Tuesday, August 07, 2007

When this government fails


THANKS are due to law adviser Mainul Hosein who has at last candidly expressed an apprehension that the current caretaker government (CTG) might fail and warned all concerned to think about the consequences should this happen.

However, instead of soul searching, the adviser, in his usual style, has relocated the blame onto others. The adviser went on to say: "It is the responsibility of the people in every sector to help the government … But I find a lack of consciousness among the intellectuals and the media people. They are not playing the role we expect of them."

I am not sure how much time the adviser devotes to reading what is being ceaselessly written in the country's news media by the columnists and editors of most of the credible news dailies.

On January 11, this government took over the reins of the country not only with the backing of the armed forces but enjoying an overwhelming support of the masses who did not want the scheduled one-sided election of January 22 go through.

It enjoyed the wholehearted support of the columnists, news media and the members of the civil society who were fighting tooth and nail against holding of a farcical election as nefariously planned by the four-party alliance.

Never before since the first government right after the victory of our liberation war, any government enjoyed such good will of the masses and the media. Regrettably, only after 200 or so days it is no one but the self-assumed chief spokesperson of this government himself who has had to issue the warning of failure.

The realisation, no matter however late, is commendable but the responsibility is misplaced. Ironically, the handful of columnists who were blindly in favour of holding the January 22 election under the pretext of constitutional continuity have metamorphosed themselves, over the last few months, into sycophantic supporters of the current government, while the erstwhile proponents for creating a level playing field before holding an election have become sceptics. The reasons are multi-fold.

Firstly, this government's actions in many cases are mired in lack of transparency and accountability. These actions of the government have even impelled the US charge d' affairs to suggest ensuring that the corruption cases are prosecuted fairly, transparently, and without "selectivity or political motivation."

Following the arrest of Sheikh Hasina on July 16 on charge of so-called extortion which the law adviser himself had earlier termed "peculiar," The Daily Star editor, Mahfuz Anam, in his splendid commentary noted sharply the apparent misguided agenda of the government with the clear warning that "the fundamental mistake committed by past proponents of 'command politics' was to underestimate the wisdom of our masses."

Notwithstanding such a bold warning from the country's most prestigious English daily, how the honourable adviser can blame the media and the intellectuals of their lack of consciousness? The adviser must have also come across with the grim concerns his friend Rashid Suhrawrdy has expressed in his article in DS.

In any government where an iota of accountability and respect for the media exists, Mahfuz Anam's commentary (many of our compatriots foresee it will be considered a milestone in our political history when the dust settles) would certainly generate a response from the government.

Just like any other government in the past, it did not happen. Yet, the law adviser asked the media and the intellectuals to point out their mistakes in order for them to avert any of their impending failures.

Secondly, the law adviser "wants to run the government honestly abiding by laws so that an example could be created." Would an example of "abiding by laws" be the deployment of more than a thousand members of the law enforcing agencies, some of them wearing bulletproof vest, with dog squads, to arrest an unarmed near-60-year-old woman isolated in her home in the wee hours of night without any warrant of arrest from a court of law?

Thirdly, the law adviser accused the media for keeping themselves busy with the politicians and lectured on upholding some values. If one goes through the media briefings of the law adviser, quite a contrary situation would emerge.

It is the honourable adviser who availed every opportunity to lecture the nation on the quality of a "good politician" and which leaders should be discarded for what reasons, not only a clear overstepping of his brief, but a blatant violation of the oath of office which he solemnly made by affirming: "I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear of favour, affection or ill-will."

The soft corner of the current government for a certain political party, which has had quite a dishonourable past, including the immediate past, when it was a strident voice for the January 22 elections, has been revealed clearly. The general secretary of that party was allowed to leave the country while a former PM was not allowed to go out of the country although cases of similar nature were lodged against both of them. This list could go on.

Fourthly, "selectivity and political motivation" of the government actions have been so much self-evident as it seems that Sheikh Hasina was the immediate past PM and her government was responsible for the most despicable governance this country has ever experienced, her party colleagues were the ones responsible for reckless looting and plundering national wealth in the last five years, and that her political alliance's "irresponsible acts" led to the declaration of emergency.

This sort of selectivity has created rooms for speculations that have led the political analysts to put forward hypotheses, regrettably, not very much in conformity with the well meaning intention of the January 11 takeover.

It is an open fact that it is the credibility of the armed forces of the country that is at stake in the success and failure of this government. God forbid, if its mission plunges in disarray, as has been apprehended by the law adviser, it is the leaders of the armed forces who will have to bear the brunt.

The advisers neither have any election mandate nor any constituency to lean onto. They might share the credit, if any, but do not have to partake the burden of failures since they are virtually no one so far as the people of the country are concerned. #

Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh

This article was first published in Daily Star, DhakaAugust 6, 2007