PARLIAMENTARIANS MEET COMMISSIONER OF BANGLADESH
(20 March 2006)
meeting of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group organised by
the Vice Chair, Lord Avebury, who is also Chair of the International
Bangladesh Foundation, was held today, Monday 20 March 2006, for
a discussion with H E Mr Sabiuddin Ahmed, High Commissioner of Bangladesh,
expressing interest to meet a small group of British parliamentarians
to discuss the human rights situation in Bangladesh.
High Commissioner presented the Bangladesh government's policies
on attainment of the Millenium Development Goals and on the World
Trade Organisation talks on reducing protectionism that harms Third
World producers. He dealt with a variety of questions on counter-terrorism
and identifying the political masterminds behind the bomb attacks
and assassinations in Bangladesh, as well as their financial backers;
the protection of religious minorities; the promotion of good governance;
mechanisms to ensure a level playing field at the forthcoming elections,
in the presence of observers from the Commonwealth Secretariat and
international human rights NGOs.
Sabiuddin Ahmed, HE High Commissioner of Bangladesh said that one
has to look at Bangladesh within the context of a low economic starting
point. Bangladesh had already met three of the ten United Nations
Millenium Development Goals, in providing universal primary education
for girls as well as boys; attaining gender parity in school enrolment
in primary and secondary education and access to safe drinking water.
But still 35% of the population was below poverty level and 30%
of its adult population illiterate.
Avebury, while acknowledging Bangladeshs progress and praising
the arrest of JMB chief Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, said the economic
problems were linked to the political process and human rights situation.
He was keen to find out who provided cover and shelter to Bangla
Bhai and who were their political masters. Lord Avebury also wanted
to see the perpetrators of the murders of Shah AMS Kibria and the
attempted murders of the British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury
and Sheikh Hasina brought to justice. He questioned about the neutrality
of the future caretaker government.
Charles Tannock MEP enquired about the Islamic radicalisation of
politics, Pakistans intelligence agency ISI, Jamaat-e-Islami
and the Bangladesh Governments telecommunication ministers
involvement in the extremist terrorist activities of the
and Bangla Bhai, whose existence the government had previously denied.
He said he does not want see the Jamaat to be a part of future Government.
Thornberry MP and Baroness Whitaker while expressing their appreciation
of interfaith tolerance in Bangladesh and its democratic credentials,
they also expressed concern about political violence, and the prospects
for the forthcoming election process.
High Commissioner said that it was essential to keep the Jamaat-e-Islami
within the constitutional process. The authorities had arrested
550 terrorists; charge sheets had been submitted against 123, while
250 cases had been filed and the courts had sentenced 40. A charge
sheet had been framed against five people including a local BNP
leader for the murder of Shah AMS Kibria. Three persons had been
arrested in connection with the attack on the leader of the opposition,
Sheikh Hasina. He gave the meeting confidential information about
the investigation of the attempted murder of the British High Commissioner,
Anwar Chowdhury, in which bystanders had been killed.
High Commissioner said his government had accepted the oppositions
demand to sit and discuss the reforms, when at last they had returned
to Parliament after a long boycott, and he said that if agreement
could be reached, anything was possible within the Constitution.
the Ahmadiyya community, the High Commissioner said the government
had taken firm action to prevent threatened violence by the Khatme
Nabuwat, and that the community acknowledged that as a result there
has been no violence against them in the last three months.
meeting was also addressed by Lord Ahmed and Jeremy Corbyn MP. In
attendance were Jarvis Matiya from the Commonwealth Secretariat,
Abbas Faiz & Saskia Chilcot from Amnesty International and Brad
Adams & Andrea Cotton from Human Rights Watch.
Avebury thanked the High Commissioner for the extremely useful meeting
and for his invitation to Parliamentarians to observe the elections.
He said that it had been an excellent opportunity to discuss the
problems facing Bangladesh and he hoped that a further meeting could
be arranged nearer to the election.