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Armed forces day transmitted visual rendering of a nation divided

Shahid Islam

Mere monologue renders politics insipid and meaningless. Yet, that’s what had adorned the trappings of the historic Armed Forces Day on November 21. A nation possessive of acute threat perception and convinced of the necessity to having befitting military forces to meet external challenges must display that article of faith by standing beside the armed forces visually and thematically.

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Shahid Islam

Mere monologue renders politics insipid and meaningless. Yet, that’s what had adorned the trappings of the historic Armed Forces Day on November 21. A nation possessive of acute threat perception and convinced of the necessity to having befitting military forces to meet external challenges must display that article of faith by standing beside the armed forces visually and thematically.

That was not the case during the Armed Forces Day celebration on November 21 when a glittered ceremony at the Senakunjo complex of the nation’s capital captivated attention of those present, and of those fixated to the TV screens; to see only the PM and her associates running the show.

Impact of divisive politics
These days, hardly there are families without a member serving, or having served, in the military. That makes people more attentive to the military’s ceremonial pageantry, as well as to its evolution as a force that can bite with bravery and bond with benevolence. Absence of ideal politics is making that harder. For, ideal politics may be internally divisive, but it cannot be devoid of cohesiveness, externally.
Every nation has domestic parties with inter-party squabbling and acrimonious sentiments spewed against each other. But when it comes to standing together to displaying the inner resolve of a nation, politicians hardly stand apart within. If they do, the message is grabbed by internal saboteurs and external foes to buttonhole into the exposed vulnerabilities and debilitate what is otherwise sacrosanct, indispensible, and immutable.
Conspicuously absent in the Senakunjo sacrament was the leader of the country’s one of the largest political parties, the BNP, or its nominee of any denomination. Former President HM Ershad, leader of the third largest political party, the JP, was not visible either; despite his credence and antecedent as the former army chief making many expectant of him being there physically.
The presence of these and other national leaders of all walks of life, as a participant in the function, this scribe believes, would have made the serving members of the armed forces proud of what they do, and convinced of the recognition they deserve from every shred of the societal paraphernalia.

Threat perception
This fragile state of internal politics—perennially divisive and patently internecine—shall not be reflected upon the nation’s defence and foreign policies that make up the twin pillars of our sovereign edifice and define our nationhood.
Yet, politicking with matters military and external are getting submerged by, and subsumed into, the persistent, cut-throat enmity of the country’s two main political parties. Such a scenario is not only undesirable and detrimental to national interest; it’s outright unacceptable and dissent-deserving.

We all know the reason behind this hard line of the parties is obsessive idiosyncrasy, and a desire not to accord to sharing space with the other. A stroll into the inner sanctums of the civil administration, local and national, leaves one with an impression that the nation belongs to the ruling party and its stalwarts alone, who deserve all the attention of the public servants and the law enforcers. The judiciary too is getting infected by the same virus and veering towards a homologous hodge-podge to impede dispensation of justice to all without fear and favour.
As well, tittle-tattle abounds that the military these days is unable to fend off similar partisan infiltration, and, that’s what is deterring the country’s opposition parties from standing by the armed forces even on auspicious occasions like the Armed Forces Day.
What this state of affairs boils down into is an emerging perception at home and abroad that we, as a nation, have lost our verb and moral compulsiveness to show some semblance of unity when it comes to emitting a signal to the world that our national resolve to preserve impregnability in matters related to defence and foreign policies is as weak  as is our irreconcilable stances in domestic politics.  And, that constitutes the greatest threat to this nationhood at the moment.

Mission of the military
The armed forces are constitutionally apolitical, doctrinally threat-perception-attuned, strategically geopolitics driven, and tactically compliance to their chain of command. They are oath - bound to stand for the defence of the nation at home and abroad; on land, air and sea. They’re the first responder to any exigency that other segments of the society cannot handle with promptness and professionalism.
If they are not convinced of non-partisan backing of the nation for their cause, their morality sags, minds boggle, mission creeps, and the motivation to sacrifice lives withers away in an instant.
Moreover, it’s not the job of the armed forces to convince diametrically opposing and doggedly irreconcilable political leaders to stand on a single platform for affairs relating to national defense and foreign policy. Everyone has his or her share of responsibility delineated and coded.

Perils and prospects
The failure to follow that delineated path, and perform each person’s obligation as per the code of conduct, is proving perilous at a time when the nation is slowly entering into an election frenzy; for which a broader consensus of the politicians is badly needed to bring back participatory, inclusive democracy to the country that had taken a flight to the oblivion since the non-participatory 2014 election.
Externally, a neighbouring country is executing its grand design to consign its Bengali speaking minority Muslims to the historic state of Arakan that once comprised part of south-eastern Bangladesh in the by-gone days. The external threat posed by that spectacle, and the burden of a never-ending influx of refugees to the country from Myanmar’s Arakan state, should compel domestic leaders to sit and talk, not stand by and watch.

Diplomatic debacles
Meanwhile, notwithstanding what one hears and sees in the popular media about the diplomatic success in tackling the Rohingya issue, much of that is exaggeration. Our diplomats are handling the issue with little wherewithal amidst entrenched perception of other parties that, we as a nation, do not have a representational parliament and, our internal cohesiveness is ridden by faction and fatality.
That India abstained from voting on Rohingya issue at the UN Human Rights Committee; that China and Russia voted against us; that the US Secretary of State is still insistent on not imposing any sanction on Myanmar; are the testimony to our moniker of failure in telling the world our story in the manner it should have been, and, in the forum where it matters most.

Misplaced priority
On the other hand, Myanmar had so far agreed to comply something crafted following the early 1990s’ influx of another multitude of its ethnic Muslim population into Bangladesh, and, the new agreement being inked in Myanmar’s capital had added precious little to that, according to diplomatic sources.
Did Myanmar comply with its 1992 MoU? If so, why Bangladesh has nearly one million Rohingya refugees; nearly half of whom had entered before the August 2017 crackdown on them began?
The ongoing, softly-softly approach of our diplomats is stealing our focus away from convincing the UN Security Council to adopt a Resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to make it compulsive on Myanmar to take back its people, or face economic and military consequences.
Such an approach is too badly needed, and, it can only happen when Dhaka proves that it’s ready to reclaim for the Rohingyas the historic Arakan homeland that was once part of greater Bengal; in the manner India helped create Bangladesh in 1971. For that to happen, the armed forces need all the national leaders to its side.

Author is a former military officer & diplomat; with many books and countless articles to his credit. His international publications are traceable from Google search: author Shahid Islam.


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Without safe repatriation Rohingyas facing uncertain future

Faruque Ahmed

When the foreign ministers of 51 Asian and European countries who gathered last week in Myanmar capital Naypyidaw for Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) and called for immediate halt to hostilities, outflow of Rohingya refugees and their early return, refugees were even coming more with no end to the exodus in sight.

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Faruque Ahmed

When the foreign ministers of 51 Asian and European countries who gathered last week in Myanmar capital Naypyidaw for Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) and called for immediate halt to hostilities, outflow of Rohingya refugees and their early return, refugees were even coming more with no end to the exodus in sight.

The same was true when foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden, Japan, and EU Commissioner for external affairs were visiting Cox’s Bazar to see the plight of Rohingyas. The stream was endless.
Despite the call from the international community, the ethnic cleansing is not ending in Myanmar while Bangladesh is forced to give shelter to more than 600,000 refugees who arrived since August 25 and their overall number now stand at over a million clearly outnumbering the local population in the area.

China’s 3-point suggestion
What appears tragic is that Myanmar is trying to mislead the global public opinion as its de facto leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi claims hostility has already stopped in Rakhine state. Why then refugees are arriving daily in thousands is begging an answer. Many believe that Myanmar is working with the objective of clearing the Rakhine state of the Muslim population first; who are victim of ire of the ultra-nationalist Buddhists majority and religious hatred over the past decades.
World leaders are calling for repatriation in the conference rooms but the exodus is not ending in the ground. Myanmar seems not intending it until the last Rohingya left the country. Chinese Foreign Minister Mr Wang Yi who also visited Dhaka at the time other foreign ministers were here and has advanced a three phase proposal in Naypyidaw at the ASEM meeting.
It includes ceasefire in the ground, opening bilateral discussion between Bangladesh and Myanmar to agree on repatriation and address long term causes behind the crisis. In his view long term solution depends on development of the area blaming poverty for the crisis instead of Buddhist intolerance towards first growing Rohingya population.
But many in Dhaka look sceptically when he laid emphasis on keeping the repatriation issue essentially bilateral without involving the UN bodies such as the Security Council or other international agencies.
Many believe Chinese and Russian veto is protecting Myanmar from international pressure to end persecution of Rohingyas and expelling them from their land. If China were using its power and influence impartially on Myanmar to end the crisis, it would not have created such a big human crisis for Bangladesh.
Mr. Wang agreed in Dhaka that Rohinga crisis is coming up from inside Myanmar to affect Bangladesh. People here had naturally expected that China would not allow Myanmar to pass its domestic problem on another of its close friend.

Military’s upsetting condition
They also believe that China can play the role of an honest broker now but until that time Bangladesh needs to be looking for greater international involvement to see the repatriation is taking place and Rohingyas are returning in full safety.
In fact, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AHM Mahmood Ali led a team at ASEM meeting and held talks on setting up a Joint Working Committee to determine the process of repatriation. They talked about a Memorandum to be signed by both sides, but there remains much to be seen how the process will work to agree on a formula to start the repatriation.
Suu Kyi told reporters in the sideline of ASEM meeting that “There is a real possibility an MoU and agreement for the safe repatriation of the refugees”. But press reports quoting her on the repatriation arrangement appears highly tricky and controversial to secure what she said a ‘safe and voluntary repatriation.’
She also told the ASEM meeting that she would implement the Annan Commission report; which has called for citizenship to Rohingyas and their free movement in the Rakhine state along with unimpeded access to humanitarian aid and human right activists to assess the situation on the ground.
Many also believe her statements are eyewash as the Myanmar military is persistently denying such access when villages are still burning and mass killing is taking place. Myanmar military is also using rape of women to create panic and force people to leave the country. Moreover how far the repatriation will succeed depends on the attitude of the Myanmar military. Suu Kyi appears to have little control over them.
A military spokesman last week said such repatriation will be possible if and only when the real local Buddhists will accept the people back. Suu Kyi blamed the Rohingya crisis as arising out of illegal immigration. She did not use the word Rohingya but indirectly said they are illegal immigrants (from Bangladesh) and blamed them for terrorist acts.

Uncertainty remains
On a question on massive human rights violation in the Rakhine state Suu Kyi said: “We can’t say whether it has happened or not. As a responsibility of the government, we have to make sure that it won’t happen.”
She said her country would follow the framework of an agreement reached in the 1990s to cover the earlier repatriation of Rohingya, who had fled from previous bouts of ethnic violence. That agreement did not address the citizenship status of Rohingyas while Bangladesh wants more safeguards this time.
Earlier repatriation was carried out “on the basis of residency...this was agreed (to) by the two governments .. so this will be formula we will continue” she said. It rules out citizenship issue.
About safety of the returning refugees she said her country was doing everything it could to “make sure security is maintained” in Rakhine, but warned that “it takes time” to resolve the issues there. It was unclear whether a safe return is possible in this situation, or advisable, for the thousands of Rohingya women and children still stranded on the beaches and trying to flee.
The most critical issue is that Myanmar intends to resettle most refugees in new “model villages” to be developed, rather than on the land they previously occupied, an approach the United Nations has criticized in the past as effectively creating permanent camps for stateless people.
It shows returnees would not get back their homes and land they abandoned behind. Yet the bigger issue is if refugees are not ensured of their basic safety they may not even agree to return on voluntary basis and many apprehend perhaps Myanmar wants it at the end.


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Ecological war on insurgency prone Northeast India engulfs Bangladesh

Karar M Hassan, Iqbal Siddiquee, HR Chowdhury and MM Ali

India’s failure to mitigate highly acidic water in hydro electric projects of Assam and Meghalaya leading to scarcity of water, displacement of people, death of fishes and frequent floods in the region brings into question whether a section of Indian elites are now engaged in an ecological war against insurgency prone Northeast India.  Bangladesh is also bearing its brunt by default.

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Karar M Hassan, Iqbal Siddiquee, HR Chowdhury and MM Ali

India’s failure to mitigate highly acidic water in hydro electric projects of Assam and Meghalaya leading to scarcity of water, displacement of people, death of fishes and frequent floods in the region brings into question whether a section of Indian elites are now engaged in an ecological war against insurgency prone Northeast India.  Bangladesh is also bearing its brunt by default.

Construction of mega hydro power projects in an eco-sensitive and insurgency prone region like the Northeast allows Indian ruling elite to exploit their resources to promote a coterie of handful few in money- making, teach a lesson to the people in insurgency prone region and arm twist Bangladesh that has potentials to defy its hegemony.

ADB funds third hydro project
Even after failing to mitigate acidic water of two hydro power projects for the last couple of years, a section of Indian ruling elite is now pushing forward yet another hydro electric project on acidic water in collaboration of a multilateral bank.
On grounds of ‘economic viability’ the proposed 120 MW Lower Kopili Hydel Project was ‘withheld’ but not abandoned or cancelled reported, The Telegraph on august 31 last. How acidic water caused failure in a 250 MW hydro electric project in the same river’s upstream was not even mentioned in the report that said ‘environmental clearance’ of the proposed project was ‘kept on hold’.
The proposed project ‘if required’ will have ‘provision for treatment of acidic water of the Kopili during the construction stage, is located in the east of Karbi Anglong and west of Dima Hasao districts, the report said without referring to the failure of Myntdu Leshka Hydro Electric project set up on acidic water with corrosion resistant hydro electric equipment and various other components.
According to the report, the project will cost ‘Rs 1,115.91 crore’ and will require ‘1,577 hectares’ of land of which ‘523 hectares is forestland’. The project will be ‘funded by the Asian Development Bank’, the report said without mentioning anything related to the disbursement process or the share of the bank.
How the ADB got on board a hydro electric project with acidic water, however, was not explained in the report. The failure of Upper Kopili Hydro Electric project has been attributed to its acidic water.  Devastation and havoc caused by the acidic water on the project equipment and its surrounding areas have been widely reported in the Indian national media. Because of the unique nature of the problem, a number of scientific papers written by Indian scientists and scholars have also been published in various journals in this regard.

Lasting damage to Ecology
Desperation of the Indian ruling elite to construct mega hydro electric projects in the eco-sensitive Northeast, where failure of their policies and mega projects are now visibly showing signs of ecological destruction in the region and across raises the following questions whether India is deliberately pursuing policies and projects detrimental to the interest of the people in the Northeast and destroying their environment and ecology and beyond?
It is a ploy to tame the people of the insurgency prone Northeast who are engaged in a campaign against India almost ever since the end of British colonial rule in the subcontinent seven decades ago?
The ruling elite in Bangladesh are consciously ignoring the ecological and environmental devastation in the Northeast India which is having trans-boundary adverse impact in its own territory?
Collaboration of multilateral banks in such projects indicates a strategic partnership of local Indian ‘economic hit man’ with their foreign counterparts?
Having attained nuclear capability a few decades ago, India now aspires to become a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group and also dreams of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Using the fault line of global power politics how long will the Indian elites be successful in silencing the global opinion against its failed policies may be seen in the days to come. Whether these failed policies are pursued and mega projects are developed only to benefit a handful few or they are also designed with other motives in mind.  Before we discuss the ‘other motives’ of the mega projects let us take a look at the wealth amassed by a section of Indian ruling elite and the perception of corruption prevailing in that country.
The wealth amassed by a section of the ruling elite ever since its independence have been siphoned off in tax heavens and kept in off shore foreign accounts. Illicit financial outflows - result of tax evasion, corruption and crime - from India for the period 1948-2012 stood at USD 682 billion, according to Global Financial Integrity.

Northeast India & Bangladesh
Exposing the corruption scenario further, a recent Forbes report quoting a study by Transparency International (TI) said, seven out of ten people in India pay a bribe to access public services
TI, a Berlin based NGO working against corruption, spoke to nearly 22,000 people across 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific to understand the levels of corruption in the region. While India remains the most corrupt country in this region, with 69 per cent bribery rates, Japan came out as the least corrupt nation, with a 0.2 per cent bribery rate, the report said.
John Perkins’ book Confessions of an economic hit man is relevant in the context of a discussion of Indian policy to its Northeast region and other countries in the subcontinent, particularly Bangladesh. In the following few passages we would like to discuss some salient features of the book and request our readers to read the word US for India and the developing nations for Northeastern region and Bangladesh.
While criticizing the US foreign policy, Perkins challenges the widely accepted idea that “all economic growth benefits humankind, and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits.”
He suggests that in many cases only a small portion of the population benefits at the expense of the rest, with the example including increasing income inequality where large companies exploit cheap labour and oil companies destroy local environment. The book published in 2004 provides Perkins’ account of his career with engineering consulting firm Chas T Main in Boston.
According to Perkins, his role at Main was to convince leaders of underdeveloped countries to accept substantial development loans for large construction and engineering projects that would primarily help the richest families and local elites, rather than the poor, while making sure that these projects were contracted to U.S. companies.  Later these loans would give the U.S. political influence and access to natural resources for U.S. companies. He refers to this as an “economic hit man.”

Ecological warfare in Northeast?
Perkins describes what he calls a system of ‘corporatocracy’ and greed as the driving force behind establishing the US as a global empire, in which he took a role as an “economic hit man” to expand its influence.
According to his book, Perkins’ function was to convince the political and financial leadership of underdeveloped countries to accept enormous development loans from institutions like the World Bank and USAID. Saddled with debts they could not hope to pay, those countries were forced to acquiesce to political pressure from the United States on a variety of issues.
Perkins argues that developing nations were effectively neutralized politically, had their wealth gaps driven wider and economies crippled in the long run. In this capacity, Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars.
They funnel money from the World Bank, the USAID, and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.
The way the Indian establishment is operating the two hydro electric projects with acidic water may make one feel that they are being used as ecological warfare against the insurgency prone tribal population.  One may ask them if they can operate one such project in India’s heart-land?
Before probing further into the operation of the two hydro electric projects in the region let’s take a look at how India have been dealing with the insurgents in the Northeast.
‘Often Indian intelligence agencies have played rival insurgent factions against each other to weaken and control relatively stronger rebel groups,’ writes Subir Bhaumik on ‘Insurgencies in India’s Northeast: Conflict co-option and change’.  The working papers were published by the East West Center of Washington in July 2007.

Overlooked peoples’ sufferings
The center is an internationally recognized education and research organization established by the US Congress in 1960 to strengthen understanding and relations between the United States and the countries of the Asia and Pacific.
Unlike the British, who were quite content to leave the Northeast on its own, independent India has tried to integrate the largely Mongloid region into its post colonial nation building project.
According to Bhaumik’s paper, when Delhi’s ‘assimilationist efforts’ led to ‘discontent and armed revolt’, India ‘responded with a combination of force, monetary inducement, split and political reconciliation – all key elements of the ancient Hindu statecraft associated with the great realpolitik exponent, Kautilya or chanakya’.
India, it said ‘tried to rope in neighboring countries in its counter insurgency efforts against the insurgent groups who operate across the border’.
The adverse effects of Kopili Hydro Electric Project (KHEP) in Assam and Myntdu-Leshka Hydro Electric Project (MLHEP) in Meghalaya will suffice how the Indian establishment is engaged in an ecological warfare against the people of its Northeastern region that also roped in Bangladesh in its garb without firing a single shot.
KHEP in Assam and MLHEP in Meghalaya in the Indian Northeastern region are turning Meghalayan tributaries into highly acidic water. Besides, they produce electricity at a much higher cost but suffer from frequent outages, according to press reports and scientific studies.
As a result of highly toxic river water many people were forced to leave their ancestral homes and some stretches of those rivers are now void of fishes while death of fishes in certain other stretches has now become a regular annual event.
KHEP is a twin project comprising of 2 dams, 2 reservoirs, 2 water conductor system and 3 Power houses with 275 MW generating capacity.  MLHEP has generation capacity of 84 MW.
‘Severe damage to the hydro power equipment’ in the first stage of the KHEP was reported in 2007 and ‘acid mine discharge (AMD)’ of toxic coal mine effluent was identified as its cause.

Acidic waters turned projects uneconomic
KHEP has been suffering from frequent outages since 2006 and its post outage maintenance ‘clearly shows detrimental effects of AMD on hydro mechanical equipments as the sole reason,’ reveals a research paper published in the international journal of research in chemistry and environment.
Unscientific opencast coal mining in the Kopili’s upper reaches in Meghalaya has led to acidification of the river which has in turn left part of the river’s course biologically dead, making the water unfit for human consumption and has led to frequent outages at the Kopili Hydro Electric Project’s dams.
The reservoir water of KHEP was found acidic in 2006-2007 and Geological Survey of India (GSI) entrusted to study the case identified unscientific coal mining in the catchment area as its reason, said the 2013 report of the comptroller and auditor general of the Government of Meghalaya.
The acidic water caused severe corrosion in guide vanes, top cover, runner, etc. and led to frequent power outages due to failure of cooler tubes and cooling water pipes of the power stations.
A multidisciplinary team of experts identified that the acidic water affected the power plant equipments severely during 2008-09 following which equipments had to be replaced.
Between 2008-2009 and 2012-2013, the Kopili HE Project suffered outages 336 times due to damage to machinery by acidic water. The loss of generation during the same period was 972.28 million units worth Rs 103.79 crore. As the State was entitled to 6 per cent free power from the Kopili HE, the loss to the State exchequer during the five year period 2008-13 was ‘ 6.23 crore Lack of planning delayed the Myntdu Leshka Hydro Electric Project (MLHEP) works by 46 months and cost over-run of Rs 819.35 crore, according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
The generation cost of Rs 1.06 per unit as projected in the detailed project report, went up by four to seven times during actual generation and according to the report the costs were Rs 4.44, Rs 4.03 and Rs 7.53 per unit during 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively.
However, during construction, two floods occurred – one on October 8, 2009, and the other on May 20, 2010 – causing loss of lives as well as damage to electrical equipment, further delaying completion by 15 months. The total cost of the project on completion was Rs 1297.02 crore.
‘Toxic waste from Indian coal mines in trans-boundary rivers’ according to a report published in the Holiday on October 13 last caused a damage to Bangladesh’s agriculture ‘to the tune of Taka 5,081 crore (US $620 million)’.

Karar M Hassan is retired secretary to the government, Iqbal Siddiquee, HR Chowdhury and MM Ali are freelance journalists


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FIFA on trial: Qatar’s World Cup back in the firing line

James M. Dorsey in Singapore

Testimony of a star witness in a New York courtroom has revealed new allegations of Qatari wrongdoing in its successful bid for the 2022 World Cup hosting rights.
The allegations by Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias, are likely to revive partially politically-motivated calls for Qatar to be stripped of its rights.
Lurking in the background of the Mr. Burzaco’s allegations is, however, the little discussed issue of the nexus of sports and politics that underlies and enables massive financial and performance corruption in sports.

Full Story

James M. Dorsey in Singapore

Testimony of a star witness in a New York courtroom has revealed new allegations of Qatari wrongdoing in its successful bid for the 2022 World Cup hosting rights.
The allegations by Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias, are likely to revive partially politically-motivated calls for Qatar to be stripped of its rights.
Lurking in the background of the Mr. Burzaco’s allegations is, however, the little discussed issue of the nexus of sports and politics that underlies and enables massive financial and performance corruption in sports.

Touch and go
Indicted on corruption-related charges, Mr. Burzaco, who has agreed to a plea bargain, pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced next May.
Mr. Burzaco is one of more than 40 officials, business executives and entities that have been indicted in the United States since Swiss police accompanied by FBI agents in 2015 raided a hotel in Zurich where senior FIFA members were gathered for a congress of the world soccer body.
Mr. Burzaco asserted that the first three defendants to stand trial in the warren of FIFA-related cases – former South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout and past heads of the Brazilian and Peruvian soccer federations, Juan Maria Marin and Manuel Burga – were among several senior Latin American soccer officials who had been paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes for their votes in favour of the Qatari World Cup.
Qatar’s sports-related financial dealings are under scrutiny on several fronts. In a separate investigation, Swiss prosecutors last month opened criminal proceedings against Qatari nationalNasser al-Khelifi, the chief executive of beIN Media Group, the Qatari state-owned Al Jazeera television network’s sports franchise, and chairman of French soccer club Paris St-Germain.
The proceedings involve Mr. Al-Khelaifi allegedly having bribed disgraced former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to ensure that beIN was awarded the broadcasting rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
Qatar as well as Mr. Al-Khelaifi have consistently denied any wrongdoing. A renewal of the debate about withdrawing the Gulf state’s hosting rights comes, however, as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are campaigning to have it stripped of its rights as part of their almost six-month old diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar.
Qatar this week urged the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar to allow their nationals to attend the World Cup despite the travel ban they imposed as part of their boycott. “We separate politics from sports,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general at Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, ignoring the fact that Qatar’s sports strategy is a key part of its soft power policy.

Caught in a quagmire
A top UAE security official, Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khakfan, suggested last month that the only way to resolve the Gulf crisis would be for Qatar to surrender of its World Cup hosting rights. “If the World Cup leaves Qatar, Qatar’s crisis will be over ... because the crisis is created to get away from it,” Lt. Gen. Khalfan said.
Leaked documents from an email account of Youssef al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, revealed a UAE plan to undermine Qatar’s currency by manipulating the value of bonds and derivatives.  If successfully executed, the plan would have allowed Qatar’s distractors to argue that the Gulf state’s financial problems called into question its ability to organize the World Cup.
The plan was the latest instalment in a covert UAE-Qatari media and soccer war since Qatar won its hosting rights in 2010.
The intrinsically political nature of the debate about Qatar and the politics that drove alleged financial corruption of the Gulf state’s bid complicate any discussion of what to do if Qatari wrongdoing were legally proven.
It distracts from the fact that Qatar, whose bid has been at the core of multiple scandals in global and regional soccer governance, happens to be in the hot seat at a time that often politically-driven, widespread corruption in past World Cups is becoming ever more evident. In other words, what Qatar stands accused of was common practice even if Qatar was willing to do it on a much larger scale.
The issue of Qatar’s World Cup raises a host of questions that if addressed could contribute to a fundamentally cleaner governance of the sport. No issue is more fundamental than the question of the relationship between a sports and politics.

FIFA tying itself up in knots
It is a relationship that sports executives, politicians and government officials deny despite the fact that it is public and recognizable. The relationship has asserted itself repeatedly in recent months with decisions on referees made on political rather than professional grounds as well as FIFA’s refusal to apply its own rules in differences between Palestinians and Israelis under the mum of a separation of sports and politics.
The denial has long served as cover for sports executives, politicians and officials do whatever they want. In a bizarre and contradictory sequence of events, FIFA president Gianni Infantino in June rejected involving the group in the Gulf crisis by saying that “the essential role of FIFA, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics.”
Yet, on the same day that he made his statement, Mr. Infantino waded into the Gulf crisis by removing a Qatari referee from a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the request of the UAE. FIFA, beyond declaring that the decision was taken “in view of the current geopolitical situation,” appeared to be saying by implication that a Qatari by definition of his nationality could not be an honest arbiter of a soccer match involving one of his country’s detractors.
A demand last week by the Egyptian Football Federation (EFA) to disbar a Qatari from refereeing Egyptian and Saudi matches during next year’s World Cup in Russia puts FIFA in a position in which it will have to decide to either opt for professionalism over politics or also disbar game officials from Qatar’s distractors– Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – who have likewise been appointed for the tournament from refereeing politically sensitive matches.
FIFA’s tying itself up in knots in response to the Gulf crisis like the politics underlying corruption charges in New York cries out for putting the inextricable relationship between sports and politics on the table and developing ways to govern a relationship that is a fact of life. Legal proceedings in New York may force FIFA to clean up part of its act they won’t resolve the underlying structural problem.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and   Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa


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Murder of seven newsmen remain unsolved for years

Shakhawat Hossain

At least seven cases of journalist murder remained unsolved in Bangladesh in the past decade as 30 journalists, bloggers and writers were murdered with impunity since 1996 in this south Asian country.
This has been stated by Global Impunity Index 2017 of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in which Bangladesh has ranked 10th, downgrading from its previous number. Somalia ranked 1 among 12 countries where journalists are murdered and their killers yet to be punished, said the survey released recently. Among other South Asian countries Pakistan ranked 7 while India ranked 12. Bangladesh had ranked 11th in 2016 and 12th in 2015.

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Shakhawat Hossain

At least seven cases of journalist murder remained unsolved in Bangladesh in the past decade as 30 journalists, bloggers and writers were murdered with impunity since 1996 in this south Asian country.
This has been stated by Global Impunity Index 2017 of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in which Bangladesh has ranked 10th, downgrading from its previous number. Somalia ranked 1 among 12 countries where journalists are murdered and their killers yet to be punished, said the survey released recently. Among other South Asian countries Pakistan ranked 7 while India ranked 12. Bangladesh had ranked 11th in 2016 and 12th in 2015.

Cases are not moving
Despite some arrests, “only one murder from the past decade has been fully prosecuted,” the CPJ said in the report’s Bangladesh chapter, terming such development a setback.
CPJ said police arrested a member of the militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team last November who admitted involvement in the murders of two secular bloggers, Niloy Neel and Faisal Arefin Dipan, Since 2015, several suspects have been detained in these and other brutal attacks against secular bloggers and editors.
However, it said only in one case, that of Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was hacked to death in 2013, have the killers been convicted.
In 2015, two assailants stabbed and hacked blogger Avijit Roy to death as he was leaving a book fair in the Dhaka University campus area.  Roy’s wife was badly injured in the attack. Avijit, a naturalised US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, wrote blog posts on secular issues including atheism and free expression. Despite multiple leads and arrests, no one has been prosecuted.
CPJ’s Impunity Index calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.
For this index, CPJ examined journalist murders that occurred between September 1, 2007, and August 31, 2017, and that remain unsolved. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on this index.
It defines murder as a deliberate attack against a specific journalist in relation to the victim’s work. Murders make up nearly two thirds of work-related deaths among journalists, according to CPJ research.
On the other hand, murder trials of all the five bloggers are moving at a snail’s pace although three years have elapsed after the tragic incidents. Investigations into the cases are also going on slowly due to the reasons unknown.
Meanwhile, trial process remained stalled in a blogger murder case due to non-appearance of witnesses.

‘Witnesses unavailable’
The sensational blogger murder cases have been gathering dust at the offices of the Detective Branch (DB) of police and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) where the cases were shifted for their speedy and fair investigations.
Four bloggers — Avijit, Oyasiqur, Ananta and Niloy— were hacked to death by suspected militants during a period from February to August, 2015 in Dhaka and Sylhet.   Publisher Dipan, also owner of Jagriti Prokashoni, was killed in a similar manner in Dhaka in October that year.
The DB of police is investigating the cases. However, Ananta murder case is being handled by the CID.   Although investigation into blogger Oyasiqur murder case made some progresses but no significant progress was in sight in the investigations of other cases.
After each and every murder, investigation goes on in full swing for some time, but after a certain period it fizzles out, sources said.
After the murder of Avijit Roy on 26 February 2015, Dhaka CMM court fixed 22 dates for submitting its probe report, but DB police failed to submit it. On March 27, a Dhaka court once again ordered the investigation officer to submit the probe report by April 26.   In the month of February, DMP commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said submission of charge sheet in the murder case is at its final stage.
On August 7, 2015, blogger Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy was hacked to death at his Khilgaon residence in Dhaka.     Dhaka CMM Court fixed several dates asking the investigation officer to submit its probe report, but they failed to do so. On March 15, Magistrate Zakir Hossain Tipu directed the DB of police to submit the report by April 18.

Why this apathy?
On March 30, 2015, blogger and online activist Oyasiqur Rahman, was hacked to death by three youths while he was on his way to his office in the capital’s Tejgaon Industrial Area.   On July 20, 2016, the Third Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court in Dhaka started trial against five militants in the case. But the case got stalled for lack of prosecution witnesses. Salauddin Ahamed, additional public prosecutor of the court said, the case got stalled because even after arrest orders witnesses. They didn’t come. He didn’t say why they were not arrested.
On May 12, 2015, blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death in Sylhet city. Even two years the trial is yet to start.  The same with the case of Faisal Arefin Dipan, owner of Jagriti Publication, who was stabbed to death on 31 October 2015 in Dhaka.


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