Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From Bangladesh to Darfur

Photo: With Milly Nsekalije, a mixed-race survivor of the Rwadan Genocide, who was denied the right to speak by Tutsi activists as she was "not 100% pure Tutsi"
How internalised racism has permitted lighter skinned Muslims to slaughter their darker skinned co-religionists

TAREK FATAH

Presentation at The Durban Review Conference, Geneva, Switzerland, April 21, 2009


Dear NGO colleagues and delegates,

I speak to you deeply disappointed that my colleague Milly Nsekalije, a survivor of the Rwandan massacre could not share her story with all of you because in the eyes of some since she is not 100% Tutsi, she cannot have been a victim of the Genocide.

With Milly Nsekalije, a mixed-race survivor of the Rwadan Genocide, who was denied the right to speak by Tutsi activists as she was "not 100% pure Tutsi."

What does it say about the state of racism in our world when the victims of a genocide practise exclusion on the basis of the so-called purity of blood lines and ethnicities.

Worse than her exclusion from today’s event is the fact that it has happened at a conference meant to combat racism, when it fact, in my opinion, whether it was yesterday’s speech by Mahmood Ahmadenijad or this afternoon’s barring off Ms. Nsekalije, we have turned the concept of racism upside down.

Having said that, please allow me to dwell on how racism plays out its dirty game, not just as a Black-White divide, but also as a cancer that affects relations between people of colour, often sharing the same religion, but different shades of brown or black skin.

When the issue of racism comes up, the internalised racism that devours the people of the developing world in Asia and Africa, from within, rarely comes up for discussion.

This afternoon I would like to shed some light on two genocides—one in 1970-71 and the other that continues as I speak. In both instances the root of the problem lay in how one group of Muslims felt they were racially superior to their victims, who also happened to be Muslims. In both cases the doctrine of racial superiority and the practise of institutional racism went unchallenged even after the horrible consequences of such racism was evident and for all to see.

Bangladesh
The first genocide took place in then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh and second is taking place in Darfur. Let me dwell on the Bangladesh genocide first.

In 1970 in Pakistan, my country of birth was divided between two wings; an eastern part that is today known as Bangladesh and the western rump that survived a subsequent war with India as the state we know as Pakistan.

East Pakistan was inhabited by the darker skinned Bengali people who happened to be the majority community of the country, but found themselves ruled by a lighter skinned minority from what was known as West Pakistan—separated by a 1,000 miles.

In the first 25 years of the country, the racist depiction of the darker skinned Bengalis as an inferior and incapable people became the unquestioned dogma among the ruling minority. In addition to the racist depiction of the darker-skinned Bengalis, their culture was portrayed as unislamic and being influenced by Hinduism. Their music, cuisine and attire were mocked while their language was banned and led to widespread protests and deaths in 1952.

In 1970, after suffering under the minority rule of West Pakistan for 25 years, the people of East Pakistan voted to elect a party based in their region and gained a clear majority in the country’s national parliament.

However, the racist view that Bengali people were incapable of ruling the country or that they were traitors to the fair-skinned minority of West Pakistan, led to a military intervention and widespread massacres in which one million people were killed in a ten-month period.

The killing of the Bengali people by the West Pakistan army stopped only when India intervened and defeated the Pakistan Armed forces, but not before hundreds of Bengali intellectuals, professors, poets, authors, musicians and painters, were rounded up and massacred in the final act of mass murder that started with the tolerance of racism as an act of faith.

One million Muslims were murdered by fellow Muslims in an orgy of hate that defied the teachings of Islam and the very Prophet Muhammad who was being invoked by the Pakistan Army. At the root of this sad blot on Islamic history and all of humanity lay the view that people of darker skin are inferior to those for geographic reasons have for no fault of theirs, a lighter skin colour.

One would have hoped that the lessons of 1970-71 would have been learnt in the Muslim World, but the sad fact is that the ubiquitous racism that resides inside the Islamic world has faced no opposition. On the contrary there is near universal denial about this cancer, not just among the governments that rule with oppressive instruments of power, but also many NGOs and civil society groups in the Muslim world.

Darfur
The latest manifestation of racism leading to a genocide is in Sudan where the Arab Janjaweed militia and the Arab government in Khartoum has resulted in the killing of 500,000 Darfuri Muslims whose only fault is that they are Black and thus considered as inferior to the ruling classes of that country.

The mistreatment of Black Muslims by those who feel they are superior because of their lighter skin colour has been historical. Only in the Middle East can one get away by addressing a Black man as “Ya Abdi”, which translates to the horrible words, “Oh you slave”.

The acceptance of racism among the dominant community in the Arab world has today resulted in not just the genocide of Darfuris, but also the celebration by the Arab League of the man charged by the International Criminal Court, President Bashir of Sudan.

It is time that the medieval doctrine of the inferiority of non-Arab Muslims to Arab Muslims is laid to rest. It is necessary that Arab countries and leaders of Arab NGOs denounce this doctrine that has led to the discrimination of darker skinned Muslims by Arab governments in counties as far apart as Dubai to Darfur.

Behind the genocide of Bengal and Darfur, separated by 30 years, is the unchallenged doctrine of racial superiority of one ethnic group over another that has gone unnoticed and unpunished by any institution anywhere in the world.

This doctrine of racism has brought untold misery on the victims of this cancer, but this becomes worse when such racism is given a religious validation. In this day and age, we have fatwas from contemporary Islamic scholars who maintain that a non-Arab Muslim like me would be committing an act of sin if I considered myself equal to an Arab.

Fatwas from the 14th century have been dusted off the shelves, re-furbished and published on on-line Islamist forums to justify the superiority of one group over the other. This has provided the moral justification to the mass murder being committed on the Black Muslims of Darfur, which unfortunately, has gone unmentioned even at this conference.

Conclusion
Let me conclude by suggesting that if racism is a mountain that we all need to conquer, then we have not yet come to a place where we can see this mountain in the horizon, let alone be at base camp.

Ladies and gentlemen, sisters and brothers, if we cannot allow a woman to speak here because she is of mixed blood or the fact that untouchability in India is not on the agenda in Geneva, or that nations of the OIC seek the right to restrict free speech, or a demagogue from Iran with blood on his hands has the audacity to lecture us on human rights, then all I can say is that in the words of Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we sleep… #

First published in Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=164051190246

People don’t want political unrest

RIPAN KUMAR BISWAS

THE DECISION has been finally enforced. She got the notice. And general people are now into a new brand of dilemma as it seems like a fresh call of political unrest in the country after resuming democracy last December.

On April 19, 2009, leader of the opposition in Parliament and BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) Chairperson Khaleda Zia was officially asked by the Cantonment Board to vacate her Dhaka cantonment house within 15 days. According to the decision taken at the regular meeting of the cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on April 7, 2009, the government cancelled allotment of the house due to a number of anomalies regarding the allotment within the military zone. “Allocation of more than one house to a person is contrary to the government rules of Bangladesh,” Prime Minister's Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters after the meeting.

The former Premier Khaleda Zia, who ruled Bangladesh for ten years (1991-96 and 2001-06), but lost badly in the last election held, was allotted two house-one in the Dhaka Cantonment and the other one in Dhaka’s civil but diplomatic area, Gulshan, after the assassination of her husband former President Ziaur Rahman. The AL (Awami League) lead grant alliance government has nothing to say about the Gulshan allocation as according to them, it was properly allocated to her following a cabinet decision in 1982. But her cantonment’s allocation that covers nearly 2.72 acre of land didn’t have any cabinet approval which she was gifted in 1981 by the then President Hussain Mohammed Ershad. Government, in addition, brought the attention of the citizens that none, even the government has the power to allot the cantonment house to any individual as per the rules of the Cantonment Act 1924.

Whether the lease of the cantonment house to Khaleda Zia for 99 years was right or wrong, but general people certainly believe that this cannot be a prime issue of the present government as there are so many vital issues where the government can concentrate. People may not feel comfortable to hear any such comments from Ershad, who created the problem, but will agree that the cantonment is always considered as restricted area and it is not right to run political activities in the cantonment. Acts of sabotage can be carried out if different kinds of people roam the place.

General people expect more maturity and foresightedness in dealing with problems of national interest. Since the government comes to power with huge expectation of mass people, there are lots of things to do as the government faces major challenges on several fronts like BDR mutiny, economic recession, law and order chaos, AL’s student wing activity, trial of war criminal and so on.

The opposite of tolerance is intolerance, bigotry, prejudice, narrow mindedness, fanaticism, or small mindedness. People have mixed reactions against the decision and cannot resist themselves to detect a certain degree of vindictiveness. Khaleda Zia, the beneficiary, has been living at the cantonment house since 1981 and is alleged now that she is breaching the lease terms by several ways. She has been carrying out political activities from that house, and paying no tax. The house has been used as her sons’ official business addresses and even as used as collateral to acquire bank loans. In addition, the house was allocated after her husband’s assassination in May 1981 as he left little or no cash for his widow or for his two sons - Tarique and Arafat Rahman. The house was allocated to provide a regular source of income following a wave of national sympathy for her plight. But the time is now different.

Sheikh Hasina’s comment in Parliament on April 7, 2009: "No Member of Parliament, no leader of the opposition, should live in the cantonment," makes sense, but people wonder why her previous government didn’t revoke lease if its legality was untenable or if the beneficiary is violating the terms and conditions. The grounds of decision may be well understood with the fact that once Khaleda government cancelled the lease of Ganabhaban to Sheikh Hasina and a property at Dhanmondi to her sister Sheikh Rehana. Going further, Khaleda converted the Sheikh Rehana’s house into a police station and inaugurated the station by herself which is unprecedented for a Prime Minister to do so.

To reach a consensus on basic national issues, shunning all negative and destructive politics, every political party will have to work with unity and amity to establish a congenial and stable atmosphere so that the nation can come out from the vicious grip of all kind problems. National interest cannot be achieved by settling old scores or examples, extracting vengeance for past wrongs, and demonizing those with whom we disagree. Certainly, the examples set by the two governments are not national interests in any sense and both of their decisions are ill-conceived.

In December, 2008, the AL-led grand alliance triumphed over the four-party alliance, attaining 87% of the Parliamentary seats. Negative political rhetoric will only serve to drive the people further apart at a time when everyone needs to be working together.

Everyone expressed deep condolences and assured full support to the unfortunate families of Pilkhana killings at Dhaka BDR headquarter. But the decision proposed by the government to build houses at Khaleda Zia’s cantonment resident area to settle families of 55 Bangladesh Army Officers, is a very immature taste and contrary to the logic used against her. She is also a wife of slain President, who was an ex-army chief. There are many government lands that could easily be used for supporting unfortunate BDR carnage victims.

General people have nothing to do with the housing issue. But as far as the legality of the lease is concerned, both the government and the leader of the opposition in Parliament should have to resolve the dispute in the court. Preparing to boycott next parliament session or playing "tit-for-tat politics" over the eviction order by the opposition party, will hinder the democratic journey in the country.

Last election in Bangladesh had been a long and painful road back to democracy. People certainly don’t want another flare-up of the political unrest in the country. #

New York, April 22, 2009
Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York. He could be reached:
Ripan.Biswas@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Population Challenge Facing Bangladesh

PROF. MAHFUZ R. CHOWDHURY

IT IS entirely possible that the perilous situation that awaits Bangladesh with its population growth isn’t getting the kind of consideration that it so deserves. Or it may be that people are very indifferent about the whole matter. But ignoring or avoiding the problem itself would not somehow make it go away, and would only make the situation worse for this poverty stricken country, and the world.

Bangladesh is the 7th largest country in the world in population where 150 million people are virtually elbowing each other in a land that is 134,000 sq km in area with a population density of more than 1100 people per sq km. Overpopulated! Well, there are only a few city-like states - like Singapore - that would top this kind of population density. Excluding those states, Bangladesh would make it to the top of the list in population density. What makes the situation even more horrifying for Bangladesh is that the country is poised to lose a good part of its territory to the rise in sea levels associated with global warming, while its very population increases at an unsustainable rate.

During independence in 1971, the population of Bangladesh was about 75 million. After 37 years, its population is believed to have more than doubled. The current estimate of population growth in the country varies from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent a year depending on whose assessment one pays attention to. For good measure, if one takes a middle ground and considers a growth rate of say 1.75 per cent a year, it would mean that Bangladesh population will double in the next 40 years, while at the lowest rate the doubling time would be 47 years. How serious a problem would the country face when its population doubles? To get an idea, one might imagine the current U.S. population of 300 million living within the confines of the state of Wisconsin, which is close to the size of Bangladesh.

In spite of such an ominous scenario, idealists may be quick to point out that Bangladesh is making improvements in education and healthcare, and most importantly has achieved a respectable economic growth rate of about 5 per cent a year in recent decades. Though true, such progress has had a very little effect on the overall poverty level in the country. Studies reveal that in real terms the poverty level in Bangladesh has not come down but gone up. What would then account for such an anomaly? In addition to the massive corruption in the country, which benefited the few and also slowed potential economic growth, the main reason for this incongruity might be the rapid growth of the country’s underprivileged population, whose unemployment rate remains as one might expect extremely high.

The population growth rate among the educated people in Bangladesh has come down by a considerable extent. But its growth rate among the underprivileged, who continue to constitute a big majority, is double the rate of the educated group. Since the poor people have no steady income (some practically live hand to mouth), they customarily want more children as security and support in old age. They are also apt to get married early and produce children that they can’t educate or even support. However, the great irony is that the children born in such a situation tend to breed more of the same year after year. This is precisely what’s happening in Bangladesh right now.

So, the reduction in population growth among educated people in the country is being more than compensated by the increase among the underprivileged. The other stark reality is that such a growth in population will not only put the future of Bangladesh at serious danger, it will indubitably have a profound impact on the rest of the world as well.

Effect of climate change
Climate change is already a reality of life. As a result of this change, world temperature is going up, glaciers in the North and South Poles are melting, sea water level is rising, drought conditions are spreading, freshwater supply is declining, and cyclones or hurricanes are escalating.

In Bangladesh, climate change is threatening the very existence of people’s lives and livelihoods. Experts believe that the effects would be very severe here since Bangladesh’s population growth is putting ever more pressure on its limited natural resources. With the depletion of its vital resources, such as fresh water, forests, and farmland that are considered most essential for the country’s sustainability, population growth is undeniably contributing to serious environmental degradation in Bangladesh. Additionally, the country is currently experiencing a new phenomenon. Its coastal areas are reportedly noticing an unusual rise in the mosquito population that is bigger in size and more resilient, and is spreading all kinds of diseases including malaria and dengue with devastating effect.

Agricultural production, the use of land, and water distribution are among the biggest challenges that confront Bangladesh. Most of the country’s land mass is close to the sea level, and about 40 per cent of its land is flooded under normal circumstances during the monsoon season. This situation is continually worsening since India’s diversion of water in the dry season is causing the country’s river system to fill up with silt and sediment, making the river system less able to handle the water load in the monsoon. Furthermore, when small shifts in the weather pattern intensify flooding in Bangladesh - as is happening more frequently in recent times - many people die and millions are left homeless. With the rise of the sea level because of global warming, the destructive effect of flooding is sure to increase. When coastal areas begin to submerge under water, people will have no alternative but to migrate to higher land.

Indeed the process of migration from the shore area may have already begun, though in a subtle way, and will intensify as the situation worsens. But where will the people go? There’s an enormous pressure on the capital city, Dhaka. And that pressure, by the way, is not abating as more and more people keep cramming into this over-crowded city every day. Moreover, living conditions in Dhaka are continually deteriorating because of lack of such basic amenities - like electricity and clean water. Dreadful circumstances are also mounting in other cities of the country. Above all the invasion of government land is becoming common, even in rural areas. So the other feasible alternative might be to migrate to the neighboring country. In fact, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts exactly such a scenario. As the sea level rises, the panel estimates another 35 million people from Bangladesh will cross over into India by 2050.

One of the very critical effects of climate change is likely to be its impact on the world’s food supply. Scientists are predicting that world harvests will drop 20 to 40 per cent by the end of this century as a result of global warming. So the most crucial issue is: if in the current environment Bangladesh can’t meet its food requirements, how will it tackle the anticipated massive food shortage that would be created by its increases of population and the loss of farmland when world food supply goes down further?

Some experts have advocated the concept of Compact Townships in Bangladesh to avoid the concentration of population in major cities and to limit the pressure on farmland. Others believe that the country is growing by about 20 square kilometers annually, which should bring relief. But dismissing the idea of land growth, Atiq Rahman, a member of U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said “The rate at which sediment is deposited and new land is created is much slower than the rate at which climate change and sea level rises are taking place”.

Population growth is thus a tremendous challenge for Bangladesh that must be addressed on a high priority basis. Without a practical solution to population growth, especially among the underprivileged, the country couldn’t be expected to achieve a meaningful economic expansion to avert future large scale poverty, thereby leading to an anarchical situation. In fact, a number of notable indications, such as the constant rioting in university campuses, unrelenting deadly confrontations in the political arena, the rise of fundamentalism, terrorist activities, and serious economic distress followed by general lawlessness and social unrest, do point to such eventuality.
The recent unprecedented uprisings among the country’s border guards in February 2009 in which nearly 60 senior army commanding officers were mercilessly murdered, and the new discovery of huge arms cache in a religious school compound in the secluded coastal area offer the most glaring examples of how the circumstances in Bangladesh are changing for the worse. Social scientists believe such episodes will escalate as the situation worsens.

Meeting the challenge
To meet the challenge of population growth, Bangladesh could draw important lessons from the experience of other countries. For example, China has taken the most drastic measure – restricting the number of children per family to just one. China is in a unique position to adopt such a policy. Even though it has embraced a capitalist economy, its Communist Party continues to exercise total control over government policy. In pursuing its population policy, China has instituted a social security system for the elderly.

In a recent meeting of the Bangladesh Population Council, the local experts have openly discussed and stressed the need for adopting a China like population policy in order to contain the population explosion. But for a traditional society - like Bangladesh - where neither a viable social security system nor a strong authoritarian government exists, the Chinese policy of one child per family would be hard to implement. The biggest hurdle the country would invariably face is the wrath of religious fundamentalists. Less educated people are easily manipulated or swayed in the name of religion. The argument that children are the gift of God and are cared for by God is still being embraced by too many underprivileged people. It will not be easy to change these attitudes.

India at one time tried to restrict its population growth through legislation, but had to abandon such a policy under tremendous social and religious pressures in the country.

Earlier, Bangladesh pushed family planning very vigorously, but then its last elected government became ambivalent about it. This was most probably because the government had to give way to the pressures of its coalition partner, a religious party. The situation in Bangladesh may have changed now with the inauguration of a newly elected government this year, though its planned action on population still remains to be seen.

Bangladesh’s population situation is surely worsening day by day. In order to avoid dire consequences, the country ought to consider vigorously enforcing its law of minimum age for marriage. At the same time it must discourage people from getting married without a steady income, mandate prospective brides and grooms to attend a prescribed class on family planning before marriage, and also institute some kind of social security system for the elderly.

These themes must be brought to the uneducated rural people in innovative ways. For example, a simple video presentation on sexuality, health, hygiene, child bearing, family planning, and birth control with a question and answer session might be useful for them. Also, considering the overall poverty level of the people, special emphasis should be given to inexpensive and relatively safe methods of birth control - like the timely withdrawal method (medically described as coitus interruptus). This form of birth control might even be more acceptable to religious leaders. Besides, traditional birth control pills are not free from side-effect, which is an impediment.

Educating women as well as men on the implications of their action or inaction on family matters would clearly be the best way to achieve not only the desired goal of population stabilization, but also basic healthcare of the child that Bangladesh so desperately needs and is trying to achieve. Let’s hope the government realizes the significance of population problem and quickly moves to take action on it.

Obligatory help
Achieving population stabilization in Bangladesh through mass education, however, would be an overwhelming challenge for the government to meet. Obviously, the country lacks the necessary resources for such a massive undertaking. The international community has enormous obligations to help Bangladesh to achieve stability. For one, the country is an innocent victim of the effect of global warming that is mainly caused by carbon emissions in the industrialized nations. And second, in addition to the huge humanitarian concern, if Bangladesh were to turn into a failed state as a result of its population explosion it would impact the rest of the world in a very negative way. Somalia would be a good example of the effect of a failed state.

There are thousands of non-governmental organizations currently operating in Bangladesh. These NGOs are no doubt influencing the lives of many poor people. The notion of family planning for the poor is a great cause in that it would bring stability to an unstable situation and help improve the depressed condition sooner. By taking a unified stand on educating the public on family planning, the NGOs could, therefore, contribute even more in advancing the cause of humanity in Bangladesh. Expatriate Bangladeshis are also morally obligated to come forward in innovative ways to help meet this great challenge. #


Mahfuz R. Chowdhury is a Professor of Economics at CW Post Campus of Long Island University, New York, and has published numerous articles on issues concerning Bangladesh and developing economies. He could reached at: Mahfuz.Chowdhury@liu.edu

Bangladesh: fade into the conveyance of martyrs

Photo: Civil society and secular activists hold a rally to demand trial of war criminals

MOMTAZ AHMED

THE GLORY, prestige and identity of the people of Bangladesh began with the essence of their language, heritage and cultural values. The Liberation War in 1971 and the utmost sacrifices of the citizens will remain as one of the famed episode in the global human history. It is the first successful instance of an ethnic linguistic nationalism movement succeeded by independence and became the International 'Mother Language Day' of United Nation officially observed by all over the world. The ardent fabric of the remarkable ethnic and cultural homogeneity haplessly always has been chased to instigate imported ideology by home grown perpetrators and interlopers.

The conveyance of martyrs who laid their lives for the freedom of Bangladesh to the February 25-26, 2009 mutiny at the Bangladesh Border Guard (BDR) headquarters is not a delusion. Anti-Liberation war supporters, conspirators, suspected war criminals, pro-Islamic, so called political experts utilize the situation for their own agenda diverting attention otherwise. The air is filled with thick slogans and promises, but it is very thin in reality.

The docile people of Bangladesh are God fearing and are totally unaware of the nature of political Islam. They encouraged some religious parties without fully understanding the potential consequences of the nation. After the 1971 liberation war, they prevailed numerous problems of a war ravaged country, and the ruling party leaders became more autocratic. Their unpopular measures not only further alienated from the people, the country’s political power began to reside with the military. Subsequently, the military dictators facilitated to rehabilitate 1971 Bangladesh liberation war collaborators, killers and the suspected war criminals.

In the 1971 Liberation War, the fight for the freedom is the greatest national achievement which was stirred by the oppression of law, religion and political rivalry. Consequences begin to arise as people try for an arduous phenomenon for a sustainable, effective and a meaningful democratic system. Again in 2009 when the political landscape in Bangladesh has begun a dramatic shift from imported ideology to linguistic and cultural nationalism, one looks around at the mass funerals of Bangladesh Army officers with tearful eyes.

Bangladesh Border Guard mutiny
The recent BDR carnage was a planned killing spree phrasing as a rank'n'file grievance and was a deep-rooted conspiracy to destroy the progress of the new democratic government of Bangladesh. The BDR regular soldiers killed most of the high officials present in the Border Guard headquarter. A country like Bangladesh has established the fact that the civilian government that is usually in a crisis always faces many challenges. It should deal with the crisis since there is every possibility that the military will intervene and takes control of the government as custodian.

In the short history as a nation, the citizen does not have the full confidence of the country’s political leaders. The present mutiny threatened to damage relations between the country's democratic civilian government and the military leadership. Certain groups want to shift the balance of power toward the army. According to BBC's reporter Mark Dummett in Dhaka, he says there had been anger in the army over the government's decision to negotiate with the mutineers, rather than immediately sending in troops to crush their revolt. The west and conflicts elsewhere in the continents probably persuaded the Bangladesh army to leave governance at home to the politicians.

The unprecedented atrocities, looting and brutally killing army officers and civilian by certain section of BDR so far claimed 75 lives. There is a legacy of bloodshed in this country. The Bangladesh Prime Minister didn’t have any other option except negotiation with the perpetrators delegation or to give the chance to others to seek the revenge. The PM and all three army chiefs focused seriously to avoid other border guard camps in the country to revolt and create a twist to start a civil war. The fact remains to world viewers that the members of the government’s negotiating team comments were contradictory.

Bangladesh’s criminal investigation department has already identified a number of border guard perpetrators who communicated over mobile phones to the ministers, lawmakers and a few influential persons. The plotter used the prolonged core sentiments and grievances of the border guards, initially exploiting the innocence of media to involve the common people with their 50-point demands. They committed terrible crimes and created an explosion of protest and anger. The world became sympathetic with the bereaved families of the slain army officers. It is obvious that some one directly or indirectly aided and abetted the conspirators to pull off this barbaric assault in Pilkhana.

In a third world country there is always a link that exists between poverty, population, and the environment. The scale of the brutality of the BDR perpetrators was far more ferocious than reasonably required to press scanty economic demands. The home ministry’s committee, the army and the Criminal Investigation Department are investigating to submit their findings on BDR rebellion report. The nation hopes to see a very comprehensive and accurate report. It is widely believed that certain elements in the Government intelligence agencies knew the plot but consciously let it proceed for various political, military and economical reasons. However, the fore knowledge and conspiracy theory debate will remain.

Anti-Liberation force and war criminals
I like to fade into oblivion about the Bangladesh Liberation War and the war criminals. Playing the religious sentiments by the Pakistani army and their collaborators, the Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Razakars committed genocide with the indiscriminate killing of intellectuals, innocent people where women were subjected to sexual violence in Bangladesh (formerly known as East Pakistan). After the Liberation war, though it was a massive call for justice, trail of war criminals didn’t materialized. It went reverse due to the political polarization; the history of liberation war began to get distorted with a willful perversion of facts.

The country’s bloody birth came into being on a sentiment of Bangladeshi nationalism which was free from any religious overtone. Within a couple of years a void space has generated anti-Awami League sentiments in Bangladesh. Freedom fighter General Zia-ur Rahman had gotten the nation entangled in the 'Bismillah' politics, which was later flourished by General Ershad. They gradually tapered the 1971 genocide episode from the proverbial consciousness of Bangladeshi masses and subtle eclipse of the country's secular fabric in the society. Fact remains that pro-Islamic forces have gone from strength to strength within the army ranks in Bangladesh.

With the analysis of the past religious influences and political scenarios of the world, one can easily conclude that armed forces, Para-military of partitioned Muslim states in India were not insulated from the influences of growing fundamentalism prevalent in society funded and well patronized by external forces. Now it is an uncouth shock to the Americans who had, after the inception of Pakistan, been taking the military and civilian leadership for granted! To understand the bottom line of religious extremism, the situation in Pakistan is the living example to the world.

The world stage gives hope that war criminals will face a tough world. The former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in what was described as a landmark ruling for human rights cases in Latin America. General Augusto Pinochet was indicted in 1998 and Milosevic died at The Hague while on trial for war crimes. The trial of the Bangladesh War Criminals of 1971 intensified the popular campaign both in and outside Bangladesh. The previous government’s lack of willingness, favors and their leader’s unbridled chauvinism was only limited by placing wreaths at the national Mausoleum to the Liberation War heroes.

The UN Human Rights Commission in its 1981 report said that the genocide in Bangladesh was one of worst in world history. The UN general assembly passed its resolution 3074 on December 3, 1973 entitled ´Principles of international cooperation in the detection, arrest, extradition and punishment of persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity´. Most of the suspected war criminals and collaborators belong to Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami, who opposed the country’s liberation war against Pakistan.

The George Washington University's National Security Archive published a collection of declassified documents on December 16 2002, most of the communication between US embassy officials and USIS centers in Dhaka and India, and officials in Washington DC. One can find details of some of the Pakistan army’s atrocities from telegrams of former US President Nixon archives released by United State Department of State. Part of telegram 978 from the Consulate General in Dhaka to the Department of State, March 29, 1971 has given below:

"In old Dacca report army acted with no provocation on part of Bengals except barricade erection........... Technique was to houses afire and then gun down people as they left their homes. Unwilling estimate number of casualties but advised that must be very high.........Recurrent reports many university professors killed. Although circumstances vague. Many say attempt underway wipe out all source potential intellectual ferment."

The spirit of the Bangladeshi nationalism has been resurrected with a deep reverberation to seek vengeance against the killers and rapists of 1971. Terming it a national demand, the present parliament approved a resolution and looked for a speedy prosecution of the country's 1971 war criminals. These war criminals were barred from fleeing Bangladesh. Taking the side of a terrorist’s nation in the name of religion citizens already paid heavily as its image got tarnished in the eyes of world.

Remarkably the young generation’s hard work brought the attention of the people of Bangladesh, the 1971's Pakistani army sponsored Genocide in Bangladesh and role of rehabilitated collaborators. Fakrul Arefin Khan is one of them. His courageous debut work as a film director, writer and sensational researcher on atrocities committed during the Liberation War mesmerized country and world audience by the 61-minute documentary 'Al-Badr' released on November 2008. He wrote about his hardships, life threatening experiences and the sheer force to make the documentary. Arefin didn’t see the liberation war; sitting on his mother lap he has heard the stories.

The trial of the war criminals has not been started in Bangladesh, but the official preparatory process has been initiated. The war criminals could be prosecuted by the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 which is protected by Article 47(3) of the Bangladesh constitution. The War Crimes Fact Finding Committee (WCFF) spent two decades documenting war-time incidents and announced the publishing of the list on Friday April 3 2009. The nation wants the trials to begin immediately, that is a fact.

The United Nations´ resident coordinator, Renata Lok Dessallien, has offered to help Bangladesh with their specialists so that the trial process meets international standards and experts with experience in dealing with war crimes tribunals. The government formally requested the United Nations to help to probe the atrocities committed in 1971 by the Pakistani army and its local collaborators and to prosecute the war criminals. Four war crimes experts, Louis Bickford, Priscilla Hayner, Bogdan Ivanisevic and Alexander Mayer-Rieckh, probably will assist the Bangladesh government according the UN office in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Civil society in Bangladesh is intelligent and vocal, needs to take care of corrosive effect of protecting fundamentalists and criminals. Second World War collaborator, Denier Ernest Zundel was deported from Canada to face charges in Germany in the trial of Holocaust. Zundel immigrated to Canada in 1958 and lived in Toronto and Montreal until 2001. So, in Bangladesh, the documentary evidence, the testimonies of witness are in favour of the prosecution.

The present government with new strength and feelings at any cost must show the world that crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. The Bengali culture and linguistic identity can’t be superseded by imported ideology. One must end the deliberate act of deviating from the truth. The world excoriates the defender of war criminals. Any flaws could never be used to exonerate the killers. #

First published in American Chronicle, April 15, 2009

Momtaz Ahmed is a Bangladeshi-Canadian who writes from Toronto, Canada. He enjoys writing about world events that come up in day-to-day life as a freelance writer. He firmly promotes heritage as well as an understanding of all cultures in our ever expanding multicultural society, despite their language, religious or political beliefs, or social opinions

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The banality of violence in Bangladesh

Photo: Rebel border guards position in headquarters in capital Dhaka

BINA D’COSTA

IN THE early morning on the 25 February, a mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) broke out in Dhaka. Following some horrific ordeals experienced by many army officers, including senior BDR staff and their families, the mutiny ended 33 hours later.

The dispute, thought to be about the pay and command structure of the BDR, Bangladesh’s paramilitary force, now looks increasingly like a sinister plot to destabilise a democratic but institutionally weak nation-state. While it is not clear how the BDR rebels got access to scores of arms and ammunitions, there are now confirmed reports that some non-BDR individuals and institutions were connected to this mutiny.

The history of the BDR goes back to 1795, when the Frontier Protection Forces were formed by the East India Company of the British Raj. After several name changes under different political systems, the East Pakistan Rifles (1947-1971) became the Bangladesh Rifles in 1972. Currently, junior BDR personnel receive a meagre US $70 per month and usually the senior BDR officers are seconded from the army, creating power inequality within BDR regiments. In addition, there have been recent demands from the BDR for government approval to participate in lucrative peacekeeping missions overseas.

The bodies of 81 officers - disposed of in sewers and shallow graves - were discovered in the days after the bloodshed ended, with an estimated 1,000 guards fleeing in civilian clothes. Some army officers are still missing. There are horrifying tales of rape, looting and arson that emerged from the accounts of survivors. The Director General (DG) of the BDR Major General Shakil Ahmed and his wife Naznin Ahmed’s bodies were also found in one of the mass graves.

Perpetrators
Earlier sympathy towards the BDR from ordinary citizens quickly evaporated following the broadcast of partially decomposed and charred bodies, mass graves, signs of disrespect shown by the mutineers to the deceased, and the trauma of families who had lost their loved ones. The mutiny and the horror that emerged during this event have been compared to the violence of 1971. The aggressive methods of this mutiny, indeed, bear an uncanny resemblance to the 1971 genocide by the Pakistani army and their collaborators.

The Awami League government came back to power in December 2008. Amongst its ‘new’ promises was the commitment to hold a war crimes trial that would bring the perpetrators of 1971 to justice. Jamaat-I-Islami, the political party which sided with Pakistan during the war has a lot to lose if the government decides to go ahead with the trial. Commerce Minister and the Chair of the Investigation Commission, Faruq Khan hastily suggested in a press conference on 3 March that the BDR massacre was executed to foil the government’s efforts to hold the war crimes trial. He also mentioned ‘the horrid Peelkhana killings and plundering clearly show that the conspirators active in destabilising the Bengali nation and its language are menacingly strong.’

Some were quick to point to the role of other Islamic groups, such as the JMB (Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh) and HuJI-B (Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh) that have an interest in destabilising the state. While this investigation is still continuing, the Commerce Minister has been repeatedly pointing to the JMB.

Although it is entirely possible that these groups were involved, without conclusive evidence, it is not prudent for a senior political leader to comment in this way, and it may jeopardise the inquiry.

The other opinions and conspiracy theories circulating include India’s interest in having a weak Bangladeshi border patrol and Pakistan’s ISI wanting to divert attention from the war crimes trials.

These are entirely unsubstantiated assumptions, but the mutiny has stalled the war crimes movement, created human insecurity and anxiety, and posed a significant challenge to the recently elected government. In addition, weakened border patrols mean that cross-border smuggling operations have the upper hand for the time being.

Redress
The government issued an order asking all BDR officials to come back to work within 24 hours on 28 February. Nearly 5000 BDR personnel have since rejoined duties. However, anxious families waiting outside the BDR headquarters have reported that they had not heard back from the troops since. There are also unconfirmed reports that retaliatory measures have been taken against the BDR personnel. A treason case was filed, naming BDR deputy assistant director Touhidul Alam and five others and accusing more than a thousand officers in connection with the mutiny. Investigators have so far confirmed the involvement of 450 BDR personnel in the mutiny and suggested that at least 12 of them led several groups of mutineers.

The government is considering holding the trial under the Army Act of 1952. If this happens, the likely application of the death penalty for the most serious offences will provide swift justice, but that justice may not be fair. It would be more constructive to create a special tribunal, upholding the rule of law that would attend not only to punitive mechanisms, but also consider the context of such violent outbursts and the grievances of the BDR personnel.

Media
Security anxieties have led to the government controlling the flow of information from Bangladesh to the outside world. Some of the earlier discussions between senior army officers and the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, have been posted on YouTube. As a result, the government banned YouTube and 5 other blogs that covered the mutiny stories and debates. While it is true that the event generated many rumours, in this globalised world there are many ways to bypass such naïve controls. A democratic government must respect the value of information flow, and it is not astute to try to impose sanctions on information in the name of security.

The three-day national mourning period announced by the government was only for the army officers who were killed. There was no account of the distress of ordinary BDR staff, and the civilians who were killed during the mutiny. The Bangladeshi media has depicted the BDR as an ‘evil’ force which carried out ‘demonic’ activities, either deliberately or through its subtexts. This narrow portrayal prompted many acts of prejudice against innocent BDR staff and their families. The media’s representations of the assassinated officers as ‘fallen heroes’ also illustrate the powerful symbolic- both material and real location of the army as the sole protector of the nation. No other institution’s carnage could evoke such strong reactions.

The media in Bangladesh has also been careful not to report any stories of rape, gender-based violence and intimidation. However, these horrific stories are now trickling down from Peelkhana violence survivors to the global audience through various channels. While it is extremely important to protect the privacy of the survivors with utmost gender sensitivity, these acts demonstrate that the mutiny was not only about pay, hierarchy and a desire to in participate in UN peacekeeping missions. What was this violence about? Without considering the crimes committed against the families that were held hostages, the investigation will not be complete. Even one rape is too many. It is the government’s and civil society’s responsibility (including the media) to ensure that violence committed against women and children is not pushed under the rug in the name of honour and purity of the nation.

Future
What does this recent uprising mean in terms of Bangladesh’s internal politics and the region? Firstly, it reveals the deeply embedded insecurity and instability of Bangladesh that have existed since the beginnings of independence. Political assassinations, coups, martial law, have shaped its political system where intense divisions and distrust remain between the civilian governing bodies and the armed forces. Similar to other political killings of the recent past, if this violence is not resolved, and if there is no justice, Bangladesh will face a serious crisis. In the worst event this could result in either overthrowing a democratically elected government or a return to a military regime or both.

Secondly, the military and civilian intelligence agencies such as the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Military Intelligence (MI) and the National Security Intelligence (NSI) must be reviewed for their failure to predict this crisis. Is there any evidence that at least some of the factions of the agencies were involved in the mutiny? If there is, Bangladesh has to restructure these intelligence bodies, so it does not replicate the experiences of the Pakistani intelligence community, especially the ISI.

Thirdly, a violent and chaotic revolt and massacre carried out under the banner of the BDR, the unit that serves as Bangladesh’s primary border policing institution, questions the moral authority of BDR to protect the sovereignty of the nation-state. #

First published in East Asia Forum, March 20, 2009

Dr Bina d’Costa is a Research Fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University (ANU). East Asia Forum provides a platform for the best in East Asian analysis, research and policy comment on the Asia-Pacific region and world affairs

Quiet Revolution in Bangladesh: Security Concerns for India

MALOY KRISHNA DHAR

BANGLADESH ELECTION held under supervision of the interim government and the army has initiated the process of a fresh freedom struggle. Democracy with secular principles was wiped out with the blood of Mujibur Rahman, his family and colleagues. Intermittent democratic experimentation with bouts of army rule had not only severely mutilated the spirit of the freedom struggle and Bengali cultural nationalism. This very foundation of the nation was massacred by the Mujib killers and subsequent pro-Pak Generals and Jamaat-e-Islami. There is no doubt that the junior officers who staged the brutal coup in 1975 were simply not inspired by ‘misrule of the Awami League and the BAKSAL’; they were inspirited by Pakistan and certain clandestine operators of the CIA.

Later, General Zia-ur-Rahman, after his visit to Pakistan in September 1977, and hostile ambience created by Army-insiders and the regimented Jamaat-e-Islami opted for Islamisation, allowed the Jamaat-e-Islami chief to return to Bangladesh. The Jamaat had collaborated with Pakistan army and had committed innumerable atrocities on Hindu and Muslim supporters of the six point autonomy movement that turned to freedom struggle. The same year he initiated the process of creating the DGFI, in the model of the ISI. Between Zia and Ershad the BNP emerged as the party of the ‘real creator of Bangladesh-Zia-ur-Rahman.’ Short of conferring upon the General the honorific of Father of the Nation, the Begum did everything to augment the process of Islamisation and offering space to the resurgent religious congregations and the jihadis, which were seeded by General Zia, nurtured by General Ershad and given political recognition by the BNP.

General Zia’s cooperation with Pakistan and the USA in recruiting mujahids from Bangladesh (15000 odd) and sending to Pakistan for training and taking part in Afghan jihad had suddenly pushed Bangladesh to the path of radical Islamisation. The democratic process was suppressed; huge Ummah and Pakistani funds were allowed to pour in for encouraging the Bengali Muslims to spread the message of jihad in every nook and corner of Bangladesh. The Jamaat-e-Islami, Islamic Chhatra Shibir, Ahle-e-Hadith Movement Bangladesh, Allahar Dal, Hizbut Tehrir and HUJI etc organizations (about 30) rooted in public mind with government support. Innumerable mosques and madrasas were constructed and the message of Jihad was spread with impunity. The same trend continued during General Ershad’s tenure.

That was the period when Indian ethnic insurgent groups were manipulated by Bangladesh and Pakistani forces (the ISI and the DGFI) and secured sanctuaries were created for them with training and arming facilities. The political tussles between Awami League, BNP of Zia-ur-Rahman, Jatiya Party of Ershad and Jamaat-e-Islami created continued ambience of uncertainty, growth of Islamic militancy and internal chaos. Corruption in public life plagued Bangladesh heavily. The 1996 election in which Hasina Wazed’s Awami League and JeI combination returned to power witnessed near-total polarization between the political forces. Policy of political negativism adopted by all the political parties, increase of jihadi activities and greater involvement of Bangladesh and Pakistan in the ethnic insurgencies in India generated serious security implications for India. This was the period when Naga, Tripura, Assam and Bodo militants were given free access, training and supplied with arms both by the DGFI and the ISI. This period coincided with increased bonds between Pakistan based jihadi tanzeems and Bangladeshi jihadi tanzeems like HUJI, JMB, Bangla Bhai, Hijbut Tehrir, Islamic Chhatra Shibir and units of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hijbul Mujahideen and al Qaeda were found greater acceptability amongst the radicalized Muslims. It seemed that political negativism, manipulation by the DGFI and army, Pakistani influence and free flow of Ummah funds had put Bangladesh on the same footing as Pakistan developed after the Afghan jihad. Return of about 10 thousand Bangladeshi Afghan veterans, increased al Qaeda support and blatant interference by the ISI created internal turmoil with higher degree of violence and use of Bangladesh as a launching pad of operations against India in Assam and elsewhere. Several training camps were started for training malcontent Indian Muslims and the northeastern insurgent groups. Bangladesh became a highway for the jihadis and insurgents.

BNP’s bonhomie with the Jamaat, other jihadi tanzeems like HUJI, Bangla Bhai, JMB etc received tremendous boost after 2001 general elections to the Jatiya Sangsad, The table of results of 2001 Sansad election indicate the level of increase of influence of the BNP, Jamaat and allied parties and erosion of pro-India forces:

BNP - 193: 41.40%
Awami League + 62: 40.02%
Jatiya Party (E) 14: 7.22 %
JeI BD 17: 4.28.
Other parties not mentioned.

The BNP and Jamaat coalition with intermittent support from Ershad’s Jatiya Party did not succeed in giving a stable government. The Jamaat-e-Islami took advantage of its presence in the government and systematically infiltrated the armed forces, intelligence, police and other vital government department giving fillip to pro-Pakistani and pro-jihadi forces. Politics of negativism, corruption by two sons of the PM, all pervasive siphoning of public wealth by politicians and bureaucrats was compounded by visible increase in jihadi violence inside Bangladesh. Between 2001 and 2006 more than 500 incidents of terrorist violence took place including 49 serial bomb blasts in a single day, attempt on the life of the British High Commissioner and Sheikh Hasina, by forces of HUJI, JMB and Bangla Bhai. The JMB, Ahl-e-Hadith and the Bangla Bhai were used by ruling factions to punish the Awami League, other dissenters and the minorities.

There was furor, violence and political impasse over appointment of the Caretaker Government which finally led to the distinctly visible indirect interference by the army and installation of a non-political Interim Government. The army chief wielded nearly supreme power with a view to restore some semblances of order, restoration of peace, and assurance in public mind that the new government meant business. Anti-corruption drive witnessed prolonged incineration of Begum Zia, her sons and Sheikh Hasina.

That the army chief was not insensitive to the ideals of foredoom struggle, and believed in restoration of democracy and some sanity in public life was proved by acts of banning of certain jihadi organizations, meting out death sentence on Bangla Bhai and JMB leaders and restriction of Hizbut Tehrir, Allahar Dal etc subversive organizations. Combination of various internal and international factors compelled the army chief to opt for elections in December 2008. General Moeen has not shown any personal hunger for power. The results were stunning:

Awami League + 230: 49.0%
BNP + 30: 33.2%
Jatiya Party (E) 16: 07.0 %
JeI 2: 04.6 %


The BNP and the Jamaat fared well in Chattagram (Chittagong) area, with significant performance in Noakhali, Khulna, Comilla. Pabna and Bogra. The Awami League swept almost in all the districts with Jatiya Party dominating areas of North Bangladesh, the usual stronghold of Ershad.

A study of the parties contesting the elections throws out interesting aspects both for Bangladesh and India:
Party : Number of candidates
Islamic Front Bangladesh (Pakistan funded) : 2
Islamic Movement Bangladesh (HUJI) : 266
Islami Oikya Jote (Al Qaeda Affiliate) : 4
United Citizens Movement : 11
Krishak Shramik Janata League : 46
Democratic Party : 5
People’s Front (Pro-JMB) : 14
Gano Forum : 45
Jamaat-e-Ulama Islam Bangladesh : 7
Zaker Party (Pro-Taliban) : 37
National Democratic Party (Ahl-e Hadith faction) : 2
Jatiya Party : 46
Jatiya Party-JP : 7
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-Jasad : 6
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD: 44
National People’s Party (Allahar Dal) : 29
Progressive Democratic Party : 21
Freedom Party (Pro Taliban) : 2
Bangladesh Awami League : 259
Bangladesh Islamic Front (Pro-al Qaeda) : 18
Bangladesh Kalayan Party : 39
Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan (Pro Pak) : 32
Bangladesh Khilafat Majlis (pro-Pak) : 8
Bangladesh Jatiya Party : 10
Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP : 2
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Pro Pak) : 256
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (Pro-Pak) : 39
Bangladesh Tarikat Federation (Pr-Hizbut Tehrir) : 31
Bangladesh National Awami Party : 14
Bangladesh National Awami Party-Bangladesh NAP : 5
Bangladesh Muslim League (Pro-Pak) : 5
Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal : 57
Workers Party of Bangladesh : 5
Communist Party of Bangladesh : 38
Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh : 5
Bangladesher Samayabadi Dal (ML) : 1
Bikalapdhara Bangladesh (Pro-Moscow) : 62
Liberal Democratic Party : 18
Independent (45 belonging to JMB) : 141
Total:1538


This would show that the HUJI after failing to register itself as a political party contested in the name of Islamic Movement Bangladesh. Almost all the jihadi parties fielded good number of candidates but failed to secure more than 02.01 % of votes. However the HUJI affiliated party managed to get nearly 3 % votes. One of the candidates was elected to Jatiya Sangsad as independent.

Various analysts have offered scores of reasons for the stunning success of Awami League combination. Most cogent reasons have been offered are:
1. Awami League and BNP are nearly at par with their number of supporters. Awami league’s regular supporters did vote for Awami League as usual and they had no reason to love BNP - so Awami League grabbed the regular devoted votes. The BNP voters were disunited and wilted under army pressure.
2. The Swing Voters wanted to teach BNP a lesson for their corruption and had no other alternative than accepting the Mohajot (grand alliance) as voting for BNP would have justified stinking corruption by two sons of Begum Zia and her colleagues.
3. The BNP supporters or activists were divided as to pro-change and anti-change groups; the dissenters like Badrudozza Chowdhury and Mohammad Oli gave reasons to the anti-BNP lobbies reasons to ponder upon BNP’s lack of coordination and disciplined approach.
4. BNP stalwarts or the pivotal leaders were kept behind the bars until the last few days while Awami League had almost all their pivotal figures out of jail all the time.
5. Awami League had always supported the caretaker Government and had promised to legalise their unconstitutional works if voted to power. It has been insinuated that General Moeen is a pro-Mujib person and he was influenced by India and the US to favour a more democratic group.
6. Hasina had a few anti-Jamaat Islamic groups in her pocket which got the votes of anti-Jamaat pro-Islamic people on their side and Hasina promised not to enact any anti-Islamic laws.
7. Ershad commands a few BNP votes and has comfortable support in northern districts.
8. New generation of voters did not have the experience of seeing Awami League’s rule as adults; rather they saw the corrupt rule of Zia which made them anti-BNP. They were not aware that Awami League always failed to control crime and had displayed ‘winner takes all’ attitude since 1971.
9. Awami League is better in price control. BNP is not good at that and owing to present price hike people could not afford to take chances with any more price hike as that would have meant playing with starvation. BNP has the bad reputation of collaboration with corrupt market manipulators.
10. Women voters were successfully convinced that BNP meant oppression on women and it encourage the Islamists. BNP regime had allowed near total control of the civil society by al Qaeda, Taliban and Pakistani elements. People had become weary of jihadi violence and growing rhetoric on Islamisation of the society.
11. Bangladesh is surrounded by Maoists and Communists and Islam was projected as an oppressive force by JMB and HUJI etc as a threat to generally democratic Bengali society. Communism and Socialism dominated the media who supported Awami League.
12. Awami League banked on the issue of bringing the Jamaat leaders to war-tribunals when BNP owing to failure of its leaders could not successfully defend the issue with a counter challenge. Moreover, the BNP was perceived as a force protecting the killers of Mujib and other Awami League leaders.
13. Hasina lobbied abroad to win international support for Awami League when BNP concentrated on domestic support only. Zia was busy begging for release of her sons and was encumbered with revelations that her sons had stacked away billions in foreign banks by robbing the common people.
14. Finally, it must be added that by purging of the DGFI and some segments of the army brass closer to the Jamaat and BNP General Moeen had good ambience to ensure a smooth election, though there are allegations that Gen Moeen had favoured the Awami League combination. Certain quarters in Dhaka believe that the army chief was afraid of a coup against him by the pro-Jamaat and pro-BNP Generals.
No analysis can explain the stunning victory of Obama and Hasina. The people of Bangladesh have opted for a change and it is time for Hasina to deliver.

The goodness of the cake can only be proved by eating it. Her crown is full of thorns. She has excluded several veterans from ministerial berths. They wield influence in their own pocket-Burroughs. They are watchful of the internal groupings and may not hesitate to gang up with destabilizing forces. Begum Zia is most likely to again take the parliamentary politics to the streets and adopt the old policy of ‘either I or none.” Though her vote percentage has reduced she has maintained the steady grassroots elements on her side and her core vote percentage has not diminished. Tactically she is distancing her party from the Jamaat for a while but once the opposition to the war-criminal trials involving the Jamaat leaders starts Zia’s forces is likely to rally behind them along with the jihadi organizations. Hasina has a poor record of controlling law and order and often buckles down under pressure of the Islamic forces.

All the senior army officers are not with General Moeen. Several pro-BNP and pro-Jamaat military top brass are watching the developments. Once Hasina and party tries to prosecute some of the former army officers for war crimes they are likely to rebel and topple her. They have a better friend in Begum Zia. Hasina would require purging the DGFI and the administration of pro-Jamaat elements with helps from friendly army Generals. General Moeen may agree to help her for some costs; indirect army presence in the administration. Hopefully Hasina and allies would accommodate them for better stability and longer survival.

As far as India is concerned the situation appears to be favourable. “With terrorism in the region a pressing concern, especially after the Mumbai attacks, Hasina’s victory will bring some comfort to New Delhi as she took tough steps against the anti-India militant groups when she was in power in the mid-1990s. In contrast, there was a sharp spike in militancy and Islamic fundamentalism during Zia’s tenure.” (Times of India December 30, 2008).

What are the ground realities?
Bangladesh reeks with Islamist and jihadi organizations numbering nearly 40. The main groups are: Jamaat-e-Islami, Islamic Chhatra Shibir, Islami Oikya Jote, HUJI, JMB, Jagrata Muslim Janata, Sahadat-e-Alam-al-Hiqma, Ahl-e-Hadith, Hizbut Tawhid, Hizbut Tehrir, Allahar Dal, Islamic Jubo Sangha, Al-Falah A’am Unnayan Sangstha, Islami Biplobi Parishad, Biswa Islami Front, Al Jamaitul Islamiya, Al Khidmat Bahini, Al Mujahid, Al Harqat-al-Islamia, Al Mahfuz-al-Islami, Joish-e-Mustafa (affiliated to Jais-e-Mohammad of Pakistan), Muslim Guerrilla Bahini etc.

These organisations are spread all over Bangladesh. Most of the rural areas are influenced by them and they receive liberal funding from Arabian countries and other NGOs.

The Interim Government had banned Ahl-e-Hadith, HUJI and Hizbut Tehrir. The JMB came under heavy hammers and three of its top leaders were sentenced to death. But, like Pakistan, the jihadi organizations keep on changing names and function with impunity at the grassroots level. This, however, should not give an impression that Bangladesh is a Taliban country like Pakistan. The conflict situation between pro-Pakistani forces, believers in democracy and secularism and Bengali cultural nationalists is palpably perceptible. After General Zia’s collaboration with the USA and Pakistan during Afghan jihad and return of over 7000 Bengali Afghan veterans, infiltration by al Qaeda and Taliban had changed the social and political ambience in Bangladesh. By allowing rerouting of the Jamaat and by converting the country to Islamic principles Zia had helped creation of a force that thrived on Arab money, jihadi ideology and religious resurgence and fundamentalism.

By encouraging anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiments Zia, Ershad and Begum Zia had given direct and indirect support to the Islamicised jihadi forces. Between 1991 and 2000 Bangladesh created safe niche for the jihadis and forces antagonistic to India.

Pakistan’s policy of encouraging, sheltering and arming the Indian rebel groups was pursued by Zia-created DGFI, BDR and the jihadi elements that came to root in the country. Faded secular elements and cultural Bengali nationalists were pushed aside and hate-India sentiments were generated by Bangladeshi and Pakistani elements operating in political parties, bureaucracy, armed forces and segments of people Islamicised drastically. The former Muslim League elements who had taken shelter under other parties activated their anti-minority and anti-India campaign. Pakistan and China encouraged these developments.

Besides the Jamaat, Ahl-e-Hadith and Tablighi Jammat which have garlanding presence in India and Pakistan as well the new elements of HUJI (created in Pakistan in 1980 and reshaped in POK in 1992), branches of Taliban and al Qaeda affiliated organizations, and the ISI created organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jais-e-Mohammad, Al Badr etc rooted down in the country. These bodies collaborated with Pakistani organizations and agencies for spreading jihad in mainland India, facilitating Pakistani jihadis to infiltrate and carry out acts of terrorism and converting segments of Indian Muslims to the ideology of jihad and reaffirmation of the old demand of creating a bigger Bangistan (original demand of Jinnah) comprising present Bangladesh, Assam, and parts of West Bengal. Pakistan’s smoke-screen of Kashmir dispute was sculpted out as a concerted programme of creation of Bangistan in the east, Osmanistan in the south and Mughlistan in central and western India. With this objective in mind elements in Pakistan and Bangladesh created an atmosphere of near-total hostility against India.

In short, though India had liberally helped Bangladesh during the liberation war, pre-partition anti-Hindu and anti-India hate campaign created by the Muslim League pervaded even after creation of Pakistan. This was encouraged by Zia, Ershad and BNP. Pro-Pakistan and Islamist elements nearly overshadowed the secular forces. The Left forces were cruelly suppressed. Bangla involvement in Afghan jihad and Pakistan aggravated the situation. Hate Hindu and hate India sentiments still remain at the top layer of most of the people. The Awami League leaders have not been able to restore trust in India. Several irritants between the countries are exploited by pro-Pakistan and pro-Chinese forces in the army, bureaucracy and religious parties. India has to tread cautiously.

The other issues that keep haunting India’s security concerns are use of Bangladesh by northeastern insurgents groups like the NSCN (I), ULFA, NDFB, KLO, Manipuri Meitei groups and Tripura in connivance with the DGFI, ISI operatives and their jihadi spawns. This problem runs through Indo-Pak relations in East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, for over 60 years, starting from Phizo’s escape to Pakistan in 1948. There has been no waning in the situation except for a brief period between 1971 and 1975.

If we are to believe the security agencies, Indian insurgent groups are sheltered in at least 32 camps in Bangladesh, with some of the top leaders hosted by the ISI. The game of denial had improved somewhat during General Moeen’s hold on the interim government. Besides clamping down on jihadi activities inside the country he had minimized anti-India involvement of the government agencies and intelligence agencies.

India has to pay proper attention to this aspect of national security by keeping bilateral and international pressure on Bangladesh. Besides the police, paramilitary and armed forces, the political governments in Assam, West Bengal, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura have to strengthen their vigilance, sharpen intelligence gathering and sanitizing the border areas as much as possible. According to Jane’s Intelligence Review China has replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in India’s northeast and Myanmar. In an analysis of the Asian weapons black market, the defence think-tank said that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and rebel groups in Myanmar act as the “middleman” between Chinese arms manufacturers and insurgent groups in the Northeast, with most weapons routed through China’s Yunnan province.

Pointing out that the arms market in India is extremely lucrative; JIR said that a Chinese automatic rifle that is available for $500 in eastern Myanmar can command a price of $2,500 by the time it reaches the Northeast. Referring to an arms seizure by Myanmar authorities in 2001 that first brought out the trend, JIR said that “a consignment of several hundred Chinese assault rifles” were recovered while being transported to the Indian border at Tamu and were meant for “Manipuri UNLF and possibly other factions”. Officials in the Indian security establishment say that Chinese origin weapons are increasingly being seized from northeast insurgent groups and have even reached the illegal arms market in West Bengal, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

Besides Chinese and Myanmar smugglers the Rohingya and Bangladesh smugglers still use the Thailand route to pump in weapons for use by the Indian insurgent groups. It is a different aspect of intelligence input as to how Pakistan and Bangladesh facilitate this arms traffic.

However, continued inflow of weapons is a serious security concern. Another concern is inability of the Government of India to conclude the NSCN problem either through negotiation or military action. Same is the situation in Assam and Manipur.

The historical irritant of illegal Bangladeshi migration to Assam and rest of India is another issue that adds to demographic and security concerns.

Having had the opportunity of serving in the northeast for considerable period I have a feeling that political and administrative handling of the situation during last 60 years has been unsatisfactory and half hearted. Vast military presence in the northeast for prolonged period has cost the nation immensely; much more than what is being spent in Kashmir. Mere military solution is a chimera but the armed forces, besides having geostrategic concerns from China, have to keep eyes on the jihadi groups and silent incursion by inimical countries with surreptitious arms supplies.

The other concern areas are: Dispute with Bangladesh over offshore oil exploitation, supply of gas to India, direct train transit route from Tripura to the rest of the country, trade balance and Indo-Myanmar agreement to open Kaladan-route to sea via Sittwe port are viewed as a potential hostile act by Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. While this route would open up trade from the northeast India, it is likely to acquire strategic-presence in the area. Not far from Cox’s Bazar and Dakhinpara in Bangladesh, Sittwe is likely to provide an additional platform for keeping an eye on coastal Bangladesh and the vital Straits of Malacca. In any future battle zone in the Bay of Bengal Indian presence in the area is also viewed adversely by the USA and the UK from their bases in the Indian Ocean.

Bangladesh as a friendly democratic and secular country can provide a mutual security shield in this part of the country. The future cannot be gazed in the crystal ball. It would require astute diplomatic, political and economic manipulations to revive the faded hopes of 1971. It is almost a new freedom struggle for Bangladesh.

The tendency of Bangladesh political parties to peddle the practice of ‘the winners take all’, severe corruption, Islamic fundamentalism and pro-Pakistan sentiments may not make the things easy for the new government. It would require bilateral and international efforts to put the restored democracy on correct rails.

India, as a political state and its agencies have to strengthen their guards against any subversion of the electoral award given by the people to their representatives for turning new pages in the history of the beleaguered country. A new stage of diplomatic and strategic relations is required towards Bangladesh to secure the eastern flank of India and stop the use of Bangladesh as a platform for spreading jihad in India and South East Asia. #

First published in MaloyKrishnaDhardotCom, February 15, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who is 'Sunita Paul'?

Photo: Sunita Paul as found in brief bio in various portal

MASHUQUR RAHMAN

SUNITA PAUL" is an "Indian journalist" who has been writing inflammatory articles on Bangladesh in little known foreign online outlets. "Sunita Paul" is also a plagiarist, a cheat.

"Sunita Paul" has caused quite a stir recently because her articles make extraordinary claims, based on anonymous sources and apparent hearsay, about the political situation in Bangladesh. Extraordinary claims without much factual support require a significant leap of faith by the reader. Whether they should be believed completely depend on her credibility.

The very persona of "Sunita Paul" is somewhat of a mystery. "Sunita Paul" is listed as a writer for the Weekly Blitz, the tabloid run by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. She also rather coincidentally writes in a number of online publications American Chronicle, Global Politician and Asian Tribune that also publish Mr. Choudhury's articles. She holds strongly negative views about Bangladesh, and has published articles maliciously claiming Bangladesh to be anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic.

On March 30, 2008, "Sunita Paul" published an article in the Asian Tribune entitled "They Hate US-West Too." By "they," she refers to Bangladesh. In the opening sentence of the article, she makes this extraordinary charge: "Bangladesh, although demanding to be a moderate Muslim nation, is in reality a notorious Jew hater and anti West and anti American nation."

She goes on to write that "people of Bangladesh in general are West and US haters and the only reason for them for sending their children to these countries are for mere money making."

Note that she is not pointing towards any particular group or party, she is charging Bangladesh as a country, and all Bangladeshis as "Jew hater and anti West and anti American nation."

The thrust of that article is to push Bangladesh to change its policy toward Israel. She questions whether the United States should do business at all with Bangladesh. She writes: "Can we raise a plain question as to whether the Jewish business communities and friends of Israel like United States should patronize Dhaka economically to sharpen and strengthen their anti Semitic and anti US sentiments?"

While writing inflammatory articles on Bangladesh, "Sunita Paul" often uses unverifiable sources for her claims, uses unchecked propaganda, and most notoriously, steals from other people's work and claims them as her own.

When a journalist is engaged in plagiarism that is when a journalist makes false claims of authorship the remainder of that journalist's work should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Plagiarism is dishonesty. And "Sunita Paul" is a plagiarist. She is a cheat.

On February 6, "Sunita Paul" published an article in the online publication American Chronicle with the breathless headline "Ruling party getting set to try Bangladesh Generals." Now, if the claim in the article's headline were true, this would be big news.

However, the article was thin on backing up the main charge in the headline. As one reads further through the long article though, one comes across a number of paragraphs that seemed very familiar to this author. For a very good reason. The paragraphs were originally written by me in two October 2007 articles. [The articles, titled "Banking: Junta Edition" and "In Denial" are available at: http://www.e-bangladesh.org/2007/10/page/4/]

"Sunita Paul" copied, word for word, five paragraphs that I had written in 2007 and passed them off as her own writing in 2009. No citation was given, nor did she put the passages in quotations. In other words, she has stolen someone else's words and claimed them as her own. Not only did she plagiarise, she also used copyrighted material without the author's consent.

It is clear that "Sunita Paul" is a "journalist" with an agenda an agenda that wants to portray Bangladesh negatively in the West and in the United States. A "journalist" with such a political agenda is no journalist at all. In addition, she is a cheat. Her journalistic ethics are in serious question.

Yet, a number of prominent people in Bangladesh, including the leader of the opposition in Parliament, have cited the articles of "Sunita Paul" that fuel unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the recent massacre at Pilkhana. The same person who wrote malicious propaganda against Bangladesh, is now being given credence in spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that will hamper fair, neutral investigation of the BDR massacre. It should however be clear to everyone that this so-called journalist's agenda is counter to the best interests of the people of Bangladesh.

Given the corrosive agenda of "Sunita Paul" and her proven plagiarism, the reader should question her breathless articles on Bangladesh.#

First published in The Daily Star, April 11, 2009

Mashuqur Rahman is a blogger and a member of the Drishtipat Writers Collective

Karma Chameleon Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury, sorry, Sunita Paul, get your act together please

SAJJAD JAHIR

AFTER A lot of soul searching I decided to write this narrative just to let you know loud and clear my assessment of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. Like a meteorite, he rose to the limelight of world’s attention. In the global arena, he became the defender of freedom and human rights and a vocal champion of Bangladesh’s rapprochement with Israel.

I did not hear much about Mr. Choudhury until a few years ago, when I first saw his name in a few web based journals. Nowadays, I see him everywhere, in US Congress’s website, in Youtube. Suddenly Salah Uddin Shoaib became Jim Carrey’s Bruce Almighty. Unfortunately at a closer look this “almighty” does not come across as an intellectual, nor does he appear to be a human rights crusader. I feel he is just a “Karma Chameleon” (to quote Boy George).

How Salah Uddin continues to fool a sizable portion of world’s influential people, is still a puzzle to me. His career in Bangladesh shows his checkered past. If you look into his resume, you will see his service for two notorious individuals. From 1995 to 1999 he worked as the Founder and Managing Director of A-21 TV. This TV station was owned by Aziz Mohammad Bhai, a notorious smuggler and a Mafia don of Bangladesh. Mr. Bhai is no more living in Bangladesh as he had to flee the long arm of the law. It was alleged this tycoon had connection with Islamist Jihadists of India. My clear point is anybody with a little bit of ethical mindset would never work for such a questionable character. We should not skip another gem from the resume. In 1995, Mr. Shoaib Choudhury translated an Iranian book in Bengali “The Rise and Fall of Pahlavi Dynasty”. It is quite evident from the resume that in order to finish the project he had to work closely with the diplomats of Khomeini’s Iran. What a checkered past!

In the resume anyone will see Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury served Inqilab from 2001-2002. This paper was owned by a very despicable individual. He is Maulana Mannan, an Islamist leader. Mr. Mannan was alleged to be the mastermind behind intellectual and professional killing during Bangladesh War of Independence. Like Radovan Karadzic, he changed his façade and became a media mogul. Any Bangladeshi with a little sense of dignity would never work for such a crook. While working for Maulana Mannan’s Inquilab newspaper, Salah Uddin Shoaib constantly hurled epithets on secular activists of Bangladesh. He called Shahriar Kabir, a notable human rights activist, a Mossad agent. Mr. Kabir still has the documentary evidence to prove that. Not only that, Salah Uddin Shoaib virulently attacked Saleem Samad also. Now the question is why and how he was kicked out of Inquilab? Wasn’t he an Islamist to the teeth? In the resume he claimed he was ousted from the conglomerate because of his refusal to attend a pro-Saddam Hussain rally. It is beyond anyone’s comprehension how an intelligent and ever alert person like Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury missed this important piece of information that Inquilab was funded by none other than the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain himself! The story is something like this. Salah Uddin was sent to Singapore to purchase major equipments for Inquilab Television. Instead of purchasing the tools he pocketed the money. Sources say, after the management found out the grand theft, they were starting to take legal measures. In the meantime something happened. What is that?

This is my satirical chain of events that led Mr. Choudhury to the world of bright stars. One night an angel told this dedicated Islamist to be the lone bridge builder between Bangladesh and Israel. He asked the angel what ought to be his modus operandi to attain this noble objective. The angel replied he should make an attempt to travel to Israel carrying hard copies and discs of sensitive documents. Salah Uddin complied. Any tenth grade kid in Bangladesh may be aware that it was dangerous to carry documentation while going to Israel, which was still a forbidden country. Salah Uddin Shoaib is a computer savvy man. He must have known the art of digitizing hundreds of pages of documents. So, why carry those discs and papers to the airport? Isn’t it like this “Arrest me! Arrest me! I am going to Israel with lots of papers”. It goes without saying that the conman was arrested at the Dhaka airport in no time.

That particular incidence came to this juggler like the manna from heaven. He drew big outpour of support from the world’s mightiest and wealthiest of nations. He got a “pro bono” lobbyist within no time. Salah Uddin Shoaib became a widely known name in many parts of the world.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the human rights crusader and defender of Israel’s right to exist showed his other side of talent. He had been the founder and publisher of a trashy tabloid BLITZ, whose main motto is to sensationalize events. His primary enemies are the liberal intellectuals in Bangladesh. Salah Uddin had special grudge against activists who demand trial of 1971’s war criminals. He cannot go alone in his diabolical venture. Like a ventriloquist, he created a character named Sunita Paul. Many times this “Sunita Paul” did the dirty game for Salah Uddin Shoaib.

Unfortunately, Salah Uddin Shoaib did not do a good job in creating a make belief background of this Paul lady. Anyone would burst into laughter seeing the image of Sunita Paul, said to be born in Kochin, India. The picture looks so fake it seems he might have decided to insult the average reader’s intelligence. Wait a second! This Sunita Paul, who is more knowledgeable about Bangladesh than any veteran journalist of that country is caught red handed in a cookie jar! What am I talking about? I found a wise blogger noticed “Sunita Paul” adept in plagiarizing other people’s works. See for yourself at doctorsglove.

Sunita or Salah Uddin Shoaib, how long will you fool people and continue to have the last laugh?#

First published in Deshi Voice, April 4, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The future has a way of arriving unannounced

Dr Hamid Rabb, 47 in Montreal, Canada

AVIK SENGUPTA


THE MILITARY backed interim government arrested Sheikh Hasina with ulterior motive to draw portrait of Pakistan to force her to into political exile. On June 11, 2008, Sheikh Hasina was released on parole for medical reasons and the next day she flew to the United States to be treated for hearing impairment, eye problems and high blood pressure. She was referred by her specialists to see another specialist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland; she didn’t know that a great surprise was waiting for her. The specialist came to receive her from the patient waiting room and invited her to come to his chamber pronouncing words in Bengali. She was really surprised having such personality there. She was very happy and proud to see a Bangladeshi doctor in that high position at Johns Hopkins University. In appreciation of Dr.Rabb, she cooked Bangladeshi foods with her own hands, and served Dr.Rabb and his family by herself before she ate her own dinner at her son’s house in Virginia.

Born in Dhaka in 1962, Dr. Hamid Rabb came to Canada in 1965 at the age of three. Soon after his arrival here once he came out of his pre-kindergarten school, looked at the tall and round medical building of McGill University and said, “One day I shall be a doctor from that building”. At 17, he entered McGill Medical School with a large and prestigious scholarship. He finished his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from McGill University with distinction in 1985.

Dr. Rabb did his postgraduate studies at two top medical schools of the United States; he became a double MRCP from the UCLA Medical Center, USA and Canada where he was placed first among all Canadian candidates, and a kidney specialist at Harvard University in Boston. He worked as a professor for eight years in the University of Southern Florida and University of Minnesota. In 2001, he joined the position of a Director of the Kidney Transplant Department of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Johns Hopkins Medical School and its hospital has been rated number one in the United States for the last eighteen years in a row.

Dr. Rabb’s outstanding achievements as a medical scientist and a physician have made all Bangladeshis proud. In 1991, he developed a research project for the Pulmonary Institute of McGill University which became so significant that it now employs some Ph. D’s to assist the director and offers Ph. D. degrees to graduate students. He has been on US television including CNN, and newspapers many times for breakthroughs in Kidney transplants that his department has made. To date he has about 360 publications that appeared in some of the best medical journals. Some of his works are used as texts in medical schools all over the world. In 2006, he received two prestigious awards: one for being the best Kidney Transplant Doctor among several thousands specialists of North America and Europe combined, and another for having made the largest number of discoveries in the field of medicine before the age of 45.Among many of his discoveries is a blood test for kidneys. Previously there was no way of determining when a kidney failure would occur. The test that he developed can now detect kidney failure ahead of time. This test is benefiting people all over the world and saving many lives. Johns Hopkins University uses a description of his discoveries as a means of raising funds for that institution (Hamid Rabb, Nephrology, (Co-PI: Joseph Eustace, Nephrology, co-investigators: Paul Scheel, Nephrology and Roy Brower, Pulmonary) received a grant from NIDDK/VA entitled "Acute Renal Failure Trail Network". $866,720 Total amount, $230,780 for Year One) and Dr. Rabb won many millions of dollars by competition for his research. He employs a number of Ph. D’s, some of whom are Bangladeshis, to assist him in his research. As a member of the United States National Council of Research, he also distributes millions of dollars to American universities for research. He does the same for many European countries such as Holland and Germany.

Dr. Rabb is an exceptional physician. Many patients with very complicated diseases are sent to him from all over the US for diagnosis and treatment. He is also frequently invited to go to the Middle – East to see patients of Royal families. Sometimes he goes to Europe to see high profile patients of that continent (Faculty of 1000 medicines reports the following on Dr. Rabb: His team has been involved in translational research to elucidate the molecular pathogenesis of kidney IRI in order to develop novel diagnostics and therapies. Specifically, they are investigating the role of cellular immunity in kidney IRI, a new area of investigation that fuses immunology, molecular biology and physiology. They have recently found that the T cell, within hours, is an important mediator of distant inflammation during the innate immune response to ischemia. Identification of immediate allo -antigen independent effects of T cells is a new field of investigation with considerable clinical relevance. His lab is using transgenic mouse models of kidney IRI to understand how T cells mediate the injury response at the cellular and molecular level. In addition, with the development of new technologies such as genomic and proteomic evaluation of cells, they are incorporating these tools, as well as expanding their research on T cells in kidney IRI to include cross talk between failing organs. They validate their lab findings in ongoing clinical models, and modify lab study design according to those clinical findings. (http://www.f1000medicine.com/about/biography/1586124038609957)

The people of Japan, China, India and many other Asian countries have come to the area of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland for the last 100 years; but no Asian has ever reached the height that Dr. Rabb has reached.

More than once the Federation of Bangladeshi Association of North America (FOBANA) gave him the award of the Best Bangladeshi Physician and Medical Scientist of North America.

Dr. Rabb visits Bangladesh once every two to three years. During his visits to the country of his birth, he delivers many lectures at various medical institutions, and teaches the doctors of those institutions new methods of treating Kidney diseases. He also sees hundreds of patients, especially the poor who cannot afford to see a specialist. Hopefully one day he will build a kidney hospital for the people of the country of his birth, Bangladesh.

Dr. Rabb married one of the grand daughters of the pioneer scientist and educationist of Bangladesh, Dr. Kudrat – e - Khuda. Asked for the recipe with which he and his wife raised Dr. Rabb, his father Dr. Abdur Rabb (who taught at Bangladesh and Canada and achieved Ph. D. from McGill University and run charitable organizations in Bangladesh and Canada), his only sister Ms. Shirin Rabb and his brother – in – law Mr. Ali Hossain Khan (both have born in Bangladesh and afforded higher education from Canadian universities and run several businesses and donate for the cause to the disadvantaged people living in Bangladesh) said, “It is his mother’s love, care, guidance and sacrifices for him that helped him grow up as an intellectual leader and a good human being.”

As we are Bangladeshis by birth, we are like other Bangladeshis, especially Hon’ble Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina who was treated by Dr. Rabb and Hon’ble Foreign Minister, Dr. Dipu Moni (who studied Master of Public Health/MPH at Johns Hopkins University) proud of his achievements and dedications to the service of humankind who loves and cares for human beings equally without any distinction based on color of the skin, religious belief or ethnic background. A good education not only refines the intellect, it also purifies the heart. The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution. The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. The future for Dr. Rabb and other Bangladeshis have a way of arriving unannounced like Dr. Yunus, the Noble Prize winner in Peace who has born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race. #

FOOTNOTE: The Bangladeshi community of Montreal has organized a large citizens’ reception to honour Professor Dr. Hamid Rabb, an outstanding medical scientist and physician of Bangladeshi origin, on Saturday April 11, 2009. Some people who know him well say that he may win a Nobel Prize for his discoveries in the future

Avik Sengupta is a freelance writer based in Canada and a student of Biochemistry at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He could be reached at: GopalSengupta@aol.com