BNP started 2019 with a bad note - a drubbing in the national election. Now Khaleda Zia’s party is going to step into the New Year without showing any sign that it can make a turnaround anytime soon.
With its chairperson Khaleda Zia behind bars, BNP policymakers had planned to wage a strong movement reorganising its rank and file to force the government to hold a fresh election, but the party confined itself to mainly indoor activities like discussion meetings, doa mahfils and press conferences throughout the year.
Political analysts think BNP could not break the cycle of failure and make its presence visible in politics throughout the year due to its leadership crisis, lack of effective action programmes, political strategy and its senior leaders’ reluctance about getting connected with people with outdoor progrmmes.
They also said BNP’s revival in politics will be very difficult in the coming years as extreme frustration and despair have gripped its rank and file due to its failure to break the bad patch for nearly 13 years since it lost power in 2006.
Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, believed to be a BNP sympathiser, said BNP has no success in the year 2019 as the party did nothing to stage a comeback in politics during the period.
“BNP leaders always waited for messages from London and made only hollow statements, but they could neither overhaul their organistion nor take to the streets to rejuvenate their grassroots and mount pressure on the government to free Khaleda Zia and ensure democratic spaces for all,” he observed.
How did it pass 2019?
At the beginning of the year, BNP leaders were busy holding meetings and working out programmes to register their protests against the December-30 national election as the party only bagged six seats while its Jatiya Oikyafront alliance partner Gonoforum two.
On January 3, BNP and its alliance partners submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission seeking a fresh election under a neutral government. They had a meeting with foreign diplomats at a city hotel on January 6.
On February 8, BNP arranged a discussion in the city marking the first anniversary of jailing of its chief Khaleda Zia from where its leaders announced to reorganise the party to free her and force the government to hold a fresh election.
At least 80 BNP and Jatiya Oikyafront candidates filed cases with the election tribunal, challenging the results of the 11th general election by February 15, but they lost the legal battle.
On February 22, BNP and Oikyafront partners organised a “mass hearing” to depict what they said the "real scenario of vote robbery" in the 11th general election before the country's people and the international community.
Amid the party’s concern over Khaleda’s health condition, BNP senior leaders met Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on March 5 and demanded her better medical treatment.
Later, she was shifted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) on April 1, and she has been staying there since then.
Though the alliance had a decision not to join parliament, Gonoforum MP-elect Sultan Mohammad Mansur took oath as a member of the 11th Parliament on March 7 while all others, except BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, followed him.
The oath taking by BNP MPs was one of the much-talked-about issues in the year.
On April 29, the BNP MPs took oath as per a decision of party acting chairman Tarique Rahman, but it created serious commotion among its rank and file.
Though Mirza Fakhrul did not take oath, BNP joined the by-election to his seat Bogura-6 and its candidate Golam Mohammad Sirajul Islam elected MP on June 24.
There was a speculation that BNP MPs were sworn in as part of a negotiation with the government over Khaleda’s release.
However, BNP MPs reportedly tried to free Khaleda on parole, and they met her at BSMMU on October 2, but Khaleda did not agree to their proposal. The party leaders carried out the legal battle to have Khaleda freed, but the scope for having Khaleda freed through legal process has apparently ended as the Appellate Division on December 12 rejected the bail petition of the BNP chief in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case.
As part of their move to reorganise the organisation, BNP formed convening or full-fledged committees of its 40 district units and most of its associate bodies, but the party still could not complete the overhauling process and take preparations for its national council.
On June 19, party vice chairmen Selima Rahman and Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku were made BNP’s standing committee members, ignoring many senior leaders.
Commotion, Defection & Deaths
BNP faced prolonged agitation by a group of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the student wing of BNP, over formation of its central committee.
However, JCD held its council overcoming the adversities on October 18 making Fazlur Rahman Khokon and Iqbal Hossain Shamol as its president and general secretary respectively.
Two BNP senior leaders--standing committee member Mahubur Rahman vice-chairman and former foreign minister M Morshed Khan--quit the party as they are unhappy with Tarique Rahman’s leadership.
On November 4, the party lost its important leader and vice chairman Sadeque Hossain Khoka as he died at a hospital in New York at the age of 67. BNP’s another vice chairman and ex-minister Barrister Aminul Haque died on April 21 while pro-BNP intellectual and journalist Mahfuz Ullah passed away on April 17.
‘Bad Year for Nation’
Talking to UNB, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said 2019 is a very bad year for not only BNP but also for the whole nation.
“A new government assumed office illegally at the beginning of this year by depriving people of their voting rights and destroying the election system. The current regime also repeatedly deprived our Chairperson Khaleda Zia of her right to get bail and snatched our democratic rights. Awami League’s various misdeeds and widespread corruption also exposed in this year. Overall, it’s a very bad year for the country’s people,” he said.
Survival is Success
Asked what their party achieved this year, Fakhrul said there is no scope for their party to gain any political success due to the prevailing situation created by the government. “The government always tries to eliminate us from politics by resorting to repressive acts. Even then, our party is united and we’re carrying out political activities protecting our existence and popularity. This is our success.”
About their failure to make a turnaround and have Khaleda released from jail, he said their party leaders are not responsible for all those failures it has this year. “We’ve failed because of abuse by the government which used the state machinery and its despotic governing system against us.”
He, however, hoped that they will be able to reverse the situation in 2020.
An unanticipated dry-season bank erosion by the Padma River is wreaking havoc with the inhabitants of two unions here, taking away over 100 bighas of arable land in the last two weeks and creating panic among them, especially the farmers.
The riverbank erosion has hit the two unions of Devgram and Doulatdia hard at a time when a cold wave is sweeping the country.
During a field visit by the UNB correspondent, it was found that arable land on a six-km stretch of the river bank from Natunpara on the west side of Doulatdia Ferryghat to Devgram was eroded by the mighty river.
Tomato, brinjal, chilli and mustard fields went into the gorge of the river due to the erosion. The erosion has turned acute especially in Devgram and Kawaljani areas.
Rustam Ali, 60, a farmer of Kawaljani village, said the river devoured at least 50 bighas of cropland at his village. “I planted tomato on 2 bighas of land spending Tk 18,000. However, half of my tomato field has already been lost to the riverbank erosion. I couldn’t imagine such an erosion in the dry season.”
Farmer Ansar Ali, 70, of Devgram village said he cultivated brinjal, tomato and chilli partly on his own and partly on leased land taking loan.
Most of his cropland was devoured by the river in the last 10-12 days, he said. “The way the river is eating up our crops, the burden of the loan will mount on us,” he said.
Zahid Hossain, a local, said several hundred families have lost what they had, including their homesteads, to the riverbank erosion earlier. “Many were trying to eke out an existence cultivating crops on their arable land. But the untimely riverbank erosion has devastated their lives.”
Sources at the upazila agriculture office said winter vegetables were cultivated on 1,418 hectares of land in the upazila.
Chairman of Devgram union parishad Hafizul Islam said although the erosion is taking place in many places of the upazila, it has turned serious in Kawaljani and Devgram.
He said they urged the district administration to take steps to prevent the riverbank erosion.
After visiting the areas, Assistant Commissioner (Land) M Abdullah Al-Mamun said the erosion in this dry season was beyond their imagination.
He said he will talk to the higher authorities and seek measures to deal with the situation.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Rubayet Hayat Shiplu said they have informed the district administration of the matter and stressed the need for taking effective steps to check the erosion.
With the beginning of a new decade just around the corner, the time has come to look back on 2019 - a year when Bangladesh cricket endured a number of ups and downs, with the downs perhaps steeper than the ups.
The World Cup year started with the hope of something big but ended in a heap of disappointment, the biggest of them all ironically caused by events off the field, with the suspension of star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for failing to report communication with a bookie.
Not that things were that much better on the field. Overall, the Tigers played 30 internationals (not counting the rained-out encounter against Sri Lanka in the World Cup) across all three formats of the game in 2019 and won just 11 of them. Among the 19 defeats, the most ignominious would surely have to be the capitulation against Afghanistan in a one-off Test on home soil.
Instead of developing new players to shoulder the burden of carrying the team to new heights, the team displayed a continued dependence on Shakib for really world class performances to help them compete with the best. This was deeply distressing for the fans, particularly once Shakib’s year-long ban from all forms of cricket by the ICC was confirmed.
The year also saw 2 BPL seasons fitted in - or almost two. The sixth season of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) which was originally scheduled to take place in November/December 2018, had to be rescheduled for January due to the national election. Comilla Victorians lifted the trophy riding on some tremendous batting performances by Tamim Iqbal.
Players like AB de Villiers, Steve Smith, David Warner took part in the BPL for the first time in BPL6, which was good for the league to draw the attention of the global audience.
However, BPL6 failed to produce any new talent. There was no new face in the top-ten batsmen or bowlers. The sixth season of Bangladesh’s most prestigious domestic cricket event was commercially lucrative, but the main purpose- to unearth new talents- was missing.
Towards the end of the year, the 7th season of BPL, rebranded as the Bangabandhu BPL for Bangabandhu birth centennial got underway, and it is scheduled to stretch into the first few weeks of 2020. With BCB not renewing the franchise format that expired at the end of BPL6, question marks were raised over the organisation of the tournament in its 7th outing, and in the opening few weeks, most of these remained unanswered with fans failing to show up at the venues and the quality of cricket leaving a lot to be desired.
Bangladesh’s international calendar for the year started with the tour of New Zealand, which remained memorable for off-the-field misfortune. Bangladesh lost the ODI series 3-0 and lost the first two matches of the three-Test series. The third Test was abandoned due to what became an infamous terror attack at two mosques of Christchurch leaving 51 dead. Some of the players were in the vicinity of the Al Noor Mosque to say their Jumma prayers when the carnage erupted, leaving them visibly shaken and in no condition to continue the tour. It was duly called off.
Bangladesh’s poor cricketing display on the field and that off-field massacre made the New Zealand tour awful in Bangladesh’s memory. However, Tamim Iqbal was tremendous in the Test series. He scored 278 runs in two matches with one century and two half-centuries.
After a gap of one month, the Tigers went to Ireland and played a tri-series with the hosts and West Indies right before the World Cup. They beat West Indies three times in that series to register their first-ever title in a multinational cricket event. Mustafizur Rahman had bagged six wickets in three games, Soumya Sarkar scored 193 runs with three fifties. The triumph in the tri-series created a big hope for the Tigers to do something memorable in the World Cup the following month.
The World Cup started promisingly for the Tigers with a win against South Africa, but fizzled out disappointingly. Photo: Courtesy
But the Tigers failed to do so in spite of a flying start beating South Africa in the opening game. Riding on the half-centuries of Mushfiqur Rahim (78) and Shakib Al Hasan (75) Bangladesh posted 330 runs. South Africa fell short by 21 runs as Mustafizur and Mohammad Saifuddin bagged three and two wickets respectively to register a confidence-boosting win.
But the Tigers stuttered in the next two games against New Zealand and England. Shakib hit 64 against New Zealand and 121 against England, but Bangladesh lost the momentum. They had a good chance to bring the momentum back against Sri Lanka in Bristol, but the game was abandoned due to unplayable condition.
However, Bangladesh didn’t miss the chance against West Indies when Shakib smashed his second century (124) of the World Cup. West Indies batted first and posted a challenging total of 321 for eight riding on the fifties of Evin Lewis (70), Shai Hope (90) and Shimron Hetmyer (50). Bangladesh accepted the challenge as Shakib and Liton Das featured in a brilliant unbroken stand of 189 for the fourth wicket. Shakib remained unbeaten for 124 while Liton also remained not out on 94. The win kept Bangladesh in the hunt for the semi-finals.
But the Tigers lost the next game to Australia despite some wonderful efforts from Tamim (62), Mushfiqur Rahim (102) and Mahmudullah Riyad (69). However, Bangladesh pulled off their third World Cup win beating Afghanistan by 62 runs in Southampton. Mashrafe Bin Mortaza-led Bangladesh had the last chance to qualify for the last 4, for which they would have to beat India and Pakistan in their last two games, but they failed to win either of those games. Overall, Bangladesh failed to live up to the expectation in the World Cup.
Skipper Mashrafe was injured for most of the World Cup, but kept playing despite a hamstring injury which eventually did nothing good for Bangladesh. Shakib was tremendous scoring 606 runs with two centuries and five half-centuries and taking 11 wickets with a five-for. It was the best all-round display in World Cup history, and some felt he should have won the individual honour of player of the tournament. But the team’s overall low finish hurt his chances.
From bad to worse
Mashrafe failed to make the squad for the tour of Sri Lanka right after the World Cup. Tamim led the team in the three-match series but the fortunes of Bangladesh were unchanged as the Tigers lost the series ODI 3-0.
The poor spell continued on home soil as well when they lost the solitary Test against Afghanistan in Chattogram. It was just the third Test for Afghanistan. Rashid Khan, the captain of the Afghans, displayed a tremendous performance to ensure the historic win - a triumph of sheer willpower. With help from the weather, Bangladesh needed to bat for barely a session on the fifth day to save the Test, with recognised batsmen at the crease. But the Tigers’ failings were badly shown up in the face of the Afghans’ hunger.
The loss in the one-off Test against newbies Afghanistan was a nadir. Photo: Courtesy
In the accompanying T20I tri-series, Bangladesh made it to the final, but it was washed away and they had to share the trophy with Afghanistan. The series remained memorable for the third team in the fray, Zimbabwe, as they returned to international cricket with that series after a ban was imposed on them by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
On October 21, 2019, Bangladesh cricket fraternity was shaken up as the top cricketers showed their discontent over the remuneration of first-class cricketers and a slew of other issuues. Shakib-led cricketers came up with 11-point demand and announced that before the board met the set of demands, they would not take part in any cricketing activities. Nazmul Hasan, the board president, addressed this stance of the cricketers as a ‘conspiracy to ruin the image of Bangladesh cricket’.
The set of demands increased to 13 on October 23, and the board eventually accepted 10 points of them that same night at BCB headquarters in Mirpur.
After this insurrection of the cricketers, the match fee for first-class cricketers was raised by 100 percent. The cricketers who took part in the National Cricket League 2019 were paid the increased amount. At the same time, BCB increased the facilities available during the First Class matches.
But that was not the only big thing brewing in October. Bangladesh cricket was shaken to its core perhaps like never before on October 30 when news came through of the ICC banning Shakib for two years, with one year suspended, due to failing to report corrupt approaches made to him more than twice.
Shakib accepted the sanction and expressed his desire to bounce back stronger once the ban is lifted. Due to the ban, Shakib missed the first tour of Bangladesh to India for a full series.
It all started with a remarkable T20I win over India in Delhi under the captaincy of Mahmudullah. Mushfiqur hit a fifty to register the first-ever T20I win of Bangladesh against their neighbouring cricket powerhouse. But the remaining part of the series proved painful for the touring side.
Kolkata came alive for the pink-ball Test – but Bangladesh failed to turn up at their best. Photo: Courtesy
They lost the T20I series 2-1. After that, they crashed to an innings defeat in the first match of the 2- Test series. The last match of the Test series was hosted by Kolkata, in something of a double celebration hosted by newly elected president of the Indian cricket board Saurav Ganguly, with the first day-night pink-ball Test hosted in the subcontinent.
Amid all the hype, Bangladesh failed to hold it together and barely made it to the third day - losing the match by an innings and 46 runs. They had to field two concussion substitutes in the game as the Indian pacers ran riot in the helpful conditions under lights. Nevertheless even the truncated contest was witnessed by over a lakh at the Eden Gardens over the 2 days and 47 minutes.
Bangladesh will start 2020 with a tour of Pakistan, though that is subject to security clearances. It means the start of the new year for Bangladesh cricket is clouded with uncertainty, with little sign of where to look for some clarity.
Bangladesh has been able to “successfully internationalise” the Rohingya issue in the outgoing year and will keep focusing on having a sustainable solution to the problem capitalising on the mounting global pressure on Myanmar on accountability front, officials say.
Bangladesh raised the Rohingya issue in all international forums round the year – 2019 – seeking a genuine pressure on Myanmar which has “failed” to build a confidence among Rohingyas and ensure a conducive environment in Rakhine State for the safe return of Rohingyas to their homeland, according to the officials said.
“It’s a problem rooted in Myanmar. Its solution also lies there. We’ll keep focusing on the issue (in the coming year) to find a sustainable solution engaging the international community,” an official told UNB recognising the significant development on accountability front.
Though there have been pledges and efforts from the international community to resolve the crisis in a sustainable manner, not a single Rohingya has so far been repatriated.
Bangladesh stands ready to begin Rohingya repatriation and will remain engaged bilaterally and internationally keeping focus on the issue in the coming year, the officials said.
Apart from the repatriation issue, relocation of Rohingyas to Bhashan Char was a much-talked-about issue in the outgoing year.
Bangladesh says Rohingyas will have a better living in Bhashan Char once relocated there reiterating that it "will not force" any of the displaced people to avail of the relocation opportunity.
"We wanted to avoid the risk as they (Rohingyas) die in landslides in the crowded camps. They'll have a better living if they go there (Bhashan Char)," said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.
Bangladesh wants to see the Bhashan Char issue be mentioned in the Joint Response Plan (JRP) 2020 in a significant way, an official told UNB.
The UN agencies and other partners are now working on the Joint Response Plan (JRP) 2020 to raise funds for Rohingyas which is likely to be presented in Geneva in February next.
The government has a plan to accommodate 100,000 Rohingyas in Bhashan Char, which is ready now for living, as newly-built shelters will offer educational and livelihood options and help decongest the present camps.
The cluster in Bhashan Char comes with multi-storey buildings, a typical model that is hugely successful in coastal belt.
Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1 lakh Rohingyas to Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently is expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from Bangladesh, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
The 3,450 Rohingyas who have been verified by Bangladesh and Myanmar, the Hindu Rohingyas and those living along the “zero-line” are prioritised groups for early repatriation.
The UN says the return to Myanmar must be voluntary, safe, dignified and, importantly, sustainable, so that the decades-long cycle of displacement is finally broken.
The government of Myanmar has committed to creating conditions conducive for return, including through bilateral agreements with the government of Bangladesh and under a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR and UNDP, but “did not” implement its commitment yet.
Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar district, and most of them arrived here since August 25, 2017.
Bangladesh, China and Myanmar are in discussion to encourage the commencement of the Rohingya repatriation process.
The tripartite joint working group is likely to hold its next meeting in January next year for further discussions on early repatriation of the Rohingyas and for an early date of return to their homeland, an official told UNB.
The establishment of tripartite joint working mechanism is led by the Ambassadors of China and Myanmar to Bangladesh and DG of Myanmar Wing of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
The tripartite joint working mechanism is aimed at delving into technical and operational difficulties in the repatriation process through “candid and frequent” discussions.
A common ground has been “successfully identified” during the first meeting of the joint working mechanism, said the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka.
Hopes on Accountability Front
Bangladesh is expecting good results on accountability front in the new year as the top UN court - International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard the genocide case filed by The Gambia against Myanmar.
The hearing was held at the Peace Palace in The Hague on December 10-12 the UN court was asked to accord provisional measures to bring relief to the Rohingya community and end the prevailing culture of impunity of the perpetrators in Myanmar.
On November 11, The Gambia filed a case with the United Nations’ highest court, accusing Myanmar of committing “genocide” in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
Bangladesh appreciated the accountability efforts at the ICJ lodged by The Gambia on crimes committed on Rohingyas allegedly with genocidal intent by Myanmar.
Bangladesh also underscored complementarities between accountability and creation of an atmosphere conducive to sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas.
“We’re confident the court will urgently and appropriately respond to the situation,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights.
“Myanmar authorities are defiant and continue to violate the rights of the Rohingya. These ongoing violations aggravate the issue of genocide before the court and require urgent action.”
New evidence indicates how Myanmar authorities are using Rohingyas for slave labour, including child slave-labour, systematically restricting freedom of movement, and denying the existence of Rohingyas and their right to a nationality, according to Fortify Rights.
In 2017, Myanmar’s military, police and local militia burned Rohingya villages, “systematically shot and killed” Rohingyas and committed acts of sexual violence and rape – used as a weapon of war – against women and girls.
Vegetable farming is creating jobs for previously unemployed youths in Brahmanbaria, changing the scenario in rural areas.
Mohiuddin Miah of Mohammadpur village at Ramrail union in Sadar upazila is one of those youths. Vegetable produced by him are now supplied to various markets in the district and adjoining areas.
He cultivated tomato, papaw, cauliflower, gourd, bitter gourd, broccoli, snake gourd, capsicum and cabbage on 25 bighas. His farm currently employs 25 workers.
Mohiuddin and his friend Jamal Miah started cultivating vegetables together in 2008 on a five-bigha plot. In the beginning, Mohiuddin took Tk 30,000 loan from a local cooperative and Jamal provided Tk 50,000. With this amount of Tk 80,000 capital, they launched their joint venture project.
They bagged good profit in the first year. Inspired by the success, they took on lease more croplands from others to cultivate vegetable. They used organic and earthworm fertiliser.
After several years, Mohiuddin parted ways and cultivated vegetables on 25 bighas this year.
MA Sahel, a resident of Mohammadpur village, said their success has encouraged many other youths of the village.
Mohiuddin said his yearly profit is around Tk 6-7 lakh.
“Vegetables grown in my farm have big demand in the market. Wholesale traders from various places come to me,” he said. “Around 12 youths have started vegetable cultivation after being encouraged from my success.”
Sadar upazila Agriculture Officer Munshi Tofayel Hossain and Deputy Assistant Agriculture Officer Habibur Rahman Khan said they monitor Mohiuddin’s land on regular basis. If he can manage loan from bank with low interest, he will be able to expand his business.
Munshi Tofayel Hossain also said farmers in this upazila have cultivated vegetables on 650 hectares. Farmers are being benefitted from the cultivation.
Mohiuddin said: “I was unemployed once. But now I’m self-employed. If the unemployed youths start cultivating vegetables after receiving training from government agencies instead of running after job or going abroad, then the unemployment problem will be reduced.”