Friday, December 30, 2005

Passion for the Future

I’ve seen the future, my friends, and I need my sunglasses.

The Chatterjee Group, lead partners of Haldia Petrochemical (HPL) of West Bengal, India, has just bought for US$ 5.7 billion – Basell a JV between Royal Dutch Shell and BASF – a company 9 times HPL’s size.

Lakshmi Mittal, an NRI based out of London, has been slowly buying up enough steel mills around the world to give him effective sway over the world industry.

Reliance Industries, despite feuding brothers, have put in money in countries from the US to Africa, from Central Africa to China in projects as diverse as telecom, infrastructure and gas exploration.

Tata Sons have invested in truck plants in South Korea, in the world famous Tetley brand in UK, in Taj Hotel properties Maldives, and are even talking of a major project in Bangladesh.

Vijay Mallya’s UB Group has become the second largest liquor marketer in the world and has just paid about GBP 2 million to get Tipu Sultan’s legacy back from the British.

And I’ve not even touched on Wipro that has 40,000 people working in BPO operations around the globe. Or of Infosys who have become the blue-eyed boy of NASDAQ. Or of Jet Airways who have taken to the sky towards London and Singapore. Nor of the hundreds of other Indian companies that are looking beyond their borders. They are looking at the world as their playing fields and staring down the future, eyeball to eyeball!

“India is Shining”. Well, true that this slogan failed to win the BJP the last elections. But there was much more to the defeat than identification with the brand India. Indeed no one can deny the common man in Indian cities believing in the statement and breathing fire into the prophecy, ensuring that the country is indeed shining!

I have had the opportunity to study and live in India during the watershed years of “liberalisation” of the Indian economy in the early part of the 1990s. And then have worked and interacted with many Indians over the last decade and more. And I have seen a marked change in the attitude pulsating throughout society. My earlier years in India were in basically an American “International” school in South India. This was a school where the children of NRIs and rich Indians from Mumbai went. And my latter years were in one of India’s finest bastions of learning – St. Stephen’s College, a breeding ground for future leaders of the country. A college that at one time produced, I am told, 40% of all the top-level bureaucrats. Why, it even gave Pakistan a President! Now these last few sentences are not to boast that I am actually educated (a lot of my professors are shaking their heads in disbelief) but to highlight the valuable learning that I have had. An “insight” as we say in advertising, an inner glimpse of the psyche of the Indian mind.

Believe it or not, India is not one country! It is an amalgamation of many kingdoms, tribes, dynasties, people and languages. They actually owe it to the British for uniting them. Till the “Engrez” came and conquered them (and even after) they were basically warring states with ever changing borders. And, mind you, the Raj is not so far in the past. Without giving out her age (sorry Ma) my mother was actually born during the Raj. In an evolutionary clock that is less than a fraction of a nano second! This difference is still engrained in a multiplicity of beliefs, religion and roots. A Mumbaiwalla is so different from a Boro from Assam. A Mallyu from Triviandram is poles away from a Pandit from Kashmir. A Bengali babu from Kolkatta is different from a cyber sassy youth from Bangalore. And, mind you, it is not only the language (come on, English is the great unifier) and physical structure that I am talking about, but ethos of one’s ego. I used to half jokingly tell my Indian friends that the only thing that united them was their love for cricket and their hatred of Pakistan!

Now that joke is no longer true. They have another shared platform. And that is their belief they are going places and that they are going to conquer the world! Trust me, this is a very powerful belief. I see it in the body language of everyone I meet now. I see it in the conversations of friends. I see it in the attitude of their media. I feel it throbbing in every city I visit. Indians are dreaming a marvel bigger than any of the Bollywood story spinners can conjure up. They have been bitten by the bug of a bigger vision and they are sprinting toward their “tryst with destiny”.

Well, my rambling over the last 800 or so words was not to actually tell you what Indians are doing. But to tell you what we should be doing! Senator Clinton is right. We live in a village. If we do not understand that, we will never move to the tree-lined boulevard of Planet Earth. (No! I am not talking of a “city beautification program”)

We are too insular in our vision. If you can call an annually changing Five Year Program that! I understand the pain of the Honourable Finance Minister and am not preaching for blindly taking the pills prescribed by Mr. Wolfowitz at World Bank. But we need to compete in the world, need to believe in our abilities, and we need tool ourselves to the tasks of the modern demanding cyber world. (Let’s face the facts if you aren’t connected you are going no where fast!)

It is not any one policy I am preaching (well, at least, not in this article) but rather pleading to everyone – especially the powers that be, or not currently be, to unite the country to a shared goal, a rallying vision. Let us take the challenge on with zeal to succeed. Let us smell our own self-confidence. Let us be enchanted by the music of our victory that will be. Let us rush towards victory with the conviction of madmen. Let us believe. Let us try. Let us shine.

Anyway, whichever way, I need my sunglasses. Either the future is blindingly bright or it is a blind politician’s shenanigans.

Who Will Bell the Cat?

In the comments to "My Rejoinder" Faisal Kader asks a pertinant question. How do we get out of this cycle of detrimental politics that we are faced with. Well with the biryani in my stomach I think I am going to rehash an answer:

The article apprearing above this post "Passion for the Future" appreared in New Age Op-Ed July 8th 05. (Sorry to those who have read it already!)


"Tis is a season to be jolly... sha la la la lah"

And hence no boring posts about the depressing situations all around! Well atleast that is the excuse for being busy and lazy! Any way I'm back with my regular posts from now on. Apologies to 108 unique visitors who hit my home page! I've got a nifty stat checker which tells me who has come and for how long they have been here! So you guys better subscribe to the blog (look for the link on the side panel in the right) and save yourself the embarrassment of my pop quiz on the blog! Hah haa!

I've actually got a lot to say but its late now... 2:48 am. And I'm full of great biryani from Zarif Munir's wedding. (Congrats dude!) So tomorrow for sure... well actually in the morning in a couple of hours!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My Rejoinder

I think Mr. Hossain missed my point.

I am never saying that Jamaat is not to be blamed for the sins committed in 1971. Or forgiven!

I am not saying that Jamaat is right and that they are voice of the majority.

I am not saying that we should adopt the Islamic rule over our secular democracy.

I am not saying Jamaat is the answer or our weapon in the war against terrorism.

What I am saying is that to put Jamaat and JMB under the same banner is to over simplify a complicated and dangerous situation. We by doing this will not put our concentration, energy or resources behind finding the actual root of the problems facing our nations.

Bangladesh’s electoral, despite being by and far illiterate and Muslim has not been swept by the hypnosis of our Islamic leaders. Unfortunately because we (main stream political parties and the intelligentsia) are busy pointing fingers at each other we have forgotten to guide the citizens of this land. This has left a blank slate for the JMB and its ilk to draw on. To mould young impressionable minds. We need to retake the leadership. We need to preach secularism. We need to convert the disillusioned. We need to give the nation hope and a vision.

Without vision there is no future! And with hope there isn’t any suicide bombers!

This is not going to happen overnight. But the process needs to start.

A Critique

Ah and at last a critique of my New Age article.

Mr. Bilayet Hossain, Oklahoma, USA writes:

Martyred intellectuals and Islamic militancy

Expressing the feelings of the family members of the martyred intellectuals of 1971, your correspondent Shahiduzzaman wrote on December 14:
‘They are unequivocal in their views that the killers of 1971 were behind the emergence of militancy that already has the nation in its grip, in a different names and forms.’
Zahid Reza Noor, a son of martyr journalist Sirajuddin Hossain said—’ —the pain becomes unbearable when we see the killers hold high offices of power’—referring to the Jamaat ministers in the present Alliance government.
Contrast this with the comments of Nazim Farhan Choudhury that appeared the same day (Op-Ed, December 14):
‘So is the popular belief that Jamaat is behind the rise of Islamic extremism true? I think not.’ Mr Choudhury then argued how Jamaat has become democratic and how it stands to loose everything by promoting militancy. So according to him Jamaat should be treated just like a regular good-guy democratic party and considered as an ally in fight against the Islamic militants.
What people like Mr Choudhury need to find out is —
(1) Were the paramilitary outfits of the occupying Pakistani army —‘Al-Badr and Al-Shams’— some kind of Islamic militants?
(2) Were the present Jamaat leadership — including the two ministers — members of Al-Badr and Al-Shams?
(3) Did the members of Al-Badr and Al-Shams abduct the intellectuals from their residences and torture and kill them days before the Pakistani army surrendered on 16 December, 1971?
(4) Has the present Jamaat leadership denied its (both personal or collective) involvement in opposing the war of liberation and in particular the killings of the intellectuals or repented for its acts of political violence and its support for a genocidal Pakistani army?
(5) Have they denounced the present day bombings and killings by the so-called militants as ‘un-Islamic’ or not within the realm of political Islam?
If I recall correctly, the Jamaat leader Moulana Nizami has stated on the issue of Islamic militants that the bombings were the act of misguided youths patronized by the conspirators and directed against the alliance government, implying thereby the involvement of India and possibly the Awami League. Have the Jamaatis changed their position?
Before giving an ‘innocence certificate’ to a party whose declared objectives (establishment of laws of Allah—and removal of man-made laws) are quite similar to those of the militants, Mr Choudhury and others need to understand that the path of ‘political Islam’ is a slippery slope. In Bangladesh it started with the removal of secularism from the Constitution and inclusion of ‘ Allah’s law’ in its preamble. Since then ‘Islam’ has been gradually infused in national politics with the consent of a large section of the elite society, particularly in the garb of deterring Indian hegemony.
As we remember the martyred intellectuals (some of them were so close and near personally), we must recall the ideals for which they sacrificed their lives—‘a secular democratic Bangladesh (with ethos of Bengali culture) and with an egalitarian economic development’, as Shahiduzzaman wrote.
Bangladesh was not meant to be ‘a moderate Muslim state’ as some would like to portray—but was meant to be ’a moderate secular state’ where people of all religions can freely practise their religions. But none would be allowed to use religion for political purposes.
That is what the civil society in Bangladesh should strive for and not engage in pandering to or accommodating a criminal political outfit masquerading as a democratic organisation.

New Age. 17th November 2005. FeedBack

Politics of an Election

Afshin wrote [See comments to Subscription]

"Few days back a confession by a JMB activist caught my eye. He was an ex-shibir. He told that he became disillutioned when comming to power Jaamat dropped its jehadi attitude and nolonger inspired its members on the path of shahadat. Hence he joins JMB."

One thing that we fail to realise that the last time that Jamaat contested a national level of elections was in 1996! See the last polls they were only present in some of the seats that they got as a part of their pre-poll Alliance. What that means that by the time 2007 Jan polls come around Jamaat would have been absent in national electoral politics for 10 years!

Anyone who has seen a poll in Bangladesh knows that Election is a big money game. Huge amounts of funds are pumped into the constituency. Win or loose each party uses this event to rejuvenate its support base and organization. Like that of any team sports game, the elections allow parties to build morale, identify its strengths and weakness, and re-introduce their reason of being to the general public.

As Jamaat hasn’t had the opportunity to do so in the last 10 years means that a lot of their “cadre” will become disillusioned and look for alternatives.

Comments from Canada

Well I would love to say it is fan mail but actually it is more. I've taken permission from Dr. Taj Hashmi to reproduce what he had written in an email to many of his friends. The reason to post this was to say that there are many of us who share the same convictions. Is it not time we did something to change the way things are?

Dr. Hashmi's comment:

I am forwarding this wonderful article by Nazim Farhan Choudhury, which came out as an op-ed in the New Age, December 15, 2005. I think it is one of the very few balanced and objective analyses of the current situation of Bangladesh.

I wanted to write a similar article but refrained from doing so considering the effort an "Aranney Rodon". I wish our leaders follow Mr Choudhury's advice to contain "Islamic Terror" once for all by adopting some short- and some long-term socio-econmic measures instead of politicising terror, cynically keeping in view the possible dividends out of the ongoing terror in the next parliamentary elections.

Both the AL-led opposition and BNP-led coalition government fail to realise that blaming the Jamaat and BNP and India and AL for the terror, respectively, only benefits the terrorists. Lumping Jamaat with the JMB/ Harkatul Jihad will undoubtedly give dividends to the AL and its allies in the short-run, while the "Islamic terrorists" will benefit most in the long-run. Both the AL and BNP should come to their senses.

What I find most important in Mr Choudhury's analyses is how the constant portrayal of the Jamaat as the main force behind suicide bombing and other acts of terror in the name of Islam can force the Jamaat to turn into an ultra-rightist terrorist organization. Those who believe that imposing a ban on the Jamaat and other Islam-oriented political parties and kicking out the Jamaat and IOJ from the Coalition Government would diminish and eventually eliminate "Islamic terrorism" in Bangladesh are real fools.

Please read and re-read this well-written timely op-ed by Mr Chudhury. I wish our politicians could think in terms of long-term interests of Bangladesh and the so-called civil society (and the Bengali press) could stop the blame game for the sake of peace and order in this poor country with the potentials to become rich and prosperous!

Thank you Dr. Hashmi

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Hi everyone! First of all thank you for such wonderful response to the New Age article! I've been busy all day answering phone calls, sms and emails about it. Thanks for the support!

Something that a few mentioned is that it is difficult to remember to keep checking the postings everyday or even keep track of when I am updating. Well to help those people I've included a subscription system. Using a service called Bloglet it allows you to register to this blog. So everytime I update the site they will send you an email saying that there is a new post. (Well actually they will only email you once a day) If you want you can use this Bloglet to keep track of other blogs as well [ Have you checked out Faisal Bhai's one as yet? -] And rest assured the service is safe and spam free.

If you want more information it is available at

And for my growing Indian readers a special coming up in the next few days! My new piece on SAARC is almost complete and I hope to have it up before I go off to Chittagong next week for Rocky's wedding! Subscribe so that you are aware of the update when it happens!

Wedding season starts today for me... I'm off to two weddings tonight! :(

PS Chicky what happened to the comment you spoke about this morning?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New Age and Tommy Miah

Oh I think it is pent up blogging. After two or three days of break I seem to be blogging non stop today! Sorry for so many posts. But two things I wanted to mention.

1. New Age is carrying the article Shades of Green in today's op-ed page (Pg 5).

2. Those of you in Dhaka do remember to visit Tommy Miah's Heritage a wonderful resturant of Bengali Fusion food! Superb ambiance and great food! (Tommy's left a comment!) Come on everyone leave a comment and I will blatantly promote you! :)

Self Vs. State

Faisal Kader makes two very pertinant points (Pls see comments on Hasina ♥ Jamaat) :

1. Do we want to religionise politics or for that matter politicise religion?
2. If we do want an Islamic nation then which model do we follow? (Saudi or Indonesian)

If it was up to me one would keep religion close to my heart and secularism / democracy close to my mind! But it is not up to me! It is in the hands and minds of the Bangladeshi electorate.

Luckily for all of us till date they have been resolute in ensuring Islamic parties do not gather the strength that they have in many countries. But mind you this support cannot be taken for granted. If we look at Pakistan then we can see that while the PPP and ML kept the Islamist elements out, in elections after the General took over they have shown a huge upswing in the strength of the rightwing religious party.

It is inevitable that in a democracy we have to find space for all voices the citizens. And till electoral decides to change the Constitution the green in our flag represents the fields of Bangla and not the colour of their faith.

My worry however is that there exists a far sinister plot in the background. Islamic nation that the JMB and its ilk want to establish does not want to put a King (or Sheikh – Hasina?) in power like in Saudi. Nor does it look for guidance from the moderate and somewhat democratic Muslim states like Malaysia or Indonesia! They want a revolution ala Iran in 1979 or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan! Law and governance will be in accordance to the Quran (actually according to their interpretation of the Quran) with one supreme leader and an advisory council.

Few years ago some Muslim Brotherhood tried to recruit me. (Don’t ask me why but the how hopefully I will write about sometime soon!) Their pitch was that Jamaat is not a true Islamic party as they have forsaken Islam. Their rational being that man cannot elect who should lead them nor can they legislate laws or decide on punishment. All the guidelines have been laid in the holy books and the obligation of every Muslim is to follow that. Jamaat by the virtue of being part of the process has surrendered its right to champion the cause!

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

"What seems to be the basic fear behind the reluctance to act ?" asks Probal Chakravorty (Pls see comment to Hasina ♥ Jamaat)

Good question as usual Probal. I would venture a guess saying that it is basically because of two reasons

Firstly: Ostrich syndrome. We do not believe that the problem exists. Well even if we now know we tend to believe it is under control. See from the knee jerk reactions that are abound. (Take the case of tearing out pages of India Today as an example). See if we say that the problem exists then it is perceived as a failure of the Government.

Secondly: Headless Chicken Syndrome. Now that we see visually that something is happening we do not know how to act on and get hold of the terrorists. Unlike most suicide bombings in other areas these are not aimed at Western powers or their economic arms (KFC in Pakistan or JW Marriott in KL have been victims). But scarily enough by Muslims against Muslims. Making it harder to know where, how and by whom.

I guess I should have also touched upon the Dodo Syndrome: one that involves the head, or the lack thereof!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hasina ♥ Jamaat

Faisal Kader raised an interesting point on how the Jamaat could be banned, (Pls read the comments to “Happy to be stuck with you”

Faisal Bhai (and a few others who have said things which are similar to his more articulate writing): I actually do not think the Jamaat should be banned. One it would be undemocratic to disenfranchise any proportion of ones population. After all like it or not there are people who subscribe to their political ideology. The Nazi and the Communist Party I am told still have their US wings in operation!

Secondly by banning them we drive them underground and free them from needing to answer to the electoral. My own hunch is that will also allow the more radical elements of the Jamaat to take over their manifesto, support base and most importantly the highly efficient organisation.

If what you say about Sheikh Hasina is true then she has gone up a few notches in my appreciation. If she had banned them then the whole democratic political process that we say we enjoy would have collapsed then and there!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy To Be Stuck With You

To those who think the blog has gotten a bit to serious... here is something to cry about!

P.S. Thank you Mamoon for forwarding the joke!

A Jaamati, a BNP and an AL worker arrested consuming alcohol which is a severe offense in Saudi Arabia, so for the terrible crime they are all sentenced 20 lashes each of the whip.

As they were preparing for their punishment, the Sheikh announced: "It's my first wife's birthday today, and she has asked me to allow each of you one wish before your whipping."

The AL guy was first in line, he thought for a while and then said: "Please tie a pillow to my back." This was done, but the pillow only lasted 10 lashes & the guy had to be carried away bleeding and crying with pain.

The BNP was next up. After watching the AL man in horror he said smugly: "Please fix two pillows to my back." But even
two pillows could only take 15 lashes & the BNP was also led away whimpering loudly.

The Jamaati was the last one up, but before he could say anything, the Sheikh turned to him and said: "You are from
Golam Azam's Islamic Party.For this, you may have two wishes!"

"Thank you, your Most Royal and Merciful highness," Jaamati replied. "In recognition of your kindness, my first wish is
that you give me not 20, but 100 lashes."

"Not only are you an honorable, handsome and powerful man, you are also very brave." The Sheik said with an admiring look
on his face. "If 100 lashes is what you desire, then so be it...and what is your second wish?" the Sheik asked.

Jaamati smiled and said, "Tie the BNP to my back"!

Censorship and other crimes!

A friend of mine who is a regular reader of the news magazine India Today tells a story of how a recent issue was confisticated by the authorities and only returned after a page was torn out. Apparently the page torn out was a book review about Bangladesh's Talibanisation. Those interested about the book might want to look at the following link (cut and paste on to your browser)

I have not read the book and neither am I familiar with the author’s other works. But I’ll do what every protestor of the Satanic Verses did – I’ll condemn it! False! False! False!! I say. Mr. Karlekar who started his career in journalism in the 1960s in West Bengal no doubt lived through the horrors of 1971 and must have played a role (active or passive) in our War of Independence. And like most Indians that I have met, he must be puzzled why Bangladesh which was created with the help of General Arora’s troops is now is forgetful or even “ungrateful” of the friendship that the nations are supposed to have shared! And again it is easy for everyone to point at one particular source and says that is the fault! But that is a scary logic to follow. The break down of the relationship is long and complicated. Maybe I’ll touch on that soon. However a fundamental cause of this feeling is the success of Awami League propaganda on the rise of Islamic political might in Bangladesh. This gets a lot of play in the conversations of Kolkata’s intelligentsia! The Babus should remember that Islamic parties have lesser say in our policy than Shiv Sena has in Maharastra or BJP / RSS has is Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh! All this rubble raising will only put Bangladesh in the defensive. It will lead the government to deny that the problem actually exists. And then lead their leaders (Alliance powers that be) to actually believe their own tales. What was the name of that Arnie movie? True Lies! Correct.

Mr. Karlekar, I will read your book (if I can get my hands on one in Dhaka) and I will give you secular Bangladesh’s reply! But for now tone down the rhetoric otherwise all you will succeed in doing allow the same terrorists that you are fearful of to get bolder!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

2 Talk or Just Scream at Each Other

The Government party as shown some initiative and has called for a national dialouge on the rise of Fundamentalism! The Opposition has shown thier short sightedness and refused to attend. You'll love the excuse - because the letter was hand delivered instead of coming in the post! I kid you not! Apperently during the SAARC summit the invite to the LoO (Leader of Opposition) was sent via snail mail so she got upset and went off sulking! This time around it was a snub! Oh what will happen to us? Awami League needs to get out and reinvent itself. It needs to show that they are above petty politics. When will they ever learn?

I think the fear that AL has is that BNP is putting up a charade about dialouge, and are not actually interested in doing anything of this nature. It is to make political hay while the bombs blast away! Is that credible? Actually it is! I won't put one by the BNP for doing something like this but wait up AL can take them up on the offer and turn the plot around on its head! Take charge Mr. Shabber H Chowdhury! Show them the way!

I am Halal

Interestingly a few readers (/concerned friends) thought that the piece about Jamaat might be misrepresented as me supporting them! Far from it I do confess. My point is that while we should not ignore them, it is foolish for us to not to see the tree from the wood. We need to find the JMB and prosecute them to the full extent of the law (no crossfire please!).

Anyway RohanO picked up an interesting point - I've got a link to the Dhaka Hotties site on my blog! Surf over and see. We are midst of re-designing and branding of that site so it is still undone!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Is Jamaat Really Involved

Afshin raises a valid point in reaction to "Shades of Green" (see comments to that post) where he theorises that Jamaat might be testing the water with JMB to lead a Iran style take over. My view to that is that there must obviously be a group within the Jamaat who believe that this is the answer and they lend support explicitly or inexplicitly to the terrorists. However Jamaat as a political party is not actively supporting the JMB.

And even if they do, the last evening’s result of the Dinajpur polls where the Hindu rebel Jatiya Party (Ershad) candidate drubbed Jamaat more than by 2 to 1 is a warning shot for them!

Interesting facts about the elections:
1. I understand that their is a substantial Hindu vote in the constituency there. However do keep in mind the seat was won by Jamaat the last election.
2. Jatiya Party was forced by the Alliance to put up a weaker candidate.
3. There was 70% + turnout despite strong security and tense atmosphere.
4. The 4 other candidates did not amount to much (6800 odd votes in total) despite having amongst them Awami League rebels!

Two things emerge from this. Firstly AL voted enemas behind the winner and secondly if BNP is not careful they will become irrelevant to the political process where it will become a AL vs. Jamaat scenario.

I think it would be too simplistic to paint yesterday’s results as a secular vs. Islamist fight but most indications is that when inside the voting booth the Bangladeshi more often then not votes standing from their neutral Bangalee heritage. Jamaat be warned!

Newbie Alert

Sorry about the length of the last post. I am not sure how to just attach an article instead of copy pasting! And to think Bill Gates was in town today. Should have asked him how!

Anyone know how I can avoid putting in a whole article in a posting?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Shades of Green

Okay who’s out buying the fiddle for our leaders? For the nation is burning and we are blissfully unaware of the consequences that are facing us. It is not a purely Bangladeshi problem, these suicide bombers, but I think we are unique in our reactions to it. Predictably the first reaction of our political masters (or mistresses should I say) was to point to each other. It is easy to blame and be an ostrich. But isn’t leadership about taking responsibility? Is it not giving the flock some guidance?

Bangladeshis, we know, are god-loving people. We keep our religion close to our hearts. But time and time again we have proven that we don’t let it control our minds. The rise of so-called Fundamentalism has actually never been reflected in the popular vote in our democratic elections. The right wing Islamist parities (Jamaat et. al) constitute a very small but vocal slice of the electoral cake. However with the alliance in power, it has taken a bigger perceived role in the mind of the intelligentsia. A fault of our thought process is that we lump all parties with Islamist leanings or roots as Fundamentalist. We equate Jamaat, IOJ and JMB under the same heading. So anyone with a beard and a long alkhalla is deemed a radical Islamist.

Before I go on I must make clear that I am not a “Jamaati” nor can I reconcile their sins of the past. However one needs to recognise the shades of green that there exists. To give Jamaat-e-Islami credit, they have organised themselves as a very efficient political party united under a central ideology and they are not driven by the egocentric leadership which dominates our other “democratic” parties. They have come into the mainstream through the proper electoral process. Some might not subscribe to their teachings, but having them in the Jatiya Sangsad, my dear countrymen, is the price of freedom. Jamaat, though having not repented for their sins, I think, has accepted their previous mistakes and has distanced itself from the past. They are now as an Israeli would say – kosher!

So is the popular belief that Jamaat is behind the rise of Islamic extremism true? I think not. (There of course may be individuals within the party who might have other points of view) It is clear they have nothing to gain and all to lose. First and foremost they are in power now and hope to increase their share of the alliance seats. From most reports the two ministers that they have are more efficient than their colleagues and have been above the suspicion of corruption that has plagued the other ministers. Their view of coming to power is long-term and it is through the democratic process. Don’t forget that the Jan Sangh (the forerunner to BJP in India) started with two cabinet berths in 1979 and in a decade and half came to power! Why would Jamaat rock the boat?

The recent series of incidents in Bangladesh obviously brings us to the world’s notice. Well if not the rest of the world, at least to the men in Langley, Virginia. This would mean that their activities, plans and funding are (hopefully) under the eyes of Uncle Sam This implies that no longer can they fly below the radar in their path to power. And more importantly the fence sitting Bangladeshi voter will become more inclined to forgive the Awami League for their mistakes and swing the balance of power in the 2006 elections!

However most importantly for them, with the growth of right of right JMB, the support base of Jamaat becomes eroded. They are now competing for the mindset of the alkhalla wearers! Should we not try to find out who would be desperate enough to strap bombs to themselves and head over to a courthouse? Do they follow a pattern? Are they of a certain age and from a certain background? I would bet close to anything that if we do look closely we would see a young poor Bangladeshi picture coming out. It would be the same person we’d see if we were to target Jamaat’s (and Shibbir’s) target base. In order to grow support for a democratic but yet Islamic Bangladesh, Jamaat must appeal to the youth. The vast majority of our population is below the age of 30. If Jamaat is to look at the 2016 elections this is the crucial vote bank to which they must appeal. Unfortunately for them JMB is not only taking these souls away, they are also drawing them out of the democratic process altogether.

It is, as I mentioned earlier, easy to blame Jamaat. It’s easy to say that all fundamentalists are the same. That, I reckon, will be the worst crime that any secular Bangladeshi can commit. By doing so we give credence to the general belief that the current strain of right wing Islamist thinking of the JMB is a movement, rather than the evil designs of some madmen. If the “popularity” of this idea gathers currency it will in turn force Jamaat futher right to cater to their base. And as Jamaat moves more to the right, the actual feet of the street support that’s not currently there will be. In one sentence, if we believe that Jamaat is extremist then they will be forced to take that very position.

There needs to be a serious examination to ascertain where the leadership of the JMB is based, what its organisational capabilities are and to come up with a plan on how to disarm them. Despite what the State Minister of Home is saying, this has not happened. By shouting at each other from political podiums and by refusing to talk to each other we are not helping. Let us get Jamaat, the BNP, the AL, the Left, the Army, the Police, the intelligence units, and civil society in a room and throw away the keys! It is of course very simplistic of me to think that this will happen, but at least a debate needs to take place. Abu Hena might be right and he might not be, but one thing that his dismissal highlights is that to be democratic an election every five-year is not all. We need to take our heads out of the sand and discuss the realities of today. Zahid Ahsan Russell the young AL MP from Gazipur was quite visible on TV the last few days with both the BNP and AL leadership touring the site and calling for justice. We need to follow his lead in saying that this is more than just partisan politicking, and that, for the future of our country, we need to stop this mindless blame game and concentrate on finding out where the exact sparks of the fire lie. The Awami League needs to figure out fast that though this might be their “trump card” in this election it is they who will suffer the most. The BNP needs to realise that by letting an alternative power base grow in the JMB they will become redundant in a political future where it will be AL vs. JMB.

Before I end do let me show off my knowledge of history. In 64 A.D a great fire burnt down two thirds of Rome. Emperor Nero used this excuse to blame the then fledgling sect of Christians and used it as an excuse to prosecute them. This led them underground and they regrouped. Eventually they grew stronger and today the centre of Christianity, the Vatican, is not far from Circus Maximus where the fire first started.

Oh great leaders of ours, it is time to put down your golden fiddles and face the music. Our small nation looks at you for leadership and not petty squabbles. Hope we have something to look forward to before I mix any more metaphors!

4 Play

It's been a few months since the initial blog experiance. I knew I would slow down. But when I think of it again it was a mistake! One needs to not stand by and let others tell you how your life will be lead. We need to take charge and make ourselves heard. So here it is... a piece of my mind! Not really the best real estate in the city but hey I am atleast doing something about getting my voice out there.

Use this, if you want to, as a forum to put your thought out. About life, about Bangladesh, about politics, about business, about things that bother you and ofcourse the many many things that don't! (Hey after all I am an optimist!) Together we can make a change - I swear!

Please forgive my spelling, grammer etc!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Day 3

Captian's log... Stardate September 1st... in a planet... far far close! (well at times closer than we believe!) A hurricane across New Orleans has snuffed out all the jazz/ blues singers. Has caused oil prices to US$ 70. Has it even registered a blip in the cabinet here in Dhaka? Well you don't have to be a blogger to know the answer to that!

Somehow we are in a cocoon and believe that our PM / LoO (Leader of Opposition) is the centres of the universe. Is anyone even following what is out there? Not the hurricane only but do we have a sense of why things are happening and what are the repurcations on us? These days of an interconnected world unseemingly different incidents can (and does) have strong effects on each other. There is a great book out there called "Freakonomics". It asks questions that haven't been asked. (Why do drug dealers stay at home with mom? or What do cheating teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?) And helps us look at life around us slightly differently.

Okay who was it that said that the fluttering of wings of a butterfly can create an hurricane at the other end of the world. (was it a butterfly in Dhaka that created Hurricane Katrina) And why are all the devastating hurricanes named after women anyway? Dangerous grounds that I am treading on. Hmm...

I need to get back into writing. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Day 2 is harder

Ok we are up and running! (Well almost!)... Now what do I say? Is this going to be a dairy or just space for me to rant? Do I even have time for this? hmmm... well I'm not sure. Faiza will be quite bugged that I've gotten into yet another thing! Heh hee! (Faiza are you reading this?) Actually no one is. I haven't told anyone of this and haven't even published myself as yet. No seriously I got to get something good on till this is taken further.

I think the first thing to do will be to make up some parameters by which I "govern" this. What should I talk about? What CAN I talk about? What am I ALLOWED to talk about? One thing for sure is that the postings should not be too long nor to drab. Maybe a joke or two (...knock knock... who's there?... - can't even remember the punch line!) That's not good. Well at least rule number one has been established. Keep it sho

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In the begining

Oh ok... is anyone out there? Hmm... Let's see how does one start? Where does one start? Well maybe by taking the first small steps... (or keystorkes) me thinks! Well here goes...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Repentence of a Sinner

Oh Lord, forgive me for I have sinned! What is worse, I do not think I’ll stop sinning in the near future. I am sure to be sent to purgatory for a long time to come while I look down (or is it up?) at my country burning in the hell of poverty.

No, I’ve not coveted my neighbour’s wife. Neither have I lied. Nor have I killed, though Gluttony and Sloth might be two of the other sins against my name! I have committed the ultimate sin against my country, against my own conscience – I have bribed!

Okay, I hear the collective sigh of relief from my wife and the rest of my family. We see corruption so prevalent around us that we have desensitized ourselves against it. Mind you, it is, I think, still an awful crime, as heinous as murder or rape. It is the collective rape of the country’s resources and the murder of her future! And every day, every one of us stands silently by as another part of our being dies.

Well, the question does arise: Why am I being so self-righteous now? Why did I bribe to start with? Can you believe that the first time I did bribe was to give the government my own money? In the mid 1990s, when I came back after my education with the twinkle of a reformer in my eyes. When I came back with the belief in ideals that one learns in college. I think my parents were so relieved that I did not stay back in some foreign land that they bought me a car! And I soon learnt that to ensure that I had the opportunity to impress the ladies with my mean drive I had to pay road tax and fitness. And, as evident, if proper people in the relevant authority were not paid “speed money” all I could do with my soft top was to sit with the stereos blazing like the sun above in our driveway.

And since then I’ve done this many times over. To get phone lines. To pay electricity bills. To pay income tax (oh no, I’m getting raided tomorrow!). To get tickets on an airline flight. To have my road swept. To ensure that the VAT authorities did not ask why I was paying so much of it. (For sure, a raid tomorrow!) I have the resolve of a heroin addict now! I want to give up but I don’t know how!

Prof. Yunus of Grameen Bank in a recent newspaper article enthused about what he would do given the chance of being chairman of the Anti Corruption Commission. Well, good professor, isn’t what Abe Lincoln said once hold true in Bangladesh? Is not the basis of democracy embodied in the tenet that a government is of the people, by the people and for the people? Well, we can wait and say that the government and the opposition will get their acts together and solve this epidemic that is plaguing us. But what do we do when our doctor doesn’t cure us? Do we wait till the last breath hoping for a miracle cure? Surely, it is our choice. We can wait. Or we can act. Let us invoke our powers as citizens of this great country to have our own Anti Corruption Commission. Your dream has come true, Professor Yunus. You are now the chairman of the citizen’s ACC.

So how does this citizen’s ACC (CACC) operate? Well, basically as the name suggests, common citizens form the CACC. Amongst us there are Bangladeshis who are above the party politicking that plagues us. In the past these “model” citizens have come together to form caretaker governments, they fuel many of the intelligentsia, run many of the successful NGOs. In cahoots with the media the CACC can form a powerful opinion forming body in the country.

The CACC will operate like an NGO whose main goal is to provide transparency to the operation of the government, quite like election monitors who oversee the smooth functioning of any elections. The CACC’s task is to bring to the notice of everyone that any issue that they cover is above board and corruption free. It is almost like having a quality assurance stamp. The government should welcome this body as they claim that they are honest and say it is priority number one to improve our nation’s image before foreign investors.

Let us form committees (yes, decisions do get made in those sometimes). Let us divide up the work. Past, Future and Present as it was so nicely put. Let us have our own cells to hear grievances from ordinary citizens who have to pay up or not have any other alternative. Let us have counselling desks that guide us through what to do when we are faced with such dilemma. Let us have investigative cells that probe large deals. Let us join hands with the fifth estate to report the crime. Let us for our own sake act!

Prof. Yunus, you have shown us the way to break out of poverty with your micro credit programme. But is it not time to address the nation’s macro poverty elevation scheme and rid us of the obstacles of corruption? The nation needs people like to you come front and centre and take charge.

We need people who have the courage to say enough is enough, and who have the personal credibility to see this through. I promise you that the nation will be ever grateful and millions of us will be lining up to be the foot soldiers in this war against bribery. I for one, General Yunus, am reporting for duty.