Meltdown in Bangladesh

Tonight I wept tears of despair for Bangladesh.

After months of self-imposed hiatus from the dubious pleasures of blogging, the recent events in Dhaka forces me to post here. Not so much to make a point about anything in particular than to stave off the sense of despair thrust upon me by the sight of Bangladesh in freefall.

Following the January 11th takeover by the CTG, there was a palpable sense of optimism amongst the large majority of Bangladeshis. Finally, the country’s prayers were answered and a collection of fair-minded and sensible leaders had arrived to rescue 140 million people from the brink of national disaster.

It was difficult not to lend support to this strange coupling of military strong-arm and high-minded civilian largesse given what had gone down before. And by this I mean the previous fifteen years of quasi-democracy characterised by the paralysis of political discourse, the rampant orgy of top-down institutional corruption and the looting of public wealth. All resulting in the obscene disparity of billionaire politicians playing rounds of golf against the backdrop of a sea of jobless peasants living out their lives with a complete lack of basic rights such as clean drinking water supplies, affordable homes, three meals a day, schooling for their kids. You get the picture.

August Riots

But the sense of universal goodwill the CareTaker Government enjoyed evaporated two days ago in the wisp of the smoke of burning tyres and gutted buildings as hundreds of Dhaka University students rampaged through the streets in running battles against soldiers and the police. The flames of mass spontaneous combustion spread nationwide following an incident involving a trivial altercation between students and a army soldier at a faculty football match. The scale of destruction was both shameful and awe-inspiring.

What was the tipping point that led to this perfect storm? Any number of reasons have been put forward, not least of which is the spiking of the market price of basic foods like rice and lentils and vegetables to shoot beyond affordable levels of the average wage earner. Then came the recent floods which knocked the already feeble levels of food distribution sideways. The breakdown in job security as businesses took the hit of the CTG’s well-publicised anti-corruption initiative which led to the vicious cycle of reduced investment resulting in yet more price hikes. All this amidst a growing climate of fear as it became apparent that the CTG was nothing more than a draconian military regime dressed up in bhodrolok civvies.

However, they were still reaping the benefit of the doubt from the urban middle class. Only but a few flabby liberals complained when the CTG exercised the ex-judicial imprisonment of hundreds of astronomically corrupt politcians and their legions of gun-wielding private militia. Only a handful of legal purists and the same hand-wringing liberals demurred as the CTG bedded down in office beyond the constitutional seven month period. Most people welcomed the forced-reforms demanded of the two highly dysfunctional but massively popular political outfits, the BNP and the Awami League, including the cack-handed forced expulsion, and later jailings, of the two former PMs and their venal lackies.

But serious cracks started to show on the CTG veneer and alarm bells rang loudly when a campaign of “anti-CTG” targetting was directed at thousands of citizens, by phone tapping and the forced imprisonment and torture (yes torture) of hundreds of journalists, bureaucrats, street merchants and ordinary citizens. The potential for a shit load to hit the fan was building momentum.

And it finally did.

Not since 1971 have the army been deployed against its own civilian population in Bangladesh. The signs are not good.

I had my reasons for supporting the CTG and was willing them all the success and goodwill I could muster. One of the main reasons was because I no longer believe that a “Liberal Democracy” divested between two hopelessly corrupt dynasties (BNP and AL) and a third even riskier electoral option (the Jamaati Islami) waiting in the wings for an electoral breakthrough (which is highly likely) is suitable for Bangladesh in its present form. The situation is terminally poisoned, but I will attempt to expand on this in future posts.

However, in the light of present events, I also no longer believe the CTG have what it takes to lead Bangladesh out of this parlous state.

What they should do now is move to return electoral power back to democratic institutions and push forward with plans for holding the national election, as expected, in December 2008. Until then all bets are off.

The party is well and truly over.

103 Responses to “Meltdown in Bangladesh”

  1. Asif Says:

    Nice write up, but too late!

  2. Phantom Says:

    A very educative article. I share equally two opinions of this writer:
    1.” One of the main reasons was because I no longer believe that a “Liberal Democracy” divested between two hopelessly corrupt dynasties (BNP and AL) and a third even riskier electoral option (the Jamaati Islami) waiting in the wings for an electoral breakthrough (which is highly likely) is suitable for Bangladesh in its present form. The situation is terminally poisoned, but I will attempt to expand on this in future posts.”- I am eagerly waiting for the writer to expand on this-it will have some interesting facts,no doubt.

    2.”What they should do now is move to return electoral power back to democratic institutions and push forward with plans for holding the national election, as expected, in December 2008.”- infact right after this declaration I felt this is too much time and it gives the opponents to regroup and fight back- but as am an ordinary Citizen I couldnt find means to to reach the CA and or any of his Advisers to inform them that while they were receiving accolades for their reorganization of the EC,ACC and steps to curb corruption-they should concentrate on finalizing the Voter’s list at the earliest and set an early election date- Dec 2008 is to long a time frame and gives the opponents ample scope to regroup and fight back-(after all these corrupt people wont take it like a sitting duck).However there is a problem because we can see that Reforms are not taking place within any political party-too much jealousy amd interfighting-all wants to become the central leader)-also these are the same group who stayed too long with both the inefficient Leaders and therfore couldnt have learnt about efficient Administration to provide services for the Citizen. So even with list prepared and an election date set — what guarentee do we have that we wont be reverting to previous procedures within the 9th parliament???- it seems like a Catch 22 style.

  3. AsifY Says:

    It’s nice to see you indulging in this “dubious pleasure” once again. I used to be a regular reader once upon a time. I suppose that was the magnitude of the storm that passed over BD last month, leaving something of an imprint in everyone who cares about it.

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