Political, Economic, International, Environmental

Is Donald Trump making America a pariah state?

The 72nd session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly is taking place now in New York, from 19th to 25 September 2017, where heads of states and/or very senior representatives from 193 countries are going to discuss and debate issues of concern to the world of today. The main theme for this session had been earmarked as, “Focussing on people, striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”. The key words to note on this theme are ‘peace’, ‘decent life for people’ and ‘sustainable planet’.

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Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America, had given his speech on the floor of the United Nations on 19th September. The speech would stand out as the most unconventional, obnoxious and full of thuggery that any known head of state had ever given to the UN General Assembly.

On top of his self-aggrandisement for the victory in the presidential election using his “America first” slogan, he exhorted world leaders to go likewise for their individual “countries first” (thereby abrogating multilateralism)! This is the most ill-conceived advice and a recipe for international discord. But this is the mild part of his speech, when one considers what is to come next.

On North Korea, he blustered that US is ready, willing and able to totally destroy that country, but hopefully that will not be necessary. He seemed to have nudged United Nations to support him by saying, “that is what the UN is all about; that is what the UN is for; let’s see how they do”. In other words, he was asking the UN to do his bidding and allow him to do what he is capable of doing in destroying another member of the UN. He also insulted the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, labelling him a “rocket man” who is “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime”.  North Korea’s two allotted seats were empty as they were not interested in hearing what the American president has to say.

That is not all for Donald Trump. He denounced the nuclear deal that Barack Obama along with Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and France signed with Iran and called that deal as the “worst ever” deal. He gave the impression that he may abrogate the deal. He then berated the Iranian government as a “corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy” and urged the Iranian people to overthrow the government.

A day later when the Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, stood to deliver his speech, he answered quite clearly that Trump’s speech was ‘ignorant, absurd and hateful’.  He said that should America walks away from the nuclear deal his country would respond “decisively and resolutely” by reviving the nuclear activities Iran had abandoned under the deal.

Donald Trump also castigated Venezuelan leadership as a “corrupt regime” which turned a prosperous country into an impoverished country. Venezuelan response is yet to come.

Donald Trump’s speech has been roundly condemned by allies of America as well as those states who are not in good terms with America. French president, Emmanuel Macron, said that the nuclear deal with Iran is a fair deal and if it is made to collapse, a nuclear standoff as serious as the Korean peninsula might develop here. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, although normally highly diplomatic, defended the Iranian deal and commented on Trump’s bluster on North Korea as “I am against threats of this kind”. Even Theresa May and Boris Johnson, who would bend backwards to support any American statements, said that Donald Trump’s speech was not helpful and Iranian deal should not be thrown away.

However, Trump received support from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for his stand on abrogating the Iranian deal. Netanyahu had a blazing row with Barack Obama when he signed the nuclear deal, as Israel was vying for a fight and destroy Iran. Then Saudi Arabia joined in to support America (and Israel) against Iran – so much for the Saudi’s self-aggrandised role as the custodian of the two holy mosques in Islam!

Donald Trump a couple of months ago pulled America out of the Paris Climate Agreement on the ground that he considers global warming is nothing but fake. He wants to revive the coal industry and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans as miners and ‘make America great again’! Such massive job opportunities would look marvellous for his re-election! That the environmental damage the CO2 emission would inflict and hurricanes like Katrina, Irma, Maria and many more would be a regular affair do not bother a xenophobic character like Donald Trump.

So much for upholding the principles of the UN General Assembly session by advancing ‘peace, decent life for people and sustainable planet’ by Donald Trump! Even Israeli prime minister admitted that in his 30 years of attending UN General Assembly meetings he had never come across anything like this. America was never a country which other countries would truly regard as friend. But this time Trump is taking America to a different planet and making America a pariah state.

–    apaxmanuk

International, Political

Partition of India – An Untold Story (A Film)

Viceroy’s House: An untold story behind the partition of India and why Lord Mountbatten was wrongly vilified by Warren Manger
A new film, Viceroy’s House, by Gurinder Chadha claims Winston Churchill was secretly plotting to split up the country and Mountbatten was an unwitting pawn.   
 
Narendra Singh Sarila (aide-de-camp to Lord Mountbatten and Indian Foreign Service official) found old government files in the British Library that recommended breaking off parts of India as separate countries to serve Britain’s interests. The plan from 1945 was marked “War Cabinet – Top Secret – Post-Hostilies Planning” and was approved by Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 
Viceroy’s House (2017)
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writers: Paul Mayeda Berges (script), Moira Buffini and Gurinder Chadha.
Stars: Gillian Anderson (Lord Mountbatten), Michael Gambon (General Ismay), Simon Callow (Cyril Radcliffe) …
It should have been the dawn of a proud new nation, but the first days of India’s independence were among the darkest in its history.
The rush to split the country into secular India and Muslim Pakistan on August 15, 1947, left millions stranded on the wrong side of the new border and sparked the largest migration in history.
Nearly 14 million refugees fled their homes as entire villages were butchered. One million people died. And 70 years later, the two countries still struggle for control of disputed regions such as Kashmir, where more than 50,000 people had been killed by extremists on both sides in the last 20 years.
No wonder the last viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the king’s cousin sent to India to hand back power, had been “vilified” for the Mountbatten Plan which led to partition and the catastrophic consequences.
But a new film by Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bend it Like Beckham, claims Mountbatten was an unwitting pawn, manipulated by Winston Churchill as part of a secret plan drawn up years earlier.
Viceroy’s House, starring Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson and Michael Gambon, claims the Government wanted to carve up India to keep influence over the key port of Karachi in Pakistan and stop the Soviet Union expanding across Asia.
Fim director Gurinder Chadha, whose aunt died as her family fled Pakistan after partition, said: “I believe Mountbatten went to India not knowing that partition was Government policy.
“He was sent there as he king’s cousin because the Indian people would respect him, but also because he was not an astute politician”.
“He was a naval officer who was used to following orders and not really question what he was doing. He was out of his depth”.
“Growing up in London, I was taught at school that Mountbatten came to India to hand the country back, but we Indians started rioting and there was so much violence he had to divide the country”.
“That is the predominant history in India too, which is why Mountbatten is vilified as the man responsible for dividing India.”
Prince Charles played a small but vital role in shaping the film after Gurinder “couldn’t resist” telling him about the project during a reception for the British Asian Trust at St James Palace.
The Prince of Wales , it appears, spotted a chance to restore the reputation of his beloved great uncle Lord Mountbatten, who he described as “the grandfather I never had.”
He urged Gurinder to read a book called Shadow Of The Great Game by Narendra Singh Sarila, a maharajah who served Mountbatten in India after partition.
Two days later, by coincidence, Gurinder got a copy of the book from the author’s son Samar, a young actor she eventually cast in the film.
Sarila found old government files in the British Library that recommended breaking off parts of India as separate countries to serve Britain’s interests.
The plan from 1945 was marked “War Cabinet – Top Secret – Post-Hostilies Planning” and was approved by Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Gurinder says: “Churchill worried that if he handed India back as promised, it would like handing the whole of Asia to the Soviet Union”.
“Stalin had already said he was going to create the biggest country in the world. He had huge manpower and natural resources, but Russia’s two ports both froze over in winter.
He wanted a warm water port he could use 365 days a year and the British feared he had his eye on Karachi, which was strategically placed by the Suez Canal and the oil supplies in the Persian gulf.”
Sarila showed Gurinder letters Churchill sent to Pakistan’s first Governor-General Muhammad Jinnah before partition that supported that theory.
Churchill thanked Jinnah for his invitation to lunch at Claridges, but warned they should not meet in public any more and should write to each other under fake names.
Gurinder says: “It’s clear Churchill and Jinnah discussing things they didn’t want anybody else to know about. It seemed likely that was plans for a separate Pakistan.”
Sarila even claimed the riots and growing violence between different religious groups in India was orchestrated by the British to convince Mountbatten that the only option was to divide the country.
Mountbatten remained in India for 18 months after Indian independence, visiting many of the refugee camps with his wife Edwina, a devoted member of the Red Cross rumoured to be having an affair with Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian prime minister.
Gurinder decided to tell the story of partition through the eyes of both the Mountbatten family and the Indians who served them after returning to Pakistan in 2005 to film Who Do You Think You Are?
In 1947, her grandfather was working in Kenya, leaving her grandmother and five children at home.
Gurinder says: “My grandmother left home with five children in just the clothes they were wearing.” After partition her grandfather returned to find the family gone and spent 18 months searching for them.
Gurinder says: “Imagine trying to find one family in a country that size, but he never gave up.”
He recognised a little boy in one camp who led him to his family.
“The children were so pleased they climbed on to him and wouldn’t let him go.
“But their youngest child had starved to death on the three-day journey across India. My grandmother never really recovered”.
“That’s why I wanted to make this film as a British Asian. The fact my family were there and experienced so much horror gives the film a unique perspective, a beating heart”.
“I wanted to try to help people move on, show a sense of tolerance. This is what our family suffered for us, now it is up to us to move forwards.”
apaxmanuk
International, Literary, Political, Technical

Is Orwellian dystopia coming true?

The dire theme of Orwellian dystopia was that there could be a super-state that would carry out intrusive surveillance on activities of its citizens and oversee lives of individuals for its own purposes. Civil liberty, privacy, data protection etc. would be effectively redundant terms with no real connotation – just utopian terms to satisfy the hyperbolic ego of the public. That day when the presumed Orwellian dystopia would come to be a reality is not too far away.

India has already completed biometric database for nearly 90 per cent of 1.3 billion population of the country using finger prints, iris scan and still photographs. The remaining 10 per cent or so will be completed soon. Logistically it was a super daunting task covering such a huge population over the huge country, but they have nearly completed that task in a cost-effective way and the system is in operation. No matter where an Indian is in the vast sprawling country, his 12-digit ID will uniquely identify him who he is, where does he come from, what is his occupation etc with a click of a button.

China, on the other hand, is going one step further and in a somewhat different direction. They are going for facial recognition. Whereas finger prints, iris scan etc are intrusive and legally these items belong to the individual who offered them in the first place; facial image is a public property – it is there for everyone to see and does not belong to any individual. The image can be taken without the individual even knowing about it and can be used without violating proprietary rights.

The idea of facial recognition by technological means came from the simple fact that human eyes can recognise faces of individuals with the blink of an eye. If human eyes can recognise human faces so easily and accurately, surely technologically it would be possible to do so, even if the population size of human faces is enormous. Human face obviously carries all the information that a photograph carries such as facial shape, colour of the skin, size of eyes, nose etc; but in addition, it carries a host of other intrinsic information.

Human faces convey multitude of subtle and not so subtle information. Emotions such as liking and disliking, anger and elation, love and hate, hope and despair, and even attempts of deceit and falsification are all etched on faces. The visual computing with proper algorithm associated with artificial intelligence (AI) can effectively catch all of these emotional traits far more reliably than simple human eyes. If that is the case, then this facial recognition technique can presumably lead the human society to a dystopic state which Orwell feared so much.

A Chinese company by the name Megvii (meaning mega-vision in Chinese) in Beijing is spearheading this facial recognition technology in the field of human identification. A good quality video camera can take photos of individuals and then those photos are analysed with proper algorithms to decipher the requisite information. If a national data bank is available, then this simple innocuous photo can dig out the details of that individual – his name, address, family background, employment, his vehicle, driving records etc. Literally his whole background can be flashed out on the screen from a simple photo of his face.

Of course, there would be attempts to mislead or thwart this recognition technology by camouflaging the face with makeup or cover part of the face with reflective sunglasses etc. But already research is going on to overcome subverting this attempt. The University of Cambridge had demonstrated that the AI can reconstruct facial structures of people in disguise. So, there is nowhere to hide, the big brother will get you!

The potentiality of this start-up company is so great that within short span of six years (it started in 2011), it is already valued at about $2 billion and 300,000 companies and individuals around the world are using this face recognition technology. Although visual recognition technology is not as advanced as speech recognition technology, it is making progress in leaps and bounds. In a few years’ time, it may improve like the speech recognition with reliability improvement from 90% to 95% and then on to 99% and then facial recognition will take over the whole landscape of personal identification.

The smartphones are racing for reliable face recognition after the speech recognition of Amazon Echo. Only a few days ago, iPhoneX had unveiled a version of mobile technology where the owner’s face can be recognised and used to unlock the device even in the dark. There are smartphones in China where the owners swipe their faces to authorise bank payments! In the UK Lloyds Bank is looking into facial recognition for ATM money withdrawal.

There are other advantages too. With terrorism and individual violence on the way up, there is a need to have surveillance across the whole spectrum of the society. Face recognition in areas such as train stations, tube/tram stations, bus stations, shopping malls etc. would be vital tool to the security services. Even more important this technology would be at the airports. If someone is hatching a ploy to blow up a plane, visual technology can fork out his inner scheme and stop the scheme.

But Orwellian dystopia cannot be dismissed outright. Obviously, this technology when fully developed will have beneficial use, but the detrimental side of it cannot be ignored – it will embrace the whole society, it will go against the grain of civil liberty etc. So, a compromise has to be struck and that compromise would be dependent on the attitude of the state. A totalitarian state may use it purely to control its population for its own purpose, whereas a utopian state may use it purely for safety and security of its population. A coin has always two sides.

 

–    Apaxmanuk

Bangladesh, International, Religious, Uncategorized

The ISI’s perilous chess game with the Bengalis: Is it almost over?

272px-Coat_of_arms_of_Pakistan

By Jamal Hasan

The fallout of political events after the Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner Irfan Raja fiasco is too numerous to mention in this article.  Nevertheless, Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina showed enough courage putting her political life into jeopardy by kicking out the shameless member of a military regime’s diplomatic corps from Bangladesh soil.  She should be given due credit for that.  But the story does not end here.

Last weekend I attended a social gathering in a Maryland town.  Most of the guests I talked to were appreciative of Hasina’s bold political gesture. Interestingly, all the folks were found to be staunchly anti-Awami League and anti-Hasina.  I was amazed to see they came out of their long tenure of indifference toward our spirit of liberation.  I take it as a good development in the right direction.  I felt when the chips were down, the apathetic Bengalis always gathered under the fold of Bengali nationalistic camaraderie.  It was no different this time.

Bangabandhu had a history of sacrifice and uncompromising role in most of his time of political activism during Pakistan Raj.  When he was rotting in jails during much of the period of Ayub era, he did not have a crystal ball that could predict that someday he would be the chief architect of a struggling nation.  He never allowed him to sell himself to the interests of Punjabi oligarchy.  Nevertheless, there is a great probability that an objective account of history will not portray him bigger than what he was. Some of the historical mistakes he committed will be a topic of continuous debate among secular nationalist historians in the days ahead.  One thing was quite apparent that Bangabandhu was the unchallenged leader of the seventy five-million souls during the days of our blood and tears.  But an important segment of history did not get the due exposure that it deserved. That is the Bengali leader’s unfortunate failure in the diabolical chess game that he was playing with the Yahya junta and their cohort the Lord of Larkana, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the month of March of 1971.

A few months ago, a notable Bengali media person in the Washington region gave me startling information.  He told me that he had a chance to see the veteran journalist K. G. Mustafa on the evening of March 25, 1971, at the premises of Dhaka Press Club.  K.G. Mustafa had strong rapport with Bangabandhu and as an insider he gave his scoop to his acquaintances at the Press Club.  And that was, according to Mr. Mustafa, “Bangabandhu is optimistic about the talks with Yahya and Bhutto and some positive resolution is going to come out tonight.” During this conversation another person was present and he was Mazhar Ali Khan, a liberal and left-leaning Punjabi journalist of Lahore Times.  He gave a completely opposite picture. According to the Lahore Times journalist, the talks failed and Yahya Junta was planning a brutal crackdown on the Bengalis.  When I heard the interesting newsworthy history from the Washington media person, I first could not believe my ears.  As I read the recently published Brigadier Majumdar’s oral history on the web, I had no other way but to digest the bitter truth. I felt probably the Press Club incidence had some credibility.  I am now quoting from Brigadier Majumdar’s memoir published in “Tormenting 1971″‘s web edition [http://e-bangla.net/torment/]. “….I waited tensely in the evening for the phone call.  At 8 pm, Osmani rang me and said, “Mujib is now reached a settlement with Yahiya.  He has asked you to be patient.”   It seemed Bangabandhu was naive enough by giving the brutal Pakistani military brass the benefit of doubt.  In other words, it was quite possible that Bangabandhu had failed the first chess game against the most notorious clique of the Indian subcontinent, the military junta under the command of General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan.

Bangabandhu, being the founding father of the nascent nation of Bangladesh had  too big an aura.  Average citizens of the war ravaged nation expected more from him than he could deliver.  Nobody took notice of the limitation of the leader, though.  His primary weakness was trusting people close to him.   Also, he became engulfed with the sweet talks of the sycophants and political operatives who were very aware of the leader’s idiosyncrasies. For example, the collaborator issue put him in such a moral dilemma that he would have been “damned if he became hard on them or not damned if he did not.”   Mind you, I am borrowing this from the famous quotation of US Attorney General Janet Reno after the 2000 Presidential election controversy.

The 16th of December of 1971 gave Pakistan a limited setback.  They did not lose heart so easily.  Pakistani oligarchy knew that they had their first line of defense hiding among the right wingers of Awami League under anything like Khundkar Moshtaque, Shah Moazzem and Taher Thakur. They also had some liking for the old time Awami Leaguers who were nationalists but not as radical as they would desire to see East Pakistan secedes from the union.  And there was no dearth of such Awami Leaguers.  The founding father was hardly uncomfortable when he intermingled with such characters. Sometimes his partisan and big brotherly attitude led him to protect the chickens that were waiting in the wings to kill him.  Second lines of Pakistani fans were found in the different cantonments of Bangladesh where a good number of repatriated army brasses had a negligible passion for Bengali nationalism.  General H.M. Ershad is the symbol of such a constituency. Col. (Ret’d) Shafat Jamil’s thought provoking book depicts this dictator as another Fifth Columnist working for the brutal regime of Yahya Khan during Bangladesh liberation war.

The birth of Bangladesh occurred at a time of heightened Cold War rivalry. As many policy makers of USA saw it in a plain black and white parameter, the struggle of a nation against an oppressive regime was not a factor in formulating US foreign policy direction.  Also, before President Carter’s crusade against human rights abuses the Executive Branches of USA hardly showed any sympathy toward suffering souls where genocide was perpetrated hardly five years ago.   In the eyes of Nixon Administration, the emergence of Bangladesh appeared to be a victory of Soviet Lobby in the South Asian region.  And as the founding father of Bangladesh embraced the pro-Moscow communists to form BKSAL, the alarm bell was raising high in parts of the Pennsylvania Avenue and the Pentagon.

To combat communism, some of the US agencies had allowed having strange bed partners.  That included unsavory characters like Islamic fundamentalists of Pakistan as well.  During much of the 1970’s Saudi-Pakistan-US nexus had a good honeymooning.  When Al-Badr operatives slaughtered the Bengali intellectuals in the heat of the night they knew very well who their guardians were.  Be mindful that Osama bin Laden was being groomed during this time with the blessing of this alignment.

According to the assessment of the Inter-services Intelligence of Pakistan (the notorious military intelligence agency of that country) and the nexus that I mentioned, the formation of BKSAL may bring the Soviets to the doorstep of the Bay of Bengal.  The ISI was more concerned to bring Bangladesh to Pakistan’s fold and the nexus wanted to de-Sovietize Bangladesh polity.  Some of the right wing dictators in the world amassed more wealth and made more terrible human rights abuses than the Awami Leaguers of 1972-1975.  Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, Somoza of Nicaragua, Batista of Cuba are a few in the list.  In the eyes of US policy makers, Mujib’s sin was not being soft on the corrupt Awami Leaguers, nor his Rakkhi Bahini’s excesses against the armed cadres of Sarbahara Party or Jatiya Samjtantrik Dal.  The danger perceived by many analysts in the land of freedom was Mujib’s coziness with the Kremlin leaders that could allow the Red Bear to a new frontier. So the 15th August seemed to be a historical necessity for quite a few methodical planners.

The 15th of August 1975 was a big victory for the Punjabi clique. They won yet another chess game against the Bengalis.  In Bangladesh, some new faces were emerging who would not mind to be the pawns of Islamabad. Ziaur Rahman was notable in this case.  Although his wife was captive at the hands of the brutal Pakistani machinery during much of 1971, he cared less for his personal predicament.  He very shrewdly worked to enhance the ISI’s agenda in Bangladesh.  As a renowned freedom fighter, he used his Muktijoddha garb and his Podobi, whenever necessary, only to fool the gullible Bengali masses.  But slowly, did he stab the back of the spirit of liberation.   Zia could fool millions of Bengalis but he could hardly masquerade his true identity in front of sensible Bengali nationalists.

You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to figure out that Pakistani ruling elite got back their lost colony after mid 1975.  They understood as long as subservient Bengali army rulers would serve their purpose the idea of a reunification would not arise.  They were fully aware the wound from a bloody war was still fresh in the memory of millions of Bengalis.  Zia scrapped the 1972 Constitution that included secularism as one of the founding principles of the emerging nation. Zia followed his Fouzi leadership style from the textbooks of his role model Ayub Khan.  During national days of mourning or remembrance, he did not allow the state owned media to utter the taboo word, “Pakistani army.”  He embraced the most heinous Jamaati killers and gave them a new lease of life; he allowed them to organize politically.  He brought a notorious collaborator like Shah Azizur Rahman to a high echelon of state power.  He broke many freedom loving peoples’ heart but gave the Pakistani masters a sigh of relief.  The successors of Yahya regime in Islamabad understood the lost colony had been won again.

During the late 1970’s, as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan the Saudi-Pakistan-US nexus got a big boost up. This was the time when General Ziaul Huq of Pakistan and General Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh became blood brothers.  The Bengali Zia might have been ashamed to remember his freedom fighting days.  He provided the necessary platform to ISI for conducting its business in Bangladesh.  The Pakistanis got total upper hand in the chess game.  General Ziaur Rahman became the ultimate Trojan Horse of the Punjabi ruling elite.  The ISI had two-tier objectives in Bangladesh. Primarily, in order to give India a good lesson, the shipments of arms under the guidance of the military ruler in Bangladesh were destined to insurgency movements in the northeastern corridor of India.  It goes without saying that Indian rebels got a guaranteed sanctuary on the soil of Bangladesh.   Secondly, the infusion of political Islamic ideology would help diminish the hatred against the Pakistani rapists and killers of 1971.  They were successful in both the fronts.  On the other hand, India did not stay quiet either.  As a tit for tatting, India reciprocated by further fomenting the Chittagong Hill Tracts insurgency.  That did not bring a positive feedback from the Bangladesh citizenry.  Rather, India’s approach backfired and Pakistani clandestine activity got the desired outcome.  The shrewd and power hungry Zia made Bangladesh a hotbed of tussles between India and Pakistan, which went on unabated without public knowledge.  General Ershad simply took the mantle from his predecessor and ran with it for almost a decade.

As Pakistani dark shadow engulfed the whole nation after 1975, Zia’s calculated oratory could appease two patrons.  Off and on, he articulated his stand against “foreign isms.”  Some of the US State Department officials might have perceived Zia as a crusader devoted to thwart socialism or communism. The Pakistani policy makers could have considered it a crusade against secularism.  The ISI operatives did have a serious distaste for secularism, not to say their hatred for left leaning politics.  Ziaur Rahman had a vendetta against Awami League, and the Bangabandhu in particular.  Was it merely because of Awami League’s corrupt politicians’ wrongdoing or its non-democratic formation of BKSAL?  His track record shows otherwise.  Some critics may argue that Zia had shown his grudge against that party for breaking up Pakistan. He methodically transplanted pro-BNP and pro-Jamaati Judges thus making the country’s judiciary subservient to his political philosophy with a slant toward Pakistani interest. No wonder, even today Bangladeshi Judges are too  “embarrassed” to try Mujib killers and they show split decision on Bangabandhu Murder Case.

After the demise of the Soviet empire a positive outcome came into the periphery.  The Saudi-Pakistan-US nexus lost its important component the USA.  Once upon a time, the US policy makers found reliable friends in Islamic fundamentalists but they also realized the need for them was no more.  A direct attack on citadels of secular democracy opened their eyes. Bombing of the World Trade Center or the Embassies in Africa gave them the chill of their life.  In a hurry they realized that pan-Islamists or Islamic fundamentalists were the ultimate enemies of secular West.  This realization, albeit late, came as a blessing in disguise for the secular Bengali nationalists.  The tide has turned and today the common enemy of the Bengalis and USA is the Islamist movement emanating from the hornet’s nest in Pakistan.

During 1975 to 1991, Bangladesh has been governed by the shadow of ISI backed Bengali army dictators. They did not attempt to make the sovereign nation a confederation of Pakistan overnight.  But they proceeded to go in a manner that can be equated with a situation of slow poisoning.  During Zia’s time any questionable artistic endeavor critical to the regime or Pakistani values was surreptitiously suppressed. I can give the example of film director M.A. Samad’s “Surjo Grohon.”   Without any explanation, this film was banned in the country. Also, Zia’s ruthlessness occurred behind the iron curtains of Dhaka cantonment.  After quelling a coup in 1977, he randomly arrested hundreds of noncommissioned officers of Bangladesh Air force.  Many of them were sent to different jails where they were hanged after the verdicts from Zia installed Kangaroo Courts.  Many officers perished from the face of the earth. Their main offense-they were suspected to be a threat to the regime.  Under Zia’s rule, a pattern of purge in the country’s defense services was getting crystal clear to political analysts. In a good number of cases only freedom fighters in various branches of the armed services were singled out to be punished.  During the time of Zia’s gross account of human rights violation, the Amnesty International or any other human rights organizations were noticeably silent.  Was it because of the Cold War legacy, who knows?

Let us now delve into the tidbits of the dynamics of Bangladesh politics after seventeen years rule of the ISI- virus infected Bengali generals. After the ouster of dictator Ershad from the power, the ISI had to be apprehensive. This was more so as Bengali nationalist party Awami League allied with Bangladesh Nationalist Party to kick out the army despot from power. Although Khaleda Zia was no friend of pro-liberation forces of the country, she did not systematically purge Muktijoddhas (freedom fighters) from the defense forces.  I recall notable writer and commentator Hasan Ferdous once pointed out about one interesting aspect of Khaleda Zia administration. According to Ferdous, Khaleda gave four or five key and strategic positions to army officers who happened to be freedom fighters. Tarek Masud, an aspiring Bengali film buff told me in 1995 about the fait accompli of his remarkable documentary, “The Songs of Freedom.”  He revealed to me that at the outset  the Khaleda Zia administration made conspicuous attempt to obstruct the release of this historical documentary.  This powerful camera work depicted the plight of the Bengali refugees and a group of singers’ motivational songs in various refugee camps through out the liberation war period. After a good fight the film maker was successful in releasing the film, which drew big crowd in theaters all across the nation. I have serious doubt if this was ever possible during one time freedom fighter General Ziaur Rahman’ rule.   During Khaleda Zia’s regime, the grass root movement of the Ekatturer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee [Committee to annihilate killers and collaborators of 1971] had the opportunity to mobilize into a formidable movement that left an indelible mark on the national political landscape.  In this case, I would like to hypothesize a comparative scenario.  If Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam had endeavored to start the anti-killer and collaborator movement in Ziaur Rahman era, she could hardly finish her goal.  Freedom fighter Ziaur Rahman, who sold his soul to the war criminals of 1971 was barely in a position to let the movement flourish.  He would have crushed  the grassroots mass movement by hook or by crook.  I am afraid he would have succeeded in his dubious design not because he was a heartless despot, but he was out there to please his Pakistani bosses.

As before, US policy makers and think tankers are divided on the issue of supporting the current Pakistani military regime.  But the promising sign is, unlike in 1971, the majority of them are not sympathetic to the army brass.   It is mention worthy that ISI’s dark claws have spread to USA and the US capital in particular.  The operatives of the shadowy group are playing game, steadfastly.  They now realize that the offspring of Sheikh Mujib is a bad news for them.  Sheikh Hasina’s temporary tactical alliance with the Jamaatis during the past general election of Bangladesh proved she is a lot more shrewder political element than her deceased father.  In politics, skillfully dealing with the dirty dealers could be a plus point.  Hasina must have been aware of the emerging global movement among expatriate Bengalis who are relentlessly working to put the killers and collaborators of 1971 to justice.  She definitely felt its significance whenever she went out of the country.  These expatriate Bengalis are constantly networking and winning new friends among policy makers and conscientious opinion leaders of many countries that includes Pakistan as well. But she dares not expect unconditional support from the pro-liberation lobbies.
Respect for a civil society and rule of law will be conducive to tightening the bond  between different pro-liberation forces.  There is light behind the tunnel.   In the long run, the Bengali nationalists will be the victors by checkmating the most unsavory coterie of the South Asian region- the military regime of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  Their influence in Bangladesh is on the wane.  Irfan Raza fiasco is a living testament of that.  Shall I be more discreet?
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This essay was published in the Editorial & Commentary section of NEWS FROM BANGLADESH on December 19, 2000.

Bangladesh, International, Political, Religious

Jinnah’s Pakistan …. seventy years on

Last month India and Pakistan had celebrated their independence from the British Raj three scores and ten years back. In some paradoxical way, Bangladesh had also joined in half-heartedly in that celebration as that was also the precursor to its own independence, some 24 years later on 26 March 1971.

A two-nation theory (TNT) which Muhammad Ali Jinnah adopted and promoted in the late 1930s and 1940s with so much hullabaloo that not only the Indian National Congress (INC) but also the British Raj, shaken and grievously injured and weakened by the WWII, had to cave in. The strident call for a separate state for the minority Muslims comprising some 30 per cent of the Indian population was nothing but Jinnah’s Machiavellian ploy to achieve his political ambition. After spending the formative years of his political career in the Congress, Jinnah realised that his ambition to reach the highest rung of the political ladder in the talent-strewn Congress could not possibly be achieved. So he had to find alternative avenues to achieve his goals.

For centuries Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Zoroastrians and all other religious mixes had been living together sometimes under Muslim rulers, sometimes under Hindu rulers, sometimes under Christian rulers and many a time under an admixture of rulers. But never before were people segregated on the pretext that minorities would not receive justice under a unified government. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the INC president for a number of terms, Mahatma Gandhi and many others tried to persuade Jinnah to be part of a united India by offering him various options, such as a federated state for India with all administrative powers except foreign and defence being vested in states, Jinnah’s choice in the matter of a first cabinet, etc. But Jinnah would have none of it.

The country was forked out into two nations – one for the Muslims and the other for all religious denominations in India. Pakistan was formed by putting together two Muslim majority areas – West Pakistan on the west and East Pakistan on the east of India – separated by nearly 2000 km. There was no common ground between these two peoples, except the tenuous link of Islam. If Islam could be the glue between various peoples, then the whole of the Middle East would have been a single state, which it is not!

However, Jinnah won the day, not so much by the strength of his political argument but by sheer communal animosity and barbarity. When communalism is stoked up by politicians to gain currency, race riots inevitably follow. More than one million people – men, women and children – died in race riots immediately pre- and post- independence and ten million people were displaced.

That the new state would look after the interests of the Muslims sounds totally hollow. More than 30% of Muslims remained in India despite some of the most horrendous race riots triggered by politicians to polarise the country. Jinnah used Islam for his political purposes, but he was not a practising Muslim at all. He belonged to the Ismaili sect (also known as Aga Khani) — part of the Shia sect in Islam. He was a thoroughbred western educated lawyer with a western lifestyle. When he formed the first government in Pakistan, his first foreign minister, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, was an Ahmadi (also known as Qadiani), another sect of the Shia community, now regarded by Sunnis as heretical. His law minister was a Hindu. Jinnah’s second wife was a Zoroastrian, an ancient religion predating all monotheistic religions. So, religion was definitely not the deciding factor, although the state was created on this basis.

However, within a few short months of the creation of Pakistan, Islamists led by the Jamaat-e-Islam saw their opportunity. The first step to transform Pakistan into an Islamic state was taken by Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister, through the Objectives Resolution, wherein it was declared thaat sovereignty over the entire universe belonged to God Almighty! All non-religious activities were gradually discouraged in both wings of the country. Within a few years, Pakistan was declared an Islamic Republic.

Religious fanaticism had completely taken over Pakistan since 1970s. If such fanaticism had existed in Pakistan when it was created, then Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, would have been declared non-Muslim and expelled from the country. Mohammad Zafrullah Khan would have been relieved of his duties as the country’s top diplomat and imprisoned on charges of heresy. Prof. Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Nobel Laureate in physics from Pakistan, had actually been stripped of his nationality and declared a non-Muslim as he was an Ahmadi. His tombstone was desecrated by removing the word ‘Muslim’ from it.

The very ideology of the two-nation theory now stands totally discredited. Those two nations have now spawned into three nations, Bangladesh being the latest one. As it stands now Baloch, Sindh and the border regions in Pakistan are asserting their rights based on their ethnicity and cultural identity in contrast to Pakistan’s assertion of religiosity. If you open a can of worms, it is very difficult to put the worms back in.

The communal ideology of one state for one religion is not only heinous but positively dangerous also. Pakistan as well as most, if not all, Muslim countries started driving away non-Muslims from the country. The more fanatical a country is, the more ethnic cleansing it carries out. In 1950 (shortly after independence), West Pakistan (now Pakistan) had 85.5% Muslims, whereas by 2010, the percentage had gone up to 96.5%, meaning non-Muslim population had been reduced from 14.5% to 3.5%. In 1950, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had 85% Muslim population, whereas in 2010 it had gone up to 89.6%. Contrast that with India, a non-Muslim country, where the Muslim population between these two dates went up up from 10% to 13.5%. In most Middle Eastern Muslim countries, the Muslim population is 98% to 99%, with all non-Muslims having been driven out or eliminated!

Intolerance is the hallmark of Pakistani politicians. In 1971 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto roared that he would never play a second fiddle to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (although Mujib had the largest number of elected representatives in the proposed assembly), one could not miss echoes of Jinnah’s strident call in the 1940 Lahore Resolution for a Muslim homeland for Muslims (with him as the leader).

Disturbing streaks of personal ambition are self-evident in Pakistani politics. In Pakistan, not a single elected prime minister since independence has managed to serve his or her full term. The latest in the line, Nawaz Sharif, has been removed by the judiciary on suspicion of corruption about a year before the end of his term. The hands of the military authorities are present all over the place. Democracy has never been allowed to flourish in Pakistan even after seventy years of independence. Chaos and confusion reign everywhere, law and order is blatantly absent. If this is not the sign of a failed state, what is it? As the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor once said, “The state of India has an army, the army in Pakistan has a state”.

Bangladesh is fortunate enough to have parted company with Pakistan within 24 years of a most unhappy relationship. How dreadful it would be if Bangladesh had been with Pakistan now! I am not trying to scare Bangladeshis, nor am I thinking of giving them undue nightmares. But unless Bangladeshi people wipe away entirely that dreadful association and vouch never to entertain any thought of association with Pakistani Islamists, the nightmare may well come back. Pakistan is not going to go away. But we must stay away from its path and be vigilant forever.

 

A Rahman is an author and a columnist.