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: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008%5C07%5C09%5Cstory_9-7-2008_pg3_2
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?