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Sadeq Khan and ‘Battle for Bangladesh’

Shahid Islam in Toronto

 
We’re saddened, grieved and traumatized by the sudden demise of our peer journalist and columnist, Sadeq Khan, who had attained the stature of an immutable icon in journalism, and of the Weekly Holiday, since the paper’s inception in the 1960s.
We pray for his departed soul to rest in peace while our mission to dig up truths and analyze them shall continue; more so in deference to the memories of the deceased Enayetullah and Sadeq Khans, the veritable siblings and the duo who had catapulted the English language journalism in Bangladesh to its existential commendable height.
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Shahid Islam in Toronto

 
We’re saddened, grieved and traumatized by the sudden demise of our peer journalist and columnist, Sadeq Khan, who had attained the stature of an immutable icon in journalism, and of the Weekly Holiday, since the paper’s inception in the 1960s.
We pray for his departed soul to rest in peace while our mission to dig up truths and analyze them shall continue; more so in deference to the memories of the deceased Enayetullah and Sadeq Khans, the veritable siblings and the duo who had catapulted the English language journalism in Bangladesh to its existential commendable height.
Recipes for authoritarianism
Amidst these hours of mourning, we find how realistically Sadeq Khan’s last article, Battle for Bangladesh (in last issue of Holiday), is playing out in all fronts. This is a battle for the soul of this nation; for democracy, good governance, rule of law and human rights. This is also a battle to uplift the fates of over forty millions adrift, dispossessed Bangladeshis languishing in the fringe to subsist and survive.
Sadeq Khan’s favourite theme for decades has centered on the fear of autocracy within, and intervention from without, that he feared would eat up the mosses of democratic aspirations and the embedded values of this 165 million-strong nationhood.     
The latest melodrama relating to the arrest on May 15 of BNP’s joint secretary general, Aslam Chowdhury, is a perfect illustration of how mendacity, deflection, obfuscation and deception had combined to shape up the political landscape of Bangladesh into a hotbed of contention between regional and global powers.
The ongoing episodes constitute the theoretical constructs and the variables that are indispensible to sustaining any authoritarian regime. As the mass must be hoodwinked into believing what in reality is false, such a stratagem will keep playing out in coming days too.
The battle for Bangladesh is not for secularism or Islam per se; it’s about holding onto power by using such idioms, fluid perceptions, and dogmatic sensationalism as the pretexts to annihilate all forms of opposition against an un-representative, corrupt regime that is scared of undiluted public opinion to be the source of all political powers.
That’s why each damning story of the regime’s ill-doings has to be camouflaged by cooked up ill-doings of its perceived and real contestants for power. The latest saga of an Israeli-BNP collusion to upstage the government is no exception, as our investigation reveals.
 
The real story
The ruling AL was already stitching up deals with Israel long before Aslam Chowdhury’s visit to India and his picture-posed ‘conspiracy’ with a little known Likud party activist, Mendi Safadi, whose political profile didn’t transcend the bounds of being only an assistant/aide to a deputy minister of the Israeli cabinet.
Our investigation reveals Mendi Safadi is a former aide to a Druze Likud deputy cabinet minister, Ayoub Kara, and he does not hold any portfolio in the Likud party. Besides, for years now, Delhi has become the gateway to Bangladesh. It’s not a coincidence that Chowdhury was framed and invited to travel to India where the global Zionist apparatuses have entrenched interest and operational outlets. As per the blue print, Chowdhury was seduced and entrapped for a photo-op that could be propagated as BNP’s budding collusion with Israel’s secret service, Mossad, to overthrow an otherwise unrepresentative regime in Bangladesh.
The conspiratorial attribute of the theory, that aims to unseat the Hasina regime, is much more problematic. Israel being a solid democracy, the theory is flawed at the seams if not tagged to the desire of the Zionist nation to install democracy in Bangladesh, for which they have little interest.     
Yet, such an unethical and deceptive stratagem was much needed to deflect a real story of the incumbent AL regime buying huge IT operation technology from a US-based Israeli firm, Verint, the market value for which is estimated to exceed US$2 billion.
The deal came to the attention of other global spy operatives in late 2015, and, according to Jimmy Johnson of global research.ca., the deal fashioned with the Israeli firm “aimed at enabling Bangladesh government to indulge in mass wire-tapping by using Unit 8200, which is the technology division of the Israeli military’s Intelligence Corps.”
 
The Verint deal
A former Unit 8200 member, Idan Tendler, claimed in March 2015 that, “Instead of relying on outside research and development, the 8200’s technologists work directly with their ‘customers’ (the intelligence officers). All of the unit’s technology systems, from analytics to data mining, intercept and intelligence management, are designed and built in-house. Technologists sit side by side with their users on a daily basis to ensure that their ‘products’ meet the intelligence officers’ specific requirements.”
The above narrative not only exposes the unexpected opening up by the ruling AL of Bangladesh’s national security secrets to an Israeli firm, the project’s implementation requires military to military collaborations with the Israeli military.
More than one source had confirmed to the Holiday that the deal with the Israeli firm was brokered by the IT adviser to the government, on behalf of the National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC) that came into existence in 2010.
According to another source, the AL government had expanded its mass wire-tapping capability from 5,000 in 2010 to 50,000 by 2013, and wants to triple that capacity by using the Verint technology.
Although Verint had sold similar mass telecom surveillance systems to India, Mexico and to the USA, the firm was implicated in the USA, along with another Israeli firm, in the latest National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping scandal.
“In order to deflect public attention from this ongoing AL-Israel business and intelligence collaborations, Indian intelligence outfit R&AW arranged BNP leader Aslam Chowdhury’s visit and meeting in India with a Likud party operative and offered the Israeli and other media outlets the pictures taken of that meeting,” claimed a reliable source.
 
Conspiracy theory
Such a conspiracy theory earned more credence when  a ruling party MP, Abdul Mannan, wrote in the Daily Sun on-May 14, only a day before Mr. Chowdhury’s arrest, that, “Mossad would very much like to enter Bangladesh with the help of Bangladesh’s leading political party BNP, and to this end a number of meetings were held between one of the Joint Secretaries of BNP, Aslam Chowdhury, in Calcutta, Delhi and London with a covert operative of Mossad, Mendi N Safadi, (who’s)a senior member of Israel’s Likud Party who overtly holds the post of the CEO of International Diplomacy and Public Relations in Israel with strong ties with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Mannan added, “Mossad’s two Bangladeshi agents, Shipan Kumar Basu and journalist Sanjib Chowdhury, who formerly worked with BNP mouthpiece the daily ‘Amar Desh’ and a private TV channel owned by a senior BNP leader were also present in these meetings. Basu is alleged to be a fulltime operative of Mossad in Bangladesh. In the meetings it was agreed that Mossad would help overthrow the present government of Sk. Hasina and once their government of choice is installed Bangladesh will open its doors for Israel and Mossad.”
This and other recent incidents show how alarmingly the battle for Bangladesh is shaping up and how clandestinely the battle lines are being drawn.  Had Sadeq Khan been alive today, he would have found a lot more interest in researching such a story, which is intrinsically related to Bangladesh’s national security; a subject he loved the most to dig up and disseminate to his beloved readers. This helpless nation will miss you, Sadeq Bhai.

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Comments: Very informative column. India has already ensured a strong tie with Israel in meeting her intelligence (military as well)needful. Is the present AL regime of Bangladesh following a suit? How the USA and China are going to react in such changing scenario. How the opposition (BNP) is going to be affected at the present political situation? All these questions have put us in a new worrying paradigm. May I expect more inputs/analyses from the learned author?
Commented by : siddiq



A TRULY MULTIFACETED GENIUS

Requiem for journalist  Sadeq Khan

A.U.M. Fakhruddin

Notwithstanding the inevitability of departing this life for eternal rest, some deaths are hard to reconcile with, because the void left by death will not be filled before long as the deceased’s accomplishments and significant contributions to his country were exceptionally outstanding. Ekushey Padak winner, eminent journalist and columnist Sadeq Khan (1936 – 2016), a leading light in the intellectual arena, who passed away on 16 May, was one such nonpareil personality. Contributing Editor of the weekly Holiday since its inception in  September 1965, he was actively involved in the 1952 Rastrabhasha Andolon (the Language Movement) and was a central leader of the Communist Party, then a banned political entity. 
Full Story

A.U.M. Fakhruddin

Notwithstanding the inevitability of departing this life for eternal rest, some deaths are hard to reconcile with, because the void left by death will not be filled before long as the deceased’s accomplishments and significant contributions to his country were exceptionally outstanding. Ekushey Padak winner, eminent journalist and columnist Sadeq Khan (1936 – 2016), a leading light in the intellectual arena, who passed away on 16 May, was one such nonpareil personality. Contributing Editor of the weekly Holiday since its inception in  September 1965, he was actively involved in the 1952 Rastrabhasha Andolon (the Language Movement) and was a central leader of the Communist Party, then a banned political entity. 
The moment of truth
Lt. Gen.Tikka Khan, the “Butcher of Bengal”, killed 7,000 people in Dhaka on the night of 25 March 1971. The Pakistani military junta cracked down to perpetrate genocide styled ‘Operation Searchlight’. The entire scenario was in a flux and utter confusion pervaded: the Liberation War started—-that was Sadeq Khan’s moment of truth to respond to the call of the motherland.
Through his analytical cogently argued articles in both English and Bengali, Sadeq Bhai championed the cause of the people’s civil liberties till the last day of his life.
Unquestionably a multifaceted genius, the late lamented Sadeq Bhai was gracious and soft-spoken; and his delightful smile gave the impression of his dignified personality. Almost certainly he was incapable of being annoyed or inconsiderate. 
The late Sadeq Khan was the eldest son of former Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly, Justice Abdul Jabbar Khan. The Weekly Holiday and the daily New Age founding Editor Enayetullah Khan Mintu, poet Abu Zafar Obaidullah Sentu, civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon, BNP vice-chairperson Mrs Selima Rahman and New Age and Holiday publisher ASM Shahidullah Khan Badal are his siblings. He is survived by wife Anjuman Chowdhury Khan and son Kishon Khan. This scribe vividly remembers how—-some two decades back—-he could produce splendid editorials for the daily The Independent on fiscal strategy, monetary policy problems and on other intricate topics amid hustle and bustle of the National Press Club lounge or in the hubbub of the Sonargao Hotel’s lobby. He did this with astonishing speed, seldom going through reference materials.
 
Oeuvres of painters
Basically a student of Physics that deals with motion, structure of atoms, cryogenics and what have you, Sadeq Khan later became an ardent student of the liberal arts, and in course of time a painting aesthete. He became keen on the oeuvres of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, Sheikh Mohammad Sultan, Quamrul Hassan, Murtaza Baseer, Rashid Choudhury, Shafiuddin Ahmed, Mohammad Kibria, Hamidur Rahman, Aminul Islam, Syed Jahangir et al. Afterwards he had a scrupulous exposure to masters of the European art during his long stay in London. His art reviews had a liberal tone because he felt that painters deserve encouragement.
 
In the realm of the cinema
Based on Padma Nodir Majhi of Manik Bondyopadhyaya’s novel directed by A J Kardar’s (1926–2002) classic film Jago Huwa Savera was the first movie made in this country to win international award. This inspired young Sadeq Khan to work in serious films. Sadeq Khan played the protagonist’s roles in Kardar’s 1958 motion picture Dur Hei Sukh Ka Gao, and Mohiuddin’s 1964 movie Raja Elo Shohoray.
Italian Neorealism film movement and its proponents like Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti and Rossellini immensely influenced him much. This young aficionado’s passionate pursuit for the cinema—-then used to be called the liveliest art—-took him to India.
Then Indian Central Minister for Education, writer and educationalist, Humayun Kabir got an unanticipated surprise at his official residence in New Delhi as he glanced at the unacquainted young man in his early thirties asking for the movie right for his celebrated novel Nodi O Nari set in rural Bengal. Sadeq Bhai offered adequate amount in Pound Sterling as author’s royalty fee. Thus the approval was obtained.
Released on 30 July 1965, the film Nodi O Nari, based on the well-loved novel of the same title, remains a reference work in cinema appreciation course, was directed and produced by Sadeq Khan. Director of some 15 documentaries, he produced two movies —- Karwan and Kyaise Kahun.
As if to complete a cycle in cosmic scheme, Sadeq Bhai died just one day after the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at which Jago Huwa Savera was screened in the classic section. What a paradox!
 
National Press Club
Colleagues, academicians, politicians and a host of known and unknown mourners paid their last respect Sadeq Khan before funeral prayers at National Press Club on Tuesday. He died at his Baridhara residence in the capital at the age of 84. Khan’s mortal remains were brought to National Press Club where a host of his colleagues and admirers paid their last respect.
Former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University Emajuddin Ahamed, BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed, Association of Television Channel Owners president Mosaddak Ali, Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalist leader Manjurul Islam Bulbul, National Press Club president Shafiqur Rahman, general secretary Qamrul Islam Chowdhury, Workers Party general secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha were among the participants in the funeral prayers.
Sadeq Khan was laid to rest in his father’s grave at Banani graveyard.
During the Liberation War, Sadeq Khan worked with the government in exile and was informally assigned for logistic support and external publicity, keeping connection with the Sector Commanders and cultural activists. He also worked for mobilising global support in favour of the war of independence getting in touch with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury in London and Andre Malreaux in France, in October-November 1971.
He was also the honorary Chairman of Bangladesh Press Institute and honorary president of Alliance Française de Dhaka.
The Holiday Editor Sayed Kamaluddin, and his colleagues—Shamsuddin Ahmed, Abdur Rahman Khan, Faruque Ahmed, Sakhawat Hossain and this writer —have lost an elder brother, caring guardian and a friend in need. 
May the soul of Sadeq Khan rest in eternal peace.

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Fleeting moments and freedom of expression

Fazal M. Kamal

 
To begin with we must thank the Brits, a.k.a. the one-time colonial masters of the South Asian subcontinent and other places, for introducing rules, regulations, laws, et al meant specifically to curb the enthusiasm of the press. Hence the very first censorship law in this region was enacted, in their wisdom, way back in 1799. Yes, you read that right: back in 1799.
Since then, as history is my witness, we, i.e. the government operating on behalf of the people and for their welfare, haven’t stopped promulgating new regulations and newer modes of tightening the leash on the media.
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Fazal M. Kamal

 
To begin with we must thank the Brits, a.k.a. the one-time colonial masters of the South Asian subcontinent and other places, for introducing rules, regulations, laws, et al meant specifically to curb the enthusiasm of the press. Hence the very first censorship law in this region was enacted, in their wisdom, way back in 1799. Yes, you read that right: back in 1799.
Since then, as history is my witness, we, i.e. the government operating on behalf of the people and for their welfare, haven’t stopped promulgating new regulations and newer modes of tightening the leash on the media.
Govt.’s pugnacious approach
Not all that amazingly, even in 2014, that is after a lapse of three hundred years in one direction, and two years ago in another direction, this was what this scribe had observed: “Now, in addition to all these acts meant to intimidate and stifle all dissenting voices, newer ‘policies’ are being enacted to monitor the electronic media; policies that include controlling even the minutest details of discussions on the TV. Evidently all this is in line with the fears that New Age editor Nurul Kabir expressed: ‘Given the fact that the incumbents of the day have closed two television stations and two mainstream newspapers, it’s only natural that they are planning to control the media in general for their own political convenience. This is a clear violation of democratic freedom of exprsession of the media as well as of the people in general.’”
This writer’s observation went on to state, “Moreover, the apparent plan of the government not to provide any space to its political adversaries clearly cannot bode well for the country. A pugnacious approach, as adopted by the governing party and the administration, with the enthusiastic complicity of the state’s security apparatus, can only keep tension and uncertainty at an unnecessarily elevated level … Given the extant backdrop, it won’t be incongruous to quote Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch who said only a couple of weeks back, ‘The situation in Bangladesh is spiraling into a human rights crisis, with the possible return of suspicious killings by security forces, which we haven’t seen in recent years. The governing Awami League complained bitterly about crossfire killings while in opposition, but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything to stop them now that it’s in power. It’s time for the prime minister to make a public statement condemning killings and torture, and hold the security forces accountable.’”
 
How horrifyingly predictable
It’s horrifying how appropriately predictable the situation was feared to evolve even two years back. As a consequence, not only does Bangladesh right now has a plethora of laws and acts—-with more on the way still—-that can ensnare any opinion or news outlet in any number of ways but additionally there’s a palpable apprehension of falling afoul of the powers that be if merely the “wrong” kind of comments are made or if any act of omission or commission is even perceived to be “unpalatable”. In these circumstances the continued incarceration of a number of senior media professionals in no way alleviates the fretfulness of those who must labour away at the only profession they know and, more importantly, the only vocation they prefer to practice.
The fact, however, is that right now efforts to throttle and/or emasculate the media and intimidate media practitioners have become a worldwide phenomenon, even a race for a crown. Apparently, governments of two countries seem to be trying their damndest to outdo each other in this sphere with, probably, Egypt, at this moment at least, beating out Turkey by a nostril. Certainly, dozens of other administrations around the world are taking full advantage of the so-called war on terror to subdue free expression in order to perpetuate their grip on state power—-fleeting it may be when viewed against the canvas of history.
But then, we can only assume, the pull of power, pelf and authority is so overwhelming that rulers have more often than not opted to experience that irresistible ephemeral moment in the space time continuum. Realities be damned—-as exemplified by administration leaders claiming after every unsolved murder, it’s only an “isolated incident.”
For now though let me conclude with the words be of theorist, economist, philosopher and revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, “Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself…”
This will serve us well—-only if we know how to heed.

 


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Punishing a teacher humiliates the nation

Abdur Rahman Khan

Amidst a nation-wide condemnation and protest against the humiliation of a school teacher in Narayanganj, the High Court in a suo moto rule on Wednesday asked the concerned authorities as to why legal measures should not be taken against MP Salim Osman and others liable for the offence.
The bench of justices Md Moinul Islam Chowdhury and Md Iqbal Kabir also asked the local authorities in the district to submit a report on what lawful measures have been taken following the incident last week.
 
HC asked for action
Earlier on Friday, Syamal Kanti Bhakta, headmaster of the Piyar Sattar Latif High School, was made to do sit-ups holding his ears in the presence of the Jatiya Party MP after being assaulted for his alleged remarks hurting religious sentiments.
Meanwhile, the managing committee of Piyar Sattar Latif High School suspended headmaster Shyamal Kanti Bhadra from his post on Tuesday.
Full Story

Abdur Rahman Khan

Amidst a nation-wide condemnation and protest against the humiliation of a school teacher in Narayanganj, the High Court in a suo moto rule on Wednesday asked the concerned authorities as to why legal measures should not be taken against MP Salim Osman and others liable for the offence.
The bench of justices Md Moinul Islam Chowdhury and Md Iqbal Kabir also asked the local authorities in the district to submit a report on what lawful measures have been taken following the incident last week.
 
HC asked for action
Earlier on Friday, Syamal Kanti Bhakta, headmaster of the Piyar Sattar Latif High School, was made to do sit-ups holding his ears in the presence of the Jatiya Party MP after being assaulted for his alleged remarks hurting religious sentiments.
Meanwhile, the managing committee of Piyar Sattar Latif High School suspended headmaster Shyamal Kanti Bhadra from his post on Tuesday.
The court asked the home secretary, Narayanganj’s deputy commissioner, superintendent of police, officer-in-charge of Bandar police station and the union executive officer to respond to its rule within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the ruling 14-Party coalition led by Awami League has demanded that the teacher who has been sacked after public humiliation for alleged blasphemy be reinstated to his job.
Coalition Spokesperson Mohammed Nasim spoke to reporters after a meeting at the Awami League chief’s political office in Dhaka on Wednesday amidst a wave of protests against the incident.
“An injustice has been done to the teacher by dismissing him from the job after humiliating, insulting him on the pretext (of blasphemy),” the Awami League leader said. Nasim, the health minister, said, “The Member of Parliament could not maintain his (own) honour. He rather disgraced the other MPs. The role he played as an MP is not cannot be accepted in any way.” Earlier on Wednesday, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said stern action will be taken against those involved in assaulting a school headmaster in Narayanganj once the probe report is available. The minister remarked while talking to reporters at the secretariat in the morning.
Replying to a query, Nahid said two probe bodies, formed to investigate the sensitive issue, have been working to find out the people involved in humiliating the teacher. Voicing utter shock at the incident, Nahid said the incident left a black stain on the country’s people.
 
Public outrage
On May 13, local people beat Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, headmaster of Piyar Sattar Latif High School in Bandar upazila of Narayanganj district, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. At one stage, local MP AKM Selim Osman forced him to do sit-ups holding his ears.
The incident went viral on the social media triggering huge criticisms across the country.
Writers, artists, teachers and students have held a demonstration at Shahbagh in front of the National Museum on Tuesday to condemn the humiliation of a schoolteacher in Narayanganj.
The demonstrators demanded punishment for MP AKM Salim Osman and his cohorts involved in the incident. A banner read: “Not just one teacher, but the whole of Bangladesh was made to do sit-ups holding its ears.” About 300 people from all walks of life, including human rights activists, joined the demonstration for condemnation.
Advocate Sultana Kamal, former advisor to an erstwhile caretaker government, was among the protesters. “There is anarchy in the country. Some people are cocking a snook at the Constitution, our laws, principles, and morality to pursue their interests. They are not in the least ashamed or embarrassed,” she said.
She urged people to reject such leaders and MPs. “What a lawmaker has done in Narayanganj is illegal... No one can take the law into one’s own hands.”
Prof Gitiara Nasreen of Dhaka University’s department of mass communication and journalism said, “We are being humiliated for having done no wrong.” They have also announced a program at Shahbagh for Saturday in which Salim’s effigy would be burnt. Meanwhile, Bangladesh College-University Teachers’ Association formed a human chain on the Dhaka University campus Wednesday protesting the humiliation of Shyamal Kanti Bhadra, headmaster of a high school in Bandar upazila of Narayanganj, by local member of parliament AKM Nasim Osman.
Speaking at the human chain in front of Aporajeo Bangla, leaders of Bangladesh College-University Teachers’ Association demanded proper legal steps against the MP.
 
Businessmen support MP
In Narayanganj, local businessmen however, have sprung to the defence of AKM Salim Osman, MP, who is facing intense criticism for making a headmaster do sit-ups as punishment for alleged blasphemy. The businessmen claim Jatiya Party MP Salim went to Piyar Sattar Latif High School on Friday ‘to save’ headmaster Shyamal Kanti Bhakta from enraged mob.
However, many supporters are changing their Facebook profile pictures with holding their ears in solidarity with the Narayanganj school headmaster who was humiliated publicly.
The outrage broke out since a video of Headmaster Shyamol Kanti Bhakta being punished by the MP hit the social media.
Media personalities ­Iresh Zaker and Rawnak Hasan­ have also changed their Facebook profile pictures, protesting the shameful incident. Besides, many common people have also posted status over public humiliation of the teacher. The students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology held a human chain demonstration holding their ears extending solidarity to the headmaster.
A video of the incident went viral on the social media and created uproar of indignation. Many proclaimed that humiliating a teacher like that is insulting for the whole nation. As a part of the protest, people are posting heir photo holding their ears in the Facebook. These photos are often accompanied by the caption- “we are sorry sir.”

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Defence purchase: Sri Lankan president’s dilemma

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

 
Sri Lankan government seemed to have postponed its decision to purchase a set of eight of the multi-role JF-17 ‘Fierce Dragon’ fighter aircrafts that has been jointly developed by China and Pakistan because of strong objections raised by India, informed sources said. Colombo is also learned to have sent its top defence services officials to Moscow to discuss purchase of military aircrafts for Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) instead.
However, SLAF spokesman has said that the air force is carrying out a study of potential fighter aircraft suppliers in the event the SLAF need to add to their existing fleet. The Sino-Pak fighter aircrafts were reportedly being offered at a price comparable with international combat aircraft manufacturers. The SLAF team now in Russia includes the three defence services chiefs and a representative from Sri Lanka Logistics.
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Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

 
Sri Lankan government seemed to have postponed its decision to purchase a set of eight of the multi-role JF-17 ‘Fierce Dragon’ fighter aircrafts that has been jointly developed by China and Pakistan because of strong objections raised by India, informed sources said. Colombo is also learned to have sent its top defence services officials to Moscow to discuss purchase of military aircrafts for Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) instead.
However, SLAF spokesman has said that the air force is carrying out a study of potential fighter aircraft suppliers in the event the SLAF need to add to their existing fleet. The Sino-Pak fighter aircrafts were reportedly being offered at a price comparable with international combat aircraft manufacturers. The SLAF team now in Russia includes the three defence services chiefs and a representative from Sri Lanka Logistics.
Confusion compounded
India, sources say, suggested that the JF-17 under consideration is highly-flawed, besides it will cost the SLAF a staggering $29 million, while the same aircraft can be purchased from a reputed Russian manufacturer at a cost ranging between $20 and $25 million.
For obvious reasons, India which is a regional power, blames Pakistan for the poor quality of Pakistani-Chinese aircrafts as it wants to sell its own equipment to Sri Lanka and other regional countries. The Indian government is keen to offer its own Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-manufactured (HAL) multi-role Light combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ to Colombo. New Delhi’s strategists argue that the Sri Lankan government has to take into account the security-related concerns of the island nation and Indian equipment is best suited to Lankan conditions. This seemed to have worked as additional pressures on Colombo.
According to a report in the Sri Lanka-based web, a former air force chief and a big business wheeler-dealer are attempting to influence the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to acquire the multi-role JF-17 ‘Fierce Dragon’ fighter aircrafts. Allegation of a major kickback for the deal is also widely being discussed at all levels. China and Pakistan are said to be trying hard to influence the Lankan government to strike the deal.
The SLAF is keen to purchase eight new fighter aircrafts and doesn’t want to spend time overhauling its existing fleet of planes costing $3 million for each aircraft. Reports suggest that with mounting pressure from India on Sri Lanka against Pak-Chinese aircrafts, President Maithripala Sirisena has apparently decided to put off the purchase of the JF-17 fighter aircraft from Pakistan and might go for a deal with Russia instead. This has added a new spin to this ball game.
The air force had earlier failed to get the required sanction for the purchase of the jet fighters during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. However, media reports say, the Cabinet last week took a decision to put off the purchase of the Sino-Pakistan JF-17 fighter jet aircraft indefinitely to stave off Delhi’s hostility against Colombo. This has added a new twist the whole situation and caused confusion.
 
Sirisena’s dilemma
The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) presently has a fleet of Israeli Kfirs and Russian-made MiG-27s and India is eager to add its own make to the arsenals.
Unofficial sources, however, have attempted to suggest that the Sirisena government is all set to put in order for the JF-17 fighter aircraft by overlooking ‘friendly’ objections from New Delhi to the deal. Colombo is expected to take decisions about the procurement of military equipment in keeping with the actual requirements, cost effectiveness and reliability of the military goods.
However, the government must ensure that no corruption is involved in this deal is particular. Military corruption is a major issue in India during the Manmohan and Modi era, though the defence minister denies any corruption in military procurements.
Sri Lankan president Sirisena has recently announced a major decision to fight corruption in the government and has to be careful in his decision to purchase of military aircrafts when alleged kickback in the deal has already been raised.
One needs no elaboration on the corruption issue. No country has so far really succeeded combating corruption. Soviet Russia had tried under Gorbachev and failed. Russian leader Putin has tried and has stopped even talking about it now. China is now seriously fighting corruption without resolving the real causes of corruption in a communist society. India also tried but made it even more rampant than ever before. PM Manmohan Singh accelerated corruption, letting every minister and official to make as much money as they can during his tenure.
President Sirisena appears to be in a real dilemma. It would be extremely difficult for him to take any decision to please either India or China. Besides, he has also to be extra cautious about the corruption issue which involves his personal credibility as well.

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Roots of Conflict: Palestine’s Nakba in larger Arab ‘catastrophe’

Ramzy Baroud

 
On May 15th of every year, over the past 68 years, Palestinians have commemorated their collective exile from Palestine. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine to make room for a ‘Jewish homeland’ came at a price of unrelenting violence and perpetual suffering. Palestinians refer to that enduring experience as ‘Nakba’, or ‘Catastrophe’.
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Ramzy Baroud

 
On May 15th of every year, over the past 68 years, Palestinians have commemorated their collective exile from Palestine. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine to make room for a ‘Jewish homeland’ came at a price of unrelenting violence and perpetual suffering. Palestinians refer to that enduring experience as ‘Nakba’, or ‘Catastrophe’.
However, the ‘Nakba’ is not merely a Palestinian experience; it is also an Arab wound that never ceases from bleeding.
The Arab ‘Nakba’ was namely the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided much of the Arab world between competing Western powers. A year later, Palestine was removed from the Arab equation altogether and ‘promised’ to the Zionist movement in Europe, creating one of the most protracted conflicts in modern human history.
 
How did this happen?
Despite all attempts at separating the current conflict in Palestine from its larger Arab environs, the two realities can never be delinked since they both go back to the same historical roots.
When British diplomat, Mark Sykes, succumbed to the Spanish flu pandemic at the age of 39, in 1919, another diplomat, Harold Nicolson, described his influence on the Middle East region as follows: “It was due to his endless push and perseverance, to his enthusiasm and faith, that Arab nationalism and Zionism became two of the most successful of our war causes.” Retrospectively, we know that Nicolson spoke too soon. The breed of ‘Arab nationalism’ he was referencing in 1919 was fundamentally different from the nationalist movements that gripped several Arab countries in the 1950s and 60s. The rallying cry for Arab nationalism in those later years was liberation and sovereignty from Western colonialism and their local allies.
Sykes’ contribution to the rise of Zionism did not promote much stability, either. The Zionist project transformed into the State of Israel, itself established on the ruins of Palestine in 1948. Since then, Zionism and Arab nationalism have been in constant conflict, resulting in deplorable wars and seemingly perpetual blood-letting.
However, Sykes’ lasting contribution to the Arab region was his major role in the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, also known as the Asia Minor Agreement, one hundred years ago. That infamous treaty between Britain and France, which was negotiated with the consent of Russia, has shaped the Middle East’s geopolitics for an entire century.
Throughout the years, challenges to the status quo imposed by Sykes-Picot failed to fundamentally alter its arbitrarily-sketched borders, which divided the Arabs into ‘spheres of influence’ to be administered and controlled by Western powers.
 
‘Daesh’ and Sykes-Picot
Yet, with the recent rise of ‘Daesh’ and the establishment of its own version of equally arbitrary borders encompassing large swathes of Syria and Iraq as of 2014, combined with the current discussion of dividing Syria into a federation, Sykes-Picot’s persisting legacy could possibly be dithering under the pressures of new, violent circumstances.
Sykes-Picot was signed as a result of violent circumstances that gripped much of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East at the time.
It all started when World War I broke out in July 1914. At the time, major European powers fell into two camps: the Allies - consisting mainly of Britain, France and Russia - vs. the Central Powers - Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The Ottoman Empire soon joined the war, siding with Germany, partly because it was aware that the Allies’ ambitions sought to control all Ottoman territories, which included the Arab regions of Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Egypt and North Africa.
In March 1915 - Britain signed a secret agreement with Russia, which would allow the latter to annex the Ottoman capital and seize control of other strategic regions and waterways.
A few months later, in November 1915 - Britain and France began negotiations in earnest, aimed at dividing the territorial inheritance of the Ottoman Empire should the war conclude in their favor.
Russia was made aware of the agreement, and assented to its provisions.
Thus, a map that was marked with straight lines with the use of a Chinagraph pencil largely determined the fate of the Arabs, dividing them in accordance with various haphazard assumptions of tribal and sectarian lines.
 
Dividing the Loot
Negotiating on behalf of Britain was Mark Sykes, and representing France was François Georges-Picot. The diplomats resolved that, once the Ottomans were soundly defeated, France would receive areas marked (a), which include the region of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq - including Mosel, most of Syria and Lebanon. Area (b) was marked as British-controlled territories, which included Jordan, southern Iraq, Haifa and Acre in Palestine and the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan.
Russia, on the other hand, would be granted Istanbul, Armenia and the strategic Turkish Straits.
The improvised map consisted not only of lines but also colours, along with language that attested to the fact that the two countries viewed the Arab region on purely materialistic terms, without paying the slightest attention to the possible repercussions of slicing up entire civilizations with a multifarious history of co-operation and conflict. The Sykes-Picot negotiations concluded in March 1916 and was official, although it was secretly signed on May 19, 1916. WWI concluded on November 11, 1918, after which the division of the Ottoman Empire began in earnest.
British and French mandates were extended over divided Arab entities, while Palestine was granted to the Zionist movement over which a Jewish state was established, three decades later. The agreement, which was thoroughly designed to meet Western colonial interests, left behind a legacy of division, turmoil and war.
While the status quo it has created guaranteed the hegemony of Western countries over the fate of the Middle East, it failed to guarantee any degree of political stability or engender economic equality.
 
Legacy of betrayal
The Sykes-Picot Agreement took place in secret for a specific reason: it stood at complete odds with promises made to the Arabs during the Great War. The Arab leadership, under the command of Sharif Hussein, was promised complete independence following the war, in exchange for supporting the Allies against the Ottomans.
It took many years and successive rebellions for Arab countries to gain their independence. Conflict between the Arabs and colonial powers resulted in the rise of Arab nationalism, which was born in the midst of extremely violent and hostile environments, or more accurately, as an outcome of them.
Arab nationalism may have succeeded in maintaining a semblance of an Arab identity but failed to develop a sustainable and unified retort to Western colonialism.
When Palestine - which was promised by Britain as a national home for the Jews as early as November 1917 – became Israel, hosting mostly Europeans settlers, the fate of the Arab region east of the Mediterranean was sealed as the ground for perpetual conflict and antagonism.
It is here, in particular, that the terrible legacy of the Sykes-Picot Agreement is mostly felt, in all of its violence, shortsightedness and political unscrupulousness. 100 years after two British and French diplomats divided the Arabs into spheres of influence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement remains a pugnacious but dominant reality of the Middle East.
 
Resurrection of Sykes-Picot map
Five years after Syria descended into a violent civil war, the mark of Sykes-Picot are once more being felt as France, Britain, Russia - and now the United States - are considering what US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently termed ‘Plan B’ – dividing Syria based on sectarian lines, likely in accordance with a new Western interpretation of ‘spheres of influence.’
The Sykes-Picot map might have been a crude vision drawn hastily during a global war but, since then, it has become the main frame of reference that the West uses to redraw the Arab world, and to “control (it) as they desire and as they may see fit.”
The Palestinian ‘Nakba’, therefore, must be understood as part and parcel of the larger western designs in the Middle East dating back a century, when the Arabs were (and remain) divided and Palestine was (and remains) conquered.
 
Countercurrents.org. Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.

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