The case for cautious optimism
While there is plenty of reason to celebrate the end of the tenure of an unelected regime, and the apparent electoral rejection of Islam-pasand politics, in purely qualitative terms the nature of our politics remains largely the same as pre-2007, writes Mahtab Haider
The deluge of optimism that most Bangladeshis are feeling in the wake of what appears to have been largely uncontroversial elections on December 29, is at once rare, and yet familiar. From past experience, the aftermath of most elections have featured ritualised exchanges of accusations between the two major parties, and the public’ foreboding of a coming violence in clashes to establish a new incumbency. In the past, elections gave way to signals of an imminent breakdown of parliamentary accountability — possibly the most crucial form of accountability in a democracy — with the losing party threatening a boycott. This time, in contrast, the murmurs of discontent over the election results have been drowned by the din of a more popular endorsement, so much so that the BNP seems to have grudgingly accepted. This, and the idea that five years of misrule and corruption by the BNP-led alliance has been rejected overwhelmingly may be at the heart of the optimism apparent in the media and in public opinion.
But there is also a great deal more to be optimistic about on January 4, 2009, compared to the same date in 2007. For all practical purposes the country is no longer dangerously poised for violent street clashes between the BNP and the Awami League as it was two years ago. It is no small feat that the elections are behind us with the use of a voter list arguably more accurate than any in the past. And perhaps, most importantly, a two year interregnum during which a military-controlled interim government ruled the country under the cloak of a draconian emergency is all but ceremonially over.
In this season of optimism, though, perhaps we are allowing ourselves the luxury of easily forgetting some of the painful lessons of the past two years. Is it churlish to suggest that the aftermath of January 11, 2007, was a time of similar optimism?
Two years ago, were we not just as desperate to believe that a military-controlled government would cleanse politics of black money and violence and the administration of partisan bias and corruption? When Fakhruddin Ahmed’s cabinet took over, there was a deluge of public endorsement — led by sections of the complicit media and civil society — of the agenda of the ‘final solution’ that its architects propagated. The final solution doctrine posited that a ‘vanguard’ of capable and ‘well-intentioned’ citizens, though unelected, could reform the political process and bring true democracy to a society through a benevolent autocracy.
In the two years that have passed, public endorsement of this doctrine gave way, first to rejection, and eventually to loathing, as people gradually realised that a government of unelected technocrats — no matter how well intentioned — still needs the checks and balances that a free media and a parliamentary opposition furnish among others, to operate according to norm.
So it was that over the 23 months of emergency rule that characterised the tenure of the military-controlled interim regime, 319 people were killed in custody of one or another of the country’s security agencies, 38 of them allegedly dying of torture according to the human rights group Odhikar. So it was that the interim regime apparently realised early on that they had promised too much when they promised to create institutions to tackle corruption in governance and instead transformed the process of anti-corruption into an event – involving the arrests of allegedly corrupt lawmakers and power brokers in both major parties on flimsy evidence that have raised questions in popular perception. So it was that these corruption allegations were investigated by a newly convened Anti-Corruption Commission that has descended into controversy, accused of selectively applying the law, often to suit the convenience of ongoing secret negotiations between the interim regime and the jailed former prime ministers.
Meanwhile, it is evident that the interim government’s tenure saw the Election Commission mired in controversy because of its attempts at political engineering, trying desperately to fuel a split in the BNP, in vain. While Fakhruddin Ahmed repeatedly claimed to his international backers that his government had painstakingly allowed the media to exercise freedom, media intimidation and the threat of violence against journalists were one of the defining characteristics of the past two years of governance. Palace intrigues were common, and by the end of the first few months, it had dawned on all but the dullest of political observers that the civilian cabinet was a useful front for the real decision makers in the cantonment, whose intentions were far from evident.
And yet, there was an ilk of civil society luminaries who refused to lose faith in the failed doctrine of a failed and increasingly autocratic government. Members of the so-called ‘vanguard’ as they believed they were, it was difficult for them to accept that the best solution to a faltering democracy is more democracy. Those in society who had the courage to call the interim government on its increasingly sinister agenda were reduced to a minority accused of standing in the way of the country’s ‘progress’. Strangely enough, some of those prominent opinion leaders who had carried the banner of the interim regime on January 11, 2007, inspiring public optimism, are now leading the charge for unqualified optimism in the outcome of the elections and the imminent restoration of democracy. Judging from their words on TV talk-shows and Op-ed columns it would seem that now that the elections have been held and the parliament looks set to become operational once again, with a majority of the MPs already sworn in, the public can rest easy. Once again, this unqualified optimism is premature, and may require a somersault shortly.
While there is plenty of reason to celebrate the end of the tenure of an unelected regime, and the apparent electoral rejection of Islam-pasand politics, in purely qualitative terms the nature of our politics remains largely the same as pre-2007. While the Awami League has shed some of its high-profile criminal party stalwarts, the BNP did not, and ‘reforms’ and ‘internal democracy’ have become anathema to both party supremos. Meanwhile, though the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami won only two seats in parliament, there is little reason to believe that the Islamist credo will no longer be a powerful factor in the political arena. While a strong social mobilisation seems to have emerged in rejecting war criminals, this mobilisation must be carried through over the next decade for the campaign to yield a lasting political legacy. In short, now that elections have been held and an alliance proclaiming progressive values has won a landslide majority, can the public rest easy? Far from it. And that is democracy – a process through which a government, no matter how heavily mandated by the people, is still held accountable day after day through checks and balances in which public consciousness, a working parliament, and a fiercely independent media must play their role. If the past performances of the two major parties are anything to go by, election promises will likely be forgotten, the administration will once again be influenced by partisan bias, corruption will likely
Honour the people’s mandate
People want to do new things, bring about changes, and accomplish much more. There is an unmistakable potency in their desire to succeed that must be harnessed and skilfully used. The new leadership must not miss these vital signs and work hard to see them to fruition, writes Dr Syed Saad Andaleeb
The long awaited elections are now over. The people have spoken with certitude as witnessed by the overwhelming voting pattern. There can be no ambiguity about the results. But one must be careful in interpreting the results. Whether the people have spoken with unmitigated favour for the Awami League-Jatiya Party alliance or whether they spoken with an acerbic tongue against the BNP-Jamaat alliance is a moot question. Some have even interpreted the results as a choice of the lesser of two predicaments! After all both alliances have much to answer from their past attempts at governance.
As things begin to settle down, it is important for ‘all’ political parties to respect the voters’ verdict and begin to cater to their long ignored dreams and aspirations. In particular, this is no time for whining by those who were not favoured, nor is it a time for gloating by those who won. Responsible behaviour is expected from both major parties so that people’s lives are neither disrupted nor encumbered any more.
After all, despite successive years of poor leadership, much has been accomplished. Whether it is the GDP growth, the flow of remittances, the contributions of the garment industries, the rise of shipbuilding and pharmaceuticals, the burgeoning cultural ethos among the youth, and many other positive indicators, signs of vitality are profoundly evident in the
People want to do new things, bring about changes, and accomplish much more. There is an unmistakable potency in their desire to succeed that must be harnessed and skilfully used. The new leadership must not miss these vital signs and work hard to see them to fruition. They must realign their outlook where nation should precede party, and where party should precede person. For a mature leadership to shape a new
To those who have been bestowed the mantle of power, this election has given them an opportunity to give back Golden Bengal to its people. The opportunity must not be squandered. This is a time to exhibit that brand of leadership that will inspire the people to harness their collective abilities and bring about real change. That real change must be grounded in ideological soundness that can uplift the spirit of the nation and send it on its way to the promised dream: sonar Bangla.
What is important is for the new leadership to demonstrate a genuine interest to be in tune with the people who have empowered them for a five-year term. Here’s what you must do:
Provide clear goals. The people want to know where you intend to take the country and their destinies. How will the people benefit from your leadership?
Be humble. The atrocious arrogance of past governments has not been forgotten and this election may have been a resounding reflection of how people treat such arrogance. The leadership must also be humble enough to recognise that it is the voters who brought you to your position of power; assuredly the voters can bring you down too as they have demonstrated time and again.
Build trust. Much has been promised in the past; relatively little has been delivered. This has shattered the fabric of trust in those who exercise power. It is time to say what you mean and mean what you say. Then deliver.
Be patient. Also persuade voters to be patient. Change will not happen immediately. Under the circumstances don’t be rash and impulsive. A wet log takes time to catch fire that must be nurtured with patience.
Be inclusive. Bring in people who are capable and honest even if they are not from your party. The righteous and the able will best guide the nation out of the morass.
Be inspirational. Discard frivolous talk and avoid pointing fingers at those you dislike. A vengeful attitude will alienate your support base. The people will do all of that when they see it befitting; trust their judgment.
In the final analysis, it must be recognised that the people owe nothing to the politicians; instead it is the politicians who owe much to the people for the privileges with which they are endowed. When the voters are accorded that respect a new era of partnership can be launched with them; the benefits and positive externalities can be immense.
Dr Syed Saad Andaleeb is a professor at the
Second chance for
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Rarely does history give a second chance to a country. It has given that to
In a remarkably sweeping verdict, the Awami League has won 230 of the 299 seats which went to the polls and 49.2 per cent of the total votes polled against 62 seats and 40.13 per cent respectively in the 2001 election. The grand alliance it spearheaded has won 262 seats with the Jatiya Party accounting for 27 (against 14 in 2001) seats and others five. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Khaleda Zia, which won 193 seats in 2001, has now won only 29, with its vote share declining from 40.97 per cent to 32.74 per cent. Its principal ally in the four-party alliance, Jamaat-e-Islami
By voting the Awami League and its allies resoundingly to power, Bangladeshis have demonstrated that they want their country to be a modern Islamic democracy committed to gender justice, economic progress, administrative transparency and efficiency, at peace with itself and its neighbours. They have defenestrated the Jamaat, the fountainhead of Islamic fundamentalism in
Sheikh Hasina cannot be unaware of these messages; nor of the fact that she will not be forgiven if she fails to deliver in a significant measure. Unfortunately,
Sheikh Hasina has now to deal with both of them and others from the same stable, particularly since bringing war criminals to justice is one of the main promises made in the Awami League’s election manifesto. It will not be easy. Supporters of war criminals have become firmly entrenched in
Sheikh Hasina, however, will not be without support. The Sector Commanders’ Forum, an organisation spearheaded by the sector commanders of the Mukti Bahini during the 1971 liberation war, has sustained an intense campaign for the trial and punishment of war criminals over the last two years. Thanks to them and efforts by the Muktijuddher Chetana Bastabayan O Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Jatiya Samanyay Committee (National Coordination Committee for the Realisation of the Consciousness of the Liberation War and the Eradication of the Killers and Agents of Seventy One), evidence will not be difficult to come by. Besides, Mr Ian Martin, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy, has promised Sheikh Hasina, whom he met on Thursday to congratulate her on her victory, all help in bringing the war criminals to justice.
The question is of political will. Sheikh Hasina’s and the Awami League’s credibility will be severely dented if they are seen to be unable and/or unwilling to act firmly. Besides, war criminals, left alone, will try to stage a comeback and resume the campaign of murder and terror they had unleashed in
Linked to punishing the war criminals is the issue of terrorism, both within
Cross-border terrorism and
Editorial in Asian Age
Our eastern neighbour
By Kanchan Gupta
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The December 29 general election in
After two years in power, the military-backed interim Government of Bangladesh, which everybody thought would stave off polls till it was forced to hold them, has delivered on its promise: An absolutely free and fair general election has been held, resulting in the rediscovery of the soaring spirit of 1971 when a nation was born after a bloody liberation war. The Awami League’s sweeping victory, reducing the Islamist-pandering Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to an irrelevant rump, reminds us of a similar electoral victory nearly four decades ago when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman swept the polls and staked his claim on Rawalpindi, only to be denied his right. That rejection of West Pakistan’s suppression and loot of its eastern wing led to the liberation struggle of 1971 and the birth of
But the collaborators, the razakars and their patrons in the Jamaat-e-Islami, had their sweet revenge, first through Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination and then by propping up tin pot dictators. The return of democracy was truly short-lived. Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League Government bungled its way to defeat in the 2001 election. What followed was not only the repudiation of the spirit of 1971 but also an assault on the idea of
In his popular column which appears in Star Magazine, published by the liberal Dhaka-based newspaper, The Daily Star, ‘Chintito’ has captured the true message of the election result: “Who wants to be on the side of killers, rapists, looters and conspirators? … A standing ovation is due to our valiant freedom fighters, led once again by the brave sector commanders, who unleashed an unarmed war on the war criminals. For the handful of connivers, who tried to wickedly postulate the supreme sacrifice of millions as a civil war, the nation has spoken: 1971 war criminals do exist, and they shall be punished on this soil sanctified. Their political defeat is only a breaking of the ground…”.
The reference is to the Jamaat-e-Islami being wiped out in this election. Its cadre and affiliate jihadi organisations had unleashed a reign of terror between 2001 and 2006 when the BNP-Jamaat coalition was in power. ‘Bangla Bhai’ — executed for his jihadi perfidies by the interim Government — became the sinister face of the ‘Islamist Bangladesh’ that the Jamaat aspired to create through brutal force. Hindus were targeted in villages; men were murdered and women raped; temples were demolished with triumphant glee. The traditional celebration of the Bengali New Year, ‘Poila Boishakh’, was banned, as was paying homage to Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman. Women were forced to wear the burqa and thousands of madarsas were opened with the help of foreign Muslim ‘charities’. In a comic display of aping their role models, Islamists owing allegiance to the Jamaat and its associates took to wearing the ‘Pathan suit’ and draping the Arabic kaffiyeh around their shoulders. The study of Arabic was vigorously promoted and a new genre, ‘Islamic music’, was added to the repertoire of Bangla music.
The neo-Taliban of
If Bangladeshis have rejected the Jamaat for promoting fanatical Islam, they have punished the BNP for allowing the Jamaat to turn Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s dream into a seemingly unending nightmare. Also, the BNP has paid for its corrupt ways. Begum Khaleda Zia ruled from her home, ‘Hawa Bhaban’, and chose to shut her eyes to the sufferings of the masses. As prices of essential commodities rose to unaffordable levels and hoodlums roamed the streets, her sons Tarique and Koko looted the country in the most brazen manner. No deal was signed, no agreement finalised without their approval, which followed only after 10 per cent of the total amount had been paid to them. People would scathingly refer to how Gen Zia-ur Rahman, the dictator who was killed in a failed coup, had left his begum and sons only a ‘broken suitcase’, and how they had come to accumulate huge riches by abusing power and office.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Begum Zia, who now claims that the December 29 election was “stage-managed” to ensure the Awami League’s victory, should have suffered such a massive political setback. The BNP, which had won 193 seats in 2001 with a vote share of 40.97 per cent — .84 per cent more than that of the Awami League — has been able to scrape through in 29 constituencies this time; its vote share has plunged to 32.74 per cent, compared to the Awami League’s remarkable 49.2 per cent.
Sheikh Hasina Wajed has reason to celebrate her comeback. After all, it is not often that a party wins 85 per cent of the seats. Moreover, there was a time when it appeared that she had become a spent force, a liability for the Awami League rather than an asset. But she has proved her critics wrong. With the Awami League’s 230 seats, she does not need allies for a majority in the Jatiya Sangsad. But she will have to carry her alliance partners along with her, namely Lt-Gen HM Ershad’s Jatiyo Party and five members of Left parties.
But once the celebrations are over, Sheikh Hasina will have to get down to the task of fulfilling her promises and rebuilding
Sheikh Hasina’s ‘Vision 2021’, which aims at creating a modern nation which is prosperous, stable and forward-looking, has received wide support from young Bangladeshis, who comprise 32 per cent of the voters. The generation which has come of age after the birth of
Simultaneously, she will have to complete the unfinished agenda of the liberation war — the trial and punishment of the collaborators so that they get their just desserts and are never able to take the country to the brink of disaster again. Sheikh Hasina owes this to the generation of 1971. And, it is necessary to re-establish the supremacy of Bangla culture and tradition, rooted in liberalism and tolerance, which together define the idea of
A last point: Sheikh Hasina has to be mindful of not repeating her mistakes of the past, especially pandering to powerful individuals in the Awami League who are also massively corrupt. That is on the domestic front. On foreign policy, she will have to work extra hard to mend relations with
With Sheikh Hasina taking charge of
Yet, had it not been for the interim Government, there would not have been a free and fair election. To it goes the credit of striking off one crore bogus names from the electoral rolls that had been included by the BNP when it was in power, and issuing a photo identity card to every adult Bangladeshi. The vigorous prosecution of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats launched by the interim Government helped restore the people’s faith in the system and the judiciary.
Above all, the interim Government helped restore and revive
We can almost hear the resonance of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s stirring slogan, “Joy Bangla!”, once again.
How about an extradition treaty?
Saturday, January 3, 2009
A friendly regime in Bangladesh could help not only in tackling NE insurgency, but also to neutralise Islamic terror groups propped up by ISI in that country
Within hours of the Prime Minister-designate Sheikh Hasina Wajed declaring that "Bangladeshi soil will never be used to carry out any terrorist act against our neighbours," militants of the proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) triggered three bomb blasts in Guwahati killing five persons and injuring 60 on January 1. The ULFA, Assam's dominant militant group, has many camps/safe houses and extensive business interests in Bangladesh and its top leadership, including 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua and 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa, is located in that country.
There is some consolation in
Along with North-East militant groups like the National Liberation Front of Tripura, All Tripura Tiger Force, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, National Democratic Front of Bodoland and ULFA, Islamist militant groups like the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) flourished under the earlier regime of Khaleda Zia. Using the Bangladeshi route, militant groups like the HuJI, LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed have, since 2004, with considerable assistance from local groups like the Students Islamic Movement of India, established an extensive network across urban
Thus in the current context, the advent of Sheikh Hasina has generated optimism that such anti-India forces would henceforth be disallowed to operate from
More importantly, consistent political will and intent is crucial in counter-terrorism. Electoral mandates can be frittered away very easily. For instance, numerous regimes in
It is necessary for
Kanchan Lakshman, Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management
Democracy returns with a bang
Saturday, January 3, 2009
As Bangladeshis rang in a liberal government, the world acknowledged that democracy can work in even the poorest of Islamic societies
While the world is welcoming the New Year, our eastern neighbour,
The present election has been one of the most peaceful ever held in Bangladesh and full credit for the same goes to the revamped Election Commission (EC) under the caretaker government, which worked overtime to prepare fresh and genuine voters lists, train officials and also reform the election laws that became complicated following a lack of consensus among political parties. In the new voters list there were 80 million voters, much less than the previous one prepared during BNP regime, which had 12 million bogus names. Again, to arrest the involvement of muscle and money power, the Bangladeshi EC made it mandatory for all candidates to file their personal and income details and stringent scrutiny was undertaken for all the applications. Of the 2,500 applications submitted, only 1,500 were accepted. Anticipating foul play in the electioneering process, the EC requested government for special security arrangements in the election booths and 14-15 security personnel were deployed in each of the election centres.However, the most significant aspect was the result of the election. Though the Awami League's victory was anticipated, the humiliating defeat of BNP and its allies, notable among them the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, was the biggest surprise. In this election, the fight was between two coalitions: one led by Awami known as the "Grand Alliance" and the other led by BNP- the four-party alliance consisting of the Jamaat, the Islami Oikyo Jote and the Bangladesh Jatiya Party. The Awami-led formation won an impressive 263 seats of a the 299 and the BNP-led alliance was able to manage only 31 seats. Awami won 232 on its own and its major ally, the faction of the Bangladesh Jatiya Party led by former military dictator Hussien Mohammad Ershad, won 27 and others 5. The BNP won only 28 seats, Jamaat 2 and the Bangaldesh Jatiya Party only 1 seat. However, despite the BNP's poor performance, Khaleda Zia has managed to win all the three seats that she contested. Hasina also won all her own three seats. However, not all the political heavyweights were as lucky. Some of the prominent ones to be defeated are Motiur Rahman Nizami, the all powerful Jamaat chief. The Islami Oikyo Jot leader Delwar Hossain Saidee was also routed. The BNP's M. Saifur Rahman, who was finance minister under Khaleda, lost as did the party's general secretary, Khandakar Delwar Hossain.
What led to the Awami's landslide victory? The outcome of the present election has been interpreted as the 'people's verdict' against the use of religion for attaining political goals and also against the bad governance of the erstwhile BNP-Jamaat coalition. The Awami was prudent in sensing the people's aspirations and thus stressed on the importance of change during its campaign. By 'change', it promised to establish a society that would be driven by development and economic upliftment and also provide better education and health facilities. Sheikh Hasina also promised to arrest price rise and increase power generation to provide better electricity. The party also spoke about fighting corruption, improving law and order and curbing the growing militancy.
On the other hand, the BNP tried to counter Awami by seeking votes to ‘save Islam’. This did not find a chord with the electorate when they were suffering from growing religioun- based militancy in the country. Hasina promised to root out militancy and establish a liberal democratic society. Hasina herself has been a major militant target- she survived a grenade attack at a rally in 2004 and lost the hearing in one of her ears. Hasina also pledged to develop good relations with its neighbor member countries in SAARC, BIMSTEC and the D-8. She also offered the proposal for setting up a joint task force in the region to fight terrorism.
The people have given their mandate in support of these promises. Still, skepticism persists about her ability to deliver. It is also doubtful if the Awami would be able to maintain its focus on corruption because common experience holds that its own leaders are not free of vices. Besides, there are many issues on which the ruling coalition would need the help of the Opposition. One of the important ones is giving democracy deeper roots in the country. Sheikh Hasina has agreed to take the Opposition into confidence while taking decisions, but the support of the BNP as a responsible coalition is doubtful. Further, the government would also have to take care of the Army, which is expected to play a more influential role in the country's politics than it was during the earlier democratic regime.
Some of the steps taken by the caretaker government need to be sustained by the Awami-led government and taken to their logical conclusion. These could lead to
The writer is Associate Fellow, observer Research Foundation
Is Hasina-II good news for
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Going by inherited wisdom we must rejoice every time a ‘friendly’ regime takes over in
Rajiv Gandhi commented after his landslide victory in the 1984 election: "People's expectations are scary". The same thought may have crossed Sheikh Hasina’s mind this week after her party, the Awami League, was voted back to power with a margin that reminded many here in Delhi of Nehruvian era elections. For, let us not forget that if there is ever such a thing as a poisoned chalice of a political high office, the one that Hasina took over from the caretaker government is it.
Then, there is her other problem -- the upsurge of hope that has followed her victory in
As Kanchan Lakshman (The Other Voice) points out, hope and despair alternated in the Indo-Bangla track during the late 1990s. The December 1996 Ganga water sharing agreement was the starting point of a foreign policy based on deceiving India to the point where the victim begins to actually enjoy fantasia. Of course, we Indians must admit that something patently Hindu called "Gujral doctrine" provided the enabling environment for the premiers of all South Asian countries to guarantee everything, including the sun, moon and stars to their neighbours. So powerful was the drug of sham cooperation that nothing short of Pokhran II could end the somnabulence.
Hasina played an important role in that surreal drama. She got the three-decade-old
It's not polite to recall a lady's past in her hour of glory, but the memory of the Anoop Chetia incident just won't go away. Chetia, one of the founders of the dreaded ULFA, was enjoying the sanctuary given him by Khaleda Zia during her 1991-96 term. In early 1997, some police officer, mistaking his Prime Minister's glib talk as serious intent, raided Chetia's safehouse and arrested him. But the Hasina government did not do the next logical thing – deport Chetia as promised – but booked him in a hundred little cases and went on with business as usual. Eventually, a Bangladeshi court sentenced him and he served a part of it.By the time of his release(2005), Khaleda was back in power.
Now, in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks,
This could be the first touchstone for Hasina. She has already made the customary right noises. She has promised that Bangladeshi soil would not be permitted for use by terrorists. She has also called for setting up a joint task force to act against terrorism in the region. " It is crucial to combat terrorism and (carry out) development of the region. The (proposed) task force could end the mutual blame-game (on terrorism issue) between the countries in our region," announced the 61-year-old Prime Minister elect. But that is old hat. The first part of her statement is déjà vu. As for the 'proposal', it's nothing but a kite – first flown by
Let's also not forget that the Mankachar incident happened when Hasina was in power. In April 2001, a group of Border Security Force (BSF) jawans led by an Inspector was brutally murdered by
It was too late. Hasina was voted out of power in October that year. The news was received in
However, the Hasina of 2009 may not be the Hasina of 1996. As Joyeeta Bhattacharjee (Lookback) )points out, what we have just seen in
Another important change to the setting is
For now, the very fact that 75 per cent of the world's poorest Islamic nation voted, and that too in a superbly managed election, is evidence of a new era in the offing. In fact, Hasina, in her second innings, may be the point of rally for a new, self-cleansing movement within Islam. In this, she deserves all the support she needs from the world's other great democracies.
-- The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer