In a press conference on Bangladesh Prime Minster (PM) Sheikh Hasina’s recently concluded visit to India, Madam Khaleda Zia, ex-Prime Minister and current leader of Opposition in the Parliament of Bangladesh, alleged that the PM had sold the country to India. The salient features of her claims are:
• The Water sharing issues were left to the mercy of India.
• Excitements about Import of 250 MW Power from India is laughable
• Ignorance about Tipai Mukh Dam is inexcusable.
• Neglect of Poet Nazrul has frustrated the people.
• Opposition has no way but to go for movement.
It must be mentioned upfront here that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed visited India from the 14th to the 17th January, 2010. During her visit some historic groundbreaking agreements were signed and two Minutes of Understanding were initialled. After the epic summit meeting between the heads of the governments of the two countries a 50-point joint communiqué was published which stated that all issues of bilateral importance came up for discussion and meeting of minds were reached to resolve all these through mutual discussions based on good friendly neighbourly relations. PM Hasina already invited opposition to return to parliament and voice their approvals or disapprovals on anything on the floor of the parliament. Soon after returning from the trip, she already has explained to our people the salient features of agreements and MOUs, as well as issues included in the communiqué.
In 2008 December election, Bangladeshi people have provided land slide majority to PM Hasina-led Mahajote government to serve the nation for five years. Our people have also elected some 30 opposition MPs to represent some sections of the people in the parliament. Unfortunately, under some silly pretexts, the opposition has abstained from attending the parliament after few days of the first session, although they don’t mind enjoying all the facilities and benefits of being parliamentarians at tax payer’s money. This is really sickening! It’s a shameful display of abusing people’s trust for which they were elected.
Mrs. Khaleda Zia stated that people of Bangladesh do not accept the communiqué which in her opinion has compromised our national interest. According to her, the PM has given everything generously to India through this communiqué; the PM has sold the country to India according to Khaleda. We like to ask Mrs. Khaleda: what percentage of people does she represent? What is her locus standee in the present parliament?
While various political parties, traders, business leaders, economic analysts and columnists have welcomed the significant achievement of PM Hasina from this recently concluded trip, seemingly only madam Khaleda and her associates are complaining. As a minority leader, representing only 10% of elected reps in the parliament, she has no right to say that our nation has not accepted the communiqué. She also failed to explain her reason for abstaining from the parliament. She also perhaps does not understand the difference between communiqué, agreement and MOU. A country is not a tradable commodity. She made herself a laughing stock with such silly accusations time and again that our country has been sold to India. She must be asked to explain clearly what she really means by this. She must produce credible evidence of selling of Bangladesh to India.
When she was honourable guest of the Pakistan occupation force in 1971 her husband joined Awami League-led Bangladesh liberation war to liberate our country and took shelter in India, which gave generous and spontaneous support in the liberation war. How can PM Hasina ever think of compromising with country’s interest when her own father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the very dreamer, architect and the father of this nation? PM Hasina lost most of her near and dear ones on the fateful hours of the 15th August, 1975 when conspirators carried out gruesome murders. It was madam Khaleda and her husband who sheltered those self-confessed killers and rewarded them in many ways. She also enjoys parleys with noted war criminals and hobnobs with them. Her only asset in politics is drum-beating of anti Indian slogans. Did not she state earlier after CHT treaty that a part of Bangladesh extending from Chittagong to Feni will go to India after that treaty? Has that allegation ever happened? What is the ground reality? Today, peace prevails in Chittagong Hill Tracts. We can expect that after the present agreement with India on cross-border terrorism, i.e., commitment not to entertain insurgency of any country in other’s soil, peace will prevail further strengthening the entire region. Mrs. Khaleda’s statement is not only out of context it is outrageous and makes her a laughing stock to world communities.
Mrs. Khaleda talked about Teesta Water sharing agreement. She told that our nation was expecting a resolution of Teesta water issue during PM’s visit. According to her, the PM Hasina left it completely at the mercy of India. We wonder what makes her say that! India and Bangladesh in recent senior official-level meetings have made significant progress on reaching an agreement. Not only Teesta talks are ongoing to resolve water sharing issues of all common rivers flowing from India into Bangladesh, the JRC meeting will be held in February 2010. May we ask: how many JRC meetings were held over the last 5 years of BNP-Jamat rule? Did Khaleda ever raise water sharing issues with India at all? What prevented her to do so? She forgot to raise this issue with India when she was on a state visist to India. So our nation may like to ask her: why she surrenders to India completely when in power and only becomes noisy about issues with India when thrown out of power? Is not it: doing politics for the sake of politics?
Mrs. Khaleda said that our nation must not be elated about trading of 250MW power from India which according to her will be available after 3 years. According to her, this power will not be enough to meet even the demand of a major district. Can we ask ex-PM how much power her government added during her 5-year rule from 2001 to 2006? Her only achievement was an 80MW under-performing Tongi Power plant, while during her time the power demand increased to about 2000MW. When her government took over in 2001 there was no power or energy crisis in Bangladesh. Several power plant-contract processing were in advanced stages. And yet, her government cancelled all those and could not ink even a single new contract during her tenure in office. Can Mrs. Khaleda explain why a contract for 450MW PDB- Summit JV plant at Sirajgonj could not get final approval after it was approved by the purchase committee? There are allegations of ill-gotten money laundering from the developer of the lone power plant of her time against her son and BNP senior Vice Chairman Tareq and his friend Mamun. Will Mrs. Khaleda explain why people talk so much ill about the Khamba scandal? Talk about fleecing of national wealth! She should be ashamed before opening her big mouth!
The current MOU to import 250MW power is the stepping stone to set up regional power grid. Once the grids are connected it will create opportunity of trading any amount of power amongst India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Madam Khaleda must tell her dumb advisors to shut up for putting those illogical statements — about power trading in North and South America, East and West Europe, and in South East Asia — into her mouth. Through such ill-informed and ill-intended comments she has made a fool of herself.
We appreciate Mrs. Khleda’s anxiousness about the Tipai Mukh Dam (TMD)? But does she know what it is? Did she do anything about it during her tenure? It’s not PM Hasina, but it is madam Khaleda who appears to be ignorant about it. In contrast, during her first year in office, PM Hasina has taken significant initiatives about resolving this vital matter. She discussed with Indian PM several times about it whenever they met in international engagements.
Why did madam Khaleda stop the opposition MPs from joining the parliamentary team when they visited India in connection with TMD? That committee discussed the issue elaborately with Indian counterpart and acquired important documents. The Indian government has made categorical commitment that nothing that harms Bangladesh will be done at the TMD.We have reports that TMD may be abandoned altogether, if it turns out that this is really harmful to environment.
Kobiguru Tagore and Rebel poet Nazrul are integral parts of Bangla culture. It is really laughable that Mrs. Khaleda wants to make an issue of it. The PM Hasina recited poems of both when speaking to Indian elites after receiving the Indira Gandhi peace award. How did Mrs. Khaleda find that our PM had neglected Rebel Poet? To most Bangladeshis, the Kobiguru and the Rebel poet are like the confluence of Padma-Meghna-Jamuna; they are inseparable. Hasina government has done enough and doing enough for both such towering cultural icons.
From 2001 to 2006 the BNP-Jamat alliance government made Bangladesh safe heaven of Indian and Bangladeshi terrorists. There are allegations that state sponsored terrorists carried out killings of ex-Finance Minister SAMS Kibria, and Ahsanullah Master MP. The terrorists even tried to kill present PM at the heart of capital city during broad day light killing Ivy Rahman (wife of current President of Bangladesh Government) and many other innocent people. Why the Khaleda government could not nab those killers? What happened at CUFL Jetty during her time? What about the allegation of massive Arms Haulage for ULFA? Can madam Khaleda rightfully claim that they were committed to strengthening the sovereignty of Bangladesh while aiding terrorism?
She also alleged that people did not vote Mahajote to power; they came through vote rigging. Why it is only Khaleda and her party who could detect this? Why not rest of the world? Her government set all those senior Army Officers and others who later formed the Care Taker Government in 2007. Army Chief General Moin U Ahmed was preferred by Khaleda Government over few other seniors and more deserving candidates. General Masud Uddin likewise also was their choice because he was Said Iskandar’s (Khaleda’s young brother) bhayra bhai (relative through marriage of common sisters). It was our Army that worked hard for creating the voter ID. Few million false voters who were included in the voter list during Khaleda time as part of her election engineering were pruned. Our people executed their voting right in free and fair manner, a fact which was confirmed by international election monitoring agencies. So her allegations about vote rigging in 29008 elections are not tenable. They appear sour grapes!
About connectivity, madam Khaleda claimed that the current usage to be about 60% capacity at Chittagong port and about 40% capacity at the Mongla port. This is a highly debatable figure. The past Care Taker Government and the present government have done much to increase activities of those two ports after the fall of the Khaleda government. For the sake of argument, if we take her figures to be correct, what is the harm if port connectivity would ensure 100% capacity utilization? Madam Khaleda must explain how offering port connectivity to neighbouring countries jeopardise the sovereignty of Bangladesh? When the proposed port facility expansion, envisioned by Singapore investors for Mongla, is implemented, the facilities will be quadrupled. Instead of fooling our masses, madam Khaleda should tell those cock and bull stories to her grand children. That would be fair and square!
Before the PM’s trip to India, Madam Khaleda vowed to either lay thorn on the ways of PM Hasina or garland her. The people of Bangladesh have overwhelmingly accepted what Hasina has achieved in India. The world community acclaimed the trip in a chorus. The choice is obvious; madam Khaleda must now garland Hasina and join politics of amity and peaceful co-existence. She must join the parliament and keep our government honest so that it does not stray away or deviate from fulfilling its election promises. That is what our nation expects and not empty rhetoric from the leader of opposition.
What is actually happening with opposition politics is rather disturbing. It is in a conspiracy mode since the election victory of the Mahajote Alliance. It is irate that Bangabandhu-killers, which it protected all these years, will soon be executed. There are speculations that the trials of the BDR killings will expose its conspiratorial hand behind the tragic event, which intended also to kill the PM Hasina on that fateful day of February 25 if she had appeared in the Darbar Hall. The Opposition is also uneasy about the trial of the War criminals, which will start soon. The current government is carrying out detail probes of the 21st August carnage, killing of S.AMS Kibria, Ahsanullah Master, and journalists in Khulna (Humayun Kabir and Manik Shaha). None of these developments are desirable for the BNP-Jamat alliance that ruled the country when such acts of violence took place. Many of the killers are now hiding in India. The extradition of such terrorists and killers and the ensuing trial that would surely follow may actually expose their links with the BNP- Jamat government of the past. So the BNP- Jamat opposition is genuinely concerned and are trying to create issues out of non-issues, making moles out of mountains, to somehow take people’s attention elsewhere. And that is what the opposition is up to these days.
But such ploys should not discourage the Mahajote government from boldly facing each of those issues coolly. Per people’s wishes, all acts of crime, corruption, money-laundering and land-grabbing must be probed and all criminals must be brought to justice. That is why people voted for the Mahajote. They want change – a paradigm shift from old, evil days of politics and governance to one of law, order, transparency and justice.
Kh. A. Saleque (Saleque Sufi) is the ex-Director (Operation) GTCL and writes from Australia.