Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

December 29, 2008

Latest Results Of Bangladesh Election 2008

Its a landslide victory for Awami League and the grand alliance.

Here are the party wise details.

Here is a nicely done detailed interactive map with updated results.

Image courtesy The New Age.

Liveblogging Bangladesh Elections results

The vote ended a couple of hours ago. The results have started coming in. Still early to call anything.

* BDT 7:09PM Nayadiganta is updating Districtwise results

* BDT 7:11PM The Daily Star has nice layout for the results. Still the figures are nil.

* BDT 7:12PM Unheard Voice is also live blogging.

* BDT 7:15PM Rizvi Ahmed of BNP gives press conference says the media is showing bias in reporting news of “intimidation” by BNP members. The money that has been found with various agents is for “the entertainment exp on the election day”.

Is not there a limitation of election expense rule? 41 lakhs as “entertainment” for how many people?

And Sarees for what treat? Am not convinced..

* BDT 7:36PM Some snippets from Districts:

Dhaka-8: Total Vote Centers-102, Results-01
Habibul Sohel (Dhaner Shish) : 614
Rashed Khan Menon (Nouka) : 881

Panchagar -2: Total Vote Centers-103, Results-21
Mozahar Hossain (Dhaner Shish) : 10259
Nurul Islam Shujan (Nouka) : 1381

Bandarban: Total Vote Centers-162, Results-05
Saching Pru (Dhaner Shish) : 419
Bir Bahadur (Nouka) : 1197

* BDT 8:10PM from Asif: Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, an accused war criminal, has lost by 13000 votes in one of his seats.

Unconfirmed reports say AL/Grand alliance is leading in 200+ seats (out of 300) and Matiur Rahman Nizami, the Jamaat-e-Islami Amir is losing. Moulana Sobhan from Jamaat is also losing.

* BDT 8:28 From BDNews24.com:

Early results: AL ahead
Three hours into vote counting in Bangladesh's ninth parliamentary polls on Monday evening, early results from dozens of polling stations around the country showed Awami League and their allies to be ahead of their rivals.

* BDT 8:41 ATN TV: Sheikh Hasina - officially declared (99 of 101 centers) as winner in Gopalganj -3

* BDT 10:42 I was apalled by the poor aggregation of the media to present a simple graphic, which party are leading by numbers. So I worked on a google doc from the media info and came up with this:

Will be upldated regularly.

More at E-Bangladesh:

30 December 2008

* BDT 04:05AM Here is the latest results. Click on the image for details:

Latest Results Of Bangladesh Election 2008

Please refresh the post for the latest.

Rural Voices

By Unnayan TV

The video was randomly recorded in two villages “Mujatati” and “Kabarikanda” of Mymensingh districts from 12-15 December 2008. The rural interviewers expressed their real feeling with instant opinion; could be called “Public Demand on Election 2008 of Bangladesh”. These rural voices portray the majority voices and vision of election, democracy, reality and future political leadership in Bangladesh.

The video was captured by Siraj and J.Alam of Machizo with association of Shujan, Sanjit and Munam Master; however with the production concept and planning of AsifSalah@Drishtipat and Shahjahan Siraj@Machizo.

Bangladesh: Microblogging an election

In a few hours time 81 million Bangladeshi voters (51% women) will go to vote for the ninth parliamentary election. The election is crucial for the nation as it will bring the country back into the track of democracy after two years of emergency rule of an interim government backed by armed forces.

We have discussed earlier about the use of internet in the campaign and activism for an informed vote. Now we have got another interesting development.

Somewherein, a software company and the pioneer of the first bangla blog community in the world has introduced a twitter like web based micro blogging community where message can be sent via web and mobile phones (sms) for dissemination of news of the election by the netizens. The messages can also be sent directly to an interactive map where location based information can be found.

Arild Klokkerhaug, the Head of Opportunities of Somewherein has this to say to the candidates of the election:
dear candidates for the 2008 bangladesh parliamentary election:

in case you are not aware, here is a small note to tell you that an election and holding power through a seat in the parliament, is no longer business as usual. tomorrow, any update from any blogger has the potential to reach the whole world.

this time, for the first time in your political history, bloggers are watching you. not only a few techie intellectuals. we are at least 30 000 bangla bloggers watching you. we blog through multiple blog communities and our writings are being read in nearly every country of the world.

we will support your efforts to build a strong and proud nation and share the good news with the world. however, we will also hold you accountable and report any misstep. blogs will never forget, bloggers will never be silenced, internet knows no borders. therefore, lets get it right this time, dear candidates. lets get it right.


The tools bloggers will be using:
bloggers share quick news to the election microblog
- just login and type from web or sms to 5455: ! your message

bloggers can sms directly to an interactive map
- send sms to 5455: ! your message @location regarding their district

bloggers can analyse and share political stories on the election blog

bloggers can share the latest microblogs through nearly any blog

SWI-New Age

Live coverages, streaming videos and webcasts of the election results can be found in these sites:

Another Bangla Blogging platform sachalayatan is providing a widget which will be updating the latest information on the election (in Bangla) and which can be placed in the side bar of any blog.

First published in Global Voices Online

Banngladesh Goes into Poll

(Image credit: The Daily Star)

in a few hours Bangladeshis will decide their future by voting in the ninth parliamentary election. Stay tuned for all the coverage in E-Bangladesh, The New Age, Somewhere in, Amar Blog, BDNEWS24.com etc.

December 26, 2008

14 War Criminals contending in Bangladesh Election

Please do not vote for them.

Via Dark Ocean Needs A Lighthouse.

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone

Christmas market in Gendarmenmarkt

Christmas lighting in Arkaden, Potsdamer Platz

Sony Center, Potsdamer Platz

Christmas Market, Europa Center

Das Schloss

Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe), Kurfurstendam

December 24, 2008

Election Express

The Asia Foundation is covering Bangladesh Election:

Bangladesh just lifted its long-standing emergency rule, giving candidates freedom to campaign for the Dec. 29 parliamentary elections. Home to 150 million people, Bangladesh has been a parliamentary democracy since 1991, when a pro-democracy movement ended the country's latest military regime. The Asia Foundation is partnering with the Election Working Group (EWG) on election observation, voter education, and electoral reform advocacy. EWG will deploy 178,000 domestic observers across Bangladesh to help ensure free and fair elections.

We're also working closely with renowned Bangladeshi journalist Ashraf Kaiser. Watch the resulting film Election Season '08: Bangladesh.

December 23, 2008

Bangladesh Election 2008 And Cyber Activism

Bangladesh goes into poll on December 29, 2008 for a much awaited parliamentary election. The scenario is lot different than the recent US presidential election where citizen media and Internet campaigning and fund raising were extensively used. With a penetration of 1% of the total population of 145 million, Internet is still not a media that reaches mass people. The new generation of bloggers and facebook users are trying to harness the power of the new media. Bangla Blogging platforms like Somewhere In, Sachalayatan, Amar Blog, Muktangan are buzzing with election related posts - from constructive debates to mundane bickering of acrimony between political ideologies. But how can they affect the politics as the decision makers such as the bureaucrats and the politicians mostly keep themselves away from the digital media and Internet and are not connected to the conversation. The traditional media still dictate in Bangladesh and many are losing the trust of common people for biased reporting. The websites of the political parties are not interactive. Only a few out of thousands of candidates were seen using Internet in their campaign.

Bangladesh politics is traditional, rhetoric and propaganda based and there is little scope for interaction with the leaders asking for accountability. The grass root activists and the general people have little to say in the decision making processes. However Jagoree, a non-partisan platform for Bangladeshi youth, is using facebook and blog to to engage in the political and policy making processes by developing themselves as informed and responsible citizens.

What are we?

What are we? Image courtesy: Jagoree.

Jagoree is currently running a campaign called 'Amader Vote, Amader Kotha' (Our Vote, Our Voices). Learn more about the campaign from their facebook page.

Planning and mobilizing processes of Jagoree. Image courtesy Jagoree

The notable success of Jagoree in recent days was the making of a documentary and publishing it in YouTube for wider audience [bn]:

The aim of this 5 minutes 44 second documentary is to inspire Bangladeshis to cast an informed vote in the coming election. It shows the frustration with the current politics and at the same time frames the hope of the young Bangladeshis that a change will come.

This time around much information on the candidates and the election are available on the Internet. What the Bangladeshis need is to look for the facts and be informed for making the right decision regarding whom to vote.

SHUJAN, a non-profit organization in Bangladesh dedicated to good governance, has an award winning site [bn] which provides much background information on the candidates. The site has different sections like general information on election, constituency wise copmarative information of the candidates and much more. SHUJAN has also something unique to offer. They have an archive of over 4000 entries of news of Corruption of politicians (browseable by name) of whom many are contesting in the 2008 election.

Bangladesh Election commission has also detailed information including voter list and the candidate profiles in pdf format (to be downloaded and distributed) and guidelines for observers.

E-Bangladesh is providing links to all the important news regarding Bangladesh election and posting analysis and breaking news from citizen journalists in their constant coverage of Election 2008 (in English). The site also posts links to resources for the election including candidate lists and election manifestos of the parties. Its sister initiative, the Bangla Blogging platform Amar Blog has started its election coverage in Bangla language which is providing news and citizen journalists' views on the election.

The popular English language group blog Unheard Voice is also providing analysis and commentaries on the recent election.

Bangladesh Votes The largest Bangla blogging platform somwhereinblog.net has started a group blog on Bangladesh election in collaboration with the English language news paper The New Age. The news daily has recently started an election portal which will feature selected blog posts from the group blog and news/analysis from its daily newspaper publications. This is the first instance in the country where a major print media is collaborating with a blog platform outside its management. The portal will provide live results of the election. It has an user-friendly interactive map plotting the previous results.

Quite against the tide of the digital divide among the candidates, blogger and journalist Maskwaith Ahsan, who is running as a MP candidate in the Rajshahi -6 constituency, has started using facebook to run his campaign.

It remains to be seen how Bangladeshis use citizen media like blog, videos (e.g. YouTube), photographs (e.g. Flickr), twitter etc. during the election.

(First published in Global Voices Online)

December 20, 2008

Clean Voter List, Clean Polls

The Bangladesh general election on December 29, 2008 will be remarkable in many ways. First of all the national ID card project with biometric data hindered the inclusion of false voters which was a regular affair in previous elections. See the comparative voter lists since the birth of Bangladesh:

What is remarkable is that for the first time we have more women voters (51%) than the previous lists. Another thing to note is that from 1996 to 2001 there was an increase of voters by 32.24%. Now there may be two reasons for that in 1996 less eligible voters were counted (exclusion of minority voters) and in 2001 some false voter were included.

This time around the growth is only 8% in 7 years. This has surely stripped away all those anomalies in the voters list, hopefully. There are also 33% young voters who will vote for the first time.

Another interesting aspect is the money part of this election. This time the election commission has restricted spending by candidates (Taka per voter 5 and 1.5 million Taka per constituency), banning vote buying or influence peddling and outlawing cash giveaways.

A recent AFP article looks at the impacts:
An election in Bangladesh is usually a chance for an ordinary voter to make a quick buck, enjoy a free meal and perhaps even grab a souvenir t-shirt at a campaign rally.

This year things are different.

"No-one is offering us money or anything else this time," said Abdul Jalil, a rickshaw puller in the capital, Dhaka. "Previously, we would get cash or other gifts during elections."
Now it will be interesting to see what a clean voter list and reducing the vote purchase phenomena can bring to the results of the election.

December 19, 2008


Calls to and from Bangladesh have been seriously effected today. In case you are wondering why this happened here is the reason:
Internet and telephone traffic between Europe and the Middle East and Asia was hampered Friday after three major underwater data lines were cut, according to France Telecom.

The cut occurred on lines between 07:28 and 08:06 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on lines in the Mediterranean sea that connect Sicily to Tunisia and Egypt, the telecommunications company said.

The cuts were to the Sea Me We 4 and Sea Me We 3 lines, which connect countries between Singapore and France as well as the Flag cable route, which stretches from the U.K. to Japan, a France Telecom spokeswoman who asked not to be named said.
J of Shadakalo blog writes in E-Bangladesh that it may not return to normal levels until the end of the year and it will impact Bangladesh hardly:
The immediate impact is being felt by expatriates trying to call Bangladesh, or people trying to call out of Bangladesh to international destinations. Instead of gigabytes of bandwidth over the submarine cable, BTCL (former BTTB) and the three other International telecom gateways are working with only megabytes of capacity through VSATs. In BTCLs case, the capacity dropped from 1800 MBps to 240 MBps. BTCL and the other IGWs carry about 5 million minutes per day under normal conditions, which dropped to about 650,000 minutes. The result? Inconvenience for callers, lost revenue for BTCL and the other IGWs, and a near-fatal blow for the nascent call center industry in Bangladesh.

10 to 50 seat call centers have been in operation in Bangladesh for the last few months, and some of them were serving international customers. Now most of those call centers, without dedicated VSAT connections, have fallen silent. And when Monday comes, the hapless call center owners will have to answer to some very irate clients–clients who will not care that this was a global connectivity problem. Many of those clients will go to other call centers in other countries and never return, leaving our call center owners stuck with their investments.
The typical culprit in these undersea cuts are anchors from ships but this time Egypt is claiming there were no ships in the vicinity this time.

J adds:
lots of other countries are facing connectivity loss too. But there is a big difference: they are not connected to only one cable, so while they may lose 50% or 33% of their connectivity if one cable goes down, they don’t experience the 87% capacity loss experienced by Bangladesh.
As per Beta News the hardest hit countries by telecom traffic disruptions are:
Estimates given for voice-service disruptions indicate Maldives (100% out of service), India (82% out of service), Qatar (73%), Djibouti (71%), and United Arab Emirates (68%).
There was a debate about redundancy and be connected to a second submarine cable so that outages like this don't affect at this scale. In January this year the submarine cable was cut also almost near the same point in Alexandria.

In last February we heard that the Bangladesh Government will allow a second cable to be commissioned by the private sector. But we have not heard about it for a while. This should be the priority for the newly elected government.

Facebook and Terrorism

From the AllFaceBook blog:
We’ve covered extensively how Facebook has been impacting the global political landscape and much of what we’ve discussed has been about the spreading of democracy. Now for the first time, it appears that Islamic terrorists are preparing to spread Jihad through the largest global social network. In a post entitled “Invading Facebook: Theory and Practice”, Umar Abd al-Hakim of Syria covers how Facebook can be used to spread Jihadi media to the masses.
Major General Muniruzzaman, a former military advisor and Chief of Staff to the President of Bangladesh, mentioned that the young people from Asian communities in Britain are often more radicalized that their counterparts in South Asia.
"We are interested in studying the Facebook generation, to see how the Facebook generation is shifting radical thoughts from one country to another, " he said.

December 18, 2008

Understanding Flow Charts

Courtesy Xkcd

TIME person of the year Barack Obama

Time magazine named US president-elect Barack Obama its 2008 "Person of the Year.

I think this is one selection everybody around the world will agree. There was a survey once which showed if the world could vote, Obama would win over McCain in a landslide. So no surprises here.

David Von Drehle writes:
It's unlikely that you were surprised to see Obama's face on the cover. He has come to dominate the public sphere so completely that it beggars belief to recall that half the people in America had never heard of him two years ago — that even his campaign manager, at the outset, wasn't sure Obama had what it would take to win the election. He hit the American scene like a thunderclap, upended our politics, shattered decades of conventional wisdom and overcame centuries of the social pecking order. Understandably, you may be thinking Obama is on the cover for these big and flashy reasons: for ushering the country across a momentous symbolic line, for infusing our democracy with a new intensity of participation, for showing the world and ourselves that our most cherished myth — the one about boundless opportunity — has plenty of juice left in it.

December 17, 2008

AFP defends its hyped up story!!!!‏

The story that a Bangladeshi film producer has claimed that he has spent 58 million dollars building an exact replica of the "Taj Mahal" was first reported by AFP and then quickly picked up by the MSM in Bangladesh, India and International media.

Some Bangladeshi bloggers went to see what the fuss is all about and were disappointed with the findings and claimed this as a money making scam to milk the visitors with exorbitant prices. Aparna's post at Global Voices reveals all that which ends with:
"With Bangladeshi bloggers uploading their first-hand experience of visiting the site through posts, pictures and videos, it is only now we are getting the real picture of the “fake Taj” story."
Ethan Zuckerman noted in his blog:
"It’s pretty common for professional journalists to complain about poor fact checking in blogs, and the possibility that bloggers will hype stories that professional journalists would have quickly and easily debunked. Here’s a classic counter-example: an international press agency hyped a story which helped rip off Bangladeshis, who used blogs to debunk the story. Here’s hoping the international outlets hyping the story will pick up on the corrections as quickly as they seized on the story."
Yesterday AFP published a followup article which defended their first story!! Its notable that this time they have placed the claims of the cost and the materials within quotes to indicate that it is a claim by the builder. Earlier they had reported it as if it was a fact.

However they quoted visitors reactions including the Global Voices report this time:
Bloggers too have reacted angrily to Moni's replica, which he claims is life-size. Aparna Ray concluded that the hype surrounding the attraction was a gimmick. "[It's] a money-making scam in the name of the Taj," Ray wrote. "The tiles look like the type you'd use in a bathroom. We've been cheated by this guy," another blogger wrote.
Apparently they finally went there and interviewed the producer. "There's nothing I can do if a visitor is disappointed," he said and AFP reported as it is. And AFP also reported that he will next month raise the entry fee from 50 taka to 100 taka.

I like many disappointed Bangladeshis want to see those "imported marble and granite from Italy, diamonds from Belgium and used 160 kilogrammes (353 pounds) of bronze for the dome" as reported by AFP (did they check those?). And I would also like to see how much tax this guy has paid for the income(?) of "$58million (an unbelievable some for Bangladesh -per capita income $1400)" he spent on this Taj Mahal as he claims.

May be the bloggers will have do it for us again.

Everything’s amazing but nobody’s happy

Why you are unable to call home to Bangladesh

In recent times people from all over the world are having tough time to call to Bangladesh using calling cards or other means using VOIP technology.

This article answers why. Some snippets:

"VOIP or Voice Over IP is a technology that enables telephone companies to transmit high numbers of phone calls all over the world very cheaply. [..] Creative entrepreneurs have popped up everywhere setting up VOIP internet exchanges throughout Bangladesh that carry a huge volume of international phone calls into Bangladesh using the Internet. These exchanges usually consist of computer servers, gateways, and modems.

These VOIP exchanges carried as much 80% of the total international telephone traffic but were highly illegal. [..]

The new military backed administration has been on a very big anti-corruption campaign against the graft and illegality of the past that Bangladeshi’s have put up with for far too long. Hundreds of illegal businesses, shops and slums have been bulldozed and destroyed. The same has happened to the VOIP internet exchanges that have been making a great living from their illegal internet telephone services.

They have been selling international telephone call capacity to foreign phone card companies who have also benefited greatly by their very low rates and margins.

Closing down these internet exchanges has sent the telephone network and capacity in to complete turmoil in Bangladesh. You now have millions of callers trying to make the same volume of calls on 20% of the capacity that existed previously – there is less and less capacity available all the time."

December 16, 2008

Victory Day

Greetings to everyone on the 37th anniversary of the Victory day in Bangladesh.

It is a day when Bangladesh came into being. 'Victory against what?' one may ask. It was a victory against the farcical two nation theory, The colonialism of West Pakistan and their oppression against their East Pakistani brothers in economic, administrative and cultural sectors, victory against one of the worst genocides in the history of the world, victory against the rape of thousands of women by the Pakistani soldiers and the nine month long liberation war.

The history of the Bangladesh liberation war is an epic itself, the journey from east Pakistan to Bangladesh was long and full of struggles.

In my last years post on the victory day I had promised that supported by E-Bangladesh I will build an online archive of all the available information, evidence, eye witness portraying the true story of the genocide committed by the Pakistanis in 1971. Here is it "1971 Bangladesh Genocide Archive".

This site is essential because:
Now there is a renewed call for trial of the war criminals who are trying to rewrite history.

The general Pakistanis were provided with the wrong version of the truth all the time. From a Pakistani newspaper:
Only foreign media aired the news of the Fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. Radio Pakistan kept airing usual transmission and giving a picture of “all is well”.
Even the reports the Pakistani people get display a fragment of the truth.
We dedicate this site to the hundreds and thousands of people who have died in the war and those brave souls who has fought for the country with firearms, support and stood in solidarity with the Bangladeshis.

December 15, 2008

Bloggers unearth the fake Taj Mahal scam in Bangladesh

Global Voices has the full details:

Bibortonbadi, another blogger who visited the site was also very upset at falling prey to yellow journalism; he wrote in his blog [bn]:
There's nothing worth seeing. The so-called replica of the brilliant Taj has been made with colored tiles. I had read so many things in the newspapers - 400crores of Taka, valuable marble and tiles from Italy, 172 diamonds from Belgium, 160kgs of bronze on the dome…where is all of that? Is 400crores Taka such a little thing? Local tiles on a plain and simple brick structure…even the tiling work is that of an amateur…the structure is still incomplete. Even if after all this they want to put Italian marble where will they put it? All the visitors were upset and were feeling cheated. …After 10minutes we realised that there was nothing to see inside. We left. On the way back we spoke to other visitors and there was only one word going around — "what a scam!"

Blogger Raihan called up the newsdesk of a leading Bangla daily Prothom Alo , who had also published the "Taj" article complete with details of lavishness, and questioned them whether their reporter had physically visited the site before publishing the article and if not, how they could publish an article without first verifying the facts themselves. He says that in response the newsdesk informed him that they had merely reported the AFP article. After he alerted the person on the line about the facts, he was told that they would surely send a reporter to visit the site and write another article on the same.

With Bangladeshi bloggers uploading their first-hand experience of visiting the site through posts, pictures and videos, it is only now we are getting the real picture of the "fake Taj" story.

Video of the day

December 12, 2008

Web 2.0 Guide

Awami League Election Manifesto

Awami League unveiled today their election manifesto which looks promising. You can download the manifesto from here.

The salient features of the election promises include:

* Measures will be taken to reduce the unbearable burden of price hike and keep it in tune with the purchasing power of the people.
* Necessary steps would be taken for investment promotion, energy security, retaining and enhancing domestic demand, safeguarding value of money, assisting exports and continuing export of manpower.
* Strong measures will be taken against those having unearned and black money, against loan defaulters, tender manipulators, and users of muscle power in every stage of state and society.
* By 2011 electricity production will be increased to 5000 megawatt and by 2013 it will be further increased to 7000 megawatt.
* By 2013 poverty level and proportion of ultra-poor will be brought down to 25% and 15% respectively. At present there are 65 million poor people in the country. This number will be reduced to 45 million by 2013 and will further come down to 22 million in 2021.
* The number of unemployed people in the country, estimated at 28 million, will be reduced to 24 million by 2013 and will be further reduced to 15 million by 2021.
* Terrorism and religious extremism will be controlled with iron hand. Trial of war criminals will be arranged.
* The judgment of the Bangabandhu murder case will be made effective and the retrial of jail killings will be held. Trial of real criminals responsible for the grenade attack of the 21st August, 2004 through proper investigation will be arranged.
* Wealth statement and source of income of the Prime Minister, members of cabinet, Parliament members and of their family members will be made public every year.
* Parliament members will be allowed to express differing opinions.
* Use of religion and communalism in politics will be banned. Security and rights of religious and ethnic minorities will be ensured. Courtesy and tolerance will be inculcated in the political culture of the country. Militancy and extortion will be banned.
* Opportunities will be created for the expatriate Bangladeshis to take part in national reconstruction and their right to franchise will be ensured.
* Administration will be free from politicization and will be pro-people. Efficiency, seniority and merit will be the basis of appointment and promotion in public service. Administrative reform, right to information and e-governance will be introduced.
* Investigation and trial of assassination of all journalists will be made expeditiously and the real criminals will be given exemplary punishment. Persecution and intimidation of journalists will be stopped. All false cases against them will be withdrawn.
* Terrorism, discriminatory treatment and human rights violations against religious and ethnic minorities and indigenous people must come to an end permanently. Security of their life, wealth and honor will be guaranteed.
* In order to provide security to every citizen of the country, police and other law and order enforcing agencies will be kept above political influence. These forces will be modernized to meet the demands of the time. Necessary steps will be taken to increase their remuneration and other welfare facilities including accommodation.
* Ensure "food for all" by taking all possible measures and to make Bangladesh self-sufficient in food by 2013.
* Development of IT industry, strengthening of RMG and textile sectors and expansion of food processing, pharmaceuticals, leather, chemical products, toys, jewelry and furniture industries will be given priority. Special initiative will be taken for alternative use of jute and to make jute industry viable.
* Special steps will be taken to facilitate education, employment, movement and communication of the disabled and to enhance their social dignity.
* Child labor will be gradually abolished in all sectors.
* The arsenic problem will be tackled and measures will be taken to supply pure drinking water for all by 2011 and to provide sanitation facility in every house by 2013.
* Net enrollment at primary level will be increased to 100% by 2011 and by 2017 the country will be rid of the curse of illiteracy. Improvement in the quality of education, depoliticisation of educational institutions, and ensuring a higher salary scale for teachers will be ensured.
* IT education will be made compulsory at secondary level by 2013 and at primary level by 2021. The vision is to make Bangladesh digital in 2021.
* A South Asian Task Force will be formed for meeting the challenge of terrorism and militancy.

The proposed milestones are:

2010: 100 percent net student enrolment at primary level.
2011: Supply of pure drinking water for the entire population.
2012: Self-sufficiency in food.
2013: Each house brought under hygienic sanitation.
2013: Attain 8 percent annual growth rate; this will be increased to 10 percent in 2017 and sustained.

This looks like a solid vision. However even if Awami league wins the election these will be hard to implement without a proper democratic environment. Let us see what other parties have as its election manifesto under its belt. BNP is yet to unveil its election manifesto.

Photo: Mustafiz Mamun courtesy BDNEws24.com

December 11, 2008

Now listening...

Gaibona ar kono gaan - Suman and Anila

Maa - Palbasha Siddique

In Memory of Gurudasi Mondol

Rest in peace Gurudasi Mondol, finally, after 37 years.

“I will NOT forget. I will not let YOU forget.”

December 10, 2008

Images from London

One fine morning about 100 passengers checked in the Berlin Schoenefeld airport for their Ryan Air flight to London Stansted and were waiting in the boarding lounge. All of a sudden they were asked to vacate the lounge. The immigration police were one the job to reverse the process of immigration and the passengers were wondering why. After a while they realized that the flight was cancelled and this was the reason.

I was one of them. And I had to reach London that day to be able to appear at my exam the next day. After some tensed hours of waiting in queue in front of the ticket desk trying to find out what to do next and the horror of finding that no flights were available in the day, purchasing a new ticket (thanks God the laptop was with me), hours spent in train/bus to reach the other end of the city with all the luggage to board a British Airways flight. By the time I reached in the evening to my destination in London finishing with hours of tube journey I was completely exhausted and almost sick. But at the end of the day I felt that I was lucky to be able to make it.

London is cold, battered with a weak pound but has not lost its usual colors beaming with hope and its wealth of multi-culturism. I framed a shot in my mind while I was in a tube today going towards London Bridge: a few hands clutching on a rod in the packed tube, a few faces moving in and out of the frame; dark, brown, white, Asian, Caucasian, African, young, aged, male, female. This is what I miss in Berlin.

Here are some images of London at dusk:

December 07, 2008

Beautiful Bangladesh

If you have doubts these images will change your mind.

News: Bangladesh gets a new country brand.

December 03, 2008

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Who Did It and Why

John Oliver describes in Comedy Central

December 01, 2008

The new low in Bangladeshi politics

BNP nominated its former lawmaker and deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu along with his brother Sultan Salauddin Tuku, senior vice-president of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, for the Tangail-2 constituency as its candidate in the December 29 parliamentary polls.

Pintu is now detained and charges were made against him and 22 persons including top Harkat-ul-Jihad (Huji) leader Mufti Abdul Hannan for the sensational August 21 grenade attack against Hasina. He confessed of his involvement in the assassination attempt during interrogation.
He was arrested on the basis of confessional statement made earlier by detained Mufti Hannan who claimed that the attack on the AL rally was planned at the official residence of the former Deputy Minister. Hannan said that Pintu was present at the meeting and later supplied the grenades.
He may be not guilty until proven, but it is pathetic to see that BNP could not find another suitable leader in place of him in a nation of 150 million people. 13 more accused and detained candidates were nominated by BNP. I think they are giving a blank check to the accused law makers that they will never be questioned for accountability. This will be a precedence to an anarchic rule.

Instead of running for polls Pintu can start by telling the nation more about his confession and why the meeting of the killers took place in his house. Perhaps he can also tell the whereabouts of his cousin Maulana Tajul Islam, a militant leader and an accused in the grenade attack case.

November 29, 2008

Karachi Riots

After Mumbai, now its Karachi. Newspapers report that four persons killed and 77 got injured in Karachi ethnic violence . GEO reports:
The riots started in Banaras area where unknown armed-men opened fire at passing vehicles and also pelted them with stones, killing four including a woman and injuring 54 others.

Unknown men also set on fire 7 vehicles in different parts of the city.
The media is reportedly downplaying the incident.

November 28, 2008

Quote of the day

"My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with such serene satisfaction."
- Barack Obama, US president elect

Mumbai blasts

Slideshow courtesy Vinu from Vinu's Online Cloud.

Shock and dismay, loath and disgust. When will we bring back sanity in the world?

Full coverage at Global Voices Online.

Live updates at Twitter.

November 24, 2008

Bangladesh Election: The field gets heated up

After the deferral of polls to December 29, 2008 the Election commission of Bangladesh has met one of the demands of BNP and they are hoping that this will pave way for the all inclusive election. The BNP hailed the decision but is still hoping that their three demands including repealing the Section 91E of the Representation of the People Ordinance 2008 will be met. So there is still an element of doubt till the final submission of nomination, that is November 30, 2008.

Amidst all that we have seen the usual hate politics has started. The country is visibly divided in two major issues, the pro-Awami league front and the Anti Awami League front. The pro-Awami League front will bring issues like Razakar, war criminal and religious extremism. The Anti-Awami League forces will do anything in the world to oppose Awami League. Their favorite issue is to say that Awami League will again install the one party Bakshal system. And of course Awami League will sell the country to India for the umpteenth time.

Now conspiracy theories are flying all over and across. Hasina fears that the upcoming election might be engineered in BNP's way whereas the pro-BNP voices are fearing that this interim government setup will ensure Awami League's victory.

The latest rumor is that there might be an assassination attempt by the religious extremists on either Hasina or Khaleda by the religious extremists just like Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

I think all of these people should come to their senses and the parties should pitch their best candidates, good agenda and run a proper election campaign.

And the general people need to use their logic not their emotions while voting for a candidate. We need to break the shackle of confrontational politics.

Video of the day

Stacking bricks on the head and carrying them out from a boat: Filmed in Khulna. Although the jobs people do can be mundane, human beings find art in it.

Via : Things we woudn't know if we didn't blog it

November 22, 2008

Vote for Rising Voices

Rising Voices is one of the projects that I love to be associated with. I feel my adrenaline pumping every time I read about the efforts of common people across the world and how they are overcoming all the challenges to share them online. Bangladesh's Nari Jibon is just one of those examples.

Rising Voices provides micro-grant funding for more than a dozen community blogging projects in some of the most under-represented parts of the world. (Read this post for more info)

Jillian York comments on Rising Voices:
Although the global blogosphere on the whole might be growing proportionally..the majority of bloggers reside in cities, are middle class, have traveled. The blogosphere is, in other words, filled with people you already know.

That, in a nutshell, is what’s so great about Rising Voices. The idea of taking something so simple as blogging into a rural or poor or simply disconnected community and offering it up for grabs is one thing, then seeing it through, witnessing the always-unfinished project blossom is the best thing.
Watch this trailer to know more about some of the projects:

Rising Voices has been nominated for the prestigious Deutsche Welle “Best of the Blogs Award” (B.O.B.) in the category “Best Weblog”. The nomination itself is a great recognition as more than 8,500 weblogs were suggested for nomination and a jury selected the final 11 in each of 16 categories.

You can vote for it here till November 26th and view the results here.

November 21, 2008

Video of the day

Vote for Cox’s Bazaar in the New7Wonders.

Via M@qTanim

November 20, 2008

Election at last!

We have got some conflicting reports coming from Bangladesh. The government declared that the election will be on schedule i.e. December 18th after its frantic two-day negotiations with BNP-led 4-party alliance failed.

The government proposals the BNP could not agree with:
"Deferment of the parliamentary election by ten days to December 28, total lifting of the emergency at an appropriate time before the election taking into consideration the law and order situation, holding upazila elections on January 8, 2009, and implementing clause 91(e) of the amended Representation of the People Order (RPO) with utmost caution and accountability."
However Khaleda Zia announced today in a televised briefing after back-to-back meetings of her party and allies:
We will certainly participate in the [parliamentary] elections if it is held on December 28, but the government must implement our three other demands.
The three demands are – a complete withdrawal of the state of emergency on the last date of withdrawal of nomination papers for parliamentary elections, revocation of the Article 91(E) of the Representation of People Order that gives the Election Commission ‘despotic’ power to cancel candidature at any level of elections, and deferment of the upazila polls by one month from the date of ballot in the parliamentary elections.

So it shows that they want to contest in the election but are still in a bargaining mode. Probably they are still maintaining their farcical Hajj pilgrim vote argument as the reason to defer the election date by ten days.

The good side of today's developments is that we will have election with the participation of all parties and the bad side is the country cannot afford to be held ransom by these political games of certain political parties when everyone else is agreeing to the election at December 18.

November 19, 2008

Uncertainties in Bangladesh

"Is everything OK in Bangladesh?" asks BDfact. The government was to announce around 3 PM today a new poll date instead of 18th December.

BNP and its coalition is almost on the verge of boycotting the election. It was evident from their play with religious sentiments. Nazim Farhan Chowdhury bets that if BNP does not want something it does not happen. Let us see whether he is right or not.

Dr. Akbar Ali Khan, ex adviser of the past caretaker government commented:
"BNP will harm more to itself than to the country if it does not participate in the election"
But it seems they are not thinking about the nation instead of their chance of going back to power.

All the other parties including Awami League are all set for the December 18th Election. Will Bangladesh embrace for the change? We can only wait and see what happens next.

Update: The Bangladesh government declared that the elections will go ahead according to schedule that is December 18. According to BBC the BNP boycott would be a serious blow to the government's pledge that the elections will be the fairest in the country's history.

November 17, 2008

Video of the day

Traffic in Bangladesh - fuzzy logic.

November 14, 2008

Barack Obama's Flickr Photostream

Image by Flickr user Barack Obama used under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-SA)

US President elect Barack Obama anxiously waiting for the results on November 4, 2008.

(Via Joi Ito)

A lazy afternoon

A lazy Afternoon in Cheb, Czech Republic.

November 10, 2008

Video of the day

Watch for the background music of Palbasha Siddique at the end.

Absolute power, nothing else

The December 18 general election is crucial for Bangladesh as it will bring the country in the track of democracy after a corrupt BNP rule, years of dysfunctional parliament because of mindless boycott from Awami League and violent protests.

While most of the parties are ready for election, BNP is trying to create more obstacles by asking more time for the submission of nomination papers. It wants its jailed and loan and utility defaulter old corrupt faces to run for them again. It feels that in this election their chances are slim and they could lose many seats in the bargain with the coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami. So BNP wants to boycott election.

It is very sad to see that the BNP is not only refusing to apologize for the corruption and mistakes of their leaders but also bluntly demanding for their release so that they can contest in the election. Their 7 point demand is nothing but a glimpse of the confrontational politics which we have seen in the previous years.

While there is a rumor that the current caretaker government is favoring Awami League, I think people should this time be aware of the candidates before voting. People should vote for the candidates not only judging the party. We cannot let any party take the absolute power without accountability, which is bad for the country's politics. That is why BNP has to run the election to gather whatever seats they can, with whatever support they have.

But it seems they have decided for either absolute power or nothing. Bangladesh politics needs to grow up from this lunacy. Because we will head for confrontations straight away if BNP refuses to participate in the election.

And as for the convictions of corrupt leaders, the Economist has this to say:
The court cases against the two prime ministers have in effect been put on hold until the election. If the past is any guide, the next government will control the judiciary, so convictions will never happen. Observers believe that endless behind-the-scenes talks with the leaders, aimed at bringing their parties to the polls, are likely to have included guarantees by the two ladies not to put the losing rival in prison.
But then again what was the point in having those people behind the bars if we cannot set an example of accountability in the country?

I would like to see new parties, new leaders succeed in the mainstream politics. We had enough of the politics of acrimony and autocracies without accountability.

If anything Bangladesh could learn from the US election is that we need a leader who unites not divides the country across the party lines.

November 06, 2008

Picture of the Day

The Falling Leaves by Margaret Postgate Cole

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay.

Obama, hopes and reactions

US president elect Barack Obama received a clear mandate from USA and with the support of the world became the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote since 1976. Here are some of the interesting reactions found around the web:

A reader writes in Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish:
Everything in my life is exactly the same as it was 30 minutes ago; and yet I feel as though everything is different.

I know Obama isn't going to fix the economy overnight, I know he won't be able to provide healthcare to all Americans by February '09. I know Obama isn't a Messiah who four years from now will have turned this country into a fabled utopia. But I also know Obama will make moral decisions. I know Obama will try to unite where others try to divide. I know Obama will help to make America the beacon of hope it once was to others. I know that at 27 years of age, I witnessed one of the most important and hopefully glorious chapters in American history.

I know hope.
A Bangladeshi-American writes:
Tears surged in my eyes as I left the polling place. This change is not the product of a brilliant fundraiser's fancy marketing campaign, but a very real transformation among people as they have moved through space & time and shared experiences with each other. If a black man with the middle named Hussein can become President of the United States of America, anything is possible.
Tigerhawk, a republican blog comments:
Forty years after Martin Luthor King gave voice to his dream, American voters have, by the many millions, judged a black man by the content of his character. I worry they are wrong on the substance and will argue like hell against his philosophy and policies, but I can also be happy that it happened and hope that Barack Obama governs as well as he campaigns.
Michael Moor writes in AlterNet:
Who among us is not at a loss for words? Tears pour out. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. A stunning, whopping landslide of hope in a time of deep despair.

In a nation that was founded on genocide and then built on the backs of slaves, it was an unexpected moment, shocking in its simplicity: Barack Obama, a good man, a black man, said he would bring change to Washington, and the majority of the country liked that idea. The racists were present throughout the campaign and in the voting booth. But they are no longer the majority, and we will see their flame of hate fizzle out in our lifetime.
The racists may not be a majority but their bites can still be felt.

Robert Spencer writes in Human Events that "Americans should be made decidedly uneasy by this Muslim enthusiasm for the new President." I guess in his eyes there are Muslims only. The KKK aren't too happy about the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. We hope that they will not be a majority again.

German news media 'Der Spiegel' termed it 'the resurrection of the American dream'.

Related Links:

The Bangladesh-Myanmar maritime boundary dispute

On the 1st of November four drilling ships from Myanmar started exploration for oil and gas reserves within 50 nautical miles south west of St. Martins Island, in Bangladesh. A South Korean company was awarded the oil and gas exploration contract in that place and two Myanmar naval ships escorted the drilling ships. Three naval ships of Bangladesh went to challenge them but the Myanmar Navy responded by alleging that the Bangladesh Navy ships are trespassing.

This escalated the maritime boundary disputes between Bangladesh and Mayanmar. Mayanmar vowed to continue with the exploration despite the territorial dispute with Bangladesh. Bangladesh Government warned the Myanmar envoy in Bangladesh to immediately suspend all activities within the declared maritime zones of Bangladesh in accordance with the Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1974 of Bangladesh and sent a high level delegation to Myanmar.

Adding fuel to the fire four Bangladeshi woodcutters were shot dead by the Burmese Nasaka (border force) alleging trespassing into Burmese territory.

But what is the background of this dispute? The Bay of Bengal has become a lucrative territory for the adjacent countries especially after India's discovery of 100 trillion cubic feet of gas in 2005-06 and Burma's discovery of 7 trillion cubic feet of gas. India also discovered oil.

None of the countries in this region so far claimed their marine boundaries before the United Nations (UN). India and Myanmar agreed territory between themselves but they need to solve the maritime boundary issues with Bangladesh as they are set to file their claim to the United Nations on June 29 and May 21, 2009, respectively. Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Bangladesh too has to file its claim within July 27, 2011.

Bangladesh claimed in 2006 that Burma had encroached 18,000 square kilometers into Bangladesh waters and floated gas exploration tenders. The first round of talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh was in April this year but ended inconclusively in Dhaka. Both the sides then agreed to continue with the dialogue to reach a conclusion and meanwhile refrain from intruding into the disputed area for exploration.

Bangladesh has so far refrained from energy exploration in disputed waters. But Myanmar did not. So the country has the right to protect its sovereignty and has demanded the Burmese ships withdraw until a maritime boundary can be established through talks.

The Guardian reports:
The senior official from Burma's foreign ministry told Reuters: "We have no reason to stop the exploration activities since these blocks are located in our exclusive economic zone. We will go ahead with it."
Only a couple of months ago the Vice Chairman of Myanmar Ruling Government during his visit assured Bangladesh that Myanmar will not embark on any drilling in disputed areas of Bay of Bengal and will resolve the boundary dispute through bilateral discussions as per UN guideline. Bangladesh also pressed for early finalization of the demarcation. The next meeting between the parties is due in November 16-17th. Now why Myanmar is going into the offensive?

According to the Law of the Sea, Bangladesh can claims 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone, and 350 nautical miles of continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal and so does Myanmar.

India/Myanmar claim:

Bangladesh claim:

Images courtesy India Speaks

The main dispute on maritime boundary delimitation between Bangladesh and Myanmar centres around Bangladeshi views to demarcate in equity basis North to South while Myanmar wants it for eco–distance system in East to West boundary.

The issue is not so simple as there are many legal issues and international negotiations at stake. A famous case ruling by International Court of Justice on 'North Sea Continental Shelf' concerning maritime boundaries Federal Republic of Germany, Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany and Netherlands describes the equity method (Page 7):
(1) delimitation is to be effected by agreement in accordance with equitable principles, and taking account of all the relevant circumstances, in such a way as to leave as much as possible to each Party all those parts of the continental shelf that constitute a natural prolongation of its land territory into and under the sea, without encroachment on the natural prolongation of the land territory of the other;
Barrister Harunur Rashid has a legal view of Bangladesh's claims.

Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque writes in Energy Bangla:
If we fail to stop aggression of neighbours to encroach our maritime boundary through proper diplomatic initiatives we must take resort to UN Convention and move to international court of justice to resolve maritime dispute. We can not afford to compromise our sovereign right on resources. [..]

For several months Bangladesh is discussing with Myanmar ruling junta for bilateral cooperation. Trade, energy, communication came under discussions. (But) Bangladesh did not make strong enough protests when ruling junta unleashed cruel actions against freedom loving Myanmar people were struggling for democratic rights.

In this situation it will not be unwise to consider Myanmar unilateral action as a fragrant violation of Bangladesh’s territorial integrity. If we fail to get the required response Bangladesh government must leave nothing unturned to protect our territorial integrity.
Myanmar earned $2.6bn from selling gas last year and these revues keep the country protected from western sanctions.

According to latest reports Myanmar stopped oil and gas exploration in deep-sea blocks in disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal on Thursday, a day after Bangladesh asked China for help over the row. But they are yet to remove vessels and equipment from Bangladesh territory.

Energy Bangla discusses Bangladesh's unresolved maritime boundary dispute with India. India is alleged to have encroached 19,000 square kilometers into Bangladesh waters. India Speaks defends the case for India:
India and Bangladesh started their bilateral talks way back in 1974, which was inconclusive. India was looking for equidistant border where Bangladesh was for equity based boundary. The same difference in arguments rendered Bangladesh-Myanmar talks inconclusive as well. But, India and Myanmar (opposite States) agreed upon equidistant boundary.
It cannot be denied that Bangladesh is now exposed to international oil and gas politics. We will see more such conflicts between India and Myanmar before 2011 when the maritime boundary is scheduled to be fixed by UN. The government should give more focus to the demarcation issue and employ proper experts and resources to bolster Bangladesh's case.

A Daily Star editorial says:
It is important that we make persistent and determined efforts to protect our interests. Bangladesh cannot afford to lose in the bargain for its legitimate share of the oil and gas rich Bay, which will only weaken our case for retaining the territorial waters that belong to us as per international laws.