The head of a banned religious extremist group Shahadat-e-Al-
Hikmar has openly challenged the police to test the strength
of his 'army' which he claims includes one lakh and ten thousand
trained commandoes according to leading newspapers. Syed Kawser
made this disturbing claim after being arrested on Saturday,
November 6. Six of his associates were also booked. It was
when the organisation was trying to hold a press conference
at a community centre outside Rajshahi College that the members
were arrested. The banned organisation had been informed earlier
that they were not allowed to hold such a press conference
and it was when they tried to get permission to do so at another
thana that the high ups of the group were nabbed under Section
The organisation's manifesto, in addition, has black listed
31 eminent individuals as ' enemies' of the organisation.
They include the editors of major dailies, senior officials
of the police force and academicians. It also says that the
group has the strength and courage to attack a capital like
Dhaka. This is the third time that Kawser has been arrested.
He was released on bail the first two times.
The story of Kawser's forming this organisation is quite intriguing.
During an intense interrogation, by the police, Kawser revealed
that in 1996 when police stopped him from entering a madrasa
field where Khaleda Zia was speaking at a public meeting he
promised himself that he would form a political party. He
was a teenager then. In 2000 he formed an organisation called
'Islami Samaj Sangskar Andolon' and later formed the 'Shahadat-e-Al-Hikmar'.
Being a militant group Hikmar's answer to all injustices in
society is through an armed struggle. This was the general
theme of the group's manifesto announcement in February. Such
comments prompted the then home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury
to declare at a parliamentary session, the organisation illegal.
In March 2003 an investigative police officer filed a treason
case against Kawser and ten of his associates. At the same
time the metropolitan police filed two separate cases one
of which was for illegal arms possession. Later the organisation's
leader and some of his cronies were arrested two times and
both times released on bail.
After his arrest a defiant Kawser remarked while being held
at the OC's room in Boalia thana (Rajshahi) ' Try to take
legal action against me if you can. You have filed cases against
me before and I was released on bail as soon as I stood before
the court, Kawser also claims that he has the backing of very
'important' people. Later however, Kawser retracted his statement
saying he had not said those things in his right mind.
not Going So Well
The government's Open Market Sale (OMS) pro-gramme, though
well intentioned, is not really doing much to alleviate the
hardship of ordinary people. Many people queuing up at various
OMS centres in Dhaka told The Daily Star that people have
returned empty-handed after being told that the rice was not
available. The rice dealers have been keeping back the daily
allotment of rice to be sold to needy people at a subsidised
rate. Dealers on the other hand claim that the daily allotment
is not enough to meet the demand. Some centres closed long
before the stipulated time so many of the people who have
queued for hours or have been coming for days, end up going
home empty-handed. At one centre women were denied rice over
the claim that the centre only catered to men. Thus in spite
of the OMS programme running for more than two weeks the price
of rice in the retail markets remained the same.
Still Clueless about
the Abducted Driver's Fate
The government has not received any further information about
the Bangladeshi lorry-driver Abul Qasem who was abducted along
with his Sri Lankan colleague in Iraq. But, the government
said it was still trying its best to find out his whereabouts.
Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Major
(retd) Quamrul Islam told the parliament that the government
had been trying ways to trace Abul Qasem and get his release.
The minister said his ministry had already contacted International
Organisation for Migrants and International Red Crescent seeking
their help to find the abducted Bangladesh national. Quamrul
said that after any abduction the respective organisation
usually claim they have done this. "But no such organisation
has claimed any responsibility as yet," he continued.
Abul Kashem was abducted on October 29 on way to Baghdad from
Kuwait, along with his Sri Lankan colleague.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh's Ambassador to Kuwait Nazrul Islam
Khan sent an appeal through Al-Jazeera television to the abductors
for Kashem's release. The Bangladeshi lorry-driver has been
held hostage incommunicado for over a week now.
"There has been no contact yet made with the kidnappers,"
Khan told a news agency, but the envoy expressed his hope
to hear some good news 'anytime'.
Asked whether he was sure about Kashem's still being alive,
Khan said, "By the grace of Allah no damage has been
done". The Bangladesh Embassy in Jordan is also trying
for Kashem's release, the Ambassador said, detailing the efforts
of the foreign office.
Tabled Bill to Indemnify World Bank
On October 31 the government introduced a bill in the parliament
providing immunity to international financial organisations,
including the World Bank and the IMF. The International Financial
Organisations (Amendment) Bill 2004 was brought in the face
of opposition from opposition parties.
Under the proposed indemnity law, the World Bank will enjoy
immunity from every form of legal process except in the cases
arising out of or in connection with the exercise of its powers
to borrow money, to guarantee obligations, or to buy and sell
or underwrite the sale of securities.
"No action shall be brought against the Bank, by any
agency, or by any entity or person directly or indirectly
acting for or deriving claims from any agency or entity or
person. There shall be recourse to such special procedures
for the settlement of controversies between the Bank and the
Government or the agency or entity or person, as the case
may be," another provision says.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004