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     Volume 4 Issue 21 | November 12, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
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News Notes

Ominous Discovery
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 54.
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.

OMS 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.

Government 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.

Government 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.

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