Category Archives: Reform

The Third Platform

 Arif Syed

Published in the Forum (August 2008 )

SINCE 1/11, and shortly prior to that, there had been attempts to launch a third political platform beyond the Awami League and BNP/Jamaat coalition in Bangladesh politics. Long before the end of the BNP government’s five-year tenure, there were murmurs about a “third force” taking over as people could predict the upcoming impasse.

What did people mean when they talked about the third force at that time? Was it: (a) an army coup (like Thailand), (b) a national coalition government heavily backed by civil/international society, or (c) an Iranian-style Islamic revolution?

As it turned out, a hybrid of (a) and (b) happened, with promises of a massive cleanup of corruption and holding of a free and fair election. (I don’t know why it’s always called “free and fair” — free election should mean a fair one — but I guess reality of power struggle is not that simple for us average citizens to understand.) Continue reading

‘National Security Council cannot be good for democracy’

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, a Pakistani academic and author of Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, talks to Syeed Ahamed and Faisal Gazi of the Drishtipat Writers’ Collective.

Published in the New Age (7 July 2008 )

Q: National Security Council is a looming spectre for Bangladesh. What is your view on the matter?

A: A national security council will only institutionalise the military’s role in Bangladesh’s policy process. In every case, this Turkish model which has already been used ineffectively in at least three countries, Turkey, Pakistan and Chile, has undermined democracy by establishing a top-down authoritarian model. No matter what the intention is, the outcome of military authoritarianism cannot be good for democracy.

What has been the role of the NSC in Pakistan and how has it affected civilian administration?
When General Musharraf came to power, he immediately sought the help of the civil administration. The bureaucracy is very self-serving and responds positively to authoritarian rule. It does not have a political agenda and is far happier living with military bureaucracy. Bangladesh must have experienced the same during the 1980s. However, whenever the military starts to expand its control over the civil administration, civil bureaucrats become uncomfortable and non-cooperative. Continue reading

Lessons from the Women Development Policy Debacle

Jyoti Rahman

Published in the Forum (June 2008 )

As part of a program marking the International Women’s Day, the government announced a National Women Development Policy on March 8. The announced policy was condemned by a section of Muslim clerics as un-Islamic. Specifically, the clerics objected to any possible change to the inheritance laws such that women could get equal inheritance rights as men. On March 11, the government announced that it had no intention of passing any law that is “anti-Islam.”

On March 27, the government formed a 20-member committee to identify inconsistencies in the policy as per Islamic rules and suggest steps to remove any such inconsistencies. While the committee deliberated, the clerical opposition continued. Continue reading

Fighting Corruption:Do We Have a Flawed Approach?

Mridul Chowdhury

Published in the Forum (May 2008 )

During the past year, there has been significant rejoicing over the capture of some corrupt government officials who have amassed huge amounts of wealth through manipulating loopholes in government procedures. The rejoicing is understandable, but what is sad to see is that there is so little talk about the very loopholes that have allowed these individuals to suck out money illegally from helpless citizens. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seems to have taken on a rather narrow-minded mission to strike at corrupt individuals, and has largely failed to bring to light the sources of these corruptions in the government. Continue reading

National security: The democratic model

Mashuqur Rahman and Sikder Haseeb Khan

Published in the Forum (Feb 2008)

Preserving and protecting national security is one of the most important responsibilities of any government. As foreign policy and national security challenges have become more complex, governments have looked to devise appropriate analytic and decision-making bodies. One such innovation has been the National Security Council.

In democracies that have adopted the National Security Council, the council acts as an advisory body on national security policy to an elected head of government. It is subordinate to the head of government (which in Bangladesh would be the prime minister), and has no authority over the decisions of the government’s chief executive. In its more severe form, however, the National Security Council is often used to exert military control over policy, even after power is handed over to civilian governments (Thailand is an example of this). Continue reading

Say ‘no’ to national security council

Asif Saleh

Published in the New Age (02 Feb 2008)

In countries where strong democratic institutions exist and where the military has never offered any threat to take over the state machinery, NSC has been used to deal with external threats and coordinate defence strategies. However, in countries where the military has been a dominant force in internal politics, NSC has been used to institutionalise the military’s role in politics, writes Asif Saleh

Jillur Ahmed, Channel I host of Tritiyo Matra: So is National Security Council coming?
General Moeen U Ahmed: Well, we have been hearing about it since last year. Let’s see. It’s there in India and Pakistan – so why not in Bangladesh?
Continue reading

Reverse charges

Jyoti Rahman

Published in the Forum (December 2007) 

I am told that it costs about Tk 1,500 to move one’s land-line to a new address in Dhaka. To most people who can afford a phone, this is not a large sum. However, in the pre-1/11 era, not many people used to pay this amount when moving.

Why? Because, to move your land-line to a new address, in addition to the connection fee, one needs to provide the original letter of issuance of the line to them.

Think about it for a minute.
Someone moved into a government quarter in the early 1980s when he was a young man with a new family. 25 years on, he’s retiring and moving off to his small flat, and he wants to take the land-line with him. He is happy to pay the Tk 1,500 fee, and he has the receipts for the last 6 months’ bill to prove that he indeed has the legal rights to the line.

But no, they want the original letter that was issued when Zia-ur-Rahman was the president. Continue reading