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Khaleda Zia’s call for caretaker government system

19 Jan 2016

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BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has demanded an all-party dialogue for holding Parliamentary election under a non-partisan Caretaker government. She said present political crisis in Bangladesh has been created due to scrapping of the caretaker government system, adding that holding election under caretaker government immediately is absolutely essential to restore democracy and resolve the longstanding political crisis.

“The present government and the parliament are illegal as no election was held in the country on January 5, 2014”, she observed, addressing a BNP rally on the occasion of second anniversary of national election which BNP marks as ‘Democracy Killing Day’’. Brutality and violence carried out by BNP and its allies ahead of this election had reminded the people of the occupying Pakistani forces and their local allies.

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League won re-election to a second consecutive five-year term in January 2014 when Khaleda Zia’s BNP boycotted the poll saying the poll result would be rigged. BNP has since then been demanding fresh polls under a caretaker government, calling the present government ‘illegal’. The government, however, is firm in its decision that the next election will be held in 2019 when it is due and not before that.

 

The decision to do away with the caretaker government has been taken through the 15th Constitution Amendment in mid 2011 following the Supreme Court verdict that declared the 13th Constitution Amendment incorporating the provision of caretaker government to oversee parliamentary election illegal.

 

Caretaker government had to be incorporated in Bangladesh Constitution in 1996 in the wake of BNP’s stubborn refusal to face a fair election. It had subverted the entire electoral democratic machinery and positioned its loyalists in all key positions to ensure return to power. Caretaker government system for overseeing election had to be introduced by amending the constitution under these circumstances.

 

One has to look at what transpired from 2006 to 2008 immediately after the BNP-led Four Party Alliance Government completed its tenure and handed over power to a so-called Caretaker Government that maintained covert affiliations with the BNP. The primary reason for political turmoil during this period was the fact that Iyajuddin Ahmed, then Chief Advisor to the Caretaker Government, was functioning as BNP’s agent and the poll-time administration headed by him was working primarily to facilitate BNP’s return to power through a stage-managed election in January 2007. This Caretaker government had even manipulated the voters list to rig the poll in BNP’s favor. Thank God this election did not take place.

 

Bangladesh hardly needs a caretaker government to oversee its parliamentary elections. Now, after 45 years after independence, political leaders of the country do not require adult supervision of an un-elected caretaker government. They have grown mature, personally, professionally and politically. Moreover, no other democratic country in the world has such a strange system of un-elected caretaker government to oversee parliamentary election.

 

Military take-over of the caretaker government in 2007 brought into focus the inherent deficiencies in the caretaker government system and serves as a set-back to democratic progression that engulfed Bangladesh in deep political crisis. The caretaker government that ruled the country for two years from 2007 was de-facto Army rule under the cover of civilian caretaker government and in the two years it undermined all democratic norms and institutions in the country.

 

Khaleda Zia has every now and then been describing the present Bangladesh parliament as ‘unconstitutional’ and its government as ‘illegal’ on the ground that the last elections were not held under a caretaker government and her party boycotted it.

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League won re-election to a second consecutive five-year term in January 2014 when Khaleda Zia’s BNP boycotted the poll saying the poll result would be rigged. BNP has since then been demanding fresh polls under a caretaker government, calling the present government ‘illegal’. The government, however, is firm in its decision that the next election will be held in 2019 when it is due and not before that.
There are no takers for Khaleda Zia’s ‘unconstitutional parliament’ and ‘illegal government’ charges.The Speaker of Bangladesh parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Awami League MP Saber Hossen Chowdhury have recently been elected Presidents of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Inter Parliamentary Union respectively. Elected representatives of 188 states gave their mandate in favor of these two Bangladeshi contestants. The victory in top posts of two reputed international organizations has dismissed Khaleda Zia’s allegations and put the country as well as the Hasina government on a firm footing in the global arena.

 

BNP and its allies have so far not presented any economic agenda or road map to improve the social and economic condition of the country. Their only concern appears to be focused on how to capture power by unseating the government by letting loose the destabilizing forces. They are very vocal about democracy; but how they upheld democratic principles when they were in power is known to all.

 

What Khaleda Zia has tactfully refrained from mentioning in her speech is how and why terrorists, both local and international, made Bangladesh a safe haven during her regime, how so many Pakistani terrorist organizations could find patron and shelter in Bangladesh to run operations and carry out disruptive activities in foreign countries, particularly India, using Bangladesh territories. She also did not mention why her government could not explore and exploit natural resources or set up power plants to meet the country’s growing energy crisis. She should have admitted her failures which are the main reasons why the country is now facing power, water and gas crisis.

 

In her speech she also did not mention why her government could not take necessary action to find out terrorists who killed senior Awami League leaders ASMS Kibria, Ahsanullah Master, Ivy Rahman and some noted journalists. Why she failed to track down terrorists who carried out killing mission to eliminate Sheikh Hasina and other top Awami League leaders on August 21, 2004 and also why was the sensational Chittagong arms seizure case sent in cold storage for such a long period? People of the country want an answer to all these questions.

 

Khaleda Zia’s charges against the Awami League-led Government are intended to create barriers against the trial of her long term allies – the war criminals of 1971. She has been a long-time political supporter and well wisher of the war criminals and Pakistani collaborators with whom she had earlier shared power. During her tenure as Prime Minister she did everything possible to thwart any move for trial of either the killers of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman or the war criminals. Last month she even set herself to national hatred by making arrogant remarks about martyrs of the liberation war.

 

She cannot openly defend the anti-liberation forces for fear of antagonizing the people who want to see the war criminals, anti-liberation elements and Pakistani collaborators brought to justice. The nation is not short sighted or the visions of the people are not so blurred. Khaleda Zia must realize that ground is fast moving from behind her feet. People have not forgotten BNP’s association with elements who were and still are not only anti-liberation but also involved in terrorist activities in the name of religion.

Khaleda Zia has every now and then been describing the present Bangladesh parliament as ‘unconstitutional’ and its government as ‘illegal’ on the ground that the last elections were not held under a caretaker government and her party boycotted it.

 

Unless BNP comes out with a better governance plan and severs all links with Jamaat and other pro-Pak / anti-liberation forces, the people will have no reason to be swayed by Khaleda Zia shedding crocodile tears for democracy. BNP did never have a clean past and its association with anti-liberation and pro-Pak forces allowed the radical and extremist forces to rise and create instability and communal disharmony in the country.

 

People would like to know what benefit would accrue to the country if BNP is returned to power. Should BNP be brought to power so that more Bangla Bhais, Abdur Rahmans and Mufti Hannans can be created and promoted? So that more grenade attacks of August 21 model can be organized? So that Jamaat can dictate BNP and carry out its anti-Bangladesh agenda? So that war criminals can be freed from jail and restored to full glory with compensations?




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