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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bangladesh in Turmoil

Mike Ghouse Jan 13, 2007

The SAARC nations need to work for democracy in Bangladesh.

It is crucial that we have a stable and democratic government in our neighborhood. The Taliban like tendencies rear their heads every now and then, and thanks God, they are not deep rooted. It is time to get them involved in the progress of Bangladesh. Isolation will not work, the more you corner the extremists, the stronger "you" make them. We need to give them choices and not limit them with a determination to destroy themselves and the world around them.

A stable and prosperous Bangladesh is good for all of us in the neighborhood, and I do hope India and Pakistan will take the lead and help them through this phase of turmoil. Bush style of solutions will never work - arrogance of power will get the disadvantaged people to dig in their heels.

We cannot afford to let Bangladesh slip into the hands of extremists. We need to partner with them in this phase of progress, not going against any one, but going with them. The song from Sholay comes to mind. , . Your victory is mine, and your loss is mine, listen o friend.

Mike Ghouse


Earning a Bad Reputation
Published: January 13, 2007

Bangladesh is lurching in a dangerous direction. After weeks ofviolent protests that left at least 40 people dead, the government hasdeclared martial law. Only strong pressure from the United States andinternational help will keep this huge country from slipping furtheroff a democratic path.

For weeks, a broad coalition of parties has protested what it chargesis a clear attempt by the government to rig parliamentary elections,originally scheduled for later this month. It claimed that the voterrolls were padded; the National Democratic Institute for InternationalAffairs, an American monitoring group working in Bangladesh, surveyedthe voter lists and found 13 million fake names. The coalition alsocharged that President Iajuddin Ahmed, who had the job of overseeingthe elections, was biased in favor of a rival party.

The United Nations agreed that the run-up to the elections had been soflawed that the results could not be "considered credible orlegitimate." International election monitors pulled out of Bangladesh,saying the existing conditions did not allow for a meaningful vote.On Thursday, Mr. Ahmed yielded to international pressure, resigning asthe election caretaker and postponing the vote.

Mr. Ahmed, who willstay on as president, a largely ceremonial position, said a cleanvoter roll was needed for "free, fair and credible" elections.Unfortunately, at the same time he declared a state of emergency,which revokes many basic rights and allows the army to enforce order.

This is a particularly disturbing development in a country that hasbeen subjected to long periods of military rule since gaining itsindependence in 1971.The United States should use its substantial political influence tourge the government to restore suspended rights immediately.

TheUnited Nations should quickly send an envoy to mediate amongBangladesh's parties to ensure that this time the elections moveforward in a clean and transparent manner. Both the U.N. and the Bushadministration should encourage the protest's leaders to avoid furtherviolence, assuring them that their demands are being heard. And theyshould redeploy their monitors once a new election date is set.

Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most politically polarizedcountries in the world. The international community needs to help itbuild a stable democracy — the best underpinning for development —starting with swift, internationally guaranteed elections.

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