Friday, 9 October 2015

Re: Politics of Niqab in Canada

What an auspicious moment for Canadian democracy and freedom of expression! Zunera takes the oath in her Niqab, an individual's right reigns over the loathsome efforts of a popular PM.

 All because of the rule of law, where a law is overruled by the Supreme Court (defending the Constitutional rights of individual citizens) and the PM and his entire machinery stands by to obey the Supreme Court ruling as much as they disapprove of the ruling.

On Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 8:17 AM, Mo Chaudhury <> wrote:

October 06, 2015
Proud to be a Canadian (of Bangladeshi Origin)

Moment of pride for Canadians as Professor Arthur McDonald of the Queens University of Canada won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics (jointly with a Japanese researcher).

But I am personally even more proud of a very candid and brave piece of journalism from Neil McDonald of the CBC and the Supreme Court of Canada ruling (upheld the constitutional right to wear Niqab). I wish someday the freedom of expression situation and the Justice system in Bangladesh reach the same or higher feat.

To support the individual right to dress freely (and decently) in circumstances of no apparent security threat (like a citizenship ceremony), one need not support the religious necessity of wearing niqab (which seems controversial).

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Evaluation of Bangladesh's economic performance and strategy for the future

Please share and circulate as you wish/like. Your feedback (public comments on bdnews24 link appears with a few hours lag) will be appreciated.

Evaluation of economic performance

Basics for non-experts:

I find (not scientific/statistically rigorous though) that:

a. Performance does not really vary across political/governance regimes, contrary to the claims of the politicians as usual.
b. While good, BD performance does not necessarily fare that well vis-a-vis other countries in the region and elsewhere.
c. It seems nearly impossible to become Upper Middle Income (UMI) country by 2021 (as the PM wishes) or even by 2031.
d. Becoming UMI needs to reorient the economic strategy [conclusion section].

Regards.  -- Mahtab

PS: I wish to acknowledge the vigorous discussions (on related issues) that I had with my DU Econ classmates and of course the teachings of my Econ teachers. Any error/omission is solely mine.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Basics of a Country's Economic Performance

Mo Chaudhury

Economic performance: The basics

August 5, 2015

BANGLADESH-ECONOMY-AGRICULTUREOnce ridiculed as the "bottomless basket", Bangladesh has recently been awarded the status of a lower middle income country by the World Bank (WB) as the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of Bangladesh exceeded the $1,046 threshold. It is indeed a great moment of redemption and pride for the nation. However, it is not readily clear to many Bangladeshis (except the economists and the experts), what exactly the achievement of this momentous milestone means. This commentary explains, for the general readership, the basics of national income measurement.

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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Fixing a Broken (Electoral/Governance) System in Bangladesh

Mo Chaudhury

Fixing a broken system

May 7, 2015


The ruling regime keeps claiming that elections held during its tenure, including the April 28, 2015 mayoral elections, have been free and fair. Prior regimes of different colours recited the same mantra too. The truth of the matter is evidently quite the opposite. To fix the overall governance system that is grossly broken we need a package of reforms, as will now be proposed.

The most widely reported failure in the latest mayoral elections was that polling officials were incapacitated by ruling party hooligans operating under direct/indirect orders from influential members of the regime, Members of the Parliament, or senior officials of the public administration.

The officials' career and personal security were in severe jeopardy if they did not yield to the hooligans. Ground level law enforcement forces had to permit the incursion and mischief, by all likelihood under directions from the hierarchy above.

The EC officials / magistrates didn't act since either they also feared for their career and personal security, or they had no real recourse to disobedience by the law enforcement forces (constitutionally under the EC's directive during elections).

The aggregate picture is one of a broken system that permits transgressions with impunity of ruling regime activists, driven by a sense of entitlement that leaves the citizenry disenfranchised, insecure, and helpless.

As previously identified by many, this abyss resulted mainly from the constitutional reforms that overly concentrate governance power in the hands of the PM and an electoral system where the winning party/alliance takes it all. There are no checks and balances, and once elected, a regime can and does operate much like an autocracy. It unfortunately necessitates upheavals to unseat an autocracy, often resulting in undemocratic and violent transitions.

To address these debilitating circumstances on a long-term basis, the following key changes are recommended as a package. Some of these are not new, but the emphasis here is on a package of congruent and mutually reinforcing measures as well as some essential specifics.

Presidential powers

The Presidency should be truly empowered with some key powers transferred from the PM and the Cabinet to the President. These should include governance of the Armed Forces and the BGB, the discretion and power to conduct binding referendums on constitutional changes (proposed by the legislature) or other matters of vital national interest, and appointment and disposal of the members of key constitutional institutions like the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Presidential elections

To make the newly configured presidency truly effective, the president should be elected by popular vote in a direct national election, not as currently selected by parliament. The presidential election should be held midway through a mandate by parliament. To guard against an abusive presidency, the parliament should be empowered to conduct a binding referendum to remove the president.

Fair proportional representation in parliament

Third, instead of the current constituency level election system for the parliament, number of seats in parliament for a political party should be based upon the percentage of votes received nationally by the party (not electoral alliance).

This will serve several key purposes. It will ensure strong presence of a true opposition (not like the current government selected one) in parliament, reduce incentive as well as opportunity to rig elections at the constituency level, make election alliances less effective thus allowing the major parties to free themselves from their current extremist partners and to be more conciliatory, make an absolute parliamentary majority for a party quite difficult ("Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", Lord Acton), and make a ruling party or coalition more accountable (may lose governance power with loss of confidence in the parliament on key legislations including the budget).

Constraining anti-Liberation ideologies

If an individual currently belongs to or previously belonged to a party that opposed the 1971 Liberation Struggle, then the individual cannot be a Member of Parliament, Minister, Supreme Court Judge or the President without a legally binding affidavit that it was a grievous mistake for the party to do so at the time, and that the party unconditionally apologises for its anti-liberation stance and role.

This should help ameliorate, if not bring a closure, to the thorny issue of anti-liberation forces conspiring to thwart elections and restore the sanctity of the key offices of governance under all regimes.

Decentralisation of governance

Very importantly, governance should be meaningfully decentralised by delegating broad powers to a mezzanine local level, such as the district (and Municipal Corporation for major urban centres).

Three key areas of targeted decentralisation should be management and oversight of government contracts and projects / public works including infrastructure under a threshold level, law enforcement (police only, not BGB or Armed Forces), and judicial affairs.

Three key local government offices (governor / city mayor, police chief, and public prosecutor) should be elected based on popular votes. In a similar fashion to the US system, these elections should be spaced out.

For example, the governors should be elected on the same polling date(s) as the presidency of the country, while the local police chief and public prosecutor should be elected at the time of general election for parliament.

Resources / funding allotted to local government should be on a per capita basis to minimise the influence of national politics, and to make local governance transparent and accountable.

Additionally, police forces in the country should have two parallel but congruent / transferable structures, such as national police and local police. To aid quality control, effective coordination and cost control, local police forces should be drawn from the national police force, once again on a per capita basis.

Very importantly, however, the local police force should report to and be under the command of the elected local police chief. The national police force will continue to be centrally administered by the ruling national regime, and will look after national security and intelligence issues, and coordinate law enforcement efforts across the local government jurisdictions.

Together these decentralisation schemes should meaningfully distribute and diversify the countrywide governance powers among competing parties. Due to the local management of public resources, the economic dividends of governance that drive much of the quest for gaining and maintaining governance power by any means, will be better distributed among the competing parties as well as non-party citizens serving their local residents.

Since party activists and hooligans would no longer be able to seek assured refuge along the entire chain of administration, law enforcement, and judiciary, political parties will find it difficult to entice, use, and retain them for perpetrating unlawful acts while in or out of national governance.

In this context, it is worth noting that the judiciary is undone if the proper enforcement of law fails. Thus, strangely enough for Bangladesh, an independent judiciary is neither necessary nor sufficient, but preferred nonetheless.

To conclude, the essence of the package of reforms outlined above is a meaningful and democratic redistribution of the powers involved in governance up to the presidency and down to the mezzanine level (district / major municipality) of local government.

Importantly, this does not require an interim non-partisan / caretaker government – apparently the thorniest divide between the Honourable Jananetri and the Honourable Deshnetri. As such, the two leaders may after all agree to the package of reforms.

Mo Chaudhury, Ph.D., is a Professor of Practice in Finance at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

একাত্তরের মার্চ

২০১৫ স্বাধীনতা দিবসের শুভেচ্ছা জানিয়ে, মাহতাব চৌধুরী

মার্চ ২৬, ২০১৫

একাত্তরের মার্চ

হৃদয়ের নিভৃত পল্লীতে কেঁদে ফিরে এক আশা
কবে আসবে ফিরে একাত্তরের সেই মার্চ,
২রা মার্চের সেই রৌদ্র করোজ্জ্বল সকাল
কলা ভবনের পশ্চিম আঙ্গিনায় যখন আমরা ছিলেম এক
এক জাতি, এক জনতা, একই পতাকার নীচে অপ্রতিরোধ্য স্ফুলিঙ্গ
ছিলনা গুগল ফেইসবুক সমাচার, ছিল প্রান স্পন্দনের অভেধ্য বন্ধন
ছিলনা দামী জুতোর্ চকচকে আস্ফালন, ছিল আমাদের নগ্ন পায়ের বলিষ্ঠ চলা

-- মাহতাব চৌধুরী

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Facing Cricket Loss to India

Mo Chaudhury

Facing India with our loss

March 21, 2015
Bangladesh bowler Taskin Ahmed (R) celebrates with teammate Shakib Al Hasan (L) after Al Hasan caught out India's Ajinkya Rahane

Bangladesh bowler Taskin Ahmed (R) celebrates with teammate Shakib Al Hasan (L) after Al Hasan caught out India's Ajinkya Rahane

Bangladeshis, in Bangladesh and worldwide, are deeply traumatised and tormented by the refereeing decisions or lack thereof in the Quarter Final loss to India in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. This commentary recommends ways to better deal with this adversity and to better channel the outrage.

First and foremost, do not allow the negativity of the loss to cloud the gallant positivity of the best ever performance of the Tigers in the world cup and the record setting back to back tons of Mahmudullah Riyad, the first ever Bangladeshi and only a few cricket stars ever to do so in a world cup. By this world cup, the glass is more than half full (less than half empty) for the Tigers. I am sure most Bangladeshis feel that way deep down but are temporarily conflicted by an engulfing sense of indignation about arguably controversial refereeing. The sooner the resentment, however justifiable, gives way to the joy of the proudest ever moment, the better it is for the nation and for the valiant Tigers.

Being sad is emotionally natural, but being mad is nationally counterproductive. It has taken years of hard work for the Tigers and the support of many external friends and experts to make their ways into the prestigious echelons of world cricket. It will be a pity if an overreaction in the form of blanket allegations and name calling end up raising questions about our professional maturity, and hurting and straining our external network of support. Burning bridges with unchecked reactions can hardly be a prudent long-term strategy. The world cricket infrastructure is unlikely to be shaken or even dented significantly by our say, at least at this time. Therefore, the sooner pragmatism takes over anger, the better it is for Bangladesh. In this context, Tigers Captain Mashrafe Mortaza has led by example to exhibit high professionalism and leadership by maintaining his composure and not being critical about refereeing in public.

Hold our head high but more importantly straight. As the reality dawns and the emotions subside, most Bangladeshis would realise and recognise that India is historically a powerhouse in world cricket and this year's Indian team is simply outstanding. Instead of translating our disappointment into hatred for Indian dominance in world cricket, a more professional perspective is to admire India's superb performance in this world cup so far and to congratulate them. Setting aside the refereeing decisions that went to India's favour (against Bangladesh), we have to be honest enough to admit that we were also outplayed purely cricket wise and that no so unexpectedly, and this Indian team has won all of their other games without any noticeable controversy.

Admiring the best is not a weakness or a submission/yielding to power politics, it in fact is instrumental in advancing toward that ultimate level. This in no way compromises or diminishes our love for the Tigers and pride in their performance best. It only shows that our best needs to get better, else our potentially greater achievements in future would stall. India was not always the dominant cricket house that it is now, it has struggled and persevered hard since the colonial days, the aftermath of which kept lingering though the colonial attitude long thereafter. In the days to come, Bangladesh will be better off learning a few things from India's cricket history and this Indian team's consistent and extraordinary performance.

India is our friend in independence and a large and influential country we are geographically confined by. Its democracy and rising economic power are admired, appreciated, and sought after globally. It will be utterly suicidal for the Bangladeshis to unfriend such a strategically important and unavoidable neighbour on any grounds, let alone a cricket competition. It is good that our political leaders have so far restrained from their usually callous remarks and their typical "foreign conspiracy" speech on any matter. But it is the historic friendship between the two people that has fomented the strong inter-state relationship through geopolitical cycles. Bangladeshis should thus exercise utmost restraint in venting their emotional distress of the moment by hurling offensive and abusive adjectives toward the Indians as a people. As always, there are some graceless winners, in this case some Indians, but we can take the high grounds without being sour losers. This way, in defeat in the cricket battle, we may win the war of global admiration as a people of decency and courage.

Having said that, it is also an opportune time to critically assess the much wider and deeper issue of the pervasiveness of Indian influence in the daily lives of Bangladeshis. The sad reality is that many Bangladeshis, who are now mad at Indian dominance in cricket, prefer to listen to Indian music, watch Indian movies, wear Indian garments, follow Indian wedding ceremony rituals, and the list goes on. All Bangladeshis have every right to be exposed to India to such a massive extent and there is nothing wrong in and of itself, except that we do not see any such reciprocal trend in anything.

Hence the pertinent question is why we prefer to do so. The answer is that our Indian friends are exceedingly good in everything and we, the Bangladeshis, are long ways from equalling them. Why? Because when, by preference or habit, we do not act as Bangladeshis as much as Indians do as Indians, we end up deterring the advancement of our own interests. To be clear, no Bangladeshi personally and consciously intends to inflict this detriment on our own products and services, our culture and our Bangladeshi and Bangali ways of life. Nonetheless we are and have been for long on the trajectory of self-destructing our indigenous selves, albeit inadvertently, unknowingly and collectively. Our own preferred choices are biased against ourselves and are diverting resources, program, partnership and promotional choices away from our own and from our best long term interests elsewhere.

Lest I am misconstrued, by no means I am advocating severance of trade with India or any unfriendly gesture. I am instead urging fellow Bangladeshis to promote our own first, not by decry or regulation, but by our own voluntary and patriotic choices. Friendship with and admiration for India and Indians do not have to be conditional on, or accompanied by, living and breathing the Indian way of life. Instead I am urging to learn from them, the way they feel comfortable in their own skin, the way they place India first in everything, little or big, privately or as a governance team.

One might duly raise the issue of English and western influence as well. And there is some merit to that as well. However, be mindful that India itself is actively adopting western practices. Furthermore, English is the international language and western knowledge, technology, capital, and trading venue are inevitably essential for the continued advancement of Bangladesh as a state, as these are for any nation.

To conclude, if we want to do something positive for the future of Bangladesh in cricket and all other spheres, we need to take the first step first, namely believe in, support and promote Bangladeshi state nationhood (Bangladeshi nationalism) and Bangali cultural nationhood (Bangali nationalism).

There are many spheres of our lives we only compete globally as a state, most notably cricket, business & economy, democracy, etc., and there are many spheres where we compete and need to survive as a linguistic and cultural group – notably music, literature, drama, film, cuisine, etc. Surely some may and would find political insinuation in my suggestion of dual nationalism, Bangladeshi and Bangali. But I beg the indulgence of those critics and all fellow Bangladeshis to rise above petty politics since no individual or political party has ownership of the nation or our national identity, we the people do, united together of course.

Joy Bangladesh! Joy Bangla!

Mo Chaudhury, Ph.D., is a Professor of Practice in Finance at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Jananetri and Deshnetri for all

Mo Chaudhury

Jananetri and Deshnetri for all

March 5, 2015
PM Sheikh Hasina (L) and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia (R). Photo:

PM Sheikh Hasina (L) and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia (R). Photo:

Since the 1971 Liberation War, has there ever been a more grievous time for the nation of Bangladesh than now? No. Previously the nation did have many moments of harrowing tragedy like the gruesome murders of its leaders and war heroes (most notably Bangabandhu and President Zia), the deadly famine of 1974 and the calamitous cyclones and floods, and the factory mishaps in Ashulia and Savar. But never before has the entire nation remained strangulated continuously for so long by gulping fear and insecurity, living and livelihood perilously incapacitated across the land, and yes, very regrettably, freedom of expression and democracy exiled from the very land that sacrificed three million of its own for this very cause.

There continues to be numerous structural analyses of why and how, including as usual the conspiracy theories drawing upon international geo-politics. But in the post-1991 Bangladesh, the truest of realities is that the buck ultimately stops at just two doors, that of the two transformational leaders who, between them, have presided over the launching of a modern Bangladesh into the global arena as an enviable emblem of a thriving economy, a tolerant democracy and a progressive society with astounding achievements most aptly and repeatedly certified by the likes of Professor Amartya Sen. Therefore, it seems most reasonable to humbly urge the two legendary leaders, the Honorable Jananetri (PM Sheikh Hasina) and the Honorable Deshnetri (Ex-PM Khaleda Zia), to look into the mirror and ask if they look like their true selves. Are they the ones that most deservedly earned the titles of Jananetri and Deshnetri? The ones that were once true to their titles by braving exacting family losses and insurmountable political odds to lead the people that they love and no less importantly their own personal heroes (Bangabandhu and President Zia) loved and led? Perhaps they did so in an apparently contrasting manner, yet ultimately for the same cause, namely that of the people of Bangladesh.

Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, you share the trait of unflinching determination. But would you not take a moment to re-evaluate if your positive determination to fight on for your personal governance philosophy has unknowingly degraded into negative inflexibility? It is surely injurious to your people, and places at risk your hard earned combined achievements, democratic and otherwise, over decades. Surely if the good of your people is your ends, should the means (for example, care-taker versus the PM-led election time government) mean exceedingly so much to you such as to inflict a permanent state of deadly deadlock upon your beloved electorate? You may not engage in a formal dialogue, but there is nothing there to prevent you from privately evaluating truly independent and non-partisan proposals that attempt to preserve the high dignity that both of you deserve because of your enormous contributions to this nation and the overwhelming popular support that you two together command.

Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, you share the trait of sharp political acumen, but would you not take a moment to re-evaluate if your current inflexibility is befitting of your past dynamism in strategically adapting to evolving circumstances? Both Bangabandhu and President Zia exhibited extraordinary and visionary statesmanship in re-building international relations with countries and organisations that favoured enemy forces in our Liberation War, but would later prove to be the most beneficial partners in the advancement of Bangladesh. Internally, wasn't it your strategic partnership and valiant united movement that paved the way for parliamentary democracy in the country in 1991 and then once more in 2007? May I dare to suggest that while this time it is a different set of circumstances, it is however, a direr situation for the people of Bangladesh than before? This is because the present crisis does not involve elimination of a third force. Instead, the mutual elimination of both of you or at least one of you is at stake, thus paving the way for the very third force that both of you have tirelessly persevered to deter in the greater interest of your people.

Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, the electoral popularity of your own two parties has traditionally been quite balanced, so much so that the margin of electoral victory has been razor thin in many seats for the parliament and accordingly for gaining the governance power. Perhaps in light of this fierce but healthy democratic competition, you found political wisdom in forming and leading respective electoral/political alliances. As far as this layman can see, both of you are centrists and have very little in common with your extremist (religious or political ideology-wise) partners, philosophically or by way of tradition. In the meantime, your extremist partners have exploited and leveraged your electoral need for alliance to such an exorbitant extent, it feels as if both of you have become their captives, unwilling as it may be. Very regrettably, in the process of political convenience for your own parties, the people that you desire to serve when elected are being held hostage by the extremists in your alliances.

Merging with the sycophants in your own parties, the extremists are glowing in their ugly success of making you travel paths and policies that are so vastly unlike your true selves and are disrespectful and demeaning, to say it most benignly, to the cherished ideals of your own heroes (Bangabandhu and President Zia) and the nation's Mukti Juddher Chetona. The most driving of which is the freedom of life and liberty for all, in all senses of the term. Affairs in Bangladesh, as envisioned by its cherished leaders and war heroes and its martyrs and freedom fighters, were to be conducted in the most tolerant manner, for the people and by the people, without recourse to force (applied by anyone including the party or the state machineries) and by peaceful persuasion. By 1971, the ordinary people of this land had already been robbed, victimised, and brutalised enough by the alien forces and local power brokers and collaborators. What is most painstaking now is that today's perpetrators are all of our own, in government or out of government. Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, haven't your people suffered enough for you to remain arrested by the extremists? Aren't the offensive smell of burnt corpses and the deafening silence of the anonymous bullets enough for you to finally part with your extremist partners, and listen to your inner compassionate selves and comply with the passionate plea of your ordinary citizens to soften your overtly hard but untenable stances?

Dear Jananetri and Deshnetri, on your current courses, one of you may win the battle of today, but surely both of you, and the nation along with you, will lose the war – the never-ending war of the people of Bangladesh against those aspiring to forcibly hold them prisoners in their own land, incapacitated to own and control the affairs of the republic they constitutionally own, and unable to live the most ordinary of lives with security and freedom. It is indeed time for you to be the Jananetri and the Deshnetri for all, and not just for your respective alliances.

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This entry was posted on March 5, 2015 at 3:20 pm and is filed under 1971, Democracy, Politics, Violence