Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Where is Awami League heading toward?

Couple of days ago most Bangladeshi daily newspapers published news involving the Awami League (AL), which we find deeply frustrating and troubling. Awami League (AL), in its bid to gain power at any cost, has signed and reached an agreement with one of the notable radical Islamic parties in that, the former shall grant legitimacy to all bona fide Sheikhs and Mullahs to issue fatwas outside the purview of the country's courts if they get elected in the next elections. According to newspaper reports, AL leadership has also promised that they would pass a law in Parliament making any kind of criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad and his associates ( sahaba) a punishable crime. Anyone not acknowledging Muhammad as the last Prophet shall be declared a non-Muslim such as the minority Quadiyanis in Bangladesh, as clearly mentioned in the said contract. In short, if implemented, AL is set to establish something like the infamous Pakistani Blasphemy Law in Bangladesh, if they get elected.

This news has been a hard blow to all those who have been aspiring for a secular and democratic Bangladesh. We say so because, in their so called compromise, AL leadership has stooped to a level where there hardly remains a boundary between AL's opportunistic strategies and those adopted by its counter-parts— the pro-Islamic BNP and the radical Jamayat-e-Islami gang. In fact, many think the AL deserves to be ranked as a worse option in the light of signing this agreement. We must not forget that these radical Islamist parties have been a menace to society and a threat to the freedom of thought in Bangladesh for quite some time. Attacks on Ahmed Sharif, Humayun Azad, Taslima Nasreen and other secular writers and activists bear testimony to the fact that these radicals want to drag the nation backwards. This is not a question about electoral politics, but of the future of the nation. Whether Bangladesh wants to keep the last remnants of the secularism is the question. The country has already slid down the path of an intolerant society under the BNP-Jamaat government in the last five years. The threat of Talibanization of Bangladesh has become real in many ways. AL has signed a deed with a jingoist Islamic party whose followers on Dhaka's streets once shouted, "amra hobo Taliban, Bangla hobe Afghan" (We shall be Taliban, Bangla will be Afghan). The same gang has led agitations demanding that Quadiyanis be declared non-Muslims. Their hatred for secular and political ideology has never been a hidden agenda in Bangladesh. This agreement will put the nation on an irreversible course to darkness.

We therefore strongly condemn AL's agreement with radical Islamist parties and question the prudence and the moral judgment of AL leadership in building a secular and progressive Bangladesh. We urge the AL to annul the agreement immediately, urge the partners of the AL to stand up for the cause of secularism, and we urge all Bangladeshis who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion to speak up against this so-called agreement. The nation deserves better. #

December 24, 2006

The article was drafted by the moderation team www.mukto-mona.com, an online network of South Asian Humanists

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Biased Caretaker Government Brings Bangladesh on the Verge of Constitutional Crisis

Dr.ANAND KUMAR

After the end of five year term of the Khaleda Zia government in Bangladesh the country was supposed to prepare for the elections under a caretaker government. But the deliberate attempt of the immediate past government to manipulate the caretaker government, Election Commission, voter list and the administration has created a politically volatile situation in Bangladesh. Despite all this, for a while, it looked like that both the leading parties BNP and the Awami League would be able to tie over these difficulties. Unfortunately, so far this has not happened. The Bangladesh president who also doubles up as the chief advisor to the caretaker government reneged on the compromise deal which he had offered to the opposition alliance demanding electoral reforms. The president is now acting in a manner which shows that he has taken charge of the Caretaker Government (CTG) to implement the agenda of his political masters from the BNP and Jamaat. Probably, with this aim he has also called out army on the pretext of maintaining law and order. Though president is once again willing to negotiate with the 14-party opposition alliance, his actions are hardly above board.

Bangladesh constitution stipulates that election for the new government should be completed within three months after the end of the tenure of earlier government. These elections are to be conducted under the supervision of a neutral Caretaker Government. As of now, it looks highly unlikely that the elections in Bangladesh would be held on the schedule announced earlier. This situation might lead to a constitutional crisis in the country.

The opposition in Bangladesh had sensed much earlier, the intention of Khaleda Zia government to manipulate the system prescribed by the constitution. The government was making changes in several laws so that its chosen persons could take charge of these bodies. To nullify this game plan of BNP and Jamaat, the opposition groups have been demanding electoral reforms. As expected these demands were promptly rejected by the Khaleda Zia government.

What was worse, making a mockery of Bangladesh constitution, Khaleda Zia government handed over power to the president after making him the chief advisor of the CTG. The constitution provides several alternatives before the president assumes this charge. The present president, Iajuddin Ahmed has been elected by the BNP and Jamaat. Hence, his neutrality as chief advisor to the CTG was always in doubt.

The Awami League initially strongly protested the assumption of post of Chief Advisor of CTG by the president. But later, it decided to give president a chance hoping that he might act neutrally because of the strain that had developed between him and the Khaleda Zia government towards the end of the regime. Khaleda had tried to replace the president by Speaker Barrister Jamiruddin Sircar who became president-in-charge of the country. Iajuddin Ahmed was declared unfit on the health grounds. In the past, the BNP had forced Badruddoza Chowdhury to step down from the presidency in 2002. Awami League probably also agreed, because no other mutually acceptable candidate was available.

The president initially tried to fool people by making superficial changes in administration. But very soon his bias became obvious. Though president appointed ten other advisors as mentioned in the constitution, he gave them insignificant portfolios and kept the most important ones with himself.

The Awami League had stated that it would judge the president on the basis of his actions. Hasina demanded immediate removal of Chief Election Commissioner MA Aziz and three other election commissioners, cancellation of "political" appointment of 300 upazila election officers, using transparent ballot box for the polls, preparing the voter lists with voters' photographs, and overall congenial atmosphere for a free and fair election. She expected the president to carry out these demands in order to protect people's democratic rights to voting.

The BNP, however, was not willing to allow president this liberty. It asked president that removing election commissioners would be violation of constitution. The party suggested him not to do anything BNP and Jamaat, the EC came out with a hastily decided election schedule.

With great difficulty, Chief Election Commissioner M.A. Aziz agreed to proceed on leave. Still the EC could not be depoliticized as there were three other commissioners - Justice Mahfuzur Rahman, SM Zakaria and Mahmud Hasan Mansur. These election commissioners were initially willing to resign but afterwards they changed their mind under pressure, probably from the BNP.

The president has been embroiled in controversy since he took charge of chief advisor to the caretaker government. He had earlier unilaterally decided twice to deploy army, appointed two election commissioners, allegedly forced the Election Commission (EC) to announce the election schedule hurriedly and addressed the nation, keeping all the advisers in the dark about those. Such actions triggered a wave of controversy and deepened the political stalemate.

As the advisors were suggested by various political groups on the request of the president, some of them tried to sincerely work for the holding of free and fair elections. The council of advisers in a last ditch effort to resolve the political crisis prepared a package of proposals after a series of hectic meetings between the advisers and the two major political alliances. The proposals include reconstitution of the EC by sending election commissioners SM Zakaria and Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury on leave and appointing new election commissioners, transfer of secretaries, rescheduling of the announced election schedule and correction of errors of the updated voter list.

The package proposal gave hope to the people of an amicable resolution of the dispute as the BNP also agreed with it and the Awami League led 14-party started moving towards election, shunning street agitation.

Unfortunately, all this effort was wasted when the BNP-led four-party alliance opposed sending of Zakaria on leave. Similarly, president also became adamantly opposed to steps to make Zakaria take time off work. President, being a BNP man could not have been expected to go against what the party was saying. President under pressure from the BNP reneged from implementing the package deal. This forced Awami League to reconsider its earlier decision of participating in the elections.

The advisers however kept continuing their effort to reach an amicable solution to the issue of recasting the EC through further negotiation with the political parties. But the discussions among the advisers to implement the package proposals fully virtually fizzled out on December 9, when the president decided on his own to deploy the armed forces, ignoring strong objections from all the ten advisors.

This was one more unilateral, controversial decision of the president. He had called out the army 44 days before the election presumably to assist the civilian administration. The army in Bangladesh has a dubious record in maintaining the law and order. Last time, army was called out in 2002 as part of the ‘Operation Clean Heart”. In this operation, at least 50 people had lost their lives in custody. The army termed all these deaths as ‘heart failures.’ Army in Bangladesh is known for massive human rights violation. What is worse, during her tenure, Khaleda Zia has managed to further politicize army. She hopes that the involvement of army in the election process will help her candidates.

The US based Human Rights Watch in a recent report has stated that Bangladesh's elite security force, the Rapid Action Battalions has killed more than 350 people in custody and could be used by the country's former ruling party ahead of next month's election. The group said, "Human Rights Watch is concerned that Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which maintains great influence over the caretaker government and its security structures, may use RAB for political means during the campaign."

President and Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed’s decision to deploy troops and his unwillingness to recast the Election Commission (EC) in line with the package proposal forced four advisors - Akbar Ali Khan, Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, CM Shafi Sami and Sultana Kamal - to resign. This development further deepened the political crisis in Bangladesh.

President Ahmed however surprised everybody by significantly changing his earlier order on December 13. In the latest order, now he has asked the armed forces to remain on 'stand by' but not to actively engage in law enforcement. He has also promised that he would re-initiate moves to send two 'controversial' election commissioners on leave.

The international community, including the EU and the US are closely watching the developments in Bangladesh. They are interested in making these elections free and fair. The EC in Bangladesh has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the European Union (EU) on sending an EU election observer team. The US Ambassador Patricia A Butenis however, considers the demand of some political parties' for resignation of the president from the office of chief adviser (CA) as 'impractical'.

Meanwhile, the Awami League (AL) has also started making all-out preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections although almost all its top leaders are against contesting the polls under the caretaker government led by President and Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed. The AL and its allies--11-party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, and National Awami Party--will hold a grand rally in the capital Dhaka on December 18 where Hasina will make a formal announcement over the election.

Conclusion
The controversial actions of president have proved beyond doubt that he has accepted the post of chief advisor to the CTG to further the interests of BNP alliance in the upcoming elections. It is difficult to hold a free and fair election under him. Hence the opposition alliance, which was earlier opposed to the politicized elections commission, now wants removal of the president from the post of chief advisor. Even Ershad who was earlier trying to negotiate a political alliance with the BNP led group now says that he would not participate in elections, in case any major political group boycotts it. But any drastic reorganization of caretaker government in Bangladesh at this juncture is highly unlikely. It appears that the Awami League led opposition alliance will have to come to terms with the present caretaker government. At best, with the help of monitors sent by the countries like the EU and the US it can try to keep this partisan caretaker government in check. The political scenario in Bangladesh is changing almost everyday thanks to the partisan president whose indiscreet actions could push the country into complete turmoil. #

This article first appeared in a regional think-tank South Asia Analysis Group (www.saag.org), India

Link: http://www.saag.org/papers21/paper2063.html

Dr Anand Kumar can be reached at anandkrai@yahoo.com

Monday, December 18, 2006

Election 2007: The question of level playing field

M ABDUL HAFIZ

Given the fact that many issues are yet to be resolved to ensure a level playing field for the contestants for the upcoming election -- doubts abound as to the fate of the election itself. A growing number of people are wondering if those issues can at all be addressed, consensual decisions arrived at, and the election held within the stipulated time-frame of ninety days -- a constitutional binding. They are doubtful of the possibility because the caretaker government tasked with the job is headed by a person responsible for the catalysis of some of the issues.

The core of the problem is wide-spread public scepticism that Professor Iajuddin, the head of the caretaker government -- known for his predilection for the party he belongs to -- can faithfully oversee a crucial election which has already brought the rival political groups to the point of violent clashing.

That he is neither fair nor neutral is amply demonstrated through his activities during the last six or so weeks of his stewardship, turning Bangabhaban (Presidential Palace) almost into a hub of conspiracies to promote the agenda of the previous government. For it was this alliance that not only made him president, but also manipulated things to unconstitutionally install him as the head of the interim government.

In the beginning, even if there was a flicker of hope about the neutrality of the learned professor, the way things unravelled later left no one in doubt that he was "a cuckoo in the nest" as far as the office of the caretaker government was concerned. He resorted to tricks and subterfuges as soon as the interim government was sworn in, with ten advisers to assist him.

But he felt more comfortable acting unilaterally, although at times he sat with the advisers as a matter of ceremony. But the decisions were his, and his alone. He was the ultimate arbiter of each and every thing -- a fact that gave him enough leeway to work at the behest of his employer.

He did it with the enormous powers he was endowed with as president, chief executive, supreme commander of the armed forces, as well as head of a dozen or so ministries and departments. He complied with all the requirements of BNP-Jamaat combine, whether they were in the administration, Election Commission, and even the judiciary. Look at the promptness with which the cases against Ershad were revived after a long hiatus. It was certainly not to dispense justice. It was fraught with political motives.

The climax of the drama surmounting BNP-Jamaat's end-game with regard to a doctored election, the breaking of the strained relationship between Professor Iajuddin and his council of advisers, came when the president took the decision to employ the armed forces disregarding the collective dissent of the latter. It was a severe blow to an already delicate situation that was prevailing in the country -- adversely affecting the environment for free and fair election, and more importantly the public psyche. More so when there was no convincing reason to do so.

As a result when the president delivered a late night speech, it again conjured up the spectacle of a president in BNP-Jamaat hue. It wasn't surprising that his speech sounded as if it was the ghost voice of one of the voluble BNP stalwarts -- both in content and semantics. In a quick riposte, the four advisers engaged in finding a solution with regard to level playing ground resigned in disgust. When the whole nation was aghast at the development, it seemed to have come as a relief to the president who lost no time in filling up the vacant posts. The message of the whole episode -- a crisis of confidence -- was apparently lost on him.

It is time for BNP-Jamaat's game plan to be put in action now, without any encumbrance. Even if the playing field is yet to be levelled, both BNP-Jamaat and Professor Iajuddin have suddenly gone constitutional by demanding holding of the election within ninety days, and are shedding crocodile tears over the sanctity of the Constitution.

Yet it was the same Professor Iajuddin who, in collusion with BNP, occupied the post of the head of the caretaker government in a questionable way, and in violation of the constitutional provisions. Ever since, his function in that post had been essentially an exercise in megalomania. He destroyed the environment for free and fair elections, to which he himself is the main impediment.

In the meantime, the electoral preparation of all political parties, except BNP-Jamaat combine, is in shambles. Under the circumstances, if the AL-led 14-party alliance, as well as other political outfits, participate in the election as per the schedule already declared they will obviously not find the playing field level. There's no point playing the game only to give legitimacy to the BNP-Jamaat game plan and a fresh boost to "nationalist" bankrupt politics. #

Source: http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/12/18/d61218020328.htm

Brig (retd.) M Abdul Hafiz is former Director General of Bangladesh International Institute for Strategic Studies (BIISS), Dhaka

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Annan renews alarm about pre-election unrest in Bangladesh

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for restraint and compromise among Bangladesh's major political players amid concern at the continuing violence and tensions ahead of national parliamentary elections scheduled for next month.

In a statement of 15 December 2006 released by his spokesman, Mr. Annan said he "hopes that all parties will make the necessary compromises to ensure a peaceful and transparent electoral environment."

Under the Bangladeshi constitution, when an election is called, a non-party caretaker government is charged with overseeing the polls and ensuring they are free and fair.

Mr. Annan urged the caretaker government "to ensure a level playing field… particularly through the restoration of confidence in the Bangladesh Election Commission."

The statement also called on the national army to continue to play a neutral role, "thereby creating an environment conductive to peaceful elections."

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric expressed the Secretary-General's appreciation for "efforts by political parties to refrain from the use of violence in their programmes" and urged continued restraint.

Demonstrations and clashes between supporters of rival political parties in recent weeks have left dozens dead and hundreds injured, according to media reports.

Late last month Mr. Annan issued a statement expressing concern at the situation and dispatched a senior UN elections official to Bangladesh to hold meetings with key political and election figures. #

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Remembering Some Non-Martyrs of 1971

SUKHAMAYA BAIN

This is to narrate some memories of June, 1971.

In 1971, I was an SSC candidate, who could not appear at the examination that was supposed to have taken place in the month of April. Of course, the examination could not happen due to the beginning of the struggle of Bangladesh to get out of the Pakistani military brutality in the land.

My high school was called Gimadanga Tungipara High School, named after two villages near my maternal uncles’ home. I used to stay at my uncles’ home at a village called Baladanga, one of three villages named after the Bala clan. Baladanga was also called Tungipara by many, as it was a little village next to Tungipara, just across the river Baghiar.

I was born in a village about 4 miles from Tungipara. It is called Dumaria. It is on the bank of the river Shailadaha. At the west end of my village, the Baghiar and the Shailadaha merge, and with in just a mile, the combined flow meets the river Madhumati.

In June, 1971, I was at my maternal uncles’ home when the Pakistani military came in their gun-boats from the Madhumati. They went north-east on the Shailadaha toward Kotalipara, and north-west on the Baghiar toward Tungipara. The whole area was, and still is, inhabited mostly by Hindus. The brute forces of Pakistan used what I now think were flame-throwers to burn all the Hindu villages along the river.

From my uncles’ home in Baladanga, we fled into the swamp area away from the river bank. We could see village after village burning on both banks of the rivers. Most people from all the villages fled into the swamp areas away from the rivers. The military men stayed mostly in their gun-boats, firing flames at houses and bullets at people that they could see. On some higher grounds on the banks of the rivers they disembarked, and looked for people to kill.

My primary school teacher, Mr. Narayan Chandra Biswas, fled from the village and took shelter in a little island house in the swamp area. The military men spotted him from their gun-boat and fired their guns. Mr. Biswas was a direct hit. He died on the spot, with little or no last minute touch of love from his near and dear ones.

Mr. Biswas was our Bangla teacher. He was particular about the children reading and writing Bangla words and sentences correctly. He would not allow his students to talk like the average illiterate person; our pronunciations had to be correct. His perfectionist teaching of the language was behind the future academic excellences of many of his students.

I do not call Mr. Biswas a martyr. He did not even shout a slogan against the Pakistani ruling class, let alone fighting with arms and ammunitions. He was a regular good and honourable person, and an extraordinary teacher. He did not intend to give his life for anything like the creation of Bangladesh. He just wanted to live as an innocent person in his motherland. Of course, the Pakistani military killed him because he was born in a Hindu family, and because like most other people he did not give up his inherited religion to convert to a Muslim.

On that day of July 1971, several men of the Pakistani military disembarked at our big family compound; our house was known as the Baro Bain Bari (the big Bain house). Two of my aunts, about sixty years old, were hiding in the jute field. The military men spotted them. These ladies were a bit more religious, Krishna devotees. They were quite frail. They had pictures of Krishna with them. The military men came near them, and asked something in Urdu, which neither them nor the other hiding people that could hear them understood. But the ladies just showed the brutes the pictures of Krishna, and told them something like “we are poor innocent people, we do not know anything about politics, we just spend our time praying to this lord of ours.” They were shot point blank.

These ladies were by no means martyrs. They were just absolutely innocent people with no sense of politics. They certainly had no hatred towards anyone, including the Pakistani brutes. They were victims of hatred in the minds of the Pakistani Islamic fanatic political and military forces.

The Pakistani military burned all the Hindu dwellings that they could handle on that day. They came the next day to do some more of the same. The targets of their hatred were people who were by no means political activists. Those people were regular hardworking innocent peasants, making a simple living in their homeland, with no hatred against any class of people in the world, including the Pakistanis.

In the two days, the only Muslim house that was burned was Sheikh Mujib’s rural home in Tungipara, no other house in that or any other Muslim village.

At the Sheikh residence, they ordered the parents of Mujib to get out of the house. They were rude to the elderly Sheikh couple. Their rudeness was protested by a man, who was actually an uncle of Mujib. He was a lower-class Sheikh, a child of a big Sheikh and his maid. His protests against the mistreatment of the Mujib-parents earned him a terrible and torturous death in the hands of the Pakistani beasts.

May be, this man deserved to be called a martyr.

The people and the ruling class of Bangladesh have proven to be without much sense of honour. Martyrs or not, the people of East Bengal that were killed, raped and tortured by the Pakistani military were our people. The cause of their victimization was nothing but hated against us from a hate-mongering feudal and military ruling class. If we forget them, if we do not care about justice for them, if we do not care about punishing the criminals, we are really dishonouring ourselves. Unfortunately, over the last thirty five years, we have been doing just that, dishonouring ourselves. #

Sukhamaya Bain lives in United States and writes on contemporary politics of Bangladesh

Friday, December 15, 2006

Question Time Bangladesh

SAROJ SHABAJ

Whither Bangladesh? Whether a peaceful election is going to be held on schedule? Whether all major political parties, alliances will participate? What will be the role of army already deployed much ahead of time? Are they going to take a neutral role? For peacekeeping purpose only, without showing bias to any political party? Is this election commission going to correct the voter list deleting the fakes and include the genuine ones, impartially? Will the genuine voters be allowed to vote freely? Are the pole and returning officers going to play fair? Will all the votes be counted correctly? Will the result reflect the correct voting? Whether the civil administration shall behave and ensure a free, fair and credible election process?

The most recent sensational resignation of four advisors of the non-party care taker Government have entrenched these questions and many others. Ex-advisor Shafi Sami said that, they had difficult times working with a shifting goal post. He pegged on it explaining the reason of their failure albeit they had nearly reached success line that could create environment for all party participation in the election process which now stands shrouded with doubt.

Anyways, that was the realization of the four advisors who had resigned after working almost half of the tenure of the CTG. In many but other words the 14 Party Combine had been indicating since long their doubt gathered around the expectation of a free, fair and credible election process. Days passing by and the raison d'etre of 31 point election reform proposal get firmer ground.

Ex-Law Minister Moudud Ahmed had admitted that about 41 items of the 31 point reform proposal which in fact constituted 51 tasks taking the sub-articles were valid and acceptable to them (4 Party Alliance Government) for reform, but with all his shrewdness when he had had the power as law minister to implement those but sat on the reform proposal for months together doing nothing.

The 4 Party Alliance Government was never sincere about reforms, be it for improvement of election process or for the democratic process as a whole. That in spite of their pre-poll manifesto they did not separate the judiciary from the executive, even refrained from holding upazila election to allow decentralization of power or regarding the appointment of human rights commission and ombudsman; all of which are those vivid examples. On the other hand, so that they could drive unfettered the rein of corruption they laid thick cobweb of bureaucratic conspiracy around the Anti Corruption Commission to make it dysfunction without steam during their five years tenure. In this way after once elected to power, one by one almost all the goal posts of election pledges had moved out of focus.

For this reason, from the beginning the 4 Party Alliance fixed their mindset up and doing but to manipulate the election process in favour of them with a predetermined aim by hook or by crook to get re-elected to power. Did they lose confidence on the people's vote or it is the drive of their guilty consciousness? These may be the reasons or many others. Or, may be the intelligence report in their hand is telling and compelling. May be these reports depicted in many words the voters mind, their reaction about the unprecedented corruption, miseries caused from unbridled price rise worked up by the politically sheltered business syndicate , lack of electric power and load-shedding or of sufferings of toll collection or of the litanies of those victimizations in business or service loomed out of partisan causes.

At the fag end of their tenure the 4 Party Alliance had been appealing to the people that if voted back to power one more time they will curb corruption as they had shown success in arresting the Islamic militants Shayekh Abdur Rahman and Siddikul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, et al. Also they were making fresh promises that while during this tenure they had successfully constructed thousands of kilometres of power lines so similarly during their next tenure they will set up sufficient numbers of power generation units to mitigate misery of load-shedding.

Alongside the statement of the ex-power minister Talukder alleging that about 6000 crores of Takas were misappropriated from the procurement of poles for construction of those thousand kilometres of power line but the power generation unit business had no scope of such undue dividend as such the procurement process regarding power generation units were out of interest of the regime; even the simpleton voter who suffered and witnessed these misdeeds could have read between the lines of manifest hollowness of these pre-election rhetoric’s.

While talking to the members of the Doctors Association of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia in her speech once again made the latest repetition of her claim that the price hike of essentials have no such serious adverse effect on people's purse as the purchasing power of the public has increased during last five years `flood of development' but the media is unnecessarily exaggerating the problem for making it an issue for the opposition political parties. The naivety and cruelness expressed through this statement was unprecedented. By doing so not only Khaleda Zia exposed her connivance with the vested interest of the profiteering business syndicate but also uncovered her direct connection with the scheme of election manipulation.

Is it a surprise? After the four advisors resigned finally needing re-induction, President Iajuddin gave two specific conditions for the fresh incumbents. "Thou shall not differ from the decision of the Chief Advisor", number one, and "Thou shall not make any proposal by yourself except Chief Advisor who makes proposals", numbers two. No wonder at the behest of Hawa Bhaban, four such backboneless reptiles have slipped in yesterday into Bangabhaban for Iajuddin's rescue. This is preposterous. I think at least one of the new advisors has left his conscience at home in his closet for a month and a half just to suffer for his mildness which he is used to. About the other three I am sure they have nothing to shed as they do not carry one of that something called conscience. At this point of time, question time Bangladesh suggests, you should not have any questions. Scrap them off from papers and lips. Enjoy the show, which must go on!

I wonder if every Bangladeshi shall become "ostriches" and endorse return of `Hawa Bhaban syndicate' of corruption alongside the long dressed disguised godfathers of the militant brand of Islamism. Will the Bangladeshi Army deployed ahead of schedule to maintain law and order shall fall in line with Bangabhaban to get Bangladesh engulfed with the ocean of corruption and the cocoons of militant Islamism? What the 600,000 members of civil administration engaged in the election process will be doing about the election process? And then, which report the election observers will be writing? How much money will be spent to disjoint the conscience of these people at least temporarily? Is it for that the 6000 Crore Taka was collected and saved from the overpriced poles of the power line constructed without energizing them with power, as Talukder said?

Tyranny is made of sterner stuffs! But the irony is, always the tyrannical system have underestimated, undermined the power of the victims of their depredations. This time the goal of the struggle is clear and visible. Diversionist attempt of shifting goal posts is not going to work as this time the goal keeper has made him exposed and identified. Only the ball need a hit hard enough to take the goalkeeper and the ball touch the net. The full team of brain and muscle is needed for this strong a hit. United we win, divided we fall – it is not just an old adage but the universal reality for today and all the times to come. #

Dhaka, December 13, 2006

Resurrection of Talibans in Bangladeshi in the Face of Her Historical Burden

JAMAL HASAN

It was the last week of November 2001. The September Eleven tragedy was still fresh in the collective memory of majority of the Americans. I got a phone call from an associate of a man who carried enough clout in the Republican Party of USA. He asked me if I could spare a few moments with his chief. Initially I felt a little bit apprehensive interacting with somebody whom I hardly knew. Nonetheless, I decided to utilize the opportunity to be face-to-face with somebody who had been a familiar figure in U.S. media for quite sometime.

In a cold winter morning I went to the office of this "well connected" policy analyst. Located in the downtown Washington, the neatly decorated office was not too far from the Capitol Hill. I was greeted at the door and the discussion started in no time. We touched upon such subjects as Islamic fundamentalism and its impact globally. In course of our discussion, the topics of 1971's Pakistani army sponsored Genocide in Bangladesh and the role of Islamic fascist war criminals were covered. The listener appeared to be quite receptive. It was quite obvious that memories of the painful chapter of Bangladesh tragedy were making me a bit emotional. The bygone days of a nation’s struggle for freedom from colonial subjugation, being pawn in a Cold War chess game, Nixon-Kissinger’s wholehearted support for brutal Yahya junta-lots of surreal sequences rushed through my mind. After a while, as our discussion was almost over, I got a friendly gesture from the host. It seemed he could conceive the logical pattern of Islamic fascism in South Asia as it evolved in occupied Bangladesh of 1971. Thus, an untold chapter of Islamic terrorism happened in an obscure Third World country which was brought to the attention of a sympathetic listener belonging to a very influential power base of America.

The genesis of Bangladesh may disclose an unnerving saga. Knowingly or unknowingly, we are carrying a huge burden of history. While US policy makers were making good use of Islamist card whenever the need was acute, many Third World nations suffered miserably at the hand of the blood thirsty Islamic fascists. With historical patronage, a well groomed "pro-West" Islamic fascists' global entity was gradually becoming a Frankenstein's monster. That is why, while the rookie Islamic fascists practiced blood spilling on Bangladeshis in Rayer Bazar killing field of Dhaka in 1971, the final showdown came upon America on September 11, 2001 in a big thunderous way.

What happened in Rayer Bazar in 1971? Who were the killers and who were killed? Weren't the killer’s pioneers of Islamic fascism of twentieth century, members of death squads like Al-Badr and Al-Shams and Jamaat-i-Islami? Weren't those evil forces supported and patronized by Pakistani military junta of 1971?

The following excerpt from a book on genocide in Bangladesh will take us back to a different space and time. To the killing field located in the outskirts of Bangladeshi capital Dhaka in the year 1971.

After the surrender of the Pakistan army on December 16, the mass graves at Mirpur and Mohammadpur were unearthed to reveal the corpses of the dead sons and daughters of Bangladesh. Accounts of the discovery shocked and horrified the entire world.

MASS GRAVES: AN EYEWITTNESS ACCOUNT
Hamida Rahman, in her article "Katasurer Baddhabhumi" (The Mass Grave at Katasur), describes her visit to Rayer Bazar.

I soon came upon two huge bodies the noses had been cut off, the ears too. It seemed as if someone had torn away pieces of flesh from near their mouths. Their hands and feet were tied. The corpses had lain there for two days because they hadn't been identified. I cannot forget the distorted, mutilated faces of those two tall, fair men. Afterwards the people of that area buried the bodies where they lay.

A few steps ahead, at the foot of a mound of earth, lay a woman's corpse. The woman's eyes had been tied. The gamchha (towel) with which her eyes had been tied was still lying there. She was wearing a black Dhakai sari. On one foot she had on a sock. There was nothing left of her face. It seemed as if someone had torn and cut away the flesh so that she would not be recognized. The woman was fair and slightly plump. One breast had been cut off. The corpse was lying on its back. I could not stand the sight of that horrible, featureless face for very long. I could not recognize her. Afterwards she was identified as Selina Parveen, Editor of Shilalipi. When her relatives heard the news, they came in the evening and took her body away.

Proceeding a little farther, I came upon a skeleton with a little flesh still clinging to its legs and to its rib cage. Perhaps crows and vultures had eaten the flesh. The long hair attached to the skull, matted with dirt and mud, bore silent witness that this corpse had once been a woman.

Ahead of me l saw a group of people standing on a raised portion of land, looking down at something. As I reached them, one of them reached out a hand and pulled me up beside them. Looking down at the swamp in front, I saw a horrible sight. There weren't just one or two corpses there; there were twelve or thirteen bodies of what had once been twelve or thirteen healthy, strapping men. They were lying there, one after the other. Next to this group of bodies lay the corpses of two men; the heart had been torn out from one of the bodies. This body was that of Dr. Rabbi.

On a nearby stack were the bodies of Yakub Ali, chairman of the Ramna Union, and Sirajuddin Hossain of the Ittefaq. Someone next to me said that Munier Chowdhury's body had also been found here. Kabir Chowdhury had come in the morning and identified the body.

I was there for about an hour. I could not come away. One by one people kept on coming. Dr. Rabbi's corpse seemed still fresh. His killers had torn away his heart. They knew that he was a cardiologist that is why they had torn out his heart. His eyes had been tied, and he had fallen down. It seemed as if someone had pushed him into the ditch. The legs still seemed to belong to a living man. His face had been scratched and torn by the nails of his killers.

An eye doctor of the calibre of Dr. Aleem Chowdhury will not be produced in one day; a journalist and writer of the calibre of Shahidullah Kaiser will not be created in one day either. That such a brutal killing would be committed on the very day that we got our independence was something no one would ever have believed.

Field after field, mound after mound, marsh after marsh yielded corpse after corpse, silent witnesses to the countless numbers who had been brought here to be killed [1].

The above gory details are testament to the brutality of Islamic fascists who terrorized the freedom-loving Bangladeshis for most of the nine months of 1971. Incredible as it may sound, today, two of the ring leaders who were directly responsible for committing such heinous crime are notable ministers of Bangladesh government. And as I said already, the war criminals do not pose any direct threat to U.S. interest. So, their presence in Khaleda Zia's cabinet does not seem to be an eyesore to western democracies. But, deeper assessment of Islamist politics in South Asian region may portray a disturbing picture. Khalid Duran in his analytical essay on Islamic terrorist network identified Jamaat-i-Islami of Pakistan as a strong patron of the shadowy forces of Taliban and al-Qaeda. It goes without saying Jamaat-i-Islami parties of Pakistan and Bangladesh are inter-linked on a historical premise. Also, the close connection between Jamaat-i-Islami and most other anti-Western Islamic outfits in Pakistan is an open secret now. As U.S. led coalition started to eradicate terror network from Afghanistan, Jamaat-i-Islami joined all other Islamic fundamentalist forces to indulge in anti-U.S. agitation on the streets. What is good for geese is also good for gender. The same scenario occurred in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Unlike a good number of army strongmen of Arab countries their South Asian counterparts were historically pro-Western in nature. While main power broker army leaders of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Algeria or Turkey were noticeably secular, army rulers in Pakistan or Bangladesh were significantly non-secular and tended to be appeasers of Islamists. USA and many Western countries became the beneficiaries of army rulers such as General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, General Zia-ul Huq of Pakistan or General Ziaur Rahman and General H.M. Ershad of Bangladesh. It goes without saying all those rulers came to the echelon of power through a mischievous way. And most of their power base depended on the support of Islamists in their respective countries. In most of the sixties, seventies, and eighties the so-called Muslim fundamentalists were the good guys in the eyes of West. So, the concept of "good fundamentalists" evolved during this era.

Jamaat-i-Islami was considered to be the "good fundamentalists" during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Although this party was directly responsible for killing unarmed civilians especially Bangladeshi intellectuals, the party played a pivotal role of enhancing Pak army junta's agenda. The brutal acts of the Bangladeshi Islamic fascists were nothing short of being privy to genocide. But the crime against humanity did not impact the foreign policy direction of most of the Western nations involved in South Asia's geopolitical chess game of 1971. In essence, the Jamaatis were slaughtering Bangladeshi academicians, journalists, artists in droves; but they hardly posed any threat to U.S. interest in any part of the world. At the time the murderer fascists did not plan to harm American civilians at home or abroad. But things have changed dramatically. Today, we are appalled to see the degree of brutality inflicted upon journalist Daniel Pearl. In 1971, Bangladesh nation lost scores of "Bangladeshi Daniel Pearls" at the hands of merciless Islamic fascists. And the whole world especially the powerful west looked the other way.

On December 16, 1971 Bangladesh became independent as a result of political, diplomatic and military support from India and the Soviet bloc countries. It was quite natural the new administration of the new republic got a cold shoulder from most of the Western countries. So it hardly mattered to many key players of world scene as the first Bangladesh administration led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman followed a secular and democratic path of governance.

Sheikh Mujib made overtures to win friends in the West, but his appeal resonated like a voice in the wilderness. The country's entanglement with Indo-Soviet axis made already paranoid West to be distrustful of Sheikh Mujib administration. Those were the early days of the nascent republic. In this particular situation, the Saudi Arabia and a few other Gulf countries, Pakistan and much of the West were cynical of the future of Bangladesh. The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975, which is widely believed to be the work of Islamists tied to Pakistani intelligence, cleared the path to change the status quo for good. This bloody chapter in Bangladesh history paved the way to bring in the war criminals of Bangladesh liberation war, the Islamic fascist Jamaatis, into country's political arena. It is as if Nazis coming to power in post-Second World War Germany. After 1975, Bangladesh went stage-by-stage in a perpetual motion of Islamisation. To add insult to injury, two army generals, namely Ziaur Rahman and H.M. Ershad were responsible for shattering the country's secular fabric.

On 8th March, 2002, Khaled Ahmed wrote a piece titled "Language and religion in Bangladesh" in The Friday Times of Pakistan. A quotation from the essay may better explain the role of General Ziaur Rahman in leading Bangladesh towards Islamisation.

"Sheikh Mujib gave Bangladesh a secular constitution in 1972 and asked the Hindus to come back, promising them restitution of property. His assassination brought to power the..... General Zia-ur-Rahman who changed Article 12 of the Constitution in 1977 through proclamation and removed secularism as one of the guiding principles. He later regularized it through the 5th Amendment in a parliament dominated by his Bangladesh National Party (BNP). To reflect the faith of the majority of the country he put Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim at the beginning of the Constitution and removed
Sheikh Mujib's ban on religious parties.

General Zia-ur-Rahman was killed after 20 military revolts against him in a year. ... in the army were overpowered by the repatriates led by General Ershad who introduced the 8th Amendment through his Jatiya Party majority, naming Islam as the religion of the state. After 20 years of direct and indirect army rule in Bangladesh, Islamisation has taken root, and religious parties are rapidly spreading their communal message at the grassroots level. Of the four main parties of Bangladesh, three openly defend Islamisation, while Awami League has muted the pledge of its return to secularism. This state of affairs was reversed in 1997 when Awami League came to power again, but its appeal did not last into the new millennium. Today Bangladesh is well set in its destabilising pattern of pendulum swings between language and religious nationalisms.

Yes, once again the pendulum swung in favour of Bangladeshi Islamists as they have won a sizable majority in the nation's last parliamentary election. They have now the constitutional authority to change constitution, national anthem, flag and anything someone may think of. As soon as the result of the election was announced, the first assault came on religious minorities. The ugly face of Islamic fascism was unmasked as the BNP-Jamaat coalition cadres went on a rampage to terrorize country's religious minorities. The minority Hindus were singled out to be a main obstacle to the rapid Islamisation process of the country. As the campaign of harassing and subjugating Bangladeshi Hindus was carried on methodically, torture and rape became a common scene. It was déjà vu all over again! The situation became so much intolerable that many of the Hindu citizens had no other choice but to abandon their property altogether. Human rights organizations have been following the sad saga closely. Recently, a fact sheet on Bangladeshi minority persecution has been compiled. That was produced to U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, a leading member of Congressional Bangladesh Caucus.

In the late seventies, a pro-western army ruler, Ziaur Rahman, opened the door to the Islamic terrorists who went underground en masse to avoid the revenge of Bangladeshi victims. Ideologically speaking, these political elements with dangerous mindset were aligned with most pro-western Islamist groups. Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and the floodgate of petro-dollars helped proliferate the cause of Islamism in Bangladesh. During the eventful period of late seventies two incredible political developments were noticed in Bangladesh society. Number one was, gradual diminishing of Bangladesh genocide episode from the collective consciousness of Bangladeshi masses and the number two was, subtle eclipse of secular values in the society.

Islamists are extraordinarily skilful in the art of deception. They could be pathological liars to enhance their agenda. A great percentage of young Bangladeshis who were raised after nineteen seventies do not have any clue about the crime against humanity committed by Bangladeshi Islamists. Similarly, today, the Islamist propaganda machinery favouring the criminals of the September Eleven attack on America is successful in attaining its goal. USA Today on February 27, 2002 provided a front page story on Islamic World's view on 9/11 attack. It covered the result of a Gallup poll where sixty-one percent of the respondents said Arabs were not involved in the September 11 attacks. The poll also disclosed the mindset of the majority of the populations in countries like Kuwait, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon and Turkey. The poll showed a great majority of the citizens in those countries believed U.S. led campaign against terrorism was morally unjustified.

Getting back to the story of Islamisation in Bangladesh let me resurrect the sad but violent departure of the first military strongman of Bangladesh. General Ziaur Rahman's sudden departure from Bangladesh political scene resulting from a bloody coup left the country's Islamisation process in jeopardy for a while. Enter General Ershad and his regime took the mantle from the predecessor in no time. During the period of 1982 to 1991 the country experienced proliferation of religion-based schools, popularly known as Madrassas. There was no control; mushroom growth of Madrassahs in all the nooks and corners of Bangladesh gave rise to thousands of Islamic zealots of Bangladeshi variety. They were the epitomes of Bangladeshi Talibans.

Like General Ziaur Rahman, General Hussain Mohammad Ershad became a darling of the Oil Sheikhs. The pouring of petro-dollars helped strengthen parties like Jamaat-i-Islami and its student fronts. Chittagong University, historically a secular dominated educational institution soon became a Mecca for the Islamic zealots. Although General Ershad kept an iron grip on power, armed training of the Islamist youth groups were done in almost broad daylight.

According to some reports, financial backers of such "project" were a few Middle Eastern countries that included Libya and Iraq as well. During Ershad era, droves of Bangladeshi holy warriors left their ancestral land to join fighting in Lebanon and Afghanistan. Yossef Bodansky, Director of Congressional Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare mentioned Bangladeshi Islamist zealots in one of his essays. I am quoting from Bodansky's "Beijing's surge for the strait of Malacca" which he wrote a few years ago.

That setback did not diminish the promise of Thailand operations. Indeed, Iran and Pakistan soon transformed Thailand into a safe heaven for Islamist terrorists for the entire East Asia. Dozens of networks with members from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Syria are operating in Bangkok alone. Others are based in tourist resorts in predominantly Muslim area, primarily Pattaya, Phuket and Hat Yai (northern and southern Thailand).

Another alarming scenario was presented by Vikram Chobe in his "Osama Bin Laden: Upholding the Tradition of Jihad" essay. I am giving a few lines from this pre 9/11 piece.

The Indian Intelligence recently discovered that Bin Laden is generously donating funds to the Pakistan-based extremist outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which has contacts with the Dhaka-based Bangladesh Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami. Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami has been assigned the task of recruiting Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims to fight in Kashmir under the command of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The bureau has also discovered that the Dhaka-based terrorist organization has already recruited 1,000 Muslims who will be trained in the terrorist training camps at Kormi and Kasia in Bangladesh.

The fallout of the terrorist attack on America is being felt among the expatriate South Asian community in USA. While a great majority of the detainees on U.S. mainland are of Arab and Pakistan origin, the presence of a few Bangladeshis has been authenticated by reliable source. The American Taliban John Walker Lindh said in an interview that Afghanistan's Mullah Omar's body guards composed of Bangladeshis also. In a CNN interview, Walker Lindh said that two important languages spoken in al-Qaeda power center were Urdu and Bengali. Bangladesh born U.S. Navy Chaplain, Lt. Abu Hena M. Saiful Islam had joined the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay more than a month ago. In a recent interview with an American news agency, Lt. Islam said his media of communication with the detainees at Camp X-Ray were Urdu and Bengali. It is quite probable that there could be a handful of Taliban or al-Qaeda detainees at the camp who are of Bangladesh descent.

As I was concluding this essay, an important news story in today's Washington Post (March 15, 2002; pp A3) drew my attention. John Mintz's "From Veil of Secrecy, Portraits of U.S. Prisoners Emerge" disclosed national origins of the detainees at Camp X-Ray. I am quoting a few lines from this revealing write-up.

"….According to Arabic newspapers, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are holding nationals from several Central Asian Republics, as well as Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and some Kurds from Iraq, although officials of some of those governments say they know nothing about such detention."

The October 1 election in Bangladesh gave a breathing space for Bangladeshi Islamists. Although the conduct of the election was controversial to some extent, most of the foreign observers found "no irregularities" paving the way for the Islamic zealots to share state power with the right of center Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's stubbornness regarding non-commitment of gas sale to India alienated the Clinton White House.

The hard fact of life is, for the sake of enhancement of western free economy, a secular Awami League became less attractive than an Islamic fundamentalist dominated Bangladesh Nationalist Party. In this volatile world, religious zealots and oil politics are intertwined to a great length. For the time being, the presence of Islamists in Bangladesh government may not pose any apparent threat to U.S. foreign policy manoeuvre. However, any covert patronization of global Islamist cause might be detrimental to U.S. interest in the long run. It is about the time American policy makers watch events in Bangladesh more closely and plan on the future course of bilateral relations based upon correct assessment on the ground. We don't want the re-play of post-Soviet Afghan drama in Bangladesh, do we? #

This article was first published on 14 February 2005

Jamal Hasan writes from Washington DC. He could be contacted

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Awami League, allies may boycott Bangladesh elections

M RAMA RAO

Major parties barring the BNP in Bangladesh may boycott the elections slated for January 23. Though the Awami League has not yet firmed up its position, the thrust of discussions at its presidium meetings is in favour of poll boycott. Only a very insignificant minority in Awami League is advocating participation in the elections. The Awami League and its 14-party alliance are also firming up an all out campaign to force President Prof Iajuddin Ahmed to step down as caretaker government' head.

Former President Gen Ershad's Jatiya Party and the newly formed LDP of another former president Prof AQM Badruddoza are in agreement with Sheikh Hasina, the Awami League leader, on these two demands. BNP leaders continue to gravitate towards the LDP and this indicates that Khaleda Zia is increasingly seen as a liability at poll time by her colleagues. What this means is that the BNP will not disappear but it will find itself decimated at the hasting.

One Man Show
Interest as of now is centered on Iajuddin Ahmed, the soil sciences professor of Dhaka university, who was pitch forked into the Bangabhaban (Presidential Palace) President by BNP three years back. His rule has become a one man show. He is determined to ignore the AL protests and push his way ahead like a bull in a china shop.

Four of his ten advisors have resigned protesting against style of functioning in general and his ignoring their recommendation to revamp the poll body in particular. Instead of persuading them – all the four are known for their integrity and ability, he Tuesday picked up four new advisors - Maj. Gen (retd.) Ruhul Alam Chowdhury, Prof M Moinuddin Khan, Shafiqul Haque Choudhury and Dr Shoeb Ahmed. Prof Moinuddin belonged to the pro-BNP teachers' forum of the Dhaka University. Dr Shoeb, secretary to agriculture till recently is known for his BNP leanings. No surprise therefore while the Awami League-led 14-party combines did not accept the new appointments; the BNP-led four-party alliance welcomed the new advisers.

Few Minorities In Voters List
Another area of concern is the cold shoulder the Hindu minorities have got from the authorities entrusted with the task of preparing the electoral rolls. A reality check of the rolls by The Daily Star daily correspondents showed that several thousand members of the minority communities were not included in the updated voter list. They may not be enrolled despite their efforts to get enrolled even at this stage 'due to acute shortage of voter registration forms'.

The Dinajpur chapter of the Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities, for instance, said the town has 2.25 lakh minorities. Of them 1.5 lakh are eligible voters but around 70 thousand of them are denied their voting right; their names do not find a place in the electoral rolls.

The rolls contain several of names of under aged students of madrasas. This is true of capital Dhaka even. Mohammadpur area is one such area, the Daily Star reports. The daily's correspondents visited Jamiya Rahmania Arabia Madrassa at Mohammadpur and found that a student of class VII was included in the updated list. A teacher of the madrassa, Nazrul Islam, said more than 800 of the 1,500 students and teachers are on the updated list.

Some observers see a BNP-Jamaat design in the exclusion of minority voters from the rolls. This is bound to bring in more protestors against the President on to the streets of Dhaka.

Already academics, women's groups and several professional bodies have stepped up their campaign for resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed from the additional responsibility he has taken up last month as the chief adviser to the caretaker government.

Peshajibi Nari Samaj, an alliance of women in various professions, has held an impressive rally at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka on Tuesday demanding Iajuddin scalp and reconstitution of the Election Commission.

Dhaka University Teachers' Association (DUTA) has also gone public with their criticism of their fellow academic in Bangabhaban. He should hand over charge to non-partisan Chief Advisor, DUTA said in a statement.

"Being his former colleagues, we are ashamed of his role as president and chief adviser as well", the DUTA statement said and remarked that the way he is taking decisions favouring a particular political party is 'frustrating for teachers' community'. #

M Rama Rao in New Delhi, India and this article was first published in AsianTribune.com, 14 December 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Iajuddin's contribution to a looming political crisis in Bangladesh

A.H. JAFFOR ULLAH

Whenever one talks about a looming political crisis in Bangladesh one thinks about one of the two major political parties, namely Awami League (AL) the party that made Bangladesh a free nation and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the party that is bent on Pakistanization of Bangladesh is the root cause of the problem. But when someone tells you that a lone retired soil science professor, who became the president of this 145 million people through the courtesy of Khaleda Zia, is the mischief-maker, then a knowledgeable person from the land would pooh-pooh the notion. Contrary to what you may think this is the reality. Make no mistake about it that Iajuddin being the puppet in the hands of BNP high commands has contributed to this new crisis, which may cause a great harm to the nation we lovingly call the Sonar Bangla.

As I have mentioned already, Bangladesh is now facing a monumental crisis, politically speaking of course. In late October 2006, the five-year term for BNP-led government came to an ignominious end. As per the constitution of the land, a neutral caretaker government headed by a chief advisor (CA) and ten members or advisors should be in place to conduct a free and fair election to pave the way for a new administration. The departing ruling party (BNP) by juggling the retirements of a few justices made sure that a person who is sympathetic to their party would become the CA of the caretaker government. They also appointed a few election commissioners who would toe the party line to ensure a BNP victory in the next election. The AL and other opposition parties in Bangladesh had been saying all along that the Election Commission should be recast to make a level playing field so that every political party is on equal footing entering the election process.

In the last week of October 2006 Bangladesh faced a mini crisis on the issue of electing a Chief Advisor of the much anticipated caretaker government. The leading candidate who was favored by BNP withdrew his nomination buckled under political pressure from the opposition. The president, Iajuddin Ahmed, did the unthinkable. Instead of appointing the next person in line who is also a retired justice of the Supreme Court he appointed himself to be the next CA of the caretaker government. Reluctantly, the opposition agreed to the proposal made by Iajuddin but they said that the president should show his neutrality while managing the next caretaker administration. Next, a ten-member advisory committee was formed in a hurry who are from civil society and nonpartisan. Thus, the caretaker government had only one partisan member but the trouble was that he made sure that most powerful portfolios stay with him.

To have Iajuddin as the Chief Advisor of the caretaker government was a disaster from day one. The opposition parties were demonstrating in the streets allover the nation to place their demands to block the appointment of the leading candidate for the position of CA of the caretaker government and to reform the Election Commission. Blinded by his love for BNP he wanted to deploy army to squish the demonstration called on by the opposition. The newly appointed advisors showed their annoyance to this move by the president. He rescinded his order to post army in the street under pressure from the new advisors. From day one Iajuddin was toeing his party line and he wanted to crush the opposition’s protest programs.

Another thing was quite discernible. Iajuddin was in no mood to consult the 10-member advisors on issues that have bearing on the upcoming election. The essence of the caretaker government is to make a favorable climate for a fair and free election. Iajuddin was doing just the opposite. To show that he is omnipotent when it comes to governance, he mistakenly thought that the nation is now under the presidential rule. It was far from being true. The constitution allowed the president to become the CA of the caretaker government despite some expert opinion that his ascension to the new position was unconstitutional for he did not follow the procedure outline in the constitution. When it was explained to him that he was wearing two hats and the real power lies with the CA of the caretaker government, he then understood where he erred. Iajuddin proved one thing for sure – people can still learn when they are old!

The main opposition party, the Awami League, and its 14-party alliance still pressed hard for Election Commission reform and they in consultation of the advisory council of the caretaker government came out with a 'package deal' agreeable to all parties including BNP. But in the final hour Iajuddin would not go along with it. He adamantly refused to let go one Election Commissioner. Bangladesh again plunged into a crisis and one could squarely blame it on Iajuddin because he was again toeing the party line.

On December 9, 2006 the crisis deepened a further when Iajuddin called the army to man the streets of Dhaka and elsewhere when his trusted advisors advised him to the contrary. A day later on December 10, 2006 four advisors of the ten-member team who were in the office for only 43 days tendered their resignation. The bottom-line was that they all thought they were ineffective in shaping up the policy to make a favorable environment for a fair and free election. Iajuddin is asking the four advisors to reconsider their decision to resign from the caretaker government.

The resignation of the four advisors took everyone in Bangladesh by surprise. These advisors were repeatedly hinting that Iajuddin was not listening to them and he has become a despot when it comes to making decision on key issues.

The chief of Awami League, Sheikh Hasina, sounded the alarm bell when she said that her party may boycott the election. Her reasoning is that Iajuddin is working to benefit only one party (BNP) and when the advisors are trying to make an environment for fair and free election Iajuddin is doing just the opposite while making others in the caretaker government very uncomfortable..

In the hindsight Hasina made a mistake in late October when Iajuddin declared himself to be the CA to caretaker government. At the time the opposition gave a benefit of doubt to Iajuddin and thought that he would take a neutral stance as far as the next election goes. But the events of the last 43 days have proved that a party man like Iajuddin is beyond any reform.

For a perspective on Iajuddin let me state that he was a very mediocre academic who did his doctoral degree in early sixties and vegetated in the campus of Dhaka University since then. In late 1970 and early 1980s he became a vocal champion of Gen. Ziaur Rahman, the founder of BNP, while being a full professor of the soil science department. With the help of BNP he held some important position at DU and in the government until he retired from the job. When Khaleda Zia booted out her first choice of the president of Bangladesh, Badruddozza Chowdhury, in 2002 because he would not toe the party line, she replaced him with Iajuddin who was not known beyond the four walls of Dhaka University. Khaleda Zia is elated now knowing how subservient this person is.

I chanced to read a few editorials from Dhaka’s newspapers on December 10, 2006 and most of them are very negative about Iajuddin's performance as the CA of the caretaker government. One editorial even mentioned that his midnight address to the nation on December 9 seems like it was prepared by the BNP in which he squarely blamed Awami League for fomenting the trouble.

Iajuddin still does not know that he is not the part of the solution but part of the problem. He lost his credibility and with his stubbornness while taking the nation to a spiraling downward journey. Bangladesh is facing a crisis already and there is this chance that the opposition may boycott the election in January 2007. It really took one person to make a mess of monumental proportion. Iajuddin became so blinded by his love for BNP that he breached the first rule of being the caretaker government – “Thou shalt be neutral.” Who is going to tell this Alzheimeric person that he ought to be neutral if he wants to be the CA of the caretaker government? With a person like him at the helm Bangladesh hardly needs an enemy to destroy the democratic norm in this impoverished nation of 145 million teeming masses. #

A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, United States

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

President Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed dates with controversy

Daily Star Report
http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/12/12/d6121201044.htm


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.

CHRONOLOGY OF CONTROVERSIES
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. #

Bangladesh President Has Given Up All Semblance Of Neutrality

RIPAN KUMAR BISWAS

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

Friday, December 08, 2006

Call for unity to save the Constitution

AMIR-UL ISLAM

While the entire country is united in its expectations for a free and fair election, instead of allowing constitutional processes to precede, a deliberately contrived crisis has been created.
While the entire country is united in its expectations for a free and fair election, instead of allowing constitutional processes to proceed, a deliberately contrived crisis has been created.

The outgoing Government is required by the Constitution to handover the reign of government to a non-party, impartial, caretaker government during the interim period following the dissolution of parliament. The present arrangement whereby the President appointed himself as the Chief Advisor of Caretaker Government is a gross violation of the Constitution. The President himself being the choice of a particular alliance, there was added reason for genuine apprehension that the combination of the two offices would prevent the Non Party Caretaker Government from functioning in a credible manner.

The President initially projected himself as a make-believe non-party Advisor to the Caretaker Government as though the outgoing party in power exercised undue influence upon him to act the way he did. The events which unfolded later during last two weeks have now confirmed that the President himself is still working under the advise of forces outside the 10 advisers which are very apparent now, last instance being the arbitrary order/s in form of an absurd notification purporting to deploy the army in all the districts without any due consultation with the chief of staff and without any decision of the advisor's council showing the height of tyranny. Thanks God. This as we are told has been corrected due to timely intervention by the Advisers. We do not know how many more surprises are in the store for the nation to witness as the time closes towards election.

President has concentrated all the powers in his own hand without distributing the portfolios, which are most relevant for holding election, to other advisers. President in violation of the Constitution addressed the secretaries that it was a presidential form of government and that the secretaries should be accountable to him; whereas according to the Rules of Business, Advisers, who are now performing the function of the ministers are the head of the respective ministry and the Chief Adviser according to the Constitution and the Rules of Business ought to act collectively and not over the head of the advisers. The President even appointed his Press Secretary an adviser with the rank of a State Minister, which is unprecedented, and beyond the scope of the Constitution. Every day there is a new surprise causing concern rather than creating confidence and credibility in the system that is followed.

It took two weeks before the advisers could even have a proper minuted meeting held only on November 13, 2006. The immediate past government successfully destroyed all the institutions of the state including the Election commission, Public Service Commission, and the Judiciary and also the institution of the Caretaker Government as is being now unfolded.

The only institution, that is, the armed forces despite all odds and erosion in other sectors seem to have preserved some core discipline and developed their professional standard. Their professional image and performance has been acknowledged universally. The present unholy alliance is now trying to drag that institution also into the political controversy, so that the country and the people may not have any leverage left in order to keep the Constitution intact.
What can be done in order to bring the country back on the Constitutional rail?
President obviously skipped three steps and assumed (if not usurped) the power of the Chief Adviser. Thereby the checks and balances of the Constitution has been disturbed. This is bound to lead towards an anarchy and lawlessness in the state administration. While street anarchy and violence can be contained very easily (signs of moderation are already in sight) but downhill deterioration of state institution unless arrested immediately it will lead to irreversible damage causing major dent to our nascent democracy, our administration state agencies and further diminishing the prospect for economic development and progress.

Can we humbly suggest that¬ the two offices i.e. the President and that of the Chief Adviser ought to be kept distinct from each other.

While the Bill for 13th Amendment to the constitution was introduced in the parliament Mr. Jamiruddin Sircar the then Law Minister while introducing the Bill told the entire nation from the floor of the house in no uncertain terms the objects as well as the meaning and intent of the Bill clearly elaborating the three options in his own words as quoted here below:

In Part III at page 58 it further states that the Bill was in the select committee where M K Anwar, Khandakar Mahbuddin Ahmed and Barrister Aminul Huq were present. The then Law Minister's statement explains the object of the Bill in clear terms creating, thereby a universal consensus regarding steps to be taken under 58C (3), (4) and (5) never disputed ever before.

The reader may read the relevant provision of the Constitution reproduced hereunder and come to their own Conclusion in order to find remedial measures:

"58C. Composition of the Non-Party Caretaker government, appointment of Advisers, etcetera.

(1) Non-Party Caretaker government shall consist of the Chief Adviser at its head and not more than ten other Advisers, all of whom shall be appointed by the President.

(2) The Chief Adviser and other Advisers shall be appointed within fifteen days after Parliament is dissolved or stands dissolved, and during the period between the date on which Parliament is dissolved or stands dissolved and the date on which the Chief Adviser is appointed, the Prime Minister and his cabinet who were in office immediately before Parliament was dissolved or stood dissolved shall continue to hold office as such.

(3) The President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Chief Justices of Bangladesh retired last and who is qualified to be appointed as an Adviser under this article:
Provided that if such retired Chief Justice is not available or is not willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Chief Justices of Bangladesh retired next before the last retired Chief Justice.

(4) If no retired Chief Justice is available or willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Judges of the Appellate Division retired last and who is qualified to be appointed as an Adviser under this article:

Provided that if such retired Judge is not available or is not willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Judges of the Appellate Division retired next before the last such retired Judge.

(5) If no retired judge of the Appellate Division is available or willing to hold the office of Chief Adviser, the President shall, after consultation, as far as practicable, with the major political parties, appoint the Chief Adviser from among citizens of Bangladesh who are qualified to be appointed as Advisers under this article.

(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Chapter, if the provisions of clauses (3), (4) and (5) cannot be given effect to, the President shall assume the functions of the Chief Adviser of the Non-Party Caretaker government in addition to his own functions under this Constitution.

(7) The President shall appoint Advisers from among the persons who are-

(a) qualified for election as members of parliament;

(b) not members of any political party or of any organisation associated with or affiliated to any political party;

(c) not, and have agreed in writing not to be, candidates for the ensuing election of members of parliament;

(d) not over seventy-two years of age.

(8) The Advisers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Chief Adviser.

(9) The Chief Adviser or an Adviser may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the President.

(10) The Chief Adviser or an Adviser shall cease to be Chief Adviser or Adviser if he is disqualified to be appointed as such under this article.
(11) The Chief Adviser shall have the status, and shall be entitled to the remuneration and privileges, of a Prime Minister and an Adviser shall have the status, and shall be entitled to the remuneration and privileges, of a Minister.

(12) The Non-Party Caretaker government shall stand dissolved on the date on which the Prime Minister enters upon his office after the constitution of new parliament."
Readers may kindly note that dead person cannot be counted because the Constitution does not look for a dead person to be appointed the Chief Adviser. Secondly in 58C (3) the word such is used; whereas in (4) word 'such' is not mentioned. It says "If no retired Chief Justice is available or willing to hold the office of Chief Advise, the President shall appoint as Chief Adviser the person who among the retired Judges of the Appellate Division retired last and who is qualified to be appointed as an Adviser under this article". Hence the then Law Minister Mr Sircar is right in explaining that each of the retired Chief Justice within 72 years of age to be considered and exhausted before the next step is under taken.

Article 58 (3) and (4) if read together which Mr Jamiruddin Sircar explained as clear as the daylight that there will be two lists, one is that of all the retired Chief Justices who are within 72 years of age, and another that of the retired judges of the Appellate Division starting from the last retired. Those lists if one after another is exhausted and none is found available from either of the list then and then only, one should try to select a citizen to hold the office after due consultation. President did not act upon any of these options, which is evident from the conversation the Military Secretary of the President held with Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury whom he sounded if he would like to feel embarrassed to enter upon the office of the Chief Adviser. Reply was as is reported through the media that he never felt embarrassed to hear any case in his court, nor he would ever feel embarrassed to perform any constitutional duty and obligation as he may be called upon to perform. Obviously the President knew that he was the next person to be offered after Justice K M Hasan declined. In case the President had any doubt or confusion or difficulty in understanding the finding the intent of the Constitution it was his obligation to refer the matter to be decided by the Appellate Division under Article 106. Obviously he knew who was the next to be appointed and perhaps that is the reason for which PMS contacted Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury.

The entire nation is painfully aware that there has been no handing over of the power by the outgoing government to a properly constituted Non- Party Caretaker government. People are thus being deprived of a non-party caretaker government as a result of an utterly irresponsible conduct of the outgoing government. This amounts to violation of the Constitution which can only deepen the crisis and could ultimately lead to the destruction of the Constitution itself. The only way the Constitution can be saved and the country rescued from the current crisis is by the immediate appointment of Chief Adviser in accordance to the Constitution.

Election Commission:

Article 119 (1) gives the power of the Election Commission which includes the duty and obligation to prepare the electoral rolls specially mentioned in 119 (1) (d).

Article 119 and 120, if read together, ensure that every qualified person must be entitled to be a voter and there must be a permanent electoral roll, continuously to be updated and certainly before each of the elections. A transparent and flawless electoral roll is a necessary attribute to our citizenry and also of democracy envisaged under the constitution. The present Election Commission failed and/or wilfully defaulted by not making a transparent and lawful voter list according to the rules despite the judgements of the Highest Court. One after another flawed voter list are being prepared in a non transparent manner. Under the law it is obligatory to publish the draft voter list under Section 7(2) of Electoral Rolls Ordinance. This is in order for every citizen to be able to check and help correct the electoral roll if necessary. The Election Commission in violation of the law and the judgement declared that there will be no publication of draft voter list. Till now it is a hidden document, no one having access to it; whereas people ought to have been able to get it on the internet/website by now when so much money and time have been wasted during last several years. Wilful failure and publicly denying to publish the draft voter list is a serious violation obstructing constitutional process for a free and fair election. This is a clear misconduct for which the entire commission is liable to be dismissed.

The present status, of the electoral data is so messy that the printers find many new entries without serial and some men's name in the female list and vice versa. For violation of court's order the High Court Division issued Contempt Rule. Besides other misconduct of Chief Election Commissioner, the entire Election Commission, including its Secretary and Additional Secretary have failed to discharge the minimum requirement in preparing a dependable and credible voter list, but in the process spent 64 crore taka without any accountability and thus raising questions even by the then Finance Minister as to the propriety of the expenditures.

On January 4, 2006 High Court Division of Supreme Court held (in the writ case filed by Mr M A Jalil, General Secretary of Awami League challenging arbitrary and non transparent way of preparing the voter list) that "A correct and valid voter list is sine qua non for any free and fair election and any lack of transparency in the process of its preparation... is bound to have wide ramification."

In upholding the judgement of the High Court Division the Appellate Division gave fine-tuning to one of the directives in following terms -

The Commission should prepare Electoral Roll taking into consideration of the existing roll under Section 7(6) of the Ordinance. If there is a computerised database, the Commission should make the best use of it and if not, a computerised electoral roll with database would always be maintained to avoid further controversy.

May I ask very humbly the Hon'ble men in the election commission where is that transparent computerised electoral roll with data base? Where is the honest and manifest intent to avoid further controversy? Have you complied with the judgement? Have you not violated the judgement as well as the law by denying to publish the draft electoral roll as is required under Section 7(2) of the Ordinance and thus violated the law of transparency in election process asked from you by the nation through its Supreme Court?
If so are you not liable to be removed?

If you yet refuse to resign, does it not become the Constitutional obligation of the President to order for constitution of the Supreme Judicial Council with reference as to the reason, motive and purpose for derailing the election and thereby causing obstruction to the constitutional process amounting to high treason?

Suggestion:

1. President, therefore, is under a Constitutional obligation to refer the matter to Supreme Judicial Council for removal of the Election Commission.
2. Secretary and Additional Secretary be removed.
3. Audit be conducted regarding the money spent and they be prosecuted, if irregularities/misappropriation found. Let the Auditor and Comptroller General and other agencies be activated.

Let the people from all shades of opinion, profession and calling be united as they are expected to be in such a national crisis and in one voice demand and persuade the Hon'ble President to relinquish his additional responsibility of Chief Advisor by resigning from that office under Article 58C (9) and invite the person now duly available under the Constitution according to Article 58C (3) and (4). This will bring the Constitutional process back on the track and prevent the President from giving the nation shocking surprises every other day.
AMIR-UL ISLAM, Barrister-at-Law, eminent lawyer, co-author of Bangladesh constituion and presently president of Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association

Published in arrangement with South Asian News (SAN)-Feature Service