David Bergman aspires to be Bangladesh’s Jared Kushner but his father-in-law Kamal Hossain is no Donald Trump. Perhaps can never be.
Masquerading as journalist, columnist and ‘independent analyst’, the UK-born Bergman , some of whose ancestors believed in the divine right to rule South Asia, is actually driven by the failed ambition he sought to achieve by the short-cut of marriage after a brief spell of activism in India’s gas-ravaged Bhopal city.
If Kamal Hossain was PM, which he wholeheartedly aspires to, Bergman would be his special envoy to the world, sealing lucrative deals with the high and mighty among global corporates who see Bangladesh as the next Asian Tiger after Vietnam.
But alas! Hossain is consigned to the dark world of political conspiracy – where shady businessmen and failed politicians congregate with some Islamist radicals and their global patrons to unseat a popular government run by the daughter of a tall leader who led Bangladesh to freedom.
By now, Hossain’s credentials as a participant in the Liberation struggle has worn thin, his real colours exposed and his legal acumen misused for boosting failed conspiracies to unseat PM Sheikh Hasina.
Some of his patrons in the West, who often toy with possibilities of ‘regime change’ in Bangladesh, lend an occasional pat on the back for unsettling the longest serving elected government in Bangladesh.
Bergman’s forays into Bangladesh media outlets were short-lived because professional editors could see the activist in Bergman undermining the journalism he was expected to do.
Bergman’s journalism and his projection as an ‘independent analyst’ has been restricted to the Islamic Brotherhood-friendly Al Jazeera where an hit-on-hire ‘investigations’ cell has emerged as an independent profit centre.
This cell receives under-cover payment running into millions of dollars from clients who want to destroy political or business rivals and then performs an ‘investigation’ that’s more smear and less of an honest probe by use of the time-tested peddling of half-truths.
This is fantastic business but no journalism with returns far outweighs the costs and is considered useful for a media outlet whose profits have dropped after oil prices nosedived and whose payments to freelance contributors were slashed by half.
Bergman has been writing Bangladesh stories for Al Jazeera for nearly seven years now – singularly negative stuff in stark contrast to many Western outlets who have reported on the country’s phenomenal economic growth and social modernization including gender empowerment.
National security organisations like the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, whose success against Islamist terrorists have been lauded even by the former FBI counter-terrorism chief, were his targets for exposure.
In the early part of the last decade, Al Jazeera did carry a few objective stories on the War Crimes trial, the Shahbagh protests and the political confrontation by some Dhaka-based journalists.
Then it turned to Bergman for ‘special stories’ and its reporting of Bangladesh began to reflect the angst of radicals in the Islamic world which paints Bangladeshis as ‘impure Muslims’ because of the pride they take in their language and culture.
This was also around the time Bergman signed a secret deal with BNP-Jamaat combine to perform as their chief international lobbyist to (a) undermine the War Crimes Trials (b) berate the Awami League party and its government (c) to project BNP-Jamaat combine as the ‘one real alternative’ for Bangladesh.
Bergman’s big success has been in shaping reporting at the ‘Economist’ which stridently ran stories questioning the legality and the intent of the War Crimes Trials and then started questioning everything the Hasina government did – from questioning its plans to fight Covid to involving the army in developing civic infrastructures.
Strangely, the reporting of Bangladesh Al Jazeera , where Bergman himself writes and appears on its video elements as an ‘independent analyst’, have been so similar. Now the pattern of such negative reporting is reflected in Netranews founded by Tasneem Khalil with strong backing from Bergman and his clients, BNP-Jamaat combine.
The best example of this contention is the reporting one witnessed in ‘Economist’ and ‘Al Jazeera’ about Bangladesh’s Covid response.
So much so that experts quoted in their reports to back the claim of Bangladesh wilting under Covid pressure had to distance themselves from the unfair reporting and even oppose the way they had been quoted.
The ‘Economist’ report quoting ICDDR,B executive director John Clemens was so similar to the ‘Al Jazeera’ report which claimed that in Bangladesh , “doctors and other healthcare workers say they do not have adequate personal protective equipment – and the health system cannot cope with the outbreak.”
Bangladesh’s successful combat of the Covid pandemic and its stellar performance in mass vaccinations using India-made vaccines has belied these pessimistic predictions – in the last eight days, at the time of writing, 11.32 lakh citizens have been vaccinated in Bangladesh and rumours of wild side-effects and even deaths have been decisively put to rest.
Over the past one year, a whole host of Youtubers and Facebookers like Kanak Sarwar, Colonel Shaheed and Major Delawar have been hugely active in undermining the Sheikh Hasina led government, along with Bergman and Khalil.
These are the regime change spearheads in social media but their lack of success made the conspirators turn to a regular media like Al Jazeera to attack the one institution which is seen as key in the final act of regime change – the army.
A fine professional army with increasing commitments in UN peacekeeping operations is sought to be used by the votaries of regime change – for which they have targeted a loyal professional general heading the force and because he is committed to the ideals of civilian supremacy.
The Al Jazeera smear on General Aziz Ahmed has been preceded by the YouTube-Facebook ‘regime change’ warriors predicting the imminent removal of General Aziz as the Bangladesh army chief – so , friends, there is a pattern with the unmistakable imprint of Bergman’s ‘Dark Ops’ .
The ‘Aziz Going” tirade by Kanak Sarwar, Colonel Shaheed and Major Delawar has now peaked with the Al Jazeera ‘Investigations’ with an attempt to influence the UN to adversely impact Bangladesh’s peacekeeping commitments.
Since many Bangladesh soldiers and officers benefit financially from their tenures in UN peacekeeping, this is an insidious attempt to create unrest in the Bangladesh army, but one that will not be successful.
UN sources have indicated that the world body will take more Bangladesh soldiers for peace keeping duties once the Covid-19 pandemic has been tamed.