Minus two formula and remote controlled justice



Extra-ordinary scenes were in Dhaka yesterday as the freshly released ex Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met with four advisers and had a telephone chat with the Chief Advisers to demand quick election in Bangladesh. She is on her way to the United States today to be received by her son in Boston.

Sheikh Hasina was arrested 11 months ago in connection with an extortion case and was sent to a sub-jail on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises. She was also charged with 14 more cases in the course of time.

The Daily Star claims:

The court orders came after a government-formed medical board examined Hasina on June 5 and recommended the next day to send her abroad for better treatment of her ear. Acting on the recommendations, the government yesterday freed her for eight weeks on parole.

According to Prothom Alo the government can cancel the decision of temporary release of Hasina (the executive order under section 401/4A of criminal act) anytime without showing any reason.

However only last Sunday (8th of June) a special court rejected the bail prayer of Sheikh Hasina in the Niko graft case.

Tacit comments in Drishtipat blog:

Sheikh Hasina has been given neither bail nor parole. The courts have exempted her from showing up in person for the trials, but absent a bail or parole, she should still be in jail. Unless there is a secret order somewhere labeling Sudha Shadhan a subjail, Sheikh Hasina is currently, de jure, a runaway from the law.

Cholishnu Bidda Kalpadroom comments:

In this process a new type of parole has been invented in Bangladesh. It is called the “politicized parole”.

So what had instigated this extra-ordinary freedom of Sheikh Hasina? Lots of speculations are on the board like Sheikh Hasina will not return to avoid detention. If Awami League gets the majority in the next election then she can be brought back to the parliament using by-election and eventually select for the Prime Minister post.

The most important thing is that Awami League has decided to participate in the dialog organized by the government and eventually the election. Another information is that Sheikh Hasina’s Canadian Visa was also arranged by the government. So it is clear that Awami League has reached some sort of deal with the Government.

The release of Hasina has been welcomed by many as it will create a cooling breeze into Bangladeshi politics. However the whole fiasco only questions the independence of the judiciary in the country which is clearly still being manipulated politically.

A New Age editorial marked the decline:

On Wednesday, April 23, the Appellate Division curtailed the authority of the High Court Division to hear bail petitions in cases under the Emergency Powers Rules, in a judgement that has sparked furore among legal experts and practitioners, and been dubbed as the last nail in the human rights coffin.

Another commenter in Drishtipat says:

I want to talk about the so called “independent” judiciary in Bangladesh. This has been claimed as THE MOST SIGNIFICANT of the reforms of the current government. But ever since the judiciary became independent, even the high court is more aligned with the government. (The lower court has always been with the government, with or without independence).

According to Odhikar, a human rights organization (BDNews24):

“The way the caretaker government has fast-tracked the judicial process by getting courts to issue orders in a day exempting former prime minister Sheikh Hasina from personal appearance has exposed, yet again, use of judicial process for extraneous purposes. These hurried decisions have seriously undermined the judiciary and the judicial process in the people’s perception.

It is obvious that political calculation has overwritten both the emergency and the ordinances by which the regime is ruling the country, but most importantly the normal process of the judiciary. Manipulation of state organs and institutions for preconceived outcomes has seriously undermined peoples’ confidence in the regime and Bangladesh is already hanging on a very risky margin.”

And this does not end here. Khaleda Zia also wants her two sons released and sent abroad. It remains to be seen that even charged with many high profile and evidence filled corruption cases, with what excuse Khaleda Zia’s sons would be shown their way to freedom.

So it seems it is the minus two formula in effect in the expense of an independent judicial system.

6 Responses to “Minus two formula and remote controlled justice”

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    Banglar Gonotontro Rakhibo Chiro Unnoto

    ‘Minus two theory’ is history now. The huge turnout of Awami League supporters from all over the world at Logan International in Boston, MA should make it explicitly clear to the international and native behind-the-scene manipulators trying to impose a fake democracy on Bangladesh that free and open, transparent democracy in Bangladesh is here to stay.

    No power on earth can deny us of our birth right to democracy, freedom and unrestrained, unpolluted and free from tailored-from abroad fascist, perverted pseudodemocracy!

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    I guess we have to wait for 8 weeks to figure out if at least minus 1 has been accomplished. Fallout for AL and Hasina will be enormous if she is not allowed to return after 8 weeks.

    I still cannot figure out why Hasina’s personal comfort became so important. It was OK to give CG a win-win situation by accepting the release, although successful culmination of “jaler taala bhangbo etc” and unequivocal capitulation of FUA/MUA would have been more exciting and nicer.

    The fact that some advisors visited her home and FUA called her would indicate that she came out on top in her confrontation with the government.

    However if the government does not allow her to return, Hasina will have to accept blame for lack of foresight, judgment and selfishness. Begum Zia will be the undisputed winner if that should happen and this will further enhance her image as the uncompromising leader.

    I also wonder how Syed Ashraful Islam (son of Syed Nazrul Islam, our truly patriotic leader who made ultimate sacrifice) became so prominent in the party. I thought he indicated that AL would join dialog as well as participate in election while Zillur Rahman, who has shown tremendous political acumen since Hasina’s arrest, has indicated that AL has not made any decision regarding the election.

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    Hasina should have learnt some lesson from her last trip abroad. She should not have left the country last time as it gave the CG opportunity to try all the tricks in their bag and she should not have done the same this time too.

    By taking this trip she has shown lack of judgement. It is a pity that a party like AL makes its decision based on Hasina’s personal comfort. Begum Zia is the clear winner as her image as uncompromising leader had been reinforced. I say this with a heavy heart as a great admirer of what AL has done for the country.

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    Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque

    Every one must realise that in Bangladesh politics there are only two streams one pro Awami League and anti Awami League. Jamt exploited the situation and set their root very deep riding on both fronts. In any election it will be either Awami League or its nemesis BNP willl win. In Bangladesh Awami League means Sheikh Hasina and BNP is Khaleda Zia. In this secnario Care Taker Government only wasted time trying to materialise minus two theory. The decision to arrest two ex lady PMs were the greatest mistakes. The cases are all weekly prepared . It will be extremely difficult to probe the allegations and in fair trial they will be proved innocent.
    Instead of wasting time , efforts and energy if CTG focussed its attention on major issues the Bangladeshi nation is confronting now -food crisis and energy crisis they could do much better.Possibly some ambitious elements in Army possibly misguided the CTG.
    Anyway there must not be any wasting of time.CTG must now focus on free and fair election.Leave the choice to the people and let judiciary act freely to deal with corruption and other issues.

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    ‘Its a political deal between CTG & Hasina’ is it? Then the question, is it really expectable to allow CTG for such a political deal? So by a simple calculation, Hasina choose a wrong choice for her personal comfort by the name of better treatment. There are thousands of prisoners need a better treatment including high profile political figures for both sides. Then whats the answer from MUA.
    In actually he has no answer until he can manage such a political deal with other ex PM Khaleda Zia.

    According to news agency, we came to know Khaleda will not accept any precondition for her free, not only that she demands to release her two sons. It seems GOVT now is trouble, if CTG allow her sons to abroad for a treatment, then the political key will go to Khaleda’s hand again. At this stage, We will be lucky we can hear some sorts of sweet comments from Hasina, Who is now in USA at a better treatment, comfort living with his family members etc …

    Hasina will never regain public sympathetic including her root levels. In addition, Hasina sealed Khaleda as an uncompromising leader in Bangladesh history. Because, its already proven that the democracy is unsafe at Mau/fau’s hand. People like to relief from em rule, to prolong and to modify em rule will never ensure a true democracy, as a result mass movement is todays demand, and people are already in the play ground, waiting for a command (but hasina left the ground for her better treatment in her 2nd home land) …. so now the real conflict between CTG and khaleda is not simple a compromise, Khaleda’s first demand is not her son’s treatment, her first demand is to lift the em rule, to resign the EC & CTG. Zia’s two sons treatment belongs to GVOT, its not a BNP’s political demand, their family can apply for them, but not BNP, a signal of BNP’s possible political strategy.

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    From: Time Magazine
    Thursday, Jun. 19, 2008
    General Command
    By Ishaan Tharoor/Dhaka

    To reach the office of general Moeen Uddin Ahmed in Dhaka’s military cantonment, a foreign journalist must pass three security checkpoints and endure the searches of numerous stern soldiers. Broad-shouldered aides then lead you, with hushed solemnity and even a hint of fear, toward the chambers of their commander in chief. One would expect a grim, towering leader behind the headquarters’ oak doors, but General Moeen is conspicuously diminutive and unassuming, hardly looking the part of the South Asian strongman he very well may be. Yet Moeen pulls few punches when speaking of his country’s politics and its democracy’s many failings. “No systems of government are bad in their own right,” says Bangladesh’s top-ranking military officer with a thin smile. “It’s the human beings who make it so.”

    Little is known about the 55-year-old Moeen other than that he, more than anybody else in this nation of 150 million, is the man who holds the keys to its future. Over a year and a half ago, Moeen’s army waded into a turbulent political crisis, postponed parliamentary elections and helped install a caretaker government of state-appointed bureaucrats known as “advisers,” headed by a former World Bank executive, Fakhruddin Ahmed. Since then, Bangladesh has remained under emergency rule: civil liberties have taken a hit and thousands of suspected troublemakers picked up in midnight sweeps. Behind all this, it’s commonly understood that Moeen and the military really run the show. The Harvard-trained general was made army chief just under three years ago and is coy about the extent of his power. In his first major interview with foreign media, he told TIME of the urgent need to clean up Bangladesh’s cynical, venal and corrupt politics. Moeen looks back to what preceded Jan. 11, 2007, when the army intervened, and recalls chaos: “The situation was deteriorating very rapidly. The world saw people dying in Dhaka’s streets. Was this the way forward?”

    But the way forward looks as murky now as it did 18 months ago. Despite Moeen’s insistence that elections will go ahead as planned by the end of this year, the optimism that first greeted his arrival on “1/11,” as the epochal event is known there, is gone. Ever since achieving independence from Pakistan in 1971, impoverished, unfortunate Bangladesh has slumped down its path toward democracy. When not under the rule of autocratic generals — as it was twice in the past — it has been the province of two mammoth, bickering political parties, the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Their legacy of craven politicking and brazen plundering buoyed the current army-backed regime into power. But few believe Moeen is truly democracy’s savior when the military has so consistently impeded its growth in the past. “As Bangladeshis, it’s like we’re riding a tiger,” says Gowher Rizvi, director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance at Harvard University. “How do we get off?”

    The Caged Begums
    Two fixtures of the country’s checkered politics remain at the center of things in Dhaka. Bangladesh’s Parliament complex, designed by the noted American architect Louis Kahn, looms out of a verdant expanse in the heart of the capital, encircled by palm fronds and crisscrossed by waterways. What was meant to be the cradle of Bangladeshi democracy — described by Kahn as “a many-faceted precious stone, constructed in concrete and marble” — has over the past year been the prison ground for the government’s most prominent political detainees: Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.

    The two women, daughter and widow, respectively, of the founders of the AL and the BNP and still the parties’ leaders, have dominated Bangladesh’s political landscape for over a decade, swapping spells as Prime Minister. But they ended up behind bars, casualties of an anticorruption drive launched by the caretaker government post-1/11. “Before, it was a free-for-all,” says Muzaffer Ahmed, a respected academic and the head of Bangladesh’s chapter of Transparency International, which once ranked the country the most corrupt in the world. “Public funds were being extorted, embezzled, misused in all sorts of ways.” Prominent figures in both parties have been charged for crimes ranging from tax fraud to murder; dozens of cases prosecuting politicians on graft are ongoing.

    It’s this history of political dysfunction and avarice that Moeen claims he wants to expunge. The caretaker government has prided itself on its efforts to rebuild Bangladesh’s democratic institutions — from cleaning up a voter roll that had some 12 million fake names listed on it to laying the groundwork for more effective regulatory commissions. With such steps and the examples set by the government’s anticorruption campaign, Moeen believes Bangladeshis can be weaned off their fraudulent politicians. “The people in the villages are very docile, they are kind-hearted,” says the general. “You can be a criminal, but you just need to go and cry, and they will accept you.”

    The military takeover following 1/11 was widely accepted and applauded at first. In the run-up to parliamentary elections, Zia’s incumbent government attempted to manipulate the democratic process. Mass protests from the AL plunged the country into chaos and nationwide hartals, or strikes, paralyzed the country. Such was the exasperation of members of civil society and the international community at the time that, according to an April report of the International Crisis Group, diplomats from a number of Western countries, including the U.S., secretly urged Moeen to intervene. Though Moeen insists he and his top brass are operating purely “in aid of civil power” until elections are finally held, few in Dhaka doubt that anybody but the generals are calling the shots behind the scenes in this interim government.

    Camp Rules
    In political terms, the military’s biggest failure in the many months it has held sway over the country has been its inability to smash the power of the AL and BNP. Efforts to force Hasina and Zia into the type of exile imposed upon Pakistan’s late former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, proved abortive. (Hasina, however, was released to much acclaim on parole on June 11 to seek medical treatment in the U.S.) Also unsuccessful have been attempts to lure away party stalwarts. Given the aura of their pedigreed leaders, the two parties still command a vast following among Bangladesh’s population — a combined 80% by most estimates — and the length of the two begums’ detention has drawn the ire of millions. As elsewhere in impoverished South Asia, populist dynasties hold strong. “Hasina had her shortcomings, but she is a legendary figure,” says Abdur Razzaq, a prominent member of the Awami League. “Charisma is very important; it really means something.”

    As the caretaker government seeks to cleanse the country’s politics, many in Dhaka worry about the ensuing assault on democratic rights. By some accounts, a total of 440,000 people have been rounded up under the emergency, with less than a quarter still detained. Journalists formally complained a month ago of a clampdown on press freedoms: some TV talk shows have been suspended, while more than a few editors are practicing self-censorship after receiving communiqués from military intelligence. “Everywhere you look there are watchmen outside your door,” says Adilur Rahman Khan, member of Odhikar, an outspoken human-rights group. “Just open your mouth and you’re liable to be jailed,” says Khondkar Delwar Hussain, secretary general of the BNP. In recent raids across the country over the past few weeks, the government has arrested around 25,000 people, including many local party activists, on vague grounds of curbing criminal activity. An Amnesty International report released last month condemned the “severely restricted” state of human rights in Bangladesh, citing, among other cases, the torture of journalists by state security forces.

    Growing frustrations with the military come as Bangladesh is reeling from a colossal crisis in food security. The price of rice has soared 60-80%, a rise that spells hunger for millions. “This is not even a question of choice for the poor,” says the AL’s Razzaq. It’s a global problem, but Moeen knows all too well that in this case, as he says, “bread is as important as freedom.” The caretaker government has frantically tried to address the crisis, draining waterlogged lands for cultivation and growing alternate crops like potatoes in between harvests. But little can be done to avert the fact that, over the past three years, rising inflation has led to an additional 8.5% of the country’s households falling below the poverty line (nearly half are already there). Uncertainty over the caretaker government’s future has also led to a dip in foreign investment compared to previous years, according to a recent study published by the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a Dhaka-based think tank.

    A Sense of Unease
    The political parties have seized upon the government’s diminishing credibility. “We’re in grave economic peril,” says Hussain of the BNP. “It’s time for democratic unity.” His party and the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party that has existed for decades in direct antagonism to the secular-left Awami League, took the unprecedented step of calling for even Hasina’s release from prison. They bridle at the caretaker government’s undemocratic attempts to reform democracy from the top down. “Just see the U.S.,” says Jamaat’s Ali Ahsan Mojaheed. “It took hundreds of years to establish fair democratic norms there. We also need time.”

    The sense of solidarity that these parties now share flies in the face of their past: since the restoration of electoral politics in the 1990s, Zia’s BNP and Hasina’s AL alternated divisive spells in power, terms that were marked by bitter partisanship, rampant corruption and little to no sense of national consensus. “We need to reduce the cost of electoral defeat. [Elections] used to be winner-take-all with the loser in the streets,” says Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Chowdhury. To that end, the government has attempted to engage political parties in an ongoing series of dialogues focused on constitutional reform, pivotal in the advisers’ estimation to strengthening democratic governance. But the main parties, including the BNP and Jamaat, have so far refused to join in the discussion — though with Hasina’s recent release, the AL has warmed to government overtures.

    Many Bangladeshis suspect that Moeen and the advisers are happy to press ahead with both local and national elections, crafting a government of “national unity” with handpicked candidates and without the backing of any of the major parties. If Hasina and Zia are convicted of crimes before December, they’ll be disqualified from competing in the polls. This, reckons one Western diplomat, may finally break the parties and lead to a series of significant defections.

    But another scenario is also possible: that the growing outrage among the political parties and their cadres may spill onto the streets in the form of mass people-power protests. “If they want to make trouble,” says Moeen, “let them” — but that belies very real concerns on the part of the government of the threat of widespread dissent. Across the walls of Dhaka University’s sprawling campus are murals of activists and revolutionaries breaking their chains and fighting the state. Military rule may be encoded in Bangladesh’s DNA, but so too is resistance to it.

    The government has made no promises about when it will lift the emergency. Shying away from democratic commitments, Moeen is far more eager to talk about building effective leadership in Bangladesh and educating its vast, illiterate masses — as he himself puts it — “so that they don’t keep on cutting off their own feet.” Such a tone is fitting for a man who styles himself the redeemer of his country. “You can judge the people of a nation by the type of leaders they select,” he concludes. Most Bangladeshis are wondering when they’ll really get that chance.

    With reporting by Haroon Habib/Dhaka

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