Thursday, April 26, 2007

The interim government has no tenacity; Hasina’s exile saga ends with a whimper

A.H. JAFFOR ULLAH

THE military-backed interim government of Bangladesh by now knows only how to roil things up. They undoubtedly deserve a reprimand after messing with Sheikh Hasina’s return to her motherland and Khaleda’s government sponsored exile to Saudi Arabia when she did not want to step outside the country.

The government earned a negative rating after the news came out that Hasina would become a persona non grata as per government's dictum and Khaleda Zia will be shoved from her motherland to become a refugee in the holy land. I could not find any supporters for the government in any cyber forums, which does not bode well for Fakhruddin Administration.

In the last week (April 19 through April 25) the Internet was abuzz with Hasina’s abortive attempt to secure a seat in a Dhaka bound British Airways flight and Khaleda Zia’s silent fight against her forced exile to Saudi Arabia. While Hasina was made voluble by government’s rejection to let her enter Bangladesh, Khaleda became mournful and reticent as she lead a quiet life inside the restricted military zone. Undoubtedly, today’s decision by the government would make both the rivals happy and elated.

There is a sense of relief in Bangladesh and a plethora of newspaper reports all point to that direction. Until the revocation order for Hasina’s exile and Khaleda’s isolation in her house was made public, a pall of gloom descended in Bangladesh’s sky. To make the matter worse, Hasina mentioned in sympathetic language the plight of her archrival, Khaleda. Immediately, the BNP reacted positively and some leader even commented that the two largest party would jointly fight against the military-backed interim government for easing political activities and holding parliamentary election. Perhaps the government took into cognizance the verbal threat as a real one and that hastened the decision by the government to lift the ban against both Hasina and Khaleda.

The government has certainly helped to elevate the stature of both Hasina and Khaleda and in retrospect it was not a wise move by the government to force the two leaders into exile a la Benazir Bhutto and Mia Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. After today’s event, the government gave the impression that things are in disarray and it has lost the focus. Another big question looms everywhere in Bangladesh - who is in control? Did army take the hard-line position? Is the civilian government making the final decision after army is messing things up with their hard-line position concerning dynastical nature of the main political parties?

The two advisers, Mainul Hosein and MA Matin, who earned enough bad reputation, should go into hiding for few days to cool things off. These two advisers have diminished their reputation by saying contradictory things with 24 hours. Were they expressing the views of the civilian government or the military? These are the questions that went unanswered. The chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, would do a great favour to his administration if he sidelines the two vocal advisers for the time being. For they have created enough miasmas and those did not help at all to establish a sense of fair play by the government in respect to Hasina or Khaleda.

Of all politicians, Sheikh Hasina was in an enviable position because she was getting an audience and sympathetic ear wherever she went in America or Great Britain. Especially in England she met quite a few British MPs and she told them in clear and straightforward language about her plights in the hands of the military-backed interim government.

In summary, the interim government of Bangladesh has earned some bad reputation as it tried to block Sheikh Hasina’s return to her motherland; it also tried in vain to hasten the departure of Khaleda Zia to Saudi Arabia. The government’s ill-conceived plan fell flat and all it saw was resistance from all sides. The Bush and Blair government uttered some harsh word and the government became scared stiff and finally backed down from their original plan to oust both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from their respective party by inducing them to seek exile. This plan did not materialize and it simply fizzled up giving a black eye to the interim government. So whose reputation and image was tarnished? Fakhruddin Administration should learn a thing or two from this exile fiasco. First, do not pay any attention to the Kurmitola crowd and second, muzzle in both Mainul Hosein and MA Matin because their unbridled remarks are earning this administer more foes than friends. #

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