Folks at the International Crisis Group are disappointed with Hasina Wajed. This is from the very first para of their recent report on Bangladesh.
In December 2008, following two years of a military-backed caretaker government, the Awami League (AL) secured a landslide victory in what were widely acknowledged to be the fairest elections in the country’s history. The hope, both at home and abroad, was that Sheikh Hasina would use her mandate to revitalise democratic institutions and pursue national reconciliation, ending the pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics between her AL and its rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Three and a half years on, hope has been replaced by deep disillusionment, as two familiar threats to Bangladesh’s democracy have returned: the prospect of election-related violence and the risks stemming from an unstable and hostile military.
I’ll write separately on the report. For now, let me focus on this feeling of disappointment, which is shared widely across the kind of people — the Daily Star reading, talk show/seminar/rountable attending crowd (you know who they/you/we are) — ICG would have interviewed. Let me pose the question to these folks: the disappointment is compared to what? What is the benchmark against which the government is being judged?
I last wrote about police reforms over two years ago. In the past two years, we have had a number of fairly high profile crimes that remain unresolved. Meanwhile, RAB continues to be a serial human rights abuser, with abduction replacing ‘crossfires’ as its preferred method of ‘law enforecement’. And amidst all the noise about the collapsing law and order, I haven’t heard anyone seriously discuss police reforms.
Which is a shame, because a recent research paper by MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee and colleagues show that there are some reasonably low hanging fruits available to any government serious about reforming the police.