The High Court enhanced the punishment of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from five years of imprisonment to 10 years in Zia Orphanage Trust Corruption case. The court also upheld the 10 years' imprisonment handed to the Kazi Salimul Haque and Sharfuddin Ahmed in the same case. The court delivered the verdict after accepting a revision petition filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seeking enhancement of the punishment of the BNP chief and dismissing the appeal of Khaleda. The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman delivered the verdict as it heard the appeal and revision petition earlier.

No lawyer for Khaleda and other accused of the case was present in the courtroom. Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said Khaleda Zia cannot contest any parliamentary election unless the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court scraps her punishment.

Citizens suffered through 48 hours of a transport strike made even worse with the advent of unruly pickets drawn from the striking transport staff targeting ordinary citizens, mostly drivers, by smearing them with engine oil - a shocking resort that the authorities seem to be letting off lightly.

There was no visible step, such as talks with the strike's leaders, from the government to end the strike that also hurt businesses. The weekly cabinet meeting also did not have any formal discussion on the issue.

Against that backdrop, Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, led by Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, threatened to enforce a 96-hour strike in the third week of November. The striking workers' demands include making all offences under the Road Transport Act bailable, scrapping the provision for the fine of Tk 5 lakh on a worker for involvement in a road accident, changing the minimum educational qualification required to obtain driving licences from class-VIII to class-V, and ending harassment by police on roads.

Against the better judgement of a number of economists and bankers, and giving in to pressure from government high-ups, Bangladesh Bank set in motion the process of giving licences for four new commercial banks. As part of the move, the central bank placed a proposal at this week's meeting of its board of directors.

With the addition of the four, the number of banks in the country will rise to 62. Experts have long-contended the industry is beyond saturation point, and weighed down by a plethora of problems. The addition of new banks at this stage goes nowhere towards solving those.

The four proposed banks are: Community Bank Bangladesh, Bengal Bank, People's Bank and Citizen Bank. Community Bank Bangladesh, proposed to be set up by Bangladesh Police Welfare Trust (BPWT), is a concern of Bangladesh Police, while the sponsors of the other three have strong links with the ruling Awami League.

The cabinet approved some major changes to the Representation of the People's Order, paving the way for the use of Electronic Voting Machines in polls and relaxing the rules on loan defaulters contesting the polls. As the 10th parliament sat for the last time already this week, there is no scope for passing the RPO amendments in parliament. It can however still take effect if an ordinance is passed by the president.

The Election Commission had approved the amendment proposal despite opposition from one of its members and sent it to the Law Ministry in September. Mahbub Talukdar, one of the five commissioners, walked out of an EC meeting and gave a note of dissent against the move to approve the amendment proposal. Despite minimal test runs (only a handful of centres even in local elections), the EC in the last few months has been possessed by a move to electronic voting as soon as the next parliamentary election. Also in September, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved a Tk-3,825 crore project to purchase 150,000 EVMs.

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