Cabinet okays 10 ordinances
for passage into laws
The cabinet on Monday approved 10 bills for passage of as many ordinances, promulgated during the immediate past interim government, into laws violating set principles and also two High Court verdicts.
The 10 ordinances, approved by the cabinet for passage as laws, include some ordinances which do not conform to the ratification principles.
The meeting of the cabinet, held at the cabinet division conference room at the secretariat, approved Bangladesh University of Professionals Bill, Begum Rokeya University Rangpur Bill, Trade Mark Bill, Financial Loan Court (amendment) Bill, Money Laundering Prevention Bill, Election Commission Secretariat Bill and Voters’ List Bill.
The cabinet approved in principle Law and Order Infringing Offences (Speedy Trial) (amendment) Bill and Bangladesh Tourism Bill and asked the home ministry for further examination of the speedy trial bill.
In 2002, the then opposition Awami League vehemently opposed the passage of the Speedy Trial Act in 2002.
The cabinet also approved four bills for making into laws four ordinances promulgated during the interim regime regarding supplementary budgets for 2006-07 and 2007-08 and national budgets for 2007-08 and 2008-09 fiscal years.
The expert committee formed to scrutinise the ordinances promulgated in the past two years submitted its report on January 25, recommending that 30 ordinances should be approved, 39 should be dropped and 53 others should be left for the parliament to decide.
The expert committee made the recommendations according to the principles that only the ordinances promulgated in accordance with Article 58D of the constitution should be enacted as laws.
According to the article, the president during a caretaker government cannot promulgate any ordinance that is not directly related to elections or is not essential to run the day-to-day affairs of the government.
The High Court has so far delivered two verdicts and ruled that the interim government has no powers to promulgate any ordinance that does not fulfil the conditions.
The High Court bench of Justice ABM Khairul Haque and Justice M Abu Tariq, in accordance with this principle, cancelled the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Ordinance on July 13, 2008 and the Contempt of Court Ordinance on July 24, 2008.
The parliamentary special committee, which was assigned to scrutinise the ordinances, on Sunday finalised its report recommending 54 ordinances out of a total 122 for passage as laws.
The cabinet approved ratification of the Bangladesh University of Professionals Ordinance 2008 which made provisions for the establishment of a university for the defence service officials. Different quarters have already demanded cancellation of the ordinance. The expert committee also recommended scrapping of the ordinance.
The cabinet approved ratification of the Money Laundering Prevention Ordinance although prime minister Sheikh Hasina questioned what was the use of a law against money laundering as a large amount of money was allegedly siphoned off during the BNP-led alliance government when the Money Laundering Prevention Act was in force.
The cabinet, however, brought changes in the name of the Rangpur University. The interim government promulgated the Rangpur University Ordinance and the cabinet finally passed it as Begum Rokeya University Rangpur Bill. According to the changes made in the ordinance by the cabinet, the president would be the chancellor of the university instead of the prime minister.
The cabinet also made changes in the Bangladesh Tourism Ordinance making provisions for inclusion of a noted personality and a local personality in the local committees on tourism development.
People involved in preparing ‘false’ voters’ roll should be
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Monday told the cabinet that the people responsible for preparing a ‘false’ voters’ roll with nearly two crore fake voters at the fag end of the tenure of the BNP-led alliance government should be brought to justice.
‘Persons who were involved in making a fake voters list before the cancelled January 22, 2007 elections should be punished to prevent such attempts to hold farcical polls in future…,’ Hasina, also the ruling Awami League president, was quoted by her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad as saying.
Azad was briefing newsmen at the Press Information Department after the meeting of the cabinet held at the cabinet division at the secretariat.
The prime minister made the observation when the cabinet approved the Electoral Roll Bill along with nine other bills for passage of ordinances, promulgated during the immediate past interim government, into laws.
Hasina, who presided over the four-and-a-half-hour meeting, also asked the Bangladesh Bank Governor how corers of taka were smuggled out of the country when a Money Laundering Prevention Act was in force, meeting sources said.
Bangladesh Bank governor Salehuddin Ahmed told the meeting that they had specific information about money siphoned off to Malaysia and the United Kingdom, Azad said.
While approving the Law and Order Infringing Offences (Speedy Trial) (Amendment) Bill, the prime minister asked the home ministry to be cautious so that none was harassed by the law, a source who attended the meeting told New Age.
35 students injured in BCL
infighting at JU
Gunfights between two factions of the Awami League-backed Bangladesh Chhatra League at Jahangirnagar University over establishing supremacy left at least 35 activists injured on Monday, with only two days left for the month-long suspension on the activities of the unit.
After the clash, the Chhatra League central committee suspended again all activities of the university unit for another month, Mahfuzul Hayder Chowdhury Roton, the general secretary of the central committee, told New Age.
The feuding groups exchanged around 20 rounds of gunshots during the clashes.
Of the injured, three leaders Sagar, Shobhan and Shubho were sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital with bullet injuries and their conditions deteriorated.
The violence sparked off at around 11:00am when activists of the rebel faction, led by Ayan-Azibur, with the backup of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal activists, attacked Nayan, Shajib, Rubel and Zihan, loyal to the president and general secretary-led faction, at various places on the campus with iron rods, sticks and brickbats.
As the news spread, more than a hundred activists of the president-secretary-led faction from Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall, Al Beruni Hall, Salam Barkat Hall and AFM Kamal Uddin Hall rushed to Bangabandhu Hall and Bhasani Hall, controlled by the rebel faction, attacked activists of the rebel faction with firearms, sticks and machetes.
Both the groups chased each other and police went on a futile effort to disperse them firing teargas shells.
At around 1:00pm, the university proctor, Nasir Uddin, along with other assistant proctors, went to the spot and tried to mediate between the groups. As the proctor assured the president-secretary-led faction of punishing the attackers, they went back to their halls.
Immediately after the assurance, some unknown people damaged the houses of the proctor and the university teachers’ association general secretary, Shamsul Alam Selim.
The activists loyal to Azibur-Ayan faction reorganised at around 3:00pm and attacked the other group. Both the groups traded gunshots and at least three activists sustained bullet injuries.
After the second spell of gunfight, activists belonging to the president-secretary-led faction cordoned off the members of the proctorial body and a former vice-chancellor in front of Kamal Uddin Hall and demanded their immediate resignation. They were freed after half an hour.
Sohel Parvez, the president of university unit Chhatra League, claimed the rebel faction had attacked them in a planned way. ‘They have the administration with them.’ He also denied any involvement in damaging the teachers’ residences.
The provosts and deans sat in a meeting in the evening and decided to deploy riot police at the residential halls and extend cooperation to the law enforcers.
The university teachers’ association, in another meeting, demanded punishment of the attackers on teachers and threatened to go for tougher movement if the authorities ignored the issue.
Earlier on January 18, the Chhatra League central committee suspended all the activities of the university unit following a clash between the two factions.
Involvement of MPs in local
govt work denounced
Academics, local government experts, local tiers’ representatives and students censured the demand of the treasury bench’s lawmakers for ensuring their involvement in development activities of the local government bodies.
They told New Age that the lawmakers’ control and interference will make the local government bodies weak and ineffective.
‘If the MPs remain involved in the work of local bodies, particularly development work, the local tiers of the government will not be strengthened. The work of both the MPs and members of local government bodies will be hampered,’ said Professor Muzaffar Ahmad, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Transparency International Bangladesh.
Treasury bench lawmakers on Sunday opposed ratification of the Local Government (Upazila Parishad) (Amendment) Ordinance 2008, which was promulgated by the Fakhruddin-led interim government to prevent the MPs from controlling the Upazila Parishads’ development works.
The Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Syed Ashraful Islam, told the Parliament that the government plans to amend the Upazila Parishad Act 1998 which was repealed by the interim government, and added that the Act will be amended to ensure the lawmakers’ involvement in development activities in the upazilas.
During the question-answer session of the day, AL lawmaker Shahiduzzaman Sarkar asked the LGRD minister whether the government would make block allocations of development funds to lawmakers for carrying out development work in their constituencies, prompting treasury bench lawmakers to welcome the question by thumping their desks.
When asked to comment on the government’s plan to ensure the MPs’ involvement in local development activities, Salah Uddin M Aminuzzaman, who teaches Public Administration in the Dhaka University, said, ‘It is unwarranted.’
He said that according to the Constitution there is no scope for lawmakers to be involved with the local government bodies’ tasks.
‘If the government goes ahead with such a plan, the institutional weakness of the local government bodies will be increased,’ said Aminuzzaman.
Abdur Rashid Lebu, chairman-elect of Sadar upazila in Tangail, observed that local development activities will be hampered if lawmakers interfere in their work.
‘The MPs will discharge their duties like enacting laws and formulating policies, and the local government representatives will deal with local issues and development. It will be better for both the sides to stick to their designated tasks,’ said Rashid.
Kamrunnahar Hai, a vice-chairman-elect of Mongla upazila, found no problem in the involvement of lawmakers in development activities of local government bodies. ‘The MPs are also elected by the people of the constituencies, so they have some responsibility to do development work for the people. We will work all together for the betterment of the localities.’
Mukhlesur Rahman, a Dhaka University student, said it is disgraceful that our MPs are more concerned about involving themselves with the local bodies’ tasks instead of their main work of formulating the country’s policy and taking decisions on vital national issues.
Khaleda slams ruling party’s ‘injustice’
Bdnews24.com . Dhaka
The leader of the opposition in parliament, Khaleda Zia, has accused ruling party of failing to show broadmindedness despite its huge majority in parliament.
‘We want to cooperate with the government by joining the current session of parliament. But the ruling party is barring us from contributing by snatching our seats,’ the BNP chief said on Monday.
‘They want to continue with a one-sided parliament,’ said Khaleda in a meeting with a 52-member delegation of Rajshahi University teachers at her Gulshan office.
The former prime minister heard opinions of the teachers, led by former RU vice-chancellor M Abdul Hamid, on the country’s political situation, parliament and law and order.
Terming teachers the ‘conscience of the nation’, Khaleda said, ‘I hope you will continue your
contribution to the country, as you have in the past.’
She once again alleged widespread rigging in the December 29 general elections.
‘We (BNP) wanted to move forward from the crisis that had been prevailing in the past two years and that was why we participated in the election,’ she said.
‘But the activities of the previous caretaker government and now the Awami League government have given rise to frustration among the people,’ she said.
She alleged that ruling party supporters were continuing to attack BNP leaders and supporters across the country.
‘They’ve killed more than 50 of our leaders and supporters,’ Khaleda said.
She urged all nationalist forces to be united to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty.
‘There has been a conspiracy against our independence. We all will have to remain on guard,’ said the former prime minister.
Shops flout evening ban while
SSC examinees suffer
Most of the Dhaka city shops are violating the government ban on daily business after 8:00pm, adding to load shedding while the SSC examinees are being the worst sufferers owing to power outages during the evening hours.
Most of the big shops and shopping malls in the Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Maghbazar, Khilgaon and Shantinagar areas were found closing their daily business from 8:30pm to 10:00pm because of slack monitoring by the authorities.
Most of the city areas face around 1-2 hours’ load shedding during the evening peak hours, and had the shops been closed after 8:00pm, the load shedding would be a bit less as the city shops consume around 200-400MW of electricity.
The SSC examinees are facing difficulties in making preparation for their examinations during the evening hours because of the power outages.
The section 114 (3) of the Labour Act 2006 enacted during the BNP-Jamaat government says that all shops will close their daily business by 8:00pm. Some shops, including grocers, food shops and drug stores, however, were kept out of the purview of the ban.
The then government could not enforce the section as the shop-owners threatened to go for movement if the section was put into effect.
The interim-government first enforced the section during summer in 2007 to save around 200MW of electricity for reducing load shedding and suspended the section during Ramadan for Eid shopping.
The government specified that small shops selling rice, lentils, vegetable, fruit, meat, fish, bread, dairy products, pastry, sweetmeat, medicine and treatment-related materials, burial materials, betel leaf, bidi, cigarette, ice and newspaper can remain open after 8:00pm.
The other shops that were exempted from the ban include hotels, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, filling stations (on condition of using minimum electricity), vehicle service centres not meant for repair works, salons and barbers.
The labour act section was again enforced in January 2008. But towards the end of the interim-government rule, most of the shops started to continue their business after 8:00pm because of slack monitoring.
Officials of the Dhaka Electric Supply Company and the Dhaka Power Distribution Company admitted that the shops are being kept open after 8:00pm for lack of monitoring.
‘We have not gone for drive against the errant shops as the demand of electricity was low in winter and there was no load shedding. However, we have started monitoring the situation for the past one week because of the increased demand for power as the weather is getting warm,’ said a DESCO official.
He said the DESCO teams had started visiting different areas and were asking shops to close business after 8:00pm. ‘On the first day, the team will just warn them not to run their business after 8:00pm. But if the warning goes in vain, their power connections will be snapped on the second day,’ he said.
Power secretary Nasiruddin Ahmed told New Age on Monday that they would first motivate shop owners so that they close down their shops after 8:00pm and did not get panicked.
Sources in the power division said they would motivate the people through both the print and the electronic media.
MACHINE-READABLE PASSPORTS, VISAS
Govt takes fresh move
The government has initiated a fresh move to introduce machine-readable passports and visas as the international deadline restricting travel without them expires at the end of March 2010, said the planning ministry’s officials on Monday.
‘The project proposal for introduction of the much-discussed machine-readable passports and visas is likely to be placed at the ECNEC’s meeting on Tuesday,’ said Md Idris Ali Dewan, member of the Socio-Economic infrastructure Division of the ministry.
This is for the first time that a proposal for introducing machine-readable passports and visas is being sent to the Executive Committee on National Economic Council for its approval, the official added.
‘People will not be able to go abroad without machine-readable passports and visas after April 1, 2010 as the deadline of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in this regard will expire then,’ he said.
During the five-year project (2009-2014) the government will issue 1.74 crore ordinary passports and 0.10 crore special machine-readable passports, according to the proposed project.
The project, sent by the home affairs ministry to the planning ministry for scrutiny, will cost Tk 350 crore.
‘No donor’s assistance will be accepted to implement the project,’ said another official of the planning ministry.
According to the proposed project, the Immigration and Passport Directorate will earn Tk 920 crore from issuing the machine-readable passports and visas during the 5-year period.
The government will spend Tk 268.52 crore in the 2009-10 fiscal year, Tk 35.66 crore in 2010-11, Tk 35.34 crore in 2011-2012, Tk 25.39 crore in 2012-2013 and Tk 24.99 crore in 2013-2014, according to the project proposal.
The BNP-Jamaat government planned a huge project to introduce machine-readable passports, visas and national identity cards at an estimated cost of Tk 1,546 crore.
The project was set to be implemented by the home affairs ministry, but was abandoned in late 2006 following controversy over appointment of consultant and tender evaluation.
Chavez wins bid to scrap
Venezuela term limits
Agence France-Presse . Caracas
The president, Hugo Chavez, and his supporters celebrated victory Monday after Venezuelans voted to scrap term limits on elected posts, paving the way for him to seek re-election in 2012 and beyond.
Chavez, a flamboyant and tireless campaigner said he intended to stand for a third term in 2012.
‘The doors of the future are wide open,’ Chavez boomed from the balcony of his Miraflores palace to cheering supporters as fireworks lit up the sky.
‘In 2012 there will be presidential elections for the 2013-2019 period and, unless God has planned something else, unless the people have planned something else, this soldier is now a pre-candidate for the Republic’s presidency,’ the former paratrooper said.
The leftist leader — popular with the country’s poor for his oil-funded health care and education programmes, and blamed by a vocal opposition for rising crime, corruption and inflation — recently celebrated 10 years in power.
Chavez won a larger victory Sunday than polls had predicted, with 54.36 per cent of preliminary results compared with 45.63 per cent for the opposition, according to the National Electoral Council. More than 11 million people out of some 17 million eligible voters took part, said Tibisay Lucena, the council’s president.
Officials congratulated Venezuelans for voting calmly, while the opposition criticised Chavez’s massive state-sponsored campaign.
‘This was the campaign with most abuses of public resources that we have ever seen,’ said Carlos Vecchio, a member of an opposition grouping.
‘We surpassed five million votes,’ another opposition leader, Omar Barboza, pointed out proudly.
Critics charge that Chavez has too much power, with influence over the courts, lawmakers and the election council.
From Buenos Aires to Havana and beyond, many watched the vote on the future of the fierce anti-liberal US foe and Latin American leftist champion.
Chavez said he received his first congratulations from his mentor, former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
‘This victory is also yours, Fidel, of the Cuban people and of the people of Latin America,’ responded Chavez.
The victory strengthens Chavez’s mandate and could prompt him to expand his socialist drive, which has included nationalisations and greater state control over the economy in recent years.
But it also comes amid warnings that his social programmes could be hard hit by tumbling oil prices.
Venezuelans voted on an amendment to five articles of the constitution that would grant the president, mayors, local councillors, lawmakers and governors unlimited bids for re-election.
Novice MPs to be trained on parliamentary affairs
The novice lawmakers, who comprise more than half of the 300-strong Jatiya Sangsad, will undergo a four-day training programme to apprise them of parliamentary rules and do’s and don’ts and help them to be effective and productive parliamentarians, officials said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Leader of the House, is expected to inaugurate the programme at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel on February 22.
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Khaleda Zia, is also expected to deliver a speech at one of the training sessions to be held at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre. This training programme is being organised by the US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
Parliamentary experts from home and abroad, veteran Bangladeshi parliamentarians and ministers will participate in the training sessions of the newly elected lawmakers, said Saiful Karim, a senior adviser of the NDI in Dhaka.
‘The novice lawmakers will be familiarised with the parliamentary norms, rules and practices that exist throughout the globe at the orientation programme,’ he told New Age.
The ninth Parliament, which came into being through the landmark December 29 elections that ended the two-year rule of a military-backed government, now has 171 novice lawmakers out of a total of 293. By-elections to seven other seats vacated by the major leaders who won in more than one constituency will take place on March 30.
Parliamentary rules, practices, conventions, constitutional and institutional matters, and parliamentary ethics and behaviour will be features of the discussions during the training course.
Two Western diplomats — James F Moriarty, the US ambassador, and Stephen Evans, the British high commissioner — will address the orientation course and the members of the diplomatic corps will also participate in the sessions.
The programme will focus on how the new lawmakers should face the challenges, particularly in solving the problems in their constituencies, implement the election pledges of their parties and maintain a judicious balance while working on matters of national importance.
The relations with the people and the media, functions of the parliamentary committees, process of legislation and the issues related to the parliament’s oversight role will also be discussed.
Each of the lawmakers will be given a certificate on the conclusion of the training course on February 25.
Officials of the Parliament secretariat said that the speaker of the Indian Lok Sahba, Somnath Chattopaddhay, and former speaker of Northern Ireland’s Parliament, Lord Alderdice, are expected to take part as resource persons during the training and orientation programme.
Lord Alderdice is the life member of the British House of Lords. He played a key role in signing the landmark Good Friday agreement for peace between the British government and Ireland in 1998.
Moreover, a member of the British House of Commons and a German parliamentarian have also been invited to the programme.
Financed by the United States Agency for International Development, the programme will also be assisted by the BRAC Institute for Governance Studies, World Bank Institute, Bangladesh Alliance for Women Leadership, International Republican Institute, Canadian International Development Agency and Promoting Governance, Accountability, Transparency and Integrity.
When asked how much money would be spent for the training programme, the NDI official declined to disclose the amount.
A special orientation programme will be chalked out for the women lawmakers in the reserved seats in March this year. The proposed one-day programme will also be attended by women lawmakers from different parts of the world. It will aim at the formation of a women’s caucus and discuss strategic issues for creating women leaders.
The programme will be organised in collaboration with Bangladesh Alliance for Women Leadership, a non-governmental organisation.
Speaker turns down 50 BNP notices
Jatiya Sangsad speaker Abdul Hamid on Monday rejected all 50 notices submitted in parliament by the opposition lawmakers seeking discussion on issues of ‘public importance’ by adjourning the day’s business.
‘The ministries concerned will take appropriate measures to address some of the matters while solution to a few other issues are possible within the existing laws,’ said the speaker cancelling the notices.
He also said that some of the notices ‘lack evidence’ and seemed to be ‘based on assumption’.
Lawmakers belonging to the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party submitted the notices. Jafrul Islam Chowdhury, AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon, ANM Shamsul Islam, Hafizur Rahman, Harunur Rashid and Golam Mostafa were among those who submitted the notices.
The issues they raised in their notices included dropping out of 500,000 students from schools, withdrawal of the special security force from the opposition leader’s security, slide in the remittance inflow, reported intrusion of Indian ships in Bangladesh’s territorial waters, deterioration of law and order, post-election violence, rise in the incidents of extortion, crisis of textbooks, the government’s alleged move to sign Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States and transit agreements with India, trade imbalance with India and traffic congestion in the capital.
The opposition lawmakers have been staying away from parliament since January 29 over a seating arrangement row.
The session resumed in the afternoon with speaker Abdul Hamid in the chair. He disposed of the notices on adjournment motion after the regular question-answer session. He also disposed of three call attention notices by ruling party lawmakers Nurul Islam Sujon of Panchagar 2, Mostaq Ahmed Ruhi from Netrakona 1 and Imaj Uddin Pramanik of Naogaon 4.
As many as eight lawmakers took part in the general discussion on thanks motion on the presidential address. The immediate-past president Iajuddin Ahmed delivered his conventional speech on January 25, the first sitting of the ninth parliament.
On February 2, the speaker turned down 21 other notices demanding discussion by adjourning the business of the day on similar grounds.
Former speaker Jamir Uddin Sircar had also cancelled several thousand adjournment motions placed by the then opposition lawmakers in the eighth parliament.
TRIAL OF WAR CRIMINALS
Dhaka should not seek Pak coop
right now: special envoy
Islamabad felt that Dhaka should not ‘at this moment’ seek its cooperation for holding the trial of the war criminals as the countries had other issues to concentrate on to further improve the bilateral ties.
This was stated by the visiting envoy, Mirza Zia Ispahani, the special envoy of the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, after his meeting with the foreign minister, Dipu Moni at the latter’s office Monday evening.
Ispahani arrived in the capital Monday afternoon on a five-day tour to convey the good wishes to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina on behalf of the Pakistani president.
Responding to a query about what would be Pakistan’s response in cooperating with Bangladesh to hold the trial of the war criminals of 1971, he said, ‘I think it [the issue] should not go now at this moment as we have so many other issues to concentrate on to strengthen the ties with Bangladesh.’
He declined to make any comment on whether the Awami League government would go ahead with one of its major election pledges to hold the trial of the war criminals.
In reply to a question whether the issue was raised in the discussion, the former Pakistan ambassador in Switzerland and Italy replied in the negative.
The government, however, had sought assistance from other external partners including the United States and the United Nations over the issue.
Dwelling on the subject of the proposed anti-terror and anti-militant regional task force, the envoy said that the planned regional framework was a new and good idea.
Ispahani said, ‘We have discussed the issue. Right now it is just an idea. We have to discuss the subject with the concerned persons now.’
On the issue of apologizing for the atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistani troops during the war of independence, he said that former Pakistani president General Parvez Musharraf had apologized for that and visited the war memorial during his Dhaka visit and former Pakistani prime minister had also done the same.
The special envoy of the Pakistani president told reporters that his visit was aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries as both Bangladesh and Pakistan had newly elected governments.
Among others, the Pakistani high commissioner in Dhaka, Alamagir Babar was present during the meeting.
Earlier in the day additional foreign secretary, M A K Mahmood and director general of the South Asia wing of the ministry, Mohammad Imran received the Pakistani president’s envoy at the Zia International Airport.
Pakistan signs sharia deal with militants
Agence France-Presse . Peshawar
Pakistan on Monday signed a deal with Islamic hardliners recognising the rule of sharia law in the northwest Swat valley in a bid to end violence in the troubled region.
The agreement came as a suspected US missile strike destroyed an Afghan Taliban camp, killing 26 people in the tribal area of Kurram, security officials said.
The sharia deal, widely seen as a government concession to militants, followed talks between ministers in the troubled North West Frontier Province and a local militant leader, Soofi Mohammad, on formalising the implementation of Islamic law.
The agreement will cover Pakistan’s Malakand area, one of the districts of NWFP, which includes the Swat valley and is home to around three million of the estimated 20 million people who live in the northwest province.
‘All laws against sharia will be abolished and sharia will be enforced under this justice system,’ provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters in the regional capital Peshawar.
‘The implementation of this agreement will be done with the establishment of peace in the region when the writ of the government is restored,’ said a copy of the deal, signed by ministers and Maulana Mohammad Alam, Soofi’s deputy.
The Islamists vowed to disarm once Islamic justice was established.
‘We are satisfied. When sharia is implemented practically, people will lay down their arms,’ said Mohammad Iqbal Khan, a senior follower of Mohammad.
‘We will soon convene a meeting of our shura (consultative council) after which Soofi Mohammad will visit Swat and convince the Taliban there to disarm,’ Khan added.
Until two years ago, Swat was a jewel in the crown of Pakistani tourism, frequented by foreign and local holidaymakers.
But the region descended into chaos after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah embarked on a violent campaign to enforce Taliban-style sharia law, prompting tens of thousands to flee and suffocating day-to-day life.
Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said Sunday that a 10-day ceasefire, announced as a ‘goodwill gesture,’ could become permanent if a deal were signed on Monday.
Pakistan, under massive Western pressure to clamp down on extremists, has deployed its poorly equipped military to try to flush out the militants and wrest back control of Swat.
But despite the military campaign, the government believes negotiations are the best hope of restoring peace, although past deals have collapsed. An agreement signed with pro-Taliban militants in Swat last May unravelled rapidly.
The lawless tribal areas in northwest Pakistan have been wracked by violence since hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels sought refuge in the region after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Govt sticks to GDP growth at 6.5pc despite negative WB forecast
Inflation revised at 7pc from earlier 9pc
The government has decided to stick to the initial projection of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal, despite negative forecast by a lending agency.
The decision for sticking to the initial projection, set by the immediate-past interim government, was taken at a recent meeting of the national coordination council on macro-economy and fiscal measures, finance ministry officials said on Monday.
The meeting also decided to lower the annual inflation rate to seven per cent from the earlier projection of nine per cent for the 2008-09(July08-June09).
World Bank, one of the country’s main lending agencies, forecast in last November that the Bangladesh’s economy would grow between 4.8 per cent and 5.4 per cent due to global economic downturn.
The coordination council meeting, headed by finance adviser AMA Muhith, however, found that the country’s economy would not face any major adverse impact from the worst global recession in the current fiscal, added the officials.
The officials said the country’s exports grew by 17 per cent in the first seven-month of the fiscal, despite negative speculations and the remittance flow was maintaining nearly 30 per cent growth during the same period.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) research director Zaid Bakth said the growth projection still remained a bit optimistic.
Low public investment, revenue shortfall and lower than expected private sector investment are among the negative indicators of the economy, which might face adverse impact from the global meltdown, he said.
Bakth said a conservative GDP growth estimate of six per cent looks attainable.
Bangladesh Bank also projected six per cent plus growth in the current fiscal.
Bakth, however, said there was no major natural calamity in the current fiscal, which was very positive as the country still depended on agriculture sector largely for its economic growth.
About the WB growth projection, he said its forecast on the country’s garment sector for quota-free period proved to be wrong.
The WB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were also sceptical about 6.2 per cent growth the country achieved last fiscal, despite two rounds of floods and a devastating cyclone in July-November period of 2007.
Apart from natural calamities, record price-hike of commodities, including fuel oil in the international market, pushed the country’s import cost higher putting additional pressure on the country’s balance of payment.
But powered by a bumper boro harvest last year and robust growth of export and remittance, the country overcame the losses caused by floods and the cyclone Sidr.
Border market and banking
transactions to be discussed
Khawaza Main Uddin
Dhaka is sending a technical team to Yongon next week to work out the modalities of banking transactions and of making the planned ‘border market’ operational to increase trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar, a pariah state with huge business potential.
According to trade diplomats, the two sides will try to make direct banking arrangements —mechanisms for opening letters of credit — for expanding bilateral trade which is, they think, nominal compared to the comparative advantages of both the neighbouring countries.
‘Both the countries have ample scope to increase trade and ensure mutual benefit. But lack of mechanisms such as smooth banking transactions and the communications problem hampers cooperation in trade,’ said one of them. Myanmar is considered to be Bangladesh’s gateway to Southeast Asia.
The Bangladesh delegation will comprise four members of a working group headed by a deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank, Ziaul Hassan Siddiqui. The group was formed by the government recently to make recommendations for increasing bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Other members of the team are Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, a consultant of the commerce ministry, Mohammad Atiqur Rahman, managing director of the state-owned Sonali Bank, and Syed Mahmudul Huq, president of the Bangladesh-Myanmar Business Promotion Council.
The team has been assigned to prepare an in-depth report on how to set up a border market, as proposed earlier, and to resume cooperation between the two countries which have failed to come closer in the past three decades or so.
A similar border market of Bangladesh and India is also being talked about as part of the effort to enhance border trade between the two countries. Such a market may be covered by the proposed bilateral Free Trade Agreement, said officials of the commerce and foreign ministries.
Apart from problems in money transaction, carrying goods and commodities to and from Myanmar is hampered by serious constraints, the business promotion council told a recent meeting of the working group. The council will help the delegation to make their visit a success by providing the necessary inputs.
The members of the delegation will visit the border market which is already operational between Myanmar and Thailand in addition to holding their planned talks with Myanmar officials.
The official two-way trade, mainly in the form of border trade, between Bangladesh and Myanmar stands at around $60 million annually in value, with balance of payments tilted in favour of Myanmar. However, the extent of informal trade or smuggling is yet to be measured properly.
156 people convicted of
graft so far: ACC
One hundred and fifty-six people, including 70 politicians, have so far been convicted of corruption by the special judges’ courts set up all over the country by the military-controlled interim government, said an official of the Anti-Corruption Commission on Monday.
‘One hundreds and five people were sentenced by the special judges’ courts set up in the Jatiya Sangsad Complex and 51 by the courts outside the capital,’ the ACC’s spokesman, Hanif Iqbal, told reporters at a briefing.
The ACC on October 20, 2008 submitted a list of convicts to the interim government, informing it that 114 people including 70 politicians were convicted in graft cases under the Emergency Powers Rules 2007.
Of the 70 convicted politicians, 41 are from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, 25 from the Awami League, three from the Jatiya Party led by Anwar Hossain Manju and one from the Islami Oikya Jote.
According to Hanif, the ACC and the police have lodged 1,216 cases so far.
Eight hundred and thirty-six of the filed cases are now under investigation and the charge-sheets in 151 cases now await the ACC’s approval, said Hanif, adding that the High Court has, so far, stayed the proceedings of 344 cases including 151 which were under trial.
Trials of 370 cases have continued, including 19 cases against 18 politicians. The politicians are former ministers Mohammad Nasim, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, Ziaul Haque Zia and Ahsanul Haque Milon, former lawmakers Kamal Ahmed Majumder, Mosaddek Ali Falu, Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, MA Hashem, Giasuddin and Nadim Mostafa.
The convicted BNP politicians are former ministers M Morshed Khan, Najmul Huda, Shahjahan Siraj, Aminul Haque, Amanullah Aman, Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin Ahmed, Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, Salahuddin Ahmed and Shahajahan Omar; the former lawmakers are Mosaddek Ali Falu, Ziaul Haque Zia, Monjurul Ahsan Munshi, Ali Asgar Lobi, Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Rashiduzzaman Millat, Naser Rahman, Md Shahjahan Chowdhury, Helaluzzaman Talukder Lalu, Hafiz Ibrahim, Shahrin Islam Tuhin, Sigma Huda, Aman’s wife Sabera Aman, Nasir’s son Mir Helaluddin Ahmed, Morshed Khan’s son Faisal Morshed Khan, Siraj’s wife Rabeya Haider, his son Rajib Siraj, Lalu’s wife Shamsunnahar Zaman, Omar’s wife Mehjabeen Farzana, Hafiz’s wife Mahfuza Sultana, Zia’s wife Nasima Haque, his son Mushfiqul Haque Zia, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s political secretary Haris Chowdhury; businessman Giasuddin Al Mamun, his wife Shahina Yasmin, Doctors Association of Bangladesh’s secretary-general AZM Zahid Hossain, his wife Rifat Hossain, former BRTC chairman Taimur Alam Khandker, BTTB’s CBA leader Firoz Miah, Sonali Bank’s CBA leader BM Bakir, his wife Najma Hossain and ward commissioner Mohamamd Chowdhury Alam.
The convicted politicians from Awami League are former ministers Mohammad Nasim, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, former chief whip Abdul Hasnat Abdullah, former lawmakers Kazi Jafarullah, Joynal Abedin Hazari, Sheikh Helal Uddin, HBM Iqbal, SM Mostafa Rashidi Suja, Haji Selim, Makbul Hossain, Shamim Osman, Awami Swechchhasebak League’s general secretary Pankaj Devnath, Munshiganj Awami League’s president Mohammad Mohiuddin, former minister Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury’s son Shahdab Akbar Chowdhury Labu, Nasim’s wife Laila Arzumand Banu, Pankaj’s wife Monika Devnath, Helal’s wife Rupa Chowdhury, Iqbal’s wife Momtaz Begum, Suja’s wife Khodeja Rashidi, Maya’s son Sajidul Haque Chowdhury Dipu, Selim’s wife Gulshan Ara Begum, Makbul’s wife Golam Fatema Tahera Khanam, his son Masudur Rahman and Masud’s wife Salma Rahman.
Biggest ever US ‘fraud’ in Iraq
Reuters/Bdnews24.com . New York
US authorities have expanded investigations to include the alleged role of senior military officers in a long-running probe of the misuse of $125 billion during the American-led effort to rebuild Iraq immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to media reports.
Investigations suggest missing funds may exceed $50 billion, making it an even bigger ‘fraud’ than Bernard Madoff’s now-infamous Ponzi scheme.
‘I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad,’ one US businessman, active in Iraq since 2003, has been quoted as saying.
Citing senior government officials with whom it conducted interviews, as well as court documents, The New York Times reported this week that investigators had subpoenaed the personal bank records of a colonel, now retired, in charge of reconstruction contracts in Iraq in 2003-04.
Investigators were also examining the activities of an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, the Times said citing two federal officials involved in the inquiry.
Both men, who worked in a civilian contracting office, said they had nothing to hide from investigators, and the newspaper said it was still unclear what evidence there might be against them. But officials told the Times several criminal cases in recent years pointed to widespread corruption within the operation run by the men being investigated.
Part of the inquiry focuses on information given to them by Dale Stoffel, a US arms dealer and contractor who was shot dead on a road north of Baghdad in 2004, the Times said.
Before he died, Stoffel ‘drew a portrait worthy of a pulp crime novel,’ the Times reporters wrote, citing two senior federal officials: ‘Tens of thousands of dollars stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered surreptitiously to the American contracting offices in Baghdad, and payoffs made in paper sacks that were scattered in ‘dead drops’ around the Green Zone.’
Stoffel provided information about the offices where the two officers worked and was deemed sufficiently credible that he received immunity in exchange for information, according to government documents obtained by the Times as well as interviews with Stoffel’s attorney.
The investigation is also meant to ascertain whether there were connections between mid-level officials who have already been prosecuted and higher-level officials, the Times said.
Deposition taking begins in
EC’s case against Biswas
Our Correspondent . Sirajganj
Sirajganj judicial magistrate’s court on Monday began recording depositions from the witnesses in the case filed against state minister Abdul Latif Biswas and others on charge of violating electoral rules in the upazila polls on January 22.
Judicial magistrate Sirajuddin Iqbal recorded depositions of the Sirajganj election officer-1, Nitish Chandra Dey, and the Belkuchi upazila election officer, Md Mossaraf Hossain.
The court set February 19 and 22 for recording depositions of seven other witnesses, court sources said.
The other witnesses are – Sirajganj deputy commissioner Md Humayun Kabir, police super Md Alamgir Kabir, additional deputy commissioner (general) Md Abdul Qaiyum, Belkuchi UNO and assistant returning officer Md Nasir Uddin, presiding officer Abul Hossain, and assistant presiding officer Masud Karim of Sohagpur Nutanpara primary school polling centre and Belkuchi police officer-in-charge Md Arman Hossain.
The other accused in this case are – the AL candidate for upazila chairman, Md Fazul Haque Sarker, candidate for the vice-chairman, Gazi Abdul Hamid Akand, Bhangabari UP chairman, Abdul Matin Pramanik and APS of the minister, Md Hilton Rahman.
Earlier on February 5, Sirajganj election officer-1 on behalf of the EC filed the case against the fisheries and livestock minister, Abdul Latif Biswas, his daughter Soma Biswas and four other ruling Awami League leaders for interfering with polling and violating the electoral code in Belkuchi upazila elections on January 22. EC suspended the polls on the same day.
One killed in Bagerhat
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha . Bagerhat
One labourer was killed and another went missing when a salt-laden trawler collided head on with another cargo in Buriganga canal under Mongla upazila in Bagerhat in the early Monday.
Police sources said four workers were also injured as the Khulna-bound trawler with 6,000 tonnes of salt sank after hitting the cargo. Nine out of 11 labourers of the trawlers managed to swam ashore.
Govt recalls 4 diplomats
The government on Sunday called back a number of diplomats from overseas missions, including two ambassadors, indicating a major reshuffle in the diplomatic service after assumption of power by the Awami League-led alliance, sources in the foreign office said.
The two ambassadors who have been asked to join the headquarters immediately are Humayun Kabir, Bangladesh ambassador in Washington, and Maruf Zaman, Bangladesh ambassador to Vietnam.
Humayun Kabir, a career diplomat who was posted to the US during the interim-government, is learnt to have topped the list of choices for making the foreign secretary by the new government.
The sources told New Age that the officials, who had been called back, would be given posting or promoted to higher positions in foreign services hierarchy after they return home at their convenient time of a month or so.
The two other diplomats who have been called back are Mollah Farhad, counsellor at Bangladesh high commission in London, and Kabirul Yazdani, counsellor of Bangladesh mission in Singapore.
After taking over power on January 6, the Awami League-led alliance government had also called back Bangladesh high commissioner to Malaysia Khairuzzaman, who is yet to come back, however.
India hikes defence budget by 24pc
Agence France-Presse . New Delhi
India announced Monday a hefty 24 per cent hike in its defence budget for the upcoming fiscal year as its military fast-tracks acquisitions following the Mumbai militant attacks.
‘We are going through tough times. The Mumbai terror attacks have given an entirely new dimension to cross-border terrorism,’ acting finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said as he presented an interim budget to parliament.
India blamed the November attacks, which killed 172 people in India’s financial capital, on a Muslim militant group based in Pakistan.
The 1.47-trillion rupee (29.4-billion dollar) defence allocation comprised 15 per cent of the entire budget for the financial year beginning April 1, and Mukherjee said the amount could be increased if necessary.
‘A threshold has been crossed, our security environment has deteriorated considerably. Needless to say, any additional requirement for the security of the nation will be provided for,’ Mukherjee said.
It is the steepest increase in defence spending since independence in 1947 and experts said the lion’s share would be spent on modernising the world’s fourth largest military.
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