Night Watch

Bangladesh: The government has ordered deployments of tens of thousands of soldiers and police across Bangladesh to try to prevent political violence ahead of next month's elections. Troops are being deployed in at least 59 of Bangladesh's 64 districts, election commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman told the press. "They'll be used as a striking force if there is any violence and they will patrol important areas, streets and highways," he said.

The scenario for violent confrontation results from opposition leader Khaleda Zia's order that her Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters stage nationwide protests against the elections. Zia said she and her party will boycott the 5 January general elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quits and a neutral caretaker government is installed. She also has called for a mass march on Dhaka, the capital.

Prime Minister Hasina's Awami League (AL) government has rejected the opposition's demand. Last month, Hasina put together a multi-party coalition and offered Zia any post she wanted. Zia refused the offer.

Comment: Two powerful and talented women, Zia and Hasina, have dominated Bangladeshi politics for decades, relieved only by military governments. Hasina is the eldest daughter of the father and first prime minister of an independent East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh, Mujibur Rahman. Her Awami League party stands for secular democracy.

Khaleda Zia is the wife of the seventh president of Bangladesh, the late President General Ziaur Rahman, who eventually came to power after Mujibur Rahman was assassinated. The BNP stands for moderate Islamist principles as a guide for democracy. Those are the political precepts of the Pakistan and Bangladesh Armies.

NightWatch was on duty when Mujibur Rahman led East Bengal/East Pakistan's secession from Pakistan in 1971 with the support of the Indian Army Corps based on Calcutta under General Jagjit Singh Aurora. It was Christmas time.

The new country was founded on principles of secular democracy. India did not want an Islamist state on its eastern border. That was one of Indira Gandhi's conditions for supporting Mujibur Rahman's rebel movement.

The political differences between Zia and Hasina are based mostly on family differences, but Zia is closer to the founding principles. Hasina is closer to the imams and the Army. Make no mistake: both women are very modern, skilled politicians who enjoy modern amenities.


Night Watch

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