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     Volume 6 Issue 36 | September 14, 2007 |

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Talk of Reform

Ahmede Hussain

Only a few months ago many engaged in the country's business and politics have thought themselves untouchable. The reign of unbridled corruption and shameless nepotism has seemed to last forever. In the run-up to the events of 1-11 Bangladesh has witnessed a civil war-like situation; gangs, in the name of politics, have kept the country hostage. Immediately after Khaleda government's tenure expired, we witnessed one of the grisliest events in recent memory: activists of Awami League and Jamaat-e-Islami locked themselves in a running battle in Paltan, at the heart of the capital. Shots were fired; oars were used to beat a couple of activists to death. This, however, has not been an isolated incident: our recent political history is being tainted with violence, anarchy, lawlessness--all in the name of democracy and freedom.

Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina have turned a blind eye to the corruption and gangsterism of their party colleagues. A world of opportunism has been opened; a culture of sycophancy and looting has been given birth to. Neither Khaleda nor Hasina can avoid the blame of making a situation where while millions lived in poverty, an MP owned 50 luxurious apartments; armed with the blessings of Khaleda Zia, her party men (and women) became the owner of business conglomerates, television channels, banks and newspapers. The economic system that this lumpen-bourgeoisies culture has created has been a devastating one for our social fabric. One could not open an LC, let alone start a business if one did not have Tarique Rahman, Khaleda's firstborn, in his pocket. It is little wonder that for a good six years in a row Bangladesh has been the world champion in corruption. It ate at all our achievements, Bangladesh, under Khaleda, gradually resembled a dysfunctional banana republic. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Khaleda, for her turn, blamed the media for maligning the image of Zia's family when the latter came up with reports of corruption and abuse of power of her sons and their cronies. So, it surprised no-one when a few days before her arrest Khaleda gave her sons a clean chit; “Corruption cases are deliberately cooked up to slander Zia's family,” she said in one of the numerous tele-conferences that she held.

In a lesser scale, but in the same arrogant fashion, Sheikh Hasina, during her term as the premier, declared Joinal Hazari a known criminal, clean. The claim, however, did not shock anyone. From the prodigal sons of the Chief Whip to the district level leaders of the AL, many treated the country as their fiefdom. The most corrupt ministry, in Hasina's term, perhaps was local government, which remained, according to a Transparency International report, the most corrupt sector in the following five years.

Many of the leaders who have now metamorphosed themselves to find a new zeal in reform have a past tainted with corruption and abuse of power. Of these so-called reformists, one leader owns crores of taka in cash, not to mention businesses that the leader runs. This leader throughout his life has been a politician, and no money- spinning machine he has possessed. People like him, a few hundreds more, are still at large, and to them, talking of reform has become the only way of skirting the lists of the corrupt that the government is believed to have made.

It must be mentioned here that every politician is not corrupt, as every reformist is not honest. The war on corruption will not see a happy ending if the government goes for selective justice. People of this country have been fooled many a times, by military dictators, by the elected representatives. If the current caretaker government fails to bring all the major corruption suspects to book, we will have to face the bleak prospect of getting a new bunch (perhaps less) of corrupt leaders in the helm.

The war on corruption has to be vigorously pursued. Every corruption suspect, reformist or conformist, must face justice. This government has so far done well, but it will make a big mistake if it believes that the war that it has waged against the depraved elements of our society has been won. The Bangladesh that we have earned with the supreme sacrifice of millions cannot become the filthy playground of a few dishonest businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians. On the contrary this war should be fought relentlessly, on every possible front. History will not forgive us if we fail.

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