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Where is the final destination of our democracy?

Where is the final

destination of our democracy?

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

It was good that the Honorable President some how managed to get a pause in the dangerous political confrontation in Bangladesh by assuming the office of much talked about Chief of the Caretaker government on 29th October. Right after he took the post, Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina told the newsmen that her alliance would ‘observe’ the activities for few days to make sure if he behaves in neutral manner. Meanwhile, she met the President on Monday afternoon and submitted 11 point ‘urgent tasks’ demand, which should be implemented latest by 3rd November. Otherwise, Awami League led 14-Party alliance will declare ‘strong political agitations’ throughout the country from their grand rally on the same day in the afternoon.

The chief of the non-party interim government assured the eight-member delegation of the 14-party alliance led by Awami League (AL) chief Sheikh Hasina that all possible steps will be initiated for holding a free and fair election.

"If the chief adviser fails to prove his neutrality by this time, we will declare our next course of agitation program from a rally at Paltan Maidan on November 3," Hasina told newsmen after their meeting with Iajuddin at Bangabhaban Monday afternoon.

"We categorically told the chief adviser that he will have to prove himself neutral through his activities," Hasina said. She urged people to get ready for launching agitation program if implementation of their demands goes otherwise.

President Iajuddin Ahmed assumed the office of chief adviser to the caretaker government on Sunday night ignoring severe opposition from the 14-party alliance. The AL-led alliance, however, neither welcomed nor rejected Iajuddin's new role.

Asked what Iajuddin told her at the meeting, the AL chief said, "The president assured us that he will maintain neutrality and look into our demands."

The president assured the 14-party alliance of "all possible steps on his part to stage a free and fair election" and said several steps have already been ordered towards that end, state-run news agency BSS reported.

The 14-party leaders urged the president to play a "historic role" to ensure a free and fair election by recalling his background as a respected university teacher and teachers' leader.

"I believe we can stage a free and fair election joining our hands as we worked together in the pro-democracy campaigns when I was the president of Dhaka University Teachers' Association," the Bangabhaban spokesman quoted the president as telling the 14-party alliance leaders.

The atmosphere of the meeting was "very cordial" and the 14-party leaders wished the president good health and long life.

Hasina, who visited the Bangabhaban for the first time in the last five years, placed the demands in writing before the caretaker government chief.

The 14-party alliance demanded immediate reconstitution of the EC through removal of the chief election commissioner (CEC), three other election commissioners and the EC secretary.

Their demands also include cancellation of the "political" appointments of upazila election officials and the controversial updated voter list, and introduction of transparent ballot box in the upcoming polls.

The 14-party alliance demanded de-politicization of the civil and police administrations, state-run media, steps to end political harassment, fresh investigation into rise of militancy, cancellation of firearms licenses given in the last two years, and ban on departure of corrupt former ministers, lawmakers and godfathers.

"We will remain rigid on our demands along with the previous proposals for reforms in the Election Commission and electoral laws," Hasina told reporters.

"If the chief adviser can prove his neutrality through his activities by November 3, we may welcome him," she said.

"People may have suspicion about him as he was elected the president by a political party. Moreover, his assumption of the office of chief adviser has compromised the basic concept of the non-party caretaker government. So, the president will have to remove all suspicion from the people's mind through his activities," the AL chief said.

The AL chief said the road blockade program has temporarily been postponed, but agitations in the streets will continue.

Meanwhile, there are valid questions in the minds of non-Awami League intellectuals that by satisfying Awami League, the President should in no way become a ‘purpose serving’ element of a particular political alliance. Accepting Awami League’s demands does not necessarily prove that the President is neutral. Rather he should apply his own mind and justifications before considering any of such demands placed by the political parties in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, some of the pro-Awami League newspapers are giving instigations to the President in abiding by the ‘prescriptions’ of the 14-Party alliance. On the other hand, some of the newspaper commentaries are trying to label Professor Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed as an ‘close ally’ of Begum Khaleda Zia. In one of the leading dailies, an editorial commentary Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam Wrote, “We recall the most controversial decision of the last caretaker chief, Justice Latifur Rahman, which was to transfer 13 government secretaries within hours of his taking oath even before he formed his council of advisers. The AL, then immediate past ruling party, reacted vehemently against it, to which Latifur Rahman paid no heed. That one particular move had a salutary effect in galvanizing the opposition's confidence in the caretaker government.

Prof. Iajuddin now has to take similar and dramatic measures to gain confidence of the opposition. The need for him to take such actions is far more important than it was for the other two chief advisers as there was no controversy about their assuming the office. We think Prof. Iajuddin lost a grand opportunity in his first address to the nation on Sunday in making an imprint of his leadership on the public mind. He should have tried to distance himself from the immediate past government but instead he read out a speech that seemed to have been drafted in the old mould. A different speech could have created an early sense of confidence in the public mind, as in ours.”

Mr. Anam’s commentary has surprised many of the politically or at least news conscious people in Bangladesh, because, the day his commentary appeared in Daily Star’s front page, there was another piece of news about cancellation of appointment contracts of nine secretaries as well transfer of eighteen. Moreover, the President is considering more transfers in the next couple of days in civil and police administration.

On the other hand, another vernacular daily in Dhaka predicted that, ultimately the entire preparation for holding next election will become mess and military intervention would become imminent in Bangladesh latest by the third week of November. The newspaper further reported that, army already put on highest alert to move on first command.

When BNP elected President Iajuddin took the additional responsibility of the Chief of Caretaker government (Chief executive of the country), many critics commented that BNP has purposefully set a ‘doll’ in that important position to get their hidden agenda implemented. It may also be mentioned here that, army and all other civil and judicial posts are now absolutely under the command of Professor Iajuddin Ahmed. But, after the Monday evening’s massive termination and transfer orders, there is strong rumor in the entire country that ultimately BNP has created a Frankenstein, which would ultimately demolish … who knows what? As the Chief of the armed forces now under his command, he has the absolute power to do anything, which might turn the speculation of emergence of third force into reality. Being absolutely fed up with ugly games of politicians in Bangladesh, people are truly waiting for a ‘divine’ intervention, whether those angels are in combat or plain dress. People really want to get rid of these looters and trouble creators, who have virtually made the entire nation captive in their hands.

Meanwhile, there is a dramatic development in country’s politics. Although the President and Chief of Caretaker government invited the political parties to provide list of advisors for the care taker government, the proposed named submitted by Jatiya Party’s Ershad fraction has been completely ignored by the Presidential palace. Basically the advisors are most from the pro-Awami League quarters. It is apprehended that the advisors will more serve the purpose of Awami League led 14 party alliances, which will soon emerge as ‘grand alliance’. On Tuesday afternoon, leader of a fraction of ultra-radical Islamic Oikya Jote, which supports Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaeda, met Sheikh Hasina and joined her alliance. Now, under the present realities, the ultra-radical groups one fraction led by Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini remains with BNP’s 4-Party alliances, another joins Awami League led alliance while the third one is yet to decide their future political affiliation. Political analysts opine that, Islamist radicals are now becoming ‘important factor’ for all the major political parties. Earlier, Alamgir Kabir, a pro-JMB leader and former state minister was included in newly floated Liberal Democratic Party. Commenting on this, a senior journalist said, the trend of joining of ultra-radical forces with mainstream political parties leave bad signal for country’s future image. It seems that, Bangladesh is gradually entering their notorious grips.

Posted on 31 Oct 2006 by Root

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