Bangladesh is possibly the most undemocratically democratic country in the world. Since its emergence, it has been ruled, in total, for 17 years by meta-democratic, often military-led regimes and born-out-of-Cantonment pseudo-democratic parties. Here party councilors do not elect political leaders but they are selected. Political leaders are succeeded by their heirs. They are selected on the basis of their loyalty towards party chief. This will become clear if we just compare the effects of the National Party Council of Awami League and BNP, parties that ruled Bangladesh for a period ranging over twenty odd years.
On 24th July 2009, Awami League held the party’s National Council to elect new leadership and ratify provisional changes brought to its constitution to meet the criteria for registration with the Election Commission (EC).
Sheikh Hasina was elected the Awami League (AL) President for the sixth time while Syed Ashraful Islam was elected the General Secretary for three years without any contest.
According to Article 21 of the AL constitution, however, the president, presidium members, general secretary, departmental secretaries, and the treasurer must be elected by the triennial council.
Party National Council, however, did not follow party charter properly in electing leadership. They only elected party president and secretary general and empowered newly elected AL chief Sheikh Hasina to choose leaders for 45 posts that include 13 members of the party Presidium, 31 departmental secretaries, and seven organizing secretaries, and a treasurer.
Immediately after Khaleda Zia’s release from the prison, clash between the reformist and the loyalist sections of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) hurt BNP as a political party and it cost Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan’s political career. But in the post-1/11 scenario, as a political party BNP had lost a lot, they failed to hold Upazilla and Zilla council. Clashes over leadership in councils were the most common news feature about BNP Zilla Council.
Though BNP, after 16 years, also held its National Council, the most significant and yes, deplorable outcome of the Council was the creation of an all-powerful senior vice chairman post in the party and election of Tarique Rahman for that post.
Khaleda Zia was elected as chairperson of BNP without contest.
As regards to holding election for other posts in the party, the BNP National Council followed its arch-rival AL National Council’s all-in-one power-position. It empowered re-elected BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to nominate leaders for party’s national standing and executive committees, ignoring the party charter that clearly stipulates election for the posts.
The extended party meeting of ruling Awami League after 20 months breaks raised hope.
Syed Ashraful Islam, elected general secretary, had said “District and Upazila-level councils will be held after a countrywide drive for new member.” According to him, AL would bring in fresh leadership in every grass-root level committee. But the process could take up to three years to complete.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and also the president of Bangladesh Awami League was present there. In her presence Advocate Ajmat Ullah, general secretary of Gazipur zilla Awami league, in his speech, said that it should be decided whether the elected members will have the power to control the party or the party will control its elected members.
He had pointed out the fact that each and every one of the MPs has been elected not by their own popularity and public image but rather they were elected only because all the party members had worked for them in 2008 national election.
Advocate Akram Hossain, president of Pirojpur Awami League, said elected MPs should work in accord with the grass-root level activists. He accused the MPs of being aloof and this aloofness is making them drift further away form the mass.
Aolad Hossain Badol, general secretary of Awami League, Nilphamary, addressed Party President Sheikh Hasina and said the gap between the party and the government had widened as the elected MPs think they are the only fundamental parts of the party.
In the presence of the MPs and of course in the presence of Party president and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, exhibition of such gallant accusations and finger-pointing is quite unthinkable, but that shows the hard fact that at least Awami League has learned something important. To hear and be heard is the only way of good governance.
Grass-root party activists and party leaders have said they did not even feel that their party is in power, and the only fraction that is feeling that power and abysmally misusing the power is BCL.
But the saga of abusing power continues:
The Representation of the People Order (RPO) clearly prohibits a registered political party from forming any affiliated or associated organization of professionals, students, teachers, employees, or laborers.
Complying with RPO, AL in its amended constitution ratified by its National Council severed its ties with Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and Jatiya Sramik League, two previously associated organizations of the party for students and laborers respectively. These organizations, many a time, were the driving forces of the party.
It is reported that Awami League has severed its ties with Bangladesh Chatra League[ BCL], and Sheikh Hasina on 4th April 2009 quit the post of organizational chief because of the ongoing power abuse of BCL. This manifests a legal reality that organizationally BCL is not a part of the ruling party anymore but the party and political reality is most of the student leaders are loyal to the MPs anyways and these MPs are the ones protecting these unruly thugs and miscreants. Needless to say, these MPs are also the governing force of the party against whom the resentment is strong at grass-root level too.
Editorial of The Daily Star on 2nd February wrote a congenial academic atmosphere is now absent even in many reputable institutions due, largely, to the activities of the ruling party’s student wing fanning out in different money-making directions which often involve high-scale abuse of power and physical force. In addition to indulging in Tender business, the BCL cadres are reportedly thriving on booming admission business in the colleges.
Bangladesh Chhatra League men halted interview of the first year (Hons.) admission at Sathkhira City College for about half an hour demanding a “political quota” and kept hindering the holding of interview at Dhaka College.
Because of their internal feud, at least 25 people were injured as the two Chhatra League fractions fought over control of Sir AF Rahman Residential Hall at Dhaka University.
Among the injured, Abu Bakar Siddique, a third year Islamic History student, died in the hospital.
As news of the death reached the DU campus, students of the Islamic History department brought out a procession protesting the death.
On the eve of the opening ceremony of Omar Ekushe Gronthomela, student activists of BCL beat the female student activists of BNP but the ever partisan policemen took the victim in custody instead of the aggressive miscreants.
It needed to end at some point.
Police, MPs and all other local and national leaders should not turn a blind eye to this continuous and horrific power abuse of BCL student activists. The laymen are dismayed and deeply enraged in this regard. And, we know from our experience, irrespective of the political part that governs the executive, the government always turns deaf when it comes to public voice and outrage.
This time, they rather should not.
Rasel Pervez, prominent blogger in Bangla blogsphere who is famous for his political analysis. Mr, Rasel Pervez completed his MS on Physics from the US and awaiting PHD.