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Lessons from Bangladesh

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By winning the Bangladesh elections with a mammoth majority, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina has proved that common people want development, and are fed up with corruption and fundamentalist politics. The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), performed very poorly and could not even reach the double-digit winning figure. The leader of the BNP, Khaleda Zia is still in jail on charges of corruption. She served as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 1991 to 1996, and again from 2001 to 2006. During her regime, corruption levels were high, and her second son, Arafat Rahman Koko, at the helm of affairs. In this regard, Bangladesh Live News reported on 11 June 2018 that

In 2008 it was revealed that Siemens, a German telecom and IT giant, agreed to pay US $1.6 billion fine to the US [United States] and German governments to settle a number of bribery charges. Out of this amount, Siemens Bangladesh would pay US $500,000 to the US government to settle charges that in 2004 it bribed Arafat Rahman Koko, second son of then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. In what appears to be another sensational revelation at around this time, the Singapore government announced its decision to freeze assets amounting to Tk 11,66,00,000 [Bangladeshi currency known as Taka] belonging to Arafat Rahman Koko.

Second, Bangladesh got its independence from Pakistan in 1971, where a large number of local people fought under the umbrella of “Mukti Bahini” against the Pakistani army. Interestingly, those who opposed the independence of Bangladesh at that time have now either joined, or are closely related to the BNP. Needless to mention, they talk more about fundamentalism than development. We all know how gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in Dhaka in July 2016 killing 29 people, including 20 hostages (18 foreigners and two locals), two police officers, five gunmen, and two bakery staff. At that time, the BAL severely condemned the incident and the rescue operation named Operation Thunderbolt by the First Para-commando Battalion—an elite force in the Bangladesh Army—was ordered by Sheikh Hasina, who was the Prime Minister.

The important lessons learnt from the Bangladesh elections are: people, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, want development, in terms of infrastructure development, employment generation, poverty reduction, etc; placing emphasis on fundamentalism cannot be a sustainable vote-grabbing weapon; and there should be no comprise when it comes to dealing with corruption.

Shankar Chatterjee

Hyderabad

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