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Call for unity is good but should not be empty rhetoric

Faruque Ahmed
 
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for national unity and reconciliation last week and invited all political party leaders particularly taking aiming at BNP and Oikyafront leaders to a dialogue or post-election meeting to exchange greetings. Party leaders say it aims at building trust and bridging the gap to ally opposition support behind the new government. 
President Md Abdul Hamid has also made similar call for national unity at the opening of the 11th parliament on January 30.  It went into session on expiry of the outgoing parliament on January 29 however leaving a writ pending behind in the High Court challenging how the members of the new parliament could take oath earlier this month before the expiry of outgoing parliament.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for national unity and reconciliation last week and invited all political party leaders particularly taking aiming at BNP and Oikyafront leaders to a dialogue or post-election meeting to exchange greetings. Party leaders say it aims at building trust and bridging the gap to ally opposition support behind the new government. 
President Md Abdul Hamid has also made similar call for national unity at the opening of the 11th parliament on January 30.  It went into session on expiry of the outgoing parliament on January 29 however leaving a writ pending behind in the High Court challenging how the members of the new parliament could take oath earlier this month before the expiry of outgoing parliament.
Such calls for unity deserves serious attention when the nation remains sharply divided over the just concluded election as also over the decade since election in 2008. BNP and the newly launched Jatiya Oikyaafront leaders along with all other opposition parties and political groups have denounced the election saying it has been stolen by Awami League led grand alliance like those in the previous two occasions. 
Many believe unity and reconciliation may be very difficult in this situation although it remains the most sought after dream of the nations throughout this time. Many believe as winner in the election PM Sheikh Hasina has the responsibility to improve the political environment. 
Opposition leaders and workers are crowding the High Court for bail in cases, mainly ghost cases  related to just concluded election. Many are in jail while many others on the run to avoid arrest. How unity and reconciliation can be possible is the question.    
The nation is suffering the worst from absent of good governance and rule of law in all fronts. Media report said swindlers have siphoned over Tk 50,000 crore in a single year in 2015 – the year before election taking advantage of political instability and lapses within the administration. 
The country lost six notches in global corruption index last year taking 13th position from bottom as a highly corrupt nation without good governance. Good governance can’t be achieved in a dysfunctional democracy in absence of effective public institutions. When the nation will keep on fighting at political level, vested interest people will take advantage. 
It needs no mention that restoration of democracy and rule of law is all the more important at this moment and that may start no doubt with a process of national unity and reconciliation that the President and the PM have called for to end the political impasse.  
But mere talking will not cook the rice. So the government leaders should offer a serious plan of action for discussion how the crisis of trust with the opposition can be overcome to give meaning to such calls for unity for peace and development.    
BNP and Oikyafront leaders have evidently ruled out joining any meaningless dialogue or PM’s post-election greeting which seems partly insulting to them given the widespread election fraud which has almost totally eliminated the opposition from parliament. The PM’s prognosis what won her landslide victory and what caused devastating defeat to BNP and OIkyafront in the recent polls is not a political response to their allegation f election frauds. Their demand for a fresh election to remove the legitimacy question over the election is continue.  
Oikyafront leaders Dr Kamal Hossein and BNP leader Mirza Alamgir said they are ready to take part in any dialogue if the government leaders agree to talk about new election to restore the voting rights of the people in a free and fair election. Attending any garden party as Obaidul Qader said like the one the PM hosted for Dhaka based diplomats is not what may lure them to such meeting.   
It can’t say how such meeting would benefit the opposition except to be used as a political tool to mislead the nation and the international community which is repeatedly bringing pressure on the government to remove the opposition’s reservation over election results. 
Parliament went into session in this background with the leftist block calling for dissolution of parliament blaming it is not an elected parliament by the people.  BNP held a human chain in the city similarly on Wednesday calling for fresh election. Its six MPs along with two from Oikyafront have declined to take oath and not joining parliament. 
Like the government call for unity of political parties the opposition is also calling for unity of the masses and that is to unseat the government to establish people’s rights and restoration of democracy.  So both sides want unity but on different perspectives. It is a U turn situation. The opposition had persistently called for dialogue on major election issues before election that the government had avoided. Now the government is calling for dialogue but the opposition remains defiant.
Parliament went into session last week amidst many mismatch. It started journey without an opposition in real sense.  Jatiya Party’s 22 MPs and members of some smaller alliance partners have agreed to sit in the opposition although they equally claim share of the government. 
During last parliament there was no real opposition in parliament as well. This time Awami League alone controls 289 seat in parliament precipitating the crisis of democracy and a formal opposition in the House. Question arises whether or not some smaller partners of the AL led grand alliance can play the role of the real opposition in parliament.  
But the government has no option but to put the JP in the opposition. Senior AL leader Mohammad Nasim however ruled out a crisis of the opposition in parliament saying MPs from smaller groups will play the role of the opposition inside and outside parliament criticizing the government. But observers fear it may be anything but a true opposition to speak for the people.  
The crisis of democracy to the nation has exacerbated with the government absolute election victory  for third time now in a row. It appears too good this time causing embarrassment to the government to claim moral right and democratic ownership to govern. The question of legitimacy will haunt the government until another election.  
Meanwhile BNP and other opposition parties have ruled out possibility of taking part in the ensuing upazila elections and mayoral elections throughout the country. A power hungry government may exploit it to grab all political institutions at all level in this situation without serious challenge.
But the deprivation of the vast majority of people sympathizing to BNP and other parties to elect people of their choice may ultimately backfire. It may become cause of volatile politics within different factions of the ruling party and outside the party threatening peace and stability at the end. Without a viable opposition the ruling party bears the risk of bigger trouble from within.

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GODFATHERS STILL REMAIN UNTOUCHED
Anti drug campaign leads to over 300 deaths in Bangladesh
Shakhawat Hossain
 
A Bangladeshi anti-drugs campaign, in which more than 300 people have died, has raised national as well as international concerns but the government has dismissed any suggestion of extra-judicial killings and said the crackdown had popular support in the country. 
Likewise, in the Philippines, thousands of suspects were also killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office two years ago. Duterte had also angrily rejected international concern about the violence there.
Full Story
Shakhawat Hossain
 
A Bangladeshi anti-drugs campaign, in which more than 300 people have died, has raised national as well as international concerns but the government has dismissed any suggestion of extra-judicial killings and said the crackdown had popular support in the country. 
Likewise, in the Philippines, thousands of suspects were also killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office two years ago. Duterte had also angrily rejected international concern about the violence there.
After such a drive began in Bangladesh, so far 308 alleged drug peddlers have been killed in the name of ‘gunfight, around 150,000 suspects arrested and 100,000 cases filed in the nine months of the anti-drug crackdown since May 2018 with the law enforcers still busting drug gangs and recovering huge amount of narcotics, particularly Yaba, almost every day. However, well-known godfathers are still mysteriously remained safely and untouched. Most of the deceased, according to the police, were peddlers of Yaba containing methamphetamine that are smuggled in Bangladesh from Myanmar mainly through Bangladesh Myanmar border along Cox’s Bazar.
The anti-narcotics operations was launched on May 14, 2018 aimed largely at stemming the flow of Yaba tablets, a methamphetamine manufactured and smuggled in from neighboring Myanmar. During operations run last month and in the first 18 days of January, BGB, RAB, police, the Coast Guard and the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), recovered a total of 1.5 million Yaba tablets.  Despite the ongoing countrywide anti-drug massive crackdown, illegal drugs are still available in almost all place of the country.  
Elite Force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) began the anti-drug drive on May 4, 2018 and the police on May 17, 2018 at the directives of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. On May 15, 2018, two suspected drug peddlers were killed for the first time since the drive began, allegedly in gunfights with RAB, one each at Narayanganj and Kushtia.
And until January 27, 2019, at least 308 suspected peddlers and addicts were killed, mostly in ‘gunfights’ with the law enforcers, according to newspaper reports quoting accounts of RAB and the police. The latest such incident took place in Cox’s Bazar early Monday in which two alleged drug peddlers were killed in a reported gunfight with ‘rival group’ in Nayabazar area at Hoykong of Teknaf.  
According to police, some of the peddlers were killed in ‘gunfights’ with rival groups over sharing money and some were allegedly found dead. But family members’ accounts differed from what police and RAB said. Some of the alleged peddlers were picked up by people in plain clothes, said their families and later police and RAB officials said that they died in ‘gunfights’.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan has, however, repeatedly claimed that there were no extrajudicial killings during the anti-drug drives and that they had been killed in ‘gunfights.’ He further said that illegal drug business always involved firearms and when law enforcers tried to arrest the peddlers, they opened fire and locked in ‘gunfight’.  He also reiterated that the anti-drug drive would continue until the drug menace was brought under control. 
However, the killing of Akramul Haque, a ward councillor of Teknaf municipality in Cox’s Bazar, in what RAB termed a ‘gunfight’ on early May 27 was largely criticised as unverified audio clippings of conversations between Akramul and his family members, provided by his wife on May 31, suggested that he was murdered. “The commissioner has not done anything ... Why are you killing him?” Repeating these words, a female voice kept screaming over a mobile phone moments after hearing a gunshot during a phone call, according to an unverified audio clip. “The alleged murder of Teknaf municipality councillor Akramul Haque rang an ominous bell for the country’s human rights situation,” human rights defenders and activists said. 
Besides, a detained suspected drug peddler was killed in a ‘gunfight’ with police at Shamlapour, a village adjacent to the shore of the Bay of Bengal, under Teknaf upazila in Cox’s Bazar on December 1, 2018. It also raises questions and concerns among the human rights activists.
 
Godfathers still remain untouched 
As the special drive against yaba peddlers goes on in full swing, questions arise why some alleged listed yaba godfathers in Ukhia-Teknaf, the gateway of smuggling the crazy drug into Bangladesh, whose names have prominently figured in multiple intelligence reports, remain out of the net.
Abdur Rahman Bodi, former Awami League MP from Teknaf, has long been known as the godfather of yaba trade and he has allegedly set up a powerful network that includes his five brothers, personal assistant Mong Mong Sen and Teknaf Upazila Chairman Zafar Ahmed to spread the drug across the country.
The ex-lawmaker’s name has figured in at least three reports—one by the narcotics department, one by the Border Guard Bangladesh and one by a joint intelligence body formed to tackle the drug trade in Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf area. The lists were also sent to the home ministry, but nothing has happened due to reason unknown.
In the latest move, the narcotics department sent a list of 141 yaba godfathers to the Anti-Corruption Commission in December 2017 that includes the names of Bodi and his gang. The department requested the ACC to investigate their wealth. Earlier, Bodi was jailed for three years for concealing wealth but he is now out on bail.
The narcotics department report said Bodi was one of the main controllers of yaba trade in Bangladesh. Nothing happens without his nod.
In November 2012, the Department of Narcotics Control initially prepared a list of 554 top yaba traders. Later in 2014, intelligence agencies, the narcotics department, police and Rab prepared a list of 1,200 yaba traders. The list was revealed by the media in the middle of 2014.
Bodi and several of his relatives and associates were on the list, including Bodi’s brothers Abdul Shukkur and Mujibur Rahman, step brothers Abdul Amin and Faisal Rahman, in-laws Akhter Kamal and Shahed Kamal, uncle Haider Ali, cousin Kamrul Islam Russell and nephew Nipu.
The 2014 list includes the names of 87 leaders of the AL and its front organisations Jubo League, Chhatra League and Sramik League who back the yaba traders in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi divisions, the daily Observer reported on January 22 last year. No actions were taken against them and, as reported by the daily Observer, Bodi’s name was later dropped from the list.
As Bodi’s name surfaced, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal had told the media in 2014 that no action could be taken against Bodi because no evidence of his involvement in yaba trade was found.
Replying to a query about Bodi’s alleged role in yaba trade, the home boss also told reporters, “Those involved in drug trade will be brought to book. We’re trying to collect more information about Bodi and action will be taken against him after receiving proper information.”
Asked if only those who carry the drug would be killed in the name of gunfights, Kamal said, “We won’t spare anyone, no matter if he is an MP, government official, member of security force or journalist.”
But the most interesting thing happened when these alleged yaba traders participated at an anti-drug meeting at the Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner’s office on October 2, 2014. Home ministry’s then Senior Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan was the chief guest of the high profile meeting attended by a number of alleged yaba traders, including Bodi and Teknaf Upazila Chairman Zafar Ahmed. They flatly denied any involvement in the yaba trade and said the list was prepared to harass them.
Meantime, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has recently drawn up a list of 100 top drug dealers in the city, although their details are not yet known. But earlier in 2017, the DMP drew up another list of 100 godfathers who were mostly linked to the ruling AL and its front organisations, two from BNP and Jatiya Party, a number of cops and also narcotics department officials.
Of the godfathers in the capital, 16 were ward councillors — 15 from AL and one from BNP. Besides, a thana-level president of Bastuhara (homeless) League and a ward-level secretary of Tanti (weaver) League, both pro-AL organisations, were on the list.
The DMP had also compiled a list of 1,100 dealers and retailers of yaba in the city. The list was forwarded to the home ministry. The police headquarters has already prepared a list of 26,299 drug dealers and patrons countrywide and has been conducting raids to catch them, a senior police officer said wishing anonymity.
 
Listed cops, now ‘cleared of’ drug links: 
Though named in a list prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office, about 100 cops in different districts have been found by local police authorities not linked to narcotics trade or smuggling.       It is not clear what district police probes found about the other 200 law enforcers listed by the PMO.
Asked, a top police official claimed they took punitive action against “most” of those on the list. He, however, would not elaborate on the matter. From constables to officers-in-charge of police stations, the around 300 cops also shelter drug dealers and their cohorts, according to the confidential list prepared in February, 2018 based on field-level intelligence. Later, it was forwarded to the Police Headquarters (PHQ) through the home ministry. The PHQ tasked local police administrations with investigating the matter for action.
The Daily Star had obtained parts of the list with names of at least 107 cops. The documents were sent to different districts for taking action against the policemen. According to the papers, 34 of the cops were stationed in Khulna, 24 in Rangpur, 16 in Brahmanbaria, 13 in Gaibandha, 10 in Kurigram, five each in Cox’s Bazar and Lalmonirhat. As contacted, top officials in Khulna, Brahmanbaria and Kurigram claimed that they investigated the allegations against the cops but found nothing. The cases were almost similar in the other districts.
 
Yaba dealers prefer jail for safety!
Over 150 persons, out of 1,153, either listed by law enforcement agencies or whose names came up in connection with drug dealing, are planning to surrender to the police in Cox’s Bazar in the first or second week of February, this year. Many drug dealers now prefer jail for their own safety in the wake of the crackdown by the law enforcement agencies.
Nearly seventy of them including family members of ruling Awami League’s former controversial lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi already took shelter in a ‘safe home’ facilitated by the police in Cox’s Bazar headquarters.
Fifty others who now are in Malaysia, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates are also willing to surrender once the date is finalised.
Chattogram police range deputy inspector general Khandker Golam Faruq, who is dealing the surrender process following a verbal nod from the home ministry, says the surrender process is in an advanced stage and expects no criticism until the process is over.
But debate over the surrender process has already been raging among different stakeholders.
The proposal of surrender to the police was initiated by the drug dealers three months ago after the government announced in May 2018 a nationwide crackdown against drugs. 
According to sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs, at least 60 top drug dealers and 1,153 drug peddlers were identified by the ministry. Of them, 800 peddlers were are from Teknaf and the remaining from Cox’s Bazar district. In the latest, nine suspected yaba traders were killed between January 4 and January 12 (nine days) in an anti-drug drive in Cox’s Bazar. Even at least 37 drug dealers, mainly 34 from Teknaf upazila, were killed in gunfights with cops personnel during the crackdown against drug dealers since May 4, 2018.  
 
Govt too mulling surrender option for drug traders
Though the public have expressed mixed reactions over the expected surrender of a number of yaba traders in Cox’s Bazar, the government is now reportedly considering providing the drug traders option to surrender in the midst of the ongoing anti-drug operation that began in May last year.  Law enforcing agencies, including police and RAB, are preparing lists of the drug traders who want to surrender.  Meanwhile, the anti-drug drive and the drug business are continuing simultaneously at the same pace. 
A draft law awarding death penalty to Yaba offenders was approved in principle by the Cabinet last year. Narcotics Control Act was formulated in 1990 and it was being updated after 28 years in line with UN conventions on drug trafficking and narcotics control, of which Bangladesh is a signatory. If a person carries, trades, stores, or processes Yaba weighing less than five grams, he or she could be sentenced to five years in jail and fined, according to the new law.  About 50 of the methamphetamine pills weigh five grams, according to officials of the DNC.
While talking to the journalists, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, said, “Listed smugglers of illegal drugs were gathering in the district amidst an ongoing anti-drug raid. I asked the police to prepare details of the identities of the yaba traders,”  “We will go to Cox’s Bazar on the 30th of January or in the first week of February,” said the minister.
“To prevent the drug business across the country, we will work with commitment under the new government,” DNC Director General Jamal Uddin Bhuiyan said. “We have declared jihad against the drug business. We have already directed all DNC officials to take measures against drugs,” he said.
 
Yaba godfather’ Badi to coordinate surrender of yaba traders!
Former parliamentarian of Awami League Abdur Rahman Badi, widely known as a ‘godfather’ of yaba trading, will not surrender to the law enforcement. Instead, he will act as ‘coordinator’ of the surrender process for other enlisted yaba traders.
The local police declined to call him a coordinator though. They said Badi has been helping the administration like many others. Badi himself also denied about working as a ‘coordinator’.
“After the (30 December parliamentary) elections I appealed to them (alleged yaba traders). I said people are dying in broad daylight, women are losing their husbands, children are losing their fathers. How long will you continue like this? Try to surrender. That is all I said, then they contacted (police) on their own accord.”
Abdur Rahman Badi, identified by the home ministry and narcotics control department as a ‘patron’ of yaba trade, claimed he was proved innocent in investigations conducted by the prime minister’s office and the home ministry.
“A syndicate of yaba traders spent a lot of money to include my name in several lists prepared by the administration. I don’t do yaba trading. The criminals will surrender now,” Badi told Prothom Alo at the Teknaf-Myanmar jetty recently. 
 
When is the surrender?
The day for surrender of yaba traders is yet to be finalised. But the superintendent of police in Cox’s Bazar Masud Hossain said everything is finalised but the date has been deferred due to police week. “This could be done on any day in the second week of February,” he said.
Masud expected more than 100 yaba traders would surrender to the law enforcement on the day. As many as 66 of 73 yaba trading ‘godfathers’ identified by the home ministry live in Teknaf upazila alone.
Local sources said police has already listed 66 of the people intending to surrender to Cox’s Bazar police lines. Five of them are people’s representatives. No one knows where the rest are.
Besides, Abdur Rahman Badi’s three brothers Abdul Amin, Md Shafiq and Md Faisal, who came to Bangladesh from Dubai, three cousins Md Alam, Mong Mong Singh and Quamrul Islam, nephew Shahedur Rahman, brothers-in-law Jamal Hossain, Shahed Kamal and Sabrang union parishad member Moazzem Hossain are also among the 66 yaba traders intended to surrender.
Acknowledging this, Badi said his relatives, listed as yaba traders, have agreed to surrender. He however declined to say the number of relatives and about their involvement in the trading.
“I told my brothers, sisters and nephews who are allegedly involved in the trading, to surrender. I won’t say anything about their involvement. This has to be proved in the court. I talked to all. They’ll tell the truth if the police grill them,” Badi said. It is noted here that a few of Badi’s relatives involved in the yaba trade are still outside. It could not be learnt whether they will surrender or not.
 
Crackdown bears hardly any fruit as drugs still aplenty
The countrywide anti-drug drive for the last several months has had hardly any impact — drug abuse goes on as ever and the supply chain remains intact, as demand for drugs and treatment of addicts lie largely unaddressed in Bangladesh. The supply is still plenty and the addicts are still getting their coveted drugs in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country although the law enforcement agencies are still arresting drug peddlers and addicts and recovering a huge quantity of drugs every day.
Besides, with law enforcers locking up listed drug dealers and smugglers, new groups are filling their shoes adopting generous marketing strategies, including sales on credit. They are also using new routes to smuggle in yaba from Myanmar. 
Members of law enforcement agencies, however, said that the drug peddlers were now using newer strategies to supply the drugs to different destinations. For example, Yaba traders, mainly from Cox’s Bazar, earlier used to bring the drug to Dhaka and elsewhere via different public transports using their men, they said. But now, they have found that the peddlers have been using courier service or carrying drugs in stomach or using people, usually held in esteem in society such as teachers or imams, as carrier or hidden places in different transports. A few members of police were also found involved in drug business, they said.
The government of Bangladesh declared war against drugs on 15 May, last year. The objective was to bring a halt to the drug trade and drug addiction. But why are these so-called wars necessary? There is a single reason. It is the complete failure of the responsible quarters to arrest the drug criminals and put them on trial. This failure has been continuing for decades. Before it was phensydyl that would come across the borders, now it’s yaba. In other words, drugs are being freely and virtually openly trafficked into this country. Drugs are everywhere, in buses and trucks, ferries and steamers, rickshaws and vans, cars and more. There is hardly any resistance from the law enforcement.
It is not that the drug traders are not being caught at all. There are even cases against them. But the results are near nil. Hundreds of thousands of drug-related cases lie pending for years. Dates are fixed, the witnesses don’t turn up, their names disappear from the lists, the investigating officer in this time span is transferred thrice to three different districts, and so the hearings are just postponed year after year.
There are no trials, no punishment. Appointments of the state counsels are on a completely temporary basis, mainly on political considerations, with no care about efficiency or qualifications. It makes no difference to them if the cases are resolved or not. Once the government changes, that’s the end of their jobs. They grasp on to the three to four years they may get, along with the kickbacks. Around eight or nine months ago, a report appeared in the media that there were around 216 thousand narcotics-related cases under trial all over the country. Things have only got worse and no one is doing anything to improve or reform the system.
On the other hand, academics as well as rights activists suggest that the government must take initiatives to address the demand side otherwise the situation will not improve. Stressing the need for demand reduction from society, National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said that the families, educational institutions, non-governmental organisations as well as elite people of the society would have to keep their due role in curbing drugs. ‘At the same time, strict initiatives should be taken to stop drug intrusion into Bangladesh through border,’ he said.
 
Outcry from  Humar Right group 
Meanwhile,  natioan  and international human rights  organizations  expressed  concerns  over  the  killings  during  anti-drug  campaing.  
Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) reports, incidents of extrajudicial killing were rising alarmingly, especially after the anti-drug drives began. In all, 466 people have been killed in countrywide anti-drug raids conducted by law enforcement agencies between May 4 and December 31 last year, the report said.
Rights organisation Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman demanded an end to the extrajudicial killings as it was illegal and unacceptable. ‘Punish the drug peddlers under due process of law,’ he urged the government.
 
US for respecting human rights during anti-drug drives
The United States on June 14, 2018 had said they want to see the government of Bangladesh to fully meet its human rights obligations while conducting its drive against drugs. ‘While illegal drugs are a scourge across the world, Bangladesh should ensure its law enforcement respect human rights and that their conduct is consistent with international standards and Bangladesh’s own constitution, which includes a presumption of innocence and the right to due process,’ said US department of state spokesperson Heather Nauert.  ‘We urge Bangladesh to conduct thorough and transparent investigations into all credible reports of extrajudicial killings,’ the press statement added. 
 
EU calls for probe into all deaths
The European Union missions in Dhaka have called for a complete investigation into all the deaths related to the ongoing drive against narcotics. “We expect the authorities to ensure that all incidents involving the deaths of alleged criminal suspects are investigated fully and in accordance with due processes,” the heads of local EU missions said in a statement on June 05, 2018.  European Union delegation issued the statement in agreement with the EU heads of mission in Bangladesh. The head of mission of Norway associates herself with the statement. Drug abuse and illicit trafficking is a global problem, the statement said.
 
HRW urges Bangladesh to suspend ‘war on drugs’ 
Human Rights Watch has also urged Bangladesh to suspend its ‘war on drugs’ campaign until proper training and procedures are put in place to ensure that security forces act in conformity with legal standards. The New York-based international rights body on June 7, 2018 also said that Bangladesh government should order an independent investigation into allegations of extrajudicial killings during the ‘war on drugs’. ‘The campaign against drugs has led to more than 100 violent deaths at the hands of security forces, according to local media and nongovernmental organisations,’ the human rights watchdog said in a press release.
(Shakhawat Hossain is Dhaka-based freelance Journalist and Political Commentator)

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Probable outcome of Garden-party at Ganobhavan

Muhammad Quamrul Islam
 
The invitation card signed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been sent to 75 parties to attend a tea-party on February 2, 2019 at Ganobhavan. The invitees are those who participated in Dialogue on different dates before the eleventh Parliamentary election.
This is garden party just a courtesy to exchange greetings and pleasantly, but not for any political dialogue of any sort, as clarified to the media by Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader, and PM’s political adviser HT Imam, and politician shown.
Full Story
Muhammad Quamrul Islam
 
The invitation card signed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been sent to 75 parties to attend a tea-party on February 2, 2019 at Ganobhavan. The invitees are those who participated in Dialogue on different dates before the eleventh Parliamentary election.
This is garden party just a courtesy to exchange greetings and pleasantly, but not for any political dialogue of any sort, as clarified to the media by Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader, and PM’s political adviser HT Imam, and politician shown.
What they will talk? Personal matters for which most of the parties having no vote base aspire for luxurious living and existence at the patronage of government or external sources, knowledgeable circles quip, they move in the corridor of power seeking opportunities. But, it cannot be the task of any political party by any interpretation of Constitution and Political Science. As such, Oikya front- BNP leaders could not accept the invitation for lack of specific agenda on election.
Actually, Dialogue was first requested by a letter of Oikya Front leader Gano Forum President Dr. Kamal Hossain, backed by one of the two mainstream parties in this country Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), to Prime Minister, who immediately accepted it, held the dialogue, followed by another on their request with a small team. Other parties and alliances similarly requested for dialogue which were responded by her and held the same on subsequent dates. That made the all parties participation in dialogue costing the valuable time of Prime Minister and public exchequer known to all and election was held on December 30, 2018. 
But, the result was stunning; gave massive majority to Awami League (AL) and reduced BNP to the margin on which controversies are raging at home and abroad. Were all other parties/ alliances to the dialogue serious for national election to uphold democracy or simply presented a show for bargaining with two symbols Boat and Sheaf of paddy, change colour, turn coats and ran for nomination either individually or in alliance as usual by money and manipulation? The question is burning as there is no third alternative party in this country and traditional National Awami Party, founded by leader of the oppressed Maulana Bhashani in 1957 in erstwhile Pakistan, has been extinct. Even Bikalpa Dhara President Prof A Q M Baddruduza Chowdhury joined the AL lead alliance and got seat for his son secured as MP. They have already accpted the invitation and would join the garden party.
In a nutshell, Oikya Front- BNP parties did not accept invitation as they have already rejected the poll results of 11th Parliament for riggings in unimaginable proportions, its 08 MPs shown as won have not taken oath in Parliament, asked for fresh election mutually agreed upon. They deem tea-party is a ploy save farcical election continues in power. It seems 02 MPs from Oikya Front thru Gano Forum are hesitant: Sultan Muhammad Mansur Ahmed with symbol sheaf of paddy appears to be inclined to join the Parliament, reported a national vernacular daily on January 30, 2019 and Mukabbir Khan was MP just by chance, when nominated candidate could not contest under Supreme Court verdict at last moment, he returned from London and won. Let us see how it turns out, if they can finally restrain from lust for power, hefty salary, allowances and privileges. 
One thing is sure attendees on Feb 2 would be able to show their importance to others exact immoral advantages for lobbying, money and manipulation. It is seen corruption has increased in Bangladesh, reported national dailies on January 30, 2019. 
Once one asked Pro- Soviet communist disguised in NAP Prof Muzaffar why he sent Eid Greetings in Post Cards to all his party men, he said it would enable them to keep it in pocket, publicize the party and get advantages as the case may be showing it. 
In this context, we have no other alternative as fellow septuagenarian but to request PM Sheikh Hasina daughter of Bangabandhu to take all out measures to stop corruption , restore a good governmane and followi the course of democracy. 
The writer is an economist, advocate and social activist.
E-mail:mqislambd@hotmail.com

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Ruling party ally turns into opposition in Bangladesh parliament

Special Correspondent
 
Though first session of the 11th parliament began on January 31, Bangladesh, one of the world’s largest parliamentary democracies, has for the first time in recent history has experieed a strange problem of finding a suitable and acceptable opposition in parliament after the most controvercial one sided fixing national polls completed on December 30.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
Though first session of the 11th parliament began on January 31, Bangladesh, one of the world’s largest parliamentary democracies, has for the first time in recent history has experieed a strange problem of finding a suitable and acceptable opposition in parliament after the most controvercial one sided fixing national polls completed on December 30.
Upon completion of the latest election, which many independent observers termed “controversial”, the country’s 11th national parliament sees the Jatiya Party, a key ally of the newly-re-elected ruling Awami League sitting in opposition.
After the election results were finalized, the Jatiya Party was undecided for about a week on whether to join the government or to act as its opposition in the new parliament. 
On January 4, Jatiya Party co-chairman GM Quader declared that the party had unanimously decided to be a part of the new government led by the Awami League. He told the media that since his party had participated in the election under the banner of the Awami League-led grand alliance, it wanted to join the government.
He added, “We doubt if people will accept us as the opposition if we quit the grand alliance now to play the role of the opposition… We don’t want to sit on the opposition bench… This is a practical problem for us.”
Yet only a day later, Jatiya Party Chairman and former Bangladeshi President HM Ershad said the party will be the main opposition in parliament with no representation in the new cabinet.
In a written statement, Ershad said: “As the chairman of the Jatiya Party, I would like to inform the people of the country and party leaders and activists at all levels that the Jatiya Party will act as the main opposition party in the 11th parliament.”
The party’s decision to lead opposition in parliament comes as the other opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), rejected what it deemed “controversial” poll results and its lawmakers did not take the oath.
On January 10, speaker of the 11th national Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury approved HM Ershad as the opposition leader and ratified GM Quader as the deputy leader of the opposition.
The Ershad-led Jatiya Party had acted as the main opposition in the 10th parliament since the alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)—one of the two major parties (the other being the Awami league) in the country’s two-party dominated political system—boycotted the 2014 national election.
However, during their five-year term in opposition to the government in the 10th parliament, the ruling Awami League passed a total of 149 bills, with not one of them being opposed by the Jatiya Party.
Moreover, in the cabinet of the last Awami League government, there were three ministers from the Jatiya Party. It was the first instance in the country’s history where members of the parliamentary opposition were given seats in the cabinet.
A report published by the Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) accused the Jatiya Party of playing an “ineffective dual role” by letting its leaders become ministers while at the same time their party was serving in opposition to the government.
Experts are now questioning whether, as was the case during the 10th parliament, Awami League’s parliamentary bills will go unchallenged and unscrutinized.
 
Controversial election
After a decade in government, the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League regained power for the third consecutive time through an election that was termed by the United Nations as “not perfect.”
The Awami League-led Grand Alliance took 288 out of 299 seats (with Awami League winning 257 of them) in elections that were marred by intimidation of voters and polling agents, occupations of polling centers, and clashes among followers of opposing candidates.
The Jatiya Party, a key component of the Grand Alliance, secured 22 seats out of 288. The main challenger of the Grand Alliance, the BNP-led Jatiya Oikya Front, managed to win only seven seats. The BNP termed the election “farcical”, rejected the results and demanded fresh polls under a non-partisan government.
Transparency International Bangladesh said in its election observation report that it found election irregularities like stamping ballot papers the night before the polls and ballot stuffing by capturing booths on the election day in 47 out of 50 constituencies it surveyed.
Dr Ali Riaz, Distinguished Professor of Politics and Government of Illinois State University, United States, told Asia Times that unless there is any pressure on the Election Commission, there is no likelihood of an investigation into the massive irregularities.
Considering the extent of irregularities, the only correct course is to hold a fresh election under a neutral administration. However, understandably, at this time the ruling Awami League has no reason to move in that direction.
 
Questionable opposition 
Ali Riaz believes that having the Jatiya Party in opposition for the 11th national parliament is an indicator that the Awami League is consolidating its power. “There is no reason to expect that the Jatiya Party will act as an effective opposition,” said Riaz.
He said the Jatiya Party’s primary role will be to act as a “showpiece” to counter criticism, from home and abroad, that an engineered election has delivered a one-party parliament.
“It’s a member of the ruling alliance; how can a member of the ruling alliance be an opposition?” said Riaz.

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BHRC report: 185 killings in January 2019

Special Correspondent
 
The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (BHRC) has said, apart from road accidents and cases of suicide, a total of 185 people have been killed—for various reasons—across the country, in the very first month of  January 2019.
The commission shared the findings in a press release on Thursday.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (BHRC) has said, apart from road accidents and cases of suicide, a total of 185 people have been killed—for various reasons—across the country, in the very first month of  January 2019.
The commission shared the findings in a press release on Thursday.
According to the commission, the report was prepared after it gathering  data from its field offices located in different districts, sub-districts, and municipalities. 
Additionally, based on reports published in national dailies, the documentation department of BHRC also conducted investigations with the co-operation of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
Mentioning that, on average, six people were killed per day in January, the commission said the situation indicates an extreme deterioration of law and order. 
Expressing grave concern, BHRC said the government’s law enforcement agencies and authorities concerned must play a more effective role in diminishing the rising number of killings.
Of the 185 such victims: six were killed because of a dowry, 17 were killed by domestic violence, 64 were killed in social violence, nine were killed for political reasons, 18 were killed by law enforcement agencies, five were killed by the Border Security Force, five were killed due to negligence by physicians, eight were killed following abductions, five were killed by assassination, 36 were killed by mysterious means, 10 were killed following rape, and two were killed in acid attacks. 
Moreover, 263 people were killed in road accidents, nationwide, while 19 others committed suicide. 
Additionally, 40 women were raped, three were sexually harassed, and five others were tortured over their dowry in January.

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