With the exception of the government of the so-called “largest democracy in the world”, India, where the most hated Modi, instrumental in the murder of many Muslims, is being hyped as the future prime minister; but the hybrid government of Sheikh Hasina — who was not elected by anybody nor even she herself cast her vote and yet made herself the Prime Minister — is being disparaged across the world, while an overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis sneer at her as to how come without a single voter 153 persons became MPs overnight, thus forming “majority” with doting poodle JP as opposition-cum-ruling partner and get legitimacy!
In an article entitled “Hasina heading for one-party rule” Liberal Democrat Peer of UK House of Lords, Lord Avebury said: “The January 5 election was a sham. More than half the seats were uncontested. The result is that today Sheikh Hasina leads a clearly illegitimate executive, heading towards one-party rule. This democratic deficit has now been challenged by Bangladesh’s international partners. The US Ambassador has expressed his dissatisfaction, noting the elections “do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people”. Clearly, there is a simmering wave of discontent and injustice across the country after millions were disenfranchised. This anger cannot simply be wished away”.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Sheiklh Hasina’s government through her extremely politicised administration, police, RAB, other disciplined forces and front organisations like Chhatra League, Juba League etc launched countless brutal attacks on political rallies of the main opposition BNP which won five parliamentary polls and formed government, now headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. True, she and her party leaders have suffered enormously, while thousands of her party workers were persecuted and imprisoned. But her party Âwhich can rightly boast an advisory council of enlightened intellectuals — now seems directionless at a time when the nation badly suffers from political crisis that is destined to bury democracy.
It is incontrovertible that Major Zia did declare the independence over the radio when no other military officer ventured to take such a risky step from Chittagong, which has been respectfully recognised by writers like AMA Muhith and many other eminent people at home and abroad. President Ziaur Rahman was responsible for the rebirth of the Awami League (AL) which was formally banned, along with all other parties, by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself with a view to floating BKSAL’s one-party rule. What is more, subsequently President Zia helped Hasina and her family to honourably return home from India, for which act of empathy she should have been grateful to him. But his son Tarique Zia is arousing one controversy after another by his immature utterances.
Proved to be uncompromising till today since the autocrat Ershad’s regime, Khaleda along with other opposition parties should now launch a peaceful movement to confront Neofascism and defeat it in collaboration with the democratic forces at home and abroad. Her party was rather inert at the time of stock market scam, price spiral of essentials, Hallmark scam, Destiny plunder alongside other matters of public interest. A huge majority of people support Khaleda because they like her principled stand in favour of real democracy, human rights, universal adult franchise, polite temperance as opposed to Hasina’s rude, uncouth and foul-mouthed words. Khaleda should lead and embark upon her democratic movement to fight Neofascism once and for all.
Hasina should understand that India is never a good model as her mentor and guide. Secular writers like M J Akbar, author of Riots after Riots, have without success cautioned the Indian politicos to stop religious riots which have recurred for countless times. In 1947 in the weeks that followed partition, millions of people were displaced and more than 500,000 were killed in riots. A New York Times timeline of anti-Muslim violence in secular India shows how the virulently communal Hindu political leaders win landslide wins. [See www.nytimes. com/ interactive /2014/04/06/ world/ asia/modi-gujarat-riots 287_8514]. Reuters reported on Mar 23, 2007, “Rights groups accuse Modi of doing nothing to stop the religious rioting in which they say about 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, while officials say about 1,000 people died”.
Eminent author Upton Sinclair said: “The fascists cannot argue, so they kill” which explains the nature of fascism. The country is on the verge of fascism, an autocratic political system that controls the politics and economy, in which individual rights are curtailed under totalitarian, authoritarian system that encourages dictatorship, as we see in Bangladesh. Fascists consider national pride and security above all and superiority of a state is of prime importance; but astonishingly, Awami League is devoid of this in that when two human rights activists, the chief of MASUM, Kiriti Roy, accompanied by retired Justice Moloy Sengupta, were ready in 2013 to visit Bangladesh to talk with Felani Khatun’s parents and others to collect evidence and requisite papers required for the public interest litigation. For reasons best known to the Bangladesh government, it refused to grant them visa as Dhaka apparently does not want to pursue the matter.
In sum, Khaleda should lead and undertake people’s democratic movement to fight cold-blooded, brutal Neofascism once and for all and restore democracy.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
The Right-wing Australian Prime Minister arrived in China on 9th April for a three-day visit. He touched down on the resort island of Hainan in the south of China. The visit was described as the toughest leg of his tour because his comments as the opposition leader were highly critical about China. Earlier he visited Japan and South Korea.
At the time, Tony Abbott’s speech caused consternation from Chinese and Australian business leaders, who were concerned about his policy position on foreign investment.
Soon after the Abbot government came to power last September, his government annoyed China by making adverse statements on the establishment of China’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in South China Sea. The move caused a diplomatic ruckus in China. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang called Australian Foreign Minister Ms. Bishop’s statements on the ADIZ ‘irresponsible...China cannot accept them.’ He called on Australia to ‘immediately correct its mistake, so as to avoid damaging China-Australia relations.’
However Abbot made an election commitment in August last year that his government would wrap up regional free trade agreements with Japan, South Korea and China within 12 months of taking office.
Needs China’s cooperation
As Prime Minister, he saw the need of China’s cooperation for Australia’s economic progress. Exports to China helped Australia escape the worst effects of the global economic meltdown over the past years.
Abbott and China’s premier Li Keqiang spoke about the free trade agreement during a meeting on April 9th. Abbott said that he recognised that Chinese state investors behave like “commercial enterprises” and compared them to Japanese and Korean companies that worked closely with their respective governments. “We welcome Chinese investment, we want to offer Chinese investment the same kind of access to Australia that our other free-trade partners do get,” he said.
“I have to say that one of the things that I’ve learned better over the last few years is that Chinese state-owned enterprises are highly commercial operations. They don’t normally operate in the kind of way that a nationalised industry might have operated back in Australia and one of the points that I’ve been reiterating again and again here in China is that no SOE foreign investment application has ever been knocked back.”
The prime minister said major Chinese foreign investments had been approved since last September’s election, including investments by state owned enterprises.
The PM travelled to Shanghai on 10th April ahead of the start of the first Australia Week in China, modelled on the US cultural exchange, where he met with state and territory leaders and the remainder of a 600-strong business delegation to open an Australian expo.
The Chinese would like more scope to invest in Australia without having to run the gauntlet of Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (Firb) scrutiny. The prime minister said when it came to the China free trade talks, the government was “optimistic but not certain of success”.
Tony Abbott has compared his free trade negotiations with China with a World Cup final. Abbott emphasised that he was in China to deepen the friendship, not simply cut a trade deal, but kicking off the Shanghai leg of the trip on 11thApril, Abbott told business leaders there was “extraordinary potential” in the bilateral free trade pact with Beijing.
Sydney: Yuan trading hub?
“It’s a bit like being in the middle of a World Cup grand final – those are the stakes we’re playing for,” Abbott said. “We’ve scored two goals, but it will only be a draw if we don’t score the third goal.“That’s what we’re shooting for – the third goal that will make this a historic win for our country.”
It’s a bit like being in the middle of a World Cup grand final – those are the stakes we’re playing for,” Abbott said. “We’ve scored two goals, but it will only be a draw if we don’t score the third goal. “That’s what we’re shooting for – the third goal that will make this a historic win for our country.”
The soccer analogy references the two other trade pacts the Abbott government tied up before his China’s visit- one in Japan and the other in South Korea. On the Abbott analogy, finalising the China deal would turn a “draw” into a “win”.
The prime minister suggested Australia must lift its game to achieve success in the China FTA undertaking, but he said the onus was also on the Chinese to see the benefits in coming to the table with an agenda to open market access for Australian exporters.
“It is at least as much about them, and what we have to offer them is a much better future. We can give them the resource security, the energy security and above all else, the food security that they rightly crave,” the prime minister said.
He was interested more about an agreement between China and Australia to make Sydney a trading hub for the yuan. The treasurer, Joe Hockey, confirmed that Australia and China reached an in-principle agreement to “enhance offshore market development” of China’s currency.
Boosting trade with China
Arriving in Boao in southern China with 30 Australian CEOs, his Foreign Minister and Trade Minister for an economic forum, the Prime Minister said he would try to accelerate a trade deal with China. He said that Team Australia was in China to help build the Asian Century. China, after all, has taken to heart Deng Xiaoping’s advice that “to get rich is glorious.. And China should be richer still, thanks to Premier Li’s reforms. To be rich is indeed glorious but to be a true friend is sublime.
“The rest of the world is rightly in awe of the way China lifted hundreds of millions of people into the middle class in just a generation. This is the greatest and the quickest advance in human welfare of all time. I am proud that Australian coal, iron ore, gas and services exports have helped to drive this prosperity.”
On 11th April, Tony Abbott has met with Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijing on the penultimate day of his tour of China. Journalists were told the discussions were varied, but it is understood Abbott raised recent regional tensions, which follows his earlier comments that such disputes should be resolved in a peaceful and legal way. He passed the final day of his visit on 12th April sightseeing tour of Beijing.
The purpose of the visit to China by the Australian Prime Minister was firstly to mend its relations with China. Secondly China happens to be the largest trade partner of Australia (bilateral trade $121 billion as of 2011) and if a free trade agreement is executed between Australia-China, it would accrue tremendous economic benefits to Australia at a time when its resources boom has been tapering of.
It will be seen whether the relations have been mended sufficiently if Australia can successfully conclude the free trade agreement in November when Chinese President is scheduled to visit Australia.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
A M K Chowdhury
The Ganajagaran Mancha, a platform of a group of young people was formed at Shahbagh intersection on February 5, 2013 to protest the verdict of life imprisonment handed down by the International Crime Tribunal (ICT) on Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah. Shabagh movement, participated by online activists and bloggers, was favoured by the government. They were provided police protection, food, mobile toilets and other facilities to run their programmes for months together causing untold sufferings to the pedestrians as well as patients of Bangabandhu Medical University Hospital and BIRDEM hospital. The ‘Mancha’ worked like an extremely powerful organisation. When Dr. Imran H Sarker, apparently the main leader and spokesman of the ‘Mancha’, announced for hoisting of national flag the ruling Awami League government followed it.
The ‘Mancha’ leaders prompted the government to review the verdict on Mollah and to sentence him to death.
Reaction of PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Parliament session on 6 February 2013 appreciated the vigorous spirit of the youths. In her speech she assured that the demand of the people would be materialized, as they thought the verdict was unfair. (Vide http:// news. priyo.com /2013/02/06/ shahbag-square -uniti-67105 .html) “If there’s any weakness in the law, we’ll amend it to make the International Crimes Tribunals (ICTs) stronger,” she said. “The ICTs will pronounce verdicts…they’ll give verdicts as per the law, but I’ll request them to consider the expectations of the people also,” the Prime Minister said.
The priyo.com wrote, regarding the public opinion against the war criminals, she said the oath they took on Friday was fully logical and she agreed with it.” Each word of that oath is logical, I fully agree with their oath, we’ll do everything to materialize what you said in the oath,” she told at the Parliament. “My soul is also with them, I wish I could join them at Shahbagh,” Hasina said thankfully to the new generation, who raised their voices, irrespective of party and path.
ICT Act 1973 amended
On February 17, 2013 the government amended the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 to enable the state to appeal on behalf of the war crimes victims of 1971. Before that amendment, only people convicted in war crimes cases had the right to appeal to the Supreme Court (SC) against the conviction handed down by a tribunal.
Thus on March 3, 2013, the state appealed to the SC seeking the death penalty for Mollah. They termed the ICT punishment ‘inadequate’. On September 17, 2013 the SC in its verdict awarded the death penalty to Quader Mollah which was executed on December 12, 2013 despite calls from many countries and right bodies to stop the execution. (See news report dated December 26, 2013).
The Indian people expressed solidarity with the movement of ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’. Many Indians visited the Mancha. Sumon Kabir and Protul Mukopadhyay of India wrote songs to inspire them. Indian President Pranab Mukerjhee said he liked to see the victory of Shahbagh movement. Indian Foreign Affairs Secretary Ranjan Mathai said he became very glad to see the gatherings of the people at Shabagh mancha, as reported on February 18 and March 11, 2013.
Earlier Imran Sarker made an avowal that Ganajagaran Mancha would run its programme with commoners until war criminals get death penalty and ban Jamaat politics. Imran said, “We don’t fear anybody’s bloodshot eyes. Nobody will be able to stop our movement. It will continue until our demands are met.” (See Daily Sun, dated April 3, 2013). When blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider known as ‘Thaba Baba’, a Shahbagh Youth leader, who made derogatory remarks against Prophet (Sm), was killed, they embraced him as the ‘first martyr of a new liberation war’. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Rajib’s house to console his mother and family members.
Since the Ganajagaran Mancha’s beginning, little–known Hefazat-e- Islam, a non-political group, started campaign against Imran and some other bloggers on allegation that they are involved in making ugly and derogatory remarks on Prophet (Sm) and defaming Islam. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and senior leaders of the Awami League (AL) accused the BNP/ Jamaat/ Hefazat as enemies of Islam because using the force of Islam would help them achieve their political objectives. When the Hefazat placed its 13-point demand, some ministers assured the Hefazat that the government had already met many of their demands.
At least 12 people were injured in a clash taking place between the police, Shahbagh protesters and Chhatra League-backed Prajanma 71 at Shahbagh in the capital on Saturday, April 4 afternoon, reported the New Age on April 5, 2014.
The police and local people said that the clash gad broken out about 4:00pm when Shahbagh protesters, who set up Ganajagaran Mancha, and Prajanma 71 announced rallies at the same place in protest at a clash on Thursday in which seven Shahbagh protesters had been injured as Chhatra League activists attacked them.
Chhatra League activists attacked Shahbagh protesters over the control of the Ganajagaran Mancha.
A news report said, Imran alleged that the leaders and activists of BCL (Bangladesh Chhatra League) and Jubo League, the youth front of ruling AL launched attack on them as they opposed to take money from the Islami Bank on the occasion of the programme “Lakho Konthe Sonar Bangla” on March 26, 2014.
Some eight activists including S.A.Arayna an organizer of ‘Mancha’, were beaten by the activists of BCL and Jubo League. (See media reports dated April 4, 2014)
Police foil Ganajagaran programme
Another report said the police foiled the programme of Ganajagaran Mancha at Shabagh intersection on April 4, 2014. Even Dr. Imran narrowly escaped from the baton charge of the police as he had gone into hiding. The police arrested seven persons following a clash between the leaders and activists of Muktijoddah Sangsad Santan Command and Ganajagaran Mancha to run their programme at the same time on the same day.
Some activists of the ‘Mancha’ including organizer Badhan were seriously injured by the baton charge of police. “Badhan was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. A faction of Ganajagaran Mancha declared Dr. Imran persona non grata. F. M. Saheen, an activist of Mancha, alleged that Imran was involved in corruption. Imran earned crores of Takas from some NGOs, local people and expatriates in the name of the movement, as reported in a Bengali daily dated April 5, 2014.
A news report said that BCL President H. M. Badiuzzaman Sohagh claimed that BCL activists were not involved in launching attacks on Ganajagaran Mancha. They have no link with the ‘Mancha’ for the last 10 months. The Mancha is isolated from the student community as well as people. Al Mamun, a leader of Muktijoddah Sangsad Santan Command, Dhaka Varsity branch, demanded exemplary punishment to Imran Sarker.
The clash with the BCL, Jubo League and Muktijoddah Sangsad Santan Command prove that ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’ is no longer required was formed to achieve certain hidden goal.