Bangladesh: Splitting Parties, Restructuring Politics

Having received approval (sic) of representatives of the European Union on plans to restructure democracy in the country during the month, the Caretaker Administration�s alleged policy of Minus Two Politics seems to have gathered apace with ban on move of Sheikh Hasina out of the country, weakening of hold of the two prima donnas of the main political parties, the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and filing of a number of cases against them and other leaders.

On 5 June a case was filed with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court, Dhaka against 28 people including ex-premier Khaleda Zia, her son Tarique Rahman, Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and former IGP Modabbir Hossain for abetting grenade attacks on an Awami League rally on 21 August 21 2004. Former Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina was sued on 13 June by two businessmen for alleged extortion of Tk 8 Crore. Three extortion cases have been filed against Hasina so far after Emergency has been declared. The minor drama of blocking her move back from London is now forgotten. To the contrary, on 14 June a Dhaka court banned Sheikh Hasina from going to the United States after objections by the government that this would obstruct investigations into the two cases filed against her on 13 June. The former prime minister was scheduled to fly to the US to attend to her daughter in confinement.

Concomitantly a special judge�s court sentenced former state minister Amanullah Aman to 13 years� and his wife Sabera Aman to three years� imprisonment ordering confiscation of their wealth of Tk 9, 94, 63,741 which was considered disproportionate to their known sources of income. This was the first ever verdict delivered by the fast-track court, set in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban�s MP Hostel in Dacca for trying major corruption suspects.

Encouraged by these happenings, dissident leaders of Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), expedited moves to bring about political and organizational reforms within their respective parties. Awami League president, Sheikh Hasina, and party presidium member Amir Hossain Amu, one of the leading dissidents had a show down on 23 June. AL chief was accused of drawing the ire of the military-backed interim government by censuring it during her previous visit to the US, signing a controversial agreement with Islamist Khilafat Majlish, and being responsible for the 30 April flop in 2004. On the other hand Hasina wanted to know why Amu had not met her during the crisis and accused him of being a stooge of the government. Amu is now a key member of the Awami League internal reforms committee.

Dissident BNP leaders announced a 15-point reform plan on 25 June, including a proposal for curbing powers of the party chairperson. BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan gave out the proposed plan that, if anyone serves two terms as prime minister, he/ she won't be eligible for the post of PM or chairperson of the party. If chairperson becomes PM, he/ she has to resign as chairperson. All office-bearers will be elected by councilors instead of nominated by chairperson and so on. The hints at Begum Khaleda were obvious.

Meanwhile there was turmoil in the Jatiya Party, the third major political party in the country with Rowshan Ershad, wife of former Bangladesh military ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad declaring on 26 June that she had taken control. Ershad on the other hand indicated that, �I will expel her from the party for gross indiscipline and disobedience�.

No doubt the cat has been set amongst the political pigeons in Bangladesh. The restructuring of polity undertaken by the interim government seems to be bearing fruit. It is anticipated that till there are noticeable signs of inner party reforms within the two major political parties, the Caretaker Administration is unlikely to remove ban on political activities. The aim is obvious marginalize the present leadership by placing various restrictions, registering cases and general persecution. Allow alternate leadership to emerge in these parties and hopefully greater democratization and also attempt to foster alternate parties. Though the first step which was to ask Mohammand Yunus to lead a political party has failed, the government is attempting to break away factions to form new parties, in which role of intelligence agencies in splintering the leadership has been alleged.

What ever by the case, Dacca may see an entirely new dispensation in 2008 when elections are held. Hopefully it would not be as corrupt and inept as the past many governments in Bangladesh for they have shattered the dreams of once secular people hoping of peace and prosperity.         


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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