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Bangladesh: Professor’s Slaying Angers Colleagues, Students

A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked to death while heading to campus Saturday morning

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A man holds a portrait of professor A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddique, who was hacked to death by unidentified attackers in Rajshahi, northern Bangladesh, April 23, 2016. Image source: www.benarnews.org

Faculty at a university in northwestern Bangladesh said they were planning to boycott classes scheduled for Sunday and Monday in anger over a colleague’s grisly murder by suspected militants.

Rajshahi University English professor A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked to death while heading to campus Saturday morning, in a murder whose motive remained unclear but that bore the hallmarks of machete-killings of secular writers, bloggers and intellectuals, police said.

Seven such killings at the hands of suspected Muslim radicals took place between February 2013 and April 7, 2016, with six occurring within the past 14 months. The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the professor’s murder, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group tweeted on Saturday, although Bangladeshi officials have vehemently denied that IS has a presence in their country.

“We will bring out a protest rally tomorrow, and the teachers will boycott all classes on Sunday and Monday in protest of the killing,” Shateel Siraj, former joint secretary of the Rajshahi University Teachers’ Association, told BenarNews on Saturday after faculty members held an emergency meeting.

Rajshahi University students who were incensed at news of the killing of Siddique – known as a lover of poetry who was trying to start a music school in his village – staged a protest rally on campus earlier in the day demanding that his killers be arrested and prosecuted.

Saturday’s killing in Rajshahi, a riverfront city located some 200 km (124.2 miles) from Dhaka, was in fact the second hacking to death of a professor from the campus in less than 18 months. But the murder of sociology professor A.K.M. Shafiul Islam in November 2014 stemmed from a personal conflict with a student and was not religiously motivated, police told BenarNews.

At least two suspects who were arrested in the Islam homicide case and are now standing trial on murder charges tried to throw police off their trail, by creating a Facebook page where they posted messages that made it look like militants were behind the sociology professor’s killing, police said.

‘Militants may be killers’

Siddique, 61, was attacked by machete-wielding suspects around 7:40 a.m. as he was walking from his home to catch a bus to the university, Golam Saqlain, an assistant police commissioner at the Bolia police station in Rajshahi district, told BenarNews.

“The killers hacked him on the neck from behind. They hit at least three times. [A] two-third portion of his neck was severed from the body,” Saqlain said.

His attackers may have fled the scene on a motorbike, police said.

“The way the bloggers in the past were hacked to death, Professor Rezaul was killed in the similar fashion. So, we suspect that some militant groups could have been involved in the murder,” Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) Commissioner Md. Shamsuddin told reporters.

Police were still trying to pinpoint a motive, according to Saqlain who is part of a six-member team investigating Siddique’s murder.

“We have yet to ascertain what group could have killed him. Besides, we are also investigating whether any other causes led to the murder,” he said.

‘Very simple and soft-spoken’

Hasan Imam, a sociology professor at Rajshahi, described Siddique as a quiet man who had no enemies and was not a political activist.

“He was a very simple and soft-spoken person; so personal enmity is unlikely to be the cause. Rajshahi University is making news headlines at the cost of our colleagues. We do not know who is going to be the next [target],” Imam told BenarNews.

According to Siddique’s brother, Sirajul Karim Siddique, the professor had never received any death threats.

“He had been involved in writing and trying to set a music school in his village Dargamaria,” he told reporters.

Dargamaria lies in Bagmara, a sub-district of Rajshahi where the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) emerged in 2002-2003, and is now among militant groups being targeted by Bangladeshi authorities in an ongoing anti-terror crackdown.

Bagmara is also where a suicide bomber attacked a mosque frequented by minority Ahmadiyya Muslims on Dec. 25, killing himself and injuring three worshipers.

Credits: Benarnews.com

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Bangladesh Turns to Fill Ever-Growing Gap Between Energy Consumption and Supply by FDI

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe

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energy industry, bangladesh
A Bangladeshi man works on the tangled electric cables hanging above a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 12, 2017. VOA

Bangladesh has long struggled with power outages, with the nation experiencing its worst electricity crises in 2008 and 2009. Reports said one blackout, in 2014, affected as many as 100 million people — more than 60% of the population.

With a growing economy and a large population, the country always runs the risk of hampering its development process, which could cause instability. To counteract this, Bangladesh has turned to courting foreign direct investment to fill its ever-growing gap between energy consumption and supply. Companies from Britain, China, India and the United States have invested in the energy industry in Bangladesh.

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, talks about how a developing country like Bangladesh is taking initiatives to bring power to the entire population by 2021 that will include an increase in green energy alternatives.

energy industry, bangladesh
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, June 29, 2018. VOA

VOA: In your address during during Bangladesh Energy and Power Summit 2018, you said investment and development of innovative technologies are the two major issues that need to be given more priority to meet the power generation targets. What steps have you taken so far to achieve this?

Chowdhury: Since 2009, we have mobilized $20 billion of investment in the power sector projects, which has been approved and are being implemented. Half of this $20 billion investment will come from the private sector. We are encouraging foreign private investors to come and invest in the power sector.

Moving away from a policy of relying on domestic investment or investments from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, our government went out to the market and involved the private sector, in particular the foreign companies who have made bids for various power projects, to raise funds on their own.

In terms of development of innovative technologies, we have established the Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council to develop technological solutions, which are environmentally friendly. The council also aims to promote research and innovation in sustainable renewable energy.

VOA: As of 2018, Bangladesh had a capacity of generating power of 18,000 megawatts and your goal is to generate 60,000 megawatts by 2041. But how much of this 60,000 would be renewable energy?

Chowdhury: I would say 10% is a good target. We are building a nuclear power plant with 1,200 megawatts of electricity generation capacity that can be upgraded to generating up to 2,400 megawatts.

energy industry, bangladesh
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the India Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., June 12, 2019. VOA

We are also exploring possibilities of using wind energy turbines in five or six areas of the country, and invited proposals from interested companies.

We have the largest [coverage of] solar home systems in the world, [amounting to] over 6 million homes. Multiply this [by] five [members] in each home, and you have 30 million people who have access to renewable energy via solar home systems.

These are stand-alone solar home systems, small solar panels for individual households, not connected to a national grid. So they have their limitations, and I think we have reached as far as we can go through this route.

We are exploring the possibilities of connecting our national grid to national grids of other South Asian countries like India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. … Nepal and Bhutan have great potential in developing hydropower projects that would produce renewable energy in enormous quantity that can be imported to Bangladesh by connecting our national grids with the national grids of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

VOA: In an interview with Voice of America, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. M.A. Momen said that in his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mr. [Mike] Pompeo, the U.S. investment or the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership in exploration [of hydrocarbon reserves in offshore blocks] did come up, so where are we on that?

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

energy industry, bangladesh
FILE – The logo of General Electric is pictured at the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. VOA

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology.

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

ALSO READ: Trump Administration Commits to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner, Says Energy Secretary

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology. (VOA)