Shah Husain Imam


Columnist, The Daily Star

An album on the poet of politics

My first impression of Bangabandhu dates back to around the mid-sixties. A helicopter service had been in operation between Dhaka

An avoidable mayhem

Last Tuesday, from the northerly Himalayas, a blustery wind cascaded down to Haripur area of Thakurgaon leaving a patch of ruins in

Uprooting corruption: We can do better

The seasonal discussion on corruption is back in full swing following the release of Berlin-based Transparency International's global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), 2018.

Which way is pluralistic democracy headed?

We have known democratic pluralism, pluralistic democracy and multi-party system to be synonymous terminologies. But is it as simplistic as that? Conceptually and ideally, it is; but in practice and real-world situations, it may not be so!

Change of style or substance?

With at least 27 new faces and only a few septuagenarians around, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was greeted on her re-election to a record fourth term at Gono Bhaban on Tuesday.

Sheikh Hasina's fourth term

It is the huge gaps in the numbers of votes polled by the winners and the losers in the 11th national election that apparently unveiled a “controlled and patterned” nature of the process of polls.

Wintry mist from a non-level playing field!

If almost every past election in Bangladesh had been a test case for democracy, the one the nation is going to in two days' time is a veritable litmus test for the country's democratic future.

Nomination cauldron bubbling away, electioneering heat awaited

It was for the BNP leaders “a strategy” of filing multiple sets of nomination papers to cover the contingency of rejections. This came in the way of 141 party nominees out of 696 who had applied to the EC for a go-ahead.

Annisul Huq: A potential unfulfilled

Annis had embarked upon his first wave of infrastructural improvements. A childhood friend of his calls him seeking his help for a cancer patient, the mother of an army officer.

Feeling the pulse of the people

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, one of the founders of Awami Muslim League (now Awami League), chief minister of undivided Bengal, former prime minister of Pakistan and one in our pantheon of “National Leaders” was once quoted as saying, “Bad election is better than no election.

Quantum of disarray

What with difficult-to-deal-with Mr Trump on one side and “revanchist” Mr Putin on the other, the world seems to be in a turbulent place right now. It appears others in the world arena are also queuing up to join this disarray to make matters worse for years to come.

A world in turmoil

We show two traits when caught up in a political impasse before a general election and in responding to the government's offer of a dialogue when it comes to the opposition.

Japan's soft power - A Midas touch in waiting!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had kept up his sleeves a unique treat for his guest, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his visit to Tel Aviv in May of the current year.

Of dissent and critique

Getting rid of a high-profile dissenter of any powerful government is almost invariably “surrounded by mysterious circumstances.” The reported murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Riyadh government, last week inside his own country's consulate in Istanbul is no exception.

Digital Security Act - For trust-based pragmatism

Democracy and free press are inseparable concepts, so the renewed fervour we notice to the “debate” over the mutually complementary issues should be welcomed.

Our women migrant workers must be protected

Try as we might to reconcile the two trends in Bangladesh's development story, one consistently positive and the other indicative of a lack of distributive justice, we may fail to make the pieces of the puzzle fit, and therefore, marvel at it as a “miracle” development.

One Belt, One Road: We must secure our interest

The ancient Silk Road, of which the Belt and Road Initiative is a gigantic new avatar, dates back to the Chinese Han Dynasty's westward expansion more than 2100 years ago.

Pondering over the election

Do we see any spring on the feet of politicians of all hues in anticipation of the approaching general election? Not quite because the deck is yet to be cleared for a credible election, a far cry from the January 5, 2014 polls!

Honing policy on Rohingya issue

In the past we have been painfully aware of the interminable waves of persecution of Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state in Myanmar and the consequent foisting of an increasing refugee burden on Bangladesh. But now, nobody is left in any doubt about the intractability of the problem:

Managing traffic: A road to nowhere!

Not even a month has passed since the eye-opening teenagers' agitation for road safety, here we are today quizzed by an unpalatable question: Are we more accident-prone now than we were before the stirring event of early August? It appears we are!

Not exactly Turkish delight!

Tit-for-tat goes on between the US and Turkey with surprising frequency and fury. Ankara has declared a “boycott” of all electronic goods from the US. This is in retaliation—of a narrower calibration—to Washington having doubled tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Turkey.

Child is the father of man

This is entitled not to a freaky triumphalism but to a celebration of human compassion for the collective risk to lives on roads. This found a powerful utterance and demonstration through our tender-aged progeny's intelligent intervention for a few days.

Can Imran be his own man?

The Western press by and large has called the elections in Pakistan “staged managed”—meaning the military had a hand in it.

Dhaka: Where will it go from here?

Dhaka, once the Venice of the East by virtue of being surrounded by four ebullient rivers, is now an urban behemoth. In our university days, going home on a long vacation, we would be literally pining for Dhaka after a couple of weeks of sojourn with parents.

In apocalyptic breach of Hippocratic Oath!

Last week has been a happening spell, in an untoward sense, for the public health landscape. From Chittagong to Khulna to Rangpur, a litany of serious lapses, irregularities and unauthorised hospital activities has come to light.

Of conflict of interest and public accountability

People in high places are privileged with getting away with minor indiscretions, especially in a developing country.


A three-man BNP delegation's visit to New Delhi on June 3-10 has raised more questions than provided answers for. This trip was led by Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, member of BNP National Standing Committee; Abdul Awal Mintoo, the party's vice chairman; and Humayan Kabir, its international affairs secretary.

Peace anywhere seeks peace everywhere

Sir Winston Churchill, with his superbly imaginative and insightful mind, once said something like this: “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” That means use vitriol, threats, intimidation, even go eye-ball to eye-ball if you must, but do your utmost to stay away from war.

Can't they get a better deal?

It may appear as though we are looking for a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but believe me, it's not as funny as that. It is actually a desperate disease calling for a desperate remedy.

From a high moral ground to a high legal perch

That Bangladesh offered a safe haven to close to a million Rohingya refugees fleeing wholesale persecution from Myanmar put Dhaka on a high moral pedestal.

Stampede deaths: Martyrs of mismanagement

We are not even five days into the pall of gloom cast by the alms-giving incident at Satkania, Chittagong causing nine deaths, mostly

What is Trump up to?

The US President Donald Trump in a dramatic move has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal ahead of the deadline set for May 12. True to his hell-bent attitude to abandon the deal spearheaded by his predecessor Obama, he has given another proof of an impulsive action distancing himself from a multilateral approach to romp on to an isolationist trajectory.

IPL through Bangladesh's lens

We are skating on thin ice as far as our participation in the IPL goes. That is the way we feel—both in terms of representation on the circuit and inclusion in the playing 11 on given days. Speaking of representation, only Shakib and Mustafizur Rahman were chosen from Bangladesh to play in the 11th edition of the glamorous and cash-awash Indian Premier League (IPL) out of six originally making it to the auction list. Four players from Afghanistan were picked from 10 having been put on auction. One has been taken ill leaving three Afghans playing now.

Rohingya Windrush?

All hell broke loose over the British government! It found itself in the eye of a storm following a self- inflicted controversy raging over what is called the “Windrush generation”. “Windrush” is the name of a ship that had brought thousands of Caribbean people to Great Britain in 1948 to help rebuild the war-ravaged country.

Can Rajib's death be a tipping point?

JUST how anarchic the transport sector has become is graphically illustrated by the following instances: In the first place, after having severed Rajib's hand, the beastly bus broke the spine of a housewife near New Market; and grievously wounded a girl's leg as if on a serial damaging spree. Secondly, last Tuesday morning, a collision between a bus and a lorry on Dhaka-Khulna highway, severed a transport worker's hand from his body!

Our dying rivers and hopes for water justice

This is ironic and self-contradictory on the face of it. On the one hand, you read in the paper an eight-part series on mostly dead or moribund rivers all over the country—700 in total, of which 54 are trans-boundary rivers. On the other, you get to hear of Bangladeshi experts preparing to impart their knowledge of rivers to the Bihar state government!

Does the squeaky wheel get the oil?

As BNP's leadership keeps moving the higher courts to get bail for Khaleda Zia, an accused in the Zia Orphanage case, and trundles along the corridors of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) for permission to hold a public rally, the ruling party keeps a stoic distance.

Bangladeshi brand of cricket and World Cup 2019

The noise and hype of the Nidahas Trophy tri-series have now settled into a civilised hum.

Tigers go down fighting in the end

After the India-Bangladesh T-20 match in the Nidahas Trophy, 2018 tri-series on Wednesday, I felt that the Tigers had deprived themselves of a back-to-back victory. Closely on the heels of last Saturday's epic win against Sri Lanka chasing down a target of 215 runs, the fourth highest in the history of international T-20 cricket, Bangladesh fancied its chances to defeat India.

Aftermath of a ghastly attack

The attack on Zafar Iqbal has been profoundly appalling but not surprising. He has been stalked for a few years since being put on the hit list by elements fed on a dogmatic diet to finish those off who didn't fit into their narrow view of life.

Can't we outsmart the corrupt?

We need to outwit the graft-taker, outsmart him. In fact, we should try to be one step ahead of him so we can beat him in his own game! The reason why I am suggesting such an unconventional, even a little surrealistic method is simple and easy to understand.

Honing social skills

Our social skills have somewhat blunted over time. Virtues that we had taken for granted in the past almost sound like pipe dreams today. Tolerance, live-and-let-live, mutual, professional respect between men and women, consideration for the elderly, civility, courtesy, compassion, and hospitality—once the markers of social behaviour—have turned utopian, unattainable!

Clarity of thought and action for a livable Dhaka

Traffic congestion has become synonymous with dwindling livability and quality of life in Dhaka.

Values tumbling like a can of worms

We have a shiny sheen of socio-economic indicators, compared to those of most other South Asian countries—Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen never ceases to mention this.

Soft underbelly of connectivity projects?

One would have thought that the much-heralded plans for regional, sub-regional and inter-regional connectivity projects should have added up rather than subtracted from each other.

The cold facts

There are quite a few things to be noted about the on-going cold wave. Of them, two are obvious. For one thing, it has been relentless in its pattern, and therefore, cumulative and gripping in its chilling effect.

Assam is not Rakhine

THE Indian state of Assam is engaged in the process of creating a database of its citizens. It is going beyond the demographic details that were available in the national census report to make use of. No other state of the Indian Union is undertaking such an exercise, and that's where the catch is.

Elections and the Ershad factor

Contrasting speculations linger over the Rangpur mayoral election results. Was the poll “stage-managed” or was it a “calculated game”? Awami League and Jatiya Party, having been broadly on the same side of the political spectrum

December 22, 2017
December 22, 2017

Child heroism, mother's loss, deaths in stampede!

Three human stories hogged news headlines last Monday and Tuesday touching the deeper chords of our sensibilities. Evocative of

December 8, 2017
December 8, 2017

Reflections on the Pope's visit

As the impressions of Pope Francis' back-to-back visits to Myanmar and Bangladesh sink in, some self-evident truths glare through the mists of Naypyidaw, the new Burmese capital.

December 1, 2017
December 1, 2017

Closer China-Bangladesh ties shouldn't worry India

We need to emphasise the importance of reworking China-India-Myanmar trilateral equations to be energetically responsive to Bangladesh's concerns over a snowballing multidimensional Rohingya crisis.

November 18, 2017
November 18, 2017

Two colourful feathers on our cap!

We have been picking our brains hard to find a creative solution to the task of shoring up the stagnating tourism sector in Bangladesh. In spite of its location-centred magnetism, how long would Bangladesh languish on the side-line of a relatively peacetime globe-girdling tourism industry when comes its turn?

November 10, 2017
November 10, 2017

One step forward, two steps back!

It is a supreme irony that victimhood and villainy sometimes get weighed on the same scale with material stake getting the better of the moral imperative.

November 4, 2017
November 4, 2017

Making Myanmar behave - A worthwhile mission

When levers and counter-levers pull away in opposite directions the object of delivering change is stuck on the pulley, as it were. This is understandable as a scientific concept. But what is so eerily unethical is the oxygen of support Myanmar not only receives from a handful of countries, but is also pumped up by.

October 27, 2017
October 27, 2017

Isn’t Bangladesh’s stake worthy?

One can draw two significant messages from Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's just-concluded visit to Bangladesh: First, she has basically reiterated India's position that an incumbent government is obligated to hold...

October 20, 2017
October 20, 2017

Nurul Islam Anu as I knew him

Munshiganj High School, Haraganga College playground, and Idrakpur Fort are where we would rendezvous in the mid-fifties—Nurul Islam Anu; my elder brother Shah Ali Imam, a freedom fighter; and myself.

October 13, 2017
October 13, 2017

Lessons from the South African test series

As they say, in the hard world of competitive cricket, “You are as good or bad as your last performance”.

October 6, 2017
October 6, 2017

Dealing with a chameleon

The traditions of Myanmar's hermitage, of which the Burmese military remains a purveyor, sometimes come to the fore in awkward ways.