Bangladesh's next destination
By Sunita Paul
Some people say it is the next terrorism gator. Some say, a future land of Taliban and extremist Islamists. Some say, a failed nation. Some even say a country possibly under the greedy eyes of neighbors. What fate waits really for this second largest Moslem populated country in the world?
Bangladesh became independent in 1971 after a nine-month war with the then mighty Pakistani army. To my knowledge, it is the shortest ever war of independence in the world history for any nation to get independence. There are not many arguments that the independence of Bangladesh was almost impossible, if India would not get involved in the war of 1971.
To Bangladeshis, this is a war of independence where Bengali freedom fighters fought against the occupation forces, while in India, the concept is this was a war between Delhi and Islamabad. Many of the Indian policymakers are yet not ready to acknowledge the war of 1971 as the war of independence of Bangladesh. They believe that, this was a India-Pakistan war and Pakistanis were driven out of its eastern part and a new state was allowed to emerge by the Indian government. Whatever the argument is, it is a fact that Bangladesh is an independent country with 150 million populations. Since the independence, people of this tiny land has not only witnessed political ups and downs but faced with their highest morale series of natural disasters, including recent Sidre. The people are yet to forget the memories of 1974 famine, which possibly remains as a nightmare to Bangladeshis.
To international community, Bangladesh is gradually coming into focal point for its own importance for geo-political position. Someone may agree or disagree, but it is a fact that Bangladesh is the most important country to many of the world's players for several reasons. This is why, possibly, many of the actions in Dhaka are getting into world attention, may be not in press, but otherwise.
According to Dhaka's leading press as well reports published in international media, Bangladesh is under acute power crisis. The entire country is under 'load shedding' for hours, thus contributing in increased harassment of the people. When the military backed interim government came in power in 2007 (January 12), they categorically claimed that the previous BNP led Coalitions government had 'looted' millions of Dollars from this sector thus not adding even a single mega watt of electricity to the national gridline. The figure being looted by the previous government in five years was somewhere in One Billion dollar as per statistics provided by the interim government. Now experts are raising questions as to why the present government could not even add a single mega watt of power in past fifteen months, when it is believed that nothing was looted at lest by them?
Whatever clarifications or justifications this government may try to bring, it is a fact that they have already failed in solving the power crisis. The former advisor to the Energy Ministry, Tapan Chowdhury, who is known to be a former ally of corrupt Harris Chowdhury and a questioned businessman, fled the country since he was ousted from the post by the interim government in January this year. It is rumored in Dhaka that this man did not approve even a single electricity generation project just to serve the purpose of the power generation company owned by his family's business concern named Square. At least three dozen proposals for establishment of power plants by local and foreign companies are awaiting government's decision or approval in the ministry concerned for years. Tapan made sure that none of such projects get approval.
Many even believe that, this was not only to serve the mere business interest of his family enterprise. But, Tapan Chowdhury was working under secret directives from his former partner and friend Harris Chowdhury and other elements. Even after being ousted from the interim government, Tapan rushed to Singapore, wherefrom he went to Malaysia to meet Harris Chowdhury. It may be mentioned here that, since military's crack down on corrupts, Harris Chowdhury fled to Malaysia, where is owns numerous business establishments.
Possibly it is even too late for the rulers in Dhaka to investigate the reason as to why there had not been any development in the power sector for past fifteen months. But, it is already a fact that, due to continuous corruption, mismanagement, lack of coordination and above all poor governance, this sector has gone to the virtual status of 'bankruptcy' and the entire nation will suffer greatly due to such situation. Power crisis will not only let the domestic establishments in the country suffer, it will hamper agro production, industrial production leaving a catastrophic future for country's economy. Even few years back, Bangladesh was termed as the 'Emerging Tiger in Asia'. But, now, it is known in different terms. But, now, at least for past couple of years or so, it is getting a new identity, which is undoubtedly disgraceful for the entire nation. Now before drawing at least an imaginary line of Bangladesh's future, let us try to understand various political connotations of a number of terms, already used about this country.
What is a failed state?
According to political theory, a failed state is a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory. The level of control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities. Furthermore, the declaration that a state has "failed" is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.
A state could be said to "succeed" if it maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (e.g., through the dominant presence of warlords, militias, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state. The difficulty of determining whether a government maintains "a monopoly on the legitimate use of force" (which includes the problems of the definition of "legitimate") means it is not clear precisely when a state can be said to have "failed." This problem of legitimacy can be solved by understanding what Weber intended by it. Weber clearly explains that only the state has the means of production necessary for physical violence (politics as vocation). This means that the state does not require legitimacy for achieving monopoly on the means of violence (de facto) but will need one if it needs to use it (de jure).
The term is also used in the sense of a state that has been rendered ineffective (i.e., has nominal military/police control over its territory only in the sense of having no armed opposition groups directly challenging state authority; in short, the "no news is good news" approach) and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an extensive informal market, impenetrable bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area but do not compete with the state, or a number of other factors.
American journalist Gabriel Oppenheim wrote, "When I was nine, I loved playing Wacky Gators, an arcade game featuring five plastic alligators and a padded mallet. You had to whack the gators, but only one popped its head out of the console at any given time. And as soon as you moved to clobber it, that gator slid back and another emerged.
"You had to be quick, and you had to know that the enemy never stays in one place -- valuable lessons from a toy. But lately, I get the feeling our top administrators never played Wacky Gators. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has re-emerged in several areas since our Armed Forces turned their attention to Iraq. And in Bangladesh, a nation of 144 million, a gator of terrorism seems to be creeping out before our very eyes.
"It started on August 17, when 430 bombs exploded across the country, killing two and injuring dozens. The bombings were blamed on Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, a banned group that wants to replace secular law with strict Islamic law in this 83-percent-Muslim democracy. Three months later, on November 29, Bangladesh suffered its first suicide bombings, when at least three people detonated themselves in front of and inside two court buildings.
"That caught Osama's eyes. At least two arrested terrorists in Bangladesh have admitted to being sent by bin Laden (they were nabbed with $300,000). And Saudi Arabia noticed, too, beginning to send millions of dollars to the country's 64,000 madrassas, which preach radical Islam and are the only schools poor citizens can afford."
It is a fact that madrassas and kindergarten madrassas are having mushroom growth in Bangladesh for years. Although, according to a front ranking leader of Bangladesh Caliphate Movement (Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan) Kazi Azizul Huq, madrassas are not the breeding grounds of jihadists, he failed to justify the reason as to why each of the Islamist terrorists belonging to banned Jamatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) were having madrassa back grounds.
Kingpins of JMB, Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam aka Bangla Bhai (both executed by the Bangladesh government in 2007) were from madrassa backgrounds. Shaikh Rahman even studied in Medinah University, a place infamous for breedings jihadists for years. Moreover, kindergarten madrassas and kindergarten Cadet madrassas (having fabulous funds from Afro-Arab sources), are new avenues of jihadist activities. These instituions are polluting minds of innocent children with jihadist mesmirism. Students are encouraged to become 'Ossama Bin Laden' or notorious elements like Abu Yasin.
In recent years, there is even emergence of a questioned extremist and jihadist front like Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which is banned in many countries in the world, for its terrorist agendas. Knowing such global realities, Bangladesh is silent in taking any action against such groups. On the other hand, according to reports, Bangladesh's electoral policies are designed in a way to keep genuine Islamic political parties (which opposes jihad), such as Bangladesh Caliphate Movement, are barred from participating any of the future elections in the country. It is debated that, controversial elements like Brigadier General (Retired) Shakhawat Hossain, who happens to be a man of leftist-atheist-Islamist alliance and a newspaper group preaching jihad in a very tricky way, is already planted inside the Election Commission. Most of the members of the present advisory council in the interim government in Bangladesh are either non-believers or wolf in the scarf of deer. And, remarkebly, they are the controlling force of the country.
Considering both the options, my readers may not get anything positive to think about the future of Bangladesh. On the other hand, general election in 2008, although repeatedly promised by the present interim government, remains greatly uncertain. The government is behaving like 'step brother' to politicians and democratic instituions. Trial process of the held politicians are mostly non-transparent. It is alleged that, in many cases, made up charges were brought against many of the political figures in the country.
The reason behind failure and non-governance of the present interim government in Dhaka is because it has opened too many avenues to address, although it's main focus were supposed to be in holding an acceptable general election within stipulated time frame. And, each of the mistakes of the government led by Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed is leaving serious fate for the supportive power, the armed forces. Policies of the administrators are pushing army towards a confronting position with the remaining majority population of the country. Although the country is under State of Emergency, the entire scenerio in Dhaka looks very familiar to any of the millitary rules in the world. Army Generals are seen giving political statements on a regular basis, which surely goes beyond millitary regulations.
As the food crisis in Bangladesh is already moving towards the alarming state of famine, corruption within administration and involvement of some of the millitary officers along with their family members in various crimes including grabbing of properties, harrassments, blackmailing etc., are increasing very fast. People holding important posts in the army are some how trying to ignore such facts and even trying to defend their 'own people' with numerous lame excuses.
During last week, there had already been demonstrations inside Dhaka University against the State of Emergency and there had also been demands for release of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. It is even learnt from sources that, political parties are now set to violate the State of Emergency and go into all out movements against the present administration in the country. Possibly some hardliners inside the government may suggest imposing curfew once again in the entire country and imposing complete ban on politics and political activities. There could be even a fresh crack down on some more politicians and journalists.
Sunita Paul is an expert on South Asian Affairs.
- Asian Tribune -