Sunday, March 18, 2012

The taboo on the ‘third’ force vs. the public intellectual

I refuse to believe that we can’t change the scene. I refuse to believe that Bangladesh is a coin with only two sides to choose from. I refuse to toss anymore. If Asif Nazrul, an avid nationalist and a member of the Law faculty can be summoned by the High Court for having uttered the tabooed word: “Third” and has the possibility of being charged with sedition, on the assumption of ‘instigating undemocratic forces’, then almost all of us are vulnerable to wrath.

Why is the ‘third’ force a no-no for the government? Why does the ‘third’ always has to be the military? Why can’t there be a third, fourth, fifth and a sixth political party to contest the elections instead of unhealthy alliances that continue to join the position from the opposition benches? Frankly speaking, it is truly disappointing to watch the members from the opposition benches just sitting in the parliament, clad more in Mujib coats than the position, eulogizing the achievements of the same. The possibility of perhaps becoming a minister in the cabinet has dulled all that they once believed in and all of them perhaps are victims of The Peter Principle where in a hierarchy, everyone tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Point is, is it worth being a Peter’s duck in the parliament?

No…so don’t become one.

Every evening, the talk shows which raise valid points and continue hammering the same issues and at least instill some degree of awareness in the public: also do no good. The discussants also fall prey to the black spirit of political backlash. Point is, can you change anything in this land from a distance, by becoming a talk show critique, or by becoming a concerned citizen, by forming a “Nagorik” platform?
No… so don’t join one.

Has anyone ever been able to change anything without actually initiating a political movement? No…so become a politician.

Who is a politician? Is Anna Hazare a politician? Is Kiran Bedi a politician? Can anyone change the country without getting involved in politics? No. As much as we think about civil societies and forums, the limits are set for public intellectuals. In spite of all that we achieve in pointing out the failures and pettiness in most of our politicians, none of us has actually engaged in politics, and none of us has actually gone through the electoral process that so demands sleepless nights, endless persuasion, and steady focus of becoming a public representative. True, majority of our politicians are far from being transparent, honest and tolerant. But it is we who have voted them to power. If we have made choices, then perhaps it is time for us to pay.

But what other options do we have other than voting for leaders who need to align with religiosity and under-performers who make faux-pas in their speech and denounce the platform they speak from? (Reference, Shafiul Alam, President, JAGPA:
What other options do we have other than voting for leaders who themselves impose government hartals on a day when the opposition decides to hold a rally?

Reality appears to offer us no choice. In spite of knowing from the bottom of all our hearts, that Bangladesh has only two sides to choose from, it is time for new moulds and a Rubik’s cube. Now, how do we make these brainteaser cubes?

Of course, politics needs patronage. Almost rarely has anyone come into politics without belonging to a particular lineage. South Asia is filled with inherited and typed nationalistic jingoism. Therefore most of whoever manages to occupy the royal seat in South Asia turns into a complete royal package rich with a recipe of corruption, prejudice and blindness. This is real.

Let’s get real, really. Uttar Pradesh voted Mayawati to power to lift the spirits of the dalits. Instead they ended up with statues of elephants (her symbol) and Mayawati herself. Ironically, this dalit leader who had risen from her ranks has a bag in her hand in many statues that she has erected in Lucknow. She is rich today and is also a blatant megalomaniac but aha…here we go…she is also the highest taxpayer.

The same people who brought her in voted Mayawati out of power and this time, they have chosen Akhilesh Yadav, the 38-year-old youngest 33rd chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He was sworn in to power on the 15th of March and guess what…much to the disappointment of the voters, he has stuck to his dad’s choice and has re-inducted all the oldies in the cabinet, beginning his day with only his chair and his dad, Mulayalam Yadav’s ministry, which includes the controversial Raja Bhaiyya, booked many a times on accounts of many crimes. 28 out of the 47 ministers in Akhilesh’s cabinet have criminal cases against them. This sends a strong message to us. The first compromise begins with being a successor. If one has to change anything, it has to be on an individual ground, risking ridicule, facing charges, battling challenges and becoming a politician by your own right.

Does joining an alliance do any good? No. Look at Mamata Banerjee, apparently the upholder of the three holy words: Ma, Mati ar Manush, abusing her chair in West Bengal. Whoever thought that she would become the worst friend of Bangladesh, and simultaneously slap Congress the most by opposing every inch that Congress adopts in favor of Bangladesh? Whoever thought the Congress in Delhi would face the possibility of crumbling to dust just because the Chief Minister of Bengal, Her Excellency Mamata Banerjee put on a fresh antic everyday, with the latest being her opposition to the Railway Budget put forward by Dinesh Trivedi, the latest victim of Mamata’s anger mode. See what alliances do to the center? If you were the center, would you risk having such an oscillating ally? No…so don’t have one.

What then is the answer? The answer lies in our own selves, where we must today promote our own selves, through personal integrity and trustworthiness in our own areas and of course, make enough for living to contribute to the growing educated middle-class. Economics is inexorable in democracy. While we realize this, we ought to also realize that the elites are the ones who continue to remain happy with any unhealthy, yet steady political calm as it benefits them the most. Weren’t the rich happy with the British till Gandhi turned the country around with the slogan of non-violence and non-cooperation?

The only way this country of ours is going to survive moral doldrums is by breeding a healthier economy, which will handle the hunger in our tummies. The Poorest are the most Turbulent. And that is why, even an economic giant like India has turbulent pockets all within its boundaries, just because Indian growth is not an all-inclusive one.

I thank God for having given us a small patch of land; it’s still a territory that can be handled by 300 decent lawmakers, if only we exercise caution and restraint. We need to be cautious in democracy and ensure that the disappointments that we lend our voices to do not run against the spirit of freedom. But we need to have unfunded, non-dynastic players in the field, with rich conscience who don’t have to think about their next meal the next moment.

If Bangladesh has to wait for the next 20 years for this generation to evolve and excel, let’s wait. But let’s join our hands together, risk being labeled as foolish idealists and call for the young to change the land that we own. But let’s not just sit for the next 20 long years with throwing our arms up in the air and continuously grumbling and predicting Bangladesh’s demise. Let’s not demean Ekattor as it certainly wasn’t born to be doomed.

BY :   Rubana Huq.

'Ex-ISI chief didn't name BNP or Khaleda'

Confession made by former chief of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Asad Durrani does not include anything about the intelligence organisation funding BNP, claims the party's acting secretary general.

Showing an affidavit copy of the confession the former ISI chief made before the Pakistan Supreme Court recently, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told journalists it does not include name of any individual funded by ISI outside Pakistan.

"I have the full list in my hand. The list does not include the name of either BNP or Khaleda Zia or any individual outside Pakistan," said Alamgir mentioning that the confession includes a list of Pakistani people, including Nawaz Sharif, along with the amount of money given by ISI.

"This is a politically-motivated campaign launched at a moment when BNP is enjoying increasing public support. It is part of their (government) planned conspiracy," Alamgir told the media at his party's central office Sunday.

The former ISI chief was called by the Pakistan court on Wednesday last week for his statement on the allegation that the intelligence agency has been involved in funding various national and international organisations for political purposes.

Indian edition of the British daily 'Daily Mail' reported that the former ISI chief had confessed that they gave money to BNP in 1991, during the period of a national election. Earlier, the same news was published by the Middle-east based daily Khaleej Times.

"The first news to appear in this regard was in Khaleej Times. An Indian journalist named Dipanjan Roy wrote the report. No Pakistani newspaper ran any such report," Fakhrul claimed.

"We want to make it clear that BNP has never been involved in politics or participated in any election on money received from abroad. Instead, The Economist of London had reported that Awami League participated in the 2008 national election by taking sacks full of money from neighbouring countries," he added. 

US direly needed to preserve West Pakistan: Kissinger

Forty years after Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said while creation of Bangladesh was Indian national objective, it was essential for the US to preserve West Pakistan.

Addressing the opening gala dinner keynote address at India Today Conclave on Friday, the veteran diplomat denied that the US had made a secret pact with India to prevent an attack on West Pakistan, India Today reported. 

After the 1971 war which saw the break up of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, the US asked India not to strike against West Pakistan, the report added.

The war broke out just when the US was conducting negotiations with China through Pakistan, said Kissinger who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 jointly with Vietnamese revolutionary Le Duc Tho for their efforts in negotiating peace in Vietnam and an end to the Vietnam War.

“India and the former Soviet Union had made a near-alliance around this time. It was in the national interest of the US to preserve West Pakistan,” he said.

The Indian army moved into East Pakistan on December 4, 1971. The Indian offensive led to the creation of Bangladesh. The US responded with gunboat diplomacy. President Nixon sent the Seventh Fleet led by the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal. 

“Each side did what it had to do. Each acted on its own national interest which clashed for a brief moment,” Kissinger said.

Kissinger also laid another Cold War ghost to rest. White House tapes of the Nixon presidency declassified in 2005 reveal the former Secretary of state used unparliamentary language while referring to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the India Today report said.

“I was under pressure and made those comments in the heat of the moment. People took those remarks out of context,” Kissinger said, adding that he had the highest regard for Indira Gandhi.

The veteran statesman who turns 90 next year, spoke on ‘the making of an Asian century’ during period when Israel has threatened to attack Iran destabilising the Middle East, the US is embroiled in the Afghan quagmire and India wearily watches the rise of China.

Kissinger, the architect of President Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972, had a word of advice for India. It would not be in India’s national interests to allow a dominant power or a transnational power that would intrude into its sphere of influence: from Singapore to East Africa.

He also said that China would treat India with respect and that India, China and the US would have to work together to balance China’s internal forces that had the potential to destabilize it.

Dr Kissinger signed off with his interpretation of the art of foreign policy: "to have a vision of the future and the courage to pursue it".