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Will Peshawar massacre induce a paradigm shift?

Sadeq Khan

Viewers around the world of newscast in the electronic media and in particular those in South Asia were aghast by the horrendous sights of massacre of school children by seven gun-toting suicide-bombers, six of them in army disguise, taking the students and teachers hostage in their classrooms and mercilessly executing them one by one by gunshots in Peshawar, Pakistan on 16 December. Of some 500 students and teachers in that Army Public School, 141 were dead on the spot, 132 of whom were children including some as young as 12 years of age, by the time the assailants could be tackled by military operations lasting 9 hours.

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Sadeq Khan

Viewers around the world of newscast in the electronic media and in particular those in South Asia were aghast by the horrendous sights of massacre of school children by seven gun-toting suicide-bombers, six of them in army disguise, taking the students and teachers hostage in their classrooms and mercilessly executing them one by one by gunshots in Peshawar, Pakistan on 16 December. Of some 500 students and teachers in that Army Public School, 141 were dead on the spot, 132 of whom were children including some as young as 12 years of age, by the time the assailants could be tackled by military operations lasting 9 hours.

The culprits blew themselves up or were blown by bombs they were wearing when they were shot. Seven more died in hospital from amongst 150 injured, including some soldiers of the rescue team.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan who claimed responsibility for the deadly attack are not “the Taliban” that the U.S.-led NATO forces have been at war with in Afghanistan. But that they adopted the name “Taliban” is no coincidence. The group shares its religious extremist ideology with its namesake in Afghanistan as well as with al Qaeda ­but is its own distinct group. Its primary target is the Pakistani state and it’s military. It resents the fact that Pakistan has an alliance with the West, and it wants Sharia to be imposed in Pakistan. It rejects the Pakistani constitution, and rejects the democratic process in Pakistan.

Afghan Taliban condemned massacre
In a December 2009 bombing of a mosque frequented by Pakistani military personnel, the group killed 36 and wounded 75. In March 2011, a TTP bomb planted at a natural gas station killed dozens. An attack on a Sufi shrine in April 2011 killed more than 50 in Dera Ghazi Khan, and the U.S. State Department also suspects the group may have been involved in the killing of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Assaults on U.S. and U.S. Consulate in Peshawar. The TTP have also claimed responsibility for the assassination of a Saudi Arabian diplomat.
But the horror of the latest outrage, at the Peshawar military school, showing TTP attackers gunning down students taking an exam, and others selectively being taken out for execution in front of their classmates was too much to stomach even for the extra-liberal Pakistanis who were whining about desirability of peace talks between their government and the TTP. Indeed, even the Afghan Taliban condemned the Peshawar Army School massacre by a statement terming as anti-Islam the act of execution of innocent children.
The Pakistani Taliban said it staged the attack in retaliation for the Pakistan Army’s ongoing operations in the North Waziristan tribal area. It said it had targeted the school “because the government is targeting our families and females” in the military operations, “We want them to feel the pain.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the attack on the school a national tragedy. His statement read: “I can’t stay back in Islamabad. This is a national tragedy unleashed by savages. These were my kids.” The provincial government declared three days of mourning over the tragedy. Along with Pakistan, Turkey also observed a day of mourning with flags flying half-mast.

Widespread condemnation 
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the “blood-curdling attack” on school children in Peshawar: “It is an act of horror and rank cowardice to attack defenseless children while they learn. The hearts of the world go out to the parents and families who lost loved ones in the horrific attack. The UN would continue to support the Government of Pakistan in its fight against terror and extremism.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemning the massacre as “an utterly despicable and incomprehensibly vicious attack on defenseless children,” said:  “The Taliban have sunk to an all-time depth with this attack. Everyone must now unite to combat this type of savage extremism. No Government or intelligence agencies, no religious figures, no wealthy sponsors, no members of the general public can possibly justify continuing support for the Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaida or any of these takfiri groups which appear to be competing to attain the highest level of human barbarity.”
Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly, condemned the Peshawar massacre and in a statement conveyed his deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims of this heinous act, to their families, and to the people and the Government of Pakistan: “President Kutesa expresses the solidarity of the United Nations General Assembly with the people and Government of Pakistan in this difficult moment.”
The UN Security Council condemned the attack, calling it a “heinous act of terrorism” and underlining the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, “to cooperate actively with relevant authorities in this regard.”

Modi condemned attack
A statement by the U.S. President released by the White House on Dec. 16 read: “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and loved ones. By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. We stand with the people of Pakistan, and reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the Government of Pakistan in efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region.”
The chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed who is accused by India of masterminding 26/11 Mumbai attacks and former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf blamed India for the horrific killing of 132 innocent school children in Peshawar. Musharraf said the perpetrators of the crime were those trained by India: “Taliban’s commander was supported by Afghanistan and India to carry out terrorist attack in Pakistan”. Saeed said in Lahore that India was behind the massacre and threatened to send mujahids to create havoc on the Indian soil: “If India can send troops to Afghanistan to help the US, then Mujahideen have every right to go to Kashmir and help their brethren. Kashmiris are clamouring for help and it is our duty to respond to their call.”
But in reality, Indian reactions were exceptionally sympathetic towards the people and the government of Pakistan. In a mark of solidarity, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the night of December 16 to offer his condolences. In the call made soon after Sharif returned to Islamabad from Peshawar, Modi condemned the Taliban attack in the strongest terms, and said that the “shared pain and mourning is a call for our two countries and all those who believe in humanity to join hands to decisively and comprehensively defeat terrorism”.

Pak army chief visits Kabul
A press release by the Indian external affairs ministry stated: “The Prime Minister said this savage killing of innocent children, who are the epitome of the finest human values, in a temple of learning was not only an attack against Pakistan but an assault against all of humanity.” Modi also instructed Indian schools to observe two minutes of silence in memory the school children killed in Peshawar, and the Indian parliament did the same.
Prime Minister Sharif also spoke to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that night to discuss how both countries could do more to fight terrorism. The two leaders agreed to launch fresh operations on their respective sides of the border.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif dashed to the Afghan capital, Kabul, on a surprise visit to discuss security co-operation aimed at tackling the Taliban insurgency. Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah is believed by the Pakistani authorities to be hiding in Afghanistan and media reports in Pakistan suggest the school attack may have been co-ordinated from Afghanistan, although the TTP claimed the attack had been masterminded by its own military chief in the Peshawar region, who had also been in touch with the gunmen throughout the assault. The trip, by Gen. Raheel Sharif and Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar, the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, was welcomed by officials of both countries as an effort to find common ground.
Pakistani officials have been increasingly assertive before the Kabul meeting protesting operations by Afghan-based elements of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan: “The intel monitored the conversation between the attackers and their handler, who was across the border during the siege.” During a lengthy meeting at the Afghan presidential palace, the Pakistani officials shared intelligence with President Ashraf Ghani and the top American military commander Gen. John F. Campbell. A statement from the palace said the two countries had agreed on increased mutual cooperation in fighting extremism. In Peshawar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared. “I announce that there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.”

Paradigm shift
On 17 December, Sharif told an All Parties Conference: “Our aim is to clean this region of terrorism. Not only Pakistan and Afghanistan but indeed this entire region should be cleaned of terrorism.” Sitting grim-faced beside the prime minister was Imran Khan, the opposition leader who has spent the past four months trying to oust Mr. Sharif over vote-rigging accusations. In response to the crisis, Imran Khan has agreed to suspend his street campaign.
Writing in summer last year, a Pakistani strategic thinker Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Quaid-e-Azam Fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University divined signs of a shift in the matrix of Pakistan’s “Regional Pivot”. The abstract of his thesis read: Pakistan’s recent assumption of the role as a key facilitator of the Afghan reconciliation process signals a pragmatic shift in its regional security approach. Occurring essentially in response to NATO’s military exit from Afghanistan, this shift entails a major compromise on its previous India-centric ‘strategic depth’ policy of dominating Afghanistan through Pashtun-Taliban proxies. It is a part of its broader “regional pivot” towards enhanced cooperation with regional states to secure long-term geo-economic gains such as increasing the level of trade with India, gaining access to Central Asian energy sources, and making Pakistan a corridor of trade and energy from Central to South Asia.
Consequently, the country has reached out to traditionally hostile non-Pashtun Afghan leaders of the erstwhile Northern Alliance, proactively pursued peace process with India; and diversified regional and international relations ­ as manifested in rapid progress in its relations with Russia and Central Asian states, expanding strategic partnership with China and energy-centric amity with Iran. As the end-2014 deadline of the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan looms, it is important to recognize the evolving transformation in Pakistan’s Afghan and regional approaches, especially its potential for Afghan peace and regional stability.
Hangover of past policies and glaciers of mutual suspicion may have been retarding the process of that paradigm shift. Optimists have to wait and watch whether the shock of the Peshawar massacre and its impact on the three capitals, Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul may now dissolve the impediments and facilitate the making of a common cause for regional stability and prosperity.


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From Peshawar to Panchagor, what breeds terror?

M. Shahidul Islam

Isn’t it time to look at the entire forest instead of individual trees?  For, at times, it seems a nuclear-armed South Asia has forgotten how and why it managed its geography to be divided among historically divergent faiths and groups and why the religious fervor still impacts so much the politics of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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M. Shahidul Islam

Isn’t it time to look at the entire forest instead of individual trees?  For, at times, it seems a nuclear-armed South Asia has forgotten how and why it managed its geography to be divided among historically divergent faiths and groups and why the religious fervor still impacts so much the politics of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

More importantly, how Pakistan plunged into so much of chaos and lawlessness is a billion dollars question.  The latest terror attack on an army-run school in Peshawar (December 16, 2014) has stunned the world not only due to the murder of over 100 innocent school children, the attack brought to the fore the issues of burning public anger against the Pakistani military which has always floundered its image through recurring political miscalculations.

Who are Taliban?
No one vouches that the Pakistani army should cower down before the threats being posed by the so called Islamic terrors. But a passionate observation of the Pakistani history convinces one to surmise that the military in Pakistan had always looked for coercive solutions to innate political crises. The genocide in East Pakistan in 1971 remains one of the most illustrious of such examples.
The Pakistani Taliban, suspected of carrying out this latest grisly attack, is a creation of the Pakistani military juggernaut.  Following the Russian (then USSR) invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the CIA and the Pakistani military should have patronized, trained and financed a resistance force that was not ideologically tilted toward creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan. Instead, they chose to infuse religious antidote into military strategy to dismantle the USSR.
The victory proved pyrrhic as well as ephemeral. Today’s Taliban is the off shoot of that CIA-backed Mujahedin force of which Osama Bin Laden is the most famed icon to have left behind the legacy of fighting out the USA, its Western allies, and the Pakistani military that had purportedly facilitated Western influence-peddling in an Islamic Pakistan.
That also explains why terrorism today is often seen through an Islamic foil although it had been there throughout history. In this sub-continent, Khudiram Bose (1884-1908), Pritilata Waddedar (1911-1932) and many others followed terror tactic to fight against colonialism, oppression and state-imposed dictatorship.
As time went by, different contexts offered different contents, as we see now. Facilitating Western influence in an Islamic society, like Iran under the Shah, was not a problem per se until political Islam emerged as a dreaded military force to be reckoned with. 
Besides, the history of the former Indian sub- continent was already fertile enough for the political Islam to sprout and play major roles amidst democracy not having a place in the political lexicon of Pakistan since its inception as an independent nation in 1947.

Democracy’s roots  & dictatorship
Pakistan should keep in mind that the Muslims of the sub-continent had fought for self emancipation for centuries amidst widespread and institutional policy of deprivation and depravation. On partition, India had as much Muslim population as did Pakistan. The Kashmir conflagration aside, India by and large managed to pacify its Muslim population through a hybrid mix of democratic governance, threats, inducements and, killings at times. Although Pakistan too was born out of the desire to be governed democratically, it failed regardless of its ethnic homogeneity, disintegrated (1971), and now dithers on the fringe of a failed nation.
One of the reasons the Muslim League and a budding rationale to create Pakistan became popular in the early twentieth century was the deeply-felt desire of the Muslims to empower themselves politically; a desire spurred intensely by the soldiers’ mutiny of 1857 following which Muslims were blamed without any evidence and their places of worship were bulldozed indiscriminately. In the 1919 legislature, Muslims had only 39 representations in the Provincial Assembly of Bengal against Hindus having 75. In Muslim predominant Punjab, Muslim representation was only 32 in an Assembly of 72.
The fundamental difference between democratic and dictatorial governance is that the former does not offer much ground for venting political anger through coercive means while the latter only facilitates and incites reprisals, barbarity and terrorism due to lack of any legitimate avenue to vent anger and concerns. Look at the behaviour of our ruling elites to know why political dissents are increasingly heading underground.
Lest we forget, in Bangladesh, political Islam did not make a dent until their existence was threatened since 2009.  The game plan being played out recurrently against the Islamists borrows its cue from the US war book of post September 11, 2001, and the subsequent invasions of innocent Muslim nations by the US-led NATO forces. The game became “We vs. They” since the joining into the bandwagon of India and Israel as purported victims of Islamic terror, not as occupiers of others territories.

Tactic and strategy
This new geopolitical dynamism had resulted in two major outcomes: the ruling elites of the Muslim predominant nations and their armed forces sided with the West in what became known as the Western-devised global war on terror while the oppressed multitudes chose to resort to asymmetric war fares of Khudiram vintage to wrestle that existential threat to their existence. The political regime in Bangladesh, however, shifted its loyalty lately toward India alone in a strategic maneuver to outsmart the USA.
However, more ominous so far has been the embracing by this pernicious global war on terror some utterly despised tactic and strategy to create instant bogeys relating to the fear of Islamic terrorism; in order to divert attention of the masses from explosive but legitimate political concerns and social grievances. At the same time, drug, pornography and corruption have been systematically encouraged and injected into Muslim societies to keep their national spirit divided, warring, and, in a constant state of flux.
The Taliban may be fighting a different battle in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the innocent youths in bordering Bangladeshi villages are being destroyed through induction into their midst the poisonous vices of drug abuses and other anti-social activities.
A handy instance is the diabolic conditions the youths of Panchagor in the northern tip of Bangladesh, which is surrounded by India from three sides, have been enduring for years.  Deeply involved in drug smuggling from across India, which they market around the country, some sane youths of Panchagor are now, reportedly, trading arms to build a resistance against such systemic destruction of their innocent youth forces. The same is true of Sathkrira, Choudhogram, Benapole and many other bordering areas. Curiously, it is these areas where the political Islam is vibrant, alert and popular due to its stand as a checkmate to curbing such anti-social activities.

Wither deterrence?
One often sees news of the Indian border forces gunning down alleged cattle smugglers from Bangladesh while turning a blind eye on drug smugglers on other side of the borders. That proves, perhaps irrefutably, that India has a clandestine policy to flood Bangladesh with illicit drugs. No wonder then, that the enfeeblement of Bangladesh border forces through a smartly planned massacre of its officer cadre in February 2009, and the ripple effect of that ghastly incident on the morality of the Bangladesh armed forces, have been publicly manifested once again during the victory day parade on December 16 when the only contingent to have sported an eye-catching march past was the Ansar contingent. Let’s face it: If an army is bad in drill, its discipline and morality are deemed sinking.
The literally messed up parade was also reflective of the degree of the nation’s inner strength to struggle and thrust ahead with soldierly spirit. The haphazardness and the seeming dispirit of the orphaned-looking, mostly un-armed soldiers aside, more anomalous and unbecoming seemed the greeting and the salutation the President had rendered submissively to the Prime Minister upon arrival at the parade ground, despite the President being the head of the state and the supreme commander of the armed forces and the onus being on the PM to offer such greetings and salutations first.
The incident constituted a protocol disaster in the first place, while sending a message to the world that Bangladesh is a democracy by moniker only and a one party dictatorship in reality. Meanwhile, although no one is certain who conducted the latest inhuman attack on the children in Pakistan, anecdotally, the story line remains the same both in Pakistan and Bangladesh and, the Peshawar attack could be the harbinger of something more ominous cooking up beyond Pakistani borders.
The writer is the author of ‘Geopolitics of Islamic Revival: Law, Reason and Philosophy of Radical Islam,’ 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9681146-0-5.


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Victory Day thoughts

Abu Hena

The nation celebrated on 16 December the 43rd anniversary of its magnificent victory over the Pakistani occupation force, pledging once again to ‘‘ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity, and social justice” as declared in the Proclamation of Independence, 10 April 1971.

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Abu Hena

The nation celebrated on 16 December the 43rd anniversary of its magnificent victory over the Pakistani occupation force, pledging once again to ‘‘ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity, and social justice” as declared in the Proclamation of Independence, 10 April 1971.

As we move on to the 44th year of our national life, it’s time we give a dispassionate glance at the Proclamation of Independence, the indispensable document that forms an integral part of our history. For that purpose some vital parts of the Proclamation are reproduced below:
‘‘Whereas free elections were held in Bangladesh from 7thDecember, 1970 to 17th January, 1971 to elect representatives for the purpose of framing a Constitution, AND Whereas at these elections the people of Bangladesh elected 167 out of 169 representatives belonging to the Awami League, And
Whereas General Yahya Khan summoned the elected representatives of the people to meet on the 3rd March, 1971, for the purpose of framing a Constitution, And Whereas the Assembly so summoned was arbitrarily and illegally postponed for an indefinite period, And Whereas instead of fulfilling their promise and while still conferring with the representatives of the people of Bangladesh, Pakistan authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war, And Whereas the Pakistan Government by levying an unjust war and committing genocide and by other repressive measures made it impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh to meet and frame a Constitution, and give to themselves a Government, And Whereas the people of Bangladesh by their heroism, bravery and revolutionary fervour have established effective control over the territories of Bangladesh, We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh whose will is supreme duly constituted ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, And having held mutual consultations, and in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice, declare and constitute Bangladesh to be a sovereign People’s Republic and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by BangaBandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and … ”

Formation of constituent assembly
The Proclamation clearly stated how in the course of events elections were held from 7 December 1970 to 17 January 1971 to elect representatives for the purpose of framing a Constitution of Pakistan and how arbitrarily and illegally General Yahya Khan postponed the Assembly for an indefinite period. It is also clear from the Proclamation that the Yahya Khan did not fulfill the promise allowing the 167 AL MNAs to frame the Constitution of Pakistan and while they were still conferring to do so the Pakistani authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war. The proclamation brings out the fact that ‘‘the Pakistan Government by levying an unjust war and committing genocide and by other repressive measures made it impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh to meet and frame a Constitution [ of Pakistan] give themselves a Government [for Pakistan]. The “elected representatives ‘‘had the late realization that they were ‘‘honour bound by a mandate” given to them by the people of Bangladesh to declare independence and that realization dawned on them only after ‘‘the people of Bangladesh by their heroism, bravery and revolutionary fervor have established effective control over the territories of Bangladesh “. It was only then that the “elected representatives ‘‘constituted themselves into a Constituent Assembly and held ‘‘mutual consultations ‘‘to declare and constitute Bangladesh to be a sovereign People’s Republic and thereby ‘‘confirm the declaration of independence” claimed to have been made by BangaBandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 26 March 1971.
In reality, the people of Bangladesh gave the “elected representatives ‘‘the mandate to declare independence right at the time of election that ended on 17 January 1971 but they, in their infinite lack of wisdom and understanding failed to realize it. That’s the reason the AL MNAs reportedly made out a draft Constitution of Pakistan during their parliamentary party meeting held in the Purbani hotel on 1 March 1971. The people of Bangladesh expected that the declaration would come on 7 March at the rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan but they were dismayed when Sheikh Mujibu rRahman, instead of declaring independence, asked Yahya Khan to withdraw Martial Law, take the army back to the barrack and hand over power to the “elected representatives” obviously to make him the prime minister of Pakistan.

Declaration of independence
History records the American Declaration of Independence in which Jefferson listed the grievances against Great Britain, thus justifying the colonies’ decision to completely break away from the mother country. On July 2, 1776 the document was sent for consideration and debate. Two days later on July 4, 1776 Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence with 56 signers. In the case of Bangladesh the nation gave Awami League a clear mandate to declare independence through the December 7 to January 17, 1971 election. But not a single ‘elected representative’ was available in Chittagong between March 26 and 10 April, 1971 to make the declaration from Kalurghat Radio Transmission Center. The declaration had to be made by the country’s armed forces to meet the exigencies of circumstances.
The nation has the right to know now why even on 10 April 1971 the ‘elected representatives’ who were honour bound by the mandate to do so were still holding ‘‘mutual consultations” to make the Proclamation of Independence and why they had to confirm the March declarations if it was made by the leader of the AL parliamentary party, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The total unpreparedness of the AL party became evident when the ‘‘elected representatives ‘‘took another week to form the Mujibnagar government.
All these bring us to events which took place in Chittagong after 25 March Pakistani military crackdown. On 26 March the officers and the jawans of the 8th East Bengal Regiment revolted under the leadership of their commanding officer Major Ziaur Rahman, killed the Pakistani Brigade Commander and took control of the port city. The Declaration of Independence was, thereafter, read out by Ziaur Rahman proclaiming himself as the Head of the Provisional Government and urging the people to join the war of liberation. At this point elderly politicians like AK Khan advised him to make the declaration in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and he did it as a follow up and with all humility. Chittagong remained under the administrative control of the provisional government until 2 April 1971 when Pakistanis bombed the the Kalurghat Radio Transmission Center and troops reinforcements came from Comilla.

Rise of the British
Bangladesh was not born as a new country in 1971. It has a long tape of history behind it. It was an anachronism that Bangladesh became instrumental in the creation of Pakistan when India was partitioned on the basis of two religions in 1947. Known in the past as Bengal, Bangala, its original name was Vanga. From the 8th to the 12th century it was under the Buddhist Pala dynasty. Muslim rule in Bangladesh was founded by the Turkish General Bakhtiar Khilji when in 1202 he conquered Laxmanabati, the capital of Gaudh and subsequently annexed Odontopuri the capital of Govindapala. Since then it was ruled by independent Muslim rulers and from 1576 it belonged to the Mughal Empire. When Mughal power declined in the 18th century, a separate dynasty emerged in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Its rulers known as the Nawabs of Bengal, soon came into conflict with the British. They took possession of the Nawab’s realm in 1757-64. Bengal was thenceforth the base for British expansion in India.
Partition of Bengal [1905] was carried out by the British Viceroy in India Lord Curzon, despite strong opposition from the Indian Congress and Hindu Bengali indignation. East Bengal or Muslim Bengal [now Bangladesh] had been exploited by the Hindu elites of Calcutta who controlled most of Bengal’s commerce and professional life. Curzon joined 15 districts of Bengal to Assam and formed a new province. Its capital was Dhaka and the people were overwhelmingly Muslim. Agitation against the partition carried out included mass meetings, rural unrest, a swadesi movement and boycott of foreign goods. The partition was carried through despite the agitation, and the extreme opposition called ‘Anushilon’ went underground to form an armed terrorist movement. In 1911 East and West Bengals were reunited to appease the Hindus of West Bengal.

Why Bengal was partitioned
As the matter stood in 1947 the Congress High Command took the view that ‘‘the independence of Bengal really means in present circumstances the dominance of the Moslem League in Bengal” and the party rallied behind the Mahasabha, with joint meetings whipping up Hindu demands for its partition. When representatives of West and East Bengal cast ballots separately, as they were required to do, the West voted for partition and Bengal became divided along religious lines. It was the time when everywhere in India, political awakening was intertwined with religious revival. The stirrings of Hindu nationalism in Bengal were soaked with modernized Hindu renaissance. Its canonical work of fiction, Bankim Chatterjee’s Anandamath whose poem invoking the goddess Durga would supply Congress with its anthem Vande Mataram, was already extolling wholesale destruction of Muslims. ‘‘For a long time we’ve been wanting to smash the nest of these weaver – birds, to raze the city of these Muslim foreigners and throw it into the river ­to burn the enclosure and of these swines and purify Mother Earth again. Brother that day has come.
“Anandamath.” Bankim Chatterjee, Nirod Chaudhuri recalled was ‘‘positively and fiercely anti- Muslim. We were eager readers of these romances and we readily absorbed their spirit.” This is the reason East Bengal opted for Pakistan in 1947 and became the independent state of Bangladesh in 1971.
On this great day in the life of our nation we remember our great heroes of liberation war, the ‘Bir Shresthas’, the martyars of 1952, the Bir Uttams, the peasants, workers, students, members of the armed forces, paramilitary personnel and the police force, the professionals, the intelligentsia, all of whom played their respective role in the service of their motherland.
The writer is a former MP


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NATO troop withdrawal from Kabul may pose India’s security risks

Shamsuddin Ahmed

NATO troops are set to withdraw from Afghanistan in less than a fortnight. But prospect of peace and stability is a remote possibility. Taliban ousted from power at US invasion of the country in 2001 and its militant allies using the withdrawal of invading army may return to the scene.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

NATO troops are set to withdraw from Afghanistan in less than a fortnight. But prospect of peace and stability is a remote possibility. Taliban ousted from power at US invasion of the country in 2001 and its militant allies using the withdrawal of invading army may return to the scene.

Many of the nightmarish situation in post 2014 Afghanistan could come true - rapidly deteriorating security situation that is likely to spill into Pakistan and further deteriorate the situation in Pakistan as well. Afghan army, believed to have improved efficiency, took over the charge to control the situation in June last. Taliban may not muster resources and capacity to overthrow the government.  US President Barak Obama is on record to have said: “the war in Afghanistan will not end in 2014. The US role may end, in whole or in part, but the war will continue. Its ultimate outcome is very much in doubt...If the current trends continue, US troops are likely to leave behind a grinding stalemate between the government and Taliban”.

Violence may return
He has correctly read the current ground situation. There was a spate of violence last week in which scores of people were killed.  Militants attacked a US army convoy on December 13 leaving at least two troops dead. This brings to 65 ISAF troops, including 50 Americans, killed this year. Obama has recently broadened the US mission allowing its troops to once again engage Taliban fighters. US will keep 10,800 troops ostensibly for training of Afghan forces.
Henry Kissinger has forecast that in many respects, India will be the most affected country if Jihadist Islamism gains impetus in Afghanistan. Experts viewed departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan could push India and Pakistan toward a proxy war in the conflict ridden state as both countries are fighting for a foothold and strategic influence.  Afghanistan is member of SAARC. Proxy war for the foothold and influence in it, rivals seeking support from other members are bound to leave an undesirable impact on the entire South-east Asia region.
Michael Kugelman, an expert on this region recently told the German TV that the pull out of NATO troops  poses a set of potential security risks for India, aggravate the situation in Afghanistan and empower actors like Taliban that violently oppose India and Indians in Afghanistan. Risks for India are many. Emboldened Taliban will have more space to ramp up their operations and perhaps even to target Indians with foreign troops leaving Afghanistan.
A number of anti-Indian militant groups who were lying low in recent years seem to be using the withdrawal as an excuse to return to the scene.  Jaish-e-Mohammad based in Pakistan has threatened to kill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and send suicide bombers into India.  Pakistan’s former military ruler General Parvez Musharraf said the danger for Pakistan is India’s influence in Afghanistan. India wants to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan and thus encircle Pakistan.

Afghan regime ready for reconciliation
Under house arrest in Karachi, Musharraf is close to and has influence in the powerful army. He told an interviewer recently that if India uses ethnic groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan will use its own support, and our ethnic allies are certainly Pushtuns.  “There is no need for Pakistan to target militants who did not threaten the country’s security,” said Sartaz Azis, National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister. He told in an interview with BBC on November 17 on Islamic militants, “why should enemies of US unnecessarily become our foes. Some of them were dangerous for us and some are not. Why must we make enemies out of them all.”
The new Afghan government attached highest priority on reconciliation with Taliban, even it requires sharing power, for ending the long-running conflicts and curbing terrorism. To achieve the tasks it has focused on its relationship with Pakistan and China. President Ashraf Ghani hopes of achieving his goal with the help of Pakistan and China. He visited Beijing and Islamabad. His visit to Pakistan last month generated an unprecedented surge of optimism and set the groundwork for long-term cooperation between the two nations while his trip to China a couple of months ago resulted in “bold steps” for increasing economic cooperation and stabilisation efforts.
In Pakistan, Ghani visited Pakistan army headquarters in a sign of warming up ties after more than a decade of mutual distrust during the Karzai regime. Karzai was accused of leaning toward Delhi. Ghani aims at resetting relation with Pakistan that was often tense during the rule of Karzai who accused Pakistan for supporting Taliban with money and equipments.

Afghan to improve ties with Pak, China
India has also opportunity to establish deeper ties with Afghanistan.  Delhi has been quietly helping the war-torn country through economic investment and trade. An agreement for Strategic partnership was signed with Afghanistan when Karzai was in power. Early this year Delhi announced a $2 billion aid for Afghanistan, the biggest India ever given to any other country.
It is true that Pakistan’s military and intelligence have backed the Taliban and some other extremist groups. China leans on Pakistan to restrain the terrorists, for its own problems with militant Islamic groups in the Zing Jiang province in the west. Pakistan offered Afghanistan cooperation in ending conflicts and fostering reconciliation. A peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest. The two countries are increasing cooperation in all areas, particularly in the areas of security and counter-terrorism.
An inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, that President Ghani has initiated, is imperative for national unity, peace and stability of the country. Pakistan and China stand ready to support that process.


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Stop torture! accountability: YES-impunity: NO

Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday

Statement and petition initiated by two former UN Assistant Secretaries-General, UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq: Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday.

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Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday

Statement and petition initiated by two former UN Assistant Secretaries-General, UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq: Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday.

On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications.
Compelling evidence has become available, especially since 2001, the beginning of the Afghanistan war, through investigations by the European Parliament and national judicial authorities, as well as two major reports presented by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2006 and 2007 to the Council of Europe, on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.
The US Senate report makes it clear that cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of captives by the CIA and its collaborators have been carried out on a continuous basis. Such treatment can't be justified in any manner, even if the US Government reservations with which it signed the UN torture convention in 1994 were to be taken into account.
CIA personnel and others willfully participated in following executive orders and directives thereby violating the UN torture convention and the Geneva Convention III. In this way they have committed serious crimes for which they must be held accountable.
The UN Special Representative on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson QC has reminded us that "torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction".
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said it is "crystal clear" under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability. He further added: "If they order, enable or commit torture, recognized as a serious international crime, they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency".
US President Obama must be aware that not holding the perpetrators accountable is a victory for impunity and will have far-reaching implications for global security.
We, signatories from all parts of the world, therefore urge the US Government and its Attorney General, to start a judicial process with a sense of urgency in compliance with principles of equality before the law. If they fail to do so, other international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, will have the obligation under international law to assure that justice is done.
Countercurrents.org. Please sign the petition at: http://www.brussellstribunal.org/article_view.asp?id=1954


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Wealthy people laundering money to settle abroad

Faruque Ahmed

The country lost over $1.78 billion in 2012 by way of illegal capital flight, which was carried out by wealthy people using their influence in political establishments  and administrative machinery of the government.
The Washington based research organization Global Financial Integrity (GFI) made the disclosure last week reaffirming the TIB report released on December 4 which identified Bangladesh as the second worst corrupt nation in South Asia after Afghanistan whereas globally it ranked 14th most corrupt nation from its earlier 16thposition last year.

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Faruque Ahmed

The country lost over $1.78 billion in 2012 by way of illegal capital flight, which was carried out by wealthy people using their influence in political establishments  and administrative machinery of the government.
The Washington based research organization Global Financial Integrity (GFI) made the disclosure last week reaffirming the TIB report released on December 4 which identified Bangladesh as the second worst corrupt nation in South Asia after Afghanistan whereas globally it ranked 14th most corrupt nation from its earlier 16thposition last year.

Its ranking fell nine steps to 145th position among 175 countries surveyed this year by the global corruption indexing agency. Bangladesh this year shares the position with Guinea, Laos, Kenya and Papua New Guinea. And even below Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan in the region.     
The GFI report showed pervasive corruption is hitting the nation at all levels.
It is spreading in all government organizations and beyond where a weak system of governance that lacked accountability is allowing influential people to run the capital flight basically to save their unearned wealth and re-establish their offspring in the developed countries.

Over $11b laundered
Another corruption report few months ago showed Bangladeshi nationals stood in the front row of a handful of nations who have stashed several thousand crore taka in the Swiss banks over the past few years. Bangladesh nationals meanwhile stood only second to the Chinese in buying homes in Malaysia under Kuala Lumpur’s second home programme.   
It shows influential people are having little faith in the country’s fragile political system based on coercive and faulty elections and other financial frauds. Every time political situation deteriorates, they accelerate the illegal transfer of money using over-invoicing of import bills and withholding the repatriation of export earnings.
They also use fake import bills of food grains and industrial machinery to remove their money using the official cover in their bid to secure safe transfer of fund in hand.
From 2003 to 2012 as the GFI report shows, capital flight hits $1,054 million in 2005 and surpassed $2,667 million in the next year. It stood $2,436 million in 2007 and declined a bit to $1,229 million in 2008. In the year 2009, $1063 millions were removed illegally. It then came down to $672 million and $593 million in 1010 and 2011 respectively and shot up again to $1,780 million in 2012.
Meanwhile, almost all the money swindled from stock market, Sonali Bank, BASIC Bank and investors in Destiny and such other high corruption scams have reportedly left the country even as per the government agency reports.
We may recall that the national intelligence agencies on few occasions in the past had even alerted the government top policy makers about the massive capital flight. They had identified Hong Kong, Malaysia, Dubai, London and Australia where the money is going and the parties are buying real estate and opening new business.

Relevant agencies fail
But subsequent corruption reports like the TIB or GFI showed that there was hardly any brake to the capital flight and its enormity has only increased over the years showing little effective measures were at work to stop it.
The capital flight was mainly prompted by fear of political unpredictability in which people possessing illegal money saw the risk of facing accountability in the hand of a new regime to explain the source of their money.   
The GFI uses data from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the UN COMTRADE, US Department of Commerce data and the European Statistics in compiling the latest report on capital flight.
The Transparency International also used at least seven independent sources in rating the corruption level of the individual countries and in case of Bangladesh as in other cases, it did not use the reports of Bangladesh chapter of the Transparency International to keep the integrity of the reports unchallenged.
The GFI highlighted over a trillion dollars capital flight from the developing and the least developed countries to developed nations alone in 2012 that could have been otherwise invested in local business, healthcare, education or infrastructure.
“It is simply impossible to achieve sustainable global development unless world leaders agree to address this issue head-on. That’s why it is essential for the United Nations to decide on a specific target next year to halve all trade-related illicit flows by 2030 as part of post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda,” The GFI president said while releasing the report.
It is amply clear that people at high places who make money illegally through facilitating controversial business deals and using other criminal ways to move out their money abroad for safety. So such massive capital flight can’t be tackled without addressing the case of political instability.
As we see pervasive corruption is eating the nation at a time when the failure of Parliament and other anti-corruption bodies  such as Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Human Rights Commission are sitting idle without using the power to bring the government under an accountability regime.

Rubber stamp bodies
They are rather working as rubber stamp bodies instead of asking the government to put a brake to crimes and corruptions. The government leaders on the other hand routinely blame the corruption watchdog agencies for working to undermine the government while enjoying a total impunity to hold back corruption.
The ACC’s comment on the TIB report that they did not accept it as credible is unfortunate. The question thus arises if the ACC is not having the power and the capacity to bring the government to a system of accountability and other organizations are similarly keep on sitting idle, the economy will only collapse at the end. 
The capital flight in 2012 stood at equivalent to national health budget this year. We are apprehensive that many wealthy and influential people are swindling national wealth and become citizens of another country at the cost of the nation.


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Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Incursion on Al Aqsa Mosque
 OIC Diary, November 2014   OIC-IDB support to fighting Ebola Virus
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Call for joint action to combat extremism and intolerance in the world
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Revitalizing Islamic Social Finance  
 OIC Diary, November 2014  IPHRC Statement on Al-Aqsa  
 OIC Diary, November 2014  IPHRC Statement on Palestine
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC, IDB Joint Committee with Guinea on Ebola containment
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC Secretary General Hosts Foreign Minister Of Somalia
 OIC Diary, November 2014  International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation
 OIC Diary, November 2014  New Government in Yemen
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC Agenda (11-28 November 2014)  
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC Ministerial Contact Group Meeting on Palestine and Al-Quds
 OIC Diary, November 2014  RIYADH SUPPLEMENTARY AGREEMENT GCC consolidates defence of Ummah
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Election of a new interim leader in Burkina Faso
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC Agenda (18-26 November 2014)
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Spanish recognition of the state of Palestine
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC and UNHCR discuss Muslim refugees
 OIC Diary, November 2014  1st Ministerial High Level Partnership Forum on Somalia
 OIC Diary, November 2014  OIC-UNHCR joint plan of cooperation
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Passenger bus attack in Kenya
 OIC Diary, November 2014  ISRAEL’S “STATE JUDAIZATION” BILL
 OIC Diary, November 2014  COMCEC GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ISTANBUL Al-quds and Konya named Islamic tourism capitals for 2015 and 2016  
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Notice of Islamic Conference of Information Ministers, 2014
 OIC Diary, November 2014  Joint media action planned   10th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers
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