Monday, December 29, 2008

Bangladesh: a forecast

Elections are being held in Bangladesh today. Our moderately enlightened media cannot be trusted to understand how important they are for Pakistan.

Bangladesh and Pakistan are the only countries which were voted into existence. First, in the elections of 1945-6, people voted for the creation of a state comprising of West Pakistan and East Bengal. Then in 1971, they voted for the autonomy of East Bengal (which had come to be called East Pakistan by then).

Since these are the only two states which came into being precisely through the same method (i.e. consensus of the people), we cannot overlook the fact that in many ways the two countries have been evolving in a manner similar to each other and different from everyone else:
  • In 1975, Sheikh Mujib got assassinated by the Army; two years later, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was deposed (and later hanged) by the Army in Pakistan;
  • Armies in both countries launched processes of Islamization which lasted till the late 1980s;
  • The first female prime minister of the Muslim world came from Pakistan, and the second from Bangladesh soon afterwards
  • Emergency was declared again in Bangladesh in 2007, and in Pakistan latter the same year
Practically every major political change which occurs in one country gets mirrored in the other. Between any other nations these would pass as coincidences, but since Pakistan and Bangladesh came into being through exactly the same method, would it be rational to ignore these “coincidences” or to study them for discovering some unknown forces that might be operating in the collective lives of societies?

Elections are being held in Bangladesh today – just as they were held in Pakistan earlier this year. We know that a consensus government was formed in Pakistan after the recent elections. Should it not give us something to think about if consensus government also comes in power in Bangladesh after these elections?

The independent and sovereign states of Bangladesh and Pakistan seem to be held together in a bond which cannot be discovered through the existing theories of political science. It can be discovered in the poetry of our great poet Sehba Akhtar who addressed the spirit of Bengal in 1968 and said, “There are no chains, but this Love is a bond which, even if you wish, you will not be able to break.”

Chains, if there were any, got cut in 1971. The bond of love remains. Pakistan should pay attention to the happenings in Bangladesh. They may tell us more about ourselves than expected.

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