Update: Uninterrupted power supply and air conditioning available to Ministers and MPs only.

Update II: Government has not yet clarified if last year’s ban on wearing suits and full-sleeve shirts is still in effect.

In its latest move to control the stifling electricity shortage in Dhaka, the Awami League government has imposed restrictions on the usage of air conditioners. Except for hospitals, hotels, and restaurants, all other structures have to keep their ACs shut between 6 and 11. Even when the ACs can be operated, they can not be set below 25 degress. The reporters present asked the bureaucrat making this announcement what the government would do if someone did not follow this regulation. The bureaucrat replied he hoped everyone would cooperate with the government.

You cannot make this stuff up. To paraphrase Pablo Neruda, the stupidity of the government washed over the country, with little fuss, like governmental stupidity.

In any functioning country, a government publicly announces a measure only after it has implemented the scheme to execute it. To take an obvious example, when US authorities crack down on illegal immigrants from Mexico, they do not announce that all illegal immigrants from Mexico have been prevented from coming to this country, and then announce they are going to build a fence on the border and appoint more border agents. The arrangement is always the other way round: the assets are always put into place before a government ffigure publicly announces a new initiative.

However, that is now how Home Minister Sahara Khatun operates. If she did, she would not currently be BNP’s biggest ally. She announced, with great fanfare, that people on the government’s list of suspects for the upcoming “crime against humanity” trial would not be allowed to leave the country. Then it emerged that one of the people in the list, Mur Kashem Ali, Chairman of Diganta Media, had just flown out the country. Not only had he left the country, he had given a letter to the Civil Immigration authorities, who oversee the airports, stating the fact of his departure, and asked for the use of VIP facilities, which had promptly been granted. How was he allowed to leave the country? Well, it seems that Sahara Khatun was so busy talking to the media that she forgot to send a notice to Civil Immigration with the name of those barred from flying abroad. What was her reaction after this whole matter became public? That she did not know of any such incident. As I said, you cannot make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, the government only decided to stop their zany scheme to mess with the clocks again at the last second. However, it took Zafar Iqbal going on a warpath and publicly writing columns in Prothom Alo and Samakal before the government came to their senses. Salaries for the Cabinet have almost been doubled, and lawmakers can again import duty-free cars. The government does not allow Drik to have an exhibit on the heinous crossfire murders, even when the Director General of RAB is admitting that they need to work hard not to become tainted by their misdeeds.

There is an ever-widening gap between the government’s actions and the public’s desires. Moreover, there appears to be no effective way to convince the government about this gap. The government would do well to reflect on why they have been losing elections to professional bodies recently, and what it portends for a government that publicly seeks to remain in power for multiple terms.

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