New Political Storm

A storm is rapidly forming in Bangladesh’s political horizon. As thunders are not supposed to be heard during the winter, political storm should not form under a state of emergency. But it is happening and apparently under the direction and patronage of the people enforcing the state of emergency.

What is reform

Most striking thing about the reformniks is the similarity of the wordings, contents and style of presentation of the reform proposals. In a very brief rundown,

1. Reforms are being proposed by one leader at a time in a press conference at his home. The reformists are going distances to make it look like that it is his personal proposal. e.g. Mannan Bhuiyan didn’t allow anyone to sit beside him while reading out the proposals. Same thing was done by Tofael and Razzak.

2. All three proposals presented so far are strikingly similar. It mostly proposes removal of current leader by imposing a term limit, establishment of a joint leadership, implementation of accounting transparency etc.

3. All the proposals made sure that the current leader will be out of the scene.

Who are the reformers

1. A bunch of leadership was arrested during the first three arrest drives by the government. Some leaders are still free who have corruption allegations against them and who would naturally be the next target or already would have been in jail if fairness were used in making arrests. These leaders are the leading reformers. They include Mannan Bhuiyan, Major Hafiz, Tofael, Razzaq, Abu Syed etc.
2. Leaders who have been effectively cornered in the party or had no real standing in the past. They include Maj Gen Z A Khan, Ashraf Hossain, Mukul Bose etc.
3. Relatively new comers in the parties, Lt Gen Mahbub, Mr. Osman Faruq, Lt Gen Nuruddin, Noor Ali etc., who do not have the temperament to be an opposition activist.

Who are Vocal against reform or the conformists

I didn’t specifically say “who are against reform”, rather I wrote, “who are vocal against reform”. At present time it is really difficult to say who is really a reformist and who is being coerced into it. Every single political leader starting from top notch to the local village level leaders are under some sort of pressure. It is more rampant in villages where leaders are being routinely harassed by visits, calls from local joint forces young officers.

In this background, I find the following kinds are the vocal visible conformists:

1. Women leadership, who, as always, stood up during the crisis period. Motia, Shajeda, Helen Zerin Khan etc. are the examples.
2. Relatively honest or inactive leadership who were not part of the previous governments. Barrister Rafiqul Islam Mia etc.
3. Ex Military generals who believed that their brothers in current military based government will not touch them. e.g. Maj Gen Subid Ali Bhuiyan, Col Faruq Khan, Let Gen Mir Shawkat Ali, Brig Gen Hannan Shah ( he probably crossed his limit) etc.
4. Frail sick leadership. Government will dare not touch them as they may die even during transportation in a prison van. e.g. Zillur Rahman, Saifur Rahman etc.

Problem with reform Plan

1. In my view, the reform proposals are all really good proposals except the overt attempts to dethrone the two main leaders. This one single factor may make the whole reform a failure. I feel a smarter approach would have been to include the current leadership and earn as much concession from them as possible. Now these two powerful leaders as well as millions of their supporters have been forced to take a face to face stand against the reforms. This would not have happened if the reforms proposals were inclusive of the two leaders.
2. The people who are being promoted as reformists are the birds of the same feather in Bangladesh politis per the people’s perception. People have no reason to believe that they will bring about the needed change in the country.

The looming storm

So what’s next?

In BNP’s case it is getting clearer. Mannan Bhuiyan will try to convene a Tolobi council and Khaleda will try to replace him before he can do that. Khaled’s problem is finding a willing replacement at this time. None in a sane mind will like to face the fate of Hannan Shah. Khaleda’s problem is the absence of a vocal support base at top brass of the party. All have been successfully coerced by Hannan Shah episode. So she is fighting a lone fight with occasional support of Goyeshshar Roy. Her other weakness is her sons. One in jail and one is under house arrest. She is vulnerable to be blackmailed on this issue. However lately it looks like she is getting more confident and comfortable about her sons. She boldly suggested that no charges could be brought against her son. She also knows that ther can’t be a Manju or Mamun kind of trial in case of Tareq.

Khaleda’s advantage, however, is a week opponent i.e. Mannan Bhuiyan who is already under watch for corruption allegations.

Hasina is in much better shape in that regard. She has a vocal conformist group. Her councilors are more loyal and would not be as easily coerced as BNP councilors.

Hasina’s problem will be her opponents. RATS (Razzak, Amu, Tofael, Suranjit) are the political brain for Bangladesh politics. Two consequative fall of BNP government (96 and 2007) are the result of the ruthless viciousness their politics. No government in Bangladesh will like to have these four against them, the current CTG seems well aware of that.

And the winner is

Minus two or three is not a feasible formula. Even implementing it under the cover of emergency will seriously weaken and taint the CTG. First there will be a split in both the parties. And during the election, the fairness of EC as well as the CTG will have to be seriously compromised to take the symbols away from Hasina led AL and Khaleda led BNP. Even if these two are barred from the election, their name and pictures will be used more glaringly.

And then even if the election is won by one of the reformists party or a coalition of reformists form the government, in Bangladesh’s reality, this government will lose popularity in the quickest time. Then Hasina /Khaleda (in or outside the jail) led opposition will take over the streets. EC (which played unfairly against Khaleda/Hasina) will be trashed.

In the new CTG designed government, I feel the center of gravity will follow the RATS.

It is guaranteed that the leaders, who are not awarded a ministry, will jump the ship to join the agaitating mob in the streets.

And what about the new party? I presume it will only jump like the 3rd kid of the goat. Or at max it may be a coalition partner of the reformists.

We will be back to something like November/Dec 1990 or September/ October 2007 scenario? The question, who will be the new Ershad or Iajuddin? Is it Fakhruddin or  the talkative M, M, M and M?