Monday, December 16, 2013

Sheikh Hasina's Witch-Hunt in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina Wajid, daughter of independence leader Shaikh Mujib ur Rehman, set up what she calls "International Crimes Tribunal" (ICT) in 2010 to try those accused of committing atrocities during the war that gave birth to her country on Dec 16, 1971 when Pakistani forces surrendered to the invading Indian Army. "International" in the title is clearly misleading because it is not based on international law. In reality, it is a national court, based on a Bangladeshi statute passed in 1973 and amended in 2009 and 2012.

Lt. Gen Nizai of Pakistan Army Signing Surrender Document on Dec 16, 1971
Conveniently, all of those in Bangladesh charged with "war crimes" happen to be part of the opposition allied with Hasina's chief rival and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.  Hasina feared that if Khaleda won the elections scheduled for early 2014, the ICT would be disbanded and the accused set free. It is believed that the "war crime" trials were rushed and Khaleda's Jamaat-e-Islami partners convicted and executed to avoid that possibility.

The Bangladesh ICT has been highly controversial from the start. Its first presiding judge, Mohammed Nizamul Huq, had to resign as chairman of the tribunal, following the disclosure of private emails and conversations which raised questions about his role. Recordings of him speaking by telephone were also available on YouTube and published by The Economist magazine. It seems to show that he worked improperly with Ahmed Ziauddin, a lawyer based in Brussels, and that the lawyer co-operated with the prosecution—raising questions about conflicts of interest. And in JI leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi’s case it suggests that, even before the court had finished hearing testimony from the defense witnesses, Mr Nizamul was already expecting a guilty verdict.

More recently, another accused, JI leader Abdul Quader Mollah, was convicted of "war crimes" and quickly executed. Three of the charges against Mr Mollah relied on hearsay evidence. The charge for which Mr Mollah was found guilty was based on the testimony of a single witness, who was only 13 years old at the time, and no corroborating evidence was offered. The judicial process used for convicting and executing Molla has drawn criticism from UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, US, EU and International Bar Association.

The ICT has so far convicted 10 JI people, eight of whom have been sentenced to die. None of the Bengali nationalists who murdered Biharis, pro-Pakistan Bengalis and West Pakistanis have been charged.

The ICT verdict against Molla begins with the recitation of unsubstantiated and unproven Bangladeshi nationalists claims that "three million people were killed, nearly quarter million women were raped". These claims have failed the scrutiny of the only serious scholarly researcher Sarmila Bose ever done into the subject.  Bose's investigation of the 1971 Bangladeshi narrative began when she saw a picture of the Jessore massacre of April 2, 1971. It showed "bodies lie strewn on the ground. All are adult men, in civilian clothes....The caption of the photo is just as grim as its content: "April 2, 1971: Genocide by the Pakistan Occupation Force at Jessore."  Upon closer examination, Bose found that "some of the Jessore bodies were dressed in shalwar kameez ' an indication that they were either West Pakistanis or ‘Biharis’, the non-Bengali East Pakistanis who had migrated from northern India". In Bose's book "Dead Reckoning" she has done case-by-case body count estimates that lead her in the end to estimate that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed on all sides, including Bengalis, Biharis, West Pakistanis and others, in 1971 war.

As part of her efforts to manipulate upcoming elections, Shaikh Hasina has amended the constitution to scrap the caretaker government provision for holding parliamentary elections. Instead, she has installed an "all-party" interim cabinet, in which BNP did not join, to conduct the polls.

There has been a very strong and violent reaction to Hasina's actions from the Opposition led by Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies, particularly the Jamat-e-Islami which enjoys substantial support. For nearly a month, the entire country has been under a rail and road blockade by the BNP and its allies, according to the BBC. It has cut off routes between Dhaka and much of the rest of the country, including the critical port city of Chittagong.

The current events in Bangladesh confirm that it is still a divided nation continuously debating 1971. Sheikh Hasina is a highly divisive person using divisions to boost herself personally. I have personally seen significant conflict among my Bangladeshi friends, particularly relating to Hasina's close ties with India. Unfortunately for Bangladesh, she continues to be a divider, not a uniter.

Here's a Youtube video of Judge Nazmul Hoque Nasim discussing the ICT trials privately with prosecution's Ahmed Ziauddin:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Comparing Bangladesh with Pakistan

Behind the Myth of 3 Million By Dr. Chowdhury

Economic Disparity Between Bangladesh and Pakistan

Comparing India and Pakistan in 2011

Is This a 1971 Moment in Pakistan's History?

Pakistan Ahead of India in Graduation Rates

Pakistan Tops Job Growth in South Asia

Pakistan Needs More Gujaratis?

President Musharraf's Legacy

Demolishing Indian War Myths


Mayraj said...

She is like a milder version of Indira.

Anonymous said...

Will she unleash what happened in Colombia?
Colombia’s ‘La Violencia’ and How it Shaped the Country’s Political System

Suhail said...

Any state will punish political parties, groups and people who fought against it. The debate about JI being charged for war crimes in BD has some slight justification because JI was supporting Pakistan, which was the state at that time.

Compare this to the Pakistan situation now where JI is supporting TTP whom the state has declared as terrorists. So following a more consistent logic, Pakistan should ban JI and charge its leadership for anti-state war crimes.

Anonymous said...

We need to keep these religious and ethnic based parties in place. They are always dividers. Whether ji or Baluchi parties all work against the nation.

Mr. Riazhaq I think Bangladesh is doing the right thing which will benefit them in the long run as religious parties will be weakened.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the Economist titled "The campaign trail: The ruling party will win Bangladesh’s election. The country will lose" :

“A COUP by instalments” is how a European diplomat describes efforts by Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, to extend her rule. The main opposition is to boycott a parliamentary election on January 5th. So Sheikh Hasina’s party, the Awami League, is assured of victory. Legitimacy is another matter.

More than 100 people have died in political violence in the run-up to the vote. The latest deaths came after the execution on December 12th of Abdul Quader Mollah, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party. He was convicted, by a popular but deeply flawed tribunal, of war crimes during the bloody secession from Pakistan in 1971. On December 16th Bangladesh celebrated Victory Day, the end of the war. But hopes that Bangladesh might come to terms with its violent birth without spilling more blood have evaporated.

Sheikh Hasina’s unpopular government has lost control of large parts of the country. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Sheikh Hasina’s nemesis, Khaleda Zia, conducts its politics in the streets. It has been calling one general strike after the other, crippling the transport system and the economy. Its ally, Jamaat, is fighting for its sheer survival. Its hooligans, known for punishing political foes by cutting their tendons, now engage in outright murder. The security forces have responded with live fire. On December 16th they killed five Jamaat supporters in Satkhira, a district that, like many Jamaat strongholds, borders India. In the north, members of Jamaat’s youth wing have burned down homes and shops owned by members of the Hindu minority. League cadres have fled the countryside to the capital, Dhaka.

People close to the prime minister say she is determined to see death sentences carried out on the entire Jamaat leadership. Few credit the judiciary with independence. Foreign notables such as the UN’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, have asked Sheikh Hasina to stop the executions. But compromise is not her style.

She won a landslide election victory five years ago. In 2011 the constitution was amended to get rid of a provision, introduced in 1996 because of the chronic mutual distrust between the two big parties and their leaders, for neutral caretaker administrations to oversee elections. Sheikh Hasina did not deliberately set out to become an absolute ruler. But that is a likely consequence of the amendment. Ever since, the government has weighed the pros and cons of an uncontested election.

The biggest disadvantage is that the poll will be an obvious sham. Of 300 elected parliamentary seats, 154 will be uncontested. The BNP and 17 of its small allies are joining the boycott. The government has detained in hospital and seems poised to exile Mohammad Hossain Ershad, a former dictator and the leader of Jatiyo, the third-largest party, for its boycott. The next-biggest party, Jamaat, has been banned from taking part on the ground that its overtly religious charter breaches Bangladesh’s secular constitution.

At least the League will win. Whatever happens on January 5th, there will be enough MPs for parliament to swear in Sheikh Hasina as prime minister. The result may lack legitimacy at home and abroad. Yet India, Bangladesh’s giant neighbour and the only foreign power that could have swayed the decision to go ahead with a vote, chose not to intervene....

Ibrahim said...

Dr. M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, a Bengali nationalist who actively participated in the separatist cause, in his publication Behind the Myth of 3 Million, challenges the falsehood. Citing an extensive range of sources to show that what the Pakistani army was carrying out in East Pakistan was a limited counter-insurgency, not genocide, the scholar discloses that after the creation of Bangladesh, an announcement was made to pay Taka 2,000 to every family that suffered loss of life where upon only three hundred thousand families claimed such compensation. Had there been three million individuals dead, their families would have claimed for compensation.
mukti bahini who was fighting for freedom commited appalling atrocities on biharis and pro-pak bengalees.actual fighting force of pakistan was 40000 not 93000.they were duty bound to maintain law and order in the area.

Farhat said...

The military crackdown in EP on March 25 was undertaken to stop the slaughter and rape of non-Bengalis and pro-government Bengalis undertaken by AL militants and to save the federation from breaking apart. While it achieved its short-term objectives, in reality it lost the first battle of united Pakistan. Thereon, it was a downhill journey. Had the military action not been undertaken, the AL with the help of East Bengal Regiments and East Pakistan Rifles and Police together with ex servicemen and armed infiltrators from India would have unleashed its battle plan which was to go into effect on the morning of 26 March to forcibly takeover EP.
Besides addressing political grievances, Yahya Khan went a step ahead of Ayub Khan to address inter-wing economic disparities and gave out categorical orders to narrow down the gap between the two wings. 52.5% resources were allotted to the eastern wing as against 47.5% to West Pakistan. Capital inflow in East Pakistan increased from 40 to 75%, while the investments grew from 39 to 54%. Rs. 231 crores was allocated for development in public sector as against Rs. 190 crores for West Pakistan. The development loans to East Pakistan that stood at Rs. 28.77 crore in 1957-58 increased to Rs. 210.41 crore in 1970-71, that is, an increase of 631%. West Pakistan received only Rs. 126.07 crore loans in that year. Grants in aid from the government to East Pakistan grew from Rs. 7140 crore in 1948-49 to 1958-9 to that of Rs. 293.89 during 1958-59 to 1970-71; that is, an increase of 312%. In case of western wing, the increase was only 202%.
By 1971, East Pakistan had 600 major industries. These included 77 jute mills, 4 paper mills, 2 paper-board/newsprint mills, 20 sugar mills, 42 cotton mills, one huge steel mill, a petroleum refinery, one oil refinery, 2 Rayon mills, about 30 match factories, several oil and vegetable ghee mills, two fertiliser factories, leather tanning factories and a cement plant. Tea production had shot up considerably to the extent that East Pakistan met the needs of West Pakistan at a higher rate. East Pakistan became self-sufficient in sugar, fertiliser and tea and started exporting tea, jute items, tanned leather, paper and newsprint. Sugar production increased from 23000 tons to over one lakh tons in 1970. Out of 23 match factories in the country, 20 were in East Pakistan. Consequently, West Pakistan had become a captive market instead of East Pakistan. In the field of education, there were five universities, three colleges and six schools of engineering, eight polytechnics, five colleges and several schools of medicine, dozens of hospitals and more than 200 degree colleges for arts and science. It had more than 3000 miles of metalled road and its power capacity exceeded 100,000 KW.
Two modern ports were built at Chittagong and Chalna. Besides, a welfare-oriented scheme was put into operation in East Pakistan in middle 1970 by virtue of which commercial banks provided loans to the depressed class. Head offices of the House Building Finance Corporation, Refugee Rehabilitation Finance Corporation and IDBP were shifted to Dacca in 1970. With this kind of development in all the fields at a massive scale, it was indeed preposterous on part of the vested groups within East Pakistan to sing the song of exploitation by West Pakistan. Having laid a sufficiently strong economic base, it would have achieved greater political strength with improved degree of provincial autonomy. By all standards, East Pakistan would have gained by keeping within the federation of Pakistan. Bangladesh’s prosperity owes a great deal to Ayub Khan’s reforms. Barring the hard core Awami League members, even to this day the people of Bangladesh hold Ayub Khan in high esteem.
The falsehood of the manipulated grievances was exposed within the first two years of creation of Bangladesh. The agonising truth dawned upon the people of Bangladesh that they had been cheated and duped by Mujib and AL.

Anonymous said...

Taking a dispassionate and rational view of the case, if Quader and his companions belonging to JI had extended support to the Pak Army to fight against Indian aided rebels and later against Indian Army with a view to preserve the integrity of Pakistan, what wrong they had done? Didn’t the norms of patriotism and nationalism demand loyalty to motherland? Under what moral grounds could they be treated as traitors? Was the blood of Biharis and non-Bengalis residing in former East Pakistan thinner than Bengalis? Well over 200,000 were hacked to death between 01 and 25 March 1971 and thousands of women raped. Troops remained confined to barracks in cantonments on the demand of Mujib while the bloodbath was taking place. The second cycle of bloodshed took place in November-December 1971 and the third after independence of Bangladesh. Isn’t it true that the conspiracy to make East Pakistan East Pakistan hatched by Mujib and India in Agartala in 1963? Wasn’t the military action on March 25 launched after exercising all other options to settle the issue peacefully though dialogue? How do governments deal with traitors ready to sell their country? How did Bangladesh government deal with Indian supported Chakmas and Shanti Bahini and with BDR mutineers?

Are the farcical trials meant to gain political mileage and get Hasina re-elected? Reopening of 1971 war crime trials after 42 years is a clear indication that the whole drama is politically motivated and Indian inspired to keep Bangladesh-Pakistan antagonized and to emasculate the rising power of Islamists vying to make the Bangladesh constitution Islamic and free their country from the clutches of India.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece titled "Bangladesh: Democracy Stumbles":

Mutual mistrust, acrimony and recrimination between the two major political parties have come to mark Bangladeshi national politics, especially since the ouster of HM Ershad’s military regime in 1990 and the subsequent restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1991. In any case, intense political unrest has marked almost every election cycle in Bangladesh since the country won independence in 1971. For instance, during the 2001 elections, which the BNP won, approximately 400 people were reportedly killed and more than 17,000 injured, primarily in street clashes between members and supporters of competing political camps. The next election cycle in 2007 also resulted in several deaths and injuries, leading to an extra-constitutional takeover by a military-backed interim government. The elections to the ninth Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) were eventually held in December 2008, with a 14-party alliance led by the Awami League scoring an electoral landslide victory.

The seeds of the political unrest and uncertainty over the forthcoming general elections were planted in June 2012, when the Awami League-dominated parliament pushed through the Fifteenth Amendment to the constitution, scrapping the provision that parliamentary elections must be held under a non-partisan caretaker government, headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Ironically, in 1996, the Awami League and its opposition allies forced the then BNP-led government, through prolonged street agitation, to incorporate that particular provision in the form of the Thirteenth Amendment. Subsequently, two parliamentary elections, in 1996 and 2001, were held under caretaker governments.

After being elected in 2001, the BNP-led government increased the retirement age for the Supreme Court chief justice, apparently to have a person perceived loyal to it as the head of the caretaker government for the next elections scheduled for 2007. Then the main opposition party, the Awami League refused to accept the former chief justice in question as the chief adviser to the caretaker government and took to the streets. Amidst the consequent political stalemate, marked by sustained violence across the country, scope was created for the military-backed interim government to take over and rule for two years unconstitutionally, after declaring a state of emergency.

Elections or no elections, violence has become a major feature of Bangladesh politics. Numerous political leaders and activists have been killed by rivals or by their own party colleagues. Data from different human rights organizations suggests that the total number of deaths resulting from political violence in 2013 is substantially higher than in recent years, according to a report published in New Age on November 7. Ain O Salish Kendra reported that political violence had claimed the lives of 289 people in the first nine months of the current year while the figure was 84 for the whole of 2012. According to a monthly report by rights organization Odhikar, at least 27 people were killed and 3,433 injured in political violence in October alone.

This political violence may very well have had its origins in the early days of independent Bangladesh. The Awami League, which had presided over the political struggle for the country’s liberation and come to embody the people’s democratic aspirations, proved autocratic in power. In 1975, its head and then president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman introduced BAKSAL, which banned all opposition parties and compelled the country to adopt a one-party system. President Ziaur Rahman, the military general-turned-politician and founder of the BNP, restored the multiparty system in the late 1970s.

Riaz Haq said...

As one of the poorest countries as defined by the World Bank, Bangladesh has long enjoyed GSP+ status and it has taken advantage of it. Along with low wages and poor working conditions, GSP+ is an additional reason why Bangladesh has attracted some Pakistani investment in textiles in recent years. However, it's getting difficult for Bangladesh because of several textile disasters and escalating violence.

Bangladesh is now concerned as Pakistan gets GSP+ status from EU. Could hurt BD textiles and garment exports as orders are being cancelled due to continuing unrest.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Hindu report on Bangladesh's flawed elections:

India and the United States have come out with diametrically opposite reactions to the elections in Bangladesh that have resulted in a victory for incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party, the Awami League, and non-participation by the main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and several other parties.

India said the elections, held on Sunday, were a “constitutional requirement” and part of the internal and constitutional process of Bangladesh. On the other hand, the U.S. expressed disappointment as more than half the seats went uncontested and most of the remainder offered “only token opposition.” The results “do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people,” said the U.S. State Department in a statement.

Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) pointed out that Ms. Hasina had done everything according to the book and made reconciliatory offers to the Opposition that were turned down. There was nothing unconstitutional or illegal about the elections, they added.

The U.S., however, made out a case for fresh elections and asked the Bangladesh government and the Opposition to engage in “immediate dialogue” for a more credible reflection of “the will of the Bangladeshi people.”

India left it to “the people of Bangladesh to decide their own future and choose their representatives in a manner that responds to their aspirations.” This reflects India’s traditional stand and its unhappiness with some western countries and non-governmental organisations for backing certain political formations. In an interview to The Hindu, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had emphasised this aspect by stating that, “while the U.S. is at some distance from Bangladesh, we are right next to it.”

Unknown said...

@Farhat, not sure where you got your information from......Here is what I found.

Year Spending on West Pakistan (in millions of Pakistani rupees) Spending on East Pakistan (in millions of Pakistani rupees) Amount spent on East as percentage of West
1950–55 11,290 5,240 46.4
1955–60 16,550 5,240 31.7
1960–65 33,550 14,040 41.8
1965–70 51,950 21,410 41.2
Total 113,340 45,930 40.5
Source: Reports of the Advisory Panels for the Fourth Five Year Plan 1970–75, Vol. I,
published by the planning commission of Pakistan.

It's a story of hunger in the East and brutality in the West. So glad we are not with you anymore.

Riaz Haq said...

Much has been made of the exodus of “ten million” Bengalis from East Pakistan. As a result of Indian media’s propaganda campaign, “The Beatles” singer George Harrison dedicated a concert to the Bangladesh movement at behest of Hindu Bengali musician Ravi Shankar. On 23 June, 1971 the British government stopped all economic aid to Pakistan and permitted establishment of a High Commission by “Bangladesh Government in exile” in London. As for the number of Bengali refugees, according to 2001 census 3,084,826 people came to India from Bangladesh while 1.5 million stayed back after Bangladesh became independent.
The sheaves of eye-witness accounts prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the massacre of West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis in East Pakistan had begun long before the Pakistan Army took action against the rebels late in the night of March 25, 1971. It is also crystal clear that the Awami League’s terror machine was the initiator and executor of the genocide against the non-Bengalis which exterminated at least half a million of them in less than two months of horror and trauma. Many witnesses have opined that the federal Government acted too late against the insurgents. The initial success of the action is proved by the fact that in barely 30 days, the Pakistan Army, with a combat strength of 38,717 officers and men in East Pakistan, fought against Mukti Bahini and Indian Army.
The hundreds of eye-witnesses from towns and cities of East Pakistan, whose testimonies are documented in this book, are unanimous in reporting that the slaughter of West Pakistanis, Biharis, and other non-Bangalis and of some pro-Pakistan Bengalis had begun in the early days of the murderous month of March 1971.
A major falsehood spread by India and later parroted by some Bangladeshis is that Pakistan Army carried out genocide of three million Bengalis. Pakistan Army may have carried out some atrocities but not to that extent. The total strength of Pakistan Army in East Pakistan was 40,000 apx. It is not humanly possible for this number to commit that level of genocide as being accused. Independent sources also disprove the claim. Sharmila Bose in her book Dead Reckoning says “Many Bengalis—supposed to be fighting for freedom and dignity—committed appalling atrocities (against Biharis and West Pakistanis). And many Pakistani army officers, carrying out a military action against a political rebellion, turned out to be fine men doing their best to fight an unconventional war within the conventions of warfare...”
Dr M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, a Bengali nationalist who actively participated in the separatist cause, in his publication Behind the Myth of 3 Million, challenges the falsehood. Citing an extensive range of sources to show that what the Pakistani army was carrying out in East Pakistan was a limited counter-insurgency, not genocide, the scholar discloses that after the creation of Bangladesh, an announcement was made to pay Taka 2,000 to every family that suffered loss of life where upon only three hundred thousand families claimed such compensation. Had there been three million individuals dead, their families would have claimed for compensation.
Another tall tale is of 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War. There were only 40,000 armed forces personnel; the remaining comprised Pakistan government officials, pro-Pakistan citizens and post offices, railways and PIA officers and staff.
After the fall of Dhaka, Indian army and Mukti Bahini arranged mass slaughter ceremonies of Pakistanis and Bihari Muslims in Dhaka Race course ground. Thousands of Bengali Muslims were also butchered who had sided with Pakistan against India and Mukti Bahini.

Riaz Haq said...

Bangladesh in crisis by Raza Rumi

The recent political turbulence sweeping Bangladesh has cost more than 100 lives since January and job strikes have brought near standstill to Dhaka, the country’s capital and economic nerve center. Stretching back to independence, the country’s divorce with Pakistan has left a trail of political instability resulting from frequent military interventions, high-profile political assassinations and a dysfunctional democratic order that revolves around two political parties. Atop these bipolar camps are two women known as the ‘Begums’ — the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League (AL) and the opposition leader Khaleda Zia. The former is the daughter of the country’s founder and national hero Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman, and the latter the widow of the first military ruler Gen Zia ur Rehman, who was popular with the conservative sections of society.

On January 5, the date coinciding with the first anniversary of 2014 elections, the opposition called for countrywide demonstrations under the slogan ‘Murder of Democracy Day’. The government responded with an iron hand by arresting members of the opposition parties and banning the demonstrations. In reaction, the opposition called for an indefinite blockade of road and railways leading to Dhaka. The demonstrations by the opposition and counter-demonstrations by the ruling AL party have since continued and many have turned violent. The government confined Zia for more than two weeks and accelerated the prosecution of corruption charges against the opposition leader. Members of the JeI have also been pressurized through pending court cases for the party’s support to Pakistan during the 1971 War of Liberation. Since January, 7000 opposition activists and supporters have been detained by the police. More than 100 people have lost their lives during street battles, arson attacks, and bombing of the buses while 20 opposition supporters allegedly died through extra-judicial methods.

Civil society in Bangladesh is deeply worried. The last time such a political deadlock happened was in 2007 when the military intervened. Nurul Amin, a political analyst at North South University in Dhaka, says the hardliners in both camps “think no compromise is possible.” Similarly, Citizens for Good Governance say the two leaders are acting as “partisan authoritarians,” who are dividing the country “into two warring camps.” Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern, saying “violent crimes being committed by some members of the opposition cannot justify killings, injuries, and wrongful arrests by the government.”

Economic and Government Woes

In the midst of this political turbulence, Bangladesh’s economy has been rocked with a communications blockade, urban violence, and a prevailing sense of uncertainty in the country. The hardest hit is the $24 billion a year ready-made garments industry. The supply chain of the industry has been disrupted. The Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) maintains that the garments industry has already incurred a loss of over $3.9 billion while the retail sector may have suffered losses to the tune of $2.1 billion. The agriculture sector of the country has also been affected to the tune of $533 million in recent weeks as farmers are not able to move their products to the cities due to the blockades. Moody’s downgraded the country’s credit rating because of the ongoing political violence.

Riaz Haq said...

I suggest the following material on the events of 1971 for my readers:

Dead Reckoning by Dr. Sarmila Bose (Research Scholar, Hindu Bengali grandniece of Subash Chandar Bose)

The Myth of 3 Million by Dr. Abdul Mumin Chaudhry (Bengali Nationalist who fought for Bangladesh independence)

Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal by David Bergman (British Blogger)

Mission R&AW by RK Yadav (Ex RAW officer involved in creating Mukti Bahini in 1971)

Riaz Haq said...

Turmoil Between "Nasty" Political "Ladies" Has Harmed #Bangladesh’s People

The quickest way to grasp the nastiness of Bangladesh’s season of political turmoil is to visit the high dependency unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

This is the ward for burn victims from roadside firebomb attacks, collateral damage from the long battle between Bangladesh’s “two ladies,” as the country’s two most important political leaders are known. On a recent morning, Mohammad Nazmul Mollah looked down the row of beds at three men who had been riding beside him in a truck, after unloading a shipment of sand, when a firebomb thrown by a protester smashed through the windshield.

Mr. Mollah, 25, was the lucky one, having jumped out the passenger-side window so quickly that his worst injuries were fractures to bones and kneecaps. The eight men to his right were unlucky: five died, and others came out with seared tracheas, faces stripped of skin, eyelids swollen to slits. Asked what he would say to the country’s political leaders, he spoke dully.

“They are killing ordinary people,” he said. “They are killing their own brothers.”

There are few in Bangladesh who do not sound exhausted this spring. The country was thrust into disarray in January, when the opposition leader Khaleda Zia declared an indefinite campaign of strikes and transport blockades, hoping to pressure her rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, into holding new national elections. Yet if Mrs. Zia was expecting compromise, none came.

Political tension relaxed in recent weeks, and life has largely returned to normal on Dhaka’s streets, but there is no long-term solution in sight. Among those watching closely were the country’s leaders of industry.

A World Bank report released on Sunday showed that Bangladesh’s economy lost $2.2 billion, or around 1 percent of gross domestic product, as a result of 62 days of political unrest this year. The report said the country’s economic growth rate would be 5.6 percent this fiscal year — compared with 6.6 percent the bank had predicted before the strikes began.

“How long can you remain resilient if day after day, year after year, you keep hurting industry?” Zahid Hussain, lead economist in the World Bank’s Dhaka office, said in an interview. “Eventually the ability to recoup is affected.”

The violence can be traced to nationwide elections in January 2014, which set off a battle of wills between the two ladies.

Mrs. Zia, a former prime minister whose Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or B.N.P., leads a 20-party opposition alliance, threatened to boycott the polls, suggesting that they would be rigged in the government’s favor. Mrs. Hasina called her bluff and held an election that excluded the alliance, issuing vague promises of repeat elections in the coming months. This January, after a year of waiting, Mrs. Zia declared an indefinite protest campaign.

More than 100 Bangladeshis have died, and many more have been horribly injured, in roadside bombings. By blocking highways, often violently, the protesters targeted the weakest link in the supply chain. The government has responded with increasingly harsh measures, and many of Mrs. Zia’s party leaders either have been arrested or are in hiding. B.N.P. officials deny responsibility for the violence but say they had no option besides blockades and strikes.
For garment workers, a large number of them women, the stakes are also high. In the Mirpur neighborhood of Dhaka, where workers sleep five to a rented room, many are already complaining of lost overtime, saying their workday now ends around 4 or 5 p.m. instead of 9 or 10. This is no small matter, since rent and food eat up nearly all of their base monthly pay of around 6,000 taka, or about $77.

Riaz Haq said...

The Bangladesh myth of 3 million dead in 1971 has been thoroughly debunked by serious researchers such as Sarmila Bose, Peace Research Int of Norway, Uppsala U. Sweden, Institute for Health Metrics and EvaluationU of Washington Seattle, Dr. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury

Dead Reckoning by Dr. Sarmila Bose (Research Scholar, Hindu Bengali grandniece of Subash Chandar Bose)

The Myth of 3 Million by Dr. Abdul Mumin Chaudhry (Bengali Nationalist who fought for Bangladesh independence)

Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal by David Bergman (British Blogger)

Mission R&AW by RK Yadav (Ex RAW officer involved in creating Mukti Bahini in 1971)

Riaz Haq said...

The Field Marshal speaks. "The Pakistan Army in East Pakistan fought very gallantly. But they had no chance. They were a thousand miles away from their base. And I had eight or nine months to make my preparations [while they were being worn out in a counter insurgency war against the secessionist forces of the Mukti Bahini]. I had a superiority of almost fifty-to-one." From the BBC archives.

Riaz Haq said...

Alleged War Criminals Hanged in #Bangladesh Did Not Get a Fair Trial. #BangladeshHangings #warcrimes #Pakistan #JI …

The International Crimes Tribunal has convicted about two dozen people, most of whom belong to the BNP’s Islamist ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami. The executions of two Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, one in December 2013 and a second in April 2015, drew widespread condemnation and questions from the Obama administration, the United Nations and human rights groups about whether the tribunal meets international standards of fair trial. The tribunal has also been tainted by the perception that the judicial process is politicized.

“The rules of evidence have been flouted, not least in some defendants not having the opportunity to call relevant defense witnesses,” said Alex Carlile, a Liberal Democrat peer in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords.

“Defense lawyers have been under threat. Access to defendants has been limited. Judges have been subject to government pressure and their independence has been undermined,” he added.

This past month, the Tribunal convicted and sentenced two more men—Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and BNP’s Salauddin Quader Chowdhury—to death. Bangladesh’s Supreme Court earlier in November rejected Chowdhury’s petition to allow deposition from several high-profile witnesses. The two men were hanged in Dhaka on November 21.

“The government of Bangladesh must appreciate that it is arbitrary to impose the death penalty where the proceedings do not adhere to the highest standards of fair trial,” said Abbas Faiz, a Senior Researcher at Amnesty International.

The government must also ensure that the International Crimes Tribunal functions within fair trial principles and is not mandated to impose the death penalty, he added.

Hasina has lashed out at Amnesty International, accusing the human rights group of trying to protect war criminals and alleging it has been bribed. She also said there is a campaign to portray Bangladesh as unsafe.

Key defense witnesses, including a former Prime Minister of Pakistan, were prevented from testifying in Chowdhury’s case when the tribunal limited to four the number of witnesses the defense lawyers could summon.

Mohammed Mian Soomro, who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from November of 2007 to March of 2008, said in a sworn affidavit that Chowdhury was actually present in Karachi, Pakistan, to complete and further his education at the time he was accused of war crimes in Bangladesh, in what was formerly known as East Pakistan.

“I clearly recollect his presence. Being younger, in our early 20s we discussed what young people would in our frequent meetings. Careers, higher education plans, what was happening in our part of the world at that time, and how it affected everyone,” Soomro said in an e-mail interview with the New Atlanticist.

Soomro said he was shocked that Chowdhury has been sentenced to death. “It is very disappointing to believe that such a travesty of justice has been allowed. The silence in response by the world and the people of Bangladesh is deafening,” he said.

“There is a saying: ‘What goes around, comes around.’ If a precedent such as this is set, it will become the modus operandi and eventually affect everyone,” he added.

In a letter to Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the United States, Mohammad Ziauddin, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged the Bangladeshi government to delay Chowdhury’s execution and properly review his case.

While Chowdhury’s defense team was not given the opportunity to present evidence that their client was actually out of the country at the time the offenses of which he was convicted occurred, the “prosecution was reportedly allowed to rely on hearsay and subjective written accounts,” Leahy wrote.

Riaz Haq said...

What Happened in East Pakistan (Yuri Bezmenov Former KGB Psychological Warfare Expert)

Yuri Bezmenov ex KGB Psychological Warfare Expert Explains What Happened in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) in This Video

Riaz Haq said...

Journalist David Bergman questions #Bangladeshi Nationalists' narrative in #Bangladesh’s "Genocide" Debate #Pakistan

Excepts from NY Times Op Ed by David Bergman based n Bangladesh:

Where does the truth about the numbers lie? The three million figure was popularized by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League in 1971, the country’s first president and the father of the current prime minister. Mujib, as he is popularly known, is a revered figure, particularly within the Awami League. But his biographer, Sayyid A. Karim, who was also Sheikh Rahman’s first foreign secretary, viewed the number as “a gross exaggeration.”

In his book “Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy,” Mr. Karim reported that the prime minister’s office told him the figure was taken from Pravda, the Soviet newspaper. According to the American writer Lawrence Lifschultz, a survey by the Mujib government that was projecting a death toll of 250,000 was “abruptly shut down.”

A 1976 study in the journal Population Studies estimated that the number of deaths caused by the war was about 500,000, many as a result of disease and malnutrition. A 2008 article in The British Medical Journal concluded that the number of violent deaths during the war was about 269,000 (allowing a possible range of 125,000 to 505,000).

Many Bangladeshis sincerely believe in the three million figure, which symbolizes the huge sacrifices of the war. M. A. Hasan, convener of the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, said, “The figure of liberation war martyrs is one such issue which no one should question.”

For others, however, questions are necessary on this and other aspects of the 1971 war, including the widespread killings of members of the Bihari ethnic group, who supported the Pakistanis during the conflict, by Bengali nationalists. We should question this because nationalist narratives about the past often serve contemporary political interests, and we should beware of an orthodoxy being used to silence dissent.

Since the Awami League came to power again in 2009, it has tried to use the emotions surrounding the 1971 war to justify a move toward authoritarian one-party rule. In its version of history, only the Awami League is the party of liberation, and therefore of government, and opposition parties are branded as “pro-Pakistan,” and therefore dangerous and disloyal.

Freedom of speech in Bangladesh is already under threat both as a result of religious extremists’ murdering secular bloggers, and the government’s pressure on the independent news media (including a campaign of harassment against one newspaper editor).

The proposed genocide law might work to the political advantage of the Awami League in the short term. But in the long term, curtailing free expression for sectarian political purposes is dangerous for democracy.

Riaz Haq said...

Since Pakistan is being wrongly accused in a false Bangladeshi narrative of the events of 1971, Pakistan absolutely has a right and duty to question the farce being played out in the name of justice by Shaikh Hasina in pursuit of her own self-serving agenda

Riaz Haq said...

#Drought-hit India's plan to divert Ganges and Brahmaputra river water will hit #Bangladesh hard

India is set to start work on a massive, unprecedented river diversion programme, which will channel water away from the north and west of the country to drought-prone areas in the east and south. The plan could be disastrous for the local ecology, environmental activists warn.

The project involves rerouting water from major rivers including the Ganges and Brahmaputra and creating canals to link the Ken and Batwa rivers in central India and Damanganga-Pinjal in the west.

The minister of water resources, Uma Bharti, said this week that work could start in a few days. A spokesperson from her department told the Guardian that the government is still waiting for clearance from the environment ministry.

India's drought migrants head to cities in desperate search for water
Read more
The project will cost an estimated 20tn rupees (£207bn) and take 20 to 30 years to complete.


Scientists say the government needs to do a full audit of its existing water resources and analyse the environmental impact of linking rivers before pressing on with its plans.

Dr Latha Anantha, from the River Research Centre, said the project could be catastrophic for India’s river-dependent ecology. “The government is trying to redraw the entire geography of the country,” she said. “What will happen to communities, the wildlife, the farmers who live downstream of the rivers? They need to look at a river not just as a source of water, but as an entire ecosystem.

“They will have to dig canals everywhere and defy the ecology of the country. It is a waste of money and they have overestimated how much water there is in the rivers they want to divert.”

Governments have toyed with the idea of redrawing river routes since the 1800s, when the country was still under colonial rule. The resulting disputes still play out today. The Mullaperiyar dam, which diverted water from the southern state of Kerala to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, was built in the late 1800s, and was considered at the time to be one of the most extraordinary feats of engineering ever achieved. Now, the two state governments continue to dispute control of the dam.


The river-linking project could lead to further disputes not just between states, but with the neighbouring government of Bangladesh. India’s plans will affect 100 million people in Bangladesh, who live downstream of the Ganges and Brahmaputra and rely on the rivers for their livelihoods. On Monday, Bangladesh’s minister of water, Nazrul Islam, urged the Indian government to take Bangladesh’s water needs into considerationnoting that 54 of 56 Indian rivers flowed through the country.

“India is giving a lot of importance to its own people hit by drought,” he said, “but it must not ignore our rights.”

The Indian water resources ministry spokesperson said: “The Indian government is addressing Bangladesh’s water problems too,” adding that ministers from the two countries had discussed the water issue in the past. “We don’t have the details, but we will ensure Bangladesh gets its share of water too.”

Riaz Haq said...

I know that Indian hawks have persuaded Shaikh Hasina that Pakistan is the source of all evil and JI and BNP are ISI agents.
Such thinking is being seen by the rest of the world as myopic. Suppressing all political dissent might help Hasina consolidate her power in Bangladesh in the short term but it poses a serious long-term threat to the security and stability of Bangladesh.
Hasina needs to recognize that squeezing moderate Islamists like JI will drive further radicalization in the country and create even larger space for international terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Who terrorized Dhaka & Istanbul? Why were these cities targeted by terrorists? Is terror spreading farther and wider after recent foreign military interventions to check ISIS in Syria? Can military force alone end terror? If not, what else needs to be done?

Riaz Haq said...

Every day, foreign conflicts with complicated origins reach us dressed with appealing simplicity
by Ian Jack
What the (Anthony Mascarenhas) story forgets is the prelude. At Khulna, for example, there was a kind of genocide, but it was perpetrated by Bengalis against the non-Bengalis they worked beside in the town's jute mills. The non-Bengalis were mainly Urdu-speaking migrants from Bihar, Muslims who had fled India at partition. On 28 March 1971, their fellow workers slaughtered large numbers of them, sometimes methodically in what Bose calls slaughter houses that had been set up inside the mills. Exact numbers will never be known; a reasonable estimate is several thousand men, women and children. According to testimony collected by Bose, their bloated corpses clogged the rivers for days. This happened before the Pakistan army embarked on its countrywide repression. After its defeat, with Bangladesh's independence established, Khulna's Bengali mill workers repeated their original atrocity of the previous year and sent thousands more non-Bengalis into the rivers. They were seen as traitors who supported the wrong side.
Bose's book (Dead Reckoning), however, raises troubling questions about the (Anthony Mascarenhas's) report's complete veracity – a massacre said to have killed 8,000 Hindus probably killed only 16 at most – as well as its effect. Soon after the war ended, a prediction (or threat) of 2 million dead had been elevated to the widely publicised fact of 3 million dead, which is still commonly accepted in India and Bangladesh. A truth about the Bangladesh war is that remarkably few scholars and historians have given it thorough, independent scrutiny. Bose's research has taken her from the archives to interviews with elderly peasants in Bangladesh and retired army officers in Pakistan. Her findings are significant.
She estimates that during the conflict of 1971 a total of somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 combatants and non-combatants perished on all sides.

Much beyond 100,000 and "one enters a world of meaningless speculation". As to genocide, it would be more accurate to accuse the Pakistan army of political killing. Many Bengalis remained loyal to the old regime and went unharmed. The army and its paramilitaries (who were mainly Biharis) were at their most genocidal in their persecution of Hindu Bengali men, whom they believed as a group to be disloyal. By contrast, many Bengali Muslim civilians attacked non-Bengalis and Bengali Hindus purely on the grounds of their ethnic or religious identity and/or for material gain. In terms of genocide, their guilt is much clearer.