit of this idea has ended up as is rather alarming. A hospital must provide medical treatment, just like a court must provide justice and prevent injustice. So, just like a hospital must be put under scrutiny if it fails in its endeavours to cure people, similarly, a court must face bitter criticism if its actions represent anything but justice. Consequently, I believe that the recent wave of criticism coming from various rights groups and the main opposition party that has surrounded the mobile form of handing out punishments are not unfounded. Our Constitution guarantees that we will be treated in accordance with the law at all times. Our Home Minister has stated that mobile courts have been given power by law enacted by Parliament and as such they are perfectly legal. But unfortunately, the Home Minister’s stance on the issue, which is shared by the government, only represents half the truth. This is because the explanation the state machinery has fed to the public and the media leaves out a very important constitutional principle, i.e. that not only must power be acquired legally, the exercise of such power must be within legal bounds as well. It is true that the Mobile Courts Act 2009 gives almost unfettered discretion to mobile courts to “hold a person guilty”. It is in this unrestricted discretion that the illegality and unconstitutionality of this system lies. The “superpower” given under the Act to mobile courts means that these courts are absolved of all the procedural and evidential requirements that exist to protect the rights of an accused person – the right to consult a lawyer, the right to defend himself, the right to cross-examine the prosecution’s evidence, the right to produce his own witnesses, the right to make a closing argument explaining his story to the court and so on. None of these rights exist for a person whom a mobile court has got hold of and, unfortunately for him, the age-old principle, “Innocent until proven guilty,” stands corrected as “Guilty until proven innocent.” If the immediate past government could be blamed for introducing “ crossfire” to a country which shed millions of lives fighting for democracy and the rule of law, the present government must receive the same treatment for utilising mobile “courts” which, in the name of quick or rapid action, hand out convictions at will. There is nothing constitutional about the way these courts operate; and fairness and impartiality are virtues they have proved to be devoid of. In these circumstances, intervention is necessary. The rights of many citizens, along with their families, are at stake. Moreover, in the current world climate, resisting political opposition must be an act done with clean hands. The era of “ crossfire” and random street convictions must end.

Khaleda's Signal Can Be Built Up On : Al Should Seize The Opportunity

For the first time since the ruling AL and the opposition BNP locked their horns on caretaker issue, we think, Begum Zia has indicated a willingness to have talks with the ruling party if the caretaker system were retained. Though the prime minister had initially ruled out the retention of CTG 'after the court verdict', lately she has been making repeated overtures to the opposition leader urging her to place her formula for CTG reform on the table. This, she felt, was necessitated by the SC verdict as well as the experience with the abuse of the system in 2007-08. However, following the opposition leader's positive signal to the PM's initiative for an engagement, some AL leaders have expressed views that did not resonate with the PM's latest stand. One part of the SC verdict allows for two-term use of the caretaker system on the basis of understanding between political parties. Moreover, in an ' observation' the SC added that if political parties agreed, higher judiciary can be delinked from caretaker system. So materially as well as interpretatively, there is no point hammering that there is no scope for continuing with the CTG after the court verdict. For, such a position does not only militate with SC verdict but also sounds discordant with the PM's own positive approach to engaging the opposition. Now that Begum Zia has shown signs of reciprocating the PM's gesture, and the BNP is speaking with one voice, the trend needs to be built up on and taken forward with sagacity. In this context, we expect all AL leaders to speak with one voice and fall in line with the PM. While we appreciate the opposition leader's positive response for dialogue, we urge her to join the parliament without any loss of time to put across her ideas of caretaker reform as the ruling party too engages the opposition over its points to arrive at a common ground. It is the House of the people through which an effective and conclusive outcome can be reached. They can make the fullest use of the parliamentary forum while an option for agitation remains, short of hartal, of course, which is detrimental to national interest.

Brahmaputra Course : Dhaka To Play Diplomacy Card With China

The Chinese government's plan to divert the course of Brahmaputra river to the dry region of Xinxiang will be tackled diplomatically, the water resources minister has said. Ramesh Chandra Sen on Thursday told bdnews24. com that some steps were taken in this regard. Ministry sources said China last year announced to build a massive dam on Yarlung Tsangpo river, the first major dam in Tibet, with a view to setting up the world's biggest hydro-electric power plant having 510 MW capacity. He said the plant would be constructed on the upper reaches of Brahmaputra and would not divert the river's course causing possible downstream impact on India or Bangladesh. But China began damming the Tsangpo's flow in November 8 last year which raised concerns about a possible impact for the downstream people. Originating from the southwestern Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo river, Brahmaputra is nearly 1 ,800 miles (2 ,900 km) long. It flows through Arunachal Pradesh in the southwest of the Assam valley of India as Brahmaputra and in Bangladesh, Jamuna is its main branch. Sen said that foreign minister Dipu Moni, who is now in China on a state visit, would discuss the matter of change in the course of the river with the Chinese government. Dipu is accompanied by water resources state minister Mahbubur Rahman Talukder and a joint secretary. The foreign minister would also visit different rivers, dams and would accumulate knowledge about their cost and know-how, Sen added.

China And Opposition To Dams : Chocking On The Three Gorges

RAIN along the middle and lower Yangzi River this week has helped alleviate the region’s worst drought in 50 years. But it has not doused a storm of criticism of the Three Gorges dam upriver, including allegations that it contributed to the disaster. Opponents of the colossal edifice have been emboldened by rare government admissions of environmental and other “urgent” problems caused by the dam. In private, officials have worried about the project for some time and occasionally their doubts have surfaced in the official media. But the government itself has refused to acknowledge them. When the project was approved by the rubber-stamp parliament in 1992 , debate was stifled by the oppressive political atmosphere of the time, following the Tiananmen Square massacre three years earlier. Last July, with the dam facing its biggest flood crest since completion in 2006 , officials hinted that they might have overstated its ability to control flooding. On May 18 th, with the dam again in the spotlight because of the drought, a cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, went further in acknowledging drawbacks. Having called the dam “hugely beneficial overall”, the cabinet’s statement said there were problems relating to the resettlement of 1.4 m people, to the environment and to the “ prevention of geological disasters” that urgently needed addressing. The dam, it said, had had “a certain impact” on navigation, irrigation and water-supply downstream. Some of these problems had been forecast at the design stage or spotted during construction. But they had been “difficult to resolve effectively because of limitations imposed by conditions at the time.” It did not elaborate. The confession has triggered a flurry of articles in official newspapers about the dam’s deficiencies. Some recalled a warning given by one of China’s most famous critics, Huang Wanli, before his death ten years ago that the dam would silt up the reservoir basin and sooner or later have to be blown up. The Oriental Morning Post even filled its front page with a picture of Mr Huang, who was persecuted by Mao Zedong for his criticism of the Sanmenxia dam on the Yellow River. Sanmenxia was the nation’s pride until its reservoir silted up. On June 7 th Shanghai Daily , an English-language paper, called the Three Gorges “that monstrous damming project”. Its effect on the drought is difficult to prove. Officials deny assertions that the dam and its more than 600- km (370- mile) reservoir might have affected the regional climate. But one official, Wang Jingquan of the Yangzi’s Water Resources Committee, conceded that the dam had lowered water levels in two of the country’s biggest freshwater lakes, making the impact worse. The rapid lowering of the reservoir’s level has also raised fears of landslides and earthquakes. Probe International, a Canadian NGO, published a report on June 1 st by Chinese government experts saying the dam had caused “ significantly increased” seismic activity. This debate has erupted at a time of heightened political uncertainty as the Communist Party prepares for sweeping leadership changes next year. The government’s decision to be open about doubts that had previously been harboured in private could reflect struggles between outgoing leaders and their still-influential predecessors. The earlier generation had been responsible for getting the project started in the 1990 s. But President Hu Jintao and Mr Wen did not attend the dam’s completion ceremony in May 2006. For liberal intellectuals, the furore has provided an opportunity to push back against hardliners (who tend to favour grandiose displays of state power). One liberal newspaper published an interview with Mao Yushi, a prominent economist who has been fiercely denounced recently by hardliners because of an article he wrote attacking Mao Zedong. Mr Mao (the economist rather than the Helmsman) contributed to a book criticising the Three Gorges dam which was published in 1989 , shortly before the Tiananmen protests. It was later banned. In the interview Mr Mao accused the government of shuffling off responsibility for the dam 20 years ago by ignoring anti-dam experts and then getting the legislature to approve the project. “If there are any problems in future, you won’t be able to find anyone. There is nobody taking real responsibility,” he said.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Caretaker Govt needed To Avert Crisis

The time-honoured Latin maxim ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning nothing comes from nothing, is relevant in view of the political scenario prevailing in the country. It is pertinent because consequent upon the ruling Awami League chief and Prime Minister's illogical stance that the Caretaker Government system —- for the implementation of which her fierce struggle is not forgotten by the people and is recorded in history— - must go and the Opposition BNP, the Jamaat-e-Islami and other parties' reasonable refusal to such a preposterous claim, notwithstanding the ruling party's three-fourths majority in Jatiya Sangsad.    What the nation has been watching since the coming into power of the ruling Awami League is blatant demonstration of politicisation of each and every segment of administration. The Supreme Court (SC) may or may not explain constitutional matter if and when asked for; and the Supreme Court decision is not binding on a government to abide by, so opine eminent legal experts of the country. Besides, the Supreme Court in its pronouncement observes that two more general elections be held under the interim Caretaker Government system. But the Prime Minister or the members of her cabinet or the lawmakers of the ruling Awami League are conveniently closing the eyes to that fact.    Prudent politicians and rulers should, of necessity, think many times the pros and cons of the Caretaker Government system and ask themselves again and again as to why it was made before attempting to rescind it. The incumbents of today will do a world of good to themselves—- and more importantly, to the nation as well—- to go through the newspapers of the year 1996 , when all hell broke loose. It was a terrible phase of havoc characterised by 'hartal' or general strike for at least 70 days called by the opposition Awami League, the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and other small parties demanding constitutional amendment providing for Caretaker Government system. How many arson cases happened, how many dozen buses and other automobiles were burnt to the ground, and how many innocent people were killed? It will be worthwhile on the part of the ruling party to take stock of those violent acts lest the nation would, God forbid, see repeat performance of unleashing a reign of terror endangering the lives of the citizens.    (To refresh our memory, the Caretaker Government system was the brainchild of the Jamaat-e- Islami which party was then ally of the ruling Awami League.) What a strange country is it, Seleucus!    Never before in the history of this country —- not even in the pre-independent days—-were politicians ever tried summarily by mobile courts. But such unheard-of universally condemnable incidents too happened in today's Bangladesh by the courtesy of the ruling Awami League government. Shame on the nation when its former Air Force Chief and minister in the BNP cabinet as well as a valiant freedom fighter had to be convicted in arson cases. People of this country are familiar with mobile courts on traffic rule violation, catching railway passengers travelling without tickets and finally checking food adulteration cases through mobile court's inspections by executive magistrates in April 2005.    BNP leaders and former ministers Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and Major (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, arrested on Sunday during hartal hours, were shown held in connection with setting fire to two vehicles on June 4 and 11 respectively before hartal days. Some 116 opposition activists were awarded different terms of jail by mobile courts. This time the government has worked out a new modus operandi by using the mobile courts by magistracy, reminiscent of tyrant General Ayub Khan's notorious regime during which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had to face many cases and suffer in jail.    The bottom line is: The ruling Awami League government should see reason to avert turmoil because the Prime Minister cannot afford to forget that a large section of the polity does not support Awami League today.

US IOC Awarded 2 Deep Sea Gas Blocks

Ignoring public opposition and expert suggestion, the state-owned hydrocarbon corporation Petrobangla signed the deal with US-based international oil company (IOC) on Thursday awarding two deep sea gas blocks.    Petrobangla secretary Imam Hossain and deputy secretary AKM Mohiuddin from the government and ConocoPhilips Asia Pacific vice- president William Laflarrendre signed the agreement at Petrocentre in the city's Karwan Bazar on Thursday.    Finance minister A M A Muhith, prime minister's energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, state minister for power and energy Enamul Huq, energy secretary Mesbahuddin Ahmed and US ambassador James F Moriarty were also present at the signing ceremony.    The energy giant will start its seismic survey by December in deep sea blocks 10 and 11 , an area of 5158 square kilometres.    The depth of water is between 1000 to 1500 metres and the blocks are about 280 kilometres from Chittagong Port. The firm under its mandatory work programme must initiate seismic survey in a grid of 10 km by 10 km space over the whole of the blocks. The Texas-based company has pledged $160 million bank guarantee for working in three phases and the contract period is for nine years.    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs earlier on May 23 approved a proposal for signing a model production sharing contract (PSC) with ConocoPhillips for exploration of hydrocarbons in the country's deep-sea blocks 10 and 11 and also a side line agreement (SLA) for disputed areas under the two blocks. Earlier, both Petrobangla and the US company initialed a draft of the Model PSC. Ahead of signing the deal, the IOC has created a new special company named ConocoPhillips Bangladesh Exploration 10 /11 Ltd in order to run the Bangladesh operation.    Petrobangla officials said though the ConocoPhillips will obtain two gas blocks in Bangladesh territory of the Bay of Bengal through the PSC deal, it will have to keep its exploration confined only within the undisputed areas in the Bay.    "The US Company would not be allowed to conduct any exploration works in 30 percent area of block 10 and in 15 percent area of block 11 ," said a Petrobangla official. Because, he explained, those areas are treated as disputed due to the neighbouring countries —- India and Myanmar —- also making claims there.    Bangladesh went to the UN body —- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) —- to settle the disputes. "If Bangladesh wins the battle in the UNCLOS, then the ConocoPhillips will be allowed to conduct exploration work in those 30 percent and 15 percent areas in block 10 and 11 respectively," said the official adding that the proposed SLA will provide such guarantee to the US oil major.    Bangladesh invited international bidding in 2008 for gas exploration in offshore and deep sea areas, and ConocoPhillips came out to be the responsive bidders for as many as eight blocks.    Finally, the government decided to award only two blocks to ConocoPhillips. The US company plans to start exploration from next year, but it will take 4-5 years to get result from the exploration works, Petrobangla officials said.         NCPOGMR's protest    Meanwhile, the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas and Mineral Resources (NCPOGMR) staged a demonstration in front of National Press Club in protest against the government's decision to award two gas blocks to the ConocoPhillips.    Addressing the protest programme, committee leaders said the government signed the agreement undermining the national interest and thus betrayed the causes and spirit of the independence.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Statement Of William Nicholas Gomes On Abduction And Interrogation In Bangladesh

On Saturday, 21 May 2011 , in the morning, I went out for some work. When I was returning to my house from highway near the Sayedabad Bus Terminal a man, who appeared to be taller than me with a height of 5 feet 7 inches, stopped me and told me, Please come near to the car, showing a car waiting on the road facing toward to Bashabo direction. Then, I looked at the car, which was indicated by the person. It was black MITSUBISI PAJERO jeep with dark black glass. I accompanied the person with the very helping mind and principle of showing path to a person, who might have lost his ways and needs my assistance. As I walked beside the black car I found the door was opened just next to me and from my back the man, who called me to come to the car, pushed me inside the car and from inside another man forcibly pulled me inside the PAJERO jeep. These two persons, who pushed me from outside and pulled me into the vehicle, sat on my left and right hand side on the seat in the middle of the vehicle. They asked my name by a question, You are William Gomes? I replied in the positive. Immediately, they put black ribon on my eyes (blindfolds) and then a black mask (hood) on my head. They took my belongings that include my bag, mobile phone and wallet. The two men sitting on my two sides pointed two guns to my head from both sides and said " Kuttar bachcha (son of dog), sound korbina (Don't make any sound)! Taile eikhan eiy guli koira dimu ( Then, we will shoot you right here); Tore marar order hoise (Already order has been issued to kill you). Then a man, who was sitting on the left seat to the driver, asked the driver to go to the ' Headquarter'. As the car started moving very fast a call came to a cell phone, which was carried by one of the abductors. The man received the call and the conversation I heard that he was saying, "Sir! Sir!! Kuttar bachcha re dhorsi (The son of dog is caught!). Sir! Sir!! Ekhon e handcuff dita chhi (We are going to handcuff him right now!). Then they took my both hands at the back handcuffed. The car was moving fast. After around 40 minute it stopped at some place where they brought me out of the car. Two persons were holding my arm and shoulders from two sides while one them asked, "You move by yourself!" I said, "I cannot see. How can I move?" The man said, "Kuttar bachcha dekhos na (Son of dog, can't see?) RAB er sob kisue tora dekhsos (You see everything what the RAB does). Tor putki dia aje ke gorom gorom dim dimu (We will push hot boiled egg through your anus today). Tor bapera tore kivave bachay dekhbi ne (You will see how your fathers – meaning AHRC, other international human rights organisations and international community – save you). They took me inside of something and instructed someone to press nine. Then I understood that it was a lift, which was going to the ninth floor of a building. They took me inside of a room and made me fully naked by taking off all my cloths including the underwear. One of them said, " Jarojer bacha muslomani kora abar nam dise christian (Son of a bastard is circumcised but takes a Christian name). Ei kuttar bacha RAB, army'r birudhee kaj korbe na to ke korbe (Who else will work against the RAB and Army except these sons of dogs)? Sob jaroj gula e kaj kore (All the bastards do the similar works). The other man said, "Hurry up! Brigadier Sir is coming! Do not talk much now! Sirs will do their jobs; Onek mota file ase kuttar bachar namey (Very thick file is there against this son of dog). They put me on the floor and asked, "Sejda de kuttar bacha! ( Bow down – like the Muslims touch their heads on the ground as part of prayer – son of dog)! I did not understand what I was asked to do. Then, a man forced me to bow down like sejda warning me not to touch the floor with my head. Then the man said, "Sejda dia thakbi jarojer bacha (Keep in this position like Sejda, son of bastard); Matha tulbi to putki dia gorom dim dimu (If you raise your head, hot eggs will pushed into your anus). Tor babara, AHRC r baba go hate pia loi sob gula re putki dia 100 ta koira dim dimu ( Whenever we will catch your fathers, the fathers from the AHRC, we will push one hundred hot eggs through their anus each). Suddenly, the man stopped talking to me and said, "Sir! Sir!! Ready Sir! Subject is ready!" I was felling cold to colder in that highly cold room without any cloth on my whole body during this time. An unknown voice asked me, " William Gomes, when did you last time went out of the country?" I replied, "May be in August last". " Where?" he asked. I replied, "In Hong Kong". He said, "You forgot the date? You khankir pola (Son of a prostitute), jarojer bacha RTHK [ Radio Television Hong Kong] te jia ki koisos buila gesos (Son of a bastard, did you forget what did you said in RTHK)? koto taka pisos ei sob desh birodhi kotha bolar jonno (How much money have you received for doing this type of anti- state activities?) I said, "I did not say anything bad." Then, they played the RTHK radio programme and said, "You and your AHRC is only good and Hasina (Prime Minister of Bangladesh) is bad?" I fell down on the floor on two occasions during this period. I felt that blood was coming out throughout my nose. I was felling extremely cold. They asked me, " When did you last meet with Khaleda Zia? Where is the money? Where is the koti (10 million) Taka that you have received?" I said that, "I have never met Khaleda Zia in my life. As a libertarian I do not meet with the right wing people." A new voice then said, " Kuttar bacha, Mishu'r case e koto taka pisos Khaleda Zia'r kas thika ( Son of dog, how much money did you receive from Khaleda Zia by dealing with the case of [Moshrefa] Mishu [a workers' leader, who belongs to the pro-communist party]?). At this point one man started talking in native English and asked me, "How much the AHRC gives you as source money? How many people do you have inside the RAB and the police?" He also asked, " How did you manage the audio record of Mishu's statement from the custody? How did you mange to organize protests in (South) Korea for Mishu?" I kept quite because I was feeling that my brain would soon come out of my head. Then, one of the interrogators, who was previously asking questions, said, "Kuttar bachcha chup keno (Why is the son of dog maintains silence)? Gola fataia tor bapera to sara pruthibi te koita tace RAB band korte (Your fathers have been shouting crazily all over the world to disband the RAB). Tor bapeder ban kormu, aj ke tore agey ban koira nei (We will ban your fathers; let us first ban you today). Then they asked, "When did you go to (Pakistan controlled) Kashmir? When did you meet with the ISI ( Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan) people?" I said that "I never went there". They said, "We have information that you are appointed by the ISI to destroy Bangladesh army, RAB and the police". I said, "I never know anyone of the ISI; I am a human rights activist. I only work for the AHRC." They said, "We know that you are a dalal ( collaborator) of AHRC; they are the greatest enemy of Bangladesh and army." Your boss came to Bangladesh and said the army may come to power. What is the problem of Basil [Basil Fernando, Director of Policy and Planning Development and former executive director of the AHRC]? That kuttar bacha (son of dog) has been kicked out from his own country and that kuttar bachar sahos ki vave hoy Bangladesh army'r biruddhe kotha koi (How dare this son of dog speaks against the Bangladesh Army?) Khankir pola, tui Birganj er thana burn korar jono taka disos (Son of prostitute, you have paid money for burning the police station in Birganj [in Dinajpur district, in northern Bangladesh]). DGFI, NSI report taie koi (The report of the Directorate General Forces Intelligence-DGFI and National Security Intelligence-NSI reveals this information). AHRC ar ISI koto taka disilo (How much money did the AHRC and ISI give you)? Police re osomman koros (You dishonor the police)? Tor bape ra aisa desh chali bo (Will your fathers will come to rule the country)? Tor sob mail amader kase ase (We have all of your emails in our hand)! Ko kuttar bachcha! thana burn korte kare koto taka disos (Tell us, son of dog, whom did you pay how much money for burning the police station)? I answred that "I am against violence and I never learned from the AHRC to do any violence." The man said, "Ah ha re! koto sadhu! Torai to desher somman sesh koira dita sos (Wao! What a saint! You are destroying the dignity of the country); Desher er development bondho koira dita sos (Stopping the development of the country); Desh er bahirey mukh dekhaite pari na (We cannot show our face in abroad [for your work]). One of them said to another person, "Sir amader major Mustafiz bisoye ta jiggasa koren (Sir, ask him about our Major Mustafiz [Mr. Mustafizur Rahman Bokul, an army major, who is main instigator of the eye-gouging and fracturing of limbs of human rights defender Mr. FMA Razzak]); Bangladesh army'r man ejjot sesh koira dise ei shuorer bacha ra (These sons of pigs have finished the prestige and dignity of the Bangladesh Army). Another man asked, "How much money did you get to defame the Bangladesh army officials like major Musfatiz?" I said, "I am not against the Bangladesh Army. But there are bad people in the army, who kill people whenever they take over the power [of the country]. The man said, "Kuttar bachcha (Son of dog)! Army kharap r tomra bhalo (Army is bad and you are good)? Jaroj er bacha (Son of bastard)! NSI'r filey tor choddo gustirr khobor asey (There are detailed information of your fourteen generations in the files of the NSI); Tor bap e der sob khobor ase (All information about your fathers are also there). Tui Dulal re disturb korsos keno (Why do you disturb Dulal [A man, who was abducted by the RAB from the Dhamal Court area adjacent to the Dhaka Cantonment in 2010 and later returned after many months. He was kept in a secret torture cell cum detention centre of the RAB])? Razib Sazib re disturb koros keno ( Why do you disturb Razib and Sazib [Two cousins, who were recently kidnapped by the RAB and detained and torture for about five days and later handed over to the police implicating a fabricated snatching case])? At that time a phone rang and the man talk to someone as I heard he was saying, "Sir! Sir!! Finishing, Sir!" Then the foreigner, who was speaking in native English, asked, " When will Basil come to Bangladesh?" I said, "I do not know anything about Basil". He again asked, "When your boss Ashrafuzzaman [A staff member of the Asian Human Rights Commission] will come?" I again said, "I do not know". I felt so thirsty there at that time and I requested them to give me some water to drink. Then a man gave me water; it was mild hot and the taste of the water was not normal. Then another man said, "Razzak is a dalal (collaborator) and cheat; Our good officer major Mustafiz is saving the nation from dacoit ( robber) like you; He (Major Mustafiz asked his brother to bring the bastard (FMA Razzak) and chokh ta tuila ne (Gouge out his eyes); Ei kuttar bachcha salar pola jeno ar dekhte na pare (As if this son of dog and son of brother-in- law can never see with his eyes). Kuttar bachcha Razzak er jonno aamader ghum haram (We could not sleep for this son of dog Razzak); Sob jaiga thika sudhu mail r chiti (So many mails and letters have come to us all over [the world]). Tui kouttar bachcha ko koto taka pisos (You son of dog! Tell us, how much money have you received)? Haramair bachcha! Taka tor putki dia dimu (Son of bastard! We will push the money through your anus)! Police, magistrate der bolia dia hoise (Police and Magistrates are already instructed). Ja eibar joto khusi fight kor (Now, go! Fight [ your case] as much as you can!) Oi salar pola Razzak er case e court ar police re amra ja rai ditey komu ta e dibo (Whatever we will instruct the court and the police to do regarding the case of Razzak that verdict will be declared)! One of them said, "There is another kuttar bachcha (son of dog) of AHRC in Dhaka University". They asked whether I know him. I said, "No". Then, the man said, " Kuttar bachcha chinos na tui (Son of dog, don't you know him)? He said, "We taught him a good lesson; Sob gula desho drohi (All are traitors)! Ei gula ei deshe thakar joggo na (These [people] do not deserve a place in this country) ; Passport gula nia fela dorkar ei kuttar bachchader (The passports of these sons of dogs should be confiscated). I was also asked who are the people in the diplomatic missions helping us? They asked, "Who are the countries that are providing funds to you?" I said, "We do not have any funds." They also asked, "Why I am interested about the Bangladeshi nationals in Indian jails (for which my organization Christian Development Alternative- CDA wrote letter to the authorities requesting them to solve the problem from the human rights perspective.)? Why I am defaming a good government having good relationships with India?" That man also asked who were the people helping the university teachers in gathering information staying inside the governmental service? They talk about the poster and sticker and asked, "Who is drawing the posters and stickers and who is printing?" I said, "I do not know the designer. Only Zaman Bhai (Mr. Ashrafuzzaman, a staff member of the AHRC) knows; He has his friends - teachers in charukola (Fine Arts Faculty of the University of Dhaka). But I know the man who prints the materials in the press; I know the place but do not know the exact address." They asked, "Why did you send the materials to the parliament? We got complaints from the parliamentarians also! They talk about a law on torture! They must know that the law will never be passed! We will make it sure!" Then one officer said, "O re ekta rastro drohi mamla den (Fabricate a treason case against him); then, another person said, "Na, ore jongi mamla dai (No, we should fabricate a militancy case against him). Then the foreigner's voice said, "He is a terrorist!" The other man said, "Kill him and give to magur machh (Clarias gariepinus [a species of fish that eats up human being]) like Salim [ A petty businessman who has been disappeared after the RAB arrested him from Gazipur a year ago for which the lawyers of the AHRC filed a Habeas Corpus petition before a High Court Division Bench of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh]. I started crying and said, "I have two small sons; please pardon me! I will never do this work again!" Then, one of them said, "Kuttar bachcha! Tumi korba na (Son of dog! You will not do!)! Tumar baba ra to aj ke e as ta ce (Your fathers are coming today)! Bijo Francis and Jijo Paul! Amra jani na mone korso (Don't you think that we don't know it)? Haramir bachcha, amader ghum haram koira abar baire theke harmair bacha der daika nia an ta so (Son of bastard, destroying our sleep now you are bringing other sons of bastards from abroad)? Desher er development ar somman sesh koira dita sos (You are finishing the development and dignity of the country)! I said that I will not go [to the AHRC] and "I will do no more work for the AHRC". Then, the man said, "You better not leave the work! Behave well until Bijo and Jijo are in the country. Do not tell them anything about our meeting! Go and behave like a normal man! You better listen to us! Otherwise, we know better how to make you listen!" Then they took me in another room put my pant and t-shirt and drag me out from the room; put me in a similar car, which drove fast as well. When they opened my blindfolds and hood I saw the same 5 feet 7 inches tall man came near to the car. He was carrying my belongings – bag, mobile phone and wallet. I understood that it was the same car. The man was standing near to a vehicle of RAB and said, "Kuttar bachcha! Mukh khul ley magur mas re dia khamou (Son of dog! If you open your mouth we will arrange Clarias gariepinus to eat you up); Amara tor sob dekhta ci (We are watching your every movements). I got my health situation worse since that day. They might have put something in that water, which I drunk in their custody. I am having pain in two legs, particularly in knees and ankles. I find it very hard to write. Sometime it appears to be paralyzed; I do not find strength in hands; my body trembles and I feel that I will collapse at any time. I cannot sleep properly. Any small sound rings like big bang to me! I have pain in my backbone and at the whole of my back. Sometimes I cry when I remember that they made me naked and called me with very bad names. Can you imagine they called me jaroj ( bastard)? I fell that I should kill myself. They humiliated me but I cannot do anything. I am sure enough that The Commander of the Media and Legal Wing of RAB M Sohail was there in that room while they did all these to me and he was the man, who was translating to the foreigner. It seems that my life is finished! They took me at around 10 :30 am in the morning [on 21 May 2011 ] and when I reached home it was around 3 :30 pm. I feel the pain . . . experience the pain all the time. I am very much ashamed whenever I think that they made me naked and forced me to bow me down before them like a slave! They blamed me to have connection with ISI! I am not a man like that! I never went to Kashmir and Pakistan in my life! I am felling so restless and tired! I am feeling pains in my brain. It seems that something is moving inside my brain. I want to give good answer to the people who made me naked. I want them to know that I am powerless and poor and weak, but I am also fearless! I do not want to be killed by them like the DGFI and I want to sleep well, I still want to be a human rights lawyer. . .

Lesser Of Two Evils : Is It The Arab Regimes Or The Israeli Regime?

The images with the numerous reports of the latest crackdown by the Syrian regime are shocking, showing absolutely no regard for the rights of ordinary people. Throughout the Arab Spring, the Arab regimes have demonstrated the same pattern of brutality towards peaceful demonstrations. The sight of close family members occupying key positions making lucrative trade deals, gives the impression that governments in the Arab world are a family business. If the country is governed like a private fiefdom, the citizens will be regarded as tax-paying tenets at best or as mere slaves, who can be disposed of when they start to make demands; therefore, the regimes will naturally behave like the masters, rather than the servants of the nation. Unlike the powerful response seen during the initial phase of the Arab Spring, the recent reaction in the Arab world towards the events in Syria has been lukewarm. Perhaps the masses have become desensitised after witnessing gratuitous violence over a sustained period, like we have become accustomed in the West to the Israelis killing the Palestinians or the Americans killing innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with their high-tech drones. These oppressive Arab regimes are still trapped in the post-colonial era, desperately trying to maintain censorship, which has been rendered powerless by the Internet and mobile phones. All the efforts to circumvent the power of the information highway have failed. Consequentially, giving impetus to the Tsunami of people who are demanding that governments should be accountable and free from corruption and nepotism; they should be the servants of the nation and not its masters. The Arab regimes are quick to attack Israel on the Palestinian issue, but this is lip service for domestic consumption, often exercised for political expediency. These regimes are client of Israel indirectly, because a client of the US means a client of Israel. One does not have to be politically savvy to realise that Zionists virtually write the Middle East policy for the US government. The power of the Israeli lobby and their influence cannot be denied; since 1980 they have given more than $97 million to congressional candidates; the recent reception Netanyahu received in the US Congress shows it stands with the Israeli government, above the US President. Whilst the ordinary Arab activists along with countless others are struggling to boycott Israelis goods, the Arab regimes are investing millions in the Israeli economy through the US, as the surplus oil money amounting to trillions of dollars, are recycled through the US-Zionist banks. Israel has not oppressed its citizens like the Arab regimes; therefore, the pro-Israeli camp will argue that Israel deserves the conceited title of being the &# 65533 ;only democracy in the Middle East&# 65533 ;. Of course, the implication is: the primitive Arabs have yet to evolve to become democratic states. Such racist opinions are unlikely to alter, despite the passing of the Arab Spring, or the Arab Summer or the Arab Winter! But, credit has to be given where it is due. I have heard from Palestinians who reside in Israel that the Israeli government gives them better rights than the Arab regimes. It is also true, that dissension in the Arab world is usually met with imprisonment, torture, and even death; the prisons are filled with political dissidents. Whilst the Israeli regime does not brutalise its own citizens to the same level as the Arab regimes, Israel&# 65533 ;s hideous face is exposed when you examine the treatment of the Palestinians and the general contempt towards the Arabs. However, the Arab regimes have also shown similar levels of cruelty towards other Arab states, revealed through the various conflicts, and Iraq being the most recent where hundreds of thousands have perished. This is expected, because, if they can brutalise their own citizens, they are likely to do far worse to others. Hence, the Israeli regime can be considered slightly better than the Arab regimes, because it excels in terms of treating its own citizens. This maybe a crude measurement, but it still has some level of legitimacy when you examine the facts. However, both regimes fall on the negative side of the scale, they are both evil, but one less so. In that case, what&# 65533 ;s the implication of the rational principle of &# 65533 ;lesser of two evils&# 65533 ;? It means the Arabs and the Muslims should exhibit greater levels of criticism against the Arab regimes, than they have shown against the Israeli regime. Indeed, it was rare to see any form of mass demonstration against the despotic Arab regimes anywhere, prior to the Arab Spring. What if Israel decides to join in and help the West in Libya or elsewhere, in order to halt the massacre of civilians? By the principle of: &# 65533 ;lesser of two evils&# 65533 ;, the Arabs and the Muslims would be obliged to endorse the Israeli participation. This may sound uncomfortable to some, but this is a possible reality, and a reality partially created by the masses tolerating these illegitimate regimes. Yes, you will reap what you sow!

Govt Needs To Shelve PSC With ConocoPhillips

IT IS perhaps a poignant indicator on how detrimental to our national interest the production sharing contract that the government, according to the commerce minister, will sign on June 16 with the US oil giant ConocoPhillips for exploration and extraction in the hydrocarbon blocks 10 and 11 in the Bay of Bengal is that even the finance minister, apparently a staunch believer in anti-people neo-liberal economic policies, has demanded clarification from the Energy Division on a particular provision of the contract. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, the finance minister issued a letter on Sunday, asking the Energy Division to clarify the concern expressed by experts over the model PSC 2008 , especially its Article 15.5.4. The article says Petrobangla can retain only 20 per cent of the total marketable natural gas for the first 10 years, that too, if it has its own pipelines and other infrastructure to transport gas to the national grid. The rest will be exported in the form of liquefied natural gas and Petrobangla will be paid for its small stake. The experts rightly pointed out that ‘money earned by exporting gas, instead of using it for power generation and industrial production… will contribute little to our national economy.’ One need not have a degree in economics to figure out that the proposed production sharing contract, which the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved on May 23 , is devoid of even a business rationale. First, it essentially envisages the US oil giant’s virtual ownership of the two hydrocarbon blocks, given the condition that Petrobangla must have its own pipelines and other infrastructure to transport natural gas from the blocks to the national grid to have 20 per cent stake in whatever quantum of gas is extracted. In other words, the contract essentially gives an international company the right to do business with, and make profit from, gas that Bangladesh owns. Worse still, it also means that the country may have to import gas extracted from its own hydrocarbon blocks. Moreover, Bangladesh is currently undergoing a serious energy crunch, struggling to run even the existing power plants and industrial units. The current electricity shortfall, according to the Power Development Board statistics, is in the range of 1 ,500 and 2 ,000 megawatts; the deficit is expected to rise further. The government has undertaken several projects to install power plants, without actually specifying where the primary fuel for these plants, e.g. gas, coal, etc, will come from. Of course, exploration and extraction of natural gas is an imperative for Bangladesh but only to an extent whereby the gas is fed to the power plants and industrial units. If exploration and extraction of new hydrocarbon blocks by international oil companies means buying gas at international market prices, the country might as well look for sellers of gas on the international market to import gas and suspend exploration of its own resources until it develops its own exploration and extraction capacity. There is hardly any reason to believe that the government and its energy officials somehow overlooked the simple math. Moreover, the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, asserted in her previous tenure as the head of government that export will only be an option when Bangladesh has a proven gas reserve for domestic consumption for 50 years. The sudden change of heart on her government’s part could then very well be construed as a manifestation of its subservient policies, subservience to the countries and organisations that pursue neo-liberal agenda. Be that as it may, the government must not go ahead with the contract with ConocoPhillips. The conscious and patriotic sections of society and the media must raise their voice and sustain pressure on the government so that it does not.

Abuse In The Name Of Law

Independent lawmaker Fazlul Azim' s questions in the Jatiyo Sangsad on the ramifications of mobile court operations during hartal hours reflect broad public concern over the issue. Despite Home Minister Sahara Khatun's belief that these courts foiled looting and prevented deaths during the 36- hour hartal called by the BNP and its allies, the glaring fact is that democratic practice does not condone the operation of such courts. It is our considered opinion, as we are sure it is of citizens across the spectrum, that setting up mobile courts to nab protestors and send them off to prison in the name of the law is truly an abuse of the law. A general strike, for all one's reservations about its timing and necessity, is an act of political protest which has not been declared illegal. As such, why curb it through dispensation of instant justice that falls far short of minimum requirements of a legal action such as right to defence and presentation of witness and evidence? However much the home minister may claim to be acting under law, for the public in general such arbitrary action is reprehensible. For the state now to weigh in by placing opposition activists under arrest and subjecting them to summary trial and eventually carting them off to jail is simply unacceptable. Political agitation must be met by political means. Indeed, we recall the ruling Awami League's earlier statement that the just-ended hartal would be tackled politically. People cannot and must not be terrorised in the name of the law. We realise that the political gap between the ruling party and the opposition is too wide to be bridged any time soon. If the government thinks that a short- circuiting of the political process in handling agitation will work, it is making a big mistake. High- handedness has never worked in democratic politics. We therefore urge the government to rethink this entire matter of letting mobile courts loose on opposition activists and make sure that the exercise will not be repeated in future. Let the government heed public opinion on the issue. We reiterate our opposition to ham-fisted measures to silence any kind of public protest.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Limon Affair : Dear RAB, Next Time Please Finish Your Job

The Limon incident where a young boy was shot in the leg by RAB while the elite ‘crime fighting’ force was conducting a raid, and the national drama that followed is not about law and order but about the nature of the legal state of Bangladesh. On one side, stands the official world while on the other side, contesting it are a sprinkling of human rights activists and agencies, a few lawyers and the media. One is not sure where the public stands. The struggle is therefore not a trial or a campaign for justice for Limon but it is largely about what Bangladesh has become over the years, how far it will go and who decides that. * * * RAB has been killing people whom it considers enemies of the state for quite sometime. People are quite used to seeing crumpled dead bodies on the TV screen and being told how the terrorist was killed in shootouts trying to escape. Many people also support RAB thinking that the criminals deserve no mercy and those killed would never be tried for a variety of reasons. So what happened in this case? Did RAB get too complacent and lazy so instead of killing Limon outright they shot him and sent him to jail? If that is the case then I am sure many RAB officials are now kicking themselves for the lapse and next time, it is unlikely that they will make such a mistake. Limon’s issue has become a national issue and this time it has not exactly ended with the usual 9 o’clock news. * * * Some incidental facts of Limon’s case show how the extrajudicial state operates through law and order delivery in Bangladesh. After Limon was shot, the main accomplice of RAB appeared to be the police who not only put Limon behind bars but later filed a charge-sheet against him, contested by many as fake. The police continue to act as the main source of Limon’s internment and as a ‘lesser agency’ compared to RAB, its main civil assistant. RAB could never get its work done without the police. Charges that Limon was member of a criminal gang and even his family members were all part of that gang is a product of civil-military collaboration. The civilian administration has worked the hardest to make sure that pressure is high on Limon, his family and supporters. The judicial enquiry which the home ministry promised to conduct has proved to be inadequate and even after the bluster about ‘five major areas of investigation’, the administration has asked for ‘unlimited’ extension of the enquiry deadline. * * * But it is the actions of the political government that deserves attention. Shahara Khatun, the home minister has become the symbol of helplessness of the official world in times of crisis. She declared first that the government had nothing to do with the case and subsequently stated that the comments of the Defence Advisor Tariq Ahmed Siddiqui that Limon was a gang member and RAB never shot him intentionally was the official statement of the government. What it essentially says is that there is a chain of command of extrajudicial actions in Bangladesh. From the humble policeman to the home minister, people are committed to this extrajudicial process.  If the entire machinery of the government is involved, surely it is not an isolated issue of one force like RAB acting wildly. * * * The judiciary by contrast has done better including the local magistracy. The High Court first moved suo moto on allegations of torture and subsequently granted bail to Limon and asked the government to explain the situation upon application by the HR organisation Ain O Salish Kendro. This organisation has continued its long tradition for standing up for victims of human rights abuse. National Human Rights Commission despite its extreme constraints has been a voice of reason as expected. Its chairman Dr. Mizanur Rahman has publicly questioned under which law a juvenile like Limon could be sent to jail. It is an important voice of the moment. Its questions and queries have formal impact and its rebukes will be taken into consideration even if not acted upon. * * * Any measurement of the depth of RAB’s integration into Bangladesh political society can be understood by the comments of Human Rights Watch, an international HR agency. It says,  “the battalion has been involved in nearly 200 extra- judicial killings since the current Awami League government came to power in January 2009 – a rate of killing similar to that which took place ‘in the seven previous years. ” ( 98591 /section/2). They may disagree on everything but the BNP and AL don’t disagree on extrajudicial actions or RAB. * * * Election Commissioner Sohul Hossain has said to the media that people want RAB to protect elections and that people have full confidence in them. He is actually reflecting a generally held public opinion but also a scary reality which is that Bangladesh has itself become an ‘extralegal’ state where extrajudicial killings are considered normal and welcomed whatever the reason is. Without extrajudicial RAB, even fundamental legal activities cannot be conducted. * * * Bangladesh is not alone in this and we have an excellent example in Pakistan where ISI recently abducted and killed a journalist. Their ‘pick and kill’ missions in Pakistan are legendary and it is obvious from where the RAB’s inspiration comes. In another recent case, Pakistani Rangers killed a young boy by shooting him in the leg and letting him die. This was videoed and has now caused a storm in Pakistan. The Rangers had denied everything earlier. Does it sound familiar? We are so much like Pakistan that I think it makes sense to call MA Jinnah our father of the nation, unless Sheikh Mujib wants to claim credit for this kind of an extrajudicial activities driven Bangladesh. * * * There is no way that RAB will disappear or its functions become legal because few things legal work in Bangladesh. There is a weak legal system and no government has shown any initiative in establishing a strong one. So how can RAB act legal when legal systems don’t exist?  It is not RAB’s fault, it is how the extralegal/judicial state has evolved till date. * * * One hopes that Limon gets off lightly as he has already paid a huge price. Since it has become a public issue, he will most probably survive though at what price no one can tell. Once another event comes up, the media as its nature is will forget Limon and move on. While the Limon affair is still making headlines, it might be worth remembering that the matter is not whether Limon and his family members are criminals. It is about extrajudicial actions and not following the rule of law in managing law and order. * * * It is much better to hope that next time RAB will not leave behind such a mess. So dear RAB, next time please shoot straight and maybe use larger bullets so that the offending man actually dies and the news is on TV as usual. We are used to that and not troubling questions about our support to extrajudicial killings in an extralegal state.


THE deployment of mobile courts by the Awami League-Jatiya Party government to, in the words of the home minister, ‘check anarchy’ during the 36- hour hartal (general strike)—called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition camp to protest against incumbents’ decision to have the constitutional provision for election-time non-party caretaker government scrapped— contravenes, at one go, universal democratic principles, the constitution of Bangladesh and the AL electoral pledge for ‘courtesy and tolerance’ in the political culture. According to a report front- paged in New Age on Monday, the mobile courts—thrust into hartal duty for the first time in the country’s history—sentenced 80 people, including 58 in the capital Dhaka, to imprisonment of varying terms, between one and three months, upon summary trial on the first day of the general strike on Sunday. While the government may froth in the mouth, trying to justify deployment of mobile courts during hartal hours as a means to protect public safety and security, it tends to suggest that the ruling alliance is willing to go any length to encroach upon the democratic— and constitutionally guaranteed— space for the opposition camp to carry out its political programmes. Such an expression of intolerance, if not tyrannical tendencies, by the government is perhaps not surprising. After all, the incumbents have time and again sought to foil political programmes of the opposition camp, on one pretext or the other, although the constitution recognises freedom of assembly as a fundamental right of the citizen. Not long ago, the government did not allow the opposition to organise such a decidedly innocuous political programme as human chain. Similarly, the government does not quite have an unblemished record insofar as the establishment of the rule of law is concerned. Hence, deployment of mobile courts by the government for summary trials, which by themselves are an affront to the very concept of the rule of law as they deny the accused the scope to adequately defend themselves, of pickets during hartal hours is also not quite surprising. Besides being the manifestation of the government’s apparent intolerance with the political opposition and disregard for the rule of law, the deployment of mobile courts provides yet another instance of blatant abuse of the subordinate judiciary to partisan end, which would further erode the credibility of the magistrates in the eye of the public. It will also make a mockery of the government’s repeated assertions of its commitment to the independence of the judiciary. Indeed, violence and vandalism in the name of protest are deplorable, no matter how reasonable the demands and how strong the grievances may be. As such, those who have damaged public property and endangered public safety and security need to be brought to justice. However, there are specific laws and procedures to address such offences. Moreover, if the government was truly against violence and vandalism per se, why is it that it remained largely silent in the face of atrocities and excesses committed by the Bangladesh Chhatra League and other associate organisations of the ruling party since its assumption of office in January 2009 ? Be that as it may, the government needs to realise that it has set a very bad precedent of repression on the political opposition. If the past is any indicator, the opposition parties, as and when they come to power, are likely to use it to a greater degree. All said and done, the ruling party may have introduced yet another vice in national politics, the consequence of which is likely to be felt for days to come.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Prime Minister's Warning Against Extra - Constitutional Takeover

THE warning that the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, issued on Saturday for the leaders and activists of the ruling Awami League and its associate organisations ‘to remain alert so that no unconstitutional force can grab state power in the future’ deals with too serious an issue to be readily dismissed as partisan sabre-rattling, although the accompanied call for the opposition to ‘shun the politics of hartal and anarchism’ could suggest so. The reason is twofold: first, it is not the first time that the prime minister has warned of such a possibility—she sounded the warning even in parliament once— and second, the ‘unconstitutional force’ she talked of, given the history of unconstitutional takeovers in Bangladesh, inexorably points to the top brasses of the armed forces along with coteries of anti-political forces, both within the country and beyond. It is more so when the prime minister recently referred to the ‘1/11 situation’ when issuing the warning. Before we analyse the prime minister’s apprehensive statement, it is important to take note of the fact while takeover of power by the armed forces is unconstitutional, the armed forces as such are very much constitutional as they are created under specific constitutional provisions. Hasina’s frequent warnings of the possibility of an unconstitutional takeover in recent weeks and months tend to indicate that she may be in possession of credible information that some scheming is afoot in the armed forces. If so, as the prime minister, she needs to take immediate steps to have those involved in the scheme probed, prosecuted and punished. And, of course, she needs to share whatever intelligence she may have on such a plot with the people. The leader of the opposition in parliament, Khaleda Zia, also warned the people a few days ago of a January 11 , 2007- like unconstitutional intervention. We believe it is her duty, too, to share whatever information that she may have with the prime minister and do whatever she can in her capacity of the opposition leader to thwart such a possible danger. The prime minister’s repeated warnings in public of a potential unconstitutional takeover could also be construed as her lack of political control over the armed forces. If so, and especially since she is in charge of the defence ministry, to which the armed forces are supposedly answerable to, it naturally raises questions about her moral right to continue in power any more. If not, i.e. if she has political control over the armed forces, her warnings actually amount to denigration and demonisation of the armed forces as an institution in the eye of the public, which would morally weaken the national armed forces. This is, to us, unacceptable; while we are absolutely against takeover of power by the armed forces, we are for the existence of strong national armed forces that are committed to protecting the security of the state, and are trusted and respected by the people. It is true that the political process in Bangladesh has been set back by the military misadventures of some ambitious members of the top brass of the armed forces, time and again. As such, in the aftermath of the country’s recent brush with such military misadventure, politically conscious and democratically oriented sections of society and the media have clamoured for prosecution of, and punishment for, onstage and backstage players of the Moeen U Ahmed-led military-driven interim government of Fakhruddin Ahmed as a legal deterrent against extra- constitutional intervention. Regrettably, however, the AL-led ruling alliance has yet to initiate any move to try the architects and exponents of the illegal government. It is also true that anti-political forces have always used political instability and economic crisis as pretexts for usurpation of state power time and again. Suffice it to say that the prevailing political uncertainty has been touched off by the Awami League-Jatiya Party government through its abrupt decision to have the provision for election-time non-party caretaker regime scrapped from the constitution. As for the economic crisis, except for the diehard followers, supporters and sympathisers of the ruling alliance, everyone agrees that it is the result of the government’s imprudent policies and actions. Ultimately, therefore, if there is any threat of an attempt at unconstitutional takeover, as the prime minister says there is, it is the government that needs to remain alert on political and economic fronts and initiate actions to make sure such threats never materialises into reality. To ensure that, her government needs to immediately initiate the course corrections—both political and economic—and save the people as well as the armed forces from the menace of what she calls a possible unconstitutional takeover of power.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Caretaker Government Shuldn't Go : Barrister Rafiqul Haque

Barrister Rafiqul Haque has said the caretaker government system should not go from Bangladesh as fair elections are not possible without it. "But the system needs to be overhauled," he told journalists while emerging from a seminar in the city o Saturday. The eminent jurist, however, criticised BNP for calling a countrywide daylong shutdown for Sunday. The opposition has called the lockdown in protest against the government move to scrap the caretaker government system. It has also threatened not to take part in the next general election if the system is scrapped. "Someone threw stones in the beehive and chaos started," Haque said, "But nobody knows whether there are bees in it (beehive)." He said they had not yet got the full text of the Supreme Court verdict on the 13 th amendment to the constitution and two and a half years were still left for the next national election to be held. Haque said prime minister Sheikh Hasina had said she would strictly abide by the Supreme Court verdict, which also stipulated that the next two polls could be held under non-party governments. The Supreme Court on May 10 repealed the 13 th amendment to the constitution that had introduced the caretaker government in 1996. But the court said the next two general elections could be held under unelected governments. The apex court gave parliament the liberty to decide the issue. "Let the two elections be held in line with the court verdict. Then we would get much time to take decision of the next elections," said Haque, who fought for both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia in a number of graft cases against them. He earlier put forward proposals for overhauling the system while giving opinions as amicus curiae at the Appellate Division during hearing on the 13 th amendment. He suggested that 10 members of parliament (MPs) should be nominated just before the tenure of a parliament ends to form a government for an interim period. Of them, one will be made the chief advisor to the interim government. A panel of three former chief justices will elect the chief advisor and the general election be held over four days instead of one day, he said. "It becomes difficult to tackle the law and order situation if the national election is held in one day." "For this, the people of a particular area should be barred from moving from their own neighbourhoods to another. And the votes should be counted centrally on the last day," he proposed.