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B’desh polity has entered a black hole

Sadeq Khan

 
The year 2011 has been a year of global transformation. To be more exact, it has been a year when it became evident that the global order is facing the tsunami of a sea change, and the process is bound to go on may be for a decade. 
What with the crisis of capitalism and the greed of financial institutions widening the gap between the rich and the poor, and thereby making a mockery of the Millennium Development Goals; what with the curse of global warming and the failure of extravagantly consumer countries to maintain Kyoto protocol, missing entirely the chance of improving on the same in Dublin; what with gloomy forebodings of disturbances in global food supply chain from disastrous changes in world’s weather, spilling over from 2011 and continuing through 2012; what with the unsatisfactory results (from the point of view of world powers) of the decadal war on terror continuing to destroy lives and property, and dehumanising affected parts of the globe as much as the mindset of protected communities; what with the turbulence of both conflict management and financial management patently developing a top-to-downwards flash-flood syndrome from Occupy Wall Street protesters at the top (albeit inspired by Arab Spring of jobless pressures) to Team Anna Hazare agitations in India and the like; the year-end of 2011 is leaving no doubt in any perceptive mind that the coming year will witness profound changes in geopolitical realities, which every polity must prepare to cope with and to find appropriate solutions for problems peculiar to its development dynamics. 
Full Story

Sadeq Khan

 
The year 2011 has been a year of global transformation. To be more exact, it has been a year when it became evident that the global order is facing the tsunami of a sea change, and the process is bound to go on may be for a decade. 
What with the crisis of capitalism and the greed of financial institutions widening the gap between the rich and the poor, and thereby making a mockery of the Millennium Development Goals; what with the curse of global warming and the failure of extravagantly consumer countries to maintain Kyoto protocol, missing entirely the chance of improving on the same in Dublin; what with gloomy forebodings of disturbances in global food supply chain from disastrous changes in world’s weather, spilling over from 2011 and continuing through 2012; what with the unsatisfactory results (from the point of view of world powers) of the decadal war on terror continuing to destroy lives and property, and dehumanising affected parts of the globe as much as the mindset of protected communities; what with the turbulence of both conflict management and financial management patently developing a top-to-downwards flash-flood syndrome from Occupy Wall Street protesters at the top (albeit inspired by Arab Spring of jobless pressures) to Team Anna Hazare agitations in India and the like; the year-end of 2011 is leaving no doubt in any perceptive mind that the coming year will witness profound changes in geopolitical realities, which every polity must prepare to cope with and to find appropriate solutions for problems peculiar to its development dynamics. 

In Bangladesh, it is sad that the government of the day is dead set on pursuing an agenda of making the most of past sins and past glories. In doing so, it has turned blind eyes to current realities and future problems or prospects; it has managed to badly damage and disfigure the Constitution and Institutions of the State, and brought the economic discipline of the nation very near to a ruinous situation. Its ‘digital’ vision has been corrupted by nepotism, clientalism and crony capitalist coteries practicing quick-back trickeries. There was the yearlong turbulence of capital market crisis which continues to afflict small investors. There is double-digit inflation peaking from time to time with market juggleries of bazar syndicates creating crises of particular goods in demand at particular times (like the sacrificial animal markets during the last Eid-ul Azha). There is liquidity crisis in banks on account of heavy government borrowing, both capital and current accounts of trade and industry suffering in consequence. There is dollar crisis, from flight of black money and soaring prices of land and buildings from need to cover up and protect illicit earnings. There are large subsidies paid to sustain rental power plants, etc. awarded to crony capitalists, bleeding the exchequer and busting the fiscal balance. On top of all that, supply of electricity, water and gas continue to be chronically short; traffic jams are aggravated slowing down life and work in urban centres as well as in cross-country movements; chandabaz political cadres, armed blackmailers, rent-seeking gangs, kidnappers and protection rackets deny the citizens minimum sense of security of life and property. 

The ruling clique remains completely oblivious of and indifferent to these ground realities of civic existence that their nearly three years’ misrule has engendered. The police, in league with a criminal mob are suspected of running a racket of kidnapping and disappearances for monetary as well as political profit. Justice is said to be for sale these days at all levels. 
What is interesting to note is that the decadent trend that Bangladesh is experiencing has little to do with the afflictions in the world order, the cumulative pressure of which will probably hit this Least Developed Country by 2012. When it does, the nation will certainly need national consensus and solid unity to face the troubles. But the government leadership has remained listless, although truth about the dismal state of the nation sometimes come out of the month of high government functionaries by slip of tongue. 
Finance Minister AMA Muhit very recently commented in a program of the business community that the economy of Bangladesh has entered a black hole. Echoing the comment of the finance minister, a commentary in the weekly Blitz suggested that Bangladesh democracy has also entered a fearsome black hole. The media is cautiously critical, but not showing any signs of deep concern, whether out of fear of persecution or apathy. The common man is deeply disturbed. One does not know whether or when, like in Tahrir Square or in Zucotti Park of Occupy Wall Street, the utter hopelessness of the common citizen may burst into an explosion, with or without any visible leadership.

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Police foil oil-gas protesters’ programme

Special Correspondent

 
At least 35 people of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports were injured as police charged baton on their rally in front of National Press Club in the city on Thursday.
The injured include engineer Shahidullah and Prof Rehnuma Khanam of the committee. 
The Committee later announced that they would observe countrywide programme on January 2 in protest of Thursday’s police action.
Earlier, the National Committee was scheduled to ‘gherao’ the Power and Mineral resources Ministry Thursday demanding removal of corruption from this ministry.
Full Story

Special Correspondent

 
At least 35 people of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports were injured as police charged baton on their rally in front of National Press Club in the city on Thursday.
The injured include engineer Shahidullah and Prof Rehnuma Khanam of the committee. 
The Committee later announced that they would observe countrywide programme on January 2 in protest of Thursday’s police action.
Earlier, the National Committee was scheduled to ‘gherao’ the Power and Mineral resources Ministry Thursday demanding removal of corruption from this ministry.

Committee sources said they staged a rally in front of National Press Club before their gherao programme. At one stage, police fired tear gas shells and administered baton charge to scatter the demonstrators, which resulted in injuries to at least 30 protesters, sources added.

The protesters came under the police obstruction near the Jatiya Press Club (JPC) minutes after the previously announced demonstration programme began. Activists of the committee held a rally in front of the Press Club around 11:30am to press home their seven-point demand which include cancellation of rental power plant agreements and gas export deal with ConocoPhillips and implementation of Phulbari agreement. .Later, they brought out a procession to lay siege to the energy ministry to mount pressure on the government to meet their demands.
When the protesters representing different left political parties and civil society, returned to the JPC area after marching along Topkhana road up to Paltan intersection, police intercepted them. As the activists insisted on marching ahead, police fired a number of teargas canisters and charged batons on them.

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Rivals accuse others as traitors, but who is the patriot?

Ataus Samad

 
“Who is a patriot?” This awesome question is being asked now in Bangladesh and around the world, notably in USA, Iraq, Pakistan, Nepal as well as in India. Voices for and against those being named as traitors, mainly by people in government, are gaining rough edges with every passing day.
In Bangladesh accusations such as this are not quite new. The late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his family and their political party, the Bangladesh Awami League, have been frequently described as being much too pro-Indian. They have been accused of doing politics with the aid of Indian money, weapons and guidance. Their opponents charge that in exchange, the founding father of Bangladesh, his daughter Sheikh Hasina and Awami League have turned their own country into a hinterland of Indian business, the dominant players in which are extremely corrupt, ruthless and greedy. They also say that the present day Awami League rulers have turned Bangladesh into an unquestioning abettor of India’s strategic designs for dominating the whole of South Asia.
Full Story

Ataus Samad

 
“Who is a patriot?” This awesome question is being asked now in Bangladesh and around the world, notably in USA, Iraq, Pakistan, Nepal as well as in India. Voices for and against those being named as traitors, mainly by people in government, are gaining rough edges with every passing day.
In Bangladesh accusations such as this are not quite new. The late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his family and their political party, the Bangladesh Awami League, have been frequently described as being much too pro-Indian. They have been accused of doing politics with the aid of Indian money, weapons and guidance. Their opponents charge that in exchange, the founding father of Bangladesh, his daughter Sheikh Hasina and Awami League have turned their own country into a hinterland of Indian business, the dominant players in which are extremely corrupt, ruthless and greedy. They also say that the present day Awami League rulers have turned Bangladesh into an unquestioning abettor of India’s strategic designs for dominating the whole of South Asia.
On the other hand, Awami League accuses their main rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, of being thoroughly and shamelessly pro-Pakistani. They claim that BNP leader and former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia still maintains links with the Pakistani military in spite of the fact that Bangladesh had to win freedom through a bloody war imposed on Bangladeshis by Pakistan in 1971. A junior minister in the present government keeps claiming that the founder of BNP, General Ziaur Rahman, was actually planted by Pakistan among the freedom fighters of Bangladesh even though Zia’s clarion call to take up arms, as a rebel major, had electrified Bangladeshis to start fighting Pakistani occupation forces as early as on March 27, 1971, when the voices of the top-most Awami League leaders was yet to be heard. 
The main ground on which the accusations against Zia, his wife and their party is based is that when Zia began building his political base in 1977 he embraced those Islamist politicians who had collaborated with the Pakistani hordes in 1971. They further cite the fact that Begum Khaleda Zia gave two important cabinet posts to Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Nizami and Mujahid. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other Awami League leaders have now launched a blistering criticism of Khaleda Zia and BNP charging them that they want to scuttle the ongoing war crimes trial in which top-most Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are on the dock. 
BNP says that all that they had demanded are that the trial should be fair and the court should comprise of judges and officials who did not have links with any political party. They also say that all war criminals should be tried including those who have relationship with Awami League. In response to the criticism that they are trying to save the Jamaat-e- Islami leaders now on trial for war crimes BNP have now begun to remind Awami League that it was their leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had pardoned the 195 Pakistani military men who were named as war criminals in 1973 and it was he who had let them return safely to Pakistan from POW camps in India.
At present the arguments have taken an interesting turn. Awami Leaguers and their sympathisers are saying that it is not enough to be a freedom-fighter and but one had to remain a true freedom-fighter all one’s life. BNP-men and their sympathisers are giving the reply that it is not enough to have led the freedom struggle, what is more important is to protect the independence of the country at all times.
In USA, however, the question of being a patriot or a traitor is revolving around a young soldier named Bradley Manning. He is on trial on the charge that he had supplied to the famous whistle-blowing website Wikileaks the copies of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables received and sent by the US State Department. American army prosecutors have charged that he had defied the trust of the US armed forces and that he endangered the security of USA by passing on classified information to the enemy. Manning’s lawyers have argued that he did not give any information to an enemy of USA and that the cables leaked by him were not really secret in that those were being seen by hundreds of other officials. 
But the Bradley Manning case has assumed political and ethical dimensions too. Ron Paul, one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for the US presidency has defended Wikileaks and Manning. He said in the US Congress: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption? He also went on to state on the Twitter that Wikileaks was providing truth.  Ron Paul has asked the question that why do not those who want to prosecute William Assange, founder of Wikileaks for circulating the cables, are not demanding the same treatment of the New York Times, the US newspaper which published those documents from Wikileaks. 
Discussions have also begun in sections of the western press, especially on the online press. An article published by the online newspaper Counterpunch says. When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year’s end, President Barack Obama declared the nine-year war a success and an extraordinary achievement. He failed to mention why he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. He didn’t say that it was built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Obama didn’t cite the Bush administration’s Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq, drawn up months before 9/11, about which former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported that actual plans were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it – complete with disposition of oil fields, peace keeping forces, and war crimes tribunals – carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of pre-emptive war.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta also defended the war in Iraq, making the preposterous claim that, as difficult as [the Iraq war] was, including the loss of American and Iraqi lives, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.
The price that Panetta claims is worth it includes the deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It includes untold numbers wounded – with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and suicides, as well as nearly $1 trillion that could have prevented the economic disaster at home. The author of this article, Marjorie Cohn, also points out that Bradley Manning had helped bring out videos which showed war crimes being committed on several occasions by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  She writes that the war crimes include the Fallujah Massacre, in which U.S. forces killed 736 people, at least 60% of them women and children. It includes other war crimes committed by American troops in Qaim, Taal Al Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra, Salahuddin, and Ishaqi.
Al-Jazeerah TV has reported that there have been demonstrations in USA to release Pvt. Manning. These protestors claim that Manning had actually hastened the US government’s decision to pull out from Iraq. It may be mentioned that Ron Paul too has put the question, should not be Assange and Manning be hailed as heroes instead of being condemned as traitors. 
It should be noted that USA and Britain occupied Iraq on the false accusation that its former ruler Saddam Hussain was developing a weapon of mass destruction. Iraq is now torn in a bloody civil war and the warring sides are calling each other traitors. In Pakistan, support or opposition to the military and to the US lead to labelling as patriot or traitor. In Nepal, the country’s politics is divided among those wanting friendship of China and those aligned to India and USA. In India Maoist rebels and freedom-seeking guerrillas in the country’s north-eastern states are dubbed as terrorists and traitors by the government in New Delhi. 
Bangladesh politics too is getting mired in the question of support or opposition to India’s north-eastern rebels. Sheikh Hasina and her government are praised by India for handing over many rebel leaders to Indian authorities.

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SOUTH ASIA LEFT OUT
Eurasian resurgence to usher in Gold Standard’s return

M. Shahidul Islam

 
The global economic landscape is changing faster than one would have expected. Brazil has replaced the UK as the sixth largest global economy while, following the Russian footstep - which signed an agreement with China in June to trade in local currencies - Japan has inked a similar agreement with China on December 25 to trade in their respective currencies.
The coming together of these Eurasian giants, in a unified move to trade in their respective currencies, carries serious implications for the global economy.
Full Story

M. Shahidul Islam

 
The global economic landscape is changing faster than one would have expected. Brazil has replaced the UK as the sixth largest global economy while, following the Russian footstep - which signed an agreement with China in June to trade in local currencies - Japan has inked a similar agreement with China on December 25 to trade in their respective currencies.
The coming together of these Eurasian giants, in a unified move to trade in their respective currencies, carries serious implications for the global economy.

Especially the Sino-Japanese deal is more alarming for the US dollar not only because the deal brings together the world’s second and the third largest economies, Japan also accounts for about 9% of the global GDP and the Japanese imports and exports constitute, respectively, 5.7% and 6.1% of the total world trading.

 
Eurasian resurgence
The landmark financial cooperation agreement was signed during Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s visit to China last week, and it is designed to enable Japanese government-backed entity to sell yuan-denominated bonds in China and facilitate conversion of currency without going through the hassle of using the US dollar.
Japan has also begun to be more militaristic. It had brought amendments to its post-War constitution to resume selling armaments; procured the Lockheed Martin’s coveted F-35 stealth fighter to bolster its aging air force; and even set up a naval base in the strategic Gulf of Aden (Djibouti) to protect energy supplies.
The economic and political consequences of these moves are profound- occurring at a time when the demand for US dollar is constantly on decline amidst reduced global trading; the Euro is in a virtual coma; and the geographic proximity of Japan, China and Russia implying that the moves are choreographed to have a transforming impact on the race for global economic and political leadership. The West may be choking and gasping, but the Russian economy is performing well and China and Japan hold over 65% of total US dollar reserve — China about $3.2 trillion and Japan about $1.3 trillion. China also runs a trade surplus with the world’s three major economic blocks — the USA, EU and Japan.
As the US embroiled in a series of military adventures since 2001, its annual trade deficit with China reached $201 billion by 2005 and showed no sign of abating. In August, US’s monthly trade deficit with China reached a record high of $29 billion.
 
South Asia left out
Either for ignorance or idiosyncrasy, South Asian nations are left out of this Eurasian resurgence. China-India bilateral trade being worth $60 billion in 2010, Bangladesh, India and other South Asian nations should consider signing similar agreements with China, Japan and Russia to boost regional trade.
Russia’s bilateral trade with China reached $60 billion in 2010 and is expected to reach $100 billion within five years and, to $200 billion by 2020. Much of Russian exports to China being commodities - with oil supplies constituting approximately 50 percent of the total exports to China - the move away from US dollar is already having an easing impact on global energy prices and bilateral investments.
In April 2009, China and Russia signed an agreement to supply China with 15 million tons of oil per annum for 20 years in exchange for $25 billion Chinese investment-denominated loans to the Russian state-run Rosneft and pipeline monopoly Transneft.
South Asian export to the USA and the EU countries having begun to reduce drastically, cash-rich Japan, China and Russia should import more from South Asian neighbours and China’s quest to become a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should be welcomed by India and others.
A unified Korea may add much more glow to what seems like a thriving economic sunshine lurking in the Asian horizon. Regional leaders must encourage to defusing tensions in the Korean Peninsula and help re-unite the Korean people.
Lest one forgets, the rise of Brazil has greatly been facilitated by increased exports to China, which has been its largest trading partner since 2009. In the first half of 2011, Brazil exported more than $56 billion worth of basic goods. The main exports are soya and iron ore and China is the main buyer. Since 2000, Brazil’s exports to China increased more than forty fold.
 
Currency war
South Asia is suffering from export stagnation and vagaries of currency manipulations. Regional economies may not be as yet aware that the most potent weapon in this ongoing economic warfare is not soldiers, tanks or drones, but currency. Intentional devaluation of currency by unbridled money printing is the new aggressive way to boost export by being more competitive.
The game is a dangerous one and it can only be avoided by reducing dependency on a single currency. Hence the Eurasian move to replace US dollar. Germany unleashed the first currency war after the First World War to boost post-war recovery. It ended with the Great Depression and World War II. Yet, the same trick has re-emerged with a sadistic sense of vengeance.
Lately, central banks in the US, UK and Japan have printed record amounts of money, either to weaken their currencies deliberately, or to spur internal demand through wage increase and stimulus injection. The US Senate’s passing of a bill in October to penalize China for what Washington termed as ‘deliberate currency devaluation’ was hypocritical and did little to reverse the tide.
 
Return to gold
For, the main reason for dumping US dollar as the global reserve currency is not tied to the currency war per se, as many insist. A gradual move away from the dollar is deemed to have the potential to dampen the shocks of the economic turmoil by quarantining individual economies.
Another reason is the desire and the necessity to switch over to a flexible gold standard by linking major currencies to the price of gold. The return to the Gold Standard may not bring back the golden age, but the system proved stable prior to the First World War and during the two - decade - long interregnum following the conclusion of the Second World War.
The US worries are hence misplaced and unwarranted. Given that major economies’ use of their local currencies will ease pressure on US dollar and depreciate its value, US exports will be cheaper and competitive. Faced with increased inflation, Beijing has already pushed its currency’s value upward since June 2010. The US must not squander this opportunity to redress its huge trade imbalance with Beijing.
These are desperate times sprinkling with revolutionary outburst. Social upheavals are snatching sleeps of leaders all across the globe. Radical shift in policies being badly in need to skirt off impending dangers, return to the gold standard is the way forward.
To defuse social unrest, nations need to re-adjust wages and incentives by using the leverage to printing money and devaluing currency. That entailing the danger of higher inflation, a gradual and persistent increase in gold supply may serve as an antidote to wrestling the impact of killer inflations until the economies regain their lost vitality. (globalreview.ca).

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Dialogue with the President: What dialogue?

M. Serajul Islam

 
A common apprehension everywhere these days is that violence is round the corner in our politics. The ruling party and the opposition are both openly talking about the forebodings in the air but blaming each other for the violence they are suspecting will happen soon. In fact, they are saying the violence will start in February.
The President’s decision to hold talks with the political parties to choose the next Election Commission (EC) has hinted indirectly that a serious clash between the mainstream parties is very much possible because the step he has undertaken is very unusual to say the least. The opposition has underscored the unusual nature of the President’s decision stating clearly that the Constitution does not give him such a power. Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister recommends the names to the President to choose an EC who has little 
Full Story

M. Serajul Islam

 
A common apprehension everywhere these days is that violence is round the corner in our politics. The ruling party and the opposition are both openly talking about the forebodings in the air but blaming each other for the violence they are suspecting will happen soon. In fact, they are saying the violence will start in February.
The President’s decision to hold talks with the political parties to choose the next Election Commission (EC) has hinted indirectly that a serious clash between the mainstream parties is very much possible because the step he has undertaken is very unusual to say the least. The opposition has underscored the unusual nature of the President’s decision stating clearly that the Constitution does not give him such a power. Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister recommends the names to the President to choose an EC who has little 

 power but to accept.

The President can of course request the Prime Minister to reconsider the recommendation but he must sign on the dotted lines once the Prime Minister makes up her/his mind. Normally, if here is any difference of opinion on any of the Prime Minister’s recommendations, the President has no power under the constitution to say or do anything any public. The constitution by design and purpose has made the office of the President nothing but titular. 
The constitutional restriction notwithstanding, there is this little problem that the President himself has created on the issue of his acceptance to the opposition political parties. He had given an interview to a private TV channel after being elected President where he was asked what he would do if he received a recommendation from the Prime Minister with which he did not agree. He answered almost by reflex action that his “Netri” could do no wrong! The exercise upon which the President has embarked could only succeed if he had the option to be neutral. Sadly, we all know our political realities. He just does not have that sort of power, neither by the constitution nor by his position, having been put in office of the President by the ruling party that he had served loyally all his life.
Those who advised the President to call the dialogue should have considered these issues. Even in choice of the issue for the dialogue, these Advisers did not act wisely or in the interest of the nation. The choice of the next EC is not the issue that has the potential to push the country towards the dangerous conflict that many people are apprehending. The apprehension is coming from the decision of the ruling party to conduct the next national elections under an interim administration that it will conduct, in all probability with Sheikh Hasina as the interim Prime Minister.
In addition, the ruling party will also have a civil bureaucracy that it has politicized totally to assist the interim government. From these loyal bureaucrats, the ruling party is in the process of choosing those bureaucrats whom it considers as its activists for the key posts in district and police administration that would be crucial for the elections. If this is not enough, the government has recently sent its party activists to the posts of administrators in the district councils!
With such a blueprint so palpably evident the opposition could be expected to take part in entering into a dialogue with the President to choose the next EC if they are politically naïve or have some other motive. It is sad that those who advised the President did not take into account that he is one of our most senior politicians and has earned respect for himself. The exercise of the dialogue is bound to end in futility and dishonour not just the President personally but also bring disrespect to the high office he holds. The ruling party has pushed the President into the fray merely to show the nation that it is serious about choosing an EC by consensus. It is sad that in using the President’s office this way, the ruling party did not care to remember its predicament with President Biswas in 1996 when he had threatened to use his office beyond what the constitution permitted him.
By choosing the EC as the subject of his dialogue, the President has undermined the real issue on which the country could explode in violence, namely the search for acceptable formula for holding the next general election. The issue of the next general election has become everybody’s concern, except of the ruling party, because of the abolition of the caretaker government. The last four elections, three under a non-party and neutral caretaker government and another where neither of the mainstream parties had any role in the government that held the elections, were free and fair. Only the losing party was the one that raised any question of credibility of these elections. All observers, both national and overseas, gave the elections the highest marks on the issue of freeness and fairness. In fact, the  caretaker government was one with which Bangladesh could have made a  claim to introducing into elections of the developing countries a system that ensured a free and fair election.
After the present government came to power, the court recommended abolishing the caretaker government because the constitution had given it a limited time span. The court, however, also recommended that at least two more elections should be held under it taking into view the nature of politics in the country where the history of elections under a political party in power has been one of rigging and fraud.  The ruling party used its parliamentary majority to replace the CG system with an interim government without even waiting for the full verdict of the Court which is still awaited!   
The indecent hurry with which the ruling party ended the CG system for an interim administration so that it could hold the next national elections spilled the beans on its intentions. Its subsequent actions revealed a blue print for returning to power. Thus by the time the President called the dialogue for selecting the next EC, few outside the ruling party and its coalition partners felt that a new EC would be selected with views from the opposition taken into consideration or that the interim government would allow it the sort of independence that could make it an alternative to the neutral caretaker government.
It is a matter of regret that the President himself has chosen to overlook the status of current politics in Bangladesh. His dialogue with the parties in the ruling coalition has been an un-necessary exercise, a waste of both his valuable time and those of the parties that attended the dialogue.  One would not have blamed the BNP if it had stayed away from the dialogue because before the President embarked on such an exercise, his aides should have sounded out the opposition. This does not seem to have been the case. In fact, it looks like those who organized the dialogue knew that the BNP would not attend and the AL would get political mileage for trying to form an EC by consensus.
By deciding to attend, the BNP has made a smart political move and has pre-empted the AL from getting the political mileage it expected.  The BNP would now no doubt its participation in the dialogue to inform the President face to face that no one would be able to save the country from an impending disaster unless the ruling party relents on its decision to hold the next general elections under an interim government to be headed by the outgoing Prime Minister. The BNP would also no doubt push the President for the immediate publication of the full verdict of the court on abolition of the CG system and insist that its recommendation for the next two general elections to be held under the caretaker system should be accepted to save the country from an impending crisis.
The logic to accept the court’s recommendation to hold the next two general elections under the caretaker government is too blatantly strong for the President to miss it if he wants to save the country. The ruling party is in no power or position to impose its will on the people without pushing the country towards a disaster with less than 40% of support among the people and having failed to deliver on its major election   promises.
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The writer is a former Ambassador to Japan.

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HUNGARY IS IN A MESS

Ruling party changing electoral law to continue

M. I. Ali

 
During the great famine of Bengal when Bengalis were dying of hunger, a group of concerned Bengalis launched a campaign to collect funds to help the victims of an earthquake that hit the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific.  They went from door to door singing “bhikka dao go deshobashi, Honolulu jai roshatolay”. Sung in the same tune, this article expresses its profound concern for the sad plight of the people of Hungary.  This article borrows heavily from CNN and the Hungarian Spectrum.
Full Story

M. I. Ali

 
During the great famine of Bengal when Bengalis were dying of hunger, a group of concerned Bengalis launched a campaign to collect funds to help the victims of an earthquake that hit the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific.  They went from door to door singing “bhikka dao go deshobashi, Honolulu jai roshatolay”. Sung in the same tune, this article expresses its profound concern for the sad plight of the people of Hungary.  This article borrows heavily from CNN and the Hungarian Spectrum.

Hungary is in a mess.  A member of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty  Organisation (NATO), the country had unsuccessfully fought the erstwhile Soviet Union to overthrow its Soviet backed communist government.  Hungary finally succeeded in establishing western style democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  But that was a long time ago, people there are no longer interested in the past and are more concerned about the fact that their economy is in shambles while their government is busy in implementing its plans to perpetuate its hold on state power.  Critics have accused the ruling Fidesz Party of undermining democracy and making constitutional changes more suited to an authoritarian regime.

Concern in financial markets has brought the issue of Hungary’s government and economy to the forefront.  The nation has been stripped of its investment grade status by ratings agencies.  Last week credit rating agency S&P followed Moody’s, another credit rating agency, in downgrading Hungary’s credit rating to junk grade.  This has made trading with that country more expensive, leading to a rise in prices and in inflation, causing greater hardship to its citizens.
The government in the meanwhile has passed new electoral laws that involved very thorough and careful research of prior results.  This was undoubtedly necessary to come up with a sure-fire plan that would favour the incumbent. Theoretically, this new system, on the face of it, cannot be called undemocratic. However, a closer look at the details reveals that the new electoral system will reflect even less the popular will than the one currently in use.  It would also make the participation of some parties in the elections almost impossible.  This however is an old American system called gerrymandering, which is a process of defining electoral districts to establish a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating geographic boundaries.
A large number of opposition politicians, including the former prime minister and fifteen members of their parliament, were arrested when they were demonstrating outside their Parliament building protesting the new electoral laws.  Needless to say that government enjoys the requisite majority needed to pass such bills.  The people were taken into custody for blocking entrances and exits to the Parliament building and violating “personal freedom.”  Opposition members were protesting votes by Parliament on several contentious bills and wanted more debate about them before the vote.
The Hungarian opposition parties are accusing the government of tightening its grip on power by installing loyal judges in the country’s courts and curbing media freedom.  
Matyas Eorsi, a Hungarian politician, said this process began a year and a half ago “when the current government got into power and since then they are systematically dismantling checks and balances and independent institutions. Recently, there was a bill introduced to the Hungarian Parliament to curb the independence of the central bank that was most alarming.”  
Zoltan Kovacs, state secretary for government communications, said the government is trying to resolve a problem spawned by the previous Socialist government.  “There is a visible and very well-orchestrated effort on behalf of the opposition parties to put together this kind of democracy deficit problem in the last couple of months,” Kovacs said.  “We have to deal with those major economic and social problems that the previous Socialist government have created. So we are basically finishing in about year and half, the kind of process that should have been started 20 years ago.”
Bangladeshis can take comfort from the fact that it is after all not alone in the world.

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WAR CRIMES TRIAL 

Witnesses are making disturbing disclosures

Special Correspondent

 
The war crime trial has entered into a crucial phase in recent weeks with embarrassing disclosures of the witnesses, which are undermining the veracity of the allegations against Jamaat-e-Islami senior leader Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeede who is now facing hearing.
Sayeed, a consultative committee member of his party and three times MP from Pirojpur, is a leading religious scholar and Islamic preacher of the country. He is standing the trial for his alleged crime against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971 which include rape, arson, looting, killing and conversion of the members of the Hindu community members as a local collaborator of the Pakistani occupation forces.
Full Story

Special Correspondent

 
The war crime trial has entered into a crucial phase in recent weeks with embarrassing disclosures of the witnesses, which are undermining the veracity of the allegations against Jamaat-e-Islami senior leader Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeede who is now facing hearing.
Sayeed, a consultative committee member of his party and three times MP from Pirojpur, is a leading religious scholar and Islamic preacher of the country. He is standing the trial for his alleged crime against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971 which include rape, arson, looting, killing and conversion of the members of the Hindu community members as a local collaborator of the Pakistani occupation forces.

Sayeede is in prison for over a year when the prosecution has carried out long investigations and put serious efforts to collect evidences of his involvement in the alleged crimes. But the disclosures of the witnesses, as regularly reported in the press now, present conflicting accounts from each other. Their exposures give the impression that these are mostly framed up charges or that the witnesses are speaking on framed up accounts of the crimes without seeing the incidents in the ground. 

What is most damaging for the prosecution is the fact that out of 6 witnesses four of them appeared convicted thieves, known cheats and fortune seekers who may have traded off their involvement in exchange of material benefits.
Yet more damaging is the fact that the International Crime Tribunal (ICT) last week asked the prosecution to take back the charges against Prof. Gulam Azam to further strengthen the charges basing on more credible facts and put them before the tribunal. The judges found that the charges are general in nature without indicting his personal involvement in crimes which are punishable under the ICT laws.
The tribunal was expected to pass order on the day to take Gulam Azam into the custody to stand trial. But its return of the charges to the prosecution has not only shocking. Observers feel it is an unusual move from the court of justice. 
In yet another order, the ICT has asked the prosecution Wednesday last to take back the charges against Abdul Qadir Mollah and Quamruzzaman, two other Jamaat leaders in the custody, waiting to start hearing. The court cited similar reasons asking the prosecution to further strengthening the charges. 
The rights of the accused are not protected here at all, critics opposed to the trial said. 
The defence on Wednesday last made sensational disclosures, as reported in national dailies. They were cross-examining the 6th witness in the court. The witness Manik Poshari said he had seen Delwar Hossain Sayeede and a group of Razakars were picking up Ibrahim Kutri, a domestic help and Mofizuddin from his house and then Kutri was shot dead on instruction from Sayeede and later thrown into a local canal. He said it happened on May 8, 1971.   
But when the defence produced a case dossier filed by Momtaj Begum, wife of Ibrahim Kutri, at the Pirojpur court on July 16, 1972 in which she claimed her husband was killed on October 1, 1971, by the Razakars five months after the incident as reported by Manik Poshari, Poshari said he had no knowledge about it. 
In her case she accused 13 Razakars and the name of Delwar Hossain Sayeede was not in the list of the accused. The defence said, this is how Manik Poshari was using his position to implicate a man who was not involved in the case. 
Poshari admitted to the questioning that he was not a freedom fighter, but the incumbent Awami League MP has given him a certificate in this regard and as such he is enjoying all benefits of a freedom fighter. 
Poshari said currently he is the incumbent secretary of the Union Awami League and his son is the president of the Zianagar Upazila Chhatra League, the student wing of Awami League. He said he was not present when his house was looted by Delwar Hossain Sayeede but later heard about it. 
Syeede is also accused of routine rape of young women and their handing over them to Pakistani forces in the camp. It was stated by two witnesses such as Sultan Ahmed Hawlader and Ruhul Amin Nobin in their earlier deposition to the tribunal that Sayeede had routinely raped Bhanu Saha, a young girl, to make the charge clear against him. 
But the deposition of another witness Mahbubuddin Hawlader said Muslem Maulna had lived throughout the period with Bhanu Saha at her father Bipod Saha’s house and he did not know if they had married. 
Muslem Maulana is now president of the local Ulema League, a front organization of the ruling Awami League. So he is not in any trouble, the defense said. The personal profile of most of the witnesses said they were fortune seekers and anti-social in nature. 
One of the witnesses, Sultan Ahmed Hawlader, has four cases in record, all relating to theft. He is not a freedom fighter either; but the incumbent local ruling party MP has certified him as a freedom fighter saying he had fought the liberation war under him on the war front. He is now enjoying freedom fighters’ allowances, besides securing indemnity from the theft case, and on top of it using 10 bighas of arable government khas land.  
Another witness, Mahbubul Alam Hawlader has two cases against him. He has secured release from one case reportedly at the ruling party intervention while the second case is pending in the High Court. Hawlader is also a fake freedom fighter but enjoying government allowances along with a separate allowance for his second wife, besides other financial benefits. He has a new brick-built house although he had also applied for financial help from the former BNP government and received it.  
Another witness, Ruhul Amin Nobin, was exempted from a case relating to electricity pilferage. He also received support from the government to repay his loan to Pubali Bank while enjoying exemption of interest on the loan. The defence claimed he has traded off his service to the government becoming a witness to the case against all such benefits. 
The ruling party mobilised its cadres in the capital Thursday last demanding speedy trial of the war crime offenders. A group of five ministers, as per a newspaper report, recently asked the government to put the accused to cross fire instead of prolonging the trial.
Deputy Leader of the House Sajeda Chowdhury said her party will not go home without the trial and execution of the judgment of the ICT. The trial is thus being closely observed by the local and international communities how the trial is moving onward.

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Comments: We have closed our ears and its a real shame. When i dwell on the reasons behind these kinds of fabrications, even on matters like this, i do despair. The government arent interested in justice for the dead, just the political benefit. Yet the minute someone says this they are branded razakar. where is the love in this place. thankyou for writing and publishing this piece.
Commented by : Fuad



BNP pursuing agitation, dialogue together

Abdur Rahman Khan

 
The opposition BNP is planning a fresh spell of anti-government programme side by side with the intent to join the dialogue with President Zillur Rahman on the formation of new election commission.
BNP also expressed its willingness to return to the parliament provided a “congenial atmosphere” is created. The opposition chief Begum Khaleda Zia is scheduled to announce new anti-government movement programmes at Chittagong. 
“On Jan 8 and 9, we will march to Chittagong. From there we will announce our new programmes. BNP is not an underground party. We always tell the people what we are planning to do.” Begum Zia said on Wednesday.
Full Story

Abdur Rahman Khan

 
The opposition BNP is planning a fresh spell of anti-government programme side by side with the intent to join the dialogue with President Zillur Rahman on the formation of new election commission.
BNP also expressed its willingness to return to the parliament provided a “congenial atmosphere” is created. The opposition chief Begum Khaleda Zia is scheduled to announce new anti-government movement programmes at Chittagong. 
“On Jan 8 and 9, we will march to Chittagong. From there we will announce our new programmes. BNP is not an underground party. We always tell the people what we are planning to do.” Begum Zia said on Wednesday.

AL’s 173 hartals

In support of their agitation programme, BNP Chief argued, “We believe in organised movement and are pursuing peaceful programmes. In the last three years, we enforced nine general strikes, and during BNP’s rule Awami League (AL) had 173 hartals.” 
She might have more hartals in her thinking while accusing Awami league government of indulging in corruption and plundering public money and failing to keep its election pledges. 
The Leader of the Opposition further warned that in future Awami League will be brought in the dock of International Court of Justice (ICJ) to be tried for abduction and secret killings of opposition political leaders and activists.
She made the warning Wednesday night while exchanging greetings at her Gulshan party office with the top Christian community leaders of the country on the occasion of the Christmas. 
 
Secret killings
Khaleda Zia said, “AL killed 40,000 opposition activists while came to power immediately after the liberation of Bangladesh. This time they have invented new technique of torture, repression, and secret killings.”
Meanwhile, BNP Acting Secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said BNP wants to join parliament as well as President’s dialogue on forming Election Commission (EC) if such an environment is created.
“We never said we boycotted parliament and will never return. We are only not going to parliament because none of our parliament members’ adjournment proposals were adopted.  The government did not accept even one of the 3000 notices submitted by the BNP. We cannot speak for the people in parliament and so, we are not going there,” Fakhrul said. 
 
Dialogue scenario
President Zillur Rahman started the dialogue with political parties on December 22 to form the next election commission and it has already been termed by most of the political parties and members of the civil society as a positive initiative for strengthening the democratic process. 
The five-year tenure of chief election commissioner A T M Shamsul Huda and election commissioner M Sohul Hussain will expire on February 4, while election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain’s term will end on February 14.
The President, on Monday invited the main opposition BNP to join his ongoing dialogue on appointing the next chief and other election commissioners through a political consensus.
The President has also sent letters to nine more political parties, including the ruling Awami League, to join the talks. 
The President has already held dialogues with Jatiya Party (Ershad), Jatiya Samjtantrik Dal, Workers Party, Jatiya Party (Manju), Liberal Democratic Party led by Oli Ahmed, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal and Islamic Front Bangladesh. 
Meanwhile, BNP-led opposition alliance agreed ‘in principle’ to attend the dialogue initiated by President Zillur Rahman on formation of a new election commission after the incumbent commission serves out its term.
The alliance also expressed resentment at the government’s not inviting Jamaat-e-Islami to the dialogue despite its being a registered political party having elected MPs in Parliament and also decided to convey the sentiment to the president.
The leaders also agreed to expand the alliance and to hold another meeting on December 29 with leaders of like-minded parties, including BNP’s offshoot Liberal Democratic Party.

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14-PARTY MASS RALLY

No more tolerance

-- Sajeda

Holiday Report 

 
The deputy leader of the House  and  Awami League  presidium member Sajeda Chowdhury  told  the  mass  rally  at Suhrawardy Udyan that  the war  criminals must not be tolerated any more since  they are still involved in criminal activities including killings. 
The ruling Awami League-led coalition organized the rally to press for accelerating war crimes trial foiling any ‘conspiracy’ of the opposition.
Full Story

Holiday Report 

 
The deputy leader of the House  and  Awami League  presidium member Sajeda Chowdhury  told  the  mass  rally  at Suhrawardy Udyan that  the war  criminals must not be tolerated any more since  they are still involved in criminal activities including killings. 
The ruling Awami League-led coalition organized the rally to press for accelerating war crimes trial foiling any ‘conspiracy’ of the opposition.

The rally began at 3:30pm on Thursday at the Shikha Chiranton premises where the Pakistani occupation forces had finally surrendered on Dec 16, 1971.

“We freed Bangladesh from Pakistan with the slogan ‘Joy Bangla’ and we will also execute the trial of the war criminals with the same slogan ‘Joy Bangla’,” Sajeda vowed. Before starting the rally, one-minute silence was observed in the memory of the late Abdur Razzak, Awami League leader and one of the great organizers of the Liberation War of Bangladesh and also former water resources minister.
Earlier thousands of leaders, activists and supporters of the 14-party grand alliance thronged Suhrawardy Udyan through mass procession.

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ASSAM IN TURMOIL

Hasina’s unfulfilled dream

Shamsuddin Ahmed

 
In her oft repeated claim Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina takes the pride of resolving the water and border problems with India. She had cheered the nation by announcing impending accord on 50-50 share of Teesta waters during Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September last. Probably Dr Singh had agreed on equal share of the Teesta waters with the hope of achieving his greater objective – India’s much needed corridor over Bangladesh for transportation of goods from the west to troubled-torn east. 
Questions were asked if the cargoes in covered vans or in containers would contain arms and soldiers in guise of civilians would be ferried from the west to suppress the secessionist movement now raging in the eastern states known as Seven Sisters. Allowing easy passage to arms supply and ferrying army personnel over the Bangladesh territory would, no doubt, cause ire of the secessionist groups of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura who may turn their guns across the border as well.
Full Story

Shamsuddin Ahmed

 
In her oft repeated claim Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina takes the pride of resolving the water and border problems with India. She had cheered the nation by announcing impending accord on 50-50 share of Teesta waters during Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September last. Probably Dr Singh had agreed on equal share of the Teesta waters with the hope of achieving his greater objective – India’s much needed corridor over Bangladesh for transportation of goods from the west to troubled-torn east. 
Questions were asked if the cargoes in covered vans or in containers would contain arms and soldiers in guise of civilians would be ferried from the west to suppress the secessionist movement now raging in the eastern states known as Seven Sisters. Allowing easy passage to arms supply and ferrying army personnel over the Bangladesh territory would, no doubt, cause ire of the secessionist groups of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura who may turn their guns across the border as well.

But Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal through which the Teesta, originating from a glacier in northern Sikkim, flows down to Bangladesh, has unwittingly torpedoed the proposed deal. In fact, West Bengal had already planned fuller use of Teesta waters during the winter for irrigation to 9.22 lakh hectares of land and storage of four dams raised for operating small hydro-electric projects to generate electricity. It is not amusing that Mamata has later offered as much Teesta waters as Bangladesh needs during the monsoon when the country is already deluged.

As for swapping of enclaves and resolving the age old un-demarcated border disputes, finally the accord seems unlikely. It is said swapping the enclaves would gain Bangladesh some 600 acres of land now in Indian possession. But Indian opposition party BJP is poised to foil the proposed accord. In parliament last week BJP has asked the government to bring amendment to the constitution. Without amendment, no land can be ceded to another country. 
It is worth recalling that the Noon-Nehru agreement of 1958 had provided for the exchange of Berubari union with Tin Bigha corridor. Soon, Berubari was handed over to India but India never gave us the Tin Bigha corridor. The then Indian President Rajendra Prashad had disagreed and referred the matter to the Supreme Court. A constitution bench comprising eight judges had given the verdict against handing over Tin Bigha corridor to Pakistan, saying no territory of India could be ceded to any country.
So, the move for swapping of enclaves will meet the same fate. Falling prey to the Indian design, Sheikh Hasina may give the transit corridor and hand over the Indian enclaves, but she will never get anything in exchange. The political leaders should be bold and honest in telling the truth so that the people do not suffer from illusion.
 
BSF killing
Killing by BSF along the border has not stopped despite repeated assurances by the Indian leaders. After meeting with her Indian counterpart, Sheikh Hasina had assured the nation that India agreed not to fire across the border killing innocent people. At other high level meetings, including that of BGB and BSF chiefs, India had repeatedly held out categorical assurance of no more killing by BSF. But they made promises only to break them. According to Adhikar, at least 20 Bangladesh nationals were killed and 58 wounded in BSF gunfire while 26 people were kidnapped during the eleven months to November this year. There were also unreported killings.
And smuggling of drug from across the border continued unabated. Old proverb goes that if you want to destroy a nation, push drug into that country. That will spoil the youths. Ironically, our friendly neighbour has been quietly promoting smuggling drugs into Bangladesh, which are not produced in this country. Phensidyl, for example, bottled in hundreds of small factories along the border and pushed through the border in large quantity. Phensidyl, intoxicated syrup not marketed in India, are produced targeting the youths of Bangladesh where alcohol is banned. The issue was repeatedly raised in high level meetings identifying location of phenlsidyl factories operating in along Indo-Bangladesh border, which are promoted by the administration. Indian side at high level meetings promised to close those factories, but it was never done. Reports from border districts pouring in to newspaper offices every day suggest that smuggling of phensidyl, hemp, heroin and alcohol from across the border continued unabated.
India is implementing the Tipaimukh Dam on Barak river across Sylhet ignoring the expert views and protest across Bangladesh. The construction of dam at the upstream is not only opposed by Bangladesh. Assam itself is raging with violent protests against the project. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), an organisation spearheading protests against a proposed dam in eastern Assam, has called for an indefinite strike in parts of the state from Tuesday (December 27).  The strike has been called also to protest police-army atrocities on demonstrators (Army remained deployed in Assam to suppress secessionist movement by ULFA). Security forces claimed KMSS is linked with ULFA and Maoists, acting as their covert unit. After beating the demonstrators 400 of them were arrested early hours on Tuesday. KMSS, Takam Mising Porin Kebang and Jatiyatabadi Yuva-Chatra Parishad have been leading a mass protest against the proposed 2000 MW Lower Subansiri mega hydro-electric project being constructed at Gerukamukh in Dhemaji district along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Road blockade and anti-dam movement has received support from a number of groups, communities and political leaders of Arunachal Pradesh.

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Writer Razia Amin passes away

Holiday Desk

 
Razia Khan Amin
Noted writer and Dhaka University professor Razia Khan Amin passed away in a city hospital on Wednesday. She was 75.
Amin is survived by her husband, a son and a daughter. 
She died at 7:30pm at Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital in Gulshan, according to her daughter Aasha Mehreen Amin, magazine editor at the English newspaper The Daily Star. 
Amin was a professor of English and American Literature at Dhaka University. She was the daughter of politician and social activist Moulvi Tamizuddin Khan. 
Born in 1936, Amin started writing short stories and novels at the age of eight. Her first novel was Bot Tolar Upannayash (1958).
Full Story

Holiday Desk

 
Razia Khan Amin
Noted writer and Dhaka University professor Razia Khan Amin passed away in a city hospital on Wednesday. She was 75.
Amin is survived by her husband, a son and a daughter. 
She died at 7:30pm at Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital in Gulshan, according to her daughter Aasha Mehreen Amin, magazine editor at the English newspaper The Daily Star. 
Amin was a professor of English and American Literature at Dhaka University. She was the daughter of politician and social activist Moulvi Tamizuddin Khan. 
Born in 1936, Amin started writing short stories and novels at the age of eight. Her first novel was Bot Tolar Upannayash (1958).
Using her pen name, Razia Khan, she authored at least 12 books including novels, poems, and plays. 
Her literary works include the novels Chitrokabbya, Bot Tolar Upanyash, Anukalpa, Padobik and Draupadi. The last one has been translated into English as well. Her collections of poems include Argus Under Anaesthesia (1976) and Cruel April (1977), among others. 
For her contribution in Bangla literature, Amin won the Bangla Academy Award in 1975. She also won the Ekushey Padak (1997), Ananya Award (1998) and Shilpakala Academy Award for her contribution to theatre in Bangladesh.

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