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Showing posts from November, 2013

Time for Soft Talk with Myanmar is Over

An OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) delegation, which included foreign ministers and senior officials from its member states Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Djibouti, and Bangladesh recently visited Myanmar. It was led by the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. The OIC delegation pressed for unhindered access of humanitarian aid to all affected people and communities, including Rakhine (Arakan) State, without any discrimination.They also stressed the need for clarifying misconceptions and misunderstandings on both sides and for building mutual trust and interfaith community harmony.
As has become the norm in this mostly Buddhist country that has come to signify the den of intolerance and hatred of our time, the OIC delegation was, however, met by angry demonstrators, esp. in the Rakhine state, which has seen more than its share of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minorities. Some 3,000 protesters, led by Buddhist monks, staged their demonstrations in Rakh…

Thoughts on Bangladesh - 6

Last week, I was in the port city of Khulna, located in the south-west corner of Bangladesh. It is a major city and is not too far from the Sundarbans. It was an unsafe time to visit the port city of Khulna, or for that matter any place within Bangladesh, given the political unrest that has been wrecking havoc inside Bangladesh since last month. It is a constitutional crisis, created by the politicians – both in power and opposition, who have no desire or so it seems towards resolving the problem peacefully. Violent demonstrations, including setting vehicles on fire, derailing trains, obstructing major roads and highways with everything imaginable, let alone throwing firebomb and attacking anyone on the streets, including police and ordinary commuters have become the new norm these days. So, it was a risky decision to go out of Chittagong. But I wanted to go since I have not visited the city since 1994. My mom’s family comes from Khulna, and many of my cousins still live in the city. …

Thoughts on Bangladesh - 5

It is said that if you want to find out about a city look at its manholes. Why – manholes? Well, those manholes probably tell us quite a bit about the overall health of a city. If those are missing, we can assume that (1) the city municipality may be financially insolvent, i.e., it does not have enough fund for emergency needs, e.g., to replace the missing manholes promptly, or (2) theft is quite common in that city, i.e., it is unsafe and that life is insecure for anyone living in that city, or (3) the police force is inadequate and/or ineffective to stopping such petty crimes in that city, or (4) the city dwellers are nonchalant about such crimes, or (5) the city dwellers, in general, are very poor, etc., etc. If you are looking for missing manholes there are plenty to be found in any major city of Bangladesh. There are not only missing manholes that are death-traps for many pedestrians and commuters, which often remain uncovered for years, but potholes are also quite common in man…

New York Times article on Burma - comments

Dr Maung Zarni has written an article on Burma in the New York Times.
My letter to the New York Times is shown below:
Dear Editor, I would like to thank the NY Times for publishing Maung Zarni's article on Myanmar's Drive for Peace. It shows clearly the ulterior motives of the current Thein Sein government, which is more interested in western investment, esp. in its minority resource-rich ethnic areas than true peace under a federal system of government. However, I am sad to see that Mr. Zarni has failed to mention the Rohingya minority of the Rakhine/Arakan state, which has been subject to consistent violent campaigns as documented by the Human Rights Watch, and considered rightly by the UN as one of the most at-risk minorities in the world. President Thein Sein current has suggested that all Rohingyas should be relocated to a third country and refused to restore their citizenship cancelled in 1982, whereas the ancestors of the Rohingyas are the first settlers of the region. The…

My Two Cents on Bangladesh – Election 2014

Last week, I had the misfortune (and that is the only way I can describe it) of witnessing the effect of a country-wide strike (Hartal) in Bangladesh that was called by the opposition 18-party alliance, led by Madam Khaleda Zia’s BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party). The strike was for 60 hours and it was extremely violent. The opposition wanted a total closure of everything – all government offices, business centers, educational institutes, and even all forms of road and rail communication networks – totally paralyzing the country. Protests of this kind are nothing new in Bangladesh and are a common feature, esp. during the election time. Bangladesh is scheduled to have a parliamentary election early next year. Public worries are around fairness of that election and the transfer of power. Although Bangladesh government has an Election Commission (EC) to ensure a fair election to take place the opposition alliance does not believe that it is neutral or would remain so during the import…