It was not a midnight knock. It was a blatant arrest in the broad
daylight. Moudud Ahmed, former Prime Minister, was picked up by the
police as soon as he stepped out of a hotel at Dhaka.
His crime is that he is a top opposition leader belonging to the
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by former Prime Minister
Khalida Zia. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Chief of Awami League,
The last time when Moudud was detained it was during the military rule
of General Ershad. He too is at present detained and shares the same
prison. He and his party, Jatiyo Sangshad, had refused to support the
No doubt, fortunes change. Rulers of today are the opponents of
tomorrow. Yet what is seen in Bangladesh is the politics of vendetta.
Khalida even had gone to the extent of eliminating Hasina when she was
in the wilderness.
Moudud and other detenus have dared to oppose the authoritarian rule
of the Prime Minister. An autocratic ruler is bad enough. But it is
worse when she or he does not want to give up power. This is the crux
of Bangladesh problem.
The opposition parties’ demand is to hold free and fair polls under a
neutral authority. Instead, Hasina has held elections under her
government, having done away earlier with the constitutional provision
to conduct the polls by a care-taker government headed by the outgoing
The farce of elections, even before one vote was cast, returned as
many as 154 members unopposed and 103 through the one sided polls a
few days ago. Parliament in the country has strength of 300. Hasina’s
victory makes little sense when the BNP and most of the parties
boycotted the election and refuse to accept the new government. A
survey by a daily newspaper shows that 77 per cent of people do not
accept the verdict.
The most disconcerting part is the unending violence. Dozens of
people have died in boycotts and hartals. This is bound to affect the
economy which has had a steady growth of 6 per cent for the last five
years. There will be more unemployment, more poverty and more
inflation. Neither Hasina nor Khalida are worried about the situation
which is deteriorating day by day.
The beneficiary is the Jamaat-e-Islami which, no doubt, is on the
side of Khalida but targets own line to polarize the society and
spread fundamentalism. Organised as the Jammat is, it has contaminated
the intelligentia as well. Violence through its cadres is the Jamaat’s
Unfortunately, India has openly come out on the side of Hasina. There
is no doubt that she is secular and, like her father, Sheikh
Mujib-ur-Rehman, founder of Bangladesh, she is staunchly
pro-liberation. But her determination to retain power by hook or by
crook has thrown all norms to the wind. New Delhi should have played a
conciliatory role. Initially it did but it is now seen partisan. The
anti-India feeling is spreading and the Hindu population, nearly 8
million is feeling the heat. If at all India had to show preference,
it should support a person like Kamal Hussain, first foreign minister
of Bangladesh and Nobel Prize Winner Yunus, to provide the third
Khalida, otherwise pro-liberation, puts a question mark against her
credentials when she voices protest against the hanging of Abdul
Quadir Mullah who had collaborated with Pakistan in the 1971
Bangladesh war. Those who committed the excesses on this count have to
be punished by a regime which liberated the country. Yet hanging
person beyond the age of 80 makes little sense.
Pakistan cuts a sorry figure when its National Assembly passes a
unanimous resolution to hail Mullah as a martyr. It indicates a biased
mind. Instead of expressing remorse, the Pakistan establishment goes
on behaving as if it is not sorry for all that it did.
The country is pursuing a wrong policy on Bangladesh. The Pakistan
nation proves again and again that it cannot come4 up to the
expectations of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who advised Pakistan
not to mix state with politics. Islamabad first trained Taliban to
fight against Afghanistan and Kashmir. Now those very Taliban are
endangering the stability of Pakistan.
Fundamentalism in Pakistan is increasing and even liberal voices are
rare. When the lawyers shower flower petals on the accused for the
murder of Punjab governor Taseer who wanted amendments to the
blasphemy law, it shows the deepening of extremism in Pakistan.
Taseer’s son, kidnapped two years ago, remains untraced and has been
forgotten even by the media which is otherwise alive and kicking.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to make up with India and
Afghanistan are a breath a fresh air. He has to reckon with the
rightist forces, many in his own camp, on one hand and the military on
the other. Still he sent his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz
Sharif, to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Nothing concrete seems
to have come out.
New Delhi is not willing to resume the composite dialogue, which is
the only option to span the distance between the two countries. Nawaz
Sharif would have accelerated the process of détente if he had pushed
the punishment of the 26/11 perpetrators, the terrorists, who attacked
Mumbai. Pakistan may underplay the retired General Pervez Musharraf’s
challenge that the army still ‘stands behind me’. But there has been
no contradiction by the army chief or his publicity setup. This makes
a mockery of the case of treason being heard by a law court. It means
that the military continues to remain Pakistan’s third chamber.
That the Pakistan army agreed to a solution of Kashmir, the main
impediment, has come around is indeed a surprise. The army cannot
afford to have an ex-general sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
It seems that an honourable way like his bad health is sought to be
found to send him out of the country.
One plus point in the relationship between India and Pakistan is the
acceptable agreement on Kashmir. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has
said in a press conference that the Kashmir problem had found a
solution but ‘some other things’ came in the way before it was
finalized. Why not renew the same solution? EOM