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Khaleda Zia returns home, granted bails in graft cases

Abdur Rahman Khan

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has been granted bail in the Zia Welfare Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases. The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 granted her bail after she requested it in court on Thursday.
Khaleda returned to Dhaka from London on Oct 18 after three months facing warrants issued against her in three cases.
A warrant had been issued against the three-time former prime minister in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case after she failed to appear at a hearing set for Oct 12.

Full Story

Abdur Rahman Khan

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has been granted bail in the Zia Welfare Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases. The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 granted her bail after she requested it in court on Thursday.
Khaleda returned to Dhaka from London on Oct 18 after three months facing warrants issued against her in three cases.
A warrant had been issued against the three-time former prime minister in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case after she failed to appear at a hearing set for Oct 12.

Another warrant was issued by the Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate’s court after Khaleda failed to answer a summons over ‘disrespecting the national flag’.

Huge crowd turned up
On arrival in Dhaka, Khaleda Zia left the VIP Lounge around 5:30pm and it took her nearly two and a half hours to reach her Gulshan residence as the road from the airport to Kakali was clogged by the crowd of her party men.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told newsmen in front of Khaleda Zia’s resident that “lakhs of people accorded a warm reception to their chairperson gathering in the airport area. It’s an unprecedented presence of so many people from all walks of life.”
However, BNP sources complained that all attempts were made by the government to prevent people from coming to the airport as public transports were suddenly withheld. Besides, law enforcement agencies also tried to prevent the people from proceeding towards the airport.
Meanwhile, BNP leaders alleged that a funny incident took place when Khaleda Zia’s motorcade was halfway through when suddenly the street lights along the airport road were switched off  for some time keeping the entire road dark and the waiting BNP workers could not see  Begum Zia and  greet  her  on  her way home.
It may be pointed out that on Aug 9, the Comilla District and Sessions Judge’s court also issued a warrant against ‘absconding’ Khaleda in a case over the petrol bomb attack on a highway bus during BNP protests in Chauddagram.
However, on Thursday in Dhaka Begum Zia’s lawyers  pleaded that as she went to London for medical reasons and the fact that she had appeared before the court the day after her return out of respect for the law.
ACC lawyer Kajol argued that the BNP chief had broken the terms of her bail by going abroad and said it would not be right to grant her bail. The court finally set the bond at Tk 100,000 and said Khaleda would need to take permission from the court before any further trips abroad while the cases were still ongoing.

BNP supporters arrested
The Zia Orphange Trust graft case was filed in 2008. The ACC case accuses Khaleda, her son Tarique Rahman and four others of embezzling Tk 21 million.
Meanwhile, six leaders and activists of BNP were detained for alleged ‘suspicious’ movements when party chairperson Khaleda Zia was on her way to court  on Thursday.
The six BNP leaders and activists were held from Circuit House Road area under Ramna Police. Ramna OC Kazi Mainul Islam told newsmen that the six men appeared suspicious when they were riding on motorbikes.
After detention, police were interrogating them for their identities.
BNP sources, however, said that among the detainees, there were Jubo Dal’s organizing secretary Mamun Hasan, Jubo Dal South president Rafiqul Alam Majnu, and South president of Sheccha Shebok Dal SM Jilani.

Govt didn’t plan to arrest Zia
Earlier on Wednesday, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said the government had no plan to arrest BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia after her return home from London.
“The government didn’t think of arresting Khaleda Zia following the issuance of arrest warrants. The law enforcers and the court will deal with the issue,” he said.
Quader, who is also also the Road Transport and Bridges Minister, in an apparent bid to distance the government from the court, said the warrants for Khaleda’s arrest were issued by courts, not by the government.
In this connection, Health and Family Welfare Minister and Awami League (AL) Presidium Member Mohammed Nasim also urged BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia to join the next general elections after organizing her party and refraining from hatching conspiracies.
“Please organize your party (BNP) refraining from hatching conspiracies and get prepared for the next general election. Please don’t flee the polls,” the minister said, addressing a discussion meeting at National Museum at Shahbag in the city on Wednesday.
Nasim, who is the spokesperson of the 14-party alliance, said that the next election will be held as per the country’s constitution like in other democratic countries of the world and asserted that the abolished caretaker government system will never come back.
Referring to Khaleda Zia’s stay in London for medical treatment, he rather crudely commented: “You are returning home after passing three months in London in the name of treatment. But you have failed in making plots (against the government) there with your son.” He, however, did not elaborate his sources of knowing about such a conspiratorial plot that he thought Khaleda Zia had indulged in while in London.

Police obstruct BNP gathering
Earlier hundreds of BNP leaders and activists gathered at the airport area to welcome their chairperson Khaleda Zia as she returned home from the UK on Wednesday afternoon, halting traffic and causing sufferings to commuters.
Leaders and activists of BNP and its associate bodies assembled in front of the road opposite to the airport holding banners and placards, disrupting the traffic.
Huge law enforcers were also deployed in the area ostensibly to maintain the law and order.
As they were not allowed to enter the airport, senior BNP leaders, including BNP standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Jamiruddin Sircar, Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan, Mirza Abbas and Nazrul Islam Khan, took position in front of the airport mosque.
Talking to reporters, BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed alleged that police were obstructing their leaders and activists from peacefully standing on footpaths in front of the airport.


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DHAKA BLISSFULLY UNAWARE OF SCIENTIFIC STUDIES
Increased lightning caused by Indian toxic air release

Mizan Ali

Sunamganj topped the list of most lightning prone area in the world between March and May this year, a joint study by NASA and Maryland University in the US revealed. The ‘geographical positioning’ of Sunamganj, bordering with the coal mining state of India’s Meghalaya was ‘linked to its lightning proneness,’ national dailies said quoting the study. The same study also reported almost three folds increase in lightning strikes in the country in the last three years.

Full Story

Mizan Ali

Sunamganj topped the list of most lightning prone area in the world between March and May this year, a joint study by NASA and Maryland University in the US revealed. The ‘geographical positioning’ of Sunamganj, bordering with the coal mining state of India’s Meghalaya was ‘linked to its lightning proneness,’ national dailies said quoting the study. The same study also reported almost three folds increase in lightning strikes in the country in the last three years.

This leads to the question that not only Sunamganj, but the whole country is experiencing increased lightning strike for its ‘geographical positioning’ and that whether trans-boundary air pollutants are contributing to the increased lightning strikes and causing climate change in this country.

Findings on CG lightning
However, the country’s elite mindset is denying a debate over the issue of trans-boundary air pollution; its adverse impact on climate and environment across political and geographical borders.
It is, indeed, surprising that the policy makers, scientists, civil society groups, environmentalists, climate experts and media are conspicuous in their silence over this vital issue. They are aware that Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries of climate change.
Meanwhile, scientists in the mid 1950s in Europe and America discovered that the pollutants can be transported via air and clouds. The pollutants while being transported by cloud form acid to cause acid rain or acid snow.
Invention of a new generation of ground-based, airborne, and space-based sensors equipped with monitoring devices connected with new satellite imaging systems also came in operation in the subsequent years. These gadgets started providing comprehensive observation on the earth’s atmosphere. The development in the field of atmospheric science during this period equipped scientists with sufficient knowledge that these pollutants also contribute to change the behaviour pattern of various elements in the atmosphere.
Findings of scientific studies on cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning activity in relation to surface pollutants like particulate matter (PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone (O3) concentration are very much contextual here.
A study on Pre monsoon (March–April) CG lightning activity over Taipei, Taiwan, conducted over a period of six years reveals strong association of SO2 with CG lightning activity compared to particulate material concentration.
Findings of the study documented in an article titled, ‘analysis of cloud-to-ground lightning and its relation with surface pollutants over Taipei, Taiwan, was published in Aannales Geo-physicae in September 2014.
The pre monsoon study conducted by SK Kar and YA Lion of Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research National Central University, Jhing-Li, Taiwan analysed CG lightning activity over Taipei, Taiwan, in relation to surface pollutants like particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone concentration for a period of 6 years (2005–2010).

SO2 emission doubled in NE India
The study reveals ‘SO2 is more strongly associated with CG lightning activity compared to PM10 concentration. Other surface pollutants like NOx and O3 also show strong linear association with CG lightning flashes’.
‘The NOx concentration on days with lightning activity is more than 2-fold compared to the non-lightning days while the O3 concentration is increased by 1.5-fold.
‘Such increase in NOx and O3 concentration on days with lightning strongly supports the transport phenomena of NOx and O3 from the upper or middle troposphere to the lower troposphere by downdraft of the thunderstorm during its dissipation stage.
‘Enhanced surface pollution in a near-storm environment is strongly related to the increased lightning activity, which in turn increases the surface NOx level and surface O3 concentration over the area under study.
‘Lightning plays a crucial role in determining the regional air chemistry, the study said adding, considerable research work has been carried out to explore the effect of an urban area on the initiation and enhancements of CG lightning.
Pollutants that ‘contribute in the change of cloud behavior’ identified in the study quoting the findings of other researches include the ‘effect of aerosol in cloud formation process and rainfall’; ‘influence of high PM10 and SO2 concentrations on the enhancement of urban CG lightning activity’; and ‘contribution of SO2 to the increased lightning activity’
India recorded the ‘fastest increase in pollution concentrations’ said scientists engaged for 10 years in analyzing and examining global observations of ozone layer and key atmospheric pollutant gases, as provided by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) onboard NASA’s Aura satellite since October 2004.
The study titled: Aura OMI observations of regional SO2 and NO2 pollution changes from 2005 to 2015 conducted by Nickolay A. Krotkov et al was published in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics was published in 2016.

India surpassed US in SO2 emission
‘In 2014 India surpassed the US to become the world’s second largest SO2 emitting country’, the paper said adding ‘coal-fired power plants are the dominant SO2 and NOx emission sources in India, and they are often built near large cities where other anthropogenic emissions are also high’.
Emission of ‘both SO2 and NO2 have increased, particularly over the Northeast’, where ‘a large number of newly built coal power plants have doubled SO2 while increasing NO2 by 50 percent’.
‘From 2005 to 2015, there was an increase in the OMI-observed SO2 and NO2 columns over India, mainly reflecting the fast expansion of the power sector driven by rapid economic growth.
‘By the end of 2014, the total installed capacity of coal-fired power plants in this region was 28GW, 85% of which (24 GW) was installed after 2005, accounting for 26% of the total newly installed capacity in India.
‘SO2 and NOx emissions from coal-fired power plants in this region were both estimated to increase by 190% from 2005 to 2014, largely in line with OMI SO2 observations.
‘India’s total annual SO2 emissions almost doubled from 6.7 Tg in 2005 to estimated 12 Tg in 2014. In 2014, India has not only surpassed the US to be the world’s second largest SO2 emitting country, but also has reached more than 40% of the SO2 emissions of the world’s largest emitter, China.
In contrast, India’s SO2 and NO2 levels from coal power plants and smelters are growing at a faster pace, increasing by more than 100 and 50 per cent, respectively, from 2005 to 2015.
‘Emissions of sulfur dioxide in the United States decreased from 31 million tons in 1970 to 16 million tons in 2003.
‘European emissions of sulfur dioxide were the highest around 1980, when they amounted to some 56 million tonnes. By 1999 they had fallen to 21 million tonnes – a reduction of 63 per cent,’ the study noted.

SO2 pollution to triple in India
India expands coal fired power projects, ignores measures to regulate SO2 or to reduce its high emission ‘The SO2 emissions from power plants are high, because S in local coal is mostly in organic form and cannot be removed by physical cleaning methods’, revealed the OMI study.
Unlike the US, Europe, and China, SO2 and NOx emitted from coal-fired power plants are not regulated in India and the installation and operation rates of SO2 and NOx emission control devices are very low.
The Omi data according to the study ‘provide consistent spatial and temporal coverage and permit the study of anthropogenic and natural emissions on local-to-global scales’.
The paper examined ‘changes in SO2 and NO2 over some of the world’s most polluted industrialized regions during the first decade of OMI observations’.
Based on bottom-up emission inventories, it was estimated that SO2 and NOx emissions from Indian coal-fired power plants increased by 103 and 94 per cent respectively, during 2005–2014.
The coal-fired power plants in India are neither regulated nor there exists any adequate measure to reduce SO2 and NOx emission. In the absence of measures for emission reduction, India has already planned to ‘increase power generation from 159 GW in 2014 to 450 GW in 2030 under the proposed and active list of power plant project’, reported ‘Coal kills: health impacts of air pollution from India’s coal power expansion’.
The report jointly prepared by Conservation Action Trust (India) and Urban Emissions estimated an increased in the total coal consumption ‘2-3 times from 660 million tons to 1800 million tons annually’.
The emissions of PM, SO2, NOx will ‘at least double’, while the emission of CO2 will almost triple from ‘1590 million tons/year to 4320 tons/year,’ the coal-fired power projects in India ‘should be subjected to tighter emission standards, similar to those found in emerging economies (like China) and developed economies (like EU, Australia, and USA),’ the report suggested.

Lightning rose 3-fold in Bangladesh
Lightning strikes in the country increased by about three folds in three years reported the Prothom Alo on may 19 last, under the headline ‘Sunamganj most lightning prone in the world.’ According to the report ‘the number of its occurrence in 2014 was 918, which increased to 1218 the next year and more than doubled to 2,500 in 2016’.
Quoting disaster management officials the report said thunderbolt killed 1152 people in the country in the past seven years but did not give area wise or year wise break-up of the casualty figure. So it could not be ascertained whether the number of fatality was on the rise or which area suffered the most fatalities.
Lightning casualty was 62 during the past five months up to May this year the report said adding that 37 of the fatalities were reported from Sunamganj district alone.
With three folds increase in lightning strikes across the country in the last three years and Sunamganj topping the list for lightning proneness for its ‘geographical positioning’, one may ask why a probe in this regard has so far been ignored by media, academia, environmentalists or even the government?
What the increased lightning strikes actually signify and what is causing such increasing lightning strikes in the country? The government needs to probe into this question and find out the reasons which are all available in the scientific studies conducted by different agencies over the years.


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Comments: Thank you for your writing. So far our elites were more or less busy with the so-called "MuktiJuddher Chetona" but ignored the dominance of India over Bangladesh and many other countries of our subcontinent. Till today Bangladesh suffered from building higher education based research culture in all aspects of Bangladesh. India has dominated Bangladesh since 1971 and till today due to their irresponsible and arrogant dominating tendency Bangladesh has been paying the price. Not to mention the Felani case who was shot dead by BSF, while she was inside Bangladesh border. Similarly, their careless attitude towards mining around Bangladesh border has yielded much pollution. Although there is some Indian researcher who explained their concern over this issue but the Indian media took a fewer initiative to expose it. Regarding this document, the NASA observation has pointed the facts, which has been ignored by our "Extremely Friendly Nation", neither the Bangladeshi Elites react to this and claimed compensation. This foreign game plane of India has made Sikkim suffer and could the next suffering country be Bangladesh?
Commented by : Md. Rashnal Hossain



The distressed state of the United States

Dr Arshad M Khan

A uniquely wayward president, Donald Trump, has managed to isolate the United States equally uniquely, and contrary to the stated position of his Secretaries of State and Defence and the National Security Adviser (respectively Rex Tillersen, John Mattis and H.R. McMaster) by scuttling the 2015 Iran nuclear deal citing issues outside its scope.

Full Story

Dr Arshad M Khan

A uniquely wayward president, Donald Trump, has managed to isolate the United States equally uniquely, and contrary to the stated position of his Secretaries of State and Defence and the National Security Adviser (respectively Rex Tillersen, John Mattis and H.R. McMaster) by scuttling the 2015 Iran nuclear deal citing issues outside its scope.

His charges have been dismissed categorically by the European Union foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini. Again uniquely, the Pentagon and the State Department agree with her (and not their president) that Iran has not violated the agreement.

The Trump legacy
Britain, France and Germany in the persons of their leaders took the unusual course of issuing a joint statement reaffirming their support for the deal. Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, accused the U.S. of “replacing the rule of law with the law of the strongest,” adding the “issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the U.S.A.” Trump’s only support on the issue rests with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump has also joined Israel in withdrawing the US from UNESCO membership, claiming it has an anti-Israel bias. This when the newly-elected Director General awaiting confirmation is Audrey Azoulay a Frenchwoman who is of Moroccan Jewish heritage.
Soiling newsprint and public life has been the disgusting tale of Harvey Weinstein the movie Mogul. Three or more women have accused him of rape and countless of indecent assault; others have their own singular stories of escape. So Weinstein joins a list including Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby and even ‘I-like-to-grab-’em-by-the-pussy.’ Trump … not forgetting the inimitable cigar-wielding ‘I-feel-your-pain’ Bill Clinton — he of the 500,000 dead Iraqi children from his sanctions.
The consequences of a gun culture reliant on a naive and obdurate interpretation of the Second Amendment became headline news over several days in the aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting. The toll of 58 killed and 546 injured set a new record — for how long? No one knows what went on in the mind of Stephen Paddock — also a victim — except that he had amassed an arsenal in his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room: a total of 23 machine guns, rifles with scopes and hand guns, all carried up without question or detection. Another arsenal including 1000 rounds of ammunition, explosives and weapons were found in his car parked in the hotel garage and his house.

A nation in distress
The 58 deaths could have skewed the statistics but not by much. It so happens there are 93 firearm deaths per day in the US and an average of one mass murder (defined as the killing of four or more persons) a day. With statistics like this can this country seriously claim to be a cultured and civilized society; or are there pockets of civilization in a desert of barbarism.
Ignorance is the handmaiden of prejudice. So we finding in the wanton attack on a Sikh Gurdawana (temple) in quiet Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012. The gunman killed himself after a responding officer shot him in the stomach. The Sikhs have a wonderful custom of langar a community kitchen run by the temple offering a free meal to anyone who comes. The temple members were busy preparing just such a meal, to be served in the evening, when the incident occurred.
The Sikhs also had a history of conflict with Muslim rule in India, so it is ironic some have on occasion (because they are required to wear a turban) been mistaken for Afghan Muslims — the latter themselves misjudged because Osama bin Laden and his crew were Arabs treated as guests by the Taliban because of their help in the fight to expel the Soviets. The Afghans, of course, had no involvement in 9/11 which is why the invasion to deny shelter to Osama bin Laden’s small group became a costly continuing error making new enemies. Some would argue what the situation required was careful intelligence gathering and a small strike force.
For sheer scale, Las Vegas is but a drop in the ocean compared to military action. Wholesale destruction in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Afghanistan in agony for more than two decades. A million-plus dead and millions displaced leading to EU tensions and Britain’s exit.
Absent Libya’s heavy hand, fundamentalist groups are operating even as far away as Nigeria. Then there is also Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine and now Niger …
So it goes on. A nation in distress causes the same abroad.

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.


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VETERAN ARMS DEALER WARNS
Are we on the brink of World War III?

Frank Peters

A LETTER Donald Trump received this week could change the course of history and prevent World War III.
International arms dealer of Bangladeshi origin and business tycoon, Dr. Moosa bin Shamsher has politely, but firmly warned Donald Trump to “back-off” from taking any military action against North Korea and Iran.

Full Story

Frank Peters

A LETTER Donald Trump received this week could change the course of history and prevent World War III.
International arms dealer of Bangladeshi origin and business tycoon, Dr. Moosa bin Shamsher has politely, but firmly warned Donald Trump to “back-off” from taking any military action against North Korea and Iran.

Shamsher, who is listed among The 10 Most Notorious Arms Dealers in the World, told the American President in a strong-worded hand-delivered despatch that he is privy to vital information the American intelligence agencies don’t know about and without it World War III is a strong possibility.

N Korea can destroy USA
The controversial arms dealer, 73, who has brokered many military contracts worldwide since the early ’70s, claims North Korea today is the most powerful country on earth.
“Two members of the disbanded congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) commission warned American Congress that a nuclear EMP attack from Kim Jong-Un was the biggest threat to the USA, but their information is outdated, it’s a lot worse than that.
“North Korea has the capability of destroying the three-million square miles of the USA in 42 minutes 42 seconds precisely.
“Major cities across the United States would be wiped out quicker than you can say Trump Tower,” claims Dr. Moosa. “That kind of power is unprecedented in history and terrifying, but even more frightening is the fact Kim Jong-Un has it and, if provoked, would use it,” he said.
In his plain spoken communication, Shamsher urged and pleaded with the President to change his attitude. He fears if the present situation is mishandled, it could trigger World War III and doomsday for America.
His fear for the world has lead Shamsher to become a one-time whistle-blower – the first arms dealer in history to break the code of silence that has bonded the controversial profession from its inception.
“North Korea and Iran have the biggest and most powerful Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in the world. They have no reason to fear or bow to anyone – no one,” he said.
On August 6, 1945, during World War II, the Americans dropped ‘Little Boy’ a 15-kiloton atomic bomb on Hiroshima and three days later ‘Fat Boy’ was exploded over Nagasaki in Japan. Both cities were instantly reduced to rubble and ashes and death claimed the lives of countless.
“Imagine what damage could be done with something like one-million times more powerful than either of those. That’s the sort of power North Korea can unleash to anywhere in the world and with precision targeting,” said Dr. Shamsher.

‘Trump advised to back-off’
“I advised Donald Trump to back-off immediately. In fact, I pleaded with the President to resolve problems and differences through dialogue. This is not a make-believe Hollywood movie in which America will emerge triumphant in the end with ticker-tape parades and such.  If Trump proceeds on the course he’s taking, America won’t exist and other countries will be affected,” he said.
“There’s never been a greater threat to western civilization and life as we know it, as there is now,” added the eccentric multi-billionaire, who hit the world headlines several times for his personal indulgence of wearing diamonds on his shoes.
The flamboyant arms dealer adorns himself with custom-made expensive jewellery and his diamond-encrusted gold Rolex watch – the only one of its kind in the world – has a £5-million price tag. His custom-made Mont Blanc pen, which he uses to sign military contracts, is valued at over $1-million.
Dr. Shamsher said he knows for certain that North Korea has the power to bring the world to its knees. That was one of many secrets his former business partner and renowned Saudi Arabian arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi shared with him prior to his death in June. Khashoggi had brokered the deals.
“While no one should under-estimate the power of nuclear weaponry, ICBM is not in the average class. It’s in a class entirely on its own.  It’s more powerful than the scientists, who perfected it, had ever hoped to achieve.
“India, Pakistan, Germany, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or any country you care to mention, could be reduced to debris in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.  This is not the work of fiction from talented writers like Stephen King and Alistair McLean. The threat is real and if the USA takes on North Korea it will be a million-times worse blunder than when it took on Vietnam. It will be America’s doomsday. The war and its horrific effects will be home-delivered right to the American doorsteps,” he warned.

‘No system can stop it’
Dr. Shamsher said when ICBM is launched at a target; there is no system capable of stopping it. North Korea and Iran are the two countries that should be of the greatest concern to the world right now, for different reasons.
“These two countries literally hold in their hands the power of life or death for millions of people throughout the world and that’s not a comforting thought,” he said.
Of the two nations, he said North Korea is the one to be feared most.
“Unfortunately, the enormous power is in the grasp of a mentally imbalanced all-powerful dictator Kim Jong-Un whom nobody within North Korea would dare to argue or disagree.
“If he decides to press the button, there’s no one to stop him. His grip on reality is questionable. He sees weapons of mass destruction similar to pre-pubescent boys playing with plastic guns and other war toys.
“While North Korea is America’s greatest concern, Saudi Arabia and Israel are in the cross-hairs of Iran and that should be an enormous worry to Muslims and Jews,” Dr. Shamsher added.
“I am gravely concerned about the safety of the Islamic Holy sites in Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and such places as-well-as for the Saudi Royal family, whom I’ve known and admired for many years, and the people of Saudi Arabia.
“Adnan told me if Saudi Arabia continues to push Iran to the wall, which they are presently in the process of doing; Iran might retaliate like a cornered rat, respond with vengeance and release their ICBM weapons of mass destruction, believing it, or justifying the action in their minds, to be the will of Allah.
“This would bring their present conflict to an abrupt halt, as did Little Boy and Fat Boy brought World War II to a stop, but it would send the world of Islam into a tailspin from which it might never recover.
“To prevent World War III and perhaps the greatest Islamic war in history, it’s essential dialogue reigns supreme. That President Trump does nothing to inflame the now critical volatile situation; that the Americans and Saudis know of the imminent dangers facing them, and that common-sense prevails on all sides, or God help all of us,” said Dr. Shamsher.

The writer is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a highly respected foreign friend of Bangladesh.


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The BJP’s attack on Taj Mahal is part of a wider project

Kuldeep Kumar

The Sangh parivar seems to have fine-tuned its strategy towards Muslims. Never before have its leaders acknowledged the Muslim identity of historical monuments like the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Qutub Minar or Jama Masjid.
On March 26, 2015, six lawyers in Agra filed a petition in the district court, claiming that the Taj Mahal was a Shiva Temple known as Tejo Mahalaya and that Hindus should be allowed access inside its premises to perform puja. The lawsuit further claimed that “during the 12th century, Raja Paramardi Dev had built Tejo Mahalaya temple palace, which at present in common parlance is known as Taj Mahal. The temple was later inherited by Raja Maan Singh, the then maharaja of Jaipur. After him in 17th century, the property was held and managed by Raja Jai Singh but was annexed by Shah Jahan (1632) during his regime.”

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Kuldeep Kumar

The Sangh parivar seems to have fine-tuned its strategy towards Muslims. Never before have its leaders acknowledged the Muslim identity of historical monuments like the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Qutub Minar or Jama Masjid.
On March 26, 2015, six lawyers in Agra filed a petition in the district court, claiming that the Taj Mahal was a Shiva Temple known as Tejo Mahalaya and that Hindus should be allowed access inside its premises to perform puja. The lawsuit further claimed that “during the 12th century, Raja Paramardi Dev had built Tejo Mahalaya temple palace, which at present in common parlance is known as Taj Mahal. The temple was later inherited by Raja Maan Singh, the then maharaja of Jaipur. After him in 17th century, the property was held and managed by Raja Jai Singh but was annexed by Shah Jahan (1632) during his regime.”

BJP’s cock and bull stories
The court, in its wisdom, admitted the petition and issued notices to the home ministry, the culture ministry and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to file their replies. While the culture ministry, in November 2015, informed parliament that the Taj Mahal was a tomb and not a temple, the ASI, for the first time on August 17, 2017, admitted before the Agra court that the man-made wonder was never a temple and was in fact, a Muslim tomb.
However, generations of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadre have been brought up on the theories of one Purushottam Nagesh Oak, a self-styled historian who had founded the Institute for Rewriting Indian History in 1964. Among other things, Oak claimed that the Arabian Peninsula was part of the Indian empire of King Vikramaditya and Kaaba was originally a Hindu temple. He wrote many books of which Some Blunders of Indian Historical Research became very popular. In this book, he claimed the Qutub Minar was, in fact, an astronomical observation tower called Vishnu Dhwaj or Vishnu Stambh and that the Red Fort was a palace built by a Hindu ruler. He summed up the crux of his historical vision in these words: “All medieval mosques and tombs in India are conquered and misused Hindu palaces and temples. Thus, Mohammad Ghaus’s tomb in Gwalior, Salim Chisti’s mausoleum in Fatehpur Sikri, Nizamuddin’s qabar in Delhi, Moinuddin Chishti’s makbara in Ajmer are all erstwhile Hindu buildings lost to Muslim conquest and use.” It is not difficult to see a correlation between this approach and the one that resulted in the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

Idiosyncrasy unbounded
However, such claims end up making the Hindutva forces a laughing stock in the eyes of the world because they are too preposterous to deserve serious academic consideration. Even a passionate Hindutva-loving writer like Koenraad Elst has described such claims as being “fanciful and totally unfounded”, ruling that contrary to his expectations 20 years ago that the star of Oak would wane, his popularity seems to have increased manifold.
Elst has no reason to feel surprised when Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself markets such “fanciful and totally unfounded” claims that there was plastic surgery, stem cell research, inter-planetary spacecraft etc., in ancient India. The project undertaken by Oak’s Institute for Rewriting Indian History has been taken over by state and central governments run by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The most glaring example has been provided by Rajasthan where the state government has decreed that history textbooks will henceforth show Maharana Pratap as the victor in the battle of Haldighati, even though that happens to be a flagrant travesty of history. The demonisation of Aurangzeb has been followed by the vilification of all Muslim rulers and rejection of their contributions – even contributions of those like Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Their mothers –
Rajput princesses – are being described as “foreigners”, “oppressors” and “anti-Hindu”. In short, history has become a servile handmaiden of politics.
However, the RSS seems to have tweaked its strategy a little bit.  Instead of emphasising the Hindu origins of Muslim monuments and staking a claim over them, the new strategy is to belittle their importance and denounce them in order to denigrate the Muslims by suspecting their ‘Indian-ness’. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath, infamous for his rabble-rousing anti-Muslim speeches, fired the first salvo when he described the Taj Mahal as not “Indian enough”.

Monumental inhibition
Speaking in Darbhanga in Bihar on June 16, he was reported to have said: “Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which did not reflect Indian culture… This is the first time this has happened that when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes abroad, or any foreign president visits India, he is gifted the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita or the Ramayan”.
Early this month, there was news that the UP tourism department had removed the Taj Mahal from its booklet Apaar Sambhavnaen (Limitless Possibilities) that contained information about places of tourist interest in the state. Its emphasis on Hindu religious places was very obvious as its cover had a picture of Ganga aarti of Varanasi and highlighted the religious and cultural importance of the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. It also promoted Ayodhya as the birthplace of Rama and Mathura and Vrindavan for its connection with Krishna. The Gorakhpeeth in Gorakhpur, headed by Adityanath, was also mentioned in the booklet.
One is in the dark about the number of tourists who visit the Gorakhnath temple while official data tells us that the Taj Mahal happens to be the biggest revenue earner of all the historical monuments frequented by Indian and foreign tourists. Later the UP government claimed the booklet was meant to highlight those monuments around which new schemes had been launched.
BJP MLA Sangeet Som’s recent outburst is directly related to the deletion of Taj Mahal’s name from the UP tourism department booklet.  It is evident that Som seems to have no idea of Indian history. His world vision has been shaped by the RSS. Justifying the deletion of Taj Mahal’s name from the tourism booklet, he confused Shah Jahan with Aurangzeb and said the builder of Taj Mahal imprisoned his father, targeting Hindus of Uttar Pradesh and India. He said such people should not find a place in history.

A limitless possibility
While trying to distance itself from the Taj Mahal controversy, the BJP, in effect, endorsed Som’s views. The party’s national spokesperson G.V.L. Rao said that the period when India was ruled by Muslim kings was one “of extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith”. In another damage-control exercise, Adityanath has said that it does not matter who built the Taj Mahal. It was built on the blood and sweat of labourers, all of whom were Indians. However, he did not utter a word about the character of the monument and how Indian or un-Indian it was.
Hindutva forces have always followed the colonial school of history.  British colonial historians very cleverly periodised Indian history into three segments: Hindu, Muslim and British (not Christian) period.  So, a tendency gained ground to view the pre-British history of India through the lens of Hindu-Muslim antagonism. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Hindutva forces have always been fiercely anti-Muslim, but not anti-British. The RSS and Hindu Mahasabha spent all their energies in organising and mobilising the Hindus against the Muslims in pre-independence India and kept themselves away from the anti-British freedom movement Their ire was directed solely at the Muslim community.
Meanwhile, if the Taj Mahal is to be shunned because it was built by a ‘traitor’, how can Modi address the nation on Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort which was built by the same man? And, were the parliament house and the Rashtrapati Bhavan not built by foreign rulers? Should they too be boycotted? There are indeed apaar sambavnaen (limitless possibilities) in such a project.

Kuldeep Kumar is a senior journalist who writes on politics and culture. [The Wire]


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Trump’s Iran Deal

Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Bad deals. Very bad – unless, of course, they are minted in the United States, with Make America Great Again credentials.  Hardly the stuff of presidential clout and oratorical flair, but the US president is making good his word to rain on the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with an overbearing enthusiasm.

Full Story

Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Bad deals. Very bad – unless, of course, they are minted in the United States, with Make America Great Again credentials.  Hardly the stuff of presidential clout and oratorical flair, but the US president is making good his word to rain on the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with an overbearing enthusiasm.

In doing so, the JCPOA joins a growing cupboard of potentially obsolete and endangered agreements of varying benefit and quality, be it the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Nationalists, populists, and activists of all creeds are floundering to find meaning in such gestures.

Conjectures get fictive gloss
The Friday speech was filled with customary Trumpist goodies, including the ultimate point that certification of Iranian compliance and general all round good behaviour would not be forthcoming.  Instead, President Donald Trump gave a speech shot through with rhetorical punches, ignoring such positions as that taken by Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic agency.  Iran, claimed Amano, actually had one of the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime.”[1]
Central to the Trump barrage were various claims.  Among them was the padding of the al-Qaeda link, suggesting that Iran had its share of blame for the September 11, 2001 attacks, irrespective of what ideological underpinnings and differences might have existed.
“The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist networks.”  All of these show neat compression, with political interests and differences avoided before the all driving monolithic force of Teheran, the designated supreme bogeyman in regional Middle Eastern politics.
The Trump speech was also insistent that softening the moves on Iran had been a mistake.  The regime, he insisted, was starving of oxygen when President Barack Obama went soft.  (It was not, but that hardly ruffles feathers in Trumpland.)  “The previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.”
Figures receive their fictive gloss; amounts are given a curious dressing.  The deal, argues Trump, saw a “massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran.”  Other monies also supposedly fell into Iranian coffers: the “immediate financial boost and over $100 billion its government could use to fund terrorism.”

Tables being turned
Considering that much of this involved simply thawing and ultimately releasing Iranian assets frozen by the US to begin with, the point is a moot one.  The fact-checking wizards have also made the point that the $1.7 billion cash claim involved a decades old claim between Washington and Teheran that was ultimately settled.[2]
The tables are being turned from the Iranian capital.  Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif argued that the speech itself violated the agreement, in spirit if not the letter. If there was a breaker of rules and engagements, it was the US, lauding over what had been agonising negotiations.
“I have,” claimed Zarif, “already written nine letters (to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini) listing the cases where the United States has failed to act on or delayed in its commitments under the JCPOA.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani retorted that Trump’s views were formed on “baseless accusations and swear words.”  New sanctions directed at Teheran’s missile programme were also deemed unconscionable.  “Our achievements in the field of ballistics,” claimed a disapproving Zarif, “are in no way negotiable.”
Other powers are left in a bind.  With decertification happening from Washington, what are allies and other negotiating partners to do?  The UK’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was bound to be unpredictable, but insisted that his country needed “to keep that deal going – it’s been a great success for UK diplomacy.”  Whatever Trump’s ramblings, the deal lived “to fight another day, and that’s a good thing.”[3]
In the final analysis, it may well turn out that Trump is simply firing the first blows against an arrangement that ultimately conceals legitimate Iranian ambitions to acquire a nuclear option. In the current climate, where North Korea is rubbing US noses in the dirt of desperation with each ballistic missile test and defiant nuclear run, officials might be biding their time.

For Trump ‘belief’ truly matters
Trump, interestingly enough, seems to want it, to push the incentive rather than drive any disincentive.  “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”
No surprise, then, on Trump’s reference in the speech about an alleged, if unsubstantiated claim of collusion between the DPRK and Iran.  “There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea.”  Belief, for some, is truly all that matters.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com.


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