Liton for forging social resistance against communal forces

Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) AHM Khairuzzaman Liton called for forging social resistance against communal forces as they are the enemy of the society and the country as well.

"If we fail to stop communal and religious violence properly all our hard-earned achievements, dignity and reputation will go in vain. Now, we have to take an oath against communalism," he said while addressing a view-sharing meeting with elites, professional leaders and members of the civil society here today.

The RCC organized the meeting titled "Role of the Non-communal and Democratic Society" at its conference hall discussing and devising ways and means on how to establish a non-communal society collectively.

Mayor Liton, who is also the Presidium Member of Bangladesh Awami League, said the present government under the prudent and farsighted leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been working relentlessly to take the country to a new height.

Time has come to become united with non-communal spirit to thwart any sorts of rumor and falsehood as the country is going forward after facing multifarious challenges and obstacles.

The government is also very much positive and sincere in maintaining social and communal harmony for overall development of the nation.

On the contrary, the conspiracy circle has been unleashing terrorism and violence as part of their blueprint and deep-rooted conspiracies to take the country backward.

Liton cited the communal incident at Panchagarh as barbaric and inhuman. Saturday's incident at Rajshahi University (RU) is also unrespectable. He expects all the democratic and peace-loving people to come forward and work together to combat the violence interestedly.

Mayor Liton said many of the countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, are seen suffering a lot due to the communal and religious violence at present.

RU Vice-chancellor Prof Golam Sabbir Sattar, former vice-chancellor Prof Abdul Khaleque, Awami League Working Committee leader Begum Akhtar Jahan and Editor of Daily Sonali Sangbad Liakat Ali also spoke. Editor of Daily Sonar Desh Akbarul Hassan Millat moderated the discussion.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

DCs asked to monitor markets strictly during Ramadan

Cabinet Secretary Mahbub Hossain today said the government directed deputy commissioners (DCs) to monitor strictly markets during the upcoming Ramadan.

The government made the directives for the DCs today at the weekly cabinet meeting held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) here, he told a press briefing at the Secretariat here after the meeting.

The cabinet secretary said the DCs have been instructed to take legal actions if any abnormal market situation is created in the country during the Ramadan.

“There will be instructions from our side that if there is any abnormal situation in markets, legal actions must be taken. Every deputy commissioner has been asked to do so,” he said.

Replying to a question, Mahbub Hossain said market monitoring continues at different levels of the government to ensure that prices and supplies of essential commodities remain stable during the fasting month.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

Fire breaks out in Tejkunipara slum in city

A fire broke out at a slum in Tejkunipara in the city around 7.50pm tonight.

"Ten firefighting units have been working for controlling the blaze. The cause of the fire could not be known immediately," an official of Fire Service and Civil Defence told BSS.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

PM says will never bow down to foreign pressure, reiterates holding fair polls

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said she will never bow down to any foreign pressure as the people are her strength, reiterating to hold the next general election in a free and fair manner.

“You have to keep one thing in mind that there is no such pressure that can pressurize Sheikh Hasina,” she said in reply to the question - whether she is feeling any foreign pressure over the next general election in the context that the BNP has been lobbying foreigners and publication of an advertisement with the statement of 40 global personalities regarding Dr Yunus.

While briefing the media about her recent official visits to Qatar, the Prime Minister said she never bothers any pressure.

She added: “My power is only my people - nothing to happen to us whatever pressure is given by whom. We will do whatever is required for the welfare of the people.”

In this context, she said her government had constructed the Padma Bridge with its own finance, confronting all the hurdles, adding, “I have endured that pressure.”

The premier said they had received numerous phone calls from ambassadors to foreign minister and from different countries to keep a person managing director (MD) of a bank though Bangladesh’s existing laws do not permit a person to stay as MD after 60 years of age.

She questioned why a person wants to stay as MD violating the country’s law and what his benefit is.

“There might be one benefit of staying as MD and that is acquiring a lot of money and laundering that,” she said.

About publishing an advertisement in the Washington Post in favour of Dr Yunus, Sheikh Hasina questioned why an advertisement was published in a foreign newspaper in favour of a person who is famous as well as a Nobel laureate.

The Prime Minister said she could not do anything as the head of the government as there are laws and courts to deal with labour rights and tax evasion.

“If anyone breaches the laws, the court will look into the matter and what can I do as the head of the government?” she added.

She expressed her doubt about the motive of the advertisement published before the next general election.

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, MP, Deputy Leader of the House Begum Matia Chowdhury, MP, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi were present on the dais.

PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim moderated the programme.

Earlier on March 8, the Prime returned home from Doha, the capital of Qatar, after attending the 5th United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC5: From Potential to Prosperity).

Sheikh Hasina, also president of the Awami League, clarified her stance that no dialogue will be held before the next general election, saying, “With whom we will hold the dialogue.”

Mentioning that they held dialogue before the 2018 election and the BNP gave nominations after taking money and withdrawing their candidates, she questioned “What was the result of that dialogue?”

“Whatever we did, we did it for the welfare of the people,” she said.

Recalling the assassination of her father, mother and brothers on August 15 in 1975 and her humiliation by Khaleda Zia when she had gone to console the BNP chairperson over the death of her younger son Koko, the premier said, “Why dialogue to be held with those who humiliated me so badly?”

The Prime Minister questioned if there is anyone who is willing to take part in dialogue with killers of his or her parents.

About measures to clear the countrymen about the motive of the BNP to make the next election questionable, she said, “Many local and international agencies have been working to make the election questionable.”

The Prime Minister said her government has made the election commission completely independent financially and institutionally and enacted a law to this end so the commission can hold a free and fair election.

Besides, voter list with photographs and transparent ballot boxes have been introduced so that none can manipulate the election, she said.

She reminded all that BNP had prepared a voter list with 1.23 crore fake voters, saying that the Awami League has established the rights of vote in the country.

The premier said they have elected a politically conscious, patriot and dutiful person as the country’s next president under whom the next election will be fair.

“We want the next election to be free and fair as we have struggled for democracy,” she said.

The Prime Minister said the Awami League government has proved that they can hold a free, fair and peaceful election by holding the local government and by-lections and none can raise questions about its objectivity. She questioned that else they had to prove in this regard.

She reiterated that if the people want to see the Awami League in power again then they will remain in power, otherwise not.

The Prime Minister said the BNP led 20-party alliance had got only 30 seats while the AL led grand alliance bagged 270 seats in 2008 election which was considered as the fairest election.

She said a vested quarter is trying to create an unstable situation ahead of the election.

The Prime Minister opined that a free, fair and impartial election is required for continuation of the stability and thus the development and progress of the country.

“Currently, there is no chance of vote rigging as we have given a voter list with pictures through introducing smart NID cards for the citizens leaving no scope to cast votes by fake voters. We wanted to vote through EVMs, but many objected. The Election Commission will use EVMs as much as possible. Voters will vote through the modern technology,” she continued.

Briefly describing her government measures for making Bangladesh a role model for development on the world stage in the last 14 years, she said the people want the Awami League in power again.

Referring to some statements made by the inhabitants of Bogura, the stronghold of the BNP, she said the people of Bogura are even saying they are in good condition during the current tenure of the AL government and the government should stay in power.

Sheikh Hasina said her government has taken appropriate measures so that the people of any level don’t have to suffer for food in the month of Ramadan.

“The holy Ramadan is ahead. We have no scarcity of rice. We have 21 lakh metric tons of food in stock…. InshaAllah, Bangladesh will not fall in any danger if all cooperate,” she said.

The Prime Minister said they have given rice to one crore people at Tk 30 per kilogram through fair price cards, adding that pulse, edible oil and sugar have also been given through the cards.

Besides, she said, 50 lakh people will get rice at Tk 15 per kg, if necessary it will be given to 50 lakh more people.

She continued that one crore hardcore poor people will be given 30 kgs of rice per month free of cost to make sure that none suffers for food.

The Prime Minister called upon the people not to purchase excessive food from the market at a time, saying, “Buy the commodities whatever quantity you need from the market and don’t make a stockpile of food.”

She called upon the people, particularly the journalists, to look into the matter that none can make a stockpile of food.

The premier said there are some opposition parties which are always trying to create problems by spreading false information. “But there is nothing to be misled,” she said.

The Prime Minister reiterated her call to bring every inch of land under cultivation so that the global economic recession and food crisis cannot hit Bangladesh.

Replying to a question, Sheikh Hasina said Radwan Mujib Siddiq paid rich tribute to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on behalf of her marking the historic March 7 speech of Bangabandhu as she was in Qatar at that time.

“But, he did not do it with any political mission,” she assured.

The Prime Minister said she and her sister have five children and they all have been working for the welfare of the countrymen through Young Bangla, Center for Research and Information (CRI), Start Up Programme and autism campaign.

“They are working for the countrymen and they have no ambition,” she said.

Post-LDC Challenges

Regarding the challenges to come after the final graduation from the Least Developed Countries, the Prime Minister said that it should not be wise to see only the problem here rather it will open the doors of opportunities and potentialities. “We should keep it in our brain that we can avail lots of options such as getting loan, development works, entering new markets etc easily.”

In this regards, she said that Bangladesh is not dependent only on readymade garment as investment has been made on digital devices, while 100 economic zones have been established where the government is trying to bring investment.

“Many are showing their keen interest to make investment in the economic zones,” she said.

Mentioning that the government is improving the country’s ports, she said that Bangladesh can export whatever it is producing such as leather goods, jute and jute goods, agricultural products and food items including fish and meat.

“Our vegetables are being exported to 70 countries, while our pharmaceuticals and ceramics have a big market in over 100 countries across the globe”, she said, adding: “We are more serious to explore new markets and expand the export basket by producing new products.”

Besides, a number of committees under the leadership of the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary are in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to see the problems and way out from it as well as grab opportunities after the graduation, she added.

In addition, a separate wing in PMO is also working to oversee the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said the premier.

“We are sending our representatives to discuss and negotiate with different countries and bodies to grab the opportunities what we can get after the graduation from LDCs,” she said.

“We are also discussing and negotiating with international agencies to avail the extra benefits what we should get due to the time wastage for Covid-19,” she added.

Sheikh Hassan said that her government didn’t sit idle rather they are formulating the national budget and development programs keeping the post graduation in mind.

“After making all preparations, we do our work and in this way we’ve finally done it.”

ULFA

An interview of a banned Assam based outfit ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) leader Aup Chetia was aired recently in a private TV channel and different media outlets in India and social networking sites in which Chetia confessed that he had brought the 10-truck arms in Bangladesh under direct patronisation of the BNP-Jamaat alliance.

In replying to a question in this connection that the BNP central leaders are now avoiding the matter terming it as a political matter, Sheikh Hasina said, “It is one kind of cheating and an attempt to hide the matter terming it as political. The people will give them punishment for it.”

The Primed Minister said the 10-truck arms were seized red-handed and Tarique Rahman was sentenced in that case and the BNP leaders are calling it a political matter.

“Arms trading is their business and they are out to brand it as a political matter. The party (BNP) was formed illegally with arms. What the people can expect from them without looting and corruption,” she said.

Rohingya

Sheikh Hasina said the focus on forcibly displaced Rohingyas has shifted to war in Ukraine and refugees of that country.

But Bangladesh has to shoulder their responsibilities as it has given them shelter, she said.

The Prime Minister said her government has been discussing the matter with Myanmar as part of the move to send them back to their country, adding that Myanmar does not respond positively.

She reminded all that Bangladesh had shouldered all the responsibilities of food, accommodation and healthcare services in the first two or three months after they took shelter and later others extended their helping hands.

The Prime Minister said she had told the organisations under the United Nations (UN) to take effective measures to send Rohingyas back to their homeland.

Referring to taking shelter by one crore Bangladeshi refugees in India during the War of Liberation in 1971, she said, “We have given the Rohingyas shelter on humanitarian ground thinking of the plight of ours at that time.”

The premier said it is true that the Rohingyas are a burden for Bangladesh and at the same time it has a duty towards them.

She said her government has developed the Bhashan Char with livelihoods for giving Rohingyas a comfortable life there.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

Women should build themselves as skilled citizens: info sec

Secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry Md Humayun Kabir Khandaker today called upon the women to build themselves as efficient citizens to cope up with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) to help the country move towards its desired goals.

“We already have entered the 4IR era while the 5th IR is knocking the door. At this stage, the women should develop themselves as worthy citizens. Thus, the country will move towards its desired goal with the collective efforts of men and women,” he said.

The official made the remarks while addressing a discussion as the chief guest at Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) headquarters, marking the International Women’s Day.

Presided over by BSS Managing Director and Chief Editor Abul Kalam Azad, the discussion was also addressed by Managing Editor Anisur Rahman, Chief News Editor Samir Kanti Barua, Chief News editor (Bangla) Ruhul Ghani Jyoti and City Editor Madhusudan Mondal, among others.

Due to the patriarchal social system, women were left behind in the past, Kabir said, adding, “The government now wants to bring women forward from that place. So, they (women) should utilize this opportunity”.

Urging all to grow up as ‘Smart citizens’ in the challenging time of the 4IR, he said it is not only the government's responsibility to make the people ‘smart citizens’, it is also the responsibility of every citizen of the country to build himself or herself as a qualified citizen.

Since the world is moving towards automation, the secretary said, those who can’t keep pace with the new developments will be left behind.

He urged journalists to convey this message to every level of society.

“As well-educated people, we should respect women, freedom fighters and senior citizens. If we could practice this, the aim of the women’s day will be successful. Every day should be women’s day, then the family, society and the country will be beautified,” Kabir said.

Speaking about the Month of Independence, he said the month of March is an important month both nationally and internationally as Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had made the call for independence on March 7 while the International Women’s Day is in March, March 17 is the birthday of Bangabandhu and March 26 is the Independence Day of Bangladesh.

“We should give an extra importance to this month (March),” the secretary said.

Speaking at the discussion, Abul Kalam Azad said women have marched much forward in the current society with their abilities as the government has taken multifaceted initiatives to empower them.

“Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has established herself as one of the world leaders today with her foresight, skills and competence,” he said.

Azad added: “As conscious people of society, we should respect women in family as well as in society. We should treat women not as women, but as human beings. Only then it will be possible to build a developed, prosperous and smart Bangladesh”.

BSS Special Correspondent Mahfuza Jasmine conducted the discussion while News Editor Nure Jannat Akter Sima, Senior Reporter Selina Sheuli and Senior Sub-Editor Rokshana Yesmin Tithi spoke at the event.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

President asks physicians not to harass patients with unnecessary tests

President M Abdul Hamid today asked physicians not to harass patients with unnecessary huge tests as he addressed the fourth convocation of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) here.

"Being eminent physicians, don't harass patients with unnecessary big tests… ill and unfair competitions should be avoided," he told the doctors at the convocation ceremony held at Bangmata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Convention Hall on BSMMU campus this afternoon.

The Head of State also urged the doctors to behave responsibly with utmost sincerity and spirit of providing medical services to all in the proper manner.

The President, also chancellor of the university, directed the doctors and others concerned to take necessary measures to facilitate the service delivery system of BSMMU.

“BSMMU's outdoor often receives complaints that the laboratory department is not opened in the morning. As a result, patients are being harassed while collecting reports frequently," he said quoting reports.

Referring to BSMMU as a 'Centre of Excellence' in terms of capabilities, the President said, people have high expectations from this institution. “There is no room for negligence, irresponsibility and administrative weakness in this university named after Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

President Hamid urged the doctors to come forward with administrative initiatives to stop all kinds of signboard-related and building-dependent frauds in the name of medical treatment.

He said everyone of the medical profession should be aware of the reputation of the entire medical community so that a few dishonest and fraudulent doctors cannot tarnish the image.

“It is often seen in the newspapers that hospital and clinics have grown up like mushroom . . . and are doing business by making patients hostages. Many times the patients, especially those from the villages, are subjected to extreme harassment falling in the clutches of brokers,” the President mentioned.

"Humanity is a divine virtue . . . Sick people rely on a doctor and a nurse after the Creator. Your good behavior and treatment is crucial for any patient," he added.

The university chancellor asked the authorities concerned to think about introducing using generic names instead of trade names of medicines in Bangladesh like abroad.

President Hamid put emphasis on research activities in medical services and said the pattern and incidence of diseases are changing frequently due to various natural and man-made reasons.

"There is no substitute for advanced research in the field of medicine to identify the causes, prevention and cures of various diseases to combat future threats to mankind," Hamid noted.

The BSMMU chancellor said Institutional Review Board (IRB) has been formed here with the aim of raising medical research to international standards and research activities are being conducted jointly with various organizations of the country and abroad as well.

The President said the type of disease in Bangladesh is different from developed and western countries and for this reason, own research work is needed for inventing effective and affordable treatment methods for diverse diseases here.

Indian University Service Commission Chairman Professor Raj-Bardhan Azad spoke as the convocation speaker in this fourth convocation of the university.

The university chancellor welcomed him to the campus and said that his presence as the keynote speaker at the BSMMU will guide the graduates to provide better services to the people of the country.

About the private hospitals and clinics, the President said hospitals and clinics in the private sector must be of good standard, where all necessary medical facilities would be available.

Referring to the nurses, the President said a patient in the hospital gets round-the-clock care and support from the nurses and a nurse's pleasant manners and encouraging words make a patient's hospital stay comfortable and speed up recovery.

He urged the nurses to be more sincere in patient service while at the same time it is necessary to improve the work environment for the nurses, provide better training and give them proper social status.

Noting that despite the presence of many renowned doctors and medical institutions in the country, about 25 lakh Bangladeshis go abroad for treatment every year, the President said, “We have to think where the real problem is . . . A doctor must first be a good listener to gain the trust of the patient.”

President Hamid said patients and their relatives should also remember that doctors are not God and they are human beings.

"They can only provide medical services. Therefore, it is not desirable to blame doctors and vandalize hospitals if anything happens to patients. Therefore, doctors, patients and relatives should be more responsible. None wants a situation where common people and patients are subjected to unbearable sufferings," added Abdul Hamid.

BSMMU will play an important role in the growth and development of medical science in this country and will contribute to building a developed, prosperous, smart Bangladesh, envisioned by. Bangabandhu, hoped the President.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Malek, MP, Vice Chancellor of BSMMU Dr. Md. Sharfuddin Ahmed, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education) Professor Dr. Mosharraf Hossain, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Administration) Professor Dr. Sharfuddin Ahmed, and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Development) Professor Dr. Md Moniruzzaman Khan, Treasurer Prof. Dr. Mohammad Atiqur Rahman and Proctor Professor Dr. Md. Habibur Rahman Dulal were also present there.

At the fourth convocation, 35 people were awarded the "Chancellor's Gold Medal" while three were awarded honorary (PhD) degrees.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

Bangladesh achieves its goal by participating in UN conference on LDC5: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said Bangladesh has achieved its goal by participating in the United Nations conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) as it informed the international community about the various preparations and activities taken by Bangladesh to achieve the SDGs.

"In this conference, we informed the international community about the various preparations and activities we have taken to achieve the SDGs and the graduation from LDCs towards the implementation of Vision 2041," she said in the written speech of the press conference following her visit to Qatar to attend 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5).

Following is the full text of the written speech:

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Dear colleagues, journalists and distinguished personalities present here,

Assalamu Alaikum! Good Afternoon.

At the invitation of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, I visited Doha from March 4-8, 2023 to participate in second part of the 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5).

The main theme of this year's conference was "From Potential to Prosperity".

Earlier in 2001, I attended the third LDC conference in Brussels and the fourth LDC conference in Istanbul in 2011.

This is probably Bangladesh's last participation as a least developed country in the UN LDC conference. Because, we will leave LDC in 2026.

By participating in various events of this conference, I presented the incredible socio-economic development of Bangladesh to the international community.

At the same time, I raised our various demands and expectations to development partners to ensure a smooth and sustainable graduation from the list of least developed countries in 2026.

On March 5, I addressed the Opening Plenary Meeting of the LDC-5 Conference at Qatar National Convention Centre as the special invited guest.

Apart from me, the Emir of Qatar, the UN Secretary General, the President of the 77th UN General Assembly and the President of Malawi, the current chair of the LDC Group, also spoke on this occasion.

The UN Secretary General in his address said, "LDC graduation should be rewarded, not punished".

I have clearly stated in my speech that LDCs do not want mercy or charity, but their fair dues as per international commitments.

I demanded the implementation, on priority basis, of various international commitments made to LDCs in the wake of the global food, fuel and financial crisis caused by the Covid pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

In this regard, I highlighted the special needs of LDCs in different issues like international trade, investment, financial assistance, foreign debt repayment, technology transfer, safe migration, access to climate finance, etc.

Besides, I called for the continuation of preferential trade facilities and other facilities applicable to LDCs for an extended period to keep accelerating the development of countries including Bangladesh which remain on the way to graduation.

In 1974, Bangladesh was recognized as a member of the United Nations as a least developed country at the hands of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Following his footprints, our government with the people's mandate has been able to fulfill all the criteria of graduation as a middle income developing country by 2021 as per our promise.

On March 5, in the afternoon, I attended a high level session on the side event titled "Sustainable and Smooth Transition for the Graduating Cohort of 2021" organized by three Asian countries-- Bangladesh, Nepal and Lao PDR-- which are on the way to graduation from the list of least developed countries.

Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Deputy Prime Minister of Lao PDR and Executive Secretary of UNESCAP addressed the session.

I present a five-point specific proposal on behalf of the graduating countries side by side with highlighting the initiatives of our government to accelerate Bangladesh's journey of graduation. At the end of the event, a joint statement containing the integrated demands of the three countries was adopted.

In the morning of March 6, I participated in a business summit titled "The Rise of Bengal Tiger: Potentials of Trade & Investment in Bangladesh" jointly organized by Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission and Bangladesh Investment Development Authority.

A good number of members including leaders of Qatar's top business organizations participated in this event.

I called for reshaping the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Qatar on the basis of mutually beneficial economic partnership.

In this context, I proposed the formation of a joint business and investment committee between the governments of the two countries and a joint business forum consisting of the top business organizations of the two countries.

Besides, I called upon Qatari businessmen to invest in Bangladesh in various sectors including renewable energy, offshore gas exploration, energy transmission system, agricultural processing, tourism and start-up.

In the afternoon on that day, I was present as the chief guest at the side event "Investment in Research and Development in LDCs for Smart and Innovative Societies" organized by our delegation.

Ministerial representatives of Egypt, Singapore, Estonia, high-level officials of the United Nations, experts from OECD, ITU, WIPO and FAO participated in the event.

During the event, they lauded the success achieved by our government in the implementation of 'Digital Bangladesh' and promised to stay with us by extending required cooperation in building 'Smart Bangladesh' as per our Vision-2041.

I highlighted our various initiatives including promoting agricultural research since taking charge of my government in 1996, building strong and secure digital infrastructure across the country since 2009 and at the same promoting scientific education, introduction of scholarships and donations to encourage research and innovation in health, climate change, biotechnology, etc.

In the evening on the same day, I participated in the Regional Ambassadors' Conference organized with the participation of Bangladesh Ambassadors stationed in GCC countries, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

In the conference, I directed to take concerted steps to open new horizons in our relations with the countries of the Middle East in continuation of the foreign policy followed by the Father of the Nation.

I instructed our ambassadors to put emphasis on various areas of economic diplomacy including export expansion, investment attraction, energy security, protection of interests and rights of expatriates, technology cooperation with these countries.

At the same time, I suggested increasing the range of consular services using digital medium as per need.

In the morning of March 7, with the President of Burundi, I co-chaired the high-level round table meeting titled "Enhancing the Participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in International Trade & Regional Integration" of the LDC-5 Conference.

In my speech, I presented various initiatives taken by our government to build Bangladesh as a Regional Connectivity and Logistic Hub.

In the afternoon on the same day, I was present as the chief guest at the side event "Global Partnership for Smooth and Sustainable Graduation: Marching towards Smart Bangladesh" organized by our delegation.

Apart from Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Climate Change, high-level representatives of various international organizations including UNCTAD, WTO, UNIDO, OECD and private representatives were present in this event.

I mentioned various far-reaching initiatives taken by our government in various sectors including trade, investment, industrialization, communication infrastructure and digital technology.

I called for continuing the tariff and quota-free trade facilities for LDCs in the post-graduation period and TRIPS exemptions for the benefit of other sectors, including the pharmaceutical industry.

In the evening on that day, I participated in a special program organized by Bangladeshi expatriates in Qatar at the MHM School in Doha on the occasion of the historic 7th March. I called upon Qatari expatriates to contribute to the ongoing socio-economic development of the country.

I requested those, who are intending to migrate, to travel abroad legally by receiving necessary financial assistance from the Probashi Kallyan Bank, send remittances to the country through banks or money transfer agencies instead of hundi, and stay away from criminal activities and abide by the laws of the host country.

Apart from participating in the UN LDC5 conference, I also participated in several bilateral meetings. On March 5, I had a meeting with His Highness Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

During the meeting, His Highness the Emir of Qatar assured me that Qatar will stay with Bangladesh to meet Bangladesh's growing demand for energy.

On March 6, I had a meeting with Qatar Foundation co-founder and chairperson Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, also mother of the Emir.

In the meeting, we discussed about increasing bilateral cooperation in various sectors including education and healthcare.

Under the Education Above All Foundation established by Sheikha Moza, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Qatar Fund for Development for a grant of $12.7 million to support primary school dropouts in Bangladesh.The Hon'ble Foreign Minister signed this MoU on behalf of the Government.

In the afternoon of March 4, I had a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

I called upon him to continue his ongoing talks with the parties concerned to end the war in Ukraine.

I sought the UN's cooperation in quick repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar and shifting of more Rohingyas from Cox's Bazar to Bhasanchar.

On the same day, I had a bilateral meeting with the President of the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations, Saba Karosi.

Besides, Rebecca Greenspan, Secretary General of UNCTAD, Secretary General of ITU, Administrator of UNDP, Minister for Development Cooperation and Climate Change of Denmark and Commissioner of International Partnerships of the European Union had paid courtesy calls on me.

Also, Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based media, received an interview with me.

Among others, Honorable Education Minister, Honorable Foreign Affairs Minister and Honorable Commerce Minister visited Qatar as my entourages.

They attended various events as well as participated in several bilateral meetings. In the morning on March 8, I left Doha for Dhaka.

A short commemorative event was held on our journey to mark International Women's Day sponsored by Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

Overall, I think Bangladesh has achieved its goal by participating in the United Nations conference.

In this conference, we informed the international community about the various preparations and activities we have taken to achieve the SDGs and the graduation from LDCs towards the implementation of Vision 2041.

On behalf of the least developed countries, we have also pledged to implement the issues applicable to us in the Doha Program of Action.

We hope that the initiative mentioned in this Programme of Action regarding the establishment of Sustainable Graduation Support Facility under the United Nations will proceed appropriately.

Thanks you all again.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

US, S.Korea kick off largest drills in five years

South Korea and the United States kicked off their largest joint military exercises in five years on Monday, after nuclear-armed Pyongyang warned such drills could be seen as a "declaration of war".

Washington and Seoul have ramped up defence cooperation in the face of growing threats from the North, which has conducted a series of banned weapons tests in recent months.

The US-South Korea exercises, called Freedom Shield, are scheduled to run for at least 10 days from Monday and will focus on the "changing security environment" due to North Korea's redoubled aggression, the allies said.

In a rare move, the Seoul military this month revealed that it and Washington special forces were staging "Teak Knife" military exercises -- which involve simulating precision strikes on key facilities in North Korea -- ahead of Freedom Shield.

All such exercises infuriate North Korea, which views them as rehearsals for an invasion.

It has said its nuclear weapons and missile programmes are for self-defence.

Over the weekend, North Korea fired two "strategic cruise missiles" from a submarine in waters off its east coast, the official KCNA news agency reported Monday.

The agency cited the country's "invariable stand" to confront a situation in which "the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces are getting ever more undisguised in their anti-DPRK military maneuvers".

"Pyongyang has military capabilities under development it wants to test anyway and likes to use Washington and Seoul's cooperation as an excuse," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

DPRK is the initialism for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In a separate statement, North Korea's foreign ministry said the United States was "scheming" to call a UN Security Council meeting on human rights in the reclusive communist state, to coincide with the joint manoeuvres.

"The DPRK bitterly denounces the US vicious 'human rights' racket as the most intensive expression of its hostile policy toward the DPRK and categorically rejects it," the ministry said, according to KCNA.

Last year, the North declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power and fired a record-breaking number of missiles, with leader Kim Jong Un last week ordering his military to intensify drills to prepare for a "real war".

- Shift in position? -

Washington has repeatedly restated its "ironclad" commitment to defending South Korea, including using the "full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear".

South Korea, for its part, is eager to reassure its increasingly nervous public about the US commitment to so-called extended deterrence, in which US military assets, including nuclear weapons, serve to prevent attacks on allies.

Although the official policy of both countries towards the North -- that Kim must give up his nukes and return to the table for talks -- has not changed, experts said there had been a practical shift.

Washington has "effectively acknowledged that North Korea will never give up its nuclear programme", An Chan-il, a defector turned researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, told AFP.

This Freedom Shield training is the first since that happened, meaning it "will be very different -- both qualitatively and quantitatively -- from previous joint exercises that took place in recent years", he added.

North Korea, which recently called for an "exponential" increase in weapons production, including tactical nukes, had been widely expected to respond with missile launches and drills of its own -- with experts saying more were likely over the course of the US-South Korean exercises.

"North Korea will use the Freedom Shield 2023 Exercise to unify its people and as an excuse to further invest in weapons of mass destruction," said Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean army general.

"More missile launches with variations in style and scope should be expected with even a nuclear test. More acts of intimidation from North Korea should not come as a surprise."

But Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification said Pyongyang was not expected to "cross the red line".

The North is likely to refrain from activities "at which the US and South Korea are forced to counter strike in response", he said.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

Govt sets office timing 9 am to 3.30pm during Ramadan

The government has fixed the office timing from 9 am to 3.30 pm for all government, semi-government, autonomous and semi-autonomous institutions during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan.

The decision was taken at the regular cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) here with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

“The office timing for all government, semi-government, autonomous and semi-autonomous institutions has been set from 9 am to 3.30 pm during the upcoming Ramadan,” Cabinet Secretary Mahbub Hossain told a press briefing at the Secretariat here after the meeting.

During the office time, he said, there will be a 15-minute break from 1.15 to 1.30 pm for Zohr prayers.

The cabinet secretary said during the Ramadan, the offices of all banks and other financial agencies and emergency service providing institutions will run as per their respective rules and regulations.

Responding to a question, Mahbub Hossain said the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) have been instructed to take legal actions if any unwanted situation is created in the country during the Ramadan.

"There will be instructions from our side that if there is any abnormal situation in markets, legal actions must be taken. Every deputy commissioner has been asked to do so," he said.

About the outcomes of the meeting, he said the cabinet approved a draft of an agreement on traffic in transit between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Once the agreement is signed, Bhutan will be able to use the ports of Bangladesh for import and export of goods, the cabinet secretary said.

He said the government has decided to build a new university in Bogura and its name will be 'Bogura Science and Technology University'.

There will be 54 public universities in the country after establishing this university, he added.

Besides, Mahbub said, the today's cabinet meeting approved a draft law on establishment of a public procurement authority.

Basically, he said, the existing Central Procurement Technical Unit is being turned into the authority.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

Bangladesh welcomes resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia, Iran

Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today welcomed the breakthrough decision over resumption of the diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran while Dhaka believes it will reduce tension in the Middle East.

"Bangladesh is a peace loving country and it welcomes the decision to resume the diplomatic ties between the two brotherly countries of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Iran," he said in remarks delivered to media tonight.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh lauds the role played by China, Iraq, and Oman for facilitating the negotiation, leading to the successful breakthrough.

He further said Dhaka believes that it would contribute to reducing tension and conflict in the Gulf region, foster stability, and create the path for "durable and sustainable long term peace for the betterment of the brotherly peoples in the Middle East region".

Saudi Arabia and Iran have recently agreed to resume diplomatic relations after four days of intensive previously undisclosed talks in Beijing and seven years after ties were cut.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

3 die in Bogura road accident

Three people were killed and five others injured in a head-on collision between a CNG-run auto-rickshaw and a pickup van in the Kunderhat bus stand area under Nandigram upazila here today.

The deceased were identified as CNG driver Hefjul Islam, 45, son of Abu Taleb, a resident of Damgara village of Nandigram municipal area, Minhajul Rahman, 22, son of Sakhawat Hossain, resident of Namuit village and Abdul Alim, 3, son of Tansen Ali, a resident of the upazila.

Quoting locals, police said the CNG-run auto-rickshaw was going to Bogura from Nandigram and collided head-on with a pickup van coming from the opposite direction in the area around 8 am, leaving three people, including the CNG driver dead on the spot and five others injured, Superintendent of Police of Highway Police Bogura Region Habibur Rahman told BSS.

The injured were taken to Bogura Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College Hospital, he said.

A case was filed in this connection.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)

Army man killed, 2 hurt in firing by KNA in Bandarban: ISPR

An army man was killed and two others were injured after armed activists of the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA) opened fire on the army personnel in Bandarban on Sunday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a press release today.

The deceased was identified as Nazim Uddin, a master warrant, son of late Shamsher Ali, he hailed from Ghagatpara village of Rangpur sadar.

Two others injured are being treated at a hospital.

The KNA activists opened fire around 1pm on army personnel who were providing security to a free health campaign, supervised by Bangladesh Army, for mothers and children in remote hilly areas on the occasion of Independence Day and National Children's Day, according to the ISPR release.

He had been serving Bangladesh Army for the last 30 years with utmost honesty, dedication and professionalism, the release added.

Army Chief General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed expressed his deepest shock and sorrow at the death of Nazim Uddin.

Extortion, drug smuggling, kidnapping and killings by the KNA terrorists have been hampering various developmental activities in the region.

The terrorist activities of KNA are undermining country's image in the world along with affecting the internal security and above all it is disrupting the prevailing law and order situation in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)