Tahmima Anam on the Bangladesh Elections

Since we have been on the topic of corrupt South Asian leaders who go on to have a second chapter in their political careers, it seems worth pointing out that Sheikh Hasina, leader of Bangladesh’s Awami League Party, has been elected back into office in that country.

Naheem Mohaiemen has his enthusiastic take here, and his account of voting (for the first time) at The Daily Star.

But since I recently reviewed Tahmima Anam’s A Golden Age, here is her response, published in The Guardian’s Comment is Free:

The BNP were at the helm of power in the last electoral cycle. During this time, Khaleda Zia promoted cronies to high positions of power, corrupted the courts with political appointments, and oversaw the theft of government funds on an unprecedented level. In 2007, the party orchestrated a coordinated effort to rig the elections, leading to the army’s intervention and two years of military-backed rule.

In this election, the BNP allied themselves with the Jamaat-e-Islami and conducted a campaign of fear-mongering, with slogans decrying the corruption of religious values and predicting a threat to Islam through foreign influence. By contrast, the Awami League ran a campaign that was purposefully secular and progressive. Though no stranger to allegations of corruption, the Awami League cleansed its party of much of the old guard. In the end, it campaigned on a platform of change, promising jobs and economic regeneration. The result was not only victory for the Awami League, but a near annihilation of the Jamaat-e-Islami. (link)

I’m certainly pleased whenever parties (in any country) advocating Sharia are soundly defeated like this. But I wonder why the silence on Sheikh Hasina’s own poor performance in her earlier term in office? Anam’s optimism and enthusiasm seems to be the consensus amongst progressive Bangladeshis from what I can tell; there is simply great relief that the rising tide of Islamism seems to have been reversed.

But I’m curious if there are other perspectives. One articulate dissent I’ve come across so far comes from a commenter on Anam’s article at The Guardian, who identifies himself (or herself) as SMohamed:

As a British Muslim of Bangladeshi decent it has been disheartening to often hear the land of my forefather denigrated as corrupt and ‘dirt poor’. In my opinion the ‘ladies’ in question are the main reason for the corruption through the incompetence and downright disregard they have for the peopple of Bangladesh. Dynastic politics do not work. The ladies in question lead only in name with far better players pulling the strings. I would be proud if Bangladesh actually had a lady in power who was not associated to previous leaders. She may actually have a mind of her own and bring about the change that is so desperately needed in a country on the verge of natural annihilation. (link)

Is Bangladesh now going to be in a better position on the global stage, or will it be stuck where it has been for years? Is there evidence that Sheikh Hasina might be a more effective, less corrupt leader of her country this time around?

59 thoughts on “Tahmima Anam on the Bangladesh Elections

  1. Whats amazing is that instead of Rajiv Gandhi getting shunned in elections for his callous disregard of human life and implicit condoning of the anti-Sikh pogrom, the Sikh blood lusting Indian populace elected him with a Reagan in 84 like mandate.

    I don’t know I’d call that Sikh blood lusting Indian populace. I was a small kid and 84 elections was the first one I vaguely remember. It was the death of Indira Gandhi that made the headlines and I came to know about Sikh massacres only years later. Remember that was when the only outlet was the state controlled Doordarshan and I don’t remember much on the main newspapers either.

    Moreover, I can guess people were afraid of the various bombs that exploded in Delhi buses and selective killings of Hindus in Punjab by the Khalistanis.

  2. Ponniyin Selvan: Out of curiosity, do you believe that Congress leaders were complicit in the Anti-Sikh pogram in Delhi? Also do you think they were as complicit as Modi or more or less (I know you dont think that Modi was complicit in Gujarat)

  3. Out of curiosity, do you believe that Congress leaders were complicit in the Anti-Sikh pogram in Delhi? Also do you think they were as complicit as Modi or more or less (I know you dont think that Modi was complicit in Gujarat)

    I don’t know much about the complicity of Congress leaders in the anti-Sikh violence. As I said I was a little kid and was more interested in the prudential world cup cricket win than anything else.

    Generally, I have seen that anti social elements take advantage of similar situations to plunder the various shops and indulge in looting. Police can goto only so many places. I don’t think Rajiv Gandhi is in anyway involved with the violence.

  4. Ponniyen are u Arnab-no wait u are another jack@$$ like him The massacre of Sikhs in delhi was not done by some random antisocial elements. Ulloo da pattha!

  5. 49 · Whose God is it anyways? said

    if i’m not mistaken, it was dr. anonymous in #3 who first mentioned india in relation to this post, and he specifically linked india to affecting bangladesh (hindutva influencing islamism), not the other way round.

    What I actually said in #3:

    “On Islamism – the best way to reduce islamism in Bangladesh is probably to reduce Hindutva and Islamism / anti-Indian sentiment in India and Pakistan respectively, and more broadly the global idiocy that countries like the U.S. and Israel and “leaders” like Ahmedinejad pursue.”

    I leave it to others to figure out how you and other commenters got from what I said (elaborated in #14 as well) to what you thought I said. Presumably either one-track minds or a complete lack of reading comprehension. Was your shakha not up to par?

  6. dr dear, why so hot about it? i merely mentioned that you appeared to be the first person to use the word india ( in one of the first responses to this post) on a thread about bangladesh, which perhaps led to others referring to india. did i say you were wrong to mention india or that you didn’t mention anything else? now, if ikram included your comment in his classification of the indo-centric comments on this thread, then i apologize to him for thinking that he hadn’t.

    as for my shakha, my zulu king was generally considered more than up to par. uSuthu! uSuthu!

    it’s only january 3. maybe you shouldn’t waste the dreaded shakha suckerpunch on something so banal as my observations. i tried very hard to feel wounded, lest your barb be wasted, but as fate would have it, i was watching a movie and bent to pet the dog and it sadly missed its mark and fell into the dog’s bowl. fear not, for for fear of upsetting the dog i quickly fished it out and hereby return it to you, rinsed and dried and all ready to be launched again. there’s a full year ahead of spot-the-shakha-dweller , so be judicious with it lest it loses it sting and zing. Next time I might actually say something worthy of your slurs, so save it for then:)

  7. Old-Timer — Yes, if the Pakistani elite culture filtered down so that Punjabi was as prevelant in Sialkot as the Langue D’oc is in, well, Languedoc, then Pakistan would be a linguistic nation-state like Bangladesh. Until then, Pakistan and India will both be centralized states with an elite language that is not the native tongue of the population. [But I think we are mostly quibbling over small things, now].

    Jyotsana wrote: I have in debate utterly destroyed several human rights / progressive / oppressed / religion-caste blowhards through my this one publication. It also helps that I have spent weeks scouring through the archives, and have read the likes of Dhananjay Keer.

    Congratulations, Jyotsana. I wish you every success in high school debate. You may wish to focus a bit more on reading compehension, as that gets more important in 11th grade. Good Luck!

  8. I was born in bangladesh and Ieft that country in July 1971. I am glad I did, we are better in India after some initial set backs. Muslims compalin about minority rights whenthey are in a non-muslim country,and yet they deny the same right to their own minorities. And in general, muslims are basically intolerant and violent people. Exceptions are there, but they are so small that their opinions hardly matter. No offence to muslims.