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La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

(21 juillet — 28 juillet)

Un étudiant a perdu la vue après avoir battu par Police. Des étudiants sont descendus dans la rue et ont demandé à announcer la date d’examen à  l’Université de Dhaka.
Police a chargé la foule et a tiré une bombe lacrymogène vers les étudiants. Elle a frappé les yeux d’un étudiant.Un portable a enregistré la querelle. Police a dit qu’elle allait se pencher sur l’incident.

Pluies torrentielles ont provoqué glissement de terrain à Cox’s Bazaar. Et le glissement y a tué 4 personnes dont deux enfants.
A Himchhari, un universitaire a été aussi tué à cause de glissement le dimanche.

Un employé de l’ambassade de la Chine au Bangladesh a divulgué que l’ Exim Bank of China allait financer construction d’un tunnel sous le Karnaphuli à Chittagong.

Une Cocotte-Minute a explosé dans un kiosque à thé à Khulna. RAB présume que quelqu’un y a mis une bombe à  retardement.

Selon un reportage du Prothom Alo, deux députés  du parti en exercice ont détourné Tk 24 milliards en se soumettant des projets religieux qui n’existent jamais.

(Cont)

Opportunities In Crisis

Congestion of container vessels cripples operation of country’s premier port. Crash of two gantry cranes on the eve of Eid hampered day to day operations of the port, causing delay in unloading the cargo.

The sluggish pace of port operation and the long queues of cargo vessels stirred  business community and precipitated meeting after a meeting with high govt officials.

Govt as usual has gone through the same drilling as it did in the past: evade responsibility and pass the blame.

The RMG exporters bear the brunt of this congestion. Several western countries  have put into place air cargo ban on Bangladesh. Air cargoes, though expensive, have proven to be the last ditch effort of the exporters to meet the deadline set by buyers.

As that card is limited on the table, exporters fear loosing future orders if the crisis prolongs. For this reason, they could not keep their calm and dressed down concerned officials in the official meetings.

The news of Chittagong port crisis has reached to RMG buyers and international ports. H&M officials have already expressed there concerns to the concerned authority and BGMEA.

According to a newspaper report the congestion of vessel  takes a vessel 12 days to berth in the jetties.

Every day 15 to 17 vessels await in outer anchorage. In this backdrop international vessel companies hike the rent of the container.

Country’s importers and exporters hinge heavily on this port. So the long tailback of cargo vessels caused a consternation among the merchant bodies.

As a drastic measure the port authorities nodded positively to a proposal of using the berthing facilities of Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Company Limited (CUFL).

The CUFL jetties were at the heart of a debate when ULFA arms haul rocked the nation.Police accidentally discovered arms consignments destined to neighboring states of India.

Moreover unlike the Chittagong port, CUFL jetties lacked the scanner to detect radioactive materials.

The new Payra port has not been considered as an alternative in spite of the fact that the new port has berthing facilities for bulk carriers. If the port were operational immediately after the onset of the crisis, tailback of vessels would not turn into worse.

The congestion of port also coincided with the soaring prices of coarse rice. Govt imported rice from abroad to resolve the crisis. If port authorities did not  prioritize unloading the rice carrying vessels, the price of rice would rise further.

This is where the port crisis becomes extremely important. Unless there is a direct intervention by the govt–a round the clock unloading of containers to ease the congestion– it will evidently raise the price of kitchen commodities.
And if the unfolding of this sort of  crisis influences an ongoing political  event, its consequences will be devastating for a govt.

The crane crash cropped up 2 days before Eid. Yet the authorities turned a blind eye to this congestion. They acted only when the international press carried the news on container congestion in Chittagong port.

The sheer number of unloaded containers also has repercussions. In the wake of this congestion, Chittagong port authorities unloaded more than nine thousands containers in a single day , a record for the port authorities. But the problem is due to lack of space they have to be cleared without going through a standard scrutiny. This means authorities will not know whether the containers contain the declared goods.Perhaps many containers may evade the US installed scanner and watchful eyes of the customs.

The chief of Chittagong port hinted that an ongoing legal battle with Penang port authority of Malaysia also contributed to the worsening of the congestion.

His remark also left us pondering over other alternatives. Recently Sri Lankan President Sirisena made an official visit to Bangladesh.  FTA between the two countries was mooted and 13 MoU were signed. The MoUs included coastal vessel agreement. Sri Lankan port Hambantota is underutilized because of lack of investments. If the port gets a part of Bangladesh’s Malaysia-bound vessels, the port will ratchet up its operations.

More than one million TEUs (20-foot Equivalent Units) of containers are transported from Chittagong to other destinations across the country every year. A big part of this is done through highways.

Govt took initiatives to increase container traffic in waterways. Yet the route did not garner much attention of  exporters and importers, who still prefer highways and rail route.

I do not want to buy the conspiracy theories surfaced after the crisis at face value. However I do echo some of the questions raised:

Why the crisis was not resolved at the first place? Why was it delayed?  Why a senior admiral of Navy is heading the Chittagong port authorities while the Navy operates an inland container vessel company? Was the congestion engineered to increase the frequency of container transport through waterways where a company closely associated with a ruling party leader and the Navy run company dominate the inland container ship business? Is it true that rent of container in the case of riverine transport is pegged high? Why do other ports not have scanners that could detect radioactive hazardous materials?

Country’s growth potential is hobbled by bottleneck of infrastructure. This kind of trouble in inadequate infrastructure will cut a swathe through export earnings. I wonder how the govt will achieve the $50 billion RMG export mark with creaky infrastructures and  men whose interests are not aligned with those of the department they are heading. An anemic economy will not bring any opportunities for our hard working businessmen, let alone cronies.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 14 juillet — 21 juillet)

Selon un reportage de New Straites Times, presque 3,546 Bangladais se sont profités de «Malaysia My 2nd Home» programme migratoire offert par Malaisie. Ils ont blanchi Tk 1,5 milliards pour MM2H programme.

Selon un reportage de l’IANS, Inde est prévenu Bangladesh sur Inondation. Inde a transmis les données avant le 30 juin.

Selon un rapport de Rand Corporation, il se peut qu’al-Qaeda augmente sa présence en Inde, au Bangladesh et au Pakistan.

Bangladesh et Sri Lanka vont bientôt signer accord de libre-échange. Les deux pays ont pris la décision pendant la visite officielle du président du Sri Lanka Sirisena.

Luttes intestines de la succursale étudiante du parti en exercice ont tué un fidèle et blessé 4 personnes.
A Sylhet, deux factions du Chhatra League se sont battus, laissant un tué par balle. A Rajshahi, la querelle entre deux bandes du Chhatra League a blessé 4 activistes. A Barishal, un dirigeant a violé une femme. Police l’a appréhendé.

Il n’y a pas de protestation, de manifestation , de causerie télévisée en signe de protestation de la mort de lauréat du prix Nobel  Liu Xiaobo dans la presse bangladaise. Mais des quotidiens ont publié traduction de la chronique de Project Syndicat. C’est une indication comment la Chine, premier fournisseur des armes de l’armée bangladaise et financier des  projets du développement, exercice son influence dans la presse bangladaise.

Immigration malaise n’a pas laissé à entrer activiste des droits de l’homme Adilur Rahman dans le pays. Adilur est critique de l’abdication, tuerie extrajudiciaire par gouvernement bangladais.

Monsoon Rage

How do you read the pulse of a well functioning  government? Answer is simple: how quickly it reacts to crisis. In that note the government scored badly as a functioning govt.

The heavy downpour in the upstream Indian plains caused our rivers to swell. Onslaught of flood left millions in destitution.

As the water level tended to rise beyond danger threshold, govt did not initiate any relief operations. Media round the clock reported the worsening of flood situation, reminding us its irreplaceable role in crisis situation.

Yet all their wake-up reporting fell into deaf years. A country that is the epitome of disaster management and set example for others miserably failed to come into the aid of people in distress.

The Haor disaster is still fresh in our minds. All the quarters rebuked the govt squarely for its sloppy management. Despite the news of their starvation, relief operations did not get underway. Politicians as usual resorted to stereotypes.
In addition, flash flood in Haor areas made a heavy dent in country’s Boro production, triggering a shortage in food stocks.Govt took initiative to import rice from abroad. Yet the delay in its action strayed the price of coarse rice northward. And still the price is hovering around Tk 42-45. Soaring food prices will further make the lives of flood-hit people wretched.

This time flood warning and forecasting was good. India relayed data on water level at key points of its major rivers. However it is not clear what was the lead time for forecast .Earlier it was more than 24-30 hours. As relations thawed between the countries, Bangladesh might signed agreements in this regard and the early warning time could be longer than before. Moreover, Bangladesh signed agreements with number of countries to share meteorological data and many countries have the ability to provide precise real time information. Even if a country failed  to comply, there are others.

The point is govt had all the necessary information to buckle down to face this seasonal phenomenon.  Yet it watched the misery unfolded doing nothing.

The press was deluged with reports on flood’s damage.

Till Saturday, raging Teesta has swallowed villages, crop fields on both side of its banks and around 300 homes went under water in Gaibandha.

In Kurigram, water level crossed danger level and inundated 8 new villages.

In Sirajganj flood water washed away part of flood protection embankment.

In Sariakandi , Bogra, swollen Jamuna submerged homes and schools, leaving 7000 people homeless.

In Jamalpur, flood left 150,000 people water-logged. Water-borne diseases broke out there.

In Moulavibazaar, onrush of water further deteriorated the flood situation. This adds to the sufferings of 300, 000 water-logged people.

In flood-hit areas, hundreds of schools have been shut down.Thousands of water logged people are stripped of basic necessities.

In the wake of flood, our politicians failed the litmus test of serving the people. Earlier there had been rat race to reach out the vulnerable with pile of relief goods.

At least they could call off the lavish dinner party or postpone their foreign trip in solidarity with the flood-hit people. They even lost that sense of responsibility.

When we were in schools, we saw reams of political activists went door to door seeking money, fistful of rice and worn-out clothes for the flood victims. We saw cafeterias at the universities and colleges  turned into a big kitchen table where volunteers were making hand-made chapatis, oral saline, packing puffed rice and water purifying tablets.

Rare now is that kind of volunteerism. Central to the flood response activities is dissemination of pictures and footages of relief distribution by politicians. Even that perfunctory display is absent in this year’s crisis.

We have recently purchased some utility helicopters. Even those are not deployed to transport relief and  rescue the vulnerable people trapped in water-logged areas.

Helpless villagers now cast their eyes on  submerged fields. They embrace an uncertain future. Unlike the previous disasters, this one rendered them more vulnerable. They count on govt.

Govt  does not deem the crisis severe. For this reason, its rustic machinery was not seen in action. Only Army was deployed to repair the damaged embankments.

No preparations are underway to tackle the epidemic of water-borne diseases in the post flood period. No call for NGO assistance is heard. Govt is not beefing up efforts, nor is it allowing NGOs to operate in flood-hit districts.

Lost orchard will be back. Lush green will be regenerated. Villages will be built. Crop fields will be in full bloom. Damaged embankments will be reconstructed. Roads will be patched up. But the lost trust on the politicians will not be recuperated.

These are the people who descended on the streets to restore democracy. These are the people who stormed Bastille to free their leaders. These are the people who broke into rebellion when their leaders called for a freedom struggle. These are the people  who laid siege to cities when enemy imprisoned their leaders. These are the people who risked their lives to bring out procession when democracy and their leaders trapped under authoritarian boots.

In their trying time, as the calamity unfolds with all its severity, they find none of their leaders by their side. They looked up and sought mercy of the supreme. Trust, loyalty, love, respect are not written in black and white clauses of a contract. They are tested and cemented as relationship grows. Any act that drives a wedge between people and politicians is tantamount to breach of trust.  Peoples’ lost confidence in politicians  augurs ill for  the future of fragile democracy.

The atmosphere of lack of trust feeds the preachers of depoliticization. Next time do not expect any storming of Bastille, siege to the city, popular uprising against tyrannical regimes when the politicians are in trouble. People are appalled at the inaction of our politicians in the wake of this monsoon trouble. Can our politicians read that?

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 7 juillet — 14 juillet)

Incendie a encore ciblé un atelier de confection. Cette fois l’incendie  a ravagé Medler Fashions à Uttara, laissant beaucoup de travailleurs blessés.

Un restaurant sur le toit d’un bâtiment  a exclu le service aux  étrangers. Le resto «Lake Terrace» a pris la décision suite au conseil de propriétaire.Le propriétaire a peur que l’acte terroriste comme Holey Artisan Bakery Attack se déroule si les étrangers y mangent.

Un avion-école de l’armée de l’air s’est écrasé à Chittagong. Yak 130 a été acheté avec le crédit russe. Les pilotes se sont éjectés.

A Sitakunda des enfants indigènes à «Tripura para» sont morts de la maladie inconnue. Une équipe de médecins s’y sont rendus pour se pencher sur  la raison.

Bangladesh va bientôt acheter  deux avions militaires C 130J C5 depuis Angleterre. Bangladesh  achetera aussi 10 hélicoptères pour gendarmerie maritime. Blog militaire «Bdmilitary» a corroboré les nouvelles.

Cricketer Tamim Iqbal et sa femme ont subi des attaques racistes en Angleterre où Tamim est allé pour assister  au tournoi anglais de Cricket.L’administration du Cricket anglais et celle de Bangladesh n’ont pas divulgué la nouvelle à la presse.

Un policier a tué sa femme par balles et s’est suicidé chez lui à Mirpur.  La police présume que querelle familiale a provoqué la tuerie. Le policier a deux femmes et  s’est marié sa belle-sœur.

Meet The Bangla Ba’athists

The sixties are called the decade of decolonization. New countries, revolutions, radicals, bigots and spread of radical thoughts. The tumultuous decade also gave birth to a radical generation in Bangladesh.

They were the vanguards in many political movements. Later, their footprints can be traced in many of the upheavals Bangladesh had gone through.

Rare are the books that tell us about them and their organizations.

“JaSoDer Utthan Poton: Asthir Shomoyer Rajniti” by Mohiuddin Ahmed is one of those rare books.The book is special for another reason: it brought to fore for the first time the little known links between the radical lefts and the Ba’aths in Maghreb.

The book enthralled me, left me bemused and made me ponder.

First, I would like to make it clear, throughout this write up the term “radical” denotes the radical left and this piece is not a review of the book in question rather it underscores the links between the Ba’aths and the radicals here and their role in creating political quagmire.

The Ba’athists have their roots in the middle east. Theirs was a pan Arab movement that swept across the countries in the region and resulted in coups and counter-coups. Many of the authoritarian rulers in the region were the Ba’athists and they hold their countries together subduing  and oppressing the rivals. They spared no opportunity to build rapport with likeminded ideological groups of other countries and offered them training and money. For instance, construction of dashing sports complexes in developing world, providing safe refuge to coup plotters, creation of scholarship funds in foreign universities like LSE, publication and dissemination of their political literatures abroad were  done through their money.

The radical lefts of Bengal have long been garnered a lot if interest in the West. When the cry of separation of the united Bengal filled the air of political atmosphere in India they came to the limelight.

Brazen political statements made by unimaginable acts of terror. The list of Bengal’s firebrand radicals is endless: from Khudiram to Bagha Jatin, to Surya Sen, to Subhash Chandra Bose.

Many in the West took a lot of interest in them. Leonard A Gordon wrote a colossal work, “Brothers Against The Raj”, on Subhash Chandra Bose and Sharat Chandra Bose.

Bangladesh has been plagued by the coups and counter-coups since its birth. And the radicals have to take a fair share of the blame.

In Bangladesh very few have the authority and are the repositories of history of radical movement to write about the radicals. Mohiuddin Ahmed who himself was an activist and works in the development field is one of them. In addition, he wrote a book on the radicals. He wrote this book on JaSoD in 2014 and Prothoma published the book. I have not had the opportunity to go through the book. Recently, a critical comment on the social networking site aroused my interest about the book. We exactly do not know how much truth the anecdotes contain. But the writer seems to have consulted the facts with the concerned persons before producing them into his book.

No protest has been heard since its publication.

Radical ideologies, be it left or right, are dangerous when they percolated through the soldiers breaching all the safeguarding mechanisms in the garrison and when the more ambitious soldiers among them try to do something extra constitutional.

Major Jalil, Col Taher and his brother Abu Yusuf’s, the men behind Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, political indoctrination began in the Army. They passed down their military knowledge to their disciples while they were on vacation. Theirs was an independent group outside the mainstream political parties. After the Bangladesh came into being, radicals of other parties joined JaSoD. The names include ASM Abdur Rob, Sirajul Alam Khan, Major Bajlul Huda. It was Fort Bragg trained  and former Special Service Group commando Col Taher who was the group’s most charismatic leader. Hasanul Haq Inu, current minister of Information, Quazi Aaref, Sharif Nurul Alam Ambia, Taher’s brother Anwar Hossain are the other key figures of the party. Unwarranted violence of ruling party’s militia led them to take a violent course of action. The night before the fateful 15 August in 1975 the group carried out a bombing campaign at Dhaka University. One of their activists turned BUET teacher Nikhil Chandar Saha died while making bombs at a secret hideout. The group’s most cynical act was an attempt to hijack the then Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka. It was foiled by the Indian guards and four of the hijackers were shot dead.

The book presents several anecdotes on the group’s links with the assassins of Bnagabandu Sheikh Mojibur Rahman. The most important of them is their ties  with the Gaddafi regime. Exiled killers of Bangabandhu found refuge in Libya and were working under the auspices of Gaddafi’s intelligence officer Colonel Salem. The killers of Bangabandhu contacted the JaSod leadership and invited them to send party cadres to “International Camps”, military training centers for grooming party cadres of likeminded groups.

Abu Yusuf’s Mohammadpur resident was used to hold a discussion between Major Jalil and other JaSod leaders. On several batches hundreds of recruits were sent to Libya to take military trainings.

JaSoD’s mouthpiece Daily Ganokantha, shut down by Mujib regime, resumed publication with generous funding from Libyan Dictator. Over time this relationship grew. Local Libyan embassy started to provide funds to JaSod. Prominent intellectual Ahmed Sofa was tasked with translating Gaddafi’s “Green Book” and received generous amount from the embassy officials. Daily Ganokantho regularly published the translated Green Book.

Even the group’s links can be traced with the assassination of General Zia. It was assumed that General Manzur, then General Officer Commanding of Chittangong, was the plotter of the killing. General Manzur was cousin of JaSod leader Sirajul Alam Khan( author is not certain about this family ties).JaSod was furious against Zia, who rose to power in the political maelstrom created by JaSod and hanged thousands of its activists.

Subsequent military regimes split it into several factions. Islamic radicals were let loose on JaSoD activists in public universities. Still they retained their power in several universities and waged several successful movements against the govt including the restoration of democracy in 1990.

Many Ganokantha intellectuals teamed with Jamaat run publication  syndicates including Mowlana Mannan’s Inquilab. Mannan got lucrative construction contract in Saddam’s Ba’athist Iraq.

Often infighting in the radical lefts and feud between rival groups  led to label others as ” foreign agents”, “foreign operatives”, “CIA”, “ISI”, ” RAW”, “Yes-men of Mao”, “Yes-Men of Lenin”. This is as far the book tells about JaSod.

The radicals were the outspoken critics of Iraq’s war and the” Arab Spring” that upended the Arab  regimes. However the were silent about the brutalities committed by these dictators.

When Poverty stricken Rajshahi  witnessed the rise of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, you could again traced the Ba’athist connection. A Jamaat activist turned Coaching center director became the head of the terror outfits who felt the urge to cleanse the region of the radical lefts.

The two-year long rule of the Caretaker regime spared JaSod. None of their leaders landed in jail.Even a JaSod loyalist became IGP whose daughter was widowed in BDR mutiny, an event that also witnessed the murder of RAB Intel chief Colonel Gulzar. Colonel Gulzar arrested the JMB leadership including Bangla Bhai. Rumors say that the IGP was posted as head of Police in Rajshahi when JMB leader Bangla Bhai was consolidating power.

JaSod can be traced again into political controversy when Justice A B M Khairul Haq dropped the provision of Caretaker Government from the constitution. This order ceased functioning of a safe power transfer mechanism. Rumors say he was a JaSod loyalist.

When the present  govt assumed  power, it revived the Bangabandhu murder trial and hanged most of the convicted killers including the killers living under Gaddafi support.
With their demise, govt sapped umbilical cord between them and their loyalists. However,their supporters are still pretty much active in Bangladesh.

Then came the ISIS.It was reported that former Ba’athists hold sway over the ISIS leadership.

Bangladesh  outright rejected IS presence here.  ISIS mouthpiece Daabiq ran several  features on Bangladeshi jihadist and runs Bangla propaganda programs, showing the importance of Bangladesh in  jihadists’ radar screen. Ba’aths links with the radicals contradicts govt statement.

It is very interesting that former foes now share the govt. Once the radicals took the violent path as a mean to resist an oppressive regime. Now they are muzzling the press with the introduction of draconian laws and bringing spurious charges against the journalists.

In brief, it is evident that in all our political and social upheavals the radicals played a role willingly or unwillingly. And caused lots of havocs in the lives of millions of Bangladeshis. From Public offices to universities to the Army to media outlets, their footprints can be traced. In this country we empowered the radicals who protect their interests like a badger, even at the cost of the majority. These radicals in the end contributed to the creation of an anarchic society.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 1 juillet — 7 juillet)

Une explosion de chaudière dans un atelier de confection a tué 13 personnes et blessé 50. Les reportages dans la presse indiquent que la chaudière était expiré. Les travailleurs se sont dit que la chaudière avait mis en garde deux fois avant l’explosion. Mais les responsables n’en sont pas tenu compte.

Un essayiste droitiste a été abdiqué par des gens inconnus. 18 heures plus tard il a été trouvé à Khulna. Les abducteurs ont demandé Tk 3,5 millions à sa famille. La nouvelle a bouleversé tout le pays.
Transparency International Bangladesh s’en est pris à la nouvelle politique de surveiller la presse numérique.

Human Rights Watch dans un communiqué a demandé enquête de l’ONU sur toutes les abdications et tueries par les forces de l’ordre.  En 2013 et 2015, « Working Group on Enforced  or Involuntary  Disappearance» de l’ONU a voulu à aller au Bangladesh. Mais le groupe n’a pas reçu la feu verte du gouvernement bangladais. Jusqu’en mai 2016, 34 plaintes d’abdication ont déposé à l’ONU.