«

»

Mar 24

Sheikh Hasina and her ‘foreign friends’:The drama

Ahead of the country’s Independence Day, Bangladesh has awarded another batch of around 69 individuals and organisations, including 13 from Pakistan on Sunday in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the Liberation War in 1971. They include Cuban revolutionary and former president Fidel Castro, former British prime minister the late Harold Wilson and former chief minister of West Bengal the late Jyoti Basu.
This was the sixth phase of awarding of foreign friends and organisations after conferring of ‘Bangladesh Freedom Honour’ posthumously on Indira Gandhi on July 25, 2011.
The President had been giving out these awards in the previous phases, but since Zillur Rahman died recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the ceremony as chief guest and handed over the honours. This time, 203 foreign friends were invited to receive the awards, but only 69 could attend or were represented by someone close to them. More than 200 ‘foreign friends’ have already being awarded the recognitions since the process began last year.
It is mentionable that such awards come at a time when the country is going through a difficult time in its history, notably in the human rights arena. In this regard it is mentionable that in recent weeks, more than a hundred people were killed in clashes that erupted after peaceful demonstrators were attacked and fired upon by security forces and ruling party cadres. The protesters have been demanding the unconditional release of Delwar Hossain Sayedee, who was given the death sentence on the 28th of February for his alleged role in perpetrating war crimes against the innocent Bengali population throughout the liberation war of 1971. His lawyers, along with a plethora of both international personalities and organizations such as HRW, Transparency International, Amnesty and the United Nations, have expressed their concern over recurring irregularities and demanded a fair and just trial for the accused.
To any keen eyed observer, it won’t require rocket science to understand motives of the government behind such awards, especially in light of recent events. The failures of this government have been sky high. It has set records in human rights abuses such as political killings, forced disappearances and oppression of the media and the political opposition. Prices of food and fuel have risen beyond people’s means and corruption has become part of the character of the service provider. Police have been used as a tool of oppression. Criminals have been provided impunity. The President has even pardoned the same criminal twice. 
If one looks at the trend over past weeks, one will realize that the political situation in the country has been going down a manhole. Foreign relations have deteriorated. The government has desperately tried to fight back the tide of its waning popularity, and has cooked up the ‘foreign friends’ drama as a result, even letting its anti-Pakistan mania/obsession lie below the radar for a bit. The hollowness of such awards is evident considering that even today, Bangladesh is host to many freedom fighters who are still subject to discrimination; who still live in destitution; whose families still reside in dilapidation.  Its high time the government of Sheikh Hasina sets aside such self serving interests and listens to the voice of people for a change.