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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2868

Dhaka's military rulers

By Sunita Paul

World's second largest Moslem populated country Bangladesh's capital Dhaka is under military backed government since January 11 last year. It is known to the world that the much anticipated general election in the country was postponed due to massive confrontation between two rival political parties, Awami League and Islamist Coalition led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party. When the civilian government of Ms. Khaleda Zia handed over power to the 'neutral' caretaker government led by President Iajuddin Ahmed, it was expected that a person acceptable to all political parties would become the Chief Advisor (Chief Executive) of the caretaker government.

But, Awami League had serious reservations about allowing the figure, who was some how put into the position to become the Chief Advisor of the country. Because of Awami League's violent protests (which caused a number of lives), finally President Iajuddin Ahmed became the chief advisor as well in the country, thus becoming the most powerful individual in Bangladesh's history. Although Iajuddin occupied both Presidency and the post of the Chief Advisor, the confrontation on roads never stopped.

Many of the TV viewers in the world must have seen the violent roads in Dhaka and other parts of the country during the entire October and November in 2006. Things were getting even worst from December when the BNP was almost set to hold a one-sided national election in the country within January 22. Then the most interesting part of the show took place.

Under the direct interference of army, President Iajuddin was virtually forced to step back from the post of Chief Advisor and dissolved his advisory council on January 11, 2007. A state of emergency was declared banning all political activities and suspending basic rights of the people.

On January 12, 2007, Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former Governor of the Central Bank in Bangladesh, and a World Bank official became the Chief Advisor of the country. Members of Bangladesh army showed their highest skill in controlling the confronting political situation thus saving the nation from a massive political disaster if not a civil war. Many of the political analysts feel that, this intervention by the members of the Bangladesh armed forces was absolutely required for the safety and security of the people of the country.

Rights after the installation of the second part of the caretaker government under the leadership of Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, a large number of former political heavy-weights were arrested on various charges - mostly corruption charges indeed. Later the interim government even arrested two former Prime Ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, who are now facing series of corruption charges.

But, the most important point here is, when the government of Dr. Fakhruddin came in power on January 12, 2007, they openly claimed in mass media that the former politicians have looted billions of dollars from the country through various forms of corruptions. There had been even reports in Dhaka's press about 'wealth and cash' of politicians in various foreign destinations.

The much talked about figure in the entire drive against corruption were son of Khaleda Zia, Tareq Rahman and his friend Giasuddin Al Mamun. If my readers will remember, in 2006 (February) I wrote an article titled 'Those shameless corrupts in Bangladesh', which was published in a number of newspapers.

In my report, Giasuddin Mamun was mentioned as the most hated individual in Bangladesh. Definitely army's crack down on corruption was appreciated by the people of the country as many of the civilians were gradually becoming oppressed and repressed by Mamun or his gang. Names like Harris Chowdhury, Ashqul Islam or Miah Opu were the infamous names in the political office named Hawa Bhaban of Bangladesh Nationalist Party. In reality, this infamous Hawa Bhaban turned into the second government in the country. None of the business dealings were possible without blessings from the 'most powerful' members of this house. Just in five years, Mamun turned into a multi-millionaire from the status of a mere pauper. Awami League was no less in corruption. This party was engaging in similar actions of corruption during their entire regime. Hasina's own sister Sheikh Rehana (who now resides in London) became the uncrown Princess of Bangladesh, who was making money like a devil from every business contracts. The much talked MIG-29 scandal took place during the rule of Awami League with Sheikh Hasina in the post of Prime Minister.

Things were not so bad right after the political changes in Bangladesh after January 11. But, things are deteriorating in the country in recent months. The military government has totally failed in controlling the prices of essentials. Power crisis has already reached into an alarming level in the country. The capital itself is under load shedding several hours each day. It is anticipated that the situation will even deteriorate in the coming months.

There is also lack of coordination right inside the government. Many people are terming the present regime in Dhaka as 'Clinically Dead'. Army officers have started showing muscle in occupying individuals' properties in various parts of the country. Press repression is continuing secretly. Most interestingly, some wives of army officers have even started collecting ransom from people by black mailing them by using the state machinery. Law enforcing agencies, judiciary and even the army itself are helpless in the hands of these nasty elements. Previously power was abused by certain blessed individuals and quarters in the country. Now, hundreds of army men and their wives are in such crime. Although Bangladesh got rid of one Giasuddin Al Mamun, it is gradually going into the grips of hundreds of such 'Mamun'.

Recently, one woman named Liza, who is the wife of a major of Bangladesh army demanded cash ransom from a business house in the country. When the owners declined such illegal demand, this woman has lodged false cases against those businessmen and doing everything to harass them by using the influence of her husband. Despite written complaints lodged by the owners of the company, no action has ever been taken against Liza for reason unknown. This may be only one case in thousands. Many such incidents will even escape media's attention. Military backed interim government in Bangladesh came to power with the promise of combating corruption and crime. Now, they too are getting indulged into similar offenses. Who will save this nation from a possible catastrophe?

Sunita Paul writes on South Asian affairs. She is an expert on such issues.

- Asian Tribune -

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