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     Volume 6 Issue 32 | August 17, 2007 |

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Book Review

Chronicles of Bangladesh

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Bangladesh Crisis
Kazi Anwarul Masud
pp. 208; Tk 250

History,” writes former Ambassador Kazi Anwarul Masud, “is replete with examples where exercise of coercive authority proved to be barren.” In Bangladesh Crisis, his second book, he covers issues as wide in variety as the changing definitions of security and electoral reforms. What makes the book thought-provoking to readers, whose interest will presumably be academic in nature, is its handling of issues Bangladesh and its neighbours have been facing now in the 21st century. Masud's is possibly the first book written on politics in the aftermath of 1-11, and his attempts at tracing the annals of our immediate past have been commendable. What makes it an interesting volume on Bangladeshi politics is its vivid portrayal of the events that have led to the events of 1-11.

The most engaging chapter in the book is perhaps “Failure of Governance” in which the writers draws an analogy between democracy in Bangladesh and in other South Asian countries. Masud believes that “The Orwellian tyranny of the majority is further compounded by increasing activism of Islamists who wish to recreate a truly Islamic society not simply by imposing the sharia but by establishing an Islamic state where religious edicts will be integrated into all aspects of society.”

Masud rather profusely quotes contemporary philosophers and political scientists as diverse as Michael Foucault and Zbigniew Brezinski, some of whom, if not quoted at all, would have made the book an even more interesting read.

Though the time that Masud deals with has been infested with religious extremism and intolerance, Bangladesh is far from becoming a divided society. In fact, the division between two major political parties that has led to a state of emergency is not an ideological one but a mere squabble over issues that are clannish, if not personal. So the rise of Taliban or such groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan has its own reason routed in the countries' (own) geo-political reason. Though most of the Bangladeshis are religious, in the social fabric of its society there is very little place for bigotry. Suicide bombings and arsons in the name of religion that we have witnessed in Bangladesh in the last couple of years have never earned public support in Bangladesh, which is not necessarily the case in its South Asian counterparts.

The dysfunctional state that we have threatened to become a few months ago has its own reasons though, which mainly lies in mis-governance and a culture of impunity that the ruling class has given to some of its members. This problem has further been fuelled by a decline in the basic principles of rule of law. A society, a democratic one so to speak, stands on certain institutions, all of which have been rendered invalid by the major political parties who in their way to cling on to power have given a free reign to corrupt bureaucrats and unscrupulous business persons. So the crisis that Masud writes about is manifold in nature, the centre of which lays the soul of a nation that has repeatedly been taken for a ride.



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