Looking back 2013 : National
Civic forums and trade bodies continued pressing for dialogues between the ruling and opposition camps to resolve the political impasse throughout the year. The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and the leader of the opposition in the parliament, Khaleda Zia, on October 26, 2013 spoke to each other over phone with Hasina inviting Khaleda to a dialogue over a dinner to break the impasse over an election-time interim government but it did not proceed. The UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, Oscar Fernández Taranco, mediated two sittings between the ruling and opposition camps during his five day visit from December 6. After his departure, both the camps went back to their previous stance.
The Jatiya Party and its chairman HM Ershad continued hogging headlines for sharp changes in political stance. Ershad kept saying that that he was leaving the ruling alliance throughout the year and finally so did in November. After the announcement of the election schedule for January 5, the party placed candidates in many constituencies but on the last day of nomination withdrawal, Ershad asked leaders to withdraw nomination papers and the order was not properly carried out. Ershad also collected resignation letters from ministers from the party on the election-time government and later sent them to the prime minister by post as the ministers failed to get an appointment with the prime minister. Amid such rapid changes, the Rapid Action Battalion on December 12 picked him up and took him to Combined Military Hospital for treatment.
The 10th general elections were the most-talked-about issue throughout the year as the opposition alliance continued going on demonstrations across the country for a non-party polls-time government with the government standing its ground for holding the elections in keeping with the constitutional provision after the 15th amendment. The Election Commission on November 25, 2013 announced the schedule for the polls setting January 5 as the polling day. Candidates in 153 out of 300 parliamentary constituencies were elected unopposed.
The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir held show of strength throughout the year after the conviction of their leaders and the party for war crimes and the cancellation of its registration with the Election Commission. The High Court on August 1 declared illegal and unconstitutional Jamaat-e-Islami’s registration with the Election Commission as a political party and the party appealed against the order seeking a stay. Jamaat-e-Islami rampaged through the country shortly after the delivery of verdicts for each of its leaders and the execution of Abdul Quader Molla.
The BNP-led opposition alliance began enforcing a blockade of road, railway and waterways on November 26, 2013 and enforced a total of 501 hours of blockade across the country in five spells — 71-hour, 131-hour, 144-hour, 72-hour and 83-hour — till December 24 after the polls schedule had been announced on November 25. More than 100 people were killed in violence during the prolonged blockade.
A sessions judge’s court in Dhaka on November 5, 2013 sentenced to death 152 former riflesmen and their officers for killing 74 people, including 57 army officers, and committing other criminal offences during a rebellion in the border force’s headquarters in Dhaka in February 25–26, 2009.
Opposition lawmakers abstained from all but two parliament sittings in two sessions in 2013. They returned to the house after 83 days in the budget session. For the last time, they returned to the house during the 19th session. For the first time, the parliament got a female speaker after former speaker Abdul Hamid took oath as president of the republic. Shirin Sharmin Choudhury is also the first speaker elected on seats reserved for women.
Goods prices continued going up throughout the year as the government failed to take effective measures. General strikes and blockades enforced by the opposition alliance also contributed further to price increase in the last four months of the year.
The country witnessed a spate of violence against religious and ethnic communities on different occasions. The Chakmas, the Tripuras and the Marmas at Taindong of Matiranga in Khagrachari came under attack by a Bengali mob on August 3, 2013 over a rumoured kidnap of a Bengali young man. The Hindus were attacked by a Muslim mob in Pabna over a rumoured demeaning of Islam and the state minister for home affairs, Shamsul Haque Tuku, was accused of backing the goons. In Lalmonirhat, Jaipurhat and Satkhira, the Hindus were attacked by supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami after the execution of Quader Molla.
Unrest in the apparel sector continued throughout the year over poor wages, lack of safety at workplace after buildings collapses and fire in buildings. At least 1,133 apparel workers died and about 2,000 became injured as Rana Plaza, housing five clothing factories, collapsed at Savar on April 23, 2013. Reshma Akhter, a worker, was pulled out alive from beneath the Rana Plaza rubble 17 days after the building had collapsed. The police battled with apparel workers who vandalised factories and vehicles and attacked law enforcers as labour unrest over wages flared in the capital, at Savar in Dhaka and in Gazipur on September 24. Apparel factory owners on November 5 gave the government an ultimatum to review wagers in 15 days the after the government set the minimum monthly wage at Tk 5,300 for workers as recommended by the wage board. The workers were demanding Tk 8000 in minimum monthly wage.
Bangladesh’s telecoms sector entered the 3G era after private mobile operators obtained 3G spectrums in an auction the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission held on September 8. The licences are for a tenure of 15 years, with an option for extension to 4G and Long Term Evolution.
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla was executed in the Dhaka central jail on December 12 on charge of committing crimes against humanity in the war in 1971. The International Crimes Tribunal, set up on March 25, 2010, has so far delivered judgement in nine cases against people, mostly Jamaat leaders, accused of committing war crimes. The tribunal in its second verdict in war crimes cases against Quader Molla sentenced him to life in prison on February 5, 2013, which prompted protests at Shahbagh demanding the highest punishment for him. The protests also prompted the government to amend the ICT Act on February 17.
Bangladeshi expatriate Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was sentenced to a 30-year prison term by a US court on August 8 for his involvement in a terrorist attempt.
Rights group and civic forums in protested the acquittal of a soldier of Border Security Force of India by a special BSF court on September 6, 2013 of the charge of killing on January 7, 2011 teenage Bangladeshi girl Felani Khatun in the Kurigram borders.
Bangladesh lost duty advantage under GSP facilities as the United States on June 27 withdrew the facilities, citing dangerous conditions for workers in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed at least 1,134 people, mostly apparel workers.
Teenager Tanvir Mohammad Twaki, son of Ganajagaran Mancha organiser Rafiur Rabbi in Narayanganj, was found dead in Narayanganj on March 9, 2013. The event triggered severe protests. Rafiur later accused AL lawmaekr Shamim Osman and his associates of the killing. Investigations later found the involvement of the Osmans in the killing.
The government on July 9 decided to withdraw two cases that the Rapid Action Battalion filed against Limon Hossain, a college student who had to have his left leg amputated after being shot at by battalion personnel in a village in Jhalakati two years before.
Former national cricket captain Mohammad Ashraful was temporarily banned from cricket on June 4 for his alleged involvement in match-fixing during the Bangladesh Premier League and the ban will remain valid until the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council submits its investigation report on the matter to the cricket board.
Controversy over Nobel peace prize winner Grameen Bank continued in the year and the parliament on November 5, 2013 amended the Grameen Bank Act elevating the government’s role in the organisation’s functioning without increasing the stakes of its ownership. The cabinet on September 9 ordered legal actions against Grameen Bank’s founding managing director Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel prize along with the organisation, for his alleged income tax evasion after the National Board of Revenue had reported to the weekly cabinet meeting that Yunus had enjoyed tax exemption as a ‘wage earner’ on his income during foreign tours between 2004 and 2011.
The Representation of the People Order 1972 was amended on October paving the way for political turncoats to contest the next general elections and increasing the limit for election expenditure by candidates and the limit for raising funds from individual or companies by political parties, a move that invited criticism from civic bodies.
Candidates backed by the BNP-led opposition alliance won city elections to become mayors of Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet where polling was held on June 15, 2013 and of Gazipur after polling on July 6, 2013.
Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam held a rally in Shapla Square after a march towards Dhaka on May 5, demanding the enactment of blasphemy law among 13 of its demands, after branding Shahbagh protesters as atheists. The law enforcement agencies early May 6 flashed them out from Motijheel.
The government on June 26 invited international tender for the construction of the main structure of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project. The Bangladesh Bridge Authority floated the tender after almost two years after the selection of pre-qualifiers for the same component of the project on July 5, 2011, because of a series of events that followed the World Bank’s allegation of ‘corruption conspiracy’ in the project.
Several thousand left-leaning activists held the Dhaka-Sundarban long march on September 26 demanding that the government should not establish a 1,320MW coal-fired power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat near Sundarban.
Law and order continued to deteriorate, with an increase in incidents such as killing, mugging and other crimes. Juba League leader Reazul Haque Khan Milky, 42, was shot dead in daylight at Gulshan Circle 1 in Dhaka on July 30, 2013. A pir, his son and four of his followers were killed at Gopibagh in Dhaka on December 21, 2013 and Ekushey Padak winner photojournalist Aftab Ahmad was killed in his house on December 25. Teenager Oishee along he friends killed her parents, Special Branch officer Mahfuzur Rahman and his wife Swapna Rahman, in their house at Chamelibagh in Dhaka on August 16. Extrajudicial killings in custody continued throughout the year. The parliament on October 24 passed a private member’s bill stipulating a minimum punishment of life imprisonment with fines for law enforcement personnel or government officials for custodial death, torture and cruel inhumane treatment. The bill also provides for suspension of the accused from service during investigation of the charges.
The police on September 2, 2013 pressed charges against 362 people in seven of the 19 cases filed for attack on and looting of Buddhist temples and houses in Cox’s Bazar and at Ramu, Ukhiya and Teknaf in Chittagong in September 2012.
A speedy trial tribunal in Dhaka on December 18, 2013 sentenced eight Chhatra League leaders to death and 13 others to life in prison for killing Bishwajit Kumar Das, who was hacked to death in Old Town of Dhaka during a road blockade by the BNP-led opposition on December 9, 2012.
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on November 18 reorganised her cabinet by inducting eight new faces, mostly from the Ershad-led Jatiya Party, turning it into a four-party government ahead of the general elections. The Awami League’s advisory council members Tofail Ahmed and Amir Hossain Amu, Workers Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon, Jatiya Party secretary general ABM Ruhul Amin Hawlader and presidium members Rowshan Ershad and Anisul Islam Mahmud were sworn in as ministers while two more Jatiya Party leaders – Mojibul Haque Chunnu and Salma Islam – took oath as state ministers. But Ershad on December 4, 2013 asked the all the Jatiya Party ministers to resign and the ministers on December 8 sent their resignation to the prime minister by post.
Bangladesh’s 19th president Zillur Rahman died in a hospital in Singapore on March 20, 2013 and Abdul Hamid, who was the speaker, became the new president on November 18, 2013.
The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act 2013 was passed on June 11, 2013, provisioning for videos, photographs, and audio clips used on Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other social media to be admissible as evidence in the court of law and death sentence as the highest punishment for terrorism and subversive activities depending on the extent of the crimes.
Bangladesh on September 27, 2013 started drawing power from the Indian grid on a trial basis through a 103-kilometre high-voltage transmission line between Baharampur in Pashchim Banga, India, and Bheramara in Kushtia.
The Bangladesh cricket team anchored another ‘whitewash’ by landing a big win to wrap up the three-match one day international series 3-0 against New Zealand with a convincing four wicket victory November 3.
Give Your Comment
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
- Full story