THE DEVELOPMENT in politics might not be "proactive", out right contradicted by a media practitioner friend who conducted a political assessment of Bangladesh in November and returned to Ottawa, Canada. He does not hesitate to predict that politicking could be "provocative".
A spontaneous reaction came from my long-term outspoken friend while in transit at Bahrain airport. He reacted after he saw my comments in the Facebook. If I understood his assessment that the transition from army backed caretaker government, would in fact switch to "army backed" elected government of proportionate representations from four major parties and some “selected” individuals.
A former Mukti Bahini officer a popular political commentator living in exile in New York agrees with him, but fears that incidences of civil unrest will occur soon after lifting state of emergency on December 17. He wraps up his theory that it will be an ideal situation for continuation of military subjugation in Bangladesh.
Nonetheless I am thrilled that Bangladesh is in transition to democracy – after two years of military-controlled interim government. Well Bangladesh is familiar of being governed by military juntas twice since 1975.
Therefore, it is not a new era for most citizenry, albeit not for those born after 1990 or was too young to understand, when military rule apparently ended with a sigh of relief. Thus the end of military rule paved way for the country’s first free, fair and credible election under a caretaker government.
At last the 9th parliamentary election will be held in the end of this December in midst of widespread fear, suspicion and conspiracy theories among the general public, specially those living in abroad.
Suddenly the constitutional democratic process were aborted by military chief Lt. General Moeen U Ahmed after he installed an interim government and terminated the scheduled elections in January 2007.
He promised the nation that he would halt criminalisation of politics, punish corrupt citizens – specially those who plundered public wealth, bring about electoral, judiciary and civil administrative reforms, and stamp organised crime, gangsters and put behind bars all evil-doers.
My argument does include whether the current interim government is legitimate or illegal, so long as they are bonded in broader promises that they will hand over power to a democratically elected government.
Well in his two years tenure as de facto leader of the impoverished nation of 150 million, he had to admit his failure and realised that the country needs to be governed by politicians and parliament, not by military generals who have failed to understand the sentiment of the people.
Will the political parties get equal opportunity for level playing field, a fair play? Apparently it seems NO. The Election Commission backed out from the (reformed) rules. Whereas the EC compromised certain rules to accommodate scores of “unwanted” applications for nominations. On the other hand, rejected hundreds of applications on the ground of not been able to follow the EC rules.
In the unfair play of game of politics, the four mainstream political parties have agreed to “proportionate parliament” and share with scores of other independent members in the new parliament to ensure checks and balance, which the military would like to see.
The four mainstream political parties Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalists Party (BNP), Jatiya Party and Jamaat-e-Islami (sorry they have registered as Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami) and divided in two major political alliances. It is apparent that they have agreed on principle that they would share parliament by default thus keeping the militaries in good humour.
Of course General Moeen has in his mind that all the misdeeds and illegal activities of his interim government have committed need 9th parliament’s endorsement. On the other hand, he will not be happy if the parliament takes any attempt to pass any bills which will infringe his safe exit from the political, economic and administrative mess he has created.
He will also like to translate his dreams into reality through the incumbent parliament to pass the controversial National Security Council. Which most students of democratic accountability and democracy watchdogs have cautioned that the Turkish model of National Security Council would not at all be beneficial for transition to democracy and instead infringe the parliament’s power to scrutinise military activities. It will further institutionalise the military’s role in Bangladesh democratic process.
The pertinent question is will the parliament be sustainable? What most political observers is trying to fathom whether the parliament would need another election to restore democratic accountability and independence from the invisible military dictates. Possibly in another 12 months from now, Bangladesh would need another election to get out of this mess. It would be long way for Bangladesh to ensure democratic accountability, when the generals have an upper hand in state polity.
To conclude which political alliance will form the government? It all depends on who is not blaming General Moeen for their miseries of legal harassment and ordeal in prison. Any sorts of dissent will be punished by denial of their rightful share of the people’s mandate in the parliament, thus a faint chance of forming a national government.
Loser would those who question the legitimacy, criticise or accuse the interim government for conspiracy. In addition whoever is less outspoken or silent about conspiracy theories hatched by the kaki generals. #
Toronto, December 12, 2008
Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is a Bangladesh born journalist presently living in exile in Canada and specialises in conflict, terrorism, security and intelligence in South Asia. He served as Bangladesh correspondent for TIME Asia magazine, press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), Daily Times (Lahore), investigative news portal Telekha.com (New Delhi), and the Bangladesh Observer (Dhaka). He edits DurDesh.net streaming from Toronto, a news portal for South Asian Diaspora in North America. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org