Meenakshi GangulyThe Bangladesh government has ignored repeated queries from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances about human rights abuses, says Human Rights Watch (HRW).It noted that the Bangladesh authorities rejected report of enforced disappearances instead of investigating them.The global rights body on Saturday came up with the criticism in a rebuttal of the Bangladesh home minister’s rejection of an 82-page report on secret detentions and enforced disappearances in Bangladesh, released by the HRW last week.”[The government is] Callously ignoring victims’ families who are desperately waiting for answers,” the HRW’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly wrote in her piece titled “No, Bangladesh, The Truth is Not a ‘Smear Campaign’” published on the HRW website Saturday.She observed that just hours after HRW released the report on secret detentions and enforced disappearances, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan claimed it was a “smear campaign”.It was pointed out that under international law, a “disappeared person” is someone held (or last seen) in the custody of agents of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or whereabouts of the person, which places them outside the protection of the law.Meenakshi Ganguly mentioned that HRW has “produced a detailed analysis of cases where individuals were picked up, often in front of witnesses or family members by security forces who identified themselves as members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Detective Branch (DB), or the ‘administration’”.She added: “When these people were not produced in court within 24 hours, as required under Bangladeshi law, family members repeatedly approached police and other officials, who denied the person was detained.”Several were later found killed in so-called gunfights or “cross-fire,” and scores remain “disappeared”, said the HRW official.She pointed out that instead of committing to investigate these incidents, Khan declared his government will “reject the report outright.””As head of the ministry responsible for internal security, the home minister claimed the United Nations had never mentioned enforced disappearances,” she wrote in the piece.”In fact, like the detailed letters sent by Human Rights Watch requesting comment on these abuses, the Bangladesh government has ignored repeated queries from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.”Referring to prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s promise, while in opposition, to bring an end to human rights violations, the HRW official said now nearing the end of its second consecutive term, “her Awami League government is not just echoing its abusive predecessors, but its security forces are secretly detaining and disappearing its political opponents and critics, as well as others it deems to be criminals.”Read more:Home minister rejects HRW report on disappearancesPolitical opponents held in secret detention: HRW
Al-Qaeda in Yemen overran three southern towns just days after a deadly US raid targeting its commanders, before withdrawing from two of them on Friday, officials said.The jihadists’ entry into the Abyan province towns of Loder, Shaqra and Ahwar came as the White House defended Sunday’s raid on an Al-Qaeda compound as a “success”, even though multiple civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed.Abyan has long been an Al-Qaeda stronghold and it was only through a major offensive backed by a Saudi-led coalition last summer that the government was able to drive its fighters out of the province’s main towns.But the jihadists have faced some opposition from ordinary Yemenis.”The Al-Qaeda fighters withdrew from Loder and Shaqra after protest demonstrations by residents,” a local government official said.”Residents made clear during the protests that they were ready to take up arms if necessary.”The jihadists’ entry into the two towns on Thursday evening was helped by a pullout by government forces angry over the late payment of their wages, a security official told AFP.”Our forces are also angry that they have not been provided with the weapons and other equipment to confront the jihadists, who have been stepping up their armed attacks,” the official said.Al-Qaeda fighters set up roadblocks around the towns and blew up two security service buildings.Saudi-led aircraft carried out two strikes on jihadist positions in Loder overnight, the official added.Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of nearly two years of fighting between government forces and Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa to entrench its presence in the south.Washington has kept up its long-running drone war against the jihadists but that has done little to dent their influence.Sunday’s raid on an Al-Qaeda compound in Baida province was the first such operation of Donald Trump’s presidency.Navy SEAL Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, was killed and three other US troops were wounded in a fierce gunfight.And on Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that several non-combatants, including children, had apparently been killed.A Yemeni provincial official said eight women and eight children died.The International Crisis Group think-tank warned on Thursday that operations like the Baida raid risked fanning hostility towards the United States among civilians, providing fertile ground for recruitment by Al-Qaeda.
Bogura unit BNP leaders submit party chairperson Khaleda Zia’s nomination paper to the returning officer and deputy commissioner of Bogura Foyez Ahmed on Wednesday. Photo: Prothom AloA nomination paper has been submitted in favour of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia for contesting the parliamentary polls from Bogura-6 constituency.On the last day of filing nomination papers on Wednesday, nomination paper was filed on behalf of Khaleda Zia for contesting the elections from Feni-1 constituency.The BNP chairperson’s adviser and Bogura municipality mayor AKM Mahbubur Rahman submitted the paper to the returning officer, deputy commissioner Foyez Ahmed around 12:30pm, Prothom Alo Bogura Correspondent reported.The BNP has nominated party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir as a backup candidate for the constituency, in case Khaleda Zia cannot contest the polls due to legal barriers. Dhaka south Jubo Dal president Rafiqul Islam Majnu, who is a backup candidate for Khaleda Zia, submitted nomination paper on behalf of Khaleda Zia.Nomination paper for Khaleda Zia was also filed for Feni-1 constituency where businessman-turned-vice-chairman-of-BNP was supposed to be the alternative candidate but did not submit nomination paper, according to UNB.BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia (L) and BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. Prothom Alo File PhotoOn behalf of Khaleda Zia, nomination paper was submitted for Bogura-7 by former member of parliament Helaluzzaman Talukder Lalu. Alternative BNP candidate in this constituency is Gabtoli upazila BNP general secretary Morshed Alam Milton.The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, upheld a High Court order that said a convict sentenced to more than two years of imprisonment cannot contest the elections even if his or her appeal against conviction remains pending.The Appellate Division confirmed the order by not responding to a petition challenging the order.The party’s senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, however, claimed that Khaleda Zia will be able to contest the national elections.Addressing a press conference at the party’s Naya Paltan headquarters, the BNP leader said, “There’s no legal bar to Khaleda Zia’s competing in the election.”BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi. Prothom Alo File PhotoThe High Court on Tuesday said those who have been sentenced to over two years’ jail by a lower court in any graft case with appeal pending will not be allowed to contest elections.The HC bench of justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and justice KM Hafizul Alam came up with the observation after rejecting separate petitions filed by five BNP leaders, including BNP chairperson’s adviser Amanullah Aman seeking stay on conviction and sentence.The HC also said they will be able to contest the polls if the Appellate Division stays the conviction or grants bail to the convicts.The BNP gave nomination to Khaleda Zia, who is in the jail since 8 February after being convicted in the Zia Orphanage Trust Graft case, in three constituencies — Bogura-6, Bogura-7 and Feni-1 for the upcoming parliamentary elections.The party nominated two more backup candidates – AKM Mahbubur Rahman and former president of Bogura district unit BNP Rezaul Karim Badshah for Bogura-6 constituency.
Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader. File PhotoRoad transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader was shifted to a cabin from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a Singapore hospital on Wednesday after his condition improved further.“He is doing well,” said professor Abu Nasar Rizvi of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), reports news agency UNB.“Physicians are preparing to conduct a bypass surgery next week,” he added.His condition has been improving gradually over the last few days and the minister was able to walk on Monday.Quader, also the general secretary of ruling Bangladesh Awami League, was admitted to BSMMU on 3 March following breathing complications but tests revealed three blockages in his coronary artery.He was flown to Singapore the next day for treatment at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital.Cardiothoracic surgeon Sivathasan Cumaraswamy, a member of the medical board treating Quader, also briefed his family members about his improvement.
US homeland security secretary Kirsten Nielsen (C) speaks during a press briefing on national security with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (L), FBI director Christopher Wray (2nd R) and Gen. Paul Nakasone (R), commander of the US Cyber Command (R) at the White House in Washington, DC, on 2 August. Photo: AFPThe US government on Thursday accused Russia of carrying out a “pervasive” campaign to influence public opinion and elections, in a warning just months before crucial legislative polls.“We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign from Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States,” said Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.A slew of top US officials including Coats, FBI director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen vowed to investigate and prosecute those who were trying to sway US opinion or carrying out what Wray described as “information warfare.”“Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs,” Nielsen said in an unusually stark warning.“This is not just an election cycle threat,” Wray said. “Our adversaries are trying to undermine our country on a persistent and regular basis, whether it’s election season or not.”The comments came in jarring contrast to the positions of president Donald Trump, but the two men dismissed suggestions the president-who has repeatedly denied Russia moved to tilt the election in his favour-is not taking the issue seriously.In a letter to Congress, national security advisor John Bolton said the administration had taken “extensive, historic action” to stop the threat.Trump has mulled easing sanctions against Moscow, held warm meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin and refused to criticize him over the meddling in the 2016 election.He has also repeatedly called for an end to the investigation into Moscow’s meddling, which has seen more than 20 Russians indicted so far.Asked whether the American people could trust the administration to do its job, Wray responded: “I can assure the American people that the men and the women of the FBI, from the director all the way on down, are going to follow our oaths and do our jobs.”
Just a few voters are seen at Azim Uddin High School polling centre in Kishoreganj town. Tafsilul Aziz took this photo around 9:30am on Sunday.The election commission has suspended voting at all centres of Katiadi upazila in Kishoreganj following allegations of huge irregularities during the third phase of upazila elections on Sunday, reports UNB.Besides, additional superintendent of police Shafiqul Islam and Katiadi police station officer-in-charge Shamsuddin have been withdrawn over the incidents of vote rigging, said district election officer Mohammad Tajul Islam.Earlier in the morning, voting to five polling stations was suspended. Later, voting to rest of the 84 polling stations was suspended on allegation of stuffing vote at night, said the election official.Voting in elections to 117 upazila parishads began on Sunday morning in the third phase of the local government polls.
US president Donald Trump talks to the media as he stands with US Border Patrol agents on the banks of the Rio Grande river during his visit to the US – Mexico border in Mission, Texas, US, on 10 January 2019. Reuters File PhotoPresident Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval, an action Democrats vowed to challenge as a violation of the US Constitution.The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration he blames for bringing crime and drugs into the United States.Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners, saying that Trump’s declaration violates the US Constitution and that the planned wall would infringe on their property rights.Both California and New York said that they, too, planned to file lawsuits.Hours after Trump’s announcement, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee said it had launched an investigation into the emergency declaration.In a letter to Trump, committee Democrats asked him to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.”We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system,” said the letter, signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.Trump on Friday also signed a bipartisan government spending bill that would prevent another partial government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday.The funding bill represented a legislative defeat for him since it contains no money for his proposed wall – the focus of weeks of conflict between Trump and Democrats in Congress.Trump made no mention of the bill in rambling comments to reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden.He had demanded that Congress provide him with $5.7 billion in wall funding as part of legislation to fund the agencies. That triggered a historic, 35-day government shutdown in December and January that hurt the US economy and his opinion poll numbers.By reorienting his quest for wall funding toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency, Trump risks plunging into a lengthy legislative and legal battle with Democrats and dividing his fellow Republicans – many of whom expressed grave reservations on Friday about the president’s action.Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent Trump from invoking emergency powers to transfer funds to his wall from accounts Congress has already committed to other projects.”Exclusive Power”Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer swiftly responded to Trump’s declaration.”The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”The first legal challenge, filed in federal court in Washington, came from three Texas landowners along the Rio Grande river claiming they were informed the US government would seek to build a border wall on their properties if money for the project were available in 2019.The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, also named the Frontera Audubon Society as a plaintiff whose “members’ ability to observe wildlife will be impaired” by construction of a border wall and resulting habitat damage.The suit contests Trump’s assertion of a national emergency at the border to justify the president’s action.California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, describing the supposed border crisis touted by Trump as “made-up,” and New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, both said they planned to challenge Trump in court.Trump acknowledged his order would face a lengthy court fight.”I expect to be sued. I shouldn’t be sued. … We’ll win in the Supreme Court,” he predicted.Trump may have also undermined his administration’s argument about the urgency of the situation when he told reporters, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”In their letter to Trump, House Judiciary Democrats said that language had left them “troubled.”Both the House and the Senate could pass a resolution terminating the emergency by majority vote. However, any such measure would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.Although Trump says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border, statistics show that illegal immigration via the border is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments come through legal ports of entry.Confronted with those statistics by reporters at the Rose Garden event, Trump said they were “wrong.”Also present were a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants. Trump noted their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.He estimated his emergency declaration could free up as much as $8 billion to pay for part of the wall. Estimates of its total cost run as high as $23 billion.As a candidate, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall. It was one of his biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies. Mexico firmly refused to pay, and now Trump wants US taxpayers to cover the costs.Republicans ConcernedSome congressional Republicans expressed dismay following Trump’s announcement.Greg Walden, a senior House Republican, said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned about the precedent that this action sets.”Republican Senator Thom Tillis said in a statement that Trump’ declaration was not a solution. He cited concerns about insufficient funding to secure the border, the prospect of litigation, “… and most concerning is that it would create a new precedent that a left-wing president would undoubtedly utilise to implement their radical policy agenda while bypassing the authority of Congress.”Other Republicans, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, were supportive.With an emergency formally declared, Trump left Washington to travel to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida for a holiday break.
An Indian patient who drank toxic bootleg liquor is treated at Kushal Konwar Civil Hospital in Golaghat district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on 23 February, 2019. Photo: AFPNinety-three workers have died and at least 200 others have been hospitalised in northeastern India after drinking toxic liquor, officials said Saturday, in the latest case of alcohol poisoning in the country.The deaths in Assam state came less than two weeks after tainted liquor killed about 100 people in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.”The number of dead (in the district) has now increased to 58, and another 75 people are undergoing treatment” in local hospitals, Dhiren Hazarika, deputy commissioner of Golaghat district in Assam, told AFP.Another official from the neighbouring district of Jorhat said that 35 people had died there after consuming a batch of “spurious liquor”.Hazarika said people started falling sick after consuming a batch of illegally produced liquor late Thursday.The victims, who include many women, worked at local tea estates in the region. The death toll could rise further as both officials said some of the afflicted were in a critical condition.”The people came to the hospital with severe vomiting, extreme chest pain and breathlessness,” doctor Ratul Bordoloi, joint director of Golaghat’s health department, told AFP.Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry.State police said they had arrested one man for selling the liquor, and authorities said two excise department officials were suspended for failing to take adequate precautions over the sale of the alcohol.Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told AFP that state authorities had collated “at least 80” deaths in the districts. “But apart from this some more people died outside the hospital,” he added.”I also met the family members and relatives and ensured them that the perpetrators will not be spared,” Sarma said in a Twitter comment.Some media reports, citing anonymous sources, said that more than 100 people had died and the exact number was still being verified by authorities.Cheap, locally made liquor is common in parts of rural India and bootleggers often add methanol — a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze — to their product to increase its strength.If ingested in large quantities, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.Hundreds of mainly poor people die each year in the South Asian country from tainted liquor, which normally costs just a few US cents a bottle.Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 per cent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.Many Indian states have implemented or pushed for prohibition, which, according to critics, further increases the unsupervised manufacture and sale of alcohol.
Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan. Photo: ReutersMore than 300,000 people have signed online petitions calling for Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan to receive a Nobel peace prize after he freed an Indian pilot in a bid to defuse tensions with his country’s arch-rival neighbour.The capture of wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman had become the focus of renewed hostilities between the nuclear-armed rivals which have alarmed the international community.Tensions have soared since a suicide bombing in Kashmir last month claimed by Pakistan-based militants killed 40 Indian paramilitaries.The hashtag #NobelPeaceForImranKhan began trending on Twitter on Thursday after Khan unexpectedly announced that the captured pilot would be released as a “peace gesture”.Abhinandan — whose MiG fighter was shot down a day earlier as he chased Pakistani jets over disputed Kashmir — was returned to India late Friday.Two similarly-worded campaigns on the change.org platform launched by users in the UK and Pakistan called for Imran Khan to be nominated for next year’s prize “for his peace efforts and dialogues in the Asian region on diverse conflicts”.They have gained more than 240,000 and 60,000 digital signatures respectively.Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry Saturday also submitted a resolution in the country’s parliament demanding Khan be given the award for his contribution to peace in the region.”Imran Khan played a sagacious role in de-escalating tension between Pakistan and India,” the resolution said.In his speech announcing Abhinandan’s release, Khan referred to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war as he called for talks with New Delhi.Thousands of people around the world are allowed to make nominations for the Peace Prize, including members of parliament and government ministers, former laureates and some university professors.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media during her post cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington on 25 March. Photo: AFPNew Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ordered an independent judicial inquiry into whether police and intelligence services could have prevented the Christchurch mosque attacks on 15 March.Ardern said a royal commission — the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law — was needed to find out how a single gunman was able to kill 50 people in an attack that shocked the world.”It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to how this act of terrorism occurred and how we could have stopped it,” she told reporters.New Zealand’s spy agencies have faced criticism in the wake of the attack for concentrating on the threat from Islamic extremism.Instead, the victims were all Muslims and the massacre was allegedly carried out by a white supremacist fixated on the belief that there was an Islamist plot to “invade” Western countries.”One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more,” Ardern said.”New Zealand is not a surveillance state … but questions need to be answered.”Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant, 28, who was arrested minutes after the attack on the mosques and has been charged with murder.She said details of the royal commission were being finalised, but it would be comprehensive and would report in a timely manner.It will cover the activities of intelligence services, police, customs, immigration and any other relevant government agencies in the lead-up to the attack.The gunman livestreamed the attack online, although New Zealand has outlawed the footage as “objectionable content”.Ardern reiterated her believe it should not be aired.”That video should not be shared. That is harmful content,” she said when questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showing excerpts of the footage at campaign rallies for local elections this month.Erdogan had angered both Wellington and Canberra with campaign rhetoric about anti-Muslim Australians and New Zealanders being sent back in “coffins” like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a World War I battle.New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters travelled to Istanbul to meet Erdogan and address an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.Peters said OIC members were full of praise for the support New Zealand had offered its small, tight-knit Muslim community in the wake of the killings.”A number of them were weeping and sobbing at the demonstration (of support) by non-Muslim New Zealand towards the Muslim victims,” he told reporters.”It was dramatic and I was told by countless ministers that they’ve never seen anything of that type.”The body of an Indian student killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, meanwhile, was returned Monday to her grieving family in Kochi, where relatives remembered a bright young woman dedicated to her studies.Ansi Alibava, 25, was the first of at least five Indians shot dead on March 15 to be repatriated.The family planned to hold a funeral ceremony for the masters student in their nearby hometown of Kodungallur.
Two Awami League leaders were shot dead by unidentified miscreants in Satkhira and Bandarban districts on Monday, reports UNB.In Satkhira, Nazrul Islam, 55, vice-president of Agardari union unit Awami League and son of Nesaruddin of Kuchpukur village in sadar upazila, was shot dead by miscreants at Kashempur Hazampara in the district town.Quoting witnesses, the superintendent of police of the district, Iltutmish, said a gang of miscreants appeared at the spot riding a motorbike and opened fire at Nazrul killing him on the spot while he was returning home from Kadamtala Bazar around 11:30am.The motive behind the killing could not be known yet.However, Palash, son of the victim, said his father might have been killed following an enmity with former UP member Towhidul.In Bandarban, Mong Pru Thoai, president of Tarasa union unit Awami League, was gunned down by miscreants at Shamukjhuri in Roangchhari upazila.The superintendent of police of Bandarban, Zakir Hossain, said the miscreants opened fire at Mong while he was going to the district town by a motorbike at noon. He died on the spot.Meanwhile, a joint force, including police and army, launched a manhunt to arrest the culprits.