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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
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.

6.
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

7.
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.

8.
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.

9.
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.

10.
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.

11.
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.

12.
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.

12.
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 -

13.
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.

14.
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.

15.
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.

16.
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.

17.
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.

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