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Talks took place about the imposed friendship. How a friendship can be imposed? Several events can make the ground. There can be a campaign carried out where significant part of the media will exasperatedly not let you forget about that friendship. Again, the same campaign can take care of the other task, that, all of not-so-friendly-acts of that ceremonial friend will be well covered and obstructed while reaching the people. The whole effort becomes even more illustrious if the regime is found to have the same exasperation.
It ain’t really our fault to get anxious when a minister of the current regime Ramesh Chandra Sen places his statement like Newton placed his laws of motion, saying, the Farakka Barrage in fact never had anything to do with floods and other related difficulties in Bangladesh; it was all about the problem we have been having in ourselves. So this is another way you can help impose a friendship, or at least can help abate the bitterness about that particular ‘friend’, unnoticed of the fact that the bitterness is getting to a hike.
But it becomes hard if the friend doesn’t cooperate. You know, you are teaching me that ‘Rahim is your friend! Rahim is your friend!’, and suddenly Rahim categorizes me that I will need this and that specific clearances from him to even seek permission to enter his home, this means Rahim is giving you a real hard time. It’s just like a physics tutor is teaching Newton’s 1st book while Newton is writing a 2nd book contradicting the 1st one.
India’s foreign policy toward Bangladesh for these years got the fame of harshness, and it doesn’t appear to get better even after Sheikh Hasina became the Prime Minister. Before 5 weeks passed after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned home ending this January 2010 India trip, hailing immense success of her visit and hailing the reinstating of ‘strong’ Bangladesh-India ties, the Indian authority enlisted Bangladesh as one of the few countries whose citizens will need to have special security clearances from the Indian Home Ministry to join a seminar in India.
A press release by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) of Indian government, published at 4:12pm Indian standard time on 18 February, 2010 describes an announcement from the Home Ministry of India that says, “As per the revised procedure, while the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) grants in-principle approval for holding the event, security clearance for grant of Conference Visa is required from this Ministry only in respect of participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Sudan and in respect of foreigners of Pak origin and Stateless persons.”
Well, it’s their land and it’s in fact their choice that who they will permit in what purpose and how. India as a sovereign state does have the right to design its own foreign policies, and even the minimum count of realism allows them to categorize the nationals and types of the entries they will like to approve or not.
Including Bangladesh in the list containing China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Iran etc. however came as a surprise. India’s relationship with other 7 nations have certain attributes which to some extent can justify such Indian sanctions to them for granting conference visas.
India has been having several military tensions turned to conflicts with China and Pakistan since 1960s, so sanctions for them are not bolts from the blue. Sri Lanka’s annihilating of RAW aided LTTE has stressed the India-Sri Lanka relationship. So sanctions for Sri Lanka too ain’t a surprise. Rather the Sri Lankan Army’s 2008 offensive was financially, diplomatically and militarily supported by China, so the China-India relationship was further stressed. Iran’s relation with presently India’s closest ally United States is sourest of all time, same applies to Sudan, so sanctions for Sudan and Iran are not bolts from the blue too.
But according to our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina including the entire of her cabinet, the tie between India and Bangladesh is unbreakable, right?
According to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whatever measure India takes in whatever consideration, it won’t show any aggression by any mean to any concern of Bangladesh, right?
According to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and many others inside or not inside her government, regimes of the past few years largely contributed in deterioration of Bangladesh-India ties, which Sheikh Hasina has been 100% successful to fix, 100% successful! Right?
And still the Bangladeshis are to be through the security filter to join conferences in India, rather accompanied by those who have longstanding or presently stressed ties with India.
After Sheikh Hasina returned Bangladesh from India last month, number of Bangladeshi political analysts came to the decision that any presentation of a stressed Bangladesh-India ties presently and any presentation showing India’s not-friendly-acts to Bangladesh are just insubstantial, old-fashioned and malicious propaganda to hamper the our ‘progressive tie’ with India. Now, if we ask them that why Bangladesh, having a ‘progressive’ and ‘mutually beneficiary’ tie with India as they have said, will have to be through the Indian filter of suppressing the public thoughts and freedom of expression, what the answers will be?
Indian political analysts and experts have already responded to the announcement and several pieces have been so far published criticizing such tendency of policing the free expression of opinions.
After the 2009 Awami League regime took office, tensions arose about the Tipaimukh barrage. With freshest memories about the damages Bangladesh conceded by the Farakka accord, the outcry emerged in Bangladesh against the Indian attempts at Tipaimukh. The unleashed group of intellectuals who wrote or spoke in support of the Tipaimukh barrage or kept mum shamelessly, were all turned down.
A certain manner that activism against India’s Tipaimukh efforts showed is, it associated activists both from Bangladesh and India where they worked with unity to an extent. Moreover their promotion with joint efforts and joint expressions were taking place both in Bangladesh and India. The recent decision of Indian Home Ministry hints at the Indian stance of policing public thoughts.
Special scrutiny for conference visa seekers hints at the effort by Indian analysts where the several attributes of a visa seeker like literary or activism contribution records, pattern of expression in previous seminars or conferences etc. will be scrutinized. This means, a conference about Tipaimukh Barrage in India will be participated by only those Bangladeshis who to the date haven’t even imagined about denouncing the aggressive Indian effort. Those who strongly protested the effort, in fact are the people for whom the filter in name of special security checkup has been set.
So, what about the friendship our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was talking about?
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.
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.
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
But FBCCI, BGMEA, Anisul Haque and bla bla, really should mind business.