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Thursday, January 22, 2015, Magh 9, 1421, Robiul Awal 30, 1436 Hijr

Lauds economic progress amid political turmoil
UK Parliament note on Bangladesh
Observer Online Desk
Published : Thursday, 22 January, 2015,  Time : 2:06 PM,  View Count : 76
A 'standard note' circulated to MPs in the British House of Commons says 'the political scene in Bangladesh remains as turbulent as ever.'

The turbulence is blamed on the 'battling Begums', Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia.

"In recent weeks, the hostilities between the ‘battling Begums’ have further intensified," says the 5-page note, as it details the events after Jan 5, when police allegedly confined Khaleda in her Gulshan office and she called an indefinite nationwide transport blockade in protest.

Nearly 30 deaths have been reported in violence during the blockade.

It says: "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been widely accused of playing fast and loose with democracy. But the sincerity of Khaleda Zia’s commitment to democracy is also being questioned by many analysts. Some wonder whether she may actually be hoping that her current strategy forces the army to intervene once again and oust the AL government. As yet, there is no sign of this happening."

The note mentions that "perhaps understandably, given just how treacherous the waters are, Western donors have held back from imposing sanctions of any kind."

The only positive part in the note is about the state of Bangladesh’s economy and its social sector.

"Despite the almost constant political turmoil, Bangladesh’s economy continues to perform remarkably well. While there remain many challenges ahead, good progress has also been made on social development."

The note strongly criticises the legal action against British national David Bergman.

"In December 2014, the ICT found a British journalist, David Bergman, guilty in absentia of contempt of court in connection with a critical article he had written about it. The journalist received a symbolic punishment, including a small fine. Other media outlets and civil society groups have also been accused of contempt of court by the Tribunal. Such actions have been criticised for having a major ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of expression in Bangladesh."

The note says in November 2013, the joint British and Bangladeshi national Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was sentenced to death in absentia for war crimes. Uddin, who lives in Britain, maintains his innocence.

It says that there are calls within Bangladesh for the extradition of Tarique Rahman so that he can stand trial, though it is not clear whether formal requests for their extradition has yet been received.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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