Book review: Bangladesh’s Seven Governing Periods,1972-2022

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by Taj Hashmi     11 January 2024

Adil Khan, Bangladesh’s Seven Governing Periods,1972-2022: Accomplishments, ‘Constants of Bad Governance’ and Much-needed Resets, Publisher: South Asia Journal, Colts Neck, NJ 07722. ISBN: 978-0-9995649-9. To purchase, contact: info@southasiajournal.net. USA US$ 28.00 India, Bangladesh and Pakistan INR750.00

 

Although the title may appear verbose, this work is considered a “must-read” for those studying the political economy of post-Liberation Bangladesh. The book delves into bad governance and underdevelopment issues, offering potential solutions to these problems. Its insights are precious for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of the country’s political and economic landscape, including possible solutions to these problems. Its insights are precious for those seeking a thorough knowledge of the country’s political and economic landscape.

The book in question is an extensively researched, meticulously analyzed, and well-crafted work on modern and contemporary Bangladesh. Its contents are poised to serve as an invaluable resource for experts from a diverse range of disciplines, looking to gain insight into the governance process and the development challenges faced by the nation. The book is equally relevant to the layman seeking to gain a deeper understanding of these issues. Its comprehensive coverage of the subject matter makes it an indispensable tool for anyone seeking clarity on the governance and developmental landscape of Bangladesh.

The book in question is an extensively researched, meticulously analyzed, and well-crafted work on modern and contemporary Bangladesh. Its contents are poised to serve as an invaluable resource for experts from a diverse range of disciplines, looking to gain insight into the governance process and the development challenges faced by the nation. The book is equally relevant to the layman seeking to gain a deeper understanding of these issues. Its comprehensive coverage of the subject matter makes it an indispensable tool for anyone seeking clarity on the governance and developmental landscape of Bangladesh.

The volume offers a comprehensive appraisal of the seven governance periods and their respective characteristics, policy decisions, actions, and outcomes. The author elucidates the book’s primary objective of proposing a viable approach to eradicating the Constants of Bad Governance (CoBGs) while simultaneously sustaining economic growth momentum achieved by the country. Additionally, the book aims to strengthen the democratic governance and rule of law that have experienced regressive trends recently. The work also presents recommendations to foster an inclusive Bangladeshi nationhood and to encourage behavioral changes that promote ethical and moral values for a decent Bangladesh.

Adil Khan expounds upon his methodology, which entails consulting credible academic and journalistic works, which he meticulously cites in the endnotes. However, one may point out that the author’s quasi-exclusive dependence on online materials is rather problematic. Instead, he should have utilized published monographs and edited volumes on topics that he addresses in this work as well. Furthermore, it should be noted that online materials lack longevity and often disappear without a trace. Nevertheless, this well-written piece of scholarship showcases the author’s immense knowledge of the subject matter. The proficient use of facts and his own analyses, as demonstrated throughout this volume, is a testament to his extensive experience as the former Chief of the Socio-Economic Governance and Management Branch of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

The author posits that it is likely to stimulate further discourse surrounding the facts presented, issues raised, and lessons learnt, with the hope that such discussions and debates will serve to foster the development of favourable characteristics and increase comprehension of the factors that contributed to Bangladesh’s advancement, as well as those that impeded progress. It is suggested that through rigorous evaluation of successes, and by identifying and implementing measures to sustain them, we can remedy mistakes and continue our forward momentum.

This publication introduces a new framework to comprehend the recurring governance failures in Bangladesh, namely the “Constants of Bad Governance” (CoBGs). Constants, as a mathematical term, imply something that remains unchanged. In Bangladesh’s seven governing periods, CoBGs refer to the persisting issues or irregularities in governance that have cumulatively piled up over time. By acknowledging these CoBGs, the book aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the governance challenges that have plagued the country.

The book is divided into ten chapters, each one covering different areas and aspects of study. The Introduction describes the methodology used to prepare the volume and includes a definition of key concepts, such as “governing periods” and “Constants of Bad Governance”. Chapter 2 deals with the first governance period from January 1972 to August 1975. Chapter 3 covers the period of changeovers, anarchy, and transformations in the country during August to December 1975. Chapter 4 elucidates the “great resets” during the period of 1976-1981 under Ziaur Rahman. Chapter 5 sheds light on the “period of development and deceit” under General Ershad from March 1982 to December 1990. The return of parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh is discussed in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 elaborates on the Army-backed “caretaker government” between January 2007 and December 2008. The author has comprehensively elaborated on the problematic issue of development and underdevelopment under the Awami League government under Sheikh Hasina from 2009 to 2022 in Chapter 8. Chapter 9 is a critical appraisal of the problems of governance and development, which the author has aptly called “one step forward, two steps back” to highlight the counterproductive nature of the latest round of governance process since the ascendancy of Sheikh Hasina to power in 2009. Finally, Chapter 10 provides important suggestions on the much-needed resets for a meaningful change for the better for the country.

The author and publisher are deserving of our wholehearted congratulations and gratitude for having undertaken such an excellent work, encompassing all the essential elements in a mere 185 pages.

— Taj Hashmi, PhD, FRAS

     (Author of Fifty Years of Bangladesh, 1971-2021: Crises of Culture, Development, Governance, and Identity, Palgrave-Macmillan 2022)

      Retired Professor of History & Security Studies, APCSS, Honolulu, HI

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Dr. Taj Hashmi is a Research Associate at the York Centre for Asian Research at York University, Toronto, and Retired Professor of Security Studies at the APCSS, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was born in 1948 in Assam, India, and was raised in Bangladesh. He holds a Ph.D. in modern South Asian History from the University of Western Australia, and a Masters and BA (Hons) in Islamic History & Culture from Dhaka University. He did his post-doctoral research at the Centre for International Studies (CIS), Oxford, and Monash University (Australia). Since 1987, he is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (FRAS). He is a reviewer of manuscripts for several publishers, including Oxford, Sage, and Routledge. He has authored scores of academic papers, and more than a couple of hundred popular essays and newspaper articles/op-eds on various aspects of history, politics, society, politics, culture, Islam, terrorism, counter terrorism and security issues in South Asia, Middle East, the Asia-Pacific, and North America. He is a regular commentator on current world affairs on the BBC, Voice of America, and some other media outlets.- His major publications include Global Jihad and America (SAGE, 2014); Women and Islam in Bangladesh (Palgrave-Macmillan 2000); Islam, Muslims, and the Modern State (co-ed) (Palgrave-Macmillan, 1994); Pakistan as a Peasant Utopia (Westview Press, 1992); and Colonial Bengal (in Bengali) (Papyrus, Kolkata 1985). His Global Jihad has been translated into Hindi and Marathi. His Women and Islam was a best-seller in Asian Studies and was awarded the Justice Ibrahim Gold Medal by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. He is working on his next book, A Historical Sociology of Bangladesh. His immediate past assignment was at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee, where he taught Criminal Justice & Security Studies (2011-2018). Prior to that, he was Professor of Security Studies at the US Department of Defense, College of Security Studies at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Honolulu, Hawaii (2007-2011). He started his teaching career in 1972 as a lecturer in History at Chittagong University, and after a year joined Dhaka University (Bangladesh) and taught Islamic History & Culture (1973-1981) before moving to Australia for his Ph.D. Afterwards he taught History (South Asia and Middle East) at the National University of Singapore (1989-1998) before joining Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) as Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences (1998-2002). Then he joined the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver (Canada) as a Visiting Professor in Asian Studies for two years (2003-2005), and worked as an adjunct professor of History for a year at Simon Fraser University in Canada (2005-2006). Tel: (1) 647 447 2609. Email: tjhashmi@gmail.com and hashmit@apsu.edu