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
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
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
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
Published in the Forum (November 2007)
“No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves … For any process of national reconciliation to succeed the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled.”
– 2007 Statement of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Do you want to remember or do you want to forget?” If only this question had an easy answer. Remembering is not easy, but forgetting may be impossible, especially when it comes to surviving the atrocities of war. Unresolved questions of how to address the past and deal with the horrific acts of brutality plague a nation: Are prosecutions possible? Should they be national or international? Should indigenous methods of justice and reconciliation take precedence over standardised punitive measures? Is the choice only between a silent peace and a risky justice? Should the nation bury the past, to not risk bringing painful memories back to life and further dividing a fledgling country? Continue reading
Jyoti Rahman and Syeed Ahamed
Published in the Forum (October 2007)
In his article “Exit strategies: Some lessons from history” in the August edition of Forum, Professor Rehman Sobhan noted: “The exit strategy for the caretaker government (CTG) may turn out to be its most challenging task.” Eventually, each exit creates the opportunity for an entry as well. As the current non-political government exits, a political government will enter. The entry strategies of different factions vying for power after the current government exits may well turn out be the most important determinants of the course the nation’s politics will take for years to come. Continue reading
Published in the Daily Star (26 September 2007)
With its runaway growth over the past few decades, Dhaka has become a 12 million citizen strong mega-city and the center of Bangladesh’s political and economic life. Unfortunately, the city’s leadership has failed to establish a comprehensive strategy for dealing with this rapid urbanisation and urban poverty. Its failure in the former has continued to systematically exacerbate the latter, to what may soon become a breaking point. Continue reading
Published in Forum (July, 2007)
It is only where political parties seriously challenge [the] relative autonomy and, along with it, the mediatory role of the bureaucratic-military oligarchy that conflicts arise in which, so far, the latter have prevailed.” Hamza Alavi (1972)
The ruling power in Bangladesh, when viewed in its historical context, essentially rested with three intermingling oligarchies: politicians, civil bureaucrats, and the military. While the first exhibited a disputed liaison with the others, the other two have demonstrated a reasonably steady companionship.
The oligarchs that emerged during different epochs have now appeared at a critical crossroad where the destiny of Bangladesh will be chosen for many years to come. In this vital juncture, this piece re-examines the evolution and inter-relations of these oligarchs in Bangladesh’s internal power politics. Continue reading
Published in Himal SouthAsian (June 2007)
Ever since the current caretaker government took over in January, Bangladeshi politics has been going through a rare and unique period of political dynamism. The determined act of the caretaker government and the military to send to jail some of the most powerful and corrupt political elites has ruptured the seemingly unbreakable web of corruption and extortion that had crept into almost every sphere of life. The jailing of some key people has virtually destabilised the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), while significantly weakening the Awami League. These parties may now think twice about appointing thoroughly corrupt people to important leadership roles – something that was unimaginable even a few months ago. Continue reading
When Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency on 11 January after two months of political turmoil, he assured Bangladeshis that a newly constituted caretaker government would “hold a free, fair, neutral and acceptable election to Parliament within the shortest possible time, in consultation with all parties concerned”. In spite of the state of emergency, Bangladesh breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That relief has now dissipated, and in its place is mounting concern. The caretaker government’s mandate to hold ‘free and fair’ elections has now mutated into an all-encompassing anti-corruption drive. Continue reading