People's Democracy

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


No. 14

April 08, 2007

Bangladesh: Situation Still Fluid


Kamal Choudury


THE political uncertainty gripping Bangladesh after the declaration of state of emergency on January 11 is still continuing. The present caretaker government led by the former governor of State Bank Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed has been continuously proclaiming that they are trying to create conditions for the holding of free and fair elections and that that is why they have begun a crusade against corruption to cleanse the political and democratic system. But no timeframe has been announced for conducting the parliamentary elections as yet. On March 27, the Bangladesh High Court has scrapped the Electoral Roll prepared by the former controversial Election Commission and asked the newly constituted Election Commission to prepare a fresh Electoral Roll as per guideline of the Supreme Court given earlier.


A delegation of the 11-party Left and Democratic Combine led by Bangladesh Workers Party president Rashed Khan Menon recently met the chief election commissioner Dr A T M Shamsul Huda and demanded declaration of a tentative election schedule after preparation of Electoral Roll. Dr Huda told the delegation that they were at present busy in making amendments to Election Laws and Rules. They would start the process of discussion with the political parties in April to seek the views of the parties about the amendments. After amendment of Election Laws and Rules they would undertake the task of preparing new Electoral Roll and also prepare photo identity cards of the electors.


On the other hand, advisors to the caretaker government are against holding of elections in the near future. They have expressed their intentions in the media saying that they were determined in ensuring speedy trial of those politicians arrested under emergency provisions so that they might be disqualified from taking part in the elections.


And in that direction, drastic changes have been made in the anti-corruption laws. As per the amended laws, the anti-corruption commission has to complete the whole trial process of those who have been arrested within 45 to 60 days. They will not be given bail during the trial period. The joint forces of the Military, Rapid Action Battalion, BDR and the police have already arrested more than hundred political leaders including ex-ministers, ex-MPs, mayors, top functionaries of the political parties including Tarek Rahaman, eldest son of former prime minister Khaleda Zia. Most of the arrested politicians are from the erstwhile ruling party BNP and some also from Awami League party and fundamentalist Jamat-E-Islami party.


It is no secret that the present interim government is backed by the military and the donor countries. In a reception to the freedom fighters of Bangladesh Liberation war on March 27, the chief of the Army, Lt General Mayeen Uddin Ahmed, urged upon the freedom fighters and the people to fight another war against corrupt politicians and terrorists. In his speech he alleged that during the last five years in the power department alone more than 20 crore taka of public fund has been looted.




It is to be noted that the Army-backed interim government on the one hand has declared a crusade against corruption and crime and on the other has been implementing the directives of the World Bank and WTO. Already three nationalised banks have been corporatised. Container handling plant of the only sea port, Chittagong, has been handed over to private operators –– laying off around one thousand workers. Thousands and thousands of footpath hawkers and slum dwellers have been evicted using bulldozers under the protection of Army. The electricity charges have been enhanced substantially. The interim government has also reduced customs and excise duties on several import items, leading to many local industries including the sugar industry becoming sick. The Bangladesh Workers Party and the Communist Party of Bangladesh have criticised the interim government’s actions in uprooting the poor from their shelters and snatching their livelihood without making any alternative arrangements.


The caretaker government imposed a strict ban on political and trade union activities. On the Independence Day, political party leaders were not even allowed to carry festoons while they were paying floral tributes to the martyrs.


In the present scenario, a new political outfit has come onto the scene. The 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace winner Dr Muhammad Yunus announced formation of a political party, ‘Nagarik Shakti’ (Citizens Power). An ardent supporter of capitalist globalisation, Dr Yunus, while announcing the name of his political party, said, “I can’t keep myself away from politics. It is high time I did something.” It is Dr Yunus who strongly advocated for handing over Chittagong Port to the private sector. A Norwegian company owns the major share in Grameen Phone (GP) company of Dr Yunus, which is today the largest mobile phone company in Bangladesh.


The critics of Dr Yunus have said that he has so far not cleared his position on the war criminals of the 1971 liberation war and the Islamic militants. Moreover Dr Yunus’ macro-credit system cannot be a means of poverty alleviation because it is deeply linked to capitalism. It must be noted the macro-credit system has created institutional opportunities for global capital finance.


Some intellectuals and analysts hold the opinion that leaders of the present interim government and their European and American backers are helping Dr Yunus to lead the third force in Bangladesh.


Almost all the offices of the political parties are under lock and key. The caretaker government has already indicated that it is going to extend Emergency rule. Most observers are of the opinion that elections would not be held this year at all. 


The Army is gradually coming into fore in deciding the future of the country. Last week the chief of Army Lt General Mayeen Uddin Ahmed openly advocated for a new brand of ‘democracy’ including shaping the administrative system to govern. In the undivided Pakistan General Ayub Khan had also introduced the so called ‘basic democracy’ which was nothing but Army dictatorship. After liberation of Bangladesh, the people of the country had experienced another sort of Army-brand democracy during General Zia Ur Rahman and General H M Ershad’s rule, both of which the people of Bangladesh later overthrew.


In the meanwhile six top-most Islamic fundamentalist extremists – Shayaku Abdur Rahman, Siddikul Islam etc – were executed in different jails. They were responsible for killing more than 35 people including judges and lawyers across the country during the year 2005. They indulged in terrorism to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh.


(April 5, 2007)