Monday, April 23, 2007

Emergency is offensive and inimical to democracy

RIPAN KUMAR BISWAS

EMERGENCY is always considered as a dangerous thing. Such government is the result of necessity, of the sheer imperative of survival. The greatest danger with such a form of government, and its related institutions and laws, is that they can remain with wrong direction after the crisis has abated.

It was a very bad time for Bangladesh, its general people and democracy when both former Bangladeshi prime ministers and their supporters didn’t pay any tolerance towards each other that kept the country in permanent turmoil.

And the journey moved democratic regime to another emergency following violent street clashes between rival political groups over electoral reforms and a neutral caretaker government which left more than 30 people dead.

On January 11, 2007, President Professor Iajuddin Ahmed of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh proclaimed emergency in the country, postponed national elections planned for January 22, 2007 and banned all political activities.

Bangladesh failed to continue paying gratitude towards Dr. Shamsul Alam Khan (was joint secretary of Bangladesh Medical Association, died November 27, 1990), Noor Hossain (a worker of Awami Jubo League, died 1987), and many other injured participators in an anti-autocracy movement for democracy on December 6, 1990.

Although emergency law is an obstacle on the road to political and democratic reform, people of Bangladesh accepted it due to the last volatile political combat.

Last couple of months, people of Bangladesh became happy to see the end of more than 160 corrupted politicians, bureaucrats and criminals being detained and expelled in the anti-graft drive.

But when the questions are about law, democracy, equal rights, fair judgment and anti-corruption movement, everyone should be treated equally by the present interim government of Bangladesh whether it’s for a general people or a big personality.

Begum Khaleda Zia and her political archrival, former Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wazed, chairman of Awami League, have been blamed for steering the country into political chaos and government wants them to retire from politics.

The state of emergency, in its legal context, exceeded the law of emergency, and it negatively affects the soul of the legislative structure of any country. People of Bangladesh may not want to see a broken legislative structure in the future.

As part of the present interim administration's efforts to clean the country's corruption-riddled politics, government wants to send former Prime Minister, opposition leader and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Begum Khaleda Zia into exile.

It was a rumor at the very beginning of the present military-backed interim administration that government might send both of them into exile.

To make it unbiased and appreciable step, government did some home work and after arresting elder son of Begum Zia and joint secretary of BNP Tareq Rahman, they detained her younger son Arafat Rahman to make a pressure on her to go into self-exile.

After a fruitful negotiation and having release of Arafat Rahman, Begum Zia agreed to go into self-exile. In a different angle, government has partially admitted that the decision to go into exile in Saudi Arabia is her personal matters whereas it’s almost open the real intention of the government.

Since the arrest of her elder son on March 7, 2007, Begum Zia is now under virtual house arrest.

According to the emergency law, the executive authority has wide authorities related to restricting the freedoms of individuals and their constitutional rights, like restricting the right of individuals to peaceful assembly, transportation, residence, arresting suspects according to the likes and dislikes of the security forces, detention and inspecting persons and places without reference from the law or the Penal Code rules.

Everyone in Bangladesh accepted above those restrictions with thinking that Bangladesh will have a good shape of democracy in future. But unfortunately democracy becomes a farce in any case of emergency.

In an interview with B.B.C on April 18, 2007, former opposition leader Sheikh Hasina is adamant to return to the country whereas government has clearly blocked her return by mentioning her "provocative and malicious" remarks against the caretaker government and the law enforcement agencies at different meetings abroad.

In a press note on April 18, 2007, government of the present interim administration of Bangladesh has banned her return from the US on April 23, 2007 and in view of that government ordered a clear instruction to all airports, land ports, immigrations and customs officials and in addition government urged all the Bangladesh bound airlines not to carry her.
Moreover, according to the note, Sheikh Hasina and her party had completely upset law and order in the recent past and they may trigger another round of disturbance in the country.

Earlier, Sheikh Hasina was charged with murder of four rival political activists in street clashes in October last year and accused of taking bribes from a businessman to allow his company to build a power plant in 1998.

No need to mention that it’s a fundamental right to live in his/her native country whether he/she is a criminal or not. And by sending someone outside of the country is not a process of cleaning corruptions.

In a recent address towards nation, chief adviser of the care taker government Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed mentioned that his government is working hard to restore country’s democracy by the end of next year.

But the interim government should keep in mind that democracy works best in times of peace, when there is debate, compromise, and deliberation in forming governing rules, regulations and policies and of course holding basic human rights for everyone.

Since January 11, government is always trying to give an assurance that the law and orders will be imposed equally to everyone. Country may not be pleased to see the rough use of law and order by the government recently.

Meanwhile, in a SMS message to all media in Bangladesh, Government forbade to publish any reports, comments or interviews of Sheikh Hasina.

Of course, the very concept of an "emergency" is offensive and inimical to our political thinking as citizens of a democracy.

The history of democratic governments, from the ancient republics of Greece and Rome to the modern states that have replaced earlier totalitarian governments, show that governing by committees, or legislative bodies, however never works in times, but at least it holds public opinions and debates.

Any form of government in Bangladesh should need to realize the big interest of the people otherwise the future is very dark. #

Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York
Ripan.Biswas@yahoo.com