Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hearts and Minds

Now you might be wondering what I have to say about the new CG and why I haven't been "active" in the blogsphere the last week. As many might already know my boss (and mother) Geeteara Safiya Choudhury has taken up a position in this government. This in turn means that now I have to do three times the work (she being a workaholic heaped on her plate more than any I know). Also I don't want anyone to think I have any inside track (or ear) to information. I am like the rest of you outside looking in.

And as usual I have some very strong opinion on the current role of the CG.

Those who have been reading my blog over the last six months or so, will attest to the fact that I've been a proponent of an quasi army/technocrat government. I don’t clearly know where the balance of power lies in this government. But I believe there are a few things that need to be done.

As the American’s in Iraq had so rightly assessed (and so miserably failed) the real victory is in the “hearts and minds” campaign. Similarly whatever the structure or powerbase of the current government might be, one thing is for sure, they need to win the public opinion to their side.

So far the general public has given its overwhelming endorsement to the new administration. I have not yet seen any dissent. Even the major political parties have welcomed the opportunity that it represents. But for how long will it last? The CG has to show that they mean business. Show that they are different from their predecessors (ie BNP, AL and previous CG) and more effective.

To do this they need to do a few things without delay:

1. Declare to the nation their intentions
2. Dialogue with various stakeholders
3. Be (and be seen to be) active with day to day governance
4. Move out of Dhaka to the districts and meet “common” deshis!
5. Crackdown on the big daddies of corruption.

I believe that if the advisors of this CG break out of the mould created by the previous rulers of the nation, they will create a new benchmark of what our leaders should be like. They have the citizens behind them now. It is now up to them to them to carry the nation into a democratic future.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Our Time Has Come

Every cloud has a silver lining.

I am not going to get into the discussion about the state of emergency that prevails in the country at this moment. There are far more capable people than I to debate this. What I want to take up a bit of your time on is the contention that the Caretaker Government (CG) that is going to be announced soon should have representation from Generation 71.

Gen 71 is the term some of its members are using to refer to people under the age of 40 (give or take a few years). This generation was either born after 1971 or were too young at that point of time to have vivid first hand experience of the pains of liberation. We have always been Bangladeshis. We were too young to know Shiekh Mujib or General Zia. During the formative years of the Ershad regime we were still busy deciding which toy to buy. Politics these days seem reliving history over and over again. It is governed by what happened in the past. Who said what when and who did what to whom where. We have been shackled by the past and are not building bridges to the future.

Demographically speaking we are in the majority. 115 out of 140 million Bangladeshis are below 40. Gen 71 makes up more than 70% of the current voter roll. But are we represented in Parliament or decision making politics with equal gusto? Barring a handful this is not the case. Now before you give the “you are too young” speech, let me point out that in other spectres of Bangladeshi life the Gen71 are making their mark. Be it sports or journalism, business or culture, NGOs or rock bands, IT or banking, I can give you literally handful of names of people who are redefining their fields. Alas this is not the case in politics.

I wonder why? Student politics has always been in the forefront of political change in Bengal. Be it the Language movement or the 1969 movement that laid the foundations of the Liberation War or the anti-Ershad movement. When young got involved things got done. Dr. Kamal Hossain was in his early 30s when he wrote the Constitution. Rehman Sobhan a young lad when was the author of Bangladesh’s economic roadmap. Tofail Ahmed or Moudud Ahmed or Rashid Khan Menon or ASM Rab or Mannan Bhuiya all were in their 20s and 30s when they played a their part in the formation of our country. But 30 odd years later it is the same face we see running the nation. No disrespect meant but has their “sell-by” date not passed? Are we not now victim of stale thinking? Are we not held ransom to the experiences that they have lived through? It is time for fresh ideas, fresh way to look at things, fresh impetus for change. Only will the passion and vigour of youth bring about such a revolution. Give Gen 71 a chance. Let the future decide the future.

Over the next day or two the new Caretaker Government will be constituted. I am sure in the list will be prominent and capable names. But now is the time to also include in that lists a couple of names of people who have the potential to create a difference. Gen 71 should, if by nothing else but the virtue of the fact that we are the majority in the nation, get representation in the CG.

I strongly believe and I am sure many of my peers will agree that this will be one of the catalyst to bring back the interest of the majority of the young to the noble calling of politics and statehood. And that in turn will infuse life into the most dynamic group in any civilization. Look across the world from Georgia’s President Saakashvili to Jordan’s King Abdallah; US’s Senetor Obama to UK’s Leader of the Opposition Cameron; the young are now moulding the future of our world. Why should Bangladesh be left behind?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hallelujah Emergency at last

BTV scroller declared at 7 pm Bangladesh time that that President has proclaimed "a state of emergency". Curfew has been announce from 11 pm to 5 am everyday till further notice. President to address the nation soon. Advisors sent home (update: they have been asked to go back to Bangabhaban)

Story so far: UN Sec Gen's representatives announced today that the upcoming election will not be legitimate and withdraw all assistance to the process. Army rank and file, rightly deduced that a illegitimate election = illegitimate government and hence no recognition from UN and hence no peacekeeping duty. That acted as a catalyst to get the supreme leaders do go to Bangabhaban and ask the President to call for emergency.

Likely next steps: El Presidente will resign as head of CG and remaining advisers asked to resign. Then the "President" will appoint a new CG head and set of advisers. A reshuffle of the EC is in the cards. Election in 3 to 6 months. I believe Chief want to leave earliest but has got sanction that to ensure that a proper and acceptable election to take place they can take up to 6 months. UN, US, EU will make the requisite mumblings but not impose any sanctions.

Will keep you posted on the developments.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Into the Future!

Happy New Year; Eid Mubarak; Merry Christmas; Happy Hanukkah; Swraswati Puja-er Obhinondon!

I guess with all these holidays I was on a vacation mode. Sorry. I seem to have this knack of going AWOL when major happenings occur! Maybe it is me hiding from making comments on so much happenings.

Okay now that I have made somewhat of an apology for not writing for so long I’ll now bore you with some self-publicity! But given my advertising background I can not but help it. It’s so engrained in my D.N.A!

The good folks in the swell newspaper New Age has come out with their annual “Heroes” issue. And guess who makes and appearance? Well not as yet in the main heroes section but in the one titled “Faces for the Future”.

Here is what they had to say:

Nazim Farhan Choudhury

The deputy managing director of Adcomm Limited is also the co-founder of political action group Take Back Bangladesh. The group is a social platform aimed at involving the younger generation in politics. ‘When we say “getting involved”, we don’t mean standing for an election or attending a rally,’ says Farhan, ‘but about being aware and understanding one’s rights.’ The group recently held a concert to raise awareness of their cause, and currently stands with several hundred members. ‘After 1971, our country was shaped by young people like Kamal Hossain; the youth have not had a significant influence after that. Now, it is time for this generation to take a stand for the country.’

I think I should categorically add here that I am but another cog in the Take Back Bangladesh movement. (I am NOT being modest!) All its success owes to everyone who have contributed, motivated, energized and supported us.

Interestingly to quote the last paragraph of Ms. Naila Kabeer’s write-up (she making it into the Heroes section) ‘Just this morning, I heard about something else, that also made me hopeful,’ says Naila. ‘Some of my friends were discussing a concert held at the Dhanmondi Lake, where bands were singing under a theme titled “Take back Bangladesh”. That sentiment just needs to be spread.’

Let us hope 2007 is the year we start taking back our great country!

Link to the New Age Heroes Section:
And to my write-up: