Friday, March 24, 2006

Highlights 24th March 2006

Dhaka relents on right to transit in principle

Away from the glare of publicity, Dhaka has given in to New Delhi's long-standing demand for transit rights from India's eastern region to its remote insurgency-wracked northeastern states through Bangladeshi territory. Diplomats, who didn't want to be named, described Bangladesh's concession as the biggest positive outcome of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia's March 20-22 state visit to India.
"The granting of the Bangla corridor we had been hankering after for years is bound to transform frosty relations embittered by charges of abetting terrorism and illegal immigration", a senior Indian official observed. In return, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's government has given the political approval to a $2.25 billion investment by India's biggest private sector company, the Tata group, in the impoverished Muslim country.The decks have been cleared for the Tatas to invest in steel, power and fertilser plants creating thousands of jobs and adding two per cent to Bangladesh's gross national project (GNP) and correct the huge trade imbalance between the two countries. After Dr Singh's green signal, Indronil Sengupta, chief of Tata Bangladesh project, called on Khaleda to take forward investment plans on the sidelines of the three-day state visit.
Although the success in transit and investment issues, being described diplomatically as Bangladesh's 'gift' to India and India's 'return-gift' do not figure in the joint declaration signed by the two premiers, analysts are hailing it as an 'unexpected breakthrough'. Significantly, while agreeing in principle to allow India to use its roads, waterways and railways for trade and commerce, Dhaka has demanded similar transit rights to landlocked Nepal and Bhutan through Indian territory.
Sources say that Indian officials were taken aback by Bangladesh's counter-demand but agreed to hold another round of talks to sort it out.Geographically, Bangladesh is encircled by India on the east, north and west. So New Delhi desperately wanted Bangladesh's permission to allow Indian goods to pass through its territory. But successive regimes in Dhaka refused to budge although Bangladesh stood to gain plenty of foreign exchange. Apparently, the biggest stumbling block was India's refusal to throw open its huge domestic market to Bangladeshi goods to correct glaring trade inequalities. A truck takes 10 days to travel from Calcutta to Agartala, capital of the northeastern state of Tripura, covering 2,200km through forests and treacherous mountain roads. Cut through Bangladesh and the distance shrinks dramatically to 450km and the trip can be made in two days.The 'Bangla corridor' is the shortest and most economical route to transport goods from its eastern to its northeastern region. It will also help India to fight secessionist guerrillas in the region bordering China, Myanmar and Bhutan. Says India's Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath: 'At present the cost of shipping a container between Calcutta and Dhaka via Singapore is $2500 and the journey takes 15 days. But if it is sent overland, it will cost a mere $500 and take only five days.'

Wal-Mart's Shirts of Misery from Bangladesh

When you purchase a shirt in Walmart, do you ever imagine young women in Bangladesh forced to work from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week, paid just 9 cents to 20 cents an hour, who are denied health care and maternity leave; screamed at to work faster; with monitored bathroom visits; and who will be fired for daring to complain or ask for their rights? At the Beximco factory in the Dhaka Export Processing Zone in Bangladesh, there are 1,000 workers, at least 80 percent of them young women, sewing shirts and pants for Walmart and other retailers. Beximco is a sweatshop, where human rights are systematically violated. Walmart and its contractor Beximco do not pay the overtime premium. In fact, as we have seen, they do not even pay the legal hourly wage of 33 cents. They pay only 20 cents an hour and pay overtime at this same illegal 20-cent rate..........More

Arab couple deported for indecent behaviour

They were necking near the Metro cinema junction on Tuesday afternoon when a woman constable from Azad Maidan police station decided to intervene. She warned them against indecent behaviour in a public place. When they argued back, she demanded they show their passports. As luck would have it Lamyani’s visa had expired. Now that legal transgress backed moral outrage , the couple was marched off to the Azad Maidan police station. Not chastened in the least, they promptly got into a clinch again. The police booked both under section 110 of the Bombay Police Act for indecent behaviour in a public place; Lamyani was also booked for overstaying in India (section 14 (1) of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and section 7 (3) (iii) of the Foreigners Order, 1948)......

Why did the CIA resist the arrest of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan?

Over the last few months, this story has taken a new twist. Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister, revealed in August 2005 that the Netherlands was prepared to arrest Abdul Qadeer Khan 30 years ago. Dutch authorities came close to arresting Khan twice, first in 1975 and later in 1986, but the CIA requested that they let him act freely. This revelation is embarrassing to both the CIA and Dutch minister of Justice P. H. Donner, who was previously asked about possible CIA action concerning Khan, and told parliament ''that nothing of the kind has happened. The CIA had nothing to do with it''. Dutch intelligence had suspicions that Khan was stealing nuclear secrets in the Netherlands. They began to monitor him as soon as he arrived at the Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory. However, according to Lubbers, the country's security agency asked the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1975, then headed by him, not to act against Khan. “I think the American intelligence agency put into practice what is very common there; just give us all the information. And do not arrest that man; just let him go ahead. We will have him followed and that way gain more information," Lubbers told VPRO Argos Radio in an interview............

Muslim Hypocrisy: The Shabina Begum case never had anything to do with modesty

Here she is, at the centre of a national media storm, and one that has bee
n very largely whipped up by her own supporters. There goes our Shabina, batting her (rather beautiful) eyes through her visor, and thereby exciting the interest of millions of otherwise apathetic viewers, who are not only infidels but very possibly male infidels at that. This is the 17-year-old from Luton whose dress sense and physical form are now the number one subject for conversation in every household in the country; and yet for years we have been asked to believe that the reason she wanted to vindicate her right to break school rules, and wear a tent instead of shalwar kameez, was to protect - in the word of her lawyer, Cherie Blair - her "modesty". What total tripe. This ludicrous and lamentable case had nothing to do with "modesty". I don't believe she wore the jilbab to "regain control of her body" any more than I could hope to wear a smarter suit and thereby regain control of my own. This case wasn't even about religion, or conscience, or the dictates of faith. At least it wasn't primarily about those things. It was about power. It was about who really runs the schools in this country, and about how far militant Islam could go in bullying the poor, cowed, gelatinous and mentally spongiform apparatus of the British state.............More


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