Un-embraceable You

Maskwaith Ahsan

Maskwaith Ahsan

The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

Embraceable You

The latest edition of The Economist carries a comprehensive yet questionable report on India-Bangladesh ties. There are a couple of serious allegations in the report that just cannot be allowed to go unanswered. The opening paragraph alleges that India helped Awami League with cash and advice in winning 2008 general elections. The publication has not even bothered to substantiate this open allegation with evidence. I take the “cash” part more seriously. There is no harm in taking advice from a rising democracy, especially when the whole world is set on this particular set of governance. But accepting “cash” is another story altogether: it not only undermines the credibility of a democratically elected government but also colors the objectivity of the report.

The Awami League has historically had good ties with India, and is now logically trying to cement those ties with various agreements on sensitive matters that have been a stumbling block to the peace of eastern South Asia. So by alleging that the current government took “cash” support from India to come to power, the report is in effect trying to undermine peace efforts in the region. The Economist has chosen to publish this report at a time when both countries are finalizing treaties to resolve long-standing problems and expand the horizon of co-operation. The sensitive deals concern the resolution of matters like border disputes, water-sharing, electricity procurement for Bangladesh, transit routes and proportionally balanced trade. These deals will equally benefit Bangladesh economy, and should be taken as initial steps toward a South Asian Union.

As for transit routes, the report has quoted the fears of “military types” that such facility to India might provoke reprisals from separatist outfits. First of all, what are “military types”? Are they people with military background or simply a handful of people with a military mindset? And second, allowing India transit routes to the Seven Sisters will in fact help Bangladesh outsource the tackling of its militancy problem,because separatist groups in north eastern India have deep links with underground movements in Bangladesh. Such links have repeatedly played into the hands of Islamic militants by becoming a conduit for arms and safe havens.

Coming back to The Economist, the sweeping comment regarding lack of transparency in the upcoming 1971 war-crimes trials clears the purpose of this report. It is evident that the report was prepared with the intention of highlighting this issue only. For a western magazine to side with an Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, should be an eye-opener. This is the very party that has proven links with religious militants in the country, this is the very party that has hired lobbyists through third-party contacts in the west to fight its cause, and this is the very party that is supporting known war criminals. Hardly ever were questions or allegations raised about the impartiality of war-crimes tribunals in Cambodia or Rwanda. Even in the matter of the Armenian massacre, western media sided with the victims, not EU-aspiring Turkey. But in case of Bangladesh, sympathies seem to be surprisingly shifting toward the perpetrators of 1971 crimes against humanity.

Jamaat-e-Islami is a coalition partner of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Khaleda Zia. So, the BNP will quite naturally never pursue these trials. That leaves only the Awami League to bring closure to the victims of those heinous crimes. Yet, The Economist had no qualms about stating without evidence that “the
(upcoming) war-crimes trials over the events of 1971 are being used less as a path to justice than to crush an opposition Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami”. The publication also showed lack of journalistic sensitivity by using the word “events” for the 1971 holocaust. While it’s true that trials of mass atrocities have rarely been free of political controversies, they have still produced meaningful results, both in term of providing closure to the victims and bringing the perpetrators to justice like in former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia etc. Besides, I agree with international experts that “ultimately, the quality of the evidence placed before the court would determine the success or failure of the Bangladesh tribunal”. And also “based on comparative experiences, a trial that is not considered legitimate is likely to produce weak results that are susceptible to challenge further down the line.”

So, the focus has to remain on the crimes and the victims, and not on the political affiliations of the suspects. Not the trials themselves but the suggestion of The Economist that these trials are a witch-hunt in reality compromises the validity and effectiveness of the rule of law and justice. Despite the politics surrounding this issue, the fact that there is widespread desire to bring the war criminals to justice simply cannot be ignored. This was one of the major election commitments of the Awami League before the 2008 elections for which the party secured massive public votes.

But as The Economist alleged right at the beginning of its report that Awami League won the polls by questionable means, it only goes to prove what many in Bangladesh consider western conspiracy to keep the region destabilized. There can be no doubt that the trials will close a painful episode of the country’s history, and also that reversing the process would only worsen the situation.

The Economist report is nothing but a bland effort to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty ahead of events that carry momentous value for the future of Bangladesh. In journalistic terms, the said report is mere media propaganda in an attempt to bottle-neck peace efforts in South Asia.



The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

13 Responses to “Un-embraceable You”

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    Rajendra Kalkhande

    British media is still following the old colonial mentality. I often read articles in British media which are either sponsored by some one to spoil the atmosphere in south Asia or with some political motives. We should read through the motives of such articles and should never get carried away. Colonial powers are still playing their old games.

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    Haider Ali

    This is an attempt by an vested interest group to spoil the spirit of SAARC cooperation in the region. Most of the remarks are very insulting for both the AL and the country. It can be branded as very cheap yellow journalism. It may be the same coterie that had felt offended at Bangladesh’s birth. Their only intent is to harm warming Indo-Bangla-Sino relations and replace the current leadership in Bangladesh with their lackeys operating here. Their rightist inclination also gives a nod to the radical Islamists and the BNP to launch a undemocratic agitation movement to dislodge the secular and progressive pro-independent Awami League from power so that the vacuum could be filled in by a puppet military-baked regime of their choice as in 2007.

    This news weekly in particular has published similar fabricated and false accusations in the past to make way for he Yunus-backed illegitimate failed caretaker government in 2007. The Economist is clearly backing the war criminals of 1971 by raising questions about the war crimes trials underway.

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    Salman Haider from UK

    Mr Rajendra and Mr Haider-
    Your remarks are absolutely rubbish.
    Against press freedom. Both of you are sleeping under a political motivated phoebia.Come out and try to see the international media reports objectively, not from a particular angle.

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    Khondkar A saleque

    It is unbecoming of a reputed print media like ” The Economist” to publish such a controversial report. Such a report creates hatred and mistrust among readers and encourages mischief mongers in creating confusion. Bangladesh and Indian government deserve an explanation with evidences of some issues raised in the report . The Economist must prove that Indian Government helped BAL in winning 2008 election . British media before blaming other nations and government must judge their own after the Rupert Murdoch media scam. Britsh police were bribed and some hacking incidents in recent times even entangled British PM .India is SAARC neighbor of Bangladesh and is a regional super power. Bangladesh and India are well on the course to resolve various bilateral issues which for a long time soured their relations. At a time when both countries are engaged to resolve various issues on the basis of mutual trust and respect of each others soveriegn equality such a report is very unfortunate. Transit and regional connectivity always brings benefits for all. Regional connectivity is in operation in other region of the world.It is not wise to criticise anything without proper knowledge of the matter. India has pledged not to move Army or military materails accross Bangladesh.
    There are few sections in the report that questions trials of war criminals of Bangladesh. It has even questioned Genocide carried out by Pakistani occupation force and their collaborators under trial during Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.Econmmist must try to track various eport of British Media in 1971 and learn lessons.Instead of supporting trail of identified criminals against humanity it has questioned the trail process.
    As a proud Bangladeshi and ardent bearer of the spirit of the liberation war like to register strong condemnation of a trash report of the ” The Economist’and demand unconditional apology from the Editor and Publisher of the Newspaper.

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    Roqibul Hassan

    The Economist report is rubbish and nonsense. The quality of internatinal journalism is at its lowest ebb. No wonder western corrupt journalists belonging to Wikipedia and News of the World who tarnish the image of personalities and smear nation’s image have finally been charged.

    It seems that Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP have purchased some of Economist staffs with their money and have put them under their payroll.

    The Jamaat-e-Islami is using the Economist platform to rekindle the anti-Indian sentiment and politics of hatred among South Asian nations. The old game of divide and rule mindset hasn’t changed at all.

    Instead of poking their nose in Asian affairs the Economist should focus on the economic tsunami battering the US and Europe and find ways how to avert it.

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    M T Mohsen

    Dear everyone…
    it seems we have gotten so ugly that even if someone attempts to show us our true face we become angered…
    Yes the colonial power are playing their old games but the players have changed… It is India which is destroying the spirit of SAARC and has become an obstacle to regional peace because if its desired hegemony. As for the Indian sentiment … trust me its a start there will be many more revelations much more disgusting that what Economist has shown us.

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    Salman Haider

    Here in Bangladesh we are mimed, gagged and speechless. If police beat us, we can not go to court. Even if we can, court in Bangladesh is nothing more than a party office of the incumbent government. So what Economist divulged is only tip of a huge iceberg. Should you wish to see the rest come and visit Bangladesh and talk to any one you like and you will have the answer.

    On the last election that Awami League won through a landslide victory is a huge surprise even to many Awami Leaguers. History will one day let us know what a humongous manipulation the election it was. Please have such patience to see the truth soon.

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    Sultan Mohammed Zakaria

    Salman Haider UK wrote: “Mr Rajendra and Mr Haider- Your remarks are absolutely rubbish. Against press freedom”

    Now Mr Haider tell me what is press freedom? Writing anything rubbish? I don’t know which country you belong to, but now, without citing any credible source, If I write on the very next morning that the Cameron Government in Britain came to power receiving cash from China! Do you sense what would happen? If this allegation proves wrong? Will the British government spare the Economist, whatever press freedoms it allows? Or for the sake of virtue of “freedom of press” it will just watch the nation being humiliated with no reason?! Before advocating “freedom”, you really got to learn first what responsibilities “freedom” entails…

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    We believe that this article very appropriate and heartfelt opinion of most the Bengali. We believe that BAL come to power backed India’s huge cash and support. Everyday we are loosing sovereignty and it is difficult to us to live hand to mouth. We, general people are waiting to see the trail of Moinuddin, Fakruddin and three EC shareing of Indian Cash.

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    21st February

    Is it new for Sheikh Hasina in case of taking cash from Indian Authority ?
    Surely NO .

    Shajeeb Wajed Joy is a son of a Mere Government Official.
    How the expenses of expensive education of Mr. Joy was financed, everybody knows Indian Authority was generous enough to finance it.

    Indian interest is there to see Awami League in power. They finance Awami League and Sheikh Hasina.
    The same way they give scholarships to many Bangladeshi Academicians just to keep protected their interest in Bangladesh.
    The same way Jewish interest group or Arab interest group finance democrats and republicans.
    BTW,whether Indian interest is served or not by Awami League is another issue.
    It is quite possible ,even may not be the first time , a third world country’s political party take election expenses from another country.

    By the way, if not Indians , then who financed expensive Awami Election campaigns,as such many of Awami leaguers claim they are honest and poor.
    I can tell in any standards campaigns of Fazle Noor Taposh, Matia Chowdhury, Inu,Menon and other hundreds are unbelievably huge.

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    Dear All,

    If you choose to ask any questions-do so ask Sheikh Hasina what truth lies therein. It is very clear how she feels about India, but cash is not what India would provide her at all. How the 2008 election was manipulated was clear in evidence in Sheikh Hasina’s speech during the welcome of the newly elected Student League, her new army of enforcers (who have proved how much their muscles speak for themselves even in their own parent party meets). Hasina was quoted as saying, ‘it was I who gave Khaleda Zia the number of seats that she got out of pity in the 2008 election since it was all under my wish that everything had happened. Otherwise BNP would have just been nothing.’ And then she goes on asking questions as to why Khaleda Zia had sent a condolence message for an old retired Pakistani General (General Rao Farman Ali)..you know who??!! and then our dear Hasina tells her young students that there was a relationship of certain sorts indicating a fornicating tone, you know the rest..I do not have to tell you.’

    this is a Prime Minister telling her student about the personal or sex life of her opponent and indicating how she manipulated the elections and got Khaleda Zia and BNP to join her parade to glory in LIVE TELEVISION.

    Bangladesh has never had nor will ever have a free, fair, impartial election. We should in fact be grateful to India for granting us freedom and retain it without absorbing this sordid area into the Union of India. What Hasina is doing is to complete that piece of the puzzle and make bangladesh a rightful part of India.

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    Zia Masud

    I am glad that the Economist article had no impact on the Bangladeshi politics. Accusations brought up after almost three years. The 2008 election was free, fair and impatial and widely acclaimed all over the world then. The Economist too had no allegations raised then.

    The timing of the accusation is at a time when the heinous war criminals are being tried and exactly prior to the arrival of a British lawyer sent to Dhaka to defend the killers of 1971. It also was brought up when Western economies are in decline and Asia’s rise as the new global powerhouse is guaranteed in less than a decade.

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    Ahsan’s comments suffer from the timeless tactic of asking for evidence to back up assertions made in a piece e.g.para 1 (cash from India) and para 3 (who are the military types?).

    As regards cash, what kind of evidence does Ahsan want? RAW records? Interested powers historically have funded their proxies. Indian cash for AL coffers is not unexceptionable. BNP reportedly has received funds from Pakistan/KSA/some Gulf States. So what’s new?

    The interesting point is how much funding will India give AL for 2014 elections? Probably as much as it takes to win. Not only does India want and needs to protect its earlier investments but also to reap dividends from it. The Caretaker change, political harassment, press muzzling, skewed and motivated judgments et al and possibly the war crimes trials should be seen as AL’s domestic efforts to supplement and be the raison d’etre/quid pro quo for Delhi’s funding.

    Re the miltary threat, it doesn’t require a genius to realise that transit has military implications/connotations. India would be foolish to use B’desh to transit militray personnel and/or material in peace-time, or even in case of war with PRC, when the fighting will probably be over before the reinforcements arrive (1962 War). India’s ability to fight PRC in the NE depends on how well she has developed her command and logistics infrastructure in that area. These have improved a lot since 1962. But so has PRC’s.

    It also doesn’t require a military genius to see the ULFA and other NE organisations, either singly or combined with discreet but deniable Chinese backing/support (a long shot?), launching raids and/or attacks alongside our border or even inside against infrastructure targets and/or personnel (IEDs). Should this materialise and the B’desh security forces are gradually overwhelmed–not unlikely since Peelkhana mutiny has neutered the old Bangldesh Rifles and has not helped the morale of the regular army-will this provide the pretext for an Indian intervention like IPKF in Sri Lanka? Not likely but not improbable either.

    Ahsan makes some interestingly bold but sadly unrealistic/unsupported assertions/predictions that in some cases border on hyperbole and dilutes the quality of his observations: see para 2 (“These deals will equally benefit Bangladesh economy;” Really?); para 3 (“separatist groups in north eastern India have deep links with underground movements in Bangladesh;”-NE separatism started from August 1947); para 4 almost in its entirety ( indications are that war crimes trials will generate more heat than light; para 7 (“it only goes to prove what many in Bangladesh consider western conspiracy to keep the region destabilized.” As if western powers have nothing better to do as they sink under debt?How about giving the names of some of the many?); para 8 (“… said report is mere media propaganda in an attempt to bottle-neck peace efforts in South Asia.” Really?).

    The B’desh authorities as well as Ahsan doth protest too much over the Economist report. A less rambling and rambunctious and more discreet and significantly shorter rejoinder probably would have been more effective.

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