Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Awami League creating a 'terror raj'?

President of Bangladesh, Zillur Rahman, has pardoned a man who was sentenced to death for committing one murder and life-term for two other killings. He has granted mercy to AHM Biplob, a son of ruling party leader Abu Taher of Laxmipur and a death row inmate in much-talked-about Nurul Islam murder case.
The widow of murdered lawyer Nurul Islam--the best known of the murder victims--has now put a question to the President: "Has he not now lost the moral right to demand punishment of those who killed his wife Ivy Rahman?" Mrs. Islam has further said, "President Zillur Rahman should now stop all proceedings of the Ivy Rahman murder case and announce that he has pardoned her killers."
The man who has received the presidential pardon and is now expecting to step out of prison as a free man is H. M. Biplab, son of ruling Awami League (AL) leader and Chairman of Luxmipur Municipality, Abu Taher. Biplab was convicted of kidnapping and then murdering Advocate Nurul Islam in that town on September 18th of 2000. He was tried in absentia by a speedy trial court.
The daily Samakal said this death sentence was confirmed by the High Court Division and Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Biplab remained a fugitive from law. He surrendered to court and went to prison a few months ago while his father submitted mercy petition to the President.
A brother of Biplab has told the Kaler Kantha newspaper that he has also been pardoned on the charge of murdering a Chhatra League leader, Kamal, and the process of reprieve in a third murder case, that of killing an Islami Chhatra Shibir leader Mohsin. The papers of this prayer of pardon are now at the Prime Minister's office. The President, it seems, is taking the recommendation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in these cases.
Rashida's questions
Rashida Islam, wife of murdered lawyer and popular BNP leader at Luxmipur, has also addressed a remark at Sheikh Hasina. She told the Prime Minister, "I urge you to ensure the severest punishment to the murderer . Just as you have given the topmost priority to the trial of your father's killers, my children also want to see that their father's killers are punished. If that is not done then Allah's judgment will visit those who protect their father's killers."
Rashida Islam left Luxmipur shortly after her husband was murdered and has been living in Dhaka since then. She told newsmen that she is frightened once again. Rashida Islam recalls her murdered husband's body was never found as it was cut into pieces and dropped into the river Meghna by the criminals.
It may be mentioned here that Ivy Rahman, Awami League leader and President Zillur Rahman's wife, was killed in the terrible grenade attack at an Awami League rally at the capital's centre on August 21, 2004, while Sheikh Hasina was addressing it. After a prolonged investigation police has recently charged BNP leader, Khaleda Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman, two former ministers, and several Islamist extremists for plotting the attack and sheltering the attackers.
Pro-BNP lawyers say that the investigation is flawed. BNP is staging protest against the charge. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founding president of Bangladesh, his wife, three sons and two daughters-in-law were killed on August 15, 1975, in a coup led by a number of army officers. Sheikh Hasina was successful in arresting several of the military coup-makers when she became elected prime minister in 1996 and in holding their trial.
Appeal for justice
Five of them were executed by hanging in 2010. Her government is trying hard to get at least half a dozen more fugitives extradited from other countries to face execution. This is among her government's top most priorities. Mrs. Rashida Islam has referred to these cases while appealing for justice in the case of the murders of her husband.
Senior lawyers Barrister Rafiqul Huq and Khandker Mahbub Hossain have warned, while the constitution gives the President the power to pardon or commute any sentence it is now being misused.
It should be mentioned here that President Ziaur Rahman, President Ershad and President Iajuddin Ahmed each had also pardoned at least one murder-convict each.
20 death row convicts freed
Thus the number of persons getting presidential pardon, bending the rules in case of the son of one top Awami League leader, by the hands of President Zillur Rahman has been far greater.
On September 7, 2010 President granted clemency to 20 death row inmates under a presidential pardon, as they awaited execution for murdering a local leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 2004. He is acting upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the Law Minister, say Supreme Court lawyers.
At the same time a committee headed by the Minister of State for Law has withdrawn several thousands criminal cares against Awami League leaders on the ground that these cases were filed on political consideration. Beneficiaries of this special action by the Sheikh Hasina government include a number of persons charged for murder.
Opposition BNP says the Awami League government is setting free such dangerous people in order to create a 'terror raj' with the aim of influencing voters in the next parliament election. No person belonging to BNP has been freed of any criminal charge by this review committee.

Concern grows as political landscape is changing fast

Politics is entering into a volatile phase. BNP chairperson and leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia urged the people, especially the younger generation to 'rise up against the fascist' Awami League (AL) government in Arab-type revolution to bring change in the country's political landscape.

She said the government by changing the constitution has made it a virtual manifesto of the ruling Awami League and if her party goes to power next time they will 'throw it away'. Begum Zia further said no election would be held without a caretaker government, because elections under the ruling Awami League will cause high risk of extensive rigging.

Meanwhile, Awami League leader Suranjit Sen Gupta threatened Begum Zia of suing her on charge of treason for comments on the constitution saying it carries the highest capital punishment and she must be careful.

This is just one example of how the country's political landscape is fast changing to bring the two major parties closer to repulsive confrontation. There is fear everywhere that things are going out of control on the political front. Something unpredictable is in the making that may destabilize the country's democratic foundation.
In this background the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh recently sounded apprehension on the stability of Awami League government. He said political landscape, meaning regime change may happen here any time virtually bringing embarrassment to the party in power.

Col (retd) Oli Ahmed made similar prediction last week saying this government will fall very soon. Veteran journalist A B M Musa also voiced alarm on the rapidly changing political perspective recently and urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to be aware of the sandy ground she is walking on. He said he fears the repeat of the circumstances leading to the making of the August tragedy of 1975 can't be ruled out, there is bad smell in the air in which more Khondker Mostaques are roaming around her.

Such warning from all directions is intensifying the fear of a regime change in the country however, may be real or part of an orchestrated campaign to malign the government.
Musa said like Manmohan Singh, Indira Ghandi and Fidel Castro had also warned Bangabandhu but he ignored. ABM Musa, a close well-wisher of the Prime Minister warned, like others that political landscape is rapidly changing and the Prime Minister should take more cautious steps to defuse the situation.
It is not only BNP or the Islamist parties which are now calling for the ouster of the government, even several leftist groups are openly coming against the government this time joining hand with the National Committee for Protection of Oil, Gas, Electricity, Mineral Resources and Ports.

Govt. is aggressive
The government is rapidly becoming aggressive but also lonely. Even there is visible rift within the grand coalition. Ershad is ignored and his brother the minister for civil aviation and tourism, G M Kader is only a back bancher in the cabinet.

There is a growing whisper in the power corridor that nine ministers with leftist background are now dominating the government while most Awami League ministers and MPs are busy making illegal fortunes and siphoning off funds out of the country. Bangladesh Bank reportedly decided recently to inform the Prime Minister's office of the spate of over invoicing that many businessmen cum MPs are using to transfer funds.

Left wing ministers
The case of the distancing left from the core epicentre of Awami League politics reportedly flared up last week during the cabinet meeting. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suddenly wanted to know from senior minister Motiya Chowdhury why she and such other left ministers in the cabinet did not turn up in the grand council of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling Awami League. They had no answers for a few moments but the Prime Minister had already said what she had in her mind.
Critics say Motiya Chowdhury had once refused to speak to Bangabandhu as a fiery leader of Bangladesh Chatra Union. Now she is the standard bearer of Bangabandhu but question remains how much she got integrated to the party politics. Otherwise, why she did not attend the BCL council, they questioned.
Yet another critic says Banglabandhu had formed BKSAL on the advice of NAP leader Prof Muzaffar Ahmed and people like Suranjit Sen Gupta, among others. This is the cruel side of politics.

'Reign of terror'
In this background, BNP chairperson and leader of opposition in Parliament, Begum Khaleda Zia has given the call of an all-out movement to oust the Awami League-led grand coalition government for failures on many counts -- skyrocketing of foods and other essentials, alrming rise of criminal activities, absence of rule of law, human rights violation, and repression on opposition political leaders.
She alleged that the Prime Minister has unleashed a reign of terror on the opposition including the Islamist groups and far lefts in one hand and destroying public and political institutions on the other.
Changes in the constitution removing the caretaker government and the faith and confidence in the Almighty are some issues which have touched public opinion in the grassroots.
Moreover, the war crime trial has created more divisiveness in the country not because why it is being held but for the alleged denial of the basic rights and norms of an international trial court to those on trial.
The government's subservient policy on India has also become a controversial issue now in the border region as the ruling party is preparing to hand over a large chunk of the country's land to India which local people claim to have inherited from their forefathers as the ancestral property.

 People are in the dark
 It is signing transit deals and such other agreements keeping the people in the dark and reportedly surrendering vital national interest. The biggest failure came to the fore in running the economy.
Taka is losing to dollar, capital flight has assumed alarming height, trade deficit is soaring and inflation is on the rise. Moreover, the recent stock market scam in the hand of businessmen close to the government has come as the single most factor to identify the incumbents as anti-people.

Mass hunger strike
BNP and the Islamists called hartals twice in the past weeks making the government vulnerable to further erosion. In the wake of it, BNP and like-minded parties observed a mass hunger strike on Wednesday last in the city to further press home the demand for bringing down the government.
They are preparing as they claim to bring about a Middle East type uprising in the country and Begum Zia has announced strong street agitation after the fasting month of Ramadan. She called upon the people, especially the young generation to rise and secure the safety of their land from danger at home and coming from abroad.
Analysts hope the government will make concessions to the opposition to make future election fair and peaceful to ensure a democratic transition without any unpredictable change. People would expect that the ruling party will play the proactive role to reassure the nation that it is on the right track and peace and development will find priority than chaos and confrontation in the street.