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

October 31, 2004


The prime minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia recently told his party leaders that "all development activities would be stopped if the BNP could not return to power in the next election."

I wonder whether it is a statement or a threat. Below is a list of the recent developments of the government:

* Poor utilization of external assistance.

* Poor start of the ambitious Annual development program ('05)

* Failure to nab the criminals behind the August 21 grenade attacks against Sheikh Hasina. The Daily Star receives another Hasina death threat.

* The government is taking
an unprecedented move to provide immunity to the World Bank for its activities in Bangladesh.

* The judges role have been so much biased in politically motivated cases that people are losing confidence in Judiciary System.

* While a famine (Monga) is taking a serious turn in the Northern region, the government is hosting expensive Iftar parties in the capital.

* The government failed to protect the minority Ahmedia Muslim Sect in the country.

So it is up to the people of Bangladesh to whether they want continuation of the above-mentioned development activities after the next election.

Abul Kashem Faruk, 43, a Bangladeshi lorry driver was abducted in Iraq along with his Sri Lankan colleague. He has been living in Iraq for the last seven years and worked for a Kuwaiti firm, Joshim Transport Company. The news has been broken by the Arabic channel Al-Jazeera. The abductors are yet to communicate any demand to Bangladesh.

It is hard to bear for the family members including his wife and daughter that how could those terrorists (calls themselves Muslims) play with Faruk's life, where he is the prime earning member of the poor family living in a village. They went just speechless.

The foreign minister M Morshed Khan said
, "Considering that Bangladesh is in no way involved in the Iraq conflict and on behalf of his (Faruk's) family and the 140 million Bangladeshi Muslims, I appeal to those who have abducted the poor truck driver in the holy month of Ramadan to release him soon."

Bangladesh is working with the Kuwaiti government, US command in Kuwait, Joshim Transport Company and various international agencies including Red Crescent and Amnesty International for Faruk's release.

But I have doubts that those heartless terrorists would show any mercy to Faruk as they have no ideals. Their goal is just to create anarchy in Iraq. The US military operations in Iraq could not stem the increasing cases of abductions of hostages of different nationals and I believe there are more tragic incidents to come.

Dear readers, if you are wondering about the lack of posts in this blog recently I would like you to know that I am pretty much occupied with some family matters. Hopefully I will be back in normal blogging mode within a couple of days. So please bear with me in the meantime.

October 26, 2004


In Bangladesh the death under police custody has been risen tremendously, which is dubbed by police as killed in "cross fire". This has been occurring ever since the government has established the RAB (RAT), the 'Cobra' and the 'Cheetah' etc. Earlier when the Army carried out the "operation clean heart" in 2002, there were more than 50 custodial deaths (heart attacks as they dubbed) of so called criminals (pending trial). One journalist writes that after one such custodial death, he went to the police station to learn what has happened. The police gave him photograph of an bandaged policeman saying that associates of the criminal shot him and he was killed in crossfire. Later on that night he was surprised to see the policeman working in that same police station without any wound. We will do injustice just to blame these forces only, because they cannot act freely; as it is said that there are always instructions for them from the higher level of the government about whom to arrest and whom to leave alone and whom to kill in "crossfire" so that they do not expose the godfathers behind them. The forces were undoubtedly created by the politicians to serve their narrow selfish interests, forgetting totally the overall interest of the country as a whole and there is even talk of giving them immunity from their actions.

Now the point is why these forces are required and for whom? It all started when Awami League some quarters of Awami League convinced Sheikh Mujib of the need for an auxiliary armed force "Rakkhibahini" to curb criminal activities, which brought the widespread dissent against his government and eventually his assassination. Because these forces are used for all sorts of personal abuses by some Awami league leaders. President Ziaur Rahman also continued the legacy to some extent.
It is widely believed that due to sheer dissent only and after the abortive coup in which Lt.Col (retd) Taher and Haider were killed, the late President permanently removed more than 3000 soldiers and other ranks from this world who were identified merely as Taher’s followers. Then came Ershad, the autocrat, whose police force baton charged the opposition activists. Then came the two tenures of BNP and Awami League in the nineties, where oppressions were at personal level by the ruling party mastans aided by silence of police. But during BNP's current tenure law and order situation have touched a all-time low level. The deeds of these elite police forces are really aggravating the situation.

The home minister told that these killings are ok and wondered, when the people are happy seeing the criminals dead, why some people are raising fingers? Really what a great remark from a lawmaker. Who needs written law, when we can produce people eyewash of giving them security by killing the criminals?

The finance minister is outraged at the press freedom, which everyday is showing a rather gloomy picture to the people. Really the people do not have the right to know other than what the ruling government wants us to know.

But one thing these politicians forget is that history repeats itself. And the oppressed will raise someday to retaliate. Peace and stability is really a far cry.

October 25, 2004


Hello everybody. I am a month old now. You can not imagine how many visits I have got in the past month. I received a lot of gifts from kin, mostly dresses. The best one I liked is a baby penguin doll from one and a half year old Saran.

I am adapting myself to the changing season and have caught cold once. Baba & Ma panicked and took me to a pediatrician. He was a bad man and gave me a lot of medicine. I cried in protest but nobody understood my complaint. I should have been better off without those bitter medicines. There is nothing much to do the whole day except drinking Ma's milk in 2 hour intervals and taking a nap. But sometime I do cherish roaming around the house in grandma or grandpa's lap. The famous Dhaka mosquitoes do bother me a lot. Some stubborn one's could penetrate the multiple protections (sprays, electric mosquito destroyer and net) and did bit me. Ma is not doing well lately. I am praying for Ma to get better soon, otherwise I would be succumbed to the same trouble. I do try to look for Baba when he is out at work. I sleep well when I am besides Ma & Baba. That is why Baba has reduced all his extra work affairs and he tries to be with me especially when Ma needs some rest. Its amazing to see Baba changing nappies and singing lullaby to me in desperate efforts to put me into sleep. My vision is not yet clear so that I cannot remember faces, but I can remember voices. I can turn around my head to Ma wherever she's at. I do enjoy my bath in lukeworm water and try to always stay clean. Ma & Baba always look for my million Taka smile.

October 21, 2004


I am writing the post with much discomfort. According to the Transparency International's (TI) corruption perception index (CPI) published recently, Bangladesh has for the fourth time in a row topped the index of the most corrupt countries. In 2004 Bangladesh shares the top position with Haiti where corruption is rampant in more than 60 countries. But how can Bangladesh be equal to Haiti? Surely there must be something wrong somewhere. TI Bangladesh (TIB) Treasurer Prof. Muzaffer Ahmad tells that "labeling a country as the most corrupt is perhaps incorrect as it is a matter of interpretation." But lets call a spade a spade. If this goes on like this, Bangladesh can soon be like Nauru (not ranked by TI), where the Nauruan leaders have developed their country into almost extinction.

I know that the Bangladeshi government ministers and the ruling party will probably comment on this like before "What is this Transparency International?", "This is an Awami League ploy to disrupt stability of the country and to take down the government", "Corruption has decreased from the Awami League tenure."

Can't they just grow up and try to use the Corruption Fighters’ Tool Kit?

October 20, 2004


Those who want an alternative to Microsoft Windows OS, really have no full-functional alternatives. The daily star reports that EKUSH Operating System (OS), a projected alternative to Microsoft Windows monopoly and a clone to Windows NT, is in its early stages of development. Named after Bengali of 21, which is a symbol of Bangla language movement, the OS will come with several Bangla fonts in addition to the regular font types and a separate shell for full-functional Bangla Computing.

The Ekush website claims "The world needed a free Unix clone, it has been discovered (Linux) and the world needs a free Windows clone though."

The opensource initiative based in Bangladesh is taken by a 30-member development team, most of them are working in the US at IBM, Microsoft and Linux. The team is lead by Shamsuddoha Ranju, a Bangladeshi who works in Siemens Bangladesh Ltd. The first version of Ekush is currently available from www.ekush.com as a free download. The team has set a 24-month road map which sets the full-functional release in end 2005.

Licensing is one of the problems the Ekush team is expecting to face. As the project is not based in the US, Ekush OS will not be able to obtain the license banner of General Public License (GPL), the US-based licensing company. In Bangladesh a local patenting regulation does not exist. The Ekush development team are hoping a new local governmental regulation on licensing, currently in the works, will pass before the launching of its final product. I hope the licensing do not get clogged on the bureaucratic red-tape, which has pulled the country from advancement since long.

October 18, 2004


Nobody thought this would happen although there were some warning calls. In a country where cinema viewer ship hangs below 20% of the population cinema is not a big industry. About 300 cinemas across the country have closed down with the Bangladesh film industry shrinking to half in terms of investment and revenue in the last three years (source). This has caused thousands of job losses and more to go.

The number of cinema-goers in the capital declined to 250,000 a week from 900,000 half a decade ago. Some cinemas manage to exist by screening low quality imported films and local films interspersed with porn film footage. Many cinemas run only for one or two days a week. Even then, these barely sell half their seats. The decline in urban viewer ship is due to low quality scripts, poor performance, outdated technical facilities, vulgarism and copycat movies. The copying chain is as follows : - Hollywood -- > Bollywood -- > Dhaliwood (as they call Dhaka movie industry). In the recent decade Bengali cinema are being targeted only for low educated audiences like day-laborer, Rickshaw pullers, village farmers etc. With vulgar titles and sexy posters these movies attract those people with a view to give them some cheap entertainment. Did you ever wonder why the Bengali Cinema actresses keep on gaining their weight? On public demand. For the poor a fatty figure represents wealth and prosperity; something they earn to become. So they prefer a fatty figure rather than a slim one. These cinemas contain some vulgar dances and acts, which are just short of some porn act. Surprisingly the rightwing Islamic parties are silent against the spread of such vulgarism in films. The village cinema viewer ship is increasing because of the attraction of the vulgarism.

The only respite for the more cultured audiences are some short films and a few good quality cinemas (because of lack of investment contemplating poor return –it’s a vicious cycle), which fail to attract many to the cinema Theatres.

Despite many efforts like government grants for good quality films, the trend of the cinema industry is towards commercial vulgarism, which are making urban people turn their back on cinema theatres. For them the Cable TV and rented CDs are better sources of entertainment. The video piracy is in its heights in Bangladesh and you can buy a pirated DVD of a current Hollywood or Bollywood blockbuster with only $1.5. The cable TV channels screen these pirated movies whole day. These are also a reason of the downfall of the industry. I see no hope for this industry in recent times.

October 14, 2004


* We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves.

- Henri Frederic Amiel 1821-1881, Swiss Philosopher, Poet, Critic

* Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships... the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world, at peace.

- Franklin D. Roosevelt 1882-1945, Thirty-second President of the USA


The India-Bangladesh relation is really an enigma to many. You would be surprised to know how diverse people’s opinions and feelings of love and hatred are which constitutes the bond, which is slowly becoming distrust. Since 1947, after the divide of India & Pakistan on the basis of religion, millions of Hindu Bengalis migrated to West Bengal and other parts of India and many Muslim Bengalis migrated to Bangladesh (former East Pakistan). Memories of their roots are still afresh in many migrants and their descendents. These feelings are of love and earnings and they always carry a dream within, to visit their roots to be with fellow Bengalis separated by a border; who share the same language, culture and traits. The Bangladeshis love Indian cloths Indian music, movies and TV channels. The Indian Bengalis love Bangladeshi food, music, cloths. You couldn’t imagine the warmth of this feeling if you had not been close to them. But still in Bangladesh officially Indian movies are not screened in Theatres, In India Bangladeshi TV channels remains taboo in this 21st century. There is a huge trade gap between India and Bangladesh, where illegal trade is twice as much in volume as the trade goes in official channel. Bangladesh is not yet self sufficient in producing all the consumer goods it needs. So Indian goods naturally finds their market here legally or illegally. India and Bangladesh share some major water resources. These two countries could benefit so much if they could solve all the border problems, share water resources equally and enhance legal trade with minimal protection.

India hating is a political stunt taken by Anti Awami League politicians after the liberation war in 1971. In the liberation war India gave shelter to millions of Bangladeshi refugees and engaged in war with Pakistan for 12 days to help liberate Bangladesh supporting the freedom fighters. Bangladesh is surely indebted to India for that. It was for the great leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, India pulled out its troops from Bangladesh and acknowledged Bangladesh’s sovereignty. But those who are anti Awami league made a farcical issue that Bangladesh being sold to India citing numerous disputes over the years, which still remains live.

Kathryn Jacques of the School of Classics, History and Religion at the University of New England in Australia writes in her book:

The most prominent India-Bangladesh border issues, the Tin Bigha Corridor, Muhuri Char and New Moore/ South Talpatty/ Purbasha island have all tended to reinforce the traditional antagonisms, rivalries and fears existing in South Asia, the disputes being manipulated and protracted for political advantage by both Mrs. Gandhi and Ziaur Rahman (President 1975-1981). Both states added fuel to their mutual disputes, both overreacting with aggression and suspicion. Of the two states, India was in a far better position to compromise. Bangladesh did not represent a military threat and had much more to lose than India. The disputes should have been quickly resolvable through diplomatic channels. Instead, the conduct of the issues was characterised by belligerence and insensitivity on India's part, and oversensitivity and suspicion on Bangladesh's part. The Indian government, particularly under Indira Gandhi, had great difficulty in differentiating between disputes with Bangladesh and those with rivals, Pakistan and China. A Bangladesh government which was not obviously pro-Indian, as it was under Mujibur Rahman, was automatically dubbed by India, Cold War-style, as being pro-Pakistan."

These types of stereotyping are being carried over till now. The recent foreign investment initiative in Bangladesh by the TATA group of India has also generated some apprehensions against the BNP government who welcomed it. Some rightwing parties passed on bad remarks like the Bangladesh is being sold to India. But this all happened because trade must follow its course and in recent times trade relationship is the main determinant of foreign relations. So if Bangladesh has surplus gas and it is willing to export it there must be tension when the consumer is India rather than a third nation. But this is Bangladesh, where among people emotions and personal likings dominate logic. The government who declares export gas to India will be in a possible coup by the opposition, because they will make a huge issue out of it. That’s why during Awami League government (believed to be pro-Indian) the relationship did not improve significantly but only reduced some tension.

India-bashing is the powerful political weapon that is now being used by present BNP government. The Prime Minister has warned the opposition (Awami League) “Abandon Desires for state power through foreign help (meaning India)”. The Justice Joynul Abedin Commission, which is investigating the still unsolved August 21 attack, concluded in this report that a foreign power is behind the incident. The commission is yet to name the foreign power but most likely it is referring India. Adding fuel to this is Bangladesh foreign minister Morshed Khan’s provocative statement that his country could play havoc in the north- east “as it was landlocked by Bangladesh”. See the different views of the government, they are welcoming the foreign investment and provoking at the same time. Certainly India is not happy about this situation. They are vocal that Bangladesh is giving shelter to the insurgents of its North-East territory just as Bangladesh was vocal during late seventies and eighties that India is giving support and shelter to the Shantibahini insurgents of the Chittagong hill tracts. Also there are issues like illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India, who are being used by Indian politicians as vote banks. An editorial in The Statesman warns: "Actually Begum Zia is playing a dangerous game, much too dangerous for her comfort."

Problems like this will continue to exist if both the countries do not wish to minimize them and want to keep them alive for political reasons. Renowned columnist Kuldip Nayar has urged the Indians to be generous and be relaistic to conquer the anti-India feeling in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi think tanks are not doing well enough to reduce the tensions the political leaders are inflicting upon the relationship.

Meanwhile a girl in Bangladesh will continue to adore Shahrukh Khan (Indian actor) and watch all his movies in pirated discs and girl in India will pay any price to get a Dhakai Sari smuggled through the borders. A Bangladeshi boys honeymoon place would be in Darjeeling and an Indian’s Cox’s Bazaar Beach. I think many of the Bangladeshi politicians who cries against India in a political speech, go home and watch popular Hindi soap operas in Indian Channels and some would send his kid to a school in an Indian hill convent. India-Bangladesh relations will remain so bitter sweet and quite prone to exploitation by the political leaders.

October 13, 2004


Last year the country's population stood at about 138 million and its labor force 68 million including child labor (+10). Out of which about 27 million people (39.9% of total workforce) are either unemployed or unemployed. For reference, the members of the labor force not doing any work at all or working less than 15 hours are considered unemployed and one working less than 35 hours considered underemployed. About one million job seekers are added to the statistics every year.

According to World Bank, to achieve a substantial reduction in unemployment & underemployment, Bangladesh needs to create over 50 million jobs in the next 25 years. To achieve that Bangladesh needs double digit growth and according to Debapriyo Bhattacharya, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) :

"We will have to engage the labor force in waged jobs, particularly in the labor-intensive manufacturing sector.”

China has made the above possible to a great extent. So why can’t Bangladesh. What Bangladesh lacks is more foreign investment rather than aids. But these are the detriments of attracting foreign investment:

1) The political unrests in the country
2) Deteriorating law and order situation
3) Bureaucracy and corruption in establishing business ventures
4) High cost of doing business: compared to China, India and Pakistan, the cost of doing business in Bangladesh today is considerably higher. Among others, the judicial system and law enforcement have been cited as major factors that add to high cost in doing business.

Sadly our political parties are not addressing the situation correctly. The throne is the center of their attention. They will soon the situation out of control after phasing out of the quota system. A recent study of IMF said that Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) might fall by 1.5 per cent after the abolition of the quota system.

October 12, 2004

October 10, 2004


* You don't need ballz to play football and its not unislamic at all as the bigots say. They just can't keep politics and religion away from sports.

* 693 tigers were counted in Sundarban forests, out of which 419 are in the Bangladesh part.

* A latest survey by National Democratic Foundation (NDF) shows:

a) The government should not step down before term : 59%
The government should step down immediately: 32%

b) Do not support Hartal: 73%
Support Hartal: 18%

More surveys are needed from neutral quarters to understand the public opinion.

Late by five minutes is not a delay.


There were much apprehensions of all quarters on whether Biman should continue with its current fleet of F-28s. The pilots specially raised concerns that these are not safe enough to fly and only 139 out of 243 built are operational around the world. A couple of days ago another F-28 took a nose-dive into a ditch after skidding off the runway at Sylhet in a domestic flight. Luckily none of the 82 passengers on-board were seriously hurt. The drama continued when the state minister for civil aviation termed pilot error may be the cause of the accident. The Biman pilots went on a strike yesterday in protest of his remark and to take an assessment of all Biman aircrafts whether they are flight worthy. The minister then refuted the claim and said that he was misquoted and the strike was called off when he assured to take care of their demands. But the Biman schedules went haywire troubling many passengers.

To the best of my knowledge, Biman pilots are very efficient and it is to their credit Biman has a good safety record considering the outdated aircrafts they fly to and from domestic airports which do not have modern instrumental landing facilities. I hope that Biman will listen to this wake up call to replace outdated aircrafts.

October 05, 2004


The four party alliance plans to celebrate its 3 year rule; "success" as termed by them. Surely they have succeeded in curbing the pressure of the opposition. The current politics of Bangladesh is centered to the throne. The Awami League is demanding immediate resignation of the government and the BNP's reply is "We will not step down even a minute ahead of the expiry of our five-year tenure". The both party's motto is to screw the people and to achieve their goals.

Amidst all these everybody has forgot that BNP has not fulfilled its major election pledges as follows:

Zayadul Ahsan writes in the Daily Star:

"The separation of the judiciary, formation of independent anti-corruption and human-rights commissions and installation of ombudsman -- the key election pledges -- remain elusive as ever. It failed to live up to the other pledges of curbing crime, introducing direct elections to reserved seats for women, giving autonomy to radio and television and repealing the abusive Special Powers Act. The government said time and again it will honour the commitments it had made to people, but it is now clear that they are unwilling to do so. One can conclude that the ruling coalition cares little about strengthening democracy by implementing the four pledges."

Governments come and governments go but issues like giving autonomy to radio and television remain elusive as ever.

The killing of yet another journalist in the southwestern town Bogra remarks the deterioration in law and order situation. Journalist Dipankar Chakrabarty, Executive Editor of Durjoy Bangla, fell victim to a brutal attack by unknown assailants. The news caption highlighted that he was beheaded, which left Jane guessing whether this incident relates to the threats by some radical islamists against the daily Prothom Alo. The southwestern Bangladesh has witnessed the brutal killings of at least 13 prominent journalists in the last 10 years. As per my information, in this region there are activities of some extremist organizations like Purba Bangla Communist Party -PBCP-Marxist-Leninist (Janajuddha) and Sarbahara group and the notorious Bangla Bhai. The police investigations could not solve the mystery of all the atrocities against journalists but a faction of the Janajudhdha has been indicted for a number of killings including Journalist Manik Saha & Journalist Humayun Kabir Balu. No party is yet to claim the responsibilty of Dipankar's death.

This all shows that the total law and order situation of Bangladesh is out of the hand of the police. Unless the govt. is eager to expedite the prosecution of the criminals who are systematically killing the voices against them (apparently to create fear and anarchy among people), all hell will break loose soon.

October 03, 2004


The antagonism between the two Bangladeshi leaders (Begum Khaleda Zia & Sheikh Hasina) is not all political rather personal. Since long the two have not been in a common table to discuss. Their public speeches usually contain malicious words against each other and each others' parties. Sheikh Hasina and her party Awami League is opposing government in every aspect and is demanding the immediate resignation of the Govt and to hold fresh election. But her actions are seen to common people as her hunger for power as she failed to motivate the people ignoring major issues of the country and sticking to only pulling down the government without any democratic process.

Mrs. Zia's obsession with Sheikh Hasina and anybody or anything associated with her is also costing Bangladesh dearly. Many AL activists succumbed to mass arrests by police recently in a said bid to tackle the law and order situation. The government is actually trying to create a panic among the common people by the mass arrests not to stop them from joining in an Awami League rally scheduled today afternoon. It has become more like a personal vendetta, where Begum Zia is said to sideline one of his key associates M Ali Falu, who is the leading shareholders of NTV (a leading private TV channel), because NTV aired programs commemorating father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (father of Sheikh Hasina). In her words, "Falu has become neutral now, so he has no place among us".

The politics of Bangladesh has now polarized in a way that now a days people are forced out of neutralilty. People have no choice but to patronize either one of the Begums and -or- other parties as the polarization has affected the judiciary, bureaucracy, universities and even the army. Otherwise intimidations or harassments follows and you simply cannot win a government contract without political affiliation or patronization.

According to a Western diplomat: "They are obsessed with one another. And they are unlikely to bury the hatchet in the foreseeable future. Unless the parties decide to replace the two heads of their parties, the country will turn into another Afghanistan soon."

We are helplessly waiting to see how many common people gives their lives in the two leaders' personal vendetta.

Yet another grim news: Bangladesh ranks 164th among 173 countries and fifth in South Asia in the Quality of Life Index (QLI), according to a report of Social Watch, an international network of citizens from different countries across the world. (reports the Daily Star). Among the South Asian countries, Sri Lanka ranks the highest but it has been placed in 85th position among all the countries surveyed. Sri Lanka is followed by the Maldives (107th), India (163rd), Bhutan (142) and Bangladesh. The Social Watch annual report 2004 rated Bangladesh's performance in education, food security, reproductive health and science and information technology sectors to be in 'worst situation' while public expenditure in 'below-average' situation. The report cited the reason for Bangladesh's bad performance is the drawback of poor governance.

The indicators for measurement of the QLI are quite comprehensive. But I think there are also some cultural elements lacking in the measurement of quality of life. For example, the no. of persons in a Australian village owning a TV comparing to a Bangladeshi village is quite a big contrast, where in Bangladeshi remote villages electricity is not present in all the households and they usually watch TV in village clubs (mostly battery powered) in groups. Then there are questions of low consumption and over consumption. The village lifestyle is very economical and with homegrown foods and home neat clothes a Bangladeshi village family can survive well with their standard with minimum of consumption. It would be unwise to compare them with the western lifestyle. As there is a wide margin of disparity between the lifestyle of rich and poor in the developing countries, the countries with large population gets a low average ranking which does not at all reflect the true scenario. India ranked 163rd (just over Bangladesh). Considering the recent economic boom and many people crossing the boundaries of social class, does this represent the true Indian lifestyle ranking?