Saturday, November 6, 2010

Congratulations to Congressman Hansen Hashem Clarke

We, the members of the BEC, are delighted to report that Mr. Clarke has been elected a Congressman from the state of Michigan.

For the first time in the history of the United States of America, Hansen
Hashem Clarke, a Bangladeshi descent democratic member of the Michigan
Senate, has won a congressional seat to the United States House of

After winning the congressional seat, held by Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick for
more than 20 years, Clarke said he would try to fulfil the dreams of the
people of United States.

Clarke was born in Detroit, Michigan to a Bangladeshi American father,
Mozaffar Ali Hashem from Sylhet, and an African American mother, Thelma

Clarke visited his village home a few years ago.

His father died when he was a child. Clarke attended Cass Technical High
School, and then got admitted to a prestigious east-coast prep school to
complete his high school.

Clarke studied at Cornell University, graduating with a degree in fine arts.
While at the university, he became interested in politics.

He was elected to the student seat on the Cornell University Board of
Trustees and was a member of the Quill and Dagger society. He then earned a
law degree from Georgetown Law School in 1987.

Clarke worked as chief of staff to US Representative John Conyers, as well
as in Wayne County during the administration of Edward H McNamara.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

BEC condemns hate crimes against Bangladeshi Americans and other religious minorities

Bangladesh Expatriates Council and its sister organization NRB Council, USA are very concerned about the recent hate crimes in the USA. Last week, a Bangladeshi American taxi cab driver was brutally attacked with a knife from behind by a white American cab rider. We condemn such hate crimes and are glad to learn that the attacker who has been denied bail, will be tried on several counts.

We urge the immigrant community to be extra vigilant and not to engage in any hot debate concerning the proposed mosque in NY that could only bring the worst in many bigots and xenophobes.

We pray for the safety of all our people. Ramadan Mubarak.
The Board of Directors, BEC
Here below is the report from a newspaper:

Hate Crime in New York - cabbie stabbed
As I feared, Islamophobia has its latest victim in a hate crime that saw a Muslim cab driver in New York city severely stabbed several times by a White American. The Republican leaders and right wing conservative talk show hosts cannot escape from being held responsible for spreading hate crime against Muslims. Such propaganda and hatemongering is sure to bring the worst from bigots and chauvinists.

Here is the report from the USA Today:
NEW YORK — A Manhattan cabbie who was stabbed Tuesday night by a Putnam County man questioned Wednesday whether the attack stemmed from the contentious debate over creating a mosque near ground zero.

Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, of Queens, was stabbed several times by Michael Enright, 21, of Southeast, N.Y., after Enright had asked Sharif if he was Muslim and the cabbie responded that he was, a police spokesman said.

When officers responded to the scene around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sharif was outside the vehicle, suffering from stab wounds, after attempting to lock Enright inside the cab, a police spokesman said. Enright escaped but was captured nearby by police.

The charges against Enright include attempted murder as a hate crime.

In a statement Wednesday the from New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Sharif warned his fellow cabbies.

"Right now the public sentiment is very serious" because of the ground zero mosque debate, he said. "All drivers should be more careful."

Sharif, who was treated at Bellevue Hospital for stab wounds to his arms, throat and face, said the incident made him sad.

"I have been here more than 25 years. I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before," he said.

It was Sharif's first fare of his shift.

Enright, a 2007 graduate of Brewster High School and an aspiring filmmaker, recently returned from Afghanistan, where he filmed Marines as part of a project for the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where he is a student. In Afghanistan, he was embedded with a Marines Corps crew that included his fellow Brewster High graduate, Cpl. Alex Eckner.

Enright was highly intoxicated when he hailed the cab, the police spokesman said. Once inside the cab, Enright asked Sharif whether Sharif was Muslim. When Sharif responded yes, Enright stabbed him several times with some type of utility knife.

According to the statement from the Taxi Workers Alliance, Enright's conversation with Sharif started out friendly, with Enright asking the cabbie where he was from, how long he had been in America, if he was Muslim and if he was observing Ramadan.

Enright then went silent before suddenly cursing and screaming, the statement said.

He then shouted "'Assalamu Alaikum,' common among Muslims as a wish for peace, before pulling out the knife and slashing Sharif across the neck and stabbing several more times as Sharif tried to knock it out of Enright's hands, the alliance said.

Enright was charged with attempted second-degree murder as a hate crime, first-degree assault, felonies, aggravated harassment and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, misdemeanors. He is awaiting arraignment.

Enright also worked with Intersections International, a Manhattan-based, multifaith and multicultural effort that seeks to promote justice and peace. Messages left with the School of Visual Arts and Intersections International were not immediately returned.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bangladesh Expats to Become Voters

For last few years, Bangladesh Expatriates Council and its sister organization NRB Council, USA have worked hard lobbying lawmakers in Bangladesh to allow the expatriate community that live in the USA to register as voters in Bangladesh. We are glad to report that the Bangladesh Cabinet has approved a draft okaying our long standing demand. You can read the information below from the New Age.

Expats to become voters
Cabinet okays draft law
Staff Correspondent

The cabinet on Monday approved a draft of the Electoral Rolls (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to allow non-resident Bangladeshis to register as voters, fulfilling the expatriates’ long-standing demand.
The expatriate Bangladeshis, as per the draft, would be able to exercise their right to vote in all elections in the country after its enactment.
The law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry proposed the amendment at the weekly cabinet meeting presided over by the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.
‘The cabinet has approved the amendment to the electoral rolls law to allow the expatriates to register as voters at the places of their origin without considering whether or not they have movable or immovable assets there,’ the prime minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters after the meeting.
The present electoral rolls ordinance has no provision for enrolling non-resident Bangladeshis as voters as the ordinance says people to be registered as voters should be residents in an electoral area during registration.
The Election Commission in July sent the final draft of amendments to the law ministry proposing that the Bangladeshis having dual citizenship could be registered as voters.
‘Bangladeshis who hold dual citizenship in line with the Bangladesh Citizenship (Temporary Provisions) Order 1972 will be registered as voters after the amendment is incorporated into the electoral rolls ordinance,’ election commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain told reporters early July after a meeting on the proposed draft.
The draft said people having wealth or dwelling in more than one constituency could register as voters for any of the constituencies as they would wish.
People who have become citizens of other countries after renouncing their Bangladeshi citizenship would not be included in the electoral roll, according to the draft.
The proposed amendment says Bangladeshis living abroad temporarily would be considered as voters of the constituency they come from.
Bangladesh missions abroad would collect voter application forms for dual citizenship holders and send them to the Election Commission after preparing a district-wise primary list, said EC officials. They said that the commission would send the application forms to the district registration officers for scrutiny.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Challenge with Bangladesh Democracy by Prof. Mahfuz R. Chowdhury

The Challenge with Bangladesh Democracy

Professor Mahfuz R. Chowdhury

(The author taught Economics at CW Post Campus of Long Island University and State College at Farmingdale, New York. He has published numerous articles on issues concerning Bangladesh and developing economies, which are posted on various web sites)

The history of democracy in Bangladesh has been very tumultuous to say the least. This is primarily because the country’s politicians and military leaders only talk of supporting democracy or the democratic process when they see a chance to grab state power through elections. But after ascending to power they seem to bury democracy. The key objective of Bangladesh’s politicians and some of its military leaders has been to seize state power essentially to promote their self-interest. And once in power, either democratically or through military might, they ignore the promises they had made, embrace autocracy, practice all kinds of intimidation to suppress the opposition, and engage in systematic looting of the state’s treasure. When knocked out of power, the opposition party routinely resorts to hartals (or general strikes) and violence. It’s actually quite ironic how the leaders of Bangladesh’s two dominant parties either champion democracy or bury it depending on whether they are out of power or in power! The democratic process is seen not as a way for the people of Bangladesh to pick the policies they prefer but as a way of deciding which party would be in power.

The above would sum up the history of Bangladesh democracy, except for one important fact. The actual power within a party rests almost entirely with the party leader, whether the party is in power or in opposition. And the leader tends to stay in that position until death, at which time the leadership mantle usually passes on to the biological heir of the leader. Political power and position has become a hereditary matter for Bangladesh. At least this is what has happened in the case of the two largest political parties that are presently controlling politics, and this trend can be expected to continue unless there is of course a drastic change.

The two political parties that dominate Bangladesh’s politics today are the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Here’s how these two parties have come to assume their current positions.

Awami League came into existence in the early days of Pakistan when Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan. Later under the leadership of its dominant leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the country went to war and won its liberation from Pakistan. Following liberation, the whole country submitted to Sheikh Mujib for his leadership on governance and future direction. People were even prepared to take his words to be the law of the land. But the way he misused such a strong mandate of the people just about sealed his fate and the fates of many other members of his family.

After assuming state power, Sheikh Mujib having initially flip-flopped on what title to take – President or Prime Minister – began to consolidate his power over the government and the country. His commitment to democracy soon withered as he abandoned democracy in favor of autocracy. He created his own personal armed force and used it to brutally suppress the opposition, he banned newspapers that criticized his rule, and more significantly he declared Bangladesh a one-party state. Thus, by virtue of his authority, he killed the very democracy that brought him to power. Well, the freedom fighters who had fought in the liberation war and the people in general couldn’t stomach such actions by Sheikh Mujib even though he was the paramount leader of the country. So, after about three and half years of his dictatorial rule, he was brutally assassinated by army personnel in his own house along with all family members who were present. He was survived by his two daughters, who were outside the country at the time. It was by all means a great tragedy.

Immediately after his assassination, the country briefly experienced serious political turmoil. In the mayhem that followed, civilian and military leaders emerged who were either deposed or murdered. In the end, General Ziaur Rahman, a prominent freedom fighter backed by the army, emerged to assume state power. His rule, however, was supposed to be a temporary one and he was expected to arrange a national election and hand over power to the newly elected government. But the election that followed was not for others, it was a “yes or no” vote on him.

Having tasted supreme power, General Zia quickly proceeded to institutionalize his rule. By successfully luring many of the disgruntled political leaders of the country to his camp he formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. He even gave amnesty to people who had opposed the creation of Bangladesh (including the assassinators of Sheikh Mujib) and installed them in key positions in the party and government. He felt so confident of himself that he once boasted that he would make politics difficult for the politicians. He was true to his promise! He made a real mockery of every democratic value by systematically dismantling the vital democratic institutions in the country. By openly rigging the people’s vote he created his own parliament, which he used to rubber stamp his policies. He ruled autocratically, and murdered many army mutineers including some of those who helped him to gain power. Legend has it that a person who lives by the sword dies by the sword. So General Zia too eventually had to sacrifice his life for his autocratic actions; he was assassinated by the army after about six years in power.

Following him it was General H M Ershad’s turn to grab state power. By using the experiences of his immediate predecessor and applying his personal wit, he succeeded in perpetrating his autocratic rule. He too proceeded to establish his own political party and ran sham elections. He proved to be a skillful master and was able to keep his opponents at bay for many years. He was also rumored to fake his own fatherhood to gain acceptance by the people. During his time, the democratic institutions in the country were further dismantled. In the end, after the country’s democratic forces finally regrouped and the two dominant parties joined hands and went on to mobilize a national movement, Ershad’s regime was forced to hand over power after a long nine years of dictatorial rule.

Finally, after a national election, democracy was supposedly restored in the country in 1990. In this election Bangladesh Nationalist Party captured power. But since then power has been alternating between Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Awami League, though the former has been in power longer. The many other political parties that operate in the country were relegated to a supporting position. Nevertheless, the fundamentalist Jamaat e Islami party has emerged to be the king maker. It has in the past tilted elections for both major parties by throwing its support behind them.

Prior to the 1990 election, both Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the two emerging dominant parties, underwent serious transformations. The assassinations of their dominant leaders had put them in a clear shambles. The party elders distrusted each other and couldn’t agree on who would succeed the assassinated leaders. When there is no intra-party democracy, no leader can emerge from within the party as the popular choice of rank-and-file party members. And in that vacuum, a relative unknown such as a family member of the assassinated leader becomes the only viable alternative. So as a compromise, Awami League inducted Sheik Hasina to take her father’s position and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party followed suit by inducting Khaleda Zia to fill her husband’s position, even though both ladies were considered to be politically inept. But what followed after their induction to the leadership positions has dramatically changed the political landscape in Bangladesh.

As expected, the unscrupulous politicians in each party raced to line up behind the two ladies in order to achieve personal gains. This inevitably gave the ladies a chance to gradually consolidate their power within their respective parties. By utilizing their newly found authority, they then started to put loyalists in key party positions. Obviously, it didn’t take too long for them to assume dictatorial power within their parties, whether in power or in opposition. At the same time, their tolerance for the democratic process also waned. Few party members dared to question their authority. Those who did faced the sack almost immediately.

Here’s how the two ladies have come to exercise their authority. Prior to an election they would allocate parliament seats usually to those who had money and muscle, and when victorious in the election they would distribute ministerial posts to their loyalists. Before an election they might routinely promise to decentralize government administration or make the judiciary independent, which are indeed vital for proper functioning of a democracy. But once in power they would ignore those promises. In fact, both ladies appear to be grooming their young sons to replace them when the time comes.

When Khaleda Zia came to power, she spearheaded legislation to officially recognize her late husband as the architect of the liberation of Bangladesh (which literally infuriated her opponents), wrote the country’s history in a biased form, intimidated the opposition in parliament and harassed them outside parliament in every possible way. She effectively put her young son in charge of key governmental decisions, especially the lucrative ones. The opposition led by Sheikh Hasina, on the other hand, responded by promoting strikes, disruption and violence in the country with the ultimate aim of bringing down the government.

When Sheikh Hasina regained state power, her first order of business was to eliminate General Zia’s name from every important place in Bangladesh, such as the national airport, university and park. She quickly rewrote the history books in her way, proceeded to intimidate the opposition in the parliament and harass them outside, and even closed a newspaper that was critical of her administration. She initiated legislation to return to the 1972 constitution, to repossess the house that Khaleda Zia resides in and was bestowed on her by a rival government, and to persecute the people who had opposed Bangladesh’s liberation movement but had been pardoned. The latter may turn out to be a difficult move since Saudi Arabia, which provides employment and financial support to Bangladesh also backs those who opposed the movement. In any case, the opposition party of Khaleda Zia has duly reciprocated by calling a national strike, promoting agitation and promising massive violence with the same idea of bringing down the government. While these kinds of tit for tat fights between the two parties go on, the country and the people suffer.

The moral fibers of both parties are fundamentally same, but for personal and selfish reasons they continue to treat each other as arch enemies. They do not see eye to eye, and cannot agree on anything, not even on how to run an election. Earlier they had both agreed to an unprecedented procedure of appointing a care taker government to run elections, but later they got locked in a deadly fight over the formation and functioning of the proposed caretaker government.

Thus, the evolution of democracy or the democratic process has remained an elusive matter for Bangladesh even after 38 years of independence. At the center of all these controversies are currently the two ladies who are running the two dominant parties. They are bent on destroying each other at any cost with the sole purpose of grabbing state power. As could be imagined, the economic and human cost of their infighting has been tremendous. For example, while other developing countries like Malaysia leap forward with huge economic success, Bangladesh with its abundant resources still remains a poverty stricken country while corruption and crime continue to rise. However, neither leader cares to understand the repercussions of their actions. It seems they just don’t care.

Arguably, Bengalis as a nation are considered to be intelligent enough to produce several Nobel laureates, but when it comes to governing themselves, they have failed, and failed miserably. This was as true when the land first came under foreign domination many years ago as it is true today. It’s indeed very unfortunate. To paraphrase the great poet, philosopher and Nobel laureate of the land – Bengalis (Bangalees) don’t learn!

The quality of democracy of a country depends on the checks and balances among its executive, legislative and judicial branches. And the press plays a very unique role in keeping these branches on their toes. Bangladesh’s democracy has failed to properly develop because of the lack of independence of the legislative and judicial branches and the press. But even under such constraints there may be some hope that democracy in Bangladesh would slowly improve. One good sign is that the military seems to be unwilling or unprepared to grab power. Although the present system promotes autocracy, it’s no longer absolute. The two dominant parties are putting some kind of checks and balances on each other, and the people are becoming more conscious of their rights and obligations because of the rise of the satellite TV and the Internet.

The international community has a great obligation to help Bangladesh to strengthen its democracy. If Bangladesh, the seventh largest country in population, turns into a failed state as a result of a collapse of its democracy, it would only bolster fundamentalism. The rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh would create a bigger mess than the world would care to handle. Also, expatriate Bangladeshis could play an important role. The expatriates by unequivocally rising above Bangladesh’s party politics and by taking a firm and united stand to promote democracy in their homeland could expedite the process.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Energy crisis: Prime Minister Hasina’s role by Kh. A. Saleque

Energy crisis: Prime Minister Hasina’s role

April 13, 2010
By Kh.A.Saleque.
When we NRBs think and talk about our dear motherland Bangladesh, now in desperate crisis, we must realise that when the chief resources are constrained, the cities are overpopulated, the government is ingrained in corruption and terrorism is a major threat, tackling energy crisis is a great challenge. We have too many smart persons who always talk big and but do very little. Everyone wants their own end served at the expense of the miseries of others. Despite these, many of us have great heart for Bangladesh and we try to grab any opportunity to make any contribution to our national development efforts.

Bangladesh is in serious energy crisis. Gas power and water supply crisis are playing hell there. We need to have almost a war-time-unity to combat and resolve it.

Bangabandhu daughter Sheikh Hasina in her second term as PM is putting her best efforts to confront the pressing issues with the best intent. We know that she is handicapped with several problems. She has to deal with external challenges and internally hindering activities of party cadres. War criminals and terrorist activists are after her blood. The last government, BNP-led, left her with a diabolical energy sector with chronic problems of mismanagement and corruption.

Nation and the world have witnessed how boldly and calmly she confronted the inevitable civil war situation triggered from Peelkhna carnage. She is relentlessly struggling to lead the country which is on the verge of collapse and taking it to a position of some sort of balance.

She is confronting energy crisis boldly like a true national leader. This writer was on a short trip to Bangladesh during the first week of April. Over this period, I had opportunity to meet Directors of Petrobangla, Secretary EMRD, Senior executives of TGTDCL and GTCL, also talked to Ex-Petrobangla Chairmen and ex State ministers of Energy Mr A. K. M Musharraf Hussian and Prof Rafqul Islam. Energy advisors, State Minister of Energy and Chairman PB were on tour abroad. Opportunity was there to participate in one TV talk show.

Energy situation in Bangladesh is in real mess. During my short stay in Bangladesh, it appeared that the actual deficit of both power and gas must be higher than what is officially admitted. There must be substantial unaccountable power and gases which are major reasons for failures of various contingency measures government have so far tried to mitigate crisis. A panic-stricken situation was observed in the top management of the gas sector. Persons appeared to lack confidence. It was a bit shocking to feel the lack of self-belief among long-time gas-sector colleagues. We confronted similar crisis on some occasions in the past with commitment and courage. But this time I observed the lack of courage. A feeling of insecurity and mistrust shocked the writer. Top management of energy sector must create situation to create comfort among the energy sector professionals.

Irrigation season is at its peak. Bangladesh is also experiencing prolonged draught and the highest level of sustained hot spell and humidity of the decade. PM Hasina like a bold State leader admitted her limitations to confront the crisis and appealed to citizens to observe austerity. She also underlined the requirements to undertake contingency actions for confronting crisis.

The country is on the verge of energy famine yet persons responsible to address the matters are staying abroad .Wonder why Energy Advisor, State Minister Energy and Petrobangla Chairman had to stay away from Bangladesh at the same time when Bangladesh is burning in the fire of hell. What useful purpose the visit to Poland will serve to uproot the cause of energy security? Why Energy advisor or state minister energy can not own the responsibility or share it at this hour of crisis? Why every issue must be thrown into the court of PM?

PM has already dealt with two important matters for which some irresponsible persons must have been taken to task. PM like her illustrious father must not rule the country with heart. She must deal some matters with head as well. PM had to cancel the reintroduction of day light savings which was introduced without home-work last year. She also cancelled purchase efforts of electric poles which some quarter believed was designed to serve the interest of a brother of a well positioned person of ruling party.

PM met Power ministry officials on 8th April and made some very important announcements. Same evening this writer had the opportunity to participate in a TV talk show directed to evaluate the aspects of her announcements.

The major areas which PM stressed upon were :

• Market owners and shopkeepers are not to use electricity from the national power grid after 7:00pm.
• Power distribution agencies to shorten the period of outage to one hour from two, and shed load every alternate hour.
• Prime minister has called upon the market owners and shopkeepers not to use electricity from the national power grid after 7:00pm. If any one wants to keep their shops and businesses open after that time, they have been asked to depend on their own generators.
• PM encouraged energy sector officials to innovate practical ideas to save power at this time of serious national crisis.
• PM advised PB to find ways to encourage LPG use in domestic cooking.
• PM also advised power ministry to devise means to shorten tendering process and expedite implementation of major power plant installation projects.
• PM directed the power officials to motivate the consumers not to waste electricity.

We all must admit that energy crisis is a national crisis and nation must stand together and confront it unitedly. Never in the past had any Head of the State shown the honesty to admit the failures limitations of his or her governments. Never in the past had the leader of the government made such fervent appeal to the nation to observe austerity in power and energy use. PM Hasina deserves special thanks for that. Proud Bangladeshi nation has encountered similar and greater national challenges in the past and if responsible politicians can forge unity of the people to combat the crisis, this crisis can also be mitigated and overcome.

Now let us try and analyse a little deeper the reasons for such huge demand supply imbalance in power and gas grid which has triggered the present crisis. There exists a tendency among our management to hide real demand and deficit. Any energy sector independent analyst will agree that power demand at this stage without even including the suppressed demand is beyond 6000MW per day and gas demand must be about 2500MMCFD. Unless we have correct figures of demand no contingency measures can work. When our Power ministry say the power demand is 5500MW and generation is about 4000MW people have reasons to disbelieve as this can not make tax payers suffer for more than 12 hours load shedding in tremendous heat and humidity. When we say our gas demand is about 2300MMCFD and our production is about 2300MMCFD the situation must be handled by playing intelligently with line pack [inventory of gas in about 2500Km high pressure national Gas grid]. The situation must have witnessed major improvement after shutting down 5 out of 7 fertilizer plants. Hence power and energy sector management are now caught in their own trap. The injudicious efforts of hiding real deficit are causing the embarrassment.

Shopping culture must have been changed by now in realisation of energy supply limitation. People in almost all modern cities shop within office hours on week days. Usually on week ends shops remain open till mid nights. There are some 24/7 shops foe essential drugs and medicines. We must try and replicate this particular western culture in our society.

Simultaneous to restricting shopping hours, government must restrict use of grid electricity to night clubs, bars and reastaurents. While citizens suffer, some fun lovers must not be allowed to make merry with ill-earned money. Please ban use of grid power in all posh clubs bars and restaurants after 7PM. PM and ministers must also demonstrate leadership sharing the agonies. There must be restrictions in power use in their offices and residences.

CNG price must be immediately increased to 75% of liquid fuel price to discourage use of inefficient CNG conversion equipment and mushroom growth of CNG refuelling stations. CNG introduction is a noble effort. But our shameteurism has spoiled these efforts. Gas supply to CNG stations must be restricted to off-peak hours only.

We always considered pipeline supply of gas to domestic consumers was a waste of efforts. In past, ministers exploited their positions to burden gas companies to extend gas supply to far-flung villages like Dagonbhuiya, Basurhat, Muradnagar, Debidwar, and other places draining huge money from government exchequers. The Dhaka city distribution network was not even designed to absorb load of so many multi-storeyed buildings and mushroom-growth of industries RMG factories in city suburbs. Gas supply to all posh multi-storied apartments must be disconnected within a ceratin dateline. The owners of posh apartments can afford to have LPG use. Bangladesh must expedite efforts to extract more LPG from natural gas stream.

It is a shame that PM advisor, despite his challenge to set up NGL fractionation plant in Sylhet in 1998, failed to do it even in 2010. He was so committed to do it that we had his vision of relocating it from Ashuganj as originally planned. Condensate rich Beanibazar gas field is on the verge of depletion. The lone PNGL plant and LPG bottling unit at Golapganj Sylhet very often suffers from indifferent operation strategies. Bashundhara, Klenheat, Summit Group are in LPG business. More incentives in the shape of tax relief in LPG Cylinder import, LPG import must be given. LPG is also an important automotive fuel.

Natural Gas Grid is now suffering from management crisis. With great difficulties we set up SCADA facilities for unified control of national gas grid. We were shocked to notice that this has become inoperative. We could control gas grid from Ashuganj or Demra Grid centre. This time during Dhaka visit it came to our attention that that SCADA is no longer in operation. This makes the logic of a separate GTCL questionable. Wonder why GTCL is hibernating? Our gas grid simulation evidences that at least 10% area of gas grid must have accumulated deposition of gas liquid and condensates which are impacting adversely on gas system pressure. Major transmission pipelines are designed to be pigged at required intervals. But pipelines like North –South, Rashid poor –Ashuganj, Ashuganj –Bakhrabad, Brahmaputra Basin were never pigged after commissioning. We have serious doubts whether present GTCL management can do it. The present operation of gas system indicates that some liquid may have entered distribution network as well. Will it require PM Hasina to instruct refurbishment of SCADA in national Gas Grid or order on-stream pigging?

Top management is out to rearrange gas sector top management with its own favoured persons. Already two very committed and experienced officials have been made scape-goats. PM Hasina must look into it before situation goes out of control.

Energy crisis is the single most important challenge to this government. Power scarcity has triggered water crisis. In this severe hot and humid condition, people are having serious predicaments. To have first-hand experience of the depth and range of the crisis this writer ventured to visit Bangladesh from Melbourne where we never experience such energy calamity. We NRBs earnestly hope that PM Hasina will overcome the crisis by her dynamic leadership. But she must cut her smart assistants to sizes and make them perform.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April 13, 2010 Los Angeles City Hall Meeting regarding Little Bangladesh

There is a critical City-hall meeting this coming Tuesday, April 13, 2010
regarding the naming of Little Bangladesh. It is very crucial that your
attend this meeting. This meeting will be with the city's sub-committee.
If our Little Bangladesh proposal is granted by the sub-committee, it will
be on the agenda for the main committee to approve. We need everyone to
attend and support our community efforts. We all need to share our
viewpoints with the city councilmen. Bangladesh is not mines alone nor is
it your. Bangladesh is ours and it is very important for all of us to set
aside our differences and values and work together to help promote
Bangladesh in America. By crafting our present to include Little
Bangladesh, we will be creating a enlightening future for our children. A
future that reminds them of their roots and heritages in Bangladesh.

Please attend this meeting and bring your family with you. It is important
for the city councilmen to hear all of our viewpoints. Below is the venue
for the meeting.

Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Time: 3:30PM
Address: 200 N. Spring St. Room #: 1050
Los Angeles, CA 90012

For Free Parking, please e-mail Anna Nunez (Anna.Nunez@LACity.Org). Please make sure to include
the make, model, year, and license plate number of the car you plan to
drive to the meeting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bangladesh Prime Minister's meeting with her counterpart in India

Prime Minister Sk. Hasina’s Upcoming Visit to India – A Mock Memo
Dr. Habib Siddiqui
(Ref: If I were Bangladesh PM what I would have said to my Indian counterpart, Op/Ed, January 7, 2010,; Prime Minister’s upcoming Delhi visit: Some Suggestions, New Nation, January 9, 2010,

Prime Minister Sk. Hasina Wazed is scheduled to leave for New Delhi within the next few days. If I were in her shoes, here below is what I would have told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India during our official face-to-face meeting.

Dear Mr. Singh, thanks for the opportunity you have provided to discuss the bilateral relationship between our two neighboring countries. As you know, this relationship between our two countries is shaped not only by geography, history, culture and economics but also by geopolitics. We, in Bangladesh, are mindful of India’s timely assistance during our nine-month long liberation war that witnessed genocide of our people and exodus of millions of refugees into India. We also remember the sacrifice of many Indian soldiers that gave their lives so that we could be free and independent. On behalf of 160 million Bangladeshis, let me take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the Indian government and its people for all that they did, endured and sacrificed so that Bangladesh would become a reality in the global arena. Thank you.

Today, Bangladesh is a proud member of the UN, OIC, Commonwealth of Nations, SAARC and BIMSTEC; it is the seventh most populous country in the world with a vibrant economy that is listed amongst the Next-11 countries.

Having said that, Mr. Singh, as you are aware, the friendly relationship between our two countries did face some bumps in the last 38 years, especially, after the murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Our two countries share waters from 54 common rivers and share common land and maritime boundaries. Just to put into perspective, we share 4096 km of land boundary. Even after the signing of the Mujib-Indira Pact of 1974, there remain 51 enclaves of Bangladesh, measuring 7,083.72 acres, which are land-locked inside India whose residents live in abysmal conditions, with a lack of water, roads, electricity, schools and medicines. That situation is simply unacceptable in the 21st century and needs immediate redress. Six kilometers and a half of border along the Comilla-Tripura area still remain undemarcated. This must change.

In the past, Bangladesh government has frequently protested BSF incursions inside Bangladesh, and shootings which resulted in deaths of many unarmed Bangladeshi citizens. As of last month, the death count alone in our side since 1990 stands at 1090. There is hardly a week when Bangladeshis living along the border are not victims of BSF shootings, thus souring relationship between our two peoples. Such an aggressive and utterly irresponsible practice on the part of BSF must come to a halt. Our tradition dictates that we value life and cannot therefore accept practices that are grossly criminal and inhuman.

Let me now move to the crucial water share issue. It is like a life and death issue for us. Bangladesh is a lower riparian country and is, therefore, vulnerable to any unilateral action on her common rivers by India. While we understand the increasing energy demands within India, we simply cannot welcome any initiative that devastates our people. Already our people have suffered enormously from the adverse effects of dams and barrages that were constructed on many common rivers. Whereas during the lean seasons, the water flow in the Teesta River used to be 4,000 cusec at the minimum before the Gajoldoba barrage was constructed some 70 km upstream from Dalia point in Nilphamari in 1985, we now get less than a thousand cusec. We are not getting our agreed upon due share of water flow.

To meet energy needs, in the last few years India has also constructed several dams across the Teesta. Such measures have resulted in loss of navigation during the dry season and flooding during the wet season, let alone causing loss of livelihood of millions of our people that depend on water. Instead of poverty alleviation, these structures are forcing poverty onto our people.

As to the Farakka Barrage, it has been described, and if I may add, rightly so, as the Death Trap for Bangladesh. A walk along the coast of the Padma and Teesta Rivers inside Bangladesh is sufficient to prove the claim. It will surely pain any conscientious human being, seeing the irreversible damages done on our side. Mr. Singh, please, ensure that we get due share of water from all those common rivers during the dry season. Dear Prime Minister, we cannot consent to any new death trap for Bangladesh. Please, stop the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam. Please, also stop the Fulertal Barrage.

Let me now move on to the bilateral trade issue. As per 2007-08 statistics, Bangladesh imported $ 3.7 billion worth of goods from India while we exported $35 million! (Informal trade is estimated to be at least double these numbers! The smuggling of contraband items from India goes unnoticed!) As is quite evident, there is a huge trade imbalance between our two countries, which needs to be corrected as soon as possible. One of the prudent ways to resolving this trade deficit would be for your government to lift the Tariff, para-Tariff & non-Tariff barriers, which are currently imposed on goods imported from Bangladesh. We would also welcome direct trading facilities with India’s seven eastern states. The import of Bangladeshi goods to those eastern states can also have a positive impact in not only closing the trade deficit with India but also reaping multi-faceted benefits to India in an area that is vulnerable to outside influence.

Let me now move to the security issues. We understand India’s priorities to contain insurgency in her north-east corner, close to the Bangladesh border. As our recent extradition of the ULFA leaders to the Indian government has demonstrated, we are very serious about ensuring that our soil is not used for terrorist and anti-state activities against our neighbor. Suffice it to say that we expect similar reciprocities from India. For years, India has had sponsored and assisted subversive elements in the hilly districts of Bangladesh to destabilize our state. There are some 40 Santi Bahini camps inside India. There are even Bangasena terrorist camps operating inside the state of West Bengal today whose objective remains the disintegration of Bangladesh and the creation a Hindu state called Bangabhumi, curving out 1/3 of Bangladesh in our south-western part. Such hostile activities ought to stop immediately.

We are genuinely interested in the Asian Highway that allows regional states to be connected with each other. We understand Indian government’s rationale for the request for transit routes that connect its north-eastern states with West Bengal via Bangladesh. For instance, the direct transit route from Kolkata in the state of West Bengal to Agartala in the state of Tripura via Bangladesh would reduce the distance from 1880 km to merely 740 km. While we are willing to consider such a request for transit routes via Bangladesh we believe that for greater good of our entire region, a more comprehensive scheme is needed that allows connecting Bangladesh to India, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan through transit routes inside India. Because of regional security concerns, I must, however, emphasize here that such transit routes ought to be used purely for tourism, trade and commercial use. Suffice it to say that we also expect connectivity to all our enclaves inside India. In accordance with the Mujib-Indira Treaty of 1974, and following the due process (Supreme Court order and constitutional amendment), the Government of Bangladesh promptly handed over the Berubari enclave to India. Sadly, India has neither ratified the treaty nor met its obligations, including the transfer of the Tin Bigha corridor. The enclaves of Dohogram and Angorputa near the border have to have 24/7/365 corridor facility. Denying such transit rights to people living inside the enclaves is simply criminal, inhuman and unacceptable.

According to the 1974 Mujib-Indira Treaty, midstream of border-rivers defines the boundaries of our two countries. However, subsequent dykes and embankments that have been constructed by India have had some adverse effects. These have led not only to severe soil erosion on our side but also changed the course of those rivers. The erosion on the Bangladesh side gives way to new chars (or islands) on the other side which Indian villagers illegally occupy in no time with the help of the BSF. Bangladesh is losing thousands of acres of land to India in this process, and this must stop. Let me remind you here that the 1974 Treaty between our two friendly states stipulated that the line of separation between Bangladesh and India is defined along fixed lines and not shifting lines, which happens as a result of shift in the movement of common rivers along the border. I call upon your government to ensure that the common border along those rivers remain physically where it was back in 1974 when the treaty was signed between our two governments.

Dear Mr. Singh, the maritime boundary demarcation in the Bay of Bengal remains a major contentious issue, especially in the light of offshore oil and gas explorations. Bangladesh Government is genuinely concerned about claims made by India and Myanmar that appear to us to be exaggerated, unscientific, irrational, ill-intentioned and illegal, and aim at sea- or zone-locking Bangladesh. As evidenced from direction of our rivers to the Bay of Bengal, we strongly believe that natural prolongation of continental shelf is from north to south and not east to west. My government has recently registered its objection with the UN to India’s and Myanmar’s claims over certain areas in the Bay of Bengal.

It is disheartening to see that the status of the Talpatty Island, formed by silts brought by southward flowing river Hariabhanga in south-western Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal, still remains disputed between our two friendly nations. We wonder why! Is India’s might becoming the right to her exaggerated, unscientific claims and illegal possessions? Should not such disputes be resolved mutually and justly between the two friendly countries?

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, many in Bangladesh consider India as a hegemonic power that does not care about legitimate rights of its smaller neighbors. That perception has to change for greater good of our entire region. My government is committed to improving relationship with India. We believe that friendship is based on reciprocity of goodwill, cooperation and trust. Bangladesh’s smaller size should not let any state demean her geo-strategic pivotal status. We believe that contentious matters need to be resolved justly and equitably as soon as possible, failing which we only plant the seeds of distrust. We have the Gujral Doctrine in front of us to guide us resolve our outstanding problems amicably and fairly.

Dear Mr. Singh, let me reassure you that our Bangladesh Government considers yours as a friendly government. We strongly believe that the bumps I mentioned in our roads of friendship can definitely be fixed and we can usher in a new era of regional cooperation, prosperity and friendship. What we need is political will that is forward looking. With that, I believe that we are capable of weeding out mistrust, thereby allowing our peoples on both sides of the border to live peacefully and prosperously. As we move into this New Year, let’s give that present to our peoples. Thank you.