ZIA: The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh

Source: Washington Times.

By Begum Khaleda Zia ( Former President of Bangladesh)

Will 2013 be a watershed in U.S.-Bangladeshi relations? My country of 150 million people, located between India and Myanmar, has been independent since 1971, when the United States was one of the first nations to recognize our right to self-determination. Yet in the past year, relations have been strained to the point where the United States may be accused of standing idle while democracy in Bangladesh is undermined and its economic allegiance shifts toward other growing world powers.
This is not to say that the U.S. government, Congress or agencies they help lead have done nothing. Six months ago, the World Bank withdrew nearly $2 billion in funding for a four-mile bridge project, the largest single infrastructure project in Bangladesh for 40 years, and demanded an inquiry into ministerial corruption and misappropriation of funds.
At the same time, members of the U.S. congressional caucus on Bangladesh condemned the government — in particular Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — for removing Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus from his post as managing director of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s award-winning microfinance institution that has pulled millions out of poverty. The reason for his ouster? Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the honor was presented to the wrong person: “If anybody in Bangladesh deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, it is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”
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  1. Mrs Zia has brought accusations of corruption which was prevalent during her own reign as well. That is not to say corruption is not happening now. Quite the contrary, every government in the past and present had their fair share of blame for asking 10% cut for every large project. It doesn’t make it right, but a fact of politics in Bangladesh.

    I do agree with her concern regarding the Caretaker Government. The country, democracy and political system in Bangladesh is still too unstable to ensure free and fair election and having a hopefully, independent 3rd party to administer national election is as close as it can get to a fair game.

    I am also in agreement with Mrs Zia regarding her complaint about the way Professor Yunus was treated, specially after winning the Nobel Peace prize. Here is a man, recognized by the entire world as a visionary and the current government gets jealous and tries its utmost to steal his spot light. I think Mr. Yunus fell out of political favor right after his attempt to enter public politics. The saint became a bad guy the next day as he was becoming too much of a rock star and steal the show.

    I fail to understand her reasoning to criticize the war crime trials. The trial is not perfect by any means. But it is needed. People need not forget, that her past government had to form coalition with sympathizers of some of leaders in trial today. If she feels, the net needs to be cast wider, Mrs. Zia certainly had the patriotic opportunity to work with the current government. This trial of war crime is a national issue and should be above politics. There is absolutely no room for partisan business, and no back scratching to save war criminals. As an outsider, we sense that the current government seems to have capitalized on this war crime to score political points as well. It seemed to have created momentum and a sense of secular nationalism which scares the wits out of political parties with a religious base.

    Regarding her concern of too much power falling into the hands of one family, is quite ironic. Wasn’t it the case when Mrs. Zia was in power?

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