The political economy of Bangladesh — Ishtiaq Ahmed

The key to development and progress is always a combination of political, economic, social and cultural changes that complement one another. Thus a country once derisively described by Henry Kissinger as the ‘world’s basket case’ can actually become the most dynamic of all South Asian nations.

The news from Bangladesh in the last few years has been consistently good, though we in Pakistan have learnt more about the spectacular political advances that country has made in the last year or so. The political advances should indeed be described as spectacular because in an era salient with the menace of Islamism and terrorism, Bangladesh has most wisely and foresightedly chosen to establish itself as a secular democracy. No doubt the political basis for it was laid when an Awami League government won a landslide victory in the December 29, 2008 elections, but the crucial decision was taken by the Supreme Court of that country, which declared Bangladesh a secular democracy in constitutional terms.

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Pakistani mom: Take my baby; she’ll have a better life

Sindh Province, Pakistan – The first things you notice are the flies. They form what looks like a buzzing black crust on children’s lips, eyes and foreheads. The children are either too tired to keep brushing them away or too used to them to bother.

“We have terrible problem with flies,” 50-year-old Khuda Jatoi says in Sindhi, the local language here. Everyone here is suffering from something. Still, the moment they see us, everyone scrambles to find a suitable place for us. Someone is trying to find a chair for us to sit down. Father Khuda Joti is insisting on giving us tea or sending someone to buy a cold drink. We are guests in his makeshift shelter, and he wants to give us the best of what he has. We cannot bring ourselves to take anything from him. He and his family have lost nearly everything they own.

They are victims of the worst floods Pakistan has ever seen, and yet they are trying to make us comfortable. That keeps happening everywhere we go. The day before, in a school-turned-clinic, a few ladies who had survived the floods handed me a “hair catcher” because they could see that I was sweating profusely, and they wanted to make me more comfortable. At the same time, the men kept fanning us with brightly colored hand fans. It makes me feel both ashamed about how much I have and don’t appreciate, and inspired by the kindness that is clearly being extended with no expectation of anything in return.

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