Who cares for Bangladesh?

Published on Monday, October 28, 2013

There had been a number of reports recently in Bangladeshi newspapers regarding the activities of US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr Dan W Mozena and the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Mr Pankaj Saran. It had been alleged, with substance, that these two foreign emissaries were discussing Bangladesh's present political stalemate situation and charting out the future course of action for Bangladesh. The agenda may have included: how the incoming national election should be conducted, who will supervise the election, which party is desirable to come to power etc. Additionally it had been reported that Mr Mozena went to Delhi last Wednesday, 16th October at the behest of Indian Foreign Ministry for the explicit purpose of discussing Bangladesh's present situation with Indian South Asian Desk officials. For three days they discussed Bangladesh issues and the Bangladesh government knows nothing about the outcome!

All these things are deeply disturbing from the national sovereignty point of view. An independent country's future is decided, let alone discussed, by foreign countries siting within the territory of the country and country's government is excluded, it is a very unfortunate situation indeed. It harkens back to the situation when Pakistani Junta used to decide the future of East Pakistan or, even earlier, when the East India Company used to impose unilaterally their administrative rule on Bengal.

Now we must ask ourselves, how did we get into such an ignominious position? What roles did the 'father of the nation' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and all of his successors, including his daughter and the incumbent Prime Minister, Sheijk Hasina, play to take us to this dire situation? Are we to say that we are just the unfortunate victim of foreign conspiracy? Are we to say that we did everything right but have fallen victim to the power game of the superpowers?

One can say for sure that we have done hardly anything right ever since the country became independent in 1971 (nearly 42 years ago). Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the 1st Prime Minister, mismanaged the country so much so that just within three years the country was in the midst of famine, not seen since the days of WWII. Corruption was rampant, cronyism flourished everywhere, law and order was non-existent and the whole country descended to utter chaos and lawlessness. All these things happened when the PM enjoyed unprecedented loyalty and support of the people. In fact, the total loyalty of the people may have made him the autocrat that he was; he ignored open corruption of unprecedented scale by his family members and by his party officials. He disbanded the multi-party democratic system and formed a single party (BAKSAL) dictatorial system and he made himself the president.

After his assassination in August 1975, the country fell into the jaws of military rulers who veered the country from supposedly secularist state to the Islamist state. By amending constitution a number of times to allow Islamic activities, they allowed hitherto banned Islamic groups (Jamaat, JMB, Razakar etc) to participate in the national politics. Saudi money kept pouring in to propagate Wahhabism by establishing thousands of madrassas, Islamic centres, mosques etc. in the country. Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) meddled in the political scene of the country and manipulated politics. This is the period when Islamic fundamentalism took roots within the country. While these things were happening, between the years 1975 and 1991, two successive military rulers were too busy siphoning off public funds for themselves, for cronies and for the party.

Although after 1991 the so-called democracy was restored within the country, that pseudo-democracy was nothing more than going through the motion of conducting elections in the country to create a façade of democracy. The two housewives, related to two assassinated leaders, having no experience whatsoever of any politics or administrative duties and with bare minimum level of education had been catapulted to the national political scene and became the leaders of two national parties. Once elected, these two ladies behaved like autocrats of the last century. These two parties had been ruling the country alternately since that time. The common theme that runs through all the administrations from 1991 till today is corruption and more corruption. The civil administration, judiciary and even education system had been so infected with party politics and tribalism that the two polarised parts of the society could well live in parallel universes.

Constitution had been meddled with at will to suit party political purposes and personal agenda. The present leader had abolished the provision of interim government through the parliament against the wishes of the committee that was formed to look into this matter. The opposition claims that without the interim government the forthcoming election will not free and fair. The present administration rejects that view and claims that all the by-elections in the recent past had been conducted in free and fair way. At the moment the two parties cannot agree and there is a political stalemate within the country.

Even more sinister is the attitude of these political leaders. Both of these leaders keep their families abroad and build up nest eggs while opportunities exist. Once things turn sour at home, they will fly off to their chosen places to live with their families happily ever after. This attitude runs right the way through in the cadres of political leaders. Obviously their patriotism is suspect; they consider the country as their playground to hoard as much money as possible within the limited time span and then move off to a quieter life abroad. In any civilised country, they would have been disqualified to hold public office or, if elected, they would have been removed. For example, how would Indian people feel if Manmohan Singh is found to have prepared his home abroad, where he keeps his family now, and as soon as he finishes his term of office he flies off there?

In a situation like this, it is no wonder that they discard national interest completely and seek personal benefit. The main aim is to stay in power or gain power – which will give them the opportunity to accumulate wealth – and any other thing is secondary. If the American Ambassador or the Russian Ambassador holds talks with the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka on Bangladesh's future, these leaders are not flustered – all these clap-trap leaders probably want to know whether these foreign powers are planning to keep them in power or not. These leaders are not in charge of the country, they do not care an iota. They care for only their self-interests.

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