Ahmadiyyas are a heterodox Muslim sect that has been present in Bangladesh for over a century, quite peacefully it seems for much of the time. This changed during the middle of last decade, when a relatively little known group called Khatme Nabuwat Movement violently protested against the sect. The government of Khaleda Zia bowed to the protesters, and the sect’s literature were banned in 2004.
I haven’t the slightest interest in the theology of the sect’s belief. What concerns me are the fundamental rights of Bangladeshi citizens to profess their faith, enshrined in the Article 41 of the Constitution as thus: every citizen has the right to profess, practise or propagate any religion and every religious community or denomination has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
What concerns me is that in the post-15th Amendment secular Bangladesh, Ahmadiyyas might once again face persecution. Indeed, low level persecution in the form of intimidation has already begun at local levels — there was an incidence in Tangail last year. I fear worse are yet to come.
I have resisted writing about it so far, for two reasons. First, what is there to say on the event beyond what my friend Syeed said at UV?
Anyone who condemned BNP’s treatment of its then opposition, should condemn this without any qualification, much less falling in the trap of legal or tit for tat arguments.
And secondly, I never thought the event would actually happen. My working hypothesis has been that the whole issue was drummed up by the government to keep the opposition busy, to distract them from focusing on matters where the government is vulnerable. Thus, in early 2009 it was Pilkhana, in the current situation, it might have been the transit issue, and in general electricity-prices-law and order are ever-present government failures. I even wagered my friend Rumi bhai that the BNP chief would still be living in that house come January 2014. How wrong I was. And having been proved wrong, I needed to reassess my views before writing anything on the issue.
On reflection, I still stand by my ‘distraction theory’. The Awami League wants the BNP to focus on issues pertaining to the Zia family, and not on topics such as the transit to India. But in addition, I now believe there is more. As the Economist put it:
It is obsessed with airbrushing from history the legacy of the political dynasty founded by Mrs Zia’s late husband, General Ziaur Rahman, hero of Bangladesh’s war of independence against West Pakistan in 1971.
Given the League’s motivation, how will things play out? I am not a soothsayer, and given my record of getting things wrong, the reader could well to discard everything I say. Nonetheless, I am going to outline three scenarios over the fold.
It’s been three years today that this blog started.* Over this time, we have seen some major events unfold at home and abroad, including: the unravelling of the 1/11 regime and the Awami League’s landslide victory; Pilkhana and the aftermath; the global recession.
It’s a good idea to mark such anniversary moments with a bit of introspection. Over the fold, I note couple of things I got wrong over this time. Of course I am going to talk about public matters — private mistakes are none of your business.
The latest installment of the Daily Star – Nielsen poll is out.
Summary: Awami League has lost popularity since January (when the last poll was done) on the back of worsening power situation and rising prices, but BNP yet to benefit significantly.
Full details are here, while some salient points are over the fold.
Before going to the results — Daily Star ought to be congratulated for sticking with these polls, and hopefully their competitors will do better with quarterly surveys.
I posted on its 60th birthday when, arguably, the Awami League was at its zenith. I noted Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s impressive record of first holding the party together after the bloody 1970s, then dragging it into the Bangladeshi mainstream in the 1990s, and finally putting it in power as the strongest government in the country’s history. This time last year was much happier for AL. We don’t have regular opinion polls in Bangladesh to substantiate this, but if the recent Chittagong City Council poll is any guide, AL has lost popularity in recent months.
But AL’s lost popularity is not why this is an unhappy post. Rather, this post covers my increasing disillusionment with the third AL government. My standards were never high. I never imagined Bangladesh to become Sweden. But after 18 months in power, comparing what could have been with what is likely to be, I cannot but help be unhappy. I see dark storms over our political horizon. And then when I look at the alternative, the recent CCC poll notwithstanding, I don’t feel any less unhappy. (more…)