Echo

The Arrest Of Jamaat Leaders  

Posted by Rezwan in ,


There is a dramatic development in Bangladesh's political arena. Top leaders of The Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami have been arrested on an unusual charge (rather ironic).

Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Delwar Hossain Saydee have been arrested after they claimed Nizami's alleged persecution at the hands of the ruling Awami League was akin to the suffering of the Prophet Mohammed. Surely they can use religion at every possible angle for their own advantage. The Daily Star has details:

On March 21, Syed Rejaul Haque Chandpuri, secretary general of Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, filed a case with a metropolitan magistrate's court in Dhaka against the four Jamaat, and one Shibir leaders, accusing them of hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims.

The case stated that Dhaka City Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Rafiqul Islam Khan, at a discussion in the city on March 17, put Nizami at a par with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which hurt the Muslims' religious sentiment.


But I don't support this arrest on such trivial charges which will not stand in the trial. They are also accused of the ongoing trial of war crimes (1971) in Bangladesh. I hope that this does not deviate the coarse of the trial.

Meanwhile India has warned of a possible Laskar-e-Taiba terrorist attack in Bangladesh. Is there a link between these incidents? Only time will tell.

Image courtesy: The Daily Star

Goodbye Dhaka  

Posted by Rezwan

This bird is going to take me back to Jakarta. Goodbye Dhaka.

Bangladesh: Hartal Is Back  

Posted by Rezwan in , ,

Protests in Dhaka. Image from Flickr by Vipez. CC BY-NC-ND
Protests in Dhaka. Image from Flickr by Vipez. CC BY-NC-ND

After three years of respite Hartal, a South Asian form of strike action is back in Bangladesh. Bangladesh's opposition alliance has called for a hartal on Sunday (27th of June, 2010) to press for its 11-point demand including solution of the utility crisis, tender manipulation, persecution of opposition leaders and workers etc.

Things have heated up as on the eve of the Hartal day there are news reports of cars and buses being torched in different areas of the capital Dhaka with passengers suffering serious burns.

Nazmul Hasan Babu at Prothom Alo blog provides some background of the Hartal culture in the country:

গুজরাটী শব্দ "হরতাল" কে বাংলাদেশের রাজনৈতিক দলগুলো যেভাবে ব্যবহার করেছেন তা বোধ হয় বিশ্বের কোন দেশই করতে পারেন নি। [..] আর হরতালের আভিধানিক অর্থ যা ই থাকুক না কেন বাংলাদেশের প্রেক্ষাপটে হরতালের সংজ্ঞা হচ্ছে- এদেশ আমার বাপ-দাদার, চাইলেই বন্ধ করে দেব সবকিছু।

বাংলাদেশের মানুষেরও আত্মার সাথে মিশে গেছে হরতাল। হরতাল আমাদের সংস্কৃতির ও একটা অংশ। হরতালের তারিখ নির্ধারণ মানেই হচ্ছে- আজকে আমার দোকানটা বন্ধ থাকবে, না হয় লুট হবে। আজকে আমার কষ্টার্জিত উপার্জনে কেনা সখের গাড়িটা ভেঙ্গে টুকরো টুকরো হবে। হরতাল মানেই হচ্ছে আজকে আমার কাজে যাওয়া হবে না। বড় কর্তার বকুনি। নয়তো ছেলেমেয়ে নিয়ে না খেয়ে থাকা।

এসবই পুরনো কথা। দীর্ঘ প্রায় আড়াই তিন বছর পর আবার শুরু হচ্ছে হরতাল। এ আড়াই তিন বছরে বাংলাদেশের জনগন বোধহয় ভুলেই গিয়েছিলেন হরতাল শব্দটি। এরই ফলে তারা হয়তো আর হরতাল চায় না। কিন্তু তারা না চাইলেই কি হবে, নেতারা তো চান! [..]

মাননীয় বিরোধী দলীয় নেত্রী কি ভেবে দেখেছেন, হরতাল হলে দেশের একদিনে ক্ষতি কত হবে? কত মানুষের ভোগান্তি হবে? অবশ্য এসব আপনাদের ভাববার কথা নয়, কারণ আপনারা জনগন দিয়ে রাজনীতি করেন জনগণের জন্য নয়। তাই জনগনের কি ক্ষতি হলো তা ভাববার মতো সময় আপনার কোথায়?

The political parties of Bangladesh are using the Gujrati term Hartal in a way which was never achieved by any other country of the world. [..] Forget how Hartal is defined universally, in Bangladesh perspective it means the country is our inherited property and we can close everything on our will.

Hartal has been engraved in the spirit of Bangladeshis. It has been part of our culture. The declaration of a Hartal date means that my shop will either be closed or be looted. On that day my beloved car will be broken by picketers. Hartal means that I will not be able to go to work and will be scolded by my supervisor. The consequence will be that I will not get my pay and will starve with my children.

These all are known facts. After a long break of almost three years Hartal has come back in Bangladesh. Many Bangladeshis may have forgotten about this nightmare. So they probably don't want it to come back. But it does not matter what they want, because the leaders want it.

Respected leader of opposition, have you thought how much the country will lose in one day because of the strike? How many lives will be disrupted? Of course you don't have to think about it, because your politics is driven by people, not for people. So you don't have time to think about the problems and losses of the citizens.

Habib at Amar blog writes:

হরতাল বল্লেই প্রথমে তা সম্পর্কে মনে আসে যে হরতাল করলে দেশের ক্ষতি। এবং রাজনৈতিক দলগুলো বিরোধীদলে থাকলে হরতাল জায়েজ, আর সরকারীদলে থাকলে নাজায়েজ ।"

দেশে অরাজকতা তৈরী করে সরকারকে বিপদে ফেলার একটা কায়দা হল - হরতাল।

The first thing comes into mind when talking about Hartal is that it brings huge loss for the country. If a political party is in the opposition, Hartal is absolutely ok for them, if they are the ruling party then obviously they are against Hartal.

Because Hartal is the way to put the government in an awkward position by creating anarchy.

Aminul Haque Bachchu at Pothom Alo blog explains Hartal with a poem:

লাঠি হাতে মাঠে চল
এলো ঐ বিপক্ষ দল
হরতাল হরতাল ।

গরীব মারার নয়া কল
রাজনীতির এক মাত্র বল
হরতাল হরতাল ।

মানুষ ক্ষ্যাপানোর কৌশল
ক্ষমতায় যাওয়ার ছল
হরতাল হরতাল ।

পকেটে পিস্তল, হাতে মশাল
গাড়ী ভাঙ্গতে রাস্তায় চল
হরতাল হরতাল ।

On the field with sticks in action
Here comes the opposition
Hartal Hartal

A new device to kill the poor
The only ball of the politicians
Hartal Hartal

Its a tool to instigate citizens
Its a trick to come to power
Hartal Hartal

Torch in hand, Guns in Pocket
Lets take the street and break the cars
Hartal Hartal

However some netizens are also supporting the Hartal. Blogger Dhibor at Somewhereinblog.net gives logic for the strike:

আগামীকাল আঃ লিগে দুঃশাসনের বিরুদ্ধে প্রতিবাদ জানাতে যে হরতালের উদ্যোগ নেয়া হয়েছে, সেখানেও কঠোর অবস্থানের কোন বিকল্প নেই। কেননা আওয়ামী লিগ ভদ্র ভাষা বোঝে না। তারা যেমন নীতিতে কর্মে সন্ত্রাসি, সেরকম শক্ত প্রতিরোধ না গড়তে পারলে, ওরা পুলিশকে সাথে নিয়ে পেটোয়াবাহিনি লেলিয়ে দেবেই। ইতিমধ্যে কিছু কিছু আলামত স্পস্ট হয়েছে।

তাই মার খেয়ে পালানোর কোন সুযোগ নেই। যে কাজ অনেক অনেক দিন আগেই করা উচিত ছিল, (যদিও ইস্যুর তো কোন অভাবই ছিল না), সেটা এতদিন পরে হলেও যে করা হচ্ছে, সেজন্য মৃদু ধন্যবাদ বিরোধী দল পেতে পারে।

There is no alternative to taking a tough stand by a Hartal declared to protest (ruling party) Awami League's repressions. Because Awami League does not understand peaceful language. As they are dominant in their work and policies, if the resistance is not strong enough, they will put the police on our back to beat us. Some symptoms have already been divulged.

There is no achievement in running away after being beaten. The opposition should have done this a long time ago (the issues were present) and they have finally decided for it - they should get thanks from me.

The above statement shows the confrontational state of Bangladesh politics.

Twitter users also reacted this way:

Dear Hartal, long time no see. But believe me, we didn't miss you at all...

abhilashn: Opposition bandh in dhaka it seems. Much eating, sleeping, TV viewing in store tomorrow. *happy sigh*

Banglar Manchitro at Somewherein questions:

বিরোধীদলতো হরতাল বাদে অন্য যেকোন কর্মসূচি দিতে পারতো। তারা লংমার্চ, অবস্থান কর্মসূচি, অনশন করতে পারতো। তাহলে তারা কেন এই ক্ষতিকর হরতাল দিল।

আমাদের দেশের জন্য আমরা কি এই হরতাল সর্মথন করি?????

The opposition could declare other means of protests except Hartal. They could use long march, sitting protests, hunger strike etc. So why did they declare this destructive Hartal?

Do we really support this Hartal for our country's sake?

Also published in Global Voices online.

(A translation from the original Bengali version of the piece at Muktangon blog)

London: 22 June.

An attempt to make the ongoing trial of war criminals in Bangladesh questionable in international arena has been wasted. One makeshift organization called ‘Justice Concern’ tried to arrange this with the help of All-party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (APPGHR) of UK. The role of Lord Eric Avebury, the vice Chairman of APPGHR has also been questioned by different quarters.

It may be mentioned here that Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, the protectors of some alleged Bangladeshi war criminals have been lobbying in the international arena, especially in the UK and USA, under different banners to stop the trial of war criminals. Justice Concern is one such organization, which was unheard in UK till-to-date.

Justice Concern used All-party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (APPGHR) to take steps to make the ongoing trial of war criminals in Bangladesh questionable. They achieved preliminary success on this as on 23rd of June they arranged a seminar in the House Of Lords titled “Bangladesh’s International Crime (Tribunal) Act 1973: Quality Of International Trial”. The activities of ‘Justice Concern’ (JC) was to make a buzz about this seminar and ensure presence of the representatives of the Bangladesh Government. Not only JC failed in that but it was also exposed that they have close ties with Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. Many Bangladeshi expatriates in UK have raised concerns about this APPGHR seminar.
Meanwhile, we tried to contact them via the telephone number available for RSVP on the seminar and we have succeeded on the 21st of June. The phone call was received by Barrister Ashaduzzaman Fuad, the convener of JC. Talking about the seminar he mentioned that JC is not involved with the arrangement of this seminar and APPGHR is solely responsible.

After that we contacted the APPGHR office and one employee informed us that according to his knowledge APPGHR is not involved in such an event. However one of the organizers of War Crimes Strategy Forum (WCSF) confirmed that Lord Avebury had invited them to be present in that seminar. But they cited evidences of involvement of Jamaat-e-Islami in this seminar and refused to attend.

It has been learnt that although the invitations for the seminar went out in the name of APPGHR, the contact telephone number available is of one persons whose sympathies, based on his other organizational affiliations, evidently lies with Jammat-e-Islami politics. After confirming this information some WCSF activists in UK tried to dig deep. They contacted experts and other human rights activities in the field to learn more about the organization (Justice Concern) and its affiliations. They found out that the domain has been registered in the name of Kamal Sikder, the Executive Editor of weekly Eurobangla magazin, who is affiliated with Jamaat. Kamal Sikder was in the executive committee of Bangladesh Islami Chattra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. His home address was used to register the domain. The contact us and about us pages of the site is not open for public. Barrister Ashaduzzaman Fuad, the coordinator, was involved with Bangladesh Islami Chattra Shibir’s politics when he was studying in Dhaka university. He became the executive editor of Bangladesh Forum Of Europe (BFE) after coming to UK. BFE is regarded as the flagship organization of Bangladesh Islami Chattra Shibir cadres in UK. Jamaat leaders like Matiur Rahman Nizami have previously attended in their programs in UK. Moreover BFE has been accused of having ties with the radical IFE (Islamic Forum of Europe – IFE). One of the co-founders of IFE is the alleged Bangladeshi war criminal Chowdhury Mueenuddin, who had been accused of killing intellectuals during the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh. [See here and here, for details]

It has been learnt that certain misguided information were used to ensure presence of the representatives of the Bangladesh Government. The Jamaat lobbyists publicized that many representatives of International Bar Association will be present, so if Bangladesh Government representatives do not attend – this will breed controversy. But WCSF publicized some facts which made everybody aware of the true facts. So it has been learnt that Bangladesh government representatives will not be attending this seminar.

But JC is continuing with their efforts. As a part of their lobbying, a seminar titled “Bangladesh: Democracy, Rule Of Law and Freedom Of Expression” is being arranged in the Queen Mary Mason Lecture Theatre. The seminar will be presided by Barrister Ashaduzzaman Fuad., the convener of JC and the chief guest will be Barrister Mahbub Hossain and Barrister Badruddoza Badal, the Chairman and Secretary of Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association respectively.

World Cup Craze In Dhaka  

Posted by Rezwan in , ,


Flags of Worldcup football playing nations proudly displayed.


Spanish flag on a car bonnet. I have seen Argentinian and Brazilian flags being displayed like this.


Argentinian flag on top of car.


This time around I saw huge projection screens put up in public places for viewing Worldcup matches.


Jerseys on Sale


Huge graffiti on the wall by Argentinian fans. The Brazilian flag is overshadowed.

Bangladesh in Pictures  

Posted by Rezwan in , ,


Swelled rivers in monsoon season - view from air. One can tell flood is coming.


Submerged Brick-fields - just outside Dhaka.


The changed name of Zia International airport. Signboard in Pink (or Orange?) - surely not elegant for an International airport.


New seats in some Bus stands in Dhaka. Strong enough - but can you sit on that slope?


Digital Bangladesh.

A book store at Soekarno Hatta International Airport Jakarta. On my way to Dhaka.  

Posted by Rezwan

**Sent from a mobile device...

Bangladesh: Netizens Surprised By Bandwidth Export Move  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

SEA-ME-WE-4
SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable network. Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Bangladesh is one of the countries of the world which have been lacking behind in providing adequate and cost effective internet service to its citizen. Bangladesh has missed the bus in the 1990s to be connected to the information superhighway via a submarine cable network and finally was connected in 2006. The SEA-ME-WE-4 cable initially had a bandwidth capacity of 12 gigabytes per second which was later extended to 44.6 gigabytes.

It took sometime to prepare the infrastructure to use the initial capacity which was 68 times than what was available in Bangladesh via numerous VSats which mostly provided snail paced dial-up internet service. By the end of 2008 Internet penetration jumped to 4 percent (5 million users), by ten times from 0.4 percent in 2004.

The initial costs were very high, which went down gradually. In 2009 the cost of bandwidth for an ISP was reduced by further 33% to Taka 18,000 ($260) per one mbps, which was still four times higher than other countries in the region. The government has been cracking down on VOIP usage by ISPs declaring them illegal and has delayed the licensing process of the approved VOIP providers. The charge of high speed internet was still high and most people resorted to cost effective slow speed internet according to their purchasing power and high priced International Direct Dialing (IDD). These actions reduced the use of bandwidth and left a lot of capacity unused.

Mamun at Techtunes was furious [bn] after a report was published in local newspaper that out of approx. 45 gigabytes bandwidth available only about 10 gigabytes was being used by the country and the government is thinking of exporting the excess bandwidth:

যে দেশে ঢাকার বাইরে ইন্টারনেটের একমাত্র ভরসা মোবাইল ইন্টারনেট মানে গ্রামীনফোন। ইন্টারনেটের স্পিড নাই স্পিড পেতে হাজার টাকা দিতে হয়। ইন্টারনেটের সমস্যার কারনে অনেক আইটি প্রতিষ্টান বন্ধ হবার জোগাড়। ব্যান্ডউইথ এর দাম পার Mbps ১৮০০০ হাজার টাকা, আরও হাজার হাজার সমস্যা। সেই দেশের একজন আইটি সাংবাদিক ব্যান্ডউইথ রপ্তানি করার দালালি করে।

In this country outside Dhaka (the capital) the only effective internet coverage available is mobile internet i.e. Grameenphone. For slow speed internet one has to pay a thousand Taka ($15) per month. Because of the problem of internet many IT institutions are on the verge of closing down. One mbps bandwidth costs 18,000 Taka ($260). In that country one IT journalist advocates for bandwidth export.

According to a recent report [bn] published in the Daily Samakal, Bangladesh was seriously considering exporting bandwidth as only 23% of the capacity is being utilized. The report quoted Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (SBCCL) to inform that the usage of Bandwidth will grow upto maximum 40 gigabyte per second in next five years. BSCCL also thinks that by that time the capacity will be increased by four times.

However Bangladesh has to plan a higher target as the country is ranked at the bottom of the International internet bandwidth index (per capita) by country.

In a blog post by SBCCL MD Engr. Md. Monwar Hossain the upgrade #3 of SEA-ME-WE-4 cable was advocated as the investment will be cheap. Mr. Hossain also said:

BSCCL is planning to provide bandwidth to the rural areas through digital access networks. This endeavour should facilitate Internet access widely and thereby establishment of Digital Bangladesh would expedite. [..]

We can understand that Submarine Cable network would be main infrastructure for “Digital Bangladesh” as planned to be achieved by the year 2021.

The upgrade #3 to the existing capacity of SEA-ME-WE-4 cable can increase the bandwidth capacity to 85 gigabytes.

Ami Modon at Somewhereinblog.net lists these grievances:

-যেখানে বিশ্বের সর্ব উচ্চ ব্যান্ডউইথ মূল্যের জন্য বাংলাদেশের আইএসপিগুলোকে প্রতি ইউজার ৫ কিলোবাইট হারে ব্যান্ডউইথ ডিস্ট্রিবিউশন প্লান করতে হয়।
-যেখানে সরকার বিশ্বের সর্বচ্চ দামে ব্যান্ডউইথ বিক্রি করে ব্যবহারকারীর সর্বনিম্ন গতি নিশ্চিত করে।
-যেখানে ২০০৭ সাল থেকে দেশের সর্বপ্রথম সাবমেরিন ক্যাবল তার মাত্র (?) ৪৫মেগাবিট ব্যান্ডউইথের ৮০ ভাগ অব্যবহৃত রাখার উদ্দেশে প্রতি মেগাবিট ব্যান্ডউইথের মূল্য তখন এক লাখ (প্রায়) টাকার উপরে রাখে। [..]

এরা আপনাকে কতটা মক্কেল ভাবে যে আপনাকে আবার ডিজিটাল বাংলাদেশের স্বপ্ন দেখায় ?

-Where because of the highest bandwidth price the ISPs of Bangladesh have to plan only 5Kb bandwidth distribution for every user.
-Where the government sells the costliest bandwidth at the lowest possible speed.
-Where 80 percent of the bandwidth available remain underutilized since 2007 because the bandwidth per mbps was initially at 100,000 Taka ($1450) per one mbps. [..]

How stupid you are they think to make you believe their digital Bangladesh dream?

The blogger is also surprised that an international tender has been floated for exporting bandwidth and nobody is protesting:

আমাদের দেশের মানুষের চেতনার লেভেল দেখে অত্যাশ্চর্য না হয়ে পারছি না। এরা সব আদিম অন্ধকার যুগেই বসবাস করছে। আজ যদি দেখা যেত বাংলাদেশের বর্তমান উত্তলিত হতে থাকা গ্যাসের আশি ভাগ রফতানী করার টেন্ডার ঘোষনা করল। তখন নানা কমিটি দেশে একটিভেট হয়ে পুরো দেশ অচল করে দিত। অথচ বাংলাদেশ ইন্টরনেট ব্যান্ডউইথ রপ্তানী করতেছে। আন্তর্জাতিক দরপত্র আহবান করা হয়েছে। দরপত্র জমা দেয়ার শেষ তারিখ ২০শে জুন, ২০১০।

এইটা এদের চেতনার এন্টেনার আশেপাশেও আসলো না। কোথাও কারো টু শব্দটাও শুনলাম। ইলেক্ট্রনিক বা প্রীন্ট মিডিয়ার তো প্রশ্নই ওঠে না ব্লগেও দেখলাম না।

I cannot understand the level of awareness of the people of my country. They are still living in ancient ages. If it would happen that Bangladesh has floated tender for exporting 80% of its gas produce then there would be country-wide protests paralyzing the country. But Bangladesh is exporting internet bandwidth. An international tender has been floated. The last date of application is June 20, 2010.

It did not catch the attention of the people. Nobody even faintly protested. Not in electronic and print media and even in Blogs.

Being a populous country Bangladesh's internet penetration is very low and there is a potential to expand in local market. So the question remains that whether the decision to export without exploring domestic market covers only the profit making interest of the company. BSCCL is a profitable company and it can take measures to reduce the bandwidth charge for the greater interest of the nation by investing in the third upgrade of the submarine cable or trying to connect to a second cost effective submarine cable [bn]. As the infrastructure (cable network etc.) is not ready for the bandwidth to be distributed in the rural areas, they can sell the rest of the bandwidth to the mobile operators who will be able to cover the country with their existing networks.

Optical fiber web in a pole in Dhaka. Image Courtesy Wireless Bangladesh
Optical fiber web in a pole in Dhaka. Image Courtesy Wireless Bangladesh

Hamidur at Wireless Bangladesh shows how the optical fiber network deployment in the city is creating hazards and the mobile operators can be used to distribute bandwidth:

If Digital Bangladesh is a dream, Digital Dhaka is already a reality. Mobile operators have excellent coverage in terms of Voice and Data. Numbers of Telecom towers are significant. ISPs operating with wired and wireless connection have dense city wide coverage. So it is relatively straightforward for Telecom operators and ISPs to provide any type of connectivity as a last mile solution according to user’s convenience. But wired network, particularly spider web of overhead optical fiber based network has converted the roads of Dhaka to a living hazard.

Arild Klokkerhaug, the head of the largest Bangla blogging platform Somewhereinblog.net comments:

"Can the govt of Bangladesh please ensure that all decisions makers are informed about the thing called internet? I am afraid that somehow, some top people are still stuck in the past century. We are having one of the least available, least stable and most expensive internet connections in the world, and now the govt has issued an international tender to lease out a big chunk of the little bandwidth we have??? To develop the nation, the country should get 20 times more bandwidth, and sell it for 20 times less the price today, to people and businesses in Bangladesh only. then the economy could boom through digital Bangladesh."

(Also published in Global Voices Online)

Bengali In Platforms  

Posted by Rezwan in ,



Bengali In Platforms - by Morrissey

No no no
he does not want to depress you
oh no no no no no
he only wants to impress you
Bengali in platform
he only wants to embrace your culture
and to be your friend forever

Bengali, Bengali
oh shelve your Western plans
and understand that life is hard enough when you belong here.

Bangladesh: Facebook Ban Update  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

We have got updates about the Bangladesh Facebook ban.

The news is not just hilarious but it portrays people of what caliber are deciding what should be censored. From The Daily Star:

The government submitted an appeal to the Facebook authority using its automatic 'abuse reporting' tool to remove the offensive contents from its site.

After a discussion with 26 information technology (IT) experts, BTRC officials yesterday signed in the social networking site for a while and submitted the appeal.

The government blocked access to Facebook on Saturday after satiric images of political leaders were posted on the site. Part of the reason was the uploading of anti-Islamic content about Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SM).

I wonder what are those pages - some say it may be something detrimental to the political image of the government - some say its the satirical image of the prime minister - its hard to tell - probably it can be as dumb as summoning 26 IT experts to learn about a 'abuse reporting' button.

Meanwhile they can see how US politicians are caricatured.