Monday, April 23, 2007

Bangladesh Political Situation Update - 23rd April 2007

BREAKING NEWS:


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.


End

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