Sheersha Khobor Dot Com
By: Q M Jalal Khan
Part II (Part 2 of 6): Sheikh Hasina Continues to Go Ballistic and Beyond in Her All-Out Brutalities on the BNP-led Opposition
But who cares? Life goes on, so does the utilitarian business of the world, unconcerned about who is who and what legacy one leaves behind. It is only the present of here and now that matters as the capitalism-driven economic greed of the material world dictates–trade and commerce, deals and contracts, investments and agreements, and alignments and alliances out of vested economic interests. When the production and circulation of more and more money and liquid gold are the prime target, other considerations—moral, ethical, humanist, and ideological—no matter how lasting and forward looking they may be in their effect, are looked at with suspicion, relegated to the back burner. Values and principles, regardless of their ultimate shaping influence and permanent impact, hardly ever take the front seat! Days of decency and decorum that were there, in whatever form and degree, until 1947, 1971 or 2006, in the context of the Indian Subcontinent, have become matters of yore, especially since 2009 in the context of Bangladesh! Dynamic and visionary leadership, let alone statesmanship, based on long-term civilizational and epoch-making goals are now ruefully gone, the way the age of medieval (Arthurian) chivalry consisting of high ideals and commitments is no more, making the two great Anglo-Irish figures, political philosopher Edmund Burke in the 18th century and poet W B Yeats in the 20th century, lament dearly! There has only been slight and subdued reaction from the international community regarding what has been happening in Bangladesh.
Despite their problems, to draw a bigger picture, the situation in the Middle East and Central Asia is not, however, as bad as Bangladesh which is reeling under the force of a devilish and draconian power seized by Hasina in a series of stolen elections. People in those parts of the world did not have a chance, as of now, to taste and experiment with democratic freedoms, free speech, and free elections. Except the materially and intellectually developed democratic Israel, the Israeli-occupied and struggling Palestine (as the Awami-occupied and struggling Bangladesh), and their neighbor Lebanon, the rest of the surrounding countries in the Middle East and all those in Central Asia have always lived in a closed society ruled by tyrants who never opened up to give their people an opportunity to vote freely and who never created any space for public criticism about the affairs of the state under their tyranny.
However, it needs to be pointed out, they (the leaders of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan) and their government are, as a government, relatively free from corruption and so never made it to the list of the top corrupt countries as Bangladesh and its ruling Awamis did and continue to do so very often. Definitely, those Central Asian leaders are corrupt too, but not perhaps as much as Bangladesh’s rogue Awami government, that is thoroughly so from top to bottom with politics conducted not as a means of public service but as a lucrative business for looting and laundering. While the people in other countries—in the Middle Eastern Gulf and Central Asia—are pretty happy with their more or less just and fair government system that works fine for them in terms of their basic needs (food, land, housing, jobs, education, health, gas, electricity) with no complaint whatsoever from the public and with none left behind, tens of millions of Bangladeshis, by contrast, are suffering from unspeakable woes and wounds, worries and anxieties, both physical and psychological, due to unjust and unlawful differences and discriminations they are made subject to in their daily life, particularly during the last long Hasina decade, heavy and harrowing.
Bangladesh, however, has had a long history of free speech and peaceful transition of power that the democratically untrustworthy Hasina has completely destroyed during the last decade, having first sent it into the coffin on 5 January 2014, and then buried it in the grave in the late hours of 29 December and early hours of 30 December 2018. The BNP’s boycott of farcical election in 2014 under the horrendously manipulative Hasina was as right as its participation in 2018, although the election in the latter case was, again, a fascism-generated wild and wanton rigging and gagging that no one in the opposition could ever predict. With the short-term interim care-taker government (CTG) system struck down by the choking and suppressive Hasina regime, the BNP had every just and fair reason not to participate in 2014. However, it had no choice but to participate in 2018, no matter how illusory its hopes were. At no point could it afford to withdraw only to become a laughing stock. Now it can at least blame the autocratic Awami regime for stealing the election in its entirety the way the same authoritarian regime is responsible for stealing billions. People can easily understand how both the money and the election have been stolen openly and directly and digitally, in a most shocking manner. They can now understand how devilishly bad and ugly the Hasina regime could be–regardless of the BNP’s participation or non-participation in the elections. Even if it participated in 2014, the result would have been the same as 2018. By once not participating and then participating, the BNP has wisely exposed the darker and blacker evil that is the modern fascism as represented by the Awami League’s Hasina ruling, as far as her treatment of the democratic political opposition is concerned, horrifically and horrendously.
Also, the BNP has no liability baggage whatsoever. A great young man with his own outstanding qualities and virtues outshining those of his top authoritarian and tyrannical Awami counterparts, Tarique Rahman, suffering in exile in the UK, is a unique and irreplaceable asset to his party leading it from abroad and keeping it as united and strong as possible not only in the absence of the party leader, his imprisoned mother, but also in a state of Awami torture and persecution. Everybody would see with open eyes how popular Tarique Rahman is once he gets a chance to safely return to Bangladesh under the normal political circumstances of freedom and justice, which, it is understood, the horribly ruling Hasina would never allow to take place. Like father, like mother, like son: Zia, Khaleda, Tarique–all are/were hugely popular to the envy and chagrin of Sheikh Hasina. No other leader in the history of Bangladesh can even ever come close to the terrific trio whose names are carved in stone with love and admiration in the mind and memory of the millions of people of Bangladesh. But nothing, no one, can withstand and hold the ground under the all-swallowing Awami police and other partisan state tools and machineries under the disposal of the despotic and decadent Hasina regime. However, the fight has to somehow go on against the all-engulfing Awami onslaughts on all fronts.
Since 2009, the people of Bangladesh have been going down the path of a steep descent (in terms of political culture, rule of law, and social justice) rather than a slow and steady ascent. They have been witnessing their former rising glory and greatness reversed, evaporated, foiled, folded, forked and shelved as the waves of ruthless and rascally-driven police/RAB operation and oppression are being relentlessly loosed upon the opposition on a daily basis. They have lost whatever peaceful and democratic tradition they have had in the long and recent past, a tradition that they, currently distraught, are now grappling and scavenging to revive by whatever means available, including any emergency political CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). As they are anguished to have lost their proudly evolving political “paradise” that could at least be expected to offer some options and possibilities by trial and error, they are now eagerly and impatiently looking forward to regain it (to borrow part of the idea from John Milton) and bury the Hasina-led dark and dire dystopia forever.
The game of usurpation of power in the name of elections, fraudulent and farcical as they were, and the series of political betrayals by all dubious and duplicitous means have thrown Bangladesh into a desperate situation from which people are painfully and pitifully looking for a way out! They are sick and tired of the macabre and frightening Mother Goose-type control of Bangladesh by Sheikh Hasina! The “dog-eat-dog life” situation under her terrifying rule is, sadly, nowhere near the otherwise fine and functional democracies in the region—Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Singapore, though a one-party state with no demoractic tradition, is however admirably honest and free from corruption which Hasina can only envy and long for and for which the Singaporeans greatly love their government—a love that Hasina can only dream of in her wildest dreams. Her corrupt police and prison state and its greedy and selfish Awami thugs and touts are closer to the neighboring Myanmar and its brutally racist Buddhist military junta that have absolutely no electoral and democratic heritage either.
As far as the brutal elimination of the opposition is concerned, the Hasina regime is, politically, outrageously “racist.” In violation of the spirit and principles of the liberation struggle of Bangladesh, Hasina has banished Bangladesh’s democratic tradition and heritage, having there been no free, fair and credible polls for years. She has put Bangladesh on the same page as Myanmar with military uniform there and police-cum-civilian outfit here making no difference and, in fact, entering into a harsh and hissing hermaphrodite relationship with each other. Since Bangladesh has had a short but significant democratic stint (during the roughly twelve years of Zia and Khaleda combined) that is now absent with the autocratically ruling Hasina at the helm since 2009, it can then be said that it is more painful to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, to slightly rephrase poet Alfred Lord Tennyson by replacing one key word, of course, as the context has demanded. After all, the regime is clasping and hanging on to the slippery top with “crooked hands,” as Tennyson’s eagle does, before “like a thunderbolt he falls” into the sea under.
Hasina’s totalitarian tightening of the political noose around the neck of the BNP and her undisguised grabbing of the state power by unprecedented polls rigging and stealing have made her critcs grow increasingly bitter and engage in protesting. In his recent articles in the Pakistan-based The Friday Times (TFT), former American Ambassador to Pakistan and Bangladesh (and now a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., an important think tank) William B. Milam continues to express his views that are growing louder, stronger and more authentic than his previously so-called somewhat balanced views. Ambassador Milam is a pro-Kamal columnist who does not seem to reflect and think hard about Dr Kamal Hossain’s inability and inefficiency as a political leader. He (the latter) has no strength, charisma, dynamism, and public following, all being conspicuous by their absence in him. He has only a face value and nothing else, no votes, no popular support. Having always been a loser, he is indeed a turn off.
In his orientation of diplomatic norms and niceties, Milam is critical of both, Hasina’s Awami League and Khaleda’s BNP, but, of course, more of the former than the latter. However, there is no room for being balanced or neutral while describing the boundlessly choking bondage under the fully operational dense and undiluted Hasina dictatorship. There can be no comparison between Hasina, an out-and-out autocrat, and Khaleda, a noble and sacrificing mother of democratic, nationalist and patriotic causes, who, as claimed by all opposition leaders, has been confined to jail on false and politically motivated cases. Referencing other scholarly works on the phases of autocratization in history, Ambassador Milam thinks that Hasina’s autocratic rule represents all three phases of the autocratizing process mentioned in those works. She is one of those autocratizers, Milam suggests, who “came to power legally, usually by free and fair elections, and [assumed] full power in more informal and clandestine ways by undermining institutions, taking out opposition, muzzling the media, etc.[…] and who “solidified their power grabs usually by rewriting constitutions to accommodate their predation […], dissolving parliaments, and other blatant changes.”
Like the past and contemporary autocratizers, Hasina, to slightly paraphrase Milam, made “the autocratizing changes slowly, eroding the democratic institutions without drawing the world’s notice much of the time; and letting multiparty elections to be held regularly but without the institutions to guarantee they be free and fair they are merely a chimera.” Terming Bangladesh to be already in “the lost cause” category for the reason of Hasina’s “illegal power grab […] through massive cheating” and her “subversion of the institutions and the norms and standards of democracy,” her regime has “turned out the lights of freedom on [her] people” through a “long jump stolen election.” According to Milam, Hasina has the country, already “an electoral autocracy,” on the way back to her father’s one-party brutal BAKSAL and “closed autocracy,” “almost fully locked up.”
Referencing yet another scholarly article on democratic backsliding in some countries, including Bangladesh, Milam argues that “Bangladesh has clearly crossed the divide between democracy and autocracy” and that, following a one-party election in 2014:
In 2018, when there appeared to be a formidable opposition coalition, the Awami League government stole the election with a campaign to restrict voting on steroids, using all the tools in the how-to-steal-an-election handbook, and made the election not just less competitive but totally non-competitive. It won 96 percent of the parliamentary seats. Apart from elections, for which the Awami League government was motivated to go far beyond the normal level of election cheating in 2018 […] Sheikh Hasina […] has gone about ridding the one party government of a viable opposition, smothering the media, intimidating the public […] Except in the elections, in which she acted as past despots have by seizing the opportunity offered by the opposition boycott in 2014 and then by going into overdrive on election chicanery in 2018 to ensure there would be no opposition to counter her next move (whatever that is), she has followed the example of her autocratic peers and moved slowly, cautiously, and often clandestinely.
Ambassador Milam shines only when he hits hard, as he has done in the above, at the horrible Hasina regime under which no opposition politics can exist or survive. Viable and vibrant opposition has indeed already become a dying or endangered species, if not totally extinct, with Hasina clinging to the top in a state of creaking cacophony.
“Bangladesh is faced with rampant corruption, poor air and water quality, high inflation, a complete lack of freedom of speech and expression and no opposition,” writes Sabria Chowdhury Balland, a political analyst and columnist, who also teaches English and French in the US. She goes on:
When law enforcement, the judiciary, the Election Commission, the military, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and every other entity has been politicized in favor of the ruling party, when the Prime Minister and her party declare an authoritarian government with a free pass to extra-judicial killings, disappearances, false lawsuits, corruption etc. without the people’s mandate, where is the “development”? The “election” was nothing more than the prolongation of the status quo. Only Awami League cronies remain the elite in every sector of the corrupt government and top level military. The rest of the country still languishes in quasi poverty, creating a vast level of income inequality.
The above description by Balland is as exact and accurate, with no exaggeration, as her alarming picture of the culture of rape with impunity in Bangladesh. However, the list of ills in the Hasina-led Bangladesh is never-ending. Tons of volumes have been written about them and more will be written as time goes by, especially when the regime expires, which it will and must one day. Nothing is there to stay forever. To see Bangladesh through India, “This government has wounded India’s soul so very deeply,” writes the famous Indian writer Arundhati Roy. She continues:
It will take years for us to heal. For that process to even begin, we must vote to remove these dangerous, spectacle-hungry charlatans from office […] Modi has to go. The quarrelsome, divided, unstable Coalition government that might come in his place is not a problem. It is the very essence of democracy. It will be far more intelligent and far less foolhardy […] Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved. That can only be done if Kashmiris are given a chance to freely and fearlessly tell the world what they are fighting for and what they really want. Dear World, find a way.”
What Roy has said about Narendra Modi and India also applies well (minus, of course, the nuclear thing) to Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh. Following Roy, who deeply criticized Hasina for her imposition of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act restrictions on the freedom of speech over the issue of the arrest of the famed photojournalist Shahidul Alam, one can say, not only in no uncertain terms but also in a thumping and thundering voice, Hasina has got to go and any government that might succeed—civilian or military—would be way better. In her demoralized policy of bringing the whole country under her party and personal possession and occupation, she has completely destroyed its moral and political backbone for the foreseeable future. Instead of building and consolidating the state institutions, she has destroyed them all to the point of collapse by nakedly and blatantly politicizing and interfering with them in her favor. The whole election process, political process, legal process, bureaucracy, judiciary, police department, RAB, civil administration, banking sector and education system—all have been twisted and tarnished and manipulated and exploited and tampered with to such a degree that the status of them has become like Shelley’s dead leaves, “Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,/ Pestilence-stricken multitudes,” to be driven away by the wild Autumnal West Wind to pave the way for a new birth after Winter.
All systems and sectors are running their “pale and pestilence-stricken” shows in the purely partisan (Awami) way; however, by all indexes and estimates, they, out of elixir, are in their death throes, to be put back on track by way of the pangs of their re-or-second-birth to be made possible by the next government, whoever that may be, except, of course, the Hasina-led Awami League. Her regime, most cynically, forced all institutions to lose their integrity and independence and left them unable to function on their own with wisdom and dynamism, and expedition and enterprise. Above all, Hasina’s all-out destruction of the opposition politics, freedom of expression, rule of law, and social justice is simply despicable and debilitating. After Roy, let one make the same plea, “Dear World, please find a way,” as one has to say with Yeats, who, at the nightmarish prospect of the coming of the allegorical “rough beast” of war in Europe, said in 1919, in anticipation of another war after the watershed that was the World War I:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
 www.newagebd.net/article/70260/press-freedom-in-bangladesh-lowest-in-south-asia; www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/news/press-freedom-bangladesh-slips-four-notches-1731886; www.jugantor.com/national/168553/বিশ্ব-গণমাধ্যম-স্বাধীনতা-সূচক-চার-ধাপ-পিছিয়েছে-বাংলাদেশ; www.dailynayadiganta.com/politics/406100/সাংবাদিকরা-নজিরবিহীন-নির্যাতনের-শিকার-অধ্যাপক-মুজিবুর-রহমান;
 CPR is “an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions often with artificial ventilation in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest.”
 www.thefridaytimes.com/autocratization-is-bangladesh-ahead-or-behind-schedule/; বাংলাদেশে নির্বাচনের ফলাফল চুরি, সরকার অবৈধ: উইলিয়াম বি মাইলাম https://newslife24.com/news/31702; www.thefridaytimes.com/back-to-baksal/
Sheersha Khobor / A A
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