Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bangladesh: Khaleda’s game

[Coming, on the heels of the Bangladesh foreign minister Morshed Khan’s provocative statement that his country could play havoc in the north- east “as it was landlocked by Bangladesh”, there is no doubt that the commission’s finding will help Delhi to the conclusion that present rulers in Dhaka are no friend of India. Whatever illusions it had about the character of the Begum Zia’s government is gone with the sudden steep rise in insurgency in the north- east. In fact, the recent blasts in Nagaland and Assam, which claimed over 40 lives, came soon after Morshed’s threat on the north-east. And now that India is unjustly blamed for the 21 August carnage, Delhi’s attitude to Dhaka is going to undergo a sea change.]

Khaleda’s game


Fraught with dangerous consequences

The report of Justice Joynul Abedin Commission, set up by prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia to investigate the August 21 grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, where 22 people were killed, follows the line that she took — that the blast was the work of a neighbouring country trying to destabilise her government and install a puppet regime in Bangladesh. Short of naming India, Justice Abedin has said that the local agents of a neighbouring country were responsible for the blast and mayhem.

Coming, on the heels of the Bangladesh foreign minister Morshed Khan’s provocative statement that his country could play havoc in the north- east “as it was landlocked by Bangladesh”, there is no doubt that the commission’s finding will help Delhi to the conclusion that present rulers in Dhaka are no friend of India. Whatever illusions it had about the character of the Begum Zia’s government is gone with the sudden steep rise in insurgency in the north- east. In fact, the recent blasts in Nagaland and Assam, which claimed over 40 lives, came soon after Morshed’s threat on the north-east. And now that India is unjustly blamed for the 21 August carnage, Delhi’s attitude to Dhaka is going to undergo a sea change.

There is no doubt that the commission’s finding is going to result in Indo-Bangla relations touching a new low. Delhi knows the purpose of the commission’s finding is aimed at shielding Islamists in Jamat and also within her own party responsible for the 21 August attack. It is also a clever move to divert world attention from the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism, now sweeping Bangladesh. It is also meant to muffle international outcries against attempts on Hasina’s life.

Senior world leaders from Kofi Annan, George Bush, Putin, Blair to Manmohan Singh have decried the attack and expressed concern over the attempt to wipe out the entire Awami League leadership. Some have gone to the extent of airing their doubts about the future of democracy in Bangladesh. That Justice Abedin’s report has refused to identify the real identity of perpetrators of the dastardly crime is borne out by the fact that it says nothing about the recovery of Pakistan-made hand grenades from the scene of attack and also from inside the high security Dhaka central jail. Nor does it mention the bullet marks in Hasina’s car.

Actually Khaleda is trying a desperate cover-up so that the hardcore Islamists in her party and the Jamat, besides Mujib’s killers, who attempted a repeat of 15 August 1975-like massacre, are never exposed and brought to justice. She has successfully botched all investigations into a score of bombings that have claimed over 150 lives in the last six years. Even attackers of the British High Commissioner in Dhaka, although identified, are not traced yet. She has allowed middle-east-based radical Islamic groups to operate and also let them slip out of the country when exposed. Actually Begum Zia is playing a dangerous game, much too dangerous for her comfort.

Statesman 13/10/2004