Monday, April 30, 2007

Bangladesh Political Situation Update - 30th April 2007

Lies, Liar’s and More Lies - The Goebbelian Spin:

It has become very painful to read anything that this Care Taker Government CTG says and quickly contradicts within days, if not hours. If anybody is working feverishly to make sure that the Government gets its reputation soiled it is its Law Adviser
Mainul Hussain, who seems by now to have taken on himself the Goebbelian spin, whereby a lie is repeated over and over again till it becomes, or is considered the truth? It does seem very odd that a Government that launched a sort of holy-war against corruption, needs to be reminded that falsehood in itself constitutes corruption, and sooner than not, it will have to contend with them and pay a very heavy price. I guess no other government has faced the kind of challenge that every announcement and false statement by this CTG generates, and while the media remains within purview of self-censorship, or subtle calls by agents of the DGFI to mend ways, every lie is being faced squarely and with sobriety as this report that says “Government ‘misinforming’ people” – which should have aptly read “Government ‘lying’ to People”, spells out:

Providing misinformation is more dangerous than providing no information,’ president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul said at the function. He found lacunae among the three reasons presented by the president, the chief adviser and a government press note about the promulgation of the state of emergency in the country. The Campaign on Citizens’ Right to Information organised the discussion titled ‘right to information in combating corruption’ at the National Press Club.

Given that the CTG resorts to lying in tight situations i.e. like its volte face in view of opposition to its insane ‘minus two’ plans, speculations such as Emergency might stay past 120 days :

A well-placed source in the caretaker government said the state of emergency might continue even till the holding of the next parliamentary election, which is likely to be held by the end of 2008 as the chief adviser had recently announced. Similarly, the ban on indoor politics also might not be lifted soon, the source added. "The situation might deteriorate further if the state of emergency or the ban on indoor politics is lifted. Things might even spin out of control due to provocative political speeches once the ban on indoor politics is lifted"

become reality of the ‘most probably’ variety with Government unlikely to lift indoor politics ban by May 8 become public:

"Most probably the ban is not being lifted by May 8. But it's true that we are seriously thinking about lifting the ban," Mainul told BBC Radio. But he did not explain when. "Not only the government but people beyond have different views on the issue. Everything depends on political developments," he said. On April 23, election commissioner Sakhawat Hossain spelled out optimism that the ban on indoor politics would go by May 8.

It would have been one thing to have the government lie to the public, but Bangladesh’s tragedy is its politicians are not only habitual, but pathological liars and neither Sheikh Hasina or Khaleda Zia are exempt from the accusations. For example, while a lot has been said about the machinations behind the scene during the ‘exile drama’ of last week, the influential weekly magazine PROBE in its report Minus Two Politics reminds us to the fact that:

After the installation of the caretaker administration headed by Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, AL had given a thumbs-up and said that Fakhruddin government was the dividend of their movement. The irony is that "their" installed government has now termed her as dangerous to the country's security.

meaning as and when Hasina went to the US, she publicly mentioned acknowledging all actions of this government if ‘voted to power’. Events thereafter indicate that the CTG backed by the Army, set into motion a series of incidents akin to a political demolition derby. The myth that Hasina or her feudal henchmen here in Dhaka maintained a cautious distance away from the CTG was demolished, their active collaboration EXPOSED. In fact, as this report has it, Hasina was in the information loop all along and had direct contact with the Army. It would seem that Hasina sole intention to return earlier that scheduled was not because of any love for the people or democracy but because she had a signal that Khaleda’s ejection from the country was imminent:

Disturbed with media news about her return from the abroad, the AL chief cut short her visit and decided to come back on April 14 instead of planned return of April 27, 2007. The proponents of the "minus two" theory considered the AL chief's move with trepidation. They felt that with Hasina inside the country, it would be difficult on their part to send the BNP chairperson to exile. So, adviser Gen. Matin came to the scene and he established contact with the AL chief in the USA and also with AL General Secretary in Dhaka with a request not to cut short her planned visit. The AL chief and her comrades did not foresee that the 'request' was a trap and accepted the government request

While Hasina’s return is slated to be on or about the 6th May, not everything appears to be okay within the ranks and file of the Awami League, a party which historically has killed its own leader, including Hasina’s father!

Reports from Dhaka have suggested that some disgruntled members of the Awami League had backed the caretaker government's effort to keep her from returning. Sheikh Hasina said she didn't believe this could be true. "I don't believe anyone in the Awami League was opposed to me during this crisis or that they collaborated with the caretaker government to keep me out of the country," she said.
The International Media: Calling Apples, Apples :

There have been a plethora of reports and general consensus that both Khaleda and Hasina are getting positive international press thanks to the CTG’s botched up exile-drama (farce!) and general high handedness. Some ignorant Bangladeshi’s even believe strongly that these reports and 'support' from Western governments would mean a quick return of ‘die-nasty-ic politics’ prompting the Army to return to barrack.

Far from it Chicago Tribune in its report on Dr.Yunus, Undercut by Praise has this to say ~~ please note the word ‘kelptocracy’ in describing our two national leaders, which would in ‘normal times’ would have led to series of rebuttals from the Government of the day, and ‘intellectuals’ in its employ:

The famed microcredit pioneer won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with
Grameen Bank, a leading conduit of small loans to the world's poor. His best-known opponents for the job, two prodigiously corrupt women politicians who have run Bangladesh as a kleptocracy over the past decade and a half, are under pressure by the country's military-backed caretaker government -- which took power in January -- to quit politics for good

Meanwhile The Statesman, Kolkata in its report ‘Remaking Bangladesh’, suspects that the ‘purification rituals’ leading to the dismantling of the ‘existing political structure’ (read die-nasty-ic polity) is been engineered by the US State Department in tandem with Dr.Yunus’ plan:

The dynastic hatred between the two women has been seen as a seminal source of the instability and intransigence of the factions in a curiously archaic version of democracy, in which each side contests the other's moral right to rule. One troubling question hovers over the present purification rituals in Bangladesh. This is, where was the idea dismantling of the existing political structures crafted? It seems to have little to do with internal developments in the country. Where was proposal that Yunus would float a new party conceived? Suspicions of the role of the State Department may not be unfounded. It seems that the intention is to nip in the bud the spread of fundamentalism (from which Bangladesh, for all the secular antecedents of its eclectic Bengali culture, has not been exempt), under the guise of uprooting corruption. This pre-emptive strike, as it were, in spreading of democracy and freedom is intended to cut the ground from under the feet of potential extremists.

The United Institute of Peace in its report; On the Issues Bangladesh is head on correct in dispelling the Indian propaganda about the Islamisation or Taibanisation of Bangladesh; however it insists that the international community exerts pressure on the Army to withdraw, as also drop the over-used Clintonian ‘moderate Muslim democracy label’ to describe the country:

India would already say that Bangladesh has become an Islamist terrorist threat. The bottom line is that no one—especially most Bangladeshis—wants to see Bangladesh become a place where Islamist militants can take refuge and act with impunity at home or abroad. Moreover, given the role of the Bangladesh army in this military-backed technocracy, the U.S. and the international community should be concerned that Bangladesh' fragile democracy is ever-more imperiled.~~~ Given that the Bangladesh army appears to be in charge, the international community must act cohesively and decisively to compel Dhaka to lift the state of emergency, withdraw the army from the political arena, and establish a specific date for elections with appropriate electoral reforms such as a legitimate voters' list and EC ~~~~The international community should consider abandoning popular aphorisms to describe Bangladesh as a "moderate, Muslim democracy." Increasingly the evidence does not suggest that this label is deserved.

The Indians are yet in no mood to look the other way and it is astonishing to read articles like We Must Gear Up To Crush Pakistan-Like Mischief From Bangladesh, where open speculations are made that with the army in power, relationship between the two countries will deteriorate, and threats of ‘punitive and re-emptive’ attacks across the border are suggested:

I wonder if our security and diplomatic mandarins had any inkling of the extraordinary turn of events in Bangladesh. The doubt stems partly from the government's less than elevating preoccupation with pursuing the majorly dubious nuclear deal with the United States, and partly from the fact that the often troublesome Bangladesh has not figured as prominently on our foreign policy radar as it should have. ~~~~ With the army now in the saddle in Dhaka, things are likely to get much worse. So what are we doing about it? Keeping "an eye on the situation" means nothing. Vacuous pronouncements will deter no one. Only action will ~ both punitive and pre-emptive. What we need to do immediately is to seal the border with Bangladesh, shoot-at-sight any and every intruder, and send back all the illegal immigrants without further delay or dither. Are we up to it?

The Entry and Exit Drama: Possible Scenarios:

Khaleda if press reports are to be believed has neither been granted full freedom to go about her day-to-day business, nor has thus far been able to collect her visa to Saudi Arabia, although more than a dozen member of her family have already had their passports stamped. Speculations vary between the Embassy reluctant to stamp her visa, to Khaleda not having signed her visa form, yet her brother Syed Iskander has gone public by asserting that BNP would be left in able hands for the Chairperson to run affairs of the party from abroad. The clash between Mannan Bhuiyan and Brigadier Shah Hannan faction has cooled down for immediate expediencies, but there is little doubt that enough damage has been done to party discipline and once Khaleda leaves, a split is inevitable.
The delay in Khaleda leaving the country could well be :

1. A dogged determination to stave off forcible attempts to throw her out. Factions within the Army sympathetic to her, may well not accept an insult to the wife of a former General and President of the country.

2. She may be waiting to see if Sheikh Hasina returns to the country after all, and if she does, how she handles her predicaments with the CTG

3. She may well take the media attention off her and wait for an opportune time (possibly coinciding this with the Indian cricket teams tour of Bangladesh) and it is apparently to her advantage that she leaves quietly. There are rumours of well over two dozen suitcases going with her, and nobody knows the exact nature of the contents! Thus, as I speculated in my last posting, she may make a spirited exit when the media is looking elsewhere.

As far as Sheikh Hasina is concerned, she may well return on the 6th May as announced and it could be a low key matter with the media kept at bay for obvious reason. What transpires next is anybody’s guess.

Mac Haque

PS. My Chutneyz One List has changed to

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Bangladesh Political Situation Update - 28th April 2007

No reaction on the street: Unease, uncertainties continue:

Forty eight hours after the dramatic move of the military backed interim Government to withdraw a ban on Hasina’s return to Bangladesh, and letting Khaleda off her near house arrest status, there have not been many reassurances forthcoming to the people at large to feel rested and let the suffocating uncertainties melt away. Likewise there have been no scenes of jubilation other than among handful of workers and activists of both parties.

The political development is unique in the country’s history for what we are witnessing for the first time is a crisis that is essentially created by the elite, of the elite, and for the elite to deal with. To the man on the street the outcome matters little for what he has is a semblance of peace that he did not enjoy until very recently. The past disquiet was because of the endless bickering between the two women who had by default ruled the country as if it was their personal fiefdom on their fathers and husbands ‘ghosts’. The fate of the two leaders is therefore of little consequence to ‘the people’ as we know them, other than those that have been direct beneficiaries to the previous status quo.

I found an excellent summary giving us a backdrop to recent events by the former
Indian Foreign Secretary Salman Haidar in his piece, The crisis of Bangladesh where he writes:

Action against the two leaders comes after a long sequence of discouraging events. Begum Khaleda handed over at the appropriate time to a caretaker government headed by the president, who, assisted by 10 advisers, had the task of conducting the general election. But what had been devised as a means of ensuring electoral fair play, and had served a useful purpose on previous occasions, did not calm political worries this time. Tensions in the lead up to the polls did not abate, for in many eyes the caretaker authority was too close to the one it had replaced, and it was believed that many key decisions were taken in a partisan spirit. The perception of bias led some of the advisers to resign, which further damaged the credibility of the caretaker administration. Before long, the argument was transferred to the streets of Dhaka where violent clashes took place, and the problem that the caretaker administration was intended to solve remained not just unsettled but dangerously magnified. Eventually, the deteriorating situation led to the declaration of a state of emergency early this year, followed by the reconstitution of the interim administration and the appointment of Mr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, a respected banker, as the chief adviser and thus the titular head of the administration. The muscle for this arrangement was provided by the army, which has remained in the deep background until now.

Dangerous Liaison: AL and BNP on the Military boat:

What is hurtful is the ability of the average Bangladesh citizen to forget recent history and fall into a trap of collective amnesia. As if fifteen long years of ‘tested Western style democracy’ was not enough to fool the people with violently divisive polity that by insinuation meant ‘my way or the highway’ stances, leading to murder mayhems at any given opportunity by the respective parties of the two women, the innocent being the likely target, I am not at all surprised that when push comes to shove as is the case now, politics will continue to make stranger bed fellows. Read on -
Reports today speak of
AL, BNP leaders busy healing wounds :
As the interim government has changed its official stance as regards keeping two top political leaders, Khaleda Zia of BNP and Sheikh Hasina of Awami League, away from the country, the second tiers of leadership of the parties in question are now trying to remove the differences within the parties. The BNP secretary general, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, is expected to visit the party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, who was under apparent confinement at her house for about 24 days, anytime soon, a close associate of Bhuiyan told New Age. Some Awami League leaders have also taken a move to bridge the gap reportedly created between the party chief and presidium members Amir Hossain Amu, Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed and Suranjit Sengupta, an Awami League source said.
however if we are to reflect on happenings to earlier on in the week, we are reminded that whilst indoor politics have been banned, Mannan Bhuiyan had no less that two dozen BNP MP’s in his house for consultation which simply couldn’t have been done without the tacit support of the military backed regime. Similarly Suranjit Sengupta’s recent statements were enough to send signals that things were not very rosy within the AL leadership as well?

and as BBC reports

With Sheikh Hasina out of the country on a personal visit, the government saw its chance. And so too did some of the two leaders' closest colleagues

What transpired in reality as the vernacular Naya Diganta reported yesterday is both the parties have in fact agreed to the Government to make sure that their leaders tone down their rhetoric’s. It also means that both the party looking the other way till reforms are completed up until the next poll which if at all, is slated to be held on a vague date in 2008.

The Net Gain / Loss thus far: Khaleda or Hasina?

By looks of things both ‘Begums’ are sure to lose, for as the Government speaks
courageously about the ‘Army backed’ faux pas, a fresh move at pinning down both women this time on corruption charges appears to be underway. The Government has asked the central banking authorities to figure out how much cash they have, and this is what we have learnt :

She [Khaleda] maintains 48 accounts with different commercial banks, including NCBs and specialised commercial banks. Bangladesh Bank sources said Hasina had a number of accounts with different commercial banks, including state-run Sonali, Janata and Agrani banks. ‘She [Hasina] has ‘huge balance’ with different branches of state-run Agrani Bank,’ a senior central bank official told the news agency.~~~ Commercial banks so far have reported that Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina each have up to Tk 3 crore in bank accounts, said banking sources. More banks continued to submit information on the two leaders and their dependants as part of the central bank's inquiry into their transaction details
The final ‘money tally’ next week would be an indicator if the Government is planning to bring corruption charges and whether it is serious about its action, or is yet another one of its ‘courageous faux pas’!

Thus far Khaleda appears to be the gainer in the see-saw effort by the Government to throw her out. Reading the BBC report
‘What next for Bangladesh Dynasties’
on rumours circulating is good stuff to chew upon:

There are many theories and rumours. That element of the military, loyal to the memory of her late husband, the assassinated president General Ziaur Rahman, intervened on her behalf. hat her sons insisted she stay regardless of the consequences.~~~ Or perhaps she simply decided to dig her heals in to be absolutely sure there was no chance of Sheikh Hasina returning, before she herself agreed to leave

What needs to be seen is how things fare out in the first week of May, when
Khaleda Zia steps out to go to Saudi Arabia and Hasina despite her anxious moves to get back soonest to the country last week, seems to have developed cold feet and has ‘appointments’ to attend to before she also returns on the first week of May ?

Hasina has fared badly, and despite the press she received thanks to this episode she could neither impress nor express, nor rise up to the occasion. Her interview with BBC’s Asia Today last night (26th April) was a disaster as she was incoherent, went into her ‘my regime’ score card report on ‘golden period’, which took up more than the three or four minutes slotted for her to speak her mind.

A sample of her diatribe is however available in the article
'Battling begums' warn Bangladesh won't wait for polls where she states:

"They have gagged the press and have yet to hold elections. I don't know what will happen but the people will not wait forever. Once the people come out on to the street, I don't know how long their patience will last." ~~~~Sheikh Hasina warned the military against any such move: "I think some quarters [of the army] were encouraged by the Pakistani model, but Bangladesh is totally different, our society and people won't let it
happen," she said.

More than the people losing patience and converging on the street to be massacred, Hasina seems to be the one that has lost patience and her ‘newest plan’ comes into play with this report:
Hasina to sue British Airways for denying boarding card
Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina planned to sue British Airways demanding compensation worth 100 million pounds for "wrongfully" denying her the boarding pass to return home from London earlier this week, her lawyer said here today ~~~~ He said the British Airways authorities had violated their own "General Condition for Carriage for Passengers and Baggage" which allowed them to refuse boarding passes only if requested by Bangladesh's immigration authorities, whereas in her case the request came from the Civil Aviation Authority according the airways formal letter denying her the pass. .
The decision by British Airways not to let her board was neither a political decision, nor an infringement on her Human Rights. It was a purely commercial decision as hypothetically speaking, if she was allowed board - BA would have had to compromise the interest of all other passengers on the flight. If the aircraft was not allowed to enter Bangladesh airspace (as gathered from an Intelligence flash) it would have meant diverting to Delhi or Mumbai and letting off Hasina before onward flights to Dhaka could commence, or return directly to London. This would have meant losses in revenue that would have been staggering for any airline, and would have indicated their lack of professionalism. Hasina stands to lose some political clout in the UK, for not every Brit would accept its flag carrier to be sued.

However the bottom line is
the caretaker government was yet to withdraw its letter written to the British Airways not to carry Hasina on its flight in view of the banso it is still premature to say that Hasina will return to Bangladesh with any bit of certainty!

Another issue that seem to have upset a lot of people in Bangladesh is
India was in touch with Hasina during her ban
"India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to me and the Indian High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma met me here," Hasina, Chief of the Awami League said. She did not give further details. Hasina said her party always valued 'friendly relations with India and other neighbours.
Admittedly Bangladesh has ‘friendly relations with India and other neighbors’, but the high profile probing into the welfare of Sheikh Hasina is certainly bewildering. Have the Indian’s been in touch with Khaleda too? If NOT, then is it because Hasina was more ‘friendlier’ than Khaleda?


I leave readers with highlights from the article
A fragile democracy by Tanvir Ahmad Khan, a former foreign secretary of Pakistan who has also served as ambassador to Bangladesh, that sums up the current situation in Bangladesh and gives us a forward vision when we juxtapose Pakistan’s experience and plight with the military with our own:
The best hope for democracy now is an election after a period of internal reforms, perhaps before the end of 2008. Bangladesh has inexorably been moving towards being a national security state though the threats are largely internal.~~~~ Events in Bangladesh are also said to have been shaped by external factors. Apparently, in 2003, an exaggerated version of Islamic militancy in the country led to heightened outside pressure on the government to take pre-emptive action against the Islamists. As it complied with the stricter norms of the war on terror, the government polarised the internal situation further. BNP needed bonafide Islamic parties as coalition partners, which raised their demands for a share of parliamentary seats. Alarmed by this prospect, the West reportedly wanted a transformation of Bangladesh's polity citing Pakistan as a model. If true, Bangladesh may, in the short run, experience an exacerbation of tensions similar to those in Pakistan.~~~~ Somewhere along the line, there has been a breach of communication, a grave disconnect in the perception of the national mission Bangladesh has, indeed, faced an identity problem since its independence.
Mac Haque

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bangladesh Political Situation Update – 26th April 2007

1. Rumours and Realities:

In today’s Bangladesh every rumour ought to be taken seriously for the ‘powers that be’ do not seem to have a tight lid on secrecy that probably is the first rule of business in states craft.

From the arrest of Tareq Rahman to that of Arafat Rahman Coca, to the banishment of Sheikh Hasina and the yet attempted forced exile of Khaleda Zia, all savory and unsavory news now gaining ‘official recognition’ and winning media attention, have been available for well over a month now in the public domain courtesy the grape vine , basically meaning the rumour mill !

Therefore drama/s unfolding today doesn’t surprise me a bit, as nothing has been this ‘predictable’ in Bangladesh’s politics in a very long time. The only thing that cannot be predicted is the future sequence as also the oft repeated question ‘who is calling the shots’?

News coming in just now says the Government has lifted the ban on Sheikh Hasina’s return and has indicated that there is no restriction on the movement of Khaleda Zia. All well taken
but one cannot help overlook the lie hidden in the statement:

Contrary to media reports - there had never been any pressure on Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia to leave the country, and there
were no restrictions on her freedom of movement.
It has now become apparent that the ill planned move to banish Sheikh Hasina had the blessing of the military, yet nobody was willing to believe it until the process really got going with a circular from the Home Ministry, that sent shock waves across the conscience of the nation. But in the case of Khaleda Zia, and probably because of her proximity with the military, there were no public statements until the Senior Law Adviser in the interim cabinet Mainul Hosein said

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Zia and Awami League (AL) led by
Sheikh Hasina should change their "old leadership to pave way for their
successors to help the reform process in the interest of democracy and country”
You must change the leadership if you want to stop politics of violence and
," he said yesterday.
As if echoing the sentiments of the adviser the US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said :

"The situation in Bangladesh is one that we're watching quite closely. We have urged the caretaker government to move as expeditiously as possible to elections so the Bangladeshis can exercise their right to vote and choose who is going to lead them in the future and hopefully be able to put these past incidents behind them," .
Reading between the lines, it would seem the US is merely prepared to see elections go ahead and couldn’t be bothered as to who would ‘lead’ in future, and in the process put ‘past incidents behind’.

Ironically there has not been a clear statement from the US on the plight of either Begum or the ‘minus 2’ plan of the military backed Government which still seems to be holding water.

In the UK meanwhile a Blogger laid out a fine pasting on Lord Avebury, the high profile politician who shared sympathies for Sheikh Hasina while she was stranded in London. In a letter he writes:

Dear Lord Avebury

How is it possible that you go to an Ahmadiyya reception one day and then a few days later meet with a politician - Sheikh Hasina - who only a few months ago (23 December 2006) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bangladesh Khilafat Majlish, a vocal anti-Ahmadiyya organisation? This outfit is known for espousing shariah, fatwas and other things but pertinent to this discussion is the fact that they are very

Meanwhile BDNews24 reported adviser Geetara Chowdury (who rumour mills say will soon be sacked from her post) take on human rights:

Geeteara does not consider the government's purported move to exile Khaleda Zia and ban Hasina from setting foot on Bangladeshi soil as instances of human rights violations. "I don't think human rights have been violated in case of the governmental moves. The law ministry will explain the situation and the law of the land will decide whatever steps should be taken against the two former prime ministers."
‘Fruitful’ as may have been the outcome of today’s meeting of Advisers the future and fate of the warring Begums is yet suspect; and it seems very unlikely that the Government’s decision (U-Turn) means it has had a change of heart. Far from it facing expediency by adding a bizarre twist is the name of the game. More than Khaleda or Hasina buying time, it could well be that the Government has gone on a tactical retreat and will spring right back into action at an opportune time.

Reinforcing the point New Age yesterday has this report:

As Khaleda, who is learnt to have been reluctant to leave the country, apparently refused to seek visa in person, the quarter concerned threatened the family to face 'consequences,' the sources said. 'They [representatives of the powerful quarters] came and asked the family to manage visa in person,' a family source said Tuesday evening. 'They threatened "consequences" as a family representative conveyed her [Khaleda] unwillingness to seek visa in person.' Khaleda's family was under fresh pressure to leave the country after about 60 hours from Saturday midnight, a family source said. 'We fear they would detain her [Khaleda] youngest son [Arafat] again and disconnect utility connections to mount pressure on her,' he said.
In all probability the likely destination for Khaleda Zia’s ultimate exile is Malaysia and to prove a point the Government may no longer harp upon the ‘Umrah’ plans to Saudi Arabia but more likely refer to the state of her health as a pretext to have her thrown out.

"Begum Zia is improving but still has some problem with low blood pressure and
arthritis pain in her knees," a close associate quoted her personal physician,
Dr. Mahtab Uddin, as saying. She should have a complete rest for few more days,
Mahtab Uddin, a retired brigadier-general of Bangladesh Army Medical Corps, told
Khaleda associates.
Khaleda Zia may eventually end up in Saudi Arabia for she has been receiving favorable treatment on her knee complication for decade in the Kingdom. Her actual date of departure could well be after the High Court habeas corpus hearing next week, and once the journalist laying in wait at the Airport clear out!

All in all the Government has earned itself a very bad name, its future actions will be viewed with great suspicion.

2. The Military and the Monetary: The Mood of the Moment

Work for Peace - Gil Scott-Heron

The Military and the Monetary, get together whenever they think its necessary,
The Military and the Monetary, use the media as intermediaries,
they are determined to keep the citizens secondary,
they make so many decisions that are arbitrary.

If we are to do a post mortem on the rapidly changing scenario last week the point that would not miss anyone is; while the military which had been controversy free for over a decade has had its reputation sullied if not soiled, their days ahead looks fraught with risk and they will obviously be subject to a lot of scrutiny and suspicion.

A sampling of post’s on the Net about the action of the Bangladesh Army starts with
Unpleasant Things, Pleasantly Speaking and speaks volumes about the mood of the moment:
The patriotic and popular soldiers have overstepped their borders in some way more than necessary, and thunder the master of the all wrongdoers in the country, and as a result, our democracy is in jeopardy, unsafe... such a policy stimulates a new horizon of agitation. Right now the political forces and the military glare icily at each other, but neither are seeking the elimination of the other. Now they offer rival ideological models;
who would be in the state power, the prime battleground of the real tussle, with a democratic autocracy, or autocratic democracy.
The Statesman, Kolkata in its piece
It’s army rule behind a civilian facade in Bangladesh writes:

It is clear that the army, though not apparent on the face of it, would like to extend its rule. It will not be easy to send it to the barracks.~~~The new council gives the army a formal mechanism for effectively controlling the administration that it has installed in January 2007. The army top brass feels that it is not possible to govern the country from behind the curtain any longer. For a country like Bangladesh prolonged army rule will do more harm than good. The initial relief will gradually wear off. To remain in power and to marginalise the main political parties the army may have to join hands with the fundamentalist groups as it has done in Pakistan . Jihadis adore a vacuum.
Disillusionment with the main political parties will strengthen their hands.Bangladesh is far from being a hardline Islamic state but its so-called secular leaders have done their best to give secularism a bad name.
A Blogger writes in
Bangladesh' Democratic Failure - Take It In Stride

The military is showing disturbing signs of ambition by forcing the government
to prevent Sheikh Hasina from returning from abroad and blackmailing Khaleda Zia
to leave the country. The two ladies can be and must be tried in Bangladesh and
put in jail in the country should charges against them prove to be true. But
they have a right to be in the country at any time and never be forced to be
outside against their will.

To quote
yet another Blogger:

The honeymoon is over. To suspend the political process and attempt to lock out
or away political leaders without currently offering any alternative is dangerous. Elections are hoped for by the end of 2008 but there is no set timeline and Lieutenant General Moeen Ahmed, who led the coup and is being seen as de facto leader of the country, has stated that he doesn't want Bangladesh to revert to an elective democracy that might lead to the same problems as before. Increasingly it is feared that any election will be designed to achieve a pre-set goals. No one denies that the country was being led "democratically" towards destitution, but now it appears to be heading towards an abyss of military rule.
A future course of direction is advanced:

Since it will not be easy for the present Government to meet the high expectations it has aroused among the people, discontent is bound to grow and, over a time, lead to political protest. This is all the more likely to happen because, Lt Gen Moin U Ahmed's talk revived memories of Field Marshal Ayub Khan's concept of a "basic democracy" and President Soekarno of Indonesia's concept of a "guided democracy". While the former was dubbed - and rightly so - as a "basic fraud", the latter bore the stamp of Soekarno's own "guidance" rather than of democracy. Both established authoritarian orders which failed.


The weeks ahead are uncertain though predictable. Tomorrow brings in the first ray of hope, for the people of Bangladesh successfully resisted attempts by a military backed Government to deny civic and citizens rights to two powerful politicians. It is ironic that the two Begums in their lust and hunger for power had denied many of its citizens the same right. Senseless hartals (shut down general strikes) were meant to keep the citizens hostage to their maddening whims, the violence on the street where death and mayhem was the order of the day, are unpleasant memories that the people of Bangladesh do not wish to remember nor do the want to see a repetition.

Can the 2 Begums for once in the life time take a stand to pass a law banning hartals and ask for the capital punishment for those found damaging public property?

If the answer is yes ~~ the Begum’s should have no problem for a quick comeback, the Army should safely return to barracks!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Bangladesh Political Situation Update - 23rd April 2007


Bangladesh's former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia has pulled back from a reported deal with the army-backed interim government to go into exile, intelligence officials said on Monday. "She has conveyed her final decision (to the government) not to go abroad in a while," said one official, who asked not to be identified. Khaleda's close associates said the 60-year-old former premier was ill with low blood pressure and knee pains, and "she will not go out"............More in Chutneyz

In its first reaction to events in Bangladesh, India seems to be monitoring developments very closely and Times of India reports:

With the military-backed interim government in Bangladesh forcing two premier leaders, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, out of the country, the "soft coup" launched on January 12 has now turned deadly serious. While the "cleansing" of politics in this volatile nation is something India is not uncomfortable with, the current situation is creating a political vacuum. India's deepest fear is that in an intensely politicised nation like Bangladesh, this vacuum should not be exploited by fundamentalist forces.
As of today there is no indication that the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is heading for exile any time soon. It appears she is stalling her departure and has bought time and an AFP report citing the vernacular daily Naya Diganta says:
"There is uncertainty about Khaleda Zia going to Saudi Arabia. The visa activities and other related activities have not yet been completed"
the report also gives us a indication of 'choice locales' other than Saudi Arabia that is apparently up for offer for Her Majesty:

If visas for Saudi Arabia are not secured for Zia and her family, other countries would also be considered, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Singapore, the report quoted a top-level government source as saying.
AFP also caught on to the speculations in the local media and the grapevine of a 'chartered plane' waiting at Dhaka Airport to whisk Khaleda to exile :

A chartered plane from Saudi Arabia has arrived in Bangladesh and is believed to be on standby to take former prime minister Khaleda Zia into exile~~~It was not known when the plane was due to leave or if the two-time prime minister might demand to travel by a scheduled flight

Meanwhile Reuter caught on to some 'dissenting views' of unnamed officials:

Moves to force the country's two most powerful political party leaders into exile could backfire ~~~"Trying to shut them out of politics ... gives a clear signal that the current administration has something in mind beyond just fighting corruption," said a senior official who asked not to be identified. "It is indeed true that too much greed and power mongering by the politicians pushed the country into a crisis, but no one can accept that the reins of power remain in the hands of non-politicians for a long time,"
It appears that despite all the drama unfolding centering Khaleda Zia, the future of politics in Bangladesh will yet be decided by brash ‘die-nasties’ if this IANS report is true:

As she prepares for her impending exile, former prime minister Khaleda Zia is planning to revamp the top hierarchy of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to keep it under her control, either through family members or a close circle of former armed forces officers. Media reports said on Saturday that she was 'annoyed' at the lack of adequate support from the party brass during her most trying time ~~~~As she prepares for her impending exile, former prime minister Khaleda Zia is planning to revamp the top hierarchy of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to keep it under her control, either through family members or a close circle of former armed forces officers. Media reports said on Saturday that she was 'annoyed' at the lack of adequate support from the party brass during her most trying time. Her brother, retired Major Syed Mohammed Iskander, could take over as the acting chairperson while retired Brigadier Hannan Shah may be the new secretary general.The axe would fall on long-time secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, who is widely seen as gathering support from among the party leaders and cadres. Most of them want Bhuiyan to lead, Besides being Zia's brother, Iskander has been the main conduit between her and the army brass and during the current crisis.
Bangladesh’s military backed interim government received a shot in the arm with this very positive report in the Chicago Tribune :

Economists estimate that thieving politicians, including the families and cronies of the country's two feuding political dynasties, have pocketed more than $5 billion a year by taking a cut of nearly everything sold in the country. About $40 billion in foreign aid has been misappropriated over 35 years in this poor and densely populated delta nation, analysts say. ~~~~In surely one of the strangest political turnarounds in the world, this South Asian kleptocracy now finds itself run by a military-backed government took power three months ago intent on restoring democracy by prosecuting or exiling the nation's most powerful politicians as part of an unprecedented war on corruption. That the top two targets are women -- usually seen in aid circles as the less corruptible sex -- only adds to the oddness of the whole affair.~~In a country where court cases typically drag on for decades, the government has limited trials to 60 days, with adjournments -- a favored stalling tactic -- limited to three days. It has also hired private attorneys as prosecutors and dangled offers of incentive pay for investigators who find evidence that helps win convictions. ~~~~One of the keys, officials agree, is making sure Bangladesh's two political leading ladies exit politics for good. To that end, the government is willing to let them, and perhaps their families, avoid prosecution as long as they agree to leave Bangladesh permanently.
The Communist publication LibCom in its very thought provoking report On Bangladesh today and tomorrow touches upon civil and labour unrest following closure of jute mills in Khulna as well as an overall yet balanced take on the military backed interim government:

The present 'anti-corruption purge' is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone; erase the old guard political elite who were a parasitical drain on economic growth, please modernisers at home and abroad and push ahead with privatisations. A recent move to deal with the rampant corruption at the main dock port, at Chittagong in the south of the country, is also an act of accelerating privatisation of various labour processes at the port. Previous proposals for privatisation in recent years were met with strikes. Now compulsory redundancy has been imposed on older workers and piecemeal privatisation of particular sectors of the dock operation have occurred.
While PROBE which has been a reliable news source for in-depth analysis of Bangladesh politics talks about the possibilty of Army Chief Moeen U Ahmed forming a political party:

While it may not be clear as to whether the army chief will actually enter into politics, the conference was rife with speculation of a new political party in the offing.~~~~The process to form the new party is on. The party ideologically will be of Bangladeshi nationalism, leaning towards the right. It will include educated, honest and popular leaders of BNP, Awami League, Jatiya Party and other parties. Other acceptable and able people of the society as well as qualified Bangladeshis abroad will also be inducted into the new party. Ground work is on to determine candidates for this party for the coming election. Importance will be given to persons known as honest and able in their respective constituencies. Sources in the administration say that local government elections will take place towards the beginning of next year. Parliamentary
polls will be held towards the beginning of 2009.


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Friday, April 20, 2007

Political Reporting Excerpts - 20th April 2007

1. Analysis: No More a Battle of the Begums

Both Khaleda Zia and Hasina Wajed, entered Bangladesh's turbulent and often bloody politics through a route familiar in Asia -- public sympathy following putsches that eliminated powerful male relatives .Prof. Ataur Rahman, a noted political analyst who teaches political science at Dhaka University, was among those critical of the two female leaders and their governance by patronage. "The old democratic process and leadership are no longer valid in Bangladesh as they (the two ladies) could not bring any good result for the country... all we got was corruption, violence and fear. We need a change... renegotiated democracy in a new constitutional framework," ~~~~ "Politicians alone can't rule Bangladesh ... we need an integrated framework where the politicians, civil society and the military can take charge of the government in an inclusive manner ,''

UK support for caretaker Bangladesh Government

The British Government has welcomed the Bangladesh Caretaker Government's commitment to hold elections ~~~~The Foreign Secretary hoped that the government could now set out a detailed roadmap, including timings for ID cards, voter registration, and independent election officials. She stressed that it was important that the government demonstrate commitment to due process and human rights, and expressed the hope that they soon lift the state of emergency imposed in January 2007 in the wake of street violence ~~~~We want the Caretaker Government to succeed and set Bangladesh on a course that will see it fulfill its considerable potential. Britain stands ready to offer practical support to the Caretaker Government as it works towards this goal,' We want the Caretaker Government to succeed and set Bangladesh on a course that will see it fulfill its considerable potential.

Bangladesh: Government high on adrenaline, or is it something else?

Taking advantage of their political lineage, they've been occupying seats that even their clerks deserve better. And certainly, some point can be made that the only way democracy can be restored in these parties is by eliminating familial rule. But is it necessary to blackmail the ex-prime minister by taking her younger "child" away from her for a night and threatening to put them in the same grueling ordeal as his forerunner (and perhaps role model) Tareq? And even bigger a question – is it worth letting go of Tareq and Coco only to send the whole bloodline of Zia living a fancy life in Saudi – even after how they have raped the country to make money for themselves over the last 5 years? ~~~~~If there are any specific charges against her, for God's sake…put her in trial, send her to jail! But "threat to national security"? That's lame! ~~~~I wonder why the caretaker government is risking its well- and hard-earned repute by taking such adrenaline rushed steps? But I also don't think they're stupid.

The Fix Is In: Thuggery in Bangladesh

The military strongman who has taken control of Bangladesh, Lt. General Moeen U Ahmed, is systematically purging the two most popular political parties in Bangladesh. Together these two parties enjoy overwhelming support in Bangladesh and have both held power after close elections during the past 16 years of democratic rule in Bangladesh.~~~~By trying to exile the leaders of the two biggest political parties in Bangladesh, General Moeen, who just today gave himself a promotion [link is in Bengali] for his fine work, has very clearly shown his hand. The stated goal of the military takeover was to cleanse the country of corruption. Now they have abandoned all such pretenses of a corruption drive in favor of open bullying of the political parties and the crushing of Bangladeshi democracy. There can now be no doubt that this is a takedown by force of one of the few shining examples of secular democracy in a Muslim majority country. The Bangladesh military, along with their Islamist allies, have orchestrated a coup d'etat with the tacit support of the United States government.~~~~The deafening silence from Washington as an Islamic country of 150 million people has its democracy gutted by the military, combined with words of encouragement from the Ambassador, can only help to embolden the Generals in Bangladesh~~~~~The United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that Bangladesh drop all charges against this man. The State Department highlighted this man's cause. All because he was being given full due process by the democratically elected government of Bangladesh~~~~~The United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that Bangladesh drop all charges against this man. The State Department highlighted this man's cause. All because he was being given full due process by the democratically elected government of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh: No going back

Mrs Zia had, in effect, succumbed to blackmail over the fate of her two sons, both facing corruption charges. Her departure, accompanied by her younger son, was said to be imminent. Her firstborn, Tareque Rahman, is in jail as the main trophy for the army's anti-corruption drive and unlikely to go anywhere.~~~~The term of the army chief, General Moeen U Ahmed, expires in June 2008. His main adversary, and probable successor, General Masud Uddin Chowdhury, is widely seen as the driving force behind the state of emergency imposed on January 11th.~~~~The term of the army chief, General Moeen U Ahmed, expires in June 2008. His main adversary, and probable successor, General Masud Uddin Chowdhury, is widely seen as the driving force behind the state of emergency imposed on January 11th~~~~~Already there is talk in Dhaka that the army might form its own civilian party—or not bother with such niceties and declare outright martial law.

Bangladesh: So where do they think the new leaders will come from?

The Bangladeshi people might even ignore the army's own corruption and lack of accountability if it only means that the political space will be cleaned up for good. For Bangladeshis, being a generally youthful lot, might have forgotten how the army's previous attempts to clean up politics fell flat. What the Bangladeshi people need to ask themselves is how the generals can restore democracy if their current actions lead to a political vacuum.~~~~Even the 'Musharraf model', one that Dhaka's generals are so fond of, suggests that it is impossible to construct a government without one of those corrupt, imperfect exiled leaders. ~~~~For Bangladeshis tired of the daily crises caused by the bitter rivalry between the two begums, it might be hard to imagine anything could be worse. Yet, attempting to govern a country like Bangladesh with the military's creations and fragments of the old political parties with radical Islamists on the fringe might be just that.

Bangladesh: The Other Shoe Drops

In true Bangladeshi fashion, the government press note issued by the Home Ministry is indirect and obtuse. It never says she is not allowed to return. The exact language is, "bishesh shortorkota mulok babostha grohon koreche." What the hell does that mean? Immigration is checking under the bed before going to sleep? Or she will be prevented from entering the country? Hasina's reaction is predictable: she is "surprised." What planet were you on, Mrs. Hasina?

Bangladesh: Clearing the Ring for the King

Someone played a smart card here, telling the media that Hasina requested security from the government. The government took the chance to use this to shift some part of the reason on that, saying her life would be threatened. Other side of the coin, we had reports circulating in the media that BNP head Khaleda Zia would not be charged with anything if she left the country, with her second son Coco. At about the same time, the government requested extra time to separate the judiciary from the executive, to which the HC spitted out a fiery "Why?" and then proceeded to halt, for six months, all cases proceeding against Tarique Zia. If you understood all of that, look confused. ~~~~. The government then vented some steam at the media, saying the media was misleading the people with baseless reports and that the government was still dedicated to press freedom. ~~~~~~I do, however, seem to recall a certain Noble laureate who opened his party to contest the next elections and therein lies the final piece of the puzzle. The problem with this piece is that it is not yet clear how it fits into the puzzle.

Behind facade, Bangladesh treading on Pakistan's path

Details of the Dhaka deal are not known. But it does remind one of the 'understanding' President Pervez Musharraf reached with Sharif, with the Saudi royalty playing the facilitator. Sharif cannot return home for 10 years - till 2009. Similarly the Zia family's return may also be time-barred. The Bush administration has been quick to approve of Bangladesh's developments. Nothing else can explain the 'courtesy call' to Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed by US envoy Patricia A. Butenis Monday afternoon even as the former's officials were negotiating with Zia . Butenis expressed 'satisfaction' at the Ahmed administration's 'actions' on deciding a time frame for elections.~~~~There is a seeming contrast in the way the US wants to deal with Pakistan and Bangladesh. It could not prevent Musharraf's emergence, partly thanks to 9/11. But in Bangladesh, it seems to be discouraging a direct military takeover.Martial law is unlikely and the civilian facade would remain. The Bangladesh Army has already been reminded that its role as a UN peacekeeper - Dhaka has dispatched over 40,000 soldiers over the years in an undoubtedly lucrative opportunity - could be lost if it takes power directly.~~~~This is because most Islamist politicians, particularly those of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), are free after 13 weeks of a nationwide drive by the Ahmed regime against crime, corruption and religious extremism. There seems a clear lack of will to touch political activists wedded to religion.

Be careful what you wish for; you may get it — William B Milam

The timetable and the reform agenda that the new military/civilian dispensation in Bangladesh has outlined, after a good deal of hesitation and debate, is a good example of this. For weeks now, most of the well-wishers of that poor country have warned in public and private that "military exceptionalism" is a present and growing danger to the political experiment being undertaken there. Many (including yours truly), worried about creeping Army intervention, have called for the regime to lay out a precise and specific agenda and a timetable for return to civilian government via elections.~~~~So there we have it: elections between July and December 2008; a redone and valid voters list with photos of the voters; a neutral and professional election commission, and a continuing drive to undo corrupt politicians. And guess what? Now that we have the timetable and agenda, many of the worriers remain worried. The elections, they say, are not soon enough. There is no need for a pristine voters list, no need for photo IDs, and the anti-corruption drive goes too far, they add. In other words, the Bangladeshi leaders have given them what they wanted, and they don't like what they got.

Bangladesh: Sovereign Or Subsidiary?

For capital, countries like Bangladesh are not considered as country per se, it is just a region for investment. Sovereignty, therefore, is an ornament in the model. Neoclassical economics, favourite ideology of the corporates, believe that there is nothing exists to be called national or interest. Everything is individual. But who are these individuals? ~~~~Bangladesh had parliaments, had development programmes. However, these never interacted. Major economic decisions, those shape the direction of Bangladesh, have never been discussed in parliament. The last GATT round that effectively opened Bangladesh for global capital has been unknown to law makers and even bureaucrats till date. The production sharing contracts (PSCs) signed on country's natural resources, which took away resources from the people of Bangladesh to be handed over to multinational companies, were not discussed in the parliament. The contracts on coal and natural gas have been kept secret till today, even parliamentary standing committee did not dare insist to have a look at those.~~~'Because it is a coup with difference. It is coup conceived by civil society on behalf of global corporate power represented by 'Big apa' (US ambassador) and allies implemented with the help of coercive power.'

Bangladesh Collapses to Thunderous Applause

"The latest in a long line of despots, General Moeen U Ahmed, has now taken effective control of Bangladesh. By doing so, this latest South Asian megalomaniac has substituted his judgment for the judgment of the people.~~~~The New York Times makes a singularly important point: that military regimes magnify the political influence of religious extremists. I would go a step further. I would say that military regimes in Islamic countries in fact collude with, and enable, religious extremists to consolidate power. Military regimes and Islamists are natural allies - they both are undemocratic and believe in rule by force. There is plenty of evidence that such collusion is not only a theoretical possibility, but has in fact been the case in recent history.~~~~Bangladesh was formed as a secular state in direct response to the oppression of a country that wanted to rule on the basis of religious national identity, namely Islamic rule. The General wants to now reinstitute that "religious national identity" that led to the persecution of millions of Hindus and the slaughter of 3 million Bengalis. It should not be surprising to anyone that the General's words echo those of the 1975 coup leaders in Bangladesh - a slide into Islamist rule is a characteristic of these military megalomaniacs.~~~~So, while "civil society" in Bangladesh cheers this military takeover, and while President Bush is busy ignoring a real threat to stability in the 8th most populous country in the world, democracy and human rights collapse in the world's 5th most populous democracy.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bangladesh Political Reporting Excerpts - 14th April 2007

1. Big Political Trouble in Little Bangladesh

What the charges indicate though, true or not, is that the interim military administration is now making an effort to truly 'cleanse' Bangladesh of it's previous political past . The charges could never have been made, or seen the light of day, without the approval of someone high up. And what is worrying, what the major concern is for a country of 150 million people, is that they're trying to erase their rotten past, with no concrete plans or policy or even assurances for the future. The power is all with the army. No one else is allowed to speak out, or even really speak at all except through the established media. There is no alternative. So they better get it right, because now there's nothing to go back to.

Bangladesh: Old guard jostling for position in the new order

Dozens of politicians from both parties, specially the BNP men now under the gun for corruption, is positioning themselves to join a yet to be formed political party. The BNP people are specially eager, because they are thinking that joining the new party, which will probably form the next government, is their 'get out of jail free' card. But being the cowardly backstabbers these people are, both sides are waiting for their respective leader to be formally and permanently be out of the country.~~~~~Hasina is now abroad, but the rebel faction is waiting to confirm that she isn't returning any time soon (could this explain the two cases and the strange assurance from the government that she does not need to come home right now?). A few senior leaders are leading this faction, their main complaint being the fact that Hasina listened to a few newcomers more.

Bangladesh: Democracy Saved or Sunk?

As recently as 2002, public support for democracy was overwhelming in the country, as several surveys showed. Bangladesh enjoyed secular institutions and a growing economy. It held regular elections, and power rotated between the two major parties, the center-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the center-left Awami League. But, despite the public's commitment to democratic institutions, contempt was growing against the many politicians who regularly subverted those institutions.~~~~~~Finally, BNP tried to rig the January 2007 elections, a move that was protested en masse by the opposition, and the country came to a standstill. That's when the military intervened. With these conditions, Bangladeshis could be forgiven for welcoming their new military rulers with open arms. After the chaos of the past six years, who can blame them?~~~~~As for elections, the civilian face of the government has dismissed any possibility of holding them in the next year and a half. The Army chief has gone much farther, declaring outright in a recent speech, "We do not want to go back to an elective democracy," and proposing that some kind of a homegrown system be devised as an alternative. This is exactly what Islamists, happy to see the principle of popular sovereignty eviscerated, want to hear. But a homegrown system could be disastrous for both national and regional stability. Accustomed to political freedom, Bangladeshis would eventually resist authoritarianism, ushering in another round of violent conflict.

The alliance between army and academia in Bangladesh

The moral turpitude of BNP leadership including that of Khaleda Zia had directly caused the downfall of the democracy under the civilian government. If BNP government behaved little rationally, then they would not be in such a humiliating condition at the present from which it is unlikely for them to recover and come back with full strength as a frontline democratic party.~~~~~Unfortunately, it was a surprise for them to see Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed took steps against their desired goals for holding election only to bring them back to power through intrigue.~~~~But, the recent unbridled remarks by Gen. Moeen on the democratic system of Bangladesh has raised some concerns because people heard these types of statements in the past that did not do anything good for the people or the nation. Lest he forgot, the present chaos in the polity was caused by the political parties which were formed by the ex generals by interfering with and by distorting the civilian democratic rule. Many believe that the political system of Pakistan was polluted by the military generals that ultimately led to the breakdown and independence of Bangladesh.~~~~~~~Come to think of it, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed was invited by the Bangladesh Political Science Association, Dhaka by none other than the president of this association Dr. Ataur Rahman, a professor at the political science department of Dhaka University . He is known for his inclination toward the cantonment-born party BNP. I had opportunities to watch some of his interviews and discussions in TV programs, recently. According to him, the capture of power through coup and counter-coup in 1975 was valid. It was "Soldier-People Revolution" to him as the BNP-JI and a few other parties had been claiming for years.

Has Hasina finally got her bearings right?

SHEIKH Hasina's recent remarks, given to BBC radio from the United States where she is currently on a visit, branding the present interim government undemocratic and unconstitutional and calling for it to hand back power to an elected government without much delay has come as a surprise to many. It appears to be a significant departure from her earlier stance, which was largely supportive of the current regime and its activities in fighting crime and corruption. While it is true that the Awami League president's comments came in response to the chief election commissioner's statement last week that the Election Commission will not be ready to hold parliamentary elections for at least another 18 months, one cannot help but feel that there is much more to Hasina's sudden change of heart about this interim administration than just her irritation regarding the delay in holding polls.~~~~~~To add to her worries is the fact that her main rival, Khaleda Zia, the leader of the BNP, has stayed put in Bangladesh despite widespread rumours that this government has been trying to get Khaleda to leave the country as well. It is true that Khaleda cuts a sorry figure these days, her son dishonoured and her party disgraced. Yet, her presence right now is more than significant, for when the political process is returned to, the BNP will undoubtedly squeeze maximum mileage out of the fact that their leader hung on when Hasina had abandoned ship.

The Charges Against Sheikh Hasina by Sajeeb Wazed Joy

I am not going to even bother to try and defend the charges against my mother. They are so ridiculous and baseless that besides those who are dedicatedly anti-AL, no one believes them. All I will say is that the BNP wanted nothing better than to find something to charge my mother with and could not. For this to pop up six years later, after the BNP's term and just two days after my mother gave an interview to BBC where she called the Caretaker Government unconstitutional, makes it quite clear that these charges are politically motivated.~~~~~No one, other than the people of Bangladesh, has the right to dictate to the people of Bangladesh who can or cannot lead them. No one elected this Caretaker Government. In fact they were handpicked by the army. We supported them when they were fighting corruption but now it is clear that they have embarked on a conspiracy to destroy democracy in Bangladesh.~~~~~~My aunt lives in a small two bedroom apartment in London and travels by bus and train as she does not own a car and taxis are expensive. My wife has gone back to work after our daughter was born because we need both incomes to pay our mortgage. And I had to leave my job a few months ago because I became too busy with politics and was going to go back to campaign for the elections

Joy’s 300-million-dollar business in Florida

Sajib Wazed Joy, son of Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, is now a wealthy businessman in Florida. Having invested an about 300 million dollars in real estate and other businesses there, he has been given CIP status. There are allegations that this wealth is based on money procured through corrupt means in Bangladesh while his mother was the Prime Minister. These allegations appeared in a recent leaflet titled "The Neglected People". The leaflet was addressed to the present caretaker government.The leaflet stated that it was appealing to the caretaker government which had declared jihad against corruption. It said that the unlimited corruption and greed of a handful of political leaders had been rendering Bangladesh into a failed state. It stated that if Sheikh Hasina, one of the most corrupt leaders, was not brought to trial, the people would take it upon themselves to try her.

Leadership crisis in Bangladesh

After the inglorious departure of Ershad, it was the Begums who ruled this country for 16 long years. The people expected that here were two ladies, who had undergone the hardships of the autocratic rule, and would usher in democratic culture and build a sound leadership chain. But that was not to be. Instead, what the country got was a culture of obstinate, unyielding and uncompromising attitudes. The Begums of the two largest parties can take maximum credit for that; one taking front seat of the party after her father's death in a military coup and the other bearing the fruits of her husband's death in another military coup. Both the leaders started off as best buddies to overthrow the 'bad guy'. But once that happened and they pitched themselves against each other in the election field, the relationship turned sour to the extent where all sense of civility and courtesy were thrown out of window. These two leaders have set the worst examples of leadership qualities. They developed such hatred against each other that they would not talk to each other or give a polite nod even for the media. There is nothing of these two Begums that can be emulated by the people.

South Asia's dictatorships are becoming par for the course

Perhaps the summit really belonged to Bangladesh, whose caretaker head, Fakhruddin Ahmad, came to New Delhi. With the army in control in Bangladesh, Ahmad's government has been using a big, strong broom to uncover some of the messiest scandals of the recent past. So far the people at home are applauding - as was India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his meeting with Ahmad. The fact that South Asia's dictatorships are becoming par for the course must be the moral of this summit's story. Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh are recreating their own brands of democracy. China, meanwhile, is teaching the region the ultimate lesson in realism: It doesn't matter what you believe in, as long as you have the power to defend it.

Two-facedness of AL and the arrogance of it's supporters

I have been curiously reading the postings of some over animated AL supporters. As disgusting as most of those posts were, I had to read Shafique Bhuiyan Anu, Mita Huq, Santa Mostofa, Dr. Gholam Mostofa, Poet Nirmalendu Goon, Asad Babu Etc. and digest it with lots of bad taste in my mouth. In a collective effort, these goons (no pun intended with reference to Poet Goon) with their senseless screaming have re-established why AL has turned from a party of mass population to a party of social rejects over the last 33 years~~~~AL and their supporters continue to claim their championship in the fight against oppression ignoring the fact that they are indeed the champions of oppression.

The Case Against Sheikh Hasina, a Pawn in the Global Chess?

It was reported earlier that the Bangladesh army was looking forward to have a very lucrative and substantial assignments in Afghanistan and Sudan and the fears of the global employers like the U. S. and he UN were that a political government (either Hasina or Khaleda) might not be willing to send large contingents in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Sudan. They have the evidence of it. When US Secretary of State Colin Powell rushed to Dhaka only to get a 'token participation of soldiers' in their 'coalition of the willing' against dictator Saddam Hussain, even the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia disagreed. Therefore, they would like to have a non-political government in power in Bangladesh until the end of 2008 by which time all the agreements of assignments and initial deployments of soldiers would be complete. Therefore, it was expected that the life of the Caretaker government would last till the end of 2008.~~~If the said assignments become bleak, then the Bangladesh army have to stay in power for longer period under various pretexts. Removal of Hasina and Khaleda therefore, definitely could help such objectives.

Bangladesh's Top Two Political Leaders Targeted by Interim Government

An independent political analyst in Dhaka, Ataus Samad, says this week's moves signal that the interim government wants the BNP and the Awami League to change their existing leadership before fresh elections are held sometime next year. "Yes, the pressure is there, the government wants these two ladies to retire from politics, that is very clear…. Because the government is afraid that if the parties go the next elections with the same leadership, then the same bottleneck as was seen in January would repeat again ," said Samad.

Politics of No Return in Pakistan and Bangladesh

While we have not heard further about Bhutto's plans, there has been talk of the return of another former premier in another South Asian country. Sheikh Hasina Wajed recently left Bangladesh under an army-backed regime, purportedly to visit relatives in the US, but there is a distinct possibility of the holiday turning into an exile of indefinite duration. The emergency regime, which completed three months on April 11, has made it clear that it is in no hurry for Hasina's return. ~~~~Hasina responded with a Bhutto-like announcement of her decision to return to her country in order to "face the charges." As if on cue, a case was almost immediately filed in a court, charging her with the murder of four members of a rival party, Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of Khaleda's Bangladesh National Party. An equally Bhutto-like revision of the decision has followed. The US may have asked for a "timetable" in regard to the promised elections, but has not demurred unduly at Dhaka's decision to put democracy on hold indefinitely. Lieutenant-General Moeen's "academic" papers, emphatically ruling out a return of Bangladesh to "elective democracy," do not seem have caused the least concern in Washington . What Pakistan and Bangladesh are witnessing today is a politics of no return -

Care taker government can convert Bangladesh to Rwanda

I believe that if this government makes mistake there will be civil war in Bangladesh. As a consequence, the US military or Indian Military supported by US government will invade Bangladesh. The situation will be worse than that of Sri Lanka or even that of Iraq and I suspect that the fate of the country might be like Rwanda.

General looks to grab power in Bangladesh

THE political crisis gripping Bangladesh deepened last night, with increasing speculation that the country's military chief was planning a coup d'etat . As former prime minister Sheikh Hasina opted to stay in the US rather than return home to face murder charges, Bangladesh's ambitious army chief, Lieutenant General Moin Ahmed, was yesterday said to be working towards forcing both Ms Hasina and her arch rival, Begum Khaleda Zia, into exile. A senior diplomatic source in Dhaka said last night: "General Moin's game plan is clear: he wants both the Begums out so he can clear the decks and start afresh. He sees them as a serious impediment and believes there'll be no progress until they have gone." Awami League general secretary Abdul Jalil ~~~~~While there were no immediate signs that Ms Zia was willing to leave, all indications were that the military would continue to pressure her to go.

Bangladesh: Behind the January coup

It is no secret that the country's Army Chief played the key role in convincing then Caretaker government Chief - President Iajuddin Ahmed to relinquish his unusual simultaneous post of Chief of Caretaker government. But was it all that there was to it? Apparently no.~~~~President and then Caretaker government Chief Iajuddin Ahmed was all set to remove Major General Moin U Ahmed as Chief of Army staff on that day and appoint now-fired Director General of Bangladesh's main Intelligence Agency - Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) - Major General Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury as the country's new army Chief of Staff. This was being done on direct orders from son of former Prime minister Khaleda Zia -Tariq Rahman~~~~A recent declassfied report from Central Bureau of India claims that Tariq and Rezzaqul had met with notorious criminal.

Indian Anti Terrorism Squad Infiltrating Bangladesh

Post 7/11 blasts the Mumbai police's Anti Terrorism Squad is now infiltrating their informants in neighbouring countries to get information on terrorists. Recently a team of three such police khabris were infiltrated to Bangladesh to procure information on possible terrorists hideout there.~~~~Of the three one such khabri is based in Andheri. He went to Bangladesh under the pretext of meeting his family who's based there while the rest two accompanied him.

A feedback on General Moeen's Keynote Speech

In reference to fathomless failures of the last three decades and a half, General Moeen felt that "this needs rethinking so that we can reinvent a system of governance with new leadership at levels." To our understanding the above that is rethinking is important and this ought to stay at the center of the politics contemplated to usher in the days ahead. Corrupt and clannish leadership has created mountainous obstacles in the way of development and progress. Only politically privileged people got undue advantages to make fabulous fortune. Although the constitution and the declared public policy assure equal opportunity but the selfish and infatuated leadership has deprived citizens from their due share in all spheres of national life.~~~~~Big parties have degraded politics to a mean selfish game. Political parties themselves are not run on democratic principles. Party conferences are not held regularly, leadership is not chosen by the free chaice of the party delegates. Programmes and policies are not taken and formulated transparently. Highest leadership comes from family linage and party workers and leaders are never allowed to discuss or dissect these things. The top leader then select leadership for subsequent tiers according to his or her convenience, the will of the party workers are hardly considered or honoured.~~~~~In the past when political parties were voted to power they flouted their pledges and contemptuously ignored the people. Both parties, for example, have pledged a competitive market economy for the country but they have practically established a Crony Capitalism by political patronage throwing the real entrepreneurs in peril and pumping non-entrepreneurs like fragile balloons.