This is a straight cut and paste from The Weekly Holiday periodical from Dhaka published on Friday 7th November 2014, which has no indexing facility. It is an important, though hardly technical, analysis of a significant power outage in Bangladesh one week ago. Power outages are fairly common place in Bangladesh, but this one highlighed the strategic vulnerability regarding interconnectivity with India.
It also spoke symbolically about the actuality of Bangladesh's independence today and every day since it was acheived with the resources and initiative of the Indian Armed Forces nearly 43 years ago. It is Bangladesh's unfortunate national riddle, The Liberation Mortgage, and it is hard to speak openly and publically investigate dues to its powerful Liararchical Structure.
The politics of the blackout unfold in Bangladesh amongst the current regime's beneficiaries and victims, but more interesting would be India's working goals given their dubious higlighting of JMB and the pace of execution verdicts delivered last week.
If the action actually was purposeful and from India, it would constitute and act of war.
Structural damages to bleed the nation for generations
M. Shahidul Islam
Not all damages are repairable. A slew of structural damages are set
to bleed the nation of Bangladesh for generations. Precedents have been
anchored that elections can be arbitrary, non-inclusive and devoid of
voters' participation while democracy can be defined as the will of the
In economics, best interest of the nation can be sacrificed to satisfy
the hunger of a regional hegemon while the rule of law can mean one
thing for the ruling coterie and quite another for the rest.
still, the definition of power politics has undergone a tectonic shift;
the mainstay of domestic power now hinging on the inconsiderate backing
of an external hegemon that applies one set of rule within (democracy)
and quite a different set to its weaker neighbours.
Sovereignty at stake
Bangladesh's sovereignty is now at stake. In economic diplomacy,
sovereignty is circumvented in the realm of a perception that must be
prophesized only, not upheld. Starved of the input to produce
electricity, our powerful neighbour can get the input (gas) from
Bangladesh, produce electricity and sell it back to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, must not use its input to produce
electricity and sell it to India, if requested.
But follies and selling off has a price tag that comes to hound time and
again. That is what had happened lately. Burnt by the lesson of a
12-hour long power shut down across the country last Saturday,
Bangladeshis now mull helplessly why and how this could happen.
Reliable reports claim a failure in India caused the disruption which
affected all the existing grids and transmissions in Bangladesh. If
true, this also denotes that the entire electricity transmission system
of Bangladesh has been linked with India without someone knowing much
about it, or keeping mum for mysterious reasons.
Source of power
The source of the failure was across the border in India, according to a
BBC report that had quoted an Indian official. This begs another
question: how this dependency on Indian electricity matured so much in
the first place.
According to available literature, it followed from an inconsiderate
deal struck in January 2010 during PM Sheikh Hasina's visit to India,
resulting in the setting of 130 km power transmission that had connected
Behrampur of India with Bheramara in Bangladesh. Under the deal, India
agreed to supply 250 MW of power to Bangladesh with the provision of
another 200 MW to be supplied on Bangladesh's special need.
The deal also encompassed a joint venture scheme between India's
state-owned National Thermal Power Cooperation and Bangladesh Power
Development Board to set up a coal-fired power plant in Khulna to
produce1320 MW of power that can be transferred back to India through a
transmission link to be set up by Power Grid Corporation of India
The sordid lessons of last Saturday notwithstanding, the dependency on
India is increasing further as Dhaka strives to get another100 MW
electricity from the ONGC-run 726.6 MW Palatana gas-run power plant set
up lately in Tripura for which equipments were transported through
Bangladesh (without paying tax) and the gas too will flow from
Bangladesh. A new transmission line is being installed that will run for
12 miles within Bangladesh to connect with the 22 miles-long Indian
transmission line to bring electricity to greater Comilla region. Simply
put: Bangladesh is looped, scooped and spooked from all directions.
In these three projects, environment-spoiler coal-generated power plant
is set to be based in Khulna while less harmful gas-generated plant went
to Tripura. That's not all: sources of power remain in India near the
Bheramara transmission link as well as near the Agartala border. It's
our gas that will produce electricity for us in the foreign soil. What a
pity! Is that how we have learnt to define national interest?
The nation is immersed in a cloak and dagger theatric and the Bheramara
shut down seems like a testing-testing gaming to see how effective the
dependency on India is. Pending to an investigation reportedly being
conducted by the very people in charge of putting the deal and its
execution in motion, nothing much is known as of now. Yet, the fact that
all the existing power grids and transmission linkages within
Bangladesh collapsed in what seemed like a cascading effect is very
worrying. Is our entire electricity transmission system integrated with
the Indian system? We wonder.
While the possibility of that being the case is very strong, an answer
is not expected to be forthcoming from a regime that sees no harm to the
country's national security due to such unexpected disruption coming
from a neighbor which is touted as a 'trusted friend.'
But trust without verification can lead to dreadful spectacles. Already
perennial power failure is bleeding the economy to the tune of $1
billion a year, reducing the GDP growth by about half a percentage
point, according to studies. If major disruption of similar nature can
be affected frequently from outside the border, one must be convinced
that our national security will have been punctured irreparably through
irrecoverable economic damages.
And, this will occur at a time when the total transmission and
distribution losses amount to one-third of the total generation; the
value of which is over US $247 million per year, according to a World
As well, why should Bangladesh depend on India for electricity when
India remains gas-starved and over 80 natural gas wells in Bangladesh
produce over 2000 m cubic feet of gas per day (MMCFD) to help produce
over three-quarters of the nation's commercial energy; besides catering
for around 40% of the power plant feedstock, 17% of industries, 15% of
captive power, 11% of domestic and household usage, 11% of fertilizer
production, and, 5% of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) output.
Bangladesh's commercial energy consumption being mostly natural-gas
-depended (around 80%) -- followed by oil, hydropower and coal, how
does gas-drenched India fits into this equation is a conundrum that must
be answered soon.
We feel the nation has 'ascended the back of a rowdy camel,' to
paraphrase poet laureate Shamsur Rehman, and, the policies of the AL-led
regime have made the nation, its economy, national security and the
sovereignty vulnerable to external manipulations.
Despite per capita energy consumption in Bangladesh being as yet one of
the lowest (321 kWH) in the world fire wood fuel, animal waste and crop
residues accounting for over half of the country's energy consumption
remains the major source of power for most of the economic activities.
The vulnerability to economic independence and national security hence
looms large if this vital sector is tied with India from all directions.
Before the situation gets worse, it will be wise to rethink the options
available for energy security and ward off all the perceivable and real
vulnerabilities stemming from across the border. This is more important
because, although installed electric generation capacity has reportedly
reached 10,289 MW in January 2014, only three-fourth of that is
available for consumption and only about 62% of the population has
access to electricity, as of now.
This is a serious national security matter too. From Delhi's
perspective, energy connectivity with Bangladesh is laced with national
security considerations which Bangladesh seems not to recognize. Delhi
thinks, Bangladesh dominates the lines of communication with the
north-eastern states of India and interconnecting the national grids in
India with those in Bangladesh can enable transfer of economically
viable power to various energy starved parts of Assam, Mizoram, Tripura
and other north-eastern Indian states.
Added to Delhi's desire to use Bangladesh as a corridor to ferry goods
and military hard wares to insurgency-infested seven north eastern
states, the power connectivity scheme has become something indispensible
to Delhi. This reality, however, got overshadowed when Bangladesh's
present government was made to believe that, since it brings electricity
to the western part of the country from the east, it should bring from
across the border in India.
Our national interest guides us to opposite direction: an integrated
energy scheme with India is not an answer to Bangladesh's energy
afflictions. Rather, a viable energy policy for Bangladesh will be not
to bank too much on connectivity with India alone.
Instead, sucking in bulk foreign investment in the energy sector to help
the economy sustain and grow further shall be the focus. As well, the
economy must be integrated fully with the full potential of the power
sector. To do that, the rate of investment must be increased to 34-35
percent of the GDP from the existing 28 percent to ensure persistent 7
percent annual growths.
Quite the opposite is happening now. Instead of seeking ways and means
to attract more FDI in the sector, obsessive cronyism has choked off
domestic investment too; taka 25,000 crores already having washed away
from the four state owned banks to loyalist defaulters while FDI in the
most lucrative power sector still hovering below $1 billion due to
reckless hobnobbing with a neighbor which is considered a competitor by
most of the desirous Western energy companies.
The energy policies sunk into further chaos due to taka 32,000 crores
subsidy being doled out annually to the quick rental power plants set up
under partisan patronization of the power that be. The sector is
infested with cronyism, corruption and heinous conspiracy to wipe out
anyone critical of the scheme, like the murder of journalist couple
All these realities are parts of an overall structural damage of the
nation and its fabrics which succeeding regimes might find impossible to
mend. It's also alarming to know that India had proposed to set up
another 1,000 MW liquefied natural gas terminal in Bangladesh to open up
Bangladesh's gas market to Indian private sector while increased demand
on gas is likely to drench Bangladesh of this veritable resource within
a decade or so, unless new fields are discovered and explored using
Lest we forget, it is on such considerations that the previous BNP
regime said no in 2003 to Indian request for gas import from Bangladesh.
Many still wonder whether that decision has had anything to do with the
BNP's lingering and painful plight toward oblivion.
The Government of Bangladesh has seized momentum from the recent death of Ghulam Azam to advance its War Crimes Trials Agenda on the remaining leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. In recent days former Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami and media pioneer Mir Quasem Ali have been given death sentences. Perhaps most tragically, the reformist Muhammad Kamarazzaman's appeal was quashed and he looks likely to be executed soon, in time for the ruling party's National Independence Day celebration.
A Rare Reformer
I haven't met any of the Jamaat official leadership, but Kamarazzaman is one figure I would like to . Last year I wrote about his Strategy for Change, a lengthy document circulated among Jamaat's leadership, rejected, then leaked by supporters. Weirdly, its one of this 10 year old site's most read posts.
The Strategy recommends a number of measures to lift the party, rather its interpretation of the socio-political cause of Islam to a better situation. Written before the Arab Sting, it seems very inspired by Turkey's AKP experience, as Shah Abdul Halim narrates on a Muslim Brotherhood blog, It engages with party nepotism, clearing out 1971 era dinosaurs and social shrapnel, demands that the party cease manipulating its student wing and proposes organisational gender justice. Personally, I'd like to know more about how a new party would implement and maintain the social justice focus his writes of and steer clear of narrowing shariah politics.
A short analysis of the charges and evidences brought against Kamarazzaman can be found on the Kaagoj blog collective, which is sympathetic to the politics of the accused. The BBC's Sabir Mustafa, (an ex Daily Star hack) is maintaining an editorial line in favour of the Government of Bangladesh as we saw throughout his cover up of the massacre of protesters in Dhaka last May. David Bergman, whose white privilege works differently, has organised court transcripts and his own analysis on his war crimes blog, and the original court judgement can be accessed here.
The Problem of Knowing
The conditions for knowing (reliably and exactly) what happened during the Bangladesh war year do not exist. This is no thanks to the gravity of the Bengali Nationalist motanarrative and the epistemic autism of its victims, but also the failure of Jamaat-e-Islami's misleadership to honour the public's right to know their detailed side to the story, and the stories of their own dead. The public sphere is closed to empathy for situational environment for 'loyalist' auxilliaries to the late East Pakistan.
It is really hard to know what really happened, even if you want to as the assemblage of institutions, informations, human's and knowledge supply chains perpetuates dubiosity. I'm not saying that everybody needs to eat themselves up over this, but some need to investigate thoroughly, against the grain.
On the other hand, crimes are committed, selectively remembered, represented and mobilised with deadly and debilitating political effects, like we saw on 28th February and 5-6th May 2013.
Advocates of the 'these trials are fine, messy, but fine, line of thinking' which dominates the small and inbred elite establishment voice in Bangladesh commonly argue that there needs to be justice for the victims as well as the alleged perpetrators. This may be a rhetorical tool, but there are many who are sincere who hold this line and the legalistic and lobbying defence doesn't touch the core of the matter, which is ' If you didn't kill X , then who did? what was your role?'
One of the terrible events Kamrazzaman stands accused and condemned for is the case of the Shohagpur massacre. We might connect the event with the war machine operating in the area and time, comprising the Lt Col Sultan Ahmad's Army garrison at Jamalpur, the army riverbank killings at Shashan Ghat on 21 June, and the Mukti Bahini attack on Capt Ahsan Malik's Kamalpur border outpost on 31st July.
This is not Dhaka, or the beginning and end of the Dhaka-centric experience of the war, it is north Bangladesh, and the middle of the monsoon near the borderlands. Its not the suffering of the globalised urban elite, it is the forgotten rural poor.
Born on 4th July 1952, the condemned is just a few months older than Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. He would have just turned 19 at the time of the 25th July/10th Srabon Shohagpur Massacre. He wasn't to finish his A-level equivalents until 1972, before graduating in 1974 and completing a masters in Journalism at Dhaka University in 1976.
Years ago, establishment columnist and 1971 film maker Afsan Choudhury wrote a piece on Shohabag, which he first visited in 2000 after UBINIG's Farida Akhter's efforts to highlight the truly awful and continuing plight of the village of widows whose 120 menfolk were massacred at dawn, and who suffered all sorts of deprivation.
Kamarazzaman is absent from the scene recreated by the journalist who focuses instead on a local quack Kader Daktar, who, enraged at miscreants raiding his storehouse full of ill-gotten items, took out his vengeance on the villagers by playing the War on Terror card of those times, reporting them to the local Pakistani garrison ( presumably connected with Jamalpur headed by Baloch 31 Regiment's CO Lt Col Sultan Ahmad )
Absence in previous accounts is a recurring theme in this tribunal, but one which is summarily dismissed by the jurisprudence upon which it runs. Hasan Iqbal, the son of the condemned made the point today, that no book on the subject before 2011 includes the name of Kamarazzaman in connection to this shaytanic event. Indeed, this absence can be noted when googleing around the usual areas of knowledge production, of mukto mona and uttor shuri. Given this, the vulnerability of witnesses to prosecution inducement suggestion and manipulation, and the degree of influence that a 19 year old could have on such a situation even if they were in the fray, and it requires a leap of faith or calousness to assign Kamrazzaman command responsibility and guilt for genocide.
Because the tribunals are so singularly about destroying the current leadership of Jamaat, they do not connect with the ebb and flow of the war and the two (main) military establishments experiences of the place. Unless these knowledges are interacted, reconciliation and understanding will be incomplete. Without accounts from the JI accused's experience, how might their presumed guilt be unproven to the court of kangaroos?
Don't talk to me about heroes
At the time of the massacre, there was Mukti Bahin and Pakistani auxiliary activity in the area, but the Indian account, so far that I can tell, doesn't really attribute much effectiveness to Mukti operations at this time (July). Much later however, banter between Indian and Pakistani commanding officers at the siege of Jamalpur garrison in December, reproduced here, is relevant. MachoPaks extoll Sultan Ahmad as an 'unsung hero' for 'fighting talk', despite his post cowardly escape 'gallantry award'. I think it points out a key lead and potential villain.
Just like in Sarmila Bose's multiple angle account of a handful of war situations, the precision, arrogance and helicopter bragishness of military accounts, stands in sharp contrast with the narrative of human sorrow of the survivors. It is really unfair, but legal epistemologies (sorry) privilege the most established and familiar forms of knowing, mitigating the weird, the alarming and strengthening the powerful.
So my questions for now are.
What kind of investigation is possible in Shohagpur?
What to Farida Akhtar and Afshan Choudhury have to say?
When will Bengali Nationalists officially be able to bear razakar historiographies?
Fratricide + Politicide = 0?
Most people will not have heard of Kamarazzaman before these tribunals started because he was never picked out as a specific figure of hatred. This is because of the underlying intention of the tribunal,revealed by its rough sampling strategy of pin the crime on the Jamaati. However, there is something more holistic going on if we consider the capabilities, psychic impact and public perception of each individual. Given supportive public pronouncements and actions from the Awami League government and its supporters, the term politicide is very appropriate.
Late Ghulam Azam was singled out by the Shahriar Kabir and the Nirmul Committee in 1992 as he and his party decided that his leadership would be a good idea given his seniority during the Bangladesh war. Delwar Hussain Sayeedi, who it transpired wasn't even in the Jamaat party during the war, was targeted by BRAC's Asif Saleh and his now defunct Drishtipat "Human Rights" organisation, to align the Islamophobic UK press with the Awami League's political imperative to disarm Jamaat's most charismatic connector and mover of the masses.
Nizami and Mujahid's inclusion in Khaleda Zia's cabinet and reportedly good individual performances as ministers for Agriculture, Industry and Social Welfare must have provided strong motivation amongst the disgruntled urban elite. In the case of Mir Quasem Ali, his innovative Diganta media outfit challenged the idea that Islamists were destined to remain poorly presented and inarticulate in this media driven age. That was until the TV station was shut down on the morning of the May 6th Massacre.
It seems to me that it is Kamarazzaman's reformative approach to political practice, frustrated by internal opposition that completes the sense of politicide of Jamaat. Contrary to some opinion, the personality-cult politics of Bangladesh does operate in its biggest Islamist party and it is unfortunate for him, his family, party and the general society that it is doing him wrong. He presented a transformational option with Strategy for Change a continuing good deed proportional its eventual unfolding, inshAllah.