Political instability is a plaguing problem in both developing and so claimed “underdeveloped” countries. On the other hand, political stability is the chief mechanism for socioeconomic development of a state. It is only possible through an organized political system within the state. In this article Bangladesh will be explored according to the drivers of stability. In Bangladesh the institution of leadership has remained weak because of its historical top-to-bottom hierarchical structure. Given such, what are the roots of political instability, and their solutions, in Bangladesh? They are discussed here below:
Profile of Political Parties
In Bangladesh, political parties are the personal property of their respective heads. These parties are personality-oriented. To an extent, that on the departure of their leaders, the parties would completely disintegrate. There is no line of leadership to bridge the vacuum. In de facto these parties are fiefdoms. To structurally alter the existing profiles, there is a need to enact rules, which would make it mandatory to hold transparent party elections regularly across the country. Moreover, their financial accounts should be subjected to audit. If such reforms are not undertaken, the political parties will remain “one man shows”.
The real victims of the power grabbing syndrome, are the common men of the streets. The power concentration is at the central, and thereby not shared at the upazilla and local level. In light, one has to reach the higher power center for dispensation of justice, and civic amenities. The constitution, therefore, must have provisions to delegate responsibilities at the lowest level; may it be at village, municipality, upazilla or district. Civic amenities and local services, such as, water, transport, health, and areal development, should be left to the hands of local governments, signaling a bottom-up approach. The division of power between the center and the local governments, calls for a considerable compromise. Its adoption will definitely settle the existing quagmire and corruption in Bangladesh’s governance.
Restoration of Institution
The power trifecta for any government rests on three essential sources: the executive, the judiciary, and the parliament. The political history of Bangladesh reveals that concerted efforts have been made to blend all the powers into one. The absence of rules-of-game exerted its toll, and none of the three could play their part. Traditionally, the Head of the State in Bangladesh undermined the independence of the three institutions.
The institutions have served the Head, as if they were in a master-servant relation. There are agonizing examples of how judiciary was manipulated to dispense justice not on merits but on demands. Ripples created at the Higher Courts reached the lower courts, which enabled critics to highlight the loopholes of the judiciary. It is an accepted fact that the courts at-large deliver manipulated verdicts. The judiciary is meant to be the most respected institution. It symbolizes the freedom of the Nation. Therefore, its manipulation is tantamount to the seizure of freedom. Which in turn has grave consequences.
Likewise, other institutions, be it education, commerce, civil work, foreign affairs, revenue or police, have been subjected to massive manipulation by the elected representatives. It is well-known that these institutions sell their services gratis. And the shares of their plunder are well-distributed to all rungs. The institutions are in such morass, that they are barely working, let alone being efficient. To revive them only one reform is required: to make them independent. Any delay in the process will gradually transform the government-machinery into a parasite of massive discontent.
Merit is non-existent in Bangladesh. Scarce employment opportunities are distributed based on personal connections. Even to enroll a cleaner at a public institution, one needs blessing from a senior government official. In any society, derailing from merit-basis has serious repercussions. The confidence of citizens in their government evaporate, and the society becomes disillusioned. Bangladesh is no different. Therefore, the rule-of-merit needs to be revived, so as to restore the confidence of the people.
Role of the Media
Yellow journalism has caused maximum damage to Bangladesh. Every political party has established disinformation cells. Thanks to them, the media at-large succeeds in conveying distorted facts to people. The whole system is based on arm-twisting and kickbacks. The governments have traditionally resorted to arm-twisting either through ordinances, or by closure of the media, arresting the newsmen, or else by only allocating official broadcast portraying the viewpoint of the ruling elite. The government has even interfered in the use of the facebook. One can be arrested if derogatory remarks are posted about the Prime Minister or her family. Even clicking on the “LIKE” on adverse postings is subjected to arrest.
In such conditions, the people are compelled to turn to other alternatives, such as foreign channels, in order to ascertain facts. Media is an important tool to inform the masses. It must not be corrupted for the sake of political motives. To maintain its sanctity and freedom, it should be given the status of an independent body analogous to the Western broadcasting agencies. Media is a private organ of the society that keeps the checks and balances of the ruling party. At this moment, people are scared to even talk about their true feelings in the public for fear of getting arrested are getting abducted or killed. The fear has been instilled by the ruling party to the lowest denominators of the populace.
It is so sad that the Press Club is divided in the partisan line as if there is a different version of the news; an Awami League version and a BNP version. How in the world can you twist news in such a manner? The press has succumbed to earning a fortune by complying with the wishes of the ruling party.
Law and Order
A weak judiciary, corrupt police, availability of narcotics and illicit guns have intensified the decay. If drug barons found their way into assemblies, and the elected representatives sponsor their activities, then the outcomes are set to be ill-fated.
The political parties must screen their candidates before issuing tickets; so that the candidates with clean records can be elected. The rules should also be modified to an extent that if a candidate is found patronizing criminal activities, he/she should be debarred from their party.
The bar association has been dissected into political affiliations. In a scenario when a person killed a victim; the police will first investigate if the killer is an Awami Leaguer or a BNP man? Also they would investigate of the victim is affiliated with the ruling party or the opposition. Then they will twist their investigation to suit the rulers. The fire bombings of the buses during BNP declared blockade earlier this year are cases in point. The ruling party is accusing the BNP men with these atrocities and have arrested a large number of their leaders. On the ground, people believe, many of these bombings were planted by the agents of the ruling party and perhaps by the spying and the law enforcements agents. There are no explanations of hundreds of the disappearances and killings of the opposition leaders.
One distinguished High Court Barrister commented that he stopped practicing in the higher courts as certain ruling party barrister is so over powering that, the Judges deliberate as per his wish. Therefore, he finds no point in making himself present in the court where this particular influential Barrister is appearing.
It was an election of the ruling party, by the ruling party and for the ruling party. That is how one can describe the recent general elections in Bangladesh. More than half of the candidates won the elections without even contesting and the remaining half, in a parliament of 300, romped home with a token fight between friendly parties.
The ruling Awami League, therefore, got a three fourth majority in the national assembly, which was an unprecedented victory. This is a parliament where the largest opposition in the country, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has no representation at all.
Subsequent city elections were mired with vote rigging, stuffing ballot boxes. The election commission was totally complying with the wishes of the ruling party thereby destroying its legitimacy. A legitimate investigation is yet to be concluded.
The present regime suffers from the problem of legitimacy. The violence and continuous disruption of normal life has made people cynical about the elections and democracy. Talk to any common man on the street and his or her first reaction is always the restoration of peace and normal life. They don’t care who wins and loses.