Bangladesh at 50: Booming financial system, shrinking rights

GAZIPUR: Bangladesh turns 50 this week as an financial success story but in addition an more and more repressive de facto one-party state the place a cartoon or Fb publish can land you in jail, or worse.
ABM Shamsuddin has been a significant beneficiary of the increase. He launched his sweater manufacturing unit in 1998 with 110 machines and 250 employees. Now Hannan Group’s 5 factories provide two dozen European manufacturers and make use of greater than 10,000 individuals.
“My annual turnover is $100 million,” Shamsuddin, 66, advised AFP as his employees stitched garments for German high-street outlet Esprit. “I turned a hero from zero.”
Praising the federal government for constructing first rate infrastructure reminiscent of roads, ports and power services, he predicts “a brand new period of prosperity” for the nation of 168 million individuals.
One among his workers is Ruma, a part of a three-million-strong military of garment employees who’ve turned Bangladesh into the world’s second-largest clothes exporter behind China.
When Ruma’s mom died from diarrhoea within the 1980s, she was despatched to reside with family the place an uncle tore up her books as a result of “schooling is not for ladies”.
She now earns $420 in some months. Throughout the Muslim competition of Eid she and her husband take dwelling greater than $1,000 and are capable of spend $120 a month educating their two youngsters.
“I’m decided that my youngsters is not going to be disadvantaged of schooling,” she advised AFP in her two-room concrete dwelling within the dusty industrial city of Gazipur.
When Bangladesh received independence from Pakistan in 1971 after a brutal warfare that killed three million individuals, it was written off as a “basket case” by then US nationwide safety advisor Henry Kissinger.
Greater than 80 % of individuals lived beneath the poverty line. Famines and army coups had been frequent and most business together with the massive jute sector was owned by Pakistani businesspeople.
Now, in line with Norwegian researcher Eirik G Jansen, who has intently studied Bangladesh over the past 4 many years, somewhat over 10 % of individuals reside in excessive poverty.
Manufacturing of rice, the primary staple, has greater than trebled, whereas life expectancy has risen to 73 from 41 in 1971, in line with his newest ebook “Seeing the Finish of Poverty: Bhaimara Revisited”.
For the final decade the financial system has grown greater than seven % yearly and per capita GDP has greater than quadrupled since 2000.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina‘s authorities goals to make Bangladesh a “developed nation” by 2041.
However campaigners say democracy is being eroded below Hasina, premier since 2009 and the daughter of Bangladesh’s murdered “Father of the Nation” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Each are the topic of what critics name a rising cult of persona, with murals of their faces bobbing up across the nation.
The primary opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Social gathering (BNP) is in tatters, with its chief, Hasina’s arch-rival Khaleda Zia, in jail for corruption and ailing.
The occasion says a minimum of 3.5 million of its activists and supporters have been charged since 2012 below trumped-up expenses, with a lot of them now behind bars.
A whole bunch of others are lacking after being picked up by safety forces, the BNP says.
Authorities are clamping down on criticism, significantly on-line, with “digital safety” laws that rights teams say is used to arrest a whole bunch of journalists, activists and others.
One was author Mushtaq Ahmed after he revealed an article and shared Fb posts crucial of Hasina’s dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahmed, 53, collapsed in a high-security jail and died in February, sparking days of protests and clashes with safety forces.
Arrested with him and now on bail after 10 months behind bars is cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, 45. He says he was tortured — allegations the authorities have denied.
He believes his crime was a cartoon mocking a businessman with shut ties to the federal government. On the recommendation of his lawyer and rights activists he’s now at a secret location.
“Am I a free man? I can’t draw. I used to be tortured as a result of I drew. I used to be taken away from my baby for 10 months as a result of I drew,” he stated.
Hazera Khatun definitely is not going to be becoming a member of the celebrations for the South Asian nation’s half-centenary starting on Friday.
Seven years in the past, she says, her son Sajedul Islam Suman, an opposition activist, was taken away by the infamous Speedy Motion Battalion, an elite police unit blamed for a whole bunch of extrajudicial killings.
“When evening falls, I maintain watching on the entrance door. Maybe they’ve dropped my son on the porch,” she stated, wiping away tears whereas wanting by outdated images of her baby.
“My son cherished the nation so much. He was very patriotic. He would fly the nationwide flag, he would hearken to patriotic songs,” she added.
“I do not like listening to these songs. This nation is not ours.”

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