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Lessons from Jakarta and from PCEC

Sadeq Khan

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was well-advised to leave Dhaka to join Asian-African Summit 2015 in Jakarta and escape the mess she and her hawkish ministers and party faithfuls have created over the city corporation elections in Dhaka and Chittagong.

The city elections are presumed to have been timed to take the heat away from the attrition of 3-month long countrywide transport blockade imposed by the 20-party opposition alliance that had boycotted January 5, 2014 general election and regarded the present term of Sheikh Hasina government illegitimate, having been “declared elected” without contest or by manipulation otherwise.

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Sadeq Khan

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was well-advised to leave Dhaka to join Asian-African Summit 2015 in Jakarta and escape the mess she and her hawkish ministers and party faithfuls have created over the city corporation elections in Dhaka and Chittagong.

The city elections are presumed to have been timed to take the heat away from the attrition of 3-month long countrywide transport blockade imposed by the 20-party opposition alliance that had boycotted January 5, 2014 general election and regarded the present term of Sheikh Hasina government illegitimate, having been “declared elected” without contest or by manipulation otherwise.

Sheikh Hasina’s strong-armed strategy of repression, counting on trigger-happy police actions, massive arrests, persecutions and multiple prosecutions of 20-party opposition activists did manage to drive most of the opposition leaders and activists into hiding and keep the capital city of Dhaka as well as the commercial capital and port city of Chittagong largely out of harms way.

Hate campaign & attack on Zia
But the uncompromising hard line of brutal repression provoked reprisals of petrol bomb and Molotov cocktail throwing hit-and-run violence and subversion obstructing roads, railways and river traffic all over the country, with sporadic hartals grinding particularly micro-economic activity in mufussil areas almost to a half. Panic prevailed as the corrupt administration indulged in ransom-seeking for any attention or protection given to victims of violence, more than chasing the wrong-doers, and the police ran its own extortion rackets.
Hundreds of deaths and injuries either from petrol burns or from police fire and custodial killings occurred. Sheikh Hasina and her ministers embarked on a propaganda offensive terming the opposition movement as a ploy to delay the hanging of Jamaat leaders convicted of war crimes, Jamaat being the second biggest partner of the 20-party alliance led by Khaleda. But the public refused to absolve the administration itself of its sins of ill governance and of failure to protect life and property of citizens. When Hasina gave clearance to the Election Commission for City Corporation elections, Khaleda Zia and her 20-party alliance, after some hesitation, decided on participation in city polls as part of her “blockade movement” nominally continuing in all parts of the country other than the cities under hustings. Sheikh Hasina counted on “public fury” against “killer” Khaleda for causing innocents to burn and die under indiscriminate petrol bomb attacks by the latter’s following.
Hasina stepped up both propaganda war on that count, and framing of criminal cases raking up alleged past terrorist linkages of BNP-Jamaat leaders. Most BNP candidates, failing to obtain bail in such cases had to remain in hiding and content with proxy election campaign by their spouses, friends and relatives. When Khaleda Zia risked security concerns to embark on hustings herself in support of her nominees, Sheikh Hasina’s team expressly chalked out a programme to confront “killer Khaleda” with black flags and party activist muscles. The result was a violent attack and lethal gunfire on Khaleda’s motorcade on 20 April by over-enthusiasts of the camp of the ruling party’s North Dhaka candidate in Kawran Bazar.

Spin masters at work
Public on the streets, civil society leaders as well as political leaders and activists of all shades, all reacted sharply, condemning that attack. Another attack occurred the next day, and another the day after, but were both baffled by the public. Some government leaders and police officers’ spins to paint the incidents as provoked by Khaleda’s security personnel’s “tussle” with “peaceful” black flag demonstrators gained no credence.
Countrywide protest hartal has been observed, sparing the two cities under hustings. As the international news agencies noted in their reports, the violent attacks on Khaleda Zia in her campaign trail in support of her nominees in city polls has compounded the “deep political crisis” in the country bringing it to a very “dangerous turn”. The transport blockade throughout the country enfolding the capital city and the principal port city preparing for polls, has remained in place, however simmered down. And right inside those spared cities now, the blockade activists are obtaining active support from “public resistance” whipped up by their fellow activists feverishly engaged in confronting and driving out “vote-riggers” and ruling party muscles. In blame game, it is Sheikh Hasina’s “intransigence” that is being widely regarded as the root of all trouble.
Sheikh Hasina will have time to brood on the unhappy situation in Dhaka during sojourn in Jakarta. There she is more meaningfully involved with leaders of other Asian and African nations in chalking out a common roadmap to leave behind the “obsolete” world order. It is a sixty four million dollar question whether she may remain cool when she returns, and hit on the simple upshot that the city polls do not comprise ‘be all and end all’ of her political power.

Asian-African Summit
Meanwhile, the Asian-African Summit 2015 is commemorating the 60th anniversary of Bandung conference that made a developing-world stand against colonialism and led to the Cold War era’s non-aligned movement. At the opening of the conference, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the conference host, said that those who still believed the global economic problems could only be solved through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (two monetary institutions created by the United States and Europe at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944), and Asian Development Bank were clinging to “obsolete ideas”. He said: “It’s imperative that we build a new international economic order that is open to new emerging economic powers.”
Although Widodo made no mention of the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as an alternative, it was presumably in his mind as part of the new economic order envisaged. Indonesia is one of nearly 60 countries that have offered to be founding members of the AIIB, and so is Bangladesh.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, architect of AIIB and the Belt and Road Initiative, told the conference that “a new type of international relations” was needed to encourage cooperation between Asian and African nations, and said the developed world had an obligation to support the rest with no political strings attached.
The Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said Japan had pledged, “with feelings of deep remorse over the past war”, to adhere to principles such as refraining from acts of aggression and settling international disputed by peaceful means.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told the conference that Asian and African countries “should no longer be consigned to the role of exporters of primary goods and importers of finished goods”. There was thus a spirit of accommodation and peaceful cooperation for common weal all around.
The world order has changed dramatically since nearly 30 heads of state gathered in 1955 in the Indonesian town of Bandung to discuss security and economic development away from global powers embroiled in the Cold War. Together, the Bandung Conference leaders formulated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, described by India as the Panchsheel Treaty as a set of principles to govern relations between states. Their first formal codification in treaty form was in an agreement between China and India in 1954.

The principle & vision of actions
The Panchsheel treaty stated the five principles as:
1.    Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
2.    Mutual non-aggression.
3.    Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
4.    Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit.
5.    Peaceful co-existence.
The Five Principles were thereafter adopted in Colombo and elsewhere, and formed the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement, established in Belgrade in 1961. The five principles had partly originated as the five principles of the Indonesian state. In June 1945 Sukarno, the Indonesian nationalist leader, had proclaimed four years ahead of independence five general principles, or pancasila, on which future institutions were to be founded.
In the nineteen fifties, the Bandung conference nations together accounted for less than a quarter of global economic output at that time, but today they contribute to more than half of the world economy.
Indonesian President Widodo said the group may be meeting in a changed world but still needed to stand together against the domination of “a certain group of countries” to avoid unfairness and global imbalances.
“Vision and Actions” paper released by the Chinese government on March 28, 2015 on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21stcentury Maritime Silk Road (The Belt and Road) says: “The Belt and Road Initiative is in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It upholds the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. The Initiative is open for cooperation. It covers, but is not limited to, the area of the ancient Silk Road. It is open to all countries, and international and regional organizations for engagement, so that the results of the concerted efforts will benefit wider areas. The Initiative is harmonious and inclusive. It advocates tolerance among civilizations, respects the paths and modes of development chosen by different countries, and supports dialogues among different civilizations on the principles of seeking common ground while shelving differences and drawing on each other’s strengths, so that all countries can coexist in peace for common prosperity.

New Eurasian Land Bridge
“The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing countries with huge potential for economic development. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other. On land, the Initiative will focus on jointly building a new Eurasian Land Bridge and developing China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors by taking advantage of international transport routes, relying on core cities along the Belt and Road and using key economic industrial parks as cooperation platforms.
“At sea, the Initiative will focus on jointly building smooth, secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports along the Belt and Road. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor are closely related to the Belt and Road Initiative, and therefore require closer cooperation and greater progress.”

Sino-Pak Economic Corridor
Indeed the formal unveiling of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by President Xi Jinping last Tuesday during his state visit to Pakistan was the biggest news of strategic import, set to make a difference in the region. The strategic corridor - regarded as the biggest connectivity project between the two countries after Karakoram highway built in 1979 - will shorten the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by about 12,000 kms. For development along the Corridor, 51 agreements were signed during the visit for proposed Chinese investments worth $46 billion aimed at building a network of roads, railway lines and pipelines across Pakistan. The China-Pakistan economic corridor will connect China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port, giving Beijing direct access to the Arabian Sea.
The initial focus of development is on electricity to end Pakistan’s chronic energy crisis and transform the country into a regional economic hub by stabilising its cash-strapped economy that had forced it to seek loans from the World Bank and the IMF in the past. “This corridor will benefit all provinces and areas in Pakistan, and transform our country into a regional hub and pivot for commerce and investment. This corridor will become a symbol for peace and prosperity,” said Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Indian media has positively responded to the formal announcement of CPEC and accompanied Chinese investments in Pakistan. In a commentary on April 22, the Times of India said: “There’s no denying that proposed Chinese investments in Pakistan are part of Beijing’s efforts to actualise its Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The projects aim to facilitate trade and investments along an east-west axis with China and Europe as the end points. They involve massive infrastructure and connectivity development in partner countries that will open up business opportunities for Chinese firms.

Benefiting South Asia too
“However, the Belt and Road projects will only be successful in a climate of peace and security. It’s difficult to see Chinese development projects taking off in Pakistan if they are routinely targeted by jihadis operating along the Durand Line. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi slated to visit China next month, New Delhi should be able to sell Beijing the argument that doing business with a rapidly growing India is much better than with jihadi-riddled Pakistan. Even better, China should be able to persuade the Pakistanis to clamp down on terror groups comprehensively. That would work to the benefit of China, Pakistan and India, even as it removes obstacles to Chinese objectives of building silk routes and powering an Asian century.”
At the other end of the sub-Himalayan stretch in the South, we in Bangladesh could also be a hub (and along with the northeast Indian states and Nepal) could expect heavy Chinese investments in BCIM like in CPEC, if we could enhance “closer cooperation and greater progress.” Sadly, many of our ongoing projects are being executed at a snail’s pace for inattention and malpractices of political masters who are simply absorbed in savage bickering with their rivals. Stricken citizens wonder, when will their ordeals from hangovers of the past end, and they may be blessed with an earnest leadership able to vigorously pursue a twenty-first century roadmap like the BCIM-EC of the Belt and Road Initiative.


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Global agribusiness hammering at the root of Indian society

Colin Todhunter
Countercurrents.org

According to the World Bank in the nineties, it was expected (and hoped) that some 400 million people in Indian agriculture would be moving out of the sector by 2015. To help them on their way, farming had to be made financially non-viable and policies formulated to facilitate the process.

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Colin Todhunter
Countercurrents.org

According to the World Bank in the nineties, it was expected (and hoped) that some 400 million people in Indian agriculture would be moving out of the sector by 2015. To help them on their way, farming had to be made financially non-viable and policies formulated to facilitate the process.

Food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma describes the situation: “India is on fast track to bring agriculture under corporate control... Amending the existing laws on land acquisition, water resources, seed, fertilizer, pesticides and food processing, the government is in overdrive to usher in contract farming and encourage organized retail. This is exactly as per the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the international financial institutes.”

600m farmers to migrate
He notes that in its 2008 World Development Report, the World Bank wanted India to hasten the process by accelerating land acquisitions and launching a network of training institutes to train younger people in rural areas so as to make them eligible for industrial work. This is now happening, especially the highly contentious push to facilitate private corporations’ access to land, which has been sparking mass protests across the country.
Sharma describes how US subsidies and global trade policies work to benefit hugely wealthy agribusiness corporations, while serving to cripple the agricultural sectors of poorer countries. The massive subsidies doled out by the US to its giant agribusiness companies lower global produce prices and buck markets in favour of Washington. The US has also included non-trade barriers (such as various health standards and regulations) to keep agricultural imports out. At the same time, India has opened its markets and support for its own farmers is being cut. Farmers are thus being left to the vagaries of a global market slanted in favour of US interests.
As India’s farmers face increasing financial distress and foreign private players try to move in to secure land and the seed, food processing and food retail sectors, what is happening courtesy of compliant politicians is tantamount to cannibalizing the country at the behest of foreign interests.
Western agribusiness has already gained an influential foothold in India and many of the country’s national public bodies. Along with US food processing giants Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, agribusiness aims to recast the rural economy (and thus Indian society, given that hundreds of millions depend on it for a living) according to its own needs. This would mean eventually moving over 600 million (never mind the previously mentioned figure of 400 million) who depend on agriculture and local food processing activities into urban areas.

The globalization agenda
Monsanto already dominates the cotton industry in the country and is increasingly shaping agri-policy and the knowledge paradigm by funding agricultural research in public universities and institutes. Moreover, public regulatory bodies are now severely compromised and riddled with conflicts of interest where decision-making over GMOs are concerned.
But this is the nature of the ‘globalization’ agenda: the goal is to ‘capture’ and ‘exploit’ foreign markets and their policy/regulatory bodies. The culture of neoliberalism is exemplified by APCO Worldwide, a major ‘global communications, stakeholder engagement and business strategy’ company that Narendra Modi has been associated with in the past. In APCO’s India Brochure, there is the claim that India’s resilience in weathering the global downturn and financial crisis has made governments, policy-makers, economists, corporate houses and fund managers believe that India can play a significant role in the recovery of the global economy in the months and years ahead. APCO describes India as a trillion dollar market.
No mention of ordinary people or poor farmers. The focus is on profit, funds and money because for the readers of such documents all of this constitutes ‘growth’ – a positive sounding notion sold to the masses that in reality means corporate profit. It forms part of an ideology that attempts to disguise the nature of a system that has produced austerity, disempowerment and increasing hardship for the bulk of the population and the concentration of ever more wealth and power in the hands of the few who now dictate policies to nation states.
Take a brief look at what happened in Britain when the neoliberal globalization strategy took hold there. As with Modi, Margaret Thatcher was a handmaiden to rich interests.

What Thatcher did to UK
During the eighties, the Thatcher government set the wheels in motion to shut down the coal mining industry. The outcome destroyed communities across the country, and they have never recovered. Crime-ridden, drug-ridden and shells of their former selves, these towns and villages and the people in them were thrown onto the scrapheap. The industry was killed because it was deemed ‘uneconomical’. And yet it now costs more to keep a person on the dole than it would to employ them at the minimum wage, the country imports coal at a higher cost than it would to have kept the pits open and Britain has to engage in costly illegal wars to secure its oil and gas energy needs, which coal could largely provide (Britain has over 1,000 years of coal supply in the ground). In fact, before 1970, Britain got all its gas from its own coal.
The economics just do not add up. Former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill fought to save the mining industry and now asks where is the sense in all of this.
The same happened across the manufacturing sector, from steel to engineering to shipbuilding. And a similar process occurred in the fishery and agriculture sectors. In 2010, there were over eight million unemployed (over 21 percent of the workforce), despite what the official figures said.
Britain decided to financialise its economy and move people out of manufacturing to integrate with a neoliberal globalized world order. Ordinary people’s livelihoods were sacrificed and sold to the lowest bidder abroad and the real economy was hollowed out for the benefit of giant corporations who now have near-monopolies in their respective sectors and record massive profits. People were promised a new service-based economy. Not enough jobs materialized or when they did many soon moved to cheap labour economies or they were automated.

17,000 commits suicide annually
Although it’s a vastly different country, if we look at agriculture in India, a similar trend is seen. Almost 300,000 farmers have taken their lives in India since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic ‘liberalization’.
In a recent TV interview, Devinder Sharma highlighted the plight of agriculture:
“Agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades… the World Bank and big business have given the message that this is the only way to grow economically… Sixty percent of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture, and less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture… When you are not investing in agriculture, you think it is... not performing. You are not wanting it to perform... Leave it to the vagaries or the tyranny of the markets… agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country… 70 percent of the population is being completely ignored…”
As policy makers glorify ‘business entrepreneurship’ and ‘wealth creation’ and acquiesce to hugely wealthy individuals and their corporations, it largely goes unrecognized that farmers have always been imbued with the spirit of entrepreneurship and have been creating food wealth for centuries. They have been innovators, natural resource stewards, seed savers and hybridization experts. But they are now fodder to be sacrificed on the altar of US petro-chemical agribusiness interests.
In his interview, Devinder Sharma went on to state that despite the tax breaks and the raft of policies that favour industry over agriculture, industry has failed to deliver; but despite the gross under-investment in agriculture, it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year:

IRs36 trillion corporate tax exemption
Devinder Sharma said: “In the last 10 years, we had 36 lakh crore going to the corporates by way of tax exemptions... They just created 1.5 crore jobs in the last ten years. Where are the exports? … The only sector that has performed very well in this country is agriculture... Why do you want to move the population... Why can’t India have its own thinking? Why do we have to go with Harvard or Oxford economists who tell us this?” (36 lakh crore is 36 trillion; 1.5 crore is 15 million)
It all begs the question: where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of former agricultural workers or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalize industries that currently employ tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions)?
The genuine wealth creators, the farmers, are being sold out to corporate interests whose only concern is to how best loot the economy. As they do so, they churn out in unison with their politician puppets the mantra of it all being in the ‘national interest’ and constituting some kind of ‘economic miracle’. And those who protest are attacked and marginalized. In Britain during the eighties, it was a similar situation. Workers’ representatives portrayed as the ‘enemy within’.
Through various policies, underinvestment and general neglect, farmers are being set up to financially fail. However, it is corporate-industrial India which has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the massive hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year.
Again, this too is a global phenomenon.

‘Selling the family silver’
Corporate-industrial India is the beneficiary of a huge global con-trick: subsidies to the public sector or to the poor are portrayed as a drain on the economy, while the genuinely massive drain of taxpayer-funded corporate dole, tax breaks, bail outs and tax avoidance/evasion are afforded scant attention. Through slick doublespeak, all of this becomes redefined necessary for creating jobs or fueling ‘growth’. The only growth is in massive profits and inequalities, coupled with unemployment, low pay, the erosion of welfare and a further race to the bottom as a result of secretive trade agreements like the TTP.
India is still a nation of farmers. Around two thirds of the population in some way rely on agriculture for a living. Despite the sector’s woeful neglect in favour of a heavily subsidized and government-supported but poorly performing industrial sector, agriculture remains the backbone of Indian society.
Notwithstanding the threat to food security, livelihoods and well-being that the type of unsustainable corporate-controlled globalized industrial agriculture being pushed through in India leads to bad food, bad soil, bad or no water, bad health, stagnant or falling yields and ultimately an agrarian crisis. It involves the liberal use of cancer-causing pesticides and the possible introduction of health-damaging but highly profitable GMOs.
There was a famous phrase used in the eighties in Britain by the former Prime Minister Harold McMillan. He accused the Thatcher administration of ‘selling the family silver’ with its privatization policies and the auction of public assets that ordinary people had strived to build over many decades of dedicated labour.
As Modi presses through with his strident neoliberal agenda and seeks to further privatize India’s agricultural heritage, it begs the question: is it not tantamount to turning in on yourself and destroying the home in which you live?
Colin Todhunter is an independent writer, originally from the UK: https://twitter.com/colin_todhunter


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Can Begum Zia turn the table?

Mohammad Ali Sattar

As the date of voting for the city corporation polls nears, the excitement and concern gets thicker. The festive look of the Dhaka and Chittagong metropolis creates a positive feeling inside. The enthusiasm that has gripped the public is indeed a good thing to happen.

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Mohammad Ali Sattar

As the date of voting for the city corporation polls nears, the excitement and concern gets thicker. The festive look of the Dhaka and Chittagong metropolis creates a positive feeling inside. The enthusiasm that has gripped the public is indeed a good thing to happen.

The long lines of supporters of each candidate, the thousand posters hanging all along the streets and alleyways, the continuous pronouncements by the campaigner accompanied by beautifully versed theme songs for each symbol – all these make things really nice. There is an air of celebration all around.
Coming as it did on the heels of the Pahela Baishakh; the festivity is still there and gets more colorful with the date of ballot approaching.

SH/Mixture of youth and age
This time there is also a marked departure in the status and preference of Mayoral candidates. Most of the mayoral contenders belong to a different background than the previous ones with heavy political make up.
The mixture of youth and age make the race more interesting in that the frequently held debate sessions by these contenders allow the press and the members of public to know the minds of these prospective city leaders.
It is great to hear the tall promises and near impossible pledges that these leaders have been making in their meet the people and press programs.
In a nutshell all promises to do away with recurrent problems of shortage of gas and power, law and order situations, corruption, widespread illicit trading of drugs, smuggling and terrorism all seems to be an uphill task.
All these need a Hercules in power to tackle. Let’s hope for the best though.  We want a real life Hercules in power.
The above was the part of excitement that we are in. But we also have our concerns relating the upcoming polls.
The recent declaration by the government ministers that Begum Zia will not be allowed to campaign for her candidates, bear an ominous sign. One said that she will not be allowed because she has committed crime by calling blockade program that killed so many innocent   people. So she should not be allowed to come out in the open for campaign.
Another minister remarked with rage, that if Begum Zia comes out to promote her candidates she will be the target of the people’s wrath. As such she will not be allowed to come out. Since there will be law and order situation and she will be in danger of being attacked, she ought to remain indoors.

Orchestrated attack on Khaleda’s motorcade
The words of the government are showing in the streets. As Begum Zia embarked on her campaign trail, she and her entourage repeatedly came under attack by her opposition.
Her convoy was in danger all the time. The vehicle she rides had a side window sheet wrecked. TV grabs showed the aggressive protesters belonging to government party chasing her motorcade with sticks, iron rods  and batons. They were also seen throwing brick bats at the vehicle that belonged to her party of campaigners.
So now Begum Zia, or for that matter, BNP is faced with another problem, that is, not allowed to come out in the open and participate in the campaigning for their contenders.
As it is, the party is in awful situation. Majority of party stalwarts are either in jail or hiding. A few of them are timidly moving around. Not showing much interest in being robust.
The elderly teacher, Dr.Emajuddin Ahmed has taken charge of the polls coordinator. How far this will help? This is not enough for sure.
In a recent TV talk show, a former government secretary remarked that if Begum Zia is allowed to embark on campaigning for her candidates there is a huge possibility that the contender will be in a beneficial position. There is all likelihood of the BNP backed candidate to get through. This, secretary said, will be mainly due to Begum Zia’s popularity.
He remarked that it is only Begum Zia who never lost in any national polls ever since she got into politics. All the leaders have at one time or other conceded defeat but Begum Zia came out victorious in the elections held under all previous administrations.
BNP leaders, activists and people at large realize this truth. Above all, the first to realize this ground reality is the government party leaders. They also have history of polls in their agenda. They know Begums Zia’s power of pulling votes.

Khaleda, the lone warrior
They, by now, have realized that it is only her who might be able to turn the tables around. Begum Zia has been the emblem of unity for the party ever since she took over the reins. Her popularity is something that others envy.
Even the city corporation polls will need her campaigning without which it will be tough for the BNP backed candidates to get through.
That Begum Zia is a lone warrior in the party is a worry. Tareque is out of contention with scores of national and global problems facing him. Koko was never in the party and he passed away quietly.  So with Begum Zia alone holding the scepter will not augur well for long for her party.
The unremitting assault on the BNP and its leaders, especially Begum Zia, will not bring any good to the country’s politics. The premeditated attack on her (verbal and physical) sets ugly instances that will be more hideous in future.
This aggression also puts the country’s political system under threat.  Because if the continued disregard for democratic practices are shown by the government party activists then the entire process of the polls will once again face the same credibility crisis that the recently held national polls faced.
It is being surmised that political scenario will change, whatever the outcome of the polls may be. While the Mayor aspirants go on meeting the people across the city, the aging lady fights a lone battle for her candidates.
This is now virtually a battle between the government party with full strength together with the supporting law enforcement agencies and a single-handed lady without any armory. This is already turning to be an interesting battle.
Can she turn the table around?


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New leap in Pak-China diplomatic ties

Jonaid Iqbal in Islamabad

The romance between China and Pakistan began in 1950. It has taken a new leap following the arrival of President Xi Jinping last Tuesday.
President Xi was expected to come last year and participate in Pakistan’s Independence Day festivities. But political situation in the country forced him to cancel the trip. All the same, he did arrive on the eve of a national day - national poet, Allama Iqbal’s remembrance day.

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Jonaid Iqbal in Islamabad

The romance between China and Pakistan began in 1950. It has taken a new leap following the arrival of President Xi Jinping last Tuesday.
President Xi was expected to come last year and participate in Pakistan’s Independence Day festivities. But political situation in the country forced him to cancel the trip. All the same, he did arrive on the eve of a national day - national poet, Allama Iqbal’s remembrance day.

Pakistan recognized People’s Republic of China in 1950 and gave up relationship with Taiwan. This ties have been enhanced in many other ways by political leaderships of both the two countries, including Maoze Dong, Xou En Lai, Mohammad Ali Bogra, Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
In 1950, India also claimed a relationship of about 2000 years with China and was among the first ever countries to recognized it.
The leaders of China opted for a more enduring relationship with Pakistan that they characterize as ‘all weather friend.’ For example, “after recognition China- Pak un-demarcated border reached a deadlock, and China suggested the two delegations [of China and Pakistan] to give their own presentation before Maoze Dong. This was done.” Mao then asked the Pakistan delegation as to what they would suggest about the location of the border. The Pak delegation replied, it should at the place where the Chinese suggest it should be. Mao decided that as the border was disputed, it should remain open pending the settlement of Kashmir dispute.
This spirit of give and take between Pakistan and China has endured during last 65 years. The two-day visit of Chinese President that concluded last Tuesday offered one more evidence of that kind of deep abiding relationship that has remained unaffected between the two countries. President Xi Jinping’s remarks, that in visiting Pakistan, he was merely coming to a brother’s country, provide ample testimony of this statement.
Here, at Islamabad, Mr. Xi Jinping was greeted in extraordinarily warm ways, befitting a long standing loyal friend and “iron brother” – a new word coined by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he used to describe the warm relationship. He used these two words, during his laudatory address in response to the Chinese guest‘s speech at the joint sitting of Parliament last Tuesday.
Soon thereafter, Pakistan conferred its top civilian award Nishan e Pakistan on President Xi Jinping for his outstanding contribution in the promotion of relationship between the two countries.
However, commentators regard Chinese President’s address to the joint session of Pakistan Parliament as most significant in laying down groundwork of strong friendship policy between the two nations. On this occasion, President Xi strongly spoke of Pakistan’s sacrifice in the battle against terror – ‘Pakistan and China would face threats of terrorism together.”
During this trip, he [President Xi] laid down a road map for building a more strategic partnership between China and Pakistan and in addition he finalized $46 billion dollar investment programme to fix crippling electric shortage and transform global trade routes, as well as signing 50 agreements worth $ 28 billion with Pakistan reiterating its full support to One China.
However, it would be wiser to recognize that the Chinese vision of ‘One Belt, One Road, revealed during President Xi’s visit the other day, is calculated to extend to nearly 60 countries, and all are invited to join in making this bridge. “To successfully become part of this initiative Pakistan will have to live up to its side of the bargain, that includes doing its bid to promote stability in the region”.


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Indian Maoists open new war front in Kerala

Shamsuddin Ahmed

Indian Maoists intensifying attacks on paramilitary forces have killed more than 30 troops in the last two months and opened a new war front in the tri-junction of Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu bordering the west coast. This has raised worries of the government that has already committed about two lakh paramilitary forces and regular army plus state police to combat the red rebels who have posed the gravest internal security threat of the country.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

Indian Maoists intensifying attacks on paramilitary forces have killed more than 30 troops in the last two months and opened a new war front in the tri-junction of Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu bordering the west coast. This has raised worries of the government that has already committed about two lakh paramilitary forces and regular army plus state police to combat the red rebels who have posed the gravest internal security threat of the country.

The Times of India report on April 18 said Maoists have launched tactical counter-offensive campaign (TCOC), a nationwide phenomenon during which the red rebels plan and launch attacks on government forces from April to early monsoon in July. The period is said to be ideal for jungle warfare. “TCOC is used to boost the morale of the Maoist cadres. It is like a celebration time when they want to record some achievements,” said an unnamed security officer.

Responding to ‘Operation Green Hunt’
Maoist counter-offensive came amidst the third phase of the government’s Operation Green Hunt, which started in November 2009 with the mission of ending the Maoist insurgency in two years. It begun with deployment of paramilitary forces along the Red Corridor that passes through five states from Orissa to Bihar. The massive operation was described by a section of the media as India’s dirty war on tribal and leftists’.  The war within the vast forested areas in central India where primitive conditions of life prevail is a war on the region’s tribal inhabitants and on the Maoist guerrillas who find fertile ground for recruitment from among these increasing numbers of evicted adivasis from their mineral rich lands and desperate population. Maoists seek to mobilize working class to defend these groups against ‘state repression’.
Bihar declared high alert following recent Maoist attacks on paramilitary forces in Chhattisgarh killing at least 13 troops and wounding several others. Security forces unearthed 60 landmines connecting 600 meters long stretch planted by the Maoists targeting government forces. The forces have jointly launched anti-Maoist operation along the state borders of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to check cross-border movements of the rebels.
Reports trickled down the border said seven troopers were killed and dozen others injured on April 11 when the Maoists ambushed them in the forests of Chhattisgarh. The incident was a string of attacks leaving several other jawans dead and wounded.  As many as 17 vehicles engaged in mining work were set ablaze in Kanker district and a BSF jawan was killed on the same Sunday night. Anti-mine vehicle carrying 13 jawans was caught in landmine triggered by the Maoist leaving them dead or badly injured.

New Kerala front opened
Chhattisgarh appears to be an invincible citadel of the Maoists. Earlier in December, 14 paramilitary troopers were killed in landmine blast in Sukma district in Bastar region. Almost the entire leadership, numbering 27 people, of Chhattisgarh state Congress out in election campaign was killed in landmine blast followed by indiscriminate fire in May 2013. Some 76 paramilitary troopers were killed by the rebels in Dantewada in Bastar region in April 2010, the highest casualty of government forces in a single attack so far.
As the situation has been worsening additional 2000 troops from the Naga Battalion were deployed in August last year in Bastar, the most militarized zone in India. The Army Chief in mid 2011 assessed 65,000 more troops would be needed to battle the Maoist who proved to be highly trained, armed with sophisticated and deadly weapons. Maoist army is estimated at 20,000 with thousands of cadres and sympathizers.
Gaining support from tribal, adivasis, neglected and deprived low caste Hindus and a section of intelligentsia, the Maoists expanded its operations in some urban areas, supported separatist group in Northeast India and set up bases in Assam and Arunachal. Dr Saibaba, professor of Delhi University and some students were arrested more than a year ago for their links with the Maoists.
CPI (Maoist) has openly declared of opening up a new war front at the huge Wayanad region. Claiming successful completion of the politico-military campaign in the Western Ghats tri-junction in the latest issue of People’s March, a quarterly journal secretly distributed, says “Overcoming innumerable obstacles and snatching initiative, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) fighters and urban action team combatants led by the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) of the party have opened up a new war­ front in the State of Kerala, situated along the South Western coast of India.”

Maoists oppose Hindutva policies
Not rubbishing all the details, a highly placed official in the security establishment said: “We are aware of Maoist movement in this area and have sounded the union home ministry to bring at least five districts of this region in the fold of central forces led anti-Maoist operations. However, the gains made by the CPI (Maoist) may not be true and could also be a ploy to defuse pressure in Dandakaranya region where Maoists are facing a rout by central armed police forces.”
The journal said the party entrusted PLGA the responsibility to spread influence in the region and gave details how it fully culminated achieving the objective in January 2015, after a continuous struggle of nearly a decade. The party decided to concentrate its major force at the tri-­junction of the three states in the Sahyadri mountain range (Western Ghats).
Contesting the Maoist claims, a highly placed security official said: “This is unlikely to be true as we would have got some sort of marching orders by now if the situation was so bad. Or may be it is bad but we are unaware of its extent.”
Outlawed CPI (Maoist) general secretary Ganapathy has urged the party cadres to carry out “wide propaganda against the Modi government and Sangh Parivar’s pro-imperialist and pro-feudal agenda” because these could lead to “oppression of Dalits, Muslims and working classes due to new liberal and fascist Hindutva policies”.
There is a “good potential for building and strengthening civil rights movements,” said the Maoist leader in a recent interview. Asked how the party proposed to face the third phase of Operation Green Hunt, Ganapathi said: “We will have to resolutely unite all sections of the people affected by Modi government’s anti-people agenda. For this, our policies and tactics should be such that all democratic, progressive, secular and patriotic forces rally together in favour of the people and oppose and fight back Modi’s reactionary policies and particularly the operation green hunt. The parliamentary Left will also be forced to take up people’s issues. We call upon all forces to fight on all fronts against this multi-pronged enemy offensive.”
The writer is available at shamsuddin47ahmed@gmail.com; cell: 01626041030)


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‘Chinese century’ to end hegemonic dominance

Bao Shenggang

The rise of China represents that of middle powers in the world which will definitely promote political democratization, just as the emergence of the middle class lays the foundation for democratic political development.
There are varied interpretations of the Chinese century in academic circles. One group represented by Yan Xuetong, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, looks to how the 19th and 20th centuries were described as the centuries of Britain and the US in turn due to their overwhelming dominance in a unipolar world.

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Bao Shenggang

The rise of China represents that of middle powers in the world which will definitely promote political democratization, just as the emergence of the middle class lays the foundation for democratic political development.
There are varied interpretations of the Chinese century in academic circles. One group represented by Yan Xuetong, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, looks to how the 19th and 20th centuries were described as the centuries of Britain and the US in turn due to their overwhelming dominance in a unipolar world.

Under this criterion, a Chinese century needs two necessary conditions; the formation of a unipolar world and China’s absolute dominance, both of which are unlikely.

A shift of global order
Another view holds that the Chinese century in fact marks a shift of international order from hegemony or dominant politics of great powers to diversified and democratic politics since China is unlikely to be as powerful as the US or to gain absolute dominance.
In globalized times when the world has become flatter, marketization and democratization become the mainstream of the world. Middle powers will emerge and constitute the basis of world politics. The international politics will turn democratic rather than hegemonic in compliance with the trend of history. China’s advocacy of win-win cooperation, common development, and diversified and democratic politics conforms to the times and hence gains growing recognition and support worldwide.
The recent decision of many European countries to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) marks a transition in the international order. Their choices are made based on the business opportunities presented by the AIIB and more importantly indicate the international acknowledgement of a new multilateral framework of democratic cooperation.
The Chinese century is a halt to rather than a continuation of great power hegemony. It marks the shift of international order from great power politics to democratic politics, just as the formation of the Westphalian System marked a transition from the politics of empires to great power politics in modern times. It is good timing now to talk about the Chinese century.

Economy inseparable from diplomacy
China’s “One Belt and One Road” initiative and on this basis the win-win cooperation as well as common development will eventually create a new pattern for international relations and advance the democratic process of international politics. As the economy is now inseparable from diplomacy, economy and trade make up the core of China’s diplomatic strategy. In compliance with the trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation in the 21st century, it provides a highly inclusive platform for development and links the Chinese dream with the global one.
The “One Belt and One Road” initiative will focus on policy communication, path connectivity, smooth trade, currency circulation and understanding between peoples. It will help build a regional community of interest and common destiny and promote peace and development of countries involved and regional harmony and stability.
In the 21st century, economic benefits and national ambition are the driving forces of global economic and political development and define the relations between nations. While national interests and security remain the primary standards that decide acts of state, market logic makes the world smaller and flatter with profound changes from nation orientation to market dominance.
How to deal with the trend? The answer is clear, as Zbigniew Brzezinski said, “At the onset of the global era, a dominant power has therefore no choice but to pursue a foreign policy that is truly globalist in spirit, content and scope.”
The author is a Chinese scholar in Canada. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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OIC Diary, March 2015 Senior Officials’ Meeting, Preparatory to the Tenth Session of COMIAC
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OIC Diary, March 2015 38th Session of the Islamic Commission for Economic,
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