The curious case of the caretaker

Maskwaith Ahsan

Maskwaith Ahsan

The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

The system of a supposedly neutral caretaker administration before elections is not only absurd but also contradictory to the spirit of democracy. Bangladesh had to go through this system following rigged bye-election of Magura under the 1991 BNP rule. That’s when the Awami League came up with the idea of a caretaker government. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party opposed the system and the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia ridiculed the proposed neutral interim system saying that no one could be neutral other than a child or a lunatic. Now ironical she is the one fighting for the same utopian caretaker system, which has already been abolished by the parliament following a Supreme Court verdict.

The ‘91 Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed and the ‘96 Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman caretaker governments were quite successful in holding fair elections, perhaps as a necessity of law. But the 2001 Justice Latifur Rahman and the 2006 Prof Iazuddin Ahmed caretaker administrations unleashed the darkness inherent in such a system.

Prof Ahmed’s partisan approach resulted in an army backed 1/11 caretaker administration which interrupted the flow of democracy for two years. By the time elections were held in December 2008, the realization was driven home that unless we learn to institutionalize democracy the uncertainty of caretakers will remain a threat to the evolution of democracy. When the entire western world is run on the spirit of the Westminster system, why does Bangladesh at all have to nurture the caretaker concept? Rather, we should strengthen our Election Commission so that it can hold fair elections. The existing Election Commission has already demonstrated the strength of its neutrality during recent local body polls in which the opposition BNP got reasonable wins. We still have more than two years in hand before the next parliamentary elections to further equip and give autonomy to the Election Commission.

After ridiculing the caretaker concept in the past, the BNP has now started accusing the Awami League of election engineering by abolishing the caretaker system. Interestingly, this very BNP was noticeably absent from the parliament where it would have been within its rights to voice concerns about the said abolishment. Even though, top AL leaders have requested BNP parliamentarians to offer a formula for free and fair elections, BNP is unfortunately preparing for a showdown on the streets, which is nothing short of an attempt to assassin whatever little peace and economic growth we have left.

The role of opposition in the parliament has consistently remained absent, whereas all the while these opposition parliamentarians have never once refused their salaries and/or foreign tours. The Awami League may have failed to deliver all that it promised in its election manifesto, but really how responsible have we seen the BNP as a shadow government or party in opposition.

The 2001-06 BNP-Jamaat government turned a blind eye to the rise of militancy and corruption. Bangladesh became comparable to Pakistan in terms of grenade attacks and politics of religion. We even had to suffer the wrath of western Islamophobic blacklists. The Awami League has, at least, reestablished secular order in which minorities are safe like before and socio-cultural activities are free from the threats of religious traders and militants. The moment foreign investors, even from the militancy-torn Muslim world, started eyeing Bangladesh as a safe place for investment, the BNP-Jamaat duo has once again resorted to public strikes in a visible attempt to bottleneck the feel-good atmosphere for investment and business.

We have yet to see the opposition shoulder any pro-people agenda. All they are doing is showing concern about an election that will take place after two and a half years. This election- and power- politics has become boringly repetitive and out-dated. Having said this, one would also like to see the party in power address urgent issues like inflation, power shortage, security, stock-exchange dacoity, corruption and abuse of power by partisan cadres. To top it off, the unnecessarily totalitarianesque attitude of some of the sitting ministers and members of parliament are tarnishing whatever little good this government wants to achieve.

We ordinary people expect a higher level of tolerance and maturity from the party in power, not loose talk and disregard for public sentiment. The Awami League leaders should welcome criticism from every corner to show who the bigger person is, and they should, on priority basis, work towards strengthening the Election Commission as a means of upholding their promise for fair elections in 2014.

I fervently hope the ruling upper brass has learnt from the experience of 2001 and 2006 caretakers that any level of election engineering is destined to backfire. And the BNP should stop getting paranoid about election-rigging. Based on the lessons drawn from the trials and errors of democracy, it’s a safe bet that winning the hearts of powerless marginal people alone will decide the fate of 2014 polls.

profilepic

The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.


7 Responses to “The curious case of the caretaker”

  1. Nusrat

    I fully agree with the author that the ‘caretaker government’ concept should have been abandoned after the 1996 elections. Democracy has survived in Bangladesh since then except for BNP’s excesses in the past which brought in the illegitimate and unconstitutional failed government of Moin-Fakruddin stooges. That illegitimate government was dominated by all pro-BNP elments begining from Fakruddin, Moin to Anwarul Iqbal.

    After more than two decades of functional democracy it is a disgrace for any country to carry on with an undemocratic provision in the constitution that allows illegal opportunist power grabbers to come in and take Bangladesh several steps backwards.

    BNP should give up calling unecessary hartals and return to the parliament. If they don’t go to the parliament their membership should be scrapped. They are enjoying all the benefits of parliamentarians including membership in parliamentary bodies and frequent foreign trips abroad but have the audacity to bypass the sessions. Khaleda Zia seeems to have an inherent distaste for the parliament.

    What she should realise that the best way for her to salvage her crime-ridden sons is to go back to the parliament at once and beg for forgiveness of the sins of her notorious sons.

    The grenade attack on Hasina that miraculously allowed her to survive and the ten truck weapons haul will haunt the Zia family for ages to come. These are no longer a national issue. They have taken international dimensions in view of its implication on international terrorism sponsored by states, how terrorist networks work, and head of states and their family members engaged in moneylaundering to finance global terrorist lynchpins carry out clandestine operations.

    I am sure global anti-terrorist networks have enough information from Harris Choudhury, the former PS to Khaleda Zia, about the assassination plot against Hasina, the assassination of SAMS Kibria, and the illegal weapons destined for Indian terrorist organisations. The plans originated from Hawa Bhaban at the personal directives of Tareq Rahman along with Jamaat-e-Islami elements within the army intelligence. Harris Choudhury possibly has divulged vivid details of all the plots that were hatched at the nefarious Hawa Bhavan at the personal initiative of Tarek Rahman and Babar, the then home minister, his police aides and the home secretary. Harris Choudhury has no other choice but to confess and plead guilty to save his life.

  2. nabila

    It was an open secret at that time that Tareq was the mastermind sitting at hawa bhobon behind the mass killing that also killed the present Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman. He must not be allowed to escape the long hand of law.

    The government now has enough evidence to prosecute this notorious killer at large. he must be brought back and made to stand trial. Like father like son. His father killed Bangabandhu and he kept the tradition alive by planning to kill Hasina. If found guilty he should be hanged like the killers of Bangabandhu.

  3. Hafiz

    he not only planned assassinations siting in hawa bhaban but also pocketed billions of takas as a godfather from all kinds of people. a substantial amount of that money has been taken out of the country thru money laundering.

  4. Qutubuddin Aowlad

    I am sure all the three former IGPs know a lot about the Tareq involvement in the August 21 grenade attack at Bangabandhu Avenue. Because they quickly watersprayed all the clues lying around at the site of the carnage.

    The caretaker government of Moin could have easily found out about tareq’s direct participation in the terrorist plot by subjecting him to waterboarding intelligence practice in 2008.

    This boy has been a menace to his family and the nation at large. If he gets away with the genocide he perpetrated on August 21 he with help from the Jamaat-e-Islami financiers will resort to even more deadlier plots involving international terrorist rings to wipe out the Awami League top brass.

    He must be tried and prosecuted at once for global security. The UK government should be asked to deport him. He may have also been involved in the plot to assassinate the former British High Commissioner to Bangladesh at the Durgah of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA)

  5. Qutubuddin Aowlad

    I am sure all the three former IGPs know a lot about the Tareq involvement in the August 21 grenade attack at Bangabandhu Avenue. Because they quickly watersprayed all the clues lying around at the site of the carnage.

    The caretaker government of Moin could have easily found out about tareq’s direct participation in the terrorist plot by subjecting him to waterboarding intelligence practice in 2008.

    This boy has been a menace to his family and the nation at large. If he gets away with the genocide he perpetrated on August 21 he with help from the Jamaat-e-Islami financiers will resort to even more deadlier plots involving international terrorist rings to wipe out the Awami League top brass.

    He must be tried and prosecuted at once for global security. The UK government should be asked to deport him. He may have also been involved in the plot to assassinate the former British High Commissioner to Bangladesh at the Durgah of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA.

  6. Ibraz

    What nonsense hartal? Does she have any idea about the plight of the common commuters yesterday in Dhaka. Buses and other modes of transportation were in short supply.They refused to put them on streets in fear of goons and terrorists hired by BNP to set them on fire with petrol, gunpowder and Molotov cocktails. People had to wait in long queues and thrust themselves into buses to get in. Many just could put half their bodies inside while the rest precariously hung outside the bus. I cursed her and hoped that one day she should be forced to watch the pain of bus riders in Dhaka and then subjected to the same hardship common people experience on a daily basis.

    During her rule corruption was so rampant that it took five years to build a few hundred yards long flyover over Mohakhali and millions of dollars were stolen by purchasing Volvo double-deckers that are not at all seen in Dhaka nowadays.

    She lives in a heavily fortified luxury house just a block from the American club with security provided by the government. While the common people toil on a daily basis because of the total mismanagement of the power sector and communications sectors during BNP’s rule Khaleda Zia never ever come out on to the streets from the confinements of her safe house to root on behalf of her hired street urchins. Many common people may die or get hurt today but Khaleda Zia will get up from bed at around 11 AM, drink coffee and spend her entire day at home just like any other day. She neither goes to the parliament or have any academic pursuit nor does she have the intellect to understand the dire consequences of the dangerous game she is playing to save her spoilt sons.

  7. Khondkar A saleque

    I fully endorse what the authror wrote and what Nusrat commented. If politicians really mean to establish democarcy they must try to strengthen democratic institutions , make election process transparent and credible. Why not parties in the pariament can not discuss about formation of interim government comprising of members of treasury bench and opposition. CTG was the necessity of time as autocrats from 1975 to 1990 and democaric autocrats in 1996 created situation for it as election under ruling party became a mockery at that time.According to Madam Khaleda Zia ” None but children and insane persons were neutral”. Now she thinks only children or insnae perons can conduct elections neutrally to reinstae her to power as others are awware of the misrule , corruption of her government .
    Instead of shedding crocodiles tears for CTG she must admit that she has to agitate on the street to destablize the country as her sons soon have to be on the dock for massive corruption and hatching conspiracy to elimnate opposition during her last term.
    The concept of care taker system was visitated during the last term of the KZ led BNP-Jamat government .3 Uddins had to do the donkeys job . Even KZ several times was critical of the three Uddins who however were her own choices.
    People of Bangladesh are no fools.While they do not really like the present situation but still they will never allow looters , grabbers and sponsors to terrorism return to state power.

Comments are closed.