About Turkey and Algeria

Robert Kaplan had the following to write about the current state of democracy in Turkey. This is an excerpt from the Globalist.
“In the past, when a Turkish general announced a coup, he also promised to hold elections and return the army to its barracks after a designated period. Now the military’s role is more insidious, and it is more likely to become a permanent presence in Turkish politics. As one Turkish analyst told me, ‘At National Security Council meetings, the generals bring thick dossiers from which to lecture, and the civilian cabinet ministers come as tourists. ‘
Without actually doing anything official, through a soft, postmodern process in which … the deep military state lying beneath the civilian surface had reasserted itself. It was not deep in a conspiratorial sense but deep in the sense that it was firmly grounded. To middle-class Turks, the generals were… well-meaning and paternalistic notables. ”

In 1992 the Algerian army canceled national elections won by the Islamic Party and seizes power under direct direction and patronage of the international community.

Events in Bangladesh and the consequences

Now probably we all know the series of events leading to the change of caretaker government. It is not at all difficult to put the events in Bangladesh in a line with the recent history of Turkey and Algeria.

It is true that the immediate effect of the intervention in Bangladesh brought welcome relief to the middle class Bangladesh. However if we take lesson from the history, this sort of intervention do not bear well for the natural growth of a nation and a democracy in the long run. Let me give some example how a bad precedent could harm us in the future.

1. Can an elected government ever, in the future, make a foreign policy not to send troops to UN mission?
2. How comfortable will an elected government to call back all UN mission soldiers in response to a threat by a foreign country?
3. Suppose advocate Sultana kamal is a technocrat home minister. How independent she will be in investigating army atrocities in CHT or changing RAB guidelines?
4. Will not the transfer and recruitment in 9th artillery division in Savar get more politically motivated? Now probably mid level and junior officers will also be politically recruited in that garrison.

The all Powerful Army, India and Sri Lanka.

Well, we frequently recite the contribution of army to the nation. The politically correct term is “Deshpremik Shena Bahini”, as if the rest of the country is not “Desh Premik”. How many times we heard about the UN missions and goodwill, pride and money brought to the nation by these missions? Then what about the civilian NRBs? How many thousand time more remittance these civilian NRBs bring for BD, even if I decide to ignore the goodwill they are bringing on a daily basis?

Exactly how much dependent we are on the armed forces? Is it anyway comparable to India or Sri Lanka? India, under constant threat from nuclear China and Pakistan and zillions of domestic armed separatists, depends on the armed forces for her mere existence. And we say situation in Bangladesh was bad. The country was on the verge of a civil war. Well, Sri Lanka is in a civil war decades. Military is protecting the country from armed Tamil onslaught. Successive head of states were killed.

Did army come out and say “enough is enough, you’ll get out, I am putting him as the new President. He will make the country peaceful “?

India Again

It is true; the political culture in Bangladesh was really bad. Lack of idealism, corruption, black money, muscle power has been the major attribute of Bangladesh politics. Now please look back at Indian democracy in 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. India went through the same political teenage wildness as we are going through now. Those who are as old as I am, will remember, coalition governments, failed coalition governments, election every other year in India.
Now we take lessons and show example of Indian election. But that is “Now”. That is after 40 years of thugocracy by people like Lallu Prasad. Even with the help of democracy, ultra rightist religious RSS/ Bojrang Dal came to power with BJP. But India kept on track of democracy, gave the young democracy the time to grow. There was trust in people power.

Can any Indian itizen imagine that the editors of “” the Statesman” or “The Hindu” demanding army takeover when Indira Gandhi imposed emergency over India and repressed the nation for three years? No they did not do that. Rather they waited three years with patience and trust and three years later the people spoke. Congress as well as Gandhi faced an unimaginable humiliating defeat.

Impatience and People Power

It is beyond argument that the immediate past BNP government was the worst of all three post 1990 democratically elected governments. I label the first BNP government as the most tolerant and democratic, the AL government as the most efficient and accomplished government so far. The immediate past government was neither democratic nor efficient. They failed miserably in every single sector. (You can argue about law enforcement, but where is the credit of controlling crime after first letting it skyrocket?).

And the verdict would have been clear about it provided people were allowed to vote. If AL participated in the election, it would have been a sweeping victory for them. In fact nobody, no force will ever be able to grossly manipulate an election with full participation of all the parties. This is Bangladesh reality. There were too many speculations how election will be rigged etc. And an army coup was encouraged out of mere speculations. We simply failed to keep trust on the people. For many people, the hate towards BNP/ Jamaat and the impatience was so intense that, destroying democracy was OK if it could uproot BNP/ Jamaat hold on the government.

Why all these happened?

Over the last years, when the two major political interests were getting closer to a confrontation, there was absolutely no serious effort by domestic forces like civil society and the media to play as the soothing, mediating, unifying factor. Instead the efforts to instigate an election boycott, create more mistrust was not at all covert. Zayd Almer Khan recently wrote,
“… the political system reaching breaking point also represents a failure on the part of that same civil society and the media, because in their eagerness to unquestioningly align themselves to the crude power play of the political parties, they have abdicated their duties as a pressure group.”

Rather there was indirect pressure on the army to take control. One editor, who is currently in the cabinet and who makes regular comments against politicians and intermittently warns of a long term of current government, clearly demanded a third force just two weeks before the emergency. Another editor, my all time favorite, with long history to be pro people journalism, and editor of the best (Not only the most popular) newspaper in the country, has taken, in my eyes, a very puzzling stand as the instigator of animosity between political parties and encouraging an army takeover.
I believe that the credibility of some of our editors is so high that if they wanted and played an active role, there could have been an all party election on 22nd January. And I know it would have been an Awami League slam dunk.
And definitely the civil society had strong backing of this covert coup. Again, probably the hatred on BNP/ Jamaat was so high in all levels of the society that hate clouded the conscience and the patience. Democracy may have injured badly, so what BNP/ Jamaat evil shadow is finally gone!!!

We only can hope

We only can hope that the injury our fledgling democracy just endured will heal soon and our democracy will resume its bold journey again.