Basra, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — A sense of calm returned to Iraq's southern city of Basra on Sunday after a week of violent protests over unemployment and poor public services that left at least 15 people dead and threatened stability in the oil-rich region.
Troops sent from Baghdad have reinforced police, and government offices and markets reopened after a quiet night. Municipality workers were out in force cleaning up the streets and carting away debris from the clashes.
Governor Asaad al-Aidani said the provincial government has found new offices to work from, after angry demonstrators burned most government buildings in the city this week. He said it would take at least five weeks, however, to supply the city center with potable water, after a rash of stomach illnesses fueled unrest in the oil-rich region.
Basra and other cities in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland have been convulsed by the most serious protests in years, with residents complaining of power outages, filthy tap water and soaring unemployment.
In recent days, protesters have attacked government offices, political party headquarters and the Iranian consulate. Many blame their woes on neighboring Iran's outsized influence on Iraqi politics and are calling for radical change.
On Saturday, a spokesman for an alliance of powerful Shiite militias, many of them backed by Iran, vowed to respond against "those who are carrying out acts of arson and sabotage." The local commander, known as Abu Yasser al-Jaafari, said the lack of response thus far should not be taken as a sign of weakness.
Hours later, masked government troops in combat fatigues deployed in the city, setting up checkpoints and riding through the city center in black pickup trucks with heavy weapons mounted in the back. Security forces in Humvees deployed at intersections.
Naqeeb al-Luaibi, a local activist, said protest organizers have decided to suspend the demonstrations after receiving death threats from Iran-backed militias. The militias accuse them of colluding with the U.S., which has long worked to curb Iranian influence in Iraq, allegations denied by the activists.
"We'll suspend protests now to spare blood and we'll return with a new approach," he said. "We will not give up until our demands are met."
Iraq is still without a new government nearly four months after national elections in which no party won a majority. Rival parliamentary blocs — one seen as friendlier to the U.S. and the other closely allied with Iran — each claim to have assembled a governing coalition. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, part of the pro-U.S. bloc, and Basra's governor have traded blame for the crisis.
Basra, once known as the "Venice of the East" because of its freshwater canals, has been hit by an acute water crisis, including rising pollution and salt water levels. The city, where temperatures often approach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) during the summer, has also been crippled by electricity shortages.
Iraq's government has scrambled to meet the growing demand for public services and jobs, but has been hindered by years of endemic corruption and a financial crisis fueled by diminished oil revenues and the costly war against the Islamic State group.
Basra is Iraq's second-largest province and home to about 70 percent of the country's proven oil reserves of 153.1 billion barrels. It is located on the Persian Gulf bordering Kuwait and Iran, and is Iraq's only hub for oil exports.
Dhaka, Sept 9 (UNB) – The-BNP led 20-party alliance on Sunday night decided to intensify the efforts for forging a greater national unity with other political parties to ‘restore’ democracy and ensure a fair election.
“Our leader (Khaleda) before going to jail called for forging a greater unity among all the pro-democratic parties, organisations and individuals to restore democracy. We’re working on it,” said 20-party coordinator Nazrul Islam Kahn.
Talking to reporters after a meeting of the alliance at BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office, he further said, “The meeting of the 20-party not only extended support to the initiative, but also decided to take it forward.”
Nazrul, also a BNP standing committee member, said the meeting criticised the government for not ensuring proper treatment of Khaleda Zia in jail and strongly demanded the government allow her to receive treatment at United Hospital.
Besides, she said, the 20-party leaders also demanded the release of Khaleda Zia and all other political prisoners.
They also demanded the government withdraw all the cases filed against political leaders and activists ahead of the national election, the BNP leader added.
Nazrul said the 20-party urged all the democratic parties and institutions to come forward for forging a greater national unity with demands for holding the next polls under a non-party government, dissolving parliament before announcement of the schedule, reconstitution of the Election Commission, not using the electronic voting machines (EVMs), deploying armed forces during the election, pulling out cases against political leaders and workers and stopping harassment of them.
Apart from Nazrul, BNP standing committee members, Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Jamiruddin Sircar, Mirza Abbas, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury and the top leaders and the 20-parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, attended the meeting with BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir in the chair.
Dhaka, Sept 9 (UNB) – BNP senior leader Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan on Sunday said a fair, credible and inclusive election is the only safe way-out for the ruling Awami League.
“There’s the only safe way for Awami League to get out is a free, fair and participatory election. Or else, the ruling party will be the worst sufferer,” he said.
Moyeen, also a BNP standing committee member, came up with the remarks while speaking at a discussion arranged by Bangladesh Ganotantrik Sangskritik Jote at the Jatiya Press Club.
He accused Awami League of snatching people’s voting rights, annihilating democracy, and stigmatising the judiciary and law enforcers.
“People won’t sit idle if they try to grab power again. People will surely realise their demands this time,” the BNP leader warned.
Motioning that people want the next election to be held under a neutral administration, Dr Moyeen said, “No way except holding the polls under a non-party impartial government is open for Awami League.”
He also alleged that Awami League has been repressing and suppressing people over the last 10 years. “They’re still continuing their repressive acts.”
The BNP leader urged the government to come to the path of understanding to hold the next polls in a fair and acceptable manner, and thus ‘restore’ democracy in the country.
Dhaka, Sept 9 (UNB) – Another session of the 10th parliament will sit at a convenient time in October next as the current session (22nd session) will continue for only 10 working days until September 20.
The decision came at the meeting of the Business Advisory Committee of the current parliament held at the Jatiya Sangsad on Sunday with Committee Chairman and Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.
During the current session, the House will start its business at 5pm every working day.
However, the meeting decided that the Speaker might extend or reduce the working days of the current session is she wants to do so.
The 22nd session of the 10th parliament started at 5pm today (Sunday) with Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury presiding.
At the meeting, it was informed that Parliament received notices of 11 government bills for this session.
Besides, there are 12 other government bills in the House. Of the 12 bills, three are at the final stage to be passed in the House while nine are under scrutiny by relevant parliamentary standing committees.
Apart from this, Parliament earlier received notices of seven private member bills. Of these, one private member bill is at the final stage to be passed in the House.
Committee members Leader of the House and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Opposition Leader Raushon Ershad, HM Ershad, Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Fazle Rabbi Miah, Abul Hasnat Abdullah, Rashed Khan Menon, ASM Feroz, Moin Uddin Khan Badal and Anisul Huq attended the meeting.
Dhaka, Sept 9 (UNB) - BNP on Sunday got permission to stage a human chain programme in the city on Monday demanding its Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s release from jail.
Talking to UNB, BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner gave the verbal permission to form the human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club.
As part of their countrywide programme, he said, they will observe the programme in front of the Jatiya Press Club from 11am to 12pm.
The BNP leader said their party’s all other district and metropolitan city units will also observe the programme on Monday to have their chairperson freed from jail.
Rizvi said their party will also observe a two-hour token hunger strike on Wednesday in all districts and metropolitan cities to press the same demand.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has been in jail since a special court convicted her in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.