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Shadows of distorted history, disgraced constitutionalism

M. Shahidul Islam

History is not supportive of nations tainting their constitutions with distorted and controversial anecdotes. Every nation- state comes to existence through the combined struggle of the workers, peasants, soldiers, scientists and intellectuals. There are reasons why Plato had envisioned a nation- state with the philosophers at the helm of the affairs, soldiers as its defenders, and, the workers at the bottom wheeling the economy.

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M. Shahidul Islam

History is not supportive of nations tainting their constitutions with distorted and controversial anecdotes. Every nation- state comes to existence through the combined struggle of the workers, peasants, soldiers, scientists and intellectuals. There are reasons why Plato had envisioned a nation- state with the philosophers at the helm of the affairs, soldiers as its defenders, and, the workers at the bottom wheeling the economy.

Our laws are not tuned to establishing a society based on the Platonic model, but our constitutional odyssey has been bumpy, painful and too divisive so far. Amidst yet another constitutional amendment (the 16th amendment) waiting to pounce on, we can only remind the governing elites that the edifice of history is not made of the pebbles of lies and deceit alone. Nor viable statecraft can be devised by alienating the philosophers, soldiers and the toiling workers.

Unnecessary controversial move
The purported 16th amendment seeks to empower the parliament with the teeth to impeach judges while, in 42 years, no law has been crafted to codify the methods of  appointing judges pursuant to Article 95(2)C of the constitution.  This latest move is unnecessary. It is also fundamentally flawed due to its inability to empower the parliamentarians to impeach any judge or other constitutional appointees unless the party in power has two third majorities in the parliament. Worst still, Article 70 (b) prevents floor crossing to enable likeminded lawmakers from other parties to vote in unison to make such an impeachment possible. In totality, there is no short or long term gains from this amendment except scaring the judges to cower under executive pressure under a virtual one party rule.
Above all, this amendment follows the 15th amendment of 2011 (Act No 14) which has literally mauled the constitution to the point of non-recognition. The supreme laws of the nation have already turned into a bundle of contradictions and distortions of history following the 15th amendment. The devastating ramifications of it on the judiciary notwithstanding, the Sixth Schedule (Article 150(2)) relating to the declaration of the country’s independence is based on a reported occurrence the credibility of which is not backed by conclusive or evident facts. It is immune from repeal pursuant to Article 7B.
The nation has been peppered with claims since 2009 that the March 7, 1971 speech by Sheikh Mujib contained a declaration of independence despite there being not a single word in the entire speech that could be interpreted as having explicitly declared independence. The nearest assertion found in that speech is: “The struggle this time is for emancipation; the struggle this time is for independence.” These words do not convey, ipso facto, the message of a declaration of independence, as did some other formal declarations subsequently. It’s not the same thing to say I will marry, and, I do. The former is an expression of intent while the latter entails irrevocability.

Declaration of independence
Yet, a reported declaration of Sheikh Mujib, which remained unknown to the public perhaps due to its lack of clarity and authenticity, now constitutes an integral structural premise of the constitution, and, it is immune from any repeal or amendment. The Sixth Schedule of the constitution reads:  “SIXTH SCHEDULE OF THE CONSTITUTION [Article 150(2)] DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE BY THE FATHER OF THE NATION, BANGABANDHU SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN SHORTLY AFTER MIDNIGHT OF 25TH  MARCH, i.e. EARLY HOURS OF 26TH MARCH, 1971.  This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 26 March 1971”
There is no reason to express much qualms that Mujib might have said something like the above verbally to his confidants or the courtiers before being arrested that night. Yet, in the absence of any indisputable written evidence, such a claim ought not to have found a place in the structural bedrock of the nation’s constitution. Those who decided to make it an inviolable part of the constitution had rather belittled Sheikh Mujib’s other achievements as an undisputed political leader of Bangladesh’s liberation movement. More importantly, this claim never came to light in Mujib’s lifetime and the autobiography of Tajuddin Ahmed emphatically claimed that his (Tajuddin’s) attempt to get a declaration of independence signed by Mujib prior to Mujib’s arrest yielded no positive result.

Declassified U.S. documents
Declassified documents of the US Department of State (USDS) reveal much of the secrets relating to the power play in the run up to our war of independence. They show, following the cancellation on March 1 (1971) by Yahya Khan of the scheduled March 3 legislative assembly meeting, student leaders instantly reacted by creating the Shawadhin Bangla Kendriya Chhatra Sangram Parishad (SBKCSP) whose leaders - Nure Alam Siddiqi, Sahjahan Siraj, A.S.M. Abdur Rob and Abdul Quddus Makhan, et al - resolved to render collective leadership to the struggle for national independence. The words Shawadhin Bangla (independent Bengal) came to symbolize an independent Bangladesh since March 1. Student leaders, not Mujib, made that happen.
That dilemma too turned more protracted amidst unfolding political twists. Mujib, the elected leader of the people of East Pakistan, behaved in a cautious and politically correct manner and waited to ascend the throne of political power by virtue of being the leader of the majority of the parliamentarians (160 seats out 300) in the national assembly. Aware that President Yahya’s hinge of power lay in Washington, he even met on February 28 with the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Joseph Farland, and proposed to form a confederation with West Pakistan rather than seeking independence for Bangladesh.
Ambassador Farland informed Washington the same day about his detailed meeting with Mujib and said: “He (Mujib) had suggested a confederation between East and West Pakistan.”
On March 10, three days after the historic 7th March speech at the Race Course maidan, Mujib sent a secret message to Archor Blood, then US Consul General in Dhaka, and asked if the US would be willing to convey to President Yahya Khan that the Awami League was ready for talks. Under US pressure, Yahya despatched Wali Khan, leader of the NAP, and Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, to Dhaka to talk to Mujib.

Dialogue with Yahya
Wali Khan had a meeting with Mujib on March 14. According to available record of the meeting, Bizenjo asked Mujib whether he wanted to make a unilateral declaration of independence. Mujib became emotionally charged and said: “Who is asking whom not to break up Pakistan? You were associated with the Congress and you’re now telling me, who was a hardcore Muslim Leaguer and rendered sacrifices for the creation of Pakistan. What an irony!”
The mission of Khan and Bizenjo having focused on convincing Mujib to meet President Yahya, Mujib agreed. This brought Yahya to Dhaka on March 15 following which the SBKCSP felt disappointed and proclaimed: “Bangladesh was already independent and the Pakistan government had no right to rule.  Bangladesh would only obey orders from its chosen leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.” SBKCSP also invited the citizens of Bangladesh to prepare for armed struggle.
The following day, March 16, Sheikh Mujib embarked upon a series of dialogue with President Yahya Khan, which continued intermittently until March 25. Bhutto arrived to Dhaka and joined the dialogue on March 20. By then, rebellion spread and the East Bengal regiment soldiers refused to fire on protesters.
Fighting between Pakistani and Bengali troops broke out in Gazipur and Joydebpur since March 19 while Mujib informed Bizenjo on March 24 to leave Dhaka, warning that the ‘army crackdown was only two days away.’ This proves Mujib was aware of the inevitable army crackdown although he was slightly wrong. One of the most atrocious military crackdowns of human history on unarmed civilians occurred within 24 hours, minutes past midnight on March 25.
A review of the declassified US documents further reveals that the US administration blamed ZA Bhutto for the disaster. Ironically, it was Bhutto who had released Mujib, unscathed, from captivity in Pakistan on January 8, 1972.

Bhasani and Zia
Meanwhile, three important events occurred on March 9 which further proved that Mujib was not the first to declare independence, for whatever reason. That day, the Chief Justice of the Dhaka High Court refused to administer the oath of office to Tikka Khan as the governor of East Pakistan; The Student League approved a declaration of independence and invited Sheikh Mujib to form a national government, which Mujib refused to comply, and; Maulana Bhashani and Ataur Rahman Khan declared independence at a mass meeting at Paltan Maidan. Bhashani also circulated a signed leaflet that had declared East Pakistan a sovereign nation.
On March 27, Major Ziaur Rahman of the East Bengal Regiment made a broadcast from the Swadhin Bangla Betar kendra at Kalurghat, Chittagong, that read: “I, Major Zia, Provisional Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Liberation Army, hereby proclaim, on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the independence of Bangladesh. I also declare, we have already framed a sovereign, legal government under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which pledges to function as per law and the Constitution. The new democratic government is committed to a policy of non-alignment in international relations. It will seek friendship with all nations and strive for international peace. I appeal to all governments to mobilise public opinion in their respective countries against the brutal genocide in Bangladesh. The government under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is sovereign legal Government of Bangladesh and is entitled to recognition from all democratic nations of the world.”
On March 30, Major Ziaur Rahman appealed once again from the Swadhin Bangla Betar kendra to the world community to come to the aid of the struggling people of Bangladesh and end the genocide that the Pakistani army had unleashed on innocent civilians. He said: “I once again request the United Nations and the big powers to intervene and physically come to our aid. Delay will mean massacre of additional millions.”

Provisional government
Finally, on April 10, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh proclaimed independence with these words: “We, the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour-bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh, whose will is supreme, duly constitute ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and having held mutual consultations, and in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice, declare and constitute Bangladesh to be sovereign People’s Republic.”
Excepting the reported declaration of independence by Sheikh Mujib on March 26, all other declarations by the student leaders, Moulana Bhasani and Major Zia are well documented and incontrovertible. The induction into the constitution of only Mujib’s reported and controversial declaration had therefore undermined others on one hand, and distorted history on the other. It also had disgraced the constitution by making Mujib more controversial to those who had no pre-warning of the impending genocide from Mujib but had joined the war under his fiery inspiration.


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Vulnerability of Bangladesh in geopolitical flux

Sadeq Khan

US President Obama has declared war on the ISIL (newly emerged self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), alternatively called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, which is the Arabic term of the Levant). He and his Secretary of State have been feverishly putting together a global alliance to fight that war.

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Sadeq Khan

US President Obama has declared war on the ISIL (newly emerged self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), alternatively called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, which is the Arabic term of the Levant). He and his Secretary of State have been feverishly putting together a global alliance to fight that war.

His defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee has characterised this war as a generational war. That means, this 21st century War of attrition will extend for 25 to 30 years, unlike the two World Wars of the last century, notwithstanding the vastly increased power of mass destruction by unmanned robotic and long-range missile attacks.
The two World Wars exhausted the European maritime powers that dominated sea trade and embarked on their colonial drive for global supremacy from the 16th century. Allied forces in the First World War succeeded in destroying the Turkish Caliphate and Ottoman Empire. The relevant European maritime powers shared the booties of Caliphate domains. After the Second World War, they began losing their colonies, and themselves had to depend of US Marshall Plan for reconstruction and recovery from war devastation. Challenged by Russia’s Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the US formed in due course the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for defence of Western Europe under its command. After some four and half decades of Cold War with the US-led “free world” champions of the West that included post-war pacifist Japan from Asia as well, the Soviet empire collapsed, but Russia has in due course recovered as a significant world power, if not a superpower.

Exploitation of loyalties in post WWII
To exert their dominance over oil-rich Middle East and North Africa, former Ottoman domain that was predominantly Arab but potently volatile on account of tribal, ethnic and religious diversity, European maritime powers encouraged Arab nationalism and thereafter suppressed it by exploiting tribal loyalties and applying divide and rule methods. With the beginning of the Cold War, West Europe and thereafter the United States took up the agenda for implant and protection of Israel in the heart of Arab territories. US pledge of protection of Israel, right or wrong, has resulted in wide-spread antipathy to the West amongst Arab populations in that region, although the leaders of most Arab states prefer a status quo under superpower umbrella. US covert strategy of employing and arming of Islamic extremism during Cold War years to defeat Soviet power was also instrumental to the rise of al-Qaeda challenging the US-led “free world” as well as Russia and China. The al-Qaeda applied informal war tactics of suicide bombing and guerrilla attacks, both urban and rural.
At the threshold of the new millennium, USA continued Cold War tactics of tacit support to armed Islamic separatists in Russia, and also largely ignored pinpricks of Islamic militant sabotage of US interests and establishments overseas. The unusual aerial suicide attack on American changed that situation.
In the twenty-first century, emerging as the sole superpower, the USA declared its first global war on terror. It obtained UN backing, but engaged in the conduct of that war with full control and command of US-NATO authority, NATO mandate having been expanded for a global role. It has dragged on over a decade, involving US-NATO air power and ground troops, unsuccessful in eliminating al-Qaeda, but effecting successful regime changes in Afghanistan, and replicating similar regime change in Iraq. Paradoxically, that regime change made way for a foothold for al-Qaeda in Iraq, until then denied that access by the “iron hand” of the secular, welfare regime of ousted Saddam (the same thing has happened in Libya after the ouster of Gaddafi by Obama’s air power only “policy for regime change” in the name of march of democracy and Arab spring).

Obama’s outlandish strategy
Now the Iraqi al-Qaeda has separated from Al-Qaeda mainstream to change informal war tactics and become regular warriors, taking paradoxically again the advantage of armed offensive of dissidents and “Sunni” volunteers in Syria backed by money and arsenal of US-NATO powers and their Arab allies. US-NATO avowed purpose, backed by their allies in the Arab League who suspended Syria, was a regime change as in Libya. Russia put its foot down and there was a stalemate in the Syrian theatre. The regime, militarily well equipped, show strong resilience and significant domestic support. The Iraqi al-Qaeda has meanwhile acquired booties of several oil fields in Syria and Iraq, and occupied vast tracts of land, elbowing out or enforcing the subservience of other rebel groups in Syria, coming right upto the Golan Heights on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line with Israel, pushing out UN peace keepers as well.
The ISIL provoked and provided USA with casus belli by video broadcast on the web of executions slitting the throats of two American journalists and one British aid-worker in avowed retaliation of US aerial bombing and British arming of Kurdish ground offensive against ISIL positions in Iraq. The execution of non-combatants and the manner of their killing provoked strong condemnation from the Iranian President also. But in gathering its war allies, USA has carefully avoided Iran (and of course Syria where it still pursues the goal of regime change). USA secured the participation of Arab League allies in the region providing recruits for war on the ground, money and logistic support (lives of US or European troops would not be risked), and of NATO members for aerial strikes, and arms supplies to Kurds, Iraqi government forces fighting ISIL, as well as to Syrian ‘moderate’ rebels fighting Syrian regime, Turkey chose to provide NATO air bases on its soil and humanitarian services. Iran’s President Rouhani pooh-poohed the US move branding the US-led coalition as “ridiculous”: “If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice.” The Iranian president declared unilateral military backing for Iraq if ISIL crosses the “redline”: “When we say the red line we mean the red line. It means we will not allow Baghdad to be occupied by the terrorists or the religious sites such as Karbala or Najaf be occupied by the terrorists.”

Washington’s second global war
Thus, after its first global war of the 21st century under President Bush, USA under President Obama, the Nobel Laureate for Peace has embarked on a it’s second global war on a self-styled Islamic state with its own territorial definition unlike al-Qaeda. By its own admission, US expects it to be a generational war, unlike the World Wars of the last century and more like the War of Roses in the 15th century that destroyed a whole generation of dynastic power-players. As the two world in the 20th century changed the World Wars order radically, finally establishing the UN system that we are part of today, “a generational war” led by US-NATO alliance with an exclusive agenda may result in radical changes in that system.
Already, under the sanctions regime imposed by the US-NATO leadership on Iran over its “suspect” nuclear energy programme, and on Russia over its alleged “involvement” in Ukrainian civil war, coercion is beginning to have contrary effects. As Enrico Fels, analyst at the Germany-based Center for Global Studies of the University of Bonn, in a commentary observed, the Sanghai Cooperation Organisation, unnoticed by the western media, is sowing the seeds of an alternative warder. The two-day forum of the 13th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on September 12-13 in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe was attended by regional leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his Chinese and Iranian counterparts, Xi Jinping and Hassan Rouhani.
The SCO is an intergovernmental organization of Central Asian countries aiming to promote cooperation between its six member states: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Topping the agenda were plans to expand the alliance: India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia, all countries with observer status. Should this happen, the group would then control 20 percent of the world’s oil and half of all global gas reserves. On top of that, the bloc would represent about half of the world’s population.

Emergence of new grouping
While Moscow feels threatened by the expansion of NATO and the European Union on its western border, China - the world’s largest exporter of goods and one of the largest importers of raw materials - is highly dependent on its ports. Beijing is under pressure in the east from the United States and its regional allies, Japan and the Philippines. Given the outside pressure exerted on both countries they feel they must get along in Central Asia. Stability in the region is also key to protect Russian and Chinese economic interests. Both countries depend on a functioning infrastructure, such as pipelines and railways. China not only imports gas and oil from Russia and Central Asia, but it is also the largest supplier of goods in the region.
What links all SCO states – whether members or observers – is the rejection of Western-dominated institutions, be it the United Nations, World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, which are all US-based. The SCO, like the BRICS with the establishment of their Development Bank, sees itself as a forum against the existing global order. In May, China and Russia signed a deal to build one of the largest ports in northeast Asia on Russia’s Sea of Japan coast. In August the two countries agreed to set up a special logistics centre which will allow to sell fruit and vegetables directly to Russia to offset any negative effect of the Russian food embargo on agricultural products from EU, USA, Australia, Norway, Canada, in response to sanctions imposed by the West on Russia.

Soft & hard power balance
On September 1 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli launched the construction of the first part of Gazprom’s ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline. It follows a historic gas deal signed in May which will provide the world’s fastest growing economy with 4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas it needs to keep pace for the next 30 years. Russia confirmed on September 10 it is planning to join forces with China and create an alternative to the international banking transaction system SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications).
The profound changes that are thus taking place in soft and hard power balancers in the flux of geopolitical order around the world need to be closely watched by the developing world and particularly by small countries with large populations like ourselves. Bangladesh is very much vulnerable both politically and economically to any stress of geopolitical disorder. Our collective choices and national inclinations of 20th century past, particularly of Cold War inheritance, may not help us much in facing upto the situations arising. It is particularly important that our younger generation keep open their minds as well as their eyes, and watch their steps.


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Chinese president visits India, Sri Lanka and Maldives

Shamsuddin Ahmed

Asian big power diplomacy stirred into life with India entering into defence pact with Japan and in quick succession signing a nuclear deal with Australia late last month. Beijing viewed the move, believed to have orchestrated by US, is against China and to contain its plan of domination over the Indian Ocean.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

Asian big power diplomacy stirred into life with India entering into defence pact with Japan and in quick succession signing a nuclear deal with Australia late last month. Beijing viewed the move, believed to have orchestrated by US, is against China and to contain its plan of domination over the Indian Ocean.

China plans to create Silk Road - a shipping route - from its shore to Europe via West Africa. The historic original Silk Route of China touching land of a number of countries linked the Mediterranean Sea, opening the gate for economic, political and cultural interchange.
China’s vision of 21st century Maritime Silk Road would help Navy of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) enhance its strategic reach and sustenance in the Indian Ocean. Obviously, it is not to the liking of India. Delhi moved to the fold of Japan-USA-Australia axis to oppose China’s supremacy in the region.

Support for maritime silk-road
Needless to say that the recent developments prompted Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on South Asian tour to tout the Maritime Silk Road that took him to Maldives, Sri Lank and India. The Silk Route will touch the ports of both Sri Lanka and Maldives enhancing their importance and yielding economic benefits to both.
Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and Abdullah Yameen of Maldives extended unequivocal support to Xi Jinping in realizing the Maritime Silk Road. Once strongholds of India, Colombo and Male have now distanced from Delhi. China has emerged as an all-weather friend of Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Maldives’ relation with India was cooled following premature termination of Indian construction giant GMR contract for development and management of Ibrahim Nasir Airport, the lone airport of the Maldives. The contract awarded to GMR by former pro-Indian former president Mohammad Nashid. He was overthrown from power by a bloodless police-army coup. His successor Dr Mohammad Waheed cancelled the contract with GMR in late 1212 saying it was unequal and anti-national.
Dr Waheed also accused Delhi of exerting influence in internal politics and attempting to export secularism to his Islamic state where non-Muslims are not allowed citizenship. Delhi tried its best to get Nashid return to power in the last year’s election but the Supreme Court annulled the results on charge of rigging, fraud and unfair means adopted by Nashid to win.
Abdullah Yameen was elected president in the fresh polls. He assumed power in November last year.
A number of contracts including development of Ibrahim Nasir Airport and 8 MoUs for cooperation in different sectors of Maldives were signed during Xi Jinping’s short visit to Male. Expressing gratitude to China, Yameen said our socio-economic development forecast changed drastically with the status of middle income country… Most trusted economic partner China is willing to support our national effort to transform our economy.

 20 accords with Sri Lanaka
He praised Silk Road project that will touch the proposed port to be built by China in the northernmost atoll of Maldives. President Xi called for Maldives to get actively involved in his vision of the Silk Road by leveraging its own strength. The Chinese interest in Maldives is amply manifested by its generous economic assistance and rapid increase in the flow of Chinese tourists, rising to 30 percent of total tourists arrived in Maldives in 2013.
In Colombo the Chinese President witnessed signing of as many as 20 accords/MoUs by officials of the two countries for forging cooperation in different sectors of Sri Lanka. China has already built Hambantota deep sea port In Sri Lanka and both countries upgraded ties to strategic cooperation partnership when Rajapaksha visited China in May last year. China is now Lanka’s second largest trading partner and second largest source of imports.
The relationship has been growing since China supplied Sri Lanka much needed arms and equipment during the long bloody war with LTTE that ended in 2009.On the contrary, India tried in vain for ceasefire at the fag end of the war to salvage LTTE. In fact, LTTE was born, trained and armed by India. Indian fishermen continue encroaching Sri Lankan water depleting one of it’s the main source of income. The issue vexed Colombo as Tamil Nadu state government demanded of the Indian central government to secure the right for its fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters, if needed by force.

Xi to outwit Japan’s $30b offer
In the last leg of his weeklong tour the Chinese President flew in to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the home town of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17 in a bid to outwit Japan that pledged $35 billion assistance to India over next five years. He is likely to offer generous assistance to India for development of railways, infrastructure and in other sectors, seek to boost trade and discuss with Modi longstanding border disputes that led to a brief war in 1962 when the Indian army was badly bruised. Border dispute remained as the stumbling block to better ties between the two countries.
As the Chinese President accompanied by Madame Xi was walking to the red carpet reception at Ahmedabad airport, India’s NDTV commentator said it is paradoxical that the armies of the two countries are at the same time in a standoff position in Ladakh sector.
The Hindustan Times reported that just ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit to India, more than 200 PLA soldiers intruded well inside Indian territory in Ladakh. Claiming the area part of China the intruders engaged in building a 2km road there using cranes, bulldozers and hummer when the Indian troops stood helplessly as onlookers. Indian media blamed the government for downplaying the frequent border incursions by Chinese troops.
The border incursion by Chinese army may be a tactical move to exert pressure on Delhi before President Xi and Prime Minister Modi are set for official talks on Thursday (Sept 18). The Global Times of China dwelling on Indo-Japan defence pact in its editorial recently suggested, if Modi’s style deviates too much from the Singh (Manmohan) administration, Beijing  will have to exert appropriate pressure on him to keep away from US-Japan move against China.


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Ban Ki-moon’s message in media headlines

Faruque Ahmed

The government is becoming utterly intolerant to almost everything in an apparent haste to ensure control on the seat of power although its January 5 election remained fraught with legitimacy question at home and abroad.

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Faruque Ahmed

The government is becoming utterly intolerant to almost everything in an apparent haste to ensure control on the seat of power although its January 5 election remained fraught with legitimacy question at home and abroad.

The hysteria is all over and even on matters that could be easily sidetracked. And the disproportionate oppressive reaction at times appears highly embarrassing to the image of the nation.
Political observers believe there was hardly any justification for dropping the message of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from the newspaper supplements on September 17.
The supplement was published to highlight Bangladesh’s joining the UN body 40 years ago. News reports say the government had earlier requested the UN chief to give a message on this occasion and he had done it accordingly.
But a section of the message that appeared critical to the government and the whole speech was dropped.  The Secretary General in the message has just mentioned that the country’s ongoing political crisis that called for talks to sort out the crisis.

Deleted UN SG’s message
Such talks are part of developing democracy all over the world and Bangladesh should also pursue it by resolving the crisis peacefully for the future of the nation. There is no alternative to arriving at a consensus, he said in his message for newspaper supplement that was sent to Foreign Ministry in Dhaka.
Senior foreign ministry officials however was alarmed and immediately brought the matter to political level.  They decided to drop the UN Secretary General’s message and replaced it with a message from the UN resident director in Dhaka Neil Walker. People hardly read newspaper supplements and the absence of Ban’s message remained unnoticed. But the dropping of the message from the supplement turned out to be an interesting event as most national dailies carried out it next day. The message reached direct to them.
This didn’t happen for the first time. According to media reports, when President Abdul Hamid visited New York earlier in June this year and met the Secretary General, his views on Bangladesh politics were edited before being published locally.
Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Dr Abdul Momen told the media that President Hamid had told Ban Ki-moon that there is no shortage of goodwill from government side to talk out political crisis through dialogue. But it must be after the end of the tenure of the government. He had told the Secretary General that if anybody had opted to stay out of election, how the dialogue could be held.

Govt. averse to dissenting voice
Dr Momen said Ban Ki-moon had shared President Abdul Hamid’s views during the meeting meaning that the opposition was to blame for missing the election. But to the surprise of many, the Secretary General’s Office issued a press release two days later to remove the misunderstanding.
The statement actually said that the Secretary General had expressed regret for failure of major political parties in reaching an understanding before the January 5 election. He had moreover laid emphasis on holding talks with all parties outside the Parliament to sort out the political issues. 
Another media report in 2011 highlighted how the government had misled the media on Hilary Clinton- Sheikh Hasina telephone talks. The former US secretary of States had talked over Grameen Bank issue with Bangladesh Prime Minister but the government side said the talks had covered developmental issues. The matter became later clear when the transcript of the telephone talks of the two leaders became public with disclosure of many sensitive issues relating to how the ruling Awami League won the January 5 election in 2009. 
Many people can’t understand as to why Awami League is so sensitive to dissenting views. It is not always necessary that everybody would agree to its policy and it is not expected either. Awami League is a big party and wants to stay indefinitely in power. But distortion of views of a person like the UN Secretary General is not acceptable.

Intolerance to judiciary, criticism
It appears that the government has also turned highly intolerant to the higher Judiciary. Its latest amendment to the constitution passed last week has buried the move for separation of Judiciary from the Executive branch of the government and the whims of the Parliament.
Parliament can now remove Supreme Court judges. Looking at the present Parliament where more than half of its MPs were not elected but selected by the ruling party and a dummy opposition controlled by the Prime Minister with some of its members sitting on the cabinet, the fate of higher Judiciary has become sealed from this moment.
Supreme Court judges may have two options now - either they must be loyal to the party in power or stand to lose the job if they face confidence deficit with the ruling establishment.
Intolerance of the ruling party cadres now knows no limit. Only last week some of its members physically assaulted Dr Mahbubullah, a retired professor of Economics of Dhaka University in the city streets.
A high-profile academic, Mahbubullah was leaving Bangladesh Supreme Court premises after attending a book publication ceremony when he came under attack in the broad day light.
He is a regular participant to TV talk shows and most people believe that he was intimidated to stop going to such talk shows. It appears that the government intolerance is at work at all level right from the UN Secretary General down to Prof Mahbubullah in the street.
We are at a loss why the government can’t stomach constructive criticism or suggestions like Ban’s reminder for a political dialogue with the opposition. We wonder why critics can’t express views without fearing physical assault and intimidation including forced disappearance and killing. After all it is the responsibility of the party in power to be more accommodative to allow democracy to work.


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Another Enam Committee to re-invent Government?

Abu Hena

In his usual characteristic tone and distinctive voice, Bangladesh finance minister AMA Muhith recently announced that the country’s public administration needs another Brig. Enam Committee to bring it up to date and put to proper order. The governmental organizations as well as the autonomous and corporate entities have, during the last six years, suffered immeasurable vagaries, whims and unpredictable, often irresponsible acts of coercion by powerful people at the helm.

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Abu Hena

In his usual characteristic tone and distinctive voice, Bangladesh finance minister AMA Muhith recently announced that the country’s public administration needs another Brig. Enam Committee to bring it up to date and put to proper order. The governmental organizations as well as the autonomous and corporate entities have, during the last six years, suffered immeasurable vagaries, whims and unpredictable, often irresponsible acts of coercion by powerful people at the helm.

During these years those agencies have been constantly twisted and bent giving them the odd shape of unusually swollen rounded balls. Admitting the plain truth that the country’s bureaucracy has gone out of control, the FM who often becomes rancorous when afflicted, has revealed the symptom of a much larger problem. The Bangladesh public administration has become so bloated that it can’t keep track of itself anymore.
Indeed, over the years — with the excesses committed by the men in charge, and special interest groups – the public administration has grown to a hugely disproportionate size. Today more than 80 percent of the nation’s population live on farming in the remote villages. Yet the country’s central secretariat continues to swell. The exact number of it is uncertain and it is costing poor taxpayers billions. Taxpayer funds are routinely funneled into creating new desks in the headquarters which is already overblown. Spread over millions of square feet with thousands of offices, the skyscrapers within the secretariat area, are complete in all respects to squeeze and extort the poor peasants who are drawn from far off places to pay them even for the ordinary routine things.

Services structure in shambles
Following the separation from Pakistan in 1971 both the civil services and organizational structures in government and autonomous bodies were in shambles. It was the time when the central government was superimposed on a provincial local government set- up unleashing clash of interests between the central civil services which were termed ‘superior’ and the provincial services which were all along subordinated to the central services. Bangladesh Civil Service [ BCS] was created by President Ziaur Rahman with 29 functional cadres having same entry points and scale of pay, career planning within the respective cadres, and equal prospects of promotion for all cadres through open competition. Each functional cadre has been designed to serve in the line posts of the respective functional ministry from top to bottom. To fill the secretarial positions he created a ‘senior policy pool’ entry to which would be open to all 29 functional cadres through written and oral exams. The idea was to bring into the secretariat experts from all the 29 functional cadres who would create a reservoir of expertise and advise the ministers in policy decisions involving different functional ministries. The pool has been destroyed due the intransigence of one particular ‘generalist’ cadre and now almost entire secretariat is occupied by officers who started their career as magistrates in the lower courts and managers of land.
President Ziaur Rahman wanted a single classless unified civil service as a means of devolution of effective power from the oligarchic ‘elite’ bureaucracy to the people’s representatives at national and local levels. He formed the Pay And Services Commission of 1977-80 known as ‘the Rashid Commission ’ which recommended the creation of an all – purpose civil service based on professionalization and functional specialization as an alternative to the age- old generalist colonial civil service. During the rule of the Pakistani military regime the same so-called ‘elite’ bureaucracy implemented ‘Basic Democracy’ and helped colonize the then East Pakistan at the ruler’s behest.

Administrative reforms fails
Following the independence, therefore, it was an imperative to carry out immediate major reforms in the organization and management of government services and changes relating to the obligations of public servants in respect of accountability to the elected representatives. In such representative democracy every department of government is a depository of professional and technical knowledge and experience in the subject handled. It is the duty of the civil servant to give the minister the fullest benefit of the stock of his technical knowledge, wisdom and experience. The higher civil service, knowledge and expertise so that there is a direct flow of functional knowledge from the department to the minister. The basic characteristic of the civil servant lies in his permanence in a certain field of function or profession where he becomes well versed in intricacies and technical details. When he is changed frequently like leap-frogging, he loses his identity as a member of the permanent civil service.
Result-oriented management system is missing in Bangladesh public administration. There is no performance criteria for individuals and no measure of output and input for various units identified with clear-cut responsibilities and commensurate authority. According to UN Team Reports, for most job descriptions do not exist. In the absence of job descriptions, evaluation and accountability for performance against budgets, targets, standards of achievements and other tests are not possible. In Britain, civil service includes in its ranks members of a wide range of professional and highly specialized occupations including scientists drawn from nearly forty distinct disciplines. Civil service, in that country is broadly divided in two categories — industrial and non-industrial.
All craftsmen working in an ordinance factory, a dockyard or a government workshop are also industrial civil servants. In Bangladesh, President Ziaur Rahman included as many as 29 specialized and professional disciplines into the civil service. But unfortunately, due to the preponderance of a particular cadre within the secretariat, the civil service pattern, which was set by the East India Company for the purpose of land revenue collection aided by magistracy, still remains in force. In Britain the lower court magistrates who work in the counties are civil servants in the remote sense. But in Bangladesh, they put the entire claim on civil service and monopolize almost all top positions in the secretariat.

Reduce regulation, increase efficiency
Professor Muzaffar Ahmed Choudhury and M. A. Rashid, himself a generalist civil servant, accepted functional concept for administrative reforms as the solution. In practice we have failed to achieve it. Brigadier Enam Committee formed in 1983 during Gen.
Ershad’s military rule gave the public administration a workable organizational structure to start with and build on. By now that structure also has been demolished by the left- overs of the colonialist Pakistani civil servants who never compromised with reality. Now, what we actually need is to restructure the incentives that drive the entire government work force called the civil service as a handy professional body of experts.
To change this pattern of behavior the basic incentives that shape that behavior must be changed and new dynamics need to be created through competition, measure of results, decentralization of authority and the reward and punishment for success and failure. These dynamics will compel public organizations to strive for continuous improvement, to rid themselves of the obsolete administrative units, eliminate duplication, scrap unproductive jobs and redundant offices, cut back unnecessary establishment expenditures and invest in the “new public management” which is a world-wide phenomenon now. To achieve this the proposed new Brig. Enam Committee need to redesign the governmental organizational chart to identify job, authority and responsibility of every designation and restructure the basic systems of budget, pay-load, procurement, personnel inputs and accounting checks that need to converge to give public organizations the marching orders.
The aim will be to constantly innovate, to drive down the cost of an organization, to improve quality, and to strive to increase productivity. The idea is to reduce the size of the regulatory part of the government and to increase efficiency of development and productive sectors.
The writer led the movement of the 26 professional groups in Bangladesh Civil Service as secretary general of PRKRICHI and was elected twice in the country’s parliament


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SC commutes Sayeedi’s death sentence

Special Correspondent

Bangladesh Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence handed down by a lower court last year to Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the leader of a prominent Islamist party, to life in prison.
In February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh had sentenced Sayeedi, the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party, to death for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 independence war that liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan.

Full Story

Special Correspondent

Bangladesh Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence handed down by a lower court last year to Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the leader of a prominent Islamist party, to life in prison.
In February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh had sentenced Sayeedi, the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party, to death for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 independence war that liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan.

The tribunal had found Sayeedi guilty of charges including murder, torture and rape, which his followers allege as politically motivated.
The ruling Awami League-led 14-party alliance on Wednesday accepted the Supreme Court verdict commuting Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee’s death penalty to imprisonment till death saying it is respectful of the court order.
It also branded as intellectually corrupt those brought the allegation of entente between the government and Jamaat-e-Islami over the verdict.
“The country’s people and the 14-party had expected that the apex court would uphold the death sentence of identified war criminal Delwar Hossain Sayedee. But, we've respect for the court decision," said 14-party spokesperson and Health Minister Mohammad Nasim.

BNP Silent
However, maintaining their party's no-comment policy over verdicts against war criminals, BNP leaders on Wednesday were tight-lipped about the Supreme Court judgment jailing unto death their alliance partner Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee.
Senior BNP leaders declined to make any comment on the verdict, saying they should not say anything about the judgment of the country's apex court.
BNP standing committee member Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said, "There's no scope for making any comment on the matter as it's the final judgment of the country's apex court."
Another standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said their party will come up with a formal reaction if it deems it necessary.
Echoing two other standing committee members, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy said he should not give any personal reaction to a court verdict. "Usually, the Appellate Division commutes punishment. I've nothing to say about it."
Jamaat's  hartal
However, Bagladesh Jamaat-e islami enforced a day-long  hartal throughout  the country  on Thursday  and  announced  another day hartal  on Sunday  to protest  the  conviction  of  party leader  Allama Delwar Hossain Sayeedi.


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