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After Me Catastrophe?

September 18, 2016

For the last couple of weeks, Bangladeshi Prime Minister keeps reiterating that Bangladesh is heading towards the right direction while she is in the steering wheel and no harm will happen to this country as long as she is in power.

When it comes to AL’s arch political rival BNP, she seems to be in “spare-none” mode. Most recently, having stripped founder of BNP–Lt Gen Ziaur Rahman—off the highest civilian award , govt took off the medal from the National Museum. There is a strong rumour that mausoleum of President Zia , occupying an important place just few yards away from the parliament building, may face similar fate in coming weeks. This sort of action certainly will make political reconciliation difficult. In this backdrop, some political commentators and journalists, reading correctly the political pulse, forecast that country might head towards a cul-de-sac.

If one observer looks into the actions of her past 2-year, it will become quite clear that there is little room for trusting her. Prisons are full to brim with political prisoners, most of whom are facing spurious charges or no charges at all. And number of them is somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000. Clearly, a good number of them will hold grudge against the ruling party and the state when they will walk out free. Vested quarters, at home and abroad, may exploit their anger to stir further trouble across the country in future.

In an op-ed article titled “The Challenge of Democracy”,published on 28 August 2015 on the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, former US ambassador to Bangladesh William Milam outlined some of the authoritarian doctrines propagated by today’s authoritarian regimes:
1.Too much stress on security over individual liberty in the name of counter terrorism efforts. Authoritarians use it as a tool to suppress political opponents.
2.“Protection of civilizational diversity” [which gave birth to organizations , i.e. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),that reject values of liberal democracy and promote state sovereignty] and “ the democratization of international relations”,[ which indicates undermining any initiative dealing with democracy]
3.“Defense of traditional values”  is the doctrine that concentrates on social issues like gay rights, gender relations and minority treatment.

If we just put PM Hasina’s deeds into the litmus test of authoritarian doctrines, we will see her government has become quite authoritarian over past few years.
Enhanced security measures narrowed the space of free expression. New Broadcast Policy, online policy for internet based news portals were introduced to muzzle media and internet. Moreover, ICT Act and Cyber Security Act have been used to silence voices critical to government policies and political figures

As government has tightened its grip over media, one can hardly find investigative reports/ follow-ups on government anti-terror drive. Some of the draconian acts retain clauses that give law-enforcing agency overwhelming immunity.

One can find emptiness of her assurance if s/he has a close look to the facts.
On August 12 this year, Islami Bank Bangladesh (IBBL), a bank designated by US authority as “conduit of extremist finance” for having strong ties with al-Qaeda, published a special supplement on all the major dailies on the occasion of its 33rd anniversary. The supplement contains nuggets of statistics about bank’s successes in all the key sectors of the economy in recent years. According to the supplement, IBBL is now the largest SME investor in the country and has a client base of 150,000, of them half are women. In addition, the bank accounts for 21% investment in the steel industry, 18% investment in the transport industry, 13% investment in the real-estate sector and 21% market share in financing the RMG industry. Most of those got jobs in this bank and involved in operation of the bank are part of a secret cult like political organization that is notorious for its terror acts.

Her rule is also a testament to the argument “defense of traditional values”. Under her tenure we have seen barbarous machete attacks against bloggers, murder of transgender activists and publishers and incessant attacks on minority communities.

These acts are tell-tale signs of a growing authoritarian regime that has little desire for treading the path of political reconciliation.

NGOs and civil societies also faced wrath of her authoritarian government while the main backer of 1/11 government, the Army , swelled in size, arms procurement and grabbing business opportunities.

NGOs and civil society organizations have been categorically labelled as the instigators and actors of depoliticization scheme and have been subject to ill treatments and harassments, meted out by the vindictive section within the govt.

BRAC, world’s largest NGO, have been asked to pay overdue charges of Tk 4.30 billion, stemming mostly from its commercial entities. BRAC’s mobile financial service bKash has become an easy target for robbers. There has hardly been a month when bKash agents have not been shot and mugged.

Similarly, tax evasion charges have also been brought against Grameen Bank (GB). GB’s chairman Prof Yunus was publicly rebuked by the ruling regime for the cancellation of GSP in US market as the government’s perception was that he had played a role for its cancellation. Companies where GB has significant stakes sustained government-sponsored troubles. For instance, GrameenPhone witnessed vendor uprising and employee agitation. Furthermore, Grameen Knitwear also suffered from workers’ unrest. Irrational tariffs, which were passed on consumers, were imposed on GP and other mobile phone operators.

Another NGO “Adamya Bangladesh” that works for the underprivileged children witnessed detention of all its staffs and volunteers. A massive social media campaign later forced the government to release them.

All the forces that hold liberal values and try to create an atmosphere where democracy will flourish are actually witnessing their decline.

What could one make of government’s adverse actions towards these forces? Perhaps, deep inside her mind she is entertaining the idea:”After Me Catastrophe”.

Why not? She and her sister had gone through a horrible experience and made compromises and concessions to political forces, which she and her party despise all their lives, to ascend to current political position. After settling down old scores with all her political foes, what incentive does she have to leave a prosperous and democratically strong Bangladesh behind for future generation? All the members of her next generation are foreign nationals. In addition, AL needs formidable foes, which in the end will help Bangladeshis to understand AL’s need in Bangladeshi politics. That is why she is leaving behind a Bangladesh where corruption is rampant, where Islamists’ financial institutions swell and where anarchy disrupts everyday life.

And we the ordinary citizens are so fool that we are oblivious of the fact that in Bengal a prosperous tomorrow for the future generation is the wish of a poet, not the one of a politician!

 

 

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