[Zafa Noor, USA.]
The regular evening news in Bangladesh on September 9 was interrupted to carry live the speech delivered Chief Advisor (CA) of the Caretaker Government (CTG) of Bangladesh Fakhruddin Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed addressed the nation and revealed some very important decisions made by the CTG. Note that there was no prior announcement of this speech. The program was broadcast by Bangladesh Television (BTV) and simultaneously transmitted by other private channels.
I have to say the style and delivery of a speech by a head of the government had never been better or more eloquent. The well orchestrated speech clearly indicated that lots of thought had been put into preparing the speech, and there has been a deliberate effort made to address some of the allegations of torture and intimidation alleged by international human rights groups and journalists .
I am going to highlight a few of the issues the CA mentioned in his speech. The most anticipated one is obviously the lifting of ban on indoor politics. Before the foot soldiers of the political parties get too excited with their agenda, they should know there have been some restrictions imposed on the indoor politics (thence the term relaxed ban on indoor politics) :
- a political party may hold meetings of its forums to discuss only its organizational reforms and the Election Commission’s (EC) proposal for electoral reforms
- a political party may hold the meetings at its central office, hotels, restaurants, auditoriums, and residences of its members, but it will have to inform the Dhaka Metropolitan Police in advance about the meetings.
- a political party may hold the meetings only in the capital as the ban on indoor politics remains in the rest of the country
- according to the notification, which was issued amending a provision of the Emergency Power Rules, a maximum of 50 leaders may meet at a time. If the number of attendees at a meeting is to exceed 50, the party will have to take prior permission from the home ministry
- a political party may also hold its council to bring reforms to itself with prior permission from the home ministry.
- those who will violate the restrictions will be punished with prison terms of two years to five years and fines.
It is conceivable that after eight months of gag order the political leaders are fully charged to launch their election campaigns and come up with party platforms. But who will lead these campaigns? The top leaders of the two major parties are sitting in special jails, without any possibility of obtaining bail any time soon, leaving their parties in serious rifts. Many of the former political front runners are either detained awaiting formal charges, or absconding justice or charged with petty crimes such as “keeping alcoholic beverages in their home without proper liquor license”. So it played according to the CTG’s plan of political purging in Bangladesh very well.
In his speech, Dr. Ahmed also mentioned that reform proposals of the Election Commission that already received nods from Civil Society and professional groups will soon be discussed with the political parties (or what is left of them) beginning as early as September 12. Considering how little objections we have seen from the civil society group over the last eight months on CTG