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Rumi Ahmed
30 Nov, 2010, USA

So, Zafar Sobhan thinks BNP is mafia.  This made me laugh.  You see, that’s the thing with Bangladeshi politics — you have to laugh at it, because the alternative is to howl in despair.

Let’s be fair to Zafar.  It’s not just him who thinks this way.  I’ve heard it from many AL leaning folks over the years: the last BNP government was like the mafia, Tarique ran Bangladesh like a crime lord, the corruption and violence all pointed to mob rule.  So let’s lay off Zafar.  He is just more articulate than the most.

Instead, let’s look at the message.  So, the BNP government was like the mafia.  What does that mean?

Well, how does the mafia work?  There is a system of patronage, whereby the Don confers favours on those under his protection, and they in turn does the Don’s bidding.  Then there is extortion.  You want to do business in a mob neighbourhood, you pay a protection fee.  And finally, anyone stepping out of line has to be disciplined — made to sleep with the fishes.

BNP was all of these we are told.  Hawa Bhaban cronies ran the country like a private fiefdom.  There were rampant extortion, from the top to bottom.  And there were killings like the 21 August.

The 21 August was a crucial turning point.  After that event, many people said ‘we used to follow Zia’s ideals, not this Khaleda-Falu politic’.   For many who had no love of AL shunned BNP because of its mafia-type transformation.

That was then.  What do we see now?

We see that minister’s brother’s company is given lucrative contracts for electricity generation without any tender process.  And then we see that act being indemnified through legislation.

We see prime ministerial advisors openly declaring that only the ruling party members will be appointed for government job.  We see the public servants humiliated because they wanted to follow the law, and not the party diktat.

We see dissenting voices shut down and thrown into jail by partisan judges.

What was that about patronage, favor, and extortion?

Not as bad as BNP, you say?  Not like AL is killing opposition politicians, like the BNP did on 21 August.

Never mind that no one has actually produced any evidence of BNP being involved with 21 August (as opposed to covering up afterwards).  For the partisan AL mind, it’s a given that BNP did it.  And AL is not as bad.

Except for the inconvenient fact that AL is, of course, as bad if not worse.  In Natore, an upazilla chairman was killed in broad daylight a few weeks ago.  The entire thing is available in youtube.  And Sheikh Hasina personally saved the killers by saying ‘this was BNP’s internal conflict’.

We don’t need Julifikar Ali Manik’s complicated conspiracy theories.  All this happened in public media.  Sheikh Hasina intervened to save killers.

As I said, after 21 August, many BNP supporters abandoned their party.  I don’t know a single AL-er who owns up to Hasina’s action after the Natore killing.  None.

You know why?

Because AL is a cult.  It’s a cult whose members believe that their party can do no wrong.  It’s a cult whose members believe their leader can do no wrong.  It’s a cult whose members simply refuse to face the reality, and would prefer to believe in conspiracy theories where everything is someone else’s fault.  It’s a cult whose members, otherwise perfectly fine people, lock away parts of their reason, compassion, and conscience.

The 21 August assassinations will hang over BNP until it unconditionally apologises for it, and the real killers are convicted and punished.  Until that happens, the charge of ‘BNP is mafia’ will bite.

BNP may be mafia.  But so is AL.  And AL is also a cult.  No matter what happens to BNP, until the AL-ers free themselves from their mental slavery, Bangladesh will remain doomed with a plague on both houses.

Rumi Ahmed
18 July, 2010. USA

Updated: Amar Desh online version again available.

Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh:

39. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed.
(2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of
the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation
to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
(a) the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and freedom of the
press, are guaranteed.

Bangladesh Supreme Court just struck down the Awami League government’s ban on popular newspaper Amar Desh. Amar Desh online version is now available.

**************************

Based on precedence of two previous cases concerning Daily Ittefaq and Daily Banglar Bani, this verdict was very straightforward and expected. Accordingly High court verdict came with very clear judgment and an appeal by the government was a very shameful and surprising act. Esp when the government itself declared that Government had nothing to do with the ban, it was done by the district administrator of Dhaka.  And more shameful and less surprising was the act of the chamber judge of Supreme Court, Justice S K Sinha. Without letting any hearing to be allowed, he simply stayed the judgment of High court.

It is shameful because the chamber judge just violated his oath to uphold Bangladesh Constitution by allowing a Newspaper to remain closed illegally. It is not surprising considering the precedences in which  the court of the Chamber Judge is being used more frequently by the government to stall high court verdicts unfavorable to the Government.

More interestingly a case in pending in the Supreme Court in this regard. A contempt of court case was filed against Amar Desh editor Mr. Mahmudur Rahman  because Amar Desh quoted a senior lawyer of the supreme court, suggesting the same allegation against the chamber bench. In the report Daily Amar Desh quoted senior most lawyer of Supreme court and ex justice Mr TH Khan as saying, ” Chamber Judge means a stay of high court order”.

And yet more interesting was the fact that Mr Mahmudur Rahman is now ‘shown arrested’ in a case of anti corruption Commission for not submitting wealth report. In a recent spate of Supreme Court verdicts,  all acts of anti corruption commission were deemed illegal. Persons convicted by ACC are all set free and many of them are in important positions of current government. Even our current prime Minister challenged the wealth submission order of ACC, never submitted her wealth report and fought a lengthy court battle.

Sometimes, acts of the government, its law enforcement apparatus and the attorney General’s office seems bizarre. Yet again, more bizarre is the silence of the collective conscience of the country, our columnists-our editors-our TV anchors, regarding this total mindless acts of our government.

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Rumi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi blogger contributing from United States.

Rumi Ahmed
25 February, 2010. USA

Exactly one year ago today, a group of violent soldiers belonging to Bangladesh border security force called BDR revolted, started murdering their officers, occupied a part of capital Dhaka and held hundreds of military officers, general soldiers and civilians hostage. During this time of occupation of nearly two days, the marauding soldiers committed one of the worst massacres in the history of Bangladesh. During these two days, they searched and killed 57 seven senior officers of Bangladesh Armed forces trapped inside the compound.

During this occupation, rather than a bold decisive response against the soldiers in killing spree, the one-month old government of Awami League opted to negotiate with the mutineers, thus indirectly giving those soldiers enough time to hunt and kill all the military officers trapped inside occupied Pilkhana campus and commit an array of other crimes including loot, arson, rape etc.
Immediately after the incident, considering the sensitivity of the issue or out of political indecisiveness, while the main opposition party refrained from being overtly critical of governments stand, the media gave the government a free ride by not critically discussing government handling of the mutiny.

The media spin that was most widely used during the immediate aftermath was that by sacrificing 57 senior army officers, government prevented an even bigger civlian casualty in the heart of Dhaka. This logic is based on a hypothetical scenerio that a group of paramilitary soldiers without heavy weapons will fight a fierce artillery gunfight and war with a combined force of the army and the air force and thus would endanger the safety of residents living in nearby areas.

Although government’s decision got a free ride at the time of the incidence, it is imperative that we discuss the decision in a critical point of view. This kind of discussion is very important in formulating a national strategy in any such problem in future.

First basic flaw in the civilian casualty spin is the hypothetical nature of the consequences. It is very difficult to believe that a group of BDR soldiers will be able to fight such a fierce war with armed forces. This sort of situation is not unprecedented in Bangladesh. Since independence there are instances where similar occupation/ hostage situation in the heart of Dhaka or other parts of the country were dealt with decisive military counter offensives. Examples can be cited are 1977 occupation of Dhaka Airport at Tejgaon, 1994 occupation of Ansar HQ in Khilgaon, 1977 revolt in Bogra cantonment.

Second logic was that it was a hostage situation and government had no option but to give in to the demands of the killers. Examples of Pakistan Lal Mosque, Aircraft hijacking, and lately Taj hotel etc were shown. But one has to understand that Pilkhana is not an aircraft or a mosque or a hotel. It is a part of BD, double the size of Vatican city. It has two graduate level colleges, three schools, several mosques, botanical garden with rose/ orchid garden, paddy fields, markets, shops, zoo with the walled boundary. In addition there are residential quarter, lush green fields and sports complex. It was not a hostage situation, it was occupation of a part of Bangladesh. A war was declared. A soldier was shot and killed on 25th morning and another soldier was wounded who later died. Civilians were also shot at indiscriminately and killed.

Although heavily armed military units were deployed within 30 minutes of the first shot at Pilkhana, the forces were kept idle and later was withdrawn. While supreme commander and the army chief is expected to be in secure war room in Army HQ, our army chief was seen sitting all day at the unsecured civilian residence of the PM that was also withing firing distance from Pilkhana.

The rest of the story is more pathetic. Mysteriously, after two days of permissive killing, all the mutineers fled the campus under cover of darkness. Frantic SOS calls from the brightest officers stopped one after one.

Two days later when mas graves, charred bodies were being discovered, most of the killers were out of reach with an unknown amount of weapons and ammunition.

In the coming years, there will be more discussion on handling of Pilkhana massacre. This would look like a big failure of PM and will keep haunting her.

When PM Hasina’s father was being surrounded by the killers, his frantic phone calls did not bring any help from the Army high command or paramilitary Rakhkhi bahini. This has always been an issue of pain for Sheikh Hasina. But when a similar SOS came to her, although her initial gut feeling supported sending in army, she later failed. A 15th August style massacre was replicated under her watch. Children of Major General Shakil or Colonel Mujib lost both of their parents and hundreds of others lost either their parents, husbands, brothers, sister, sons or daughters. Even teen age maid/ helping boys were also killed.

The reason of this command failure from civilian and military leadership was not PM Hasina’s Hasina sole failure. There was inherent problem in her advisers. In Pilkhana type situation, it was the job of the military chief to set up command center, device a strategy, design specific plans and present the PM with the defence/military perspective in dealing with such scenario. In this regard, the person who failed most miserably is Army Chief. Post 1/11 role of this Army Chief created an uneasy relationship between civilian leadership and army chief. PM could not trust army chief. Plus govt was new. It was the job of Chief of Army Staff to advise and convince PM for prompt action and present her the strategy and the plans. But this chief’s post 1/11 activities handicapped his ability to perform his job with authority. This COS had no moral or legal right to remain as Army chief after his failed coup of 1/11. In ideal world, there must not be any lack of trust between the head of the government and the Army chief. If that develops, any patriotic army chief, who cares more for his forces and the country than his own job, should resign. COS Moeen U Ahmed was so eager to keep his own job, he totally failed in his job to defend the country as well as protect his officers. He failed his army as well as the nation.

We must learn from our experience of 25th February. As a nation we must know what we will do if Myanmar send 500 mercenary to occupy Cox’sbazaar, or JMB takes over Bholarhat Upazilla and impose strict Islamic law or Maldives send troops to capture Mongla port? Would we send the local MP with white flag?

We always talk about the spirit of 1971. On 25th March night of 1971, EPR jawans/officers were attacked in a similar way in the same garrison in Pilkhana. Those soldiers did not raise white flag citing neighborhood civilian. As a war was declared, EPR jawans of Pilkhana fought back.This is the spirit of 1971. A war was imposed on us on 25th Feb 2009. We raised white flag without fighting. This was not in line with spirit of 1971. May be our Supreme court Justice Mr ABM Khairul Haq, citing ‘71 er chetona’ as the principle of of constitution, would write another 400 page verdict someday declaring governments BDR handling was illegal.
Jokes aside, seriously speaking, if we have to send local MPs with white flags to deal with occupation and mutiny and make army retreat with their dead soldiers, Why we build and keep the army then?

A battle was fought on 25th February 2009. We failed to respond appropriately, thus losing 57 of our brightest military officers.

It is a shame. And it was a command failure of the civilian and military leadership.

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Rumi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi blogger from United Sates.

Moinuddin Naser
14 January, 2010, New York

India has become desperate to capture the Bangladesh’s telecommunication system and to build up a fibre optic network by using the Cox’s Bazar submarine cable to connect India’s seven sisters in the Northeast India. In this connection the Indian Telecom companies Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications have already submitted a joint proposal to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). Thaindia news, a web based news media reported about the development centring the Bangladesh’s communication system.

Bangladesh’s defence network

Experts opined that if India has to depend on Bangladesh regarding maintaining communication with its north eastern provinces, why it had turned down the proposal of sub-regional cooperation as was mooted by the Awami League government in the year 1996. Experts now opine that if it happens so, India will be able to control Bangladesh’s communication system, including the defence network fully. Even the military establishments of Bangladesh will be nothing but an extension of the Indian eastern command.

Apart from the proposal of fibre optic network, Bharti Airtel is about to complete a deal to buy 70 per cent share of Bangladesh’s Warid Telecom for a reported $900 million from Abu Dhabi Group. While Bharti and Reliance are rivals to each other in the Indian domestic market they have joined hands while bidding for fibre optics network in Bangladesh.

Before getting Transit – Corridor through Bangladesh for easier communication with the isolated North-Eastern Provinces (Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Monipur, Mizoram, Arunachal and Nagaland), India wants to build up the fibre-optic network, by using the existing submarine lending cable of Bangladesh, the backbone of the Bangladesh’s international communication. The cable again is frequently disrupted, sometimes due to theft of cable and sometime for technical reasons. However Bharti and Reliance have offered Bangladesh access to the alternative submarine cable in exchange of the permission to build up fibre optic network.

The seven north eastern states now get telecom services through VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) at a high price.

Cox’s Bazar: Disruption likely

A BTRC official confirmed the report and said that as per the proposal Bangladesh could use the companies’ undersea cable network as an alternative to lone submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-4. The existing optical fibre line connects Dhaka to the south-eastern Cox’s Bazar’s submarine cable landing station. It serves as the backbone of international communication, while satellite services act as backup with limited bandwidth.

Experts opined that if India is allowed to build up fibre optic network in Bangladesh that will surely disrupt the Bangladesh’s communication with outside world. It is not feasible before launching its own satellite by Bangladesh.

Meanwhile Bangladesh plans to join 50 other countries, including South Asian neighbours India and Pakistan, to ramp up its communications network by launching a satellite.

The cost of the programme will be between $150 million and $200 million according to Post and Telecommunications Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju. Bangladesh has started talking to different countries including the US, Japan and China, to help launch own satellite by Bangladesh.

Reuters’ report

Bharti Airtel has almost finalized a deal with the Abu Dhabi group to buy 70m percent of Bangladesh’s Warid Telecom. The total deal will cost $900 million while the initial investment will be $300 million. Reuters reported from India that Bharti declined to make any comment, but its share has gone up by 2.8 per cent while Abu Dhabi Group Chief Commercial Officer Ali Tahir said that they expect to seal the deal by mid-January 2010. But he did not disclose the sale price.

Bharti targeted this small deal with Abu Dhabi Group to buy Bangladesh’s share when the company failed to materialise its $24 billion merger with South Africa’s MTN. South Africa showed its reluctance to allow a flagship corporate to lose its national character.

Warid is the Bangladesh’s fourth-biggest telecom company. As per the contemplated deal, Abu Dhabi Group will retain 30 per cent share, said the report quoting the source of the selling firm. The sale proceed is likely to help Dubai, which has been crunched recently.

Reuters report said: UAE-based Abu Dhabi Group, a consortium of investors that includes members of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, sought approval from Bangladesh’s telecoms regulator for the sale on December 13, according to the regulator’s chairman, Zia Ahmed.

The deal is set against a backdrop of this week’s announcement that oil-rich Abu Dhabi will provide $10 billion to Dubai in order to help its neighbour meet its debt obligations.

Bharti’s expansion would give the Indian phone leader access to Bangladesh’s rapidly growing mobile sector at a time when it is locked in an intense price war in India with rivals Reliance Communications. For the Abu Dhabi Group, the deal will enable it to focus on other telecoms markets where it can have a bigger market share, Tahir said.

No comment from Bharti

Bharti said on Wednesday it was evaluating international opportunities, but declined to comment on plans to buy Warid. Bharti initially plans an investment of $300 million. He said a written proposal by Abu Dhabi Group did not pin a full value on the deal. A section of newspapers in Bangladesh had reported the final deal could be worth $900 million, citing Warid officials.

“The dynamics of the Bangladesh market are similar to those in India, where Bharti has proven itself,” said Phani Sekhar, fund manager at Angel Broking, which holds Bharti shares, in Mumbai Stock market.

Warid Telecom also operates in Pakistan, Uganda and the Congo. Singapore Telecommunications bought a 30 percent stake in Warid’s Pakistan business for $758 million in 2007 from the Abu Dhabi Group. Warid’s operations in Pakistan, India’s neighbour and political rival, are not part of the Bharti deal. At the end of October, Warid had 2.79 million subscribers – far fewer than Grameenphone whose majority share is owned by Norway’s Telenor.

Bharti, which has more than 100 million subscribers in India, is looking to replicate its staggering growth at home in other emerging markets, where scale is vital, many customers are poor and rural, and penetration rates are low but rising fast. Indian mobile operators are locked in an intense tariff war that has raised concerns about profitability. The price war is aimed at grabbing new users as new firms enter the market.

Bangladesh’s mobile sector has grown rapidly, with subscriber numbers reaching more than 51 million at the end of October from 200,000 in 2001, helped by low penetration levels, competitive tariffs and steady economic growth. Analysts predict the number of subscribers could top 70 million by 2011, nearly half the country’s population of 150 million.

The news came two-and-a-half months after talks between Bharti and MTN Group to create the world’s third-largest mobile operator collapsed for the second time in just over a year on South Africa’s reluctance to allow a flagship corporate to lose its national character.

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Moinuddin Naser is a Bangladeshi writer, contributes in the Weekly Holiday from New York.

Sikder Haseeb Khan

Imagine that you’re sitting on the throne of Bangladesh’s politics. You are ruling with emergency powers, but dissent is swelling. You are in the midst of an economic crisis. You are threatened by powerful shadowy figures in your own security and intelligence apparatus. Your previous international patrons now uncomfortable. You need an exit, preferably an honorable one.

So you want to hold elections. But a fully free and fair election will almost certainly result in an outcome that you have reason to distrust, for it may return to power many popular politicians that your administration has persecuted severely. So what do you do in this tense situation?

The answer: engineer the elections—but do so carefully, without raising too many alarm bells. Ensure that voting goes smoothly on election day, without hijacking of ballot boxes, prevention of voters from casting ballots, or any such crude tactics that would be obvious to an observer. In other words, engineer it, not rig it. Here’s how…

Bar dissenters

The first step that the regime has taken: prevent feisty politicians from running in the election. Convicting politicians in quick trials—whatever the charges—will come in handy: declare them ineligible for holding public office. Then government would then intensify an “anti-corruption drive” prior to the candidate registration date in order to bar the local political activists that it doesn’t like.

Field proponents

At the same time, the regime has to leave enough of Awami League and BNP outside the legal net so that the parties themselves can participate in the election. It will continue hand-picking “reformist” politicians or possible turncoats, and intimidate or otherwise persuade them to compete. It will support selective campaigns from both security and funding standpoints. As a recent report by the International Crisis Group noted, “the army is preparing a countrywide list of its own ‘clean’ candidates to contest the 2008 polls.”

Whether or not these candidates will represent a King’s Party or an existing political platform doesn’t matter. What matters is that mostly pro-regime candidates will be allowed to compete.

Shape the grassroots

Then the regime has to ensure that the party rank and file do not rebel. It has already arrested thousands of activists all over the country to prevent dissent, and intimidated thousands others to conform. The government is also trying to bar parties from having students’, teachers’, and workers’ organizations, which usually house most of the activists. In this altered playing field, the government wants to hold local elections first, under either a state of emergency or very limited openings, to ensure that its supporters are able to infiltrate the grassroots level prior to a national election.

Since parliamentary candidates have to rely on grassroots leaders to carry their campaigns, shaping the grassroots will help ensure that parliamentary candidates are forced toe a pro-regime line.

And local elections are not going to be monitored as much by international observers, so the field will be set to stage ‘upsets’. After all, this unrepresentative government claims that it’s only doing what the ‘people’ presumably want.

Control the cities

Another area that the regime has been trying to bolster is its support base among the urban civil society elite. Its attempt to get Dr. Yunus to lead this effort failed. Many of its other supporters among the urban elite are unappealing and unelectable in the perspective of the majority of voters. So, to the extent possible, it is redefining the boundaries of constituencies to give urban areas a greater share. This increases its chance to increase regime loyalists at least in the metropolitan areas. Holding non-party municipal elections is part of this plan.Increase authorityThe final ingredient is to increase the power of electoral authorities to arbitrarily declare results void. The Election Commission has been doing exactly the same. It is about to “empower it to cancel the candidature of any parliamentary contender for gross violation of electoral laws and declare vacant the seat of an elected lawmaker for giving false information in the account of the election expenses” (New Age, 29 April 2008). And who’s going to determine this violation? The Commission of course. Given this government’s woeful record, you can wave due process bye-bye in any such decision.Satisfaction guaranteedSo voila! Now hold national elections, and at the end of the day, you have engineered a nice exit strategy by making sure only your friends are elected. No violence, no ballot box hijacking, and a lot of claps from foreign observers.

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Sikder Haseeb Khan is a Bangladeshi author. This story has also been published in The Progressive Bangladesh.

xanthis
September 30, 2008.

It can be taken as an assertion of the regime to clarify ACC is not just a tool of political suppression. The international recognition of the military backed regime’s current stance was influenced by the high court granted bails of politicians at a row. Many people inside or outside the government, political or apolitical, have been found to get aggrieved by having the politicians back to the show. So, the High Court’s denial of Sheikh Hasina’s bail appeal at Noor Ali’s extortion charge and ACC’s charging Begum Zia to the Barapukuria Coal Mine charge, can be taken as a showdown of, that the media attracting anti-graft drive has not gone that alcoholic, as of Addition Attorney General Mansoor Habib told, the denial of Sheikh Hasina’s bail appeal has been a regain of the public image of the Appellate Division.

But we must not kick the reality away.

We are now in the timeline, cleanly eighty days away of the national poll. People of Bangladesh, though most of them are not too much optimistic, are looking forward for nothing but a free fair general election. They don’t care whether a High Court or Supreme Court judge gives a judgement freely or having the pen held apart by somebody else. Presently the most important concern of everybody is a free and fair poll. And it ain’t necessary to mention that two events been held today, High Court’s denial of Sheikh Hasina’s bail appeal at Noor Ali’s extortion charge and ACC’s charging Begum Zia to the Barapukuria Coal Mine probe, can be anything but not to be taken as a move by the regime with deliberation of holding a free and fair poll.

BBC interviews Barrister Rafiqul Haque and Additional Attorney General Mansoor Habib

It will be an addition to this regime’s long ‘fun list’ if they defend these two incident as the outcome of freedom of judiciary. Sheikh Hasina’s release at parole, meeting with four advisors at Sudha Sadan, flying abroad to children, all in some 20 hours, has let people know how free the judiciary is. But that supersonic speed of the regime was not questioned due to people took it as a step ahead to an election. Where the judiciary is in no way free rather is under full control of the authority, Sheikh Hasina’s not getting bail today is definitely a move which wants her to get free not in a short time. She is scheduled to return home on October 17. My personal speculation is Sheikh Hasina will get the bail by then, if nothing unexpected is happened. And this lead us to see the sudden blustering of ACC is nothing but to show up their prolificacy, a response to the claim of ACC’s going off the effects.

But all of the lines above can have ascription to the reality if we let that the election is going to be held. It’s still a ‘national confusion’ that how long Bangladesh is going to take to see an immediate election on her soil. A lot of conspiracy theories are being stated, some explicating there’ll be an election in December 18, most of the theories bring references from the history that all the military backed regimes have been found least keen to have an election held. For some major differences between the present military backed regime and previous martial regimes, references from Bangladesh’s experiences are less prioritized. But if we look abroad, the most common chronicle of a military (directly or not) takeover of the government-

• Ousting the democratic system with excuse of massive street violence with an immediate promise of nearest possible polls,
• Summoning the loyalist media to convince people about corruption of politicians, then arresting them,
• Setting apolitical civil society members to give the regime a look of ‘not a complete military setup’.
• Massive deployment of military officials to the civil system.
• Expected decline of economy due to lack of keen investors to invest in a ‘yet to have democracy’ state.
• After a certain amount of time, surrendering to the politics.
• And tremendously sluggish and stumbling restoration of democracy (confusions or failures over election) with millions of questions to answer and sometimes with a flow of blood in parallel.

The embarrassing fact is, the list of events above has taken place in Bangladesh exactly as same, the list which ends with the possibility of extremely torpid restoration of democracy, sometimes with a line of blood flowing in parallel. That’s why the fear grows that whether it’s really going to be an election or something else. Sheikh Hasina’s release (in parole or whatever) was great shake-up to the political deadlock. After Khandoker Delwar got EC’s invitation, this was another jump to progress. Begum Zia’s release has been a nearly fulfilment of the process. Now, what it needs is Sheikh Hasina back to the show in order to have a free and fair election. Already Begum Zia has stated, “This government may have complicacy in legality, but we must take this government as a reality, and maybe we will have to accept this government.” The same statement was from Sheikh Hasina months and months ago. This must be a high time for the regime to list the state of emergency in order to carry on a free-fair election rather than  the High Court denying anymore bail appeals of Sheikh Hasina and anymore charge sheets with Begum Zia’s name.

xanthis
September 27, 2008.

It’s not important that whether this is fortunate or unfortunate, but we are always to stuck some phrases and the political circumstances constantly precipitate our discussions to move towards those words. Prior to the January 11, 2007 coup d’état, the word banging our skulls was, ‘Dialogue’ (Bengali: সংলাপ). Every evening we were used to watch news in TV channels with video clips of Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and Abdul Jalil. Smiles they were used to have was more friendly than necessary, that many suspected whether they are on the discussion of becoming in-laws in some consent. It’s clear that they were not talking about being in-laws as they have not been in-laws till today. But, this is never to be unfolded that what really these two guys had been talking about for five long days in the North Plaza of Bangladesh Jatiyo Shangshad.

Immediately after the coup d’état of January 2007, two words that have taught us and made us through all possible levels and layers of annoying monotony on earth, were ‘Corruption’ (Bengali: দূর্নীতি) and ‘Reformation’ (Bengali: সংস্কার) After going through a high quality X-ray test, the regime finally completed the list of leaders from all over the countries whose spines were subsequently missing, although they could stand straight. May be it was their standing straight without a backbone which impressed the regime; they were all admitted to the School of Reformation. Pickups from BNP got their graduation in October 29, 2007, whereas the whole studies of Awami League leaders were a complete covert effort. They were either given high quality lectures, or the lectures were so poor that they cannot act constantly in a flow, sometimes talk completely contradictory to the lectures they were given, again sometimes talk exactly how they are supposed to talk after reformation learning. However, after Begum Zia was released in bail, the BNP reformist pickups deserted their reformation alumni at a row, so the reformation word now is a bit suppressed, or you can say dropped.

Well, these are all old stories, but important. We were talking about words at hike. And beyond all suspicions, the word that is now trailing our ears aggravatingly is, ‘Dialogue between Two Leaders’ (Bengali: দুই নেত্রীর মধ্যকার সংলাপ). With the blessings of FBCCI leader and ‘progressive’ and ‘shushil’ businessman Anisul Haque and astray involvement of the 1/11 regime, Barrister Rafiqul Haque’s slack proposal for sake of words now have been the word to entitle the lead political news reports of media. The involvement of this regime in this case is the counted one. According to straight-forward talker Barrister Haque, we’ve learnt that Advisor Hossain Zillur phoned him at that very night of his statements at High Court office, to let him know that the regime is interested immensely to be a hand to the effort to combine two leaders at a table.

BNP-AL unity, two leaders embracing each other, resolving all political complicacies, these words have shiny attractive colours at the eyes of the media, as well as Anisul Haque and others of his type feel immensely glad to come to the media with these gaudies. We must not forget FBCCI President Abdul Awaal Mintu in 2001 presented a boat-printed sari to Sheikh Hasina and a paddy-printed sari to Khaleda in order to bring peace over this country. I don’t know where those saris presently are, but what I know is the outcome of those attempts was zero. If this memory recall sounds like I’m discouraging Anisul Haque to combine two leaders, well, the recall doesn’t sound that wrong.

The government have many questions to be asked about their interest behind having two leaders together in a dialogue. First question will arise about their own stance. They want two leaders talking to each other, but for what? In what point they’ll be insisted to come to agreement? Hossain Zillur Rahman consequently hails honesty and sincerity in the intension of the regime. But by showing strictness, the regime can’t have two leaders agreeing with them. They are adamant about having the elections amid state of emergency. They are adamant about having two elections back to back. Whereas our two political parties are almost similar in following issues:-

• The election in no way and no way can be held amid state of emergency. There is no utility of lifting it hours before the dawn of election date. It must be lifted, some weeks before the election.

• Upazilla election cannot be carried on seven days after the general election. In general election, candidates will have to reach people through grass-root leaders and activists. But grass-root leaders will be already campaigning for the Upazilla election where many of them will be candidates. In the circumstances, the whole campaign will be a complete mismanagement.

• There should be councils before having the parties approving any proposal from the government. The communication with all layers of party activists must take place. This is the prerequisite of democratization of political parties that the present 1/11 regime has been hailing like তোতাপাখি (parrot).

But here this is the other part of regime’s deliberation of arranging Khaleda-Hasina dialogue, where they’ve sternly turned down all these three points of unity of two parties. CEC Shamsul Huda in Dhaka, Hossain Zillur Rahman is Washington and D. Fakhruddin Ahmed in New York, have been saying, “There will be no problems with back to back elections!!! There will be no problems with back to back elections!!!” But we must not reproach the reality. It’s easy for a school to take back to back exams in its rooms. Teachers won’t have it as a big deal to invigilate back to back exams if they are provided with enough rounds of tea with biscuits and most importantly special allowances. But the students will be losing momentum and confidences to sit for both the exams. What would happen if the CEC Shamsul Huda were set to sit for matriculation exam and intermediate exam in one week? In that case he were not the one be the CEC today for sure.

Many have become quite relaxed after D. Fakhruddin’s addressing to the nation that the confusion over state of emergency is almost over. This is ridiculous. At the initial stage of 1/11 government when almost only person who knew to talk in Bangladesh was Barrister Mainul Hussain, who subsequently tried to debate in favor of carrying on election amid emergency rules. Barrister Hassan Arif several times stated that it’s possible to go for any election amid emergency rules. Gen. Matin, because of not being a guy of the courts, didn’t stated anything directly, but told the regime will consult its lawyers to explore resorts to hold the election amid emergency rules. Because of this is the emergency rules, nobody dared to ask any adviser that why the emergency ain’t lifted. This question will be a direct hit to the foundation of this regime which is extremely weak and fragile. Having a lawsuit being carried on in Supreme Court which challenges the regime of its legality and lawfulness of existence, this regime’s situation is enormously vulnerable and in the circumstance, they must come to agreement with political parties in issues of emergency rules and back to back election controversies. Before looking for the agenda of two leaders’ dialogue, they must take care of the one which is already an agenda at the agreement of BNP and Awami League.

icon for podpress The New Age Editor Nurul Kabir speaks to BBC Play Now | Download

Now, about the dialogue between two leaders. My personal observation is no such thing is going to take place in near future. I can see the attitude of Amir Hussain Amu. I can see the statements coming out of Suranjit Sengupta’s mouth. Shameless word selection of Abdur Razzaq in working committee meeting is also taken under consideration. This is almost clear that these three leaders, Amir Hussain Amu, Suranjit Sengupta and Abdur Razzaq, in no way are interested to have the two leaders dialogue to turn to reality. Sheikh Hasina still ain’t a free lady as Khaleda Zia is. But the momentum is stepping ahead in such way where we will have her free in some days. After getting free, she should recollect what happened to the party in last 18 months and what roles these three leaders played. This will be totally unexpected if these three leaders are taken back to positions those they held before 1/11. Bashing the family members of opponents is the way Amu, Suranjit and Razzaq have chosen to reconcile whatever they have learned from School of Reformation. But Sheikh Hasina must be good enough to recognize this. This will be a total discouragement for other loyal AL leaders if they see these three are forgone untouched. If Sheikh Hasina is going to take steps against backstabbing tendency of these three leaders, we can have hope of a dialogue. Otherwise, there is no way for the dialogue to be a reality. Though a dialogue (may be of month long) cannot solve all political disputes overnight, but the socialization of two top leaders I think should be considered.

Not in order to have political solutions overnight, just for sake of being less aggressive in future, the socialization of these two leaders are very important. And FBCCI President Anisul Haque is not the guy for this job. Barrister Rafiqul Haque is okay, he helped both of the ladies to bail out of the hell, and he is trusted by both of the ladies. Two parties too can take the initiative. I’ll prefer initiatives taken by Khandoker Delwar Hussain and Zillur Rahman. B

icon for podpress BC Interviews Syed Ashraf and Khandoker Delwar: Play Now | Download

But FBCCI, BGMEA, Anisul Haque and bla bla, really should mind business.

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