Lie u ten ant

On 13 November 2010, the opposition leader Khaleda Zia accused the government of ‘forcefully and disgracefully evicting her’ from her cantonment residence. Ironically the same day, some Awami League leaders thanked her for ‘upholding the rule of law’ by vacating the house ‘willingly’.

In the press briefing, the lamenting opposition leader said, “I feel harassed, humiliated and ashamed of the way I was thrown out of my home”. But the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the armed forces dismissed her claim as ‘false and fabricated’. They even accused the opposition leader of hurling abuses at army personnel. The accusations, counter-accusations went on and some pro-BNP ex-military officials criticised the ISPR for acting political.

In October, a train ran over and killed a number of participants attending a BNP rally that spilled onto the nearby railway tracks. The leader of the opposition said that the incident was a deliberate attempt by the government to foil her rally. The prime minister refuted by accusing the opposition for deliberately resorting to ‘politics of corpse’. Both accusations were made even before any investigation was carried out.

In September, some senior government officials of Pabna district were maliciously assaulted. In a press conference, the weeping officials accused the supporters of the local AL lawmaker for the attack. But without any proper investigation, the state minister for home claimed that ‘the militants and anti-liberation forces backed the attack and they did not belong to the Awami League’.

When political leaders or institutions offer conflicting versions of the fact, it only means that at least one side is lying. Read more of this post

It’s Inequality, Stupid!

Published in BDNews24 as “Socialism Debate”


A spectre looms over Bangladesh, the spectre of socialism, since the Fifth Amendment verdict.

In its simplest definition, socialism promotes public ownership of the means of production and distribution of resources. But as we are debating the issue of means of production, we are missing the forest for the tree.

Let’s muse over Bangladesh’s experience with socialism and reverse-socialism to identify that missing link.

A journey towards socialism

Even before the independence, Awami League campaigned for socialism and promised nationalisation of heavy industries in its 1970 election manifesto. So after the independence, ‘socialism’ became part of the fundamental principles of the constitution.

The first Industrial Investment Policy promoted nationalisation as a means of production for ‘Socialism being one of the fundamental precepts of State policy’.

So when the post-independence government nationalised all industries that were abandoned by the former Pakistani owners, they nationalised Bengali-owned big industries too. About 92 percent of nation’s industrial fixed assets came under the nationalisation process.

However, mismanagement of the industries not only failed to serve the purpose, it damaged further investment prospect in the private sector. Amid the growing socio-economic crisis of the country, the investment policy was finally revised in July 1974 to increase the ceiling on private sector investment and offer monetary and fiscal incentives to encourage private investment.

Then, the reverse-socialism

After the 15 August massacre, subsequent martial law governments abandoned ‘socialism’ as state principle and pursued a growth strategy based on privately owned means of production. Read more of this post

Abusing the War Crimes Trial

We have witnessed how political exploitation hindered the earlier process of war crimes trial. Over the last four decades, politicisation has been used to embed a division within the society for personal and partisan political benefits. This article reviews some of those post-independence schisms and argues why we need to be vigilant to not let the current trial effort get mired by opportunistic elements.

During the nine months of the Liberation War, like most Bangalis, the Bangali civil servants took a range of roles—some valiantly joined the War with arms, some joined the Mujibnagar government-in-exile to help coordinate administrative and diplomatic aspects of the Liberation War, some went to India, and some stayed back and supported the Mukti Bahini while keeping it together despite assaults from the Pakistani army during the War. Many Bangali civil servants positioned in the pre-war West Pakistan were detained and held hostages by Pakistani government as bargaining chip to free the Pakistani prisoners of war. Not everyone who left the country became a freedom fighter. And most people who stayed in the country or got stranded in Pakistan were not collaborator either. However, the latter groups were seriously discriminated against by the first post-independence administration. Read more of this post

Demystifying Bangabondhu

[Published in the on 15 August 2010]

I have a confession to make– I probably do not know Bangabondhu well. Do you?

All these years, I thought I knew him. I mean, how can I not know the person who inspired us through our struggle for independence? How can I not know him when his 7th March speech still gives me goose bumps? How can I not know the person whose contribution in making and shaping of this country is unprecedented?

Well, when it comes to knowing a national leader, knowing the work is more effective than knowing the personality. Personality helps a leader to influence or motivate the people. But it’s the understanding of the works that helps people trust and know a leader.

Non-political leaders who rise to power at gunpoint carefully construct an untainted personality, based on facts and fairy tells, to blanket their unknown past and ruthless deeds. All the ruthless military leaders who reigned in this world had one thing in common—they spoke softly and carried big guns. Trust in those leaderships was not a choice for the people. Fear came first, which was then followed by respect. Later on, people renamed that fear as trust.

But political leaders need to earn the trust first. Here the legitimacy is earned through decades of struggles and public works. No one would have heeded if one unknown Sheikh Mujib went to Racecourse on 7th March to announce independence. He had to earn people’s trust spending thirty years’ in political campaigns before he announced “this time the struggle is for our freedom, this time the struggle is for our independence”. He did not need an army to support his cause; rather, his cause was against an army. People were willing participant in it. Read more of this post

Budget night

Published in the Daily Star (10 June 2010)

TONIGHT is the night of all nights for every citizen who has any interest in or is affected by the annual national budget. The finance minister is probably going through the last minute preparation before presenting the budget for FY2010-11 this evening.

Consumers and businessmen remain in suspense to see the impact of the budget on prices and taxes. Yet, there is a larger community out there, for whom it’s probably just another day of struggle with their inadequate family budget.

Nonetheless, every citizen contributes to the national budget, and tonight’s budget will affect everyone — directly or indirectly. Hence, economists and policy analysts are gearing up for rigorous post-budget analysis that scrutinises the impact of budget proposals on the public and the republic. I know for a fact that some leading civil society institutions in Dhaka are planning a sleepless night tonight.

The suspense of last year’s budget night was somewhat curtailed by the prior leaks of budget information. Read more of this post

Trials and Error

[First published in the on 5 June 2010]

Over many years, public discourse on war crimes and its trial since 1971 seems to have generated many errors, and facts are often ignored or forgotten. This piece attempts to provide a set of facts.

Pakistani and local war criminals

Some 90 to 95 thousand Pakistani prisoners of war (POWs) were imprisoned after they surrendered to the Joint Command of Bangladesh-India. Bangladesh on 29 March 1972 declared its intention to try some 1,100 Pakistani war criminals— including A.A.K. Niazi and Rao Forman Ali Khan1.

Meanwhile, some 32,000 local collaborators were arrested on various charges by September 1972. The government initially prepared for 20,000 prosecutions, while lack of evidence hindered the trial of the rest2.

The two-track trial process

Since both the Pakistani and local war criminals were liable for the crime, whether they committed the crime independently or together, each could be tried individually in the absence of the other. Hence, from the onset, two independent trial processes were established for the Pakistani and local war criminals under separate laws.

Read more of this post

সেই ১৯৫ পাকিস্তানী যুদ্ধাপরাধী [পর্ব ১]

সচলায়তনে প্রকাশিত

স্বাধীনতার পর ১৯৫ জন পাকিস্তানী যুদ্ধাপরাধীর ছাড়া পাবার বিষয়টি ইদানিং সবত্রই আলোচিত হচ্ছে। একাত্তরের যুদ্ধে মানবতার বিরুদ্ধে অপরাধের বিচার প্রক্রিয়া শুরু হবার পর এমন প্রশ্নও তোলা হচ্ছে যে, ভারতের নিকট আটক থাকা ঐ ১৯৫ জন পাকিস্তানীই ছিল প্রকৃত অপরাধী, এবং তখন পাকিস্তানী যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের ছেড়ে দিয়ে এখন স্থানীয় যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিচার করা সম্ভব নয়।

মুলত: কেন এবং কিভাবে সেই ১৯৫ জন পাকিস্তানী যুদ্ধাপরাধী ছাড়া পেয়েছিল তা উদ্ঘাটনই এই লেখার উদ্দেশ্য। বিভিন্ন আঞ্চলিক ও আর্ন্তজাতিক পত্রিকায় ডিসেম্বর ১৯৭১ থেকে এপ্রিল ১৯৭৪ সাল পর্যন্ত সময়ে প্রকাশিত এ সংক্রান্ত খবর এবং স্বাক্ষরিত বিভিন্ন চুক্তিপত্র উদ্ধৃত করে মূল ঘটনাপ্রবাহটি তুলে ধরা হয়েছে। লেখাটি তথ্যভিত্তক রাখার জন্য মন্তব্য বা সম্পাদকীয় কলাম যথাসম্ভব পরিহার করে মুলত: খবরাখবরই উদ্ধৃত করা হলো। উল্লিখিত অধিকাংশ খবরই যদিও দেশি-বিদেশি একাধিক পত্রিকাতে ছাপা হয়েছিল, তবু ঘটনার ধারাবাহিকতা বজায় রাখার জন্য এখানে নিউ ইয়র্ক টাইমস-এর খবরই বেশি উদ্ধৃত করা হয়েছে। Read more of this post