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Main » 2013 » January » 3 » 2012: Upsets eclipse successes in Bangladesh
5:29 PM
2012: Upsets eclipse successes in Bangladesh

Updated: 2012-12-31 10:35
By Julfikar Ali Manik (asianewsnet)

Words like "uncertainty”, "unwillingness”, "unexpected” and "unwanted” kept cropping up with frustrating developments in the areas of governance, law and order, judiciary, human rights, politics and diplomacy hitting the headlines throughout the outgoing year.

Bangladesh plumbed the depths of despair because of stalemate over Padma bridge project, political volatility over caretaker government issue, forced disappearances, financial scams, violence by Jamaat-Shibir, death of 112 garment workers in a factory blaze and many other disappointing developments.

However, it's not been all doom and gloom. The long chain of unpleasant happenings was interspersed with some good news.

Among the things that gave the people enormous joy and satisfaction were the triumph in the legal battle over maritime boundary with Myanmar; Bangladeshi researchers' success in decoding the genome of a fungus that cause havoc in jute and soybean productions; conquest of Everest by two Bangladeshi women; and the national cricket team's victory in the one-day series against West Indies and finishing the Asia Cup as runners-up for the first time.

A steady 6 percent economic growth despite many hurdles was lauded by global bodies.

Now, take the issue of the World Bank loan for the Padma bridge project. The nation swung between hopes and frustrations over the fate of the project.

In September, revival of the cancelled WB loan had rekindled the hope that the project would get underway, but soon uncertainty returned over the issue of investigation into the alleged corruption conspiracy in the project.

The loan agreement was revived after the government met the global lender's conditions that included resignation of the then communications minister Syed Abul Hossain, who had been repeatedly denying allegations of corruption in the bridge project. Prime minister's adviser Mashiur Rahman, whose name also came up in the allegations, had to go on leave. However, uncertainty is still there as credibility of the investigation is brought into question by the Anti-Corruption Commission's not including Abul Hossain and former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury among the accused.

In politics, things grew volatile centring the electoral system for the next parliament. The Awami League-led ruling alliance and the BNP-led opposition stuck to their guns -- the former stoutly opposes the caretaker government system for holding the election while the latter firmly maintains it will not allow any election unless the system is restored.

Adding to people's worries, there were forced disappearances and secret killings. For these incidents, the government drew flak from human rights bodies at home and abroad.

The death of 112 workers in a garment factory fire in Ashulia exposed inadequate fire safety and poor working conditions in the RMG sector, causing concern even beyond the boundary.

The Hall-Mark loan scam at state-owned Sonali Bank opened a Pandora's box of malpractices in the banking sector.

Towards the end of the year, the law enforcers were faced with a serious challenge as Jamaat-e-Islami and its student body Islami Chhatra Shibir carried out planned attacks on them.

Many viewed the attacks as the last-ditch effort by Jamaat to foil the ongoing trial of its top brass on charges of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

Observers say the recent resignation of the chairman of International Crimes Tribunal-1 following the hacking of his personal emails and Skype conversation with an expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert hardly augurs well for the trial. This has raised concern that there might be more plots afoot to derail the trial.

Against this backdrop, completing the trial of those accused of war crimes is now a daunting challenge for the government in its last year in office.

Early this month, as people were getting to grips with Jamaat-Shibir violence, the brutal murder of an innocent youth named Bishwajit Das in the capital by some Chhatra League activists jolted everyone to the core, and switched the nation's focus to the pro-Awami League student body.

A hush-hush approach to the investigation into the gruesome killing of journalist couple Sagar and Runi in February raised a huge outcry in the media and society. Mystery still shrouds the double murder with the government coming up with repeated assurance of justice.

Another massive scandal that rocked the nation this year involved seasoned politician and the then railway minister Suranjit Sengupta. The seizure of Tk 70 lakh from his assistant personal secretary's car at the BGB headquarters cost Suranjit his portfolio. He stepped down only to be made a minister without portfolio.

A foiled coup attempt in the army to overthrow the government was a surprise disclosure at the beginning of the year. For the first time, the military authorities officially exposed such an attempt, while many attempted coups and counter-coups in the defence forces in the 70s and 80s still remain a mystery.

Forced disappearance of many including a political leader was one of the much talked-about issues this year. The disappearance of BNP leader Ilias Ali and others is still under a cloak of mystery.

In September, Islamic zealots destroyed Buddhist temples, monasteries and houses in Ramu of Cox's Bazar over a fake Facebook photo. Apart from this, the Rohingya issue came into focus once again as the government declined to shelter Rohingyas fleeing violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

It was a challenge for the government to make the international community understand Dhaka's position amid huge pressure to allow the Rohingyas in.

Grameen Bank and Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus also remained issues of concern for the global community. In particular, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed displeasure over the issues of Grameen Bank, Prof Yunus, and the secret killing of labour organiser Aminul Islam.

From Aminul's killing in April to the devastating fire in the garment factory in November brought many fresh challenges for the country's highest export-oriented garment industry.

The upcoming year inherits many such challenges from the outgoing one. The most important of the issues is a polls-time government.

The visits to India by opposition leader Khaleda Zia and the ruling alliance component Jatiya Party's chief HM Ershad were at the centre of discussion in the context of the next election at the end of 2013 or at the beginning of 2014.

The country lost many of its worthy sons this year. They included popular writer Humayun Ahmed, iconic actor Humayun Faridee, famed architect Muzharul Islam, eminent educationist Khan Sarwar Murshid, noted economist and leading civil society member Prof Muzaffer Ahmad, veteran journalists Ataus Samad and Fayez Ahmed, painter extraordinaire Safiuddin Ahmed, business icon Samson H Chowdhury, Nazrul Geeti proponent Sohrab Hossain and ace filmmaker Shubhash Dutta

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