Saturday, December 16, 2006

I am so proud to be a Bangladeshi

I am a lucky person indeed. I have a loving family, supportive friends, a rewarding career, and most of the luxuries I might need (… well almost!). From my office desk I have a view that is an object of envy to many who see it. The site that I see everyday fascinates me. I see so much from just that one view. Banani-Gulshan Lake, tall buildings of posh Dhaka, big green open field, people boating. Quite breathe taking at times.

But then there is another way of looking at it. I also see a bosti, open sewer emptying into the lake, children bathing in it, dingies made of thermocal boards that ferry essentials. The ugliness of the city that we have grown immune to.

Every now and then someone comes along and breaks up this bosti. At times it are the wealthy landowners whose views they block. At times it are the cops who try to bust up a vice den or another. At times it is the sever rain or flooding. But then slowly but surely they come back up. I don’t know if it is the same group of people every time or not but like ants, one dhue tin, two bamboo pole at a time, the slum like the phoenix rises again and again.

I am not judging if they are right or wrong to “grab” this sliver of land on the lake. I think it is metaphoric to the struggle of everyday life in Bangladesh. We have a lot of hardship and struggle. At times when we think everything is over, we find the strength to give it one more push. That spirit is so great.

Another interesting fact: the neighbours to the bosti are fascinating as well. On one side on land “reclaimed” from the lake is the monstrous house of an ex-AL mayor of Dhaka. And on the other side, the coldly efficient office of a man whose name is taken as the mastermind behind the BNP’s “Bhaban” based business and politics. Caught in the middle the struggling plebeians!

And irony does not end here. To celebrate Bijoy Dibosh, guess who are the only ones flying the national flag?

There is hope for our nation. You can remove one person. End one life. Break one soul. But behind us there are 140 million more flags that will fly proudly.

I am a lucky person indeed!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Small acts, small event like drops of water collect to form an ocean of change. Muktir Gaan captures the trails of such group of young patriots who decided to fight the might of the Pakistani army with the weapons they have in their hearts.

I have the privilege of working with some of the best young minds of our nation. I know the immense potential that they have. The young Gen71ers are doing such great work in so many varying fields. Be it business, IT, sports, culture, journalism, law, you name the field and they are etching their mark. One big exception seems to be politics. While it is true that some have entered the fray, I still see apathy and despair written across the face of most of our generation. We often balk at the task of leading change. But it has to be done. And it can be done. Little by little, we need to make our stand. We need to do what it takes to take back Bangladesh from the path of destruction it is heading down.

Now that I think of it, most of you who are / will read by blog are probably in your own ways championing the cause. But we need to amplify our voice. We need to reach out to others in our generation. We are the new intelligentsia of Bangladesh. We have the education, the exposure, the networks, the resources and the desire to see it happen. And in the words of a friend “dehina kon shalai tha-maai!”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What should the Army do?

Here is what they should do. They should do what they have been brought in to do – ensure a free and fair election. All civilian approach in fixing our current political impasse seems to have fallen flat on its face. Military might, backed by some politically astute and rational thinking, can salvage the situation within the framework of the constitution. At this end they need to request President Iajuddin to give up his role as the Head of the Caretaker Government and merely be the President. By re-allocating his minders the Army can effectively cut him off form the puppet-master. As the head of the CTG they should request the constitutionally mandated next in line to KM Hassan to take charge and choose his own set of advisors. I believe given the situation over the last few weeks Justice Mahmudul Amin Choudhury as the head of the CTG will be very fair indeed. Also if he chooses a mixture of Advisors from the current (including resigned) and past CTGs then we should have public buy-in. The new CTG can go about in re-shuffling the administration effective so that it has no negative bearing on the fairness of the polls. The Army then can set about reconstituting the Election Commission. If it is headed by a retired bureaucrat who is well versed in the intricacies of the system then a reform of the electoral roles, presiding officers and the election process in general can happen very fast. And free and fair elections be held, say over the next 60 to 90 days.

(Hold on before getting on my case about the constitutional stipulation of voting within 25th January ’07. Mr. Nazim Kamran Choudhury in his commentary (“The Constitution is neither Bible nor play-thing”, Daily Star 5th December 2006 []) argued that this clause is but a small hindrance that should not amount to anything more than a bump in the road. In any case, to look for examples of exceptions being made, one only need to look at the seats vacated during the last Parliament by the deaths of Col (Retd) Akbar Hossain and Khurshid Jahan Haq.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Resigned to our fate?

So they have resigned.

I don’t want to get into the discussion about why they did it. There is a time in one’s life when you need to decide that if one’s self-respect is above the trappings of power. For these four Advisors the time had come when they felt that they could no longer be part of the charade that is taking place and illicitly implicating them.

What I want to explore is, if they should have resigned and what might happen next.

The easy bit first. I’ve read (and in Hassan Mashud’s case heard) their justification for the resignation. Yes it is true they were trying their level best to make some sense to the madness that has come down upon us. And, if the applause given to Ali Akber during the recent CPD’s Nagorik Forum is any indication, winning the hearts and minds of the general public. We watched on as the Advisors toiled effortlessly to ensure that meeting of the minds happened in the political arena. They left no stone unturned, no door unknocked or no favours uncalled, to work towards ensuring that an acceptable compromise was reached. They had to deal with two political poles that and best of times were unwieldy with eccentricities of their heads and the temperaments of their leaders. They had to deal with a President and Caretaker Government Head who was not always present either physically or mentally – a man who, proving our worst fears, have turned out not only to be absent of individuality but blatantly shameless as well. They had to deal with the partisan bureaucracy, judiciary, and police force not giving them one inch of leeway. And they had to deal us the “intellectuals”, the “civil society”, and common Abdul in the street who poured over every detail, every look, every utterance, with a magnifying glass. Given these circumstances I am sure you will agree their resignation is justified. But was it wise?

The basic premise for the resignation of each of the four, it has been reported, is that they feel they no longer have an impact on the holding of free and fair elections. Here is where I disagree with them. By resigning, they abdicate their responsibility. They have thrown in the towel and hence they, other than proving to the nation that they are not with the President, are not doing anything more. Are they stopping the election from being rigged? Or for that matter not happening at all? Or is the Army going back to the barracks? Election Commission reforming? Political deadlock being resolved? No to all the above. Being inside, challenging each and every move of the President would have helped the nation far more. I read this phrase somewhere that I thought was brilliant. “Leave no answer unquestioned.” Their job could have been to question, debate, probe, criticise, deliberate, prod, discuss, enquire, scrutinize, explore, disagree, censure, argue, investigate…

But instead they give the President the opportunity to appoint four puppets to take their place. Does that benefit the nation?

As I had indicated earlier in my article the Power of One, [] the Head of the Caretaker Government does not have any power over and above the other Advisors. Any decision taken by the CTG has to be a consensual one. That means if the Chief of CTG is on one-side and majority of the Advisors are on the other then the latter “win”. The Army having been called in will have to report to the CTG and hence to the majority of the Advisors. Staying inside the CTG the Advisors could have challenged this point through the courts. They could have shown dissent and distance themselves from the President. They could have moulded public opinion and support behind a free and fair election. But now alas here in the cold of the outside they are nothing but just another victim.

Now to “what next”? The difficult answer. Things are changing every hour. What was true a few minutes ago is no longer reliable. And as neither logic nor precedence is being followed in any decision, it is hard to say with any certainty what news we will wake up to tomorrow. So I want predict only two things.

Firstly that a few more (probably 3) Advisors will resign. After making the long-winded argument against Advisor’s resignation, I have to say that now that it has happened, others must follow suit. Otherwise they tactically give the President approval for his action. I believe if a section of the others do come out in support of their fallen comrades it puts beyond a shadow of doubt the illegitimacy of the CTG. If not, being a part of the circus just makes one look as another clown waiting for the ringmasters next command.

Secondly do not underestimate the Army. Over the last few months we have tiptoed around this topic. Some of the leading newspapers have self-censored themselves and not printed anything on indicate the possibility of an Army takeover. (To read what I was saying earlier about the Army’s possible involvement you might want to read my writing New Arithmetic 1+1 = -53 [] or Swadee Khrab General : Some Answers Questioned []) If my discussion with all and sundry are any indication, an Army intervention is not going to be unpopular. The Generals, I thought, should great fortitude and had not jumped in earlier when at multiple times the occasion had arisen. Now that they are in, what shall they do? If nothing else they need to be brutally just and even handed. They will go after every criminal and every hoodlum at a pace that will leave even the men in black RAB, in a tizzy. But then what? As the law and order is restored they will need to focus on other aspects. It is matter of time before, if not already, the popular sentiment move against the President and the parties he serve. What will the Army do in this case? Who are their lord and master? To whom do they owe allegiance? Do they prop up an unelected partisan President? Or do they throw their might behind the citizens of the nation? Or do they take power themselves?

Well like I said, it is a bit too early to be able to answer these questions. But I can assure you we can never be sure what is written in our fate till it actually happens.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

World Human Wrongs Day

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Preamble to
the United Nations Universal Declearation of Human Rights
General Assembly resolution 217 A (III)

Today 10th December is the International Human Rights day.

In 1948 few years after the genocide of Jews and other in the hands of Nazi Germany, members of the United Nations with great foresight signed one of the most significant documents in human history. This is a declaration of basic rights of any person irrespective of nationality, religion, gender, age, creed or caste. It gives us the recognition that as a human being I have the right to live a life as fulfilled as my neighbour or for that matter my enemy.

Some 58 years later, it is sad that this is the biggest failure of the UN. Not only do we not have equality in real terms, we do not have in place mechanisms to ensure that we are even moving towards that end. We, the world turn a blind eye to Dafur, Palestine, Israel, Guantanamo, and many such neglected areas of the world. We choose to be ignorant of the plight of our fellow brothers and sisters. We choose to remain silent to the cry for justice. We choose to give up our sense and sensibilities numbed to the reoccurring violence that we see on TV news. We are guilty by association of such crimes. Rape, murder, torture, molestation, infanticide, corruption, slavery, and barbaric hate filled crimes – all are in our hands and on our conscience. And till we stand up and say that we are not for this anymore we will give up a part of our own rights as well.

"dem come for de rasta and you say nothing
dem come from the muslims you say nothing
dem come for the anti-globalist you ay nothing
dem even come for the liberals and you say nothing
dem come for you and will speak for you? who will speak for you, who ?"

Asia Dub Foundation
song “Round Up” from album “Tank”


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advertising and me!

With all that is going around now and keeping me busy, I often forget I have an advertising man side of my life as well. (I hope my boss isn't reading this!)

Well here are two articles that came out recently about advertising and my opinions on it.

* From December 3rd's issue of JaiJaiDin:

Exciting Career in Advertising by Nawrin Sultana interviews me

Read :
{the article is in Bangla and you might need to install fonts}

* From December 1st's issue of New Age Xtra

Has TV advertising finally come of age? by Syed Tashfin Chowdhury quotes me extensively.

Read :

Friday, December 01, 2006

Take Back Bangladesh Concert Pictures

Its over! And despite a late start, missing bands, and electricity failure – I think it was a success. Music was great. By some estimates about 13,000 people turned up (we had expected 500 or so) as did many of the last Caretaker Government Advisers, celebs and “civil” society leaders.

Even if our message got through to a small portion of the crowd I think we’ve made a start. It is now up to us to take this spark and light a fire.

Thank you everyone who came, supported, advised, encouraged, helped and inspired us.

More pictures at

Saving Bangladesh

As a part of's effort to further our cause the Daily Star weekend magazine ran an interview of mine as the spokesperson of TTB. Click on the headline of this post if you want to read it.

Zafar Sobhan has written one of his brilliant op-ed piece on Take Back Bangladesh in today's Daily Star as well. It encapsulates the spirit behind the movement. Do read it. []

And do remember to come for our concert today at 2:30pm at Rabindra Shorobar Amphitheater, Road 8a, Dhanmondi.