Even a brick has a soul

Maskwaith Ahsan

Maskwaith Ahsan

The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

World-renowned architect Louis Kahn, who also designed the parliament building of Bangladesh, while defining his philosophy once said that even a brick has a soul. Three of our top leaders – Shaikh Hasina, Khaleda Zia and H.M. Ershad – have spent confinement within the red brick walls of sub-jails adjacent to the parliament house. While Ershad claims to have been a victim of Khaleda Zia’s vengeance, both the women leaders allege that their confinement was an attempt to implement the minus-2 formula. Whatever the allegations and counter-allegations, the common outcome was sabbaticals forced upon all three of them for soul-searching within the red-bricks of Louis Kahn.

Ershad took over power by removing a democratically elected BNP president, Abdus Sattar, after which he went on to shelter war criminals as well as the killers of the Father of the Nation, gifted Bangladesh with a state religion, implemented Ayub Khan-style basic democracy that was nothing but mere eye-wash, and wrote poetry. All this catalyzed the twin processes of criminalization and Islamisation in politics. Then came the mass democratic movement of the ‘90s and Ershad was jailed. It’s easy to assume that he passed his days and nights like Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar by staring at the red bricks. The subsequent 15-year democratic spin ended with the installment of a military supported 1/11 caretaker government in 2007. Khaleda Zia and Shaikh Hasina were in turn relocated to those same red brick premises.

Khaleda Zia was incarcerated for her desire to rule over Bangladesh till her death. She came to power in 1991, and as a means to an end followed in the footsteps of her arch-enemy Ershad by tolerating political criminalization and promoting the killers of Mujibur Rahman. People’s choice ousted her 5 years later but as luck would have it, Shaikh Hasina too failed to hold her party godfathers on a tight leash and had to relinquish power after five years.

BNP won the 2001 polls with a brute majority, and we assumed Khaleda Zia must have learnt from her mistakes. We were again disappointed. This time round her son Tareq Rehman, like Sanjay Gandhi, started a parallel government from his whirl castle. Tareq’s sycophants launched percentage terrorism while simultaneously courting and facilitating the Talibanisation of Bangladesh, and prepared ground for election engineering. Tareq could not play the Nero’s flute as times would not permit him to go that far, so he took to cricket to ridicule an opposition protest. But it had the same effect: Dhaka started burning like Rome. Sadly, Khaleda Zia’s affections for her son turned out to be blinder than that of Indra Gandhi.

Having said that, it’s lamentable the kind of physical abuse Tareq Rehman had to face during the 1/11 administration. Such penance cannot be expected in a modern state. One can simply hope Tareq has realized that no power is absolute. He could have avoided being the target of such harassment had his involvement in politics been fair enough to win the hearts of an apolitical majority. Then there would have been no reason for the masses and the military to support 1/11. If leaders consider relying on political institutions a long winded wait and try to take fate into their own hands, nature inevitably steps in to put things back on course, sometimes rectifying a wrong with another wrong.

One might add that it’s still quite early to judge if lessons have been learnt, but a time-tested maxim does arise: without respect for democracy and people’s will, political ground can overnight turn into ashes.

And what did Shaikh Hasina learn during her confinement within the red bricks of soul? She displayed courage by getting rid of a few party godfathers and power abusers who had made her ’96 government unpopular. She, however, has not been able to stop her party cadres from changing the names of institutions in the BNP fashion, nor restrain their attempts to paint the face of Bangladesh with the colors of Awami League.

Politicians of questionable ethics and pseudo media-intellectuals talk about 1/11 as if they had no contribution to the rise of that undemocratic setup. Such political businessmen and opportunist intellectuals would do better if they learnt to earn their bread and butter just like the hardworking people they claim to represent.

Had there been no Hawa Bhaban (Tareq’s whirl castle), had the BNP not tried to install a favorable caretaker government to engineer elections, had there been an impartial election commission with a fair voters’ list and had the civil bureaucracy not been lego-ised to support election fraud, the political scene today would been much friendlier.

The current Awami League-led grand alliance will have to show conformity with democratic institutions and will have to rely on people’s will alone. It will have to realize that voters are neither supporters of Awami League not of BNP. Voters are only clients of democracy, willing to give mandate to the party that delivers. Neither they nor anyone else wants to see the shadows of 1/11 haunting the collective fate of peace-loving nation.

Maskawaith Ahsan is a broadcaster, journalist, author, blogger and the editor of  The-Editor.net.

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The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.


4 Responses to “Even a brick has a soul”

  1. Imran Zaman

    A crucial test for Sheikh Hasina is in play at this moment. We shall see how well she handles the opposition in tackling their thorny & beligerant attitude toward the deals that were penned in Delhi.

    Similarly, we will watch Khaleda Zia as to how she interacts with the government in the coming days on the Delhi issues. Will she give priority to national interests or personal & party interests will dominate her moves? Will she involve the people by debating these issues in parliament, where their 30 or so MPs’ have been sent by the people. Will she sideline the hardliners in her party or listen to the voice of reasons in BNP? Will she show who runs the BNP, the elected representatives or the one’s that were rejected by the people in the most free & fair election in the history of Bangladesh.

    As the ruling party has a duty to engage the minority opposition, in parliament, to hash out issues, so does the opposition a responsibility to debate issues through their elected representatives inside our Jatiya Sangsad.

    The next four years will reveal how much “positive” impact the undemocratic 1/11 government’s activities has had on our two leaders, Sheikh Hasina & Khaleda Zia.

  2. Engr Khondkar Abdus Saleque( Sufi)

    The author has given an accurate commentary of the development of events post Bangabandhu killing on 15th August 1975.Bangladesh could be so different if Bangabandhu was alive till now.Bangladesh propelled in reverse gear. The defeated force of 1971 slowly infiltrated everywhere .All gains of liberation war were blown away.
    BNP & JP ( Beneficiary parties of Bangabandhu killing)even could not be born even if some ungreatful evils did not kill Bangabandhu.There were very little possibility that Hasina or Khaleda would have come to politics.
    After 75 Army Ruler -ambitious Zoiaur Rahman being a freedom fighter himself sponsored killers and collaborators of 1971 and 1975.Zia forgot ideals of liberation war. His unfortuate killing in 1981 was the consquence of all his wrong doings. Autocrat Ershad took over. There was very little difference except Ershad apart from being sponsor of killers was personally a very corrupt and characterless person. He was toppled down by mass up surge. But the gains of peoples movement in 1990 were also swept away by misrule and corruption of Khaleda government. Hsina led Awami League formed government 1n 1996.She very honestly tried to repair damages. But some of his men also indulged in corruption and mis governace bringing back BNP-Jamat government agin in state power in 2001. Time 2001-2006 was the darkest period in Bangladesh history. Khaleda’s sons, her PMO and most of the ministers made Banglades the happy hunting ground for corruption, terrorism and anarchy.Country reached on the brink of collapse.Eventually 1/11 brought undemocratic government.In the name of corruption hunt a ceratin group of ambitious uniformed persons made their fortune.Real criminals and corrupt persons got off the hook. But somehow a credible election brought mahajote government to power with lanslide manadate. But the posioned beuracracy , very weak and sick SOEs in one year could not create enabling environment for PM Hasina government to proceed smoothly on her percieved vision.
    PM Hasina must objectively analyse the pains and gains of the last one year and try to set up a proactive administration of tlaented commited professionals to turn around.

  3. Shahriar Javed Arun

    “If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them”. Andrew Olmsted

    The PM’s India visit has been a grand success. Indo-Bangla relations have reached a new height. The PM is soon going to Beijing to link Bangladesh with China and Southeast Asia through Burma. Consequently, because of Hasina’s foresight future generations will remember as a visionary who globalized Bangladesh to the rest of the world.

    What a moment it shall be when we can go up north to India and Nepal and Bhutan and the Tibetan plateau and China and in the southern part of Bangladesh head into Burma and go further up to Kunming by car.

    India phobia is a political ploy by Khaleda to destabilize the country so that they can get away with their heinous crimes of the past. They just don’t want The Awami League government to find out more criminal acts perpetrated by the BNP-Jamaat during their midrule.

    Opening up the major ports to our neighbors is the right decision. The ports will soon become world class. I am sure there will be huge investment in infrastructure development. I can see an elevated superhighway connecting Bangladesh’s North to South in 5-10 years. I am sure the Indians and the Chinese will invest billions of dollars into infrastructure and port development

  4. Altaf Ali

    The conspiracy hatched by the war criminals Jamaat-e-Islami and their allies BNP soon after the Awami League won a landslide victory in December, 2008 is underway. The BNP is now a lackey of the Islamic terrorist organisation Jamaat-e-Islami. BNP can no longer survive without criminal killer Jamaat’s blessings and sustenance. It now owes its survival to the heinous killer Jamaats. These are nothing but murderers that engineered each and every terrorist acts in Bangladesh and abroad.

    The first target is creating unrest in the Dhaka University.They have already burned private cars and public property yesterday.

    In spite of heavy endorsement of the management of the economy by the British ambasssador the other day BNP and evil killers Jamaat-e-Islami have started using ill-gotten ISI money which include counterfeit currencies flooding Dhaka to destabilize the sound fundamentals of the economy. Jamaat is also activating their Taliban-Al Qaeda-like sleeper cells within the government to embarass the government. The BDR mutiny was their creation. With what the bastard killers did in 1971 they will do anything to foil the hanging of the self-confessed assassins of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and bring in not ten but tens of thousands of truckloads of illegal black market weapons through their ISI operatives very much active in Bangladesh. They will even try to fly in the death sentenced assassins hiding in Pakistan and other countries.

    This time their backbone must be broken once and for all at any cost.

    The war criminals of 1971 must be tried and hanged this time starting with bastards Golam Azam and Nizami.The people have given that mandate to the Awami League.

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