Bangladesh: End of trauma – beginning of hope?
by Salah Uddin Shoaib
Ruling party in Bangladesh completed its first year in the office under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina as the Prime Minister. It is true that during the entire year, there had been no major corruption allegation against any of the ministers in the present cabinet, except, Commerce Minister Colonel [Retired] Faruk Khan and Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain. Both of them own two of the large trading conglomerates in Bangladesh and it are evidently proved that these ministers are playing active role in according due and undue benefits to their own business companies, even by compromising national interest.
Student front of the ruling party established a virtual reign of terror in the entire country since the very first day of Bangladesh Awami League's sitting in the office. Despite repeated warning from the Prime Minister, student front of her part never showed any sign of behaving in decent manner. Extortion mostly by the ruling party as well its fractions has already crossed all previous records.
Repression on religious minorities continued in various parts of the country especially cases of abduction and forceful conversions reached alarming level. Anti-Ahmadiya activities under the banner of 'Amra Dhakabashi' [We are residents of Dhaka] re-started from September 2009. Such activities came to a pause for past three years though ban on religious books of Ahmadiyas were never lifted by any of the governments during the past four years.
Notorious Islamist militancy group Hizbut Towhid started open exposition of its fangs and continued to distribute Jihadist materials in the country as well openly sold a DVD and book named 'Dajjal', which terms Jews and Christians as 'enemies of Islam'. The government is yet to ban this publication as well take actions against Hizbut Towhid. There is no sign of banning this notorious Islamist group, which reported has established links with various militancy groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Qaida etc. Hizbut Towhid is reported operating various commercial ventures in Bangladesh as well continuing to spread its activities outside the country under patronization of domestic and international donors.
Attack on media came to a very alarming level during the first year of the Bangladesh Awami League government. Attacks on journalists, repression on media and various forms of attempts to suffocate the voice of both print and electronic media continued during the entire year. A private owned television channel [Jamuna TV] was forced to shut down while ruling party leaders are continuing to demand immediate censorship on various talk shows on private television channels.
Sheikh Hasina returned to power for a second term after Bangladesh Awami League witnessed landslide victory in December 29, 2008 general elections. At that time, inflation rate was 10.11 per cent while on January 6, 2008 [when she formed the government] and it came down to 4.69 per cent by August 2009. Despite global economic recession, flow of remittances had also increased by 22.4 per cent from the previous year and foreign currency reserves exceeded US$ 10 billion.
According to statistics provided by the government, new power stations with a total capacity of 728 Mega Watt were put into operation during 2009 and more power plants will come into operations by 2010 with additional production capacity of 1000 Mega Watt. Present requirement of power in Bangladesh is approximately 5,500 Mega Watt while present production is 4,296 Mega Watt. Still the nation is suffering from power crisis. Especially the industrial sectors are facing huge loss due to serious power crisis, especially faced during the entire 2009.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is now continuing to blame military controlled interim government, which virtually seized power from January 11, 2008 from the democratic interim government and continued to run the country virtually under the whims of General Moeen U Ahmed, who many a times aspired to become head of the government. It is even believed that General Moeen was the mastermind of military takeover on January 11, 2007 and was the most important and influential player during the entire episode of military controlled interim role. He continued to give lectures against democratic system by referring it as 'epicenter of corruption'. At that time, Sheikh Hasina and many of her party comrades were also busy in claiming the interim government as 'result of their movement' as initially General Moeen U Ahmed's actions went solely against Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is the only political rival of Bangladesh Awami League.
But, when General Moeen's hands also extended up to Sheikh Hasina and her party men, Bangladesh Awami League very quickly shifted to anti-interim government stands from its previous stand of extending all out support to this undemocratic regime.
The most active member in the present cabinet after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is Abul Maal Abdul Muhit, who heads the Finance Ministry. Most sincere minister is Nurul Islam Nahid who heads the Education Ministry whiles the most talkative and controversial ministers are Colonel [Retired] Faruk Khan who heads the Commerce Ministry. Syed Abul Hossain, who heads the Communication ministry, is also labeled as a corrupt man. Dr. Dipu Moni, who is heading the foreign ministry, spent more than 4 months abroad during the first year of the present government, though she was able to record not even a single achievement against such heavy spending on foreign tours.
More or less, the first year in office for the present government was rather very smooth and unchallenged as the main political rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party was mostly busy in settling many of its in-house issues and problems. But, since the holding of council of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and re-formation of the executive committee and other committees, it is expected that the ruling party may start facing political challenges from the arch political rival during 2010. Political pundits are criticizing the re-appointment of Khondaker Delwar Hossain as Bangladesh Nationalist Party's secretary general as well bringing Tareque Rahman into the important position of Senior Vice Chairman. Such appointment of Tareque Rahman is being seen by many as continuation of 'Politics of Family Dynasty' in Bangladesh. On the other hand, Bangladesh Awami League is also no better than its political rival in continuing the culture of family dynasty. Sheikh Rehana [younger sister of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] is gradually becoming influential both inside the party as well the government while Prime Minister's son is working as the 'advisor to his mother' in United States. Evidently there is no sign from both the party is ensuring real democracy within the parties. Both are totally determined in ensuring continuation of the culture of family dynasty. Many are already comparing such tradition in Bangladeshi politics with those Middle Eastern Monarchs. It is understood that, such tendency of continuing dynastic tradition would only allow corruption, nepotism as well serious violation of democratic and fundamental rights of the citizens.
Partisan people may try to see hope under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina or Begum Khaleda Zia in ensuring a better Bangladesh. There is no doubt that both of them have sacrificed for the democracy of the country. Both of them also enjoy towering esteem in the country. But, possibly it is responsibility of these two esteemed leaders of the country to initiate in freeing the nation from the garb of dynastic politics and let every potential leaders inside Bangladesh Awami League as well Bangladesh Nationalist Party get the opportunity of gradually rising to the top most position in democratic manner by showing their leadership zeal as well charisma.
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