People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXI

No. 06

February 11, 2007

No Election In Bangladesh In Near Future

 

Kamal Chowdhury

 

THE crisis-ridden political situation in Bangladesh has reached from one extreme to another extreme. On January 11, last, President Yajuddin Ahmed declared a state of Emergency in the country banning all open activities on the political and trade Union fronts, proclaimed censorship on news media, and also deployed the army all over the country. The President also resigned from his forcibly occupied post of the Chief Advisor to the Interim Prime Minister of the Care-taker government, an office was assumed flouting all norms and conventions and on the next day appointed Dr Fakruddin Ahmed, the former Governor of the Bangladesh Bank, the State Bank of Bangladesh, to the post of the Chief Advisor to the care-taker government. 

 

The state of Emergency was proclaimed at a time when the 14-party Alliance led by the Awami League and the Bangladesh Workers Party, their allies, the Zatiya Party, the Liberal democratic party and the Bangladesh Communist Party, launched a programme of blockading the office of the President. They lay continuous seize on the whole of the country through the ongoing nationwide strike to resist the unilateral decision to hold elections to the Parliament on January 22. This resulted in a highly explosive situation of boiling rage and restlessness. 

 

The former Coalition government of Bangladesh of the Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamat-e-Islami, the Islami fundamentalists had already chalked out the entire blueprint for once again capturing power through an engineered election. The BNP-Jamat coalition government led by Khaleda Zia had already appointed people of their own parties to the posts of Election Commissioners and Returning Officers for the Parliamentary constituencies, and even to the posts of Presiding Officers and Polling Officers, so that the election could be rigged in their favour. The Election Commissioners loyal to the Coalition government had already prepared a voter list which allegedly included the names of 1 crore, 40 lakh fake voters, while excluding names of 60 to 70 lakhs of genuine voters, who were known to be supporters of the opposition parties. 

 

The tenure of the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was unilaterally extended from the maximum age limit of 65 years to the age of 67 years so that justice K M Hassan, the former leader of the BNP who had been the former chief justice could be appointed as the Chief Advisor to the care-taker government to conduct the election. Only such people were appointed to the posts of Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court as were loyal to the ruling parties so that challenges to their illegal activities could not be admitted in the courts. In the face of the mass movement against his appointment to the Post of the Chief Advisor to the interim government justice K M Hassan had to refuse to accept the post. But instead of appointing any other former Chief Justice as per the provisions contained in the Constitution, president Yazuddin Ahmed, member of the BNP, himself occupied the post of the Chief Advisor as well. 

 

OPPOSITIONíS DEMANDS

 

For the last one and a half years the Opposition parties had been carrying on carried on a movement at various levels demanding 

  1. Reconstitution of the Election Commission which had been appointed on consideration of party loyalties 

  2. Preparation of a faultless voter list, and

  3. Ensuring of an environment congenial to the conduct of a free and fair election by purify the administration of party influences. 

 

Atleast 40 people were killed and quite a few thousand people were injured in three-days of violent incidents during the period between formation of the care-taker government and resignation of the erstwhile coalition government. Though President Yazuddin Ahmed on assuming the office of the Chief Advisor to the Care-taker Government had promised a free and fair election, he took practically no step in that direction. On the contrary the controversial Election Commissioner declared the schedule for election without publishing the revised voter list leading to four of the advisors resigning their posts, protesting against the decisions of the President and the Election Commission. 

 

Having failed to win the former President H M Ershad over to their side, the BNP brought a charge of corruption against him, and without giving him any opportunity for self-defence managed to get him sentenced by a Bench of the High Court to two years of imprisonment. Using this as a plea, Ershadís nomination paper as a candidate for the parliamentary election was cancelled. 

 

As a protest against this illegal declaration of the election schedule without publishing the final voter list, and also against the Presidentís blatant use of the administration in favour of the BNP-Jamat coalition instead of freeing the administration of all sorts of party influences to ensure its impartiality, the 14-party Front and their allies, and the CPB, disassociated themselves on the 22nd January from the election, and launched a massive and continuous movement programme to resist the election designed to be conducted in a spirit of partisanship. 

 

Determined to hold the election in the spirit of naked partisanship, President Yazuddin Ahmed deployed the armed forces to stem and crush the movement. Foreign Diplomatic Missions in Bangladesh, already intervening in the politics and administration of Bangladesh, publicly informed the Bangladesh government that if a one-sided election was conducted by stifling movements through armed forces, the said election would not be acceptable within the country, nor in the international sphere. The United Nations Organisation also decided to stop giving technical assistance to the Election Commission, and the European Diplomatic Mission declared that the armed forces of Bangladesh working with the UN forces would be sent back. At present nearly 30 to 35 thousand Bangladeshi soldiers are working in the UN Army providing the main source of income of the Bangladesh Army. 

 

In the face of the countrywide movement and under international pressure, President Yazuddin was at last forced to retreat from his earlier stand cancelling the decision to hold the one-sided election on January 22. He also resigned from the post of the Chief Advisor to the caretaker government and at the same time declaring a state of Emergency in the country left the country in the hands of the armed forces. 

 

Simultaneously, the head of the Election Commission, i.e. the Chief Election Commissioner M A Aziz, resigned his post on January 21, and the other commission members finally tendered their resignation on January 31. 

 

The armed forces, the para-military forces and RAB have now been carrying on widespread search operations to arrest political activists who campaigned against the illegal activities of the government. More than 25,000 people were arrested in the a fortnight since the declaration of Emergency, including some middle ranking political activists as well. 

 

THE PRESENT  CONDITIONS

 

The new head of the caretaker government Dr Fakruddin Ahmed who incidentally, worked for a long time in the World Bank, formed an interim government under his leadership consisting a Council of Advisors of 11 new members. After assumption of power on January 21 Dr Ahmed gave his first television address to the nation, where hr promised that his government would reconstitute the Election Commission, distribute identity cards to all voters after reconstitutions the voters list, free the administration of all sorts of party interferences, and take steps against corruption. Only after all this was done, would his government arrange for the election, but without ant mention of the time schedule or date for the election. On the contrary Prohibitory Rules and Sanctions under Emergency were declared, on January 26, banning all political activities holding of meetings, rallies and processions. 

 

Declaring that a state of Emergency can in no way be an alternative to democracy, the Bangladesh Communist Party and the Workers Party of Bangladesh have demanded that the Emergency be lifted forthwith and Election be held as early as possible by preparing a faultless voter list. All Editors of daily newspaper and TV channels have also demanded withdrawal of press censorship immediately. 

 

Knowledgeable sources hold the opinion that in Bangladesh today, real power is being held by the Armed Forces while a non-military or civilian Caretaker government ostensibly runs the administration. They are also of the opinion that this is according to the advice of the foreign diplomatic missions especially those of the US and the European Union that the Armed Forces of Bangladesh should control everything. An indication of this comes from the speech of the Chief Advisor and the report of the press conferences of some other Advisors that elections in Bangladesh are not going to be held in the near future.