The night they came


[Photoblog by Amirul Rajiv.]

[Click any of the thumbnails for a GreyBox show.]

A curfew was declared. Streets were off limit to the public while jeeps and truck-loads of military personnel were coming out of the barracks. Those boots that left the cantonment on January 11, 2007 keep stomping Bangladesh to date, one year on. Shot from a rooftop in Dhaka, first images of a “State of Emergency.” Images that remind us that our streets are no more ours.


E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

199 Responses to “The night they came”

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    No comments on this important post? Here’s one from me.

    Dhaka Dilemma
    One year after the the implementation of military rule in Bangladesh.
    by Maneeza Hossain 01/11/2008

    Today marks the first anniversary of the momentous events of January 11, 2007, when Bangladesh’s constitutional government was replaced by military rule. For 365 days, Bangladeshis have lived under a state of emergency: their constitutional rights have been suspended, civil liberties limited, and hundreds of thousands — ranging from former prime ministers to ad hoc peddlers — arrested under the banner of “fighting corruption.” One year after taking power, the military “caretaker” government’s promises to implement a better, truer democracy have not been fulfilled.

    To the contrary, the unelected, paraconstitutional government of Bangladesh can claim credit for two appalling developments: the politicization of the army, which has blurred the lines between the army and civilian administration and has introduced into the army the same corruption rampant in Bangladeshi politics; and the creeping delegitimization of democracy, which has occurred as various undemocratic actions — arrests of perceived enemies, the exclusion of duly elected leaders from political life, the ban on “indoor politics,” which forbids private political discussions — are normalized under the army’s rule.

    Despair is setting in among many Bangladeshis. But in the West, and even among some in Bangladesh, there is denial rather than despair. Some reject the idea that a military coup took place. Bangladesh’s two previous military takeovers both had a visible military face. The uniqueness of the new takeover is that the military hand is hidden in the velvet glove of a renowned technocratic team, led by Fakhruddin Ahmed, an internationally acclaimed, world-class economist.

    But the refusal to recognize the coup as a coup goes deeper than that. Perhaps Western democrats never believed Bangladesh really capable of democracy, or perhaps they are willing to endorse a fictional democracy if doing so is in line with perceived international interests. Or perhaps new global risks have prompted the international community to accept an unelected government in Bangladesh: the belief that Islamism must be contained at all costs is taken to justify support for this new order, even if it means the indefinite suspension of democracy.

    It is hard not be reminded of Pakistan. Bangladesh, once known as East Pakistan, is afflicted by many of the same ills: Islamism is a rising threat; corruption has eroded the political system; democracy appears a luxury too dear for the present; and the military, as the foremost professional institution, is the most trustworthy partner against the rise of Islamism. In both countries, moreover, reform will depend on the government bureaucracy and the expatriates.

    One difference between the two, however, is in the response of Western diplomats. When Parvez Musharraf declared the state of emergency in Pakistan in November 2007, governments of democratic nations expressed their disapproval and dismay. “The people of Pakistan deserve the opportunity to choose their leaders,” declared John Negroponte when he flew over to Islamabad. But a year has passed since the military assumed power in Bangladesh, and the silence of much of the world amounts to complicity in the destruction of Bangladesh’s democratic potential. While the West remains silent, Bangladesh sinks deeper into crisis. The country’s currency has lost 10 percent of its value, leading businessmen are kept behind bars, and the price of commodities such as edible oil and rice are being forcibly kept down by the army’s experiment in state-controlled economics.

    Husain Haqqani, a Pakistan expert and advisor to the late Benazir Bhutto, has referred to the “Pakistanization” of Bangladesh. A decade from now, we may see in Bangladesh a politicized military that holds the reins of power, controls the economy, and has the final say in social, economic, and political affairs. We can likewise expect a shrunken and weakened political class exhausted from losing its leaders to exile, trial, intimidation. The other effect is likely to be a growing grassroots movement that appeals to urban as well as rural populations, that provides services parallel to the government’s, and that — under the banner of an ever-radicalizing Islamism — offers an outlet for venting frustration with corrupt politicians and dire economic circumstances. We may even witness Western powers arranging for the return of a former prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, in response to the military’s failure to contain the Islamist threat.

    The current unelected government claims to pursue genuine democracy, respect for political pluralism, and avoidance of radical intolerance, but the course it is now following is not conducive to the fulfillment of these goals.

    Still, Western governments seem inclined to continue their tacit support for the actions of the Bangladeshi Caretaker government — contingent on a timetable to elections. In turn, the Caretaker is adamant about excluding both former Prime Ministers (“the feuding ladies”) from any future political role. What remains to be seen is whether the Bangladeshi electorate is willing to go along with this exclusionary stand. From the military’s point of view, this remains a sine quo non. Political change will be limited to tinkering with the current configuration of fa

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    Iftheker Mohamamd

    Ek sokuner haat thekey, ar ek sokuner haate poreche desh.

    The way was paved for creation of Camp X-Ray, a prison for captives in President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.” The first captives arrived from Kandahar, 8,000 miles away, on January 11, 2002, to be incarcerated in wire cages.

    Remember: “History repeats itself.” Here is what happens in Bangladesh.

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    Jagorook Manush

    One-eleven anniversary check list
    Deluge of despair inundates landscape of hopes

    Promises/Hopes — 01/11/07 vs. Angst/Despair — 01/11/08

    Winch back derailed democracy.

    — Generals in uniform define democracy.
    — Center of state power has already been shifted to the cantonment.
    — Army takeover is a matter of time.

    A free and fair election in shortest possible time.

    — No optimism of any election in 2008 or one without intervention of military.

    A perfect voter list.

    — In progress but at a much slower pace than expected.

    Jihad against corruption.

    — Conviction of Hasina on corruption charges is imminent.
    — End of publication of Janakantha is imminent.
    — No trial for Khaleda-Tarique as yet.
    — Saeed Eskander, brother of Khaleda and brother-in-law of General Masud, and his family have left country in broad day light.
    — Khoka, Mannan, ZI Khan, Saifur, Nizami, Mujahid are not corrupt.
    — Brother of General Moeen U Ahmed is the MD of army owned Trust Bank.
    — Fakhruddin has undisclosed properties and assets abroad.
    — Nasim, Zalil, Obaidul, Atiqullah, Mohiuddins are the icons of corruption.
    — DUDAK, allegedly under total control of ISI, is using corruption as a tool to eliminate secular, pro-71 politics and overall depoliticizing of the country and making inroad for military rule.

    Restoration of law and order

    Extra judicial killings in government custody and in nefarious “crossfire” by army/RAB have intensified. Coercing and torturing detainees are regularly practiced while all the legal rights of individuals are suspended under emergency rule. Venerable teachers and students of the universities are convicted for silent processions but no charges against Islamic fundamentalists for violent hate rallies. Government overrides HC and SC order and keeps Babul in detention illegally.

    Independent judiciary

    Judiciary has been declared independent after ensuring total allegiance to the present quasi-military government. It still remains Kangaroo by it’s formation.

    Independent public media

    Government has not only retracted from their commitment, under emergency act, they have clamped down censorship on privately owned electronic media and newspaper. The illegal detention of Atiqullah and Babul is to demoralize free press and publications.

    Independent Election Commission

    Election Commission has not been made independent as yet; it was a fundamental commitment of the government though. EC is virtually a rubber stamp of the generals. Their snail-speed progress compounded with new controversial decision of redefining constituency map declared by the army representative in the EC has given public enough reason to be skeptical about the road-map to election 2008.

    Public perception

    — A free and fair election in 2008 is a forlorn dream. Web of terms and conditions of EC will make it impossible for political parties to participate in the election. As the only alternative, either, army will stage an election drama with the help of BNP-Jamaat-Yunus-Kamal-Amu clique and form a military government with civilian fa

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    The critical question is not how they came, but how will they go. Will they?

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    Suman Matin

    Title of this post needs correction. It should be the night they pushed in. What I know the then BNP government tried, even issued official order for them but they didn’t come. But unfortunately on that night they were pushed in.

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    The following testimony provides a pretty good summary as well as critical insights for the current mess. Why do we still have this army? Especially an army that still carries the Pakistani bhoot on its shoulders (and hence its Jamaati traits)?

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