Bangladesh’s sterile, poisonous politics do a disservice to its people
Bangladesh’s impressive run in the Champions Trophy, though terminated by a thrashing from India in the semi-final last week, highlighted the cricket team’s striking progress and won deserved applause. This relatively young nation – which only won independence from Pakistan in 1971 – usually gets little credit for its triumphs against the odds. Those obstacles have been numerous, including the legacy of colonialism and the war of independence, and the challenges of safeguarding the world’s eighth-largest population when it is crammed into a delta: at least 150 people are thought to have died in floods and landslides last week. Yet the country has slashed cyclone deaths through better shelters and warning systems, and made impressive strides on health, literacy and poverty alleviation.
Its greatest enemy has arguably been the folly of its own politicians who remain locked in a vicious and sterile feud which has claimed too many lives and squandered opportunities to strengthen the country. Since 1991, leadership has swung between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist party, each led by dynastic leaders, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. The last elections, in 2014, were scarred by widespread violence and have been followed by further attacks on the opposition. Few believe that politics have not played a part in the legal cases against Ms Zia and her son and heir apparent, Tarique Rahman. Earlier this month the former prime minister Moudud Ahmed and his wife, the poet Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud, were evicted from their home after it was seized by court order. Mr Ahmed, 77, is not only a BNP party elder – but also a lawyer who defended Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina’s father and the country’s founding leader, when what was then West Pakistan charged him with sedition pre-independence. It says much about how Bangladesh’s leaders have wasted its original hopes as they obsess over divisions and ignore common interests.