Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Why Shouldn't They Be Punished?

Khaleda Zia is interned but what about those martial democrats who made her a dictatorial queen par excellence?
Shabbir Ahmed

The misrule of the government formed by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) under the leadership of Mrs. Khaleda Zia ended in late October 2006. Mrs. Zia's rule from 1991 to 1996 was uneventful and she would get a C grade for governance and A grade for repressing her opponents. You got the picture!

Now let me briefly touch on corruption under her aegis. At that time, there were many newspaper reports on the corruption of her party leaders, ministers, and members of parliament. There were also many reports on her corruption by using government funds for her personal use. One example was using hundreds of thousands of takas for extending her house that she got from the BNP government after the death of her husband in 1981. During that time, it was reported that her son established Dandy Dying Industry and Coco shipping lines. All these were done by abusing the power of the office of the prime minister of Bangladesh. While she was in power before 1996, she wanted to ensure her return to power. So, she took all necessary steps to rig the election. All the parties (not just her rival Awami League) boycotted the election but the arrogant lady, Mrs. Khaleda Zia, used her government by violating all the norms and by using the pet election commission to conduct a voterless election in February 1996. That election fiasco did not save her. The people of all walks of life including the government employees revolted against her government and she had to quit the power in disgrace. At long last she had to step down. Her victory was not questioned in 1991 but her victory in 1996 through a voterless election was questioned and undermined the process of nascent democracy that started the journey in 1991 after the fall of the military dictator Gen. Ershad.

Mrs. Khaleda Zia had the support of the powerful quarters in Bangladesh. The vested interest elites and the martial democrats always preferred the cantonment-born parties both in Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, BNP was the party of their choice. After the death of the military dictator Gen. Zia, a group of martial democrats supported the taking over of power by military dictator, Gen. Ershad, who said big words of rooting out corruption, instituting good governance, etc. in 1982. All the public knew later about his corruption and the corruption of his cohorts who helped to bring him to power. One of his military cohorts earned the bad reputation as a thief of Baghdad as it was reported in a U.K.-based newspaperat that time. After watching the down gradient in terms of the popularity of the cantonment-born Jatio Party formed by Gen. Ershad, all the martial democrats and their elite groups started rallied behind the other cantonment-born party BNP and exerted their all-out efforts to strengthen Mrs. Khaleda Zia, the widow of the first military dictator Gen. Zia. The elites belonging to the group of martial democrats were successful to portray Mrs. Khaleda Zia as the most uncompromising leader in Bangladesh. She was made popular and got mandate to get to the power in 1991.

During 1991 and 1996, the common people of Bangladesh saw the glimpse of her misrule. The inflation became high with the rise of the prices of essentials. She abolished Upazilla system that helped village people get benefits through government investments at the grass root level. Without any thoughtful approach and evaluating alternative options, she allowed the government to close government-run industries. One example is the closing of Fenchuganj Fertilizer Factory. During her rule, the scarcity of fertilizer became so acute that the farmers protested and the government forces killed twenty five protesting farmers. She did not try to solve the problems but allowed the mismanagement of fertilizer distribution for her party workers to make illegal money. All these were reported in the media at that time. Most importantly, she undermined the whole process of election for election engineering in 1996. The farcical election in February 1996 exposed her love for misrule and the misrule of her party BNP. As a result, she was voted out from power in a short notice.

The powerful quarters and the martial democrats did not like to see the victory of Awami League in 1996. Given the practical situation, they could not do anything to prevent Awami League to get to power. But, after a short duration, these forces rallied behind Khaleda Zia and tried their best to get her back to power by supporting all her misinformation campaign on any national issues of great significance undertaken by the Awami League government. For example, she termed the Chittagong Hill Tract Treaty as leasing the sub-region to India and the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty as a slavery treaty with India. Despite her false propaganda and misinformation campaign (the sound of Azan will be replaced by Hindu women's Ulu sound), she did not lose the support of the elites that support martial democracy. They rallied behind her to prevent Awami League to come back to power by any means. The election engineering was performed very skillfully to give two-third majority to her party and the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami. After winning with such a brute majority, she became very bold and desperate to consolidate her power in a permanent fashion. To do that, she did all the misdeeds to politicize the election commission and the administration in her favor. She even allowed her son to run a parallel administration. As in her term from 1991 to 1996, inflation went high along with price hikes of the essentials. In the name of denationalization, she indiscriminately closed the government-run industries including Adamjee Jute Mill without evaluating any better alternative options. Unemployment became high and the public opinion went against her. All the parties (not just her rival Awami League) united against her alliance government. As a consequence, the powerful quarter (that supported her all along in the past) brought a new caretaker government. As it appears, they want to get a replacement of Mrs. Khaleda Zia and her party.

The martial democrats and the civil-military bureaucracy have withdrawn their support from her. The present government formed by the latter and widely supported by the former have now sent her to jail. Many of the faces including Barrister Mainul Husein are taking tough stand against Mrs. Khaleda Zia. But, not too long ago, he was saying along the same line as Mrs. Khaleda Zia concerning the election under BNP-JI's pet election commission. Even her close associates including Mannan Bhuyan were uttering the same sentences as Mrs. Zia uttered against the will of the people in general. Now as it appears, all these people are either taking tough stand against her or acting as if everything wrong was done only by her and by her sons. Those who made her a dictatorial queen are now blaming her. Why should not these people take responsibility for not telling the truth in front of her? Why should not they be punished for supporting her and taking part during her misrule?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well written piece. You speak my mind. I hope more and more Bangladeshi's realize this truth before we are sold this time to ,another "East India Company," in the name of political cleansing.

Bangladeshi's beware of the multinationals, the IMF & the World Bank! They are waiting to gulp us just like the crane waits for its fish.