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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

War Criminals of 1971: Time to Take Action


IT is highly misleading that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman government pardoned all the war criminals and he did nothing during his ‘war ravaged reconstruction period’. The fact shows otherwise. In fact, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman government started prosecuting the perpetrators of 'crime against humanity' or ’war criminals’ immediately after independence and he also passed the Collaborators Act (1972) and the International Crime Act of 1973 that barred re-entry of any collaborators to Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib promulgated the Special Tribunal Order on January 24, 1972 (PO No 8 of 1972) after 14 days of his return from Pakistani jail to try those Pakistani collaborators/Razakers/Al-Badrs and other stooges of the Pakistani army. Under this order he arrested 37,000 collaborators amidst of strong opposition by left-leaning journalist like Enayetullah Khan [see his write-up titled ’75 million Collaborators’, the Holiday, 1972]. Out of them as no grievous criminal charges were filed against 26,000, therefore they were pardoned and released in a general amnesty. However, nearly 800 cases were completed and given jail sentences. Another 11,000 were in jail including Nizami, Abbas Ali Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islam Party (JI), and their prosecution was at various stages of completion. In addition, those that were involved in ‘crime against humanity’ and against Bangladesh, they were denied of Bangladesh nationality and passport.

On November 4, 1972 all religion-based politics were abolished as per sections 12 and 38 of the Bangladesh Constitution of 1972.

Unfortunately, when General Ziaur Rahman, a valiant Muktijudda emerged as a ‘strong man’ in 1975, he abrogated the Collaborators Act and released all the prisoners including those that were sentenced. For political/ personal reasons he allowed religion-based parties to operate and started reinstating and rehabilitating them. No wonder, those who were guilty of ‘crime against humanity’ and collaboration with enemy (Pakistan) state started returning from abroad especially Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and they were given Bangladesh citizenship and passport. Example, Golam Azam of the JI Party.

On those days I was working with the Bangladesh government and many individuals and their relatives that had no Bangladesh passport approached us for consideration. However, once General Zia took over, all of them were issued Bangladesh passport or ‘travel documents’ to return to Bangladesh.
It is sad that few vested quarters including Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, the ousted BNP Secretary General and current Law Advisor Barrister Moinul Hussein are misleading the public and the nation by stating that Sheikh Mujib pardoned them or shifting the responsibility by blaming why they did not prosecute them. In fact, Sheikh Mujib started the prosecution and he pardoned only those that did not have criminal cases against them. He did not pardon those (Razakars, Al-Badr or Al-Shams) that had ‘criminal cases’ and those that committed ‘crime against humanity or war criminals’ such as rape, murder, and the like. Thousands of criminals were in prison during his time; however, many were absconding abroad including Golam Azam, the leader of the JI party and they were involved in anti-state activities abroad. He did not get time to complete the prosecution because of abrupt massacre.

After the massacre of Sheikh Mujib and his family plus his closed associates; Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed, Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, Secretary General AHM Qamruzzaman and Home Minister Monsur Ali, the founders of independent and sovereign Bangladesh in 1975, one after another civil-military-technocratic or cantonment-based governments ruled the country basically till 1996. In 1996, when pro-people and pro-liberation government of Sheikh Hasina came to power after 21 years with marginal votes; it neither could reinstate the Collaborators Act nor could revive the original constitution of 1972. Secondly, it followed ‘judicial process and rule of law’ and therefore, it did not set up any ‘kangaroo court or special tribunal’ to prosecute the criminals. One can debate that as a weakness of the Hasina government or not.

Therefore, it failed to punish the war criminals and the culprits. But that does not justify that the criminals of ‘crime against humanity’ or war criminals should not face justice. It would be unfair if they are allowed to go free or untouched. Fortunately, now is an opportune moment to revive the clause that ‘no religion-based political party can register or contest in Bangladesh election’ and those found guilty of ‘crime against humanity’ to be fully prosecuted. Unless the criminals and murderers are fully prosecuted, you can neither establish ‘rule of law’ nor can stop political killing in Bangladesh.

More importantly, the International Crime Act of 1973 of Bangladesh is still active and Article 47, Section 3 of the Act allows trial of war criminals. Therefore, the military-backed government of Fakhruddin Ahmed that has started many essential reforms can try the war criminals and punish them provided it has the mindset and commitment. It is unfortunate that its Law Advisor is trying to guillotine the golden opportunity.

Secondly, Islami activist S. A. Hannan, a retired bureaucrat following the JI party line of argument tried to mislead the public by stating that there was ‘no genocide’ in East Pakistan in 1971.

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, religious or national group. While precise definition varies among genocide scholars, the legal definition of it is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of the CPPCG defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."[1]

In 1971 the Pakistan occupation army plus their collaborators like the Jamaat-e-Islam, the Islami Chattra Sangha (currently renamed Islami Chattra Shibir) and their militant killing squads; the Al-Badr and the Al-Shams tried their utmost to apprehend and kill those that demand an ‘independent Bangladesh’. Since majority of Bengali speaking East Pakistanis (Sheikh Mujib got 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan) or ethnic group favoured an independent Bangladesh, they waged a war with intent to destroy that ethnic group. The Pak army systematically opened fire on un-armed masses of Bengali ethnic group on the midnight of March 25th 1971 indiscriminately resulting which, as per various reports 19,000 to 25,000 Bengali ethnic people died on that dark night alone and over a period of 10 months, 3 million reportedly killed, 30 million were dislodged from their homes and 10 million had to take refuge in neighbouring India due to cleansing operation, fear and repression. As per global ranking, Bangladesh genocide is second to that of Nazi genocide of Jews.

In order to cripple the whole ‘Bangalee nationalism and nationhood’ the Pak army in collaboration with the Jamaat-e-Islam and few other such parties and their affiliates systematically and calculatedly murder the Bengali intellectuals, writers, doctors, journalists, educators and their political leadership. In addition, in order to cleanse the society of Hindu population, the Pak army and its collaborators calculatedly killed and/or uprooted them. No wonder, over 10 million East Pakistanis (out of 75 million) mostly Hindu minority took shelter in the neighbouring India. When army captured me on April 20, 1971, they tested me whether I could recite ‘kalima’ (the 1st pillar of Muslim faith) and then they checked whether I had my circumcision, a symbol of being Muslim in the subcontinent. In addition, when the army forced us to lead them in their operations, they repeatedly asked two questions; find ‘Mukti’ (liberation fighter) and Hindu. If such are reported, they would immediately open their fire, weapons and mortars. Such is a testimony of cleansing of a religious group, a clear evidence of genocide. #

Abdul Momen, Boston, October 29, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No war criminals and anti-liberation in Bangladesh


WHAT is to prevent anyone from filing cases against someone else accused of collaborating with the Pakistani Army in 1971?

Is that the blanket amnesty issued by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, in January, 1972 due to the pressure from Islamic countries (including the OIC), chaotic internal situation, or the necessity to encourage peace and development steps to be considered for recognition and International Aid without which Bangladesh had the Famine of 1973-74? The general amnesty was the first among many political mistakes which opened the door for rehabilitation of the war criminals of 1971.

According to his recent comment in a meeting with the Election Commission (EC) of Bangladesh on electoral reforms on October 25, 2007, there are presently no war criminals in Bangladesh and in fact anti-liberation forces were never even existed.

Ali Ahsan Mujahidi, the Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic fundamentalist party in Bangladesh and the former social welfare minister from 2001-2006 in the last four-party alliance government, further denied his association against liberation of Bangladesh and added that late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared only 195 Pakistani soldiers as war criminals in the liberation war of Bangladesh who later were pardoned and repatriated to Pakistan through Bhutto-Indira Simla pact.

In a similar remark in an interview with a Dhaka based Bengali daily newspaper on August 8, 2007, Matiur Rahman Nizami, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami and former Industrial Minister, blasted how could they be called or accused as war criminals whether none has even filed a general diary with the police against them.
Talking with this top two major identity and their association during the liberation war according to the various local or international reports, features, sources, speeches and statements of those accused of war crimes, and the finds of different probes including the People's Enquiry Commission, both of them, however, were not physically presence in the every killing-campaign proceedings, looting or raping but also were at the center-stage of the anti liberation campaign by helping and providing all necessaries to the Pakistan army with the leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing.

They and their Dhaka murderers in the Al-Badr and Al-Shams were directly involved of the killings of renowned academics, litterateurs, doctors, engineers, journalists and other eminent personalities with a view to leave the nation intellectually crippled on December 14, 2007.

There are much more evidence and allegations can be submitted including for the others senior Jamaat leaders Abdus Sobhan, Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, Abdul Kader Molla and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman who were in the delegation to the EC have been charged with war crimes. They all refused to accept that parties on the basis of religion and war criminals will be disqualified to do politics or to contest or even to cast vote in any national elections in Bangladesh. In addition, they reminded that the constitution of Bangladesh does not support the demand since Islam is the state religion and 90 percent of the populations are Muslims.

When a person or a group is involved against national, racial or religious groups to destroy their political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, economic existence, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups, what left to mark them as criminals or war criminals? Anti liberation forces in Bangladesh were actively involved to destroy the essential foundations of Bangladesh, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.

The world has seen genocide, but the worst genocide in the annals of history, in 1971, could not have been carried out by the Pakistani army only. Local allies of the Pakistan army helped in the attempted extermination.

According to the July 30, 1971 of the New York Times issue, the Pakistani government recruited more than 22,000 Razakars of a planned force of 35,000. Politically Razakar were composed with the fundamentalist members and supporters from the whole country by the Pakistani military and they were the predecessors of today’s Taliban. Members of both the forces, Razakars and Taliban, were recruited, trained and inducted in the same process.

Jamaat had been constitutionally banned in Bangladesh up to 1976 since the independence of the country, until late president Ziaur Rahman, who was the chief martial law administrator at the time, reinstated it in mainstream politics despite their fundamentalist ideology. It has steadily rebuilt itself into a strong political force, and was often courted by other parties for support in elections and first came to share state power with BNP in 2001 as part of the immediate past ruling alliance.

The major political parties in the country Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jatiya Party (JP) or even the Awami League (AL), which is supposed to associate closely with the issues of liberation war and its spirit and aspirations of independence, freely did include, within their folds, persons with serious questionable roles in the liberation war. It is not the victory of such persons or religious based political groups rather than the failure of secular democratization when parties like AL need to sign a 5-point pact with Shaikhul Hadis Allama Azizul Haq, leader of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish (BKH) on December 23, 2006.

No one has anything to say when election commissioner M Sakhawat Hussain suggested the Jatiya Party (Manju) delegation at the same dialog on electoral laws reforms to produce the list of convicted war criminals before demanding that they should be barred from contesting polls.

Meanwhile, a case was filed in the Federal Court of Australia on September 20, 2006 under the Genocide Conventions Act 1949 and War Crimes Act, alleged crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during 1971 by the Pakistani Armed Forces and its collaborators. This is the first time in history that someone named Raymond F Solaiman is attending a court proceeding in relation to the crimes of Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during 1971.

Recently, United States Senate has adopted a legislation titled "Denying Safe Havens to International and War Criminals Act of 1999". In where for the first time, it has empowered the Attorney General, among others, to transfer international criminals in custody for prosecution. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of US is denying admission or removing aliens who have committed torture abroad.

To further consolidate their grip on the country, the defeated forces of the 1971 liberation war are now carrying out bomb attacks across Bangladesh. They don't believe in democracy, rather they use it as a way of surviving, and propagating their views. Their main aims are the destruction of democracy and the implantation of a totalitarian state based on Sharia law.

Although the leader of Jamaat-e-Islam Golam Azam's citizenship was revoked, the whole political scenario was changed after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. General Ziaur Rahman granted Golam-Azam Bangladeshi citizenship, released all the war criminals imprisoned on various criminal charges and by amending the constitution allowed them to be involved in politics. Many of them awarded and posted with high designation both nationally and internationally.

Earlier on March 27, 2007, when some freedom fighters at a tea party demanded that the war criminals be prosecuted, Chief of Army Staff Gen Moeen U Ahmed said he would bring up the issue at meetings with the government high-ups.

It’s not a time to be lenient towards war criminals as the crimes like genocides and the movements against humanity that can make Bangladesh to be an orthodox Islamic republic, negating the concept of secular Bengali nationhood, which was the basis of the liberation war, are not good. #

Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York and first published on October 26, 2007. He could be reached at:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

General Moeen's mysterious Harvard seminar with Sajeeb Joy

WHEN Bangladeshi news media reported that the Bangladesh’s 1st four star general Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed would deliver a seminar at the prestigious Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG), we the Bangladeshi Diaspora were delighted. We were reported that the Harvard University invited our ‘strongman’ to deliver a historic speech ‘on crisis management of democracy’ that would be a model for nations to adopt. We echoed with General’s emotions that it would bring prestige to Bangladesh military and would build up our much needed image abroad. It would be historic event as the Harvard’s 1st women President Gilpin Drew Faust in her inaugural speech on October 12, 2007 launched many special initiatives for Asia and we were pleased that our General would lead the President’s Asian initiatives.

We were proud and happy at the news and therefore, we called the President’s Office to thank her. Unfortunately her office appears to have no knowledge of our General’s scheduled talk. Being frustrated, we contacted other offices of the KSG basically to get an invitation to listen to his historic speech. But to our dismay, we were told that the ‘Bangladesh general has no public forum or talk at the university’. We were further told that he might have been privately invited by a lecturer of the university for his class. The university administration has no knowledge of it.

Rumors spread quickly. Bangladeshi Diaspora of Boston reported that Professor S. Bose of the Harvard University belonging to West Bengal had requested another well liked Bengali educationist, Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Director of the Harvard’s Ash Center of Governance and Innovation to sponsor a public forum for the Bangladeshi General. Few months ago, he arranged a seminar for Professor Rehman Sobhan of Bangladesh. However, when we searched the Ash Center’s program events, we did not find any public seminar with General Moeen Ahmed. Instead we find that there was a seminar on ‘Muslims in America’ on October 17th. Our frustration prompted us to call the Center. They politely stated that no Bangladeshi general is their guest speaker at this time. We also inquired at the KSG but of no avail. The mystery intensified.

We were simply stunned at it. Our hopes and expectations got a jolt. How a set program could be so illusive? Following our national leaders especially our Law Advisor Moinul Hossain we immediately thought that there must be a ‘conspiracy’ to undermine Bangladesh and Islam. The RAW of India may be behind it!! Others quipped that the Bangladesh Embassy officials belonging to BNP-AL might have foiled his scheduled talk at the KSG. To justify our hunch we concocted arguments. When General Moeen arrived in Boston he was neither been accompanied by the Bangladesh Ambassador, nor the PR, nor the Consul General. Secondly, we thought since former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy is a student at the Kennedy School, he might have foiled it. However, his classmates reported that they were very busy with Mid-term exams. Third, the AL and the BNP supporters might have arranged a massive protest owing to which the Harvard University cancelled it. But fact of the matter is, there was no protest, no demonstrations. Interestingly, the local AL Vice President Abul Kalam Azad received Gen. Moeen at the airport. More importantly, we learned that in the 300 plus years history of the Harvard University they never ever withdraw any invitation once it was issued even against all odds and protests. Does it mean that the General’s much celebrated trip was a ‘hawk’ or a total lie?

We don’t know who tried to foil our General’s program or malign our General. Recently, three stories became public about Gen. Moeen. First one pertaining to his receiving loans of Tk99 lakh from the Trust Bank that is recorded in the Bank’s Audit statement submitted to the government, the Bangladesh Bank and the Security Exchange.

Second, the re-appointment of his elder brother at the Trust Bank of which he is the ex-officio Chairperson and Director thus violating the government regulation that no two family members could be appointed as Directors of the same bank. Third, his brother-in-law grabbed properties of few people in Maulvibazar by misusing his power. Are these true or manipulated? It is charged that Bangladesh officials that we trust often do manipulate things to meet the wishes of their boss, the rich and the powerful.

As per reports, he was invited by a Harvard lecturer who is rumored to be appointed as a Consultant in Bangladesh. The said lecturer is an authority on election reform and US congressional issues. He also takes classes of ‘freshman lawmakers’. It is reported that our General would attend one of his classes along with his students. Each teacher in American universities or colleges routinely invites guest speakers in his/her classes and Gen. Moeen might have got such an invitation. Who knows?
We also checked the KSG bulletin boards. The 2-days that our general would be around Harvard, the KSG will be hosting nearly 7 public seminars and none on issues relating to South Asia or Bangladesh. They had an event on Bangladesh on October 13, the Eid day--- a public lecture of Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus.

Apparently General Moeen did not arrange any meeting with any leader of Massachusetts or of the U. S. Other than Congressman Crowley of New York, he has no appointments either with any U. S. Senators or US Congressmen/women, or with senior State Department officials. Nor there is any especial meeting with the Pentagon or with senior US Army officers as per media reports. He is visiting the U. S. at a time when nine U.S. lawmakers have placed a bill to allow tax-free imports from developing countries including Bangladesh and his courtesy meetings with the US lawmakers could help passing of such bill. However, he refrained from such lobbying. Then question is; why he made such a long trip to US when his each minute is so precious and crucial?

He had a ‘secret public appearance’ for nearly 50 minutes at a location in Holbrook a tiny town, away from Boston on October 21. The guests were instructed to maintain utmost secrecy of the event. The reason for such secrecy is reportedly due to their fear that if Bangladeshi Diaspora knows about the event, they would stage protest demonstrations as they did in Florida.

It was a private dinner party arranged by one Mr. Shaheen Khan, a convenience store owner and more importantly, Mr. Khan is a friend of General’s younger brother that lives in Florida. Reportedly this was arranged to thank the General as Mr. Khan’s uncle, Nurul Islam, a sacked Secretary to Begum Khaleda Zia has been reinstated. Other than family members, nearly 25/30 local people were invited at the dinner and everybody had to finish their eating before Gen. Moeen enters the venue at 9:15 PM. Private security was arranged by Mr. Khan. However, TV cameramen and selected journalists were invited at the event.

It is irony that General Moeen, the man who started jihad against corruption and corrupt people was welcomed at the dinner party by none other than a businessman who made his fortunate through bankruptcy and defrauding creditors. He was a real estate developer in 1980s and he collected millions of dollars from thousands of people including many Bangladeshis with the promise to double/triple their investments. Unfortunately, once funds were collected, he declared ‘bankruptcy’ and his Ivy Inc. was closed down. For nearly 12 years, he stayed away from public eyes. However, in recent days, he emerged and is currently a leader of the Bangladesh Islamic Society of New England. General Moeen might not know that the man who welcomed him and solicited his help for investment in Bangladesh once defrauded his customers, his bank, and his well wishers. Local TV and print media covered it widely when his lawyer was even jailed for fraud.

It is rumored that General’s mission to the U. S. is to meet Sheikh Hasina’s family members. He visited Florida where his only son, his younger brother and also Hasina’s daughter live. At Harvard, it is rumored that he wanted to meet Sajeeb Wajed Joy. It is rumored that instead of a private meeting Joy suggested an open meeting. The General, therefore, have reportedly invited all the 4 Bangladeshi students of the KSG to have luncheon with him on October 23, the day of his departure to China. It is believed that after this meeting, he would decide as to how to deal with Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the AL party now under detention. It may be mentioned that as per media reports, Joy met Indian Foreign Minister during his trip to New York few weeks ago and that might prompted General Moeen to have a face-to-face dialogue with Joy. Gen. Moeen while answering a question at the Holbrook private dinner jokingly stated that there could be many changes in the next 14 months….a king can die, even a hoarse can fly (something impossible). Now who knows what’s next. #

This commentary was contributed from Boston on October 23, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Unfair trial and continued imprisonment of former parliamentarian Sheikh Hasina

A case for intervention by the IPU
06 October 2007

I. Introduction
Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) appreciates the decision of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to consider its request to explore the possibilities for intervention against the arrest, detention and continued imprisonment of former parliamentarian and former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina since 16 July 2007. She is also the President of Awami League, one of the largest political parties in Bangladesh.

Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has studied all the four complaints filed so far against Sheikh Hasina by three private individuals and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bangladesh. A cursory reading of the cases reveals that these complaints are trumped up.

After having studied the complaints filed so far, ACHR can assert that complaints of alleged corruption, which could have been considered as alleged cases of bribery, have been turned into “extortion” cases – non- bailable offences - by the Caretaker government. In addition, three cases i.e. two complaints of extortion filed by Noor Ali and Azam J Chowdhury and one case of corruption filed by the ACC - have been brought under the Emergency Powers Rules (EPR) of 2007 in order to deny her bail indefinitely. These measures have been taken in order to prevent her from carrying out political activities which pose formidable challenge to the Care-taker government. A Care-taker government, which has no mandate of the people, by definition, must function within the ambits of the Constitution of Bangladesh and other national laws to facilitate installation of a government with people's mandate. The Care-taker government has not only set aside the Constitution of Bangladesh but has also assumed the role of the judiciary by retroactively applying the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 which violates the basic tenets of fair trial and rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Bangladesh and international human rights law.

Asian Centre for Human Rights appeals to the Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to take a decision at its 117th Assembly to be held in Geneva on 6 to 9 October 2007 to intervene with the government of Bangladesh for immediate release of Sheikh Hasina and ensure full respect for internationally accepted principles on the right to fair trial.

In this submission, ACHR provides (i) the briefs of the cases filed against Sheikh Hasina, (ii) issues of concerns for the Inter-Parliamentary Union and (iii) ACHR's requests for interventions.

II. Briefs of the cases filed against Sheikh Hasina
Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has so far been charged in four criminal cases – three relating to alleged bribery charges which have been turned into extortion charges - and one relating to alleged corruption filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh which has been brought under the Emergency Powers Regulations of 2007.

Case No. 1: Complaint filed by Tajul Islam Farooq with Tejgaon Police Station, Dhaka
On 9 April 2007, one Tajul Islam Farook, Chairman of Westmont Power Company, filed a complaint (No.30) with Tejgaon Police Station against Sheikh Hasina for allegedly extorting Taka 30 million from him. The case was registered under Sections 385 (extortion), 386 (extortion by putting any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt) and 387 (extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life) of Bangladesh Penal Code. He claims to have taken Taka 30 million in one suit case to give them to Sheikh Hasina on 12 December 1998.

No evidence was provided by the complainant.

Case No. 2: Complaint filed by Noor Ali with the Tejgaon Police Station, Dhaka
On 13 June 2007, one Noor Ali, Managing Director of Unique Group of Companies filed a complaint (No 32) with the Tejgaon Police Station accusing Sheikh Hasina, her cousin Sheikh Helal and Helal's wife Rupa Chowdhury of extorting Taka 32 million from him for helping his firm win a power plant deal in 1997. In this complaint filed under Sections 385 (extortion) and 109 (abetment) of Bangladesh Penal Code, the complainant alleged that the money was paid between 8 June 1997 and 20 May 1999.

The signatures on the back side of the cheque which is mandatory for the withdrawal of the money from the Bank were reportedly neither of Sheikh Hasina nor of the other accused.

Though the case was filed under Bangladesh Penal Code, on 16 July 2007, the government decided to put the case under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007.

In a related development, on 17 July 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) asked Sheikh Hasina to declare her wealth within seven days.

On 29 July 2007, Sheikh Hasina has been shown arrested in the case filed by Noor Ali. [1] She has been in detention since 16 July 2007.

On 5 August 2007, Sheikh Hasina filed a writ petition with the High Court against the ACC's order asking her to declare her wealth.

On 7 August 2007, the High Court granted interim bail to Sheikh Hasina and ordered the government not to try her under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007. The High Court also stayed the ACC's order asking Hasina to disclose her wealth. [2]

The government immediately moved the Supreme Court against the High Court's order. On 14 August 2007, the Supreme Court asked the government to file regular petitions to challenge the order. [3] On 27 August 2007, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court's order of 7 August 2007, thereby the Supreme Court sanctified her continued detention under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007.

Earlier, on 14 August 2007, Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Ashraf Uddin ordered the Officer-in-Charge of Tejgaon Police Station to submit the investigative report by 30 August 2007. [4] On 25 September 2007, Magistrate Mohammad Ashraf Uddin again ordered the Officer-in-Charge of Tejgaon Police Station to submit the probe report by 23 October 2007. [5]

Case No. 3: Complaint filed by Azam J Chowdhury with Gulshan Police Station, Dhaka
The third case was filed on 13 June 2007 by Azam J Chowdhury, Managing Director of East Coast Trading Private Ltd with Gulshan Police Station, Dhaka against Sheikh Hasina and her cousin, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim for allegedly extorting Taka 29.9 million from him for the work of Siddhirganj Power Plant in Narayanganj. [6] The case (No.34) was registered with the Gulshan Police Station under Sections 385 (extortion), and 109 (abetment)of Bangladesh Penal Code.

On 16 July 2007, Sheikh Hasina was arrested by the joint forces and imprisoned in a makeshift jail at the premises of the Parliament. On the same day, the Home Ministry issued an approval to bring the case under the Emergency Powers Rules, 2007 considering “public importance” of the case.

On 24 July 2007, Gulshan Police Station Officer-in-Charge, Obaidul Haq, who is also the Investigation Officer of the case, charge-sheeted Hasina along with her sister Sheikh Rehana and cousin Selim under Sections 385 (extortion), 109 (abetment) and section 34 (criminal liability) of the Bangladesh Penal Code. The charge-sheet stated that Selim confessed before the police that he had taken money from the businessman, Azam J Chowdhury on the direction of Sheikh Hasina and later gave Taka 10 million to Sheikh Rehana.

On 29 July 2007, Sheikh Hasina moved the High Court challenging the government's decision to bring Taka 29.9 million extortion case against her under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007. [7]

On 30 July 2007, the High Court granted bail to Sheikh Hasina and ordered the government not to try her under the Emergency Powers Rules. [8]

The government immediately appealed before the Supreme Court against the High Court order. On 2 August 2007, the Supreme Court deferred the hearing till 14 August 2007.

On 27 August 2007, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order of 30 July 2007 thereby denied her bail and brought the alleged charges under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007. The Supreme Court also asked her to submit a statement disclosing her wealth to the Anti-Corruption Commission within a week. [9]

On 19 September 2007, Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate KM Ruhul Amin set the next date of hearing on 4 October 2007 to decide as to whether or not to accept the charge sheet filed against Sheikh Hasina and others. [10]

Case No. 4: Complaint filed by ACC
The fourth complaint was filed by the Anti Corruption Commission on 2 September 2007 with the Tejgaon Police Station under the Anti Corruption Law against Sheikh Hasina and six others alleging that Sheikh Hasina, who was then the Prime Minister had received kickbacks worth Taka 30 million from the two power companies between 24 October 1996 and 24 November 1997 in exchange for favour.

On 19 September 2007, Sheikh Hasina was shown arrested in this case.

On 19 September 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission also permitted the authorities to include the corruption case against Sheikh Hasina and six others under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007. The case has been brought under Section 15 and Section 19(j) of EPR, 2007 following an application by the Investigation Officer of the case, Deputy Director of ACC, Morshed Alam. [11]

It is clear that ACC is acting as the judge and jury. None of the accused will be granted bail.

III. Issues of concerns for the IPU
Asian Centre for Human Rights strongly believes that the arrest of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has little or nothing to do with offences allegedly committed by her but more to do with silencing any opposition to the Care-taker government from the Awami League.

Asian Centre for Human Rights shares the following concerns:
First, the arrest of Sheikh Hasina violates the cardinal principles of administration of justice – the presumption of innocence until proven guilty as provided under Article 14(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Under the Criminal Procedure Code of Bangladesh, when complaints are filed by private individuals and not the State, the allegations made in the complaint must be first investigated by the police before making arrest, and the complainant has to mandatorily make out a prima facie case before the Court could take cognizance of an alleged crime. No such investigation was conducted before taking Sheikh Hasina into custody. The investigation started only after she was taken into custody on 16 July 2007.

Second, the complaints were filed under various sections of Bangladesh Penal Code. Be as it may, even if the allegations were true, these alleged offences should have been considered offences such as “corruption”, “abuse of official powers” etc but not “extortion”. The offence of “extortion” has been invoked to deny her bail.

Third, all the alleged offences took place prior to the Emergency Powers Rules, 2007 came into force. Under no circumstances, a law can be applied retroactively. Moreover as provided under Section 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time when the criminal offence was committed.”

Fourth, the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 violates internationally accepted principles on the right to fair trial and allows the government to assume the role of the judiciary. Under Section 10(2) of the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007, “offences under these Rules are cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable”. Section 19(D) of the Emergency Powers Rules further provides that “While the Proclamation of Emergency remains in force, notwithstanding anything contained in Sections 497 and 498 of the CrPC, 1898 or any other law, a person accused of any offence under these Rules or under any of the laws referred to in Rules 14 and 15 of the Rules, 2007, may not submit a petition for bail before any Court or Tribunal pending enquiry, investigation or trial of such offence”.

It is for the judiciary to decide whether any accused should be given bail or not. However, as stated above, in Bangladesh, the Care-taker government has assumed the role of the judiciary under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 and no justice can be obtained as the judiciary has been reduced to a rubber stamp.

IV. ACHR's requests for interventions
On 30 July 2007, Sheikh Hasina was granted bail by the High Court into the complaint filed by Azam J Chowdhury, Managing Director of East Coast Trading Private Ltd with Gulshan Police Station. There is seldom any precedence for the government to appeal against such order of bail of the High Court before the Supreme Court. Bail can normally be cancelled by the bail granting court if any of the conditions of the bail are violated. But in case of Sheikh Hasina, the Care-taker government instantly filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court and also simultaneously showed her arrested in another case under the Emergency Powers Rules 2007.

The order of the Supreme Court of 27 August 2007 staying the order of the High Court is also bad in law. Under the common law system of criminal jurisprudence, which Bangladesh follows, bail is also usually not denied so long there is no possibility of the accused disappearing after the grant of bail or interfering with the process of investigation. There is no possibility of Sheikh Hasina disappearing and it is the Care-taker government which did not want her to return to Bangladesh. Nor can she interfere with the process of investigation.

Sheikh Hasina continues to remain imprisoned simply because the alleged cases of bribery have been turned into “extortion” charges which are non-bailable offences and these alleged charges have further been brought under the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007. This has been done primarily because Sheikh Hasina has been challenging the Care-taker government which has been crossing its brief, among others, by acting as law unto itself and putting aside the Constitution of Bangladesh.

Considering the blatant violations of the internationally accepted principles on the right to fair trial and the lack of independence of judiciary through interference by the Care-taker government and the restrictions put by the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 on the judiciary, the Inter-Parliamentary Union must consider intervening for the immediate release of Sheikh Hasina.

Asian Centre for Human Rights requests the Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to take the following measures:

First, send a team of the Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians to Bangladesh to meet Sheikh Hasina and study the case/complaint documents and bring out a report which will, inter alia, examine whether the prosecution, trial and continued imprisonment of Sheikh Hasina meet internationally accepted principles on the right to fair trial and submit the same for consideration by the Assembly of the IPU;

Second, send a team of the Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians or international legal experts representing the IPU to observe the proceedings of the trials of Sheikh Hasina to monitor independence of judiciary and report to the Assembly of the IPU; and

Third, take any other measures that the IPU deems fit. #

[1] . Hasina challenges extortion case at HC, The Daily Star, 30 July 2007
[2] . Hasina gets bail in another case, Daily Star, 8 August 2007
[3] . SC asks government to file regular petitions, The New Age, 15 August 2007
[4] . SC rejects govt plea for stay on Hasina's bail, The Daily Star, 15 August 2007
[5] . Cop asked for probe report on Hasina by Oct 23, Daily Star, 26 September 2007
[6] . Two more extortion cases against Hasina, The Daily Star, 14 June 2007
[7] . Hasina challenges extortion case at HC, The Daily Star, 30 July 2007
[8] . HC grants bail to Hasina, The Daily Star, 31 July 2007
[9] . Hasina's bail stayed, The Daily Star, 28 August 2007
[10] . Court now to decide on trial of case against Hasina Oct 4, The Daily Star, 20 September 2007
[11] . ACC okays bringing Hasina's Tk 3cr graft case under EPR, The Daily Star, 21 September 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

War on Rampant Graft Brings Pain, Promises

In Bangladesh, 'a Quiet Revolution'


DHAKA, Bangladesh -- It's been called Bangladesh's war on corruption, a revolution in this South Asian nation once persistently ranked as the most kleptocratic in the world. It's a place where extorting cash was so ingrained in the social fabric that even the Bureau of Anti-Corruption accepted a "ghoosh," or bribe.

Now, though, two former prime ministers -- rival politicians who have dominated this country's politics for 16 years - are behind bars, awaiting trial for allegedly siphoning off millions of dollars from the government. Also incarcerated on graft, tax-evasion and corruption charges are 170 members of the ruling elite, along with an estimated 15,000 political underbosses, local government officials and businessmen.

In one way or another, they are all alleged to have stolen from a population of 150 million people who have long languished in abject poverty.

The list of accused includes not only former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina but also Zia's eldest son, Tarique Rahman, who was known as "Mr. 10 Percent" until recently. Rahman skimmed close to $1 million from government coffers, according to Bangladesh's freshly mandated Independent Anti-Corruption Commission, and is now being called "Mr. 110 Percent."

Rahman, Zia and Hasina all deny wrongdoing.

The arrests this year are unprecedented for South Asia, a region with a reputation for widespread impunity when it comes to thievery in government. Corruption experts say bribes are routinely offered -- and taken -- to push forward a water project, a new road, a sari business or a passport application. Even relief funds for victims of cyclones and flooding have mysteriously disappeared. Since Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971, an estimated $40 billion in international aid has been stolen, analysts say.

"It's completely surreal and was unthinkable in South Asia that a country's demigods are now in jail, and that's what we are seeing here," said Iftekhar Zaman, executive director of the Bangladesh branch of Transparency International, a leading anti-corruption watchdog, which has its largest chapter in the world in Bangladesh. "For many people, what matters is daily life, and corruption was so deep-rooted here . . . that there has to be a painful transition. But in the long term, it has to happen."

The transition from a system in which corruption rules to one in which institutions do has indeed been difficult. Prices for daily essentials such as rice and fish, staples of the Bangladeshi diet, have increased. The reason, according to some analysts, is that businesses are finally paying taxes levied on their products and passing on the costs.

Bangladesh's military-backed government, which assumed power Jan. 11 following months of unrest, is responsible for the crackdown. It declared emergency rule, banning political activity and protests, and said it would root out corruption by any means necessary before allowing elections to be held in 2008.

Critics, who say the anti-corruption campaign has been taken too far, have called the government's takeover "Bangladesh's 1/11." Arrests are often made in the middle of the night, according to relatives of those charged.

"Since 1/11, we are passing sleepless nights," said Abu Motaleb of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which recently held a seminar advising business leaders on the crackdown.

Many business leaders say that what used to get through with a call to the right contact, a slap on the back and an envelope of cash now requires paperwork in triplicate and rounds of approvals. On Dhaka's traffic-clogged streets, fruit and fish dealers are learning about new tax codes and fees that need to be paid to get their products to market.

"This is all news to us," said Kazzim Uddin, 37, a father of four who swatted the flies away from his silver trays of sardines and white fish. "We don't have to pay bribes anymore. But we do notice the prices are so much higher. Long-term, it is so much better. But short-term, it hurts the family budget."

The interim government says these are normal growing pains, and the only way to change the system. For decades, a small elite has controlled scarce resources while the poor have suffered; that, the government says, must change.

"Even a little corruption is bad because it sets a tone that anything goes," said Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, which has replaced the now-defunct, and corrupt, Bureau of Anti-Corruption. "Corruption is tied to poverty. Africa has its Big Men, with their sycophants who benefited from their power. Well, Bangladesh has its Big Women and their blind followers. And why should we all be too afraid to take back what our citizens lost?" Zia and Hasina, both women, dominated politics here for years.

Some Bangladeshis say they are optimistic but cautiously so. They point to neighboring Pakistan, whose military-led anti-corruption drive in recent years ended with the military fixed in power.

Some in civil society say that there have been too many arrests and that those who have been arrested have not been provided with due process. Those are accusations that the interim government says are untrue and unfair.

"What about the rights of the Bangladeshi citizens that were stolen from and kept in terrible poverty? What is happening here is nothing short of a quiet revolution without violence," said Mainul Hosein, the caretaker government's key law and justice official. "At least we are trying to establish an honest government." #

This article was first published in the Washington Post, Washington, USA on Wednesday, October 3, 2007; in section A16

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pinprick cartoons & blasphemous cats

In Bangladesh, a cartoon controversy says more about the country's political polarisation than it does about religious offense


ANOTHER cartoon controversy has hit the Muslim world. But this time, it is not part of the European dynamic made familiar by the 2006 Denmark crisis and its lesser known Scandinavian cousin this year. This time the action is unfolding in Bangladesh, home to the world's fourth largest Muslim population (after Indonesia, Pakistan and India). And this time, it’s about more than blasphemy.

Last month, Bangladesh authorities arrested twenty year old cartoonist Arifur Rahman, on charges of blasphemy and sedition for a cartoon he drew in the satirical magazine Alpin ("pin prick"). In it, he depicts an imam telling a small boy that he should always add the prefix "Mohammed" before a name, which leads to the boy referring to the cat in his lap as "Mohammed Beral (cat)." Islamist parties quickly denounced the cartoon, the government arrested the hapless cartoonist, and the editor of Alpin was immediately fired.

Things might have rested there, but the intervention of smaller Islamist groups, such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, led to demands that the parent newspaper of Alpin, Prothom Alo, be shut down, and its editor and publisher, Motiur Rahman and Mahfuz Anam, sacked. This was no insignificant demand - Prothom Alo is the largest circulation newspaper in the country, and Rahman and Anam two of Bangladesh's most powerful media personalities.

After Friday prayers, Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists burned copies of the newspaper, and clashed with police. Peace talks were brokered between Prothom Alo and religious leaders, leading to a public apology from Rahman to the khatib of the National Mosque. The uneasy calm that followed in Dhaka was threatened by the discovery of another allegedly blasphemous reference in a literary magazine published by Prothom Alo, Shaptahik 2000, by the exiled poet Daud Haider. Worried about fresh trouble, the magazine was instantly pulled from newsstands and banned. The issue is not over yet.

Bangladesh has a long history of blasphemy related controversies, starting the year after its independence from Pakistan in 1971. Cultural icons, practices, and language were key motifs in the country’s struggles against Pakistani rule (Bengali poets Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam were re-appropriated as "Hindu" and "Muslim" respectively). After Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan, the culture wars became a key dividing line between Islamist and "secular" (or religious freedom) politics. In this trajectory, controversies targeted blasphemous writings by Haider (exiled in Germany), Taslima Nasreen (subject of global attention after a fatwa and bounty, now exiled in India), Ahmad Sharif (prosecuted in court and forced to apologise) and Humayun Azad (nearly killed in a brutal machete attack, but succumbing to related injuries in Germany later on).

In all these cases, electoral politics are often a bigger factor than genuine, widespread religious sentiment. The country's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, has used blasphemy controversies to bring itself to national prominence, forcing governments to negotiate with them amidst the uproar. Even though Islamist politics were banned in the aftermath of the country’s independence – Jamaat supported Pakistan during the 1971 war and formed death squads targeting leading Bangladeshi professors and intellectuals – Jamaat has been able to rehabilitate itself through these kinds of mass mobilizations. By 2001, Jamaat entered the government for the first time, securing two powerful ministries. Since then, Jamaat has found itself benefiting politically from recurring blasphemy controversies that serve to stoke religious fervor in their political base.

In the latest controversy, similar motives may be at play. The current Information Minister, Mainul Hossein (who issued the arrest order), owns the daily Ittefaq, one of Prothom Alo's rivals. With Prothom Alo's critical stance against Islamists, it has garnered many sworn enemies.

Currently Bangladesh is under an army-backed caretaker government, with a promised transition to democracy in 2008 looking increasingly shaky and uncertain. The military has vowed to crush corruption, arresting the leaders of both main political parties, as well as numerous party bigwigs. But some complain that Jamaat-e-Islami has been left alone in the current anti-corruption drive, because of sympathy within the Army. The manner in which the government gave in to blasphemy demands, and the light touch given to cartoon demonstrators (even though all protests and rallies are supposed to be banned under a "state of emergency") seems to give further evidence of the caretaker government’s bias.

Recently, unrelated riots on national university campuses were sparked by altercations between students and the Army, resulting in a draconian crackdown and more power to military hardliners. The Prothom Alo controversy has to be seen and analyzed within that context. As with similar cases worldwide, these issues have little to do with piety or protecting the Prophet - and more to do with political maneuvers galvanised under the name of Islam. #

This article was first published in, October 1, 2007

Shamsuddin Yusuf is a writer and activist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fakhruddin goes global: a non-leader in charge of a non-government


By presenting a truncated as well as negative narrative of democratic struggle in our country, the chief adviser has wittingly or unwittingly presented a totally distorted view about Bangladesh as a pariah state where democracy failed to work

THE temporal distance from January 12 to September 27 is only eight and a half months. The spatial distance from Bangabhaban, Dhaka to United Nations Headquarters, New York, though about eight thousand miles, is also not much in this space age. But the time-space distance, from Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed taking oath as chief adviser to his addressing the UN General Assembly, is immense in the context of the democratic credentials of the country.

On January 12, the country was a struggling democracy. There was a nervous expectation that the Fakhruddin government would act as a facilitator in repairing the political hitch centring the election to the ninth parliament and the country would continue with democratic and constitutional governance. A domestic problem would be solved domestically.

On September 27, the chief adviser drew global attention to democracy deficiency in Bangladesh, as if our domestic problem is a matter of international concern.

In his 15-minute address to the UNGA session the chief adviser did not mention anything about the legacy of democracy in the country. There was not even a word about the glorious democratic struggles of the people in the pre-independence and post-independence days or about the victory of people’s struggles against the military dictatorships and quasi-military rules in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. But he made an unqualified denunciation of the post-‘90 political governments: ‘While Bangladesh has held three elections in the past two decades, our democracy has been brutally undermined by ruinous corruption.’ He also stated, ‘The fabric of our democracy had been torn apart by years of catastrophic corruption.’

Thus by presenting a truncated as well as negative narrative of democratic struggle in our country, the chief adviser has wittingly or unwittingly presented a totally distorted view about Bangladesh as a pariah state where democracy failed to work.

A metamorphosis that has not taken place: The problem with Fakhruddin seems to be that he has remained, essentially, what he had been all through his active life: a career bureaucrat. But he has desperately tried to metamorphose himself into a paramount leader of the eighth largest country of the world ever since he accidentally became the chief adviser on January 12.

In his university days, Fakhruddin had a bitter experience with elections. Never an activist, he was chosen by the National Students Federation (NSF), the student front of the Ayub-Monem regime, to contest for the post of vice-president of the SM Hall students’ union. He lost to one who was less brilliant than him as a student.

He does have a reputation as an efficient officer in the service of Pakistan and Bangladesh governments and as a World Bank bureaucrat. He earned respect as a governor of the Bangladesh Bank and chairman of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a micro-credit organisation.

But nothing in his past prepared Fakhruddin either to play the leadership role of a politician or put on the shoes of the head of the government.

So, when Fakhruddin tries to play the political-cum-government leader, he flip-flops. He announced in March that he would hold a series of ‘exchange of opinion meetings’ with local leaderships at various important places outside capital Dhaka. The purpose would be to know, first-hand, people’s views on vital national issues including, in particular, the holding of the general elections. Generals Ayub Khan, Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad all held such meet-the-people programmes to build up their political props. The first such event took place in Chittagong on March 27 and the chief adviser announced a crusade against three Ms –– money, muscle and the misuse of power. He held several more meetings but the programme was discontinued later without any notice.

Secondly, the chief adviser made a mess while trying to handle the campus situation in August. Professor Zillur Rahman Siddiqui has recounted in his column in the daily Shamokal his experience with such an incident which took place in 1976. He was then vice-chancellor of the Jahangirnagar University. Army men were watching a football match of the students on the campus playground. As a sequel to an altercation, there was a clash between an army man and a student. The army man later brought in reinforcement from the adjacent Savar Cantonment and they beat up the students indiscriminately. Prof Siddiqui, who resided in Dhaka, was informed of the incident. He contacted General Ziaur Rahman, who immediately sent a colonel to the spot. Prof Siddiqui also rushed to the university. By the same evening, the dispute was ended and the parties reconciled.

Now, when the clash between the army men at the army camp at Dhaka University playground and the students of the Dhaka University took place on August 20, the situation was allowed to drag till August 21. Then, the chief adviser held a meeting of the council of advisers where the army chief and the acting vice-chancellor of the Dhaka University were invited. He publicly expressed regret at the incidents and also a decision was taken to wind up the army camp from the university campus. He thus helped to magnify a local matter into a national crisis.

But the decision of winding up the camp takes time to take effect. By this time agitation spread all over the country and took a violent turn, with political overtones. On August 22, curfew was imposed. Police started cases against 82 thousand persons –– almost all unidentified. The police arrested some university teachers and took them into remand and sent them to jail. The university teachers met the chief adviser and the army chief. Eventually, the chief adviser in his address to the nation on September 9 announced that cases only against 36 teachers and students out of the 82 thousand would start and none other would be implicated or harassed in these cases. Yet, the police later arrested two more persons from Dhaka and Chittagong in connection with the campus upsurge. So the after-effect of the August 20 incident will possibly haunt the campus so long as the cases are not settled.

Dr Fakhruddin, who fumbled in tackling a campus situation, will be called upon, as the head of the government, to carry on negotiations with the politicians if there has to be any election in the country. This is because the government will have to create a congenial environment for holding the elections. Let us keep our fingers crossed.

In his UN address, the chief adviser has said as a matter of fact: ‘As stipulated in our Constitution, the non-party caretaker administration acts as a bridge between successive political governments. Our task, first and foremost, is to ensure a free and fair election, and we are fully committed to that responsibility’. His mettle as a leader will be tested when the time will come for his government to redeem this pledge.

A government in a void: The potency or fragility of the Fakhruddin government itself will face a test when the question of electing a government will be on the agenda. Fakhruddin has made an extravagant statement in the UN address: ‘My government is fully committed to ensuring that our reform initiatives are comprehensive and irreversible.’ How will he or his government ensure this?

A person of Dr Fakhruddin’s calibre should not be unaware that he is running the show of a government which is operating in a virtual void. His caretaker government was not formed in conformity with the provisions of the constitution nor does it operate within the constitutional bounds. At the practical level, the mainstay of his government is the support of the military. The military is under the president. And chief adviser himself and his council of advisers as a body are responsible to the president.

The life line of the Fakhruddin government is the unique equation between the president and the military, established at the time of the promulgation of the emergency on January 11. The Fakhruddin government is the offspring of the January 11 development. It is a government the example of which one will not find either in any textbook or any other government in practice anywhere in the world. #

This article was first published in the New Age, Dhaka, Bangladesh, September 30, 2007

NM Harun is contributing editor of New Age. He can be reached at: badrun