ROADMAP TO ELECTION IN BANGLADESH AND POLITICAL DIALOGUE
Thursday, 07 February 2008

By Mahmoud A. Rauf

Our topic for discussion today is the election in Bangladesh and declared ROADMAP to the election. So far, according to the roadmap election will take place before the end of 2008.  Roadmap for the sake of it is not desirable to so many people. It must come with some sort of commitment and guarantee that Bangladesh will not go back to the situation before 11 January 2007.  

We know that, we did have elected government and proper election in Bangladesh. Why do we need to ask for a ROADMAP for election now?

Therefore, we need to discuss the back ground and reasons for it.

After a big sacrifice during the liberation movement in 1971, we had a progressive elected government under Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujibur Rahman. His democratic government was overthrown by military clique after killing his whole family in 15th August 1975. The then military clique ruled the country until 1990.

During the military rule, first came General Ziaur Rahman came to power in 1975. He formed his party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Then General Ershad came to power in 1981 after General Zia was killed by a army clique.  He formed his own party called Jatyo Party. Both parties were established when the generals were in power.

In 1991 we have proper election and have properly elected democratic government.

Now the question is, what have we achieved for all these years?

10 years of B N P government gave us mostly corruption and corrupt practices in politics and in administration. Awami League followed them. Awami League was better for first 3 year of their rule, but final 2 years was as worse as BNP. People did not elect them to misrule the country. People have elected them to develop the country by using the resources available so that general public can have a reasonable life. Instead of that, some corrupt politician became reckless to multiply their personal wealth in expense of the state. Their leaders did not control them. This is injustice to the general people of the country.

Between November 2006 and 11 January 2007, there was no rule of law. Practically, the son of ex-prime minister was running the country. High court, Election Commission, Anti corruption Commission, civil administration etc were controlled by the officials of last government. These are unacceptable.

The then president of the country, a member of BNP, became the chief advisor, use to follow orders from the ex- prime minister and from her son, but people expected him to be impartial when they accepted him to be chief advisor.

In the name of saving the constitution, he was following the orders from one side.

Whole administration was used for the interest of one party.

In other words, although, BNP was not in power, they were misusing the power through their appointed President and chief advisor Iaze uddin Ahmed.

Opposition parties of 14 party alliances under the leadership of Awami League were rightly resisting this illegal attempt by BNP.

As a result, the country was in the verge of civil war.

Under these circumstances, the patriotic army took initiative and asked the president to appoint the present caretaker government.

General public of the country were relieved as they have been saved from a civil war.

Present government supported by patriotic military have taken an unprecedented measure and round up most of the corrupt politicians, administrators, businessmen and other corrupt people. Lots of them fled abroad and some of them gone hiding.

Most of the peace loving people of Bangladesh supported theses steps and welcome the present government. As far as we know, general Public is still supporting the government.

Because of the past bitter experience, people want this government to stay until the corrupted people are punished, so that, they cannot take control of the government again. People do want elected government as soon as possible, but people want honest politicians to run it as well. They do not want the repetition of previous corrupt practices.

People are not against the politicians or against established political parties. People are against corrupt politicians of these parties. Respective parties should clean up themselves and modernise the party. End of the day establish parties or the alliances will be the main forces of the election. So they should prepare themselves as people expect them to be.

Under this back ground, we want present government must stick to their promised roadmap to hold election before the end of 2008. At the same time, it is their duty to clean up the political and administrative system before the election. At least, they should start the cleaning up process for the future government.

They must make sure that, the independent judiciary, independent election commission, independent Anti Corruption Commission and other government institutions will remain independent in future, which cannot be used for party political purpose.

Present government must guarantee that, war criminals, communal elements, and the parties do not believe in man made constitution of the country should be disallowed to take part in the elections.

If necessary, present government may continue to keep a powerful task force with a central body composed of distinguished people of the country to create a balance of power. It can be in the shape of a council with authority.

If the roadmap cannot guarantee the basic rights of the people, that road map is not going to be a successful one. Present government must remember this fact.

In my observation, recently declared 5 points conditions for dialogue are mostly pro-people suggestions which will, up to some extent, guarantee a better future for the people of the country. These will help to take the country to the future prosperity and make the country a respectable one in the world society.

The 5 points are: (1). future government to approve the activities and amendments of present government. (2). Approval of fight against corruption by the present government. (3). Stop the Boycotting the parliament, Hortal etc in future. (4). Not to nominate the corrupt people in future election. And (5). To Form national government for next three terms of the parliament.

The points about the role of students and trade union needed to be clarified. Their involvement in the party politics can be stopped, but their right to be involved to protect their members’ interest, or their involvement to a movement of national interest, should not be minimised.

I do not see any reason for the political parties not to accept these conditions before the election. Accepting these conditions by the political parties will offer the people of Bangladesh a better governance, which will be reasonably free from corrupt practices. If the politicians do not accept these conditions, people can ask them what is their motive? Do they want to take the country back to the pre 1/11? People of Bangladesh have the right to live without the fear of corrupt powerful politicians and their supporters.

So far, the indications are that the election will be held by as per declared roadmap. The chief advisor, the president and the army chief have said so. We have no reason to think otherwise.  

Now it is up to the political parties to keep cool and not to create any unwanted situation so that any one can make any excuse to delay the election before the end of 2008.
 

Author is a Community and political leader in London
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