What Joy Bangla means today

Originally published in New Age

By Shahidul Alam

Joy Bangla in those days had not been commandeered by any political party. It was a slogan we all used. Some took it more to heart than others. I was on a rickshaw heading towards mejo chachi?s house, (she is mother of my footballer cousin Kazi Salahuddin, better known by his nickname Turjo). Seeing a friend on the road I shouted out Joy Bangla. Joy Bangla, he waved back. At mejo chachi?s the rickshawala refused to take my fare. ?Joy Bangla bolsen na. apnar thon bhara loi kemne?? (You said Joy Bangla. How can I take fare from you?). Despite my insistence he wouldn?t budge. The rallying cry belonged to us all. He saw me as a fellow warrior.
On the 16th December, I had gone into a burning military convoy opposite Sakura hotel and took a partially charred Browning light machine gun as a trophy. Almost at the same site where I had seen, nine months ago, people being gunned down as they ran from the flames on the night of the 25th March. They lived in the slums near the Holiday office. Their brutal death part of a statistical count we still argue about.
Years later, I tried to put together a visual chronicle of the war. Collecting photographs from great photographers from far away lands and many local ones who had witnessed our pain, and shared our victory. There were moments of great bravery and greater sacrifice. There were moments of immense pain. The weight of great loss. Rashid Talukder?s image of the dismembered head in Rayerbazar was one of the most striking. Kishor Parekh?s sculpted frames showing, dignity, honour, elation and loss. Raghu Rai?s monumental images of seas of people seeking shelter. Captain Beg?s rare photographs of the mukti bahini during battle. Mohammad Shafi?s striking image of women smuggling grenades in half submerged baskets. Aftab Ahmed?s image of the final surrender, stoic and significant.

A woman emerges out of hiding for the first time, carrying a rifle and accompanied by her children. The family were hiding from Pakistani troops during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971. Photo: Penny Tweedie
A woman emerges out of hiding for the first time, carrying a rifle and accompanied by her children. The family were hiding from Pakistani troops during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971. Photo: Penny Tweedie

The image that stood out from all the others however, was by Penny Tweedie. Freelancing and without an assignment, Penny had neither the luxury of a client?s budget, nor the assurance of a publishing slot. She did the best she could, getting lifts from fellow photographers, flitting between areas of conflict and stress, she stayed close to ordinary people. People like my rickshawala friend, or the people I saw dying on the night of the 25th March. People who resisted, people who fled, people who sheltered others. People who fed people when they had little food themselves. The image of a woman, carrying a gun walking through a paddy field, with children in tow, was for me the image that encapsulated the war. These were ordinary people who had war thrust upon them. They made do, as best as they could. Bearing their pain with dignity. Fighting with no hope for return. Unlike me, they were not trophy hunters. I doubt if that woman ever made it to a muktijoddha list. I have no way of knowing if she, or her children made it through the war alive. They gave us this nation where we had all hoped we would be free. Continue reading “What Joy Bangla means today”

Marx?s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World

By?Michael Schuman?Time Business and Money
Karl Maxr

ADAM BERRY / GETTY IMAGESThe grave of German philosopher and economic theorist Karl Marx, remembered as the founder of modern socialism and communism, in Highgate Cemetery in London

Karl Marx was supposed to be dead and buried. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and China?s Great Leap Forward into capitalism, communism faded into the quaint backdrop of James Bond movies or the deviant mantra of Kim Jong Un. The class conflict that Marx believed determined the course of history seemed to melt away in a prosperous era of free trade and free enterprise. The far-reaching power of globalization, linking the most remote corners of the planet in lucrative bonds of finance, outsourcing and ?borderless? manufacturing, offered everybody from Silicon Valley tech gurus to Chinese farm girls ample opportunities to get rich. Asia in the latter decades of the 20th?century witnessed perhaps the most remarkable record of poverty alleviation in human history ??all thanks to the very capitalist tools of trade, entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Capitalism appeared to be fulfilling its promise ??to uplift everyone to new heights of wealth and welfare. Continue reading “Marx?s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World”

Wahid Adnan Wins Award of Excellence in CPOY


Share



Story: Graphics of Deadliest Crash
Graphics of Deadliest Crash
Angry protesters took to the streets as the Dhaka stocks have crashed by a record 551 points marking a 6.71 percent decrease in late December 2010. The stocks began to plummet almost immediately after trading began in the morning and plummeted by almost 200 points within an hour. The general index ended at 7654 by the close of the session. Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Continue reading “Wahid Adnan Wins Award of Excellence in CPOY”

Bangladesh army's advancing business interests

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share/Bookmark


The five star Dhaka Radisson hotel - which offers guests use of the nearby deluxe army golf course - is owned by the Bangladesh Army Welfare Trust (AWT) and was established on military land. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

By Kamal Ahmed
BBC News, Dhaka

The army is becoming increasingly involved in business activities.?The Bangladeshi army has over the years played a key role in the country’s political life, but it has now also emerged as a major player in the business arena, with interests spread across all the major sectors of the economy.
Following the example of the Pakistan army, it has been thriving under successive civilian governments. But there are now signs of unease about it within the force itself and within wider society.?Evidence of the army’s wealth and influence is not hard to find.?The five star Dhaka Radisson hotel – which offers guests use of the nearby deluxe army golf course – is owned by the Bangladesh Army Welfare Trust (AWT) and was established on military land.

‘Commercial advantage’

There are five other top hotels in Dhaka, but none can provide a package that exploits military real estate.
The military’s interests include the hotel and hospitality trade.?Capitalising on its success with the Dhaka Radisson, the AWT is now building another five-star hotel in the port city of Chittagong.
A leading hotelier who did not wish to be identified told the BBC that the use of cheaper military-land amid sky-rocketing land prices in Dhaka has given the army a clear commercial advantage against other players.
In addition to a recently-built fast-food shop aimed at the affluent middle class in Dhaka, the army’s other big business these days is the Trust Bank. Set up under civilian rule, it has now grown into a fully-fledged commercial bank with about 40 branches nationwide.
In 2007, the military-backed caretaker government granted it exclusive rights to receive fees for passports.?Former senior civil servant Akbar Ali Khan says that this is against the government’s procurement rules – and there should have been an open tender to ensure that the cheapest and best passport service was selected.

The landfilling by the back of Sonargaon Hotel started during the recent caretaker government, which is considered to have been backed by the military. Little is known about such fills, but military vehicles are regularly seen plying the newly made roads and military trucks are parked there. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Impropriety denied

While bank officials say it played by the rules and received no special favours from the government, its audited accounts – first released in 2007 – caused much controversy.?They revealed that the-then army chief, Gen Moeen U Ahmed, got loans several times larger than the rules allow.?The army’s business empire is thought to be worth around $500m.?At the time, he was chairman of the Trust Bank by virtue of the fact that he was head of the army. And Bangladesh was being ruled by an army-backed interim government.?Gen Ahmed denies any impropriety, arguing that questions over the size of the loan are an attempt “to malign” him.
And there are other parts of the forces which have their own banks. The Civil Defence Force runs the Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Party Bank – known as the Ansar VDP Bank. This bank, set up in 1995 by the government, has not yet received any banking licence and functions like a credit society.
But the army’s interests do not end here.

Ice cream sales

If you are buying any ice-cream in rural areas of the country, you may be getting a product of an army-owned business, that of the Sena Kallyan Sangstha (SKS).?The SKS is a welfare foundation whose function is to care for the welfare of veterans and family members of servicemen.?Among other things, the SKS now owns concerns in food, textiles, jute, garments, electronics, real estate and travel.
It is now evident that the Bangladeshi armed forces have been largely following the business model developed so successfully by their Pakistani counterparts.?In Pakistan, the military’s Fauji Foundation has a huge involvement in trade and industry.
Using the Pakistani model, the AWT was founded in 1998 during the previous rule of the Awami League led by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The irony is that military business interests have thrived more under civilian rule than under martial law regimes.
The growth of military involvement in commerce has had serious repercussions for the armed forces themselves.?The official probe into the country’s worst ever mutiny by the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border guards in 2009 – which left at least 68 high ranking military officials dead – bears this out.
Commission Chairman M Anisuzzaman Khan said that the mutiny was partly fuelled by resentment among the BDR’s rank-and-file over the corruption of army officers engaged in the retail sale of consumer items.?It recommended that no forces – military or civil defence – should be allowed to engage in commercial or business activities.?”Law and order forces are meant for defending the country, they are not supposed to run factories or business units,” Mr Khan said.

Unease

But an empire worth at least $500m is growing daily and becoming stronger. Plans obtained by the BBC reveal that the army’s business ambitions include power plants and even the insurance businesses – no potential business sector seems out of its sights.?Critics argue that the army should concentrate on serving the country.?Although the army headquarters agreed to respond to the queries made by the BBC, our repeated requests for interviews did not materialise and no response was actually made.?But a number of retired generals have expressed their unease over the army’s extensive exposure in the fields of trade and industry.
Lt Gen (Retired) Mahbubur Rahman – who entered politics few years back and served as the chairman of the standing committee on the Ministry of Defence in the previous parliament – told the BBC that the military “should keep within its charter of duties and not engage or get involved in any financial transactions – especially for business”.?”We have witnessed how such activities can bring disaster,” he said.
A number of leading figures in business and civil society have admitted that many army-owned businesses are virtually indistinguishable from other commercial enterprises in the way they operate.?But as its ambitions develop, it seems that the debate about whether or not the army should engage in such activities will also grow.
Related article.
Moeen U Ahmed and Trust Bank

China Calls Our Bluff

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark



America’s biggest creditor – China – has called our bluff.

As the Financial Times notes, the head of China’s biggest credit rating agency has said America is insolvent and that U.S. credit ratings are a joke:
The head of China?s largest credit rating agency has slammed his western counterparts for causing the global financial crisis and said that as the world?s largest creditor nation China should have a bigger say in how governments and their debt are rated.
?The western rating agencies are politicised and highly ideological and they do not adhere to objective standards,? Guan Jianzhong, chairman of Dagong Global Credit Rating, told the Financial Times in an interview.
***
He specifically criticised the practice of ?rating shopping? by companies who offer their business to the agency that provides the most favourable rating.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis ?rating shopping? has been one of the key complaints from western regulators , who have heavily criticised the big three agencies for handing top ratings to mortgage-linked securities that turned toxic when the US housing market collapsed in 2007.
?The financial crisis was caused because rating agencies didn?t properly disclose risk and this brought the entire US financial system to the verge of collapse, causing huge damage to the US and its strategic interests,? Mr Guan said.
Recently, the rating agencies have been criticised for being too slow to downgrade some of the heavily indebted peripheral eurozone economies, most notably Spain, which still holds triple A ratings from Moody?s.
There is also a view among many investors that the agencies would shy away from withdrawing triple A ratings to countries such as the US and UK because of the political pressure that would bear down on them in the event of such actions.
Last week, privately-owned Dagong published its own sovereign credit ranking in what it said was a first for a non-western credit rating agency.
The results were very different from those published by Moody?s, Standard & Poor?s and Fitch, with China ranking higher than the United States, Britain, Japan, France and most other major economies, reflecting Dagong?s belief that China is more politically and economically stable than all of these countries.
Mr Guan said his company?s methodology has been developed over the last five years and reflects a more objective assessment of a government?s fiscal position, ability to govern, economic power, foreign reserves, debt burden and ability to create future wealth.
?The US is insolvent and faces bankruptcy as a pure debtor nation but the rating agencies still give it high rankings ,? Mr Guan said.
***
A wildly enthusiastic editorial published by Xinhua , China?s official state newswire, lauded Dagong?s report as a significant step toward breaking the monopoly of western rating agencies of which it said China has long been a ?victim?.
?Compared with the US? conquest of the world by means of force, Moody?s has controlled the world through its dominance in credit ratings,? the editorial said…
China is right. U.S. credit ratings have been less than worthless. And – in the real world – America should have been downgraded to junk. See this, this, this, this, this,this, this, this and this.
China is not shy about reminding the U.S. who’s got the biggest pockets. As the Financial Times quotes Mr. Guan:
?China is the biggest creditor nation in the world and with the rise and national rejuvenation of China we should have our say in how the credit risks of states are judged.?
Might Makes Right Economic Collapse
Indeed, Guan is even dissing America’s military prowess:
?Actually, the huge military expenditure of the US is not created by themselves but comes from borrowed money, which is not sustainable.?
As I’ve repeatedly shown, borrowing money to fund our huge military expenditures are – paradoxically – weakening our national security:
As I’ve previously pointed out, America’s military-industrial complex is ruining our economy.
And U.S. military and intelligence leaders say that the economic crisis is the biggest national security threat to the United States. See this, this and this.
[I]t is ironic that America’s huge military spending is what made us an empire … but our huge military is what is bankrupting us … thus destroying our status as an empire …
Indeed, as I pointed out in 2008:
So why hasn’t America’s credit rating been downgraded?
Well, a report by Moody’s in September states:
“In superficially similar circumstances, the ratings of Japan and some Scandinavian countries were downgraded in the 1990s.
***
For reasons that take their roots into the large size and wealth of the economy and, ultimately, the US military power, the US government faces very little liquidity risk ? its debt remains a safe heaven. There is a large market for even a significant increase in debt issuance.”
So Japan and Scandinavia have wimpy militaries, so they got downgraded, but the U.S. has lots of bombs, so we don’t? In any event, American cannot remain a hyperpower if it is broke.
The fact that America spends more than the rest of the world combined on our military means that we can keep an artificially high credit rating. But ironically, all the money we’re spending on our military means that we become less and less credit-worthy … and that we’ll no longer be able to fund our military.
The Scary Part
I chatted with the head of a small investment brokerage about the China credit rating story.
Because he gives his clients very bullish, status quo advice, I assumed that he would say that China was wrong.
To my surprise, he simply responded:
They’re right. What’s scary is that China knows it.
In other words, everyone who pays any attention knows that we’re broke. What’s scary is that our biggest creditor knows it.
Tricks Up Their Sleeves?
China has been threatening for many months to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency (and see this). And China, Russia and other countries have made a lot of noises about replacing the dollar with the SDR. See this and this.
Gordon T. Long argues that the much talked about gold swaps are part and parcel of the plan to replace the dollar with the SDR. Time will tell if he’s right.
China, of course, is not without its own problems. See this and this.
In related news, Germany’s biggest companies are starting to shun Wall Street as too risky.