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BANGLADESH


  
  



Key Economic Data 
 
  2004 2003 2002 Ranking(2004)
GDP
Millions of US $ 56,844 51,900 45,500 54
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 440 400 390 175
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bangladesh


Update No: 058 - (26/01/12)

Failed Islamist coup
The Bangladeshi Army revealed recently that it had unearthed and subsequently foiled a plot to overthrow the current Awami League (AL) government. The case involved 16 serving officers who are alleged to have extremely religious views and connections with the banned Islamist group Hizbut-Tahrir (HT) or the Party of Liberation. According to some media reports there have been indications of a nexus between the HT, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former PM Khaleda Zia, and the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The news of plans to topple Sheikh Hasina’s government, however, does not come as a surprise after the 2009 mutiny by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), and 19 coup attempts in the past. Nonetheless it reflects the deeply politicised nature of the army and persistent religious intolerance in its ranks. The essence of the incident is the rising fears among the Islamists, and their supporters in the army, of the secular government led by Hasina.

Ever since her coming to power in January 2009, Hasina has been taking strong measures against Islamic radical groups such as HT and the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Regular raids, arrests of members of these groups and seizure of arms and ammunitions helped in neutralising their activities.

In addition to this, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh had restored the 1972 Constitution by declaring the 5th and 8th amendment illegal, which made army coups unconstitutional. In addition to this were the restoration of Article 12 that deals with secularism and the basic principles of liberation. While religious political parties were allowed to participate in elections, they were not allowed to rouse communal hatred.

Not surprisingly, this directly threatens the Islamists who feel their electoral base will shrink with such policies in place. As a result, there have been concerns that the cadres of religious parties, recruited into the army during Khaleda Zia’s rule, might support a coup. Not surprisingly, the 2009 BDR mutiny is widely considered as being provoked by the Islamists.

In the middle of this controversy is a Lieutenant Colonel who has been arrested, and a Major Zia, who has absconded. It has been reported that Major Zia had written on his ‘Facebook’ page that the “Army will bring change”. The idea is not just to derail democracy in general, but also the trials against many important militant leaders, including those of the BNP.

The announcement of the failed coup came soon after a speech made by Khaleda Zia at a rally in Chittagong (January 09, 2012), in which she held the government responsible for the disappearance of army officers. Hasina was in India when the conspiracy was foiled – an interesting point given the fact that Islamists in Bangladesh have deep-seated insecurities about India and its strong political and ideological linkages with Hasina.

Human Rights Watch
The Government of Bangladesh has failed to precisely investigate extrajudicial killings and tortures in custody, during the year 2011. According to the World Report 2012 released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the government did not use its parliamentary mandate to push for strong protection of human rights.

The report says, “Instead of prosecuting members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), who engage in extrajudicial killings, the home minister chose to deny that such violations occur, even in cases where internal ministry investigations found evidence of wrongdoing”.

Extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests are rampant in Bangladesh and are often used for political purposes. Termed as “crossfire” or “encounter” killings, they often go unprosecuted, and new cases of torture and enforced disappearances continue to emerge.

Although PM Hasina has said that her government will have zero tolerance for such activities, little has been done until now. In violation of both domestic and international law, inhuman and degrading torture is employed against suspects by the military and the police, even now.

According to Odhikar, a Dhaka-based rights organisation, more than 12 people died in custody due to police torture in 2011- and no investigation has been conducted. The government has also been criticised for not being able to ensure a fair trial for the accused of the 2009 BDR mutiny, as the prosecution failed to produce individual evidence against detainees. Allegations of torture and about 70 custodial deaths during investigations after the mutiny, remain uninvestigated.

Dhaka-Moscow Ties
In a move towards strengthening bilateral relations, Bangladesh and Russia are expected to sign more than a dozen bilateral agreements during PM Hasina’s next visit to Moscow, after the Russian Presidential elections.

The agreements will cover construction and operation of a nuclear power plant, nuclear safety issues, gas exploration and development, agriculture, healthcare, education, and culture.

The current Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh, Gennady P Trotsenko, recently said: “Figuratively speaking, our cooperation has been entering a phase of renaissance when peoples of both countries started to rediscover each other.”

Bangladesh government will be sending a team to Moscow next month to hold negotiations over the 2000 MW Roopur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and safety issues, in order to set the stage for a successful visit by Hasina. The NPP, once put in action, will add substantial surplus to the total power generation and promote development of industries in Bangladesh.

Russia on its side is looking forward to establishing a Joint Economic Commission and signing legal documents that would allow it to recruit skilled manpower from Bangladesh. Moreover, Russian power and energy companies such as Technopromexport, Inter Rao UES, Power Machines, and Engineering Centre UES are engaged in active talks with Bangladesh for constructing new conventional power plants.

The volume of trade between the two countries currently stands at about US$400 million, way lower than its potential. There are, however, talks of having a joint business council between the two countries that could facilitate deeper trade and investment links.   

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