THE US Assistant Secretary for State, Christiana Rocca, and an EU delegation visited Bangladesh recently to germinate a joint US-Bangladesh anti-terrorist cell and to ensure the continuation of democracy in the country. Both the visits, because of their hidden and apparent agenda, and what the visitors and their local admirers discussed publicly are nothing to be proud of either as Bangladeshis or as conscientious human beings.
After their abysmal failures in anticipating, preventing and containing terrorism anywhere in the world, the Americans are in no moral position to ask Bangladesh to contain terror with their help. They should be rather admiring the efficient police and intelligence agencies in Bangladesh who have succeeded in apprehending almost all the top terrorists within three months after the major terrorist attacks in the country. What President Bush has written to the Prime Minister is also very objectionable. Who is he to advise the Prime Minister to hold the next parliamentary elections on time? He has not only shown his ignorance (as the care taker government takes care of parliamentary elections in the country) but has also poked his nose into the internal affairs of a sovereign country. Will the US entertain such unsolicited advice from Khaleda Zia as to how the US should conduct their presidential elections, not to repeat the Florida Scandal?
Since we know the reality of Bush-Blair's so-called "war on terror" and their "quest for democracy" as the "new world order", this essay is about how, and most importantly why, a section of Bangladeshi elite is submitting to the pressure generated by the West, some even begging the US-EU duumvirate to physically intervene to "restore" democracy and overthrow the BNP-Jamaat Government to eliminate "Islamic terror" in the country. What is most surprising is not the way the dominant West has been behaving ever since the end of the Cold War to establish its hegemony, the most surprising (and disgraceful) is the way some of our politicians, journalists and intellectuals have spontaneously been enthusiastic in preparing a ground for Western intervention in Bangladesh in the name of restoring democracy and fighting terrorism.
We may recall how Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League had been projecting their major political adversary, Khaleda Zia and BNP, as sponsors of terror and even as "friends of Bin Laden" since President Clinton's visit in early 2000. Many would recall seeing coloured posters in Dhaka city walls with portraits of Bin Laden and Khaleda, side by side as birds of the same feather, on the eve of the Parliamentary Elections in October 2001. One may laugh at while ignoring these cynical and childish acts as mere hyper-active electioneering on the part of some not-so-mature political leaders.
If all these cynicism and gimmicks are parts of the political culture of Bangladesh, one wonders as to how to evaluate Sheikh Hasina's frequent lambasting of the ruling BNP and its coalition partners as "terrorists", "Taliban agents" and "promoters or protectors of suicide bombers" in public forums at home and abroad. Even if one accepts Hasina and her party as politically immature, it is difficult to accept those highly educated members of the Bangladeshi Diaspora in the West and their intellectual supporters in Bangladesh who are part of the same campaign as honest, sincere and politically mature either.
Of late some Bangladeshi expatriates in the US succeeded in convincing more than a dozen American lawmakers, including senators like Edward Kennedy (who openly supported the cause of Bangladesh in 1971) and John Kerry, who wrote a letter to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene in Bangladesh for the sake of democracy and human rights.
It is difficult to find out the most appropriate expression to classify those highly educated lovers of gunboat diplomacy without crossing the threshold of decency. One may, however, call them "confused patriots" with a holier-than-thou mentality. These hyper patriots, again, would not leave any stone unturned to bring their dear party and its matriarch to power once again for the sake of democracy, human rights and secularism, as they conceive and for what not!
This is really very unfortunate that mainly due to the constant harping on the theme by both the leader of the opposition and her blind followers or beneficiaries that Bangladesh is given the wrong image or being on the verge of a Taliban takeover or yet worse and that the PM and the ruling coalition is behind all terrorist bombings and killing in the country. This wrong image prompts the western leaders, donors and petty officials to say and do things undermining the sovereignty of Bangladesh. They do so knowing it very well that this friction-ridden unfortunate country simply cannot assert its will against any would-be-hegemon and dominant powers.
It is so disgraceful and shocking that excepting Finance Minister Saifur Rahman, very few ministers and politicians in the ruling coalition could muster enough courage to condemn the highhandedness and uncivil innuendoes of the EU delegates directed to the PM, Election Commission and other government machinery. What is even more deplorable is the dubious role of the so-called civil society, donor-driven corrupt and unaccountable NGOwallas, a section of journalists and compliants and self-seeking sycophant intellectuals. One could not believe that an English daily could come up with an editorial, "EU on Elections: One more voice for sanity" (January 26, 2006), congratulating the intrusive EU delegates who had asked for reforms in the Election Commission to ensure free and fair polls in the country. Our only consolation in this regard is that neither the PM nor the Chief Election Commissioner gave any audience to the EU delegates.
One may cite the editorial of another English daily, which raised an alarm at Christina Rocca's recent comments on Bangladesh. The avowedly pro-Awami League editorial, which unfortunately reads like an inherently anti-Bangladeshi piece, came out (January 29, 2006) taking an exception to the following comments by Rocca: "Bangladesh is not only a functioning democracy but also a role model for Muslim countries." Imputing the recent rise of Islamic fanatics or terrorists in Bangladesh to Rocca's previous favourable comments two years back the editorial, (" Rocca's 2 Certificates Unacceptable") informs us: "Her certificate seems to have some contribution to the phenomenal rise of that dreaded Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh(JMJB) operation commander"[italics in original]. What an irresponsible observation!
sum, Bangladesh should learn lessons from what the mighty US and its Western partners have done so far to their erstwhile "friends and allies". They have dumped and abandoned almost all of their "friends" except Israel during the last fifty-odd years. Iraq and Pakistan are two glaring examples in this regard. Those who think by aligning Bangladesh with the US in the name of containing terror (actually to get some share in the $100 million already offered by the US for the purpose) the country would be a safe haven are simply day dreamers.
They should not lose sight of how US missiles ruthlessly killed several innocent villagers in Pakistan in the name of hitting some al Qaeda leaders, violating the sovereignty of that country, which is an US ally in the "war against terrorism". Bangladeshis should recognise that those who project their country as a failed state and being ripe for an Islamist takeover only out of sheer political expediency to embarrass and eventually defeat the BNP-led coalition are playing a dirty and dangerous "cry wolf" game, which is not at all good for their country. Last but not the least, the over-polarised polity of Bangladesh, which neither nourishes nor promotes mutual trust and respect, cannot have political stability, let alone democracy, through the ludicrous "care taker government", a concept unheard of anywhere in the world. If the political parties cannot trust and respect each other, how can the Bangladeshis in general can repose their confidence and vest the state power in them?