Too little, too late for democratic roadmap for Bangladesh

Saleem Samad

Saleem Samad

People waiting for democracy..............

People waiting for democracy, Photo: Munem Wasif/*Drik*NEWS.

On the eve of the military installed interim government’s chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed crucial address to the nation was interpreted in a commentary by Nayeemul Islam Khan in a Bangladesh newspaper Amader Shomoy that it would be a “landmark speech” and hopes it would be a “magna carta” for the Bangalee nation.

Millions at home and thousands Bangladeshi immigrants glued themselves on television for live broadcast of the chief adviser which was expected to give clear direction regarding transition to democratic road map.

In fact the over-zealous military bulldozed the constitutional means of transition to democracy in January 2007, fired the caretaker government, declared state of emergency and of course installed an interim government with hand-picked advisers they hire and fire.

Well the much ado Monday speech to the nation was too little and too late for restoration of democracy. Though the election has been planned days after the Victory Day celebration in December, the chief adviser deliberately avoided any commitment about the deadline to withdraw the dreaded emergency.

Aptly said by a university teacher that the withdrawal of emergency is a prerequisite for dialogue, which disappointed the nation.” The political concession laid out to the nation is a political farce.

1. The long-running ban on indoor politics all across the country will ease from May 13.
2. The government will start dialogue with political parties, starting on May 22. The Chief Adviser’s Office will send out invitation letters to political parties from Tuesday.
3. The government will either relax or suspend certain provisions in the emergency powers rules to facilitate electioneering and create a proper context for the polls.
4. Ahead of elections, the government will form a national charter with the opinions of all related parties, which is meant to bring a qualitative change to government and politics.

In a bid to create a “congenial atmosphere” for elections, the indoor politics would continue to be “indoors”. With conditions attached there are half a dozen do’s and don’ts which flouts the constitutional provision of freedom of assembly. The political parties cannot assemble more than 50 people during indoor activities, the meeting agenda will discuss organisational issues only, cannot use public address system, media cannot broadcast live of the political events, the venue of meetings is limited to designated places. Lastly the party have to inform the nearest police station at least 48 hours before the event. Possibly to ensure transparency of indoor politics! Well Ahmed could have said it.

He did not mention the names nor indirectly referred the two women leaders Khaleda Zia and Shiekh Hasina languishing in special prisons. Well he also did not hint whether the interim government has dropped the “minus-two” formula. He failed to mention their status of standing trial for corruptions and extortions. Even he did not indicate whether they could be invited for dialogue. Also it is not clear whether they can participate in the planned election in end of this year. A total blackout!

Fakhruddin said, “The precondition of a meaningful, free, fair and acceptable election was checking black money and muscle power, establishing the rule of law, conducting an anti-corruption drive, improving law and order and, above all, making state institutions effective and dynamic.”

Whereas the Brussels based International Crisis Group recent report in April 2008 states:

The caretaker government, along with the international community, must take credible steps to restore democracy to Bangladesh ahead of the December 2008 general elections.

His dramatic words “golden opportunity” and “golden future” for the nation has been marred in the wake of series of failure to break the culture of criminalisation of politics, institutionalisation of corruption, organised crime, money laundering, and accumulation of black money, and punish profiteering traders.

Ahmed for obvious reasons avoided to mention whether the dialogue would have open-ended agenda to ensure guaranteed transition to democracy.

It is understood from insiders that “National Charter” to reach a consensus would be the guideline for dialogue with mainstream political parties and allies. Failure to comply with the charter, the political parties and party leaders would be punished, banished and barred. It is game of snake and ladder!

Instead of the so-called National Charter, the authority could have developed a Commission for Integrity of the Democratically Elected Public Representatives, which could have been a bible for politicians and elected leaders in public offices. Thus refrain from exercising threats and coercion on political parties for reforms from the top.

From Ahmed’s words it is understood that the authorities ceased “implementation of an internal reform of the political parties voluntarily.” He further said that the nation expects implementation of the expected reform for providing the nation with democratic behaviour, honest, efficient and dynamic leadership.

When the international watchdogs and donor consortiums are demanding for a credible election, the caretaker government’s main aim, according to the chief adviser, was to hold a “free, fair, neutral and acceptable election and start a post-election healthy democratic system”.

It is true that the Chief Adviser did not mention about the withdrawal of the emergency. This obviously means that freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of press remains curtailed under emergency laws.

Meanwhile the editors and journalist’s professional bodies on the eve of the address to the state by Chief Adviser underlined a red area in exercising their profession and remarked “invisible, unwritten pressure and control over the media”. The journalists expressed their indignation over the looming crisis the media is going through during the state of emergency.

On the other hand, Ahmed hoped that after his address all questions, suspicious and speculations centering election will come to an end. But political observers understand that the real motive and intention of the military backed authorities will further deepen. The nation was at the cross road of democracy, military rule, emergency and economic stagnation. The speculation and suspicions will gather moss which will turn into a political crisis.  #

Attached: Full text of the speech of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed.


652 Responses to “Too little, too late for democratic roadmap for Bangladesh”

  1. Imran

    This unelected, non democratic, so-called army backed caretaker government is preparing the nation for a farcical election in december. The CA’s address was disappointing and will muddy the waters more in the coming months. It’s the army in the driving seat with the CA and its advisers and the election commissioners as stooges planning to rig the elections. After failing to cleanse the nation of what they had promised us, Moeen and his cohorts are conspiring to steal democracy from us. These people will not quit, they will have to be kicked out again. Looks like another 1/11 will unfurl but this time it will be the people of Bangladesh that will be in the driver’s seat. We await that day of freedom, that day of the return of democracy in our motherland. Until then..

  2. Khalil

    In fact the chief advisor’s adress was not a road map for democracy rather recepie for national crisis nation will face in 2009. Dr. Ahmed (CA)wish to make a so called national charter by concensus of everybody so that CTG could have a safe exit by end of 2008. He also hinted changes in the constitution to make so called “balance of power” in line with Army Chief’s vision for future Bangladesh. He wanted to abolish front organizatins of all political parties. Most surprising about his speech was that not a single word was pronounced on price hike and sufferings of entire 150 million people. I am sure there will be domesticated politicians like Dr. Kamal, Dr. Firdous Koreshi, Dr. Bodrudozza and Ershad are waiting to get a share of power in upcoming mitliray organized democratic election as indicated in december. For this, country’s first “INDEPENDENT” election comission (EC) is ready with blue print.

  3. Priyaranjan Pandit

    Bangladesh is heading towards a disaster. The way CG is pursuing Hasina and Khaleda, especially Hasina, it will be very difficult to backtrack. Khalida has enough backing in the military and it is possible that her authority could be restored. CG’s treatment of Hasina reminds me of Ziaul Huq-Bhutto situation where Zia felt that there was one grave already dug and it was inevitable that one of them will end up there.

    I have great respect for Hassan Mashud. He had the courage to leave Iajuddin’s CG. He also voluntarily relinquished the position of Army chief although he was assured an extension. But he seems to have lost his pragmatism.

    Bangladesh has a government that feels it has no responsibility and no accountability. As a result people feel it has no credibility.

  4. Imran

    I agree with Priyaranjan. I also believe that the BNP reformists’ desperate attempts to unite with the Khaleda faction lately is also a ploy of the government and it’s intelligence services to take over the reigns of the BNP, this time, “from the inside.” Delawar and his group which has stood firm until now should be very careful of letting this “trojan horse” in. Have you noticed who plays a major role on behalf of the BNP reformists in all major meetings? It’s the Razakar Abdul Alim of Joypurhat. That alone tells you what gives so much strength to the Jamaat when the entire country is asking for the trial of the war criminals. Look, its the General Mahbub’s and Major Hafiz’s (freedom fighters?) who are allowing Razakars like Abdul Alim to advice them. If you dig deep, I believe one will find whose purposes and desires Abdul Alim is really serving. I don’t think such scums have the welfare of the BNP and/or of the nation in mind.

    The military, I believe strongly and events in the past several months prove, is infested with not only rightist pro-Khaleda elements, moreover, with pro-Jamaat sympathizers. I also believe that some of our retired military officers who joined the liberation war in 1971 did so in order to go with the flow; not for the sake of patriotism. These officers were and still are of the pro-Pakistani mentality and are still trying to thwart all remaining post pro-liberation activities. A prominent case in point is a very influential member of the current CG government, who is also a retired major general and survived the last overhaul of the council of advisers. I also strongly believe that the Liberation War Commanders forum led by AK Khondoker, Shafiullah, Mir Shaukat are not doing enough to push for the end of the Razakars in Bangladesh.

    All this means is that Sheikh Hasina and the “true” Awami Leaguer’s are in deep waters. Why do you think it took so long to prepare for the trial of Khaleda? Why do you think Hasina’s trial started first and is still going on given the fact of how tremendously and shamefully the resources of the country was plundered during the term of the last elected government. The only ones that can save Sheikh Hasina and the “true” Awami Leaguers from these dire straits is the freedom loving, patriotic people of Bangladesh.

  5. Nirmal L. Gomes

    I heartily thank the author that author very keenly analyzes the CA’s address to the nation and future democratic leadership issue. Many leaders and citizens openly criticize negatively CA’s address. If we research and analysis last thirty six years about Bangladesh political history and human development of the nation, we can find that uncountable people developed a sense of negative behavior and attitude to react for any issue. It could be educated or non-educated people. This is people’s lack of common sense and understanding the positive thinking. I read couple of times the CA’s address to the nation and also read dozens of editorial, commentaries, and news reports that most people negatively reacted on CA’s address, but very less people cherished and added some good ideas that CA’s should have addressed in the speech.
    What I understand in my limited knowledge that our political leaders created the every opportunity for CA’s to give such kind of speech. No doubt that they are the responsible for it. Moreover, the leaders created the environment to bring the military-backed intern government. I would strongly say that inefficient and unskilled leadership brought this situation in Bangladesh. If we say we achieved our freedom and democracy by sacrificing thousands of lives in 1971, but our leaders could not hold and nurture the freedom and democracy. Freedom and democracy have not nurtured well, freedom and democracy have threaten, challenged, and failed to the corrupted and dishonest leaders since thirty six years and now. Someone may argue that every time leaders were elected by democratic ways. Democratic election means citizens should elect leaders by individual decision which is mostly free and fearless choice to vote. In Bangladesh can anyone bid me that elections were free and fearless? There were open-secrete power, black money, muscle power, and so on that used before and after elections to win the elections. Citizens have given vote for someone but many of them did not vote from their heart. It is not true practice of democracy at all.
    Now we are in situation that military-backed intern government has been trying to bring the nation more stable and effective. The nation and world know very well that, intern government consisted by only less than 20 advisers who have been running the nation, whereas sixty ministers were not able to handle the nation effectively. If we compare with thirty six years leadership and this intern government then off course neutral people will agree with me that the present intern government will get highest credit to lead the nation. Since one year the general citizens feel more free and peaceful life than any political leadership though general citizens have been struggling to buy essentials with high prices. They are used to do this since thirty six years. Of course, the nation deserves for political leadership. It must be true leadership. In reference to the recent CA’s address to the nation it reflected that CA wants and strongly said, “the precondition of a meaningful, free, fair and acceptable election was checking black money and muscle power, establishing the rule of law, conducting an anti-corruption drive, improving law and order and, above all, making state institutions effective and dynamic.” The Chief Adviser wants to heal the nation from corruption cancer. The Chief Adviser diagnosed the nation’s politics and prescribed that only curing the corruption from every root can be restored our freedom, democracy, and prosperity. To restore democracy in the nation whatever things to be done, they must do it without zero tolerance. Of course, all things should be considered and benefited of mass people in the nation rather than few people. As representatives of the mass people the political leaders must be constructive to supportive the intern government to poll the free, fair, and acceptable general election on time as CA announced and also commit to practice true democracy in the nation in the future.

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