Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has been freed and become the party’s permanent chief. She was in jail for a year on corruption charges, which are still in place. Her son Tariq Rehman is known as Mr Ten Percent. The deal with the army, that imposed emergency in 2007 to break a fatal clinch between the two family-led parties, is that she will not boycott the polls coming up in December this year. Meanwhile the army has tried to clean up the political system, eliminating 1.5 million fake voters from the voters’ list.
Begum Zia’s rival Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League, also in jail for corruption, was released earlier. Everyone knows what the two begums and their family-owned parties will do. The pattern is similar to the PPP-PMLN rivalry in Pakistan whom a military ruler tried unsuccessfully to keep out of the system, just like the Bangladesh army. As the two lock horns, Islamists have penetrated Bangladesh and destroyed its magnificent Bengali culture. The state is coming apart at the seams. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? (Daily Times, 16 September)