Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thoughts on last night's earthquake in Bangladesh

Although didn't feel it myself, however, news about last night's moderate earthquake in Dhaka and other parts of the country raised a question in my mind: how about a real earthquake devastating Dhaka near election time?

Don't be dismissive. What the hell the Marine Corps are doing here? If earthquake doesn't work, other schemes might. And to get a sense of it, here is a portion from weekly Blitz magazine, saying forces are active to derail the December Election. It says: "It is even learnt that some vested quarters are giving partonization to these groups with the goal of using their notoriety during coming December to avert the promised election by 2008. It is even forecasted by experts that from the coming November, many of the Islamist terror groups will be activated in order to show to the international community that holding election was impossible."

Read to know : What may happen before 12/24?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Bangladesh's December Election Cancelled?

Not sure why it escaped attention of all Bangladeshi blogger. Wall Street Journal is saying that the planned December election in Bangladesh has been cancelled. It said in its commentary under Review and Outlook Section on 23rd July that: 'The government has cancelled plans for a December election over the objections of the two main political parties, whose leaders have also been in and out of jail.'

Read the story here, the relevant text is on 2nd para:

Obviously, the WSJ has got it wrong. Or is it the case that they got it right, but we haven't heard yet the official announcement to that effect? Some one should tell the Government that the WSJ's story has serious implication and official steps should be taken without further delay to correct the mistake in the WSJ report

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some disturbing news from Bangladesh

It seems that Bangladesh’s sovereign entity is now plunged into a greater trouble than one could wish for.

1. It is learned from an authoritative source that the US Marine Corps has undertaken a border management survey along the Bangladesh's land borders in collaboration with BDR, and further learned that they have already conducted such survey as many as three points including Banglabandha.

2. The US has reportedly made a proposal for surveyin Bangladesh's air fields. It is assumed that they may be allowed for the survey only in the southern region.

3. The US has requested terrain intelligence information about different infrastructural installations in Dhaka City and sought ground inspection permission as such. It is learnt the concerned ministries have acquiesced with the former's proposal. It seems an attempt for Intelligence Preparation for Battle (IPB) by the former.

4. In order to take part in the proposed Command Post Exercise, the US has reportedly proposed the Bangladesh Government to allow US Marine ships to come up to the inland waters at Narayanganj.

Questions have been raised if the CTG has already secretly signed the much-debated Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US which is now using the treaty provisions for requesting this kind of sensitive information. The previous governments did not sign this treaty for fear of public backlash.

It is also learnt that the US forces in Iraq will be gradually pulled out very soon and some of those soldiers will be stationed in various friendly countries near to the region. Bangladesh is reportedly is chosen to house some 10,000 strong US forces, when such withdrawal takes place.

A likely place to allow camping of the US Soldiers is the Korean EPZ in Chittagong. The KEPZ has not gone into operation and acres of land are barren in the protected areas, where construction work is going for an airport runaway. It is learnt the former US Ambassador Buetenis who is now deputy head of the US Embassy in Iraq made several trips to Bangladesh recently, only to evaluate progress of works for this camp.

It is learnt Indian's recent pressure on Bangladesh for allowing transit facilities is based on these US moves. The military is also demanding quick reconstitution of the National Security Council, because of the US’s aggressive moves.

It is feared that Bangladesh may turn into a war theatre or a launching pad in regard to US's strategic plan to intervene into Myanmar in future. Interestingly, the UK and Australia have also approached the Bangladesh to conduct a joint military exercise.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Milam's Bangladesh Melody

Read William B Milam's melodical (!) piece on current Bangladesh situation. Look, how CTG has become IG (interim government). Is it a prelude to justify lingering power transfer: who knows! Also, there are hints how Bangladesh could become 'Liberia of South Asia.

Here is the link:

In Bangladesh, political games have also begun. The two party leaders have found each other’s ideas, if not each other’s company, quite acceptable for over a year now, the most part of which each has enjoyed the comforts of a VIP jail. Now the Awami League leader, Sheikh Hasina, has been let go, and has gone off to the US for medical treatment. Whether or not she cut a deal with the interim government depends on who you talk to. It seems unlikely, however, that the Army leadership would not have demanded some behaviour changes as a condition of her temporary release.

Her ideological soulmate of the moment, Khaleda Zia, is said to be negotiating a similar temporary release. But her conditions are probably more difficult since she would obviously want to bring her two sons out with her. To release the older one would be tantamount to announcing the failure of the interim government, as he was one of the main sources of corruption the interim government pledged to deal with through the law when it took over.It is unlikely that these two women have suddenly become mutually affectionate after not being able to stand the sight of each other for the past 25 years.

Clearly they have discovered mutual interests, however. They remember that their one great success against an army-backed government came in 1990 when they cooperated on a one-point agenda — getting rid of President-General Ershad and his government. They did not understand that the military itself had tired of Ershad and of eroding its military professionalism by involvement in politics.

The parties got what they wanted — a kind of electoral politics in which they could compete for power in Bangladesh under a jungle book of rules they made up as they went along in the 1990s, a no-holds-barred, anything-goes dysfunctional political culture which is only loosely connected to democracy (there are elections).

One of the rules they lived by was the party that won an election should not be permitted to govern. From the day after an election, the losing party took to the streets to make governing almost impossible, spent more time boycotting parliament that debating issues, and used violence to bring the economy to a halt through strikes and political action — anything to hasten an election and the winning party’s fall from power.

It seems clear to me that Sheikh Hasina and Begum Zia, and some of the leaders of their parties, have a common vested interest in returning to the political culture they know, and which they think will continue to permit them to compete for power and resources in a completely unconstrained way.

So the game of chicken is on between the two parties and the army/civilian Interim Government (IG) that took over the country in early 2007 with the objective of changing that poisonous political culture to one that would better serve the interests of the entire population of the country.

On the evidence available to me, it seems apparent that the IG has every intention of carrying out its promise to hold the election at the end of this year, and to confound all the sceptics who have predicted all along that its promise is a ruse to cover a military coup. The current IG leaders show no sign of wanting power permanently and have worked hard to hold an unchallengeable election in six months time. Thus it is carefully conducting talks with the party leaders to try to ensure their cooperation.Whether the parties participate in the election will be the central issue in the game.

The two political leaders and their parties will play hardball to get their way. The parties believe they have leverage because of the repeated statements by Western spokespersons that an election without the two main parties will not be viewed as legitimate.Western governments have, too often when dealing with political transitions in the third world, neglected the other important foundations of real democracy in their anxiety to ensure a “legitimate” election. They often spend more effort and resources in the aftermath of a “legitimate” election that, instead of resolving political difficulties as it was supposed to do, actually makes things worse.

My personal example is Liberia where in 1997 the West was so anxious to reduce its involvement in Liberia that any election would do. The result was the election of Charles Taylor, a warlord who won by intimidation, and drove Liberia deeper into chaos and misery. Taylor is now on trial in The Hague for war crimes, and Liberia requires 15,000 UN peacekeepers (including a large contingent of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) and a massive multilateral reconstruction effort.

The IG has signalled, by its temporary release of Sheikh Hasina, its readiness to compromise with the Bangladeshi parties in an effort to ensure their participation in the election. This should involve equal give on the part of the parties if it to be a real compromise. One concession that the IG will have to make to the parties is to remove the emergency under which it now operates. I assume that this is part of the mix that is being discussed with the parties, and this is certainly one aspect that the Western countries should pay attention to.

On the other hand, constant Western harping on party participation, implying that it is the sine qua non of legitimacy, could lead the parties to resist IG conditions on the belief that they have more leverage than they may have. Or, it could pressurise the IG into yielding up more than it gives, i.e. not getting the conditions that will set a new tone and code of behaviour in Bangladesh’s political culture.

Wouldn’t it be in Western interests for the IG to hand back power in the time frame it promised to elected civilian governments operating in a more healthy political culture in which the promise of real democratic governance flows to all Bangladeshis?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bangladesh election likley to be delayed: EIU

Economist Intelligence Unit in its July monthly report on Bangladesh has hinted that the upcoming general election, scheduled in the 3rd week of December 2008, may be delayed. "The next general election is expected to be held in late 2008 or early 2009", it said.

In its June report, EIU had said the election schedule may be 'revised'.

In July report, EIU said: "We expect the parliamentary election to take place in December or the first quarter of 2009 at the latest. "

That means the scheduled election will be pushed back in March 2009, a possibility that daily Naya Diganta has also reported today.