UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Gwyn Lewis on December 7, 2022 “reminded” Bangladesh of its commitments, as a UN member state, to "free expression, media freedom, and peaceful assembly" among others written in the Declaration as the country is coming closer to its national election. The timing of the statement is interesting, almost like a note of warning, as if BNP has been outright denied the right of assembly for its proposed Dhaka rally on December 10. The truth is that the government has offered BNP one of the best venues in Dhaka to hold the proposed rally — Suhrawardy Udyan. This is the designated space in Dhaka for big political rallies, a venue rendered historic thanks to the March 7, 1971 speech of the nation's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangabandhu gave his call for freedom on that day from this historic venue that marked the transition from a peaceful struggle for democratic rights within Pakistan to a do-or-die struggle for independence. The Instrument of Surrender was also signed by the Pakistan army at this venue on December 16, 1971. For anyone looking to host a massive public spectacle in Dhaka, the Suhrawardy Udyan is a natural choice. Read more: Nayapaltan clash: 445 BNP activists including Rizvi, Annie sent to jail, 2 get bail All big political rallies in Dhaka, including those held by both PM Sheikh Hasina and former PM Khaleda Zia, to mobilize movement against military rule were organized at Suhrawardy Udyan in the late 1980s. The grounds ensure a huge holding capacity because it can easily accommodate a million people or more. More importantly, it can do so without causing any disruption to traffic movement in Dhaka. BNP, however, refuses to hold the rally at Suhrawardy Udyan and is adamant about holding the rally in front of its central party office at Naya Paltan. That is what the administration has not cleared, and for good reason. This area is within Dhaka’s central business zone and a rally there would surely cause massive traffic disruptions. Party offices can be located in a business district for the sake of visibility and small gatherings of party workers or press conferences can be held there. But how feasible does a major rally in front of the party office, in the central business zone, sound? London Police will permit political rallies in Hyde Park but will it allow any party to hold a rally on Oxford Street or in front of the London Stock Exchange? Will the New York Police Department allow a rally in its central business district? Will Kolkata Police allow a political rally on Park Street? What is true for London or New York or Kolkata is also true for Dhaka. Political rallies should be held in designated public grounds and not on the street in a business zone. So the Dhaka Metropolitan Police has done the right thing by denying permission for the rally in Naya Paltan . Why is BNP insisting on holding the rally at Naya Paltan and not at Suhrawardy Udyan? Is the party afraid that it won’t be able to fill up the huge Suhrawardy Udyan? Read more: BNP executed its plan at Nayapaltan yesterday: Quader If the turnout at the rally is smaller than that thronging the Mirpur stadium during the ongoing cricket series against India, BNP’s claims of a popular movement will fall flat on its face. Police also suspect that BNP, by holding a rally at Naya Paltan, may actually try to destabilize the city and administration by inflicting a violent campaign. Democratic rights, including those related to freedom of assembly, are subject to limitations. For instance, one cannot hold a public rally with loud microphones in front of a hospital. The UN should definitely focus on restoring democracy in Myanmar, where the military junta has obviously trampled on rights, rather than “reminding” Bangladesh on what it should do. The writer is an Ekushey Padak-winning journalist.
Putting Tarique Rahman’s photo on media cards — for journalists covering BNP’s Rajshahi rally on Saturday — seemed to have backfired. This outright rejection by journalists points to a larger roadblock that speaks of a leadership crisis in BNP. Meanwhile, low turnout despite the much hyped pledges of pulling unprecedented crowds and incident of infighting triggered a fresh spell of criticism towards the opposition party. Read: December 10: Naya Paltan, Paltan Maidan or somewhere else? Drone footage, as reported by media outlets, captured from BNP’s latest rally in Rajshahi, has served a blow to its well-publicized claim of unprecedented turnout. Netizens on social media, including on Facebook, referred to drone footage and top shots of the Rajshahi rally venue — exposing large empty spaces on the ground, even when BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was addressing the crowd. Several television channels used drone footage that showed half of the rear part of the venue wore a deserted look even when top party leaders appeared on the stage. Meanwhile, footage also emerged of activists wielding sticks — loyal to different leaders — locking in a clash, only to be later dissolved at the intervention of senior leaders. Some TV channels also carried reports with interviews of survivors, in the Rajshahi region, who endured brutal torture at the hands of the dreaded late militant “Bangla Bhai”, who rose reportedly under BNP’s patronage during its last term. Read: Sheikh Hasina: A legend in her own lifetime After the footage showed less that satisfactory turnout at BNP’s latest public rally, many netizens pointed out lack of leadership, promoting some leaders in exchange of money, record of plundering billions from public welfare fund and grisly arson attacks on general people are to be blamed for the party’s current state of affairs. The writer is a Professor at the Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi.
President Jiang Zemin, ex-President of China died on 30th November at the age of 96. He was the man who lead China after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. He presided over the economic growth of China which sees it as the leading contender to the US for global economic supremacy. His death has been mourned officially which means his legacy is considered as part of the state policy continuum.. The CCP has written a letter informing the people of China of his death, writes Xinhua news agency. It states, "Comrade Jiang Zemin's death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups". His history for the moment seems secure. Jiang's death has more than a little symbolic meaning. It comes just a few days after China saw anti-Covid restrictions protest, the first street protest after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. The extremely strict zero covid policy has been very unpopular as it has bitten into many Chinese lives including economics. Western commentators say it was sparked by the Covid stringencies but the main cause was economic slowdown. “China is also in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown exacerbated by zero-COVID.” Clearly Covid has not spared anyone including China. Read more: China’s protests are small but significant Jiang himself was not a political softie and put down student protests in Shanghai as the “pro-democracy demonstrations” spread across China in 1989. However, his period also saw phenomenal economic growth and most associate his name with the rise of prosperity. Policy continuation ? Western media is promoting the idea that there is a lot of nostalgia for his era but scholars have disagreed saying that Jiang was also an authoritarian like the current leader Xi. The CCP letter said, “ our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin" as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter. “The focus on his ideology is significant implying that he acted according to the state principles held by all Chinese leaders. “ He served as president from 1993 to 2003 but held China's top job, as head of the ruling Communist Party, from 1989 and handed over that role to Hu in 2002. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, which he also assumed in 1989.” (Reuters) In China, the leadership pattern is based on clan loyalty and this has always been the case. Jiang had his Sanghai group and his successor Hu Jin Tao went to some lengths to remove them from positions of power and build his own. After Hu’s era, Xi has removed them from similar positions and even had Hu escorted out from the Congress meeting where Xi was elected a leader for the third term. Read more: So it's farewell time Ali Imam bhai Meanwhile, China continues to feel the impact of the Covid management crisis and protests. Some easing of restrictions is being noted while they also caused production to slow down. Asia's industrial activities in general have faced difficulties too due to China’s since they rely so heavily on them for parts and goods. However, though the Western world seems to be hoping that China will crash as a state followed by large scale 'pro-democracy" rebellion, that may not be the case. This won’t be the first time when such hopes are dashed. Which means the threat to the West’s global economic supremacy posed by China will continue which really took on steam when Jiang Zemin came to power.
Reports coming out from China speak of troubles whose roots lie in economic policies. They are immediately linked to Covid restrictions which have been called “draconian” but for a long while had been seen as effective. However, its "zero Covid" policy shows that the virus has not been conquered as yet as some had thought and hoped. Commentators say , this is not the main reason why the street protests came but it accelerated the public angst over economic difficulties that had been brewing over many years. Now that has peaked and caused public unrest. The source of such information and comments are of course Western media and academia that have a stake in China’s economic pain. It means the global market competition will be less with the West and the market supremacy it had for long can continue longer. This is only to be expected. Read more: China’s Communist Party vows 'crackdown on hostile forces' as public tests Xi It would however be a bit foolish to depend on Western opinion alone to judge what is going on in China. Suffice to say that its public anger that has gone public which is the first instance since 1989 leading to what had been called the “Tienanmen square “ conflict. This writer had the chance to visit China soon after that and remembers the “business as usual” life on the streets of Beijing and Guang Zu. However, the lips of all were sealed and at the official meeting, visitors were told not to mention the event at all. Security and economics For the moment China is focusing on taking security measures. Authorities have decided not to exert too much force and the demos have almost disappeared overnight anyway. That was to be expected. These were not organized protests but spontaneous bursts of frustration. However, actions will certainly be taken and the security forces will certainly intern many of the street protestors. If economic policies are responsible to which have been added the burden of zero covid, the problem lies with problem solving methods not ideology. Its covid handling was tough but initially successful and had its reluctant admirers in the West also. But China’s covid policy shows that the virus is stronger than the administrative methods in the country of its origin in suppressing it. There was a major gap which we were learning now. Read more: China lockdown protests pause as police flood city streets The main issue is however economic. It’s been said that China’s property market is in shambles and the debt burden has been piling up making the next few years very difficult. The US has also cut off chip supply, adding to the difficulties, making it part of a much bigger and much more important global economic war. Bangladesh Bangladesh will be affected by China’s economic difficulties and should start assessing what needs to be done. Media should pick up the topic and push the experts to probe the issue. Sadly, both our media and academia are more into media comments rather than in-depth research. That Bangladesh will have to share the problems is certain and with the high volume debt payments to begin in 2026 , Bangladesh can’t afford to take this lightly along with the rest of our woes.
The BNP rally supposed to be held on 10th December in Dhaka has become a point of near conflict already. BNP wants to hold it at Naya Paltan in front of its office and the AL government insists that this won’t be allowed. With a promised crowd of a million they must go to the Paltan Maidan. Clearly, it’s become the first significant test of will between the two parties and a foretaste of things to come. Both have declared their positions to be non-negotiable. And both parties have said that they have upped the political ante and pushed it into a conflict space. Who will blink first or will no one remain to be seen? And so what happens next? BNP position BNP has been holding a series of rallies all over the country and it’s going to be apexed by the Dhaka meet. In each of the meetings, the crowd has been high despite transport strikes and so on. Supporters have arrived even two or three days before. It’s been the best BNP show for years. Read: Amid relative ease, BNP’s 8th divisional rally begins in Cumilla BNP has said that it considers the Dhaka rally the peak and statements around December 10 have been many. The objective as stated was to “take over” the city of Dhaka so to speak and have it so full of BNP supporters that as per BNP, AL/GOB presence will be marginalized. BNP has asked its supporters from all over the country in the city so that Dhaka has more BNP supporters than all others. Expected crowd estimates have tanged from 5 lakhs to several millions. Going by the crowd size elsewhere this estimate is not wild. So why would BNP want to go for a smaller space ? BNP has not explained yet. AL and GOB position AL has said that its workers will be “guarding” various points of the city and be present everywhere. They have declared that if the BNP or crowd goes out of control they will not take it too kindly and will act and let none go unpunished. The IG of Police while participating in a talk show has been direct and said that any large BNP meeting held any place that is not sanctioned by the authorities will not be tolerated. He has sounded a warning that it may lead to a law and order situation and the police are responsible for maintaining that. He referred to the constitution as well saying meetings are subject to permission given. And no permission has been given as none have been sought. Read: BNP can hold rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on December 10: Home Minister There should be no doubt that the scenario is being primed up for a “showdown” between the two forces, the AL/GOB and the Opposition. No matter what happens the situation can go chaotic. BNP sees this as political mobilization and the AL sees it as an excuse to create unrest and pile on pressure. BNP has said that there will be no election with the AL in power and it will be removed through a movement. And 10th is a final kick off of the final lap. AL has said, it’s all BNP talk and it’s ready to confront any situation. The IG reminded that the 2014 valence cost several police lives and many disabling injuries. BNP also has a long list of grievances. So they all seem to be crashing towards a conflict. One wonders given all the hardline positions taken, if any party can retreat or not from them now. If violence does occur, crowds spilling all over the city as BNP claims will, AL and the police won’t take it lying down. What happens next seems more appropriate than ever before.
Argentina was the name on top of all pundits’ lists whenever asked who are the favorites to win this World Cup leading up to the tournament in Qatar. Their predictions were not just wishful. Besides the added incentive of watching one of the greatest players in Lionel Messi signing off his international career with the grandest of honours, it had proper substance given Argentina were entering the World Cup with the longest unbeaten streak for any team heading into the tournament: 36 games including that Copa America final against Brazil at the Maracanã. That unbeaten streak coupled with the fact that Argentina is 3rd on the world rankings and their opening fixture opponents Saudi Arabia are ranked 51st would most definitely ensure a straight forward victory for the Argentines right? Well fate had something different in store. Saudi Arabia stunned the entire footballing fraternity by beating their accomplished opponents by a scoreline of 2-1 despite falling behind in the opening 10 minutes to a penalty taken calmly by the ever-reliable left foot of Messi. Read more: Qatar World Cup: Saudi Arabia's stunning victory end Argentina's 36-match winning streak This loss raises huge question marks over Argentina’s credentials as potential winners. But at the end of day any Argentina loss is a huge event stirring all kinds of questions and doubts. The fact remains that on paper they are a well balanced team with an impeccable record backing the squad and its manager leading into the World Cup. The manager though needs to make a few bold decisions ahead of the next game, like starting Lisandro Martinez who has been in sensational form for Manchester United this season, ahead of Romero or Otamendi at the heart of their defense. Also despite the abundance of attacking talent at their disposal, Argentina’s gameplay still seems heavily dependent on Lionel Messi and the brilliant moments he can churn out. Defensively Argentina is a robust team but their midfield and attack need to up their game and be more cohesive to sustain meaningful pressure throughout the 90 minutes. Read more: ‘Now's the time to be more united than ever’: Messi after Argentina's shocking defeat to Saudi Arabia Argentina is a team which enjoys an incredible fan following throughout the world thanks to their glorious history and the pull of Lionel Messi. This army of unconditionally loving fans traveled to the stadium in Qatar, and tuned into their televisions around the world in anticipation of a thumping win to establish their authority on this World Cup but in return they got more questions than answers at the end of the game. Is this team really ready to finish the wait of 36 years? Is Lionel Messi going to sign off with the ultimate glory? Is Argentina’s notorious inconsistency about to creep in again at the biggest stage of world football? These are all questions that will continue to bother the Argentine supporters till they take the field in their next battle against Mexico on the 27th of November.
“It’s coming home”, the theme slogan resonates euphoria for England fans and invites ridicule from other fans. The chant was making the rounds resolutely when Gareth Southgate’s team made a brave run to the semis in the World Cup 2018 defying all expectations. It has been a case of going close to home but not actually there. England has failed to jump over the final hurdles in their last two appearances in major tournaments. The last one in the Euros 2020 final where they lost to Italy on penalties was a rather bitter pill to swallow for the English. Most of these players have now been there with Southgate’s set up for a while now, and the new ones are promising young talents raring to go make their mark on the world stage. Iran in their opening game was a much more important test for their world cup credentials than many would give credit for. For starters, Iran is the 20th placed team in world rankings but even if we ignore that, England previously have been notorious for losing such games on the world’s biggest stage. One doesn’t have to go back much further than 2010 when England drew their opening game to the USA, who in comparison to their opponents can be labeled footballing minnows. The result was so shocking that much of the world media had misquoted the score in England’s favor the following morning. Dismantling an Iran team which must have been determined to make a statement performance by a 6-2 margin in their opening game shows the maturity of the England team. Gareth Southgate’s biggest achievement as the team boss would be instilling a sense of national unity which even two world cups ago was divided by club loyalty. Iconic players such as Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard have gone on record to say how their club rivalries played a part in hostility within the dressing room. Now in 2022, such dressing room politics seem a tale of yesteryears. From Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka to Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, they are one team. Read more: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: England make strong statement with a thumping win over Iran England’s new “golden generation” will however face challenges such as their approach of making this attack-heavy team retreat back into a defensive back-five whenever it comes up against top opponents. Their approach in their upcoming game against USA, which provides a potential route for revenge for 2014, and an always fierce battle against Wales will provide a clearer picture of how far England has come as a team. But the signs in the opening game were promising for this team and their avid supporters. For now the chants of “It’s coming home” seem more hopeful than delusional. Read more: England Squad analysis for 2022 World Cup
One by one, most of the names of my own past are tiptoeing away from the scene. It’s not just the elderly but the near contemporary like Ali Imam bhai who was just a couple of years senior to us. We were both students together in the same university many moons ago and into cultural activities as well. It was soon after liberation and cultural freedom was in the air. Somehow we all ended up in the TSC auditorium so many times, me more an organizer and him, more a participant. He was already one of those young ones who was already a star. Ali Imam bhai was not the only one of course and there were others like M.Hamid bhai, K.M. Harun bhai and others. Interestingly many of these performing artists ended up in the TV world, BTV. It was then the lone star and Ali Imam bhai went there too. And for him there was no looking back. “Let a storm rise” I remember a set speech competition where my task was to hold the cup from which various participants picked a topic and 5 minutes later would deliver a speech on it. It must have been the winter of 1973. Ali Imam bhai picked up the topic ,a line from a famous song, “ emon ekta jhor uthuk” (Let a storm arise ) and spoke scintillatingly on it. Of course he won the top prize but more than that it showed his ability to articulate on any topic and not just make sense but speak forcefully too. He was gifted and he went on from achievement to achievement with an ease few can muster. We met professionally several times in our life but when I was working for UNICEF we were close. He was also freelancing for Channel I and Faridur Reza Sagar bhai. Together they made a team and while Sagar bhai was the organizer, Ali Imam bhai was the creative soul. Later on , he became even more closely involved and ran a UNICEF project on media and children. He knew children, he understood the media and together they made the best combo. His achievements as a writer for juveniles literature was unparalleled and it was not the Bangla Academy award that certifies it but the fact that he wrote more than 300 volumes plus. He probably would have gone on to write another 100 had ill health not cut him down in what could easily have been his literary prime. For him and many others, 1971 was a storm and it threw to the fertile earth many talents and unleashed the power of several generations that has constructed the socio-cultural framework of Bangladesh. He was one of the architects of that. Time and farewell I remember years back when we met at the Bangla Academy book fair. We sat down at one of the impromptu tea stalls and sipped tea discussing nothing in particular. I asked him about a book he had mentioned doing with me on history for children. He replied,“ Oh, Afsan, how I wish I had enough time to do all the projects I have planned. I just have no time. “ Farewell, Ali Imam bhai. Now you will have all the time in the world.
As the world watched the FIFA World Cup 2022 – hosted by Qatar – opening ceremony full of entertainment and anticipating a whole month of high-octane football action, I had a twinge of doubt. Are the ethical and moral circumstances surrounding this latest edition of the World Cup Ok? A couple of days back I was watching the recently released Netflix documentary, “FIFA Uncovered”. It is a documentary exposing all the dirty laundry of the governing body of the most loved and followed sport on earth. Some of the revelations put an end to any doubt of FIFA’s love for corruption. The ex-co members of FIFA deeming Qatar worthy of hosting the 2022 World Cup is the shining jewel at the top of FIFA’s corruption crown! Qatar beat the USA and Canada to become the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, defying all logic as at the time of the voting, Qatar had next to no infrastructure worthy of hosting an event of this magnitude in comparison to their opponents vying for the same project. Despite all this, Qatar was able to “buy” their way into becoming the hosts as the documentary shows. Read: Qatar ready to open Mideast’s first FIFA World Cup before leaders, fans A segment shows the immense Qatari investment in French ventures following the ensuring of Michel Platini’s (former UEFA president and FIFA ex-co member) vote going for Qatar’s bid. Interestingly, Qatar’s investment in Paris Saint Germain, the biggest club in France and the club Lionel Messi plays for now, is a part of Qatar’s investment in France following Platini’s tilt. Sports washing has long been an issue plaguing the world of sport. It’s basically a bid to use sports to improve reputations and brands damaged by wrongdoings of many kinds. What better sport than the most famous one known to mankind? So, an investment of USD 12 billion to host this World Cup was worth it. This included building stadiums, hotels and even entire cities from scratch. Qatar’s bid to sportswash their country’s image of human rights violation (let’s not get into the details) was just the latest in a long run which included the 1936 “Nazi Olympics”. Read: FIFA World Cup 2022: Things you need to know As a football romantic, I am cynical of the credibility of the 2022 World Cup and its shenanigans, but as Morgan Freeman said during his speech at the opening ceremony in what according to me was the highlight of the evening, “What unites us here is so much greater than what divides us. How can we make it last longer?” I do hope the most emotionally stirring game in the world does take center stage amidst all this controversy, and if not anything else, we as a world community can enjoy our heroes fighting it out far away from the dirt that touched the hands of FIFA officials and celebrate the ultimate glory anyone related to football can dream of!
The recent statement by the Bangladesh Bank that everything is fine with the banking sector and depositor’s money is safe has caused both mirth and irritation. Basically, this anxiety is created by both formal and informal media systems that regularly report on the ill health of the banking system. Given the mess the financial sector is in, the central bank doesn’t come out as more reliable than these sources. Dhaka Tribune reports, “The Bangladesh Bank today said that the deposits of common people in banks are completely safe. The central bank said this on Sunday in response to propaganda on various social media stating that the commoners are withdrawing their deposits from the banks. This is not correct and is being made out of conspiracy, according to a press release.” Read: Banks have Tk 1.69 lakh crore excess liquidity: Bangladesh Bank How BB was so sure it’s a conspiracy we are not sure but the public is very nervous and Bangladesh Bank had better accept that reality. In the last few months, the economy has not performed in exactly a stellar manner. There are several reasons including the dire global situation as all know and are regularly told. What they don’t mention are the internal problems that haunt the financial sector including corruption and incompetence. Dollar drama Not many own dollars but it’s the biggest question today. National economy is now being measured according to dollar reserves and rates. But “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” as Hamlet said is now the main anxiety. And like it or not it's BB’s responsibility to supervise and steer the ship through the foreign exchange sea. As media reports, (New Age) , as many as 20 banks are unable to make payment of import LCs including state owned banks. The source quoted in Bangladesh Bank itself. The reasons are allegedly ‘poor remittance’ and import earnings. Meanwhile the forex interbank market has become dysfunctional. As a result, some foreign banks have started to limit credit lines for Bangladesh. Bangladeshi banks have reportedly failed to pay Standard Chartered Bank, Mashreq Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Commerz Bank, and Axis Bank. Interestingly, Islami Bank which channels about 30% of foreign earnings also failed to make payment to foreign banks. Why , we have not been told. State-owned Sonali Bank, Agrani Bank, Janata Bank and Rupali Bank are the other names. These banks have sought the intervention of the central bank which has been refused. LC opening has declined by about 40 % according to the report. Meanwhile, default loans continue to rise and grow as corny capitalism finds banks as their best friend. So why do we need the central bank if it can’t do its job? So when Bangladesh Bank says, public money is safe, one has difficulties believing it. The banking sector resembles not the proverbial Wild West but the Cox’s Bazar scenario where the border between law and disorder is not always clear. It is supposed to monitor the banking and non-banking finance sectors but the central bank would not pass that exam. The failure of the shuttered banks like Basic, Farmers etc and sick banks like National and a host of NBFIs are good examples of inadequate supervision. The reason why the dollar market faces a crisis is also because Bangladesh Bank took no steps to prevent the acts which led many banks and attendant outfits to commit irregularities. It developed no guidelines and never implemented any. Read: Money changers can keep Tk 50 lakh max: Bangladesh Bank Bangladesh Bank may argue that they are overridden by the Finance Ministry or other political agencies but the point is, those working for it have also made a choice of being there. It can’t serve as an excuse. I too have made choices to work for an outfit and accepted the editorial policy of the House. When it became too much, I left. But it also means that Bangladesh Bank, due to its own performance record, as a guardian, is not in a position to reassure depositors. It has not been able to prevent any crime. It’s visible only when they are committed. Depositors' money may be safe but that’s not due to what Bangladesh Bank says or did.