The trials of Sheikh Hasina

Political trials in Bangladesh – Published on The Economist, Nov. 26, 2009.

MORE than 30 years after two Bangladeshi colonels flew to London to confess on television to having helped kill Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding president, the Supreme Court on November 19th rejected an appeal by five army officers convicted of the murder. The verdict was expected, but praised as an historic chance for politicians to bury their obsession with Bangladesh’s past and focus on the present. More likely, partisan pressure will keep the past alive … //

… The League also wants to revert to the 1972 constitution, enshrining the values—secularism, democracy, nationalism and socialism—on which Bangladesh’s independence struggle was based. The opposition BNP, a party with its roots in the army and allied to Jamaat during its 2001-06 rule, is livid.  

Its leader, Khaleda Zia, must fear that she could be the last representative of the political dynasty she heads. The BNP’s seat tally in parliament (29, down from 193 in 2001) has made the party almost irrelevant. Its hopes now rest on Mrs Zia’s firstborn, Tarique Rahman, long considered her heir apparent. This month, on Mr Rahman’s 45th birthday, Mrs Zia prayed for the safe return of her son, who is receiving medical treatment abroad. Mr Rahman’s supporters in Dhaka are already preparing to greet his return with mass adulation. One popular poster reads: “If Obama can be president at the age of 45, why not Tarique?” But he faces numerous charges of corruption, including laundering millions of dollars during his mother’s kleptocratic rule. That may well be yet another trial the League would be happy to take on. (full text).

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