Sunday 15 April 2012

Grand New Year Celebrations and the Murder of 13 Year Old Naimul

April 15, 2012
Grand New Year Celebrations and the Murder of 13 Year Old Naimul

At this time of nobo borsho [Bangla New Year] celebration by the Bangladeshis, somehow I can't stop thinking about the kidnap and brutal murder of the 13 year old Naimul Islam in Bogura, Bangladesh. I wonder what the Nobo Borsho is like to the parents of Naimul, I ponder why nobody seems to care about such atrocities, is that because Naimul and his parents are too ordinary?

I have to wonder what would Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujib done or said, or General Zia would have done or said, or the freedom fighters of Bangladesh who have perished in liberating us would have done or said.

Somehow and somewhere along the line we the Bangladeshis have stopped being compassionate human beings first and foremost, we have chosen to debate over why a railway minister is not resigning over corruption allegation, why the opposition leader was or was not allowed to offer flowers on March 26, and all other petty little things. Meantime we have become oblivious to what our little country and its people were supposed to stand for, "Freedom", in all senses of the term.

Alas, in our own little country, we the ordinary folks have become hostage to the deadly games of power, politics and money, while the criminals, from white collar to dirty collar, from the politically armed to the street level scumbags, have imposed a virtual reign of terror on the rest of us.

On this nobo borsho, while we are busy feasting on Ilish Biryani, somewhere in small little non-descript corners of BD, the tears of the mother of Naimul and others like her are flowing in hopeless silence and in heart breaking grief. That does not touch us any more, because somewhere along the line, we the Bangladeshis have lost our compassionate hearts and minds all together. 

Friday 13 April 2012

Law Enforcement in Bangladesh: A Layman’s View

April 13, 2012
Law Enforcement in Bangladesh: A Layman’s View


As Bangalis (Bengali speaking population) usher in and celebrate another Bangla New year (Pohela Boishakh), the citizens of Bangladesh have a lot to celebrate in terms of cultural and linguistic freedom. But if ordinary Bangladeshis have been waiting for the cherished emancipation of mind (a la Thakur) or sanctity of life and humanity (a la Nazrul), unfortunately they just have to keep waiting. Meantime, their country is getting increasingly mired in the abyss of lawlessness in all forms, political and non-political crimes and violence, seething corruption, plunging morality, broken governance and self-serving politicking.

Is it possible to clean up such a gigantic mess? Yes, if only the Bangladeshis have the will to do so.

Ingredients of law enforcement

The four essential ingredients of law enforcement are: independence, resources, motivation, and (efficient) administration or management. Let us capture these four elements by the acronym IRMA.

I. Independence

First and foremost is the independence of the law enforcement agencies and judiciary in all senses of the term. Absent independence, the ruling regime of any given time will legislate conveniently and enforce selectively to weed out opposition forces and to promote the interests of allies, all without the protection of the judicial system and law enforcement agencies for the vast majority affected adversely and unjustly. For Bangladesh, the situation in this regard has been so grossly infected for so long that one cannot even start with “i” to spell out independence.

II. Resources

While independence is the foremost pre-requisite, sufficient resources are of course necessary first for prevention and then for adjudication of unlawful acts. The size and strength of the law enforcement forces as well as strict, grave and prompt adjudication of the unlawful acts (including harassments by way of frivolous allegations) act as significant deterrents for unlawful acts while offering worthy justice for the victims of unlawful acts. Four types of resources are needed for this purpose: well-trained and sizable force of foot soldiers, capable managers/leaders, supporting physical infrastructure (arms, technology, facilities, vehicles, etc), and sufficient financial resources to fund the previous three resources.

What is sizable obviously varies depending on the size of the population to be served, the geography of the land and the spatial distribution of the population mass, the current frequency, nature and severity of unlawful acts, and the targeted speed of improvement in the law and order situation. For Bangladesh, although a large and low income young population is its key resource base, this very critical and vast resource is widely used by political machineries and criminal gang leaders to outmuscle and/or sterilize law enforcement in committing a wide array of unlawful acts at the ground level.[1] The local apparatus of the political parties and armed gang leaders commonly recruit these young, unemployed and eager youth of meager means very easily to commit unlawful acts on their behalf. To adequately neutralize these unholy alliances throughout the densely populated land of Bangladesh, and given the gravity (kidnaps, murders, hijacking, torturing, controlling of strategic areas, institutions and processes, etc), the extent and the pervasiveness of unlawful acts throughout Bangladesh, an unusually large, well-trained and well-equipped  law enforcement force is called for.

Dire circumstances call for drastic actions. I recommend that Bangladesh start building such a force of foot soldiers to reach a target of 100 law enforcement agents for every 1,000 residents. Very importantly, this force should be built wherever possible by attracting/drafting young members around the age of 18 to 30 years. Not only, the force will be potent, but it will expedite the process of improvement (the speed of success will act as a significant deterrent as well) and very importantly turn the pool of recruits the political apparatus and gangsters prey upon against these very exploitative and infected organizations. Of course, this course of action will also generate much needed employment income for millions of low income families across the land.    

The called for large law enforcement force of course needs to be trained, equipped, inspired, directed, engaged and managed properly. Thus the complements of adequate physical infrastructure and managerial and leadership know-how will be vital. Further, the entire process of building and operating this force has to be as free as possible from political interference and influence. For these purposes, given the stark realities of Bangladesh, I recommend that the building and operational leadership of the proposed mega law enforcement force be contracted out to an international consortium of countries with no participation from Asia, the immediate neighborhood of Bangladesh. Not only this will likely help procurement of donor funding for the significant amount of financial resources needed to finance the venture, but it will also bring in worldwide state of the art technology and know-how.

III. Motivation

Of the IRMA, the last but not the least important two are motivation and (efficient) administration. Bangladeshis can ill afford to keep waiting for a motivational leader to lead the nation out of its severe moral decadence and beaten down governance. That leaves Bangladesh with non-inspirational motivation to work on. By and large this means the promise and delivery of a decent life for the foot soldiers and managers and their family members. Accordingly, the law enforcement forces need to be offered better than average economic benefits, educational and health benefits for the family members, social status via better job grades comparable to armed forces, employment security, career progress, and full force of protection of law and finance against powerful political and criminally engaged forces.

IV. Administration

As the well-financed and well-equipped mega force start cranking the wheels of law and justice across the land, and as the transfer of foreign technology and operational management continues to flow, it is only a matter of time that efficient indigenous administration will follow.

To be fair, if there was ever anything close to being efficient in Bangladesh, it has always been public administration. Despite pervasive corruption and influence peddling and notwithstanding political upheavals, the public administration of the country has held the pieces together. It is so popular but unfair to bash the public administration for all types of failures in Bangladesh, but they actually have been instrumental in navigating the country through the roughest of terrains with so little resources and so little appreciation, financial or otherwise. If only the political forces would have left them alone, as I am advocating that they must in a truly independent system, security, preservation and enhancement of life and liberty for ordinary Bangladeshis would have come sooner.


How far is that Pohela Boishakh when Bangladesh will prosper rather than suffocate with democracy? As I have often argued, you can’t be too religious about anything, and that includes being too religious about democracy as well!                               


[1] I am originally from a coastal area of Bangladesh. There are regions of this area where the Lathial Bahinis (armed gangs of crop looters) are so well-manned and well-equipped that the outnumbered police forces have to stay away from those areas for the most part. Of course they also have significant ties to the political machinery of the area in many instances.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Dhaka Stock Market is Asking for Trouble Yet Again


Bangladesh Stock Market

Dhaka Stock Market is Asking for Trouble Yet Again
April 10, 2012

On February 6, 2012, I noted that the Dhaka Stock Market was nearing its bottom. Around that time the DSE General Index hit a low around 3,500. After about two months and a few days, the DSE General Index now stands at around 5,200, that is, about 50% higher than its recent low of around 3,500.

The end of ceaseless bleeding in February and the rise since then has provided much needed relief to investors who survived the brutal downturn. However, in my humble opinion, the pace of the Dhaka Stock Market rise is once again reaching unsustainable level and could usher in another ruthless round of volatility and possibly another sustained down phase. It is difficult to imagine what new and significantly positive economic fundamentals would rationalize such a fast pace of recovery in the market. In the absence of tangible and significantly positive economic drivers in the days ahead, the ordinary investors once again risk losing whatever remains of their sharply drawn down equity.

Interestingly, while the authorities were frantically (and erratically in my view) instituting all kinds of measures to arrest the down turn by way of creating artificially inflated demand for stocks, the same very expansionary measures may turn out to be the principal cause of creating a bubble yet again only to be busted down the road. While re-emergence of confidence in risk taking is healthy, excessive or irrational risk-taking is not and in fact is the certain road to disaster. As I mentioned on February 8 and 9 posts, the preceding bubble was in significant part created by excessive margins and consequent leverage. In the midst of trying to stop the free fall, the authorities have in fact manufactured an even more explosive leverage situation now than before. As always, prevention is better than cure. In other words, the best remedy for avoidance of market crash is to prevent a meteoric rise in security prices that is not rooted in broader economic fundamentals and profitability of the business sector.     

-- MC