The Times Editorial (June 19, 1980)
Bangladesh was born but of Indian intervention and Pakistani inability to keep together two parts of a country that was divided by everything but the religion that was deemed to have. brought the country into being. The severance of East Pakistan and its emergence as Bangladesh was celebrated as a political and cultural liberation. For a short time, Shaikh Mujibur Rahman was the cheerleader of an ill-founded enthusiasm: there was no political way out for a “golden Bengal” that could make no sense of its cruel statistics. Land, people and food could not match needs, even without the constant intrusion of natural disasters. After Shaikh Mujib’s assassination in 1975 what the country desperately needed was less politics, less corruption, more efficient administration and a proper grasp of inescapable economic priorities.
By and large, President Ziaur Rahman has led the country away from false hopes and point-less quarrels. In doing so he has won a national following such as none of the other military rulers in Asia has achieved.The Times Editorial, June 19, 1980
By and large, President Ziaur Rahman has led the country away from false hopes and point-less quarrels. In doing so he has won a national following such as none of the other military rulers in Asia has achieved. He has formed a government party and held elections and has done this without the evidence of military force to back him such as still hangs around his namesake in Pakistan or President Suharto in Indonesia. Nor does he go in for the socialist theorizing that has hampered General Ne Win in Burma or the Islamic intolerance that has lost support for General Zia in Pakistan. If Bangladesh is going to save itself by its exertions it has more prospects of doing so while President Zia rules. For that reason alone he deserves such assistance and advice as he seeks in his present visit to Britain.
Nevertheless, as he has certainly been told in his discussions in the past few days, there is no way out but self-help for a country facing Bangladesh’s problems. Where the basic problems are food production and control of population no amount of economic aid from outside can transform the society. That must be done from within. President Zia is certainly doing this with his programme to galvanize village life and concentrate the minds of all the country’s 88 million people on the immediate objectives. Increasing food production, reducing illiteracy, spreading birth control on the face of it should meet crying needs, yet the divisions between landlord and landless or the traditions of a corrupt bureaucracy all too often divert effort that is generated from above. In five years some progress has been made but for some time Bangladesh is likely to remain a case for international charity in food supplies.
President Ziaur Rahman has also shown his prudence and diplomatic skill in relations with India. Mrs Gandhi has not forgotten her role in the creation of Bangladesh nor the subservience to Indian feelings that Shaikh Mujib manifested. Her return to power in India in January threatened to restore the somewhat high-handed attitude to this neighbour that had characterized her government in the past. It is still there in matters such as the Farakka barrage and the Ganges waters where the claims of Bangladesh are not always fairly balanced against Indian needs. Against this must be set the currently acute problem ‘of Bengali movement into India’s eastern frontier states such as Assam and Tripura. -both countries must see this as part of their shared and continuous task of making life possible for peasants whose whole lives are lived in the face of hunger and suffering. Fortunately, Mrs Gandhi’s handling of the troubles in Assam shows that she does not want to dramatize a very difficult issue that is essentially a practical one.