12:00 AM, July 04, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Blooming autocracy: Bucking the trend

Blooming autocracy: Bucking the trend

Shah Husain Imam

AWAMI League's uncontested second term placed the onus on the government to make up for the moral and democratic deficits of a non-participative election by delivering good governance to the people.
If the party's six months in office is any guide, one has to say that the opportunities fortuitously falling into the cusp of the government are being wasted. From here on, the party would have to be wary of elements burrowing holes into the structure of governance. Failure to roll back the trend would cost the party dearly.
Thanks to the spurts injected into relations with Japan, China and India which put a shine on the government's sheen, the advantages of international dealings should have impacted positively on domestic mood left soured by a loss of face through January 5 election. It has become crystal clear that Bangladesh is valued highly in the present geopolitical context and its people's potential ranked equally highly. So it is turning out to be a favourite investment destination. That places the government in the unenviable task of providing stable democracy and credible governance to its people.
Predominant domestic sound bytes have been rather negative, though. The detractors of AL are reminded from every platform that not until 2019 would any dialogue be entertained, far less a mid-term election held. It is little solace for the dispassionate people that BNP has been cornered, somewhat out of its own choice, Jamaat neutralised and a calm, howsoever uneasy rules the roost. But given the sensitive agendas on the government's list, and BNP's threat of waging a movement, the government's internal weaknesses showing up through highly individualistic rowdy behaviour can only antagonise the people towards the AL.
Unelected MPs' syndrome is in evidence as a new aberration of democracy which is neither representative nor has any checks and balances in place. The most chronic variant of Mafioso is a name that has had a surfeit of publicity well beyond its capacity to digest. The other examples are embodied by Minister Latif Siddiqui, Gouripur MP Captain (retd) Mojibur Rahman Fakir from Mymensingh and Nizam Hazari of Feni.
Siddiqui was making his budget speech in parliament and towards the end of it the Speaker requested the honourable minister to conclude his speech as there were others waiting to speak on the subject. To this the minister from Tangail said he was not just 'others but Latif Siddiqui.' Unrelated though it may have been, he reportedly received a 'rebuke' from the prime minister to put a stop to VOiP business adding that she had knowledge of who were doing this.
Mojibur Rahman Fakir as reported in a premier Bangla daily has been shaving the head of anyone opposing him bald and even getting him shooed. If anyone lodges a case he would be gotten arrested. He is even known for proposing marriage to his political opponent at a public meeting -- couldn't the careless dare devil that he personified.
Nizam Hazari MP with alleged involvement in Ekram murder in Feni is roaming free. While serving a ten-year prison term in an arms case he got himself acquitted two years and ten months remaining of the sentence.
On a broader plane, in an interview with The Indian Express BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia disagreed with the questioner who put to her: “In Bangladesh, two families have dominated politics. Will that continue in the years to come?”
Khaleda replied, (quote) This is not correct. Families are respected because Mujibur Rahman had a contribution, Ziaur Rahman had a contribution. From there, people have faith in them ... Look, this is not just about politics -- a barrister's son becomes a barrister, a doctor's son becomes a doctor, a businessman's son becomes a businessman. So, politicians generate that interest in their family members. And then, it comes to the people, whom do they accept, that is the key. If they don't accept, they will be out (unquote).
The BNP chief's statement deserves some analysis. What's noted that she has not used the prefix Bangabandhu to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Well, one remembers how she observes her birth anniversary on the same day that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated.
Her reply is simplistic in that she skirts dynastic implication by drawing an analogy to a doctor's son being a doctor and a businessman's becoming businessman ...
Dynastic lineage is on the wane in South Asia. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and even India have non-dynastic leaders. From India and Pakistan it may not have disappeared; for, the lineage is still immersed in politics. Bangladesh too has the predominance of political families.
This is all the more reason why nations with dynastic leaders, incumbent or in prospect, should strive to foster intra- and inter-party democracies by way of building future leaders from amongst the masses to take over the political mantle in future. This is good for both the protagonists as well as the beneficiaries.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.
E-mail: husain.imam@thedailystar.net


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