Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Democracy in Crisis

Cross posted in Adda's Bangla Page

We are grateful to one of our friends who has kindly sent some glimpses of a seminar on “Bangladesh: Democracy in Crisis” organized by John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on April 23rd. The Moderator and Speakers have extensively covered the current situation in Bangladesh that was really thought provoking about Bangladesh's current crisis. Ambassador Milam moderated the discussion.

Ambassador William Milam, a career diplomat, was the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh from 1990-1993. He is currently a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he is completing a book on Bangladesh.

Junaid Ahmad is a Sector Manager at the World Bank, working on policy issues related to decentralization, local government reform and state formation in South Asia. Dr. Ahmad completed his PhD from Stanford University and he is one of the co-authors of the 2004 World Development Report, Making Services Work for Poor People. Mr. Ahmed urged to reform the five institutions, namely:

(a) Election Commission
(b) Anti Corruption Commission
(c) University Grant Commission
(d) Public Service Commission
(e) Local Government/Municipalities
(f) Court System (later on added as a response to a comment)

Stanley Kochanek is a Professor Emeritus at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Political Science. He has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and is widely published on the policy of South Asia, including a book on Patron Client Politics and Business in Bangladesh.

Gowher Rizvi is director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University. He completed his DPhil at Trinity College, Oxford, and is the founder and editor of the journal Contemporary South Asia and the author of several books including Bangladesh: The Struggle for Democracy.

While Speakers blamed corruption is the main root of this crisis, they equally stressed that holding election as soon as possible is the most critical aspect of this crisis. The Caretaker Government does not have legality to continue its job beyond the election. It may not enjoy the popular support if it delays election when it is mandated to hold the election within 90 days. All the reforms undertaken by the Caretaker government will not last unless they’re maintained by an elected political government. It was echoed during the discussion that military backed government model following Pakistan won’t work for Bangladesh. It didn’t work in the past as one Presenter referred about the Zia and Ershad regimes. People are more conscious today to uphold and carry on the political process to advance democracy in Bangladesh.

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