Dr. Yunus


The last installment of this analysis tried to explain government’s suicidal fixation on undermining Professor Muhammad Yunus. One possible explanation, as alluded to in that piece- was precision pre-planning for a future where Muhammad Yunus could have been the only formidable stature standing while the whole opposition spectrum is decimated – jailed – removed.

Today lets discuss the prequel or to be frank – impossibility of this government planned prequel to the resistance scenario where the opposition gets decimated. It is clear the state is waiting for advances from the opposition – they want the opposition to start it first. They want opposition to call some hartal – annoy people – anger the chattering class belonging to the civil society – then come down hard on the opposition – the way the state came down hard and gagged the post Ilias ali abduction protests. If the top leadership goes behind the bar, Khaleda Zia remains virtually in house arrest incommunicado and the rest of mid level leadership remain on the run – the ground organization of BNP will come to a standstill — this is the assumption of the planners of Hasina war room. May be in the last moment – just after the election schedule is announced – to show some fake sincerity to hold an inclusive election – Khaleda Zia, along with some other senior leaders, will be released. But the mid-level organizers will be kept at a bay to ensure a BNP boycott of the election. Any possible hartal agitation movement will be dealt with harshest state repression. And once an election is somehow conducted with domesticated opposition and some fake break away BNP participating and  as soon as the 3rd Hasina Government  takes oath – full brunt of the state repression will be unleashed upon whatever is remaining of BNP. Khaleda Zia along with her top lieutenants will face harsh or long term sentences. Per PM Hasina’s game plan – vision 2021 will be halfway on its goal.

 

However the above mentioned scenario still remains within the confines of wishful thinking and planning. History tells us again and again – whatever precision planning one may do, whatever full proof the plans may be – eventually, surprise and unplanned factors dictate the flows, the turns and the curves of the history. Another factor that also cannot be ignored by any avid observer of history – is that whatever powerful one may be – without ground based following and a sizable portion of the population backing the regime – no one can stay afloat with absolute power too long. Nature – sometimes presenting as collective public opinion, sometimes presenting as suppressed public demands – finds its way to correct major anomalies against the nature- again an overwhelming public opinion.

 

The state, led by Hasina and her cronies e.g. political advisers, army, RAB and police chiefs, GOCs of strategic military divisions, DMP and other commissioners, bureaucrats – may design the perfect plan of a brutal bloody suppression of the opposition. They may find the confidence and comfort about their success in their successful dress rehearsals of suppressing the opposition movement after Ilias Ali abduction or Hezazate Islam sit in.

 

The problem is that what the planners of Mrs. Hasina fail to see is that the state power has a shelf life. It decays with time. The vigor this state had shown during Ilias Ali agitation or even during hefazate Islami sit in, is no longer there with the state machinery. In the elected autocratic democracies like Bangladesh – the state power and the opposition strength is mutually complimentary. The stronger the state is, the weaker is the opposition. The weaker the state gets – the more invigorated the opposition gets. Even if the high command orders a brutal crackdown of the opposition, it will be unlikely that all ground level enforcers of the state will comply to high command orders with full complicity. Every single police officer, every single district level administrator will think twice before executing any drastic suppression. Because like the rest of the nation they will also be skeptical about PM Hasina Government’s plans to hang on to a second term by force. They will be very careful in trying not alienating the future ruling party. The state may have foreseen and preempted this problem by heavily recruiting hardcore ruling party zealots from a certain part of the country- but these zealots will be too little too weak to negate the skepticism and inaction of self-serving skeptic members of the  administration.

At the same time the opposition force Hasina’s state machinery will face on the streets will be much stronger than before.  Possibility of an upcoming election will drive constituency based resistance to state suppression. Potential candidates of each constituency as well as their ward level followers will try their best to show their support and organizational capacity in launching a resistance. The incentives were not as high two years ago, the hope of an end to the oppression and hopes of paybacks were not as near.

 

Then comes the other surprise factors. The strongest Prime Minister in history of Bangladesh could not contain a young newbie grassroots leader of her party during Gazipur city corporation elections.  Even when our PM’s clout and stature was at the peak we saw Ivy-Shamim Osman, Afsar Uddin- Simin Hossain Rimi type organizational chaos. At the end of her tenure, how she would expect to contain all the deprived leaders of the party? Esp. how she would dissuade the local leaders  who know it very well that if they again remain within the list of the deprived, if they have to pave the way for the other leader to become the MP or Upazilla Chairman, their political career is practically over.

This factor will weigh heavily in suppressing the opposition. May be the opposition BNP activists will see unexpected allies among the ruling party deprived factions.

 

Then other shocking surprises like 1/11, August 15 is always there in the horizon.

The facts above suggest it very clearly that if the government has any plan to oppress the opposition and hold a one party election, although it will not be impossible, it will not be walking on a cake. If we go back to the Terminator movie analogy – precision planning by the strongest super computer Skynet system and all the full proof pre-emptive acts to protect the planned future failed to human resilience and surprises.  Prime Minister Hasina, with all organs of the state behind her with solid subservience, may have found herself invincible during last four and half years. But her invincibility will be seriously tested by a skeptic administration, a chaotic feuding organization she leads and a n invigorated opposition.

 

[ In the third and final installment of the analysis, we’ll discuss the best exit plan of PM Hasina and about the 3rd Hasina Government if PM Hasina somehow succeeds in hanging on to power]

A rumor is flying around as some negative minded sarcastic folks are speculating that name of the Committee to eradicate the collaborators and killers of 1971 may be changed into “একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল ও ইউনুস নির্মূল কমিটি” .

The rumor started flying as the committee started their anti Grameen bank campaign by issuing this protest.

Robert Blake’s comments ‘unwanted’
Says Nirmul Committee
Staff Correspondent

Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee yesterday condemned Robert O Blake, the US assistant state secretary for south and central Asian affairs, for his remark on the removal of Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus from the Grameen Bank.

A statement jointly signed by three executives of the organisation says Prof Mohammad Yunus was holding the post of managing director of the Grameen Bank for the last 10 years in violation of rules of the central bank.

The issue is under trial in the High Court, and any comment on that is unwanted and against the diplomatic norms.

Blake’s remark also undermined the country’s sovereignty, said the press release.

The signatories are Prof Kabir Chowdhury, president of advisory committee; Justice Mohammad Gholam Rabbani, executive committee president, and general secretary Kazi Mukul.

The US failing to stop the trial [for war crimes] of Jamaat leaders, whom it backed in 1971, is now striving to stop trial of Yunus, says the press release.

Few months later this unbelievably dumb partisan Mojammel Babu type piece by একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল নির্মূল কমিটি leader Shahriar Kabir seals the final nail in coffin of the credibility of this group. While this group called একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল নির্মূল কমিটি claims to be the focused pressure group to force trial of war crimes committed by Pakistan’s Bangladeshi collaborators in 1971, their sudden outrage against Dr Yunus exposes their real agenda many people suspected all the years. Now the whisper that একাত্তরের ঘাতক দালাল নির্মূল কমিটি only works as a covert front organization of ruling Awami League to give AL politico-strategic benefits, will get louder.

Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque is going on retirement next week.  His retirement will mark the end of, in fellow blogger tacitaerno’s words, a reign of constitutional terror.

With his retirement, Justice Mojammel Hossain will be the new chief justice. Justice Haque could become chief justice and now he is being followed by Justice Mojammel Hossain only because both of them have proven their utmost loyalty to current ruling party and it’s leader. Both of them superseded Justice Shah Nayeem to become chief justices.

Below is a video montage of comments of different sort of legal professionals on the state of Bangladesh judiciary.

Will start with comments of a leading Supreme Court Lawyer Barrister Sara Hossain,

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Indeed, a very bad precedent you are creating Dear prime Minister Hasina.

It started with the arrest of an elected Dhaka City Ward Commissioner ( Councilor) Mr Chowdhury Alam.

Removal of Chowdhury Alam was very important to ruling Awami League Government’s political strategy. Mr Chowdhury Alam, as elected representative from Dhaka’s city center area, was the key field level organizer of all the city center rallies/ programs of opposition of BNP. Awami League takes opposition activities very seriously. They simply don’t want opposition to exist or act in any form. Departure of Mr. Alam came as a big debacle for opposition BNP as Mr. Alam was their key figure in it’s efforts to organize street agitation in Dhaka.

It has been nearly a year Mr. Alam went missing. Nobody accounted for his whereabouts.

In this list of missing under the current regime, Chowdhury Alam definitely was not the only name. The list became long quickly within first two years of this regime.

Last name in this list is the son of an opposition political figure. A rightwing orthodox islamic political leader and a Madrassa principle, Mr Fazlul Haque Amini had been protesting, peacefully, against the new fuggy inheritance policy of the government. A nationwide strike was organized last week and rallies are taking place on regular interval. Government’s top leadership reflected the whole issue personally on Amini. Statements made by the the prime Minister as well as other senior ministers were clear indication of the level of discomfort this government is experiencing in Handling this Amini trouble.

So not sure how to handle Amini, as any direct crackdown on Amini led madrassa based politics may be perceived as attack on political Islam by rural Bangladeshis, this prime Minister seemed to have taken the Chowdhury Alam route. Like Chowdhury Alam, the news broke as an arrest of Fazlul Haque Amini’s son Abul Hasanat by plain clothed policemen. Multiple news outlets carried this news.

And exactly like Chowdhury Alam case, since his abduction, Mr Abul Hasnath remained unaccounted for. Except for denying that he was arrested, there has not been any statement from any corner of the government regarding this incident. There has not been any visible action by law enforcement agencies to solve the problem by rescuing the abducted person. Mr. Amini, the father of the victim, has been complaining that he is regularly been threatened from the mobile phone belonging to his son. Bangladesh law enforcement agencies has the capabilities to track the phone records and locate from where the calls are made. Using this system, they solve most of the crimes these days. The silence from government quarters about the abduction, Prime Minister Hasina’s continued verbal attack on Amini ( Her last statement about Amini was that Khaleda Zia let Amini loose on the government), absolute absence of any action by law enforcement men to rescue or at least trace the abducted — should be enough evidence to suspect government’s hand behind the abduction of Amini’s son.

The government must understand that denying the abduction does not let them off the hook. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the safety of it’s citizen. A man suddenly can be whisked away in broad daylight from mains street Dhaka and Government will not have any say in it — this cannot happen in a civilized society.

Abducted and missing opposition activists and their families have been the historical hallmark of all the fascist governments in history. We don’t want to believe that our country is heading the fascist way. But the series of events, starting from Dr Yunus saga to the abduction of the son of Fazlul Haque Amini force us to fear about impending fascism.

In 2003-04, when Petrobangla faced an arbitration case against Petroleum giant Cairns in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the lawyers who were selected to represent Bangladesh and PetroBangla had no experience in international commercial arbitration. The second Khaleda Zia government made that selection based on the lawyers pro-BNP lebel. The result was expected, PetroBangla lost the winnable case and Bangladesh lost a substantial amount of money. The defeat was attributed to poor legal representation and lack of understanding between Petrobangla and its lawyers.
However, in early 90s Bangladesh government and petrobangla won an international arbitration against Canadian petroleum giant Scimitar. The lawyer representing Bangladesh Government was Dr Kamal Hossain and Associates.

So, when Bangladesh was again forced to go to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in March, 2006 for another dispute involving Chevron, Dr Kamal Hossain Associates were called back in to represent Bangladesh and PetroBangla. The hearing took place between 2007-2009. Although similar case against Cairns went against Bangladesh in 2004, this time the international arbitration court turned down US oil giant Chevron’s claim of around $240 million from Petrobangla. Dr Hossain’s able representation did not only save Bangladesh $240 million dollars of back pay, it also ensured $320 million more savings over the next 20 years contract period.

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Updated: Some redemption.

I am a fan of Zafar Iqbal the science-fiction writer. The columnist, not so much. After a long time, he once again wrote a column in the Prothom Alo. According to him, the two greatest problems facing our country are:

1. We don’t know the lyrics of our national anthem.

2. We don’t make our national flag according to the correct specifications.

Compared to Professor Iqbal, Sohrab Hasan is a paragon of reality-based discourse. He very aptly points out the plight of Bangladeshi blue-collar workers in Libya and the AL government’s slothful reaction to this problem. However, then he seeks to balance his attack by blaming the opposition BNP for not going to the Airport when the workers returned from Libya. Given that two months ago, our government did not allow BNP MPs to enter the Airport when Khaleda Zia departed for China, one has to wonder how Sohrab Hasan believes that the same government would have just allowed the BNP leaders to stroll into the airport without any hassle.

Hasan commits the added offense of minimizing the current controversy of the reprinting of the Constitution ( সরকারি ও বিরোধী দল বাহাসে লিপ্ত হয়েছে সংবিধান পুনর্মুদ্রণ, গণ-আদালতে বিচার এবং তত্ত্বাবধায়ক সরকার থাকা না-থাকা নিয়ে). Prothom Alo’s Mizanur Rahman Khan has been conducting a one-man war against the complete chaos regarding the new, phantom Constitution. His columns on this matter should be mandatory reading for anyone concerned with the fate of parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh.

But no amount of myopia can compete with that displayed by the government in its handling of Prof. Yunus. Sheikh Hasina is going to look back to the day when she decided to launch her vendetta against Prof. Yunus and rue it.

Updated (January 21, 2011): Robert O. Blake Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs: “The investigation into the Nobel prize-winning Grameen Bank, however, has raised concerns. Secretary Clinton has urged the government to maintain its democratic values and ensure its investigation is impartial and balanced.” Please compare this with government press release regarding Hillary’s call.

Dr. Yunus and Hillary Clinton

Photo: Daily Star

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday. Since the only press release regarding this call has come from the Prime Minister’s Office, they understandably did not mention it, but Hillary was calling with only one message: “Don’t mess with Dr. Yunus.”

The phone call was not an isolated event. US Ambassador James Moriarty had also delivered the same message a few days ago. And just in time. The Government has annouced that it has formed a committee to investigate Grameen. It is headed by DU’s Prof. Monowar Uddin Ahmed, who has had a famously difficult relationship with Dr. Yunus. As everyone knows, once a committee is formed, you’re one step away from the death squads.

As an additional channel of attack, the Government has also started harassing Dr. Yunus through the courts. Obviously, the good doctor thought that op-eds in the New York Times are well and good, but Secretary Clinton speaks a language that our Premiere understands clearly. And with his first court appearance due Januarry 18, clearly the phone call was timed with some thought.

I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t like the government hounding Dr. Yunus. However, I also don’t like foreigners telling our Prime Minister what she should or shouldn’t do. Hasina took office with incredible support from Western governments; why she would choose to start a vendetta with the one person in Bangladesh with even better foreign support than herself is still beyond me.