When juggernaut of despotism rolls on its monstrous wheels to crush democratic dissenters and political opponents, diverse unheard-of bizarre topsy-turvy incidents happen as state actors offer one upsetting jabber after another that is devoid of conscience and moral principle. An enormous public outcry has ensued following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Political Affairs Adviser H T Imam’s speech on November 12 addressing activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the ruling Awami League’s student front, at the TSC, Dhaka University.
Referring to the competitive exam for the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS), H T Imam assured them, “Sit for the BCS, we will take care of” the rest”. He told the Chhatra League boys, “Whenever I take anyone’s bio-data to the Prime Minister or request her to give someone a job, she asks whether the person was involved in BCL politics and also about his or her contribution to politics. “We will see how much we can help you with the viva voce. Our leader (Sheikh Hasina) has told us to arrange jobs for you by any means.” “Many of you [BCL activists] often request for a job … is there anyone who cares about you more than our leader and I do? We are trying our best to ensure jobs for you …” he said.
That was not enough; next came the overwhelmingly detrimental factor of politicisation of administration. Extolling the role played by officers having Chhatra League background, Imam spoke about the advantages of having party men in the administration, and how the ruling Awami League (AL) benefited from them. Days before the January 5 election, he said, many pro-AL officers were inducted into mobile courts that helped the government resist the BNP-Jamaat bid to thwart the election. He also said that they did everything taking the risks of their lives. Imam’s remarks drew flak from the AL ministers too. As was expected, opposition BNP decried it; and Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed that PM’s adviser H T Imam’s assurance about arranging government jobs for Chhatra League activists has exposed the government’s extreme politicisation and nepotism. “The government has already politicised the judiciary and administration”, he said.
However, the matter did not end there. Headlined “PM’s adviser lies: Blames media to defend his bloopers”, the Daily Star reported that H T Imam once again misinformed the media on November 18 when he claimed that he took the premier’s consent to hold a press conference to “clarify” his recent controversial statement. Just when he was briefing reporters in the morning, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a meeting with her cabinet colleagues said Imam didn’t take her consent. But Imam deserves thanks for his candid statement.
As an organistion the BCL has been a highly dreaded one for many of its members’ notoriety and terrorist activities which resulted in spine chilling macabre gunfights and internecine fratricides. Over the past five years and more the nation witnessed aghast hooliganism of terrifying armed gangsters belonging to the BCL who have let loose inferno after establishing their supremacy on the campuses of government colleges and ‘varsities. The blight of politicisation has made inroads in the precincts of higher education. Fear of lack of personal safety owing to violent clashes and absolute absence of discipline even in the public universities [including Dhaka University, the so-called ‘Oxford of the East’] have been prevailing at a large number of campuses across the country.
People still convulse and shudder as they recall the horrifying slaughter of a Hindu young man, Biswajit Das, in Dhaka city in broad daylight, by a group of the Jagannath University students belonging to the BCL, which was one of the most discussed incidents at home and abroad a couple of years ago. To look back, all hell broke loose on 28 October 2006 when the Awami League cadres rallied carrying long poles and oars that were used in beating several persons to death in broad daylight at Paltan intersection. Besides, interminable lethal armed attacks every now and then with impunity on campuses and elsewhere — most often in collaboration/collusion with the police — have been frequently perpetrated by members of the BCL.
As a pretty senior bureaucrat turned politician, is not H T Imam fully aware of the civil service which of necessity must not be politicised? And lo and behold, another senior bureaucrat and former AL minister, M K Alamgir, was the first to corrode and contaminate the civil service in 1995.
A quasi judicial body, the Bangladesh Public Service Commission (BPSC) works under the provisions of the Article 137-141 of the Constitution. Its objective, inter alia, is to help the government to establish an appropriate civil service and to generate its resources and energy for selecting suitable candidates for the services of the Republic. Ideally, a civil servant is employed by government for which he qualifies on the basis of merit rather than political patronage or personal favour. The UK Civil Service is politically impartial and “independent of government” and is “accountable to the public” and serves governments of different political parties equally well.”
Ministers demanded H T Imam’s removal, but he is still there. “True Selukus, what a strange country it is!” So said Alexander the Great to his companion.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) two-day summit ended in Beijing on11 November with leaders from the 21-member bloc, including South Korean President Park Geun-hye, U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The 21 members - Australia; Brunei; Canada; Chile, China; Hong Kong,; Indonesia; Japan; South Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Taiwan; Thailand; United States of America and Viet Nam.
APEC has been founded on economic cooperation and not on the basis of nation-state and that is why Taiwan and Hong Kong are members. There is a moratorium for new members but some countries including Australia want to get India as a member. Some other countries oppose India’s entry because India cannot claim to be a Pacific- rim country given its geography.
APEC countries represent 55% of world’s GDP and 40% of world’s population. Five of the world’s six biggest standing armies and four of the world’s eight declared nuclear powers cluster around the table. Furthermore, around the APEC table are also six of the world’s ten biggest carbon-emitting countries.
Its main agenda is trade and economic cooperation. The agenda includes into security, climate change and energy. Since 9/11, counter-terrorism has gained an important agenda item.
Nature of international trade
International trade today is very different from what it was 20, or even 10, years ago. Entrepreneurs around the world have changed: the way they trade; what they trade and with whom they trade.
Yet one thing has not changed: the importance of trade for growth, jobs and development. Globalized production processes and supply chains mean that many goods from blue jeans to tablet computers and smart phones to commercial jets now cross borders multiple times during assembly. Today, over 50% of merchandise trade is comprised of parts, components and other intermediate goods. In Asia the figure is above 60%.
All APEC economies have now adopted electronic customs processing systems that will reduce the average time needed for goods to clear customs in the region. As a result of measures like these, trade transaction costs in the region dropped by 10% between 2002 and 2010. Reductions during the 2007-2010 period alone saved businesses nearly $60 billion.
These economies are currently working to improve the region’s supply-chain performance by 10% by 2015, in terms of time, cost and uncertainty. This could add a further $21 billion to the region’s gross domestic product annually.
China has not been satisfied with its current standing within the global financial institutions and its role in a series of regional free trade agreements during the last decade. They are being largely controlled by the US and Western countries.
Just as China has initiated the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, so also China has proposed the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), an all compassing free trade vision for all the 21 members of the APEC. It is seen as counterforce to the US-sponsored Trans –Pacific Partnership (TPP) consisting of 12 Asia-Pacific nations including Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Mexico - but notably excluding China. All 12 also belong to APEC, and the TPP constitutes the economic component of Washington’s much-touted “rebalance” of strategic attention to the Asia-Pacific.
China’s FTAAP is all inclusive
Some Chinese analysts and official media have cast the TPP as an attempt to balance China’s stunning economic and diplomatic rise. China claims that its proposed FTAAP is an overarching arrangement which is intended to be inclusive, open, flexible so as to accommodate all economies in the region and bridge deals both in being and in the making.
It is reported that studies show that the size of the global economy could increase by $2.4 trillion dollars by 2025. China firmly believes that as the world economy defined by globalization and Asian Pacific economies are subjected to interdependence, time is ripe to treat the dynamic region as a whole and that is why China has proposed the FTAAP that will inject fresh vigour into regional economic integration.
It’s only natural that the Chinese proposal came with some criticism from its members including the US. It quoted a US official saying Washington objected “because when you use the word feasibility study, it’s used in trade talks as implying the launch of a negotiation towards a free-trade agreement.” The ministers’ statement also made no mention of a 2025 target date for realising the FTAAP. The FTAAP will be reportedly mentioned only in an annex to the communique, and not the main statement, scaling down its importance in the APEC summit.
A joint statement by foreign ministers of APEC forum called for steps to be taken to “translate the FTAAP from a vision to reality”. But it agreed to launch a “strategic study” on FTAAP, avoiding China’s calls for a “feasibility study” on the concept.
Competing development models
To avoid political confrontation, the wording of final summit communique has been toned down in a compromise by Beijing after the United States objected to use of the term, according to a report by the Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Much attention was drawn to the summit as the U.S. and China waged a tug-of-war with each other over seeking to gain control over the region in the field of economy and security.
China is keen to extend its influence and soft power in the region. So the creation of the AIIB and FTAAP is not just another front in the brewing geopolitical tension between China and the United States and its allies. This time, it’s both ideological — a battle between competing development models.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
A. M. K. Chowdhury
The nation was shocked and shuddered at the February 25 - 26, 2009 massacre of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) following the mutiny inside Pilkhana headquarters of the BDR, which left 74 people including 57 senior army officers butchered within two months since the then Awami League (AL) came to power through 29 December polls 2008 conducted by the Election Commission (EC) under the supervision of the military–backed caretaker government (CG). On November 5, 2003, a paramilitary court in Dhaka awarded death to 152 BDR personnel including a deputy assistant director and life imprisonment to 161 others while 262 were served on various terms and 271 got acquitted.
Among the accused former BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) lawmaker Nasiruddin Pintu and AL ward – level leader Torab Ali were awarded life imprisonment. Torab Ali is a former BDR Subedar. The court in its judgement ordered for punitive departmental actions to be taken against CID Special Superintendent Abdul Kahar Akhand, investigating officer in the BDR carnage case, for conducting incomplete probe. Senior police officer Abdul Kahar Akhand was brought back from retirement to investigate the case. Judge Md. Akhtaruzzaman of the Third Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court also linked chief public prosecutor Anisul Huq and his deputy Mosharraf Hossain Kajal with the incomplete investigation as reported February 25, 2014.
Motive behind massacre couldn’t be established beyond doubt
According to a Home ministry probe committee formed after the mutiny, further investigation was required because the “real cause and motive behind the barbaric incident could not be established beyond doubt”. The judgment said: “Some grievances piled up among the BDR soldiers based on some logical / illogical allegations and demands. But killing of so many officers did not match with their grievances”. It means that a quarter took the opportunity to serve their narrow interests by destroying the overall security and stability of the country using the demands of BDR rebels. According to the judgment, there were five possible reasons that could have led to the mutiny: those were military and security, diplomacy, economy, politics and society. (ibid)
The court identified some loopholes which had helped the rebels. It said the BDR authority had acted unprofessionally in containing the mutiny and the rescue process. The BDR and the home ministry had lacked coordination, supervision and accountability. (ibid)
The court also suggested the practice of contacting the force members by political leaders before elections should be prohibited so that political leaders cannot use them and they cannot use political leaders. Their demands should be placed through proper channels, not through the political leaders. (ibid)
Now some questions arise among the members of the public: Who were behind the mutiny? Who were the beneficiaries? Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and his son Tarique Rahman were allegedly involved in the mutiny. They created anarchy to destabilize the country before January 5 election, as reported in a Bengali daily on August 28, 2014.
Who were behind the mutiny?
Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, standing committee member of the BNP, alleged that neighbouring country was involved in the mutiny. This Pilkhana carnage was carried out to take revenge of the Roumari and Berubari incidents where the valiant BDR soldiers defeated the intruding Indian BSF (Border Security Force) personnel, as reported in the Naya Diganta, dated February 25, 2014.
Food Minister Qamrul Islam alleged that Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was the conspirator of BDR mutiny. He said BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and former BDR Director General Maj. Gen. (retd) Fazlur Rahman were in conspiracy. For this some Tk. 40 crore had been spent, as reported in the above daily dated December 12, 2013. Now the question is: if so then why were they not put on trial? Some 47 army officers were killed in 9-month War of the Liberation in 1971 while 57 army officers were killed in two-day BDR mutiny.
After the BDR massacre former Commerce Minister Col. (retd) Faruk Khan Accused Muslim militants such as Taliban, Al Qaida and anti-liberation forces. Jubo League, the youth wing of the ruling AL, accused militant Jamaat Shibir and their partner BNP. Juba League made a big mistake by not identifying the culprits.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury questioned as to who were those persons who used ash, yellow and orange coloured handkerchiefs and ribbons during the BDR carnage? The colours are usually used by a particular militant outfit. (See the Holiday, dated June 12, 2009)
AL spokesperson Syed Ashraful Islam alleged that some familiar faces brought allegations against AL and Jubo League leaders of their involvement in the carnage by spending Tk. 15 crore for the television talk shows. If so who were those persons?
It appeared in the media that the mutineers had meetings with some ruling party AL members. They are Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Fazle Noor Tapash and state minister Zahangir Kabir Nanak. Why the mutineers had meeting and why were in close contact with these political leaders?
The weekly Holiday in its editorial dated September 12, 2014 said, “The government led by Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2008 through a general election which was held under a military controlled regime led by General Moeen Uddin Ahmed, a man greatly hated in the country for corruption, nepotism, gross violation of human rights and for his alleged involvement behind the murder of 57 army officers during a plotted renegade that took place inside the headquarters of the border guards of the country”. Why was General Moeen Uddin Ahmed not brought to book?
After conducting complete probe the mystery behind the mutiny and the brutal killing inside Pilkhana could be unearthed. We hope the government will take necessary measures to remove loopholes as per suggestion of the court and throw light on the real cause behind the mutiny.