Archive for the 'Security' Category

The Chittagong Hill Tracts

One of the benefits of VSO is that you can go and work in other areas of the country if a partner NGO has a particular need for some work that you’re able to do for them. It’s similar to a mini-secondment system. And so last month I left Sylhet for two weeks and went to work with some other indigenous community rights NGOs on their IT systems. This normally would be astonishingly boring, except these NGOs are based in the dangerous, treacherous, primitive and absolutely wonderful Chittagong Hill Tracts.


Continue reading ‘The Chittagong Hill Tracts’


Tasneem Khalil arrested – UPDATED

UPDATE – Sunday 13th May 2007

Tasneem was released on Friday, 24hrs after being picked up in the night by the army.

At the moment, no-one seems to know why he was detained. Apparently it was not to do with his journalistic activities. His editor at The Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam has kept very quiet about the whole thing, and his paper has scarcely mentioned it, which totally goes against their Liberal credentials, ‘The People’s Right to Know’ etc…

This looks like it’s much more than just a ‘freedom of the press’ issue. When the dust settles and the facts are available over the speculation, I’ll write a bit more.

The army have really made a mistake this time. Just when their puppet leader Fakhruddin Ahmed has been making assurances not to limit the freedom of the press, last night a prominent investigative reporter, Tasneem Khalil was arrested and taken from his home. Already there is uproar

They picked on the wrong journalist, as Tasneem is also a consultant for Human Rights Watch and a news representative for CNN.

Here is the press release HRW have just issued:

Bangladesh: Release Journalist and Rights Activist

Army Arrests Tasneem Khalil of Human Rights Watch

(London, May 11, 2007) Bangladeshs military-backed care-taker government should immediately release Tasneem Khalil, an investigative journalist and part-time Human Rights Watch consultant, who was detained by security forces late last night, Human Rights Watch said today.

Khalil, 26, is a journalist for the Dhaka-based Daily Star newspaper who conducts research for Human Rights Watch. According to his wife, four men in plainclothes who identified themselves as from the “joint task force”came to the door after midnight on May 11 in Dhaka, demanding to take Khalil away. They said they were placing Khalil “under arrest” and taking him to the Sangsad Bhavan army camp, outside the parliament building in Dhaka. Continue reading ‘Tasneem Khalil arrested – UPDATED’

Terrorists strike again in Bangladesh

[Cross-posted in the Guardian’s ‘Comment Is Free’ section here.] 

Two weeks ago, the Generals in control of Bangladesh were on the cusp on completing their coup through the ‘democracy minus-two’ plan, with the imminent exile of both previous Prime Ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. This attempt to end their dynastic and allegedly hugely corrupt control over the country spectacularly backfired however, with the former leaders popular again, whilst the military-backed interim government has lost a huge amount of both international and domestic support and legitimacy. Then on Tuesday May 1st, three small bombs exploded in the three major cities, planted by ‘Jadid Al-Qaeda’. Political power and the responsibility that comes with it must now look far less attractive.

Before the electoral crisis erupted at the end of October last year, the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh was raising the most international concern. Tuesday’s attacks have now reminded everyone that regardless of the current political posturing, outside of that arena another long-term threat to Bangladesh and the region is fermenting, and the people behind it have less interest in gaining power through the ballot box. The proliferation of jihadist groups willing to resort to terrorism must be addressed as soon as possible by
Bangladesh’s eventual democratic government. Continue reading ‘Terrorists strike again in Bangladesh’

Big Political Trouble in Little Bangladesh

The dam of lies and corruption is beginnning to burst, and everything’s spilling out now.

In the last few days, charges first of extortion/corruption and today murder have been levelled against Sheikh Hasina, the leader of Bangladesh’s Awami League, who was PM from 1996-2001 and leader of the party pretty much since her father was assassinated in 1975.

Sheikh Hasina has been on holiday in America, since all politics is banned in Bangladesh, but she’s announced that she’s coming back as soon as possible to fight the charges, and has completely denied them, obviously.

You can read about the murder charges here, on the BBC. Most Bangla news sites at the moment are still buzzing with bias.  They’re based around who was responsible for the riots on October 28th when six people were beaten to death. I was there and it was disgusting. It’s the kind of charge that’s completely politically motivated and may well never even see court, but personally, I would agree with this summation, by Kawsar Jamal who runs the Change Bangladesh website:

“150 million people including the Non-resident Bangladeshi are responsible for October 28th, 06 occurence. The factors that played hard for the occurence to happen are
lack of education,lack of information sharing between people to people,lack of humanity and humanness(n)and lack of proper process and procedures of so called filthy democracy,familycracy and autocracy thats been followed for last 35 years after independence. It doesn’t look to good even now, so I won’t be amazed if I see the same occurence sometime soon too, who knows may be very soon or little later unless things gets strengthen up very soon.”

Continue reading ‘Big Political Trouble in Little Bangladesh’

The suspension of politics in Bangladesh – the end of freedom?

On Sunday Fakhruddin Ahmed, the Chief Advisor to Bangladesh’s ‘interim’ military-technocratic administration came to Sylhet. He declared that the administration was directly accountable to the people, and was a constitutional government as it had assumed office taking the oath on the Constitution. He went on to say that his government wanted real democracy, adding that a peaceful atmosphere and social stability were the pre-requisites for holding free, fair and credible elections.

This is all utter nonsense, and I’m disappointed that I was in the office and unable to witness his statements myself.

These are the facts about the political situation in Bangladesh at the moment:

Continue reading ‘The suspension of politics in Bangladesh – the end of freedom?’

Bangladesh Death Trap – updated

The same day I wrote my last post about the total disregard for health and safety in Bangladesh, I got a text from Tom saying he had just witnessed a big road accident.

At a very busy T-junction, with no traffic lights, the policemen on duty had all failed to communicate with each other and had somehow managed to signal all of the traffic forwards in to a three-way collision.

What is more shocking is that the news didn’t suprise or shock me for a second. It’s just typical for Bangladesh.

I used to watch with my housemates ‘America’s Wildest Police Chases’ or something similar every Sunday night. ‘Normal Driving in Bangladesh’ would be an international smash hit follow up (no pun intended).

Bangladesh Death Trap?

I’m in Dhaka at the moment, as I had a meeting at VSO office. Coming to Dhaka is always an ordeal, because the journey from Sylhet to Dhaka by bus takes about four and a half hours to go nearly 250 miles, and then the four mile  journey from the bus station in Dhaka to the office takes about two hours.

I’ve written before about how the traffic in Bangladesh, Dhaka especially, must be the worst in the world. Not only is there utter gridlock, but when you add the heat, noise and pollution it’s just hell. This time I ended up walking the last mile, at one point my taxi driver had the time to switch the engine off, go and have a cup of tea from a road-side stand, and a cigarette, and we still hadn’t even moved an inch.

To compound the problem, Bangladeshi drivers have seemingly no regard for safety, and so the obvious problem is that not only are accidents extremely likely, if and when they do occur, the chances of an ambulance reaching you within an hour is…well, forget it.

And on Sunday, the lethal cocktail of non-existent emergency services and a gridlocked road network finally exploded in to public consciousness.

Continue reading ‘Bangladesh Death Trap?’