Monday, May 25, 2015

Election commission slammed in UK government report

The European Union, UK's Department for International Development, USAID and UNDP have since 2011 financed a UNDP-managed project supporting the Election Commission in Bangladesh.

EU, by far the biggest funder, has provided   $8.8 million
UK's DfID has provided                                $2.4 million
UNDP has provided                                      $2 million
USAID has provided                                     $1.4 million

This is a total of $14.6 million, of which $11.4 million has been spent. A similar project took place involving the previous 5 year period

Since 2011, there has been three sets of key elections: the national elections in January 2014, the upazilla elections in March of that year (that were held in four rounds), and most recently the City Corporation elections in April 2015.

In September 2014, DfID undertook an annual assessment of the money spent on this project (written before the recent City Corporation elections) and it is damning. The much more diplomatic UNDP mid-term review is also critical in parts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So Salah Uddin made his own way to India?

The round the clock service that RAB offers
See: Salah Uddin in India - the 3 things to know

Those desperate to spin the story that Bangladesh law enforcers were not responsible for the pick up of Salah Uddin Ahmed from a flat in Uttara on 10 March 2015 - presumably suggesting that he or the BNP manufactured his own disappearance - have become so desperate that they now have to rely on quotes supposedly given by a singular uncorroborated anonymous intelligence officer to support their claim.

It is perhaps not surprising that the Bangla Tribune - the Awami League's friendly and cuddly bangla language news portal - started it off. It is however rather more surprising (and disappointing) that the Dhaka Tribune, its sister English language publication with its far more professional ethos, decided to do a bit of an encore.

Sometime yesterday, the Bangla Tribune, put up a story titled 'Salahuddin dosen’t know how he crossed the border' based around an interview with an anonymous senior intelligence officer.
Salah Uddin went to india in the third week of April by crossing the border. After several attempts he was able to cross the broder and went to india’s Meghalaya through Sylhet’s Jokiganj, said investigators. …. 
A senior official of a intelligence agency told Bangla Tribune, that Salah Uddin disappeared from Dhaka's Uttara on March 10. Then he tried to cross the border from different areas of country but because of strict monitoring of the border he failed to do that. Later in third week of April he managed to enter Meghalaya through Sylhet’s Jokiganj with the help of an agent. The official also said, Salahuddin was planning to go to Nepal. He was preparing for the trip during his stay in Meghalaya but because of the of April 25 earthquake in Nepal he scrapped the plan. In the meantime, he also become little sick.
Does anyone with a modicum of common sense or objectivity imagine that senior officials of a Bangladesh government intelligence agency - yet alone, as we have here, a single anonymised uncorroborated intelligence officer - have a single iota of credibility when they provides information very supportive of the government's line that law enforcement bodies were not involved in Salah Uddin's disappearance - when in fact this is a story where the evidence strongly supports the view that law enforcement agencies were directly involved in the BNP leader's abduction  and where there is not a single piece of evidence to support the contrary contention that he conspired his own disappearance?

I understand that the Bangla Tribune and many others want to believe that Salah Uddin's disappearance is some kind of BNP conspiracy - but it is sad that they can only do this through the obviously fictitious words of an intelligence officer. 

What this article fails to mention - because, of course, to include it would make the basis of the intelligence officer's claim even more absurd - is anything about what is known about Salah Uddin's disappearance.

Let us just remind ourselves about what is known - and what the Bangla Tribune and all the other pro-government media outlets leave out
1. In the early hours of 8 March, two days before Salah Uddin was disappeared, RAB raided the houses of three employees of the BNP leader - two of his drivers and his personal assistant - and detained them for two days. Apart from the testimony of family members and independent witnesses, we know that RAB was involved in these picks up, as it is mentioned in a police document given to court. 
2. On the same morning, acco, rding to independent eye-witnesses, in their search for Salah UddinRAB raided residential flats in a building in Road 136 of  Gulsan-1 presumably on the basis of information provided by the picked up employees. The RAB officers specifically went to a first floor flat where Salah Uddin had been staying until a few days earlier, and searched the flat. They found no-one there except a 70 year old cook who was also picked up. 
3. This flat was owned by a director of First Security Islami Bank, Shahidul Islam, who is also the brother of the chairman of the bank, Md Saiful Alam.
 4. The bank is significant as the building where the headquarters is located (just across the road from road 136) is owned by Salah Uddin and on same morning RAB raided the bank's headquarters searching for Salah Uddin thinking that he may be hiding in the 6th floor board room. He was not present there.  
5. RAB came back to the bank later that morning and took its CCTV footage away - though it is unclear whether they were looking for evidence of Salah Uddin's presence in the bank or whether they just wanted to remove evidence of the raid of the bank. 
6. At the time, Salah Uddin was living in a flat in Uttara which belonged to Habib Hasnat, a deputy managing director of First Security Islami bank. So he had moved from a flat owned by a director of First Secuirty Islami bank (which RAB had raided) to the deputy managing director of the bank.
7. On the evening of 10 March, men came to the flat where Salah Uddin was living. According to the multiple interviews which the caretaker of the buildings gave to different newspaper and others - which have been recorded both on video and audit - he said that men who introduced themselves as detective branch officers took Salah Uddin away, blindfolded from the building. 
8. Local residents and guards also confirm that law enforcement officials and vehicles were present on the road that night. 
9. Security officers of the local Welfare Trust confirm that RAB officers asked them on the night of 10 March where was road 13/b - which was the road where Salah Uddin was picked up from
10. Habib Hasnat (DMD, First Security) Shahidul Islam (Director, First Security), Md Saiful Alam (chairman, First Security) all leave the country immediately after Salah Uddin was taken.
Go here for all the links 
The article - and indeed all Bangla Tribune coverage of the Salah Uddin disappearance - also fails to mention that his pick-up is far from an isolated incident. Most recently just before the 5 January 2014 elections, 19 BNP activists were picked up in Dhaka over the course of a two week period, in eight separate incidents with eye-witness testimony in all these cases pointing clearly to the involvement of the law enforcement authorities, in particular RAB and the DB.

And also, of course, the article significantly fails to mention that another disappeared person, Sukharanjan Bali, was also found (as I have mentioned in an earlier posting) in very similar circumstances to those now apparently experience by Salah Uddin - and that he gave a statement that law enforcement authorities first detained him for 6 weeks and then drove him to the Indian border. Sound familiar?

So enough of all this. It is fine for the Bangla Tribune to have a particular ideological bent. It is not fine for it, and other pro-government papers and websites, to distort and lie about RAB's desperate searches for Salah Uddin, their circling of First Security Islami Bank and its directors, what eyewitnesses said about the evening of his disappearance - and instead to quote from sources that have no credibility at all.

As to the Dhaka Tribune. Well, it used the same quote from the intelligence officer in its main article in this morning paper as though it was a respectable piece of information. (Interestingly, in the Bangla Tribune article the quote was given to the Bangla Tribune, but in the Dhaka Tribune article, the same exact quote was given to the Dhaka Tribune. It would be nice to know which is right?)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Salah Uddin Ahmed in India - the three things to know

See also: So Salah Uddin made his own way to India, did he?

Salah Uddin Ahmed, a joint general secretary of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who has been missing since he was allegedly picked up by law enforcement agencies on 10 March, just over two months ago, has been located in the Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences Hospital in Shillong in the Indian state of Meghalaya.

His wife told me that she received a call from the hospital this morning, and spoke to her husband. She says that he told her that  'I am alive', that she should meet Khaleda Zia and and that she should tell the media what has happened.

According to media reports, the Police in Meghalaya say they arrested Salah Uddin Ahmed from Golf Links in capital Shillong late on Monday, that he was hospitalised and that it appeared to be a case of illegal trespass into Indian territory without valid travel documents.

So what do we make of this? Here are three initials things to know.

First of all this is very similar to what happened to Sukhranjan Bali.

Bali was a witness at the International Crimes Tribunal who was picked up on 5 February 2012, from outside the International Crimes Tribunal on the morning he hoped to give evidence on behalf of Delwar Hossain Sayedee. His defense lawyers claimed at the time that law enforcement officials who introduced themselves as from the detective branch took him.

Seven months later, New Age revealed that he was detained in an Indian jail. In a statement he gave from the jail which was reported in the paper, he said that he was picked up and kept for six weeks in a place that he thought was a detective branch office when he was then driven to the border of India and pushed over from where he was arrested for illegal entry. The article reads:
Bali's statement goes on to state that having been kept by Bangladesh law enforcing agencies for about six weeks, on December 23, 2012 he was blindfolded and taken by the Bangladesh police to the border and handed him over to India's Border Security Force.
"They stopped the car in Magura at a hotel to provide me with food. They removed the blindfold and I found out that I was brought there in a private car. After I finished my meal, I was again blindfolded and we were driving again and they finally handed me over to the BSF about 5:00pm and then they left," he says in his statement.
Bali says that he was harshly treated by the Border Security Force.
It seems that that the law enforcement authorities have used a similar modus operandi in this case.

Secondly, I doubt that we will know the truth about what happened to Salah Uddin whilst the Awami League is in power.

Though there can be no doubt that on 10 March Salah Uddin was taken by anyone other than the law enforcement authorities, pieces of the jigsaw remain missing - and it seems unlikely that Salah Uddin himself will will speak publicly. His wife said today that all she is concerned is that he is alive, and I am sure that there is an implicit/explicit deal that Salah Uddin has been allowed to live as long as he does not speak publicly about what happened to him. Moreover, of course, he may well find himself holed up in an Indian jail for sometime (on charges of illegal entry), with the prospect if he is sent back to Bangladesh he will be arrested on various cases against him.

And thirdly, this is how government's get away time and again with these kinds of abduction. Fear. Along of course with supine human rights organizations, a quiescent civil society and a silent and compromised international community.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bank raid suggests law enforcers involved in disappearance


This is a further article about the disappearance of Salah Uddin, the BNP leader allegedly picked up by law enforcement authorities on 10 March 2015, whose whereabouts remain unknown. It deals with the implications of a raid on a bank by the Rapid Action Battalion, two days before the disappearance. It was published in New Age on 6 May 2015

Bank raid suggests law enforcers involved 
May 6, 2015 
David Bergman and Muktadir Rashid 
An early morning raid by Rapid Action Battalion on 8 March 2015 on the Gulshan headquarters of the First Security Islami Bank further suggests that law enforcement authorities were involved in picking up opposition leader Salah Uddin Ahmed two days later, New Age can reveal.
Investigation by the paper has found that the bank provides a crucial link between a sequence of raids and arrests by RAB that finally resulted in the BNP politician being picked up, just over 48 hours later on 10 March, from a flat in Uttara where one of the bank’s deputy managing directors lived.