THE big bombshell from the U.S. Senate reached Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed’s desk on May 15, 2007. Fifteen prominent
No one really told the 145 million citizens of
Even though the nation made progress in various field notably in food production during 1996 through 2001 and made inroads in garments and apparel industries but politically-backed corruption and graft were on the rise exponentially. The country topped the list of most corruption consecutively for the last 3-4 years as per Transparency International (TI), which assigns the ranking of most corrupt nations on earth. Also, the very political parties that ruled the nation for last 15 years were not practicing democracy themselves. The leadership was confined to two political families and there were no signs in the horizon to indicate that the leadership of two major parties was about to change anytime soon. The corruption was so endemic and deep rooted that the eldest son of Khaleda Zia, the departing Prime Minister earned the dubious distinction of Mr. Ten Percent. The prodigal son ran a parallel government and he took bribes right and left thus becoming a billionaire in a short span of 5 years. A new class of super rich was born in
In October 2006, Khaleda Zia’s government resigned after completing the term and the nation was preparing to hold another parliamentary election on January 22, 2007. The opposition vehemently protested against the holding of election fearing that a level playing field did not exist and the administration and election commission was restructured by departing administration in a way to allow for massive vote rigging. The opposition also complained about the veracity of the voters’ list, which supposedly contained 10% fake voters. A supposedly “neutral” interim caretaker government took power in the last week of October 2006 headed by the partisan president by breaching the constitution. That caretaker government did not do any reform of the Election Commission and nor did they correct the voters’ list that contained enough ghost voters to sway the election result in favor of Khaleda Zia’s party. Consequently, there was a stalemate, which led to the paralysis in government. On January 11, 2007 barely 11 days before the election emergency was declared at the behest of the military. Buckled under pressure, the partisan president, Iajuddin Ahmed, resigned from the position of the chief adviser of caretaker government. A new interim government was formed on January 12, 2007 again breaching the constitution, which was led by 10 technocrats headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed.
The events of last 125 days under the military-backed interim government kept the masses on their toe. The government was set to clean up the Augean stable of
The second task the government took was to reform the existing political parties. They formulated a plan, which was dubbed by the press as "Minus Two" plan. Under this plan the two party chairpersons, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wazed, would be sent to exile and the two major parties, Awami League and BNP, would undergo reform. It was expected that the new leadership will take charge of these two parties. There was another initiative taken by the military-backed government that concerns the birth of a third political party.
In March 2007 Sheikh Hasina visited
The interim government did everything to prolong their grip on power. It spent too much time to accost the alleged corrupt politicians without reforming the election commission. It revamped the anti corruption commission placing a new administrator from military background. However, no real effort was made to change the voters’ list. The government to support their ‘go slow’ policy said it may take 2 years before the election could be held. Sheikh Hasina vehemently protested against the long delay and the US Administration is also applying pressure on the government to hold the election at an earlier date.
The two major areas where the interim government failed miserably are: controlling the price of staples and foodstuffs; gross human rights violation. The spiraling price hike of rice, lentil, and other agro-commodities led to inflationary tendencies in
The Fakhruddin Administration has earned a bad name due to their poor human rights record. First, to clean up the capital the government demolished slums that housed tens and thousands of poor people. The poor has no lobby whatsoever; therefore, the government in their zeal to clean up the capital city had displaced thousands of residents. Second, an estimated 170,000 people or even more are now languishing in jail without any formal charge against them. Third, the elite law and order force, RAB, had killed few dozens people under custody. Fourth, the military also killed many people and one such instance had caught the attention of International organizations, Amnesty International that deal in human rights violation.
A tribal leader belonging to Garo community was arrested by the military, tortured, and killed in March 2007. This news has already embarrassed the government but a deafening silence centering this gross abuse of human rights has mired the military and the government. The Fakhruddin Administration is acting like the proverbial ostrich by burying its head in the sand. The human rights abuses done by the government agencies may however break the proverbial camel’s back.
In summary, the Fakhruddin Administration is in power for over 125 days. Some say that it is a government that cannot be supported by the existing constitution of the country. While the government is trying to break the monopoly of the two families, the Chief Advisor had appointed three of his family members in the interim government. Some progress has been achieved to apprehend corrupt politicians but the administration is too slow to frame charges against the arrestee. The government’s initiatives to float a new political party centering Yunus had failed and so did the exile attempt on Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. There are persistent rumor that the government is working to float yet another party with the help of Dr. Kamal Husein. The inflationary pressure on foodstuffs has not yet ebbed thus causing price to escalate further. The government gets an F mark in upholding the civil rights of the citizens. The death of Cholesh Richil, the Garo community leader and others who dies under custody may make waves and send a very negative image of the nation. The government is surely acting like a behemoth too slow to prepare the voter list. While the spokesperson for the government had alluded to the media that it may take even two years to hold the election, the major political parties are showing their dissatisfaction to the proposal. And now comes the wake-up call from 15 senior
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from