Friday, January 11, 2008

Irene Z. Khan has described the interred Dhaka University teachers as “prisoners of conscience”. Conscience? They have no conscience.

Chief Justice (retired) Shahabuddin Ahmed, during his stint as president, said that students were getting guns instead of books. “He reiterated his stand against the ‘political use of students and urged the students to sever connections with the political parties’” (The Daily Star, July 11, 2000). Another ex-president, Badruddoza Chowdhury, has said: “Students are armed to punish the opposition and we strongly condemn such acts” (The Bangladesh Observer, March 30 2005). Did the teachers deplore the use of students in politics? Not at all. Where was conscience then?

Now, they are again using students for political purposes.

Irene Khan was conspicuous by her silence on the subject of students (of whom many are minors) being used in politics during our democratic nightmare. I once emailed AI to learn how they got their information regarding Bangladesh when they had no office here. Their local chapter had been shut down years ago because of internal shenanigans: I asked what these mysterious goings-on had been. I received no reply.

How, then, has she, in the space of a few days, summed up the political situation in Bangladesh, and given us a progress report?

She has insisted that AI always encourages the trial of war criminals. Fine. But right now, the two biggest war criminals are in the White House and the other was lately at Downing Street, as the Nobel laureate Harold Pinter observed. Has the AI called for them to hauled before the courts? Both are guilty of waging an illegal war that has claimed a million lives.

Unlike the conscientious Harold Pinter, the secretary general of AI, Irene Khan, knows what she must or must not do to safeguard her career.

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