Subject: IT IS TIME TO GO PRIME MINISTER & LEADER OF OPPOSITION
Dear Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition, In Muslim tradition and culture the concept of renunciation has always been valued more than the idea of acquisition, and even though you may not accept this for fear of offending your party's vote bank, let me allay your fears by reminding you that this is something preached by all the world religions also. I would, therefore, urge you to seriously consider this option in your own interest as well as in the larger interest of this unfortunate country. The governments headed by you alternatively, have already taken the country back to 1990 in sheer dictatorial terms, and in terms of other social and public values, we have reached the nadir of the Dark Ages. The country had great hopes from both of you when it voted you to power alternatively from 1991, and even higher expectations when it renewed your mandate in 2008 with a massive majority. But you only flattered to deceive, and for reasons which are now becoming obvious, relinquished any pretense of leadership or governance. A big ship needs a strong hand at the rudder-all your 4 hands- but you have handed it over to a motley crew of rank opportunists and faceless lascars who can only run it aground. You were never politicians - a positive for most of the voters - and the two qualities that made us repose our trust in you were your clean record and your acknowledged status as heirs to two towering personalities. Today, both lie in tatters- you have betrayed our trust, not substantially but wholly, and therefore both must go. Why is it the time to go Madam Prime Minister (PM) and Leader of Opposition (LoO)? Honesty is not divisible, and for those who exercise power there can be no nuances between personal honesty and public honesty. A person who allows others to loot cannot be honest. Managers who do not raise their voices when illegalities are being committed by their subordinates cannot be honest. A law maker who protects criminals cannot be honest. And a Prime Minister who does all this simply to remain in power cannot be honest. Your ‘honesty’ has already cost the country dearly, Madam PM and LoO, and we cannot sustain this cost any longer. Your reputation as politicians may still follow you to foreign lands after your retirement, but in this country the devaluation of your integrity is proportionate to the devaluation of our national morality. Where did you lose the plot?
You had everything going for you when you took over in 1991- an economy stabilizing and growing, adequate Foreign Exchange reserves and a comfortable net INFLOW of Foreign Direct Investment. After nine years of each of you being at the helm, the growth rate is down to between 5% and 6% and falling, the balance of payments is still in deficit despite the remarkable performance of our export sector, Foreign Exchange reserves are up but only due to the millions of our poor workers working abroad in abominable conditions. There is no doubt that there is a net OUTFLOW of FDI funds as excess money is not safe in Bangladesh. The Taka has reached an exchange rate of 80 to the dollar. Nobody believes in your Ministers or Advisors for that matter, anymore, the Finance Minister can only hyperventilate and contradict himself, and both of you, of course, continue to maintain your sphinx-like silence on vital issues. In the meantime inflation continues unabated, jobs are being lost and unemployment rising, Bangladesh industry prefers to take its money abroad, infrastructure projects languish somewhere between the greasy palms of ministers, bureaucrats, contractors and an army of touts. A litre of cooking oil costs more than two litres of deshi beer! (Can you imagine, Madams, what a field day Marie Antoinette would have had with this?!). And this is at the precise time when the rest of the world is coming out of its downturn! No, madams, you and your band of forty thousand thieves have been so busy with your petty politicking, with ensuring the survival of a particular dynasty, securing the financial well being of future generations of your party colleagues and allies, dividing communities and classes, that you have had no time for planning and taking decisions. The only decisions you HAVE taken boggle the mind. We are already spending thousands of crores every year on our annual development programmes, but mainly in non-productive areas: every single survey by every competent authority indicates that at least 40% of this, is siphoned off by politicians, bureaucrats and middle-men. And now govt. is determined to pour thousands of crores more into this bottomless pit through the purchase of out-dated junk posing as weapons of war! What for? War against whom? A minuscule number of the BPL( Below Poverty Line), the marginalized and the poorest of the poor families are given a starvation amount as dole in safety net programmes, after the greed of the local decision-makers is partly satisfied. Even doubling this figure will make no difference to them. Govt.'s own figures state that only 37% of our population is now below the poverty line; why then do you want to bring 63% of the population under an expanded safety net programme and spend whopping thousands of crores on people who do not deserve this largesse? And that too at a time when you have no money for infrastructure development or health and education( in both of which we now lag behind many of our neighbours!). Is it worth destroying a country just so your motley crew can win another election? Is this honesty, Madam P M and LoO?
Had it been only the economic downturn we could perhaps have been more generous. For economics, as we all know, is not only a dismal science, it is also an uncertain one: as they say, even if one were to lay down all economists end to end, we still wouldn't reach a conclusion! After all, if all the Nobel Laureates for Economics cannot agree on what is good for the world we can hardly expect you to have the answer. No Madams, the economics is only a part of the mess: let me recount what the others are. You have systematically sought to destroy every fibre of the democratic fabric of this nation. Constitutional authorities have been attacked publicly by your minions and sought to be humiliated at every turn. Statutory authorities like law enforcers, and the office of the Attorney General have been subverted and made to fall in line, your party's line. Your oath of office demanded that you protect them, but you remained mute, as is your wont. You have even done the unthinkable: set one law enforcing agency against another, ensuring for ever that cooperation between them is discouraged - every terrorist, insurgent and crooks of all assorted types must be lining up outside Hallmarks to purchase " thank you" cards for you! Such is your hubris that you have shown contempt for the orders of the Supreme Court even. The Court's judgments, instead of being respected and seen as a matter for serious contemplation, are publicly criticized or ignored and sought to be by-passed by the collation of a consensus of those affected by the judgments (!) and a brute rubber-stamp legislative majority. So criminals can continue in Parliament (TIB)? Merit will find no place in the selection at the senior most level even in super specialty disciplines; minorities will get reservations in government jobs even though the Constitution forbids it. This lack of respect for the final arbiter of the Constitution and the law is not only breeding a competitive defiance of the Court among other political parties but is also setting the stage for a show down with the judiciary as in other banana republics. You behave as if the Opposition is not part of the democratic process, that it is a nuisance that is at best ignored, at worst beaten into submission; consequently, all communication between the two has now snapped, and the nation is a helpless witness to a half-empty Parliament that resembles a basti (slum) in both language and action and is in a permanent state of adjournment or abandonment. What sort of a democracy do we profess to have when the prime minister and leader of the opposition have not talked to each other for 23 years!!! All parties are to blame for this, of course, but it is your party which is ruling now and laid down the rules of engagement. By refusing to walk the extra mile to accommodate even the legitimate demands of the opposition, and by sabotaging time and again the committees of parliament, you have eviscerated this vital organ of democracy which has become as vestigial and irrelevant as your appendix. Practically no legislative work has been done in the last twenty two years to improve the democratic environment of our unfortunate country: bills remain pending unless they
relate to strengthening your hold on every aspect of policy and arm of government, when they are passed in double quick time. But your lack of concern is matched only by your shocking sense of priorities: instead of trying to push bills beneficial to the public good, you have instead chosen to concentrate your fading energies on others that can only make politics murkier and more criminalized: removing the disqualification of convicted legislators, and exempting and freeing your convicted party men from even acts of murder! Perhaps the biggest price for your incompetence and your colleagues' venality is being paid by our defense forces: all three are many years behind in terms of armaments and weaponry and their very capacity to defend the country has been seriously eroded as evidenced by the hundreds of simple men, women and children brutally killed on our borders every year . Who will defend our borders in such a scenario, Madam Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition- the lethal barbs of the foreign minister, the boomerangs of the home minister, the empty pockets of the finance minister or the glib tongues of your sycophants? Even worse, our law-keeping forces are being constantly demoralized by the constant interference of your ministries and ministers. A succession of retired senior personnel have said so in recent times and the pusillanimous approach of our decision-makers in response to violations of our borders, our rights and our dignity testify to this. (Of course, these same senior personnel who have suddenly found their conscience and their voice also need to explain why they didn't defend their operational independence more vigorously when they were enjoying the perks of their office!). Under you both, we have become a whining nationwe whine when foreign troops shoot our people, we whine when our rivers go dry for weeks on end, we whine when our compatriots are pushed out from other countries, we whine when foreign navy arrests our fishermen, we whine when someone else, other than yourselves, is honoured world-wide. Under you a once-proud nation is being kicked around by even international organizations. What in God's name have you done to our image? In communal terms we have always been a fractured society. But true leaders have in the past tried to bridge these fissures. To you, however, will go the dubious credit of widening and deepening these cracks between communities and religious beliefs. In order to survive, your party has countenanced the retrograde decisions of allies that can only raise the confrontational pitch: earmarking of state budgets for a dubious minority, reservations in jobs for the same (which goes against the express provisions of our Constitution), reservations in promotions (which has been struck down by the courts), setting up of boards to review the (criminal) cases of suspects of the opposition party only. It is your party which has put communalism at the center of the campaign for next year's election and the tattered fig-leaf of a constitution twisted at will to suit the present needs of your party. The present impasse on the caretaker government is a ploy to control the next elections in your favour , as with the tsunami of public support
your party couldn't possibly debate on this plank, what with your miserable record of the last five years. But you have, in the process vitiated the atmosphere for a long time to come, reopened old wounds that were beginning to heal, created big problems with issues where a little compromise was required and provided a legitimate space for hot heads on both sides of the divide to practice their nefarious trade. How much damage to the country is one Parliamentary seat worth? How many more polarizations will you recreate to satisfy your party's lust for power? Your opportunistic creativity has sown the seeds of disputes and blood-letting in all parts of the country that will sorely test the integrity of our country for many years to come. There are many more specters waiting in the wings and by the time they are exorcised we may well have ceased to exist as a unified, homogenous nation. Do I need to refer to the endemic corruption that your governments has been indulging in these last 22 years? And to your pathetic attempts to distance yourself from them, even though it is gradually becoming clearer with each passing day that you were aware of what was happening and did nothing to stop it? Why? The quality of honesty, like that of mercy, cannot be strained: one cannot be honest and yet knowingly allow dishonesty on one's watch. Even worse, your increasing brazenness in the face of evidence against you boggles the mind: the Minister caught red-handed in Railgate is still a Minister drawing all perks without a day’s honest work, Ministers who torpedoed the Padma Bridge, a lifeline to over 58 million people, got off free with just a soft slap on the wrist, all those who defrauded the financial institutions of thousands of crores are still being ‘investigated’. Who is this Faustian devil you have sold your soul to, Madam Prime Minister and Madam Leader of the Opposition? Your deafening silence on all these matters-you have seldom spoken in Parliament in the ten years each of your misrule --- defies logic and conventional wisdom. And that leads me to speculate whether we are underestimating you. Is there, after all, a method in your madness? Could it be that you are reconciled to losing the next elections and are therefore deliberately implementing a scorched earth policy? That you will leave behind as a legacy for the next government, a Bangladesh that is bankrupt, ungovernable, riven by party and religious conflicts, all its democratic institutions destroyed? A Bangladesh that will be on its knees, begging for your partythe lone horseman riding in from the sunset, to take over the reins again, and save the country from perdition, as has happened previously – not once, not twice, not thrice but four times? But I forget, you never speak on indelicate matters - so we'll never know till Apocalypse is upon us.
Madams Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition, your parties have stripped this country like a cloud of locusts. You have sown every type of poisonous seed known to your ilk and we shall be reaping the bitter harvest for many years hence. You have engendered an atmosphere of uncertainty, venality, indecision, intolerance, opportunism, criminalization and defiance of constitutional and statutory institutions which cannot be allowed to continue, for that way lies certain disaster. Elections are just four months' hence but we cannot allow this conception to come to full term: the seed sown by you can only destroy this country and must be aborted. The time has come for you to go, Madam Prime Minister and Madam Leader of Opposition, and to go immediately. Call for elections now, end the uncertainty, let us get on with our lives, give this country a chance to redeem itself. Do one last service to this nation, madams - stand not upon the order of your going, but go!
With best wishes, Your's sincerely, This letter was NOT written by me but by a retired senior official of a neighbouring country about conditions prevailing there. To my amazement, a perusal made me realize that conditions there, are identical to our own predicament in Bangladesh. So with a little modification of some facts and figures, the end result is presented for your information and comments. I have not presumed to try to improve on the writer’s command of the English language. Sikander Ahmed, Niketon, Gulshan-1, Dhaka 1212.