Hefazot e Islam announced their new 33-member central committee, with no room for ex-general secretary Mamunul Haque or any other leaders who have been apprehended for their alleged involvement in the violent protests centring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh at the end of March. New Secretary General Nurul Islam Jihadi at a press conference announced that Junayed Babunagari continues to be the amir of the Islamist organisation.

The new central committee will be aided by an advisory committee of 16 members and another committee called Majlish-e-Sura with nine members. Muhibullah Babunagari, a relative of Junayed Babunagari, is the chief of the central and advisory committees. The leadership incorporated in the new committee is said to be far less political than those they are replacing, and even regarded as "Awami League government sympathisers", sources at Hefazot said. Yusuf Madani - one of the sons of long-serving leader Shah Ahmad Shafi who died last year, was included in the new committee. Although notably not his brother Anas.

Lieutenant General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, quarter master general of the Bangladesh Army, has been named as the new chief of the force for the next three years. "Bangladesh Army's BA-2496 Lieutenant General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, OSP, NDU, PSC, Quarter Master General has been appointed as the new chief of Bangladesh Army from June 24 afternoon," a Defence Ministry gazette notification said Thursday. He will also be promoted to the rank of general on that day, the gazette, signed by deputy secretary, Wahida Sultana, added.

He will replace current army chief General Aziz Ahmed. Shafiuddin was commissioned in the 9th Bangladesh Military Academy (BMA) Long Course in 1983. Earlier, he served as the general commanding officer of Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARTDOC), commanded an Infantry Division and headed the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BISS). He also played a key role in UN peacekeeping missions as deputy force commander in the Central African Republic.

The health directorate has asked all private Covid-19 testing laboratories to stop running sample collection booths outside hospitals that have been set up for outgoing passengers to foreign destinations. "The allegations of providing fake Covid-19 certificates and charging additional money through cheating people have been proved in the primary investigation," said a circular signed by Dr Farid Hossain Mian, director of hospitals and clinics at the directorate today.

The other directives include: samples of the outbound passengers cannot be collected from home in any situation, the main passport must be scrutinised and the form should be filled up with the passport number exactly during the test, and no chance for re-testing passengers who were tested positive within seven days. Other than that, passengers who test positive seven days prior to the journey must be tested through government testing labs.

Bangladesh Bank lowered charges on deposits and loans, bringing an end to the excessive fees and commissions levied by many banks on customers. In a new development, clients will be able to open a savings account with an initial deposit of Tk 500 and a current account with Tk 1,000. The central bank decision came after some banks asked clients to keep an unusual amount of deposits in their accounts. The central bank also cut some service charges. For instance, a borrower earlier had to count 2 per cent of the outstanding loan amount for an early settlement of a credit.

Now, clients will pay a 0.5 percent (50 paisa out of Tk100) charge if they settle it early, according to a central bank notice. Banks will not be allowed to impose any early settlement fees on the loans disbursed to cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs). For the disbursement of loans up to Tk 50 lakh, lenders can charge a maximum of 0.5 per cent in the processing fee. The fee will not go past Tk 15,000.

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