Friday, July 31, 2009

'SUICIDAL' according to Jamaat

As expected the government's announcement of removing a brigade from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) has run afoul of the "Opposition." Jaamat Amir Moulana Nizami (accused Collaborator during the Liberation War) termed the pullout as 'suicidal.' Unless the opposition has some constructive ideas in this situation, the Awami League government should continue with their original plan.

As usual the BNP/Jamaat position is based on two main concerns: India and security. In regards to the former, BNP Secretary-General Khondakar Delwar Hossain made reference to the Tipaimukh dam being constructed in Northeast India. Currently a parliamentary team is evaluating the project (Jamaat declined to go).

While Bangladesh's concerns are valid in the Tipaimukh case, Hossain's allegations that Bangladesh will be turned into a "hinterland" of India are a bit sensationalist (New Nation). For one, India has pledged that the dam would not be for irrigation and has repeatedely stated that is for hydroelectric purposes. Bangladesh could stand to benefit from a large renewable powersource near its border, and could take advantage of this capacity. Regardless the Tipai dam has been in the construction phase for decades and rights groups in Manipur are still opposed to it (New Nation).

In terms of security, the BNP and Jamaat accuse the government of an ulterior motive, without going into any details. If the BNP and Jamaat have information, they should share and at least begin a national dialogue. As was mentioned previously the security situation is still a bit delicate, especially since there are still segments of the CHT that are still opposed to the 1997 Peace Treaty (as evidenced by the election of the UPDF to the chairmanship in three sub-districts).

The Parbatya Bangali Chhatra Parishad (an association of Bengali students in the CHT) has similar security fears, however their's are much closeer-at-hand. They have issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the government to review the decision. The group also issued a 6-point demand and vowed to protest (Daily Star).

While any loss of life is a tragedy there is likely to be some bloodshed because of the pullout. However, it would be a mistake to think that it would be avoided (now or in the future) if the unit remained. If normalcy, defined as law and order derived from police and not the Army, is to be restored then the redeployment must go forward. The Bengali settlers and the CHT locals must seek redress from the police in all criminal matters. For their part, the police MUST remain impartial and provide security to each group without favor.

The Awami League government has taken an important step in normalizing the CHT, the BNP and Jamaat should either provide viable alternatives, if they do identify serious problems, or they should stand aside. The students' association has valid fears, as do the tribe organizations, however both groups must drop their prejudice in order for any lasting progress to be made.

Finally, Hossain stated that the CHT is a "part of Bangladesh." At the moment, the CHT is nothing more than an occupied territory, a colony. In effect, he is sounding a bit like the Indian "aggressors" that he despises.

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