15-Strong Constitution Committee Formed
Thursday, 22 July 2010

The parliament has formed a 15-strong "all-party committee' to review the constitution with no representation from the main opposition BNP.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday afternoon proposed the committee in the parliament, which was passed unanimously by voice vote.

The special committee will be helmed by deputy leader of the parliament Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury. Senior Awami League leader and head of the parliamentary standing committee on law and parliamentary affairs Suranjit Sengupta has been made co-chair.

Earlier on Tuesday, names of 17 out the 19 members of the draft committee were declared.

Defending the special committee, Hasina said the hard-earned constitution and the Army Act had no article on military rule.

She said the country could only develop if the on-going democratic practice continued unhindered.

"We must amend the articles, in line with the High Court directives, which were inserted or amended through the military orders if we want to return the power to the people and continue the democratic practice," said Hasina.

She also said the military personnel paid the price of the military rules as many widows cried in the barracks, and the development process was obstructed in the countries that were ruled by the military.

"The constitution's amendment is an utmost necessity to assert that no immovable heavy stone can be imposed on the people again." She thanked the High Court for giving the "historic verdict" on the Fifth Amendment in 2005.

The others who will sit on the committee are Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Amir Hossain Amu, Tofael Ahmed, Abdur Razzaque, Syed Ashraful Islam, Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, Rahamat Ali, Fazle Rabbi Miah, Abdul Matin Khasru of the Awami League, forest and environment state minister Hassan Mahmood, Hasanul Haq Inu of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Rashed Khan Menon of Workers' Party and Anisul Islam Mahmud of the Jatiya Party.

The special committee, formed under rule 266 of the rules of procedure, has not been given any timeframe for submitting its recommendations to the parliament.

The committee will be able to hold meetings with the constitutional experts in formulating recommendations.

On Friday, Hasina said the parliamentary body will be constituted to review the constitution, which had 14 amendments since 1972.

According to the suggestions of the special committee, the government would amend the constitution to restore some of the articles of the original constitution framed on Nov 4, 1972, which barred the religion-based parties from politics for their anti-liberation roles in 1971.

If the government restores the major articles of the that constitution, the Jamaat-e-Islami would be banned from politics.

The main opposition BNP, Jamaat's main ally, has refused to have representation in the "unconstitutional" committee.

Jamaat, whose top leaders have been arrested on charges of crimes against humanity committed in the 1971 war of independence, got four and half percent of the total votes in the last general elections.

Military strongman Lt Gen Ziaur Rahman, through a military order, amended the constitution in 1979 inserting Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim in the pre-amble of the constitution and rehabilitating the religious parties.

This was Fifth Amendment to the constitution. The military order was later legalised by the second parliament in which Gen Zia's BNP had absolute majority.

According to the constitutional guidelines, any change to the highest charter must be made by the two-thirds majority in the parliament. But Zia made it through military order.

Gen Zia took over on Nov 8, 1975 as chief martial law administrator and later formed a new political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, mainly with the help of anti-liberation forces. He also permitted Jamaat-e-Islami to do politics.

But the High Court in 2005 in a verdict declaed the military takeover and Fifth Amendment "illegal". The then BNP government appealed against the verdict in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

The Awami League government after coming to office in January last year decided not to continue with the appeal.

But the BNP secretary-general Khondker Delwar Hossain deiced to move ahead with the legal battle, which is still pending.

Source: bdnews24.com

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