A momentous year in the history of Bangladesh

East Pakistan's Awami League party leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addresses a mass gathering on March 7, 1971. (AP files)
East Pakistan's Awami League party leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addresses a mass gathering on March 7, 1971. (AP files)
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Updated 26 March 2021

A momentous year in the history of Bangladesh

A momentous year in the history of Bangladesh

This year is a very significant year in the history of Bangladesh, as the nation celebrates the golden jubilee of its independence.

The joy of this occasion is manifold because we have also been celebrating the centenary of the birth of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The greatest Bengali of all time, he dreamed of an independent Bangladesh and fulfilled this dream through his lifelong struggle, uncompromising leadership, unlimited sacrifice and valiant command, earning a glorious victory in our nine month-long War of Independence.

On this auspicious occasion of the 50th National Day of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, I convey my heartfelt congratulations and warm greetings to the respected members of the Bangladeshi community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.




Ambassador Mohammad Javed Patwary

At this momentous time I also pay tribute to all the valiant freedom fighters for the supreme sacrifices they made to secure the independence of our motherland. My deepest respect goes to the martyrs of the Liberation War and to all the millions of people who withstood the suffering it caused.

I would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, and the crown prince, His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman, for their able leadership and contribution to Muslim ummah, and their visionary guidance to realize the aims of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Bangladesh has enjoyed warm bilateral relations with the Kingdom since the diplomatic ties were established in 1975. The excellent relationship between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia may be attributed to the fact that both countries share common perspectives, values and commitments.

Our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undertook five official visits to the Kingdom between June 2016 and May 2019. These visits added a new dimension of our bilateral relations. During meetings with our prime minister in 2016 and 2018, King Salman described Bangladesh as a “top Islamic country” in terms of the relationship between the two nations.

We hope to enhance our relationship based on the achievements of recent productive engagements, to set up a future that includes even closer cooperation and understanding between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, at the bilateral and multilateral levels.

In the coming days we would like to see the peoples of both countries herald a defining moment that raises the relationship between the two brotherly countries to new heights, particularly in the areas of trade, investment, education, health and manpower.

For several decades, Bangladesh has been meeting the need for workers in several sectors of the Saudi labor market. Members of the Bangladeshi migrant community have established their long-term credentials, and their work is greatly appreciated by the Saudi people. They have also played a part in contemporary Saudi economic growth, and Bangladesh stands ready to contribute to the efforts to realize the economic objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

Bangladesh offers a winning combination of a competitive marketplace, a business-friendly environment and competitive cost structure that can provide excellent returns on investment. It is an ideal destination for Saudi entrepreneurs as it has a very dynamic, young, talented, predominantly (more than 90 percent) Muslim population, and offers attractive incentives.

Potential investors can explore the enormous potential of investment opportunities in a number of sectors in Bangladesh, such as the tourism industry, information technology, shipbuilding and pharmaceuticals.

Bangladesh is also a role model for the developing world in terms of poverty reduction. It has achieved successes in developing its health and education sectors, and received accolades from the UN for its efforts in fighting climate change.

The country has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with annual growth reaching more than 7 percent in the past decade. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, our economic growth was 5.2 percent, which is the highest in Asia. We are also self-reliant in food production.

On Feb. 26 this year, Bangladesh received final approval from the UN to graduate from the category of least developed country (LDC), after fulfilling all three of the required criteria. Now the country aims to become a prosperous nation by 2041, and has been implementing its 100-year Delta 2100 plan under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladesh was one of the most successful countries in meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, eight international goals for the year 2015 that were set in 2000, and is now working hard to meet the targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, 15 goals that were set in 2015 with the aim of achieving them by 2030. Through all these ambitious economic visions and targets, Bangladesh intends to realize our father of the nation’s dream of a “Golden Bengal.”

Bangladesh is a peace-loving country. Its foreign policy is founded on the concept of “friendship to all, malice to none,” as set by the father of our nation. Bangladesh is the leading provider of troops for UN peacekeeping operations around the world, and plays active role in peace-building efforts in war-torn countries for the protection and promotion of the interests of all nations.

We resolved a maritime boundary dispute with our neighbors, India and Myanmar, peacefully. We also settled a decades-old land border dispute with India through dialogue.

In an epic example of humanity, Bangladesh has provided shelter for 1.2 million Rohingya refugees who fled atrocities in neighboring Myanmar. In addition, we have employed all diplomatic means in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in that country.

Bangladesh maintains a “zero tolerance” policy toward the menace of terrorism and violent extremism in its all forms and manifestations.

Our nation has advanced fast and will continue on its journey to fulfill the dream of our father of the nation for a “Golden Bengal.” I would urge the respected members of our community who live in Saudi Arabia to redouble their efforts and play their part in realizing that dream.

We should embrace the very essence of our liberation war and pass on those values to the generations of Bangladeshis to come.

Let us take this oath on this unique occasion of the golden jubilee of our independence, and the centenary of the birth of the father of our nation.

Joi Bangla. Joi Bangabandhu!

Long live the Bangladesh-Saudi Arabia relationship.

 

Dr. Mohammad Javed Patwary
Ambassador of Bangladesh


Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts

Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts
Updated 10 min 4 sec ago

Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts

Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts
  • The new body will provide an umbrella organization for performers while promoting new talent and expertise

JEDDAH: The curtain is set to rise on a new era for Saudi performing arts with the establishment of a dedicated theater association.

As part of the Kingdom’s cultural transformation, the new body will provide an umbrella organization for performers while also attracting and promoting new talent and expertise.

Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi said the association would bring together professionals from the worlds of theater, folk arts, circus, stand-up comedy, and dance.

Headed by Saudi actor Nasser Al-Qasabi, the association’s board of directors will include academic researcher Sami Al-Jamaan, actors Rashid Al-Shamrani, Sami Al-Zahrani, and Fatima Al-Banawi, director Khaled Al-Baz, actor and playwright Yasser Madkhali, writer Fahd Al-Hoshani, kinetic arts performer Roaa Al-Sahhaf, comedian Yasser Bakr, and Saudi ballerina Samira Alkhamis.

Performing arts has been a part of human culture down the ages and was even used as a way to inform people about the negative impact of social practices.

However, although well-represented in the West, only recently have theatrical shows and their performers been supported in the Kingdom by official bodies such as the Ministry of Culture’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission, set up under the National Strategy for Culture framework. 

In a tweet, association president, Al-Qasabi said: “I am honored to work with my colleagues in the new association to overcome difficulties and advance this lofty profession. In a few months, the work of the association will be launched, and we look forward to your participation in a new creative journey.”

Performing arts are considered to have benefits on a personal, social, and community level, with live theater helping to encourage social dialogue, highlight issues, and provide an outlet for society to find solutions to problems.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Ministry of Culture has been behind a number of significant initiatives and organizational developments that have taken place in the Saudi theater sector this year.

• These have included the establishment of the National Theater, and subsequently the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, and partnership projects with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to improve professionalism in the sector.

Mohammed Al-Subaih, director of the Jeddah-based Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, described the establishment of the new association as “a most welcome move” that would offer a strong voice for performers in Saudi Arabia.

He told Arab News: “It will definitely contribute to the work of actors and performers and also bring up the level of work of Saudi theater.”

Saudi actor Abdullah Al-Sinani said: “(The association is) a wonderful step that reinforces our permanent ambition toward the status of Saudi theatrical superlatives. I wish the association and its members success in enriching the local theatrical movement.”

In a tweet, Wael Al-Harbi said: “I was honored to be chosen as a founding member of the first association for theater and performing arts.”

And Sultan Al-Bazie, chief executive officer of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said: “We expect the association to be an active element in the development of the sector.”

The Ministry of Culture has been behind a number of significant initiatives and organizational developments that have taken place in the Saudi theater sector this year.

These have included the establishment of the National Theater, and subsequently the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, and partnership projects with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to improve professionalism in the sector.

In 2016, the General Entertainment Authority was formed, followed by the Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission last year. The current registration of the Cinema Society will represent the first specialized civil body of its kind in the Kingdom concerned with the film industry.


Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII
Updated 16 min 1 sec ago

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII
  • Business bigwigs debate and brainstorm how to solve big problems at global level

RIYADH: The Future Investment Initiative Forum returned to Riyadh on Tuesday, two years after the city last hosted the event, at which powerful and affluent people from around the world traditionally gather to look for big contract opportunities.

But this year, the fifth staging of the forum, is different. There was no talk about big contracts; instead, the powerful participants were discussing how can we give back to humanity and solve big problems at a global level. It is all about sustainability and investing in humanity.

The return of the FII after a postponement of a year caused by the pandemic, is a sign that the worst is behind us — at least in Saudi Arabia, which is going through a deep transformation.

Riyadh is no longer talking a language all of its own. It is now talking a global language that includes terms such as “saving the planet,” “sustainability,” “carbon emissions reduction” and “planning for a better world.”

The Saudis wanted to make sure that the launch of this year’s forum would send a strong message and they found no better way of achieving than by having renowned singer Gloria Gaynor appear and perform her famous song, “I Will Survive,” during the opening.

The world, and Saudi Arabia, has survived the pandemic, with all the hard decisions and tough measures this took, from the rapid development of vaccines to prohibiting Muslims from gathering in mosques to pray.

It is perhaps hard to imagine that big asset-management businesses such as BlackRock and Blackstone might exist for anything other than making big deals, but their respective bosses Larry Fink and Stephen Schwarzman are talking about subjects such as inequality and future generations at the forum.

Still, some things at the FII remain the same. The corridors are filled with people in fancy suits and dresses and the event is still a gathering place for the biggest deal-makers on the planet, who collectively manage trillions of dollars in assets.

Empowerment of women is another hot topic, and it was surprising to hear Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder, talk candidly about how his company has had trouble recruiting women.

“Like many people in finance, we were having a lot of trouble hiring women,” he said during the opening panel discussion on Tuesday. “It was a male-dominated business and we made a decision to change that in 2015.

“We analyzed it and what we realized is that women weren’t applying to Blackstone. We tried to find out why and we found out that they were scared of us. I don’t think I’m very scary.”

Ana Botin, chairperson of Banco Santander, was the only woman on the eight-person panel, although there were female speakers at the opening of the forum.

As the first day of the event was ending, Saudi Aramco announced deals that will help it become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Indeed, the world has changed.


Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case
  • Politicians denounce intelligence office’s decision to summon Geagea in connection with October violence
  • Lebanon’s grand mufti thanks Saudi Arabia for message of solidarity as factions continue to bicker and issue threats

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari told Lebanese religious figures on Tuesday that the Kingdom “cares for Lebanon’s security, stability, institutions and co-existence between Christians and Muslims.”

The Saudi embassy’s media office said: “There is no legitimacy for the discourse of strife, nor for one that goes against Lebanon’s Arab identity.”

This was the first Saudi statement since the bloody clashes in Tayouneh on Oct. 14.

At least seven people were killed in the violence in Beirut amid a protest organized by Hezbollah and its allies against the lead judge probing last year’s blast at the city’s port.

The protestors, gathered by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, demanded the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation.

According to the embassy’s statement, Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian “expressed his appreciation for the Kingdom, led by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for never abandoning Lebanon and its people, despite the unfair stances against the Kingdom by some Lebanese parties that only represent themselves.”

Sheikh Derian added that “the Saudi-Lebanese relations have always been and will remain solid regardless of any offensive speeches because our relations are above these speeches and Saudi Arabia will always see Lebanon as an Arab brotherly country.”

The statement comes after the Intelligence Directorate summoned the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, to the Defense Ministry on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the bloodshed in Tayouneh.

The summoning was the motivation for Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi’s spontaneous visits on Tuesday to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun.

Al-Rahi denounced “the summoning of Geagea only by the Intelligence Directorate to testify.”

Charles Jabbour from the Lebanese Forces party told Arab News that “Geagea will not appear at the Defense Ministry on Wednesday.

“They should start with summoning Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah. All parties should give testimonies, beginning with the party that called for the demonstration. Only when a judge dares to summon Nasrallah, will we be able to talk about a state and a judiciary in Lebanon.”

The move to summon Geagea was condemned by several political figures.

Former Premier Saad Hariri refused “to engage in an absurd conflict and the frontlines of a civil war and sectarian divisions.”

He added: “Announcing that Dr. Geagea was informed to appear before the Intelligence Directorate via a plastered notification is absurd and leads the country into further division along with using state machinery for revenge politics.”

Former Premier Fouad Siniora also denounced “the bias of the judicial authorities in the military court over the deplorable Tayouneh events and the continuing violations of the constitutions by those who were entrusted with the task of preserving and protecting it.”

Siniora rejected “the practices seeking to use the judiciary for reprisals against political opponents, and not for its main mission: To seek the truth and achieve justice.”

Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat criticized the “selectivity instead of a transparent and just investigation for a comprehensive justice.”

He said: “All those who fired shots in the Tayouneh events should be arrested, without discrimination, and this destructive and futile political dispute must be ended.”

Samy Gemayel, head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, announced his rejection to “all the means Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have resorted to in hampering the investigation into the Beirut port blast.”

Hezbollah accused Geagea of firing the first shot on Oct. 14 at the demonstrators who penetrated the anti-Hezbollah and Christian-majority Ain Remaneh area.

Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who is also a defendant in the Beirut port explosion investigation, visited Sheikh Derian on Tuesday, reiterating his demand “to either lift immunity from everyone without exception, or adopt the legal and constitutional mechanisms in force in the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers.”

So far, all the politicians who have been accused of being involved in the Beirut port blast have declined to appear before Judge Bitar.

Amal Movement and Hezbollah ministers have refused to attend Cabinet sessions unless Judge Bitar is removed and the investigations into Tayouneh are halted, causing a governmental paralysis at a time when Lebanon is in desperate need of reforms to unblock the international aid that would lessen its dire economic situation.

Prime Minister Mikati hoped on Tuesday that “Cabinet meetings will resume as soon as possible to make the decisions required to activate the work of commissions and committees and do what is needed from the government.”

Mikati added that he hoped his government would supervise “the parliamentary elections with full integrity, to enable these elections to renew the political life in Lebanon.”

The joint parliamentary committees held a session on Tuesday and voted to keep the electoral law as it was, thus rejecting Aoun’s proposal to make amendments.

Aoun had objected to holding the elections on March 27 and to the proposals to change the expatriate voting formula by canceling the six seats allocated for Lebanese voters who live abroad.


Lebanese media minister George Kordahi stirs controversy yet again by defending Houthis

Lebanese media minister George Kordahi stirs controversy yet again by defending Houthis
Updated 27 October 2021

Lebanese media minister George Kordahi stirs controversy yet again by defending Houthis

Lebanese media minister George Kordahi stirs controversy yet again by defending Houthis

DUBAI: Once again, Lebanon’s information minister has triggered social media frenzy when a video of him wishing for a ‘temporary military coup’ to emanate and restructure the country’s political life, surfaced on Tuesday.
“I wish that a military coup happens in Lebanon, yet a temporary military coup that comes to organize and reorganize the political life in Lebanon,” the current Lebanese information minister George Kordahi was heard telling a TV host in the short video.
An independent online media platform, Megaphone posted on Twitter the two and a half minute video that has so far been viewed by nearly 6000 users.
According to Lebanese news portal, Annahar online, the video was part of an interview conducted by a media platform called Barlamanasha3b [People’s Parliament] and the interview was carried out on August 5.
At the time, Kordahi had not yet been named as information minister in Prime Minister Najib Mekati’s cabinet that was formed during September.
When the host opposed him by saying ‘there is nothing called temporary military coup’, Kordahi maintained saying: “Yes there is a temporary military coup for at least five years [in my opinion] then they reappoint the political regime.”
When the TV host of Barlamanasha3b asked him about his position on what is happening in Yemen, Kordahi said ‘they’ [referring to Houthis] are defending themselves’.
He questioned in a exclamatory tone, ‘Them! Are they assaulting anyone?’.
“In my opinion, this Yemeni war is absurd and should stop,” he said.
Meanwhile a cohost asked him about the nonstop drone attacks carried out by Houthis against Saudi civilians and properties, he replied saying: “Yes but you could also see them as people … and see the damages that are being inflicted upon them while being bombarded at their homes, properties, villages, squares, funerals and weddings by warplanes … it is about time this war comes to an end.”
Kordahi reiterated his opinion that ‘it is an absurd war’.
The Lebanese minister said: “We cannot compare between the efforts of Hezbollah in liberation and liberating Lebanese lands and the efforts of Houthis who are defending themselves against foreign aggression.”
According to the video, the cohost asked Kordahi if he considers the Saudis and Emiratis a ‘foreign aggression’.
“What?” he replied hesitantly as he moved his head forward before the cohost rephrased his question asking ‘do you consider Saudis and Emiratis as foreign aggression against Yemen?’
“Aggression, for sure there is aggression. Not because it is Saudi or Emirati but yes there has been an aggression for the past five or six years or for how long!” said Kordahi before the female host corrected him saying its ‘eight years’.
“Eight years [of aggression] continuously against those people! Enough! What couldn’t be achieved within two or three years, you won’t achieve it within eight years. So this has become an absurd war that’s my opinion,” he concluded.
Citing a Saudi source, MTV news posted on its twitter handle that the source said they were facing a severe diplomatic crisis because of Kordahi's offensive statements on Arab countries ‘regardless of the timing of the interview, but it indicated his intentions’.
Beirut-based Washington Post correspondent Sarah Dadouch tweeted that the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon just retweeted several stories citing Saudi sources saying, “We are in front of a sharp diplomatic crisis because of the comments of Media Minister George Kordahi”
Meanwhile, Emirati twitter user Hassan Sajwani tweeted “Lebanese Prime Minister: George Qardahi's words do not represent the government's official position on the Yemeni issue. - Al Arabiya TV”
A former television presenter, Kordahi has stirred controversy in the past given his questionable opinions on matters ranging from Syrian President Bashar Assad to his views on harassment in the workplace.
A well-known and highly popular among a large segment of the Lebanese population, the 71-year-old media figure rose to fame when he hosted the pan-Arab version of “Who Wants to be Millionaire?” for several years.
Arab News published earlier that his controversial political opinions might not have mattered then, but they sure do matter now that he is a member of Lebanon’s cabinet.


US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’

US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’
Updated 27 October 2021

US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’

US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’
  • Iran has said for more than a month that it would ‘soon’ return to indirect talks in Vienna with the US on resuming compliance with the accord

WASHINGTON: Efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are at a “critical phase” and Tehran’s reasons for avoiding talks are wearing thin, a US official has said while raising the possibility of further diplomacy even if the deal cannot be resuscitated.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told reporters Washington was increasingly worried Tehran would keep delaying a return to talks, but said it had other tools to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and would use them if need be.

“We’re in a critical phase of the efforts to see whether we can revive the JCPOA,” Malley said, referring to the deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We’ve had a hiatus of many months and the official reasons given by Iran for why we’re in this hiatus are wearing very thin.”

While saying that the window for both the US and Iran to resume compliance with the agreement would eventually close, Malley said the US would still be willing to engage in diplomacy with Iran even as it weighed other options to prevent Tehran from getting the bomb.

He also hinted at the economic benefits that might flow from Iran’s return to the agreement, under which Tehran took steps to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN economic sanctions.

While saying the window for returning to the JCPOA will not be open forever because eventually Iran’s nuclear advances will have overtaken it, Malley said Washington would continue to look for diplomatic arrangements with Tehran.

“You can’t revive a dead corpse,” he said, stressing that the US had not reached that point yet. “We will continue to pursue diplomacy, even as we pursue other steps if we face a world in which we need to do that.”

Malley refused to describe those other steps. Since talks in Vienna on reviving the deal adjourned in June, Washington has increasingly spoken of pursuing other options, a phrase that hints at the possibility, however remote, of military action.

The envoy, who spent last week consulting US partners in the Gulf and in Europe, emphasized that all sides had “a strong preference for diplomacy, for an effort to revive the JCPOA and, were that to happen, to find ways to engage Iran economically.”