Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not Only Shocking But Also Shameful

Bangladesh Government Site It is not only shocking but also shameful that the government has made no mention of the areas of the war-torn Libya which have large concentrations of Bangladesh nationals while informing the US authorities about the addresses of Bangladesh’s ‘ diplomatic and other locations’ inside Libya to keep them out of US-led air strikes. It also tends to betray the apathy of the Awami League-Jatiya Party government to the safety and security of the expatriate Bangladeshis in general. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Friday, quoting a government official, the foreign ministry has given the US embassy in Dhaka on Thursday, in response to the latter’s request to inform it about Bangladesh’s diplomatic and other locations inside Libya so that they can be spared of the military campaigns launched by it and other western forces, only three addresses that include the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli and the residences of the Bangladesh ambassador and another official there. Even the US authorities, who are very much used to killing people, for their sheer self- interests, across the globe have reportedly got surprised to see such an indifference of the Bangladesh government towards the safety of its nationals. It may be pertinent to note that as many as 60 ,000 Bangladesh nationals got stranded Libya when the civil war broke out in February following the conflict between the supporters and opponents of the Gaddafi regime in the country. With the rising demand of the people in general and the families of the stranded expatriate workers some 31 ,441 of them have been repatriated thus far by the government with the assistance of the employers concerned and different international agencies. Besides, around 1600 more are languishing on the borders of Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt with Libya. Overall, 27 ,000 Bangladesh nationals are now exposed to the western military campaigns against Libya. It is needless to point out that from the very beginning of the trouble allegations have been there that the incumbent government is indifferent about the safety and security of the Bangladesh nationals stranded there. The revelation in question only substantiates such allegations. In line with the constitution and, also their pre- election pledge, the incumbents are bound to do everything with regards to ensuring safety and security of all the Bangladesh nationals, at home and abroad. Hence, the government needs to immediately take steps necessary for the safety and security of the Bangladesh nationals in Libya, not to mention requesting the relevant US authorities to spare the locations that have the concentration of Bangladesh nationals so that they are spared from the Western military campaign against the Gaddafi regime.

WIKILEAKS : Anti - Indian Sentiment And Indo - US Cooperation On Percieved Islamist Threat In Bangladesh

30697 , 4 /13 / 2005 13 :52 , 05 NEWDELHI2792 , Embassy New Delhi, CONFIDENTIAL,, " This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.  ","C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002792  SIPDIS  E.O. 12958 : DECL: 04 /12 /2015  TAGS : PREL, PTER, KISL, IN, BG, India-Bangladesh, Indo-US  SUBJECT: DAS GASTRIGHT ENCOURAGES COORDINATION ON BANGLADESH  Classified By: PolCouns Geoff Pyatt. Reasons 1.4 ( B, D)  1. ( C) Summary: In an April 18 meeting with MEA Joint Secretary Neelam Deo (Bangladesh), SA DAS John Gastright SIPDIS emphasized that all concerned countries, not just India and the US, should encourage the BDG to improve its governance. Deo agreed that Bangladesh was still at a point where it could reverse some of the negative trends, but expressed deep skepticism about the current situation, and noted GOI concern about the growing influence of radical Islamists. End Summary.  Expanding Dialogue  ------------------  2. ( C) Highlighting Bangladesh as the next area for US-India cooperation, DAS Gastright urged that during the April 18 Regional Dialogue with A/S Rocca, we work towards a playbook of carrots and sticks that we can offer the BDG to encourage it to improve governance. DAS Gastright explained that due in part to New Delhi's prodding, Washington has taken a careful look at the situation in Bangladesh and has developed a strategy of working cooperatively with the BDG and letting them know we are paying attention. Dhaka has noticed Washington's stepped-up attention to issues of governance, and has recently taken a number of steps that the donor community has recommended. Deo responded that certainly the BDG was capable of reversing the slide, but the ""real tragedy"" was that despite having the ability, Dhaka has accomplished very little.  SAARC Summit: A Possible Indian Carrot  --------------------------------------  3. ( C) DAS Gastright offered the SAARC Summit as an example of something positive India might offer Dhaka as an inducement to better governance. Deo was sympathetic that the BDG had put a great deal of effort, twice, into organizing the meeting, but added that it was not just the ""blasts"" that soured New Delhi on the Summit. Noting ""a real buildup in unfriendly attitude,"" Deo recounted that just prior to the original January SAARC date, a serving general, in a speech cleared by the PM's office, declared the need to ""build alliances to counter the enemy -- India.""  4. ( C) Observing that the US and India already convey the same message on many issues, Deo pointed out that we have both underlined to the BDG the importance of economic ties with India. While there was still dissent in Dhaka on whether or not to work with India on the Burma- Bangladesh-India gas pipeline (an example of how politicized any cooperation with India is, she noted), the Tata Corporation was working towards a June deadline for completing a feasibility study for its proposed USD two billion dollar investment in steel and fertilizer plants. Deo added that the Tata project had generated interest among other Indian companies in doing business in Bangladesh and was helping to improve the atmosphere. However, she noted with concern that the Tata project is being overseen by the  BDG Industry Minister Nizami , who represents Jamaat-e-Islami.  GOI Sees Lurking Extremism  --------------------------  5. ( C) Zeroing in on madrassas as the source of Islamic extremism, Deo remarked that some of these schools are training jehadis, even though the state itself is not abetting jihadism. While agreeing that Islam in Bangladesh was generally moderate and resistant to militancy, the Joint Secretary argued that there were some organizations, SIPDIS particularly in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, that with foreign funding were "" building something that could get out of control."" Citing this and the Chittagong arms haul, she added that she did not think the BDG was intentionally abetting these groups, but corruption was a huge problem.  6. ( C) Deo also reiterated the GOI assertion that the Pakistani foreign intelligence agency, ISI, has been active in Bangladesh. Among the GOI's concerns that the MEA has previously expressed, Deo placed particular emphasis on the extent to which the Islamic parties were dampening social and cultural life in Bangladesh, especially for female athletes. She cited recent analysis by the ""Friday Times'"" Khaled Ahmed as evidence that Bangladesh was following an Islamist trajectory similar to Pakistan in the 1980 s. In response to Deo's inquiry about US involvement in the Kibria investigation, DAS Gastright clarified that ours was an advisory role.  Elections? Why Bother?  ----------------------  7. ( C) Noting the possibility that opposition leader Sheikh Hasina would not run for office, Deo was not hopeful that there would be anything resembling free and fair elections in Bangladesh. The Joint Secretary commented that the BNP was willing to tamper with the electoral system to ensure a victory. DAS Gastright told Deo that along with the EU's USD 25 million for election monitors, the US was committing USD 10 million for elections, to convey to the BDG that the international community is watching closely, and that the US is emphasizing a closely scrutinized process, instead of personalities. Deo welcomed this observation, reiterating that India wants to coordinate closely with the US on Bangladesh.  MULFORD  --------------------------------------------- -------------------------------- 26366 , 02 /03 / 2005 04 :16 , 05 DHAKA503 , Embassy Dhaka, CONFIDENTIAL,, "This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.  ","C O N F I D E N T I A L DHAKA 000503  SIPDIS  E.O. 12958 : DECL: 2 /3 /2015  TAGS : PREL, BG, IN, PK, NP, SAARC  SUBJECT: BDG ANGRY REACTION TO SAARC POSTPONEMENT  Classified By: P/E D. Mccullough, Reason(s): 1.5 ( b), (d)  1. ( C) BDG cabinet members, opposition and civil society expressed anger with India over the SAARC cancellation announced February 2. Cabinet members told ambassador that Delhi made the announcement without giving Dhaka prior notification and after telling them earlier in the day that the conference was still on. India's decision to not only cancel but to lump Kathmandu's end of democracy with the deteriorating law and order situation in Bangladesh did not sit well with the BDG cabinet members. The ministers said that the previous two SAARC summits were held in Nepal and Pakistan despite the threat of Maoist violence and bomb blasts.  2. ( C) Comment: The Awami League must be pleased, but we expect more generally a muted reaction given the general embarrassment and anger in Dhaka. GOI's decision will confirm to the PM and many in the Bangladesh military that India is Bangladesh's long-term adversary. End Comment.  THOMAS   --------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------- 26786 , 02 /10 / 2005 12 :56 , 05 NEWDELHI1075 , Embassy New Delhi, CONFIDENTIAL, 05 NEWDELHI878 , "This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.  ","C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 001075  SIPDIS  E.O. 12958 : DECL: 02 /09 /2015  TAGS : PREL, PTER, ECIN, ENRG, BG, IN, India-Bangladesh  SUBJECT: INDIA: SAARC DECISION SENT A MESSAGE TO DHAKA  REF : A. NEW DELHI 878 B. NEW DELHI 877 C. NEW DELHI 876 D. NEW DELHI 874  Classified By: DCM Robert O. Blake, Jr. for Reasons 1.4 ( B, D)   1. ( C) Summary: The GOI remains unapologetic about the last minute cancellation of the SAARC Summit and the resulting unhappiness in Dhaka. In this context, on February 9 , the MEA urged PolCouns not to underestimate the extent to which developments in Bangladesh influenced India's decision not to attend the SAARC Summit. With no apparent sense of urgency to make things right with Dhaka, the MEA explained that the GOI's decision was intended to send a message to the BDG. Despite India's strong stand, our interlocutor reiterated the Foreign Secretary's unconvincing line on the importance of SAARC to New Delhi, and added that other interactions would continue. In support of this assertion, press reports indicate that the Indian Cabinet has given the Petroleum Minister approval to enter into gas pipeline negotiations with Bangladesh. Dhaka's High Commissioner complained to the DCM about Indian mistreatment. We should look for opportunities to continue this dialogue and press for real information sharing. End Summary.   A Message for Dhaka  -------------------  2. ( C) MEA Director (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) Taranjit Singh Sandhu told PolCouns and Poloff that in light of increasing intolerance in Bangladesh and ""sustained anti- India sentiment"" there, India needed to bring pressure to bear on Dhaka. Describing a "clarity of thought"" on Bangladesh throughout the GOI, he urged PolCouns not to ""lessen the importance"" of events there in New Delhi's decision not to attend the SAARC Summit. Sandhu underlined that the King's takeover in Nepal was not the sole motivator for India's change of heart, asserting that developments in both countries took place independent of each other. The Director added to his list of Bangladeshi offenses that ""sitting ministers"" and senior politicians have made statements against India recently, with the intention of raising passions, and concluded that this is not the ""SAARC spirit.""   3. ( C) While maintaining that it was about time New Delhi sent a message to Dhaka, Sandhu countered that the signal was not necessarily a negative one, rather it was meant to encourage Bangladesh to be ""introspective."" India is not trying to fault the BDG, but wants them to realize the danger to themselves from leaving certain issues unchecked, he argued.  ""The US Doesn't Get It""  -----------------------  4. ( C) Somewhat incredulous that the USG continues to ask for concrete evidence to support India' s claims regarding creeping "" Talibanization,"" Sandhu said that even a layman could see what has been going on, and cited recent US press coverage of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, such as the January ""New York Times Magazine"" expose. PolCouns pointed out that the information presented in the reftels had all been reported in the press, which the Director argued only further proved his point. PolCouns noted that an FBI agent for the legatt office in New Delhi was on his way to Dhaka to help on the January 27 attack, and added that we had made very clear US concern about half-hearted investigations of these politically motivated attacks. Sandhu remained skeptical of US investigators' ability to get results in Bangladesh. PolCouns offered, in the interest of maintaining US- India dialogue on this issue, to come back with our further insights on the situation in Bangladesh.  Still Neighbors  ---------------  5. ( C) While he did not convey any sense of GOI urgency about stopping the backward slide in bilateral relations, Sandhu attempted to express optimism that initiatives already in the works, such as gas pipeline discussions, would continue, and that New Delhi remained committed to regional cooperation in SAARC. Sandhu insisted that economic interaction between the two countries would not stop, but added that India needs to see the BDG pay attention to New Delhi's political and security concerns. While refuting the suggestion that India was at a dead-end with Bangladesh, the Director noncommittally predicted the SAARC Summit would happen "" sooner or later."" Contrary to the criticism that New Delhi had acted in the opposition Awami League's favor in sinking the Summit, Sandhu asserted that India's decision ""had nothing to do with parties."" He added that India should not be seen as a bully, emphasizing that someone needed to call attention to what was going on in Bangladesh.  High Commissioner Cries Foul  ----------------------------  6. ( C) In a lunch with the DCM, the Bangladeshi High Commissioner Hemayet Uddin vented his frustration and anger at the way India quashed the SAARC Summit. Uddin claimed that the GOI made its announcement on February 2 without first notifying either the Ministry in Dhaka or the High Commission in New Delhi, and was especially stung that in his statement, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran singled out Bangladesh as a culprit. Despite his vitriol, the High Commissioner highlighted some positive developments in the relationship, including plans to begin train service connecting Calcutta to India's Northeast, and the TataCorporation's planned USD 2 billion investment in Bangladesh which will include the use of local gas supplies and might ""smooth the way"" for fuel sales to India.  Comment  -------  7. ( C) The GOI's official line that SAARC is an important aspect of India's foreign policy is contradicted by the meltdown over the Dhaka Summit. This is unfortunate, not because of the organization's great potential to accomplish regional integration, but because India's commitment to SAARC would demonstrate New Delhi's willingness to sit down with its neighbors and generate some much-needed good will. While the MEA harbors undisguised disdain for the Government of Bangladesh, there are other stakeholders in the relationship, in particular Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who has successfully moved the Indian Cabinet to give its blessing to his dialogue on a gas pipeline through Bangladesh.  8. ( C) We will also engage with senior-level MEA SAARC experts on the Summit issue, and expect to hear a more nuanced line from that side of the Ministry. Sandhu accepted PolCouns' suggestion that the US and India continue this discussion at higher levels, and post recommends that we find an early opportunity to revive our SA- led regional dialogue, with a special focus this time on the situation in Bangladesh. 

Government Opts For Respectable Exit For Yunus, While Global Support Pours

At a time when the Bangladesh government has softened its reactive mood and said that the ball is in Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus' court, more global moral support pours in for the pioneer of banking for the poor. Two weeks ago, a number of United States senators and congressman expressed their concern over the humiliation faced by the international icon of microfinance. A week ago, Robert Blake, the visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, cautioned that if the Yunus issue remains unresolved, it would impact bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the United States. The moral support coincided with the Bangladesh Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourning until April 4 a hearing on the petition filed by Yunus seeking a stay on the High Court judgment upholding his dismissal as the Grameen Bank managing director. The central bank on March 2 removed the Nobel laureate from his position for allegedly flouting rules when he was reappointed in 1999. Yunus filed the petition against the order, which the High Court had rejected earlier. The unceremonious exit of Yunus has invited bricks and bouquets at home and globally. The government is embarrassed by the blitzkrieg reaction from the press, politicians, celebrities and development practitioners. Meantime a number of international microfinance organizations and civil societies in Italy, Peru, Philippines and Pakistan have issued statements expressing solidarity with Yunus. Mario Baccini MP, president of the Italian Committee for Microcredit, Professor Luisa Brunori of Bologna University, Sam Daley-Harris and European Member of Parliament Sylvia Cost said Grameen Bank under Yunus has made significant mileage in social development in Bangladesh through microfinance. The bank and Yunus are leading actors in the fight against poverty, writes private news agency United News of Bangladesh. A statement of the Global Center for Development and Democracy (CGDD) and on behalf of President Alejandro Toledo of Peru said “our organization, which cares about international development, has been following very closely the developments, and is very much concerned about the progress which could be lost if the country’s leaders fail to appreciate what makes the Grameen Bank work.” The statement further said that “If he (Toledo) becomes our next president, we expect to extend microloans to the poorest in our country in order to lift all Peruvians who are living below poverty conditions, out of it.” Another letter to Yunus from CARD MRI Family of Philippines said “our more than 1.5 million members and clients would like to assure you of our unwavering support to you as the managing director of Grameen Bank.” An open letter from Kashf Foundation of Pakistan said Yunus and Grameen Bank are global icons and torch-bearers for the mission to eradicate poverty, as well as to provide sustainable choices to poor households across the world. It said the work of Grameen Bank has been replicated across 100 countries and has benefited over 170 million poor women globally.

India Cables : Why India Stoped 2005 Dhaka SAARC Summit

India cancelled its participation in the 2005 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Dhaka in order to encourage Bangladesh “to be introspective,” an official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) told a U.S. diplomat. A U.S. Embassy cable sent on February 10 , 2005 ( 26786: confidential ) from New Delhi, reporting a February 9 , 2005 conversation between Embassy officials and MEA Director Taranjit Sandhu on the decision, reveals much about India's Big Brother attitude towards Bangladesh. Consequent to New Delhi's decision, the summit that was scheduled for February 6-7 , 2005 was postponed. A SAARC summit cannot be held if any member- state declines to attend. India gave two reasons for non- participation — the imposition of a state of Emergency by the King of Nepal, and the law and order situation in Bangladesh, which had faced several terror attacks in 2004. Another attack targeting a public rally of the opposition Awami League occurred on January 27 , 2005 , days before the originally scheduled summit. Was held months later The summit was eventually held in November 2005. But the February cancellation led to bad blood between India and Bangladesh and resentment within SAARC in general. The cable reported: “GoI remains unapologetic about the last minute cancellation and the resulting unhappiness in Dhaka…With no apparent sense of urgency to make things right with Dhaka, the MEA explained that the GoI's decision was intended to send a message to BDG [Bangladesh government].” Mr. Sandhu told the U.S. officials that “in light of increasing intolerance in Bangladesh and ‘ sustained anti-India sentiment' there, India needed to bring pressure to bear on Dhaka.” He urged the Americans not to “ lessen the importance” of the events in Bangladesh in New Delhi' s decision not to attend the summit. “The Director added to his list of Bangladeshi offenses that ‘ sitting ministers' and senior politicians have made statements against India recently, with the intention of raising passions, and concluded that this is not the ‘ SAARC spirit',” according to the cable. He said it was time New Delhi “ sent a message to Dhaka,” although the signal was not necessarily a negative one. Rather, “it was meant to encourage Bangladesh to be ‘introspective',” Mr. Sandhu said. He added that India wanted Bangladesh to “ realize the danger to themselves from leaving certain issues unchecked.” Right through Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's tenure in office, India was concerned that the free hand the Bangladesh government seemed to have given Islamist groups would have an impact on India's own security. There was also suspicion of a Pakistani helping hand to these groups, and New Delhi used every opportunity to rope in the U.S. to put pressure on the Bangladesh government. Mr. Sandhu said “even a layman could see what has been going on. ” The U.S. Embassy cable noted that he was “somewhat incredulous” that the U.S. government continued to ask for evidence to support India's claims of “creeping Talibanisation” when even media outlets such as The New York Times had written about it. When the U.S. diplomats pointed out that a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent from the New Delhi office was on his way to Dhaka to help with the investigation of the January 27 attack, Mr. Sandhu was sceptical of U.S. investigators' ability to get results in Bangladesh. He disagreed with the U.S. officials' assessment that relations with Bangladesh were at a dead end. The economic interaction between the two countries would not stop, he said, pointing to continuing discussions on a gas pipeline. But “ India needs to see the BDG pay attention to New Delhi's political and security concerns.” Mr. Sandhu rejected the criticism that India had acted in favour of the Awami League (which was then in the Opposition), and said the decision not to attend the summit “had nothing to do” with political parties. “He added that India should not be seen as a bully, emphasizing that someone needed to call attention to what was going on in Bangladesh,” the cable noted. The cable reported Bangladeshi anger over the Indian decision. During a lunch with the U.S. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission, the Bangladesh High Commissioner to India, Hemayet Uddin, “vented his frustration and anger at the way India quashed the SAARC summit.” The High Commissioner said the Indian government had made its announcement on February 2 without first notifying the Bangladesh government; he was “ especially stung that in his statement, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran singled out Bangladesh as a culprit.” The cable noted that “despite his vitriol,” the High Commissioner pointed to positive developments in relations with India, including the Tata Group's plan for $2 billion investment in a steel venture in Bangladesh that would include the use of local gas supplies and “ smooth the way” for fuel sales to India. The project was given up in 2006 because of Bangladesh's failure to take a decision on it. Another cable, sent on February 3 , 2005 , from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka around the same time ( 26366: confidential ), reported Bangladeshi anger at the Indian action that led to the cancellation of the summit. Cabinet Ministers pointed out during conversations with the Ambassador that previous summits in Nepal and Pakistan went ahead despite violence that prevailed there. The Indian effort to get the U.S. involved paid off to some extent. According to an Embassy cable of April 13 , 2005 , a visiting State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary John Gastright, told MEA Joint Secretary Neelam Deo ( 30697: confidential ) that “ due in part to New Delhi's prodding, Washington has taken a careful look at the situation in Bangladesh and has developed a strategy of working cooperatively with the BDG and letting them know we are paying attention.” Mr. Gastright said Dhaka had noticed “Washington's stepped up attention to issues of governance” and had lately taken some steps recommended by donor countries. He suggested that during a forthcoming visit by Assistant Secretary Christina Rocca, “we offer a playbook of carrots and sticks that we can offer the BDG to encourage it to improve its governance.” He suggested that New Delhi should think about offering the summit as an “inducement.” Ms. Deo noted that it was not just the blasts that had led to the cancellation, but the “real build-up in unfriendly attitude.” She expressed concern that the Bangladesh Industries Minister, who represented the Jamaat-i- Islami, was overseeing the Tata project. She reiterated New Delhi's assertion that Pakistan's Inter- Services Intelligence was active in Bangladesh.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Halo, Goodbye : Attacks On The Sainted Yunus Escalate

FIRST, trenchant criticism. Late last year Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, accused Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen, the world’s best-known microfinance institution, of playing “a trick” to evade taxes. Then, broad hints that Mr Yunus might consider quitting: “ At 70 , Professor Yunus is five years beyond the retirement-age limit for bank managing directors in Bangladesh, ” the finance minister said in February. Now, direct action. The country’s central bank wrote to Grameen’s board on March 2 nd, informing it that Mr Yunus had been “relieved of his responsibilities as managing director of Grameen”. The letter echoed the finance minister, though inexactly, saying that it was against government rules for Mr Yunus to stay on as managing director beyond the age of 60. Both Mr Yunus and Grameen’s non-government-appointed directors have challenged the decision; Grameen said that he was “continuing in his office”. The matter is unlikely to be resolved immediately. The bad blood between Mr Yunus and Sheikh Hasina is thought to stem from the former’s abortive attempt to set up a political party in 2007 , when he called for a “complete emasculation” of the country’s established parties. Some reckon that the sheikh is miffed at Mr Yunus and Grameen because they won the 2006 Nobel peace prize. But Mr Yunus has many supporters, both within Bangladesh and outside it. Several Bangladeshi economists have sprung to his defence, making the reasonable point that any transition should be orderly so as not to harm Grameen. Friends of Grameen, a voluntary organisation headed by Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and ex-head of the UN’s human-rights agency, denounced what it called “the new attempt of destabilisation against Professor Yunus”. According to reports in the Bangladeshi press, the issue of the government’s treatment of Mr Yunus has led America to threaten to suspend all high-level diplomatic contact. The issue goes beyond Mr Yunus. Some fret that the government’s actions could spark fears about Grameen’s stability, even leading to a run on the bank, which offers savings accounts as well as loans. If so, then the biggest losers from the government’s bullying would be Grameen’s 8.35m clients, almost all of them poor Bangladeshi women.

Commentary : Colonel Taher, General Zia And US

I had an opportunity of meeting Lawrence Lifshcultz two days ago at a dinner where we had plenty of time to talk. I asked Lifshcultz what the charges were against Col. Taher? I asked him, what penalty would any other country impose on him for such charges? During the tumultuous days of 1975 , the leaflet of the Biplobi Sainik Sangstha or revolutionary soldiers' organization, called for the creation of a classless armed force. This led to the killing of a large number of senior army officers of the Bangladesh Armed Forces. If Col. Taher was involved in this operation, then indeed he would be guilty of treason and could be punished accordingly. Lawrence listened to what I had to say. He did not disagree with me outright, but questioned the manner in which the trial was conducted. A camera trial, or secret trial, could in no way be condoned and nor could the camera trial of Col. Taher. From what little I understand, Col. Taher did not even have a secret trial. A trial means the defendant has adequate opportunity to defend himself, the verdict must clarify why the defence is not acceptable. In the case of Col. Taher that probably did not happen. He called for the then President Sayem, General Osmany, General Zia and s few others to be summoned before the tribunal to examine whether his defence was true or not. That was not done. In his testimony, Col. Taher said he believed in the concept of a people's army. About the fact that army officers were killed, he said, " My orders to the soldiers who took part in the rebellion was that no officers should be injured in that manner." This proves that he had connection with those taking part in the rebellion, but it does not prove that he had supported the killings. We have not found any documents that indicate that this { his involvement in the killing was proven in the tribunal. He was actually killed in the name of a trial. From Che Guevara down to our Masterda Surja Sen, so many revolutionaries of this world were similarly killed (without any trial or by means of farcical trials). Che Guevara and Surja Sen fought against imperialism. Their struggles did not succeed right then. They had to give their lives. We also see many successful revolutionaries in history. About 200 years ago Simone Bolivar fought against Spanish imperialism and freed six Hispanic American states. His highest reward was being able to build up the state of his own creation. Revolution or freedom struggle means to wage war against an existing system. There failure means death, success means the highest glory. Had our Bangabandhu, the leaders of Mujibnagar and our sector commanders failed to liberate the country, perhaps they would have been hanged. It was because they succeeded that they are lauded by the people of the land, placed in position of high honour. My question is, who was Col. Taher fighting against? He was, at least towards the end, involved with JSD. Do we believe in JSD's scientific socialism or the People's Army of the Biplobi Sainik Sangstha? Did the people of Bangladesh ever pass a mandate in favour of this? The dream which he had of an exploitation-free society, his readiness to sacrifice himself, will keep him alive in the minds of many. But was his method right? What other consequence could he have met since his method failed? What actually was his method, his ideology? The investigations of the trial in High Court now do not touch on any of these questions. Only the manner in which he was tried has been questioned, and it is right to question this. Questions could have been raised whether it was even necessary to give such a man any trial. He had to leave the army during Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's rule due to the ideals in which he believed. Bangabandhu did not try him for this, but appointed him to another post. In the post-75 scenario did this Taher become so popular amongst a section of the troops, did the firmness of this resolve become so dangerous that there was no alternative but to place him on trial? We never find any concrete discussion based on real fact in this regard. Speaking at a programme on the occasion of Taher's death anniversary, Lawrence Lifschultz said he was not neutral about Taher, but he was objective. Given the political beliefs of Lifschultz, I feel it would indeed be difficult for him to be neutral about Taher. He may not have been neutral, but that does not exempt others from being neutral. My personal belief is that unless we want to view the entire canvas concerning the debate over Col. Taher, this will not be a learning experience and it will not be acceptable. In order to see the entire canvas, it is not enough to simply focus on his trial; one must discuss his ideology, the acceptability of his programmes and the political background of the time. 2. Then again, did Zia alone kill Taher? Let alone the question of persons involved in the trial, what about those who were in the top ranks of the army at that time, such as General Manzur, General Ershad, General Nurul Islam Shishu or the retired General Osmany? Did they at any later point of time openly protest against the incident? Did Awami League itself ever condemn this killing or protest against it? Even during the last Awami League government we saw initiative being taken for the trial of certain killings, but not that of Col. Taher. This time too the court investigations for this case have been taken by personal initiative, not from a government level. The court is showing a lot of interest in this case. It would be very good if the court showed such interest in investigating all killings. If we find the court in Awami League's time interested in investigating Taher's killing, then during any BNP government's time we find the court eager to investigate the killing of Siraj Sikder, it would be quite confusing.   Lawrence Lifschultz has done his work as a writer. Now beyond that, some deeper investigations must be carried out. Hundreds of books have been written about President Kennedy's assasination in the US. None of them are really hundred percent correct in analysis. It is not possible for any analyst to get things 100 percent correct. Only math can be done a hundred percent accurately. Political analysis and the application of law is not math. We saw two different verdicts in court regarding the same caretaker government. So there needs to be a thorough analysis of the events of 1975. Another danger of factual discussions is the sole dependence on newspaper reports. Over the last two years the manner in which the media has been focusing on Zia, one would think that he alone was the root of all political and constitution related anarchies. A similar propaganda was done for the six to seven years after Bangabandhu's death. It was wrong to demonize Bangabandhu in such a manner and it is wrong to demonize anyone else in such a manner now.   Taher, in his last testimony, has spoken in a praiseworthy manner of the contribution made by Ziaur Rahman in the Liberation War and after. He speaks of the Bangabandhu killing case and says the US, Pakistan, certain elements within the army and within Awami League were responsible for this. Nowhere does he speak of Ziaur Rahman's involvement in the killing of Bangabandu. Given the circumstances, Taher himself suggested that martial law be imposed after August 15 , 1975 and that the Constitution be suspended. He also called for the release of the prisoners and for elections to be held. In November he asked Zia to become the Chief Martial Law Administrator ( according to his own discourse, Zia at one point agreed). Taher called Zia a betrayer in regard to his own trial. But nowhere in his discourse, has Taher pointed to Zia as being solely responsible for his trial, although now Zia is being singled out in this regard. Some papers are doing this.   Even the court is glossing over anyone else's responsibility for certain events in our nation's history, simply focusing on Zia for the various failures.   3. Ziaur Rahman had his faults, but can we accept the words supposedly of a deceased man ( General Manzur) to affirm that it was Zia who took the decision to kill Taher? Lawrence is now saying that Zia was indirectly responsible for Bangabandhu's killing. If he was responsible, then why should General Shafiullah and the heads of the other forces at the time not be responsible too?   What about several Awami League leaders? Why was Zia not accused during the trial of the Banabandhu killing case? Why should certain selected papers released by the US be taken as the basis of our beliefs in this case, when the US itself is being accused of being behind Bangabandhu's killing? We collectively failed to prevent the killing of Bangabandhu. We collectively pushed him towards adopting the suicidal Fourth Amendment. This is the sad picture he highlighted in his speech the day the Fourth Amendment was passed in parliament. I believe he was a man much larger than life – if the others were five feet, he was ten. Four other National Leaders,   Zia, Taher, Khaled Musharraf and Manzur, they all were more than five feet in their stature and contributions. Lilliputians are never at ease with Gullivers. That is why we have killed,   or facilitated the killing of all our Gullivers. We have kept Ershad alive with honour as he is the same size as us. We have not stopped at killing of the big men. During various regimes, we tried to kill them in many other ways. We must learn to respect these big men. We must be able to analyse their faults and their contributions objectively and wisely. These big men are bright stars in the sky of our dreams, hopes and achievements. Some are brighter than the others, but they all are stars. If we want to conceal them in the dark clouds of petty politics, motivated character assassination and cowardly silence, we will be brining up a confused new generation bereft of honur and self-respect. That does not bode well for any of us.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Big Coal Wikileaks Emergency In Bangladesh Does Obama Support Removal Of 100,000 Villagers?

When thousands of Bangladeshi take to the streets again on March 28 th as part of a decade-long battle to halt a devastating British- owned open-pit coal mine, the world will not only be watching whether Bangladesh's government will honor a coal ban agreement from 2006 or resort to violence. In light of disturbing WikiLeaks cables , American and worldwide human rights and environmental organizations will also be questioning why the Obama administration is covertly pushing for Bangladesh to reverse course and acquiesce to an internationally condemned massive open-pit mine that will displace an estimated 100 , 000-200 ,000 villagers and ravage desperately needed farm land and water resources. The short answer, from US Ambassador James Moriarty's leaked memos : "Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment. Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months." Two years ago, an independent review of the coal mine by a British research firm warned: "Phulbari Coal Project threatens numerous dangers and potential damages, ranging from the degradation of a major agricultural region in Bangladesh to pollution of the world's largest wetlands. The project's Summary Environmental Impact Assessment, and its full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment are replete with vague assurances, issuing many promises of future mitigation measures." For US-based Cultural Survival and International Accountability Project, the Phulbari coal mine is nothing less than a "humanitarian and ecological disaster." Last month, Cultural Survival and International Accountability Project joined with Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Bangladesh's National Indigenous Union, to launch an international campaign to stop the open-pit mine and raise awareness of on- going Big Coal human rights and environmental violations in Bangladesh . I did this interview with Paula Palmer , Director of the Global Response Program for Cultural Survival, to get the backstory on this growing international crisis and CS/IAP's letter-writing campaign. Jeff Biggers: Can you briefly described the controversial history over the British company and the Phulbari open pit mine? Paula Palmer: This Earth Touch article has an excellent time-line of events starting with the Bangladesh government issuing prospecting and exploration contracts in 1994. It also tells the story of the massive August 26 , 2006 protest that resulted in the death of three people, including a 13- year-old child. Huge public protests against the Phulbari coal project involving thousands of citizens started in 2005 and continue through today. In fact, this week there are daily protest events in various locations, building up to March 28 , when organizers say they will blockade major highways unless the government responds to their demands. They are asking the government to honor the agreement signed after the August 26 , 2006 protests, which committed the government to banning open pit coal mining and booting Asia Energy out of the country. Just about the only thing that actually changed after the 2006 protest is the name of the company, which became Global Coal Management. What's fueling these protests? The project would forcibly displace over 100 ,000 people from their homes and their farms without offering them equivalent land in exchange, and reduce access to water for another 100 ,000 people (possibly forcing them to eventually leave their homes and farms). Among the potentially displaced are Indigenous peoples of more than 20 ethnicities who trace their ancestry in the region back 5 ,000 years. Clearly this forced displacement is the cause of the greatest public outcry against the project, but there are other reasons. The project will also contaminate the air and the water, destroy productive farmland in a country where nearly half the population is undernourished, and threaten the biologically and economically valuable marine and terrestrial life in the Sundarbans mangrove forest. JB: The government must make a final decision by June. Do you foresee any compromise or canceling of the proposal? PP: India and Bangladesh just signed an agreement for India to purchase electricity from the Phulbari coal-fired power plant, which seems to indicate a thumbs up for the project. But in the next week we are going to be seeing huge protests again, intensifying the pressure on the government. And international support for the protesters is growing too. Environmental and human rights organizations from the US, Canada, the UK, and India are now urging the government to abandon the project. The government also knows that we are monitoring its handling of the protests and its treatment of protesters for human rights abuses. How can it impose such a project against the will of tens of thousands of citizens? JB: Why is Cultural Survival involved in the Phulbari dispute? PP: Cultural Survival's Global Response program organizes international letter-writing campaigns at the request of Indigenous communities that are struggling to protect their lands and defend their rights. In January, we received a letter from the Jatiya Adivasi Parishad in Bangladesh ( the National Indigenous Union), asking us to support their opposition to the Phulbari coal project. The project sponsors say that 2 ,300 Indigenous people will be forcibly removed from their homes and farms, but Jatiya Adivasi Parishad cites independent researchers who estimate the number as high as 50 ,000. The impact of eviction on Indigenous Peoples is even greater than on other families. They fear that if their small communities are broken apart and dispersed, they will not be able to maintain the cultural traditions, religious practices, and languages that have sustained them for thousands of years. To them – the Karmakar, Shil, Kabra, Patni, Busab, Ghatoal, Bormon Paoch, Rajhongshi, Hari, Paal, Santal and others — the mine may mean ethnocide. Most indigenous families own an acre of land – or less—and they augment their income by sharecropping, selling their labor, or making baskets and other crafts. Their cultural lives revolve around a calendar of religious ceremonies that are closely tied to the land, the harvest, the sacred groves and springs, and ancient burial grounds of their peoples. The mine would sever all those deep cultural ties and threaten their survival as unique peoples. JB: Can you describe the impact of the Phulbari mine on local populations? PP: Thousands of families would be immediately removed from the mine site, losing their homes and agricultural lands. The company cannot offer them equivalent land simply because there is none. This is concerning because studies of " development refugees" have shown that cash payments to families displaced by development projects frequently results in impoverishment. Independent researchers estimate that as many as 220 ,000 people around the mine site would eventually be affected by reduced access to water, forcing them to abandon their lands. There is no plan for compensating these people for their suffering and loss. JB: What can Americans and other foreigners do to show their support of the villagers? PP: Write letters to the prime minister of Bangladesh! This crisis offers the prime minister an opportunity to make a name for herself and for Bangladesh by turning away from the old model of foreign exploitation and fossil fuels, and leading the way toward a sustainable energy future. It makes sense for Bangladesh – a country that will suffer greatly from climate change – to reject coal, a primary driver of climate change. Letters from international citizens will help convince the prime minister to take a historic, principled stand. Go to the Take Action section of the Cultural Survival website, , to join the letter-writing campaign.

Hasina Sougth Int'l Help After BDR Mutiny

After the 2009 BDR mutiny, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina telephoned India’s external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee requesting assistance from the international community, The Hindu reported citing a leaked US embassy cable. Though Hasina had not been specific about the kind of help she needed, Pranab Mukherjee had offered “to be responsive” if needed and the Indian government had also rallied London, Beijing and Tokyo, the article published on Sunday said. Nirupama Subramanian wrote that US Embassy Charge d'Affaires Steven White was surprised when he was called in for a meeting with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on the last weekend of February 2009. That “unusual Saturday meeting” was to discuss the mutiny by troopers of the Bangladesh Rifles a couple of days earlier, and the worry in the Indian government about its implications for the newly elected government of Sheikh Hasina, perceived as being a friend of India, the report said. The cable that was sent on March 2 , 2009 (194661 : confidential), and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, details the conversation between the American stand-in envoy and Shivshankar Menon. India feared that the Jamaat-e- Islami would exploit the instability resulting from the rebellion to “ fish in troubled waters.” The foreign secretary described the mutiny as long in the planning. Menon did not blame the Jamaat directly for it, but said the party was disappointed by the results of the December 2008 election, and the steps taken by the new government to counter extremism. Secondly, it appears India was worried that the mutiny could affect the civilian government's relations with the military. Menon expressed concern about the likely effect of the violence on the army, which had lost several officers. The foreign secretary indicated this might lead to trouble for the Hasina government with the army. He noted that the mutineers had thrown the bodies of military officials into sewers. But he was encouraged that the army chief was working closely with the government to stabilise the situation. “Menon appreciated the US statement on the violence and stressed the importance of close coordination and consultation between the U.S. and India as the situation developed. He warned that while the initial violence was over, it would take several days before it was clear what would happen next and that further trouble was possible,” the US official cabled. A month later, India continued to be worried about the after-effects of the mutiny. On March 26 , 2009 , the US Embassy in Delhi cabled ( 198952 : confidential) that India's main concern was to stabilise Prime Minister Hasina's government, the Hindu article wrote. The ministry of external affairs deputy secretary told embassy officials that India was concerned about the possible involvement of “radical forces.” He related that many of the known culprits in the massacre were recruited under the previous BNP government and have Jamaat-e- Islami links. The Indian foreign secretary shared with US Ambassador Peter Burleigh his assessment that the situation in Bangladesh was “ fragile” following the mutiny, Nirupama Subramanian wrote. According to a cable sent on April 16 , 2009 from New Delhi ( 202615 : confidential) reporting the meeting, Shivshankar Menon expressed the Indian government's worry that the current environment would allow extremist groups in Bangladesh to destabilise the democratic government and provide them with a “freer hand” to launch attacks in India. “Pressed by the Ambassador to identify which groups India was concerned about, Mr. Menon said that India's worries extended from political parties like the Jamaat-e- Islami to extremist groups like the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Bangadesh (HUJI, B),” the embassy cabled. The Indian official told the US Ambassador that even though petty issues often consumed politics in Bangladesh, he was surprised that despite the instability created by the mutiny, “ politicians were focused on matters such as Opposition Leader Begum Zia's housing.” “India was concerned about a sense of drift in the government and [Menon] judged that the government was not functioning in a normal fashion,” the cable said. The report can be accessed at http: // india-cables/article 1574326. ece.

Grameen Bank And Public Goods

In Tuesday’s column I wrote about Grameen Bank , the pioneering microfinance organization, which has come under attack by the government of Bangladesh. The government has ruled that the bank’s founder, Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 , must step down from his post as managing director. Yunus has fought the order and taken his case to Bangladesh’s Supreme Court. I argued that it’s important to protect successful social institutions from political maneuvers that could be damaging to them, and that an abrupt and forced removal of Yunus could damage confidence in the bank, which has 8.4 million mostly women borrowers and holds $1.5 billion in villagers’ savings. Over the past two weeks, I’ve interviewed numerous people in Bangladesh — including current and former government officials — to try to ascertain the motives behind the government’s actions. Many suspected that Yunus was being targeted for political reasons. But others said that there were people within the government, as well as across Bangladeshi society, who opposed the work of the Grameen Bank on principled, if ideological, grounds. Simply put, many people don’t think that microfinance helps the poor and they believe that socially- minded businesses, like the Grameen Bank, undermine the work of government. Today, I’d like to address these concerns. On Tuesday I noted that researchers are still debating the effectiveness of microfinance. One reader, Lowell D. Thompson from Chicago ( 11 ), wrote in with a pointed question: “There are questions about the effectiveness of the bank in alleviating poverty? I thought that was its very reason for being in the first place.” The question: ‘Does microfinance work?’ has been posed increasingly in recent years — sometimes in accusatory tones because microfinance, and its leading practitioner, Grameen, have received so much praise. A number of randomized studies (notably those available at the Financial Access Initiative and M.I.T.’s Poverty Action Lab ) have not substantiated the findings of poverty reduction that had been made over the years by researchers relying on less rigorous methods that did not always use comparable control groups. An overview of available research by an independent economist, Kathleen Odell, can be found here (pdf). (Odell’s report was commissioned by the Grameen Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit that supports microfinance, but her report is considered by other researchers in the field to be well- balanced and unbiased.) Odell notes that evidence from studies using different methodologies in different settings suggests that microfinance — including both loans and savings services — is, in fact, good for microbusinesses. But she adds that the “overall effect on the incomes and poverty rates of microfinance clients is less clear, as are the effects of microfinance on measures of social well-being, such as education, health, and women’s empowerment.” If this conclusion seems a little confusing, it’s because microfinance is not, itself, one simple thing. It may involve loans, or savings, or a combination of the two, plus training, insurance or other services. Different mixtures can produce different results in different settings. Moreover, the effects of microfinance may unfold slowly over time, while controlled studies, because of their expense, are rarely conducted for more than a year or two. But the biggest new insight may be that researchers are beginning to discover that the way poor people manage their households is far more complex than anyone had previously understood. The elephant in the room is the question: If microfinance doesn’t accomplish anything positive, then why are 128 million poor families busy taking loans? Should we assume that poor people simply don’t know what’s in their best interest? Or do we need to look more deeply into the way poor people survive? That’s what a number of creative researchers are doing today. One example is the collaboration between Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven that culminated in the excellent book “ Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day. ” The book takes a penetrating look into 300 poor families in Bangladesh, South Africa, and India, with interviews conducted every two weeks to track expenses, earnings and cash flow at a granular level. What the researchers found was striking, and it gets to the question of what it really means for most people to be poor: to live with perpetual uncertainty. “What the research taught us is that the problem of living on $1 or $2 a day is that you don’t actually earn $1 or $2 every day,” explained Jonathan Morduch. “ That’s just an average. Some days you receive $5 and then nothing for two weeks. Life is unreliable. So the challenge for the poor is that you need to put together the right sums to deal with the right challenges in life. And what we saw microfinance was doing for people was offering them a reliable source of money. With microfinance, you get a sum of money that’s promised on the day it’s promised in the amount that’s promised. It’s often the only reliable service that poor people have — and that’s incredibly powerful.” Morduch is far from a microfinance booster. He co-authored a study in 2009 ( pdf ) that  challenged a 2005 study that had often been cited as evidence for microfinance’s success in alleviating poverty. But one big reason why studies have not shown evidence of the impact of microfinance, he said, is because researchers have been looking at the wrong things. They were focused on direct measures like income or household expenditures. Morduch and his colleagues suggest that microfinance may be most effective at helping poor people avert the traumas of a day- to-day, hand-to-mouth existence. It may allow them to smooth out their cash flows so that life is not such a bumpy and stressful ride. But this also needs to be more thoroughly examined. And contrary to the depiction of poor people as passive victims of microlenders — as the field is often portrayed by its critics — Morduch and his colleagues found that the families they followed were “strategic” in their use of credit, often mingling a variety of formal and informal sources. “They weren’t always making the best choices — some did well, some didn’t — but they were very actively managing their affairs,” he said. “Our view is that there’s a lot more going on with microfinance — that it’s helping people keep an income flow, deal with health problems, keep their kids in school, get food on the table every day, and perhaps invest in businesses.” David Roodman, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, who is writing a book on microfinance through an “ open book” blog , summarized it well. The stories in “Porfolios,” he wrote, are neither about “ascent out of poverty nor of descent into indigence, but of people getting by by grasping financial tools within reach.” (For those interested in an examination of the Norwegian documentary that sparked the Bangladeshi government’s actions against Grameen, Roodman has a thoughtful post here .) One area where a small, recent randomized study (pdf) has shown impact is in savings for the poor. Researchers Pascaline Dupas and Jonathan Robinson found that self- employed women in Kenya were able to invest more in their businesses and increase household spending when they had access to savings accounts. It appears that having a bank account helped them accumulate money for larger purchases as well as to smooth out risks — in some cases to prevent loss of income due to malaria. Some women used their savings to purchase malaria pills, for example. The researchers concluded that “extending basic banking services could have large effects at relatively small cost.” The other big criticism of Grameen Bank is that it is trying to do something that is properly the job of government. As Aaron from New York ( 18 ) wrote: “The best way to help the poor is not to lend them money … but for government to raise money through taxation and spend it in ways that strengthen infrastructure, educate people and provide for the type of institutions that support a modern, prosperous society.” This is, of course, a very old debate — it gets to the role of government versus the free market — and it will not be settled anytime soon. But in recent decades Grameen and many other organizations have added a new dimension to it by introducing a middle path: the social business — the business that seeks not to maximize profits but to maximize some form of social impact. Historically, economists have assumed that businesses serve society best when they put their heads down and focus only on the bottom line. The most famous expression of this thinking is the dictum, usually attributed to Milton Friedman, that “the business of business is business.” Social businesses seek to harness market forces to provide essential goods and services to people who are typically underserved. Around the world, as we have noted in this column, social businesses provide things like loans to small farmers , rural electricity and access to potable water . They also supply health services like ambulance care or cataract surgery . In addition to microfinance, Grameen has helped establish an array of for- and not-for-profit companies such as Grameen Danone, a joint venture with Danone (known to us as Dannon), which markets an affordable fortified yogurt product to address micronutrient deficiencies among the poor and Grameen Shakti, a renewable energy company. Social businesses have evolved to address both the operational weaknesses of many government agencies and the lack of affordable products and services available to the poor through the market. By and large, they are a new invention — and there are many questions about when they should be used. For example, it appears that social businesses can bring things like renewable energy, mobile technologies and affordable housing to poor people faster and more efficiently than governments. However, ongoing access to safe water for all is not something that can be guaranteed without the leadership of governments. Grameen has many such experiments going — which are legally independent of the Grameen Bank. Again, these organizations do not challenge the legitimacy of the government — the government is the only body that represents the will of society — but they can be vehicles that governments can support, and work through, to achieve public policy goals. In future columns, I will explore other examples of social businesses, and look at where and when they seem to be working, or not.

Bangladesh's Marcenary Army And The Stock Market Crash

It seems a serious calamity has finally befallen Bangladesh and only those who live in caves or in the jungle with the wild animals have not noticed. For many indeed, the stock market crashing, not just once but repeatedly, is a veritable nightmare akin to a rollercoaster ride going badly wrong like in one of the sequels to the lucrative film franchise Final Destination in which the passengers of such a horrifying ride all eventually get decapitated or sliced into many bloody pieces. While the average investor in Bangladesh probably feels the harsh and painful sting of having lost his/her entire savings it would appear the vast majority of those in the armed forces have also been badly affected. Things have become so bad that apparently there are ‘rumours of whispers’ within the armed forces that the ‘people’ should be motivated to push the government out of power. Note that it is the ‘people’ who are being urged to do this dirty deed (such a move could be laudable if based on principle rather than pure self-interest) on behalf of the newly impoverished members of the armed forces. It seems that the stock market crashing has for the military the same equivalence of the sky falling or a biblical swarm of locust’s devastating and ravishing the countryside and ruining the entire food stock or even of a Tsunami washing away huge swathes of the coastal regions of Bangladesh. Should we feel sorry for the army officers and soldiers who have lost their shirts (if not their uniforms) in the stock market crash? The answer should of course be a loud and resounding no! One may reasonably wonder if army officers actually have the time to dabble in the stock market and if they do then it should be concluded that they clearly are not doing their real jobs of protecting Bangladesh. If then they lose everything when a bearish sentiment hits the market then their financial losses have logically and solely been caused by their own insane cupidity (i.e. greed) and utter foolishness (i.e. moota budhi othoba hathuri budhi). Did no one in the armed forces learn the lesson of 1996 ? In the face of such idiocy it should now become official government policy that any serving army officer will not be permitted to invest in the share market. It could, however, be convincingly argued that in a capitalist system such a restriction is perverse and irrational. It is my argument that the involvement of armed forces personnel in the share bazaar is a threat to national security and also the discipline of the military as a cohesive and efficiently functioning force. This would be unique to Bangladesh but the role of army officers in the share market has become almost obsessive and similar to an addiction. If a drug addict can be thrown out of the army then why not a share addict? It would be a mistake to blame the share market bubble for having made army officers into mindless money grubbing drones. The malaise within the armed forces actually set in with the United Nations peace keeping missions. Now the sole objective for any self-respecting army officer is to be included on one of these missions. National security and the protection of the country’s territorial integrity have become secondary or even tertiary considerations to these lucrative peace keeping operations as if the role of the army is to make peace. In other words, military officers have now become diplomats and even worse businessmen while they are still in service rather than the protectors of our sovereignty and a force opposing external enemies and other such threats to our national security. It was Professor Mahbubullah of Dhaka University who aptly described the present mindset of the military officers and many soldiers as mercenary. It seems that the armed forces can be bought and sold at a whim (and a price). If in fact the armed forces had any moral integrity then they would not have become involved in the fiasco called 1 /11. At least in midstream they could have replaced the incompetent and greedy Gen. Moin U. Ahmed with someone more able and patriotic. Unfortunately there are few if any such types in the armed forces today. Looking at the veteran officers who were involved in 1 /11 many are now multi-millionaires in dollar terms and a few are allegedly involved in money laundering in the Middle East for powerful persons in Bangladesh and their contacts overseas. Even more shameful than any of this is that military officers disgruntled by the share market debacle have now become active opponents of the government but they could not find the courage to lift a finger when their fellow officers were butchered and slaughtered in Pilkhana like the victims of the gruesome SAW movies. Comically they expect the ‘people’ to rise up now that the share market has crashed rather then doing anything themselves. Such an opportunity has, however, long gone and would probably be undesirable considering the mentality of the officers serving today. Bangladesh will have to wait for a real people’s revolution based on principle and the interests of the country rather than the pauperized imagination of a few army officers.

Awami League Leaders Out To Slam Dr. Yunus

Bangladesh Government Site A section of the ruling Awami League leaders have started a campaign against Grameen Bank founder Prof Muhammad Yunus, who was removed by the government from the post of managing director of the bank on the grounds of being too aged.(The Daily Star ) The anti-Yunus campaign is being conducted when a compromise between the government and the Nobel laureate is in progress, amid the US and few other western countries' call for an honourable solution to the vexed issue. The party has adopted a hush-hush policy to carry out the campaign against Prof Yunus through seminars, symposiums, round-table discussions, and political rallies across the country, party sources said. Prof Yunus was removed from the post of managing director of Grameen Bank on March 1 by the Bangladesh Bank, which the opposition BNP and some international quarters condemned. The Nobel laureate appealed to the High Court challenging the legality of the order the following day but the High Court on March 8 upheld Bangladesh Bank's order. Awami League insiders said the party high command has already instructed a section of its leaders, including some top-ranking ones, to conduct the campaign. Initially, the ruling party kept mum over the Prof Yunus issue. A senior leader of the party told The Daily Star that they have to wage the campaign as some influential international quarters are mounting pressure on the government to reach a consensus with Prof Yunus and the main opposition BNP is trying to gain political leverage from this. “It's the BNP and Khaleda Zia who criticised Prof Yunus during the last caretaker government and now they are speaking in his favour only for political gain. We will also launch a campaign in this regard,” said Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahabubul Alam Hanif. Hanif, who is also a special assistant to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Mohammad Nasim yesterday criticised Prof Yunus at two separate discussions. Addressing a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club, Hanif said Prof Yunus has introduced Bangladesh as a nation of beggars in the globe although Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had introduced it as a brave nation that won independence in 1971. “Whenever Prof Yunus goes anywhere, he takes a poor woman with a goat or hen with him and portrays Bangladesh as a poor nation,” he said at the Jatiya Party (JP-Manju) organised discussion. Jatiya Party Chairman Anwar Hossain Manju chaired the meeting. He said the western countries are favouring Prof Yunus in their own interest. Mentioning that the Norwegian government first noticed money being illegally transferred, the Awami League leader said the Nobel laureate evaded tax of crores of taka and siphoned off the money abroad and for this reason foreigners are mounting pressure on the government. He said Prof Yunus never placed floral wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar or stood beside the victims of natural calamities. Addressing another discussion at Dhaka Reporters' Unity, Nasim, a former home minister, said it is not right to get respect through foreign pressure without showing confidence in the country's court and its people. Condemnation of Blake's statements Engineers Institutions Bangladesh, Agriculturalists Institution Bangladesh and Bangladesh Medical Association yesterday in a joint statement described US Assistant State Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O Blake's statements on the Prof Yunus issue and bilateral relationship as diplomatic aggression. It said the laws relating to financial institutions in the country determine who would be the managing director of Grameen Bank. Prof Yunus should be respectful to the laws of the country, said the statement signed by IEB President Nurul Huda, honorary General Secretary Abdus Sabur, AIB President Nitish Chandra Debnath and Secretary General AFM Bahauddin Nasim, who is also a central organising secretary of Awami League and BMA President Mahmud Hasan and its acting Secretary General MA Aziz.


It would be a mistake to consider the Yunus dismissal and ensuing controversy just from the standpoint of these recent events or the family relationship that exists between Yunus and Hillary Clinton.  The story should start from the 1 /11 episode when an American/ British initiative brought in an extended caretaker administration under Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed backed by the military under Gen. Moeen U Ahmed.  There exists opinion that the sponsors of this enterprise were under the clear understanding and impression that free and fair elections would usher in an Awami League administration which would be democratic in nature and respect human rights and would practice clean and transparent governance. It was also hoped that key energy deals involving US and British companies would be finalized and exploration in the Bay of Bengal permitted, once disagreements with India and Myanmar on the maritime boundary were resolved. Foreign quarters, analysts state, had probably assumed that once the democratic government was installed in power, there would be no obstacles or political difficulties in the country. There were also strategic considerations of more than one foreign power with interests in Bangladesh. Certain regional and international analysts are of the opinion that the US had perhaps expected that India would adopt a policy of containment in reference to China, and this would suit them well. The US had indeed increased cooperation with India on several fronts and it was felt that this was on the basis of understanding that India would “permit” the US greater role in the region. Again, analysts perceive this as a move to counter Chinese penetration and influence.  However, once Awami League came to power in January 2009 , all these hopes and expectations were soon dashed. It took the US a quite some time to realize that things were not going as planned. The goods were not being delivered. The US had probably believed the Pilkhana mutiny and massacre to be an aberration in which internal conflict within the BDR exploded into the open. But then again there existed the opinion, among certain keen observers of the situation, that this tragic incident may have been part of a larger plan to undermine the armed forces and hobble the BDR. This was entirely lost on the Americans. Again, the chaos and anarchy created by Chhatra League was a troubling trend but the US assumed that with time this may be subdued. The US started to become concerned with developments when Khaleda Zia and the BNP began to be directly targeted by the government for harassment. It was only when the government became serious in pursuing war crimes that the US government may have felt something was amiss. It had been hoped that the Awami League would not dig up past issues and divide the country but this is exactly what it was doing first by erasing the name of Ziaur Rahman and then going after the alleged war criminals. The US still remained hopeful that the energy deals would be completed and exploration blocks allocated to ConocoPhillips and Tullow as well as open pit mining permitted in Phulbaria. Two years passed with no sign that the government was ready to move on any of these deals. Instead the US saw the government sign deal after deal with Indian companies (in the energy and infrastructure sectors) and sometimes even in conjunction with state-owned Russian energy companies. It was becoming apparent that US entry into Bangladesh was not going to be a cakewalk and was not fully in tune with America’s perceived aims in regard to China. Analysts of the situation say that while India feared Chinese military growth and economic might, New Delhi was to oppose these through its own military, intelligence, economic and diplomatic arrangements and seek US assistance from a distance and much preferred Russian cooperation in this regard. But it was apparent that India was not adhering to these plans and the Obama administration apparently adopted a go-slow policy in regard to New Delhi. FDI in India decreased significantly and the much touted Nuclear Deal hit one brick wall after another. It was increasingly felt in New Delhi that Obama was treating India with far less respect and importance in comparison with the Chinese. That this may have been a reaction to Indian behavior seems to be conveniently ignored in policy making circles in New Delhi.      It was amidst all this that the Yunus controversy suddenly erupted. In fact, Yunus had been a target for government smear tactics right from the start. This was, however, subdued in nature just to keep Yunus on the defensive and his foreign friends guessing. When it was becoming clear that the western quarters had seen through the game of the Awami League government and its outside ally, the government became more aggressive against Yunus. It was probably the rebellions in the Middle East that triggered the Awami League government to finally act against Yunus. Concerned that Yunus could become the symbol for an anti- government movement and protest organized and sponsored by his friends overseas, the Awami League government decided to eliminate him as a threat.  The fact that Yunus is a close friend to the Clinton family is largely irrelevant in how the US will react if at all. That Yunus is a Nobel Prize winner gives him symbolic significance but it is unlikely that the US will put its interests at risk for one man. That Yunus is also a Congressional Gold Medal holder is of greater import for America making his removal as MD of Grameen Bank a direct slap in the face. The complicating factor for any American response is the fact that this is a democratically elected government in Dhaka which is acting according to law with the judiciary consistently finding in favor of the government.   It is unlikely that the US will act immediately as these developments will take time to digest and a more assertive policy towards Dhaka formulated. Comparisons may be made with the crisis created when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman incurred US displeasure for exporting jute products to Cuba. However, at that time the world was neatly split between the US and USSR. Today’s world is moving inevitably towards multi-polarity but with the US remaining far ahead of other countries for the foreseeable future. A problem for the US could arise if a combination of countries such as India, Russia and China were to align together against American interests. It might be such a concern that would spur the US to act against the Awami League government and also put India in its place. It is now obvious in Washington that in many respects Indian and US interests do not always converge and this has to do with Indian special interests in South Asia. India also may eventually perceive the US as a rival and a competitor in the region and a provocation to China. If the US were to react to the humiliation it is facing at the hands of the present regime then it will be based on preexisting grievances amongst the population of the country. This could emerge from the garments sector, share market debacle, power crisis or due to food price inflation. Most likely there will be a combination of these factors at work that could tilt the public violently against the government. At the same time India and Awami League realize they are both running out of time. India needs the infrastructure projects related to transit to begin immediately so that some of the work will be completed before the 2013 general elections. It appears however that almost nothing will be done in time to meet the deadline. Awami League, on the other hand, cannot give too much to India as this will be viewed with disfavor by the electorate and could be exploited by the opposition parties before the next elections. Awami League also fully knows it cannot do anything to reduce food price inflation or add more power to the national grid. The situation could turn acute during the summer months of 2011 , 2012 and 2013. All indicators suggest that the public are now irate to no end with the government, but BNP and other opposition parties are weak organizationally. Thus the situation over the micro- finance guru has more connotations that meet the eye. He may be a personal friend of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but the reverberations of the treatment being meted out to him by the Awami League government go much further. Will Hasina tone down her tirade against Yunus or will Hillary let it pass? It will be difficult for either of them to simply sit tight, things have gone too far for that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

War Crimes And Misdemeanours Justice, Reconciliation - Or Score - Settlings?

The price of collaboration, then IT IS almost 40 years since Bangladesh’ s independence and a year since a war- crimes tribunal set out to try those accused of committing atrocities during the bloodstained conflict that led to it. The tribunal is due to lay formal charges this month or soon after. Dozens of suspects live under travel bans. Even so, the country remains haunted by the terrible memories of war. The tribunal seems unlikely to achieve either justice for the victims or reconciliation for the country. Bangladesh has said that as many as 3 m people died in the conflict, though others put the figure lower. What is certain is that many thousands of civilians were killed in cold blood by members of what was then the West Pakistan army (which later became Pakistan’s army). Bangladesh is seeking to put in the dock not the main perpetrators of the genocide but their local collaborators, who helped identify victims and took part in the killings. Notable among those accused of collaboration are members of an Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which formed part of a coalition government with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP) in 2001-06. During the war, Jamaat’s student wing organised a militia, called Al Badr, to support the West Pakistan army. The party denies any part in the war crimes and its leaders say they were not members of Al Badr. But last August the war-crimes tribunal issued arrest warrants for five party leaders, including two former ministers. They have not been charged with war crimes (they are being held in jail on other counts) and are due to appear before the tribunal next month. Also in the clink and awaiting possible future war- crimes charges is a senior leader of Khaleda Zia’s BNP, now the main opposition. Officials say at least six more Jamaat leaders will be arrested on war-crimes charges, including the 89- year-old Gholam Azom, who led the party in 1971. Partly because of the political implications, the war-crimes trials have run into trouble before they have even started. Emboldened by an unexpectedly good showing in municipal polls in January, the BNP has stepped up a programme of hartal s ( protest strikes) against the government. The timing is propitious: for separate reasons, one of the government’s main allies, Mohammad Ershad (a former dictator), has threatened to quit the ruling coalition. Everyone believes the opposition would scrap the trials if it were to win the next election, which is due in 2013. And if history is any guide, it probably will win: no democratic government in Bangladesh has ever secured a second term. That gives the government less than two years to complete the trials. A formidable task. The trials have a tiny budget of 100 m taka ($1.4 m). They are being held under a 1973 law which does not comply with international norms. The local prosecutors are widely seen as weak and inexperienced. In contrast, the defence team includes the counsel for the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, and a defence lawyer from the Special Court for Sierra Leone (which is trying Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former president). The authorities have also denied entry to an American-based lawyer for one of the accused, the BNP’s Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, an adviser to Mrs Zia. His family says he has been tortured while in detention, which the government denies. The tribunal has yet to determine whether foreign lawyers may even appear to plead before it. The chances that the trials will win international recognition appear slim. Initial enthusiasm for them among foreign governments has worn off. Many Western diplomats think the government has taken to using the courts to pursue rivals and enemies— as many say it did when it insisted recently that Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel laureate, should retire as head of Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution. The war-crimes process was supposed to produce a measure of truth and reconciliation. It has taken an inauspicious turn.

US Wanted Bangladesh Gas For India

Wikileaks has claimed that the US was keen on India importing natural gas from Bangladesh, thus lowering its fuel dependency on Iran. In a leaked cable, sent by US ambassador to New Delhi David C Mulford to then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Sep 13 2005 upcoming meeting with the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and foreign minister Natwar Singh could create scopes to “challenge India to take equally difficult steps on relations with Tehran”. “New Delhi is trying to support us without alienating Tehran, on whom it depends for current oil supplies, future natural gas imports (pipeline and LNG) and access to Afghanistan and Central Asia,” the cable said. “There is little warmth to the India-Iran relationship, suggesting that India’s attachment to Iran could weaken as and when New Delhi is able to secure other energy sources (e.g. gas pipeline from Bangladesh) and alternative access routes to Central Asia (e.g., overland transit through Pakistan), ” Mulford pointed out. In 2002 Bangladesh and outside worked to persuade export of natural gas from the country to India, including the Indian subsidiary of American oil giant Unocal Corporation. Unocal also submitted a gas export pipeline proposal, known as the Bangladesh Natural Gas Pipeline Project, to the state-run Petrobangla. Bangladesh has been opposed to the export of gas to India on the pretext that it does not have enough gas reserves to meet its own domestic requirements. However, Unocal officials say that based on the current domestic gas consumption in Bangladesh, there appeared to be enough gas supplies to last more than 170 years. INDIA SHOULD BE VOCAL AGAINST IRAN Mulford also pointed out that he had difficulty persuading Natwar and secretary Shyam Saran that “ Iran could jeopardise both our nuclear initiative and India’s regional security interests”. “Your meetings provide an occasion to encourage the [India] to exercise leadership on this Iran issue, rather than hiding behind the NAM consensus, as happened on UN reform,” he added. He said that he was informed by the Indian foreign minister that the “Iranians [had] reacted very negatively when Natwar pushed privately on [Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty] compliance during his recent visit to Tehran.” “That said, Natwar Singh must be made to recognise that Congress is watching India’s role at the IAEA with great care, and the Indian vote in Vienna will have real consequences for our ability to push ahead on civil nuclear energy cooperation,” the cable said. He cautioned that the Indians might want to “lie low” and hope that the question of who they supported in the IAEA Board of Governors vote on Sep 19 arise during the discussions in New York. “We need to give a clear accounting of these stakes, while also preserving the significant equity that we have built-up in the transforming US-India relationship, ” he stated.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sarmila Bose, a dedicated advocate for a genocidal regime

She came like a whirlwind causing a little tsunami in the US capital. The day was March 15, 2011 and the place of occurrence was the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

This Woodrow Wilson Center already became controversial to many expatriate Bangladeshis. A few months ago, Dirk Moses, Woodrow Wilson Australian scholar brought his revisionist theory of the Bangladesh genocide in another seminar called ¡°The secession of East Pakistan in 1971 and the question of genocide¡±. Moreover, William Milam, the Senior Policy Scholar of the Center, a former US Ambassador to Pakistan and Bangladesh is now under deeper scrutiny. According to some observers, this former American diplomat cherishes strong sympathy for the Pakistani ruling elite. Not too long ago Milam and Bose co-authored an essay in favor of selling American F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

Sarmila Bose¡¯s intellectual and academic research centers on one agenda. That is to blemish the Bengali nationalists and glorify the brutal regime of late Pakistani general Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan. For the last several years, in the academic world Sarmila Bose¡¯s pro-Yahya regime slant was so well orchestrated that it got very receptive audience in the Pakistani press. Even the so-called Pakistani liberal media, including the Daily Times of Lahore and Karachi¡¯s Dawn became the favorable launching pads of disseminating her distorted version of the events of 1971. Quite undoubtedly, to many of the retired Pakistani army personnel directly involved in mass killing in the erstwhile East Pakistan, this Bengali Hindu woman¡¯s academic work appeared as a manna from heaven!

We are familiar with the term ¡°self hating Jews¡±. There may be a few anti-Semite Jews present in the academia. Who knows, there could be one or two Hitler lover Jewish scholars roaming in the academic world also. Sarmila Bose seems to be the only academician of Hindu Bengali heritage who took the painful responsibility of soft-selling a barbaric army dictatorship, which was viciously brutal and merciless to the Hindu inhabitants of the then East Pakistan.

In 1971 she was only twelve year old she wrote in one essay. She might have seen many Hindu refugees taking shelter in her Kolkata neighborhood. Although she was in the pre-adolescent age, she was supposedly a witness to calculated extermination of religious minority on the other side of the border. She wrote in one of her revisionist essays earlier,

¡°Growing up in Calcutta in West Bengal, India, I heard stories about the Pakistan army raping and killing Bengali women during the 1971 war.¡±

She did not stop there; she further wrote,

¡°This paper seeks to bring to scholarly and public scrutiny the deeply problematic representations of sexual violence in narratives of the 1971 war which I discovered in the course of my broader research on the 1971 conflict. That rape occurred in East Pakistan in 1971 has never been in any doubt. Every war is accompanied by sexual violence against women. In the case of Bangladesh, the Pakistan army itself has not denied that instances of rape took place. The question is, what was the true extent of rape, who were its victims and who the perpetrators, and was there any systematic ¡°policy¡± of rape by any party as opposed to opportunistic sexual crimes in times of war.¡±

On 15th March, 2011 book event in the Woodrow Wilson Center promoting her another revisionist book, ¡°Dead Reckoning: Memories of Bangladesh War¡±, Sarmila Bose¡¯s premise was very similar to all of her earlier academic works. In the thirty minute time slot allocated to her she taunted the Bengali nationalists and the Bengali nationalistic aspiration with her subdued sarcastic rhetoric. She said,

¡°Bengalis used such semantics like Hanadar Bahini, Noroposhu, Punjabi army to denote the members of the Pakistani army¡±.

She shed her crocodile tear speaking about the brutal leader of the Pakistani killing squad, General Yahya, ¡°Yahya did not personally harbor prejudice against the Bengalis¡±. The audience was spellbound. Of course, many of us were outraged to observe such shameless act of a hired assassin, who simply played the role of a paid agent of the perpetrators of a crime against humanity.

R. J. Rummel, the notable author of genocide describes the perception of Pakistani army officers towards the Bengalis in his book ¡°Death by government¡± this way,

¡°These ¡®willing executioners¡¯ were fuelled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. ¡°Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chickens¡± said Pakistani General Niazi, ¡®It was a low lying land of low lying people.¡¯ The Hindus among the Bengalis were as Jews to the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best be exterminated. As to the Moslem Bengalis, they were to live only on the sufferance of the soldiers: any infraction, any suspicion cast on them, any need for reprisal, could mean their death. And the soldiers were free to kill at will. The journalist Dan Coggin quoted one Punjabi captain as telling him, ¡®We can kill anyone for anything. We are accountable to no one.¡¯ This is the arrogance of Power.¡±

Sarmila Bose showing her ¡°balanced way¡± of being a so-called objective historiographer skewed very meticulously the events of 1971. A reader after reading her essays may wonder if the Pakistani army were the only villains regarding extermination of Bengali Hindus. Before coming to the Woodrow Wilson Center¡¯s book event we were exposed to one of her such slanted essays titled ¡°ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE: An Analysis of Civil War in East Pakistan in 1971¡±, which she wrote a few years ago. She describes on the chapter of atrocity on Hindu population this way,

¡°The minority Hindus, perceived by many in government, in the armed forces and the majority population as pro-India and a traitorous force within the country, were in a particularly vulnerable position during the civil war. Many Hindu villagers in Khulna, for instance, spoke of their harassment at the hands of local Muslims, which got serious enough for them to decide to seek refuge in India. Thousands of them collected what belongings they could and went by boat to a village called Chuknagar, from where they went by road towards the Indian border. At Chuknagar they were relieved of their boats and many of their belongings by local Muslims there, usually for a pittance or nothing. The harassment, hounding out, and dispossession of the Hindu refugees in this area took a turn for the worse on 20 May. On that day, according to numerous eye-witnesses and survivors, a small unit, comprising only 20-25 men, arrived from the direction of Jessore and killed a very large number of adult male Hindu refugees among the thousands thronging the river bank and bazaar of Chuknagar. Once again, women and children were not harmed. Upon the departure of the unit, large scale looting of the refugees¡¯ belongings, cash and jewelry, appears to have been conducted by the locals, who disposed of the bodies by throwing them into the river.¡±

There are numerous instances where the Pakistani occupation force, while capturing a village were selectively destroying Hindu habitats. The Washington based World Bank official Dr. Ziauddin Choudhury was a young civilian officer of the government of Pakistan in 1971. In a recent essay ¡°Forgotten Women of the 1971 War¡± published in the Daily Star from Dhaka he chronicled,

¡°One afternoon the Army Major walked into my office and informed me that he had reports that a neighbouring village was harbouring a good number of ¡°Hindu miscreants¡± with ¡°arms¡±. He said he had reports that the armed gangs were plotting to attack the army, and that it was necessary to sort the place out. I knew it was futile to plead with him without jeopardizing my own safety; however, I suggested that his report be further verified by the police. He looked at me as though I had lost my mind! My concern was also elsewhere. My second officer, a seasoned provincial service officer, was a Hindu. I had taken pains to keep him away from any possible encounter with the Pakistan Army, as we were already acquainted with the penchant of this murderous force to summarily dispose of members of the Hindu community, government official or not. A week after the arrival of the Army in Munshiganj, the officer had stated his intention to me to move to a nearby village where the town Hindus had congregated. He moved his family to this village even though I had warned him that moving to a predominantly Hindu village might not be a good idea. The army was more prone to attack such places in the pretext of miscreant cleansing, since according to the Pakistan Army, all Hindus were suspected ¡°miscreants¡±.

We have millions of witnesses still alive who could support the theory that the Pakistani army systematically and methodically targeted the Bengali Hindus to cleanse the land of the pure of ¡°infidels¡±. Many of us who were adult enough to witness firsthand the 1971 tragedy knew there was a systematic policy of annihilation of religious minority in our native land. Sarmila Bose and Dirk Moses put much of the burden of violence on the inter-ethnic conflict, i.e, the riots among Bengalis and Biharis. But they failed, either deliberately or inadvertently, to do much investigative work in their research methodology to verify the existing dominant view that the ruling Pakistani military junta of 1971 following the pattern of the Nazi regime of Germany conducted a calculated policy of genocide in the erstwhile East Pakistan.

Those revisionist historians promoted by the Woodrow Wilson Center were emphasizing on the bloody episodes of the Bengali-Bihari civilian conflicts subsiding the bigger picture of the killing by state machinery. Sarmila in her presentation on the March 15th gave a self contradictory argument. She said, the violence between two different linguistic groups in the eastern part of Pakistan reminded her of the conflict in the Balkans. We all know there was continuous blood letting between the ordinary Serbs, Croats and the Muslim population. In addition to that, there was a perpetrated genocide conducted by individuals like Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb. The International Criminal Court decided to prosecute Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who happened to be in position of power in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Oxford scholar deviated from her own argument of comparing the two conflict situations by explicitly soft selling the marauding Pakistani army this way, ¡°the atrocity was committed from two sides of the war. There were war criminals on both sides ¨C perception varies depending on which side someone belongs to.¡± In this particular case, she equated violence among civilians and the methodical pogrom conducted by a state machinery. In her short lecture Sarmila not only distorted the genesis of Bangladesh movement, she outwardly misrepresented the events linked to it. She said, the noncooperation movement in March 1971 was a violent one, which is far from truth.

Not too long ago, the military on the streets of Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf regime refrained from crossing a ¡°red line¡±. That was the imaginary boundary of not going for wanton killing of unarmed civilians. Pervez Musharraf¡¯s restraint was not manifested in his fellow officers¡¯ game plan of the earlier era on the fateful night of March 25, 1971. Dr. Abdus Sattar Khan, a Pratt and Whitney scientist based in Florida told me his account of that dark night. Dr. Khan was a lecturer in Dhaka University. He miraculously survived the ordeal but witnessed the massacre in the Dhaka University Teachers Quarter first hand.

He saw an officer was relaxingly smoking cigarette on the ground as his subordinate soldiers were conducting the killing of the academicians.

In the Woodrow Wilson Center event Sarmila Bose expressed her clear antipathy towards the Bengalis of Pakistan because they (the Bengalis) called the Pakistani army as occupation army and noroposhu (human animal). Alas! Sarmila was only a twelve year old naive young girl who failed to understand that after March 25 of 1971 most of the Pakistani army crossed the ¡°red line¡±, which in later years another Pakistani army ruler Pervez Musharraf avoided in a different setting. In the year 1971, the average Pakistani soldier was immensely brutal to Bengalis, especially the Hindus. The reality was most of the occupation army behaved like a typical barbaric occupation force losing all human qualities.

Most recently one of my close relatives told me his anecdote. In 1971, he was the Chief Engineer of the Pakistan Television in the DIT Building, Dhaka. The TV office was well secured area, part of which was guarded by an auxiliary force called the Militia. One such militia was a nineteen year old man from the North West Frontier Province in the then West Pakistan. This young Pathan jawan had come back from his tour of duty in the ¡°war front¡±. He told my relative in Urdu, ¡°This nation will not last¡±. My relative asked him the reason why. In his reply he gave his eyewitness account of inhuman brutality, which academicians like Sarmila Bose may think only common human being can do. The Pathan militia said, some of the jawans in the bunker on a regular basis brought three or four young women from the nearby village. They were kept in the bunker completely naked. Day after day, one after another soldier committed rape upon them. Later on the girls were shot to death. This recurring process continued presumably within the knowledge of the commanding officer. Dr. Sarmila Bose, a senior research scholar at Oxford did not have time to delve the extent of brutality committed by her favorite patrons among the Pakistani army retirees.

Susan Brownmiller, the renowned American feminist and author in her book ¡°Against our will: Men, women and rape¡± puts the number of women raped from 200,000 to 400,000. She wrote,

¡°Eighty percent of the raped women were Moslems, reflecting the population of Bangladesh, but Hindu and Christian women were not exempt. ¡­ Hit-and-run rape of large numbers of Bengali women was brutally simple in terms of logistics as the Pakistani regulars swept through and occupied the tiny, populous land ¡­¡±

Brownmiller quotes a description of one such assault which targeted a recently-married woman, as reported by Aubrey Menen:

¡°Two [Pakistani soldiers] went into the room that had been built for the bridal couple. The others stayed behind with the family, one of them covering them with his gun. They heard a barked order, and the bridegroom¡¯s voice protesting. Then there was silence until the bride screamed. Then there was silence again, except for some muffled cries that soon subsided. In a few minutes one of the soldiers came out, his uniform in disarray. He grinned to his companions. Another soldier took his place in the extra room. And so on, until all the six had raped the belle of the village. Then all six left, hurriedly. The father found his daughter lying on the string cot unconscious and bleeding. Her husband was crouched on the floor, kneeling over his vomit.¡±

During the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971, the Pakistani military junta and quite a few of the country¡¯s Islamist organizations forged an alliance, which can be categorized as a nexus of evils. That mullah-military entente is supposedly continuing even in the present day Pakistan. The alleged mastermind of the Bangladesh intellectual killing, Major General Rao Farman Ali was known to maintain close ties with the members of the Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan. This party, along with its auxiliary force, the Al-Badr death squad was accused of being involved in killing scores of Bengali intellectuals and professionals. After the independence of Bangladesh, quite a few ring leaders of the death squad fled the country and took shelters in the West. According to some analysts, many of the Western living Bangladeshi Islamists under different political banners are closely connected with such unsavory characters. It has been observed, majority of the expatriate politically active Bangladeshi Islamists even today failed to detach themselves from the legacy of their forebearers¡¯ role in 1971.

In the year 1971, as the events were unfolding in the Indian subcontinent, most of the officers of the Punjabi dominated Pakistani military and the members of the Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan started to consider Hindus and India as their mortal enemy. The combination of a sense of ethnic and racial superiority and religious supremacy made the Bengali Hindus of Pakistan the easy scapegoat. Before the flare up of the India Pakistan conflict, the Jamaatis in the then East Pakistan started to send threatening letters to a number of Bengali intellectuals and professionals, who were not considered to be patriotic Pakistanis. The Jamaati letters mentioned a cautionary note for not falling in the trap of the ¡°evil design of the Brahminist Hindu India who was out there to ¡®dismember¡¯ Islamic Pakistan¡±. Quite a few recipients of such an ominous message lost their lives in the hands of the Islamist zealots. That happened in the month of December of 1971, only a few days before the country became independent.

In the Sarmila Bose¡¯s book event, among the attendees, a few known US based Bangladeshi Islamists suddenly came to our attention. They kept quiet during the whole lecture session; none of them raised any hand when the question and answer part was going on. As the program finally concluded they rushed to the author like a bunch of bumble bees. They did not hesitate to applaud their suddenly found ¡°Crown Jewel¡±. Although any such typical Islamist hardly ever shows respect for an Indian or a Hindu, this was completely a different situation. They found in Sarmila a Hindu academician who could enhance their narratives, would strengthen their political brethrens of the Jamat-e-Islami of Bangladesh in the current volatile and uncertain political environment. This was indeed a crucial moment for them considering the fact the Bangladesh Government has started the trial of the War Criminals of 1971, many of who happen to be the leaders of the Jamat-e-Islami of Bangladesh.

Sarmila Bose¡¯s newly found fans encircled her with laudatory remarks. A smiling Sarmila like a queen bee was handing over her autographed books to the allies of the Bangladesh Jamaat. Coincidentally, the Woodrow Wilson book event prompted the revisionist historian to complete the full circle.