Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bangladesh : Domestic Failures and Interventionist Conspiracy Theories - Part-1

[Directly or indirectly, in the recent speeches made in the Parliament or public assemblages or in the media discourses made in support of the Jote Government's latest political stand concerning these acts of crimes, fingers are now rather being pointed out to implicate that, all those acts of crimes were the results of the conspiratorial policies of Indian expansionism and/or US imperialism and the clandestine connection of the opposition political forces with those foreign elements. To identify Awami League by some as friend of India is as old as the birth of Pakistan, but to identify AL as friend of alleged US Imperialism is something new because the relation between AL and US was never easy and comfortable because of the political stand and moves of the then US administration opposing the birth of Bangladesh taking place under the leadership of AL in 1971]

Domestic Failures and Interventionist Conspiracy Theories - Part-1
Afroza Begum

A Post 8/21 Bangladesh Citizen's Intelligence Report

The targeted killings, carnages and assassination attempts carried out by organized "subversive' elements, since 1999 till 21st August, 2004, particularly alongwith the latest one carried out on the AL ally with total cases upto date taking toll of more than 150 deaths and 600 serious injuries accompanied by the assassination attempts made on the leader of the opposition Sheikh Hasina for the second time, with either the indigenous explosive devices or factory grown hand grenades engaged in these attacks made in public assemblages are being termed by the Prime Minister, as acts of conspiracies masterminded by the foreign insurgent forces being perpetrated in collaboration with their domestic allies to politically destabilize the country aiming towards preparation of grounds for expansion of foreign interference or intervention in the domestic political- economic affairs vis-à-vis sovereignty of Bangladesh.

The MPs of the treasury bench and the associated intellectuals subscribing to these theories invariably are inclined to blame particularly on the major opposition political party expressing in many words implicating them to be acting in connivance with those foreign forces to hatch conspiracies for creating lawlessness in the country to portray disgraceful image of the country to the World -- even desperately on the dead bodies of their own workers and leaders - - but allegedly to heinously materialize their ulterior motive to usher in power of the Government, so that Bangladesh can be turned into a state per se subservient to the foreign forces seeking furtherance of their strategic influence for attaining geo-political and economic gains. Although they to add to the credibility of their claim even upto the slightest hint could present no concrete documentary evidence in support but nevertheless the fanning of the propaganda claim raising political tension domestically as well as bilaterally with friendly foreign countries goes on unabated in imprudent manner to achieve short term political objectives.

In the meantime the one man judiciary probe body mandated to conduct inquiry on the 21st August carnage have concluded the inquiry and handed over a lengthy report to the Ministry of Home Affairs on 2nd October, 2004. What transpired through the press interviews that the probe body has also indicated involvement of subversive foreign forces and their local collaborators -- without having named them –to have found to have staged the 21st August carnage on Awami League rally with ulterior motive allegedly to take the country by surprise to the verge of a civil war aiming to install a stooge Government through palace intrigues. The probe body has also made several other observations regarding the weaknesses of the role of the law enforcing and intelligence agencies alongwith several recommendations made, which include heightening of security measures for the leader of the opposition. It is needless to mention that at this moment, the life of the leader of the opposition including few politically important personalities are under severe threats needing the security from the Special Security Forces (SSF) revoking the earlier security protocol adopted by the previous Government. However, there is demand for official publication of this probe report in entirety so that people would be able to know the details, as now it becomes extremely necessary for the people and the intelligentsia also to remain vigilant against any attempt made by any quarter out to disturb the constitutional political process and national security, if the probe body had at all been able to place credible documentary evidence in the report in support of the conclusion thus made, as reported in the media.

It is known to all that all the major incidents of crime involving attacks on public assemblages killing innocent civilians as well as important members of the civil society, journalists and leaders of the political parties including a member of the Parliament as well as the British High Commissioner occurred during 1999-2004, no exact or conclusive identification of the criminals and their godfathers were successfully made by the investigating agencies responsible to undertake the job. But looking at the circumstantialities from their own view points or political nature and identity of the targets of attacks carried out during these incidents, both Awami League and BNP hurled blame against each other irrespective of having been then in the Government or in the opposition, although in all these cases the criminal investigation remained mostly incomplete as well as inconclusive to prove the charges so brought in course of those political statements or public discourses extended by them. In many cases it appeared from the acts of the Government's investigating agencies that they rather acted to inhume the evidences than to exhume and analyze them to reach out to the real perpetrators harbouring those crimes.

Undoubtedly, with turning on of political blame games against each other played onward by the major political parties, from the onset of these particular nature of crimes since 1999, the criminals got their freehand to mercilessly keep on increasing the intensity and widening of the areas of the acts of crimes fearlessly compounding into unbearable limit. Most importantly, although during the 2001 election campaign the members of the incumbent Government identified this particular disease spreading in our society and emphatically pledged to eradicate it uncompromisingly, but on the contrary, their complacence under the blame game rather let those criminals get loose significantly upto carrying out attack made on a foreign dignitary of a powerful nation at a place like that of a Holy Shrine. Then after, following to the assassination of Ahsanullah Master MP at Gazipur when again the criminals found that they can remain at loose hence eventually getting encouraged by the Government's inactions and inefficiencies, lastly they got so much fearless and encouraged to even stage the 21st August carnage which shook the conscience of the public including the foreign dignitaries around the World, reacting with deep concern much to the embarrassment of the incumbents. But, looking at the sketchiness of the inquiry report and suspicious investigation performances of the concerned agencies of the Government, it is also doubtful whether even now after all those have happened the real criminals including their godfathers would be conclusively identified supported with strong evidence and nabbed -- following through a meaningful, neutral and credible investigation with sound and neutral application of law and justice.

Directly or indirectly, in the recent speeches made in the Parliament or public assemblages or in the media discourses made in support of the Jote Government's latest political stand concerning these acts of crimes, fingers are now rather being pointed out to implicate that, all those acts of crimes were the results of the conspiratorial policies of Indian expansionism and/or US imperialism and the clandestine connection of the opposition political forces with those foreign elements.

To identify Awami League by some as friend of India is as old as the birth of Pakistan, but to identify AL as friend of alleged US Imperialism is something new because the relation between AL and US was never easy and comfortable because of the political stand and moves of the then US administration opposing the birth of Bangladesh taking place under the leadership of AL in 1971 and also when later during post independence period for undertaking economic policies upholding the major role of the Government ownership of public institutions in trade, commerce, industry and agriculture to achieve self-reliant and people's welfare oriented economy going against indiscriminate privatization policy or implementation of free trade and market for foreign goods. Awami League's inclination towards mixed ownership strategy to attain self-reliant economy and liberal democracy side by side with strongly getting herself identified internationally with Non-Aligned foreign policy movements, have always met with suspicion by the Western policy strategists and for this reason the US administration never considered Awami League as their reliable partner in this country to further and strengthen their imperialist political agenda. The failure of US administration to persuade Awami League to agree to the export of Natural Gas and Land Lease Agreement with SAS to establish a private seaport at Chittagong with US investment caused to throw cold water on the relation between AL and US Administration during the later years of AL Government between 1996-2001.

Historically the friendly relation of imperialism with the nexus comprising of the Muslim religious fundamentalists forces (MFF) led by Jamate Islami Bangladesh and the conservative Muslim Nationalist forces (MNF) led by BNP is seen as continuation of their trusted friendship since the pre-partition period those went by with the Muslim League and the conservative and autocratic minded Muslim civil- military bureaucracy who represented the upper elitist class of the Muslim society in India.

This is needful to remind-- lest we forget-- that the Military dictatorships led by late General Zia the founder of BNP and General Ershad founder of JP enjoyed abundant warmth of friendship with imperialism. Those two military dictators not only politically rehabilitated the Muslim Fundamentalist Forces (MFF) in Bangladesh physically and constitutionally but during their rule since 1975-1990 that long period of 15 years made healthy liberal democratic "politics difficult for the politicians" in furtherance of their publicly declared policy. They undertook policies of replacing the mainstream traditional line of politics at all levels of the society by creating the political arena haven for the opportunist class of politicians including the elite class of the retired civil-military bureaucrats who took control of politics of Bangladesh enriched with muscle power and black money with the backing received from a section of the Army who inherited the evil trend from Pakistani Army to get involved in domestic power politics for financial gains earned through illegal means by getting involved in the clandestine deals in Military and Civil purchases made by the Government – to build up hills of black money from the cuts received from the domestic and foreign funds funneled from the foreign debts received from the international donors largely controlled by the imperialist powers.

As the result of that process a neo-elitist class of vested interest in collusion with the remnants of the pre-independence period elite power base of the then ruling "Convention Muslim League Government" was created in Bangladesh who remained committed and trusted friend with the imperialist forces, strongly influencing the politics of the country. This force rarely could find the liberal democratic forces in Awami League reliable to serve their interest and that is why Awami League continued to face severe electoral defeats through getting the election process largely manipulated by the members of the civil military bureaucracy aligned to serve the vested interest of the neo-elitist class, also to suffer serious repression remaining in opposition in most of the periods of their political history since the inception of this political party in this soil. However, after their electoral failure in 1991 eventually a section of Awami League also turned to show compromising attitude in accommodating the vested interest of the neo-elitist class fledged during the post-Mujibur period, hence with having gained substantive foot hold of the neo-elitist class in Awami League, the traditionally secular and pro-people liberal democratic party metamorphosed into getting involved more in power politics and eventually engaged in bitter confrontational politics with BNP. During Awami League rule between 1996-2001 also Awami League was found to rely more on muscle power and black money rather than to undertake steps to strengthen the democratic institutions of the country for building a strong power base of democratized society on which they could sustain. Eventually, that resulted in their severe electoral defeat in 2001 while contesting against the Four Party Alliance led by BNP and Jamate-Islami Bangladesh (JIB).

This is well known fact, that the Western Capitalist Bloc had vigorously pursued and engaged to further and install autocratic and/or religiously fundamentalist Governments replacing the post- colonial progressive nationalist-democratic Governments in the third world during the cold war period in line with building ideological as well as political and military resistances against perceived socialist/communist expansions per se and later on during the post cold war times in the setting of unipolar World, they have been found to get engaged to install and support Governments who would serve their agenda of Worldwide military and political-economic domination giving easy access of their trade, investment and military presence to control and protect their worldwide trade zones and investments.

The strategy of international relations of the Western powers had always been and till today, extended invariably to materialize their political-economic interest in line with their agenda of neo-colonial exploitation undertook since the culmination of the colonial era as policy continuation of colonialism. With this objective, they were found not only to engage special or regular military force as and where required but also indiscriminately undertook manipulative and deceptive palace intrigues or policies of economic sanctions for arms twisting to cow down the patriotic nationalist governments, through the dense multilayer and multidimensional international Government or Non-Government Organizations.

At the same time, to justify all these heinous conspiratorial interfering and interventionist activities the imperialist powers would use strong and dense multilayer multidimensional and worldwide-interconnected network of think tanks to spread organized campaigns with formulation of articulated socio-political economic theories supportive of their acts. For this reason a committed patriotic democratic nationalist Government those wish to undertake programmes to build an economically self-reliant democratic society has been looked upon by the Western powers as the greatest impediments in their path in implementing their conceived international agenda of regime building. Although apparently it seemed the Western powers were proponents of democracy but while that was true for them to practice in their own countries but for other countries their friendship was found to be always conditional to undertakings of economic reforms that would ensure long term political economic dependence and politically conceding to the World hegemony of western political and military dominations. In that backdrop, the "patriotic national democratic movements" of the developing countries are worse enemies of the US administration compared against even the corrupt, autocratic Religious Fundamentalist Forces who would agree, accept or serve their strategy for political-economic and military domination. The friendships of US administration with Israel in one hand and Saudi Arabia on the other, the two apparently conflicting religious theocratic countries are examples.

It is needless to say that, it is extremely difficult for a conscientious nationalist and patriotic political leadership to stomach the neo-colonialist agenda of the imperialist power of the World. How many of the members of the national and social democratic leaderships were assassinated during the cold war period through palace intrigues and how many of the ordinary members of the patriotic nationalist forces were eliminated and exterminated indiscriminately in the third World, the history have all those on record.

The incumbent political leadership of the current Government in Bangladesh was born during cold war period during the last part of the decade of 80s under the armpits of the international conspiracy through brutal elimination of the patriotic nationalist democratic leaderships of our country. Hence they have committed background of being subservient to western imperialist forces and their Pakistani communal agents in this subcontinent.

Hence, it is needless to mention that to point out fingers implicating conspiracies of foreign interference particularly to democratic India to cover up the domestic political failures and malgovernance of the incumbents particularly those who have legacy of being politically garnished with religious communalism and autocratic mindset can be seen historically as the obvious psychic trend of the political leaderships inherited from Pakistani era because of being inherently undemocratic hence invariably afflicted by the disease lacking confidence on people's fraternity and the integrity of the institutions of the state which could not attain the required invincibility through strong and healthy practice of democracy grown through critical practice of transparency and accountability committed to the sovereignty of the people of the country.

In the past we have seen patriotic nationalist political leaders have strongly adhered to the path of democratic movements to unite the people to foil the foreign conspiracies and forged people's unity for achieving socio-economic development, and that is why Bangladesh stands today as an independent country with fledging economy. But, the members of the incumbent government who wish to further their ideology of communalism and autocracy for the sole benefit of the elite class is fearful to strengthen the pluralistic democratic institutions for the socio-economic emancipation of the common people. Hence, with this objective, they intend to put on campaign the hoax of foreign conspiracy following the same old track like the Pakistani ruling elites did in the past wishing to win over people's support merely using their patriotic zeal and religious sentiments while keeping them deprived from their just socio-political and economic rights for development and democracy. But ultimately and at the end, therefore, historically it is found that because of their inherent weakness of not being strongly based on the powerful institutions of democracy, the communal and autocratic governments become more subservient to foreign expansionism and imperialism. The Saudi monarchs and General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan are glittering examples of this phenomenon.

The incumbents are incessantly keeping on blaming lack of support from the opposition allegedly viewing them involved in confrontational politics for grabbing power through palace intrigues perpetrating anarchic situation on the streets, but how that was holding the Government during the last three years of their rule away from strengthening the democratic institutions, to lay these bed-rocks working as safeguards from perceived national/international conspiracies allegedly aimed now towards destabilizing the country, is not understandable. One can understand that it needs cooperation from the opposition to make the Parliament function effectively but the incumbents demand and expectation seeking cooperation of the opposition would have been forceful if they had the reputation on track record during the immediate past Parliament when they were in the opposition or the incumbents Speaker of the house had shown sufficient neutrality in conducting the business of the house of the current Parliament. Many examples regarding the Speakers imprudent behaviour could be cited but the latest one suffice—that is to reject the opposition's demand to undertake a bipartisan parliamentary discussion under Article 62 of the Rules of Procedure To reject discussion in the Parliament even like the issue of extreme national importance of the incident of the 21st August carnage, merely on ill-conceived technical ground does not prove sincerity of the Government to democratic functioning and strengthening of the Parliament.

But, there are a number of premises where the cooperation of the opposition was not the least factor stopping the Government to surge ahead with political reforms for strengthening the democratic institutions which could provide rule of law to the country which is seriously lacking.

The incumbent's dilly-dallying in implementing the separation of the judiciary during the last three years and arbitrary and controversial appointment of 19 Judges of the High Court in August 2004 are the worst example, which raised question on their sincerity and commitment towards democracy and establishment of rule of law. Political interference on the law enforcing agencies has extremely demoralized those forces to the extent that the common people are feeling no more safe in conducting their day to day affair without being mentally free from apprehensions of criminal assaults by the goons and mastans who are let loose under the shelter of the criminal godfathers getting political patronization. In this regard the incumbent Government has miserably failed to gain people's confidence.

The fruits of the "operation clean-heart" conducted in the past which got diluted already or the most recent operations after three years of misrule and lawlessness being conducted by the newly formed special police forces like "Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)" or "Cheetah" or "Cobra" are still to prove their reputation of acting with neutrality and abiding law. What was holding the incumbents from commencing the function of the newly formed "Independent Anti-corruption Commission" or yet to be formed "National Human Rights Commission" for three years till their ascend in power, is best known to them and definitely the opposition has no role or power to have stopped the Government to go ahead with those programmes.

The constitution clearly directs the Executive to take necessary steps to strengthen the local governments for implementation of the development programmes and to elect women MPs for the empowerment of women. But the disoriented and treacherous lobby of the ruling party Members of the Parliaments who wish to monopolize power both at the centre and the local levels is one of the greatest hindrance posing against the development of democratic institutions at the local and grassroots levels for undertaking development works for the socio-economic empowerment of the common people including the women. Although, these programmes to elect through adult franchise the members of the local government at all tiers of the administrative bodies and the women MPs were included and pledged in the 2001 election manifesto of BNP, for implementation.

Neither Awami League during their Government between 1996-2001 nor the BNP led last Government between 1991-1996 or the current three years (2001-2004) of rule there was the least effort at all taken to strengthen the Election Commission to make it constitutionally and functionally strong enough to conduct the elections of the national and local governments in neutral, free and fair manner. Although, theoretically all the law enforcing agencies are vested under the command of the EC during the election but that never met with sincere implementation by the Government according to requirement and requisition placed by the EC. In this matter the constitution should have been made more specific and binding for the Government to comply with the requisition placed forward by the EC. Secondly, during the election normally the staff are temporarily pulled from the existing civil services who have to continue to serve under elected government but there is no sufficient law to protect their neutrality. For this reason they remain subject to get vindicated by the reprehensive acts of the elected/defeated members of the political Government during the post election period based on the result of a particular centre or a booth in which (s)he was responsible to conduct the election.

If BNP had been more committed towards democracy that they would like to claim over Awami League nothing could have stopped them to make the necessary laws and legislations to strengthen the EC or to put curb on getting the owners of black-money and muscle-power mongersfrom getting nominations to contest in the national elections, as they had the required majority in the current Parliament. Was it necessary, even for taking these steps to strengthen the election commission, any cooperation from the opposition? Not at all. Free and fair election with acceptable and credible result for both the winner and the defeated followed by peaceful transfer of power is vital ingredient of a democratic society. BNP's insincerity and reluctance to undertake reforms of the EC rules makes them no claimant of being a political party committed to democracy.

Apart from those, the failure of the Government to nab the national/international smugglers of huge caches of small arms haul or regarding the criminals those carried out grenade attack on the British High commissioner at the Hazrat Shah Jalal Mazar premises are burning questions seeking immediate and timely answer from the Government. Did the Government need opposition's cooperation to act sincerely and forcefully to undertake and implement these responsibilities? None, at all. But, on the other hand the Government is found always keeping on presenting lame excuses of non-cooperation from the opposition as reason to fail to implement the responsibilities pledged in the election manifesto, that is to curb corruption and lawlessness through strengthening of democratic institutions as enumerated above and establishment of rule of law.

Many more of similar examples of incumbent's failures could be cited. Hence, the blanket accusation thrown against the opposition for her non-cooperation responsible for hindering the development and strengthening of the democratic institutions and/or neutral functioning of the law enforcing agencies to investigate and nab the criminals of the major crimes defiling the image of the country hence putting the nation at the back foot to face and dislodge the challenges of alleged national/international conspiracies hatched to foil democracy and development of the country does not hold strong ground for consideration, against the allegation of domestic failures. The one-eyed view expressed by the members of the treasury bench of the Parliament or few intellectuals and businessmen to blame on the opposition rather than pointing out the insincerity and failure of the incumbents shall not be helpful at all in the long run perspective. Needless to say that the incumbent's insincerity enjoined with incapability is more to blame than the adamant behaviour of the opposition posing threat to the future of democracy and development of Bangladesh in aiding the country allegedly for becoming the easy playground to hatch conspiracies and palace intrigues for international interference or worst towards intervention.

This part of history cannot be denied that, in the past, two of our elected Presidents were assassinated by a section of disoriented members of the Army. The recent 21st August carnage which attempted to assassinate the leader of the opposition in which the possibility of involvement of defeated forces of the liberation war and the killers of the August'75 carnage who are enjoying the luxurious shelter of the incumbent in connivance with a disgruntled and disoriented section of the Army cannot be ruled out. The people's demand of a neutral and credible investigation is justified. When the Government was needed to be very careful in putting out words and actions particularly in view of the concern and interest expressed by the members of the international community including the General secretary of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, but on the other hand it is extremely disappointing to find that the ruling Jote seem to be more inclined to rely on political propaganda activities with ultimate intention to inhume the case under the ashes of perceived international conspiracy theories without undertaking effective steps for exposing and getting hold of the real criminals involved in carrying out the gruesome carnage which took the country for a moment to the collapse of the democratic system of governance.

Most importantly, even taking all those alleged theories of international conspiracy coming from the Government propaganda machinery hypothetically as credible, we found no directives for action or preparedness for action required by the Government agencies and the people to foil any such similar attempt of targeted assassinations or mass carnages, if made in future. This proves that the Government is more apt in propaganda for gaining politically against the opposition rather than taking the alleged theories of conspiracies seriously backed by demonstration of actions of heightening the security alert systems.

The political background of the ruling alliance Government comprising BNP, JIB, IOJ and JP need to be discussed in brief to clarify why these conspiracy theories are coming in the media campaign. In this regard I would like to refer the recent columns contributed by two respected intellectuals of our country those got published in the national dailies. The noted pundit Farhad Mazhar, in his detail analysis has expressed that given the current socio-political realities of the country, role of Begum Khaleda Zia leading BNP and Mrs. Hasina Wazed leading Awami League are necessary to cooperate each other to strengthen democracy of the country against perceived conspiracy of Indian hegemonic policy towards South Asia. Mr. Farhad Mazhar has particularly advised the leader of the opposition and President of Awami League Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Wazed to move out from the circle of friendship with India which he suspects or believes.

The senior educationist Prof. Emajuddin has analyzed the post cold war policy of US administration and have called out to become conscious and cautious against the perceived imperialist design conspiring to install subservient regimes around the World to strengthen their worldwide hegemonic policy including in Bangladesh, which has geopolitical importance for being strategically placed in the South/Southeast Asian region. Unfortunately, while those two respected intellectuals have deeply analyzed many issues but they could not advise that to strengthen the democratic institutions involving people's wider participation, establishment of rule of law and improvement of the state of governance without dilly dallying were indeed the required steps to be taken urgently where the essential key lies to foil the perceived conspiracies of foreign interference or intervention.

In the task for strengthening of the democratic institutions, the incumbent political leaderships alongwith the civil military bureaucracies acting under them were needed to be more attentively, vigilantly and actively engaged rather than getting engaged into political campaign against the opposition or the perceived hoax of foreign conspiracies seeking interference or intervention. Already three years of their valuable tenure has gone left with two more years, but the way the incumbent political leadership is behaving, whether they have that two more years in hand is the million-dollar question.

SonarBangladesh 04/10/2004