Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bangladesh: Following Foot Steps of Pakistan

Bangladesh: Following Foot Steps of Pakistan?
Dr. Abdul Momen

Pakistan is the 2nd largest Muslim country and it is mostly ruled by military junta. Its major political leaders were either hanged or forcibly exiled. The founder of new Pakistan, Z. A. Bhutto was hanged by Gen. Ziaul Haque, the military dictator that introduced anti-women Hudud Law in Pakistan. The democratically elected Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was denied entry to her homeland while she went on a private trip abroad and Newaj Sharif was forced into exile under pretext of corruption. In spite of their expulsion, corruption is still pervasive. Newaj Sharif is currently living in Saudi Arabia and Benazir in UAE.

Bangladesh is the 3rd largest Muslim country and until recently, it had a ‘partly free’ democracy. It assassinated its great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of the country. It is currently being ruled by a military-backed technocrat government. Following Pakistan, it denied entry to its ex-Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who went abroad on a private trip like Benazir. The government lodged corruption cases against the sons of immediate past Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and now putting pressure and cutting deals for her exile to Saudi Arabia.

To have public support, the military governments generally promote religious groups and fanatics that lead to rise of fundamentalism. No wonder, under successive military governments where ‘rule of law and human rights’ were weak and religious politics became dominant, Pakistan became an epicenter of global terrorism. Bangladesh is also fast moving to that direction and becoming another hub. Recently, the Bangladesh government hanged six terrorists. However, it refused to disclose the names of their mastermind and their associates that bombed the public rally of the opposition party leader Sheikh Hasina killing 23 of her supporters, and simultaneously staged 493 bombs across the nation. Both in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the terrorists are ever increasing in spite of governments’ tough talks and face saving actions. In fact, after the Middle East region, as per U. S. data, both the terrorist attacks and fatalities have increased maximum in South Asia especially in Bangladesh and Pakistan since 9/11.

No one knows who are really involved in terrorism. In absence of transparency, rumors are ripe that security forces and military intelligence are involved in terrorist training and supplies.
In any society where there is no ‘rule of law’ and ‘respect for human rights’ are subdued, such society can easily turn into a state of anarchism and lawlessness. For example, Afghanistan under the Taliban, and Somalia under the warlords. In Bangladesh both ‘human rights’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘corruption’ are being compromised. The consequences of such situation might be disastrous especially for Bangladesh, an impoverished country where half of its 147 million live on $2 a day income.

In fact, in today’s Bangladesh, the security forces are the ‘juror, the judge and the executioner’. They have executed over 800 people without any due process of law. After Iraq, Bangladesh tops in terrorism especially in extrajudicial killing. Extrajudicial killing is a form of state terrorism.
When the army backed government of Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed took power on January 11, 2007, there was hope that such extrajudicial killing would stop soon. Unfortunately, such killings have not stopped yet. Over 89 people have been executed since Ahmed took over, nearly 30 in each month. His Foreign Advisor Dr. Iftikher Ahmed Chowdhury who is also his wife’s brother eloquently stated that his government’s top priority is ‘upholding human rights’. Unfortunately, such eloquence has not been materialized yet nor there is any ray of hope.

Instead, the situation is worsening. When Manzor Elahi, President of the Bangladesh Businessmen Association demanded the government not to harass or arrest businessmen under false pretexts or lockup their business ventures without due process of law, Dr. Mirza Azizul Islam, the nation’s Finance Advisor stated that such could not be assured. It is reported that due to fear of harassments and illegal appropriations of properties and businesses and seizure of bank accounts, the nation’s business is at stake. No investments either foreign or domestic are forth coming under such uncertainty and danger. Technically, a country that fails to guarantee ‘property rights’ and personal security cannot expect to have increasing investment or business activity. Therefore, it is no wonder that business activity in Bangladesh has slowed down sharply under such uncertainty. No wonder, the scarcity of essentials is widespread now leading to unabated price hike causing misery to its fixed income earners.

Roman">Three months ago when the new government took over to evade a national crisis of an impending fraudulent election on January 22 with the promise to handover powers to an elected government through a ‘free, fair, and credible election’, the nation sighed relief and welcomed it. As the new government started implementing the demands of the nation’s major opposition party, the Awami League (AL) and the wishes of the civil societies, it got tremendous support. Like the Ahsanullah Chowdhury government of 1982 under Lt. Gen. H. M. Ershad who launched a jehad against corruption and arrested 230 people including a Deputy Prime Minister and five top Ministers, the Ahmed government under Lt. Gen. Moyeen Ahmed also launched jehad against corruption and arrested top fifty leaders. The AL and its alliance parties demanded Election Commission Reform, the independence of the judiciary, Corruption commission reform, and punishment of corrupt officials and the like. The new government initiated such processes and received overwhelming support including that of the AL.

Unfortunately such overwhelming support is fast eroding because of its diversion from its promised goal. With a view to root out ‘family leadership’ [Sheikh Hasina, President of the AL is the daughter of the founder of the nation President Sheikh Mujib and Khaleda Zia, President of the BNP is the widower of President Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman, the military dictator. Her son Tariq Rahman became a BNP leader] the new government is now dedicated to destroy and weaken the major political parties of Bangladesh, the AL and the BNP. Recently, they banned Sheikh Hasina, the former Prime Minister and the leader of the largest and oldest political party of Bangladesh, the AL, to return home. She was on a private trip to USA to meet her son and daughter that live in the U. S. To keep her away, the government initially lodged two fabricated cases against her and as she wanted to face them legally in Bangladesh and planned to return, the government hurriedly banned her return to homeland and issued circulars instructing media not to cover her statements, interviews and the like. They imposed press censorship. When the government’s Law Advisor Mainul Hossain was asked how they could deny the basic fundamental rights of Sheikh Hasina to return home, he replied ‘no fundamental rights are allowed’ now. Therefore, the current military-backed government can do or undo anything they like. In fact, the verdicts of the nation’s highest courts ordering the government to release many detainees have not been honored by the government yet and nearly 145,000 are under detention. Such created a chill and many investment houses are fast leaving the county.

The Ahmed government is also trying hard to force the immediate past Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to go on exile to Saudi Arabia. It arrested her two sons under various corruption and extortion charges apparently with a view to cut a deal. People initially believed in the government’s crusade against corruption as they did in 1958, 1969 and 1982 coups and supported them. But now due to ‘behind the scene deal making’, they are fast losing their confidence. Khaleda Zia is expected to leave the country any moment with her extended family just like Newaj Sharif of Pakistan.

In Pakistan, when General Parvez Musharraf usurped powers, he refused Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the People’s Party and former Prime Minster to return home. He lodged a corruption case against Prime Minister Newaj Sharif and later cut a deal. Newaj Sharif was exiled to Saudi Arabia. It appears, Bangladesh is just following the Musharraf strategy.

However, problem is; in case of Pakistan Gen. Musharraf was in-charge. He was military chief and he assumed Presidency by overthrowing Prime Minister Newaj Sharif. Under U. S. pressure, he agreed to hold an election in 2008. In case of Bangladesh, Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed, a technocrat is now in-charge. Like Pakistan, under the U. S. pressure, he also assured election before the end of 2008. By that time, TATA-investment deal with India, the Chittagong Port construction and troop sending contracts in Afghanistan and Sudan are likely to be over.

India is apparently upset with both Khaleda and Hasina. Hasina got her ‘water sharing deal’ with India but refused to supply gas to India. Khaleda came to power to supply gas to India, but once in power she did not keep her words. However, she opened her economy to the traders of India that created huge trade deficit. Now will the Bangladesh military do it under Ahmed government?

Once that is done, will the Bangladesh military Chief Gen. Moyeen U. Ahmed come out from the shadow? Or will he wait that long? If history is any lesson, in 1975, then Chief Justice A.S M. Sayeem survived nearly 18 months as the President and the Chief Martial Law Administrator backed by Gen. Zia. Can Dr. Ahmed survive next six months? Can he maintain his credibility that long? If his government loses credibility, the next election may not be credible either. Therefore, should he allow election by January 2008?

In the last 15 years (1991-2006), there has been accelerated economic growth under political leadership that surpassed all the records of that of military rule of Bangladesh from 1975 through 1990. More importantly, people’s awareness and political maturity sharpened dramatically under political rule. Question is; is Bangladesh heading towards another Martial Law regime that would reverse its growth to another 30 years backward and become a hub of terrorism like Pakistan?
© I've found this article in e-mail. I'll definitely cite the source if I find. Thanks!!

No comments: