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Rumi Ahmed
15 July, 2010. USA

Mahmudur Rahman printed stories involving allegations of corruption about the Prime Minister’s family and her cabinet.

He is in prison and his newspaper has been forced to stop publishing.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury wrote an article in the Daily Star analyzing BNP’s victory in the Chittagong City Corporation elections.

He is in prison.

Shahiduddin Chowdhury said that Bangabandhu cannot avoid responsibility for the forty thousand people killed during his administration.

He is brutalized, denied medical treatment, and then sent to prison.

The list goes on and on.

Here’s the latest entry:

Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir’s parliamentary membership is cancelled; he is no longer a MP. The seat, Chandpur-1, will be declared vacant by the Election Commission, and a by-election will be held to it.

His BNP opponent, Ehsanul Haque Milon, has been kept in the prison for the last one year, on absurd charges such as stealing wristwatches, solely so that when this moment would come, Alamgir would have some slight edge over his younger, more telegenic opponent.

Here is the Awami League 2008 Election Manifesto, the much-celebrated “Charter for Change:

“Good governance through establishing Rule of Law and avoiding Political Partisanship. Human rights will be established on a strong footing with a view to ensuring rule of law. Independence of the judiciary will be ensured and the Institutions of the State and Administration will be freed from partisan influence.”

What is more partisan than keeping an individual in jail for more than a year just so that he will not be able to mount an effective challenge in an election?

None of this should be news to anyone. Milon’s daughter, Tanzida Nahar Haque, said as much in a recent press conference: “”It is a matter of regret that political enmity can be so ruthless and inhuman.”

It is, indeed.

After Major Jasimuddin in Bhola, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir is the second Awami League coalition candidate whose nomination has been found illegal: which means he should not have been able to contest the election in the very first place. There are at least two more AL and Jatiyo Party MPs whose nomination will also similarly be cancelled. Then there is Sheikh Helal, the MP from Bagerhat-1, who also won an election under a conviction.

These are five members of parliament who should not have even been eligible to contest the last parliamentary elections. That they still became MPs lends proof of the BNP’s allegation that the last caretaker government under Fakhruddin Ahmed and the Election Commission did everything in their power to help Awami League. If five Awami League coalition candidates were allowed to contest in direct contravention of the laws, how many were made to win by the administration’s covert and overt manipulation on election day?

2008 is past, the string of by-elections is now the future. There is no doubt that Awami League will try their very hardest to win, through coercion and force, if necessary. Even if they win, such victories will do incalculable long-term harm to this government. There are only bad options in front of Sheikh Hasina from now on. One fears, she will stay true to character, and continue to choose only the very worst ones.

__________

Rumi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi blogger contributing from United States.

Rumi Ahmed
USA.

Since I last wrote a blog post, the political landscape has changed dramatically in Bangladesh. My last real blog post was around the time when former PM and Awami league leader Sheikh Hasina got parole as a result of an executive order from government in response to an application made by Mr. Wazed, Mrs. Hasina’s husband. At that time, thanks to the after-hours operation of Bangladesh court system, the night time release of Mrs. Hasina, the rushing of four advisors to meet her at Sudha Sadan, the 20 minute telephone conference with chief advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed and quick departure of Mrs. Hasina from Bangladesh., there was a wide speculation of a deal between Awami League and the military government. Only one person, who could refute the allegations or make the political observers believe otherwise, would have been Mrs. Hasina herself. We all expected her to ‘be herself’, ‘be critical’ of the atrocities of the military regime. She was only expected to continue expressing her dislike of the military government; she did before she was arrested. Unfortunately she did not do any of the above. She remained unusually muted and refrained from repeating her criticisms of the government. Moreover, to all political observers dismay and awe, she was heard repeating general Moeen’s buzz word’s (e.g. mid income country by 2020… etc) verbatim.

Recently, Awami League as well as Prothom Alo group has started promoting an idea that there has been a détente between BNP and the military government. As per these speculations, this deal has facilitated the release of Tarique Rahman and impending bail of Mrs. Khaleda Zia. Now the issue is, when there is a deal between two sides, both sides’ makes steps to reach each other. But in this so called BNP-Army government detente; I am having difficulty identifying the concessions Mrs. Zia has made. For over a year, since the days when one could get hardly three people to represent mainstream BNP and both her sons were being taken into military remand rampantly and being tortured, Mrs. Zia was steadfast in her demands. Her basic stand was that she would not get free herself until both Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman are released and are allowed to go abroad for treatment. And until she gets free, her party would not participate in the processes initiated by this government. Khaleda Zia or her party never categorically announced boycotting the election, rather they have always maintained that BNP was a party of elections and it would participate in election if it was allowed to do so.

On one side, Khaleda would not budge an inch from her basic demands and on the other side, Moeen’s delegation would NEVER let Tarique loose and would only free Khaleda if she agrees to go to Saudi Arabia ( In line with Sheikh Hasina solution). In the middle, doctors are sending one after another SOS message that Tarique’s health situation is deteriorating and he needs immediate treatment abroad. More over Khaleda would not apply to the government for her release. Neither would she register to be a voter while incarcerated. Months after months have passed in this deadlock. And at the same time, elections dates came dangerously close.
To be fair, what we are seeing these days is nothing but total materialization of Khaleda’s demands. So far I do not see any of the demands of Moeen government being materialized. None. Nada.
For a deal to take place, both sides have to make some compromise. I really do not see any compromise from the side of Mrs. Zia yet.

So unless we see Mrs. Zia rushing to leave for Saudi Arabia soon after her release and giving a speech about Bangladesh being a middle income country by 2020, I would say NO deal has taken place. I would rather say, Moeen’s mighty military-civil society-Prothom Alo-Daily Star quartet suffered a humiliating and crushing defeat at the hands of a lonely, jailed and poorly educated woman.

I promise to return tomorrow with my take on the other factors leading to the sudden change in the heart and nature of this military government.

*****

Rumi Ahmed is a blogger from United States.

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