Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Pakistan Is The Most Dangerous Place On Earth

In recent years, American and Israeli fears of nuclear proliferation have focused on Iran. The consequences of an Iranian bomb could be grave indeed: a chain reaction of nuclear armament among Arab countries, some of whom are threatened by, or may collaborate with, jihadists. It is unlikely, however, that Iran would start a nuclear war: its regime has a return address, and Israel could annihilate them. That is why nuclear terrorism by non- state actors like Al Qaeda is the West’s ultimate nightmare and why Pakistan, not Iran, is the most dangerous place on earth. Imagine this: Three jihadist groups in Pakistan—Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (“LET”)— forge an operational alliance to steal a nuclear bomb from the Pakistani arsenal in order to destroy a major Western city. Pursuant to the plan, LET—which carried out the Mumbai attacks— destroys the Taj Mahal and attacks the Indian Parliament, precipitating a state of nuclear alert between India and Pakistan, whose intelligence agency is the chief sponsor of LET. When a Pakistani convoy moves a bomb from its secret storage facility to an Air Force base near the border, a group of Pakistani Taliban—directed by Al Qaeda and tipped off by a military insider— attacks the convoy and steals the bomb. From there, Al Qaeda has several routes for smuggling the bomb to America, Europe, or Israel. This is not a Bondian fantasy. What is so frightening about this scenario is its realism: every detail is of grave concern to the national defense and intelligence communities. But almost as disturbing is how little most Americans know about this threat. There is no country with more active terrorists than Pakistan, and few with more nuclear weapons. The spur for nuclear armament is Pakistan’s bitter rivalry with India, focused on the violent sixty-year- old dispute over Kashmir. The unintended consequences could be lethal: a jihadist capture of nuclear weapons or materials for use against the West. This could happen in several different ways: the clandestine acquisition of nuclear materials; seizure of a nuclear facility by a rogue military officer; a jihadist takeover of the Pakistan government; and the theft of a nuclear weapon. Underlying these fears are serious questions about the security of the Pakistani arsenal. We don’t know where all the weapons are stored. The people who do—the military and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI—include highly- placed jihadist sympathizers, typified by a former head of the ISI who has said, “The same nuclear capacity that can destroy Madras, India, can destroy Tel Aviv.” The weapons themselves may lack American-style security systems— which operate like a sophisticated ATM—to prevent accidental or unauthorized use. The tension between Pakistan and India poses the constant threat of a nuclear alert. And nuclear weapons are never less secure than when they are moved from one site to another. Al Qaeda has long been obsessed with nuclear weapons, and Pakistan has always been its focus. Just before 9 /11 , Bin Laden met in Afghanistan with a Pakistani nuclear scientist and an engineer, drawing up specifications for an Al Qaeda bomb. And after 9 /11 , Bin Laden announced Al Qaeda’s intention to kill four million Americans to “balance” the Muslim deaths he attributes to the United States and Israel and issued a fatwa calling for the use of nuclear arms against the West. We are certainly vulnerable to this. A Pakistani bomb carries enough HEU to destroy New York, but can travel in a container the size of a coffin. Its total weight is between 200 to 300 pounds, which means that a few men could put it in a van, truck, boat, cargo container, or private plane. Such a weapon could easily be smuggled through the ports in Long Beach or New York, where we inspect roughly 2 % of all cargo containers. From there, a small aircraft could deliver a nuclear weapon to any city in America. For example, let’s take Washington, D.C. In theory, we’ve got a fifteen mile no-fly zone around the capital, enforced by surface-to-air missiles and jets at Andrews Air Force Base on a five- minute alert. But thousands of aircraft fly within fifteen miles of the White House—if one crosses the line going 300 miles an hour, five minutes won’t be enough. Though the government won’t say so, multiple planes fly over the capital every year, and we don’t spot half of them until it’s over. There’s a more than fair chance that Al Qaeda could turn the White House into the epicenter of a nuclear blast. A strike against Washington, D.C. or New York could be economically, politically, and psychologically shattering. Terrified of Al Qaeda, Americans would be thrown into a panic while they wait for the next city to disappear. This would threaten our own belief in our government, our system of civil liberties, or even our future as a democracy. As for Israel itself, the impact could well be fatal. A recent poll revealed that one-fourth of Israelis would consider emigrating if Iran develops a bomb. Imagine, then, the impact of a strike on Tel Aviv that annihilates hundreds of thousands of Israelis, destroying the heart of their infrastructure, their economy, and, most fundamental, the belief that they can survive as a nation. One likelihood is that Israel would become a Masada state, populated by a cadre of religious fanatics prepared to watch their families die rather than yield an inch of their atomic wasteland. The result would be unspeakably sad—the end of Israel as we know it. So how realistic is a scenario in which Al Qaeda links with other jihadists to steal a nuclear weapon from Pakistan? Very. But to grasp this, one must understand the links between jihadist groups, and the ties between these groups and the most powerful forces within Pakistan—the military who controls the nuclear arsenal and, in particular, the ISI. The ISI is at the heart of Pakistani jihadism. It helped create the Taliban to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, and introduced its leaders to bin Laden. It created LET to fight a guerilla war against India in Kashmir. The military, the ISI and LET all recruit among the Punjabi, Pakistan’s dominant ethnic group, creating familial ties between all three. With the ISI’s protection, LET—despite Mumbai—trains hundreds of jihadists every year. And the ISI is so marbled with jihadist sympathizers that joint operations with the CIA are often next to impossible—witness its current demand that we withdraw hundreds of intelligence and Special Operations personnel, a fresh expression of antipathy that weakens our intelligence, strengthens the militants and exacerbates Pakistan’s nuclear danger. As for the Taliban and LET, according to leading experts they are now allied with Al Qaeda against the West and planning further attacks on America and its allies at home and abroad. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have safe havens in Pakistan—including, most believe, Bin Laden—and Benazir Bhutto’s murder was most likely their joint operation. As for LET, Al Qaeda helped to fund it, and after 9 /11 some of its leaders took refuge in LET safe houses. U.S. intelligence officials believe that LET’s targets now include America, Israel, and Europe. And all three groups are Sunni and, increasingly, share Al Qaeda’s goal of jihad against the West. So what do we do about Pakistan itself? Cutting off aid would only destabilize the country further. Instead, we must pursue the undramatic but essential work that any hard situation requires: engagement, patience, consistency, prudent intelligence work under hard circumstances, and smart diplomacy. We must engage civilian leaders, encourage the development of civil institutions, fund greater aid earmarked for universal education, increase military-to-military contact; and quietly work for a rapprochement with Indian and Pakistani acquiescence in the international regime governing nuclear proliferation. Obviously, there are no simple answers. But protecting ourselves against disaster requires the willingness to look ahead for decades, not weeks or months or even years. The foreign policy of a great nation in a nuclear age does not shy from complex challenges— it embraces them.

NEPAL : China's Great Betrayal

Red flags rose among many Nepalese politicians and the pro- China lobby in Kathmandu last week, when Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, who is also the President of CPN (UML), appointed Lhar Kyal Lama as the Minister of State for Finance in the UML-UCPN (Maoist) government.  It was curious that only a fortnight before Lhar Kyal Lama’s appointment, a 15- member high level Chinese military delegation led by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief, Gen. Chen Bingde had visited Nepal and met President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Khanal, Nepal’s army Chief Chatra Man Singh Gurung and other defence officials.  The delegation announced an aid of 30 million Yuan to the Nepali army’s non-defence projects. The composition of the delegation and what Gen. Chen told his Nepali interlocutors was very pointed. It was Tibet’s security. He made it very clear that China would not tolerate the “involvement of (any) third party in bilateral aspects of Nepal-China relations”. Interpreted, Nepali leaders were warned against giving any avenues to the US and some European Union (EU) countries to use Nepal’s soil to launch destabilizing operations in Tibet using Tibetan refugees in Nepal or the larger Tibetan diaspora. China’s concern about the political situation in Tibet has gone up even higher after the Dalai Lama announced his retirement from politics a month earlier. They are afraid that without the Dalai Lama’s restraining hand, activities of the new political leaders of the Tibetan government-in-exile could become more militant and the US could exploit them. Even more curious is the fact that the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, according to the Nepali media, lodged an “ informal” protest with Prime Minister Khanal and others in the UML on Lhar Kyal Lama’s appointment. This was astounding, given the fact that the Chinese government and its Kathmandu Embassy came down like a ton of bricks on a small demonstration by the Tibetan refugees. Nepal even disallowed Tibetans recently from voting for the Tibetan government in-exiles’ election of Kalong Tripa, or Prime Minister. And here was the Lama who held high the banner of the Free Tibet Movement backed by the Chinese, with a large wink.  The Chinese machinations in Nepal and the betrayal of the Nepali people was exposed by the local newspaper the Kantipur (Apr. 20) when it dug into the activities of this Lama. He was a well cultivated Chinese source embedded both inside the Free Tibet Movement and Nepali politics.  As the Minister of State for Finance, he would be able to influence in China’s favour and also report on the government’s internal policies and thinking. He was a professional source of the Chinese Military Attache’s office in the Embassy, according to the report.   Lhar Kyal Lama was known to be close to Jhala Nath Khanal. His appointment as a Minister soon after Gen. Chen Bingde’s visit was not surprising as Khanal is also known to be close to China. Therefore, Lhar Kyal, with a controversial background being catapulted to this high position suggests Khanal-China shaking hands behind the back of the Nepali people. The Maoist leadership’s mute stand in this case suggests their selling out the country to China.   According to the Nepali newspaper Republican, which found out the background of the Lama, he holds a Nepali passport in the name, an Indian Passport issued from Guwahati on June 12 , 1998 in the name of Khenso Chime Tsering, and a Tibetan refugee identity card issued from Mysore, India in 1969 , in the name of Lama Chime Tsering. This Lama is also reported to have been involved in several questionable activities including cheating. He was an appropriate candidate to become an intelligence source! China’s silent warfare strategy of implanting agents in an opponent Kingdom’s court goes back to around the 6 th Century A.D. This strategy is popularly known as the “Assassin’s Mace”. It has a significant meaning – the assassin is the agent imbedded in the opponent’s nerve centre; the mace is a silent weapon, that is, the agent works silently merging into the ambience. In Nepal, China’s one Assassin’s Mace has been exposed. How many more  are there is difficult to say, but one may be assured China does not depend on only one.   The other Chinese ancient strategy states that the enemy’s enemy is a strategic friend, and must be aided. This is a disturbing note for China’s neighbours that Beijing want to weaken. After the Mao Zedong era, China’s pre-eminent leaders and the father of China’s modernization, Deng Xiaoping openly declared Mao’s strategy of supporting people’s revolution in other countries was wrong, and was being discarded.   True to Deng’s declaration the Maoist methodology was discarded. But the core of Mao’s strategy was transformed into a more sophisticated strategy. This strategy has been revealed with Chinese military support with arms, ammunition and communication equipment to Indian insurgents like United Liberation Front of Assam, the Naga Separatist (NSCN- I/M) and various other insurgent groups in North East India. Hard evidence is available now. But China has worked, in intelligence parlance, through “Cut outs”. Then “Cut outs” have been, Pakistan’s ISI, anti-India governments in Bangladesh and Chinese arms trading companies about whose activities China can deny knowledge. There were major questions if China really did have an inimical relations with Maoist when the latter went underground to fight against the monarchy? The pace with China and the Nepali Maoists, especially the Prachanda-Vaidya group, worked together to form a virulent anti-India constituency suggests Beijing kept a discreet but close relationship with the Maoists. Ousted King Gyanendra of Nepal may be realizing now that the Chinese have also betrayed him. Or, is China keeping a line open to him now? Like the Maoist of Yore, Gyanendra now travels more in India, and has no overt contact with China.   It needs no elaboration how China plays and had played games in Nepal. It is, therefore, quite likely that China may be maintaining a deniable contact with the Indian Maoists using the Nepali Maoists. The cross-netting by the Chinese intelligence has placed the Nepali Maoists in such a position that they cannot get out of the Chinese net without losing all credibility with the people. The Maoists now stand to be seen by the Nepali people as selling the country to China. That includes strong pro-China elements in the UML including Jhala Nath Khanal. The Nepali army is, perhaps, the only institution in Nepal that the Chinese are finding difficult to penetrate. Prime Minister Khanal tried to help this Chinese endeavour. But in an unprecedented move, Nepali army Chief Gurung went on a two-week tour to the United States immediately after the Chinese military delegation's visit to Nepal. China is trying to signal to India that its current concern in Nepal is not India, but the US and EU. Outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Qiu Guohang, decided to meet (Apr.06) Maoist Vice Chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai to convey that trilateral relations between Nepal, China and India should be “developed in a unified manner”, and cautioned that to run a government and pursue development activities a “ restrained behavior is needed most”. Bhattarai is widely known as a top Maoist leader who advocates an amicable relationship with India. Ambassador Qiu’s message to the hard line anti-India Maoists that a vitriolic anti-India programme was not opportune at the moment. But it is unlikely that this fine Chinese advice will sink into the minds of the anti-India constituency in Nepal. At the moment, China has realized that they themselves have instigated a situation in its eastern neighbourhood which has only bought distrust, and a stronger US led coalition against China’s threatening behavior.   India must remain alert to these complicated developments in Nepal, which South Block and PMO would have to contend with. But it would be a major setback if India reposed trust in China’s signals. The Central Kingdom’s strategic net does not inspire a simple response.     

Indian Army And RAW Train Tamil Tiger [ LTTE ] Exposed

Tamil Tiger Terrorists [LTTE] – Recruited by RAW, Trained by Indian Army For years, a Government of India has hid from a adults as well as a International Community how it was deeply concerned in harboring, financing, defending as well as precision a world’s many dangerous militant organization, a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam [LTTE] or Tamil Tigers as they have been some-more notoriosly known. India currently accuses a neighbors Pakistan as well as Bangladesh for being ‘ terrorist’ havens & ancillary militant groups when this nation has itself bankrolled a little of a many henous crimes committed opposite humanity; corroborated up by India’s brute outmost comprehension group called, RAW [ Research as well as Analysis Wing]. To behind it up, India sent in a supposed ‘peacekeeping force’ a IPKF to Sri Lanka though which force committed a misfortune atrocities [including rape, murder, extortion] opposite bad Sri Lankan civilians, both Sinhalese as well as Tamils whilst pang complicated casualties opposite LTTE. It was India’s greatest unfamiliar process mess though something today, many Indian politicians as well as pro-India experts wish to brush underneath a rug. It is time for Indians to arise up from their doze as well as take a mount opposite their supervision for stuff oneself them lies over a decades.

India's Newclear Conundrum

Japan’s nuclear disaster has fueled fear and uncertainty among all of the world’ s producers of nuclear power. For India, an energy-starved country, much is at stake. That fear factor has two main causes. Although nuclear power ranks as a “clean” source of energy, it is accompanied by the terrible shadow of nuclear war, which emerged from Japan’s last reckoning with nuclear catastrophe, 65 years ago at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and which lends it an automatic association with mass destruction and death. Moreover, the secrecy that attends all things “nuclear” has left people not knowing enough to feel confident. The fear inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster will be reflected in soaring costs for nuclear power worldwide, largely owing to demands for improved safety and the need to pay more to insure the potential risks. Indeed, nuclear plants are prone to a form of “panic transference.” Should a reactor of one design go wrong, all reactors of that type will be shut down instantly around the world. India’s dilemma is this: it has 20 nuclear plants in operation, with an additional 23 on order. With the country desperately short of power, and requiring energy to grow, concerned citizens are asking if nuclear is still the answer for India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cautiously announced that a “special safety review” of all plants will be undertaken. “Not enough,” say roughly 50 eminent Indians, who at the end of March demanded a “radical review” of the country’s entire nuclear-power policy for “appropriateness, safety, costs, and public acceptance.” The group also called for an “ independent, transparent safety audit” of all nuclear facilities, to be undertaken with the “involvement of civil-society organizations and experts outside the Department of Atomic Energy.” Until then, there should be “a moratorium on all…nuclear activity” and “revocation of recent clearances.” This is as explicit as opposition can get. How have other countries reacted? France, which is around 80 % dependent on nuclear energy, and is a big exporter of nuclear-plant technology, initially avoided most of the global anti-nuclear concerns. But now it, too, is promising to draw the necessary lessons from the Japanese experience and upgrade its safety procedures, including a reassessment of the potential effects of natural disasters on nuclear-plant operations, conceding that the occurrence of more than one natural disaster simultaneously had not been considered previously. China, which has 77 nuclear reactors at various stages of construction, planning, and discussion, has said that it will “review its program.” Though Russia has formally announced that it will go ahead with its program, former President Mikhail Gorbachev – on whose watch the Chernobyl meltdown occurred 25 years ago – is not so sanguine. While the US is the principal exporter of reactors, it currently has just two under construction on its own territory. Denmark, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal are strongly anti-nuclear, and Switzerland has stopped all nuclear- power projects.  All of this will lead to cost evaluation and escalation. According to a study conducted by the former Indian government minister Arun Shourie, the price of uranium could rise to $140 per pound, close to its record high. A change of much greater consequence concerns the price of reactors. Pre- Fukushima, a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT), “The Future of Nuclear Power, 2003 ,” as well as a study by researchers at the University of Chicago, established that nuclear energy was 50-100 % more expensive than energy from coal or gas. The report of the Working Group on Power of the Planning Commission of India puts the cost of energy from the country’s coal-based plants at about one-third lower than nuclear power, with gas 50 % cheaper. Energy security and public safety should be of equal importance in determining future policy on nuclear power. Indeed, experts like C. M. A. Nayar have said that the Fukushima accident “could have happened even if there was no tsunami.” Nayar suggests that it has long been known that the reactor’s design contained basic flaws, though only the Japanese authorities can verify this. So, what is to be done? Clean energy at a time of global warming is obviously necessary.  But so is the safety and security of humans, animals, and plants. India has set itself on a path of virtually doubling its nuclear-power output. This is deeply troubling, for India’s supply of nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors is almost entirely dependent on imports from manufacturers who refuse liability for any malfunction. There is, of course, no single correct response that would simultaneously and uniformly deal with resource scarcity, fossil-fuel depletion, climate change, and the risks of nuclear power. A choice will ultimately need to be made about how to meet India’s energy demands. At a minimum, a thorough reexamination and full public debate must precede the construction of any new nuclear plant. But the current emphasis on nuclear power must be objectively reassessed, and dependence on it thereafter reduced. With nuclear safety suddenly becoming a global imperative, the costs are simply too high to do otherwise.

Shock & Awe Talk : Our Collapsing Cultural Canopy, Conflict And Attack On BAULS

"Whatever is Sin for a Nation, could be salvation for another"   Fakir Lalon Shah The choice by default of people with a cultural bent of mind prior to any national elections is to vote for the ruling Awami League, for no other reason than its ' commitment to secular pluralism' which on surface and devoid of deceits - translates to tolerance of minority views, ideas, beliefs and lifestyles. Yes, we have managed to drive out the BNP-Jamaat nexus of Islam pasand bigots as also a Military backed 'Caretaker Government' – but is our new found spirit of Freedom and Democracy any indicator that we have been able to wrestle control, or enlarge the very constricted liberal space that overrides our collapsing cultural canopy? For instance, there have been absolutely no 'big noise' from our so-called 'Cultural Activists' when it concerns recent spate of looting, theft and ransacking of deities in Shonaton Temples all across the country, nor has there been any ' protest' to decry the forceful eviction, usurping of their land housing religious sites, or the intermittent violence against the community. The reasons are understandable: all of these are happening during apparently ' secular' times when we bask in complacency of having been able to marginalize the Mollahs at long last. Our 'Cultural Activists' therefore do not want to embarrass the Government of the day – and in our Bangaliana have even turned a blind eye to continued racist oppression of other communities including Adivasis – our Indigenous Peoples. In focus: the incident in Pangsha, Rajbari on 5 th April where 28 members of the Baul fraternity were attacked, their long hair and beard shorn by a local Imam and other cohorts, later forcing them to a nearby Mosque to utter 'Tawba' ( repentance). Their crime? They were holding a yearly 'Shadhu Shongo' (Conclave of the Wise) which the fanatics branded 'un- Islamic' – are deeply disturbing signals. The incident went unreported until about the 8 th of April and was limited to the vernacular press. Other newspaper joined in begrudgingly, and had it not been for Mohammad Fakir ( the Shadhu who called the Conclave) lodging a case in the nearby police station – it would have been brushed under the carpet. The attempted suppression of this news became all the more obvious when the facts went public. Surprise of all surprise - it wasn't our 'known and sworn' enemies – the 'fun-da-mental-ist' who launched the attacks. Turns out, the attackers including the Imam were either Awami League leaders or/are involved with the ruling party politics in the area. Belatedly exposed to the faux pas the local Awami League MP Zillul Hakim was seen expressing his ' regrets' on TV and that the issue has been 'mutually and peacefully resolved'– with the Bauls apparently 'agreeing to a solution'. End of the story? No, there were no apologies offered to the Bauls, the Court case was bypassed and it only confirmed that our 'secular, plural and progressive forces' were the real perpetrators, possibly even the instigators of the attack. Later reports suggest the Bauls were coerced into the 'agreement' prior to the meeting with the MP. Asked why an agreement was arrived on an issue of such seriousness especially when it is in Court, private video footages quoted the MP as saying –"even murder cases are resolved in my constituency in like manner" ! Bauls and their music are not only our national wealth they are listed in the UNESCO declaration of 2005 as ' Masterpieces of Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity' and while two Baul Saints, the Late Khoda Buksh Shah of Chuadanga and Late Karim Shah of Sunamganj, Sylhet were awarded Bangladesh's highest Civilian Honor Ekushey Padak , members of the agnostic fraternity continue to eke out an existence in the periphery and are largely ostracized. It is nonetheless heartening that the Baul Movement has built up enormous urban followings since the mid 90 's and on Facebook there was an outcry – with some aficionados calling for a 'counter Shadhu Shongo' at Pangsha later in the month. My immediate reaction was to point out that a Shadhu Shongo is not meant for tit-for-tat reprisals or a forum for protest or expression of irate sentiments. These conclaves are essentially limited to discourses into the music, life and teaching of the many Saints who sought to illumine the majority of our people. Further, a Shadhu Shongo is called by a Baul Shadhu ( practitioner) and those sending out the Facebook invites – did not necessarily fit into the category – nor did anybody have a clue that Shadhu Shongo's are not held in the month of Boishakh ! Why? Again it is best left for the Shadhu's to explain – however from my very limited knowledge on the subject; one has to study esoteric Indian Cosmology to get the drift. Same reason, the month of Boishakh is not thought to be auspicious even for marriages. In any event – good sense prevailed and it was left to Mohammad Fakir of Pangsha to send out a new invite – asking people to 'assist him complete the incomplete Shadhu Shongo' . With hundreds of eager enthusiast with no knowledge of either the Baul way of life, or the regimes associated with the belief system imminently set to descend upon Pangsha to 'right the wrong', one hopes this does not degenerate into a photo-op cultural picnic! Any escalation and/or law and order situation will lead to more outrages on the Bauls and result in unwanted intrusion and curiosity on their belief – which while acknowledging the 'omniscient Maker', rejects all religions, temples, mosques, rituals and symbolism – a belief and life style of our people for over two thousand years. I also find it very hard to accept the blasé synonymity drawn between Bauls and Fakir Lalon Shah , which has been much the case in the Media this time around as in the past. Lalon never claimed to be a Baul, and the Baul movement indeed predates him by centuries. Therefore not all Bauls are 'Lalon devotees' – or vice versa . One may hold Fakir Lalon Shah In the highest of reverence, be inspired by his message – but it goes contrary to Baul belief if we are to propel any man to a pedestal for worship. Lalon in his lifetime abhorred and resisted such inclinations. While shearing off long hair and beards of a Baul is condemnable – it is not a 'sacrilegious' act at any rate, rather a criminal attack, humiliation of the worst kind and a violation of an individual's sovereignty. Sporting long hair or beard does not necessarily make one a Baul, as much as skull caps, beards and dresses denoting the so-called 'Islamic identity' of the Mollah any affirmation of a pukkah Muslim either! It is time that we move forward than get bogged down by trivialities which border on the tokenistic. Cultural cohesion can only be achieved by thorough knowledge and understanding of our inherent strength – our folk philosophies and philosophers – and without a doubt Lalon stands out as the greatest Master we as a Nation have been blessed with. To end, a Baul greeting – Joi Guru – 'Long Live the Great God in Man'.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Truth and consequences : Nationalistic fury is good for the government, terrible for Sri Lanka

IN RECENT years the default mode for Sri Lankan diplomats has been a posture of affronted national dignity beneath a mask of outraged, sanctimonious innocence. This week, after the publication of a report by a panel of experts for the United Nations on the final stages of Sri Lanka’s 26- year civil war, some were recalled to Colombo for “consultations”. Maybe they are brushing up their indignant- repudiation skills. The war culminated in May 2009 with the army’s crushing of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Its climax was marked by ruthlessness and callous disregard for human life. The panel concluded that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that large- scale violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law were committed by both sides”. Since hardly any of the Tigers’ leaders outlived the war, it is the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, that is in the dock. It is probably too much to hope the government might adopt a fresh approach to these familiar allegations. There were always at least three ways to tackle them. It could, early on, have argued brazenly that the benefits of ending the war outweighed the cost in human life. The Tigers were as vicious and totalitarian a bunch of thugs as ever adopted terrorism as a national- liberation strategy. Or the government could have insisted that its army’s behaviour was largely honourable, but that some regrettable abuses may have occurred, which would be thoroughly investigated. Instead, it chose a third path: to lie, and to lie big. It insisted that it pursued a policy of “zero civilian casualties”. Even as its forces shelled the shrinking “no- fire zone” in which the Tigers held some 330 ,000 civilians as human shields, it either denied it was doing so, or promised to stop and did not. It kept foreign observers out and bullied the local press into silence. The UN report found that “tens of thousands” were killed in January-May 2009 , with most civilian casualties caused by government shelling. The report relates little that has not appeared in accounts by human-rights groups. But it is unusually blunt, perhaps reflecting exasperation at the Sri Lankan government’s obstructive, aggressive tactics. The three-member panel is distinguished enough to shrug off Sri Lanka’s accusations of bias. The chair, Marzuki Darusman, is a former attorney-general of Indonesia. The report calls the conduct of the war “a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace”. The government, however, is now too deeply wedded to its strategy of denial to back down even an inch. It lobbied hard against the publication of the UN report, arguing it would damage efforts at national reconciliation. Now that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has ignored its objections, it has whipped up a frenzy of national resentment against the perceived calumnies. This goes down well at home. Standing up to foreign bullying only enhances Mr Rajapaksa’s popularity among the ethnic-Sinhalese majority. Responding to the report, the president has said he would be happy to sit in the electric chair on behalf of his country. A huge turnout is expected for May Day rallies at which he has asked for a show of support for his government. If the report has brought Mr Rajapaksa short-term political benefits at home, he may also conclude that the diplomatic fallout is easily manageable. Sri Lanka is not without supporters. Just days after the end of the war in 2009 , the UN’s Human Rights Council passed a resolution praising its victory, condemning Tiger war crimes and overlooking altogether allegations against the Sri Lankan army. Of its diplomatic allies back then, India is now less staunch. But China and Russia remain firm defenders of the rights of sovereign governments to quell secessionist movements, and do not seem squeamish about the means. They may be even keener, after the UN- authorised intervention in Libya, to show that was the exception to a rule of non-interference. So Sri Lanka will continue to resist calls for any formal inquiry into the war beyond the “ Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC) it established. Though due to report soon, the commission has failed to earn credibility. In the long run, however, the semi- official status the UN report gives allegations of war crimes will haunt this government. The well-organised, far-flung Tamil diaspora will hound Sri Lanka’s leaders when they go abroad, and put pressure on foreign governments to demand accountability. Skilled at exploiting the rivalry between India and China, whose arms supplies helped win the war, Sri Lanka’s diplomats may argue that they no longer need the West. But, proud of Sri Lanka’s democratic traditions, they will smart at being seen as front men for a shoddy dictatorship, engaged in what now looks like a desperate cover-up. After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Though perceived foreign slights may enhance the government’s standing at home, it is there that the concealment of the truth about the war’s end will do most damage. It is not as if there were no witnesses. Some 300 ,000 people know first-hand parts of what happened. When the LLRC held hearings in the north, scene of the fighting, survivors told harrowing tales of loss and asked where missing loved ones were. Without answers, it is hard to see how they can be “reconciled”. Nor does the government show any sign of moving towards a political settlement, to meet the grievances of the Tamil minority that fuelled the conflict. Gordon Weiss, the UN’s spokesman in Colombo during the end of the war, predicts in a forthcoming book (“The Cage”) that Tamil emigration will continue, “encouraged by political stagnation, a lack of rights and rule by fear”. And also by the government’s continued refusal to countenance any serious investigation into how it won the war.

No Place For Minorities In Pakistan

The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minority affairs of Pakistan, has posed a few questions for the world community. The persecution of minorities in that country is unabated and calls for immediate intervention from the world powers. A couple of months ago, Salman Taseer, governor of the Pakistani Punjab State was also murdered – for his liberal views against the stringent blasphemy law – in broad daylight. More unfortunate aspect of Salman’s murder is: his bodyguard, who killed him, is showered with flower petals by the onlookers, whenever he is brought to the court for hearings. The draconian blasphemy law has been invariably being used to suppress and blackmail the minorities in Pakistan. Shahbaz Bhatti, who was a Christian and one of the most vocal critics of the said law, had been receiving threats from the ultras for quite some time but valiantly kept on defying the diktats of the extremists; but eventually, he had to pay the price of his fighting for the rights of the minorities of his country, with his life. The suppression of minorities in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon; it started immediately after the state of Pakistan was created. Although, the creator of that country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared in the first session of the Constituent Assembly that he wanted the country to become a secular state, yet, the successive military and civilian regimes of that country could not give secular character to the political system. Hindus in the states of Sindh and Balochistan are incessantly being persecuted and their lives, property and dignity are constantly threatened by the zealots. The state of Sindh, in the aftermath of the partition of the country, used to have a sizeable population of Hindus, but due to the religious persecution, the community has been reduced to very small numbers in the said state; most of it has been migrating either to India or has been forcibly converted. Every now and then, the community faces the attacks of the religious bigots and lives under the constant threat of terror. Recently, a group of Hindus coming back from the famous historical shrine of Hinglaj Devi in Balochistan, was waylaid and murdered. The unfortunate fact is, the authorities remain mute spectators and as the reports trickle in, many a times tacitly support the attacks on the community. The intolerance of the Pakistani state is not restricted to the minorities belonging to the other faiths only; even the Ahamadiyas – actually a sect belonging to the majority community of Pakistan – are not allowed to live in peace and are constantly being harassed. Their story of woes started with General Zia ul Haq – the erstwhile military dictator of Pakistan – declaring them non-Muslims, in the decade of seventies. Intermittent attacks by the armed extremist groups on the hapless Ahamadiyas keep on taking place in that country and the successive governments have miserably failed in providing any protection to the said community. The ugly face of the religious persecution was seen again in the Ourkazai tribal agency of the NWFP of Pakistan. The members of the Sikh community were issued notices to pay Zaziya or face death by the Talibani militia. Although, the threats were coming thick and large for quite some time, yet, the government did nothing to save the lives and the property of those Sikh masses, who opted to stay back – at the soil of their birth and their forefathers – in the aftermath of the partition of the country. Many innocent Sikh lives were taken by the religious zealots and the rest of Pakistan and the world community kept on watching the massacre as mute spectators. The Christian minority, which is largely scattered in the Punjab province of Pakistan, is on the receiving end of the constant attacks by the extremist groups. Whenever any incident which is considered to be provocative – by the fundamentalists of Pakistan – occurs in any western country, the Churches and the houses of the Christian minority become targets of the radical forces. Late Shahbaz Bhatti, who was a vociferous critic of some of the provisions of the Blasphemy law, was a dominant voice of the Christian community of Pakistan; his assassination should not only be condemned unequivocally by the world leaders, pressure should be brought on the Pakistani regime to protect the lives, property, dignity and the institutions of various minorities living in that country. The complicity of the government of Pakistan and its agencies like ISI – in attacks on the minorities – is glaringly evident, therefore, trade embargoes against the state which has been sponsoring terrorism from the very first day of its creation, should be brought and the UN should depute the emissaries of UNHRC in Pakistan to safeguard the lives and the properties of the terrorised minorities.

Quest For Peace In Chittagong Hill Tracts

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) violent clashes resulting in deaths occur not too infrequently. News report of 20 April says, tribal hill people launched attack and killed three Bengalis on 17 April at Barapilak area in Khagrachari hill district. Land remains the bone of contention in such incidents, and both sides consider these intermittent clashes as the number one problem of the CHT. A Bengali leader of the Sama-adhikar Andolon, Moniruzzaman, observed that much of the problem could be solved if the lands could be given to respective people adding that the government and the local administration are not doing justice to the Bengalis. In reality, numerous foreign and local advocacy campaigns -- a la agitprop -- through online YouTube video and articles are available but the plights of the mostly destitute Bengali settlers are seldom reported.    It is alarming to learn, as the report quotes a letter dated 28 January 2010 , of a Ministry of CHT Affairs official, expressing concern that some NGOs, foreign news media and some Christian countries behind the shield of the United Nations are trying to form a separate Christian state there with the help of some persons. The letter noted that the UNDP, DANIDA, ADB and other international organizations have been investing crores of dollars and running programmes to empower the tribal people, adding that they are trying to establish the tribal people as indigenous people. Surprisingly, the government did not disclose anything on this disquieting matter.    Bengalis were not unknown in the CHT; historically speaking, the movement of a small number of Bengalis from the plain areas to the hilly terrain began way back in the 17 th century on invitation of the Chakma chief. During the pre- 1971 period certain mainstreaming and modernisation effort made positive impact on their life. Education benefited all in general and the Chakmas in particular; the latter's literacy rate rose to 50 per cent-- more than the national average then.    The seed of the CHT problem was sown in the 1960 s (the idea was conceived in 1906) when the Kaptai hydel project was commissioned devastating the homesteads of thousands of the ethnic people. They received another blow in 1973 from no other person than Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself asked obviously in good faith the CHT leaders to assimilate themselves with the mainstream polity which was straightaway rejected. Precisely two months after the Victory of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation on the world map from the brutal domination of Pakistan, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) was formed with Manabendra Narayan Larma as its chief on February 15 , 1972. Next year the Shanti Bahini (SB) was formed as its armed wing, whose insurgents ambushed a police patrol at Subalong in Rangamati in early 1975 when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was alive. A few months later Larma went underground and crossed over to India. Between 1975 and 1977 the SB developed its military organisation and weaponry. The SB began its low-intensity guerrilla war operations allegedly from bases in Tripura in India. In 1977 , they ambushed a Bangladesh military convoy after which defence system increased in the CHT.    There is no gainsaying that the present government, which had signed the CHT Peace Accord, 1997 , did not implement it though it was in power until 2000 ; it is hoped that in its current term the Awami League government will put the accord into operation sooner than later. However, in May 22 , 2009 , the parliamentary standing committee on CHT Affairs at its first meeting in Bandarban signalled a change in approach to the carrying out of CHT peace accord.    Together with the Chakma, Marma, Murong, Tanchangya, Bhowm, Tripura, Lushai, Khumi, Kukis, Mizos etc. there are some 14 ethnic people in Bangladesh who add colour to the demographic mosaic of this country. In many respects the ethnic people need the cooperation of the mainstream Bengalis for their socio-economic advancement. And to realise that golden dream the stepping stone shall have to be peace and harmony among all the citizens on the basis of equitable dispensation of justice. Let humane consideration, and above all, non- violence be the guiding star of the hill people - both ethnic and Bengali settlers.

HIZB UT TAHRIR And Terrorism In Pakistan

Hizb ut-Tahrir is an organisation that believes in the implementation of the caliphate all over the world. It is banned in most countries including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. It was, for a short stint, banned in Pakistan Newspapers are awash with reports about leaflets being distributed in North Waziristan by militants warning against any military action. The leaflets proclaim that if the Pakistan Army is allegedly bending over backwards for $ 2 billion in aid from the US, the militants will collect this amount from North Waziristan. It is amazing that this collection drive can be organised to ward off a military operation but not to address the poverty and development issues of the agency. While these leaflets have been covered in the media and analysts are rightly raising alarm about them, there are other leaflets, websites, rallies, blogs and press releases that are lethal in the venom they produce but are below the radar screen. Or perhaps, one should correct oneself. Not below the radar screen but in a sense even ‘allowed’ by at least the judicial authorities. One such poster that adorns the locality right next to Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) ground in Islamabad declares, “Cut off NATO supply lines. Let the US die its own death.” About five years back, an honourable judge of the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court ( LHC) ruled about the activities of such an organisation as, “…has shown dissatisfaction on the policies of the [Pakistan] government that is the right of each and every citizen…I am unable to understand as to how distribution of these pamphlets in the general public was termed as terrorism or sectarianism.” The organisation in question is the Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) and what the honourable judge was ‘unable to understand’ was HT’s stance on democracy, Islamism and Pakistan’ s foreign policy. Since space is limited to really present the HT in its imagined saviour avatar, I will attempt to only focus on its stance on democracy, Islamism and our relationship with our allies. On democracy, HT declares that “ democracy as a system is the rule of people, for the people, by the people. The basis of the democratic system is that people possess the right of sovereignty, choice and implementation. It is a kufr [disbelief] system because it is laid down by man and it is not from the shariah laws.” HT is an organisation that believes in the implementation of the caliphate all over the world. About its interest in working in Pakistan, HT declares on its website, “We do not plan on establishing the khilafat [caliphate] in a weak or small country. We believe the starting point should be in a country that should have certain prerequisites and that includes the ability to sustain itself militarily, based on Ghalaba-tuz-Zan (most probably). One should also understand that for any country to exist, it is not necessary that it should be stronger than all the countries; rather it should be sufficiently strong so that the superpower cannot immediately annihilate it. Pakistan, with its missile capability and strong professional army, is not a soft target. The US knows that Pakistan is capable of retaliating and hurting it more than it is willing to sacrifice. CENTCOM in Doha is within the reach of Pakistani missiles and the Pakistan Air Force. Similarly, the US Army in Afghanistan is virtually surviving on the supplies of petrol and food coming from Pakistan. One should also remember that it took the US a full year of military build up before they could go into Iraq. The Pakistani army is capable of sending more body bags to the US than they could ever imagine. Also, currently, the US army is stretched thin and they cannot recruit people to fight insurgencies let alone a full-fledged war with a nuclear state.” HT is banned in most countries including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. It was, for a short stint, banned in Pakistan but since the honourable judge of the Multan bench of the LHC was unable to understand the reasons for the ban, it was lifted. The HT is now free to spread its venom against non-Muslim Pakistanis and states. It has also not spared the Pakistani state and government and is openly challenging the writ of the state. It publicly declares that, “unjust taxes like income tax will be abolished”. We immediately get defensive when we, as a nation, state and government, are urged to “do more”. Our indignation might hold some water if we were able to understand the consequences of allowing such organisations to spread their venom. By way of an example, on November 5 , 2010 , the HT will be organising rallies that “will inform people that the real change is only possible through the establishment of khilafat. Khilafat will sever NATO supply lines within hours of its establishment. It will suffocate the US by joining hands with the people of the tribal areas and Balochistan.” Why the HT has been allowed in the past, and undoubtedly will be allowed in the future, to spread such venom is because their modus operandi involves recruiting extremely well connected and influential people through the opium of Islamism. In such a scenario, one is unable to understand why we continue to be surprised when places of worship, state agencies, government personnel and innocent civilians are continuously targeted in senseless terrorist attacks. If the judiciary is so fond of activism, how about ‘understanding’ the consequences of this dangerous game and banning such outfits, making it at least at least difficult for them to operate.

Nepal's Against India's Dadagiri?

India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's sojourn to Kathmandu last week has seemingly ended in a failure. It was said success of his visit largely depended on improving relations with UCPN ( Maoist), largest party in the constituent assembly (parliament) and partner of present coalition government led by Jhala Nath Khanal of UML, and help build consensus of political parties in drafting the constitution and complete the peace process in Nepal.    Media reports suggest that Krishna's hour-long meeting with Maoist chairman Prachanda on April 22 ended in acrimonious arguments. Krishna has questioned the Maoist party's anti-India propaganda, saying its ambassador Rakesh Sood was harassed with shoes and stones whenever he went out of Kathmandu and Indian companies and businesses came under attacks. After the meeting Prachanda said Krishna exhibited keen interest in Nepal's internal matters by India which is simply unacceptable.    He pointed to the Indian minister the facts that they had put his party in great difficulty and compelled to step down when his government sacked Army Chief Rukmangad Katwal and also during the prime ministerial election. " Now, we want relations between the two countries to begin afresh based on a new and equal footing. Neither can Nepal get the new constitution nor will environment become favourable for India by sidelining the largest party in the constituent assembly. I feel that India needs to focus more on these issues than our party's internal activities," Prachanda was quoted as saying by daily Telegraph of Nepal on April 24 under the pungent heading "No More Dadagiri".    It is interesting that Phanindra Nepal, chairman of Unified Napal Nationalist Front, in an open letter to SM Krishan during his visit demanded that New Delhi should return 60 ,000 square kilometre Nepali lands occupied by India. The letter said India's friendship with Nepal is not based on equality and Justice. People have clearly understood India's intentions of controlling Nepal for its own interest.    Prashant Jha, a veteran journalist, writing for the daily Hindu of India on the eve of Krishan's visit to Nepal said his challenge will be to encourage all parties to work together as the constitutional deadline approaches and help build a consensus. " Krishna would do Indo-Nepal relations a lot if he could, at the highest levels and in public, deliver a political commitment that Delhi does not have preference in Nepal domestic politics and any legitimate government will have its full cooperation. This must be followed by instructions to its agencies not to play destabilizing role in Nepal."    But Krishna allegedly took the line dotted by the South Block to trigger chaos and instability in Nepal. It is likely that that New Delhi wants to test the nerve and reaction of Beijing to the situation in Nepal. In the recent past Chinese leaders visiting Kathmandu had categorically stated that China will not accept outside interference into internal affairs of Nepal. Instability in Nepal will impact not only the landlocked country but the South Asia and the entire region. How Beijing acts in dealing with impending instability on its close southern neighbour remains a matter of great interest.    No doubt, India has the largest stake in Nepal's political stability where China is making its inroads in a big way. Krishna returned home leaving the Maoist party beleaguered and political situation uncertain. The tenure of the constituent assembly, extended by one year, ends on May 28. Analysts say, given the wide differences among the political parties, the assembly will not be able to complete its task of drafting the constitution within this time. The coalition government of communist parties - UML and UCPN - is likely to seek further extension of the constituent assembly that failed to write the constitution in three years.    It is said that a faction of ruling UML and other parties, ostensibly prodded by New Delhi, are strongly opposed further extension of the assembly. Alliance of three Madhesi parties - Sadbhavana Party, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum - said they would not allow extension of the assembly. It has signalled an ominous sign by raising the demand of "complete autonomy and right to self- determination" with threat of street movement from May 2. Observers in Kathmandu said these parties are heavily influenced by New Delhi and the fresh demands were raised at Delhi's behest. This leaves a grim prospect of chaos and conflict to follow.    Jhala Nath Khanal government has proved weak to face such a situation. He was elected Prime Minister in early February with UCPN's (Maoists) support upon a seven-point agreement with its chairman Pushpa Kamal Dhahal ( Prachanda). A Faction within his UML leaning on India sought to scrap the 'secret' agreement. This faction was joined by Nepali Congress known an extension of Indian Congress and Madhesi parties. Because of strong opposition from within his party Khanal could not give Home Ministry to the UCPN as envisaged in the agreement. So, it made UCPN unhappy and as a result Khanal could not yet form a full fledged cabinet. Heading a weak government Khanal is under fire from all sides for growing insecurity, corruption and inflation.    A recent survey carried out by Inter Disciplinary Analyst, a think- tank of Nepal revealed 96 percent people opposed federalism, 57 percent demand Hindu State, 48 percent voted for constitutional monarchy and 43 percent opposed monarchy. It is a clear indication that majority of the people are not happy with the decisions made by political leaders without taking cognizance to their sentiment.    As uncertainty looms large, elderly journalist Madan Madi Dixit writing in Rajdhani daily of Nepal on April 21 said it is simply impossible of completing the new constitution within May 28. "We must embrace fresh election and should elect honest and dedicated candidates - bring in a smaller size of constitution drafting body but concurrently be of inclusive nature. " Who will hold the election if the present government goes with the constituent assembly on May 28 ?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

BANGLADESH : Chittagong Rights Violation Continues, Says UN

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord has yet to be fully implemented, with human rights violations continuing more than a decade after it was signed in December 1997 says the UN. The accord ended a 25- year low- intensity guerrilla war between 11 indigenous groups (Jumma) and the government and was intended to establish self-governance in this southeastern part of Bangladesh, home to half a million people. However, a recent study by UN Rapporteur Lars-Anders Baer found an extensive military presence and ongoing land disputes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in 2010. "When the idea of the study was presented to the UN's Economic and Social Council, the Bangladesh delegation... argued that there were no 'indigenous' people in Bangladesh. This was a surprise," he told IRIN. Raja Devavish Roy, king of the Chakma Circle, the largest ethnic group in the Jumma, who was also appointed to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues , says a widespread lack of knowledge about the area's long history of autonomy has resulted in discrimination against its inhabitants. "In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, all Millennium Development Goals... are well below the national average," Devavish said. The study states that "gross human rights violations" continue, including "arbitrary arrests, torture, extra-judicial killings, harassment of rights activists and sexual harassment". It recommends that the government formally endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that the Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh investigate alleged human rights violations. Displaced During the insurgency, about 70 , 000 indigenous people fled Bangladesh and more than 100 , 000 were internally displaced. The study found that most international refugees had been repatriated and rehabilitated; however, "no practical steps have been taken to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons". But State Minister Jatindra Lal Tripura MP, chairman of the Taskforce for Repatriation of Tribal Refugees and the Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced People, insisted: "The current situation is better than the past. At present, there is harmony and peace [in CHT]." De-militarization According to the report, a third of Bangladesh's army is deployed in the CHT, an area that comprises just a tenth of the country's territory. "This is an excessive amount, by any standards, especially in a country not participating in a war," the study says. The report cites the military presence as the main reason for human rights violations against the local population and says the withdrawal of temporary military camps is "crucial for re-establishing normalcy". But how the military factor into establishing and maintaining peace in CHT remains unclear, Baer said. "The government has been open, but a big problem has been gathering relevant information about... the military presence in CHT. The 'black hole', so to speak, in my work, is the role of the military establishment in the CHT peace process," Baer said. Land rights According to the study, disputed land rights remain the most important issue, with forced evictions and expropriation of ancestral lands continuing at an " alarming rate". The Bangladesh government has long seen the CHT as empty land on to which it can move poor Bengali settlers, with scant regard for the area's Jumma inhabitants, activists insist. "The government set up the land commission [to settle land disputes] without due consideration of the opinions of the indigenous community. Therefore, indigenous people feel an unwillingness to cooperate with it," said National Human Rights Commission chairperson Mizanur Rahman. The study recommends that the government create a timeline for implementing all remaining provisions of the accord, warning that failure to do so could lead to " renewed political instability and ethnic conflict in the region". On 21 April, Survival International - an organization working for the rights of tribal people worldwide - reported that six indigenous Jumma villages were razed to the ground and many Jumma were attacked by Bengali settlers in the CHT. Violence erupted when Jumma landowners discovered settlers clearing their land and building shelters. A fight ensued that resulted in the death of three settlers. Following this incident, settlers, with the support of the army, burned down more than 90 Jumma houses and at least 20 Jummas were injured, the UK- based group reported.

Hasina wants Islam As Bangladesh State Religion

Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League would like to retain Islam as the state religion but wants all religions to enjoy equal rights, Prime Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said. In a reversal of a policy laid down by her late father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh to freedom, Hasina said she favoured retaining ‘Bismillah- Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim’ above the preamble of the constitution. The 1972 constitution had secularism as one of its pillars. This was removed after Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975. Bangladesh is now an Islamic republic, with 90 percent of its people being Muslims. Hindus constitute about nine percent and indigenous tribals follow Buddhism. There is a sprinkling of Christians. Hasina told the media after a two-hour meeting with the parliamentary committee that her party ‘is not against having Islam as state religion’. She suggested that the constitution should have ‘provision for ensuring equal rights to people of other religions’, The Daily Star reported Wednesday. Hasina also said her party was against banning religion-based political parties but it wanted some restrictions on them. This is the first time a prime minister appeared before a parliamentary committee that is reviewing the constitution in the light of a Supreme Court verdict last year that annulled several amendments brought about during 1975-90 when Bangladesh was a military-ruled nation. Jatiya Party, a major component of the Hasina-led ruling alliance, wanted the state religion to be retained. But the Left leaning Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Ganotanri Party and National Awami Party strongly opposed the Jatiya Party proposal.

BANGLADESH : The Arab Springs Chill Winds An Unexpected Downside

WHEN the Arab spring was in its infancy something unusual happened in the world’s second-largest Muslim-majority democracy. Following violent protests, Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, scrapped plans for a new airport near the capital, a pet project to be named after her father, Sheikh Mujib Rahman. A former Bangladeshi diplomat said he could remember no occasion on which an elected leader had reversed an important decision so quickly. He attributed the change of mind to what was happening in Egypt. The diplomat was not referring to fears that there might be a Bengali version of the Arab spring, though the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has talked about an “Egypt-like uprising” in their country. Instead, the economic consequences of the Arab spring are what matter. Bangladesh depends on remittances from the Middle East more than any other large country. Two-thirds of its recorded remittances—$7.2 billion in the year ending June 30 th 2010 —came from countries in The Economist ’s shoe-thrower’s index of regional flashpoints. The Middle East contributes slightly more to Pakistan’s total remittances but these account for only 6 % of Pakistan’s GDP, whereas Bangladesh’s remittances are 12% of GDP. The impact is certain to be bad, though how bad is unclear. Remittances are closely correlated with the number of migrant workers, lagged by about a year. On the eve of the global recession, about 6 m Bangladeshis worked abroad. The figure is lower now. Saudi Arabia is by far the most important overseas labour market. It hired a mere 22 ,000 Bangladeshis in 2009-10 , compared with 335 ,000 in the previous two years. Libya was Bangladesh’s fastest-growing market, albeit from a low base. Thus far, 34 ,000 Bangladeshi workers have returned from Libya and many others are trapped under fire in the docks of Misrata (they are now subjects of an international rescue mission). Bangladesh’s earnings from remittances tend to be volatile anyway, because its workers are mostly unskilled and get laid off quickly when economies turn down. (In contrast, remittances from higher-skilled Pakistanis are still rising). But the country is less badly affected than it might have been because its other main source of foreign exchange—textile exports—is doing well. This is partly because of rising labour costs elsewhere, and partly thanks to a rule change by the European Union. This allows clothes and other finished goods made in Bangladesh (and other least-developed countries) to come in duty-free as long as the value of their imported components does not exceed 70 %. Previously, the EU granted duty-free access to manufactures with an import content of 30 %. Bangladesh’s main competitors—China, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka—do not have “least developed” status, so the value of Bangladesh’s garment exports surged to $14 billion in the eight months to March 2011 , up 40 % at an annual rate. This will offset but not reverse the decline in remittances. The currency, the taka, is falling. So are foreign- exchange reserves. The IMF reckons the current-account balance will deteriorate sharply, from a surplus of 3.75 % of GDP in 2010-11 to a deficit of 0.75 % in 2011- 12. Unless something extraordinary happens—perhaps a resumption of large-scale hiring by the Saudis— remittances and the external position will get worse before they recover.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Srilanka And War Crimes : Keep Quiet And Carry On

SRI LANKA’S government has got its retaliation in first. On April 12th a panel of experts delivered a report to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki- moon, assessing whether war crimes were committed when the nation’s army bloodily won a long-running civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels early in 2009. The report has not yet been made public, but the government is furious that an independent inquiry took place at all. The report, it says, is “ fundamentally flawed” and biased. In recent weeks Sri Lanka’s rulers have vented their anger, most obviously by cracking down at home, intimidating those they blame for spurring the launch of the UN inquiry in the first place. At the sharp end are Western- funded education and advocacy groups, notably those keen on post-war reconciliation or those that point out flaws in the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Facing the most intense scrutiny are groups which have complained about repression, a muzzled press and a lack of civil liberties. Top of the list is the National Peace Council, which pushed for a negotiated rather than a violent end to the war. Last month criminal investigators summoned its director, Jehan Perera, demanding details of the group’s funding and operations. Before that, a smear campaign in the press suggested the council takes orders from foreign donors. No specific crime has been alleged, making it harder for the council to clear its name. Under surveillance, too, is the local branch of Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog. In October, after it launched a project to monitor abuse of public resources, investigators called in its accountant to quiz him over “suspicious transactions”. The inquiry was dropped, but the pro-government press has continued to vilify the group. Most exposed of all are bodies which, as the war reached its climax, spoke up for civilians caught in the crossfire. Fierce army onslaughts finished off the brutal Tamil Tigers, but thousands of civilians were killed, injured or displaced in the process. Human-rights groups in the West backed the activists’ campaign. The government strongly denies any abuses and instead attacks the campaigners, saying they have involved foreigners in an internal affair. Now it accuses the NGOs of raking in funds without explaining how they are used, though the groups have offered to show their audited accounts. Several factors help explain the timing of all this. Some in Mr Rajapaksa’s hawkish government seem convinced that his opponents are conspiring with the West or, worse, with the active and educated Tamil diaspora, to discredit him. By spreading the idea that “fifth columnists” fed harmful information to foreign experts, the government hopes to discredit the UN report. If, in turn, other NGO types are worried by a crackdown, they might become less willing to snipe about other problems in Sri Lanka, such as pervasive nepotism. Journalists, too, might usefully be scared. On March 31 st police arrested the editor of a popular pro-opposition website. In Orwellian style, he was accused by the state-run media of being behind a January arson attack that destroyed his own office and equipment. Supposedly, this was to bring the government into disrepute, by getting officials blamed. But scariest of all, one of the website’s reporters, Prageeth Eknaligoda, has now been missing for more than a year. It can be dangerous to speak out in Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PAKISTAN : Violence Against Shias In Parachinar

The city of Parachinar in the FATA province of Pakistan has witnessed continuous rounds of violence as pro-Taliban groups with ties to Al-Qaeda attempt to take over the city. Dozens of local Shias have been killed and hundreds of homes and businesses have been torched in the violence that has gripped the region since last April. Violence was sparked off in April 2007 as the town reverberated with explosions of mortar shells and rockets when pro-Taliban militants attacked a mosque in Parachinar. Tens of Shias were killed after being abducted and tortured by Taliban militants. Militants shot and killed the victims in cold-blood and left their bodies in the Aravali region. Local leaders blame the government for drawing a blanket of silence over the violence in the FATA province, and call on international aid organisations for assistance amidst the dire humanitarian crisis that has gripped the province. The city of Parachinar in FATA province of Pakistan has witnessed continuous rounds of violence as pro-Taliban groups with ties to Al-Qaeda attempt to take over the city. Dozens of local Shias have been killed and hundreds of homes and businesses have been torched in the violence that has gripped the region since April 2006. Violence was sparked off in April 2007 as the town reverberated with explosions of mortar shells and rockets when pro-Taliban militants attacked a mosque in Parachinar. Tens of Shias were killed after being abducted and tortured by Taliban militants. Militants shot and killed the victims in cold-blood and left their bodies in the Aravali region. Militant tribal groups like the Tehrik-i Taliban mark the landscape in the NWFP and FATA provinces in Pakistan, and the central government's policy towards these groups has unleashed a "violence- accommodation cycle" according to experts. Local leaders blame the government for drawing a blanket of silence over the violence in the FATA province, and many residents liken their fate in the province to the siege of Gaza. Kurram Agency has been subject to periodic sieges since April, the most recent of which has lasted for more than two-months in certain regions, and well over five-months of complete blockade in the city of Parachinar. Residents in Parachinar face an acute shortage in supplies of food and medicine. In an interview with AIM, a leading figure from Parachinar stated, "We call the [whole of] humanity for relief, removal of blockade, peace in the region and re-opening of the roads". Speaking of the dire humanitarian crisis that has gripped Parachinar, he added, "our sick persons are passing away without cure and medicine." The violence and humanitarian crisis in Parachinar has been met with silence from media outlets and human rights groups in covering the crisis. "Parachinari people are crying for relief but their voice returns back, because the 'big ones' have considered these people as non-human [and] uncivilized", a local figure exclaimed in clear frustration at the lack of coverage of the horrific situation in the Kurram Agency. In a rare piece, Pakistani media outlet, The Post , featured a story on the clashes in Kurram Agency, and similarly depicted the frustrations of the local population against the government's silence in the face of widespread violence and blockades which prevent the passage of the most basic supplies. The Post Protesters who had gathered in a rally organised earlier in April shouted slogans against the " political administration and were demanding restoration of durable peace in the area" the piece added. In exclusive pictures sent to AIM from Parachinar, a glimpse of the horrific extent of the violence that has gripped Parachinar is revealed. The residents of Parachinar complain that at a time when the world is supposedly at war with Al- Qaeda and the Taliban, it is of great surprise that the very real stories of grief and horror from victims who are faced with violence from these groups on a routine basis goes unheard. The call from Parachinar is not one to the 'ears of humanity' per se, but one that returns to question the collective conscience of the ' civilized world', and the double- standards at play in the so-called ' war on terror'. underlined that hospitals in the region were facing a "critical condition" due to the lack of medical supplies.

Pakistan : State And Religion

Islam is the state religion in Pakistan but of which sect? If the answer is pure Islam then what could be the interpretation of this pure Islam keeping in view the various sects that dot Islam. The Sunnis and Shia interpretation of Islamic Shariah is divergently different from each other. During the last fourteen centuries, there has never been any convergence or consensus on an agreed, unanimous or unified code of Islam that should be acceptable to both the mainstream Islamic sects as well as the fringe denominations. Instead, these sects have been exterminating each others in horrendous massacres and bloody bids for conquering each other’s lands. This cleavage is glaringly manifest even in the present ages when Islamic fraternity is distinctly divided into two blocs: one headed by the radical Sunni Saudi Arabia and the other by Iran as the main citadel for the Shia branch of Islam. There is no way these two blocs can hammer out a format of faith that can eliminate their ideological rivalry and bring them on one common agreed platform of Islamic Shariah. The division of the Islam into two contrasting and confronting ideological blocs, has given birth to the regional conflicts and a frantic race for political or leadership ascendency in Middle East and elsewhere in the world. In the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East, in states like Bahrain and Syria, the popular uprising is being interpreted in terms of Shia and Sunni majority areas and demographic proportions. Alongside with the popular wish for liberalization of these societies with civil rights and democratic forms of governments, the underlying tussle boils down to the question as to the which sect is going to wield political power within the respective countries now steaming with the urge for a change. The same ideological conflict is rampant in Pakistan that is attributed to be an Islamic state. The animosity and hatred between divergent sects is manifest in the unremitting terrorist attacks and bombing of each others’ holy places and during religious festivals. The Muslim societies where the religion is the driving force behind their nationalism or is the raison d’être of their existence such as Pakistan, have remained vulnerable to the sectarian bad blood and ideological pulls and pressures. It would be an ideal situation if Pakistan turns a liberal state where all shades of religious faith are free to practice and worship in accordance with their religious traditions and teachings. In Pakistan with an Islamic nomenclature, while the majority sect is free to prevail, the minority sects and denominations feel themselves fettered and under pressure in regard to the unhindered performance of their religious customs and traditions. The cardinal cause of the religious discord in Pakistan is the lack of tolerance between sects and because of treating each other as infidels, heretic and out of the pale of Islam. The sects such as Deobandi, Wahabi, Ahle-Hadith, Qadria, Chishtia Naqshbandia and a whole lot of mystical bands, in fact, blur the fair and original face of Islam that was in vogue during the period of first four heads of Islamic states; called caliphs. The conflict and tussle for power that started between the governor of Syria Amir Muawiyah and the fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali ( 656-661 A. D.) laid down the foundation of fissures in Islam that has never been bridged nor can it be removed ever in the future. The accession to power after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) divided the Muslims into Shias and Sunnis. This ideological division is so hard and trenchant that both these sects do not pray in one mosque, say the same Azan (call for prayer). They observe different timings for payers, fasting and use different words in prayers. The Shias do not pay the Islamic tax (Zakat). Above all they consider that the first three caliphs usurped the rights of blood relations of the Prophet to succeed him in caliphate or Imamate. As such both these sects are poles part and can never agree on one Islamic code. They kill each other and deem it as a religious obligation to be sacrificing their lives for the sake of upholding their religious ascendencny. The other myriad sects that abound in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan simply help in shredding the monolithic ideological fabric of Islam with their diverse concepts and explanations of Islamic Sharia and by their violent feuding. For instance three conservative sects Qadria, Chishtia and Naqshbandia believe and promote the culture of shrines, the worshipping of tombs and graves. They sing hymns for eulogizing the saints and holy figures for their supernatural powers to heal and remove problems. Their opponents, the Wahabi discard all these practices as un-Islamic and sacrilegious. The Christians, the Hindus, the Ahmadis and other similar non Muslim sects cannot feel themselves at par or equal citizens of Pakistan because the majority sects would not treat them as such. The orthodox and radicals from the Sunni faith attack and harass and kill, at will, the faithful of other sects within Islam and the non-Muslims alike as a sacred duty. The rival sects when get chance pay back in the same coin. Therefore, to declare Pakistan as an Islamic state with so much sectarian animosity looks like a mockery because the tolerance and justice, the two pain pillars of Islam, are seldom practiced in any Islamic State all the more in Pakistan. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is now clandestinely ruled and governed by the Islamic militants who brook no mercy nor tolerance for the dissenters or followers of diverse and divergent faiths. Wherever, the state and religions have mingled or blended by the writ of the state or under the force of the mighty and dominant religious sects, the state affairs and the good and peaceful governance have remained in a limbo. First of all, in the absence of a unanimous or agreed format of Islam, the faith based dissention or strife would always remain a lurking hindrance for the unity and peace of a society. The attacks on shrines in Pakistan have gained momentum. The destruction of Sunni and Shia places of worships are testament to the gory fact that it was impossible to eradicate the discords of creed between these colliding sects. It is, therefore, necessary that state affairs should be detached and made free from the religious domain as far as possible. The interference of religions in state affairs is detrimental to the overall advancement of a society and for the unhindered soci-economic progress, political stability and democratic culture to flower. There should be freedom of religion for all sects within the confines of the law and the constitution. Europe went through the turmoil between Catholicism and Protestantism and finally confined religions to the individuals to follow. The European societies have ever since been in peace. Pakistan is a geographical entity. Islam was here in these lands when Pakistan has not been carved out. Pakistan as a country is meant to serve and cater its citizens irrespective of their cast, color, creed, gender, religious inclinations, or being low or high, rich or poor. A country cannot be called an egalitarian state or a free society, if it remains hostage to the overbearing dictates of particular cults or sects. It would be a theocracy as Pakistan is. Absolute theocracies have never prospered as evidenced by history. For a theocracy, the citizens of a country have to be in vast majority with the same faith in order to maintain their hold on power as we can see in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Otherwise only brute power can keep the opposing sects or ethnic segments together as seen in Iraq during Saddam Hussain or presently in Bahrain. In the modern times when the nation states have emerged, the theocracy is unthinkable and to impose it would be sure recipe for sectarian war and social disharmony and dysfunctional political governments. During the British colonial occupation of 200 years and even during the 1000 years of Muslim rule in the united India, the society, by and large, presented a harmonious blend of religious pursuits for all sects and their peaceful cohabitation. The Shia-Sunni and Wahabi-Naqshbandia discord that in Pakistan has reached frightening dimensions was seldom on display during the British rule in India. The mushrooming of sectarian civil war began after the creation of Pakistan which is getting more violent and deadly with the time passage. It is indispensable to curb and rein in the religious extremism that may now be called religious militancy as it is becoming a constant threat to the writ of state and does not allow the society to be transformed into a civil pattern. The strident religious extremism hinders judiciary, press, executive and legislature to be free and independently play their respective roles for the benefit of the people. The religious extremism poses a constant challenge to the people and state so much so that the false cases of blasphemy cannot be adjudicated that merit release of the accused person. If someone is released by the court he or she is later killed. Moreover, these violent, hate-filled, rancorous and bigoted religious entities are exploited by the political forces and special interest groups to promote their respective agendas. The religiously motivated individuals are always ready to kill and create panic. General Ziaul- Haq cleverly and adequately manipulated the religious right in Pakistan to douse the spirit of social freedom and keep his opponents under control. His lurid legacy remains vibrant with every successive regime following the same tactic that is creating perpetual disorder and turmoil in Pakistan. The creation of Taliban for occupation of Afghanistan is now back lashing as this Frankenstein is now swallowing Pakistan with atrocious and disastrous ramifications happening every day by suicide bombing and sectarian clashes. The Islamabad religious seminary’s deadly episode with state troops demolishing that place with brutal force is a testimony as to how strong and defiant the religious outfits have become to create a srate wthin a state. If some can come up with a practicable model of an Islamic state in clear terms, which can fulfill the demands of the modern civil society, a nation state and with complete sectarian ethnic and communal peace in Pakistan, then he should hasten to unfurl it so that Pakistan can move forward as a stable and strong nation. The models of Saudi Arabia or Iran will not work in Pakistan as they have complete majority of their respestvie branches of Islam in their lands. Otherwise let Pakistan be a secular Islamic state.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bangladesh Probe Found No Wrongdoing Of Nobel Winner Muhammad Yunus

Bangladesh said a government probe body did not discover any wrongdoings of the Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Monday admitted that the interest rate of the Grameen Bank is lowest among the micro-credit lenders in the country. His comments was made came after the government appointed probe body, to look into activities of Grameen Bank submitted its report to the finance minister. Controversy about the bank began in November 2010 when the Norwegian state television NRK ran a documentary titled 'Caught in Micro Debt', that accused Yunus, the bank's managing director, of transferring funds to Grameen Kalyan, a sister concern, from the bank, breaching the agreement made with the fund's donor, Norwegian aid agency Norad, writes wire service bdnews24. com. The government constituted a committee on January 12 in the wake of controversy about the pioneering micro finance institution, which shared the Nobel Peace prize with its founder Muhammad Yunus in 2006. The probe report was submitted when French president Nicholas Sarkozy special envoy is visiting capital Dhaka to understand the development about the dismissal of Grameen Bank's managing director Muhammad Yunus. The French envoy Martin Hirsch told journalists on Monday that he finds it 'surprising' and 'difficult to understand the difficulties' between the government, the Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus. The envoy admitted that his mission to Bangladesh was to explore any scope for mediation for an amicable settlement to the issue, dispelling notions of interference in state affairs. The primary objective was to bring the government and Prof. Yunus together in the upcoming G-20 meeting. He handed over a letter of president Sarkozy to prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday, said bdnews24. com said. The content of the letter was not disclosed. Meanwhile, the largest circulated independent daily Prothom Alo in a first page article on Monday published a news article which says that government has decided to launch a campaign against Prof. Muhammad Yunus, pioneer of microfinance globally. In a meeting at the Prime Minister Office attended also by security and intelligence services chiefs it was decided to inform the public that the bank’s founder have violated laws, ignored official norms and charging exorbitant interest rates from the poverty- stricken village women. The unknown sources told the daily that an official memo on March 13 has been circulated to the Special Branch of police and police headquarters to take necessary action. However, the newspaper did not mention what kind of action by the police has been initiated. Political scientist and economist Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman on Monday said such attempts by the authority would be suicidal. The government should take steps to save the most talked about micro-lending institution Grameen Bank should, he suggested.

India's Transit / Corridor : Delhi For Extending Agreement To Seven Years

Bangladesh Government Site New investment proposals have been tabled to the tune of $7 billion to put into effect appropriate transit infrastructures facilities through Bangladesh for the benefits of India.The new investment requirement has been flashed through expert reports at a time when India has advanced a proposal for a seven-year agreement with Bangladesh to formally put the transit through. With the new Indian move the transit issue has again come to the forefront with the Indians seeking new routes and bringing pressure on Bangladesh to put investments to building new infrastructures projects to effectively put the transit services functioning. Informed sources say Dhaka is not opposed to such Indian demands but it is giving priority to work out a ‘reasonable transit fee’ agreement. Latest development shows both sides are moving towards a negotiated settlement to the issue which had created jitters late last year on refusal of the Indian government to pay such fees. The Indian refusal at that time to pay transit fees on commercial goods on board two Indian cargo vessels at the entry point to Bangladesh inland waterways from Kolkata had forced Dhaka to take away the government gazette notification causing embarrassment to decision makers here. The stand off continued until recent communication by the Indian government indicating its readiness to find a negotiated settlement to the issue. India was so long denying payment of transit fees saying in the first place that such obligation was adequately covered under the Inland water protocol signed by both countries in early 1970 s. Moreover, they argued that the World Trade Organization (WTO) protocol does not authorize member states to collect customs duty or transit fees on movement of goods to a third country destinations. Advocating the Indian line of argument Dr. Moshiur Rahman, adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the ministry of finance and her conduit to Delhi on transit issues recently said, demanding transit fees from India will be an ‘ uncivilized act’ and Bangladesh can’t project itself as such. The comment invited sharp public reaction. However the new move to find a negotiated settlement on the issue seems to be a fresh breakthrough and both Bangladesh and India will not only be able to burry public misgivings on the issue, they also will stand to reciprocally benefit from it. Nepal and Bhutan will also find a common framework agreement to resolve transit fee issues in sharing of financial benefits from such negotiated settlement, analyst here say. They held the view that the reference of WTO protocol by India or by Dr Moshiur Rahman to avoid payment of transit fees was based on an evasive proposition and why the Prime Minister’s adviser toed the Indian line was a big question. They say, WTO does not allow realizing transit or customs fees on movement of goods to a third country destination, but in this case India is carrying its goods from one end of its territory to another part using Bangladesh territory as a corridor. In this case, Bangladesh has the right to charge fees for using its facilities. Some analysts referred to Suez Canal Authority in finding a parallel example saying the Egyptian government is legitimately charging fees from the users of the canal and it is not treated as a breach of the WTO protocol. The fact of the matter is that the Suez Canal Authority has made huge infrastructure investment and also running a giant administrative set up to provide services to users and ship owners and if one does not pay for it, how these services could be provided and keep the waterway navigable. Bangladesh Tariff Commission made a similar case in a study prepared by its Chairman Mr Mujibur Rahman and handed over to Finance Minister AMA Muhith and some other senior ministers of the cabinet recently. It said Bangladesh should charge service fees from the users of the transit facilities and additional charges can be levied as cost of polluting environment. On top of it the country should realize fees for using roads, railways, waterways, ports and other facilities to recover the investment and also to keep them running. The study reports said Bangladesh would require an investment of about US$ 7.0 billion or Taka 50 , 000 crore in the next two to three years in roads, rail, waterways and ports to upgrade them to serve the transit requirement for India, Nepal and Bhutan. Besides, the report suggested that for initial two-three years only limited transit could be provided while the infrastructure facilities were being built. Full-fledged handling of cargo will be available from around the fourth year. Keeping this in mind, India has proposed signing a transit agreement for the next seven years, news report said covering the tenure of the next government whoever comes to power in the next election. Study reports further said Bangladesh would earn about $50 million during the first five years after appropriate corridor infrastructure have been put in place for use by India. From a list of sixteen routes recently proposed by India, study report prepared by the Bangladesh government has essentially focused on seven such routes. From the sixth year, Bangladesh may fetch $500 annually to go up to $1 billion when the services will be utilized by all parties to its maximum level, the report pointed out. This report was prepared by regional transportation experts Dr M Rahmatullah, who said it would bring robust benefits. “This steam of benefits, albeit partial would more than justify investment accounts.” The Tariff Commission report however, failed to mention the financial benefits that Bangladesh would derive from the transit/ corridor exercise, although Rahmatullah made a very illuminating forecast of the financial benefits. Finance Minister AMA Muhith receiving the Tariff Commission report on the issue has asked the committee members to recast the report, incorporating the details of projections and especially the financial benefits that may accrue to Bangladesh. Any investment decision to transit infrastructure essentially requires short, medium and long term revenue forecast and the report should have clear projections, analysts here say. Moreover, Bangladesh should think seriously how much it should open up its interior taking into consideration its health, environmental or many social factors, in addition to rate of economic returns and the recovery risks of such investment. Analysts say that there should be a national debate to find a consensus on how much risk the country should take to bear on such issue.