November 24, 2007

State of the Revolution - November Perspectives

Two months ago, in the backdrop of the Prothom Alo cat cartoon controversy, I speculated about the different coalitions that were holding up the current CTG, trying to address them each in historical perspective. I predicted that following the pattern of other revolutions, the coalition members might turn upon each other.

Of particular interest to me was coalition numbers 5 and 6: the shushils and the right-wing intellectuals. Amongst the latter I counted Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, the ex-BOI chief, something that even I myself found surprising.

My reasons for counting him as one of the CTG-coalition was for the simple fact that he had remained untouched by the current regime. Which was surprising given that - though a bureaucrat - he had been a party faithful for BNP, as well as ideological enemies of the shushils.* And if there is one article of faith regarding 1/11, it is that the shushils backed 1/11.

Soon after the cartoon incident that left Motiur Rahman neutered and after Debapriya B was exiled given an ambassadorship to Geneva, a case was filed against Mr. Mahmudur Rahman. That was about two months ago.

He is thankfully still not in prison. He was also keeping a very low profile till recently, until he did two things: first, he went to a roundtable organised by University Teachers Forum of Bangladesh and echoed Barrister Mainul Hosein's statement that the CTG's mandate is too narrow for trying war criminals. Which is consistent with Mr. Mahmudur Rahman's stance since 1/11 (and needless to repeat: not with Mr. Hosein's stance since 1/11), and that's all I ask for.

Secondly - and more amazingly in the current circumstances - a few days ago, he became(to my limited knowledge) the first person in the more well-circulated newspapers to question General MUA's explanation following "Bankgate" (h/t Rumi bhai for bringing this op-ed to my attention). For which he gets justified applause from this blog. And he is as yet untouched, which speaks volumes as far as I'm concerned.

Now the following is simply my take on the matter. From the vantage point of November, after Jamaat's big coming-out of the war-criminals closet ceremony, the cleavages within the regime are coming out. I highly doubt that a man as astute as Mahmudur Rahman would have even uttered a word about the bank loans without having guarantees of sorts from key people in the current regime. His continued freedom assures me that he does. Therefore, these key people want General MUA out (of their way). Given the assumption that Mr. Mahumudur Rahman is not doing this out of love for freedom of information and accountability (an assumption no one is being forced to make; I don't know the guy personally, just know his service record under BNP), then I hope the reader agrees with me thus far.

Now the following is pure speculation. I cannot stress that enough: PURE SPECULATION. It brings me once again to the Amader Shomoy article that J@Shadakalo analysed a few weeks back, which openly spoke of the different factions within the CTG, and then threw in India for good measure. Now, as we've noted repeatedly (please search through archives), the India card is highly potent in Bangladeshi domestic politics, and COMPLETELY counter-productive to any really meaningful debate about Bangladesh's security vis a vis India. However, the rest of it somehow seems more credible than before. J speculated back then that Jamaat had been coerced into its current "Viagra moment" (h/t Mash). What if that is not the case? What if Jamaat has received assurances from the other faction, seeking to replace a discredited General MUA, the same people who have given assurances to Mr. Mahmudur Rahman to go ahead and publish his story? These are worries that sometime go through my head.

Lastly, to fellow Kremlin-watchers who think that General MUA is already deposed, I have a simple indicator. Nayeemul Islam Khan, the editor of Amader Shomoy is rumoured to be closer to his faction than any other in the CTG. So until and unless he's pulling a Shafiq Rehman, I doubt any significant changes are due within the regime. Till then, I'm sitting back with some daal, bhaat and murgi bhoona and watching the subtle battles between Amader Shomoy and Naya Diganta.**

*His running battle with sushils Motiur-Anam-Debapriya B trio saw some pretty low moments from both sides: his suing of CPD over remarks that a 10-year old could not misinterpret and PA's and DS's publishing innuendo-filled news reports of his private party and photographs of his guests, which was allegedly a meeting to rig the election. Upon hindsight, I'm taking that assertion with a pinch of salt.

**Afterthought: In a way, the current battle between the two involves the war criminals issue to some degree or other, with ND op-eds that I've seen saying that war criminals should not be tried and AS pushing for their trials/printing volatile articles. NIK himself was at a press conference with former sector commanders calling for the trial.


tacit said...

You are right, he is the first person to highlight this. Given that he has been sued but not arrested, as you postulated, he must have powerful backers indeed. The question is, who? Lt. Gen Masud probably, anyone else?

It's also interesting that he only mentions the bank loan, and no the controversy about Moeen's brother being the MD of Trust Bank illegally. To me, that would mean that he hasn't gotten this news from the internet, but someone has sent him a file with the prospectus, a note to look at pages so and so, and a transcript of Moeen's interview with Iqbal Bahar Chowdhury, and told him to write something about it.

DhakaShohor said...

Here's the thing I probably should have made clearer. He was sued right after the Prothom Alo cartoon controversy in September. The oped came out 3-4 days ago. So he already had a case dangling over his head when he decided to up the ante like this. That is what puzzles me and leads me to that conclusion.

It may well be that he likes living on the edge, much like an extreme sports fanatic :).

I'll re-word that sentence up there now.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone of you read his explanation of the case against him? He went in great details ( Fortunate he is, as 99% others could not defend themselves) to explain his side in the same Nayadiganta column. Other than all the backing theory, he may have another backing too. That is a moral upper hand as the cases filed against him was not for anything he did during last five years under BNP government. This was a case against reported irregularities of nearly a decade ago when he was a paid senior official at Beximco (?Shinepukur Ceramics).

DhakaShohor said...

Rumi bhai,

I must have missed that last part. I only read the bankgate part of it. Going back to read that part again.

Yes, from the initial reports about the case I've linked, I was aware that he has been sued in relations with Shinepukur, not with relations to BOI or energy ministry.

Are there really any people left in Bangladesh who take steps like this based on "moral upper hand"? Jara last 5 bochor dhorey eto dhol bajailo about "rule of law" and morality, tara to ajkey chup!

I would like nothing better than to be proven wrong. I am too cynical for my own good. If indeed Mahmudur Rahman is doing this out of sheer guts and without backing, he has my vote should he ever contest a seat from my constituency.

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