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Early election: Why? Why not?

Shahid Islam

Sound bites are sweeter when they denote something in substance.  Recent utterances of some of the ruling party leaders, and the BNP’s reactive response relating to an early election, are brewing sweeter sound bites. The reality may be that these are empty talks to keep the otherwise vacuous political horizon splattered with some colours and coatings.
Then again, it may not just be a floating detraction to keep the public psyche engaged in an illusion. Let’s examine the pros and cons of this dangling dilemma.

Full Story

Shahid Islam

Sound bites are sweeter when they denote something in substance.  Recent utterances of some of the ruling party leaders, and the BNP’s reactive response relating to an early election, are brewing sweeter sound bites. The reality may be that these are empty talks to keep the otherwise vacuous political horizon splattered with some colours and coatings.
Then again, it may not just be a floating detraction to keep the public psyche engaged in an illusion. Let’s examine the pros and cons of this dangling dilemma.

Constitutional exigency
Elusive or not, the government is not constitutionally beholden to have an early election which can occur as late as the penultimate days of 2018. But, based on a rampart of tactical calculus, it may be wiser to have the electoral show staged earlier due to reasons that have turned somewhat imposing and unavoidable in recent days.
Foremost, the performance index of the ruling AL in governance within, diplomacy abroad, and in reining in intra-party bloodletting is showing an inexorable downward trend. Macro and micro economic indices are flip-flopping too. Ordinary people find it extremely harder to cope with the rising prices of electricity, food, house rents, and other indispensable chores of life.
Add to this the lingering stigma of the nation’s parliament not being a representational one, and, the ‘image crisis’ it sprouts almost daily when the nation’s diplomats wage their battle to pull the world to our side on a human carnage occurring across the border in Myanmar; resulting in huge influx of refugees into a land that is the most populated one on earth, based on the number of inhabitants sprawled per sq. km.
What an early election can do to ameliorate the above is an unknown of quantum perplexity. Yet, it can shift the agenda from the existential deadlock characterized by the domestic and global perceptions that the incumbent AL will keep ruling the nation by force; with backing of an external power that even does not vote in Bangladesh’s favour in the global podiums, on crucial matters like the Rohingya crisis.

BNP’s betting
The BNP and its electoral-political allies have been expecting an election within a year or so of the botched 2014 electoral fiasco; hoping that the government had—as pronounced and reiterated repeatedly—held the poll without participation of the other major political parties only to preserve the constitutional sanctity, as the BNP itself did in 1996, and a new election would put democracy to its deserved locomotive to pull the nation ahead.
Since that didn’t happen, and, the government managed to tighten its stranglehold on the labyrinth of the state apparatuses to cling onto power without a fresh mandate of the people, it should happen sooner, so believed, and do believe, the nation’s well-wishers at home and abroad.
Since the 2014 election, the EU, the USA, and almost all other external partners had advised and vouched time and again for an early election that the government managed to wriggle off and defer until now. This stands at the crux of Bangladesh’s stumbled political crisis; deterring domestic and international investments on pretexts that the political climate of the nation lacks signs of profound stability.
It may be time, given the way the geopolitics of the Bay of Bengal region is transforming to suck in global powers to the festering Rohingya crisis (see last issue of the weekly Holiday), that the government should seek a fresh mandate from the people to shore up the dearth of legitimacy that is bottlenecking the diplomatic efforts to cull the support of some UNSC members like China and Russia to compel Myanmar to take back its driven-out people, numbering almost a million, from the soil of our over-populated nation.

Indo-US complexity
The crisis is climaxing toward dreadful danger, and reasons are laced with external complexities. There’re many who believe India can impress upon this reality on the government to arrange a fresh election in Bangladesh sooner, to fix the domestic drags.
Another school of thought thinks India is unlikely to do that due to fear that the BNP and its Islamist allies will overwhelm in the electoral race. They think the USA, as the strategic pivot in the Indo-China power imbalance, can convince India to allow true democracy to flourish in Bangladesh so as to blunt the sharpness and the sanguinity of the Islamists who’re deemed as a common threat to liberal democracy.
The Bangladesh factor, based on such rationales and realities, has become an irritation to the USA and its NATO allies who are finding it hard to pull Delhi to their side to implement two things simultaneously: ensure representational democracy in Bangladesh, and, resolving the Rohingya crisis peacefully to stave off the ducked-in danger of an Islamic revival and armed militancy that poses potent danger to peace and security of the entire region.

Paving the way
Being mindful of such dangers, the regime of Sheikh Hasina may serve itself and the nation better by realizing the reality of its dwindling popularity, and the compulsiveness imposed by the external factors, to opt for an early election. For that to happen, dialogue must kick off sooner with the BNP to reset the so called rules of the electoral games, as well as to pave the ways, to ensure participation of all stakeholders in the upcoming electoral fray.
Failing to do so will compel external powers to set the agenda, change the goalpost, and score as many goals as they wish; without much deference to the will of what they think a ‘deficit regime’ in power.  This will also compromise the nation’s sovereignty in a manner that may engrave irreversibly into the minds of the posterity, while undoing everything our predecessors and we achieved together through diligence and inexplicable dedications.


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TAREQUE MASUD ROAD ACCIDENT
Unique HC verdict needs to be applicable to all victims

Faruque Ahmed

It is an exemplary punishment but how it will reach out to ordinary people dying every day in road accidents is the bigger question. The verdict of the High Court bench comprising Justice Zinat Ara and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo last week asking four accused to pay Tk 4.61 crore compensation to filmmaker Tareque Masud’s family is indeed a unique one. It is special in the sense it has recognized the right of the victims of road accidents to compensation.
But in the eyes of common people it appears somewhat unrealistic in practical sense of the term because they wonder whether in similar cases of road accidents all over the country the court will be able to give equal or equitable justice to all. The court made no secret that given the highly creative life of the filmmaker Tareque Masud no compensation is good enough to make up the loss to the family.

Full Story

Faruque Ahmed

It is an exemplary punishment but how it will reach out to ordinary people dying every day in road accidents is the bigger question. The verdict of the High Court bench comprising Justice Zinat Ara and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo last week asking four accused to pay Tk 4.61 crore compensation to filmmaker Tareque Masud’s family is indeed a unique one. It is special in the sense it has recognized the right of the victims of road accidents to compensation.
But in the eyes of common people it appears somewhat unrealistic in practical sense of the term because they wonder whether in similar cases of road accidents all over the country the court will be able to give equal or equitable justice to all. The court made no secret that given the highly creative life of the filmmaker Tareque Masud no compensation is good enough to make up the loss to the family.

How to implement it?
But the big question now is how the judicial system will treat the case of all road accident victims. They also deserve equal justice and the verdict should be an eye opener to our judicial system to reform the practice; which has so long ignored the right of the accident victims’ families to get similar justice.
Last year alone 6055 people died in road accidents as per available statistics  and the casualties were even bigger at 8,642 in the previous year. Death in road accidents is usually treated in our country as ordained by destiny, not from negligence of drivers and faulty transport vehicles.
The judgment for the first time has broken with the ongoing system of impunity to allow offenders go escort free. It has established that killing on roads and highways would not go unpunished. But given the huge amount of compensation, the verdict lacks clear instruction how the parties would pay and within what timeframe.
Moreover, it has not spelled out what will happen if they fail to pay. Many wonder the verdict may remain unimplemented without an effective and functional system for implementation. It needs an institutional system to deal with the cases of road accidents and how to compensate the families. It must require offenders, insurance companies and contributions from transport workers and owners organizations to pay for compensation.
There is no such system leaving deaths on roads and highways as nobody’s business and comes under nobody’s responsibility. The government is mocking with the public by paying Tk 20,000 as burial cost to victim’s families in some cases while a highly corrupt and selfish judicial system is protecting callous drivers and owners openly neglecting people’s safety.

A system is needed
Reports said existing law provides for a tribunal in every district to deal with compensation cases related to road accidents. But not every district has this tribunal and they are inoperative where they exist in absence of any cooperation of police and lower judiciary. Under the light of the latest High Court verdict the government can give push to build an effective system for trying road accident cases and pay adequate compensation to the victims’ families.
Besides, the verdict should have equally blamed faulty system of licensing of drivers causing growing road accidents every day. Party workers get driving license on instruction of ministers and government leaders and such system must come under legal scrutiny to compel them to share blame and compensation as well.
Law provides for a tribunal in every district to deal with compensation cases related to road accidents. But not every district has this tribunal and they are inoperative where they exist in absence of cooperation of police and lower judiciary.
Few people are lucky like Tareque Masud whose family was able to take the case direct to the High Court for hearing that resulted into the unique verdict. But ordinary people have no direct access to the High Court; they have to start at the lower courts and such litigations, if any one take to the court, die as a matter of routine in the process under misleading police reports and other in-built hassles.
People would like to see all such cases are treated equally.
There can’t be special cases and special verdicts. Justice must be dispensed to all in equal situation and our legal system must set practical standard to provide justice to all.
Masud and four others including noted TV programme producer Mishuk Mumir, a crewman and the driver of their microbus were crashed under the wheel of a bus in that accident at Manikgonj in August 2011.  Mishuk’s family has also demanded Tk 5.5 crore in compensation in a separate case and the same High Court bench is scheduled to give verdict in that case in February next.

The backroom orchestration
In Masud’s case, the High Court last week ordered three owners of the same bus to pay Tk 3.30 crore in compensation equally. The bus driver, who was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in February this year triggering nationwide transport strike for two days, has been asked to pay Tk 30 lakhs while the insurance company will have to pay Tk 80 lakhs. Obviously the compensation money will be almost double after the verdict in Mishuk Munir’s case.
Many believe the verdict is not enough; the question is how the victims’ families would get the money. In fact transport operators –such as workers trade unions and bus owners associations are so powerful that they can force the government to make compromise with court verdict. People don’t know what happened to the bus driver who was given long imprisonment in the accident case in question.
Reports say two ministers – one is leaders of transport workers federation and the other is the leader of bus owners association organized the nationwide transport strike in last February from behind the scene to force the government to withdraw the sentence of the driver.
They then openly negotiated with the government to end the strike and were able to end the strike. But there is no word how and on what terms the strike ended although it is everybody’s guess that they won relief for the driver in some way. Many fear the implementation of the latest verdict may face similar situation if parties are pushed to pay. The verdict on repayment seems equally confusing.
Question also arises whether families of two other persons killed in the accident will get compensation and at what rate. It is also not clear whether their families have sued for the compensation and the same High Court bench will also look for their case.


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CHINA-INDIA BALANCING FACTOR
Nepal completes final phase of voting

Abdur Rahman Khan

In spite of the opposition from a splinter group of Maoist, millions of people in Nepal took part in the final phase of elections on Thursday to elect  members of the national and provincial assemblies.
The vote will elect Nepal’s first provincial assemblies, whose members will name the seven states and draft provincial laws.
More than 15 million people were eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament - 165 through first-past-the-post and 110 on a proportional basis in both rounds. The northern, mountainous part of the country voted on Nov. 26. Counting of all the votes is expected to start Friday and take several days.

Full Story

Abdur Rahman Khan

In spite of the opposition from a splinter group of Maoist, millions of people in Nepal took part in the final phase of elections on Thursday to elect  members of the national and provincial assemblies.
The vote will elect Nepal’s first provincial assemblies, whose members will name the seven states and draft provincial laws.
More than 15 million people were eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament - 165 through first-past-the-post and 110 on a proportional basis in both rounds. The northern, mountainous part of the country voted on Nov. 26. Counting of all the votes is expected to start Friday and take several days.

Keenly contested polls
Police said voting was peaceful. Police, army soldiers and temporary police officers continued to guard polling stations and patrolling the streets.
Nepal emerged from a civil war in 2006 and abolished its 239-year-old Hindu monarchy two years later.
Voters this time will choose representatives to seven state assemblies for the first time since Nepal became a federal democracy under the first republican constitution in 2015.
“The country will achieve political stability after the election ...  and will move ahead solidly on the path of economic and social prosperity,” President Bidhya Devi Bhandari said in a statement.
Nepal has seen 10 government changes in as many years. Instability has given rise to corruption, retarded growth and slowed recovery from a 2015 earthquake that killed 9,000 people. The election pits the centrist Nepali Congress party of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who heads a loose alliance that includes the Madhesi parties from Nepal’s southern plains and former royalists, against a tight-knit alliance of former Maoists and the moderate Communist UML party.
The Nepali Congress party is considered a pro-India group, while the opposition alliance is seen as closer to China.
Nepal is a natural buffer between the two and the outcome could indicate whether China or India gets the upper hand in the battle for influence in a nation rich in hydropower and home to Mount Everest.
The Nepalese election comes as China is expanding its influence across Asia, including by ramping up investments in Nepal — a development that analysts say has rattled India, long the dominant Asian power in the country.
“Nepal has been liberated from dependency on only one neighbour,” Left Alliance leader Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said to a cheering crowd at a recent campaign rally in the city of Pokhara.
The Left Alliance has campaigned on a call to counter India’s dominance in Nepal with Chinese power.

A balancing game
On the other side, incumbent Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is widely thought to be pro-India, has called for balancing Indian and Chinese power.
India’s influence in Nepal was unrivaled for decades. The countries share an open border, thriving trade links and common religions and customs. But in the past several years, China has redoubled investments in Nepal, building up infrastructure that could increase trade between the two countries, and making plans to expand Nepal’s vast untapped hydropower infrastructure, which could yield large returns — and displace India’s dominance here.
Chinese investors have built roads, hospitals, colleges and malls and are drawing up plans to set up rail links and power transmission lines. At Kathmandu’s international airport, incoming travelers are greeted by a large advertisement of a “Made in China” mall that sells everything from rice cookers to doormats.
In Pokhara, a tourist hotspot in central Nepal, China is helping build a new airport, a huge development for the small landlocked country of 29 million. Ministerial visits between Kathmandu and Beijing have increased in the last two years, and scholarships and exchanges to China have created new opportunities for young Nepalis.
“China has been flooding Nepal with investment,” said Constantino Xavier, an analyst at Carnegie India. “That’s a big game-changing development. For the first time really, in the history of the country, China is giving Nepal an alternative to India.”
The option of a second friendly neighborhood giant gives Nepal a bargaining chip to resist India’s dominance in the country — a prospect that puts new emphasis on Nepali sovereignty.
In election rhetoric, this new focus on sovereignty is expressed in nationalistic, anti-India terms: restoring Nepal to a time before foreign countries dominated internal politics.


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Deadly conflicts rising within ruling alliance ahead of polls

Shakhawat Hossain

The Awami league led 14 party alliances is severely facing a political debacle not because of the conflict with its alliance partners but also for the uncontrollable internal feuds inside the party itself over establishing supremacy all over the country at a time when the issue of snap polls is being widely discussed. The Chief Election Commissioner has also expressed his readiness to hold polls at a short notice.

Full Story

Shakhawat Hossain

The Awami league led 14 party alliances is severely facing a political debacle not because of the conflict with its alliance partners but also for the uncontrollable internal feuds inside the party itself over establishing supremacy all over the country at a time when the issue of snap polls is being widely discussed. The Chief Election Commissioner has also expressed his readiness to hold polls at a short notice.

Besides, the latest statement of party’s general secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader cannot be ignored as he said “AL is ready to join snap polls at any time.” However, a political uncertainty still hangs in the balance as the disagreement over the nature of the poll-time government for the next general election still remains because the ruling Awami League and the main opposition BNP stick to their contentious grounds.

Conflicts within
Meanwhile, top Awami League leaders are learned to be worried about both the conflicts within the ruling alliance as they think that resolving the differences before the next parliamentary polls will be a big challenge for the alliance.
Awami League Presidium Member Faruq Khan has recently admitted that there were conflicts among the allies and said they were trying to resolve the disputes before the election.
A number of Awami League leaders and activists, on the other hand, have been complaining about activities of some alliance MPs. They alleged that most MPs from alliance members were only interested in lining their pockets.
Ruling party alliance partners have long been alleging that Awami League had been “ignoring” its allies after coming to power.
Besides, a number of Awami League leaders and activists, on the other hand, have been complaining about activities of some alliance MPs.  They alleged that most MPs from alliance members were only interested in lining their pockets.

In the latest incident, Information Minister and also chief of a faction of Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JaSaD) Hasanul Haq Inu had surprised the countrymen when he boldly claimed that the Awami League is incapable of winning general elections on its own, without the help of its allies.
Inu told a rally: “You (Awami League) alone account for 80 paisa. The combined value of Ershad, Dilip Barua, Menon and Inu is 20 paisa.”
“You will not be able to go to power as long as you cannot gather one taka. The Awami League cannot go to power in a thousand years if we (the allies) do not stand by it.”
Inu’s statement sparked speculations among political parties that JaSaD was unhappy with the Awami League.

AL vs. allies
Insiders say Inu and Hanif, both hailing from Kushtia, are engaged in a bitter power struggle in the district which is spilling over to the national level.
Their supporters have clashed several times in recent past. On October 6, a man was killed during a JaSaD-Awami League clash in Mirpur upazila over political dominance. On June 29, ten people were injured in a similar clash in the same upazila. Hanif, however, declined to comment on the conflicts.
An Awami League presidium member, seeking anonymity, however said that the Hanif-Inu conflict was negatively impacting the relations between the two parties.
While the Inu-Hanif rivalry is the most prominent among clashes between Awami League and its allies, there have been reports of further rifts between major leaders of the Awami League and its allies.
According to sources, Civil Aviation Minister and Workers Party chairman Rashed Khan Menon has a rift with an Awami League presidium member. There is also a reported discord between Bangladesh Tariqat Federation Chairman Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizbhandari and Awami League’s Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Housing and Public Works minister.
Inu heads a faction of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JaSaD) while Menon is the Workers Party chairman.
Awami League leaders say resolving the differences before the next parliamentary polls will be a big challenge for the ruling alliance.
In the alliance, the Awami League has 272 seats while Bangladesh Workers Party has seven, JaSaD six, Jatiya Party (JP Monju) one, Tariqat two, and Bangladesh Nationalist Front one.
Bangladesh Workers Party General Secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha claimed that the discord among the alliance members was because of ideological differences. “There are no personal conflicts among the alliance leaders,” he told the media.

AL allies to demand 100 seats
Partners of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance plan to demand more than 100 seats out of 300 in the Jatiya Sangsad, in the upcoming 11th general election. According to sources, they will put forward their demand once the AL high-ups start discussing allocation of seats with its allies. Of the alliance partners, Workers Party of Bangladesh wants 30-40 seats, two factions of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JaSaD) at least 20, Bangladesh Tariqat Federation 30, Shamyabadi Dal 5, Ganatantri Party 10-12, Gana Azadi League 5-6, National Awami Party (NAP) 20-25 and Communist Kendro and Ganatantrik Majdur Party want one seat each.
Leaders from the alliance parties said they are preparing lists of their candidates and they will send the lists to Awami League President and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina once completed.
A number of political parties, such as Tariqat Federation, Workers’ Party and Samyabadi Dal have already finalised their candidates, while others are in the process of preparing the lists, the alliance sources said.
According to Tariqat Federation Joint Secretary Syed Tayabul Bashar Maizbhandari, his party made a list of 120 eligible candidates across the country. “Thirty among the listed candidates have the necessary qualities to win in the upcoming election,” he added.
Meanwhile, Workers’ Party General Secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha told the newsmen: “We are preparing to contest from 50 constituencies, and will demand 30 seats from the 14-party alliance. But if our alliance chief gives us at least 15 seats, we will accept it.”
In the last national election held on January 5, 2014, the AL had allocated seven seats to the Workers’ Party, six to the JSD and two to the Tariqat Federation. The other partners of the alliance did not get any seats.
Apart from the inter-party conflicts among the allies, the ruling AL is losing its strength at the grass root level with regular infighting among its associate bodies over establishing supremacy all over the country, which poses a great threat to the overall law and order situation.

AL feuds intensifying
Although intra-party power struggle in the AL is nothing new, it appears to be intensifying with time as the next general election draws near. An influential quarter of the ruling party on November 16 obstructed the holding of a party program in the city. An extended meeting of the AL’s Dhaka South City unit was to be held at the Pearl Harbour Community Centre at Azimpur to make preparations for the party’s November 18 citizen’s rally to celebrate UNESCO’s recognition of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s March 7 speech at the Suhrawardy Uddyan.
Party insiders said that supporters of Dhaka South City mayor Sayeed Khokon literally prevented the meeting from being held by dumping garbage in front of the Pearl Harbour Community Centre at Azimpur where AL joint general secretary Dipu Moni and Food Minister Qamrul Islam were the chief guest and special guest, respectively. AL’s Dhaka South City unit general secretary Shahe Alam Murad accused the followers of Khokon of spoiling the event.  When contacted, Khokon denied the allegation of his involvement in the incident.
Food minister Qamrul Islam refused to comment on the issue. According to party sources, there is a longstanding tussle between supporters of Khokon and Murad.
On October 13, a car carrying Sajeda Chowdhury, deputy leader of Parliament, came under attack at the Talma intersection in Nagarkanda upazila of Faridpur district because of intra-party feuds. Sajeda’s motorcade was attacked allegedly by supporters of local AL leader Sheikh Jamal Hossain Mia.

AL MP attacked by her rival
Ruling party lawmaker Amatul Kibria Keya Chowdhury has been hospitalised after a fight between the two groups supporting her and a vice-chairman of Bahubal Upazila, Tara Mia, at a program in Habiganj.  The incident occurred in her presence in Habiganj on November 10. Tara Miah, a leader of the Jubo League upazila unit and his followers swooped on Keya while she was distributing cheques among the fire victims at the Bedepalli, said Upazila Nirhabi Officer Rafiqul Islam and Bahubal police station OC Mashuk Ali.
Police later brought the situation under control resorting to baton charge and chasing the clashing groups, he said. Ruling party lawmaker Keya, from female reserve seat-28, said the attackers also snatched her mobile phone. As she fell sick after the assault and she was taken to MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital in Sylhet.


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4,440 HR violation in 6 months in Bangladesh

Special Correspondent

The number of human rights violations rose to 4,440 in the last 6 months from January to June this year as there are more than 23 human rights violation incidents every day on an average in Bangladesh.
After monitoring the overall situation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recently come up with such an alarming observation on human rights violation across the country.

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Special Correspondent

The number of human rights violations rose to 4,440 in the last 6 months from January to June this year as there are more than 23 human rights violation incidents every day on an average in Bangladesh.
After monitoring the overall situation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recently come up with such an alarming observation on human rights violation across the country.

According to the officials of the state human rights organisation, though incidents of human rights violations in the country are not new, recently it is increasing at alarming rates. People are becoming the victims of killings. Innocent children are also not being spared from such brutal incidents.
People are missing or disappeared. Many people are suddenly being fall to the prey of enforced disappearance from the house, office and roads suddenly. Events happening around the clock. Many people are being victimized by extrajudicial killings in the hands of the law enforcement agencies. Tortures are taking place in the case of women d and children.
National Human Rights Commission, which observes the overall human rights situation in the country regularly on the basis of the news reports published in the media, prepare a monthly statistics on human right violation in the country.
According to the data of ‘Human Rights Violence Statistics 2017’, there were more than four thousand human rights violations in the 6 months from January to June. This includes 855 killings. 52 people have been missing or disappeared. 83 people were killed in extra judicially in gun battle. Children are also not being spared. A total of 129 children have been killed while 123 children were tortured during the period.
Besides, a total of 127 students faced inhuman punishment in their respective educational institutions. As violence against women increased, 306 rape cases occurred in the first 6 months of the year.  More than 299 women have been victims of sexual violence, family violence, acid attacks, and others. At the same time, 193 people were abducted while 93 workers were also killed in various inhuman incidents, said the NHRC.
The monitoring report of NHRC also alleged that human rights violations were carried out by the police who are in charge of protecting the law and order in the country. A total of 127 complaints of human rights violations in different parts of the country were lodged against police. Terming the road accidents a human rights violation, the NHRC in its observation said that a total of 1,853 passengers and pedestrians have died in road accidents in the last 6 months.
NHRC monthly statistics show that the highest number of human rights violations occurred in April – 857 and in January, 361 human rights violations took place, the lowest. However, there are over 7 hundred human rights violations on an average per month during this six-month period.
In the latest development, former Bangladesh ambassador to Qatar and Vietnam Maroof Zaman remains missing since Monday (4 December) night after he left his Dhanmondi home in his private car to pick up his daughter from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. The 61-year-old’s youngest daughter Samiha Zaman was scheduled to land at the airport at 7:30pm, said Rifat Zaman, the ex-diplomat’s brother.
The family of the ambassador, in a press release, said police, however, recovered his car from Khilkhet in the evening. It also mentioned that around 7:45 the ambassador contacted with his family over phone to tell that some people would come to take his computer and instructed them to cooperate. Shortly after that, three tall, well-dressed men came to the house around 8:05pm, took his laptop, home phone’s CPU, his camera and smart phone and searched his room thoroughly, it said.
Earlier on November 26, a Dhaka University unit leader of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal Mujahidur Rahman disappeared after leaving his Sher-e-Bangla Nagar home in the capital. He is a master’s student of Political Science and senior joint secretary of Salimullah Muslim Hall unit of the pro-BNP student body.  His wife Kamrunnahar Lucky filed a GD with Sher-e-Bangla police on November 29.
With Maroof and Mujahidur, 14 people including the NSU teacher, a journalist and a number of businessmen, went missing, in recent months. Four of them returned while there is no trace of others.


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Trump’s Jerusalem recognition: Letting a genie out of the bottle

James M. Dorsey

US President Donald J. Trump has let a genie out of the bottle with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intent to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In taking his decision, Mr. Trump was implementing long standing US policy dating back to the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama even if none of them were willing to put it into practice.

Full Story

James M. Dorsey

US President Donald J. Trump has let a genie out of the bottle with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intent to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In taking his decision, Mr. Trump was implementing long standing US policy dating back to the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama even if none of them were willing to put it into practice.

Saudis, UAE, Egypt are in it
The key to judging Mr. Trump’s move is the politics behind it and the black swan embedded in it. Recognizing Jerusalem formally as the capital of Israel may well kill two birds at the same time: boost the president’s standing among evangelists and conservatives at home and give him leverage to negotiate what he has dubbed the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
There is no doubt that the move will boost Mr. Trump’s popularity among his supporters and financial backers like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and allow him to assert that he has fulfilled a campaign promise.
Far less certain is whether, Mr. Trump will be willing or able to constructively leverage his move to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. His move moreover risks sparking an uncontrollable sequence of events.
US officials have been tight-lipped about peace plans being developed by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and chief Israeli-Palestinian negotiator.
Almost the only confirmed fact about Mr. Kushner’s strategy is that, based on his close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he is advocating what he describes as an outside –in approach.  In this scenario, Saudi Arabia would ensure Arab backing for a peace plan put forward by Mr. Kushner.
Prince Mohammed’s United Arab Emirates counterpart, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, working through Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has helped put a key building block in place by facilitating reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions, Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Al Fatah movement and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controlled the Gaza Strip.
The problem with that scenario is that implicit in US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s denial, is a rejection of the notion that any Israeli Palestinian peace deal would have to involve either West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital or shared control of Jerusalem as a whole that would serve as the capital of both states.

Treading dangerously
The rejection of that notion would stroke with readouts of a visit to Riyadh last month by Mr. Abbas in which the Saudi crown prince reportedly laid out the peace plan he had discussed with Mr. Kushner.  According to that readout by Palestinian officials as well as European and Arab diplomats, East Jerusalem would not be the Palestinian capital.
Moreover, the future Palestinian state would consist of non-contiguous parts of the West Bank to ensure that Israeli settlements in the area remain under Israeli control. Finally, Palestinians would have to surrender their demand for recognition of the right of return for Palestinians who fled Israel/Palestine during the 1948 and 1967 wars.
Beyond the fact that it is hard to see how any Palestinian leader could sign up for the plan, it threatens, coupled with Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, to inflame passions that Prince Mohammed and other Arab autocrats may find difficult to control.
In a region that increasingly and brutally suppresses any form of dissent or protest, Prince Mohammed and other Arab leaders could risk fuelling the fire by seeking to suppress demonstrations against Mr.  Trump’s decision and what Arab and Muslim public opinion would perceive as a sell-out of Palestinian rights.
The situation would become even more tricky if protests, as is likely, would first erupt in Palestine and be countered with force by the Israeli military. It is a scenario in which anti-US, anti-Israel protests in Arab capitals could quickly turn into ant-government manifestations.
Palestinian groups have already called for three days of rage.  Protests would likely not be restricted to Middle Eastern capitals but would probably also erupt in Asian nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In some ways, protests may well be the purpose of the exercise. There is no way of confirming whether the readout provided to officials and diplomats by Mr. Abbas of his meeting with Prince Mohammed is accurate.

Highly combustible proposition
In what amounts to a dangerous game of poker, that readout could well serve multiple purposes, including an effort by Mr. Abbas to boost his position at home by projecting himself as resisting US and Saudi pressure.
Against a history of less than accurate media reporting and official statements often designed to maintain a façade rather than reality, Saudi media reported that King Salman warned Mr. Trump that any decision to move the US Embassy before a permanent peace settlement had been achieved would inflame the Muslim world.
While Prince Mohammed and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu see eye to eye in viewing Iran rather than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the region’s core issue, it’s hard to imagine that the crown prince, a man who has proven that he is not averse to unwarranted risks and gambles, would surrender demands for Muslim control of at least part of Islam’s third most holy city. It’s equally unfathomable that he would allow for a situation in which the kingdom’s position as the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina could be called into question.
Public Saudi backing for Mr. Trump’s recognition and any plan to grant Israel full control of Jerusalem would see the genie turning on the kingdom and its ruling family. Not only with public protests but also with demands by Iran that Saudi Arabia be stripped of its custodianship and that Mecca and Medina be put under some kind of pan-Islamic administration.
In other words, Mr. Trump and potentially Prince Mohammed, are playing a game that could lead to a second phase of this decade’s popular revolts and a serious escalation of an already dangerous Saudi-Iranian rivalry that is wreaking havoc across the Middle East.
With his recognition of Jerusalem, Mr. Trump has likely closed the door on any public or Arab support for a peace plan that falls short of what is minimally acceptable to the Palestinians. Moreover, by allowing speculation to flourish over what he has in mind with his ultimate Israeli-Palestinian deal, Mr. Trump has potentially set a ball rolling that neither he nor Arab autocrats may be able to control.

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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Amid allies’ concern, AL forging ties with Islamic parties

Shakhawat Hossain

Defying the concern of the allies, the ruling Awami League has reportedly undertaken a strategy to bring the Islamic political parties under its banner ahead of the next parliamentary polls as the party high-ups think that the tiny religion-based political parties may be a factor to woo some 10 million voters.

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Shakhawat Hossain

Defying the concern of the allies, the ruling Awami League has reportedly undertaken a strategy to bring the Islamic political parties under its banner ahead of the next parliamentary polls as the party high-ups think that the tiny religion-based political parties may be a factor to woo some 10 million voters.

The party has already entrusted one of its top leaders to maintain regular communications with religion-based political parties aiming at increasing the voting gap with its arch rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The BNP, which remains outside of parliament as it boycotted the last parliamentary polls, is likely to join the upcoming elections.
The “secular” AL also thinks of floating a religion-based wing with representatives from the Islamic scholars and thinkers although the allies of the ruling party are highly critical of the strategy.
As part of the plan, the party has already started developing relations with various religion-based political parties and Qawmi followers.
Amidst a demand from Hefazat-e-Islam, the AL-led government has, meanwhile recognised the certificates of Qawmi Madrasa and extended support to remove the statue of the lady Justice from the Supreme Court premises. Subsequently, the SC authorities had removed the statue from in front of the Appellate Division and installed it again in front of the Annex Building.
“All these efforts are being carried out targeting the next elections,” said an AL leader wishing not to be named. The recognition of Qawmi Madrasa certificate is also a part of an election strategy, he said.
The AL religious affairs secretary Sheikh Abdullah at a recent meeting proposed the floating of a new wing with Islamic Scholars and thinkers, the AL leader said. Abdullah, on AL’s behalf has long been maintaining liaison with other Islamic parties.
In this regard, JSD President and Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu has categorically said, “It will become suicidal if the Awami League does politics compromising with Hefazat. He also hoped that the AL would not make any such agreement with the Islamist parties.
Workers Party of Bangladesh president and civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon described the statue’s removal as ‘surrender of the government to the extremist religious forces’.
Despite the concern of the allies, a senior AL leader said the Islamist groups control about one crore voters, who would put a positive impact in the elections. “Being the leader of a political party, calculating votes ahead of the polls is a must,” he added.
Meanwhile, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader also described the relationship with the Islamist parties ‘a strategy’.
“It is not a compromise with Hefazat-e-Islam by recognising the Qawmi Madrasa certificates. It is a political and social reality. The decision has been taken in line with the emotions of the people,” he said.
The Hefazat-e Islam is a tightly-knit coalition of a dozen or so Islamist organisations which have come together under one umbrella only in recent years. The organisations in the Hefazat coalition are based at more than 25,000 madrassas, or religious schools, across Bangladesh.
Islamic hardliner Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmed Shafi has, however, said that they will not support anyone or contest in the upcoming parliamentary elections, while he was presiding over a religious congregation (shan-e-resalat) organised by the group on the premises of Jamiatul Falah Mosque in Chittagong recently. “Hefazat has no political goals. It does not have amity or enmity with anybody for political gains,” he said.


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