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 "The old democratic process and leadership are no longer valid in Bangladesh as they (the two ladies) could not bring any good result for the country...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 ,''

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
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.

6.
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.

7.
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?

8.
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.

9.
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.

10.
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.

11.
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.'

12.
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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