Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ten ways to control you

The basic global principle of rule, according to poet Nazrul: Tomra Bhoi Dekhiye Korcho Shashon, Joy Dekhiye Noi. So how do they do it? There are 10 strategies that they employ:

1. They invoke an external and internal threat in order to convince the population to grant their rulers extraordinary powers.

2. They establish secret prisons that practice torture

3. They develop a extra-security force that operates without legal restraint.

4. They set up a system of intense domestic surveillance that gathers information for the purposes of intimidating and blackmailing citizens.

5. They infiltrate, monitor, and disorganize citizens' groups.

6. They arbitrarily detain and release citizens.

7. They target key individuals in order to ensure their complicity or silence.

8. They take control of the press.

9. They publicly equate dissent with treason.

10. Finally, they suspend the rule of law.

Use this checklist to find out status of your country.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Economist Intelligence Unit on Bangladesh's Political Outlook

Country Report - Main report: December 1st 2007

Outlook for 2008-09: Domestic politics

The political scene will remain unsettled for much of the forecast period. Preparations for the next parliamentary election are under way, overseen by the Election Commission and the military. The commission faces a busy timetable in 2008: it hopes to hold civic elections in five cities by March, and to finalise the electoral register in July before setting a date for the parliamentary poll, probably in October. The immediate task for the Election Commission is to ensure that the electoral register is ready for all five city corporation polls by January. The logistics of holding a parliamentary election in October could be complicated by inclement weather. This year, heavier than normal monsoon rains killed hundreds of people and displaced 10m during July-September, while in November thousands more were killed by Cyclone Sidr. Bangladesh is vulnerable to cyclones, which occur during March-May and September-December. A repeat of such weather patterns in 2008 could force millions of voters to seek temporary accommodation, making it difficult for the Election Commission to maintain accurate records.

It is not clear whether the government will lift the state of emergency before the civic polls, but the Economist Intelligence Unit expects emergency rule to continue until the parliamentary election. This is primarily because of the caretaker government's determination to implement sweeping reforms to the electoral process before the poll. The government is currently drafting a proposal for amendments to the existing city corporation and municipality laws to bar the same person from becoming a representative in parliament as well as on a local government body. It has already taken steps to ban politicians convicted of a criminal offence from taking part in the forthcoming parliamentary poll. The next task is to persuade the main political parties to hold leadership elections—for the first time for decades—and to introduce a new electoral register. However, the government's reluctance to lift the state of emergency, and the growing influence of the army (particularly in roles usually reserved for civilians), will heighten fears of a return to full military rule. Besides maintaining law and order, military officials are also responsible for vital administrative tasks, such as the preparation of voter identity cards.

Once preparations for the next election and the associated electoral reforms have been completed, the caretaker government will be able to claim that is has reinforced the electoral process. What it will not be able to do, however, is to move the country away from a two-party political system. Political opinion is so strongly polarised in Bangladesh that the parliamentary contest will again pit the Awami League against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Mohammad Yunus, a Nobel peace prize winner and the founder of a microcredit provider, Grameen Bank, tried to offer a credible alternative to the two main political parties by forming his own party in February 2007. However, citing the lack of a support base for the new party, he abandoned his plan in April. The lifting of a ban on indoor political meetings is unlikely to tempt Professor Yunus back into politics, partly because of his reluctance to make the compromises required in order to obtain the necessary support from the army.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Donate free rice to Bangladesh's Sidr survivors

Many people are donating for the cyclone-affected peoples of Bangladesh.

Besides donating money directly, you can also donate rice indirectly for the poor people.

For this free rice donation, you don’t have to pay anything from your pocket. Just play an on-line vocabulary game and the rice would be donated from the site’s advertisers to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

A portion of the rice will eventually come to Bangladesh because United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is providing foods for the cyclone effected peoples of Bangladesh.

Please visit: to play the game and donate rice.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BNP is close to collapse: Oxford Aanalytica

BANGLADESH: Former ruling party is close to collapse (Oxford Analytica, 30 October 2007)

BANGLADESH: Former Home Minister Lutfozzaman Babar today was jailed for illegal firearms possession. His conviction is the latest sign of progress in a major anti-corruption campaign launched by the military-backed government earlier this year after the postponement of elections. Since then, dozens of politicians have been detained, including former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia.

Babar served under Zia, whose Bangladeshi Nationalist Party is in a fragile state. Attempts by members to reform it have been resisted, prompting the departure of prominent party personalities such as Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan.

Reports today indicate that Saifur Rahman, a former finance minister, has been appointed acting chairman in Zia's absence, while Hafizudden Ahmed has become secretary general -- in place of the former prime minister's appointee, Khandaker Delwar Hossain.

The nature of a scheduled return to democratic and civilian government next year will be largely dependent on the success of efforts to overhaul the political system. Its prospects will be doubtful without faster progress on the reform of existing parties and/or the emergence of credible alternatives.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bangladeshi bloggers, pls carry on

Well, Bangladeshi media is yet catch up with citizen journalism, and rightly so as they are completely muzzeled now. So Bangladeshi bloggers, especially those living abroad, pls carry on, bring the other side of the story, which will not be told.

I know for sure selected Bangladeshi blogs are now being downloaded and read by important Government officials in charge of managing information. At least they are reading, and that's a good news. We may have to wait to see if they are really using the underlying messages contained in such Bangladeshi blogs and acting accordingly. So write and write forcefully, because the vacuum created in Bangladeshi media must be filled, vigorously. We have more brave bloggers than what Mahfuz Anam could garner. So carry on, blogging for Bangladesh.

Khallej Times Says 'Uncertainty in Bangladesh'

The fear is taking shape, and rightly so. Read this from: Khallej Times

Uncertainty in Bangladesh

25 October 2007

THERE are fears in Bangladesh that the parliamentary elections planned for the end of next year will be postponed, under one pretext or other. For, the military-backed interim administration, currently pushing a reform agenda by keeping the nation's two prominent political leaders behind bars, is drifting, and has not been able to take any matter to its logical conclusion.

There are clear signs, however, that the dispensation is mindful of the groundswell of support for both Sheikh Hasina Wajed and Begum Khaleda Zia. To the regime's dismay, it has not been easy for them yet to break the back of the two powerful political movements, the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, that these two are leading respectively. More importantly, the interim government's offensive against them, both former prime ministers, have only helped the two parties come together.

Witness the scenes in which, in rare shows of unity, the rank and file of the two parties are papering over the differences they had within them, even as the two forged a rare alliance between them to more effectively take on the government. The administration is wavering as the two are demanding an end to the Emergency and revival of the political process. Clearly, reform or no reform, the people are on the side of their tried-and-tested leaders.

There is general consensus that the interim dispensation has not been able to handle matters effectively. On the one hand, arresting and jailing scores of political activists, including popular figures, will alone not help anyone take the nation forward. On the other, there’s a growing feeling that a rootless set of mavericks, with military help, are playing havoc with the established traditions in governance. While the old order has been held to ransom, no new, viable alternative has been presented. The resultant chaos and confusion are there for all to see.

The point to ponder is, if not Khaleda and Hasina, who's there to lead the nation? Bangladeshis may be living in want, but they are too smart and too politicised a people to leave things in the hands of the military for long. All the more reason why the interim administration should go full steam ahead with the promise of the parliamentary polls next year.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bangladesh Forecast by Economist Intelligence Unit

Here are some observations on Bangladesh made in EIU's October issue:

1. Emergency rule is expected to continue in the early part of the forecast period (2008-9)

2. The government hopes to hold a general election by late 2008, when work on the electoral register is due to be completed, but the disruption associated with the monsoon season (which runs from June to September) is likely to see the date of the poll pushed back to 2009.

3. The tenure of the president, Iajuddin Ahmed, has been extended for another five years (This is probably incorrect).

4. ...the caretaker government's actions are likely to have strengthened the resolve of the students, and until emergency rule is lifted street protests cannot be ruled out. The protests could grow significantly in size if other disaffected groups also decide to make vocal their growing dissatisfaction with the caretaker government.

5. Judging from the sentences meted out in recent months by specially created courts to members of their kleptocratic coteries, the two former prime ministers can expect long jail terms.

6. Western governments and donors, which through their silence appeared to give their tacit support to the change of administration in Bangladesh, are growing increasingly concerned about the rise in human rights abuse cases. Even so, diplomats say that the present regime is “the only game in town”. The military's secular stance and tough opposition to Islamist extremism still make it attractive to Western governments.

7. It is unclear how much longer the caretaker government will be able to keep the population quiet.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bangladesh : ''The Year of Living Dangerously''

The central message of this article was at the bottom, so I'm bringing it up.

WATCHPOINT: Although Bangladesh's future remains uncertain at the time of this writing, democratic accountability, and political representation in a genuinely participatory and impartial political process are required to address these crises in the country. The current interim government cannot afford to use repressive measures again, and has to respond to public concerns and take effective measures for the smooth running of the state.
Read the full story here:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bangladesh in the latest Pew Global Survey

Not sure why Bangladeshi bloggers missed important findings of a global survey titled: World Publics Welcome Global Trade but Not Immigration, released on 4th October. Among many Bangladesh-specific findings, the survey by the Pew Research Center found support for capitalism in Bangladesh soared from 32 percent five years ago to 81 percent today.

I will try to present some results related to Bangladesh. Former US Secretary of State Medeleine Albright is the co-chair of this project called Pew Global Attitude Survey. As many of you know, Pew Research Centre is Washington DC based ‘fact tank’ that previously carried seven such surveyes and this eighth in the series had 47 countries surveyed that includes Bangladesh. India and Pakistan are two other South Asian countries that participated in the survey, containing a total of 105 questions with sub-questions in few categories.

Out of a total sampling population of 45,239, Bangladesh’s survey was carried out among 1000 national samples (strong urban bias), with a three per cent error margin. The timing of this survey in Bangladesh is interesting, from April 11 to 30 of this year, just after three months of 1/11.

Without much ado, let us see some of the results by Bangladeshi respondents and try to find meaning ‘in between the lines’.

1.90% support free trade, 75% have positive views about foreign companies and 81% support free markets.
2.Impact of foreign companies registered a 27% rise, from 2002’s 48% to 75% in 2007.
3.49% increase in this view that people are better in free market, it jumped from 32% in 2002 to 81% in 2007.
4.65% completely agree that the state should take care of the poor, while 93% mostly agree with this statement.
5.93% agree that protection of environment is important, even it slows down growth and costs jobs. Only 4% disagree.
6.84% believe the government has more control, a sharp rise of 45% from 2002’s 39%
7.90% overwhelmingly said yes to the statement that ‘must believe in God to be moral, while only 6% replied in negative.
8.59% want to keep religion and Government separate, an increase of 6% from 2002’s 53%.
9.51% see a struggle between modernization and fundamentalism. Of those 51% only 18% are in favor of modernization, while 31% in favor of fundamentalism.
10.87% agree that sometimes military forces is necessary to maintain order in the world (This is a more worrying results and supports One World Government agenda)
11.52% feel men are generally make political leaders, only 8% supports women, while 41% feels equally.
12.89% agree that women should have the right to decide if they wear a veil, only 11% disagree. This is worrying as the figure for 2002 was 59% and 39% respectively.
13.Views on democracy produced mixed results. In terms of six core principles of democratic values, 66% agree on court treating all as same, 75% agree on freedom to practice religion, 59% support honest multiparty democracy, 61% support criticizing the government, 43% approve media freedom, and worryingly 38% approve civil control over military.
14.In regard to choosing between a good democracy and strong economy, 82% agreed in favor of democracy while 17% supported strong economy.
15.In choosing between democracy and a strong leader, 79% opted for democracy while only 20% favored strong leader.

Globally, all results reveal an evolving world view on globalization where people are concerned about inequality, threats to their culture, threats to the environment and threats posed by immigration. Together, these results reveal an evolving world view on globalization that is nuanced, ambivalent, and sometimes inherently contradictory.

There are some results on the use of media, media consumption, new sources, computer and internet and those interested on these results can access this 144-page report on

The geopolitical stakes of the Saffron Revolution

I was rather skeptic when some one told me months ago the kind of importance Myanmar would be assuming in global geo-politics. Now I see a pattern emerging. Here is a facinating piece that shed some light on this new 'flash-point' in Asia. Things just don't happen now a days, it is made to happen. Read this in conjugation with what is now happening and likely to happen in Bangladesh.

Chokepoint! The geopolitical stakes of the Saffron Revolution
By F. William Engdahl
Online Journal Guest Writer

Oct 15, 2007, 01:12

There are facts and then there are facts. Take the case of the recent mass protests in Burma or Myanmar depending on which name you prefer to call the former British colony.

First it’s a fact which few will argue that the present military dictatorship of the reclusive General Than Shwe is right up there when it comes to world-class tyrannies. It’s also a fact that Burma enjoys one of the world’s lowest general living standards. Partly as a result of the ill-conceived 100 percent to 500 percent price hikes in gasoline and other fuels in August, inflation, the nominal trigger for the mass protests led by Saffron-robed Buddhist monks, is unofficially estimated to have risen by 35 percent. Ironically, the demand to establish “market” energy prices came from the IMF and World Bank.

The UN estimates the population of some 50 million inhabitants spends up to 70 percent of their monthly income on food alone. The recent fuel price hike makes matters unbearable for tens of millions.

Myanmar is also deeply involved in the world narcotics trade, ranking only behind Hamid Karzai’s Afghanistan as a source for heroin. As well, it is said to be Southeast Asia’s largest producer of methamphetamines.

This is all understandable powder to unleash a social explosion of protest against the regime.

It is also a fact that the Myanmar military junta is on the Hit List of Condi Rice and the Bush administration for its repressive ways. Has the Bush leopard suddenly changed his spots? Or is there a more opaque agenda behind Washington’s calls to impose severe economic and political sanctions on the regime? Here some not-so-publicized facts help.

Behind the recent CNN news pictures of streams of saffron-robed Buddhist Monks marching in the streets of the former capital city Rangoon (Yangon) in Myanmar—the US government still prefers to call it by the British colonial name, Burma—calling for more democracy, is a battle of major geopolitical consequence.

The major actors

The tragedy of Burma, whose land area is about the size of George W. Bush’s Texas, is that its population is being used as a human stage prop in a drama which has been scripted in Washington by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the George Soros Open Society Institute, Freedom House and Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution, a US intelligence asset used to spark “non-violent” regime change around the world on behalf of the US strategic agenda.

Burma’s “Saffron Revolution,” like the Ukraine “Orange Revolution” or the Georgia “Rose Revolution” and the various Color Revolutions instigated in recent years against strategic states surrounding Russia, is a well-orchestrated exercise in Washington-run regime change, down to the details of “hit-and-run” protests with “swarming” mobs of Buddhists in saffron, Internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, well-organized protest cells which disperse and reform. CNN made the blunder during a September broadcast of mentioning the active presence of the NED behind the protests in Myanmar.

In fact the US State Department admits to supporting the activities of the NED in Myanmar. The NED is a US government-funded “private” entity whose activities are designed to support US foreign policy objectives, doing today what the CIA did during the Cold War. As well, the NED funds Soros’ Open Society Institute in fostering regime change in Myanmar. In an October 30 2003 Press Release the State Department admitted, “The United States also supports organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities.” It all sounds very self-effacing and noble of the State Department. Is it though?

In reality the US State Department has recruited and trained key opposition leaders from numerous anti-government organizations. It has poured the relatively huge sum (for Myanmar) of more than $2.5 million annually into NED activities in promoting regime change in Myanmar since at least 2003. The US regime change, its Saffron Revolution, is being largely run, according to informed reports, out of the US Consulate General in bordering Chaing Mai, Thailand. There activists are recruited and trained, in some cases directly in the USA, before being sent back to organize inside Myanmar. The USA’s NED admits to funding key opposition media including the New Era Journal, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio.

The concert master of the tactics of Saffron monk-led non-violence regime change is Gene Sharp, founder of the deceptively-named Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group funded by an arm of the NED to foster US-friendly regime change in key spots around the world. Sharp’s institute has been active in Burma since 1989, just after the regime massacred some 3,000 protestors to silence the opposition. CIA special operative and former US military attache in Rangoon, Col. Robert Helvey, an expert in clandestine operations, introduced Sharp to Burma in 1989 to train the opposition there in non-violent strategy. Interestingly, Sharp was also in China two weeks before the dramatic events at Tiananmen Square.

Why Myanmar now?

A relevant question is why the US government has such a keen interest in fostering regime change in Myanmar at this juncture. We can dismiss rather quickly the idea that it has genuine concern for democracy, justice, human rights for the oppressed population there. Iraq and Afghanistan are sufficient testimony to the fact Washington’s paean to democracy is propaganda cover for another agenda.

The question is what would lead to such engagement in such a remote place as Myanmar?

Geopolitical control seems to be the answer. Control ultimately of the strategic sea lanes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. The coastline of Myanmar provides naval access in the proximity of one of the world’s most strategic water passages, the Strait of Malacca, the narrow ship passage between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Pentagon has been trying to militarize the region since September 11, 2001, on the argument of defending against possible terrorist attack. The US has managed to gain an airbase on Banda Aceh, the Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, on the northernmost tip of Indonesia. The governments of the region, including Myanmar, however, have adamantly refused US efforts to militarize the region. A glance at a map will confirm the strategic importance of Myanmar.

The Strait of Malacca, linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, is the shortest sea route between the Persian Gulf and China. It is the key chokepoint in Asia. More than 80 percent of all China’s oil imports are shipped by tankers passing the Malacca Strait. The narrowest point is the Phillips Channel in the Singapore Strait, only 1.5 miles wide at its narrowest. Daily more than 12 million barrels in oil supertankers pass through this narrow passage, most en route to the world’s fastest-growing energy market, China or to Japan.

If the strait were closed, nearly half of the world's tanker fleet would be required to sail further. Closure would immediately raise freight rates worldwide. More than 50,000 vessels per year transit the Strait of Malacca. The region from Maynmar to Banda Aceh in Indonesia is fast becoming one of the world’s most strategic chokepoints. Who controls those waters controls China’s energy supplies.

That strategic importance of Myanmar has not been lost on Beijing.

Since it became clear to China that the US was hell-bent on a unilateral militarization of the Middle East oil fields in 2003, Beijing has stepped up its engagement in Myanmar. Chinese energy and military security, not human rights concerns drive their policy.

In recent years Beijing has poured billions of dollars in military assistance into Myanmar, including fighter, ground-attack and transport aircraft; tanks and armored personnel carriers; naval vessels and surface-to-air missiles. China has built up Myanmar railroads and roads and won permission to station its troops in Myanmar. China, according to Indian defense sources, has also built a large electronic surveillance facility on Myanmar’s Coco Islands and is building naval bases for access to the Indian Ocean.

In fact Myanmar is an integral part of what China terms its “string of pearls,” its strategic design of establishing military bases in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia in order to counter US control over the Strait of Malacca chokepoint. There is also energy on and offshore of Myanmar, and lots of it.

The gas fields of Myanmar

Oil and gas have been produced in Myanmar since the British set up the Rangoon Oil Company in 1871, later renamed Burmah Oil Co. The country has produced natural gas since the 1970s, and, in the 1990s, it granted gas concessions to the foreign companies ElfTotal of France and Premier Oil of the UK in the Gulf of Martaban. Later Texaco and Unocal (now Chevron) won concessions at Yadana and Yetagun as well. Alone Yadana has an estimated gas reserve of more than 5 trillion cubic feet with an expected life of at least 30 years. Yetagun is estimated to have about a third the gas of the Yadana field.

In 2004 a large new gas field, Shwe field, off the coast of Arakan was discovered.

By 2002 both Texaco and Premier Oil withdrew from the Yetagun project following UK government and NGO pressure. Malaysia’s Petronas bought Premier’s 27 percent stake. By 2004 Myanmar was exporting Yadana gas via pipeline to Thailand worth annually $1 billion to the Myanmar regime.

In 2005 China, Thailand and South Korea invested in expanding the Myanmar oil and gas sector, with export of gas to Thailand rising 50 percent. Gas export today is Myanmar’s most important source of income. Yadana was developed jointly by ElfTotal, Unocal, PTT-EP of Thailand and Myanmar’s state MOGE, operated by the French ElfTotal. Yadana supplies some 20 percent of Thai natural gas needs.

Today the Yetagun field is operated by Malaysia’s Petronas along with MOGE and Japan’s Nippon Oil and PTT-EP. The gas is piped onshore where it links to the Yadana pipeline. Gas from the Shwe field is to come online beginning 2009. China and India have been in strong contention over the Shwe gas field reserves.

India loses, China wins

This past summer Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PetroChina to supply large volumes of natural gas from reserves of the Shwe gasfield in the Bay of Bengal. The contract runs for 30 years. India was the main loser. Myanmar had earlier given India a major stake in two offshore blocks to develop gas to have been transmitted via pipeline through Bangladesh to India’s energy-hungry economy. Political bickering between India and Bangladesh brought the Indian plans to a standstill.

China took advantage of the stalemate. China simply trumped India with an offer to invest billions in building a strategic China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline across Myanmar from Myanmar’s deepwater port at Sittwe in the Bay of Bengal to Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province, a stretch of more than 2,300 kilometers. China plans an oil refinery in Kumming as well.

What the Myanmar-China pipelines will allow is routing of oil and gas from Africa (Sudan among other sources) and the Middle East (Iran, Saudi Arabia) independent of dependence on the vulnerable chokepoint of the Malacca Strait. Myanmar becomes China’s “bridge” linking Bangladesh and countries westward to the China mainland independent of any possible future moves by Washington to control the strait.

India’s dangerous alliance shift

It’s no wonder that China is taking such precautions. Ever since the Bush administration decided in 2005 to recruit India to the Pentagon’s ‘New Framework for US-India Defense Relations,’India has been pushed into a strategic alliance with Washington in order to counter China in Asia.

In an October 2002 Pentagon report, ‘The Indo-US Military Relationship,’ the Office of Net Assessments stated the reason for the India-USA defense alliance would be to have a ‘capable partner’ who can take on ‘more responsibility for low-end operations’ in Asia, provide new training opportunities and ‘ultimately provide basing and access for US power projection.’ Washington is also quietly negotiating a base on Indian territory, a severe violation of India’s traditional non-aligned status.

Power projection against whom? China, perhaps?

As well, the Bush administration has offered India to lift its 30 year nuclear sanctions and to sell advanced US nuclear technology, legitimizing India’s open violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, at the same time Washington accuses Iran of violating same, an exercise in political hypocrisy to say the least.

Notably, just as the Saffron-robed monks of Myanmar took to the streets, the Pentagon opened joint US-Indian joint naval exercises, Malabar 07, along with armed forces from Australia, Japan and Singapore. The US showed the awesome muscle of its 7th Fleet, deploying the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk; guided missile cruisers USS Cowpens and USS Princeton and no less than five guided missile destroyers.

US-backed regime change in Myanmar together with Washington’s growing military power projection via India and other allies in the region is clearly a factor in Beijing’s policy vis-à-vis Myanmar’s present military junta. As is often the case these days, from Darfur to Caracas to Rangoon, the rallying call of Washington for democracy ought to be taken with at least a grain of good salt.

F. William Engdahl is the author of "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order," Pluto Press Ltd.. To contact by e-mail: Further articles can be found at his website,

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Defending Democracy

Some time I also feel if democracy is madness of many for the gain of a few. No doubt, democracy has reduced people to numbers only. But then again, only democracy can give better dividends than other systems. Read the following angry but thought-provoking piece, with this spirit: agree to disagree.

Fuck democracy!(from:


Dictatorship in disguise

Being against democracy is not necessarily the same as wanting dictatorship. It is entirely possible to be against the idea of democracy, whilst at the same time being against the idea of dictatorship, although society rarely gives us any option – it’s always either one or the other.

In order to survive, the establishment must maintain the lie that democracy is the only viable alternative to dictatorship. That the two are polarities, outside of which nothing can exist. Dictatorship is presented as the dystopia, and democracy, the utopia. But polarities are often illusions…

There are, in fact, similarities between democracies and dictatorships. The most apparent one being that for a minority it doesn't matter if the ruler is a dictator or a majority; it is simply being ruled over in both cases. And that’s the point - both systems are designed to control people. The only difference is that people living in a democracy generally tend to believe that they are free. But democracy is nothing but dictatorship in disguise.

The illusion of democracy has many layers that I will peel off, one at a time, until the whole concept has been dissected, brought out into the light, and exposed for the all-time-greatest confidence trick that it truly is. I will begin with the most apparent element of the grand deception.

The First Layer

Democracy is primitive

In the ancient world of warring savage tribes, a bigger tribe would, because of its numerical superiority, probably stand victorious after a bloody conflict with a smaller tribe. The members of the smaller tribe who weren’t slain in the battle would be enslaved.

This bloody principle has, in modern times, been systematized and labeled “democracy.” Bigger groups are given power over smaller groups by law.
Have we come no further? Will the majority rule just because a larger group of people can destroy a smaller group in the event of a fight. Do we really want to base our system on that primitive principle? Is democracy really democratic when looked upon from this perspective?

People only like democracy when it does their bidding

Democracy, or "majority rule," survives, as the phrase suggests, because it appeals to the majority. Most people are content in this system because they agree with it. So discontentment will only arise within minorities, but because they are minorities they can’t change it... Thus the status quo is secured for as long as the system remains.

However, when some extremist party enters the governing institution of any democratic country, even the people that usually shiver with excitement at the mere thought of democracy start proclaiming restrictions to the free vote. Because the truth is that they only supported democracy as long as it successfully brought their own values to the status of laws. Can these people really be taken seriously?

The Second Layer

Diluted Sovereignty

Every individual should reasonably have the undivided power over his own life. But in a democratic system this birthright has been taken away and diluted with the collective power of everyone else in the area, thus rendering it useless. For example, in a democratic country with ten million inhabitants every individual possess only one ten-millionth of their sovereignty. That's only 0,0000001%, which means that 99,9999999% of a persons sovereignty is gone. Now that's a majority! True, they also possess one ten-millionth of everyone else’s too, but that's still a terribly bad trade from the original situation! What good does it do to be able to slightly affect others if you don't have the power over yourself? Why do people accept this?

The Third Layer

The illusion of choice

In elections we the people are given only a few alternatives from which to choose from. Vote for the "left"; which strives for more taxes, or vote for the "right"; which desires stricter laws. Rest assured that any vote will bring us deeper into hell. It seems like a win-win situation for the rulers of the world. This is no coincidence.

Politics is just a show, a lie which whole populations swallow hook, line and sinker. People do not see any further than this seemingly colorful curtain of imagined hope, but behind it hide the real rulers of the world. To them, politics is a great way to channel peoples' frustrations concerning the world into ways that suit their purposes. Frustrated individuals become politicians or activists and have to accept the whole program of their chosen party as their own ideas. The rest of the population then humbly submits to these puppets.

The Core

The true purpose of democracy

Dictatorship wasn’t enough. Its system of control by overt force generally worked, but it also created opposition. Naturally, since people were aware of the fact that they were being controlled, they would sometimes fight for their god-given right to Freedom.

So the elite agreed that the ideal system would be one of control by consent. –A population convinced that its society is the highest utopia possible would not rebel.
All they would have to do would be to fool the people into believing that a world of rules and limitations is what’s best for them. This would later prove to be easily accomplished; by creating reasons for laws and limitations, people would cry out for these readily available solutions.

But the elite realized that it would be impossible to fool everyone. So they made up a system with which there was no need to: In this system, they would only need to manipulate a little more than half to automatically gain control of the whole. Democracy was born!
This system was then presented as the solution; the long awaited final end to dictatorship. Thus, it conquered the world.


Why should your opinion matter to me?

Plato once proclaimed that although he didn't agree with the opinions of a fellow citizen, he would sacrifice his own life for this person’s right to have those opinions. So far so good, but what if a person's opinion is that you should conform to some system of conduct, and this opinion then wins public acceptance? In a democracy your forced submission would be justified by the advocates’ numerical superiority alone.

This is unacceptable! If the opinion of a fellow citizen is that you should be enslaved by his values, the only justifiable reaction would be for you to sacrifice him in an act of self defense and in the name of Freedom!
Why should anyone have any say in how you live your life if your lifestyle doesn't interfere with his; or does but only in moral terms? It shouldn't matter to you what anyone else thinks. Peoples’ opinions should be of no importance to you what so ever because your Rights and your Freedom should be inviolable! Ideally they should be, but they are not…

Let’s create a list of Human Rights where the individual’s Sovereignty and Freedom tower high above everything else. And not even if the world is falling apart and the only way to keep it intact seems to be to submit to the will of some savior shall these fundamental rights be given up.

Those who wish to control this world frequently attempt to scare us into abandoning our sovereignty. Don’t be fooled. Let the world fall apart, and when it does, keep defending your rights until you are kicking around dust in an otherwise empty space and you have drawn your last breath!
As the old Roman proverb so eloquently states, "It is better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand days as a lamb."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Washington Post on Bangladesh's War on Corruption

In Bangladesh, 'a Quiet Revolution'War on Rampant Graft Brings Pain, Promises

By Emily WaxWashington Post Foreign ServiceWednesday, October 3, 2007; A16

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- It's been called Bangladesh's war on corruption, a revolution in this South Asian nation once persistently ranked as the most kleptocratic in the world. It's a place where extorting cash was so ingrained in the social fabric that even the Bureau of Anti-Corruption accepted a "ghoosh," or bribe.

Now, though, two former prime ministers -- rival politicians who have dominated this country's politics for 16 years -- are behind bars, awaiting trial for allegedly siphoning off millions of dollars from the government. Also incarcerated on graft, tax-evasion and corruption charges are 170 members of the ruling elite, along with an estimated 15,000 political underbosses, local government officials and businessmen.

In one way or another, they are all alleged to have stolen from a population of 150 million people who have long languished in abject poverty.

The list of accused includes not only former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina but also Zia's eldest son, Tarique Rahman, who was known as "Mr. 10 Percent" until recently. Rahman skimmed close to $1 million from government coffers, according to Bangladesh's freshly mandated Independent Anti-Corruption Commission, and is now being called "Mr. 110 Percent."

Rahman, Zia and Hasina all deny wrongdoing.

The arrests this year are unprecedented for South Asia, a region with a reputation for widespread impunity when it comes to thievery in government. Corruption experts say bribes are routinely offered -- and taken -- to push forward a water project, a new road, a sari business or a passport application. Even relief funds for victims of cyclones and flooding have mysteriously disappeared. Since Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971, an estimated $40 billion in international aid has been stolen, analysts say.

"It's completely surreal and was unthinkable in South Asia that a country's demigods are now in jail, and that's what we are seeing here," said Iftekhar Zaman, executive director of the Bangladesh branch of Transparency International, a leading anti-corruption watchdog, which has its largest chapter in the world in Bangladesh. "For many people, what matters is daily life, and corruption was so deep-rooted here . . . that there has to be a painful transition. But in the long term, it has to happen."

The transition from a system in which corruption rules to one in which institutions do has indeed been difficult. Prices for daily essentials such as rice and fish, staples of the Bangladeshi diet, have increased. The reason, according to some analysts, is that businesses are finally paying taxes levied on their products and passing on the costs.

Bangladesh's military-backed government, which assumed power Jan. 11 following months of unrest, is responsible for the crackdown. It declared emergency rule, banning political activity and protests, and said it would root out corruption by any means necessary before allowing elections to be held in 2008.

Critics, who say the anti-corruption campaign has been taken too far, have called the government's takeover "Bangladesh's 1/11." Arrests are often made in the middle of the night, according to relatives of those charged. "Since 1/11, we are passing sleepless nights," said Abu Motaleb of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which recently held a seminar advising business leaders on the crackdown.

Many business leaders say that what used to get through with a call to the right contact, a slap on the back and an envelope of cash now requires paperwork in triplicate and rounds of approvals. On Dhaka's traffic-clogged streets, fruit and fish dealers are learning about new tax codes and fees that need to be paid to get their products to market.

"This is all news to us," said Kazzim Uddin, 37, a father of four who swatted the flies away from his silver trays of sardines and white fish. "We don't have to pay bribes anymore. But we do notice the prices are so much higher. Long-term, it is so much better. But short-term, it hurts the family budget."

The interim government says these are normal growing pains, and the only way to change the system. For decades, a small elite has controlled scarce resources while the poor have suffered; that, the government says, must change.

"Even a little corruption is bad because it sets a tone that anything goes," said Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, which has replaced the now-defunct, and corrupt, Bureau of Anti-Corruption. "Corruption is tied to poverty. Africa has its Big Men, with their sycophants who benefited from their power. Well, Bangladesh has its Big Women and their blind followers. And why should we all be too afraid to take back what our citizens lost?" Zia and Hasina, both women, dominated politics here for years.

Some Bangladeshis say they are optimistic but cautiously so. They point to neighboring Pakistan, whose military-led anti-corruption drive in recent years ended with the military fixed in power.

Some in civil society say that there have been too many arrests and that those who have been arrested have not been provided with due process. Those are accusations that the interim government says are untrue and unfair.

"What about the rights of the Bangladeshi citizens that were stolen from and kept in terrible poverty? What is happening here is nothing short of a quiet revolution without violence," said Mainul Hosein, the caretaker government's key law and justice official. "At least we are trying to establish an honest government."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wall Street Journal on Corruption Ranking

Combating Corruption
October 2, 2007

Fighting poverty is a popular cause these days, from Bono's bracelets to fancy
"poverty reduction strategies" at development banks. But if do-gooders are
serious about reducing global poverty, fighting corruption is one of the best
places to start.

For supporting evidence, look no further than Transparency International's
annual Corruption Perceptions Index. Released Thursday, the survey aggregates
14 polls and ranks 180 countries on "perceived corruption," defined as abuse of
public office for private gain. The world's poorest countries -- think Burma or
Bangladesh -- languish at the bottom of the list, while the world's richest
countries get top marks.

Corruption keeps poor countries poor by squirreling away resources in the hands
of elites, who are typically unelected and who spend the gains on, at best,
inefficient public works and at worst, private ends. Examples of such wastage
aren't hard to find; the Burmese junta's jungle capital at Pyinmana or
Turkmenistan's revolving gold leaf statue of its president, Saparmurat Niyazov,
spring to mind.

Corruption also drives away foreign investment and disincentivizes local
entrepreneurs from starting new businesses. That doesn't mean that corrupt
countries don't attract investment; China, which tied with India at a middling
rank of 72, pulled down $63 billion of foreign direct investment, despite
widespread corruption in the Communist Party ranks. But imagine how much money
the mainland would receive if it made a more serious effort to bolster its
legal system and enforce clean business practices -- like Hong Kong does, which
ranks number 14.

This year, 40% of the countries that have "rampant" corruption (i.e. a score
below 3, out of a range of 1 to 10) are also desperately poor -- a trend that's
endured since the poll's inception in 1995. But as William Easterly explains on
a nearby page in a piece on the Asian Development Bank, it's still devilishly
difficult to persuade many actors that corruption is worth prioritizing. In a
recent report on the World Bank's anticorruption unit, former Federal Reserve
Chairman Paul Volcker found "ambivalence" in the Bank toward fighting

Reducing corruption means, among other things, better oversight of foreign aid,
the encouragement of strong, independent judiciaries and support of civil
society institutions to expose graft. Come to think of it, that's a good
mission for development banks to adopt.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

World Bank and TIB Ranking for Bangladesh

In today's global release of the Doing Business 2008 Report by the World Bank, Bangladesh's business environment has slipped from last year's 88 to 107 this year.

In today TIB's infamous Corruption Perception Index, Bangladesh for the first time is out of the tope ten league, instead became the second most corrupt country in South Asia, behind Afghanistan.

It would be good to know the exact survey periods, to determine an objective analysis. Chances are great that both camps (pro and anti-CTG) will try to use these results, selectively.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lessons from History

1. Bengali's history gives us one conclusion: counter-revolution has been more successful than revolution.
2. Bengalees were ruled more by the bad people, and tenure of the good rulers has always been short.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Building Better Bangladesh

You can't expect better solutions from Generation O that battered Bangladesh since independence. I will bet on giving a fair amount of responsibilities to Generation Y. Generation O can now just hand down wisdom, and relax.

I will advocate for complete baton change, not passing the buck.

So, what is your take on building a 'Better Bangladesh"?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Priorities for Caretaker Government in Bangladesh

After seven months, it is now time to ask what are the real priorities of the CTG. While Chief Adviosr and his colleagues have spelled out a number of priorities on different occasions, what are the public perceptions as to what CTG's priorities should be? Here is a list eight priorities that came up in a perception survey, done by Election Working Group. These are:

· Supporting the Bangladesh Election Commission in implementing the electoral reforms
· Taking effective action to check rising prices of essentials;
· Arresting and punishing corrupt persons and barring all from participating in elections;
· Increasing the supply of electricity;
· Ensuring a good law and order situation;
· Ensuring the independence of the judiciary; and
· Enforcing the Money Laundering Act and recovering all money illegally kept abroad.

Our people are very simple, and these are their simple demands which CTG should address, in order or priority.

This survey was carried out in June and first week of July 2007, with technical support from The Asia Foundation and Data International Ltd. This is the fifth rapid assessment of citizen perception of recent political and other events in Bangladesh The assessment is based on perceptions of 1,515 individuals that include 759 ordinary citizens and 756 elite consisting of local political leaders, civil society members, and local government officials or elected representatives.

While all previous perception reports are available in its website:, the fifth report is yet to uploaded. EWG also carried out a supplementary survey follwoing Hasina's arrest (hope they will do so for Khaleda), and here I lift the whole text for your reading:


Following Sheikh Hasina’s arrest on July 16, 2007, a rapid supplementary survey of 20 ordinary citizens in each of nine district headquarters of the country was conducted by EWG. The total sample size was 180. A subset of questions was re-administered to a different group of citizens and results were then matched against the results from the principal fifth-round survey that was completed by July 15—that is, before the arrest of Sheikh Hasina.

The supplementary survey reveals that, following the arrest of Sheikh Hasina, people’s attention seems to have shifted to democracy and capacity issues in a significant way. The proportion of ordinary citizens that were most concerned about price hikes dropped to about 50 percent, while the percentage of those expressing concern about an erosion of democratic values increased from 16 percent (in the main pre-arrest survey) to 30 percent (in the supplementary post-arrest survey) of ordinary citizens. Among this latter group, 13 percent mentioned the arrest of Sheikh Hasina as their major concern, and another 10 percent voiced the concern that proper legal procedures were not followed in arresting her. Moreover, people expressed concern about arrests of politicians and businessmen without warrants, and bias in the CG’s actions against individuals suspected of corruption. They also worried about the suspension of basic human rights and freedom of speech, and harassment by the joint forces. People commented that the CG is aiding the division of political parties under the guise of reforms, and voiced concern that the armed forces may be playing covert political games.

A significant rise in the percentage of ordinary people citing the CG’s incapacity and inaction is also observed in the post-arrest survey. Besides the fertilizer and electricity problems, respondents expressed concern about the closing down of jute mills, laying-off of workers, and rising unemployment. They mentioned the moribund state of the economy and the languishing business sector, as well as the increasing numbers of armed robberies and murders.

Those interested to get a soft copy of this 66-page report, pls send e-mail to:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Curfew likley from 6 PM, one killed in Rajshahi

There is a chance of declaring curfew from 6 PM today. Advisors meeting is to start from 2:30 PM today.

Students-police clash leave a man dead, 2 dozen people injured in RU

Rajshahi, Aug 22 (UNB) - Rajshahi University campus virtually turned into a battlefield Wednesday as students and police fought pitched battles, leaving an unidentified rickshaw- puller dead and around two dozen people injured.

Campus residence of Vice Chancellor Prof. Altaf Hossain and a police box in the campus were also set on fire during the melee.

Traffic on the Dhaka-Rajshahi highway, situated beside the university campus, came to a halt as the agitating students put up barricades on the way and closed the university main gate with burning tires.

“Scores of teargas shells rained down on the campus in a bid to disperse the unruly students who were pelting policemen with brickbats,” says a spot report of the razing violence.

A motorcycle was set ablaze during the clashes that started at about 9am when police intercepted students who brought out a procession in protest against the Monday’s incident on the Dhaka University campus.

Thousands of people from nearby areas in the city thronged around the strolling RU campus and looked on as the clash amid chase and counter-chase continued till filing this report at about 11:30am.

At one stage of melee, students set the campus residence of Vice Chancellor Altaf Hossain and a police box in campus on fire at noon.

Fire fighters rushed to the spot and extinguished the blaze.
At 12:30 pm, police fired rubber bullets on the students near RU medical centre that left an unknown rickshaw-puller dead on the spot.END

Bangladesh Update 22 August as of 12 PM

Rajshahi University erupted in the morning.

Demonstrations is going on the following roads/areas in Dhaka:

1.Gulshan circle-1 to Amtoli(Mohakhali Area) (Titumeer College)

2.Roads to/from Dhaka University areas

3.Sher-E-Bangla Agriculture University areas
4. New market areas

5. Rair Shah Bazar(Gulistan)

Oxford Analytica on Bangladesh's Student Uprising

BANGLADESH: Students protest against troop presence

BANGLADESH: Student protests spread from Dhaka to Chittagong and Kushtia today, after clashes with police at Dhaka University yesterday left several injured. According to local media reports, protests erupted after a dispute involving soldiers and students at a football match on the university campus in the capital.

It is the first serious outbreak of violence since January, when a military-backed caretaker government was installed after the postponement of general elections. Emergency rule has been in place ever since, including a ban on protests. A vigorous anti-corruption campaign and the prospect of an overhaul of the political system under the new government meant that it earned support domestically and overseas.

However, signs of weakness within the government -- in its handling of the recent floods, for example -- are causing frustration and there are concerns about the prospect of extended military rule. Students are demanding the withdrawal of troops from the campus and they burnt effigies of army chief General Moeen U Ahmed.

The government is increasingly unpopular, but is only set to become more so as it adopts more authoritarian tactics. There is a danger that the military will assume direct power, although there is considerable international pressure on Dhaka to proceed towards timely elections.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dhaka University Update

The incident at Dhaka University is becoming alarming. Here are some updates (as of 2 PM) from various media and internet sources:

1. More clashes today with police and students.

2. Two more universities (Jagannath and Jahangir Nagore) join in the protest.

3. Jahangir Nagar University students blocked Dhaka-Aricha highway.

4. An army van was burnt by students near Shahbag.

5. Soldier who sparked this protest has been withdrawn from the camp.

6. Students during protest burnt effigy of General Moyeen.

7. Dhaka University Teachers' Association has sided with students and demanded withdrawal of army camp from campus by tomorrow noon.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guardian Commentary on Bangladesh

She is absolutely right: we have layers of freedom where some men are more equal than others. Read this Guairdain commentary on Bangladesh:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What’s the score on India’s covert operations?

By Jyoti Malhotra

In an unusual display of openness early this year, the Research & Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, invited Shashi Tharoor, a much-publicized face of India abroad and a rank outsider, to deliver the first R.N. Kao memorial lecture in Delhi.

It was an impressive gathering for which a variety of former spymasters had flown in from across the country. It was presided over by the national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan. Tharoor spoke about “India and global security: leveraging soft power’’, arguing that the culture of debate and discussion that comes naturally to Indians should be extended to the intelligence agencies, even if secrecy is their preferred weapon of action.

By all accounts, Kao would have liked the idea. India’s top spymaster was made the first head of R&AW by Indira Gandhi after it was separated from the Intelligence Bureau in 1968. In his time, spies did not merely collect and analyse information, they had a chameleon-like ability to identify with both the oppressor and the oppressed. They spoke multiple languages. They built relations with the CIA and the KGB and the Afghan mujahedin, all at the same time. Spying didn’t take place at the speed of 24-hour news channels, nor were spy stories grist for the media’s mill.

Instead, spying was an intimate, time-consuming process, where the spy staked out his potential victim or source with the patience of someone in love. If you were collating information and analysing it, you pursued the maze and didn’t rest until it cleared. You had a sense of history. You couldn’t be a good spy if you didn’t know your weaknesses.

Most Indians, among them former cabinet secretary, Naresh Chandra, believe that R&AW’s finest hour was the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 and the liberation of Bangladesh. Considering this happened a mere three years after Kao’s creation of R&AW and allowed Mrs Gandhi to emerge as one of the most powerful leaders in the world, the event also set the stage for a muscular foreign policy.

The liberation of Bangladesh was clearly Mrs Gandhi’s finest hour. The manner in which Bangladeshis rose to take charge of their country — albeit with the help R&AW provided to their Mukti Bahini — has no parallel in world history.

Back home, the 1971 events allowed Kao to create the psychological warfare (Psywar) division, which kept the international spotlight on brutalities committed by the West Pakistanis. Indira Gandhi’s tour of the major nations, including the US, to sensitize them about the situation in the subcontinent — millions of refugees from East Bengal were pouring into India — was a perfect prequel to the brahmastra that followed. Pakistan cracked up like a brittle pancake. It continues to vent much of its angst by unleashing terror in Punjab, Kashmir and now, in the rest of India.
Even as it covertly aided the Mukti Bahini, R&AW raids into the Chittagong Hill Tract in the Northeast simultaneously destroyed sanctuaries and training camps of the Mizo National Front as well as the Nagas. Phizo had, in fact, been in touch with the ISI since 1956, and later leaders like Isaac Swu, Muivah and Mowu Angami (who was later killed) had travelled via the Kachin state of Burma to Yunnan, a southern Chinese province for arms training. Mizo leaders like Laldenga, too, were in touch both with the ISI and the Chinese, seeking arms training and financial assistance. The Chinese agreed to train the MNF if they could reach Yunnan on their own.

R&AW’s decision to smash insurgent sanctuaries in the CHT, killing both Nagas and Mizos, played a big role in partially ending the Naga insurgency. As for Laldenga, he fled to West Pakistan, via Rangoon, but later got fed up with his ISI handlers. He escaped from Pakistan and reached Geneva in 1975, where a joint R&AW-IB team began talks with him. But Mrs Gandhi was soon to impose Emergency, and to lose power in 1977. The Mizos had to wait for her to return in 1980 before Kao — and the next R&AW chief, Gary Saxena, as well as the late G. Parthasarathi, Mrs Gandhi’s trusted adviser — could pick up the threads. Peace returned to Mizoram only in 1985, when Laldenga became its chief minister.

B. Raman, a former R&AW spy, who has just written a book about his former organization called the Kaoboys of R&AW, points out that one of R&AW’s major drawbacks has been “a lack of man management…especially in the later years, where R&AW should have been blended into a team, there’s a clear absence of an esprit de corps.’’

One clear example of the lack of coordination between R&AW, IB and the West Bengal state police occurred during the Purulia arms drop in 1998. Peter Bleach, an ex-pilot of the Royal Air Force who was hired to fly the plane to Purulia, is supposed to have gone to the headquarters in the UK and told them what he was going to do. Subsequently, clear and pointed intelligence was given to R&AW, but it didn’t pass it on.

The failure to detect the Pakistani incursion into Kargil until May 1999, when one IB alert a year before had picked up unusual activity across the border in Baltistan, must count for another failure of the R&AW’s high-profile Aviation Research Centre. It was left to the nomadic Gujjar shepherds, who roam the hills, to pick out the aliens in the Kargil hills.

However, Naresh Chandra feels that R&AW’s picking up of the conversation between General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad and his colleague General Muhammad Aziz Khan, in Beijing during the Kargil war (when Aziz said to Musharraf in crude Urdu, “Uski (India) tooti mere haath main hai’’), was one of R&AW’s best moments. Asked if the release of the conversation transcript did not compromise both technical and human intelligence, Chandra said, “Releasing the transcript was a political decision, R&AW did a very good job.” That transcript was one element in the diplomatic battle that finally persuaded Bill Clinton to force Nawaz Sharif to order his forces back behind the LoC.

India’s intelligence-gathering efforts have largely focussed on Pakistan, the US, China and the neighbourhood. Through the Eighties and the Nineties, including after the Mumbai blasts in 1993, Delhi tried hard to get the US to label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism with little success. Delhi argued that a lot of CIA arms were being siphoned off by the ISI to be used in Punjab and Kashmir — but the argument fell on deaf ears.

Under Rajiv Gandhi, Delhi sought to pursue a multi-dimensional strategy on Pakistan. That is, cooperation with its people, covert action where possible (as in Sind, which provoked Benazir Bhutto to tell her ISI chief, “Give up your Sikh card and India will give up its Sind card”) and maintaining good relations with both the pro-Pakistan Afghan mujahedin as well as with the Tajik opposition-leader, Ahmad Shah Masood. With the fall of the taliban after 9/11, Delhi moved quickly to establish consulates in Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar in order to prevent Pakistan from regaining strategic depth in southern Afghanistan.

Unlike Bangladesh, though, India’s Sri Lanka intervention has been a mixed bag. Covert assistance for the LTTE in the early Eighties ordered by Indira Gandhi enabled the government to meet aspirations of the Sri Lanka Tamils, but by the time Rajiv Gandhi signed the Indo-Sri Lanka accord, the tables had been turned completely. Once again, different agencies of the government didn’t know what the other was doing. General Sundarji is said to have promised Rajiv Gandhi that it would take a month to accomplish his mission to disarm the LTTE. Ultimately, V.P. Singh ordered the IPKF back after three years, without completing the job it had set out to do.

Still, as Shashi Tharoor put it at the R&AW tea-party in January, the Eighties were a grand decade, with Delhi helping a large num-ber of African countries like Uganda (Milton Obote invited R&AW in after Idi Amin chased the Indians out) and Ghana set up intelligence agencies, besides providing key support to the African National Congress in South Africa and SWAPO in Namibia.

Analysts like B. Raman point out that for an argumentative society, Indians have largely refused to ask questions or debate failures. Lieutenant General Henderson-Brooks and Brigadier Baghat wrote a report on the failure of the Sino-Indian war in 1962, while the Subrahmanyam committee went into a detailed look at the Kargil conflict, but Parliament has either not been shown the reports or allowed to discuss it.

Meanwhile, there remains the question of a cover-up in the Rabinder Singh affair, the R&AW double agent who escaped, via Kathmandu, to the US in 2004. The matter shook the agency as well as India, but an investigation into the counter-insurgency failure doesn’t seem to have cleaned out the cobwebs, especially since a number of those allegedly involved in the fiasco are posted in key countries today.

So what’s the score on India’s covert operations in these 60 years? Johnnie Walker, the ultimate Bollywood comedian, has a memorable line in one of his films: “Fifty-fifty”, he says, with regard to the happiness-ever-after formula. It could easily apply to Delhi’s report card since independence.

Bangladesh: The Danger III for India!

So, Bangladesh is Danger III for India? Read on:

The DangerBy Bharat Verma

The security forces, primarily the Indian Army, have held the state of Jammu & Kashmir physically since Independence. The politicians and the bureaucrats have contributed nothing to resolve the situation. The danger has since magnified. After all the wars, export of terrorism, inconsistent and weak policies by New Delhi, Islamabad could not win Kashmir only because the Indian Army held its ground. If the ghost force succeeds in making locals rise against the Army, it will be an unprecedented achievement for Islamabad. It is a matter of grave concern that New Delhi is so prone to issue statements without thinking it through, as long as it appeases the adversary even temporarily. With China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh becoming more strident, as evidenced by its recent stance on Tawang, the danger to the Siliguri Corridor stands enhanced. This corridor has been facing internal turmoil for many years.

Is India’s development and economic growth becoming unsustainable due to poor handling of the security? There are three dangers to the territorial integrity that bedevil the nation. Very few policy makers in India dare to acknowledge the danger to the nation’s territorial integrity. The security and integrity of the nation has become hostage to vote-bank politics. Democracy and more than eight per cent economic growth will be of no avail if the country as such withers away. India is not only being frayed at its borders by insurgencies, but its very writ in the heartland is becoming increasingly questionable. The rise of a nation is predicated upon unity, peace and stability, which are essentially determined by good governance. The prevailing security scenario poses the serious question: Is India’s development and economic growth becoming unsustainable due to poor handling of the security? There are three dangers to the territorial integrity that bedevil the nation.

Danger-1 New Delhi and the state capitals have almost ceded the governmental control over 40 per cent of the Union’s territory to the Naxalites. The Naxal’s are aided and abetted by the crime mafia that runs its operations in the same corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh, as well as Maoists of Nepal who in turn receive covert support from other powers engaged/interested in destabilising India. The nexus between ULFA and Maoists in Nepal is well established. In a recent attack in Chhattisgarh, Maoists of India and Nepal were co-participants. There are also reports to suggest that Indian Maoists are increasingly taking to opium cultivation in areas under their control to finance their activities. The Maoists - crime - drug nexus is rather explosive.

Danger-2 The security forces, primarily the Indian Army, have held the state of Jammu & Kashmir physically since Independence. The politicians and the bureaucrats have contributed nothing to resolve the situation. The danger has since magnified many times as displayed by the presence of thousands of supporters of LeT flying their flags in a recent rally of dissidents. Under the garb of peace overtures, heavily armed infiltrators with tacit support from the Pak Military-Intelligence establishment continue to make inroads into Kashmir. They are at present lying low, waiting for an opportune moment for vicious strikes on several fronts to undermine the Indian Union.

This ghost force reared its head in a recent rally organised by Geelani. Musharraf and his sympathisers in India are working in a highly synchronised fashion for demilitarisation of the Valley. Simultaneously, there is an insidious campaign to malign the Indian Army on one pretext or the other as part of the psywar being waged by the ghost force under Islamabad’s directions. After all the wars, export of terrorism, inconsistent and weak policies by New Delhi, Islamabad could not win Kashmir only because the Indian Army held its ground. If the ghost force succeeds in making locals rise against the Army, it will be an unprecedented achievement for Islamabad. The talk of demilitarisation is therefore merely a ploy that aims to achieve the Kashmir objective even as Pak Military-Intelligence establishment expands its tentacles not only within the Valley but in other parts of India as well. While the Pak dispensation talks of peace, terrorist cells are proliferating in the country including new frontiers in southern part of India. Islamic fundamentalism/ terrorism footprints, as evidenced by Bangalore centered incidents, are too glaring to be ignored. Islamic terrorism in the garb of freedom fighting in Kashmir is therefore de-stabilising the entire country. Islamabad is using Kashmir as a gateway/launching pad to rest of India.

Danger-3 Given a modicum of political will, Danger-I and II may still be manageable, however, Danger III to its territorial integrity in the northeast may prove to be the most difficult. In fact the entire northeast can easily be unhooked on multiple counts from the Union. First, these are low populated areas having contiguity with the most densely populated and demographically aggressive country in the world, i.e., Bangladesh. The country has also emerged as a major source of Islamic fundamentalism, which impacts grievously on the northeast. To add to these woes, New Delhi because of sheer vote-bank politics legitimised illegal migration for 22 years through the vehicle of IMDT. Many border districts now have a majority population constituting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In near future, this leverage will be used to create an internal upheaval against the Centre as in the case of the Valley. It’s a classic Islamic fundamentalist principle of asymmetric warfare. What cannot be achieved by conventional wars, can be done through infiltration and subsequently internal subversion. They call it “jihad!”

Second, the northeast if not addressed appropriately could unhook from the Union before the Valley given the acute vulnerability of the Siliguri Corridor, which is merely 10 to 20 kilometer wide and 200 kilometers long. If this critical corridor is choked or subverted or severed by force, the Union of India will have to maintain the northeast by air. With poor quality of governance for which the country is infamous, the local population may gravitate towards other regional powers.

Third, with China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh becoming more strident, as evidenced by its recent stance on Tawang, the danger to the Siliguri Corridor stands enhanced. This corridor has been facing internal turmoil for many years. The area may well be further subverted by inimical regional powers. Chinese intention to bargain for Tawang to secure Tibet is deceptive. Subsequently, it would covet entire Arunachal Pradesh to protect Tawang. Chinese are known for expanding their areas of strategic interests with time unlike the Indians who are in a tearing hurry to convert Siachen Glacier into a “mountain of peace” or LOC into “line of peace” or equating Pakistan as an equal victim of terrorism.

It is a matter of grave concern that New Delhi is so prone to issue statements without thinking it through, as long as it appeases the adversary even temporarily. Therefore the northeast—with the internal turmoil in the Siliguri Corridor, with low population surrounded by overpopulated Bangladesh exporting Islamic terrorism under tutelage of Islamabad, with China gaining influence in Nepal and Bangladesh and its upping the ante on Tawang—the danger to the region is grave. Manipur is a stark indicator. The insurgents have nearly weaned the state from the Indian Union.

The writ of the Indian Union has ceased to operate; insurgents, compelling people to turn to South Korean music and films, ban Hindi music and films. New Delhi continues to fiddle while the Northeast burns which in turn poses a grave problem to the territorial integrity of the Union of India. The world once again is getting polarised into two camps after the end of the Cold war—democracies and authoritarian regimes of all hues, which includes Islamists, communists, and the Maoists. Their perspectives are totally totalitarian.

Therefore with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal (Maoists), being neighbours, the danger to the Indian territorial integrity stands enhanced.

(The author is editor, Indian Defence Review and can be contacted at

Myanmar: The probable battleground between India and China

Very interesting observation that Myanmar will become probable battleground between India and China for its oil and gas.

So, Bangladesh is now caught between India and China pull!

Read on:

Commentary: The Indian Ocean is not a Chinese lake
TORONTO, Aug. 14
Column: Abroad View

As India becomes the third or fourth economic power in the world in the next 20 to 30 years, it will have to turn its attention toward the fractured state of politics in the Indian Ocean states. Today, African nations bordering the Indian Ocean are in a state of turmoil. Politics in countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are unsettled. The Middle East has been boiling for the last 60 years, due to its oil wealth and the creation of the state of Israel.

Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, representing the bulk of humanity in the Indian Ocean states, have never seen peace in the last half century. Myanmar has become an outcast from the world community and probable battleground between India and China for its oil and gas. Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are slowly moving into the economic iron grip of China. Indonesia and Australia have affinities with China and the West respectively.

Chinese sooner or later will use its sizeable community in Southeast Asia to foster its political and economic agenda. The Chinese are also slowly moving into the Indian Ocean. Hence, why should not India exercise its influence in the Indian Ocean? India has the naval muscle and the economy to match. It also has a political and economic system worth copying in the ethnically diverse nations of the Indian Ocean. R

ealizing that the Indians were weak, as well as busy over neighborhood disputes with Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Chinese were the first to make a move in the Indian Ocean. Ten years ago they established a listening post off the coast of Myanmar, to monitor Indian naval communications and the sea-lanes in the Bay of Bengal leading to Singapore.

Out of nowhere, China decided five years ago to build the Pakistani port of Gawadr to help Pakistan acquire a new naval facility opposite the Straits of Hormuz. It was a masterstroke that has tied Pakistan to the Chinese sphere of influence for a long time. Also, China has clinched a deal to establish a submarine dock facility in the Maldives in the Arabian Sea, so close to India's western coast. India has good reason to be upset with these developments.

China's trump card is its export merchandise, which it can offer to any nation on good terms and carry the day. Although these exports have not conquered the traditional markets for European, U.S. and Indian goods in the Indian Ocean states, the Chinese are trying hard. They followed up their hard sell with a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Africa last February that included Cameroon, Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and the Seychelles. The whole purpose of this visit was to outflank Indian, European and U.S. interests. In countering these Chinese moves head-on, India should be front and center, backed by U.S. and European powers.

India has finally ended its Cold War position with the completion of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, and it is now time to strengthen its position in the Indian Ocean. First and foremost Chinese influence in Myanmar should be neutralized. India should end its opposition to the military junta's rule there. Any military hardware supplied by China to the junta should be countered with better and more flexible equipment. Europe and the United States should help and not stand in the way of Indian exports. This will prevent China grabbing all of Myanmar's offshore gas field output.

The West must realize that the present military rulers are well entrenched. They will not make room for a civilian Western-educated liberal democrat, married to a British citizen, in the country's power structure. Compared to Myanmar, turning Pakistan away from China is a hard job. China has cleverly bound Pakistan by strategic means. In the past 15 years China has provided Pakistan with nuclear weapons designs, helped it acquire missiles and now built a strategic port for it. In times of need, China has also provided Pakistan with critical political support.

The US$10 billion in military aid from the United States to Pakistan over the last five years has not accomplished anything useful, including weaning Pakistan from its strategic relationship with China. For the foreseeable future, Pakistan will remain China's satellite in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives and other places are not hard nuts to crack in terms of winding up Chinese naval activities. All India needs to do is to match the Chinese offers. The world for the next 40 years will be dependent on oil from the Middle East. In addition India may be buying huge amounts of gas from this area.

It is important that India offer protection for this seaborne commerce. The sea lanes of greatest importance stretch from the Gulf of Hormuz to the Malacca Straits. This stretch carries 40 percent of the world's oil to its destinations in South and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and the United States. Commerce has repeatedly been threatened by terrorists, pirates and failed states that wish to make a political point. India, with U.S. support, must provide protection for this major sea highway. Already the United States and India have been holding naval exercises and discussing joint maritime patrols. This is a step in the right direction. The United States is now willing to consider more Indian requests for advanced military hardware.

Another important sea route is the one that carries oil exports from the Middle East to Europe. Europe wishes to conserve its own oil and is making heavy demands on Middle Eastern oil. This cannot go through the Suez Canal, because oil-laden ships cannot traverse the shallow canal. Therefore these mega ships travel to Europe hugging the eastern seacoast of Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope and onward to Europe. The bulk of oil shipments to the U.S. Atlantic coast take the same route. Hence its protection is also of paramount importance. Chinese presence there is unwanted and unnecessary. It only complicates an already delicate situation.

Nobody will mind India's presence there. India provided seaward protection to the African Union Summit in Mozambique in 2003 and earned a high reputation for this job.

Economically, India must mount a massive effort in the next 10 years to re-establish its presence in the Indian Ocean. Nobody can argue that Indians cannot meet the needs for goods and services of the Indian Ocean states. From the Middle East to the eastern seaboard of Africa, including backward Myanmar, the massive population base of 500 million should be looking to India, Europe and the United States.

A clever way to establish Indian hegemony in the area would be to establish an Indian Ocean Littoral States Bank to finance trade and development in the region. The United States and Europe would have to support it, but it would be in their interest to keep China out of the Indian Ocean.

In short, the Indian Ocean is not a Chinese lake. China should not be allowed to capitalize on temporary Indian inaction in the area. India must take a leading role in developing and managing the aspirations of the people in the area. In addition India has to guarantee safe passage for maritime commerce. To this affect, India needs to build up its naval and military muscle to make its presence felt.

Bangladeshi political enemies find common ground in lobbying effort

So, the veild threat of cutting aid is now being used to cow CTG? Read on:

Bangladeshi political enemies find common ground in lobbying effort

By Roxana Tiron, August 15, 2007 (

Two bitterly opposed Bangladeshi political leaders and their respective parties are finding common ground in Washington, where their representatives are lobbying to raise awareness of human-rights abuses by an interim government that took over in January.In a twist, the warring parties, which have alternated power in Bangladesh during the last 15 years, find themselves caught in the net of a military-backed caretaker government that was charged with overseeing the most recent election period, but declared a state of emergency and postponed polls planned for late January.

The lobbying effort comes as the Bush administration heralds the anti-corruption campaign of the caretaker government, led by Fakhruddin Ahmed — yet the White House also is pressing for fair and open elections. Some lawmakers fear that Bangladesh could be on the path to becoming a military-led state like Pakistan.

Sheik Hasina and Khaleda Zia, the heads of the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Bangladesh’s two main political parties, along with other senior politicians, public servants and businesspeople, have been the focus of the caretaker government’s anti-corruption drive.Hasina has been jailed on charges of extortion and her family’s assets have been frozen, while Zia, who lives on an army base, is under virtual house arrest. Zia has been ordered to court at the end of the month to face allegations of tax evasion, according to various reports.

But the government that set out to clean up corruption in a country widely perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world now is raising concern among human-rights organizations and governments around the world for being too heavy-handed.The current government has been accused of mass arrests of as many as 200,000 people, denial of political assembly and free speech, torture and extra-judicial killings. Now political enemies Hasina and Zia and their respective parties are sounding alarm in Washington.

For the first time, they are on the same page, although each side is undertaking its own lobbying effort. Zia’s party, the BNP, now has a $400 million, one-year contract with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Former Rep. Greg Laughlin (R-Texas) and Florence Prioleau, a veteran of the Carter White House, are working the Hill on the BNP’s behalf. Meanwhile, the U.S. Awami League had been working with Alcalde & Fay since 2005. The U.S. Awami League, the party’s American branch headed by Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Wazed, hired the firm to ensure that free elections would take place. The U.S. Awami League paid Alcalde & Fay $720,000 for 2005 and 2006, but has scaled back its operations in part because of scarce funding, Wazed said. Lobbyists were paid through donations to the U.S. Awami League, he added.

He said the contract with Alcalde & Fay is on hold and he is focused primarily on his mother’s case. A graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Wazed is in regular contact with members of Congress who focus on Bangladesh. Reportedly, last year’s violence between Zia’s and Hasina’s supporters brought to power Ahmed’s caretaker government and its military backers. The latter were widely considered a necessary intervention in a country riddled with corruption.

But now the jailings, the delay in elections and the prohibition of political assembly are raising concern among lawmakers.One of the most outspoken is Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia subcommittee. “While I believe that neither of the two major parties in Bangladesh have brought any great good to the Bangladeshi people, I’m hard-pressed to understand how an extra-constitutional process brings about political reform,” Ackerman said during a hearing before the congressional recess. “From where I sit, this looks remarkably like what [President Pervez] Musharraf did in Pakistan: Clear the field of mainstream parties and inadvertently open the door to Islamist parties, some of whom have particularly odious associations with known terrorists and terrorist organizations.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), who has a large number of Bangladeshis in his district, told The Hill that he impressed upon the Bangladeshi caretaker government both publicly and privately the need for a normalized political process.The caretaker government has presented a new roadmap that would culminate in elections at the end of 2008. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wrote a letter to Ahmed in July urging him to publish a timeline of the process.Crowley said he’d prefer the elections to be earlier, “but at the very least they should be on that date certain.”

He said he hopes the U.S. does not have to resort to cutting foreign aid to Bangladesh. “They risk [losing] U.S. funding, United Nations funding,” Crowley said. “We do not want to get to cutting the funding.” Senate appropriators fear that some of the funding is not being spent as intended — to counter terrorist activity and violent extremism. “The committee is concerned that this assistance may be misused to support the government’s use of emergency powers to stifle peaceful political dissent,” said the report to the Department of State and Foreign Operations 2008 appropriations bill.

While several members of Congress are voicing concern about the caretaker government, the State Department has welcomed what officials call “an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign.” The deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, John Gastright, said the Bush administration does not characterize the interim government as a military government, but recognizes that Bangladesh is a country in transition. The administration is monitoring the actions of the government and has urged it to respect due process and ensure that international standards of human rights are upheld,

Gastright added. “The caretaker government has outlined the road map for elections in 2008 […] and that road map includes a new computerized voter list, a reformed election law,” Gastright said in House testimony. “Perhaps even more significantly, the political parties that have long been a roadblock to democracy themselves are considering the internal reforms that provide an opportunity for fresh leadership and new ideas that would benefit the Bangladeshi people.”

He stressed that the caretaker government has had some “notable successes,” such as separating the lower courts from the executive branch and streamlining the operations of Bangladesh’s largest port.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have noted that the caretaker government has carried out more reforms than previous governments have enacted in the last 10 years, Gastright said.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Civil Military Relations in Bangladesh

Amader Shomoy Editor today wrote a signed commentary asking for military's entry into mainstream politics. Also today, a five-day international workshop on Democracy, Governance and Security Reforms began at a city hotel. Co-incidence?

This workshop is being organised by Bangladesh Institute of Strategic Studies and supported by Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Hawaii, USA. The presence of the US Charge De Affairs, including supporters of 1/11 (Dr. Kamal and host of familiar faces) reflect the current thinking within both the Bangladesh Military and the US.

The afternoon plenary session discussed on Civil-Military Relations: Bangladesh Perspective. The paper was presented by the Brig. General ATM Amin, Director, Counter Terrorism Bureau of DGFI.

Two interesting observations:

1. The banner at the back had a big picture of Shagshad Bhaban.
2. Of the four people sitting at dias, three were from military, one from civil: Dhaka University Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations.

The 13-page key-note paper doesn't provide much to talk about: it wanted a new model of civil-military relationship "to offer better and peaceful environment to its citizens".

Dr. Imtiaz made it clear that there is no Bangladesh without democracy. Dr. Ataur doesn't want to go back to pre 1/11. No body wants. Dr. Imtiaz tabled 11-point solutions to current situation:
1. Make society free from corruption and punish big fishes.
2. Allow freedom of expression, to all: media, academia etc.
3. Introduce internal democracy
4. Political supervision of military
5. Remove ugly face of dual economy (rich-poor gap)
6. Remove women's and minority discrimination, at all levels
7. Establish Sufi-character of Bengali Islam
8. Effective and non-party civil society
9. End of familycracy and regionalism
10. End of energy crisis and
11. Public Security Council to ensure limit to abuse of power.

I have few ideas of myself about civil-military relations in Bangladesh, which I will elaborate in future. For the moment, let me tell it bluntly: oil and water do not mix. They are made of different components. Sad that Bangladesh military is oblivious to this universal fact. Also, both represent a diametrically opposite systems: open (civil) and closed (military) system. No matter how best efforts are made, these two forces will never converge.

Would welcome remarks.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh- A Cocktail of ISI, Al-Qaeda and Taliban

A usual analysis from Read the story here:

Economist artilce on Bangladesh: Up to their necks

11 August 2007
The Economist
(c) The Economist Newspaper Limited, London 2007. All rights reserved
Bangladesh under water
Worse-than-usual monsoon havoc challenges the government's reputation
"I EXPECT to stay here for two to three weeks," says Mahmuda Khatun, a young, destitute mother of four, sitting on a narrow embankment in Sirajganj district, jam-packed with thousands of people, taking refuge from the rising waters of the Brahmaputra. A few kilometres upstream, the district town may disappear in the 12km-wide (7.5 miles) river. When Mahmuda was born, she says, the river flowed 15km east of the town.
By the middle of this week, some 40% of Bangladesh—a river delta the size of England with a population of 150m—was under water. Floods have also wreaked havoc in northern India and Nepal (see map on next page), as well as in Pakistan.
But it is in Bangladesh, as ever, that things seem bleakest. With weeks of the monsoon season still ahead, hundreds of people dead, about 10m stranded, and the relief operation still patchy, many believe that this year could be as bad as the devastating floods in 1998 and 2004.
For Bangladesh's unelected civilian government and the generals who installed it in January, the floods are a tough test of their popularity, which, in the absence of an electoral mandate, rests on their competence. Besides the humanitarian disaster, the government will also face economic difficulties. Food prices, already at a ten-year high, will inevitably rise further. Shortages of power and fertiliser will add to the woes. The government is under pressure to raise interest rates and (highly subsidised) energy prices.
Critics say economic management under the military-backed regime, with little taste for subtleties, has made things worse. A demolition drive directed at long-established markets at the beginning of the year hurt the informal economy and the poor. The main justification for its rule is a campaign against corruption. In the short term, however, that has crowded out investment in an economy built on illegal money and crimped the entrepreneurial spirit of those not yet in the clink. This week the government requested banks to submit to it account details of 198 "corrupt people"—mostly politicians and businessmen who thrived under the kleptocracies that have succeeded each other since 1991.
Meanwhile, the fates of the country's former leaders, Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League, prime minister between 1996 and 2001, and her nemesis, Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, appear to have been sealed. But few people seem to care any longer—at least for now. Sheikh Hasina, accused of extortion and complicity in murder, is locked up in the parliament complex. Khaleda Zia, prime minister until last October, is under house arrest. Many believe that it is only a matter of time before she joins the beneficiaries of her rule, who worked furiously to push the country to the top of international corruption rankings, in jail.
Two weeks into the flooding and seven months after declaring a war on corruption, Hasan Mashud Chowdhury, a former army chief and head of the powerful Anti-Corruption Commission, admits that his campaign is more "sticky" than expected. On August 7th the government said it would not distinguish between legal and illegal money for flood relief. It also asked for help from the political parties, which have been important contributors to past flood-relief efforts.
Yet the state of emergency remains in place and a military takeover, in slow motion, continues. The telecoms regulator, the public-service commission and the Bangladesh Cricket Board are the latest in a long list of institutions now run by the army. Safeguards on individual liberties are non-existent. Human Rights Watch, a monitoring outfit, this week accused the government's military-intelligence arm of routinely abusing its citizens' rights.
There seem only bad choices left. The sad reality is that Bangladesh is a place where all governments, including military ones, fail—so daunting are the challenges. The best that can be hoped for is that this one does not collapse before the generals manage some sort of orderly transition.