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Bangladesh Army-backed government detains ex-prime minister

Bangladesh's leaders now are holding two former prime ministers, and myriad other politicians, in custody.

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In a front-page commentary, Bangladesh's Daily Star blames Zia for failing to clean up politics after winning a landslide election victory in 2001. Newspaper editor Mahfuz Anam writes that Zia's unassailable position in parliament should have allowed her to punish corrupt politicians, overhaul the economy, and reach out to her opponents. Instead, she oversaw a deepened political polarization and culture of systematic graft that deterred foreign investors.

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It is amazing how little concern was expressed for the issue of corruption and how little was done to investigate the thousands of corruption stories that the media relentlessly published. Instead of finding out the culprits, it was the media that were accused of deliberately maligning the image of the country. Whether or not Khaleda Zia was personally corrupt the courts will decide. But the fact that she tolerated it and did absolutely nothing to either fight corruption or even to raise it as a matter of concern, are now a matter of record.
Now that Khaleda Zia is in custody we will insist that she be given all the protection of law and rights guaranteed by the constitution, especially since she has been twice our elected prime minister. Yet today we cannot but feel deeply sorry for the magnificent opportunity she wasted. Instead of giving us a Bangladesh of unity and growth she left us in a mire worse than the one when she came to power.

The Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates takes a more skeptical view of the interim government's actions in a commentary titled "Who Wins in Bangladesh?" The editorial says Bangladesh's legal process lacks transparency and is more concerned with settling political scores than restoring genuine democracy.

The parliamentary elections are still a matter of speculation. The promise is that it will be held before the end of next year. Chances are that the military-backed dispensation will carry on with its acts for more time. Some are worried whether the democratic process will be restored at all in Bangladesh, one of the few Muslim countries to have prided themselves with the system of popularly-elected governments. Uncertainty is very much in the air.

The Times of India reports that the Indian government is calling for a quick return to democracy in Bangladesh. Reacting to Zia's arrest Monday, India’s Ministry for External Affairs called for the "early and full restoration of democracy" in Bangladesh for the first time since emergency rule was declared in January, according to the Times. It said recent street clashes between protesters and security forces – and Bangladesh’s reaction to them – had tipped India’s hand.

It is the first rap on the knuckles of the caretaker government in Dhaka, which many feel is getting too complacent with the situation. India would have gone along with the situation if stability had been the reigning force.
But after last week's riots ... India sees a dangerous slide in the situation.
India has also not taken kindly the suggestions in Bangladeshi newspapers alleging that Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee had met opposition politicians, or veiled remarks in Bangladesh that India was behind the student unrest last week.
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