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NEW GENERATION WANTS JUSTICE
Spectacular student resurgence strikes at the core

Shahid Islam

THEY don’t have a playground to be playful; a quaint park to be dreamy in wandering; any friendly parents and teachers to walk them through the spectacles of a universe that is otherwise divine and dazzling.  Amidst ugly stares of death stalking their lives on way to and from schools that are scattered, diverse, half-public-half-private, the teenaged students of Bangladesh have been left to the mercy of a rowdy, risky, killer traffic hazard that had taken away, on average, more than 20 lives each day across the country over the past two decades.

Full Story

Shahid Islam

THEY don’t have a playground to be playful; a quaint park to be dreamy in wandering; any friendly parents and teachers to walk them through the spectacles of a universe that is otherwise divine and dazzling.  Amidst ugly stares of death stalking their lives on way to and from schools that are scattered, diverse, half-public-half-private, the teenaged students of Bangladesh have been left to the mercy of a rowdy, risky, killer traffic hazard that had taken away, on average, more than 20 lives each day across the country over the past two decades.

Bloody 29th July
As two competing buses rushed for their share of passengers in another rowdy morning on July 29 just minutes away from Dhaka airport road’s Radison hotel-cum army golf-club vicinity, the second bus ploughed over dozens of waiting school-going teens; killing seven (authorities admit to two deaths only) and grievously injuring dozens. The incident jolted the national psyche, glued hands and minds, and, steered the students of all stripes to take control of the streets; not to stop traffic to a standstill, but to guide them to slotted lanes that they never followed.
For over a week, mostly high school students in Dhaka checked drivers’ license and other legal documents of transports, including those belonging to the law enforcers and high officials; only to remind an inert nation that, what the leaders of the nation thought impossible is well- nigh possible. They showed, what a corrupt, inept police force had failed to achieve is quite achievable. They proved: It’s the intent that lies at the core of all good deeds.

Enter politics
But alas, all things are political in this fractured, psychologically-parboiled nation. Although few good things happened first before this historic week began to fade into the memory—the government pronouncing to craft a new road safety law and listening to what these teenagers had to say —  from nowhere, ruling party thugs lurked in to attack many of the protesting students demanding justice to ‘intentional murder or manslaughter’ while opposition leaders and activists began to be looped into sedition cases; including media workers and famed photo-journalist Shahidul Alam of the much- famed Dreek Gallery.
The Amnesty International and other rights groups demanded Shahidul’s immediate, unconditional release while the global media went ballistic with tales of traumatized incidents to inform the world that the depraved, demonized, student community of Bangladesh was under the rampage of marauding ruling party cadres and partisan law enforcers for the ‘crime of demanding justice and street discipline.’
Politics also took to other conspiratorial contours. Departing US Ambassador faced an attack after attending a civic farewell dinner in the capital’s Mohammadpur suburb; ruling party’s main office in Dhanmondi came under an attack; apparently to create scape goats out of the innocent protesting students in order to mobilize a major clampdown on the pretext of a phantom fear which the ruling party leaders labeled as ‘intrusion’ of opposition activists into the student protest to ‘transform it into a movement for the government’s downfall.’

Absurdity and surrealism
The latters have been over-stretches of incredulous nature, to say the least. The government has already run a full course and election is only months away. An election schedule is otherwise expected any time sooner; despite there being no assurance whether it will be a fair and inclusive one, or, another re-run of the January 2014 brand of an one party showdown in which 154 MPs of the ruling AL got elected un-contested.
The peaceful activism and demand for justice of young students meanwhile saw senior BNP leaders like Mirza Fakhrul, Amir Khosru Mahmud, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, and many others being goaded to the parapet of justice on seditious accusations. A clearly delineated blue print to disqualify senior opposition leaders from contesting the upcoming election seemed in execution at a time when the BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, and the party’s senior vice chairman Tarek Zia, remain in custody, and in exile, respectively.
Worst of all, the media is being ostracized, persecuted and censored from telling the people within, and the world outside, how all the colleges and the universities of the nation joined this ‘cleansing movement’ to rid the nation of the corrupt, illegitimate transport pools run by ruling party ministers, leaders, law enforcing officers, and many others allied to the power that be.

Sullied image
As well, the spectacularity of the events compelled the UN, the USA, and the EU to issue statements and warn the government that the attacks by ruling party thugs and the police on innocent students were unacceptable and deplorable. The global media also brought to the limelight how the noble action of mostly teenaged students to rectify the rusty, inoperable traffic system of a rowdy nation-state got thrashed and bruised by the merciless punches of ruling party ruffians and the club-wielding, bullying law enforcers.
Meanwhile, a loosely coalesced, motley alliance of civic society high-ups—including Dr. Kamal Hossain and Mahmudur Rahman Manna—gathered for a show up along with the Bikolpodhara leader and former President Badruddoza Chowdhury and, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul, to remind the nation why a national unity of all politicians and civic society leaders remains a prerequisite to bringing about an infusion to compel the government to hold the upcoming election under a neutral-transitional regime under the supervision of the constitutionally apolitical military.

Post-Eid prescriptions
The populism of the movement beefed up further with students of higher educations joining the ongoing movement of their younger brothers and sisters; making the authorities nervous enough to decide to send students to Eid holidays before the slated dates, and, convincing the PM to making a sudden visit to a local hospital to see injured student leaders in a desperate bid to dwarf and dampen the spreading rages of this forgotten generation that has begun to redeem its worth in an unprecedented manner.
For decades, leaders of this nation forgot that the students of their country thrived under an ambiance that was traffically impassable, physically exhausting, intellectually bankrupt, and, morally swampy and hazardous. They have had no mentors to tread them toward a morally higher ground amidst ubiquitous corruption and illegitimate acts of their peers and parents.
Now, they feel that the roads must be governed by traffic lights, not traffic police. Streets must have lanes and laws to steer vehicles to slated ways. Vehicles must display caution and signal; zebra crossing, not foot-over bridges, must allow passers-by to traverse their ways across the streets. Above all, foot-over bridges are mainly meant for highways, not for bustling urban metropolises where universally applied rules of regulated traffic and passers- by light signals apply (this scribe reminded about the hazards of this unregulated, rowdy street menaces only a week before this fateful incident, on this page).
However, the so-called D-day is knocking the door of the nation as the incumbent regime will outlive its slated tenure sooner. After the Eid, opposition parties will cry for an interim regime and military’s supervision to help holding a fair, inclusive election. The regime in power will deny those wish lists; first by verbosity, and then by baton-wielding and tear-gassing. In the end, there may or may not be an election within the constitutionally stipulated date, as there was none in 2007.
What seems destined and certain is the unleashing of diametrically opposing forces to suck in the military into an interventional fray, or, an unprecedented reign of terror that no regime can rein in. In all likelihood, unless a national consensus is arrived at, the boiling blood of this forgotten generation will dot the bloody icons of history one more time, as it did in 1971.

Anecdotes from history
That may seem alarming and fatalistic, but we are not here to stir a revolution; as the authorities might suspect. Nor are we the antiquated reformers to do the jobs that public servants and politicians are supposed to do. Simply put: we are on no one’s payroll. Yet, we dare to remind our leaders that the Bengali nation is historically merciless and brutal. Among the dozens of nation-hood-qualified races and nations in South Asia, only Muslim-predominant Bengalis managed to emerge as an independent nation, so far. And, having found their dreams yet unfulfilled, they killed their founding leader Sheikh Mujib in 1975; a liberation war hero and president Ziaur Rahman in 1981; imprisoned another president HM Ershad in 1991; and, the two battling Begums in 2007; one of whom is leading the nation now.
What we respectfully want to remind is that not a single head of government of this benighted nation got spared from the wrath of the mass in the past. As the incumbent PM has achieved quite a lot of feats during her tenure as the head of the government, we want and pray that her name shines through the pages of history as a partly-exceptional artifact.


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Govt embraces global criticism by attacking the students

Shakhawat Hossain

Just few months ahead of the general election, the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) has eventually invited unwanted and bitter criticism from home and abroad, because of the brutal attack on thousands of angry but peaceful young students who took to the streets of the capital to demand safety on the streets.
Following the death of two students in a tragic road accident on the Airport road on July 29, students came out in protest and in demand of safety on the road. The protest sparked a wider movement involving thousands of students from various schools and colleges in the capital and other cities.

Full Story

Shakhawat Hossain

Just few months ahead of the general election, the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) has eventually invited unwanted and bitter criticism from home and abroad, because of the brutal attack on thousands of angry but peaceful young students who took to the streets of the capital to demand safety on the streets.
Following the death of two students in a tragic road accident on the Airport road on July 29, students came out in protest and in demand of safety on the road. The protest sparked a wider movement involving thousands of students from various schools and colleges in the capital and other cities.

The peaceful protested at one stage took control of the traffic management in Dhaka and succeeded to reveal many loopholes that the authorities otherwise failed to address.
Bewildered by the quick response with positive appreciation from the guardian and the citizens in general, the ruling party initially tried to enjoy the fun but later came out with the conspiracy theory to blame the political opponents. They also opted for applying force engaging their armed cadres and finally police force who confronted the police with batons, teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
As the situation turned violent, media men also came under attack and the social media flow was impeded with restrictive actions. Moreover, specific charges were brought against some social media users . Plain clothed police arrested some of them including internationally known photographer Dr Shahidul Alam and others for voicing criticism and getting involved in spreading the video messages critical against government. BNP general Secretary Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee member Ameer Khashru Mahmud and spokesperson Ruhul Kabir Risvi were also implicated in specific case for instigating the agitation. However it could not stop the the celebrities in film and TV media from joining the street in solidarity with the students and also could not stop composing of music in support of student movement or making those viral on the web.
Meanwhile, the live video showing protesters being attacked by the people alleged to be ruling party activists, journalists being beaten, their cameras snatched away, and the government leaders openly threatening actions that followed police swoop on the peaceful agitators - all went viral.

How BCL attacks carried out
Several hundred BCL men armed with metal rods, machetes, and sticks attacked the protesting students holding demonstrations for road safety at Dhammondi, Dhaka, on Sunday.
The men in helmets, from Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), student wing of ruling Bangladesh Awami League, had police protection while carrying out the attacks.
During the attacks, police fired tear gas at the protesters and the BCL men roughed the students up ruthlessly.
BCL men also assaulted journalists on the spot. Those who took photos on cell phones from nearby buildings or rooftops were beaten up too. A lady doctor and an elderly pedestrian were also roughed up.
At least 30 injured people were admitted to hospitals. Among them, fourteen were admitted into Dhaka Medical College Hospital. With this, the toll of people injured by BCL and other affiliated organistations of the ruling Awami League rose to 200.
BCL’s Saturday attack triggered the largest gathering so far in this movement at the Science Laboratory intersection and at Dhanmondi on Sunday. In this protest held to denounce the previous day’s attack, the BCL men attacked journalists, students, and people.

Students arrested, not attackers!
Leaving out the alleged ruling party men involved in attacks on road safety demonstrators and journalists, police have made students accused in cases filed over the last few days’ violence in the capital. The complainants in all the 29 cases filed with 16 police stations mentioned that the attackers were unknown students, many of whom were in school and college uniforms. The case documents also state that some of the attackers were unidentified youths believed to be the infiltrators into the student movement sparked by the killing of two of their peers in a road crash on July 29.
Meanwhile, Police have taken 22 private university students into their custody for two days of quizzing in two cases over alleged attacks on police and vandalism during protests for safe roads. The students are from East West, North South, South East and BRAC universities in the capital. Metropolitan Magistrate Abdullah Al Masud rejected their bail pleas and granted police two days on Tuesday to grill the students. Fourteen of them were arrested in a case started at Badda Police Station and the others in Bhatara Police Station. Police alleged in a remand petition that the students are members of militant groups. Defence lawyer AKM Muhiuddin Faruq alleged police tortured the ‘innocent’ students in custody.

Journos demand immediate arrest of attackers
In an unprecedented attack, journalists were singled out and assaulted by ruling party cadre while covering student protests in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi on Sunday. Though individual journalists often face assault in the line of duty during major incidents such as general elections, the scale of this attack surpassed them all. At least 10 journalists, mostly photojournalists from different media outlets, were beaten brutally in Dhaka’s Science Lab area, allegedly by Chhatra League men, armed with sharp weapons and rods, many wearing motorcycle helmets.
Journalists from different media outlets on Tuesday demanded immediate arrest of those who attacked some of their colleagues during the ongoing student demonstration seeking safe roads.
The journalists came up with the demand from a human chain at SAARC Fountain in Karwan Bazar area in the morning protesting against the attacks on their colleagues.
They also warned to launch tougher programmes if the government fails to arrest the attackers within the next 72 hours. Demanding the arrest by analysing video footages, the journalists said, “It’s not difficult to arrest the attackers as there are video footages.

Dr Kamal, B Chy, Manna, Fakhrul call for resistance on students
A group of Bangladeshi politicians have strongly condemned the attacks on students agitating for safe roads and urged the people to speak out against the atrocities. Leaders of different opposition parties, including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir of BNP, Dr Kamal Hossain of Gono Forum, AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury of Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh and Mahmudur Rahman Manna of Nagorik Oikya, laid into the government for ‘attack’ on the demonstrating students. They were addressing a solidarity rally arranged by Udbigna Nagorik Samaj (anxious civil society) at the National Press Club in the capital on Monday. Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder Jafrullah Chowdhury chaired the event moderated by Dhaka University academic Asif Nazrul.
Speaking on the occasion, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the students’ demonstration for road safety has opened the way for forging national unity. “Our children (demonstrating students) have opened our eyes. We are talking about absence of politics, injustice, corruption and national unity. Student protest has opened up an opportunity to reach national unity,” he said.
Mentioning that more than one hundred cases have been filed against many of their party leaders each, including over 86 against him, Mirza Fakhrul said over 78,000 cases have been filed against their party leaders and activists in total.
In his speech, Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain said ‘democracy no longer exists in the country’.
Mentioning that various irregularities in the transport sector have come to light during the student protest, he lambasted police and governing party men for launching repeated attacks on students.
Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury said the attack on the demonstrating students is disgraceful.
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said they will take to the street and orchestrate a movement led by Mirza Fakhrul, Kamal Hossain and Badruddoza Chowdhury after the Eid ul-Adha.
Besides, Rights organisations, Ain O Salish Kendra and Human Rights Forum Bangladesh in separate statements demanded an immediate end to the attacks and repressions on the students for raising their voice for road safety. The Democratic Left Alliance held a rally in front of the National Press Club condemning the attack and demanding justice and removal of shipping minister Shahjahan Khan for his role in transport sector anarchy. Communist Party of Bangladesh, National Committee against Fascism and Imperialism, Bangladesh Students’ Union and Samajtantrik Chhatra Front in separate statements condemned the attack and demanded bringing the attackers to book immediately.
HM Ershad, a special envoy of the PM, and chairman of the rul;ing coalition partner, Jatiya Party (JP) , had to confess that the country’s situation has degenerated at a time when people are ‘expecting an alternative political force’. “The situation has deteriorated.

Nobel laureate Yunus salutes students
Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus praised the students for waging the weeklong demonstration for road safety in the wake of killing of two of their fellows in the capital’s Airport Road by reckless buses. In an opinion piece sent to the national dailies on Monday, Yunus noted that the unprecedented demonstration not only served the purpose of expressing deep shock at the death of two students but also proved the fact that the administrative failure was the root of all problems for maintaining road safety. He wondered how the students ran the demonstration without any assistance from consultants as well as modern communication.
Like others, he said, he was awed by students’ movement that, according him, would never be forgotten by the nation. Yunus who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 jointly with Grameen Bank, founded by him to institutionalise microcredit, noted that the present government ruined a great chance to address the anger of children and their parents by getting them off the road.
‘Is the identification of unfit vehicles and drivers without licences a difficult task?’ he questioned. He wrote that senior citizens including him lost the right to advise them. Still, he recommended that the students should stay on course like the way they proudly showcased placards inscribing ‘You Bangladesh’.

Student protests draw global media attention
As young students continued their demonstration for a week, British newspaper The Guardian ran a story headlined ‘Teenagers bring parts of Bangladesh to a halt with bus death protests’.
Parts of the Bangladeshi capital ground to a halt for the seventh day running on Saturday, as thousands of students staged protests calling for improvements to road safety after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus, according to an AFP story used by The Straits Times and Gulf News.
AFP reports: More than 100 people were injured in Bangladesh Saturday after police fired rubber bullets at students protesters, a doctor and witnesses said, a major escalation in a stand-off between the government and demonstrators.
New York Times newspaper used the headline ‘Bangladesh Student Protest Spurs Warning Against Opposition Meddling’ as it published a Reuters story on Friday.
“A massive student protest in Bangladesh, sparked by the death of two teenagers mowed down by a speeding bus in the capital, has alarmed the government ahead of a general election and prompted a warning against opposition meddling,” read the report.
India’s Bangla daily Anandabazar Patrika, in its report titled ‘Dhaka streets under the occupation of the students, Government subdued’, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government was trying to resolve the matter. It has announced to accept the 9-point demand of the students.

Solidarity with Bangladesh student movement in Britain, India
Meanwhile, solidarity congregations and processions were held in East London, UK, and Kolkata, India, on Sunday and Monday respectively expressing solidarity with the student movement in Bangladesh demanding safe roads. A large number of Bangladeshi immigrants and others in Britain, held a congregation at Altab Ali Park in East London Sunday and sought redress to the chaotic traffic movement in Bangladesh. The participants said the movement was to ‘awaken the conscience’ and denounced the attacks on the students under police cover.
In Kolkata, India, some 1,000 students from different educational institutes and students organisations staged two separate demonstrations near the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission office on Monday expressing sympathy to the students’ movement for safe roads in Dhaka.
The students, including some Bangladeshis, protested attacks on the demonstrators while burning a symbolic effigy of the Bangladesh Police. They also submitted a memorandum to the Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh demanding an end to the attacks on students, Students of Jadavpur University, Presidency University, Kolkata University, and members of All Indian Democratic Student Organisation and Kolkata Chhatra Samaj took part in the demonstrations.
Similar protests were staged by Bangladeshi community in Melbourne, Australia and Finland.

UN worried about safety of children in Bangladesh
The United Nations, Bangladesh, has urgently called upon all parties to keep everyone, including children and young people, safe on the roads and safe from any kind of violence.
“UN agencies are increasingly concerned for the safety of children and young people caught up in recent protests over road safety in Dhaka and other parts of the country,” UN, Bangladesh, said in a statement shared on its official Facebook page.
“We are deeply concerned about the reports of violence and call on all for calm. The concerns expressed by youth about road safety are legitimate and a solution is needed for a mega city like Dhaka. A functioning public transport system should ensure the safety of all, including children, young girls and women,” said UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo.
Students and young people have a legitimate right to speak out on issues of concern to them, including road safety issues, and to have their opinions heard without the threat of violence, the statement said.
The UN has long campaigned for better road safety across the world and traffic accidents in Bangladesh are one of the major killers of young people (according to a World Health Organisation report there are more than 20,000 road fatalities every year in Bangladesh).
It is a matter of deep concern that a number of young people taking part in demonstrations in the capital have been injured over the last few days. Many schools have been closed as a result of the protests, depriving children of learning opportunities, the statement added.

EU for stopping unlawful action against peaceful student protestors
The European Union has expressed concern over protest and violent clashes in Dhaka that triggered since deaths of two college students in road crashes.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the European Union heads of mission to Bangladesh called for remaining calm and have respect towards the right to peaceful protest.
“We expect all sides to remain calm and to respect the right to peaceful protest. Incidents of unlawful or disproportionate violence or action against protestors, journalists or others need to stop; those that happened must be investigated and perpetrators held to account,” said the statement of nine envoys based in Dhaka.
The school-children’s protests highlighted fears over road safety and the enforcement of laws and regulations on the roads in Bangladesh, it said.
The Government’s recognition of the need for action is a welcome step and we therefore expect further Government action to address this without delay, it added.
The signatories are envoys of the UK, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweeden, Netherlands and chief of delegation of the European Union.

UN Youth Envoy lauds protests
UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake has lauded the student protests. She tweeted: “My visit to Bangladesh couldn’t have been more timely! Talking about #SafeSpaces4Youth I admired the resilience of young ppl demanding #RoadSafety & called on the government & other actors to end violence immediately & ensure the safety of young ppl expressing their concerns.”

Canada condemns violence against students
The High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh has expressed concern over the violence against students staging peaceful demonstrations demanding safe roads and called for action against the attackers.
“Canada is deeply concerned about the outbreak of violence against peaceful, student-led demonstrations related to road safety. We call for immediate cessation of the violence and the protection of students exercising their democratic rights of assembly and free speech,” according to a statement shared in the official Facebook page of the High Commission of Canada. Furthermore, it said action should be taken against those who violated these democratic rights.

Amnesty International urges govt to end crackdown on student protesters
Human rights group Amnesty International has called upon the government of Bangladesh to immediately put an end to the crackdown unleashed on student protestors who thronged the streets demanding safe roads.
It also demanded an immediate investigation into the allegations of forceful actions of the police and the pro-government activists on the agitating students, a press statement of the human rights group said on Tuesday.
At least 115 students were injured as the police fired rubber bullets and hurled tear gas canisters at the students staging peaceful demonstrations. The students also came under attack by the pro-government counter-demonstrators, according to the statement.
“As Bangladesh heads towards elections later this year, it is crucial that the government adheres to its international obligations, including the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and security of persons,” said Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International Omar Waraich.
“The students have a right to peaceful assembly and physical security. These rights should be respected and protected,” the statement said.
Under international human rights law and standards, law enforcement officials must apply non-violent means as far as possible before resorting to the use of force and firearms, it also said.
When other means have proved ineffective, only then the law enforcers can resort to the use of force and firearms, and must still exercise restraint in doing so, it added.

Nothing can justify’ attacks on protesters, says US embassy
The US embassy in Dhaka on Sunday said “nothing can justify the brutal attacks and violence” over the weekend against the thousands of young people who have been peacefully exercising their democratic rights in supporting a safer Bangladesh.
The embassy, in a Facebook post, also said they also do not condone the actions of a few who have engaged in senseless property destruction, including of buses and other vehicles.
The peaceful demonstrations of the past week in favour of better vehicle and road safety, led by students and school children across Bangladesh, have united and captured the imagination of the whole country, it said.
Thousands of the university students on Sunday blocked Shahbagh intersection, one of the city’s busiest areas, protesting Saturday’s attacks on school and college students in Jhigatala during their demonstrations demanding safe roads.

HRW asks Bangladesh to stop attacks on protesters, critics
Human Rights Watch has said Bangladesh authorities are arresting students and targeting activists and journalists who are highlighting the abuses instead of prosecuting those responsible for unlawfully attacking student protesters demanding road safety.

RSF calls for ensuring safety of journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure the safety of journalists after a dark day for press freedom on 5 August, when at least 23 reporters were attacked by government supporters while covering student protests in Dhaka and one, award-winning photojournalist Shahidul Alam, was later arrested. Bangladesh is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Release Shahidul immediately; Urge Amnesty, Pen Int, IFJ
Amnesty International, as well as a number of other organisations, condemned the detention of noted photographer Shahidul Alam and demanded his immediate release.
“There is no justification whatsoever for detaining anyone for solely peacefully expressing their views. His arrest marks a dangerous escalation of a crackdown by the government that has seen the police and vigilantes unleash violence against student protestors,” Omar Waraich, Amnesty International’s deputy South Asia director, said in a statement on Monday.
Meanwhile, in a statement by Salil Tripathi, the chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, the association said, “The Bangladeshi authorities must release Shahidul Alam immediately, institute an inquiry into why the officials responsible for action destroyed property and threatened others, establish new norms for security forces to act proportionately and with due regard to the law and within the limits placed by the law.”
It added that he was being punished for exercising his legitimate rights. In the meanwhile, the association called on the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure Shahidul’s wellbeing and that he was not subjected to ill-treatment while in detention.
Elsewhere, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also condemned the attack on Shahidul and demanded his immediate unconditional release.
“Such acts of arrest and violence are against the press freedom and hinder independent journalism. The IFJ demands immediate release of photojournalist Alam, and security measures to protect journalists and photojournalists from miscreants,” it said.
Additionally, South Asian Women in the Media also said the recent illegal and inexplicable detention of Dr Shahidul Alam, apparently over a Facebook post, indicated a growing trend by government machinery to silence the media and any dissenting voices.
Noted photographer Shahidul Alam was placed on a seven-day remand on Monday in a case filed under section 57 of ICT Act on charges of spreading propaganda and false information against the government. Shahidul, 63, was picked up by plainclothes men on Sunday night from his Dhanmondi flat.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Bangladesh authorities to order an immediate investigation into reports that renowned photographer and activist, Shahidul Alam, was beaten while in custody.
“Alam was detained on August 5 for criticising the government and its supporters for targeting students,” said the international human rights watchdog.
In a report published in its website yesterday, HRW also said the Bangladesh authorities are “arresting students and targeting activists and journalists who are highlighting the abuses, instead of prosecuting those responsible for unlawfully attacking student protesters demanding road safety.”

Stop attacks on journalists & release Shahidul Alam: CPJ
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Bangladeshi authorities to immediately halt widespread attacks on journalists covering the ongoing student protests in Dhaka and release renowned photographer Shahidul Alam from jail.
“Bangladesh authorities must immediately release Shahidul Alam without charge,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler in Washington, D.C. “Authorities should also ensure that Alam and all journalists covering unrest in Dhaka are able to work without fear of attack or arrest.”
CPJ’s calls to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s phone and detective branch went unanswered and an email to the metropolitan commissioner did not receive an immediate response. CPJ’s call to the additional commissioner was disconnected after the person who answered said he could not confirm the arrest. CPJ’s call to the Dhanmondi police station went unanswered. CPJ has documented multiple attacks on journalists in recent weeks in Bangladesh.


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Wh’ill benefit from Imran Khan’s delayed inauguration

Mizan Ali

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan starts talks with foreign countries regarding repatriation of stolen money by the corrupt elites of the country while Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar suggests formation of a Panama Papers-style joint investigation team (JIT) to probe money laundering charges of at least Rs 35 billion through fake accounts by former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

Full Story

Mizan Ali

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan starts talks with foreign countries regarding repatriation of stolen money by the corrupt elites of the country while Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar suggests formation of a Panama Papers-style joint investigation team (JIT) to probe money laundering charges of at least Rs 35 billion through fake accounts by former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

Analysts and journalists unfolding stories of the nexus between corrupt government officials and leaders of the erstwhile ruling parties, now demand immediate action against people who failed to recover a single penny from $200 billion stashed by Pakistanis in Swiss banks.
Amidst mounting pressure for recovery of stolen wealth khan starts preparation for swearing in as the 21st elected prime minister of the country.
In the line of preparation for Khan’s inauguration, PTI parliamentary committee on Monday officially named Imran Khan as their parliamentary leader and nominee for the next prime minister of Pakistan, reported Dawn.

Inauguration delayed
After the change in oath taking schedule, Khan cancelled his plan to invite dignitaries from neighbouring countries including India in his inauguration ceremony.
Under a revised programme, Khan will now swear in as the country’s 21st prime minister in a simple ceremony at the President’s House. The date of his inauguration cannot be confirmed with certainty, but he is likely to enter office either on August 14 or 15, as the interim law minister put it.
‘It is my and caretaker prime minister retired Justice Nasirul Mulk’s desire that the oath-taking of the new prime minister should take place on August 14,’ said law minister Ali Zafar, whose father SM Zafar apart from being a Senator in 2006-2012 was earlier a high court judge and also a law minister under Ayub Khan during 1965-1969.
The caretaker law minister told the media that as per the Constitution, the first session of the National Assembly (NA) would have to be summoned within 21 days after the general election. He said it was necessary to fulfill this obligation by August 15.
After election, the newly-elected prime minister would take oath and job of the caretaker Prime Minister and his cabinet would be over and power would be transferred to the new government under constitutional provisions.

Khan’s election results withheld
Results were withheld in 16 NA seats when the ECP notified the winners of July 25 poll on August 7 last. An unprecedented number ECP withheld the notification of poll results of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s success in two constituencies, while conditionally notifying his victory in three other constituencies. Khan’s success in the three constituencies shall be subject to the final decision of the Election Commission in the pending case of violation of the code of conduct.

Khan was issued a notice for casting his ballot in front of cameras on July 25 elections.
The ECP now needs three days to allow independent candidates to choose a political party and another three days for the seats reserved for women and minorities, before the parliamentarians are sworn in and elections for deputy speaker, speaker and prime minister are held.
How the ECP completes all these procedures for the formulation of the parliament ‘within 21 days of the general elections’ that ends on August 15 will be interesting to observe.

Who benefits from delay?
ECP’sgenuine reasons of delay in notification of election results and Khan’s inauguration cannot be undermined some analysts say pointing it out that it also cannot be denied that delay provides Mian Nawaz Sharif (supreme leader of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, PML-N, the three-time prime minister of the country jailed for 10 years in a corruption case) opportunities for further negotiations with the interim government.

What is the harm if negotiations are carried out fulfilling legal requirements?
Under NAB law in Pakistan, provision of plea bargain allows convicts to negotiate their release surrendering an amount of money from their Ill-gotten wealth.
Working out an exile deal like 2000 will not be possible for Nawaz this time, some say without denying the process of negotiations that may have already started.
Even Asif Zardari stated on record, ‘Nawaz Sharif totally mishandled the Panama Papers Leak’.
Not only for Nawaz, these few days are also crucial for opposition parties who, announced to field consensus candidates - for the positions of speaker, deputy speaker in the NA as well as prime minister - but failed to reach an understanding about a leader of the opposition. During this period it will be also tested whether the opposition parties split or their unity strengthens.

The Mians and the Mullahs
Those who rejected the elections even before the polls results could be declared - with some among them demanding re-election and boycott of the parliament - soon joined hands under the umbrella of Grand Opposition Alliance of which - PML-N under Shehbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (alliance of religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islam, Jamaat-e-Ulema-e Islam, Fazlur Rahaman) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari are the main component.
Among all opposition parties in the NA, the PML-N has more seats than any other party, but it could not retain Punjab, the biggest province of the country that it ruled for decades.
In Sindh the home of the Bhuttos and founder of PPP, the party, maintain numerical superiority to form the provincial government.
Since the Mians and the Mullahs do not have any stake in future provincial government which the PPP has, so for natural reasons their interests diverge. For his stakes in future provincial set up in Sindh, Zardari may have a different approach towards PTI, a party waiting to form a government in the Centre.
Khan’s public assertion that he would prefer to sit in the opposition benches instead of seeking support from either Zardari or Sharif - both tainted for corruption - made things more complicated for the two dominant parties in the rival camp.

Zardari’s money laundering
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday suggested the formation of a Panama Papers-style joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the allegations against former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in a case relating to money laundering of at least Rs 35 billion through fake or ‘benami’ bank accounts.
A three-member bench resumed hearing the suomotu case in the Supreme Court regarding the investigation into the alleged fake bank accounts and fictitious transactions conducted through several mainstream banks via ‘Benami’ accounts. The bench summoned the Omni Group of Companies owner and former president Asif Ali Zardari’s close aide Anwar Majeed along with his family in the same case on August 13.
But in April 2012, Zardari’s prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sacrificed his position by refusing to comply with the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan that asked him to write a letter to Swiss authorities to revive a money laundering case against his boss.
It happened a few years before the Panama Papers Leak. At that time Zardari as the president of Pakistan also enjoyed immunity, which is not applicable anymore.
In the post Panama scenario of Pakistan, how Zardari handles money laundering charges and survives in politics will be seen in the days to come.

Split in the Opposition
Known for his bargaining skills and manoeuvring capacity in the political chess board, Zardari allowed Bilawal to campaign in the July 25 elections.
Arousing emotions centering Bilawal and sacrifices of his mother and maternal grandfather, PPP gained in number of seats and votes in national and provincial assemblies compared to the previous elections of 2013.
Not only as the poster boy of PPP in the just concluded elections but also for his campaign language, Bilawal, the 32 year old Oxford graduate is now considered a pleasant deviation from the existing lot in politics these days.
Like Zardari, many top rankers in the opposition parties have tainted image, it will not be surprising if the PPP demands the post of opposition leader in the NA for Bilawal - matching Imran khan’s high moral ground and clean image – to make the parliament workable and avoid deadlock.
Since the elections of the President are round the corner, so Zardari will utilize all his bargaining skills to his advantage.  If his demands are not addressed or met he may maintain a policy of equidistance from both, that in turn will benefit Khan and weaken the opposition.

House of Sharifs divided
Before giving an indication of firm support behind Shehbaz Sharif’s back, it is only logical that Nawaz Sharif will make an assessment whether and to what extent his younger brother accepts Maryam, as the next party leader.
Shehbaz had failed to mobilize people in Lahore on July 13 on the homecoming day of Nawaz Sharif, three time prime minister and his daughter and heir apparent Maryam, from London.
Nawaz and Maryam, who control the party vote bank feel, Shehbaz had ditched them and deprived them of the opportunity to address a crowd at the Lahore airport. Nawaz and Maryam’s desperate attempts to turn the verdict of their corruption case into a case of political victimization had failed critics say, pointing out even regional and global support in their favour also could not change the hearts and minds of people of the country.
Ever since differences between the Mian brothers started surfacing.

$200 billion in Swiss banks
Ishaq Dar, finance minister (2013-2018) during Nawaz Sharif regime staggered the National Assembly when he revealed that at least $200 billion of ‘Pakistani money’ was stashed away in Swiss banks, reported the Khaleej Times on 12 May, 2014.
Dar told the house that the government was engaging with Swiss authorities to get to the money, hidden away by various Pakistani nationals. Dar’s son is married to Nawaz’s younger daughter and the two were living in Dubai till recently they were shifted to London.
Quoting statements by a Swiss banker and a former Swiss government minister, Dar said: ‘One of the directors of Credit Suisse AG stated on record that $97 billion worth of Pakistani capital was deposited only in his bank.
‘Similarly, Micheline Calmy-Rey, a former Swiss foreign minister, is reported to have put the amount of Pakistani money hidden in Switzerland at $200 billion — a statement that was never contradicted,” revealed Dar, who fled from Pakistan after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif for dishonesty in June last year following investigations in the Panama Papers Leak.

Rigging the system
Ishaq Dar knew that the figures were correct so he said that the situation called for immediate corrective action, but did nothing to that end.
Journalists, who investigated into measures taken by the government to retrieve the money, claim, Pakistan did not have to do anything; the Swiss were interested to repatriate the money, because of the changing legal realities in their country.
The finance minister said that the government was working under the ambit of a new Swiss law, known as ‘The Restitution of Illicit Assets Act, 2010’ (RIAA), which allows the Swiss government to exchange information — which was considered confidential up to now — regarding money that may have been obtained illegally and deposited in Swiss banks.
Why Pakistan borrowed money with hefty interest rates during the period of Ishaq Dar, as the finance minister? Had he made genuine efforts to repatriate the stolen money things would not have gone so bad as it is today, they say.

Gilani’s sacrifice protected corruption
Dismissal of Yousuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as the prime minister of the country in 2012 is a glaring example as to how the powerful ruling elite create stumbling blockade on any attempt to recover dirty money by state institutions, critics say.
Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) in 2012, ordered prime minister Gilani to ask the Swiss authorities to reopen the case related to money laundering against president Zardari. The government refused, arguing the president enjoyed immunity as head of state.
The couple allegedly received kickbacks from Swiss companies and then laundered the cash. Although they were found guilty by a Swiss court in 2003, Zardari appealed and prosecutors dropped the case.
‘Yousuf Raza Gilani was stripped of his office by a short statement read out in a packed courtroom by the chief justice,’ reported the Guardian on 19 June 2012.
‘Gilani had effectively not been prime minister since April 26 when he had been found guilty of contempt for refusing to comply with a supreme court order to reopen dormant fraud investigations against President Asif Ali Zardari,’ the report said quoting the CJP.
Even after ‘token jail term in the courtroom which lasted barely 30 seconds,’ Gilani was retained as the prime minister of the country on grounds that ‘it was legally unclear’ whether he ‘could remain as prime minister after being found guilty and convicted.’
But on June 19, ‘Chaudhry clarified the position, saying that as a convict Gilani had been disqualified as a member of parliament.’
‘He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan with effect from the same date and the office of the prime minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly,’ the Guardian reported as the CJP saying.


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ASSAULT ON STUDENTS
Use of force on protesting students left the govt further isolated

Faruque Ahmed

It is almost unbelievable that the government allowed use of force on young protesting students to silence their movement for safe road and evict them from the streets. Nine days of students’ agitation made the government nervous; as it feels bigger political threats to the existence of the government that may grow along with it.
Many believe the government could calm the situation securing resignation of Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan and initiating a process to build confidence of students by other measures such as announcing a bigger program for training of drivers and canceling routes of unlicensed vehicles. Students wanted to see some action to go home back.

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Faruque Ahmed

It is almost unbelievable that the government allowed use of force on young protesting students to silence their movement for safe road and evict them from the streets. Nine days of students’ agitation made the government nervous; as it feels bigger political threats to the existence of the government that may grow along with it.
Many believe the government could calm the situation securing resignation of Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan and initiating a process to build confidence of students by other measures such as announcing a bigger program for training of drivers and canceling routes of unlicensed vehicles. Students wanted to see some action to go home back.

But instead of taking such positive steps the government teamed up police with armed unruly elements to attack students at their gathering at various city points. It turned into a war like situation.
But it must be recognized that the brief but highly visible students protest on the streets has shown the nation how the wrong can be right even by young students. They disciplined the vehicles and checked their documents peacefully that regular traffic police had ever done. They forced ministers and senior officials to obey the traffic rules as they were traveling in vehicles without valid papers.
But their presence became intolerable so quickly. Wielding sticks, rods and machete unruly people reportedly activists of the ruling party student wing and other youth fronts came on the streets and attacked students at Shahbagh, Science Laboratory Road, City College corner and Dhanmondi area and had brutally beaten them. Blood choked young boys and girls were admitted to hospital for treatment. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons on students and helped the goons to attack students. It was a terrible scene.   
Students were severely beaten at Jhigatola and Dhanmondi area where they desperately run for shelter. Allegation of detaining several girl students at Dhanmondi Awami League (AL) office made the situation further tense. Students fought the goons in one hand and laid siege on the AL office on the other to free the girls.
Party general secretary later alleged outside goons – particularly BNP and Jamaat men had infiltrated the students’ movement and attacked the AL office.
Attack of unruly goons even did not spare newsmen covering the incidents and particularly photojournalists came under attack fatally wounding them to the ground. Many were admitted to hospital with severe injuries.
Even after the end of protest program, unruly party men teamed up with police attacked students of East West University, North South University and some other institutions on Tuesday when they gathered in their campus to hold a protest meeting.
More scandalous is the arrest of internationally famed and founder of DRIK photo Gallery Shahidul Alam who was picked up from his home for making a live post in his facebook from the spot on attack of protesting students. When he was taking photograph of violence at City College corner he also came under attack in which his own camera was damaged. Detectives pick up him up from home that night and reportedly brutally tortured him. He had bleeding and other injuries.
Later the court ordered seven days remand for him in cases registered under ICT act that include spread of fear and panic to provoke people amidst the protest. The High Court order on Tuesday to transfer him to BSMMU has saved him for the moment from further torture.
Meanwhile the demand by 400 Indian photojournalists, filmmakers and artists along with many local and international journalists and human organizations calling for his immediate release should make sense on our policy makers. Students in West Bengal paraded Kolkata streets supporting Bangladesh’s young students demands. Raid on the US ambassador’s motorcade in the city came yet another surprise to add to the government growing headache.   
It appears that the government is feeling so uneasy and insecure that it fears even young students’ agitation or a photojournalist work may become a big challenge to its existence. In fact it has no cause to be so frightened but the rigidity of some government leaders not to make peace with students has no doubt made the government further isolated and unpopular.
Many believe the government could be more positive to students. The shipping minister made many enemies by a big smile on the death of two students in a road accident by a bus of a company his relatives own. He had hurt the emotion of students and the general people. His remarks that the death of 33 people in a bus accident in Maharastra in India was not reacted the way we are doing it here had earned condemnation of all and more call for his resignation.   
Many can’t figure out why the Prime Minister had not asked the minister to resign to show respect to the students’ demands and calm the situation before it became a bigger agitation. She could earn appreciation of people by forcing him out. The crisis could be easily resolved without the goons beating students and using police firepower on students.
Contrary to it, the informal transport strike apparently with tacit support from the government appears to many as a tactics to bring pressure on students to abandon the movement so that law-breakers can return to the streets and continue their illegal transport business without having required papers.
There is no secret that powerful syndicates wielding huge political power now control the road transport system and particularly the transport in the city road. They feel free to ply vehicles without route permits and drivers driving license.
When students started to check route permits and driving licenses, owners and workers stopped plying vehicles to bring pressure on the government to remove students from the streets. There are no more students in city roads checking the vehicles and the city has returned to the old scenario once again. Students showed the way to bring changes, but the government has no power to break the syndicates.
Minister Shahjahan is a powerful minister and the government needs him to win election than it needs the popular support of the people to win election. The government pays little attention to protest, condemnation and what else from local and international quarters. It has only one aim now to win election.
People don’t know whether our leaders would take lessons from what the students left for the nation to ponder with. They have opened the ‘repair work of the state’ and many hope they would carry out it in their time.


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Colombia: Duque sworn-in amid large protests for peace

Colombia’s far-right President-elect Ivan Duque, considered by many to be a frontman for former right-wing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, was sworn-in Tuesday as he faces yet another round of scrutiny over his links to paramilitary groups in the country as Uribe faces yet another investigation into his past links to the right-wing militias.
“I want to govern Colombia with unshakeable values and principles, overcoming left and right divisions ... I want to govern Colombia with the spirit of building, never destroying,” Duque said after swearing and receiving the presidential band.

Meanwhile, across the country opposition groups and pro-peace organizations marched in the streets of Colombia rejecting Duque’s presidency vowing to protect the peace agreement signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the former guerrilla insurgency-turned Revolutionary Alternative Force for the Commons (FARC) political party.

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Colombia’s far-right President-elect Ivan Duque, considered by many to be a frontman for former right-wing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, was sworn-in Tuesday as he faces yet another round of scrutiny over his links to paramilitary groups in the country as Uribe faces yet another investigation into his past links to the right-wing militias.
“I want to govern Colombia with unshakeable values and principles, overcoming left and right divisions ... I want to govern Colombia with the spirit of building, never destroying,” Duque said after swearing and receiving the presidential band.

Meanwhile, across the country opposition groups and pro-peace organizations marched in the streets of Colombia rejecting Duque’s presidency vowing to protect the peace agreement signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the former guerrilla insurgency-turned Revolutionary Alternative Force for the Commons (FARC) political party.

Duque has said the agreement is much too lenient on former FARC guerilla and is pushing to amend the accord so that ex-FARC serve jail time before being able to run for political election.
His plan will likely face stiff opposition from the Constitutional Court and Congress, where most parties favor implementing the existing accord. The FARC has invited Duque to discuss the agreement.
The new head of state also promised to restore security in the cities and a tough hand against drug traffickers. Opposition demonstrators are suspicious of the president’s true intentions against crime and violence as his new interior minister, Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, has longtime links to paramilitary groups, for which she was acquitted.
Heads-of-state and dignitaries from across Latin American arrived in Bogota for the inauguration of Duque. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Bolivian President Evo Morales were each seen descending from their respective airplanes and were welcomed by a Colombian military honor guard.

Chile’s Pinera said, “we want to wish (Colombian) President Ivan Duque what all Colombians want, which is that his government be a government of progress, of justice and of peace.”
Duque will also have to make efforts to mitigate any diplomatic issues that stem from the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans flowing across the border into Colombia due to the economic crisis in the neighboring nation.
What new Presidency Mean for Peace in Colombia?
During his inaugural address on  Tuesday , Colombia’s new President, Ivan Duque, announced modifications to the peace accords signed with the now demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and a review of the ongoing peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN)
“For the respect, we have for Colombia and the citizens’ mandate we will deploy corrective measures to guarantee truth, proportional justice, reparations, and non-repetition for the victims,” Duque said in his speech.
However, his party has already introduced changes to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP for its Spanish acronym) that go in the opposite direction to the claim he made by delaying military hearing and demanding the creation of a special tribunal for state security agents who participated in crimes against humanity, a fact that is no longer contested.
On the round of talks between the Colombian government and the ELN, Duque said he would “responsibly” review the development of the talks, which are taking place in Havana, Cuba.
ELN chief negotiator Pablo Beltran reiterated the group’s willingness to continue with the peace process. “We want the new government to know of our complete willingness to move forward with the negotiations,” Beltran said. 
However, Duque warned that “a credible process must be based on a total cease of criminal actions.” The ELN and the Colombian government have not yet reached a new ceasefire since last year’s one, and this seems more unlikely if Duque’s government insists on a unilateral ceasefire that exposes ELN members to attacks by the Colombian army.  
“We want to move forward but the Colombian people will not tolerate the legitimization of violence as a means to pressure the state,” Duque said.
He also announced another obstacle to a potential peace deal with the ELN: a constitutional lock that would make kidnappings and drug trafficking crimes not subject to amnesties. That effectively means that the ELN would have to accept prison terms for its members and leadership if they demobilize.   
Duque also spoke about targeted social leaders. “We receive a country in turmoil. Over 300 social leaders have been murdered in the last two years,” Duque highlighted while placing blame on the outgoing government of Juan Manuel Santos.
Despite expressing alarm over these killings, Duque made no announcements on how his government will tackle the increasing threat of right-wing paramilitary groups who are largely behind the recent massacres in the country.
Activists and politicians who oppose Duque believe the precarious situation faced by social leaders will only worsen. Their fears are based on the recent announcement that Duque’s interior minister will be Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, who was investigated by Colombia’s Supreme Court for links to paramilitary groups in 2008.


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