Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bangladesh President Has Given Up All Semblance Of Neutrality


Accepting Noble Prize for peace, deploying army to control democracy practices, and resignation of the advisers as they couldn’t contribute to the interim government -these all are happening in one country at the same time.

Member of the interim administration's advisory council of Bangladesh Akbar Ali Khan, Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, Sultana Kamal, and C.M Safi Sami have finally resigned on December 11, 2006.

Irked by the decision of the deploying army around Bangladesh, the advisers said to the media that they would resign as they found themselves too stuck to contribute anymore in the present interim government. Deployment of army without consultation with them has in fact become a “prestige issue” and they couldn’t go beyond their principles and conscience. According to them, there was no such situation in Bangladesh to deploy army and it could complicate political situation.

However, in a televised speech to the nation on late Sunday, December 10, 2006, President-cum-chief adviser of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh mentioned that he had duly consulted with the advisers before deploying the army. Whereas, according to Adviser Akbar Ali Khan and Adviser Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, the deployment of army was not discussed with the interim administration's advisory council, and they even didn’t know for what purpose the army was called in by the president.

"I would like to remind everyone that the present form of government has become a presidential form of government after reposing the responsibility of caretaker government on the president," said president professor Iajuddin Ahmed of People’s Republic of Bangladesh at a meeting with secretaries to different ministries at the secretariat on November 9, 2006.

The following day, there was a press release from the press secretary of the president that media didn’t publish or establish president’s speech properly. Mr. President didn’t say that the present government of Bangladesh had become a presidential form of government. But in the long run, Bangladesh is now once again in autocracy.

After taking over, Mr. President-cum-chief adviser has immediately appointed ten other advisors as required by the constitution. From the very beginning, he is pushing the country towards confrontation and uncertainty by keeping the advisers in the dark and turning the Bangabhaban (President’s office cum residence) into one place of power generating.

At last Professor Ahmed did what he wanted to do since he became President-cum-chief adviser. Troops took up positions around Bangladesh on Sunday, December 10, 2006. President Iajuddin Ahmed ordered the deployment of army across the country amid a deterioration of public order. And as usual, the advisers didn’t know about it.

On November 8, 2006, Mr. President asked army to remain prepared to assist the civilian administration while he was addressing the senior army officers at Dhaka Cantonment. Following this a circular was issued by the Home Secretary to this effect. This decision was taken keeping all other advisers in the dark. The order was retracted after protest by the advisers. But this time, the advisers came to know after deployment and they had to take such a big decision like resignation.

Deploying the army was viewed as risky in a South Asian nation plagued by military coups since gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971. Two presidents have been slain in coups, and there have been 19 other failed coup attempts. Now it will be difficult in Bangladesh to promote democratic principles, vibrant civil societies, and free and fair elections.

However, the Home Ministry of Bangladesh said that the troops would protect public life and property, keep economic activities running, recover illegal weapons, and curb crimes to secure a congenial election atmosphere. In his last speech, Mr. Ahmed mentioned some of his recent steps which he had implemented.

President has also created some entirely avoidable controversies. Many had therefore expected that the controversial Chief Election Commissioner MA Aziz's departure on leave would be followed by credible reconstitution of the election commission of Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, the appointment of two new Election Commissioners on November 26, has only lent further credence to allegations of the President's partisanship. One of them, Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury, a former Inspector General of Police, had been actively seeking BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party)'s nomination for contesting the general election. There are also serious allegations against him of collaborating with Pakistan during the 1971 Liberation War.

The other appointee, Saiful Alam, has close links with the Jamaat-e-Islam. A former member of the lower judiciary his subsequent role as the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau had raised serious questions.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that something is going very carefully to implement its crafted blueprint for rigging the forthcoming general election in Bangladesh. #

New York, December 11, 2006

Ripan Kumar Biswas was an intern at The Seoul Times and a freelance writer based in New York Ripan.Biswas@yahoo.com