Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who should run the country, civil society, politicians or military?

A.H. JAFFOR ULLAH

Right before Mrs. Zia and her trusted lieutenants were getting ready to handover power to President Iajuddin Ahmed and the caretaker government that was about to be formed, I wrote an article where I mentioned that the military was about to take power. Well, it was a bit early on my part to make that prediction.

The new caretaker government lasted for about 75 days or so. Within these 10 gruelling weeks Iajuddin single-handedly had wrecked the semblance of a government. Nothing was working and the country was about to embrace anarchy. Under this dire backdrop the military-backed government of Fakhruddin Ahmed was installed.

Mrs. Zia and her lieutenants knew what has already happened. Their man, Iajuddin, was hijacked by the leaders of the arm forces by the end of the first week of January 2007. Since January 12 an invisible and invincible wall was created between Iajuddin and the BNP leaders. Right after the installation of Fakhruddin government I read it in a newspaper article that Mrs. Zia lamented by saying she never thought that this group (read military establishment) could do such a thing against her party.

Mrs. Zia's archenemy, Hasina Wajed, quite did not follow the plot of the drama that was unfolding right before her eyes. Gleefully, she and party’s top leaders went to Governor's palace to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Fakhruddin Ahmed. Later, Fakhruddin Ahmed formed a council of advisors from the civil society. Among them were few of his relatives, Barrister Mainul Hosein and few other members of the civil society. Incidentally, Mainul Hosein whose paper New Nation was the mouthpiece of BNP has suddenly became a vocal critic of all the politicians.

It took about a week before the news of the nexus between military and the caretaker government was revealed in a newspaper article published in London. Almost 3 weeks have passed by since the new caretaker government assumed the power. Some observers still think that it was a silent coup by the military. This government of Fakhruddin is certainly acting like a government run by a junta. First, they have gone after petty criminals before realizing that to become a very popular government they have to arrest the godfathers of criminals - who are none other than the politicians. It is every bit possible that soon we will hear the news of the arrests of politicians from both BNP and Awami League. The game is in the first innings to use the cricket metaphor.

As the days will pass by, we will hear less and less of the upcoming election, which Awami League wants so desperately to take place. The leaderships of Awami League think that they will easily breeze through the election. But the reverse is true for BNP. Remember how desperate Mrs. Zia and her lieutenants were asking the EC to hold the election on January 22, 2007 rain or shine? Now they do not talk about an early election. They are scared stiff thinking when the axe is about to fall on their head.

The military-backed interim government will do everything to delay the election. They will create an opinion with the help of the leaders of the civil society to delay the election. In the meantime, the Fakhruddin Ahmed Administration goaded by the military leaders will arrest top political leaders on the ground of corruption charge and which will stick this time around. As per the hidden agenda, both the BNP and AL will be weakened severely. When an election time nears and god almighty only knows when it will come, a strong third party led by civil society members will be floated. And where do I see the telltale sign of it? Please read the news of what the Grameen Chief says these days.

Today (January 31, 2007), I read in several newspapers published from Dhaka that Dr. Yunus now says that if circumstances arise he will join politics. However, he is not interested in becoming the president because to him it is a ceremonial position sans real power. This tells me that Dr. Yunus would love to become the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Now, how could he become the chief of the executive branch? Well, the answer is through a general election. My hunch is that the civil society will ask him to run for the position of MP on behalf of the civil society party (they will surely come up with a catchy name for it). That newly formed party will have the full blessings of military and if and when the party becomes victorious they will run the government. The party's main agenda will be to wipe out crime from the society through enforcing stricter laws. Unquestionably, the majority of Bangladesh's people will support the candidates from this party.

The present caretaker government will delay the election using such valid reasons as preparing a correct voters' list, printing photo ids for the voters, creating an atmosphere for a just and fair election. These are undoubtedly noble goals and who would oppose the government who are hell-bent on just doing these.

I also read newspaper reports on High Court's order for not holding the election for 3 months. As you could see, the signs are very clear for not holding the election anytime soon.

Come to think of it, Bangladesh may follow the Turkish model where the military is the big defender of secularism. I remember very clearly a year or two ago when a Turkish parliamentary member wanted to wear her modesty head gear while attending the legislative session. The military opposed her move thinking that her desire to wear Islamic dress was affront to the spirit of secularism and modernism. I am not saying that Bangladesh military will go that far near term. But from now on, no political group or party will be able to go to power with the support of the military.

Please read the news with wide open eyes and you will see that certain members of the civil society are already jockeying for position. The CPD and its leadership are openly doing this. Please do not get the impression that I am advocating the direct interference of the military in Bangladesh's politics. I am however just making an educated guess about what is in store for my motherland, say a year or so from now. #

A.H. Jaffor Ullah is a social researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA
jhankar@bellsouth.net