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Posts from — March 2016

Fakhrul made BNP secy gen, Rizvi promoted: Report in The daily star, Mar 30, 2016

Dhaka: Six years after shouldering the responsibility of acting secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has been made a full functioning secretary general of BNP.

The party’s spokesperson Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed made the announcement today at a press conference in Nayapaltan, 11 days after BNP held its long-awaited council.

Rizvi himself has been promoted to the rank of senior joint secretary general, from the previous post of joint secretary general. Mizanur Rahman Sinha has been made BNP’s treasurer.

Mirza Fakhrul, now 67 years of age and a politician since his student life, has been BNP’s acting secretary general since the passing away of Khandaker Delwar Hossain in 2011.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, who was re-elected uncontested through the party’s council held on March 19, made the appointment after the polls councillors delegated due authority to him.

Now, graudally the BNP chairperson will form the party’s standing committee – the highest policy making body – and other committees including the central committee.

Both Fakhrul and Rizvi had to endure jail time during this and the last term of the Awami League government. Near about 70 lawsuits were filed against Fakhrul alone. http://www.thedailystar.net/politics/fakhrul-becomes-bnp-secy-gen-1201702

March 30, 2016   No Comments

Why Imran’s plans fall flat: By Tariq Butt in The News, March 29, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan at times embarks upon worthy undertakings from a moral high ground but finally falls short of the pristine paradigms imposed on him at a sonorous pitch.

Once in a while, his political projects are rosy and promising but he lacks the political dexterity, patience and tolerance to finish up, producing the desired excellent results. At the end of the day, his plans turn into just a farce, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The latest case in point to prove his frequent disregard to the lofty principles set by him is the falling apart of his handpicked machinery to hold intra-party elections, second in four years.

PTI Chief Election Commissioner Tasnim Noorani and his two provincial deputies stalked out of their offices to protest the unacceptable mode and mechanism of elections being thrust on them by Imran Khan.

Will Noorani, a retired bureaucrat-turned-politician, become another Justice (R) Wajiuddin Ahmed, who had caused a massive embarrassment to the PTI after his recommendations were not accepted in totality? Considering Noorani’s temperament, he is unlikely to go public and agitate against Imran Khan for meddling in the election process and trying to force his choice formula on him.

Principles were very dear to highly reputed Wajiuddin Ahmed, who did not bother about his association or dissociation with the PTI and who was prepared to sacrifice his political career. He had demanded severe action even disqualification and explusion of Jehangir Tareen, Aleem Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak for using their wealth and power to manipulate the process when the PTI had held its first-ever intra-party elections in 2012. It is a common knowledge that hefty money changed hands in these elections and the affluent had carried the day, routing the people of poor financial means.

Obviously, it was impossible for Imran Khan to sideline Jehangir Tareen, Aleem Khan and Khattak for their unique qualities including the kind of immense wealth they possess. Wajiuddin Ahmed was so obsessed with his standards, based on rule of law, that he refused to budge and ultimately the PTI chief had to oust him from the party to get rid of him.

If Noorani picked up the courage to loudly protest at public forums about Imran Khan’s decision relating to the intra-party elections, he too would meet the same fate as that of the former judge. But there is a strong likelihood that the former bureaucrat will not choose this trajectory.

The PTI chief was adamant that the specially selected paraphernalia should organise the elections only to the positions of the chairman and the provincial presidents, but Noorani and his colleagues wanted the exercise for the all the party offices – from the top most to the lowest. This was the main bone of contention. Imran Khan stressed that after their election, the chairman and provincial chiefs would be empowered to nominate other office bearers of their choice, meaning that the intra-party elections would be confined to only five top berths.

As Noorani and others handed down their resignations, Imran Khan quickly accepted them because he wanted them to go home as what they were insisting was not acceptable to him under any circumstances. The same rich lot that had shown wonders in the previous elections prevailed upon him to take this decision.

The PTI chief has often taken pride in asserting that his was the only party that has held internal elections. The previous process was greatly flawed, which, instead of doing any good to it or reinforcing his principles, damaged him and his party. This time, serious questions have cropped up over the process even before it was organised.

Imran Khan has also been boasting of the accountability apparatus introduced in KP, but the slogan fell flat when the provincial government drastically amended the law, forcing its accountability czar, Hamid Khan, to not only quit but inflict a monumental damage to it and the PTI. As Hamid Khan’s powers were radically watered down, he preferred to call it quits instead of clinging to the post.

Realising the humiliation and shame caused by these amendments, the PTI chief moved to control damage and instructed the KP government to withdraw the changes. A committee was constituted to frame a new law in place of the present one.

But that day hasn’t yet come when the fresh legislation will be available. As of today, the severely altered law is in practice. It will not be an easy task for Imran Khan to convince the KP chief minister to bring the accountability law to its original shape. The PTI chief is known for raising high sounding political slogans but when it comes to translating them into reality, he is found wanting.

He has never kept in mind the famous maxim: discretion is the better part of valour. He keeps taking on his political rivals bitterly, accusing them of not doing what he has been following in his party and KP. But this is not the reality because he has to reconcile to the realpolitik.http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/108789-Why-Imrans-plans-fall-flat

March 29, 2016   No Comments

PM’s speech more of a filler than primetime material KHAWAR GHUMMAN in Dawn, March 29th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Coming a day after over 70 innocent people, mostly women and children, were killed by terrorists in Lahore and the federal capital was overrun by protesting mobs, many expected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s spe­ech on Monday to be a well-articulated address to the nation.

However, the 10-minute speech contained nothing new and revolved around what the PM called “my government’s firm resolve to uproot terrorism from the country and not backing down in the face of terrorists”.

Without naming anyone, the PM cautioned the government against all such parties who were misguiding people and instigating them to violence in the name of religion. “Our soft-handed approach to such elements shouldn’t be construed as a weakness of the government,” the PM said.

According to Mr Sharif, the recent uptick in the incidents of terrorism was an indication of the success of the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb military operation, since the uprooted terrorist networks could only manage to attack soft targets.

Asked why the PM had to appear on TV when he had nothing concrete to share, a knowledgeable PML-N source told Dawn: “After Sunday’s tragedy, it was essential that a reassurance come from the prime minister.” When leaders from all over the world had expressed solidarity with Pakistan over the tragedy in Lahore, how could the prime minister stay away from the masses, he wondered.

When pressed, the ruling party source insisted that by saying he had ordered all “relevant institutions” to take every possible action against those responsible for terrorism in the country, the prime minister was referring to the action taken by law-enforcement agencies in south Punjab over the past 24 hours.

Many in the opposition parties also wondered aloud why the PM had decided to address the nation when he had nothing new to say in terms of concrete policy announcements. Surprisingly, they said, the PM did not take any ownership for the ISPR statement that military, Rangers and intelligence personnel had begun operations in Punjab on the instructions of the army chief.

Reacting to the PM’s speech, a PTI spokesperson said that “it was expected the prime minister, in his address, would share progress on the National Action Plan with the nation”. After the Lahore incident, the statement said, the prime minister should have at least ordered action against “those from among the ranks of his party who are in contact with terrorists”. But the prime minister didn’t miss a chance to criticise his predecessors. He claimed that for 13 years, no government did anything to tackle the menace of terrorism head-on. “It was my government which resolved to end terrorism in the country soon after taking charge in June 2013.”

Commenting on the omissions from the speech, a PML-N lawmaker admitted that a passing mention of the Rangers action in south Punjab, which the army leadership announced earlier in the day, would have strengthened the perception that both the civil and military leaderships were on the same page.

“It is a good move on the PM’s part to mention the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ankara and Brussels, but a sentence or two on how the government intends to take up the issue of the recently-arrested alleged RAW agent with India, would have only added substance to his speech,” said the PML-N lawmaker. www.dawn.com/news/1248599/pms-speech-more-of-a-filler-than-primetime-material

March 29, 2016   No Comments

Who is leading this sit-in?: by KALBE ALI in Dawn, March 29th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Despite a reputation for being comparatively docile in their street agitation, followers of various groups belonging to the Barelvi school of thought seem to have taken the authorities by surprise.

The last time these groups took to the streets of Islamabad was during the trial of Mumtaz Qadri. Even then, their lack of organisation was evident from the fact that most of their numbers were arrested and bundled off to prison, leaving the agitation in tatters.

Sunday’s march on D-Chowk from Liaquat Bagh was also not led by any established party, but rather proceeded under the banner of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, which is a coalition of several, mostly unknown Barelvi groups.

Among these, the most active is the Sunni Tehreek, led by Sarwat Ijaz Qadri. Then come the Aalmi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat, led by Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri and the Fidayeen-i-Khatam-i-Nabuwat, led by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Allama Rizvi is also the movement’s patron-in-chief, while Pir Afzal Qadri is its patron with Dr Muhammad Ashraf Asif Jalali as chairman.

Dr Jalali, who is the leader of the Pakistan Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat, is a known advocate of Barelvi traditions and the secretary of the Sunni Ittehad Council.

Incidentally, his party is on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum as the similarly-named Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) – formerly known as the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan – which belongs to the Deobandi school of thought.

But when asked what their motivation was, several participants of the sit-in at D-Chowk claimed they had been ‘deceived’ by the authorities, which forced them to march on parliament.

“Our leaders wanted to present a charter of demands to the authorities and there was enormous public pressure that we do something, so we gave them two hours. Later, the deadline was extended by another two hours but there was still no reply,” Mohammad Hussain Qadri, who came from Gujrat, told Dawn on Monday evening.

Another group that came down from AJK and walked all the way from Liaquat Bagh to D-Chowk said the plan was simply to hold Mumtaz Qadri’s chehlum in Liaquat Bagh and disperse.

“But when the authorities detained the leaders who wanted to present our demands, we all began running towards Islamabad,” said Poonch-resident Raiq.

Their sudden change of plan not only took authorities in Rawalpindi by surprise, it also rendered the security plan of Islamabad police useless.

A visit to D-Chowk on Monday revealed that the participants of the sit-in were undisciplined and lacked coordination, indicating that there may not be a single chain of command or authority who is calling the shots.

But Dr Jalali, who is one of the main leaders of the sit-in, told Dawn that the participants were “guided by their love and affection for the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)”.

But he declined to respond when asked to reveal who had come up with the idea to march on Islamabad and when the decision was taken. “We’d like to keep that a mystery,” he said, when pressed for comment.

Sunni Tehreek leader Sarwat Ijaz Qadri had called for an army operation in Punjab while speaking to reporters on Monday. In a separate press statement , he said that the government had launched a drive to shift the country towards secularism.

He decried the judiciary, saying that justice could be brought and sold in the country, adding that the Mumtaz Qadri case was an instance of “judicial murder”.

He also opposed the Protection of Women against Violence bill, which was recently approved by the Punjab Assembly, saying that a committee consisting of Ahle Sunnat clerics be formed immediately to address the concerns of religious parties. http://www.dawn.com/news/1248570

March 29, 2016   No Comments

Protest inside red zone turns into a sit-in : By Qadeer Tanoli / Danish Hussain in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2016.

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of protesters, who stormed the red zone in Islamabad on Sunday, have converted their demonstration into a sit-in outside the Parliament House, refusing to budge from their position until their demands are met.

The government had called in army troops a day earlier after thousands of supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, the executed killer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, forced their way into the high-security zone and laid siege to important installations.

The protest, which initially began in Rawalpindi to mark 40 days of Qadri’s death, turned ugly after miscreants set fire to several vehicles on their way into the red zone.

The demonstration continued on Monday after turning into a sit-in with leaders of different religious parties joining in. The protesters have either burned the containers placed near D-Chowk to restrict their movement or pushed them aside to create space.

A stage has also been prepared for the religious leaders, who continued addressing the mob throughout the day. The protesters seem to be ready for a long haul as most of them have brought edibles and water with some of them even carrying rucksacks.

The leaders at the sit-in linked the initiation of negotiations with the government to the presence of two influential MPs of the ruling PML-N.

“We will talk only if Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq are made part of the government’s team to hold negotiations with us over the demands presented by us on Sunday night,” Mufti Ghulam Ghous, a second-tier leader of Pakistan Sunni Tehreek told The Express Tribune.

The protesters were asked to talk with the local lawmaker, Tariq Fazl Chaudhry, to settle the matter, but they refused. The religious leaders have already refused to talk with the Islamabad chief commissioner.

A spokesman of the PST claimed over 1,100 activists had been rounded up by the law enforcement agencies. He warned of countrywide protests if the detained suspects were not released.

Ghous also hinted at staying at D-Chowk until their demands were met.

A senior city administration officer said talks with the protesters were underway on the government level. He rejected the idea of using force to disperse the protesters.

Many among the protesters carrying batons have been deputed as ‘security guards’ for the demonstration. Baton-wielding men also surrounded the stage to protect their leaders, who time and again warned the crowd not to disperse or they would be arrested.

The metro bus service, which caters to around 120,000 passengers between Islamabad and Rawalpindi daily, remained closed for the second consecutive day owing to the protest. Public transport also remained scarce, multiplying the difficulties for citizens. Cellphone services were suspended in Islamabad because of security concerns between 9am and 6pm.

Insiders in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) told The Express Tribune that the PM had not taken the sit-in outside the parliament lightly.

While chairing a high-level meeting in Lahore, the PM tasked Intelligence Bureau Director General Aftab Sultan, Punjab IGP Mushtaq Sukhera and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar to tackle the situation without compromising on the government’s writ.

The insiders said the premier would himself monitor the sit-in as the party leadership believed the protest might be used as a bargaining tool.

Expressing displeasure over the violence, the interior minister has ordered the Islamabad administration to take immediate measures to restore routine life in the capital.
http://tribune.com.pk/story/1074725/protest-inside-red-zone-turns-into-a-sit-in/

March 29, 2016   No Comments

Malik Riaz plans to move into media to protect his name: report in Pakistan Today, Mawr 29, 2016

Islamabad : Property developer and owner of Bahria Town group, Malik Riaz Hussain, who boasts of connections with top military brass and senior politicians, plans to move into media to protect himself from those who accuse him of wrongdoing.

Riaz is one of the country’s richest and most powerful businessmen, a billionaire who has been caught up in corruption investigations and who is also well known for upmarket gated housing communities and charitable activities.

Now the 66-year-old wants to build a media empire, which he hopes he can use to promote his own commercial interests and fend off those trying to tarnish his name.

“I will go into media very soon. I will launch many TV channels, not one,” Hussain told Reuters in a rare interview earlier this month at his Bahria Town housing development, just outside the capital Islamabad.

“To stop blackmailers, I have decided that there is no way but to go into media.”

A world away from the chaotic, dirty streets of most Pakistani towns and cities, Bahria Town features giant replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.

The roads are clean and smooth, grass is imported from Thailand and private guards provide round-the-clock security.

Bahria Town is larger than the capital itself, and is part of a property portfolio that includes more than 40,000 acres of developments across the country and pays salaries to 60,000 employees.

Frank admissions

Hussain says he is Pakistan’s sixth largest tax payer. He also publicly states that he has paid bribes to top politicians, judges and even members of the military.

The publicity wing of the military declined to comment on Hussain’s allegations.

“If I tell you the amount of the biggest bribe I have ever paid, you will have a heart attack,” Hussain said.

In a public deposition in 2012 that hit Pakistani headlines, he said he had bankrolled the playboy lifestyle of the son of the country’s chief justice in return for favorable treatment in court cases related to his empire.

The case is ongoing, though it has stalled.

Hussain also currently faces several investigations by the national corruption watchdog. Among the allegations against him are illegally grabbing land and using favor with politicians to have state-owned property allotted to him at throwaway prices.

When asked about Hussain, the National Accountability Bureau said it did not comment on individual cases.

Hussain denies wrongdoing, and says he needs the platform of television news channels to help defend his reputation.

“I don’t want to go into media, but there is no other way to handle this.”

He hopes a presence in Pakistan’s young and boisterous news sector could also highlight his charitable contributions.

Hussain previously held the license to Bol TV, a fledgling news channel, before he transferred it to software company Axact in 2013, documents from the national media regulatory body show. Hussain denies ever being involved in Bol.

The channel was closed last year after the government launched an inquiry into Axact’s business practices.

Spurred by new technology and largely untouched by censors, Pakistan’s broadcast media has flourished in recent years. Between 2002 and 2013, the state issued 89 broadcasting licenses.

Television news channels are largely in Urdu, giving media groups influence over most of Pakistan’s 190 million people.

Ties with military?

Hussain’s accumulation of wealth is emblematic of Pakistan’s nexus of money and connections.

He started his career 30 years ago as a contractor who once sold his family silverware to take his infant daughter to hospital.

His big break came in 1979 when he borrowed 1,500 rupees ($14.34) from a friend and applied for a contract with the military’s engineering wing.

That connection led to a long-standing relationship with the powerful military, Pakistan’s largest landowner and contractor.

Currently, he has five joint development projects with the army spread over thousands of acres.

Recent chatter among Pakistan’s elite suggests that Hussain may be losing his influence with the military under the country’s army chief General Raheel Sharif. The military declined to comment.

Hussain dismissed such rumours.

“If I didn’t have relations with Raheel Sharif, the joint ventures would have shut down, wouldn’t they?” Hussain said. “I am friends with the army; I am friends with the institution.”
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/03/29/national/malik-riaz-plans-to-move-into-media-to-protect-his-name/

March 29, 2016   No Comments

Premier Nawaz sends AGP packing : by Hasnaat Malik in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2016.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif showed the door to the federation’s top law officer Salman Aslam Butt on Monday because he apparently lost the case related to the removal of Pervez Musharraf’s name from the no-fly list.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the resignation of AGP Salman Aslam Butt and replaced him with Ashter Ausaf, who was working as special assistant to the PM on legal affairs.

Butt was appointed as the top law officer in January 2014, reportedly, due to his close association with the premier. He returned the favour by providing relief to the federal government in a number of cases.

In some instances, instead of engaging local counsel, Butt himself represented the government of Pakistan before international courts. Legal experts were quick to brand him as the ‘most successful AGP’ of the decade.

But he met his Waterloo in the Musharraf case, earning him the wrath of the top legal eagles of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) who were unhappy with Butt’s conduct and called for his replacement.

On March 16, an important day in Pakistan’s legal history, Khawaja Muhammad Haris, Akram Sheikh, Shahid Hamid and Mustafa Ramday were present in Courtroom No-1 of the Supreme Court, when the larger bench dismissed the federal government’s plea against Sindh High Court order to remove Musharraf’s name from the Exit Control List.

Butt lost the case and the government simply allowed the ex-dictator to fly off to Dubai. A senior PML-N leader claims AGP Butt was much closer to the defence and therefore, he was shown the door.

Despite several attempts, Butt was unavailable for comment about his sudden resignation. However, another law officer, who talked with the former AGP said that Butt resigned because his personal practice was suffering.http://tribune.com.pk/story/1074693/replacement-named-premier-nawaz-sends-agp-packing/

 

March 29, 2016   No Comments

Problem with madrassa education: By Sadia Shaukat in Pakistan Today, Mar 29, 2016

The writer, currently pursuing a postdoctoral at University of Queensland, Australia,    is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Education, Lahore.
Pakistani madrassa curriculum remains little changed despite earlier attempts by the government to reform it. This failure is blamed by the government on the madrassa authorities, but the more likely reason is that the proposals were composed in haste by government officials, lacking an understanding of traditional religious education, and without any input from the madrassah ulama themselves. In this debate on the future of madrassa education, I have researched the views of religious scholars about possible reforms. It proved very difficult to get the views of the scholars. Many of those contacted appeared suspicious that their responses would be ‘reported’, and they felt real personal security concerns in a terror-environment, which in itself reflects the widespread misgivings about madrassas today. I was finally able to get responses from three male scholars of the Sunni, Shia, Deobandi and Ahle Hadith sects.

Question: Do you think madrassas need modern education to put the teachings of Quran into the context of today’s society as in some other Muslim countries, like Malaysia?

Scholars: All three scholars believe in a change in the system but they don’t agree on a major introduction of modern and technological subjects. They believe that these subjects are already taught in the universities, and the introduction of these “advanced” subjects would deviate the madrassa from its mission, which is to prepare human beings for eternal world. These subjects are materialistic in nature and prepare for this contemporary world only. However, they do feel that technology is a significant element of contemporary life, so the use of the computer can be beneficial for the preaching of Islam. English and Arabic languages should be introduced in madrassas to spread the message of Islam to other religions. “Islamic education can be significantly promoted (only) if madrassa education is reformed under the ideology of the madrassa,” said one Sunni scholar. The majority view on reform was that nothing was to be learned from Islamic education in other countries.

Question: There is a major deficiency in developing thinking skills and understanding of other subjects such as the sciences and mathematics. What difficulties do you see in bringing in scientific thinking into madrassas?

Scholars: The scholars acknowledge a problem here. While reference is made to the teaching of ‘thinking’ in the madrassa Logic syllabus, the learning of it is perceived to be difficult. This is because the teachers cannot match the content to the students’ rather low cognitive levels. “I personally feel there is a lack in madrassa teachers’ training and methodology that could be a reason in developing students’ thinking skills in the subject of Logic,” one Deobandi scholar said. “I can understand madrassa content is more tough and students feel lack of interest due to teachers’ traditional methodology,” said an Ahle-Hadith scholar.

The important role that mathematics and sciences can play in developing thinking skills is recognised, but the scholars point out the need for quality teachers of these subjects which would not be affordable under current madrassa funding. Hence the scholars’ rationalisation of “leave it to the universities”.

Question: What are the strengths of madrassa education when compared to the government and private schools of Pakistan?

Scholars: The scholars refer to the spiritual benefits of the good Muslim.

“Madrassa students demonstrate good manners and behaviour in the society because they are taught according to Islamic teachings, which stress soft speaking, respect for others, tolerating and selfless attitudes, which are all missing in other students,” the Shia scholar said. Madrassa students tend to be true believers and demonstrate good etiquettes. Contrast this with the perception of selfish and arrogant students in other schools even if these students are confident and better communicators.

The scholars went on to highlight the drawbacks of co-education and expressed traditional, historical views of gender separation in Muslim society.

Question: How do you see Pakistani madrassa education changing, if at all, over the next 20 years?

Scholars: Independent funding in the future will be difficult because of the negative ‘extremism’ perception of madrassas. Funding that might have been from overseas is now becoming difficult, too. Public perceptions of madrassas will have to change if there is to be local funding. People must appreciate that madrassas are not preparing extremists for a radical system. Changes in management mechanisms and in the curriculum will be needed. There will be changes in content and teaching methodology, with some modern subjects and more skilled teachers, although this will depend upon the provision of funding because of high teacher salary costs. There could be a role for the government in the changes, although surprisingly none were aware of the government’s abortive efforts at the earlier reforms. Teacher salary funding is proposed from this source but it should not be accompanied by unacceptable interference in management matters.

In short, there are problems here and government’s help for teacher education would be a welcome step. Changes in madrassa governance is possible but must fall within the madrassas’ primary goal of a religious education. http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/03/29/comment/the-problem-with-madrassa-education/

March 29, 2016   No Comments

AUGUST 17 BLASTS: Five JMB men sentenced to life in Natore Report in Daily Star, Mar 29, 2016

Natore: Five operatives of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh were yesterday sentenced to life in a case filed for the serial bombings in the district on August 17, 2005.

The lifers are Abdur Rashid alias Asik, Shihab Uddin Shihab alias Hamzala, Delwar Hossain alias Mithu, Hafizur Rahman Hafiz alias Noman and Abdul Matin alias Ismail.

Pradip Kumar Ray, additional district and sessions judge in Natore, however, acquitted two other accused — Shafiullah alias Tarek and Shahidullah alias Faruk — of the charge.

The court fined each of the five convicts Tk 30,000. In default, they will have to serve one year more in prison.

Of the seven accused in the case, six were produced before the court while Shafiullah, now in Gazipur’s Kashimpur jail, could not be brought due to yesterday’s Jamaat-enforced countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal.

Delivering the verdict, the judge said the five had confessed to their involvement in the bombings.

JMB men had carried out bomb attacks at eight significant places in Natore town, including the deputy commissioner’s office, press club and bus terminal.

Pubic Prosecutor Sirajul Islam said they were happy with the verdict.

Amel Khan Chawdhury, defence lawyer, claimed that his clients did not get justice. They would appeal to the High Court.

On August 17, 2005, around 500 bombs went off at 300 locations in 63 out of the 64 districts across the country. The bombs exploded in half an hour from 11:30am.

Later, the JMB claimed responsibility for the blasts. http://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/five-jmb-men-sentenced-life-natore-1201087

March 29, 2016   No Comments

In 2 Minutes, Bangladesh Rejects 28-Year-Old Challenge to Islam’s Role; The NY Times, Mar 29, 2016

By MAHER SATTAR and ELLEN BARRY
DHAKA — It took Bangladesh’s High Court less than two minutes on Monday to dismiss a petition aiming to remove the designation of Islam as the country’s state religion, a challenge that had wended its way through the court system for 28 years.

The effort had struck a nerve among Bangladeshis, whose tug of war over secularism and Islam dates to the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan. The country’s largest Islamic political party had declared a nationwide strike on Monday, and Sunni Muslim groups had staged protests demanding that the hearing be called off.

They need not have worried. A swarm of lawyers had barely taken their seats when Justice Naima Haider ruled that the group of 15 petitioners, 10 of whom had died as the case navigated the court bureaucracy, had no standing to raise the issue with the court.

Subrata Chowdhury, the lawyer who filed the original petition 28 years ago, looked lost as he listened to the judge.

“Without a hearing, without giving any chance,” he said helplessly. Later, back at his office, he commiserated with a circle of stunned colleagues.

“I’m very disappointed. This case was our baby,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. At least a proper hearing should have taken place. We had prepared so much.”

After winning independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh was declared a secular nation, but a military ruler amended the Constitution in 1988 to make Islam the state religion. The 1988 petition challenging this decision went nowhere until the governing Awami League, which positions itself as a secular party, took power in 2009.

The court’s ruling on Monday came at an anxious time. Attacks on religious minorities have become more frequent over the last year, leading to fears that Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise. Kamal Hossain, the politician who drafted Bangladesh’s original Constitution, said he was uncertain why the case was being heard now after so many years, and at such a sensitive time.

The decision to dismiss the case was greeted jubilantly by Muslim leaders, who linked arms and flashed victory signs for television cameras as they left the court.

Mufti Masum Billah, the chairman of the Bangabandhu Ulema Foundation, a religious nonprofit, said there was no need to worry about Islam’s status as a state religion, since the Constitution protects freedom of religion.

“Bangladesh has a state flower — it’s the water lily,” he said. “We have a state fruit — the jackfruit. Why shouldn’t Islam be our state religion?”http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/world/asia/bangladesh-court-islam-state-religion.html?_r=0

March 29, 2016   No Comments