Monday, April 23, 2012

I cannot say everything: Taj

Tanjim Ahmed, also known as Sohel Taj, who resigned as an MP Monday morning, told his constituency in a letter that the reasons that led him to make the decision cannot be enlarged.

After three years he had 'resigned' as a junior minister, Sohel Taj, the son of Bangladesh's Liberation War-time prime minister, Tajuddin Ahmed, handed in his letter of resignation to the parliament secretariat through his Assistant Personal Secretary Abu Kawser.

A New York-based Bengali newspaper published the letter on its website on Monday.

Abu Kawser said Taj, who is currently living in the USA, has written to his supporters and well-wishers of Gazipur-4 constituency to explain the circumstances behind his resignation.

"I had to think a lot before reaching the decision of resigning from my position as a member of parliament," Sohel Taj wrote.

He said he took into account expectations of the people, their love, affection and the sacrifices they have made for him. "I was compelled to resign considering reality," Taj added.

"There was no way for me other than to resign to protect the honour of the people of Kapasia in Gazipur. Because, I believe, the dignity and honour of the people of Kapasia is inextricably related to me.

"I know my decision will hurt you, make you angry and you will protest. But I do not want the love and honour that you have given me get smeared. I cannot divulge the details to you for valid reasons."

Without making clear what prompted him to stand down, Taj continued: "There is always something to add to what is said. There is a lot of hidden truth that should not be made public for sake of the country, people and party. And it cannot be said in public either. I can only tell you that I have had appropriate reasons relinquishing the offices of MP and minister."

The son of the nation's first prime minister claimed in the letter that he never strayed from ideology, oath and principles in his days in office.

He dropped a broad hint that he may not return to active politics, he said he would always stand beside his people.

"The Awami League established with the ideology of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and my father Tajuddin Ahmed is my last address," he added.

He categorically said that it was for power, money and fame that he took to politics. "If that was my motive, I would have clung to the position of minister and member of parliament accepting everything," he reasoned.

Sohel Taj joined prime minister Sheikh Hasina's cabinet as the state minister for home on Jan 6, 2009. Only five months into taking of oath as a state minister, he had resigned on May 31 the same year.

After his resignation, the government had said that the president had not accepted the resignation.

The MP then sent a letter to the Cabinet Division on Apr 17, asking it to take back his salary and other allowances as a state minister debited into his bank account despite his resignation in 2009.

He also requested the Cabinet Division to issue a gazette notification for submitting his resignation.

"On May 31, 2009, I submitted my letter of resignation under the 58 (ka) article of the constitution to the prime minister. I sent the same letter of resignation to the prime minister's office on June 1. Since then I have not signed in anything as a state minister," Taj said in the letter sent to the cabinet.

Mentioning that he had spent most of the time during the BNP-led alliance government's rule in the street waging movement, Taj said in the letter to his electorate, "I did not engage in any business activities. My politics was funded with the money I inherited from my paternal property."

"I even sold my paternal property for politics. I lead a very simple life.

"Based on the prime minister's assurance on assisting me, I had taken over the ministry which nobody wanted to take. It was a responsibility not only to hold the office of minister, but a challenge.

"I had always tried to build the police as a disciplined professional force, as a friend of the people. Until the last day as state minister, I continued to pursue that goal," he added in the letter. 

Two shot dead in Sylhet clash

Two people were shot dead during a clash between pro-hartal activists and police at Biswanath upazila town in Sylhet Sunday afternoon.

One of victims was identified as Monwar Hossain, 30, son of Abbas Ali of Rajnagar village and a student of Biswanath Degree College.

Abdul Hai, Biswanath upazila general secretary of BNP, claimed that Monwar was an activist of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, a student body backed by the main opposition party. 

Police found the bullet-hit body of Monwar near the local upazila parisad office around 3:15pm, Md Shakhawat Hossain, Sylhet superintendent of police, told The Daily Star.

Another young man, who could not be identified immediately, succumbed to his bullet wounds at MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital, reports our Sylhet correspondent. 

Three police personnel including Chand Miah, officer-in-charge of Biswanath Police Station, were also seriously injured during the clash in Biswanath, the constituency of M Ilias Ali who remain missing since April 17 night. 

The injured police personnel were also rushed to the MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital in critical condition. 

SP Shakhawat said situation almost went out of control at about 2:30pm when police attempted to intercept a procession while entering Biswanath upazila headquarters. 

The opposition leaders and activists brought out the procession in support of a daylong nationwide hartal called by the BNP for a second consecutive day for getting back its missing leader M Ilias Ali and his driver. 

The lawmen fired several hundred tear shells and blank shots as the agitators pelted bricks. The law enforcers became confined inside the police station building after failing to control the situation. 

The angry activists vandalised the upazila parisad building, set fire to the official jeep of upazila nirbahi officer and five motor bikes kept in front of the office premises. 


Political disappearances plague Bangladesh

Human rights organisations say about 100 people, mostly political activists, have disappeared in the last year in Bangladesh.

Among them is Ilyas Ali, a former parliament member from the region of Sylhet. He was seen as a rising figure among the ranks of the opposition. Ali's wife is convinced security forces abducted him because of his political activities.

While her fears are not groundless, it is also true that local politicians are often linked to organised crime. 

Many of those who have disappeared had a criminal past. Ali, for example, had spent time in prison on suspicion of murder.

Adilur Rahman, a Dhaka-based human-rights lawyer, believes that the disappearances reveal the shortcomings of the justice system.

There is a two-three year backlog of cases in court and criminals often go unpunished.

"Many local politicians believe they are above the law," Rahman says. "These disappearances are a form of quick justice."

Security forces, though, deny any involvement in the disappearances.

Recently, after a meeting with her intelligence chief, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the Bangladesh prime minister, said that Ilyas was in hiding and this was a ploy to stir up trouble.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), along with its 18 political allies, responded by announcing a countrywide general strike on Sunday.

After a night of violence, during which angry opposition activists torched vehicles, schools, businesses and shops remained shut throughout on Sunday.

About 30,000 extra police officers were on duty and security forces cordoned off the BNP headquarters in the capital, Dhaka.

Opposition activists who were to be seen on the streets said hundreds of their colleagues had been arrested.
Striking a note of defiance, they have vowed to continue to protest until Ilyas Ali is found alive.