Wednesday, May 30, 2007

home minister received $2.85m in bribe for absolving businessman's son from murder charge

The immediate past state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar, who was at the helm of the ministry for about three years, reached a $2.85m deal with the owner of a top business conglomerate of Bangladesh of not going after his son who was the main accused in the killing of a director of the conglomerate, Bashundhara Group, according to law enforcers.
Bangladesh security forces recovered the money Wednesday. Both the men who were tasked with depositing and safekeeping the money admitted the whole incident.
Zayadul Ahsan, one of Bangladesh's top investigative reporters and chief reporter of The Daily Star, details in his special report.
Security forces arrested Babar in an anti-graft crackdown on May 28 and he is now being quizzed under a four-day police remand.
Investigators said Babar,
during his stint as the home boss, used the police force as a lackey of his party and played a significant role to divert the major investigations and to torture opposition political activists.
Read The Daily Star report on Babar's 'mischiefs'.

Diary: Week Eight

I worked last week in feature section. For the first time I was writing a book review, though I wrote some 'non-professional' reviews of drama during my stint as a university correspondent. This time, it's a baby book, "Cheep! Cheep!", written by a former Pittsburgher and illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee, a resident of a neighborhood named Mt. Lebanon. It has been written for parents and caregivers to read it out before the toddlers ages birth to 18 months so that they have an easier time learning to read. It has been chosen as one of the best 10 books written for toddlers and published in past one year.
While writing the story, the editor of lifestyle section taught me different aspects of writing children book reviews. I also had some sort of
understanding of literature meant for children. I would like to work on this later when I find time.
Besides also writing an obituary, I was also working on two other stories last week. One of this would go to health and science page while one to food section. I don't want to disclose the topics before those come out.
As I have mentioned in my fellowship goals, I want to learn feature writing, and enjoyed my time there. It is the reason I came back to feature last week. I'm learning writing features on different topics.
Although I am scheduled to begin my weeks in health section, where I intend to work last two months of my f
ellowship, on June 25, I got an idea and has started working on a story. It'll be a major story. I want to develop expertise to work as a health reporter.

Previous weeks: Seven, Six, Five

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A memorable Memorial Day

As I was pressing the shutter pointing my camera at the war veterans yesterday, a sort of deep reverence and respect, which you feel while standing before a great sculpture or personality, was working inside me. When I was standing beside Frank W. Peterson Jr. of McKeesport, an army sergeant who served as a radio operator during World War II, I was, as if, feeling the heat. The 94-year-old, who was wounded in advance into Nazi Germany, had some problem with hearing but is still an epitome of steely resolve and patriotism.
Among all the veterans who went to pay tribute to the war heroes prior to the parade at McKeesport, my eyes were glued on this person. Salute thee!
And it was a welcome coincidence that I started my week in photography section on Memorial Day. I went out with our senior photographer Darell Sapp for McKeesport, and had a great day. People sitting and standing on both sides of the road the parade was scheduled to march by had in their gestures how much respect and love they have for the war heroes. They were waving to the passing marchers, many of them had brought garlands and flowers.
Darell took me to some beautiful places including Waterfront and Boston Park and showed me the bike trail.

Photo: Frank W. Peterson Jr. (L) pledges his allegiance to the U.S. flag.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Awami League secretary, three ministers, two MPs detained

In a major anti-graft crackdown today, Bangladesh security forces detained the second man of Awami League, one of two biggest political parties, former home minister and his deputy, three more former MPs and a city mayor.
Reacting strongly for the party's general secretary Abdul Jalil's arrest, Awami League president Sheikh Hasina said the government's ongoing drive seems to be against politics, not corruption.
Jalil, who was speaking for reform in the political party, was recently vocal demanding the caretaker government and the Election Commission (EC) specify the time for holding the next election and lift the ban on indoor politics without delay.
Read The Daily Star story

legacy of vested property act in Bangladesh

Retired additional secretary Rabindranath Trivedi notes the Vested Property Act of Bangladesh has violated the fundamental rights of a class of people guaranteed in the Constitution and is a law against the spirit of the country's constitution.
He details his view in an article published in Asian Tribune today "
The legacy of enemy turned vested property act in Bangladesh".

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Failure in building from collapsed democracy would be a setback in whole Islamic world"

Former US Ambassador to Bangladesh William B Milam thinks if democracy were to fail in Bangladesh, the world’s fourth largest Muslim country, it would be a setback everywhere in the Islamic world.
"I fear that Bangladesh might revert to its pre-1991 condition in which even the peaceful transfer of power after credible elections was not possible," Mr. Milam, ambassador to Bangladesh between 1990-1993, wrote in a commentary published in Pakistani newspaper Daily News on January 10.
"Though Bangladesh has been often cited at the forefront of democratic growth in the Islamic world, it has seemed to me for some time that its democratic development stalled in midstream after the hopeful breakthrough of 1991," Milam, who went to Bangladesh to be an observer for January 22 parliamentary elections, which was stalled after weeks of street violence, is currently
a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. (Read commentary)
He sees there is an attempt to build a solid foundation and better form of democratic system. "You are building from a collapsed structure," he said
while speaking at a seminar in Bangladesh capital Dhaka today, noting that Bangladesh people are witnessing a very interesting experiment, which, he hoped, would work.
It is uncertain whether Bangladesh will follow a Turkish model where the military helps the government return to democracy or the Pakistani model, where historically, the military has come to power and remained there for a number of years, he said.
He said if the caretaker government is successful, "It would be unique because the history of military intervention in any form is almost always bad."
"It is noticeable in Washington that there has been a chorus of concern, especially from think tanks, whether (in Bangladesh) there has been a military takeover in disguise or it is a military rule in disguise," said Milam, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan adding, " There have been reports of human rights violations and abuse of civil rights."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

No dynasty in BNP!

Khaleda Zia, in the wake of growing demand from inside her party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), to put an end to dynastic politics and slice the power of party chief, which Khaleda has been adorning for years, recently claimed she earned the party chief's rank by her merit, in an attempt to refute that she did not inherit it.
People of Bangladesh don't need anyone to explain how little truth the claim has. Senior Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta termed it 'joke of the year'.
The Daily Star also sees facts do not support Khaleda's claim and says so in an editorial, No dynastic politics in BNP?

sycophancy eaten up democracy in both main political parties

Echoing political analysts and several other politicians of Bangladesh, leaders from two main political parties -- Awami League and BNP -- yesterday said sycophancy over the years destroyed democratic practice in the parties.
As the military-backed caretaker government moves ahead with its political reform agenda, more and more politicians voice their opinion against party chief's supreme power and abuse of that, which, they are saying now, blocked the path of democratic practice inside the party.
It seems two 'Begums', who ruled the years without facing any threat to their position and power, are going to experience something different.
The political parties were so critical about the civil society, when the latter launched a campaign for 'clean candidates' for parliamentary elections which came along with a set of political reform proposal, that they did not fell short of discovering the civil society leaders' ill-motive to go to power themselves. Most of the parties, maybe for the first time, had same tone while castigating the civil society.
Interestingly, people of Bangladesh came to know recently, after the military-backed government cracked down on corrupt politicians, that the political parties also want the reforms.
Read The Daily Star story

"Phantom of the Opera"

Journalist Julfikar Ali Manik sees a steely resolve behind Bangladesh army chief Moeen U. Ahmed's quiet anonymity to put Bangladesh back on track. "When Bangladesh president Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency and appointed Fakhruddin Ahmed to head the caretaker government in January, his seemingly precipitous actions kicked up a swirl of speculations. Was the military scripting the cataclysmic changes? Or was the upheaval even a prelude to direct army rule? Bangladeshis pondered over these questions, expressed their views in whispers," Julfikar writes in Outlook India." (Read article)
Weeks later, on February 8, that speculative swirl evanesced because of the speech Bangladesh army chief Lt Gen Moeen U. Ahmed delivered at the Bandarban cantonment in the southeastern hills. He confirmed the army's support to the caretaker government. But, he also added, "the army has no intention to take over. We are not even running the government. But we would like to see this government succeed as we want to put the country on the right track through concerted efforts of all". "The general's speech was telecast on most TV channels, providing people a glimpse of the man whose hand now rocks the political cradle of Bangladesh, the swish of whose baton conducts the symphony of tunes emanating from the caretaker government—about eradicating corruption, introducing electoral reforms, punishing those who have looted public money or indulged in terrorism. The immense popular interest in the telecast was as much testimony to the power he wields as to the anonymity he has courted in the nearly two years he has spent as army chief."

"Dhaka's Messy Surgery"

Himal Southasian magazine fell foul of Bangladesh authorities for carrying an editorial, which said the country was under a military regime, and also for an analysis of the caretaker government actions written by an anonymous writer, both published in the May issue.
And Dhaka ordered the distributors of the publication to remove the report, “The Dhaka Regime’s Messy Surgery" and the editorial, “Khaki politics in Dhaka,” which hold the Bangladesh army responsible for derailing the democratic process and criticise the manoeuvres to send former prime ministers Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina into exile as having longterm effects on democracy, reports Gulf Times.
The Asia Media Forum, with permission from Himal Southasian, published both the article and the editorial.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Pakistan should apologise to Bangladesh for ‘war crimes’"

Chairman of Pakistan's Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed demanded that Pakistan comes up with an apology for “the crimes committed against the Bangladeshi brethrens” before and after 1971.
"There is nothing to hide on what happened in 1971. What Pakistan did against Bangalis in 1971 can be well dubbed as a crime instead of mistakes. The world is changing over. Japan apologised to China. Pakistan should also come up with an apology," he said during a joint Pak-Bangladesh media seminar in Islamabad on Monday.
Read The News story

"quashing dissent"

"The leader of Bangladesh's military coup says he is happy to learn from media criticism, but critics are silenced," writes Timothy Sowula, a volunteer for an indigenous community rights NGO in Bangladesh. "General Moeen U Ahmed, who led Bangladesh's military coup in January and is widely seen to be pulling the strings of the interim government, told journalists earlier this week that he had no wish to enter politics formally, and did not intend to implement martial law.
He also admitted that there had been cases of media intimidation, but called them an "aberration", adding that "the government can learn from its mistakes, if there is any, from media criticism". The paradox is that there is no strong media criticism (because the military have blocked or banned it) so it would appear that the government is not making any mistakes. And so the state of emergency continues, and we all remain none the wiser.
"Bangladesh benefits from an intelligent media, and everyone has an opinion on current affairs. There has been plenty of comment on the proposed mechanisms for holding elections and the internal struggles of the political parties, but criticism of the current military leadership now exists almost solely on the internet. And while there is a passionate and highly dedicated network of blogs, these are nearly all maintained by expatriates, hosted on foreign servers and safe from intimidation but largely ineffectual in terms of proactively influencing debate in their home country. As so few Bangladeshis have access to the internet other than the urban elite, it can not be used as a tool for grass-roots political mobilisation." (Read full commentary)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

no chance of military involvement in politics

As longtime whispers of army's take over or military involvement in politics in Bangladesh go on, army chief Lt. Gen. Moeen U Ahmed Wednesday rejected outright the possibilities, saying the army is not the proper institution to run the government. (Read The Daily Star story)
Menatime, in a major uplift to the hierarchies of the armed forces today, Bangladesh government elevated Moeen U Ahmed to four-star general as it also elevated Navy chief rear admiral Sarwar Zahan Nizam to vice-admiral, air chief vice-marshal SM Ziaur Rahman to air marshal.
Three major generals have also been promoted to lieutenant general while three brigadier generals to major general in the significant move that came 133 days after the military put in position a civilian government when the country was standing on the brink of an abyss.

Monday, May 21, 2007

ex-Bangladesh PM's political secretary jailed

In the first judgment by any of the special courts set up for quick disposal of corruption cases, Harris Chowdhury, absconding political secretary to former prime minister Khaleda Zia, was awarded three-year imprisonment for not submitting wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Known for his key role in setting stage for the biggest corruptions, Harris is the first of top
officials of the previous government whom the military-backed Bangladesh government is trying to punish for gross corruptions and plundering public wealth over the years, especially between 2001 and 2006.
Unlike the top politicians from both major political parties -- BNP and Awami League, Harris was smart enough to go into hiding before Bangladesh law enforcement agents could capture him.
Read The Daily Star story
Harris' Rise

Diary: Week Seven

I joined business section Wednesday (May 16) and went out with a business reporter to cover the annual meeting of Wabtec at Duquesne Club. It did not turned out to be a good story but I had an idea of business farms, although it is not that much big one. I talked with the CEO who said they also supply Bangladesh brake-shoes for trains.
We also talked with a number of traders at Market Square near the famous PPG building to know about business drop as shooting of a movie was going on blocking the streets.
As I was interviewing, I got a sense about trade here.
And I am learning gradually how to interview people from different walks of the American society, which is giving me an insight into American society.
I met an Bangalee businessman, Akhil Mishra from Kolkata, there who, with his wife, runs a shop named 'Giggles'. He came to Pittsburgh 40 years ago.
However, rest two days of the week did not turned out to be very productive as the person who was supposed to assign me my task did not find anyone to tag with or anything to do. I just read business stories these two days.
I was sick Tuesday.

ex-Bangladesh PM's son admits involvement in wholesale corruptions

Tarique Rahman, eldest son of former Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia and slain former president Ziaur Rahman, finally admitted to his involvement in large-scale corruption which he blamed largely upon his close friend and business associate Giasuddin Al Mamun.
Reporting this, a vernacular Bangladeshi newspaper, The Manabjamin, printed a signed statement of Tarique given to intelligence agencies on March 12, four days after his arrest on March 8.
Known as 'Mr. 10 percent' for extorting the percentage of money from winners of big work tenders and almost all big trade deals, Tarique, who is also the senior joint secretary general of BNP, one of the Bangladesh's main two political parties which is being headed over the years by his mother, blamed Giasuddin for most of the corruption during the regime of the immediate past BNP-led government. He admitted to having the knowledge of and consent to Mamun's acts and said Mamun had given him a supplementary debit card which he (Tarique) occasionally used to withdraw money from Mamun's overseas bank accounts.
Mamun, who is also in jail awaiting trial and already have admitted to extorting some top businessmen over $1.5m, donated large sums of money towards Tarique's political campaigns after his arrest, Tarique also admitted.
Read The Daily Star story

89 killed in law enforcers' operations in 120 days of emergency!

Eighty nine people were allegedly killed during operations by law enforcement personnel and 1,75,435 were reported arrested in 120 days since declaration of emergency in Bangladesh (Jan 11), according to rights watchdog Odhikar. Of the 89 killed, 49 were victims of activities (47 in so-called crossfire and two later in hospital after Rab arrest) by the Rab (Rapid Action Battalion ), 23 by police, seven by joint forces, six by the army, three by the navy and one by Department of Narcotics Control personnel. Twelve were police 'crossfire' victims, five allegedly died due to police torture, three shot dead, one died in police custody while two died in hospital after arrest by police. Four were reportedly killed allegedly due to torture by army, one died while trying to escape from the army van while another one died in hospital after arrest by the army. Of the 89, eight were from BNP, four from Awami League, six from Jonojuddho, four from Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), three from PBCP (Red Flag), two from Biplobi Communist Party, one from New Biplobi Communist Party, two from Gono Mukti Fouz, one from Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), three from Sromojibi Mukti Andolon, four from Sarbahara Party, one was a freedom fighter, one an indigenous leader while one was reported as an 'extremist'. Among others were three from Gangchil Bahini, one each from Masim Bahini, Hazi Bahini and Salam Bahini, three suspected firearm smugglers, two alleged muggers, one an alleged gambler, two alleged drug peddlers, 10 alleged dacoits and 17 alleged criminals.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Diary: Week Six

I had a good week, full of events. Firstly, I was working for the biggest story so far, a feature on Indian mango in the U.S. The government gave importers green signal to import Indian mangoes 18 years after it the passage was blocked due to the authorities worries about pesticide. However, I enjoyed working on this story. As I worked on it through the week, I talked with some top Indian businessmen and got an idea about Indian business community, chain shops here in the U.S. who are mainly involved in mostly Indian products.
The story will come out next Thursday. I went to Duquesne Club with my mentor Greg Victor Thursday to attend the lecture by Ambassador Christopher Hill, head of US delegation to the six-party talks and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Those who went there enjoyed the lecture very much because we cannot not know about
the inside story of the talks otherwise.
I'll be looking for more such programs because, I think, it'll help me get an idea about U.S. foreign policy.
I had a good time with Greg, Nik, Peter and Rekha. We went to watch Pittsburgh Pirates' game with Atlanta Braves. The local team lost again, this time 2-9.
It's a total poor performance, they could not establish any sort of dominance over the Braves.

However, it was a very nice weather and we were sitting with other residents of Mt. Lebanon. The kids enjoyed the time very much. The Mt. Lebanon residents came and sat together at one side of the PNC stadium. A portion of the ticket money would go for treatment of two students.
Also this week, I watched Spider 3 at Destinta in Bridgeville with Greg, Rekha, Nik and Peter.

going cricket

Bangladesh flag is going to fly for the first time in a Pittsburgh cricket ground if everything goes fine till tomorrow. I am going to play in the 2007 cricket league in Pittsburgh which, in fact, begins today. I am not sure, but if I am among the first 12, I'll see my flag flying there at the stadium. "We couldn't fly your flag here as we didn't find any cricketer from Bangladesh. But we hope to do it this time," Shailesh Bokil, captain of our team, Strikers, told me before we began practice Wednesday. I liked this tall Indian man, who is also the chief of Pittsburgh Cricket Association and his deputy Mahesh Nanda not only because they know cricket very well but also because they are nice as human being.
I am joining the team as a medium pace bowler, although there are several very good bowlers. That's the reason I am afraid whether I would find place in the team. haha. Although most of our players are Indians, we have players from Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Scotland. However, I am happy to find Reg Henry, my newspaper's editorial staff and reputed columnist who is the gentleman personification in our team, as a teammate. This Aussie batsman have no lack of enthu even in his late fifties and it is he who helped me feel like home here in Pittsburgh by enrolling me in the team.

North Korea stubborn, negotiators also breached conditions

It was in the best interest of North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions but the poor country seems unable to realize it, said Ambassador Christopher Hill, head of US delegation to the six-party talks and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Although it was reached upon in an agreement that the negotiators would release $25m from a North Korean bank, which was allegedly allowing money laundering, and provide the country certain quantity of fuel oil, they did not do so. And the country also did not comply with the agreement to stop its nuclear program, Ambassador Hill said on May 10 during the John T. Ryan, Jr. Memorial Lecture at The Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh.
"The country has become a threat to the region, and it is for the interest of the whole world that North Korea abandons the nuclear program...We've assured them of security, which they identified as a major issue," Mr. Hill said as he was giving his presentation on 'North Korea: Behind the Scenes of the Six-Party Talks'.
Founded in 1873, the Duquesne Club, located on Sixth Avenue , has evolved from a fraternity of prominent industrialists into the finest city club in the country.
Surrounded by elegant furnishings and works of art, Benjamin Lombard, a student of Franklin Regional High School, received the 2007 Donald E. Farr Award while Linda Vete, a teacher of North Allegheny Senior High School, received the 2007 George C. Oehmler Award.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

the hero in every human being

Crawling out around you always some seductive spirit to derail you, don't get caught in the web of evil -- cautions Spiderman 3, the dazzling and brilliantly utilized the absolute latest in state-of-the art technology production.
It was a nice bright Saturday when Greg called me out to watch the newly released third part of Spiderman. It was my first dayout to a theater in the U.S.
The rock breaks open, out crawls some cognizant inky-black ooze-thing which eventually creeps onto Peter (Toby Maguire), bringing out the dark, vengeful side of his personality that he is struggling to control. Under the influence of the black suit, he becomes overconfident and starts neglecting people who care for him most. While choosing between the seductive power of the new suit and the compassionate hero he used to be, Peter must overcome the demon in him trying to subdue the goodman in him. The theater, Destinta at Bridgeville, was great with a sound system that perfectly took the sound with its brilliantly composed effects to the audience.
With Peter's good side ending up win over the evil, I, like other audiences, stepped out of the hall more confident. Haha. LET GOOD ALWAYS SUBDUE EVIL.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Diary: Week Five

Continuing from the preious week, I sat with the online section on the first two days of last week to observe how they opearte during the busy hours, after the afternoon. Sitting beside the man who put to live all the sections on the home page and ensure that all the sections are put to live appropriately: the story, the audios, videos are there and the links and interactive maps working appropriately. He also gives headines and adds one para, to some, stories on the the home page.
As I've mentioned in my training plans, I'm very much interested to learn the whole operation. I learned some techniques of writing headlines, cutting short the ledes, and above all , working under stress.
However, let me make it clear that I didn't going to try to learn the technical things, it's too complex.
Then I started at my base, feature section where my desk is. I was told that I'll be made to remain very busy and I got a story to write which would go on the next magazine issue. It is on Mars Weekend celebration at Carnegie Science Center. You know, I felt home when I started working in the section. The following day, I write an obituary. I don't know why I am growing my interest in writing obituary, I am really getting interested in people more and more. As I am interviewing people, I'm also learning interviewing techniques.