Former US Ambassador to Bangladesh William B Milam thinks if democracy were to fail in Bangladesh, the world’s fourth largest Muslim country, it would be a setback everywhere in the Islamic world.
"I fear that Bangladesh might revert to its pre-1991 condition in which even the peaceful transfer of power after credible elections was not possible," Mr. Milam, ambassador to Bangladesh between 1990-1993, wrote in a commentary published in Pakistani newspaper Daily News on January 10.
"Though Bangladesh has been often cited at the forefront of democratic growth in the Islamic world, it has seemed to me for some time that its democratic development stalled in midstream after the hopeful breakthrough of 1991," Milam, who went to Bangladesh to be an observer for January 22 parliamentary elections, which was stalled after weeks of street violence, is currently a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. (Read commentary)
He sees there is an attempt to build a solid foundation and better form of democratic system. "You are building from a collapsed structure," he said while speaking at a seminar in Bangladesh capital Dhaka today, noting that Bangladesh people are witnessing a very interesting experiment, which, he hoped, would work.
It is uncertain whether Bangladesh will follow a Turkish model where the military helps the government return to democracy or the Pakistani model, where historically, the military has come to power and remained there for a number of years, he said.
He said if the caretaker government is successful, "It would be unique because the history of military intervention in any form is almost always bad."
"It is noticeable in Washington that there has been a chorus of concern, especially from think tanks, whether (in Bangladesh) there has been a military takeover in disguise or it is a military rule in disguise," said Milam, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan adding, " There have been reports of human rights violations and abuse of civil rights."