Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Undoing the wrongdoings


IT WOULD possibly take years for any future government with noble intention to undo the wrongdoings committed by the past BNP-Jamaat government during its tenure from 2001 to 2006. Its design was aimed primarily to keep the alliance's firm grip on all organs of the state in order to perpetuate its rule and to shield allied wrong-doers from any potential prosecution and subsequent conviction. Two of the casualties of their arrogance of state power were the history of our liberation war, which otherwise could have been the rallying milestone of our nation, and the higher judiciary, the last refuge for citizens to seek justice.

From its inception, the BNP-led government started to cleanse the administration out of any suspected sympathisers of its main opponents. Even the members of the armed forces and the judges of the High Court (HC) were not spared.

Dozens of armed force officers were given the forced retirements and in an unprecedented move, 15 of the additional judges of the High Court appointed by the previous AL government were not confirmed by the BNP-Jamaat government sidetracking the positive recommendation of the chief justice in favour of their confirmation.

Instead, the BNP-Jamaat governments appointed around 40 or so additional judges, many of whom, according SCBA, are incompetent, and were allegedly appointed solely under political considerations.

Terming the appointments a "serious storm" over the higher judiciary, the then chief justice Mohd. Ruhul Amin told a function in Noakhali last year that its effect would remain in the judiciary for more than 20 years.

Since the assumption of state power on 1/11 by the current caretaker government (CTG), it has undone many of the wrongdoings committed by the BNP-Jamaat government. The most visible one was the reconstitution and reformation of the EC and getting rid of not only the partisan and incompetent members of this constitutional body and the preparation of the new voter list that corroborated the allegation of the around 12 million false and fictitious voters created by the erstwhile EC.

Many of the wrongdoings were undone either through executive order or through the promulgation of ordinances.

To get the long-awaited benefits of the independent judiciary, there were demands from many quarters to remove the incompetent and blatantly partisan judges through a Supreme Judicial Council.

In a relevant context, a welcoming verdict was delivered by a three-member special bench of the HC on July 17, directing the government to reappoint (with seniority) the 10 judges who were not confirmed by the BNP-led government within one month.

Implementation of the verdict, apparently, should strengthen the government endeavour to de-politicise, neutralise and equilibrate the higher judiciary with competent judges.

However, it is, indeed, paradoxical that the government has filed an appeal against the verdict. This is tantamount to condoning the wrongdoing committed by the BNP-Jamaat government, which, in the observations of the HC judgment: "non-compliance with the chief justice's recommendations in this regard will be violation of the constitution.”

In addition, in an unprecedented move, nineteen judges of the HC and a lawyer (how could he be an aggrieved party?) affiliated to Jamaat-e-Islami filed separate applications with the Supreme Court against the HC judgment.

In the other front, in its effort to belittle the leaders of our independence movement, institutions after institutions which were named to pay due recognition to their contributions to the creation of our nation, were renamed.

Arrogance of the absolute state power, for instance, made the then finance minister question the identity of Syed Nazrul Islam in the national parliament, the acting president of the provisional Mujibnagar government, while renaming a bridge named after him.

One of its most despicable acts was to cancel August 15 as a national day of mourning, a public holiday, the day on which Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members in a military coup led by a group of disgruntled army officers. It had also prohibited flying of the national flag at half-mast for paying respect to the memory of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation.

Upon a writ petition filed by three lawyers, a division bench of HC on July 27 declared illegal the immediate past BNP-led 4-party alliance government's order for cancelling observance of national mourning day and a public holiday on August 15 and prohibition of flying of the national flag at half-mast for paying respect to the memory of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bengali of all times.

The landmark HC verdict has been hailed by the political leaders from all spectrums including a few senior leaders of the BNP. This is indeed a positive phenomenon and should set a rallying precedence in the current government's declared effort to create a national consensus on certain issues that must not divide the nation.

Last year on August 15, after placing floral wreaths and paying homage to the great leader at the grave of Bangabandhu at Tungipara in presence of the chiefs of the three services, the Chief Adviser Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed wrote: "On behalf of the government and myself, I pay my deepest respects to his [Bangabandhu] memory and pray for the salvation of his soul. It is my strong believe that everyone irrespective of parties and opinions will come forward unitedly to implement Bangabandhu's dream of building a happy, prosperous and progressive golden Bangladesh."

Through his words of sagacity, the CA has rightfully echoed the sentiment of the whole nation. The present CTG has recognised Bangabandhu's contribution to the independence of Bangladesh and decided to propagate the real history, including Bangabandhu's contributions, in the textbooks.

Likewise, hopes and aspirations of the masses have been solemnly reflected in the current verdict of the nation's highest court. Its immediate implementation would undoubtedly add an extra grandeur to the CTG's own feat to put the history of the nation to its true perspective. It must not attempt to undo the High Court's undoing of the other's wrongdoings. #

First published in the Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 30, 2008

Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convener of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh. He could reached at: