A debate is raging around Bangladesh – between real people and on the internet. Opinions are firmly-held, tempers get frayed quickly, and name-calling is always a possibility. And a lot depends on its outcome.
It’s not the debate that was started by Tarique Rahman about a week or so ago, about who is the first president of Bangladesh.
I firmly believe that history usually proves to be a fair judge. So, in about forty or so years, when all the people whose reputation hinged on painting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as either an angel or a devil are gone from this earth, our nation and its history will arrive at its own judgment of that man. And that is how it should be.
But much more important than what Sheikh Mujib was in 1972 is what he beam in January 1975. We got out of BKSAL in the worst way imaginable – through a bloody and murderous military coup that only underlines how helpless and fragile the other institutions of the newly-formed state still were. Almost forty years later, we’ll escape Hasina’s proto-BKSAL because while the Gandhi family is quite comfortable disrupting electoral democracy in Bangladesh, it still hasn’t figured out how to do so as successfully in its own country. But we may not be so lucky the next time around.
Thus, the debate, in email inboxes and informal meetings rages on, how to modify Bangladesh’s frame of government that the next wanna-be Hasina is not able to succeed. “In question of power,” Thomas Jefferson thundered, “let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Our constitutional chains have proven flimsy and brittle so far. How to strengthen them so as to prevent the next dictator from fostering herself upon is as long she likes is the great question of the current time.