Friday, July 20, 2007

Hasina's Arrest & Other Developments

Hasina’s arrest and other developments do not bode well for Bangladesh
A.H. Jaffor Ullah

July 16, 2007

This is an impromptu article that I am penning after receiving a phone call around 8:00 pm today from a person who seriously watches TV program emanating from Dhaka . In his brief talk he told me that Hasina, the chairperson of Awami League, was arrested early in the morning from her home in Dhanmandi, Dhaka . I then hurriedly read one of the leading English news daily published from Dhaka wherefrom I learned that the neighborhood where Hasina lives was swarmed with policewomen and RAB members. Is Hasina hiding from the law and order department of Bangladesh ? Not by a fat chance! Has she morphed into a terrorist? Not that I know of! If the answers to these questions are negative, then, naturally question arise - why the interim government is so worried and wanted to make sure that she does not have a slim chance of absconding from her abode to avoid arrest.. ;

I met Hasina in the middle of March this year (2007) when she came to visit her son's family in northern Virginia . I was requested to meet her and the request came from the president of Awami League , America . Before I flew to Washington from New Orleans I asked the president whether I could speak my mind one-to-one with the Awami League chief. After I received the green light only then I embarked on my journey to meet the daughter of Sheikh Mujib, the founder and dreamer of independent Bangladesh .

After exchanging pleasantries I told Hasina quite frankly that the military-backed government of Fakhruddin Ahmed will do everything in their power to make sure that her party does not come to power through adult suffrage. Hasina was not in a mood to agree to my assessment. When I was making my case by saying that the military is no friend to Awami League, Shajib “Joy” Wazed came hastily from an adjacent room and asked his mother very politely to listen to my words.

Later, Joy concurred with me that hard times are ahead for Awami League. In March 2007 Hasina’s thinking was as follows: 1. This interim government was the fruit of our labor and they know it; 2. We attended the inauguration ceremony of Fakhruddin as the chief advisor on January 12 and thereby gave his administration the legitimacy; 3. The chief of military, Gen. Moeen, went to Tungipara and paid his respect to my father; 4. The interim government said they will correct the textbooks and give my father his due place vis-à-vis the declaration of independence on March 25, 1971; 5. This government has arrested the most corrupt politicians mostly from the BNP; 6. The government has promised to reform the Election Commission and make a level playing field before the next parliamentary election; 6. Therefore, why should I dread this interim government?

I was not as hopeful as the Chairman of Awami League. Mind you, the interim government at the time had only requested her not to return to Bangladesh so hurriedly rather they recommended that she should complete her trip. As Hasina was telling the western reporters that Fakhruddin’s was an illegal government, all hell broke loose. A bogus extortion case was lodged against Hasina with the help of a shady businessman who has vanished into the thin air ever since newspapers in Bangladesh had exposed that man. The government had since then threatened Hasina with committing extortion and malfeasance, but no case was filed as of this writing.

The advisers of Fakhruddin notably Gen. M.A. Matin and Mainul Hosein had opined that the interim government has no intention of reforming the political parties without Hasina and Khaleda and they are not working as a catalyst to sideline the two leaders while engendering two moth-eaten and infirm parties.

There is this ominous development in Dhaka in the first two weeks of July 2007. Gen. Moeen has changed his military fatigue dress and took up suit, which is an outright uncomfortable dress, to address a public gathering. Even though there were senior folks in Dhaka both inside and outside the government but the organizers of the function know in what direction the political wind is blowing in Bangladesh . Gen. Moeen, who works under the president and chief advisor, bypassed them all and gave the plenary lecture in which he mentioned that the constitution of Bangladesh needs amendment. Lest he forgot, he was the biggest offender of Bangladesh constitution. He single-handedly maimed the constitution on January 11, 2007 when he asked the president to give up the position of chief advisor and help gave birth to a second interim government for which there is no legitimacy vis-à-vis the present constitution of Bangladesh . Isn’t this a bit odd for him to lecture on reformation process while he defiled the constitution?

The military-backed interim government suddenly decided to arrest Hasina on July 15, 2007. I remember when Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujib, was arrested too by Gen. Ayub’s government in 1968 on a trumped-up charge, Agartala Conspiracy Case. The government had no case at all; therefore, Sheikh Mujib and other defenders came out of the jail after judge’s verdict. That incidence of arrest had catapulted Sheikh Mujib into national prominence and the rest is what they say history. This time around the military-backed government is doing the same thing. Hasina's position as a leader may strengthen as she is confined to a jail cell. I am not a political pundit; therefore, it is too early to make any prediction.

This is just the beginning of the second innings. Stay tuned for more stories to come. All is not well in Bangladesh where a junta leader is managing a bunch of retired CSPs, retired military officer, and business persons who are the part of an oligarchy. It is not that easy to manage a country of 150 million people and dissension is growing by leaps and bounds. The civic organization, CPD, which kowtowed the Fakhruddin Administration, is now distancing itself from the government. Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharjee, an economist belonging to CPD had unloaded his fusillade of comments against the interim government by saying that the monetary policy of the government including the budget is detrimental not only to the growth of the economy of Bangladesh, it will make it difficult to check the inflation and spiraling price increase of everyday commodities . Today, I learned reading a news item from daily paper that one advisor of the interim government had lambasted the CPD economist. He even had the chutzpah to characterize Dr. Bhattachjee’s comments simply as rubbish. It won’t be too long before other organizations will withdraw their support for the military-backed government. Lord only knows what is in store for 150 million people!

Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA

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