Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dynastic Democracy, Gamal Mubarak, Saif Gaddafi and The Two Princes of Bangladesh

(Real Time Bangladesh Blog Report, March 2011)

In pictures (Left/Top) Mr. Tareq imitates his father's hand waiving (in the background).  (Right/Below) Mr. Sajeeb Wazed visits from US for a vacation and the student wing of mother's party (BCL) organizes a reception parodying the 1972 return of his grand father Mujib from a Pakistani jail after the independence of 1971.

Egyptian revolution is now in the intermission, Libya raging- meanwhile it is a time to look into the mirror- in our home- in this desert light. Are we different from Egypt or there are some ominous similarities?

Out of every kind of insults- torture, corruption, repression, jail for speaking out- the final straw that broke the camel’s back- seems to be peculiarly a trivial issue! This is how The Guardian reported the first spark  which occurred on Sept 20, 2010:
“Hundreds of protesters take to streets of Cairo over widely held belief that president's son is being groomed to take over… It is widely believed that Gamal, now 46, is being groomed to succeed his father, Hosni, 82, as Egypt's next ruler… The younger Mubarak accompanied the presidential delegation to peace talks in Washington this month... The protest also spread to Alexandria, where it was reported that 30 demonstrators were arrested and women had their clothes torn. In Cairo journalists were among those beaten.
Actually, that protest was fueled by WikiLeaks revelation a week before (Al-Ahram, WikiLeaks release cables on Egyptian Succession, Dec 15, 2011) of US Envoys estimate:
Gamal Mubarak, the head of the influential Policies Committee in the ruling National Democratic Party, would succeed his father, President Hosni Mubarak, to the Egyptian presidency. The summary of the cable described Gamal Mubarak as "a rising star in the ruling party" and said that despite his claim that he does not aim for succession, his actions show otherwise.."

It is the dynastic succession that finally broke the barrage in Egypt!  In Libya the heir apparent Saif al-Islam Muammar Al-Gaddafi is already in driving seat- the man in charge of fighting the protesters.

Alas, can we see the ghosts of Gamal in Bangladesh?  For ten years Mr. Mubarak began planting his second son Gamal Mubarak to gradually succeed him. He was introduced in key position in NDP. Despite the gag on Egyptian media- reports started surfacing Mr. Gamal Mubarak also amassing huge wealth by peddling his princely influence. Just a sample- New York Times Reports:
“Today he has a significant stake in a private equity company with interests throughout the Egyptian economy, from oil to agriculture to tourism, corporate records and ... (read rest).”
This is what Wikipedia on Mr. Tareq Zia reads:
“Since 1988 he worked in the textiles industry, setting up a number of textile mills, notably Dandy Dyeing, and in the water transport sector….”
In Libya, the Gaddafi sons and daughter got entangled in feud over "35-billion Coco-Cola bottling plant'" and "shares of Libyan Olympic Committee" (Reuter Reports, How the Cola war war Won in Libya).

In Bangladesh, to the discredit of the civic society and all democratic ideas, both our current prime minister and the former prime minister (now the opposition leader) are openly planning family succession for quite some time.  Most ordinary Bangladeshis are watching with silent disgust. The mothers themselves are respectively daughter and wife of our former leaders.

Ironic- all these three princes’ today stand opposite to the very ideals of the respective leaders, from whom they claim their biological legacy.

The Huns?

The case of Tareq Zia is more well-known now. There are now numerous documented corruption charges against the two Zia brothers at both national and international levels. Much like the elder Mr. Tareq Rahman, Mr. Gamal Mubarak has also amassed a large number of companies. The younger, Mr. Arafat Rahman, succumbing to drug addiction took apolitical path. Her mother- former prime minister Mrs. Khaleda Zia, who rose to the leadership as wife of General Zia, groomed Mr. Tareq Rahman for political succession with placement in key party positions in BNP. During her tenure, Mr. Tareq  ran politics and business affairs from the venerable Hawaa Bhaban.

What can be more ironic? Their father the senior Zia- a decorated (Bir Uttam) commander of the liberation war- was once revered by millions- if not for anything else, but for his personal financial austerity. Minding the poverty stricken millions of Bangladesh- president Zia wore mended garments. He also did not allow his family to get involved in national affairs during his lifetime. Millions wept at his assassination. Yet, after his death- his sons at the watch of their mother, focused on amassing millions. The only known asset they had was their family identity. President Zia did not own a residence. The brothers’ current image is slap to the ideal for which the senior Zia was respected.

And the Han

Now here comes the other heir apparent-Mr. Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed- the son of current prime minister and the grandson of Bongubondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman- the father of the nation. Mujib was brutally assassinated along with all his sons by military officers and politicians with US alignment in his own party. Ironically, a dynastic aspiration is still creeping in from the surviving daughter’s lineage. Growing up mostly outside, he is now a US citizen. Though a late entrant in the political scene of Bangladesh, now bits and pieces about him are coming into light. Here is a sample reported in Blitz:
“Records [in USA] show several cases were filed against him. He has been charged on various occasions with drunken driving, speeding, reckless driving, unlawful use of radar detection device, and even carrying an unlicensed gun. He even had to spend time in jail for his misdemeanors.”
Most of the cited charges are from public records in US. For more, here is the Semi-official Bio (Wikipedia discussion page indicates that this page is carefully guarded by one his follower), an unofficial biography (Bangladesh: the Fortunate Corrupts, Weekly Blitz, 2008), and another analysis of biography of Mr. Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed. 

The Daily Star Reports, in August 2010- an airport Immigration Officer was suspended- after requesting Mr. Wazed to stand through the regular immigration line at Dhaka International Airport- who was trying to avoid the line claiming his VIP status as prime minister’s son. You may wonder if Mr. Wazed enjoys any such privilege with the custom and border agency from his own country US. This is possibly a classic case of abusive power. A law abiding officer was the victim. This may be an early sample of what is coming- a life-long career addicted to the  comforts of nepotism and influence peddling- which painfully we have seen in Mr. Tariq, Mr. Gamal and their likes.

But, to be fair- compared to the Rahman brothers- there is no substantial corruption charge against him yet.

The current prime minister- his mother however has also now begun the process of carefully planting him in the leadership of Awami League. Media reports, he is now being prepared for a possible run in 2014 Election.

Interestingly, the constitution of Bangladesh does not permit non-citizens to run for parliament membership. Part 5, Article 66 of the Constitution of Bangladesh states:
“(1) A person shall [..] be qualified to be elected as, and to be, a member of Parliament if he is a citizen of Bangladesh.  […]. (2) A person shall be disqualified .. who [.. ] acquires the citizenship of, or affirms of acknowledges allegiance to, a foreign state;”
Like every new (naturalized) citizen of US,  This is what Mr. Wazed has taken oath:
“Solemnly, freely, and without mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state [Bangladesh]. My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America.” (Wikepedia)
A ‘fix’ to the constitution to bypass this requirement and paving the succession plan might be on its way. The February 2009 Gazette  with the title “Representation of the People Order (Amendment) Act, 2009" omits the critical disqualifying clause (2). These processes are ominously reminiscent of Mr. Gamal Mubarak’s debut in NDP in 2002 by his father. 

Bangladesh needs Hosni Mubarak?

With Mr. Tareq- the people of Bangladesh faces the prospect of unlimited corruption. With Mr. Wazed, however, Bangladesh perhaps faces another type of trouble which incidentally has “Egypt” stamped on it!

In a 2008 article jointly authored with a US Soldier, Mr. Wazed has prescribed nothing less than now deposed Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak’s policy of repression torture and rendition for Bangladesh! This is in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism of course. It states:
"Bangladesh should attempt to replicate the recent successes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt [of Hosni Mubarak Regime] to force the hand of extremist clerics to recant their past remarks and speak out against jihadists. They have even used moderate and reformed clerics to retrain jihadists in prison with a more moderate interpretation of the Koran."
Blindly towing the line of US foreign policy and CIA activities, Mr. Wazed believes the repressive policies of now deposed Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt to be a success! Read more about it in article.

Once such extra-legal means are allowed- governments bend on clinging to power- resort to use it on other citizens as well. This was the case of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. There is nothing in Bangladesh to stop tumbling down this slippery slope. UK Intelligence’s involvement in cross-border torture activities using RAB revealed by WikiLeaks Dhaka Cables (The Guardian,  Bangladeshi torture centre mapped by former inmate, Jan 2011) is interesting. Add to that believes of our “VIP” prince like Mr. Wazed’s. It can be a fateful combination for Bangladesh turning it into a police state. Even Awami League’s top leadership should seek clarification on these developments for their own personal and ideological safety. 

Bongobondhu has himself also fought Islamist but in different ways. A rather naive and simplistic view like Mr. Wazed’s emanates from lack of knowledge about people, religion, and culture of Bangladesh and Egypt both.

This naiveté not an issue if espoused by an average US Joe the Immigrant (remember Joe the Plumber) not knowing the actual tool and techniques of tortures used (Read here at Al Jazeera article February 2011, Suleiman: The CIA's man in Cairo) and related violations of human rights and international laws. This however can have devastating consequences if the Joe is about to be infused in Bangladesh at the very top of power as political heir apparent.

Nothing can be more farcical to the life, legacy and ideology of Bongobondhu! Indeed most of his political life he stood up against military supported false (aptly termed as "basic") democracy of Pakistan- much like Mubarak's Egypt. US had actively opposed the creation of Bangladesh- the nation which calls him Father of the Nation. Mujib stood defiant against the imperialistic policy and practices of US in the ranks with Salvador Allende and Sukarno and non-alliance movement. It is believed (also by his own political party) that CIA's of mid 70's had conspired (Daily Star,The long shadow of the August 1975 coup) in his assassination.

Both the fathers- Mujib and Zia must be tottering inside their graves! What a somersault of their mutant genes! 

Our Genetic Democracy

Our spoiled princes are entitled to have their own believes and life. However, they should not be imposed on a country under the facade of democracy. It might also be unfair on them as well. There are thousands other brilliant, meritorious and accomplished young Bangladeshi’s who can aptly shoulder the yolk of democracy in future Bangladesh- than any of these spoiled ghosts of Gamal’s.

At best it means disgrace and dishonor for the people of Bangladesh- as if the entire countries collective intellectual account is zero.

At worst it means calamity- corruption and eventual degeneration of a country into dark ages.

Democracy is not carried in gene. Scions of once fiery ideologist leaders can be their negative print. Indeed, more often they succumb to corruption and abuse due to their spoiled or disturbed upbringing.

It is possible  to indoctrinate them into democracy by sending  them in western elite schools- which seems to be a popular trend too?  Look at  one example- Saif Gaddafi- second son  and  the designated  heir  there-  went to London School of Economics for a PhD. The irony is its title - The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions.  Did it work?

As Libya rages BBC reports on Sunday 20th February, Saif promised rivers of blood for the protesters as his succession plan is in shamble. To answer the plagiarism charge against his PhD dissertation, this is what his adviser Lord Meghnad Desai (Author of an very interesting book Marx's Revenge) recently has to say about Saif:

"I read the thesis, I examined him along with an examiner, he defended his thesis very, very thoroughly, he had nobody else present there, and I don't think there's any reason to think he didn't do it himself... This is over-egging the pudding. The man [Saif] is evil enough - you don't have to add that he's a plagiarist as well!".
Such elite education only provides Saifs' with sophisticated tools. Education at Harvard or LSE never changes the mis-education and the life's goal set at home. A dynastic successor- who is created by his parents to maintain a family grip on state power and privilege- eventually use elite education -(and the contact network that comes with it)- to fulfill that pervert goal more effectively .

We as a generation seem to have given up. But, with our indifference to such medieval aberration of democracy- we are ensuring that these spoiled scions of the past leaders will also spoil the lives of our children.

It is time to bring some desert sun-light and common sense back in our home for the sake of our next generation. 

With Egyptian revolution behind us- say resolutely “Kafya” to the joke of genetic democracy!


In the last hours of Hosni Mubarak's resignation, Al Arabiya reports the elder son of Mubarak -Aala Mubarak- who did not join the lime light as his younger brother, engaged in a heated argument that almost developed into a fight. According to the report, Alaa accused Gamal of dragging the country into corruption by helping his friends in the business industry climb the echelons of political power.
"Instead of working to help your father be honored at the end of his life, you helped damage his image this way," Alaa reportedly told his brother Gamal”.
In Hosni Mubarak's Last Speech, he had a beautiful piece of advice for other's who are trotting his ways:
"The mistakes can be made in any political system and in any state. But, the most important is to recognise them and correct them as soon as possible and bring to account those who have committed them."
Though- it was too late for him.

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