Bangladesh must go ahead
It is now a matter of discussion everywhere as to in which direction the politics of the Republic is moving. Some quarters think that the conflict between the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) will be acute, the distrust and gap will be increased, competition that is necessary for democracy will be obstructed and uncertainty will prevail.
This outlook of discussions and analysis -- keeping AL and BNP on same footing -- is not justified. Past history of Bangladesh, establishment of AL, its progress and activities and side by side establishment of BNP and its activities are not analyzed properly.
We know that under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, AL taking people of all strata, has given birth this sovereign independent Bangladesh through the Liberation War It is mentionable in this regard that Bangladesh is not built up in a day that it also is a part and parcel of the civilization of the subcontinent and in the area, a separate entity and identity was developed during the eras of Shashanka, Pala, Sena and Sultanate and then after language movement and through different struggles and war of 1971, the identity took the full form and this nation state was established in the world.
At that time, Bangabandhu, the founder and father of the Republic, after returning from Pakistan established expected democracy for which people and Bangabandhu himself wanted to establish for many years and Bangabandhu took the responsibility of prime ministership and started to build up the country. Under his direction, the non-communal, democratic, secular constitution, one of the best constitutions was promulgated in the country.
The national election was held in 1973 but we know that in one side the anti-liberation forces of home and abroad and on the other side extreme leftist parties continued their destructive activities. Bangabandhu included veteran experienced politicians who participated in movement and struggle, renowned intellectuals, and expert bureaucrats for formulating policy in the different sectors of economy, education, health, foreign policy and infrastructure development of the country. The policy of that time is still working as a foundation for the progress of the country.
It was Bangabandhu who made the country stable from anarchy and vandalism and formed one platform to include all sections of people and then he tried to solve the fundamental needs of the people like food, clothing, education, health and accommodation. But in 1975, Bangabandhu along with Bangamata Fazilatunnesa and other members of his family was assassinated brutally.
After that the reactionary forces -- first Khondaker Mostaq and later Ziaur Rahman -- who took to the helm of the nation twisted history, changed the basic principles of constitution based on the War of Liberation and did different activities against the spirit of the liberation war. It is proved that they together targeted to set back the country opposite to the principles of the liberation war.
The incidents of 3 and 7 November 1975, the taking away of power from the Chief Justice by a Army Chief and election under martial law and validation of all illegal activities by 5th amendment prove that they have no faith in multi party democratic systems.
By abrogation of secularism and instigation of religious fundamentalism, the government then tried to dismantle the unity of the nation and now we are witnessing the threat of fundamentalism for last few decades for the actions of the then government.
Zia formed BNP using state mechanism and in the same way Ershad formed Jatiya Party. In the name of decentralization, Ershad tried to weaken the judiciary and introduced Islam as a state religion to patronize divisive forces like militancy, terrorism and communalism.
Democratic political parties continued movement to establish democracy. Eight parties and seven parties under the leadership of AL and BNP respectively and five parties left alliance led the movement. Professionals and social forces also struggled to establish their rights and democracy.
We know that under the agenda of 3 alliances, ninety's mass upsurge was held and thereby, under the caretaker government an election was held and BNP came to the power. Though AL naturally has hatred against Zia and his established BNP but AL took part in the joint movement of three alliances to establish multi party democracy.
It indicates the policy and farsightedness of AL under the leadership of the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Hasina. On the other hand, though BNP took part in the movement as a strategy, it didn't take steps to institutionalize democracy. Elections and by elections proved that Election Commission was subservient of BNP. Enemy (Vested) Property Act and other black laws were not repealed though it was promised. Identified war criminals are being patronized and persons, organizations against war criminals were harassed and persecuted.
As a result, people of all sections participated in the movement and AL came to power in 1996 election under the caretaker government. AL chief Sheikh Hasina formed the government accommodating other forces to strengthen the process of democracy. Vested property return act was passed to save from sufferings of minorities. CHT peace treaty was signed to establish peace in one tenth area of Bangladesh as well as to establish the rights of the ethnic minorities. Steps had been taken for empowerment of women.
In 2001, BNP again came to power. At that time, religious minorities and active workers of AL had been persecuted in large scale. Militancy, terrorism and communalism reached in extreme position. In 2004, on 21st August, a granite attack was operated to eliminate the leaders of AL, Ivy Rahman and 24 other leaders had been killed and many other leaders were seriously injured, AL chief Sheikh Hasina was saved narrowly.
Attacks and circumstantial evidences have proved that the attack was done by the help of the administration to eliminate a democratic political party. Side by side, bomb attack was executed in five hundred places across the country at a time in 2005.
On the other hand, movement against militancy, terrorism and communalism were geared up and reached in climax. Ten truck loaded arms had been recovered while passing through Bangladesh to North- East India and Bangladesh became the route of illegal arms and shelter of extremists. Government rose the ages of Supreme Court judges to form the caretaker government by its likeminded people.
Tarique Rahman administered a parallel government and Bangladesh became champion five consecutive times in corruption. There are allegations of money laundering and Koko was convicted in money laundering case. Later, Iajuddin Ahmed became the head of the caretaker government by manipulating the process and tried to bring BNP- JAMAT in power again.
On the other hand, AL formed a grand alliance including 14 party alliances, JP, Bikalpa Dhara and others. AL tried to defeat BNP and its alliance strategically but it was obstructed by election commission and so turmoil situation was created. Then Caretaker Government backed by army came to power.
They tried to continue their power by applying persecution and oppression on political forces but due to the internal movement and pressure of foreign democratic forces, government was forced to give election by a correct voter list. AL and grand alliance won the election and got 55 percent votes while BNP got 33 percent votes with 33 seats.
By analyzing different facts and statistics, it is evident if BNP didn't try to come to power by manipulating the process then AL and its alliance would come to power but BNP- JAMAT would get more than hundred seats. Trial of war criminals and corruption charges and other criminal charges would be slowed down but BNP didn't get lessons from its 2008 disaster.
When trial against war criminals had been started, BNP along with JAMAT tried to say that there are no war criminals but when processes were strengthened, they said there are war criminals in AL also. Then from different forums, it was informed that if they could come with specific information's, they would be tried also.
Afterwards there was an impression that BNP has realized the situation. Khaleda Zia visited USA and UK and later on in 2012, he visited India with state honor and met top leaders of India. It was presumed that BNP would follow the democratic process but to create obstacles in the verdict of war Tribunals and to obstruct the election process, BNP- JAMAT blocked the country in 2013 and 2014 to overthrow the AL government. Even BNP was so desperate in its destructive activities; Khaleda Zia didn't meet with Indian distinguished President Pranab Mukherjee.
Sheikh Hasina tackled the situation with the help of political forces and administration. By the destructive activities, five hundred people were killed and three thousand people were wounded. Nearly three thousands vehicles were damaged. They created obstacles to foil the 2014 election.
At that time, Indian government supported the democratic process and later on, other democratic countries also supported it and constitutional continuity was protected. This situation was faced by courageous leadership of Sheikh Hasina.
If that situation was not faced, then the progress in the field of economy and social sector would not happen. To bring BNP in election Sheikh Hasina offered posts in the Government including home ministry. The PM even went to meet with Khaleda when Koko had died but she didn't show any courtesy. (To be continued)
The writer is an academic
and former ambassador