TAHRIR SQUARE TO SHAHBAG SQUARE

F R Chowdhury

 

In Middle-East and North African Arab world, a number of corrupt dictators have been ruling for long. In some countries they are referred to as President but let there be no illusion. They are all equal dictators sometime in disguise of being an elected president. We all knew one day it was bound to explode and change. It eventually happened starting in Tunisia where President Zainal Abdin Ben Ali left the country on the face of public uprising on 14-January-2011. Next battle ground was Egypt where thousands gathered in Tahrir Square and continued their movement against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. President Mubarak tried desperately to cling to power but eventually relinquished his powers on 11-February-2011. He is now under trial for his misrule and corruption. The longest public uprising took place in Libya to get rid of Muamar Gaddafi. He was finally assassinated on 20-October-2011. There is still one more country where similar movement is still continuing and that is in Syria where President Bashar Al Assad is still clinging to power though his days are now numbered. The movement alerted other rulers in the region who are trying to bring in some democratic changes to prevent or delay similar uprising in their countries. One thing the rulers are convinced that in the days of electronic communication coupled with investigating journalism it is not possible to hide any crime or corruption. This realization has improved civic rights and rule of law to a large extent.

It is from early February this year when the ICT declared a verdict on Quader Mollah (supposed to be a war criminal) of life imprisonment that thousands of people started gathering in Shahbag Square, Dhaka demanding his death sentence. Gradually the crowd started demanding death sentence for all Razakars. In a democratic society people have every right to vent their anger and grievances. But it was something more than that. In the beginning it looked like a non-political movement against the war criminals but gradually it became clear that the entire thing had been initiated by the Government from behind the screen to divert public attention away from their misrule and misdeeds. Now let us try to analyse the reasons behind the scene.

The present Government came to power with a vindictive mind to settle their scores. They had lot of anger against the Nobel Peace Committee of Norway as to why Professor Yunus was awarded Nobel Peace Prize when there was more deserving candidate in Bangladesh. They could not do anything to the Committee and obviously all the anger landed on Professor Yunus. They tried their best to defame Professor Yunus home and abroad but failed. Eventually they removed him from the management of the Grameen Bank which was his brain-child. The name and fame of Professor Yunus and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed is a matter of pride for entire Bangladesh. Long live their reputation.

The next thing the Government was determined to accomplish was to hang all those connected with killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They have apparently succeeded but they are afraid that these people may eventually return in the history as martyrs. It is difficult to understand how Bangladesh would have ever seen the light of democracy without the action of those few. They never wanted anything for themselves but wanted to free the nation from the clutches of Bakshal. The freedom that we enjoy today is the outcome of their action.

Another great achievement of the present Government is to evict Begum Zia from the house that was given to her by the Government after the death of her husband Ziaur Rahman. Dhaka International Airport was quickly renamed to remove the name of former President Ziaur Rahman who was not only a freedom fighter but also the one who declared the independence of Bangladesh on that fateful night. President Ziaur Rahman is the father of democracy as he re-introduced multi-party democratic system in Bangladesh.

The Government has been talking loud about the handling of BDR mutiny not realizing that the chain of events prove beyond doubt that it was a case of mishandling and bungling. The incident brings to light the total incompetence of the Government. It has now emerged that the coup/ mutiny leaders met Sheikh Selim and discussed with him about their grievances. As a prudent member of the party in power Mr. Selim should have warned them of their intentions and told them to act strictly in accordance with service rules. If Mr Selim sensed anything more serious he should have immediately brought it to the knowledge of the Prime Minister or the Home Minister so that pre-emptive action such as arrest of the coup leaders could take place. Instead he assured them that he would discuss their demands with the Home Minister. The Prime Minister herself had meeting and negotiation with the coup leaders to give them enough time to kill all officers. They should have known better than me that when men in arms defy their command, it amounts to sedition and the only action is to crush the rebellion within shortest possible time. Instead the Government turned it into a political drama resulting into killing of 57 officers. So-called student leaders can become a politician overnight but it takes years of training, dedication and lot of public money to become a Colonel or Brigadier. God knows when we can overcome such a national loss.

The present Government also took advantage of their majority in the parliament to remove the necessity of a non-party, impartial care-taker Government to conduct election. They now think they can conduct election under their own supervision and remain in power for ever. The people of Bangladesh can very well understand their conspiracy and shall never allow them to do it their way. The movement is on and will continue for a free and fair election to be participated by all parties. The Government has been blaming every movement for democratic rights as an attempt to disrupt the trial of war criminals.

The law and order situation in the country has possibly reached its lowest point. People are being killed every day by law enforcement agencies in the name of cross-fire. On top of that the Home Minister has incited the Chatra League and Jubo League to come out on the streets and resist all democratic movements. The body of garment labour leader Aminul Islam was recovered from a drain or gutter. BNP leader Ilyas Ali and his driver went missing from the heart of the city not to be seen again. Young journalist couple Sagar-Runi were murdered in their rented flat in the city perhaps because they knew too much about Government corruption. An innocent person Biswajit was attacked and killed in broad day light by group of young thugs. Recently Rajib, one of the organizers of the Shahbag movement has been murdered. However, we have a very smart Prime Minister who does not require any inquiry, investigation or trial. She knows everything. She said the killers of Biswajit are not Chatra League members and the killers of Rajib are Jamat-Shibir members as if she knew them all. She should know what people would think of a Prime Minister who knows all the criminals.

Finally let us talk about monetary corruption. The Auditor-General’s office has raised objections on Government spending of more than eleven thousand crores taka in last four years. God know better how and when it could be reconciled. The Hallmark group took over more than four thousand crores of Taka from the State-owned Sonali Bank and there is no way that the bank can recover that money. The finance minister calls it just a minor incident. Another company known as “Destiny” took money not only from banks but also from innocent public in general. Some of them involved have already run away from the country. By market manipulation some people also made quick money out of stock exchange and most of it has gone out of the country. BEXIMCO group took full advantage of the inflated price of their share to take a huge loan from the bank against their shares as security. The price of those shares is now not even 1/10th of the negotiated deal. There is another very interesting case of a mortgaged ship being sold without any reference to the bank. Such things can only happen in Bangladesh.

Now let us talk about corruption at high level, I mean beyond the level of civil servants. A minister’s APS was caught with a car full of money on way to minister’s house. The minister resigned. He was still kept in the cabinet as a minister without any portfolio. The Anti-Corruption Commission gained full confidence of the Government by declaring the minister innocent. The nation soon came to know the identity of two new patriots – they are none other than the two ministers who resigned on the ground of corruption.

I was born as a British-Indian. Then I spent most of my life as a Pakistani (until 1971) and then as a Bangladeshi. After the WB loan scandal relating to Padma Bridge, I feel very humiliated and disgraced as a Bangladeshi that I never felt before. As a Bangladeshi I have every right to know those responsible for tarnishing the image of my country. But there is no way. The Government decided to keep the nation in darkness. There should have been movement to free the nation of its black chapter of corruption. February was also the month completing the first year of Sagar-Runi murder. There should have been movement by journalist community and public at large to demand justice.

The main purpose of the Shahbag movement is nothing other than an attempt to divert attention so that real movement for genuine causes are either forgotten or delayed. We all agree that criminals (war crime of 1971) must be punished. But why should it happen now to put other burning issues of today behind the scene. We have no reason to disrupt the ICT proceedings but our movement for revival of democracy through election under a non-party impartial care-taker Government must continue. We must not allow the Bakshalis to establish their perpetual rule. Tahrir square established democracy and let not Shahbag square kill the democracy to perpetuate the one family rule.

Those at Shahbag Square had every right to express their democratic rights. I also express my solidarity with them. But a statement of our great Prime Minister surprised me. She said the ICT judges, while giving verdict, should take into consideration the sentiments of the people. I certainly did not expect the Prime Minister to make such utterances. By so doing the Prime Minister has insulted the judges and our judiciary system. I do not know how the amendment to ICT law will apply in cases that started before the amendment of the law. The professors and vice-chancellors are being paid by public money. Their job is to teach and educate students. I did not like the way they made statements at Shahbag. In any other country they would have lost their jobs.

The continued movement as done in Shahbag Square is doing lot of harm to the country. There is no education, no offices, no factories, no business and no transport. The economic life of the country has been strangulated. Besides it has brought political parties to the brink of civil war. This is clearly a conspiracy against our recent economic success.

In addition to demand for fair trial and justice for war-criminals, our movement for democracy must continue. Knowing the character of our politicians, we must continue our movement for election under a non-party care-taker Government. We also want effective investigation and trial of all murder, killing and disappearances. With regard to the Padma Bridge scandal the nation has a right to know those because of whom we have to live as a disgraced corrupt nation. Nothing can suppress that. However, I appeal to all to shun violence. No bombs, no killing, no burning please. But remain resolute in our movement.

Finally I would like to say that we would not achieve any miracle by hanging a few people. We can achieve progress through education. Nothing should disrupt our thirst for knowledge. For the students the primary objective should be education and everything else is secondary.

14 Responses to TAHRIR SQUARE TO SHAHBAG SQUARE

  1. Thanks to Captain Fazlur Raham Chowdhudy for his valuable article and brave message! May Allah give you long life to serve this poor nation.

  2. This government’s record of corruption its failure to deliver services and its cruel ways of suppressing opposition have surpassed all previous records even by those committed by dictators.

    The author done a good job of listing few and I have no qualms in saying the actual list is likely to be much longer.

    Once these marauding bunch goes all its misdeeds will come out for the world to see. For the sake of the nation I pray that that day is sooner than later!

  3. Shahadat Hossain

    Please keep writing. The news media in Bangladesh has been neutered by money or extortion. This government is in big trouble as they have no principals. They are lost from any values. They are bound to fall. We need new leadership. But not from this heinous projonmo chottor. They are also bought by AL and their allies.

  4. Our country has become a play ground for corrupt people. Our Interior minister is asking AL to come out & defend the cities alongside police. We have been watching Awamii league supporters carrying knives & sticks marching alongside police & chasing the oppositions. Police force is very happy as some other organisation is doing their work for them. Government is pushing the country to a civil war. Economy has been destroyed foreign investments are drying up, we are surely destin for rock bottom. It is a shame that we could not hold on to our intellectuals, they all have if not now moving abroad as they find they cannot practice their knowledge freely without ministerial interference. We have no hope as the political line is filled with more corrupt candidates. Future is even darker.

  5. A true story. No one is talking about it. Awami League has become a criminal organization. Their student wing should be banned totally. All miscreants belong to Chatra League. It is a shame in our nation.

  6. Why do you through pearls to swines, Capt Chowdhry?

  7. This is a very wise and thoughtful article, indeed. But problem is, there is nobody in Bangladesh’s leadership who cares what you say Capt. Chowdhury. These are thieves and thugs and unfortunately Bangladesh has been always ruled these thugs and criminals and it is continuing even today. What progress Bangladesh has done it is by the ordinary peoples’ hard labour in home and abroad. Anyway, it is nice that you have not given up and still thinking about the poor country you left long ago and trying to appeal to senses of the leadership and concerned people.

  8. Jasim Uddin Ahmed

    No wonder many people are thinking like yourself. I fully (100%) support your views. I only wish the movement do not extinguish after the deceleration of judgments of the war criminals. In fact I would prefer to bring all those responsible to plunder wealth of the poor people, plan and instigate illegal killing etc. under the jurisdiction of fair trial. Only after the criminals are highlighted and given required punishment we should think of democratic election. Elections has no meaning with thugs all around. We need people who are diligent truthful to the cause of building the nation and free the nation from poverty and deprivation.

    I salute you for writing the article and would encourage you to continue to write in different forum and occasion.
    May Allah guide you thru the right path.

    Regards,

    Jasim Uddin Ahmed

  9. I would like to thank Mr. F R Chowdhury for his profound observations. He has very aptly described today’s situation in Bangladesh centering Shahbagh.

    Shahbagh originally was a spontaneous movement of the youth to protest the perceived ‘understanding’ between Jamaat and Awami League when Kader Mollah’s much hyped trial led to a life imprisonment instead of a death sentence. However, soon it became a platform of diversion to cleverly cover up all the colossal misdeeds of this government – the rampant corruption in the financial sector including Hallmark, Destiny, share market scam ;the unheard of incidents of several abduction and killing of opposition leaders and journalists; the brutal murder of a significant number of senior and well trained army officers in the BDR carnage ; defaming and destroying the national icons like Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank and scandals of extremely shameful nature like Abul Hossain’s Padma scandal and Suranjit’s Railwaygate scandal. The writer has covered them all.

    I just want to ask the Shahbagh activists and their so-called leader Imran Sarker – I respect your spirits and the demand for the trial of the war criminals but how strangely you have such a selective memory and conscience ?? If you are a true patriot then you should stand up against all forms of atrocities, injustice, corruption and murder in the society. By raising only one demand and totally remaining silent about today’s burning issues in Bangladesh only prove that you are driven by a different motive – a very sinister one indeed to divert the peoples’ attention from the misdeeds of Awami League and let them cling to power for the next term. Someone from your side coined that you are now sitting for Maths exam and then you will think about Science or English exams etc. at a later stage. I just want to tell you that your Maths exam cannot go on for ever – now you have to face the other exams like the burning issues of the day as I mentioned. If you choose to remain selective in your opinions and carry on with the emotion driven blood thirsty slogan of only ‘fashi chai fashi chai’, soon you will find yourselves isolated and irrelevant. And lastly, Tahrir was against the establishment and Shahbagh now is state sponsored/financed/protected movement! If someone thinks that general public can be made fools then they should read the opinion columns of various Bangladesh websites and soon they will realize that the game plan of Awami League is no more a secret and the tide is now flowing in a different direction !!!

  10. Subject: Re: Shahbagh movement.

    Assalam brothers,  
    Youth movement is a last bastion of hope
    for any nation struggling for its survival but
    unfortunately, Shahbagh movement has
    let us down. But I am not without hope, how
    could I when I get to know brave
    conscientious people like you. I read Mr
    Chowdhury’s article and responses which
    uplift our flagging spirit. Someone needs
    to remind the incumbent power in BD
    that “you can fool all people for sometime, some
    people for all time but NOT all people for
    all time.”

    Earlier I read with horror some of Razib’s blogs. If these are what he wrote than it defies all belief! No one  with a modicum of decency could be so virulently  contemptible to a religion. His blogs  are strewn with pillories and vulgarisms against Allah, His prophet and the Quran, only god knows what this guy was trying to achieve by hurting people’s religious sentiments through these obscenities.  Not only he lacked erudition of any stripe, he even failed to comprehend the simple fact that Islam as a religion and Jamat-e-Islam as a political party are not homogeneous entities. His lashing out against Islam is a misplaced anger which only highlights his utter ignorance of this religion.   He would never know that his ill judged anger and profanity did not serve an iota to the cause of Shahbagh movement, if anything it has alienated millions of practicing Muslims who otherwise would have wanted the people who betrayed our liberation movement to be brought under justice.  His brutal death equally did not contribute anything to elevate Islam. Extra judicial killing is barbaric no matter how serious the offence is. This guy’s intervention and the way in which he was slain are unwelcome nuisance both for Shahbagh movement as well as Jamate-e-Islam. Shahbagh movement made a serious strategic mistake by not distancing themselves from this guy. Their support for him will be seen as an endorsement of his vilification of Islam. 

    Like many other people I feel my initial enthusiasm with Shahbagh movement is ebbing away. The way the movement is unfolding it is only a matter of time before we get totally disillusioned. From the very inception the movement was too narrowly focused, although many of us hoped it would widen its preview as it gathers momentum. The deplorable plight of democracy, politicisation of democratic institutions including judiciary, all pervasive corruption,  omnipotent anarchy induced by political parties, extra judicial killings, disappearance of opponents and growing impoverishment are the pressing issues of the country which our political parties have failed to address. They not only have proved themselves to be inadequate to resolve these problems, they are most often integral  part of the problems. These are the issues which  should have taken the centre stage of the Shahbag movement. Instead it keeps revolving round on the demand for death penalty of few Jamath leaders, as if hanging of these alleged offenders  will bring panacea of the nation’s problems. 

    What we see of the Shahbagh movement on TV screen is rather dispiriting. Bandana wearing young people are pushing,shoving, clapping, dancing and  giving sporadic slogans in front of bemused on lookers.  What’s more ominous is the deceleration that the distinguished individuals and organisations would be viewed as forces against the country’s liberation should they fail to come and express their allegiance to Shahbagh movement. This brings to mind Bush’s infamous maxim: you are with us or against us. This is a precarious slippery slope with potential ramifications far more serious than the proponents of Shahbagh movement can possibly comprehend. 

    The call to ban Jamath-e-Islami party and recent boycott of some newspapers by Awami League smack of the dark days of Bakshal. With more than four decades of independence, our democracy and it’s institutions should have achieved some degree of maturity. Instead, it seems to have got stuck on the quagmire of intolerance and corruption. Shahbagh movement has had the potential  to contribute towards the restoration of our democracy back on the right path but unfortunately, it got its strategy as well as priority wrong. 

    Jakak- Allah
    Munir

  11. Thank you Mr.F.R. Chowdhury for your bold article.

    It was insightful, well dissected and deeply analytic. You have echoed the frustration all Bangladeshis who politically independent.
    The hope of “Projonmo Chottor’ is but evaporating into despair. The govt has thrust the country into chaos, killings, lawlessness, destroying the country’s economy.

    This killing has to stop, can we expect honest Army Generals intervention?
    That would not be a solution either. The change of Govt is ineveitable…

  12. Thank you Mr. Chowdhury for your article, it reiterated simialr version of very common public speeches now a days. I have read your article with sincere interest. but did not find anything different than what we see and hear everyday in the speeches of BNP leaders.
    About BDR mutiny – it is very difficult for us to know what was happening before the ugly incident, i.e., meeting with Sheik Selim. However it was true that a prompt action could have resulted less loss of lives. Again a just question may asked; what was the advice from military advisors? A decision on that could have been proposed by the then Army Chief. Hence blame and shame must not only go to Sheik Hasina’s plate, it could also be sahred with others.

    Issues with Professor Yunus may not necessarily be related to his Nobel Peace Prize. It could have been relating to professor’s role during Mr. Fokhruddin’s regim. This could be the reason of the current problem in which the envy on Nobel Prize could be a contributing factor.
    The list of corruption Mr. Chowdhury mentioned were not unknown at all. We need to know how we can come out of these corrupt regim. It is difficult to accept that BNP can recover us from this turbulent regim, because it has also been struggling to execute coordinated strategy.

    The overall article is biased. A number of arguments can be forwarded against the view of the phrase ‘father of democracy’ in Banggladesh. The nation has not forgot few quotes of former President Ziaur Rahman, “Money is not a problem”, “I will make politics difficult”.
    The most interesting bit of the article is that it implicitly endeavoured to justify the killing on the 15th of August 1975.
    Thank you once again

  13. Thank you Mr. Chawdhury for your article that reiterated what we see and hear everyday from the speeches of BNP leaders. I am sorry I did not find much new information in it.
    About BDR mutiny – it was difficult for general mass to know about the meeting held with Sheik Selim. However it was true that the prompt action could have resulted less loss of lives. Again it is not unjust to ask that what was the advice from military advisers? A realistic proposal proposal could have been forwarded by the Army Chief. It did not happen, but all the blame and shame are now attributed to the Prime Minister.

    Issues with Professor Yunus may not necessarily be related to his Nobel Peace Prize. It could have been relating to his role during Mr. Fokhruddin’s regime. The present Prime minister of Bangladesh does not have a professional ability to forget his role like she did not forget the role of many of her prominent party members like Mr. Tufayeel Ahmed, Amir Hussain Amu et al. Of course the envy of Nobel Prize made a contribution to her annoyance.

    A number of arguments can be forwarded against the phrase ‘father of democracy’. Please don’t forget the phrases of former President Ziaur Rahman, ‘ Money is not a problem,’ ‘ …….make politics difficult.’
    The most interesting bit in the article was that it implicitly endeavoured to justify the killing on 15th August 1975.
    Although the list of the crimes have been happening under the current regime is nothing new to the public, the writer deserves a special thanks for this.

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