Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pakistan textile industry relocating to Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

PAKISTAN EXPORT oriented textile industry are relocating their business to Bangladesh for a slice of preferential trade agreements with United States and European Union as poor country.

Pakistan Textile Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin on Tuesday confirmed that the textile industry in Pakistan is gradually shifting to Bangladesh to seek more profit, while the industry leaders argue that there relocation was because of electricity and gas outages prevailing in Pakistan.

Bangladesh authority has given the Pakistan textile producers special area in export processing zones to enable to establish their business. Energy starved Bangladesh is also making all efforts to improve augmentation of power and gas supplies for its crucial export industries.

The industries located in the textile hub of southern Punjab in Pakistan had effected the jobs of 60,000 workers and nearly 200,000 families of indirect employments. The authorities nor the industry owners have any plan to compensate the job loss.

Shahabuddin, a senior politician of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party said that Bangladesh textile receives special privileges from E.U. and U.S. Both E.U. and U.S. are major market destination for textile companies. To increase their market share, the industry is shifting to Bangladesh, he said.

According to the minister, more than 40% of the textile industry and around 200,000 power looms have been shifted to Bangladesh in the last five years, causing employment problems.

Defending the electricity crisis, the senior politician said that it is not the only problem in Pakistan, other Asian countries are also facing this predicament. He claimed that electricity shortage would be minimized soon and power tariffs would be brought down according to the demand in the country, to encourage investment climate in Pakistan.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

India plans war games with U.S, Russia Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

INDIA ARMY will hold war games with top global powers, including United States, Russia, France, Bangladesh and Singapore to learn from India its experience of counter terrorism and urban warfare operations.

Indian Army will hold around 15 war exercises this year with friendly foreign countries, Indian private news channel NDTV reported on Sunday quoting army officials.

In its immediate neighbourhood, Indian Army will conduct these joint training exercises with Bangladesh and Singapore too. Earlier, India and Bangladesh had two limited scale war games in 2009 and 2001.

The war game will kick-off with Singapore army in March, when the two sides will field their mechanised forces in the training engagement.

The for anti-terrorism drills and urban warfare is going to be an important part of all of these war games, an officials said. The schedule with other countries will be finalized soon.

The army troopers will also engage the American mechanised forces in the deserts of Rajasthan in the exercise which will see the U.S. fielding its tanks there.

Earlier in 2009, the U.S. had participated in exercise with the Indian Army, when it had taken its Stryker infantry armoured vehicles outside of its operational area to a foreign land.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Despite protests, India, Bangladesh agrees to generate power

SALEEM SAMAD

IN MAJOR breakthrough India have agreed to help Bangladesh to generate coal-fired power station and pens another deal to generate additional power by private companies.

The state owned Power Development Board (PDB) on Sunday penned an agreement with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India to build a 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Bagerhat, near the southern coast.

The environmentalists and senior citizens have protested against the construction of coal-fired power plant, which they argue would jeopardize the fragile mangrove forest. It is feared to drown at the time of sea-level rise caused from global warming, environment advocate Rizwana Hasan lamented.

However environmentalists say the proposed site for the power plant is too close to world heritage Sundarbans. They argue that discharge from the power plant, like sulphur dioxide and fly ash, will have disastrous consequences for the fauna and flora of the mangrove swamps.

Environmentalists and senior citizens have protested against construction of the coal-fired plant, which they argue would jeopardize a fragile mangrove forest. It is feared to drown at the time of sea-level rise caused from global warming, lamented environment advocate Rizwana Hasan in a joint statement with senior citizens.

ASM Alamgir Kabir, chairman of PDB, and Arup Roy Choudhury, chairman and managing director of the New Delhi-based company, signed the deal to install two units of the plant with 660 MW generation capacity each.

The PDB chief said the plant would use supercritical pressure technology that offers high efficiency and less coal consumption in order to keep the emission level as low as possible.

Bangladesh energy starved nation of 150 million has gradually developed hundreds of export industries, which has caused hiccups due to acute power shortage. The traditional natural gas based power generation faced setback due to gas shortage.

The country's present power production is slightly more than 5,000 MW against a daily demand of 7,000 MW.


The deal would cost $1.5 billion and it will start supplying electricity to the national grid by 2016. The coal imported from India, Australian Indonesia and South Africa will be shipped to its location more than 12 miles north of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, the plant will be the country's largest power plant.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and India are working together to draw the contours of the proposed South Asia Power Grid. India and Bangladesh were preparing the draft concept papers for the proposed regional power trading regime.


Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bangladesh unveils cyber watchdog to check crimes

Campaign: Free Internet
SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH IN the wake of last week use of social media by key conspirators botched Islamic coup, the authority unveiled on Friday a new cyber watchdog.

Bangladesh Computer Security Incident Response Team (BD-CSIPT) began its operation with an objective to secure the country's information and communication traffic.

The abortive coup by Islamic radicals planned to overthrow the democratically elected pro-secular government led by Shiekh Hasina. The conspirators used social medial like Facebook and blogs to ventilate their Islamic agenda with their disgruntled collaborators in the army and used smart phones to stay connected.

Maj. Gen. (retd.) Zia Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission told state-run BSS news agency that the BD-CSIRT is mainly assigned to identify the sites and persons or institutions who will engage in operating harmful activities against the state, society, political and religious beliefs using the mobile phone, website and different social networking sites.

Apart from monitoring and control of cyber-crimes, it will take punitive measures against the offenders, and in some cases it will take action directly.

The cyber watchdog will also ensure the security of value-added services like e-banking, e-ticketing and similar others, which require strong security system.

Ahmed Swapan, a media activist advocating for privacy rights in a mixed reaction, regarding the objectives of the government’s decision. He said that in the name of cyber surveillance, it would be detrimental and if the authority exercise cyber-censorship, unnecessary interference and harassment of the users.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bangladesh security agency smash coup conspiracy

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH SECURITY agencies have unearthed a conspiracy to overthrow the anti-Islamist government of Shiekh Hasina.

In a rare press conference hurriedly organized by the Bangladesh Army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) at it’s headquarter in the capital Dhaka on Thursday, said that they do not rule out any possibility of international links and foreign involvement in the foiled coup plot.

The statement read out by Brigadier General Muhammad Masud Razzaq claimed that some 14 – 16 former and in-service radical Muslim mid-level officers were involved in the conspiracy to topple a democratic government and install a hardliner Islamist regime.

Brig. Gen. Razzaq said retired Lieutenant Colonel Ehsan Yusuf and Major Zakir were placed under arrest on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government and that they "admitted their role in the plot".

However, the mastermind of the coup Major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Huq (a.k.a. Major Zia) remains a fugitive. The renegade officer has links to banned Islamist terror network Hizb ut-Tahrir, the spokesperson claimed.

The conspiracy came into surface on Dec. 26 and intelligence and security agencies kept the suspects of the coup plotters under surveillance and found that the fugitive officer maintained contacts with other disgruntled army officers by mobile phones, emails and social media Facebook.

Finally on January 10 – 11, Maj, Zia contacted the collaborators through mobile phones. The renegades wanted to know details of the execution of coup d’├ętat and the suspected mastermind repeatedly urged to execute the plan, which flopped.

The spokesperson did not deny of any foreign country or international network’s involvement in the conspiracy. He said nothing can be dismissed, but quickly said to wait for the inquiry report.

Brig. Gen. Razzaq said after the probe, tough measures would be taken against the renegades. The suspects are being hunted and asked them to surrender.

Hasina’s father, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, the pro-independence hero was assassinated in a military putsch in 1975, when her family members were also killed. Meanwhile, the security of the prime minister has been beefed up.

The news broke at the time when the pro-independence government after 40 years have began the trial of Islamist leaders for crime against humanity during the war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Hours after the army had gone public about a bid to topple the Sheikh Hasina led coalition government, a senior minister Syed Ashraful Islam and general secretary of ruling Awami League said public representatives must continue to call the shots and that the rule of law must be upheld.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ban on bureaucrats rocks bourse in Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

THOUSANDS OF SMALL investors took to the streets after the bourse dipped once again to 4695.57 points, losing 168.72 points or 3.46 percent, at close of trading on Wednesday.

As the index tumbled inside, on the outside the Dhaka Stock Exchange building protesting retail stocks investors blocked traffic in the Motijheel, commercial hub of the city. Riot police with bullet-proof vest and tear-gas shells stood guard to protect the agitators becoming violent, said senior police officer Krishna Roy.

Share prices dropped sharply on Wednesday even after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman clarified that no decision was taken in Monday's cabinet meeting to stop public servants from investing in the capital market.

Hours after issuing a notification asking the bureaucrats to refrain from making investment in the capital market, the government on Wednesday withdrew the order.

The raucous began over the government’s official notification which bans the bureaucrats from investing in the capital market. The notification says that public servants cannot make any speculative investment or engage in a business that creates a conflict of interest.

Fearing massive fall in share prices following the banning of bureaucrats from investing their money in the capital market, the authorities on Tuesday based on the media report on “banning government employees from investing their money in the capital market”.

At a press briefing Musharraf M Hussain, chief executive officer of the Dhaka Stock Exchange, said they suspended the trading to protect interests of both the capital market and the capital investors.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rights group protest abduction, secret killings in Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

International rights groups are seeking answers from the Bangladesh authorities for ongoing abductions, disappearances and secret killings.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in their report released last week expressed alarm of increasing numbers of professionals including lawyers, university students, small businessmen and pro-opposition political activists are being abducted by plain clothed armed men from the streets, business offices and homes. Often the victims’ bodies with their hands tied or blindfolded are dumped on lonely roadsides.

Government continuously denied any knowledge of any abductions or disappearances. The failure of the authorities to probe by independent investigators into complaints of abductions, disappearances and secret killings, AHRC laments.

National rights organizations Odhikar, in its annual human rights report found alarming rise of disappearances, deaths in custody and attacks on journalists in 2011. Another rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra, did not hesitate to express similar concern of disappearances and secret killings.

Top ranking officials of law enforcing and security forces instead blamed the “criminal gangs” or the “opposition political parties” for the abductions and secret killings.

An independent newspaper Daily Star in its Tuesday editorial, fears that the government’s denial may breed impunity. In spite of the government's denial, the newspaper writes that some of the cases are plainly indefensible. If deterrent measures are not taken, the government may be condoning a dangerous culture of impunity, completely opposed to the values of democracy and civil liberties.

Bangladesh, as a member of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has an obligation to protect its own citizens in the country.

The international rights group AHRC advised that the government should halt the law-enforcing agencies arrests of suspects without a warrants, which will generate a believe among general people that the police and other law enforcing agencies does not arrest or abduct in plainclothes.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Islamist rampage in Bangladesh capital protesting jailing of war crimes suspect

SALEEM SAMAD

Islamists on Thursday in Bangladesh rampage in the capital’s downtown and clashed with riot police protesting imprisonment of the high profile war crimes suspect and also demanded abolition of war crimes trial.

A day after the Jamaat-e-Islami linchpin Ghulam Azam was send behind bars, the activist’s organized series of street protests in the capital and elsewhere in the upcountry. The International Crimes Tribunal, set up to try war crimes suspects has rejected Azam’s bail plea on Wednesday.

Jamaat-e-Islami linchpin Ghulam Azam has been indicted on 62 counts of crimes against humanity during the war of independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

The Islamist activists clashed with riot police in bullet-proof jackets in the city center. The irate activists vandalized a police vehicle, attacked police officers and snatched police weapons.

Police to quell the violence lobbed tear-gas shells and baton charged the activists. Several arrests were made.

Police officer Anwar Hossain told journalists that the situation is under control in the evening and confirmed that the pistol loaded with bullets has not been recovered.

The Islamist party a strategic partner of main opposition has demanded to scrap the war crimes trial, which they say is witch-hunting the opposition leaders who are arch political rivals of the ruling party. The government always denied such accusation of the opposition and explained that it was longstanding electoral promise to try war criminals committed 40 years ago.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bangladesh tribunal reject bail of high profile war crimes suspect, send to prison

Photo: Activists rally demanding trial of war criminals
SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH HIGH profile crimes suspect has been send to prison on Wednesday after the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in capital Dhaka rejected the bail petition.

Amidst tight security, the prime suspect was driven in a prison van to central prison in old city.

Within hours after the arrest of former Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam from the court premise, the ailing suspect was send to the prison cell of a specialized government hospital for treatment in the afternoon.

Police source could not confirm if Azam had any health-related complaints.

Earlier in the day, Azam who has been indicted on 62 counts appeared before the tribunal in compliance with its order on Monday last for hearing of his bail petition, which was rejected.

His counsel Barrister Abdur Razzaq said in his petition that the bail plea was made solely on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, that his client was almost 90 and suffered from a number of old-age ailments.

The tribunal set Feb.15 for hearing of charges against him for his alleged involvement in crime against humanity during the bloody war of independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

The court room was filled to the brim as the Jamaat guru's hearing began amid palpable tension.

Chief prosecutor Ghulam Arieff Tipoo said this man headed the Jamaat-e-Islami, "which mobilized its forces from one corner of the country to another."

Azam has been blamed for being the linchpin for raising Al-Badar, fanatic Islamic militants responsible for kidnap, disappearance and execution of pro-independence professionals and intellectuals, mostly teachers, doctors, journalists and engineers.

The pro-independence government set up the ICT to try crimes against humanity of dreaded Islamic militants from among his party’s youth members, the lead prosecutor said. The militants on the behest of the marauding Pakistan army caused genocide of an estimated 3 millions, rape of 420 thousand women and the atrocities forced 10 million to flee to neighboring India.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bangladesh army takes offence of opposition leader’s remark

SALEEM SAMAD

THE BANGLADESH armed force has taken serious offence of main opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia’s statement at a public rally in Chittagong in the south.

The military press wing Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) on Tuesday in strongly guarded termed the remarks of the opposition leader regarding army official were ‘provocative, irresponsible, false and unexpected’.

On Monday, Zia said at a rally that the government was eliminating opposition leaders and activists not only through repression but also through abductions and secret killings. "Not only this, even army personnel are being abducted," the former prime minister had alleged.

It also said the nation does not expect such a provocative speech from an opposition leader.

The reaction issued to the press, interprets her remarks as an attempt to tarnish the image of the armed forces in a bid to create anarchy.

The ISPR press release also said the army is run through a specific military law. “Measure is taken as per the law if it is violated,” it added. There is no scope of spreading speculation here, it added.

On the other hand, the prime minister Shiekh Hasina on Tuesday scoffed off opposition leader’s call to step aside and hold an election. She instead urged the opposition leader to join parliament, which her party is boycotting for more than two years.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Monday, January 09, 2012

Bangladesh war crimes court ask top Islamist leader to appear or face arrest

SALEEM SAMAD

THE INTERNATIONAL Crimes Tribunal (ICT) on Monday asked Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party former chief Golam Azam to appear before the court on January 11 or face arrest.

Justice Nizamul Haque Nasim issued an order after accepting formal charges against Azam who is blamed for crime against humanity during the bloody war of independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

The tribunal judge warned failure to present the suspect, who was formerly chief of Islamist party on the specific date would issue warrant of arrest.

The prosecution submitted formal charges accusing Azam for his involvement on 62 counts including waging war against the people of Bangladesh. He has also been charged for being the henchman of the marauding Pakistan army for recruiting Muslim youths to form the death squad, who kidnapped and executed hundreds pro-independence professionals and intellectuals.

Bangladesh, formerly eastern province of Pakistan remained 2,000 miles away in between India. The nation revolted against Islamic Pakistan against refusal of political and civil liberties and established a secular country.

Defense counsel Abdur Razzaq pleased that the case against Golam Azam be dismissed. The tribunal ruled that the petition was not tenable since there was no provision of hearing the defense or the prosecution before charges was taken into cognizance.

Meanwhile, the prosecution indicted six other suspects who are Sunni Muslims for crime against humanity perpetrated during the 1971 war against Pakistan.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Bangladesh opposition deadline for the government to quit

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH MAIN opposition on Monday has set March 12 as deadline for the ruling alliance government to quit or they people would pull them down.

Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia at a public rally after the end of her 132 miles road march from the capital Dhaka to Chittagong in the south said that the ruling Awami League government’s time is up.

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalists Party’s objective of the road march was to drum up support for its demand to restore a caretaker government system for holding credible national election. The government, last year scrapped the neutral transition government from the constitution, allowing the elected government to oversee the election to the parliament.

At a cheering crowd, the former prime minister and BNP chief Zia urged prime minister Shiekh Hasina, “Your popularity has come down to zero level. Without resisting our future program, quit power and test your popularity by giving elections under a non-party caretaker government.”

Khaleda twice elected as prime minister insisted that the next general elections must be held under a non-party caretaker authority and said, “It is not possible to hold impartial elections under Awami League and we won’t allow any election without the caretaker government.”

The opposition leader announced a million people march to the capital on March 12 to realize their demand for restoration of care-taker government. The tenure of the present government will end in December of 2013.

Some three thousand vehicles joined the road march, which clogged the main commercial highway from the industrial area in the central to the port city Chittagong. Millions of bus passengers plying between small towns were stranded in the highway, the embedded journalists described.

Praising past three heads of caretaker governments were honest and held a free, fair and credible elections. However, she dubbed the last military backed caretaker government as illegal and unconstitutional.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Bangladesh teacher awarded imprisonment for Facebook status

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH FOR the first time has given a verdict on Wednesday to a university teacher for his status wishing death of prime minister Shiekh Hasina.

The High Court sentenced Jahangirnagar University’s fugitive teacher Muhammad Ruhul Amin Khandaker to six months for contempt of court, after the accused failed to appear on court summons.

The court will soon deliver the verdict on the primary case, wishing death to Hasina in social media, which Khandakar wrote on Aug. 13 in the Facebook status.

Bangladesh has 2,251,340 ranking 56th position globally.

Bangladesh, last May was the second South Asian nation after Pakistan to block the popular social media Facebook for blasphemy inviting people to draw images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The court ordered the university authority to take steps against the fugitive teacher according to the university rules.

The police chief has been asked to arrest him, Hossain said. The court also ordered the foreign ministry to bring back the teacher from Australia, where he is study leave.

Human rights lawyer Dr Shahdin Malik said Bangladesh does not have specific laws to punish Facebook users. Therefore, it would be difficult to charge a user for security threats or blasphemy.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com