BaKSAL 2.0 The funeral of democracy

Maskwaith Ahsan
Art & Literature, Articles & Essays, Current Affairs
BaKSAL 2.0 The funeral of democracy

Bangladesh is in the labyrinth of an autocratic rule. Some call it Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BaKSAL) 2.0, similar to BaKSAL the one-party system that was introduced in January 1975.

BaKSAL was a declaration of ‘native’ colonial rule, an attempt to replace Pakistan’s colonial system through a bloody war. The commitment of 1971 was to establish democracy in an independent Bangladesh. BaKSAL was a denial of that very promise. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calls her regime the unfinished dream of her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

She came to power in 2009 through negotiations between the late Indian leader Pranab Mukherjee and the army-backed caretaker government of Bangladesh. Details of those negotiations can be found in Mukherjee’s autobiography The Coalition Years.

After taking over power, Sheikh Hasina quashed the only hope of holding free and fair elections by abolishing the caretaker system. Bangladesh has never seen fair elections under a partisan government.

With the overt and covert support of Indian Envoy Sujata Singh, Sheikh Hasina won a walkover in 2014 elections. Since then the sovereignty of Bangladesh remains questionable. Abduction, crossfire and false imprisonment have all been openly used against the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in attempts to establish a one-party system. BNP leader Khaleda Zia remains jailed on dubious corruption charges.

After days of pre-election engineering, the 2018 polls were held at night, probably the first of its kind. Sheikh Hasina’s autocrat regime used digital security act against non-partisan, civil society to create a culture of fear. Intelligence agencies became a major actor in silencing criticism against Sheikh Hasina.

At the Dhaka airport, there used to be a billboard “Welcome to the land of Royal Bengal Tigers”. It’s been replaced by “Welcome to the land of Mujib”. Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujib was brutally murdered after declaring one-party system in 1975, but following in the footsteps of North Korea, his daughter has been over-playing the victim card to remain in power. Sheikh Mujib once said, quite wisely, that his party-men would be the cause of his second death; the death of his image.

Sheikh Mujib’s foreign policy towards India was based on mutual respect and equality, whereas Hasina’s Awami League is tied to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a knot so tight that it’s suffocating the sovereignty of Bangladesh. It is heartbreaking for a nation that fought against British and Pakistani rulers to now live under the shadows of Indian colonialism.

The US, EU and other western countries are forcing the Hasina regime to hold free and fair, participatory and trustworthy elections, but she has refused to budge, declaring international calls for democracy as nothing but foreign intervention. At the same time, Indian envoy Rajesh Kumar Agnihotri is actively negotiating with the country’s puppet opposition, the Jatiya Party, to help engineer an impression of participatory elections. It’s like Sujata Singh‘s negotiations all over again.

This time Hasina is using the judiciary to keep almost all the main opposition BNP leaders in jail through dubious, speedy trials. Hasina regime’s tactics to torture opposition leaders and demolish dissent are a play-by-play from Pakistan’s occupational army’s 1971 playbook.

In a Deja-vu from 1971, the collaborators of Hasina regime are actively working with law enforcement to identify the homes and locations of opposition members. If the current occupational police or elite force fail to find a BNP member, they arrest the brother, the son or his wife. Even old parents and young children are not spared the hostility and cruelty.

BaKSAL 2.0 is adamant to hold another one-sided election like North Korea, Cambodia or Belarus. The economy is fragile, bank reserves are shrinking and price hike is making itself felt. Bangladesh faced famine in 1974. 2024 may not be very different. 2025 could see the rise of one-party system. The rhetoric of “an unfinished dream” could end the long cherished dream of freedom and democracy in Bangladesh.

The best prophet of the future is the past Lord Byron


Edited by: Zobaen Sondhi

Maskwaith Ahsan. Maskwaith Ahsan is an international journalist, educator and the author of over 14 books. His columns appear in several Bengali newspapers, magazines and websites across the globe. He also hosts his web TV show E-SouthAsia. With socio-political satire...

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