The repeal of the Fifth Amendment : Musings

Rasel Pervez

Rasel Pervez

Was it necessary? – was my first reaction after hearing this news. Awami League-led government has decided to change the name of Zia International Airport to Hazrat Shah Jalal[ R:] International Airport.

Sad but true, this cabinet meeting was headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters, “According to the cabinet decision, no structures or institution will bear the name of the illegal autocratic ruler Ziaur Rahman following the High Court verdict regarding cancellation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Cabinet stated the justification for this renaming process by simply pulling the strings of religious sentiments. They said since the people of the country respect Sufies and religious figures and wish to keep their memories alive, and many important establishments had been named after them, the renaming is in conformity with the tradition of the naming process of the important establishments as well as in keeping with the sentiments of the public mind.

So, Awami league once again pulled the string of religious sentiment that runs against fundamental principles of the party.  According to the constitution of Awami League “The fundamental principles of the Bangladesh Awami Leagues  shall be Bengali Nationalism, Democracy, Secularism”

Fifth Amendment:

On 6th April 1979 Fifth Amendment was passed in the national assembly. This Act amended the Fourth Schedule of the constitution by adding a new paragraph 18 thereto, which provided that all amendments, additions, modifications, substitutions and omissions made in the constitution during the period between 15 August 1975 and 9 April 1979 (both days inclusive) by any Proclamation or Proclamation Order of the Martial Law Authorities had been validly made and would not be called in question in or before any court or tribunal or authority on any ground whatsoever.

The changes in between 15th August 1975 to 9th April 1979 changed the secular characteristics of Bangladesh constitution. Among the changes, in the preamble of our constitution, the addition of Bismillahir Rahmanur Rahim was one. A historic war for national independence was replaced by the wordsa historic war for national independence.”

In the same proclamation order, idea of secularism was axed from the constitution and according to the article 8 of our constitution:

[(1) The principles of absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah, nationalism, democracy and socialism meaning economic and social justice, together with the principles derived from them as set out in this Part, shall constitute the fundamental principles of state policy.

(1A). Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah shall be the basis of all actions.]

had become our national norm.

Before passing this order, all the citizens of Bangladesh were known as Bengali but now according to article 6 of our constitution (2) [The citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis.]

Article 12 of the constitution was omitted altogether and that omitted article was to implement the principle of the secularism,

a)      Every form of communalism

b)      Granting any religion political status by the State

c)      Abuse of religion with political ill-intent

d)     Any oppression over a person of a particular religion will be uprooted

Article 38 of Fundamental rights of people was modified and   “… but on the condition that no person will have the right to participate in any activities of or  to become member of  any communal institution or association or any institution or association that has set up the process of forming political parties based on religious identity or of such association or institution that holds any symbolic or literal resemblance to any religion in its name or title.”

was deleted from the constitution by the second proclamation order III of 1976.

What about the reaction of Government on Fifth Amendment?

The implication of returning to the constitution of 1972 will retain in the constitution the abolished Article 12 and the original form of the amended Article 38. The implication will also extend to the undertaking of effective measures as to the political abuse of religion and to the reconsideration of the existing scenario where the state supports a particular religion and promotes the said religion in its foundations.

But Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said:

“The words “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim” in the preamble to the constitution and declaration of Islam as state religion will remain as they are, since they reflect the beliefs of the people”  Government is trying to establish the spirit of the constitution of 1972 and as well as keeping intact the amendment that are directly opposing the secular spirit of that same constitution.

So, this is the truth. We, the people of Bangladesh, respect the religious leader; therefore, why not, as a token of this respect, change the name of our country? Say for example, instead of calling it Bangladesh, why don’t we call it as Dewanbagidesh, or any thing like this?

Awami League never moved away from its roots:

On 23 June 1949, Bengali nationalists from East Bengal broke away from the Muslim League, Pakistan’s dominant political party, and established the All Pakistan Awami Muslim League.

Awami League, as a political party, claims it upholds secularism, and most of the Awami inclined intellectuals simply wants Awami league to follow this secular path. All the intellectuals of Bangladesh wish and want Awami league to become a party that leads the fraction of Bangladesh population which supports secularist view; but, in essence, this particular party never moved further away from its roots and always in practice has nurtured the Muslim sentiments as its party policy.

In fact, Awami League has never really overcome their religious roots. In practice, it uses the religious sentiments of people to stay in power. And, this is precisely the point where it looses its idiosyncrasy from Jamaat e Islami and other non-secular parties.

Actually the spirit of 1972’s constitution was to establish a secular state which would have no state-religion, which aimed for the state not to patronize any religion and should not use religious sentiment of people politically. But Awami League is failing to follow that course of secularism and using the religious sentiment of people to justify its misdeeds. Instead of being called Awami League, we should at least recognize their effort of Islamizing this country by renaming it as “Allama Awami League” and also to respect the believes of  our countrymen start a political movement of having a Islamic name of our country.

Photo : The National Parliament of Bangladesh, by Amdadul Huq,DrikNEWS.


9 Responses to “The repeal of the Fifth Amendment : Musings”

  1. Azam

    Well researched write-up.
    Ziaur Rahman put Bismillah in constitution but Hasina knows if she takes it out it will hurt her politically. Same goes for Bengali nationalism. Bangladeshi people will not accept Bengali nationalism because it implies integration with West Bengal. Bangladesh did not become independent from Pakistan to join with the eastern wing of India.
    So, Hasina will enjoy the fruits of changes brought about by governments post-1975 but she will not accept their legality. This is indeed a very weird situation. I am sure any future BNP government will reverse these constitutional changes in addition to changing airport names. Tit-for-tat game is not about to stop.

  2. Imran Zaman

    A petty, cheap and silly move by Sheikh Hasina & her “Din Bodoler” government. Does such moves do any good to the nation? I don’t think so. Rather spend the energy in eradicating the Jamaat & its Shibir killers. People will appreciate and condone the starting the trial of the Rajakars, rather then allowing indulgence in petty actions like renaming institutions. Such acts will do nothing but ensure a recurrence when BNP is back in power.

  3. Khondkar A Saleque

    Can BNP ever again come to power if Hasina can sucessfully complete trials of War Crimninals, 21ST August Genade Cranage,BDR killings, 10 Tracks arms haul? But waht Government is doing in change and reinstating names are also not correct.Governmenyt is trying to keep opposition engaed with issues other than national priority issues now.
    These will be booby traps for opposition.
    Rtaher government should address all issues of national prorities Like Traffic congestions, Energy crisis, Rivers recovery.There must be b national consensus on these.

  4. Musthaq Ahmed

    Awami league cannot erase its past , which is no less communal in character than Hindu Mahasabha .
    League cannot overrule the brief it carries for its American mentors . It cannot indulge in any mission that will wipe out BNP politically .
    Bangaldesh can turn itself truely secular without the help of the idea – Bengali Nationalism .
    Its regional existence lends it a national identity of no smaller prestige so as to stand against India. Its language may well be subordinated to this reality.
    The real political problem can be dearth of industrial and merchant classes ie urban population thriving on industries , fit to represent modern Bangladesh . Agrarian classes of inferior spiritual existence cannot but run the country in chaos and ignorance with religious props .

  5. Rumman

    So what if they renamed the airport? Has it stopped you from eating, moreover has it stopped you from soundly sleeping? You all are bigots, please. See, all you do is chirp and chirp, but when it comes to doing something of importance you put on your bangles and sit it out. If I was in your situation and it bothered me that much, I’d probably rename my son to “Ziaur Rahman”

    Absolutely useless.

  6. asif iqbal

    actuall hasina dont think about her future, so for that reason she cant understand that what will be at her luck/ she must be needed to be careful about her future………….

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