Thursday, March 31, 2005

BANGLADESH: When fundamentalism threatens democracy

Sounds familiar? Just like Pakistan, its former overlord, this nation of 140 million people—the third most populous in the Muslim world—though it once fought against radical Pakistan and achieved independence from it in 1971, is slowly moving away from its tradition of moderate Islam. Both the major political parties (BNP and Awami League) are harbouring or taking them as their allies, in turn, directly or indirectly, in order to counter each other in the short run. But it is well known to them that in the long run none of them will be spared by these deadly elements. A good few of the ruling BNP care for or are inclined to Islamic fundamentalist parties/groups. They allegedly patronize and favour the pro-Islamic institutions, organizations, newspapers and their people. As a result, the talented are being denied being in authority/important positions in most cases.........More

BANGLADESH: Dilemma for Donors

Clearly, now an uneasy relationship exists between the donor community and Bangladesh. By defending the Islamists openly, now the ruling coalition has shown its true colour. The right wing Islamist orientation of this coalition was known, since it came to power in October 2001. But no one expected such a brazen defence of Islamist forces by the top leadership of the country. Now it is amply clear, why Islamists have been operating with such ease in Bangladesh and why despite orders from the Prime Minister, Bangla Bhai, the operations commander of JMJB was not arrested. Probably, the order was never seriously meant to be implemented. Bangladesh seems to be exploiting the helplessness of the donor community, who think that if they withdraw from the country, situation would worsen. It may become another breeding ground of terrorism like Afghanistan. But, by continuing their assistance also donors have not been able to check the increasing hold of Islamists on the Bangladesh society. In fact, Islamists have now started attacking NGOs whom they think to be agents of Western powers......More

BANGLADESH: The trap of one-sided security focus

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"Security" and "threat" are cognate words and one may be forgiven for using them in a fungible manner. Any discourse on security must of necessity take into consideration the entire threat scenario and the consequent strategic footprint that would need to be studied by the strategic planners. Any discussion on Bangladesh's security scenario has to be done in the context of the regional developments, and that must also be done within several parameters like the reconcep-tualisation of the term "security," nature of future conflicts, and the special features of the South Asian system..................More

ISLAM: Arab and Muslim professors at US universities remain target

According to Dr. Bazizn, the firestone that engulfed the university was a determined effort by the Evangelical Christian Right which wanted to build and maintain a negative construct of Islam in America and prevent an educated alternative from emerging. And this battle ended with court going and thus giving Prof. Shells victory, able to teach “Approaching the Quran, the Early Revelation” to the incoming freshmen. The focus in this case was on Islam and how to represent it inside the classroom, an area not suited to the Evangelical Christian Right and their supporters considering the dynamics......More

CHINA: Full Text of Human Rights Record of the US in 2004

The United States characterizes itself as "a paradise for free people," but the ratio of its citizens deprived of freedom has remained among the highest in the world. Statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last November showed that the nation made an estimated 13.6 million arrests in 2003. The national arrest rate was 4,695.1 arrests per 100,000 people, 0.2 percent up than that of the previous year (USA Today, Nov. 8, 2004). According to statistics from the Department of Justice, the number of inmates in the United States jumped from 320,000 in 1980to 2 million in 2000, a hike by six times. From 1995 to 2003, the number of inmates grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the country, where one out of every 142 people is behind bars. The number of convicted offenders may total more than 6 million if parolees and probationers are also counted. The Chicago Tribune reported on Nov. 8 last year that the federal and state prison population amounted to 1.47 million last year, 2.1 percent more than in 2003. The number of criminals rose by over 5 percent in 11states, with the growth in North Dakota up by 11.4 percent and in Minnesota by 10.3 percent.......................More

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

BANGLADESH: RAB - The good, bad and ugly

RAB, a year ago, was constituted as a hybrid force with personnel drawn from the army, navy, airforce, police, BDR and later coast guard. Members of the police force were also there. As was reported in the news dailies, there were initial confusion about the command and control of the force and the role of police. It is not known whether this has since been solved. Bringing RAB under the jurisdiction of armed police battalion virtually meant that members of RAB would be controlled and guided by the relevant law as it relates to the armed police battalion. However, this is not very clear. This is because the members of RAB are drawn from dissimilar sources of recruitment such as the army, navy, the airforce, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), coast guard, and the police. Each has its own law as it relates to discipline and punishment. How this problem is dealt with remains as yet unknown.............More

ASSESSMENT:India’s security fears hold sway when dealing with neighbours

We were under the illusion that the king’s actions were about fighting Maoists. India read out the riot act almost two weeks too late, and there is some evidence that India’s message was not as categorically received as India had hoped. The king is still reading too many caveats into our messages and apparently believes that India and the United States of America will not put maximum pressure for fear of sending him closer to China. India, at this juncture, has very little locus standi: even our ambassador can be sent away without an audience......More

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

BANGLADESH: Despotic Desperation - The Rapid 'Assassination' Battalion

Have we even thought even for once, that for every 'terrorist' killed in a 'crossfire', there are probably a hundred alive out there, who have the sophistication, skill and accuracy to shoot and kill only their 'leader' in the dark of night, with indigenously developed weapons that are inherently inaccurate but deadly? If we are talking about anybody being 'elite' here, and if the RAB stories are to be believed as 100% kosher, we have to face the prospect of deadly 'elite' criminals on the loose, and RAB is surely no match for them........More

PAKISTAN: Seeds of discord

Mr Bhutto had realized the power and strength of the armed forces when he had described the army as the third major political party of Pakistan. This reality continues to be recognized even today. Ms Benazir Bhutto, who has inherited her father's political acumen, is fully aware of this reality. She knows that if she wants to govern this troubled country, she has to make compromises with the visible and invisible rulers It appears that from day one, our policymakers failed to understand the psychology of the people of the eastern wing. The Bengalis are by nature very emotional people and they love their language and culture. But at the same time they were patriotic Pakistanis and fully supported the cause of Pakistan. It is a matter of historical record that they looked to Pakistan for their salvation. It is common knowledge that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had travelled to New Delhi riding a bicycle to have a glimpse of Mr Jinnah. How could he turn into a rebel?..........More

INDIA: United Liberation Front of Assam [ULFA] - A Deviated Movement?

Adopting extra constitutional means to protect the socio-economic ecology of Assam, ULFA leaders raised the issue of Assamese nationalism and gave it a militant and radical turn. They maintained that India's national mainstream had no meaning when the country's leadership failed to meet the aspiration of their people. They argued that independent political power was the only option for the organised ethnic group of this State that remained in seclusion for centuries. For them ethical solution to socio-economic and socio-political malady could be possible only through revolutionary changes it could be evolved only by independent political power............More

ANALYSIS: Changing perceptions in emerging global order

Politically, the US would seek to engage centres of influence like its NATO and EU Allies, Japan, Russia, China and India. While there is little doubt that the US can perpetuate its global military “dominance”, there are doubts whether it can retain its global economic clout, to the exclusion of other players. The present global order is going to largely revolve around the directions that American policies take in quest for global “primacy”.. After attempting to engage the US and secure American recognition and respect for its interests in the erstwhile Soviet republics, President Putin appears to have concluded that there is a conscious US effort to contain and undermine Russian influence in its “near neighbourhood”, especially in the light of the recent developments in Georgia and Ukraine. Japan has won “unambiguous” American support for its candidature for Permanent Membership of the Security Council after it joined the US on the Taiwan issue.
China is now perceived by the Americans as a long-term challenge and threat, though there are disagreements within the US on how the emergence of China as a competing global power in the Asia—Pacific can be handled...........More


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How are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal faring in countering the drug menace?

All these countries are threatened in different ways. Pakistan is a neighbour of Afghanistan and an unquantified but presumed large amount of Afghan opium and heroin enters the country both for consumption there and onward trafficking. Also, as was reported recently, we are now starting to see an increase in opium production in the country's North West Frontier Province. In Bangladesh, smuggling, diversion and abuse of pharmaceuticals originating elsewhere in South Asia is considered to be the single largest drug problem. Because Nepal shares porous borders with India, the resulting free flow of goods and people is used to conceal trafficking in both drugs and human beings........More

ANALYSIS Changing perceptions in emerging global order

Politically, the US would seek to engage centres of influence like its NATO and EU Allies, Japan, Russia, China and India. While there is little doubt that the US can perpetuate its global military “dominance”, there are doubts whether it can retain its global economic clout, to the exclusion of other players. The present global order is going to largely revolve around the directions that American policies take in quest for global “primacy”. After attempting to engage the US and secure American recognition and respect for its interests in the erstwhile Soviet republics, President Putin appears to have concluded that there is a conscious US effort to contain and undermine Russian influence in its “near neighbourhood”, especially in the light of the recent developments in Georgia and Ukraine. Japan has won “unambiguous” American support for its candidature for Permanent Membership of the Security Council after it joined the US on the Taiwan issue......More

Sunday, March 27, 2005

INDIA: North East in Retrospect

The Pakistani Army could not accept the disgrace of defeat, surrender and loss of power. They, therefore, seized power again after a short period of civilian rule and formulated a strategy of proxy war to try and defeat and balkanise India. They decided to make “India bleed through a thousand cuts” by active support to all dissident movements and through religious fundamentalism and terrorism. They, therefore, converted Pakistan into an Islamic state. They realised that India could not be defeated through conventional war and, therefore, decided to go nuclear with well equipped conventional forces, to deter India from retaliatory strikes. India was also then constrained to go nuclear which annoyed both China and the West. The Bangladesh Army also took control of Bangladesh. Both armies joined hands to try and defeat India and achieve their original ideals. Bangladesh also continued with the pre-partition strategy of the Muslim League, and subsequently of Pakistan, to ensure maximum migration into the North-East and Bengal so that, after demographic change, these areas would secede to Bangladesh. They knew that they could not defeat India conventionally. The strategy was, therefore, to ensure migration, ally with China and Pakistan, fan religious fundamentalism (they therefore also converted into an Islamic state), build up conventional forces for defence and provide maximum support to Indian dissident groups...........More

BANGLADESH: Religious extremism: Some ado about something

Two general trends are discernible in the activities of these extremist outfits. First, the major one is intended to bring about the so-called Islamic revolution in the country. But what this revolution means has never been clearly spelt out. In the name of Islam much has been done by these outfits that do contravene the essence of Islam. For one thing, Islam does not permit this kind of anti-human activity, and also a resort to terrorism (for example, la ikraha fi-ddin). Second, a minor one, but nevertheless at variance with the essence of Islam is the so-called Khatame Nabuwat Movement targeting the minority religious group known as the Ahmadyas. The government handling of the situation arising out of the activities of this outfit has so far been unclear, and on the whole, appeared to be placating the outfit. But, for doing so the government has been accused of violating the spirit of the constitution of the Republic; and of violating human rights by the international community, including the Amnesty International. Moreover, in tandem with these two major trends, a minor one has been witnessed in the recent past. A group of people belonging to some political coterie went on rampage at a madrasa complex in Bhola burning the entire infrastructure and torching as many as 200 copies of the Holy Quoran. This is a heinous act that reminds us the one done by the Pakistan army in 1971. That such an act can take place in a country where Islam enjoys the status of a state religion, and also in a country which is reportedly crammed with born again Muslims shows how much Islam has been denigrated by the politically motivated quarters.....More

Motivated journalism troubling Bangladesh

The latest twist in this whole string of anti-Bangladesh propaganda centring on Dr. Rice's visit to India was the UNB story published in the national dailies on March 22. The story said: "There has been no development of specific initiatives on US-Indo cooperation on issues pertaining to Bangladesh, a spokesperson for the US embassy told UNB, responding to a query about what US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had stated in India about the US-India initiatives to deal with the security situation in Bangladesh." If the story had been done as an admission of serious reporting errors in the past, that would have earned kudos from the adherents of ethical journalism. But the story continued with another round of vitriolic utterances on the state of affairs in Bangladesh: "The US mission in Dhaka, along with counterparts of other donor organisations, are concerned by the deterioration of governance in Bangladeshespecially by political violence and the law and order situation." The spokesperson actually said, "Threats to, and attacks upon the press, the political opposition, cultural institutions, and minority communities are all causes for concern." This is what I would call motivated, partisan, hostile, and unpatriotic journalism.........More

STUDY: The ruling class in Bangladesh

The new rulers were not new, either; they belonged to the same middle class which was rising. The new independence opened up for it limitless opportunities of gaining in wealth and power through misappropriation of aid and loan, illegitimate trade and commerce, expropriation of industries and public property, robbing of small savers' deposits in the banks, looking after the interests of the multinationals, and the like. It is because of the misdeeds of the ruling class that the country remains poor. That militant fundamentalism has been rising menacingly is also due to its patronisation -- both direct and indirect. Directly, the rulers have competed with one another in their use of religion politically -- to win votes, and at the same time keep the people forgetful of their worldly miseries. Indirectly too they have been encouraging militant fanaticism to grow by setting up madrashas. That madrasha education has been a breeding ground of the Talibans is now being recognised by its promoters -- both foreign and indigenous -- in Pakistan, much to their own discomfiture...............More

BANGLADESH: Liberation War - Bridging the Security Gap

Nothing appeared to have happened in the next five weeks to indicate that developments were taking place along the expected line. The public expectations meanwhile kept on boiling in favour of 'political solution,' to be mediated by the US, which received a set back during the third week of June, after the disclosures that a number of US ships were sailing towards Pakistan carrying armament spares and component. The hype reached its highest point on the occasion of President Nixon's national security adviser, Dr. Kissinger's visit to New Delhi during first week of July. I received a message around that time from PNH enquiring about the progress made towards formation of the national front. That was the first indication in more than a month that the approach decided upon earlier was still relevant, despite all the interactions between India and the US at various levels. But Tajuddin meanwhile made little progress in floating the proposal of national alliance, since he faced hostile factional campaigns on the advent of AL elected representatives' conference (July 5 and 6 ) at Siliguri, and he barely succeeded in pacifying a powerful faction openly advocating for 'going back to the country to carry on fight or seek reconciliation with Pakistan, since India had let us down in every respect.'.....More

V-Day Special : Remembering our American friends

It is indeed unfortunate that President Nixon and his National Security Advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger did not view our liberation struggle as our bid to establish our democratic rights. Instead, they had looked at it in the context of East-West rivalry of the Cold War era. Nixon's tilt in favor of Pakistan had completely blinded him. At that time he and his associates were using Islamabad as conduit for establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing, and they were not concerned about the sufferings of the people of Bangladesh. Today, in this era of globalization, there is so much concern for democracy and human rights; and it is sad that our people had to face such atrocities and were subjected to the worst violations of human rights when they had merely asked for the establishment of their democratic rights. Ironically, in 1999, Kissinger had to chair the selection board, and then present, the UNESCO Peace Prize to our former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Paris. He sounded apologetic when he mentioned in his speech that they were "misinformed" about the situation in Bangladesh........More

Saturday, March 26, 2005

ASSESSMENT: US-Bangla relations: Making a mountain out of a molehill

As reports of joint Indo-US initiative to contain the 'troubling' situation in Bangladesh were orchestrated in the Indian media, in India-friendly Bangladeshi newspapers and in the Internet, reactions in the country were comically topsy-turvy. Politicians and newspaper commentators of the leftist opposition who are usually very anti-American, seemed to like the Idea of Indo-US intervention to upset the bandwagon of the ruling alliance. A commentator dared the Prime Minister to chide Dr Rice as she had chided, in the Parliament, foreign diplomats who had openly debated issues concerning the internal politics of Bangladesh.There was an express denial by the US embassy in Dhaka. In a press release, it stated that there was no actual initiative jointly undertaken by India and the USA to change the situation in Bangladesh. There was also the news that an FBI representative is again in Dhaka to finalise terms of reference for investigating Kibria's killing and other mysterious bomb-blasts, signifying direct US-Bangladesh cooperation on internal security issues. Reports from Washington suggested that the delay in FBI's arrival was on account of procedural complications of the FBI bureaucracy itself, and the USA was keen on providing help to Bangladesh for its internal security needs............More

STUDY: Contempt of Court and Rule of Law in Bangladesh

When Tariq Zias, Indira, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhis, Benazir Bhuttos, Bandaranayakes, Khaledas and Hasinas become totally irrelevant and almost unknown entities among the bulk of the population (as nobody in Britain regards Tony Blair’s wife or Winston Churchill’s children politically important), we should forget about having democracy. However, before Bangladesh becomes a democracy through evolution (we cannot expect visionary Maiji rulers or even a Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Muhammad – we only have Ershad-Khaleda-Hasina-Nizami and their likes), at least the educated Bangladeshis should start with the respect for law, equality, justice and freedom. Unfortunately, the way our politicians call names and portray each other as “killers”,” terrorists”, “Taliban agents”, “Indian agents”, “thieves”, “thugs” and what not, we cannot have the desired rule of law, a sine qua non for corruption free and accountable, if not democratic government in Bangladesh......More

BANGLADESH : Aroj Ali Matubbor, the rustic rebel


He shows how orthodox thinking falls short of a good answer to the questions he raises; it is also ridden with contradictions. To pick a few examples: in Islam, as in other religions, God has no shape or form. The non-corporal nature God makes it impossible for Him to sit or stand in the sense in which we use those words. Yet, in the holy books He is sometimes depicted as one sitting on his throne. How is one to reconcile the two irreconcilables? I am not sure whether Aroj Ali was aware of the following riposte to that question by Malik Ibn Anas, founder of the Maliki school of Islamic thought: "The sitting [God's] is well-known, its modality is unknown, belief in it is obligatory and questioning it is a heresy". But he was well aware of the broad argument, which has been repeated many times, and which of course has nothing to do with reason. Similarly, he asks, if God is omnipresent, why was it necessary for the Prophet to ascend the high heavens to meet with Him?.......More

MYANMAR: Karenni rebels dig in for last stand

Some observers believe the attacks on the KNU and KNPP are directly linked to the fall of General Khin Nyunt. The theory goes that with Khin Nyunt out of the way, the even-more hardline generals in Yangon, such as SPDC vice chairman General Maung Aye, are free to seek a military solution to the country's "ethnic question" But while Khin Nyunt's downfall is a factor, the reasons for the attacks are more complex. One issue is the increased willingness of the KNPLF to join forces with the SPDC. According to Tu Reh, a senior KNPP leader, "We believe that the SPDC paid around 70 million Burmese kyat [US$12.47 million] some time ago to the KNPLF, in exchange for their help to fight the KA. For a long time, they did nothing. But then, after Khin Nyunt was ousted, the ceasefire groups started to come under a lot of pressure. The generals in Rangoon [Yangon] have pushed them to take part in its National Convention, which is now working on a new constitution. The junta has made clear that, once the convention is over, the ceasefire groups will have to disarm."..........More

V-Day Special: Assessing our image on our National Day

On this day, we must be bold enough to accept that Bangladesh today suffers from poor governance, and that this situation has been created not only by certain politicians, but also by other stake-holders like bureaucrats, and officials responsible for law and order as well as dispensing of justice. We need not misunderstand international concern for good governance in Bangladesh as an effort to run down our country. Instead, we should undertake self-analysis and try to identify where we have gone wrong. It is not enough to go into a collective denial mode. It must not be interpreted in a short-sighted manner, as being part of a 'political conspiracy,' aided and abetted by foreign interests, eager to destabilise the country. That would indeed be very simplistic. We just cannot afford such a reaction...............More

Friday, March 25, 2005

BANGLADESH : Our RAB worries

It is a sad situation. In a country where policemen are regularly accused of bribery and extortion, the setting up of RAB, for its all subsequent excesses, was looked upon as a sign of positive change. If it is now RAB itself which falls prey to temptation, the result can only be despair, and then more of it, among citizens. Lest that come to pass, it will be a good thing for RAB to keep the country informed of the ways by which it has been penalising its undisciplined members. Let the nation keep a watchful eye on those whose responsibility is to provide security of life and property to people. .............More

INDIA: Winners who lose

What is the result? Of the Western democracies, any democracy, for that matter, the US alone has its levers intact, and penetrated further, in Nepal, to the anger and dismay of China, while we are getting snubbed on a daily basis by the king, to the delight and satisfaction of Pakistan, Gyanendra’s newest friend in need. But it is beyond ideology and realpolitik, and concerns management of foreign relations, not merely the conduct of it................More

Thursday, March 24, 2005

V-Day Special: An Army Insider's Honest Expose of Atrocities in East Pakistan Debacle

The infamous Niazi signature: 90,000 troops surrendered to India in Dhaka

The election results could not have been farther from Yahya’s calculations. Badly let down by the intelligence agencies, Yahya decided to pursue a new course of action. His famous reference to Mujib as the future prime minister was in reality no more than “a calculated maneuver aimed at, first to set the military against Mujib, and second, to provoke the Pakistan Peoples Party.” The worried generals then recruited Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to ensure that any chance of a compromise with Mujib would be non-existent. In fact, as Siddiqi informs us, General Umar even met many West Pakistani minority party leaders to actively dissuade them from attending the first National Assembly session at Dhaka. Not surprisingly, East Pakistan soon went on the boil in the face of such intransigence. And the army-controlled West Pakistani media retaliated by accusing East Pakistanis of treason..............More

ANALYSIS: Chinese Military Buildup Causes US Concern

Chinese look at military weapons and missiles on display at the Peoples Military Museum in Beijing

A recent report prepared for the U.S. Defense Department says China is proceeding with a substantial military buildup, leading some experts to worry that 25 years after starting its economic reforms, China may soon have the means to project military power in new and, from the U.S. point of view, potentially dangerous ways.According to the report issued by the Defense Department in November and made public in January, China has built a series of facilities and strategic relationships stretching to the south and west from its own coastal waters. The facilities and relationships involve Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan...............More

FLASH: To finish fencing, BSF may get 'licence to kill'

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Determined to complete the barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border, the Manmohan Singh government may give a go-ahead to the BSF to resort to "firing beyond limited exchange" against the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR)................More

INDIA: Guilt by any other name

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A psychoanalyst would probably find much more in the sometimes overlapping and sometimes disparate layers of Modi's arguments against the American decision than a columnist. There is a hint of self-incrimination in the plea that if others who have violated human rights can be permitted to visit America, and even welcomed (he can hardly resist mentioning President Pervez Musharraf), why should he be denied a visa? At other moments, there are suggestions that India's sovereignty has been undermined. Er, not quite. It takes more than a denied visa to undermine our sovereignty. But Narendra Modi does provide one splendid suggestion. Should India refuse a visa to the United States Chief Of Army Staff because of the alleged violation of human rights in Iraq?............More

ASSESSMENT: Advantage China

Despite different political systems, China and India are aggressively pursuing economic liberalisation for growth. Both the countries tout science and technology, and exports as a basis for their growth. Yet, their strategic paths for economic development are remarkably different. China's strategy is methodical and deliberate, while that of India's is chaotic and opportunistic. This article compares the growth strategies of China and India since they will impact a third of humankind by 2050, influence world-wide job migration, and provide valuable lessons for other developing countries......More

BLOGOSPHERE: Salutes to Our Nepalese colleagues

Originally, United We Blog! was not politically oriented. This changed only with the coup, and with it, its readership which multiplied more than six fold between the end of January and the first three weeks of March, from 13,000 to over 80,000..............More

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

ASSESSMENT: Bangladesh becoming centre of global terrorism?

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What worries India, the United States and Europe is the fact that taking full advantage of the Khaleda Hasina confrontation, anti-social elements and terrorists have dangerously entrenched themselves in Bangladesh. Frequent bombing of Opposition’s public meetings especially targeting Sheikh Hasina and her party colleagues in the Awami League could well be the work of those who want to crush democracy in Bangladesh to pave the way, initially, for the Army takeover and ultimately for Talibanisation of the country. Khaleda Zia’s second coming as the Prime Minister in October 2001 has proved a boon for the anti-democracy obscurantist forces and terrorists who would like to use Bangladesh as a springboard for their worldwide activities..........More

BANGLADESH: Appeal for journalists threatened by Islamist gangs

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal on behalf of three Bangladeshi journalists - among them the winner of Index on Censorship’s 2005 Hugo Young prize for journalism, Sumi Khan – all of whom have received written death threats from Islamist gangs active in their area........More

GLOBAL JIHAD: New jihadis, new threats

It has been seen from the experience of the ideological terrorist groups of West Europe of the 1970s and the 1980s, which withered away after the collapse of the USSR and other communist states of West Europe, that trans-national terrorist groups cannot survive without the sponsorship and complicity of another state in matters such as sanctuaries, training, supply of funds and arms and ammunition. If international jihadi terrorism continues to thrive despite the united action of the international community, it is largely because of the continued availability of sponsorship and complicity from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh. The provision in the UN Security Council Resolution No 1373 calling on all member-countries to stop providing direct or indirect assistance to terrorists remain unheeded by these countries. Unless and until these three states are called to account by the international community, it is unlikely to prevail over international jihadi terrorism...............More

ANALYSIS: US Interest in Military sales to India

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Is this an American invasion of sorts? While one constantly heard of their renewed interest in offering a little more to India with the NSSP (Nest Steps in Strategic Partnership) initiatives, it appears as if the old days are forgotten and the sales pitch is on a new high drawing the attention of the observers for many reasons. Every visiting dignitary from US invariably is armed with ready made answers on the scope of arms sale/release of high tech equipment to India. The recently concluded visit of the Secretary of State Ms Condoleezza Rice is no different and is in fact just an extension of a new policy to engage India on many planes in furthering the strategic interests in the region. Obviously in the American game plan, it would be essential for such strategic interests to converge with the US interests need not even be stated. ..............More

BANGLADESH : Foreign Office and country's image

Some of the Awami League lawmaker's remarks in the committee are more than a little hyperbolized, symbolic of both the exaggeration-prone nature of the average Bangladeshi as well as of the dysfunctional blindly partisan nature of politics in this country. Therefore, to dismiss as futile any governmental effort at image improvement is churlish, and may be construed as an attempt at endorsing, in a backhanded manner, the negative propaganda, especially those that are of cutting one's nose to spite one's face variety, that the opposition engages in. For the country's sake, and not for any narrow partisan interest, Bangladesh's image has to be enhanced. As a matter of fact, it has to be picked up almost from scratch. It will be a tall order, but it can be done. And the MFA with its External Publicity wing at home, and the press wing in the foreign missions, will have to shoulder the major load in image building...........More

BANGLADESH: Islamists Attack NGOs as Part of Jihad

Bangladesh has joined the company of Afghanistan and Iraq where humanitarian and development organizations are targeted. By targeting these organizations and their workers terrorists draw the satisfaction of retaliating against the West. These are also soft targets as it is difficult for the Islamic militants to attack military installations. These attacks have created terror among the workers of the NGOs in Bangladesh. It forced leaders of the Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh (FNB) to convene a meeting where they urged the government to take stern action against all kinds of terrorist activities to keep the ongoing development activities running. They also discussed the role of NGOs in the face of such attacks................More

BANGLADESH: No Terrorist Links- Minister Says

Khan derided some Bangladesh media for irresponsible reporting. "Sometimes some media may have the feeling that freedom of press is a license to lie," he said. But the state would not try to control the media or reporters, he added. Dhaka-based newspaper "The Daily Star" reported in January that intelligence agents were assigned to look for anyone who might have provided information for a Jan. 23 article by "The New York Times" on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh. "We control everything in Bangladesh except two things: we don't control the weather and we don't control the media," Khan said. "If you try to gag the press it doesn't help."...............More

BANGLADESH: English, capitalism and snobbery -

The use of English in this country has turned out to be a rather easy means of coming by capital and therefore affluence. You see it all around you. Observe the private universities, so ubiquitous and so pretentious in their appearance. You tend to come by the feeling that the young men and women who make their way to these expensive universities, most of which by the way do not in any sense of the term qualify to be universities, are the nation builders of the future. That is a false notion, in a very large way. These are young people who are being influenced by the idea that they are part of the elite, that those who remain outside the universities they are part of are the old peasantry that cannot do the country any good..............More

Monday, March 21, 2005

INDIA: Condoleezza Rice Visits- America's Search for a Caliph

Casual readers of media reportage on Rice's recent visit to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan might be forgiven for thinking that the USA's principle interests in the region are arms sales and Iran, in that order. Much of the public discourse of Rice's visit focused on the prospect of the possible sales of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan and the Patriot II anti-ballistic missile defense system to India. The United States' concerns about the construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to India, passing through Pakistan, ranked second in terms of the space it occupied. Little was said, unless it figured behind closed doors, about continued terrorism directed at India, nuclear proliferation, the persistence of jihadi infrastructure in Pakistan, and, yes, democracy.............More

BOOK REVIEW: The Final Settlement

It is recommended that readers should go through this article at least twice, preferably three times, so that they grasp the depth and insight of its analysis, proposals and recommendations, before starting an educated and informed discussion.
The crafting of the final settlement requires honest, though bitter analysis of the psychology and ground realities of the two countries. The conflict between India and Pakistan currently extends to the entire South Asian region, from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. It also engages sections of population in far-flung parts of the two countries. It is reflected in the strife in India’s north-east and Pakistan’s Balochistan. India accuses Pakistan of using Bangladesh as a platform to destabilize India’s eastern sector. Pakistan accuses India of using Afghanistan as a platform to subvert Pakistan’s western half. Of this widespread conflict, the Jammu & Kashmir component is known internationally. The Jammu & Kashmir issue itself has several dimensions. To India, it is a test of secularism. To Pakistan, it is a source of strategically important rivers. To the people of Jammu & Kashmir, it is a matter of living in peace with dignity.............More

BOOK REVIEW: Durable Disorder - Understanding the Politics of Northeast India

Baruah tackles the messy and controversial issue of immigration. While most writers and analysts have concentrated on the “pull factors” that attract large scale immigrants from neighbouring countries as well as from other parts of India into the sparsely populated, modern skills poor region, threatening to radically overturn the demographic balance, Baruah also points out the more systematic “push factors” prompted by the Indian nation’s need to “nationalize space”. This involves tuning local population to the national outlook as well as physically filling the poorly charted spaces with “nation-bearing” populations. While this agenda has not been pursued as aggressively as China has done, partly because in the case of India there is no single nation-bearing population, he argues the distinction between ethnic groups that are marked as indigenous to the region and those that are marked as immigrants from the rest of the sub-continent has remained quite significant in the politics of Northeast India.............More

ISLAM: A problem or a solution?

The topic of Jihad is a very favorite item in the arsenal of critics of Islam. It is often equated with religious intolerance that is sanctified in the Qur'an and Sunnah. This accusation by western critics is like turning the tables with a reprisal when one recalls that not a Muslim was left alive in Spain or Sicily or Apulia, and that not a Muslim was left alive and not a mosque left standing in Greece after the great rebellion in l821 (even to this day there is not a single mosque in Athens). In the Greek War of Independence in 1811, three hundred thousand Muslims - men and women and children - the entire Muslim population of the Morea without exception, as well as many thousands in the northern parts of Greece - were atrociously exterminated.....More

ASSESSMENT : Chinese Navy is growing, and expanding its reach in Asia to secure oil and gas supplies

Alarm bells are ringing in Washington, where some see a pattern in Beijing's naval build-up, combined with a foreign-port building spree and efforts to secure maritime oil-transport routes. An internal report circulated among Pentagon officials late last year says Beijing is assembling a "string of pearls"—including ports, listening posts and naval agreements from Pakistan to Bangladesh to Burma—to protect its fragile oil-supply routes. Gwadar is critical, because it would provide the Chinese a listening post for monitoring ship traffic to and from the oil-rich Middle East, according to the report, which asserts that China is building up naval power at maritime "chokepoints... to deter the potential disruption of energy supplies from potential threats, including the U.S. Navy." China's naval outreach program is of concern to New Delhi, too, and was an underlying theme during U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to India last week................More

Sunday, March 20, 2005

NUKES: MAD is not bad

If a country like Iran becomes a nuclear power and possesses atom bomb it may not be a bad idea from the point of view of maintaining balance of power in the middle east. Therefore, it should be welcomed by all who are for peace and stability. Like Dr. Strangelove who loved the bomb, they too, can live with the bomb without any qualms of consciences. If MAD was not bad in the past, it cannot be so now................More

Religious extremism and freedom of choice

Though some Muslim scholars consider the essentialist construction of the people and the religion of Islam dominant in the western academic orthodoxy as grossly distorted, yet one must also acknowledge that the deviants of Islamic religion immersed in their own grotesque interpretation of pristine Islam do pose serious threat not only to the West but also to Muslims who they consider to have deviated from the "true" path. Time is past for the Muslim world to hold on to tortured nationalism by blaming the West for failing to seize the moment when western technology was on its way to irreversibly change the contours of global civilisation. It is past time for the Islamic world to clean up the Augean Stable, get its act together and unite with the West and others to fight the common enemy -- terrorism. Islamic renaissance is unlikely to emerge from the destructive acts of Osama bin Laden.............More

Saturday, March 19, 2005

BANGLADESH: Govt reacts to sermons and suggestions by Western diplomats

The sudden harsh governmental reaction against such diplomatic interference might have taken most people by surprise. Knowledgeable circles suggest that the government leaders, no doubt, were in a dilemma for a while, but a series of quite derogatory statements made by the EU Ambassador pushed them rather hard towards such a decision. The latest interview of the German Ambassador by a news agency last week, in which he offered to hold a dialogue on his country's behalf to make the next parliamentary polls 'free and fair', did not help the cause at all. Rather it tipped scale. Analysts say that any Ambassador wanting to offer any help to the government on behalf of his government should talk to the proper quarter. In this case, it should have been either the foreign or the concerned ministry. He should not have given an interview to a news agency to discuss what he was going to do without first talking to the government. It is not a question of clearing the issue with the government, it concerns the diplomatic norms and practices, which should not be ignored. After all, he is accredited to the government of this country on behalf of the government of his country............More

BANGLADESH : The Cat is finally out of the bag!

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The '90s witnessed a tremendous rise of communal forces in neigbouring India and with the Babri Masjid episode taking the lead, the religious sentiments of an average muslim all over the sub-continent was also affected to a large extent. That was indeed the period when the dormant communal forces in Bangladesh swiftly re-grouped behind the facade of 'defending Islam' but actually with a definite motive to find a political ladder by virtue of which they could quickly reach the citadel of power and spread their message more effectively. Madrasas sprang up almost overnight all over the country like mushrooms and no one knew exactly as to where from the huge funds came in regularly for their sustenance. Not that the sight of madrasahs was something new for us, but their swelling numbers in dozens baffled many of us beyond imagination. Still our progressive leaders found everything quite innocuous..............More

INTERVIEW: Condoleeza Rice with India Today - Full Text

Each relationship has its own character. In the case of India, I think we're beginning to develop a relationship that will undoubtedly have global dimensions. And if you look, for instance, at the way that we responded to the tsunami, it was India, Japan, the United States, Australia. I'm told that India was able to deploy ships within 48 hours. This is extraordinary. India is a country with increasingly potentially global reach. And I think you will see us with India doing more across a wide range of not just issues, but a wide range of regions........More

ANALYSIS:Chinese minister's trip could redefine India-Nepal ties

India had been providing the Royal Nepalese Army with its indigenously manufactured INSAS firearms at 70 percent subsidy. However, the INSAS weapons need 5.56mm ammunition, which are not manufactured in Nepal. The army has to buy the bullets from India. On the other hand, Nepal manufactures 7.62mm ammunition at home and Chinese weapons, especially AK-47s, can be fired with these bullets. Nepalese army sources said though there were no immediate plans to start buying firearms from China, "if push comes to shove" and the Indian embargo continues, eventually Nepal might turn to Chinese weapons..................More

NEPAL: The Royal Regression and the Question of Democratic Republic - Baburam Bhattarai

The despotic regime is desperately seeking to exploit two issues to gain international support for itself. The first is the 'anti-terrorism' card, and the second, the 'geo-political' card. The hackneyed 'anti-terrorism' card, much exploited after September Eleven by all and sundry petty dictators and reactionary regimes of the world, has already lost much of its original steam and is yet to be seen how it will fare in Gyanendra's case. But one can be fairly certain that the enlightened world public opinion won't be easily hoodwinked by the 'anti-terrorism' claims of a person of Gyanendra's ilk, whose hands are blood-stained in the infamous palace massacre and who has now launched a countryside reign of military terror against the people by suspending all political and fundamental rights...................More

India's Achilles Heel: Lack of a China Policy

Instead of trying to take a tip or two from China's management of its economy, India has a tendency to either envy China or try to dismiss its economic growth as a facade. As far as India is concerned, its political establishment still is not sure whether it should base its economic policies on sound economic principles or listen to a lunatic fringe that has no idea as to what economics is all about. The fact of the matter is so long as India does not place its own economic house in order, it will remain a second-rate power even in Asia............More

Friday, March 18, 2005

GLOBAL JIHAD: Profile of Islamic Terrorists

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The extremists are absolutely assured that the existing world is incorrectly arranged, but there is an authentic world - created by Allah. They are assured that USA is not only the simple state, but also embodiment of world evil. It is the Satan appearing as sparkling skyscrapers, advertisements, large corporations, world communications and networks, spreading itself over the entire world as an octopus. Being unique esoteric, they see the designation of their life in fight with the evil and thus to accelerate the approaching of authentic world. Extremists prefer to alter this world as fast as possible to become the chosen race. Fight with the evil and millions of ordinary people, tied by evil, is simply the moment of this titanic work on the reconstruction of reality. Extremists consider themselves to be heroes heroes who accelerate the globe's evolution towards the correct way...............More

Bangladesh gets sophisticated Pakistani air defence system

As a fresh milestone in its journey of glory, AWC has succeeded in indigenous development of Command & Control System. AWC does not depend on any foreign company for supply or support, hence ensuring an un-interruptible supply, support and maintenance of the system. The salient feature of this system is its reliability under all weather and geographical conditions. It provides the commander an instant update of all developments in the battle or concentration area..........More

BANGLADESH: Pak acts on Dhaka push

The Indian establishment, which has been keeping a close watch on the developments in Dhaka, is trying to assess why Bangladesh is acting tough. “Can Dhaka really get away by taking on the European Union?” a senior Indian foreign ministry official asked. Over 50 per cent of Bangladesh’s economy is dependent on foreign aid and, therefore, it is not prudent for the government to get into a confrontation with these countries................More

NUKES:US not finished with Pakistan yet

Importantly, and to the consternation of Pakistan, the US demand includes direct access and interrogation of Pakistan's former chief of army staff, General Aslam Beg, who has on many occasions openly endorsed nuclear cooperation with Iran, former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan (August 17, 1988 until July 18, 1993) and Dr Khan. The exhaustive US demand has sent shock waves through General Headquarters Rawalpindi. To date, the belief had been that Pakistan's cooperation has been sufficient to avoid people like Dr Khan from being handed over............More

ANALYSIS: Regional instability threatens India

Many charge that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been seeding trouble in the northeast. Since 1990, the ISI promoted indiscriminate violence by creating small, militant outfits providing them with weapons and training, and using ethnic and religious groups and tensions between Hindus and Muslims to whip up severe divisions. Oil pipelines, railroads, and infrastructure have been sabotaged by groups like United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The ISI has pumped money into these groups’ London-based bank accounts. The Bangladesh government aids and abets these groups as well. Bangladesh Prime Minister Khalida Zia leads a government that is packed with anti-India policy makers. These forces reject any peace initiatives taken by New Delhi or the West Bengal provincial government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).............More

PAKISTAN: Jinnah's unfulfilled vision - From the Quaid to al-Qaeda

Cohen says it is improbable that liberal democracy will take hold in Pakistan. Just a couple of decades ago, the same was being said of Latin America and Eastern Europe. He posits that Bangladesh, which also had an episode of military rule but now has a democratic setup, is unlikely to revert to military rule since it does not have a security problem. The implicit hypothesis that security problems lead to military rule is a non sequitur. Otherwise India would have military rule a fortiori, since it has security problems with Pakistan and China, in addition to numerous security problems in the eastern and southern states with separatist movements. There is no evidence that any serious coups have been attempted in India.................More

Thursday, March 17, 2005

FLASH: US, India harmonise regional role:

"There was an expression of interest of working together in Bangladesh," the official said. Asked about US concerns about Bangladesh, the official spoke about the "general deterioration in security" in that country."This is another area where we think the stability-level of the region has deteriorated," he said. The official was referring to the spiralling violence and the growing assertiveness by fundamentalist groups in that country and the way Dhaka has reacted to these concerns in the international community. Eminent security and defence analyst K. Subrahmanyam said the US interest in Bangladesh is a "good thing" for India and noted that New Delhi has been complaining that Dhaka had been allowing various militant groups to operate against India from its territory. "If the Americans are interested in putting pressure on the Bangladesh government in a bid to discourage terrorism and fundamentalism in that country that is a move we should support," Subrahmanyam told IANS. He noted that there had also been independent reports that Al Qaeda activists had become active in Bangladesh...........More

INDIA: US keen on nuclear energy, joint defence production:

He said the two sides had identified three major areas to move forward - a strategic dialogue that will include India's defence requirements, coordination on regional security problems, like the cooperation during the recent tsunami tragedy and the diplomatic offensive to force King Gyanendra of Nepal to restore multiparty democracy and an enhanced business dialogue. The official said there was an "expression of interest" by Rice of the US working with India in Bangladesh where, according to both New Delhi's and Washington's assessment, the general security had deteriorated to an extent that it could affect regional stability. He was referring to the growing violence in that country and the role of the fundamentalist forces in it........More

ASSESSMENT: Implicating India

To get Osama Bin Laden, the US expects us to take unreasonable risks in J and K..India is in some manner of trap on the Pak-J and K question. By claiming that it has worked for and achieved a degree of peace with Pakistan, pointing to the CBMs, cricket diplomacy, and so on, it has undercut its own military position in J and K. The US argument, Rice’s argument, is that with so much of achieved peace, it is counterproductive to deploy in such strength in J and K. India, on the other hand, does not trust Pakistan, fears misadventures like the Kargil War, would prefer the present J and K troops strength to continue, but is compromised by its own propaganda. To sex up this cross-border, troops-reduction deal, the US side is linking it up to its long-term goal of cutting down Pakistan army strength by at least two lakh troops...............More

BANGLADESH: Govt may ask 2 EU envoys to be called back

‘The government would informally request the two countries to withdraw their ambassadors to Bangladesh as the activities of the two envoys are negatively impacting Bangladesh’s good relations with the countries,’ a source close to the policy planners concerned told New Age. The government has also decided to be stricter in implementing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, as it believes that some foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka are frequently violating diplomatic norms and are ‘involving themselves in the internal politics of the country’, the source said. ‘We prefer not to declare the diplomats persona non grata as such declaration would have adverse impact on our relationships with the countries concerned.’ The government is closely monitoring the activities of some diplomats and senior officials of international lending agencies in Dhaka as it finds their actions and remarks to have ‘crossed limit of tolerance’, he added.............More

BANGLADESH: The Prime Minister's view

Anyone who comprehends the fragility of Bangladesh’s political system knows too just how many weaknesses continue to bedevil a commission which is committed to adding newer doses of substance to pluralist politics in the country. What can therefore be suggested in the present context is that the nation’s politicians must come together to devise the ways and means by which the Election Commission can attain the status of a truly powerful and independent body, with the necessary manpower and machinery to have its writ run all over the country........More

Readers Re-AXE - 2 Letters on 17/03/2005

  • I love and respect the Jihad and the message of your article and what it represents in the Qur'on. But, believe me, the Christian Palestinians believe in the Jihad as well. In Palestine, we have a Priest at the highest level in the church who supports the Jihad and continues to preach to kids of the Christian faith to fight back in the name of jihad and for their country and homeland.............More
  • How can we expect that the same US government agencies that investigated the Kennedy assassination,the Abu Gharib prison scandals,the Guantanamo detention camp abuse will conduct a fair investigation for Bangladesh.....More

BANGLADESH: Kibria Killing Probe Report - 8 BNP men made the attack



Sources said the investigators, in the about 150-page report, detailed the arrangement of the AL meeting, Kibria's participation, how the incident took place, and the role of police before and after the incident. The team then reported on the planners and executors of the grenade attack, the suspects and arrestees, the grounds for the arrests and suspicions, possible beneficiaries of the attack and its motives, possible sources of the grenade and recommendation to stop recurrence of such attacks............More

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

BANGLADESH: Rising terror

In Dhaka, during a three-day countrywide strike to protest against the bomb attack on an Awami League rally on January 27.
The `pro-liberation' secular parties and civil society groups allege that Bangladesh is being held hostage by violent religious extremism and radicalism, which want to wreck its secular foundations. The ruling coalition has, however, dismissed the charge as "sheer propaganda" by an "unpatriotic Opposition". Observers wonder if it is a mere coincidence that the latest grenade attack came just a few days after the publication of the report in the New York Times, which exposed activities of a notorious fundamentalist outfit called the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), led by Bangla Bhai (Frontline, June 19, 2004). The same day, several associates of the Islamist commander were lynched by villagers, fed up with the police inaction with regard to the murder of an Awami League leader in Rajshahi. The report, headlined "For a new Taliban: The next Islamist Revolution?", was based on fieldwork done in the northern villages where the militant leader's militia is known to terrorise people in the Taliban fashion. The report created a fresh furore when Dhaka-based dailies carried its translation........More

INDIA: ISI-backed plan on for ‘Greater Bangladesh’

Security sources informed here that the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) is linked to ‘Operation Pin Code’, launched by the Pakistani ISI from Bangladeshi soil to carve out Bangladeshi dominated areas of Assam as new districts of Bangladesh by raising a jehadi outfit. The JMJB, led by Bangla Bhai and advocating Taliban-type governance in Bangladesh, is well on its way to becoming a major force in Bangladesh. The most startling disclosure is that the ULFA is deeply involved in the designs of the Islamic fundamentalists on Assam.....More

BLOGOSPHERE: Who the F***k is Bangla Bhai

Late last month the New York Times Magazine published a stunning article on Bangla Bhai, a radical Islamist vigilante who seeks to "bring about the Talibanization of his part of Bangladesh," and which also suggested that the country faced the prospect of an Islamic Revolution. Not surprisingly, the Bangladeshi government promptly complained that the NYT report was "baseless and politically motivated," and Bangladesh's Permanent Representative to the United Nations "sent a written protest" to the NYT. As a government official pointed out, "the one-sided report of a remote village (Bagmara in Rajshahi) out of nearly 90,000, does in no way depict the correct and objective picture of the country.".......More

ISLAM: Gentiletude and Dhimmitude

Dhimmitude is largely mythical and has not surfaced due to the stifling of criticisms of the Muslims and Islam. It is a convenient term developed by the likes of D. Pipes to denigrate those who oppose the removal of the few remaining fragile barriers giving some nomical protection to Muslims and Islam. Removing those barriers is perhaps the last step before calling for the rebuilding of the concentration camps and the gas chambers. Many would of course argue that Camp X-Ray, Bagram and Belmarsh were miniature models of those horror chambers. How ironic the very people who were subjected to such treatment about 60 years ago are now at the forefront of inciting the US to pursue that route, while invoking victimhood of the Nazi Holocaust........More

INDIA: Terrorist Camps in Maynmar and Bangladesh

The Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri Rao Inderjit Singh affirmed in the Lok Sabha today that the presence of terrorist training camps in Myanmar and Bangladesh has come to the notice of the Government.............More

BANGLADESH : Fight against jihadis and crusaders alike is the need of the hour

The regional and international factors have, however, significantly helped the pro-Islamist political forces in strengthening their political hegemony over the entire society, which had once stood against the cynical use of religion in politics by the erstwhile ruling elite of Pakistan. The anti-Muslim attitudes of the political establishments in Washington, Tel Aviv and Delhi, as well as the political and military hobnobbing among the fundamentalist forces in question, are still contributing to the further departure of the Bangladeshi polity from secular democratic principles......More

NEPAL: India Worried About Growing Pakistani Clout

The Indian Security Establishment is deeply worried at the increasing influence of Pakistan in Nepal and security agencies cite the alleged presence of the ISI in Kathmandu, investments of Indian fugitive underworld dons in Nepal, growth of madrassas in the Terrai region of Nepal bordering India and visible presence there of Kashmiri Muslims as glaring examples. Experts have already started to speak up against the changing geo-political situation. Strategic expert and retired Maj. Gen. BS Khanduri told the South Asia Tribune: “Nepal is gradually becoming a Pakistani satellite. I do not know whether Crown Prince Paras (Left) has any hand in it, but it is definite that the present Indian government is also responsible as it has no definite policy for Nepal.”...........More

ASSESSMENT : India Recovers Lost Ground in the International Energy Game

While India has made no where near the progress of China on the international energy stage, it is conceivable that India could become a major player in the near future thus bringing it into competition with other major energy consuming countries. Furthermore, India's and China's attempts to engage "rogue states" such as Myanmar, Iran and Sudan in order to access their energy resources is undermining attempts by the West to isolate these regimes. The quest for energy resources on the world stage could eventually be added to the outsourcing debate as an area of contention between India and the West.....More

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

CONSPIRACIES: Did New York Orchestrate The Asian Tsunami?

Theoretically, the American 9 megaton W-53 thermonuclear warhead shown on the left, could easily be encased in a small 'lookalike' saturation diving chamber similar to that on the right, to protect it from the massive 10,000 pounds per square inch pressures at the bottom of the Sumatran Trench. The whole armored package would weigh less than five tons, allowing it to be slipped over the stern of any oil rig supply vessel, of which there are more than 300 in Asia alone. Who would even notice?.........More

INDIA: Blunderbuss, Act III

Nepal is your immediate neighbour in the North East, not your enemy, and together with Bhutan, they provide buffers to China in Tibet. You may pressure such a neighbour in private, very privately, but you don’t slap it around in public, if such slapping around gains you nothing but cheap publicity, and brings no extra credit to your democracy. To this day, there is no logical explanation for why India went public with terminating assistance to Nepal......More

NEPAL: Get Back On The Freeway

It has become common wisdom to state that Gyanendra's actions, first to sideline the political parties and now to wield direct power as an absolute monarch, have their origins in the deep antipathy he harbours for the said parties and their many incapacities. But, after February 1, this has begun to look opportunistic: an excuse for direct rule. Through his takeover, the king has put at great risk the 250-year-old institution of monarchy that makes Nepal the oldest nation-state in South Asia. On the day that he acted, wellwishers of the institution had hoped that the palace had an intricate plan of action for peace. Perhaps a secret deal with the Maobaadi, or the military finally going on the offensive. Five weeks later, these people continue to wait......More

Monday, March 14, 2005

ASSESSMENT : Unholy designs to harm Bangladesh using Islamic militancy as pretext

The recent bomb attacks on some NGO installations and cultural soirees and the subsequent arrest of some terrorists under the guise of so-called Islamic militants and their gangleaders unveiled India's involvement. A number of Bangladeshi dailies on February 25, 2005, quoting the interrogation of the arrested informed, that the recently banned so-called Muslim outfits JMJB (Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh) and Jamaatul Mujahiden, were the brainchildren of Indian intelligence agency -RAW. The outward and instant aim of floating these outfits was to justify Indian allegation that Bangladesh is a haven of the Islamic terrors and provoke the government to take stern action against the madrashas, their teachers and students. Such step will make the government unpopular among the people that will deter the possibility of returning to power of the alliance government and pave the way to install a puppet government in Dhaka. The long-term design is to invite American-led anti-terror invasion or get American permission to invade Bangladesh so that either the invaders or their puppets in Dhaka gradually can close down the madrashas and crush the Islamic scholars, intellectuals, and even the pro-nationalist forces and ultimately make Bangladesh a vassal state of India....More

RantBurg LIVE- Tales from the Bangladesh Police Blotter

Mar 13: Four suspected outlaws were killed and six policemen injured in a fierce "gunfight" at Laskardia village of Bhawanipur Krishnanagar Char under Pangsha upazila this (Sunday) afternoon.
If you only wack one, it's a "crossfire". More than that falls under the classification of "gunfight".


BANGLADESH: Politics is a Family Affair

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Tarique Rahman, the elder son of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, is creating waves as the “senior” joint secretary general of the party spearheading its propaganda machine. The fact that he superseded all the senior party leaders is matter of irrelevant detail. Party grapevines indicate that he would be made the party’s secretary general, — the second most powerful position after the chairperson Begum Khaleda. So soon we can expect the BNP to have a mother as its chairperson with the son its secretary general.....More

Abdullah Mehsud: Pakistan denies freed Guantanamo prisoner dead

"This is just a rumour, it has no basis," he told Reuters, adding that false rumours about Mehsud's death had been spread in the past.The News quoted the spokesman for Mehsud as saying he had suffered a serious bullet wound to the chest in the North Waziristan tribal region, about 300 km (185 miles) southwest of Islamabad, in a clash in which two al Qaeda suspects were killed and 11 others arrested......More

GLOBAL JIHAD: Who is a Radical Islamist?

Chris Blackburn is a political analyst and writer. His expertise and research areas include intelligence, counter-terrorism and defense.

The reality here is that these Islamist groups are waging a civilizational battle to transform the Middle East and do so with help from legitimate political figures and nations. One such group is the Jamaat-i-Islami, a renowned fundamentalist group with ties to terrorism that was formed through the leadership and teaching of Maulana Abul Al Maududi and is prominent in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Another group allied to the fundamentalist cause is the Muslim Brotherhood, which was formed by Hassan Al-Banna.The Brotherhood is mainly prominent in Arab countries; however, the Islamist movements frequently share ideas and use each other’s works to consolidate their ideology. The first Jihad in Afghanistan, for instance, was a major factor in the blending and co-operation of Islamist designs........More

Saturday, March 12, 2005

DIASPORA: Sleep for Sale

Three Bangladeshis from Connecticut have even invested significantly in the project. "Several Bangladeshis, who are doctors and lawyers, have supported the idea, because they see how unhealthy the American working lifestyle is," explains Chowdhury. Chowdhury says he has no immediate plans to open a MetroNaps centre in Bangladesh, but plans to explore the possibility of outsourcing portions of his manufacturing process here. He even hopes to tour several factories during a family visit to Bangladesh in March. "It's just an exploratory trip at this point," he explains.

Sleep for Sale
Daud Khan

Arshad Chowdhury's new office, on the 24th floor of the iconic Empire State Building in New York City, looks like the set of a science fiction movie. Eight fiberglass and steel pods line the walls, their billowy shapes illuminated softly from lights above. What happens in them is not science, but something much more elemental: Sleep. They are the centrepiece of what Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi-American, claims is the first of its kind in the world: a state of the art sleeping salon called MetroNaps, where over-worked, bleary-eyed professionals pay to take a mid-day rest.

Paying to powernap may seem like a strange idea, but MetroNaps has struck a deep chord in the global working world so far, offering professionals an easy solution for making mid-day rest part of their daily routine. With franchises opening in North America and a storm of media buzz, the innovation could change the future of working life.

MetroNaps, which opened for business in May 2004, was conceived as a redress to the negative side effects of global working culture, where employees are spending more and more of their time in their offices, staring at computer screens, with little or no rest throughout the day. Chowdhury, 29, who hails from the state of Connecticut, says there's a real problem in the lifestyle that corporate culture breeds. "In the last 15 years, people are working more and sleeping less. Now people are sleeping 6 to 7 hours a night, not the 8 to 10 recommended by doctors."

Chowdhury should know. He used to work for a multinational banking concern in New York, clocking long hours himself while watching his colleagues desperately seeking sleep. "I saw a lot of them sleeping at their desks. People would even sneak off to the bathroom to take a nap."

All the sagging eyelids convinced Chowdhury of two things: one, today's professionals are woefully sleep deprived; two, they lack viable options for taking a mid-day rest. "For someone who wants to sleep, they basically have only two options: a very uncomfortable chair or a very expensive hotel--there's nothing in between," explains Chowdhury.

Filling that void could add up to a business, he thought. But would people actually pay to take a nap?

He decided to test the concept while pursuing his MBA at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, setting up a small makeshift nap centre on the university's campus. His hunch was right, and he soon found himself with ample customers willing to pay $1.00 to take a nap in a simple lawnchair.

With renewed conviction and an MBA fresh under his belt, Chowdhury teamed up with a college friend, Christopher Lindholst, a fellow MBA graduate and the two soon secured initial funding to launch the business.

Then, using the latest sleep deprivation research, they spent two years creating the ideal sleeping environment for prospective customers, employing along the way the creative talents of Matthew Huey, who has designed furniture for such world class companies as Knoll and Lucite.

The result is the centrepiece of the MetroNaps experience: the MetroNaps pod, a sleek, futuristic-looking hull in which customers recline, make their choice of ambient music, and then slip promptly into sleep. (Chowdhury, a veritable encyclopedia of sleep statistics, says the average person falls asleep in 5 ½ minutes). Special lights and soft vibrations wake dozers at the end of the rest period, which lasts a blissful twenty minutes - the optimal amount of time to boost alertness and brain activity, Chowdhury says.

"You don't sleep as much or as deeply, but you avoid sleep inertia, the feeling of grogginess that comes from sleeping too deeply," he adds.

Eight sleeping pods now line the walls of the MetroNaps' flagship office in the Empire State building. Their quirky novelty and sci-fi good looks have already generated a storm of media buzz less than a year after going into operation, appearing in numerous major news outlets, including The New York Times, Fortune Magazine and BBC News.

Chowdhury says he's very pleased with the customer response so far, reporting that the pods are often full by the afternoon. Most customers are full-time members of the facility, paying $65 a month for daily access to the pods. The centre also attracts a good number of curious walk-in clients who pay $14 for the 20-minute session. Metronaps, open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm, even offers a lunch service for an extra fee, serving customers their choice of sandwiches, pastas and salads when they wake.

Chowdhury is still cautiously optimistic about the future of his business, but signs abound that the company is doing well. In January, MetroNaps opened a new centre in the Vancouver International Airport in Canada, allowing weary airport goers the option of dozing off comfortably right near their gates. The cost is $15.00 for 2 hours of rest.

"Airports seemed like a natural fit because people in airports are generally exhausted," Chowdhury explains, adding, "They have long lags, so they're enthusiastic about our store."

Chowdhury hopes the company's New York and Vancouver locations are just the first of many such franchises. Eventually he'd like to see MetroNaps pods become part of the standard architectural furniture of offices and airports everywhere. "I want this to be as ubiquitous as the photocopying machine," he says.

The plan, in other words, is not just to grow the business, but to effect a larger change in the way professionals live and work. "We intend nothing less than a shift in the global working world," Chowdhury proclaims.

To that effect, MetroNaps is currently working on an international rollout, with pods to be deployed possibly in the UK, Japan, Australia and Brazil.

Chowdhury was born and raised in the US, but Bangladesh has been a central source of emotional and financial support in the launching of his business.

To begin with, growing up in a Bangali community in Connecticut helped mold Chowdhury's entrepreneurial drive, giving him the courage to take risks. "Almost everyone in my family is involved in businesses of one form or another, from groceries to Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. I certainly saw how my family and other Bangladeshis paved their own road to success."

Building a business around a mid-day rest resonated strongly with Chowdhury's Bangladeshi circle, beginning with his father. "My father, Dr. Mujibul G. Chow-dhury, is a cardiologist and physician, and he sees the benefits of a mid-day rest."

Three Bangladeshis from Connecticut have even invested significantly in the project. "Several Bangladeshis, who are doctors and lawyers, have supported the idea, because they see how unhealthy the American working lifestyle is," explains Chowdhury.

Chowdhury says he has no immediate plans to open a MetroNaps centre in Bangladesh, but plans to explore the possibility of outsourcing portions of his manufacturing process here. He even hopes to tour several factories during a family visit to Bangladesh in March. "It's just an exploratory trip at this point," he explains.

When not working, Chowdhury plans to spend time with his family in Chittagong, including his uncle, Yakub Ali, or to visit some of his favourite spots in Dhaka: Bongo Bazar and Boss Tailors.

The growth of Metronaps will no doubt keep him busy for the foreseeable future, but Chowdhury hopes to keep coming back to Bangladesh, which he has visited every year since his childhood. "I'm always impressed to see how much development is taking place in Dhaka," Chowdhury says, adding, "I'd like to see it become more of an international destination city for tourists."

If that happens, MetroNap pods could someday pop up at Zia International, offering passengers a quick powernap before they jet off around the world.