The 1/11 and today's Bangladesh

Dec 16, 2011



- SI Zaman

History is replete with acts of betrayals of all kinds. An inevitable trend, given that it almost always is a by-product of the rapacious and insatiable thirst for power or to remain in power by a leader. Someone coined the phrase "1/11" back in 2007 in the wake of the clamp-down by the then Care Taker Government (CTG) on the rampant corrupt system that was and still is endemic and, indeed, cancerous. This is symptomatic of Bangladesh body politic. Indeed, among many things in Bangladesh the coinage of "1/11" is a pathetic copy trying to echo "9/11". The latter became a watershed in the history of post-cold war era, and rightly so. It changed the total geo-political, and indeed economic outlook of the world, and it most certainly helped to reinforce the pre-eminence of US as the one who calls all the shots in all geo-political affairs, while Bangladesh and indeed other such minion are merely hangers on in the world stage.

1/11 certainly fails to be a turning point in Bangladesh. Nothing has changed ever since. It's as though time merely stood still for a period. And since 2009, it's been business as usual. AL and BNP both equally and more ruthlessly have stuck to their traditional political posture. Whatever AL does, BNP would find flaws in it; equally, whatever BNP proposes either it gets dismissed outright as being a ploy to stir trouble or they are defamed. The politics of demonization, debasement and defilement of the opponent has become the standard policy of the ruling party, and equally, the opposition, as if by default, would always counter whatever policy the ruling party comes up with. It seems democracy is the last thing on their plate. The betrayal, as mentioned earlier, is the betrayal of the electorates, of the people, of their aspirations and of the dreams that they pledged to fulfill. Presumably, those were empty pledges, merely to boost their election campaign.

Indeed, 1/11 would have been a watershed in the annals of Bangladesh's forty years history, had it at least helped to reshape the erstwhile putrid mindset of the politicians and the decision makers. Notwithstanding the shortcoming and the ineptitude of the then CTG, this was an opportune time for the parties to seriously reflect on the state of affairs. The parties should have sorted out their own back yards, before jumping on the band wagon to participate in the subsequent general election.

I am frequently blamed for being far too cynical about Bangladesh vis a vis her politics. But seldom do I see anything that remotely signals a kind of change, or towards a change for that matter. Her politics still has the hallmark of what constitutes ugly politics – the same blame game, the same mudslinging, and the same politics of payback, reprisal and retribution! And I fail to envisage any end to this seemingly perpetual cycle ever. Will there ever be an end to the misery that these cause to the teeming millions? Call me a cynic, but the very politics itself is the menace to any meaningful progress for Bangladesh. The hopes of 1/11 have been dashed and the trends of ever more profligacy and decadence have been the norm since the present administration took over in January 2009. Basically, it's been about hurling abuse by the two Begums towards each other and towards each parties, it's about capitalizing on any incident for political gain, it's about opposition party's persistent distrust of whatever the ruling party proposes and it's about ruling party's dogged pursuit of a policy of demonizing the opposition and thereby rendering the opposition totally futile. Neither of these parties ever rise above petty sentimentalisms. The root cause is the fundamental set up in both parties, which is founded on the notion of leader-centrism and leader-adulation. It is essentially an autocracy in the guise of a democracy.

The political parties are totalitarian pyramids where the party chairs sit on the very pinnacle, dictating on every issue where the other members have very little say in it. In Parliament, the MPs from the ruling party would never have the courage to "cross the line" by challenging his or her PM on issues that affect the nation, why? Because the PM is their matriarch, the "Madam" and Madam's wish is their command! And why should it matter that the constituents have genuine discontent on issues that are jeopardizing their lives, why should it matter if the constituents are not getting clean water, sanitation, social justice and the dreams that were promised before the election? Indeed these are of little consequences – merely few aberrations on the road to their personal glory. The rule of the game is to "agree to agree", because she is their supreme "matriarch". And the condition is no better on the civil service front. The civil officers too, within their own "territories", have a domineering sway on all matters not requiring endorsement from their superiors. The officers have two distinct roles: one gloating in servitude and the other bossy on their little "domain".

The former is reserved for their superior who must be addressed as "Sir" or "Madam", depending on the gender and the latter for their minions. They change roles much like the Chameleons change colours depending on the surrounding. Such is the inimical state of affairs in Bangladesh where democracy survives merely as a lip service.

This state of affairs would go on with no end in sight, unless there is a fundamental change in the body politic of Bangladesh. I see only two ways out of this political impasse: the existing political parties seriously rise above petty issues and focus on national issues, and that presumably isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future or perhaps, a third force which can mobilize the mass, the working class, the intellectuals and the professionals to rise and to make a big noise like "enough is enough, we aren't gonn'a take any more crap from the two families, all you have managed so far is to make the system rotten to the core…it's about time you let go of this country, you are choking this nation, for god's sake let it go! "

( Blitz, Dec 15 2011)

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