Sheikh Hasina


The current political problem in Bangladesh is primarily one of imagination. Obviously, neither Khaleda Zia nor Sheikh Hasina will accept an option that is total defeat for them. However, a study of the priority of the two leaders may allow us to glimpse what s solution to the current, bloody impasse may look like.

If Sheikh Hasina currently allows an election, she will lose. She will hand over the government to BNP for the next five years. She will certainly face many uncomfortable cases and inquiries about the BDR massacre, the Padma Bridge controversy, the atrocities committed by RAB in the days leading to and the aftermath of the 2014 election, the Share Market scam, and so forth. Moreover, given the age of both these individuals, it is highly likely that this would be the last time they would face off. Hasina understandably does not want to end with a defeat.

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Sheikh Hasina is sitting in her chair at the Prime Minister’s Office. Suddenly, the head of SSF, or BGB, or the Engineering Corp for that matter, suddenly comes into her office and tells her that Tanvir Mohammad Twoki, a brilliant young student, has been murdered and that the suspicion is that the family of Shamim Osman is behind it. Hasina stays silent. Or perhaps, more realistically, she launches several blistering ad hominem attacks against the bearer of the news, Khaleda Zia, “shushil samaj,” and her pet peeves of the day. However, she doesn’t order any specific course of action.

Would that make her culpable for the murder of Tauqi?

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I was visiting Bangladesh when pilkhana massacre happened. As the events were unfolding on the morning of February 25 2009, I was returning to Dhaka from Chittagong. As I returned to Dhaka that afternoon the general narrative dominating our media and civil society discourse puzzled me. I wrote the following post during late afternoon of February 25 2009. I lost the post as the blog website hosting the post went offline-
Today, after the trial verdict of the massacre came out, a friend discovered the post for me from a web archive-
The narrative of public mind, our media and educated class as I described that afternoon is a fascinating reminder of the fickleness of our collective thinking process –
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We are at, possibly, the last lull before the next storm hits Bangladesh. Ramadan will let BNP and AL figure out where they stand and what they want to do next. The months after Eid are likely to be as action-packed and eventful as the stretch between February and May.

One worry I have heard for a long time is that AL won’t allow elections at all. I do not believe this will come to pass. Awami League will certainly tilt the playing field their way as much as possible, but ultimately, I think they will call elections. There is a significant section of AL that believes that BNP will come to any election, under any terms, because the party has seen that it is hopeless at street agitations.

So, the question becomes, under what circumstances should BNP agree to participate in the election?

Here, as in much else, the Mahabharat has a point to make.

Before an epic war, two leaders from the two opposing sides go to see Lord Krishna. He is sleeping, so one sits at his head and the other at his feet. Once he awakens, they both ask for his support. Krishna offers them a choice: they can either choose his vast armies, including the elite corp called Narayani Sena, or himself, in a noncombatant role. The two captains made their choices and both departed feeling that they had gotten the better of the other side.

BNP should make the following offer to Awami League and Hasina, either:

i. They will abide by the terms of the 15th Amendment, and go to election with the current EC, with all the current MPs and ministers still remaining in office, only if Sheikh Hasina steps down and lets someone else, potentially President Abdul Hamid or Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, act as interim head of government, or

ii. Hasina can stay as PM, but Parliament has to be disbanded, with all MPs and ministers resigning, and an interim group of ten advisors, as non-partisan as possible, to act as the cabinet similar to the past caretaker governments. Hasina could be the caretaker chief.

And then sit back and let Hasina mull the choices, and the consequences of each.

Dhaka University Law profesor Asif Nazrul on the Forced Disappearance of opposition leader Ilias Ali

Bangladesh National Human Rights Commissioner on the forced disappearance of Ilias Ali

Dr Asif Nazrul on Forced Disappearance

PM Sheikh Hasina on forced disappearance of Ilias Ali

May be there soon will be a winner in Narayanganj City Corporation election. But question mounts, will she or he really be a winner eventually or will they represent a victory of their backers?

May be NCC citizens are getting an elected rep, they may be the only winner. But without any clout, control, power, money– in Bangladesh context under current system, a mayor is a talpatar shepai — simply a symbolic city father.

But then rest of it is also a lose lose lose lose game.

If Shamim Osman finally pulls through a victory, fair election or not, the demand for CTG will gain momentum. Sheikh Hasina and her ruling part that backed Shamim Osman will lose by winning.

If Osman loses to Ivy, both Awami League and opposition BNP loses big time. Anti CTG rhetoric will gain traction. Tainted civil society ( We all know who they are- new faces Syed Abul Maqsud, Mizanur Rahman Khan, Rubayat Ferdous with Anams and Motiur Rahmans in the background) will again stat jumping with double vigor. Civil society thinks Ivy is their candidate. Selina Hayat Ivy is civil society’s dream candidate. A hardcore Awami League leader, close to Sheikh Hasina currently at odds with another Awami League candidate not in good terms with the civil society leaders. But by no means civil society’s customized candidates are any good for a long-term healthy grassroots based democracy.

If Taimur wins, BNP also loses. Hasina will say, see we lost election to BNP and we can hold fair elections.

This Taimur Alam Khondokar is a pathetic case. If BNP wants to come back, exactly this sort of candidates BNP must shun. This man is running such a lackluster campaign that even Amar Desh is mentioning him in 3rd sequence after Shamim/ Ivy. He cannot talk, cannot make a point. cannot organize get out the vote, cannot gain on anti Awami League incumbency of Shamim, and capitalize on anti Narayanganj incumbency of Ivy. Only thing he is saying very ineffectively is “EVM mani na”, “EC is bad”. Are vhai he is not running against EC. He is running against Ivy and Shamim. And he must have made this a campaign of a referendum to Awami Leagues misrule.
This man is a failure in all way. He was BRTA chairman. That was shame of a record. I don’t know why BNP can’t find a good new fresh face, young blood. There are so many business leader from N Ganj, so many sports stars. Every time I see him walking along Narayanganj roads, he reminds me of the Zombies at the TV series “the Walking Dead”.

BNP must know that if they keep on relying on these Zombies, whatever misrule Awami League exerts on Bangladesh, they have no chance of winning back Bangladesh.

In CCC election an ex Awami Leagues, soft spoken clean image candidate helped BNP regain CCC mayoral seat.

In that context BNP needed Selina Hayat Ivy as their candidate. An honest, smart and bold young woman. In several debates I watched in TV, she was only one who talked some sense and was found to understand what it means to be a city corporation Mayor.

The latest news from Narayanganj tells us that Government decided to ignore Election Commissions request to deploy Armed forces for election eve / day violence prevention.

What will happen in Narayanganj on the election day — no one except the God and Sheikh Hasina can tell. But this blogger can assume that the election day events will be based on which advisor Sheikh Hasina listened to.

It could be a repeat of Bhola, which will be impeccably hidden under the carpet by a submissive friendly media ( In Bhola style). Shamim Osman will just rob the election by forcefully bagging 99% of rural Narayanganj vote.

Or if Mrs. Hasina this time listens to a different advisor, it could be an “apparent” fair election with Sheikh Hasina niece Ivy winning against Shamim Osman. That means civil society is managed for the time being and for next national election, a good example has just been created — ” FOR HOLDING A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION, NEITHER WE NEED A CARE TAKER GOVERNMENT NOR MILITARY DEPLOYMENT”.

Daily Star Report Blaming Hawa Bhaban

About ten months into the current Awami League government’s tenure, Daily Star produced this sensational investigative report. In blaring headlines, it pinned the blame for the August 21 assassination attempt on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tarique Rahman (referred to as Hawa Bhaban bigwig in report), and some other BNP leaders. The assassination attempt was billed as a joint venture between BNP and an Islamic fundamentalist organization.

The timing of this report was extremely significant. Two years ago, it was quite common to hear predictions about BNP breaking apart or an end to the Zia-brand of politics. Rovian dreams of Awami League’s permanent majority was quite du jour. BNP was scheduled to have its annual party council at the end of 2009. A feasible connection between Tarique Rahman and a murder charge would not only put BNP’s leadership transition into question, it would have given the government a huge bargaining chip against the largest opposition party.

Julfikar Ali Manik claimed that a “highly privileged document” from “a top accused of the grenade carnage” was the source of this information. This document finally went public on April 7 2011, when Mufti Hannan was brought in front of a magistrate to give a confessional statement that mirrored exactly what the 2009 Daily Star report had claimed. Important to note, Hannan had already confessed to his own involvement in this crime back in 2007. This additional information was only to pave the way for Tarique Rahman and other BNP leaders to be also indicted for the same crime.

Fast forward to September 27, less than a week ago. Having involved everyone the government wanted to involve, the case starts. Mufti Hanna submits a document stating that his supposed confessions were extracted by torture. How does Daily Star cover the story?

Daily Star Report on Retraction

It buries the retraction deep into the story. Which is funny, because the news that the government allegedly extracted a confession from a prisoner in its custody, only so that it can frame opposition politicians, ought to be big news. Amar Desh has reproduced the entire petition, including description of the torture. Eyebrows have been raised for less.

Daily Star Report on BNP

The next day, BNP, quiet understandably, held a press conference claiming vindication and pressing for the name of its leaders to be dropped from the charge-sheet. Again, in the headline, Daily Star made no reference to the alleged retraction. A casual reader glancing at the headline, as I did, would have probably thought it referred to some garden-variety claim made in some rally somewhere, and missed this entire back story.

In an incredible counterattack, to make sure the retraction of the confession was downplayed, Daily Star printed a competing news article claiming that Hannan’s legal petition had no standing. The next day, it got eminent jurist State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam to say the same thing.

Daily Star Report on Retraction of Confession

Let us look at the legal claims that a confession given under Section 164 cannot be retracted. Section 164 (3) of Bangladesh’s Criminal Procedure Code states:

(3) A Magistrate shall, before recording any such confession, explain
to the person making it that he is not bound to make confession and that if he does
so it may be used as evidence against him and no magistrate shall record any such
confession unless, upon questioning the person making it, he has reason to believe
that it was made voluntarily; and, when he records any confession, he shall make a
memorandum at the foot of such record to the following effect :-
“I have explained to (name) that he is not bound to make a confession and that, if he
does so any confession he may this confession was voluntarily made. I was taken in
my presence and hearing, an was read over to the person making it and admitted by
him to be correct, and it contains a full and true account of the statement made by
him.
(Signed) A. B.,
Magistrate.”

This makes abundantly clear that voluntariness is at the heart of any confession obtained through Section 164. The fact that confessions extracted through torture are illegal are no surprise; the courts of Bangladesh have been very exact in this regard. Our Supreme Court has explicitly held, in State Vs. Abul Hashem, 3 MLR (HCD) 30, that a magistrate cannot record a confession that is extracted through torture. And then, just to make sure, the magistrate has to affix his own signature at the end, verifying that the statement was not produced through torture.

What factors should a court look at to see whether there were any indication of torture or general police coercion? One very important factor is whether the confession is extracted after being in police custody, or whether there is any possibility that the witness may be taken back to remand right after his interaction with the magistrate. In State Vs. Farid Karim, 8 BLT(AD) 87, the fact that the accused was in police custody for unexplained two days before the police produced him for making confessional statement, was one of the important factors in the confessional statement being found involuntary.

Has Mufti Hanna been taken in custody, also called remand, often? According to a very desultory Google search, he has been remanded for 7 days on September 6, 2009, 5 days on September 12, 2009, 3 days on September 23, 2009, for 7 days on December 3, 2009, for 3 days on July 18, 2010, 2 days on August 22, 2010, and 5 days on December 27, 2010 . After making the statement, he was remanded for 1 day on April 26, 2011. That makes for 32 days of remand, and potential police torture, before and  1 day after making this confession statement. During the remand hearing held on August 22, 2010, Hannan tallied the number of days for which he had been in remand at 369 days over the past five years, and begged the magistrate not to grant any more remand. Remand, though, was granted.

Hanna was in police remand for half of September 2009. Presumably, it was this during this period that the document which became Julfikar Manik’s investigative piece was produced.

Even if this confession was made through torture, should we care if such confession statements cannot be retracted? Yes. There exists a plethora of judicial opinion, specifically State Vs. Lalu Miah and another, 39 DLR(AD) 11, which holds that any allegation of torture which forced the confessional statement, is to be treated the same as a petition for the withdrawal of the statement. Now that Hannan has claimed torture in police custody, the judge must decide whether his earlier confessional statement is credible. So the claim that there is no legal basis for withdrawing his confessional statement is without merit.

So why is this about the Daily Star’s coverage of this whole issue, rather than the much serious issue of torture of a prisoner in government custody, in a conspiracy to subvert the opposition political forces. There are two main reasons. The first is that we hear about these human rights violations through newspapers, and especially the Daily Star. If not for the Daily Star, Limon would be rotting in a jail cell or dead by now. So, when the newspaper itself decided to obfuscate the story and shift the focus to legal technicalities like getting permission from jail authorities instead of the much bigger and more serious allegation of torture in government custody, it renders hollow its supposed commitment to human rights and reinforces the suspicion that the news printed in Daily Star is slanted to serve a particular agenda.

Secondly, torture does not occur in a vacuum. No torture can flourish in a society unless it decides, as a whole, that certain individuals or classes of individuals are exempt from the protection of law. It very much seems like Daily Star has made such a finding for Mufti Hannan, which makes the paper, in general, and the relevant individuals, in particular, accomplices to torture. And the insidious thing is that the class of people who can be tortured tends to grow and metastasize at unbelievable speed. You may think that it only includes people with beards, and then suddenly, it also includes young university students out at night. 

This saga is by no means over. While there is an aspect to it that has a purely partisan aspect, this incident also serves as a reflection of the values that we hold as a society. And those values are fraying fast.

Government today submitted a supplemental chargesheet in August 21st 2004 Grenade attack on the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. The attack took 24 lives and injured many including Mrs Hasina herself.

Using the supplemental chargesheet, the mainstream media ( read Prothom Alo and DS) as well as other mainstream yes-media ( Read Amader Shomoy of Naimul Islam Khan etc.) were very glad to remind 21st august events to its readers. Multiple news including gruesome photos of the event on filled todays first pages ( whereas Prothom ALo first page news on the day after 15th amendment was about some irregularities in DMCH) of most print media.

In this supplemental chargesheet, almost the whole state machinery of last government is indicted. However reading the news stories today, one won’t understand the implication and seriousness of the matter.

If it is true, as government submitted in the supplemental chargesheet, that the whole state machinery led by the political leadership, in collusion with Army intelligence chief, the national security chief, the whole police top brass ( three consequetive police chiefs of the country, IG Police/ two other top brass police executives/ police investigating officers in the case), other senior intelligence officer — join hands with an international terrorist outfit like HUJI and try to throw grenade in a public meeting to kill the opposition leader —- then we are in a deep shit. BD has no right to be the 25th most failed state, it should have been at number 1 or two.

And if this is not true, i.e if this is only political persecution/ partisan revenge on the part of the current government— we are still in dire straits, in deeper shit. A citizen of this country has no right to tell that this country is better than 24 most failed dysfunctional states.

And more ominous is when nations’ leading media try to become part of this partisan revenge taking game, become tool of government in pushing forward the heinous design.

Three cabinet-level figures: Sahara Khatun, H. T. Imam, and Tarique Ahmed Siddique, have informed us that questioning the existence of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is akin to supporting extremists and terrorists. As it happens, the magic of the Internet and Google can allow us to go back in time, and remember when all these individuals, as well as both Awami League and BNP, had very different views on this matter.

Daily Star: October 19, 2004.

AL calls Rab killing force, demands its disbandment
Staff Correspondent

The main opposition Awami League (AL) yesterday demanded disbandment of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), terming it a ‘killing force’.

Pointing to frequent killings under Rab custody in the name of ‘crossfire’, the AL leaders also demanded punishment of the Rab members and those who raised the force for violating human rights.

The AL leaders at a news conference at the party’s Dhanmondi office expressed their apprehension that the government may indemnify the Rab against the killings.

They inferred the opinion from the indemnification of the armed forces for killing over 50 people during the Operation Clean Heart.

“The Rab cannot be a law enforcing agency. This is a killing force and violator of human rights,” said AL presidium member Suranjit Sengupta.

The AL held the conference to protest reported torture of two teenage brothers under the Rab custody for their confessional statements on the August 21 carnage. The Rab reportedly detained the boys in an unknown place for four days.

AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil said the government itself has become a weapon of torture and violator of constitutional rights of the people.

Asked whether the AL will take legal action challenging the Rab activities and against its members, Jalil said, “We’ll take the right decision in time.”

Suranjit said, “The Rab has killed dozens of people in the name of crossfire. This is simply murder as these people were killed without any trial. That is why we demand the government disband the Rab.

“How can it be ‘crossfire’ since there is no evidence of the Rab’s being shot at,” he said, asking, “Is crossfire a one-way shooting?” I’m quite sure the government will go to parliament to indemnify the killings under Rab custody,” he added.

He firmly said the Rab and those who have created it will have to face trial for custodial deaths and torture.

Jalil said the Rab tried to force the boys confess that they had hurled grenades at the rally at the directive of some AL leaders. One was released after four days and his younger brother sent to jail after spending 11 days in the RAB custody, he added.

Demanding compensation to them, he said, “They were subjected to heinous methods of physical torture including electric shocks.”

Daily Star: January 26, 2005.

Khaleda blasts opposition for anti-Rab stance
UNB, Comilla

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia yesterday reprimanded her political opponents for opposing Rab (Rapid Action Battalion) operations, saying that a party does not want the anticrime force as their “terrorists” cannot now unleash terrorism.

“Today, Hazari Bahini, Golondaz Bahini and Osman Bahini cannot stay in the field,” she told a public meeting at AR High School ground at Nagalkot in Comilla.

The prime minister said the Rab has been formed through enacting law to curb crimes in the country–one of the main election commitments of her party, BNP.

The prime minister said when people are leading a peaceful and happy life and want this situation to prevail, an opposition party stands against this situation. “Our opposition does not want peace— they want terrorism and so they are harbouring terrorists.”

Khaleda, the chairperson of the ruling BNP, observed that the Awami League, during its last five-year rule, had presented the country with terrorism, corruption and unfair means at public examinations.

On the contrary, she said, the three-year-old BNP-led coalition government has given roads, bridges, new schools, universities and employment and curbed crimes and formed independent anti-corruption commission to eradicate corruption from the country.

“BNP wants peace, welfare, progress and development while the opposition wants unrest and terrorism to take the country backwardand that’s the fundamental difference between the two,” said the prime minister.

Today’s News:

Reception for murder suspects on bail
Fri, Mar 11th, 2011 12:26 am BdST
Natore, Mar 10 (bdnews24.com) — The 11 men accused of an opposition leader’s murder have been given a grand reception after they were released on bail.

Suspects of Sanaullah Nur Babu’s murder were released from Natore Jail on Thursday evening after a High Court order on Mar 6 granted them bail. The victim’s family expressed alarm and dismay at the incident.

Local Awami League leaders received them with garlands at the jail gate around 7pm and later took them on a motorcade for a reception where they issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the witnesses.

The accused are Russel Hosain alias ‘Rappu’, Mohammad Rezaul Karim alias Rikon, 25; Hashem Mridha, 34; Gautam Ghosh, 22; Abdul Khaleque, 28; ‘Habib’, 24′ Bablu Molla, 24, Babu Molla, 25, Badsha Mandal, Ashraful Islam and Lutfar Rahman.

A High Court bench of justices Shamsul Huda and Abu Bakar Siddiqui granted their bail on Mar 6 subject to Natore’s chief judicial magistrate’s satisfaction.

Lawyer of the accused, Arifur Rahman, submitted the bail orders to chief judicial magistrate Mohammad Sharif Uddin on Thursday morning and the bails were granted for Tk 10,000 each.

On Oct 8 last year Baraigram Upazila chairman and BNP leader Sanaullah Noor Babu was chopped and beaten in public when the local BNP brought out a procession as part of the party’s month-long protest. Babu later died in the hospital.

At the reception ceremony the prime suspects, district Awami League publication and research secretary Zakir Hossain, said, “We did not kill Babu. But some people in Banpara have held meetings, processions, human chains demanding our punishment.”

“Within seven days the Banpara businessmen will have to prove we were involved in this murder. Otherwise, we vow that we will judge them ourselves.”

Another accused, Khokon Molla, said, “Not seven days, they will have to prove it within 72 hours. Otherwise actions will be taken against them.”

He also alleged that the video depicting the incident of the murder was a fake one. “It was doctored by the media. The video shows fake images,” he claimed.

BABU’S WIFE ALARMED

Mahua Noor alleged that she had been threatened to withdraw the case.

“They have threatened that they won’t let me out of my house. Those who did not receive bail are roaming around free…I can’t think where to seek shelter with my children. Perhaps we’ll have to run away from the country,” she said.

REACTION ON THE BAILS

Prime witness in the case Baraigram Juba Dal president Sardar Rafique told bdnews24.com, “I am frustrated at the confidence the accused are exuberating. Right after the reception, they called me and said ‘your wife will be made a widow just like Babu’s. You’ll soon find out the consequences of becoming a witness’.”

District Awami League president Sajedur Rahman Khan called the reception “a wrong thing to do”. “Whoever did it, didn’t inform us.”

Upazila BNP general secretary Hazrat Ali said it had become a lawless country. “Otherwise how are the murder accused are able to hold a reception while the case is still under trial?”

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inspector Ahmad Ali is investigating the case. Even Five months after the incident, he has been unable to submit any investigation report to the court.

bdnews24.com/corr/sh/ta/nir/2306h

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Flash Back:

Elected Chairman of northern district Natore Upazilla Mr Sanaullah Nur Babu was murdered in a public place in broad daylight. The above video footage clearly identifies person committing the murder as local Awami League activists under clearly identified leadership of local leader Mr. Zakir.

This Mr Zakir has never been arrested after PM Hasina publicly defended him and putting the blame on BNPs’s internal conflict.

Out of the other killers, some were arrested only to be released on bail and given reception today.
No investigation or charge has yet been made in this murder.

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.

Showing us that all sorts of dynasties can coexist and flourish side-by-side in Bangladesh, Zafar Sobhan has very capably taken over the defense of Dr. Yunus (here and here) from his illustrious father. Mr. Sobhan’s main point is that this witch-hunt against Dr. Yunus hurts Sheikh Hasina’s international standing abroad, and detracts from what should be the Awami League’s real mission: the destruction of Tarique Rahman.

I absolutely defer to Mr. Sobhan on the ups and downs of our prime minister’s international standing. However, I am still left with some disquieting thoughts. Dr. Yunus is arguably the most accomplished Bangladeshi alive. He is certainly the most well-connected Bangladeshi alive. If all Mr. Sobhan is left with is appealing to international sentiments, one has to ask, is there no domestic constituency left in Bangladesh that can dissuade or counsel Hasina from this disastrous policy? The fifty-plus cabinet, the half a dozen advisers, too many MPs to count, the much-vaunted sushil brigade, and no one to tell or show Hasina that you can’t sink Dr. Yunus?

Instead, Mr. Sobhan is left appealing to the prime minister’s international standing. It’s not a completely futile threat. Joseph Stalin once asked, “How many divisions has the Pope?” Sheikh Hasina isn’t likely to be quite as flippant; she knows better than any of us the path that took her to Gono Bhaban in 2007 – 2008. However, it’d have been nice to be able to solve this one mess by ourselves.

Speaking of 2007 – 2008, we have fond memories of the glory days when the unbeatable troika of Messrs. Sobhan, Wahid, and Ahsan used to regale us with grand tales and lofty ambitions from the rarified perch of Daily Star’s op-ed page. However, as they say, all good things come to an end. Mr. Sobhan is no longer at Daily Star, and Mr. Wahid now graces Shah Alam’s Daily Sun. Syed Badrul Ahsan alone is left to educate and inspire us. But he has switched into over-drive recently; there are only so many rags that pro-AL tycoons will be able to publish in the next three years, and the plum editorial jobs aren’t going to land themselves. Thus, we got this gem:

Khaleda Zia’s vow of nullifying every act of the Awami League is a patent threat to all of us. If the threat comes to pass, the sunlight will go fleeing from our lives, the moon will lose its luster, poetry will die, politics will be no more, rivers will not run and good men and women will be fugitives in the wild woods.
Everything will pall. Everything will pale. Everything will fall.

If Mr. Sobhan is sending a message from the Awami League base to its leadership, Mr. Ahsan’s message is from the Awami League leadership to the people, and especially those who make up the readership of the Star: Yes, we are proving to be quite bad, and we have also started losing elections, but stick with us, otherwise, dum dum dum…

Yes, those currently in power have started thinking about the next elections. Which is good, because our opposition seems to find it difficult to focus on a time-window past the next two weeks. They should take a leaf from Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed Joy, the eminent computer scientist “with graduation from Texas University at Arlington, USA” who, like many before him, has discovered the convenient advantages of one-party rule, as long as it’s his party doing the ruling. Another message from AL, and perhaps the most significant one yet.

According to our Prime Minister, women who are harassed sexually bring it on themselves.

One section of women wears too small clothes while another section covers their whole body, even their face and eyes… both are unacceptable. We’ve to maintain our culture and tradition.

That’s a direct quote.

She also said that the so-called ultra-modern women ... don’t bother to keep their modesty.

She said this while giving the Begum Rokeya Medal.

Did you hear any of our great secular intellectuals protesting this?  Of course you didn’t. You see, all the great intellectuals are busy worshiping the Prime Minister.

You don’t believe me?  Maybe you will believe Syed Abul Maqsud:

প্রধানমন্ত্রী বারবার সবাইকে বসে বসেই পরামর্শ দেওয়ার জন্য বলছিলেন। সরকারের বহু নির্দেশ যেমন পালন করার প্রয়োজন মনে করেন না অনেকেই, সেদিন অবশ্য সৌজন্যতাবশত সরকারপ্রধানের ওই নির্দেশ না মানাই সমীচীন মনে করেন কমিটির সদস্যরা। সৈয়দ শামসুল হকের প্রস্তাব ছিল একটু ব্যতিক্রমী। তিনি উঠে দাঁড়িয়ে প্রস্তাব করেন, প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার জন্মদিনটি ‘গণতন্ত্র চেতনা দিবস’ হিসেবে পালন করার ব্যবস্থা করা হোক। পিনপতন নীরবতার মধ্যে প্রধানমন্ত্রীই তৎক্ষণাৎ বললেন, ‘না-না-না, কোনো দরকার নাই।’ তারপর সৈয়দ হক প্রস্তাব করেন, ‘বঙ্গবন্ধু ও রবীন্দ্রনাথ’ শীর্ষক অনুষ্ঠানও যেন কর্মসূচিতে অন্তর্ভুক্ত করা হয়।

When Syed Shamsul Haque loses all dignity and self-respect, is it any surprise that the average Awami League MP will be this idiotic?

Sheikh Hasina’s government accorded the historic CHT peace treaty. Many other countries followed it to establish peace in their states. We are now waiting for the Nobel Peace Prize for Sheikh Hasina.

With friends like this, Hasina doesn’t need any enemy. 

Heavyset discussions regarding some documentary against Grameen Bank galore in our media and blog scene lately. National and international media, quoting a documentary, reported that Grameen founder prof Yunus embezzled a big sum o money from NORAD, a Norweigian development organization. Capturing that report, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina developed a diarrhea of verbal abuses aimed at prof Yunus, even the org, NORAD, whose money has been reportedly embezzled, is saying that nothing wrong was done by Grameen.

So this blog cannot keep mum on this very important issue and taking cue from all high profile media and blogs, wants to present an in depth analysis old, over-used joke.

At the gate of the hell, one observer noticed that there is a hell guard at the hell holes for every nationals. There are few guards in the hole for American hellers, some guard for the hell of the British people, similarly a lot of guards for the hell of the Indian folks. But there was no guard near the hole for the Bangladeshis. When the hell’s guard in chief was asked about it, he told, ” we do not need to put a guard at the Bangladeshi hole. If one Bangladeshi tries to get out of the hell, the other Bangladeshis jointly pull her/ him down.”

I know you could not laugh at this old over-used joke. But that is all this blog has to say about the recent Grameen issue.

So, Zafar Sobhan thinks BNP is mafia.  This made me laugh.  You see, that’s the thing with Bangladeshi politics — you have to laugh at it, because the alternative is to howl in despair.

Let’s be fair to Zafar.  It’s not just him who thinks this way.  I’ve heard it from many AL leaning folks over the years: the last BNP government was like the mafia, Tarique ran Bangladesh like a crime lord, the corruption and violence all pointed to mob rule.  So let’s lay off Zafar.  He is just more articulate than the most.

Instead, let’s look at the message.  So, the BNP government was like the mafia.  What does that mean?

Well, how does the mafia work?  There is a system of patronage, whereby the Don confers favours on those under his protection, and they in turn does the Don’s bidding.  Then there is extortion.  You want to do business in a mob neighbourhood, you pay a protection fee.  And finally, anyone stepping out of line has to be disciplined — made to sleep with the fishes.

BNP was all of these we are told.  Hawa Bhaban cronies ran the country like a private fiefdom.  There were rampant extortion, from the top to bottom.  And there were killings like the 21 August.

The 21 August was a crucial turning point.  After that event, many people said ‘we used to follow Zia’s ideals, not this Khaleda-Falu politic’.   For many who had no love of AL shunned BNP because of its mafia-type transformation.

That was then.  What do we see now?

We see that minister’s brother’s company is given lucrative contracts for electricity generation without any tender process.  And then we see that act being indemnified through legislation.

We see prime ministerial advisors openly declaring that only the ruling party members will be appointed for government job.  We see the public servants humiliated because they wanted to follow the law, and not the party diktat.

We see dissenting voices shut down and thrown into jail by partisan judges.

What was that about patronage, favor, and extortion?

Not as bad as BNP, you say?  Not like AL is killing opposition politicians, like the BNP did on 21 August.

Never mind that no one has actually produced any evidence of BNP being involved with 21 August (as opposed to covering up afterwards).  For the partisan AL mind, it’s a given that BNP did it.  And AL is not as bad.

Except for the inconvenient fact that AL is, of course, as bad if not worse.  In Natore, an upazilla chairman was killed in broad daylight a few weeks ago.  The entire thing is available in youtube.  And Sheikh Hasina personally saved the killers by saying ‘this was BNP’s internal conflict’.

We don’t need Julifikar Ali Manik’s complicated conspiracy theories.  All this happened in public media.  Sheikh Hasina intervened to save killers.

As I said, after 21 August, many BNP supporters abandoned their party.  I don’t know a single AL-er who owns up to Hasina’s action after the Natore killing.  None.

You know why?

Because AL is a cult.  It’s a cult whose members believe that their party can do no wrong.  It’s a cult whose members believe their leader can do no wrong.  It’s a cult whose members simply refuse to face the reality, and would prefer to believe in conspiracy theories where everything is someone else’s fault.  It’s a cult whose members, otherwise perfectly fine people, lock away parts of their reason, compassion, and conscience.

The 21 August assassinations will hang over BNP until it unconditionally apologises for it, and the real killers are convicted and punished.  Until that happens, the charge of ‘BNP is mafia’ will bite.

BNP may be mafia.  But so is AL.  And AL is also a cult.  No matter what happens to BNP, until the AL-ers free themselves from their mental slavery, Bangladesh will remain doomed with a plague on both houses.

After the military coup of 1/11/ 2007, the political role that 1/11 military leadership, did irreparable harm to the image of the military in public minds. The latest incident of using ISPR ( MoD’s media wing) to malign the opposition leader acted as the last nail in the coffin of the credibility of the military institution as a nationally respected organization. What the ISPR did regarding the eviction of the opposition leader from her home is reprehensible beyond expression.
In a nutshell what ISPR did is
1. On the day before the eviction, started a campaign of lie that Mrs Zia is vacating her home on her own
2. On the day of eviction, while keeping journalists, family members, political leadership away from her house, kept on lying that Mrs Zia is leaving her house willingly.
3. After Mrs. Zia complained of forceful eviction in a press conference, ISPR kept on their self contradictory lies and gave a tour of the bedroom/ personal items of the opposition leader to the media. Their attempts to hide forceful rentry and breaking of doors did not escape journalists curious eyes. And the most disgraceful thing ISPR did was planting a porn magazine in opposition leader’s bedroom wardrobe,  some alcoholic beverages and inviting journalists to take photos of that. This was so disgusting that even most of Government friendly columnists / news papers bothered not to talk about it.

So when 26 retired army officers belonging to BNP protests the mindless partisan use of ISPR; over 150 retired army officers convenes a press conference and reads a statement supporting the acts of ISPR and repeating all the over-used negative political talking points against the opposition party. In the press conference, the politically divisive and hateful languages of ex Army chief Lt Gen Harun Ur Rashid clearly indicates the partisan agenda of Gen Harun and the sector commander’s forum he now leads. If General Harun sincerely wanted war crimes trials, he could have kept himself out of this dirty petty partisanship and extend his hands to embrace/ motivate BNP supporters to join the war crimes trial campaign of sector commander’s forum.

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Upon becoming the president after three years of post-liberation chaos, the 1974 famine, 8 months of Bakshal fascism, and the 15 August massacre, Khondoker Mushtaq Ahmed promised a lot of things: prompt return to democracy with a free and fair election, economic stability, end to corruption, you know, all the stuff every politician and their qurbani cow promises.  Mushtaq was in Bangabhaban for some 83 days.  In that time, he made one change of national import.  He gave us a national dress.

Yes, it was discussed in the Cabinet that the then national dress of penguin Mujib Coat didn’t represent our national character, and we needed something that involved a Sherwani and a cap as our national dress.

Thirty five years later, Awami League is once again in office.  There is high inflation, electricity shortage, poor law and order, you know, all the stuff every politician and their qurbani cow promises to fix before the election, but somehow never deliver.  On top of that, questionable treaties are being signed with India.  And oh, just to add a bit of 1970s retro, the opposition is being cracked down on.  While all this goes on, what does the cabinet of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina do?

Why, in true Mushtaqian fashion, it decides we need a national tree.

Dear reader, now that we have a national tree, rest assured all the problems will be solved, and we will have a digital shonar Bangla before long.  Any reader who disagrees with this assessment is clearly a sympathiser of war criminals and belongs to the anti-liberation forces.

This blog was posted July 2007. Sheikh Hasina was just arrested by Gen Moeen and Masud government. The arrest was very humiliating. She was pushed, shoved, forced, dragged. Her glasses were falling off. No one spoke much against it. Media, intelelctuals kept quite. Except one person, her political rival Khaleda Zia. Let look back at the statement…

The Daily Star Reports,

Setting a rare example, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday demanded immediate release of her arch political rival Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina, and regretted failure of the administration to protect her [Hasina] dignity while being taken to court.

“I am deeply disheartened to see that being a former prime minister, chief of a political party, daughter of a national leader, an aged woman as well as a distinguished citizen of the country, she [Hasina] faced a disgraceful and indecent situation on the court premises,” Khaleda said in a statement, signed by Maruf Kamal Khan, deputy press secretary to the former prime minister.

BNP leaders however said they are not aware of any such statement.

“It [indecent situation] hurt all conscious people and destroyed the image of the government both at home and abroad,” Khaleda said. The situation could have been avoided if the government would have dealt with the matter carefully and consciously, she added.

The BNP chairperson said, “I think it would be better if her [AL chief] trial is held without arresting and sending her to jail or opposing her bail prayer.”

Calling for immediate release of Sheikh Hasina, Khaleda stressed conducting the case keeping her free. It would decrease the possibility of social and political instability and confusion.

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Photo, courtesy of the Daily Star.

National leader of Bangladesh, late Presiedent Ziaur rahman lived in this house from 1972 till his death in 1981. This was a house he was allotted as the deputy chief of staff of Bangladesh Army.

After his death, the then elected government’s cabinet decided to give the property to the widow of the slain president in a 99 year lease. That widow is now our leader of opposition.

Coming back to power for the second time, PM Sheikh Hasina seemed hellbent in evicting the opposition leader from that house and then demolishing this residence of late President Ziaur rahman.

A legal battle is underway in the court in this regard. A hearing is scheduled to take place in the Supreme court on Nov 29th.

However government looks like too impatient to wait till final resolution of the legal process.

So far from the sketchy news coming out of Dhaka cantonment where Mrs Zia leaves, the followng incidences have been confirmed.

1. Military PR wing issued a press release that opposition leader is leaving the house on her own. However the opposition leader, through her press secretery has denied any such claim by the military.

2. All the staff of the opposition leader residence have been rounded up and taken to police station.

3. Police and military trucks have taken position in front of opposition leader’s house.

4. Telephone line has been disconnected from the residence of opoosition leader.

5. Cantonment officials went to opposition leader’s house to take over the property.

6. Police and paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion forces has entered opoosition leader’s house and they were seen at the roof.

7. Opposition leader is being debied to meet her lawyers and political collegaue.

8. Opposition chief whip and other colleague of the opposition leader were barred from entering cantonment.

9. Law enforcement agency members were reported to be using hand mikes instructing the opposition leader to evacuate the home and promising stern action otherwise.

10. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s General Secretary, in a press briefing, informed that the opposition leader is under house arrest at this time.

11. Sporadic clashed with opposition activists and law men are being reported from different parts of the country.

12. An attempted rally from opposition main office was dispersed by the police.

13. Lawyers of Mrs Zia, the opposition leader, went to meet the Chief justice in his residence begging for a legal remedy.

[ UPDATE 12 NOON BDT]

14. Apparently there is a media blackout about the events regarding the residence of the opposition leader.
15. The main opposition party called a down to dusk general strike for tomorrow.

[ UPDATE]

In the evening, after daylong siege, Law enforcement men breaks open Opposition leader Khaleda Zia’s home, breaks open into her bedroom, indiscriminately beats her staff and family members, dragging her out of her bedroom and escorts her out of her home for 40 years.

Later in the evening in a press conference, Mrs Zia talked to the nation of her ordeal.

Five Army officers have been convicted in Court Martial for attempted murder on Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, MP. They are: Major Helal, Captain Rezaul Karim, Captain Rajib, Captain Fuad, and Captain Subayel Ibne Rafique. They have each been setenced to five years of jail, stripped of their army rank, and denied any retirement benefits. They will be serving out their sentences in Dhaka Central Jail.

Bangladesh has an unfortunate tendency of either seeing such attacks go uninvestigated or using them for political gain. The investigation and trial of the attackers on Sheikh Taposh could have been an exception to this trend. Court Martial proceedings are much more restricted in nature than civilian trials, that much is understood. However, to hold the entire trial in secret, and only allow it to appear in the media once the sentence has been delivered seems to be much more restrictive than was necessary.

A Daily Star report by Julikar Ali Manik says that the five officers were charged with “Violation of Good Order and Discipline,” under section 55 of the Manual of Bangladesh Army Law. The relevant section states “Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and of military discipline shall, on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.”

Five Army officers, on their own, reach a conclusion that a Member of Parliament and a nephew of the Prime Minister is responsible for one of the worst carnages in our nation’s history. They do so by expressly going against the Prime Minister’s words, who is also their boss because she holds the defence portfolio. They disavow the investigation report compiled by the Army itself. They steal explosives and munitions and attempt to murder a Member of Parliament.

 

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