Momen only fault:He track,trace and brought the killers of Bangabandhu, always voice for the welfare of expatriate,doing hard work for the Nation, globally.

News analyst. The Foreign Minister gave an interview to The Week (Indian) on 31 May 2020. Most of the questions asked by journalist Rabi Banerjee to the foreign minister concerned bringing back Bangabandhu’s killer.

Professor Taj Hashmi, an expatriate from the United States, has written some personal and incoherent writings involving the foreign minister on his countercurrent.org.

While we acknowledge that he has every right to do so – he is his own autonomous being – however, in writing this, he has subtly inserted some unsolicited, personal, angry and resentful information which is not only full of lies but also enough to spread confusion.

It is easy to understand the bloodshed of the self-interested groups in the country and abroad and a class of people jump up against the foreign minister whenever they find something. Manabzamin has published news at their headline banner as Chadabaaz (Extortion) Abdul Momen (2001) whilst his elder brother, former Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith’s was first contended in the Election against the four-party alliance, at that election period Dr Abdul Momen appealed to the expatriates for his elder brother’s election campaign. Manabzamin published a headline report that Abdul Momen doing chadabazi (Extortion) from abroad for his brother election. This is nothing new.

There was a conspiracy against Abdul Momen in 1971 as well. On that period, the Pakistani army, with the help of Razakar NSF, wanted to kill Abdul Momen by shelling his house on the banks of Dhupadighirpar. Domestic and foreign conspirators are now together against Abdul Momen because he has done a wonderful job for the country and expatriates including bringing all killers of Bangabandhu from abroad.

Taj Hashmi wrote much based on The Week’s May 31 interview with Abdul Momen. You wrote that Abdul Momen used to do NSF like you, he was the president of SM Hall.

“Many issues are made up and false in his ‘Open Letter’.

I never said “1970” – I have published many articles where I mentioned how I served Bangabandhu in 1969 in Rawalpindi during RTC. He quoted an Indian journalist who possibly made the mistake (I don’t know). Why should I say 1970?

I was never President of SM Hall NSF as he claimed.

I joined Bangabandhu in Rawalpindi at the RTC meeting. I did not accompany him from Dhaka. He made it up. I was living in Rawalpindi on those days. My RTC days have been published in many papers in early 1990s and reprinted in my books as well. Any one can read those and get the details.

I never said “senior amla(bureaucrate)”. No reason to say so. I
was Private Secretary to Dewan Farid Ghazi, not PA and was pretty close to Bangabandhu.

…I have no recollection of him” Dr A .K.Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh.

Taj Hashmi, this information of yours is not just a lie but a misrepresentation of the truth. Abdul Momen never said like this, he was not even the president of the NSF’s SM Hall. We understood, it always takes a reference to a ruler to establish one’s own cleansing. You have cleverly fabricated that reference. You have claimed that Abdul Momen met Bangabandhu in 1970, but the truth is that Abdul Momen did not claim this in 1970. The Indian journalist wrote this in the bracket without asking him or verifying the information, Abdul Momen did not make that claim.

Originally, there is a record of Abdul Momen’s work with Bangabandhu in 1969 at RTC in Rawalpindi. Dr Abdul Momen was with Bangabandhu at the RTC meeting in Rawalpindi. Numerous books, journals and articles of that time contain detailed information about it (RTC). Momen never said that he went to Pindi from Dhaka with Bangabandhu or as a travelling companion.

We know that Abdul Momen lived in Rawal Pindi at that time. He studied at Islamabad University. When Bangabandhu reached Pindi, he felt blessed to be engaged in his full-time service. From then on, Bangabandhu’s closeness with him grew continues. You have cleverly avoided this historical fact and are spreading false information about Abdul Momen with a few sweet words – I leave it to your conscience to decide whether it agrees with the ethics of a former teacher(you).

Further to the above, Abdul Momen has never claimed to be a senior bureaucrat in his life – this is rather a claim of an Indian journalist. Nor was he a PA of Farid Gazi – he was a private secretary. Due to age, many professors like you have equated PA and PS. Doctors have identified it as Alzheimer’s.

Taj Hashmi, you wrote, you were a classmate at the university with Abdul Momen. But the reality is – many people can study in the same academic year at the university – that’s normal. But he can recall your name. When someone reaches the pinnacle of fame on the pretext of the same year, many claim he is my classmate. It is suitable for students of the same university. That being said, is it reasonable to confuse a person who can’t remember when he or she saw you at the university with false information?


Bangla New Year-Baishakhi Style (Video)

I’m a woman. Phenomenally.

This beige silk sari paired with a red blouse and traditional jewellery makes you stand out, complemented by the reflected gleam of the sun. If you are more about making a statement than just turning heads, this how you cannot go wrong.

Silk, Begie/Golden, Traditional jewellery

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mashiat

Wardrobe: TangailSareerKutir

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort

Whispers in the wind

A block-print sari boasting the many colours of the season punctuated by a blouse designed bold but coloured subtle. This is what relief looks like in the summer. And this is what you can aim to look like as as, cool, comfortable and chic. 

Blouse designed by Jahin Khan

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Maisha

Wardrobe: Anjans

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort

The Last Rose of Summer

A sleeveless collared blouse draped with a Jamdani in soft summer colours, held together by a dazzle of a belly chain; this what looking different looks like. Tamed hues masking an untamed spirit, welcoming summer but always looking ahead to what comes next.

Jamdani, Belly Chain

Blouse designed by Jahin Khan

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Meghla

Wardrobe: TangailSareerKutir

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


The Red Lady

A silky sari in the colour of desire itself; a passion painted on the very fabric that you choose to spirit. What is red? It is everything that we know, hold dear and love. It is the colour of perhaps love itself. It is daring. It is dangerous. Paired with a gold blouse with the right neckline, it is gorgeous.


Blouse designed by Jahin Khan

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mashiat

Wardrobe: TangailSareerKutir

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


The smiles that win, the tints that glow

A sleeve that ends with a frill, a textile jewellery that concludes with seashells and a Sari that is wrapped in ways unimagined; this is the thrill that summer brings, a chance to experiment, to explore and to enhance the gifts that you are given.

Sleeve Frill, Textile Jewellery with seashell,

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mashiat

Wardrobe: Bibiana

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


Chorus of Colours

There’s the kurti made of khadi with motifs boasting messages from the bard of Bengal. The same bard speaks sophisticated words to the sari paired with textile jewellery imposed against the vibrancy of the its many colours. This is what a duo can look like, a fusion between the east and the east again, a homage to richness of the culture that we call ours.

L- Khadi, Kurti, Motifs

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Maisha

Wardrobe: Bibiana

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort

R- ShutiSari, Rabindranath writing, Textile Jewellery

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mehgla

Wardrobe: Bibiana

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort

She walks in beauty

Fire.Fiery.Furious. These are the abstract images that come to mind when you see this shade of red, in the silky blouse with a patterned neckline complemented by the similar work on the wrists. This is how the outfit is tied together; that and by the subtlety of the sari.

Same as before

In her eyes

Get lost in the two orbs that mesmerise while the bleeding cotton serenades your senses. The textile jewellery tells you that you are now in fantastical domains promising vistas unvisited. A volcanic eruptions spews a lava that paints the blouse. Where are you? Where do you stand? Or are you just lost in her eyes?

Shuti(cotton) Sari,

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mashiat

Wardrobe: Bibiana

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


Study in White

A high neckline embedded with pearls on a kurti made in linen, detailed in red. Complemented by the shadow on the left dressed in a white Panjabi with an embroidered neckline. This is a study in white, a colour that is seemingly colourless but one without which there would be no colours. A contrast and a conflict, in one.

R- High neck, Linen, pearl embedded neck


Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Abdullah Al Mahfuz Raj, Mashiat

Wardrobe: 02

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


What is red?

A panjabi with an embroidered neckline seems simple enough. Look deeper and once again you see the red, weaving its way through the neck and down to the wrists. Sudden splashes find themselves in the embroidery itself. There’s a message there somewhere and you are left trying to find where.

Embroidered neckline

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Abdullah Al Mahfuz Raj

Wardrobe: O2

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


A caress of colours

A luxurious drape of a silken sari, topped with a coatee made of muslin, the finest material man has known. Highlighting its many nuances is the subtle embroidery, emblazoning flowers in a game of hide and seek. A frill petticoat and a colourful aachal bring the display to a close. But turn around and look again. And again.

Silk Sari, with Muslim coatee with embroidery, frill petticoat, colourful aachal

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Meghla

Wardrobe: Z & Z by Simily

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


Child of the land

Green on green, the lime of the dress conversing with the deeper shade of the grass; of course, not all mortals are privy to such delicious whispers. A cotton skirt is paired with a long top embellished with embroidery, a flower here and a flower there, blue blooms in a field of greenery, a vastness unexplained but punctuated by indelible prints of flora.

Cotton skirt, Long top embroidery, lime green,

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mashiat

Wardrobe: Z & Z by Simily

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


Colours me captivating

A chiffon anarkali chemise hides beneath a cotton kameez which itself is buried in a light marriage of embroidery and block prints. A harmonious bond producing intangible fruits that only the eyes and the minds can feast on; a synergy that rushes and revitalizes in equal measures. An orna rolls in the colour spectrum, from a pink to a magenta to an orange to back again.

Chiffon Anarkali Chemise, Cotton Kameez embroidery, block print, Orna, Cotton

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Maisha

Wardrobe: Z & Z by Simily

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


It was all yellow

A yellow chiffon kameez gleaming with a shiny white cotton top, with one stand-alone embroidery on the side, readies you for the day ahead. Tassels in the form of puffs of multi-coloured clouds conclude the piece, with layers of a beaded necklace tying the entire outfit together. Some days, we are all yellow. Some days we are all with the sun.

Shiny cotton embroidery, Chiffon yellow kameez

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Meghla

Wardrobe: Z & Z by Simily

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


What is white

A pure white jumpsuit brought to life by a chiffon orna bleeding magenta, topped with a traditional bag. A fusion of many cultures, all in one statement piece, that exudes an aura of purity; a balm for the eyes in dusty, crowded corners of the world.

Jumpsuit, Chiffon magenta orna, traditional bag

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Meghla

Wardrobe: Z & Z by Simily

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort



A long skirt in white like a lone star in a cloudless sky; painted with a partial to red rainbow right across the middle, paired with royal blue heels. You sit in wonderment, at yourself and at the world that you feel belongs to you. You are tempted by a wanderlust, real and imagined both and you must go where your heart shall lead. You go blazing a trail.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Meghla

Wardrobe: TenzingChakma

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort



A serenade of simplicity

Monipuri  is the choice of fabric for the occasion. A maxi-dress to go with a powerful turban, evoking notions of strength, whilst reversing roles through the lenses of the mainstream. The red returns in a prominent border and the palazzo themselves become at once entwined with the image such a sight ought to conjure.

Monipuri, turban, Maxi-dress, red border (material tba)loose palazzo,

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Maisha

Wardrobe: TenzingChakma

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


I’m Gleaming

A boho reimagined in anarkali; a brown repackaged. Bejewelled with floral prints and a top tied together, styled like a chameleon, at once distorting any separation between two distinct styles of wear. What you have at the end is a piece to write sonnets on, unending strings of words praising what is and what could be.

Boho, Anarkali, Floral print

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Mashiat

Wardrobe: TenzingChakma

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort


The Dawn of Duos

A kameez generous with the embroidery resuscitates a forgotten shade of simplicity. On the left, another white is speckled with embroidery that is borne on the neckline and travels steadily. The red returns for the lady, classic red bangles to with red borders and a red kurti. There is nothing subtle here but loud and in your face, sometimes as it should be.

Hevay embroidery, heavy

Photo: SazzadIbneSayed

Styling: IshaYeasmin

Make-up: Noyon Ahmed

Model: Maisha, Rabbi

Wardrobe: Anjans

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort



Red is roses, red is the blood and red is an infant’s cheek, masquerading as pink. Red is many things, conflicting at times and coexisting some other. A red Panjabi, with lines stroked, barely perceptible unless you pay attention. The neck line is dotted with vibrant colours, creating such combinations that one did not think possible.

Model: Abdullah Al Mahfuz Raj

Wardrobe: Anjan’s

Location: Mermaid Beach Resort

Red cotton panjabi with embroidery


LONDON TIMES SOCIAL BUSINESS CAN BE MARKETING THESE BRANDS IN UK AND EUROPE, If you wish to sell or purchase any of these brands please contact: ltnewslondon1@gmail,com


Demeaning army chief amounts to demeaning PM

LT24::Dhaka Correspondent::

Bangladesh Army Chief General Aziz Ahmed has said that demeaning the army chief is tantamount to demeaning the prime minister.

“The rejoinder issued by the ISPR is the statement of the army. Meanwhile, I’m sure you know that … they are carrying out propaganda against an institution like Bangladesh Army, which is the pride of the nation, pride of the country — so that confusion arises,” General Aziz told the media after a programme organised by Army Aviation Group at Dhaka’s Tejgaon yesterday morning.

“Bangladesh Army is a well-trained and well-motivated force… more organised than ever before. The chain of command of the army is very effective. Every member of the army has rejected this ill attempt in the past and they are rejecting what’s there at present, and all those who are in our chain of command are aware of it,” he said.

“I want to assure you this kind of propaganda will not be able to affect our chain of command. Bangladesh Army is respectful to the constitution, determined to uphold Bangladesh’s constitution, loyal to the Bangladesh government and ready to follow any command of the government… the present government and we are constitutionally committed to face any challenge — domestic or global,” he said.

While replying to a query over Al Jazeera’s report on his family members and footage, he said, “I am asking you… case has been filed against you, there’s punishment, but if you were acquitted yesterday, and if there is no other case under trial against you — can you be called a fugitive today?

“Can it be said that you are a convict? If a convict is acquitted of the charges, he/she is a free person,” he said.

“There is an explanation of the propaganda regarding my brothers. We will inform you everything through a press conference on behalf of my family. I can say that I, as army chief, am aware of the image of the army, my position and responsibilities,” he added.

He claimed that there were no cases against his brother when he met him in Malaysia.

“There was a conspiratorial case from which he was acquitted in March,” General Aziz said, adding that he went to Malaysia in April, 2020.

The Al Jazeera statement was completely ill-motivated, he added.

“Secondly, video footage was captured during my trips to various countries. I think my security, as an army chief, is confirmed officially when I am anywhere within official capacity. Wherever I go, the host country does it. I do not think there is any necessity to take any additional security measures there.

“But if I am on a personal trip, may be visiting my relatives during transits, I don’t think I should use the official protocol. I think it is a wastage [of resources] and I shouldn’t do that.

“After getting our rejoinder, you would understand the purpose of those who are doing these,” he said.

“You have asked why I am the target repeatedly. I think, I will leave it up to you — you guys find out why Bangladesh Army is being targeted.

“This army chief has been appointed by the honourable prime minister of Bangladesh government. Demeaning the army chief means demeaning the prime minister. We must understand that,” General Aziz said.

“I am up to speed so that my institution, organisation — Bangladesh Army — and our government do not feel embarrassed or face any controversy.

“What you have heard … they can do it, collecting pieces from different places. But they will not be able to achieve the target. And you [journalists] have already answered them through your writing. So, I am grateful to you [journalists],” he said.

Asked whether any action will be taken against those in Bangladesh who contributed to the Al Jazeera report, the army chief said Bangladesh Army may not be able to take any action in this regard.

“I am sure, ministries concerned will take action in this regard,” he said.

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a rejoinder dated February 15 said the Army Headquarters outright rejected “all malicious attempt and claims of Al-Jazeera to debase a professionally highly skilled, universally accepted Chief of Army Staff without any valid evidence” in a report titled “All the Prime Minister’s Men” broadcast on February 1 by the international news channel.

The ISPR rejoinder categorically rejected the Al-Jazeera documentary’s claims of the Bangladesh Army buying equipment from Israel and its allegations against the army chief’s family.

“Note that the information provided by Al-Jazeera that the signal device was made by Israel is not true at all and the name of Israel is not engraved anywhere in the device. It is to be noted that there is no scope of corruption since the procurement of all military equipment in Bangladesh Army is done under a specific and set policy and following a number of steps.

“The procurement process for this signal equipment began long before the current Chief of Army Staff, General Aziz Ahmed, took over his office. The process started in 2017 during the tenure of previous Chief of Army Staff, following the procurement process of the Army Headquarters and with the approval of the Government the Directorate General Defence Purchase (DGDP) entered into the contract in June 2018. Hence the attempt of Al-Jazeera to link the Chief of Army Staff or his brother residing in Hungary in the process of procuring the said equipment was motivated by a completely nefarious motive,” the rejoinder said.

The rejoinder added: “It is to be noted here that in the said report, an attempt has been made to directly mention and present the Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh and portray his family as a mafia family. Such slanders and lies about the Chief of Army Staff appointed according to law by the Government of an independent and democratic country are utterly objectionable and unsolicited and which is not expected from a news agency like Al-Jazeera.”

Dr Momen another milestone for Sylhet :: ECNEC approves project to develop Dhaka-Sylhet road

BSS::LT24::Dhaka::The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday approved a Tk 169.19 billion South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Development project in a bid to ensure overall economic development by improving regional road connectivity.

The approval came from the 22nd ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal year (FY21) held with ECNEC chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair, reports BSS.

The premier chaired the meeting virtually from Ganabhaban while ministers, state ministers and secretaries concerned joined the meeting from the NEC Conference Room in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the Roads and Highways Department under the Road Transport and Highways Division will implement the SASEC corridor project by December 2026.

“Out of the total project cost of Tk 169.19 billion, Taka 132.45 billion will come from the ADB as loan while Taka 36.74 billion from the government of Bangladesh,” the minister said.

The main objectives of the project are to upgrade the 209.328 kilometres Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four-lane alongside two service lanes on both sides of the highway for slow moving vehicles, straitening the existing curves of the highway, building necessary U-loops, intersections, and thus ensuring speedy and uninterrupted vehicular movement.

The main project operations include 24.54 million cubic metre of earth work, 7.3 million cubic metre flexible pavement, 292,000 cubic metre flexible concrete pavement on service lanes, construction of 305 culverts, 66 bridges, seven flyovers, six railway over bridges, 26 foot over bridges.

The minister said the SASEC corridor will improve the country’s road connectivity with Nepal, India, Myanmar and China. “It’s very important that we’re looking towards the East internationally.”

The planning minister said, citing the prime minister, said once the SASEC corridor project is implemented, tolls will be realised.

He hoped that the project cost would be realised within 15 years after the start of collecting tolls.

Mannan also informed that the prime minister also suggested for keeping ‘earmark accounts’ in order to ensure necessary maintenance works of roads and highways.

The minister said the perception and directive of the premier regarding tolls is that – “the day for delivering services free of cost is over”. This means the country’s people would have to come out from the culture of receiving services without paying any amount.

The prime minister also renewed her directive to realise tolls on the major highways.

Besides, she also ordered the Roads and Highways Department to construct necessary rest houses, coffee shops with wash rooms, changing rooms for women along the big highways like Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-Sylhet roads.

Replying to another question, Planning Commission member Mamun Al Rashid said the per cubic meter construction cost under the SASEC corridor project would be less than the cost under Elenga-Katikumrul highway development project.

COVID-19: Every UK adult could receive both jabs by August, says head of UK’s vaccine taskforce

Sam Coates:;SKY::

Every adult in the UK could receive both doses of a coronavirus vaccine by August or September “or maybe sooner if we need to”, the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has told Sky News.

Clive Dix, who runs the body which identifies and buys vaccines on behalf of the UK government, said he was sure there would not be any supply problems.

Asked if vaccine supply would arrive at the rate promised over the next three to six months, he replied: “Yes, definitely.

“We are confident within the vaccine taskforce now that the supply we’re going to get will take to us to a position where we can vaccinate as many people as the UK wants to vaccinate.”

Pressed if this meant the vaccine taskforce was confident every adult would get two jabs, Mr Dix told Sky News: “We’re probably talking August time or September time all done, maybe sooner if we need to.”

So far more than 15 million people have had a coronavirus vaccine, with the UK government saying everyone in the top four priority groups has now been offered a first dose.

The next target is for all remaining five priority groups to be offered a vaccine by the end of April, then all remaining adults in the UK reached by autumn.Asked if supply might slow in the coming weeks, as some devolved administrations have warned, Mr Dix said: “No. That might be logistics.”

He explained that the taskforce was confident in the supply of vaccines due to the “portfolio approach” it took to securing COVID jabs, with the UK having secured access to seven different vaccines.

“The ones that are being rolled off the line at the moment, they are doing very well,” he said.

“Of course they could have a manufacturing problem, like you do with any manufacture of anything but with vaccines being more complicated, you could have a problem.

“But because we’ve taken a portfolio approach we’ve got other vaccines that are going to be approved in the very near future.

“And, once they’re approved, we’ve got those as back up. It’s a very low risk we wouldn’t have vaccine.”

Mr Dix also revealed that new vaccines could be approved in just six to eight weeks in the event new variants are discovered, rather than the year it took to get the first vaccines.

In the event of a new variant, Mr Dix said he thought “you could get to 40 days to having it tested in the clinic and know it works”.

He added: “Then manufacture would take another period of time because you wouldn’t manufacture huge amounts before you know it works.

“So it is a short period of time, it’s not waiting a year like this time we did this time.”

He added: “I think 40 days would be a real stretch but we would aim for something as good as that. But certainly within 60 days and then, after that, we would start the manufacturing.”

All the early data about the vaccines suggests they are as effective as the government hoped, Mr Dix said.

“You can never say for certain until you’ve got all of the data in, but all of the signs are incredibly encouraging,” he added.

“It’s looking like these vaccines are doing exactly what we expect – infection rates are going down, hospitalisations are going down and people are remaining – I wouldn’t say virus-free, because we don’t know that, but we know that they’re not getting serious disease.

“That’s what we were trying to do.

“The important thing is, if you think about the flu vaccine, the flu vaccine doesn’t stop everybody getting flu. But it stops it being a severe disease and it stops people dying.

“Remember that flu has been a pandemic, it has killed people – it has quite viciously killed a lot of people – so we’ve got over that one now.

“We work with the disease and it’s fine, we live with it and the health system deals with it. We want to do the same with this virus.”

Mr Dix did urge politicians not to set overly ambitious targets however.

He said: “I think the thing people have to recognise is that if you keep pushing the system too hard, something might break and then you’ve got a problem.

“I think the rate we’re doing at the moment is getting us to the right place and I don’t think we should push it too hard.

“We should push it as hard as we can, along with supply.

“If we say to the manufacturers ‘double your output to us next week’ – they might push their system and it might break.

“So we’ve got to do it sensibly. What we’ve done here is built something like we’ve built a Formula One car that can go 300mph.

“I wouldn’t like to be the person just sat in it with my foot to the floor, because if it’s never been tested before it may not work.”

The vaccine taskforce also helps with international supplies of coronavirus vaccines as part of their remit.

However Mr Dix said: “We definitely want to vaccinate our own population first.

“It would be a bit weird to have people still waiting and giving the vaccines to others.”

Covid: Four fined in Birmingham over red-list travel


Four air passengers have each been fined £10,000 for failing to declare they had travelled from a “red-list” country, West Midlands Police has said.

They were stopped at border control by officials and were not able to leave Birmingham Airport.

Under new rules, arrivals in England have to quarantine in hotels, if within the last 10 days they have been in a country deemed a high Covid risk.

The “red list” of 33 countries includes Portugal, Brazil and South Africa.

The regulations came into effect on Monday and the four passengers had been fined by midday, a senior officer told a meeting of the West Midlands Strategic Policing and Crime Board.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said that in the same timeframe, the airport received six passengers who did declare travel from a red-list country, who were taken to a quarantine hotel.

What are the rules for entering Britain?

  • You cannot enter the UK if you’ve been in or through a country on the banned travel list (known as the ‘red list’) in the last 10 days, unless you’re British, Irish or you have the right to live in the UK
  • Those travelling to England must take two tests after arriving. You must either quarantine where you’re staying or in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days
  • What you need to do depends on where you travel in the 10 days before you arrive – if you travel in or through a country on the banned travel list within 10 days, you must stay managed quarantine hotel; if not, you can quarantine at home
  • You need to provide your journey and contact details in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You must do this by completing the online passenger locator form
  • You’ll need to show proof that you’ve completed the form when you arrive at the UK border as well as proof of a negative test taken three days before departure
  • You could be fined £500 when you arrive at the border if you cannot provide proof that you have had a negative coronavirus test
  • You do not need a test if you’re travelling within the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey; from Ireland; from Ascension, Falkland Islands or St Helena; and children under 11 do not need a test
  • In Scotland, arrivals from all international destinations have to quarantine, even if they are not on the red list.

But of the offenders he added: “There are some people who have attempted to hide their routes but that’s not worked out.”

A police spokesperson said the fines were issued by Border Force.

Birmingham Airport is one of five in England where people requiring hotel quarantine can enter the UK.

Those who fail to self-isolate as required face fines of £5,000 to £10,000, while anyone who lies on their passenger locator form about having been in a country on the red list faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The rules aim to stop coronavirus variants entering the UK.

At least four countries are reporting more than 30 cases of the Brazilian and South African variants. They include Austria, which has seen 300 positive tests, and Belgium, with 55 - putting them at risk of being added to the list

It was not clear in the board meeting which country or countries the fined parties had been in.

Just four flights touched down in Birmingham on Monday, including a plane from Istanbul with about 100 passengers, some of whom were believed to be from a red-list country.

The other four airports where quarantine hotel guests may enter the UK include Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Farnborough.

Travellers in hotels face an ADDITIONAL £1,200 bill on top of original £1,750 charge if they test positive during stay

Travellers from ‘red list’ countries who test positive for coronavirus during their compulsory 10 day stay in a quarantine hotel face an additional £1,200 bill, it emerged today.

All arrivals in England from 33 banned countries must book a stay in Government-approved accommodation at an initial cost of £1,750.

However, people who test positive for the disease will be forced to extend their stay and they must pick up the tab for the additional days spent in self-isolation.

The additional daily rate has been set at £152 and it was only published on the Government’s website on Monday, after some guests had already checked in.

Guests must take two tests during their stay, one on day two and one on day eight, and they can leave when they receive a negative result and once they have quarantined for 10 full days.

But a positive result from the first test will extend a traveller’s stay by two nights at an additional cost of £304.


Abdul Bari successfully sues Sayed Chowdhury in a British court

Ansar Ahmed Ullah:: Managerial Editor::

Sayed Chowdhury, former MD of Excelsior’s Sylhet hotel resort, has been ordered to pay investor Abdul Bari, Taka 53 lacs by a British court. Abdul Bari, the claimant in the case, an investor in Excelsior resort, known as Zakaria City in Sylhet and Director of the Royal Regency, London made the details of the court verdict known at a virtual press conference organised by the London Bangla Press Club on 9 February 2021.

In a written statement, Abdul Bari said, “I filed the case of fraud and forgery against Sayed Chowdhury and Excelsior Sylhet Limited in the British High Court in a bid to bring Sayed to justice. I sued him to get my investment of Taka 53 lakh. Judge Saunders of Central London County Court announced the verdict on 27 October 2020. In the case, Sayed Chowdhury was identified as someone providing half-truths or false representations. Sayed Chowdhury was personally convicted in the case. The court has ordered him to repay my Taka 53 lakh investment, court expenses, and interest within 14 days.”

In the press conference, it was said the fact that a British court proved Sayed Chowdhury’s fraudulent misrepresentation is a unique milestone for other UK expatriate investors who have suffered and were deceived in the name of investments.

Abdul Bari said in 2016, he filed a case in the British High Court against Sayed Chowdhury and Excelsior Sylhet, alleging falsehood and fraud. The case was later transferred to the Business and Property Section of the County Court in Central London. The case was heard for five days from 27 July to 31 July 2020, following a long two-and-a-half-years of exchange of documents and evidence. On 27 October, Judge HHJ Saunders announced the verdict. The Judge said the defendant made at least four false representations. Given the determination, the Judge awarded damages to the claimant in the sum of Taka 53 lac.

Abdul Bari said the court had also issued an indefinite injunction on the property owned by Sayed Chowdhury and his wife Afia Khatun Chowdhury in a final verdict on 3 February 2021 in response to a separate application to ensure his refund. The injunction will apply to all their assets, including their assets in England and Wales and Sayed Chowdhury’s Bangladeshi assets and business share.

Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala becomes first woman, African to lead WTO

AFP:: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Monday to head the leading international trade body as it seeks to resolve disagreements over how it decides cases involving billions in sales and thousands of jobs.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was appointed director-general of the World Trade Organization by representatives of the 164 member countries, according to a statement from the body.

She said in a statement that her first priority would be to quickly address the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and to “implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again.”

“Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today,” she said.

The appointment came after new United States President Joe Biden endorsed her candidacy, which had been blocked by former President Donald Trump.

On Monday, the US delegate to the WTO said he was “eager” to work with Okonjo-Iweala.“The United States is committed to working closely with Director General Okonjo-Iweala and she can count on the United States to be a constructive partner,” said Charge d’Affaires David Bisbee in remarks sent to Reuters news agency by the US diplomatic mission in Geneva.


Biden’s decision to support Okonjo-Iweala was part of his broader agenda to choose more cooperative approaches to international problems after Trump’s “America First” approach launched multiple trade disputes.

But unblocking Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment is only the start in dealing with trade disputes launched by Trump, and in resolving US concerns about the WTO that date to the administration of former President Barack Obama. The US had blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appellate body, essentially freezing its ability to resolve extended and complex trade disputes.

The US government has argued that the trade organisation is slow-moving and bureaucratic, ill-equipped to handle the problems posed by China’s state-dominated economy and unduly restrictive on US attempts to impose sanctions on countries that unfairly subsidise their companies or export at unusually low prices.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration reversed Trump’s opposition and expressed “strong support’’ for Okonjo-Iweala and said she “brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy”. She is the first African official and the first woman to hold the job.

Okonjo-Iweala, formerly Nigeria’s finance minister, had a 25-year career at the World Bank, where she rose to the number-two position of managing director. She holds both US and Nigerian citizenship.

South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee had withdrawn her candidacy, leaving Okonjo-Iweala as the only choice. Her predecessor, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down on August 31, a year before his term expired.

Trump repeatedly accused the WTO of unfair treatment of the US, started a trade war with China in defiance of the WTO system, and threatened to pull the US out of the trade body altogether. Trump also imposed 25 percent steel tariffs that hit European allies on national security grounds, a justification that went beyond trade measures normally used within the WTO rules framework to address complaints about unfair trade.

So far, Biden has not said whether the US will unblock the appellate appointments, and he has not withdrawn the steel tariffs, which are backed by US steel industry and union groups.

The World Trade Organization is an international body that deals with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated among the bulk of the world’s nations and ratified in their legislatures.

Energy, development to get priority during Modi’s Dhaka visit

LT24::Dhaka::Energy, development projects and historical elements between Bangladesh and India will be prioritised during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit on 26 March, marking 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence.

“Apart from these, the two leaders [Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] will review the bilateral relations between Dhaka and Delhi,” Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami said at a programme on Monday.

The Indian envoy also said the two neighbouring countries were working to finalise a number of projects, which would be inaugurated during the Indian prime minister’s visit to Bangladesh.

He said emphasis would be placed on directions to take relations between the two close neighbours forward.

But the Indian envoy hinted that a Teesta water-sharing deal between the two countries might need more time. “Any water sharing agreement of an inter-river nature requires the approval of the state concerned (in India). India is working very hard on Teesta. The central government is in talks with those concerned,” said Doraiswami.

He said the two neighbours had exchanged information on six shared rivers except Teesta. India will move fast about a water sharing agreement after coordinating the data.

The programme was organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Bangladesh (DCAB) at the National Press Club.

India offers Covid vaccine to Bangladesh Armed Forces

In reply to a query, the Indian envoy said his country had offered Covid-19 vaccine to the Armed Forces of Bangladesh.

“Yes, we have offered. We will be happy to provide the shots to the Bangladesh Armed Forces,” he said, adding that India had expressed its interest in providing vaccine shots to the Bangladesh Army as a token of goodwill.

Vikram Doraiswami said the Indian Army had also approached the Bhutan and Nepal armies with similar proposals.

Bangladesh has purchased a bulk amount of the Covid-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India. Apart from the purchase, India had earlier supplied 20 lakh doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Bangladesh as a gift.

“We were together whenever there was a difficult time for both of us,” the Indian high commissioner said, adding, “That is why India expressed its determination to move forward together by immunizing Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh’s success ‘matters’ to India

The Indian envoy said Bangladesh was a special friend to India, and Delhi’s friendship with Dhaka was the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy.

On Bangladesh-India relations, he said, “Friendship always develops on mutual trust and respect. Sometimes my colleagues and I notice distrust in our relationship.”

But the Indian envoy thinks that if the two countries can come out of such mistrust and cooperate with each other, then both will be benefited.

“A strong, stable, prosperous and developed Bangladesh is essential for our basic national interest. Your success is the best for us, and none should have any doubt about this,” he noted.

Doraiswami said, “How could we be acting in a big-brotherly way? Honestly speaking, Bangladesh is a big country with 170 million people. So, there’s no reason to have this apprehension.”

Asked whether the growing relationship between Dhaka and Beijing contributed to the mistrust between Bangladesh and India, Doraiswami said, “India has nothing to do with China’s relations with Bangladesh. It is not my job to speculate on Bangladesh’s relations with other countries. My job is to discuss Bangladesh’s relationship with India.”

Trial of 1971 genocide ‘can take place anytime’

At the DCAB talk, Vikram Doraiswami, hinting at trials related to genocide committed by Pakistan during the 1971 Liberation War, said such trials could take place anytime as there was no statute of limitations in terms of time.

“I think we should be clear about it without getting into legal formalities. In other words, even if something took place a long ago,” he said.

“It is something entirely within the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh government to assess history and see how this goes forward.”

Bangladesh has recently reiterated the importance of resolving outstanding bilateral issues with Pakistan, including an official apology from Pakistan for the genocide it committed during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971.

Bangladesh also sought a completion of the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, and settling the issue of the division of assets of pre-1971 Pakistan.

India wants a fair price for Ctg-Agartala route

Vikram Doraiswami spoke on various aspects of the relations between the two nations, ranging from connectivity to trade, water sharing, border killing and people to people relations.

Asked when the connectivity project using Chattogram Port and Akhaura-Agartala route would be operationalized, he said a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) needed to be issued and the cost of goods transport needed to be finalised first.

“We want a fair price,” he said.

Delhi to resume tourist visas soon

The Indian high commissioner said India was now issuing 1,600 visas every day, excluding tourist visas. Tourist visas would also be resumed soon.

India suspended issuing tourist visas in March last year in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Since then, entry for tourists to India has remained suspended.

At the programme, the Indian envoy said his country was working to support a safer environment in Myanmar’s Rakhine state so that Rohingya refugees could return to their homeland from their camps in Bangladesh.

On border killings, Doraiswami said all such incidents took place between 11pm and 4am as criminals often attacked India’s Border Security Force at night. “Sometimes they get killed in infighting too,” he added.

Chad calls for world support as Sahel summit gets underway


N’DJAMENA: Chad on Monday called for international support to help the beleaguered Sahel as five nations and ally France began a summit on the future of their anti-extremist campaign.

Leaders of the “G5 Sahel” — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — are attending a two-day summit in the Chadian capital N’Djamena with French President Emmanuel Macron joining in by videolink.

Opening the meeting, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said the vast Sahel was struggling with “poverty, which is fertile ground for terrorism.”

He said it was time for the international community to “urgently” step up funds for development, to help cut off this source of recruitment for extremists.

The meeting comes a year after France boosted its Sahel deployment, seeking to wrench back momentum in the brutal, long-running battle.

But despite touted military successes, extremists remain in control of vast swathes of territory and attacks are unrelenting.

Just hours before the summit opened, Malian sources said two troops had been killed by a highway bomb in central Mali.

The deaths bring the number of Malian, UN and French troop losses to 29 since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally.

Extremist fighters in the Sahel first emerged in northern Mali in 2012, during a rebellion by ethnic Touareg separatists which was later overtaken by the militants.

France intervened to rout the insurgents, but the extremists scattered, taking their campaign into the ethnic powder keg of central Mali and then into Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed, according to the UN, while more than two million people have fled their homes.

The crushing toll has fueled perceptions that the extremists cannot be defeated by military means alone.

Jean-Herve Jezequel, Sahel director for the International Crisis Group think tank, told AFP that conventional military engagement had failed to deliver a knockout blow.

The extremists “are capable of turning their backs, bypassing the system, and continuing,” he said.

Last year, France upped its Barkhane mission in the Sahel from 4,500 troops to 5,100 — a move that precipitated a string of apparent military successes.

French forces killed the leader of the notorious Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel, as well as a military chief of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

But attacks in December and January have brought the number of French combat deaths in Mali to 50, prompting soul-searching at home about Barkhane’s cost and usefulness.

Macron last month opened the door to a drawdown, suggesting France may “adjust” its military commitment.
To lighten the load, France is hoping for more military support from its European partners through the Takuba Task Force which assists Mali in its fight against extremists.

The Sahel armies, for their part, are unable to pick up the slack.

In 2017, the five countries initiated a planned 5,000-man pooled force, but it remains hobbled by lack of funds, poor equipment and inadequate training.

Chad, which reputedly has the best armed forces among the five, promised a year ago to send a battalion to the “three border” flashpoint where the frontiers of Mali, Niger and Burkina converge. The deployment has still not happened.

Paris also hopes last year’s successes can strengthen political reform in the Sahel states, where weak governance has fueled frustration and instability.

Gowher Rizvi talks to Deutsche Welle ‘This was a failing of the government’


Journalist Tim Sebastian this Wednesday interviewed Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, on the German media outlet Deutsche Welle’s talk show ‘Conflict Zone’. They discussed human rights in Bangladesh, corruption, the recent Al-Jazeera documentary and more. The full text is given here.

For years now the government of Bangladesh has been criticised around the world for its human rights records. But its reputation received another jolt this month with the release of a news documentary alleging high level bribery and corruption. My guest this week from Dhaka is Gowher Rizvi, the foreign affairs advisor to the country’s prime minister. When will the authorities stop denying the truth about the repression they have inflicted and clean up their act? Gowher Rizvi, welcome to ‘Conflict Zone’.

Thank you

Your country has become a byword for egregious human rights abuses which your government routinely denies. As an academic who is used to dealing in truth, why do you serve a government that seems to have such little regard for that commodity?

Mr Sebastian, I think this question needs to be qualified a bit. When you say egregious human rights violations, might I explain that human rights is a very large word.

Let me be more specific then — arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, all of which your country is accused of by the UN, UN rights groups around Asia, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee Against Torture, that’s what I had in mind …

I wish I could deny all this in entirety. I will not deny that there have been instances of some disappearances. When you talk about torture, there is no documented evidence of torture, to the best of my knowledge.

The UN Committee against Torture is certain that torture is carried out routinely. It has received report after report that torture is carried out routinely by your security forces. And you will have us believe they have all got it wrong?

I would not deny it or say they have got it wrong. But I do also want to say that as far as the government is concerned, torture is illegal and we try to make sure that torture doesn’t take place. I was objecting to the way you posed the question because so many good things have been happening in Bangladesh. Today Bangladesh is one of the spectacular successes of development …

Yes, and you are very good at promoting the successes, the economic successes in your country for example. But that is not what I am asking you about. I am asking you about the things that have gone wrong in your country. Your government claims zero tolerance of corruption. The boss of Transparency International in Bangladesh himself summed up the extent of corruption when he accused the government of going after only, what he called, the ‘small fish’. The activities of the corrupt leaders at the top are beyond our imagination, he said. We don’t see robust investigation or legal action against those big players. So, so much for the zero tolerance for corruption …

If you recall, about six to nine months ago, there was a big action against various corrupt individuals and organisations. Many of them have been arrested. Police investigation is taking place. The Anti-Corruption Commission is inquiring into it. At the end of the day we have to follow a judicial process and this is a time consuming process. I am not saying that our process is perfect. I am not saying that there are no political considerations going into it. These things are true. But where I object, and Mr Sebastian you are such an experienced journalist, is that the way you paint the picture is all one-sided and the viewers will end up getting the wrong impression.

It’s not me painting the picture. I am relying on reports of internationally respected organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee Against Torture.

In that case, please allow me to balance that picture with reality and as it happens on the ground.

Which you are doing. But all this has paved the way for a high profile documentary which was released this month by the Al Jazeera network which reveals shocking levels of corruption among the officials of the state in your country and the government’s immediate reaction was to call the film false, inflammatory and a smear. You all did not even consider investigating the matter. This is hardly the reaction of an honest government, is it?

It’s being inquired. An inquiry is underway. I want to point out in all sincerity that the documentary’s title was ‘All the Prime Minister’s Men’. And we were told it would expose corruption around the prime minister. Do you really believe this documentary has succeeded in doing that? Was there a single evidence which incriminated the prime minister in the alleged corruption? This is where I think as sensible academics and journalists, we should stand back and ask ourselves, what was the evidence given to incriminate the prime minister’s involvement. And yet this whole documentary was billed as to show how corrupt the regime is.

The documentary was able to locate two high level fugitives from justice convicted for murder, whose elder brother just happens to be your serving army chief General Aziz Ahmed. That’s pretty embarrassing for you, isn’t it?

Technically it is, but on the other hand I’m not going to be defending everything. But the way you are putting the question, I need to ask, should a person be held guilty because of the guilt of his brother? I think this is a question we need to ask. Now if the brother in the armed forces helped his brother to evade justice and to further his criminal activities, this accusation would be extremely pertinent. What happened took place long, long before this gentleman became the army chief.

Let’s just look at some of the details that came out in the film about General Aziz Ahmed and his brothers. Two of them, Anis and Haris, were found guilty of involvement in a 1996 murder of a member of a rival party. Both were absconding from justice and went on the run. The third brother Josef was also convicted and spent more than 10 years on the death row. Magically, just before his brother Aziz was promoted to head of the army, Josef gets a presidential pardon. How did that happen? Is Bangladesh in the habit of giving pardon to convicted murderers who gun down their opponents on the streets in cold blood?

The certainty with which you speak is surprising. You have linked the army chief and his brother’s release into one story.

It is one story.

No, no, no.

My point is, you have to be pretty well connected to get a pardon for cold-blooded murder.

Let me give you the facts and then you draw a conclusion. The brother in question had served about 20 years in prison. There is a law that after serving a certain amount of years, you may be given parole of clemency by the president. All this happened long before, months and months before even the vacancy for chief arose. It happened completely separately. This man has served over 35 years in the armed forces, worked his way up with a fairly clean record. So why should we malign him and link these two stories together. I would like you to look at the timeline of the two events. These are six months apart.

The point is, as the film brought out, your army chief knew perfectly well where his two other brothers were, the ones that were on the run and apparently didn’t tell the relevant authorities. Isn’t that worth investigating?

It would be worth investigating, but please also you know as much as I do that both these gentlemen were outside the jurisdiction of Bangladesh. And yes, if this information had been available, we would have tried to extradite them provided we had an extradition treaty. In fact, in many cases we have done so. And there is no reason to believe we would have not done so. You are quite right. If this information would have been available to the government, the government would have taken action.

But perhaps this was all too dangerous to delve into. Isn’t it a fact that nobody in your country wants to delve to deeply into suspicions of high level corruption, do they? Too many people disappear and end up dead if they say the wrong thing and ask the wrong questions. It’s a fact of life in your country.

No, no, no. We are proud, however imperfect, we are proud of our liberal democratic system. We are proud that we have a prime minister who has a very intolerance for corruption. Our armed forces are firmly under civil control and therefore to say that corruption is connected at the high level is wrong.

How is it then in a state that is supposed to have a functioning justice system, that these two fugitives brothers of your army chief, Anis and Haris, convicted murderers, are reported to have returned to Dhaka in broad daylight in 2019 to celebrate a family wedding. There aren’t many fugitives killers who can show up at a big society wedding, mingle with the president and foreign dignitaries unless they have protection right at the top. You know that as well as I do.

You are absolutely right. If it was known to anyone that these gentlemen have returned to Bangladesh, immediately they would have been apprehended. There is no question about it.

But they were pictured at the wedding, Dr Rizvi, at an army military club, two convicted murderers, uncles of the bridegroom, happily celebrating with everyone else.

We are telescoping something that happened over 25 years, into a single incident. The brother had committed crime in 1996, long before General Aziz had even joined the army as a cadet. We now go forward 25 years later and we are saying that these two men came back to Bangladesh and this was absolutely a great failure of our justice and administration and the immigration police in the airport. There is no question about that. But you will also have to understand that these people had acquired different passports. Unless it was known to the government, unless that was on the watch list, it is quite easy for them to have slipped in along with thousands of people who come in and go out. I am not saying for a moment that this was not a failing of the government. This was a failing of the government.

Dr Rizvi, in a democracy with the kind of free press that you claim exists in Bangladesh, all these allegations which Al Jazeera made, would be plastered all over the newspapers and broadcast media, but they aren’t, are they. Dhaka Tribune explained to its reasons, “The reason for our silence is simple. The current state of media and defamation law makes it unwise for any Bangladeshi media house to comment on the controversy.” That it, isn’t it? You have cowed the media into submission and muzzled it so it’s become afraid of its own shadow. Are you proud of that?

If it were true, as you say, I would have been ashamed of it. But let me tell you what the truth is.

Are you saying the paper is lying?

Let me not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Let me give you the explanation. Indeed, there is a thing called Digital Security Act. This law, unfortunately, which our government inherited, was the ICT Act passed in 1996. Out government revised it and it is now called the Digital Security Act. Sadly, we have now learnt that some of the wordings are very loose and vague, which lead to which leaves it open to its abuse. But to say that the press has been muzzled, to say that there is no freedom of press in Bangladesh… let me just tell you. There are over 60 daily newspapers being published from Dhaka alone.

Amnesty International said in the first nine months of last year, more than 800 cases were filed under this act with the loose language that you talk about, with many of the most prominent editors and senior journalists increasingly targetted. So 800 cases, using this law which this government apparently inherited. Your government doesn’t seem to have any reservations in using this law, does it? It is time to admit your law is nothing but a weapon too silence critics and suppress dissent. That’s the truth of it, isn’t it?

No. I would have accepted your criticism and allegations, had you asked the Human Rights Watch, of the 800 or so (and I am taking your figure as you gave it to me) who were arrested, how many of them were journalists? You have used a broad figure of 800. We have faced a serious terrorist attacks in this country. We had to fight hard against terrorism. How many of those 800 were actually terrorists? How many of them were criminals who incited violent activities? Without differentiating, you have given me the figure of 800. I challenge you about the figure. Tell me, how many were actually journalists?

I can break down some of those figures for you. Human rights groups are pretty much united in their condemnation of your government’s crackdown, on free speech, especially during the current pandemic. Human Rights Watch said you arrested journalists, artists, students, doctors, political opposition members and activists who spoke out against the government’s response to the pandemic or otherwise criticised the ruling party. Last June you even arrested a 15-year-old boy for allegedly defaming the prime minister on Facebook. The child was sentenced to time in a juvenile detention centre.

Let me now answer the question as clearly as I possibly can. You are telling your viewers that during this period of pandemic, the government did all sorts of horrible things. Have you told your audience that Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world, compared to your own country in the UK, to the United States, or anywhere else in the world, where we have tackled the pandemic really well with our limited resources. We have one of the lowest death rates in the world. We have the highest rate of recovery. We have expanded our hospitals to provide treatment. None of these facts were mentioned.

I am sure you want to change the subject, Dr Rizvi. I am sure you want to talk good things about your country because that is what you are paid to do. That’s why you are a government advisor. Why do you turn a blind eye to what the UN Committee against Torture has been calling the widespread and routine commission of torture and ill treatment? You passed an act in 2013 supposedly outlawing torture. But 6 years later, only 17 had been filed against security personnel and not a single one had been completed. Is that a proud achievement when the government is allegedly cracking down on torture? It isn’t, is it? It’s a disgrace.

You are right in a sense when you say in 7 years, x number of cases of torture have been filed and none of them have come to a final judgement. I take your statement to be true and agree this is not a very good record. But the truth of the matter is, we did pass the law, we are trying to deal with it. Where I am constantly objecting, not because as you think, as you said, I am paid to do it, I might turn the same thing to you and say, is it not right you are being paid simply to make these attacks without putting into broad, wide context. Every question you have asked so far, you have gone straight into the negative dimension. Even on the pandemic, you said very clearly that all these horrible things are happening. Please tell me another country in the whole wide world which has dealt with the pandemic as effectively as our government has.

Dr Rizvi, it’s a very good tactic to change the subject, but I don’t want to leave it because you said your government is taking action against the human rights abuses. Is it going to take action against this so-called Rapid Action Battalion that you have? The UN says its members have been credibly alleged to have committed torture, arbitrary arrested, unacknowledged detention, disappearances and extrajudicial killing of people in their custody. You tell me about the good things your country has done, but are you not embarrassed this Rapid Action Battalion has been carrying out in the name of your government? Your government is killing people.

Let me say with all honesty and humility and embarrassment, that some of the cases that you have just stated are true. There have been instances of that which nobody in the government in his or her right mind defends.

Who is in charge?

Let me finish. You have asked me a question, let me finish answering it. What you did not say is how many of those Rapid Battalion force have been removed from service, how many of them are under investigation and how many have been charged. This was not mentioned by you. This is the role of the government. When it finds out that there is a serious violation of human rights, a law has taken place. They must get to the bottom. I don’t say we are always correct, but I do resent not being given the credit for the effort we are making.

All right, Dr Gowher Rizvi, it was good to have you on ‘Conflict Zone’. Thank you very much indeed.

Thank you Mr Sebastian. It has been such a pleasure and an experience to speak to you.

Bangladesh’s growth journey threatened by inequality, low tax: Economists


Bangladesh has made progress historically denying odds and eventually allowing a class to exploit public resources but a redistributive mechanism to address disparity is largely absent, say some senior economists.

Regretting that a privileged business class has captured power, they warn the country’s growth story may falter unless the fortunate ones are adequately taxed to lift the poor and ensure social justice.

At a discussion on ‘Turning Points of the Economy’ on Saturday evening, the economists observed uneven market competition for emerging entrepreneurs and subalterns like farmers despite milestones Bangladesh attained in the farm sector, and through microcredit, garment exports and remittance earning.

“In the 21st century, the autonomous capitalist forces have sufficiently been powerful to bring about state capture. This class has actually captured state power, as we see 70-75 per cent members of parliament are acknowledged businessman,” Professor Rehman Sobhan told the session as part of Ajker (today’s) Agenda series organised by Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC).

He also explained that the business class which was once partronised by the state has later benefitted from bank finance coming from millions of small depositors making a transfer of resources to big capitalists.

Binayak Sen, Research Director at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, expressed doubts about achieving higher economic growth in the post-Covid period, especially given the widening inequality and lower tax rate which, he thinks, is insufficient for meeting costs of better education, healthcare and human resources development.

“It’s virtually impossible for us to grow at 7-8 per cent consistently for 20 years without investing 50 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) raising it from around 30 per cent,” he said adding that for increasing investment ratio, technological progress must to be accelerated and necessary institutions should be built.

The finance minister of late expressed concern at the low tax-GDP ratio, which, the economist said, might have come down to 8.0 per cent during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Where will you get the money for addressing inequality and how will you get the money without taxing the fortunate ones?”

Mentioning that there is a delink between policy process and people’s initiative, PPRC Executive Chairman Hossain Zillur Rahman insisted that the issues of quality of services and collective aspirations should be addressed by the state.

“Unfortunately, a rather uneven playing field is there, not only in the political arena but also in the economic arena,” he said.

Akhtar Mahmood, a former World Bank official, pointed out that Bangladesh has formed two important oragnisations – Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) for supporting businesses and Competition Commission for ensuring fair market play.

“BRZA is working well but the commission is not. This shows Bangladesh’s environment is business-friendly, not market-friendly,” he said.

Naila Kabeer, a Professor of London of School of Economics, expressed her views that the non-government organisations showed efficiency in service delivery contributing to Bangladesh’s development and poverty alleviation. “State has not been efficient but has more legitimacy which NGOs don’t have,” she said, emphasising the need for raising society’s capacity to think about the future.