May 2007


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The force was never with late president Ziaur Rahman.

DUCSU was then under BNP’s student wing Chhatra Dal (JCD) control, so was majority of the dorms of DU. JCD was overwhelmingly single largest students’ party at DU campus. At that time, when two new dorms were built at DU, they were named Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hall and Muktijoddha Ziaur Rahman Hall.

Today, Prothom-Alo gave single column 3 inches bottom of first page treatment to Zia’s death anniversary and the news item started this way, “Ex-President, Sector commander and Z force leader Ziaur Rahman’s…”.

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The latest news from Bangladesh is that AL secretary general Mr Abdul Jalil, ex BNP leader/state minister/now leading BNP dissident Lutfuzzaman Babar and businessman/MP MA Hashem of Partex group have been arrested by the joint forces.

There have been many arrests so far, Bangladesh is now under state of emergency and these three new arrests should not be a major shock to anyone.

However events leading to these arrests may make political observers raise some eyebrows.

Mr Jalil was in TV yesterday asking the CTG about the exact dateline of the 18 month time frame requested by EC for holding the elections. Mr Jalil has been very visible all along and spoke of his party positions on different issues. I never heard him speak ill of this government or try to destabilize the current govt. Still it is very clear that Mr Jalil has been arrested for speaking out. The powerhouse in BD now wants everybody to be scared to death, not talk at all in fear of arrests. A typical scare tactic to gag people. They did the same thing with Brig Gen Hannan Shah. Similarly when Sheikh Hasina came out strongly demanding an early election date, cases were filed immediately against her.

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Our generals have promoted themselves. The Army chief is now a full fledged 4 star general and for the first time in history we also got an air marshall and a vice admiral for our Air force and Navy respectively. Congratulations, dear Generals.

 And everybody got equal share of the pie. Ma General Masud was promoted to be Lt Generals and PSO AFD. Maj gen Zahangir is also lt general now and has become the QMG. We have a new GOC for the 9th infantry division, General Ashab.

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Brig General Hannan Shah is in jail now, so is his son. Charges? What else? Corruption. When we all talk against corruption, I sense a lot of corruption/ manipulation/political  use of these corruption charges. It does not require a political scientist to understand that the charges against Brig Gen Hannan Shah was brought only to silence Mr Shah’s voice. Lately Mr. Shah had become te voice of BNP especially the voice of grass root BNP activists and supporters.  The man who was supposed to play this role, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, has apparently lost his ability to speak.

 This sort of political vindication, the use of government judiciary and law enforcement agencies to silence a political activist is not new in Bangladesh. All previous governments have done that.  And this governmnet is also doing the same thing.  Only difference is that this governmnet has captured power to stop this sort of political use of administration from happening. And with Hannan Shah’s arrest, the governmnet has done just the thing which they are here to stop.

In the past, during the past regimes we heard of many kinds of grabbing. Land grabbing, house grabbing, river grabbing, plot grabbing, student dorm grabbing etc. But during this regime we are exeriencing a bunch of some new sort of grabbings.

First of it’s kind was the TV channel grabbing, channel dokhol. Channelk 1, which used to be owned by now jailed businessmen Giasuddin AL Mamun and Mr AFM Selim, is currently being run by a retd major. How this happened? Managing Director Giasuddin Mamun got arrested and the chairman Mr selim got arrested in quick succession. Senior officials went into hiding after several employees were arrested or being looked for by joint forces. Suddenly this Maj  guy came one fine mornoing, declared him the chairman, fired the acting leader, veteral TV producer Mr Barkatullah and started running the show. The mainstream media ( exccept BDnews24.com) remained surprisingly silent over this Channel Dokhol.

And lately we are noticing attempts to grab the whole party of BNP. The model of hall dokhol (dormitory capture) is being aplied here. What is in plan is to somehow blackmail Khaleda Zia into putting mannan Bhuiyan as the acting chief of BNP and then take control of BNP through Mnannan Bhuiyan.  During the government changes over last fifteen years,  control over student dorms used to switch also . All you needed was just to have top terror of the hall switch his allegiance from his old party to th new party. And as a result the new party would taken control of the hall bloodlessly.  Looks like the king’s have decided to use mannan Bhuiyan for the same kind of purpose in capturing BNP.

 Good luck the Kings and the Mannan Bhuiyans.

A new SMS flashed in my mobile phone. A friend and colleague reports, ” Tasneem Khalil picked up by the Army”.

The mere words ‘Picked up by army’ always evoke a series of overwhelming thoughts in my mind.

My flash back takes me to the historical events during the dawn of Bangladesh when intellectuals, journalists, professionals, politicians used to be picked up by the army and their cohorts. During those days and even during the years post independence, a lot more people were picked up and most of them never returned.

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The spontaneous outpouring of support, show of confidence and loyalty of Awami league activists shown to their leader Sheikh Hasina on her return home was heartening. This was a good response to what is being told all along about “0” popularity and influence or effectiveness of Sheikh Hasina or BNP leader Khaleda Zia.

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Similarly the gathering of thousands of BNP activists with mere rumor of Khaleda’s visit to late president Zia’s mausoleum is another testament to what these two ladies are to most of their grass root core political workers.

The 11+2 wise men and women who think they know and speak for all in Bangladesh and they are only people who want good of Bangladesh should take a lesson from these events. One thing these wise men and women should know that the people who gathered in Airport, or in Bangabandhu museum/Shudha Shadan or President Zia’s mausoleum, were not hired human heads to attend the gatherings. These young people defied all the red eye, fear mongering and joint forces terror to express their passion.

We talk about election. We should know these young people greeting Khaleda or Hasina are the ones who will do the most important ground work in Bangladesh election. The western trained kids belonging to the civil society, out of their pure passion and patriotism, can write hundreds of op-eds, but the real job in democracy is done by those young elements chanting slogan at Airport

And the wise men and women currently running Bangladesh must know that application of force or fear tactic can never contain the passion of large number of people.

Abdul Jalil, the general secretary of Bangladesh Awami League, has been a subject of much criticism, mockery, annoyance, name calling etc. He was the spokesperson of AL and later 14 party turned grand alliance and was deemed to be the façade of a failed and disconnected and very much anti-people activities of Awami league during the last years.

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During that period he was very much talkative and sounded hollow compared to his counterpart, Mr. Mannan Bhuiyan. The last nail in the coffin was his direct involvement in signing the MOU with Islamic zealots, the Khalefat Majlish.

However, the time has changed. Mannan Bhuiyan is now the face of opportunism and treachery. And Mr. Jalil showed utmost the courage and uncompromising loyalty to keep speaking on behalf of his party leader at the most difficult of times. And even the very balanced but effective statements he made recently were full of intelligent statesmanship.

It looks like Mr. Abdul Jalil has passed the litmus test of loyalty and courage while most of his colleagues from either side of the isle miserably failed. Looks like finally Mr. Jalil has been able to shrugg off the “april 30th deadline” ridicule, he has been subjected to for the last three years. Good Job Mr. Jalil.

Two-room flat. Father, mother, 4 siblings and the uncle; all live together in the 500 sq feet residential quarter. Father, mother and the youngest of the kids live in one bedroom. Other room is shared by the two sisters, one college and one high school going. The other brother, also in high school and the uncle, who is struggling with his small business after graduation, shares the bed which occupies a part of the living room. There is a small balcony, which is occupied with household items like an extra chair, a broken table, a shelf. If you somehow manage to stand in the balcony and try to look out through the clothes hanged for drying, your vision will be obstructed at 2 feet distance, where another multistory building houses another 24 families. The windows at one side of the house are almost of no use, thanks to the neighbors’ flat which is built keeping almost no gap between the buildings.

Dhaka has an estimated weeknight population of 8 million. My guess, the majority of this 8 million will probably live in a condition I just described.

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Egyptian Islamist zealot turned Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri is apparently the poster boy of violent terrorism and his face in the media evokes a violent image of Islam. During the early school days of Zawahiri, the then Egyptian government decided to exterminate Islamic militancy by hanging every possible person with the slightest connection with Islamic militancy. The bloody and heavy handed violent methods of Egyptian government in controlling the influence of some relative less violent groups like Muslim brotherhood evoked sympathy and ideological allegiance to these groups among many young people. At that time Zawahiri was recruited to Muslim Brotherhood and later he assumed a leadership role in Egyptian Islamic Jihad. If we take lesson from history we would see that violently exterminating the leadership of Egyptian Islamic groups did no have any long term effect in curbing Islamic terrorism. Rather we now have this Ayman al-Zawahiri threatening the world with new fear every now and then.

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The prominence of the word “retd.” is again getting obvious in our day to day life. Back in the 70s and 80s, with retired military officials were occupying almost all the worthy civil jobs, the word “retd.” itself used to evoke a lot of resentment among the student communities and the civil society.
The trend was not that alarming over the next 15 years. However again I am noticing that the retired military officials are taking over jobs ideally meant for the smartest and the most brilliant officials of the administration.

Over the last several months, the ACC chairmanship went to an ex army general. So did the chairman’s post of DEPZ, BTRA (Bangladesh telecommunication Authority), BRTA (Bangladesh road transportation authority) etc.
Eve an election commissioner was selected from the ranks of the retired military community. And this commissioner did not deny newspaper reports that he was convicted of stealing relief CI sheets etc during the last martial law.
During this honestocracy II, when many big time political leaders are being arrested, surprisingly all the retired military officials, despite having serious accusations of corruption, like retd Air vice Marshall Altaf, are out of the detention dragnet.
The funniest story came out today in today’s meet the press arranged by ATN Bangla. One journalist asked BNP leader Brig General (retd.) Hannan Shah that whether he and Maj (retd.) Sayed Eskander was being appointed by the “concerned authority” to become the leaders of BNP.
Waiting to see which retired military official gain prominence in Awami League in the coming days. Who can it be? Col (retd) Faruq Khan, Lt Gen (retd.) Nuruddin or Major (retd) Rafiq?

Yesterday was 40th day of BNP leader KM Obaidur Rahman’s death. As a religious ritual and social culture, a gathering was organized at the residence of deceased. Although a religious tradition, it turned into an opportunity for BNP leaders to show their face as well as allegiance to the party’s embattled leader Khaleda Zia.
This was also another show of truthlessness of the statements made by the current Honestocracy II. The government had issued press notes stating that KZ is free to move and this statement has proved to be blatant lie aain and again. Baring KZ from Obaid’s chehlum was another testimony to that fact.

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Anyway, it is an irony that KM Obaidur Rahman’s 40th day anniversary (Chehlum) turns into a showdown for party unity under Khaleda Zia. And another irony is that it turns into a last resort for Mr. Mannan Bhuiyan to save his face and show his loyalty to the party.

It is an irony because KM Obaidur Rahman was the party secretary before Mr. Salam Talukdar who is Mannan Bhuiyan’s predecessor. One of the smartest political maneuvers in KZ’s political career was to overnight fire party secretary KM Obaidur Rahman, who was reportedly conspiring with junta Ershad to break BNP during the last years of Ershad rule. KM Obaid and all else who tried to desert the mainstream all got lost in oblivion. KM Obaid also had to return and be a powerless official in BNP during the rest of his political career. All Mr. Obaid’s hard work to revive and rebuild BNP during early days of Ershad, th honestocracy I, went into vain.

Now Mr. Obaid’s last rites turned into an arena for another similar political maneuvering and counter maneuvering. Now Mr. Mannan Bhuiyan is on the hot seat Mr. Obaid was seating 20 years ago.

The history is cruel and unforgiving and it definitely repeats itself. And on a second note it is unsettling to note that, BNP, as a party, with all its popular support ( no longer existing?), with the legacy of running the country a total of 16 of 36 years has all but the most important thing called loyalty of its officials and supporters.