Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Appointment Letter for Hasina and Rejection Letter for Khaleda

Couldn't resist sharing, received from a friend.

Replies from the people of Bangladesh regarding the application for the Prime Minister position in Bangladesh. Appointment Letter:

To:
Sheikh Hasina Wazed
C/O AL

Dear Mrs. Wazed:Congratulations. We are happy to inform you that your employment application for the position of Prime Minister of Bangladesh has been accepted.

You have been accepted to lead the country on a five-year contract employment basis. During the application review process, we considered your previous employment history from 1996 to 2001, and your performance during that period. Upon review, we found that you did an adequate job. But don’t get too elated.

To be honest, the applicant pool was rather thin this year. Your toughest competition came from your immediate past predecessor, who left such a wide swath of destruction around her that we had no trouble making up our mind and rejecting her; after which there was only you left to be picked. Given your predecessor’s performance, note that we will keep a very close watch on you and your cohorts, and we will exercise our option to remove you at the expiry of the contract if your job performance is not adequate.We do sincerely hope that you will not disappoint us. If you do, learn from your rival what fate awaits you.

One suggestion: go easy on trumpeting 1996-2001 as the ‘golden era’. We still remember that Bangladesh landed at the top of the list of corrupt countries during that tenure for the first time. On election night, there were reports of violence perpetrated by your supporters. This is the time to rein them in, or you will forever lose control of them. But let us focus on the future and positive outcomes. Know that we wish you well and hope for your success in the future.

Sincerely,Voters of Bangladesh


Rejection letter:
To:
Mrs. Khaleda Zia
C/O BNP

Dear Mrs. Zia: We regret to inform you that your employment application for the position of Prime Minister of Bangladesh has been denied.

During the application review process, we considered your previous employment history from 2001 to 2006, and your performance during that period. Upon review, we found that not only you did not do a good job, you brought along relatives who stole from people and profited at the expense of this country. You also underperformed as manager–you hired people with little skill based on their friendship with your son, and let them flaunt the laws and regulations at will. Your government landed Bangladesh at the top of the list of corrupt countries four years in a row. Lastly, you allowed, with your full consent and knowledge, the establishment and growth of a colony of blood-sucking leeches also known as Jamaat, and their even more dangerous cousins, HUJI and JMB.

You and your ministers denied the existence of a terrorist named Bangla Bhai, and your ministers directly aided and abetted this extremist. As such, we are awarding the job to another candidate better suited for the position. Please note that this denial is not final: you are welcome to apply for the job again in five years when it becomes available again, but you have to prove that you are better than the incumbent if you wish to gain employment.

Until then, we wish you well and hope that you will use this time constructively for the betterment of your governance and managerial skills, and not on destructive practices such as hartals, etc.

Sincerely,Voters of Bangladesh

Aftermath of Bangladesh Election: Few More Readings

The Economist is saying: With such hopes invested in her , she (Hasina) is almost bound to disappoint.Read the comment section as well.

2. The Los Angeles Times also voices concern saying Bangladesh stability is fragile.

3. Bangladesh comes full circle, editorial by Gulf News.

4. A new start for Bangladesh?

5. Guided Democracy: Awami League back in Bangladesh

6. Democracy Returns To Bangladesh

7. Bangladesh: Absolute power corrupts absolutely

8.A bad beginning of the Prime Minister elect in Bangladesh

Hasina's Victory Speech

Sheikh Hasina today addressed a large crowd and now taking Q&A from media. The salient features of her speech are as follows:

1. Poverty is the number one enemy of Bangladesh and we should work together to eliminate this menace.

2. This victory is of good governance against mal-governance and a victory of secular beliefs against communal concepts.

3. We want to start a new culture in politics.

4. All should now maintain restrained behavior.

5. Controlling price of essentials is number one task.

6. We want to implement the Vision 2021.

7. Begum Zia should accept the results as this has been the most fairest elections of all.

8. We do not believe in revenge.

9. We want continuation of the democratic process.

10. She thanked all, including those who voted against her party.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Final Bangladesh Elections Results

The final results are as follows:
Grand Alliance 263 (AL 232, JP 27, Other 4)
Four Party Alliance 31 (BNP 28, Jaamat 2, Other 1)
Independent 4
Total 298

Election to a one constituency in Noakhali-3 is postponed due to clashes where brother of the Army Chief is contesting.

By-elections to six seats will be held later when Hasina, Khaleda and Ershad each relinquish their respective two seats. All three leaders won in three seats and can keep only one seat as per law. Election to another seat which couldn’t be held due to a death of a candidate during campaign period will now be held on 12th January.

Bangladesh Election Results: 295 Seats

Here are the latest count of 295 seats as of 12 PM.

AL 229

JP 27

BNP 27

JSD 3

JI 2

Workers' Party 2

Independent 3

LDP 1

BJP 1

U.S. State Department on Bangladesh's Elections

Press statement by Gordon K. Duguid, Acting Deputy Spokesman, Washington, DC

The United States welcomes the success of Bangladesh’s parliamentary elections. We congratulate the Bangladesh Election Commission and the thousands of government officials involved in organizing this successful election. We applaud the candidates and voters for the manner in which they conducted themselves during the campaign and on Election Day. We also acknowledge the critical role that domestic and international election observers played.

All Bangladeshis can take great pride in the success of these elections. The high voter turnout underscores the people’s desire to see democracy restored as well to have a voice in their future. We also look forward to a continuation of the reforms that have enjoyed wide popular support.

Those elected must prepare to assume their roles as the representatives of all the people of Bangladesh while unsuccessful candidates should continue to participate in the political process. Whether in government or opposition, all political parties have an important role in helping to build a better future for Bangladesh.

The United States will continue to support the people of Bangladesh and its new government as they begin a new chapter in their country’s history.

2008/1103

What does a Hasina win mean for Bangladesh?

Read Reuter's analysis:

DHAKA (Reuters) - An alliance under Bangladesh's former prime minister Sheikh Hasina won a big parliamentary majority in the country's first polls in seven years, unofficial results showed on Tuesday.

Following are answers to questions about what her apparent victory means for the South Asian nation of more than 140 million people:

WILL POLITICAL TURBULENCE END?

Bangladesh's past experiences with democracy have been mixed at best, with losing parties refusing to accept results and resorting at times to violent street protests and strikes. Military figures, in and out of uniform, have sporadically stepped in, justifying their actions on the need for order.

Although main opposition figure Begum Khaleda Zia said during the campaign the time for confrontational politics had passed, on election day she suggested she would win any fair election, and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party complained about cheating once the polls closed. Those comments could set the stage for post-election turmoil, although the outgoing army-backed interim government said it was ready to crush any outbreaks of violence.

Separately, political analysts have started suggesting that Hasina reach out to her old rival and give her a share of power.

WHAT ABOUT VIOLENT ISLAMISTS?

Bangladesh's neighbours worry an increasingly violent Islamist militant minority could provide support and shelter for radicals in their own countries.

Hasina has been a consistent opponent of such groups, and said during her campaign she would act aggressively against them.

Her overwhelming victory and the fact some analysts attribute it partly to Khaleda's alliance with an Islamist party suggest Hasina can follow through on her campaign pledges without concern for negative political consequences, and also resist pressure to make Bangladesh less tolerant and secular.

Reinforcing that view was a poor performance by Islamist candidates, according to the unofficial results.

CAN HASINA MAKE PROGRESS ON THE ECONOMY?

Nearly 40 percent of Bangladesh's population live on less than $1 a day. About a third of the country floods annually during the monsoon season, hampering economic development.

Hasina's platform and past policies point to support for gradually liberalising the economy to boost growth.

Her huge majority may also give her the clout to develop significant coal and natural gas resources and much-needed power generating infrastructure, which might require the expertise of foreign firms. But if she cannot prevent the street protests and strikes seen in the past, many investors will stay away.

Endemic corruption that distorts Bangladesh's economic playing field has been another turn-off for investors. The outgoing government detained Hasina for a year on graft charges, which she denied. She pledged in her campaign to fight corruption this time. A desire not to give the military an excuse to intervene or impose a government that would take her back to court could be a strong incentive for her to follow through.

WHAT ABOUT THE MILITARY?

What role the powerful army will assume when an elected government takes charge is a common concern.

Analysts and diplomats say the army is likely to at least hover behind the scenes for a time to see if the new government can get a grip on corruption and avoid violence.

If so, it may leave things to Hasina and her ministers. One incentive it has for doing so is that a lack of involvement at home means maximum flexibility for the military to serve in various overseas U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Those missions generate compensatory payments to the country as well as pay the participating soldiers and officers salaries far above what they could earn at home.

If the new government fails badly, few doubt the military will be tempted to return with an overt role, which could mean the loss of much needed foreign aid from democratic countries.

BNP is made to pay dearly for its five years of mal-governance

Read Daily Star's commentary.

As we celebrate the majesty of public will and try to understand the stunning results of the national election 2008, the real question that needs to be asked is not why Awami League won so comprehensively, but why BNP got the thrashing that it did. Given our anti-incumbency history and the pattern so far followed since 1991, it can be considered somewhat natural that Awami League should get a turn to run the country in 2008, after BNP did so in 2001.

What however is not explainable by the anti-incumbency factor nor simply by people's desire for a change is the massiveness of the rejection of the BNP. The near rout of this once mighty party, who just the last time got two-third's majority, is the clearest sign that people are sending the strongest possible message of their disgust for what happened from 2001 to 2006 and are punishing BNP and its allies for the way they run the country.

Yesterday votes was a total, complete and comprehensive rejection of the BNP and its allies for corruption, political violence, nepotism, Hawa Bhaban, the role of Tarique, Arafat, Falu, Harris, Babar, etc. for obliterating the distinction between the State, government and the party, politicising every branch of administration, for instituting a culture of impunity where party henchmen considered themselves above the law. Finally for turning a blind eye as terrorism and fundamentalism spread its ugly tentacles throughout the country.

While it is true that Bangladesh headed the list of the most corrupt country in the world in the last year of AL rule, however it continued to be judged as such for the next four continuous years while BNP ruled the country. Instead of attempting to curb corruption people close to the Prime Minister became involved with it and a criminal nexus seemed to envelope the party hierarchy.

First, the assassination of Ahsanullah Master, then the mass murder of 22 people while attempting to kill the opposition leader Sheikh Hasina and then the killing of S.A.M.S Kibria shocked the nation to the very core. What however made them disgusted is the BNP government's refusal to go after the real culprit. This, in our view, totally destroyed the party's claim to stand for rule of law and respect for human rights.

The setting up of Hawa Bhavan and it's becoming an alternative centre of power with its attending corruption involving Prime Minister's elder son not only greatly damaged the reputation of BNP as a clean party, but also greatly damaged the image of Khaleda Zia as the prime minister. The reputation of people extremely close to the PM like Harris Chowdhury and Musadeq Ali Falu and Prime Minister's younger son Arafat Rahman Coko further sunk the reputation of BNP. A man hitherto respected for his integrity, veteran finance minister Saifur Rahman, destroyed his reputation by allowing his sons into illegal business and permitting them to exert undue influence on NBR and related institutions. The final blow to reputation came when he, being the finance minister, 'whitened' his own undeclared money.

While politicisation of the administration was a known phenomenon, however it reached is zenith under the BNP. Almost all branches of government came under direct and indirect influence of the party with the health ministry experiencing its most blatant abuse.

The point we are making today is that it is the BNP and its leaders, especially Khaleda Zia, her two sons, some senior ministers and PM's personal staff brought this defeat on themselves. Any serious introspection will lead a objective observer to conclude that BNP and its allies are paying the price of mis-governance, arrogance, nepotism and disregard for the rule of law. All cries of foul play must be compared with the record of its performance and judged as such.

People of Bangladesh have spoken, loudly, clearly and decisively. And it is not the first time that they have done so. For those who are stunned by the extent of the defeat of the 4-party alliance please remember the election of 2001. The then ruling party, the Awami League, was reduced to 62 seats. If that can be the verdict of the people at that time, then why can't the present results be considered the same?

BNP's devastating defeat is AL's most severest warning. The later must not forget for a moment how our people punish, and most severely so, when ruling parties fail to keep their promise to the people and live up to the latter's expectation of them. Two third's majority has always been a curse to those who got them. That is truer still if the victory is even bigger. The victors of yesterday's election must bear that in mind every moment of their coming five year tenure. More on that later. Today, we only celebrate people's victory over the corrupt.

Clear mandate for secular, egalitarian values, democratic governance in Bangladesh

Read New Age's editorial published today.

Clear mandate for secular, egalitarian values, democratic governance

While the results are yet to be officially declared at the time this editorial goes to print, the trends clearly indicate a massive landslide victory for the Awami League-led alliance in the elections to the ninth Jatiya Sangsad. Despite allegations by the BNP of irregularities in some constituencies — which should be investigated by the Election Commission — Monday’s voting appears to have been largely peaceful and generally free.

   The huge voter turnout in these elections has been a manifestation of the people’s rejection of authoritarian rule and aspiration for rule of law, in the first place. The manner in which people came out in droves on Monday, rejoicing in their constitutional right to elect their own representatives is also indicative of a resounding verdict in favour of democratic governance.

   Through this landslide verdict in favour of the Awami League and its allies, the people have delivered a clear mandate not only for the Awami League-led alliance, but more specifically for the slogans that Awami League has chanted for years. Thus, a majority of the voters have resoundingly spoken in favour of the spirit of the war of national independence: the quest for an egalitarian society built on the principles of secular democracy.

   In the specific context of the Awami League’s election promises, the people have sought respite from the high prices of essentials, have placed their faith in the party’s promise to expand agricultural subsidies and support, ensure equitable economic growth, and realise their much vaunted demand for the trial of war criminals of 1971.

   After 1973, this is the first time that the Awami League is set to come to power with a two-thirds majority, bestowing on them the mandate and the legal means of constitutionalising the politics they have professed to espouse in the intervening period.

   However, the biggest challenge that Awami League has been exposed to is properly handling the huge parliamentary strength, particularly given the fact that two-thirds majorities in Bangladesh, and other South Asian states, have often failed to behave democratically, particularly in terms of accommodating dissenting views of the opposition parties on the one hand and the critical media on the other. We only hope that the Awami League will take lessons from history and contribute to the institulisation of a sound parliamentary system of governance in the country.

'Minus Two' Successful in Bangladesh

The so-called minus-two formula is now successfully completed in Bangladesh. The historic verdict of the people of Bangladesh has reduced BNP and Jamaat to skelton.

Bangladesh Election Results: 6AM 30 December

The latest count, according to ATN Bangla:

AL-led Grand Allaince: 240

BNP-led 4 Party: 31

Others: 5

Monday, December 29, 2008

Election Tsunami in Bangladesh

From available information received so far, AL alone is likely to bag 177+ while its total with JP will cross 202+.

This is a tsunami where BNP and Jaamat are routed and likely to get fewer seats than JP whose total may be around 27 to 30.BNP's own grab could be around 22.

AL-led Grand Allainces Lead Bangladesh Poll

Early indications of unofficial results from few centers show a massive lead by AL-led grand alliances candidates.

For example, in one center of Mymensingh-8, AL candidate got 1649, while BNP bagged only 333 votes. Similarly, in Kushtia-1, AL got 2305 while BNP got 1088.

Some readings on Bangladesh elections

Please find some news and blogs on Bangladesh’s elections

Bangladesh decides, but will anything change?

Elections: Bangladesh Decides

Q+A Why are Bangladeshi’s elections important?

Influence of radical Islam in Bangladesh elections

Bangladesh Election Update 11 AM

Just returned from voting centre, without voting. Just accompanied wife. Festive mood all around.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Message for democracy-bashers in Bangladesh: Democracies Pay Higher Wages

This post is from another blog, dedicated to a growing number of democracy-bashers in Bangladesh. The rise of supporters of military, and undemocratic, unrepresented government is a real cause for concern for democracy-lovers in Bangladesh. Hope the democracy-bashers in Bangladesh will find this post useful.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What's going on in Bangladesh?

We are getting unverified information that something might go wrong on election day, leading to postponement of election and a new arrangement of governance.

Already some signs are emerging as extra ballot papers have been recovered from various places, including some at the government press.

AL is claiming that BNP is involved in it. Some extra ballot papers have also been recovered from a district and the deputy commissioner said those were printed for training purposes. DCs do not have the jurisdiction to print ballot papers.

In another development, Chief Advisor and Army Chief and later Chief Advisor and Professor Yunus had a night halt at Cox's Bazar recently. According to sources these meetings were not accidental.

Minority-factor in Bangladesh poll

From:

Will the minorities be allowed to freely vote in the ensuing ninth general election in Bangladesh which is set to go to poll on 29 December to elect the 300-member Jatiya Samsad (National Assembly)? If all goes well, the Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Ahmedia Muslims will exercise their voting rights. If it happens, and most of the poll-pundits think, that the 14-party alliance, led by the Opposition Awami League will be back to power with its chairperson Sheikh Hasina Wajed as the Prime minister. Polling will take place in all but one seat , a Noakhali constituency, due to death of a candidate.

The Sampreeti Mancha ( platform for harmony) in a 30-page booklet – Nirvachan O Sankhyalaghu Sampraday: Poriprekshit Bangladesh (Election and minorities – Bangladeshi Perspective), authored by Sourabh Sikdar, Chiraranjan Sarkar and Robayat Ferdousi( editor- Prof Ajoy Roy) made revealing information on the plight of minorities. The largest of them, Hindus, account for 9.58 per cent of 150 million people although 13.5 p.c. were Hindus in 1974. Emigration of Hindus went on unabatedly since 1951 when 22.5 p.c. of people there - then East Pakistan- were Hindus.

In 2001 when the Bangladesh National Party-dominated four party alliance with the right wing Islamic party, Jamaat-i-Islam as its main ally defeated the AL –combine, only a fraction of Hindus- about 10 p.c. of electorate, could turn up to the polling booths. Amnesty International in a report in December 2001 wrote that BNP followers committed atrocities on the Hindu community as the former were under the impression that the latter would cast their ballots for AL candidates. Journalist, film-maker and civil rights activist Shahriar Kabir, told this writer after months after the eight national poll during a visit to Calcutta, “Had the Hindus and other minorities been allowed to cast their votes, the BNP-Jamaat bloc would not have won. Kabir campaigned abroad a well-knit documentary on repression of minorities, "Ei Simana Manchhina (we don’t recognise this boundary).

He was thrown behind the bar, denied prisoner’s rights and harassed for the act. However, a protracted legal battle forced the government to release him 2006 when the Bangladesh Supreme Court termed the detention unconstitutional. "Taliban elements are there in the government. It is a great shame that anti-liberation elements are moving hoisting national flags on cars," he said at the jail gate, accusing the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, BNP chairperson, and her ally, JII of spreading communal venom. The JI is committed to Political Islam along with politics of intimidation against defiant secular voices. Kabir is a prominent functionary of the South Asian Coalition Against Fundamentalism.

The aforesaid booklet states, “ Minorities in our country are far from being well. Aside from being ignored, neglected and humiliated, various tactics of mental torture and other forms of oppressions are unleashed. Minorities – as they are known – number about 20 million – have been trampled, tortured and deprived for several decades, at times in menacing proportions”.

Prof Roy, during his visit to Calcutta last week, expressed his guarded optimism about defeat of rightwing BNP- JII combine. “If minorities freely vote unlike in 2001, AL-alliance will win. The vote share of AL –led 14 party alliance is anywhere between 38 and 40 per cent as opposed to BNP’s four-party combine’s 25 p.c. In between is the deciding marker. If the minorities can vote unlike in the last elections, the probability of AL-front’s comfortable majority is high.”

In 2001, only a small fraction of Hindu voters – accounting for 8 per cent of electorate could reach polling booths. They were threatened by BNP and JII hoodlums. A section of political commentators including the late Enayetullah Khan, editor of pro-Maoist weekly Holiday went out of the way to sell the BNP-JII concoction that there was no coercion or intimidation against the minorities.

At an international seminar of the South Asian Federation of Free Media in New Delhi in October 2004, he reiterated the stand. Surprisingly, Ashis Chakraborty, political editor, Calcutta-based daily Telegraph toed the same line, stating that he found no such evidence while covering the Eighth general election there. A delegate from Dhaka told this writer at the seminar, “ All this is inspired propaganda against secular forces”.

An interesting feature in the poll campaign this time is wooing of Behari Muslims by both the AL and BNP alliances. Bihari Muslims who were stranded after the liberation of Bangladesh on 15 December 1971, got citizenship and voting rights by an order of the apex court in May this year. The vote bank consisting of about 40, 000 votes is concentrated in Mirpur, Pallabi and Mohammadpur constituencies in the national capital region. The AL issued a leaflet ( pasted at the end) in Urdu. The irony of history is that the birth and flowering of AL is based on imposition of Urdu by Pakistan at its birth, a blunder that paved the way for dismemberment of Pakistan .The historic Language Movement which demanded that Bengali be a national language alongside Urdu was the dress rehearsal for the greater battle, the Liberation Struggle of 1971 , based on the right of Bengali nation to self-determination.

The stranded Bihari Muslims were not taken back by Pakistan although most of them wanted to leave the new-born state. They remained marginalized for nearly three decades but now reconciled to the reality of recognizing Bangladesh as their state. The Bengali-speaking Muslims look down upon the Bihari counterparts . The nightmarish memories especially during the Liberation Struggle can hardly get out into the recycle bin of political history. “ The Bihari Muslims behaved like fifth columnists. However, they too veer round to the ground reality and have to identify themselves with Bangla nationalism”, said a former civil service official on conditions of anonymity. A prominent figure among them is septuagenarian Moksud Alam, who belonged to the Pakistani Congress. “We got registered as voters by swearing allegiance to Bangladesh as soon as the opportunity came along,” he told a Dhaka English daily.

AL in its campaign highlights high degree of corruption, nepotism, extortion, Taka 200 billion power sector scam, politics of terror and last but not the least, nepotism especially by Zia family. Its USP is its founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman .The BNP snaps fingers at the latter for clamping Emergency and one-party rule forming Baksal Party mainly comprising AL, Communist Party of Bangladesh and National Awami Party (Muzaffar group).

Some Dhaka-based poll analysts sense a last-minute swing in favour of AL-front. Desperation and disjointed statements by Khaleda Zia endorse the hypothesis. The BNP chairperson made two statements reflecting the pessimism. At one meeting in Jamalpur, she said she might be assassinated by a rival party, implying Awami League while at the next meeting she accused the Caretaker government of conspiring against her. Her anger is directed against the CTG which arrested her son Tareq Rahman for running a one-man extra-constitutional authority. For every big financial deal, a 10per cent commission was to reach Hawa Bhavan, Tareq’s headquarters. Recently, it is revealed that he siphoned several million US dollars and parked in Singapore Bank. He allegedly run an armada of hoodlums for coercion against anyone in the way.

Bangladesh walks slowly into bankruptcy. The total borrowing from the banks by the government crossed taka 400 billion. Any child born today has a debt of over Taka 2000. Much of this was due to the misrule of Khaleda Zia regime, but the regime under the AL chairperson Sheikh Hasina Wajed did very little to resist the monster of poverty.

There are 48 candidates including 27 from BNP and 17 from Awami League (AL) with charges of corruption, plus another 100 contestants - 34 of BNP and 24 of AL involved in murder cases, according to a report released by Shushashoner Janyo Nagorik (Shujan) based on affidavit and tax returns of the candidates.

Friday, December 26, 2008

No Honeymoon For Bangladesh’s Next Government

I would like to share two important analyses by two internationally renowned organizations. These are: NewYork-based PRS Group and Asia Monitor.

According to PRS’s latest report on Bangladesh, the most likely regimes for next 18 months forecast is: Regime 1: Military-Civilian 70%, Regime 2: Caretaker Government 20%, Regime 3: Unity Coalition 10%. For five year forecasts, the most likely regimes are: Regime 1: Military-Civilian 65%, Regime 2: Unity Coalition 20% and Regime 3: Military 15%.

In the category of turmoil ratings it sees little or no possibility of turmoil in both 18 months and five years forecasts.

Asia Monitor’s December report is very interesting as it provides four scenarios with this caution that there will be no honeymoon for the next government, regardless who wins. It also said: “Our short-term political risk rating remains 57.3, but downside risks exist in the public unrest and constitutional change categories, given the present outlook. “.

Let us now have a look at four scenarios one by one:

Scenario 1: Smooth Transition To New Government

The best case scenario is that elections pass smoothly, and that either the BNP-led coalition or the AL-led coalition win a sufficient majority to govern effectively. The polls are then deemed free and fair, and the loser graciously concedes defeat, realising that disruptive behaviour would only make it seem like a sore loser. The new government then takes over in January, and rules for the next five years. However, given the contentiousness of Bangladeshi politics, and the bitterness between Khaleda and Hasina, we deem a smooth outcome somewhat unlikely.

Scenario 2: Disputed Election Leads To Unrest

A more plausible scenario is that the loser refuses to acknowledge defeat, citing electoral malpractices of some sort. The losing ticket would then mobilise their supporters in droves, effectively seeking to overturn the results in a Ukraine-style 'Orange Revolution' in the streets. This could entail a re-run of voting in certain districts, or an outright demand for fresh elections. Meanwhile, the victor could bring out its own supporters, leading to street battles in Dhaka and other major cities. Such protests could fizzle quickly, amid political weariness, or escalate dramatically. At this point, the military could disperse the protests, or seek to form a government of national unity. There would also be a risk of disruption to local elections due to January 22 2009, and of the next parliament being boycotted.

Scenario 3: National Unity Government

An extended period of post-election unrest could lead to calls for a government of national unity, whereby Khaleda and Hasina could be forced to share power. Although they are arch enemies, there have been post-election power-sharing agreements forged between equally hostile figures in Kenya and Zimbabwe after violence (although Zimbabwe's case is looking increasingly fragile). In Bangladesh, the military could emerge as an arbiter in any such negotiations, which could last for many weeks after the election. The key areas of dispute would centre on the division of ministries, the control of the security forces, and the timetable for a new election sooner than five years. It is also possible that the military would seek to broker an agreement between reformist elements of the BNP and AL, marginalising Khaleda and Hasina. We deem a unity government scenario to be moderately likely.

Scenario 4: Outright Military Coup

If Bangladesh descends into anarchy, and attempts to install a new government fail, then the last option would be a military coup. Many have suspected the army chief, General Moeen U Ahmed, of holding political ambitions. There had been speculation that he might seek to become president with executive powers, replacing the largely ceremonial incumbent Iajuddin Ahmed (no relation), whose term expired in September 2007 but has stayed on in an interim capacity. Moeen is due to step down as army chief in June 2009, and could thus be looking for a new job. However, a coup would also be risky, for it would set back Bangladesh's political development by many years. Furthermore, military coups in Pakistan, Thailand, and Bangladesh itself (if one counts the January 2007 installation of the CTG as a coup), although initially welcomed, quickly lost public support. Thus, we view a coup as a last resort.

We sincerely hope that Bangladesh doesn’t plunge into more chaotic situation after election and an orderly transfer of power will take place as desired by democracy-loving people of Bangladesh

Fear of instability after Bangladesh elections

The Malaysian Insider in a report today observed: "there is a high risk that the (Bangladesh's) election result will be contentious, leading to lengthy legal wrangling or street protests that would hamper the next government's effectiveness."

The report looked into several election-related situation in Asia countries and had this to say about Bangladesh:

Bangladesh may be in a position early in 2009 to restore full civilian rule for the first time in over two years. The caretaker government has recently lifted emergency rule, in a move essential to allow the general election scheduled for December 29th to proceed.

However, a return to political “normality” also probably means a return to the perennially fractious status quo that led the military to intervene in the first place.

The country remains deeply divided between supporters of the two leading parties, the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

We expect the AL to win the general election, based on the party’s performance in municipal elections held in August. But there is a high risk that the election result will be contentious, leading to lengthy legal wrangling or street protests that would hamper the next government's effectiveness.

Read the full report here:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Making sense of election forecasting galore in Bangladesh

Flipping through several elections forecasting in Bangladesh’s newspapers one get this feeling: if wishes were horses! True, those conducted such surveys to predict the probable election outcome did it with a single motive to show that the party they support would definitely win! I bet they wouldn’t have published survey results if it had shown the opposite results.

Setting aside such reservation, one thing is certain that the business of forecasting has become very dynamic over the years. Believe it or, 139 principles are used to summarize knowledge about forecasting. Read all principles here.

There is an International Institute of Forecasters which provides useful information and knowledge on forecasting in a wide range of fields. There are also several free and commercial software that provide evidence-based forecasting. See a list here.Finally, this excellent site by Political Forecasting Special Interest Group is an excellent resource for scholars and practitioners interested in forecasting elections and other political events.

Rebirth of democracy in Bangladesh

Read a news analysis by S.N.M. Abdi of South China Morning Post on Bangladesh's election, published today.

He didn't realise it, but Bangladesh military chief Moeen Uddin Ahmed let the cat out of the bag ahead of the country's long-awaited general election on Monday.

In a televised address to the nation on December 16, barely 24 hours before a two-year state of emergency was lifted, paving the way for the poll, General Ahmed blurted out: "The Bangladesh army, playing a great peacekeeping role under the United Nations command, is not eager to assume a political role. Rather, we would like to see Bangladesh achieve a democratic government through a fair and credible election."

The moot question is: would the army still have desisted from assuming a "political role" and welcomed the return of parliamentary democracy if there were no lucrative peacekeeping duties to perform in trouble spots like the Congo and Lebanon?
Some analysts believe that the army would have throttled democracy and grabbed power if the international community, particularly the US, European Union and Japan, had not warned the generals that the consequence would be the end of lucrative UN peacekeeping assignments.

It's no secret that remittances from the UN are the economic lifeline for the defence forces in this desperately poor Muslim country, where most of the 150 million people live on less than US$1 a day. The military leadership is acutely aware that it must not jeopardise this cash cow.

But even as General Ahmed pledged to respect the outcome of parliamentary elections after two years of army-backed caretaker government, International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank, ominously warned that whoever won on Monday would have to "contend with an army that wants a greater say in politics".

J. K. Dutt, a military expert at Calcutta's Jadavpur University, said the army's role in the caretaker government had "whetted its appetite for politics".
"Post-election, it will try to test the nerves of the new regime by demanding big pay hikes and a bigger military budget to feather its nest," he said.
"But it's unlikely to try to overthrow an elected government in the foreseeable future for fear of being internationally censured and losing financially rewarding UN peacekeeping assignments.

"The army's nuisance value will remain intact, though. It might not seize power but it will keep the government on tenterhooks. Due to historical reasons, it's incapable of turning into a completely apolitical instrument of state, like the Indian army, for instance."

Election commissioner Shakawat Hossain announced on December 17 - the day the state of emergency was lifted - that Bangladesh's 80 million voters would elect new members to the country's 345-strong parliament, or Jatiya Sangsad, on December 29, giving political parties less than a fortnight to campaign. Votes will be cast at 35,000 booths manned by 300,000 security personnel.

Despite the short notice, the election is crucial for Bangladesh's democracy. It is seven years since Bangladeshis last went to the polls. Elections scheduled for January 2007 were cancelled by a peculiar Bangladeshi invention - a caretaker government.

Under Bangladeshi law, the incumbent government must resign before an election is held and a neutral, caretaker government takes over and assumes responsibility for conducting a fair and impartial poll. But, after the caretaker government took charge in late 2006, the two main parties, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Khaleda Zia and the Awami League (AL) led by Hasina Wajed, another former premier, began trading accusations and unleashed months of street violence which killed dozens of people.

In response to the violence, the caretaker government, headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former central bank chairman, imposed a state of emergency with the army's blessing.
Not only were elections cancelled, but political rallies were outlawed, trade union activities banned and the media censored.

There was a silver lining, however. General Ahmed promised to hand power to an elected government by January 2009 at the latest. And he seems to have kept his word.

The interim administration launched a fight against corruption, targeting members of Zia's family and many of her BNP ministers as well as Hasina, business leaders, senior civil servants and media owners. The crackdown, which had tacit backing from the international community, stripped political parties of their powerful and violent student wings, which would go on the rampage on the slightest pretext, bringing the capital, Dhaka, to a standstill.
The government also broke the stranglehold on power of Zia and Hasina - the two women leaders who have alternated as prime minister since 1991 and dominated politics for two decades.

Aside from presiding over a culture of graft and bribery which led the Berlin-based corruption watchdog, Transparency International, to brand Bangladesh one of the most corrupt nations in the world, the two rivals did little to solve the country's pressing problems of poverty and illiteracy.

The two women, known as the "battling begums", were imprisoned and tried by a special anti-corruption commission for amassing unaccounted wealth. To pile pressure on Zia, her two sons, Arafat Rahman and Tareque Rahman - the latter seen as Zia's political successor - were also jailed. Both have now left the country.
Attempts to send the two leaders into exile failed and, as the deadline for holding elections neared, they were granted bail on medical grounds and allowed to resume political activities. They are again top contenders in the coming poll.

Analysts say that, while the caretaker government failed to remove them from the political scene, it did manage to delete 12 million fake voters from the electoral rolls.

The 80 million genuine voters have been provided photo identity cards to eliminate fraud - an administrative feat that led defeated US presidential candidate John McCain to predict that Monday's election would be the "fairest in the entire world". Senator McCain paid the compliment during a brief visit to Dhaka - his first foreign trip since losing to Barack Obama last month. Senator McCain's adopted teenage daughter, Bridget, was born in Bangladesh.

Last week, as the BNP and AL formally kicked off their election campaign, Dhaka's leading English newspaper, the Daily Star, urged both parties to display "maturity", "responsibility" and "patriotism".

"Now that the parties are firmly settled in the election groove, they should play their part in steering the nation to its cherished goal for attaining a truly democratic order," the paper said in an editorial.

Hasina, who is favoured to win, has promised economic growth, increased food production and new measures to curb corruption, and has pledged to suppress Islamic extremism and improve governance.
"The forthcoming parliamentary elections have created an opportunity for the re-establishment of democracy and inspired hopes for rapid socio-economic development," she said.

Her AL party has more than a dozen political allies, including the Jatiya Party, headed by former military dictator Hussein Muhammad Ershad.
Her adversary, Zia, heads a four-party alliance that includes the country's main Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami. The BNP's election manifesto gives priority to boosting the economy, reducing poverty by creating jobs and wooing domestic and foreign investors. It also includes an "integrated anti-terrorism and anti-militancy policy with participation of neighbouring countries".

The two rivals are also pandering to religious sentiments to woo voters. Hasina, known for her secular credentials, has declared that she will not pass laws that go against Islam or traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, while Zia is projecting herself as a champion of Islamic values. Taking their cue, smaller parties, too, have promised to revoke laws deemed anti-Islamic and introduce a law banning blasphemy.
However, after several meetings with Hasina and Zia, US ambassador James Moriarty told journalists that the election would be "transformational - reinforcing democracy, development, and the denial of space to terrorism".

Bangladesh Political Science Association chairman Ataur Rahman said: "The election looks like it will be free, fair and credible with major parties taking part and the interim government looking pretty serious to keep their commitment to return the country to democracy."

Other analysts are not so sure.

"If the elections are not free and fair, if there is evidence of electoral malpractices, or if there are attempts to influence the outcome of the elections through underhand means, then I am afraid that Bangladesh will be in for a long spell of political instability," said Sumit Ganguly, an Indiana University political scientist and neutral poll observer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bangladesh's Generals Relent

Read this story from Chicago Tribune:

When Bangladesh's military took power in a coup early last year, its leaders promised a return to democratic rule by 2008. That's a promise often made, but rarely kept, when military leaders wrest power from civilians. Think Pakistan, where Gen. Pervez Musharraf staged a bloodless coup in 1999, made a similar vow, but hung around as president for eight years.

Remarkably enough, it looks like Bangladesh's military will keep its promise. Bangladeshis will go to the polls on Dec. 29. The military, led by Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed, will step aside.

The Bangladeshi coup was driven by a desire to clean up corruption that has long plagued the country. Things came to a head in January 2007 when Bangladeshis took to the streets of Dhaka to protest the corrupt rule of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her Bangladesh National Party.

When riots broke out between supporters of the Bangladesh National Party and the rival Awami League, the military intervened to prevent further bloodshed in the capital.

What followed was a heavy-handed effort by the military to clean up the country. Business people who were suspected of illegal activity were jailed. Courts were told to handle cases quickly. Zia and former Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed, who leads the Awami League, were exiled. But problems persisted. Bangladesh is still plagued by inflation, unemployment and corruption.

Last year, Bangladesh ranked 156th among 160 nations in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, keeping company with Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This year, Bangladesh rose all the way to . . . 147th.

There isn't much good news, but there is this: Election plans are proceeding, despite threats from extremists to disrupt them. The army will deploy troops across the country until Dec. 31, two days after voting ends.

"Troops will be posted at least 200 meters away from the [voting] centers to ensure voters execute their franchise without fear and intimidation," Moeen told reporters. Francesc Vendrell, a United Nations official sent to oversee the vote, told Reuters, "Chances of fair and free elections are much higher than two years ago."

The elections may be free and fair, but they probably won't be inspiring. The two main candidates are Zia and Hasina, back from exile. It's too bad that Bangladeshi citizens don't have better choices than these two, who have battled each other for power since 1991.

Bangladesh remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. It needs better leaders. The caretaker military government wasn't able to deliver that.

But by recognizing the limits of its power, stepping aside and returning Bangladesh to democratic rule, the military at least returned to citizens the opportunity to demand better of their government.

Moriarty outlines three-pronged challenge for Bangladesh's next government

The U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, James Moriarty has outlined a three-D formula for Bangladesh’s next elected government. These are: democracy, development and fighting (denying space) terrorism.

In an interview with VOA last night he denied having a preferred candidate, in an oblique reference to his recent meeting with Hasina twice, but not meeting Khaleda.

Read VOA’s report here.

India’s Policy Options after Bangladesh’s Election

Dr. Sreeradha Datta, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, has suggested that India should seriously re-examine its Bangladesh policy and offered an eight-point policy options for India.
These are:
1.Early return of democracy in Bangladesh serves India’s interest
2.Shared cultural affinity could be a liability if there is no holistic Indian policy towards Dhaka.
3.Security issues would need tangible action and not declaration of intention
4.Leaders from Bangladesh should not be allowed to use Indian territory for political campaigns
5.Unilateral trade concessions offered by India would have to be implemented and strengthened.
6.The strengthening of private entrepreneurship.
7.India should continue the current policy of remaining neutral and uninvolved.
8.India would have to create time-bound bench marks to monitor progress.

For details of the analysis, read it here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

BANGLADESH: Parliamentary Elections - Critical For Nation’s Future

Bhaskar Roy of South Asia Analysis Group cautions about the Bangladesh’s upcoming election, saying: 'time is on the side of the JEI (Jaamat) and the opponents of liberation unless those who style themselves as secular political leaders wake up soon.' Read the full report here.

Election under a Caretaker Government in Bangladesh

I’m sharing findings of a study titled ‘Election under a Caretaker Government’ (2004, UPL, Dhaka) by a Dhaka University teacher Dr. Waresul Karim. This is probably the only of its kind the empirical study that analyzed election results of 1991, 1996 and 2001.

In making empirical analysis of the 2001 election, it used simple comparative analysis of votes received and seats won by the parties and also adopted statistical univariate and multivariate analyses, including 10 scenario analyses, rebel factor analysis, analysis of unusual movement of votes and multivariate analysis of party performance. It also contains conventional election analyses of margins, vote shares, seat-to-vote ratios, swings, hold-gain-loss etc.

The 478-page book has an eight-page conclusion. I’m sharing the key findings of the study that particularly looked into the October 2001 election:

1. The two most significant factors explaining the number of seats won by the two major parties are perceived terrorism and alliance arithmetic.
2. The Awami League emerged as the single largest party in the country by all standards, except in terms of number of seats in the parliament.
3. The AL victory margins in significant number of constituencies in both the 1991 and the 1996 elections were within the reach of an anti-AL alliance involving BNP and Jamaat alone. In other words, AL’s success in 1996 and 1991 elections were attributable more to its success in splitting anti-AL votes than in increasing its own vote share.
4. The anti-AL voters tend to cast their votes tactically, choosing the most electable anti-AL candidate regardless of the party affiliation of the candidate concerned.
5. The 4-part alliance in general and BNP in particular are more vulnerable to rebel or significant independent candidates than in the AL.
6. Constituencies experiencing higher increases in number of registered voters showed lower turn out and vice versa suggesting possible irregularities in preparations of voters’ list (this is unlikely this time)
7. Most of the decrease in JP share of votes contributed to increases in 4-party share of votes.
8. The alliance worked in high degree of effectiveness. Even votes commanded by anti-AL parties outside the alliance were attracted to the alliance.
9. Logical explanations could not be found to unusual increases and decreases in vote shares in most of the constituencies.

Interested readers may search for this book at UPL and other bookstalls.

The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism

Sharing a very interesting analysis from George Friedman of Stratfor. Sorry for the long post as link is not available.

By George Friedman

Mark Felt died last week at the age of 95. For those who don’t recognize that name, Felt was the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. It was Felt who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post with a flow of leaks about what had happened, how it happened and where to look for further corroboration on the break-in, the cover-up, and the financing of wrongdoing in the Nixon administration. Woodward and Bernstein’s exposé of Watergate has been seen as a high point of journalism, and their unwillingness to reveal Felt’s identity until he revealed it himself three years ago has been seen as symbolic of the moral rectitude demanded of journalists.

In reality, the revelation of who Felt was raised serious questions about the accomplishments of Woodward and Bernstein, the actual price we all pay for journalistic ethics, and how for many years we did not know a critical dimension of the Watergate crisis. At a time when newspapers are in financial crisis and journalism is facing serious existential issues, Watergate always has been held up as a symbol of what journalism means for a democracy, revealing truths that others were unwilling to uncover and grapple with. There is truth to this vision of journalism, but there is also a deep ambiguity, all built around Felt’s role. This is therefore not an excursion into ancient history, but a consideration of two things. The first is how journalists become tools of various factions in political disputes. The second is the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society.

Watergate was about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The break-in was carried out by a group of former CIA operatives controlled by individuals leading back to the White House. It was never proven that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon knew of the break-in, but we find it difficult to imagine that he didn’t. In any case, the issue went beyond the break-in. It went to the cover-up of the break-in and, more importantly, to the uses of money that financed the break-in and other activities. Numerous aides, including the attorney general of the United States, went to prison. Woodward and Bernstein, and their newspaper, The Washington Post, aggressively pursued the story from the summer of 1972 until Nixon’s resignation. The episode has been seen as one of journalism’s finest moments. It may have been, but that cannot be concluded until we consider Deep Throat more carefully.

Deep Throat Reconsidered

Mark Felt was deputy associate director of the FBI (No. 3 in bureau hierarchy) in May 1972, when longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died. Upon Hoover’s death, Felt was second to Clyde Tolson, the longtime deputy and close friend to Hoover who by then was in failing health himself. Days after Hoover’s death, Tolson left the bureau.

Felt expected to be named Hoover’s successor, but Nixon passed him over, appointing L. Patrick Gray instead. In selecting Gray, Nixon was reaching outside the FBI for the first time in the 48 years since Hoover had taken over. But while Gray was formally acting director, the Senate never confirmed him, and as an outsider, he never really took effective control of the FBI. In a practical sense, Felt was in operational control of the FBI from the break-in at the Watergate in August 1972 until June 1973.

Nixon’s motives in appointing Gray certainly involved increasing his control of the FBI, but several presidents before him had wanted this, too, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Both of these presidents wanted Hoover gone for the same reason they were afraid to remove him: He knew too much. In Washington, as in every capital, knowing the weaknesses of powerful people is itself power — and Hoover made it a point to know the weaknesses of everyone. He also made it a point to be useful to the powerful, increasing his overall value and his knowledge of the vulnerabilities of the powerful.

Hoover’s death achieved what Kennedy and Johnson couldn’t do. Nixon had no intention of allowing the FBI to continue as a self-enclosed organization outside the control of the presidency and everyone else. Thus, the idea that Mark Felt, a man completely loyal to Hoover and his legacy, would be selected to succeed Hoover is in retrospect the most unlikely outcome imaginable.

Felt saw Gray’s selection as an unwelcome politicization of the FBI (by placing it under direct presidential control), an assault on the traditions created by Hoover and an insult to his memory, and a massive personal disappointment. Felt was thus a disgruntled employee at the highest level. He was also a senior official in an organization that traditionally had protected its interests in predictable ways. (By then formally the No. 2 figure in FBI, Felt effectively controlled the agency given Gray’s inexperience and outsider status.) The FBI identified its enemies, then used its vast knowledge of its enemies’ wrongdoings in press leaks designed to be as devastating as possible. While carefully hiding the source of the information, it then watched the victim — who was usually guilty as sin — crumble. Felt, who himself was later convicted and pardoned for illegal wiretaps and break-ins, was not nearly as appalled by Nixon’s crimes as by Ni xon’s decision to pass him over as head of the FBI. He merely set Hoover’s playbook in motion.
Woodward and Bernstein were on the city desk of The Washington Post at the time. They were young (29 and 28), inexperienced and hungry.

We do not know why Felt decided to use them as his conduit for leaks, but we would guess he sought these three characteristics — as well as a newspaper with sufficient gravitas to gain notice. Felt obviously knew the two had been assigned to a local burglary, and he decided to leak what he knew to lead them where he wanted them to go. He used his knowledge to guide, and therefore control, their investigation.

Systematic Spying on the President

And now we come to the major point. For Felt to have been able to guide and control the young reporters’ investigation, he needed to know a great deal of what the White House had done, going back quite far. He could not possibly have known all this simply through his personal investigations. His knowledge covered too many people, too many operations, and too much money in too many places simply to have been the product of one of his side hobbies. The only way Felt could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post’s coverage.

Instead of passing what he knew to professional prosecutors at the Justice Department — or if he did not trust them, to the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating presidential wrongdoing — Felt chose to leak the information to The Washington Post. He bet, or knew, that Post editor Ben Bradlee would allow Woodward and Bernstein to play the role Felt had selected for them. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all knew who Deep Throat was. They worked with the operational head of the FBI to destroy Nixon, and then protected Felt and the FBI until Felt came forward.

In our view, Nixon was as guilty as sin of more things than were ever proven. Nevertheless, there is another side to this story. The FBI was carrying out espionage against the president of the United States, not for any later prosecution of Nixon for a specific crime (the spying had to have been going on well before the break-in), but to increase the FBI’s control over Nixon. Woodward, Bernstein and above all, Bradlee, knew what was going on. Woodward and Bernstein might have been young and naive, but Bradlee was an old Washington hand who knew exactly who Felt was, knew the FBI playbook and understood that Felt could not have played the role he did without a focused FBI operation against the president. Bradlee knew perfectly well that Woodward and Bernstein were not breaking the story, but were having it spoon-fed to them by a master. He knew that the president of the United States, guilty or not, was being destroyed by Hoover’s jilted heir.

This was enormously important news. The Washington Post decided not to report it. The story of Deep Throat was well-known, but what lurked behind the identity of Deep Throat was not. This was not a lone whistle-blower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.
Again, Nixon’s guilt is not in question. And the argument can be made that given John Mitchell’s control of the Justice Department, Felt thought that going through channels was impossible (although the FBI was more intimidating to Mitchell than the other way around). But the fact remains that Deep Throat was the heir apparent to Hoover — a man not averse to breaking the law in covert operations — and Deep Throat clearly was drawing on broader resources in the FBI, resources that had to have been in place before Hoover’s death and continued operating afterward.

Burying a Story to Get a Story

Until Felt came forward in 2005, not only were these things unknown, but The Washington Post was protecting them. Admittedly, the Post was in a difficult position. Without Felt’s help, it would not have gotten the story. But the terms Felt set required that a huge piece of the story not be told. The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn’t what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat’s identity.

Journalists have celebrated the Post’s role in bringing down the president for a generation. Even after the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity in 2005, there was no serious soul-searching on the omission from the historical record. Without understanding the role played by Felt and the FBI in bringing Nixon down, Watergate cannot be understood completely. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee were willingly used by Felt to destroy Nixon. The three acknowledged a secret source, but they did not reveal that the secret source was in operational control of the FBI. They did not reveal that the FBI was passing on the fruits of surveillance of the White House. They did not reveal the genesis of the fall of Nixon. They accepted the accolades while withholding an extraordinarily important fact, elevating their own role in the episode while distorting the actual dynamic of Nixon’s fall.

Absent any widespread reconsideration of the Post’s actions during Watergate in the three years since Felt’s identity became known, the press in Washington continues to serve as a conduit for leaks of secret information. They publish this information while protecting the leakers, and therefore the leakers’ motives. Rather than being a venue for the neutral reporting of events, journalism thus becomes the arena in which political power plays are executed. What appears to be enterprising journalism is in fact a symbiotic relationship between journalists and government factions. It may be the best path journalists have for acquiring secrets, but it creates a very partial record of events — especially since the origin of a leak frequently is much more important to the public than the leak itself.

The Felt experience is part of an ongoing story in which journalists’ guarantees of anonymity to sources allow leakers to control the news process. Protecting Deep Throat’s identity kept us from understanding the full dynamic of Watergate. We did not know that Deep Throat was running the FBI, we did not know the FBI was conducting surveillance on the White House, and we did not know that the Watergate scandal emerged not by dint of enterprising journalism, but because Felt had selected Woodward and Bernstein as his vehicle to bring Nixon down. And we did not know that the editor of The Washington Post allowed this to happen. We had a profoundly defective picture of the situation, as defective as the idea that Bob Woodward looks like Robert Redford.

Finding the truth of events containing secrets is always difficult, as we know all too well. There is no simple solution to this quandary. In intelligence, we dream of the well-placed source who will reveal important things to us. But we also are aware that the information provided is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story involves the source’s motivation, and frequently that motivation is more important than the information provided. Understanding a source’s motivation is essential both to good intelligence and to journalism. In this case, keeping secret the source kept an entire — and critical — dimension of Watergate hidden for a generation. Whatever crimes Nixon committed, the FBI had spied on the president and leaked what it knew to The Washington Post in order to destroy him. The editor of The Washington Post knew that, as did Woodward and Bernstein. We do not begrudge them their prizes and accolades, but it would have been useful to know who handed them the story. In many ways, that story is as interesting as the one about all the president’s men.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bangladesh tries to keep true to secular soul

Doug Saunders of Globe and Mail has written a very balanced story on Bangladesh’s ‘secular Islam’.

DHAKA — This riverside slum in Bangladesh's capital has endured, over the past three years, the ravages of wind, water and dengue fever, mass arrivals of environmental refugees, explosions of violence, pollution and crime, and the fastest rate of urban growth in the world.

But its narrow, pungent laneways have never faced a barrage like the one I witnessed this week: a full hand-shaking, baby-kissing assault by a politician and his entourage.

“It has been years since we have had democracy, and these people are hungry to have a vote!” yelled Sheikh Noor, the star candidate of the Awami League party, as he ran frenetically through fetid back-alleys, hurtled over open sewers and plunged into darkened shacks, surrounded by equally well-coiffed aides, in a sprint-pace doorstep tour of one of Asia's poorest and most densely populated communities.

On Dec. 29, Bangladesh is scheduled to hold its first national election in seven years, one that could affect the fate of a vast region, after a series of bombings and a gargantuan corruption scandal in 2005 paralyzed the country and provoked the military to seize control of the government for almost three years, a state of official emergency that only ended on Wednesday.

Fast-food race favours the brave

During this period of limbo, Bangladeshis have watched their country sink behind its neighbours India and China, whose rapid economic-growth rates have illustrated the advantages of political stability.

But something even larger is at stake here. For the 150 million people of Bangladesh, political contests have increasingly turned into terminal struggles between the forces of east and west.

No, not the imaginary divide that fuelled the British Empire and the Cold War, two events that absolutely devastated the people who eventually called themselves Bangladeshis. This is a far more significant east-west struggle today – the one between Islam and Islam.

Bangladesh is at the heart of the eastern wing of that divide, a fact that is dramatically apparent to visitors. If you come to this country expecting East Pakistan (its name before its blood-drenched 1971 independence) you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The first shock is the grand show of assertive femininity, the great displays of gleaming Bengali hair on women, most of whom have never covered their heads in private or public – and they're in public a lot, in important roles, wearing colourful saris rather than bland Islamic dress and enjoying robust rights.

The mosque remains a gathering point and a source of exuberant holidays for most of the population, but most people pray only on Fridays and holidays, if at all. And it is an Islam without the bland asceticism of the Arabic strand, its mosques ornamented, its ceremonies full of borrowings from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and its followers happy to treat Islam as a personal reference point rather than a source of politics. This is a very secular-minded society, Muslim in roughly the same way that Canada is Christian.

You'll find this same variety of gentle, pluralist, secular-minded Islam stretching across the vast crescent of the former Mughal empire, incorporating the largest and second-largest Muslim countries in the world – Indonesia, with 207-million Muslims, and India, with 170 million – and the fourth-largest, Bangladesh, with 150 million.

In other words, about half of the world's Muslims are from communities that don't wear head scarves, don't see Islam as something that should have a role in government and law, and don't tend to produce international terrorists.

On this side of the word, where what we call the Middle East is known as “West Asia,” there is a palpable sense that the other kind of Islam is on the march: Saudi Arabian religious imperialism is fighting a well-funded battle to follow London and Moscow as the next foreign force to seize control of these continually subjected peoples. That, in this election, is a central source of distress.

“There is no root system for that kind of Islam here,” says Shamsul Wares, an acclaimed Bangladeshi architect and democracy activist.

He has come up with a name for the eastern flavour of faith – “vegetarian Islam” – and a somewhat tenuous theory to back it: “The culture of Arabian Islam is a desert culture,” he says. “And we are outside the desert culture. …

“We belong to monsoon areas with lush green vegetation and we don't need to eat meat – we could survive on vegetables – but in Arab countries there are no vegetables, so they have to kill animals to survive. And that has affected our thinking about religion and about life.”

He told me this, I should add, as the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, with about 10 per cent of the vote, was preparing to launch its election campaign a couple of blocks away in a powerful coalition with the Bangladesh National Party. The same pairing controlled the last government.

The BNP is still considered corrupt. So is the opposition Awami League, whose founder, the father of the young candidate we met campaigning in the slum, was Bangladesh's founding father, then prime minister, then autocrat, then murder victim. But they are campaigning with a coalition of left-wing and ex-autocrat parties, on a secularist platform.

The BNP-Jamaat coalition is open to Arab-Islamic influences, some of which it introduced in the last government.

I don't completely buy Mr. Wares's leafy theory of theological politics – we shouldn't forget that there's another, equally moderate strain of Islam in the carnivorous west, stretching through the former lands of Ottoman Europe from Ankara through Sarajevo.

But it is true that both these secular-minded tendencies of Islam are under assault from the West Asian branch of the faith – an assault that is fuelled by the one-dimensional policies of the U.S., which have provided a fine foil for those who want to turn Islam into a single, homogeneous faith.

This concept is still offensive enough to most Bangladeshis – who, after all, fought a horrific war of independence from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the name of secularism, despite vehement opposition by Islamist parties – that the Jamaat-e-Islami tries to hide its identity.

I had tea with Abdur Razzaq, the Western-educated lawyer who is the party's assistant secretary-general, and he tried to persuade me that his party is comparable to Turkey's ruling AK Party – that is, a party of people who happen to be Islamic rather than an Islamist party, one that is pluralist-minded and non-assertive.

Why, then, I asked, did his party, in its last incarnation in a coalition government, successfully kill a legal change that would have given women equal rights to inherit the estates of their spouses and fathers (under current law, they can get 50 per cent of what men do)?

Simple, he said: “It has to be that way, because the man must be the head of the household.” The Koran says so.

As for head coverings, he says, they are a form of modesty that is required of all women who are Islamic believers. The Koran says so, he said (actually, it doesn't). And Bengali culture is mistaken in its belief that Islam can be colourful and multifarious, he said: There is only one faith (a popular Saudi-fuelled myth).

As our meeting descended into polite glares, I felt like I might have been meeting an agent of the East India Company, a century-and-a-half ago: Same unruly natives, same steadfast certainty, same east – only this time, a slightly different west.

This time, I hope the outcome will be different.

Who Gains from HUJI Threats in Bangladesh?

English Daily the Bangladesh Today has offered an answer to this pertinent question here.

The relevant text says: "The only one who will immediately gain from the terrorist scares is General Moeen.U.Ahmed who might use the Bangladesh Army to impose a "Martial Law" or some other versions of it, if apprehensions can be raised high enough or situations engineered to "project" a threat.

He performed a similar "sleight of hand" to impose the Emergency and he is likely to follow that "successful format" to monopolize political power in Bangladesh.

Believe it or not, the CNN-IBN report was manipulated by the DGFI - it has the amateurish hallmarks of DGFI written all over it."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Military's influence to remain even after Bangladesh election

Reuter's Anis Ahmad says the Bangladesh military would continue to muscle its power even after the election. Read the story here:
http://uk.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUKDHA61215

By Anis AhmedDHAKA, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Pro-democracy advocates hope the Bangladesh military will fade from politics after this month's election, but that may only happen when and if the new government proves more stable and less corrupt than its predecessors.Army generals ruling with iron fists dominated Bangladesh from 1975 to 1990, taking power in sometimes violent and sometimes bloodless coups. Almost two years ago they re-entered the political fray, assuming a prominent role in the self-styled "interim authority" that is due to step aside for a new civilian government after the Dec. 29 parliamentary election.

Human rights groups and Western diplomats worry the military will be reluctant to stay away from politics for long, upsetting a transition to stable democracy that could help the country of more than 140 million attract investment, reduce massive poverty, and cut its dependence on foreign aid.The "vote and an end to emergency rule do not equal democracy but are necessary preconditions to the country's stability," the well-respected Brussels-based International Crisis Group saidearlier this month.

But it went on to warn: "The political situation is complex and fragile. Regardless of who wins the election, the next government and the opposition parties will face the challenges of making parliament work and contending with an army that wants a greater say in politics."The army says that isn't so.Army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed said this week he and his troops were "happy to return to the barracks after accomplishing a task they were assigned to", referring to implementing the interim government's policies and helping organise and provide security for the election.The army-backed interim authority took power amidst violence and political turmoil in January 2007, cancelling an election and instituting emergency rule that suspended many civil rights. Retired generals held key posts in the cabinet and bodies like the Anti-Corruption Commission and Election Commission.

AID AND PEACEKEEPING: Moeen said the military had no intention of taking state power after the election, and would focus on aiding civilians and international peacekeeping.Noting how the military brought relief and saved lives last year when floods and a deadly cyclone hit the low-lying country, Moeen said: "We wish to keep doing so for all times to come."Help to civilians by the army -- one of the few efficient government bodies in the country -- in natural disasters has given it a favourable image among many common people despite what critics see as a sometimes cavalier attitude toward human rights.

Shahidul Islam, a university student, said: "When disasters sweep Bangladesh, we see the army troops rushing with help, while the politicians spend time on planning or sharing booty."But that does not justify that the army takes the role of the politicians."Abroad, Bangladesh's military has won respect as peacekeepers, something of which it is proud and which has earned the country, one of the world's poorest, much needed revenue.Bangladesh now has 9,700 troops in U.N. missions around the world, the second largest contribution after Pakistan, and earns on average about $200 million from the deployments every year, much of that in the form of pay for army officers and enlisted men over and above what they would receive at home."Any attempt by the army to be directly involved in politics would threaten their jobs with the U.N. peacekeeping missions," said Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, a former Dhaka University teacher and political analyst. "They probably don't want this."

CAN ARMY STAY AWAY?Despite such considerations and Moeen's assurances, many tend to believe the army, though possibly trying to stay behind the scenes and keep a low profile, will unlikely stay out of government and politics for long.That's not necessarily to do with a lust for power but because democratically elected governments keep getting it wrong.Civilian governments dominated between 1991 and the end of 2006. But the period was marked by turbulence, street violence, reluctance of losers to accept election results, and endemic corruption, while economic and social achievements were minimal.

And the leading candidates to be prime minister after December's vote are the two women who alternated in the post in those uneasy years -- Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League and Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. They, themselves, have been charged with graft and abuse of power by the interim government. That may explain why the ICG warned the politicians not to assume too much about international backing.The "parties must not take the international community's support for elections as an endorsement of their behaviour but rather see it as belated recognition of the dangers of military rule,"the ICG said.A reversion to old habits by the parties is likely to mean the military keeps intervening, said a senior Bangladeshi official who asked not to be identified."They will keep doing so until politicians overcome their weaknesses and are able to install a strong government."

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Greatest Shoe on Earth

'The greatest shoe on earth' should now be preserved in a prestigious museum.
http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=dmt2_wyDKJI

Friday, December 12, 2008

TIME Magazine asks:Will Bangladesh Pull Off A Free and Fair Election?

Will Bangladesh Pull Off A Free and Fair Election?
By Ishaan Tharoor

On Dec. 29, Bangladesh voters will cast their ballots in the nation's first general election in seven years. The polls have been a focal point of the country's politics ever since a military intervention in January 2007, which postponed scheduled elections in order to end escalating violence between followers of two rival political parties. In the interim, a caretaker regime of technocrats has set about trying to tackle Bangladesh's wretched record of corruption and reform its volatile electoral politics. Results have been mixed, but the government now looks ready to deliver on its promises for free and credible polls — an effort that's not going unnoticed.

Just this week, U.S. Senator John McCain, the defeated Republican candidate for president, declared on a visit to Dhaka that "this has the possibility of being the fairest election, perhaps in the entire world."

Much of that optimism has to do with the efforts of the well-educated, mild-mannered bureaucrats running the caretaker government for the past 23 months. On Wednesday, it announced that the state of emergency will be finally lifted on Dec. 17 so that parties can campaign and assemble freely. During its tenure, the government has taken to task the country's crony-state politics, strengthened regulatory bodies like the election and anti-corruption commissions, and documented and photographed the over 80 million people eligible to vote in elections — a stunning feat in this vastly impoverished nation OF 150 million where many remain illiterate.

Still, others fear a more gloomy result this month: a return to the way things were before. The aborted election two years ago saw some 12 million fake names on the voter roll, which, among other allegations of fraud, led to disputes and running street battles between the country's two main political parties, the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The interim government rode into power on a tidal wave of popular anger and exasperation with the AL and the BNP and their demagogic, warring leaders, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, who ran these behemoth parties as their personal fiefs. Both Hasina and Zia were arrested and imprisoned for some time, charged on various counts of graft and abuse of power. Some of their closest political allies were also convicted of corruption as the caretaker government vowed to shake things up in Dhaka.

But not all has gone the reformers' way. The two begums, as Hasina and Zia are known, still command huge swathes of support — and, after ceaseless political pressure from their cadres, both are now free from detention and contesting the upcoming polls. Initially, the caretaker government attempted to encourage prominent figures from civil society, like Nobel laureate Muhamad Yunus, to form a "third way" to break from the country's two-party system. That project failed, as did efforts to weaken the begums' networks of patronage that assured their grip on power. After two years out in the cold, Hasina or Zia could very well snatch the reins again, and perhaps roll back the charges leveled against them and key allies.

Few desire a return to the cronyism of the past. "People don't want to see the kind of polarization, the dysfunctional government that they witnessed in the past," says Peter Manikas, director of Asia research for the National Democratic Institute, a Washington-based think tank monitoring the December elections. Since the 1990s, Hasina and Zia have swapped rancorous terms in office, leaving legacies of divisiveness and a trail of scandals of alleged kickbacks and bribery. "There was a winner take all mentality," says Manikas.

This election, all candidates for the 300 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs have been made to submit answers to a 16-page questionnaire, detailing personal assets and business interests. Both the AL and BNP have been pressed to become more transparent and to allow greater levels of internal dissent so the party machinery revolves less around the cult-like stature of their leaders. The military, for its part, intends to suspend civilian mobile phone signals on election day, which it claims will make mob take-overs of polling booths and vote-rigging — both hallmarks of elections in the past — more difficult.

The cooperativeness of the nation's military, which has a long history of interrupting democracy in the country, has been a pleasant surprise. Just half a year ago, the international community and Dhaka's civil society looked at the armed forces, including army chief Gen. Moeen Uddin Ahmed, with a degree of apprehension. During emergency rule, dissidents were arrested, journalists muzzled and political assembly was banned. A wing of the military intelligence was accused by prominent human rights groups of torturing activists. Moeen himself made troubling statements about the efficacy of democratic rule in a country as turbulent as Bangladesh. But as he has quieted down in recent months, fears that the caretaker government was a dictatorship in civilian clothing have subsided. "The best thing that [the army] has done," says Ali Riaz, chair of the department of politics and government at Illinois State University, "is reduce its visibility." AS the two begums ready for their return to the limelight — a prospect few among the military brass would have stomached months ago — observers are confident that the election?s results will be respected and accepted by the nation's soldiers.

Now it's up to Hasina and Zia to make the best of their second chance. Hasina's AL look like the favorites at this point, and in recent weeks, have made the right noises about sharing power and pushing toward a more consensus-driven politics. One AL declaration suggested that the opposition — whoever it may be — retain certain prominent seats in parliament, such as that of the deputy speaker. "There needs to be a proper participatory parliament," says Riaz, of Illinois State University. "Democracy cannot function without a really vibrant and an effective opposition."

The need for a functional, democratic government could not be more urgent. Bangladesh remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with 40% of its population living on less than $1 a day, and its government must act effectively to deal with inflation and soaring food costs that are making life miserable for the rural poor and urban working classes. Now, experts warn, is not the time to be settling personal vendettas or consolidating power. "Bangladeshis, including me, hope that the [two begums] think with a larger vision, and strengthen institutions," says Riaz. "Then both should have a graceful exit from politics."

Proposed Milestones of Awami League's Vision 2021

2010: 100 percent net student enrolment at primary level.
2011: Supply of pure drinking water for the entire population.
2012: Self-sufficiency in food.
2013: Each house brought under hygienic sanitation.
2013: Attain 8 percent annual growth rate; this will be increased to 10 percent in 2017 and sustained.
2013: Bangladesh generates 7000 megawatt of electricity which will be further increased to 8000 megawatt in 2015. Steps will be taken to increase power generation capacity assuming that the demand for power will reach the level of 20000 megawatt in 2021.
2013: Free tuition up to degree level.
2014: Bangladesh attains full literacy.
2015: Living accommodation for the entire population.
2021: Contribution of agriculture, industry and service sector to GDP will stand at 15, 40 and 45 respectively in place of 22, 28 and 50 percent as at present.
2021: Unemployment reduced to 15 percent from the present rate of 40 percent.
2021: Labor in agriculture comes down to 30 % from 48% at present.
2021: Labor in industry is 25% from 16% and in service 45% from 36% at present.
2021: Poverty rate comes down to 15% from 45% at present.
2021: Bangladesh known as a country of educated people with skills in information technology. 2021: 85% of the population have standard nutritional food.
2021: Poor people ensured a minimum of 2122 kilo calories of food.
2021: All kinds of contagious diseases eliminated.
2021: Longevity increases to 70 years.
2021: Infant mortality comes down to 15 from 54 per thousand at present
2021: Maternal death rate reduced to 1.5% from 3.8%.
2021: Use of birth control methods increased to 80%

The vision 2021 of Bangladesh Awami League

Here are full text of AL's election manifesto unveiled today. Also see AL's 'Vision 2021' for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh as we want to see in 2021
1. Caretaker Government, Democracy & Effective Parliament*Democracy and strong democratic institutions will be established for holding reliable election at regular intervals, accountability of government and effective Parliament. All necessary steps will be taken for making Parliament effective.

2. Political framework, Decentralization of Power & People’s Participation*Local government will be given due importance with a view to effecting radical change of the political system. The local government institutions will play a critical role in development programmes. Self-reliant local self-government institutions will be established at upazila and zila levels to this end.

3. Good governance through establishing Rule of Law and avoiding Political Partisanship*Human rights will be established on a strong footing with a view to ensuring rule of law. Independence of the judiciary will be ensured and the Institutions of the State and Administration will be freed from partisan influence. The basis of appointment and promotion will be merit, efficiency, seniority, honesty and loyalty to the Republic; political connection will have no relevance.

4. Transformation of political culture*Terrorism, corruption and use of religion for politics will be stopped. Steps appropriate to the time will be taken to establish democratic principles in the political parties, transparency of political funding, civility and tolerance.

5. A society free from corruption*The institutions of the State will be made more effective along with the independent and strong Anti-corruption Commission for curbing corruption. Social resistance to corruption will be promoted along side legal steps. All possible steps will be taken to stop corruption such as Charter of Citizens’ Rights, Right to Information, Computerization of Official Documents, and Decentralization of Power.

6. Empowerment and Equal Rights for Women*The Women’s Policy of 1997 will be revived for ensuring equal right and access for women to the state and social space; laws which discriminate against women will be amended; and 100 seats will be reserved for women for direct election.

7. Economic Development & Initiativea. Meeting basic needs: With a view to providing food, clothing, shelter, education and health care to the citizens in accordance with Article 15 of the Constitution, gross domestic product will be raised to 8% by 2013 and 10% by 2021 which will be sustained thereafter. b. Population and labour force: Population in 2021 is estimated at 165 million, and labour force at 105 million.

Programmes will be taken up for employment of 85% of the work force. c. Alleviation of poverty: We aim not at reduction of poverty, but removal of poverty, to which end we shall try to achieve the Millennium Goals declared by UN by 2015, and by 2017 latest. Beginning in 2021, poverty will be reduced to 15% from 45% now progressively. Poverty will rise from 45 million now to 65 million in 2021, and then fall to 25 million in 2021. Sustainable safety net will be established for the extreme poor until poverty is removed. d. Food & nutrition: Food deficit will be removed and self-reliance in food production achieved by 2012, which will enable us to meet the nutrition needs of 85% of the population. e. Health Care:

By 2021, minimum daily intake of 2122 kilo calories of food, elimination of contagious disease, primary health care and sanitation for all will be ensured. Average longevity will be increased to seventy years, and efforts will be made for the reduction of child and maternal mortality.f. Education: Enrolment at the primary level will be increased to 100 percent net by 2010. Elimination of illiteracy by 2014, improvement in the quality of education, creation of a generation educated in science and technology, make degree level education free by 2013 and ensuring higher salary for teachers are the other educational goals. g. Industry: A strong foundation for industrialization will be established by 2021. Contribution of the industrial sector to national GDP will be doubled. Primacy will be given to agro and labour intensive industries and the highest emphasis will be given to information technology sector. The investment policy will be geared to implementing a strategy attracting both domestic and foreign investment.h.

Energy Security: An energy policy will be adopted tapping all sources of traditional and non-traditional energy to ensure accelerated rate of economic development and industrialization. A three year crash programme will be taken up to meet the existing crisis. By 2015, electricity production will be increased to 8000 megawatt. By 2021, demand for electircity is projected to increase to 20,000 megawatt. We will take all possible actions aiming at enhancing our generation capacity. To increase gas production, regular survey of gas resources and work on well development will be undertaken. To meet energy demand, efforts will be undertaken for regional energy security through mutual cooperation in addition to exploring internal sources.i.

Infrastructural Development: Road, rail, river and air transport and telecommunication systems will be expanded. Construction of bridge, tunnel for Padma and Karnaphuli rivers, connecting Bangladesh with Asian Highway and Asian Railway, improvement of port facilities, building of a deep sea port to open up Bangladesh ports to countries of Asia will be implemented. In Dhaka, construction of metro tunnel, elevated rail and circular rail to remove traffic jams and to solve public transport problems will be studied forthwith in order to undertake a feasible project. The project will then be implemented on a priority basisj.

Housing: By 2015, housing for all will be ensured. In every union and upazila, ‘growth center’ centric village housing and in towns housing with modern amenities will be implemented.k. Environment: All measures will be taken to protect Bangladesh-- including planned migration abroad-- from the adverse effects of climate change and global warming. Facing natural calamities, planned reduction of air pollution, prevention of industry and transport related air pollution and disposal of waste in scientific manner will be ensured. Steps will be taken to make Bangladesh an ecologically attractive place through retention of forests and water bodies and prevention of river erosion. l.

Water Resources: Bangladesh Awami League will take the initiative to formulate a comprehensive regional water policy along with India, Nepal and Bhutan for regional water security. In addition, in keeping with a comprehensive water police, articulated earlier by Bangladesh Awami League, measures will be taken for development of our water resources and their rational use.

8. Bangladesh in the Global Arenaa. Achievments of liberation: Multi-pronged measures will be taken to uphold the glorious history and the fruits of liberation, to energize the new generation with the spirit of liberation struggle, patriotism and love for humanity. Highest priority will be given to development of innovative spirit of the younger generations and opportunity will be provided for them to participate in nation building activities. b. Culture: Measures will be taken to remove obstacles in the development of Bengali culture, literature, art, music and sport and to provide all opportunities by the state to enable the younger generations to attain international standards and to contribute to the nation.c. Foreign Policy: In international affairs Bangladesh will follow the policy of ‘friendship towards all and malice towards none’.