Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Farewell To Fair Elections?

Unquestionably the ruling Awami League (AL) government has opened a Pandora's box by annulling the Caretaker Government (CG) system. On May 10 , 2011 the Supreme Court of Bangladesh repealed the 13 th amendment to the Constitution declaring the Non-party CG void and ultra vires to the Constitution; but allowed holding of "two more parliamentary elections" under the CG. Disregarding the second part of the verdict the AL has abolished it in parliament. This action can best be described as the farewell to fair elections that could lead to serious turmoil because many people do not support the AL. It is advisable to the incumbents: the ruling AL government should see reason to avert disorder of its own making because the Prime Minister must not forget that a large section of the polity favour the CG system and distrust the AL, pure and simple.    Noted jurist of international acclaim, Dr Kamal Hossain, who always advocates for national unity, on 5 July last said the repeal of the CG system will be major barrier to free and fair parliamentary elections. Terming the government's decision suicidal, he urged the Election Commission ( EC) at a two-hour dialogue on 5 July with EC to take bold stance for the restoration of the CG system through further amendment to the Constitution.    The system, brainchild of Jamaat- e-Islami but enthusiastically adopted as the singular agenda for movement and agitation against the BNP government, was institutionalised by means of the 13 th Amendment to the Constitution in 1996.    As we look at the political scenario, abuse of judicial process and administrative power is rampant. Out on a spree the government has allegedly applied for withdrawal of more than 16 , 000 cases filed against the leaders and workers of the ruling AL. What is more, in September 2010 , President Zillur Rahman granted clemency to 20 AL activists who had been sentenced to death for murder.    The helpless people of this country are witnessing with dread and disgust their dear motherland Bangladesh being metamorphosed into a police state where the government is using the police force to unleash repression and atrocity to rigidly throttle the voice of dissent a la fascist regime which eliminates opposition and under which rule rights are nonexistent and laws are selectively enforced.    The police, under the leadership of two police officers -- reported to be former student front leaders of AL -- beat up, kicked and injured Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque in the morning severely at one stage of an altercation with him at Manik Mia Avenue in the capital. As his head was bleeding profusely the BNP leader was hospitalised. This nefarious act has beaten up Democracy itself, to say the least. During the incident five lady MPs of opposition BNP were hurt in police action. Several hundred opposition party leaders and activists were arrested.    Lower grade policemen, not to speak of police officers, have sufficient knowledge that an opposition chief whip enjoys the rank and status of a State Minister. Then how could it happen? However, Speaker Abdul Hamid was kind enough to express regret about the assault on Opposition lawmaker Farroque during Hartal. [ It is worth noting that according to a recent survey conducted by six Bengali daily papers including the Prothaom Alo and the Jugantaor, 80 per cent respondents were in favour of Hartal ]This he said when an 18- member delegation of the BNP-led opposition met him at his parliament office, and also assured opposition lawmakers of writing to the home minister who in her usual cavalier style later said that she would see to it.    Since the start of the ruling AL government Opposition political parties, have been repeatedly prevented from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to protest against the government's failure to secure the basic needs of the ordinary people. During their street agitation the police, aided by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling party attacked and seriously injured leaders and activists of BNP and its allies.    The bottom line is: fascism is baring its fangs jeopardising people's life. It is time the citizens, intellectuals and jurists protest in one voice against the government- sponsored atrocities.