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

January 30, 2007

History teaches us...

While the above is a most common expression, the quality of learning depends on what your source of information is. Diganta of 'India speaks' depicts in his splendid analysis of how history in text books are being manipulated all across the world. A brilliant lie about the independence of Bangladesh is in the Pakistani text books:

After 1965 war India conspired with the Hindus of Bengal and succeeded in spreading hate among the Bengalis about West Pakistan and finally attacked on East Pakistan in December 71, thus causing the breakup of East and West Pakistan.

And don't blame the text books only. Foreign Policy magazine of USA is said to be the premier, award-winning magazine of global politics, economics, and ideas. In a recent article it publishes the following (via The Acorn):

India has a history of interference in the politics of its weaker South Asian neighbors. A rebellion in Pakistan split the country in two in 1971 with a lot of help from Delhi, whose army effectively created Bangladesh. Perhaps a million people died in the bloody ethnic and sectarian cleansing campaigns that followed.

Perhaps the writer Barbara Crosette consulted the Pakistani text books instead of these rich resources.

Diganta asks a valid question:

Better upbringing can definitely lead to a better world. To shape the mind of the children (read people), should we use these hate-materials?

Today's Links

* Nobody's born a bigot.

* How Akbar Ganji helps buildup for military action against Iran.

* Bangladeshis lack faith in elections.

* Back from the brink or in the drink?

* YouTube to share revenue with creators.

January 26, 2007

Quote of the day

"We cover up so much, yet we are so indecent.
We know, yet we are uneducated.
Islam wants us to learn,
Yet the Muslims want to be ignorant."

- Mezba of a Bengali in Toronto on the issue of sex education practiced in some Muslim countries

Globalization of internet: The next billion users are coming with a challenge

Ethan Zuckerman is a big name when it comes to Information Technology. He started in 1994 when he co-founded Tripod, the personal homepage site (in which I hosted my first personal website in 1999). He has come a long way since and this is how the world recognizes him now:

Fortune Magazine named him as one of the top 10 innovators under the age of 40. The World Economic Forum named him a Global Leader for Tomorrow in 2003 and a Young Global Leader in 2005.

Recently he was interviewed in New Scientist. An excerpt from the interview:
The internet recently passed a milestone: its billionth user ventured online. Yet the idea that we all work and play on a common global internet is merely an illusion. In reality, the web is becoming ever more fragmented, and international borders are increasingly visible online. More and more web pages are appearing in languages other than English. China has more than 130 million internet users and is starting to play by its own rules. Soon to follow are the Middle East, India, Russia and Brazil. Is the technology that we thought was uniting us really dividing us?
I also think that the notion of a common global internet is really an illusion. Because the infrastructures, internet penetration, the level of education, language, culture varies from country to country. The developing countries are following the developed countries and the gap between them is clearly visible.

For an example in Bangladesh, a nation of 140 million people, the internet penetration is less than 1% (about one million). And I have been following the Bangladeshi blogs since 2003, and the countable English language sphere (except symbolic presence in 'my space' and likes) has not grown more than one thousand. This is not satisfactory as some Bangladeshi discussion boards have much more participants. But since the launch of "Bandh Bhanger Awaaj", a blogging platform in Bangla language a year ago we have seen about 3500 bloggers buzzing with activities like amateur literary writings, discussing taboo things, being interactive with witty comments and they are well supported by 50000 readers a day. It has been a community, a meeting place of the diaspora and the locals sharing lot of experiences. Like the German blogosphere some bloggers are vocal about maintaining literary quality of Bangla writings in the blogs. While others are comfortable with using profane languages to vent out their frustrations. There is no methodical moderation and no regulatory intervention (till yet) hindering their freedom of speech. Two bloggers I know boldly claim their experiences of living together (without marriage). This is a big step in our society as others who are living together do not brag about it to avoid social repercussions (not just religious but social taboo). Now Bangladesh is under a state of emergency with limited rights (writing against the govt. is prosecutable) but we can see bloggers using irony and satire or even bold languages to say things about the government. As I wrote about it in the Global Voices, many bloggers filled in as information source during the information blackout earlier this month in the country.

Blogs are not yet well recognized by Bangladeshi media as many of them are not aware of its power. So the bloggers efforts are not well publicized to masses without internet penetration, hindering more persons to involve in blogging. The developed countries have gone through this phase 4-5 years before. Bangladesh is only following.

Internet can give people the chance to communicate without much fear and in the ease of their own language. So for the next few billion internet users be it different in places, but let communities grow having a chance to raise their voices against the tides. People will always find a way to avoid the censorships and limitations.

And I see no alternative than the Global Voices Online Initiative (also co-founded by Ethan) to provide a bridge between the different spheres. Ethan's another interview in World Changing discusses the importance of the initiative.

I think the lookout for the technologically advanced West should be to build tools to help prosper these local communities. Because only through debates, discussions, sharing and openness civilizations and democracies can prosper. Otherwise it will be easier for authoritarian regimes in some countries to prolong their presence.

Global warming and the land ethic

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

The above is the basic philosophy of Aldo Leopold's land ethic. Leopold argues that our ethical systems must evolve to take into account the entire community of life, not just other individuals or human society in general.

This is the argument Brudaimonia is trying to establish in the Daily KOS about the effects of the global warming:
For global warming, we have to fight our subconscious tendency to only pay attention to localized problems, and consider the effect on the global community. We have to treat a threat to people halfway around the world as a threat to our neighbor or ourselves, because that's what we would want people halfway around the world to do if the threat was to us or our neighbor, especially if we knew that our actions influenced this threat.
And why should you be concerned? Brudaimonia builds a well informative first hand case of Bangladesh being vulnerable to the potential meteorological consequences of global warming. He portrays a scary projection of the fate of Bangladesh if global warming comes true. Take a look at yourself:

"A Look Down the Barrel of the Global Warming Gun"

I love the conclusion:
We can adopt (or cultivate) our own Land Ethic, within ourselves. And if enough of us do this, we might find that we have saved Bangladesh -- not to mention Ethiopia or New Orleans -- from the worst global warming consequences.

January 25, 2007

Today's Links

* How would you know whether your PC is ready for Windows Vista?

* The revolution will be YouTubed.

* Freedom of information, the Wiki way.

* Bangladesh-Myanmar border sealed to prevent Rohingya Muslim refugee influx.

* Bangladesh Military accused of stalling on elections.

* Bangladesh: Tarique Rahman’s sleepless nights.

* Legacy of chasing the shadow politics in Bangladesh.

The ULFA Connection

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is a separatist armed outfit from Assam in India. According to its website its main objective is to liberate Assam through 'Armed national liberation struggle' from the clutches of illegal occupation of India. From 1979 it was involved in many terrorist attacks in India. It is claimed that it gets ammunitions from China, gets training from Pakistan and have secret camps inside Bangladesh to use the porous border to get in and out of India.

Last year, when Bangladeshi security forces were on a large manhunt to find the persons behind the 8/17 nationwide bomb attacks by JMB, two captured Islamic militants confessed that ULFA had a link with those attacks. The links between these terrorist outfits do not fit the logic that those terror attacks were to establish Islamic sharia law in Bangladesh, as the JMB leaflets claimed. It points to a deeper conspiracy.

Recently an ULFA commander arrested by the Indian security forces admitted that 11 ULFA fighters led by him lobbed grenades and fired assault rifles into the Awami League rally, trying to assassinate ex-prime Minister and opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. And the most shocking of claims:
"Some Bangladesh intelligence officials helped us plan the assault and even gave us the vehicles for the assault that morning, but I don't know these Bangladeshis."
Awami League reacted quick on this issue saying that the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami alliance masterminded the assault on the opposition Awami League.

ULFA denied the accusations and said that the Indian authorities extracted the confession after heavy torture and threat. Meanwhile, Awami League leader Zillur Rahman, whose wife Ivy Rahman died in that attack smelt conspiracy in this:
"This is absolutely baseless. There's no reason for ULFA to attack our leader Sheikh Hasina,"
The Bangladesh authorities have agreed to probe the claim by the ULFA millitant. However The ULFA reportedly has bigger interest in Bangladesh.

According to Hindustan Times:

ULFA, the most active insurgent group in northeastern India, is pumping nearly $6 million for 15 candidates in the upcoming polls. The ULFA leadership has managed to stay in Bangladesh for close to 15 years regardless of the party in power, be it pro-India Awami League or Khaleda Zia- led BNP.

The new government will have the authority to decide either to give shelter to ULFA leaders and cadres or to hand them over to India.

With their involvement in the terrorist attacks in Bangladesh or the killing of the poor Biharis in Assam, ULFA is proving that they are just a mercenary group quite deviated from their agenda of liberating Assam.

And I think Bangladesh government should make their positions clear in not supporting ULFA under any circumstances. If the above allegations are not true they should say it boldly. It should launch investigations to apprehend the ULFA terrorists responsible for attacks in Bangladesh.

Update: The Bangladesh Government cleared its position :

"The eastern frontiers with India will be tightened further by the caretaker government to stop the activities of (Indian) guerrillas from inside Bangladesh. They will not be allowed to set up camps on Bangladeshi soil,' the Bengali daily Ittefaq quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

According to it, the caretaker government will also make sure that Anup Chetia, secretary general of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), now serving a prison term in Bangladesh for illegally entering the country, is not allowed to spearhead a guerrilla from a Bangladeshi prison."

The story behind the story

Dr. Abdul Momen, a professor of Economics and Business Management from Boston, USA was instrumental in getting the Army involved in UN peacekeeping forces. He tells the story behind the recent state of emergency (read 'bloodless diplomatic coup') in Bangladesh.
"In this city of rumors, the story that emanates from the Dhaka cantonment goes like this. The Army Chief Lt. Gen. Moeen Ahmed of greater Noakhali, the home district of former Prime Minister Begum Zia was not still convinced to move. However, his 9th Division Commanding Officer, Major General Masud, a close relative of Major (Retd) Said Iskander, Begum Zia’s younger brother, reportedly betrayed and surrounded the Banga Bhavan and asked President Iazuddin Ahmed to resign from his CA position and declare a state of emergency. [Anti-AL general, Maj. Gen. Matin, a former DGFI Chief now an Advisor might have played a role too]. He initially refused and as usual desired to speak to Begum Zia. But he was not allowed. His Press Advisor Moklesur Rahman in the meantime alerted Major General Razzakul Haider, the Chief of the President’s Guard Regiment. When General Haider appeared, he was immediately disarmed and later retired. The NSI Chief was also retired as he made some opposing noise. It is rumored that President called for his most trusted advisor Moklesur Rahman and when he appeared and made some noise, an army officer gave him a blow in front of the President and Mokles started bleeding, and he was forced to quit. Seeing such situation, President without any hesitation immediately agreed to resign and also agreed to read out ‘a prepared speech’ drafted by the army. He was cautioned that if he vacillates, he would be taken into task. His speech for the nation was pre-recorded. Few advisors that came for a meeting with the CA were simply puzzled and tried to submit their resignation. Unfortunately, they could not do so as their CA was gone when they were ready.

In the speech, President stated that the ‘Voter List was inaccurate, the EC commission needs reform, more administrative changes are necessary to create level playing field and the like that were the common demands of the Mohajote and the civil societies. As it appears, he was reading an AL drafted speech but in fact, it was reportedly drafted by army officers. The AL intelligence was so poor that they had no knowledge of such draft.

The Army decided whom to make the Chief Advisor and approached both Sheikh Hasina and Begum Zia as per the Constitution to get their consent. It is reported that they also contacted Nobel Laureate Professor Mohammed Yunus prior to selecting Fakruddin Ahmed as their CA. The CA picked up 10 advisors and few of them are his own relatives. Most of the new advisors are professionals and some of them are pro-BNP. In spite of their connection, people generally believe that they would rise up above partisanship.

As some quarters in the army close to Begum Zia or Said Iskhander might create trouble, the army imposed a ’11 PM to 5 AM’ curfew for the 1st night. However, on the following day, the three Chiefs along with Gen. Masud of the 9th Division appeared before the officers of Bangladesh armed forces--- army, navy and air forces at the Cantonment and narrated the events leading to the ‘state of emergency’ especially the threat of the UN of its suspension of all Peace Mission assignments abroad. The officers overwhelmingly approved their behind-the-scene takeover. However, as against the perception of some quarters that the army would like to prolong the emergency for a longer period, at least two years, I am reported that army officers overwhelmingly wanted to get a credible election as soon as possible. They believe that they can get the voter list corrected within 45 days and can get the election over with within 90 days. It is rumored that the BRAC proposed that they can get the Voter List plus photo IDs within 30 days and the Bangladesh Army could get Voter List and Photo IDs within 5 weeks’ time. However, few analysts believe that it might take 4 to 6 months to get the Voter List and Photo IDs."
Via Sada kalo.

January 20, 2007

Winter is coming at last!

If you are wondering when Berlin will finally welcome winter this season check the graphic!

In 2006 January the minimum temperature of Berlin was -17 degrees celsius and the maximum was 5 degrees celsius. (source)

For the first 20 days of January, 2007 the minimum temperature of Berlin was zero degree celsius and the maximum was 14 degrees celsius.

(Via Bowlerised)

Satire at its best

Although there is a state of emergency in place, the presses in Bangladesh are in no short of freedom. The Daily Star Magazine has published a piece called "Drama in reel life" which contains satire of the players including the president behind the recent dramatic political events of Bangladesh. Check it out!

Today's Links

* The coup that dare not speak its name.

* Bangladesh: Give me back my country.

* Future of Bangladesh is bright.

* Week one of the new caretaker government of Bangladesh.

* Atlas of World Religions: Origins of Islam, Islam , Judaism, Asian Religions.

January 17, 2007

Update on Bangladesh (III)

There have been some positive developments in Bangladesh. People are finally finding peace at home with the actions of the new caretaker government. The most important step taken is separating the judiciary, which was the prime requirement to re-stabilize Bangladesh. It is termed as one of the best things to happen to Bangladesh after independence. The question of reform process of the judiciary to eradicate the partisan elements in the court comes after that. The government is keen to refresh the voter list and determined towards holding a free and fare election soon. If they can be successful in doing that then Bangladesh will be back on track.

And just see what a politically stabilized Bangladesh mean for the economy. Political stability from now would boost the chances of the economy achieving growth of 7 percent in the fiscal year to the end of June. The Dhaka Stock Exchange reported that trading volume on Sunday, the first working day after the state of emergency was the highest in 10 years.

Today on another development ex president Ershad was cleared by the court of conviction in the Japanese boat purchase graft case, which was controversially brought into action a few week ago barring him from taking part in the election. He was freed of the 7 year sentence because he had already completed that term in jail in another case. Barring Ershad from election was a tactical achievement by the BNP allies and it was one of the main reason the opposition boycotted the election.

Five more advisers were appointed and most of them so far are without controversy. Hope they can contribute to taking this country forward.

While the army raids on the corrupt politicians and businessmen and trouble makers continues there still lies threat of some religious radicals being resurfaced again. The security forces recently captured some JMB activists with lot of explosives. Notable journalist Nirmal Sen today in an article in the Daily Samakal accused ex prime minister Khaleda Zia of protecting JMB, the banned military organization. The two kingpins of the organization, Sheikh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqur Rahman (Bangla Bhai) are facing death sentence and the past government was keen to get them hanged. In a recent article in the Daily Jugantar these both accused wants to talk with the journalists presumably to disclose the government links to them. This request was ignored by the past government which raised eyebrow of many. Even their confessional statements were not kept in police records. So I think it will be good for the country if the caretaker government opens the investigation once again to find out the persons behind the rise of fundamentalists in the country. Some of their suicide squads are still wanted by the security agencies. The government should not let them be used by the forces who want to destabilize the country again.

There is a tension in the border between India and Bangladesh as the border security forces engaged in exchange of fires. Apparently the battle is over smuggling of cows rather than having a political influence. The illegal cattle trade between both the countries is the root of many border problems as I wrote ago.

Meanwhile there was a growing rumor that the BNP elected president Iajuddin Ahmed is resigning as BNP is not happy with his performance. But as BNP is not in power its upto the president to decide it. And according to the Daily Amader Shomoy he will be continuing as advised by the army and his family members. It is good that he has been able to come out of the shell of his political leaning and deciding what is best for the country instead of benefiting his party only.

January 15, 2007

On self

I have become a victim of Oso in the 5 things meme. The idea is to get to know the other side of the people we spend so much time interacting with online.

Well I have my limitations and can't be much eloquent like his other victims, Jen and Nicholas. However, I have decided to prove the statement 'one can only speak of another' wrong (sigh). Here are my five things:

1) People thought I was a very smart kid because I was well advanced with my first lessons. I was sent very early at school and by age four I completed class one. But this had taken toll on me later. I used to be a skinny small kid among the taller ones in the class prone to bullying. The only challenge I could throw at them was to study hard to become among the first three in the class. I mean there are smarter things to do in the world other than studying.

2) I used to watch a lot of American series on Bangladesh TV (the only channel available then) in my teens. They used to air "Six Million Dollar Man", "Wonder Women", "Knight Rider", "McGyver" etc. fresh from the season of their first broadcast in US. My hero was the witted McGyver and I always dreamed of driving a car like KITT (Knight Rider). I had to be on the side of the good guys so I was determined by then that I will be a police officer someday.

3) My first visit to Europe was in my teens and I was amazed to find that there are control less Bus rides (you have to punch your own ticket). I cheated once by paying a reduced fare claiming I was under 12 (whereas I was 14) and I could not sleep on that night. Probably God was the ticket checker.

My first cultural shock going back to Dhaka was that I got bullied by my friends for using tissues to clean my nose. Pocket tissue culture became popular later in Bangladesh.

4) I have seriously taken singing lessons and also have a certificate in acting. But I lost concentration and failed miserably on both fields. My Music Guru told me you don't have the voice and the talent but at least with these lessons you will be able to understand and love music. And I respect him for trying with me.

5) I can't hide my emotions. It is all there in my face.

Now its time to tag five more people from Global Voices Online. I hereby tag Preetam, Aparna, Tharum, Maurina and Portnoy.

Today's Links

* Bangladesh is at war with itself.

* Bangladesh: A republic, if you can keep it.

* Bangladesh's national security chief ousted.

* Interim chief cements control of Bangladesh.

* Analysis-pitfalls remain in Bangladesh's path to stability

January 14, 2007

Who is controlling the judiciary?

Bangladesh High Court Sunday ordered the government in a ruling not to arrest or harass businessman Giasuddin Al Mamun and his wife Shahina Yasmin in defiance of the criminal procedure code. Giasuddin Al Mamun was being hunted by the police since 11th of January as a part of their crackdown against corrupt businessmen and politicians.

A HC bench comprising Justice Syed Mohammad Dastgir Hossain and Justice Mamunur Rahman also asked the home secretary and three others to explain why searching his office and home and arresting him without warrant would not be declared unlawful. Giasuddin AL Mamun, a close friend of BNP chairperson’s eldest son Tarique Rahman, is the managing director of One Group, a business conglomerate.

Now the controversy starts as a few days ago the same court presided over by the above two judges had informed all the lawyers in open court that they were not going to hear any writ petitions that dealt with fundamental rights.

And according to the newly enacted emergency ordinance:

No question on the legality of orders to be proclaimed under the authority of this ordinance can be raised in any court.

No civil or criminal case can be lodged against any person in the civil or criminal court, who will act on good faith under any rule or order of the ordinance.

So why this exception was made for Mr. Giasuddin Al Mamun? A commenter in the Drishtipat blog explains:

Barrister Omar Sadat is running from Jessore on BNP ticket, and is married to Shahjan Shiraj’s daughter. Omar Sadat’s brother-in-law (sister’s husband) has partnership in many major businesses with Tarique Rahman. So, yes, he has reasons to see Mamun free of troubles.

If these are true then it is really sad to see nepotism among the honorable judges. So far after declaration of the state of emergency the government won the praise of the people by taking different steps especially by the crackdown on corrupt politicians and businessmen. I hope they will also look at these issues and take necessary steps to uphold justice equal to everybody and be more credible to the people.

Ps: Dr. Kamal Hossain and Rokanuddin filed similar writ pitition (as the one filed for Mamun) for the Proshika and ADAB official arreted in the last couple of days as to why their arrest would not be considered illegal. Rulings are yet to be awarded. source: Manab Jamin via Drishtipat.

Death of a blogger

"Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion"
Mithila Talukdar was a 18 year old girl from Sylhet, Bangladesh. She had a grave disease and was flown to New York to her brother last month. She had a new love who wanted to be with her but was refused US Visa. She was a blogger and blogged (in Bengali) about her life, her love and her despair. She wrote this poem a few days ago before going to hospital:

"On any beautiful morning
If you hear the news of my death
Then please do not mourn
Please do not shed tears
Look for me
Inside your heart
Where love is stored
I will be there."

She wished to come back to Bangladesh, to her love later this month after being cured.

On this beautiful morning came the news of her death. The Bangla blogosphere is mourning today. Mithila will be alive in the hearts of her fellow bloggers.

Update on Bangladesh II

Bangladesh is calm after the Thursday night turnaround. Five new advisers were sworn in. Not much controversies were there with the selection. Two of them are from the business community.

The general people have expressed their satisfaction over the state of emergency. Because it got rid of the fear people had a few days ago.

But two disturbing developments are worrying me. First the drive against the corrupt Godfathers, politicians and businessmen has been suspended. While some question this as arbitrary harassment as who is deciding who are guilty this is also not a prescribed process in the rule of law.

And another most crucial development is the curtailing of civic rights. An emergency ordinance is enacted which has the following features:

* Power has been given to the relevant authorities for promulgation of ordinances to restrict all activities subversive to the state or that which may create panic in public life.

* The government may suspend the activities of all political parties, trade unions, clubs and associations and ban any kind of strike or lockout with controlling dissemination of any news or information in this regard.

* Publication or printing of newspaper, book, document or paper and broadcasting and news or information detrimental to public safety can be banned and any kind of such materials can be seized from the printing press along with confiscating machinery of the press or media under the same ordinance.

* The ordinance will empower the government to arrest or detain any person or restrict the entry, living, stay or movement of any person to refrain him from any activity harmful to the relations with any foreign country or in the public interest.

* Under the ordinance, the government can control entry, stay or visit of any person to Bangladesh. The government can also control or disrupt or block any message or news through postal service, radio, telegram, telex, fax, internet and telephone.

* The government under the purview of the state of emergency can control the trade and business to ensure smooth supply of essentials to members of the public. It can also control generation, supply, distribution and use of electricity.

* The government can arrest and try any person if found responsible for violating rules and orders under this ordinance, and can also award capital punishment or life term or 14-year jail or penalty or both.

* According to the ordinance, no question on the legality of orders to be proclaimed under the authority of this ordinance can be raised in any court.

No civil or criminal case can be lodged against any person in the civil or criminal court, who will act on good faith under any rule or order of the ordinance.

Now tell me if the above do not sound like a martial law suspending the rule of law, then what it is?

Ps: Drishtipat tries to find what really happened that made Iajuddin to do the opposite of what he was doing.

More Update: Awami League general secretary Abdul Jalil Sunday appreciated the "role of the army" in shaping up the new caretaker government. (BdNews24)

January 12, 2007

Press embargo goes

The private TV channels in Dhaka have started broadcasting News again. It seems that the embargo on press was done by the controversial Mokhles Rahman Chowdhury, BNP leaned adviser to the President. The Daily Star has details:

"Soon after the declaration of a state of emergency Thursday night, Mokhles unilaterally called all private television channels and radio stations and issued a verbal order to immediately stop broadcasting of all news bulletins and political talk shows.

He also slapped a ban on newspapers from publishing news or cartoons criticising the government.

When Editor of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam queried President Iajuddin Ahmed yesterday about the ban, the president said he was unaware of any such move and that if any such move has taken place it had been made without his knowledge."

He was removed today but he claims that he resigned. It should be investigated why and under whose direction he has fooled the nation.

Bangladesh political crisis in the eyes of the bloggers

Mark Oliver of the Guardian News Blog writes an informative report featuring Bangladeshi Bloggers:

Blogs provide light in Bangladesh's political night

Some excerpts:

Amid the chaos, the government has been cracking down on media freedoms - but some Bangladeshi bloggers have not been cowed. They have been commenting on events, such as the state of emergency that was declared yesterday and the postponement of the planned January 22 election.

Read the rest.

This recognition shows that at the time of crisis bloggers can be a source of information to many.

I was surprised to hear that my relatives in Bangladesh without internet access did not know about what was happening as the TV News was banned. And they were more driven by humors surrounding them. Whereas we were getting useful information from the two news sites www.bdnews24.com and www.dhakanewsroom.com . In addition Bangla blogging platform "Bandh Bhanger Awaaj" and the group blog Drishtipat were buzzing with fresh information, reactions and analysis from bloggers and commenters.

I only wish more and more people from Bangladesh could blog and make their voices heard. They could eventually be a catalyst in the political process. I only wish the Bangladeshi political parties had their blogs where they could be more interactive with their supporters. Will we see the day soon?

Today's Links

* Thursday video: Growing violence in Bangladesh.

* Army plays key role in Bangladesh.

* Bangladesh president delays elections.

* Bangladeshi people praise declaration of emergency.

* Gagging the media is not the answer.

* Emergency restrictions eased in Bangladesh.

* New head of Bangladesh government sworn in.

* Suspected corrupt individuals under surveillance.

Update on Bangladesh

BDNews24 reports that Fakhruddin Ahmed, a renowned economist, the former governor of Bangladesh Bank and ex VP of the World Bank has been named the chief adviser of the caretaker government by president Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed. He has a Master’s Degree in Development Economics from Williams College, USA and Doctor of Philosophy in Economics from Princeton University. He will be sworn in on 7PM Bangladesh Time (2PM GMT) today. The Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus was first approached but his 12 point condition was too much for the president and Fakhruddin Ahmed was then invited.

Meanwhile two politicians (ex MPs), one from BNP and one from Awami League has been arrested by the military during the night on charges of igniting violence. It may be a message to politicians to exercise restraints.

It seems that the Bangabhaban (presidents house) is still in control of the situation. Uneasy calm prevails in the country. The clamp on media is still on but there are rumors that the state of emergency may be withdrawn today. Some predict whether it is a martial law in disguise.

For up-to-date news please visit BDNews24 or Dhaka News Room.

January 11, 2007

Separation of judiciary: The prime requirement

From the latest whirlwind dismantling of the status quo in Bangladesh politics, one this has become certain that there is an international pressure and no one is ready to accept any illegitimate government taking power. I often wonder if there were some partisan executives in the government, how come the whole system is backing them up. Today in his speech Iajuddin tried to break free from his partisan cocoon. He slammed all politicians for bringing the country to this position. His advisers resigned protesting his decision. The army did not want to jeopardize their reputation for the peace keeping missions. He bowed to all these pressures.

However there are apprehensions that it is not over as he is still the president holding the supreme power including the military. The good thing is that the nation will not be going through a farcical one-sided election with majority of the parties boycotting.

Now the first thing we need is the separation of the judiciary. There has been a battle with the court with the government to implement it. But the political government was not ready to give away their power, which they can misuse at their will. The cases against president Ershad are evidence of such exploitation.

Is Bangladesh seeing a beacon of light? Only time will tell.

Iajuddin resigns as CTG chief: Breakthrough in political stalemate in Bangladesh

President Iajuddin Ahmed has decided to quit as the caretaker (interim) government chief, which was the number one demand of the opposition grand alliance. In addition their second demand was fulfilled; no election is going to happen on the 22nd of January.

Iajuddin Ahmed will remain to be the president. The following crucial decision were made by him:

1. He will appoint a new advisory council within a couple of days. (the present one is of no effect)
2. Till then the senior most member of the current Advisory Council (justice Fazlul Haque) will act as Chief adviser.
3. The new council will set the new election date.

He made some remarkable statements:

1. Voter list making process was flawed
2. The works of judiciary and the administration were questioned
3. The patriotism of the political leaders were questioned

The prelude to the decision as seen by Nazim Farhan Chowdhury:

"UN Sec Gen's representatives announced today that the upcoming election will not be legitimate and withdraw all assistance to the process. Army rank and file, rightly deduced that a illegitimate election = illegitimate government and hence no recognition from UN and hence no peacekeeping duty. That acted as a catalyst to get the supreme leaders do go to Bangabhaban and ask the President to call for emergency."

His advisory council was also on the verge of a revolt, Drishtipat reports:

"Advisers are planning a separate decision if the President sticks by the decision of having the Jan 22 poll"

According to BDNews24:

"Nine advisers to his caretaker government meanwhile resigned Thursday night, BTV said. It was not clear whether they were protesting or just making way for the new chief adviser to form his new cabinet."

Sheikh Hasina in instant reactions to bdnews24.com said the nation had lost so much because of Iajuddin Ahmed's delayed response. She said the Awami League would now wait and see how the reconstitution of the caretaker government went ahead and then decide on its future course of action.

But I don't think this decision was necessary.

In a major post-emergency decision, the government has ordered all satellite-based private television channels to stop broadcasting news programmes and bulletins and all current affairs talk shows. Top TV executives told bdnews24.com that the government's principal information officer (PIO) made "the Bangabhaban decision" known to their newsrooms at around 8pm. They said they had already stopped all news programmes.

It is a clear case of keeping information from the citizen of the country thus impeding freedom of expression.

Bangladesh in a state of emergency!

Worrying news are coming from Bangladesh. President and the chief of caretaker government Iajuddin Ahmed has declared a state of emergency. Curfew has been imposed for capital Dhaka and more than 60 other cities and towns from late Thursday night. The curfew will remain in force each night for six hours starting from 11 p.m. (17:00 GMT).

Bangladesh's upcoming parliament election has become uncertain after the opposition grand alliance had decided to boycott the election on the charge of the election process being skillfully engineered.

Bloggers are asking whether there was really any situation to declare an emergency. The opposition has declared a program of agitation and blockades starting January 14th. It seems the caretaker government under the partisan president (BNP) Iajuddin Ahmed is determined to run the election without the parties boycotting the election. They are not taking into account whether this one-sided election will be acceptable to the nation let alone foreign observers. The UN has already suspended its technical support for Bangladesh poll and closed its International Coordination Office for Election Observers in Dhaka. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement:

"The political crisis in Bangladesh has severely jeopardized the legitimacy of the electoral process"

In another disturbing news the government is thinking to impose an embargo on broadcasting news in more than 10 Bangladeshi TV channels except the state run BTV. This will be a big blow to the freedom of speech of the country.

If this is not military dictatorship, then what is it?

Ps: Drishtipat has more.

How to send news when internet is blocked from Bangladesh

January 10, 2007

Today's Links

* Is Bangladesh heading towards disaster?

* How many bloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

* Saddam execution video re-ignites death penalty debates worldwide.

* Gibson Guitars -- from Kalamazoo To China and beyond.

* A 2007 warning: the world's twelve worst ideas.

Dhaka in 24 hours

Canadian blogger Mikey Leung has some suggestions about where to go and what to do in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh if you have only one day to spare.

January 09, 2007

iPod History, Discovery Channel

The IPod revolution: History of IPod

January 05, 2007

Today's Links

* The problem with Israel.

* The Eid festival around the world - Graphic photos.

* Fencing the porous Bangladesh border.

* $100 laptop project launches in 2007.

* 13 photographs that changed the World.

Christmas trees

If you are wondering where the Christmas trees have gone after Christmas, in Berlin, they fed them to the Elephants.

(Via Squirm)

January 03, 2007

A dark cloud

If you had been following Bangladesh politics then you should be frustrated by now. Nobody knows what will happen on the next day. A few days ago Awami League and its allies decided to run for the January 22 Poll. Today Awami League and the grand alliance decided not to do so.

A few weeks ago Ershad and his Jatiyo Party was scheduled to join BNP and its four party alliance. Then with a 180 degree swing he joined Awami League and its 14 party alliance. Probably he got the best deal there. In Bangladesh what the politicians say is good for that moment, and for that moment only. Their ultimate goal is to win election and exploit unlimited power. Nobody wants to lose. There is seldom any agenda, ethics or interest of the common people.

So why has AL came to this decision, which is bound to create more anarchy and uncertainty in the country? Some say it knew all along that the election would be robbed from them. Others say it is because Ershad was not allowed to participate in the polls. Without Ershad and Jatiyo parties 50 Seats out of 300, Awami League might have sensed defeat. The game is all about winning and the winner takes it all. The democratic practice of being a strong opposition in deciding country's future is yet to be learned by the parties. On the lighter side Ershad took this opportunity to recite a poem today while declaring the poll boycott. Some people never change.

Déjà vu! The situation is similar to February 1996 when BNP Zia was re-elected by a landslide election victory, which was boycotted and denounced as rigged by the main opposition parties. In March 1996, following escalating political turmoil, the sitting Parliament enacted a constitutional amendment to allow a neutral caretaker government to assume power conduct new parliamentary elections. New parliamentary elections were held in June 1996 and were won by the Awami League. (wikipedia)

But will it work for them the second time? There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose. In 2001 US elections democrats felt that they were robbed but they believed in the electoral system. Probably they will win back in 2009 But don't expect the same sanity among the Grand alliance politicians of Bangladesh. Their actions will only damage the country's economy.

And why should people trust their faith in the electoral process even overseen by a caretaker government when you can rent a rally and good candidates do not get the chance to run for the election. A way out is nowhere to be seen. Some predict that only an army rule can change the impasse.

It is said that uncertainty is the refuge of hope. I only hope that we will be able to see the sunshine as soon as the dark cloud disperses. Let sanity prevail in Bangladesh politics.

Flawed Justice

The hanging of Saddam Hossain, and the timing of the event (on the Eid day) was not well taken by many in the world. Only a few might have thought that the butcher of the Kurds should have awarded any other justice than this, but even the most open minded ones raised questions about the whole trial process and the way Iraq is heading today.

Shahidul Alam, an award winning photo-journalist from Bangladesh wrote an elegy:

I can kill any Muslim
Any day I choose
It’s all for the cause of freedom
I can kill any Muslim
Wherever I choose
It is cause we’re a peace lovin’ nation

So we egged him on
When he attacked Kuwait
And the trial may have been harried
So we supplied him arms
To gas the Kurds
With him dead, that’s one story buried

(read the rest)

He comments:

...despite his atrocities, Saddam will be remembered for his defiance. The butcher of the Kurds will go down in history as a victim of flawed justice. The guns are now clearly turned against Iran, but the Saudi rulers, as well as the Egyptians and the Jordanians would do well to ponder, “Who is next?”

Mash also comments:

By some estimates, this new Iraq has already cost over 650,000 lives. Those numbers suggest that the thugs that rule Iraq today are far outpacing the deaths caused by Saddam Hussein’s regime. By comparison, Saddam looks good. This is a fine legacy for George W Bush and his war of choice.

The truth will be out some day (or will it ever be?); and for the Iraqi people, I wish their nightmare ends really soon.

Today's Links

* Lured by the beach side of a beleaguered land in Bangladesh.

* Bloggers and independent journalists are the only reliable sources for Western media news (before they are censored).

* The birth of AJAX - an amazing story.

* Events that shaped Asia in 2006.

* Stray Dogs, Muslims and Non-Vegetarians barred.

January 02, 2007

Fang of fanatics

The above is the title of a booklet published by the News and Views Publications in 2001 during the end of Awami Leagues 5 year long tenure. Bangladesh was battered by religious (Islamic) terrorists, who with their politics inside the mosques tried to establish a reign of terror with gruesome killings, and bombings in public gatherings.

The booklet, with graphic photographs portrays the atrocities and the politics of BNP in sheltering the alliance of religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ) to counter Awami League. This was widely circulated by the then Awami League government.

This booklet defines the Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ) as:
A conglomerate of of religious zealots and Islami fanatics who think that democracy is an alien ideology and should therefore be replaced with military dictatorship.
According to the booklet the Jamaat and the IOJ openly declared that they are followers of Osama Bin Laden and want to make Bangladesh another Afghanistan. They even take pride in identifying them as Taliban.

Five years and hundreds of bombing incidents later some of those extremists are behind the bar. However the politics with these religious opportunists continues. Recently the claimed secular party in Bangladesh politics Awami League reached an MOU with Khelafat Majlish, a significant part of IOJ for a political alliance as a 'tactical electoral ploy' for the next election. The price Awami League will have to pay is to establish these agendas:

1) Certified Alems (Islamic clerics) will have the right to issue fatwas (Islamic religious edicts) if the grand electoral alliance comes to power.
2) A bar on enacting any law that goes against Quranic values,
3)A ban on criticisms of Prophet Muhammad.
4) Those who do not believe in the assertion that the Prophet of Islam is the last messenger of Allah would forfeit their right to be known as a Muslim, an oblique reference to the Ahmadiyya community.

According to Khelafat Majlish chief Azizul Huq, his party's soul target is setting up Islamic rule in the Muslim majority Bangladesh. He was arrested in February 2001 as he led and supervised the beating of a policemen on duty by his followers in the Noor Mosque of Mohammadpur during a general strike (hartal). He is also a critique of NGOs for their role of emancipating women. He was later released because of political pressure. Now Awami League's unprecedented turn towards incorporating religion into politics is termed as backstabbing by the progressive Bangladeshis. Some say that there is a US$15 million deal behind this.

Naeem Mohaiemen explains in Drishtipat how Hasina is playing the Islamic political card. His analysis ends with a despair:
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Ten years from now, there may be no Hasina, Khaleda, Tarique, Joy, Jalil, Bhuiyan. There may be a whole new set of players—who may be vibrant new jacks, or the same liquid in a new bottle. But the one sure thing is that the Islamists will be much stronger. Today they are kingmakers, tomorrow they will be kings.
We can already see the way the political polarization is happening. The nomination of fewer women and unbalanced representation of the minorities for the upcoming election is only the first phase.

The future looks bleak for Bangladesh at this moment. Will Bangladeshis let their future destroyed by these politics of power and insanity?

January 01, 2007

Strangling freedom of speech

This is not new. We have seen it in places like China and Bahrain. Hossein Derakhshan reports that the Ministry of Culture in Iran has announced that all Iranians who hold a blog or a website should register them within two month. He cites that this action of trying to regulate freedom of expression is contrary to Iran's constitution and calls to disrupt the initiative by the concept of hacktivism. This is one war which should be fought prior to any other. Freedom of expression is more precious than anything and is the identity of a free human being.
"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." - John Milton 1608-1674, British Poet