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Summarily

July 16, 2007

I wake up in the morning and a friend wonders why I haven’t posted on Sheikh Hasina’s arrest. What arrest? I ask, amazed. I had overslept. Cliched, but this is true.

So I switch on the television and am soon glued to some high quality journalism. I must admit, I am increasingly impressed by the quality of broadcast journalism in Desh. There’s a mixed bag – TV channels that are sympathetic to AL, some that are not, some that are quite ostensibly opposed. But I digress.

The story at hand, I learn, went something like this.

In the wee hours of the morning, around 5:00 AM, a gigantic motorcade of RAB jeeps, police cars and between 700 to a whopping 1000 RAB and Police personnel assemble outside Sheikh Hasina’s Sudha Sadan residence. The outcome of this great build-up of uniformed and gun-toting men was obvious to many. I likened it a troop build up near the Waga border updating a friend overseas. Except this was a police force, not a military build-up.

AL supporters who had gathered in the vicinity knew not to agitate before a force of this size. Telephone lines were cut. Sheikh Hasina, who later said she foresaw an arrest, was alerted to the goings-on. According to reports, she called her son in New York, prayed Fajr, and calmly walked down in a white sari, looking as pristine and sinless as the morning sky. She asked what the charge leveled on her was. It was a extortion case, for nearly 30 million Takas, filed with Gulshan Thana.  

Soon Hasina was driven away in a Navy blue SUV with tinted windows in a convoy of about 20 vehicles, to her “sub-jail” – a recently built abode for the Speaker at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban. Dhaka and elsewhere were awash with rumor, gossip, nervousness, and a healthy amount of fear and foreboding. First, Hasina was taken to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court, where police and RAB fired on agitating AL supporters. Speaking of agitation, I, like many others wondered what contours they would take. How far and wide they would spread. At the court, Hasina and her lawyers protested vigorously. She insisted:

I have done nothing wrong. The charges against me have been brought only to hold me back from the next general election

Next, she urged people to be patient, claiming,

If I survive and when the time comes, I will stand by you again. People’s fate will not change without free and fair elections, and if it is held right now, the AL would get 80 per cent of the vote.

Finally, she said, somewhat bizarrely,

Ten universities from around the world have conferred on me doctorate degrees and other awards. Those are not mine, rather those are the prestige of the country. Had I committed corruption they would not have given me awards and doctorate degrees

Doctorate degrees, whether honorary or not, are a diabolical thing, hardly an ethical legitimizer.

Meanwhile, I talked to as many as I could to get a sense of the anti-government processions this would unleash. I watched TV, made phone calls, and speculated with whomever I could.

Surprisingly, not much took place. Processions were brought on the DU campus. Like I commented earlier, they were pesky irritations at best.

Soon, the Sheikh’s son, Sajib Wajed Joy’s handsome face hogged all the private TV channels as he spoke from New York in response to the arrest. Mustering composure, he addressed AL supporters and the nation, vowed to do whatever necessary to free his mother and expose the conspiracy of the CTG.

Of course, the coat tails of history weren’t far and Joy tugged on them best he could.

Ebarer shongram desher bhobishoter shongram

Ebarer shongram gonotontrer shongram

Joy went to on to say:

I spoke to her about an hour before she was taken away. She reminded me of 1971 and that my grandfather had been arrested by the Pakistanis many times on false charges. Ultimately their conspiracy failed and so will this one. She told me not to be scared. I told her that I would do whatever it takes

Speculations abound as to what lies ahead. Hasina has been detailed a few times in her 26 years running the Awami League but this is her first charge for criminal offense. And under the Emergency Powers Rules, she has been denied bail. Mahfuz Anam, one-half of the face of Deshi print media, criticizes the arrest trenchantly, breaking with an earlier approbatory, pro-CTG tone:

We repeat that we welcomed the emergency for the simple reason that the election that was looming before us was going to further destroy our democracy, which had been battered by years of partisan politics from both sides. We supported the caretaker government, and we still do, simply because we want to go back to democracy, albeit greatly strengthened and made free of corruption.

[But] we think by arresting Sheikh Hasina on charges that can easily be tried without her internment, the government has put at risk all its achievements of the last six months. To us Sheikh Hasina’s arrest is totally misconceived and smacks of arrogant use of power without due process of law. To say that nobody is above the law must also mean that law is not the handmaiden of anybody either.

Examine the arbitrariness with which Sheikh Hasina’s has been treated. She was allowed to go abroad and just because she spoke out against some actions of this government, (having earlier promised to ratify everything) suddenly several cases were filed against her.

According to D-Star, in an informally conducted survey, most surveyed professed great unhappiness at the arrest. A minority supported the government’s move.

 

But despite all despites, people seem uncannily quiescent. No news of significant violence have, so far, arrived.

There have been agitations outside Dhaka as well, in Kishoreganj, Mymensigh and Khulna. Businesses, storeowners and schools have stopped running. In sporadic clashes with the police, about 70 are reportedly injured. But nothing near a blood bath many commentators seemed to predict and fear. But perhaps, I speak too soon. I hope not. As usual, stay tuned.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. Syed permalink
    July 16, 2007 8:53 pm

    Sajid….

    Make sure you renew your Awami League memberhip card…this time they may give you a gold membership:-)

    “According to reports, she called her son in New York, prayed Fajr, and calmly walked down in a white sari, looking as pristine and sinless as the morning sky.”

    “According to D-Star, in an informally conducted survey, most surveyed professed great unhappiness at the arrest. A minority supported the government’s move.”

    D-Star has a well known awami bias. Readers and survey takers reflect that. His brother is BNP and he doesn’t get along with him…Mahfuz Anam I mean. So he has developed an awami bias.

    “But despite all despites, people seem uncannily quiescent. No news of significant violence have, so far, arrived.

    There have been agitations outside Dhaka as well, in Kishoreganj, Mymensigh and Khulna. Businesses, storeowners and schools have stopped running. In sporadic clashes with the police, about 70 are reportedly injured. But nothing near a blood bath many commentators seemed to predict and fear. But perhaps, I speak too soon. I hope not. As usual, stay tuned. ”

    Seems Sajid is baying for blood…in the hope it’ll get his “netri” a get out of jail free card….nevermind many mothers will lose their sons in the process. Who cares about them…all that matters is this one person *rolls eyes*

  2. Syed permalink
    July 16, 2007 9:11 pm

    “Next, she urged people to be patient, claiming,

    If I survive and when the time comes, I will stand by you again. People’s fate will not change without free and fair elections, and if it is held right now, the AL would get 80 per cent of the vote.”

    I think in while in jail they really need to teach her how to calculate percentages. Poor woman loses elections cause she doesn’t seem to be able to count her numbers…despite the multiple doctorate degrees:-)

  3. July 16, 2007 9:32 pm

    Sajid,

    Excellent – and i mean EXCELLENT – post. Fair and balanced. Are you as worried about Mahfuz Anam as I am? This is a significant departure. As DP puts it, the honeymoon is over.

    The coat-tails of history…. well-put my friend, well put. People have been riding those coat-tails a bit too much.

  4. Hussain permalink
    July 16, 2007 10:37 pm

    A really good post bro.. That Mahfuz Anam break, and it’s tone was extremely surprising.

  5. Syed permalink
    July 16, 2007 11:03 pm

    “fair and balanced” just like fox news…hehehe

  6. July 17, 2007 1:37 am

    OK Syed, this is just ridiculous. You are embarassing yourself. It’s not a pretty sight. Stop the name-calling, and start debating like the thinking adult I know you are.

  7. July 17, 2007 1:42 am

    Asif bhai – I’m not deleting Syed’s comments ’cause he’s entitled to think that Sajid’s opinion is tilted in whatever direction he thinks it’s tilted. I seriously don’t agree with him, and I think his brand of juvenile name-calling is ridiculous. Thinking readers will be able to give Sajid’s post its due. – Saif

  8. July 17, 2007 2:24 am

    Saif bhai,

    My post was not a call for censorship, but an attempt to show the user called “Syed” the end result of his unseemly tactics taken to their logical conclusion. I apologise to you and any other reader who came across that piece and would have you/them know that it was completely sarcastic.

    Ad hominem attacks are especially ridiculous for an online forum where people hardly know each other. What purpose do they serve? It’s just another short cut we indulge in to save ourselves the hard work of LISTENING to other people and CONSTRUCTING our own counter-arguments. Isn’t that why we deplored the two netris and their political parties in the first place? That is the irony of the position that this user has taken: decrying the netris and using their very tactics.

    Clearly the CTG has learnt a lot from him and can learn even more should it choose to eavesdrop on his contribution here.

  9. Nabilah permalink
    July 17, 2007 4:27 am

    “According to D-Star, in an informally conducted survey, most surveyed professed great unhappiness at the arrest. A minority supported the government’s move.”

    Do you guys think this is true? (I guess it depends on who is surveyed). I looked through the ds front page this morning and was surprised to see practically a whole front page worth of reports/commentary expressing shock and anger at hasina’s arrest. We can and should discuss the legality of the arrest, but my gauge is that plenty of people are happy about this.

  10. July 17, 2007 4:33 am

    Nabilah,

    Clearly this is the mother of all unscientific polls. What’s interesting is why the DS has suddenly stopped toe-ing the CTG line. What changed all of a sudden? Mahfuz Anam’s editorial was a huge departure from his usual support/silence on the CTG’s actions. If anything, he is accused of complicity in 1/11 by some quarters (I don’t agree).

    Waiting and watching…. things are getting very interesting.

  11. Hussain permalink
    July 17, 2007 4:41 am

    Asif Bhai:

    100% onboard. I anticipated many things after her arrest, DS’s outrage wasn’t one of those things.

    You know, Mahfuz Anam’s tone suggests an imminent danger lurking in the background, which somehow got more real? Or is it just me? I for some reason get the impression that he either knows something we don’t (for sure) and that’s his motivating factor, or like our Secretary Chertoff, Mahfuz Anam too has a “gutt feeling” of some imminent danger of a slippery slope…

    like u said…. let’s see how it all unfolds…

  12. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 4:47 am

    Saif,
    A lot of listening is done here…but very few arguments constructed. Hence the paucity of “counter arguments”. I’d suggest these posters who’re trying to convince the owners of this blog to censor my post or delete them to learn constructing arguments first…and then expect others to counter them. Writing apogees to some party or netri does not make and argument and neither do quoting some journalist hack make one. Above everything giving each other backpat may serve the purpose of “feeling good” and feeling less “alone’ in the idea world [ crucial for the needy and the insecure] but it surely also promotes group think. Creative conflict..which is at times argumentative and at times conciliatory is good for independent thinking.

    Should the current government listen to something I said…I’ll be more than happy. But should I chose to offer that sort of contribution…I have ways and means of doing so on my own accord. An online blog is certainly not one of them. My purpose here is to exchange ideas and ARGUE with some bright thinking people. If that is too much to ask…no censorship will be neccessary…I’ll look for greener pastures on my own.

  13. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 4:57 am

    Hussain,

    I am sorry I believe I’ll not give Mahfuz Anam that much credit. I already mentioned his known bias and the reason for that bias. I personally know him and his family. So it is not mere speculation on my part. As for him knowing something special..I don’t believe anything more than any member of the establishment in the country. Yes he is a prominent journalist…but others have reasons to know priviledged info as well. All I can tell you is…there is a contingency that may not be quite so palatable. No one wants to go there…but no one can rule it out either at this juncture. But remember it is just a contingency and by no means a certainty. I don’t believe common folks and outsiders have any clue how delicate the condition of the economy is. This SOE is really a last ditch desperate attempt to save the country’s positive future. WHich is why you have seen the whole “bourgeousie” and the “elite” irrespective of left/right, military/civilian, partyline, foreign patron etc. have lined up behind this enterprise. It is really our last best hope.

  14. July 17, 2007 5:57 am

    Syed bhai,

    Apnar second last comment er bepaarey kichu kotha bolbo, asha kori apni thaanda mathay porben.

    Apnar shaathey kintu ami koyek bishoy ek moth, koyek bishoy ek moth na. Eitai natural and what you call “creative conflict”. Amiyo personally chai “creative conflict”. Shomoshsha hochchey, amra jokhon ek motamotey ashtey paari na, tokhon personal remarks korar ki proyojone?

    Apni goto shoptahey Anthony’r shaathey ei kaaj ta korlen, amar shaatheyo ektu aadhtu korechen. Aajkey apni Sajid er shaathey korchen. Apni nijei bolun, koy jone manush apnar bepaarey ei forum e personal remarks korechey? Ami korechi? Na, ami apnar idea guli contest korechi as best as I could. Apnar kachey jodi amar arguments inadequate laagey, taholey sheita bolun ar tar poreo jodi motamothe parthokko thaakey taholey shobbho bhaabey amra “agree to disagree” kori. Ta na korey, apni amakey compare korlen “blind Indian media’r” shaathey, Anthony ke “Indian” daaklen, Hussain ke pray “fundamentalist” dekey boshlen ar Sajid ke “AL-er” daaklen. Apni nijei bolun, eita ki apnar kaachey “creative conflict” laagchey naki gulistaner morey pitapiti laagchey? Creative ki maaney na je amra ekey onnyer ideas judge korbo, personality niye chup i thaaklaam? Amar shaathey je disagree korey takey ki kharap/biased manush bhaabtei hobey? Nijer ki kono bias nei eita bhaabley cholbey?

    Amra eikhaaney ekey onno ke “pat in the back” kori na. Apni Hussain kei jiggesh koren (unless this is another Hussain), months back we had this HUGE heated debate about deobandis and their role in South Asia. Ek baaro ekta personal remark korechi? Ami to okey “Islamist” dekey ar o amakey “Secularist pig” dekey choley jetey paarto. Ta na korey amra kotha bolechi, onek kotha onek disagreement. Today we’re agreeing on some other issue. Eitai to natural. Khamakha manusher beparey personal kotha boley ki bhaabey engage kora jaabey, ki bhaabey moto parthokko resolve kora jaabey? Apniyi amakey bolun.

    Ami sure apni real life e khub popular ek jon manush je kaukey kokhono aaghat dey na. Sometimes, it doesn’t translate into the internet with its anonymous interactions. Apni ektu chinta korey dekhen ami ja bolechi ebong onajyo kotha boley thaakley apni amakey bolun. But please, without any personal remarks.

  15. July 17, 2007 6:07 am

    Hussain,

    I think the tone is just his outrage that he was kept in the dark about it. Which raises questions about who’s calling the shots, because I’m sure he knows some of the power wielders very well.

    Doubtless it is a stupid move, an impatient move on the part of the CTG. Anam still likes their aims, but their tactics aren’t the best way to achieve them. That is my best guess, I don’t think there is any imminent threat.

    There is rather a long-term threat that this means that the moderates inside the CTG are being sidelined and the hardliners are taking over and Anam is simply moving pre-emptively against that. But I’d give that conflict another two months to resolve itself, so not imminent. Plus, I’m keeping an eye out for media censorship at this point.

  16. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 6:23 am

    Asif,

    You called me “this poster with name “syed”.” …I am sure you’d agree that is not a compliment. You also warned me to never assume you’re pro-indian or else…and also indirectly called me a jamati-inspired right wing paranoid vis a vis India…before you knew my views. I still believe Anthony is an indian cause he threatened to “chutnify” me in his blog…a word I have never seen any bangladeshi use. As for “bro. Hussain”….he called me a shade away from Irshad Maanji…which is also not a compliment. There was also a bunch of swear words posted at me by various trolls…which the forum owners kindly removed. Sajid made some remards in his commentary that i quoted to explain WHY i called him AL-er. So as you can see categorizing them may not have been politically correct but not without any justification at all. Judge I will as I categorically reject post modernism as a psuedo-philosophy. I donot believe in moral relativism although I accept there are shades of gray and there are many ways to the truth in some cases.

  17. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 6:36 am

    Asif,

    I think your reading of CTG is unnecessarily cold waresque. You assume it is like the soviet politburo/chinese communist party central committee where there is an internal struggle between moderates and hawks. While there may be some mild apparitions of such things…the CTG decision makers are surprisingly united in their agenda. Decision is largely made through consensus and discussions. Example is the prompt unified and consistent response from all three relevant advisors and the BB governor to CPD criticism of their move to raise energy, fertilizer, power prices and interest rate.

    You also are trying to portray Mahfuz Anam as the NYT of Bangladesh or something. He is no such thing. His is one of many major newspapers. Despite Awami league/left’s traditional hold on the print media….balance of power have shifted a lot over the last 6 years. Electronic media(private) is actually now dominated by center-right views. So to think Mr. Anam represnts anything more than just one of say 10 major newspapers in the country is to give him credit he doesn’t deserve. Just like any country our media is now split by party/ideological lines. I have mentioned which side Mahfuz Anam falls and why. There are other countervailing forces in the media to not need any major censorship However if some newspaper resorts to yellow journalism and starts rabble rousing…calling to civil disobedience and violence while emergency law is still in force expect swift and decisive action. If you like US analogies so much…I’ll give you one. I think Mainul Hossain is acting like Donald Rumsfeld in his press conferences…. Powerful, competent but totally irreverent…schmuck demeanor.

  18. July 17, 2007 6:45 am

    See, that’s a much better comment, Syed. We’re heading back into constructive debate territory.

    The (dis)unity within the CTG thing: I would like some more evidence from both of you, Asif bhai and Syed, before I can make up my mind. Right now the CTG feels liks a black box to me…

  19. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 7:04 am

    Saif,

    I gave you one example….the price hike issue. This is perhaps the most important set of decisions they made. The leading economic think tank in the country went after it…and they defended it with one unified voice instantly in the media. They even got IMF resident execs to wash their hands of this move. I think that is a huge proof. remember CPD is very much part of the establishment that is running things these days. Prof Rehman Sobhan has a book on “East Asian development and lessons to be learned”…you’re seeing some of the prescriptions in action.

    Economics/Finance being my area of expertise I am still sceptical about the SOE move…not so much the strategic justification for it…but the timing of it. But given my respect for their expericne, ability and sincerity in economic management I’d give them some time before i come against their measures. I also applaud the CPD for making the necessary counterpoints. It’ll serve as a check and balance…in the proper way. A policy should be critiqued in this manner…not by populist slogans and hartals.

  20. July 17, 2007 7:32 am

    Syed,

    Let it be noted that I started referring to you in the 3rd person only after you started getting personal, thus making it useless to address you in the first person. I’m not a fool to make an “or else” threat that I cannot fulfill. I merely wanted to warn you about assuming things about people. It’s not just Jamaatis who assume that. But no further on this, whatever your views on “postmodernism” are, this is more of an issue of courtesy and engagement. Not what we say, but how we say it and whether we get personal or not.

    re: your second comment, even when discussions and consensus are present, there can be hardliners and moderates. My reading is not based on Soviet/Chinese models, but on much more varied models of collective decision making.

    I think Mahfuz Anam and DS’s reputation in the media world and especially among the elite classes is well known and I don’t have to repeat that. Ideologically maybe not, but in being innovative, in pursuing relatively hard journalism and in being widely read, DS used to be a bit like the NYT.

  21. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 7:50 am

    Asif,

    I’ll not comment on your comment about courtesy…out of courtesy:-)

    As for Mahfuz Anam…the operative word is what you mentioned in your comment DS “USED TO BE” like the NYT…not anymore….I am afraid.

  22. July 17, 2007 7:52 am

    I think Mahfuz Anam sometimes sacrifices substance for aggression, but the most compelling thing he wrote in his editorial, and possibly the most compelling thing he has ever written…’To say that nobody is above the law must also mean that law is not the handmaiden of anybody either.’ There’s lot to be taken out of those words.

    If I may just butt in on Syed alleging bias on Sajid’s part. Well, he may or not be biased, but I do believe the evidence you’ve gathered is quite thin, possibly due to having misunderstood what he meant. Case in point-pronouncing Hasina LOOKED ‘the picture of innocence’ does not mean her innocence was ENDORSED.

  23. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 8:00 am

    Shayan,

    Thanks for butting in…but why mention anything about her look…innocent or not….embellishment in describing a situation gives away a writer’s biases and more importantly his intent. We read tone in written language mostly by reading diction and structure.

    DS and Mahfuz never proves with examples and arguments how law has become the handmaiden of anyone…just makes a categorical/philosophical statement. An individual was arrested on a specific criminal offence. The cae was developing for sometime. Let’s see what happens in the court. A open trial is promised. No one is being taken away to some shadowy purge or some secret dungeon.

  24. July 17, 2007 8:24 am

    The key word being ’embellishment’. Of which there was none in this case. I’ll tell you what I read into that part of Sajid’s piece when i read it first-only he can confirm this, but it seemed to me more like an attempt to perhaps describe the image that Hasina tried to portray of herself. we often read stuff like this. the british media has been full of Tory MP’s trying to put across theirn new-found ‘Green’ images. if i could be bothered enough, i’m sure i could find you something similar. but i’ll leave it because this is simply a case of you reading far too much into it in your quest to find intent and bias.

    i think Anam doesnt prove that because he is unsure that is the case yet. as you say, he makes a categorical/philosophical statement, but it is within that framework itself thats its importance lies as something to guard against.

  25. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 8:31 am

    My friend…we have allowed the army to cross the Rubicon…now there is no turning back . These political hacks are so greedy and incompetent that they left no choice but to call the legions across the Rubicon. The question Anam raises…while poignant is largely meaningless now. We have invited a military-civilian “revolucion”…now there is no choice but to get on with the program. The alternative is chaos. We’re not ever going back to pre-1/11 world again…its either gonna be better from this point on or worse. But to say that there is the possibility of arbitrary use of power is like saying “Be careful of the waves while you’re at rough sea.” Stating the obvious.

  26. Shayan permalink
    July 17, 2007 8:49 am

    I see where you’re coming from but that is akin to saying we have no say now whatsoever, so lets just sit back and watch the show, hopefully it will have a nice ending. while we may not be able to stop the arbitrary use of power, just lying down and taking it will surely only contribute to an increase in its incidence. and most importantly, i believe we should always be vigilant. the moment we stop, we give them free rein over the nation, and whether invited or not, that is not something anyone should have. we must play the role appropriate of civil society, and rather than blind compliance, that role should be allowed to accommodate balanced criticism.

  27. Syed permalink
    July 17, 2007 8:55 am

    I am all for balanced criticism….but just as after 9-11 Bush got a free pass to turn America into a police state for a year or two….we have to kindda accept the good and the bad of this SOE episode until it has served its purpose. Once it has served its purpose…opportunities will arrive to seek change, evolution to the “revolucion”…I donot believe now is the time to confront it. As you can see now that the time has passed gloves are off on the Bushies. I believe similar fate awaits the BD regime.

  28. July 18, 2007 12:44 am

    For the record, I didn’t threaten to chutnify anyone. Nor did I say anything about Syed, or any other blogger/commenter’s, persona.

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