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Govt failing to address rights abuses

    Govt failing to address rights abuses

    Bangladesh authorities failed to respond to repeated and serious allegations of secret detentions, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, denying the abuses instead of holding perpetrators accountable, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2018.

    Although the government did not enforce refoulement on Rohingya refugees seeking sanctuary from across the Burmese (Myanmar) border, Bangladeshi citizens themselves saw no reprieve in their quest for justice, the US-based global rights watchdog said in a statement on its website yesterday.

    In the 643-page report, its 28th edition, HRW reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

    Starting in late August, Bangladesh saw over 655,000 Rohingya refugees cross the border from Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar fleeing a campaign of rape, arson, and killings by the Burmese military that amounted to crimes against humanity.

    While Bangladesh does not officially recognise the majority of the Rohingya as refugees, the government has allowed those seeking shelter to enter the country, the report says.

    Bangladesh deserves credit for not forcibly returning Rohingya refugees, and for doing what it can with strained resources to provide safety for them for the time being,” Brad Adams, director of HRW Asia, said in the report.

    However, recurring plans to move the refugees to uninhabitable islands or to return them to Burma without key citizenship rights and protections remained a concern.

    In domestic rights concerns, scores of Bangladeshis remained victims of enforced disappearances, even as law enforcement authorities continued to target both opposition supporters and militant suspects, the report mentions.

    Security forces responsible for serious human rights violations continued to be free and unaccountable, the report says.

    Despite evidence of flawed trials and coerced confessions, the High Court upheld the death penalty against nearly 140 members of the Bangladesh Rifles, as the present Border Guard Bangladesh was formerly known, it adds.

    Civil society groups and the media continued to face pressure from both state and non-state actors, while dozens of Bangladeshis were arrested for criticising the government or the political leadership on Facebook, it further says.

    Although the official government policy is to eliminate child marriage, in February 2017 the government passed a law permitting girls under 18 years of age to marry under special circumstances -- effectively eliminating the minimum age for marriage in this exception.

    The government also failed to take steps to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the report says.

    Particularly as the country heads into general elections in 2019, it is vital to restore the rule of law, and end all efforts to silence dissent,” said Adams.

    One less park for Old Dhaka

      One less park for Old Dhaka

      Did you know that less than 0. 30 percent of land in all of Dhaka city is used for recreational purposes? This is according to the Regional Development Planning (RDP) survey. For those of us living in the ever-growing concrete jungle that we call home, the abysmal allocation of land for leisure activities will not come as a surprise.

      An investigation conducted by The Daily Star in 2016 revealed that at least 10 of the 54 surviving parks in the entire Dhaka city had been replaced with community centres, kitchen markets, mosques, rickshaw garages or truck parking lots—that too, mostly by the city corporation(s) itself. Currently, Dhaka has 0. 7 acres of open place for every 1000 residents—the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan states that the optimal allocation is 0. 6 acres of open land for every 1000 people.

      The latest park under threat is the Nababganj Park, located at Ward-23 of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). The park already houses two infrastructure—a one-storey building that is used to provide medical services, and another two-storey structure that serves as a gymnastic centre, library, community centre and the ward commissioner's office. Earlier this year, the DSCC labelled these two buildings as “risky” and forbade people from using them. ile the community might have appreciated the city corporation's effort to renovate the unsafe structures, the announcement that a multi-storied building would be established replacing the park, angered locals and environmentalists.

      And why not? The stark reality is that Nababganj Park has been serving as the only source of recreation for more than five lakh residents of Ward-23. There are no parks in Wards 24, 25 or 26 either—though there should be at least one park for each, as per the experts' suggestions.

      Urban planner and the former chairman of University Grant Commission, Professor Nazrul Islam, highlights that every urban and regional plan must ensure adequate open spaces (depending on the size of the population). For example, the current Dhaka Structure Plan proposes 1. 5 acres of open space for every 12,500 of the population. This means that for a population of 26 million, we need at least 22,360 acres—constituting six percent of the total area of the capital.

      Once a plan is made and a park is built, the municipality cannot make changes arbitrarily. If there really is a necessity, the whole urban structure plan needs to be changed accordingly, but with the direct participation of the public,” informs Islam.

      What's an open space that's not… open?

      Upon visit, a corner of the Nababganj Park was found “reserved” for WASA's pumping station in violation of the law. cording to a law passed in 2000 (lengthily titled: Mega city, Divisional Town and District Town's municipal areas including country's all the municipal areas' playground, open space, park and natural water reservoir Conservation Act, 2000), “playfields, open spaces, parks and natural water bodies which are marked cannot be used another way, it cannot be rented, leased or cannot be handover any other use.

      If a service organisation, including the City Corporation, needs to build an infrastructure in a public property, it needs to purchase the land at the market price, informs Mohammed Salim, assistant secretary of an Old Dhaka wing of the environmental organisation Poribesh Bachao Andolon. When we asked them, they couldn't give us any satisfactory answer. It is unfortunate that the regulatory bodies themselves are violating basic provisions,” he says.

      The authorities claim that the multi-storeyed building—which will continue to house the commissioner's office and community centre—will provide much-needed amenities to the public. wever, many locals as well as environmentalists feel that replacing an open space with a concrete building will do more harm than good.

      Yes, community facilities are equally important, but you cannot create a new problem while solving another,” argues Iqbal Habib, architect and Member Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon.

      Some local residents also raise questions about the decision to mark the existing community centre—which was inaugurated in 1999—as risky. as it only done as an excuse to be able to do construction work in the park?

      We have another community centre near the park, which was built five years before this one. They could've demolished that and rebuilt it as the multi-storied building they are planning for community services. Why choose the structure in the park? asks a local resident, Rafiqul Islam.

      Ratul Ahmed, another local resident, is concerned about the environmental aspect. If a community centre is built here, they must arrange food for large parties, and people will use the remaining open space to park their cars. People go to parks to enjoy the nature—how is that going to happen then? says Ahmed.

      Besides, we are hearing that the Sadarghat-Gabtali road which runs along a side of the park is going to be expanded to accommodate four lanes. If this happens, the size of the park will be reduced any way, so why take up space for a building? he adds.

      Not all locals, however, oppose the move. Some believe that the addition of new facilities—as promised by the authorities—would add to the development of the community.

      When contacted, Mohammed Humayun Kabir, Commissioner for Ward-23 informs that the multipurpose building will serve the needs of the community, with separate arrangements for sports for children and the elderly. When asked about the environmental aspects of replacing the park with a building, Kabir argues, “You cannot compare this park with the Suhrawardy Udyan or Ramna Park. We are going to implement the new project so that they can use it as a place to mingle with others.

      When asked about the commissioner's office, he admits that it might be there. And we give the land to WASA, considering the necessity of local people”. We were unable to manage a place for the pumping station,” he adds.

      According to Advocate and Policy Analyst Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, the way the smaller-sized open spaces are in danger of encroachment is a matter of great concern. In fact, the situation is so bad that in 2014, the High Court ordered the DCs to protect all the canals, playgrounds and parks of the country from illegal encroachment. But no significant changes have taken place in this regard,” he says.

      The future of the Nababganj Park is easily foreseeable, if we look at some other old Dhaka parks that are almost disappearing in the name of development, like Narinda, Jatrabari or Bakshibazar Park. Having access to green spaces is a matter of equality—and it seems as if old Dhaka is getting the short end of the stick.

      Coach at the centre of BD-SL showdown

        Coach at the centre of BD-SL showdown

        Although it is all that people outside the two relevant dressing rooms seem to want to talk about, there has been a conscious effort from those inside to avoid making today's tri-series match about Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha taking on Bangladesh, his former charges, for the first time since switching sides.

        Bangladesh are not playing against Hathurusingha; they are playing against Sri Lanka,” Sri Lanka batting coach Thilan  Samaraweera, another former Bangladesh support staff who took up a corresponding position in his native country, said yesterday ahead of the match that gets underway from 12:00pm at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today.

        Indeed, it is Sri Lanka taking on Bangladesh and there are things other than the Hathurusingha saga to focus on, such as Sri Lanka badly needing a win to move past an unexpected defeat to Zimbabwe on Wednesday. On the other hand, this tri-series is the first time Bangladesh are favourites in a multi-team international event, not just because they are the home side but because they are the highest ranked team on display. With a handsome eight-wicket win over Zimbabwe to kick off the tri-series on Monday, the Tigers will want to consolidate their unfamiliar position of frontrunner today.

        However, it will be hard to look past the Hathurusingha factor if only because his exit from Bangladesh was so recent that, in his first press conference as Sri Lanka coach on Sunday, he absentmindedly used the pronoun 'we' while talking about Bangladesh. Then there is the hint of acrimony surrounding the timing and manner of his resignation -- two years before the end of his contract with the Bangladesh Cricket Board and midway through a disastrous tour of South Africa, without much communication with the board or the players.

        Last but not least, it will also be interesting to see which team will benefit from this very recent shift of personnel -- will Hathurusingha's local knowledge gleaned over three years give Sri Lanka the edge, or will the Tigers' insight into the Sri Lankan's strategic proclivities be the difference-maker, or will they cancel each other out?

        Before the tournament opener Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and technical director Khaled Mahmud had, like Samaraweera and Hathurusingha himself, sought to play down the Hathurusingha angle, saying that the players and not the coach do the deeds on the field and also that insight into the other camp is a two-way street.

        Yesterday, however, while saying that they had moved past Hathurusingha, Mashrafe let slip a missive towards his former coach, saying that it would have been interesting if the Sri Lankan had stuck around after the South Africa tour to see if the ship could be turned around. But he chose to go to Sri Lanka,” Mashrafe added, the implication being that Hathusuringha took the easy way out in a time of strife.

        That is likely to be the overwhelming feeling in the Bangladesh camp in today's blockbuster clash and even though Hathurusingha has wished Bangladesh well publicly, it is a match that both camps will be desperate to win.

        There will be a temptation for Bangladesh to retain the team that played so well to beat Zimbabwe, but with Sri Lanka having more left-handers in the top order, left-arm spinner Sunzamul Haque may make way for off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz. For Sri Lanka, the main concern will surround the availability of skipper Angelo Mathews. Samaraweera said yesterday that they were monitoring the all-rounder, who sustained a suspected hamstring injury in Wednesday's game against Zimbabwe, and will decide today whether he is fit to play.

        In the context of the tournament, Sri Lanka need to win this match more than Bangladesh, who already have a win in the bag. In a wider context however, Bangladesh's players will want to show that they can thrive in the post-Hathurusingha era.

        Ivy's Poison

          Ivy's Poison

          The pictures on the front page of practically every major newspaper on Wednesday, January 17, conjure an ugly image of Bangladesh's political scene. Frenzied men with weapons attacking each other, their faces in grotesque contortions representing rage, venom, aggression. This would not be anything out of the ordinary given the current trends of streets looking like battlefields after clashes between opposing political groups or more realistically, between factions of the same political group. Wednesday's images, however, have taken our political image to an all-time low. They are of a woman city mayor, the first of her kind to hold such a position, being shielded by her followers from being attacked by a mob of men—supporters of an MP known for his mysterious and tenacious grasp over Narayanganj.

          Despite all their attempts to protect her, Mayor Ivy was injured—a brick hit her leg and in the jostling she fell. Newspapers say around 50 were hurt though none of them can quantify the terror and despair of the people of this city who had to witness these disturbing, shameful scenes. For it is indeed shameful that a city's mayor would be attacked by members of the ruling party because she was trying to do her job.

          The entire fiasco centred on the issue of eviction of hawkers from footpaths so that pedestrians could use them. Seems like a regular duty of a diligent mayor. But in Narayanganj, as anywhere else in the country, politics is far from being regular. As expected, when the eviction drive was announced, the hawkers, through their association, protested—where would they go after all?

          The mayor was given a memorandum, she announced her decision to free the footpaths, the hawkers staged demonstrations, the city corporation announced a few designated areas where the hawkers could sell their ware till February 27 from 5pm to 9pm, a lawmaker gave a 24-hour ultimatum to revoke the eviction drive and give the footpaths back to the hawkers, and finally in a bizarre confrontation, the mayor and her supporters were attacked by the said lawmaker's men.

          If you were a stranger to our special brand of politics, the first logical question would be: Why is this lawmaker interfering with the mayor's work? The second one would be: If the lawmaker was so concerned about the hawkers' wellbeing, couldn't he have had a discussion with the mayor and work out a solution? Thirdly, why did it all turn so violent with someone even brandishing his gun and allegedly firing shots into the air? Fourthly, and most importantly, why would a lawmaker's followers attack the city's mayor? Are they not on the same side—same government, same party?

          These questions may seem quite straightforward and resulting from pure common sense. But this is Narayanganj we are talking about—Bangladesh's Gotham City where the Joker reigns with full impunity and Batman is a simply attired woman who has taken on the task of trying to fix a city that seems almost unfixable, being in the grip of one of the most powerful political families in Bangladesh's history. This is the place of the famous “seven-murder case” that involved members of the RAB as well as influential people connected to the political elite. is is where Tanwir Muhammad Taqi, the son of cultural activist Rafiur Rabbi of Narayanganj, was abducted and killed on March 6, 2013. Even after more than three years, the law enforcers have yet to find his killer(s) although Taqi's father has filed cases against certain individuals including the nephew of the lawmaker involved in Tuesday's incident.

          But to be fair, having Selina Hayat Ivy as a mayor has been a sliver of hope for this Gotham of a city. Ivy, despite her formidable opponents, has endured, perhaps because of being from a political family—her father, Ali Ahmed Chunka, was a former Narayanganj municipal chairman and an AL leader—and definitely because of sheer grit and determination. 2011, she won the mayoral elections after beating Shamim Osman by one lakh votes. In 2016, despite efforts by MP Shamim Osman to exclude her from nomination from the panel, the prime minister picked her to be mayor.

          Tuesday's unsavoury incident in which a mayor and her supporters were attacked by goons of a lawmaker, gives an indication of the obstacles she faces. According to Mayor Ivy, she had come to Chashara to tell people that the footpaths would be free for pedestrians to walk on, that the displaced hawkers would be rehabilitated in a proper building, honouring the prime minister's directive. According to news reports, when some of Ivy's supporters tried to evict some hawkers, an altercation erupted. She was then attacked by supporters of the lawmaker.

          After the incident a probe committee has been engaged and both the mayor and the lawmaker have been summoned by the PM—no doubt to express her disappointment in two important leaders and favourites from her own party.

          But even for the ordinary citizens who have witnessed all kinds of violence in the name of politics over the last few decades, the idea that a mayor—a woman politician who has braved the patriarchal system to attain the trust of the public and the support of the prime minister who happens to be a woman—can be physically attacked and blatantly intimidated by a lawmaker, is shocking. this is a preview of what is to come as we get closer to our national elections, there is little to feel optimistic about.


          Aasha Mehreen Amin is Deputy Editor, Editorial and Opinion, The Daily Star.


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          Jessore Road: Tree felling halted for 6 months

            Jessore Road: Tree felling halted for 6 months

            The High Court yesterday halted the felling of century-old trees along the Jessore-Benapole road following protests against a government decision to cut them down.

            It directed the authorities concerned of the government to maintain a status quo on the tree felling for six months.

            In response to a writ petition, the HC also issued a rule asking the respondents to explain in two weeks why their inaction to protect the trees should not be declared illegal.

            a writ petition, the HC also issued a rule asking the respondents to explain in two weeks why their inaction to protect the trees should not be declared illegal.

            The court asked them to show causes why they should not be ordered to protect the trees while turning the road into a four-lane one.

            Secretaries to the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, and the Ministry of Environment and Forest, director general of the Department of Environment, chief engineer of the Roads and Highway Department, deputy commissioner and superintendent of police in Jessore, upazila nirbahi officer of Benapole, and officer-in-charge of Benapole Police Station have been made the respondents to the rule.

            The bench of Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir came up with the order and the rule after hearing the writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh challenging the inaction of the respondents to protect the trees.

            Petitioner's counsel Manzill Murshid told The Daily Star that the government cannot cut the trees down now because of the HC order.

            However, there is no legal bar for the government to continue the development work of the highway protecting the trees, he added.

            During the hearing on the petition, Manzill told the court that the government was duty-bound to protect the environment and the trees as per the constitution and the environment protection law.

            However, the government's decision to cut the trees goes against the very constitution and the law, he said.

            Last July, the authorities decided to fell around 2,300 trees along the highway, many of which have been standing majestically on both sides of the road throughout well over a century.

            The decision was made under a "development project" to widen a 30-kilometre portion of the highway.

            However, since then, protests have been brewing all over social media, and many environmental groups have been demonstrating against what they called a “shocking decision”.

            Jessore-Benapole highway is actually a 38-kilometre stretch of the 99-kilometre Jessore Road that connects Jessore with India's Dum Dum.

            Fearless cricket Mashrafe's mantra

              Fearless cricket Mashrafe's mantra

              The hallmark of a professional is his ability to think positively and the words of Bangladesh ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza yesterday reflected that ideal ahead of today's tri-series clash between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.

              It was evident during the pre-match briefing that Mashrafe and Co. were well aware of the fact that they need to handle their emotions professionally in the face of all the chatter surrounding their former coach, Chandika Hathurusingha.

              There is nothing wrong with the players being pumped up to prove their credentials against their recently-departed coach, but what Bangladesh's most successful ODI captain desires from his teammates is 'a brand of cricket which ensures freedom and a fearless approach'.

              During a marathon press conference, Mashrafe repeatedly emphasised on the need to properly execute their plans and play disciplined cricket all through the match, just as they had against Zimbabwe in the tri-series opener.

              We did everything right in the first match, now how we can execute our plan in the next match is most important. The way Bijoy [Anamul Haque] played the first match on his return to the team after a long break embodied exactly how we want to play; fearless cricket," opined Mashrafe.

              Like a true professional, Mashrafe added that the team had put the Chandika issue behind well before the start of the series.

              It's new for a team to face its last coach…actually we put behind the issue well before the series. Once he left we forgot his planning. We are coping with a new coach, so there is no scope to think about this issue," said Mashrafe.

              The right-arm pacer also did not hesitate in having a slight jab at his former coach, saying: "Everywhere you face challenges. When Hathurusingha was in Bangladesh there was some kind of pressure on him and the challenge for him would have increased after the loss in South Africa. That challenge could have been interesting but he didn't stay, rather he chose Sri Lanka.

              However Mashrafe showed his opponents due respect considering that they have players like Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera, and added that the team had to be mentally prepared to handle any tough situations, such as the one Sri Lanka found themselves in against Zimbabwe.

              Mashrafe, who was looking for a combined effort and consistency, has high hopes from his pace bowlers as he believes that their performance matters the most in Bangladesh's wins and informed that it was good news for him that Mustafizur Rahman provided evidence of returning to his old form.

              Mashrafe has all but a settled unit, with two stalwarts in Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan getting off to a flyer in the new year, but he believes that Shakib's promotion to the number three position created an opportunity for young all-rounders to show their potential at the number eight position by scoring quick-fire runs.

              We have a big space at the number seven-eight position after Shakib's promotion in the batting order and one will only be able to cope if he can be consistent at this position," said Mashrafe.

              In the end, the Bangladesh captain gave the impression that the Tigers were confident of their plan to beat Chandika's Sri Lanka and just needed to execute accordingly in the middle today.

              ALTERNATIVE IS THERE

                ALTERNATIVE IS THERE

                Although there is sufficient government land on both sides of Jessore Road, the local authorities seem to be hell-bent on expanding the historical road by felling more than 2,300 trees, several hundred of them nearly two centuries old.

                And the justifications the Jessore Roads and Highways Department is offering for cutting these trees are nothing but “lame excuses”, experts and environmentalists have said, warning of an environmental disaster in the region.

                On January 6, the RHD in Jessore made the decision to expand the highway to 10. 6 metres from 7. 3 metres now because of the increasing traffic on the road that connects the country's biggest land port in Benapole with India's Petrapole.

                Currently, some 500 goods trucks as well as about 10,000 passengers to and from India use this route. The Benapole Port authorities collect about Tk 12 crore in customs duty every day, said port Director Aminul Islam.

                Earlier in July last year, the government shelved a similar plan to fell 2,700 trees for widening the same highway following protests by the public and green activists amid media outcry.

                The highway is widely known as a part of around 99km long Jessore Road stretching from Jessore in Bangladesh to Dum Dum in Kolkata.

                The stretch on the Bangladesh side is 38km long and 24 feet wide, and on both the south and the north sides of the road there is government land that is at least 50 feet wide, according to the District Council that owns the land of the road.

                So if they build a two-lane road along the existing one next to the trees, we can save these trees," said Amirul Alam Khan, an environmentalist from Jessore.

                It is “outright foolish” to fell hundreds of trees, particularly those that bear memories of the Liberation War, just to widen the road by three meters, he added.

                The RHD can easily construct a completely new road along the trees on either side of the road to facilitate the growing trade through the road between Bangladesh and India, said Aminul, also former chairman of Jessore Education Board.

                The move to fell the trees sparked protests in Dhaka and elsewhere, with green activists asking the government not to take up any project without considering the ecological balance of the area and historic values of the trees.

                In 1840, a Jessore landlord called Kali Poddar Babu took the initiative to build the road so that his mother could travel to take a bath in the Ganges river.

                Later, as advised by his mother, a lot of saplings were planted on both sides of the road, then named Kali Poddar road, to make people's journeys pleasant ones, according to "Jessore-Khulnar Itihas" (History of Jessore and Khulna), written by Satish Chandra Mitra.

                During the 1971 war, tens of thousands of Bangalees fled to India through this road. Freedom fighters and journalists from around the world also used this road to enter Bangladesh from India and the vice versa.

                The name of the road has been immortalised by the American poet Allen Ginsberg, who visited the area in 1971 and wrote the famous poem, "September on Jessore Road" about the plight of millions of scared Bangladeshis heading towards India during the war. He recited the poem on November 20, 1971, at Saint George Church, New York.

                At the January 6 meeting at the the Jessore District Commissioner's office, three local lawmakers, district administration officials, R&H officials and the district council chairman were present.

                Jahangir Alam, executive engineer of Jessore RHD who was present at the meeting, said they sent a proposal to the roads and bridges ministry for the expansion and reconstruction of the road by felling the trees.

                Asked why, he said, "The roots of the trees and the water dripping from the leaves during rain damage the road. So we decided to cut down around 2,300 trees along the road for the sake of development.

                It will take at least one year just for the approval of a new project to build another road along the trees. But the existing road needs immediate repair and it cannot wait any longer.

                Six firms took part in the tender for the Tk 329-crore project in November last, and the tenders were now being evaluated. The construction is likely to begin next month, he said.

                Saifuzzaman Pikul, chairman of Jessore District Council, which has a long-standing dispute with the RHD over the ownership of assets along the road, said he too had no objection if trees needed to be felled for the “sake of development”.

                As the trees are century old, sometimes their branches fall off, injuring people, he said, adding, "If the government orders us, we have nothing to do but to cut down the trees.

                Dr Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman, a professor of environmental science and technology at Jessore University of Science and Technology, said there was plenty of scope to build a road leaving the rain trees intact, but the authorities were not considering those options.

                They want to cut down the trees," he said, sounding frustrated.

                If there is a risk of branches falling, it can be stopped by forest management system, meaning by cutting off the dead or risky branches. And engineers should be able to build roads that will not be affected by the tree roots, he said.

                The trees along the highway produce a huge shed, which is nearly one-fourth of that produced by the Sundarbans, he pointed out.

                The 61-km stretch of the same road on the Indian side is also called Jessore Road. Running from Kolkata airport to Petrapole border via Barasat, this part too has numerous trees on its both sides.

                Last year, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) felled 15 of those trees near Bongaon railway station for construction of some flyovers, triggering a huge public protest.

                Green activists cited the example of the 2km stretch from Petrapole to Jayantipur on which the NHAI constructed a two-lane road keeping the trees in the middle.

                The issue later went to the Calcutta High Court, which on April 17 last year ordered a stay on felling of the trees. The matter is still pending before the court where the next hearing is due today.

                It's all for money

                  It's all for money

                  Tuesday's mayhem in Narayanganj was all about money.

                  A section of ruling party leaders loyal to local MP Shamim Osman and some unscrupulous police officials control the footpaths and collect tolls from the hawkers, generating around Tk 1. 35 crore a month, claimed about 20 hawkers of Narayanganj city who talked to The Daily Star.

                  The feud between NCC Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and AL MP Shamim Osman over the eviction of hawkers had nothing to do with politics; it is totally about the money paid by around 4,500 hawkers, they said.

                  The money collected is shared among the leaders of AL, AL-affiliate organisations and Chhatra League of Narayanganj and police officials of Chasara Police Camp and Narayanganj Sadar Police Station, the hawkers claimed.

                  The money is collected by 25 linemen on Bangabandhu Road alone, they said.

                  Talking to The Daily Star, a number of hawkers said they have to pay from Tk 20 to Tk 300 every day to “police and a section of local influential AL leaders who get a portion of the money”.

                  The amount depends on the size and location of their makeshift stalls.

                  Hawker Narayan Chandra said the hawkers who sit around Zia Hall intersection, Shaheed Minar, in front of Khaja Market and on Bangabandhu Road have to pay from Tk 100 to Tk 300 per day.

                  Just paying the toll is not enough. He said the hawkers are forced to join rallies and processions of Shamim Osman in Narayanganj and Dhaka.

                  You will see no hawkers or only a few hawkers on Narayanganj footpaths the day Shamim Osman holds a rally,” Oli Ahmed, a hawker who sits on Bangabandhu Road, told The Daily Star.

                  A tea vendor on Bangabandhu Road said either a policeman or a lineman takes Tk 20 from him every day.

                  The plainclothes policemen kicked me on several occasions when I failed to pay or haggled with them,” he said, adding, “Even the homeless and beggars cannot escape the police and the linemen. saw police take Tk 10 from them many times.

                  If they fail to pay, they are slapped,” he said, requesting not to be named and declining to name the police personnel and linemen fearing repercussions.

                  Asad Mia, convener of Hawkers Sangram Parishad, said there were around 4,500 small cots or tables on city footpaths and three quarters of them were on Bangabandhu Road.

                  Several hawkers claimed that for placing a two by three feet cot or table on the pavement, they have to pay Tk 5,000 to Tk 7,000 to local leaders close to Shamim Osman.

                  Narayanganj City Jubo League President Shahadat Hossain Bhuiyan Shajnu and Convener of Narayanganj City Chhatra League Habibur Rahman Riad, who are close to Shamim Osman, dealt with the hawkers, they claimed.

                  They mentioned a few other names of similar post holders in AL and Chhatra League but this paper could not get in touch with those leaders.

                  Refuting the allegations, Shahadat Hossain told The Daily Star that he had heard that some AL leaders took money from hawkers. Several times I have pressed hawkers to know the names but they told me that no Awami League leaders took money from them.

                  Habibur Rahman Riad said they had asked the administration and the city corporation to take actions if anyone took money from the hawkers in the name of Chhatra League.

                  Several witnesses of Tuesday's mayhem claimed that these AL, AL-affiliate and Chhatra League men were in the front line during the attack on NCC Mayor Ivy. The Daily Star could not verify their claims.

                  Chashara Police Camp In-charge Gazi Mizanur Rahman said, “Hawkers' trade on footpaths had been stopped several weeks ago. So, the allegations of taking money against police personnel are not right.

                  Asked whether the policemen collected toll before, he said he had no idea about the matter.

                  Acting officer-in-charge Abdur Razzaq of Narayanganj Sadar Police Station told The Daily Star that the allegation against police was nothing but exaggeration.

                  Asked to elaborate what he meant by exaggeration, Razzaq said after he took charge as the OC, he did not get any complaint that policemen collected tolls from hawkers.

                  He, however, said his predecessor was closed to the police lines as he had not taken proper steps to evict hawkers.

                  We have taken a hard line against hawkers after sir [his predecessor] was closed,” Razzaq added.

                  On January 15, Shamim Osman at a rally of hawkers at Chashara said he had ordered, not requested, that hawkers would sit on footpaths from 5:00pm from January 16, if the city corporation did not take any measures for their rehabilitation.

                  Mayor Ivy had said that she would not allow hawkers to occupy footpaths causing city dwellers to suffer. She also said she would make alternative arrangements for the hawkers at the hawkers' markets.

                  Many city dwellers hailed the city corporation's move to free the footpaths from illegal occupation. They told The Daily Star yesterday that despite repeated attempts over the last one year, the authorities failed to evict the hawkers due to local influential Awami League leaders and a section of police officials who take money from them.

                  On Tuesday, NCC Mayor Ivy and around 50 others were injured as supporters of local AL lawmaker Shamim Osman attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to a clash on Bangabandhu Road.

                  No case was filed over the clash as of last night and police could not arrest Jubo League leader Niazul Islam, who was seen brandishing a firearm during the clash, even though he himself filed a general diary with Narayanganj Sadar Model Police Station in connection with attempt on his life and attempted snatching of his arms.

                  Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday said action would be taken against those who had brandished firearms during Tuesday's clash.

                  I give you assurance that no one will be spared. Those who have broken laws, will face the music,” the home minister told journalists in Tejgaon.

                  We are doing what is required. We have footages. We are looking into those who brandished firearms and took the law into their own hands,” Asaduzzaman said, adding that they were enquiring into the “unfortunate incident”.

                  The home minister said he personally talked to Shamim Osman and Selina Hayat Ivy after the incident on Tuesday and told them that the prime minister did not like what had happened.

                  I told them if you don't stop, we have to take action,” he added.

                  Ivy was admitted to LabAid Hospital in Dhaka after her blood pressure dropped yesterday afternoon. She is in the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital.

                  Ivy became sick when she was at the city corporation office around 4:00pm, reports our Narayanganj correspondent.

                  She had trouble breathing and had cardiac complications, said Narayanganj General Hospital Medical Officer Asaduzzaman.

                  Abul Hossain, Ivy's personal secretary, said Ivy visited the injured of Tuesday's clash at Narayanganj General Hospital after lunch yesterday.

                  She became sick around 20 minutes after she had returned to her office.

                  A doctor of LabAid said, “She will be kept under observation for the next 24 hours. Her condition is stable now.

                  Lawmaker Shamim Osman neither received phone calls nor texts of this paper.

                  Some hawkers yesterday opened up shops at Chashara on Bangabandhu Road defying the local administration. Police evicted the hawkers a few hours after they had sat there.

                  'Pleasure' trip or what?

                    'Pleasure' trip or what?

                    Just two weeks before going back to the navy, the Chittagong Port Authority chairman went on an eight-day official visit to South Africa and Morocco apparently to gather knowledge on how to improve the port's operation.

                    Questions have been raised over the trip as CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal will have only six days, upon his return, to implement the things learnt in the overseas visit.

                    A number of officials at the Chittagong port have cast doubts about the outcome of the trip, saying nothing much could be learnt from visits to the South African and Moroccan ports since those are not as developed as the European and US ports.

                    A delegation that includes Khaled is on a visit to the Port of Cape Town in South Africa and the Port of Tanger-Med in Morocco from January 16 to 23. Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan is heading the team.

                    In a letter to the CPA on December 24 last year, the shipping ministry also included Shajahan's son, an Awami League MP's son, and the CPA chief medical officer in the 15-member team.

                    Their inclusion in the team surprised many of the port officials, who say the sons of the minister and the lawmaker, and the medical officer have nothing to do with the port's development work.

                    Besides, five members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Shipping Ministry, which oversees the port's operation, were included in the team, raising questions about conflict of interest.

                    Members of a parliamentary standing committee cannot go on any foreign trip whose expenses are borne by an organisation the House body oversees, according to parliamentary affairs experts.

                    The CPA is bearing the costs of the ongoing visit, and it has already released Tk 95 lakh for the purpose. The total expenses will be tallied after the delegation returns.

                    On January 30, Khaled will hand over the responsibility to the new CPA chairman and go back to the navy, sources said.

                    Earlier on January 2, the public administration ministry appointed CPA member (engineer) Commodore Zulfikar Aziz as the new chairman.

                    Despite repeated attempts, Khaled could not be reached for comments.

                    Two of the delegation members opted out of the trip. They are Maj (retd) Rafiqul Islam, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Shipping Ministry, and Kallal Kumar Chakraborty, a deputy secretary.

                    Contacted, Rafiqul said he is in favour of visiting developed seaports to get firsthand experience of how those work.

                    If we visit ports of world standards in Europe or even in Asia, we will be able to utilise the experience for developing our seaports.

                    Asked why he didn't join the trip, the AL lawmaker avoided giving a reply.

                    Sources close to Rafiqul, however, said that he considered the visit unnecessary, as the ports to be visited by the team are not that developed.

                    At a recent meeting of the parliamentary body, Rafiqul expressed resentment that some persons, who are not related to the port's operation, were included in the delegation, according to sources.

                    Talking to this correspondent, former member of the CPA Board Hadi Hossain Babul said Khaled's visit to the African ports would be of no use, rather it would be sightseeing, as he will soon hand over his responsibility to a new CPA chairman.

                    He also said only those directly involved in the port's operation should have been included in the team.

                    Hadi pointed out that private operators should be engaged in providing services, such as operating the terminals, for upgrading the port's capacity and efficiency.

                    Southeast Asian and European ports are engaging globally renowned private operators on a large scale in such jobs. We should gather knowledge on those ports,” Hadi said while explaining why the visit to the two African ports would not be so fruitful.

                    The ex-CPA Board member, however, said the African ports also engage private operators but on a small scale.

                    In terms of annual handling of containers, Chittagong port secured the 71st position among the top 100 container ports in the world, according to the 2017 ranking of Lloyd's List, the world's oldest journal on port and shipping.

                    The Chittagong port handled around 25 lakh TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers last year.

                    The Port of Cape Town couldn't make it to the list while the Port of Tanger-Med, which handled 29 lakh TEU containers in 2016, ranked 51st.

                    The Port of Cape Town handled nine lakh TEU containers in fiscal 2013-2014. Chittagong port handled 17. 31 lakh TEU containers in 2014.

                    The delegation visiting the two African ports includes Md Abdus Sattar, deputy secretary at the shipping ministry; Mohammad Jahangir Alam Khan, senior information and public relations officer at the ministry; MM Tarikul Islam, private secretary to the shipping minister; Md Omar Faruk, secretary of the CPA; Mosharraf Hossain, chief medical officer of the CPA; Commodore M Jahangir Alam, chairman of Payra Port Authority; and Md Solaiman Alam Seth, honorary consul of South Africa.

                    Parliamentary body members Talukdar Abdul Khalek, Nurul Islam Sujan, Habibar Rahman and Momotaj Begum are also in the team.

                    Shajahan's son Ashibur Rahman, Momotaj's son Abdullah Al Jubayer, and Md Solaiman are supposed to bear their expenses for the trip, sources said.

                    The delegation will have to submit a report to the shipping ministry within 15 days of its return.

                    A bad mix of teens and power

                      A bad mix of teens and power

                      Police yesterday morning arrested five alleged killers of Adnan Ispar, a teenager who was chased down and stabbed to death on Tuesday in Jamal Khan area of Chittagong city.

                      The sharp weapon used in the killing was also recovered by police during a raid.

                      Police made the arrests in separate raids in Fatikhhari upazila and the city's Bahaddarhat area in early hours.

                      The arrestees are Moin Khan, 18, son of Nurul Islam; Sabbir Khan, 18, son of Mohammad Osman; Abdullah Al Sayed, 18, son of Abdus Sattar; Ekhlas Uddin Arman, 18, son of Mohammad Moktar; and Muntasir Mostafa, 18, son of Mostafa Kamal, said police.

                      Speaking with The Daily Star, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) (south) Shah Mohammad Abdur Rauf said the arrestees during primary interrogation admitted that they used a firearm to threaten Adnan before killing him and they had received it from three local political “Boro Bhai” for establishing supremacy in the area.

                      Police insiders and locals requesting anonymity said the five arrestees are members of a juvenile gang that is involved in extortion and other criminal activities in Chandanpura and Goni Bakery area.

                      The gang gets political backing from Chawk Bazar thana Awami League leader Abdur Rauf, they also alleged.

                      During primary interrogation following the arrests, it was found that Adnan, a ninth grader at Chittagong Collegiate School, was murdered following a brawl between two juvenile groups over playing games at a playground, said investigators.

                      SM Mostain Hossain, deputy commissioner (DC) of Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) south zone, at a press briefing said, “The knife was also recovered from the school bag of arrestee Moin who stabbed Adnan over a game-related feud.

                      The police were yet to recover a firearm that the killers brandished before stabbing Adnan, the DC also said.

                      Regarding the AL leader's alleged involvement with the killers, DC Mostain during the press briefing said the police are yet to find any connection of AL leader Abdur Rauf in the murder. However, they would not spare anyone if the person is found to be involved in the killing of Adnan.

                      After scrutinising CCTV footage collected from around the murder scene, the “police arrested Moin, Nurul, Sabbir, and Sayed from Samitir Haat area in Fatikhhari upazila while Muntasir was arrested from his house in the city's Bahaddarhat area,” he said.

                      The police are now working on to identify the person who supplied the gun to them, added the DC.

                      Of the five arrestees, Moin, Sabbir and Muntasir are HSC second-year students at Hazera-Taju Degree College, Ekhlas is a tenth grade student at Holy Flower School and Sayed has appeared in HSC examination from Islamia College.

                      Sabbir and Sayed are accused in a case filed with Chawkbazar Police Station on December 12, 2017.

                      Police insiders said Moin, Nurul, Sabbir, and Sayed took shelter at the house of a local top leader of Bangladesh Chhatra League at Samitir Hat in Fatikchhari.

                      Describing the incident, ADC Rauf said to The Daily Star, “There was a long-standing rivalry between Adnan's group and a group of students at Ideal School and College [ISC] over playing games at the playground of Mohsin College.

                      On the day of the killing, being chased out by Adnan and two of his friends, two tenth graders of ISC took the shelter of their senior brothers -- Moin, Sabbir and three others -- at Mejban Khaile Aiyun restaurant.

                      The five seniors including Moin and Sabbir later came out of the restaurant and chased down Adnan and his two friends. After they caught up with Adnan a few yards away, Sabbir pointed a gun to Adnan's head while Arman and Sayed kept beating him with sticks, he said.

                      At one stage Adnan was hit by a CNG-run auto rickshaw in front of ISC where Moin stabbed him from behind. Adnan then ran for his life, but collapsed in front of Dr Khastogir Government Girls' High School and College.

                      The killers later went inside a room on the third floor of the restaurant and left the place one by one after receiving the news of Adnan's death around 3:30pm.

                      Around 8:30pm, the five went to Badurtala area of Bahaddarhat and four of them boarded a Fatikchhari-bound bus around 9:00pm, said ADC Rauf.

                      Adnan's father Adnan Aktarul Azam -- an LGED engineer in Khagrachhari -- on Wednesday night filed a murder case with Kotwali Police Station accusing the five arrestees and six unnamed others. Meanwhile, Adnan's friends and students at Chittagong Collegiate School yesterday staged a demonstration in front of Chittagong Press Club demanding capital punishment to his killers.

                      This correspondent made several attempts to speak with AL's Chawk Bazar thana unit leader Abdur Rauf for his comments over his alleged involvement with Adnan's killers, but his cell phone was found unreachable till the filing of this report around 10:00pm last night. He did not respond to the text message sent to the same number either.

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