Political Culture in Bangladesh: Perspectives and Analyses

Selections from the Journal of Bangladesh Studies
Syed Saad Andaleeb


Chapter 1 Reflections on Democracy and Development in Bangladesh 1Nurul Islam

1.1 Background 1

1.2 Nurturing Democracy 2

1.3 Establishing Democratic Ideals 3

1.4 Interventions and Consequences 4

1.5 Costs of Authoritarian Rule 5

1.6 External Relations 7

1.7 Participation Problems 7

1.8 Role of Civil Society 8

1.9 Conclusions 8

Chapter 2 Sovereignty, National Interests and the Challenges ofDemocratization in Bangladesh 11Zillur R. Khan

2.1 Sovereignty and Regional Cooperation 12

2.2 Sovereignty and National Interests 13

2.3 Bangladesh Government, NGOs and IGOs 15

2.4 Time Rules, Democracy, and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Treaty 17

2.5 Opposition Charges and Strategies 20

2.6 Time and Power 22

2.7 Political Stability and Development 23

2.8 Education and Re-education 24

2.9 Thirteenth Amendment and Democratization 26

2.10 Consensus Forming Efforts 27

2.11 The Power Elite 28

2.12 The Military Factor 29

2.13 Conclusion 30

Chapter 3 On Good Governance 33Abul Maal A. Muhith

3.1 Introduction 33

3.2 The Build-up of the Crisis of Governance in Bangladesh 35

3.3 The Current State of Governance in Bangladesh: Political Dimensions 45

3.4 The Current State of Governance in Bangladesh: Economic Dimensions 60

3.5 The Problems and the Remedies 63

3.6 Devolution of State Functions and Restructuring of Government 66

3.7 Concluding Remarks 83

Chapter 4 Political Leadership and Legitimacy among the Urban Elite inBangladesh 101Syed Saad Andaleeb and Zachary T. Irwin

4.1 Introduction 101

4.2 The Legitimacy Question 105

4.3 A Brief Historical Overview 106

4.4 Methodology 113

4.5 Analyses 116

4.6 Results 118

4.7 Discussion 122

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4.8 Acknowledgement 123Chapter 5 Towards Institution Building in Bangladesh: Trends in Democracyand Human Rights 125Syedur Rahman

5.1 Introduction 125

5.2 The Boundaries of Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society 127

5.3 The Context of Bangladesh 130

5.4 Emerging Trends in Democratization in Bangladesh 132

5.5 Trends of Human Rights in Bangladesh 137

5.6 A Case Study of Democracy and Human Right: Where Bangladesh

Stands Today 140

5.7 Future Scenarios 143

5.8 Conclusion 145

5.9 Update 145

Chapter 6 Aspirations and Realities: Parliaments and the Democratic Culture 149Zillur R. Khan

6.1 Introduction: The Autonomy Movement and 1970 Elections 150

6.2 Parliaments: Politics and Culture 152

6.3 Restoration of Civilian Rule: The First Anti-Military Movement 155

6.4 Caretaker-Government: Rationale 158

6.5 Leaders, Constitution, and Parliaments 163

6.6 Parliament: Institutional Framework 167

6.7 Women Seats, Parties, Platforms, and Gridlock 171

6.8 Reform Measures 174

6.9 Ouster of General Ershad 176

6.10 The Military and 1991 Elections 177

6.11 General Elections of 1991, 1996, and 2001 178

6.12 Conclusions: Trend and Prospects 181

Chapter 7 Mediating Political Conflict in a Confrontational Environment:The Experience of the G-5 185Rehman Sobhan

7.1 Introduction: The Present as History 185

7.2 Background of the G-5 186

7.3 The Origins of the G-5 189

7.4 The First Meeting of the G-5 with the Prime Minister 191

7.5 The First Meeting of the G-5 with the Awami League 192

7.6 The Second Meeting of the G-5 with the Prime Minister 193

7.7 The Second Meeting of the G-5 with the Awami League 194

7.8 The Third Meeting of the G-5 with the Prime Minister 196

7.9 The Third Meeting of the G-5 with the Awami League 196

7.10 The Fourth Meeting of the G-5 with the Prime Minister 197

7.11 The Demise of the G-5 198

7.12 Conclusions: Political Lessons for the Present 199

Chapter 8 National Budgets and Public Spending Patterns in Bangladesh:A Political Economy Perspective 203Wahiduddin Mahmud

8.1 Introduction 203

8.2 Budgetary Trends and Strategies: What Do They Reveal? 206

8.3 Budgetary Processes and Political-Bureaucratic Incentives 219

8.4 Spending on Education and Healthcare: Achievements, Inefficiencies,

and Biases 226

8.5 Concluding Remarks 234

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Chapter 9 Political Economy of Sustainable Development in Bangladesh 247Amin U. Sarkar

9.1 Introduction 247

9.2 Conceptual Basis of Sustainable Development 249

9.3 Bangladesh Economy 250

9.4 Causes of Underdevelopment 252

9.5 Policy Choices 263

9.6 Concluding Remarks 268

Chapter 10 Effects of Political Instability on the Domestic Savings Rate in Bangladesh: AnEmpirical Study 271Rahim M. Quazi

10.1 Introduction 271

10.2 The Political Frontier in Bangladesh 273

10.3 Literature Review 275

10.4 The Model 278

10.5 Conclusion 284

Chapter 11 Indo-Bangladesh Relations: Context, Concerns, Hopes 289Ahrar Ahmad

11.1 Introduction 289

11.2 Bangladesh and West Bengal 290

11.3 The Initial Phase 291

11.4 The River Issue 294

11.5 The Wider Context 295

11.6 Regional Arrangements 298

11.7 Security Issues 300

11.8 Hegemony and Development 302

11.9 Conclusion 304

Chapter 12 The Bangladesh-India Friendship Treaty: A Critical Analysis 307Choudhury M. Shamim

12.1 Introduction 307

12.2 Origins of the 1972 Friendship Treaty 309

12.3 The Impetus for the Treaty 310

12.4 Early Ties with India 312

12.5 Indian Motivation and Interests 314

12.6 Nature and Scope of the Treaty 317

12.7 The Treaty in a Global and Regional Perspective 319

12.8 The Treaty in Practice 321

12.9 Policy Recommendations 323

12.10 Conclusion 328

Chapter 13 The Forgotten Biharis: Policy Options for their Repatriation and Rehabilitation331Tazeen M. Murshid

13.1 The Problem 331

13.2 Who are the Biharis? 332

13.3 Historical Background 332

13.4 Bihari Migration 333

13.5 Supporting the State of Pakistan 334

13.6 Repatriation of Stranded Pakistanis 334

13.7 The Dilemma for Pakistan 337

13.8 Demographic Features and Socio-economic Condition of Biharis 340

13.9 The Role of International Bodies 345

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13.10 Three Proposals to Resettle Biharis 345

13.11 The Latest Initiative 350

13.12 Options for Action by the International and the European Community 351

13.13 Evaluation of the Options 353

13.14 Arguments against Repatriation 354

13.15 Arguments in Favor of Settlement in Bangladesh 354

13.16 Arguments against Resettlement in Bangladesh 355

List of Tables

Table 4.1. Ratings of Politicians 116

Table 4.2. Factor Analysis of Politician Attributes with Varimax Rotation 117

Table 4.3 Regression Analysis: Three Factor Model Dependent Variable ‘Satisfaction’ 118

Table 4.4 Regression Analysis with Items of Factor 1 119

Table 6.1 Seven Parliaments 165

Table 6.2 Electoral Successes of Twelve Political Parties in 1991 172

Table 6.3 Electoral Success of Political Parties in 1996 182

Table 8.1 Income and Expenditure of the Central Government (Actual) 210

Table 8.2 Current Budget (Revised Budget) Expenditures; Proportion of

Sectoral Expenditure to Total 212

Table 8.3 Annual Development Program: Proportion of Sectoral Allocation to Total 213

Table 8.4 Ratio of Sectoral Project Aid to Sectoral ADP 217

Table 8.5 Public Expenditure (Recurrent and Development) on Health and

Family Planning, 1984-1997a 227

Table 8.6 Flow of Funds and Expenditure Patterns in Health and Population

Activities, 1994/95 229

Table 9.1 Use of Public Expenditure 252

Table 10.1 Augmented Dickey-Fuller (ADF) Test 280

Table 13.1 Numbers Repatriated to Pakistan, 1974-98 336

Table 13.2 Number of Biharis in Selected Occupations, 1992 341

Table 13.3 Budget Allocation to Repay Arrears of Electricity and

Water Bills (Tk in millions), 1994-1998 344

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Program, and conducts research on the service sector in developing countries. His present preoccupation

involves capacity development in research methods at the institutions of higher education in Bangladesh for

which he has been supported once as a Senior Fulbright Scholar and twice as a Fulbright Senior Specialist. He

also serves as a peer-reviewer for the Fulbright Senior Specialists Program. He has consulted for The World

Bank, UNFPA, ILO and various corporate bodies in the United States and other countries. He is also the

recipient of teaching, research, and outreach awards at The Pennsylvania State University.

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committee. An author and columnist his latest books are An Agenda for Good Governance (2007), Karchupir

Nirbachon: Oboido Sarkar(2002).

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Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in International Relations and related degrees from Carleton

University and Dhaka University. He has published in professional refereed journals such as Journal of Third

World Studies, Journal of Bangladesh Studies, Journal of Political and Military Sociology and Asian Thought

and Society: An International Review. He has also contributed to many book chapters in American Foreign

Policy: Domestic Patterns and Processes, International Governance and International Security: Issues and

Perspectives, Development Issues of Bangladesh-II, The Economy of Bangladesh: Problems and Prospects and

Calcutta, Bangladesh and Bengal Studies along with numerous conference papers. He has also received

numerous research grants and has been recognized by his university with many awards.


The chapters in this edited book represent selections from the Journal of Bangladesh Studies (JBS) of which I

am the editor since its inception eight years ago. JBS encourages articles from a wide span of disciplines and

interdisciplinary areas with a focus on policy issues. The editorial board of JBS believes in a diversity of

perspectives because comprehensive development depends on a broad foundation of knowledge. Over the years,

JBS has published many fine articles. Given the accumulation of this wealth of knowledge and understanding

about the problems and prospects of Bangladesh from a variety of disciplines, it was decided that this material

would be organized into specific disciplinary areas and published as edited books.

This book is the first among others to follow and gathers the thoughts of prominent thinkers about some key

political dimension pertaining to Bangladesh about which there is need for serious contemplation and action. It

contains ideas about the country’s political culture, challenges of democratisation, approaches to institution

building, issues of leadership and legitimacy, and the continuing saga of conflict between the two main

political rivals and possible solutions. Additional chapters address the political economy of formulating

national budgets, sustainable development, effects of politics on domestic savings, external political relations,

and how to deal with a minority community — the Biharis — left to the whims and indifference of national and

international bodies to be integrated into Bangladesh society or be repatriated.

By being compiled in one compact volume, the book is likely to benefit multiple parties. For example, by

making it available in the libraries of Bangladesh or by using it as text in the discipline, indigenous knowledge

would be available to academics, researchers and students who, even to this day, depend on foreign books,

written by foreign authors, and conceptualized in a foreign context, to gain perspective that may or may not

have a bearing on Bangladesh. I also hope this compilation will inspire further indigenous research and its

dissemination that, when facilitated by the higher education institutions in Bangladesh, could play a vital role

in the country’s advancement. Finally, the wealth of references in the book may be of significant interest to

individuals seeking a comprehensive perspective on politics in Bangladesh.


The Journal of Bangladesh Studies, the source of the book chapters, is one of the substantive projects of

Bangladesh Development Initiative (BDI:, a US-based think-tank of scholars and

professionals, devoted to the generation and dissemination of knowledge on development issues pertinent to

Bangladesh. Under the organization’s aegis and for the benefit of scholars and students of Bangladesh, BDI

has already published three edited books under the following titles: Development Issues of Bangladesh-I,

Development Issues of Bangladesh-II, and Development Issues of Bangladesh-III: Human Development and

Quality of Life.

This book, the fourth from BDI, is offered at a time when Bangladesh, facing a major political crisis, balances

precariously between hope and despair, peace and conflict, security and insecurity, emancipation or bondage,

power concentration or its distribution, poverty or affluence, religious liberalism or intolerance, and good

honest governance or its obverse.

For the record, as this preface is being written, the country is in charge of a Caretaker Government (CG).

There is a prevailing mood that people have lost confidence in their political representatives because of

rampant corruption in their ranks in association with members of the bureaucracy and private sector

businessmen. Consequently, the people expect the CG to bring about a wholesale cleanup of corruption, ensure

a safe and secure environment, and introduce appropriate changes in governance structures and processes that

would enable the people to choose their ‘true’ representatives.

At the heart of the crisis are human failures and unbridled corruption, depicting Bangladesh’s sorry state of

governance. The problem of human failures (a.k.a. ‘opportunism’ in the academic world), especially of the

politicians or people’s representatives, is a basic obstacle to the country’s progress and is one that requires

immediate and undivided attention. This problem is neither new, nor is it emblematic of Bangladesh alone and

must be understood in its fundamental context. A significant body of literature has evolved in the areas of

agency theory and transaction costs economics, leading to Nobel prizes for elegant analyses of this problem.

For example in transaction costs economics, bounded rationality or lack of complete information of the

principal, along with agents’ opportunistic inclinations (with guile), leads to high transaction costs that are

minimised by rearranging transactional modes (markets vs. internal bureaucracies) or by bringing about a

cessation of transactions. In simple terms, transaction costs represent the price that society pays for

appointing representatives and custodians, many of whom act opportunistically, that result in corruption. For

Bangladesh, its minimisation requires various structural and procedural adjustments in governance. When

transaction costs become too high, drastic measures may become essential, including possible severance of any

relationship between the people and their representatives. Whether such severance is due, while new

relationships are sought and forged, remains to be seen.

From an agency theory perspective, the principals (the people of the land), caught in an asymmetric

information trap, have suffered seriously at the hands of their agents (politicians and bureaucrats in the main)

who have not behaved in the best interest of the principal. The object, therefore, is to design a contract with

the agents to minimise costs to the principal. That social contract is yet to emerge after thirty-six years of

exploitation and plundering by the ruling class. At the same time, the legitimacy of the two main political

parties and their claims of rectitude and moral authority are in serious jeopardy as they have squandered the

nation’s social capital, based on trust and cooperation, that is needed to achieve collective goals. Incidentally, it

has been empirically shown that nations with higher social capital are more economically advanced. While

academics and theoreticians have done a creditable job of parsing the main issues, their thinking has

apparently not percolated down to the practitioners, i.e., politicians and bureaucrats.

The challenge today in Bangladesh is to find a band of political leaders who can guide the country out of its

present morass. Dr. M. Yunus of Bangladesh, recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has called for honest

and competent people to be chosen. While this is a step in the right direction, there is a need to go further;

there is a need to elect ‘leaders.’ Honesty and competence are desirable attributes, but they do not necessarily

a leader make! The crucial distinctions between rulers and leaders are as follows:

The leader crafts an attractive vision of the future, the ruler only confuses it; the leader inspires by example,

the ruler inspires fear; the leader engenders hope, the ruler hopelessness. In working with people the leader

delegates, the ruler controls; the leader builds consensus, the ruler dominates; the leader brings issues into the

open, the ruler keeps issues cloaked in secrecy and intrigue; and the leader seeks out the best and the

brightest, while the ruler is interested in succession.

As a person the leader is selfless and epitomises sacrifice, the ruler is immersed in his/her ego and greed; the

leader shares praise, the ruler claims it all; the leader is humble, the ruler arrogant; the leader is trusted, the

ruler is not. And the leader is proactive, while the ruler is reactive.

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As influence agents, the leader’s words can energise the nation, the ruler’s rings hollow; the leader is not afraid

of change, the ruler is terrified of change; the leader is concerned with the moral exercise of power and the

good of the many, the ruler exercises power — moral or immoral Ð for personal ends.

In Arestotelian terms, the good leader must have ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is his moral character, pathos

is his ability to move people emotionally, and logos is his ability to move people intellectually (M. Adler). Good

leadership also emerges in a partnership between those who govern and those who are governed as reflected in

the first public speech by Abu Bakr (RA) when he was appointed caliph. He said, ‘I have been appointed as

your ruler, and I am not the best of you. If you find me following the right way, support me; if not, correct me.’

True leaders in conjunction with appropriate political structures and processes are expected to establish good

governance in the country. The chapters in this book provide many ideas to establish such governance and

meet the political challenges so that the political environment in Bangladesh takes a turn for the better. To

that end, I hope this book will be a useful resource to students, researchers and practitioners in the discipline.

As in most endeavours, the publication of this book stands on the support of many individuals. I would like to

acknowledge Sue Pennington for her dedicated, diligent, and ready assistance in the preparation of the

manuscript. Thanks are also due to John M. Magenau III, Director of the Sam & Irene Black School of

Business for lending support and the resources of the School to enable the completion of this endeavor. I would

be remiss if I did not thank all the reviewers who also helped shape the selected articles for JBS; their

comments, suggestions, and guidance represent substantive and vital contributions as well in making this

book possible. Finally I remain grateful to Mr. Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mr. Babul Dhar of The University Press

Limited for patiently guiding me through the publication process.

February, 2007 Syed Saad Andaleeb, Ph.D.

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