ছি ছি হাসিনা, এই রকম করে না. আমরা জানি খালেদা কত্ত খারাপ. ইন্ডিয়াও জানে. ওর ছেলেদের কে আচ্ছা সে পিট্টি দিসি না সবাই মিলে. লাগলে আবার পিটাব. আর দুষ্টুমি কোর না, কেমন?
That’s how someone described the Economist article (over the fold) on recent political events in Bangladesh. The article says: BNP, particularly Tarique, represents kleptocracy and Islamist extremism and his return has to be prevented at any cost, so AL can feel safe in its project to trash Zia, so long as nothing too egregious is done. If this is any guide to the thinking in the Embassy Row, then BNP is in lot more trouble than appears.
Now, how does the Economist write its articles on Bangladesh? There is no Economist correspondent in Dhaka. There is one in New Delhi. James Astill, the guy in Delhi, is well versed in the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is reputed to prefer Lahore over Delhi. He is not really a pro-Indian kinda guy.
So how does he write a piece like this? Well, he doesn’t really know all that much about Bangladesh. He gets his views from a few dozen English speaking, Gulshan-Banani-Baridhara living folks. He visits Dhaka once a while, sips cold beer at Sonargaon, and talks to men and women in their 30s and 40s working in the corporate and NGO sectors. And he writes what they think.
It’s that class of Bangladeshis — confession, the current blogger is from that class, as is the owner of this blog — who overwhelmingly think this way. This class of Bangladeshis, who read the Daily Star, and dine at Le Saigon, influence not just what James Astill, Nicolas Haque (Al Jazeera) or Amy Kazmin (Financial Times) thinks, but also what the Embassy Row thinks.
And there are hardly any BNP voice in this crowd. There is no BNP equivalent of Zafar Sobhan to write regularly in the Guardian, no Asif Saleh with a social network across corporate, bureaucratic and civil society elites.
The most desparing thing is, I don’t see any appreciation from anyone connected with BNP leadership that this is a problem.
Politics of hate
An ancient vendetta continues to eat away at public life
Nov 18th 2010 | DHAKA | from PRINT EDITION
MORE than two years after the army aborted a dismal interregnum and released from jail the leaders of the country’s two rival political dynasties, the politics of hate and attrition grind away in Bangladesh. The thanks go mainly to the personal vendetta of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, one of the two leaders, against the other, Khaleda Zia.
On November 13th Mrs Zia was evicted from her home of nearly 30 years in Dhaka’s cantonment area. The move triggered a hartal, a protest strike called by Mrs Zia’s opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Violence broke out between her supporters and those of Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL). The country’s third political force, the army, has backed the High Court’s eviction order. Shrewdly, Sheikh Hasina has allocated the vast plot surrounding Mrs Zia’s home for housing for the families of 57 military officers killed in a mutiny early last year, soon after the AL swept to power.
The eviction is part of the League’s mission to break the BNP’s back. It is obsessed with airbrushing from history the legacy of the political dynasty founded by Mrs Zia’s late husband, General Ziaur Rahman, hero of Bangladesh’s war of independence against West Pakistan in 1971.
In February the government renamed Dhaka’s Zia International Airport after a respected Sufi saint. It has decided to “reprint” the 1972 constitution to reflect a landmark Supreme Court ruling in July which, among other things, declared null and void the rule of various military governments, including General Zia’s, following the assassination in 1975 of Bangladesh’s founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. (Sheikh Mujib, as he is usually known, happens to be the father of Sheikh Hasina.) In October a court issued an arrest warrant for Mrs Zia’s younger son in a money-laundering case. Four corruption cases stand against Mrs Zia, while 13 cases against Sheikh Hasina, filed during the army interregnum, have been withdrawn.
Yet the BNP was in a shambles even before the recent onslaught. The party has just 30 seats in a 300-strong parliament, which it boycotts. It is split: Mrs Zia can count only on the support of a minority of BNP leaders. Meanwhile, the leaders of the BNP’s main ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party, have all been jailed. They stand accused of alleged atrocities during the country’s war of secession, and face possible execution. The alliance has hurt the BNP’s reputation, particularly internationally, says Moudud Ahmed, a former prime minister and Mrs Zia’s lawyer. Yet the BNP needs Jamaat-e-Islami’s electoral support.
Mrs Zia’s only hope is that people will get fed up with rising prices, power shortages and the open encouragement by Sheikh Hasina’s government of the kind of predatory capitalism not seen since, well, Mrs Zia’s rule in 2001-06. The government’s high approval ratings are on the slide. At some point, Mrs Zia appears to calculate, mass adulation will attach to her eldest son and heir apparent, Tarique Rahman, now in British exile. Yet Mr Rahman, who left army custody with a snapped spinal cord in 2008, is the symbol of Mrs Zia’s kleptocratic rule. He is loathed even among the BNP’s leaders.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina’s vendetta has the support of the Indian government, with whom Bangladesh’s relations are much improved. The end to Mrs Zia’s political dynasty has become almost a tenet of national security for India, which sees her family meddling in India’s domestic affairs. This month Mr Rahman’s right-hand man told investigators that the Pakistan embassy in Dhaka and the United Liberation Front of Asom, a militant group fighting for an independent homeland for ethnic Assamese in India’s north-east, paid the BNP (for which, read Mr Rahman) and Bangladeshi spooks some $10m for the secret transshipment to Indian insurgents of ten truckloads of arms.
Western governments also oppose Mr Rahman’s return. They supported the thinly veiled army coup in January 2007, which prevented the BNP from stealing an election. The coup also brought in a crackdown on fringe groupings of Islamic extremists courted by the former BNP government. Continuing the crackdown is a centrepiece of AL policy.
Despite the government’s sliding ratings, popular support for Sheikh Hasina’s clan dwarfs that for Mrs Zia’s. And with such a tailwind, it is extraordinary how the League remains stuck in a divisive politics based on personal grievances that go back nearly four decades. Time, you might think, to get on with governing.