Friday, March 23, 2012

Bangladesh to add offshore gas blocks after dispute with Burma ends


SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh wants to add two new offshore oil and gas exploration blocks to the country's map in the eastern Bay of Bengal.

The dispute resolution under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on March 14 may also clear Myanmar's claims over six existing blocks.

A top official on Thursday said Bangladesh eyes fresh mapping of offshore gas blocks as dispute ends with Burma, also known as Myanmar soon after the copy of judgment.

The tribunal based in Hamburg, Germany, upheld Bangladesh's claim to an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles in the Bay of Bengal, and to a substantial share of the outer continental shelf beyond, thus ending its maritime boundary dispute with Myanmar.


Bangladesh will come out with fresh demarcation of its offshore gas blocks in the Bay of Bengal, state-owned Petrobangla's Chairman Hussain Monsur said Thursday. 

The government asked Petrobangla to prepare a new map with the gas blocks properly demarcated in keeping with the international ruling, Monsur said.


Days after the victory at a U.N. court in Bangladesh's maritime boundary claims the Bangladesh Navy has made its first patrol across the settled boundary in the Bay of Bengal.

In 2008, Bangladesh floated its offshore block bidding for oil and gas exploration and  a U.S. company ConocoPhillips signed a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) for two blocks -- DS 10 and 11. Of these, a part of block 10 is claimed by India and a part of block 11 by Myanmar.

Bangladesh was unable to ink a PSC with U.K's Tullow for shallow water gas block SS-08-05 because of the dispute with India. Tullow secured the block in a competitive bidding round for offshore blocks in February 2008.


Bangladesh's winning its maritime boundary claim over Burma implies that the country will now have a larger deep sea oil and gas exploration area in the eastern Bay of Bengal.


Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow in journalism, is a Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained, tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004, for whistle-blowing of the arrival of Jihadists with links to international terror network fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. His email: saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bangladesh court ask to block Facebook for anti-Islamic contents


Saleem Samad, RSF correspondent in Bangladesh

On March 21, Bangladesh High Court has ordered the authorities to take out the anti-Islamic contents from the popular social media network Facebook.

In a judgment Justice Mirza Hossain Haider and Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar issued the interim order to take off five pages from Facebook and a website for blasphemy, hurting religious sentiments.

The court held the unidentified persons as responsible for blasphemy and also ordered to investigate and identify the person behind the wrong-doings.

The judges said that the Facebook contain sensitive cartoons and pictures criticizing Islam and directed the authorities to immediately block the pages, locators and links of social networking website Facebook.

Bangladesh has an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users and ranks 55th, according to international media monitoring site SocialBaker.com.

The judgment was made after two teachers filed a writ petition on Wednesday and says it has violated the constitution in a majoritarian Sunni Muslim nation of 150 million population.

Batool Sarwar of Dhaka University and M. Nurul Islam, principal of Dhaka Centre for Law and Economics, said in their petition that certain Facebook pages, links and locators are showing cartoons and pictures that hurts the religious sentiment of the Muslims, which is against the constitution of republic of Bangladesh.

Responding to the petition, the high court also asked the government to explain in four weeks why it should not be directed to conduct an enquiry and punish the people who are responsible for publishing such “sensitive” cartoons and pictures.

The relevant ministries of home secretary, information secretary, inspector-general of police and the telecom regulatory body Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) have been asked to implement the order.

Earlier in May 2010, Facebook become controversial after Bangladesh followed Pakistan in blocking access to Facebook after satirical images of the prophet Muhammad and the country's leaders were uploaded. One teenage offender Mahbub Alam Rodin was arrested after his online ID was traced by the elite anti-crime unit.

Incidentally Bangladesh does not have laws to punish social media offenders, nor does it have adequate laws to curb cyber crime.




Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Monday, March 19, 2012

Environmentalists concerned over alarming e-waste produce in Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

Environmentalists, academics, researchers and social justice activists on Monday expressed grave concern over the illegal dumping of electronic wastes (e-wastes) in Bangladesh.

The concerned citizens have demanded of the government for a formulation of an integrated national policy, implementation and effective monitoring with the participation of the stakeholders.

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in Bangladesh and has emerged as top lucrative business in the country, said Dr Hossain Shahriar of Environmental and Social Development Organizations (ESDO), an activist group.

Bangladesh is one of the highest e-waste generating countries in the world. It produces 2.7 million metric tons of e-waste, and notorious ship breaking industry alone produce 90 percent of the total wastes, according to the study by ESDO presented at the capital Dhaka on Monday.

An estimated 700 ships reaches its final destination in Bangladesh to die. The wastes from the electronic goods produced from the ship breaking yards in the Bangladesh southern coast, which comes as a curse, laments Dr Hossain.

The ship scrap carries huge volumes of toxic products, as well as electric and electronic wastes, which includes neon lamps and light bulbs, light switches, hundred miles of electric wires and tons of cables, besides kitchen and laundry appliances, television monitors and computers.

The tradeoff and trans-boundary movement does not address the critical environmental, social and economic impacts on an impoverished nation of 150 million, a size of Texas State.

Most importantly the country does not have the expertise, or the skills for e-waste management. Rather impromptu e-waste recyclers are the major culprits of environmental hazards. The recycling trade grew into largest suppliers of metal scraps for the booming construction industry and other spent fuels which has caused hazards on environment, health and life in the region, said Siddika Sultana Shika, executive director of ESDO.

Despite repeated higher court directives, Bangladesh authorities have failed to curb the environmental menace created by the ship breaking yards.

A weak legislation is to be blamed for the recycle industry’s notoriety. They enjoy wide political patronage of the government despite committing unabated environmental and social crimes.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bangladesh government snubs opposition demand for non-party system


SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh’s ruling party on Wednesday rejected the opposition’s demand for a non-partisan interim government before the planned election in less than two years.

The pro-Islamist opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNPs) leader Khaleda Zia two days ago gave a 90 days ultimatum to accept a non-party system for holding a free, fair and credible election or face anti-government agitation.

Prime minister Shiekh Hasina lambasted her arch rival BNP chairperson Zia and said when she (Zia) was in power, she turned down the non-party system and described that only children and insane are neutral to head the interim government to oversee the parliament election.

The prime minister sat behind a bullet-proof glass shield while senior alliance leaders reiterated that the upcoming general election in 2013 would be free, fair and credible under the present government.


However, the opposition fears the government would rig the election, despite majority of the bye-polls and mayoral elections in different cities the opposition candidates won the seats.


During the 35-minute speech at a rally in the city center, Hasina alleged that the opposition’s agitation is a ploy to destabilize the pro-secular democratic governance.


Meanwhile, the business leaders warned on Tuesday that the opposition threats for political agitation and nation-wide shut down on Mar 29 would raise tensions in social life. The leaders of the influential business and export chambers urged the opposition to demonstrate restrain and instead debate in the parliament.

The opposition has been boycotting the parliament for more than a year, for unknown reasons.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Bangladesh wins maritime boundary case with Myanmar


SALEEM SAMAD


BANGLADESH HAS won territorial and economic rights to the vast Bay of Bengal resources in the maritime boundary case with Burma in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in a judgment in Hamburg on Wednesday.

Foreign minister Dipu Moni said a United Nations (UN) maritime tribunal had ruled in Bangladesh’s favor in a complex maritime border dispute with Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Moni said Bangladesh got more than it claimed in its long-running dispute with Burma. "This is a great day for Bangladesh. All our strategic objectives were achieved."


The President of the Tribunal, Jose Luis Jesus of Cape Verde, read the judgment in the Hamburg courtroom.

The verdict opened the way for huge potentiality of offshore oil and gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal, Moni said.

Bangladesh claimed 66,486 square miles while the court provided 68,972 sq. mi area in the Bay of Bengal.


Earlier Burma claimed rights to part of an area Bangladesh has been trying to explore. At the peak of the dispute, both countries sent naval ships to the disputed area, which is about 174 miles off the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong.

The naval forces of Burma and Bangladesh came face to face in the Bay of Bengal in November 2008 after an oil and gas exploration by South Korean Company Daewoo attempt by Burma in a disputed area. The tension however, was diffused by the intervention of international organizations.


Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bangladesh opposition demands to restore non-party system

SALEEM SAMAD

PRO-ISLAMIST opposition has slapped a deadline of 90 days to restore the cancelled non-partisan caretaker system, which is widely believe the ruling party would manipulate.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalists Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia on Monday threatened agitation, which often begets violence in a poverty stricken nation of 150 million.

She urged her pro-Islamist 6-party alliance and their supporters to enforce nation-wide shut down on Mar 29 protesting the government attempts to bar its leaders and activists from joining Monday's grand rally in the capital’s city center.

Despite security agencies obstacles to hold the pro-Islamist opposition the rally was attended by a crowd of 200,000 and was apparently peaceful, eyewitnesses claim. In a country-wide crackdown, an estimated 4,000 opposition supporters and activists were detained, police spokesperson said.

The commuting city buses, long distance buses, river ferry boats were shut down. Several check posts were manned by police and elite anti-crime squads who frisked thousands of people entering the capital Dhaka.

The security agencies asked the city hoteliers and community centers to shut down their business on the eve of the opposition rally. The agencies put off the air three private satellite channels Ekushey TV, Bangla Vision and Islamic TV from live broadcast of opposition leader speech.

In her 90-minute speech, the BNP chief in a scathing remarks of the government and blamed for gagging the media.
At the rally the opposition leader, Zia who was twice prime minister failed to provide terms of reference of an interim government’s system would be responsible to hold free, fair and credible election.

The opposition believes that the upcoming parliament election in 2013 would be rigged, in the backdrop of a weak election commission.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Bangladesh authority blocks private TV channels from live broadcast of opposition rally


SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH SECURITY agencies knocked off the air three private TV channels in a bid to refrain them from live broadcast of opposition rally, without any prior notices.

The security agencies blocked for three and half hours in the afternoon the TV channels Ekushey Television (ETV), Bangla Vision and Islamic TV, when the rally was in progress.

The newsroom editors of the private satellite channels confirmed that government agencies asked Cable Operators' Association of Bangladesh (COAB) to suspend the telecast as the channels were planning to go live from the rally venue. The COAB officials acknowledged receiving the instruction.

However, the channels were available to the viewers around 6:30 pm, an hour after opposition leader Khaleda Zia finished her speech.

Earlier on March 10, the private television channels have been discouraged by the telecommunication regulatory body Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) not to broadcast live the main opposition rally on Monday.

Many private television channels are in a dilemma whether it would be safe to broadcast live the opposition’s rally, when the government has determined against the opposition programme alleging 'it is a plot to create anarchy'.

The private TV channels fears BTRC as the telecom regulatory body is also licensing authority.

The government spokesperson and minister Syed Ashraful Islam has expressed his indignation over the planned live broadcasting of BNP's rally. Several newspapers also ran reports saying the issue was also discussed in the cabinet meeting.

Bangladesh has 19 private TV channels, which broadcast through satellite and does not have permission for terrestrial broadcast facilities.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Yunus regrets offer to be nominated as World Bank chief

SALEEM SAMAD

NOBEL LAUREATE Professor Muhammad Yunus on Friday quietly turned down the nomination offer for the position of World Bank chief, after Bangladesh prime minister requested European Parliament delegation to nominate micro-finance pioneer.

A visionary for banking for the rural poor, specially empowerment of women, Yunus declined to take the helms of affairs of the multi-lateral bank, based in Washington DC. Instead he said he wish to dedicate his life for social business.

The country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed Yunus name last month to a delegation of visiting European parliamentarians in capital Dhaka, saying he was respected for his pioneering role in poverty alleviation.

In a statement on Friday, Yunus while thanking Hasina said he never thought of taking up the top job of the bank or any other such multilateral institutions. He said he was a regular critic of the World Bank for its policies and programs.

The move surprised many, as Hasina last year fired the 70-year-old Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank on mandatory retirement age dispute. She (Hasina) in December 2010 also accused him of “sucking blood from the poor.”

The microfinance pioneer said he hoped that Hasina’s proposal that he take over at the World Bank would “make clear that the impressions she previously had about me and Grameen Bank no longer exist”.

The Washington-based anti-poverty lender, Robert Zoellick, the incumbent president of the World Bank, will step down at the end of his five-year term on June 30.

Earlier in 1995 U.S. President Bill Clinton invited him to his Oval Office and “asked whether I had any interest in this”. In 2005 ex-Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia wanted to nominate him for UN Secretary General’s post. In each proposal he had regretted the offer with thanks.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

Friday, March 02, 2012

American special forces deployed in South Asia to combat counter-terrorism threats

SALEEM SAMAD

AMERICAN SPECIAL Forces have been deployed in five South Asian countries to enhance counter-terrorism capabilities with the nations in the region, intermittently visited by threats of Jihadists, a top Pentagon commander disclosed on Thursday.

To the surprise of politicians, media and western critiques, the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) Admiral Robert Willard revealed at a Congressional hearing that currently special forces assist teams - Pacific assist teams is the term - laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, as well as India.

Willard told lawmakers in response to a question by Congressman Joe Wilson as to what effort is being made to counter threat from Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and co-operation on counter-terrorism issues.

At the hearing, USPACOM Commander introduced LeT as a dangerous militant outfit. "Responsible for many attacks in India, including the horrific attacks into Mumbai, LeT is headquartered in Pakistan, affiliated with al-Qaeda and other Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs), and contributes to terrorist operations in Afghanistan and aspires to operate against Asia, Europe and North America," Willard said.

"We are working very closely with India with regard to their counter-terrorism capabilities and in particular on the maritime domain but also government to government, not necessarily department of defence (DoD) but other agencies assisting them in terms of their internal counter-terror and counterinsurgency challenges," said Willard.

The Pentagon official said Pacific Command's Indian Engagement Initiative that resourced and hosted Mumbai counter terrorist specialists for training exercises and exchanges throughout the US, together with capacity-building activities with South Asian partners are mainly focused on containing LeT and contributing to CT self-sufficiency of the sub-region's militaries.

India promptly denied deployment of U.S. Special Forces and quickly the American Embassy in New Delhi clarified that the troops were not stationed in India, as the media reports. The embassy and India's ministry of defence said a unit from the US 25th infantry division was in India to hold an exercise with Indian forces and its strategic neighbours.

Bangladesh authority has neither denied nor confirmed the presence of USPACOM Special Forces in Bangladesh. Bangladesh couple of weeks ago said that it will participate in joint exercise in India with United States on counter-terrorism.

In mid February the visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert O. Blake in the capital Dhaka said that with Bangladesh and the U.S. has developed strong cooperation on counter-terrorism and security issues.

Bangladesh, he said, has emerged as a particularly effective partner in the fight against terror, cooperating with India as well as the US to counter VEO activity by actors such as LeT.

Further, Bangladesh's military is advancing its capabilities and contributes broadly to the United Nations peacekeeping operations, he added.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Bangladesh based award winning investigative reporter. He specializes on Islamic militancy, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained and tortured in 2002 and later expelled from Bangladesh in 2004 for whistle-blowing on the safe sanctuary offered to the Jihadists who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile in Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com