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by F R Chowdhury
Ever since she came to power, Sheikh Hasina has achieved lot of success. She arranged for hanging of most of those connected with the killing of her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She successfully evicted Begum Khaleda Zia, the leader of the opposition from a house given to her by a previous Government. She changed the name of the Zia International Airport, Dhaka in such a way so that the name of late president Ziaur Rahman is removed. She took full help of the judiciary to get a verdict in favour of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the one to have declared the independence of Bangladesh. She also made it a punishable offence for anyone to mention any other name as the announcer of our independence. To convince the people that her father alone was responsible for everything necessary for liberation of Bangladesh, she even gave posthumous award to some one for having announced it on instruction of Sheikh Mujib. She had to teach a lesson to Jamat-e-Islami for forging political alliance with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) by way of war crime trials by ICT. The Jamat-e-Islami previously had similar political alliance with Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) and at that time they were not war criminals. Sheikh Hasina was very angry with the decision of the Nobel Peace Committee for their award of the peace prize to Dr. Yunus. Having agreed a peace deal for Chittagong Hill Tract, she was confident of getting Nobel Peace Prize. She unleashed a campaign of hatred against Dr. Yunus and got him removed from his position as head of the Grameen Bank (joint recipient of the award). Finally she utilised the 2/3rd majority in the parliament to amend the constitution and remove the provision of holding general election under non-party care-taker Government so that she can manipulate the election to perpetuate her rule. Mean time she started a programme of naming roads, bridges and other institutions and establishments after the name of her father. For the last five years as the head of the Government she engaged herself in a programme to get rid of those civil servants who in her opinion were not loyal to her party. In the process the civil administration, police, armed forces, judiciary and all other machineries of the Government have been turned into extended part of her political party in addition to having Chatra League, Jubo League, Sramik League etc. She remembered very well the mistakes made by her father by killing democracy and making Bangladesh a one-party state. She carefully refrained officially calling a one-party state even though she turned it into a police state – virtually a one-party state. Eventually she got what she wanted; she became the prime minister for a third term. All these achievements by Sheikh Hasina bear a testimony of hatred, revenge, vendetta and vengeance. But she was adamant and she accomplished her desire and wishes.
2/3rd majority is not always a good thing. We have seen it during her father’s reign. We have seen it with Margaret Thatcher in UK and Indira Gandhi in India. It is sad and shocking that after taking the oath to uphold the constitution, the ruling party amended the constitution for personal gain – to win elections through unfair means and perpetuate their hold on the power. Such a matter should have been put in a referendum. Without the mandate of the people the constitution should not have been altered. She talked so much about constitution yet, it is she who amended the constitution for personal gains. The elections should have been conducted under the constitution as it existed before the amendment.
The people of Bangladesh love human rights and democracy and they would not like to see one-party state again. They realised the conspiracy and resisted. The opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headed by Khaleda Zia provided the leadership to this peaceful movement. They threatened to boycott the election unless it is done under a non-political care-taker Government. In order to tarnish the image of BNP, the Government engaged its party thugs to resort into violence including burning and killing. While the BAL was having gathering of party workers every day in front of its office, BNP office was locked and sealed by police and kept under siege. On 29th December, 2013 when Khaleda was supposed to address a rally, she was kept under house arrest and BAL leader Maya led party thugs with sticks in their hands roaming all over Dhaka. The BAL along with Police beat-up people (including lawyers and journalists) trying to reach the planned rally and arrested almost all first tier leaders of BNP.
The Secretary General of the United Nations sent his representative to persuade the Government to listen to the will of the people and arrange for an inclusive election to be participated by all parties. Many other foreign dignitaries also carried out similar mission. Sheikh Hasina still remained adamant that she would hold the election her way. The EU, Commonwealth, USA, Canada, Australia and even India refused to send any observer for the election. Each and every BAL leader went all out in support of the prime minister and was eager to show their loyalty to her. Some of them were talking total rubbish. Sheikh Selim said that Khaleda Zia would be sent back to Pakistan. Later he went one step more to say that all foreign diplomats in Dhaka would be sent to Pakistan. His sudden love for Pakistan was very confusing. Anyhow as the time for election came closer, Khaleda was kept under house arrest, Ershad was kept confined in CMH and hundreds of leaders and workers were jailed. People indeed boycotted the election. The ruling party won the majority even before the election as 153 of their candidates were elected unopposed. What an election! The rest happened as planned before. In the process Bangladesh lost hundreds of lives and billions in losses. To her, her own decision and determination was more important. She won the so-called election but Bangladesh and democracy both lost the election.
Contrary to common international practice and procedure, not a single country congratulated the prime minister on her election victory. The election and its results have not been accepted by the people; and surprisingly not even by the international community. The non-cooperation continues. Nobody knows the future.
In the mean time, to divert public attention from continuous non-cooperation, the BAL attacked certain Hindu localities and has been trying to blame BNP for same. BNP has no reason to resort to such activities as they already enjoy a big public support for their non-cooperation movement.
The Government is in a serious mess. They want a party to join their cabinet at the same time want its leader to be the Leader of the opposition in the Parliament. Something never heard of in parliamentary democracy. Under BAL Government, everything is possible. Bangladesh cannot afford to have this drama every time when the general election is due. There must be a permanent solution. Otherwise the nation loses all the progress it makes between the elections. The solution is non-political care-taker Government for the election. This suits our culture and has been time tested. The Constitution should have a clear provision for the Government to resign three months prior to the end of its term whereupon the President would appoint a care-taker Government to conduct the election. Such cabinet may include retired judges, services chiefs, secretaries or other person of repute who had never been in active politics and would not compete in the election. All persons should participate in the election as equal citizens. No person should receive any special privilege or protection for any reason. It is not necessary that all parliamentary systems must be identical. We can have the one best suited for Bangladesh.
Without any further loss of life or property let us resolve the matter the way people want it. If necessary, a referendum may be held. But for Heaven’s sake let us avoid whims and vendetta. Bangladesh belongs to all Bangladeshis and we must not allow any vested personal interest to destroy our future.
London, 11-January-2014 <email@example.com>