Ever since Bangladesh became independent, Saudi foreign policy towards Bangladesh has been drafted in Pakistan`s foreign ministry. The first major step was the formation of the Islamic Bank in Bangladesh in 1976, funded by Riyadh. This bank gave the Jamaat its first financial lifeline in independent Bangladesh. The rest is history.
The Western forces, especially the United States and the UK, are playing very calculated roles. It is their influence that ensured that the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders have not been named in any case of corruption or support to terrorism. In their fight against terrorism, the US believes it has to shore up Islamic political parties and groups it considers `moderate`, like the Jamaat.
The Washington Beltway analysts have not been able to figure out what happened to their `moderate Taliban` in Afghanistan. Yet the US intelligence establishment and the State Department seem to be in a politico-biological experiment to create a creature called a moderate Jamaat-e-Islami. Obviously they haven`t read the story of Frankenstein.
At the moment, the administration in Bangladesh, if there really is one, is in a serious quandary. They tried to break the two major political parties, the Awami League and the BNP, but did not succeed. The army, in consultation with the civilian government, tried to float a new all-encompassing political party. That, too, failed. The People`s Democratic Party formed by the Directorate General of Field Intelligence, or DGFI, the replication of Pakistan`s ISI, turned out to be a joke.
President Iazzudin Ahmed, whose five-year term expired on September 6, 2007, has been asked to continue as Head of State till an alternative emerges. Another formula is also being floated Ă‚Â— A National Government with Dr Kamal Hossain as the President. An ex-Awami League leader and a renowned lawyer, Dr Hossain is a former associate of Sheikh.Hasina who fell out with her over her autocratic ways.
But for a National Government to have some credibility, the administration has to include senior and well-known politicians from the BNP and the Awami League as well. A president or acting President would have to be placed in Banga Bhavan. Under emergency rule, even Iazzudin`s tenure can be extended if the BNP chessmen on the board can exercise enough pressure. This is again a fifty-fifty chance.
The student protests become a useful tool here, if handled deftly and with finesse. It can be projected as a sign of future instability unless it is firmly controlled. Which in turn means more powers for the army and the police, and reasons for extending the Emergency and curtailing constitutional and political rights.
However, the longer the country remains without a democratic government and free politics, the higher will be the cost.
Image: Military guards patrol during a curfew in Dhaka on August 23. The army-backed caretaker government tried many formulae to restore order, but all ended in confusion.