Government has failed: Bangladesh opposition
-DR. ABDUL RUFF COLACHAL
Bangladesh, formerly known as East Bengal, a district within India, is deeply involved in serious, seemingly never-ending political crisis. Bangladesh has for quite some time been struggling to create a meaningful people’s democracy but unfortunately has not been able to achieve the objective primarily due to infights for supremacy political leaders working for self interests. People seek better life by voting for a party they prefer. That is only a dream.
A Muslim country in South Asia with about 90% of Muslims, Bangladesh is located on the fertile Bengal delta. It is bordered by the Republic of India to its north, west and east, by the Union of Myanmar (Burma) to its south-east and by the Bay of Bengal to its south. It is separated from the Democratic Republic of Nepal and the Kingdom of Bhutan by the narrow Indian Siliguri Corridor. Together with the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal, it makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. The name Bangladesh means “Country of Bengal” in the official Bengali language. The borders of modern Bangladesh took shape during the Partition of Bengal and British India in 1947, when the region became the eastern wing of the newly formed state of Pakistan. An independent Bangladesh was born in 1971 upon a bloody war of independence from Pakistan which was assisted by India. After its independence, Bangladesh was governed by an Awami League government, with Mujib as the Prime Minister, without holding any elections. In the 1973 parliamentary elections, the Awami League gained an absolute majority. A nationwide famine occurred during 1973 and 1974. On 15 August 1975, Mujib and most of his family members were assassinated by mid-level military officers.
The political war of intolerance of the two parties Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Awamy Party (AP) has genuinely harmed the nation’s Islamic life and equality requirements of the nation. In fact, Bangladesh has been undergoing serous political turmoil because of two major political parties, run by rich ladies, Hasina and Zia respectively, seeking power for personal gains.
The power gambling does not allow peaceful existence of Bangladesh. On 29 August six cabinet ministers and two junior ministers were sworn in as part of the process to form a much-talked-about election-time cabinet to oversee the next general election without opposition BNP and three other parties having representation to parliament. Disapproving the just-formed polls-time cabinet, opposition BNP said they will not participate in the next general election under the reconstituted cabinet terming it ‘a one-party administration of the Awami League-led grand alliance’. It’s nothing but a one-party cabinet of the grand alliance. BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said they want to unequivocally say the opposition will not join the election under such a cabinet.
The BNP leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia, leading a 20-member delegation of the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance will meet President Abdul Hamid on September 01 evening. Earlier, Khaleda sat at a meeting with the top leaders of her party and alliance at her political office in Gulshan discussed her scheduled meeting with the President and the reconstitution of the cabinet. The BNP leader said they want a free, fair and credible election with the participation of all. But a fair and impartial election is not possible under the current cabinet as it won’t be able to create a level-paying field for all. He also said lopsided polls will not be acceptable to the country’s people and the international community. “This will be considered as stage-managed polls.” Justifying their ongoing movement, Fakhrul said they together with people will carry out their movement in a peaceful manner to force the government to arrange the next general election under a non-party administration. Fakhrul warned that the country will be pushed towards violence and the future of democracy will be uncertain if the government tries to hold a unilateral election.
Fakhrul alleged the government is trying to create panic among people by filing ‘false’ cases against BNP men, brutally repressing them after placing them on remand and resorting to killings, abductions and enforced disappearances. Claiming that the government has become isolated from people, the BNP leaders aid the government is resorting to repressive acts so that opposition leaders and activists cannot put up any strong resistance against its despotic and anti-people activities. The reconstitution of the cabinet in the name of an all-party administration will not help find a solution to the ongoing political crisis. Someone is calling it as an all-party administration while some others election-time interim government. BNP thinks it’s nothing but a reconstitution of the old cabinet. He said the present cabinet cannot be an all-party administration as four parties, including the main opposition BNP, having representation in parliament are absent in it.
The government will not succeed in staying in power for long and abductions, enforced disappearances and political killings were on the rise. I can firmly say the government can no longer use the barrel of the gun to prevent its downfall. It is natural that there will be opposing views and criticisms. But the Hasina government has a tendency to get overexcited. We never get to hear anything good coming out of the prime minister’s lips … she is always talking about murder or killings.” He said the world will observe International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. We will too,” said the BNP leader. The BNP has already announced a countrywide human chain programme against such disappearances. Taking a dig at the government for its ‘repressive’ acts, BNP alleged that the regime has turned even more desperate as people have started raising their voice against its misrule. “When the country’s people have started becoming vocal against the current regime’s autocratic and brutal repressive acts, it has got more desperate and unnerved.” It strongly protested and condemned the sending of the BNP men to the jail in the case.
The Hasina government intends to establish full control over the judiciary for obstruct its independence and has put the last nail on the coffin of judiciary by moving to empower the parliament to impeach Supreme Court judges. The cabinet on August 8 approved the proposal for amendment of constitution to pave the way for restoring the parliament’s authority to impeach the Supreme Court judges for misconduct or incapacity. If judges are accused of misconduct, how could the incumbent parliament can impeach them?
Dhaka city unit convener Mirza Abbas said there will be no escape route for the current government when people will take to the streets to realise their demand for holding a fresh election under a non-party administration. He said the country’s people now want the government to go. “Quit power as per people’s demand. Our movement is on and it’ll continue unless our demand is met.” Defending BNP senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman’s comments in London that Awami League is a party of black sheep and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s killers are now in Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet, Abbas said Tarique divulged the facts from documents. He alleged that the ruling party leaders and ministers are attacking BNP senior vice chairman with false and fabricated information. The former minister claimed that the government has hurriedly taken some moves like formation of the broadcast policy and empowering parliament to impeach judges.
UN officials in Dhaka said secretary general Ban Ki-moon would send a “political mission” to Dhaka on December 6 in an effort to bridge the gaps between the two parties after Western nations and neighbouring countries like India and China engaged their efforts for an amicable settlement of the deadlock. According to one estimate, political violence since January this year has killed 348 people in Bangladesh.
The dynasty rule has negatively impacted upon the political process of the nation. Mrs Sheikh Hasina (President Mujibur Rahman’s daughter) and Khaelda Zia, wife of former premier. Both have been at perpetual war seeking to gain power in order mainly to target the other, rather than helping the people- especially the poor solve their day to day life problems. The crude rivalry between the jail returned leaders Mrs Sheikh Hasina and Mrs. Khaelda Zia has vitiated the political and social atmosphere of the nation. Whenever an election day nears, the situation in Bangladesh becomes increasingly volatile.
A founding member of SAARC, Bangladesh continues to face a number of major political and social challenges, including endemic bureaucratic and political corruption, widespread poverty, political instability, overpopulation and vulnerability to global climate change. Bangladesh-India relations have gone through several hiccups in the last forty years. A major source of tension is water-sharing on 56 common rivers, as well as border security and barriers to trade and investments. Also, both countries have accused each other of harboring insurgent groups.
The country endured decades of poverty, famine, political turmoil and numerous military coups. Since the restoration of democracy in 1991, the country has experienced relative calm and economic progress, though the country’s main political parties remain polarized. With a population of more than 160 million people in a territory of 56,977 sq mi, Bangladesh is the world’s eighth most populous country, as well as one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
The political landscape in the South Asian Nation appears to be shaped by the seemingly irreconcilable enmity between Hasina and Zia, who have been voted alternatively to power for decades. Regardless of which party is in office, it marginalizes the opposition, which, in turn, tries to use all the tools at its disposal to assert itself against the government. Through mass demonstrations, violent clashes and general strikes, opposition parties have made clear their anger at the government’s plans. “The opposition wants to flex their muscles and that is the political culture Bangladesh. However, they can’t do that in parliament, so the only place they can do it is on the streets.
Political struggle for power is a permanent in Bangladesh since each of them considers themselves as the fittest ruler. Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly stated that the law requiring the establishment of such a government before elections was scrapped, as it had enabled the military to intervene and take over power.
Top legal experts said the major parties must reach a consensus immediately as the independent statutory body was obligated to stage the polls by January 24, 2014 under a constitution deadline giving the commission scopes for deferring the election date by few days only.
Like Pakistan, military’s lead role or government is common in Bangladesh. Lieutenant General Ziaur Rahman, took over the presidency in 1977 as Justice Sayem resigned. President Zia reinstated multi-party politics, introduced free markets, and founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Zia’s rule ended when he was assassinated by elements of the military in 1981
In extension of its anti-Pakistan policy, Bangladesh has been targeting even Islam to gain profits from the anti-Islamic world of nations, both neighbors sand far off nations. The seeds were sown under the premier Mrs Sheikh Hasina, wife of former military general and first president of newly established nation and ruling Awami Party, Mujib Rahman.
Image of Bangladesh has been at a low ebb as the nation is y to project its real goal and genuine leaders with Islamic thoughts for human development are yet to enter politics.
Unpopularity of the Hasina regime is evident from the antipathy and opposition from the people towards the government. . The disengagement of the populations for the government is growing steadily. The Hasina government, which was elected in late 2008 by a large majority, has now lost much of its support among voters ho feel the improved economy of the country has no relevance for the people- the beneficiaries are the big business communities and the rich. The number of Bangladeshis who perceive the country to be on the right track has fallen from 70 percent four years ago to around 40 percent now.
Bangladesh in South Asia is one among the developing Muslim nations seeking to be in the good books of world powers like USA and EU, among other such terrocracies, by targeting Muslims indoors and employing tactics that amount to anti-Islamism as the key tool of regime policy. The USA is a major development partner of Bangladesh, providing over six billion dollars in aid since 1972. American companies are the largest foreign investors in the country, and the US is also the largest market for Bangladeshi exports.
In order to gain popularity among non-Muslims and anti-Islamic sections of the country, the regime was seen engaged in focusing on war if independence and targeting her political opponents. The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), set up by Hasina at the request of a majority of the population to investigate and mete out justice for the atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, has led to serious social upheaval. The verdicts being delivered by the court have led to violent protests and a polarization of society along religious lines. Obviously, the bad time of madam Hasina has turned good fortunes for her rival madam Zia who is viewed today as a better leader than the former.
Madams Hasina and Zia have been jailed for rampant corruption and other forms of crimes. While Hasina seems to have backing for India, USA and even Saudi Arabia ( where she had been on “holy” voyage after jail term ) , Madam Zia does not have such overt foreign support.
Last October, Bangladesh’s largest opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), called for a nationwide general strike which lasted for weeks and turned violent in some parts of the country. All over the country, BNP supporters took to the streets, torched dozens of cars and clashed with police forces. More than 20 people were killed. On November 9, three BNP leaders were taken into custody on allegations of instigating violence.
The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance is demanding installation of a “non-party” government for election oversight with an “acceptable person” as its head. The ruling Awami League rejected the demand calling it “unconstitutional” while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked the opposition to join the poll-time all-party cabinet.The opposition considers the current administration to be “illegal” and demands for the poll to be prepared by a non-partisan caretaker government. The BNP is now ahead in many of the constituencies that the ruling party won in the last elections, according to the latest polls.
The ruling party is now waiting to see how much strength, how much muscle power the BNP still has. If they are really capable of paralyzing public life in Bangladesh and generating all this violence, then the AL will be willing to reach a compromise.
Political commentators say PM Hasina might then risk the possibility of a military intervention. Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy, and the country has been alternately ruled by Hasina and Zia since 1991. But the issue of peaceful transfers of power has remained a major challenge. An agreement between the government and the opposition on how to set up a transitional government would be an important first step towards establishing such a political culture
An agreement between the government and the opposition on how to set up a transitional government would be an important first step towards establishing such a political culture. Hopes are pinned on the opposition to reach a compromise in the end with the government for a caretaker government. . But in order to achieve this it is crucial that the key issue regarding who should preside over this government is resolved by mutual agreement.
Who will tie the bell and when?