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AIIB: A signal opportunity for Bangladesh

Sadeq Khan

Countries from five continents formally signed up on June 29 to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—a potential rival to the Washington-based World Bank. Australia, followed by 49 other founding members including Bangladesh, was the first country to sign the articles of association creating the AIIB’s legal framework at a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Seven more Denmark, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, South Africa and Thailand, are expected to do so by the end of the year. The bank will have a share capital of $100 billion, with $20 billion paid initially, the document showed.

The signing “is an embodiment of the concrete action and efforts made by all countries in the spirit of solidarity, openness, inclusion and cooperation”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said after the ceremony, adding “Now we are willing to listen to your views and proposals.” Following the ceremony, China’s President Xi Jinping welcomed the heads of delegations from the Bank’s 57 prospective founding members. In a statement the Treasurer’s office of Australia said: “All members will be directly involved in the direction and decision-making of the bank in an open and transparent manner.”

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Sadeq Khan

Countries from five continents formally signed up on June 29 to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—a potential rival to the Washington-based World Bank. Australia, followed by 49 other founding members including Bangladesh, was the first country to sign the articles of association creating the AIIB’s legal framework at a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Seven more Denmark, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, South Africa and Thailand, are expected to do so by the end of the year. The bank will have a share capital of $100 billion, with $20 billion paid initially, the document showed.

The signing “is an embodiment of the concrete action and efforts made by all countries in the spirit of solidarity, openness, inclusion and cooperation”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said after the ceremony, adding “Now we are willing to listen to your views and proposals.” Following the ceremony, China’s President Xi Jinping welcomed the heads of delegations from the Bank’s 57 prospective founding members. In a statement the Treasurer’s office of Australia said: “All members will be directly involved in the direction and decision-making of the bank in an open and transparent manner.”

AIIB’s governance and guidance 
Presumably, the statement was meant to address US concerns about the governance standards at the new institution, which is seen as spreading Chinese “soft power.” The AIIB has been viewed by some international development specialists as a rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and the United States and Japan—the world’s largest and third-largest economies, respectively—have expressed reservations and decided not to join.
Washington’s concerns are over transparency of the lender, which will fund infrastructure in Asia, as well as worries that a resurgent Beijing will use it to push its own geopolitical and economic interests. In Tokyo, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “We hope the AIIB will play a role as a financial institution that contributes to Asia’s development while meeting standards of international institutions, including for its governance.
AIIB articles of association promise the bank will “be guided by sound banking principles in its operations” and ensure its operations comply with “policies addressing environmental and social impacts”. The articles of association simply specify that the bank’s president must come from the Asian region and will serve a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms. China says it is keeping the door open for anyone else who wants to join the multilateral institution, but the United States and Japan have not announced a change of heart. Japan said: “We’d like to watch it closely, including its actual operations.”
Apart from Australia and China, some of the countries which signed the agreement include Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the U.A.E., and the U.K. etc. (vide map). Clearly the Bank, though initially focused on Asian infrastructure, is potentially global in character.

‘Example of constructive cooperation’
The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in New Delhi said: “The AIIB is an example of constructive cooperation among emerging economies to increase the space available for infrastructure financing… It is a regional initiative and, therefore, fully complements global initiatives such as the New Development Bank [set up by the BRICS nations].”
According to an AIIB press statement, the Bank will be headquartered in Beijing, and will have an initial authorised capital stock of $100 billion. Reflecting regional character of the Bank, its regional members will be the majority shareholders, holding around 75 percent of shares. The AIIB is expected to become operational by the end of the year.
The AIIB was created in October 2014 by 21 countries, Bangladesh being one of them, led by China, to fund Asian energy, transport and infrastructure projects. Bangladesh will have to initially pay $132.1 million in five installments for its share of AIIB membership. Once the bank is functional, Dhaka will apply for project loans and technical assistance, said MA Mannan, state minister of Bangladesh for finance and planning, who flew to Beijing for the signing ceremony.
The Economic Relations Division believes that the terms and conditions of AIIB loans would be similar to those of ADB. At present, the ADB gives two types of loans: one which carries an interest rate of 2.5 percent and another linked to Libor, which is normally within the range of 4.5 to 5 percent. Presumably, AIIB loans would not be linked to Libor, may allow a longer period of repayment, and unlike the existing International Monetary Fund and World Bank, would not restrict lending on political considerations.

AIIB’s share holding
Beijing will be by far the largest AIIB shareholder at 30.34 percent, the articles of association posted on the website of China’s finance ministry showed. India is the second biggest at 8.4 percent with Russia third on 6.5 percent. Germany plans to take a 4.59 percent stake to become the fourth-biggest member after China, India and Russia. Korea is the fifth with 3.81 percent shareholding. Australia would contribute A$930 million ($719.36 million) over five years to become the institution’s sixth largest shareholder (3.76%). The next fourteen countries in order of high shareholding are France (3.44%), Indonesia (3.42%), Brazil (3.24%), U.K. (3.11%), Turkey (2.66%), Italy (2.62%), Saudi Arabia (2.59%), Spain (1.79%), Iran (1.61%), Thailand (1.45%), UAE (1.21%), Pakistan (1.05%), Netherlands (1.05%) and Philippines (1%).
The voting structure gives smaller members a slightly disproportionately larger voice, and a statement accompanying the articles said China will have 26.06 percent of the votes. China says it will not hold veto power within the AIIB, unlike the World Bank where the United States holds a limited veto.
Apart from backing the AIIB, China has also pledged billions of dollars to the Silk Road fund and the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which are also aimed at funding infrastructure to increase trade and connectivity between Europe and Asia.
For Bangladesh, great opportunity exists by way of participation in the One Belt One Road initiative, in which it is already advanced by commitment to BCIM-EC, Kolkata to Kunming route via Bangladesh, Northeast India and Myanmar. Separate Chinese funding is already allocated for development of growth centres along that economic corridor. But progress on Bangladesh side, even by way of identification of needs and planning of necessary schemes has been lagging behind. The Indian side also appears to be going slow, preferring more to speed up the BIBN (Bhutan-India-Bangladesh-Nepal) transport corridor as well as water and energy cooperation.

BIBN and BCIM-EC
Albeit BIBN is beneficial to Bangladesh, and it is good to see its intergovernmental committees making progress setting an example of SAARC subregional cooperation, the BCIM-EC will open for us a potentially far larger arena of South-South Cooperation in terms of trade, tourism, technology exchange, enterprise and growth incentive leading to development of common market practices. It is therefore imperative that the intergovernmental exercises on BCIM-EC pick up speed and draw up plans for investment in infrastructures of extended and stable road communication and development of growth centres and access roads.
Indeed the supportive civil society exercises of the BCIM initiative had also been deliberately slow and simply advocacy data oriented. It is time to get down to project planning and identification of intergovernment agreements in relevant areas to be prepared and executed. As the funds are already there separately provided by China, there should be no hesitation in going ahead since the corridor route has been finalised by common consent taking into account sensitivity and security concerns of all parties.
For Bangladesh, an additional task in this regard is to seek agreement on a second route of BCIM by direct road link from Kunming to Chittagong via Myanmar and then on to Dhaka and Kolkata. In fact if agreed upon, this could be a sound project for application to AIIB by Bangladesh and Myanmar for development of appropriately wide stable road links in their respective parts. Such a road will reduce K to K road length by some 800 miles and will also allow a direct access to the proposed deep sea port in the Sonadia environment of Cox’s Bazar-Chittagong Comprehensive Development zone of Bangladesh. Subroutes by road and rail could also be developed from the Cox’s Bazar-Chittagong zone to Northeast India via border towns in Khagrachhari, Feni, Comilla and Sylhet districts to counterparts in Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya states of India.

Whither deep sea port?
Bangladesh government has been sitting on the proposal for building Sonadia deep sea port by the Chinese as a China-Bangladesh project or as a multilateral venture involving other interested countries like India or U.S.A. (who have not shown interest) and/or U.A.E. who have also separately shown interest. One wonders if two very large power plant projects could be awarded to two Indian private companies without tender, why the Sonadia deep sea port could not be negotiated with a Chinese company with or without other partners and with or without tender?
Meanwhile, the Japanese have started working on an alternative site in the same Sonadia environment, by converting its proposed coal terminal project at Matarbari into a deep sea port project. Whichever site Bangladesh government may award to whichever party for deep sea port development, it is important to back it up by linkage with BCIM Chittagong-Kunming Road link. Before the AIIB becomes operative by the end of the year, Bangladesh should be ready to apply for suitable projects including BCIM Chittagong to Kunming road link. Our sure road to prosperity lies in joining the Belt and Road initiative by the Chittagong to Kunming road and a deep sea port in the Cox’s Bazar-Chittagong belt for sea-link of that road.


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Development hype misses the obvious

M. Shahidul Islam

It’s a story that is timeless, teeming and traumatizing. Buried under a concerted, raucous propaganda barrage aimed at showcasing Bangladesh as a nation leaping past the miseries of poverty is the untold tale of the timid millions uprooted from homes and hearths.

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M. Shahidul Islam

It’s a story that is timeless, teeming and traumatizing. Buried under a concerted, raucous propaganda barrage aimed at showcasing Bangladesh as a nation leaping past the miseries of poverty is the untold tale of the timid millions uprooted from homes and hearths.

These sullen faces now swarm the nation’s capital and other urban outposts to survive and subsist. A glance at their sufferings and the underlying causes negate everything the ruling regime portrays as its ground-breaking achievements.
Bilkis is one of those 45 million dispossessed whom I found wandering in desperation in the sprawling Dhaka-Mirpur connecting road on which thousands flock every day either for a stroll, or to beg. Countless others are also seen loitering in that vacationing rendezvous; vendors, bullies, dopers, hookers and day labourers waiting to be called by anyone needing their manual help.

‘45 million Bilkis’
“I’ve come to Dhaka two years ago after my house in Chandpur was washed away by the river,” said Bilkis, clutching her three-month-old baby to the chest. “My husband begged and borrowed money to go to Malaysia but remains lost for over a year now. People say he’d died in the sea,” the grimaced-faced lady recounted with tearful eyes.
In what was supposed to be her dream-filled late 20s, Bilkis represent over 45 million people living under the poverty line threshold, virtually scavenging for food every day across the major cities of the nation and living under makeshift slums where ruling party thugs swoop on them almost daily and the authorities bulldoze their dwellings with court orders, more often than not.
How can a nation claim to be emerging as a mid-income one if its number of slum-dwellers had increased by over 60 per cent in the last 10 years and less than one per cent of the population has been allowed to own over 99 per cent of the national assets?
All these happened in a nation where the Constitution ensures the equality of every citizen in human rights, employment, housing, and, against discrimination.  More alarmingly, among these internally displaced multitudes are about 6 million kids, nearly 15% of the nation’s total child population, who have no schooling and spend days and nights in child labouring of varied types.
With over one-third of the population still below the poverty line, and the number increasing by over 250,000 every month due to natural and man-made disasters robbing people of their land and livelihood, attempts to uplift the GDP above the 7 per cent is an undertaking fraught with uncertainty, data-deception and a raft of socio-political dangers.

Slam slum-dwellers
To make that really happen, a sustainable policy package must strike a balance between focus on economic growth on one hand, and, sustenance of democracy, human rights and responsive governance, on the other.  A political regime can only be responsive enough to the basic needs of the people if the indispensability of those needy ones is ensured through unfettered participation in electing public representatives who shall display honesty and accountability.
The 2015-16 budgets have nearly taka 300,000 crores allocated for a variety of expenses, but precious little for public housing, public health and poverty alleviation. This is unforgivable at a time when the Dhaka city alone is devoured by over 5,000 slums, sheltering about 15% of the city’s estimated 15 million population.  
Far from investing on the homeless and an ever-increasing army of the dispossessed, public policies are distinctively geared to creating more displaced and homeless people. Although evictions of slum-dwellers occur almost daily, and, are being reported  routinely as something noble, where the evicted ones move to remains a story largely untold by a media that’s mostly remote-controlled by the power that be. NGOs working in the field say, on an average, over 2,000 new faces arrive daily to Dhaka’s slums from rural Bangladesh to swell the number of about 5 million already crowding the city’s unused public spots. They’ve all been displaced by river erosion, landlessness, flooding and other natural disasters. Researches show the poverty rate remains highest in rural areas, at 36 per cent, compared with 28 per cent in urban centres, despite agriculture accounting for almost 20 per cent of the GDP and the farm sector employing about 44 per cent of the total labour force. The ruling elites must take cognizance that unplanned urbanization and river erosion are not only shrinking farmland, the size of the nation is also getting smaller.

Rural poverty 
The United Nations Human Settlement Programme claims, of the more than 500 million displaced people of the world, over 250 million slum dwellers live in the Asia Pacific region. Bangladesh alone has nearly 30 million displaced people needing immediate housing and employment.
These are the people who take the plunge of crossing the seas, to die in droves, to reach the countries in the far flung while the most vulnerable among them are the ones migrating from the rural areas to the urban outposts to endure the miseries of an unbearable life in city slums. May be the government should consider creation of a ‘ministry of the poor’ to exclusively cater for their immediate needs in order to fulfill its constitutional obligations. Having a ministry exclusively for the vulnerable one-third of the population can make real difference in catapulting the nation’s economic and social standings.
Unless the lives of these vulnerable, marginal people are uplifted first, Bangladesh is unlikely to move past its sagging poverty trap. To ensure that, the country’s nearly 1,000 km of coastal belts must be cemented firmly; with high embankments, shelters and water retrieving facilities during tidal surges.
Besides, effective flood management system must be devised and made operational along the banks of the seven major and over two hundred minor rivers where flood water hits every monsoon. Researchers around the globe are unanimous that about 50% of the land of Bangladesh would be submerged under water if the sea level rises by only one meter.
According to the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB), riverbank erosion caused by continuous shifting of channels in the major three rivers­Jamuna, Padma and Meghna­alone displaces an estimated 500,000 people annually. One research pontificates with specificity that, about 1.3 million families became homeless in three years due to soil erosion along twelve surging rivers.

Lesson from the past
Overlooking such threats to lives, around 5 million people still live in hundreds of fluvial islands known as chars that keep submerging due to the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, routine flooding, and, the ravages of recurring cyclones and hurricanes.
That makes it necessary to look back at what happened in recent past. In 2007, cyclone Sidr affected 30 of the nation’s 64 districts, impacting nearly 8.7 million people. It was the 48th major cyclones in history since 1584. In May 2009, cyclone Aila uprooted nearly 4.82 million people in the coastal areas.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in November 2009, devastation of cyclone had displaced 11,118 families in Dacope upozila and another 5,533 families in Koyra upozila alone.
If the civilization and the very existence of the nation is hostage to such vulnerabilities, what entices the political elites to be so power-hungray, internally divisive and totally averse to fair election, good governance, rule of law and national reconciliation is a riddle needing immediate un-coding.
One could, plausibly, get some clues from the sayings of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) whose ascription of the poor is both glaring and guiding.   “There are two types of poor people; those who are poor together and those who are poor alone. The first are the true poor, the others are rich people out of luck,” said the most venerable of the 20th century philosophers. Our true poor should flock and shout aloud to get for them what is truly theirs and what has so far been held back from them by force.


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Comments: Thanks for bringing a silent but severe episode of Bangladesh from general ignorance to light. But mere formation of some ministries, I doubt, may hardly improve the situation. We have ministris like Social Welfare,etc which are so corrupt! In fact , first of all there is a great need for organizing the affected ones at every level...but who shall do that?
Commented by : siddiq



Ministers’ scandal embarrassing govt.

Faruque Ahmed

The government is increasingly coming under pressure as corruption, swindling of public fund and misuse of power by some cabinet ministers are hogging the headlines to the utter embarrassment of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Two of the most talkative and talked about ministers – Mufazzal Hussain Chowdhury Maya and Quamrul Islam – have become embarrassment to the government. Minister Mufazzal Hussain Chowdhury Maya has emerged as a person with proven record of corruption is a sitting cabinet member.

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Faruque Ahmed

The government is increasingly coming under pressure as corruption, swindling of public fund and misuse of power by some cabinet ministers are hogging the headlines to the utter embarrassment of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Two of the most talkative and talked about ministers – Mufazzal Hussain Chowdhury Maya and Quamrul Islam – have become embarrassment to the government. Minister Mufazzal Hussain Chowdhury Maya has emerged as a person with proven record of corruption is a sitting cabinet member.

Likewise, Minister Quamrul Islam has come under media scan for allegedly importing rotten wheat from Brazil and feeding the substandard wheat to service men in uniform and the rural poor under test relief.

The Maya episode
There is a growing demand for their resignation and the Prime Minister is reportedly not happy with them. But she is also not asking them to resign apparently apprehending bitter embarrassment to the government and personally to her.
The demand for resignation of the Minister for Disaster Management and Relief and Rehabilitation Maya from cabinet has been snowballing after his parliament membership become void. But he is desperately clinging to his job both as a cabinet minister and as well as lawmaker using legal loopholes and questionable interpretation of the Constitution as advanced by people holding important positions in the administration.
His ordeal started with the Supreme Court ruling saying that his acquittal from the corruption case by a High Court bench was faulty because the judges did not apply judicial mind in hearing of his appeal.
In February 2008, a special court sentenced Maya to 13 years’ jail for illegally amassing wealth worth wealth worth Tk 6.29 crore and concealing assets worth Tk 5.9 crore. The court also fined him Tk 5 crore. In October 2010, the High Court cleared him of the charges. But on June 14 this year, the Supreme Court acting on an appeal by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) scrapped the HC judgment and directed it to hold further hearing and dispose of Maya’s appeal challenging the lower court verdict.
Now Maya’s lawyers are pleading that the order for rehearing of the case by a High Court bench does not mean that the charges against him were already proved and so until the case is heard and reached the finality, Maya is legally permitted to continue as a lawmaker and may also continue in the cabinet. Others say since the lower court verdict holds valid, he can’t continue until the High Court orders otherwise proving his innocence.

Ex-Chief Justice’s rule
They said the interpretation of the relevant section of the Constitution by former Chief Justice Khairul Islam has settled the controversy. It said if the finality proves that a person is innocent, he will be so. Until that time the lower court verdicts will prevail and an MP would cease to be an MP and holding similar positions will also be illegal. He can’t contest any election until he is cleared and if he is already elected it would stand void. What appears quite interesting is that the ACC which prosecuted Maya in 2008 and appealed against the High Court acquittal in 2010 reportedly wanted to recall the appeal when the Supreme Court was about to scrap the acquittal.
Now a member of the ACC last week said in his “personal” view Maya can continue in his post as a lawmaker and also as a cabinet minister until the finality of the High Court hearing. But the ACC prosecutor who was handling Maya’s case in the lower court and also in the High Court said the minister can’t continue in his posts and must vacate as per the law. It means that the minister can’t hold public office because of moral turpitude and the law is clear, besides he is constitutionally obliged to step down.
Because if he continues in office, he may influence the court and other law officers and it requires that he must leave his positions until the High Court ends its hearing and give the final verdict.
Meanwhile, Maya has been served a legal notice last week to explain in 72 hours as to why he should not resign bringing new pressure on him to quit. But he is patiently waiting to see what comes next.

The import of ‘rotten’ wheat
Maya became the centre of discussion when the Narayangonj seven murder case became the talk of the town in which his son-in-law, an army major posted with RAB Narayangonj unit was the number one accused and is now in custody.  Maya was allegedly instrumental behind the conspiracy and his relentless lobbying to save his son-in-law had annoyed the top government policy makers then.  
Many tend to believe that he has been encouraged by former Planning Minister Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir’s example whose parliament membership was also cancelled by the Supreme Court but he managed to continue as a lawmaker and minister till to the end of term of the last parliament.
The speaker about Alamgir’s case had said it was the responsibility of the Election Commission (EC) to declare his post void but the EC shot back saying the responsibility lies with the Speaker. Similarly the Speaker of the present parliament last week said she has nothing to do until the High Court verdict reached her office. This indecision has enabled Maya to continue in both his posts. In fact he is a valuable asset to the party as an organizer and seemingly the rule of law has no place in our system where the party interest matters.
TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman last week suggested that the minister must resign, not only showing respect to the law but also to set an example of high morality when people are demanding his resignation. He has also demanded the resignation of Food Minister Quamrul Islam from cabinet for allegedly importing rotten wheat from Brazil. The food minister has distributed the wheat in question in haste to district warehouses and made allocation to service men in police, army and RAB. Lion’s share of this wheat went to running food for work and test relief to feed the poor.

Why buy rotten wheat only?
The Food Minister admitted in parliament that Brazilian wheat was rotten and he would not import the remaining one lakh tones of the two lakh tones on order. But informed sources suggest that the ministry had already paid 90 percent of the total price and that much of the fund for the wheat deal was swindled.
Meanwhile, report said the minister has also bought rotten wheat from France and details are yet to come to the light. Initially a move was at work in connivance with a section of food ministry officials to buy wheat from Ukraine but it was foiled by intervention of another section. Bangladesh embassy in Moscow also intervened. Then the buying of rotten wheat from Brazil became public and now another buying from France, apparently substandard wheat, has come to the knowledge.


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Russian president Putin calls USA a racial state

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

Behind all nice “value” smiles and “hearty” talks about democracy and its place in any civilized society, Americans, generally speaking, are also racial by nature and instinct. The regular incidents of attacks on blacks in United States reveal American brand racism even under a Black president which demolishes their claim of being the most civilized people on earth the people from entire world must learn a lot from.

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Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

Behind all nice “value” smiles and “hearty” talks about democracy and its place in any civilized society, Americans, generally speaking, are also racial by nature and instinct. The regular incidents of attacks on blacks in United States reveal American brand racism even under a Black president which demolishes their claim of being the most civilized people on earth the people from entire world must learn a lot from.

Targeting weak nations to destabilize them, committing awful genocides freely is one thing, but attacking minority people in a country on the basis of the skin colour is another.  As the only superpower, United States of America, unfortunately, pursues both. However, Americans do not criticize the negative phenomena.
However, facts reveal that the real picture of social relations in USA is quite different from what is being reported in the US media. Racial slurs and attacks on the Blacks, among other minorities, are a common phenomenon across the USA.

The magnificent travesty
The incumbent US President Barack Obama, himself a Black but successful politician, also, like predecessors who were Whites, does not seem to take steps to end racial discriminations in the country.  Racal discriminations have been on the rise even in America.
It is not at all shocking, but quite a valid statement, therefore, that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said racial intolerance in America would have shocked Martin Luther King Jr. In his National Breakfast address in Kremlin on May 13, Putin said that America was “full of magnificent travesty – a place where, in past many years, people of a particular colour have, on several or most of occasions, been targeted by peoples of white colour, simply due to their skin colour and their racism.”
This startling comment from Putin comes on the backdrop of recent racial tensions in United States of America. There were incidents of unrest in Ferguson over shooting of Afro-American youth by a White police. Even after protests and pressure, the deaths of blacks in the hand of white police never reduced. Last week, yet another racial minority youth was killed in police custody.
Explaining to his audience, Putin continued, “It will be better if Obama and his America cared about their internal problems before trying to poke their nose into our affairs. They cry about Crimea, but look at their crime rates. The rate at which American do crime, they can change their country name to Crimea, so that I can invade it next year.”
After a round of laughter from the audience, Putin continued, “America had blacks as slaves, then they fought a war among themselves on whether to keep blacks as slaves or not. Then, they fought with blacks on suffrage rights of blacks, educational right of blacks, employment rights of blacks.

Shedding racist slur
Martin Luther King Jr sacrificed his life to uplift black and end racial discrimination in America. But, now, seeing the current plight of blacks in his country, MLK would have cried in his grave. This kind of racial intolerance in America would have shocked him. I feel sorry for him.” Raising a cup of wine for a toast, Putin concluded, “I just want to remind Obama to look after his own country and try to solve the racial riots that are happening under his nose. If a black president was unable to create an amicable situation for blacks in USA, then I wonder what the whites will do to those minorities. Stop the killing of blacks or resign Mr. Obama”.
Russians resent anti-Russia rhetoric of US leaders and western media lords made on a regular basis to belittle that nation especially when sanctions have been slapped on it by USA and EU. Putin has repeatedly said anti-Russia campaign is a roaring business of many Americans and it must stop. Maybe, his comments on racial discriminations in USA are to drive home the point that attacking Russian brand democracy cannot go on forever.  Maybe, President Barack Obama thinks the racial discriminations are a necessary evil that needs to be supported for some political expediency reasons, but the approach, if any, is totally wrong and anti-human as it works against the real progress of minorities in the country.
USA should shed its racist slur and discriminatory practices and become a model secular and truly democratic state for all other nations to emulate.


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Rajapaksa bids to return to power in Sri Lanka

Shamsuddin Ahmed

Sri Lankan’s strongman and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday announced his decision to contest the August 17 Parliamentary elections in a bid to return to power. “We will contest at the next General Election and form a new government,” said Rajapaksa who was surprisingly defeated in the January 8 presidential election by his own party man and Health Minister Sirisena under an alleged Indian conspiracy.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

Sri Lankan’s strongman and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday announced his decision to contest the August 17 Parliamentary elections in a bid to return to power. “We will contest at the next General Election and form a new government,” said Rajapaksa who was surprisingly defeated in the January 8 presidential election by his own party man and Health Minister Sirisena under an alleged Indian conspiracy.

Analysts fear Rajapaksa may face the same fate this time too if he and his followers failed to handle the forces opposed to him for his tilt toward China from what they called ‘manipulating’ the election results. Apparently outgoing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, overtly confident of his success in the election, threw a challenge to Rajapaksa asking him to “contest the polls, do not run away from the fray.” He claimed people will not allow return of the corrupt Rajapaksa regime.

India and its neighbours
It was widely reported at home and abroad that Indian spy agency RAW was involved in mobilizing support for opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the Juanuary 8, 2015 presidential polls which resulted in the unexpected defeat of Rajapaksa. India’s covert activities were exposed and the RAW chief in Colombo K. Ilanga was expelled from Sri Lanka. But it was too late as by then the job was done.
India’s relations with Sri Lanka turned almost hostile during the Rajapaksa regime when Chinese submarines were allowed to dock in the Colombo port. Rajapaksa also gave a number of development projects to Chinese companies ­that now raised controversy - in return for Beijing’s moral and material support in defeating the LTTE. China has also agreed to provide substantial investments for some of the projects.  All this had annoyed Delhi and it wanted the fall of Rajapaksa. Shenail D. Waduge wrote in Sri Lanka Express on 8 March: “India is (an) impediment for Sri Lanka to nurture traditional ties with other nations. Delhi stood in the way of Sino-Lanka ties …interfered in internal affairs, influenced through trade agreements. impediment for Sri Lanka to nurture traditional ties with other nations. Delhi stood in the way of Sino-Lanka ties …interfered in internal affairs, influenced through trade agreements.”
A G Noorani of India wrote: “India’s relations with Sri Lanka will heal if there is a sincere realization of past mistakes and of the grave damage that India inflicted on a hapless neighbour too small to retaliate.”
Informed sources say India usually posts RAW officers in other countries, particularly in its neghbours, under the cover of diplomatic assignments. Its covert activities in support of chosen political leaders were also exposed in Maldives during the last presidential election. The victory of Mohammad Nasheed was challenged with documentary prove of election fraud. The Supreme Court cancelled the results and ordered a fresh poll. Finally Abdulla Yameen was declared elected.

Campaign picking up
Rajapaksa in a statement addressing the nation said, “I have no right to reject the request by people to protect the country and the party.
The economic progress that has been stalled will be rebuilt and reenergized.” Accepting the challenge thrown at him by President Sirisena and PM Ranil  Wickremesinghe denying him a ticket of SLFP (Siri Lanka Freedom Party) to contest as prime ministerial candidate in the parliamentary election.
Sirisena had replaced Rajapaksa as chief of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on winning the presidential elections in January this year, and made minority opposition party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe the Prime Minister to pay his gratitude to him. Sirisena was elected president with support from Wickremesinghe and his party.
Elderly former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has also joined the PM in opposing Rajapaksa. A strong critic of him, she said the man who is asking for the prime ministerial post should be in jail by now on charges of corruption and nepotism.
Refusal from his party’s (SLFP) ticket to run as prime ministerial candidate Rajapaksa is now left with the choice of floating a new party with the support of his faction in the ruling SLFP and allies to contest the election. His supporters and allies have demanded that he should lead them in the polls. People credit him as a strong leader who defeated the LTTE in 2009 after decades long bloody civil war. His public meetings drew huge crowed reflecting his growing support against President Sirisena who has been variously branded as “weak and inactive”.
“The young generation of this country has not yet witnessed the darker side of the United National Party (UNP). The younger generation doesn’t know how the UNP paved the way for the separatists or how they acted during the 88-89 insurrection,” said Rajapaksa digging at his opponent.

Govt. facing multiple problems
He also went on to say that there is a clear threat to the national security. The government has ignored those who sacrificed their lives or been disabled in service of the country. Refuting corruption and nepotism charges against him he said, “We never ran (administration) in an unconstitutional manner. We respect the law and order of this country. But the present government even defames the judiciary.”
Earlier on Friday, President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament in view of his inability to get the 20th Constitutional Amendment envisaging electoral reforms pass due to a lack of majority in the 225-member. He set August 17 for election of a new parliament with expectation of securing a comfortable majority.
The government, which is a coalition of the United National Party (UNP), the Sirisena faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and some parties belonging to the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), was minority in the House. It could not present some key money bills fearing defeat and had no chance of getting two-thirds majority to pass the 20th.Amendment on electoral reforms. The Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP and UPFA was opposed to President Sirisena’s proposals on electoral reforms. To add to Sirisena’s woes, the UNP, and the parties of the minorities, also had radically different views on the reforms, an important part of his election manifesto.
There was yet another compulsion which Sirisena had to contend with. He had promised the US and the UN that he would hold fresh elections and install a new government by September before the September session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) where the country faces the prospect of a hostile resolution.


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No flowers, please

F.S. Aijazuddin in Lahore

There is a stench of formaldehyde permeating through the streets and the slums, through the hospitals and the morgues of Karachi. It is the smell of over 1,200 victims of heat-stroke who could not find a space in Edhi’s over-filled mortuaries or in overcrowded graveyards. It is the stench of civic corruption and corrosive incompetence that has converted Karachi into a commercial charnel house.

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F.S. Aijazuddin in Lahore

There is a stench of formaldehyde permeating through the streets and the slums, through the hospitals and the morgues of Karachi. It is the smell of over 1,200 victims of heat-stroke who could not find a space in Edhi’s over-filled mortuaries or in overcrowded graveyards. It is the stench of civic corruption and corrosive incompetence that has converted Karachi into a commercial charnel house.

There was a taste of formaldehyde in every slice of the birthday cake served by her widower to PPP diehards at Naudero on the occasion of Benazir Bhutto’s 62nd birthday. Her memory has been embalmed, and like some fallen Communist leader’s remains, kept on display to wring tears out of the faithful. Meanwhile, her pall-bearers, their duty done by her but not by themselves, escape the heat beginning to surround Bilawal House.
There is a glint of graft refracted from the precious stones set in the necklace donated to Pakistan by Mme Erdogan, Turkey’s First Lady.  The necklace, bought for unexplained reasons by NADRA out of the Peter’s pence provided by Pakistanis applying for ID cards, was traced to the hands of a former prime minister and to his wife’s neck. It has passed into international folklore, to join the £117,000 diamond necklace reputedly purchased by Benazir Bhutto that cost her the PM’s job, and the diamond necklace that cost the French Queen Marie Antoinette her head.
There is an odour of formaldehyde emanating from all those decaying election promises contained in the PML–N Manifesto of 2013. Dead, for example, is the Bureau of Infrastructure Development (BID) that ‘single window for the development of infrastructure projects [that would] improve transport and communication by constructing national trade corridors and providing mass transit facilities in all major cities.’ A single window may exist but it faces only China.
There is a whiff of camphor attached to Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s robes.  His sudden re-appearance in Pakistan this week, months after his damaging support to Imran Khan’s dharna last winter, confirms his talents as a restless Lazarus, rising even after political pundits have written him off as dead. His exhortations are both exhaustive and exhausting. But one is still unclear about whose agenda he is promoting this time, again camouflaged as his own.    
There is a touch of formaldehyde in SAARC, whose headquarters should now be converted into a funeral parlour. It has become that doleful place where regional countries can collect and mourn a lost ideal. Indian prime minister Modi read its requiem by signing on 15 June ‘agreements on roads, ports, power and education with South Asian countries to build and strengthen ties, circumventing the Pakistan hurdle.’ An Indian government official explained: For long it was a Pakistan-obsessed regional policy, for that matter foreign policy. Time has come to think out of the box and move ahead. In effect, an Indian South Asia excluding Pakistan.
There is a splash of formaldehyde thrown by Mr Modi at his senior-most colleague L.K. Advani.  Mr Modi’s deliberate, wounding exclusion of Advani from the celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of the BJP (the party Advani helped found) reveals that Mr Advani is in danger of being canonised by saffronista while still alive. 
There is a stream of amber permeating through the emblem of the Indian Congress Party, as its leadership clings to the glories of past leadership because it cannot see any future in its present one.
There is a reek of formaldehyde in international bodies such as the IFF (football) where a five-term president can be hounded out on accusations of corollary corruption, and where the ICC (cricket) should be silent on Lalit Modi’s misdoings in the IPL.  
The authorities are spraying formaldehyde over the MQM’s local headquarters in Nine Zero at Karachi and its international one in London. Suddenly, two culprits wanted in the Imran Farooq case mysteriously ‘appear’ in official custody, then disappear, and reappear to be apprehended on the Afghan border. Were they also our ‘guests’, untraceable like Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad?  Is it simply a coincidence that the £400,000 unwashed money found in the possession of Altaf Hussein in London is the near equivalent of the stash of $750,000 discovered with Saddam Hussein when he was captured in his rat-hole ten years ago?  
Finally, there are traces of self-administered formaldehyde in the veins of members of our affluent society. They are all educated, rich, well-placed and well-connected. Yet, every day, they choose consciously to condone corruption. They can see it exists. They can smell it. But they would prefer to float above it, as if they were in some glass-bottomed boat, peering into the swill swirling below them.
We all share the guilt in this gradual decay of our country. All that may remain one day will be a sniff of formaldehyde.
Courtesy: DAWN, Karachi


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