Feb 17, 2009

PM for punishing persons behind fake voter list

Cabinet okays many ordns, legal amendments: Rangpur University named after Begum Rokeya Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said those who were involved in formulating the voter list ahead of the cancelled January 22, 2007 election should be brought to justice as it was "full of fake voters", reports UNB. She made the remark at Monday''s marathon cabinet meeting at Bangladesh secretariat, which endorsed a number of legal amendments and ordinances, including four legalizing the national budgets given by the bygone extraordinary caretaker government. The cabinet started at 11am and ended at 3:45pm. "There were above 2 crore fake voters on the then voter list. The persons who had formulated the voter list should be brought to book to resist any further move to hold such farcical election in future," the newly elected premier was quoted by her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad as saying. The press secretary, giving a press briefing in the PID conference room, said Hasina''s comments came when the cabinet approved the Electoral Roll Act 2009 with four other supplementary agenda discussed in the cabinet. The scrapped voter list was one of the bones of contention over the abortive Jan 22 polls that had triggered a political turmoil, leading to the 1/11 changeover and a political purge under the two-year-long military-backed interim regime. The election was held on December 29 last year in a changed situation. As the main agenda, the cabinet approved Rangpur University Act 2009, Bangladesh University of Professionals Act ''09 and the Trade Mark Act ''09. Among other major steps, the Law and Order Disruption Crimes Speedy Trial (Amendment) Act 2009 and Bangladesh Tourism Act 2009 were approved in principal by the cabinet. "Following a proposal placed by the PM, the university will be named as Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur," Azad said. The President will be Chancellor of the new public university in the backwater northern district. The Trade Mark Act was also approved with few amendments, including one providing that five Members of Parliament (MPs) will be included in the process for ensuring public representation. An amendment was brought to the Tourism Act, stating that a noted tourism personality and a local personality will be included in the process to bring dynamism in the tourism sector, Azad said. As supplementary agenda the cabinet approved the Artha Rin Adalat (Amendment) Act 2009, the Money Laundering Prevention Act ''09, the Election Commission Secretariat Act 2009. Besides, the cabinet meeting approved another proposal for making into laws the four ordinances on supplementary budgets 2006-07 and 2007-08, and national budgets for 2007-08 and 2008-09 fiscal years. The budgets were made in the interim period when parliament was not in existence. Ministers, Advisers to the Prime Minister, and State Ministers were present at the cabinet meeting. Present among top officials were Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr. Salehuddin Ahmed and NBR chairman Abdul Majid. During discussion on the amended Money Laundering Prevention Act 2009, the central bank Governor was quoted as saying that the bank has "specific evidence of laundering money to the United Kingdom and Malaysia".

No action plan in sight to tackle power, gas crises
Loadshedding starts well before summerThere is no concrete action plan in sight to tackle the looming power and gas crises even though the country has started seeing load-shedding well before the summer, reports UNB.Power and Energy Ministry officials said the country is set to face a severe energy crisis as the policymakers of the new government are now trying to get familiar with the activities of the Power and Energy Ministry and its subordinate bodies rather than going into actions.The summer usually starts in mid-March and continues until mid-October. In the summer, according to the officials, the power shortage will exceed 2000 megawatt (MW) as its demand might go up to 5,000 MW this time while the gas shortage will be around 300 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) against the demand for 2,200 MMCFD.They said the power production has already marked a fall by more than 500 MW well before the summer, indicating that the worse days are lying ahead. Ahead of summer, the Power and Energy Ministry always arranges a coordination meeting among the entities to evolve strategies to tackle the crisis. Accordingly, it held a coordination meeting recently and decided to set up a control room and monitoring cells both at the Power and Energy Divisions.But, industry insiders think holding such a meeting and taking decision to set up monitoring cell or control room are not good enough to deal with the situation as these are a very common practice.They feel that the government needs to be more serious and come up with some concrete programmes and strategies to improve the situation.They said there should be a very strong coordination between power and energy sectors because power generation is almost dependent on gas supply. "Any shortage or disruption in gas supply greatly affects the power production," said an expert.He said the government should think how promptly it can implement the ongoing projects taken by the previous government to address the crises. The projects include a number of small independent power producer (IPP) plants, the 90MW Fenchuganj power plant, the 240MW Siddhirganj plant and the 100MW Sikalbaha plant. But, many of these projects are facing various problems. The 90MW Fenchuganj project, for instance, was installed a few months back. But this project could not start commercial operation because of a tax-related wrangling with the government.Similarly, the 240MW Siddhirganj power plant is planned to come into operation in June. But, non-availability of gas may make the operation of its two units uncertain. Some of the small IPPs are facing another type of problem. Former caretaker government adviser Prof Tamim, also an energy and power sector expert, told UNB that the government has to put in place a demand-driven management plan and implement that strictly."The projects now under implementation have to be completed in time. It also has to be cautious so that there is no interruption in gas supply and breakdown in power plant operation," he said.Prime Minister''s Adviser Dr Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, now overseeing the power and energy sector, said the government is planning to tackle the situation. "We''ll come up with our plan within two weeks," he told the UNB correspondent.

BNP should return to JS, says minister
The commerce minister Monday said BNP must re-join parliament to assist in nation-building, reports"Walkouts and boycotts are common occurances in parliamentary democracies. We are consulting with BNP to resolve the problem," Faruq Khan told reporters after a meeting with the British high commissioner Stephen Evans. "I told the British high commissioner that we want BNP to join parliament and cooperate with the government in national development," said the minister. "The British envoy also thinks BNP''s boycott of Jatiya Sangsad over the seat row should be possible to resolve through discussion and dialogue," said Khan. On the parliamentary seat dispute, he said, "Proportionately, Awami League should have 24 seats in the front row, but it has kept only 19, allotting other parties their due seats and BNP has received more seats than their party strength." "The British high commissioner was also enquiring into our modus operandi for combating global recession. He assured Bangladesh necessary assistance and cooperation in this regard," said the commerce minister. Evans told reporters the talks also touched on bilateral trade. Bangladesh exports stand at over £750 million annually and its imports from the UK stand at about £60 million, he said. Faruq Khan said: "In bilateral trade, Bangladesh does enjoy a comparatively advantageous position. We talked about strengthening our friendly ties as well as trade between the two countries.

Ekushey book fair draws huge crowd
Amar Ekushey book fair, on the 16th day Monday, reverberated with the presence of a large number of book- lovers on the premises of Bangla Academy, reports BSS.Many visitors were found carrying new books they bought from different stalls of the fair. The people heaved a sigh of relief finding the fair venue free from dust.''After drawing this month''s salary, I came straight to the fair today to buy some of my favorite books,'' Golam Kabir, a bank official, said. A total of 87 new books hit the fair on the day while a total of 15 collections of both poems and stories led the tally of new arrivals. The collection of novel was followed by six collections of children and nine collections of essays. Publishers are also happy with the day''s turnover while the salesmen were seen busy selling books at the stalls.Arif Rahman, owner of Oitijhya Publishing House, said the sale in his book stall is increasing day by day. Mejbah Uddin Pasha, owner of Ahmed Publishing House, described the sales as ''satisfactory''.On the day, the academy held a seminar as part of the programme of lectures on Prospective Bangladesh. The seminar was followed by a cultural soiree.

ACC investigates 836 graft cases
A total of 836 graft cases are currently under investigation of the Anti-Corruption Commission while 808 allegations are under inquiry, reports UNB.Of the cases, 341 were filed by the anti-graft watchdog and the rest 495 by other agencies, mainly police, ACC director general (admin) Col Hanif Iqbal told reporters at its regular briefing Monday. As of January 31 this year, he said, some 1,216 graft cases were lodged of which 472 by the ACC and 710 by other agencies through police. Later, the cases lodged by other agencies were forwarded to the ACC. Hanif said some 808 allegations are under inquiry of the Commission at the moment. The ACC, he said, has so far issued notices to 436 people asking them to submit their wealth statements. Of them, 335 have submitted their wealth statements while 11 have not, and six of them have already been convicted for not submitting their wealth statements in due time. The ACC director general said of the issued 436 notices the Commission is waiting to receive 90 wealth statements. He said a process is underway to submit charge-sheets in some 151 graft cases. About the under trial cases, Hanif said the number of under trial cases now stands at 521 of which 181 are with the special courts in Dhaka while 340 outside the capital. Of them, the proceedings in 151 cases, including 100 in Dhaka and 51 outside of it, have been stayed, which means the trial proceedings of 370 cases, including 81 in Dhaka and 289 outside the capital, are on. The ACC director general said the accused in 156 graft cases, including 105 in Dhaka and 51 outside Dhaka, have been convicted. Hanif said 335 criminal ''miscellaneous'' cases and 479 writs have been filed during the tenure of the reconstituted Commission. Stay orders have been given in 307 ''criminal miscellaneous'' cases and 338 writs. Stay orders in 52 criminal ''miscellaneous'' cases and 249 writs have been vacated while stay orders in 255 ''criminal miscellaneous'' cases and 89 writs were upheld. The ACC spokesperson said the proposals for amendments to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, 2004 that were sent to the government have been sent back to the Commission seeking explanations. "Hopefully", he said, "the proposals would be referred back to the government soon with the explanations." Hanif said the government wanted to know as to why proposals were sent after so long. The government also wanted to know different aspects of the amendment proposals. Even though, he said, the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, 2004 was enacted in 2004, it was enforced in 2007. On the basis of the experience gathered while enforcing the law, the ACC felt the necessity of its amendments. Hanif said if the proposed amendments are approved, the anti-graft campaign would gain a momentum and it would be easier to combat corruption. Responding to a question, he said as the number of special judge courts in Dhaka has been reduced from 10 to five, there would be greater pressure on these five courts.

War crime trial
It''s not right time, says Pak spl envoy
Pakistan President''s Special Envoy Zia Ispahani said in Dhaka Monday that this is not the right moment to take up the issue of holding trial of the 1971 war criminals as there are so many other issues where Pakistan likes to cooperate with Bangladesh, reports UNB."We should not go into this issue at the moment. Because, there are so many other issues we like to cooperate with Bangladesh. I think we should move forward," he said responding to a question after his meeting with Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni at the Foreign Ministry.A correspondent wanted to know Pak position as the present government of Bangladesh has election pledge to hold the trial of the war criminals and some 215 Pakistani army-men were charged with the war crimes."I don''t give any comment on it," the envoy said when asked whether they support the holding of the trial of those who committed heinous crimes during the war of liberation from the Pakistani rule.Asked whether the issue came up for discussion today, he said, "We''ve not discussed this issue."Asked about Pakistan''s apology for atrocities on innocent Bangladeshis during the Bangladesh Liberation War, Ispahani said, "I think we have already apologized. Former President Gen Musharraf came here, went to the Memorial and apologized. I think our Prime Minister has also done the same."On Bangladesh''s proposal for forming joint anti-terrorism taskforce in South Asia, he appreciated the proposal as a "good idea" as he said Pakistan is suffering from terrorist attacks. And "it''s a very serious problem we''re facing".He said since the idea is very new, "we''ll have to work together. We'' ll have to meet with relevant people and we hope to move it forward."Ispahani, who came today to congratulate the new government of Bangladesh as the Special Envoy from Islamabad, said Pakistan wants to improve relations with Bangladesh as "we''ve now democratically elected governments in Pakistan and Bangladesh."The Pak emissary said the Pakistan President and the Prime Minister are keen to improve the relations and happy to work together.Asked about the Indian accusation of Pakistan for Mumbai terror attacks, Ispahani said, "I don''t know whether we have been made accused. We''re saying to give us more evidence. At the moment the process is still going on, and they have not come to any conclusion."

Poll schedule for women''s reserved seats in JS soon
The Election Commi-ssion is expected to announce the election schedule for the women''s reserved seats in parliament within a day or two, reports UNB.Talking to the reporters on Monday, Election Commissioner M Sohul Hussain said the commission is discussing some issues, including the elections to the reserved women seats in parliament, before finalizing decisions.Asked about the elections to Dhaka City Corporation and announcement of polls schedule for women''s reserved seats in parliament, he told the reporters to wait till tomorrow (Tuesday)."The commission is discussing the matters," the Election Commissioner said after attending the commission''s meeting in the afternoon.He added: "We need another day or two."Sohul Hussain on Sunday told the reporters that the commission might announce the election schedule Monday for the reserved women''s seats in parliament.

Several injured in JU clash
SAVAR, Feb 16: A clash between two student groups on Jahangirnagar University (JU) campus left several students injured, one of them critically, today, reports UNB.Police and university authorities said the clash erupted between two factions of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL). The reason could not be known. Critically injured Sagor, a fourth year student of the economics department has been shifted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital while others were admitted to local clinics. A group of angry students ransacked the residences of JU proctor, teachers and demanded removal of vice-chancellor. A tense situation is prevailing on the campus as the rivals groups equipped with sticks, rods and other weapons are still maintaining their respective positions.Law enforcers have been deployed on the campus to avert any further untoward situation. Jahangirnagar University Teachers Association (JUTA) demanded punishment to the persons involved in the incident.

ADB to help face impact of recession
Visiting ADB deputy director general for South Asia Department Frederick Roche Monday offered their assistance to Bangladesh, if necessary, to face challenges from the fallout of the global recession, reports UNB.The offer was made when the ADB official had a meeting with Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Salehuddin Ahmed at the Governor''s office."We''re now analysing the impact," the Governor told reporters after the meeting. He said the ADB executive inquired about the impact of global recession on Bangladesh and pointed out that the economy of Bangladesh was doing better than other countries in the region.The ADB DDG arrived here Sunday on a four-day official visit to Bangladesh. He will hold discussions with senior government officials, including Ministers and secretaries of the key line-ministries receiving ADB assistance. The discussions will focus on policy and implementation issues arising in the context of projects and programs assisted by ADB. The DDG will also meet representatives of development partners here. ADB''s South Asia region comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Based in Manila, ADB is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members - 48 from the region.

Govt keen to implement CHT accord, says FM
Land commission for tribal areas soonForeign Minister Dr Dipu Moni has said the present government will initiate all steps to implement the CHT accord in full, reports UNB.She made the remark during a meeting with a delegation led by Lord Avebury, co-chairman of International Commission on the CHT Affairs, at the Foreign Ministry this (Monday) morning. The meeting discussed human rights situation, elections to three hill district councils, freedom of expression and overall situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), said Foreign Ministry release.Dipu Moni said the elected representatives are now representing the hill districts and after the elections to parliament, the upazila elections were held there peacefully.Besides, the CHT regional council is also working, she said, adding that the prevailing situation will help resolve various problems in the hill tracts.The delegation praised the overall development plans for the hill tracts as envisaged in the Awami League election manifesto. They emphasized on strengthening civil administration in the hill tracts.BSS adds: Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzak Monday said the government will form a land commission to resolve the land-related problems of all ''adivashi'' (tribal people) of the country, including, Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).He was speaking to a seven-member delegation of CHT Affairs International Representatives (CAIR) who called on him at his office here. Led by co-chairman of the CAIR Lord Eric Avebury, the members of the delegation are Sara Hossain, Dr Swapon Adnan, Dr Meghna Guh Thakurta, Yuko Shiva and Christina Nilsson, an official handout said.Dr Razzak said the government is sincere to implement the CHT Peace Accord signed in 1997. He said the government has taken steps to ensure food security in the CHT region.The members of the delegation said nearly 80 percent land problems would be resolved if the CHT peace accord is implemented fully.

SSC exams President changes his movement schedule
President Zillur Rahman has brought some changes in his movement schedule in the city and urged all concerned for logical traffic control to reduce public sufferings, reports UNB."President Zillur Rahman has called upon all concerned for logical traffic control to reduce public sufferings caused by his movement in the city," said a Bangabhaban release Monday.The President has brought some changes in his movement schedule in the city considering the importance of timely presence of SSC examinees in their examination centres, the release added.

Hillary hopes for ‘positive start’ with Russia
ELMENDORF AIR FOR-CE BASE (Alaska), Feb 16: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sun-day she hopes for a “positive start” with Russia, reports AFP. “We are hoping for a positive start with Russia,” Clinton told reporters during a refueling stop in Alaska on her way to Asia, her first overseas trip as chief US diplomat. “I will be meeting with (Russian) Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in about two weeks,” she confirmed, without naming the exact time and place. “And that is part of an effort on behalf of this administration to engage on all levels with Russian counterparts. But we have made no decisions about anything.” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said earlier this week that Clinton would meet with Lavrov in Geneva in early March. Clinton is due to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on March 5 that will not be attended by the Russians. US lawmakers are set to visit NATO headquarters in Brussels next week for high-level talks on the war in Afghanistan and the alliance’s relations with Russia, officials said. Hillary confirmed speculation that she and Lavrov would discuss negotiations for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires at the end of the year. “We think there are tremendous opportunities to work with the Russians on nuclear proliferation, from the START treaty, which expires at the end of this year, on a range of concerns that we think connect us, particularly in respect to Afghanistan,” she said. The US has been negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic to install 10 missile interceptors, which would not carry explosive warheads, and a radar system on their territories. The move has angered Russia as it sees the system as a threat to its security, while Washington argues the proposed shield is only directed at “rogue states,” primarily Iran.

Holbrooke holds talks with Indian leaders
NEW DELHI, Feb 16: The new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has been holding talks with Indian leaders on the last leg of a regional tour, repots BBC.Holbrooke arrived in Delhi on Sunday after visiting Islamabad and Kabul.He met Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee but said that he had carried "no message or guidance".The talks were expected to focus on what India has described as "threats" from Pakistan-based militants in the wake of last November''s Mumbai attacks.After meeting Mr Mukherjee, Mr Holbrooke spoke a few words about the news that Pakistan had agreed to impose Sharia law in Swat district.But he gave few clues of his Indian talks, beyond saying: "We also exchanged views; I carried no messages or guidance.

Nuclear subs collide in Atlantic
LONDON, Feb 16: A Royal Navy nuclear submarine was involved in a collision with a French nuclear sub in the middle of the Atlantic, the MoD has confirmed, reports BBC. HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant were badly damaged in the crash in heavy seas earlier this month. First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said the submarines came into contact at low speed and no injuries were reported. Both the UK and France insisted nuclear security had not been compromised. BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the incident was "incredibly embarrassing" for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). She said HMS Vanguard, with "very visible dents and scrapes", had to be towed back into its home base at Faslane on the Firth of Clyde. The submarines are equipped with sonar to detect other vessels nearby but our correspondent said it might the case that the anti-sonar devices, meant to hide the submarines from enemies, were "too effective". "This is clearly a one-in-a-million chance when you think about how big the Atlantic is," she said. The two submarines are key parts of each nation''s nuclear deterrent, and would have been carrying missiles, though both the UK and France have insisted there was no danger of a nuclear incident. The two submarines were carrying around 240 sailors between them. A French naval spokesman said the collision did not result in any injuries to the crew. Le Triomphant is based at L''Ile Longue near Brest, north-west France. HMS Vanguard arrived back in Faslane on Saturday. France''s defence ministry said in a statement, dated 6 February, that Le Triomphant "collided with an immersed object (probably a container)" when coming back from patrolling. "The sonar dome, at the front, was damaged. This incident did not cause any injuries among the crew and did not threaten the nuclear security at any time," it said. "The submarine came back by its own means to L''Ile Longue, escorted by a frigate, as it is the usual practice when leaving or coming back." Nuclear engineer John Large told the BBC that navies often used the same "nesting grounds". "Both navies want quiet areas, deep areas, roughly the same distance from their home ports. So you find these station grounds have got quite a few submarines, not only French and Royal Navy but also from Russia and the United States."

Armed men pretending mechanics, loot city
Armed criminals, pretending to be gasline mechanics, entered an apartment in city''s Kafrul area on Monday and looted valuables worth Tk three lakhs, police said, reports UNB.Quoting inmates, police said the first floor apartment in East Kazipara under Kafrul PS belonged to expatriate Akhter Hossain and the looted items included gold, cash and other valuables.According to witness account, four armed men went to the apartment shortly after noon and told the inmates at entry door that they came to repair the gas line inside.As soon as the door was opened, they took the inmates hostage at gunpoint and looted the valuables which included about 14 bhori of gold ornaments, three cameras and one mobile phone set.The criminals, suspected to be members of local crime gangs, left the scene without any obstruction.A case was filed with Kafrul Police station in this connection.

15-storey bldg for lawyers to be built in city
Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed told the Jatiya Sangsad Monday that the government would start the construction of the 15-storey extended building at the Supreme Court to accommodate the growing number of lawyers, reports BSS."I hope that the construction will start under the current fiscal, but the completion of the construction might take time," he said while responding to a call attention notice moved by treasury bench lawmaker Mohammad Nurul Islam Sujan of Panchagarh-2.Shafique Ahmed said the then government of Sheikh Hasina had initiated the construction of an extended building at the Supreme Court and had built a four- storey building in 2001 for the lawyers in the highest court. He, however, said the space was not adequate compared to the demand from the legal representatives.Nurul Islam Sujan in his notice earlier said nearly 6,000 lawyers were engaged in the legal profession in the Supreme Court and around 4,000 of whom are enrolled as the members of the Supreme Court lawyers association. The number is growing every year, he said adding that a small space in the current building can not accommodate the lawyers.

5 others refuse to quit
8 more DAGs resign
Apparently taking a defiant stance, five ''hell-bent'' deputy attorneys-general appointed during the past BNP-led alliance regime and subsequent military-backed caretaker government refused to resign in the current reshuffle process, reports UNB ."Despite repeated request, the senior government law officers outright declined to submit their resignation letters," a close aide to the Attorney General told UNB on Monday, requesting anonymity. "Sticking to their guns, they want removal (instead of voluntary resignation)", the aide added. The defiant DAGs are Abdur Rouf, Mahmud Ali Akand, Zainul Abedin Tuhin, Shawkatul Huq and Mozammel Huq.Meanwhile, in compliance with the request from the Attorney General Office, another group of eight deputy attorneys-general Monday stood down voluntarily showing "personal grounds", said the AG Office.They are Abdus Samad Kamal, Osman Gani, Idris Khan, Quamrunnesa Ratna, JBM Hasan, Shamsul Haque, Zafar Imam and Zahirul Islam Mukul.In the process of administrative reshuffle with the change of government, the new government, meanwhile, appointed 26 DAGs for the Supreme Court on Feb 8. The change at the top had come first when the new attorney-general and one additional attorney-general were appointed to the AG Office after the Awami League-led Grand Alliance government had taken over.

Pakistan inks Sharia law deal
ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: Pakistan has signed a peace deal with a Taleban group that will lead to the enforcement of the Islamic Sharia law in the restive Swat valley, reports BBC.Regional officials urged the Taleban, who agreed a 10-day truce on Sunday, to lay down their arms permanently.Once one of Pakistan''s most popular holiday destinations, the Swat valley is now mostly under Taleban control.Thousands of people have fled and hundreds of schools have been destroyed since the Taleban insurgency in 2007.Chief Minister of North West Frontier Province Ameer Hussain Hoti announced a bill had been signed that would implement a new "order of justice" in the Malakand division, which includes Swat.The bill will create a separate system of justice for the whole region.The BBC''s M Ilyas Khan, who was recently in Swat, says the Taleban had already set up their own system of Islamic justice, as they understand it.

Tremor jolts northern region
A mild earthquake jolted different areas of the country''s northern region early Monday, reports UNB.UNB correspondents from Rangpur and Gaibandha districts said the tremor shook different parts of the region at about 1:40am, prompting many panic-stricken people to get out of their homes for safety.But there have been no reports of causalities or damage due to the midnight tremor.The intensity of the tremor could not be measured as there were no Richter scales in the impoverished northern districts.Meanwhile, a Met Office bulletin here said a moderate tremor, measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale, struck Asam in India at about at 1:35am Monday.The epicentre of the quake was 276 kms off the north-northwest side of Agargaon Seismic Centre.

Rival Ctg BNP groups clash in city
Supporters of BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury manhandled their rivals loyal to the party''s joint secretary general Abdullah Al Noman in front of BNP central office at Nayapaltan here this evening, reports BSS. The quarrelling party supporters from Chittagong arrived in the capital to join the ongoing exchange of views meeting with the central leaders in Bhashani Auditorium opposite to the central office. The brawl occurred when Chowdhury''s supporters challenged Noman''s group and asked them to produce invitations cards for the meeting. At one stage of heated altercation between the two groups, the Chowdury loyalists swooped on the opponents.During the clash, Chowdhury supporters were demanding the expulsion of Chittagong (south) district BNP President Ahmed Khalil Khan for his alleged involvement with land grabbing. Chittagong (south) district BNP acting general secretary and convener of Satkania Upazila unit of the party Sheikh Mohiuddin alleged that a faction of Chittagong BNP being provoked by Jamaat-e-Islami attacked them. As the clash continuing, BNP Joint Secretary General Goeshwar Chandra Roy came down from the Bhashani Auditorium and brought the situation under control.

All upazilas to have IT service
The government has a plan to bring all upazilas of the country under the internet service, Post and Telecommunications Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu informed the House Monday, reports BSS.Replying to a question from treasury bench member Sarah Begum Kabori (Naryanganj-4), the minister said besides 64 district headquarters, the internet service has been introduced in 384 upazilas. "The rest of the upazilas would be brought under the internet service by setting up digital telephone exchanges," he added.Answering to a question raised by independent lawmaker Mohammad Fazlul Azim (Noakhali-6), Razu said analogue telephone exchanges are being turned into digital exchanges for further modernisation of the telephone system.To reach the telephone facilities to common people, he said, connection charge, call rate and line rent have been cut drastically and the process for telephone connection and shifting of telephone made easier.

10 hurt in clash over VGD card distribution
BHOLA, Feb 16: Ten people were injured in separate attacks and a union parishad chairman was gheraoed over allegation of irregularities in VGD card distribution in Lalmohon upazila Sunday, reports UNB. Awami League suppor-ters staged demonstration against UP chairmen after Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mesbahul Islam left for town inaugurating the card distribution programme in Lalmohon upazila.The local UP chairmen started distributing cards when DC left for the district town. AL supporters started demonstration outside thedistribution centre when the card distribution by the chairmen was going on.Angry people laid siege to Badarpur union parishad and gheraoed UP chairman Fazlul Haque for an hour. Police later rescued him. Dholigar Nagar UP chairman Mozammel Haque was also manhandled in his area.AL supporters of Badarpur union alleged that they were deprived of receiving cards as the union parishad chairmen belonged to BNP.Locals said BCL activists also beat up two Chhatra Dal leaders, Zakir Hawlader and Akbar, at Lalmohon Bazaar.Eight other people were later injured in separate clashes. When contacted, DC said he heard about the irregularities of UP chairmen through UNO Babar Ali Mia. He said that the matter would be looked into.

Rahela murder case One to walk gallows
A Dhaka court on Monday awarded the death sentence for the brutal rape and murder of Rehala, a young garment factory worker, in 2004, reports Judge AKM Mostafa Dewan, of a special tribunal for prevention of women and children repression, sentenced the fugitive ''Liton'' to death and fined him Tk 1 lakh. Another three accused in the case, ''Delwar'', ''Kabir'' and Fazar Ali, were acquitted. State counsel Abdul Qayyum told after the verdict, "If the investigation was done properly none would have been acquitted." "The investigation officer did not make efforts toproperly identify Liton''s accomplices," he said. Savar police filed the case on Sept 1, 2004, under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act. The case details describe the horrific crime of August 2004 in which the young victim met co-worker Liton on the way home from an outing to the zoo. Liton offered to drop her home by rickshaw. The accused raped and stabbed Rahela, later setting fire to her with the help of his accomplices. They left her for dead in a wooded area behind Jahangirnagar University''s Mosharraf Hossain Hall. Locals discovered Rahela three days later, still fighting for her life. Savar police rushed her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where she died 26 days later. Before her death she gave a statement to magistrate Mofidur Rahman, but she could not identify all of her attackers. Three accomplices were charge-sheeted along with Liton later the same year.

Food rationing
Economists express doubt about success
The country''s leading economists Monday cast doubt on the viability of reintroduction of food rationing system abolished in the early 70s saying that the rural poor are unlikely to get benefit from it, reports UNB.They came up with the concern while talking to reporters after attending a seminar tilted ''Market Volatility, Vulnerability and Food Security'' held at Hotel Sheraton here in the afternoon.They said the government has little administrative capacity to implement the system through bringing the poor under the programme even though they are saying that it is a good policy."The government is thinking of introducing the rationing system to ensure sufficient supply of foods to the poor but our previous experience about it is not encouraging," economist Wahiduddin Mahmud told the reporters.He suggested the government to think twice about it and do necessary homework for successful implementation of the rationing system if the government really wants to do so. "It''ll not be wise to take any decision in a hurry," he said.Mahmud said such system was introduced in the late 80s but it had to be shelved in 90 for widespread corruption. "Though it was introduced for the poor, local musclemen had actually enjoyed its benefits." Wahiuddin said the government can look for an alternative to the rationing system such opening ''fair-price outlets'' for the poor. Replying to a question, he said the government will have to ensure food for the poor at the lowest price and there should not be any debate about it.He also emphasized better government coordination in distributing food and "this has to be ensured at any cost". BRAC executive director Mahbub Hossain said the government should classify people to identify the real victims of price hike. "The fixed income-group living in urban areas is the worst sufferers of food price hike but no step has been taken to address their needs."Atiur Rahman said a balance between the producers and the buyers should be ensured at any cost so both parties can come out of the vicious cycle of losses. "We should encourage the farmers for better production alongside ensuring an atmosphere where the buyers can buy products at reasonable prices," he added.DFID Country Representative Chris Austin, Dr Mahendra Dev of India, representative of Thailand Rice Policy Panel Dr Somporn Isvilanonda, representative of UK''s Overseas Development Institute Dr Edward Clay and Professor of Nutrition from UK''s University of Cambridge, among others, addressed the seminar.

27th BCS Unsuccessful candidates to get job
After a relentless movement, the government Monday assured the unsuccessful candidates of the controversial 27th BCS examinations of job in accordance with the first phase results, reports UNB.Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid and Textile and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed them to inform that they will get job. "Ask them to end the hunger strike," the Prime Minister was quoted to have advised them.Replying to a question, Latif said the candidates succeeded in exams in the first phase would be provided with job as soon as possible.Some 1108 BCS candidates have been continuing movement since November last year against scrapping of their results on allegation of nepotism and favoritism.More than 100 of them were on hunger strike unto death since February 9. They have ended the hunger strike today following assurance of job by the two ministers.

Sustainable tobacco control must for healthy nation
Speakers at a workshop Monday underscored the need for sustainable control of tobacco use for building a sound environment as well as a healthy nation, reports BSS. They also underlined the need for a collective effort of all concerned to undertake effective measures to control the use of tobacco and proper enforcement of the relevant laws.Dhaka Ahsania Mission in cooperation with American Cancer Society, Cancer Research-UK and Framework Convention Alliance organized the workshop on ‘Inclusion of Pictorial Warning Labeling Issues in Tobacco Control Law’ at the mission’s auditorium in the city. With Dhaka Ahsania Mission Executive Director M Ehsanur Rahman in the chair, chief editor of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury, editor of Bhorer Kagoj Shyamal Dutta, chief executive officer of RTV M Hamid, editor of Bhorer Dak KM Belayet Hossain, executive editor of the Daily Somokal Ajoy Das Gupta, city editor of the Daily Star Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan, city editor of the Daily Prothom Alo Pronob Saha and technical officer of WHO Iqbal Kabir, among other, addressed the workshop. Iqbal Masud of Dhaka Ahsania Mission presented a keynote paper at the seminar. Referring to adverse impacts of tobacco use, the keynote paper said around 57,000 people are dying and 3,82,000 others becoming disabled every year in the country because of the habit. About 12 lakh tobacco users are being infected with eight kind of diseases every year. There are some 4,000 perilous chemical substances in tobacco and 43 of those are responsible for cancer. Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury stressed application of innovative and effective slogans to control the use of tobacco. Shyamal Dutta called on the government to bring changes to Tobacco Control Act and make it mandatory to print pictorial warning on each cigarette stick to discourage smoking. Pointing out a number of loopholes in the Act, M Hamid said many people consume Sadapata, Zarda and Gul, which cause cancer, but there is no mention of these items in the definition of tobacco products. KM Belayet Hossain said Bangladesh earns nearly Tk 400 crore from tobacco products, but spends over Tk 5000 crore for treatment of tobacco-related diseases and the gap is widening gradually. Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan said collective efforts of all concerned are needed to control the use of tobacco.


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