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SECTION 144 ALONG TRIPURA BORDER

Geopolitical irritations may derail Singh's Dhaka visit

M. Shahidul Islam

Like the misguided prediction of heavy rainfall turning into a cyclone, the high profiled visit to Dhaka of the Indian PM Manmohan Singh is turning more dreadful by the day. Massive polarization within the government had already resulted in fading into oblivion of one of the key advisers to the PM while excessive brinkmanship has set apart the decision makers of the two nations further.

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M. Shahidul Islam

Like the misguided prediction of heavy rainfall turning into a cyclone, the high profiled visit to Dhaka of the Indian PM Manmohan Singh is turning more dreadful by the day. Massive polarization within the government had already resulted in fading into oblivion of one of the key advisers to the PM while excessive brinkmanship has set apart the decision makers of the two nations further.

 Sources say recent visits to Dhaka by both the foreign and home ministers of India made little headways with respect to preparing final documents relating to border dispute resolution, transit, water sharing and a number of other issues. One of the major stumbling blocks relates to the Indian negation to finance land acquisition for the proposed Akhaura-Agartala railway line and the construction of bridges across the Feni river to connect Tripura with the Chittagong port; something Delhi had promised to do during PM Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in January 2010.
   
   ULFA bogey
   While the media in Bangladesh remained in the dark with respect to what exactly was discussed and agreed upon during P. Chidambaram's recent Dhaka trip, the Holiday had learnt that the trip had dealt with more security matters than the declared agendas, of which the finalization of modalities relating to the adversely possessed enclaves' swap was a priority.
   Upon arriving Dhaka, Chidambaram changed the goal post. The border talks not only got pushed to the back burner, it was virtually abandoned due to India fearing of losing about 8,000 acres of land to Bangladesh once the adversely possessed enclaves got swapped. But this problem can not wait further for resolution. About 20% of Bangladesh's enclaves are located along the Indian state of Meghalaya while the rest are along the Bangladesh-West Bengal borders. The Bangladesh-Meghalaya border in Sylhet has long been tense; its population aggrieved and the border guards on both sides posing trigger-ready. This is also the geography on which the first Indo-Bangladesh brief border clash took place in Padua in April 2001.
   Despite such dangers, Chidambaram deliberately shifted Delhi's focus on security concerns while meeting our home minister, saying that the ULFA's military chief, Paresh Barua, had announced he would launch attacks to stop Delhi from repossessing from Dhaka the jailed general secretary of the secessionist outfit, Anup Chetia.
   Although none within the government would confirm or deny this, the manner in which the visit was orchestrated does lend credence to the allegation. "Barua has planned a series of major strikes with help from the Manipur-based People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the (Indian) Maoists", Assam's chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, claimed on July 22, only days before Chidambaram landed in Dhaka. "He (Barua) is holed up in northern Myanmar but keeps moving around," Gogoi said.
   
   Section 144
   Curiously, that was followed by Indian intelligence reports that Barua himself had moved to the Bangladesh - Tripura border, or, 'may be within Bangladesh where he's having a wife.' These reports are bound to be baseless due to an arrested Manipuri rebel leader, RK Sanayaima of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur, having claimed following his arrest that he had met Barua in China during the Shanghai World Expo that was held from May 1 to October 31, 2010. It also seems highly unlikely that Barua would endanger his life by moving to Bangladesh when Chetia himself is on the verge of being kicked out by a regime that is labelled as hyper-friendly with India.
   This was, in fact, a high-staked brinkmanship which India often uses against its neighbours, including with China against which it lodged an official complaint following the report of Barua being seen in Shanghai. This time, his alleged presence along the Bangladesh border prompted Delhi to clamp section 144 along the 50 km stretch of Bangladesh-Tripura border, only hours before Chidambaram's Dhaka visit. The local administration declared that the curfew- like restrictions would continue until September 24 and only Indian armed forces, police and para- military BSF are exempted from the imposed restrictions.
   Viewed in retrospect, the ruse seems to have been used skillfully against Bangladesh to defer the scheduled agenda to finalize the enclave dispute. Some Indian media even went to reporting that ULFA operatives were ready to swoop on Indian security forces due to the meeting in Dhaka of the two home ministers having an agenda to finalize handing over of Chetia to the Indian authorities.
   
   Audacious precondition
   Chetia was arrested by the Bangladesh authorities on August 21, 1997, on charges of illegally entering the country by using fake documents. Although he was later convicted and imprisoned on those charges, a concurrently filed asylum application still remains un-disposed, barring his removal from the country. Yet, on August 2, Delhi made it a sort of precondition that Chetia be handed over to India before Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka. This was odious, unexpected and audacious. Singh is coming to Dhaka to take more than Delhi is willing to give. Any precondition attached to the visit hence borders on blackmailing. Yet, Chidambaram said, "We have requested Dhaka that Chetia be handed over to us as soon as possible."
   This tough stance belied grossly what Chidambaram had said to the Indian media on July 31, upon returning from Dhaka. "In the last two-and-half-years I have been the home minister of India, I cannot recall having made any complaint against Bangladesh." Asked if the Indian complaints about Bangladesh's patronage of separatist elements were still valid, Chidambaram said, "quite the contrary." He also poured out unwavering appreciations for what he called "Dhaka's splendid cooperation in supporting New Delhi to apprehend insurgents."
   What had gone wrong that Chidambaram's eulogy for Dhaka lasted only hours, despite Dhaka not formally complaining about the shifting of the main agenda for discussion from border dispute resolution to handing over of the captive ULFA leader?
   
   Rebuffed
   Our guess is as good as the guessing can go. But we are surprised that Dhaka gathered some pluck to react. Perplexed, the Bangladesh authorities informed India that Chetia could not be handed over prior to the Indian PM's Dhaka visit due to the due process relating to his asylum petition being as yet inconclusive.
   Besides, although Chetia was sentenced by a Bangladesh court for illegally entering the country, his sentence expired years ago and the new agreement signed between the two PMs during the Bangladesh PM's Delhi visit in January 2010 relating to the 'Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners' did not cover Chetia's case. "Chetia's current legal status is not that of a sentenced prisoner, rather he's one who is under protective custody due to his prayer for asylum being pending and there being threat to his life within Bangladesh," informed Dhaka.
   It was also learnt that the request made for Chetia's immediate handing over was on the ground that Delhi wanted Chetia to join the proposed peace talk to end insurgency in Assam, which the ULFA's military wing's chief, Paresh Barua, strongly opposes. Delhi, however, thought Dhaka would bend laws once again to handover Chetia, and, such an unreasonable expectation was augured by the fact that during Nov-Dec. 2010, Dhaka did allow Indian security apparatuses to apprehend five ULFA leaders inside Bangladesh.
   
   Counter move
   However, concerned that Delhi would react furiously to this rebuff, Dhaka made an instant counter-move on another front. On August 1, a government committee cleared the way for the use of available facilities by India at Chittagong port as a transit point. Abdul Quddus, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Shipping, headed the six member committee that made the recommendations. The committee further recommended that, "For sending goods to its seven north-eastern states, India may prefer Ashuganj port, instead of Chittagong port." This was in fact a post-fact cover up for allowing the Ashugonj port to India since May last year.
   Although Bangladesh has a pipeline plan to increase the Chittagong port's handling capacity from the present 30.5 million tonnes of cargo to 100 million tonnes, the current capacity of the port is barely enough for our own economy. As well, cargo handling in Chittagong port is increasing 15-18 per cent annually. Given that China has already agreed to invest $8.7 billion to upgrade the port, following which the enhanced capacity can be shared by the land-locked north-eastern states of India, Nepal, Myanmar, and China, Delhi should have waited for that to happen first. India could as well join China in developing the port faster.
   But Delhi wants things its own way, now and wants much more too. Delhi has also been insisting on granting of rights to operate two inland container terminals (ICTs) inside Bangladesh- at Khanpur and Pangaon. The Khanpur ICT already handles Indian containers with cement clinkers that arrive in waves, every day.
   
   Big game
   Amid these irritations, Singh's visit to Dhaka may bear some fruit only if he declares something bigger than expected. That might entail the release of details of a $10 billion package that Delhi promised to spend on infrastructure development to fashion a cobweb of transit outlays across Bangladesh which could overcome Delhi's logistical nightmares in reaching out to the troubled North Eastern states. The proposed fund, however, is likely to be provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
   The scheme, however, sucks Bangladesh into a global Great Game of which the Economist magazine has voiced concerns in its July 30 issue. "The new transit project may be about more than just development. ... it is intended to create an Indian security corridor. It could open a way for army supplies to cross low-lying Bangladesh rather than going via dreadful mountain roads vulnerable to guerrilla attack. As a result, India could more easily put down insurgents in Nagaland and Manipur. It might provoke reprisals by such groups in Bangladesh," the Economist cautioned, adding, "More striking, India's army might try supplying its expanding divisions parked high on the border with China, in Arunachal Pradesh. China disputes India's right to Arunachal territory, calling it South Tibet. Some Bangladeshis fret that if India tries to overcome its own logistical problems by, in effect, using Bangladesh as a huge military marshalling yard, reprisals from China would follow."


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 HANDING OVER ANUP CHETIA TO DELHI

HANDING OVER ANUP CHETIA TO DELHI Ulfa, allies may retaliate in Bangladesh

Shamsuddin Ahmed

The government is set to handover United Liberation Force of Assam (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia to India against his will. It may incur rancour of the secessionist groups fighting for independence. ULFA army chief Paresh Baruah and 30 other secessionist groups of Northeast Indian states, so far fighting for independence, have recently forged unity under the aegis of their Chinese and Myanmar friends who have allegedly held out assurance of necessary support.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

The government is set to handover United Liberation Force of Assam (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia to India against his will. It may incur rancour of the secessionist groups fighting for independence. ULFA army chief Paresh Baruah and 30 other secessionist groups of Northeast Indian states, so far fighting for independence, have recently forged unity under the aegis of their Chinese and Myanmar friends who have allegedly held out assurance of necessary support.

 The secessionist groups and the Maoists in central India have agreed to collaborate in their fight. Worried at the intelligence reports about secessionist groups and Maoists coming together, the security forces in India were apprehending tough fight in the coming days.
   The secessionist groups area already annoyed with Bangladesh for the move to prove New Delhi with corridor in the name of transit facility. They assume that the corridor will be used for transporting arms, ammunition and troops from the western India to Assam and Tripura over Bangladesg territory. This is an old design but could not be achieved as Dhaka had so far refused the corridor. The alternative route through the chicken neck of West Bengal through Meghalaya is long, difficult, time consuming, and expensive because of the terrain perched with hills.
   "I don't think there is any obstacle in handing him (Chetia) over to India," PTI quoted Home Minister Shahara Khatun as saying last Wednesday. Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram who recently visited Dhaka on return to Delhi told newsmen that Anup Chetia may be returned before Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka early next month.
   Chetia, now 44, general secretary of ULFA, was first arrested in Assam in 1991 but soon set free by the Hiteswar Saikia government. He was arrested in Dhaka in December 1997 and sentenced to jail for 7 years for illegal trespass and possession of satellite phone and foreign currencies. The jail term ended, he refused to return to India because of security of his life. He applied to the UN High Commission for Refugees requesting to grant him refugee status and political asylum in Bangladesh. He also moved the High Court seeking protection that ordered his keeping in protective custody.
   Of late New Delhi mounted pressure on Dhaka for his handing over with the hope of his participation in peace talks. ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and five of his associates held in Bangladesh were taken back to Assam at the fag end of 2009. On return to Assam he agreed for unconditional peace talks with the government. But the political leaders viewed that talks without participation of Paresh Baruah and Anup Chetia who wields the real power in the party would be a futile exercise. Paresh in a statement disowned Rajkhowa for announcing unilateral ceasefire saying his action was contrary to the party's constitution. None who has suffered in jail or detained in government custody can take any action on behalf of the party.
   Efforts to take Chetia in the government's grip was intended to tame ULFA army chief Paresh who is close to him. Assam media had reported that attempts of sending two personal friends of Chetia to Dhaka to pursue him for joining the peace talks went in vain. They sensed Chetia is firm in his stand. Emissaries from pro-talks ULFA faction also did not come knowing his rigid stance.
   Barrister Sigma Huda, a lawyer and an eminent human rights activist, who had stood for Anup Chetia said he can be handed over to India. "Ball is now is in the government's court. It can refuse him political asylum and send back home or to a third country," she told a reporter.
   What concerns the people of Bangladesh is possible retaliation by ULFA. All the secessionist groups of Northeast Indian states plus the dreaded Maoists active in central India are now united. With assistance from their external friends they can create serious trouble across our porous border.


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India's transit plan and security of Bangladesh

Sadeq Khan

The Economist, in its 30 July issue, noted in an article entitled "Embraceable you", noted how "growing geopolitical interests push India to seek better relations nearer home" with Bangladesh. It reads:
   "NOT much noticed by outsiders, long-troubled ties between two neighbours sharing a long border have taken a substantial lurch for the better. Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed.

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Sadeq Khan

The Economist, in its 30 July issue, noted in an article entitled "Embraceable you", noted how "growing geopolitical interests push India to seek better relations nearer home" with Bangladesh. It reads:
   "NOT much noticed by outsiders, long-troubled ties between two neighbours sharing a long border have taken a substantial lurch for the better. Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed.

 To Indian delight, Bangladesh has cracked down on extremists with ties to Pakistan or India's home-grown terrorist group, the Indian Mujahideen, as well as on vociferous Islamist (and anti-Indian) politicians in the country. India feels that bit safer.
   Now the dynasts who rule each country are cementing political ties. On July 25th Sonia Gandhi (pictured, above) swept into Dhaka, the capital, for the first time. Sharing a sofa with Sheikh Hasina (left), the prime minister (and old family friend), the head of India's ruling Congress Party heaped praise on her host, notably for helping the poor. A beaming Sheikh Hasina reciprocated with a golden gong, a posthumous award for Mrs Gandhi's mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. In 1971 she sent India's army to help Bangladeshis, led by Sheikh Hasina's father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, throw off brutal Pakistani rule. As a result, officials this week chirped that relations are now very excellent. They should get better yet. India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, will visit early in September to sign deals on sensitive matters like sharing rivers, sending electricity over the border, settling disputed patches of territory on the 4,095km (2,500-mile) frontier and stopping India's trigger-happy border guards from murdering migrants and cow-smugglers. Mr Singh may also deal with the topic of trade which, smuggling aside, heavily favours India, to Bangladeshi ire.
   Most important, however, is a deal on setting up a handful of transit routes across Bangladesh, to reach India's remote, isolated north-eastern states. These are the seven sisters wedged up against the border with China. On the face of it, the $10 billion project will develop poor areas cut off from India's booming economy. The Asian Development Bank and others see Bangladeshi gains too, from better roads, ports, railways and much-needed trade. In Dhaka, the capital, the central-bank governor says broader integration with India could lift economic growth by a couple of percentage points, from nearly 7% already."
   Contrary to Bangladesh Bank governor's claim of 2% increase in GDP from the transit plan, economists in Bangladesh are by now expressly unsure about the commercial benefits compared to socio-economic costs of allowing a number of additional transit routes to Indian northeast for Indian traffic (India has a stable land and railway route on rocky grounds within its own territory through Siliguri corridor). Transit fees may hardly compensate costs of maintenance of transit highways on our soft soil, and the loss of arable land to this "connectivity venture" which is not at all a priority for our national development. Connectivity grows out of natural trade routes. It is only over a long period of time that strategic routes developed for primarily for emergency connectivity may or may not become a flourishing trade route. The fissure of the Stillwell Road connecting India and China through Myanmar during the Second World War is a case in point. As a matter of fact, there is apprehension amongst Bangladeshi businessmen that they may lose their existing market in Tripura and Assam from the expanded India-to-India connectivity through Bangladesh.
   What is more worrisome is the fact that while the mainstream Indian media has picked up the refrain that India now needs its smaller neighbours, particularly Bangladesh, more than the latter may do, to be able to play a balancing role to China in the Asian theatre, the Research and Analysis minders of the Indian Security State are continuing to keep hanging a Damocles' Sword of Indian might over neighbours like Bangladesh. Writing on-line in Daily News & Analysis, Subramanian Swamy on July 16 resurrected the allegation of so-called illegal immigration tide from Bangladesh to India ahead of Sonia visit. He accused border traffic of Bangladeshis of being part of an "Islamic" strategy to "change India's demography by illegal immigration, conversion, and refusal to adopt family planning," and "turn India into Darul Islam" and recommended that as a counterstrategy, India must "annex land from Bangladesh in proportion to the illegal migrants from that country staying in India. At present, the northern third from Sylhet to Khulna can be annexed to re-settle illegal migrants." There is no assurance for Bangladesh in such comments at all about any change in India's domineering mindset.
   In fact there is need for Bangladesh to be worried about its own security in ceding to the Indian plan for transit through our territory. As the Economist observes in the same article: "The new transit project may be about more than just development. Some in Dhaka, including military types, suspect it is intended to create an Indian security corridor. It could open a way for army supplies to cross low-lying Bangladesh rather than going via dreadful mountain roads vulnerable to guerrilla attack. As a result, India could more easily put down insurgents in Nagaland and Manipur. The military types fear it might provoke reprisals by such groups in Bangladesh.
   More striking, India's army might try supplying its expanding divisions parked high on the border with China, in Arunachal Pradesh. China disputes India's right to Arunachal territory, calling it South Tibet. Some Bangladeshis fret that if India tries to overcome its own logistical problems by, in effect, using Bangladesh as a huge military marshalling yard, reprisals from China would follow."
   Whether or not there would be actual reprisals from northeast Indian insurgents or disaffection from China on account of the Indian transit plan through Bangladesh, it would be wise to weigh the security repercussions of "the new transit project" along with economic implications and trade prospects.
   The Economist also suggests that India is undertaking the project on slippery grounds: "For India, however, the risk is that it is betting too heavily on Sheikh Hasina, who is becoming increasingly autocratic. Opposition boycotts of parliament and general strikes are run-of-the-mill. Corruption flourishes at levels astonishing even by South Asian standards. A June decision to rewrite the constitution looks to be a blunt power grab, letting the government run the next general election by scrapping a "caretaker" arrangement. Sheikh Hasina is building a personality cult around her murdered father, "the greatest Bengali of the millennium", says the propaganda.
   Elsewhere, the hounding of Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank who briefly flirted with politics, was vindictive. Similarly, war-crimes trials over the events of 1971 are to start in a few weeks. They are being used less as a path to justice than to crush an opposition Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami. It hardly suggests that India's ally has a wholly secure grasp on power.
   "When he visits Bangladesh in September, Mr Singh, the Gandhi family retainer, would do well to make wider contact if India's newly improving relations are not one day to take another big dive for the worse."


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Fair dispensation of justice becoming a hot issue

Ataus Samad

The issue of fair dispensation of justice has become a hot issue in Bangladesh in the wake of presidential pardons granted to a good number of murder convicts, and a warning issued to the opposition leader and Chairperson of BNP Khaleda Zia in a case in which she is not a party. The judges said that they were using their power of taking judicial cognizance. The effects of the decisions of the President and of the particular bench of the High Court Division are snowballing.

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Ataus Samad

The issue of fair dispensation of justice has become a hot issue in Bangladesh in the wake of presidential pardons granted to a good number of murder convicts, and a warning issued to the opposition leader and Chairperson of BNP Khaleda Zia in a case in which she is not a party. The judges said that they were using their power of taking judicial cognizance. The effects of the decisions of the President and of the particular bench of the High Court Division are snowballing.

 President Zillur Rahman had last month pardoned Awami League activist Biplab, convicted on charge of murdering lawyer Nurul Islam, a BNP leader. Biplab is a son of Mayor of Luxmipur. The government's response to the criticism of the pardon was that the President had acted lawfully and had used a power given to him by the Constitution of the country. Critics had said that the President's power was not in question. The issue was whether rule of law was being weakened and dangerous criminals were being encouraged by such clemency.
   The critics have been proved right by three events. Soon after the presidential pardon was announced a gang destroyed the memorial set built in Luxmipur for Nurul Islam. The memorial had a mural bust of the slain lawyer. That was smashed and removed. Next, activists of Awami League's youth wing in Luxmipur fell upon peaceful demonstrators who formed a human chain to protest the presidential pardon of a person convicted of two murders and accused of killing. Then, last Tuesday (August 2) when the acting Secretary General of BNP, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, went to Luxmipur to address a protest rally his motorcade was attacked by stick-swinging thugs. Several persons including a journalist were injured. These incidents prove that criminals and violent political activists feel emboldened to break the law after the pardon granted to a death-row convict solely on ground of his political identity. Presidential pardons too need to be based not only upon 'humanitarian' but also on the track record of the person on whom mercy is proposed to be shown and the impact upon society of the person being set free. In this case remission of his sentence to a long prison term from death penalty would have been better.
   At the Supreme Courts, two judges of the High Court Division comprising a writ bench are now embroiled in a bitter fight with pro-BNP lawyers. This may put the Supreme Court into a crisis unless the Chief Justice himself steps in. Some of the session lawyers have expressed their anxiety at the situation.
   In the face-off the bench comprising Justice A.H.M. Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Govinda Chandra Thakur has temporarily disbarred 13 pro-BNP lawyers, including member of parliament. Syeda Asifa Ashrafi Papia, from practicing in any court in Bangladesh till contempt of court charges brought against them are finally settled. The bench has also ordered that the accused lawyers must not enter the Supreme Court except for appearance in court as accused. The judges have also issued rule on the Bar Council as to why the license of these lawyers would not be withdrawn. Police have filed cases against 15 pro-BNP lawyers including the 13. The actions against them have been taken for the angry demonstration they staged inside the court room of this bench on last Tuesday. A piece of plastic was thrown at the judges and slogans were raised against the senior of the two judges. On their part the pro-BNP lawyers and the Supreme Court Bar Association President Khandaker Mahbub Hossain have requested the Chief Justice to take away the judicial powers of Justice A.H.M. Shamsuddin Chowdhury.
   The trouble with the bench headed by Justice Chowdhury began on Tuesday when he insisted on naming Begum Khaleda Zia, along with Islamist leader Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini in a case against the latter on charge of showing disrespect to the Constitution. The petition against Mufti Amini has been filed by writer and journalist Shahriar Kabir. The bench in an order passed on Tuesday said that from what they have heard as a remark passed by Begum Khaleda Zia about her wish to throw away the Constitution it appeared to them that she had committed a grave offence and that such remark put her patriotism into question. The High Court Bench further said that they were taking judicial cognizance of her remarks and warned her not to do so in future, adding that such would not be tolerated in future. Supreme Court Bar Association president Mahbub Hossain and counsel for Mufti Amini, Barrister Badruddoza Badal, protested this several times and urged upon the judge to stay within the bounds of the case and not to bring into it Begum Khaleda Zia who has not been named by the petitioner. Barrister Amirul Islam (of Awami League) too had argued against bringing in the name of Begum Zia in the case under consideration.
   A layman approach to the reported order of the High Court bench insofar as it relates to Begum Zia begs a few questions: There are: (a) admittedly the judges were acting upon what they had heard, but could a court act on hearsay; (b) from what has appeared in newspapers it seems to us that the court was referring to only a single sentence purportedly used by Begum Zia, and by that act it became turn out of context, as result of which the court might have made an incorrect interpretation; (c) in such a situation would it not have been correct for the court to call for an authentic version of the full remarks of Begum Zia on the 15th amendment of the constitution continued in a public speech in Dhaka; and (d) the court said that it was not asking Begum Zia to appear in person showing respect to her as a former Prime Minister of the country but would she not be asked to file an affidavit about what she said and meant or at least could not any of the senior pro-BNP lawyers be asked the court to explain Begum Zia's remarks?
   It seems to us that the less a court delves into political issues the better the chances of it keeping away from controversy. Also, we believe while it is inevitable that some verdicts will cause controversy this too is true that too many controversies destroy a courts credibility. 


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Is a third party working to destabilise the country?

Special Correspondent

As the slanderous comments on the Prophet by a handful of Hindu school teachers are on the sporadic rise in the wake of the recent sexual harassment of a young girl student of the city's Viqarunnesa Girls' School and College, people now wonder if any unholy quarter is at work to destabilize the country's social harmony.

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Special Correspondent

As the slanderous comments on the Prophet by a handful of Hindu school teachers are on the sporadic rise in the wake of the recent sexual harassment of a young girl student of the city's Viqarunnesa Girls' School and College, people now wonder if any unholy quarter is at work to destabilize the country's social harmony.

 The uneasy feeling is only getting credence as a recent write-up of the Indian strategic thinker Swami Subramonium, circulated in an Indian daily, laid emphasis on capturing Bangladesh territory from Sylhet to Khulna to create a Hindu vassal state here.
   It will not only destroy Islamic fundamentalists in this country but also contribute to wiping out extremist Muslims from India, he argued. Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni said that the fear of Indian hegemony in Bangladesh is only a "juju" or bugbear story played by vested interest quarters, and that it will never come true. But Subramonium's article will only add fear of the people and especially the slanderous comments of the handful Hindu teachers provoking communal harmony may only make things worse. The government should be on high alert.
   
   Socio-religious coexistence
   Bangladesh is known for its pleasant socio-religious coexistence as a moderate Muslim nation where communal tension, least to speak of any violence, is but anything that one can remember in its post-Liberation history. People are religious but at the same time anti-communalism here, living and working side by side with the other communities in peace and harmony. Their psyche is built by the region's liberal doctrines, accommodating and respectful to neighbours.
   More singularly, the country's educational establishments, especially the primary and secondary schools, have been the bastion of peace and learning until recently.
   There was hardly any instance of the nasty sorts of things from teaching staff like hurling abuse to the Prophets or holy men of any other communities.
   
   Motive behind it
   It was unheard of and also unthinkable. But a spate of such disgusting acts and comments are now on the rise leaving the people to wonder what may be the motive behind it. Especially why a handful of Hindu teachers are taking the extra risks at schools' classrooms to hurl sacrilegious comments on the holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and the Muslim way of life.
   They wonder why they are acting in a way that may not only agitate the vast Muslim majority but also can bring dent on the popularity of the government.
   The present government of Sheikh Hasina is politically very supportive to the Hindu community as it is placing more and more teachers from this community to schools and colleges.
   It is also putting more officials at all levels of the administration and technical jobs.
   But why in this situation a handful of them are increasingly speaking on the communal terms in school classrooms, it is difficult understand.
   
   Proxy to a third party
   So the question which may increasingly agitate the public mind is whether these people are acting on their own or as proxy to a third party which wants to see a kind of unrest in the country. What do they want to achieve from insulting the prophet, they ponder. They question, whether it is the emergence of a new combative mentality in a new political landscape.
   Porimol Joydhor was one of them who later raped a school girl in the closed door when she went to attend tutorial classes he was conducting. It is perhaps the first such violation of a student by a teacher in this country.
   
   Sacrilegious comment
   Next comes the sacrilegious comment of Shankar Biswas on Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) in the classroom at a Tongipara High School in Gopalganj district. Biswas said that Prophet Mohammad was a "goat since wore beard". When the students came out of the classrooms and local people joined the agitation, he fled away.
   The district administration however took quick steps to restore peace by announcing his dismissal from the job.
   No sooner had this dust settled, Modan Mohad Das, the assistant head master in Dhaka city's Dhanmondi Boys' High School made yet another slanderous comment on the Prophet to students in the classrooms. He is in the habit of making such derogatory comment publicly on the Prophet's married life.
   It provoked the students to come out of classrooms last week in protest. They laid siege on the busy city street including a section of Manik Miah Avenue. The government without delay removed him and transferred to a school at Panchaghar but he could not join the new work place again in the face of protest. The government later put him on temporary suspension.
   Ratan Pal of Tejgaon Civil Aviation School is also reported to have been engaged in sexually harassing girl students but he is still in place despite protest from students and their guardians. Another Hindu teacher at a school at Dhamrai, some 30km from Dhaka city, was recently chased by the students and local residents for hurling abusive comments on the Prophet.
   
   Maintaining harmony
   These are only few cases but a rise of the practice, analysts say, may eventually cause greater resentment and it may be the objective of an unholy quarter which may be working to disrupt the country's communal harmony.
   The government and civil society leaders must keep watch on these unusual developments so that the country does not fall victim to any conspiracy of any quarter.


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Global financial markets in trouble

 Abu Hena

 The world's financial markets are in turmoil. Economic growth is slowing down everywhere. Time has come for the policymakers around the globe to cooperate with each other and try to head off a crisis. This they did successfully in 2008-2009.

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 Abu Hena

 The world's financial markets are in turmoil. Economic growth is slowing down everywhere. Time has come for the policymakers around the globe to cooperate with each other and try to head off a crisis. This they did successfully in 2008-2009.

 This time, however, they have fewer options to act on. Central banks, both in the United States and in the European Union, have less room to manoeuvre monetary policy than they had a year ago. Governments, these days, are mostly cash-strapped. With the exceptions like China and Germany, most of them are not in a position to boost spending. Political problems in some countries may act as a deterrent to concerted global policy changes.
   Things have changed much since 2008. None agrees with anyone now on fiscal policy. Stocks have dropped 10 per cent only in July. The trends have turned negative. National purchasing indexes have gone down below the "boom or bust" threshold. The situation now is much more worrying than in 2008.
   There is widespread concern about the possibility of a downgrade of the US Sovereign AAA credit rating. The bond market situation in Italy has raised questions about the long term viability of the Euro Zone. Shares of the U.S. and European banks have reached the levels hit at the time of the Lehman's collapse.
   The crisis now is manifold. There is crisis in the field of currency, banking and sovereign as well. The London Summit promised $1.1 trillion for global institutions and for trade financing which saved the day and reassured investors to support a market recovery and boost economic growth. Such a move is harder to be made now as the leaders concerned may not be able to show such solidarity.
   The debt crisis issue which was resolved without raising taxes on the rich has weakened the American President politically and his economic options have been curtailed considerably due to cut in expenditures which would benefit the poor. The United States, Germany, France and some other countries are in their election cycles. Appropriate and prompt decisions may not be forthcoming from the incumbent governments for obvious reasons.
   IMF which played a pivotal role in coordinating the global actions is now handicapped by internal divisions. Emerging economies have already begun criticising the policies of the Western governments and have warned the agency against pouring any further large funds in aid into the Euro Zone.
   These are the impediments which are likely to complicate G20 agreements in the coming days. Joint currency intervention is the more likely form of G20 cooperation. But such an intervention is not without hardles. China and rest of the world are far from agreeing on a global currency system. In October 2008 six central banks in the West have cut interest rates in a coordinated move and China also eased its fiscal and monetary policy.
   Central banks may come up with similar easing policy during the upcoming meeting in Jackson Hole in the United States on August 25-27. But such decision for coordinated rate cut may not be possible for countries like the United States as the U.S. Federal reserve has very little discretion left to make further cut in rates.
   The London Summit in 2009 pledged a concerted fiscal expansion to be undertaken by G20 countries. This unprecedented move cheered the markets. Big countries are not in position to make a similar pledge now. Both the Euro Zone countries and the United are now making desperate efforts to assure the investors that they will bring down sovereign debt and not raise it any further.
   There are, however, hopes in this dark hour. China has the muscle to invest more of its $3.20 trillion foreign exchange reserve in the Euro Zone. Germany can support a major expansion of the Euro Zone 440 billion Euro bail out fund to provide a credit to Italy. Yet all these are not free from political opposition and other complications within the countries which can contribute. Markets still hope that fiscally strong G20 members will spend more to help ease the situation which may turn worse.
   The writer is the author of a book entitled 'Not without purpose' and a retired Additional Secretary. Was a Member of Parliament from 1996-2006.


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Consumers warned of actions for any agitation

Special Correspondent

The crisis in supply of water and electricity turned out to be acute adding more sufferings to the citizens especially during the Ramzan, the holy month of fasting.
   Despite claims made by the authorities on several occasion, it shows no sign of improvement.

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Special Correspondent

The crisis in supply of water and electricity turned out to be acute adding more sufferings to the citizens especially during the Ramzan, the holy month of fasting.
   Despite claims made by the authorities on several occasion, it shows no sign of improvement.

 The water supply authorities had earlier assured that "no crisis in summer", now blame power cuts and a fall in the subterranean water levels for the crisis. "Load shedding, fall in subterranean water levels and the subsequent low production at the wells have caused this situation," said Taksim A Khan, MD of Dhaka WASA.
   Earlier in March Taksim Khan had assured that since WASA managed alternative power supply system, there would be no problem in lifting water from the 577 deep tube wells of Dhaka,
   However, with the advent of Ramzan, there has been no water supply for the last few days in several areas of the city. Residents of Mohakhali, Nakhalpara, Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Moghbazar, Basabo, Badda, Rampura and Old Dhaka staged protests over the situation.
   Meanwhile, angered by frequent power outage and without a continuous supply for a long time, people in many districts had staged protest demonstrations and ransacked power offices last week. Angry and frustrated people also protested violently against erratic power supply in Sharsha Upazila in Jessore, Gazipur and Dhamrai. Students also staged demonstration on Rajshahi University and Jahangirnagar University campuses protesting the power outages.
   In Gazipur, about 250 Muslim devotees attacked Gazipur Palli Biddyut office for frequent power outages during Tarabi prayers and Sehri. Demonstrators also roughed up a Palli Bidyut official in Jessore following disruption in power supply in the south-western district town.
   Villagers deprived of electricity in Gozaria, Munshiganj, laid a siege to the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, disrupting traffic movement for two and a half hours.
   In Jessore, power subscribers ransacked Palli Bidyut office and beat up officials in Sharsha upazila in the district.
   Protesters alleged that they had not been provided with electricity even for six hours a day for the past one month or so.
   In Laxmipur, agitated people put up barricade on the Laxmipur-Dhaka highway for two hours on Tuesday evening demanding uninterrupted power supply.
   The power supply situation is bad everywhere and the power supply officials had to face the trouble everywhere in the country.
   
   Tuku's warning
   Meanwhile, State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Hoque Tuku issued a warning against troublemakers, saying that a section of people might create unstable situation during Ramadan in the name of protest against erratic power supply.
   He, however, cautioned that the government would take "stern action if anybody tries to create disorder centring on electricity crisis or any other issue, for that matter".
   The minister said it is not possible to resolve power crisis overnight. He hoped the problem would be alleviated by December.


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Changing regional diplomatic scenario is baffling

Fazle Rashid in New York

A keen student of global diplomacy will be both baffled and appalled by the current political trends. It is very difficult to understand who is one's friend and who is the foe. Pakistan and India according to public perceptions are sworn enemies. Pakistan and China are the best friends. There have been reverse trends in Islamabad's ties with New Delhi and Beijing.

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Fazle Rashid in New York

A keen student of global diplomacy will be both baffled and appalled by the current political trends. It is very difficult to understand who is one's friend and who is the foe. Pakistan and India according to public perceptions are sworn enemies. Pakistan and China are the best friends. There have been reverse trends in Islamabad's ties with New Delhi and Beijing.

 Pakistan and India despite sabre rattling are in close touch with each other pledging to bury the past and forge ahead ushering in an era of bilateral friendship free from mistrust and animosity. There have been dialogues between the two sides at different levels. The two prime ministers, two defence secretaries and two foreign secretaries have held meetings in the past few months. To cap it all was the meeting between two foreign ministers SM Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar.
   Hina Khar at 34 is the youngest foreign minister in the world. But her diplomatic debut was the toughest, a meeting with her Indian counterpart with host of vexing problems demanding immediate redress.
   The Indian trip was a kind of "vini vici vidi" for Hina Khar. She simply conquered the Indian hearts. It was similar to late Benazir Bhutto stealing all attention when she travelled to Simla with her father late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to sign a peace accord with late Mrs. Indira Gandhi immediately after the Bangladesh's liberation war. The principal element of the Simla Peace Accord was the repatriation of over 95,000 Pakistani prisoners of war.
   Hina was an instant success in New Delhi. There was a beeline to meet her. Aside from government leaders, even BJP leaders L. K. Advani and Varun Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi's son had meetings with her. Rahul Gandhi, a recluse of a sort when meeting with big wigs, did not miss the opportunity to meet Khar. The Indian media greeted the arrival of a new star in international arena.
   Beijing, in the meanwhile, a close ally of Pakistan has for the first time publicly accused Islamabad for inciting violence by the predominantly Muslim ethnic Uighur separatists. The Chinese accusation came when Lt. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director of all powerful ISI was visiting Beijing.
   The United States and India have openly criticised Pakistan's failure to rein in the Islamic Jihadists operating from their soil. China has largely confined its public statements to support Islamabad's security policies, the New York Times in a report said. Pakistan has pledged that it would not allow its territory to be used by Uighur Muslim separatists.
   China is making massive investments in Pakistan. The United States' relation with Pakistan is also one of love and hate. The US openly criticises Pakistan for failing to combat the Islamic insurgency yet puts in billions of dollars in civilian and military aids. It is still not clear whether Washington's decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan has been put into effect.
   The US also believes that the solution of Afghan problem will not be possible without the active collaboration of Pakistan. Many analysts in Bangladesh believe that China is vying with India to gain supremacy in Asia. China has taken under its sway all the South Asian nations except Bangladesh. The Indian taboo that Nepal cannot buy any military hardware without its consent is no longer respected.
   China has defended Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in the Security Council when these countries came under attack. India, a non-permanent member, has assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council from August one. India last held this position in December 1992.
   Bangladesh's biggest diplomatic triumph was when it secured the non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council when Ziaur Rahman was the president. Bangladesh has no veto wielding nation to stand by it in the Security Council.


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Mystery rises over borderland handover at Tamabeel

Faisal Rahim

Bangladesh is at the crossroads. Here the Awami League-led grand coalition government has reportedly handed over part of the country's border territory to the Indians although the people are yet to know anything about it.
   The land in question covers 261 acres of land at Sylhet-Tamabeel border. The decision to hand over the land was taken last week when Indian Home Minister had talks with Bangladesh Home minister Sahara Khatun and other Bangladesh leaders.

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Faisal Rahim

Bangladesh is at the crossroads. Here the Awami League-led grand coalition government has reportedly handed over part of the country's border territory to the Indians although the people are yet to know anything about it.
   The land in question covers 261 acres of land at Sylhet-Tamabeel border. The decision to hand over the land was taken last week when Indian Home Minister had talks with Bangladesh Home minister Sahara Khatun and other Bangladesh leaders.

 The news of the land handover was reported last Saturday in the Kolkata based Bengali daily Anandbazar Patrika when Chitamboram was still in the city. It said the handover has already taken place and the Indian border security forces (BSF) have also moved in their pillars covering the land that Bangladesh has ceded in total secrecy. Dhaka has not made any statement on it to avoid public outcry, the report said. It said the Hasina has government has carried out the decision as a gesture of goodwill to its neighbour prior to Dr Manmohans visit.
   The Assam Tribune last week in a report said since Dhaka has made a number of significant strategic concessions to India including transit facility, handing over border land, handing over of ULFA outfits and dismantling their hideouts, joint border management etc, Delhi has decided to extend the hand of cooperation and resolve other outstanding issues including the water sharing.
   It further said Chitamboram has requested Dhaka to handover ULFA outfit leader Anup Chetiya before Manmohan's visit early next month and Bangladesh Home Minister advocate Sahara Khaton said the government is processing the request although he is having an asylum application case pending.
   Interestingly while the Indian media outlets are awash with such reports, Bangladesh government officials have kept the local media in total darkness. Some analysts wonder what price Bangladesh would be paying during Dr Manmohan's visit next other than borderland surrender which took place during the just concluded Chitambaram visit to Dhaka.
   
   Gen. Ibrahim
   Major Gen. (retd) Syed M Ibrahim said the news of the secret handover of land has already scared the nation. He believed the government should issue a statement explaining the latest development to remove fears and confusion and restore people's confidence. He demanded transparency of actions from the government side. The major opposition BNP has also demanded a government statement on the issue.
   State minister for Home affairs Shansul Haque Tuku last week however said, there is nothing secret in the border agreement that need to be published. He avoided clearing the land handover issue agitating public mind.
   Former BDR chief Maj Gen. FazlurRahman, a veteran of a border skirmish with the Indian border security forces (BSF) over the control of Padua at Sylhet Tamabeel border in 2001 said Indian forces in fact came to the spot initially to support the training of freedom fighters in 1971 at a camp set up inside the country. Now they have claimed the land and the India friendly government of Sheikh Hasina is reportedly handed over without telling anything to the nation.  He said we liberated the country but lost part of the territory now to the forces which came to help us.
   Fazlur Rahman said the Indian forces continued their presence in the camp even after the liberation taking advantage of the friendly relations. Political leadership at that time ignored the presence without anticipating that it may one day cost the nation's ownership over the land.
   The Anandbazar Patrika report said the government has ceded 220 acres of land at Padua along with 33 acres at Naljuri and 8 acres at Linkhaat border. It said Bangladesh border security forces had forcefully occupied the land during the liberation war and afterwards and all subsequent governments in Dhaka have declined to entertained the Indian claims over the land.
   Since coming to power, the government of Sheikh Hasina decided to resolve all outstanding issues with India and the handover of land at Padua and two other places took place recently as part of this resolve, the report said.
   Fazlur Rahman dismissed the Indian claim that BDR had forcefully occupied the land. He said the border pillars in the area were laid during the Pakistani days and we only claim the ownership of land inherited from the past within these pillars.
   How could it be possible that BDR forcefully occupied the Indian land and moved out pillars inside India and it maintained silence at the time of such occupation, he wondered. He said the Padua camp which India held in its hand is located inside 1.25 km of the international border. As BSF continued their presence, the former BDR had made inspection to original pillars; which is part of its border patrolling responsibility, to advanced locations from both sides of the India held camp leaving it behind within Bangladesh.
   He said the initial dispute flared up when BSF made an attempt to build a feeder road over the no-man's land connecting the camp with one of their nearby border outposts about 10 km away. He said BDR resisted the move in a protracted border war in which BSF landed a surprise attack with a brigade capacity but they were severely beaten back. They then attacked BDR outpost at Roumari in an attempt to hit back but also lost the bid.
   He said, Bangladesh maintained its hold on Padua all along after the border war. The Indian government then invited Bangladesh government to a meeting in which claims made by both sides were discussed. The meeting decided that a final settlement of the dispute may be reached when the Indira-Mujib agreement will be finally implemented. He wondered how the present government can surrender the land now without working out all outstanding disputes, why it did not even wait until all such issues were resolved.
   Gen Ibrahim wondered why the government is handing over the border land unilaterally and moreover, what is the status of Bangladesh's claims at other border points. The government should ensure transparency and clear all such mysteries, he argued.
   BGB sources said Bangladesh has claims over several hundred acres of land at Kustia and Rajshjahi zones, besides other spots at other places and the initial arrangement was that, joint survey teams would identify the areas in the first place and the exchange would take place then on the basis of a political decision in the second phase. Now Bangladesh's claims appears to have been passed unheeded.
   Former Chief of Bangladesh Army and now a member of BNP standing Committee Gen. Mahbubur Rahman Padua issue came up for discussion with Indian BSF chief Ashwani Kumar in 1989 at the annual conference of the two countries border forces in Delhi.
   He said in that meeting Indian agreed to Bangladesh's claim on the land from documentary evidences and even Kumar agreed to remove the structures from the spot. The decision was recorded in the agreed minutes of the meeting and is still available. But it was not later followed up.
   Surprisingly BGB chief Anwar Hossain last week denied altogether the handing over of the border land at Tamabeel zone saying such things are scheduled to take place under Indira-Mujib agreement and to be sealed during Dr Manmohan's visit. One would only wonder if he told it knowingly or without knowledge of what is happening in the ground.
   Fazlur Rahman, said as far as he understands, besides the disputed enclaves, the total of adversely possessed land from both sides may stand at three to four thousand acres. Bangladesh may get roughly 17,000 acres against losing about 7,000 acres to India under the enclaves exchange deal. Here why unilateral piecemeal settlement has been resorted to, he wondered.


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STRATEGY TO REFORM INDIA

Swamy's plan to annex region from Sylhet to Khulna for Hindu Rastra

Special Correspondent

Without any ambiguity, Indian Janata Party President and a former union minister Subramanian Swamy has put forward a strategy to annex from Bangladesh's Sylhet down to Khulna to resettle the illegal migrants from Bangladesh to India.
   In his recent article, Swamiji, who is also a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, explained a set of strategy to attain five distinct goals towards reforming India into a complete Hindu Rastra.

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Special Correspondent

Without any ambiguity, Indian Janata Party President and a former union minister Subramanian Swamy has put forward a strategy to annex from Bangladesh's Sylhet down to Khulna to resettle the illegal migrants from Bangladesh to India.
   In his recent article, Swamiji, who is also a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, explained a set of strategy to attain five distinct goals towards reforming India into a complete Hindu Rastra.

 The article, "How to wipe out Islamic terror" as published in a Mumbai newspaper on July 16, Subramanium projected Islamic terrorism as India's number one problem of national security. The article was subsequently posted in different web sites.
   Subramanium suggested resettlement of ex-servicemen in the Muslim dominated Kashmir to create it as "Panun Kashmir" for the Hindu Pandit community and look for or create an opportunity to take over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
   
   A nation of Hindus
   "India that is Bharat that is Hindustan is a nation of Hindus and others whose ancestors were Hindus. Others, who refuse to acknowledge this, or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration, can remain in India but should not have voting rights (which means they cannot be elected representatives)" Subramanium asserted.
   The Janta Party chief stated in clear terms that the Muslims of India can join them if they genuinely feel for the Hindu. "That they do I will not believe unless they acknowledge with pride that though they may be Muslims, their ancestors were Hindus", he said.
   He suggested the strategy to remove the mosques in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 mosques at other temple sites.
   His strategy also calls for implementing the uniform civil code, making mandatory the learning of Sanskrit and singing of Vande Mataram, and officially renaming India as Hindustan as a nation of Hindus and those whose ancestors were Hindus.
   
   Prohibiting conversion
   Swamiji suggested that the policy to combat terrorism should begin with requiring each and every Hindu becoming a 'virat Hindu'.
   He also suggested enactment of a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion. Re-conversion will not be banned. Declare that caste is not based on birth but on code or discipline. Welcome non-Hindus to re-convert to the caste of their choice provided they adhere to the code of discipline.
   The article is being viewed with importance in the backdrop of a fragile condition of Indian coalition government led by National Congress. Janata Party pins strong hope on this situation when a mid-term election demand has surfaced under a wide criticism of corruption and inefficiency of the UPA government.
   It may be mentioned that Janata Party defeated Congress (R) to form the first non-Congress government in the history of India in the general election held after the end of the state of emergency in 1977.


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BGPA demands bonded licensing facility

Shamsul Huda

Currently more than 75 per cent of the export oriented ready-made knitwear garments are being printed by the local printing companies. Most of the companies are nominated by the buyers, and according to the buyers' preference the exporters provide printing work order to the companies, says Zafar Iqbal Siddique, president of the Bangladesh Garment Printing Association (BGPA) in an interview with the Holiday. He says that once the printing was done by the European importing companies in their countries. As they have stopped to do such work, a huge amount of orders are coming in to Bangladesh for both simple and ornamental printing on the knit garments.

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Shamsul Huda

Currently more than 75 per cent of the export oriented ready-made knitwear garments are being printed by the local printing companies. Most of the companies are nominated by the buyers, and according to the buyers' preference the exporters provide printing work order to the companies, says Zafar Iqbal Siddique, president of the Bangladesh Garment Printing Association (BGPA) in an interview with the Holiday. He says that once the printing was done by the European importing companies in their countries. As they have stopped to do such work, a huge amount of orders are coming in to Bangladesh for both simple and ornamental printing on the knit garments.

 Zafar, also chairman and managing director of the Defoin which is first of its kind of RMG printing company in the country, says that when knit garments are printed their prices become 70 per cent higher than usual plain knitwear prices. For example, if price of a plain knit shirt is Tk100, it becomes Tk 170 when there is printed logo or other ornamental design printed on it. He also says that printing is one of the reasons which are accelerating knitwear export growth. Due to diversified ornamental and quality printing, buyers are increasingly attracted to the local printing companies. As export volume of knit garments has exceeded the export volume of woven garments, confidence of doing more diversified printing work should be among the buyers. For their confidence, a local testing laboratory and training centre are required through which the printers would be capable to increase their quality in ornamental printing that adds huge value.
   "Currently, there are more than three thousand printing companies across the country, whereas in the year 1986 when I started this business there was only company and that is me. At that time, I expected that within next fifteen year there would be at least one thousand printing factories as export growth were in the rise since then. But today's three thousand is more than my expectation", he states and continues that to become more competitive in the international market with diversification in ornament and design, the industry owners need to import their chemicals under the bonded ware house facilities. He also adds that as the printed knitwears are being exported, so the printing companies deserve the rights for import of chemicals under back-to- back letter of credit and storage facilities under bonded licensing. Currently only three to four such companies are enjoying bonded licensing facilities from the government.
   To upgrade quality and diversify printing, the association has taken steps on its own initiative to install testing lab. Such initiative is needed to earn the buyers' confidence. Some companies despite being nominated by the buyers, face troubles due to default caused by poor quality printing and other problems. So, the association aims to work collectively to remove such problems and increase quality to earn the buyers' full confidence among the Bangladeshi printing companies. The BGPA also intends to help the defaulted companies in getting payment from the buyers.
   Mr. Zafar, also a member of the parliament elected from Nilphamari-1, hopes that the relaxation of the rules of origin in the European market under the GSP would not severely hamper the local textile industry as the quality of local yarn produced by the spinning mills here are better than the imported one. If trouble happens in this sector due to relaxation, then the government needs to come in to help. Despite financial turmoil and price fluctuation, overall apparel industry is in better position now. He hopes that steps to increase power generation will help the economy and asserts that adoption of nuclear power project would supply enough power to the national grid to feed the growing industrial units. Significant improvements in the education and agriculture sectors are positive for further development, he hopes.


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