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     Volume 4 Issue 19 | October 29, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
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News Notes

The Name Game Virus
Before it was the Awami League renaming every institute they could think of, with 'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman'. Now it's BNP's turn. Recently, the National University (NU) authorities have decided to rename the Institute to Ziaur Rahman National University. This time, however, the intelligentsia of the country are more vocal in their disapproval of such an arbitrary act. Academics have referred to the move as 'unfortunate and morally unacceptable'. Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury referred to this as a 'disease' and said that this would only make Ziaur Rahman a controversial figure. Professor Choudhury was critical of the practice of renaming old institutions without establishing new ones. Former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, Prof. Emajuddin Ahmed, said that such renaming would not increase the late president's dignity. According to Prof. Mozaffar Ahmed, such a practice reflects the poor quality of Bangladesh's political culture.
According to Dr. AAMS Arefin Siddique, president of Dhaka University Teachers Association (DUTA) and former syndicate member of National University, the renaming is also a political move as the university is already plagued by political appointments.

Disturbing Verdict
The 29-year-old case of four slain politicians has finally ended with death sentences for three former military officers. Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Court Judge, Mohammad Motiur Rahman read out the judgement in a makeshift court compound near the Dhaka Central Jail after it had been deferred twice last month. Twelve senior army officers were given life terms. Eleven of them have already been sentenced to death for killing Sheikh Mujib.
Four founding fathers of the country's first government -- Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mansur Ali, and AHM Qamaruzzman -- were killed in Dhaka Jail in 1975 by a group disgruntled army-men. Only days ago the same group led a bloody coup to overthrow Sheikh Mujib's regime; Mujib was brutally killed on that night of August 15, along with almost all the members of his family. An ordinance was promulgated by Khandakar Mushtak's regime indemnifying the killers of Sheikh Mujib and the four leaders and it was later passed in the parliament by Ziaur Rahman's government.
Legal proceedings started two decades after the killing Sheikh Hasina took office in 1996. But proceedings took a backstage when Bangladesh Nationalist Party won the next general elections in 2001.
The main opposition Bangladesh Awami League has denounced the verdict and called a countrywide a half-day strike on November 3, coinciding with the 29th anniversary of the jail killing. The party has also condemned the acquittal of M Obaidur Rahman, a BNP MP.

Encroachment Unlimited
The BNP lawmaker in charge of saving the lands unlawfully encroached by some is now out to align himself with the accused says a newspaper report. The Member of Parliament in Dhaka-4 seat, who is part of the authority in charge of driving the encroachers out, has settled for a portion of the river Buriganga. A four-story building was being built right behind his abode in Shyampur flouting the rules. The taskforce formed to combat encroachment clamped down on such installation. But in a weird twist of events, one of the eight MPs who were part of an ancillary force to materialise the goal is now finding himself in the role of an encroacher.
Last October the BIWTA and the Dhaka District Council jointly initiated a drive to efface all the installations that unlawfully and drastically narrowed down the Buriganga river. It was at this time that the structure behind the house of Sallahuddin Ahmed caught the attention of the authority. He promised to get rid of it as per rules, but after all this time, the structure not only stands on the encroached land but also expands to incorporate a garden. When asked about the house under-construction, he gleefully replied to a journalist, "I am building a garden behind my house."

Bad News for the Garment Sector
With the scheduled phase out of quotas on some garment items, Bangladesh must brace itself for a heavy blow in its export earnings from the garments sector. According to a Daily Star report, in the last three years, the country's income from exports to the US, its largest buyer, has dropped by 22 percent or US$534 million. The worst is yet to come as the US market may shrink even further for Bangladeshi garment exporters. Thanks to the abolition of all quotas, China, India and a few other countries will become Bangladesh's biggest competitors. Export income from the US reached the highest of $2500 million in 2000-2001 fiscal year which came down to $1966 million in FY 2003-2004 due to decline in export earnings in the Readymade Garments sector (RMG). According to a Anisul Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, this alarming decline was attributed to phase out of quotas, lead time problem and US's decision to provide preferential market access for Sub-Saharan and other countries. Huq suggested that the only way Bangladesh could increase export to the US market was if it had duty-free access there.
Huq added that studies have shown that the Chinese share in the US market may go up by 50 per cent (from 16 per cent at present). Indian exports to the US may also grab around 16 per cent of the market (at present it is 4 per cent). Huq fears that if Bangladesh cannot cope with the stiff competition after the expiry of the multi-fibre arrangement (MFA), it may lead to the closure of 25 to 40 percent of RMG units in the next two or three years which means thousands of garment workers losing their jobs.
In the already quota phased out categories. Bangladesh's position in the US market has slipped to seventh from the second place. Income from other categories still enjoying quota facility also fell due to problems in lead time and a declining trend in prices. China has cut prices of its products in the US market by 46 percent and there is stiff competition from India and Turkey in some other categories.

Another Iraqi held hostage
"Please help me, please help me, these might be my last hours," sobbed Margaret Hassan, a British aid worker, who was kidnapped on her way to work in Baghdad. Hassan, a dual British and Irish national who married an Iraqi and has lived in Iraq for the past 30 years begged British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a video aired yesterday to save her life by scrapping the planned redeployment of British troops and pulling them out of Iraq.
Her plea came one day after Britain agreed to a US request to redeploy 850 troops to Babil province south and southwest of Baghdad, freeing up US soldiers for an expected assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.
"Please, the British people, ask Mr Blair to take the troops out of Iraq and not to bring them here to Baghdad. That's why people like Mr Bigley and myself are being caught and maybe we will die. I will die like Mr Bigley," she said, referring to the British hostage executed in Iraq earlier this month.
Al-Jazeera, which initially had an Arabic voiceover, later aired the plea in the original English.
Her call for not bringing British troops "here to Baghdad" suggested she was still in the Iraqi capital.
Blair's office declined to immediately comment on the emotional plea. "We have no comment," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

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