Published in the Daily Star on 8 Mar 2009.
On that day, no soul shall be wronged; and you shall not be rewarded aught but that which you did. (The Quran, 36: 54).
Surah Yasin is usually recited in Muslim households when someone passes away. The above-quoted ayaat from the surah has been in my mind lately. I want to believe those words, not just in the promised day of reckoning, but here and now, in this People’s Republic of ours.
Published in the Forum (September 2008 )
American elections have always fascinated me — somewhat analogous to the suspense and the excitement of seeing an Olympic race, with the added benefit of following it for several months and then watching the finale over a bowl of pop-corn or chanachur, depending on whether I am over there or at home.
The fact that I am not an American and cannot vote gives me more reason to take only an “academic” interest in US’s elections, with the implicit notion that it is not going to make too much of a difference as to who wins or loses — they are all beholden to the same interest groups anyway.
This time, however, my personal experience in following the race has been strikingly different — I feel that the stakes for the world may be much higher than any of us may imagine. The results of the US’s elections this year will have far-reaching consequences on peace and stability across the globe, and Bangladesh will inevitably be affected as well. Continue reading
Published in the Daily Star (14 mar 2008)
Death by assassination confers a saintly halo, especially on this subcontinent with a craving for dynasties, heroes, fathers and kings. Consider the hosannas for Benazir Bhutto in, of all places, the Bangla media. And now will that halo transfer to Zardari as the new emperor-king of the family business known as PPP.
The western Benazir fetish is comprehensible because she wore comforting markers (pitch-perfect English, British governess, convent schooling, Harvard/Oxford degree). A “kleptocrat in Hermes scarves,” but she was still “one of us.” But should we on this side of the border know the Bhutto legacy a little better? Continue reading
Published in the Forum (December 2007)
Genocide denial is a phenomenon that crops up to challenge almost every accepted case of genocide. The genocide committed by the Pakistan army during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 is no exception. Because of the scale of the atrocities in 1971 against a civilian population of 70 million people, it has proved impossible for genocide deniers to claim that the atrocities did not occur. Instead, they have focused on two tactics used to deny most genocides: that the magnitude of the killings was not that great, and that the Pakistan army had no systematic policy of genocide. Continue reading
Published in the Forum (September 2007)
It was the weeks after the 1991 cyclone that ravaged coastal Bangladesh. Although international relief had just started pouring in, there was an intense demand for oral re-hydration salt (ORS) and ready-made dry food in the flood-affected areas.
This prompted the student union leaders of Chittagong Medical College to organise a mass ORS-making project. A group of students first started making ORS on a row of tables at the student union office and, within a day, the line of students willing to volunteer became so long that the project capacity had to be increased 10-fold, and oral saline packet production ran non-stop 24 hours a day.
As the news spread through the town, Continue reading
Published in the Forum (August 2007)
The writer reflects upon what he learned making the film and in attending screenings of it in several cities across the world
One boat, 42 lives; 17 dead, 25 waiting to die — they have been floating on the sea for about 10 days without food or water. One looks at another as potential “food” and wonders which part of a dead-body may be easier to swallow, while another uses his last breath to look for something sharp enough to cut up a dead-body.
This was the experience that a group of young Bangladeshis had to go through as they undertook an illegal journey in early 2005 to reach Spain. Continue reading
Published in Daily Star (June 5, 2007)
On May 31, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the mandate that ended convicted killer AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed’s asylum appeals and made him deportable from the United States. However, the long saga has moved from the courts to the political arena after a congressman introduced a private bill to issue Mohiuddin a green card.
The rationale presented in the bill needs discussion both in the United States and Bangladesh; and it is time to explore whether the United States government should be actively sheltering a convicted murderer. Continue reading