Thursday, January 7, 2010
So far so good
BNP beneficiaries would say ‘Paradise Lost’; Awami Leaguers would claim ‘Paradise Regained’, while the apolitical ones would assess the situation as ‘So Far So Good’.
Just when the Awami League-led grand alliance stepped out of the pavilion to start governance, Pilkhana tragedy took place, forcing the government into a tight spot. The prime minister handled the conspiracy with the care it demanded, and even though the trial of the perpetrators has been delayed, hopefully justice will not be denied.
The initial cabinet was full of freshmen; AL subsequently got rid of the stereotyped political faces but purging veterans from the playing field has not been an easy task; they are after all a burden of the Awami League legacy. And freshmen, who are trying to prove better replacements, clearly lack the efficiency and political subtlety required to keep up with modern day politics. To be fair, it deserves to be mentioned that the veterans, too, have had serious shortcoming in areas of diplomacy and constructive efficiency.
The new government controlled price hike well during the first six months of attaining power, but syndicate horses are at best wild, and conformity proves less profitable. We well know the mantra of third world laissez faire: pure profit without social responsibility.
Brownouts continue to make life miserable in Bangladesh, yet some credit is owed to the AI-led government’s attempts at stabilizing power supply.
Shaikh Hasina promised to change the old ways; a few sons of old MPs understand this ‘change’ to be a coinage good enough only to lure people. Genetic propensity to grab lands of the retreating parties (post ’47 and again post ’71) cannot be curbed with an up to date election manifesto alone. It needs more than cosmetic ideals. Ironically, in a changed global reality threatening journalists the old fashioned way didn’t work to their benefit either. For seven years tender terrorists and un-studently student leaders had to sit on the sidelines and watch their BNP counterparts succeed through loot, plunder and torture. When their time came, the media didn’t let them enjoy their honeymoon. Central leaders of the Awami League also signaled to the notorious party cadres to behave.
For the first time in 38 years, the Education Minister, Nurul Islam Nahid, has come out with a meaningful policy; overcoming all hurdles he lived up to his promise of providing free books to young learners.
Finance minister, Abdul Mal Muhit, active with economic reforms, has taken peasants’ rights into consideration, urged reforms in the banking sector and offered revised pay scales to public servants. Matia Chowdhury, a legend of political honesty, continues with her success in the agricultural sector, but unfortunately even she hasn’t been able to come out of the political blame game culture. It’s really quite unnecessary to speak ill of the opposition while sitting with a brute majority.
The law and order situation has improved. However, ongoing extrajudicial killings question the credibility of a democratic government. Manpower diplomacy has been average; there are still many needs to be taken care of. The looming threat of recession alone may send more workers back home. Environmental diplomacy, too, has failed to be come through as extraordinary; perhaps because our Prime Minister didn’t voice enough concern over carbon emissions, yet forcefully demanded financial compensation. This could be ignored as a mere reflection of an overall mindset of a poor nation perpetually occupied with making ends meet.
The government’s initiative towards improving relations with India is timely, while our opposition is still trying to sell its anti-India propaganda not realizing that New Delhi and Beijing are emerging realities in the current world order.
Verdict in the Father of the Nation killing case has come as a relief for the conscience of Bangladesh. Now the war criminal trial should be activated to uphold human rights as promised in the election manifesto. Diplomacy with the Muslim world must be strengthened for many reasons, not less of which is that war criminals should be stopped from seeking sympathy in the name of their Islamic outfit.
Militants tried to Talibanize Bangladesh during the BNP-Jamaat rule, but as the people of Bangladesh are generally secular and the media played a constructive role, we got a clean slate from the western world. The AL-led government shares the credit in allowing people to practice Islam peacefully.
Shaikh Hasina claims that her government this time round is truly green and free from corruption. But she should not forget that the British and Pakistani colonial rules successfully cultivated political criminalization in Bangladesh; a process continued by the military rulers. That’s why it’s generally understood that people enroll into politics to earn or to loot. No one can change this mindset overnight. Nevertheless, things are moving towards the better; realizing the end result and having paid the price of political corruption BNP has promised to transform its whirl palace into a light house.
BNP ought to keep its promise or risk losing more votes. One must, however, say that being in the opposition has been an advantage in Bangladesh since 1991: when the party in power fails to deliver people opt for the opposition. So Awami League will have to work hard to maintain popularity, at least till the next elections. By then almost 70 per cent voters will emerge from a generation that holds information in a cell phone. Political coquetry will have become old fashioned by that time. So either you deliver or No Thanks – that’s going to be the political reality in Bangladesh.