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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | July 1, 2005 |

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News Notes

Save the Ahmadiyyas
Attacks on the Ahmaddiyas continue unabated. This time around the attack was launched in an Ahmadiyya mosque in Brahmanbaria on June 23. In the early hours of Thursday when some local Ahmadiyya people assembled in the mosque to say Tahazzud prayer, fire was set in the tin-shed mosque and locally made time bombs were thrown at them. This is of course not the first attack on the Ahmaddiyyas in Brahmanbaria, the area where the largest number of people of the sect live, around 15 thousand, but a favourite target with these fanatic Muslims who call themselves Khatme Nabuate. Though the police claimed to have the situation under control and said that they have started looking for the culprits, the local Ahmaddiyyas are traumatised, who don't know if they will ever be able to live in safety. While attacks on the Ahmadiyyas and their mosques have been going on throughout the country for over two decades, the oppressions have grown more frequent and fiercer during the BNP-led four party alliance government. The government over-conscious with Bangladesh's 'image' looks least bothered about the whole affair, in spite of the international bashing, not to mention local condemnation. When will the government get over its seemingly interminable inaction period? Or, the more immediate question is, perhaps, will the government do anything at all?

AL's changing (?) attitude to hartals
That hartals as a political weapon have grown rather blunt seems to have finally sunk in the AL policy makers. Its conditional hartal call if the government does not consider its 13 amendments on the next year's budget proposal it will observe a day to dawn hartal on June 30 looks a positive move considering its tendency to call hartals (BNP did the same when in opposition) at each and every occasion that they found worth a hartal call. In fact the AL almost called a hartal rejecting what they termed an 'anti-people budget', but somehow managed to restrain itself partly because one or some of its partners objected to the idea and partly, as optimists would like to believe, due to good sense prevailed on them. Nevertheless, calling hartals right after a budget was a sort of tradition and AL's breaking that tradition is certainly an improvement. One thing is sure, we must come out of the vicious cycle of hartals, that's what the people want. The sooner the political parties realises it the better, not only for them but also for the nation.

Debt of Honour
Last week, Khaleda Zia, prime minister (PM) and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), placed wreath on the coffin of Sagir Ahmed, a slayed Jubo Dal leader who was accused in a dozen cases including murder and extortion. Ahmed died in the hands of unidentified assailants near his house in Old Sarder Lane of the city's Sutrapur area.
The PM offered fateha for the salvation of Ahmed's departed soul and consoled his family members at her party's Naya Paltan office, where the thug's body was wrapped with the BNP flag.
Ahmed was also known to have patronised two notorious criminals named Guddu and Kajol. The duo is accused of killing businessman Shamsul Islam, his son Russell and their driver; the bodies of Islam and Russell were found sliced in over 200 pieces.
Khaleda was not alone in showing respect to this notorious criminal. Her son Tareq Rahman and other party leaders soon followed suit. The incident of our political leaders granting the palm to the goons is not new either. In fact, to keep their grips on power both the BNP and Awami League (AL) patronise hooligans by giving them arms and money. The scariest part of it is that as far as their modi operandi is concerned, it is almost impossible to differentiate between any criminal organisation with the BNP or AL. A la Mafia, these two parties depend and thrive on people's sense of insecurity and helplessness.
It is, indeed, ironic that Khaleda heads a government that is elected by popular vote. People do not have a choice: when the elections come they are left to choose between the less worse. They always go for the lesser evil and bad that all the parties elected try their best to get their voters wrong.

Blaze rages at tengritila as Niko sits idle
The blaze triggered by a blowout at Tengritila gas field continued for the second day on June 25 sending the flames up to 150 feet high. Officials of the Canadian company, Niko, or Bapex (Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration Corporation) were yet to take any steps to extinguish the fire that started in a relief well following an explosion in the early hours on June 24.
People in the nearby villages panicked and demanded adequate safety measures. They also demanded compensation within three days as the blowout and fire forced them out of their houses.
In a bid to pacify the demonstrators, Niko officials and administration assured them of taking necessary measures soon after consulting with the higher authorities. Security forces, including police and Bangladesh Rifles, meanwhile, cordoned off about two square km area around the gas field.
As the fire rages on, experts are of the opinion that the joint venture agreement was a forced one in the first place, and they also declare that Niko as an incompetent company should not have been given the chance to explore for gas. Found disqualified in technical and financial aspects during the evaluation of the second round block bidding in 1997, Niko's incompetent operation led the first blowout at this unexplored gas field in January this year.


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