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     Volume 6 Issue 37 | September 21, 2007 |

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News Notes

A Broken Highway
Every time we come up with a firm platform, the path seems to slip away from beneath our feet. In fact, the very first highway, which was built back in 1978, is now practically crumbling down to pieces. Dubbed as one of the country's finest highways in the recent past, the 34-km Bogra-Sherpur road is now in a pathetic state due to poor maintenance since 1994. Surveys reveal that around four months ago, at least 13,000 potholes had been found on the road. One only wonders about the craters that have developed over time.
Now referred to as the worst highway in the country by many, it was built with foreign assistance in 1978. Sadly enough, this 34-kilometre path between Bogra and Sherpur is absolutely unusable today.
In 1994, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) had taken over the maintenance work of the highway. Surprisingly enough, no maintenance work had been carried out on it since then. The rest of the highway is also badly pitted and may become unusable any time.
Several attempts had been taken in the previous years by the respective governments to fix the highway. In 2004, the World Bank had forked out Tk 42 crore for repair and maintenance of this road and tenders were floated, until the Bank pulled back its funds. The RHD did take an attempt to maintain the road at a cost of Tk 16 crore, which did not materialise for fund dearth. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed Tk 43 crore for its maintenance but that also did not happen due to red tape.
Once again, the RHD has now decided to take yet another initiative to repair the worst affected 18.50 kilometers patch of the road at a cost of Tk 20 crore from October 1, 2007. That history will not repeat itself and the efforts of the RHD will prove futile, is another question that many have begun to ask.

US Report on Religious Freedom: Everything Seems Fine
The United States US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour recently published its International Religious Freedom Report 2007 and the chapter regarding Bangladesh seemed to be quite balanced. While the report did not go all out and state that Bangladesh experienced great religious freedom, it did say that the government supported religious freedom and that attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued to be a problem. The report chose its words carefully by saying "Religion exerted a significant influence on politics, and the government was sensitive to the Islamic consciousness of its political allies and the majority of its citizens". The report also added that protests demanding Ahmadiyyas be declared non-Muslim and instances of harassment continued sporadically, but the government generally acted in an effective manner to protect the Ahmadiyyas and their property. This is where the report gets interesting, it possibly is true that the government "generally" acted in an effective manner to protect the Ahmadiyyas, but the truth is that it was never enough. It also said the US government discusses religious freedom issues with the Bangladesh government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. That itself is a novel thought, the US discussing religious freedom with other nations as they abuse that freedom within its own walls. The report also took time out to mention that in December 2006 the Awami League upset many of its minority and liberal supporters when it signed an electoral pact with Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish.
"The agreement committed a future Awami League-led government to recognising some fatwas and an official declaration that the Prophet Mohammad is the last prophet, a direct challenge to the Ahmadiyya community".
An interesting report indeed.

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