Friday, April 06, 2007

Democracy recalled in Bangladesh by General Moeen

A.H. JAFFOR ULLAH

In the West when a product manufacturer occasionally does make hazardous merchandise, the company is pressured to recall it for fixing. Not a single year that goes by when we do not hear a car manufacturer recalling a particular model of car. The factory defect is repaired at manufacturer cost and the item is promptly returned to the consumer. This is the way to amend the mistake a company makes when it makes a lemon. A parallel thing is now going on in Bangladesh. Read on and you will know what I am writing about

In Third World countries such as in Bangladesh we never hear the recalling of a product whether it is a formalin-laced fish or adulterated cooking oil. Life goes on normally in the idyllic place while consumers devour adulterated foodstuff or operate a faulty car. However, this cannot be said about democracy, which was never healthy but no one recalled it to fix or mutate it.

Have anyone heard about recalling a seemingly defective democracy in the West? Hardly so. But in the Third World, democracy is recalled every so often after a military coup. Remember October 1958 when Pakistan's constitution was abrogated by Field Marshall Ayub Khan only to engender a substitute by the name “Basic Democracy.” Ayub Khan’s handlers thought there are different kinds of democracies in the world. Since parliamentary democracy, which was in vogue in Pakistan during mid fifties, did not work as per military leaders, they had to recall that democracy and replace it with another home-grown democracy the likes of which were never seen before. Ayub’s Basic Democracy was a far cry from true democracy but that brand of democracy was favoured because it was manageable. Some eighty thousand elected members decided who would be the president. Ayub Khan thought he could buy 40,000 of those basic democrats to become the president and guess what? He was right. While Ayub was busily practicing Basic Democracy in Pakistan many Bangalee politicians were protesting in the streets of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, and elsewhere. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, was one of them who never compromised with the Pakistani military’s new brand of democracy.

Gen. Moeen, the head of Bangladesh’s military who is not a part of the Caretaker government but is seen as the strongman who is pushing the military’s agenda through Fakhruddin Administration in Dhaka. The army chief is following Ayub’s tried and tested method of tinkering democracy. On April 2, 2007 he said before a selected crowd comprising of political scientists that Bangladesh will forego electoral type of democracy and go for a “new and improved” type of democracy, which will be Bangladesh’s own. Very soon there will be a new entry in Wikipedia on Moeen’s brand of democracy.

The intrepid and sapient army General who has crisscrossed Bangladesh in the last 80 days to deliver his message on nation building has finally spoken to a section of nation’s intelligentsia. This time on April 2, 2007 he spoke before political scientists where he hinted that a new type of homebrewed democracy will replace the tried and failed democracy that is flourishing in many nations including Bangladesh’s neighbour India. There is a caveat here. In India the military stays in the barrack and in cantonment and the Generals do not pretend to know everything a sapient sage has to know. The military in India is under the control of a civilian government and they honour the constitution of the land. In Pakistan, however, this is not to be the case. Bangladesh unfortunately follows Pakistan in the matter of governance and politics. Maybe, Gen. Pervez Musharraf is Gen. Moeen’s hero. Like Pakistan, Bangladesh will also follow a ‘Band Aid’ method to govern the country following a homebrewed democracy.

In November 1975 Bangladesh military came to power through backdoor, unconstitutionally. The General who took control of the country with the help of tanks and firearms also maimed the constitution and then invented Bangladesh’s very first “own brand” of democracy. Perhaps this time around, Gen. Moeen will also come up with a 2007 version of Bangladesh’s “own brand” of democracy. Of course there are a mélange of political scientists who are just waiting to aid the general. Through newspaper report we heard that two political scientists and theorists were brought from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA who would counsel the Gen. Moeen to accomplish this tough job. These flunky political scientists are there nearby to draft the blueprint of Bangladesh’s own brand of democracy. There is no dearth of charlatan academics in Bangladesh who would like to give a glowing encomium to strongman. In the past both Gen. Ziaur Rahman and Gen. H. M. Ershad was guided by Bangladeshi academics and constitutional experts who could write the first draft of the constitution to engender Bangladesh’s very own brand of democracy. Come to think of it, one barrister by the name Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed helped Gen. Ziaur Rahman to envision his “own brand” of democracy.

In summary, quite single-handedly Gen. Moeen, the emerging strongman of Bangladesh had recalled democracy because he thinks that it is sick and infirm after getting abused by three successive administrations. A body of political trouble shooter has been engaged by the military to come up with the solution. More is yet to come; therefore, stay tuned. Similar to Pakistan, in Bangladesh also the military knows what is best for the nation. Oh, one more thing I forgot to add. Bangladesh’s military has a pristine background. They don’t dabble in coups or regime change and they are incorruptible. #

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