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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2961

Is third force inventible in Bangladesh?

By Peter Snowman

Political situation in Bangladesh is warming up every day. Gap between the ruling alliance and the major opposition is also increasing. People are now, quite often predicting emergence of third for in Bangladeshi politics. Meanwhile, international press is seeing Bangladesh in different perspective. They predict emergence of pro-Al-Qaeda as one of the biggest threats to the country’s democracy.

In a recent opinion editorial in one of the most prestigious dailies in US, journalist Gabriel Oppenheim, commenting on Bangladesh wrote: “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 Jamatul 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.

“And the government?

“Well, the ruling coalition contains two parties that support al Qaeda: Jamaat-e-Islami and Islamic Oikya Jote. Which means the question isn’t whether Bangladesh is the next front on terror, but what our country can do, assuming that it is. “

Not only Mr. Oppenheim, but in past, many other international columnists predicted Bangladesh as the next front of Jihadist activities. No doubt, taking the advantage of religious sentiment of majority of the population, radicals are gaining strength and grounds every day. Although just recently, a large number of kingpins of JMB and its palls were nabbed by the government, no one can say for sure, if this will be and end to the Islamist militancy in the small South Asian nation.

For Bangladesh government, one of its biggest challenges is combating Islamophobia in the country. Next is fighting terrorism and corruption. The government is quite successful is tackling terrorism with the introduction of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has by now, emerged as the Messiah for Bangladesh in eliminating terror. One of the best tactics for RAB is encounter. Several notorious criminals were killed in encounter in past couple of years. But, terrorists are not sitting silent.

They are spending millions of Taka in politicians for voicing against encounter in particular and RAB in general. It was learnt that, some of the top lawyers in Bangladesh are under regular pay roll of the terrorists, who are seen to be very vocal against encounter, labeling it to be an act against human rights. Naturally the question comes here, as to whether it is important for the governments to fights terrorism, or to ensure so-called human rights to these elements, and let them continue their battle against humanity.

In many parts of the world, United States and western countries are battling against terror. Just recently, al-Qaeda’s notorious figure Zarkawi was killed in Ariel bombardment. Should this action be now also seen by some vested elements as violation of ‘human rights’? If not, then, surely there will be valid question as to why the US government and its State Department is continuously showing killing of terrorists through encounter in Bangladesh as violation of human rights? Do they want terrorists to grow in this developing nation, for some ulterior reason?

Amongst the lawyers, the most vocals against encounter are, Dr. Kamal Hossain and Barrister Rokon Uddin Mahmood. Both are belonging to opposition political parties. Another man is Barrister Abdul Baset Majumder, a former President of Supreme Court Bar Association. It was learnt that, these top lawyers either were already engaged by a number of notorious criminals as their legal advisors, or were under regular payroll. This is the only reason as to why they oppose encounter, without considering the pains and agonies of the people of Bangladesh, who were virtually made captive in the hands of some criminals since the independence of the country.

The controversial behavior of these lawyers, ring bell for many reasons. One is, if they want to let Bangladesh become seriously terror affected country, so that it would be favorable to some international conspiracy or ploy. Secondly, under the garb of lawyers, who these people really are? Hidden patrons of terrorism? Surely, in today’s Bangladesh, no body has the guts to raise these questions, as the entire mentioned names are extremely influential figures in country’s judicial circle.

Commenting on encounter, the Minister for State in the Home Ministry, Lutfozzaman Babar categorically told reporters a number of times that, not a single innocent person was killed in encounter. Each of those, killed in encounter, were notorious figures in crime world. The ruling alliance did not even spare its own party men.

Many of the infamous names in the crime world, having certain affiliation with the ruling alliance, were also not spared by the law enforcing agencies.

Babar said, RAB has now become a blessing for the entire nation, and people have tremendous support for this newly formed elite force. On the other hand, the main opposition, Bangladesh Awami League was rather demanding dismantling of RAB, saying it was an evil force to serve the purpose of the ruling regime, recently endorsed that, this elite force was giving best performance in combating terrorism. They even said that, RAB will be continued by Awami League, if they will be in power in future. Does the statement of the main opposition even not show that, this elite force is doing everything for the good of the nation and for combating terrorism? Yes, it does! But, still Awami League is opposing encounters. WHY? Because, if this will continue, their evil muscle power would never become active in Bangladesh, which they consider to be too important in winning any elections.

Despite the fact that the ruling alliance is extremely successful in controlling terrorism, is again alarming news for everyone that, corruption in Bangladesh is increasing desperately. Most of the members in the cabinet are becoming neo-millionaires and several names are in circulation, which just accrued exorbitant wealth in past four and half years. Although BNP leadership, including Prime Minister Zia is talking of combating corruption, many of her close people are named as most corrupts in the country. I already wrote about the corruption of hated Giasuddin Al-Mamun, a friend of PM’s son, who will possibly never face any adversity for his crime, till BNP is in power. Through his evil earned wealth, Mamun became the owner of a Private Television channel. Although this is nothing new with this man alone. Many of the leaders of the ruling party have become owners of private TV channels in recent months. It is alleged that, existing rules and regulations were rather ignored in according licenses to these people.

Mosaddeq Ali Falu is a name in Bangladesh, who is possibly now, one of the most powerful ‘media tycoons’ in the country. He worked as the political secretary to the Prime Minister for some years, before he could discover the ‘Aladin’s magic lamp’ to make millions of dollars. This man presently runs two private TV channels and a vernacular daily, where he has invested a few hundred million Taka. No one dares to question about the source of income of Falu or how he became a multi-millionaire in some years, just being in the Prime Minister’s Office. Most surprisingly, at the last year of the five-year term, BNP has issued nine licenses to its party activists in the most irregular manner, ignoring all other applicants, standing in queue for years. Let us have a glimpse over the owners of the private television channels, which got licenses in recent months:

NTV – owned by Musaddeq Ali Falu, RTV – owned by Musaddeq Ali Falu, Channel One – owned by Giasuddin Al-Mamun, Bangla Vission – owned by BNP’s Secretary General and LGRD minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Boishakhi TV – owned by minister Mirza Abbas, Islamic TV – owned by Prime Minister’s brother Sayeed Iskander, SNTV – owned by two notorious criminals named Nasir Uddin Ahmed Pintu and Salauddin of BNP, KTV – owned by Hawa Bhaban’s man Ali Asgar Lobi and Diganta TV –owned by Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh.

Giving reason behind such mushroom licensing of several television channels, a neutral analyst said, possibly BNP wants to ensure their grip over media in the years to come, especially if they go into opposition. The second question is how these BNP men would get the huge amount of money for running these channels. Everyone knows that Bangladesh is a small market and it will surely not be viable for twelve television channels to continue with advertiser’s sponsorship. According to the statistics, the total amount of advertisements per year is below US$ 5 million. Major stake of this advertisement revenue is already taken by state owned Bangladesh Television, as this is the only terrestrial channel in the country, covering the entire Bangladesh.

Generally, for smoothly running a private television channel, the owners need to spend at least US$ 1 million per year. In this case, for sure, the total amount of advertisement revenue is much lower than the expenditure. Where from the extra money will come? So, does it not expose nakedly the wealth-muscle of the pro-BNP men in the country?

Election in 2007 is yet a distant hope. Political opponents are becoming increasingly intolerant and this will surely let the people of Bangladesh witness serious political and otherwise confrontation in the days to come. Although none of the political parties are saying anything in favor of third force, but, especially the activities of the main opposition shows clearly that, they are rather making the ways for any third force to emerge in the country.

And the most important point is, mass people in Bangladesh are simply fad up with limitless corruption of the politicians as well their series failures in addressing people’s aspiration. Decline in popularity of the ruling party is not making any good point for the opposition. People are rather loosing their trust and confidence in politicians. They are burning inside, but do not have the proper leadership to openly express anger. The entire country is just like a dormant volcano. Who knows, when the eruption would take place and devastate the palaces of corrupts. But, should it not ultimately turn into a mass upsurge or a civil coup? Or in other words, does the chance of emergence of third force becoming inevitable in Bangladesh? Time can only give the reply to it!

- International News Service -

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