Monday, April 23, 2007

One hell of a vindictive government; arrest warrant for Hasina proves the assertion

A.H. JAFFOR ULLAH

THE illegal and unconstitutional military-backed interim government of Fakhruddin Ahmed is so desperate to bar Sheikh Hasina from returning Bangladesh that it hurriedly issued an arrest warrant against her. This move by the illegal and self appointed government was done solely to scare Hasina. Perhaps the government is worried that she would embark on a plane and head for Dhaka. To this effect, she met quite a few MPs and other influential people in England. And this is causing concern among Fakhruddin-Mainul-Matin-Moeen gang. They now think that the issuance of arrest order would bar Hasina from boarding the British Airways flight destined for Dhaka.

The autocratic ruler in Dhaka has no idea how tough Hasina is. When I met her on April 13, 2007 in Falls Church, Virginia, she told a select crowd that she will find a way to be with her people. Lest we forget, in 1968 Ayub Khan, the then autocratic ruler of Pakistan framed Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujib, in a bogus treason case by the name Agartola Mamla (litigation), which was broken asunder by Mujib’s lawyer. The public opinion went against the government so much that Mujib was freed from jail and it catapulted him into national scene and made him a hero.

And history might repeat itself after 40 long years. Sheikh Hasina’s resolve to return home will earn her more sympathy among Bangalees not only in Bangladesh but also worldwide. Here is a woman in her sixties who lost her parents and family members in a bloody coup d'état in August 1975 and who served later as the Prime Minister during 1996 through 2001. Many independent analysts have written that considering all the obstacles Bangladesh faced during 1990s, she ran a very successful government when the impoverished nation achieved self sufficiency in food and women rights were strengthened in a society dominated by men. Thus, many people in rural Bangladesh have a soft corner for her. It is her standing among people especially in rural areas that concerns the autocratic regime of Bangladesh. That is precisely why the government is dead set on her return. They wrongly think she should not be allowed to set her feet in Bangladesh.

The government who came to power without peoples’ mandate on January 11, 2007 is living in a make belief world depicted by Lewis Carroll in his book Alice-in-wonderland. The government’s view has serious disconnection to reality. The power behind this unconstitutional government wrongly thinks that if the two female leaders are driven out of Bangladesh, then the nation will chart a course of prosperity never seen before. This is at most a very simplistic thinking. They forget to take in cognizance that politicians are the product of the land. Corruption is rampant and unchecked in Bangladesh not because of Hasina and Khaleda but because Bangladesh society condones bribe giving, bribe taking, malfeasance, etc. a big time. This cancer has been growing for the last 4-5 decades and no one really gave a damn about it. All of a sudden, the corruption and the growth of its tentacles in Bangladesh society have become a hot topic. A civil society is formed not in a day, month, or year. It takes decades to slowly build a society based on sound ethos. Every which way one looks in Bangladesh these days, one would see people with crass mentality managing the country. This goes for both politicians and civil bureaucrats.

The military is also a very much part of the society. However, they wrongly think that they are one notch above the public and their image is pristine. It is not a tightly kept secret that Bangladesh military is one of the most politicized institutions in the world and its officers receive generous perks when it comes to housing, subsidized food, healthcare, etc.

The government that came to power on January 11, 2007 unconstitutionally was never challenged in the court of law because Iajuddin, the partisan president was playing the game of charade with his ten advisers for nearly 80 days. The people of Bangladesh were sick and tired of his vile game; therefore, when he resigned in disgrace from the position of Chief Adviser of caretaker Government, people heaved a long sigh of relief. They welcomed the new administration with open arms hoping that all the wrongs done in the past two and a half month will be made right and the new administration would make a level playing field so that every political party will have an equal chance of winning the election. Furthermore, this new government was pledge-bound to hold election within a short but unspecified time after re-constituting the Election Commission and preparing a voters’ list acceptable to all political parties. However, little did Bangladesh people know about the conspiracy that was hatched in Kurmitola Cantonment to hang onto power for indefinite period? Isn’t that called Musharafism? We thought Bangalees parted Pakistanis nearly 36 years ago. Why then follow a Pakistani model?

The military-backed government took some super ambitious project to reform Bangladesh society. Some of them are indeed commendable but others were questionable. Bangladesh people accepted the idea of the newly formed government to arrest 100 or so corrupt politicians and businessmen who became super rich through their association with the ex-ruling party politicians but what the nation witnessed in horror was the arrest of 169,000 people. Many wholesale traders were arrested too or were threatened by the joint forces of police and RAB (another branch of elite law and order force) and consequently the equilibrium between supply and demand was disturbed. This led to spiraling increase in agricultural commodities and essential kitchen items price allover Bangladesh. Fakhruddin Ahmed, the chief adviser, is being touted as an ex-World Bank employee but even he failed to understand that a massive police drive to catch dishonest traders may lead to generate enough static in the market. Because of this flawed policy, people are suffering in both rural and urban areas paying an inflated price for foodstuffs. And if this continues unabated for a while, this government will lose its credibility among common people.

The failure of the government also shows up strongly in the area of litigation. They catch a few politicians without having enough evidence and the let them go scot-free. One such person was the youngest son of Khaleda Zia who was arrested and released after 24 hours. Now the news analysts say that it was done solely to scare the ex-Prime Minister who they are urging to go into exile in Saudi Arabia.

This autocratic regime is showing their true face as the days are passing by. The chief spokesperson of the government, Mainul Husein said the other day nonchalantly that his countrymen have no civil rights because of the emergency rule. The government has given the newspapers the rights to publish all kinds of news including the political one, but the people are not allowed to speak their mind. Needless to say, the democratic rights of Bangladeshis are breached and no one really knows how long this suffocating environment will last.

The present Bangladesh government is really an oligarchy in every which way one looks. Bangladesh’s people have not given this authority a mandate to put the two female leaders into exile. Is not it a sexist act by Fakhruddin government? Let the people decide who stays and who goes.

My dire prediction for Bangladesh is that the government’s action following their misguided policies is going to foment trouble. People have limited patience and they will protest when the time is appropriate. The days of subjugation is almost over and people are not going to sit tight witnessing all the wrongs done by this undemocratic administration.

Finally, it is fair to say that Sheikh Hasina has large followings in rural Bangladesh and the government will set a trap for itself from which it will be difficult to extricate when push comes to shove. Let us wait and see how long this charade continues in Dhaka and Kurmitola. For, the game cannot continue forever. #

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