Monday, March 19, 2012

Dhaka won't pull out of UN court: Dipu Moni

Bangladesh will not withdraw from the UN court to have bilateral solution to maritime boundary dispute with India, says the foreign minister.

"We can always discuss the issue bilaterally with our neighbour, but we will not withdraw from the court for the sake of discussion," Dipu Moni said at a press briefing on Monday.

Bangladesh moved the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2009 to settle the maritime boundary dispute with India. On Mar 14, in a verdict over similar dispute with Myanmar, the UN court awarded Bangladesh 111,000 square kilometers of area in the Bay of Bengal.

"We cannot settle the dispute bilaterally and that's why we went to the court," Moni said.

The minister said she and Indian high commissioner Pankaj Saran had discussed the issue, but in the meeting he did not propose for bilateral discussion.

She, however, said if they want to have bilateral talks, Bangladesh is open to it.


The minister said the authorities concerned would determine the offshore blocks for exploration in the Bay.

"We cannot explore the blocks that was fixed earlier as they do not belong to us," she said.

"We want to have a just solution without hurting the legitimate interests of our neighbours."

Additional foreign secretary Khurshed Alam said now it is possible to redefine the blocks that belong to Bangladesh.


This is a great victory for both the countries as now the long-standing dispute stands resolved, Moni said.

"With this verdict the friendly relationship with Myanmar would move forward leaving the dispute behind," she hoped.

The minister informed that the verdict in dispute with India is to be delivered in 2014. 


Hitler 'had plans to rule world from Hollywood'

German dictator Adolf Hitler had a secret Nazi ranch near Hollywood in Los Angeles in the US state of California from where he intended to rule the world had his country won World War II, say historians.

Built by US sympathisers of the Nazi cause, Hilter's Murphy Ranch was tucked away in the idyllic Los Angeles hills between celebrity mansions and olive trees.

In fact, it was the heavily guarded home to a community of 50 Hollywood fascists who had planned to ride out the war there until the Third Reich was victorious, according to the historians.

The day after Pearl Harbour was bombed on December 7, 1941, police raided the place and took away its occupants.

Now ravaged by time, the property still stands a mile or so from the home of director Steven Spielberg; one of the most haunting landmarks in Los Angeles, it will soon be turned into a picnic area for hikers, the 'Sunday Express' reported.

Historian Randy Young said: "This was supposed to be the seat of American fascism from where Hitler would one day rule the US. They may've been Nazis but they're Nazis with taste."

In 1933, the 55-acre ranch was sold by screen cowboy Will Rogers to mining fortune heiress Jessie Murphy who later became enchanted by a charismatic German known only as Herr Schmidt who was secretly Hitler's special agent in California.

Hitler's man in Hollywood persuaded her to invest US dollars four million to equip the property with a diesel power plant, a 375,000 gallon concrete water tank, bomb shelter and 22 bedrooms.

The plan was to turn it into a fascist Utopia where they and their Nazi friends could farm the land and live self -sufficiently far from the world's gaze until their big moment came, say the historians.


Fidel Castro knew ‘JFK would be assassinated’

Fidel Castro had prior knowledge that US President John F Kennedy was about to be killed, according to a new book by retired CIA analyst.

Rumours about the Cuban leader’s involvement in a plot to murder his fierce adversary have swirled for almost half a century since communist sympathiser Lee Harvey Oswald shot the US president during a trip to Dallas in November 1963.

Now author Brian Latell, who studied Cuban affairs as a CIA analyst in the 1960s and later became the agency’s chief intelligence officer for Latin America, says he is certain that Castro at least knew the attack was going to happen.

On the morning of November 22, 1963, the day Kennedy was killed, Castro ordered a senior intelligence officer in Havana to stop listening for non-specific CIA radio communications and concentrate instead on “any little detail, any small detail from Texas”, Latell claims in his new book ‘Castro’s Secrets – the CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine’, set for release next month.

Four hours later, the airwaves came alive with news that Kennedy was dead.

Latell also claims that Castro was aware that Oswald, who had been denied a visa to visit Cuba at the country’s embassy in Mexico City, told staff there that he was going to murder Kennedy to prove his allegiance to the communist cause.

“Fidel knew of Oswald’s intentions and did nothing to deter the act,” the Daily Mail quoted Latell as saying in his book.

In an interview published in The Miami Herald, the author, now a respected senior lecturer on Cuba at the University of Miami, says he discovered the information in interviews with former Cuban intelligence officers, backed up by declassified US government documents.

“I don’t say Fidel Castro ordered the assassination, I don’t say Oswald was under his control. He might have been, but I don’t argue that, because I was unable to find any evidence for that,” he said.

“[But] everything I write is backed up by documents and on-the-record sources.

“Did Fidel want Kennedy dead? Yes. He feared Kennedy. And he knew Kennedy was gunning for him. In Fidel’s mind, he was probably acting in self-defence,” he added.

He interviewed former Cuban intelligence officer Fiorentino Aspillaga Lombard, who defected to the US in 1987. He told the author that he informed the CIA at his debriefing that Castro personally issued the order to listen specifically for anything about Texas.

The claim that Castro was aware of Oswald’s promise to Cuban embassy officials that he was going to murder Kennedy comes from several sources, including a former FBI informant and ‘superspy’ Jack Childs, who penetrated the dictator’s inner circle.

Childs said that the Cuban premier told him that Oswald “stormed into the embassy, demanded the visa, and when it was refused to him headed out saying, ‘I’m going to kill Kennedy for this’.”

Meanwhile, Castro was claiming publicly that Oswald’s visit to the embassy was “a minor matter” that had not been noticed by senior officials in Havana.

Subsequent investigations by the US security agencies, and the official Warren Commission inquiry into Kennedy’s assassination, looked at Castro’s possible involvement but concluded that Oswald was a lone gunman acting independently.


Bangladesh's "teenage" brothels hold dark steroid secret

Their faces painted heavy with make-up, teenage girls in short, tight blouses and long petticoats loiter in squalid alleys, laughing and gesturing to potential clients who roam Tangail town's infamous red light area in the early evening.

There is no shortage of men looking for "company" in Kandapara slum, a labyrinth of tiny lanes - lined cheek-by-jowl with corrugated iron shacks - a few hours drive northeast of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

But with rates as low as 50 taka (60 US cents), the need to attract as many customers as possible is desperate - prompting a rising, yet dangerous, trend of steroid abuse among adolescent sex workers to "enhance" their appearance.

"There is a huge difference between my appearance now and the malnourished look of my childhood," says Hashi, 17, who was lured into the sex trade by a trafficker when she was 10 and sold to Kandapara's brothel, where she began taking steroids.

"I am healthier than before and fit to serve a lot of customers in a day. Sometimes up to 15," she says, placing a large black bindi, or dot used by Hindu women, between her perfectly shaped eyebrows.

She sits in her tiny room with a bed, a cooking stove and posters of Bollywood stars taped across the wall.

Hashi is one of around 900 sex workers - some as young as 12 - living a painful life of exploitation in Kandapara, not only bonded by debt and fear of stigma, but compelled to take the steroid, Oradexon, which brings more income but leaves dangerous side effects.


Also known as Dexamethasone, Oradexon treats inflammation and allergies in humans and is used by farmers to fatten livestock.

Charities say the over-the-counter drug is taken by 90 percent of sex workers in Kandapara and the other 14 legalized brothels across this impoverished South Asian nation.

The girls are first forced to take it by their madams, or "sardarnis", who run the brothels.

It increases their appetite, making them gain weight rapidly and giving the appearance that these poorly nourished teens are in fact healthy and older - attracting clients who prefer girls with "curves".

It also helps sardarnis keep the police away. The legal age for sex work in Bangladesh is 18.

The girls then continue to consume it, saying that it keeps them "strong and healthy", which in turn will help them get more clients in a day so they can earn enough to survive.

"My sardarni forced me to take a tablet. She beat me up and stopped giving food. She threatened me and reminded me about my loans," says Hashi, who has a four-year-old son staying with relatives, whom she has not seen for two years.

"In this brothel, customers always look for healthy girls. I take Oradexon. I need customers so I can pay my bills and loans. If I don't get any customers one day, I cannot eat in the next day. I wish to save some money for my son."

The story is the same with most of Kandapara's teenage sex workers, or "chukris".

Sold for as little as 20,000 taka ($245) by their poor, rural families to traffickers, they are then traded on to brothel sardarnis, who are former prostitutes themselves and keep the teenagers in bonded sex work.

The girls speak of being with up to 15 men in one day, but say their earnings are pocketed by their sardarnis, who tell them they have to work to pay off the money paid for them.

Many girls have been in Kandapara's brothel for years, yet due to their illiteracy, they have no idea whether their debts have been cleared and what their rights are.

Others, who have been left by their sardarnis because they are too old or not-profitable, are in principle free to leave but choose not to, fearful of the social exclusion they will face in the conservative, Muslim society outside of Kandapara.


Oradexon, they say, keeps them going, even though there are known risks associated with its long-term use.

The steroid can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, skin rashes and headaches and is highly addictive, according to social activists.

It also weakens the immune system and leaves patients more susceptible to illnesses. There have been reports of young sex workers dying from over-use of the drug.

The small white pill is easily available in Kandapara's slums. It is sold without prescription for 15 taka (18 US cents) for a strip of 10 at the tea and cigarette stalls blaring Bangladeshi pop music that populate a maze of open-sewer lanes.

"Steroids are life-saving as well as life-destroying drugs which are used by sex workers in poor countries," said Shipra Gowshami, a lawyer and human rights activist who works with sex workers in brothels in the central Bangladeshi town of Faridpur.

"A lack of awareness, easy availability and malpractices of quacks are some of the prime causes of why these drugs are being abused," Gowshami said.

In 2010, ActionAid Bangladesh began a campaign to promote awareness of the drug among sex workers. But they say they are facing a long fight in persuading not only the brothels to stop using it but also authorities to regulate it.

"There have been attempts to raise awareness on the negative impact of the use of such medicine but brothel owners, madams and pimps are a long way from withdrawing such practices," said Farah Kabir, country director for ActionAid Bangladesh.

"We have an uphill battle, yet it can be won. There needs to be greater regulation in the sale of such drugs. Government and the state must play an active role."

Civic group voices concerns over HC rule on Asif Nazrul

A group of citizens, including jurists, journalists, politicians, writers and educationists, on Saturday expressed concerns over the High Court’s summoning professor Asif Nazrul for giving a political analysis on a private television channel on March 12.

The High Court on March 15 directed Dhaka University’s law department teacher
Asif Nazrul to appear on March 22 to explain his critical analysis of the political events plagued by perpetual rivalries and bitterness.

The court said his statement was ‘likely to cause cracks in the law and order and democratic order of the country’.

Asif Nazrul in a TV talk show had expressed fear that forces like that of January 11, 2007 might emerge again if confrontational politics continued.

The citizens in the statement said that Asif Nazrul had been was writing on Bangladesh’s politics and legal affairs and giving statements on the issues in media for years and the apprehension he expressed in the televised talk-show on March 12 were voiced by many others, including politicians, in recent times.

‘We believe that voicing such concerns is not illogical against the backdrop of the politics of confrontation the major political parties practise now in the country,’ they noted.   

The signatories to the statement are: adviser to a past caretaker government Hafizuddin Khan, Awami League leader Mahmudur Rahman Manna, jurists Shahdin Malik and Sara Hossain, Dhaka University professor Amina Mohsin, BRAC University professor Pias Karim, Gana Swasthya Kendra chairman Zafrullah Chowdhury, Bangladesh Jatiya Party chairman Andaleeve Rahman Partho, former AL leader Noor-e-Alam Siddique, economist Debapriya Bhattachariya, Shahnaj Huda, Shirin Haque, Sumaya Khair and journalists Syed Abul Maksud, Mizanur Rahman Khan, Nurul Kabir, Abu Sayeed Khan, Anjan Roy and Monir Haider.
The statement also said expressing concerns at the time of country’s political crisis was a constitution-recognised fundamental right of the people.  

The High Court constitutionally should preserve the people’s fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression and should function as the safeguard against any threat to the people’s freedom of expression, the statement read.

It also said, ‘The High Court, on the contrary, issued a rule on Asif Nazrul, and asked the home secretary, inspector general of police and Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner as to why sedition charges should not be brought against Nazrul for exercising his right to the freedom of expression.’

The citizens’ group said that they thought such step of the higher court was tantamount to a threat to the people’s freedom of expression, free-thinking and to mass media.

The statement said the civic group had also observed with concerns that the same bench of the High Court over the last couple of months had taken some steps which made ‘uncertain the process of exercising people’s fundamental rights, discharging their civic duties, and of people’s participation in building a democratic society.’

The statement also noted that the same bench had earlier issued rule on some of those who took part in TV talk shows asking them to appear before the court. 

Referring to another rule issued by the same bench over the killing of journalist couple Sagar and Runi, the group said the journalist community had resolved not to abide by the court directives terming it an ‘obstacle’ to the freedom of the press.

‘We think the rule on Asif Nazrul is also a threat to the freedom of the press,’ the statement said.

‘Such continuous steps from the Supreme Court have called into question the role of the country’s judiciary as far as ensuring freedom of expression and free-media is concerned,’ the statement added.

‘We think such steps will thwart the path of constructive criticism against any government failing to practise democracy and implement its electoral pledges and will encourage government’s repressive measures,’ read the statement.

The group urged the chief justice to take necessary measures so that the country’s higher court played a sensitive and sympathetic role towards ensuring freedom of expression and of the press.


Nine charges against Quamaruzzaman

The prosecution on Monday brought nine charges against Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general Mohammad Quamaruzzaman at the war crimes tribunal.

The International Crimes Tribunal, set up to deal with crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, will continue to hear arguments following formal charges of the prosecution after lunch.

The tribunal was also expected to hear arguments of the defence against Jamaat's former chief Ghulam Azam's indictment but deferred the hearing to Mar 25.

Prosecutor Saiful Islam concluded reading the formal charges against Quamaruzzaman who has been mainly charged with atrocities committed by Al Badr men in Mymensingh district during the war.

The Jamaat leader, who headed Mymensingh's Islami Chhatra Sangha unit, as Jamaat's student wing used to be called then, has been accused for his command responsibility of the Al Badr.

Al Badr, besides the Al Shams, Al Mujahid and Razakars, mobilised by Jamaat, was notorious for its atrocities as it actively engaged against the liberation forces in 1971.

The prosecution's position is that since Al Badr consisted of Chhatra Sangha members, Al Badr atrocities in Mymensingh fall on Quamaruzzaman's shoulders.

Charges against the Jamaat assistant secretary general are almost entirely from the Mymensingh district where he allegedly founded the Al Badr militia and instigated anti-liberation efforts.

The Jamaat leader has also been charged for collective responsibility besides crimes against humanity including murder and rape. He has also been charged with crimes against peace, incitement, planning and conspiracy. 

ISI exposed

Ex-chief's deposition opens up Pandora's Box


A recent hearing on a petition against an illegal disbursement of money to politicians and individuals brings to light the dirty role of Pakistan's controversial spy agency ISI. 

The petition was filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan against money doling up to anti-Benazir Bhutto politicians in 1990 allegedly from the establishment through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). 

It came up for hearing before the Pakistan Supreme Court on February 29. The case was, however, adjourned because of the absence of certain key witnesses, the Dubai-based Khaleej Times reported in its issue of March 3. 

The chief justice said notices must be issued to former ISI chief Gen Asad Durrani and former chief of Mehran Bank Younus Habib to appear before the court at the next hearing on March 8.

The report based on earlier court statements says Durrani, by his own admission, had directly delivered the money to politicians and groups as ordered by the “boss” -- the then army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg.

In turn, Gen Beg had named the “chief executive” (former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan) for “supervising the entire exercise”, the newspaper writes.

“Its sinister purpose was to defeat the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) under Benazir Bhutto in the 1990 elections. A total of Rs 140 million was disbursed after Mehran Bank illegally advanced it to the ISI account.”

The events combined, in which millions of Pakistani rupees were paid to politicians and political parties using the spy agency, is widely known as the Mehran bank scandal, also Mehrangate. 

“Another Rs 50 million was allegedly paid to Bangladesh's Khalida Zia to help her in polls against Hasina Wajid's Awami League generally perceived by Pakistan's security establishment as pro-India,” the Khaleej Times adds. 

The exact text of any court statement of the ex-spy boss was not available and The Daily Star could not verify whether BNP chief Khaleda Zia had received money from the ISI. 

However, the Pakistani media elaborately wrote about Pakistani politicians and professionals who received ISI money. 

Durrani in his testimony gave details of amounts given to each leader. 

The Pakistani news service, News Online, said former DG ISI Asad Durrani in an affidavit submitted before the apex court recently admitted to having disbursed money to Mian Nawaz Sharif (Rs 3.5 million), Lt General Rafaqat, who was head of ex-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan's election cell (Rs5.6 million), late Mir Afzal Khan (Rs 10 million), ex-PM late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi (Rs5 million), late Jam Sadiq Ali (Rs 5 million), late ex-PM Mohammed Khan Junejo (Rs 2.5 million), late Pir Pagaro (Rs 2 million), lawyer Abdul Hafeez Pirzada (Rs 3 million), ex-governor Sindh Yusuf Haroon (Rs 5 million) which he confirmed having received for Altaf Hussain of the MQM, Muzaffar Hussain Shah (Rs0.3 million), Syeda Abida Hussain (Rs 1 million), Humayun Marri (Rs 5.4 million) and Jamaat-e-Islami (Rs 5 million), among other individuals and groups.
Most of these individuals and political parties have denied receiving any money from the ISI.

On March 8, Mehran Bank chief Younus Habib made a statement before the Supreme Court, saying he was forced by former president late Ghulam Ishaq Khan and former army chief Aslam Beg to arrange Rs 340 million in the “supreme national interest”, the leading Pakistani daily Dawn reports.

According to Habib's statement, Rs 140 million was paid through Gen Aslam Beg to politicians -- Rs 70m to former Sindh chief minister Jam Sadiq Ali who was provided another Rs 150m (from Mehran Bank's funds) for arranging licence to set up Mehran Bank, Rs 15m to Pir Pagaro through Jam Sadiq, Rs 70m to Younus Memon on the instructions of Ishaq Khan and Gen Beg for the politicians who wished not to receive the money directly from the ISI. Some of the money was also dished out to the Army Welfare Trust.

Also on March 8, in his latest statement submitted before the apex court, Durrani said he had used the Military Intelligence (MI) for the disbursement of the money deposited by Younus Habib, according to The News International, Pakistan. 

In his original affidavit of 1994, Durrani had revealed, “In September 1990 as DG ISI, I received instructions from the then COAS General Mirza Aslam Beg to provide 'logistic support' to the disbursement of donations made by some businessmen of Karachi to the election campaign of IJI [Islami Jamhoori Ittehad]. I was told that the operation had the blessings of the government.”

Now after 18 years of his initial affidavit, Durrani in his two-page statement submitted before the apex court on March 8, said, “Mr Yunus Habib did deposit Rs 140 million in various branches in the accounts opened, on my orders…” 

The Supreme Court bench had taken up the 1996 petition of Tehrik-i-Istiqlal chief Asghar Khan accusing the ISI of financing several politicians during the 1990 elections to create the IJI and prevent Benazir Bhutto's PPP from winning. 

On March 8, two sealed documents, one comprising a report by a commission tasked to review the working of security and intelligence agencies, were opened in court. 

The other document contained two audio-cassettes and unsigned statements/cross-examination of Maj-Gen (retd) Naseerullah Babar and Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani recorded during an in-camera session of the court.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Parvez accepted Younus Habib's sworn handwritten statement that he read loudly in open court.

Younus Habib said Gen Beg and ISI's Brigadier Hamid Saeed had provided a number of certain accounts in certain banks for depositing the amount while the counterfoil of the deposit slip had been handed over to one Colonel Akbar.

Both Gen Beg and Asad Durrani were in court, quietly listening to Habib's affidavit, the Dawn reports.

“In all I was asked to arrange Rs 350 million by the former president and the army chief before the 1990 general elections,” said Habib while reading out the affidavit.

Habib said he had told them that arranging such a huge amount was not possible through legal means for which he had to manipulate the system. At this, Ishaq Khan told him that he would have to do whatever he could for the “national cause”.

Habib submitted a photograph, along with his affidavit, in which he is seen with former president Ishaq Khan and a uniformed army officer having conversation with Gen Beg. The court made the photograph part of the record.

The March 3 report of Khaleej Times says the ISI brought together various conservative and religious parties and groups under the banner of IJI to collectively face the PPP. It effectively checked the Benazir tide in 1988, denying her an absolute majority. 

Former ISI chief Gen Hamid Gul unabashedly takes credit for fathering the IJI in 1988 to stem Benazir's tide. “She would have swept the polls,” he once admitted. 

A weak coalition under Benazir became an easy prey for Ishaq Khan to be sent home packing within less than two years. The 1990s saw similarly fragile arrangements alternating after every two years and being dispensed with by the president in collaboration with the army chief. 

Democracy was thus not allowed to take firm roots and was given a bad name for incompetence and corruption.