Polities jumbled up in Bangladesh
[The article on Bangladesh politics is jointly written by Achintye Sen and Kazi Mohoshin Al Abbas; two Bangladeshi based journalists write on socio-political issues of Bangladesh. They can be contacted at email@example.com.]
After a decade long movement against military autocracy, in 1991 Bangladesh had experienced a national election expectable to the nation under a caretaker government. Through this election Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) came into power.
In 1996, almost twelve years ago when Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was in Power, then all the opposition parties led by a major party Awami League (AL) launched a massive movement for a Constitution supported Caretaker Government for three months, which will over see election and assist the Election Commission in holding a free, fair and honest parliamentary election.
After delaying some time BNP succumbed to opposition pressure and it was codified that after expiring the tenure of the government, a just retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be appointed as the Chief Advisors of the council of advisors. The number of advisors will not exceed ten.
For 15 years on three terms the system worked. But when the BNP manipulated his former leader K M Hassan, who had become the Chief Justice, to make the Caretaker Chief, the oppositions revolted.
Eventually Army intervened on January 11, president declared state of emergency and former CSP officer and World Bank employee Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed became the Chief Advisor of the Caretaker Government. The new military supported interim government and the military stated that they would stay for two years and hold general election by December, 2008.
Meanwhile, the Caretaker Government launched a crusade against corruption at high places. In the process Awami League leader Sheik Hasina and BNP leader Khaleda Zia were put behind the bar and hold incommunicado. Khaleda Zia's two sons Tarek Rahman and Arafat Rahman were arrested on corruption charges.
Meanwhile the country's economic prospect gets bleak. A former advisor has said, 'the country is going through a silent famine.'
Businessmen whether producers, big importers, wholesalers, and even retailers have taken an unofficial unified stand, which is apparently against the government. The unification has culminated into the unprecedented rise of prices of essential commodities from 6 percent to 237 percent. But the income of the people has not risen correspondingly.
Meanwhile, one of the largest parties in the country BNP has faced split in the party. One is known as Khaleda faction and another as Sairfur Rahman faction. In the last two months many efforts have been made to reconcile the two factions, but of no consequence.
Election Commission (EC) had invited all political parties twice to finalise the code of conduct for the registration of political parties with the Election Commission. But when it invited Secretary General of Saifur Rahman faction to talks, Khaleda Zia faction hit the roof. They filed a case against Election Commission in the High Court.
The EC had said BNP's party constitution was undemocratic. All power lies with the Chairman of the party. So Khaleda's Secretary General was not invited by EC. Now everything depends on the court verdict. However, many political commenter say, election will not be credible without participation of Khaleda Zia's faction.
Caretaker government of Fakhruddin Ahmed has announced that after Election Commission dialogue with political parties, they will also meet the representatives of all political parties. So the problem now boils down to one point how to bring Khaleda Zia faction to the talks.
When the state of Emergency was declared, there was a whisper campaign that 'Democracy minus two' which meant that Khaleda Zia and Sheik Hasina would not be allowed to participate in Election. But this is not an easy task.
In the initial years of her political career Sheik Hasina-daughter of Sheikh Muzibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh-became the president of Awami League by virtue of political legacy. But, in the course of time, she emerged as a leader of her own and developed leadership qualities.
After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman, many people persuaded Khaleda Zia to fill the void. Khaleda Zia proved her maturity as a politician. She turned BNP from an elitist cult to a mass-based party.
There is one basic difference between Awami League and BNP, which keeps them perpetually apart. The Awami League as a political party focuses on secularism while BNP believes in religious centre politics.
The coming election is going to be crucial for Bangladesh. Bangladesh's future orientation will be determined by the outcome of this election. Bangladesh, though not abundant in natural resources, has the potential to become a middle-income country. But because of poor leadership, it was herm strung.
Now as the day of election draws near, the formation of National Security Council is coming nearer. Reports say a National Security Council (NSC) has to be formed with the members of the cabinet and Army Chief of Staff. It is clear that in supra body like NSC Army will have a decisive say in civil issues as well.
Many political observers mentioned that, as many countries of the world say, Bangladesh has not that much of threat to its security, so such council will deal with internal affairs of the country. General Ershad was more blunt regarding this issue. He was of the opinion that army should have a participatory role in the running of the state. So he sent two delegations to Turkey and Indonesia, but it was found that such system is not feasible in Bangladesh. But this time army may not budge which means the country's politics has been jumbled up.
Meanwhile, the country is agog with the demands for trial of war criminals, which, during 1971 war of liberation, collaborated with the Pakistan Army. Initially Bangladesh wanted 193 Pakistani Soldiers as War Criminals. But because of Indian pressure, Mujib could not do it. Also Bhutto promised that he would try those was criminals in his country.
After Bangladesh became independent, 22,000 were criminals for collaborators of Pakistani Army were taken into jail custody. Of them Mujib granted amnesty to 11,000 prisoners as then crime was not of serious nature. But the rest 11,000 are charged with murder, rape, arson, and lot etc. Mujib did not forgive them. But Zia to swell the ranks of his party BNP set free all of those 11,000 war criminals.
Now there is countrywide uproar and consensus to begin trial of those 11,000 war criminals, belonging to Jamat-E-Islami, a fundamentalist party.
To try war criminals Sectors Commanders (During the 1971 war of liberation Bangladesh was divided into 11 sectors and each one was led by a Major. Their headquarters were in Indian territory) has set up a ‘Sector Commanders Forum’ to begin the process of trying war criminals with existing law of the country by forming a national tribunal.
On March 15, Sector Commanders Convention was to be held in Dhaka but only days ago the Police Commissioner of Dhaka said in anticipation of law and order situation the permission for holding convention could not be given. This infuriated the commanders.
Anyway, the convention was held in Bangladesh-China friendship centre on Friday last (21st march) with the participation of Freedom Fighters, politicians, intellectuals, and social activists. The convention demanded to constitute a commission for the trial of war criminals.
The present caretaker government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed is by and large secular. That is why people have a desire that this government will take initiative to try the war criminals.
Very recently Chief Advisor Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed mentioned in a TV interview again that his government would arrange the national election by December 2008. In the next months before the scheduled election many things will happen in the country's political areas. Let us, however, keep our fingers crossed.
Read More: A R Rahman | Bangladesh | Hassan | Ahmed Nagar | Election Commission | Sector-16 Faridabasd | Sector-16a Faridabad | Sector-18 Faridabad | Sector-3 Faridabad | Sector-22 Faridabad | Sector-7 Faridabad | Sector-8 Faridabad | Sector-9 Faridabad | Sector-12 Faridabad | Sector-15 Faridabad | Sector-29 Faridabad | Sector-17 | Sector -45 | Sector-14, Sonipat | Sector -8 Panchkula | Sector 20 Panchkula | Tar | Jama | Bank | Dhaka | Fri
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