By: Kazi Muinur Rahman
Insanity is when you keep doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting
different outcomes. And the current state of affairs in Dhaka and Bangladesh, seem to make
me think that we are going insane. No one seem to have learned. Killing people because their
opinions differ from their own, has never really worked. Consider our liberation war.
In 1971, the Pakistanis decided to slaughter us because we did not agree with the way
that our country should be administered. Then we had a numerous coups and unitary
governmental rules. Each time the people in power tried to impose their opinions on the
people of the government, and they ruthlessly crushed dissent. IT DID NOT WORK!
History has proven time and time again that coercion, threats and bullying does not
work in the end, because at some point people reach a point where they fight back. When
they fight back, things can go down hill so quickly that people can be caught off-guard. The
longer people try to cling to power, the more obsessed they become with it. The more
obsessed they become the harder it becomes for them to accept the changes that take place.
The harder it becomes for them to accept the changes, they become more blinkered
with their own self-interest. And when that happens, we are looking down the barrel of a
shot-gun. Shot-gun peace, like shot-gun marriages, do not last long. It is not a solution, but
merely a patch-up — a very poor one at that. When people are cornered into situation like
these, they grudgingly accept the decision of the people who hold the shot-gun. But they do
not forget. Sooner or later the hand that holds the gun gets tired — when that happens the
people who have been at the end of the shot-gun fight back.
Nothing has lasted forever — not the Islamic Caliphate, not the British Empire, not the
Spanish Empire and not Rome. This means that control, in the grand scheme of things is
only temporary. Given that it is temporary, holding it should be a privilege. When people hold
it as a privilege, and willingly share it with people, even with people whose opinions they
disagree with, it gives people the hope that they can have their say at some point.
However, shutting them down and closing the path to success for vested interests means
that every time there is a change in the administration, there is a massive cull in the arms of
the executive and the judiciary who have acted to promote the interests of the people in
Insanity seems to run in the blood of our people. We have forgotten that the reason that
we became part of Pakistan was because we were considered to be a land for the Muslims.
Even though we became a nation of muslim brother, our ethic and social differences were too
difficult for the thick-headed rulers of Pakistan to handle. They were willing to support
democracy, if it suited them. But the whole idea of democracy is that you have to accept the
will of the people EVEN WHEN we disagree with the decision of the people.
However, accepting a decision does not mean that we lose our right to decent. Decent is
a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Humans like to disagree with each other,
because that allows us to engage with other people. The contradiction of the human
condition is that even though we like to disagree with people, we do not WANT people to
disagree with us.
Panic and fear have never solved the challenges that we have faced in our life. Security
is important but people will only feel safe when they know that they cannot get away with
impunity for their acts of violence against other people.
When the powerful prey on the meek, it is the obligation of the Executive arm of the
Government to protect them. Although it may not be feasible for the authorities to provide
security to each and every individual, the people of the county should not feel afraid to bring
an issue to the attention of the authorities when they face a problem.
The Police and the Courts have a bad reputation in our country. They do have an
impossible job. They are under resourced and over-worked, yet the people constantly expect
them to do things for them. From my personal experience, I can say that the general public
will turn against the Police the moment they think their self-interest is at stake. No matter
what happens, the office of the institution of the State should and must be respected.
But that means that they have to respect the general public as well. I remember one
evening I was purchasing cigarettes around 1 a.m. I had the misfortune to have interacted
with a Police officer because at that moment he was very excitable. It took an inordinate
amount of patience to ensure that I did not upset the Officer, even though I did not do
How do we change the current state of affairs? First, we need to promote the fact that
people are entitled to their opinions — even if we do not agree with them. We may be a
Muslim majority country, but there are minorities in our State. These people have the same
rights as the majority. Every time an individual from the minorities get assaulted or
victimized, it is a mark of shame on our national conscience.
The people of Bangladesh fought back to protect the rights of the oppressed minority —
the non-Pakistanis. That is the thing that we should never forget.
Second, we need to try to remedy the deficit of trust in the Institutions of Bangladesh.
In order to achieve this, we need to obtain resources that will equip the people who hold these
offices to carry out their duties more effectively. When authority is linked to an office, the
office should be sacrosanct. People should not be able to overrule things because it is merely
inconvenient. The opinions of all people should be heard, but at the same time once a
decision has been reached people have to fulfill their duties — even though they may disagree
with the decision.
Finally, we need to allow the people to express their will. Even if we do not like the
decision.When people feel that their expressions are represented in the Parliament, they are
less willing to accept fundamentalists opinions. When regular elections are held, people tend
to realize that when people use threat of violence or brutality to gain power — there is NO
GUARANTEE that these people STOP using their violent means when they get to power.
When people are not inclined to talk to people to convince them of their opinions, it generally
bodes ill because it means that these people really do not have a clue of what they are doing.
So, please allow these people to talk and to engage. But at the same time — demonstrate that
threat of violence or violence should not be the primary factor for people to attain power.
When we can establish that people will feel safe and support the administration.