June 2008

  1. Somalia 114.2
  2. Sudan 113.0
  3. Zimbabwe 112.5
  4. Chad 110.9
  5. Iraq 110.6
  6. D. R. Congo 106.7
  7. Afghanistan 105.4
  8. Cote d’Ivoire 104.6
  9. Pakistan 103.8
  10. Central African Republic 103.7
  11. Guinea 101.8
  12. Bangladesh 100.3
  13. Burma 100.3
  14. Haiti 99.3
  15. North Korea 97.7
  16. Ethiopia 96.1

                                                                 [ Graph: The Fund For Peace, Washington, D.C.]

The above is the list of the worst performers in the The failed States Index 2008 recently published jointly by  US based Foreign Policy Magazine and The Fund For peace. According to this ranking, Bangladesh in the year 2007-2008 had the fastest decline towards a failed nationhood.  Bangladesh was 17th worst in 2005,  improved to 19th in 2006 but started to decline in 2007 when she ranked 16th and this year Bangladesh ranked 12th, a tie with Burma.  Countries who traditionally fared much worse than us, have improved and passed us in last two years. Notable among these are Haiti,  Rwanda or Sierra Leon.  The foreign policy magazines clearly identifies the states with significant improvement,

In 2007, several countries that have long served as the poster children for failed states managed to achieve some unlikely gains. The Ivory Coast, which unraveled in 2002 after a flawed election divided north and south, experienced a year of relative calm thanks to a new peace agreement. Liberia, the most improved country in last year’s index, continued to make gains due to a renewed anticorruption effort and the resettlement of nearly 100,000 refugees. And Haiti, long considered the basket case of the Western Hemisphere, stepped back from the edge, with moderate improvements in security in the capital’s violence-ravaged slums.


But the report was alarmed at the fast decline of Bangladesh as it points out,

Bangladesh took this year’s hardest fall, set off in part by postponed elections, a feuding, deadlocked government, and the imposition of emergency rule that has dragged on for more than 18 months…


A very interesting observation by the Foreign Policy magazine was the irony of our contribution to UN peacekeeping force. 

Ironically, Bangladesh and Pakistan are the world’s top two contributors of U.N. peacekeepers, often deploying troops to the very countries enjoying this year’s biggest advances. Pakistanis constitute the largest national U.N. contingent operating in Liberia. More than 9,000 Bangladeshi troops wear U.N. blue helmets around the world, a third of them in the Ivory Coast. It is a reminder that while helping to maintain peace abroad might be an attractive national project, keeping the peace at home can be even more elusive.


Foreign policy magazine emphasizes, very clearly, the need of a vibrant and independent Parliament and decries the role of customized rubber stamp parliament our de facto ruler in planning on imposing on our nation.

Every autocrat’s wish list probably includes having a country rich in resources, a public prone to hero worship, and a rubber-stamp parliament. But, when it comes to legislatures, dictators should be careful what they wish for: The world’s most vulnerable states are also home to the weakest parliaments, according to the Parliamentary Powers Index, a ranking of these bodies based on factors such as the power to declare war, impeach the executive, and establish veto-proof laws. Leaders most adept at legislative manipulation often simply extend their own rule; last year, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev persuaded his pliant parliament to declare him president for life. Others, like Burma’s military junta, simply ban the legislature from convening altogether. But these results should send a clear message to the world’s autocrats: Sometimes, it can be a good thing if the House wins.


It is not a happy thing to blog about. This report does not make any Bangladeshi happy. But I post this, with a flicker of hope that, our fellow NRBs and Urban Bangladeshi’s will wake up from the dream and see the reality. The reality is that the current Army Chief controlled puppet government of Bangladesh is not the panacea and not even the better of two bad. Report after report is coming out with damning indictment of this government’s performance. And it is not a matter of whether this government was given adequate time or not. After the take over of 11 January, 2007, on most of the objective indicators of a nation’s well being, Bangladesh’s decade long development has taken a U turn.

And most most importantly this report clearly cites the failure of a designed democracy to suit a military General or an elite class. This report has clearly shown that a free, strong, vibrant and fairly elected parliament is vital to nations well being.
But with great apprehension I suspect that we are heading towards a direction away from a free, strong, vibrant and fairly elected parliament. At least these rhetoric’s of army chief General Moeen U Ahmed, “If they want to make trouble, let them” ; or “”You can judge the people of a nation by the type of leaders they select,” etc. make us fear that we may be heading towards a rubber stamp ‘Yes General’ Parliament.

One of the many very negative characteristics of BNP’s 2001-2006 government is ‘paranoia’. During the whole five years Khaleda Zia was captivated by an uncontrollable suspicion of an Awami League hatched, bureaucracy-NGO supported conspiracy against her government. She could never accept her 1996 street defeat in agreeing to CTG system and her election defeat which she always believed as engineered.

In fact Khaleda Zia’s mortal hatred or ‘possibly’ fear of conspiracy originates much before her 91-96 governance. Depriving her husband of the army chief position in 1972, attempts to send her husband out as ambassador to Czechoslovakia throughout 74-75, events of 75, numerous attempts to kill her husband between 75 and 81 have made Khaleda Zia very severely obsessed with conspiracy theories. En masse defection of top tier BNP leadership, multi-pronged attempts to dismantle BNP did only embolden that paranoia. Then throughout her anti autocracy movement through 1990, she had been struck several times by betrayals. Notable among those are BNP Secretary General Obaidur Rahman’s secret liaison with Ershad, Sheikh Hasina’s somersault to join 86 election. Even at the fag end of anti Ershad movement the jewel in Khaleda’s crown, some senior leadership of Chhatra Dal, decided to betray her by colluding with Ershad.


[New Age Photo]

SSC results are out. For the first time in history of Bangladesh, students could get their result via the cell phone interactive SMS. A whopping 70% test takers passed the exam this year.

This is significantly different from when I took my public exams in the mid 80s. During those days, the only way to get the results were either school notice board ( which will be torn and taken out as souvenir within hours after posting) or the fine print result sheets in the national newspapers. The pass rate is an improvement too. The pass rate used to be a lowly 30 something percent those days. A better pass rate is a remarkable and much needed leap forward. ‘Nearly 2/3rd of the students are flunking the first national public exams and majority of those failing are from the rural downtrodden communities’– It was indeed a lousy state of affairs.


In a court of law in Bangladesh, Mr. Tareq Rahman, a political leader, begged the judge not to send him back to interrogation cell anymore. He described, under oath, how he was hanged from the ceiling and beaten mercilessly for days and nights.

Nobody cared, not a single soul spared a blink of an eye for that desperate appeal. Despite Tareq’s appeal, nobody talked about the torture. Even if some few novices dared refer to Tareq’s injuries, they were snubbed as lies. Days went by. The Tareq Rahman we used to see walk to the courts, can’t walk anymore. He even can not sit now. Last time he was seen in public, he was lying on a stretcher bed. Government assigned doctors are speaking, in TV camera that two bone of Tareq Rahman’s vertebral column are fractured. And still our conscientious world is busy enjoying the freak show of Tareq beating, the fun is not over yet, they are still not ready to complain at the torture (Or even call it a torture) Tareq Rahman endured under custody.


More than anybody else, the government is making the most noisy statements suggesting release of Khaleda Zia. It is very clear that after releasing Sheikh Hasina, government is no longer comfortable keeping Khaleda Zia alone in jail.

What Khaleda Zia should do now? She has already made it clear that she is not interested in leaving the country without her sons. It seems that she wants to send her sons abroad but she herself wants to stay back. She apparently is not showing much eagerness for her own freedom too.

Now the question is, would the government allow Tareq Rahman and Arafat Rahman to leave the country and let Khaleda Zia stay at home, free? If they let it happen, how a military -AL deal we are talking about will be successful? And more importantly what will remain of the so called ‘ 1/11 revolution”?


Déjà Vu?

23rd or 24th March 1986. Sheikh Hasina, thanks to a deal with military dictator general Ershad, declared that Awami League would participate in the election. Exactly 24 hours earlier she declared in a meeting in Chittagong Lal Dighi maidan that those who would participate in election would be the national traitor ( Jatiyo Baiman). Some creative student (Belonging to JSD Chhatra league) of my medical College drew a cartoon and put it as a poster in the college lobby on 25th March evening. That cartoon drew a donkey like creature drinking water and the caption said, “Gadha jol ghola kore khay, Sheikh Hasina vote Chay (Donkey drinks after muddying the water, Sheikh Hasina participates in election in a similar fashion). The cartoon was offensive enough to start a clash between the activists of AL supporting students and JSD supporting students. On 25th March night, the clash-counter clash caused several dozen dorm rooms to be burnt into ashes. My room was one of those. All my brand new belongings were totally gutted. I was only in the sixth week of my first year as a medical student. That night I discovered that the dorm room I got through a friend of mine in fact ‘belonged’ to one of the battling student groups.

22 years 3 months later we are probably again back to a ‘drinking muddy water’ situation. This time it is not Sheikh Hasina alone drinking the muddy water. Her counter parts, in this case army chief Moeen and his cohorts, are also seen doing the same thing. (more…)

A little more than 12 years ago I started my American life as a graduate student. First few years, my life was a monotonous repetition of long cold nights in my attic den, day long lab and class and daily lunchtime walk to the student center for the 99c taco with a plastic glass of water. This lunchtime break with that taco was my window to the campus life and also indulgence into thinking of the far-away homeland and the left behind life.

One of my first observations of the student life in my campus was the ethnic segregation of the students in the students’ center cafeteria. Young white men and women are crowding around one table. Blacks have their own corner. First generation desi students are flocking together, so are the first generation Chinese or the second generation desis.