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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Deadly conspiracy of Destiny fraudsters in Bangladesh

After swindling billions of dollars from around seven million people, masterminds of fraudulent multi level marketing racket has undertaken a deadly plan of visibly blackmailing the government by mobilizing a few thousand cadres in going into violent actions on the streets of the capital city, demanding dropping of all charges against the absconding masterminds of Destiny Tree Plantation Limited and Destiny Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited. The absconding masterminds of the MLM fraud racket are Lt Gen [Retired] Harunur Rashid, Mohammad Rafiqul Amin, Alhaj Mohammad Hossain, Sayeedur Rahman, Gofranul Haque, Mesbah Uddin Swapan etc. Although they are absconding for almost two weeks, none of the law enforcement agencies in the country are showing any genuine willingness of arresting any of them as the fraudsters are backed by an influential advisor to the Prime Minister, who also is one of the share holders and beneficiaries of these huge fraudulent enterprises. It is learnt that, previously by using the influence of the advisor to the PM, Destiny masterminds managed bail from a lower court, which was later cancelled, as issuance of bail by the lower court into money laundering case was not permitted.

While the masterminds of the fraudulent Destiny Group are visibly allowed to be "absconders" by the law enforcing agencies, an investigating committee of the Ministry of Commerce found this MLM enterprise guilty of fund embezzlement and suggested that legal measures should be taken by the respective ministries to recover the amount. The committee submitted its 410-page report on October 9, 2012. It suggested that legal measures should be taken by individual ministries to recover the huge amount of money embezzled by the group through 'illegal banking, tree planting and selling sub-standard products. Formed in February, the probe body had submitted reports at least on three occasions, but those were sent back by commerce secretary Ghulam Hossain, who is rumored to have been heavily compensated by the masterminds of the Destiny Group.

According to the submitted report, Destiny Multipurpose Cooperatives Society Limited amassed savings from 4.7 million members and invested those in its other sister concerns in violation of the law of the cooperative society. The committee said it did not find any trace of an amount equivalent to US$ 500 million, which is believed to have been smuggled out of the country by the masterminds of the Destiny Group.

One of the members of the investigating committee told Weekly Blitz that, it sees no minimum hope for refund of investments of those millions of people, who invested money into various enterprises of Destiny Group as major portion of the collected fund had already been drained out of Bangladesh and landed in foreign bank accounts of the Destiny Group masterminds.

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Azmal Khan: A whistleblower against corruption


Though there are a lot of good people available in Bangladesh, who are ready to tell the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities occurring in a government department or private company or organization, but the whistle blowing comment I am unable to bear the burden any longer, made by Azmal Khan, Suranjit Sengupta's ex-assistant personal secretary (APS) Omar Faruq Talukder, carried a very clear message.

What are the right things to do when there is violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations, and corruption? The answer is not too hard. We have more than a moral imperative to step forward and expose those malfeasances.

Whistleblowers like Azam Khan are ordinary people who find themselves as observers of situation that force them into a decision of having to speak out. But the road to victory or justice is generally rocky and not without consequences for the whistleblowers. He/she can suffer ostracism, the loss of resources, income and a job, and depression. And the severe consequences would be the loss of life either of him/her or any one of his/her family.

Azam Khan's whistle blowing story began in the night of April 9, 2012, while he drove APS Faruq's microbus into Pilkhana, the headquarters of Border Guard Bangladesh, and blew the whistle that there was illegal money in the vehicle. According to the source of various news media at that time and also his recent appearance in a private TV channel in Bangladesh on October 04, 2012, Azam Kham dauntlessly said that the Tk 74 lakh stashed in their car was being taken to the then railway minister Suranjit Sengupta's house. Those bribe money had been collected from railway jobseekers.

That money was the small part of the whole recruitment business. Apart form APS Faruq, the syndicate was compiled with railway's the then general manager (east) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Dhaka division security commandant Enamul Huq to conduct the whole recruitment process to collect Tk. 10 crore for the minister from the recruitment business. Azam further said that one army officer was involved in the recruitment business and he wanted to appoint several hundred job seekers in a Tk. 3 crore recruitment deal.

Bangladesh earned the bad name -- 'the most corrupt country' -- for several years. The policymakers, particularly those among the politicians, have so far responded very little to bring about positive changes in this situation, as many of them are widely perceived to be involved in the process thereof. Corruption is endemic in Bangladesh, and greed seems to be limitless. We are not saying that the corruptions only lie in Bangladesh.

Bradley Birkenfeld approached to the US Department of Justice in 2007, offering to reveal the inner workings of UBS's (the giant Union Bank of Switzerland) international private-banking division, where he had worked for five years. Some of the details that emerged raised eyebrows, including the revelation that bankers had used toothpaste tubes to smuggle diamonds across borders for clients. Having long turned a blind eye to these sorts of shenanigans, the America's government came down heavily on UBS. In 2009 the bank avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing to pay a $780m fine to the Internal Service Revenue of US (IRS).

Rod Blagojevich, former Illinois Governor in US, is now behind bars for serving his 14-year sentence on corruption charges. He was convicted on 18 counts, including charges that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat. FBI wiretaps revealed a fouled-mouth Blagojevich describing the opportunity to exchange an appointment to the seat for campaign cash or a top job as "f------ golden." The ruling was against him to bring unethical or illegal practices to the forefront and addressing them before they become fatal to an organization as well as to the whole system.

It is part of the moral complexity that whistles blowers presuppose that somewhere there is someone with appropriate authority who will appreciate the moral importance of the disclosure and will respond accordingly. Azam Khan appealed to the head of the government and expected that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whom he believes is against the corruption, wouldn't go corrupted people unpunished.

In her recent speech in UN General Assembly in New York, Sheikh Hasina renewed her demand for reforming the United Nations, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions (IFIs). It is good to raise questions about their 60-year-old power equations functionalities. But the reform should start from home. Gross ethical violation in Bangladesh in different regime has been prevailing. Unscrupulous and corrupt personnel in every sphere of the society are creating violation of rules and regulations frequently.

As far as reform is concerned, proper means'what we called the good beginnings are as necessary as worthy ends. We may not bear to be told to wait for good results, but we pine for good beginnings.

After signing and ratifying UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) on February 27, 2008, Bangladesh entered into a legal obligation to put in place a framework of action plan to deal with a wide array of corrupt practices, develop national institutions to prevent corrupt practices, prosecute offenders, cooperate with other governments to recover stolen assets, and help each other through technical and financial assistance to fight corruption, reduce its occurrence and reinforce integrity.

Some people may believe that someone shouldn't bite the hand that feeds him/her and insist on staying on for the banquet. Supporters of Awami Legue may already start thinking Azam Khan as a rising threat to them, but whistle Blowers like him are considered as "saviors" who ultimately helps create important changes in the systems.

IRS in US agreed to pay former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld $104m for his role in exposing the giant Swiss bank's efforts illegal in America but not in its home country to help American taxpayers hide money in offshore accounts. Like Birkenfeld, Azam Khan may not end up with a heavy reward or a smooth exit deal from his opponents, but the situation he has addressed will encourage millions of people to stand against corruptions.

 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Women Hurting Women


ARE female leaders better for the world’s women? 

It would be nice to think that women who achieve power would want to help women at the bottom. But one continuing global drama underscores that women in power can be every bit as contemptible as men. 

Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, is mounting a scorched-earth offensive against Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and champion of the economic empowerment of women around the world. Yunus, 72, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, focused on helping women lift their families out of poverty. 

Yet Sheikh Hasina’s government has already driven Yunus from his job as managing director of Grameen Bank. Worse, since last month, her government has tried to seize control of the bank from its 5.5 million small-time shareholders, almost all of them women, who collectively own more than 95 percent of the bank. 

What a topsy-turvy picture: We see a woman who has benefited from evolving gender norms using her government powers to destroy the life’s work of a man who has done as much for the world’s most vulnerable women as anybody on earth. 

The government has also started various investigations of Yunus and his finances and taxes, and his supporters fear that he might be arrested on some pretext or another. 

“It’s an insane situation,” Yunus told me a few days ago at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, sounding subdued instead of his normally exuberant self. “I just don’t know how to deal with it.” 

If the government succeeds in turning Grameen Bank into a government bank, Yunus said, “it is finished.” 

Sheikh Hasina, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, initially agreed to be interviewed by me in a suite at the Grand Hyatt. At the last minute she canceled and refused to reschedule. 

Perhaps none of this should be surprising. Metrics like girls’ education and maternal mortality don’t improve more when a nation is led by a woman. There is evidence that women matter as local leaders and on corporate boards, but that doesn’t seem to have been true at the national level, at least not for the first cohort of female leaders around the world. 

Bangladesh is actually a prime example of the returns from investing in women. When it separated from Pakistan in 1971, it was a wreck. But it invested in girls’ education, and today more than half of its high school students are female — an astonishing achievement for an impoverished Muslim country. 

All those educated women formed the basis for Bangladesh’s garment industry. They also had fewer births: the average Bangladeshi woman now has 2.2 children, down from 6 in 1980. Bringing women into the mainstream also seems to have soothed extremism, which is much less of a concern than in Pakistan (where female literacy in the tribal areas is only 3 percent). 

To her credit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken up for Yunus: “I highly respect Muhammad Yunus, and I highly respect the work that he has done, and I am hoping to see it continue without being in any way undermined or affected by any government action,” she said earlier this year. Two former secretaries of state, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, have also called on Sheikh Hasina to back off. 

She shows no sign of doing so. One theory is that she is paranoid and sees Yunus as a threat, especially since he made an abortive effort to enter politics in 2007. Another theory is that she is envious of his Nobel Peace Prize and resentful of his global renown. 

Sheikh Hasina is disappointing in other ways. She has turned a blind eye to murders widely attributed to the security services. My Times colleague Jim Yardley wrote just this month about a labor leader, Aminul Islam, who had been threatened by security officers and whose tortured body was found in a pauper’s grave. 

Yunus fans are signing a Change.org petition on his behalf, but I’d like to see more American officials and politicians speak up for him. President Obama, how about another photo op with Yunus? 

I still strongly believe that we need more women in leadership posts at home and around the world, from presidential palaces to corporate boards. The evidence suggests that diverse leadership leads to better decision making, and I think future generations of female leaders may be more attentive to women’s issues than the first. 

In any case, this painful episode in Bangladesh is a reminder that the struggle to achieve gender equality isn’t simply a battle between the sexes. 

It is far more subtle. Misogyny and indifference remain obstacles for women globally, but those are values that can be absorbed and transmitted by women as well as by men. 

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Will the long night of terror in Bangladesh end in 2013?


The current government of Hasina Mujib will complete its tenure in December 2013. Most Bangaldeshis are hoping that this will end the long night of terror which promised a digital Bangladesh. Digital Bangladesh under this Mujib remained as eslusive as Sonar Bangla under the first Mujib. Mujibur Rehamn when he came to power abolished all political parties, and declared himself president for life under Baksal. So much for the quest for democracy. On 14th August 1974, patriotic Benglais murdered him and his entire family. However a counter coup against Khondakar Mushtaque led to General Zia ruling Bangladesh for a decade.

The battle of the begums has begun.
Hasina Wajib (Mujib) came to power through a havey handed judicial coup. It then began a pogram against the BNP and the Jamat e Islami on fake charges stemming from 1971. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants to hold that the next general election under the existing President Zillur Rahman a veteran Bangladesh Awami Leaguer.

The International Crisis Group’s (ICG) Asia report no. 226 dated June 13, 2012 titled “Bangladesh: Back to the Future” describes the situaion in Bangladesh as explosive:

”Bangladesh could face a protracted political crisis in the lead-up to the 2013 elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government changes course and makes a more conciliatory approach towards political opposition and the military.

The hope, both at home and abroad, was that Sheikh Hasina would use her mandate to revitalise democratic institutions and pursue national reconciliation, ending the pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics between her AL and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Three and a half years on hope has been replaced by deep disillusionment, as two familiar threats to Bangladesh’s Democracy have returned: the prospected of election-related violence and risks stemming from an unstable and hostile military. Instead of changing old pattern of politics, the AL government has systematically used parliament, the executive and courts to reinforce it, including by filing corruption cases against Khaleda Zia, the BNP Chairperson, and employing security agencies to curb opposition activities.

Most worrying, however, is the AL-dominated parliament’s adoption of the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, which scraps a provision mandating the formation of neutral caretaker administration to oversee general elections.

The caretaker system was a major practical and psychological barrier to election-rigging by the party in power. Removing it has undermined opposition parties’ confidence in the electoral system.

According to an intelligence reports, theAwami League, which won through a jdical coup in the December 2008 is destined to face a massive electoral catastrophe losing at least 150 seats. In the last contrevercial elections in 2008, the Awami League got 266. The tables seem to have turned, but Delhi will not allow the BNP and its alliance partner the JeI come to power. The BNP and the Jamaat are considered pro-Pakistani parties in Bharat.

The ALs draconian laws have been promulgated to ensure that the AL wins the election for Joy Mujim. “The fifteenth amendment carries other dangers as well. For example, anyone who criticises the constitution may now be prosecuted for sedition; new procedures have rendered further amendments virtually impossible; and death penalty is prescribed for plotting to overthrow an elected government – a thinly veiled warning to the military which has done so four times in as many decades.

“The fallout from these changes is already clear. The BNP gave an ultimatum to the government to re-instate the caretaker system by June 10, 2012 or face battles on the street.

A BNP-led boycott of 2013 general elections may be in the offing.

“Meanwhile, the military is visibly restive. On 19 January, it announced it had foiled a coup by mid-level and retired officers who sought to install an Islamist government. This followed an assassination attempt on an AL member of parliament in October 2009 by mid-level officers seething over the deaths of 57 officers in a mutiny by their sub-ordinate paramilitary border guards the previous February.

Large-scale dismissals, forced retirements deepening politicisation and a heavy-handed approach to curb dissent and root out militants have created an unstable and undisciplined force. While top-level coup is unlikely, prospect of mid-level officers resorting to violence to express their suppressed anger is increasingly high.

“Should the situation deteriorate to the point that the army again decides to intervene, it is unlikely to be content to prop up civilian caretakers and map a course to fresh election as it did in 2007.

This time the generals could be expected to have more staying power, not to mention less reluctance to carry out “minus-two” their previous plan to remove Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from politics. Even if such a worst-case scenario seems remote, it is clear that a new electoral stalemate threatens to erode Bangladesh democratic foundations.”




The Awami League ruling party is accused of a number of high-profile corruptions and irregularities:
  • The high handedness of Joy Mujib.
  • The infamous Padma Bridge bribe scandal
  • Corruption centering quick rental power plants,
  • Exorbitant rise in the prices of fuel and electricity bills,
  • Looting of millions of dollars from the state-owned Sonali Bank by some unscrupulous connivance of the influential advisor to the Prime Minister
  • Mass fraud with the public by a number of fraudulent multilevel marketing companies namely Destiny Group,
  • Unipay2U and share market scam, wherefrom,
  • The ruling party siphoned billions of dollars from the small investors.
  • The ruling party also is accused of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of hundreds of people, including some political heavy-weights.
  • International human rights organizations have harshly criticized such extra-judicial murders and enforced disappearances in Bangladesh.
  • According to figures released by local and international rights groups, few hundred people became victims of extra judicial murder while dozens of people became victim of enforced disappearances only during past twelve months.
The Awami League remains intolerant of any criticism or even negative opinion from the citizen or the members of the civil society. It has been the AL legacy since 1971.
  • The naked exhibition of ruling party’s intolerance of opposition opinion was during the recent press conference of the leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia.
  • During the forty-minute press conference of the leader of the opposition asked Hasina to clarify their stand on the future election in Bangladesh
  • Electricity connections at the office of the former Prime Minister were disconnected eight times.
Delhi interferes in Bangladesh and it interferes very heavily. Begum Khaleda Zia wil decide about her political plans after her upcoming visits to India, the US and China.

Begum Khaleda Zia’s party is seeking “cooperation” from Nobel laureate Dr. Mohammad Yunus. Her media aides are also preparing fact sheet about repression of Hindus, demolition of temples and illegal occupation of Hindu properties in Bangladesh during the current AL government–the government that is supposedly pro-Indian.

 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bangladesh to be a secular nation?


Bangladesh may soon cease to be an Islamic nation. According to Sayeda Sajeda Chowdhury, MP and deputy leader of Bangladesh Parliament, efforts are on to embrace the basic tenets of the 1972 constitution of the country which advocated secularism, democracy and socialism. More importantly, the constitutional amendment will ensure that religion keeps away from politics.

"Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had given us secularism. We still believe in Bengali nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism which were the basic tenets of the country's constitution that was adopted in 1972. Later, this constitution was amended and Bangladesh was converted into an Islamic nation. We are trying to ensure that Islam, or for that matter any other religion, ceases to be a state religion. Those who kill in the name of religion and torture women do little else but drag a nation backward. The military junta had promoted fundamentalism in the country to suit its own needs. We can't allow a military junta to return. We shall stop the involvement of religion in politics and discrimination against people of other faiths," Chowdhury, who was in Kolkata for a seminar on 'Role of Women in the Movement of Human Secularism in South Asia' said. The seminar was organised by the Bharat Bangladesh Maitri Samiti to mark the birth centenary of poet Sufia Kamal.

Journalist and human rights activist Sahariar Kabir noted how Sufia led the secular and democratic forces in Bangladesh even during Gen Ayub Khan's regime. During her stay in Kolkata, she was commended by Rabindranath Tagore for her writings. According to him, if Sufia is to be shown respect, Islam should not remain the state religion of Bangladesh.

"We are planning to go to court unless the present government takes steps to convert Bangladesh from an Islamic state to a secular one. When Tagore was baned in Bangladesh (East Pakistan), Sufia led the movement against this. In a meeting, Ayub Khan had called all Bengalis haywans(animals). None of those present dared protest save for Sufia. She told Ayub Khan to his face that if all Bengalis are haywans, he is the president of haywans. She strove to make the country secular, democratic and socialist. One must keep in mind that society in Bangladesh wasn't very advanced in 1972 but the constitution of a Muslim-dominated country adopted secularism. Before framing the constitution, our leaders had gone through the Constitution of India as well as other constitutions. What was important is that our leaders took a 'revolutionary' step by banning religion from politics. No other country had this in its constitution. This was very important as we had witnessed genocide and torture," Kabir said.

Referring to how Mujib was assasinated a few years after the liberation of Bangladesh, he admitted that it is extremely difficult to do away with fundamentalism. "Not only was the word secularism removed from the constitution, from 1975, efforts started to convert Bangladesh into another Pakistan and later into a Taliban-ruled state. The people were never in favour and this is where Sufia played an important role as a lighthouse. She even led the committee that identified the people involved in war crimes. These people are being tried in Bangladesh now," Kabir said.

Saugata Roy, MP and president of the Bharat Bangladesh Maitri Samiti said that Bangladesh has several impediments. "Fundamentalists are not only trying to spoil relations with India but also prevent women from progressing," he said.

Alarming decrease in Hindu population in Bangladesh


In past ten years, in comparing to the growth of the total population in Bangladesh, there is an alarming decrease of Hindu population in the country. According to statistics available with the government sources, the proportionate decrease in Hindu population is around nine hundred thousand. The statistics show almost elimination of Hindu population in fifteen districts in the country. Most of the Hindu families in those districts were forced to leave the country. In 2001, the total number of Hindu population in Bangladesh was 116.83 million, while the population was expected to be 132 million in 2011. But the latest statistics available with the government shows the total number of Hindu population at 123 million, which is nine hundred thousand less than the expected rate of growth. Currently 8.5 percent of the total population of Bangladesh is Hindus, while in 2001, it was 9.2 percent. The proportion of Christian, Buddhist and other religious minority population did not see any decline in the past. Currently the total number of Muslim population in Bangladesh is 90.4 percent. The district-wise statistics of population sees "huge decline" or "almost elimination" of Hindu population in fifteen districts, though the statistics terms the decline of Hindu population as "missing population".
 
He said, "Though some of the Hindu rights groups are falsely claiming that the forceful migration of Hindu families had decreased since Bangladesh Awami League came in power, the reality is actually just the opposite. Even during this present government, which came in power in 2009, there had been numerous attacks on Hindu families and temples in the country as well as alarming rise in the forceful abduction and religious conversion of Hindu girls and boys throughout the country."

Citing example of Gopalganj district in Bangladesh, which is considered to be the exclusive vote bank of Bangladesh Awami League and safe heaven for the Hindus, Gobinda Chandra Pramanik said, "In 2001, the total Hindu population at Gopalganj district was 371,000, while now it has gone down below fifty thousand. This statistics will prove the fact of repression on Hindu population even in the district, which is wrongly considered as 'safe heaven' for the Hindus in Bangladesh."

He said, "The burden of 'Enemy Property Act', which later was changed into 'Vested Property Act' has already caused hundreds and thousands of Hindu families in leaving Bangladesh either by selling their properties at token price or simply abandoning their ancestral properties into the grips of the greedy Muslim influential figures belonging to Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Jatiyo Party. Though a large proportion of the Hindu populations consider Bangladesh Awami League as their own party and almost as guardians of protecting the rights of Hindus, in the past, very unfortunately, Awami League never kept its promises in protecting the Hindus."

Seeking anonymity, a Hindu community leader in Gopalganj district said, "Bangladesh Awami League though proclaims to be a party totally committed to protecting rights of Hindus and religious minorities in Bangladesh, unfortunately their political behavior is no different than any other political party in Bangladesh. No Hindu has ever been placed into top most posts in the Central Committee or district level committees of Bangladesh Awami League. Though it is very unfortunate, but this is the ground reality."

BY :   Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Padma episode weakened our position: Economists


Though the World Bank has finally agreed to revive its funding for the much-hyped Padma Bridge project, economists say this Padma episode has weakened Bangladesh’s position and the accountability issue will apparently become more important for any future foreign-aided project.

They, however, said it needs to be ensured so that this mega project does not face further delay due to investigation into the so-called graft.

“We’ve made ourselves weak a bit with the Padma Bridge story. Question has been raised about public management, capability and capacity,” eminent economist and distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Debapriya Bhattacharya told the media while making comments on the World Bank’s return to the important project.

He said: “The issue of accountability for any future project, not only the World Bank-ones, any project of Japan (Jica- Japan International Cooperation Agency) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will be more important.”

On the fresh conditions set by the World Bank, Debapriya said, “The international expert panel will work with the Anti Corruption Commission to look into the alleged graft, and will have to wait for the outcome. But it’s important that the investigation process should not hamper the implementation of the project.”

Noted economist and former caretaker government adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam said it should be cleared who will be there in the external panel. “What will be the composition of the external panel?....it needs to be determined quickly to know who are from the country and who are from outside.”

About the WB’s return, Prof Anu Mohammad said the World Bank is always interested to provide loan to countries like Bangladesh. “If a country like Bangladesh stops taking loan from the World Bank, then it’ll collapse. Bangladesh will also face trouble in the future while negotiating on any project.”

Meanwhile, different quarters, including the main opposition BNP expressed happiness and welcomed the WB’s return to the Padma Bridge project.

“We had earlier said we want construction of the Padma Bridge. We had also said it’s not possible to build the bridge without the World Bank loan. We’ll be happy if the World Bank reviews its decision,” BNP spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

Fakhrul, also the BNP’s acting secretary general, said had the government taken measures as per the letters sent by the global lending agency the 10 months would not have wasted. “The government will have to answer why it had failed to take action 10 months ago.”

Awami League senior leader Tofail Ahmed said all should proceed with a positive attitude on national issues. “Padma Bridge is a bridge for all. No one should have negative attitude towards it.”

The government is expected to come up with its official reaction to the WB’s decision by Saturday or Sunday, sources at the Finance Ministry said.

Earlier, in a statement, the World Bank said, “The Bank has agreed that, upon satisfactory implementation of the agreed measures by the government, and with the support of the Bank's governing bodies, the Bank will engage anew in the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.”

The release said in its communication with the World Bank about the fulfillment of these measures, the government of Bangladesh requested the World Bank to consider again the financing of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.

The World Bank, the lead co-financer of the Padma Bridge project, cancelled its committed $1.20 billion loan on June 29. Since then, the government has been trying to convince the global lender for revival of its fund it cancelled on the allegation of corruption in the selection process of consultant for building the 6.15-km-long bridge.

The government undertook the Padma Bridge project in August 2007 estimating the cost then at $1.40 billion (Tk 101.62 billion). The project cost was revised upward to $2.9 billion because of the rising costs of construction materials and foreign currency fluctuations.

Later, the lenders -- the WB, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) -- made separate commitments to provide an aggregate amount of $2.35 billion as credits to build the bridge.

Though the WB cancelled the loan, the ADB and the Jica extended the loan effectiveness for the first time on July 31 by one month to August 31. Later, the ADB and extended the loan effectuation timeline by a month for the second time while Jica by three weeks from September 1.

The two major lenders have also asked the government to settle the matter with the WB within the timeframe before getting their committed funds for the Padma Bridge project.

The Manila-based ADB had earlier committed $615 million, Jica $400 million and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank $140 million in loans for building the bridge.

 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Troubled waters


                    A foreign-funded bridge is hostage to murky local politics.



THE biggest infrastructure project in South Asia to be paid for by foreign donors is a $3 billion bridge in Bangladesh intended to span the Padma river, which is what the main branch of the Ganges is called as it flows through its delta to the Bay of Bengal, receiving the flow from the vast Brahmaputra river for good measure.

The bridge is the stuff of donors’ dreams. Its point is to end the isolation of Bangladesh’s poor south-west, home to 30m people who are cut off by these vast waters from the capital, Dhaka, and the rest of the country. 

The region’s isolation is compounded, to the south-west, by a high-security fence along the border with the Indian state of West Bengal; and, to the south, by the tidal Sundarbans, where dense mangrove forests are home to tigers. The proposed 6km (3.8-mile) bridge could be a gateway to India, tying Dhaka to the great metropolis of Kolkata. It is also a crucial piece of an even more ambitious dream of connecting South Asia with South-East Asia, via Bangladesh and Myanmar. Official estimates say the bridge could raise Bangladesh’s annual growth rate by 1.2 percentage points.


The planned bridge, some 40km south-west of the capital, is designed to carry four lanes for traffic, as well as a freight railway and a gas pipeline. Complex works to channel the Padma’s flow are planned. Alas, it is easier to train the 5km-wide river than Bangladesh’s politicians to keep their hands out of the till. In June the World Bank cancelled a $1.2 billion loan, citing alleged corruption by Bangladeshi public servants. The World Bank has identified various officials as being unable to leave the money for the bridge alone. Sacking crooked-seeming officials has, for the World Bank, become a precondition for resuming lending. Bangladeshi newspapers have said that the prime minister’s chief economic adviser, Mashiur Rahman, is in the Bank’s sights. He says he has done nothing wrong and will only resign if the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, tells him to. Regardless of Mr Rahman’s case, Bangladesh has a culture of impunity. Only one senior politician has ever gone to jail under an elected government for corruption, and that was a former dictator.

The Asian Development Bank is more ready than the World Bank to be a cheerleader for the Bangladeshi government and is keen to resuscitate the project. Like the Japan International Co-operation Agency, another backer, it has kept the door open. However, more Bangladeshi officials will have to step down before the World Bank is prepared to return. Probably the government will come back to the table, but not without hectoring its perceived enemies first. Sheikh Hasina has accused Mohammad Yunus, a pioneer of microfinance and a Nobel peace laureate, of putting the World Bank up to walking off.

The Padma bridge project has been in the works for over a decade. Western governments do not want to see it snapped up by a state-backed Chinese company (in return, perhaps, for an equity stake and for economic influence, as has happened with ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan). India, with which Bangladesh has usually had good relations, would do its best to block a high-profile Chinese involvement in its neighbour’s economy.


Sheikh Hasina says Bangladesh will “not beg” from the World Bank. A sense of injured national pride has given rise to the unworkable notion that the bridge must now be built with Bangladesh’s “own resources”. The government is mulling a levy to help finance the bridge.

The only politician openly to reject Sheikh Hasina’s obsession with self-reliance is A.M.A. Muhith, the finance minister and a former World Bank official himself. Mr Muhith is too venerable to be required to call the prime minister “elder sister”. He knows that Bangladesh needs the multilateral agencies: only earlier this year the IMF helped out with a $1 billion loan. Bangladesh relies heavily on Western aid for a vast array of projects that otherwise would not exist. Without the Bank, there can be no bridge.

Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is livid enough that it will be unable to keep its election promise of building the bridge before the end of 2013. Yet it would be even more appalled if the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Sheikh Hasina’s arch-rival, Khaleda Zia, took office at the next election, bagging credit for the bridge. (That prospect is real: no elected government has won a second term.) And so, in the end, Sheikh Hasina has no strong incentive, other than the country’s best interests, to mollify the World Bank.

Where Shall We Go: No Light in the end of the Tunnel?


Mr. A B M Musa is one of the senior-most journalists in Bangladesh. In a recent gathering he advised everyone to shout “s/he is a thief” as soon as any one connected with the Government is sighted. I am sure that Mr Musa also knows very well that there are still some honest people in the country working for the Government. Apparently one would say that Mr. Musa should not have made such irresponsible utterances. But when you think more deeply you can understand how frustrated Mr. Musa felt with the present state of affairs.

Next day I read something very interesting. Mr. Musa writes about a shipwrecked person in an island full of snakes, crocodiles and other dangerous animals. Then he sees a ship passing-by and waves in desperation. God responded to his call when he found a boat coming from the ship. The man in the boat gave some recent newspapers and said “you should read them and decide if you want to go back Bangladesh or remain in the island”.

When a very respected and elderly journalist like Mr. Musa writes and speaks like that, it is time for us to look at things to its fullest context and think if there is a limit to it or will it go on endless. First let us talk about monetary corruption. I would not like to go on details but would just touch upon a few of them. By now there is hardly anyone in Bangladesh who has not heard about the case of Hallmark group. I understand they took well over four thousand crores of taka from the state-owned Sonali Bank and there is little hope that the bank can recover that money. Yet the finance minister calls it just a minor incident.

Another company known as “Destiny” took money not only from banks but also from innocent public in general. Some of those involved have even run away from the country. By market manipulation some people also made quick money out of stock exchange and most of it has gone out of the country. BEXIMCO group took full advantage of the inflated price of their share to take a huge loan from the bank against shares as security. The price of those shares is now not even 1/10th of the negotiated deal. There is another very interesting case of a mortgaged ship being sold without any reference to the bank. Such things can only happen in Bangladesh.

Now let us talk about the most sensational case – Padma Bridge project. Some people were too eager to make quick money and on the assurances of various contracts took in advance a large sum of money. I believe the transactions took place in Canada. When the Canadian Police started investigating the matter, a young Bangladeshi (also Canadian national) couple slipped out of Canada and returned to Bangladesh. The World Bank who initially promised to finance most of the project withdrew from the project. The WB provided the Government some vital information relating to the corruption. The government initially tried to laugh it out by saying how could there be any corruption when contract have not been awarded. Then for a few days the Government kept on blaming Professor Yunus for the WB decision. Then slowly the cats started emerging out of the bag. One minister has already resigned and another adviser is on the verge of resignation. Perhaps the root of the corruption goes beyond that and it cannot be resolved so easily.

Corruption is now deep rooted at every level of the society. A minister’s APS was caught with a car full of money in sacks on way to minister’s house. The minister resigned. He was still kept in the cabinet as a minister without any portfolio. The Anti-corruption Commission gained full confidence of the government by declaring the minister innocent. The nation soon came to know the identity of two new patriots. They are none other than the ministers who resigned on charges of corruption. If you want to know how wide spread and deep rooted the corruption network is then you have to visit any of the government departments or agencies who are supposed to provide service to the people. Let us start with local police, hospital, port office, customs office, land registry and record office, and then go to relevant offices for gas, electricity, water and to primary school for admission of children. You will soon know that there is only one solution to your problems and that is money. The railway minister admitted his inability to recover railway lands because of the influence of very powerful elements. Similarly the rivers and canals are being filled up by influential people for their use.

We will now take a quick look at the law and order situation. Almost every day one or two dead bodies are recovered from rivers and drains. Police said to have identified the body of garment labour leader Aminul Islam like that. The young journalist couple were murdered in their own bedroom perhaps because they knew too much about government corruption. A BNP leader along with his driver was hijacked from his car never to be seen again. There are others who die in so-called “cross-fire” (extra judicial killing). Countless people die on the roads when a minister advocates for driving licence to be made easier.

But the present Government can be proud of some of its success. It took no time to change the name of the Dhaka Airport to remove the name of Zia from it. It successfully evicted Khaleda Zia from her cantonment house. It hanged most of those responsible for 1975 changes. It brought in the constitutional changes to hold election under the present government instead of a non-party care-taker government. However, their claimed success of dealing with BDR revolt is most debatable. Men in arms revolt is nothing short of sedition. There can be no negotiation or compromise with them. Call for surrender of arms and submit them to lawful authority. Everything else comes after that. The elite forces of the country are maintained to defend the country and they should have been allowed to take necessary action to restore normalcy. The so-called political negotiation with the mutineers resulted into a great loss for the country. One can become a politician overnight but it takes lot of tax-payers’ money, years of training, hard work and dedication to become a colonel or brigadier. The nation can never excuse those responsible for the massacre.

We also suffered in the hands of the opposition when they were in power. We do not know where is the end and where shall we go. 

BY :   F R Chowdhury, UK.

Dark Black clouds are moving around the Financial and Banking horizon of Bangladesh

The modern banking is called the blood line of a national economy. The bank officials are entrusted with that heroic task since its inception. So the heroes were being chosen very carefully, to speak the truth after a thorough surgery of themselves and their forefathers. That venture has ended up roughly over two or so decades ago. 

Actually regulations still are there but not following appropriately. As there is no existence of accountability in any sector of Bangladesh any more. So the word responsibility has taken a bay in the pages of dictionary for decades together. As a result asking for honest jobs and forbiddance for the dishonest jobs has been disappeared from the society of Bangladesh. Even generally no appraisal or appreciations for the noble jobs are being attributed to the due achievers. 

Everybody here is after money, luxury cars and houses. No matter how that was earned! Whoever could achieve those has become a member of the so-called cream of the society. Nomination, bank loans and even the girls are ready for them. So why anybody should be aloof from that when the finance Minister gives open license saying forty billion BTK (four thousand crore) is nothing where total investments are around 4400 billion BTK (four lac forty thousand crore). What a shame! It’s a great shame for whole of the nation. We could ignore it, if the explanation of saying so were okay. Oh salucus! 

The recent Treasury bank scam appears to be the largest and unprecedented banking scams happened on the holy soil of Bangladesh. We all know that Sonali bank of Bangladesh is called the treasury bank of Bangladesh. Who are the makers of these scams, definitely the members of the top-level management of the bank in collaboration with the dealing officers (mere writers)? What are the accelerating agents? Bribery (original beneficiary’s interest), Board of Director’s interest, Primer’s adviser’s interest, Bank Management’s interest and Central bank monitoring team’s interest etc. If the makers did repel on it then it was quite impossible to go ahead with this huge scam. Because it is the bank Management who deals with the documents, (both export and import bills) knew the by-laws still were very much reluctant to act upon appropriately as honesty, responsibility and accountability are absent amongst them. 

We the people fought against the Pakistani tyrant in the year 1971, why and what for? Was it to empower some political thugs in all the public sectors to loot out all our assets, leaving behind bottomless baskets again in the name of Swadhinotar Ghosok/Announcer or Swadhinotar Poshok/Upholder. What a funny! These are verily the scroungers of the society. Independence, sovereignty nothing is safe in their hands. What are they think about it? Do they think people will remain silent generation after generations? Bear in mind this is the time of 21st century! Now people has got a very powerful tool called Media what they did not have even in the near pasts. 

Peoples are looking for solid leadership who can really defend our independence, our sovereignty and cater for peace to all irrespective of castes, creed and sex. Furthermore who can secure our hard earned assets, grooming through the vast manpower properly. 

With full honour and dignity to ex-caretaker Govt. adviser, Mr. Akbar Ali Khan, I would like to very categorically say “Big No” to his recent advice about the resolution of these scams. He said, “Privatization can save the government banks, no govt. could run these banks appropriately in the last 40 years”. Why I repel to his this statement are as follows: 

1. The whole nation did not fight for independence to create new, new giant scroungers. 

2. Since less than two percent holding the 90% of our wealth depriving 98% common people so if everything goes to their hands then 98% people will lose the last resort i.e. breathing place even. 

3. If so, they will have a monopoly type of banking where mass people will be undermined. 

4. Still there are facilities like agri-loans for the poor/day labourers in the nationalized banks. Moreover charges are within the reach of common peoples. Now-a-days banking service has been essential for even the low income groups due to gross structural change of the market economy. 

5. People want to see good governance that value majority people’s expectation and produce dynamic leadership who upholds honesty, sincerity, patriotism and accountability. 

6. During the last 40 years except only a few intermittent, newest tyrants and their evil-souls were in power so the government ventures were not running well. Since we could get free from Pakistani tyrant, inshAllah will be able to overcome this tyranny, motivating our huge manpower to pro-nation and provide them a new life with honesty, sincerity and patriotism by holding firm determination like 1971 again. 

Since I am a banking researcher, so I believe there could be much more small scale ‘Hallmarks.’ To find those out thorough auditing both external and internal is a must. Actually the banking sector has taken local bill purchasing as an alternative way of creating temporary over draft. In most cases, virtually transactions are not taking place. 

The potential banker and the genuine businessman are used to do it for obvious banking reasons. The scrupulous and honest banker will always monitor the total amount of local letter of credit (L/C) against a mother L/C and also verify the validity and originality of the L/C. But unfortunately so far I heard that the Sonali bank in their recently concerned cases did not take any cautionary measures rather allowed opening local L/Cs, even beyond the mother L/C values. What is a gross and planned mistake in collaboration with the unscrupulous directors! How 35.47 billion taka (3547 crore) could be loaned to a filthy company like ‘Hallmark’. Bankers’ duty is not only to scrutinize the documents only but also the net-worth position and back ground of the entrepreneur even their personal life. If any of the concern officials would pay attention to any of the above issues, these could not happen there. So the concerned bankers, directors and entrepreneurs should be taken to task with immediate effect forfeiting their stable and unstable properties. 

On the top of it very soon careful and potential audit team should engage with random auditing to detect other scams that we afraid of coming to light in near future. It is because the banks are the custody of people’s money and dependant on people’s money for their existence. 

On the contrary the Ministry of Finance, Banking Division should take careful steps in allowing recruitments for the banks at the top-level management, with special attention to committed and dynamic leadership qualities, in depth understanding in all area of banking, relevant educational background with analytical skills and potential record of integrity, sincerity and loyalty to people’s money. 

Now I would like to request the honourable civil society members to please get into producing a new generation who will uphold basic human values like honesty, sincerity, patriotism and accountability to the nation. Again obviously will not surrender to the conspirators of our independence and jeopardise our economy and let down our glories from our already proven sectors. 

People now would like to believe that some vested interested groups are working amongst ourselves who would like to blunt our economy (destroying our garments sector, share-market sector, banking sector, other productive industrial sectors and also removing money to secret foreign countries), massacre our glorified Universities, Medical and Engineering Institutes e.g. Dhaka University, Bango-bandhu Medical University and BUET etc. 

In view of the above facts, we would like to urge our various government authorities please look into the country’s interest first and strongly handle all the scams wherever be stumble upon and take them into tasks without any biasness for the sake of our country to bring forth a healthy nation. Peoples are with you. They will not hesitate to jump over the perverted leaders for the safeguard of our country and its long glorified heritage. Oh! Allah, help us and save the country. 

BY :  Borhan Ahmed, UK.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Is Britain's Aid Funding a Political Crackdown in Bangladesh?

What a few weeks it has been for that Machiavellian matriarch Sheikh Hasina. She swished into London in August to bookmark the Olympic Games (opening and closing ceremony tickets for Bangladesh's premier - no messing around with an either/or scenario).

In between trips to her home in London she found time to meet her key diplomatic allies and financial backers: prime minister David Cameron, foreign secretary William Hague, opposition leader Ed Miliband, and the now former international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell. Never one to shy away from the limelight, Hasina was even afforded the privilege and prestige of a reception at Downing Street.

But while canap├ęs were nibbled in London SW1A, back in Dhaka, Hasina's henchmen were busy disassembling the country's fragile democratic apparatus in the most sustained assault on freedom of speech in the 41 years since independence.

Last month, Bangladesh's supreme leader ordered the arrest of Mir Quasem Ali, a leading member of the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami, who also runs a charitable organisation named after the great Arab polymath Ibn Sina.

Ali's lesser crime is less his political and philosophical ideology, and more the 15 million people he reaches via newspapers like Naya Diganta, part of a Jamaat-owned media group. His greater crime though, it would appear, is his very public criticism of a war crimes tribunal set up by Hasina after her Awami League party rose to power in 2008.

This tribunal, which veers between medieval show trial and outright witch-hunt - and includes inventing witness statements, coaching witnesses, and interfering with judicial appointments - has been denounced by everyone from the United Nations to the United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen J. Rapp.

Hasina's men love the tribunal, which aims to bring to trial anyone involved in the ghastly events surrounding the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, where it is alleged that three million people were killed, and up to 400,000 women were raped. The cause is worthy but, say critics, its underlying motives are purely political. All those so far arrested are opponents of Hasina, many from Jamaat-e-Islami. Happily for Bangladesh's premier, none of those on (show-) trial are from her side of the political fence.

Ali's arrest is merely the latest of a string of concerted attacks on Hasina's opponents, including the intimidation of journalists and a sustained and unpalatable assault on Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, in an attempt to undermine and nationalise his trailblazing microfinance lender Grameen Bank.

It's strangely sad that this medieval madness is taking place just 5,000 miles away from an Olympic village whose athletes and overseers trumpet the causes of freedom, inclusivity and progress. And its ironic in the extreme that Britain's political leaders should be condoning and even championing a woman bent on denying those very human rights to her people.

But still the bullying continues on the subcontinent. Earlier this month, almost the entire elected membership of the opposition Bangladesh National Party bar its leader was arrested. A litany of charges now awaits the main opposition leader, Khaleda Zia, and her family: Zia charges that these accusations are pure retribution on the part of her political nemesis, Sheikh Hasina.

None of this bodes well for elections next year. In her meeting with Ed Miliband, Hasina stated that "all the future elections in Bangladesh will be held in a complete fair and neutral manner". Few believe that any election in Bangladesh can be either 'free' or 'fair' so long as she retains supreme power. Later, in a BBC interview, Hasina proclaimed that her opposition back home enjoyed every possible political and democratic right.

Perhaps she believes this to be true. Perhaps she believes that her opponents are indeed truly guilty of heinous crimes, while her political cronies and cohorts are above the fray, innocent and pure, garlanded with roses and perfume. Yet if this really is the case, it would seem strange that she is denying any of the accused at the war crimes tribunal access to proper legal representation. Last year, Jamaat-e-Islami's British lawyer Toby Cadman, a respected human rights lawyer practicing at London's 9 Bedford Row International, was detained on arrival in Dhaka Airport, despite his international credentials. Cadman was held for ten hours before being expelled from Bangladesh on the next Dubai-bound plane. His request for a visa to return to Bangladesh to defend his clients have been met with a steely silence. Ironically, during the previous Government when Sheikh Hasina was leader of the opposition, and faced trial herself, her defence team was assisted by the presence of Cherie Booth QC, wife of former PM, Tony Blair.

Hasina's assault on freedom is one that the British government has the financial and political resources to stop - right now. Yet both our government and our opposition are doing precisely nothing to halt events in Dhaka, preferring to stick their fingers in their ears and hold their nose.

The now former International development secretary Mitchell refused to comment on the treatment of Yunus at all - until finally putting pen to paper in a letter of reply addressed to Cadman, published in the September 7 edition of the Daily Telegraph. Meanwhile the UK High Commission in Dhaka refused to condemn the arrest of opposition politicians. The Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign Office are complicit in this crackdown on democracy and freedom of expression.

The British Government, through DFID, directly funds Bangladesh to the tune of £250 million a year, and has plans to increase this support to £1 billion over the next three years. This makes the UK the chief funder of its former colony, money that is currently handed over, directly to Hasina's cronies, with no strings or conditions attached.

So what is to be done? Firstly, the British Government must make direct-to-government aid to Bangladesh conditional on freedom of expression. In the last ten years the country has been listed last a total of five times in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. But when the British Government is providing funds unconditionally to a country with such fundamental deficiencies, then it is incredulous this comes without strings attached.

Secondly, Britain and others must demand that all trials, whether for war crimes or otherwise, are conducted in accordance with universal standards of due process with full respect to the presumption of innocence, before a tribunal that is impartial and independent of the ruling party.

Finally, the British Government has to acknowledge that its funding modus operandi isn't working. In recent weeks, the UK has withheld aid to Rwanda's leader Paul Kagame, whose administration has been linked to alleged human rights abuses, at home and abroad. In Bangladesh, the government's crackdown against human rights and freedoms are not even alleged - they are plain for all to see.

Few but the most virulent hawks would deny that international aid has its benefits, but the British coalition government is taking its liberal stance on foreign aid funding to the absolute extreme. By channeling billions of pounds of unconditional funding into the maw of a truly noxious foreign leader more interested in witchhunts and her world standing than with promoting and protecting human rights or democracy, Britain is starting to look a complicit and even active part of the awful events unfolding on the subcontinent.

We need to change how we fund not just Bangladesh, but many countries. If a country's leaders use UK taxpayers' money to subjugate their own people in the covert name of political retribution, it is time for us to make a change. Surely people of the intelligence of Cameron, Hague and Miliband should be able, at the very least, to understand this very real pilgrim's progress.

 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Funders of controversial movie traced by US intelligence

While protests and riots are spreading in a number of Muslim nations following release of a controversial anti-Islam movie named 'Innocence of Muslims', various intelligence agencies in the United States have already traced two of the main masterminds of the project, while US intelligence is scrutinizing various scoops and evidences on involvement of an Lebanese-American woman, who's NGO might also have put significant amount of money in this project with the ulterior motive of pushing Muslims and Jews towards extreme confrontation. Some analysts are even seeing the movie as a conspiracy of the anti-Israel elements inside America. It was also learnt by the US intelligence that most of the actors of the film were kept in dark by its masterminds about the entire script, while many of the actors were recruited from the American underground porn movie world. Tim Dax, who also played role in 'Innocence of Muslims' is learnt to have earlier worked in a number of gay porn films has already expressed severe anger at the makers of the film for "trapping" them by hiding the script of the movie.

Egyptian-American, Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, the president of the Duarte-based charity Media for Christ, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon from Cerritos, emerged as forces behind "Innocence of Muslims." Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih got converted into Christianity from Islam few years back. Another mastermind behind the project is a Lebanese-American female, who runs a multi-million dollar NGO in United States. The same women earlier extended "cooperation" to Florida's infamous Pastor Terry Jones, who created international havoc by setting fire on Quran. The organization of ex-Muslim Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih - Media for Christ, whose stated mission is to "glow Jesus' light" to the world, obtained permits to shoot the movie in August 2011, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula provided his home as a set and paid the actors, according to government officials and those involved in the production.

Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih founded the charity in 2005 with US$30,000. In its 2011 tax filing, which covers the period of the filming, the charity reported having eight employees and contributions of US$ 1 million. While Media for Christ public filings describe it as an evangelical organization working to spread the Gospel, Nassralla has devoted himself in recent years to criticizing Islam in speeches and interviews.

Following outbreak of massive protests in the Muslim world, both Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula went into hiding and had been denying any "involvement" behind the movie, though, according to porn actor Tim Dex, he had been paid US$ 75 per day through checks drawn on the bank account of Abanob Basseley Nakoula — a name linked to the Cerritos property where Nakoula Basseley Nakoula resides. The home's distinctive front door with triangle windows in a half-circle pattern is visible in the 14-minute trailer for the movie posted on YouTube.

the check he received from his role in the movie was paid from the bank account of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

Refering to Nakoula, Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles said, "He denied completely any involvement."

Similarly, an official at Media for Christ said the charity was not connected to the movie and was upset by its controversial content. The same day, an associate who served as a script consultant told the paper that Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih "had nothing to do with it."

The Innocence of Muslims - movie that has enraged radical Islamists who have rioted and committed murders in the Middle East this week, was partially shot on a set that Paramount's TV unit helped to build for its TV show JAG, and a man with five decades of movie and television experience. Portions of the infamous, micro-budget movie were filmed in Saugus, about 30 miles north of Hollywood, on a portion of Blue Cloud Film Ranch called "Baghdad Square," which is often used for TV and film productions seeking to replicate Middle Eastern war zones. Other movies and TV shows partially filmed at Blue Cloud include Iron Man, Get Him to the Greek, Serenity, Arrested Development, NCIS Los Angeles, The Closer, Threat Matrix and CSI. The U.S. military has also made training videos at Blue Cloud. Veluzat, 72, said the 100-acre ranch is for sale for US$ 15 million. Although makers of the movie claimed to have invested US$ 5 million in the project, it was later learnt from numerous sources inside American film industry that the entire budget of the film would have been less than US$ 400,000.

The makers of the movie not only hided the script from the actors, but also deceived the American government by giving another name while the shooting was continuing. They registered the name as 'Innocence of Bin Laden' and later 'Desert Warriors', while finally they changed the name to 'Innocence of Muslims'. The film starts with a claim that the Prophet of Islam was "illegitimate" and "his birth a disgrace". 

Later the Prophet of Islam is shown as a low status man ridiculed by a boy for having no known father. Then most of the film deals with the rise of Islam, there is a great deal of violence and cruelty. Some of the allegations made in the film such as the followers of the Prophet took slaves; Non-Muslims were forced to pay a tax or Jizyah, which the film calls as extortion. The movie also shows a donkey becoming first Muslim by establishing faith on the Prophet of Islam.

The s0-called film was produced and directed by a person first identified in casting calls as "Alan Roberts",and then in media reports "Sam Bacile", though finally it had been revealed that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula actually used pseudonym of Sam Bacile and on purpose told reporters in interview that he was a real estate businessman from Israel and was a Jew. Though later it was proved that, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula aka Sam Bacile is neither an Israeli nor Jewish but is a Coptic Christian.

The cast and crew have publicly stated that they were deceived about the purpose and content of the film. In a statement obtained by CNN, the film's 80 cast and crew members disavowed the film, they said: "The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose." It further explained, "We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred." Cindy Lee Garcia, who played the mother of Muhammad's bride-to-be, said the script for a movie called Desert Warriors, about life in Egypt 2,000 years ago and that the character "Muhammad" was referred to as "Master George" on set. According to Garcia, "Bacile" claimed to be an Israeli real estate mogul. Later, however, he told her he was Egyptian and she heard him speaking in Arabic with other men on set. Garcia was stunned to find out that the film was actually an anti-Muslim agitprop piece and that "it makes me sick" that she was involved in a film that caused people to die. She is considering legal action against "Bacile." The overdubbing permitted the film's director to deceive the cast into taking part in the movie under the pretense that it was about the life of a generic Egyptian from 2,000 years ago. Sarah Abdurrahman, a producer for WNYC's On the Media program stated that all of the religious references were overdubbed.

 

High profile corruptions by Awami ‘Chors’





Mr. A B M Musa is one of the senior-most journalists in Bangladesh. In a recent gathering he advised everyone to shout "s/he is a thief" as soon as any one connected with the Government is sighted. I am sure that Mr. Musa also knows very well that there are still some honest people in the country working for the Government. Apparently one would say that Mr. Musa should not have made such irresponsible utterances. But when you think more deeply you can understand how frustrated Mr. Musa felt with the present state of affairs. Next day I read something very interesting. Mr. Musa writes about a shipwrecked person in an island full of snakes, crocodiles and other dangerous animals. Then he sees a ship passing-by and waves in desperation. God responded to his call when he found a boat coming from the ship. The man in the boat gave some recent newspapers and said "you should read them and decide if you want to go back Bangladesh or remain in the island".


When a very respected and elderly journalist like Mr. Musa writes and speaks like that, it is time for us to look at things to its fullest context and think if there is a limit to it or will it go on endless. First let us talk about monetary corruption. I would not like to go on details but would just touch upon a few of them. By now there is hardly anyone in Bangladesh who has not heard about the case of Hallmark group. I understand they took well over four thousand crores of taka from the state-owned Sonali Bank and there is little hope that the bank can recover that money. Yet the finance minister calls it just a minor incident. Another company known as "Destiny Group" [a multilevel marketing company] took money not only from banks but also from innocent public in general. Some of those involved have even run away from the country. By market manipulation some people also made quick money out of stock exchange and most of it has gone out of the country. BEXIMCO Group took full advantage of the inflated price of their share to take a huge loan from the bank against shares as security. The price of those shares is now not even 1/10th of the negotiated deal. There is another very interesting case of a mortgaged ship being sold without any reference to the bank. Such things can only happen in Bangladesh. Now let us talk about the most sensational case – Padma Bridge project. Some people were too eager to make quick money and on the assurances of various contracts took in advance a large sum of money. I believe the transactions took place in Canada. When the Canadian Police started investigating the matter, a young Bangladeshi (also Canadian national) couple slipped out of Canada and returned to Bangladesh. The World Bank who initially promised to finance most of the project withdrew from the project. The World Bank [WB] provided the Government some vital information relating to the corruption. The government initially tried to laugh it out by saying how could there be any corruption when contract have not been awarded. Then for a few days the Government kept on blaming Professor Yunus for the WB decision. Then slowly the cats started emerging out of the bag. One minister has already resigned and another adviser is on the verge of resignation. Perhaps the root of the corruption goes beyond that and it cannot be resolved so easily.

Corruption is now deep rooted at every level of the society. A minister's APS was caught with a car full of money in sacks on way to minister's house. The minister resigned. He was still kept in the cabinet as a minister without any portfolio. The Anti-corruption Commission gained full confidence of the government by declaring the minister innocent. The nation soon came to know the identity of two new patriots. They are none other than the ministers who resigned on charges of corruption. If you want to know how wide spread and deep rooted the corruption network is then you have to visit any of the government departments or agencies who are supposed to provide service to the people. Let us start with local police, hospital, port office, customs office, land registry and record office, and then go to relevant offices for gas, electricity, water and to primary school for admission of children. You will soon know that there is only one solution to your problems and that is money. The railway minister admitted his inability to recover railway lands because of the influence of very powerful elements. Similarly the rivers and canals are being filled up by influential people for their use.

We will now take a quick look at the law and order situation. Almost every day one or two dead bodies are recovered from rivers and drains. Police said to have identified the body of garment labour leader Aminul Islam like that. The young journalist couple were murdered in their own bedroom perhaps because they knew too much about government corruption. A BNP leader along with his driver was hijacked from his car never to be seen again. There are others who die in so-called "cross-fire" (extra judicial killing). Countless people die on the roads when a minister advocates for driving licence to be made easier.

But the present Government can be proud of some of its success. It took no time to change the name of the Dhaka Airport to remove the name of Zia from it. It successfully evicted Khaleda Zia from her cantonment house. It hanged most of those responsible for 1975 changes. It brought in the constitutional changes to hold election under the present government instead of a non-party care-taker government. However, their claimed success of dealing with BDR revolt is most debatable. Men in arms revolt is nothing short of sedition. There can be no negotiation or compromise with them. Call for surrender of arms and submit them to lawful authority. Everything else comes after that. The elite forces of the country are maintained to defend the country and they should have been allowed to take necessary action to restore normalcy. The so-called political negotiation with the mutineers resulted into a great loss for the country. One can become a politician overnight but it takes lot of tax-payers' money, years of training, hard work and dedication to become a colonel or brigadier. The nation can never excuse those responsible for the massacre.

We also suffered in the hands of the opposition when they were in power. We do not know where is the end and where shall we go. 

BY :   F R Chowdhury.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Myanmar: The Global War On Islam

The June e thnic and religious violence in the northwest ( Rakhine State, the northwestern coast just south of Bangladesh) caused an uproar in Moslem countries, with calls for retribution against Myanmar for allowing it to happen. Long simmering tensions between the Moslem migrants from Bangladesh and the native Buddhists erupted into widespread fighting two months ago after some Rohingya men were accused of raping a Buddhist woman. Weeks of violence followed. This caused over a thousand casualties, most of them Moslem and thousands of buildings destroyed. This has displaced nearly 100,000 people (about 75 percent Moslem).

The Moslems and Buddhists have never gotten along and there’s always been some tension. Until recently, the military government suppressed any open talk of these tensions. But since the elections last year, there’s been more freedom of the press and that has included more public discussion by Buddhists about how much they dislike the Rohingyas.

Rakhine State has a population of 3.8 million, with about 800,000 of them Moslems, mostly Rohingyas. These are Bengalis, or people from Bengal (now Bangladesh) who began migrating to Burma during the 19th century. At that time the British colonial government ran Bangladesh and Burma, and allowed this movement, even though the Buddhist Burmese opposed it. Britain recognized the problem too late, but the Bengali Moslems were still in Burma when Britain gave up its South Asian colonies after World War II (1939-45).

Bangladesh has refused to take these Moslems back as Bangladeshis, and the Rohingya have come to consider themselves a separate group. Burma never let the Rohingya become citizens, which helped stoke tensions between the Moslems and Buddhists. Bangladesh has long had too many people, and illegal migration to neighboring areas (mainly India) has been a growing problem. In the 1990s, an outbreak of violence led to over a quarter million Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. Some 28,000 are in refugee camps in Bangladesh, another 200,000 live outside the camps in Bangladesh and some are in Thailand, where they are considered economic migrants, and thus illegal.

This year Bangladesh changed its refugee policy and refused to accept any more Rohingya, considering the refugee camps an unfair burden caused by Burmese refusal to absorb the Rohingya already in their territory. This has led to Burma creating heavily guarded camps for these displaced Rohingya. Aid workers call these camps prisons, but the Burmese want to limit the movement of Rohingya who now consider themselves at war with Buddhists. But only about ten percent of the Rohingya have been forced from their homes. The rest live in (usually segregated) villages and neighborhoods throughout Rakhine State.

Hindus, Christians or Buddhists in this region have bad memories of Moslems, who have been around for over a thousand years as invaders and violent religious bigots. These memories are sustained by the current wave of Islamic terrorism around the world and within the region. The UN is trying to get Burma to absorb the Rohingya, but the Burmese believe that absorption is not practical and these Moslems must move to a Moslem country (preferably Bangladesh, where they came from.) The Burmese resent the UN interference and have arrested some aid workers who are helping the Rohingya.

The Burmese police and army are accused of doing little to halt the violence, and often taking the side of rioting Buddhist civilians. Because of this, Burma has agreed to investigate the violence and is under international pressure to allow the Rohingya to stay and become citizens. But the Burmese government is under domestic pressure to take a hard line on the Rohingya, who are seen as alien invaders, even though most of them have lived in Burma for generations. This situation is quite common in the region. There are many more, most of them quite recent, illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India, where frequent outbreaks of violence with Indians do not get a lot of international attention because the Indians involved are often Moslems. There is a similar situation in Iran and Pakistan, where millions of unwelcome Afghan refugees (from the 1980s Russian invasion) refuse to leave. China and Thailand have thousands of unwelcome Burmese refugees from the tribal rebellions in rural Burma. China has recently forced many of the refugees back into Burma, while Thailand threatens to do so. In neither of these cases is religion an issue. But when the illegal migrants are Moslem and the people they are displacing are infidels (non-Moslem) the Islamic world considers any resistance to be part of the global “war on Islam.”

At the moment, the Burmese want the Rohingya restricted to guarded camps. The Moslem world calls these camps prisons, but the Burmese public sees allowing the Rohingya to go free as leading to eventual establishment of a separatist Moslem territory in Rakhine State. The Burmese note the eight years of Islamic terror in southern Thailand and the Islamic terrorist problem in India. Most Burmese see themselves as victims of Moslem aggression and invasion, but the Moslem world sees Burma as making war on Moslems. The rest of the world calls for an end to violence and some kind of justice. The problem is that the Burmese Buddhists and the world’s Moslems have a very different concept of justice in this case.

August 23, 2012: The government freed six of the twelve foreign aid workers it had arrested in June and accused of helping to promote the violence.

August 20, 2012: The government has eliminated direct censorship. That is, publications no longer have to submit material to government censors before they print it. But there is still censorship. Various old (from the period of military rule) laws still allow the government to shut down publications believed to be causing trouble. Government officials decide what “trouble” means in each situation. You still need government permission to create a new publication.

August 19, 2012: The government announced the creation of a commission to investigate the recent (June) violence between Buddhists and Moslems ( Rohingya) in the northwest. The commission will attempt to come up with recommendations that will satisfy foreign (mainly Moslem) critics. Moslem nations want to be free to operate aid efforts among the Rohingya without Burmese supervision. The Burmese are reluctant to do this because so many Islamic charities are fronts for Islamic terrorist organizations. Several large Islamic terrorist groups (Taliban, al Qaeda) have already declared war on Burma and called for all other Moslems to join in.

August 18, 2012: In the north (Kachin state) there was a brief gun battle between soldiers and armed members of the ABSDF (All Burma Students’ Democratic Front). There were no injuries. The ABSDF consists of rebel Burmese from the south who have established bases in the Kachin tribal territories and allied themselves with Kachin rebels. This particular clash was apparently an accident, as soldiers guarding a supply convoy to an isolated army base through they might be ambushed.

August 14, 2012: There was another outbreak of ethnic violence in Rakhine State, leaving three dead and over a dozen wounded.

August 5, 2012: There was another outbreak of violence in Rakhine State, where over 300 homes of Rohingya were burned and over 3,000 people forced to flee the Buddhist attacks.

August 2, 2012: Security forces seized 1.4 million amphetamine pills and 116 kilometers (255 pounds) of heroin last month. The drug gangs are becoming more active in the north and most of their production is headed for China. This has led to a join Burma-China police taskforce to go after drug gangs that are operating on both sides of the border. The drug gangs are controlled by tribal rebel groups and the income supports the tribal armies that the government has been fighting for generations. Despite current peace deals, the recent growth of drug production up north indicates that the tribes (or at least some warlords) intend to maintain their private armies.

August 1, 2012: Bangladesh ordered three foreign aid groups to stop work among Rohingya refugees along the Burma border. Bangladesh considers the Rohingya, who were originally from Bangladesh, to be Burmese (because the Rohingya have been in Burma for generations.)