Silchar: Mass uprising, vehement and vociferous, against her misgovernance, rampant corruptions at all levels, skyrocketing inflation, secret killings of opponents in cross-fires and the country'sstate sponsored dangerous tilt towards Islamic fundamentalism, besides subversion of democratic and secular values has made Begum Khaleda Zia, the outgoing Prime Minister of Bangladesh, understand her predicament on the eve of general elections, slated for January, 2007.
With two-third majority in 340-member Parliament, she has been sailing through crisis after crisis along with her four party alliance. In fact, her five-year tenure beginning with violent note has been most turbulent. Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrat Muslim Janata Bangladesh, the extremist outfits linked to her two alliance partners Islamic Okya Jote and Jamaat-e-Islami, have been accused of causing mayhems and reign of terror across the country through bomb blasts for political mileage, provoking national and international condemnation. The worst phase of this terror campaign was to introduce sharia. Under global and internal pressure, Khaleda Zia had to ban both the outfits.
The information of the Indian intelligence agencies corraborated by that of the western countries was that Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrat Muslim Janata in tie up with the dreaded ISI of Pakistan, Harkut-ul-Jihad-al Islam and Dawood Ibrahim gangs have been smuggling arms and ammunitions from overseas by sea and air in order to create commotive and volatile situation in Bangladesh in the run up to the general elections to ensure victory of BNP alliance, terrorising the Awami League led 14 groups? supporters, the greatest challenge to Khaleda Zia. The pro-Islamic lobby within BNP led by Salauddin Quadar Chowdhury, the parliamentary affairs minister in Khaleda Zia government has always blocked any move to rein in Islamic outfits. Party MP Abu Hena was expelled for exposing BNP-extremist link.
With time running out fast for her government and fast eroding support, BNP supreme knew it well the only alternative left before her was to install a caretaker authority of her choice and to retain the present poll chief in order to tilt the balance in favour.
Caretaker system was introduced in 1991 to prevent ruling parties from rigging polls. Khaleda Zia's5-year term ended on October 28.
But, BNP game plan got a jolt midway when more than 24 high profile dissidents resigned from the party and floated a new political front, Liberal Democratic Party, under the leadership of former president and also the founding member of BNP, Badruddoza Chowdhury, lambasting the alliance government of unbridled corruption, incompetence and authoritarianism.
This has come as a shot in the arm of the 14-party alliance of Awami League which has been leading nation wide mass movement against the ouster of BNP government and also for installation of neutral caretaker. Amidst violent protests in which 30 people till date were killed and more than 500 injured, Khaleda Zia bowing down to opposition handed over charge to the President of the country, Iajuddin Ahmed, and not to the Supreme Court Chief Justice K.M. Hasan whom the 14-party alliance sees as a stooge of BNP. The caretaker authority is to run the administration till general elections and then pass on the mantle of power to the newly elected government. Though constitutionally and for transparent elections, according to political analysts, the better person to head the caretaker system should have been either Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury or Hamidul Haque, the predecessors of K.M. Hasan.
Notwithstanding the discomfiture, the combined opposition led by Begum Hasina Sheikh in order to test the impartiality of Iajuddin Ahmed has demanded reforms at the election commission, pruning of civil and police administration, shut down of televisions and radio channels run under the ruling alliance patronage and cancellation of fire arms issued during the last two years. Most important, their outcry is for the removal of BNP biased Chief Election Commissioner, M. A. Aziz and his deputies.
On the very first day of his taking charge, Iajuddin Ahmed transferred or sacked 27 senior bureaucrats. He has given no indication to replace pool chief M. A. Aziz, but hinted to make the election commission more effective by inductive four more deputies on it. He has ordered removal of Khaleda'sphotographs from state offices. Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and her alliance partners have described these measures of Iajuddin as ?cosmetic?! Their primary concern is with M.A. Aziz who backed the BNP and would apprehend the rig polls in January. Analysts fear more trouble over the retention of Aziz.
Ataur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Political Science Association, said, ?The country still faces potential threat of renewed violence as the interim government can'taccommodate all the demands of Awami League?. Country'smedia is rife with spreading speculation about a possible state of emergency being declared. Armed forces are put on high alert. Reuters quoted sources in Dhaka to say.
A worried UN secretary general Kofi Annan has appealed to the country'smain political parties to work together in the interest of democracy and welfare of the nation. British foreign office minister Kim Howells urged the caretaker government ?to act with neutrality in the line of the Constitution and for free, fair and peaceful polls?.
Broader socio-democratic views articulated in the Bangladeshi media, trends and moods of people reflected in mass upsurge against Begum Khaleda Zia are indication enough of the fact that it is returning to democratic values that alone can ensure stability and peace in the country. The leading English daily The Daily Star has rightly said, ?Iajuddin is to delink himself from BNP and consider all issues from national perspective?. One hopes among others, he takes the wise decision to remove Chief Election Commissioner Aziz.
(The author can be contacted at Satsang Ashram Road, Silchar, Assam-788 007, e-mail-[email protected])