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Bangladesh government insists on Pakistan apology

Oliver Scanlan
22 May 2009

The secretary to the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry insisted that the country's stance that Pakistan must apologise for acts of genocide committed during the 1971 Liberation War remains unchanged. The secretary, Mohammed Touhid Hossain, said that Foreign Minister Dipu Moni had reiterated this position to Pakistan's High Commissioner when the two of them met on Tuesday. Dipu Moni told Alamgir Bashar Khan Babar that Pakistan must apologise for the killing of three million people during the turmoil of 1971, when East Pakistan broke from West Pakistan to become the independent nation of Bangladesh.

But Pakistan has so far resisted these calls. The closest a Pakistani head of state has come to a full apology was when Pervez Musharraf, during a trip to Dhaka in 2002, apologised to Bangladesh for "developments in 1971". In response to Dipu Moni's request on Tuesday, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said that the issue was settled under the terms of the 1974 tripartite agreement between India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Basit urged Bangladesh on Thursday to "let bygones be bygones".

Human Rights Watch urges Bangladesh to disband military intelligence

In a report published on Monday, the New York based human rights organisation Human Rights Watch called on Bangladesh's government to disband its military intelligence apparatus, the DGFI, and the counter-terrorism unit RAB "given their long history of arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings." At the very least, the report urges the creation of an independent commission to review the activities of the two organisations and bring officers guilty of human rights abuses to trial.

The report is extremely critical of the two organisations. Brad Adams, the Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying, "If you are a soldier, a member of the Rapid Action Battalion or the intelligence services, or a police officer, you can get away with murder in Bangladesh." This culture of impunity is in part due to an outdated legal framework, with Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code requiring explicit government approval to prosecute an officer purporting to act in an official capacity. The political will to give this approval, notes Human Rights Watch, is rarely there and, as a consequence, over 1,000 extrajudicial or "cross-fire" killings have been carried out by the military, RAB and police over the last five years.

Six month ban on rice exports implemented

The Bangladesh Commerce Ministry has announced a ban on exports of all types of rice from Bangladesh for six months. The Ministry issued an SRO (Statutory Regulat8ory Order) on 19 May. The Commerce Ministry said that the decision had been taken to ensure the availability of rice domestically. The crop comprises Bangladesh's staple diet, with the majority of the population eating rice three times a day. Its price on the domestic market is thus inextricably linked to the country's overall political stability. Thailand, India, Vietnam and Brazil have already instigated bans on the crop's export.

Results of BDR Probe may remain secret

On Thursday, the Bangladesh Army's Chief of Army Staff (CAS) General Moeen U. Ahmed said that the army's probe into the BDR mutiny and subsequent massacre of army officers was an army internal affair. Although he affirmed that no decision has yet been taken regarding distribution, he said that "we have to maintain certain procedures and we're following those."

Speaking to reporters at a function being held by the Trust Bank, he said that the families of those killed will be provided with shelter and 40,000 taka for ten years. Although Ahmed is only technically head of the Bangladesh army, due to the army's preeminence among the various armed services, he is considered the most senior serviceman in the country.

His comments indicate that it is possible, if not likely, that the government report on what was the most significant domestic disturbance in Bangladesh for many years will never see the light of day.  

Bangladesh to send troops to Darfur

On Thursday, the public relations office of the Bangladeshi armed forces, the ISPR, said that Bangladesh will be contributing 212 troops to serve in Sudan under the "United Nations African Union Mission in Sudan." The first 107 troops left Dhaka on Wednesday night with another 105 following on Friday.

India claims controversial dam project won't harm Bangladesh

After a meeting with Shipping Minister Afsarul Amin on Tuesday, the Indian High Commissioner conceded for the first time that the proposed Tipaimukh hydropower project on the cross boundary river Barak will include a dam. Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty told reporters that Bangladeshi fears over this project were unfounded.

Playing down the concerns expressed by environmentalists that the project would lead to the drying up of the river Meghna in the Greater Sylhet region of north east Bangladesh, Chakravarty said that bilateral discussions regarding the project had been going on for some time, and that a Bangladeshi delegation had been invited to inspect the project by the Indian government.

Shipping Minister Amin appeared to support the High Commissioner's assertions, saying that "Bangladesh will not be harmed by the project." The Barak river supplies 7 to 8 percent of Bangladesh's water and millions of people depend on the river, as well as the river Meghna which the Barak feeds, for fishing and agriculture.
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