Future of Bangladesh

Operation Chop heart!

Zakaria Khondokar
Praises go on from all corners for army crackdown on alleged criminals. People of Bangladesh are having a sigh of sudden relief - "oh finally the mastans are gone". The media and int

elligentsia are unanimously clubbing the army and madam Zia. What an action! what an action! Bravo madam! Bravo army! Nobody raises the basic question. Are we chopping the heart to show-off cleaning?

I would like to have a look at the beginning. The government took in power hand in hand with religious extremists. It failed to control or dismantle its own student wing. Like Frankenstein's monster this wing set a record of killing student in BUET; the echo of "ban student politics" was resounding in the air. Then Dhaka University became a mass, a VC termed his own students as "outsiders and garments workers"; the echo of "ban" was again resounding in the air. I could not follow the crowed to sing the same chorus- "ban student politics" (Daily Star, July 25, 2002). I could see "the whole marsh was full of mosses, we could not have kept just the campuses clean forever". No matter what measures would have been taken, the mosses would have gradually taken over. I see politics gave rise to Nazism, Fascism, religious extremism, World Wars, and so many mass killings. My alternative thinking was to sing "why not ban all politics?"!

In bare sights politics itself has caused all evils. We like to blame politicians for every evil in the country, be it crime be it corruption. We have voted godfathers and murky millionaires to the parliament in last three elections under the caretaker governments. Dozens of "mastans" have defeated their relative compassionate opponents. The psychology was "he is a better mastan, he can protect us best". Dozens of murky millionaires have defeated relatively more honest opponents. The psychology was "he is rich, he can spend more and do more for us". We ourselves have promoted crime and corruption sending them to the parliaments. Our intelligentsia have sullied and failed to warn the voter of potential danger. We failed to think of long term consequences. Our bureaucracy is reputed as the most corrupt in the world, so is our police department. More than 90% people support open talks about corruption in our judiciary system (Prothom Alo opinion poll, October 23, 2002). One retired justice claims that corruption has taken the judiciary system. We still blame the politicians.

Army is on the street, the mastans are in hiding. When army goes back they will come out again. People will see army on the street was better. The echo of "Martial Law" will resound high on the atmosphere. More and more army involvement in the civil administration will gain a ground. Politicians will be inclined more and more to the uniform. The possibility of a military coup can't be ruled out either. We will keep blaming the politicians. The spirit of 1990's mass revolution will fade away. Are we following the footsteps of Pakistan?

The religion traders are stronger than ever. They can dream of sharing power in Bangladesh. They can dream of uprooting the minority. Now they are on the shoulder of politicians, tomorrow they will hike on army. In Bangladesh they can't dream of a total control under electoral system. They would very much like to see a coup. Oil giants would also like to export the last bubble off gas to maximize their profit. India would be happy to import cheaper gas from Bangladesh and expand their largest export market. It will be easier for them to manipulate few generals than all those politicians, bureaucrats, and above all voters.

Amnesty International is concerned about the human rights violation and politicization of army. Many are concerned about deaths in army custody, and the arrest of opposition leaders. The arrest of a gentleman like Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who has a godfather opponent in his constituency, pose a big question of using army. Many started suspecting that BNP goons will be released soon, but Awami League goons will be mingled with leaders and kept longer in the jail for longer. Most people like to see the surface, tend to overlook this aspect lying beneath. They are praising the government for arresting BNP people, ward commissioners, even MPs. Why were these goons nominated for a parliament or city councils? Does their arrest glorify our democratic system or respect people's mandate? How can a party run a civil administration in the whole country who even can't rule its own workers and leaders without army? Will they ask army to run country in the future?

All of these- human rights issue, deaths in custody, and politicization are relatively short run. We should be looking beyond, what happens in the long run. The use of army in traffic control in late nineties legitimized army interference with police job under a democratic system. The use of army to fight crime has been legitimized now. Next we may use army to stop student opposition on campuses, then fight corruption in bureaucracy, then to set martial law court, then to run the whole administration. We will no longer need electoral systems. That is where I am concerned. I am concerned as the echo of "army coup" is being heard in the air, legitimize army rule in civil administration. I am concerned about the control of religion traders and vested interest groups home and abroad on generals taking over power. I am concerned about the gradual destruction of all democratic institutions. Politics is becoming more difficult for politicians.

I am concerned about the destruction of documents from Awami League's research wing. The establishment of research wing was a major step towards modernization of politics. Our politicians are blamed for lack of knowledge, this research wing could at least bring the light to some. This destruction and seizure will discourage others to set a research wing. Is this destruction and closure just bigotry or a conspiracy? As a reason, it's easy to feed Bangladehsi voters with a theory of "Awami-Indian conspiracy". However, this is a setback for the nation, which will hunt our politics and consequently the nation for long. This "will make politics difficult for politicians". Easy for military dictators, thugs, goons, murky millionaires, war criminals, etc. Are we moving toward dark ages?

Religion traders have targeted our intelligentsia, they would like to see it as much divided and chaotic as possible. They will reap the benefits of any chaos or lack of control by civil administration or secular forces. The weaker the secular civil society, the stronger are those religion traders and vested interest groups. What we could do was a massive overhauling in our police, administration, and judiciary system. All we needed was a real good intention from Madam Zia, not a show-off. Instead we invited army to clean the mass to make army's hand dirty! To destroy the democratic institutions one by one.

We are too confident about prevailing secularism that we criticize warnings by FEER or Time Asia instead of inquiring the allegation. We just get satisfied with the US ambassadors rebuttal forgetting that this is a diplomatic practice. We are too satisfied about 1990's mass upraise that we rule out any possibility of army takeover. What we need is build awareness among people, the voters, let them believe that a secular civil society should prevail. We should keep looking so that the heart dose not get so filthy.

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