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Price of authoritative arrogance becomes too exorbitant

M. Shahidul Islam

As they say war is the continuation of politics through other means, as is in diplomacy. The best of warriors have never abandoned the diplomatic track in the manner our two ‘warring women’ are doing. Even Napoleon Bonaparte signed treaty of Tilsit with Russia in 1807 in order to free his hands to wage a war against Britain. If Bangladesh must move ahead with a vision to emerge as a global player, it can ill afford to allow its internal politics to be guided by conspiratorial designs and consensus-devoid governance.

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M. Shahidul Islam

As they say war is the continuation of politics through other means, as is in diplomacy. The best of warriors have never abandoned the diplomatic track in the manner our two ‘warring women’ are doing. Even Napoleon Bonaparte signed treaty of Tilsit with Russia in 1807 in order to free his hands to wage a war against Britain. If Bangladesh must move ahead with a vision to emerge as a global player, it can ill afford to allow its internal politics to be guided by conspiratorial designs and consensus-devoid governance.

The reality, however, is of an internecine conflict devouring the nation gradually. Today, the air of the nation is poisoned by stenches of corpses stemming from petrol bomb attacks to indiscriminate shooting by the law enforcers under the incredulous logic of gun battles when the victims are never found with guns.
Amidst this reign of terror, the debate among the partisan intelligentsia is who is to blame. If apportionment of the blame is the first undertaking and the single prerequisite to compelling the government to sit for a dialogue with the aggrieved 20 party opposition compact, the causes and effects of each and every event must be taken into their deserved perspectives to point the right fingers of blaming to the people that be.

How did we reach this pass?
An election in which only six out of forty or so registered parties partook; in which not even the independents ventured to joining the race in majority of the seats (154 in total) due to the prescience that the outcome had already been determined; and, the percentage of voter turnout not crossing the ten percent threshold is a sheer nonsense to sell to the people as the writ to govern by any political party of substance.
Meanwhile, whether an election does contain the panacea for the ills facing the nation has also attained a trajectory not seen earlier. As well, election under who, when and how are thorny issues that will take time to sort out. Suffice for now is to remember that the two major political parties (BNP & AL) and their motley allies had agreed in late 1990 to shun autocratic rules and tread the path of pluralistic democracy by holding elections in the future under a non-party caretaker regime.
Things were fine until June 30, 2011 when the AL-dominated Parliament passed the 15th amendment to the constitution and removed the care taker provision along with deleting the right of the people to render their voices on thorny national issues through referendum. This was followed by gauging all sorts of dissents from the opposition and the neutral camps against what proved to be a grand scheme by the incumbent regime to monopolize election in the manners autocratic regimes often do.

Blockades, concomitant anarchy
However, here we’re now, after nearly two months’ of incessant blockade and concomitant anarchy. These by gone days have been marred by petrol bombing and so called cross-fire shooting by police on one hand, and, deliberate propaganda hype by the government that the BNP is a terroristic outfit. The government should allow free holding of voting first to see if BNP needs bombs or ballots to go to power before making such detestable and derogatory remarks about a party that had been in power four times in four decades (including President Zia’s regime)
Finally, an exposure by an intelligence outfit to selective media outlets that a political iconoclast named Mahmudur Rahman Manna had conspired over phone with BNP leader Sadek Hossain Khoka (who has been in New York for long for treatment) to destabilize Dhaka University campus to upstage the government is just the latest throw of the dice by a wobbly regime that seems to have lost its last vestige of composure, consistency and context to govern sanely.
Mr. Manna, who declared lately to be a contestant in the upcoming Dhaka city corporation election, is also alleged to have talked to another expatriate Bangladeshi about opening a dialogue with the army’s top brass. The exposure had intentionally abstained from naming the alleged expat interlocutor who would help open the channel with the army for a dialogue by Mr. Manna, hence his (interlocutor’s) credibility or worthiness for the mission cannot be assessed.
But, these days, authenticity of anything is not what is rocking the political landscape. Everything is based on faux pas, bluster, and mendacity. The Prime Minister had already quipped on the allegations by saying: “BNP leader is looking at uttar para (cantonment) to whisk her to power through unconstitutional means.” The PM reiterated that the punishment for such unconstitutional move is death penalty; as if the people did not know that in a country where coups and counter-coups have been more rampant than monsoon rainfall.

What’s the agenda?
Worst still, the naivety of the PM came closer to absurdity when she said:  “The constitution bars such unconstitutional move.” When, if ever, did the constitution allow a military takeover in any country, madam PM? The very name coup de’tat came from the transliteration: cut the state.
A military regime’s legality, if any, is derived from the doctrine of necessity, as the PM rightly said in 2008 that then military-backed regime of Moeen Uddin and Fakhruddin was the fruit of her party’s agitation against the BNP-led regime. From a more generic- legalistic- parlance, martial laws have been part of the common laws for centuries due to their rampant uses in many countries, including in France, Japan and Italy. The question of constitutionalism turns moot upon declaration of martial law as it suspends the constitution and related rules under a set of edicts that is immune from challenges and may be retroactively accorded the deserved validity upon reversion to democracy.
These are not pep talk as the PM’s utterances are. These agendas are being driven by facts that, the country is sitting on a political volcano as more and more of the opposition political activists are heading underground. At least six bullet-ridden corpses were found on Monday last in Dhaka and Jhenaidah while this piece was being composed. Besides, hundreds of bullet-struck youths are languishing in many hospitals and clinics across the country. Nearly 100 had died of patrol-bomb-burning while 100s others are struggling with their lives. Police killed over 85 in 50 days and arrested over 6,000 across the country. The economy is edging towards a cliff while the psychology of the entire nation is plagued by unabated fear, anger and repulsion.

Nation faces perilous politics
As the historic Peelkhana mutiny day is being observed,   one must remember how the PM and her hand-picked nominees sat for dialogue with the rebelling BDR soldiers at the PM’s own residence at the very moments the killings were in progress on February 25, 2009. Without even asking first whether they’d killed any officer, the PM chose to grant the mutineers a general amnesty while the country’s military chiefs were kept preoccupied at PM’s residence to prevent them from making a self-defense move to quell the mutiny. Six years on, the same PM now finds the BNP more terroristic than the marauding mutineers who had killed 57 of their officers in cold blood, raped their daughters and wives, and, chopped off the bodies of many victims into numerous pieces.
That is why, we insist on the right perspective to guide us through this maze of this perilous politicking facing the nation. A mindset that cannot accommodate into or differentiate between what is better and worse for the national interest is not worthy of the patriotic accolades it seeks fervently. Nor the leadership is about how stubborn one is when that stubbornness is found not to be grounded in firm reasoning.
Author had researched and written extensively on military interventions in Bangladesh politics. Among many of his acclaimed books, the Politics of Soldiers (1988) and the Strategic issues in Bangladesh Politics (1996) dealt exclusively with military interventions of the 1970s and the 80s.


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Bravado in the face of international censure

Sadeq Khan

On  Feb. 23, 2015, The Wall Street Journal in its OPINION column remarked on the Bangladesh situation essentially as follows: “More than 100 Bangladeshis have been killed in political violence since last month, mostly through petrol-bombing of commuter buses and three-wheeler motorized rickshaws. These attacks come amid a nationwide industry and transportation shutdown called by the out-of-power Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

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Sadeq Khan

On  Feb. 23, 2015, The Wall Street Journal in its OPINION column remarked on the Bangladesh situation essentially as follows: “More than 100 Bangladeshis have been killed in political violence since last month, mostly through petrol-bombing of commuter buses and three-wheeler motorized rickshaws. These attacks come amid a nationwide industry and transportation shutdown called by the out-of-power Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

“For a mainstream party to resort to insurgent violence is a striking departure from the conventions of political protest in the region. In the past, Bangladeshi political clashes mostly took place at designated times and places of political action ­ large processions or meetings, for example ­ and most victims were political cadres or police.

AL’s strong-arm tactics
“BNP supporters argue that the ruling Awami League’s strong-arm tactics have forced them to resort to extreme methods. BNP leaders have seen indictments pile up against them while Awami League stalwarts have enjoyed exonerations aplenty. Mass arrests since January run into the thousands. More terrifying, BNP and Jamaat activists have faced an estimated three dozen extrajudicial killings since the onset of their movement seven weeks ago.
“The Awami League feels that foreign observers and domestic voters are too forgiving of BNP-linked violence, including the bomb attacks that killed top Awami leaders when the BNP was last in office. Awami officials further feel that they don’t get enough credit for their record of development or their commitment to secularism and counterterrorism.
“But in a democracy there is ultimately only one way to win that argument: free and fair elections.”
Despite the impugned status of the largely boycotted general election in January 2014, on the strength of which the present government of Bangladesh continues in power, the ruling coterie was only chastised by the West but allowed to run ‘business as usual’ over the last year. So did the mainstream opposition except for mass mobilisations and protest actions from time to time, in the expectation of a dialogue for fresh elections to regularise the “illegitimacy” of the fake election process of 2014 January polls. The incumbents in power chose to celebrate the anniversary of that election by employing the coercive power of the state all-holds-barred with intent to wipe out opposition capacity for public expression and public assembly.
On January 5, 2015, they held captive behind locked gate and police cordon the leader of the mainstream opposition in her office, preventing her from addressing a public rally in the capital city, and unleashing state terror against her following by random arrests, shoot-at-sight orders and “crossfire” encounters.

Elimination of dissent mounts
Attrition of heaps of criminal cases and trumped-up charges filed in courts liberty of people saying ‘peace and stability not at the cost of liberty.’
Meanwhile, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and US secretary of state John Kerry have also urged the government to respect human rights and public liberty and give democratic space to the opposition. They also asked both the ruling party and the opposition to resolve the ongoing crisis through dialogue.
The leaders made the points in separate meetings with Bangladesh foreign minister Mahmood Ali last week when he went on a visit to Washington to attend an international conference on global terrorism.
But the latest situation as it is unfolding on daily basis only shows the government is keeping totally defiant and going more on the hard line to crush the opposition parties’ movement seeking a fresh inclusive election to end the legitimacy question of the last year’s January 5 election.

Khaleda’s arrest on card
The Prime Minister had agreed to hold a mid-term election during 2014 polls but it appears she has changed her position and appears determined to crush the struggle for an election by using excessive police force and trump up court cases against the opposition leaders.
Clearly, the country is now moving towards a deeper crisis and most observers fear that if the government arrests BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia responding to a court order issued on February 25, the nation may be overtaken by deeper and widespread violence.
BNP has already warned of the consequences in a statement following the court orders asking the government to stop repression on the opposition leaders and workers and drop the scheme of arresting the party chief.
In a statement BNP joint Secretary General and its spokesman Salahuddin Ahmed said the government must stop thinking that it can crush the will of the people and asked the ruling party to keep its promise and hold fresh election to bring stability in the country. He said BNP and the major opposition has elaborate programme in absence of Begum Zia and instructions have already been circulated to party’s local leadership how to carry on the torch of the democracy movement to the end.
Meanwhile, police appears to have become reckless in shooting down young people on suspicion of carrying petrol bombs and arson attacks in roads, highways and city streets. Most people believe that it may be part of a plan to create panic within the opposition camp and prevent them from coming out.


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Call for Bangladesh and West Bengal to unite!

M. Serajul Islam

The visit of Mamata Banarjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, was billed as a very important one in the Bangladesh media. The media described the visit as such as it expected that it would facilitate and lead to, first, India ratifying the land boundary agreement (LBA) and second, signing the agreement for the sharing of the water of the Teesta. In the end, Bangladesh got one more round of promises but no guarantee as when Bangladesh’s waiting and hoping for these two illusive deals would end.

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M. Serajul Islam

The visit of Mamata Banarjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, was billed as a very important one in the Bangladesh media. The media described the visit as such as it expected that it would facilitate and lead to, first, India ratifying the land boundary agreement (LBA) and second, signing the agreement for the sharing of the water of the Teesta. In the end, Bangladesh got one more round of promises but no guarantee as when Bangladesh’s waiting and hoping for these two illusive deals would end.

Of course, no one inquired that Mamata Banerjee as Chief Minister of an Indian state and that too, none too powerful, does not have the power politically or under the Indian Constitution to stop the central government to conclude the two deals with Bangladesh if the latter sincerely wanted to. True, water is a provincial subject in the Indian Constitution but only in case of conflicts between and among the states. However, in case of distribution of water of an Indian river that runs across its international border, then it is the Centre that has the authority to decide the sharing of such a river unilaterally under powers entrusted to it by the Constitution to maintain foreign relations. States may be consulted in sharing water of an international river but that is not mandatorybecause states have no constitutional authority to stop the Centre from reaching agreement with another country on an international river.

Mamata blackmailed Manmohan in ’11
Mamata Banerjee nevertheless had stopped the Centre from signing the deal with Bangladesh on the Teesta. She was able to do so because she had the political handle over the Congress led UPA Government of the time. She could then with the 20 seats that her party the Trinamool had in Lok Sabha bring down the  Congress led UPA coalition in which her party was a partner if she had wanted. Mamata Banarjee also used the same political trick to stop the ratification of the LBA. Mamata Banarjee thus used political blackmail to extract political advantage that the Congress led UPA Government was in no position to ignore.
Mamata Banarjee’s political blackmail had embarrassed the Congress led UPA government that had taken great advantages from the AL Led government in terms of India’s critical security interests. It was also greatly disadvantaged by what Mamata Banarjee did because had she not only stopped the two deals, she also forced Bangladesh to deny in retaliation giving India the land transit on a permanent basis that with its security are two of India’s main interests in Bangladesh. The Congress led government conveniently placed the blame for the failure to hand the deals to Bangladesh on Mamata Banarjee and gave Bangladesh the misconception that its hands were tied because the Constitution was in her favour. Mamata Banarjee’s ability to blackmail the Centre has been now reduced to zero because of dramatic changes in New Delhi. Thus on her visit to Bangladesh, she was all smiles and expressed love and affection for Bangladesh banking on the shortness of the memory its people. She banked correctly and her hosts went into denial about her role in 2011. Cultural giants from Bangladesh joined the cultural giants she brought with her and the two sides sang and made merry.

Mamata’s useless promises
Her hosts failed to remember that her anti-Bangladesh role in 2011 had derailed Bangladesh-India relations from a paradigm shift for the betterment of both the countries and their peoples that would have allowed the Awami League to face the opposition since 2011 leading to the January 5 elections politically much more confident than it did. New Delhi’s failure to deny the deals, thanks to Mamata, was a factor that had weakened AL leading to the January 5 elections
Mamata Banarjee talked about the Teesta and LBA deals in the midst of the fun and frolic with the cultural activists of the country. She talked with them in a manner like the key to the two deals is with her. She asked Bangladesh to have faith in her on Teesta and she said that on the LBA, she had withdrawn her earlier objection. She also offered to become the bridge between Dhaka and New Delhi not just for the two deals but also for the host of other thorny issues in Bangladesh-India relations. She met the President and the Prime Minister.The Foreign Minister who had invited the Chief Minister for reasons of protocol was unable to host the tea party for her and the Finance Minister took his place.Mamata Banarjee assured the Prime Minister that the Teesta agreement would be signed “soon” and the LBA would be ratified “this month”. She made similar assurances to the President.
Assessments in the Bangladesh on Mamata Banarjee’s visit have been positive. A leading English daily’s editorial view that it will pave for warmer ties with India. These assessments have been grossly misplaced. In making the assessments, they have failed to be critical of her anti-Bangladesh stance of 2011 for her own political benefits; the reasons behind her present 180 degree swing for Bangladesh and whether she has any political weight in New Delhi to make the promises she made to Bangladesh during her visit.

A bad investment hosting Mamata
Today the BJP is in power with a massive mandate that it won in the May 2014 elections that makes Mamata Banarjee and her Trinamool of no importance in national politics. Furthermore, the Indian Constitution gives the Centre enough powers to dominate the states. In fact, constitutionally India is a quasi-federation where the Centre with its power over finance and other critical areas of governance can literally dictate terms with the states at will. The quasi-federal nature of India changed with the emergence of regional parties when, first, the Congress’ hold over India as “one party democracy” disintegrated in the late 1960s and 1970s and, second, when small and regional parties started to play role in forming coalition governments in the Centre. Thus for the last two decades or more, India has had coalition governments at the Centre where the mainstream national parties, the Congress and the BJP, has had to depend on regional parties to go to power.
That situation no longer exists in New Delhi, not at the moment at least. Therefore whether Bangladesh gets or does not get the two deals depends 100% on Narendra Modi where Mamata Banarjee is not even a small factor. The 20 Trinamool Lok Sabha seats that have given Mamata Banarjee a stranglehold on the weak Congress led UPA Government have now increased to 34 but against the BJP’s massive majority in the current Lok Sabha, these are useless. Therefore the Bangladesh Government can do itself a favour and forget whatever Mamata Banarjee promised and consider it’s hosting the West Bengal Chief Minister and her large entourage a bad investment.

Mamata, Delhi & many questions
Mamata Banarjee came to Bangladesh fishing for a strategy to deal with the Centre and Bangladesh, under misplaced expectations about her ability to get it the two deals, gave her that opportunity. Not too long ago, she came under the wrath and the spanner of New Delhi for dilly-dallying with the Islamic fundamentalists of Bangladesh. Under New Delhi’s pressure, she was forced to leave out Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha parliamentarian Ahmed Hasan Imran who was the Trinamool politician at the center of the allegation from her entourage for the Dhaka visit. One of her entourage members Shivaji Panja was arrested from Kolkata Airport on instruction of Delhi Police for “economic crime” and is now being grilled. These facts underlined that to New Delhi she is not just a lightweight at the moment but  the Bangladesh Government gave her such a red carpet treatment and wasted public money.
The hair raising incident of the Chief Minister’svisit came when a film actor and director and a member in her entourage named in the media as Dev only (apparently because he is famous by that name and not Deepak Adhikari as he was born) appealed to the Governments of India and Bangladesh to take necessary steps to unite West Bengal and Bangladesh! It was unbelievable that a guest invited to Bangladesh, a country for whose independence millions had sacrificed their lives would have the audacity or the stupidity or a mixture of both to suggest that Bangladesh should unite with West Bengal and become a part of India and no Bangladeshi from among the audience said anything about this atrocious appeal. Mind you there were many individuals in the event, the organizers, who claim for themselves to be the flag bearers of the spirit of 1971 and question at will everybody else’s patriotism.What was more absurd was that the mainstream media went into denial over this atrocious incident that surely made the spirits of the martyrs of 1971 cry out in anguish.

Seek apology from Mamata 
The actor Dev’s appeal went viral on the social media. Comments posted there put to shame the mainstream media and the Bangladeshis in whose midst the appeal was made. The social media offered Mamata Banarjee to join Bangladesh for the taste of freedom and independence that her state does not enjoy. On a serious note, if Mamata Banarjee was not being hypocritical about her change of heart for Bangladesh, she should immediately close down the factories that produce phensydyl in her State that are smuggled to Bangladesh and is now a major problem for the country, particularly its youth. She should also take up with New Delhi the issue of innocent Bangladeshis who are gunned down regularly by the BSF in the West Bengal-Bangladesh border. And since she had said that the two sides of the former Bengal are one in spirit to her, she should take up with New Delhi to bring down the “tar kata” on the Bangladesh-India border that unfairly tarnishes the image of Bangladesh.
Post script: Actor Dev, Mamata Banarjee, her entourage and the “patriotic” Bangladeshis who were present to hear Dev’s appeal need a crash course in history; about the Partition of Bengal and West Bengal’s anti-Muslim role in its annulment; about the war of liberation of 1971 when for the country’s sovereignty and independence, millions became martyrs. The Government of Bangladesh should seek an apology from Mamata Banarjee for Dev’s atrocious call.
The writer is a former career Ambassador and his contact is: ambserajulislam@gmail.comambserajulislam@gmail.com


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Manna’s comments: An eruption of JSD indoctrination

Mohammad Ali Sattar

Now we have an incident in hand revolving two telephone conversations between the current convener of Nagorik Oikyo, a political activist and a former VP of DUCSU and CUCSU, Mahmudur Rahman Manna and BNP leader Sadeq Hossain Khoka (now in USA), and  also between Manna and an unknown individual.
If telephone discussions are anything to go by, we have many such talks taking place every day. We only come to know of those that are revealed by the government sources or media.

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Mohammad Ali Sattar

Now we have an incident in hand revolving two telephone conversations between the current convener of Nagorik Oikyo, a political activist and a former VP of DUCSU and CUCSU, Mahmudur Rahman Manna and BNP leader Sadeq Hossain Khoka (now in USA), and  also between Manna and an unknown individual.
If telephone discussions are anything to go by, we have many such talks taking place every day. We only come to know of those that are revealed by the government sources or media.

In Bangladesh, we have had conversation between a judge of the International Crimes Tribunal and his lawyer friend living abroad. The honorable judge sought his advice on some issues relating to judgment of a case in ICT. This also raised many eyebrows.

A natural thing to happen
The media person who took initiative to exposé the news of this conversation had to land in jail on many other allegations that came up against him. But his sole offense was he leaked the news of this conversation.
We shall have many such breaking news of appalling conversations in future also. So the Manna-Khoka conversation, at this point in time, was a natural thing to happen.
The mystery and the mind boggling part is the statement of Mahmudur Rahman Manna. His long political career, the changing roles, his varied statements and his sophisticated newspaper columns had created a positive image for himself.
His successful stint as a student leader made him a revered person and he later graduated into a national leader. He was on the left pole, and then found himself on the right. His variable roles sometime made him contentious. He was also found wanting in deciding his unchanging objective.
Later when he disassociated himself from the Awami League he chose to be in the middle path, trying to transform his image into rather neutral and an intellectual person with high thinking ideology.
But things lacked in him from the very beginning - a firebrand student leader starting his career under a firebrand banner with ‘left ‘indoctrination. So there has been some sort of concoction within him from the very beginning. He showed signs of ‘indecisions’ during his entire mature career.
However, coming back to the latest conversation between Sadeq Hossain Khoka and Manna, it has been a one sided affair. We hardly heard anything from Khoka.
Rather what we heard was expression of concern by Khoka regarding the current situation and the ineffective movements of BNP and the opposition. Khoka was heard suggesting new means of movement if necessary.

An intriguing affair
Manna did most of the talking. He tried to point out almost all the areas and possibilities of the opposition movements, the TV talk shows and the impressive speakers, suggestions of capturing of student halls of Dhaka University, the callous suggestions of expecting a few lost lives during this struggle on the campus, and his chances of meeting army personnel to win their support in strengthening the antigovernment movement- – all these made the tête-à-tête an intriguing affair.
While the entire part of the talk by Manna wasn’t very serious the fraction that irked everyone was the hint of ‘losing of lives ‘ on the campus and the possible entente with army officers in future actions of the opposition movements.
These remarks stirred the government which sees this as a matter of immense apprehension.
Not only did Manna put himself in a soup, he has, through his statement embarrassed many along the line. Those unsuspecting individuals, who wanted to put up a neutral face and attempted to bring about an understanding between the rival political groups, now find themselves in a fix.
The civil society personnel are now at the receiving end. Manna had been a part of the civil group till he and Dr. Kamal Hossain was dropped out of the circuit due to their political hue.
His observations about capturing of DU halls will add to the tension that now prevails in campuses across Bangladesh, especially Dhaka University.
Therefore, his comments and observations made to Sadek Hossain Khoka are likely to have negative impact in our politics and its future course.
People may lose faith in politicians and would hardly be convinced even if one states the truth with all earnestness.
Manna is now in detention and faces sedition charges.  He is on a 10 day police remand. As usual the law will take its own and often long course.
Manna’s image may have taken a drubbing for now. He will have to come up with lots of conclusive logic to secure himself. To me, his latest expressions are only an eruption of early JSD indoctrination.


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People against confrontational politics

Shamsuddin Ahmed

The meaning of democracy is rule of law by those elected by the people for the welfare and progress of the nation. But in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, democracy is everything sans its definition. A survey conducted by UNDP revealed in 2002 democracy in South Asia was getting unpopular because of widespread corruption and inefficiency of politicians. The situation was getting bad to worse.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

The meaning of democracy is rule of law by those elected by the people for the welfare and progress of the nation. But in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, democracy is everything sans its definition. A survey conducted by UNDP revealed in 2002 democracy in South Asia was getting unpopular because of widespread corruption and inefficiency of politicians. The situation was getting bad to worse.

In Bangladesh, the people have been suffering under the whims and caprices of political leaders. Confrontational politics has sadly turned into cruelty. The nation is reeling under continued blockade and hartals for nearly two months. Scores of people have been killed and many wounded in confrontational politics. Secret killing and death in gunfights are reported from different parts of the country every day. People suspected involved in such activities are picked up from home at dead of night by non-uniformed persons. Economy is going downhill. The people are anxiously looking for a template to overcome the crisis.

How to solve the impasse?
Eminent newspaper columnists, TV anchors and civil society have been suggesting reconciliation through dialogues among conflicting parties.  Alternative to peaceful resolution through dialogue is army intervention, which is not unknown in this country and also in some other Asian countries where democracy failed. Famous political historian Charles Dickens had said: If you have a conflict between two parties who are like a wolf and a lamb, you must have a third party in the room, just to make sure that one does not have the other for dinner.
As it is, dialogue to resolve the crisis seems impossible. The ruling party has outright rejected the talks with the opposition. Prestigious British magazine The Economist narrating the situation in Bangladesh wrote on January 10 Hasina (Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina) controls the courts, the security apparatus and the press. She is not interested in compromise and confident she can hang on for four years. On the prospect of army intervention it said: They are kept happy by lucrative UN peace-keeping operations and business deals. Sheikh Selim, front ranking government leader in parliament issuing a stern warning a couple of days ago reminded the constitutional provision of death penalty for those dare to attempt a military coup.
Army coup to restore normalcy and peace is not unknown in Bangladesh. We have had two military coups. The first one was in 1975 in the backdrop of famine and introduction of one-party system.  The second one in 1983, accusing corruption and inefficiency of the government, which many doubt was engineered by an alien force (India) beginning with assassination of President Ziaur Rahman a year ago.

The Thai example
The recent example is Thailand. The army intervened in 2006 and again in May last year when the country was roiling in political confrontation. Shut down Bangkok protesting against the ruling party for several months led to the overthrow of elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Earlier in 2006 elected government of her brother Shinawatra, was overthrown in a bloodless coup, accusing him of corruption and favouritism. Now the Junta says this time they will not return to the barracks before political reforms ensuring rule by men of honesty, integrity, ethics and morality.
Army denies it was a coup.  They intervened to restore peace when democracy has failed in containing confrontational, destructive politics. The junta told democracy loving USA to mind its own business when Washington pressured the army to withdraw, hold early election to return to democracy. But China and Myanmar extended moral and material support to the Thai Army for political reforms.
Finding the pitfalls of democracy in neighbouring countries, Myanmar’s former junta in 1988 cracked down on pro-democracy movement. In tiny Maldives, the first democratically elected President Mohammad Nasheed was quietly overthrown by army-police in 2012. People agitated against Nasheed for his activities against the interest of the country and promoting secularism violating the constitution of the Islamic state where non-Musliams are barred from citizenship. The coup leaders did not care western criticism. They did not come to rule but installed vice president Dr Mohammad Waheed into power.

Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore
What happened in Nepal? Burying the centuries old monarchy the country was made republic in 2006. But deeply divided politicians could not write the constitution of the country in seven years. Two constituent assemblies were democratically elected one after another but the country is still running under the interim arrangements made after overthrowing the monarchy. Disenchanted to western type of democracy and disgusted with atrophied politics the people of Nepal are now seeking return to monarchy for peace and stability. If a referendum is held tomorrow, you will find vast majority will probably vote for return to monarchy, said a senior journalist in Kathmandu.
Malaysia and Singapore have democracy but different from the western type. A banana democracy, former Malaysian strong man prime minister Mahathir Mohammad had sarcastically commented on Westminster type of democracy. Mahathir ruled for about than three decades and is adorned as the builder of modern Malaysia. Lee Kuwan Yew, respected leader of Singapore, held similar view. None in Singapore has the right to hold rally or street procession, incite people to destabilize the country.
In Bangladesh, people are wary of politicians. How long they would endure miseries wrought by confrontational politics?


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Violence on rise as voice of sanity sinks

Faruque Ahmed

When people are demanding more tolerance from the government and opening of dialogue with the opposition to end the ongoing political crisis, the ruling party seemingly made the situation more tense by issuing arrest orders for BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and crush the opposition’s voice.

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Faruque Ahmed

When people are demanding more tolerance from the government and opening of dialogue with the opposition to end the ongoing political crisis, the ruling party seemingly made the situation more tense by issuing arrest orders for BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and crush the opposition’s voice.

The arrest of Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna in a mysterious night time swoop by plain clothes police and the blackout of his whereabouts for the next 48 hours aggravated the situation further. And all these are happening at a time when statesman and elderly citizens at home and abroad are calling for calm and to resolve Bangladesh’s ongoing political crisis through dialogue and giving minimum democratic space to the opposition.

Sen emphasizes on dialogue
But as it appears that the voice of sanity and hands of cruelty are tearing the nation apart forcing the people to pay dearly with their lives in petrol bombs and police fire including night time shoot outs. In all intents Bangladesh is rolling towards the abyss.
Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen last week speaking in the city at a public lecture had laid emphasis on public liberty saying it is equally important as democracy. He said “I don’t believe that liberty has to be cut down for the sake of democracy.”  But he did not clearly explain when both liberty and democracy are missing what the situation may look like.
He also laid emphasis on dialogue to resolve the crisis. In his view ‘there must be discussions on social and democratic failures to devise out ways to fix problems.” Earlier a delegation of the sub-committee of the European Parliament which visited Bangladesh last week to see the human rights situation here also laid similar emphasis on ensuring freedom and ensuring freedom and liberty of people saying ‘peace and stability not at the cost of liberty.’
Meanwhile, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and US secretary of state John Kerry have also urged the government to respect human rights and public liberty anf give democratic space to the opposition. They also asked both the ruling party and the opposition to resolve the ongoing crisis through dialogue.
The leaders made the points in separate meetings with Bangladesh foreign minister Mahmood Ali last week when he went a visit to Washington to attend an international conference on global terrorism.
But the latest situation as it is unfolding on daily basis only shows the government is keeping totally defiant and going more on the hard line to crash the opposition parties’  movement seeking a fresh inclusive election to end the legitimacy question of the last year’s January 5 election. 
The Prime Minister had agreed to hold such a mid-term election at that time but it appears she has moved out of the pledge and rather determined now to end the demand for election using excessive police force and court on opposition parties. 
As the situation suggests the country is now inching the country towards a deeper crisis and most observers fear that a more bloody violence may now hit the nation if the government arrest BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia in response to a court order issued on February 25.
BNP has already warned of the consequences in a statement following the court orders asking the government to stop repression on the opposition leaders and workers and drop the scheme of arresting the party chief.
In a statement BNP joint Secretary General and its spokesman Salahuddin Ahmed said the government must stop thinking that it can crash the will of the people and asked the ruling party to give fresh election to bring peace and stability to the nation. He said BNP and the major opposition has elaborate programme in absence of Begum Zia and instructions have already been circulated to party’s local leadership how to carry on the torch of the democracy movement to the end.  
Meanwhile Amnesty International in its annual report has also denounced torture and disappearance of people in Bangladesh giving a critical picture of bloody human rights violation in the nation.
The country is waiting now to see what may happen with Begum Khaleda Zia. Whether or not she may be finally arrested and put under bar and how and when it may take plac—this is the talk of the town over the past few days.
She is now staying at her Gunshan party office with over 50 party leaders, office staff
and security personnel. They have barbed the high rise wall and balcony of the first floor of the party office to protect the party chief from unknown attacks.
But when the state forces will move on to arrest her how both sides may behave is something observers are keeping on watch. Reports said Begum Zia has said she is ready to face the arrest. But the action may bring further pressure on the government and isolate it from international community.
Meanwhile, the arrest of Mahmudur Rahman Manna on ‘charge of sedition’ for inciting army to act against the government may also create anti-government sentiment in the civil society leaders who were so far keeping on edge from siding one of the feuding camps. Many observers believe the citizens’ initiative to resolve the crisis may be the first casualty of this arrest.
By the time, police appears to have become reckless in shooting on young people on suspicion of carrying petrol bombs and arson attacks in roads, highways and city streets. Most people believe that it may be part of higher alert to create panic in the workers of the opposition camp and stop such violence.
It may be a clear move to bring the violence sooner to en end using the force and the government leaders hinted out that it may take one more month to crash the movement.  People are against violence that may come from either side but what about public liberty and a democratic society free from a repression. Silencing the opposition may not work longer and rather fail to bring peace and stability to the nation at the end. The nation looks forward to return of democratic government whoever it wins.


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Sri Lankan President to visit Pakistan in March

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal in New Delhi

Of late, a lot of diplomatic activity is taking place in South Asia. One hopes diplomacy would bring peace to the region.
In pursuit of his new global diplomatic objective, new Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena, after his visit to India, is going to make his maiden visit to Pakistan in March.

Full Story

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal in New Delhi

Of late, a lot of diplomatic activity is taking place in South Asia. One hopes diplomacy would bring peace to the region.
In pursuit of his new global diplomatic objective, new Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena, after his visit to India, is going to make his maiden visit to Pakistan in March.

Soon after Indo-Lanka nuclear cooperation agreement, now Sirisena aims at Lanka–Pakistan nuclear cooperation deal as well in order to make the SL nuclear policy credible.
Sri Lanka, according to Pakistan sources, will ink civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan in the last week of March. Highly-placed diplomatic sources said the details would be worked out in due process before the visit takes place.

SL President to visit Pakistan, China
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was among the first foreign dignitaries who made a phone call to President Maithripala   Sirisena on his historic victory in polls last month. The prime minister also invited president Sirisena to visit Pakistan which was accepted. Since then the two foreign offices are engaged in making arrangements for the agreed visit.
The News Friday reported that Islamabad had received the schedule proposed by Colombo for the visit of their president to Pakistan and President Sirisena could be here on 31st of March.
Sri Lanka had to sign a deal for nuclear cooperation with Pakistan for civilian purposes under the umbrella of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the last quarter of the last year and for the purpose the then Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksha had planned to visit Pakistan but Islamabad was stranded by the sit-in and the visit couldn’t take place. Sri Lankan high commissioner for Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody, who was commander of Sri Lankan air-force before assuming the diplomatic assignment in Pakistan, had confirmed the plan to visit Pakistan by his former president but that couldn’t materialize.
More for economic reasons rather than nuclear ones, the Sri Lankan president also plans to proceed to China soon after visiting Pakistan as he has already visited New Delhi where he signed an agreement with the Indian government for civil nuclear cooperation. He has also hinted at signing a deal with Pakistan for civilian nuclear cooperation. Diplomatic sources say Sri Lanka is maintaining balance in its ties with important countries of the region as the president would be visiting important regional capitals one after other during the year.
Sources reminded that Sri Lanka and Pakistan are two countries of the region who took lead in signing free trade agreement (FTA) and since then their trade is increasing.

Colombo eyes Chinese rectors
The Sri Lankan president will be accorded a befitting reception on his arrival in Pakistan accompanied by a high level delegation. He will be meeting President Mamnoon Hussain and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif separately while he will be having formal talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also visiting Sri Lanka next month, but no schedule has yet been confirmed by the either sides, though Colombo confirmed the PM Modi visit.
Sri Lanka is keen to initiate its nuclear programme and it is eying the Chinese reactors for the purpose.
Interestingly, India and Sri Lanka have seen an uneasy relationship in recent years due to Indian clandestine interference in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka. New Delhi has been agitating the question of human rights violations in the wake of Sri Lankan battle against terrorists and insurgents who had support from India.
The warming up of Indo-US relations especially in the nuclear sphere is viewed by many as posing a direct threat to the region and its stability while China blames India for initiating the crisis in South Asia. However, it is an accepted fact that nuclear postures by both India and Pakistan have created a deadly flashpoint in the region.
Unless Kashmir issue is resolved amicably and in favor of Kashmiris, the region would remain a danger zones and all SAARC nations are expected to play a proactive role in finding a lasting solution to the vexed problem of South Asia as soon as possible.
Regional peace means stability and prosperity.


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