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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

Dhaka Diary: Price Rise and process of reshaping Bangladesh Political Future

By Rabindranath Trivedi from Dhaka, contributing for Asian Tribune

Dhaka, 21 October ( In Dhaka,the price rise of foodstuff and other essential items caused by a number of internal and external factors has defied all counter-measures taken by the government so far and created a havoc with the common people’s lives. The country is now passing through a difficult time and the rate of inflation that has exceeded 10 per cent mark this month is causing frustration and also influencing public opinion, writes Sayed Kamaluddin in New Age

Amidst a difficult economic constrains, the Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated in Bangladesh on Sunday last with religious fervour and another religious festivities of Hindus Durgapuja is observed. Tonado mudslide and boat and trawler capsizes killed at least nine persons and injured over 100 by a well marked low in the Bay inundated Chittagong region and some coastal districts. The two detained former Prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia both observed Eid in solitude in special prisns. Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman –khaleda’s two sons –spent the Eid in separate jail.

Sheikh Hasina was allowed to talk with her and son in Florida and Washington D.C., USA In Dhaka Central Jail, a special congressional prayer was held for the VIP prisoners, improved diets were served at all prisoners. Newspaper offices were closed for four days until 15 October; the local electronic media aired the programme.

The Durgapuja, 5-day long largest religious festivities of Hindus in Bangladesh and west Bengal begun on October 17.Government sources said 14,170 Puja mandaps have been set up across the country. However, according to Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad, 20,000 mandaps have been set up in the country including 162 in Dhaka. Leaders of World Hindu Federation (Bangladesh Chapter), Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad, Mahanagar Sarbojoneen Puja Committee, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Parishad and Bangladesh Christian Association yesterday alleged that idols of the Goddess Durga had been desecrated at various places in the country including Faridpur, Khulna ,Bagerhat and Satkhira. The Hindu leaders urged all to keep vigilance to maintain communal harmony during the five-day-long festivities. They also urged the government to step up security measures and ensure peaceful observation of the occasion.

To commemorate the festival, messages from the figureheads of the country and other political personalities come forth to give finesse. In his message President Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed said Durga Puja is an indivisible part of the Bengali culture though it is the main religious festival of Hindus. In a separate message, Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed said people of all faith have been living in harmony in the country for ages and every achievement; success and glory belong to all of them.

Well-placed Hindus, former civil and military officers and politicians, puja organisers, of different walks of life in the metropolis like Babus of bygone days, dressed in their best with their spouses, attend state function, the 'Vijoya Dashami' reception at Bangabhaban, the president’s palace on 21 October, Sunday at 10.30 a.m.

Process Of Reshaping Bangladesh's Political Future

Army chief General Moeen U Ahmed on Monday dismissed speculations about his becoming president, saying that he has no such intentions."Many questions are lurking in many people's minds, but time will give answers to all those questions… I have no desire to become president," he told reporters at Bangladesh High Commission. In UK

General Moeen, who arrived in London on Monday en route to the USA, said there is no scope for considering army as a separate entity. The army is part of government. Like general people, the army also wants clean democracy in Bangladesh reports Unb.

Narrating the background of declaration of the state of emergency and installation of a new caretaker government, the chief of army staff said the country was heading for a civil war in the wake of violent political activities, absence of law and order and distrust about voter list.

General Moeen said priority of the incumbent government is to restore democracy through free and fair elections and transfer of power. In reply to a question, the army chief said those arrested and jailed were "corrupt". Throwing a challenge, he posed a question: "Can anyone find any honest person among those arrested and jailed?"

The daily Star in its editorial titled ”Gen. Moeen’s reiterations” said: ”The army has been extending support to the caretaker government in its mission of holding a free , fair and credible election. Their success has also been noteworthy, as preparation of a new voter list with ID card has already begun. This is a huge task which, when accomplished, will lend the much needed credibility and reliability to the electoral process…

A commitment from the army chief that the process of reviving democracy is very much on, and there will be no place for any extra-constitutional moves, is reassuring. Our faith in the on-going process of reshaping our political future through weeding out the corrupt elements and reforming the parties, is bolstered by the army chief’s categorical denial of having anything other than helping the caretaker government restore democracy as his mission”(DS,18 Oct.07)

Syed Badrul Ahsan Editor, Current Affairs, the Daily Star writes on 17 October: Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda, having all these months endlessly reassured us about general elections being held by December 2008, now informs us with a bit of alacrity that the voting could happen by October of next year, two months before the original date. You almost get into a state of frenzied happiness, until you spot that footnote in the CEC's statement: elections in October are possible if a voters' list is ready by July of next year. It all boils down to a question of ifs and buts. So what you for a while thought could be your October surprise may not be there after all. Or you could reflect on things somewhat philosophically. (DS,17 Oct.07)

The Awami League (AL) presidium member, Suranjit Sengupta, who returned home on October 10 after a three-month tour of Canada and the US, told The Daily Star that a consensus about holding a free and fair election could be achieved following which other matters including reforms and democratic practice within political parties could be thrashed out. Saying the constitution does not provide for the formation of a consensus government, the AL leader said his party would not involve itself in anything extra-constitutional.

As to Law Adviser Mainul Hosein's proposal for a Truth Commission, Suranjit said it would be discriminatory and unconstitutional if it were formed to give advantages to a certain quarter. He, however, gave a nod to the idea if the commission were for all and said a complete proposal for this needs to come from the head of the government, clarifying its motives. After that we could sit to discuss it, Suranjit said, adding that the head of the government could form the commission as per Article 93 of the constitution.

Syed Badrul Ahsan writes: It is all a matter of choice, which takes us back to Badruddoza Chowdhury's plans for a government of national consensus post-2008. The constitution has no provision for such an administration. Yes, certainly we can opt for a national government when extraordinary circumstances -- and among these are the country's being in a state of war, or general elections producing a stalemate at the voting -- are upon us (DS,17 Oct.07)

A Truth Commission Or The Rule Of Law?

All this excitement about a truth commission raises some very significant truths that we need to handle. As Law Adviser Mainul Hosein informs us, and every now and then, it is the state of the economy, which will be a determinant in the formation and operation of the truth commission writes Syed Badrul Ahsan in the daily star.

What is the truth? And that truth is, in more ways than one, an acknowledgment that the methods applied in dealing with dishonest businessmen have not worked, that indeed hauling them off to prison or issuing public notices about their alleged corruption have now brought economic activities to a halt.

But, of course, the economy needs to go on if the country has to go on. And what better way to do that than for bad businessmen to come forth with apologies and contrition about their disreputable past, and then be allowed to resume leadership of their business houses?

To argue now that a Truth Commission may now be cobbled into shape in order for businessmen accused of criminality to feel sorry about their deeds, to shed tears and then be allowed a new phase of life, is essentially to inform the country that beyond the law there are other ways of dealing with bad people and bad deeds.

The truth for us in Bangladesh is simple, which is that the sins and crimes that a truth commission might be asked to handle are what we as a people have known about for years together. Yes, the economy is in bad shape. A truth commission may come up with a variety of explanations to inform us that a contrite businessman will not commit the old mistakes again, that he will have learnt his lesson. That is all very fine with us. But for everything that such a commission might plan on doing, must we keep the law of the land in subdued suspension? (DS,10 Oct.07)

I want to ask the same question today: "Can we handle the truth?" Handling the truth is often more daunting than discovering it writes a sociologist Habibul Haque Khondakar. “Violation of human rights have taken place in Bangladesh, though they cannot be compared to those in Rwanda, South Africa or even Argentina.

Systematic violation of human rights of the Hindus in particular and political opposition in general took place in the aftermath of elections that brought BNP to power in 2001.The caretaker government is already stretched. Yet, it can set up a commission to prove human rights violation during the past regimes. (DS, 17Oct.07)

The NGO Odhikar reported on 1 July 2007 that 111 women had been victims of rape in the first six months of 2007; of them, 23 women were killed and one committed suicide after being raped. Of the 111 women, 50 were the victims of gang rape. In the first half of 2006, a total of 252 women were reportedly victims of rape.

The subsequent military governments however, reversed all the state principles. Secularism has been replaced with full trust in almighty Allah and Islam the State religion. Sheikh Mujib adopted secularism as guiding principle only because of experience of 23 -year existence of Pakistan. Bangladesh can survive as a modern state only by adopting secular and Bangalee Nationalism- the guiding force of the war of liberation.

A Tribute To Obaidul Huq: A Secular Journalist of Multifaceted Talent

Eminent Journalist And Former editor of the Bangladesh Observer Obaidul Haque (1911-2007) passed away at his Banani residence on Eid-day, 13 October 2007. He was 96.
Born in 1911 in Feni, Obaidul Haque joined the Bangladesh Observer as an assistant editor in 1951 and served it as editor for 13 years from 1979. Later, he served the now defunct Daily News as its editor. . President Iajuddin Ahmed and Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed expressed deep shock at the death of journalist Obaidul Haque.

Obaidul Haque was indeed a man of multifaceted talent. Once he even tried his hand in film making but he would be mostly remembered for his witty, saucy and insightful columns. He lived to be 96 years of age and right through the last days of his life he remained agile and had something to offer, not just to the profession of journalism but the society at large, which was gripped by moral degeneracy.

It was Obaidul Haque, who gave me a chance to write on Hindu religion and message of humanism in the Bangladesh Observer in eighties under post-coup military regime. Recalling, it was then a first instance in East Bengal turned Bangladesh to write article in print media on Hindu religion since 1947.

Moreover, I had the occasion to serve under his chairmanship in the 11-member Working Group Committee framed by the ministry of Information on “ National Film policy “ as member -secretary in 1987-88. It was also the first Working Group report on National Film Policy in Bangladesh; we have outlined some future steps for film, censorship and rights of filmmakers if it transferred into electronic devises. Obaidul Haque submitted the report; on behalf of the Working Group to the secretary- Information A N M Yusuf in 1988 He was a professional with a difference. He was a scholarly journalist of rare calibre and integrity. I am indebted with this great secular editor, pray for his departed soul rest in peace. With the departure of Obaidul Haque the nation has lost not just a journalist but also a man of substance, knowledge and integrity that is rare to find these days. May his soul rest in peace.

“He was revered and respected both by his peers and juniors alike. As much as a stickler he was for quality and high professionalism he was also full of humor and guided his juniors in an environment of amiability and friendliness. He had a very exalted sense of journalistic perfection and wouldn't even put up with printing mistakes, far less factual or conceptual errors”, in an editorial the daily star commented.

Rabindranath Trivedi, a retired Additional Secretary and former Press Secretary to the President of Bangladesh., author and columnist.

- Asian Tribune -

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