Secular Benefits for Bangladesh

It is never easy to take a balanced position in politics, and Bangladesh is no exception! The land has a history of confluence of diverse influences and faiths. Political consciousness is a very Bengali trait. The birth of Bangladesh was political by nature, and extended beyond its own borders by concept. This places the Awami League in a special position. This political party was formed by a person who was central in the very formation of the nation. It continues to be effectively a preserve of the immediate family of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Bangladesh is yet to make up its mind on the issue of secularism. There are important variations between the original reason for this territory to seek independence from Pakistan, and some important currents in the country today. The majority of
Bangladesh citizens are Muslims
. Sizeable numbers of people see connections between their faith and affairs of State. The matter affects the giant neighbor India, because many people in Bangladesh see key Indian policies to be against their own interests.

Though the Awami League has an unbroken record of public service, it has had to deal with the evolution of freedom in the country. Democracy is a reality in Bangladesh, but there have been spells of dictatorship in-between as in Pakistan. The image which the country presents to the world is therefore mixed and affects external participation in its development. 2005 was a watershed year in the sense that it was a year in which the head of a major Indian industrial house visited Bangladesh with grandiose plans for investments. Nothing has come of this, and it has been Bangladesh rather than the Tatas who have walked out of the arrangement. No other industrial group from any country has stepped in to fill Mr. Ratan Tata’s shoes, while the Tatas have chosen instead to invest heavily in the Indian State of West Bengal.

What happens to the jobs and revenue lost? Should Bangladesh rest content with a Nobel Prize for micro-credit? Will the euphoria over French footballer Zidane’s trip make up for the arid industrial landscape of Bangladesh, and its dismal economic prospects? Today’s global environment needs a strong business approach to national development. This is simply impossible in an insecure and fundamentalist environment. India’s race ahead of Pakistan is a clear case in point!

The Awami League has as crucial a role to play in the Bangladesh of today, as it did even before the country was born. It is a torch bearer for the secular and humane values which impelled the territory and its people to seek sovereign status in the first place!