Minus 1 – or the loser now will be later to win

Posted in politics by jrahman on June 20, 2008

I finished the last post by noting that forecast is hard, particularly about the future.  Anyone who works in the forecasting business – political pundits, macroeconomists, weather guys, doctors – would tell you how the particular event being forecast is a special case that lowers the chance of getting it right.  So I won’t bother with making a call about which of the players in Bangladesh’s political dance will survive the next few weeks (the conventional wisdom is that a lot is to happen in the month since Hasina Wajed’s release).  Instead, I do three things.  First, I show why cutting a deal with either of the netris is sensible for Gen Moeen.  Second, I point out that it is not in either netri’s interest to cut a deal – that’s what the title refers to.  Third, I wonder what this might mean for the regime’s hand. 

Anything goes   

There are actually very good reasons why Gen Moeen should cut a deal with either of the netris.  There are also good reasons why both netris should reciprocate. 

1. Moeen-Hasina deal.

They both face a common foe.  Hasina was ready to ratify Moeen’s actions last March.  Sure she didn’t figure that Moeen wants (at least a share of) power.  But recall the non-negotiables from both sides (indemnity for Moeen, retribution for Hasina).  A deal can be arranged that guarantees both non-negotiables.  Particularly, if Moeen is given full protection of Awami politics, it will be very hard if not impossible for anyone to seek vengeance on him.

2. Moeen-Khaleda deal.

If the trends from the past three election holds (big if, I know), jatiyatabadi brand of politics will continue to have more votes.  This means, if Moeen is intent on getting into politics (as opposed to being content with a safe guarantee), BNP is better for him.  And if her son’s safety is all that matters to Khaleda, she may well deliver the party to the general (most of the party has been ready to be delivered for a while). 

Should they stay or should they go?

While Moeen has good reasons to choose either of the netris as partners, from the netris’ perspective, it makes sense not to play.  Think about the deal being offered – go overseas, sit the election out, we’ll ensure that your party wins the election, the party will elect me as the president, and then you can return as the queen.  The snag is, only one side can win the election.  Yes, I know, there is talk of national government.  Let me restate then, only one side can provide the prime minister in that government.  No matter how it is cut, Moeen can make only one lot of politicians happy after the election. 

Suppose for argument’s sake that it is Hasina who has cut the deal.  She has already gone overseas.  It is abundantly clear that the party is with her.  Everything goes according to plans, Awami League wins the next election (in a free and fair manner), Moeen is the president, and someone nominated by Hasina is the PM. 

In this world, it is pretty clear that all the jatiyatabadis will be very unhappy.  While Hasina returns as the queen, their netri will be exiled in some foreign land.  Why would the latter not become the ‘champion of democracy’ in that world? 

Meanwhile, what exactly would Hasina gain by returning?  An overbearing president in Moeen, and an ambitious set of leaders who would have demonstrated that they can win without the netri – these don’t seem like much of a prize. 

And exactly the same reasoning holds for Khaleda. 

So, it seems to me that whichever netri actually cuts a deal is effectively being minussed.  Knowing this, why would they sign up? 

Presumably, this is why Khaleda is refusing to accept the deal, even at the risk of her son’s health.  And as long as Khaleda refuses to go, Hasina staying away hurts Awami League, and the pressure rises for Hasina to renege on whatever has been agreed to with the regime. 

Minus 2

What does that mean?  Well, it means that minus 1 won’t work.  Either both the netris will be gone, or neither will. 

Indeed, even if the regime does everything that may have been promised, it makes sense for Hasina to renege on the deal and return to Dhaka before the election to lead the party.  What exactly could the regime do to stop her?

The question then is, surely the regime knows all this, so why are they seeking to have the netris out? 

One possibility is that the regime is too weak, and have no other option left.  If this is the case, then within a few weeks, everything will unravel.  Khaleda will refuse to go.  Hasina will return.  And all the deals will over.

But there is another possibility.  The regime knows it has a good hand, and it is ready to raise the ante.  If this is the case, they will release Khaleda and send Arafat Rahman overseas, and then proceed with the election plans.  What can the netris actually do? 

If it is the former, then we can guess how things will end up.  If it is the latter, then we will truly be in uncharted waters.  Get some pop corn kids, there’s still a lot of game left.

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11 Responses

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  1. Chowdhury Irad Ahmed Siddiky said, on June 21, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Zafar Sobhan wrote:

    “Perhaps, indeed, the time has come to quit bashing “civil society,” whatever civil society might mean, and to understand that, in the first place, civil society includes many people and organisations who have been front and centre in holding the current government accountable, and, in the second, that, while satisfying and comforting, it is never particularly helpful to one’s analysis to make such sweeping and simplistic generalisations or categorisations….”
    -Zafar Sobhan

    Irad Siddiky Replies:

    Ideas are weapons. Like any other weapon, when ideas are misused, they can cause criminal offense that are known in the legal lexicon as a “white-collar crime”. Bangladesh has been a major center in the world for white collar crimes.

    Remember the Shushills of the 1974 Planning Commission whose utopian socialist ideas lead to the 1974 famine? What happened to those Darjeeling-Acheson-Cambridge educated Shushills who were the Grand-son-in-laws of Hussain Shaheed Suhrwardy and were so respectfully honoured by the deceased father-of-the-nation to craft the new nation’s economic policies?

    Well, they had a fabulous life, first as a young lecturer in Dhaka University educating the current chief advisor of CTG, the current head of the Election Commission, current Finance Advisor, a host of AL and BNP former ministers and also educating the lone Nobel-Laureate of Bangladesh (a distinguished but disgruntled Shushil in his own right, who wanted to apply his highly successful Grameen techniques to be a king). Also, what happened to another Shushill, that marvellous foreign secretary of Bangladesh who wanted to be the Secretary General of the Commonwealth for which he lobbied the United States so hard that he had to pursue his own government as a double agent for a presidential pardon to let loose an American Hispanic girl sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for illegal drug trafficking?
    Isn’t Bangladesh blessed with so many of these highly dignified Shushills?
    Remember the 1996 Janatar Maanchaa?
    In our semi-literate and half-educated society civil servants are also classified as Shushills and by that distinction they are also credited for their heroic shushillian contribution to the First Shushill Revolution of 1996 to overthrow an elected government of a disputed or rigged election. Ever since it has become a social norm for these white collar Shushills to assault the body politic with their intellectual double barrel and then to cook the dead political goose of the Bangladeshi people in a five-star kitchen called CPD, managed by the brother-in-law of Rusputin (currently on deputation in Geneva)to serve before the Western diplomats.
    Like “little knowledge”, little ideas could be a dangerous thing. The public intellectuals or the so-called Shushils of Bangladesh have long been such a criminal committing intellectual crimes with their “little knowledge”, ever since the independence of our country. Should we allow these white collared shushills to continue their reprehensible fraud behind the facade of a so-called civil society?

  2. iradsiddiky said, on June 21, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Visit my blog:

  3. jrahman said, on June 22, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Irad, thanks for posting the link to your blog.

    I do, however, strongly urge you to write comments that are relevant to the post. For example, how is your reply to Zafar Sobhan relevant to the current political game?

    This blog is not moderated. Please help me keep it that way.

  4. Chowdhury Irad Ahmed Siddiky said, on June 22, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Zafar Sobhan is son of Rehman Sobhan. Rehman Sobhan is the founder of CPD and the mentor of Fakhruddin Ahmed, Muhammad Yunus and others who are the architects of 1/11. What we are discussing here is a follow up of the events that took place on 1/11. Therefore Zafar Sobhan’s defense of Shushills is a defense of the same people that made 1/11 happen. This relates Zafar Sobhan indirectly to your post.
    I would like to know about Drishtipat and its activities. Is it by any chance an internet wing of the Bangladesh Awami League? Thanks for this extra. You can email me your reply at
    that way I don’t have to come to your blog. Thanks.

  5. Fariha said, on June 22, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Jyoti bhai,

    REF: #1, 2 and 4

    Is this guy for real? He thinks I’m a mango that becamse ripe before its age!!!

    And now he calls DP the internet wing of AL!!!!

    The activities/details of DP are available here, dear student-of-the-eaton-of-the-east,

  6. Chowdhury Irad Ahmed Siddiky said, on June 22, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you Fariah. You are not mango but you are certainly sweeter than it. I am so sorry if you misunderstood the joke. Follow your bliss…

    Best Wishes,

    ~ Irad Bhai(If I may, since I am 15 years older)

  7. fugstar said, on June 23, 2008 at 6:12 am

    Dude, congratulations on your geneology of bangladeshi poshness. but its not prof sobhans fault that the bangladeshis are unable to recognise or produce better than he.

    on minus 1 or 2 or 3, im really unsuprised by the party’s behaviour. perhaps this will lose them credibility and the ‘none of the above’ option will be exercised by the ever discerning voterhood.

    Jyoti, i wonder about schisms of parties, and the consequences of such schisms. This is clearly more likely in the BNP (amporphous lump of spent testosterone that it looks like at the moment). I’m boringly appealing to the PML-Nawaz and Mushy example. It creates more options for the political landscape to have another muppet actor on the scene. Coalition politics came in 2001 and proved its value in overcoming the most popular party.

  8. jrahman said, on June 24, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Fug, along with the PML example you mention, Ershad’s Jatiya Party is another precedence for the generals to create a party from the rumps of BNP. And this has been speculated about already, see these links for example:

    “Zia’s Bangladeshi nationalism plus Dr Yunus plus spirit of 1971 create a formidable force that will be extremely difficult for AL to defeat in a presidential or even parliamentary election.” – Rumi Ahmed (4 Mar 2007)

    “Create a splinter group of BNP whom the election commission would give the dhaner sheesh symbol. Float multiple smaller parties and create a loose coalition of Jatiyotabadi forces and civil society elements which will include this fake BNP with Ershad’s JP, Badruddoza’s BDB, PDP, Dr. Kamal Hossain’s Gonoforum etc. Ensure that this front gets at least 130 odd seats and a majority or at least enough to hold the balance of power.” – Asif Saleh (1 May 2008)

    It seems that this effort has failed because BNP’s grassroot is not willing to play ball. Now the generals seem to have turned to Awami League. Historically, while there has been a sort of entente between the army top brass and AL senior leadership (1986, 1996), both the army rank and file and the AL grassroot have been very antagonistic to each other. This makes the Hasina-Moeen deal that seems to be today’s reality very interesting. How will this play within AL? How will it play within the army? Your guess is as good as mine.

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  10. fugstar said, on June 24, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    yknow dude, this tactical jigerry pokery is most demeaning. It would create more amorphous messiness, that can only be tied together by cruelty.

    a slow integrative and reflexive social movement is the only thing i feel would be of essential value.

  11. Dhakabashi said, on March 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Shundarotamo Dhaka-r Protisruti

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