The Villains


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.

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Today a daylong general strike was called by the main opposition party in Bangladesh. This is first such event in 3 1/2 years. The opposition party BNP had laid out the strike plan last month in protest of certain issues they have pointed out as government failure.

The general strike ( Hartal) is not a very popular mode of protest in Bangladesh. Yet opposition parties resort to this tactic more often than other means as they don’t find the alternatives to hartal as biting. One reason the opposition resort to this sort of general strike is because hartals make the government feel insecure and vulnerable. For this same reason current ruling party Awami League resorted to 303 ( nearly a year) days of general strike since 1991. Otherwise a so called successful hartal is never a testament to opposition’s popularity.

Hartals are now more a test of the mindset of the government than anything else. Accordingly today’s hartal was an opportunity for the government to show how tolerant and democratic they are and at the same time it was a tool of the opposition to trap the government into exposing the government’s intolerant fascistic mindset ( if there is any).

Clearly the following photo assay shows heavy handed repressive acts of the government in a day which otherwise would have been a day of peaceful non-violent exercise of democratic right.

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This Bodi Majumdar was the instrumental intellectual warrior against politicization of EC during Khaleda Zia rule. He was all over, all vocal in favor of EC which will be free of political influence. And he did leave no stone unturned in finding out every possible fault the previous EC could make.

But today, on the eve of another politically motivated, ill-intentioned act of EC, he is already out with sword to defend the decision.

The shocking unlawful and immoral election commission rule of depriving mainstream BNP of EC recognition came late yesterday evening. I presume prothom-Alo went to press within a couple of hours. And in that couple of hours, he came up with this rather long piece of garbage in the name of BNP constitution analysis to defend the catastrophic decision of Election commission. Look at this Bodi Majumdar! What, then, did he preach all these years!! And after his menacingly long piece of trash analysis he concludes that the decision of EC should be supported in greater public interest. Which public you are talking about Mr Bodi the Majumdar? And what interest you are talking about? And what was your real interest all these years?