Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yet one more contender to form the next government


THE ongoing state of emergency saw the launching of yet another political party as Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi on July 21 floated Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) despite a ban on all kinds of political activities. In his maiden press conference while announcing the formation of party he declared that (DS July 22, 2007) “the PDP will contest all the 300 constituencies in the next general elections, which, he believes, will be held by the end of 2008 and his party hopes to form the next government.”

Yet another politician, the most visible reformist in the political arena, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan who seems to have been energized by his recent expulsion from the party that enjoyed the longest tenure of ruling the country vowed that (his) BNP “will form the next government through participating in the upcoming general elections after implementation of reforms led by the reformists.” He went on to declare that “the image of the party has been destroyed in the last five years. So, sacrificing leadership would be reinstated in the party and the corrupt and terrorist leaders will be excluded.” This is indeed a wonderful resolution. However, does Mannan Bhuiyan hold the moral ground to lead the crusade against corrupted elements inside the party?

Let us go back about a year from today. The TIB launched its corruption index on July 5, 2006 where the LGRD and Cooperatives ministry came top in corruption. It alleged that the ministry accounted for Tk 208.9 crore out of a total of Tk 526.27 crore misappropriated at different ministries. In response Mannan Bhuiyan threatened (DS July 11) the TIB, “if you [TIB] don't take the report back, there will be processions against TIB in different districts and we will also take legal action.” He went further sordidly aiming at our octogenarian conscience of the nation, “who is Mozaffar Ahmed? He was a minister during the military regime of late president Ziaur Rahman. Allegations of corruption had been there against him as well."

Over the last few days, through the courtesy of satellite TV, audiences all over the world were able to see the palatial house of Mannan Bhuiyan transformed into a Mecca for BNP politicians. They included many former MPs and ministers, whose stories of wanton corruption filled the pages of the media before and after "one eleven." However, the most hypocritical aspect of Mannan Bhuiyan’s resolve to clean ‘his’ BNP from the corrupt elements got revealed from his reported request of M Saifur Rahman to take over the chairmanship of the party. If the stories of credible media are to be believed, Saifur Rahman will undoubtedly be crowned with a distinctive laurel of corruption that may not be surpassed by very many in our corruption arena. Aside from tax evasion, he abused his power to the extent of leasing 500 acres of land to his two sons at a price of 5 taka per acre, an unparallel magnitude of power abuse even by the standard of our depraved political history. His son riding on his own co-tail became an MP and was a notorious terror and extortionist until he was put behind bar following the emergency. Yet, Mannan Bhuiyan wants to get the party rid of “corrupt and terrorist elements” by installing Saifur Rahman at the helm of it and form the next government!”

In full tune with the affirmation of our people Mannan Bhuiyan in his statement said, “the country cannot go back to the situation before January 11 since it saved the nation from a civil war like situation.” Notwithstanding the pathetically short memories of our people, it would not be difficult to recollect the actions and deeds of the political party and their leaders who bear the lion share of responsibility that contributed to the creation of ‘civil war like situations’. Those leaders are no other than the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and her second in command and the visible spokesman Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan. Mannan Bhuiyan after his long dialogue drama with Abdul Jalil declared, bulldozing the high expectations of the people, on November 2, 2006 that “the 14-party coalition's demand for restructuring the Election Commission (EC) is 'new' to him.” About the controversy regarding assumption of the office of the chief adviser by the president he said, "the president took the charge constitutionally and by taking the decision he saved the nation from a constitutional crisis."

On October 28, 2006 Mannan Bhuiyan bluntly lied to the ATN audience, from Teknaf to Toronto, at the gate of the Bangabhaban that Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury has refused to take the responsibility of CA. However, the same TV channel revealed to its audience on October 29 at 1:00 am that the former chief justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury reportedly told Bangabhaban yesterday that he has no objection to assuming the post of the chief adviser to the next caretaker government. On December 30, 2006 terming all the demands raised by the alliance as 'resolved issues', he said, "The 14-party wants to make issues of the resolved ones." On the same day, rejecting the demands of Awami League led grand alliance, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said “the question of resignation of the chief adviser of the caretaker government does not arise at all.” On January 8, 2007 Mannan Bhuiyan said, “the election must be held on January 22 and if the Awami League led grand alliance has any demands unfulfilled, the next government will fulfil them.” Alas, our Armed forces did not give any opportunity to Mannan Bhuiyan to get a walkover to the helm of the state to fulfil the ‘unfulfilled’ demands of the AL led alliance!

Would it be unfair to ask Mr. Bhuiyan if the corruptions that made his ministry the number one in the TIB list and his consequent threat to take legal action against TIB were instigated by the then PM of the country? In a similar token, would Mr. Bhuiyan divulge to the nation if his betrayal in the dialogue drama with Abdul Jalil and the his aforementioned comments leading to the creation of ‘civil war like situations’ before January 11, were carried out at the instruction of his erstwhile party chief?

As it stands today only two political leaders so far have expressed their hope to form the next government. As for Mr. Qureshi, so far the political arena is concerned, he neither possesses many assets to help materializing his dream neither is he burdened with much liabilities that would desist him from making his wish list, albeit those who are visible at his side at this time, borrowing the words from Mahfuz Anam, “will not be worth the paper their names will be written on.”

The second contender, however, are sitting on a double edged sword. If he succeeds in establishing his claim, a long shot indeed, of the mainstream BNP, he has to shoulder the burden of the responsibility of the most despicable governance this country has ever experienced. If he fails, the most probable outcome if political parties’ past factional history is of anything to learn from, he has to organize a new political party, which in any pragmatist’s view would be a daunting task indeed. In either scenario, he would need much more than the free and fair expressions of the will of the people to form the next government. The mere fact that his counterpart is languishing in jail, albeit while in power, no corruption story about him or his ministry ever surfaced in any news media while Mannan Bhuiyan is a freeman and more than two dozens AL men are in jail for attending a private dinner party in Sylhet while he encountered no problem in holding a political gathering amid chanting slogans by his supporters, displaying banner and using microphones in front of national and international electronic media glaringly reflecting that some are ‘more equal’ than the others in the eyes of law. Only time will tell how far these extra supports will translate into helping him forming the next government as he has wished after his expulsion from the primary membership of the BNP. #

Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh. He writes from Toronto, Canada