War crimes: Convict arrested in capital

Members of the Anti-Terrorism Unit arrested a convicted war criminal from the capital’s Khilgaon area on Tuesday night--eight days after he was sentenced in a case related to the 1971 war crimes.

The 66-year-old convict Md Fakhruzzman is the son of late Abdul Wahed of Collegepara under Kotwali police station in Mymensingh.

Tipped-off, the absconding convict was arrested from Dakkhin Goran area under Khilgaon police station around 10pm on Tuesday.

On May 19, 2015, late freedom fighter Abur Rahman’s wife Rahima Khatun, a resident of Mymensingh district town, filed a case accusing Jatiya Party’s former lawmaker MA Hannan and his son Fakhruzzaman bringing allegations of genocide, looting, rape, torturing, torching and others at an Amali court there.

After taking the case into cognisance, the court ordered the authorities concerned to send the case to the International Crimes Tribunal.

As the tribunal issued a warrant for the former lawmaker Hannan and his son Rafique on October 10 of the same year, the duo was arrested from the capital’s Gulshan area while Fakruzzaman and others were absconding.

The Investigating Officer of the case submitted the full-pledge chargsheets against the accused at the prosecution section of the tribunal on July 11, 2016.

The court framed the charges against eight people including Fakhruzzaman on November 4, 2018.

Meanwhile, Hannan and other two defendants died.

The tribunal of three judges delivered the life term imprisonment to Fakhruzzman for killing sculptor Abdur Rashid on February 20 this year.

After the arrest, the convict was handed over to the concerned Kotwali police station.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Intelligence agencies working to prevent militants’ rise: Home Minister

Intelligence agencies of the country are working to prevent the rise of militants and their operations, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said today.

“Police are making all-out efforts to arrest fugitive militants. We have managed to arrest many militants and we’ll definitely be able to arrest the fugitives soon,” he said.

The home minister made the remarks while talking to reporters after attending a programme at Police Staff College on the occasion of Police Memorial Day-2023.

“We have not been able to eradicate militancy yet, but we have it under control. Our intelligence teams are working well, and that’s why militancy is now under control,” the minister said.

Replying to a question on bomb threat at the just-concluded Ekushey book fair, the home minister said, “We often receive such threats, and we take necessary action after thorough examination.”

Responding to another question from a reporter about possible chaos over the next national election, he said, “Political parties become active ahead of election. They get engaged in campaigns and other activities. We have been seeing it for long. Different political parties are active. I think there is no reason to heat up the election-centric political situation.”

Police Memorial Day is observed on March 1 in all metropolitan, range and district units of Bangladesh Police to commemorate police personnel who died while performing duties.

Replying to a query over the delay and harassment in providing compensation to families of deceased police personnel, Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, Inspector General of Police (IGP), said a proposal has been given to the Home Ministry and decision in this regard will come soon.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Israelis step up protests over government’s legal overhaul

Israelis protesting a contentious government plan to overhaul the judicial system were stepping up their opposition on Wednesday, with large demonstrations and road closures expected in what protest leaders have dubbed a “national disruption day.”

The demonstrations come as the government barrels ahead with the legal changes. A parliamentary committee is moving forward on a bill that would weaken the Supreme Court.

The crisis has sent shock waves through Israel and presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a serious challenge just two months after he returned to power. Israel’s longest-serving leader is battling corruption charges even as his government tries to rejig a system that could determine which judges rule in his ongoing trial.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and the country’s attorney general has barred him from involvement in the overhaul, saying he risks a conflict of interest.

The rival sides are digging in, deepening one of Israel’s worst domestic crises.

The legal overhaul has sparked an unprecedented uproar, with weeks of mass protests, criticism from legal experts and rare demonstrations from army reservists who have pledged to disobey orders under what they say will be a dictatorship after the overhaul passes. Business leaders, the country’s booming tech sector and leading economists have warned of economic turmoil under the judicial changes. Israel’s international allies have expressed concern.

Protesters blocked Tel Aviv’s main freeway artery and the highway connecting the city to Jerusalem early Wednesday, halting rush hour traffic for about an hour. At busy train stations in Tel Aviv, protesters prevented trains from departing by blocking their doors. Police and protesters chanting “democracy” scuffled near a central intersection in Tel Aviv and several protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace.

In response, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist, called on police to prevent the road blockages, labeling the protesters “anarchists.”

Thousands of protesters came out in locations across the country waving Israeli flags. Parents marched with their children, tech workers walked out of work to demonstrate and doctors in scrubs protested outside hospitals. The main demonstrations were expected later Wednesday outside the Knesset and near Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem.

“Every person here is trying to keep Israel a democracy and if the current government will get its way, then we are afraid we will no longer be a democracy or a free country,” said Arianna Shapira, who was protesting in Tel Aviv. “As a woman, as a mother, I’m very scared for my family and for my friends.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the overhaul’s main architect, said Tuesday that the coalition aims to ram through some of the judicial overhaul bills into law in the coming month, before the parliament goes on recess for the Passover holiday on Apr. 2.

The Knesset also is set to cast a preliminary vote Wednesday on a separate proposal to protect Netanyahu from being removed from his post, a move that comes following calls to the country’s attorney general urging her to rule on where he can serve as premier while on trial for corruption.

The clash comes as Israel and the Palestinians are mired in a new round of deadly violence and as Netanyahu’s government, its most right-wing ever, is beginning to show early cracks just two months into its tenure.

Netanyahu has been the center of a yearlong political crisis in Israel, with former allies turning on him and refusing to sit with him in government because of his corruption charges. That political turmoil, with five elections in four years, culminated in Netanyahu returning to power late last year, left only with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties as partners and forming the current far-right government.

Wielding immense political power, those allies secured top portfolios in Netanyahu’s government, among them Ben-Gvir, the minister who oversees police and has in the past been convicted of incitement to violence and support for a terror group. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a firebrand West Bank settler leader, has been given authority over parts of the territory. They have promised to take a tough stance against the Palestinians, which has ratcheted up tensions in recent weeks.

They have also been quick to condemn those protesting the overhaul but held back criticism against an attack by radical settlers on a Palestinian town this week.

Neither side in the overhaul debate appears to be backing down. The government has dismissed calls to freeze the overhaul and make way for dialogue and the protest organizers have pledged to intensify their fight until the plan is scrapped.

The government says the changes are meant to correct an imbalance that has given the courts too much power and allowed them to meddle in the legislative process. They say the overhaul will streamline governance and say elections last year, which returned Netanyahu to power with a slim majority in parliament, gave them a mandate to make the changes.

Critics say the overhaul will upend Israel’s system of checks and balances, granting the prime minister and the government unrestrained power and push the country toward authoritarianism.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

China dismisses FBI statement on COVID-19 lab leak theory

For the second day in a row, China on Wednesday dismissed U.S. suggestions that the COVID-19 pandemic may have been triggered by a virus that leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

Responding to comments by FBI Director Christopher Wray, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said the involvement of the U.S. intelligence community was evidence enough of the “politicization of origin tracing.”

“By rehashing the lab-leak theory, the U.S. will not succeed in discrediting China, and instead, it will only hurt its own credibility,” Mao said.

“We urge the U.S. to respect science and facts ... stop turning origin tracing into something about politics and intelligence, and stop disrupting social solidarity and origins cooperation,” she said.

In an interview with Fox News that aired Tuesday, Wray said, “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in (central China’s) Wuhan.”

“Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab,” Wray said.

Referring to efforts to trace the origin of the coronavirus, he added, “I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”

On Tuesday, Mao pushed back at a report from the U.S. Department of Energy that assessed with “low confidence” that the virus that was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 leaked from a nearby government laboratory.

The report hasn’t been made public and officials in Washington stressed that U.S. agencies are not in agreement on the origin of the virus.

Mao on Tuesday insisted that China has been “open and transparent” in the search for the virus’ origins and has “shared the most data and research results on virus tracing and made important contributions to global virus tracing research.”

A World Health Organization expert group said last year that “key pieces of data” to explain how the pandemic began were still missing. The scientists cited avenues of research that were needed, including studies evaluating the role of wild animals and environmental studies in places where the virus might have first spread.

The Associated Press has previously reported that the Chinese government was strictly controlling research into the origin of the pandemic that has killed more than 6.8 million people worldwide, clamping down on some work and promoting fringe theories that it could have come from outside the country.

Some scientists are open to the lab-leak theory, but many scientists believe the virus came from animals, mutated, and jumped to people, as has happened with other viruses in the past. Experts say the origin of the pandemic may not be known for many years — if ever.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Attack on doctor: Medical services at Khulna hospitals hampered as physicians go on 24hr work abstention

Medical services at all government and private hospitals in Khulna district have been hampered since this morning as doctors went on a 24-hour work abstention protesting the attack on a fellow physician.

The doctors at outpatient departments of government hospitals and at private hospitals went on work abstention from 6 am today and will continue till 6 am tomorrow.

On February 25, Dr Sheikh Nishat Abdullah, head of Burn and Plastic Surgery Department of Shaheed Sheikh Abu Naser Specialized Hospital was physically assaulted, allegedly by a patient’s relatives including Assistant Sub-inspector Naim posted in Satkhira district police, at a nursing home in Sheikhpara of Khulna city during surgery.

Protesting the attack, Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), Khulna decided to observe 24-hour work abstention from this morning to Thursday morning.

Dr Sheikh Baharul Alam, president of BMA Khulna unit, announced the work abstention programme while speaking at a press briefing at Kazi Azharul Haque Auditorium on Tuesday.

While reading out the statement, Dr Baharul also demanded the arrest of the attackers.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

India revives civil militia after Hindu killings in Kashmir

After seven Hindus were killed in early January in two back-to-back attacks in Dhangri village in disputed Kashmir, former Indian army soldier Satish Kumar described his sleepy mountainous village as an “abode of fear.”

Days after the deadly violence in the village in frontier Rajouri district, where homes are separated by maize and mustard fields, hundreds of residents staged angry protests across the Hindu-dominated Jammu region. In response, Indian authorities revived a government-sponsored militia and began rearming and training thousands of villagers, including some teenagers.

Kumar was among the first people to join the militia under the new drive and authorities armed him with a semiautomatic rifle and 100 bullets.

“I feel like a soldier again,” said the 40-year-old Kumar, who runs a grocery store since his retirement from the Indian military in 2018.

The militia, officially called the “Village Defense Group,” was initially formed in the 1990s as the first line of defense against anti-India insurgents in remote Himalayan villages that government forces could not reach quickly.

As the insurgency waned in their operational areas and as some militia members gained notoriety for brutality and rights violations, drawing severe criticism from human rights groups, the militia was largely disbanded.

But the January violence stirred unpleasant memories of past attacks in Rajouri, which is near the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan and where combat between Indian soldiers and rebels is not uncommon.

Brandishing his weapon inside his single-story concrete home on an overcast February day, Kumar justified his decision to join the militia as the “only way to combat fear and protect (my) family from terrorists.”

“I am a trained person and have fought against terrorists. But what is the use of (military) training if you do not have a weapon,” Kumar said. “Believe me, I felt almost incapacitated due to fear.”

On January 1, two gunmen killed four villagers, including a father and his son, and wounded at least five others. The next day, a blast outside one of the houses killed two children and injured at least 10 others. It is still unclear whether the explosive was left behind by the attackers. A week later, one of the injured died at a hospital, raising the overall death toll to seven.

“There was carnage in our village and Hindus were under attack,” Kumar said.

The police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for decades in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory claimed by India and Pakistan in its entirety. But two months later, they are yet to announce a breakthrough or name any suspects, exacerbating fear and anger among residents in the village of about 5,000 where Hindus represent about 70% and the rest are Muslims.

The policy to rearm civilians comes after India stripped Kashmir of its semiautonomy and took direct control of the territory amid a months-long security and communications lockdown in 2019. Kashmir has since remained on edge as authorities also put in place a slew of new laws that critics and many Kashmiris fear could change the region’s demographics.

In New Delhi’s effort to shape what it calls “Naya Kashmir,” or a “new Kashmir,” the territory’s people have been largely silenced, with their civil liberties curbed, as India has shown no tolerance for any form of dissent.

So when the Dhangri violence occurred, the Indian government was swift to rearm the civilian militia even though it had announced its reconstitution in August last year.

Officials said they have since armed and provided weapons training to over 100 other Hindu men in Dhangri, while also lifting the ban on gun licenses in the already militarized Rajouri. The village already had over 70 former militiamen, some of whom still possess the colonial British-era Lee–Enfield rifles allotted to them over a decade ago.

For the first time, the militia has also been financially incentivized by the government, which said each member would be paid 4,000 Indian rupees ($48) a month.

Still, the decision to revitalize the Village Defense Group is not without controversy.

Some security and political experts argue that the policy could weaponize divisions in Jammu’s volatile hinterland where communal strife has historically existed.

In the past, more than 200 police cases, including charges of rape, murder and rioting, were registered against some of the tens of thousands of militiamen in Jammu region, according to government data.

“Small arms proliferation is dangerous for any society and when a state does it, it’s a tacit admission of failure to secure a society,” said Zafar Choudhary, a political analyst.

India has a long history of arming civilians in its counterinsurgency efforts and civilian militiamen were first used to fight separatists in India’s northeastern states. In 2005, India’s federal government founded a local militia, the Salwa Judum, to combat Maoist rebels in the central Chhattisgarh state. It was accused by rights groups of committing widespread atrocities and was disbanded in 2011.

In Kashmir, the civil defense groups were armed almost six years after the deadly insurgency against Indian rule began.

S.P. Vaid was a young officer in 1995 when he supervised the creation of the militia’s first unit after two Hindu men were killed in a militant attack in a remote hilly village in Jammu region. Vaid, who recently retired as Indian-controlled Kashmir’s top police officer, said hours after his team reached the village the locals demanded arms for their protection.

“I had no government brief on that, but I immediately sought permission from headquarters to provide the villagers with 10 guns,” he said. “That’s how it started.”

The Indian government formally rolled out a policy to arm villagers a few months later.

Security officials argue that arming civilians deterred militant activity and helped stop the out-migration of Hindus from remote areas, unlike in the Kashmir valley where a year after armed rebellion broke out most local Hindus fled to Jammu amid militant threats and the killings of local community leaders.

Kuldeep Khoda, another former top police officer in the region credited for implementing the policy, said the results “surprised us."

“It was an experiment but it worked,” Khoda said at his home in Jammu city.

For its work on civil defense groups, the region’s police were given an award by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an influential U.S.-based police group, Khoda said.

The militia, he said, “played a pivotal role in defeating Pakistani designs to instigate communal tensions.”

But Choudhary, the political analyst, said “civilians are not armed in a functional democracy.”

The sharpening divisions already appear stark in Dhangri.

Muslim residents in the village say fear and grief bind them together with their Hindu neighbors, yet their request to join the militia has been refused.

Mohammed Mushtaq is a former paramilitary soldier who lives near the house where gunmen first fired on January 1.

“We have lived together for generations and have a similar social system. But fingers have been pointed at us,” he said. Mushtaq and two other Muslim neighbors, also former soldiers, asked the authorities for weapons under the policy but were refused, he said.

As Mushtaq spoke sitting outside his home, the sounds of religious hymns and devotional songs floated from the loudspeakers of a Hindu temple on top of a hill. The chants were interspersed with the chirping of birds and occasional whistles from pressure cookers in some village kitchens.

Moments later, a muezzin called Muslims to early afternoon prayers.

Kumar, the former soldier and militia member, said the decision not to induct his Muslim neighbors in the militia was “arbitrary” as “we still do not know who carried out the massacre” in Dhangri.

Meanwhile, hundreds of old militia members in Rajouri’s remote hamlets are oiling their weapons again.

“We had locked up our guns and thought we would never need them,” said 38-year-old Usha Raina, who has been a militia member since 2015 along with over two dozen other villagers in the neighboring hamlet of Kalal Khas.

“The incident (in Dhangri) has scared us all and the guns are back in our living rooms,” she said.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

5 Ansarullah Banagla Team members get life term jail in Lalmonirhat

A Lalmonirhat court on Wednesday sentenced five members of the banned militant outfit ‘Ansarullah Bangla Team’ to life term imprisonment in an arms case.

Lalmonirhat Special Tribunal-1 and District and Sessions Judge Court Judge Md Mizanur Rahman also fined the convicts Tk 5,000 each, in default of which they will have to serve one more month imprisonment, Akmal Hossain Ahmed, a public prosecutor of the court, said.

The convicts areHasan Ali alias Lal, his brother Abu Nayeem Mister, Asmat Ali alias Laltu, Ali Hossain and Shafiul Islam Saddam, hailing from Uttar Mushrat Madati village under Kaliganj upazila of the district.

According to the case statement, members of the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in a drive arrested them from a primary school at the village while they were holding a secret meeting on October 30, 2018.

Two pistols, four rounds of bullets, two magazines, gun powder, other equipment used in making bomb, leaflets and books related to the militancy were also recovered from their possessions during the drive.

A case was lodged at Kaliganj police station under the Anti-Terrorism Act in this connection.

After completing all legal procedures, the court handed down the judgment.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Most sewerage lines of city houses illegally connected to surface drains

Most house owners in Dhaka have connected their sewage discharge pipes to the surface drains of the City Corporation instead of sewage management networks.

This results in severe pollution to the lakes in and around the capital.

Campaigns will be conducted in every ward in Dhaka North City Corporation to block those illegal sewage lines, the city corporation mayor Atiqul Islam told UNB.

Sewage networks should not be connected to the city corporation's surface drains in any way. The house owners should immediately disconnect those illegal lines. If not, it will be permanently disconnected by the city corporation authorities, the Mayor alerted the house owners.

“Campaign will continue in every ward of the city corporation in phases and no compromise will be made in this regard,” Atiq said.

To make the campaign successful, Mayor Atiqul put emphasis on creating awareness among the house owners. Besides, ward councilors and city corporation officials will perform their respective duties to resolve the problem, added the Mayor.

“We repeatedly asked the house owners not to connect their sewage lines to the surface drains but they did not pay any importance. We have even given public notification to be aware in this regard but we did not get any positive response from them. So we have been compelled to conduct a drive,” he said. “Strict action will be taken against those who are involved in these illegal activities."

“We had a meeting with the representatives of Baridhara and Gulshan Society over the issue but no one is paying attention even after saying it again and again”, he said.

Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "Illegal sewage connections in elite areas is a matter of great regret. The wastes of these houses are supposed to flow through separate WASA lines. Where there are no water lines, ETP plants should be installed by the house owners to manage the wastes."

He said, “We have conducted a ground survey in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Niketan areas of the city and the findings are appalling. According to the survey, about 85 percent of the houses have sewage lines in surface drains. It is verily alarming in such VIP areas. It is polluting the canal and lake water. To save the city, the authorities were forced to plug these connections.”

At least 3,830 houses were surveyed in these four areas. Of these houses, 3,265 houses discharged sewage directly into surface drains and lakes. Only 41 houses have proper sewerage connection and 524 houses have partial sewage management. As a result, the natural beauty of the lake is being destroyed and mosquito infestation is increasing.

Out of 550 houses in Baridhara, which is known as the most elite area of the country, 342 houses have connected their sewage lines to surface drains. The survey report found, only 5 houses in Baridhara have not been connected to surface drains out of eight level criteria laid down while 203 houses met few of the conditions. On the other hand, 342 houses did not fulfill a single condition, whose house sewage line is connected to the surface drain.

As part of the drive, the city corporation placed banana trees in the drains to stop the flow of waste coming from the sewerage lines of four houses in the Baridhara-11 area.

According to the DNCC, the Sanitation Compliance Committee comprising the chief waste management officer of DNCC in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Niketan areas, former professor of BUET Md Mujibur Rahman, representatives of Dhaka Wasa, International Training Network Centre (ITN-BUET), housing society and UNICEF supervised the survey work.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) started an operation this month to stop the connection of sewage to surface drains, canals or lakes. As part of the campaign, DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam took part in the campaign and stopped the sewage connection of two houses from the surface drain on Road No. 104 and 112 of Gulshan-2.

Additionally, the lake's high water contamination makes it impossible to cultivate the fish. Therefore, natural repellents to kill mosquitoes are not possible due to the inability to farm fish, Mayor Atiq said.

"As we do not have any scheduled campaign at this moment, we are creating awareness among the house owners, especially the owners of newly constructed buildings over the issue", Md Mizanur Rahman, CEO of Dhaka South City Corporation, told UNB.

"Besides, we are giving time to disconnect all the old houses which are already connected to the sewerage line of the City Corporation and transfer them to WASA drainage," he added.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Myanmar’s economy resilient despite sanctions on military rule: BIPSS Seminar

Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) President Maj. Gen. (Retd) Muniruzzaman has said the military takeover in Myanmar in February 2021 was a “key strategic issue” in the region with ramifications that were no longer confined to Myanmar.

Moderating a roundtable he, however, said a country like Myanmar, with sufficient economy and energy resources, can tackle sanctions easily and can be in isolation for a long time because of its strong economic basis.

The think-tank BIPSS organised the roundtable titled “Two Years of Military Rule in Myanmar: Ramifications for the Future” in Dhaka on Tuesday.

East West University’s Assistant Professor Parvez Karim Abbasi said despite multiple challenges, including the coup, COVID-19, armed insurgency, conflict, and sanctions the Myanmari economy is still afloat.

Abbasi attributed it to remittances from Thailand, resource extraction industries, and investments from Singapore, China, and Hong Kong.

He further addressed the impact of the emerging nuclear issue, where Myanmar is pursuing nuclear power, and its impact on Bangladesh, as well as the Burma Act.

Brig Gen M Sakhawat Hossain, a senior fellow at the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance, NSU, stated that the National Unity Government (NUG) mentioned the Rohingya as their people and pointed out that the issue of 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has become a severe problem for the economy and security of the country.

His speech was concerned with the issue of the Burma Act and whether it will bring any ray of hope or not.

Brig Gen Shahedul Anam (retd), a former associate editor of The Daily Star, mentioned Myanmar is getting support from India and China because of the significant interdependence, according to a media release of BIPSS.

He said the global sanctions are not affecting Myanmar because of their worthy ability.

He also said in this stage, where two years of this military coup have passed, Bangladesh should not take any such action, which will ultimately give a justification for the Rohingya crisis.

The roundtable was attended by diplomats stationed in Dhaka, defence personnel and students.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Blinken warns Central Asia of dangers from war in Ukraine

The Biden administration on Tuesday pledged to support the independence of the five Central Asian nations, in a not-so-subtle warning to the former Soviet states that Russia’s value as a partner has been badly compromised by its year-old war against Ukraine.

In Kazakhstan for meetings with top Central Asian diplomats, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said no country, particularly those that have traditionally been in Moscow’s orbit, can afford to ignore the threats posed by Russian aggression to not only their territory but to the international rules-based order and the global economy. In all of his discussions, Blinken stressed the importance of respect for “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”

The Central Asian states have hewed to a studied position of neutrality on Ukraine, neither supporting Russia’s invasion nor U.S. and Western condemnations of the war.

“Ever since being the first nation to recognize Kazakhstan in December of 1991, the United States has been firmly committed to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Kazakhstan and countries across the region,” Blinken said after meeting in Astana with the foreign ministers of the so-called C5+1 group, made up of the U.S. and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“In our discussions today, I reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Kazakhstan, like all nations, to freely determine its future, especially as we mark one year since Russia lost its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in a failed attempt to deny its people that very freedom,” Blinken told reporters at a news conference with Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi.

Tileuberdi thanked Blinken for the U.S. commitment to Kazakhstan’s freedom, but signaled that his country was unlikely to adopt either a pro-Russian or pro-Western position. Tileuberdi said Kazakhstan would continue to act in its own national interest given “the complex international situation.”

“Our country continues a balanced multilateral foreign policy,” he said.

Tileuberdi noted that while Kazakhstan has very close and historic ties with both Russia and Ukraine, it would not allow its territory to be used for any Russian aggression or sanctions evasion. He added that even though Kazakhstan shares the world’s longest land border with Russia, it did not see a threat from Moscow.

Blinken also held separate meetings in Astana with the foreign ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Tajiistan and Turkmenistan. After visiting Kazakhstan, Blinken arrived in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, on his first trip to Central Asia as secretary of state.

None of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, traditionally viewed as part of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, publicly backed the Russian invasion. Kazakhstan welcomed tens of thousands of Russians fleeing from the military call-up last fall. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has spoken by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy three times since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine last February, calling for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict in accordance with the U.N. charter and international law.

However, all five Central Asian republics, along with India, which Blinken will visit next after Uzbekistan, abstained in a vote to condemn the invasion as a violation of core international principles last week at the U.N. General Assembly, on the first anniversary of the war.

“If we allow (those principles) to be violated with impunity, that does open the prospect that Russia itself will continue to consider further aggression against other countries, if it sets its sights on them, or other countries will learn the wrong lesson and would-be aggressors in every part of the world will say ’well, if Russia can get away with this, then we can too,’” Blinken said. “That’s a recipe for a world of conflict, a world of instability, a world that I don’t think any of us want to live in.”

“So, that’s why it’s been so important for so many countries to stand up and say, no we don’t accept this,” he said.

The U.S. has for decades sought — without great success — to wean the former Soviet nations of the region from Moscow’s influence. Some, notably Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, assisted the U.S. logistically during its 20-year conflict in Afghanistan, but their ties to Russia remain deep and extend to the economic, military and diplomatic spheres as members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Moscow-dominated grouping of ex-Soviet nations.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Indian Shillong Judge Court upholds acquittal of BNP leader Salahuddin

The judge court in India's Shillong has upheld a magistrate court’s verdict that acquitted BNP leader Salahuddin Ahmed in a case filed against him over trespassing into India in 2015.

“A Shillong magistrate court earlier acquitted me. Later the Indian government appealed against the verdict. The judge court acquitted me disposing of the appeal on Tuesday,” Salahuddin told UNB over the phone.

In the short order, he said the judge court also asked the Indian government to take necessary steps to send him to back to Bangladesh.

Replying to a question, the BNP leader said he is eagerly waiting to return home.

He hoped that the Indian government and local administration will take immediate steps in line with the court order.

Earlier on October 26, 2018, the court of the first class judicial magistrate, DG Kharshiing, acquitted Salahuddin Ahmed in the case and asked the state government to take necessary steps for his immediate repatriation.

After remaining missing for around two months, Salahuddin, a former state minister, was found in Shillong, the capital of the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya on May 11, 2015.

He was arrested for entering India without any valid documents. A case was filed against him under the Foreigners Act.

Later, Shillong police pressed charges against him in the case.

However, BNP claimed that Salahuddin was picked up from a house in the city's Uttara area on March 10, 2015 allegedly by unidentified men who introduced themselves as detectives..

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Commuters can now use Mirpur-10 Metro Rail station

Commuters can now take the Metro Rail using Mirpur-10 station, as the government opened it for public this morning (March 01, 2023), nearly two months after the inauguration of the country’s much-awaited metro rail.

According to the Metro Rail authority, the train can pick up and drop off passengers at Mirpur-10 station from today.

With this, five out of nine Metro Rail stations have been opened, so far.

The government started the operation of Metro Rail service on December 28 last year on a limited scale, and there was no stoppage between Uttara North and Agargaon stations.

On December 29, the government made the metro rail open to the public.

Later, the government opened Metro Rail’s Pallabi and Uttara Centre stations on January 25 and February 18, respectively.

Four other stations -- Uttara South, Mirpur-11, Kazipara and Shewrapara -- will be opened to the public in phases.

Source: United News of Bangladesh