Opinion and Editorial

Who wins in Bangladesh?

Filed on September 4, 2007

WITTINGLY or unwittingly, the military-backed interim government in Bangladesh is reinforcing a feeling that it is more interested in settling scores with senior politicians and less in creating the proper climate for national development and people’s progress.

How else to view the arrests of the two leading politicians, Shaikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, in the past few weeks, that will essentially serve only to heighten tensions?

No doubt, both the begums have their faults, and it is quite likely they had been a party to corrupt deals and much else, not necessarily murder, as the interim government has been trumpeting from roof-tops. It is common knowledge, also, that the bitter rivalry between the two in the past had only helped to retard the process of progress of the nation they led by turns. Yet, the less-than-transparent way the ground for such action was prepared through official channels of inquiry and framing of charges, does not put the interim government in a proper light.

What cannot be ignored is the fact that the two leaders have substantial mass base. The imposition of emergency laws, including a spell of curfew, was what helped maintain calm in these tense days there. But, this peace is only on the surface. The people who belong to the two political parties the begums are leading are unlikely to keep quiet for long. Worse, chances are that the rival political formations will unite in a common cause against the current dispensation, even if the men at the helm have, for argument’s sake, the best of intentions. The obvious result will be anarchy. This is not to altogether ignore the fact that the military support the interim dispensation enjoys will be to its partial advantage.

The parliamentary elections are still a matter of speculation. The promise is that it will be held before the end of next year. Chances are that the military-backed dispensation will carry on with its acts for more time. Some are worried whether the democratic process will be restored at all in Bangladesh, one of the few Muslim countries to have prided themselves with the system of popularly-elected governments. Uncertainty is very much in the air.

For, this is also the country that has experienced five coups since its formation in 1971 — a grim reminder to the possibility of military high-handedness and worse there yet again at the expense of the people’s will. If so, who wins in Bangladesh?

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