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Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

No country can exist without having people. Otherwise, it becomes just a barren land. So, people come first in any country with well-defined geographic territory. They may adhere to any culture with differing languages and religions. But they all are equal deserving equal treatment. Everyone loves his /her country with respective cultural attachment. By this standard, they all are patriots. Hence, no one’s patriotism can be in question. Too much heterogeneity in a society causes tensions, conflicts and even violence. In this regard, Bangladesh is blessed with near-perfect cultural homogeneity. This is undoubtedly an invaluable asset for Bangladesh. Have we been able to capitalise on it socially and economically?

Politics is the best way to serve people. This ought to be a very noble pursuit in life requiring honesty, transparency, selflessness, diligence and dedication. In a democratic society, politicians derive power from people as they elect them for governance with accountability. Political leaders must show people dreams and must know how to implement them. They must create a level playing field for others to participate with no fear or apprehension. At the same time, incumbent upon electorates is to be aware of their constitutional rights and responsibilities to be able to exercise votes to elect the right people. To add, constitution is for the people. It can be amended, as necessary, to serve people’s interests the best to advance on the path of peace and prosperity. Politics in a democratic society must depict mutual respect, trust, confidence and compromises. Do we observe all these in the current political environment in Bangladesh?

Transparency and accountability in governance mitigate corruption. Corruption retards economic development and enhances social ills. Excess greed for money makes people corrupt. Dishonest people in political power upon election may tend to access to corrupt practices to build fortunes for short-term outlook. This is a negative-sum game. Who are the losers in this game? Can many of our current politicians in good conscience be proud of their honesty, evenhandedness, transparency and accountability?

Constructive dialogue with clean hearts between/among significant political parties is a dire necessity for holding impartial election(s) and smooth transition of power. There is no alternative in a democratic process. Any successful resolution requires some flexibility and good intention from negotiating parties to reach a common ground. Parties cannot engage in any dialogue from their rigid positions. This is not leadership. Some trustworthy intermediation may also help bridge the gap. Can people see them forthcoming in the near future in Bangladesh?

To say the least, caretaker government came as a temporary solution as a result of political savagery. The same goes on today. This alone does not justify its perpetual existence. Only infants need caretaker(s). Is our political culture still in infancy? Have our politicians not grown up even in 40 years? Is it not a shame for them? Is constitution the holy Quran? Can it not be amended again to accommodate an agreed upon middle course? In fact, the constitution was decimated several times in the past through several ill-intentioned amendments. To correct one ill, more ills are being created and recreated. How long will they go on at the whims of power-grabbers?

People usually talk about financial corruption and remain silent on moral corruption. Both are damaging. The latter may be more damaging. Anyway, corruption in any form or shape is harmful to the country. Stern legal action against a few high-profile ones with exemplary punishment, if proven guilty could go a long way to deter corruption. Bangladesh is making discernible progress on economic and social fronts. But much more could be accomplished keeping corruption in check.

People become the omnipotent only on the day of national election as every candidate begs for their votes. Afterward, they become hostages of the victors in many instances. Sordidly, people are stuck in a political duopoly. No escape from it is in sight as no viable and credible alternative is in the offing. Many politicians in both parties are up for personal monetary enrichment in lieu of public service enrichment. The major political parties are similar in political and economic ideologies, policies and competitiveness in corruption. The party in power becomes desperate to cling to power and the opposition becomes frantic to regain power from day one invoking intolerant and violent movement deeply hurting economic and business activities subjecting people to untold miseries. While in opposition, neither major political party plays a constructive role. In short, they are two sides of the same coin. People have to choose between two evils in each election cycle. This is very sad. Things could get far better, if politicians would consider themselves as public servants, not masters. Politics is like a flower that emits sweet fragrance and contains poison. Do our politicians emit sweet fragrance or become poisonous? Do they have self-examination for earning people’s distrust and disrespect? In general, politicians are viewed as bad guys these days. Whom should they blame?

Rightly, Bangladesh embraces secularism. Religiosity is very personal. Secularism does not mean a void of religions. It gives everybody freedom to practice his/her own religion. Islam means peace. It has all the inner strengths to preserve itself. It does not need any external organised force or agency to protect and preserve itself. The so-called religious leaders need to enlighten themselves. Their personal conduct must match the real teaching of Islam. Islam has no role for intolerance, disrespect and violence. At the same time, Islam is not apolitical. The use of Islam in politics is not new. It dates back over 800 years. It began with Bakhtiyar Khilji(1203) in this subcontinent. In many cases, the practices have been ill-intentioned and abusive vitiating the political environment. Can’t we get out of this vicious circle?

Many questions have been raised in this brief peace. They are not new. They are in the public domain. What are the solutions? Well-informed readers can figure them out. People, patriotism and politics have a triangular relationship with people at the apex. They feed into each other. The feedback loop can be positive or negative depending on the attitude and conduct of the politicians in Bangladesh. Let it be transformed into a virtuous one, not a vicious one that strangulates people.

Matiur Rahman is the MBA Director and JP Morgan Chase Endowed Professor of finance at McNeese State University, USA.

2 Responses to “People, patriotism and politics in Bangladesh”

  1. Matiur Rahman

    Dear Mr. Anwar,
    Thank you very much for your thoughtful and heart-touching comments. you brought tears to my eyes by reminding of what our parents used to teach us.When parents themselves are corrupt what moral authority do they have to talk about moral values and other virtues in life? Children learn by observing their parents as examples. There are so many bad examples these days. A human life is a failure if it cannot bring positive change at least in one other human life.
    Thanks, again.

  2. Anwar A. Khan

    Dear Mr. Matiur Rahman :

    All the points, especially moral corruption, self-examination, constitution and secularism which you have presented in the piece seem to have derived from our own very minds and hearts. You have revisited them as well as reminded us about certain very important values which we should heed and carry out in practice. I clearly find a mental cord in your deliberation in this article. Undoubtedly, it is a good reading and valuable document. Congratulations for this brilliant write-up.

    Our parents have taught us about those values when we were students; they have taught us only to give and serve other people but not to take any thing from them; and they have also taught us to take it as our moral duty because they used to say you were taking education from schools, colleges and universities. Most of the politicians of those days of yore can also be bracketed in the same group. As the old saying goes, “Service to men is service to the God” and your services will surely and suitably be rewarded by the Almighty Allah at appropriate time and that should be our prime motto wheareas most of the people have gone astray, patriotism is found nowhere, politics is full of amiss and politicians have become rogues.

    We are living in a society which has reached at such a bad shape where it is very difficult to see any moonbeam. I get distressed having seen this state of affairs in our society. However, we should strive hard en bloc to come out from this netherworld if we want to live as human being along with humanity. The syllabus of Didactic education can be introduced from the primary school level to the university level of education to imbibe the students with moral lessons. The sooner it is, the better for us all to prevent our people from further degeneracy.

    Congratulations, once again, on a piece well written!

    Allah bless us all. Au-revoir now.

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