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Sunday, February 3, 2013

[] Re: Crocodile tears?

On Begum Zia's Washington Times Article

It would be appropriate to call Begum Zia's recent article in the Washington Times, an open letter to the US government. The letter contains some truth, some half-truth but most of it is outright ludicrousness. These are words of desperation, ironically from a two-term PM, inviting a foreign power to do on her behalf what 'her' 150 million people supposedly cannot achieve!

She started the letter by giving the US administration a description of the geographical location of Bangladesh, in case the US leaders do not have the knowledge of it. However, most of her 150 million people who remember or learned from history the presence of the 7th fleet in the Bay of Bengal just prior to our victory in 1971, failed to understand how "the United States was one of the first nations to recognise our right to self-determination."

Apparently, referring to Bangladesh government's recent trade pacts with Russia, she accused the United States "of standing idle while Bangladesh's economic allegiance shifts toward other growing world powers." May her 150 million people know what role the United States should have played in preventing the country's economic allegiance, steered by a duly elected government, to "other growing world powers?" As the leader of the parliamentary opposition, did she raise her voice against the "economic allegiance" in the floor of the parliament; the appropriate forum to do so?

A significant space of her letter is devoted to Sheikh Hasina's removal of Prof. Yunus from the Grameen Bank. Bulks of our citizens have sided with Prof. Yunus on the tussle. But Grameen Bank is not an international financial institution, and is governed by the statutes of the partly state-owned bank of the country and therefore the wrangle was solely an internal affair of the country.

Here again, what did Begum Zia expect from the US to do to reinstate Prof. Yunus to his position in Grameen Bank?

In the limited space of her piece, she has not forgotten to bring the issue of war crimes trials portraying the accused who are on trial, once again as innocent victims of political persecutions. She suggested that supporters of the accused of a "local" war crimes tribunal "would question Ms. Hasina's right to the Nobel Prize," a childish statement to say the least.

It seems she is dejected by the recent US government statement acknowledging Bangladesh's right to put the ones accused of committing crimes against humanity in 1971 on trials? She put the US government on the dock for its inaction in stopping the trial, despite, according to her, the earlier condemnation of the US ambassador for war crimes of the ongoing trial as prosecution of the "opponents of the regime."

In fact, this is one of her multiple contradictory stands on the trials. Many at times the proponents of the trials have urged Begum Zia to disclose the names of those, in her knowledge in Sheikh Hasina's camp, who should be tried for crimes against humanity committed in 1971, which she never did.

She has rightly opined that Sheikh Hasina should not be awarded Nobel Prize since "300 people have been registered missing (allegedly) at the hand of RAB," which, incidentally Begum Zia created. In the same token according to reports of Human Rights Groups, 957 people were killed in so-called crossfires during her last rule, 56 people died "out of heart attack" in the operation clean heart and 170 people died in the police custody, aside from the scores killed in the August 21 mayhem, and thousands suffered torture and death in the hands of her supporters in the aftermath of her election victory in 2001.

The most ludicrous of the assertions came when she wrote: "The simple fact is that over the past five years, Bangladesh has been moving rapidly away from being one of Asia's most vibrant democracies toward a single family taking over the levers of power." The simple response should be: look who is talking.

In fact, it is a rare consensus among the citizens that it is not one, but two families who are "levering the power" of the country and the forefront of the two happens to be her own one, not the other way around.

It was during her own tenure when there were two seats of power, one official and another unofficial. It was she who put her son as the senior vice president of the party, the heir apparent. What "seniority" does he possess, in education, in experience, in honesty, to hold a position which even does not have a slot in the party's constitution?

On the contrary, no one in the other family holds any position in the party. Their presence in the party and the in country, for that matter, is almost nonexistent. Her other son possess the unique distinction to make a place in the World Bank publication named "Asset Recovery Handbook." This World Bank-UNODC publication mentioned the alleged embezzlement of several million dollars by her son as an example of stealing national assets.

She also brought the allegation of corruption in the Padma Bridge project for which two Canadian citizens (not the company) are awaiting preliminary trials in a Canadian court under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Incidentally in June 2011, Niko Resources, a Canadian company, was fined C$9.5 million in a Canadian court after pleading guilty to bribing a Bangladeshi minister of Begum Zia's cabinet. It was the first and so far only plea deal struck by a corporate defendant under CFPOA.

While elaborating on the caretaker government (CTG), she has rightfully said it was Sheikh Hasina "herself [who] helped institute this rule," but forgot to acknowledge that it was she who spearheaded its destruction. She is probably banking on the short memory of "her" people regarding how she manipulated the then President Iajuddin Ahmed to destroy both the letter and spirit of the system.

She has urged the Western countries in general and the US in particular, to intimidate the government to withdraw "general preferences for trade (the most important lifeline for Bangladesh's Economy)" if the "opponents of the prime minister are not allowed to express their beliefs," a suicidal proposition indeed!

Moreover, are the rights of the opposition groups any less than what used to be during Begum Zia's regime; if not more? She has urged the Western power, to "consider targeted travel and other sanctions against those in the regime who undermine democracy, freedom of speech and human rights."

Paradoxically, the virtues she has mentioned above were the primary casualties in her tenure. Even at the current rate of depravity, it would take years for the current government to lead the nation to the darkest era of human rights where her government plunged the nation into.

In conclusion she has urged, "the world, led by America, to act and ensure that democracy is saved in Bangladesh." Dear leader, it is not any foreign power, but the people of the country themselves who are the guarantors of democracy! Our people themselves reestablished it in December 1990 removing an autocrat, they prevented its undermining in March 1996 after the farcical election of February 15, and they preempted once again an impending farcical election by rallying behind the changeover of one eleven when the essence of the caretaker system was wrecked by Iajuddin-led CTG at the behest of nobody else but Begum Khaleda Zia herself.

The writer is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.

On Sun, Feb 3, 2013 at 8:50 AM, Isha Khan <> wrote:

Khaleda takes battle abroad

Syed Bashir

Khaleda Zia is not known for writing columns in newspapers, neither at home or abroad. But now she has written one for 'Washington Times', calling upon the US and western nations to come forward to 'save democracy' in Bangladesh.

Her attack against her rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is vitriolic and her delight at the World Bank action against corruption in the Padma Bridge project is unconcealed.

She is also taking a dig at Hasina , saying she aspires for the Nobel Prize

But the real catch of the column is different.

It is a bit of a trial balloon seeking foreign intervention to bring back the caretaker system, when the street protests and road blockades have not worked and the Awami League is safe in its huge parliamentary majority to knock out any bill that the BNP may be allowed to introduce for restoring the caretaker.

The million dollar question now is how Hasina and the Awami League reacts to Khaleda's suggestion of foreign intervention on the caretaker issue.

Full Text:

On Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 8:34 AM, Isha Khan <> wrote:

Khaleda comes under fire at JS

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia had committed sedition by urging the US to interfere in Bangladesh's internal affairs through her Washington Times article, ruling alliance lawmakers said yesterday.

Participating in a freestyle discussion in parliament for more than two and a half hours, 20 ministers and MPs said the opposition leader's article is part of BNP's conspiracy to get the war crimes trial cancelled.

What Khaleda Zia did was "unconstitutional" and "seditious", ruling Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta said, referring to her piece, headlined, "ZIA: The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh".

"For this, she has to be charged with sedition. And for her stance against the country she has to stand in the dock."

Finance Minister AMA Muhith said every word in the article is false and seditious. "I can't imagine how she could write such an article."

Khaleda Zia has no link to the country's struggle for independence despite being the wife of a sector commander, he said.

Jute and Textile Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui proposed for a motion condemning the opposition leader for her article.

Rashed Khan Menon, leader of AL ally Workers Party, said the article discloses the opposition's conspiracy against Bangladesh as well as its position on the trial of war criminals.

Participating in the discussion, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni accused Khaleda of damaging the country's diplomatic relations with the US. "She put the international relations at risk," the minister said. "I am personally hurt and ashamed to see the article."

She claimed the US-Bangladesh bilateral relations were better than anytime in the past.

The minister noted Khaleda Zia through her article had asked the US to withdraw GSP facility. "How could she want it? The country's people will judge how she spoke against the country's interests," Dipu Moni said. "I am urging her to refrain from such heinous task."

Mujibul Haq Chunnu, an MP of Jatiya Party, a component of AL-led ruling alliance, said the BNP had been making all out efforts to stop the trial of war criminals.

"When hundreds of army officials were hanged through farcical trial during the term of Zia regime, no question was raised about the standard. Now the BNP is questioning the standard of the war crimes trial."

During the discussion, ministers and MPs blasted Khaleda Zia for her statement in the article that in the last five years Bangladesh had been rapidly moving away from being one of Asia's most vibrant democracies toward a single family taking over the levers of power.

Lawmakers said the war crimes trial must be completed and nobody can stop it.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said Khaleda Zia had made her sister, brother and son ministers and party leaders and now she was speaking against one-family rule. The minister also questioned Khaleda's educational qualifications.

Calling for the US interference in Bangladesh's internal affairs, Khaleda Zia has shown her political and intellectual bankruptcy, the veteran leader added.

AL MP Tofail Ahmed said, "I don't want to say that she [Khaleda] committed seditious offence. I don't want to say this because she is the leader of the opposition."

Fazlul Karim Selim, who piloted the unscheduled discussion, said the opposition leader committed sedition by urging the US to interfere in Bangladesh's internal matters. "I strongly condemn it. It is part of the conspiracy against Bangladesh."

The lawmaker, too, slammed Khaleda over the "one-family rule" comment.

AL MP Fazilatunnesa Bappi said the BNP chief had taken all remunerations and allowances only joining eight of 339 sittings of parliament in the last four years.

Tarana Halim, another Awami League MP, demanded Khaleda offer apology to the people.

AL lawmaker Fazilatunnesa Indira said, "Khaleda Zia has gone mad seeing the trial of war criminals happening." She also used some unparliamentary and indecent words to blast the opposition leader.

After Indira, Whip ASM Feroz took the floor and requested the deputy speaker who was presiding over the sitting to expunge the unparliamentary words used in the discussion.

On Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 8:27 AM, Isha Khan <> wrote:
MBI Munshi in his FB page:

Had this been written by anyone else other than Khaleda Zia this would have been a brilliant article. I think that it is quite inappropriate for KZ to talk about saving democracy since those that actually did take action to save democracy were punished while the BNP remained silent as did the Jamaat-e-Islami. Now that both parties are the victims of AL oppression and brutality they are talking about saving democracy again! -

On Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 11:07 AM, Isha Khan <> wrote:

'The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh'

     by Begum Khaleda Zia

The United States and its allies, such as Great Britain, have the influence to insist that a caretaker government is instituted so the views of the voters are respected. To ensure this, their words and actions must be much stronger, to keep Bangladesh from slipping away from democracy. The Western powers should consider targeted travel and other sanctions against those in the regime who undermine democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. They should say and do these things publicly, for all our citizens to see and hear. This is how the United States can ensure that its mission to democratize the world continues.

It is impossible to say in good conscience that democracy, justice and the alleviation of poverty in Bangladesh under Ms. Hasina are safe. Indeed, all are in grave danger. It is time for the world, led by America, to act and ensure that democracy is saved in Bangladesh.


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