Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Curfew likley from 6 PM, one killed in Rajshahi

There is a chance of declaring curfew from 6 PM today. Advisors meeting is to start from 2:30 PM today.

Students-police clash leave a man dead, 2 dozen people injured in RU

Rajshahi, Aug 22 (UNB) - Rajshahi University campus virtually turned into a battlefield Wednesday as students and police fought pitched battles, leaving an unidentified rickshaw- puller dead and around two dozen people injured.

Campus residence of Vice Chancellor Prof. Altaf Hossain and a police box in the campus were also set on fire during the melee.

Traffic on the Dhaka-Rajshahi highway, situated beside the university campus, came to a halt as the agitating students put up barricades on the way and closed the university main gate with burning tires.

“Scores of teargas shells rained down on the campus in a bid to disperse the unruly students who were pelting policemen with brickbats,” says a spot report of the razing violence.

A motorcycle was set ablaze during the clashes that started at about 9am when police intercepted students who brought out a procession in protest against the Monday’s incident on the Dhaka University campus.

Thousands of people from nearby areas in the city thronged around the strolling RU campus and looked on as the clash amid chase and counter-chase continued till filing this report at about 11:30am.

At one stage of melee, students set the campus residence of Vice Chancellor Altaf Hossain and a police box in campus on fire at noon.

Fire fighters rushed to the spot and extinguished the blaze.
At 12:30 pm, police fired rubber bullets on the students near RU medical centre that left an unknown rickshaw-puller dead on the spot.END

Bangladesh Update 22 August as of 12 PM

Rajshahi University erupted in the morning.

Demonstrations is going on the following roads/areas in Dhaka:

1.Gulshan circle-1 to Amtoli(Mohakhali Area) (Titumeer College)

2.Roads to/from Dhaka University areas

3.Sher-E-Bangla Agriculture University areas
4. New market areas

5. Rair Shah Bazar(Gulistan)

Oxford Analytica on Bangladesh's Student Uprising

BANGLADESH: Students protest against troop presence

BANGLADESH: Student protests spread from Dhaka to Chittagong and Kushtia today, after clashes with police at Dhaka University yesterday left several injured. According to local media reports, protests erupted after a dispute involving soldiers and students at a football match on the university campus in the capital.

It is the first serious outbreak of violence since January, when a military-backed caretaker government was installed after the postponement of general elections. Emergency rule has been in place ever since, including a ban on protests. A vigorous anti-corruption campaign and the prospect of an overhaul of the political system under the new government meant that it earned support domestically and overseas.

However, signs of weakness within the government -- in its handling of the recent floods, for example -- are causing frustration and there are concerns about the prospect of extended military rule. Students are demanding the withdrawal of troops from the campus and they burnt effigies of army chief General Moeen U Ahmed.

The government is increasingly unpopular, but is only set to become more so as it adopts more authoritarian tactics. There is a danger that the military will assume direct power, although there is considerable international pressure on Dhaka to proceed towards timely elections.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dhaka University Update

The incident at Dhaka University is becoming alarming. Here are some updates (as of 2 PM) from various media and internet sources:

1. More clashes today with police and students.

2. Two more universities (Jagannath and Jahangir Nagore) join in the protest.

3. Jahangir Nagar University students blocked Dhaka-Aricha highway.

4. An army van was burnt by students near Shahbag.

5. Soldier who sparked this protest has been withdrawn from the camp.

6. Students during protest burnt effigy of General Moyeen.

7. Dhaka University Teachers' Association has sided with students and demanded withdrawal of army camp from campus by tomorrow noon.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guardian Commentary on Bangladesh

She is absolutely right: we have layers of freedom where some men are more equal than others. Read this Guairdain commentary on Bangladesh:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What’s the score on India’s covert operations?

By Jyoti Malhotra

In an unusual display of openness early this year, the Research & Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, invited Shashi Tharoor, a much-publicized face of India abroad and a rank outsider, to deliver the first R.N. Kao memorial lecture in Delhi.

It was an impressive gathering for which a variety of former spymasters had flown in from across the country. It was presided over by the national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan. Tharoor spoke about “India and global security: leveraging soft power’’, arguing that the culture of debate and discussion that comes naturally to Indians should be extended to the intelligence agencies, even if secrecy is their preferred weapon of action.

By all accounts, Kao would have liked the idea. India’s top spymaster was made the first head of R&AW by Indira Gandhi after it was separated from the Intelligence Bureau in 1968. In his time, spies did not merely collect and analyse information, they had a chameleon-like ability to identify with both the oppressor and the oppressed. They spoke multiple languages. They built relations with the CIA and the KGB and the Afghan mujahedin, all at the same time. Spying didn’t take place at the speed of 24-hour news channels, nor were spy stories grist for the media’s mill.

Instead, spying was an intimate, time-consuming process, where the spy staked out his potential victim or source with the patience of someone in love. If you were collating information and analysing it, you pursued the maze and didn’t rest until it cleared. You had a sense of history. You couldn’t be a good spy if you didn’t know your weaknesses.

Most Indians, among them former cabinet secretary, Naresh Chandra, believe that R&AW’s finest hour was the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 and the liberation of Bangladesh. Considering this happened a mere three years after Kao’s creation of R&AW and allowed Mrs Gandhi to emerge as one of the most powerful leaders in the world, the event also set the stage for a muscular foreign policy.

The liberation of Bangladesh was clearly Mrs Gandhi’s finest hour. The manner in which Bangladeshis rose to take charge of their country — albeit with the help R&AW provided to their Mukti Bahini — has no parallel in world history.

Back home, the 1971 events allowed Kao to create the psychological warfare (Psywar) division, which kept the international spotlight on brutalities committed by the West Pakistanis. Indira Gandhi’s tour of the major nations, including the US, to sensitize them about the situation in the subcontinent — millions of refugees from East Bengal were pouring into India — was a perfect prequel to the brahmastra that followed. Pakistan cracked up like a brittle pancake. It continues to vent much of its angst by unleashing terror in Punjab, Kashmir and now, in the rest of India.
Even as it covertly aided the Mukti Bahini, R&AW raids into the Chittagong Hill Tract in the Northeast simultaneously destroyed sanctuaries and training camps of the Mizo National Front as well as the Nagas. Phizo had, in fact, been in touch with the ISI since 1956, and later leaders like Isaac Swu, Muivah and Mowu Angami (who was later killed) had travelled via the Kachin state of Burma to Yunnan, a southern Chinese province for arms training. Mizo leaders like Laldenga, too, were in touch both with the ISI and the Chinese, seeking arms training and financial assistance. The Chinese agreed to train the MNF if they could reach Yunnan on their own.

R&AW’s decision to smash insurgent sanctuaries in the CHT, killing both Nagas and Mizos, played a big role in partially ending the Naga insurgency. As for Laldenga, he fled to West Pakistan, via Rangoon, but later got fed up with his ISI handlers. He escaped from Pakistan and reached Geneva in 1975, where a joint R&AW-IB team began talks with him. But Mrs Gandhi was soon to impose Emergency, and to lose power in 1977. The Mizos had to wait for her to return in 1980 before Kao — and the next R&AW chief, Gary Saxena, as well as the late G. Parthasarathi, Mrs Gandhi’s trusted adviser — could pick up the threads. Peace returned to Mizoram only in 1985, when Laldenga became its chief minister.

B. Raman, a former R&AW spy, who has just written a book about his former organization called the Kaoboys of R&AW, points out that one of R&AW’s major drawbacks has been “a lack of man management…especially in the later years, where R&AW should have been blended into a team, there’s a clear absence of an esprit de corps.’’

One clear example of the lack of coordination between R&AW, IB and the West Bengal state police occurred during the Purulia arms drop in 1998. Peter Bleach, an ex-pilot of the Royal Air Force who was hired to fly the plane to Purulia, is supposed to have gone to the headquarters in the UK and told them what he was going to do. Subsequently, clear and pointed intelligence was given to R&AW, but it didn’t pass it on.

The failure to detect the Pakistani incursion into Kargil until May 1999, when one IB alert a year before had picked up unusual activity across the border in Baltistan, must count for another failure of the R&AW’s high-profile Aviation Research Centre. It was left to the nomadic Gujjar shepherds, who roam the hills, to pick out the aliens in the Kargil hills.

However, Naresh Chandra feels that R&AW’s picking up of the conversation between General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad and his colleague General Muhammad Aziz Khan, in Beijing during the Kargil war (when Aziz said to Musharraf in crude Urdu, “Uski (India) tooti mere haath main hai’’), was one of R&AW’s best moments. Asked if the release of the conversation transcript did not compromise both technical and human intelligence, Chandra said, “Releasing the transcript was a political decision, R&AW did a very good job.” That transcript was one element in the diplomatic battle that finally persuaded Bill Clinton to force Nawaz Sharif to order his forces back behind the LoC.

India’s intelligence-gathering efforts have largely focussed on Pakistan, the US, China and the neighbourhood. Through the Eighties and the Nineties, including after the Mumbai blasts in 1993, Delhi tried hard to get the US to label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism with little success. Delhi argued that a lot of CIA arms were being siphoned off by the ISI to be used in Punjab and Kashmir — but the argument fell on deaf ears.

Under Rajiv Gandhi, Delhi sought to pursue a multi-dimensional strategy on Pakistan. That is, cooperation with its people, covert action where possible (as in Sind, which provoked Benazir Bhutto to tell her ISI chief, “Give up your Sikh card and India will give up its Sind card”) and maintaining good relations with both the pro-Pakistan Afghan mujahedin as well as with the Tajik opposition-leader, Ahmad Shah Masood. With the fall of the taliban after 9/11, Delhi moved quickly to establish consulates in Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar in order to prevent Pakistan from regaining strategic depth in southern Afghanistan.

Unlike Bangladesh, though, India’s Sri Lanka intervention has been a mixed bag. Covert assistance for the LTTE in the early Eighties ordered by Indira Gandhi enabled the government to meet aspirations of the Sri Lanka Tamils, but by the time Rajiv Gandhi signed the Indo-Sri Lanka accord, the tables had been turned completely. Once again, different agencies of the government didn’t know what the other was doing. General Sundarji is said to have promised Rajiv Gandhi that it would take a month to accomplish his mission to disarm the LTTE. Ultimately, V.P. Singh ordered the IPKF back after three years, without completing the job it had set out to do.

Still, as Shashi Tharoor put it at the R&AW tea-party in January, the Eighties were a grand decade, with Delhi helping a large num-ber of African countries like Uganda (Milton Obote invited R&AW in after Idi Amin chased the Indians out) and Ghana set up intelligence agencies, besides providing key support to the African National Congress in South Africa and SWAPO in Namibia.

Analysts like B. Raman point out that for an argumentative society, Indians have largely refused to ask questions or debate failures. Lieutenant General Henderson-Brooks and Brigadier Baghat wrote a report on the failure of the Sino-Indian war in 1962, while the Subrahmanyam committee went into a detailed look at the Kargil conflict, but Parliament has either not been shown the reports or allowed to discuss it.

Meanwhile, there remains the question of a cover-up in the Rabinder Singh affair, the R&AW double agent who escaped, via Kathmandu, to the US in 2004. The matter shook the agency as well as India, but an investigation into the counter-insurgency failure doesn’t seem to have cleaned out the cobwebs, especially since a number of those allegedly involved in the fiasco are posted in key countries today.

So what’s the score on India’s covert operations in these 60 years? Johnnie Walker, the ultimate Bollywood comedian, has a memorable line in one of his films: “Fifty-fifty”, he says, with regard to the happiness-ever-after formula. It could easily apply to Delhi’s report card since independence.

Bangladesh: The Danger III for India!

So, Bangladesh is Danger III for India? Read on:

The DangerBy Bharat Verma

The security forces, primarily the Indian Army, have held the state of Jammu & Kashmir physically since Independence. The politicians and the bureaucrats have contributed nothing to resolve the situation. The danger has since magnified. After all the wars, export of terrorism, inconsistent and weak policies by New Delhi, Islamabad could not win Kashmir only because the Indian Army held its ground. If the ghost force succeeds in making locals rise against the Army, it will be an unprecedented achievement for Islamabad. It is a matter of grave concern that New Delhi is so prone to issue statements without thinking it through, as long as it appeases the adversary even temporarily. With China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh becoming more strident, as evidenced by its recent stance on Tawang, the danger to the Siliguri Corridor stands enhanced. This corridor has been facing internal turmoil for many years.

Is India’s development and economic growth becoming unsustainable due to poor handling of the security? There are three dangers to the territorial integrity that bedevil the nation. Very few policy makers in India dare to acknowledge the danger to the nation’s territorial integrity. The security and integrity of the nation has become hostage to vote-bank politics. Democracy and more than eight per cent economic growth will be of no avail if the country as such withers away. India is not only being frayed at its borders by insurgencies, but its very writ in the heartland is becoming increasingly questionable. The rise of a nation is predicated upon unity, peace and stability, which are essentially determined by good governance. The prevailing security scenario poses the serious question: Is India’s development and economic growth becoming unsustainable due to poor handling of the security? There are three dangers to the territorial integrity that bedevil the nation.

Danger-1 New Delhi and the state capitals have almost ceded the governmental control over 40 per cent of the Union’s territory to the Naxalites. The Naxal’s are aided and abetted by the crime mafia that runs its operations in the same corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh, as well as Maoists of Nepal who in turn receive covert support from other powers engaged/interested in destabilising India. The nexus between ULFA and Maoists in Nepal is well established. In a recent attack in Chhattisgarh, Maoists of India and Nepal were co-participants. There are also reports to suggest that Indian Maoists are increasingly taking to opium cultivation in areas under their control to finance their activities. The Maoists - crime - drug nexus is rather explosive.

Danger-2 The security forces, primarily the Indian Army, have held the state of Jammu & Kashmir physically since Independence. The politicians and the bureaucrats have contributed nothing to resolve the situation. The danger has since magnified many times as displayed by the presence of thousands of supporters of LeT flying their flags in a recent rally of dissidents. Under the garb of peace overtures, heavily armed infiltrators with tacit support from the Pak Military-Intelligence establishment continue to make inroads into Kashmir. They are at present lying low, waiting for an opportune moment for vicious strikes on several fronts to undermine the Indian Union.

This ghost force reared its head in a recent rally organised by Geelani. Musharraf and his sympathisers in India are working in a highly synchronised fashion for demilitarisation of the Valley. Simultaneously, there is an insidious campaign to malign the Indian Army on one pretext or the other as part of the psywar being waged by the ghost force under Islamabad’s directions. After all the wars, export of terrorism, inconsistent and weak policies by New Delhi, Islamabad could not win Kashmir only because the Indian Army held its ground. If the ghost force succeeds in making locals rise against the Army, it will be an unprecedented achievement for Islamabad. The talk of demilitarisation is therefore merely a ploy that aims to achieve the Kashmir objective even as Pak Military-Intelligence establishment expands its tentacles not only within the Valley but in other parts of India as well. While the Pak dispensation talks of peace, terrorist cells are proliferating in the country including new frontiers in southern part of India. Islamic fundamentalism/ terrorism footprints, as evidenced by Bangalore centered incidents, are too glaring to be ignored. Islamic terrorism in the garb of freedom fighting in Kashmir is therefore de-stabilising the entire country. Islamabad is using Kashmir as a gateway/launching pad to rest of India.

Danger-3 Given a modicum of political will, Danger-I and II may still be manageable, however, Danger III to its territorial integrity in the northeast may prove to be the most difficult. In fact the entire northeast can easily be unhooked on multiple counts from the Union. First, these are low populated areas having contiguity with the most densely populated and demographically aggressive country in the world, i.e., Bangladesh. The country has also emerged as a major source of Islamic fundamentalism, which impacts grievously on the northeast. To add to these woes, New Delhi because of sheer vote-bank politics legitimised illegal migration for 22 years through the vehicle of IMDT. Many border districts now have a majority population constituting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In near future, this leverage will be used to create an internal upheaval against the Centre as in the case of the Valley. It’s a classic Islamic fundamentalist principle of asymmetric warfare. What cannot be achieved by conventional wars, can be done through infiltration and subsequently internal subversion. They call it “jihad!”

Second, the northeast if not addressed appropriately could unhook from the Union before the Valley given the acute vulnerability of the Siliguri Corridor, which is merely 10 to 20 kilometer wide and 200 kilometers long. If this critical corridor is choked or subverted or severed by force, the Union of India will have to maintain the northeast by air. With poor quality of governance for which the country is infamous, the local population may gravitate towards other regional powers.

Third, with China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh becoming more strident, as evidenced by its recent stance on Tawang, the danger to the Siliguri Corridor stands enhanced. This corridor has been facing internal turmoil for many years. The area may well be further subverted by inimical regional powers. Chinese intention to bargain for Tawang to secure Tibet is deceptive. Subsequently, it would covet entire Arunachal Pradesh to protect Tawang. Chinese are known for expanding their areas of strategic interests with time unlike the Indians who are in a tearing hurry to convert Siachen Glacier into a “mountain of peace” or LOC into “line of peace” or equating Pakistan as an equal victim of terrorism.

It is a matter of grave concern that New Delhi is so prone to issue statements without thinking it through, as long as it appeases the adversary even temporarily. Therefore the northeast—with the internal turmoil in the Siliguri Corridor, with low population surrounded by overpopulated Bangladesh exporting Islamic terrorism under tutelage of Islamabad, with China gaining influence in Nepal and Bangladesh and its upping the ante on Tawang—the danger to the region is grave. Manipur is a stark indicator. The insurgents have nearly weaned the state from the Indian Union.

The writ of the Indian Union has ceased to operate; insurgents, compelling people to turn to South Korean music and films, ban Hindi music and films. New Delhi continues to fiddle while the Northeast burns which in turn poses a grave problem to the territorial integrity of the Union of India. The world once again is getting polarised into two camps after the end of the Cold war—democracies and authoritarian regimes of all hues, which includes Islamists, communists, and the Maoists. Their perspectives are totally totalitarian.

Therefore with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal (Maoists), being neighbours, the danger to the Indian territorial integrity stands enhanced.

(The author is editor, Indian Defence Review and can be contacted at

Myanmar: The probable battleground between India and China

Very interesting observation that Myanmar will become probable battleground between India and China for its oil and gas.

So, Bangladesh is now caught between India and China pull!

Read on:

Commentary: The Indian Ocean is not a Chinese lake
TORONTO, Aug. 14
Column: Abroad View

As India becomes the third or fourth economic power in the world in the next 20 to 30 years, it will have to turn its attention toward the fractured state of politics in the Indian Ocean states. Today, African nations bordering the Indian Ocean are in a state of turmoil. Politics in countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are unsettled. The Middle East has been boiling for the last 60 years, due to its oil wealth and the creation of the state of Israel.

Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, representing the bulk of humanity in the Indian Ocean states, have never seen peace in the last half century. Myanmar has become an outcast from the world community and probable battleground between India and China for its oil and gas. Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are slowly moving into the economic iron grip of China. Indonesia and Australia have affinities with China and the West respectively.

Chinese sooner or later will use its sizeable community in Southeast Asia to foster its political and economic agenda. The Chinese are also slowly moving into the Indian Ocean. Hence, why should not India exercise its influence in the Indian Ocean? India has the naval muscle and the economy to match. It also has a political and economic system worth copying in the ethnically diverse nations of the Indian Ocean. R

ealizing that the Indians were weak, as well as busy over neighborhood disputes with Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Chinese were the first to make a move in the Indian Ocean. Ten years ago they established a listening post off the coast of Myanmar, to monitor Indian naval communications and the sea-lanes in the Bay of Bengal leading to Singapore.

Out of nowhere, China decided five years ago to build the Pakistani port of Gawadr to help Pakistan acquire a new naval facility opposite the Straits of Hormuz. It was a masterstroke that has tied Pakistan to the Chinese sphere of influence for a long time. Also, China has clinched a deal to establish a submarine dock facility in the Maldives in the Arabian Sea, so close to India's western coast. India has good reason to be upset with these developments.

China's trump card is its export merchandise, which it can offer to any nation on good terms and carry the day. Although these exports have not conquered the traditional markets for European, U.S. and Indian goods in the Indian Ocean states, the Chinese are trying hard. They followed up their hard sell with a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Africa last February that included Cameroon, Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and the Seychelles. The whole purpose of this visit was to outflank Indian, European and U.S. interests. In countering these Chinese moves head-on, India should be front and center, backed by U.S. and European powers.

India has finally ended its Cold War position with the completion of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, and it is now time to strengthen its position in the Indian Ocean. First and foremost Chinese influence in Myanmar should be neutralized. India should end its opposition to the military junta's rule there. Any military hardware supplied by China to the junta should be countered with better and more flexible equipment. Europe and the United States should help and not stand in the way of Indian exports. This will prevent China grabbing all of Myanmar's offshore gas field output.

The West must realize that the present military rulers are well entrenched. They will not make room for a civilian Western-educated liberal democrat, married to a British citizen, in the country's power structure. Compared to Myanmar, turning Pakistan away from China is a hard job. China has cleverly bound Pakistan by strategic means. In the past 15 years China has provided Pakistan with nuclear weapons designs, helped it acquire missiles and now built a strategic port for it. In times of need, China has also provided Pakistan with critical political support.

The US$10 billion in military aid from the United States to Pakistan over the last five years has not accomplished anything useful, including weaning Pakistan from its strategic relationship with China. For the foreseeable future, Pakistan will remain China's satellite in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives and other places are not hard nuts to crack in terms of winding up Chinese naval activities. All India needs to do is to match the Chinese offers. The world for the next 40 years will be dependent on oil from the Middle East. In addition India may be buying huge amounts of gas from this area.

It is important that India offer protection for this seaborne commerce. The sea lanes of greatest importance stretch from the Gulf of Hormuz to the Malacca Straits. This stretch carries 40 percent of the world's oil to its destinations in South and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and the United States. Commerce has repeatedly been threatened by terrorists, pirates and failed states that wish to make a political point. India, with U.S. support, must provide protection for this major sea highway. Already the United States and India have been holding naval exercises and discussing joint maritime patrols. This is a step in the right direction. The United States is now willing to consider more Indian requests for advanced military hardware.

Another important sea route is the one that carries oil exports from the Middle East to Europe. Europe wishes to conserve its own oil and is making heavy demands on Middle Eastern oil. This cannot go through the Suez Canal, because oil-laden ships cannot traverse the shallow canal. Therefore these mega ships travel to Europe hugging the eastern seacoast of Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope and onward to Europe. The bulk of oil shipments to the U.S. Atlantic coast take the same route. Hence its protection is also of paramount importance. Chinese presence there is unwanted and unnecessary. It only complicates an already delicate situation.

Nobody will mind India's presence there. India provided seaward protection to the African Union Summit in Mozambique in 2003 and earned a high reputation for this job.

Economically, India must mount a massive effort in the next 10 years to re-establish its presence in the Indian Ocean. Nobody can argue that Indians cannot meet the needs for goods and services of the Indian Ocean states. From the Middle East to the eastern seaboard of Africa, including backward Myanmar, the massive population base of 500 million should be looking to India, Europe and the United States.

A clever way to establish Indian hegemony in the area would be to establish an Indian Ocean Littoral States Bank to finance trade and development in the region. The United States and Europe would have to support it, but it would be in their interest to keep China out of the Indian Ocean.

In short, the Indian Ocean is not a Chinese lake. China should not be allowed to capitalize on temporary Indian inaction in the area. India must take a leading role in developing and managing the aspirations of the people in the area. In addition India has to guarantee safe passage for maritime commerce. To this affect, India needs to build up its naval and military muscle to make its presence felt.

Bangladeshi political enemies find common ground in lobbying effort

So, the veild threat of cutting aid is now being used to cow CTG? Read on:

Bangladeshi political enemies find common ground in lobbying effort

By Roxana Tiron, August 15, 2007 (

Two bitterly opposed Bangladeshi political leaders and their respective parties are finding common ground in Washington, where their representatives are lobbying to raise awareness of human-rights abuses by an interim government that took over in January.In a twist, the warring parties, which have alternated power in Bangladesh during the last 15 years, find themselves caught in the net of a military-backed caretaker government that was charged with overseeing the most recent election period, but declared a state of emergency and postponed polls planned for late January.

The lobbying effort comes as the Bush administration heralds the anti-corruption campaign of the caretaker government, led by Fakhruddin Ahmed — yet the White House also is pressing for fair and open elections. Some lawmakers fear that Bangladesh could be on the path to becoming a military-led state like Pakistan.

Sheik Hasina and Khaleda Zia, the heads of the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Bangladesh’s two main political parties, along with other senior politicians, public servants and businesspeople, have been the focus of the caretaker government’s anti-corruption drive.Hasina has been jailed on charges of extortion and her family’s assets have been frozen, while Zia, who lives on an army base, is under virtual house arrest. Zia has been ordered to court at the end of the month to face allegations of tax evasion, according to various reports.

But the government that set out to clean up corruption in a country widely perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world now is raising concern among human-rights organizations and governments around the world for being too heavy-handed.The current government has been accused of mass arrests of as many as 200,000 people, denial of political assembly and free speech, torture and extra-judicial killings. Now political enemies Hasina and Zia and their respective parties are sounding alarm in Washington.

For the first time, they are on the same page, although each side is undertaking its own lobbying effort. Zia’s party, the BNP, now has a $400 million, one-year contract with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Former Rep. Greg Laughlin (R-Texas) and Florence Prioleau, a veteran of the Carter White House, are working the Hill on the BNP’s behalf. Meanwhile, the U.S. Awami League had been working with Alcalde & Fay since 2005. The U.S. Awami League, the party’s American branch headed by Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Wazed, hired the firm to ensure that free elections would take place. The U.S. Awami League paid Alcalde & Fay $720,000 for 2005 and 2006, but has scaled back its operations in part because of scarce funding, Wazed said. Lobbyists were paid through donations to the U.S. Awami League, he added.

He said the contract with Alcalde & Fay is on hold and he is focused primarily on his mother’s case. A graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Wazed is in regular contact with members of Congress who focus on Bangladesh. Reportedly, last year’s violence between Zia’s and Hasina’s supporters brought to power Ahmed’s caretaker government and its military backers. The latter were widely considered a necessary intervention in a country riddled with corruption.

But now the jailings, the delay in elections and the prohibition of political assembly are raising concern among lawmakers.One of the most outspoken is Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia subcommittee. “While I believe that neither of the two major parties in Bangladesh have brought any great good to the Bangladeshi people, I’m hard-pressed to understand how an extra-constitutional process brings about political reform,” Ackerman said during a hearing before the congressional recess. “From where I sit, this looks remarkably like what [President Pervez] Musharraf did in Pakistan: Clear the field of mainstream parties and inadvertently open the door to Islamist parties, some of whom have particularly odious associations with known terrorists and terrorist organizations.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), who has a large number of Bangladeshis in his district, told The Hill that he impressed upon the Bangladeshi caretaker government both publicly and privately the need for a normalized political process.The caretaker government has presented a new roadmap that would culminate in elections at the end of 2008. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wrote a letter to Ahmed in July urging him to publish a timeline of the process.Crowley said he’d prefer the elections to be earlier, “but at the very least they should be on that date certain.”

He said he hopes the U.S. does not have to resort to cutting foreign aid to Bangladesh. “They risk [losing] U.S. funding, United Nations funding,” Crowley said. “We do not want to get to cutting the funding.” Senate appropriators fear that some of the funding is not being spent as intended — to counter terrorist activity and violent extremism. “The committee is concerned that this assistance may be misused to support the government’s use of emergency powers to stifle peaceful political dissent,” said the report to the Department of State and Foreign Operations 2008 appropriations bill.

While several members of Congress are voicing concern about the caretaker government, the State Department has welcomed what officials call “an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign.” The deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, John Gastright, said the Bush administration does not characterize the interim government as a military government, but recognizes that Bangladesh is a country in transition. The administration is monitoring the actions of the government and has urged it to respect due process and ensure that international standards of human rights are upheld,

Gastright added. “The caretaker government has outlined the road map for elections in 2008 […] and that road map includes a new computerized voter list, a reformed election law,” Gastright said in House testimony. “Perhaps even more significantly, the political parties that have long been a roadblock to democracy themselves are considering the internal reforms that provide an opportunity for fresh leadership and new ideas that would benefit the Bangladeshi people.”

He stressed that the caretaker government has had some “notable successes,” such as separating the lower courts from the executive branch and streamlining the operations of Bangladesh’s largest port.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have noted that the caretaker government has carried out more reforms than previous governments have enacted in the last 10 years, Gastright said.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Civil Military Relations in Bangladesh

Amader Shomoy Editor today wrote a signed commentary asking for military's entry into mainstream politics. Also today, a five-day international workshop on Democracy, Governance and Security Reforms began at a city hotel. Co-incidence?

This workshop is being organised by Bangladesh Institute of Strategic Studies and supported by Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Hawaii, USA. The presence of the US Charge De Affairs, including supporters of 1/11 (Dr. Kamal and host of familiar faces) reflect the current thinking within both the Bangladesh Military and the US.

The afternoon plenary session discussed on Civil-Military Relations: Bangladesh Perspective. The paper was presented by the Brig. General ATM Amin, Director, Counter Terrorism Bureau of DGFI.

Two interesting observations:

1. The banner at the back had a big picture of Shagshad Bhaban.
2. Of the four people sitting at dias, three were from military, one from civil: Dhaka University Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations.

The 13-page key-note paper doesn't provide much to talk about: it wanted a new model of civil-military relationship "to offer better and peaceful environment to its citizens".

Dr. Imtiaz made it clear that there is no Bangladesh without democracy. Dr. Ataur doesn't want to go back to pre 1/11. No body wants. Dr. Imtiaz tabled 11-point solutions to current situation:
1. Make society free from corruption and punish big fishes.
2. Allow freedom of expression, to all: media, academia etc.
3. Introduce internal democracy
4. Political supervision of military
5. Remove ugly face of dual economy (rich-poor gap)
6. Remove women's and minority discrimination, at all levels
7. Establish Sufi-character of Bengali Islam
8. Effective and non-party civil society
9. End of familycracy and regionalism
10. End of energy crisis and
11. Public Security Council to ensure limit to abuse of power.

I have few ideas of myself about civil-military relations in Bangladesh, which I will elaborate in future. For the moment, let me tell it bluntly: oil and water do not mix. They are made of different components. Sad that Bangladesh military is oblivious to this universal fact. Also, both represent a diametrically opposite systems: open (civil) and closed (military) system. No matter how best efforts are made, these two forces will never converge.

Would welcome remarks.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh- A Cocktail of ISI, Al-Qaeda and Taliban

A usual analysis from Read the story here:

Economist artilce on Bangladesh: Up to their necks

11 August 2007
The Economist
(c) The Economist Newspaper Limited, London 2007. All rights reserved
Bangladesh under water
Worse-than-usual monsoon havoc challenges the government's reputation
"I EXPECT to stay here for two to three weeks," says Mahmuda Khatun, a young, destitute mother of four, sitting on a narrow embankment in Sirajganj district, jam-packed with thousands of people, taking refuge from the rising waters of the Brahmaputra. A few kilometres upstream, the district town may disappear in the 12km-wide (7.5 miles) river. When Mahmuda was born, she says, the river flowed 15km east of the town.
By the middle of this week, some 40% of Bangladesh—a river delta the size of England with a population of 150m—was under water. Floods have also wreaked havoc in northern India and Nepal (see map on next page), as well as in Pakistan.
But it is in Bangladesh, as ever, that things seem bleakest. With weeks of the monsoon season still ahead, hundreds of people dead, about 10m stranded, and the relief operation still patchy, many believe that this year could be as bad as the devastating floods in 1998 and 2004.
For Bangladesh's unelected civilian government and the generals who installed it in January, the floods are a tough test of their popularity, which, in the absence of an electoral mandate, rests on their competence. Besides the humanitarian disaster, the government will also face economic difficulties. Food prices, already at a ten-year high, will inevitably rise further. Shortages of power and fertiliser will add to the woes. The government is under pressure to raise interest rates and (highly subsidised) energy prices.
Critics say economic management under the military-backed regime, with little taste for subtleties, has made things worse. A demolition drive directed at long-established markets at the beginning of the year hurt the informal economy and the poor. The main justification for its rule is a campaign against corruption. In the short term, however, that has crowded out investment in an economy built on illegal money and crimped the entrepreneurial spirit of those not yet in the clink. This week the government requested banks to submit to it account details of 198 "corrupt people"—mostly politicians and businessmen who thrived under the kleptocracies that have succeeded each other since 1991.
Meanwhile, the fates of the country's former leaders, Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League, prime minister between 1996 and 2001, and her nemesis, Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, appear to have been sealed. But few people seem to care any longer—at least for now. Sheikh Hasina, accused of extortion and complicity in murder, is locked up in the parliament complex. Khaleda Zia, prime minister until last October, is under house arrest. Many believe that it is only a matter of time before she joins the beneficiaries of her rule, who worked furiously to push the country to the top of international corruption rankings, in jail.
Two weeks into the flooding and seven months after declaring a war on corruption, Hasan Mashud Chowdhury, a former army chief and head of the powerful Anti-Corruption Commission, admits that his campaign is more "sticky" than expected. On August 7th the government said it would not distinguish between legal and illegal money for flood relief. It also asked for help from the political parties, which have been important contributors to past flood-relief efforts.
Yet the state of emergency remains in place and a military takeover, in slow motion, continues. The telecoms regulator, the public-service commission and the Bangladesh Cricket Board are the latest in a long list of institutions now run by the army. Safeguards on individual liberties are non-existent. Human Rights Watch, a monitoring outfit, this week accused the government's military-intelligence arm of routinely abusing its citizens' rights.
There seem only bad choices left. The sad reality is that Bangladesh is a place where all governments, including military ones, fail—so daunting are the challenges. The best that can be hoped for is that this one does not collapse before the generals manage some sort of orderly transition.

CTG has a political goal

Law Advisor gave an interview to Radiotoday and there he said , CTG has a political goal. "We are daal-niropekkho, rajniti-niropekkho noi. We have a political goal."

So, the true face is unfolding, day by day.