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Monday, June 11, 2007

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...now you don't! Democracy still a mirage for Bangladesh
It is not only the floods and droughts that cause havoc in Bangladesh. Politics too is capable of causing chaos at a decent enough scale to keep the country in a constant state of flux. For more than three decades after independence from Pakistan, the tiny South Asian nation has been struggling to establish a viable democracy based on the rule of law. The latest in the series of misfortunes afflicting Bangladesh relates to the stalling of the election process. Thanks to that, the very survival of the political parties and democracy is at stake.

The army-backed puppet caretaker government, headed by former Central Bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed, added a fresh dimension to the existing political turmoil by asking the political chiefs and the former prime ministers belonging to the two prominent political parties to seek exile in foreign land. Both the Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia were being urged to remain permanently out of the country. However, intense international pressure made the emergency government retract this undemocratic decision. The net result is that Hasina, who was stranded in London for more than a week, is now permitted to return. And bizarre is the word that one would use to describe the working of the interim government, which just doesn't have the mandate to take such sweeping decisions. That such ad-hocism could ignite the simmering discontent was totally ignored by the authorities. Sanjay Bhardwaj of Jawaharlal Nehru University told B&E, “In their urge to get back the lost power, the two parties might get into a street-centric political system."

Those who understand the Bangladesh military, are hardly surprised at the current political impasse. The so-called government is merely acting as a handmaiden of the army, which intends to keep the entire polity under a tight leash. In order to avoid opprobrium from the international community, the army is using the interim government's shoulder to fire the shots. The primary aim of the army behind curtailing politicians' powers is to perpetuate a military dictatorship. And this precisely is the worry among the analysts, who feel that the army will demonise the political class to an extent that people will have no choice but to accept the junta as a fait accompli. Ayesha Kabeer, Editor at Probe, a news magazine in Bangladesh, told B&E, “The two parties are weakening and the leadership struggle might split them.”

But this is not to suggest that the politicians being booted are above board. It is a sad story that for the past 35 years, the two political dynasties of Bangladesh have been milking the country dry (it's estimated that the two dynasties have been amassing wealth at the rate of about $5 billion a year, over the past 15 years, through their corrupt practices). The mendicancy of these politicians has reached such heights that foreign aid (to the tune of $40 billion) is estimated to have been siphoned off over the past three decades.

To obliterate the rampant greed inherent in the system, the government now plans to launch a “new brand” of democracy to encourage & promote competent people like Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus into the political arena. Although the intention is good, the methodology being adopted is far from satisfactory. While some moves of this government are appreciated, a consensus building approach is critical. At this rate, the country is slated to be either moving towards a ruthless dictatorship or total anarchy with no "Mukti Bahini" in sight.

Edit bureau: Rajeev Kumar Singh

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2007

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