Bangladeshi passports will no longer bear the text "valid for all countries of the world except Israel," officials confirmed this week. The Bangladeshi passports earlier had a note written on them that said: "This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel". But, just a few months ago, Bangladesh dropped two words, "except Israel", from the new electronic passports.

Since the South Asian Muslim majority country came into being in 1971, it has openly affirmed its position in favour of Palestine and against the Israeli oppression in the occupied Palestinian territories. Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that the words "except Israel" have been withdrawn from the passports for "administrative convenience," and that it has nothing to do with the foreign policy of Bangladesh. "This move will not affect our position ... We are strong supporters of Palestine," he added. Later in the week he also said Bangladeshis visiting Israel are liable for prosecution.

In a first for Bangladesh, the country has extended a lifeline of sorts to the beleaguered Sri Lankan economy, offering to top up the island nation's depleting foreign reserves by as much as $500 million. The global coronavirus pandemic has deprived Sri Lanka, which has $3.7 billion of foreign debt maturing this year, of important sources of foreign currency such as tourism and exports. At the end of April, Sri Lanka's foreign exchange reserves stood at about $4 billion, which is enough to cover the import bills for three months.

On the other hand, Bangladesh's reserves are hitting a new high each month. The two countries are hoping to enter into a currency swap arrangement, initiated during Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to Bangladesh in March for the Golden Jubilee celebrations. The arrangement would allow Colombo to exchange Sri Lankan rupees for $200 million from the Bangladesh Bank, with the amount rising to $500 million.

The government has extended the closure of educational institutions till June 12, saying the reopening is subject to the drop in Covid infection rate below 5 percent and inoculation of university students. Education Ministry officials said the reopening might be delayed further, considering the rise in virus infection rate in recent weeks and uncertainty over vaccination due to a shortage of jabs.

At a joint press conference, Education Minister Dipu Moni and State Minister for Primary and Mass Education Zakir Hossen talked about the reopening of educational institutions that have remained closed since March last year amid the pandemic. Dipu Moni said they have been relying on the suggestions of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, which has recommended reopening the educational institutions once the infection rate drops below 5 percent. At present, educational institutions are offering online classes and the government is broadcasting educational programmes on state-run television channels.

Prothom Alo Senior Reporter Rozina Islam was released from prison after a Dhaka court granted her bail in a case filed under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act by the Health Ministry. Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Baki Billah granted the bail upon a bond of Tk5,000. Subject to the submission of the journalist's passport, the bail was granted till July 15.

On May 17, she was allegedly confined by some Health Ministry officials for five long hours inside an official's room at the Bangladesh Secretariat. Later, charges of "stealing" official documents and "taking photographs" of confidential documents were brought against Rozina Islam, an award-winning investigative journalist. An FIR was filed against Islam under the Official Secrets Act and Sections 379 and 411 of The Penal Code on a complaint filed by the Health Services Division with Shahbagh police. Later, on May 18, a Dhaka court sent Islam to jail after rejecting the police's demand for her five-day remand.

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