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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

After Cyclone, Bangladesh Faces Political Storm


THE political storm that preceded nature’s latest assault on this country still swirls overhead.

Nearly a year into an army-backed state of emergency, basic freedoms remain suspended, a sweeping anticorruption drive has stuffed the jails with some of Bangladesh’s most influential business leaders and politicians, and a fragile economy is tottering under the pressure of floods at home and rising oil prices abroad.

The soaring cost of food is potentially the most explosive challenge facing the military-backed government that has run this country since Jan. 11, when, after debilitating political protests, scheduled elections were scrapped and emergency law was imposed. Climbing inflation was compounded by an unusually harsh monsoon, which destroyed food crops along the flood plains in July.

Then, the Nov. 15 cyclone destroyed acres of rice paddy, ruined the shrimp farms that dot the southern coast, and, according to the World Food Program, left roughly 2.3 million people in need of urgent food aid.

Storm relief is now the government’s most pressing test, including averting famine and disease outbreaks, and ensuring that aid distribution is perceived to be fair and without corruption. The government estimates that six million people were affected by the storm.

“This is going to be the real defining challenge for them,” Rehman Sobhan, the chairman of the Center for Policy Dialogue, an independent research group based in Dhaka, said of the administration. “A huge effort is going to be required.”

Bangladesh is among the world’s poorest nations, with a Muslim-majority population of more than 140 million and nearly half of its youngest children suffering from malnutrition. Polls indicate that even before the cyclone, confidence in the caretaker government was declining.

The way the ordinary Bangladeshi is being pinched every day was on stark display the other day in a working-class quarter of Dhaka called Begunbari, a crowded warren of tenements amid the roar of factories that supply cheap clothes for sale abroad, including in the United States.

Abdul Aziz, 63, a security guard who was buying vegetables at the local market, quietly confessed that even with three grown daughters working in the garment industry, his family was finding it harder to put enough food on the table. On this afternoon, he bought half as many winter beans as he had hoped to and one small head of cauliflower instead of two. Those purchases, along with the staple rice and lentils, would have to feed his family of seven. “We will make do,” he said. “Everyone will have a little bit.”

A tailor who serves the neighborhood said his business had plummeted from about 50 orders a day to barely a couple. Few can afford new clothes when the basics — onions, oil, cauliflower — have become so much costlier.

Firoza Begum, the wife of a civil servant, said the government had failed to curb food prices, even as she gave it credit for cracking down on graft.

“They have caught some corrupt people — we can see that,” she said. “But we also want them to reduce prices of our daily needs, so we can somehow manage our households.”

She said that she had all but given up buying milk and meat for her family because they were too expensive.

In her neighborhood, Election Commission workers were going door to door this afternoon taking names and addresses so they could compile a fresh list of those eligible to vote. Fakhruddin Ahmed, the civilian leader of the country’s military-backed caretaker administration, has promised national elections by the end of 2008.

But exactly how soon elections will take place and under what circumstances, remain mysteries, considering that several major politicians are in jail or in exile. The leaders of the two top political parties, Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and Sheik Hasina Wazed of the Awami League, are in custody on various graft and extortion charges. Whether they will be allowed to take part in the election is anyone’s guess.

Under emergency rule, the press is prohibited from publishing anything deemed “provocative” and political activity is banned, including demonstrations. Holding a political meeting outdoors is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The restrictions were loosened slightly in September when indoor political meetings were allowed to resume, but only with permission from the police and with no more than 50 people in attendance.

According to a monthly public perception survey by a consortium of civil society organizations called the Election Working Group, the share of Bangladeshis who expressed high confidence in the caretaker government fell between March and September, while the share of those who had low confidence sharply increased. This was true of respondents from “ordinary” and “elite” socioeconomic groups.

In the latest survey, conducted in face-to-face interviews in late September, the rising price of essential commodities was identified as the biggest concern, and even as the government got good marks for cracking down on corruption, respondents were divided about whether the government had any bearing on their daily lives: 42 percent of them said they were “better off” but about the same percentage said they were “worse off or that there has been no change in their personal situation.”

The government’s anticorruption crusade continues to be seen as a turning point for Bangladesh, which has consistently ranked at the bottom of the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.

Bank accounts have been frozen. Luxury cars have been impounded by the state, or hidden indoors by their owners for fear they will be taken. Nearly 100 prominent politicians and business people have been taken in for questioning, and an unknown number of people have been detained without charge, which is legal under the new emergency laws. A little more than a dozen have been convicted by anticorruption courts, and how quickly, or fairly, the other cases will be tried is unclear.

If entrenched corruption was seen as damaging the economy, the crackdown has also sent shocks through the private sector. The government appears to be retreating from its initial wide sweep and has in recent months, released some detainees.

“Informally, the government wants some sort of reassurance for the business community that they will be allowed to function,” said Akbar Ali Khan, a retired senior government official. He declined to grade the government’s overall performance (criticizing the government is now a punishable offense) except to say that it was vital for the government to prepare for elections and restore business leaders’ confidence in the country.

“The economic problems are very serious and acute,” he said. “These will have to be addressed with more vigor.”

Abdul Awal Mintoo, the chairman and chief executive of Multimode Group, was among the most prominent millionaires taken into custody in May on a vague charge of destabilizing the government, then released six months later. Mr. Mintoo said that while he was in custody he was interrogated less about his own assets than about what evidence he could furnish against Ms. Hasina, the Awami League leader and a former prime minister with whom Mr. Mintoo was friendly.

A naturalized United States citizen, Mr. Mintoo returned to his native Bangladesh 27 years ago and established a number of businesses, from dealing in agricultural seeds to real estate. He estimates his assets in Bangladesh to be $30 million.

Mr. Mintoo, 58, insists that he did not bribe anyone in government in exchange for contracts. But he concedes that he did what he says everyone else has long had to do in this country: grease the wheels of politics and government to get basic things done, including installing a telephone line and getting imported machine parts out of customs. If that were the grounds for his arrest, he said, then “50 million people, every adult male” should be arrested.

“It’s aimless what they’re doing,” he said of the government in an interview, and added that he planned to divest himself of his investments in the country slowly. “I’m not sure how this will end up. I don’t want to take a risk and live in uncertainty.”

“If you take blood out of the arteries,” he added, “it just paralyzes.”

The only charge remaining pending against Mr. Mintoo accuses him of extorting about $700 from a private citizen. Mr. Mintoo laughed at the charge, saying it was too paltry a sum for him to demand of anyone. #

Somini Sengupta, a New York Times staffer recently visited Bangladesh to report on the storm SIDR, which hit the coastlines in the mid-November 2007

First published in The New York Times, New York, USA on November 26, 2007

Jamaat-i-Islami: A threat to Bangladesh?


THE Jamaat-i-Islami is a radical Islamist movement which dominates faith based politics in South Asia- its main branch is located in Pakistan where the late Maulana al-Maududi founded the party. The Jamaat has enjoyed increased political momentum since the attacks on 9/11 mainly due to successful propaganda campaigns by Islamist leaders- which highlight the inevitable failures in the international community's campaign against terrorism.

Bangladesh is one country where the Jamaat has made substantial moves towards their ideal of creating an Islamist state based on Sharia law. They have managed to gain important positions within government while hiding their links to militancy- a key factor in destabilising government systems which the movement seeks to eventually dismantle and replace.

The Jamaat-Bangladesh have also been involved in laundering money for a group linked to Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Al-Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF). Islami Chattra Shibir (ICS) the student wing of the Jamaat- Bangladesh is also believed to be involved with terrorist organisations in India and Bangladesh.

The Jamaat's most important supporters outside South Asia are the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim Aid (UK) they both operate under charitable status in the US and UK. The charities receive zakat from benevolent Muslim communities around the world under the guise of Muslim causes. ICNA and Muslim Aid are linked to persons believed to have been involved in war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh and have been linked to terrorist groups from Bosnia to Indonesia.

Bangladesh is a country which is very important to the 'war on terror' mainly because it is the second largest Muslim democracy. It is home to 144 million- the majority are Muslim, which means that the country homes roughly 11% of the world's Muslim population. The international alliance cannot afford to lose Bangladesh to Islamist fanaticism as it will be a major blow to strategies to combat extremism in the region. The west must support a strong, secular and stable Bangladesh which will allow the country to become a leading light of moderation and temperance. Bangladesh has the potential of becoming a beacon of hope in the Muslim world even though it has to deal with obvious challenges such as poverty, corruption, flooding, military coups and spurts of Islamist militancy. It has been a constant struggle for Bangladesh to remain a secular and moderate country- its constitution and history reflects this.

Jamaat in the West
Bangladesh also has large expatriate communities in the UK and US- the rise in militant Islamism in Bangladesh will no doubt have an effect on those living in within these groups. The theories of diasporic nationalism and transnationalism show that trends in Bangladesh will undoubtedly be mirrored in these communities and spill over into the politics of their new homelands. The fact that the Jamaat-i-Islami controls influential religious organisations in the UK means that the trend in fanaticism within these communities will probably rise at a greater rate than in Bangladesh. The full influence of Jamaati organisations such as the Islamic Foundation UK, East London Mosque, Muslim Aid UK, Dawatul Islam and the UK Islamic Mission is yet to be fully studied but these groups are known to be aggressively pushing Jamaat's anti-secularism and anti-western literature and ideals - some of the backgrounds of arrested for terrorism ties in the UK such as Mozzam Begg and some of the 7/7 bombers show flirtations with Jamaat politics.

Bangladesh also plays a major role in relations between India and Pakistan. India's and other countries belief that groups with links to Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are planning attacks on India from within Bangladesh make sure that the country will most probably become a future flashpoint for the two nuclear neighbours. The rise in violence in Sri Lanka and Balochistan are also believed to have been caused by this escalation of proxy warfare between the two nations.

I see the War of Liberation 1971 as a major struggle and milestone for humanity- people fought bravely and with heart to conquer oppression and hatred- the legacy of the struggle and its shadows still manage to dominate Bangladeshi politics and civic life. I am relatively new to Bangladesh but I am learning fast. I hope the country can become a major success story in fields of economic growth and act as model for other developing countries. However there is one major obstacle to the country's development and success- and I believe it is the emergence of the Jamaat-i-Islami and its role in supporting militancy and hatred in the region.

Jamaat: A Background
The Jamaat-i-Islami is a radical Islamist movement based in South Asia. It has party branches in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. It was founded in Lahore, Pakistan in 1941 by Maulana al-Maududi, a Pakistani journalist, who became concerned that Muslim countries were turning to what he perceived as perverse ideologies such as nationalism, women's liberation and socialism. Maududi believed that certain parts of Islamic teaching should be used to justify his vision of a perfect Muslim state. Maududi believed that a Muslim country should be a combination of a fascist and communist state - with a powerful unelected elite which would control the state and every facet of life within it. Secularism and progress would end and be discarded for strict Sharia law.

Maududi was heavily influenced by the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) which is centred in the Middle East. He was a friend and reader of Sayyed Qutb, a leading radical Islamist leader. Qutb advocated creating an Islamist vanguard that would engage in violent Jihad against those that didn't want to become part of their plans for a fundamentalist Islamist state. Maududi also believed in this but did not want to have this as the only option, he believed that the Islamist movement would need a political party so the group could have semi-legitimacy and could work for its goals with the system. In the book 'Jihad in Islam' (Sabilillah) wrote that like a communists living in the US during the Cold War they would be less likely to be disrupted by the governments if they weren't trying to sabotage the state or constantly trying to formulate armed revolutions . He believed that acting as a political party would allow the movement to have breathing room to subvert and change the system- but only when the timing was right and the Jamaat thought it had enough support would Jihad by the sword be appropriate. The Jamaat is a movement which works within democracy but by no stretch of the imagination are they democratic. They want to destroy Bangladesh's secular constitution by supporting the Islamification of society through Dawa and Islamic finance.

Jamaat links to Al-Qaeda
Maududi formed an ideological and semi-organisational alliance; the two groups share organisations such as the International Islamic Universities (IIU's), the Islamic Foundation UK (Ali Ghali Himmat and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin of the Ikwhan/al-Taqwa Bank were trustees- they have been designated terrorism financiers by the US and UN) and charities such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the International Islamic Charitable Organisation (IICO). Abdullah Azzam, a founder of Hamas and Osama bin Laden's former mentor taught at the IIU-Islamabad Pakistan, there are other links between the IIU's and jihadi terror however with time restraints they cannot be discussed today.

The alliance helped to promote global Islamism and fight the threat of Soviet expansionism in the Islamic world. The movement's goals were furthered and consolidated when the Saudi, Pakistani, British and American governments recruited the alliance to tackle communist influences during the Cold War. The governments financed and trained the alliances cadre to fight and expel the Soviet forces which invaded Afghanistan in 1979- this was when Osama Bin Laden became involved with the global Islamist movement.

Jamaat-i-Islami has been involved in murder, terrorism, intimidation and bigotry from it's direct participation in war crimes during the 1971 War of Liberation to it's involvement in pursuing sectarian violence against the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan and Bangladesh . Recently the Jamaat has been threatening the lives of journalists in Bangladesh if they continue to report and uncover the Jamaat and Shibir's ties to militancy. A democracy must be allowed to have a free press- all actions must be taken to ensure this type of intimidation does not persist during the forthcoming elections.

The Jamaat-Bangladesh has been repeatedly linked to terrorist organisations mainly due to the fact that the majority of leaders and terrorists belonging to Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata (JMJB) have past histories of involvement with Jamaat and the Islami Chattra Shibir.

The Islami Bank Bangladesh (IBBL) is also linked to militancy and is controlled by the Jamaat - banks which act as foreign sponsors of IBBL have previously been used or have been accused of funnelling money to al-Qaeda linked militants and supporting radical Islamism in other countries. Yassin Qadi, a US and UN designated financier of terrorism's family are also close to the bank. Qadi is a Saudi businessman and is the son-in-law of Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom, a foreign sponsor of IBBL. Jamjoom was a former finance minister in the Saudi government. It is not known if Qadi has direct ties to the bank. The Kuwaiti based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) also had accounts at the bank they are suspected of financing terrorism in Bangladesh and elsewhere- it is believed that the organisation helped finance the 17th August serial bombings in 2005 .

The links between the IBBL and the International Islamic University (Chittagong) - show how the Jamaat-Ikwhan is growing in influence in education- mainly in Dawa and Islamic financial sectors. The Jamaat- Shibir Bangladesh has also acted as a funding conduit for the ISI and the Jamaat-Pakistan. In 2000 Indian intelligence agencies intercepted a letter from Jamaat leaders which acknowledges that monies had been transferred through Jamaat-Bangladesh to the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) from Jamaat-Pakistan. It must be noted that the US State Department and the US Department of Justice are concerned that the Bangladeshi Government is not investigating 45 major money laundering cases related to International terrorism; they believe it is due to political reasons- the US sent a team of officials from the Department of Justice to Dhaka to directly talk to their opposite numbers, this meeting was meant to be secret but was leaked to the press because of the frustration at the lack of progress.

MULTA is a terrorist organisation which is working towards turning Assam, a region in North India, into an Islamic enclave which will be run by Sharia law. The group has been involved in bombings and assassinations of civic leaders in Assam. MULTA works closely with Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al Islami (HUJI-B) and is funded by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). HUJI-B has been added to the US and UN list of terrorist organisations. MULTA also works closely with other terrorist organisations such as the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) which are all allied to Osama Bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).

The network wants to create a Brihot Bangladesh or 'greater Bangladesh' by merging Muslim communities from North India into Bangladesh. Islami Chattra Shibir (ISC), Jamaat's student wing are also believed to have been involved with this militant network and are working in tandem with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) to support the network. In 2002 Salim Sajid, SIMI's financial secretary was interrogated and confessed how ISC were closely working with the SIMI to plan and attack Indian interests. The groups have been meeting in West Bengal under the banner of the 'Islamic Action Force'.

SIMI was the student front of the Indian branch of the Jamaat-i-Islami and follows the thoughts and teachings of Maududi. It has a history of supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Its cadre are believed to have been directly and indirectly involved in recent bomb attacks in India- they are believed to have helped terrorist cells in Varanasi, New Delhi, Mumbai and Ajodhya; these attacks have been major escalations for the SIMI as they have caused extremely high fatalities and casualty rates. SIMI is also working with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which are based in Pakistan. These are also members of the International Islamic Front.

In 2003 Indian Muslims working in Middle Eastern countries were contacted and recruited by known SIMI operatives to go and fight Coalition forces in Iraq - which is another escalation of the group's international activities. The worrying point is that the ICS and Jamaat are working closely with SIMI and are well aware of its current strategy to attack India.

Jamaat's support network in the UK and US
Jamaat-Pakistan and Jamaat-Bangladesh also receives backing from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim Aid branches who act as fundraisers, missionaries and PR managers for the Jamaat-i-Islami movement in the West. The charities have been linked to terrorism and have also been linked to Mueen Uddin Chowdhury and Asrafuzzaman Khan, two expatriate Bangladeshi's with Jamaat backgrounds who are suspected of being directly involved in war crimes. The two charities send money collected in the UK, US, Germany and Australia to the Al-Khidmat Foundation/Society and Muslim Aid's Bangladeshi branch. They are both de facto arms of the Jamaat. Al-Khidmat aids militancy and helps to support the Hizbul Mujahideen, Jamaat's armed wing and other groups. Hizbul Mujahideen is designated by the US and UK as a terrorist organisation.

In 2004 Russian security agents from the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) assassinated Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev, the former vice president of Chechnya in a car bomb attack in Doha, Qatar. They believe he was meeting with wealthy Middle Eastern figures to collect funds for Jihad. Yanderbiyev was a recipient of Jamaati funds to wage war on Russia. Jamaat-i-Islami is listed by Russia's Supreme Court as a leading financier and supporter of terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks the Russian FSB passed information to the US stating they believed that Jamaat would be involved in the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, these assertions proved correct when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was arrested in the home of Jamaat leaders .

Al-Khidmat has recently helped to repatriate 2500 Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists that have been released as part of an amnesty by the Pakistani authorities. There have been reports that Taliban fighter are being treated at Al-Khimat's medical centres in Pakistan. Al-Khidmat has also recently donated huge sums to Hamas to carry on with its Jihad against Israel. Al-Khidmat, ICNA and Muslim Aid's branches should be added to UN and US sanctions for their direct financial support for terrorism.

Al-Khidmat has also recently given money to Sheikh Faisal Malawi of the Jemaah Islamiya (Lebanon) to aid his Al-Fajr militants to help Hezbollah attack Israel in Lebanon. Malawi is the former deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research alongside Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi.

Jamaat's history of involvement in war crimes during the 1971 War of Liberation in Bangladesh is a major reason why many should be concerned at the groups rise in power and status in Bangladesh. Despite the groups involvement in murder and its obvious distain for a secular Bangladeshi Constitution- it has managed to survive because of the animosity between the two major parties.

I hope that the two parties can unite in their condemnation and rejection of the Jamaat's plans for Bangladesh. I have met several BNP leaders and I am amazed by how much they loathe the Jamaat and its policies. I just hope that the top leadership of the BNP will start to listen to the grassroots. The Jamaat has been allowed to become a 'third way' rather than being alienated and shunned because of its extremist policies and activities. Hopefully recent developments in Australia which are linked to the persecution of war criminals of '71, many of the suspects are senior Jamaat leaders. This action will hopefully help to stop the progress of the Jamaat's politics of hatred and subversion in Bangladesh and show the world that crimes against humanity will not go unpunished.

Bangladesh's dark history must be laid to rest, the Jamaat cannot be allowed to cause anymore anguish- only when it has diminished in power and strength can the country live up to its true potential. I wish you luck and I will continue to help in anyway. Jamaat-i-Islami is not just a threat to the Bangladesh but to the whole world...we must work together to stop it from getting stronger. #

Chris Blackburn is a political intelligence analyst. He is the British Representative of the Intelligence Summit USA- an annual conference for intelligence, business, military and political leaders from around the world. He helped setup a lawsuit for the 9/11 victims families, which targeted the suspected financiers of Al-Qaeda. He worked on BBC's Panorama programme 'A Question of Leadership' a documentary which linked leading British Muslims to extremist Islamist politics. He also works with journalists and writers on counter-terrorism and political issues Above paper was presented to the International Conference to Discuss Terrorism, Democracy and Economic Development in Bangladesh, held on September 30th at UN Plaza Hotel in New York City, USA

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How Bangladesh Survived the Cyclone


IN all, some 27 million people were affected by Cyclone Sidr, the category 4 storm that swept through Bangladesh last week, flattening houses, damaging buildings and roads, and destroying thousands of acres of crops. More than 2,000 people were killed, according to official numbers, and the toll could eventually reach 10,000. But even as Bangladesh begins a massive cleanup operation, many are thankful that it wasn't much worse. As devastating as it was, Sidr has taken far fewer lives than 1991's Cyclone Gorky, which killed at least 138,000 people, and 1970's Bhola, which left as many as 500,000 people dead and is considered the deadliest cyclone, and one of the worst natural disasters, in human history.

Mainly, this is because Bangladesh has gotten a lot better at dealing with cyclones, which build in the Bay of Bengal and surge north to hit the country with dreadful regularity. Over the past decade especially, the country's early warning and preparedness systems have improved considerably. Officials evacuated some 3.2 million people who lived along the coastline in the days before Sidr hit, and stockpiled relief supplies and rescue equipment. Soon after the storm passed, the Bangladeshi government quickly began distributing 4,000 metric tons of rice, along with thousands of tents and blankets, and deployed more than 700 medical teams to the worst-affected areas. Early warnings and preparations had a "significant mitigating effect in this emergency," according to the United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "[The system] has worked much, much better than before," says A. Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, of the country's disaster preparations. "The death toll is going to be an order of magnitude less."

Still, keeping future death tolls low is likely to get a lot harder. Scientists believe that global warming will make cyclones in the region bigger and more frequent. That's bad news for Bangladesh, whose location and geography makes it not only particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change but also extremely hard to protect. Most of Bangladesh sits on the giant alluvial delta created by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, whose courses are constantly shifting, making it difficult to build up river banks to protect farmland. A World Bank project, backed by France, Japan and the U.S., would construct 8,000 km of dikes to control the rivers, but the $10 billion proposal has run into opposition from farmers whose land it would take. Massive Dutch-style dikes to hold back the sea — and future cyclone-induced waves — are probably even more unworkable. "The soil isn't steady as such — it's mud," says Rahman, who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and chair of the Climate Action Network South Asia. "You have these huge, rapidly changing geological dynamics here that make it a very hard place to protect."

On a more human scale, however, there are some slivers of hope. Already people in some areas of Bangladesh have begun building houses on tall stilts to evade annual floodwaters. Non-governmental organizations such as U.K.-based Practical Action have also developed simple house designs — two-foot-high concrete plinths topped with inexpensive and easily replaced jute panel walls — that help prevent some homes from being washed away. CARE, the U.S.-based NGO, has helped people living along the coast rediscover forgotten farming techniques such as baira cultivation, or floating gardens, an age-old agricultural system well suited to areas that are flooded for long periods of time. Farmers might also benefit from salt-tolerant varieties of rice or fast-growing crops that can be harvested before the devastating monsoons arrive. It will help, too, if the Bangladeshi government speeds up its implementation of plans created after earlier ruinous floods, including improving drainage in cities, better sanitation management and fixing up the worst slums.

Regardless of these preparations, much of Bangladesh will be transformed if current global warming trends continue. As the sea level rises, vast swaths of coastal land will disappear in coming decades — as much as 18% of Bangladesh's current landmass, according to the World Bank. And as the rivers swell with water from melting Himalayan glaciers, land in the center of the country will also disappear. Those effects, combined with more frequent and stronger cyclones, could spark an exodus of climate refugees fleeing for the cities and for other countries.

That's a problem, because Bangladesh is already one of the most densely populated countries on the globe — just under half the population of the U.S. crammed into an area the size of the state of Iowa. Neighboring India is already so worried about the growing number of Bangladeshi migrants that it is building a huge fence on the two nations' shared border. Rahman, however, sees a silver lining: Bangladesh's fleeing multitudes can help feed the West's need for cheap labor as its own population ages. "The globalization of the climate process will force the globalization of the demographic process," he says. And if the rich world is not ready to let in millions of Bangladeshis looking for somewhere dry to live? "The rich world caused this problem so they're going to have to pay for it," says Rahman. "I've started telling my colleagues from Europe and Canada that we might have to introduce a system that says if you produce 10,000 tons of carbon you have to take a Bangladeshi family. They don't like hearing that." They may have to get used to it. #

First published in TIME Asia magazine on Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dhaka in Decline


IN September, Arifur Rahman, a cartoonist for a leading Bengali newspaper in Dhaka, was sacked, arrested and jailed for a month. His offence? He published a cartoon featuring a joke about the Prophet Mohammed. Readers who remember last year's Danish cartoon scandal may be forgiven for thinking that such a cartoon was bound to cause offence in a predominantly Muslim country.

Yet such an impression would be unwarranted -- Bangladesh wasn’t always so intolerant. Until recently, Bangladesh had a tradition of cultural and religious pluralism; a feisty and irreverent press; and an iconoclastic intellectual and literary tradition. No more. Since a military-backed government took power in January, these institutions have been systematically squeezed, leading to creeping Islamicization -- a worrying trend in a country of nearly 150 million.

The irony is that Bangladesh's intellectuals welcomed the coup. Squabbling between the leaders of the two major political parties, the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina Wajed and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s Begum Khaleda Zia, led to the postponement of elections for 18 months and the declaration of a state of emergency by a caretaker government. These moves were a clear violation of constitutional provisions, which call for elections to be held within 90 days of the expiry of a government's term. Yet the elites hoped the newly installed technocrats might tackle the country's economic and social pressures.

Instead, the caretaker regime, with the backing of the army, has proven to be no less arbitrary and callous than its predecessors. Headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed, the few checks that once existed on its actions have been effectively removed. An Emergency Powers Ordinance was passed, giving the state the right to set up special courts designed to try anyone under the terms of the state of emergency.

The regime then moved quickly to cripple the two major political parties. First, Ms. Hasina was arrested on extortion charges; then Ms. Zia, on corruption charges. Their families and key political supporters have also been jailed. Even the normally assertive press has been cowed. The caretaker government says national elections will be held at the end of next year, but there are no guarantees.

Meanwhile, the signs of creeping Hispanicization in Bangladesh are widespread. In April, attacks on Bengali new year celebrations by a militant Islamist group, Jam'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, dampened what is usually a vibrant, shared cultural tradition between Muslims and Hindus. Nongovernmental organizations that promote women’s rights, based in cities near Dhaka, have been bombed. And one of the principal Islamist parties, Jamaat-i-Islami, declared earlier this year that it seeks to establish a Sharia-based state by overthrowing the existing order.

* * *
The potential for an Islamist government has always been present in Bangladesh. Since the country's uncertain transition to democracy in 1990, the presence of a loyal opposition, a sturdy respect for minority rights and opinions, an independent judiciary and a robust civil society have been slipping away. The recent political vacuum has only accelerated this trend.

This is partly due to the abject failure of a series of Bangladeshi regimes, both civilian and military, to provide the most basic services such as health care, primary education, housing and sanitation while systematically enriching themselves and their acolytes. These failures enabled religious zealots to make headway into the political arena by promising change.

As they gained power, the two major political parties -- especially the BNP -- started to rely on religious fanatics and their ability to organize street protests and shows of force to bolster their own electoral fortunes. In the last BNP-led regime, Jamaat-i-Islami was part of the ruling coalition. Even the nominally secular Awami League, fearing a loss of electoral support, started to nod and wink toward the activities of these religious fanatics.

Foreign governments played a role, too. In recent years, the mullahs have benefited significantly from both Pakistani and, more importantly, Wahabi Saudi largesse. Pakistani regimes have sought to make inroads into Bangladesh largely as a means to exploit existing political turmoil in India's northeastern states, which abut Bangladesh. The Saudis, on the other hand, have been willing to promote their ideological proclivities as part of their overall strategy to boost the appeal of Wahabi Islam.

Today, the military-backed government under Mr. Ahmed seems powerless to stop these trends. Minorities, especially the steadily dwindling Hindu population, are increasingly under assault from Muslim religious zealots. In January, Muslim zealots set fire to some 10 Hindu residences in the town of Habiganj, leaving more than 150 people homeless. In late June, a Christian community in Nilphamari district also incurred the wrath of local Islamists and were beaten with wooden clubs. Even small, heterodox Muslim communities such as the Ahmadiyyas are now treated as virtual apostates. Their mosques are periodically attacked.

The caretaker government hasn't commented much on these attacks, perhaps because the political influence of the Jamaat remains considerable. Jamaat leaders, for example, are allowed to travel abroad -- while members of other parties are not. Also, while the government has dealt with normal student activists and agitators with a firm hand, it granted considerable leeway to the activists of the Hizbut Tahrir, a radical Islamist organization with transnational links, during the agitation surrounding the recent cartoon controversy.

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Bangladesh's relatively small economic impact on the global economy, its widespread poverty and its lack of any immediate strategic significance explains the paucity of attention that the United States and most Western powers have paid to its political future.

Such neglect, however, is exceedingly myopic. Bangladesh is home to over 100 million Muslims and abuts India, and the situation cries out for greater attention. Humanitarian concerns alone should justify increased focus on this country. Allowing Bangladesh to become a haven of Islamic extremism is not in America's or the world’s interest. The time to try to rescue the country from a pathway to perdition is at hand. #

First published on November 16, 2007

Sumit Ganguly is a professor of political science and the director of research at the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bangladesh The clean-up

The costs of fighting corruption

“THE problem is that the mafia in Bangladesh were the political parties,” correctly observes a political analyst stuck in one of Dhaka's notorious traffic jams. At the roadside, the billboards—once a thriving business run by Tarique Rahman, the elder son of Khaleda Zia, prime minister until October last year—are empty. The luxury cars that used to ply the streets carrying bodyguards protecting members of the former kleptocratic elite are nowhere to be seen. Ten months into Bangladesh's state of emergency, the army-backed government is making headway in its drive to crush the two patronage-based personality cults that used to constitute Bangladeshi politics.

Both the heads of the two main political dynasties, Mrs Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League, are in detention, along with more than a dozen former cabinet ministers. The bosses of many big companies are also in the clink or on the run. Senior officials say that some 200 top-level targets are being prosecuted.

This week the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, in the course of a “listening tour” in South Asia, came to monitor progress in a country where, until recently, dishonesty in public life was so prevalent that Bangladesh regularly topped the world's corruption league tables. The institution Mr Zoellick heads is not well liked here. Economic nationalism is strong; the bashing of multilateral lenders is a hobby of the chattering classes. Even the country's foremost economist, a Nobel prize-winning microcredit pioneer, Mohammad Yunus, had few kind words for the bank. Following a meeting with Mr Zoellick, he told reporters that it should sharply increase the proportion of its total lending devoted to microcredit programmes. Mr Yunus also called for institutional reform of the bank, whose country offices “are working like post offices waiting for directives from headquarters”.

Despite all this, aid is piling in. Soon after “1/11”, as Bangladeshis call the declaration of a state of emergency on January 11th this year, donors saw a window of opportunity to speed up the process of turning impoverished Bangladesh into a middle-income country.

Just this week the Asian Development Bank approved a $150m loan for a good-governance programme. Much of the money will go towards strengthening one of the country's busiest institutions—the Anti-Corruption Commission. It is a race against time, says its head, Hasan Masud Chowdhury. According to its swanky new brochure, the commission aims to build a reputation of being able, like the Mounties, always to get its men. Since it is equipped with sweeping emergency powers to arrest, search and detain, there is little doubt that it will. Five special courts are not enough to deal with the flood of cases, and more are being created.

The politicians are due back in less than 12 months, by when the interim administration has promised to hold general elections. Shamsul Huda, who heads the election commission, insists that it will be ready. Progress has been made on creating a new voters' list (complete with photographs) of some 80.5m names. The commissioner wants the government to lift the state of emergency in January, two months before elections are scheduled for five municipal corporations (former “dens of corruption”, Mr Huda calls them).

Meanwhile, the negative short-term consequences of the anti-corruption drive have become apparent. Foreign and domestic investment has stalled. Garment exports have plummeted. Last week the central bank sold $80m of its foreign reserves to finance oil imports. Strong remittances keep the economy afloat. But inflation is at a ten-year high. Student-led riots flared in August. The next flashpoint may not be far off.

For the regime, the anti-graft drive has had some useful side-effects. The intelligence services are systematically acquiring shares in private media companies, by offering the release from detention of their owners in return. Mr Zoellick called for a transparent battle against corruption, consistent with the rule of law. That will be a long, hard struggle in Bangladesh. #

First published in The Economist, London on Nov 8th 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Justice After Genocide: Ways To Deal With The Past


Ms. Farida Banu, younger sister of Dhaka University teacher Mr. Giasuddin Ahmed filed a case with Ramna Police station on 24 September 1997, about kidnapping and killing of his brother. This case could very well be one of the routine FIR that Ramna police receives daily but in reality, it was not. A sister demanding justice for his slain brother filed it after long twenty-six years of the incident. Her brother was a victim of 1971 genocide. All over the country, still there are, like her, relatives of other three million or so similar victims of genocide, who are still waiting for acknowledgment and accounts.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which swung into action immediately, believes he was killed "under the same blueprint" as all other intellectuals, at the fag end of the liberation war. The Investigators, according to press reports, have assumed Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, Ashrafuzzaman and others behind this killing. Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, whose picture was printed in the newspaper as the principal Al-Badar killer over Bangladesh after independence, was also investigated by the British television, Channel Four, in a program `War Crimes File' in 1995.

The German writer Jurgen Fuchs once said to Adam Michnik, a leader of the Polish opposition to communist rule about crimes committed during the communist regime in East Germany that "if we do not solve this problem in a definite way, it will haunt us." The past has a curious habit of coming back, again and again, if a proper strategy is not followed by the successor governments. In Bangladesh, past has never left even after its twenty-six years as the burden of the past could not be shaken off if no justice is done.

Tormented societies cannot forgive and forget and go on to the order of a new day unless ways are found to bring the society to come to terms. Filing of Ms. Banu's case and the police investigation exemplifies that in Bangladesh, past has, as yet, remained to be solved.

The purpose of this article is to find out the strategies, in general, for a nation to cope with its past. It then intents to examine the process adopted in Bangladesh to deal with the past, in this case, 1971 genocide. Finally, some conclusions to devise appropriate ways to live with the past will be made, which batters the society daily.

Criminal Prosecution:

By bringing action against perpetrators, their superiors and collaborators, a new regime can signal to victims and to the whole community that the state no longer considers the victims to be outcasts. The judicial process itself can also permit individual survivors and relatives and friends of victims to tell their stories, to document the torment and the suffering and to ventilate the feelings and emotions that have remained pent-up inside.

Another important reason for prosecuting those who commit and those who order genocide is that those who have been the direct victims will then see that justice has been done. For victims, seeing their tormentors brought to justice can have a strong therapeutic effect. Punishing the perpetrators of the old regime advances the cause of building or reconstructing a morally just society. Justice be done to put back in place the moral order that has broken down. Justice be done as a moral obligation to the victims of the repression. Post- genocide justice serves to heal the wounds and repair the private and public damage done. It also acts, as a sort of ritual cleansing process. A country in which such cleansing remains unfinished are plagued by continuous brooding and pondering.

Criminal prosecutions also strengthens fragile democracies. Survival of the successor regime depends on swift and firm action against the perpetrators and their following. If the prosecution issue remains untouched, other forms of social and political disturbance may be triggered, with perhaps a risk of vigilante justice with summery executions. It may also give birth to conspiracy theories in which the leaders of the successor regime are labeled as the hidden agents of the old order that they are treating in a too soft and ambiguous way.

Failure to prosecute may generate in the populace cynicism and distrust toward the political system. Unless the crimes of the defeated are investigated and punished, there can be no real growth of trust, no implanting of democratic norms in the society at large, and therefore no genuine consolidation of democracy. Prosecutions are seen as the most potent deterrent against future abuses of human rights. A civilized society must recognize the worth and dignity of those victimized by abuses of the past. This has been the official policy toward collaborators in all West European countries which, during World War II, were occupied by Germans.

After Hitler's occupation and genocide, the slogan in occupying countries were; "no place left for those who had betrayed their country." The number of unpatriotic citizens who suffered punishment in one or another form was about 100.000 in Belgium, 110.000 in The Netherlands, and 130.000 in France. The figure was remarkably high in Belgium and The Netherlands, which had in 1945, population of 8.3 and 8.8 million respectively. The number of death penalties was 6.763 in France, 2.940 in Belgium, and 152 in The Netherlands. Various prison sentences were awarded to 53.000 in Belgium, 49.000 in The Netherlands, and 40.000 in France. Imprisonment was almost always accompanied by other sanctions: a fine, confiscation of personal goods, police supervision after the end of the prison term, the obligation to reside in a specific town. In Belgium, damages had to be paid to the state, out of marital goods or from their heirs if necessary. Tens of thousands of Dutchmen suffered the loss of nationality. In Germany, international community put the principal perpetrators of holocaust on trial, and others were tried too.


Disqualification of the perpetrators, of their agents or of other willing participants, is a second way to address the question. The idea being, those who have acted against the people or have collaborated, forfeited some of their rights, including political and civil rights, sometimes disqualification accompanies a criminal conviction, as occurred in post-war Belgium, France, and The Netherlands. These countries also introduced some form of `national indignity', which implied a series of civic disqualifications and a prohibition of some kinds of professional activity. In other instances, as in most of the post-communist countries of East and Central Europe, disqualification has been preferred as a way to sidestep criminal prosecution.


Post-genocide traumatized society often has to make a dichotomous choice between two perilous options, should the perpetrators be prosecuted or should they be amnestied in the interests of national reconciliation? For purely politically motivated crimes, granting of unconditional amnesty could be an option. In some instances, the outgoing government unilaterally award themselves self-amnesty. In other instances impunity, is the outcome of negotiations between old and new leaders.

Amnesty endangers the inculcation of codes of conduct based on rule of law. It is discriminatory application of criminal law, privileging certain defendants, which bread cynicism toward the rule of law. Moreover, States have the duty to prosecute violations of international law like genocide. Such crimes cannot be unilaterally forgiven; even a victim society cannot forgive crimes against humanity.

Truth Commission:

Amnesty, but not amnesia, is the substance of the fourth strategy. The first goal of such a commission is to investigate the fates, under the occupying regime, of individuals and of the nation as a whole. A truth telling operation, including full disclosure of human rights abuses, ensure that "the facts" are not forgotten but remain alive in the memory.

The perpetrators come out openly, reveal all the facts and face the victims publicly and see the results of their actions. Recent examples are the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (1990), the United Nations sponsored Truth Commission in El Salvador and ongoing Truth Commission in South Africa. However, for some, general knowledge of the truth is not enough. An official recognition of the injustices that have been suffered is necessary.


For the families of victims and survivors, compensation serves as immediate public recognition of their pain and trauma. The most concrete form of reparation is monetary compensation. Financial constraints may not permit large-scale payments, but it is still important to provide financial compensation to the victim family either individually or the whole community. Examples are abound, Germany's reparation to Jews and Israel, Japan's to Korea.

Permanent Reminders:

Establishment of permanent reminders of the past, such as monuments, museums, public holidays, and ceremonies together with support group, provide a channel of non-violent _expression of pain, frustration and anger.

Public Airing Of Grievances:

The public airing of grievances in a non-criminal context could possibly promote an atmosphere in which some kind of national reconciliation would be feasible. Publicly acknowledging the torment and suffering of victims and survivors can help in the recovery of their social and political well being as it helps them psychologically and contributes to defusing potential cycles of revenge and victimization.


It is very important to establish a permanent historical record that would inform and educate future generations to prevent similar atrocities. Future generations must be taught about the dangers of repeating the past.

Thus, documentation of genocide and identification of the violators in some kind of public record at the national or at the international should be done. Oral histories of survivors and other witnesses can be collected. Testimonies of perpetrators and their superiors can be recorded. Findings of the Commissions, trial transcripts, or the perpetrators own documentations should be published.

Voices Of The Victims:

Another avenue of redress could be forums with opportunities for survivors in communicating their stories. First hand testimonies of survivors could be incorporated into programs in military and police courses, medical and law schools. Similarly, they could be invited to lecture in primary and secondary schools, in history and social studies classes, and in university in various relevant courses. In press and broadcasting, victims perspectives are particularly pertinent.

Bangladesh: Botched Strategies

Bangladesh had to deal with the aftermath of genocide soon after the perpetrator's defeat. It became an inescapable task for the new democracy. The incidents of private revenges began to be noticed, and the state quite rightly made choices to prosecute the perpetrators and the collaborators.

It was expected that by applying the law firmly and fairly, the state will avoid vigilantism. But the new government, it transpires, did not have a well thought out strategy to deal with the post-genocide society. In Bangladesh, the genocide was carried out by the Pakistani government and its army, alongside the war of occupation. In Pakistan, the leadership and the elites, mostly migrated from India, were essentially racist, held "superior race" view vis-à-vis Bangladeshis. This was epitomized by General Ayub Khan, when, as early as 1954, he jotted down his thoughts that Bangalees "have all the inhibitions of down-trodden races and have not yet found it possible to adjust psychologically to the requirements of the new-born freedom." (Mohammad Ayub Khan, Friends No Masters: A Political Biography, 1967, page 187).

Pakistani leadership mixed racial chauvinism with religion, and the resultant cocktail was the basis of genocide. The politics just triggered off the genocide mechanism. Pakistanis were led to believe both by their political and religious leaders, about the "imported" nature of Islam in their part of Pakistan and as such "purer" than "converted" Bangladesh Muslims from lower caste Hindus.

In 1970, when the people of Bangladesh overwhelmingly voted for virtual autonomy to run their own affair and not to remain a market for overpriced Pakistani products and source of capital for Pakistan's development, Pakistani military and political elites jointly drew-up two plans, firstly, to unleash unimaginable terror, killings and destructions, to cow the people and then to "cleanse East Pakistan once and for all of the threat of secession" and planned to "kill off two million people and ruling the province as a colony for 30 years." The combination of racial hate, religion and politico-economic interests converged and formed classic background for a genocide. Hitler too believed Jews to be `unclean' plague and threat to German Aryan race. He was weary of Jews growing hold over economy who conspire against Germany. Pakistanis too never trusted Bangalees where it mattered most, in power. Bangalees fought back, first, in defense and then to get the country free from Pakistani occupation. The war started and the Pakistanis began a loosing battle. Pakistanis too, on one front, faced the valiant Freedom Fighters, guerrillas and regular sorts and on the other hand, meticulously carried out genocidal plan. The result: total destruction of infrastructure and economy of Bangladesh, ten million people driven out of the country, twenty million people internally displaced, fifteen million houses set ablaze, three hundred thousand women raped and three million killed. The new government, within six weeks of victory, introduced laws, the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972 (P.O.No.8 of 1972), to deal with the collaborators who had "participated with or aided or abetted the occupation army in maintaining, sustaining, strengthening, supporting or furthering the illegal occupation of Bangladesh by such army." The Collaborators Order did not contain punishment for planning or organizing genocide, which took over a year and half to produce.

In July,1973, the parliament passed the International Crimes Act (Tribunals) Act,1973 (Act No. XIX of 1973) to provide for detention, prosecution and punishment for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law. The Act was to set-up a Tribunal with power "to try and punish any person irrespective of his nationality who, being a member of any armed, defense and auxiliary forces commits or has committed, in the territory of Bangladesh, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, genocide and war crimes, whether before or after the commencement of this Act." The law, at last, provided forums to prosecute the principal perpetrators and planners of genocide, the army and the members of paramilitary organizations like, the Razakars, Al-Badars, Al-Shams etc.

Thus, the government chose to put the collaborators, mainly the local people, who participated or aided the occupation army in maintaining illegal occupation, on trial first, instead of the principal planners and perpetrators of genocide. A number of them were picked up and faced the Special Tribunals. However, in November, 1973 the government decided to release, under an amnesty order, all those held and convicted under the Collaborators Order for national reconciliation. The amnesty was massively misconstrued and widely abused. In the end, all the collaborators of genocide were freed.

As the later events showed, not a single individual was finally prosecuted and tried for genocide in Bangladesh. The new elites this botched strategy of criminal prosecution for genocide failed. It did not do any justice to the victims who died, did not satisfy people like Ms. Farida Banu, immediate families of the victims. Finally, it failed to generate any reconciliation between the perpetrators and the victims because the government acted alone in deciding the strategy and then granting amnesty.

The victim families and the nation at large was not consulted in any manner. The high principles of rule of law was sacrificed. Questions began cropping up, if one was not punished for crime like genocide of three million, then what crime merited punishment?

Secondly, Bangladesh also tried "disqualification" strategy again not in any cohesive manner. Disqualification was not to be a part of criminal prosecution as there were not much prosecution to start with. Even disqualification was not practiced independently of criminal prosecution.

As such, the collaborators did not forfeit any civil or political rights despite their collaboration. No one was disqualified from exercising civil and political rights in a new country whose birth they opposed in participating in genocide.

The government, instead, prohibited politics based on religion. Article 12 of the newly adopted Constitution declared: "The principle of secularism shall be realized by elimination of (a) communalism in all its forms; (b) the granting by the State of political status in favor of any religion; (c) the abuse of religion for political purposes; (d) any discrimination against, or persecution of, persons practicing a particular religion." However, Article 12 of the Constitution of Bangladesh containing fundamental state principles of secularism was removed by General Ziaur Rahman through Martial Law Proclamation Order No. I of 1977.

Thus, however commendable, this strategy to deal with genocide failed too. Government's compensation scheme for the victim families has not worked either nor other attempts of reconciliation, rather the fault-line has expanded to divide the society right in the middle.

Ways Ahead:

Finally, Bangladesh must now devise appropriate strategy to deal with the past from various alternatives. The worst solution would be to try to ignore the problem; the cost of cover-up are simply too big as the last twenty-six years have demonstrated. But the leaders should never forget that the lack of political pressure to put these issues on the agenda does not mean that they are not boiling underground, waiting to erupt. They will come back to haunt. There are some who believe economic development will be the panacea. They are wrong. Developed countries like Germany, France, Germany are still struggling to come to term with the past despite building affluent societies. Social harmony, peace and human rights are necessary ingredients for human and economic development and without justice, there cannot be harmony, piece and human rights.

Reconciliation is seen as a crucial prerequisite for the consolidation of a young democracy. To some analysts, reconciliation can only be produced if the successor elite refrain from prosecuting the previous regime. Others, however, argue that impunity precludes the coming of reconciliation. In Bangladesh, lack of prosecution has failed to bring reconciliation or the strengthening of democracy.

In post-genocide Bangladesh, the religious fanaticism, extremism and fundamentalism have made solid inroad into the society. Successive governments have, for political convenience, compromised and on occasions cajoled Islamic fanatics. The Collaborators, even after amnesty, continued activities to throttle down the spirits of liberation, which has given rise to demands for new laws to curb the activities of Islamic fundamentalist and communal elements. These Islamic parties propagate same brand of Islam which resulted in genocide in 1971, the communal, sexist, hate and violence.

Hence, for justice and reconciliation, some prosecutions must go ahead. No new laws, however, are required. The Collaborators Order, though has since been repealed, the International Crimes Act,1973 still remains a valid law. The Act is a complete law in itself. It provides setting-up a Tribunal to try four specific offenses, namely, crimes against humanity and peace, genocide and war crime; with provisions for prosecution, investigation, procedure of trial and appeal. Under Section 21, a person convicted and sentenced shall can appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Under the Act, those who were members of the auxiliary forces in 1971, either structured or shadowy, should be investigated and then brought to justice. People like Mueen Uddin should be tried under International Crimes (Tribunals) Act,1973 for genocide and not under the conventional penal law. These people are not the usual criminals, but, planners and executioners of genocide and should, therefore, be punished for committing genocide. The investigators have reportedly said, they would try to deal with the killings of all the intellectuals as all of them were killed under the same blueprint by the same group. The blueprint was that of genocide and as such, the investigators should press charges under the International War Crimes Act.

Successive governments have also failed to obtain any reparation from Pakistan for genocide and destruction caused in 1971. No Pakistani leader has yet offered any apology to the people of Bangladesh. Even the Queen of The Netherlands has recently apologized to the people of Indonesia for the atrocities committed during the colonial period. So also the Japanese king and the President of Germany. Instead, the average Pakistanis are still being fed with concocted history. Few Pakistanis have any idea how their best army, composed of martial races, lost to ragtag irregular Freedom Fighters and to inferior Indian forces. The modern technology has offered us the opportunity to put our side of the story directly to Pakistani people via Internet, and create opinion based on true facts. Pakistani government is, under international law, obliged to try the war criminals and perpetrators of genocide, besides payments of compensation.

In 1971, the genocide, which was carried out while the war was on, also has international ramifications. The government of the United States of America was at the time helping the genocidal regime of Yahya Khan. It is, therefore, necessary to find out more of the official role of the United States government to determine how much US government was aware of genocidal plans and what, if any, was done to stop it. In this regard, a campaign for a US Congress hearing, in line with the Cambodian hearing, should be launched and the members of the Bangladesh community in United States could take lead in this matter.

As already observed, in Bangladesh, the liberation war and genocide have often been equated, though both occurred pari passu, liberation war and genocide were separate events. The fallen heroes of the liberation war are rightly honored when the nation ceremonially pays its respect on Independence and Victory days, but, three million victims of genocide are not remembered in the same fashion on a given day.

A day, on the other hand, is observed as "Buddhijibi Hotta Dibosh" in December to mark the killings of the intellectuals, which could easily be expanded to include all the victims of genocide and the day could be observed instead as "Gonohotta Dibosh," as a remembrance day of all the genocide victims. In fact, killings of the intellectuals was the final chapter of Pakistani genocidal plan to deprive the nation of its finest brains and thus, it became a total genocide.

When a regime ends violently because of war against an occupying army or a civil war or genocide, anomia is inescapable. But the duty of the successor government is to strike a balance and draw up the strategy that delivers justice. #

First published in the News From Bangladesh, October 27, 1997

Barrister Zia U. Ahmed is a faculty member in the Dept. of Jurisprudence at Catholic University, Brussels, Belgium. He manages Bangladesh Centre for Genocide Studies in Brussels and could be reached at