Tuesday, December 12, 2006

President Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed dates with controversy

Daily Star Report

President Iajuddin Ahmed, who assumed the office of chief adviser (CA) to the caretaker government (CG) triggering a constitutional debate, has been giving rise to incessant controversies since then by taking unilateral decisions one after another on electoral issues.

The latest raging presidential controversy over Iajuddin's yet another unilateral decision of deploying the armed forces prompted four of the advisers to the CG to resign.

In the last 44 days, Iajuddin decided unilaterally three times to deploy the armed forces, appointed two election commissioners --- one of whom had been an aspiring BNP candidate in the next election, made the Election Commission (EC) make a hurried announcement of an election schedule , addressed the nation without consulting the advisers, and transferred some high level officials.

In one of the most striking move by the president and chief adviser other than calling out the army unilaterally, Iajuddin promoted his erstwhile press secretary Mokhlesur Rahman Chowdhury to the post of adviser to the president, which carries the status of a state minister, after allegations had been brought by all electoral political parties excepting BNP-led four-party alliance that Mokhles had been leaking confidential details of the advisory council meetings to the immediate past ruling alliance.

The advisers expressed their ignorance openly about the CA's decision making process. In absence of any advisory committee the advisers initially could not discuss reshuffling of the administration, and law and order situation in detail as the CA himself is in charge of the two vital ministries -- establishment and home affairs.

Later, two advisory committees on administrative affairs, and on law and order were formed but the CA made himself the chief of both the committees although advisers other than the CA usually lead them.

Interestingly, senior leaders of BNP have been blasting some of the advisers, especially the resigning four, for their conversations with the media, but never did they utter a single word criticising the activities of the CA.

Iajuddin assumed the office of CA on October 29, jumping several constitutional alternatives on the appointment. Assuming the office, the CA in his address to the nation urged the major political parties to propose names of persons who could be considered for appointments as advisers, triggering a controversy whether the CA can seek names from the parties.

On November 9 at a meeting with the secretaries, Iajuddin reminded everyone that the present form of the government has become a 'presidential form of government' sparking another controversy.

In a sudden unilateral move, keeping the advisers in the dark, the president and CA on November 12 decided to deploy the armed forces across the country in aid of the civil administration but had to retract the decision on November 13 in the face of strong objections from the advisers.

After holding a meeting with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, the president and CA on November 18 suddenly proposed to the leaders of the two major political alliances appointments of two new election commissioners while the advisers, who had been searching for ways to make the EC credible, had no clue of such a proposal coming.

On the night of November 22, Iajuddin addressed the nation without consulting the advisers although he had assured them of doing so.

Seething with frustration over the way the CA had been taking his decisions unilaterally and treating the advisers with a distant interest, five of them refrained from attending their offices on November 23.

On November 24 at a meeting of the council of advisers, the CA regretted his ways and assured the advisers that from that point on he would take every step consulting the advisers.

But on November 23, Election Commissioner Justice Mahfuzur Rahman in a surprise move convened a meeting of the EC and authorised himself as the acting CEC in absence of Aziz solely based on his consultation with Bangabhaban while the advisers were kept in the dark again.

Iajuddin made the EC announce an election schedule hurriedly on November 27, again keeping his advisers in the dark. On that day, the president also appointed two election commissioners --- Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury and Saiful Alam, without consulting the advisers who had been negotiating with rival political alliances to find a solution to the electoral crisis. Modabbir had been aspiring earlier to be a BNP candidate in the next election.

The CA initially agreed with the package proposal that included sending of two election commissioners, SM Zakaria and Modabbir, on leaves of absence like CEC MA Aziz. But he on last Wednesday at a meeting of the council of advisers suddenly appeared opposed the idea of sending Zakaria on a leave.

On November 9, the CA yet again unilaterally decided to deploy the armed forces across the country without paying heed to the advisers' repeated request not to do that.

On the night of November 10, he addressed the nation keeping his advisers in the dark yet again. In his address, he distorted some facts including the issue of Election Commissioner Zakaria and deployment of the armed forces.

On Zakaria issue, the CA said Awami League demanded his resignation although the issue was settled. On the deployment of the armed forces, he claimed that he had discussed the issue with the advisers. But the advisers said the president only informed them about his decision.

About Election Commissioner Modabbir, the president in his address said he initiated steps to send Modabbir on a leave of absence. But Modabbir yesterday expressed astonishment and said he is not at all aware of it. #